Monthly Archives: March 2007

I have another commission!

For a baby shower this time…a few more of these and I can quit my “real” job!

The commissioner/father-to-be also suggests I dub my contest pie “Hold on, Wait a Minute, Let Me Put Some Brooklyn in it!”-Pie.

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Our Friends at Gawker…

Observed this.

(I just have a plain ol’ blender. And stuff oozes out the bottom if you’re not careful.)

And then there’s this, too.

And this!

(Food galore…)

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It’s Quite Literally a Jungle Out There…

From a NYT story today about dating, apartments and deal breakers. Something of a horrifying experience, I’d say:

“The second experience involved an artist who lived in an East Village tenement. As he entered her apartment, a free-flying parrot relieved itself on his head. Then a large rabbit darted out from somewhere and licked his feet. A baby gate separated a second rabbit from the first — there had been a nasty penis-biting episode, his date explained. Also, the kitchen wall was covered with antique egg beaters, which looked to Mr. Heindl like weird tools.”

And yet not only did it work out…but now they have a nine-month-old daughter and they live in my neighborhood…

The story continues with Mr. Heindl explaining how a deal breaker turned into marriage:

“I seriously thought, ‘Shall I run? No, I like her, I like her, I’ll check it out,’ ” he says. “I thought about it, I asked myself, ‘Why are you doing this?’ and I decided it showed she can really nurture, because one was like a really old rabbit, a geriatric rabbit. And she baked, obviously.” (Italics mine.)

So…I think this means there’s hope for me yet. All I have is an obese cat. And he has never pooped on anyone.

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I can’t wait until May 2!

My beat-boxing air guitarist friend alerted me to this:

He says it’s “right up (my) alley.”

You can even Match the Pie to Its Description!

Ooh – now that I think about it…my parents will be here May 2. I think “the story of one woman trapped in a life from which she dreams of escape. Jenna’s secret ambition is to save enough money from her waitressing job to leave her overbearing and controlling husband. Jenna is a sharp, sassy woman with a gift for making unusual pies whose recipes are inspired by the trials, tribulations and circumstances of her life. An unwanted pregnancy changes the course of events giving her an unexpected confidence via letters to her unborn baby” will be a tough sell to my dad. So I may have to wait until May 6…which, coincidentally, is Pants’ birthday.

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I’ve been outta town…

…so I didn’t bake at all this weekend. I tried to gather my thoughts last night and recall every pie-related (or maybe just food-related) incident over the past 5 days so we can catch up. Here goes nothing:

First things first, I got a pie bird! Only $3.95 at Sur La Table! Looks like a blackbird.

I also got a sign at this wacky store in Walnut Creek called “Calypso Twist.” My aunt said the place made her happy. I was a little skeptical…but it was indeed a happy place. And now the sign hangs in my kitchen…

I had to look at RVs with my parents at the Solano County Fairgrounds (“Deals on Wheels”; “No reasonable offer refused!”) and then we decided to drive to Lodi to look at even more RVs. (I opted out for downtown Lodi…) This inspired my mother to sing the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic, “Stuck in Lodi Again” in the backseat of my aunt and uncle’s monstrous SUV. I was a *little* grumpy until we stopped off at food stand along the way. It’s a little blurry in the photo above, but they had a pie club (“Buy 7, get the 8th free!”)…as well as baby pigs for sale for $50. (This would sort of be a good time to bring up Hampton, my uncle’s barber’s son’s pig who really likes women with high-pitched voices, but I fear if I delve into that, I’ll never get back on track and we do have a lot of ground to cover over the past few days).

On our last night, we ate at Chez Panisse…where I tried cardoons and smoked duck. This probably goes without saying, but it was really, really good. I didn’t even know what cardoons were before that. Afterward, I was curious whether or not FreshDirect carries cardoons. They don’t. They look like celery…but our waiter said they’re in the artichoke family.

On the plane back, I finally finished “Julie and Julia” (I read too much of it on the way back from Alaska and had to take a break). I don’t remember the *exact* passage, but there was something in it about chopping nuts that reminded me of making Sex in a Pan (don’t worry – that pudding dessert, my lovelies) with my very first roommate in New York. I could only find walnuts in the shell…and didn’t have a nutcracker, so my roommate and I attempted to crack the nuts with hammers…but that was really loud and there was a baby upstairs (it was at night), so we ended up hunkered down in my closet cracking the walnuts on phone books (to muffle the sound) with hammers. You’d think something like that would bond you for life, huh? Sadly, this was not the case. But, that’s neither here nor there, as a former editor would say.

I also started reading “My Life in France” (the latest Julia Child book) and was stunned to discover that Julia learned to cook (at least the fancy French stuff) at 37. This means I literally have TONS of time to find my calling and that it IS still possible for my life to have direction, purpose and meaning. And that it’s okay if maybe I’m stumbling a bit. And that it’s important to remember that Rome was not built in a day. And all that stuff. (There was actually a sign at Calypso Twist that said something like that. It’s not the one that’s hanging in my kitchen though. The one in my kitchen specifically mentions “pie.”)

Before I left, my mother sent me a recipe for Elvis’ pound cake…and it seems like I’ve been seeing a lot about pound cake since then. I have to spend some time gathering my thoughts before executing an actual blog entry about it – she said something about a pound of flour and a pound of butter and that’s how it got its name?

My Saveur subscription lapsed, but I had to buy a copy at the airport ($5!!) because there was a great big ol’ coconut cream pie on the cover. (I haven’t actually read the article on the Massachusetts diner, so we’ll leave it at that for now…) There was also an Emile Henry ad for their fancy-pants pie pans…but I like Pyrex a lot. Guess it would be worth experimenting to see if it’s worth paying the extra bucks for an Emile Henry pan. I’m ashamed to admit there was a time when I didn’t think I needed to waste money on a pastry blender either…

Saveur also has a calendar of events of sorts…that includes the Interstate Mullet Toss April 27 through 29. I also didn’t read what Saveur had to say about it, but I definitely remember my classmates talking about the Flora-Bama Mullet Toss when I lived in Mississippi. However, I have yet to witness the spectacle…

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It’s Springtime

My mother is always in good spirits after the vernal equinox as it means she no longer lives in perpetual darkness…

For those of us who do not live on top of the world, the differences are perhaps subtler. In a similar vein, colleague recently requested a lemon cheesecake and since I am chairwoman of the Birthday Committee at my office, I figured this would be a good way to say, “Happy Birthday, March.”

(Fun Fact: my grandmother lived in Burlingame, CA for years and years and years. Even MORE Fun: SFO is in the vicinity and I’m flying there tomorrow.)

The really interesting thing about this cheesecake is that it called for a water bath (my second in one week!) I was worried again about scalding myself…but assume it had something to do with the cheesecake cracking? My cheesecakes always crack, so I was willing to experiment.

I decided to improvise with the crust – Lorna Doone! – as I had no idea how many of those little cookies were in half a cup…and who has time to grind them up and measure them and then grind up more and measure again and so on and so forth? It also calls for a lot of butter, so the crust wasn’t at all as grainy as my cheesecakes are usually wont to be. In any event, it kind of reminds me of that NYT story about improvising…I also couldn’t be bothered to actually wash my teaspoons, so I used a regular spoon and eyeballed the lemon juice and zest. (I live on the edge on weekdays.)

(While this sucker was in the oven, I was flipping channels and came across something about female bodybuilders on TLC. They were preparing for a big competition and had cans of Pam backstage! Do they spray themselves with it?? The commentator said something about them eating sugary foods right before the competition to make their veins bulge…)

I was pleased to see the cheesecake did not crack in the oven…but only one side was browned. It looked kind of like flan or creme brulee. I had to get really creative about storing it in the refrigerator, stacking a bunch of stuff to nestle my cheesecake in tight: plate, springform pan (which I think is warped), wax paper and another plate on top. This setup was intended to prevent any weird refrigerator smells from contaminating my cheesecake.

My colleagues seemed to enjoy it…but I have to admit I feel kind of like a freakshow bringing in multiple cakes a week. So…I may hold off for awhile and let some anticipation build (and to perhaps create the illusion that I do actually have other hobbies…).

One colleague asked if there was mascarpone in it. I couldn’t believe it! I was thrilled…what a fine palate he has.

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I missed a day!

…which means there’s SO much to catch up on.

The NYT had a bunch of really good food stories yesterday.

I really liked some of the descriptions in It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine even though a friend described them as “pompous”:

“I whisked several beurre blancs — the classic white wine and butter emulsion — pouring in a New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a perfume of Club Med piña coladas, an overly sweet German riesling and a California chardonnay so oaky it tasted as if it had been aged in a box of No. 2 pencils. “

And…”Next I braised duck legs in a nonvintage $5.99 tawny port that reminded me of long-abandoned Halloween candy, with hints of Skittles and off-brand caramels.”

I also really, really liked Tortillas Like Mamá’s, but This Is No Bodega. I even tried to find a recipe for pupusas, but didn’t really find anything that looked incredible. (There was one on the Food Network that would do in a pinch, but it didn’t blow me away.)

(Baking connection! “The Rancho Liborio bakery is a study in cross-cultural merchandising. The Cuban bread has to have the right delicate crust and texture for dipping in café con leche. The compact Mexican loaves called bolillos (four for $1) are sold near Salvadoran pastries called peperechas, layered with pineapple. The tres leches cake is a hit with almost everyone, including African-American shoppers from the area.”)

And I thought For Orange Zest, Substitute Kool-Aid was also really interesting. My mother definitely tinkers with recipes. I suppose I do, too, to a certain degree…

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