Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Squid Eats: Flavors of India

via Flavors of India

A new Indian restaurant is always an exciting thing.  We recently visited Flavors of India in Essex Junction for the first time.  It's right across the street from the railroad station, a location with good visibility but I wonder how many people are actually stopping in.  We met friends there at 6 on a Friday and we were the only customers.  

The offerings are standard (for the US) Indian fare.  We ordered a fairly typical assortment to share: naan, chicken tikka masala, lamb mango, saag paneer, vegetable biryani.  Interestingly, nearly everything on the printed menu lists cashews among the ingredients - a no-no given my allergies.  Fortunately, they were able to make adjustments.  The same is not true for the online menu.  I wonder if that's intentional or if they're even aware of the discrepancy.  It's BYOB so we brought our own beer and cider.  The kid had hot tea.

Food, service and decor were all fine.  We'll definitely be back.  It may, in fact, be our closest India place so it could be a reasonable takeout choice, too.  I do worry about the lack of customers.  I hope they survive a while. 

Friday, June 7, 2024

Star Trek: Destiny

Episode: "Destiny"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 3, Episode 14
Original Air Date: February 13, 1995

In a joint project, scientists from Bajor, Cardassia and the Federation are working to establish a permanent communications link through the wormhole.  But a Bajoran prophecy warns of trouble.  Commander Sisko, still uncomfortable with being identified as the Emissary, must navigate tricky waters through the political and religious complications.

Sisko's personal journey from denial to acceptance of his role as Emissary is an essential theme of the series from first episode to last.  In the broader sense, his attitude defines his relationship with the Bajorans.  On a more personal level, it impacts his relationship with Major Kira and ultimately of course, his understanding of himself.  In "Destiny," as the prophecy appears to come true, we see one of the first sparks of belief for Sisko.

I'm not a huge fan of the Emissary arc.  It's meaningful and well-executed, yet it makes me uncomfortable.  Part of it is my own non-religious life experience, I have to admit.  But I'm also wary of Star Trek overemphasizing the importance of the individual in any story.  It feels un-Trek to me.  Wesley's chosen one narrative in joining the Traveler: not a fan.  The god-like importance attached to a young Spock in Season 2 of Discovery: not a fan.  Such matters are more the realm of Doctor Who, Marvel comics, Star Wars... to me, they feel out of place in Star Trek.  

Acting Notes

Tracy Scoggins played the role of Gliora Rejal, a Cardassian scientist who takes a liking to our man, Miles O'Brien.  Scoggins was born in Galveston County, Texas, November 13, 1953.  Scoggins was an accomplished child athlete, winning diving championships by age nine and swimming medals by 13.  She was on the varsity gymnastics team at Southwest Texas State University and nearly qualified for the US Olympic diving team.  She graduated from college with a degree in physical education.

After college, she was recruited by a modeling agency, working in both New York and Europe.  Her first acting job was a guest appearance on Dukes of Hazzard.  Regular roles on The Renegades and Hawaiian Heat, both short-lived series, soon followed.  She found her way to the Dynasty franchise, in which she was cast in the role of Monica Colby, appearing in two episodes of the parent show, then all 49 episodes of the spinoff, The Colbys.  She was also a regular for a time on both Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and Babylon 5.  Films include The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, Popstar and The Cutter.

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Squid Eats: Paradiso Hi Fi Lounge

I have a new favorite restaurant in Vermont.  Paradiso Hi Fi describes itself as "a listening lounge with creative cocktail and culinary programming in Burlington."  The cuisine is "New England-inspired."  Take that to mean what you will.  The result is awfully tasty.  My wife and I have been a few times now.  Our most recent visit was our first time bringing our child.

The food menu includes small plates and large plates, intended to be shared - recommendation is two plates per person.  This time, we got pickles, sourdough pull apart rolls and smoked bluefish drop dumplings for small plates and rhubarb and fennel salad, green onion gnudi and rack of lamb for the large.  The combo made for good balances with hot/cold, meat/veggie/starch and sweet/savory/sour.  My wife's a big lamb fan but not always easily pleased at restaurants.  She said she could have eaten about three of the rack of lamb plates.  Dessert was good, too.  We got one of each from the menu: preserved blueberry tart for my wife, honey cake and fly me to the moon, a root beer float made with rye bread ice cream, for me.  A stunning meal all around.

Rye bread is clearly a favorite flavor for the chef.  The best item we've had at the restaurant involved a rye bread sauce.  I don't even remember what the main feature of the dish was supposed to be.  That sauce was the star.

A DJ spins vinyl to accompany the meal - the music is pleasant, though hardly conventional.  On a previous visit, we were introduced to a fascinating Japanese prog rock band called Kikagaku Moyo.  I recommend you check out their song "Smoke and Mirrors."  We were hoping the music would be a hit with the kid but they found it a bit too loud.  

The drink menu is fun, too, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Most of the drinks are named after songs or are otherwise music-inspired: Yacht Rock, Push It, The Policy of Truth, etc.  I ordered a beer, something I've decided to do more often in restaurants.  I feel it's more cost-effective than cocktails.  Unfortunately, all of the beers on offer were in cans.  I'd have made a different choice if I'd known.

Wait staff is highly attentive.  I really like the vibe of the place, though I can understand how the music might not please everyone.  The price is on the higher side so while I have no problem claiming Paradiso Hi Fi as my new area favorite, there are better value choices around.

Friday, May 31, 2024

Star Trek: The Cloud

Episode: "The Cloud"
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Season 1, Episode 6
Original Air Date: February 13, 1995

via Memory Alpha

Given Voyager's predicament, addressing limited supplies is going to be a major factor in long-term survival.  Last week, it was the search for dilithium that lead to trouble.  This week, our friends encounter a nebula which is rich in omicron particles, a resource essential to their power reserves.  Of course, this is Star Trek and the nebula is not what it seems.  It is a living organism and our heroes have inadvertently caused it injury.  They do their best to make things right.

The series's most famous line is featured in "The Cloud," delivered by Captain Janeway: "There's coffee in that nebula."  The line was repeated by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in 2015.

"The Cloud" is a significant world-building episode, the world aboard ship, that is.  The broad theme is Janeway finding her proper role among the crew, a role certainly complicated by circumstances.  Tom Paris recreates a Marseille pool hall, Chez Sandrine, on the holodeck which becomes a favored social hangout spot for the crew.  The captain joins the gang at the end of the story, setting an important contrast with Jean-Luc Picard's reluctance to join the officers' poker game until the final scene of the final TNG episode.  Janeway is pretty good with a cue in her hands, too.  Kate Mulgrew did her own "stunts" at the pool table.

Janeway and Chakotay attain a new level of (platonic) intimacy as Chakotay guides the captain in a vision quest to find her spirit animal.  The writers were cautious in utilizing Chakotay's Native American heritage.  They wanted to be respectful, not playing too much on stereotypes.  They walked a thin line with the vision quest idea but I think it works here.

Neelix promotes himself to Ship Morale Officer, bringing hors d'oeuvres to the bridge during a tense moment.  Comic relief?  I suppose - still more than a tad annoying.  And frankly, The Doctor trying to get everyone's attention on the view screen (see image above) is much funnier.  In a more revealing scene, Neelix goes on a brief tirade to Kes about the crew's general recklessness:

"These people are natural born idiots if you ask me. They don't appreciate what they have here. This ship is the match of any vessel within a hundred light years and what do they do with it? Well, uh, let's see if we can't find some space anomaly today that might RIP IT APART!"

While Kes manages to calm him down, Neelix is not exactly wrong in expressing his concerns.  Perhaps the idea was for him to share what could just as easily be going through an audience member's mind from time to time.

A couple random thoughts for the road...

  • I've often found Kate Mulgrew's voice a bit grating but I've come to hear it in a new light (mixed metaphor - sorry).  Imagine Katharine Hepburn as Kathryn Janeway and it works just fine.
  • How did cast and crew manage having three Roberts in the principal cast?  The answer (thank you, Google): Robert Beltran (Chakotay) was referred to as "Robert," Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) was "Robbie" and Robert Picardo (The Doctor) has evidently always gone by "Bob."

Acting Notes

via Memory Alpha

Robert Duncan McNeill was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, November 9, 1964.  He attended the Julliard School in New York.  In 1986, he scored the role of Charlie Brent on All My Children, the fourth of six actors to play the character over a 24-year period.  He also appeared with Stockard Channing on Broadway in Six Degrees of Separation.  He made guest appearances in The Twilight Zone, L.A. Law and Quantum Leap.  He'd previously appeared on Star Trek as Nick Locarno in "The First Duty" as previously discussed here.

Since Voyager, most of his high profile work has been in producing and directing, notably for Chuck, Resident Alien and Turner & Hooch.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Squid Eats: Istanbul Kebab House

Istanbul Kebab House (IKH) in Burlington is one of our favorite restaurants for before or after events at the Flynn Theater.  We went most recently before the final Vermont Symphony Orchestra concert of the season.  Most of what westerners think of as "Middle Eastern" or "Eastern Mediterranean" cuisine is actually Turkish in origin, a legacy of one of history's most powerful empires.  So many would be familiar with the hummus, baba ganoush, tzatzki and, indeed, kebabs on offer at IKH.

We kept things simple on this visit.  I got the Chicken Shish Kebab, my wife the Döner Kebab.  We like everything on the menu, though.  On other occasions - with more time and, ideally, more people - we've enjoyed both the Large Meze Platter and the Mixed Grill Kebab.  Both are great ways to get a little bit of everything.  

IKH is not the most esteemed restaurant in its category in our area.  That would be the nearby Honey Road.  I personally prefer IKH for several reasons: Honey Road is more fusion-oriented.  That certainly has its place but when I'm in the mood for such fare, I want as close as possible to the real deal.  Honey Road is also more expensive and, as it is more popular, more crowded.  We can nearly always get a table at IKH, though reservations are recommended, particularly on the weekend.

Of course, for the best in the area, one must go to Montreal - no great hardship for our family.

IKH has a new cocktail menu, probably due to what I assume is a brand new head bartender.  We were in the perfect spot to watch staff get trained to make some of the new drinks.  I got a Black Sea Serpent, my wife a non-alcoholic Watermelon Fizz.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Star Trek: Heart of Stone

Episode: "Heart of Stone"
Series: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Season 3, Episode 14
Original Air Date: February 6, 1995

via Memory Alpha

On their way back from Prophet's Landing, Kira and Odo happen upon a Maquis ship attacking a cargo ship.  Their pursuit of the assailant leads them down to a moon.  In a cavern, Kira's gets caught in a rock which seems to be consuming her.  Odo works frantically to save her.  His efforts fail.  She seems doomed.  He confesses his love for her.  She confesses love right back.  But something is amiss...

Spoiler: the Kira caught in the cavern is actually the Female Changeling (Salome Jens) in disguise.  She wanted to better understand Odo's relationship with the Deep Space 9 crew, and Kira in particular.  It's hard to say which is more heartbreaking: Odo confessing his love as he knows he's about to lose Kira or his realization that it can't be Kira because he knows she's not truly in love with him.  The story, based on Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion, has reasonably been criticized for being contrived, even by Trek standards.

I would argue the B-plot is more important for the long-term trajectory of the series.  Nog tells Commander Sisko he wants to join Starfleet, shocking news to everyone but Nog himself.  Even more surprising is the reason: he doesn't want to turn out like his father, Rom, doomed to live under Quark's thumb forever.  Nog describes his father as a "mechanical genius."  I'm pretty sure it's the first time we've seen Rom described as anything but an idiot.  Even better, when Nog tells Quark about his ambitions and Uncle Q is horrified, Rom backs his son rather than kowtowing to his brother.  

At long last, Rom and Nog come into their own and that is a fantastic development for DS9.  It takes a while for the Nog in Starfleet story to bear full fruit.  Rom, on the other hand, only gets stronger from here.  

Acting Notes

via Wikipedia

Max Grodénchik (Rom) was born in New York City, November 12, 1952.  He nearly picked baseball over acting.  He was a gifted ballplayer, a fact that plays out interestingly in a wonderful future episode.  

Rom was the biggest role of Grodénchik's career, though it wasn't his first Trek role.  He played Ferengi in two NextGen episodes.  Evidently, he is an expert on the Rules of Acquisition.  He also made guest appearances on Night Court, ER and CSI.  Films include Barton Fink, Sister Act and Apollo 13.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Squid Eats: Casita

For our last meal of our recent trip to North Adams, Massachusetts, we had lunch at Casita, a Mexican restaurant.  Like Bigg Daddy's Philly Steak House and Bright Ideas Brewing, Casita is in the same courtyard as MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), again making for convenient dining in our immediate vicinity.  My wife had tried to make dinner reservations for the night before.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was closed that night for an event and had to cancel.  To make up for it, they offered us free tacos for lunch - hard to pass that up.

After starting with chips with guacamole and salsa, I got pollo and carne asada tacos, my wife the fish and the verduras.  We had churros for dessert.  All were lovely.  Somehow free food always tastes a little better but we would have been pleased with the meal anyway.

Service was swift, friendly and professional.  The decor is art deco-ish.  Big windows allowing lots of natural light - a common feature I have noted in North Adams restaurants, a feature I like very much.

We've already planned our next trip to North Adams for this summer.  While on the one hand, it might be exciting to branch out to new restaurants, having appealing options within easy walking distance is awfully nice.