25 April 2009

In a Manner of Speaking

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter which fork you use.
~ Emily Post

utting down on as much carbon emissions and gasoline usage as possible by taking public transportation as often as you can is something I advocate but had not until recently been able to do. Happily, a recent job change enabled me to leave my car at home and take the metro every day. I discovered that in addition to saving me time, gas and money, the switch also: 1) provides me with some much needed “think” time in the morning and evening; 2) greatly reduced my road rage; 3) potentially saves lives and limbs as I no longer wonder what happened in between leaving work and getting home, so engrossed in my thoughts I usually am; and 4) enables me to people watch. And let me tell you, colour matters! ;-)

Don't believe me? Take a ride on the Orange Line during rush hour ~ either in the morning or in the evening. Then take a ride on the Blue Line the next day at the same times. I have been doing this for five weeks straight now and I have noticed a marked difference between the manners of Orange Line riders and Blue Line riders. If you are so unfortunate as to be stuck on the Orange Line, make sure you get up and wiggle your way to the door AT LEAST two to three stops before you need to get off. Noone moves out of the way for passengers getting off at a stop on the Orange Line. And if you dare to clear your throat, or murmur a polite “Excuse me”, you get everything from out right glares to blank looks. But no movement.

My road rage may be gone but not my exasperation with stupidity and down right rudeness.

Riders on the Blue Line, however, are much more accommodating; some will even step off the train to let others off, before getting back on themselves. And I have observed this when riding in either direction ~ into the city or out of it. Now, grant you, the Orange Line does have more passengers on it, generally speaking. But that does not explain the attitudes of the people. Blue Line riders are just as tired after a long day, but they still smile and move out of the way. Even when they are packed in tightly during rush hour.

And as long as we are keeping score on rider manners, Blue Line riders are three times more likely to give up their seats for someone older or disabled. I have witnessed this myself. I have yet to see it happen on the Orange Line. But I will allow that I am not on the Orange Line all the time. In fact, I tend to wait an extra four minutes just to ride the more mannerly Blue Line.

So to all your Orange Line riders out there: take a moment and kindly let your fellow passengers through to their stop.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

03 April 2009

Caesar is rolling over in his grave!

What is food to one, is to others bitter poison.
Lucretius, De Rerum Natura

his past Wednesday a friend and I went to hear Mariza in concert for the second time in two months. At this rate, we will earn the title of fado groupies for sure! As anyone who has ever heard Mariza sing live, she delivers an incredibly moving and passionate performance every time.

Alas, I wish I could say the same for our pre-concert dinner. Neither of us had given much thought to where we were going to eat. The University of Richmond (where the concert was held) has a beautiful campus surrounded by large estates, ponds, lush green hills…and little else. We decided to play Russian roulette with his iPhone and found a little Italian place called Azzuro’s which touted itself as the “best Italian restaurant in the Richmond area.”

This may indeed be true, but I will reserve judgment until I have sampled some other Italian restaurants down in James River country. If it is true, it is a sad day for Richmond residents. To start, they brought us bread that I am certain was purchased from a grocery store three to four days ago: dry, flavorless and utterly unremarkable. I think sandpaper would have been a better choice.

For our first course, I chose the Creamy Avocado Crab Salad and my friend ordered the Oven Baked Scallops in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. I was curious to taste the scallops as I myself have never baked them before. To give the chef his due, they were not unpalatable, but the scallops were a little over done and all I tasted was the gorgonzola cheese. I may end up trying a spoonful of gorgonzola with mine, but no oven baking. Scallops are delicate little creatures and generally like a short hot butter bath ~ five minutes maximum.

When I took a forkful of my crab salad I wondered aloud what the poor thing had ever done to the chef to warrant such crass torture. Its own mother would not have recognized it, drowning in a pool of mayo like some cheap chicken of the sea! Red onion had been added for colour, but it overpowered any other flavor, including the avocado, so that the battle for my taste buds and culinary respect was lost in one bite.

One would think this was torture enough, but no. We had already ordered our entrees and it was too late to turn back now. Yellow fin tuna for my dining companion and a chicken dish with artichokes for me.

Honestly, I do not think I have ever had a worse dish in my entire life (not including my mother’s chicken livers). I almost asked to the see the chef. Again, there was no sense of balance or respect for flavors and texture. Tomatoes and mozzarella covered the chicken in a red and white oozing mass ~ it looked more like a crime scene than dinner. And not an artichoke could be found in that swamp. None. A few mushrooms lurked about, but other than that…..whew. My friend did not finish his entree either. We literally could not eat another bite, our foodie sensibilities were in such shock. Dessert was unthinkable at that point. We just wanted to run far away!

The wine we each had was quite good, however ~ mine was a smooth shiraz that practically danced a pirouette on my tongue. But as my friend pointed out, the chef had not made the wine!

Mariza made it all better, of course. But just a word of caution ~ when in Richmond, avoid Azzuro’s and do some foodie research!
Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela