Thursday, May 22, 2003

Dining experience enhancement product of the day

Sometimes, when I'm eating, I wonder: Will I ever finish my Ph.D.? Will we ever find world peace? Will scientists find a way to stop aging? And where the heck are the napkins?

And that's when I really wish I had a Swami Fortune Teller Napkin Holder just like the evil machine from the Nick of Time Twilight Zone episode (and William Shatner's finest acting moment). It seems that these were common things back in the heydey of diners, and now are much more rare. But can you really put a price on getting a vague yet creepily accurate prediction with your napkin? I didn't think so.

Monday, May 19, 2003

Challenging drink of the day
The itsy-bitsy bottle was cute. The bright red color was inviting. The Italian-ness was intriguing.

But the first taste Sanbitter is godawful.

Sanbitter is a non-alcoholic aperitif and something like a soda version of Campari. When they say bitter, they mean it. That first taste was like the medicine you take as a kid (the ones that are loaded with sugar so it doesn't taste bad, but it still does). The second gulp was a little better: like the pith of an orange. By the third sip: more like grapefruit.

Except that I hate grapefruit. So it never got past "yuck" for me. Sour I love; bitter is a whole other story. Foodgoat liked it more.

Hint: don't stop in the middle of it. The first taste, it seems, is always bad.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Substitute ingredient of the day
Foodgoat reports that Ziyad tahini sauce tastes just like peanut butter, but for the a lack of a little salt. It makes sense, since I've sometimes seen peanut butter listed as an alternative to tahini in recipes for hummus. I can't confirm, though, since I haven't had peanut butter since ... ever. I had a peanut when I was five, and I had chicken with peanut sauce when I was 21, but those experiences are memorable more for immediate trips to the emergency room than for the flavor of things. Based on the Ziyad tahini though, I don't think I'm missing much on that end.
History of the food world, part I
Through the remarkably thorough Food Timeline, one discovers that popcorn is surprisingly old (3600 B.C.), while Yukon Gold potatoes are surprisingly young (1981). One also finds a nifty collection of historical recipes, such as this 1818 recipe for mulaga-tawny soup:

"Take two quarts of water, and boil a nice fowl or chicken, then put in the following ingredients, a large white onion, a large chilly, two teaspoonsful of ginger pounded, the same of currystuff, one teaspoonful of turmeric, and half a teaspoonful of black pepper: boil all these for half an hour, and then fry some small onions, and put them in. Season it with salt, and serve it up in a tureen. Obs. - It will be a great improvement, when the fowl is about half boiled, to take it up and cut it into pieces, and fry them and put them into the soup the last thing.”

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Our friends, the goats
Goats are good to the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only do they cut the grass, but they also bring us goat milk, which turns into goat cheese (aka chevre), from which the Cheese Board Collective in Berkeley creates goat cheese pizza, which I've only had once but was far and away the best pizza I've ever had ... it can still make my mouth water just thinking about it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Things my father taught me

How to check the oil in my car, the value of a strong work ethic, and cooking corn on the cob in the microwave. Among other things of course. But it's the joys of the last one that I have rediscovered of late. Microwave-made corn on the cob, which blows away all other methods both in taste and ease. All you do is peel away the outer layers of the husk and put the ears into the microwave for 8-10 minutes (this is for two ears). The result is crisp and flavorful and easy to clean up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Things I've learned

Good: Hawaiian (pineapple & ham) pizza
Not so good: Hawaiian sandwich (pineapple & ham on sweet Hawaiian bread ... it just tastes weird)

Good: Hash browns with a little bit of honey drizzled on top
Not so good: Hash browns with Kraft artifical maple syrup (bleah)

Good: Flourless chocolate cake, with Valrhona bittersweet, Callebaut semisweet, & Ghiradelli cocoa powder, straight from the oven (just like brownies!)
Way Better: Aforementioned flourless cake, one day later, from the fridge (more like what flourless cake should taste like ... very chocolate-y)

Saturday, May 10, 2003

Alterna-beer of the day

Woodchuck's brand new Raspberry Cider is even sweeter than their other flavors, rendering the alcohol almost undetectable. It's like drinking juice. Which, in my mind, is not a bad thing.

Friday, May 9, 2003

You can't go back

Milk chocolate just doesn't cut it anymore. It's even starting to taste bad, now that I've gotten used to Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate.

Another chocolate I could get used to is the much-acclaimed Valrhona, which I recently discovered at the West Side Market. We tried the Guanaja, the bitter dark chocolate with 70% cocoa, which was not at all sweet, but was, dare I say it, smooth and complex. The chocolate pie was transformed by a sprinkle of the stuff on top (and the removal of milk chocolate curls). I've never had bittersweet chocolate before: apparently it is used primarily for baking, so the fact that we ate it like a candy bar is a testament to its goodliness.

Thursday, May 8, 2003

Birthday Treats continued

Look what I got in the mail! Pizzelles (made with the birthday gift I sent to my sister two weeks ago) in an I Love Lucy lunchbox, and a box of vanilla mints from my family, plus other sweet (though non-edible) treats. And even though it's technically not by birthday anymore, I think I can still swing an ice cream cone out of it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2003

Today's Birthday Treats

... include two experiments: Pringles Salt & Vinegar chips and Dannon's la Creme Mousse French Vanilla yogurt. The chips fulfilled my salt & vinegar craving, but weren't quite challenging enough. And la Creme has gone too far: it looks like whipped cream, and with all the tartness gone, it kind of tastes like whipped cream too. You'd never know it was yogurt!

Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Semper Pie!

You call this a pie, maggot? Foodgoat tolerates the French Silk chocolate pie from Baker's Square, but only in the absence of Nation's Banana Cream pie, found only in California. Where the heck can a soldier get a decent cream pie around here?