Saturday, April 16, 2011

March 24-April 13

Friday, March 25, 2011

Palo Alto Milonga.
I missed the lesson beforehand, taught by Adolfo Caszarry. I got there on the early side, and really hesitated before going in. I decided to give it a go since a few of my favorite dancers were there. After dancing with them though, it was a very slow night for me. The milonga was lightly attended, and on this night there were quite a few couples who only danced with each other there. I have a personal rule that if I sit out for three tandas in a row, then it's not worth my time to stay and stew in my own juices, so I just leave. On this night, I extended the rule to five tandas. But after sitting out for five tandas in a row, enough was enough for me, so I left. Some nights are just that way... which is totally fine. It's a balance thing, and we've all been there. To make it less of a financial bust for me, I did take a to-go plate of a couple of slices of pizza. :o)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lessons with Alex Plakantonakis and Aneta Key.

Workshop 1: "Play with Lady Milonga" (mix level) Milonga lesson. We played with a very simple step, applying different rhythms to it get a different flavor. First drilling the step with S-S-S-S, and then drilling with adding QQ at various different places.

Workshop 2: "Meet Señor Tango" (beg level). This was a good lesson. We began with walking, just walking on the beat. Then different types of walking—fast, slow, big steps, small steps, and with attitude like we were models walking down a catwalk. Then we tried doing these different types of walk in connection.

These were both very good lessons. My notes are lame because somehow I misplaced the notebook in which I took notes for the class (which is what happens when you have multiple notebooks floating around).

At Night:

Empanada Experiments using Won Ton wrappers.
I was intrigued by the concept of using won ton wrappers as empanada skins, which I had read about on the Internet, so went to my local Asian grocery store and bought the “medium thickness” square skins, the package of which said I should get 80 skins out of it. So accounting for the 80 little empanadas I envisioned, I bought 2 lbs of ground beef. In retrospect, I should have bought the round skins to be more "emapanda"-like.

So I started with the filling, figuring that three eggs would be a good amount for the 2 lbs of ground beef. I hard boiled them for 8 minutes, then cooled in cold water (not iced). One yellow onion and 6 cloves of garlic were sautéed until translucent, and then the 2 lbs of ground beef added, along with 2 tsp cumin and 2 tsp oregano. After it was all cooked so there was no pink, the meat mixture was drained. While it was draining and cooling, I added some cocktail olives I had (stuffed with pimento, cheese, and mushrooms), rough chopped since I was after chunks and not delicate slices into the sauté pan, and I sliced the hard boiled egg using an egg slicer, lengthwise and widthwise. The eggs were also added to the pan, and so was the drained ground beef, then it was all mixed and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Then the process of filling the won ton skins with the ground beef, folding over to a wet corner, and then sealing and crimping with a fork was done. Then into a 425 degree oven they went, after half of them were amply brushed with butter, and the other half of them amply brushed with olive oil to see if there was a difference between butter and olive oil. I started out at 10 minutes, but since they weren’t browned by then, I added two sets of 3 minutes until I got the correct shade of brown. Then they were done, and onto a wire rack to cool and drained of the oil.

I also had a pan on the stove top to steam a set, and also a saucepan filled with olive oil to deep fry a few.

In the deep fry attempt, I used olive oil since that was all I had (though I could see my grandma shaking her head from heaven, and I could hear her instructing me that I should have been using peanut oil, but I was much too lazy and frugal to schlep my way over to the grocery store to get peanut oil just for this one thing), which did not work very well in terms of speed and browning. I nixed this idea after deep frying 4 empanadas since they just looked sad and pathetic, took forever to brown, and were very greasy to eat.

The steamed ones were OK. They were kind of like dim sum, only not very cohesive since I didn’t add any egg or cornstarch to the meat mixture, and the meat mixture was already cooked when I began to steam them. They were good with soy sauce, but obviously more dim sum than empanada.

The baked ones were…OKish if you don’t know empanadas. If you do know empanadas, then you might find the ones made with won ton skins a bit bizarre. They were extremely crunchy and would score high with those on low carb diets. But if you were a porteno or someone who has eaten a lot of empanadas in your day, these babies would just be plain weird. Taste wise they were fine, but the sensual feel of the extremely thin dough, and sound of the extreme crunch would be too far away from what most people know as “empanadas”. So, don’t try to serve these in South America or to any gathering where lots of South Americans are present. However, if you have lots of friends who have never set foot in South America (or if they did, only went to eat at McDonalds), then by all means go ahead and use won ton wrappers. As for me, I will just chalk this up to another interesting culinary experiment. Not exactly a crash and burn failure, but certainly not a culinary success (though a very educational one). I did learn that there was no difference in browning between the butter brushed ones versus the olive oil ones. So I might as well just brush with olive oil or an olive oil/butter combination since it would be less expensive and have less saturated fat.

And as a side note, I was VERY disappointed that the labeling on the won ton package was wrong. It said that I should expect to have 80 wrappers from this 1 pound package. The reality was that I got around 50. So there was a huge numbering error in terms of how many skins there were supposed to be, which made me end up with a lot of leftover filling, since by the time I was done, the Asian grocery store was already closed for the evening. So, BIG FAIL on the won ton wrapper labeling. Shame on them for screwing up my math!

Friday, April 1, 2011

MUSE Milonga.
I did not go to the lesson beforehand, taught by Neeraj Korde, a desciple of James Fridgen. I had a good time at the milonga. Dancer quality was reasonably high, so despite the light crowd, it was fun. Alex Plakantonakis and Aneta Key came by a did a very nice two-song demo. Then they stayed and social danced with us all. It was nice. The lovely Rochelle made some amazing desserts: a layered, carmel, cake and chocolate trifle dessert in elegantly slim shot glasses, with corresponding perfectly sized skinny spoons, and some very on-trend red velvet cupcakes with an excellent top and frosting ratio to body. Those glorious treats were snarffled up right quick.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Late Shift Milonga with lesson beforehand by Luis Bianchi and Daniela Pucci.
The lesson was a good one and focused on some interesting material. We began with side steps, both for Leader and Follower, but each going to opposite way: Leader steps to his left, and Follower steps to her left, so they step away from each other as they face each other. Then we tried it with both dancers stepping to their respective rights as they face each other. The goal was to feel the rebound energy. Next, we added the Follower forward ocho, with opposition footwork for the Leader. So Leader does left foot side as Follower does right foot forward front cross step, and Leader does right foot side as Follower does left foot forward front cross step. The Follower should not resist in her right arm. Next, we tried this same opposition footwork doing "weird" back ochos (and indeed, they felt really weird to do). To this we added the Follower clockwise molinete and the Leader left foot side step around the Follower, right his right foot hook around. The opposite energy makes it feel soft first, and then fast. To this we added the Leader left foot sacada on the Follower's left foot on her right foot back cross step. The Follower's left foot collects on the outside right side of her standing right foot after the sacada. Next, we added some more sacadas as we explored different ways of playing with each others' legs in the context of this opposition footwork and energy. We could use things like little catches, little sacadas, little steps. Our goal was to be playful, and yet be very economical in our way of movement. It was a very good lesson.

I had a good time at the milonga. It was full but not excessively crowded. I danced every tanda until midnight, and then I totally bonked. I stayed a little while longer since I promised to drive a friend home and she hadn't yet gotten her fill of tango endorphins. So it was nice just watching everyone for a while (totally barefoot and cross legged Indian style in case anyone didn't get the message that I was done dancing).

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CellSpace Alt Milonga with lesson beforehand by Homer and Cristina Ladas: Rock Step: Concept and Variations.
You can see the demo video and detailed notes at

I had an OK time. I was corralled into volunteering at the door that night, even though I wasn't on schedule to, and had put in plenty of time because of the project. But, whatever. I had a good time volunteering, and was sure to plan it property so I sat out the second and forth tandas (the first two alt ones). I didn't stay super late since I was really tired, and I had ample opportunity to dance until satisfied (which came easily and early).

Friday, April 8, 2011

Monte Cristo Club Milonga.
This was the first time I had been back to the Monte Cristo in a while, and I had my doubts. So when I got up to pay my entry fee, I was sure to look inside carefully before committing. Dancer quality looked pretty good, as did gender balance, so I gave it a go. I am glad I did, because I had a very nice time, the best I've had here in a while. I missed the lesson, taught by Lucas Di Giorgio y Jorgelina Guzzi. They did a two-song performance (tango and milonga) later on, which was great. Handsome was ... as handsome as ever. And shame on me for giving him a hello smooch before giving one to Deirdre, who was sitting next to him. He gave me the lowdown on the dinners. The Friday dinners are men only. The Friday lunches, however, are open to everyone. I forgot to ask if the same meal was served, which would be a bit odd. They serve things like tripe with sausage, or bacalao. I am waiting for the Osso Bucco to come around on the menu again. The dancing at the milonga was good. It wasn't super crowded, but had a decent enough attendance of skilled dancers who circulated and graciously danced with everyone, which made for a pleasant, but not overtiring evening.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Late Shift Milonga.
On this particular night there was no lesson. I got there after 10 p.m., and circled and sat outside in my car, really trying to evaluate whether or not it was worth my $12 to go in. Looking inside, the milonga appeared sparsely attended. But the few dancers that I saw looked pretty good, so I decided to give it a go. I am glad I did. My first dance out was with good sport David (the organizer and local Maestro). We've danced maybe two or three times before, and it's a nerve-wracking experience "dancing with the teacher". This time was no different since we were the only ones on the dance floor at the time. (For whatever reason, everyone else decided to sit out that particular tanda.) Since we had so much room I could appreciate his musicality and technique more. He did a lot of unexpected changes of directions to lead me to do some interesting boleos (I felt so Mariana!), and he has a lot of disassociation so he could do back sacadas smoothly and perfectly without yanking me over or kicking me in the ankle. It was a super fun experience, even though I felt very distracted and self-conscious about my hair, as it kept getting in my face because I forgot my hair band. I haven't spoken about the food here in a while, because for the most part it is the same (veggie platter with dip, cookies, small rolled sandwiches). Recently, they've consistently had flavored Wheat Thins (tonight: sun dried tomato and basil) or other crackers and Pub Cheese, which I admit is sinfully addictive in a gourmet nostalgic Handi-Snacks/Eddie Rickenbacker's or Gold Mirror happy hour kind of way. Sadly, on this night, the Pub Cheese and flavored Wheat Thins could only hold my attention so long, and I had already danced with everyone at the milonga I wanted to dance with. And so quite a bit before the midnight hour, I called it a night.

It seemed everyone and their cousin was at Nora's Milonga at Allegro for Ariadna Naveira and Fernando Sanchez. I saw the YouTube videos, and the performances looked good, and the milonga very crowded.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

CellSpace Alt Milonga with lesson beforehand by Jenny and Tatum Nolan.
I got there late for the lesson, but jumped right in. It was a lesson on boleos. The step taught was a Leader left foot back hook, to right foot sacada of Follower's left leg to a Follower left leg back boleo, to pivot to a Follower left foot front cross step, to pivot to Follower right foot forward boleo, to pivot Follower, to Leader right foot sacada of Follower's left foot causing a left foot forward boleo on her right foot back cross step (in clockwise molinete), to pivot out to walking resolution. There were a lot of technical tips given with respect to how do do boleos: don't let your foot remain up as it comes around on the pivot. It should collect to the other ankle before pivoting around, otherwise you might take out all the dancers around you and get the hairy eyeball. If there's someone near you, don't do high back boleos. Followers always have the option to keep back boleos on the floor, small and tight, especially at crowded milonga conditions. Forward boleos are OK to do in more crowded conditions though, as long as there is room for it and it fits the music. The Follower's body should employ the top down spiral when doing boleos, with the movement starting and the torso and then moving down to the hips, legs, ankles, and feet. It was a good lesson.

Since it was my night to volunteer, I manned the desk during the second and forth tandas (the first two alt ones). The alt music on this night was a bit more "alt" than usual. Some people really got into it, while others sat out or shook their heads. It seemed to be the Black Jelly Bean night of alt tandas. I had to stay until the end of the milonga since I was on Take-Down duty, and even though I sat out a lot of tandas, I was also more tired than usual.

No comments: