The Best B.S. Ever

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brussels sprouts have a bad rap. How many people detest the mere thought of them, and lets be honest, kids (and many adults) don't exactly line up to fill their plates with the spherical little veggies.

Their alien appearance doesn't really help their cause and seems like something out of Dinotopia or Invasion of the Pod People it just can't put up a fight against the familiar bell pepper, or comfort and safety of the onion. Of course, I find that many people don't even know what they look like, yet have developed a fervent dislike, even fear, of the minute cabbages.

They have a myth all of their own that's cultivated at an early age. Cartoons and legends tell of brussel sprouts steamed to a limp mess of bitter and slightly transluscent leaves. Their near mutant-green hue, like that of some strange experiment gone awry, a signal of its horrid poison taste akin to that of a colorful rainforest frog. The horror story precedes any actual interaction with them and thus many find disgust in them.

Indeed their actuality is something a bit more humble. The stalks of sprouts were first cultivated in Rome, Belgium, and Romania. They eventually moved along into France and Spain until these countries brought them over to what would be North America with California now being the biggest producer of them in the states and Ontario in Canada. However, a large portion of sprouts are shipped in now days from Mexico, where due to the high heat their flavor suffers (however, their tight little bods can easily survive the trip). Still, this knowledge is lost on most and therefore the cruciferous little plants finds few fans.

"You made brussels sprouts?" More than a few guests have recoiled to this moment in the dinner I serve them, a slight grimace and a questionable look.

"But of course!" I reply. "You haven't tasted them my way." A sentence we have all heard before only to meet the challenge and reconfirm our disgust.

"Yeah... I dunno," a challenge always seems to arise but I took an oath the moment I plopped them in my shopping bag that as a sprout roadie it would be my job to convert another.

"You've only had them steamed or boiled haven't you?" I query.

"Yes," a quizzical look is directed at me, then back to the offending veggies to ensure they don't attack.

"Well, these have been pan seared with a bit of olive oil. The heat diffuses a lot of their bitterness. Afterwards they're salted and given a few fresh cracks of pepper, and then a light shaving of Parmesan cheese. Trust me, I've changed many minds with this dish."

The eyes rarely leave the plate and I'm never sure if the person hears me, so entranced with raw fear they are unable to respond to the most basic stimuli. After more coaxing, the victim relents to single bite.

"Wow... it's... good."

"I told you."

And did I. Many of my friends and family now buy the sprouts on their own to cook at home for themselves or for friends. I've made many a meal with just a large bowl of these and a small glass of white wine. Rustic, elegant, flavorful, and simple, plus you can do it on a tight budget. I encourage you, embrace the brussels sprouts.

Seared Brussels Sprouts
Serves however many you need...

What You'll Need...
As many brussels sprouts as your and your companions will eat. I can put away about 8 or 9, but usually 5 per person is good.
Parmesan cheese
olive oil
(kosher) salt and pepper

What You'll Do...
1. Cut off the stem of each sprout and discard it plus the loose outer leaves. Quarter them.

2. Place a few tablespoons of olive oil in the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat the pan to high heat.

3. Place the sprouts cut side down. Allow them to sit for about 3 minutes. Give them a stir and a shake. They should begin to brown and char a bit, this is what you want. Eventually they will begin to pop and shimmy on their own, possibly even preforming a few little flips for you. After about 2-3 more minutes turn them into a bowl.

4. Grate with fresh Parmesan cheese and another sprinkle of salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

The Traveling Tajine Project

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Have you ever used a tajine (also spelled tagine)? It's a heavy, conical earthenware cooking vessel used in Moroccan and Middle Eastern Cooking. It's unique shape works to keep food moist and blend flavors. As heat and steam rise they condense at the tip of the conical lid, and drip back into the base, circulating moisture, heat, and flavor. It's a unique piece of cookware that can create exotic and tasty dishes.

Most people simply don't keep one around as it usually takes up quite a bit of space and isn't used in most homes outside of Morocco. However, I find that many other home cooks are interested in trying it out. As such, I am proposing an idea I am calling the Traveling Tajine Project.

The idea is simple: I will create a list of people willing to participate who want to try out a tajine. After a list of participants is established the tagine will be shipped to the first person. That person will have the tajine for one calendar month. Afterwards, they will pack it up and ship it to the next participant whom I will provide an address and contact information for. The next participant will have it for one calendar month and then ship it to the next participant and so on.

Afterwards, each participant can post on their blog or website or flickr account about their recipes, experience, and so on.

If you are interested in participating please read the following rules and guideline and then e-mail me and I will put you on the list for the Traveling Tajine Project. My goal is to get 12 participants so that we will have an entire year lined up.

Traveling Tajine Project

Tajine Notes
1) The tajine, being ceramic, should only be used in the oven and not over an open flame or on an electric or gas burner.

2) The tajine has already been seasoned by me, however, you may feel the need or desire to season it again. Feel free.

1) You must be in the continental United States.

2) You must have a blog, website, or flickr account in order to post your tajine experience and/or recipe.

3) You have one calendar month in which to use the tajine. Afterwards, the tajine should be shipped to the next participant within the first five days of the next month. This is to allow the next participant ample time to use it before they too must ship it out.

4) You are expected to post about your tajine experience. It does not have to be a big post with dozens of pictures or even a recipe, but you must post about your results.

Care and Shipping Guidelines & Agreement
1) If you break the tajine while it is in your care you are expected to replace it.

2) You must pay for the shipping to the next recipient on the list. The tajine is heavy, weighing about 5 pounds.

3) You have one month to use the tagine and then ship the tajine to the next person on the list. Tardiness is not appreciated or acceptable; by choosing to participate you are promising to use it within your calendar month.

4) Should you receive it late on your month, we will work out an agreement for you to have an appropriate amount of time in which to use it and ship it to the next recipient.

5) Should you not use it within your calendar month you must ship it to the next participant. If there are extenuating circumstances contact me and we will work out a time extension.

6) When shipping the tajine, you should be sure to take care in putting it in appropriate packaging. It is ceramic so newspaper, packing peanuts, a solid box and plenty of tape should be used.

7) If damaged in transit, you will be held responsible unless it is damaged through obvious destruction of the package due to negligence of the delivery service. It would be best to insure the package when you send it. I use the USPS, but UPS, FedEx or any other shipping company can be used; they can also assist you in properly packing it so it does not break in transit.

Other Information
-I will contact all participants before their time comes up to ensure that they are still wanting to participate. If you need to back out, please let me know at least two weeks ahead of time.

-I will do my best to ensure that people get the month they want.

-By putting your name on the Traveling Tajine Project list you are agreeing to the above rules and guidelines.

-If you wish to participate please e-mail your name, address, and a phone number to me at vanillagarlic [at] yahoo [dot] com. Your information will not be solicited out, and its only purpose is to ensure that you can receive the tajine when it's your turn.

Nut Butter Bars and Comments on So Cal

Friday, December 26, 2008

I sometimes get small reminders of why I've decided to no longer live in the affluent part of Orange County, California, where I grew up. While many of the people who live here are good, honest, regular people who pay their bills, eat like anyone else, and have a healthy concept of what reality is and their actual place in it there are those who simply don't.

Have you seen "The Real Housewives of Orange County"? I grew up surrounded by people just like them. Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo, Lake Forrest, Newport, etc. All these places prescribe to and cultivate a stylized sense of neuveau-riche-ality where everyone should be tan, wear designer sunglasses indoors, and damn it, their food is organic and costs much more than regular organic food because it's bought at Organic-Green-Mart (as opposed to going to a farmer's market and getting your produce fresher and way cheaper and it still being just as good if not better).

Anywhose, I went to the Pavillion's here and was shocked. I mean, I love the store. Good wine selection. Great shellfish. Any mushroom or produce you want is available. Of course, it'll all cost you, but those living here in the land of SVUs, 5 credit cards, and disposable income up the wazoo where a basic home costs around 600K, well, it's simply not an issue.

Walking in I ran into the far too familiar and annoying brand of crazy, the So Cal Crazy. I was nearly run over by a kid who couldn't have been older than 11. He ran up to the in-store coffee shop and proceeded to order a mocha. Trailing behind were the siblings who had no desire to acknowledge my existence and bumped right into me with no apology and the youngest, a little girl, gave me a scornful look as I had apparently ruined her day.

I gave them each my quick appraisal stare to analyze their unique demonic auras and social status. You grow up here and you inherently develop the "appraisal stare," a super-power that let's you efficiently evaluate anyone's status, class, and net worth based on their clothing, hair and accessories in under half a second. The trained eye can do it in a casual glance lasting about five one-hundredths of a second.

Through my appraisal stare I noticed each was dressed in probably $200 of designer clothes. The middle child was dressed like a rich gangster rapper, a trend I guess he would continue until he was in high school as being white but dressed like a gangster would be the right amount of danger for upper-class girls. The youngest little spore, a girl of seven in Dolce sunglasses and Baby Phat hoodie gave me her own appraisal stare, still obvious as she was young and hadn't yet the practice to do it in a half glance, and grimaced at me.

I rose an eyebrow at her and moved on. My ratty jeans and sweatshirt were comfy and I moved to the wine aisle to pick up a few more gifts. Still, I was a little miffed, my watch is Omega, dammit. She threw her nose up at me and continued plugging away at her iphone, a situation which I was confused at for what on earth a child needs an iphone for I haven't the slightest.

Children like this were the ones who would grow up to be trust fund children - spoiled, irresponsible, with no concept of how the world really works. The little girl's fate would be a sad one; she would become popular for good looks and money and probably giving out hand jobs at the age of thirteen making her a favorite of the boys and a slut to the other girls (only in whispers, BFF's in public). The boys would become arrogant and useless - pretty with no desire to work for anything having been handed all on a silver plate. All married at 25, divorced at 28. Etc. It may sound cruel, but I say it simply because I had grown up with people like this and seen this scenario played out dozens of times.

The mother was dressed up as well in a designer track suit, chatting on her iphone. She paid the coffee person no attention, nor watched her kids as she gabbed away. She paused only to place her own order, talking as she fumbled for her credit card. The world existed only on the other side of the call at the moment, and as she was surrounded by lights and glitter of holiday decorations, the sounds of Christmas music, the politeness of the coffee person behind the counter or the whining of her brood I don't believe she was aware of any of it, incapable of producing a reaction to the slightest of stimuli. That phone was her god, and she its devoted acolyte.

But moving on.

The Pavillion's had something new I had never seen before that intrigued and appaled me. The Nut Butter Bar. No, I'm not being crude though the potential for sexual innuendo is intense and viscous here on out. It's a station where you can go to machines filled with various nuts, and you can freshly grind your own nut butter. Peanuts, almonds, macadamia nuts, even cashews. Indeed there are even some with honey roasted nuts or a selection of seeds, peanuts and chocolate chips for a more trail-mix like nut butter.

All for $1 an OUNCE. A 18 ounce jar of Skippy will go about $3. The same amount of organic peanut butter, maybe $5. The equivalent would cost you $18. Plus tax.

And let me tell you, there was a line for this. Props for trying people, but when you can buy the nuts by the pound and grind them yourself, well, why not? Indeed there is even a bulk section of the store where you could buy peanuts by the pound for cheaper, then take it home and pop it in the blender or whatnot.

Organic food advertising strikes again. The underbelly of the Slow Food movement, the Faux-Slow Food movement. A case in which the idea of green, organic, slow food is taken so far it becomes a retardation of its true self. Indeed many of these people had been cultured and trained, subtly or with a baseball bat, that organic and slow is good. However, the critical parts of their brains have been dulled to the point where they don't realize that the slow food snake oil they're buying is a near reversal of the process they are trying to embody and support. Good intentions gone wrong.

Making your own peanut butter? Good, assuming you bought the nuts, roasted them and ground them yourself - an easy process. Going to the store and paying a ransom for a machine to simply grind your own gourmet choice blend of nuts? Batshit crazy.

Not everyone here sucks, just a lot of them. Plenty of good people live in So Cal and many make their own jams, pickles, and some even raise their own chickens here in Laguna Beach in their backyards, much to the chagrin of their neighbors (it reduces property value). I grabbed the bottle of wine I needed and left. The cashier was sweet, the lady behind me clever, and witty banter ensued in line and all wished each other a happy holidays.

A Quick Note and a Question

Monday, December 22, 2008

The blog will update sporadically, if at all, in the next week. I'm going to be in Mission Viejo visiting my family all the way down in So Cal. It's been a while and honestly I am looking forward to the warmer weather and seeing my friends and family again. It's been almost three years.

Also, I'm putting this out to you, the readers. A request for help. I'm working on a small children's book proposal for, get this, a Christmas book for next year. I figure a year is just enough lead time. Anyone know anyone I should get into contact with or know what avenue or publisher I should pursue once the proposal is finished? Would appreciate any help!

Banding Together Against the Yeti - Another Coffee Shop Story

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I should be filled with holiday cheer. Spreading joy, peace, and love wherever I go. I should and I do try. I like to think that I can be a model of virtue, a paragon of turning the other cheek.

However, on my way back from dropping off the BF off at the airport I ran into Peet's Coffee for a little bit of tea as I had none at home. As I waited in line this gruff angry lady with the gait and hunch of a snow yeti walked in then stepped right in front of me in line. No nod, no message with the eyes, no explanation. Just walked in front of me and took my place.

I was a bit stunned for a moment, I looked behind me to see if others had witnessed Miss Manners' cutting. Indeed through glances and stares and jaws agape they had indeed seen her trespass. I turned back, "Excuse m-"

"Look, I'm running late! I need my coffee now so I won't be later!" She didn't even look at me.

And it just came out. "Well I was here first and you will run much more late after I punch you in the back of the head. Back of the line."

She looked me in the face horrified as if I shot her dog, then her snow creature visage contorted as she planned to respond. Luckily, the woman behind me chimed in. "Back of the line lady!"

"Madame," the guy behind the counter said,"You need to get in the back of the line. You cannot just cut in front of others."

She exhaled with extreme depravity towards us all and marched out the door.

Smiles were abound. The evil was vanquished. I was a bit shocked at myself and what I said, but as people greeted me Merry Christmas with the warmest of smiles as I grabbed my tea and left I felt better. Sometimes it just takes a rude yeti of a person to band people together and make us appreciate the holidays.

Dining Alone - The Experiment

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Having been sitting on my own musings for a while on the concept of eating alone I finally decided to go out and explore it. Eating alone comes with a certain stigma - we fear being judged lonely or single. Pariahs. That there is a reason that one dines alone and it is not of our own choosing. 

With finals over and finally having a chance to sit down and read a book for fun on my own accord I decided it was a perfect chance to go and put the theory to the test. I made reservations at a relatively nice restaurant and decided to be irresponsible and splurge a tincey bit. A night for me. To celebrate me. Just for me. It may sound a bit conceited but I find it necessary to take time for oneself and even spoil yourself once in a while. Otherwise one goes crazy; the longest icicle doesn't form in a single snow, stress builds slowly over time until it finally just makes you break. This was a chance to just... BE.

As I quickly strolled down the dark wet sidewalks of downtown Sacramento, my gait wide in an attempt to warm myself in the shiver-inducing, brisk winter air, I glanced at those passing by and silently observed their habits and walks and listened to snippits of their conversations. Checking my watch I noticed I was running a bit early as traffic had been better than anticipated. Ginger's was only another block east; tucking my book and umbrella underarm I dashed across the street. 

We quickly chatted about Christmas plans, both personal and business over a few macarons and played a bit of catch up. Soon it was time and back through the cold air I dashed arriving shortly at the door to Mulvaney's.

"Hi, I'm a bit early. I made a reservation for one at 6:30? It's under McCord."

She confirmed and smiled a coquettish grin, "Would you like a table or sit at the chefs table to watch some preparation."

"The chefs table sounds great actually." The hostess led me through the cozy dining room, the beams decorated tastefully with lights and artfully crafted silk birds in vermillion and gold. She sat me at the bench where I removed my scarf and jacket delicately putting them over the back of the stool-back.

I looked around at the other people dining, in the back an elderly couple seemed to quietly chat over whatever people have left to talk about after how many years of marriage. A first date in the corner was obviously boring the lady in the scarlet dress as she twirled her hair and let her eyes wander aimlessly. A party or two on this side or that, but for the most part it was still empty. And then there was me. 

And I didn't mind. It seemed everyone was too busy with themselves and their dining guests to pay any mind to the single twenty-something at the bar table with a book. I suppose a stray thought or two may have entered their consciousness upon seeing me but I seemed to be by my self with no other minds to consider. 

I ordered a carrot and vanilla soup, the striped sea bass with mushrooms and pesto, and a glass of white wine. Simple and easy food that was light and tasty. My waitress seemed perky and sweet, assisting me perfectly through the night. 

"So enjoying your night out?" she queried as she removed my soup bowl.

"Yeah, actually. Just enjoying a night out for me." I smiled.

I took pause from my book to watch Chef Mulvaney work. We had met once or twice before, but always in passing and never enough of a conversation to impress upon his memory it seemed. Silently observing from my perch like a curious owl I was mesmerized by the method and pace that took place before me, all done in quiet meditation as one might undertake for serenity. His fingers, stained crimson from beets that must have been utilized early, slowly work and flattened bits of shortbread dough, each mound being rolled out with a bottle of brandy. The dough was the layered with a thin piece of candied fennel and a bit of pomegranate syrup. Each one was meticulously put together in silent solitude and dedication, paying to mind to what was going on around him. He paused only to explain something to one of the wait staff.

There was a moment when he introduced himself to a couple next to me and showed them some porcini mushrooms which he then whipped up into a special dish with them. He, the couple and the waitress then discussed and tasted a fine French wine the couple in question had ordered, something hitting $80. I was a bit jealous at the attention, I admit, but regardless who you are a 10 minute discussion on the nuances of so-and-so wine rings a bit snobby to me. Still, they all seemed to know what they were talking about and there was no air of pomp about them; it all seemed genuine. So whatever.

As I finished my wine and my chapter I paid my bill, leaving a healthy 20%. The night had been unexpectedly simple. I assumed there would be questioning, looks, drama, curiosity. Indeed the night was mundane if you had been watching me. However, I found it relaxing. Ohm-like. Simple. Without a dining companion I could focus on my reading, my own thoughts, the flavors of the food. Each without distraction. The night rang clear as a bell. 

It wasn't the grandest experiment, I'll grant you that. It was, however, enlightening. More than that, it was relaxing. Necessary. 

I highly suggest you all do the same. 

Persimmon Oat Muffins

Monday, December 15, 2008

I feel that in the middle of finals I do a lot of cooking, partly for sustenance, partly as procrastination. This was a bit of both: it fulfilled my need for creativity and my need for brain food. My friend Andrea always has stores of fresh persimmons this time of year (given to me this year via Elise) and the trouble when getting them is what to do with them. I find them far to sweet to eat on their own usually and end up putting them in salads or other baked goods.

This however, had purpose. It was something to give me some energy! Vigor! Alertness! Something whole wheat and oat-y that wasn't just healthy but actually tasted good in the morning with a small smear of yogurt and a glass of orange juice. Delicious and nutritious.

I took some to work and received some rave reviews. People were intrigued by the persimmons, loved the texture of the oats, and were surprised to learn that they were whole wheat.
Persimmon Oat Muffins
Makes 15 muffins

What You'll Need...
1 1/3 cups rolled oats
1 1/3 cups of milk
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup of freshly grated persimmon flesh (about 2 large fuyus)

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 425F.

2) Place the oats, milk, and lime juice in a bowl and allow to soak for 10 minutes. While you wait sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in another bowl.

3) Add the oil, sugar, and egg. Mix well. Sift in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

4) Add the grated persimmon and fold in.

5) Fill into cupcake papers or straight into a well greased and floured muffin tin about 2/3 full. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for one minute before popping out and allowing them to finish cooling on a wire rack.

Cranberry Sorbet and No Life

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Last 72 hours before the last final is due. I have no life for a bit. New post over at Simply Recipes! Feel free to peruse the archives for something more clever than this, but my current plan is to go back in time and castrate Lacan. That should give him something more interesting to postulate about. 

Today Started With a Half Flask of Bourbon...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I found it buried in my car under the passenger seat.

"The hell?" I was puzzled, I admit. In a quick cleaning frenzy to once again clear out the shit that magically accumulates in my car I came across the forgotten flask tucked under directions to a some place I couldn't recall and a gas receipt from March. Honestly, the last time I saw this thing was probably months ago. I had carted it along on a night out with friends in an attempt to get a bit tipsy before dancing and save myself a bit of money by not buying myself an poorly made $8 sidecar*.

Honestly, I was already in a bit of a rush as I had decided to prolong my shower with a moving rendition "Disturbia" via shampoo bottle makeshift microphone. Furthermore, it was damn cold outside. Like see your breath 40 degrees cold with fog rolling in at horror movie thickness - it obscured vision like the best of intentions. I looked at the bottle furtively. I quickly checked my watch, hoping that the time I thought it was wasn't. It was.

"Screw it." I rolled my eyes as I quickly unscrewed the cap. I felt the bourbon slip down, its spicy burn warming and waking me. Why not go to work toasted? Given, the three 2-inch thick brownies and multivitamin I ate for breakfast would soak it all up, no question. Still, the timid societal rebel in me was happy to give the finger in a tiny way to the world.

I hopped into the car (it was maybe a half ounce on a full stomach, no worries) and threw my book and lunch on the seat. Lunch was going to be green curry with chicken. Again. My laptop had taken a turn for the worse and the purchase of a new MacBook had thrown me into a pit of leftovers and budget eating in order to recover some of the pennies I palmed over. The new diet program that comes with a Mac known as iBroke is a fabulous way to learn to cut your food budget and find yourself complacent with the most simplest of meals.

Still, I must admit. Now that I've tasted the punch I think I prefer Macs, though given I am still having some issues learning things and I find one or two things I like better on PC.

I took a few minutes to let the car warm up and listened to the radio. More bad news. More corruption. More people going broke. All followed by smooth jazz.

Anyways, by the time I settled myself into work, made myself some loose leaf Earl Grey and talked to [name of man I am smitten with] on the phone I had finally woken up. The day seemed to actually be off to a good start. The new article for Edible Sac looked like it was organizing itself nicely and would pan out to be something quite awesome. I was somewhat caught up with my paperwork. I learned that over 180 people follow my twitters, proving that 180+ people are obviously more crazy than me, and that sort of self assurance is always welcome. Plus, I had a drink before 7 am. Today seemed like good omens would abound.

It was only then I looked down at my cup.

Tasseography is a fickle mistress. Open to interpretation. Like the Oracle at Delphi or a box of chocolates, you never know just what you're going to get. The tea leaves had formed a neat and very clear "X" at the bottom of my mug.

Lord, I hope it's for "marks the spot" not "x'ed out."

*gay bar bartenders are the worst, if they even know what a sidecar is they screw it up, the only drink they know is vodka+juice

Oddest Meal Ever?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tonight I had brussel sprouts and chicken hearts stir-fried with black bean garlic sauce and mirin with pumpkin seeds over wild long-grain rice. It had to be the most hodge-podge meal I think I ever made. It also tasted quite delicious.

Anyone else have an odd dish you threw together at the spur of the moment?

Snot the Best Grapes You Could Buy

Monday, December 8, 2008

From the Archives.

So we've all shared in my experiences with unruly ankle biters (monsters in the shape of children) and the irresponsible hosts they spawned out of (parents) in social gustatory settings. We've also seen how unsanitary people can be when sneezing over or touching public food.

But this last one, this takes the god damn cake.

I was at the market and was walking over to the grapes. Across the display was a child old enough to chew steak crammed into the toddler seat of the shopping cart looking over the grapes. As I ripped off a bag I looked up and noticed the kid's face suddenly become gnarled as he breathed in and tilted his head back.

"Oh Sweet Jesus, no..." I thought to myself with dread.

The child began to sneeze furiously over and over, each one echoing louder than the last. It was like a fireworks finale was occurring in the produce section. Luckily the kid was well mannered enough to cover his mouth so I was felt okay about it and grabbed the grapes at the total opposite end of where the child was.

And then he wiped his hands on the grapes display.

Mom turned around and nodded at him, "Oh honey bless you, but next time ask mom for a tissue or something." She then began to walk away. Yes. She just left the grapes which her son and left behind the visible chunks and shmears of snot streaked across the grapes.

"Excuse me!?" another woman barked, "Aren't you going to take those grapes or call someone or something?"

"I'm sorry?"

I helpfully chirped in. "Your son just wiped his snot all over the grapes. You can see it. You can't just leave them there."

"Well people should wash their food when they get it home anyways, you never know whose touching it."

You are shitting me... "I agree, but blatantly wiping your mucus over food is different than just bits of dirt from handling."

"You should tell someone," the other woman noted, backing me up.

"Well I don't want to buy those grapes!!!" she screeched as she the levees of sanity broke and the demonic she-bitch she was hiding revealed itself. "I DON'T WANT THOSE GRAPES! THEY HAVE SNOT ON THEM!" Her face was contorted and red. Her kid ignored all of us and was halfway into a box of cereal for the toy.

The other woman started back at her, "It's your kid's snot!"

"And they'll probably just throw them away and not worry about it." This was where we had to start calming her down before a scene began. However, just to be sure I started to eye Rob a bit and try to send a telepathic message to grab a coconut to bean her in the head with. Just in case.

"I DON'T WANT THOSE GRAPES! Just because my kid is sick, it's my responsibility!?"

"YES." The other woman and I resounded back in unison.

"Don't you people tell me how to raise my child!!! IT'S NOT YOUR CHILD AND IF YOU DON'T WANT SNOTTY GRAPES, DON'T BUY THEM!" And she stormed off, presumably to devour other shoppers.

The other woman and I looked at each other. "Some people..." as she rolled her eyes.

I laughed, "Yeah, and they're reproducing."

"Heaven help us."

"Indeed," I nodded, "I think I'll be getting pears instead."

The grapes were removed by the store immediately.

Finals Week and Joining the Dark Side

Sunday, December 7, 2008

So it's finals week. Meaning either no posts or archives being thrown up. Sorry, but grades come first.

Also, my new 18 month old computer crapped out. Guess I get what I pay for... Anyways, have a new Macbook. Trying something new, and so far all I can say is I am still recovering from the hemorrhage inducing price tag and trying to learn to use the damn thing. I know there is a faux-right click button but damn it, it's not the same. Learning a whole new system is driving me absolutely batshit loco. Anywhose, back to the books I go. I miss Control+C/V/A, they made life easy. This thing is just hard to use.

I guess though, at only two hours in, there is a learning curve. Any and all advise or little hints or tricks for a beginner are more than welcome and are, indeed, encouraged. My technological abilities are endearing in their total ineffability.

Okay back to work I go. In the words of Tigger, "TTFN - Ta-ta for now!"

Yes, I Twitter...

Friday, December 5, 2008

I try my best to resist on-line fads or groups. It's like this... I have a myspace and a facebook page. Doesn't mean I use them or check them regularly. Still, I do have them if for any reason to avoid being some kind of social pariah. So yes, I have a twitter account. I may update it with new post alerts or to bitch about Eat Beast once in a blue moon. I also do something that I generally avoid on the blog - swear like a crack-dealin', ho-baggin', Catholic school girl. Which I might add, I do a LOT of in life not on the net but make a conscious effort to avoid here.

Still, it's a neat way to kind of keep in touch with some of the other food bloggers I know, and they occasionally make me laugh, inform me, or make some poignant thought. You can follow me at

There's No Cents In It

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I was at the local coffee shop and watched as a customer received his change - all various types of coins. As I watched, he sorted through it, picking out the pennies. He then grabbed his coffee, threw the coppers into the jar and hurried off.

I have covered tipping once or twice on here, but allow me to re-iterate something. Never throw your pennies into a tip jar. Just... don't. It's an insult, not a tip.

Allow me to explain. When you are handed change, you might find yourself with a dime or a nickel. Heck maybe a quarter or a few bucks. These are all fine gestures of gratitude to your coffee person (the word "barista" sickens me, I preferred coffee person). Indeed, nickles, dimes and quarters add up to actual dollars. As such, all shiny, silver colored coins are welcome. Pennies are not.

Here is the thing, coffee people get minimum wage. We don't depend on tips, nor do we expect them (I use "we" in a loose sense, as it has been years since I was behind a counter). As such, you are not in any way required to tip your coffee people. It is however kind and a good way to ensure we remember your face. Indeed I had a few customers I could actually time to a watch and have their drinks ready the moment they walked in the door. People rarely ever try something new I learn, it's too crippling to gamble with caffeine for most so prediction was easy.

As for those I knew to be rude jerkwads, if they were the only person in line then I might slow down or over / under-heat the milk. Little things to try and make the person go away and never come back. Those who came in and demanded 20 drinks for the office and then didn't bother to throw a damn fivepence into the tip jar? Oh, you can guarantee that the next time they showed up I went so slow, you'd think my own personal time had stopped. I would sit and enjoy them begin to pace frantically, glancing at their watch every other second in a panic as they missed whatever meeting they had. Vengeance is a bitch, and when I hold you drinks hostage and your cash is in the till, you were mine.

Anyways, pennies. Throwing in your pennies is not a tip. It is your convenience. Pennies add up, yes, but rarely to much more than 30-odd cents. They're a pain to count up at the end of the night when you just want to go. Furthermore, the real reason people put them in the tip jar is they themselves don't want to be burdened by carrying them around. It's a form of economic light-lifting sloth, and pushing on your little annoyance to someone else and attempting to pass it off as appreciation for a job well done is bullshit.

So what is appropriate for you $3-5 coffee? Other former coffee-persons and I have come up with a few guidelines:

-For cappuccinos, lattes, americanos? Between 10 to 35 cents is appropriate. Aim for the higher end if you are asking them to gussy it up in a thousand different ways.

-You do not have to tip for drip coffee or pre-prepared food.

-If the coffee person has to make food you've ordered, 40-50 cents is about right.

I know there are some coffee-people who would disagree with my rules. They're the ones who call themselves baristas and think they're the pinnacle of hip culture for people between the ages of 16-21. If they think they deserve a dollar for your drip coffee, give them the finger and move on. Still, these are rough guidelines. You don't have to tip coffee people at all. However, out of kindness and gaining someone in your confidence who will take care of you and even slip you a free drink or two (I know I and my fellow coffee people did for our favorite customers) I suggest it.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Icing

Monday, December 1, 2008

Yep, a new cupcake. Finally, right? Well, you won't find it here. Rather, I'm gonna send you along to Simply Recipes. Enjoy!Photo by Elise Bauer.

Know Your Persimmons

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Fuyu: The round, squat persimmon often mistaken for a tomato. These persimmons are hard and dense, taking into acount they're many large seeds they aren't pleasant to bite into. Chopped, sliced, and diced, their cloyingly sweet, slightly chalky flavor (if at all underripe) makes them a popular option for salads, baking into pies and tarts, and for snacking. Look for fujis with a slight give when you squeeze them. If they're hard as a rock, don't eat it yet.
Hachiya: Radiant orange hues and a hardy heart shape define the hachiya. When firm they're incredibly astringent and practically inedible. It's only when they're so ripe and squishy that they feel that they may come apart in your hand are they edible. Indeed it should be totally gelatinous. Sweet and floral, they're perfume flavor is perfect for baking or simply eating with a spoon.Hybrid / Pollination Variants (More often than not these won't be at the store, but at a farmer's market or roadside stand)

Amagaki: A hybrid between Hachiya and Fuji - a persimmon love child of sorts. It's actually a variety developed locally here in Sacramento by Twin Peaks farm. They are, in my opinion, the best persimmon variety. Not too gushy, not too hard, but with the bite-feel of a soft ripe pear. Just sweet enough as well that I can easily finish it, unlike the fuji or hachiya which I usually share due to their overpowering sweetness.Maru (aka: cinnamon persimmon): Supposedly spicy sweet and somewhat spicy and possess and dark burnt orange color and a cinnamon colored flesh. I haven't tired one of these hybrids before, so I can't say much. I understand they store incredibly well and are very juciy. Another one perfect for eating straight.

Tsurunoko (aka: chocolate persimmon): Called the chocolate persimmon not for its flavor but its dark brown color. Indeed the inside is a dark tan color, and often mottled with color imperfections making it look rotten when bit or cut into. However the flavor is sweet and much more mild than other persimmon varieties. Tried one at work and I enjoyed it though I had to get over the appearance as it looked rotted (no picture, sorries).

Hyakume (aka: brown sugar Persimmon): Very sweet and somewhat astringent it's a case of extremes making them almost inedible to most people when ripe. However, when dried out they becomes incredibly sweet with a slight molasses-y taste of brown sugar. Again, no picture as I didn't have my camera at work.

These are the ones you can usually find here in the U.S. and by that I mean most likely California. However, in Japan you can find endless varieties such as Okame and Nightengale.

For another great resource check out this persimmon profile from Figs With Bri, or for persimmon recipes check out the Food Blog Search page.

My Thanksgiving Menu & Thanks

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Vanilla Cinnamon Cranberry Sauce
Mashed Potatoes with Garlic
Caramelized Brussel Sprouts
Baked Ham with Brown Sugar Spice Glaze
Cranberry Sorbet
Cinnamon Blondies

Something simple, easy, perfect for four.

So now comes the part where we all say why we're thankful that the turkey died for our sins*. Me? I'm thankful that my life is complacent. It's not perfect, but I have a good job(s), great friends, a good education, wonderful family. I am surrounded by people who care about me. I have two cats who piss me off to no end, but I wouldn't give up for the world. I have a roof over my head. A car that gets me from place to place. I eat well, and am able to cook for pleasure.

There is always room to bitch and complain about everything in life, but in the long run, I'm more than blessed for the life that I have. So, I guess I am thankful that everything is status quo.

Happy Thanksgiving.*if I had any fundamentalist readers, I just lost them for that one

Preggers and The Peon

Monday, November 24, 2008

From the Archives, because finals are approaching as is Turkey Day, so time to write very hard to find. Blame my professors and/or the pilgrims.

So today at the nearby coffee shop, I was waiting for a friend to get their drink while I quietly sipped my tea patiently aside. Then suddenly:

"What do you mean no free re-fills!?"

"Sir, I'm sorry," said the high school age, part time, coffee shop person behind the counter. "We don't offer re-fills on mochas."

"WHAT KIND OF COMMUNIST COFFEE SHOP IS THIS!?!?" as he slammed his fist on the counter.

This guy was totally losing it. Like might start waving a gun and offing people losing it. The poor girl was petrified. As was pretty much everyone else. The whole place went silent. Where the hell was the management?

"I'm sorry sir," she trembled and stuttered, trying to find her words," I don't think any place does."


Now, I dunno where this guy normally gets his coffee, but mochas are expensive things to make when it comes down to coffee shops because the large amounts of chocolate they need to purchase are one of the costliest ingredients to stock. Doing free refills would be asking for a small piece of financial doom. The Peon however, was in no mood to hear it.

"What kind of place is this!? Where people like you try to rip off good people. You-" The Peon thrusted his finger at her for emphasis and out of sheer poo-headedness,"-are why people can't be trusted in this country! Just give me my fucking mocha!"

I was wondering where he came to that conclusion, but also wanting to step in and say something, but I, my friend, and everyone else is equally frozen in their spots. And as much as I wanted to say something, the whole he might have a gun thought edged it's way into my mind. I'm sure I'm not the only one. It's a sad state when that's the first thought to enter a person's mind when placed in a situation like this.

"Would you shut up. You're scaring the poor girl, and if anybody is a problem here, it's you." A powerful voice cuts the thick tension.

I turned to see the largely pregnant woman with a steaming cup in one hand, and her other hand resting on her hip giving the man a look that asked who-the-hell-and-what-for-?.

The Peon turned to his new assailant, "You stay out of my business lady! What the hell do you know!? Should a pregnant lady even be drinking coffee!?"

"It's tea dumbass, and in a second it's gonna be a direct cause of skin grafts in between your legs if you don't shut the hell up. Now get along before you have to explain to people a pregnant woman kicked your ass."

He shut up. I guess The Peon wasn't used to people challenging him. Realizing Preggers would probably follow through on her threat, he gave her a quick "fuck you" before turning to leave and screaming he'd never come here again.

"Some people..." she muttered.

I smiled and turned to her. "Lady, I think you just said everything I ever wanted to say when I worked in a coffee shop."

Everyone started applauding her.

The girl behind the counter chimed in, "Wow. What the hell was his problem? My god, I wish I could have said that. That was awesome."

"Honey," Preggers noted, "when you work in a truck stop for four years, these coffee nuts are nuthin'."

Damn. Don't mess with those pregnant truck stop women. They will MESS. YOU. UP. And remember to be courteous when ordering coffee; one of them could be right behind you.

Drama < Hot Cocoa

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Hey, Garrett!"

Waiting for my peppermint hot cocoa behind a line of people long enough to start a rousing game of Red Rover, Red Rover with I turn around and see L, a satellite acquaintance I've known over the past few years. Not really a friend, but someone I know through other people and have encountered plenty of times and had a few forgettable conversations with. L is one of those people I have little respect for. Very sexy, smart, successful but conceited to the point where I feel that some Narccissian death with a shiny moving car grill that gives a nice reflection will probably be his end. Moreover, he's only pretty to look at until he opens his mouth.

"Hey L, been a while, how are you?"

"Pretty good, just working at the office still. I hate it and want to tear off my skin everyday but the pay is good."

"Well, as long as you have something to look forward to at the end of the day." I laugh. We laugh. Not because I think it's funny per se', rather I think it's sad, but I laugh because I can't think of any other sort of reply.

"So what have you been up to?"

"Oh, work at the non-profit still. Grad classes at night. Writing here and there and developing recipes on the side. A lot of stuff, but I'm happy doing all of it. I've chosen professions known for paying poorly: writing, cooking, and teaching once I graduate." It's a staple answer and staple joke I use in these passing situations where I have to sum up my life in under ten seconds.

"Awesome. Hey, so last night I hooked up with your ex."

"Uh... wha? Who?" I'm stunned. I mean literally, my mind is just stopped and my heart gets a bit racy and erratic. As Rob and I only split back in April, this seems awfully fast to me.

"Yeah, A. Hope you're not mad. I figured you may have heard about it."

"Huh, him?" My body returns to it's calm and regular state with the clarification. You see, A is my ex from about 5 years ago. We had dated for 8 months. While heart breaking back then, I never give a thought to him anymore. As time went on we became more and more different people than who we were before. I doubt we even have anything in common anymore. I have said hi once or twice but for the most part we don't talk, but I still hold a respect for him. As for how I might have heard of it, we don't really run in the same circles and like I said, A and I never talk. L is informing me because he knows I would otherwise be unaware of the fact. For him to bring this up out of the blue like this is just a queer plot* to attack me on the emotional level.

"No, not at all. Go crazy. I haven't talked to him in years." And it's the truth, I honestly don't give a damn. I am annoyed by the turn of the conversation though. For absolutely no reason, a relative stranger felt some strange need to try and hurt my feelings for no particular purpose except to be a total douche and a tool.

All humans have an innate need to exert power and control over others, maybe not all the time, but it's hardwired into our psyche through biology and by society that dominance has value. This sense is more heavily instilled in some more than others. It gives a feeling of power, for if we can control the feelings of others, then how can we NOT be in control of our own? I think that's the general reasoning behind it; some sort of self needing drive to validate one's self.

"Oh. So..." his angular expression seems to express a slight confusion. I haven't reacted as planned. I sense he will be in a pout about this later.

The coffee girl calls up my order and slides the steamy hot cocoa, no whipped cream, along the counter to me. I glide around L, and grab it, and begin reaching for a lid as I speak out loud so he can hear me as he stares at my back. "A is good people, so be nice to him. Anywhose, I have to get back to work." I turn around a flash a slight smile.

And out the door I go. I roll my eyes so hard I can see the back of my skull. I pride myself in trying to avoid drama but sometimes it just seeks you out and tries to pull you in. However, I do not have time for drama to be makin' my cocoa cold.

*double entendre not intended

Oh Noes! The Internet is Angry With Me!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today has been one of those days. Actually one of those weeks, for a variety of reasons. Almost all of them personal with which I promise not to throw up on here like so much drama infused, pitch colored bile. Indeed, I've been placing myself in a state of perpetual catharsis (read: bitching uncontrollably) to almost anyone with an ear. It's surprising I haven't driven anyone insane with my Fury-esque songs. Lucky are those whom I haven't carried out practical, and feasibly able to be accomplished vengeance upon, my fury fueled plans laid out well enough to keep me above reproach or retribution (in legal view, at least) to certain people deserving it.

Anyways, one aspect of my torment has been the virtual flood of hate mail recently. It's astounding, really. I actually take it as good news. It means people are reading, and if you hate me enough to write me, 10-1 you're probably going to come back to see what I might have written to piss you off this week. This ups my site meter numbers and brings in more advertising revenue for me (what meager amount I make, that is).

So not so much torment, but mild entertainment. Some people really took offense to these last few posts. You may not have read it in the comments (I rejected a great many as they were wastes of space and not productive in any sense) but there were plenty pissed off. And God knows we can't have people unhappy. NOT ON THE INTERNET.

I have been screamed at that I am a racist and was using this post as an excuse to say the "N-Word" on the web and attempt to get away with it. I suppose they think I get a cheap thrill through typing forbidden language on a public journal. I have received a scathing death threat not to make light on the murder of the millions of innocent cows (or steer as it were) for our evil consumption of beef. I have been called highly irresponsible in my pet care as well, and that the SPCA should break down my door to rescue my pets. The way I see it, pets are like children, it is impossible to watch them every second of every day, and shit is bound to happen. Plus, you can't always plan for the unexpected, so deal. Plus, I think it's funny that the cat likes hard liquor. Vegetarians are angry that I poked fun at them, when indeed I poked fun and inaccurately picky eaters. To you I say nothing because as I type this I'm eating a piece of leftover pork roast (Nom nom nom).

For the most part, I've been forwarding your e-mails to friends or reading them aloud at the lunch table at work. I hope to publish them in a book someday so please, keep sending them in. They are always appreciated.

As for the next topic for you hate mail writers: Italian food. I don't like it. Also, the Olive Garden blows.

The Beef Fairy

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How People Think Beef is Made:

Persimmon Blondies

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A simple recipe adapted from my main recipe. Crazy tasty and easy to throw together. Did it out of boredom when I had a persimmon just ready for cooking. It's fruity, subtly spiced, and crazy sweet. Very different from normal persimmon cake or pudding, it seems to straddle the fence between the two.

I'm actually quite happy with the result, so much so I plan to serve them at Thanksgiving. Seriously, this thing is crazy good.

  • 1/2 cup of butter, melted
  • 1 cup of tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of allspice
  • 1 cup of persimmon puree from (1 large hachiya persimmon)


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter and flour an 8X8 pan. Whisk together the melted butter and sugar in a bowl.

2 Add the egg and vanilla extract and whisk.

3 Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt, mix it all together.

4 Place the pulp from the hachiya persimmon into a food processor and puree. Add to the blondie mixture and whisk very well.

4 Pour into the pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. Cut into squares and serve.

Makes 9 blondies.

The First Step is Admitting I Have a Pomegranate Problem

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Oh pomegranates, how I love them so. Their appearance, their garnet little tarty gems of goodness, the trying annoyance and pruning hands of shelling them under a pot of cold water which is well worth the bounty. They're a definition of slow food and love of food.

Still, I didn't quite realize my addiction and just how bad it was. You see I find myself easily addicted to things. It's just how my brain is wired, and as such I have to be careful about anything I find fun or pleasure in as I can easily get carried away with repetitive use. Things like baklava, thin mints, cheez-its, and good tequila, I try not to keep around the house as I will become their gustatory apocalypse. My roommate, Danielle, makes brownies? I'm the harbinger of their doom, and am more than willing to take the vengeful consequences from her afterward for the deed. However, with poms? Their short season encourages gluttony.
Elise, provided me with 8 full size poms, enough to last me a week or so. I went home, I thew them underwater. I peeled and pulled and gleaned every little shimmery carbuncle from the husk. Thirty minutes I ended up with about 6 cups of pomegranate seeds.

Eight hours later, however, the bowl was empty. I felt zero guilt, only remorse that I didn't have any more. =(

Tre Cool (Tre Nightclub and Restaurant - Sacramento, CA)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I was glad I just wore the clothes I put on for casual day at work, my skinny jeans make my ass look damn fine, but are a bit tight in the crotch if I have to sit down for two and a half hours. There was a time when I would suffer for fashion, to look cool and hip, like I just walked out of a Candace Bushnell novella. However, I find that, one: I think I can make my casual jeans and a jacket look damn fine, and two: I don't really care as much as I used too.

Still, there is a vibe that pulses through Tre; a tribal, enveloping beat that reverberates through people and imbibes you with a stalwart charisma and attraction and gives you a sense of chic fabulosity. It reminded me of some of the clubs and bars I used to patron back in San Francisco and West Hollywood, but without that patronizing power tie fashion palate snobbery that those types of crowds is often saturated with (well, less so, in Sacramento). As a twenty-something I couldn't help but fall in love with the space immediately.

As my dining companions joined me we were led through a bar that was bursting with energy and admittedly, a lot of noise. Good for business, bad for conversation. Still, we didn't find ourselves yelling but we still had to strain our listening a little. The table was surrounded on all sides by black semi-opaque curtains. At first we felt silly like faux-VIP's demanding our privacy, but it set up a perfect boundary from the activity outside and our table, and helped separate us from the source of the deafening roar.

Tre is split into various sections where the trendy cliques are bound to congregate. The newly carded 21 year olds and young bankers are at the main bar, putting away cocktails and martinis, while the suave and sexy are naturally lounging at the wine bar. Wild girl Sephora devotees and the men who buy them shots were gathered around the tequila. While a few older gentlemen and one or two sorority girls were at the cigar bar, women in suits of every age discussed the finer points of foreign markets and cognac and the dark spirits room. The dance floor at the moment was empty, but I gathered it was only a matter of time before it began to pack in the patrons.One of my dining companions, Hank Shaw, was a resident expert on shellfish, wine, and cognac. We allowed him to guide us through our first course of clams and oysters. Both were served fresh over ice with lemon and Tabasco. Delicious, briney, and slid right down your throat.

Strangely, you'll find raw mussels on the menu. There is a reason most people don't eat them: they taste awful and they're the canary in the cave, if something is wrong with the ocean, eating a mussel will inform you of what. My advice and suggestion for general gustatory practice - avoid them.

The appetizers were, much like many of the young patrons there, dressed up and sexy looking, but still not sure what they want to do with their lives. A little lost, they were well on their way to being something fantastic but needed more time to develop and mature. The risotto balls with mushrooms and mango chutney were lip smackingingly good but needed less presentation and more sauce. Lotus chips and Asian guacamole (we're still not quite sure how it was Asian) reminded me of a date I had a while back, pretty to look at but no real substance. I know I could make better guac at home and use more flavorful store bought potato chips.

The natural (as opposed to artificial?) hanger steak was simply amazing, and while they offer a selection of sauces from red bell pepper to a green peppercorn it's simply unnecessary. Hank paraphrased it delightfully, suggesting that "anyone who puts sauce on a steak this good should be shot in the head;" Elise and I nodded in fervent agreement.

While the beat driven music and roar of laughter and conversation crowded the air, it all seemed to disappear with each bite of my pork tenderloin. The pork had been brined, allowing it to keep a juicy, serene flavor that nulled the outside distraction. Balanced through the woodsy shitake mushrooms and ginger sauce it played silently in my mouth and forced out everything else that demanded my attention.Elise's lamb sliders were simple, anticipatory even. You knew what you were getting and what it would taste like. Still, some skill is required to make the ingredients work well and prepare them just right. Indeed, the lamb, figs, goat chevre and micro-greens all presented a tasty little treat served alongside some homemade BBQ potato chips. A nice little taste of Summer in the middle of Fall.

Much like my companions and I, the apple charlotte arrived looking comfortable. One expects a charlotte to be prim, polite, all lace and bows. This dessert was not so much Charlotte, but Harlot, the kick ass rocker chic cousin with the midriff whom you ditch the good girl for. A simple round of caramelized, french-toast reminiscent bread bound in place a sweet mixture of razor thin apple slivers, pecans, spices and sugar. Sitting in a small pool of vanilla pastry cream, Harlot rocked the table and each and every one of us danced with her. She broke almost all of Charlotte's rules, but was awesome for it. She paired well with a heady calvados as everyone knows a little liquor will make any Harlot sing.There are a few issues as any new restaurant is bound to have. The menu has a few spelling errors (the composition teacher in me wanted to whip out my red pen) and a few dishes still need some work. The staff, while friendly, is still feeling its way out, people were unsure of where certain menus were kept and had trouble communicating with each other which led to confusion for us as well.

Furthermore, I am curious if they can stay open in these tough economic times. The location is odd, it located between Chevy's and an Old Navy, and the place was a huge investment with high costs of operation. If they can draw in the younger college crowds for the nightclub and lounge and fiscally fine for dinner they'll do great.

1212 Howe Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95825

Ichigo Abekobe Cupcakes (Matcha Cupcakes with Adzuki Paste Filling and Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

(From the Cupcake Archives)

I've been wanting to make a cupcake with Japanese flavors for some time now, and after the matcha ice cream cupcake, I decided this was the perfect chance to continue in that direction. Part of the inspiration came from Cheryl's Mooncake Cupcakes, which I must admit are quite awesome. Plus I had a lot of matcha left over after the matcha bombe cupcake I did.

Ichigo Abekobe means "Reverse Strawberry" in Japanese, so named because of the green cake and pink frosting, colors opposite of a real strawberry (so I took liberty with the pink, sue me). Many of these flavors are found in Japanese sweets and candies, and compliment each other well.

The bitter and slightly pungent flavor of the matcha is made slightly sweet in this cake. The bean paste is amazing, I can see why it's loved by so many. It's sweet and, well, beany. The strawberry cream cheese frosting is delish as ever, packed with fresh flavor and fruity aroma.

These are time consuming, I won't kid you, but they taste different and make for a very unique cupcake. You could cut some work out and just throw in a bit of matcha into the cream cheese frosting instead of macerating strawberries, or cut out the bean paste if you like. For me this was mostly a cupcake that allowed me to experiment with some new flavors, still each component is delicious on it's own and I hope to try out using adzuki beans in a few new ways.

Adzuki "Red Bean" Paste
What You'll Need...

1 1/4 cup of red beans

3/4 cup of sugar

2 tablespoons of vegetable oil

What You'll Do...
1) Place the beans in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit overnight in the fridge.

2) Rinse and place in a pot with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for an hour and fifteen minutes. Drain again.

3) Puree the beans in a food processor or blender.

4) Warm the vegetable oil in a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the sugar and bean puree and stir with a wooden spoon for 5 minutes. Place in a bowl and let cool.

Matcha "Green Tea" Cupcakes (Filled with Adzuki Red Bean Paste)
Makes 15 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You'll Need...

1 stick of unsalted butter, r
oom temperature
1 cup of sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of kosher salt

1/2 cup of milk

1 tablespoon of matcha

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 eggs one at a time and beat for 45 seconds each. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

3) Combine flour, salt, and baking powder and sift together. Combine the milk and matcha 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) Fill the cupcakes about 1/4 full and smooth out the top. Place a small amount (1 tablespoon, more or less) of the bean paste on top. Cover with more cupcake batter until almost full.

5) Bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes, rotating the pan after the first 15. Check with a toothpick for doneness of the cake on top. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting
What You'll Need...
8 ounces or 1 package of cream cheese
1/2 stick butter
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
5 strawberries
2 spoonfuls of sugar

What You'll Do...
1) Macerate strawberries with about 1-2 tbs sugar for 15 minutes.

2) Put strawberries in a small saucepan and heat under medium heat with lid on. Cook strawberries for approximately 8 minutes till strawberries cook down and become soft and saucy. Place in a blender and pulse a few times. Taste and adjust sweetness with sugar until you get the desired sweetness. Allow to cool completely.

3) Using a hand blender, puree until you get the desired smoothness or chunkiness. Cool before using.

4) Bring cheese and butter to room temperature by letting it sit out for 1 or 2 hours. Sift powdered sugar into a bowl.

5) Beat butter and cheese at medium speed until creamy. Add half of the sugar, beat until combined. Add strawberry sauce until you achieve the right color and flavor, making sure not to add too much or the frosting will be too soft. Gradually add remaining sugar (more if you have to) until you get to the consistency and sweetness you like.

Eat Beast Update #8 - Wait Till You See Him Do Tequila Shots

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Can cats drink Everclear?"

"Huh?" My friend Jeremy, a veterinarian, was over with his boyfriend having dinner. As such, I decided to pump him for some free advice in exchange for food and asked the question I had been curious about since the night before.

"I mean logistically. Can their anatomy even handle alcohol?"

"No." He replied matter-of-factly, undaunted in his certainty in this scientific fact.

"Yeah, well, once again, Eat Beast has proven nature and science wrong. Last night I left a glass of Everclear unattended when I went upstairs and he drank it. Like three ounces on his own."

"Oh my God! Is he okay!? He should be dead!"

"Yeah, he just wandered off and took a nap like nothing happened. Just like he did with the butter, the habanero peppers, and an entire bag of bagels. I kid you not, the cat is abnormal. I mean most humans can't eat what he does. It was the equivalent to a human drinking an entire bottle of the stuff. He's a fat fuzzy black hole that can drink his owner under the table."

"Damn." His face was twisted with befuddlement.

"Feel free to take him with you when you go for scientific study. I could use some peace and quiet around here."

In the Dark

Monday, November 3, 2008

They say that strongest stars burn brightest when circumstances are at their worst. It's a curious concept. Inspiring, to say the least. Still, there's a touch of irony when circumstances in question refer to the fact your apartment has lost power to 60% of it's regular functions, and as such brightness isn't quite an option. Indeed, the only things that could be illuminated was the light over the kitchen vent and the bathroom upstairs, both generating a slightly putrid yellow glow that my roommate and me despised but were now appreciative for. One must remember to find the silver lining in clouds, the good in all situations, carry on and so forth.

Still, fumbling through the dark parts of house cursing every dark aeon in whatever corrupted pantheon I could think of, stumbling over Eat Beast and bitching over why on earth I never just bought a damn book of matches doesn't make for good reflective ME-time. Eventually I located the little light on my key chain and Danielle was able to unbury a stray lighter. Lighting the one candle we have (between a gay man and a ex-pat sorority girl, that has to be breaking some sort of cosmic law of interior design) we meandered over to the kitchen.

Due to whatever strange pattern the fuse box had been set up in, all major devices in the kitchen were still on and active. We flicked on the oven light and I made a phone call to my landlord. After many, many attempts at flipping fuses, switches, and more fervent swearing we finally had to admit to ourselves that we were indeed stuck in the dark for the night. Assured that an electrician would come to our rescue the next morning we relented ourselves to our dim dining table.

"Look at that," I gestured towards the wall. The flickering candle light, its quivering flame dancing erratically in a struggle for oxygen and fuel, began to cast peculiar shadows across the wall through the wire baskets, flowers and fruit on the table. The simple shadow show acted out a curious, nonsensical story that neither of us seemed to know but none the less were entertained with by the blurred and dark figures.

As our eyes followed the shadows on the wall we were able to really take in our space. Over the past few months we had put in plenty of work and time designing the apartment, choosing colors, shapes, and textures that wouldn't make the place a roof over our heads but an actual home for once.

"Our place is actually looks like adults live here."

"Holy crap... you know, it does." It was true. After years of moving from apartment to apartment, living in places that looked like college students lived there, I had graduated from matchy-matchy Ikea furniture and cinder block shelves to something that resembled a home tour on Apartment Therapy. "Still, we have those mirrors and a few pictures to hang."

"We could do it now."

"In the dark? We only have candle light and no measuring tape to keep things on an even plane. It'll come out funny."

"Well, if we just be slow and steady we can get it."

I mulled it over. I had ordered some mirrors from Crate & Barrel, and had an assortment of pictures that needed to go up here and there to fill in the blank walls, green and white canvases begging for some sort of eye drawing pop to complete the scene. "Okay. Why not? Hell, the oven's working too. I'll whip up some brownies-" the Sara Lee kind, on sale for a $1 so how could I say no, it's a weakness, don't judge me, " - and we can have something to eat after we work."

"Ooo, brownies!" Danielle cooed.

After whipping them up and into a pan with a splash of Kahlua I had sitting on the shelves since 2001 and a few cacao nibs I found from some forgotten project, I threw the pan into the oven and we set to work.

Using an old non-mechanical tape measure, we were able to execute a few perfectly aligned nails. Hammering and measuring by candle light, we started to laugh and joke. We talked about past relationships, commiserating about the bad, blasting each other over the worst, and laughing about the good memories they still held. While each giggle and sigh made me have to squint harder in the dim flame's light we somehow, successfully even, got the pictures up without any injury or property damage. Take that history of being accident prone to a point near constant fatality! (Edit: I shit you not, Eat Beast's tail just knocked my skin graft inducing hot tea all over my leg as I finished writing that. Fuck with the universe and this is what you get.)

As the timer sounded we took out the brownies and allowed them a bit of cooling time, with which we teased the cats unmercifully with a laser pointer, sending Cid skidding into walls on the kitchen tile and Eat Beast into frustrated kitty frenzies as he attempted to bite the mocking red dot.

In a short while we were filling ourselves with chocolatey goodness and towering glasses of milk. We laughed in the dark and amused ourselves further with our handiwork, amazed we had pulled something off we could be so proud of. We spent the next few hours debating and chatting over things of no real consequence, and relegated each other with plans for the future by the day and years; wistful ideas that I suppose all twenty-somethings have since we may not know better.

The electrician came the next morning and fixed the breaker though warned it may happen again, as such is the case with old duplexes. Still, it's not something I fear or become apprehensive about. it forced us to shut our lives down for a while. No internet, no TV, no anything. No way to do our homework, stress about our jobs, or idle away the hours on YouTube and Wikipedia.

Just us, a hammer, and brownies.

Toasted Seeds and Other Things

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Ah yes, the seeds, here they are. Six cups of them to be precise. I used Elise's recipe, which always works like a charm. They were, to be succinct, delicious.

I also got in some new vanilla beans that were grown in India. The beans are huge and very oily, with a very muted, woodsy quality. A good vanilla that would stand up well to spices with a more heady comportment in a dish, where the presence of cloves, rosemary, cinnamon, or thyme (and other such flavors with a dominating flavor) may threaten to eclipse other vanilla varieties. I updated the Vanilla Varieties page as well, if you wanna check it out.

I have taken to putting some in small vials with brandy or rum to create some cleverly flavored extracts for Christmas gifts. I look forward to tasting the results.On another completely unrelated note my friend Paige, who works over as Vosges as one of their marketers, and I were chatting. We set up a special little dealie-o for all you Vanilla Garlic readers. If you want to try some of their wares you can get 10% from now till the end of November by using this code during the point of purchase online at their website. The code is: 2810WB1. I'm not getting anything for this, just something for you guys if you're interested.

Hope that you all find your November starting well, the next few days are going to be crazy. Time change and elections! For those living in CA, please vote No on 8. Don't deny me the right to wedding gift registry in the future. ;)

Pumpkin Banter

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Time to die for your crimes, Jack!"

*Ssshlunk* In plunges the knife, hilt deep, into the pumpkin's personified skull.

"Jesus Christ, Garrett, can't you just carve the damn pumpkin like a normal person?" bemoans my coworker as she details a sketch of my victim's future face with Monet-like perciscion.

"No. And technically I just want the seeds to I can toast and eat them. Jack here is just a by-product of that."

"So you don't want to carve a jack-o-lantern?"

"No, I didn't say that. Honestly, I could care less about lanternizing with a squash. I mean, I think the whole process of hollowing and illuminating disfigured winter produce is creative and whimical, but for the most part this is a culinary venture for me," I note as I begin to furtively whack away at the strings that attempt to keep the pumpkin's stemmed top on.

"Whatever, just skullcap him already so we can remove his brains." Cue the eyeroll.

"Yeah, I'll remove your brains in a second."

Ah, holidays.

Happy Halloween everybody.

Apocalypse, Nowish (In Regards to Wine, That Is)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wow, it's been a while since humanity really had a good show of stupidity in my presence and I guess that, like the dollar, our morals and economic views are depreciating as well. People are becoming a bit more frugal with their spending and (god forbid) now attempting to live within their means. As such, we're resorting to old budget meals we haven't used since the college days, adding a bit more water to our soups, clipping coupons, and aiming for leftovers. Indeed, it has been a while since I broke out doing fried eggs with green onions and soba. An oldie, but a goodie, and at around 25 cents per serving a damn fine bargain.

Furthermore we're choosing our wines from shelves that are much closer to the floor. A economic vertical shift (one of many in the wine industry as of late) that has forced most wine drinkers to take a southward glance when it comes to their selections at the store. I believe 2-Buck Chuck is going to make a resurgence in popularity, and home grown viticulture will probably take more root. Still, for those of us not inclined to brew our own wine we have to resort to blue light specialty wine. I would attempt to make my own, but my innate lack of self-preservation and general clumsiness would lead me to distill some sort of burgundy colored swill requiring two priests and a hazmat team to clean up.

So while at the Whole Foods checking out their specialty low price wines (read: < $7), I noticed a couple price checking a few bottles. She was a ex-pat Orange County woman; bleached hair, boob job (even I know God doesn't make breasts like that), Monolo Blah-nik personality type. He was about 30 years her senior, Armani loafers retiree and seemingly self-taught wine snob; the kind that probably sniffs plastic corks and abhors wine in boxes or with screw caps (Viva la Screwcap!).

Anywhose, back to eavesdropping, I sort of listened in on their conversation. It was a practical discussion of what wine to have with dinner and it seems they were able to afford shelling out a few twenties so good for them. As I don't really know much about wine I moved on to selecting my bottle, a simple white wine for dinner that was going for $6. I knew it went well with spicy food, and I prefer white anyways so it was a happy occasion for me.

"OH! You should try THIS Pinot Grigio, it's really TO DIE for."

I turned to find the woman looking at me with her Trish McEvoy laden face and gesturing towards a bottle on the wall. I glanced and noticed the $22 price tag. Looking back to her I cordially replied in earnest, "It's allright. I actually really enjoy this wine. It goes well with curry and it's more in my budget," in which I laughed to suppress my financial pain and to end the conversation.

"OH! You should NEVER buy a gris that's less than $15. It's just BOUND to be tacky." Unsure where she found this bit of fortune cookie knowledge and unclear as to what exactly defines a wine as "tacky" I smiled back.

"Well, you know, bad economy and all. Have to cut costs somewhere. Could be worse, could not be able to afford a bottle of wine at all."

"OH! OH! I TOTALLY understand. We stopped buying THIS brand," pointing with a well manicured french tipped finger to a $50 bottle of red wine. "It's fiscal TRA-GUH-DY! Like the money-world-apocalypse-NOW of wine!" Older husband looked over and nodded in agreement and then, I shit you not, grabbed a bottle of it anyway and popped it in his basket along with the non-tacky, previously mentioned white.

So I guess, for them, it's not quite the end of the world. Some thought must go into the purchases now before going along with them regardless.

Edible Sacramento & Waterboy Dinner

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Be sure to check out the new issue of Edible Sacramento, the piece I worked on made cover so yay! It talks about the use of fresh, local ingredients in cocktails and highlights Lounge on 20, HAWKS, and Paul Martin's American Bistro. The pics with the article are by the most awesome Holly, and her shots are worth checking out. It's definitely, on the whole, one of the best issues we have ever put out. If you enjoy it I hope you'll look into purchasing a subscription and supporting local food writers. *cough cough*

Also, a special note, Edible Sac is co-sponsoring a special dinner at The Waterboy. Four course meal with pairings from Kunde Estate Winery. Very shnazy. Plus you can meet our swanky ES editors and talk to them about the magazine and give 'em your input!

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