Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Falling Down on the Job

Dear readers, lest you think I have abandoned this blog, let me reassure you that I have not. I have just not been eating well or interestingly lately. Most nights we're too tired to put in the effort to even boil potatoes, not to mention that I've got about 83 cents in my bank account at the end of the month, so lately we've been eating things like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese with bacon in it, or a Boboli pizza crust with pesto and spinach and olives salvaged from the back of the fridge. Sad but true. I told Andy that once I get paid, I am going on a week-long sushi Cleanse. All fish, rice, and vegetables, all the time.

It is only slightly heartening to me that no one else has posted in a while, either. All my regular food blog links have been dormant for a week or more. Are we all just getting through these last few days of winter on the stale dregs of our larders, preparing to emerge with endless dishes of beets and leeks and asparagus and rhubarb when the temperature finally hits 60?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Wait a Minute

Did you just see that? In the link that I posted for Tea and Sympathy. In the "Nicky's News" section. The part where she says that now available next door in celebration of Easter at A Salt and Battery are deep-fried Cadbury Creme Eggs.

I feel faint.

Treacle Pudding

Sam at Becks & Posh has put out the call for an international St. George's Day Feast of all desserts English on April 23rd. Since I've already gone the tea-sandwiches-and-scones route, I think next comes Treacle Pudding with Custard, courtesy of Tea & Sympathy in New York. There was a time in my life when I used to walk out of my way "on the way home" to get a piece of this most incredible cake. The custard alone was worth the price. Betsy recently bought their cookbook, and we are both amazed to find that it's just a very standard custard recipe -- I swore it must have had beef suet in it or something to make it so melt-on-your-tongue light and perfect with the cake. They do say, in the cookbook, that Bird's brand custard mix from the store will work equally well -- so perhaps that's what they use at the restaurant. If I can get hold of it, it's what I'll use. I have a tin of Lyle's Golden Syrup at home just waiting for me to make this.

Better yet, you all should make it, too -- join the Bundt Revolution and make it in a Bundt pan! Here are the recipes. All courtesy of Tea & Sympathy.


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
A few drops of vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 heaping teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 cups Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup (a little extra will do no harm).

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs, one at a time, along with the vanilla.
With a spatula, fold in the flour and baking powder and mix until smooth.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Butter and flour a 10-inch round Bundt pan.
Pour the syrup into the pan, then spoon in the sponge batter, gently smoothing the top with a spatula.
Bake for about 30 minutes; the sponge should be golden on top.
Remove the pudding from the oven and let it cool for 2-3 minutes. Place a plate on top of the Bundt pan, then quickly but firmly turn the plate and pan upside down to release the cake onto the plate.. You may need to loosen the edges very slightly with a knife before you flip it.
Serve with hot custard.


3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 egg yolks

Heat cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat, whisk in egg yolks.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Much Better Than Slim-Fast

A weight-loss tip: If you want to consume a liquid that will make you absolutely full for the entire rest of the day so that you can't even bear the thought of eating anything else, look no further than the hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow from City Bakery. Now with a new West Coast (Santa Monica) location! We missed this, as we did the Fondue Festival at Artisanal, but keep your eyes open next winter for their hot chocolate festival.

It was like pudding. Warm, unctuous pudding with a little fluffy melting cloud of whipped sugar in the middle. We think that the ingredients list must have read "Chocolate, Heavy Cream, Cocoa Butter, Butter, Sugar." It was too much for me to finish. Can you believe it?

Photo from New York Magazine.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

You Can Never Have Too Many Bundts

Last Sunday, we gathered many friends together to celebrate BundtFest 2006! The inspiration for BundtFest came about on New Year's Eve, when we were all over at Sabrina's house pre-Fireball, drinking Margaritas and glancing through the "The Lives They Lived" issue of the New York Times Magazine. Someone mentioned that H. David Dahlquist, the inventor of the Bundt pan, had died recently. Amazingly, Aaron stepped up to the plate and delivered an entire extemporaneous speech about the life of Mr. Dahlquist and the origins of the Bundt pan. There is just something about the word "Bundt" that is so much fun to say, and so appetizing, that you can't help wanting to immediately make and eat some Bundts. We drunkenly promised each other that there would be a Bundt potluck party in the near future.

As mentioned in a previous post, Sabrina caught the Bundt bug a couple of weeks ago and suggested that we turn thought into action and have a Bundt Fiesta ASAP. Well, it finally happened. Andy and I cleaned the house, ironed a tablecloth, and opened our doors to all comers, as long as they came bearing a Bundt.

The Bundts were exquisite. First to show up was Moa's Swedish Saffron Bundt, with its intense aroma and toothsome crumb.

Next came Sarah's light and sweet Walnut Bundt:

Followed by Sonya's traditional Savory Lime Jello Salad Bundt with cabbage and cottage cheese (which tasted much, much better than it sounds) and her more experimental Cornbread Bacon Bundts with Molasses Glaze (which tasted just as fucking amazing as they sound).

Already, that's a lot of Bundts, considering that I had also prepared a Meat Bundt with Egg Mimosa:

But the Bundts just kept coming. Michele and Burke brought not one but many Bundts: a Clementine-Caradamom Bundt with candied violets, clementine peel, and cardamom custard, as well as Ginger-Green Tea Mini-Bundts with Green Tea Anglaise. Both of these Bundts smelled as good as they looked. And they were so moist. I could not bear to cut into them, but I was really glad that I did. And their friend (and our new friend) Joe brought over a Butter Rum Rose Bundt that, according to Stephen, looked "like something out of a John Waters movie." Once it was cut, you could see it for the perfect pink chiffon cloud that it was. All, exquisite.

Looks like Spam, tastes like heaven:

The Bundts just would not stop. At one point, even before all of the guests had arrived, we decided that we needed to start eating some Bundt so that (a) we could make room on the table for the two Bundts yet to come and also (b) so that we could help our stomachs absorb some of the Rum Bundt Punch (aka Bunt Bundel) that Andy had made for the occasion. It included not only Bundt-shaped ice cubes made from different colors of Gatorade, but also an optional Life Saver garnish.

Sabrina, Kyle and Darren arrived soon after the first cutting of the Bundts with their masterpiece, a gorgeous Meat Bundt filled with rice and raisins and garnished with beautiful roasted red peppers.

And for the piece de resistance, Aaron brought over -- straight from the oven and still warm -- his "Tunnel of Lemon" Bundt, which was comprised of a sweet lemon cake with a warm, melty center tunnel of cream cheese. AS IF we needed any more deliciousness at that point. We all ate SO MUCH Bundt.

Bundts before:

Bundts after:

It was a lot of fun. We still have some leftover Bundt at our house, and last night Andy and I ate Meat Bundt sandwiches for dinner. Nutkin and Blini especially enjoyed the Meat Bundts. And now I am going to the gym to go try to remove this ring of Bundt from around my waist.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Worst Cooking Day Ever

On Monday I decided to do something special and make some tasty treats for us to eat out of the leftovers in our fridge. I enjoyed an unexpected success with an unorthodox roast-chicken cooking method (it can't be that unorthodox if I learned about it in The Joy of Cooking, I suppose, but roasting a chicken on its side was nothing I'd ever heard of before) and so was perhaps overconfident in deciding to make a couple of things I had never made before: a lemon mousse pie with gingersnap crumb crust, and bucatini.

It's easier to make a list of the things that went wrong than a narrative, so from start to finish, it went like this:

1. I couldn't find a recipe for lemon mousse pie, and, wouldn't you know it, the search function on Epicurious was on the fritz. (Not only would it not find the lemon mousse recipes I'd seen a couple of days earlier, it wouldn't find ANY mousse, nor salmon, nor shrimp. If you can't find shrimp on Epicurious, you KNOW something must be wrong.) So I decided to just, um, make it up. Adapting recipes is a strength of mine; making them up is not.

2. Gingersnap crust. Take stale gingersnaps, break into pieces, melt butter, whirl all in food processor. Right? No. After I pressed the mess into a pie pan, I had to blot out the excess butter with a paper towel. Perhaps it will get better if I bake it for 10 minutes? No. Repeat blotting.

3. Lemon mousse. Make Meyer lemon curd, check. Whip cream, check. Chill both, check. Fold curd into cream, check. This was all just fine, but I feared that the mousse would be too thin to be cut as pie, so I froze the whole thing overnight. I tried to eat a frozen piece last night and it was a DISASTER. The gingersnap crust had hardened into a strange toffee-like substance and refused to be cut into. The mousse itself was full of ice crystals and totally unsatisfying. In frustration, I put the whole thing back into the fridge to thaw, but I don't have high hopes that it will improve as a semifreddo.

4. Bucatini is the reason they make things called "pasta pots". Because bucatini are long, and thick, and refuse to bend when submerged even in a soup kettle of boiling water. I was terrified that one half of the pasta would be overcooked and the other half would be undercooked. It probably was, but I didn't notice because...

5. Bucatini, despite contrary experiences in Italian restaurants, does not take well to a semi-runny sauce. It also does not lend itself to being cut easily. It was like trying to eat a bowl full of wriggling, live eels trying to escape. Red sauce -- more liquid than when I originally made it, as I hadn't allowed it to simmer long enough to get rid of the extra accumulated juices -- flew off the ends of the pasta onto everything within spitting distance: the tablecloth, my skirt, my boyfriend, the radio, the cat. The bucatini sat in a lump in my stomach once I finally conquered them. It was so depressing.

Fortunately there was a lot of Viognier left over, which made it all the more easy to get into bed early, pull the covers over my head, and sleep off my total culinary embarrassment.

I think I need to accept that while I like to cook, I will never be a good cook, or at least a consistently good cook. I think I am fine with that. It is more fun to eat other people's awesome food, anyway.

Edited to add: Okay, after being patted on the back by Andy and remembering that all cooks sometimes fail when they experiment, I have emerged from my little pity party. Kind of. I will still be wary of bucatini for a while.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Lunch List

New Haven is full of good food, but not a lot of it is located anywhere near my office, nor is very much of it affordable on a regular basis. Based on the criteria below, here, by popular demand, is a list of acceptable lunch places within a quick walk of the Yale campus. Please note that not all of these are great -- this is a list for when I am (or you are) bored of the usual suspects.

The (delicious) Usual Suspects

Roomba burrito cart (which has the best burritos I have yet tasted on the east coast, hands down. Five bucks.)
Zaroka's Indian lunch buffet
York Street Noodle House

Places I Would Eat Every Day If They Weren't So Expensive/Slow/Bad For Me

Sahara (so much better than Mamoun's)
Soul de Cuba
Louis Lunch
Bentara (their lunch special is actually affordable)
Miso (ditto)
Union League (ditto ditto)
Yankee Doodle (this is one of my favorite restaurants IN THE COUNTRY, but I can only handle a cheese, a pig, and a grilled donut once every six months or so.)

Decent Everyday Food

Gourmet Heaven
That random pizza place on Broadway
Au Bon Pain (it Pains me to say it, but the soup is actually... memorable)
Educated Burgher
Ivy Noodle (this is not in the same universe of goodness as York Street, but the Sesame Hot Oil Wontons are really, really good)
Thai Taste
Bangkok Garden (this is not as good as Thai Taste)
Book Trader
Copper Kitchen (their macaroni and cheese special is good on a rainy Friday)
Yorkside Pizza (the spinach pie and the greek salad are both enormous and tasty)
Quiznos CLOSED
Vito's Deli
East Melange Noodle Bar (home of UNAGI DUMPLINGS!)

Places I Have Not Been To For Lunch (Or Otherwise, In Some Cases) But Which Show Promise

La Piazza CLOSED
Istanbul Cafe
The Anchor
Hot Tomato's (they have a burger + beer for $5 special on Tuesday nights, people! Spread the word!)
Cafe Bottega (for the gelato)
Ciao Bella (ditto)
Royal Palace

Places I Refuse To Eat, Period

CLAIRE'S CORNER COPIA (Claire and her ilk are the reason for all of the negative associations people have with "vegetarian food")
and her evil sister restaurant, BASTA (At which she serves meat. Why?)
BULLDOG BURRITO (why any sane businessperson would attempt to compete with Roomba is beyond me)
The Whole Enchilada (ditto)
Bruegger's Bagels (dude, those aren't bagels)
Cafe Adulis (I can't deal with the clammy injera bread)
Lalibela (ditto)

And there you have it. If I didn't mention your favorite place, let me know so I can go try it out.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Memory Lane

Le Gastronomica Nouveau Est Arrive! Always an occasion in our house, this issue made my heart flutter all the more when I noticed that, on page 93, the “Chef’s Page” is devoted to my favorite Ann Arbor restaurant, Le Dog. What I remember most about this place – at which I never ate a hot dog – was the way that the rolls from Zingerman’s that they sold for 50 cents alongside their soups would absorb all of the cream and stock while retaining their chewiness, so that you’d still have to tear into the sourdough while your mouth was simultaneously flooded with liquid richness. (Ah, who doesn’t love some good food porn?) If you’re ever in Ann Arbor, do a good thing for yourself and get a cup of Le Dog’s Tuscan squash and Gorgonzola soup. Or their lobster bisque (served only on Thursdays and Fridays, if I remember right). It’s only a take out place, but sitting on a bench when it’s 19 degrees outside won’t bother you a bit once you have a spoonful of the soup.

Man. There are few things to miss about Ann Arbor*, but I really, really miss Le Dog.

*Aside from the farmer’s market, the cherry scones at Zingerman’s, Jefferson Market, the triple at Blimpy Burger, the lemon ice cream at the Washtenaw Dairy, and the comprehensive French New Wave video collection at the Ann Arbor District Library.