Duck Broth - A Small Practice in Slow Food and Damn Fine Tastiness

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I recently met up with Hank, wild game cook extraordinaire, for dinner and trade. I had a bunch of hard to get spices on hand that simply weren't getting much use and he had an abundance of ducks. In need of thai long peppercorns in order to work his way through a cookbook (one of those impossible ones like TFL or Alinea's, but knowing Hank he can pull it off) he gave me a spoonie duck. 

Now this is a real treat for any cook. You see, federal law prohibits the sale of wild game fowl. You can hunt as many as your want for your own consumption, but you cannot make a profit from it. As such, if you aren't a hunter, you need friends who hunt. Luckily, I do, as a hunting rifle in my hands would probably end up with Cheney-like results. 

The bird was squirted with lemon juice, seared, stuffed with lemon and thyme, and then blasted in the oven. Served with quinoa, pickled kumquats, brussels sprouts and some wine it was a perfect sunday meal for one - a great chance to spoil myself (and on a budget, go me!).

The following day I decided to break the duck carcass down. To throw away those bones and bits of meat would be a crime and violation of the little duck's life. So into a pot his mauled little corpse went along with some bok choi, some thai peppercorn, a few cloves of garlic, and a smidgen of shallot. 

The result? Beautiful, gamey, smooth, bright tasting duck broth. It is something to taste and behold in and of itself. To hell with veggie stock and chicken stock. I'm about ready to be done with beef stock almost. Duck broth is where it's at folks. 

Before I planned to simply make soup with it, instead it was enjoyed on its own. Served in a large bowl with a side of soba noodles which eagerly soaked up some of the broth when dipped, the husky, earthy flavors of the buckwheat noodles were eager to compliment the gamey duck broth.

If anything I found a small lesson in this. Allow me to wax poetics and prose for a moment, but these two meals are the essence of slow food. Not only that, I call it a return to basics. A return to old food. In the 1920's when tinning and canning became widespread, 30 years before the superhighway, the dawn of refrigeration transport, a few decades before the fast food restaurant chain. This is how people ate for thousands of years. Any animal wasn't just nibbled at and tossed. Each and every piece was sacred and given thanks for. Nothing wasted, nothing taken for granted. 

I feel very Michael Pollan-esque right now.

Sweet Pea Cupcakes with Sour Cream Frosting

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From the Cupcake Archives from March of 2007. This recipe was recently republished in a cookbook in the UK under the name Petit Pois Muffins. Very kid friendly and very delicious.

I have no freakin' clue why I thought of attempting this. Seriously, a cake based on peas?! What the hell? I guess it was the arrival of March. The barely audible first steps of Spring that are creeping in with blooming trees and slightly sunny days.

But still, peas? They're sweet and I do love them in soup, salads, savory dishes, dried with wasabi, and so on and so on so why not give it a shot? Someone made zucchini bread. Carrot cake. Sweet potato pie! Someone has to try peas. Might as well be me.

And you know what? It works. Quite well I might add. For one, it doesn't taste like peas. Well, maybe a slight bit but nothing unpleasant. Quite the opposite, it's sweet, fresh, bright. It's really impossible to describe the taste by flavors so I'll try to do it through images. It's a fresh cake that would replace a sweet cornbread at the dinner table. With the first bite, images of a simple afternoon tea, the table adorned with these bright green cakes, the sun starting to come down and creating dancing shadows through the trees entered my mind.

It's a simple, quick, and cheap to make recipe. While the actual fact that this is a pea cake seems daunting, even crazy, don't let it put you off. Oh no, for you'd be doing yourself a great disservice. This cupcake is sweet and colorful; it's perfect for the upcoming St. Patrick's day and a sweet smelling fanfare for the coming of Spring.

By the by, these are also celebratory cupcakes. Celebration for a few reasons:
1) Garrett got accepted to CSUS for the English Master's Program. That's right. I'm one step closer to teaching college classes and warping the minds of America's youth.
2) Garrett got promoted at work, and thus is moving to the Sacramento office.
3) Based on the above two, it's time to move from Davis to Sacramento. Goodbye Davis! I have loved you for nearly 6 years, but it's time for a change. I'll be back for the farmer's market though, so no worries.

Sweet Pea Cupcakes
Makes 20 cupcakes / 375 F degree oven

What You'll Need...
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups of sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups of peas, pureed
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 1/2 cups of cake flour
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder

What You'll Do...
1) Whisk together the eggs and sugar until bright and well emulsified.
2) Add the oil, extract, lemon juice, and pea puree. Mix well.
3) Add the flour and baking powder. Beat until just mixed.
4) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake in a 375 F oven for 14-16 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Set aside to cool, then frost.

Sour Cream Frosting
What You'll Need...
1/4 cup of butter, room temperature
1/3 cup of sour cream
2 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon of vanilla extract
pinch of salt

What You'll Do...
Beat the ingredients until light and fluffy, and slightly stiff peaks form.

The Changing Food Writing Scene in Sacramento

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I have been debating writing this post. The last thing I want to do is deride my fellow food writers in Sac. Still, I want to address it.

The food writing scene has changed here in Sacramento. If for the better or for the worse, I can't quite say yet. Recently the effervescent and thorough Kate Washington left the Sacramento News and Review to go to SacTown magazine where she should be able to revive from the dead what has in the past been the worst food writing and coverage a magazine has ever conceived. On the opposite end of the publishing spectrum our wine and food guru Mike Dunne, a pillar of the Sac food world who opted for the paper's voluntary buyout offer, has recently left the scene. A sad shame as Mike was one of few wine writers who people could trust implicitly due to his vast knowledge on the subject of wine though he's very humble about it.

Over at SN&R my friend and co-worker at Edible Sac, Ann Rolke was hired to do the by-columns and interviews. She's a great writer and a talented chef who has her own blog and cookbook. Already her pieces are pithy and informative; a pleasure to read.

Second at our weekly Sac rag is Greg Lucas, a SF political reporter now turned restaurant reviewer. His stories leading into the reviews are often thoroughly engaging and pull me into his world. Often I feel I'm sitting right there with him tasting each dish. The review of Samosa Garden was particularly artful and quite vibrant.

Now, Greg, I want to tell you what every foodie, food blogger, and food writer is saying: stop name-dropping. It's not giving you street cred, it's making us roll our eyes and not take the review seriously. It ends up sounding more like "Well I was dining with THIS PERSON and THIS PERSON, and THIS PERSON said the salsa was etc. etc. etc." Insert joke or comment. Supposed big laugh. I say this with love and a bit of ribbing mockery, but stop it. I don't care if you know Rosario Marin or Taka Watanabe. Also, the one-liners must go, but that's me as I personally can't stand them.

Furthermore, from what I gather you aren't primarily a food writer, but then who amongst us starts that way? I know I had no fucking clue what a Meyer lemon was at one time. Pick up a copy of Harold McGee's book and anything food related by Michael Rhulman and read it cover to cover. Not trying to be a bitch, but just trust me, you will find these to be valuable resources that you will turn to again and again (especially McGee's). I found that these helped me understand food on a new level and most others who have read them would agree.

The Bee hired as their new restaurant reviewer Blair Anthony Robertson, a staff writer who covered other stories for the Bee before applying to the position. His writing is smart and witty and it shows he's willing to put in the time and research in order to get the full story. At Tre he noticed the constant menu typos like Hank and I did and played well with it noting, "The best might have been the $6.95 'mocha moose terrine cake.' There were no large mammals harmed in the making of this dish." Point for Blair. I admire a man who can efficiently utilize dry humor.

What annoys me is he's been writing in his column and going into detail on NPR about playing undercover spy in the restaurant review biz. Let's be honest, in Sac you don't need to go undercover. You are not Ruth Reichl, you do not work at the New York Times. I've learned that if I simply put the reservation under a different name, that works just fine. After talking to a few restaurant owners, I've discovered only a scant few ever put up pictures of Kate or Mike and those were only the elite n' trendy places (one place I know did of me, I was shocked and honored but it made me wish I had uploaded better photos to my MySpace). Only one other time when I put a reservation under my name when I wasn't paying attention over the phone did me and my dining companions notice waiters pirouetting around the table. After conversations with other big paper reviewers they can all attest that it's only the LA, SF, Chicago, and NY papers' reviewers that need to really go undercover where the business is a bit more fast paced and epic.

The Bee also hired from in staff Gina Kim whose succinct style is fresh and poignant. Discussing food in a manner that is clear and to the point, she broaches stories where I feel I've learned something after reading. The main wine writer now is Chris Macias, his column Liquid Assets is digestible and I find I usually agree with his wine selections. His more investigative wine reporting isn't anything breakthrough but for the casual Food Section reader it's insightful and informative.

I would consider some of these writers par-baked. Feeling out their new diggs. At the moment among the food community it's become sort of in-trend to knock the new guys. How can we not when the people who have taught and talked with us for so many years have suddenly gone away or moved on? We feel slightly awkward in our new relationship so we test them and tease them as a way to get comfortable.

We need to give them more time in the oven before deciding one way or the other. This blog rarely does restaurant reviews anymore and only do them every blue moon (in fact look for one soon). Lord knows my own reviews and food writing has seen some bad prose. I can think of a few articles in Edible Sac and Sierra Style I wish I could take back, and more than a few posts I have to stop myself from deleting from existence every now and again. I rarely ever approach wine simply because I have little knowledge about it and less interest in writing about it.

I'm just a boy with a blog. I work at Edible Sac and take food writing and recipe development jobs where I can get them. I'm the last person to pass judgment and I know a few stones have been thrown my way (by few I mean weekly). It takes time to grow into a new position so I'll keep reading their work and looking forward to how they develop their space and hope to meet them all soon over dinner and drinks.

Cupcakes: Carrot, Cardamom, Cashew, and Bourbon

Sunday, January 25, 2009

First off, allow me to apologize for the picture. My place of work doesn't get picture friendly light, but allow me to go on. This cupcake is awesome. Period.

Originally, I was planning to use persimmons but, alas, there were none to be had. Switching gears in the store I went with carrots instead; a glad decision as their sweetness and flavor permeated this light and moist carrot cupcake. The mellow-sweet flavors of the roasted cashews support the carrots and add a nice crunch to the cake. The bourbon provides a slight bitter and tangy flavor that helps cut through the sweetness while the cardamom gives it spice and fragrance. With an over-whipped and glossy cream cheese frosting (also spiced with cardamom and bourbon) it is by and far the best carrot cake I have ever had, a sentiment echoed by many of my co-workers. The CEO even asked for the recipe. *insert loud peal of satisfaction*

I am going to tinker with this recipe a bit for something a bit more spring-ish when Easter rolls around.
Carrot, Cardamom, Cashew, Bourbon Cupcakes
Makes 2 Dozen

1 cup of cashews
1 pound of carrots
3 large eggs
1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon of lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 tablespoon of bourbon
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking soda
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons of ground cardamom
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1) Heat the oven for 350F. Place milk and lemon or lime juice together in a cup and allow to stand for 10 minutes.

2) Toast the cashews in the oven at 350F for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool, then chop coarsely.

3) Rinse, peel, and grate the carrots.

4) Mix the carrots, milk and juice mixture, oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and bourbon together and whisk.

5) In another bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spice together.

6) Fold the flour mixture into the carrot mixture. Then fold in the cashews.

7) Scoop into cupcake papers and bake for 19-21 minutes at 350. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Spiced Bourbon Frosting
8 ounces of cream cheese
2 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
1 teaspoon of bourbon

Whip the cream cheese for 3 minutes at high speed. Add the bourbon and cardamom and whip another minute. Add the powdered sugar and whip for 5 minutes. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.

New Roommate - Candace (No Citrus, Makes Good Soda Bread)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I have a new roommate once again, my old one moved away to be with her boyfriend which left an empty room and half of a rent check that needed to be filled as soon as possible. As soon as I was in the know the Craigslist ads went up and the updated duplex pictures I took for just such an emergency were highlight and touch-up'ed before being plastered all over the internet. The search was on and with great intensity. At the time I was happy for Danielle, but for myself I felt only apathy and exhaustion. Roommate hunting is anything but pleasant.

No drugs, no whores, no bores. I lived with all three before in my life and I wasn't looking for a repeat. In the past I have had good roommates, great roommates, ones who started great and turned evil, and ones who were just awful. From hiding pot to, spreading rumors, to finding a naked 50 year old man standing in my kitchen (I have tried to actually stab that mental image out of my head) there have been roommates that I am just more than happy to be through with. Others who I cooked with, shared secrets with, and talked out life problems long into the night over a few bottles of wine and cold pizza with. When living with people, it's always such a crapshoot.

The candidate search was not something I was looking forward too. The last one was a pain as a seemingly endless parade of people I would probably walk on the other side of the street from in order to avoid came through the door. Crazies with cats, scary tattooed men, and a family with a toddler (three people in a tiny 10X10 room? I think not) all came to examine the humble abode. Lucky for me I found someone on the first go this time around. Candace, a smart, bright, and perky girl with a sense of humor similar to mine. While just a college graduate, she looks about the age of 12, but her oratorical skills and humble demeanor belie her intelligence which one might find suspect if judging the book by its cover.

Furthermore she cooks a lot, loves cats, and actually she reads the blog so she kinda knew what she was getting into. Stars seemed to align for this rental drama.

We've been spending a bit of time getting to know each other the past week. She doesn't eat mushrooms or eggplant and is allergic to citrus of all kinds (I think I would spontaneously go into a stroke if a doctor ever told me that). Her specialty is Southern comfort food, something I have no familiarity with but am looking forward to learning. She advocates the use of sugars, fats, and heavy cream in order to make food taste good and that trying to lighten dishes that weren't originally light and diet friendly to begin with is a crime of the highest order. A good sign if I ever saw one.

As such, I've been teaching her Chinese and Lebanese food. Simple stir fries, kibbehs, and pilafs - simple things that can easily be replicated once learned. She in turn has shown me how to make soda biscuits and southern style mac-n-cheese with half and half, cheddar, ham, and all kinds of garlicy deliciousness.

I do believe it will be a good fit.


Monday, January 19, 2009

This message goes out to the dude at the sammich shop who was yelling on his cell phone at his wife and bitching her out over the phone in front of countless people. In your huff of pure dickitude and calling your wife lazy you grabbed my lunch by accident.

Given, maybe you are in the right. Maybe she really is an awful person and you deserved to just let it out. But making a scene of it for over 30 people and ruining their lunches? Do it in your car. I reserve my breakdowns for home or on the blog.

Or, maybe you really are just a total scumbag and she needs to pack her things and go. Whatever.

Anyways, by now you surely realized you grabbed my lunch which had cheese. You're lactose intolerant. You made that very clear when you ordered and yelled at the poor guy working there that you "might fucking die if there's cheese." 

Anyways, thanks as well. Due to you taking my lunch I got free soup to boot for the extra wait. Score for me.

Did Jesus Drink Bourbon? (No, he did not.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

I have a bad habit of interrupting people and interjecting myself into conversations that I'm not neccessarily a part of (but feel the near stroke inducing need to make my opinion heard). It's something I'm working on controlling, however time and again I find myself pulled into a dailogue with the gravitic force of a neutron star. I can't help it, I was raised to be vocal and make myself heard and damnit I will be.

The situation in question today occurred at work where many strange and ususual conversations have taken place before (I'm still trying to find that carrot bush). I tend to be a sort of universal axis for the inane people of the world, it all draws close to me, soley. No longer a case of simply Murphey's Law, I belong to a the greater intellectual and situational sphere of Murphey's Physics: All shit and everyone else's shit can and will happen to me.

As I sat at my desk my ears perked up to hear, "I think Jesus probably drank bourbon. I mean, he's Jesus." There was no sarcasm or smile, this statement was made with all seriousness. Struck with my inability to let someone exist while being wrong I decided to jump in and save the day with my own informed and obviously correct opinion (in this case read: fact) as is the duty of Know-It-All's everywhere.

"Actually, I doubt Jesus ever once tasted bourbon," I interjected. "You see it just wasn't around back then. Wine, heck yeah. Probably pomegranate wine and some form of mead too, but no way bourbon."

The couple having the discussion turned my way, the girl seemingly curious for me to continue, her friend raising an eyebrow at me. The eyebrow arched obtusely, challenging my forceful rebuttal.

"How do you know that for sure? Jesus was Jesus, he could have any drink he wanted," asked Eyebrow.

"Well, bourbon was developed in the Southern United States, a country which wouldn't exist for another eighteen-hundred years or so. In fact it's named after Bourbon County in Kentucky. Bourbon could never be in Israel at the time."

"Well, what if they shipped it over?"

"Also not possible. If no one is making it how could it be shipped? Corn wasn't even over on that part of the continent yet, nor did they use barrel aging in that part of the world to make spirits. They used earthenware jars. So the Middle East had neither the corn nor the method, as it didn't even exist in the birthplace of bourbon. I mean, yes, it's possible they had the corn, but they didn't make bourbon from it."

"Jesus could simply make bourbon. He would just know what it is."

"I don't think the bible said Jesus was a precog or psychic of any kind." I'll give it that Jesus had some awesome power, but lord almighty...

"He's Jesus, I'm sure he could find something very similar and buy that instead."

"No, he couldn't." I was now irate and beginning to show it. "There is the possibility that something similar to it could exist at 15 A.D., but it's not actually bourbon unless it's from the United States which didn't exist. Actually, no, I doubt it was anything like bourbon. And even then, Jesus was a carpenter. He was poor. I doubt he spent any money he did make on good booze. Any money he did have probably went to help people."

"Jesus could find and have it if he wanted to!"

"Based on what!?" I shot back.

"He's JESUS!" voice now raised.

Point for Eyebrow! How can I fight this razor sharp wit and spot on logic?

At this point a friend calmed me down a bit and told me I was needed elsewhere. I wasn't, but it was obvious this was going to escalate.

I suppose Jesus could have turned wine into bourbon if he knew what it was, but really, I doubt it. If Jesus blogged, he be over at Vinography I bet.

Traveling Tajine Project Update #1

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Traveling Tajine Project has started with Ann Rolke, blogger for Sacatomato. A resident food writer here in Sac and a known cookbook author I figured she would be the right person to start us off.

She's developed a great chicken tajine recipe for everyone to check out. I have to note that this tajine is not the greatest heavy duty piece of equipment like more traditional ones. In theory you can use a tajine over a low gas flame and easily move it from stove-top to oven. However, ones from Crate & Barrel have a tendency to crack over direct heat that is any hotter than a low setting. This tajine is my second one as the first one cracked and nearly broke in two after attempting to simmer over a low gas flame. As such, you may have to get a bit creative or use a second pot to do any simmering (take note future TTP participants!).

Anywhose, Ann did a great job working around that little issue and came out with a a great dish (and an interesting idea that you should all read about, I'm curious to see if it works!).

Insomnia Cure

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

So recently I had a bad stint of insomnia. I've never really had it before, except once or twice so I wasn't sure what to do. The tossing and turning was driving me crazy and the last day at work had been my one-man show of night of the living dead but with 30% more eating people than on regular workday.

I wasn't able to try any sleep aides because I react badly to them. By badly I mean I hallucinate vividly. Last time I tried a sleeping drug I hallucinated that Eat Beast was trying to kill me. At the time, Rob had found me in the corner shrieking like a banshee trying to back away from the cat who was, understanably, confused by my hysteria. Later on in the night I thought my arm was encased in ice. A side effect of Ambien is that you experience all types of sensory hallucinations, my arm went numb and I couldn't get the ice off. As such I went to the kitchen and ran it under scalding hot water which essentially led to a visit to the E.R. so my arm could be bandaged and covered in burn salve.Needless to say there was a very angry call to the doctor the following day.

With such a painful history with medication I decided to try a more holisitc approach to attack the insomnia problem. Sadly however, nothing worked. Turkey soup, warm milk, nada. I tried reading, running, watching television and even video games (though this one actually kept me up if anything). I even tried to find someone to repeatedly strike me in the back of the head with wine bottle but none of my friends apparently love me enough to risk jail time even if I wrote a note beforehand that would exonerate them from any wrongdoing.

Anyways, after 80+ hours of no sleep I found what works: Billy Blanks and Robert Mondavi. Together they are the cure.

After going to youtube and doing the Tae-Bo Cardio 60 minute work out followed by two glasses of white wine, let me tell you, you'll be out like a light. Throw on your nasty sweats and get gross in your living room then collapse and drink like a fish.

Sure, it probably wasn't a lot of things like smart or healthy, but it worked damnit. Follow it up the next day with three eggs, a stroke's worth of bacon, a bunch of kiwis and oversteeped black tea straight (no cream or sugar, steep for 10 minutes, thanks) and you're ready to recover and take on the world.

Anyone else have a good home remedy involving some sort of food or drink?

Pickled Kumquats

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Kumquat season is approaching once again, and Elise and I found ourselves in the familiar pickle. What do you do with a zillion kumquats?

So when life puts you in a pickle, you make pickles.

These odd sounding pickled kumquats are truly quirky when thought about, but in actual taste they are very sweet, very tart, and nicely spiced. The kumquats are quickly blanched, then immersed in a bath of sugar, vinegar and aromatics such as cinnamon and cloves. They’re delicious to say the least, but the longer they sit the better the flavor gets. Tasty on their own they would also pair perfectly with roast chicken, layered in a grilled cheese sandwich, or simply garnishing a simple sald.

After about a week some of the pectin in the seeds and pith and the sugar make the vinegar become a bit thick making the pickles even sweeter and more tart in the syrupy brine. Very tasty and perfect when roasted with some veggies such as kohlrabi.

This little pickling project also falls in step with my food new year resolution: to can more of my own food. I figure this way I can save some cash and make something tasty for myself and friends.
Pickled Kumquats
Makes about 4 cups

2 lbs (about four cups) of kumquats, sliced in half and any seeds easily accessible discarded
1 teaspoon of salt
3 cups of white vinegar
1 cup of sugar
4 cardamom pods
5 cloves
6 peppercorns
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick

1) Place kumquats in a pan. Cover with water and add the salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2) Place vinegar, sugar, and spice in a pan and bring to a boil. Add the kumquats. Allow to simmer for 1 minute.

3) Can into sterilized jars. Be sure that the kumquats are fully immersed into the liquid and leave 1/2 in. of head space.

Rockstar Ingredient 2009 - My Top Picks

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Last year we were all about the ramps and rhubarb, these two classics that many people knew of but were unfamiliar with took over food blogs. It seemed everyone was trying to use them in one way or another. Still, their time has passed and it makes me wonder what the next Rockstar Ingredient will be. Below are my guesses in no particular order.

Sumac: I'm seeing it everywhere recently. It's a fairly underrated and unused spice in my opinion. Its tart and subtly piney flavors come from the ground berries from a special kind of plant that produces bright red and purple berries which when ground up produce a flavorful spice. You can use it in place of fresh lemon juice or add it for an extra bit of tang in a dish. Often found in Turkish cooking, but the spice grows all over North America as well.

Buddha's Hand: Now that a few green grocers and supermarkets carry them (though very, very poor examples not worth buying) and a few farmers are planting a tree or two, it's now something that you might be able to find. Its floral and sweet lemon flavors make it great for zest, and since the pith is sweet the fingers can be chopped and eaten on their own which are often dipped in sugar first. Plus the name and appearance are more than enough to sway a few people to give it a go.

Wattleseed: With a flavor that's a bit like coffee, hazelnuts, and chocolate this Australian spice is up on my list. More of a dessert spice, it may take a while before people really start to play with it. Mainly because the stuff is still hard to get in the U.S. unless you buy it online.

Cheese: I know I'm being general but I have a hunch that more people are going to start getting into cheese the way some people do about wine. Profiling regions, countries, type of dairy, and developing pairings and dishes utilizing only the best kinds of cheese possible. It's a dairy revolution.

Figs: When the season comes back people will be all over them. All the recent more popular cookbooks have all had figs featured in them; The Perfect Scoop, Urban Italian, A Platter of Figs, etc... It seems that once the season comes back people will probably scramble to them to start learning how to utilize this honey-sweet fruit.

Any other theories or ideas?


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

A few nights ago I hit up one of those hip and trendy places where people sip cocktails and wine as they trade gossip and judge the room. Admittedly, once in a blue moon, I like to partake in the frivolity of it all and be a total snooty bitch sipping and judging the rest in my rarely used but always stylin' Banana Republic shoes. As I sat with a friend praising the new knit style that Uggs had been pushing and the delicious little bits of toast and crab highlighted with citron and cilantro we noticed a small murder of glamazons and he-models stroll into the club. Dashingly gorgeous, one couldn't help but stare in awe and be jealous.

"They have to be models." My friend Amanda possesses a unique appraisal stare. Not only can she evaluate the class standing and net worth of a person in under a half-second, she's able to make an unusually accurate conjecture as to their profession with near Delphic precision.

I stared at them. It wasn't a bad guess, in fact it would all add up right. Still, to state it with such conviction and assurance, "How can you tell?"

"Now look..." she took a long sip from her drink and then placed it to her side as she collected herself for the seminar. "Take the guys for instance. The clothes they're wearing are this season's line. All top name brands: Prada, Junya Watanabe, Helmut Lang -"

"I only know of Prada," I said in a matter-of-factly tone.

"Jesus. You suck at being gay. Anyways, each is wearing at least two-thousand dollars worth of clothing and accessories."

"Okay," I replied, trying to absorb the look of the clothing.

"Now notice how good they look? The girls super skinny and eyeing anyone with food but only sipping a drink. The guys have faces with no stress lines and perfect bodies. They have to be models."

"But that doesn't mean anything. I know lawyers and accountants who make bank and wear these kinds of clothes and look that good."

"Yes," she countered, "but they have at least dark eyes, wrinkles, some sort of sign of stress or sleep deprivation. Those people make their money because they work 60 hour weeks and then try to fit in gym time, right?"

She had a point, the wildly successful, gorgeous people I know often were falling apart and their faces would usually show it one way or another. Plus, if I actually could meet them for a night out they were ready to crash by 10:30, and it was already near midnight.

"You make a good argument. Still, I think I need more proof. See that one girl is eating something."

"Oysters do not count as substantial food."

"Whatever. Hold on I'll be back. Restroom. Watch my drink," I excused myself and made my way to the bathroom. "And don't drink it!"

"I promise nothing!" she called back.

As I walked into the bathroom I took a quick minute to examine myself in the mirror. Dark bags under my eyes displayed my lack of sleep, and shallow shadows spoke of lines yet to come that would genetically mirror my mother's. "Damn," I muttered to myself. I guess the stress thing was true, though I was still lacking the Jumanji Wata-huza shirt or whatever.


I turned around at the sound. A few sinks down one of the he-models was bent over he sink. I saw his hands fly in rapid chopping motions like a chef dicing an onion. He then jerked his head back and moved it forward in one quick, fluid motion over the now visible tiny mirror.


Oddly enough my first thought was where on earth one even buys coke in Sacramento. I turned and left as he shook his head and wiped his nose. His eyes were as big as dinner plates and he looked like he had suddenly drank eight red bulls after being hit in the head with them. I made my way back to the bar to a waiting Amanda who was using all her self-restraint to not drink my cocktail as she stared a hole into it.

"So either it's 1986 or coke is back in style."


"Yes, they're models. You were right."

"Oh, yeah. Have to be then, the commoners can only afford meth and weed."

"Yeah. Hey you wanna go grab some frozen yogurt at the Yogurt Monkey? They're still open for another 30 minutes and it's only a dollar."

"Sounds like a plan," she moved to pick up her clutch and we left. I'm sure our seats were immediately taken by some other group of people who were now sipping drinks, trading gossip, and judging the room.

Best Gift Ever

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Every Christmas there's always that one present that just outshines the rest. Something that eclipses not every other gift you received, but the gifts everyone else received as well. Well, I got one of those this year.

My little brother is the artistic one of the three McCord siblings. The other two of us... not so much. I'm not an arty person in slightest unless it comes to food in some ways. My brother Brandon, however, can wield an pencil, lump of clay, or brush and do wonders with it.

However, this year he did something amazing for me. He went through the entire blog and combed out the best pictures I had ever taken. Afterwards he had them printed in matte with borders, a normally expensive process but he was able to call in favors. He then picked up a basic stationary set and adhered the photos to them and stamped the back with a "VG" (for Vanilla Garlic).

The result? Unique, one-of-a-kind stationary that uses my own art. Over 200 of them with the envelopes ready to be used for whatever reason.It is amazing to say the least, and really moved me. Furthermore, my brother said he got to know me better after combing through the last 2 1/2 years of postings. It was really quite touching the amount of time and effort he put into it. The end result is simply awesome in the full sense of the word.

That's right. Be jealous.

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