Cheese Profile - Pecorino Romano

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The name literally means Roman (romano) Sheep (pecora), a famous and historic Italian cheese. This cheese was a staple of the legionaries and was made according to the same recipe used today. Popular in pasta, it's sadly overlooked for harmonious wine pairing and elegant cheese plates.

Type: Sheep

Taste: Very nutty flavor, with a definite sheepiness to it. The cheese has a strong salty flavor in the back as well. The texture is granular but gives way to melting in your mouth a bit.

Serve With: This cheese is perfect when finely grated over lightly sauteed vegetables. Some freshly cooked pasta, with olive oil, minced garlic, chili flakes and sheep's milk peccorino romano is is a wonderful. Add some fresh greens and maybe some shrimp or clams for a simple easy meal. For wine, dry reds or even a strong dry white wine would pair well for the intense salty flavor. Stick to Italian wines to help keep with country of origin.Photos by Elise Bauer

The Best Little Taco Secret (El Herradero Taqueria - Sacramento, CA)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

From Edible Sacramento, Winter 2008-2009. Be sure to pick up or order your copy!The main pitfall to reviewing restaurants is that you have to check out so many places that you don’t really have a chance to make a place you love your own. I do have one secret little place though, which after much debate (serious about that by the way) I decided to write about.

El Herradero Taqueria is a little adobe colored building with green awnings that you’ve probably passed by a thousand times on Arden, but never gave it much notice. Walking up you’ll notice the quaint patio seating, but inside you’ll notice the art work by local artists, and the pain staking detail put into the upholstery, paint, and every other eye catching piece of décor. It’s homey and warm, encouraging you to come in and enjoy yourself.

It’s been open less than a year, but they already have a loyal customer base. As I sat and ate my meal, Rosa greeted many of her customers by name and knew their orders by heart. No less than three had brought friends to introduce to the excitingly brazen menu.

Did I forget to mention the menu? It’s very simple. Taco’s, fajitas, and burritos. But it’s the choices involved, the basics such as pescado, camaron, y carnitas (fish, shrimp, and pork), to some choices that most Americans aren’t used to like lengua and cabeza (tongue and head).

The shrimp taco, which can be grilled regular, spicy, or with garlic, is served with sour cream, chopped cabbage, Spanish rice, and when made with spicy shrimp packs quite a punch. The shredded pork taco is served with salsa, beans, cilantro, and has the best shredded pork I have ever had. Period.

The carne asada is a bit greasy for my preference, but will please any fan. If you’re an adventurous eater looking for a traditional taco taste, try the tongue with salsa verde. It tastes a bit like turkey with salsa.

It’s less crowded than Tres Hermanas and Chipotle, and tastes way better; it’s a secret worth exploring.

El Herradero Taqueria
2330 Arden Way
Sacramento, CA 95825

Pay Attention

Monday, February 25, 2008

A lesson learned today: Make sure you pay attention when you add soy sauce to your dish, making sure you aren't grabbing the fish sauce by mistake. That is all.

Food Blog Search

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Elise of Simply Recipes has just unveiled Food Blog Search! A special search engine that searches over 1800 food blogs for content utilizing Google technology. The perfect way to search for recipes, tutorials, advice, or information from other trusted food bloggers. The banner was done by the shibby people over at Lobstersquad! You can add the banners to your site as well (see my sidebar for an example). Be sure to try it out!

And personally, I think the blond one with the cupcakes looks a bit familiar...

Olives as a Source of Reflection

Thursday, February 21, 2008

I was lucky enough to head down to Napa with Elise to see Carl and Ashley at Quixote Winery. It was an awesome and educational experience ripe with... olives! Tasty, tasty olives. Afterwards, a lunch with good food and great people in a breathtaking space.

Times like this it's nice to reflect on a few things; how happy I am I live in California, and how good my life actually is that I can relax with friends and just jar some home-cured olives.

See some more of Ashley's pictures of the olive jarring here.

Patio Dining and Pets

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Enjoying my three day weekend, I decided to enjoy the deliciously warm weather, and catch some early spring sunshine with some friends and dine outside. At a local little cafe, we sat down to some warm tea and scones. We talked about everything from classes to classism and generally were loving the day until a huge, upper class and no class man with a baby stroller took a seat.

Now, the stroller was not the problem. It's what was in the stroller.

Inside was a Gucci color wearing pug.

The dog was no dainty dining diva. Contrary to what some believe, money does not buy class, only pedigree. As we gave each other knowing looks, eyes screaming to each other about how ridiculous this man was, strollering his dog about, we tried to do our best to not cover our ears so as not to look odd or rude but also because talking with our eyes was necessary.

You see, we had to communicate with our eyes as the dog was yapping and howling and barking and peeing on the patio non-fucking-stop. It would not shut-up. It just kept yapping.

About 8 minutes of this, and that was that. The owner seemed to encourage it, cooing it and having a what seemed to be engrossing conversation as he gave forkfuls of his omelet to the dog (eating with the same fork mind you).

I had my fill, "Excuse me?"

"Yes?" he looked at me, a stranger who had so grossly pressed himself on his human/mongrel tête-à-tête. Though part of him seemed to expect a compliment about his significant other.

"Could you please quiet your dog? He's quite loud."

"Oh, Fountain," (Fountain? The hell...?), "just likes to sing and talk!"

"Well, we're trying to enjoy a meal and we haven't had a chance to get out and enjoy ourselves in a while and we can barely hear each other, so please make the dog stop so I don't have to ask the management about it. Thank you."

It was a bluff, I had no idea if the management gave a damn or could do anything about it. He seemed to buy it and made the dog shut up. Sure it was bitchy. Sure it was mean. I don't care. He gave me a bit of a look as he left a little while later, but screw him.

I had an old roommate who had an out of control dog. It bit my friend. Peed everywhere. Ate everything. Chased Cid unmercifully. When I got sick and paramedics came, the dog tried to attack the paramedics. It was a nightmare.

Part of having a pet, especially one you plan to take out in public, is responsibility for it's behavior. If it cannot behave around other people, then something isn't so much wrong with the dog, as something is wrong with the owner and how they are training it. And if they plan to bring their dog to a cafe, then that's fine if Sparky is well behaved.

I love dogs. I do. Just not bad ones who make me want to coldcock the owners. Like parents in a restaurant who totally just tune out their screaming out of control children.

I won a small victory for me. And hopefully struck a tone against the crazy my-dog-is-my-baby-my-life people.

Cheese Profile - Aged Mahón

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Mahón, on the island of Minorca off the Spanish coast, is known for producing this delicious cheese aptly named after the city. Temperaturized rather than pasteurized, it's a raw cow's milk cheese. It's distinctive bright orange color (here a bit browned from it being aged a year longer) comes from it's being rubbed with butter, oil, and paprika. This is a delicious example of the fine cheeses coming from Spain.

Type of Milk: Cow, raw

Taste: Fruity and sweet, with a nice tang. It has a salty quality to it as the grass the cows eat often picks up a large salt content from the ocean air. The paprika rub lends a slight spice to it. While it can be a bit granulated, the one I sampled was semisoft with a nice giving texture.

Janet Fletcher notes, "The interior becomes golden and firmer as the cheese matures, and nut and caramel aromas develop that call to mind dulce de leche, the Mexican caramelized-milk dessert," (Cheese & Wine, p. 84).

Serve With: Perfect for a fruit platter or with strong, fruity red wines,preferably Spanish.

Side Note: Eat Beast and Cid LOVE this cheese. Eat Beast stole an entire slice from my plate and then Cid stole it from him, from which a small fight over who got to eat it ensued.

Cheese Profile - Cypress Grove Bermuda Triangle

Friday, February 15, 2008

Kicking off a new series of posts here on Vanilla Garlic. Much like the tea profiles, cupcakes, or essays, once in a while we'll be reviewing cheeses. Entertaining, educational, and a reason for me to buy good cheese. Profile: Cypress Grove Chevre is famous for their Humboldt Fog cheese, however I decided to try something else of theirs. The Bermuda Triangle is an excellent choice, and a thriftier option at that, for any cheese plate. It's striking triangular shape and distinct concentric layers of rind, inner cheese (proteolysis), and paste are visually stimulating. The cheese is coated with a fine layer of organic vegetable ash, that makes it age and develop differently than Humboldt Fog.

Type of Milk: Goat

Taste: Earthy and mild. Becomes creamier with age. Slightly reminiscent of very pungent brie.

Serve With: Fruit and cheese platter. Amazing with apples and pears, or smeared on ciabatta. A grilled cheese with arugula and pears would be fantastic.


Nigella Quotes & Preggers Returns!

"For some, the best kind of wine is the one that is poured quickly."
-Nigella Lawson

"Food can either impress or give pleasure. It's far easier to impress someone than to give them pleasure."
-Nigella Lawson

Heard those on public radio yesterday, thought I would share.

Also, guess who I ran into at the very same coffee shop? PREGGERS! Whose actual name is Lisa, and although she is no longer up the duff, she had a beautiful baby boy named Earnest (named from the play, how awesome is that!?). Congrats!!!

Squirrel Melts

Monday, February 11, 2008

If you are easily disturbed or made queasy, please do not watch this. You have been warned.


Oliphant Estate - Sri Lankan Green Tea

Sunday, February 10, 2008

This is the last in my week of tea posts. Hope you enjoy!Green tea is known for coming from China, however Oliphant Estate (or Oliphant Mao Feng) is from Sri Lanka. So named for growing on the prestigious Oliphant Estate located in the Nuwara Eliya region. This area has a very high altitude giving the tea a very robust and deep flavor. Since the leaves are also so tightly rolled, the tea can be used for multiple steepings.

The taste is light and very clean. Slight and delicate. This green tea is known for not being as strong tasting as other green teas. It's airy and with faint grassy tints hint as wide tea fields on open mountain ranges with clear sky dotted with clouds as far as the eye can see. It's a tea that the everyday drinker may not care for due to it's lack of pronounced flavor, but the connoisseur will treasure with each warm, intriguing sip.

Any specialty tea store should carry it, but it can be easily ordered online at many vendors and even or

Catering to a Request?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I love e-mail from readers, it gives me joy. I especially love hate mail, or mail from Crazies. It entertains me to no end, and I am often apt to share them with friends. I have never produced them here on the blog because, well, I just want to have some sense of propriety and decency. I think that regardless how I feel I can let them avoid exposure on the blog and let them save face.

This e-mail however, I feel was worth sharing. It was also a post I was unsure of posting, still I am. Spelling and grammar have been left untouched. Names have been changed.

Hi, My name is ---- from X Catering Company. I was reading your reviews and was wnodering if you ever review caterers? My family is starting have problems getting our catering business going due to lots of stupid people complaining about the food not being good (you know how that is, since i read your stories all the time). Was thinking you could maybe come to a wedding we are planing to cater for and review the food. You could come in the back probably during the reception. We would be happy to only charge youy a smaller fee that what is actually the cost. Please let me know. Love your blog!

Wow... I am happy you like the blog's reviews and stories on the Crazies. Sadly, I am lumping you in with the latter. What would help your catering business most is providing good customer service, ensuring high quality food for a reasonable price, and maybe look into hiring someone to do your marketing. Word of mouth can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If people are giving bad reviews of your work on a consistent basis, it warrants attention, not a quick fix from a local website.

I also understand the "stupid" people aspect. I worked in a coffee shop for a long time, and the populous at large did a number on my sanity. However, lumping them all together and calling them that in a semi-business style e-mail is just unprofessional. Would prospective clients hire you if you only see them this way? Would I want to review you if I know you see people this way?

Reviews are usually anonymous. I would never let you know I was coming or reviewing you. Rarely do I do a review with a place having prior knowledge to my arrival (actually, only once). But also asking me to sneak into someone's wedding? I don't even know where to start.

This is not me being a bitch. This is Business & Economics 101. Take the customer feedback seriously and sit down and figure out why you are in the catering business, and if it (like anything else in life) is something you want to do then take the time to approach it in the right way.

Best of luck to you.

For Blogs By Actual Caterer's Check Out:
Just the Two of Us
The Food Whore

Pear Blackcurrant Tea

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

German fruit teas are particularly exquisite for what they are. They're made with all fruit and contain no actual tea leaves at all. German fruit teas are popular during the colder months as a way to bring some summer perk when things are particularly gray and snowy. Come the warmer months, it's delicious served over ice or churned into vanilla ice cream.

Pear Blackcurrant is the name of one particularly popular German fruit tea. While dried pear and black currants are the majority of the fruit, red currants, blackberries, and strawberries are abundant as well. The overall taste is tart, fruity, and very berry with a nice hint of pommey pears (though not enough). Personally I like to stir it with a cinnamon stick and sweeten it with honey. Eaten with fresh scones or as an after dinner tea, it's a pleasant relaxing German fruit tea.

German fruit teas are also usually organic and caffeine free, so for those who are sensitive to tea, this is a perfect alternative.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Sunday, February 3, 2008

A delightful little classic cupcake. You won't find it here however. I did the recipe for Elise over at Simply Recipes. Feel free to hop over there to see the cupcakey goodness.

5 Foods I Like to Have on Hand (But Not Admit Too)

This list is a list of foods I love to have in the house, but never really admit to people until today. They are mass produced, greasy, unhealthy, and just against the eat local, organic, etc. foodie code of sorts. Still, I heart them so very much.

1) Captain Crunch -
or Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Cause sometimes, I want comfort food in highly unnatural colors in a bowl big enough to wash a puppy in. Come research paper time at grad school, me, my laptop, and captain crunch are inseparable.

2) Chicken Bouillon Cubes - It's cheap. It's there. It's a time saver. Plus I ran out of the stock I always never get around to making. Sure it's stocked with sodium, but that means I don't salt the soup.

3) Cheez-its - Best. Snacky Food. EVER. I will rarely share them with company. Or family. Or friends. Sorry. But no. Mine. Touch them and I will drive a steak knife into your eye.

4) Toaster Ready Waffles - Mmm... with 2% real maple syrup (have you seen the price for 100% pure?!). Best lazy breakfast ever. Normally, I have a bowl of Special K with fruit and a glass of milk, or I go to the oatmeal setup I have at work, but sometimes, especially Tuesday mornings, this is a nice go to.

5) Frozen Corndogs - The most shameful of the list. On the days I have work all day and school all night and don't get home until around 9 pm (having left at 6 am) I just want something to fill my stomach and make me happy. Greasy, salty sweet corndogs with spicy mustard hit the spot and knock me out.

I know the rest of you have little food sins to confess... feel free to free yourself of them in the comments section.

Cardamom Pistachio Cupcakes with Rice Pudding

From the Cupcake Archives, one of my favorite recipes!
I don't really know where the original idea for this cupcake came from, it had just been stirring around for a while. I know I have been wanting to do something featuring some Middle Eastern flavors, and this seemed about as close as I could get without wandering into cheese pastry or baklava territory. Plus, this cupcake was something rich and luscious. Formal and elegant. Beloved.

I do admit that this one is highly time consuming and somewhat labor intensive. It's a recipe to save for a day off or when it's cloudy and icky outside. Turn on a Norah Jones CD, dress comfy, and relax with your thoughts while you shell pistachios, or stir the rice pudding. In the end the whispering oohs and aahs escaping from your friends and family after their first bite are all worth it.

The rice pudding is a recipe from The Wednesday Chef, who got it from the book Mastering Simplicity. It involved a vanilla bean, which as you know by now means I am all over it as I loves the vanilla. (Note: This recipe asks for pistachios, cardamom, and vanilla beans. Go to World Market for the spices, and a farmers market for the pistachios. Total cost I paid... $8.) The bay leaf added a nice floral, slightly woodsy quality in the faint background. I suggest that for the last 15 minutes of cooking you stir constantly. This will keep the bottom from being burned, which necessarily isn't a bad thing as it caramelizes a bit making a slight flan kinda taste but for purity's sake avoid that this time.

The rice plumps up well, and becomes creamy and oh-so-delish! This one is a keeper, as in print it out now and file it in your recipe box keeper. It's also very easy to make, with ingredients I usually have on hand, so I can see myself making this a few more times on rainy and lazy days.

The cupcake was an interesting recipe. I was wondering if it would be a tad sketchy, and the batter looked a tad bit odd, but it all worked out wonderfully. I cut out the vanilla extract, and by cut out I mean forgot, but never mind that it was tasty regardless and wouldn't add it anyways if I did it again as enough vanilla flavor comes in from the rice pudding. The cake is delicate and fragrant. Honestly, I haven't tasted anything like it. The oils from the pistachios and the spice of the cardamom are phenomenal, they became perfectly woven with the rice pudding. The first thing I thought of was enjoying these with a copy of Arabian Nights. Scheherazade's stories are the auricular equivalent to these cupcakes and their rich tapestry of aromas and flavors! Overall, one of the best cupcakes I think I've ever turned out.

(For your reading benefit, and to allow you to better love these cupcakes, here is a link to an online text of Arabian Nights.)

Pistachio Cardamom Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes / 350 degree oven

What You'll Need...
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup of sugar
3 eggs
1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
1/2 cup of whole milk
3/4 cup of unsalted, unroasted pistachios
1 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

What You'll Do...
1) Cream the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure complete mixture.
2) Place pistachios in a food processor and chop until finely ground. All the flour, cardamom, salt, and baking powder until pulse once or twice to mix.
3) Add the milk and vanilla extract if using it to the butter mixture. Mix well. Add the flour-pistachio mixture and mix until blended.
4) Place into cupcake papers, and bake for 16-20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean (no crumbs) in a 350 degree oven. Let cool on a wire rack.
5) Cut out small cone shaped pieces of the cupcake and scoop the rice pudding into the little cupcake potholes you've made. Cover with chopped pistachios.

Rice Pudding
Recipe from Mastering Simplicity via Wednesday Chef
Serves 4-6 (enough for the cupcakes, plus a lot more for snacking!)

What You'll Need...
3/4 cup of long grain rice
1 bay leaf
5-6 cups of whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 cup of sugar
large pinch of salt

What You'll Do...
1) Place rice in a small sauce pan with the bay leaf and two cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat and then drain. Transfer rice and bay leaf to a heavy 3 quart pot.
2) Add 4 cups of milk, the sugar, vanilla bean, and the salt. Place over very low heat, stirring occasionally, until milk has been absorbed by rice, about an hour. Rice should be tender and rice should be creamy. Add another 1 or 2 cups of milk and continue cooking for another 20-30 minutes. Stir often to prevent the bottom from burning. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Mouth Candy as Eye Candy

Friday, February 1, 2008

Get your ass to L & 18th Street in midtown Sacramento. Go into Ginger Elizabeth Chocolates. Buy whatever pretty thing catches your eye first, as it will taste as good as it looks if not better. Look for a review in the Edible Sacramento - Spring '08 issue come April.

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