Time to first use of mandoline since purchase:
- approximately 17 days.
Time to cut finger:
- approximately 15 seconds.
Realizing that you may be too scatterbrained to safely cross the street, much less feed yourself?
Friday, August 31, 2007
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
I shall title this piece “A Jackson Pollock Moment.” Look for it at your friendly neighborhood Sotheby’s.
My Jackson Pollock impersonation is a top view of the buttery, buttery (did I already say buttery?) vanilla-blueberry crumb cake from Gale Gand’s new cookbook. Now that I have come to the firm realization that science makes me gag, I have been spending a lot more time doing what I want to do, and much less time doing what I am supposed to do (the point at which this will bite me in the ass is rapidly approaching, I am sure). So I have been cooking, and baking, and reading, and watching TV, which I haven't done in years... and I have to say, relaxation is worth the hype.
Anyway, the cake I made: it was pretty to look at, pretty to eat, and pretty to photograph. The cake was smooth and luscious and lovely (but not after two pieces. Two pieces just make you feel sick, take it from me). A bit of brown sugar in the dough gave the sweetness dimension it would otherwise lack. The butter gave it... well... everything else. I may need to find a way to squeeze a little more vanilla into the recipe. Vanilla sugar instead of plain granulated, perhaps?
The part of the recipe that I thought absolutely inspired (and the reason why I will make this cake again and again) is removing a cup of dough for the crumb topping before adding the full amount of flour. Brilliant! The topping, light on the flour and heavy on the butter, turned out crunchy and light, not doughy. The crisp, crumbly top was a much needed textural contrast to the fresh blueberries that melted into jam and the silky smoothness of the 48 pounds of butter in the dough. Overall, a great recipe.
Crispy, crunchy top made the cake.
But. There is a but. I have a bone to pick with Ms. Gand. The pans she calls for throughout the book are not standard size! This particular recipe calls for a 9-inch square cake pan. I don’t have a 9-inch square cake pan. Eight inch square pan is the standard pan size for people who don’t have professional kitchens at their disposal (no matter how hard they try). Eight, Gale! Not nine! I baked the cake in the too-small pan a little longer and it turned out just fine - a little underdone in the center, just how I like it. So, ha. I boycott the 9-inch cake pan. You can’t make me get one, Gale Gand, y’hear? Y’can’t. It’s a matter of principle.
Whew. That may be the sugar rush talking. Ok, yelling. Judging by the accent, I turn into a drunk West Virginia farmer when I am angry. Curious. Learn somethin’ new every day.
P.S. I wish to add the disclaimer that just because I have never owned a 9-inch square pan doesn't mean that many many other people don't either. However, I don't think 9-inch is nearly as common as eight.
P.P.S. If I have offended any drunk West Virginia farmers in this post, I guess I sort of apologize... Kind of.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
I don't have time to write a full post (NNB reviews due in 36 hours and I still have one more restaurant to visit. Eeek) but I couldn't wait to show off a photo of a vanilla-blueberry crumb cake from Gale Gand's Chocolate and Vanilla cookbook. I am finally starting to conquer my giant and ridiculously complicated camera. I don't know which of the two I am happier with - the cake or the picture.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
I am hyperventilating. I really am. Hands are shaking a bit.
The Hungry City publishers are looking for writers for their website. I have recommended you as a candidate for this paying gig. One of the editors may be contacting you about this opportunity.
Could this actually happen? Could I support myself with food writing? Am I even allowed to think about it? I am not sure. I do know that I am lucky, exceedingly lucky to do what I love for a large part of my week.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
The first thing anyone says when asked about Formaggio Kitchen is, “It’s soooo expensive!” The next thing they say? “It’s soooo good!” I love it when things are worth the hype… and the cost.
I am going to have to do much more thorough and painstaking research on Formaggio Kitchen in Huron Village before I can really make up my mind about it (it’s going to be awfully unpleasant, I can just tell), but my first impression is that it is an eater’s paradise. It may well be my crack den, Part 2. In addition to picturesque produce, imported spices, nuts, jams, and teas, there are also baked goods, prepared foods, cured meats, and cheeses that look like they fell out of cheese heaven. They sit in a line, wrapped up in leafy pouches, cocooned in washed rinds, pressed into funny shapes and emitting grassy smells. I could stand and stare at the cheese counter for an hour.
Yes, it’s expensive, and snotty, and just a little too precious, but every weekend during the summers it is a local neighborhood gathering place. The hipsters that staff Formaggio set up a grill and tables on the sidewalk outside the shop. People from the neighborhood queue up for hot dogs, pulled meats on grilled buns, and minimal sides, until 2 PM or until they run out of food.
Unlike the shop itself, their hot dogs are anything but precious. The half pound Pearl hot dog on a grilled bun was so huge it bordered on obscene. The casing was a bit thick for my taste but the inside was creamy and juicy. And did I mention that it was giant?
Oh and the pulled lamb…
Mmmm as I write this, I am still stuffed full of fat and juice that trickled out of the fragrant pulled lamb and soaked into a crusty roll, along with a spicy sauce ladled on top of the tender meat. You see the whole clove of garlic mixed in with the meat? Umm, yeah. Worth waiting in line, worth the price and the praise, even worth smelling like a campfire when you get home.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Curses upon you Williams-Sonoma, curses. That store is a crack den for me. I assure you that at the time of purchase, I absolutely needed every single one of those items.
I now have a mandoline (as if I didn't cut my fingers enough as it is) and can make a wonderful salad that did not benefit from my less than masterful knife work when I made it last. I have an oven thermometer to keep my wayward oven in line. I have real pans like all the grown-ups do, along with all the bakeware, utensils, and mixing bowls my irrational heart desired. Now all I have to do is cook!
I am not allowed back in that store. Not for a whole month.
P.S. Now explain to me how this makes sense. S'pose you are a pan maker. You make frying pans. Pans that are, as stated, for frying food over a flame or other form of high heat. Why would you then use nothing short of super-glue to adhere a large sticker to the inside of the pan for frying, where the food goes? Why?? Explain it to me, because I do not understand. Not only do I not understand, but I also have an omelette pan with no omelettes in its immediate future because it has a big circle of super-glue smack dab in the center. I just don't get it.
Thursday, August 09, 2007
People who live in Boston are intimately familiar with the MassHole accent. It is highly specific to Mass, perhaps just to the areas immediately surrounding Boston. MassHole is characterized by a complete absence of R’s and the promiscuous use of the word “wicked” - and not for its intended meaning. In MassHole, wicked means super, or extra. As in, “Oh, that guy is wicked smaaht.” This accent is most often found in combination with track pants, T shirt, and a baseball hat.
Nowhere is MassHole more prevalent than in Medford (pronounced Medfud, of course), a neighborhood North of Boston that happens to be Melissa’s new home. Have y’all seen Mystic River? It’s kind of like that (correct me if I am wrong, Melissa). Medford is a heavily Italian Catholic town where every carefully manicured front lawn features a Mary statuette in a strange little enclosure resembling a vertical scalloped bathtub. Dubbed by Melissa, Bathtub Mary. I don’t know what’s more irreverent – to make fun of Bathtub Mary or to actually have one in the yard, like a somber Christmas reindeer.
Caffé Baccini is the best venue in which to observe Medford dwellers in their natural habitat. It’s a real neighborhood place where everyone knows each other and all are welcome. The café has a full bar, hot pressed sandwiches and pastas, gelato and pastries. The music is the best of the 80s, from Bryan Adams to Walk Like an Egyptian. It’s brilliant. Melissa and I walked over for an after dinner coffee and dessert, and ordered the almond cake. Almond it was, and potently so. Layers of white fluffy cake were soaked through with amaretto and almond extract, covered in a thick pastry cream, all topped with crushed toasted almonds. It was wicked good.
394B Main Street
Medford, MA 02155
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
In the world of food blogging (and among my friends) In-N-Out Burger is second only to the French Laundry. While I love reading about the French Laundry, dining (if I may call it that) at In-N-Out seemed a much more feasible proposition.
This past weekend, I had the still-unexplained privilege of attending a Science Foo Camp organized by O’Reilly Media and Nature Publishing Group. The small, invitation only meeting was hosted by Google, held at the Googleplex, and drew a few CEOs, a smattering of Nobel Prize winners, a handful of editors-in-chief of major publications, a Microsoft big wig, Martha Stewart (??) and, umm... me. Don't ask, I don't know why I was invited either. To say that I was intimidated to the point of blindness would be like calling the ocean a little watery.
First, a word about the Googleplex – it’s fantasy land. It’s a grown up amusement park. It’s the Googledom. Googlevana. They do anything they can to keep they employees at work, and I suspect it works. It would for me. I shit you not, they have a massage parlor on the campus. Along with a laundromat, a volleyball court, dry cleaner, hair dresser, a dog- and booze-friendly policy (they can drink on the job. Seriously), and 14 cafes, most of which aim to be organic and local. They are big on food at Google. There were stations with snacks set out for us whenever we were not stuffing ourselves (myself) past the limit of reason with the most delicious food. The fact that they maintain that level of quality on such a huge scale of preparation is mind boggling.
Conference menu highlights:
Dinner, Friday night
Theme: Food on a stick.
Chicken and tofu kebabs
Grilled corn on the cob (on a stick), candy sweet, moist and crisp.
Pressed sandwiches (don’t know how these fit into the stick scheme but they were fantastic, especially the ones with banana and cardamom-scented peanut butter pressed between a crispy rosemary roll)
S’mores (get it? Stick? Fire? Yep, it’s clever)
Brie and dried cherry stuffed French Toast, which apparently, did not pass muster with Martha Stewart who was, for some unexplained reason, in attendance.
Eggs Florentine, with marinated heirloom tomatoes, sauteed spinach, and a light cheddary hollandaise sauce all atop an English muffin that miraculously avoided becoming soggy - until you spilled the yolky contents of perfectly poached fresh eggs, that is.
The best falafel I have ever had – browned yet not too fried, creamy and moist with the slightest hint of curry flavor. I suspect they were hybrid falafels, chickpeas spiked with peas.
Lamb gyro pitas, marinated chunks of lamb in a yogurt and mint sauce
Salad of heirloom tomatoes, English cucumbers, kalamata olives and firm feta cubes.
The food alone at this conference was worth the cross-country flight.
Onto the burger experience. After the conference disbanded, I coerced a new friend (and owner of the coolest of all design firms in NY) to drive my SciFoo-ed out self to In-N-Out. To be fair, Phillip was a willing participant in my burger quest – everyone seems to love that place.
In-N-Out is a true fast food burger place, but without the heavy grease and processed food smell searing your lungs upon entry. It was clean. It smelled clean. They cut their own French fries in each store – I know because I took the trouble to photograph the slicer!
Everything is made fresh, making the process not terribly fast, which I greatly appreciate. Their meat is made out of meat, not grey bits of horse snouts, or whatever it is that goes into McCrappie’s “burgers”. The bun was buttered and toasted to a crispy, buttery edge, the lettuce was crisp, and the tomato was not.
The meat patty, while thin (I should’ve gotten the double) tasted like beef, and fresh beef at that. The fries were a little anemic in color but tasted as they should, like potatoes and not chemicals. It was great. A perfect fast food meal, with none of the fast food hangover two hours later. I am almost (almost) glad there aren’t any In-N-Outs round these parts – I would be in big, burger-eating trouble. As Martha would’ve put it, they’re a good thing.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Another month's worth of restaurant reviews are up on Nature Network Boston! I really am having so much fun, thanks to all my loyal and devoted dining companions, especially Jonathan and Melissa. Those brave souls put up with me photographing their food for ages before they can touch it and permit me to taste everything on their plates. I would be a sad sole diner (and person) without them.