Hostess with the Mostess

Our apartment was big for two people, and it’s really big for one. But it’s just the right size when we have guests. Charles was the consummate host, of course, and I learned a ton from him over our lives together. Of course, a big part of his hosting was preparing food, which I’m still just getting started with, but I can still put together cocktail snacks and pour drinks and take everyone to a restaurant or whatever.

Judging from comments on my FB posts about going to drag bingo and such, it had become clear that I needed to put together some sort of gathering for my straight-lady friends, so two weekends ago, I set up (or thought I set up) such a thing. Three of us were to go to a drag brunch in Astoria (at KWEEN), then go back to my place, to be joined by a fourth, and watch figure skating. Alas, due to reasons too boring to get into, KWEEN lost our brunch reservation and they had no room. Ah well, Susan and Nancy and I just headed back to Jackson Heights to get on with it. I whipped out the standard ‘three snacks’ I’d established as a default since ‘the thing’ when I got all those food baskets – chips and salsa, pita chips and hummus, cheese and crackers. Also some snack sausage and (for later) cookies. And I made what turned out to be really good cosmos.

This was a fun afternoon/evening. My new DVR worked like a champ in recording the skating – we watched that while eating ordered-in Thai and just had a fantastic time. And because we ordered a lot of food, I got two more dinners out of it later in the week!

Thursday, my Rochester friends Susanna and Patrick came in for their fairly-typical winter visit. We figured it out over the weekend – Susanna thought she might be my oldest friend (in terms of friendship longevity) but she’s actually my second (Bunthorne Boy and I have known each other since seventh grade). No matter, she’s an old and dear friend and we have much much history (Patrick, too, who I’ve known for decades now.) They are easy and delightful guests. Again with the snacks and drinks, then I took them out to the Q for dinner.

Friday, I was working, and assumed they’d go out and ‘do New York’, but it was a nasty cold day and they ended up just lazing around the house and binge-watching Only Murders in the Building season 2, which was fine. I’d bought bagels and cream cheese and smoked salmon, so that was breakfast, and more snackies was lunch.

That evening, we had tickets to Kimberly Akimbo. This was very exciting, not only because it’s gotten nothing but rave reviews, but Susanna went to Yale with Victoria Clark and was even in a show directed by her. Back when The Light in the Piazza was running, I of course got us tickets, but VC was out that week, very frustrating. Anyway, we first had dinner at Cafe Un Deux Trois, which I hadn’t been to in years. This turned out to be a great choice – really fun and low key and excellent food and a very funny waitress who turned out to be an aspiring opera singer.

Then off to the show, which is hilarious and lovely and a bit heartbreaking. The setup is that Kimberly is the daughter of a couple of trashy New Jerseyites, who’ve gotten into some sort of trouble and had to relocate to a new town. But Kimberly has a rare genetic disorder which makes her age 4 times as fast as she should, so even though she’s only 16, she looks like she’s in her 60s. (the real age of Victoria Clark) Anyway, outcasts team up, shenanigans occur, but always with this underlying sense-of-doom that Kimberly doesn’t have much time left. It’s sweet and lovely, the music is fun (if not memorable), and well-acted across the board. VC herself is predictably amazing, and (unusual in a Broadway show) brought a lovely ‘legit’ voice to the part. We loved it, and Susanna was moved to tears, particularly since VC’s character was dressed and acted much like VC herself did in college. So… highly recommended.

Our plan for Saturday was cooking! Susanna and Patrick are both excellent cooks, really comfortable in the kitchen. (I cannot tell you how many times S led off with ‘oh, we make this very simple pasta dish…’ and then describes the process, most of which sounded actually kind of complicated if you’re not already completely familiar with the techniques.) But we’d planned an actual menu for dinner, were going to go shopping for it, and then all three of us were going to make it while I learned how to make it.

First, though I did make a frittata for breakfast and that was a success – my frittata game, through sheer repetition, is on point, although the amount of spinach was maybe a little overwhelming for the taste. (healthwise, the more spinach, the better, I guess)

Then after we got cleaned up, S and I went through my spice cabinets to see what I had and needed to buy. I have various cabinets with different categories of spices (Asian, flavored oils and vinegars, large spice containers, little spice bottles and so on). If I had duplicates of stuff (which I frequently did), and there were unopened bottles, we put them aside to put on the food bank shelves when we went out to go to the grocery store. (C had three giant cans of curry powder. We kept just one.) There was a lot of “How often do you intend to use X spice?” (E shrugs.) “I have no repertoire yet, so i have no idea.”

So then we went out shopping. I was delighted to find out, from their critical appraisal, that my closest local grocery story is actually pretty good in the produce dept. However, we were looking for a pork tenderloin and the only ones they had were pre-marinated/flavored (although I might go for one of those on my own at some future date). We headed a few blocks away to see if we could find one at another store, but ended up settling for a pork loin (not tenderloin), which was fine. Back to the home, unpacked, and then lazed around all afternoon until it was time to start actually cooking.

We were making the pork, roasted potatoes and a vegetable melange. With the pork, we ended up slicing it in half lengthwise and then treating it much as we would have the tenderloin. Patrick put together a rub out of this and that spice, and showed me how to rub the pork (heh heh. heh heh). That got browned in the cast iron pan (which I had yet to cook with – we had to explore a little to find it) and then put in the oven. Meanwhile the red skin potatoes got scrubbed and prepared (but not peeled), mixed with olive oil, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and thyme, and cut up into equal chunks to put on the baking sheet. These got baked 15 minutes, then out to turn over, another 15minutes, out again, another 15 minutes – and turned out so good. I’m not actually much of a roasted potatoes fan, but these were great and I’d do this again in a heartbeat.

The vegetables were pretty simple (squash and zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers) and were sauteed on the range top, but Susanna advise cooking some longer than others. (there were also spices involved, it got pretty zippy actually). We had to guess on the timing of the pork (oh, yes, I now know where the meat thermometer is and what it looks like) and it came out quite well-done, but was still great.

Bottom line, a total success, and I can replicate those recipes when I want to. I learned some really good stuff. And leftovers, oh my. Enough for two more meals, not counting the half of the leftover pork that went into the freezer!

(also there’d been discussion of a salad spinner, and it turned out I didn’t have one, so when they got home, S&P sent me one!)

Sunday was just more bagels for breakfast (also, Susanna talked me through ‘how to clean a cast iron pan’. Me, joking, “just throw it in the dishwasher, right?”), then they packed up and went home. I basically did nothing for the rest of the day, but did have to prepare for another set of guests – upstairs neighbors Mariah and Josh. I’d been going up to their place every couple of weeks to watch House of the Dragon, but we’d finished it, and since I have Disney+, we’d decided they’d come here to watch Andor. So… more snacks, more cosmos, an ordered pizza and that took care of that. Also, Andor is really good – we’ll be picking up the next few episodes this Sunday.

Other stuff: a lot of pressure stuff has been resolved, and this week is kind of normal. So I decided yesterday (my day in the office) I’d go see a show after work. I’m realizing now that, especially on a weeknight, a 7:00 curtain is the way to go, but on a Wednesday, some shows have 7:00 and some have 8:00 curtains. So I had some possibilities in mind, but ended up, over lunch, buying a full-priced single ticket to Wicked. We’d seen it 20 years ago with the original cast, and I remember thinking at the time, we’d sat a couple of rows behind the ‘horizontal aisle’ in the Gershwin and I vowed that next time I’d sit closer. So I got a really good seat (row F, pretty much in the middle, and not outrageously priced).

I’d loved the show the first time, particularly admiring how they’d condensed a big sprawling messy book into something comprehensible, although I do have some issues with the libretto. I was interested to see what the show looked like without starry leads (the most famous ones were Cleavant Derrick as The Wizard and Michelle Pawk as Morrible). Anyway, I had a great time. It’s an amazing looking show, both the Elphaba (Talia Suskauer) and the Glinda (McKenzie Kurtz) were totally delightful, and everything I liked about the show I still like a lot.

What didn’t I like? Well, I didn’t particularly like Derrick, but I did like Pawk (and I’ve seen her in other roles where I was disappointed). But the show itself – Act I is really tight (although long) and has most of the best music in it. Defying Gravity remains the amazing Act I closer it is. But Act II is a mess. It doesn’t really hang together and the music isn’t much. (except for one number) I don’t buy the timeline of (spoilers!) the conversions of Boq and Fiyero into the Tin Man and the Scarecrow and how that works with the offstage Dorothy stuff. As Long as You’re Mine should be retitled “generic pop-y love duet that you could plunk into any contemporary musical”.

However, For Good is a fantastic duet (although I think it is a slow reflective number in a poor point of the story arc) and I’ve always loved it and last night I started to think about Charles during it, and of course when “we may never meet again, not in this lifetime”, the sobs started. (not obnoxious loud ones, though) But it resonated.

Anyway, I’m glad I saw it, and I had a fun private text conversation with the one cast member I know, and it was great, worth the ticket price.

God, this is endless and I need to get to work soon. Other stuff – a lot of bank stuff got resolved this past week (I hope, jury is still out on one bit). I think there may only be one more account in his name to deal with, that’s cool.

I booked tickets – I’m going out to the Twin Cities to visit my niece and her family in their new house, which I’ve never seen. (will be overlapping visits with the other niece, so we’ll all be there together for a couple of days). That’s in April.

Oh, I’d mentioned that I’d ordered a large framed print of a wedding picture to go over the fireplace, and when it arrived, I was worried because it was enormous. But I put it up there (it’s not hung properly yet) and all my houseguests agreed that it is actually the right size and looks great. So that’s awesome.

(postscript: that’s weird. WordPress seems to have removed the option for hyperlinks to open them in a new tab. That’s annoying.)

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