Moving Update

Saturday, March 29, 2008

This is me. Moving. Without having showered for 27 hours. Only eating pizza. Wearing the same gross clothes. I can actually smell myself. I forgot to use the flash on the camera. And, yes, I licked a gum wrapped and stuck it on my forehead because it seemed like a good idea. But - I am very close to having finished packing. Just thought I would share.

And P.S.: The kitchen took up like, eight boxes. Not including the cadre of crap I have that can't be boxed.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

So this is my pause post. I don't know for the what time, I lost track after the one with the meth lab next door (not a joke), but I am moving again. That means boxing up all my shit, sorting through the shit I want to keep and the crap I want to donate or throw away, and laboriously loading it into a U-Haul over many back breaking trips.

The said U-Haul I will haphazardly drive, endangering many and giving us all a moment to pause and ponder exactly what hemp smoked filled room of congressmen passed a law allowing any layman with a license behind the wheel of a 1-ton 16-wheeler doom coach.

Through the process I will curse. Ye Gods, I will curse. Those overhearing my dark forbidden words will suffer spontaneous nosebleeds. Children will cry. The elderly will be struck deaf. It will be biblical and ye shall tremble.

Plates will be lost. Fallen into whatever shadowy passages and realms, I know not of. Behind the counter to some distant place of dark nightmares and probably bits of cereal and a few twisty ties. Glasses will be broken, because damn it, whats a set of glasses without one shattered into a thousand fucking pieces?

I will be losing my gas stove. My baby, who has spoiled me. I sadly go back to electric. But I gain new cabinetry and well tiled floors and back splash. Given, it is a galley kitchen, yet I have overcome far more fearful, dungeon-esque kitchens where even the most stalwart and thick skinned cooks dare not brave for fear well understood.

Moving; it is anathema to me.

So, I will be emptying the kitchen. Eating pizza, take-out, and greasy MSG-a-licious Chinese food on paper and plastic. Taping up every bottle of oil and delicately loading it into a box like porcelain dolls, hoping each will survive the trip. Wrapping every goddamn dish in old pieces of newspaper. There will not be recipes. There will be no product reviews (maybe one or two if I can find the stupid port-drive I put them on). No restaurant reviews unless we count Pizza Hut.

If I post, feel lucky. I will try to be back up on the 2nd, or something. Maybe someone will say something stupid at work and I can toss that as a flesh cleaned bone to ya'll. Here's hoping. Of course, any time I ever said I was taking a break I posted anyways. So we'll see.

Then, of course, I need to hope I have the internet up and running when I get there. And then unpack the whole damn kitchen. And everything else...


Anathema. To. Me.

Early Spring Ruby Galette

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Rhubarb! I adore it. The sweet-tart taste, the ruby red color, the sweet aroma. *le sigh*

I had a bit of leftover frozen pie dough (I hate making my own, I dunno why, I just do) so I decided to utilize some delicious looking rhubarb I found. I paired it with some fresh vanilla and some ground ginger and threw it all together for a delicious tasty treat. This isn't so much a recipe as just something I tossed together, but the measurements and method are pretty straightforward.

This is the last recipe for a bit, as I'm moving. Again. So that means packing up everything in the kitchen and not buying any food. So I'll be eating out a lot more the next week or so. Hope ya'll enjoy this! (By the by, no finished picture as it did not survive long enough for that.)

Rhubarb Strawberry Galette
1 1/2 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 cup of chopped strawberries

3/4 cup of vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)

1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger

1 teaspoon of grated orange zest
thawed pie dough or one
pie crust recipe

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine all the pie ingredients together in a bowl and let macerate (sit) for about 10 minutes. Drain out most of the syrup that develops.
Unroll the pie dough (or roll out a good circle of your recipe).

Spoon in the filling into the middle, leaving a good inch to two inches around the sides open. Fold in the pie dough and press in to ensure that it doesn't come apart while baking.

Sprinkle with sugar and then bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve.

Pick and Choose Your Battles at Safeway

Saturday, March 22, 2008

From the archives, a moment I had in Safeway...

Checkout Boy: "Rhubarb is just red celery right? Why would anybody put that in a pie?"

Me: "...It's... uh... no."

Checkout Boy: "I'm sorry, I missed what you said. Paper or plastic?"

Me: *sigh* "Plastic."

Some battles just aren't worth fighting.

...Or Just Beat Them With a Homemade Casserole

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"I don't get you people. Why on earth would you cook something when you can save yourself the time and money and just buy this stuff? Who would want to bake when Save Mart has it already made?"

This is what someone recently asked me. This person is one of those typical people we see everyday. The kind who are grossly overweight, eats fast food EVERYDAY, and is just generally a massive heart attack waiting to happen.

Should you encounter one of these people, here are the arguments I suggest to you.

1) It's More Cost Effective: By buying ingredients, you have the ability to actually make many dishes. When you purchase a microwave pizza, you can only make one thing, the microwave pizza.

Another example, buying a package of "lowfat" Snackwells will get you 28 cookies for the price of $5.00. For all the ingredients you need for a batch of tollhouse cookies, you will probably spend around $8-$12. This includes flour, salt, sugar, eggs, butter, etc. Now while you spent more money, you have enough ingredients for multiple batches of cookies, with each batch giving you about 4 dozen, you already beat out the Snackwells.

Even then, if you don't make hundreds of cookies, you have ingredients for other recipes. Ingredients like butter and eggs are always in use and staples like flour and sugar usually last for long periods of time.

In in the long run saves you from having to eat out all the time. Saving you from eating another McMeal.

Thus, buying for scratch ingredients is a far more frugal approach.

2) It's Fun and Creative: Some of us actually enjoy cooking. It's fun for us. Sure it's not hunting for that last broken potato chip hiding under the couch cushion, but I guess that's a crucial difference between us.

I am allowed to be creative in what I make. Even if I have made it before, it's a bit different each time and I can, and usually do, switch it up somehow to make something new.

I suppose I can see the comfort in dependability with premade food, but still you would think that meat patties in brown sauce and chicken skin from K.F.C. would lose it's charm. Ah well, different strokes for different folks. Of course, these are the folks who also suffer strokes. =P

3) It's Healthier: All that crappy, no nutritional, crazy chemical crap you buy isn't healthy. It has no real health value. It's a wad of grease, fat, and sugar. Deep frying all your vegetables doesn't mean you are eating healthy. There is no argument here. Don't even try. Is it any wonder you struggle to breathe when you move?

4) You Can Make Time: Seriously, cook while you watch T.V.. What are you doing with all your time you can't possibly find at least 30 minutes in your day? Reality television isn't that engrossing as much as it is just gross.

In fact, if you are seeing it as a lack of time due to kids, family, work and so on, I can understand that. Some days, you just don't want to cook and that's okay. But try to involve your family and friends, get them into cooking. Rather than letting the kids watch T.V. show them how the kitchen works and try out new things. It will teach them to be self sufficient in the future and to eat healthier. (The Great Big Vegetable Challenge is a perfect example of this.)

If whoever you are arguing with still insist on complaining about making food from scratch, then at this point your tender grip on sanity is probably lost. Do yourself and the culinary dissenter in question a favor; put the bitch down. Best of luck to you.

Living Up to the Hype (Hawks Restaurant - Granite Bay, CA)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"It lives up to it. You have to go," Kate explained to me. Kate, the restaurant reviewer for SN&R and a friend of mine, gave Hawks her very first 5 Star Review. I was intrigued. Of all the places she had ever reviewed, and we had been to many of the same great places, this one beat all the rest. So after hearing time and again from every other food fan out there that they were shocked I hadn't been there, Rob and I made reservations to go.

The chefs, Michael Fagnoni and Molly Hawks, finally opened the much acclaimed restaurant after many delays. Along with pastry chef Michelle Andreotti, they have developed a menu that will blow your mind.

The decor, designed by Shawn E. Hall designs, is classic, clean, elegant. I was envious. It's the exact style I have always dreamed for my living room. EXACT. The powder blue walls, the white clean lines, the contemporary lighting, the dark chocolate brown accents, the playful large print paisley curtains. My lord, even the dog tooth chairs (my God, is there anything gayer than me right now?). I was smitten!

As we sat down we started the meal with adorable tall shot glasses of spring onion soup. Spring onions, some veggie stock, and I think some cream. Light and grassy, an image of Spring itself. Presentation was a plus, as I enjoy minimalist simplicity.

I also would like to take a moment to speak about the waiters and busboys. It is my belief that the busboys are part ninja, part magician. They somehow sneak about and, while they're out in plain sight, you never really notice them. Suddenly *BAM!* they're at the table, and just as you notice they're there, *poof* they're gone. Soon you look down and notice that the dirty dishes are gone, the bread replaced, and the water refilled. I'm tellin' ya, ninja magicians. Hot ninja magicians.

The waiters are kind, informative, and know the menu well. I never felt pressured to purchase wine and didn't feel off-put when I asked for tap as opposed to sparkling water. Props.

Instead of wine, I went with a cocktail, one called the Kumquat Smash: bergamot, kumquats, and a sweet citrusy/floral liquor that I can't recall the name of. It was, literally, the best cocktail I ever had. The drink bloomed with flavor from the kumquat syrup and chopped kumquats within the drink, it enveloped me in an aromatic haze. The rim of the glass had been dipped in citrus juice, then dipped into sugar, an addictive trick for the tongue. (Also, where does one find bergamot in Sacramento?)

We started with a grilled artichoke heart, asparagus and beet salad with fresh greens and shaved Parmesan; exactly as stated on the menu. The dish was flavorful, fresh, and seasonal. A delightful salad that could easily be recreated at home now that the inspiration was there.

The potato gnocchi was light and airy, practically evaporating in your mouth into potatoy whisps. The woody hen mushrooms were surprisingly meaty and well, woody, with a slight scent of birch. A creamy sauce joined the two as one and allowed a delightful mingling to occur in my mouth.

The crispy duck confit with lentils de puy, baby watercress, and candied mandarinquats was, to be put it simply, amazing. Words cannot describe the tender juiciness of this duck. The skin was light and crispy with a snappy bite. The lentils were well prepared, not so much due to taste, though they were rich and musky like being deep in an overgrown pine forest, but due to texture; mine never come out so perfect. Whereas my lentis usually had a sort of mashy texture these were clean individual pearls of tastiness. The candied mandarinquats were sweet and floral, a perfect contrast to some of the natural salty and savory tastes of the duck.

When tasting the grilled pork tenderloin, with braised bacon, savory cabbage, and creamy polenta I almost melted like the pork did in my mouth. The chef suggested the pork medium-rare, and when it was seasoned and cooked slowly, it just seemed to transport me to a sweet and salty plce where only good things happen. Oh lord, it was the best pork ever. The large square of bacon was sweet and delicious as well, and the polenta was creamy and fit nicely with the pork and bacon.

For dessert we tried two different dishes, a chocolate semifreddo and beignets. The chocolate semifreddo was studded with hazelnuts, dark without being overly rich. The beignets were light pockets of delicious air and sugar. Served with vanilla pastry cream and citrus caramel it was comfort food elevated.

We then paused and reflected over the meal. I was in a stupor, gazing into nothing. Rob was getting upset with me since I was unable to respond to any of his now one-sided conversation due to the onset of my blissful food coma. And not a so-full-I-want-to-explode food coma. This was a best-meal-ever food coma.

The bill was brought over with tiny offerings of fresh made peanut butter cups and frozen mint leaves rolled in sugar and dipped in chocolate. Fresh and delightful were each. Just pure, untainted flavors.

The only downside during the night is there is a bit of a wait for things, but nothing oppressive, but enough for it to come to mind. Also, Hawks is a pricey meal, hitting around $50 a person on the low side, but you really get your money's worth.

My final word is this: Hawks lives up to the hype. Totally and completely.

Quarry Pond Shopping Center
5530 Douglas Blvd. Suite 110
Granite Bay, CA 95746
Image From Shawn E. Hall Designs

Easy Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding

Monday, March 17, 2008

I usually end up making too much rice whenever I cook it. I usually make a simple snack of the leftovers by adding some salted butter, or throwing it into Monday night stir-fry when I use up any leftover veggies or whatnot.

However, this time I decided to try something different. I wanted to make some rice pudding, but I had no cream or whole milk, and didn't feel like stirring over a pot forever. So I whipped up this simple coconut rice pudding. It uses leftover rice, 2% milk (though whole would be fantastic), and some fresh vanilla because, well, I love vanilla. If you have some coconut flakes, I would highly suggest you garnish with them.

Simple and easy, it's a nice little way to use up that extra rice.

Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding
1 1/2 cups of cold cooked rice
1 1/2 cups of coconut milk

2 cups of whole or 2% milk
1/3 cup of sugar

pinch of salt
1 vanilla bean, insides scraped out

Combine all the ingredients together in a saucepan and simmer over medium-low heat for 40 minutes. Allows to cool and serve.

Related Links:
Horchata Rice Pudding
Bay Rice Pudding

Tattletales Will Receive Baked Goods

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Found at The Bread Store...

Hey Babycakes! (Babycakes Bakery - Sacramento, CA)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

From the Winter Issue of Edible Sacramento, 2008. Be sure to get your subscription today. Eat Local, Read Local!

Peeling the painter's tape off of the display cases I look around at the shop which doesn't look quite finished but is slated to open in a few days. It seems impossible to me but they're determined and people are already stopping in every few minutes asking if they're open for business. Moving on to help Kristine wipe down the unrelenting streaks out of the glass we chat about cupcake recipe successes and failures, how much there is to do in so little time, and joke around. It isn't so much an interview as it is just hanging out with a few friends over bits of well frosted goodness.

Teresa arrives, cupcakes in tow, and we exchange pleasantries and hugs. The overall mood is warm and convivial despite the temple bludgeoning stress that accompanies opening any business. Still, everyone is warm and friendly despite my intrusion.

The shop is Babycakes, a new cupcake and sandwich shop run by Teresa, a cooking instructor at ARC, Kristine a pastry chef and old student of Teresa’s and their husbands Bertram and Chris. They recently opened over on J Street in Sac to an appreciative community, as we’re interrupted more than once by curious and hopeful patrons.

Teresa begins to pipe mounding swirls of cream cheese frosting on sugar roasted pumpkin cupcakes with walnuts and raisins and advises me as to creating the perfect frosting. "It’s 50% cream cheese, 50% butter, then just enough powdered sugar to sweeten it and maybe a bit of vanilla.” She then informs me about their meringue buttercream, using only fresh butter, “No margarine will ever walk through our door!”

Not just a simple cupcake shop, Babycakes is an enthusiastic proponent of using local, organic, and sustainable ingredients to put together its menu. The sandwiches use local bread baked by the Grateful Bread Company and their produce comes from Del Rio who provide for many other famous restaurants and bakeries in Sacramento.

The family built business also insists on keeping their cakes seasonal. You won’t be finding any strawberry cakes this winter (or any winter), but cranberries and winter squashes will make their appearance. Classic favorites like chocolate and vanilla will always be available.

The sandwiches consist of classic favorites with new twists such as smoked chicken salad sandwiches with celery, scallions, aioli and Del Rio greens on country bread. Another appetizing favorite is the natural ham with Jarlsberg cheese, Del Rio greens, marinated red onions and whole grain mustard. Vegetarians will also find their own options pleasing and delightful.

“Cupcakes are small, manageable, everyone gets what they want, and plus its cake!” they all beamed at me as they continued to ready for their grand opening.

The cupcake craze is sweeping the nation, and when you drop by Babycakes, you’ll find out why.

(Special Online Update - The chai and red velvet cupcakes are to die for. After now tasting practically every flavor they have to offer, I can see why they are always packed and so popular! Be sure to drop by!)

3675 J Street, Sacramento


Chocolate Tasting with Ginger Elizabeth

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I know I posted about this before, but after a chocolate tasting class with Ginger Elizabeth, I highly encourage you to visit, or if you live out of town call, and get some of the best chocolate you will ever try. Period.

I organized a chocolate tasting class with some other local bloggers and food writers. Learning about the process of growing chocolate, how to taste and compare, and how to better appreciate chocolate was just amazing. She even provided us with some cocoa nibs, pure cocoa butter, and a brands and flavor pairings of chocolate such as Meyer lemon and dark chocolate.

It's always inspiring to see someone who is so impassioned about their subject. She even spoke to us about her upcoming trip to Belize to learn to make chocolate they way the Belizians do. I would write more about our experience, but you can read my impressions of Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates when the Spring 2008 issue of Edible Sacramento comes out.

You can however see pictures and read up about the tasting at the following blogs:
Fernanda at Chucrute com Salsicha (who also took these amazing pictures!!!)
Andrea at Rookie Cookery
Photos by Ashley of Studio 707 (where you can see me in a hairnet *shudder*)


Saturday, March 8, 2008

I'm typing this after two of these, hoping there are no typing errors. Very fruity. Very tasty. Very tipsy. Mandarinquats or maybe limequats would rock too. Be sure to check out the recipe for candied kumquats at Simply Recipes.

3 ounces of Mandarin Vodka
1 ounce of White Cranberry Juice
1 ounce of Orange Juice
a few candied kumquats

Shake vodka and juice over ice. Pour into a martini glass and garnish with some candied kumquats. (Chopped regular kumquats are fine too.)

Darjeeling, California

Friday, March 7, 2008

Remember Coconut Milk Cheese guy? Well, he strikes again...

Coworker -
So what exactly is Darjeeling? Is it a black tea?

Me - Darjeeling is a tea which is usually black but can be oolong or green.

Coworker - So why is it called Darjeeling in specific?

Me - Well, it's like champagne. Champagne can only be officially produced in the Champagne District of France. Darjeeling is a specific place in India. According to the Tea Board of India, a Darjeeling must be grown and produced in a tea garden in Darjeeling. The region gives tea a very light and distinct flavor.

Coworker - So is there Californian Darjeeling?

Me - No, that would be Californian tea, though I dunno if there actually is any.

Coworker - But what if they use the same leaves as in India?

Me - There is only one kind of tea leaf really.

Coworker - So it is the same.

Me - No, it has to come from Darjeeling, India.

Coworker - But if it is grown here then I can buy cheaper, local Darjeeling, right?

(long pause)

Me - Yes. Yes, you can. You can even buy official champagne from Fresno.

Coworker - Really?

Me - Sure. Why not?

Blueberry & Sour Cream Coffeecake

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A friend of mine has a small green house where she recently coaxed a bushel of blueberries out in the very early throes of March. Amazing, no? So when she offered me some, there was no way I was going to turn her down. Blueberries are one of my favorite fruits, their deep hues, summer time taste, the memories I associate with them, frenetically popping them into my mouth with such eager gusto. I decided to make some spring-y with them, a sort of baking magic spell to help coax warmer weather in a bit earlier this year.

This is a delicious coffeecake that enchants anyone who tries it. It’s a traditional coffeecake with its delicious cinnamon-brown sugar swirl, but the addition of blueberries gives it a nice burst of fresh flavor.

I know blueberries aren't in season (maybe in Chile) but really, some thawed out frozen blueberries are great, and lend itself to a nice taste of warmer days still to come.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffeecake
Makes 20 cupcakes / 350 F oven

What You’ll Need…
3/4 cup of butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of sour cream
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Powdered sugar for garnish

What You'll Do...
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each.

2) Mix in the sour cream and the vanilla extract, mix well.

3) Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Mix into the batter until just incorporated.

4) Fold in the blueberries, being sure not to break or crush them. Roughly fold in the brown sugar and cinnamon, being sure it stays in large swirls of cinnamony-sugar goodness.

5) Spoon into a 13x9 pan which has been lightly greased and floured. Bake for 30-35 minutes at 350F. Allow to cool on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.


Feel free to switch the blueberries out for other berries. Chopped rhubarb is fantastic in this as well during spring.

A variety of other spices might work here which could allow departure from a traditional coffee cake, such as ground ginger or even a chai spice mix.

A Story of Kumquats - A Practice in Creative Nonfiction

Saturday, March 1, 2008

“A Story of Kumquats”

By Garrett McCord

"The hell...?"

The exclamation escaped as, from a passing glance at the shadowed dirt gathered so perfectly around a tree, I noticed a small orange something. The simple cement planter of dirt allotted for the tree was moss covered and, dashed upon the dull green and brown ground, were meteorites of citrus - kumquats.

They were scattered about, breaking up the miniature and contained landscape with bright declarations of fruit. Many remained whole, whereas others had been tasted and discarded by animals who had disagreed with their sweet-tart flavor, and then there were others which gravity's force had pummeled, the little fruits' tight skins bludgeoned open, their insides oozing onto the ground.

"Well I'll be damned."
A kumquat tree, in the middle of the Sacramento State campus. I circled it a few times examining it. I was taking into account what fruit was there and remained. More so, I was locking the tree there with my gaze, as if looking away would suddenly render the tree barren. I was determined to keep the dazzling orange tree-scape bound to the earth and in my vision, a bounty this great would be too much to lose.

Part of my mind wanted to reject the boon. Though I knew that in all actuality, Northern California was ideal for growing kumquats, the tree in itself seemed out of place. There were no other fruit trees, as far as I knew, on the campus. This one seemed to have been simply plucked from an orchard and planted for no reason, as if the original landscaper had frivolously decided, on a whim perhaps, to grab a single kumquat tree from a nursery and drop it in front of the English Department. A random act of generous landscape design.

I continued to walk my repetitive gyre, investigating my find. It seemed the lower branches had been plucked a bit, as the citrus was sparse and, in some places, altogether gone. The higher the branches went, about 15 feet at its peak, the less green foliage there was and the more the bright sun-repelling balls took over.

It would be a waste, I decided, to let them all go to the birds and ground. I started my ascent. I lofted my backpack against a forked limb, shaking it to ensure that my rustling wouldn't cause it to fall. Locking myself into an awkward foothold and bracing my rear on a flimsy but fibrous branch I began to examine the dangling nubile fruits.

Each little kumquat, firm and ripe, begging to be plucked. As I began to grab my mind raced and my smile widened. The possibilities! The extravagence! The wealth that only I knew existed here.

At first I began to examine each little 'quat, seeing if it was green and early or jubilant in its springtime hues. But the umbrage cast by the slight canopy above me made it difficult and I soon found myself no longer caring. Into the backpack they went.

Pop. Off the tree. Slip. Into the backpack. Pop. Pop. Pop. Another tug at the limbs. Slip. Slip. This was a mission. Pop. Pop. Slip. Slip. Pop. Again and again.

Slip. One dropping out of my hand, bouncing off the ground, rolling away and catching the attention of a passerby, who may have began to wonder about that kumquat and the tree itself. Or not.

More people began to pass as I plucked away. I wondered what some of them thought of me, if they understood my citrusy pleasure and mission, or chose to just ignore me, writing me off as simply a crazy man up a tree. I decided I didn't care and went about my harvesting

The pockets of my backpack began to bulge, obese with kumquats. Too many to count. Enough to eat through classes. Enough to make kumquat salsa. Enough to make candied kumquats. Enough to brew kumquat marmalade. Enough to cure into preserved kumquats. More than enough to share.

The backpack began to grown heavy, the forked limb beginning to bend and give. I examined my watch, and realized I was out of time. Class would begin in a few minutes; Postmodern Fiction waited for no one. My legs began to grow stiff, my ass dirty, and the remaining kumquats were out of my reach. Any further plucking would require risk and balance, and while my spirit was up to the task, my aching legs were not. I would have to return to my newly discovered treasure, hidden in plain sight.

I wasn't worried that they would be gone. No one would take them. What better defense could there be than people's own discomfort? How many people would climb a tree in front of so many peers, foolishly fearing judgment from faceless never-to-be-seen-agains? No, the kumquats would be there next week.

Waiting for me.

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