Archive for the ‘dessert’ Category

you can’t call it cheatin’

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Monday morning we were in much better shape (due to a distinct lack of residual corned beef, as well as lower alcohol consumption, I suspect) and we made it out of the hotel in time for the tail end of rush hour.

And waffles.

This truck is called Wafels and Dinges. They’re all over the city, but we stopped at the one in Columbus Circle.

I got the Brussels wafel with speculoos spread, which I’ve been reading about for years (or so it feels, I actually have no idea – I mean, doesn’t it feel like you were hearing about burrata when you were just a fetus at this point?)  and it was so fucking delicious that I really was just forced to use a curse word in that sentence.

It was so delicious that I don’t even care that I look like a squinty rabbit in this picture.

I dropped the last quarter of it on the ground.

It was the saddest thing that happened to me in the whole trip.

Crockett went for the special of the day, which was an apple pie waffle. Same waffle, apple pie spread, whipped cream, cinnamon, and lots of love (probably).  I’m sure it was good, but it was no speculoos. Seriously, cookie spread? Sounds so weird! SO NOT WEIRD. SO GOOD.

After Crockett finished his waffle and I had a moment of silence for the city-sidewalk-death of mine, we headed to Chelsea to see Highline Park and (more importantly) the Chelsea Market. Highline Park is the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen (<- complete and total lie). It’s like a museum walkway built twenty feet above the ground – the whole thing is only fifteenish feet wide and bedroom and office windows immediately surround it. Neat thing to do with an old train track, but still very strange. Crockett took a bunch of pictures but apparently I wasn’t feeling it, because I have zero. What I do have is a picture of the seafood sliders we shared from The Lobster Place in Chelsea Market. Crab one – good. Shrimp one – eh. Really, who genuinely likes tarragon? I’m asking. Lobster one – quite tasty but still no match for the one at The Empire. (Of COURSE I’m not sucking up to my hometown local, what’choo talkin’ bout.)

From there we hopped over to the Essex St. Market. We were exhausted, but I wanted to see Shopsin’s and get some cookies from Beurre & Sel.

Two shops at the market were closed, everything else was open. Those two shops were Shopsin’s and Beurre & Sel. Sigh. The whole thing was just like a confusing supermarket – it might have been cool if we hadn’t been to Chelsea Market first, but we had. We got Crockett some coconut water and moved on with our lives.

It turned out we were only a few blocks from the famous bagel-er (made up word? Judge says… probably!) Russ & Daughters, so we swung by to round out our brunch of tiny sandwiches.

Lox (don’t ask me what kind – the man behind the counter tried and then just said ‘mild?’ and I said ‘ok!’ and then he asked me what kind of cream cheese and I said ‘what kind do you like’ and he said ‘I like them all’ so I just picked and he said ‘spectacular’ and I couldn’t tell if he was mocking me or what but anyway) and scallion cream cheese on a plain mini bagel. Question: is the defining characteristic of New York bagels an exceptionally chewy crust?

Properly fortified, we headed back to midtown.

We stopped by the LEGO store and I pretended, just for a moment, that I was Liz Lemon. It was very exciting. I tried to talk Crockett into ice skating, because it turns out the rink in Rockefeller Center is there even when the tree isn’t, but then when he said he would it turned out I was just kidding because my feet hurt. Whoops.

Instead, we went by MOMA. Although they were lacking a giant Egyptian statue, their gift shop was way better than the Met’s. I call it a draw on the museums-we-didn’t-actually-go-into showdown.

We had a whole plan. We’d walked off our mini sandwiches, and we were going to have a late lunch at Don Antonio, another pizza place on my list-of-NY-pizza places (a list that didn’t actually include any traditional NY style pie places but wev), then nap, then head back out.

We showed up at Don Antonio at 3:31, and they were closed from 3:30 to 4:30. Their website said nothing about that, so I whined for awhile, and Crockett decided to move the nap up the list of things to do – I only made it a few blocks before freaking out and insisting I needed a drink and a chair asap.

I’m sometimes quite charming to travel with.

Victor’s Cafe saved me!

A daiquiri …

an avocado filled with bacon and tomato and monterey jack served with plaintain chips…

and some pretty hilarious avocado-as-creepy-crawly artwork by Crockett …

put the smile back on my face. (I think I took like seven pictures. Crockett was smiling in most of them  but I looked like an idiot. I have no idea what’s happening with him in this one but it’s my blog so HA. This may have been immediately after the bartender was talking about how he’d accidentally auditioned for a porn, so maybe Crockett’s mulling that over.)

The avocado didn’t turn out to be enough food, and it was a little after four thirty by the time we finished at Victor’s, so we decided to head back to Don Antonio. They’re doing traditional Neapolitan pizza, just like Motorino, but with some twists.

Crockett started with a beer that had a gorgeous label, and I had some … wine. People, I don’t even know anymore. A lot of things happened in these days, and many of those things were wine, ok?

We ordered two pizzas, even though we weren’t starving, because we absolutely had to try the house specialty. (This is not it.) This is a sausage pizza with fresh mozzarella and pistachio pesto that reminded me very much of the pizzas they sell on the street in Turkey. It got better with every bite, and was it’s absolute best at room temperature. Strange but true.

This is the house specialty. The dough is lightly fried prior to being topped with sauce and smoked mozzarella and baked. It was bizarre, and as far as ‘pizza’ goes it wasn’t anything special, but as a food all on it’s own? Fried bread with tasty sauce and cheese? I could eat that every single day. Also, it was $12, which struck me as crazy reasonable, especially considering we were in midtown Manhattan.

We had lots of leftovers and took them home, but I had to stop one more time before we hit the hotel.

Pinkberry peanut butter froyo! We don’t have Pinkberry in CO, so how could I resist?

I’m not going to lie -we almost didn’t make it back out of the hotel after all that. We’d walked for hours, eaten a bunch, drank… we were wiped. We napped until seven and then rallied, though, because we were in New York freaking City.

We went to the Apple Store.

Nope, not at all kidding.

Then we walked cross town to Hell’s Kitchen, to yet another place I’d stumbled across in my internet explorations of the city. It’s called Caseulla, and they specialize in wine and cheese. Naturally, we had some wine and cheese. Crockett also had a mead called Viking’s Blood, and everyone around us at the bar was fascinated and had to taste it too. Then our bartender tried to pick up our bar neighbor, even though he was pretty clearly already on a date.

Then we ate bacon popcorn and I realized it was Crockett’s birthday, because it was past midnight.

The bartender brought us goat cheese and Nutella truffles to celebrate, we ate them, and then we walked home.  It was our last night, but we were seriously wiped, so we decided to have one more drink at the hotel bar and then call it a night.  We did not see Chase Crawford or Blake Lively, but we did have cozy seats by the fireplace, so I think we made the right call. Then we slept hard. NY is exhausting, have I mentioned that?

 

 

 

 

 

 

cuppy cakes!

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

Despite my solemn promise of a cuppy cake recipe yesterday, I totally did not share a cuppy cake recipe.

Why am I saying cuppy cake? Because I’m currently super adorable, I guess?

IMG 5331

See?

Oh, that’s not adorable.

That’s the kind of thing that happens at a 5 year old’s birthday party.

(Crockett’s nephew turned five. Wearing that mask is one thing I did yesterday that was not publishing a cupcake recipe.)

(Apparently seeing myself in a Spiderman mask was enough to knock me out of that ‘cuppy cake’ nonsense.)

NewImage

We also helped my mom move a couch into her garage. It’s a nice leather couch. It’s for sale on Craigslist – let me know if you’re interested (and not halfway across the country)! It’s from Scandinavian Designs but was the only piece of furniture in her guest room and does not make much of a guest room bed.

IMG 5300

We went grocery shopping and brought home whatever we felt like for lunch. Crockett apparently felt like a tiger roll.

IMG 5301

I, less sensibly, felt like a big sweet chili tofu steak.

We shared, because he did not begrudge me my odd choice.

Now, without further ado… Cupcakes!

IMG 5366

(What? I told you I forgot to take pictures of them!)

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Here’s what you need to know about these cupcakes. They have been gradually and professionally optimized by me to consistently bake up gorgeous at 5000 feet, give or take. In other words, this is a high altitude recipe. It will probably be fine at sea level, but if your’e up in the air with me know that this does not need any alterations, mmkay?

 

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 30 cupcakes – can easily be halved or two-thirded (two thirded? really?)

15.5 ounces all purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 salt 
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
13 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 tsp white vinegar
1 1/4 tsp vanilla
1/8 cup water
3 eggs

Heat your oven to 350. Line your cupcake tins with papers.

Note: remember what I said last week about making buttermilk with milk and vinegar? That’s not ideal here – buttermilk is actually the flavor of red velvet, so use the real stuff if you can. If you really think you’ll never use it again and want to buy just half a pint, make up the extra 1/4 cup with 2% milk.

Stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder with a whisk.

In a separate bowl, whisk the sugar with the oil until combined and then add the remaining ingredients and whisk until uniform. Add half to the dry ingredients and stir until they’re all moistened, then add the rest and beat the crap out of it by hand for about two minutes or by machine for about twenty seconds. You don’t usually do that with cake batter, but the amount of acid in the batter means it’s going to stay tender and this will help give you a light texture by putting a bunch of air in the batter.

Using a half cup measure or a half cup ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake paper. If you’re making all thirty and using regular tins with space for twelve cupcakes, leave the center two empty in each. If you’re baking them in batches, which I suggest, beat the batter for a second before filling the liners each time.

Bake for between 13 and 17 minutes – I would tap the top at 13 and if the dent sticks, give it two more minutes. If it still feels a smidge squishy, give it one more. No more than that. Seriously, don’t do it. You’re asking for dried out cupcakes. Turn out of the pans to cool and frost or wrap well and freeze.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 1/2 pounds cream cheese (three packages)
1 pound butter (four sticks)
1 – 1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar (it comes in one or two pound bags)
2 tsp vanilla

Bring all the ingredients to room temperature. Seriously. This is the most important part. DO NOT SKIP THIS PART.

Blend the cream cheese and butter together until TOTALLY combined. It will seem ok to have little lumps but it is NOT OK. If you see a lump and you think it’s the last lump, it is not the last lump. Keep mixing.

Sift over about 1/2 pound of your powdered sugar and carefully beat. (This will be messy. It’s worth it.) Do it again, mix in the vanilla, and taste. If you want it sweeter, which I usually don’t, gradually add what you have left, tasting as you go. It’s easy to over power the cream cheese tang, so proceed carefully.

Use to frost your cupcakes. You’ll have a tiny bit left over, so you should probably just eat that.

 

HARISSA FINALLY

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

 

51dXcbi+5SL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

So I’ve been looking for harissa everywhere. I assumed it would not be that hard to find – it’s not like Boulder county is a culinary wasteland. I checked at two different Whole Foods, a few grocery stores, and Super Target, and had no luck whatsoever. (A WF worker did helpfully inform me that they had something that had harisa in it – some kind of meal in a box, maybe? It was definitely not what I was looking for.)

Crockett and I went to Pacific Ocean Market, even, which is this absolutely INSANE Asian market a couple of towns over. We spent several minutes sniffing durian packages (not smelly until opened, apparently), many many minutes in the ramen aisle, and quite a significant amount of time discussing cocktails made with palm sugar, since there were several brands. We did not find harissa. Honestly, I knew it was a stretch, because harissa is from Tunisia which ain’t exactly Asian, but whatever.

I ordered it from Amazon.

While we were waiting for the harissa to come, I did make some tasty food.

IMG 3067

Pizza with roasted cherry tomatoes, pesto from our ridiculously prolific basil plant, and goat cheese. Served with roasted green beans because this was actually last Sunday and last Sunday I had this weird idea that we were going to eat a vegetable with every meal.

Photo 5

Red velvet cupcakes as a special request from a dear friend for her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend who totally ruined the surprise by buying himself two red velvet bundt cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes the day before.

(I forgot to take pictures of them frosted, obviously, but I’ll give you the recipe tomorrow. It’s pretty good. I’ve worked pretty hard on it. And my cream cheese frosting is fucking amazing. Totally true.)

BUT then the harissa came!

NewImage

Harissa Chickpeas and Greens with Goat Cheese
Adapted from Not Without Salt

1 tablespoon oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 15 ounce can)
1 tablespoon harissa paste
3/4 tsp kosher salt
6 cups mixed greens, preferably the baby version of toughish varieties (spinach, kale) or spicy ones (arugula) – we used a whole prewashed box of mixed spinach and arugula
2 ounces goat cheese

Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic is pale gold in color.

Stir in the harissa and dump in the chickpeas. Stir gently until they’re mostly covered with the paste, and then occasionally until you start to see golden spots on the chickpeas. You’re not just trying to heat them up, you’re actually trying to fry the outside just a little. (I was using a non-stick pan – use your judgement. If they start to stick, you can be done.)

Add the greens by the handful, stirring until they wilt. Divide into two dishes and top with crumbled goat cheese. (Feel free to serve over rice, if you like. I didn’t find it necessary but Crockett did.)

Serves two people who like heat. The harissa is spicy, but tasty.

 

empty handed

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

I was in training all day today.

Hybrid hard disk drive training.

It was totally interesting! Until like 10 am. And it was pretty tolerable. Until like 2 pm.

My notes from the last three hours of the day include a lot of stick figures.

Anyway.

Photo 1Photo 4

That party we went to? With all the Thai food? I did not show up empty handed. I brought two of my favorite cookies.

Photo 2

Chocolate Whoopie Pies
Very slight adapted from The Good Cookie, i.e. one of the best cookie books ever. Unfortunately, it’s out of print now :(. Sadness.

1 stick room temperature butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
1 egg, separated
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup buttermilk or 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon milk with 1 tablespoon lemon juice or white vinegar (I NEVER have buttermilk. The substitution works fine.)
2 cups flour (I’ve substituted whole wheat pastry flour for half with acceptable results, but try to resist the urge.)
1 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 stick room temperature butter, unsalted
2 tablespoons cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla (Use clear vanilla if you have it, which I only do because a good friend of mine brought it home from me from Mexico. I have no idea how it’s clear.)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Cream together the butter and sugar for at least two full minutes. You want lots of air in there. LOTS. Beat in the egg yolk, reserving the white.

Mix the baking soda into the warm water. Sift the cocoa powder over the butter/sugar/egg mixture, and at least partially incorporate it with a spoon or the beaters. (It will poof everywhere. Embrace it or stir slowly.) Add the hot water mixture and beat to combine. Add one cup of the flour, along with the salt, stir, and add the milk and lemon juice/vinegar (or buttermilk). Beat to combine. Add the final cup of flour and beat until there are very few lumps left.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or butter it). Using a one tablespoon scoop (or just a tablespoon measure), scoop balls onto the baking sheet. Leave 1 1/2 to 2 inches between balls – you can fit 15 on a standard baking sheet.

Bake for 6 minutes, then check. It’s hard to tell since they’re so dark, but the top should be craggy like you see in the picture and shouldn’t squish if you poke it. (It can dent, but it shouldn’t squish.) If you have any doubts, stick em back in for another minute. Overcooked isn’t great but it’s better than under. As soon as they’re done, carefully remove them to a cooling rack.

While you’re baking all the cookies, cream together the butter and cream cheese for the frosting. Add the powdered sugar and beat until crumbly, then add the egg white and vanilla. (You will be eating it raw. If you prefer not to use the egg white, sub 2 tablespoons milk or cream or even water.) Beat until smooth.

Once the cookies are at room temperature, pair them up in appropriate sizes. They should be MOSTLY the same size, but some will definitely fit together better than others.

Spread one to one and a half teaspoons on the inside of one cookie and top with it’s mate. Repeat and put in the fridge until they’re not sliding around anymore.

Store somewhere coolish. They’ll be great for a day, tasty for two or three more, and worth eating for close to a week. (That last part might be just my opinion.)

The other cookies were these almond blueberry bars. Recipe later this week, deal? Deal.

Photo 5

You know what’s almost as good as cookies?

Photo 1

BBQ with my man.

Photo 2

Even if it does rain so hard we can’t play cornhole.

More training tomorrow! And Wednesday! Whoo. Hoo.

what better time

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

It’s a snow day.

It’s Christmas cookie day.

And it’s I-miss-you-guys day.

I know you probably thought I was off hanging out with James Franco at Yale. Or that’s where I was pretending I was, to avoid a nervous breakdown. One of those two things is true.

One semester of grad school to go.

IMG 2787

I did say snow day, right?

IMG 2788

This is the tunnel for the puppies, taken from floor level. After I let the girls out this morning, I told Crockett that the snow was more than a puppy deep, and he laughed, so I said ‘how would you like it if you were in snow over your head?’ And then he told me that that’s a serious fear he faces while snowboarding.

Then I felt bad.

I knew it was cookie day, and we got up pretty late, so our breakfast was both lunchy and not particularly sugary.

IMG 2785

I made tuna fish salad with celery and dried fruit while Crockett shoveled the front walk.

IMG 2780

Tuna is Cloey’s favorite food.

(Don’t worry – I rinsed the lid so she wouldn’t lick it, and that’s where the sharp edges were. Her tongue and gums are intact.)

IMG 2781

Maida’s technique was a little … different.

Faceplant.

IMG 2783

This is the face Crockett made when he came in and saw the girls eating tuna out of cans on the floor.

Then? Cookies!!

IMG 2789

And Community.

Did anyone else hear that there was a flash mob in New York today to stop it from being cancelled? I totally would have gone to that.

I have no great reason for making so many cookies. I’m taking dessert to two events – and while I am the official dessert bringer to both, I suspect that others will be all ‘oh well I just brought along some cookies’ too. Six kinds of cookies is too many cookies.

What I’m trying to say is that it’s a cookie world, and we’re just living in it.

IMG 2790

Almond cookies. These are basically just egg whites, sugar and almond paste.

I bought almond paste from Amazon.

I have enough almond paste for everyone.

IMG 2792

Dorie Greenspan’s Salt and Pepper Cocoa Shortbread.

People, these were neither salty nor peppery. I made some orange ganache and turned them into sandwich cookies.

Also, the dating on these cookies is sporadic because apparently when I don’t have to go to school I have no idea what day it is. I genuinely believed tomorrow was Christmas Eve until yesterday.

IMG 2791

Gluten free vanilla bean shortbread. Crockett’s sister in law has a gluten allergy, so I thought I’d bring these to her house on Christmas.

Because even though I’m not in charge of dessert, I thought hey, I’ll just bring some cookies.

I’m one of those.

IMG 2793

A very small batch of coconut macaroons, some with chocolate and some without. These were an afterthought because I ended up with more whites than yolks at the end of the day, and I already had almond cookies.

And also because we used to make these at the bakery I worked at and they were my favorite. I always forgot they were my favorite, but they always were – you know what I mean?

IMG 2794

Eggnog sandwich cookies. They were supposed to be Brandied Eggnog Sandwich cookies, but who the hell has brandy? I have weird drinks – I do. I have sherry. And port. And also Frangelico although I’ve had it for literally a decade which WOW why do I still have it? But I don’t have brandy. Or rum, because, you know – a week of seasickness in the Virgin Islands can create some bad rum associations.

IMG 2795

And my absolute favorite – lemon fennel pretzels, from the book The Good Cookie.

These are the weirdest cookies.

I love them.

And I love you.

Merry Christmas Eve eve eve!

(So totally a thing.)

 

 

little boxes

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

I’ve started watching Weeds again from the beginning.

I have very strict requirements for the television that I play while I do homework. It needs to be something I’ve seen before or something I don’t particularly care about, and there needs to be a lot of it. Several seasons, minimum. When you have 10 hour homework streaks, you can go through a lot of tv.

Don’t judge me. I tried listening to music, but I like tv. I like it when people are talking.

Anyway.

After my post Sunday, I went to the gym for a medium long run. When I got home, I was STARVING.

IMG 2657

Crockett was starving too, so I made an early dinner of soba noodles, frozen chinese vegetables, frozen white fish (of some kind that I don’t remember – pescole? is that a thing?), coconut milk, and lemon grass. We were slurping 15 minutes after I started cooking, which was pretty much the only requirement, but it was surprisingly tasty.

And then I had another terrible day at school.

IMG 2659

I made myself feel better with the comforting remains of the cauliflower and cheese.

IMG 2661

She’s just watching it for me, to make sure nothing happens to it – she swears.

We went to Lucky Pie for dinner (for the $15 pizza and pitcher deal), but I forgot my camera.

What I didn’t forget was froyo.

IMG 2662

The don’t have a pumpkin pie flavor, which I’ve heard some places do. They did have caramel apple. I made this dish for me and Crockett.

IMG 2663

It was one quarter plain yogurt, one quarter caramel apple yogurt, one quarter coconut yogurt, and one quarter chocolate yogurt. It was topped with, respectively, chocolate chip cookie dough, nothing, flaked coconut and almonds, and chocolate sprinkles. And then there was some Captain Crunch on top of everything, at Crockett’s request.

I love build your own froyo.

home again home again

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Yes, this is my third post of the night. I apologize if you’re reading this in an RSS feed and are like DUDE, EMMA, LET SOMEONE ELSE TALK.

Last Friday (yeah, I’m still back there – that’s why three posts in one night but this is totally the last one probably unless Crockett comes over here with some wine and then I may just keep going you never know) we woke up in Mackinaw City, Michigan, with a mid-afternoon arrival planned for Mio, Michigan.

 

That trip was never going to happen without adequate sustenance. Three hours of driving takes it’s toll, yo.

The Mackinaw City Pancake Chef had limited choices, but I managed to put together a good plate.

I had a whole pile of melon salad, a few strawberries, and two bites each of scrambled eggs, grits with syrup, hash browns with ketchup, sausage, and french toast with cherries hiding underneath.

I killed this plate while the people at our table who didn’t go for the buffet waited for their food, and then twiddled my thumbs. Downside of the buffet.

Upside of the restuarant?

You mention that there are a couple of birthdays in the group and they bust out two whole freaking cakes.

After breakfast Crockett and I walked back to our motel, to burn off a little breakfast.

Crockett went old school.

Doesn’t this look just like the picture on the Pancake Chef menu? I’m such a good photographer I sometimes don’t even know what to do with myself.

I asked Crockett to take a picture of me in front of the bridge, and then right when he pushed the button I realized we were standing in front of a lighthouse.

A LIGHTHOUSE.

I love lighthouses. I find them romantic. Probably because I was never a lighthouse keeper.

After the lighthouse, I was pretty much done with Mackinaw, so we headed down to Mio.

The Mio reunion was Crockett’s mom’s family (everything prior was Crockett’s dad’s family), and it was much more structured. They reserved space at the Mio park and set up a tent and had meals planned and all sorts of magical magic.

The camp came with lots of space to play, which the kids of the fam took full advantage of.

I’m not going to lie. Crockett’s mom’s family is enormous. I’m still not sure I knew some of the names that I thought I knew. They’re also super nice.

We celebrated the birthdays again. (Yes, these are the same two kids celebrating. Yes, this is the third time we’re having cake. Yes, they are kids after my own heart.)

We also had the grown up camper’s equivalent of birthday cake: Cheetos and red wine (Big House Red – surprisingly delicious even in a Super 8 cup). There were two full tables of food – pulled pork, sloppy joes, ten million kinds of chips, brownies, candy, and salads? Oh my god salads. Tuna salads, pasta salads, fruit salads, ambrosia salads, potato salads, vegetable salads… no plain salad salad, but basically anything else you can think of that ends in salad? Yeah, they had that salad.

Then, sadly, we ran into some Mother Nature shaped issues.

In this case, Mother Nature was shaped like a whole lot of raindrops. For a whole long time.

I was borrowing sweatshirts and wiggling into my pants in the backseat of the car. From my position here in my 70 degree Colorado evening, I’m having a hard time remembering the cold, but I know it was there.

The family was cool enough that being under the tent was pretty slick, so we survived the rain.

Two days later, we started the drive home.

P.S. I would have included pictures of Pioneer General (aka Am-Depot), but I was too busy buying Amish knives and Amish candy and wondering if I could pull off and Amish straw hat to remember to take any. Sad, I know. The knives are badass, though.

 

No, YOU’RE Superior

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

The whole first part of my recent vacation took part on Lake Michigan.

I would totally put a little star on this map with a note saying ‘I was here’ if I had any idea where I was, but I don’t. Definitely up top somewhere. I do know that where I was was glorious.

Thursday, though, we got a chance to hop up to Lake Superior.

(Again, where was I? No idea.)

I do know I was in a town called Marquette, the home of Northern Michigan University and a little restaurant called L’Attitude. One of the branches of Crockett’s family tree has bloomed (see what I did there?) in that area of the state. We took Crockett’s uncle and cousin to L’Attitude because his other cousin (son of the uncle, older brother of the first cousin) is a busboy there and was working, and that was the best way to see him because we were short on time.

I mean, yeah, the service (other than the bussing), was a little spotty. We were missing silverware and … stuff. (Ok, I don’t remember exactly, I just remember her being inattentive.)

But the thing pictured above (called Three Ways to Heaven, sadly) was freaking amazing. Restaurant made tabouleh, hummus, and tapenade with little flatbreads? Yes please.

We also had this cheese platter – holy crapadoodledo. Sadly, our waitress had no idea what the cheeses were, just that they’d come from Wisconsin farms. If I knew what that soft blue in the far upper right was, I would buy it by the barrel. (They sell cheese by the barrel, right?)

My Thai Salad was particularly un-photogenic and mediocre to boot, but those cheeses and the heavenly trio more than made up for it.

Plus the view wasn’t ugly.

Since we had a Reunion 2.0 deadline in mid-Michigan, we were short on time, but we had to stop by Lake Superior.

 

So very beautiful.

So very cold.

We drove east along the Superior coast before dropping back south, and we found ourselves at the entrance to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Who are we to deny serendipity?

Do you think you’re hallucinating? Do you think that I photoshopped the Caribbean with pine trees?

That’s what I thought, because I apparently picture all of the great lakes as dark bluish brown.

This is seriously Lake Superior.

This is called Miner’s Castle. At some point, between when Crockett’s dad used to climb up there when he was a teenager and when we arrived last week, half of it fell down.

I still think it’s purdy.

Almost as purdy as Crockett.

On the way back to the car, I saw these and, quite seriously, said “babe, blueberries!”

I realized as I was speaking that this is not what blueberries look like when they’re growing.

Crockett is still reminding me.

We did finally make it to our evening’s destination: Mackinaw City.

When you’re a tourist, what can you do other than eat ice cream?

This was mine – Toasted Almond Coconut. I need you to understand two things. First, I asked Crockett if he wanted any and he said no, he was not in the mood for ice cream, and then he ate half of this despite me only handing it to him so I could take a picture. Second, I asked for and paid for a single scoop cone. I think the fella behind the counter thought I was adorable. This was confirmed when he threw ice cream at Crockett a few minutes later. (Fine, that second part didn’t happen. Jeesh.)

Here’s the weird thing about Mackinaw City. Every business is a spin off of an original business. They’re famous for fudge and white fish, and they all share all or part of a name. The fudge I bought as gifts came with a certificate of authenticity, for reals.

Crockett’s dad beat us there, so he had time to scope out the local eateries. He recommended a place – you know, a place? Four stores down from that alley where the third fudge shop is? Right by the eighth place that sells mocassins? That place.

The fish was delicious. The side portions were overwhelming. The hush puppies you aren’t seeing under the fries practically disintegrated, and not in a good way. Maybe the best street restaurants are only good at one thing.

Maybe not, though. I mean, the honky tonk bar made a damn good vodka martini, preceded by this conversation:

Me: Vodka martini, please.
Bartender: Sure, honey. You want it dirty?
Me: That’d be great.
Her: How dirty?
Me: More dancing on the bar dirty than going home with a stranger dirty.
Her: Ah. Balls dirty, not sweaty balls dirty.

The whole rest of the night she referred to my drink as a sweaty balls martini.

I love honky tonk bars.

 

 

Top Chef hubba hubba

Sunday, May 22nd, 2011

Fine. Hosea Rosenburg, the winner of Bravo’s Top Chef season 5, is no longer the chef of Jax Fish House in Boulder. He won and then moved on. For awhile he had a cart, called Streat Chefs - we saw them at our farmers market a couple of times, but I haven’t been keeping up.

Bygones.

(My girlfriend Laura just reminded me how that guy used to say ‘bygones’ in Ally McBeal, and I love it.)

Anyway, despite living 20 miles or fewer from Boulder my entire life, I had never been to Jax. And I sort of want to make out with Hosea. So… last night, Crockett and I went to Jax. They’re famous for fish. Fresh, delicious fish.

We had the gall to show up at 8:45, when most people are starting or halfway through dinner.

We had to wait. We killed 20 minutes at Urban Outfitters, but when Crockett ran out of grey button up shirts to try on and and I ran out of pint glasses with mustaches on the side to mock, we headed back to Jax. They had a narrow wall bar, so we had wine (me), a Sazerac (him), and some calamari.

Turns out The Empire calamari salad has spoiled me for all other calamari. I mean, it was good, but once you get used to eating calamari with greens it seems sort of greasy when you eat it by itself. The two sauces, mango chile and lime aioli, were super strong and damn tasty. I love it when something that purports to be spicy is actually spicy, which the mango chili sauce both did and was.

It was actually 9:30 when we made it to our table. 9:30, people. I would like to pass it off like ‘oh, yeah, eating at 9:30 is totally normal’, like we live in Manhattan or something, but we don’t. We live in Louisville, Colorado, and 9:30 is late to eat dinner.

If they hadn’t given us crayons, I probably would have eaten my own hands. Or, more likely, Crockett’s hands.

Crockett’s name isn’t actually Crockett, by the way. He has a thing about his real name and the internet.

Doesn’t he look handsome when he realizes that I’ve inscribed his aka on our tablecloth?

What? Heidi braids are the way to go when your hair isn’t super clean and you unexpectedly leave for dinner at 8 pm on a Friday night.

Also, there are names written on every brick in the restaurant. A) I don’t know if real people wrote them, B) I really want to install thin brick in our living room.

When we finally got around to eating, Crockett had grilled New England sea scallops with english pea and asparagus farotto and a warm mushroom vinagrette.

He adored it.

I have a hard time with scallops. When they’re done ‘properly’, I sometimes find them slimy. That was that case here. I do agree, though, that the farotto and sauce were amazing.

I had grilled Shetland Isle salmon, with spring garlic and snap pea slaw and lemongrass curry broth.

Dude.

I know I was hungry, but I am willing to argue that if I had just eaten an entire cow and you set a plate of this in front of me, I would punch Mike Tyson to keep it.

Of course, word is that Mike Tyson is a vegan now.

I don’t usually have dessert, but I’ve sort of decided that by doing so I’m making a mistake. I began rectifying it last night.

With this. A caramel pear tart with salted almond ice cream.

Crockett claimed he wasn’t going to eat any, when I ordered it, but somehow he managed to choke some down.

By some, I mean as much as he could before I completely and totally cut him off.

Overall, Jax gets three and a half thumbs up (we both deducted a quarter of a thumb for the wait – which I think is both petty of us and also reasonable.)

 

 

NFA Brownies – Bittersweet Lime and Sea Salt

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Crockett’s sister lives in a little town in upstate New York. On the finger lakes. Near the Finger Lakes. Something something F/finger L/lakes. (Not having grown up there, I’m not entirely sure if they’re supposed to be capitalized or if you refer to being in the area of them or the region or on them or what. They’re pointy lakes and she lives in a town that is on the coast of one of them.)

There is a teeny fabulous restaurant there called the Stonecat Cafe. When I was there, I had some amazing food (we were in town for 24 hours tops and ate both dinner and brunch there) and also bought a tank top that has their (unofficial?) slogan on the back. The slogan is ‘N.F.A’. You can find it on the website if you look.

N.F.A. You know – no fucking around.

I know. Coolest restaurant ever.

All of this has been a really long lead in to this: I really hate it when people refer to recipes as ‘not being for the faint of heart’.

Is this a terrible picture of a brownie? Yes. Is this brownie pretty damn intense? Yes.

Is it ‘not for the faint of heart’? Dude. I guess, if your heart is really really faint, then perhaps you should limit yourself to one or two of these brownies.

Be aware that with the changes I made, they’re super crumbly. They also keep amazingly well. I’m eating them as I write this on a Tuesday night, and I made them on a Thursday night. That’s five days of being not particularly well stored at room temperature, and they’re still good. They’re also serious business. The lime make them tangy, they aren’t exceptionally sweet, and the sea salt on top is …. NFA.

NFA Brownies with Sea Salt and Lime
Adapted from the Kitchn

5 ounces unsalted butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped coarsely
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or 3/16 teaspoon table salt)
1 lime, juiced and zested
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 325 F. Generously butter an 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

2) Put the butter and the unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan and melt over medium heat, stirring frequently.

3) Combine the sugar, flour, and cocoa in a medium bowl. Add the chocolate butter mixture and combine, then stir in the eggs, vanilla, and kosher salt. When the mixture is pretty cool (cool enough that the chips won’t melt), stir in the lime juice and zest and chips.

4) Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the sea salt on top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.