Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Feasting at the Tamarind

So after closing yesterday afternoon, we went for dinner. A family we know had kept the kids for us, and we met them at the restaurant.

We chose Tamarind Indian Cuisine on Carmel Rd.

In a word, it was perfect. The folks at Tamarind were exquisitely courteous, the food was delicious.

We were to meet the other family at 6:00, but we were done with the closing a lot sooner than thought, so we arrived at 5:24. We hadn't made reservations: this might have been a problem on the weekend, we were told, but would be no problem last night. So we stood in the foyer a few minutes while they arranged some tables to sit ten, and then we were seated.

We had a slightly rocky start with the hostess, who was new to Tamarind (and, apparently, Indian food). I asked how the dishes were served, were they mainly rice with a small amount of "main course"? She took that as an insult, but I meant it honestly. My experience with Indians is that they use rice as the bulk of their diet, with the "main courses" almost as condiments. The advantage, of course, is it makes it easier to share meals between people at the table. She seemed mollified by my explanation, and that was the only less-than-stellar part of the night.

Ames and I were seated at least 15 minutes before the others arrived: we were looking over the menu and chatting with the server. I wanted something to sip, and asked about their herbal teas. He assured me the teas were excellent, so Ames and I each ordered one. We asked Shakti, our waiter, to bring us his favourite: he replied he'd bring his two best, so we could try a selection. Ames got one made with lemongrass, I got one whose name I didn't catch. They were astonishing.

With the tea, we ordered a Tamarind's Sampler Platter from the appetizer menu. Shakti assured us it was an excellent choice, and suggested we might also want to try an order of lasooni gobi once the others arrived.

As our friends were driving over to meet us at the restaurant, they called and mentioned they'd never eaten Indian before. They wanted some food suggestions, so we started looking at a menu. A friend in university once told me the best way to eat ethnic food was to ask the waiter to choose a feast; so once everyone arrived, we asked the waiter to do exactly that.

So we asked Shakti to pick a feast for us. I asked if he could include lamb vindaloo done hot. He made some comment about "American spicy, not Indian spicy." That was all I needed to take up the gauntlet: we ordered it "Indian spicy." But the rest of the menu was his selection. We told him about nut allergies, and he was good to go. We got a few appetizers (including the lasooni gobi he had previously suggested) and five or six entrees. In addition, we ordered a basket of naan (eventually Shakti decided we needed two baskets) and some mango pickle (I love mango pickle).

Now, it's entirely likely this strategy wouldn't work with an inferior waiter, but last night it was brilliant. The appetizers were tantalizing, the entrees complimented each other perfectly.

Our menu consisted of:

  • Lasooni Gobi: cauliflower fried in some sweet and pungent sauce, with onions and bell peppers. I never thought cauliflower was actually food until last night: I had always thought it was a feminist revenge on men, perpetrated by housewives and mothers across the globe. This stuff was incredible: it didn't last long at all.

  • Tandoori Talapia: fish cooked tandoori style. This was the most mild dish of the night, although it was far from boring. The fish came out sizzling on a hot platter and a bed of onions and bell peppers, with what looked like thin-sliced tomatoes.

  • Bademia Lamb Chops: lamb chops coated in some spices and grilled, then brought sizzling on a hot platter and a bed of onions and bell peppers (notice a pattern here?). This was basically Indian rack of lamb: it was a huge hit and didn't last five minutes.

  • Lamb Vindaloo ("Desi Hot"): vindaloo is a favourite of mine, I couldn't resist ordering it. I love the sauce it comes in.

  • Morthal Kali Daal: a daal made of lentils and some other beans. Daal is one of the kids' favourite foods: it was extravagant... delicious!

  • Rogan Josh: lamb in a spicy brown sauce. This might have been my favourite of the night.

  • Hyderbadi Dum Biryani: a rice dish, with meat in it. One of Ames' friends is from Hyderbad, so we ate this one with some real curiosity. It contained, to our surprise, pieces of chicken and a whole boiled egg. Very tasty, although the egg made serving it somewhat tricky.

  • Vegetable Jalfrezi: this was a vegetarian dish with a white cheese sauce. I ate little or none of it, mainly because it was at the other end of the table. I'll try it next time.

  • Tamarind's Murgh: a house speciality. Chicken breasts in apricot and spinach sauce. This was actually served as an American-style entree, with rice and vegetables on a single plate. Everything else was served family-style.

The first thing I noticed about the food at Tamarind was that it tasted like home-made food I've had from Indian friends and acquaintances. This was not the standard Americanized fare that's been sitting on a buffet: it was fresh, spicy, and complex. One nice touch was, the family-style dishes were served on small candle warmers, so the food was always hot. The pickle was pungent, the sauces were rich and spicy, the food was altogether excellent.

It was very cool to be there with a family who'd never tried Indian before. It was as enjoyable to watch them cautiously taste something and start smiling, as it was to taste the food myself. And before you ask, I'm no expert in Indian food: I've just had enough experience to want more.

The owner stopped by our table twice, once to check on us as the food was arriving, once when we were finished. He explained that he was aiming at a higher-end dining experience: he had already opened a couple Indian restaurants in Charlotte (which are doing well), but they were the more typical buffets. He's trying to get a place for people who are willing to pay more for food that's better.

All in all, I enjoyed our excursion to the Tamarind even more than I've enjoyed the last few visits to (expensive) steak places. Don't get me wrong: Tamarind is not cheap. But the experience was worth every penny. We won't be eating here very often---we've been spending far too much money on dining out and have chosen to cut back---but it will certainly be a place we visit every other month or so.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Encore une fois

Well, it's been almost exactly one year since I finished reading my ESV on January 28, 2007. Well, I just finished the next step in my Bible Quest: it's January 25, 2008 and I just finished reading my NASB. I wanted to read it through in one year, and it looks like I did.

If you don't remember my Bible Quest, I've been picking a bunch of Bible translations and reading each cover-to-cover. I'm aiming at one per year, which works out to 3 or 4 chapters a day. Of course, my sporadic reading makes it more like 10 or 15 chapters in one sitting, then realizing a couple days later I need to read some more. Of course I don't always read on a schedule: I frequently depart the schedule for a couple days to read something out of sequence... but the idea is to read cover-to-cover, Genesis to Revelation, roughly in order.

The first in my quest was the ESV. I wrote a review of it last year, but I've found it's really good for "just reading," better than the NASB by a long shot.

NASB is reputed to be a "wooden" translation: too literal to be easy to read. While I whole-heartedly agree that the ESV is much better to sit and read, I didn't find the NASB to be obtuse. Far from it, I found it a little too familiar in places---almost condescending in its effort to write simple English. Of course, this is the "new" NASB, the 1995 version. By all accounts it's easier to read than the previous version. Perhaps that explains it.

I'd love to try a new translation this year, but I suspect I'll have to wait six months or so before I can feasibly do that. In the meantime, I think I'll break in my new Darby Translation (my 1973 Stow Hill #25) by giving it a cover-to-cover.

I have to say, I find Darby's my favourite and most-used translation. I switched to Darby in 1992, and used it almost exclusively until 2007 when I bought the ESV. Yeah, I have a few KJV Bibles I occasionally read, but Darby was my main translation for 15 years, and for most of that time it was the only one I actually read: KJV has always been my memorizing Bible.

So I'm planning to start Genesis 1:1 tomorrow in my "new" Darby and see how it goes. Perhaps reading ESV and NASB have spoiled Darby for me; I doubt it.

As far as the next translation, I haven't decided what it should be. I feel like maybe I should read KJV cover-to-cover again. I've also never owned or used a NKJV: that might be worth a read. I've also been considering the Holman CSV and the old RSV (not the NRSV). Both of those have gotten some good reviews.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Sound of Silence

We're in a frenzy of moving activity: tomorrow's the "official" move (with snow in the forecast), today I'm theoretically working from home, but will likely only bill a couple hours. I'm driving loads in the Suburban to the new pad.

There was a mix-up in the new address: the landlord gave me the wrong apartment number. I passed that on to all the utility companies as my forwarding address, and things got fun. We got it all worked out, but my ISP can't connect my cable modem until the 23rd. So service ends at this location on the 20th (and we'll probably not be here anymore), and it doesn't turn back on at the new location until the 23rd. So we'll go dark on the Internet for a few days. And since we have digital phone, our landline won't work either.

So if you need to call us between tomorrow and the 24th, you'd better use our cell phone numbers. If you don't have those numbers, you can call or email today or tomorrow to get those. We might get a chance at a Starbuck's or something to check our email, but we make no guarantees.

We'll be back with the same number next week.

In other news, things are just hectic, but we should resurface in a couple weeks. The new owner of the house takes possession on the 29th, life should calm down a little by then.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Some Perl

A buddy of mine sent me a Perl question on AIM. He wanted to count words from STDIN. That is, he wanted to have snippet of Perl that would count the frequency of each word. Presumably he intends to use it in some larger application.

I helped him with his version, then thought about it a little more, realizing I could write something a little shorter, albeit not very efficient. My solution looked something like this:


use strict;

my @words = <>;
chomp @words;
my %count = map {
my $word = $_;
$word => scalar grep {$_ eq $word} @words;
} @words;
print "$_ was seen $count{$_} times\n" foreach (sort keys %count);

I was actually kind of proud of that. I know, it's not terribly efficient to have grep inside map, but you gotta admit there's a certain elegance to it...

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


Well, our plans have accelerated. There have been one or two significant occurrences at work, which have forced my hand, so to speak. I'm now officially working until the end of June.

Our house has sold: closing the end of January. We move into an apartment next Tuesday, with a six-month lease.

So the plan is this: At the end of June, we pack up everything we own and head North. It would be interesting if the packing and leaving took a few days: I came into the USA on August 8, 1994. I look to be leaving almost exactly 14 years later.

We plan to drive north across the USA, for various personal reasons. I'd like to stop in St. Louis and catch up with a buddy or two there along the way. Anyone between North Carolina and Vancouver who's willing to have coffee or lunch with us as we head north, drop me a note.

This is exciting: kinda like the first pie at a new pizza joint.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


When I was a teenager, I once lost a pen. I was carrying it, then I put it somewhere and I couldn't find it for hours. Then, a few hours later, I had it in my hand again. I still wonder where it was.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I got carded!

I've been a little distracted from blogging recently, but I wanted to mention something that's been on my mind.

Josh and Lauren sent us a Christmas card... not just any Christmas card, but the best Christmas card I have ever seen anywhere from anyone. I have no idea what cutesy picture was on it, or what nauseatingly sweet pithy saying was inside. What I remember is; a short note addressed to each of us, telling us what they appreciate about our friendship in specific terms. There was obviously a good deal of thought involved.

I like getting cards from people: I remember one from an ex-student that somehow managed to track us down after 3 years. I still have that card, some 8 years later. But I have to say, the short epistle from J&L really sets a new bar.

So thanks for the amazing card, guys. I've been thinking about it for a couple weeks now.