Case in point: The DMV really, really, really messed up the spelling of my name and the VIN number on my car title, which in turn really, really messed up my loan with my bank. It was an easy enough fix, but it required a 2hr stint at the Baltimore City DMV to complete (and by complete, I mean wait in line for) my amended paperwork.
I remember remarking to a friend once - after watching a small child lick the entire front side of the glass door to the waiting area - that it seemed like the most random (see?!?) mix of individuals were always sitting at the DMV. To which my friend noted that it wasn't so much that the crowd was random as much as it lacked anyone who might be considered "normal."
I wonder if that includes me?
Anyway, the DMV in B'more, in an effort to make the glacial-speed passage of time more tolerable, has introduced the MVN: The Motor Vehicle Network. The red and black digital notice board has the techno-savvy of a game of Frogger, but the flashing news alerts do provide at least a temporary distraction. In addition to news and current events, it also flashes random bits of trivia and miscellany:
Here's a close-up shot.
That's right. The MVN did a bit on the RPS Society. Of which my hubby is a card-carrying member. (No joke.)
But life can't be all about long queues and road trips. Sometimes, life throws you a little break every now and then. This time, said break came in the form of a product review and free sample.
Ah, the life of a blogger. It rocks (at times). Case in point: the good folks over at Marx Foods, who specialize in fine foods in bulk, sent over a sample of their new Palm Leaf Plates to try out. Palm Leaf Plates are earth-friendly (read: biodegradable and compostable) disposable dinner ware for the trendy and/or eco-conscious set. As a person with pseudo-hippie leanings (as Tony likes to say), I was intrigued.
I received a large set of square salad plates and round dip bowls and soon put them to use. First up: a picnic in the park. Now, green space may not be the first thing to come to mind when one thinks of Baltimore, but the area known as Patterson Park is really very charming. There are tennis courts and softball fields, plenty of spaces to walk a dog or two, and even an ice skating rink in the winter. Tony was having a bit of a week, so I decided to pack up some fried chicken and bubbles, and then we hopped in the truck and set off for a picnic date.
I gotta say, the plates held up very well. Though the palm leaves look...grainy(?), the plates and bowls never splintered or split. And none of the grease from the chicken soaked through the plate, sparing our clothes. We just sat back and enjoyed the fried food and people & dog watching for the afternoon.
Test run No. 1: Success!
We still had some samples left over, so I decided to try a hot plate this time instead. A weekend trip to the farmer's market left us with several pounds of zucchini in need of eating. So, I decided to try out a recipe posted by a college chum (Thanks, Tracie!): Zucchini Parmesan Crisps.
The dish is more a less a healthier version of fried zucchini, but with less prep work and cleanup.
To pair with the veggies, Mary's take on Shrimp and Corn with Fresh Basil from One Perfect Bite. I find that shrimp-based recipes usually don't provide enough shrimp (what's up with that?), so I simply doubled the shrimp to 2 lbs and upped the butter from 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup. Paula Deen would have been proud.
You can check out Mary's shrimp recipe here. For the zucchini, head over here. The only adjustment I made to that recipe was to bake the zucchini slices on a cooling rack that I set inside of a sheet pan. That way, both sides were able to crisp up nicely!
Once again, the Palm Leaf Plates held their own. The shrimp dish produced quite a bit of liquid, but none of it soaked through. And the plates were cool enough on the bottom to rest on my lap, despite serving the meal straight from the stove top. Also, while I could tell that the plate was softening up a little from the combined heat and liquid, my fork never pierced it or pulled up bits of food-soaked pulp. No need to double layer paper dishes for once!
I decided to put the last of the bowls to good use and served up dessert. Fresh Peaches & Berries with Drunken Crème Fraiche. HO-LY CRAP was this dessert good. Tony fell asleep in between courses, and I honestly came thisclose to eating it all myself. The bowl proved more than able to handle two quickly digging spoons attacking its contents. And some subsequent bowl-licking afterward.
All in all? The Palm Leaf Plates are definitely worth an investment. They're durable, practical, elegant, and (bonus) eco-friendly. And unlike, say, those compostable Sun Chips bags, you can use them without waking the neighbors. (If you've had an encounter with the Sun Chips bag, you'll know what I mean.)
Think of it as giving Mother Earth a really fashionable, culinary hug. You can order a set for yourself, including flatware and utensils, or just find out how the hell they make these things at the Marx Foods site here. While I think the price could be a tad more budget friendly, the product definitely holds up to some hefty standards of form and function.
Palm Leaf Plates: 4 1/2 out of 5 spatulas
Great Gift For: Outdoor entertainers, BBQ enthusiasts, Hungry tree huggers, Trendy environmentalists, & Picnic lovers.
2 large peaches, sliced
1/2 cup blackberries, raspberries, or blueberries
1 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1/3 - 1/2 cup crème fraiche
1/8 cup (approx 5 tbsp) brandy or Bailey's Irish Cream
2. Mix together the crème fraiche and the brandy or Irish Cream.
3. Layer the fruit with the crème fraiche. Drizzle the rendered fruit juice over the top.