Baked Last Frontier

T and I were talking about Baked Alaska he has never had it before — and I thought, “I wonder where the name came from…” et, voila: blog post.

Per Wikipedia, “The name ‘Baked Alaska’ was coined at Delmonico’s Restaurant in 1876 to honor the recently acquired American territory. Both the name ‘Baked Alaska’ and ‘omelette à la norvégienne’/’Norwegian omelette’ come from the low temperatures of Alaska and Norway.” (Food Reference agrees.)

One of my J-school classmates invited me to an olive oil event at Delmonico’s not that long ago. So I am still enjoying my free bottle of Delmonico’s brand oil from Croatia.

I also think it would be fun to try my hand at Baked Alaska sometime (although probably only once).

If I did, I’d probably use this recipe for Strawberry Baked Alaska, but substitute raspberry sorbet and ice cream.

Or — ZOMG! — this Coffee Baked Alaska with Mocha Sauce. Wow!

Image via kimberlykv/Flickr

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Potential Rib Correction

T informs me that the ribs I had at Char No. 4 were short ribs, not spare ribs.

I still don’t quite understand the difference between short ribs and spare ribs — other than one is beef and one is pork — and most of the short rib recipes I’ve found have bones…so I don’t know how he’s so sure my deboned ribs were short ribs and not spare ribs. The online menu says spare ribs, but he insists that mine was different because it was a special. I think the actual menu at the restaurant was different than the one featured online and that it didn’t have the spare rib dish, but the joint added it anyway as a special. But I guess it’s sort of a potato/potatoh situation.

But, if it was in fact an error, I seriously regret it. (Seriously.)

(Thanks to Char No. 4 for the image.)

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Goodbye, Libby’s (At Least For Now)

This year, I carved my first pumpkin in a long, long time. The last pumpkin I carved was based on advice from Martha Stewart (or the like) when I was working at a credit union in Fairbanks. My office held a carving contest and my pumpkin was truly something to behold – I made a leaf pattern and cut out leaves around the pumpkin, carved veins in them, and then pushed the leaves partially back through the holes in the pumpkin so that when I lit it up, the leaves looked like they were floating around said pumpkin and glowed. But — story of my life — the pumpkin rotted and liquefied the night before judging and I lost.

I can’t say this year’s pumpkin was a triumphant return, but it was nice to feel festive again.

I *also* decided that for the first time ever, I would roast the seeds instead of tossing them out…and, boy, am I glad I did! It was sort of hard to find a recipe I liked…so I ended up just rinsing them, tossing them in olive oil, adding salt and roasting on a sheet pan at about 300 degrees for 45 minutes. They were perfect! My mother said it was really hard to get all the orange pumpkin gunk off of them, but I didn’t think it was actually that bad. And it turned out that T’s favorites were the ones that were a little darker because they were roasted with gunk on.

I also heard that you should consider boiling the seeds first…but I thought the roasted seeds were fine sans boiling.

Now my goal is to make a pie from an actual pumpkin. I’ve never done that before either. And even though my baking enthusiasm has dimmed considerably and may never be what it once was, I’d still like to try out real pie this year. Another friend had a taste test last year in which she made a pie from scratch and a pie from a can and asked guests to guess which was which. It seemed obvious to me — the pie made from real pumpkin was a darker color and sort of less pleasant to look at…although I don’t actually remember how they tasted (…which may actually be because I thought the canned pumpkin pie tasted better, but I am too ashamed to admit it).

But, as a general rule, I’ve been perfectly happy with Libby’s all my life. There – I said it. If that makes me Whiskey Tango, so be it.

So I’m not sure I’ll turn pie-from-an-actual-pumpkin into a holiday tradition for years to come. But, like seeing Mount Rushmore or going waterskiing, it seems like something I should do once in life.

And yet…the Web seems to be barren of useful pie-from-a-pumpkin resources. Could it be that the difference is negligible and so no one bothers?

Granted, my research was not as exhaustive as it perhaps could have been, but every pie recipe I saw on Epicurious.com (my favorite!) called for canned pumpkin. Ditto FoodNetwork.com.

And I’m surprised that given the annual food mag task of making old Thanksgiving news new again that they haven’t jumped all over this. I would think that Alton Brown of all people would have made a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin at least once — after all, I saw him harvest coconut using a power drill — but, alas, I cannot find a recipe from him either.

Thankfully, my go-to cookbook when the Internet fails — The Joy of Cooking — has perfect instructions. I will give it a shot soon (and maybe make a Libby’s pie, too, just for old times’ sake) and report back.

And…just a reminder: There are rumors of another canned pumpkin shortage this year…so if you don’t want to experiment with real pumpkins, make sure to pick up a can of Libby’s before the Thanksgiving rush!

Image via cardamom/Flickr

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Damy Ephron: My Aspirational Future Self

In coming up with a tweet about my excitement over new books from Amy Sedaris, David Sedaris and Nora Ephron, I realized something about myself: I want to be them. As in, all three in one writer. A Damy Ephron, if you will. (Is that the stupidest thing I’ve ever said?)

Amy is so quirky and fun. I would love to have her confidence and to wear elaborate stage costumes on late-night TV shows and to fabricate a longshoreman boyfriend while seriously discussing my pet rabbits. (Except I don’t think I actually want a pet rabbit. I have more cat than I know what to do with thanks to the Evil Genius and his Dopey Sidekick.) And she’s crafty! (Obvs.) I should craft more. In fact, I’m going to make a bold statement: Crafting may become the new baking in my life.

David, on the other hand, is such a successful storyteller! I saw, “successful,” rather than, “good,” even though I think many of his stories *are* good in part because a one-time mentor said he thought the male Sedaris makes things up because his stories come together so nicely. And, no matter how wacky your life and/or your family’s, eventually you could totes pump the well dry and realize you have nothing left to write. Not so with David – he continues to come out with material. And they’re usually such entertaining reads! And he’s made such a nice career for himself after floundering around and failing horribly at life! I would like to do the same thing.

I had a J-school professor who once said I reminded him of a young Nora Ephron. HUGE ego boost. Nora tells David-Sedaris-esque tales, but she’s more lady-centric (natch) and that’s basically what I want to do. (No offense, fellas. I just don’t think we relate as well…) But Nora skews a little old – i.e., I don’t feel bad about my neck…yet…so I’d like to keep David’s youthful exuberance. And, you know, I certainly wouldn’t mind writing a screenplay with sharp lines that perhaps becomes emblematic of an entire decade and resonates with countless generations to come. But I’d settle for a short story collection.

It’s not easy though. I responded to an MSNBC query on HARO this afternoon (before the Olbermann brouhaha) entitled “Jobless and Hopeless.” Things could be worse, sure…but it’s kind of true. However, I *am* enjoying not having to come up with fodder for the super-effusive lady-blog (that will later be edited to sound like I’m a student at Sweet Valley High) and therefore having time to populate this little site.

PS: I wish I had Photoshop or something and could combine their three faces together to show you what I’m going to look like.

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In Which I Underestimated McRib’s Cultural Relevance…

I thought liking the McRib in 1994 was my embarrassing childhood secret, but everyone on earth seems to be on the McRib bandwagon now.

McDonald’s has a “Legends of McRib” ad campaign in which, if I understand correctly, you can make up a back story for the McRib and potentially win a trip to Germany. Which makes perfect sense! (And part of me is actually tempted to enter. What the heck? That’s what less-than-full-time-employment is for, right?)

Speaking of which: Gothamist mentioned it in an ad for a job I want so badly I might actually die. (ZOMG, Gothamist, if I have to break out into Abba’s Take a Chance on Me like they do at the end of Mamma Mia!, I will.)

Former New York Times reporter and forever-cooler-than-you-because-her-middle-name-is-a-number writer Jenny 8. Lee said it is one of her five favorite foods.

Even Stephen Colbert had a McRib monologue.

Re: Colbert’s point on bones, presumably (or quite obviously) a satiric jab at mass food production: Yes, as noted before, it’s a little weird if you think about why it doesn’t have bones. But, at the same time, even nice places have boneless ribs! Case in point: Brooklyn BBQ/whiskey joint Char No. 4 has spare ribs on its menu that, as T would say, are “banging.” (In other words, I liked them.) Although, then again, they were not actually on the menu when I dined there (the dish was a nightly special) and so, together, the McRib and Char No. 4’s spare ribs may prove that boneless ribs the world over are a fleeting phenomenon…

Although, sadly, I was not as nuts about Char No. 4’s bacon-jalapeno cornbread as I thought I would be. The flaw was perhaps with the cornbread itself: Too dry. Although more bacon and/or jalapenos would have helped. (It did, however, inspire me to add bacon and/or jalapenos to *my* cornbread next time…

Image via McDonald’s. (Thanks.)

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In Which I Give the McRib a Fair Shake

It’s fair to say that the McRib is almost universally reviled, isn’t it?

And there’s still a part of me that longs to fit in with the cool kids, so I am reluctant to admit this and presumably face public scorn (much like T said he would never volunteer to do the Volkswagen Shoot-Out at Madison Square Garden because he wouldn’t want to be booed by an arena full of Rangers fans). But, as I discovered on Consumerist, the Web makes people braver and/or meaner, so I suppose I can cower behind my laptop as I say this: I used to really like the McRib.

And whenever McDonald’s brings it back, jokes abound and I hold fast to my secret shame and pray no one asks, “Have you ever tried it?”

But it’s been YEARS…and I was admittedly curious whether my tastes had changed or if – horror of horrors – I still secretly liked the McRib.

And I wasn’t actually going to even *do* it until I came home from work the day after mentioning this fleeting thought and T said, “I have a surprise for you!”

So…I’ll say this – there are definitely worse things out there, even on the McDonald’s menu itself. (Namely, anything with American cheese and/or eggs. Like, say, an Egg McMuffin. Shudder.)

And, call me Snooki, but…I really liked the pickles – it could have been my imagination, but I think they were more substantial than the usual McD pickles.

I think the slab of meat is a little weird – especially for something that is supposed to emulate its namesake. And that hunk of faux rib meat may be what gets everyone in a tizzy. But, at the same time, I don’t think it’s all that much different – read: grosser — than the hamburger patties that everyone gobbles up – it’s just a slightly different shape. The texture’s comparable, folks.

And I don’t know if I agree with McDonald’s claim that it is “tangy temptation” – I don’t think it was particularly tangy…or even overly BBQy. It was almost – dare I say it — somewhat bland.

And it would have been a lot better if the onions had been, say, caramelized instead of served raw.

In short? I think the McRib gets an overly bad rap. It’s not the best sandwich on the menu…and it’s certainly not as good as, say, the Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger…but, for those of us on the eastern half of the country, it may be as close as we get for now.

Image via DrPizza/Flickr

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Cheerwine Inspires Savannah Road Trip Plot, Alternate Thanksgiving Plans

There is a new fancy-pants (not to be confused with Clancy Pants) grocery store opening up around the corner from my apartment. And I hadn’t thought much of it as it looks like the kind of place that sells $9 jars of mustard and, as I am a penniless writer, it didn’t seem like the kind of place where I’d be popping in for incidentals.

Last weekend, T went out for a newspaper and such…and returned, much later than anticipated, with said paper and a bottle of Cheerwine from the aforementioned fancy-pants grocery store.

I’ve *heard* of Cheerwine. (In fact, I think the sole male blogger at the super-effusive lady-blog [for which I no longer write because I am not cut from the same super-effusive cloth] mentioned Cheerwine in his bio. He is based in North Carolina.)

T’s family, incidentally, is also in North Carolina. So…he knows the stuff and was somewhat excited about finding it here. We split the bottle – that’s right: a glass bottle, just like Coke from Mexico, or wherever it is that produces it with real sugar. The verdict? It was alright. Certainly hit the spot. Maybe kind of like Dr. Pepper? But a little more cherry-y? Or less cola-y? I’d give it a 3 or a 3.5 out of 5 gold stars. (Come to think of it, this may possibly explain why my food-writing career has not quite taken off yet…)

And…because of a photo ID snafu, I’m not sure T and I will be able to hop on a plane in two weeks to visit my parents for Thanksgiving. Christmas, perhaps…but Thanksgiving seems increasingly unlikely.

So, naturally, thoughts turned to spending the upcoming holiday with *his* family. Not sure I am mentally prepared for this, but…no time like the present, I guess.

And…because I am my mother’s daughter, I have hatched a harebrained scheme to tie in a trip to Savannah if we drive south. Is that nuts?

My defense:

1. I’ve never been to Savannah and I’ve heard wonderful things about it.

PLUS 2. I graduated from high school in Georgia, so it seems kind of shameful not to have visited Savannah at least once. (Although, in my defense, I only spent three semesters at George Walton Comprehensive High School.)

PLUS 3. We could go to The Lady and Sons! T (and I) love her! And I would love to eat there! (Although I have to be wary of shellfish as he is allergic. But, still! So much good stuff on the menu to try!)

It might involve a bit of intense driving, but we could totally get down there in two days with a day to spend there before heading north again for Thanksgiving.

I think it could be super-fun and memorable and a nice escape from the city, which has not happened much this year. But…I still have to convince T this is a brilliant idea and that we only live once, etc. Which may or may not work.

(It’s not the first time I’ve pulled something like this. When I heard his roommate was driving to Indiana for a wedding over Labor Day weekend, I tried to convince him we needed to hitch a ride and spend the long weekend in Indianapolis. I failed because he had to work…but if he was planning to take time off that week for Thanksgiving anyway…Savannah just might be my $1,000,000 idea.)

Image via three6ohchris/Flickr

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