Archive for February, 2008

So Saturday was the 11th Annual Fabulous Chocolate Party – and it was amazing, but I’ll post about it next because I made actual notes on the next part. But suffice it to say that if you had cut me this weekend, I would have bled chocolate. Delicious, gourmet chocolate of the gods.

ETA: No, I never did get around to writing up that post. I’ll try to do better for the 2009 one.

Meanwhile: there’s a work-related conference I go to this same weekend, and I’ll only tell you about the food bits of it —

Sunday, February 23
Usually the conference is at The Ritz, but they are renovating their main floor bar/lounge, so the conference relocated two blocks south to the Bellevue Hyatt, so things were a little different while still being just as luxurious.

At the breaks? OMG fresh fruit! Their standard tray of fruit had blackberries, raspberries, crosswise sliced blood oranges, sliced mango, amazing pineapple, and a sliced honeydew.

The tea was – wow, I can’t believe I didn’t steal a wrapper to give you the brand – anyway, so it was one of those big, luxurious silken pouch things with corners so that your looseleaf lea has room to expand and flavor the pot… only we were drinking from your standard dainty coffee cup, so the bag pretty much filled the cup. The tea was saved from being too strong, however, by the water from the carafe only being kept warm by a wee little sterno (but they sure were pretty urns – and they were clever enough to have no trace of coffee flavor coming from the hot water urn). The tea, while plenty tasty, was complicated by the small cursive writing of the variety names and similar pastel colors for the packages. While they had Vanilla Rooibus tea, the only decent black tea (I’m not counting Lavender Earl Grey as decent) was an Organic Breakfast. It ended up taking quite a while to search through all of the other herbal or barely caffeinated varieties to get to the real stuff.

At night there was a welcome reception up at the Rose Garden on the 19th floor (which didn’t have any roses, but that’s the hotels main area with reception and the restaurant – it’s because the first two floors are fancy shoppes and a food court and floors 4-12 are office space). This venue is also brilliant with vegetable! This was some of the best crudite I have ever had – sweet snow pea, grape tomatoes, baby zucchini sliced lengthwise and blanched for maybe two second to just improve the color and take away the fresh astringency, baby yellow squash, asparagus, red peppers, etc. – no carrots – all at the peak of freshness and perfect. I loved the french onion dip, but perhaps one of the three dips could have been dairy-free.

The walking hors d’oeuvres were amazing! There was a deliciously rich mushroom in puff pastry concoction that I’d guess also had chestnuts or something else rich in them, too. The teriaki steak was tender and incredibly flavorful – with decent amount of mellow garlic. There were halves of baked baby potatoes topped with curry chicken and garnished with almond slivers. And there was very tasty phyllo-wrapped sun-dried tomatoes with feta.

There was a carving station with perfectly tasty turkey roasted with a dried fruit compote, accompanied by a chestnut gravy – but it was incredibly boring compared to the rest of the fare

Monday, February 24
Breakfast involved rather good bagels (even seeded ones) with wonderfully not messy pre-sliced small squares of plain and flavoured cream cheese and /or butter. And there were tasty pastries – croissants, cheese-filled croissants, chocolate-filled croissants, danishes, and muffins – the cheese croissants had the best mix of being tasty while just moist enough not to be obscenely flaky/crumby on my businesswear (Yes! I have accumulated a wonderful 3-day selection of comfortable businesswear just for the sake of this conference, but it’s a starter set for a time when I might want to transition into being more respectable).

More of the amazing fruit at the later breaks. I can not eat too many blackberries! And the Hyatt was one of the best places I have seen for not clearing away the food from the previous break – they left it (and tidied it) throughout the day until it was eaten.

For lunch, I went out with a charming woman from the Copyright Clearance Center and the only attendee to whom I mentioned the Chocolate Party – who it also happened had been there, too! We went out to Indian Buffet, and then I tempted them into crossing the street to try the Naked Chocolate Cafe. They got tasty stuff (even toughing out a spicy beverage), but I just watched and enabled because this was a rather food intense few days.

And then that evening was the convention’s 50th Anniversary Gala Reception at the ballroom of the Academy of Music. The people working there are fabulous and friendly – especially the lovely butch woman in the tux with was the shift supervisor. I think she said she’d been there 20 years, even though she looked to be about my age.

The flowers were breathtaking – dense columns of orchids in glass vases, lush perfect roses, everything sumptuous and elegant and perfectly matched to the colors in the room.

The catering was also unbelievably good. Okay, so their hot hors d’oeuvres were unremarkable (the quesadillas tasted primarily of olive… I’d give you a list, but the couple other ones were unremarkable enough to have slipped my mind completely).

But the buffet – was amazing. There was a 3-tier stand with a mound of the most amazing prosciutto that just melted in my mouth – underneath was delicious shaved parmesan – and then there was a display that was an artistic bouquet of breadsticks and huge triangles of tasty flatbread. I had a lot of fun putting the prosciutto and parmesan on these flatbreads. So good! And that was just the start. (Oh, and the third tier was salami, which I am sure was excellent, but I didn’t even bother wasting stomach space on it.)

There were delicious roasted vegetables. I am just going to assure you that the bell peppers and the marinated portabellas and the summer squash drizzled in balsamic reduction were all wonderful and move on to the artichoke hearts, which were an entire stem of artichoke, trailing off about 4-5 inches long – soft and delicious. I have never seen the like.

There was delicious cheese and rice.

And then – *swoon* there was tenderloin of beef. Not heated, just sliced. And it was perfect. It was the platonic ideal of beef – both incredibly tender and incredibly flavorful. It melted like butter. If that wasn’t good enough, there were topping available: wine (I forget which kind) reduction with mushrooms, blue cheese crumbles, and light and crispy fried onion strings. This was right up there with my best ever beef experiences.

Oh, and if the walking hors d’oeuvres had not impressed, the small desserts passed around more than made up for it – passion fruit ice cream, cute tiny creme brulees, and chocolate brownies with chunks of chocolate and topped with peanut butter mousse.

I rolled over to the bus stop.

Tuesday, February 26
Breakfast – Same tasty tea, same tasty pastries, same tasty fruit.

And then there was an awards lunch. There was a decent caesar salad. The main was a lovely grilled sirloin that would have been amazing, if it hadn’t been immediately following the genius beef from the night before. The catering coordinator guy who’d been overseeing everything the past few days was chatting with us during lunch (since the volunteers ate at the registration table instead of upstairs with everyone else) and he mentioned that the hotel got their beef from the same supplier as The Palm restaurant on the ground floor and that it was probably $30/lb. But what was really good about the main – was the vegetables. Really, these people are very good with veggies. Root vegetables (a little bit of mashed potatoes to hold things in place) cooked so that they were soft and flavorful while still maintaining vivid colors – a baby turnip, a red beet, and a golden beet – they were sliced in half and delightful to eat.

Dessert was pretty much a giant truffle garnished with raspberry coulis and a raspberry. Very good, but almost impossible to finish – especially by this part of the week(end).

21
Feb

More hot chocolate

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in hot chocolate, Review

Because my data from the cafe in the basement was corrupt (I had sent a student worker to bring me hot chocolate, and so I didn’t know whether it was made from a syrup or a powder), I felt fully justified in trying there again… especially since it let me avoid an elevator ride with someone I don’t like.

Syrup!

Also, there is a hidden syrup option that doesn’t appear anywhere on the menu – I just happened to spot a jug of mayan chocolate syrup on their counter.

Today’s hot chocolate, therefore, was incredibly sinfully good, but I have no idea whether I should blame that on “exotic” chocolate or the fact that the other syrup was added on top of the regular syrup and I had 160% of the recommended chocolate syrup portioning. MMmmm!

And there was more decorative syrup on top of the whipped cream.

A+ for the convenient cafe. (but possibly not replicable)

ETA: totally replicable.

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20
Feb

What do you mean when you say it’s a squash?

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Food, historical

So I am preparing another workshop on Roman cooking, and I’m trying to include more of the vegetable dishes.

But I have a translation problem.
Book III (The Gardener): Section IV Cucurbitas

See – that is the genus name for squash (summer & winter). But I’m pretty sure that squash was native to the western hemisphere.

So what would the Romans have been talking about?

~*~

Okay, so I was ashamed to post this without a proper googling, first.

This page explains that what I’m really looking for is called a calabash, and I think I am reading it correctly that the easiest substitution would be a zucchini, right?

ETA: Here is a picture of the calabash split open. I am dubious.

~*~

Okay, so when the calabash is less mature and in Italy, it is known as a cucuzza. Here is a good guide on picking and cooking one. Actually, this vegetable (straight, not bulgy, about 1 foot long) is frequently available at my produce truck. SCORE!

Here agrees that the calabash and the cacuzza are the same gourd.

~*~

ETA: 9/9/08 : Looks like someone has already done this research

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19
Feb

Have another food list – Mexican Corn Soup

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Food, lists, Recipe, soup

food I have
Produce
1 grapefruit
oranges
2 tomatoes (1 urgent)
3 roasted bell peppers
2-3 bell peppers (yellow & red)
broccoli
mixed small lettuces

Dairy
3/4 container of sour cream
1% milk
1/2 pint heavy cream
goat cheese

Starch
1/3 loaf of brown bread (ETA: just heels left)
1/2 round of pumpernickel
small amount of leftover white rice

Protein
carnitas
some leftover cooked chicken (from the breasts marinated in peaches & cowboy rub)

Miscellaneous
some prepared enchiladas that need to be baked
sauce to go with them

meals
Tuesday, February 19 *done*
take 1 link of turkey sausage from freezer to thaw.
take container of small cut pork from freezer to thaw (with black bean & pepper sauce?)
put enchiladas into the freezer
Make a sandwich with chicken leftovers, tomato, and lettuce (and goat cheese?)

Wednesday, February 20 *done*
make a “bread pudding” with some of the pumpernickel bread, eggs, cream, cheese, tomato, and grilled turkey sausage with onions and peppers. Possibly bacon, too. With a little side salad, of course.
*freeze some of this for lunches*

Thursday, February 21 *done*
stir fry of pork, broccoli, onion, and peppers over rice.

Friday, February 22
leftover rice needs to be used up. So do carnitas. Would it be sacrilege to dump them together with cream of chicken soup? Probably. So it would be slightly more respectable to… make burritos! with lots of cheese and sour cream – and maybe a zucchini. And all the rest of the lettuce.

plus bonus recipe – Mexican corn soup
Oh, and I almost forgot to give you the recipe for the soup I made the other day.

If you remember, I had some stock with tomato paste mixed in (let’s say a 3-4 cups of stock with 1/2 a little can of paste).

I also had some liquid I had drained out of the carnitas at the very last minute because I didn’t have the nerve to see what happened to my cooking pot, if I let the pork get completely dry. This was only about 1 cup of lovely pork/citrus/spices essence.

So I went looking in my Mexican cookbook, and found a recipe for corn soup I could use as a starting point.

So I boiled the stock/tomato paste mixture for 20 minutes to kill any bacteria.

Then I combined in a blender:

  • 1 onion, cooked down in some of the fat skimmed from the pork liquid (there wasn’t much, really – I was using pork loin instead of the fattier cuts the carnitas recipe recommends) and then seasoned with paprika
  • 1 can of corn, drained
  • 1 tomatoes, peeled and seeded
  • enough stock to make everything juicy and blending smoothly

In a saucepan, I think combined:

  • everything from the blender
  • the rest of the stock
  • salt & pepper

If I were following the recipe, I would now add 1/2 a cup (a whole cup? I don’t remember) of heavy cream. But since most of this would be going into the refrigerator and getting reheated, I decided to add the cream right before serving. And then I found that lumps of sour cream were more satisfying than cream.

I also considered adding chicken at that time, but I ended up also just adding cut up chicken to the bowls while reheating so that I could have the option to swap in carnitas instead of chicken (though I never for around to trying that). It was also a good soup without meat.

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14
Feb

It has been a while since a food list

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in Food, lists

food I have
produce
1/2 pt fermented peaches soon to die of oxidation
3 wintery roma tomatoes
butternut squash
2 jalepeno peppers
1 yellow bell pepper
4 roasted red & yellow peppers

dairy
I need to buy milk and/or heavy cream
cream cheese
sour cream
goat cheese
parmesan

protein
a little bit of leftover roast chicken (1 sandwich worth)
2 chicken breasts marinating in onion, fermented peaches, white balsamic, and cowboy rub

meals
So I need to go ahead and make the chicken, but I haven’t decided whether I’m just popping it in the oven, or whether I want to cut it up and saute it and turn it into real food (maybe fajitas, and that would use up the bell pepper, too. Oh, and a tomato.).

I also need to go ahead and make the butternut squash. I think I want a soup, and I have thousands (slight exaggeration) of butternut squash soup recipes, but I’m not feeling inspired about it yet. I think it’s that I’ve been wanting food I can chew, lately.

I’d been looking for something to do with the bits of fermented peach after I’d strained the liquor off… I thought of making little tarts with peaches and goat cheese, but if I don’t make it either tonight or tomorrow morning, I think the peaches will end up in the compost, instead. I’m wondering whether a little dab of tamarind sauce would make those tarts even better, but I won’t know unless I get off my ass and try.

I’ve been eating a lot of mexican (inspired) food lately. I had tasty carnitas quesadillas (and I still have half the pork left in my freezer), mexican corn soup, a few trips to the mexican restaurant, and I’ve also been making some of my sleazy cheezy dip.

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9
Feb

Is it a date date?

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in restaurant, Review

Tragically stuck without a D&D game for the evening, I decided to have a look the the classifieds on Craigslist.

1) Apparently there will be a Frida Kahlo exhibit at the art museum. Woot! So going. But I bet the guy looking for someone petite to accompany him wasn’t looking for me.

2) I might be meeting some other random guy for coffee.

3) I did meet up with someone looking for appetizers & drinks tonight. It was… odd.

So he left me a voicemail (because occasionally my phone just doesn’t feel like ringing) that said something like, “I will be on time. I am wearing [generic colored] pants, a shirt with [some bland pattern], a green corduroy jacket, and a [some color] vest.” So I left him a voicemail saying, “I am wearing a bright orange shirt.” Because, really, that’s so much easier. And, yes, I did change out of a beige shirt into the orange shirt – but not just for easy recognizability, but also because I spilled tea on the beige shirt two seconds before leaving work.

We went to a nifty place that Philadelphia Magazine mentions frequently: SnackBar. Sadly, (or happily?) despite the crazy avant garde foams I’d been promised, their menu was a bit creative, but basically solid.

But first – let me talk about the random date guy. He mentioned that he’d been having a rough week. I mentioned that I’d had better weeks, too, and that I wanted something fun to do over the weekend before my birthday. So we got together, if not to be romantic, at least to bitch in luxury.

Man, he totally wins for stress. He’s working on Clinton’s campaign. So he spent the entire time (while talking a mile a minute) trying to figure out whether his team was going to have to fly out that night to Virginia or whether they’d be going tomorrow. Mind you, I get off work at 9pm, and we met up at 10pm, so he finally arranges for the charter to leave at 11:30pm and had the driver pick him up at 10:45. Shortest date ever.

Yet oddly, not a total loss.

We went through a lot of politics. He (accidentally) evened out one of my concerns about Obama. We talked about the difference in payroll between Democratic and Republican campaign workers (Democratic campaign workers are paid 5% off the top of the funds spend, including funds spent on television ads, so they have to raise that much more money off the top. Republican workers are paid largely in a victory bonus, if the campaign is successful.) He talked about how incredibly boring it had been to be on staff (instead of just trying to get elected) for [a local politician]. He’s been working on political campaigns since, I think he said, Al Gore’s presidential bid. And right now he’s a grad student in economics – he’d been hoping to write his dissertation in the space between March and September, but it’s not looking like the election will give him any free time.

Freakishly, he even managed to be interesting when talking about economics. He recommended two books he has read lately – one about the manufacture of a t-shirt, but he couldn’t remember the title (maybe this book?), and the other was The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs, which he claimed was economically solid and contained actionable steps.

And we talked about how if the democrats don’t win, we might consider emigration (as you do). He suggested Montreal because being bilingual would mean they’d have twice as many books for the library (yes, we did find time to talk about me, too). I mentioned that that would be no use, since I am pants with French. And then we started comparing Toronto and Vancouver… and he mentioned Battlestar Galactica being filmed in Vancouver. I was all ready to discount the geek quotient since I’d already primed him with the knowledge that I was a wee bit geeky, but then he added that the entire bit on Caprica had been filmed on a local college campus. And I have no idea, but I am well pleased that he thought that was worth knowing.

But with being all stressed, he wasn’t at all prepared for a relaxing evening. Despite having clearly stipulated that we had to go somewhere with a liquor license, he ended up only having ice tea. I, on the other hand, had some house cocktail with apple cider and stuff that went down easy but wasn’t particularly noticeable. And since I wasn’t going to try a new restaurant without trying anything on the menu, I got the brussel sprouts small dish. OH! It was wonderful. It was thin slices of brussel sprouts with sweet apple and big chunks of rustic bacon with a coarse mustard sauce. Mmmm! After that was so successful, I was tempted to try the salmon with bok choi and stuff, but my date had already left and the price was a little much – besides, with just one dish the restaurant had a great record going – a shame to break that.

All in all – far from the worst date I’ve ever had.

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1
Feb

Hot Chocolate

   Posted by: JS74nCLOr6    in hot chocolate, Review

In the ongoing quest for really good hot chocolate nearby (since the best I’ve found in the city so far is either from Walnut Bridge or Naked Chocolate, depending on the type of hot chocolate you want, but I’m not popping over to either on a quick break)…

Anyway, so in the ongoing quest for nearby hot chocolate, I used a coupon for a free cup of Milky Way brand hot chocolate from Dunkin Donuts (the closest external hot chocolate source. So even though I have never heard of this unholy combination, who am I to pass up free stuff I want anyway?

So it’s hot chocolate from a machine. With caramel flavor. And it’s pretty damn good. I think this might be the best hot chocolate I’ve had on this quest. And by far the cheapest.

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