Only 27 percent lies

July 12th, 2003 § Comments off § permalink

Some of the fruits available at the Berkeley Farmers’ Market:

  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Apricots
  • Plums
  • Pluots
  • Plumcots
  • Apriums
  • Loquats
  • Apriplots
  • Plumpriapes
  • Apriplunectacots


July 2nd, 2003 § Five comments § permalink

So you want a cephalopod for dinner, but the only thing in your fridge is a package of hot dogs. What are you going to do?

The answer is simple: You are going to buy an Octodog.

Just thinking about the name of this product makes me happy. Octodog octodog octodog octodog!

Minty deliciousness

June 13th, 2003 § Seven comments § permalink

I am working with top scientists (by which I mean my new housemate Elanor) to develop the perfect mojito recipe. By the end of the summer, we will be world-renowned mojito experts, and bartenders from around the world will pay thousands of dollars a day to attend mojito-mixing seminars in our backyard.

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • Fresh limes are critical. Dropping half the lime into the drink is perhaps not.
  • Unless you like a watered-down drink, put plenty of ice cubes in the glass before you top it off with soda water.
  • Use plenty of mint. We still haven’t found the perfect amount; I plan to try about a stalk’s worth of mint leaves next time.

Even in our embryonic state of mojito refinement, I must say that we are making some damned delicious cocktails. A mojito is an outstanding place to hide three shots of rum.

Chez Panisse

May 25th, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

In honor of my brother’s graduation from UC Berkeley, my family ate at the Chez Panisse Café on Saturday night. Sweet merciful Jesus, what a marvelous restaurant. The food is fantastic, completely unpretentious, made with incredibly fresh seasonal and locally grown ingredients. And the Arts and Crafts furnishings are perfectly in keeping with the food–understated and beautifully made.

My brother let me sample his first course, a plate of baby squid baked in a wood oven with hot pepper sauce and rosemary. It may well have been the best squid I have ever tasted. For the entree, I ordered the duck leg with pork crépinette and fava bean toast; the earthiness of the fava beans went brilliantly with the duck. My dessert was three tiny scoops of an utterly revelatory Meyer lemon sherbet that I intend to make this summer as soon as possible (happily, the recipe appears in Chez Panisse Fruit).

Oh, and there were other starters and entrees, and a delightful Pinot Gris from Oregon, and these tiny olives the likes of which I had never seen before, and delicious artisanal breads, and possibly centaur musk.

Have I mentioned how happy I am to be moving to Berkeley?

Banana nut muffins

April 6th, 2003 § One comment § permalink

The aforementioned banana muffins turned out rather well–so well, in fact, that I’ll post the recipe here. This is adapted very slightly from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking. You can replace 1/2 cup of the regular flour with whole-wheat flour, should you have any (I didn’t).

Preheat the oven to 375° F. Grease a standard 12-muffin pan or line with paper cups.

Whisk together thoroughly:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Stir in:

  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Whisk together in a large bowl:

  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 mashed ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Add the flour mixture and mix together with a few light strokes just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Do not overmix; the batter should not be smooth. Divide the batter among the muffin cups.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in 1 or 2 of the muffins comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool for 2 to 3 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve as soon as possible, preferably the day they are baked.

Alice Waters I ain’t

April 5th, 2003 § Two comments § permalink

This has been a lousy day for cooking. I started to make tapenade this afternoon, but the olives I was using were nearly tasteless, and the anchovies were seven different shades of awful. So much for tapenade. Tonight, when I tried a fish recipe that includes a feta cheese sauce of sorts, I discovered that I had inadvertently purchased cow’s milk feta. Who the hell makes feta with cow’s milk? Some dairy cooperative in Wisconsin, that’s who. (Serves me right for buying feta from Wisconsin.) Anyhow, cow’s milk feta is wretched, and it didn’t help matters that I used four times as much yogurt in the sauce as the recipe called for.

I was planning to make banana muffins tomorrow morning, but now I’m not so sure. Apparently I am no longer capable of assembling an entire recipe’s worth of decent ingredients.

I stay astounded as the grounds roll in

February 5th, 2003 § Five comments § permalink

After three weeks of daily cappuccinos while I was in the UK, I decided when I got back that I might as well continue the habit. I’m now the proud owner of a Guido Bergna stovetop espresso maker, purchased from EspressoPeople. Now I can feed my sick, sick addiction twenty-four hours a day enjoy delicious coffee in the privacy of my own home.

Just for clarification, though:

Don’t be fooled by the grounds that I got
I’m still, I’m still Jeffy from the block
Used to buy espresso, now I have a pot
No matter how I brew, I know my barista

No wonder 58 percent of Britons are overweight

January 14th, 2003 § Eight comments § permalink

If Jesus died for my sins, he was surely resurrected so I would have an excuse to eat Cadbury’s Creme Eggs every spring. During my childhood, Cadbury’s Creme Eggs were the best thing about Easter; now that I’m an adult heathen, they are the only thing about Easter. They are, to put it mildly, not very good for you, but I would eat Cadbury’s Creme Eggs even if they were found to contain partially hydrogenated baby heads. That’s how much I like them.

Knowing all that, you can imagine how excited I was to discover that in England, you can buy Cadbury’s Creme Eggs from vending machines on the London Underground. A three-pack costs a pound. I managed to limit myself to a single pack, purchased at Paddington station on my way out of the country.

They also do all sorts of wonderful things with white chocolate in England. My favorite was easily the Kit Kat White, which is just a Kit Kat Big Kat with white chocolate instead of milk chocolate. There’s also the Cadbury’s SnowFlake, a crumbly, flaky swirl of white chocolate coated in milk chocolate, and Cadbury’s Dream Snow Bites, which are small candies with a white chocolate coating around a tasty center whose contents escape me at the moment.

Oh, yes, and there was also the Nestle Aero Mint, a milk chocolate bar with minty bubbly things in it. Mmmmmmm.

I wonder if Cadbury’s Creme Eggs are on sale here yet.

The ethics of meat

November 11th, 2002 § Three comments § permalink

Michael Pollan has yet another terrific piece in this week’s New York Times Magazine about the ethics of eating meat. After examining the philosophical underpinnings of vegetarianism, Pollan concludes that the act of eating meat is fine; it’s the way we raise meat in the United States that’s troublesome. Worth a read no matter what your eating habits might be.

Incidentally, Pollan is lecturing at UC Berkeley tomorrow (Tuesday) night. I wish I could go.

Cod wallop

November 7th, 2002 § Comments off § permalink

Due to years of overfishing, the North Sea’s cod population is lower than it has ever been, and experts are worried that the region will never recover unless commercial cod fishing is banned indefinitely.

The article notes that a fishing ban would destroy the economies of some Danish towns. Surely, though, it would be better (and cheaper, in the long run) for the European Union to subsidize those towns temporarily rather than watch the cod stock dwindle to nothing.

There’s another more difficult issue here, as the article acknowledges: “[E]ven if the North Sea cod are saved, the pressure will likely move to other fisheries to meet the voracious appetite for fish sticks, fish and chips and fried fish sandwiches–or it will go to other species.” The only way around that problem is for people to change the way they eat. (Farm-raised fish are an alternative, but they’re far from a panacea.)

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