Bánh Mì: The Best Sandwich in the World (a Second Stay at Home Date Night)

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pork banh mi sandwich, blurry background, sandwich, roast pork.Homemade Pork Bánh Mì for Stay at Home Date Night

The story behind my obsession with this sandwich

banh mi circle quotationPerhaps you too would have felt cranky and dubious if you’d been lost in Little Italy, dragging two whiny kids behind you, as you searched and searched for a supposedly good Vietnamese sandwich shop hiding behind the storefront of a jewelry store.

How good could this sandwich possibly be, as you find it, pass the glass cases of jade bracelets and gold necklaces, and finally get the food in some bags to go, only to wander around the bustling streets of Manhattan for another half hour looking for a place to sit down and eat?

Banh Mi Saigon Mott Street 2009 New York City Marcy

Banh Mi Saigon Bakery Mott Street New York City 2009

And then, feeling annoyed and giving the stink eye to your husband, it happens: You bite into the Best Sandwich in the World.

Marcy bucket of frogs New York City Chinatown 2009This was my experience in New York City in 2009, when we wandered the city on an already over but delightful foodie photo scavenger hunt. (Fun fact: That’s also when I had the pleasure of sticking my hand into a bucket of frogs.) We found Bánh Mì Saigon on Mott Street, behind the storefront of a jewelry store. (They have since relocated to more spacious digs on Grand Street.)

I’ll always remember that moment of biting into the crusty French bread. The mix of salty, sweet, sour, and savory melted away all my aggravation as I realized that, yes, this sandwich was worth the search and more. It features a mix of crunchy pork and creamy pâté, tangy pickled vegetables, bright cilantro, and spicy hot sauce. It even throws in some history, as the Vietnamese ingredients combine with the remnants of French colonialism in the bread, mayonnaise, and pâté.

Our Second Friday Night Date Night

This special sandwich was the star of my second Stay at Home Date Night, and, oh, what a star it was.

We used Chef John’s recipes for pan roasted 5-spice pork loin and the pork bánh mì sandwich.

If you missed my first Stay at Home Date Night, I’ll say it again: cooking together at home for a date night is cheaper than going out and a lot more fun than cooking as a weeknight chore. Plus, we get to enjoy our own music, wine, and cooking, and we don’t have to deal with crowds. I won’t say the sandwich came out better than the first one I tried, but it definitely surpassed the ones I’ve ordered in restaurants since. Fresh, delicious, not hard to make, and exactly how I wanted it.

pork banh mi sandwich, roasted pork, homemade banh mi

What was in my bánh mì?

  • Crusty bread toasted with special sauce (mayonnaise with hoisin and sriracha)
  • Roast pork, thinly sliced
  • Pâté
  • Pickled carrot and radish (substituted for daikon, a Japanese radish)
  • Cucumber spears
  • Jalapeño slices

Let me know if you stick your hand into a bucket of frogs–or if you give the sandwich or stay at home date night a try.

pickled carrot and radish, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeno

pork banh mi, cooking, pan roasted pork

pork banh mi, pan roasted pork

pork banh mi, roasted pork, slicing

pork banh mi, sandwich

See also:

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Jewel-toned one-pot pasta: Beets cleaning an extra pot

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One pot pasta with beets mushrooms and parmesan

I got the side eye from family members when I picked up beets for a new beef and beets pasta recipe I wanted to try, so I roasted the beets anyway and set them aside for an undetermined purpose down the road. That purpose arrived when I decided to jump aboard the one-pot pasta craze, albeit about two years late.

One pot pasta ingredients beets and mushrooms

The not-quite-a-recipe:   I sauteed half an onion and 3/4 cups of sliced mushrooms in olive oil and then piled in the rest of the ingredients: a portion of bucatini with a diameter of about a nickel (1/2 cup?), two small roasted beets sliced into half moons, garlic, salt, pepper, and about a cup of water. I heard one part pasta to three parts liquid works well, but I think I went more with one to two, figuring I could add more liquid if needed. I nailed it, though. After 10 minutes, the pasta was al dente, and the gorgeous ruby liquid was perfectly absorbed. I topped it with a little parmesan cheese.


One-pot pasta: It’s an absorbing process

The taste?   Good, but yikes that was a high beet-to-pasta ratio. I still had a pile of beets left over in the bottom of the bowl when I finished eating, and I ate enough beets to stain my lips red (or redder). It was the prettiest jewel-toned pasta I ever did see, though.

And cooking it in one pot?   Beets cleaning an extra pot.

One pot pasta bowl with beets mushrooms and parmesanOne-pot Pasta: Bucatini with Mushrooms and Beets

via GIPHY

Just another Meatless Monday

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Friday night date night just got better, and cheaper, and did I mention I didn’t have to leave the house?

Polar bear stained glass (made by my dad)

When our kids were babies, my husband and I would hurry home on Friday afternoons to squeeze in a quick bite in a restaurant before the clock ran out to pick the boys up from day care, our only time out together in a hectic week. Even when the kids were old enough to stay home alone, the tradition continued, sometimes joined by a Saturday night date night, and maybe a Wednesday night date night when things got squirrelly.

Going out to eat is one of our favorite forms of “entertainment,” but with one son now in college and the other one going next year, we desperately needed to economize. I hatched a plan: cook at home, but make it fancy. By getting my husband on board to hang out and help, cooking at home on a Friday night transformed from an exhausting chore to a fun event.

We listened to music and had some wine while we cooked scallops with asparagus, a splurge for a home meal, but a pittance compared to if we’d eaten out. We made a few adjustments to the recipe, adding mushrooms, garlic, and spinach, and we served it over parmesan polenta. It came out a divine mix of flavors and textures, heavy on the pepper, which somehow gave it an extra special exotic zing.

We’re hermits at heart, so getting to stay home out of the cold was icing on the cake. Hmm, cake…

Even though I’m one of those people who took pictures of my food before it was a thing, I didn’t think to snap one last night. No worries, though. That meal will live on in my memory just fine.

Some ideas for future stay-at-home date nights:

  • Steak Diane for Two (even sounds romantic)
  • Shrimp Scampi (think I’ll go over polenta again; that was so good)
  • Portuguese Stew (I’ve always wanted to make it)
  • Banh Mi Sandwiches (the best sandwich in the world, but I’ve never made one myself)

Do you have stay-at-home date nights? What special dishes should I try?

Update–Bánh Mì: The Best Sandwich in the World (a Second Stay at Home Date Night)

rp_Five-spice-pan-roasted-banh-mi-sandwich-640x480.jpg

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I might be a replicant

{Send me a postcard}

Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 07

I am 54 percent likely to be a replicantAfter watching the fascinating film Ex Machina, I fell into a rabbit hole reading about the Turing Test, sidled over to whether the Blade Runner replicant test counted as a Turing Test, and ended up scoring a 54 percent likelihood that I myself am a replicant. It’s a simplistic test, so I wasn’t too fazed. That is, I wasn’t too fazed until my husband scored as more likely to be a human than I.

How can this be? I’ve been calling my husband a pod person since seeing the Invasion of the Body Snatchers creatures’ eerie resemblance to my husband’s maddening lack of empathy that occasionally rears its low-affect head.

I re-took the test with the mindset of answering as I guessed a fully human respondent would answer, and I scored a zero percent chance of being a replicant. That means I am capable of imitating a human better than I am at being one. Thus, I can at least pass the Turing Test. Which is nice.

I next stumbled onto a Bloggess recommendation to check out Dreamscope. Her headline warned: Get ready to waste a good hour.

Yep, at least an hour.

Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 02 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 03  Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 05  Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 08 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 09 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 10 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 11 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 12 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 13 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 14 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 15 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 16 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 17 Mardi Gras David Marcy Daniel 19

I lost my pedometer a week ago, and the replacement should be arriving today. It’s time to get off the couch again, to be sure.

At Mardi Gras 2007
Down South in New Orleans

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My 5th Blogoversary, and Love on a Copy Machine

love on a copy machine

Today is my 5th blogoversary.

Five years of blogging! It’s been fulfilling to make connections with people around the world, some drifting into my life and others drifting out as our interests have changed, all documented here in living color. I worked a lot harder at blogging a few years ago, as I toiled at getting my stats up, toyed briefly with monetization, and linked up at various blog parties.

I didn’t write as much in the last year. I thought I was dealing with writer’s block for a long time, and I guess I was, but I also felt like I finished telling the stories I wanted to tell. I’m sure some new ones will come along, and I hope they do, but for right now I don’t want to force it.

I just reviewed my favorite posts from 2015, so on to my favorite funny search terms from the year, along with, well, another one.

Funny search terms

love on a copy machine
how do ladies with a big bust play the bodhran
don’t be a prufrock
farmers drinking beer and goofing off
freaky old man in toga
a crazy man’s brain waves
steps to eat food
bucket of pez

The last one, though, is so peculiar, I couldn’t bring myself to type it, lest I bring on even more bizarre Google juice in the future. You’ll have to settle for a screenshot. What is going on out there, people?

not so funny search term
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They didn’t find the answer on my blog, just to be clear.

Stats Attack

My most visited post of the year also became my most visited post of all time:
A Christmas Quest: Solve the Riddles to Find Your Present

It gets a big surge in interest each year as Christmas approaches. I like the idea of little kids searching for gifts on Christmas morning, and that being connected in some small way to my story. And that’s what has been the most special part of blogging to me, making connections.

Stats for A Christmas Quest

P.S. I continued my tradition of illustrating my blog anniversary posts with images purchased from Fiverr.

Previous blog anniversaries

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Year in Review 2015: Just When I Thought I Was Out

Royal typewriter

{Celebrate your courage. Send me a postcard.}

I slowed down with blogging in 2015 and didn’t write a single post for the month of June for the first time since I began in 2011. Just when I thought I was out, I received news that I won a Voices of the Year award and was invited to appear onstage at the #BlogHer15 conference in New York City.

I was filled with intense dread at the prospect, but intense excitement, too, and I knew I had to do it, no matter how much I told myself I couldn’t. After all, I had declared I was timid no more.

Meeting blogging friends in real life and enjoying the conference made me realize I didn’t want to stop blogging. I’ve now settled into a comfortable routine of blogging when I feel like it and not worrying about what or when I should post. That’s how a hobby should feel, of course, but it took me quite a while to get here.

Year in Review: 2015

January

Blue boats of Essaouira MoroccoTangled Up in Blue

As I shuffle through my travel photos, bits of memories wash over me. Some loom large in my past, while others are only tiny moments, almost forgotten. I listen to music as I remember. When Bob Dylan comes on, I grow tangled up in blue …” (Read more)
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LevitateLevitate.

“This means that, even in my dreams, I never fly, never even levitate.

“Until now.” (Read more)
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February

Golden RecordFrom Bees to Brain Waves for Aliens: Unconventional Love Letters

“My husband tells his science students this story every Valentine’s Day. Somewhere, sometime, in a galaxy far, far away, will an alien life form decipher Druyan’s feelings long after we’ve all left this mortal coil? As heady as that is to think about, I also think of my husband’s students hearing this story in a sleepy first period classroom and carrying it silently with them until they meet the person who ignites such devotion inside of them.” (Read more)

Planet Trapeze School #littleplanetPlanet Amsterdam and Other Worlds

I asked people to vote for their favorite “little planet.” As of this writing, Planet Trapeze School and Planet Tennis are tied for first place, each earning about 30 percent of the votes. Will someone break the tie? (Read more)
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March

The Hideout Kilcullen IrelandSearching for Dan Donnelly’s Right Arm

“I walked into the pub and tried to act nonchalant, but just how do you bring up that you’re looking for the preserved arm of a bare-knuckle boxer from the 19th century?

“Slowly. That’s how you bring it up.” (Read more)

Make homemade kefirLeave some milk in a dark cupboard to make homemade kefir

“I’ll admit it took a leap of faith to drink it, knowing it had sat at room temperature in the cupboard for a day. People in Eastern Europe, though, have been preserving milk this way for centuries, so who am I to question it?” (Read more)

April

50 Years of Great Rock50 Years of Great Rock: You Say It’s Your Birthday

“Hop on a 14-minute journey through the history of rock and roll. Starting with the classic rock of the Who in 1965, you’ll hear hard rock, psychedelia, roots rock, Southern rock, funk, punk, new wave, a quick nod to disco, eighties pop, grunge, indie rock, and beyond….” (Read more)

Cuzco plaza at nightThe Middle Ages

A 42-word post told with photos (Read more)
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May

Comfort zone postcard 03 Dancing with the StarsPostcards from Outside Your Comfort Zone {3}: Dancing with the Stars

Send me a postcard to celebrate an achievement, large or small! (Read more)
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July

#BlogHer15, VOTY, recapMy #BlogHer15 Recap as a Timid and Squeamish VOTY Featured Honoree: From Excited to Terrified to Exuberant

“When two men sat down at the table, I embarrassed myself by blurting out, ‘Men!’ as if I had just sighted two lions on the Serengeti. They laughed it off, though, and were used to standing out in this estrogen-filled crowd.” (Read more)

#BlogHer15 Experts Among Us notebookHow to Avoid the Killing of Darlings

“Save snippets like
pulsing hearts,
scraps like
vital bones.” (Read more)
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August

crab10 Things I Learned from Naked and Afraid (and a Perfect Connecticut Afternoon)

“1. After a few awkward minutes, no one will care if you’re naked in the wilderness.

“2. There’s good naked and bad naked. (OK, I learned that one from Seinfeld, but I relearned it from Naked and Afraid.)” (Read more)

 Cry “Havoc!” in a Sleepy Classroom

“My students hadn’t thought twice
about a stab in the back,
or a robe drenched in blood;
video games steeled them
against such violence.” (Read more)
..

September

Marcy trapolining blurry proofFrom Trafficgeddon to Trampolining

“I’d vowed never to return to the Big E after my last gridlocked visit, wall to wall elbows while I directed my little boys to look at the just-hatched chicks, or the monster trucks, or the world’s best fried dough. When a religious holiday gave me a day off mid-week, though, I thought I’d give it another try. The whole Eastern seaboard had the same idea.” (Read more)

October

Marcy long hair Cousin Itt before donate ponytailDonate my ponytail

“I cut off my ponytail, and I am donating it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, which creates real-hair wigs for cancer patients.” (Read more)
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November

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CTThe Bushnell Park Carousel, a Delight with Barbecue to Boot

“Oh, to those joyous moments, when you’ve already accepted a lesser perfection. Love bubbles up and spreads and shines.

“The carousel started, a kaleidoscope of sweet, distorted sound, flashes of color and light, and stretching, careening shapes.” (Read more)

December

Roasted pears with blue cheese over arugulaWhat I Ate on Christmas: Lasagna, Roasted Pears, and Fudgestravaganza

Tennis outside on Christmas day, fudgestravaganza, and the prettiest pears I’ve ever been in the same room with all made for an extra sweet holiday. (Read more)

Royal typewriter faded ribbon What?

Happy New Year!

How has your year gone? Bloggers: Do you put pressure on yourself to post? Feel free to link up a favorite post or a “year in review” in the comments.

Year in Review 2012 Year in Review 2013

Year in Review 2014 Year in Review 2015

 2015 review button_zpsaebial7k workshop-button-1

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What I Ate on Christmas: Lasagna, Roasted Pears, and Fudgestravaganza

Christmas table setting with Christmas cracker

With my older son home from college, Christmas was more special than ever, and I cooked up a festive meal to celebrate.

As with our long-standing tradition, I threw an already-assembled breakfast casserole into the oven when we awoke, and it baked while we opened our Christmas presents.

Christmas breakfast casserole

We didn’t have lunch, but we broke out the fudge for our first-ever Fudgestravaganza. We’d put molten fudge into ramekins the day before and mixed in various treats for six different types of fudge: caramel, fruit and nut, toffee, white chocolate, marshmallow, and plain.

Christmas fudgestravaganza

Christmas fudgestravaganza

There’s a winter heat wave now in Connecticut, and instead of sub-freezing temperatures and piles of snow, we had green grass and a day in the 60s, so we hopped out and played a set of doubles tennis together, just the thing to work up an appetite for dinner!

Christmas day tennis selfie

Christmas day tennis outside in Connecticut: exhilarating!

For Christmas dinner, I served lasagna; roasted pears; and fennel, red onion, and orange salad. I make pasta all the time, but hadn’t made lasagna in years.

Christmas dinner lasagna roasted pears fennel saladChristmas lasagna

The roasted pears were stuffed with blue cheese, cranberries, and walnuts, and served over arugula. I liked them, but they were not a hit with the boys. They sure are pretty, though, right?

Roasted pears with blue cheese over arugula

The roasted fennel, red onion, and orange salad was tasty, and I liked how it contrasted with the rich lasagna.

Roasted fennel, red onion, and orange salad

Our Christmas cocktail was a Moscow Mule. My husband and I had both given the hammered copper mugs that the drink is traditionally served in to each other as a present. Kismet.

Moscow mule copper mugs Christmas presentsChristmas copper mugs

It’s hard to take a #selfie in a #coppermug . #moscowmule for Christmas

A photo posted by Marcy (@marcytootimid) on

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy holiday season.

Christmas presents under Christmas tree

Years of Christmas past:

Linking up to WIAW at Sprint 2 the Table

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The Bushnell Park Carousel, a Delight with Barbecue to Boot

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

With a wide-open Saturday and a new camera lens, I longed to visit the Bushnell Park Carousel on a crisp November afternoon. I wanted my family to come along, but they were reluctant.

Barbecue to the rescue.

I assured them 30 minutes, tops, for the photo shoot, and separately asked them to estimate the percentage chance they’d ride the carousel.

Zero. Zero percent.

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

I started taking a few photos, and to my delight my husband Randy went on up and bought three $1 tickets for the next ride.

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

Oh, to those joyous moments, when you’ve already accepted a lesser perfection. Love bubbles up and spreads and shines.

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

The carousel started, a kaleidoscope of sweet, distorted sound, flashes of color and light, and stretching, careening shapes.

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

We dismounted, and as the ride started up again, I took a series of blurry photos, with a few gorgeous splashes of color and light frozen in my sights.

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

I needed more, and I searched for the black and silver beauty, a horse named Sir Galahad.

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, CT

Bushnell Park, Hartford, CT

And after all that we still had barbecue ahead. (Vegans, look away.)

Bear's Smokehouse Barbecue, Hartford, CT

Bear's Smokehouse Barbecue, Hartford, CT

Things to do in Connecticut Things to Do in Connecticut

Bushnell Park Carousel, Hartford, CT

Bushnell Park Carousel, Hartford, CT

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Update–I played around with creating an HDR effect in Photoshop:
Bushnell Park Carousel dutch HDR effect Bushnell Park Carousel Dan Randy HDR effect Bushnell Park Carousel Sir Galahad HDR effect

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Donate my ponytail

Donating my ponytail to @Pantene #8or8 #beautifullengths #pantenebeautifullengths

A photo posted by Marcy (@marcytootimid) on

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I cut off my ponytail, and I am donating it to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, which creates real-hair wigs for cancer patients.

Marcy long hair Cousin Itt before donate ponytail

Donate my ponytail 101 things in 1001 days

Related: My husband shaved his head for St. Baldrick’s–Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

#8or8 #BeautifulLengths

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Examine the LARPers: How to Tell New England Fairs Apart

Fall in New England is a wondrous time, with fairs of every size and shape vying for attention. It can get a little confusing, though, so here’s a handy field guide to figuring out just where you are.

Who are the LARPers?

  • Jesters, Knights, Wenches: You’re at a Renaissance Faire.
  • Zombies, Rambo, Survivalists: You’re at a Doomsday Fair.

Renaissance Faire or Doomsday Fair New England

How are people dressed?

  • Gowns and Doublets: You’re at a Renaissance Faire.
  • Shredded jeans and t-shirts: You’re at a Doomsday Fair.

Doomsday Fair and Renaissance Faire dress collage

What are the weapons like?

  • Whips and hurlbats: You’re at a Renaissance Faire.
  • No weapons allowed: You’re at a Doomsday Fair.

Renaissance Faire CT

What insults are you hearing?

  • “You toad-spotted malt worm!”: You’re at a Renaissance Faire.
  • “You wouldn’t last two days in the Zombie Apocalypse!”: You’re at a Doomsday Fair.

Doomsday Fair or Renaissance Faire insults collage

What food’s available?

  • Turkey legs and mead: You’re at a Renaissance Faire.
  • MREs: You’re at a Doomsday Fair.

Renaissance Faire CT

What entertainment’s available?

  • Jousting and axe throwing: You’re at a Renaissance Faire.
  • Roller derby girls: You’re at a Doomsday Fair.

Renaissance Faire or Doomsday Fair

Related:

Marcy zombie at Doomsday Fair

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