A Roundtable Event

Monday, April 30, 2007

As a show of online unity heretofore unknown in the world of Sacramento food writers, we present you with a roundup of opinions from some of the best and most dedicated foodies in the Sacramento region. Seven of the most influential food enthusiasts in the area were asked for their opinions in a short poll about some of their favorite restaurants, dishes and local ingredients. Their answers may shock you (unless of course you are already devoted fans of their work, in which case their answers will seem mildly redundant to you, but hey, if you’re a fan, than be a fan all the way and drop the attitude.) The participants in this poll were Melly Elliot, moderator of the Sacramento Food Forums, http://sacramentofoodgroup.org/; Garrett McCord, writer of Vanilla Garlic, http://www.vanillagarlic.blogspot.com/; Ann Martin Rolke, writer for Sacatomato.com, http://www.sacatomato.com/, and writer of Hands Off Cooking, available at http://www.handoffcooking.com/; Jennifer Cliff, writer of Sacatomato.com and publisher of “Edible Sacramento,” www.ediblesacramento.com; Paul Somerhausen, founder of the Sacramento Epicureans dining group, http://www.sacramento-epicureans.com/; Kristy DeVaney, writer of Cakegirl’s Cakery, http://www.cakegrrl.com/; and Greg Sabin, food writer for the Sac Rag, http://www.sacrag.com/, under the name “sac-eats.”

Here is the poll:

What is your favorite restaurant in the area?
A. under $10 per person:
- Angel’s Fresh Mex-Can’t beat $.99 chicken tacos, especially since they’re the best chicken tacos on the planet. It tastes like they’ve been feeding those chicken nothing but cilantro and cumin their whole adult lives. Yummy.
Kristy- Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon
Paul- New Paris Bakery is my choice at this time. For well under $10 you can have an amazing Banh mi and a bowl of tasty Pho and leave with enough left over for seconds. Very close second is Bonne Soupe Cafe, incredible soups.
Jennifer- Dads, La Fogata, Jacks (I am a sucker for the buffalo chicken salad, probably a jenky non-food bloggeresqe response)
Garrett- Jack's, Moshi Moshi in Davis
Ann- La Fiesta, Dad's, Hoa Viet
Melly- Squeeze Inn, La Fiesta, Vientiane

B. Favorite restaurant between $10-$25 per person
Garrett- Queen Sheba, Pronto (both are delish and easy on my wallet)
Ann- Kathmandu Kitchen, Thai Basil, Taste of Thai
Melly- Cafe Bernardo (midtown), Edokko, Pho Bac Hoa Viet,Regent Chinese
Greg- Everett & Jones BBQ, always a tough choice between the hot links and the brisket.
Paul- Bamiyan, in Citrus Heights. It is a Afghan place with really good food. Something for everyone with pasta dishes, veggies, rice, meats, etc. Close second is Cafe Rolle in East Sac.
Kristy- Queen Sheba
Jennifer- Blue Nami, Pizza Antica

C. Favorite restaurant between $25-$50 per person
Jennifer- Waterboy - Le Belig - Mulvaneys – Kru
Paul- I think Biba's would win here, although you would have to have no wine to stay under $50. Otherwise, the Melting Pot, Aioli, or The Firehouse.
Garrett- Mulvaney's, Mason's
Greg- Moxie, Scott’s Seafood
Ann- Waterboy, Hidden Kitchen, Tuco's Wine Bar
Melly- Mulvaney's Building and Loan, The Waterboy, New Canton, Paragary's Bar and Oven
Kristy- Miyagi Sushi

D. Favorite restaurant over $50 per person
Paul- Hard to decide on this one. I think it is a toss up between The Kitchen, Waterboy and the Supper Club.
Greg- The Kitchen (although it’s so far above $50 per person that it should be in its own category)
Kristy- Moxie, McCormick & Schmick’s, Mulvaney's B&L
Jennifer- Masque, or my husband’s cooking
Garrett- Waterboy (dear god I love that place)
Ann- Mulvaney's (gotta have many courses)
Melly- Scotts Seafood Grill, The Supper Club, Biba, Spataro's, The Waterboy

(Note: whether or not a restaurant belongs in the $10-$25 category or the $25-$50 or the $50+ category varies depending on choice of beverage and/or ordering multiple courses and does not indicate price per entree.)

Favorite ethnic dive:
Melly- Viet Ha on Florin
Ann- Hoa Viet on Broadway
Garrett- Queen Sheba's, best ethnic food, and so yummy and filling
Jennifer- Does the Philly cheese steak shop on Sierra College count?
Kristy- Queen Sheba or Ming Palace
Paul- Hard to pick one. Bamiyan, Queen Sheba, New Paris, Pooja or New Canton do the "favorite" job depending on the weather, craving, etc.
Greg- Maalouf’s Taste of Lebanon, it’s like a Beirut flavor explosion in your mouth

Favorite local ingredient:
- Zinfandel Grapes/Zin Wines
Jennifer- Currently asparagus, cilantro, the nopales that come in my CSA box, love ‘em, arugula...okay that's the one, LOVE arugula, all other greens are inferior.
Garrett- Oh lordy... um, cilantro? Fresh bread?
Ann- the incredible variety of local honeys or anything from our backyard garden
Melly- Spoto Wine
Greg- Earth & Vine Bell Pepper and Ancho Chili Jam
Paul- Chocolate Mousse Ice Cream at Vic's. It's homemade!

Favorite entrée in all of Sacramento:
Paul- I tend to ask for what the chef makes best. I try to alternate in my orders, so I do not lose out on a new treasure by sticking too much with what I already know.
Ann- Pad Prik King with tofu at Thai Basil or anything with pork in it
Melly- Take your pick:
Sauteed Veal Sweetbreads-The Waterboy
Poached Halibut-The Supper Club
Gnocci in brown butter sauce-Biba
Iron Skillet Roasted Mussels-Paragary's Bar & Oven
Garrett- don't have one, too many to choose.
Greg- The meatloaf at Moxie. The greatest meatloaf I’ve ever eaten and with all the fixings for under $20. You cannot beat that (and if you do beat it, who cares, it’s still meatloaf and bruising isn’t an issue).
Kristy- My own cooking of shrimp or scallop would be my favorite dish, but as far as eating out goes, I'll go for the seafood bird’s nest at Hoicin Cantonese.
Jennifer- Don't have one, or it rotates. I am swayed by factors like the moon, time of day or month, season...kidding...but seriously don't have one, favorite is too permanent.

Thanks to SacEats for putting this together! If you're still curious about some of these places, check out the dining guide on the sidebar to the right.

On Declining Food That Makes You Gag

Saturday, April 28, 2007

When I was in high school my friend Chloe invited me over to her place for dinner with her family. She had asked me the night before what I didn't eat. I told her that raw tomatoes, cauliflower, and steamed asparagus had a similar effect on me as a chainsaw driven through my chest cavity; I would probably die. (Nowadays I like cauliflower and asparagus if lightly steamed. I was 16 back then, what do you want from me?)

The next night, I went to her house and was welcomed by Chloe and her parents (who are both English chefs). Her mother came up to me and informed me of the menu, "Yorkshire pudding, lamb with mint sauce, some home made bread, and this steamed cauliflower and asparagus dish with tomatoes."

My face went white, and I'm told my smile lost all gusto and energy.

"Just kidding."

I thought I would kill them both. We all had a laugh, and she assured me that none of the offending veggies would be served. I apologized, and explained I was raised better, but the idea of all of them combined on one plate and my forcing myself to eat it was too much me to handle and my brain broke. Seriously, the idea of being assaulted by this gang of produce would cause me to almost vomit on the spot.

So what's the best route to take? We've all experienced this horror. This fear. This knowledge of a forthcoming torture that we MUST endure for one reason or another. So what do you do when placed in such a situation? Well, here's my advice on the topic:

If the person is a close friend and you just want to make sure the menu is palatable, you might want to make a small reminder of your likes and dislikes.

If you are asked by the host about your culinary aversions, feel free to tell them how you feel, just make sure you don't say "I hate all veggies." Something like that creates an awkward situation for the host as you've probably limited most of the menu they had planned.

Always feel free to send a heads-up about allergies. That's not being picky, that's staying out of a hospital bed.

If you've been offered something you don't like on the plate you're given, at least take a few bites. Don't be a wuss, just do it.

Don't hide your veggies in your napkin or glass of milk. My mom usually caught me.

If it's something you simply cannot digest and will vomit if you take another sacrificial bite, then just avoid it. You may want to tell the host after the table is cleared that it wasn't anything personal and you just have never enjoyed that dish. As long as you tried it the host will most likely understand.

Never note your displeasure of a dish at the table.

If it's more of a serve yourself style meal, simply avoid what you don't like, but don't horde all the stuff you do like to make up for it as others have to be able to get some as well.

Keep in mind, that someone went out of their way to prepare a meal for you. How would you feel if in their position and someone stated they would prefer not to eat what you slaved over? Just take a moment to show your appreciation and politely decline. That or slip it to the dog when no one's looking.

Who Wants A Cupcake? For Real...

Friday, April 27, 2007

Okay, so since my current work doesn't want any cupcakes, let's try this. Many other people expressed desire for the cupcakes, so they might as well go to someone who will enjoy them. Vanilla Garlic will have it's first contest; first person to get all these questions right first will get a mini-batch of original cupcakes. You can share them with friends and family or devour them all yourself. Sound good?

It does, doesn't it?

This is open to anyone in the Sacramento, Yolo, and Placer county areas and maybe further (if someone from the Bay Area wins, we'll figure something out). Sorry to everyone else, but I've never had luck when it comes to mailing food, and you receiving a box of crumbs and mashed frosting doesn't do anyone any good.

All the answers can be found right here in this blog or online. If the questions seem self indulgent, it's not supposed to be, I just didn't want to think a lot. Post your replies in the comments section. Make sure you leave put an e-mail addy in the prompt when you leave a comment so I can contact you if you win. Ready...


1) What was the first cupcake featured on this blog?

2) What are both my cats' actual names names?

3) Which cupcake was a popular cake back in the 40's and 50's?

4) What is the name of the first food writer to win a Pulitzer? What category did he win in?

5) Where did the word "shibby" come from?

6) Passing your food from your chopsticks to another person's chopsticks is bad manners because it resembles what?

Edible Sacramento - Spring 2007

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The new issue of Edible Sacramento is out! I get to premier myself as the Errant Gourmet, checking out The Hidden Kitchen, Sampino's, and Queen Sheba's (best Ethiopian food in the area). You'll also find lots of other articles about local farmers, local food, and plenty of seasonal recipes. Plus you'll find great writing by Ann and Jennifer of Sacatomato, making it totally worth your time. Make sure you go check it out today. Copies are free and can be found over at places like The Nugget, Wholefoods, and other fine food venues.

Or you could be super-awesome and purchase a subscription to help support local food and local food writers! *cough cough*

Just A Quick Break From Food

I'm just sharing this for a moment, it's from an on-line comic called Sinfest, by Tatsuya Ishida. It's hilarious stuff. Satan, poetry, girls with attitude, God with hand puppets, and selling your soul for riches and bitches (and man-hos, can't forget the man-hos).

It's a lot like Calvin & Hobbes; well thought out, very smart, and funny as hell. It's an intelligent comic with edge. I've been reading it every day for years now. It's PG-13 I'd say, but give it a chance.

Who Wants A Cupcake?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Cause no one at work does.

Literally, I cannot give them away. No one here will eat cupcakes. I have come back to the break room to find many undisturbed, and some with only 1/4 of a cupcake cut away, scarred amongst the others left beautiful and untouched.

Many people here are "On a diet." But then the fast food bags at lunch roll out because they didn't have time to plan a meal today. Let's see how great these diets are going in a few weeks. At least others chimed for me noting these perpetrators needed far more self control and planning if these diets were ever going to have a chance.

Some are even incredulous and viper tongued. Take one person I ran into, he looked at the cupcakes and with a *tsk* of the tongue said, "Why do people always bring in their experiments and attempt pawn their food on us? Don't they have people at their own home to feed?"

Pause a second. Now, normally I am a calm and collected person when dealing with people and co-workers. (Family and friends, will tell you otherwise because I allow myself to break down from stress on a regular basis with them.) But this time, without any thought, I just snapped.

"Well then don't eat them."

"Are these yours?"



We made nice later after he apologized, I think it was just a bad case of Mondays. Still, the fact that the thought process for this reaction existed in the first place still has me in shock. I had to re-write much of this essay already due to the ranting string of colorful four letter words in a variety of languages.

In the end they were all taken, but only because a few people took some home to family. Seriously, I'm going to have to train these people to enjoy food. A few do, but I have seen WAY to many fast food bags every single day here. It needs to stop. I myself am guilty of pre-packaged meals one or two days of the week. I'm only human. But a few days of the week I pack a meal the night before so I can grab and go and have a healthy lunch and a snack or two. This greasy bag habit here needs to stop.

And maybe I should direct them to a diet plan that, you know, works.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Black bottom cupcakes are total classic Americana. Like chocolate and peanut butter cupcakes or tomato soup cake, many of us grew up with this classic dessert that came out of mom's oven. It's surprising you don't see these classics more often, but over time they've been pushed over by hipper, more contemporary flavor combinations.

I admit I'm guilty of this myself, new flavors can be so much fun to play with and the creation process is more entertaining than a clown car on fire, but there is something to be said for the classics.

Their elegant simplicity.

You can usually depend on your pantry for the ingredients as none of them are ever exotic or expensive. They're often simple recipes, and easy to put together. The perfect recipes for parents to teach their children.

However, the black bottom cupcake's taste is unique and unrivaled. Dark chocolaty cake, with sweetened cream cheese and chunks of chocolate? Common, throw this into an old tin lunch pail with a PB&J, an apple, and a box of juice and you are so set. It's the kind of dessert that brings out the child in you, and makes your children all the happier. You can guarantee they won't be trading lunches with any of their classmates.

I admit, I did put a bit of a modern tweak to this, I split the cream cheese mixture in half and while one half got chocolate, in the other I mixed in blackberry preserves. Fruit and cream cheese just go so well together and with chocolate cake, what's not to love? Both versions are great and should help please everyone you feed them too. They're perfect served with a big glass of milk.

If you're new to baking, looking for culinary trip down memory lane, or teaching a young baker in the kitchen this is the richest and tastiest way to go!

Black Bottom Cupcakes
Makes 21 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...
1 8oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1/3 cup of sugar, plus 1 additional cup
1/2 cup of chocolate chips, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons of blackberry jam
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of water
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 350 F.
2) In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, egg, and 1/3 cup of sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Split the batter in half, add the chocolate chips to one and the blackberry jam to the other.
3) In a large bowl sift the dry ingredients together. Make a well in the center and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix until just blended.
4) Fill the cupcake papers (or you can lightly grease with cooking spray a cupcake/muffin tray) 1/3 full with the chocolate mixture. Drop in a good dollop of the one of the cream cheese mixtures. Bake for 20-25 minutes. The cheese may depress into the cupcake a bit but don't worry about it.

Burfi Cupcakes with Almonds & Cardamom - Experiment #1

Thursday, April 19, 2007

This "cupcake" was more of an experiment than anything else. I put cupcake in quotation marks because really, it's kinda funky as a cupcake. Burfi is a traditional Indian cheesecake, and while delicious, does not work in a cupcake wrapper. Like, at all.

This recipe uses ricotta cheese as a base, rather than making your own cheese at home, and utilizes sugar, ghee (clarified butter) and whatever you want to flavor it with. That's it. It's intensely sweet stuff. One batch I made used saffron and pistachios, this one used cardamom and almonds.

The main problem is that the stuff is meant to be poured into a greased pan and then cut into squares, not poured into cupcake papers which it adheres to with nefarious intent. It's like a cross between pudding, cake, and honey. I also think I just missed a step somewhere, though after reviewing many recipes I still can't figure it out what it might have been.

But really, I should stop focusing on the negatives. It really was good, a bit difficult to eat, but good. It's very sweet. Intensely sweet. I'm now diabetic. The almonds help put off the sweetness a bit, and for the second batch I reduced the sugar which helped. Serving it with fruit is a wonderful idea, and it works as a perfect stand in for honey on toast or with ice cream. I also think that if I pour it while still hot over a future cupcake, this would be a fan-freaking-tastic glaze. I mean, I see possibilities with this if I treat it more like spun honey than a cupcake.

I don't think I'm done tooling around with this recipe, but I have some other cupcake ideas I want to move on to. This recipe really is simple and takes only a little bit of active cooking time, so I think if you pour it in a pan and not a cupcake paper (or maybe Pam the papers first?) you should be fine.

Part of this blog is extolling my successes and admitting my not so successes. This is the latter. Flavor is right on I think, but we need to work on the structure and texture. Maybe chickpea flour will temper things out? If anyone out there knows burfi, I welcome any advice and e-mails.

Other than that make some of this "cupcake" to spread on your waffles!

Burfi Cupcakes with Almonds & Cardamom
Makes 8 cupcakes

What You'll Need...
2 cups of ricotta cheese
3/4 cup of ghee (clarified butter)
1 teaspoon of cardamom powder
1 1/2 cups of sugar

What You'll Do...
1) Mix the cheese, sugar, and cardamom. It will be liquidy.
2) Fry in a big pot in the ghee. Fry the mixture until it turns light golden brown. Pour it over a greased tray or in greased (use Pam spray) cupcake papers. Sprinkle almonds.
3) Chill and cut into squares or serve in the papers.

Ricotta Alternative: Simmer milk with a few drops of lemon juice. When it separates into solids and liquid, strain out the solids and use in place of the ricotta.

Garrett's Green Curry

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Yep, an actual non-cupcake recipe. Yeah, they're rare on here, but when I do share one, it's because I love it. We make this curry often because it's quick, simple, and makes for a great lunch the next day. Serve it over rice and you're set. Lime, basil, and cilantro are the core of this curry, so go wild and go crazy. It's a simple meal that's perfect year round.

Garrett's Green Curry
Serves 4

What You'll Need...
2 cans of coconut milk
2 tablespoons of green curry paste
2/3 cup of chicken stock/broth
2 tablespoons of fish sauce
3 tablespoons of brown sugar or palm sugar
juice and zest of one lime
some cilantro all chopped up
some basil all chopped up
juice and zest of two limes
various veggies (I like bok choi, green onions, and baby bella mushrooms)
tofu or chicken, chopped into cubes

What You'll Do...
1) Simmer the coconut milk and curry paste for about 5 minutes.
2) Add everything else and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve over rice. Garish with some fresh lime and cilantro.
There isn't a recipe per se', this is just how I go about it each time. Play with the flavors and amount of basil, cilantro, etc. as you like it.

I Don't Care if it Cuts the Roof of My Mouth

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I've had a rough few weeks. Don't judge me.

Eat Beast Update #4 - The Potluck Sin, Fatty Strikes Again!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I committed a total potluck sin today, or what's a sin in my eyes at least. I brought store bought, pre-made brownies. I have a valid excuse though, so hear me out.

I was making the trusted Chipotle Cinnamon Coco cupcakes again since I was crunched for time and money. Suddenly Rob called me out to the other room, so I left the completed batter unattended. No sooner did I walk back out but what do I see? Mace, the Eat Beast, has both paws in the batter and his head literally half buried in it to the point where his ears cupped over the batter so I don't know if he could actually hear me yelling at him.

It was akin to if you had a large bowl of soup, and then stuck your entire head in as a quick way of eating to eliminate any middle men like hands or utensils. He was actually eating with his head almost fully submerged in cake batter.

He then came up for air, saw me, and knowing he was in trouble took off to hide from getting swatted or squirted with water. In the process, of course, flinging cupcake batter E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. Then of course I had to clean the apartment and him. The batter was of course unusable to all but Eat Beast.

Silly me for not gaurding the bowl with sliced limes. Damn cat.

The Bread is Not a Projectile

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm going to be outright and say it. There are certain places you should simply not bring your children. Hot night clubs, trendy bars, and nice dining places are among these places. I know sometimes parents can't help it. The sitter canceled and you had no choice; so be it. I understand. I really do.

But this post pertains to the parents who take their kids and then tune them out.

Sure, you're used to junior running around like a little psychopath using the bread as a projectile, but I'm not and damn it it's my night out too.

Is your child screaming? Don't ignore it. Is your child throwing things? Tell them to stop. Is your child rude and obnoxious? Teach them otherwise.

My parents took my brothers and me to cotillion to learn ballroom dancing, and we were required to attend dining etiquette classes. Yep. It's true. I can I.D. eight types of forks. I learned the importance of my "please" and "thank you"s. I know it's good manner to hold a door or help seat your dining companion. To treat your waiter with respect, and you'll be given respect back. To always act with decorum, and still have fun.

I'm not a stickler for manners but I don't chew with my mouth open or bring up taboo topics at the dinner table to the mortification of everyone there. My elbows sometimes find their way to the table (mom would stab us in the arm with a fork if we did), but nowadays I think we're all a little more at ease with that one.

But what really shocks me is that some people just don't get it. Not a bit.

Take my old roommate, a rebel fighter against table manners. He would literally shout out protests to them and denounce them. Chewing with your mouth closed, and forbidding topics of discussion at the table (anime porn at a Professor's luncheon? I was embarrassed for you) was a way for people to put ideas of control and elite classism on society. It was a way for people to think themselves better than others.

Which, I suppose is partly true. Part of the show of certain manners and presentations is about feeling high and important (do you really need 9 various types of spoons?). However, a lot of etiquette exists simply for the comfort of others and for the sake of being polite out in public.

They're like laws, they help keep society running as a cohesive whole. When people are using manners to show simple everyday respect, we all get along a little better. I don't want to hear about your nasty bunion over brunch, your "crack addicted girlfriend's nasty apartment" while I try to eat cheesecake a table over, and I really don't want to see you masticating with your chomping and smacking noises talking about whatever drivel you think I might care about. It all irritates me and I'm sure others as well; my only thought at all this is to snap at the perpetrator which is nothing in itself, but if we all feel that way towards each other when eating in a public setting then a wrench is thrown into the cogs of society. This is a grand example for sure, but I feel the point is made.

Plus manners make all the difference at important dinner functions such as business dinners or at an interview or presentation. Maybe you're meeting the parents or having a first date? Belching the ABC's (which I can do thankyouverymuch) will not be helping you in any of those situations.

But manners must be learned and from the beginning at an early age from parents and other role models; like I learned good table manners from my parents, my friend learned the opposite from his. One time his father dined with us at a Baker's Square. Some girls sat down in the booth near us and began oo-ing and ah-ing over all the pies in the menu. My friend's dad leaned in and smirked, saying under his breath, "I know what kind of pie I want..." Bear with me now.

"Fur pie."

"Ew! God! Ew! Sweet crackers, dear Jesus, strike me deaf and please let no one else have heard that." I can only imagine the look on my face. My friend seemed just as upset, but I think more for my sake than his.

Needless to say, I was sufficiently icked out. I was mortified. I wanted to vanish. I seriously cannot look at pie without thinking of that anymore. The man destroyed pie for me. (Okay, well I can still eat it, but I have to put up a serious mental block at the time. It's a serious undertaking for me, eating pie.)

Back to where I began, if you bring your kids out to eat, please make sure they know their manners. Sometimes kids can be crazy, I know, I've dined with my nephew before. You do your best and do what you can. They're kids and they can be a bit loud, and it's okay. There is a line however, and when it's crossed, don't tune it out or ignore it. Take care of it. "Chew your food Suzy, don't swallow it like an anaconda with a sheep." See? Simple. The rest of the people eating want to enjoy their night too, so take the time at home to go over the importance of manners.

Cause I swear to God, next brat who smacks me in the back of the head with a piece of bread and the parents don't apologize (choosing instead to yell at the kid to sit down and eat his damn meal, while the other focuses on her salad) will be used as a flailing, blunt instrument of etiquette education on the parents.

And everyone will applaud my actions.

A Side Note: If you intend to travel, familiarize yourself with other cultures' table manners as well. It'll do you good and allow you to fully immerse yourself in the culture.

Helpful Links
Vanilla Garlic - Chopstick Etiquette 101
Vanilla Garlic - Sendback 101
American/European Table Manners
Japanese Table Manners
Thai Table Manners
A Meal in Kenya
Teaching Kids Table Manners

*rubbing my temples in frustration*

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

To whomever stole my wallet: I hope when you eventually go to jail, you get rectally abused with a broomstick by your new cell mate, Thud, as he makes you his prison bitch.

On a similar note, I haven't been cooking or going out to eat or anything because I am dealing with the loss of my identity. You really don't exist without bank cards, driver's ID, and your social security card (yeah, I had just moved, it wasn't out of my wallet yet). Wouldn't a chip placed in my neck like the cats have been easier?

Just anything I write right now just isn't coming out, and my energy is mostly spent dealing with covering bases. We'll get back on track soon, I promise. Just as soon as this is taken care of.

Thanks for your understanding.

Fojos (Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes with Ancho Chili and Whipped Cream)

Monday, April 9, 2007

So bear with me for a bit, I'm gonna delve into old High School memories and ancient nerdiness of my best friend and me.

Janelle and I have known each other since we were about five, and we've been pretty damn close all that time. Back in our schoolin' days we often took on various art projects for our own fun and amusement, like drawing out elaborate comic books where my little brother would die a horrible death on every page, write stories, or even program 40+ hour role playing games (our first one's website is still up, only 12 hours long for a playthrough).

ANYWAYS, all of our creations always starred ourselves and two of our creations as companions. Mine was Bacon Goddess, a powerful being who spoke in Middle English, wore slutty leather outfits, and had the power of bacon which could turn things into bacon, pancetta, pork belly, etc. or use it to control universal chaos to blow shit up. Fojo was a red haired pyromaniac who loved bombs, had a robotic ferret named M.I.L.O. which turned into a flame thrower and a motorcycle, and often screamed out in joy whenever she set stuff like houses or people on fire.

I wanted to make some food to commemorate these characters whom I still love and adore. A bacon cupcake obviously isn't going to happen (I did think about it though) so I will give her a savory dish at some point. Fojo however, the crazy little vixen, gets a cupcake. I thought of doing a flambe cupcake, but all that butter and sugar but it seemed like a good way to explode myself, but I will revisit that idea later. So instead she gets rich chocolate and ancho chilies attributed to her.

Rich, sexy, and with a subtle-sweet kick, this cupcake is totally yumtastic. Ancho chilies are very sweet with only a little bit of heat and work as the backbone to many Mexican dishes including moles, so the combination of anchos and chocolate has a history of dancing well together. The whipped cream helps calm it all down a bit and lighten the overall texture and taste. By the by, this cupcake is TOTALLY GLUTEN FREE.

The picture of Bacon Goddess and Fojo was done by Janelle. She's a talented artist and if you need to have a piece of clever art designed she's a good person to go to. You can check out her website here. (SHAMELESS PLUG, GO!)

Hope you enjoy the cupcakes, and if you do be sure to check out the Chipotle Cinnamon Chocolate Cupcakes!

Update: I made the Bacon Goddess inspired cupcakes! Maple Bacon Cupcakes with Maple Frosting! Please be sure to check them out!

Flourless Ancho Chocolate Cupcakes
12 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
8 oz of semisweet chocolate (60% cacao)
3/4 cup of butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
4 eggs, separated, room temperature
2 1/2 tablespoons of ancho chili powder
pinch of salt

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break the chocolate into small pieces and melt it with butter over hot water in a double boiler type fashion.
2) Beat the egg yolks with half of the sugar until light and creamy.
3) Fold in the melted butter and chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Fold in the ancho chili.
4) Beat egg whites until frothy by using an electric mixer; gradually add the remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. For more great advice on working with egg whites, check out Shuna's post on Simply Recipes.
5) Fold in the beaten egg whites to the chocolate mixture.
6) Spoon into cupcake papers. Bake at 350 degrees until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, approximately 30 minutes. The cupcakes will collapse due to no flour.
7) Let cool for 8 minutes, then use a knife to slowly and carefully work out the cupcakes. They can be fragile but if they break or goosh a bit, whatever. You'll probably need a fork to eat these anyway. Put a mound of whipped cream on and dust with cocoa powder and serve.

Whipped Cream
What You’ll Need...
3 cups of heavy whipping cream
1/3 – 1/2 cup of powdered sugar

What You’ll Do...
Place together in a mixing bowl until big, billowy and holds very stiff peaks.

Spring Food Fests!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Some events are coming up soon in the Sac Area, so make sure you keep the days free!

Placer County Strawberry Festival
A strawberry event that'll make you see red. Food, entertainment, rides, and kids events. Plus all the strawberry shortcake, pie, and margaritas one could want! Check it out April 20-22.

Pacific Rim Festival
Mark your calendars for May 20th. The Pacific Rim Festival will be going on in Old Sac from 10 am to 5 pm. Enjoy this day-long celebration of the Asian culture with music, food, and dance. Visit the vendor booths throughout the streets of Old Sacramento. Listen to music and watch the dance of the Asian heritage. Treat yourself to Asian delicacies at one of the many food vendors. Participate in craft and health activities. Admission is free.

White Nectarine and Rhubarb Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Monday, April 2, 2007

It's about time we got to making fresh produce the star again! The winter has been long and harsh, but finally spring has taken its place here in Nor Cal. Rhubarb is starting show its ruby red stalks and a few stone fruit are beginning to show a bit early.

Rhubarb is one of my favorite things about the warm weather. I enjoy its color, its strong physique, its acerbic wit and sweet demeanor. It's truly a powerful piece of produce. No wonder then that I love to utilize it for coffee cakes, tarts, pies, and of course cupcakes.

This was originally going to be a rhubarb and peach cupcake, but we ran into a hiccup when I could find no peaches (really Nugget, you always have everything but the one ingredient I need), so I decided to substitute in some white nectarines instead which turned out to be wonderful.

The cake is very sweet, and with the fruit quite moist and dense. It almost reminds me of poundcake, but richer and almost fudgy in texture. The nectarines are sweet and create their own juices and syrups when pieced with a bite. The rhubarb adds nice color and a bit of sweet acid, while the cream cheese frosting has that delightful tang I so love with fruit.

It really was a fabulous cupcake, perfect for a lazy afternoon in the sun. I can't wait to use up the rest of that rhubarb!

White Nectarine And Rhubarb Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
1/2 cup of chopped rhubarb (2-3 stalks)
3 white nectarines
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

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the over to 350 degrees. Cut the nectarines in half and remove the stone. Place cut side down into a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes, setting the oven to Roast for the last 5 minutes (this will loosen the flesh from the skin). The fruit should have a dark brown color to it. Let cool then scoop the flesh out of the skin, and discard the skins. Mash with a back of a fork.
2) 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.
3) Add the egg and egg yolk and beat for 45 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
4) Combine flour, salt, and baking powder and sift 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.
5) Chop up the rhubarb and mix with 1 tablespoon of flour and coat well.
6) Fold the mashed cooked nectarines and the rhubarb into the batter. Scoop into cupcake papers.
7) Bake for about 15-18 minutes. Cupcakes will be dense, heavy, and moist. A toothpick should still come out clean (unless it hits nectarine). Let cool on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Frosting
What You'll Need...
1/4 cup of butter (1/2 a stick), room temperature
4 oz of Philly cream cheese (1/2 package), room temperature
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (taste as you go)

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.

I Gots the Shibby Peoples Who Feed My Addictions

(A note: I apologize if this post seems a bit clunky, I am tired from unpacking all of my belongings. Moving sucks.) So I have a few new toys to play with in the cupcake creating process. When I left my old job, my lovely friends gave me a little cupcake courier. Finally! It's one of those things I have been wanting forever, but haven't had the time to actually, you know, get. I guess after watching me balance two pots and who knows how many pieces of Tupperware filled with cupcakes through the doors and up the stairs, they decided it was the best thing to do before I accidentally broke a hip or something.

Second, the lovely Amy has demonstrated to me her psychic abilities. She wrote me an e-mail saying she wanted to send me a little surprise. Well, earlier that week I had been eying a little cupcake recipe book that was filled with some cute recipes and inspiring pictures. I figured this was a clever book I could learn from and decided I would pick it up the next day.

Thus on the said next day, I went to my car and stopped at the mail box, before I went to the bookstore. Lo' and behold, the newest little note card edition of the exact book was sitting in a package from Amy.

I haven't had a chance to use the courier, but plan to get LOTS of use out of it. The book - this edition a cute box with many of the recipes, pictures, and a little how to guide on cupcake baking for those unfamiliar - is excellent. I read the entire thing already. Some of the ideas, recipes, and flavor concepts are very original and give me great ideas for future pictures, plating, and pairings.

I'm a cupcake addict, and am lucky to have enablers in my life. Yayness indeed.

Moving Sucks -or- My Everything Hurts

Sunday, April 1, 2007

I'm moving right now, and just got my internet back up. I am typing on the floor now. I have to go unload a U-HAUL still, and while I now have a gas range, PG&E screwed me over hard so now I get to wait until Tuesday for hot water and the ability to cook.

Ann of Sacatomato will be doing a book signing today in a few hours, so go check that out at Taylor's Market from 4-6.

Two cupcake recipes coming soon, both with rhubarb. Very yummy cupcakes. As soon as I settle in and sleep a bit. Plus an essay and a restaurant review, assuming my brain still works by then.

Also, Cakegrrl is back, so make sure you check her out. Must go; lungs collapsing from breathing in so much dust. Brain no worky so good. Hungry. No food in house. Eat Rob soon.

Itchy itchy.

p.s. (Will anyone get that joke or it's reference? If you can, I'll totally name the next cupcake after you.)

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