Thursday, September 30, 2010

Webb of da Leaks

When you can't depend on your original installer of your heating and air conditioning system, which in my case was Barnette Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., in Mocksville, then someone else has to come in and get the problems straightened out.

That's what led to this van (pictured here) showing up at my house early this morning, following my late-night return from New Orleans. My general contractor, Peter LaRoque, called on Webb Heating and Air Conditioning Company, Inc., from nearby Advance, NC, to find out why my brand-new upstairs system that Barnette installed was losing so much freon.

The technician started in the attic with the inside unit, and he said his freon detector was going wild up there. That's how bad the leaking has been. I'm waiting for a report from Pete to know for sure what problem ultimately had to be addressed, but he said something about the coil in that unit being the source of the leak. Then he pumped up the freon supply again (it was less than eight weeks ago that 3 pounds of freon had to be added to the system) and left without giving me any kind of report.

So let me say again: not only would I NOT RECOMMEND Barnette Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc., of Mocksville, NC...I would in fact strongly encourage those who use them to strongly consider whether they too are stuck with hidden problems or are also not receiving the service they thought they were.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Jupiter Shines on Winston-Salem

It has been really intriguing to watch the brightness of an unusually-close planet Jupiter as it rises in the eastern sky of late. I first noticed it a couple of weeks ago as I was sitting on the upstairs porch looking out at the city skyline one evening. A very bright star was announcing itself just to the left of the Wachovia Center tower at the southern end of the downtown area, and I used the remarkable Google Sky app on my Droid phone to determine what it was. As the evening progressed, the position of Jupiter changed and appeared to rise up directly above the skyscraper and eventually move on above the southern sky.

In this picture, you can see it very near the middle of the photograph, above and slightly right of center over the Wachovia building.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Squirrels Are Nuts about the Porch

Something about early mornings on the front porch has become attractive to my yard squirrels. A couple of weeks ago, I found where they had been digging around in a potted plant out there. And this past Sunday, when it was time for some pleasant-weather coffee-drinking, I came out to discover the remnants of a big nut that apparently represented the dregs of a bit of squirrel breakfast.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Van Gogh Bathroom: Floor Tile Removed

As noted a few days ago, one of the new bathrooms upstairs (which serves a guest bedroom) has been partially demolished in order to diagnose the source of leaking water and to abate the accompanying mold that has started to grow on the sub-flooring. My general contractor Peter LaRoque and his assistant Robert were back again this past Saturday to finish taking up the tile flooring and removing the grout dry-set underneath it. They applied mold abatement chemicals to the subflooring underneath.

Pete wanted to go ahead and start patching the places where he has had to cut into the drywall, but because we are not certain about the cause or source of the water that was leaking, this will be delayed until he has a chance to get an HVAC consult on the leak to that system and determine if the water and the low freon are connected issues.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Meal No. 150: Kung Pao Chicken

With a rich sauce bubbling away, it was a pleasure to again take the wok in hand last night to produce a scrumptious meal of Kung Pao Chicken. I feel mighty lucky to have received several years ago a perfect birthday present: a smart wok cookbook that always and consistently gets it right, in part because it guides your steps with the philosophy behind wok-based Asian cooking.

The meal last night (which I made a bit too spicy but that just made the beer taste that much better) was chicken thigh meat this time, along with water chestnuts, red bell pepper, baby bella mushrooms, green onions, garlic, and asparagus. And I spread it all out on top of some especially tasty fried rice, using some leftover white basmati from a rice-cooker meal a couple of weeks ago.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Annual Fiesta Comes to Downtown

Although it was still a bit warm today, it was another perfect day for a happening event to close off the nearby city streets. The Hispanic League of Winston-Salem sponsors Fiesta in the fall, and so the house was again surrounded by lots of festival-goers parking nearby. A mid-afternoon stroll up Fourth Street permitted a small taste of the event, although the intended destination was to check on friends manning the 6th & Vine booth on the corner of Fourth and Poplar Streets.

Photo from Hispanic League's Website

Friday, September 24, 2010

Van Goghs to Hell

The upstairs guest bedroom in the northwest corner of the house is where one of three new bathrooms was added upstairs as part of last year's construction project. That bedroom has copies of Van Gogh paintings and is affectionately known as the Van Gogh room.

That bathroom is where my General Contractor, Peter LaRoque, found water under the floor tiles when he was investigating the source of the leak above the wetbar in the kitchen area below. Last weekend, he and his helper Robert starting tearing up the floor tile to see how bad the water leakage problem seemed to be and to see if a source for it, or direction of it, could be determined.

So here are some pictures of one of my brand-new bathrooms:

And if you'll notice the subflooring in this close-up photo, you'll see the black where mold has already taken hold.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Collision Course on Broad Street

While wrapping up dinner the other night, we heard quite a loud crash and even felt a bit of vibration. A quick dash up the street confirmed that there'd been a good collision of two vehicles up at the intersection of Broad Street and Fourth. With my tripod and camera on timed shutter, I was actually able to capture from up on the porch roof (as it wraps around to the north side of the house) a couple of decent shots in spite of the distance and the low lighting.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

No More Shaky Shower Control

When my General Contractor, Peter LaRoque, was here last weekend to continue investigating the leak issue, he also corrected the shaky shower control in the southwest bathroom upstairs, the one serving the bedroom on the parking lot side of the house.

It turns out that the original plumbing subcontractor, Mel Jones (who has gone out of business), used rather a cheap plastic clip to hold the control and pipes to part of the framing, and it had snapped. Pete used heavy-duty panduit plastic ties and he didn't have to cut into the wall or dislodge any tile to get it properly secured again.

One more thing to check off the list!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Texas Sheet Cake

Sunday night, when some friends were over and I served Not So Cajun Chicken, I whipped up a half-order of Texas Sheet Cake. It's a dessert I used to make all the time--it really takes me back to college when my mother would send me back to UNC with a pan of this in tow--and when I first started teaching at Wake Forest I often made it for my students.

But it had been a while. Maybe I've just lost my taste for it.

That, plus I hate Texas.

"Texas Sheet Cake," also known as Scotch Chocolate Cake. Credited to Susie Timmons. From "Popular: Cake Request Gets 22 Responses," by Michael Hastings, Food Editor of the Winston-Salem Journal. Published October 6, 2010.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meal No. 149: Just Like No. 148

I still had a package of chicken breast tenderloins, and some rice, so my mid-day meal today was to make up another batch of Not So Cajun Chicken. And it was still delicious.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Meal No. 148: Not So Cajun Chicken

Tonight was a return to one of my favorite dishes, the one I would make for company when I used to have folks over less frequently, the first meal I made in the new kitchen once it was completed enough to move into back in 2009...

Not So Cajun Chicken

Not So Cajun Chicken is a reasonably easy meal to prepare, and with chicken breast tenderloins on special this week, it seemed to be the right recipe to reach for. It was a nice interruption to a DVD watching party here this evening. I'll blog about the dessert tomorrow.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Meal No. 147: Ribeyes & Rock-the-Block

I don't think the City of Winston-Salem could have had a finer September day for its annual Rock-the-Block event downtown. With Fourth Street closed starting at Spring Street, it's put a lot of cars passing the house and has filled up the available spaces along Spring Street.

So lots of activity all around the house, and I chose to light citronella candles and burn citronella incense sticks in the backyard so that I could grill up a hellaciously good bone-in ribeye and fry up some steak fries. This was a perfect accompaniment to watching the next episode in the sixth and final season of Lost.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A Find at Lowe's Foods

Here's a word about guilty indulgences:

I rather enjoy settling down for a good greasy breakfast at the local favorite Cagney's, or at the notorious Waffle House. And I'll be guilty of slathering too much mixed fruit jelly from those little individual tubs on whatever toast or biscuits I've gotten. So you'd think with that jelly being so delicious, you could just go to the store and buy some.

But no. I have not found it in any of my local grocery stores. According to the Smucker's website, that item is carried by Kroger as far south as Martinsville, but trust me: I've stopped in and looked there and in Rocky Mount, VA, and in Charlottesville. To no avail. My sister Allison actually brought me some she'd found in a Meijer's in Lafayette, IN. And I hoarded it for a while.

So imagine my surprise to turn around in the grocery aisle on a rare visit to the Winston-Salem-based Lowe's Foods and find a mess of jars of Smucker's mixed fruit jelly on the shelf behind me.

It makes me happy to see that jar sitting on my refrigerator shelf.

By the way, I've only been able to find it in one out of three different Lowe's Foods stores that I've looked in. Seems a bit divine.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Unplotted Plant

I've got small divots all over the back and side yards, ostensibly from my squirrels in their search for nuts. Which I thought was more of a wintertime endeavor for them. But what do I know? I just put birdseed and bad pecans out and they do their thing.

But I didn't particularly want them doing their thing to a potted plant that a principal in Richmond County, NC, had given me after one of my visits to his school. I do not think it came with nuts.

Since it's a hanging basket, you could reasonably wonder why it's not hanging up. I found I was letting it dry out way too fast way too much of the time. Sitting it behind the column pillar on the porch keeps it where I'm reminded to water it and it doesn't have to take on the direct morning sun.

And yes: the yard still begs for a good landscaping job.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Low and Dry

Not sure if it's just unexplained phenomena, or if the issue of cellar flooding might now be much-contained. But here's a shot of the cellar from a few weeks ago right after Winston-Salem had had a heckuva massive downpour of rain:

I noted back in May 2009, when the gutters on the addition were installed, that I was worried that the downspout outside the master suite would exacerbate the problems I'd already been having there with water getting into the cellar. As recently as March, it was clear that a wet cellar was going to be the rule of the day each time it rained good and much.

The way my general contractor had routed the run-off from the downspout in question meant that water was going to really pile up in the soft ground around the foundation on that south side of the house. I talked about this in a blog entry a few months ago, noting how much washing there was along the side of the porch and across the front yard. That's when I got the idea to try to get as much of that water at least out onto the parking area as possible.

The picture at the top seems to bear out the wisdom of that small adjustment. It's not the permanent solution, but I like the looks of a dry cellar for a change.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Fuzzy about Visitors

Not all the visitors to the Roediger House strut around on just two legs. Here's Cass, who's now stopped by a couple of times. And he's a cutie.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Meal: No. 147

It started last year, when I got to thinking about how I wanted to celebrate my birthday. And since I like whipping up meals and having people over, that's the plan I got in my head and decided to repeat this year. Since I'm such a fan of red meat, the only decision was which kind of beef would be the featured entree.

I decided to go with a boneless ribeye roast.

For the appetizer, I liked the idea of making small crabcakes again, but I tried out a new recipe that had some Asian inspiration to it. I still went with the amazing garlic-chile-lime aioli that was shared with me by good friends in New Jersey.

The salad is the closest imitation I can make of a much-loved salad offered at the Ryan's Restaurant on Coliseum Drive here in town, a finer dining establishment that was always a good place to go on special occasions. The recipe for this salad and its sweet-and-sour vinaigrette was tracked down by my college roommate Jimmy Randolph; he pulled it from Southern Living. It is a spiced pecan and blue cheese salad where all the flavors just seem to blend wonderfully.

I did not like the final result with the roast; I feel like I've had much better beef than this. The shiitake mushroom cream sauce was also a little on the bland side. But if you look closely at the plate below, you might notice something funny about the Brussels sprouts: they are deep-fried. This is a Michael Symon recipe as found on the Food Network's website, and I wanted to try it because I had these at two of his restaurants last month (one in Cleveland, and one in Detroit). They were pretty darned good.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Meal No. 146: Ribeyes and Steak Fries

I guess it's safe to say that I'm a fan of Amazon Prime. I'm nearing the end of my one-month trial and I expect to find it well worth it to pay for a year's membership in order to secure 2-day free shipping on most things I order from them.

Take, for instance, the speed with which I was able to obtain a deep fat fryer once I decided I had to have one. I ordered it on Thursday afternoon and FedEx brought it to the house late Saturday morning. That means it was just in time to put into service for last night's meal of ribeyes and steak fries.

I was happy to receive the benefit of some overstocking at 6th & Vine this past week: they do not have a fryer and so fries are not on the menu. When Sysco Food Distributors ended up dropping off steak fries with a recent order, I was happy to take a bag off their hands. It's awesome to control the cooking of them, so's I can get them good and crispy like I like 'em.

The grill was just right and the steaks sizzled and cooked wonderfully while some light rain continued to fall last evening.

I am such a fan of filet mignon and that's about all I ever buy, but I'm glad to be rediscovering ribeyes. Last night's steaks came from Sam's Club and, like always, the meat was mighty good. And being able to eat a Saturday night meal of steak and fries took me directly back to growing up in Buies Creek, where that was what we ate more than any other single meal, I bet. All the taste memories came flooding back. It was delicious.

And since I'd made some peach ice cream the other morning, why not serve it up for dessert?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Saturday Stuff Sweeps the City

If there were any question about how happening the City of Winston-Salem has turned out to be, look no further than the busy calendar of events for this single September Saturday. The map and list of events on the right should give you some idea. And fortunately, this time around, these many events did not involve the closure of Spring Street.

However, Fourth Street just above the house was closed as part of the CrimeStoppers 5K Race for Justice, and it meant that at about 9 this morning, there were cars that didn't know where to go or what to do in front of the house. One fool even parked blocking the driveway of Radar Security Alarm, Inc., across from the house, which left the guy just coming off a 12-hour shift pretty peeved when he couldn't get out.

Late morning and early afternoon, the sounds overhead from helicopters and planes and jets could be heard, as the Air Show was happening out at Smith-Reynolds Airport.

I did go up to 6th & Vine today, which put me around the two events that caused Sixth and Trade Streets to be closed: the Bookmarks Festival and the St. Baldrick's Foundation Fundraiser.

Ah, but it was good to be back home in the Roediger House once I was through running around.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Mature Mantis at the Window

I have no way to know and can't prove it one way or the other, but I'd like very much to think that the praying mantis I spotted clinging to the screen of one of the kitchen bay windows a few nights ago is the same one I met as a baby back in mid-July.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Morning Making of Peach Ice Cream

I love white peaches, and when they went on sale at Lowe's Grocery, I went a bit overboard in buying them. So I ended up with more than I needed and figured I might as well try them in a peach ice cream recipe. I prepped the mix a day or so ago but had not gotten around to freezing it, so that's what I did between getting up this morning and getting ready for my workday.

How many people do you know who were making ice cream at 7 am?

Ah, but I don't think white peaches have a strong enough flavor to them, so this is not going to be among my best ice creams, I'm afraid. Still, it will be good to have on-hand for a quick dessert if the situation calls for it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meal No. 145: Don't Turn the Page on Sage

WINSTON-SALEM, NC [AP]: There is a report this evening of a serious food coma in a residence on Spring Street in the Holly Avenue Neighborhood in downtown Winston-Salem, NC. Apparently, the parmesan-crusted chicken breasts with a lemon-sage butter sauce were so incredible that the owner of this historic home ate himself into a body-numbing food coma. With sides of baby Brussels sprouts, whipped potatoes, and one of last night's homemade buttermilk biscuits, this Wednesday evening dinner was apparently too much, and the victim is attempting to recover without seeking medical treatment by sitting in his easy chair by the fireplace in the kitchen. Events will continue to be monitored and updates posted as the situation changes.

Now, back to you.

Parmesan-Crusted Chicken
with a Lemon-Sage Butter Sauce

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meal No. 144: Sage Crusted Roast Pork

Too soon for a repeat? I don't think so.

This evening's meal: Sage Crusted Roast Pork with vegetables, baked potato, a fantastic mushroom cream sauce, some homemade buttermilk biscuits, and some more of that dulce de leche cheesecake bar dessert.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Meal No. 143: Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry

Time to hit the wok again, and to try a repeat of the very delicious Ginger Chicken Stir-Fry.

But I do not think it was as good this evening as it was a couple of weeks ago. Not sure why. Still, it makes a most attractive dish, no?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Meal No. 142: Glazed Meat Loaf

I decided this evening to make something new for me: meat loaf. I turned to a recipe in Cook's Country (Feb/March 2009, p. 8-9), which I find pretty trustworthy and good at guiding me about putting together certain dishes, and they did not steer me wrong. I was especially happy with how the glaze/sauce turned out and, since I did overcook the meat loaf a bit, the sauce was all the more helpful.

If you study the above picture carefully, you may notice that there's a considerable stretch of real estate on it that remains unfilled. I mean, there's a slab of meat loaf and there are some tasty green beans, but shouldn't there be something else? Turns out I read another new recipe a bit too quickly, and didn't realize it would take about an hour longer to prepare than I was figuring on. So this meal took place in stages.

Also from Cook's Country (Oct/Nov 2010, p. 17) came a recipe for onions and potatoes au gratin, and not only did it take way too long to make and cook, it was also not that good. So that recipe will go the way of a few others and never be seen or heard of again in the Roediger House.

Dessert was also a new recipe, and I am sure it will be a keeper.

What you see here is a pan of dulce de leche cheesecake bars (Bon Appétit, June 2010; personal clippings). Not too hard to fix, although since it calls for prepared/store-bought dulce de leche, I had to go to three grocery stores before I could track it down. (Thank you, Food Lion on Peters Creek Parkway.)

This is my piece before I dug in. And I could only eat about half of's pretty rich. But it's also mighty good.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Meal No. 141: Shrimp Po'Boys

It is a fine Saturday evening on Labor Day weekend, and today was a gorgeous day. It was very relaxing to have coffee on the front porch this morning and to watch the birds at the feeders.

This evening seemed a good time to give Shrimp Po'Boys another go. I'd made them once before, back in May 2010, but I thought the breading on the shrimp that time was too heavy. That time, the recipe I was following involved a batter that cooked up too thick on the shrimp, and it really obscured their flavor.

This time I went with a tempura batter and I liked the result much more. I also dosed 'em up with some remoulade in addition to the onion-garlic mayo from the recipe magazine I was using, but instead of french rolls, I got some good looking deli-made sandwich buns. With some fresh-sliced tomato, a spring mix salad, and a cold Xingu beer, I was happy to settle in for a startling episode ("Hungry Man") of Dexter Season 4 on DVD.

Shrimp Po'Boys: Taste of Home April/May 2003, p. 16.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Meal No. 140: Tuna w/Ginger Shiitake Sauce

It's a seafood kind of ending to the week, because tonight's fare also comes from the fresh catch seafood case at my local Harris Teeter.

It's a repeat of a meal so recently had, but darn it, it's just scrumptious stuff. So I don't mind tossing this back in my gullet and walking away from the meal completely satisfied. There is the added bonus of the new rice cooker, which performed superbly again.

The dish this evening: pan-seared tuna medallions with ginger shiitake mushroom sauce (which was about as good as it's ever been this evening) over a bed of basmati rice. Alongside, some salad. Washing it down: Washington Hills late harvest riesling. In front of me: the next episodes in Season 4 of Dexter.

Overall, a good Friday night at the Roediger House, capped off by a post W-S Dash-game visit by good friends the Jens.

"Pan-Seared Tuna with Ginger-Shiitake Cream Sauce," from The Bon Appétit Cookbook by Barbara Fairchild, 2006, p. 398-399.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Meal No. 139: Salmon w/Tarragon Mushroom Sauce

First things first: I have a birthday coming up soon, and today I was given a very thoughtful early gift.

A New Rice Cooker

You see, I don't know what the deal is, but I have the darnedest time getting rice right. It's usually still too wet or requires considerably more time than package directions suggest. It is a new problem for me, since I've been in this house, because I don't remember rice being a challenge to me in the past. Anyway, imagine the pleasure I experienced of having this dandy new appliance, and just in time to whip up some basmati rice to go with this evening's meal.

Pan-Seared Wild-Caught Sockeye Salmon
There were some beautiful slabs of salmon fillets at Lowe's grocery this morning, and they were not to be resisted. I'm darned glad I got them. I did the simple pan-searing of them, with a bit of kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

I also decided to try out a new accompaniment for it this evening: tarragon mushroom sauce. Here it is in its thickened state. It's actually got a little kick to it, thanks to a dash or two of cayenne pepper.

Throw some asparagus in the steamer, and in the end, it's a truly delicious meal. Just the thing for watching the next episodes as I work my way through Season 4 of Dexter.

Tarragon & Mushroom Sauce: 400 Sauces by Atkinson, France, and Mayhew (2006,2008), p. 184