Mango Lime Cupcakes with Neufchâtel Cheese Frosting & Chili Powder

Monday, May 28, 2007

Rob and I have been eating a lot of mango using this method of preparation recently. It's perfect for the summer heat. It's tropical, flavorful, with the littlest whisper of spice in the background. I could think of no better cupcake to put together for Elise's backyard ice cream social (which we will cover in the next post to be sure).

The mango is sweet and delicious in this intensely rich, moist, and dense cake. The lime perks up the cake perfectly. The Neufchâtel cheese is something new; it's basically a low fat cream cheese without that highly distinctive tang that cream cheese possesses. It's mild and sweet, perfect for fruit based cakes where you don't want to overpower or compete with the other flavors. The chili powder and lime zest were a tad bit tame, I think I would add a bit more next time as it seemed to get a bit lost sometimes. It shouldn't be strong, it should just barely be recognizable, almost invisible, but should still be present.

Overall though, I was very happy with the outcome. I was able to share it with all my Sac blogging buddies, and many other awesome peoples. A simple cupcake I plan to make again.

Mango Lime Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup of milk
1 1/3 cup of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
good pinch of salt
1 mango, peeled and chopped
zest of one lime
1 tablespoon of lime juice

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Beat the butter for about 2 minutes until well creamed. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl halfway through.
2) Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
3) Combine flour, salt, and baking powder and sift together. Combine the milk, lime zest, and lime juice together. Add some of the flour mixture, then some of the milk, alternating between dry-wet-dry and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix together until just combined.
4) Fold the mango into the batter. Scoop into cupcake papers until almost full.
5) Bake for about 15-18 minutes. Cupcakes will be dense, heavy, and moist. A toothpick should still come out clean. Let cool on a wire rack.

Neufchâtel Cheese Frosting
What You'll Need...
1/4 cup of butter (1/2 a stick), room temperature
4 oz of Neufchâtel cheese, room temperature (this cheese can be found near the cream cheese)
2 cups of powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (taste as you go)
lime zest
chili powder

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scraped down the sides and bottom.
2) Slowly add the powdered sugar. Add the vanilla to taste. Spread on cooled cupcakes. Sprinkle with lime zest and chili powder.

Eat Beast Update #5 - The Next Bigfoot Stole My Egg Salad Sammich!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

This is Cid. Cid is our good cat. The well mannered one, minus his habit of opening every drawer and cabinet in the apartment that is. But his eating habits are normal, and don't irritate me in any way.

Until recently that is. Mace, the Eat Beast's, eating habits are wearing off on Cid. Cid, when I wasn't looking, snatched a piece of egg salad sammich away from me. It's the first time he's ever done this, so he got a good scare when I squirted some water at him and I doubt it will happen again.

However, the second I go to photograph the evidence for a post about this, what should happen? The Eat Beast, who possesses supernatural abilities when it comes to food, suddenly swooped down and stole the piece of sandwich right as I clicked the picture! Then *poof* he was gone when I moved the camera away from my face.

Like photographing Bigfoot or a UFO, all I have is a blur on film that can't either confirm or deny anything. You just have to take my word for it. It's the Eat Beast striking once again. Seriously, how does something so goddamn fat move so quick?

Suits at Happy Hour (Spa Bar - Midtown Sacramento, CA)

Saturday, May 26, 2007

To celebrate the article about us in the Bee recently, Madeline, Kristy, and I went to Spa Bar, the special happy hour that Spataro's holds on weekdays from 2-6:30. Spataro's is the super fancy restaurant owned by the Paragary's restaurant group, and this particular place is the main hangout for their head honcho chef, Kurt Spataro.

Spataro's is located on L and 14th, in the lobby of the Meridian Plaza across from the park and near Mason's. It's in a very busy corporate area of downtown, and you can tell. The place is swarmed with suits. Honestly, it felt like I was back in Orange County again. The entire crown was all power ties, blackberries, and Prada. Everyone was very "look-who-he's-with-and-what-is-she-wearing?" I felt a little out of place for a sec, then realized that I didn't give a crud how I was dressed (I write/work in non-profit, Kristy writes, and Maddie is a lawyer but she was dressed well but non-pretentious cause she rolls like that).

ANYWAYS, back to the restaurant, it's a nice place, very fancy, love the outside as the view is pleasant, and it's a good people watching perch. We did have a small issue with service through the time we were there, but the place was totally swamped (the place is popular, even on a Wednesday) and there was only one waitress and she was in the weeds, poor girl.

Still, all these little negatives are nothing. The food is fabulous. I started with the chef's special cocktail of the night. Lemon juice, lemon vodka, and freshly muddled cherries started my night. It was fruity and refreshing. A light summer drink I'll want to re-create at home.

We started out with some simple french fries. They weren't to greasy, but nice and crisp and salted with some shredded Parmesan cheese. The deep fried asparagus was to die for, they were bursting with flavor and were perfectly salted by the fry batter; served with aioli it was a little slice of heaven.

We also ordered housemade mozzarella wrapped in prosciutto, however they were out of mozzarella so we got a large plate of deliciously salty and well aged prosciutto drizzled with a peppery olive oil, and given a nice crack or two of fresh pepper. Mmm-MM! Like a hug from Jesus!

The bread was also quite yummy, we were served slices of fresh baguette and some ciabatta that had a light rub of olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. We had a bit of marinara sauce to dip it in as well so the bready front was well covered.

The biggest plus? Each dish was only $2-$4, each drink between $2-$6. Each plate fed about 3 people when shared. We got a drink each, four different delicious plates, plus tax and tip paid about $27 bucks I think. The place also serves lunch and dinner, with menus that look equally frugal and deliciously Italian in their origins.

Overall, a fantastic experience. Good food, good drink, and a good place for a great price! We all plan to go back again!

Spa Bar - in Spataro Restaurant and Bar
1415 L Street
Downtown Sacramento

One Year Later

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Things were not going so well one year ago. Remember then? Life seemed to be falling apart at the seams. To much change was going on, and none of it good. It all was lacking focus and effort. You got bored, so you started to wander the internet during your lunch breaks.

You stumbled onto a little something called The Julie/Julia Project, and it was amazing. Life changing. You read the entire thing in 3 days, shirking responsibilities at work and home to voraciously digest this woman's misadventures. Then you looked for more. You found The Restaurant Whore and she made you laugh, Becks and Posh who made you think, Cooking with Amy who grabbed your attention, and Eggbeater who pulled you in with her prose.

You wanted to start your own blog. Something permanent. So that no matter how much change kept happening or how bad it got, you had one constant in your life. But all the blogs were based in San Francisco. You would be the food blog of Sacramento and Yolo. You would call it Vanilla Garlic (as 14 Eggs was already taken at the time). You would have an excuse to get out of the house and live life. You would give a personal look at restaurants and events in the areas. And no recipes. You didn't want to be a recipe blog.

On your first day, 4 people read your blog. You were floored. Now, you hit over 120,000 page views.

You then started to meet people and e-mail people. You made new friends. Truly wonderful, crazy about love, life, and food people. You started to get together and go out. Raising money for those in need. Volunteering. Having pot lucks and parties. People you didn't know even wrote for restaurant suggestions. You had readers in Europe, Australia, and Asia and your readership kept growing.

People actually cared about what you wrote.

Then one day, you discovered another blog, and you decided to give baking another go. It worked, so you tried again. And then again. And then you decided to try baking your own recipe and it was a success. Then people actually started to make your recipe.

It soon became an addiction. Cupcake recipes sprang forth from you. You were a non-stop flour force, armed with a cup of sugar and a stick of butter. Not to mention a whole lot of gusto. Sure the oven would earn your temerity once in a while, but you loved it. You couldn't bake before, but you started to take classes, read books, educate yourself. You could give baking advice with confidence and teach friends. The blog partially became a recipe blog. A cupcake blog.

The blog became a site of notice, you were mentioned in print. Then one day you achieved a dream. You were asked to write. About food. By a magazine. You achieved a goal you had been after for years.

The blog became a cupcake blog. A restaurant review blog. A blog to write your essays in. A blog to share with friends and family about your life. It was a space for you where you could put your soul into print.

What started as a safe haven, a constant that still persists, is now a home.

To anyone who has ever read Vanilla Garlic, to all the friends I've made, and people I've met, THANK YOU.

One year later. Happy Birthday, Vanilla Garlic.

I'll be posting every single day for a week to celebrate this. Hope you drop by and see what's in the oven.

Sliced Mango with Lime and Chili Powder -&- We're in the Paper!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My God, this is so deliciously shibby it should be illegal. I mean, I'm pretty sure I could commit the very act of murder and then villainously present any witnesses and/or accusers with this dish. They would be so enamored with the flavors that it would grant me time enough to commit the deed again. (Yes, I suppose that villains are defeated in the long run, but they have more fun along the way than the heroes do.)

The mango is sweet, the lime is slightly salty and of super citrusy, the slightest dusting of chili powder gives it a little bit of kick. A formal recipe would be silly and a waste of both our time; you chop up a mango, juice a fresh lime over it, then give it a light sprinkle of chili powder. Done.

A fabu little dish perfect for beating the heat, it meets all of my recipe requirements: simple, cheap, quick, and tasty. Make it for yourself or serve it as a light salad, appetizer, or even dessert. Now, I wonder if I can adapt these flavors to a cupcake?

Or murder. Whichever.

By the by, Vanilla Garlic was mentioned in the Sac Bee today along with Everything Rachael Ray by Madeline, and by Kristy, and quite a few others! Check out a copy of the article today! There is one large article, and then three individual interviews. Special thanks to Bob Sylva for writing the piece about the Sac food blogging community and Kevin German for the photos. Be sure to check out the other Sac Bloggers too, links located in the sidebar!

Many others were mentioned too, such as Pie is the New Toast, Simply Recipes, Chucrute com Salsicha, and Yogurt Land! Hope you enjoy.

Gelato! (Café la Boca - Sacramento, CA)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

I pass by Café la Boca, the baby of soccer player Maximiliano Roditis and his friend Bill Finger, almost everyday on my way to and from work. I fly in for a chai latte, a hot tea, or a mocha once in a while when I need something to keep me buzzed. It's a nice little local place that I've added to my list of regular hang outs.

The inside is very independent coffee shop. You know what I'm talking about - stone, wood, the day's papers laid out, contemporary and colorful lighting; an air of carefully planned "I-don't-care" sophistication that everyone can enjoy. People reading SN&R, students cracking over their books in last ditch efforts for a grade, friends catching up. It's an inviting little coffee house.

But it's a bit more than that. They have an enjoyable outdoor patio that's just tops. A perfect people watching perch that's nicely shaded and comfy. They offer fresh squeezed orange juice which is nice if you need a quickie breakfast but you're trying to edge caffeine out of your life (*cough cough* crazy! *cough*). They also have a nice selection of fresh salads, paninis and sammiches which have made for a tasty lunch break or two for me.

But I usually drop by for the gelato. It's frozen, fresh and oh so delish. It's one of the few good places to get gelato in Sac in my humble opinion. It's firm in texture, yet has a pleasant give to it, plus the little miniature peaks of crystalline ice that gives it a little bit krisch. (Krisch is the sound it makes when it touches your tongue and instantly melts/falls apart. Are you paying attention Merriam-Webster!?) The flavors are pure, tangible and undisturbed. Raspberry is the pinnacle of what a fresh raspberry should taste like, but newly defined! It's comforting and refreshing.

There's a lot of restaurants on Fair Oaks, I plan to try to explore more of them, but until I do, Café la Boca has me hooked.

Café la Boca
2600 Fair Oaks Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95864

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Kaffir Lime Ganache

Friday, May 18, 2007

Recently, a few of us Sac food bloggers were interviewed for an article in the Sacramento Bee (which will be in the Taste Section next Wednesday, May 23). It was fun to do the interview with Bob Sylva and I can't wait to see what he wrote. But the other part of the article was we all were photographed by Kevin German, a very talented and fun photographer (who let me use his light box canvas thingy to take this picture, thanks Kevin!).

David asked us all to maybe have something cooked up for the photo, so how could I not do cupcakes? I had been wanting to do a vanilla bean cupcake - this is Vanilla Garlic after all - and decided to pair it with another heady perfumed ingredient, kaffir lime; mixed delicately in a high percentage cacao ganache.

Both the vanilla and kaffir lime flavors are porcelain delicate, so steeping them for an extended period of time is really key here so the can be fully recognized. The vanilla is sweet and fragrant, and kaffir lime aromatic and exotic; they meld together very well. It's not a flavor that stands up and strikes you in the face, but rather makes its appearance subtly, like seeing something out of the corner of your eye just as it disappears.

This is a fragrant cupcake that's easy to put together. The kaffir lime leaves and vanilla beans may put you off as procuring them may prove to be a possible determent for some, but if you know where to find them (i.e. Whole Foods, World Market, Asian markets) you shouldn't have a problem and can snag them for cheap.

Update: MY GOD, these are so insanely shibby-tasty after the flavors meld after sitting in the fridge, then letting them come to room temp!

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...

1/2 cup of butter, room temperature

1 1/3 cup of sugar

1 egg, room temperature

1 vanilla bean

3/4 cup of milk

2 1/4 cups of flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of baking powder

pinch of kosher salt

What You'll Do...
1) Cut the vanilla bean length wise and scrape the seeds out and place into a sauce pan with the milk. Heat milk until it just begins to bubble around the edges. Take off the heat and let sit for 4 hours or longer in the fridge.

2) Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and cream for about 2 minutes.
3) Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder together.

4) Add some of the flour and mix, then some of the vanilla milk, then continue to alternate the dry and wet ingredients, ending with the dry. Mix until just combined.

5) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Kaffir Lime Ganache
What You'll Need...
kaffir lime leaves (about 7 for flavor and garnish)

1 cup of heavy cream

8 ounces of chocolate (premium quality is best)

What You'll Do...

1) Chop and bruise up a few of the kaffir lime leaves. Place the cream and kaffir in a bowl, and let sit for two hours.
2) Break up the chocolate and place in a heat proof bowl.
3) Heat the cream and leaves in a saucepan and heat at medium high until small bubbles form along the rim. Pour through a mesh sieve to catch the leaves as the cream pours over the chocolate. Let sit for one minute.
4) Mix together till smooth, uniform, and silky. Let cool a bit. Dip and swirl the cupcake domes into the ganache. Shake off the excess. Decorate with the slivers of kaffir leaves and let stand to dry.

Minty Kiwis From Brazil

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The feijoa, otherwise known as the pineapple guava, is something I found at the store recently. It's a small egg shaped little fruit that's surprisingly delicious and for an exotic fruit, surprisingly affordable. It normally grows in Uruguay, Brazil, and Colombia.

It's fresh and aromatic, and has a bit of a minty kiwi taste to it. It sounds bad, but the inner flesh is totally shibby. Only the inner flesh that is, the seedy part is sweet, soft and yummy, the avocado looking flesh around it is like the bitterest lemon ever.

The seedy part can be scraped out and eaten with the teeth, or spooned out and put into a fruit salad or maybe onto fresh salsa or vanilla ice cream.

Buying them however is kinda hit and miss. It's not easy to tell if they're over ripe or not as the outside shows few signs, and going by feel is almost impossible to do unless you are familiar with them. They should be somewhat firm with a bit of give.

If you see one, pick it up and give it a try! It's one of the tastiest fruity treats that South America has to offer.

Feijoa at Wikipedia

Coconut Milk Mint Tea with Honey

Saturday, May 12, 2007

This is a ridiculously simple recipe that I enjoy making during the colder months, but also like to serve it as a dessert aperitif after a simple meal, or even just as a quick snack to satisfy my sweet tooth. This particular tea steps outside the normal definition of what tea is because there's no water involved, choosing to utilize coconut milk instead.

Coconut milk is a staple in my pantry as we prefer a variety of curries for quick and simple meals. The honey gives a bit more body, sweetness, and balancing between the mint and coconut.

Fresh mint is easy to find in the market, but it's even better if you grow your own. Mint is one of the few plants I have not killed (I even killed rosemary), the main reason is I just plant it by the hose and it gets all the water, shade, and light it needs. After snipping a few choice bits, I hang them up to dry for further use in cooking, baking, and in this particular kitchen session, tea. You can dry the mint in the oven at a low temp if you don't want to wait. Try to avoid bottled dry mint as it just isn't the same, but it works in a pinch if that's what you have.

While bold in flavor, it's also very rich. We serve it in small sake glasses as opposed to regular teacups since the powerful flavors, while beautifully intertwined, can be overpowering in large amounts.

It's another recipe I find simple, very quick, affordable, and flavorful.

Coconut Milk Mint Tea with Honey
Serves 4-6

What You'll Need...
1 can of coconut milk
1 1/2 tablespoons of honey
freshly dried mint

Special Equipment...
Tea steeper or teapot with a mesh basket

What You'll Do...
1) Place the coconut milk and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to get the honey incorporated into the coconut milk.
2) Pound the tea in a mortar and pestle or tear with your hands. Don't use a food processor as it will create too fine a dust which will seep into the tea and out the steeper or basket.
3) Pour the coconut milk into a pot or glass. Place the tea in a steeper or basket and place into the coconut milk. Steep for about 1-2 minutes. Serve.

Gooey Butter Cupcakes with Lemon and Strawberries (Rob's Guest Post!)

Friday, May 11, 2007

So a while ago, I challenged Rob to finally bake something and post about it. He finally did it. It only took a year for me to get him too. Anyways, hope you enjoy Rob's first post on Vanilla Garlic!

Well as you know, Garrett finally succeeded in getting me in the kitchen to show off my baking skills. I couldn't ignore the challenge, after all, my reputation was at stake. But yeah... I wouldn't believe me either. Let's face it though, I met his challenge just so I wouldn't have to listen to him gloat.

For those of you who have been to St. Louis and had the opportunity to sample gooey butter cake - found only in St. Louis according to the city's tourist website - will agree with me when I say this is one of the densest, richest cakes out there.

Now like many of you I had never heard of gooey butter cake; I learned of it recently at a business conference hosted by a company based in, you guessed it, St. Louis. Before the conference started each representative of the host company stood up and introduced themselv
es and also rattled off their favorite dessert as a sort of ice breaker. As expected the same standard line of dessert was rattled off with numbing predictability. Cheesecake. Bread Pudding. Chocolate cake.

Gooey butter cake. Wait. Stop. I wondered to myself, what this delightfully named pastry could be? One of which I had neither heard of nor seen before in any of my travels.

After a quick Google search once back home, I was able to adapt a recipe all of my own, and let me tell you the cake lives up to its name. I adapted the recipe to a cupcake recipe as well, of course, would Garrett have it any other way? The cake is heavy and dense, and very gooey with all the cream cheese. It was actually too rich, but I squeezed fresh lemon juice over it which toned down the sweetness, the sour-tart juice balancing everything. We also served it with strawberries to add a different kind of fresh sweetness to lighten the cake a bit.

It wasn't labor or time intensive and was the perfect choice for Garrett's bake-off challenge.

Lemon Gooey Butter Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of butter
1 box of yellow cake mix
3 eggs
8 oz of cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon of almond extract
4 cups of confectioners sugar
2 lemons

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 350. Using cooking spray (Pam) spray a cupcake tin and the cupcake liners you intend to use, the batter sticks to anything and everything otherwise.
2) Melt the butter, then mix it, along with one egg, into the cake mix to form a bulky dough. Press the dough into the prepared cupcake papers.
3) In a large bowl mix the cream cheese, almond extract, remaining 2 eggs, and sugar until thick and creamy. Spread over the tops of the yellow cake.
4) Bake at 350 for about 25-30 minutes or until brown on top. Allow cupcakes to cool. Cake will be gooey on top so be sure to not over bake.
5) Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the cupcakes and serve with strawberries.

Some Days...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

"Damn it, there has got to be another dime in this desk," I grumble, unloading another drawer of papers and files.

"What do you need?" my co-worker pops her head over my desk.

"A dime. Just one f***ing dime."

It's been one of those days where I forgot to pack a lunch. My blood-sugar is spiraling downward and because of it my mood is slowly becoming something reminiscent of any character from a Rob Zombie flick. This is the point where talking to me isn't exactly a pleasant experience for anyone, and the thought of sleeping at my desk sounds more logical by the second.

"Didn't you have a cup o' noodles?"

I did. It's a tad bit shameful, but it's true. I work in non-profit, and eating well everyday just isn't realistic. I like to think of it more as re-living college memories. "I even drank all the faux-beef salt water."

"That's disgusting."

"And I'd do it again!" I roar as I unload more crap onto my desk in vain. I really need some sugar pumped into me soon if I'm going to survive today. Peanut M&M's and I have developed quite a bond due to office work. They're my secret mistress I tell none of my foodie friends about (until now).

"Here. Take it." She hands me a dime. I look at it and am suddenly stuck trying to remember what president is on it, but I can't and my mind quickly moves on to more pressing matters. I'll google it later if I remember. (Oh, it's Roosevelt. Duh.)

"You are a lifesaver." She is. Another moment or two and I might have turned over my desk in a storm of swearing and then collapsed into a catnap over the rubble.

Some days it isn't baked goods, farmer's markets, and fine wine. Some days it's cup o' noodles and M&M's.

By the by, an interview I did with Kate Washington is in Sacramento News & Review this week! Go check it out here, or pick up a copy!

"Meet Me at the L" (L Wine Lounge - Sacramento, CA)

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I was recently invited to a special publicity event at the new L Wine Lounge, a little swanky place over on 18 and L in Downtown Sac. It was a fun event, and mainly due to the fact that I got to hang out with some of my fellow food freaks. Normal people, like Rob, get tired about me going on and on about food, so when you get a bunch of us together and we actually care about what we're all saying we don't shut up.

Anywho, the L is trendy and chic, with maybe a hint of pretentious. I can see on a Friday night the place being populated by metrosexuals, homosexuals, and girls attempting to look like a real life Bratz doll (who buys that gutter skank toy for their child, seriously?). The decor is well done; dark wood, hyper contemporary furniture, clever layouts and a deliciously abrupt use of lime green scattered amongst the dark espresso wood is well... fun. Though I think it was all bought from West Elm. No fault. Just an observation.

The seating is varied and plentiful, and the architecture enjoyable. Various tables, bars, sofas, and lounges, and even a courtyard invite you and your party to enjoy a glass of wine.

The wine is also varied and a plenty. I can see the snob being persnickity about no wine from here or here and blah blah blah, but the everyday shlowmo who enjoys a glass will be content (or at least pleasantly buzzed). We enjoyed a white which was good but I can;t recall anything else about it. The red was shiraz (70%) & cabernet (30%) blend and not one of the best reds I've ever had, but was warming. The only downside was the wine bar only served these two wines, so none of us really got a good scope of what they had to really offer.

The food though! Chef Amy came here from one of Sacramento's more premier restaurants, The Kitchen, and has brought with her an assortment of creative concoctions that are imaginative if not maybe a bit off the mark at times.

A little bacon crostini was truly delish, but I lurvs me my bacons and put away a few of these. Not sure if I really took the time to taste them, but they were bacon so they totally get a thumbs up. A macadamia nut bar was surprising, it paired with the white wine perfectly and was a smart cookie.

The lavender croquettes. They were starchy, warm, and good. Not great. Good. I don't like lavender in my food, and while this didn't threaten my senses, I think black pepper or something would have been a better choice. Lavender just seemed like a strange choice.

Best eat there was the little crostini with goat cheese, asparagus, and mint. My god. I almost hurt that poor server as I tried to grab more from the plate. Only miss here is that no wine after asparagus and mint is really palatable.

Prices will vary, especially at a wine bar since it really depends on what you drink and what you eat. I can see you having a glass of wine and a small bite for around $25.

All and all, it was a good time. I would like to come back and try the rest of their seasonal menu, which is open and available during lunch and late into the night (more night time options are def. a good thing!). I look forward to coming back and playing around with the menu and wine list more for a more comprehensive review.

After a bit too much wine and a little bit too little food, we all stumbled over to Zocalo's for something to sober us all up where you can continue to read how this food blogger's night out went.

L Wine Lounge and Urban Kitchen
1801 L Street
Downtown Sacramento

Tasty Tasty Tacos (Zocalo - Sacramento, CA)

So this is more of a mini review of Zocalo, so if you want more info check out the other Sac blogs for their reviews.

After a little wining over at L, some fellow food bloggers and I stumbled over to Zocalo just down the street to grab a quick nosh. We all needed the food and were deliriously hungry. You probably know the place. On 18th and Capitol, it's the ginormous Mexican place that has the groovy decor and the line that might make you go to Aioli or Dragonfly. I'm not one for lines and deafening levels of noise, but on a quiet Sunday night, I'm more than happy to head down for some tacos, which is the only thing I've really had there.

Other dishes have been raved about but I loved my tacos. Steak that was well prepared served on soft tortillas with lots of cilantro and some spicy tomatillo salsa? So shibby. So simple. So good.

I did nosh some of the guac which was okay, but I always prefer my own recipes for it, so I can't really shame them for it. It was still quite good. The black bean dip though is... well, my words to my dining companions were "I want to have sex with this black bean dip." Yeah, I put away a few things of it on my own. I need to recreate this at home. The cilantro rice was yummy as well.

Other people had various dishes that they all pronounced as equally tasty-licious and we all dug in.

We later parted ways, satiated and satisfied.
(Pics by Jennifer, Ann, and Kristy)

18th and Capitol
Downtown Sacramento

Crema de Limoncello (aka Best Hooch Ever)

Monday, May 7, 2007

This is stuff that Dennis over at the Hidden Kitchen made for me. I raved about it in my Hidden Kitchen review for Edible Sacramento, and he was kind enough to make me a bottle. Elise and I both lushed over this wonderfully ephemeral, if not highly intoxicating drink. Since it's made with Everclear it's quite strong, but the taste! Like ambrosia or golden apples, or something else out of myth and legend. If you have the time, make some; it's perfect for warm summer nights and celebrations. (Photos by Elise of Simply Recipes. Recipe by Dennis.)

As far as the limoncello goes , it's the classic Almalfi Coast digestivo, and of course, you'll want to California-ize it. It's a great time to make this, as Meyer lemons are in abundant supply. If you can keep it around until those hot summer days, there is nothing better after grilling then to sit on the patio and sip a little Crema de Limoncello.

10 Meyer lemons
1 (750-ml) bottle Everclear
8 1/2 cups of milk
5 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of vanilla sugar (put a vanilla bean, split, in a jar of sugar and let sit for 2 weeks)

Zest the lemons using a Micro-plane grater or another similar tool that also produce a very fine zest. Place in a jar with the Everclear and leave at room temperature for 1 week. Strain using the cheesecloth.

In a saucepan, warm the milk over medium heat. Add the sugar and the vanilla suagar and cook, stirring frequently, until dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. In a large bowl or pitcher, combine the Everclear mixture with the limoncello, funnel into bottles (which can be found at Cost Plus, or other like places) and store in the freezer for up to six months. Serve neat in a chilled tumbler or martini glass.

Coconut Milk Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Fresh Pineapple

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Have you heard about the Livestrong event? LIVESTRONG Day is the Lance Armstrong Foundation's (LAF) grassroots advocacy initiative to unify people affected by cancer and to raise awareness about cancer survivorship issues on a national level and in local communities across the country. LIVESTRONG Day 2007 will occur on Wednesday, May 16.

Barabara over at Winos and Foodies is running an official event to help raise cancer awareness called A Taste of Yellow where she's asking all local bloggers to bake using a theme of the color yellow. She, like so many other people, are battling cancer. My mom had a small spout with it, luckily she had a spare can of whoop-ass on hand and beat the crap out of it. Other's however haven't been so fortunate or are still fighting. I had fun and took some pride participating in this event, and I hope all you other food bloggers out there will too.

So yellow as a theme for a cupcake... Well, I wanted to use carambola but I seemed to have missed the season by a week or two and there were none to be found. Thank God for freshly cut pineapple. It's a perfect match for fresh fresh and aromatic coconut cake. Elise was the one who turned me on to this event so we decided to make them together.

The coconut cake is surprisingly light and airy for a coconut cake. Very light. We were both quite shocked by its bearable lightness of being cake. But, then again, most coconut cakes use oil and milk. We used butter and coconut milk. It seems like an obvious thing to do, but I've seen few recipes actually use the coconut milk. While the coconut I used came from a can or a bag (I do not have the tools necessary to hack open a fresh one) the pineapple really should be fresh for this cupcake; the cake becomes brighter, a happy sigh on a summer day sort of thing.

This recipe could easily be adapted to make a layer cake and is a crowd pleaser for the many picnics and potlucks that I'm sure you have coming with the warm weather.

Please also use this cake as a reminder to help fight cancer in any way you can. Volunteering at a local cancer center, donating, or even just listening to someone who needs to release are all wonderful steps you can take. So bake on, and live strong. If you would like to donate to the LIVESTRONG Foundation, please donate here.

Update 6/12/07: I adapted the following recipe for another great coconut milk cupcake recipe utilizing fresh herbal mint and honey here.

Coconut Milk Cupcakes
Makes 20 cupcakes / 350F oven

What You'll Need...
3/4 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup of canned coconut milk
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 - 3/4 cup of sweetened dessicated coconut

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar and cream till light and fluffy again, scraping down the sides halfway through to ensure even mixing.
2) Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds each to ensure mixing. (Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom every once in a while to get all the rogued butter escaping the mixer).
3) Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in one bowl. In another add 1 cup of a well shaken can of coconut milk and a teaspoon of vanilla. Add 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix, then add 1/2 of the wet ingredients. Continue alternating with the wet and dry mixtures, ending with the dry. Turn off the mixer once ingredients are just combined.
4) Fold in the coconut Scoop into cupcake papers and bake for 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan after the first 15 to ensure even baking. Be sure to check witha toothpick to see if the cupcakes are done. If the toothpick comes out of the cupcake clean, then they're ready.

Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting and Pineapple
What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
1/2-1 cup of powdered
1/4 cup of sweetened dessicated coconut
1 pineapple

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scraped down the sides and bottom.
2) Slowly add the powdered sugar. Fold in the coconut. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.
3) Cut up a fresh (seriously, take the extra time and use a fresh one, not canned) pineapple. Place small wedges onto the cupcakes and serve. There will be plenty left over. Use it for pineapple salsa, cocktails, salads, or drinks. It's spring outside, there's a ton of fresh uses for pineapple. Go crazy.
(Unfrosted cupcake photo by Elise Bauer)

Lids and Creamer are to Your Left

Friday, May 4, 2007

So I promise some cupcake recipes and restaurant reviews are coming, but right now my tire blew up and I'm dealing with peons at Big O Tires (swear to God, one day when I become a powerful demon of vengeance, I will engrave their sins upon their very souls before I devour them).

Sooner or later my bad luck streak will end. Until then, I found this old post from the Livejournal I kept back in college when I worked in a coffee shop in Borders. Enjoy.

I'm sorry ma'am. I don't think we're liable if your kid spilled your hot tea all over himself cause you went to browse newspapers and left your toddler with a drink boiling at scalding temperatures because you're a horrible parent with a screaming idiot brat that spawned or congealed out from you.
Lids and creamer are to your left.

I'm sorry sir, I have no idea why your sugar cookie has sugar. No, I didn't know you had diabetes, keeping track of that should be your job. No, no we do not have sugar free sugar cookies.
Lids and creamer are to your left.

No, it's not soy. It says it large black letters on the can "HALF & HALF." Yes, I will remake your drink if you shut the hell up and take your ugly 1991 retro dedication to Jump Street-90210 -Melrose Place haircut and leave me the f*** alone. Learn to read.
Lids and creamer are to your left.

A cappuccino with no foam is called a latte. Yes, I'm sure. Yes, I'm positive. No, I did not call you a liar. Actually, I am the supervisor.
Lids and creamer are to your left.

Where You Can Toast With Your Sammich!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

I don't think there's too much more to say. It's closing, so no review. Which sucks 'cause I totally wanted to do one.

Windex Does Not Put Out Grease Fires

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

We've all had our own little kitchen faux pahs in the past. I own up to mine, for they have been fantastic. I never do anything small, my mistakes should be grand. Phenomenal. And if at all possible, should involve home repair afterwards or a hospital visit.

I do believe I've covered in the past my accidentally flashing a party of picnickers while trying to stop some cornbread from becoming a charcoal briquette. And I think I have conveyed the tale of screaming into a pool due to a chili pepper in my eye. I even told you how I was mistaken for a street hooker.

So why not embarress myself some more, hmm? Did I ever tell you about the time I was cooking bacon at 2 am in the morning? For some reason, I had an intense hunger for it, so I woke up and went to the kitchen and started enough bacon to feed an army. Now, understand, working with heat and grease while you're nodding off is never a good thing. Next thing I know, there are flames in the kitchen. So, just having woken up from the pork laden heat, I grabbed the closest thing I saw to put it out.

Sadly, Windex is never a good option for a grease fire. It just makes things worse. Luckily the new surge of fire brought me to my senses and I slammed the lid over the skillet. Go me!

Then there's the numerous times I set off the smoke alarm. Making crostini with Sarah. Making biscotti with my old roommate. Making garlic bread with Amber. Notice a patter?

That's right; other people. They need to learn to stop burning shit in my oven, while I'm not paying attention and playing Hapland on the computer.

Oh, there was that one time I had to throw out a whole pot of clams stuffed with a Moroccan rice mixture and ordered Pizza Hut. Apparently leaving out a few choice spices really does affect the end product.

Aaaaannnd, the time when I was cutting up veggies with my brand new knife which could cut the fabric of time and space and was watching TV at the same time. Needless to say, my thumb now has a wicked scar.

I think I'm just klutzy is all...

Anyone else have any good stories of woe in the kitchen?

Vanilla Garlic All rights reserved © Blog Milk Powered by Blogger