Monday, October 5, 2009

Cupcakes, untested.

it's almost halloween!!

I'd been slacking in the baking department due to the heat and our lack of AC. Now that it's cooled off, (and there was a request for spooky cupcakes from LPR's coworkers) I was excited to get back in the swing of things. For flavors, I decided to go with this recipe but I added a bit of cayenne, and am now calling them Mexican chocolate. I paired them with a cinnamon buttercream. No recipe, it's from a cookbook, and is your standard butter, powdered sugar, milk, vanilla situation. (With cinnamon added. Hence the cinnamon buttercream. Magic, I know) Spiderwebs for decoration.

I really wanted to find small spider candies but had no luck. If any of the 6 readers of this blog know where I might find them, lemme know.

Next up: golden vanilla cupcakes (recipe from a cookbook) with a layer of a bastardized version of salted caramel (I had no heavy cream, only skim milk. Tasted good, looked weird.) Basic buttercream on top. Mummies.

Before I tell you how they turned out, I should tell you that I have yet again re-joined Weight Watchers. I share this with all 6 of you because I didn't really test my cupcakes (I nibbled a tiny crumb and checked the cinnamon buttercream) but have no idea what the finished products taste like. That sounded sadder than expected. It's not. I lost 4 pounds last week. Oh yeah.

The verdict, it seemed was quite positive-LPR said he liked the vanilla one better, but both were yummy.

Next up is going to be pumpkin with the most amazing salted caramel cream cheese frosting I have ever tasted ever. Ever.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A taste of home

Confession: I'm not a HUGE cheesesteak fan. I mean, I eat them and I enjoy them, but I don't really crave them, I don't have strong opinions on what people put them on, and (gasp) I usually eat chicken cheesesteaks over beef. Oh, and I never order them like a Philly native. BUT I'm always excited about anything from Philly, so I couldn't wait to try out the South Philly Experience truck. (Follow them on Twitter)

So, yesterday after work, LPR and I headed to Melrose & Curson. The menu is limited, and from what I understand they're having trouble with the fryer so there are no fries. I got an American with (but I totally ordered it as "a cheesesteak with American cheese and onions, please") LPR got a Provolone with.

I really really wanted to love these. Like, love them the way LPR loves Steve's Prince of Steaks (I actually order beef instead of chicken there. They're melt in your mouth amazing)

Alas, South Philly Experience is no Steve's. But they're not bad. They use Amoroso rolls, which is delightful. LPR thought the bread didn't taste fresh, I disagree. My big beef (hahaha) is with the meat. It was way greasy and had a slightly "off" flavor. Not "rotten-off", LPR described it as tasting like a food-truck cheesesteak, which is not at all an insult.

Overall, it did the job. Since I've never been a regular cheesesteak eater, I can't say when I'll return. Perhaps when I get another bout of homesick-ness. Especially because they have Tastycakes!! (and I was so excited to order that I forgot to ask if they had soft pretzels. Looking at the online menu, it would appear that they don't)

Perhaps they'll add a chicken cheesesteak?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Autumn, and you know

Fall is, by far, my favorite season. Turns out Southern California doesn't really have Fall. I sort of knew this but it really hit me today. It was like, 87 degrees. And all I could think of was pumpkin spice, turtlenecks, scarves, and perfect sleeping weather. Luckily, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has their Pumpkin Ice Blended out, so I was able to indulge in my first of the season.

As a side note, Coffee Bean doesn't have the nutritional values for their seasonal items on their website, so I emailed them. In less than an hour and a half, Rochelle Jones, a
Customer Relations Representative had replied with everything I wanted. I love good customer service!!!

My favorite summer salad

I love watermelon. A lot. And I'm a bit late to the whole "watermelon as part of a savory salad" thing. Last summer, I discovered it at Valanni in Philly. I had a salad with watermelon, feta, and...that's all I remember. (There's a picture of it on the website but I don't see it listed anywhere on the menu) But it was delicious, whatever was in it.

Anyway, I started making my own version with cubed tomato, watermelon, Parmesan, some balsamic vinegar (I like this one from DiBruno Bros. And yes, it moved with us) and salt and pepper. Delicious! This summer, I've been making it, but subbing in cucumber for tomato (nothing compares to a Jersey tomato, and LPR isn't a fan of tomato in salads) and sometimes adding in green onion and some lettuce. It's salty and sweet and creamy and oniony and so so so good. Like, make noises while you eat good. It would be even better with arugula though. Or some sort of pea sprout! Oooh that would be good! You should try that.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A love letter

Dear Vons:

Your store brands are the bees knees. It was your phenomenal branding that first got my attention: your Lucerne products are so appealing to look at. I feel like I am purchasing some frou frou dairy product. And your organics! They look so much like Whole Paycheck's 365 brand, that my sister didn't know the organic frozen waffles I bought for her were anything but.

But what has captured my heart are your incredible yogurt flavors. Yes, yogurt. And light yogurt at that. Bartlett Pear Mangosteen. Passion Orange Pineapple. Let me say it again: Passion. Orange. Pineapple. I wanna give this yogurt a baby.

Yours truly,

Monday, August 24, 2009

Photos of my life in food

Food is obviously something that occupies a large portion of my thinking. With the exception of food I actually make, I've found that I don't usually take photos of the food I'm about to eat, but rather photos of me eating, LPR eating, or photos of us before or after eating. Some are quick moments in my life, some have strong emotions attached. These are my stories. (cue Law & Order "dum dum")

These are the very first fancy shmancy decorated cupcakes I made, and I did them for LPR's bday a few years back. This was before I got all mature and hoity toity and was still using boxed cake and frosting.

I went through a brightly colored sugar cookie phase (mainly while I was on leave from my job to finally finish my thesis for my Masters Degree):

Also, while on my leave, my sister and I planned a surprise "120th" birthday party for my parents. (they turned 60 within a month of each other.) It was a lovely event, with otherwise forgetful food....with the exception of the cakes we got from Flying Monkey Patisserie in Philadelphia. We ordered a pound cake with lemon frosting for my dad, and a chocolate cake with raspberry frosting for my mom. It's worth mentioning that what you see below represents half of what we ordered. And that there was also dessert served at the party. We had so much cake leftover that we were giving it to anyone who would take it. Which wasn't too difficult because it was sofreakingdelicious. I loved this party, because my parents were so happy to have family and friends together. Plus my mom didn't have to cook.

the delicious cakes.

This was my first foray into fancy baking, made for LPR's bday last year:

It was this fantastic chocolate, salted caramel layer cake with almonds that took about 47 hours to make and coated our itty bitty kitchen in chocolate. And then of course, I realized that there were only 2 of us to eat it, so we ended up bringing slices of it to LPR's parents and sister when we went out for a birthday dinner. Delicious, nonetheless.

I am noticing a theme of too much cake/too few people. Moving on....

In November, 2008 we attended a wedding in Edinburgh, so we decided to jump over to Dublin for a night and Paris for 2 nights. You know, cause of my love of all things French. We were there for Thanksgiving, and it so happened that on the Champs Elysees, everything was decorated for Christmas, and there was a sort of street fair going on.

In Paris on our first night, drinking a whiskey/coffee deliciousness: (the name I have forgotten) and eating a baguette with butter, ham and cheese. I could eat these every day of my life. True story.

This is where I interrupt the story to tell you about the photos I forgot to take. On Thanksgiving day, LPR and I hopped a train to Versailles to have lunch at Gordon Ramsey's La Veranda at the Trianon Palace. It was an amazing experience. They let me speak my crappy french and didn't sneer at us while we struggled with words. When I asked where the bathroom was (and even understood the response!), they still walked me halfway there. Just so, so nice. And the food. LPR had oysters (after we had to ask what the word "huitre" was) and I believe they were the best he's had. Also, I can't remember what else we ate. But it was delicious. And just a wonderful experience. (and yes I see the irony in not remembering what we ate and still talking about the meal. It doesn't matter because the memory of the whole is more important than the specifics. Or something like that)

That night, we went to Montmartre to see Sacre Coeur. We also had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner of ham & cheese omelets, bread, and wine. This is LPR looking French and pensive. This happens to be a very strong, happy memory that fills me with an intense sense of....sentimentality? Not sure what it is, but it makes me want to go right back to that spot.

Ahhh Paris. I hope to see you again soon.

Fast forward to our life in LA....

This will probably get its own review one day, but I wanted to put this here anywhere. LPR and I discovered a fantastic restaurant within walking distance of our apartment. This is the bill from our first visit. Despite the Devil's tax, we continue to return.

Oh! the restaurant is called Lou.

Finally, because it's clear you don't understand just how much I love food and baking, I had it tattooed on my footAnd yes, it hurt like a bitch.

I love all things French....usually

Oh how I love french food. And french restaurants. Steak tartare, steak frites, giant plates of country ham, baguettes, croissants. And luckily, LPR loves himself some escargot. In fact one of my favorite meal/food experiences was when we were in St. Maarten and had lunch on the beach-I started with carpaccio, he started with escargot, and then we shared some sashimi. All while our waitress spoke in French and English. And gave us complimentary house made rum at the end.

So...whenever there is a French restaurant with carpaccio, some sort of tartare, and escargots, I'm ready to go. I'd passed by Figaro in Los Feliz, and really wanted to check it out. We happened to be going to the Steve Allen Theatre to see Nevermore (go see it. now. it's great), so it was a great opportunity to go.

Let's start with the good:
  • GREAT happy hour menu that includes mini-martinis for $4 and carpaccio and escargots for $5
  • Pretty decent frenchy-bistro atmosphere.
The bad:
  • Terrible service. We had considered dessert, but it took our waiter so long to check on us that we were afraid we'd miss the show if we ordered even coffee.
  • Not so great food. I got the carpaccio* to start. When it came out, I thought there had maybe been a mixup and they had given me salmon carpaccio. The beef was pink, not the bright red it should be. It was waaay over dressed with too much lemon. LPR had the escargots. He said, fairly unenthusiastically, that they were "fine". For my entree, I opted for the salmon tartare. A bit too fishy, and the potato blinis tasted like something from a box. LPR had the sea bass cassoulett with clams. It was served with an unnecessary tomato tempura situation. (it was good, but didn't seem to go with the dish) There also seemed to be a weird use of fresh basil on everything.

We probably would have enjoyed our food more had the service not been so. unbearably. slow.

And so we continue on our (my) search for great french food in LA.

*what is that, the 3rd time I've said "carpaccio" in this post?

This would be what we stared at for a good 15 minutes as we waited for our waiter. or the dessert menu. or the check.

Another first-

Despite my love of baking, I had never made a pie. Ever. So on June 2, I had a random day off, and I made my very first pie ever. Cherry. Complete with lattice crust. It was delicious.

damn good cherry pie.

Feeling Homesick

One of the things I miss about Philly is the ability to get soft pretzels easily. It's silly, because I didn't eat them that often. There's a chain called The Philly Soft Pretzel Factory that makes giant twist soft pretzels. And in different flavors, like bagels. I love the "everything" That and a cup of soup made for a perfect lunch.

Shortly after moving here, I got a craving for soft pretzels. Having never made a yeast recipe, I scoured the internets for the perfect one, and came upon Alton Brown's. LPR will say I chose this recipe because I have a crush on Mr. Brown. I argue that this recipe had the best reviews.

It wasn't as difficult as I expected, but then, this is what I ended up with:

Once baked, they tasted fine, but still looked funny. In my expert opinion, I would say that they needed more flour, which probably would have made the dough waaaay less sticky and easier to shape. They weren't quite dense enough, which probably would have been corrected with more flour as well.

I will probably try again, but not until it cools down. Did I mention we don't have AC?

First post!

Hi there!

Back when we lived in Philly, we often talked about blogging about all of our fun food and drink experiences, because as LPR said, "we like food and have strong opinions!" We never did, and now we're in LA and it's time to start writing, I think. We've only been here for 6 months, which means so many of our experiences are brand new. Also, I love to bake and I try to cook, so expect to hear about those adventures.
("Food and you know" came from a roadtrip, when LPR suggested we stop at a rest stop for "Food, and you know". I'm still not sure what the "you know" was)