Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Amy's B-Day Bash

Babyheads, BBQ & Brian

June 27, 2010...

Forget about April, Mr. Eliot - June is the cruelest month, as least as far as my bank account is concerned. It's that time of year when I just fork over my paycheck to cover my annual big car insurance payment to Erie, Father's Day, and my Dad's birthday, followed immediately by...my girlfriend Amy's birthday!

Now, I know better than to pick out presents for women because they invariably want clothing, shoes, or jewelry - commodities that are clearly beyond my realm of expertise. So, I ask her simply what she wants and let her pick it out. Amy used to work at a jewelry store, so baubles, bangles, and bright shiny beads are never absent from her short list of conspicuous consumption...and at the recent Hampden Hon Fest she set her sights on the macabre, Goth-friendly trinkets of Martha Rotten (martharotten.com), whose wares are sold locally at Hampden's Paradiso on 36th Street an La Terra on Falls Road.

Martha Rotten

Martha Rotten claims her products will "make your living hell a better place." I'll say! Where else can you buy a Booji Boy mongoloid-sized babydoll head ring for your girlfriend that elicits such praise as "Tres Quay?"

Martha Rotten's Big Babyhead Doll Ring

Yes, babies are very creepy to begin with, but these Rottenesque rings make one think of the eerie dollhead inhabitants of the Quay Brothers' Street of Crocodiles.

Babydoll chic a la les bros Quay

Amy is also the quintessential Queen fanatic (she even has a Freddy Mercury doll at home!), so when she saw on Brian May's web site (brianmay.com) that the well-coiffed guitarist-astrophysicist and stereoscopy aficionado had co-written a 3-D book with Elena Vidal, A Village Lost and Found, I knew I had to get that as well.

Apparently, Brian May and Elena Vidal even serve as directors of a company devoted to the study and publishing of stereoscopic images, the London Stereoscopic Company (londonstereo.com), which published the book.

Cool logo too:

The Queen-approved London Stereoscopic Company

A Village Lost and Found is a completely annotated collection of the original 1850s stereoscopic photograph series Scenes in Our Village by T. R. Williams brought together for the first time in living memory. Described as the perfect antidote to the stress of life in the 21st Century, it portrays the idyll of life in an 1850s village that is "far from the sound of the train's whistle." Quite Village Green Preservation Society, as Ray Davies would say.

An original T. R. Williams postcard

So I ordered that from Amazon (the cheapest price I found - and fast!) and it even came with its own "OWL." Now, you ask, what in the world is an OWL? The OWL is a unique, high quality, stereo focussing viewer that was designed by Brian May himself!

Yes, not only is the brainy May an astrophysicist, but he's also a CAD designer! Unhappy with the 3-D stereoscopic viewers he had come across, May created his own prototype that he took to plastic injection moulding specialists S. B. Weston Ltd to put into production so that he could include them with his book. According to the specs, his OWL "packs into a space only 6mm thick, yet assembles in 15 seconds into a rigid precision instrument which is equally at home sitting on a page to view stereo illustrations in a book, or used in the hand as the perfect viewer for stereo cards - classic or modern."

Needless to say, Amy loved the book, quickly assembling the enclosed OWL viewer so that she could pore o'er T. R. Williams' village pics of yore (as shown below).

Amy sets her stereo sights on Brian May's book

"I wonder if I can get reading glasses in these frames?"

But while Amy enjoys reading and wearing babyhead jewelry, her favorite conspicuous consumption remains food. Specifically: charred animal flesh. Even more specifically: Korean barbecue. So it was no surprise when, sated from looking at 3-d pictures of a small, turn of the century English village, she asked, "Hey, can we go to that new 24-hour Korean barbecue place in Ellicott City?"

That would be Honey Pig 2, so named because there's already the original Honey Pig (1) in Los Angeles, not to mention one in Annandale, Virginia.

Honey Pig Lady: Modeled after Divine?

Honey Pig card, back

"Sure," I replied, because Korean barbecue is also one of my favorite things on earth. Plus, I was curious to see how the new BBQ kid in town compared with our favorite Baltimore Korean restaurant (in the wake of the post-fire closing of Famous Yakitori One), Nak Won (aka "Noc Won") on the corner of W. 20th Street and Charles.

To make the Honey Pig 2 trek to Ellicott City, we needed cool tunage, so I gave Amy my secret b-day stocking stuffer in the form of Devo's new "De-Evolution Focus Group-approved" CD, Something for Everybody. Devo's de-evolutionary ditties are the perfect soundtrack for driving through the urban commercial blight of Route 40 West and Amy particularly liked the new song "Don't Shoot (I'm a Man)" with its chorus of "Don't tase me, bro!"

Devo's new CD: "Something for Everybody"

Don't know why, but we also took my GPS along for the ride, probably because we enjoy hearing the Australian woman's voice (you can adjust the voice to be a man or a woman, and choose different nationalities as well - and since I'm on a Kylie Minogue kick, I try and fantasize that Kylie's giving me directions...in her hot pants!) mispronouce American street names and refer to exits as "slip roads" and circles as "roundabouts." But my GPS directions were totally wrong and after a while I got sick of the annoying Sheila's voice chiming "Recalculating" and turned her off.

Little did we know how easy it was to find Honey Pig 2 because it's literally right across from our old bygone utopia of childhood, the Enchanted Forest!

The Enchanted Forest today on Route 40

The Enchanted Forest in its heyday

Not only that, but Old King Cole even points the way to the Honey Pig!

By Royal Decree: "This way to 24 Hour Korean BBQ!"

Naturally, we had to stop for shameless Baby Boomer photo ops standing next to the Enchanted Forest and jolly ole King Cole, who guards the entrance to an adjoining strip mall.

Amy sez: "Awl, I miss the Enchanted Forest!"

Tom sez: "I'm King of this Public Domain!"

Seeing King Cole made me think of local artist Charlene Clark (charleneclarkstudio.com) and her wonderfully nostalgic Enchanted Forest prints; I reminded Amy that she needed to frame the King Cole print we bought from Charlene at the Hampden Festival years ago.

Charlene Clark's King Cole

And then we crossed the street to visit Honey Pig, which is part of the Princess Shopping Center (named after King Cole's daughter, perhaps?).

"Yay, we're here!": Amy outside Honey Pig Restaurant

We glanced over the menu (shown below)...

Honey Pig menu, front

Honey Pig menu, back:
Note "Hangover Soup" under "Special Kitchen Order"

...but we already knew what we wanted: Amy ordered her beloved galbi short ribs (the most expensive thing on the menu at $22.99 - everything else was $12.99 - but hey, it was her birthday after all) and I, the cheapskate, got the Korean seafood pancake ($6.99), which I tried to order in Korean (Hae mul pa jun?), to which the waitress laughed and said, "Ah, yes, you like Korean pizza!"

For those new to Korean barbecue, Henry Hong had a nice article in this week's Baltimore City Paper that laid out the essentials: "Barbecue By Any Other Name" (6/30/10).

Needless to say, the service was snappy - and by committee (various servers poured us water, brought out the beef, plied us with side dishes - including the de facto kimchi - and stopped by to stir the beef).

As is the custom with Korean barbecue restaurants, there was a gas grill built into our table so that diners get that you-are-there feel for the cooking, with various attendants coming by to stir the beef and bring lettuce leaves for you to wrap it in. Some of the smaller adjoining tables that didn't have the luxury of the built-in gas grills featured little butane-powered hibachi grills sitting on top instead.

Amy's galbi was delish (yes, I stole some!), and she alternated wrapping it in lettuce and mixing it in with her rice bowl.

Amy savors some galbi beef ribs

The first thing I noticed about my seafod pancake was its thickness. As "Korean pizzas" go, this one was definitely deep-dish. In fact, it was so thick I saved a couple of slices to use for insulation in my attic next Winter. Gotta say, the best seafood pancakes I've had have been the thin-slice variety at Nak Won and, in a smaller version, at Geisha Sushi on Saratoga and Charles. Still, thick seafood pancake - on top of rice, galbi, kimchi and all those little assorted side dishes - is pretty filling. We did not go away hungry, that's for sure!

The chopsticks and the damage done

The Korean men at the table next to us were watching ESPN (the World Cup match had just ended) and doing shots of soju, the "Korean vodka" made from rice and/or other straches (barley, wheat, potato, tapioca) that packs a wallop way beyond it's stated 20% alcohol content. That wallop seems to turn all Korean men into Foster Brooks after a few glasses. The sight made me pine for the Korean liquor store down the street at Lotte Plaza, so that became our next stop.

Soju rice vodka

The nice guy at the Korean liquor store picked out his favorite brand of Jinro soju for me, a real bargain at $5.99 for a 300ML bottle, and he even threw in a shotglass 6-pack set at no charge!

The liquor store was next door to the famous Lotte supermarket, so of course we stopped in there - but not to get food, as I never cook (is microwaving considered cooking?), and Amy cooks only infrequently when she runs out of her mother's leftovers. No, we went right to the toy store in the back to look at cell phone charms and other non-essential tchotches like Domo-kun bags and Hello Kitty shower caps. Amy bought the latter two (essential, to her) items, while I bought a Pucca cell phone charm because, well, they're so damned masculine!

Domo-kun bag: essential

Pucca: too masculine?

And that was the end of the day's adventures. Back home I contemplated my bloated belly, emptied my empty wallet, and prepared to pay some bills. Oh brother...

Think I'll open that soju now!

Amy's Birthday-Related Links:
Martha Rotten Jewelry (martharotten.com)
London Stereoscopic Company (londonstereo.com)
A Village Lost and Found (Barnes & Noble)
Honey Pig 2 review (Baltimore Sun)
"The Two Koreas": Nak Won review (Accelerated Decrepitude)


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