Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An evening full of hypocrisy.

Yesterday afternoon, I was invited to a vegan bake-off. I eagerly accepted, as I like all excuses to bake and sample others' baked goods, but then I was stuck: what can I make that doesn't have eggs in it? The go-to website for dessert recipes, Orangette, was full of eggs and butter and more eggs. Google searches revealed hidden pockets of raw-foodists and vegans allergic to soy. They were no help. Back to trusty Orangette. One dessert revealed itself to need only butter, not eggs. And it seemed like I could make it in under two hours.

Now, butter is not vegan, of course, but I happened to have a box of Earth Balance Trans-Free Shortening in the fridge. I bought this one day at Trader Joe's, convinced that I was about to have a pie-baking frenzy. The frenzy never came, for good or bad, and I was left with tasteless looking blocks of fat in the refrigerator door. Make that vegan tasteless looking blocks of fat.

Nate obligingly picked up some bananas and flour (we were running low - quel horreur!) and I was ready to make Coco-Banana Bread. I made the bread, radically altering the recipe (subbed cognac for rum, shortening for butter, sweetened for unsweetened coconut, and more), and was less than pleased with the inital results.

I arrived at the bake-off location, vegans! Not a single person participating in this debacle was a vegan. Some reformed vegans or vegetarians, one actual vegetarian, but no vegans. Confused by the rules of the contest in the absence of an obvious driving force, I was told that it was, as many things are, a long story. Involving vegan cupcakes. A gauntlet was laid down, and the bake-off was born. Not so long a story, I suppose.

Miracolo of miracolos, my bread came in second! It sunk in the middle while I cut it, becoming denser and sweeter, and the crust became crispier as it cooled. My strange shape-shifting bread lost to a peach-cherry cobbler. I happen to prefer a crisp, but the peaches were delicious. Hats off to the peach cobbler!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Marathon day approaches, and we cower in fear.

The San Francisco Marathon is July 29th, and I'm registered for the race. Finally, after six months of training and three months of injuries, I feel like I might be able to attempt this thing. My goal for the race is to finish before the course closes. And to be lucid enough post-race to enjoy a nice cold beer.

Speaking of which, Kara and I nearly had beer and cookies for dinner last night. After another long baking experiment that resulted in anticlimactic gingersnaps, we were too tired and full to contemplate dinner. Until 9pm, while watching Bridezillas!, when the Sam Adam's Summer Ale in our glasses awakened something resembling hunger. Tuna salad on toast to the rescue! Oh, to be 22 again.

Friday, July 20, 2007

How harebrained schemes begin, or Why my job blows

Two days ago, feeling particularly sickened by a deadly combination of florescent lights and rude, presumptuous clients, I sent Kara and Nate a craigslist "For Sale" posting. A mixed use building, two flats above, and a commercial space below. Perfect for living in and starting, say, a bakery. That produces primarily strawberry cupcakes.

Kara and Nate, being wise and practical, pointed out that large real-estate purchases should not coincide with going back to school. And, although it is nice to dream about becoming known for the best strawberry cupcake in the whole world, and getting rich, fat, and happy off of that, I think nursing skills are the more practical thing to acquire.

But then, I happened on an idea that really took my mind off of my reports and computer and complain-y messages: a cupcake catering business! Kara is on board, but pointed out that to make only cupcakes would be "very 90's", so we will make other desserts, too. And so the dessert trials begin. We made macaroons on Tuesday, and now I have a cookie jar full of chocolate-covered crack in the fridge. Really. They are that good. Anyone need dessert?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

so many fights, so little time

My parents were in town this weekend, which is probably the most exciting thing that has happened all month. Since visitor weekends always involve a lot of eating out, they suggested (forcefully) that I should write about these meals. Although I'm sure I won't do them justice, here are some highlights of the weekend.

On Friday, after breakfast at Tartine, we took the ferry to Angel Island. We spent the majority of our time lying on a defunct gun battery, getting sunburns (in San Francisco - mon dieu!). A small bit of time was spent eating the picnic lunch that my mother collected from the Ferry Building. Being my mother, she was wise enough to seek out the riches from Lulu Petite. Also being my mother, she packed more desserts than savory dishes. We are clearly not related.

Saturday also began with Tartine. If I could make their morning buns, I would be the Grand Ruler of the World. I'm sure this is why they exclude the recipe from their cookbook. Saturday continued with a wine soaked visit to Foreign Cinema (sans Francesca) and a windy drive to Half Moon Bay (avec Francesca, who pranced in the ocean and now smells like dead mussels). And Saturday ended with...Cortez! For Nate's birthday dinner. The food was wonderful, as usual, and I had their signature cocktail, a Cucumber Gimlet. Very refreshing. And very intoxicating, as indicated by the shenanigans that followed our pre-dinner cocktails. Lots of giggling and Mom-shushing and speculations on the occupations of fellow diners. Also a VERY loud fight about word choices. I'm sure our server was happy to be rid of us, although he was very charming and helpful.

We wound down on Sunday with homemade peach pancakes and lunch at 'WichCraft. Sad to see Mom and Dad go, but US Airways whisked them away that afternoon.

I seem to have forgotten about our dinner on Thursday night. For good reason - although the appetizers and desserts are innovative and fresh and delicious at Baraka, the entrees seem to come from a different kitchen entirely. I must remember that the next time we think we are too hungry to wait for Chez Papa or Aperto.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Clearly I have lost my own bet. Day three of "week of writing every day" and this is my second post. Well, as they say in both dieting and recovery circles, take it one day at a time. There will be an entry today.

S+O, Kara, and I went to Lo Coco's for S's birthday dinner last night. Lo Coco's generally thwarts our attempts at frequenting their establishment (like last Tuesday, when we wound up at Chez Panisse). Not last night, though. At Kara's suggestion, we decide to BYOB, and picked up a Barbera and something white from Vintage Berkeley. Two very exciting events occured before and after this Vintage Berkeley visit. Before: Pretty in Pink cupcakes from Love at First Bite. I think I have discovered their secret for the strawberry flavor. I will not divulge that here. After: Found and purchased a first edition of MFK Fisher's translation of the Physiology of Taste. !!! Nate thought I was crazy when I brought home a 60 year old book and wouldn't shut up about it. Perhaps I am.

Lo Coco's was excellent, as usual. The hostess had a bit of an attitude, as they sometimes do, but she loosened up as the night wore on. We had a green salad, insalata caprese, tortellini campagnola, linguine with meatballs, and pizza with eggplant and garlic. All fresh and well-prepared. Standouts: tortellini campagnola and the meatballs. The tortellini are bathed in a cream sauce with a touch of nutmeg. There is always a lot of sauce left on the plate after the pasta is gone, which is great, because you can soak the homemade bread in it. The meatballs have currants and pinenuts in them! They are sweet and delicious and wonderful. Sigh.

Friday, July 6, 2007

attempts to be a real blogger.

I believe that four people check this website regularly. One of them, a real blogger, tells me that I need to update my blog more frequently. As in, more than once a month. In an attempt to appease her voracious appetite for food-related nonsense, I am going to write every day for the next week. Ha. We'll see what happens.

On a happier note, two of my most favorite things came together in one dish at Garcon. Oeufs cocottes and foie gras. Eggs, baked in a ramekin with butter and cream, and some foie thrown in for good measure. Accompanied by long toast spears. Mmm. I know that Garcon tends to get mixed reviews, but for the rich things, like foie gras, and pork butt, and other fatty, dark meats and legumes, they're good. Maybe it has something to do with their proximity to my house. Boh.

Unrelated to Garcon, aside from the cost of the meals, is a spontaneous visit S+O and I made to Chez Panisse on Tuesday. One of the highlights, along with eating at 10:15 and feeling very continental, was the Vouvray we had with our first two courses. I'm not exactly sure what it was, aside from the fact that it was French (duh) and in a demi-bouteille. But it was good. Also, the goat cheese salad at CP is always great (in my limited, two visit experience). In Paris, all goat cheese salads are good, mysteriously, but that is not the case in America. Many thanks to Chez Panisse for warm creamy cheese and a well-constructed vinaigrette. Also, I have to mention the baby onions that accompanied the lamb shoulder for our main course. They were yummy.

Clearly, I am having trouble describing food, and writing in general. I think that I have florescent light poisoning. And wobbly desk syndrome. And my job is mindnumbingly boring and thankless disease.

Perhaps things will look up tomorrow.