Wednesday, December 10, 2008

When you've grated 19 shortbread cookies...

...you realize that maybe a food processor would be a good idea after all. Or even better, the food processor attachment for my mixer.

Hopefully my finely ground cookies will turn into the perfect crust for the cheesecake I'm going to bake for my Secret Santa.

Stay tuned for pictures in a couple of days!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

This may be the perfect complement


My favorite and only kitchen appliance is my Viking Stand Mixer. My mother, who usually buys me brand-named purses or Nike workout clothes, gave the mixer to me for my birthday a couple of years ago, because "she noticed that I was taking an interest in baking." I found my mom's reasoning to be somewhat compromised since I could have sworn that they had a couple of mixers lying around the house to begin with (my parents have been on a buying craze for the past few years and end up buying lots of random things "in case" they need to give someone a gift so they always have a few DVD players, Swarvoski crystal swans and handheld massagers on hand).

I love the mixer because it looks so industrial and less bubble-shaped than other mixers - it is like a Jaguar in a sea of Beetles. As perfect as it is, I think I may have found the thing to make the mixer even better.

Behold! the Disc Slicer/Shredder attachment. It turns the mixer into a mini food processor, which is amazing because I wanted a food processor, but I don't have enough room for another kitchen appliance and I HATE shredding carrots and cheese by hand. The only downside is that the attachment is $110 which is like a cost of an actual food processor and three times the cost of a mini food processor.

So, it's not exactly economically practical, but if anyone's feeling generous this Christmas, I'm putting this on my list. Hey, it does come with three different blades.

Monday, November 24, 2008

This breaks my heart



Gordon Ramsay has been having an affair with Sarah Symonds (who famously had an affair with Lord Jeffrey Archer back in 2001 and wrote a book called Having An Affair? A Handbook For The Other Woman) for the past seven years. Above are a picture of Gordon leaving the Marriott Hotel off London's Grosvenor's Square after their latest "meeting" this past Thursday, and a picture of the mistress herself.

This breaks my heart. I can't believe I shook hands with Gordon Ramsay. Does no one believe in the institution of marriage anymore?

The sad thing is that Gordon Ramsay has always been thought of a family man and extremely devoted to his wife, Tana, of 12 years.

Here are some excerpts from the article I read:

In 2006 Ramsay was voted Celebrity Father Of The Year and in 2007 the Ramsays were named Celebrity Family Of The Year.

He and Symonds first met in 2001 at London’s Chinawhite nightclub, just a few months after she had revealed her affair with top Tory and author Jeffrey Archer.

The News of the World was told: “Ramsay and Sarah exchanged mobile phone numbers and became lovers just a few weeks later. So much for him being true to his wife.”


In October 2007, Symonds cemented her reputation as a “professional mistress” by writing her book: Having An Affair? A Handbook For The Other Woman. It made such an impact that she was a guest on The Oprah Winfrey show where she was interviewed as a role model for mistresses. In the first edition of the book Symonds, who moved from LA to Newport in her native Wales in February this year, refers to a pal who had an affair with a chef with many similarities to Ramsay.

She wrote: “A friend of mine was having an affair with a world- famous TV chef, well-known on both sides of the Atlantic for both his bad language and his good food.


In June, he told another newspaper: “Tana and I have a great marriage even though we spend very little time together. The time we have together is quality rather than quantity.”

Again, in an article last year, Ramsay said: “Sunday night is mine and Tana’s precious night. We’ll start with a gin and tonic and put a bottle of Ruinart champagne to chill in the ice machine. For dessert we just take the champagne upstairs to bed.” And in one lengthy interview he gave four years into his affair with Symonds, he said: “On a Friday night, Tana will ask me to keep my chef’s jacket on when we make love.


Below is a picture of Gordon and his wife in happier times.


Why, Gordon, why?!?

Foodie Fight

image courtesy of kitchen.apartmenttherapy.com

I was flipping through my Sur La Table catalogue and saw the Foodie Fight board game. Has anyone heard of or played this game? Foodie Fight came out last September and was created by Joyce Lock who is the owner of Stir, a culinary consulting firm. The trivia based game has questions ranging from "culinary science and celebrity chefs to food history and exotic cuisine."

Based on reviews from several sites, it seems like a good game. I might have to geek out and give it a try. This could be another good Christmas gift (hint hint).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Banana Bread


It is so cold! I made some banana bread last weekend for some friends and my landlord. I wish I had some now...I couldn't taste a whole slice myself, but based on some crumb bits, I say it was pretty good.

The recipe is modified from an Epicurious one (easily halved if you just want to make one loaf). Does anyone really like nuts in their banana bread? I don't - just like I don't like nuts or raisins in my carrot cake. I kind of like the purity of the bread itself. Also, I think that the bread would have been even better if the bananas were super ripe (they were already yellow without spots and I let them sit for four days and got lots of spots, but someone else suggested letting the bananas ripen for ten days!)

Banana bread is a "quick bread," a type of bread that uses baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast; because of this there is less gluten development and thus cracks form on the top.

I didn't have any metal loaf pans so I bought some aluminum ones from the supermarket and lined it with parchment which I trimmed afterward. I had some difficulty with getting the center of the banana bread to set - this may have done with them being in aluminum pans, although having them in the aluminum made it easier to give as gifts. I don't bake bread that often so I don't know if I'll buy a metal loaf pan, but Christmas is coming up...(hint hint)


Banana Bread
2 loaves

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs at room temperature for 30 minutes
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups coarsely mashed very ripe bananas (6 large)
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter 2 (9-by-5-by 3-inch) metal loaf pans, then dust with flour, knocking out excess.

Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl.

Beat together eggs and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer at medium-high speed until very thick and pale and mixture forms a ribbon when beater is lifted, about 10 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add oil and apple sauce in small batches, mixing, then mix in bananas, sour cream, and vanilla. Remove bowl from mixer and fold in flour mixture by hand gently but thoroughly just until the dry ingredients are incorporated. Be careful not to overmix as this will cause the gluten in the flour to develop and the bread will be tough.

Divide batter between loaf pans, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick or skewer comes out clean, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. Depending on your oven, you may want to start checking the bread from 45 minutes onward so that it does not overcook.

Cool loaves in pans on a rack for 10 minutes, then turn out onto rack. Turn loaves right side up and cool completely.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why is this so hard to find?

I've been looking for a 9"x9" ceramic square baker for what seems like ages...I would like to bake an apple crisp in one for Thanksgiving, but might have to make do with one of my round cake pans. Since my resolve not to buy anything that I don't absolutely love, I don't want to buy just any square baker.

Le Creuset has a Square Baker Set which comes with a 5"x5" pan as well (what would bake in something so small?). Plus, it's not deep enough.

Emile Henry has one, but only in a purple glaze, and also not deep enough.

The Revol Belle Cuisine square bakers are on sale at Sur La Table, and even though I have a gift certificate, they still seem a bit expensive. And, I kind of wanted a colored one.

I had high hopes going to Macy's today to check out their Fiestaware bakers, the Portmeirion Sophie Conran Bakeware, and possibly the Corningware.

Macy's during a One Day Sale = crowded, pushy and wrong. I couldn't find anything that I was looking for and why did people keep bumping into me? There was this woman walking around wheeling a gigantic suitcase making everyone get out of her way. What was her problem? I finally saw her in line with some small item from the Martha Stewart Collection. Did she really need to come to this sale? And with a suitcase?

There was a display of Le Creuset stuff with the Square Baker Set and also the covered Square Baker (too expensive for me). The All-Clad square baker, though nice, was only 8"x8", and metal. Corningware didn't have any square bakers and everything came in a 6 or 10 or 15 piece set. I just want one pan! I was excited to finally see their SimplyLite collection (especially after seeing their commercial - hey! advertising does work), but if my research into exploding pyrex has taught me anything, I am wary of the glass used to make the SimplyLite bakeware.

If any of you dear readers have a wonderful ceramic square baker, please leave a comment. Otherwise, I'll still keep hunting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Kitchen Confidential


I just finished watching the entire first (and only) season of Kitchen Confidential on Hulu.com (where you can watch a lot of television shows and movies for free...with limited commercial interruption!). The show is based on Anthony Bourdain's best-selling autobiography and follows the fall and comeback of a young talented chef named Jack Bourdain (Bradley Cooper).

I can't believe that Fox canceled this show back in 2005 (and after airing just five episodes!). Then I remember this is the same network that canceled Arrested Development. Now they have such great shows such as Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?, Don't Forget the Lyrics! and Hole in the Wall (Can you sense my sarcasm here?...Though I would have to give them credit for So You Think You Can Dance and Gordon's shows - yes, we're on a first name basis now).

After watching the last episode, I felt sad that it was the end of my journey with these characters.
It wasn't as bad as watching the last episode of My So-Called Life, but still, Kitchen Confidential was funny and engaging. I kept wondering, has a show ever been resurrected after having been canceled? Probably not.

Maybe it's my obsession with restaurants and cooking in general that makes me like it so much. Go watch it on Hulu and tell me what you think. Episodes are only 20 minutes long, but I guarantee you'll want to watch another one right away.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can you survive on $1 a day for food?

image courtesy of One Dollar Diet Project

Just read in the NY Times about a couple who decided to do a month long experiment to see if they could survive on just a dollar a day for food. What they found (unsurprisingly) is that that the cheaper foods tend to be junk foods devoid of nutritionally value.

You can read about their experience on their blog,
One Dollar Diet Project.

Congratulations! (& Food Fact)

Congratulations to Obama! And now on to the food fact...


image courtesy of yellowpages.com

According to an interview in January 2008, Obama said that his favorite food was from Italian Fiesta Pizzeria in Hyde Park, Chicago. I will definitely visit this carry-out place next time I visit Tara (I can't believe I missed out a few weeks ago!)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

If you haven't already, please vote!

image courtesy of http://obeygiant.com

I know this isn't food-related, but please remember to vote!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Japanese Slang for...

image courtesy of NY Times


I just read an interesting article on the New York Times about cooking one pot meals with the rice cooker.

I came across this part in the article and laughed out loud (the part in bold):

John Youngsun Park, a designer of video games in the San Francisco Bay Area, blasts the heat on his Sanyo to make noo roong ji, the toasted crust of rice that forms at the bottom of the traditional Korean stone rice pot. “You just want to see what it can do,” Mr. Park said. In fact, it can poach, steam and simmer, as well as turn out a crisp noo roong ji.

“People love that toasted-rice taste,” he said. “It’s even a flavor of ice cream in Seoul.” (Japanese cooks, however, consider toasted rice overcooked and highly undesirable. The unwanted crust left stuck to the bottom of the rice cooker is called okoge — the same word used as slang for a single woman who spends a lot of time with gay men.)


What?

While I was pondering how crusty rice equates to what Americans would refer to as a "fag hag," I suddenly had a vision of crusty semen at the bottom of the rice cooker. Gross.

I don't think I can eat bi bim bop ever again.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Spartan Souvlaki

image courtesy of The Porkchop Express


A few weeks ago, some friends and I trekked all the way to Dyker Heights, Brooklyn for dinner. Tom had read about Spartan Souvlaki on the blog, The Porkchop Express. Apparently every Saturday they roast two whole pigs! The last time I had roast pig was at someone's house in Boston and they dug a pit in the backyard and cooked the pig in it for hours (it sounds disgusting, but it was good). We were all very excited.

Sarah and I got there a little after Tom and Gina. They had already ordered some appetizers, a spinach pie, a cheese pie, and some sausage. Since everything there is made to order, it takes awhile to come out, but it's definitely worth the wait. The pies were especially good, not too crispy, and cooked to perfection. It was akin eating comfort. We were trying to figure out what was in the cheese one because it tasted both sweet and salty - the waitress told us it was a combination of feta cheese and ricotta.

Just as we were gearing up to order a plate of roast pig, the waitress told us that they had run out and that ideally, we should get there between 5 and 7pm (who eats at 5pm?) next time. But that was the whole point in coming! For the pig!

As we were looking at the menu to decide what else to order, George, the owner, came over with a small plate of roast pig. He said it wasn't much, but since we made the journey for it, he thought we should at least taste some.

How nice is that? The roast pig was delicious, moist, juice, rich and not overly flavored so that you can taste the pork (according to The Porkchop Express the only seasoning is some oregano-seasoned salt). Apparently, if we had received a proper plate it would have included pork from all parts of the pig.

The rest of the dinner (a gigantic tomato salad, grilled octopus, lamb and chicken kebabs) was also amazing. It all felt a bit surreal, sitting outside surrounded by ivy eating great food and in a part of Brooklyn I would never venture to.

When we got the bill, it seemed a bit low for all the food we had ordered. Then we realized that the waitress hadn't charge us for the appetizers. Since everyone at the restaurant was so nice (and we got a free plate of pork), we told her. She was very grateful.

We certainly didn't want karma to kick us in the butt later on, especially if we wanted to (and are definitely going to) go back to Spartan Souvlaki. It was a trek, but it was worth it.



Spartan Souvlaki

6820 8th Avenue
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn
(718) 748-5838
Monday-Saturday: 11:30am-10pm

Cash only


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Tiffin Lunchbox

While browsing on The Curiosity Shoppe the other day, I saw a cute stainless steel lunchbox made by To-Go Ware. Called a tiffin lunchbox, it is a lunch carrying system from India where you can put different foodstuffs in each compartment and the lid doubles as a plate. According to Wikipedia, in South India the the term tiffin is generally used to mean an in-between-meals snack. I have seen other lunchboxes like this, but being a great fan of plastic Tupperware, I'm not so sure I can make the change.

Then, today while flipping through New York Magazine I saw a Design Within Reach ad for the Tiffin Lunch Box Set, three different lunch boxes of different sizes. At a whopping $85 for the lot (who needs three? maybe a family?), I began to wonder what these would cost in India. Heck, these may be even made in India. How ironic would that be?

With this price tag in mind I went back to To-Go Ware's website to check out the price of their tiffin lunchbox (an aside: is it lunchbox or lunch box? According to Dictionary.com, if you type in lunch box, it says to see lunchbox), and saw that they have updated their product and that it begins shipping on 9/17/08. It also costs $18.50 and comes with a sidekick tiffin for dressings or sauces.

Let's compare the tiffins.


The old tiffin from To-Go Ware is cute, maybe a bit too cute and roundish. I think I would feel like a Japanese school girl carrying it around. Plus, since it seems to taper up to the top, I'm not so sure how much food it can hold.

Base Pot - bottom diameter : 6.5", top diameter : 2.4", Height : 2.4"
Upper Pot - bottom diameter : 5.5", top diameter : 5.1", Height : 2.2"
Plate - 5.9" diameter
Total Height : 7.3"



The new tiffin lunchbox from To-Go Ware seems more grown up and a little industrial from its hard edges, which I like. Plus the sidekick tiffin is super cool. It is also a bit bigger than its predecessor.

Pot dimensions: 6 1/2" D x 3 5/8" H
Assembled height: 6 1/4"
Sidekick: 3 1/2" D x 3 1/8" H




Design Within Reach's tiffin set is a nice balance of hard and soft edges. I have this love/hate relationship with good design and the huge price it carries with it, but I do like these tiffin lunchboxes. Too bad you can't just buy one. DWR didn't give specific measurements for each one, but it seems like the smallest one may be a bit smaller than To-Go Ware's.


Height: 4–7.5" Diameter 5.5–6.5"



Final verdict? Well, since we have lunch catered at work I never bring lunch, so I don't need one, but I'd probably buy To-Go Ware's one since I like it and I like supporting small businesses.

Which one, my dear readers, do you like? Or do you know of other cool lunchboxes? My first lunchbox was a pink My Little Pony one with a matching thermos.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Unlikely Combo

image courtesy of Daily Mail online

Just learned from Faded Youth Blog (my favorite site for celebrity gossip) that Gordon Ramsay and Posh are opening a restaurant together in LA!

Ramsay says, "
“Yes, it is true that Victoria and I are setting up a restaurant in LA together. I’m really excited. She’s really keen to focus on a traditional English-style menu, like bangers and mash, fish and chips and such like.”

While I'm a huge fan of anything that Gordon Ramsay does, I'm not so sure about this unlikely partnership...but maybe it'll help Posh but on a bit of weight.

Ta for now!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Whole Foods Tribeca

image courtesy of Whole Foods

Last night I went to Whole Foods Tribeca to get some Citrasolv (I stupidly got some oil on my brand new microfiber sofa and read that this might get it out). I called them beforehand to see if they had it and the employees there were so nice on the phone and checked for me.

I had first seen the Whole Foods Tribeca when I went to Bed Bath and Beyond a few weeks ago (they're in the same complex). From the outside it didn't seem that there were that many people inside, certainly not nearly as many as the one in Union Square. So I was delighted when my expectations came true last night- there weren't that many people there and I could walk around freely. It was amazing.

After I picked up my Citrasolv, I spent awhile walking around looking for other things to buy just because I could, but didn't pick up anything else. When I went to go check out there were long lines. It seemed like all the cashiers were really slow, especially in my line. My sense of time this week has been off though (I've been working so much and feeling zombie-like) so I'm not sure how long I actually waited in line, but it seemed like it took FOREVER and I was only buying one item.
It's a new location so I will give it some slack as I'm sure the employees will pick up speed.

I definitely recommend going to this Whole Foods.
I might kick myself later when other people figure that this is the Whole Foods to go to and it becomes crazy busy like the others, but I thought everyone should know.



Whole Foods Market Tribeca
270 Greenwich Street
New York, NY 10007
212.349.6555
Store Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. seven days a week.



P.S. In case you were wondering the Citrasolv got the stain out of my couch. Yay for orange-based cleaners! Plus, it gets extra points because it's good for the environment.

P.P.S. I'm writing this post on the Bolt Bus on my way to Boston. It has free wifi and plugs for your computers! An interesting aside: When I was waiting on the subway platform this morning to get to said bus, someone on the other platform yelled in a high-pitched shreikiing aggressive voice, "Does anybody know if this train is running?" I glanced briefly to see a crazy old woman. A couple of seconds later she yelled, "What the fuck are you looking at?! I'm just asking if this train is running!" I glanced up again to see a girl on my platform mutter, "Nothing," and look away. Poor thing. The old woman began walking down the platform possibly to look for a station attendant. Then this old man on my platform began saying, "That woman is crazy," over and over again, to the point which I thought he might be a little crazy himself. Now, you know someone's really crazy when another crazy person thinks so.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

CorningWare Vintage Teapot and Exploding Pyrex

I have two other posts in the works, but I've just been obsessively looking at vintage CorningWare teapots on EBay and had to share. I saw my friend, Sarah's, teapot (in the "Spice of Life" pattern), fell in love with it, and thus have been searching for one of my own. The one above is in the "Cornflower" pattern. Isn't it absolutely adorable? There are a whole bunch up for auction, but most of them have only one picture and no other views of the teapot. How do they expect people to know its condition?

I'm also thinking about purchasing some CorningWare casserole dishes. But when I read that they had Pyrex lids, I became hesitant. Someone at work told me today about a cousin of theirs who is visiting and was cooking some roast potatoes in a Pyrex dish that exploded in her hands when she took it out of the oven. This sent flying glass shards and hot oil all over her. She has deep cuts and first degree burns and now has a cast on her arm! The weird thing is, my coworker, who was telling the story, had the same thing happen to him about a month back. Then we found this recent article on ConsumerAffairs.com. Seems like this has been happening for the last three years! Yikes! And I just bought a Pyrex dish....and 3 Pyrex bowls...and a Pyrex measuring cup. I loved Pyrex. Boo. Should I return them? One shouldn't be afraid of their dishes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Weekend of Firsts

This weekend, hot as it was, was a great weekend of firsts.

On Friday afternoon, a few of us from work ventured out to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I had never been to - or heard of - this ice cream shop (subsequently making me feel less Chinese).

I imagined a grand huge place - a cross between Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory and the Imperial Palace restaurant of my youth, but it was just like any other small ice cream shop - a long skinny hallway.

It was busy when we entered. I saw a display of t-shirts and hats and a sign saying that they were the original Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and had been in business for over 30 years and that there were other companies illegally using their name and logo (so they had been around for that long - boy, did I feel really ignorant. Oh yeah, they have won numerous awards, too).

I tried samples of Taro (which is a potato-like vegetable - you may have had the taro chips from Terra before) and Black Sesame (so you know, I was informed that a customer can have only two samples). I settled on a scoop of the Black Sesame. It was really creamy and subtle tasting with the sesame seeds adding that extra crunch. I tried a bit of my friend's Green Tea, and it was unlike any other green tea ice cream I had had before. This Green Tea was bright, vibrant and really tasted like green tea. I was extremely impressed.

What tickled me even more was the sign listing their ice cream flavors. Under "Regular" were flavors like Black Sesame, Taro, Green Tea, Almond Cookie, Red Bean, Durian, etc. and under "Exotic" were flavors like Vanilla, Strawberry, Chocolate, Coffee, Pistachio, Chocolate Chip, etc.

I'll definitely be taking my parents here when they visit.


Friday night was the first time I went to the famous Brooklyn diner, Junior's. There has been more than one occasion when a taxi driver, driving past Junior's on the way to my apartment, exclaimed in surprise, "You've never been to Junior's? They have the best cheesecake." And how long have I lived in Brooklyn? Almost three years, now. Yes, I was a little embarrassed.

More so than the Strawberry Shortcake Strawberry Cheesecake that we had for dessert (which was really good), my dinner might have surpassed it. From the Specialty Sandwich section, I ordered the Something Different.

Something Different turned out to be Something Great (and possibly artery-clogging) - slices of brisket in between potato pancakes accompanied with gravy and apple sauce. The brisket was thinly sliced, and though not the best brisket I've had (the best being in Texas), was adequate. The potato pancakes were amazing - large, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Topping all this off with gravy made for a great sandwich (how come I've never thought of this?).


Jeff invited me to a coffee cupping the next morning hosted by the New York Coffee Society, a club that was started last year whose primary purpose is to allow people to cup coffees together. It took place at Beer Table in Park Slope.

This was my first cupping (sounds dirty, doesn't it?) and I wasn't sure what to expect. When we arrived, there were two bar tables with identical setups of three sets of four small glasses with ground coffee inside them. Someone had made some scones and other breakfast goodies to snack on.

Daniel, one of the organizers of the NYCS, talked about each of the three coffees we would be cupping that day - two from Ethiopia and one from Ecuador. Then he took a survey of which people in the room had cupped before. I was glad to see that it was about a fifty-fifty split. We were to split up into two groups.

Then he explained the three phases of cupping. First we would smell the grounds of each coffee. After that, Daniel would go around and pour hot water (I forget what temperature the water has to be, but it is specific) in each of the glasses. We then would wait four minutes while it brewed. As this was happening, a crust would form at the top. Each of us would get a spoon and we would "break the crust" by pushing the grounds across the top, agitating a bit, and smell the aroma. It was best to smell through our noses and breathe out through our mouths. Since there were only four cups to each coffee, not everyone could break the crust so they were to agitate the surface and smell. Also, there was a glass of water in which to dip our spoons so we didn't cross-contaminate any of the coffees. After this, Daniel would skim the top to get rid of any grounds and we would then sample the coffees by dipping our spoons in and the slurping the coffee up (keeping in mind to dip the spoons in the clean water between slurps) . This has something to do with our sense of taste and our sense of smell being controlled by different parts of our brain at different times. If we were professional cuppers buying thousands of dollars of coffee and sampling some fifty varieties, we would spit after each taste, but
we didn't have to since we were just tasting three kinds of coffee. We were also encouraged to sample each cup of coffee (even if it was the same kind of coffee) and also as it cooled since the taste changes.

I was nervous for several reasons. The cupping seemed so ritualized and it was something that had to be done a specific way. Is there a wrong way to smell the coffee (fortunately I followed a seasoned cupper and learned to shake the grounds before sticking my nose in the glass)? What if I messed up the breaking the crust and pushed the grounds to the bottom? Daniel also demonstrated how the slurp should be - loud and quick. Coming from a family of noodle and soup slurpers, could I stand up to the challenge?

Apparently not. My slurping was not loud and kind of wimpy. Thankfully it blended in with the noises of louder slurpers so I wasn't quite as embarassed.

My favorite coffee was one called SMS, named after the exporter and one of the two Ethiopian coffees. It tasted so much like fruit - hints of oranges and bananas, and was quite different from anything I had tasted before. They also had a demonstration of the Japanese style of brewing drip coffee by Koji. The shape of the cone and the paper filter is different to the American ones and there's even a special pot to pour a thin stream of water into the grounds in a circular motion. The result was a strong clear cup of coffee. I can't wait to go to the next cupping!


Finally, on my way to a movie at BAM, on Sunday, I encountered the Cupcake Parade, a celebration of the anniversary of Cake Man Raven. Oh, how many times have I tried to go to the Cake Man to get a slice of red velvet and something happened which left me cakeless.

There was a platform with musicians and performers as well as a marching band. Little teenage boys ran around with sheet boxes of free red velvet cupcakes. I was told I could take as many as I wanted, but only left with two. I tried to hide these in my backpack since BAM is strict about bringing outside food in (I once had to wolf down a slice of pizza in front of the ticket taker).

The inside of my bag ended up smeared with bits of cream cheese frosting, but boy was it worth it! Can't wait to get a slice after this little taste.

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
65 Bayard Street
NY, NY 10013
(212) 608-4170
http://www.chinatownicecreamfactory.com

Junior's Restaurant
386 Flatbush Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11201
(718) 852-5257
http://www.juniorscheesecake.com/
the website doesn't seem to be working for some reason...

New York Coffee Society
visit Daniel's Coffee Blog for up to date information
http://danielhumphries.livejournal.com/
to sign up for membership, send an email to newyorkcoffeesociety@gmail.com

Cake Man Raven
708-a Fulton St.
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 694-CAKE (2253)
http://www.cakemanraven.com/


Chinatown Ice Cream Factory photo courtesy of J. Blough's flickr page
Junior's photo courtesy of Joel's Journeys
Coffee photo courtesy of Daniel's Coffee Blog
Cake Man photo courtesy of boingboing

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Supercook


Have you ever met someone who could cook the most fabulous meal using just what was in the fridge and the pantry? I had an old roommate like that (one time he managed to make a wonderful eight course brunch for six of us without having to go the supermarket).

For those of us who are less creative with our ingredients, there's a great new website called Supercook where you can list the ingredients in your kitchen and it will search the web for recipes using those ingredients. Results are separated into Starters, Entrees, and Desserts. If a particular recipe needs certain ingredients that you don't have it will list them, too. You can filter the recipes based on just some ingredients in your kitchen.

Based on an initial search I've just done, I can make various cakes and mac and cheese. Hmmm...

Happy Cooking!

(via swissmiss)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gordon Ramsay found innocent!

boston.com

Just read on the NY Times (thanks for the tip, Tim!) that Gordon Ramsay went before the Australian Senate today for excessive use of profanity on his television shows. Despite Catholic protests, they decided not to censor him or any other foul-mouthed television stars.
“In the absence of an overwhelming community consensus that particular words be banned altogether, the committee does not believe it is appropriate to make any recommendations with regard to imposing additional limits,” a report stated, according to The Associated Press.
Suggestions by the committee included better programming and improved parental controls (Australia already has rules for "mature" programming, such as Gordon's shows, to be shown after 8:30pm).

If they only knew what a sweet lamb he is. I mean, look at that face!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Carrot Cake



This is a picture of the carrot cake I made for Jo's birthday. It is the third carrot cake I have made for a co-worker, and I fear that I'm going to continue only making it since it is so delicious and people keep requesting it. For this one though, I decided to whip out my cake decorating tips and try them out (I've been avoiding it since I had a disastrous experience when I was younger), but it was so easy. I think I will try to decorate all of my cakes now.

The below recipe is one modified from Epicurious. I don't like nuts and raisins in my carrot cake so I don't put them in, but feel free to, if you must. The cake is really simple to make. The only thing that takes a long time for me is grating the carrots, but I'm hoping to get a food processor from my parents for my birthday and then I won't get grazed knuckles anymore. Next time I'm going to try to substitute apple sauce for all of the oil (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups oil), but reviewers suggested the apple sauce since the cake seemed too oily otherwise. The cake is still really moist with the 1/2 cup of applesauce. I'm hoping eliminating the oil entirely won't make the cake taste too apple-y.

Triple-Layer Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Cake
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup apple sauce

4 large eggs

2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 cups finely grated peeled carrots (about 1 1/3 pound)


Frosting

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

For cake: Preheat oven to 325°F. Lightly grease three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line bottom of pans with parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, vegetable oil and apple sauce in bowl until combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into sugar and oil mixture. Stir in carrots.

Pour batter into prepared pans, dividing equally. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean and cakes begin to pull away from sides of pans, about 30-45 minutes. Cool in pans on racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks and cool completely.

For frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar. Cover and refrigerate until firm enough to spread, about 15 minutes.

Place 1 cake layer on platter. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with another cake layer. Spread with 3/4 cup frosting. Top with remaining cake layer. Using icing spatula, spread remaining frosting in decorative swirls over sides and top of cake.

Store covered at room temperature.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Now this is a game I could get into

(photo from New York Magazine)

I just read in New York Magazine about the new Wii Competitive Eating Game called "Major League Eating: The Game," now downloadable as a WiiWare title in North America. And when I searched for an image for this post, I saw that A Cup of Jo's Joanna Goddard had written the article!

A few summers ago, while working for Antiques Roadshow, we were in Houston in an extra-terrestrial themed restaurant that served burgers and fries and such. There were these huge flat screen televisions in the dining room, which would have been really annoying except that the channel was set to ESPN and the Alka-Seltzer US Open of Competitive Eating was showing.

It was weird to watch so many people gorging themselves on food (spaghetti, chicken wings, hard-boiled eggs), especially since we were about to eat, but we were all mesmerized. We learned about the big players like Takeru Kobayashi (a small Japanese fellow who has won the Coney Island hot dog eating contest every year from 2001-2006 until he was dethroned by Joey Chestnut in 2007), Sonya Thomas (nicknamed "The Black Widow" and only 98 pounds!), Rich LeFevre ("The Locust") and his wife Carlene LeFevre, etc.

I was hooked. These people were amazing. How could they eat so much in so little time? Also, how is it possible that Kobayashi makes $300,000 a year from doing this?

Then came Wii. The first time I played Wii, I felt like a giddy kid whipping my arm into the air to get a power serve in tennis. So imagine my happiness that Major League Eating was coming to Wii. This is going to be awesome.

Below, an excerpt from New York Magazine on how to play the game:
“Our goal was to make a game that used the Wii controller in a new way,” says Bill Swartz, whose company makes the game. The basics of play are oddly intuitive: You use the wireless Wii controller, which has a motion sensor inside, to simulate eating food for a set time period. There are “cram” foods, like hamburgers and burritos, for which you move the remote to and from your mouth; “toss” foods, like sushi and meatballs, which you “eat” by flicking your wrist upward; and “typewriter” foods, like watermelon and corn on the cob, which require you to move the remote across your mouth. And you need to do it without a “reversal of fortune”: vomiting....The game has a “jiggle” function when their virtual stomachs fill up. Players must also press a “chew” button, and you can antagonize queasy opponents with burps and jalapeƱo flames.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Moules frites


I've been meaning to write about the first time I cooked mussels and french fries for awhile now, but I wanted to get the picture off of Tim's camera (when I finally got around to it, he had already accidentally deleted the ones with the mussels AND the french fries), so there's only a picture of the mussels above. Don't they look so lonely without the fries?

I always thought that cooking mussels was really hard, but in fact, it's pretty easy and doesn't take that much time to prepare at all. I used frozen french fries, and even then, that took the longest to cook.

After doing a bit of research on where to buy mussels, I settled on going to The Lobster Place in Chelsea market. Usually about 1 pound per person is sufficient, and the Prince Edward Island mussels there cost $3.25/pound.

The recipe asked for cultivated mussels. Cultivated mussels are collected from rocks or in production areas on posts. They are better than wild mussels because they contain less grit and sand. You can tell a cultivated mussel from a wild one by their valves (shells) - cultivated ones have two convex valves and wild ones have one convex and one concave valve.

As for the wine, the recipe called for dry white wine. After scrolling through some websites, it seemed like the best bet was to use wine that you liked drinking as well to cook with.
If you don't intend to drink the wine, then Julia Child recommended using dry white vermouth - it'll keep longer and you can use it for future recipes. I settled for a Sauvignon Blanc I tasted from Trader Joe's. Other dry white wines include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Chablis, and Riesling (though I like sweet Rieslings better). An interesting side fact: wines are dry if they have a residual sugar content well under 1%.

Below is the recipe (modified from the original Epicurious one since I thought that using regular mayonnaise for the fries was sufficient instead of making the mustard mayonnaise). Because the recipe was using such simple ingredients I wasn't sure if it would be tasty enough, but it was really flavorful. I'm also a huge fan of interactive eating and digging around and opening mussels. Just be careful not to eat the ones that haven't opened during cooking. That means they're dead. We didn't eat the ones that were even a little bit open just to be safe - risking food poisoning for a little bit of shellfish isn't worth it!

P.S. For all of those people out there who haven't eating french fries with mayonnaise, it's really the way to go. I was a skeptic like you once (until I studied abroad in Rome), but at least try it. Eating french fries with a bit of ketchup and mayonnaise is also really good - kind of like thousand island dressing without the tartness.

Moules frites!

1 (15- to 16-ounce) package frozen french fries

1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, forced through a press
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds cultivated mussels, scrubbed (and debearded if not already)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Cook french fries according to package instructions and keep warm in oven if necessary.

Meanwhile, cut onion into very thin slices, then cook with garlic and a pinch of salt in butter in a wide heavy medium pot over medium-high heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until pale golden.

Add wine to onion and briskly simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until onion is almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add mussels and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until mussels just open wide, 4 to 6 minutes, checking frequently after 4 minutes and transferring as cooked to a bowl. (Discard any mussels that remain unopened.) Stir parsley into cooking liquid and season with salt. Pour liquid over mussels, then serve with fries and mayonnaise.


UPDATE 5/20/08: So, Tim and I made mussels and fries again last night, this time with a coconut curry sauce (which wasn't as good the white wine butter sauce). However, he insisted that I take a picture of the mussels with the fries for posting purposes. So, here it is.


Friday, May 16, 2008

Free Falafel tomorrow in NYC

photo from lacto.com


The newly named Kosher Village (formerly Chickpea) is giving out free falafel tomorrow from 2pm until 4pm. The award presentation of $3000 (!) for renaming the restaurant will take place at 2pm. Congratulations
Adi Libson!

23 3rd Avenue at St. Marks Place

(Via Gothamist)

*Please note that the above picture is not falafel from Kosher Village. I just thought it was a nice picture and made me want to eat falafel.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Meeting

Meeting Gordon Ramsey was the highlight of last week for sure. As we queued up one of the employees wrote our names on post-its and stuck it in the inside of the book. I asked her if he could sign the Kitchen Nightmares DVD that I had brought with me (I thought it would be nice to return an autographed copy since we borrowed it so long ago from friends), but she said that was against the rules. We were so far back in the line, and he would have signed so many copies already by the time he got to me, that I wasn't going to risk pissing him off. Imagine being the one person that Gordon Ramsay reams out at the book signing. Hell no I wasn't going to be that person (although I guess it would make for an interesting story.)

As we wound our way around the store, I could see people asking to take pictures with him. He seemed slightly agitated. He had a word with his publicist who then told us that Gordon wouldn't be able to stop and pose for pictures with us, but that we were allowed to take pictures while he talked to us and signed our books. I understood his time constraints. There were so many people.

When I got up to the table and handed my book to him, Gordon was having a side chat with some store employees, so I was caught off guard when he whipped open the book and said, "Hello Gigi, how are you doing?" (How did he know my name? Oh! It was on the post-it, duh).

To which I replied, "Good...I guess better now...." (ha ha ha...I am so corny.)

And then he asked me something which I wasn't prepared for. I was preparing for questions like "What do you do for a living?" or "Have you been to my restaurants before?" or "Why haven't you been to my restaurants before?" or "Do you want to come to work for me as a pastry chef?"

He asked me "So, what's for dinner tonight?"

I was so busy thinking of other things that I hadn't thought about what I was going to cook for dinner that night, so my quick reply was,

"Something from your cookbook?"

(I've gotten mixed responses on this answer from people I've told the story to. Jeff thought it was brilliant. Other people thought it was kind of stupid. What was I supposed to say? Mac and cheese?)

I quickly followed up my response with, "I cooked the pasta with anchovies dish last night." And this was true, I had bought the cookbook the night before, cooked that dish and thought it was very tasty.

And then he said, as he was scrawling his signature in my book, "I love anchovies. Lots of protein," and as he was handing me back my book, all I could do was stare and say "Yeah." and I might have muttered "Thank you," but I can't be sure since I was kind of in a daze.


And that was that. That was the extent of my conversation with Gordon Ramsay. I don't know what witty remark I could have said about the protein content of an anchovy. When I was in the supermarket, there was only one can of anchovies and tons of sardines, which prompted a Wikipedia search on the difference between anchovies and sardines (Anchovies are a family (Engraulidae) of small, common salt-water fish. Sardines or pilchards, are a group of several types of small, oily fish related to herrings, family Clupeidae.) I guess I could have told him that, but I'm sure he already knew that. At least he didn't yell at me.

Jeff didn't get a good picture of me with Gordon
(some stupid girl kept jumping in front of the camera), so I'm posting a picture of Gordon I took while I was in line (above), and of course, the signature (per Dirk's request.)

P.S. I did end up cooking the Shrimp Pilau dish from his cookbook that night (I didn't lie!) It was really delicious, although it took a lot longer to cook than was suggested but perhaps our oven wasn't up to temperature.

Monday, April 28, 2008

NYC Events this week

Clotilde Dusoulier, of Chocolate & Zucchini fame, is reading from her second book, Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris, at McNally Robinson in Soho tomorrow at 7pm. Apparently, treats are to be served. Yum! For more info, click here.


Gordon Ramsay will be signing copies of his new cookbook, Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food, at the Sur La Table in Soho on Thursday, May 1st at 6pm.

Price of Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food: $35







Meeting Gordon Ramsay: priceless








Call 212.966.3375 for more info. You may have to RSVP to the event and don't forget to order a copy of the book!


Here's a little description:
Throw away the takeout menus, ready meals, and convenience foods! These days everyone wants fast food but at the same time, they want to eat well. With his unique style, high voltage energy, and passion for good food Chef Gordon Ramsay shows how to get a great meal on the table in less time than it would take to have takeout delivered. This new bestseller is packed with ideas for 5-minute snacks, 10-minute main courses, and 30-minute menus for all occasions. A cookbook for the way we live today, Gordon Ramsay’s Fast Food is the stunning follow-up to his fabulously successful library of titles.


McNally Robinson
52 Prince St. (between Lafayette and Mulberry)
New York, NY 10012
(212) 274-1160
http://www.mcnallyrobinsonnyc.com

Sur La Table
75 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Homemade Mantou

So I finally got around to making homemade mantou (I said I would in my previous post about Province). I think mine need a little bit of work - they seemed a little denser than I would have liked, but I'm sure my grandma would be proud. I sauteed some scallions in a little bit of teryaki sauce and mixed it in with the dough before forming them into buns. I was hoping that the scallions would add a little bit of flavor since I wasn't going to make them into meat sandwiches. I also toasted some sesame seeds, in which I dipped the buns before steaming.

The recipe that I got off the internet says that it makes 32 buns (I think it really makes 16). I halved this recipe and made 8 buns.

Here's the recipe in full for 16 buns:

1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
4 cups all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar over 4 tablespoons of the warm water and leave it for 15 minutes. Place the flour in a bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in the yeast mixture and the remaining water. Mix everything to a dough. Turn it onto a floured board and knead until smooth.

Return dough to the bowl, cover and let it stand in a warm place for about an hour or until doubled in size. Punch down, cover again and let it stand for 20 minutes longer.

Knead the dough again and shape into rolls (I found that using a bit of flour helps the shaping). Bring the water in the bottom of a steamer to a boil. Place the rolls in the steamer, leaving a 1- inch gap between them. Cook for 10 minutes, or until firm and cooked through. Serve
them hot.

scallions sauteed


sesame seeds toasted and on plate ready for dipping


the dough mixed with scallions


Since I didn't have a proper steamer, I used this stainless steam vegetable steamer instead.


I turned it upside down and place it in the pot. the three metal prongs acted as a trivet.


the buns formed and dipped in sesame seeds and....


placed in the pot on top of the steamer. Covered and steamed for 10 minutes.


Voila! Homemade mantou buns. Check out the steam rising off those puppies! (I couldn't fit all the buns on one plate so had to make the remaining two on the second round.)