Tim Foolery

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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Recipe Test: Seared Sea Scallops

As noted earlier I am planning my menu for supper club this weekend.  I plan on doing a French themed dinner and a couple of the recipes will be new to me.  I decided to test one recipe before supper club — the seared sea scallops.  I figured I’d fix an entree portion for dinner for me and my mom last night.

I purchased 8 scallops (4 for each of us) from Treasure Island.  I started by cooking 2 slices of bacon in a cast iron pan, keeping the bacon grease in the pan after the bacon was done.  I added some olive oil and put the well dried and seasoned (salt and pepper only) scallops in the pan — cooking 5 minutes on the first side and 3 minutes on the second.  Once the scallops were done I wilted a bunch of spinach in the left over grease/oil.  Once the spinach was wilted, I added a tad of butter to create more of a rich sauce.  I then added the cooked bacon and plated the spinach on my 1960s plates.

I placed four scallops on each plate and added the bacon/butter sauce to the scallops.  Who would have thought that the bacon fat and butter turned into a sauce poured over a naturally rich piece of shellfish would be too much.  The whole meal was so rich, we couldn’t handle it.  I finished almost three full scallops while my mom finished 2.5.  It was quite tasty, but way too much food and rich beyond belief.

I know for sure that I won’t ever serve this recipe as an entree — it will totally kill my guests.  I haven’t totally  decided if I’ll serve this on Saturday or not.  If I do, I’ll probably serve a single scallop and spinach — an amuse bouche.

Do you have a less rich way to cook scallops that are a real crowd pleaser?  Have you every been completely surprised by an awfully rich meal?  Have you cooked a meal that was too rich and you could only eat a portion of it?

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A modern beauty — Farnsworth House

Today, I schlepped past the City limits, through the suburbs to rural Illinois.  We visited Plano, Illinois today.  We saw one of only 3 single family private residents in the world designed by one of my favorite architects — Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.  This house was commissioned by Dr. Edith Farnsworth.  The good doctor was a single woman who lived and practiced medicine in Chicago.  She wanted a quiet sanctuary away from the City to visit on the weekends.

I won’t get into all the details as to how she found the property, discovered and met Mies or the ensuing drama after they began working together — I won’t do it justice, the story is fascinating though.  This house is relatively small and was designed for a one person retreat.  Follow the links and read a bit more about this amazing space and the story surrounding this home. How lucky we are it was purchased by preservationists and not a private owner/collector who could have moved this home.

The home is absolutely stunning.  As I walked around the property, I envisioned building a contemporary equivalent on the family land in Oregon — nestled in the trees, looking out on the rolling hills and the pond at the bottom of the property.

My pictures below were accidentally taken in very low resolution — I need to return next fall and take more photos with a high resolution setting.  The photos do show the blending of inside and out on this property. How lovely would it be to spend quiet, contemplative evenings in this home.

This place is stunning — I cannot wait to return and if you are in the greater Chicago area, please pay them a visit.

Supper Club Planning – French Cuisine

For the past four years now, I’ve been part of a supper club group.  There are 4 households involved, so we each host once a year and traditionally meet once a quarter.  I usually host in Q3 – between September and November. I prefer to host earlier in the quarter but this year I’m hosting the first weekend in November.  The dinners have 7 people in attendance (2 married couples, a single and me and MS).  There really aren’t any real rules for supper club, but the main unwritten rule is that you must cook — no catering or ordering in.  We started this because one of the members wanted to cook more, but since she’s a single woman she doesn’t have the opportunity to cook for anyone other than herself.

Supper club is a lot of fun, but can be a ton of work.  The worst part of it for me is the clean up.  Usually we drink about 1.25 bottles of wine per person and have dozens of dirty dishes.  Thank god for dishwashers, eh?

Since we just returned from Paris a few weeks ago, so my menu is heavily influenced by the rich French food we enjoyed.  Plus, it is fall, so I’m open to a heavy rich meal with friends.  Plus, my new dining chairs have an obvious French flair — don’t you think?

I will be trying a few new recipes during this supper club too. My menu isn’t finalized yet, but here’s what I’m thinking so far.

I will serve some bubbles to start then move into various whites and red wines for the rest of the meal.  I will probably also serve sparkling and port at dessert.  
I think I need another side dish with the entree, but I’m not sure what else to cook.  I guess I could also include a simple salad, which would be easy and colorful.  
Are you members of a group like this?  Do you enjoy trying new recipes when you have a houseful of people?  Does my menu look appetizing?  Too much bacon (is that possible)?  Too rich?  Would you like to come to dinner?

Who do you tip while traveling?

I read an interesting post from Ben at One Mile at a Time today and it got me thinking — do I tip too often and too much?  The gist of Ben’s article is that he doesn’t tip people for just doing their job if they make more than minimum wage and aren’t offering a specialized service (e.g. Hotel Maids).

I always tip hotel maids.  Believe me, they won’t retire of my small gratuity, but I do leave them something.  Traditionally, I will lave $5/night — but I leave this upon my departure.  If I made a total mess of the room (ahem, Los Angeles, January 2009…) I will leave them a bit more.  I don’t do it because I feel obligated, I do it because I think it is the right thing to do.  I agree with Ben, this is their job — I don’t get tipped for doing my job, but these folks are providing me a service and I have the financial ability to thank them for it.

Let’s look at other people in the service industry and see if we should tip them.  When getting a cab from a hotel front door, I always slip the doorman a couple bucks.  He has to stand out in the weather hailing a taxi — which if I were standing 20 feet away, I’d have to do it myself.  When he does it for you, you stay dry/warm (or cool) and more often than not they will escort you out with an umbrella if it is raining/snowing.  That’s totally worth $2 to me!

I don’t use hotel porters to bring my luggage to my room as I traditionally travel with a simple 20″ Roller.  If I did require help with my bags, I would probably give $5 if I had more than 2 bags.  When I “check” my bag at the hotel, either because I arrived early and my room isn’t ready or I checked out and don’t want to schlep my suitcase around, I will usually leave between $1-$2 upon my return.

In Oregon, you cannot pump your own gas — there is an attendant. We never tip these guys though (interestingly enough, a frenzy of comments on Facebook recently showed me that sometimes my friends do tip these guys, especially in bad weather).

I always tip a bartender at least $1. If I know I’m going to be at said establishment for the long haul that evening and it will get busier, I’ll leave more $5-$10-$20 on the first drink, just so I KNOW I will be recognized and served throughout the night.  In this instance, I’m not tipping on service, I’m basically bribing the person behind the bar for better service.  Same basic concept though — paying extra for the prospect of continued good service.

Following the logic I have laid out above, you would think that I’d tip a stew — especially a first class stew, but I don’t.  They serve me copious amounts of booze and sometimes acceptable food, but never do I even think about tipping these folks.  I will pass on the comment cards/notes that elites get each year for good service, but that’s it.

I don’t tip my dry cleaner but once a year at Christmas ($20), I tip the maid ($50) at the same time and I tip the property manager for my building ($100) as well.  These people don’t do a better job than anyone else, per se — again, they provide me a service that I can’t do, don’t want to do or don’t have time to do, and I have the ability to thank them financially for their service.

What do you think?  Who do you tip?  How much do you tip?  Do you think hotel maids should be tipped and if so how much? Do you leave the tip nightly or at the end of your trip?  Do you work in an industry where you should be tipped but aren’t regularly?

New Bedroom Planning

 I’ve been cruising Pinterest for several days now, trying to find some inspiration for my bedroom redesign and I’m not coming up with much of anything.  Since I moved in 30 months ago I toyed with the idea of putting my bed under the window, using the window as a headboard of sorts.  I don’t want to block the window at all and I don’t want the cold Chicago winters to freeze me while I’m sleeping directly under the window.

I am not 100% sold on the idea of installing curtains in my room and if I put the bed under the window that definitely cannot happen.  Moving the bed under the window also would allow for enough space at the foot of the bed to put a small chair in the room — I could sit and read in the corner — or watch TV, if I opt to put a TV in my room (again, not at all sold on this idea either).

As you can see, I pulled the trigger and moved my bed.  You’ll see there is really a lot more free square footage.  It seems a little tight with my two nightstands flanking the bed. There is still plenty of room to get into the walk in closet, but it looks too crowded. I don’t need the storage that is created by two nightstands — so perhaps I’ll use only one.

The wall that was behind the bed looks even more bare now.  That wall, as well as the opposite wall are wired for TV, so if I wanted to put a TV in my room it will be on one of these walls.

One issue I have with my room layout (no matter where the bed is located) is the door.  I have to keep the door open 24/7.  If the door is closed, Lilly demands to come in — she’ll knock, scratch and yell at the door until she gets in.  Then when I let her in and close the door she does it all over again to get out.  The other issue is that when the door is open, anyone who comes down from upstairs can easily see into my room.  Nothing too major, I just like having a bit more privacy in my world.

If I do keep my room set up like this I would like to get a fun rug to put at the end of the bed and a chair for the corner.  I was thinking a narrow, wing back chair that would bring a pop of color into the space?  I could even bring in a low profile headboard, which would block a bit of a window, but wouldn’t be a deal killer.

What do you think? Is the bed in front of the window too annoying?  Does the room look to crowded with two nightstands on this wall?  How does it look with the bed not centered under the window?  Does your bed sit in front of the window?