Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dinner and a Show

This blurry instagram picture has nothing to do with this post, but I like to look at things that are refreshing and delicious.

It's been my lifelong dream to attend an evening of dinner theatre. I know this is a strange, and kind of tacky dream. When I was a child in the early '80s dinner theatre was a big thing, with D-list stars like Jamie Farr or Joyce DeWitt coming to town to star in productions of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum or Damn Yankees. It seemed glamorous to me. As I grew older it seemed delightfully bizarre.

Now, I don't want to come across as one of those jerks who likes to go and laugh at people with less than sophisticated taste as they pay big money to see questionable theatre productions. I actually really enjoy things that are on the earnest and even pedestrian side. My husband claims that I really like things that I know are bad, but not in an ironic way. I like tribute bands, I like musical ice shows, I like karaoke. I knew I was going to love dinner theatre.

So when my sweet husband saw a groupon for a Madonna impersonator at our city's most prestigious dinner theatre go on sale ON MY BIRTHDAY, he jumped at the chance to buy four tickets. It seemed like a no brainer -- a combo of dinner theatre, a tribute band, and a seafood buffet! So we hired a baby sitter, put on our best clothes (dinner theatre has a dress code), and dragged two friends along.

This is where I should point out that if a theatre production needs to hock tickets through groupon, there might be a problem.

Anyway, we tucked into our buffet dinner and ordered a round of double "Stargaritas." We were primed to see Madonna, she came out with her average looking back-up band and a couple of back up dancers. It wasn't great, but our expectations were low. "Madonna" stepped off stage for a costume change, came back for another number, and then announced to the audience that her back-up band was comprised of members of Canadian '80s hair-pop band Platinum Blonde! A quick Google image search confirmed this, although it should be noted that singer Mark Holmes was certainly not present.

So, Madonna steps back off stage, and then Platinum Blonde launched into Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me." Then they did Van Morrison's "Brown Eyed Girl." Then U2's "With or Without You." By the time they got to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing'" we began to fear that it was only a matter of minutes before we were subjected to Don McLean's "American Pie." And where the hell was "Madonna," anyway? My friend went to inquire at the front desk and was told that "Madonna" hurt her voice and may or may not be back. When my other friend marched to the desk to demand our money back (and I will tell you, dinner theatre is not cheap), we were told that we'd have to go through Groupon for that, but that they would pay for our two rounds of Stargaritas.

Okay, free Stargaritas isn't the worst deal in the world. Madonna did come back to hoarsely hobble her way through "Material Girl," and according to some Facebook research she did three more songs during the second hour-long set, but we left at intermission and went to a swanky lounge for a round of nice drinks (after all, we'd saved so much on the Stargaritas). And Groupon did refund our $200 for the tickets without any questions (excellent customer service btw). So all was good. But I still want to take the theatre's offer of giving us "premium seating" on our next visit if Joyce DeWitt ever returns to town.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In Defense of Food Instagrams

 I've noticed in the last while that there's been a load of backlash against people who take pictures of their food. Little jabs and snipes about not caring what bloggers have for lunch (an oldie but a goodie), that kind of thing. Does my friends' Instagram/Twitter/Facebook feed have a ton of pictures of people's lunches and dinners? Yep. Do I mind? Not at all.

I take a lot of pictures of food, and not just for my blog (obviously, since the posting here has hardly been fast and furious). Instagram is handy, so they show up on that feed, but I don't post them on Twitter or Facebook unless they're noteworthy. I take pictures of food I make and food I order in restaurants. Some people see food pics as a brag, but I think it's more than that.

When I make chicken kiev (which, tragically, does not photograph well) or a Boston cream pie, it requires hours of work. And the visual fruits of my labour disappear the second a fork is stuck in the food. I like to cook. I'm proud of my cooking. And damnit, I think I deserve to keep a record of what I've made. The thing is, I may never again make a Boston cream pie or a caramel pecan chocolate cheesecake. There are so many recipes out there to try, the only way I can hold on to that fleeting moment of deliciousness is through the magic of Instagram.

Same goes for restaurants. I will likely never return to Le Cirque or Vij's or Canter's Deli. A chef's tasting menu is oft never repeated. Just as I like to look at old photographs of my seven year old when she was two, I like to look at pictures of pastrami sandwiches and fois gras mousses of days gone by.

So, you foodie haters, lay off of us hungry Instagrammers. We may fetishize food, but there are bigger crimes to complain about on your Twitter feed.

Staycation Part 1

 Hey! I'm a little slow at this whole getting back to blogging business, but I assure you, I'm committed. Just not as committed as I am to the other deadlines I have, but you know how it is. So, we took our annual road trip vacation at the very beginning of the summer this year, in order to fit in a bunch of other fun things like the Folk Fest and kids' summer camps, but it's left all of us yearning for adventure. So, on the August long weekend, after going to a birthday party at the local pool, we packed into the car and pointed it towards beautiful Stavely, Alberta.

Stavely! I've lived in these parts for pretty much my whole life and had never heard of Stavely. And for fairly good reason. About 10 minutes south of Nanton (which is worth stopping in if only for their excellent candy story and insanely overpriced antique shops), Stavely is a blip on the map. Their main street consists of the grain elevator you see above, a Chinese Western restaurant, the hotel/tavern, one antique store that seems to be perpetually closed, and another one that specializes in guns and features a shirtless, beer-drinking dude sitting in a lawn chair outside, frightening away would-be customers. And there's a Hugarian restaurant called Judit's Kitchen, which is the whole reason we drove out there.

Judit's is pretty new, and it's also pretty awesome. I thought it would be run by an old Hungarian granny, but this traditional European restaurant is actually operated by a nice young couple that I'd put in their early 30s. The food is very traditional: goulash, stews, fruit soups, schnitzel, etc. It's really reasonably priced and, I can only assume because I'm not Hungarian, super authentic. I had the cold fruit soup, which was filled with yummy berries and plums.

I also had the beef stew. And yes, that is homemade spaetzle. For those of you who have children so picky that they won't even eat the pure starchy goodness that is spaetzle, there are also cheeseburgers and fries on the menu to keep your little ones happy as you dig into your goulash.

So yeah, Stavely. This is the scene across the street from the restaurant. I wouldn't call the town quaint, but it certainly is interesting. Next time I'm going to force my husband to take me out to the Gopher Hole Museum in Torrington. I'll keep you posted.