Thursday, July 31, 2003

Alternative to a one-use-item of the day
Instead of a cherry pitter ... you can use a paper clip. If you bend a paper clip so that the two loops are at an angle, you can poke one loop into the top or bottom of the cherry and kind of scoop or pull it out. It took me about 15 to 20 minutes to do one pound of cherries. Stay tuned to find out what the cherries were used for!

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Luxury item of the day

I've been immensely curious about truffles. Not the chocolate kind, the mushroom kind. I knew three things about them: 1) they are very expensive, 2) they are very tasty, and 3) they are hunted down by specially trained female pigs.

I know a couple more things now. Truffles grow on the roots of truffle oaks, just below the surface, and cannot be cultivated (hence the pigs). Black truffles generally come from France and white truffles from Italy's Alba, Piedmont and Umbria regions (lesser-regarded grey truffles are from North America). Expensive is an understatement: one kilogram can go as high as $1,250 to $1,500. I saw one tiny truffle that was $30. King of the fungi, diamond of cookery, gem of poor lands, black pearl ... indeed!

Which is how I came to buy a jar of white truffle honey at Chandler & Rudd instead. Restuarant Lulu's clover honey, infused with white truffle oil, won awards for "Outstanding Condiment" at food expos when it first came out, if you care about that kind of thing. Best of all, at $8, it was a much safer experiment, financially speaking. Plus, I'm not sure I'd know what to do with one dried up mushroom.

We first tried it on fresh Italian bread from the Stone Oven. And were overwhelmed and didn't know what to think. The next day we tried it again on the same bread, but toasted. And we liked it much better.

It's not a bit like anything I expected. Earthy. Penetrating. Intense. Flavorful. Rich. Did I mention earthy?

Friday, July 25, 2003

Gelato flavors of the day

As if choosing the ice cream flavor you want isn't difficult enough, gelato custom dictates that you choose two or three of them, and gelato chic requires you choose two or three of them that complement each other well. This is harder than it sounds. So in order to aquire this skill I am prepared to taste every one of the flavors at La Gelateria in various combinations. It's a sacrifice, but someone has do it. I've got a tiny spoon and I'm ready.

1) Coconut + Pineapple = Just like a pina colada! Very tropical.
2) Banana + Chocolate = Yummy, yummy! Each flavor, of course, tastes good by itself, but the sum is even greater than its parts. The current frontrunner for Best Gelato combination.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Fruit variety of the day

On my first venture into the Cleveland Food Co-op on Sunday, I bought some Superior Seedless® grapes, which are grown and distributed by Sun World. Picked up almost at the last minute, I got them mostly so that I didn’t look too weird having wandered around the aisles for half an hour, curiously peering at every product without actually picking anything up.

They turned out to be the best grapes I ever had: perfect, firm texture, juicy, and surprisingly tasty, even spicy. Really. It was like a burst of flavor in your mouth.

As a kid I used to peel grapes, so that they looked like lychees, but the grape peel isn’t so good to eat by itself. Last summer we ate frozen grapes for a while, but me and anything “ice cold,” we don’t mix so well.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Beer trivia of the day

Imagine my chagrin when I realized that the six-pack of Heineken beer that I picked up for a dinner party the other night was composed of petite 7 ounce, rather than the usual 12 ounce, bottles. Needless to say, we went through them pretty quickly.

The miniaturized beers completely baffled me. Was it some kind of promotion? Downsizing? The airplane version?

In answering this question, I gathered a great deal of useless knowledge. It seems, first of all, that beers come in lots of different sizes. Who knew? The 7 ounce bottles (which actually range from 6 to 10 ounces) are called “ponies,” “pony bottles,” “a little nip,” “pork chops” in Pennsylvania, and a quarter bottles (because they are a quarter of a fifth, or 7 oz). A 12-ounce, by the way, is a “long-neck” or a “horse.” Don’t confuse these with pony kegs, which are 7.75 gallons (or ¼ barrel). There is also a beer bottle shape that is known as a pony (or a squat blob).

But if you go to Australia and ask for a pony, you’d get a 5 ounce glass of beer; ask for a beer and you’d get a 7 ounce glass of beer (at least in Queensland or Victoria).

A pony is also a 1 ounce liqueur glass, so old mixed drink recipes sometimes call for ponies instead of jiggers or shots. When used in completely different context, pony bottles also refer to a type of redundant air supply tank used by deep sea divers.

I like the little bottles. They’re cute. They’re cheaper. They’re the right size when you think beer isn’t so yummy and just drink it out of politeness. Alas, pony bottles, which were used for Coke as well as beer, seem to have fallen by the wayside, at least in the U.S. and Canada. I think they’re still commonly used in other places, though, which is why there are Rolling Rock Ponies (on which, it seems, the company was built) and Corona Coronitas, as well as Budweiser, Miller and Coors pony bottle versions.

But as to the real purpose of the tiny size, I failed to find a firm answer. Some breweries always put their stronger beers in smaller bottles. Some say the smaller bottles cool faster and allow you to avoid that not-so-fresh feeling you get at the bottom of bigger bottle. Maybe it only looks tiny because American serving sizes are all screwed up since the introduction of the 44-ounce Big Gulp. In any case, serious beer drinkers think they’re goofy.

Lest you completely dismiss them, I must point out that pony bottles were recently embroiled in Florida politics and brewery wars.

All this pony business is clearly a sign I should see new Seabiscuit movie on Friday.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Finally, some Decent Pizza for a change

Decent Pizza, the new pizza place down the street, is strangely unambitious. Its name, its green vinyl d├ęcor, its location next to a laundromat, all so ordinary.

But their pizzas are definitely not ordinary: it’s California pizza. In other words, gourmet ingredients and unusual, untraditional combinations. In Foodgoat words, weird pizza.

Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Pineapple and ham, still eyed suspiciously by many a pizza traditionalist and food anti-explorers, has long been a Foodgoat favorite. And, as we discovered, bleu cheese on pizza (in the Red, White, & Blue pizza, which also has a red tomato sauce and white ricotta sauce), that can be pretty good, too.

Little did I know that I have second-most-annoying celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck to thank, in part, for these pizza adventures. “California-style” pizza was launched at the celebrated restaurant Spago in West Hollywood, where his signature dish was gourmet pizza made with toppings like smoked salmon and caviar. At least that’s what his website says.

I can’t attest to his pizza, but the best pizzas I’ve ever had were definitely in California: in San Francisco, at Mozzarella di Bufala and in West Hollywood, at Z Pizza. But they don’t deliver. That’s okay, because now we just have to go down the street for some Decent Pizza.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Mac & cheese incarnation #54
1 box Kraft Mac & Cheese, cooked + 1 chopped head of steamed broccoli + more cheddar cheese + 1 chopped green onion = Why didn't we think of this before?

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

For the love of cheese

We here at Foodgoat can only aspire to the literary heights achieved by Mariann Simms' winning entry in the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, which honors the originator of "It was a dark and stormy night" (subsequently plagiarized many times over by Snoopy) with even worse opening sentences to imaginary novels:

They had but one last remaining night together, so they embraced each other as tightly as that two-flavor entwined string cheese that is orange and yellowish-white, the orange probably being a bland Cheddar and the white . . . Mozzarella, although it could possibly be Provolone or just plain American, as it really doesn't taste distinctly dissimilar from the orange, yet they would have you believe it does by coloring it differently.

I am tempted to try Polly-O Twistarellas. Not so much because it sounds so very tasty, but because string cheese in general makes me nostalgic for elementary school. It was one of those special things that I only got once in a while in my lunch box, like Fruit Roll-Ups, Oreos, or those cubes of a cheese with a cow head on the label. Usually all I got was a ham and cheese sandwich, a piece of fruit, and a Capri Sun.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Quasi-British dish of the day

Continuing the British theme, we had tea sandwiches for lunch. Except it was too hot to actually have tea with them. And they didn’t use any traditional ingredients, like cucumbers or watercress. But we felt quite upper-crust, anyway.

Half a tablespoon wasabi powder
1 teaspoons lemon juice
4 ounces softened cream cheese
6 very thin slices bread
4 ounces thinly sliced smoked salmon
dried chives

Mix wasabi and lemon juice in medium bowl to form paste. Add cream cheese and beat until well combined. Spread each slice of bread with wasabi cream cheese. Top 6 bread slices with smoked salmon. Sprinkle chives over salmon. Top with remaining bread slices, cheese side down. Trim crusts and cut each sandwich into 2 triangles. Nibble delicately and talk about taking a holiday on the Continent.

Friday, July 11, 2003

British food product of the day

It started with the rhubarb. It awakened the Anglophile in me, who has long lay dormant in the absence of Jane Austen and Agatha Christie books. I’m feeling nostalgic for afternoon tea, rigid class hierarchies, and saying things like “Rah-ther!” and “Hear, hear!”.

However, British food, unlike its literature, historically has a less-than-sterling reputation, at least according to my sources. I imagine this may be changing what with all the sexy cooking from the Naked Chef and Nigella. But in any case, I never thought the traditional stuff sounded all that bad, though I’ve never actually had any myself. So I set out to discover British cuisine.

And that is how I ended up with a jar of English Double Devon cream. I found it, strangely enough, at the Italian market. Double Devon cream is a type of clotted cream, which is the British counterpart of cream cheese, specialty of the West Country (hence the alternate name of Devonshire cream) and a quintessential part of the whole tea-with-scones thing. It looks like mayonnaise, but much thicker, being 48% butterfat (I try not to think of that last part too much). How to use it: spread on bread, with jam on scones, mixed with sauces, and on top of fruits and desserts. By itself it tastes kind of weird, kind like eating butter straight up would be, but it was wonderful mixed into hot rhubarb crisp. It adds a creaminess that is something more (okay, a lot more) than Reddi-Wip and not as sweet.

The English thing would be cream with fresh strawberries (a Wimbledon tradition), but I like it with broiled peaches, the preparation of which is so easy it can hardly be called a recipe. Sprinkle sugar on top of two peach halves, let them sit a bit, and then put them under the broiler for about 5 minutes. Top with double Devon cream. Jolly good, wot?

Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Limonada en la casa!

To quench my everlasting thirst for sourness (as well as the regular thirst that comes with one muy stuffy apartmento), I bought half a gallon of the new Minute Maid Limeade/Limonada (it was test marketed in Texas, so I guess they decided to just stick with the bilingual cartons). Previously it was only available in the frozen concentrate incarnation. This version has received much consumer acclaim, so my hopes were high.

Foodgoat's response: "It's Kool-Aid."

My response: The lime flavor, sadly, is merely a shadow of its former self, a bare hint of its full strength (think Sauron after Isildur chopped his hand off). And yes, it's too sweet to be really thirst-quenching. The sweetening culprit, unfortunately, is high fructose corn syrup, the big bad villain in American chubbiness (at least according to Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World). And while we're on the subject of villainy, I will also point out that Minute Maid also owns Odwalla, Fruitopia, Hi-C, and Simply Orange, and Minute Maid is one of many drink companies owned by Coca-Cola. (I have some beverage monopoly issues.)

But all is not lost. If you dilute la Limonada with some agua, it goes down much easier, becoming light, refreshing, and summery. Though I think maybe it will find its true calling in a margarita. Excuse me while I look for some salt and a tiny paper umbrella.

Monday, July 7, 2003

Fabulous, fabulous corn

If you have not yet been converted to my favorite method of making corn on the cob, may I point out that the dazzling RuPaul has also discovered microwaved corn? Sure, the technique is slightly different but the idea is essentially the same: better living through technology. You may think this is merely a shameless plug for my new (move over, Wil Wheaton) favorite celebrity weblog (he can blog about Bea Arthur -- Dororthy, can you believe it? -- just stopping by his house!), but it's really part of a very Important Crusade to ... umm ... okay, I really just wanted to share the joy that is RuPaul. But it really is a good method of making corn on the cob. And he does talk about food occasionally.

Tuesday, July 1, 2003

Chronology of a Vice

I have never been drunk, but often I've been overserved. ~ George Gobel
Ladygoat has champagne for the first time. Takes to it immediately. Later that evening, while patiently waiting on the floor for the dorm room to stop its unusually violent spinning action, vows not to drink that stuff anymore.

It takes only one drink to get me drunk. The trouble is, I can't remember if it's the thirteenth or the fourteenth. ~ George Burns
The vow is rendered moot by the appeal of a champagne punch that is the specialty of the Ladygoat sorority. Vow is repeated after the Infamous Banquet. Several years of minimal champagne consumption follow.

June, 2003:
The wit of a graduate student is like champagne. Canadian champagne. ~ R Davies
Despite what Mr. Davies might think, happy hour at Varietals, the Cleveland Heights wine bar, with fellow aspiring anthropologists was most entertaining. Especially with the lovely Berry champagne cocktail, which combines Italian sparkling wine (Zardoto) with Framboise (a raspberry brandy), in hand. Ladygoat feels rather urbane and bubbly herself. Interest in champagne is again sparked.

later that June, 2003:
My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne. ~ John Maynard Keynes
Hot, lazy summer evenings doing nothing are made for lychee champagne cocktails. Add a couple of spoonfuls of the lychee juice from the chilled can to a glass. Fill the glass with the appropriately chilled sparkly stuff, like the Spanish Freixinet Carta Nevada, and plop in two lychees.

Early July, 2003:
Champagne's funny stuff. I'm used to whiskey. Whiskey is a slap on the back, and champagne's a heavy mist before my eyes. ~ Jimmy Stewart, The Philadelphia Story
It all started off so peachy keen ... the champagne cocktail of the day was one of Foodgoat's own invention: peach schnapps into the laste of yesterday's Spanish cava. But while it tasted good, the dark side of sparkling wine reared once again its ugly head. For after just one glass, the effect was fuzzy rather than fizzy, dull and slow rather than shiny and happy. Here we go again: no more champagne cocktails for a while!