Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just a Coke?

I was on the road earlier this week and needed caffeine. I didn't want to get Baby Eats out of the car seat, so I needed a drive-thru. I passed several too-busy exits and found one a little less complicated where there were but two choices: McDonalds and Sonic. Sonic! I love Sonic! Mmmm...cherry limeade...but I needed caffeine. So when faced with the countless options, I just got a Coke.

I went to Sonic and just got a plain Coke. But, y'know, it does have good ice. So that makes it just a little more speical.

Regardless, I felt like one of those weirdos that goes to Baskin-Robbins or Ben & Jerry's and gets vanilla ice cream.

Related: You should read the blog of Molly Erdman (the Sonic wife) and her fantastic creation, Catalog Living. Many thanks to Chris Lowry of Germantown Cafe and Allium for sharing the link with me. Which reminds me, I need a ball of twine for my nightstand. And a plate of dried figs to go under my coffee table.

Friday, June 18, 2010

No more morels

Morels--pronounced “mo-rells” but I like to call them “morals” just to aggravate Mr. Eats--are mushrooms. But not just any mushrooms. Mushrooms with a fan base that rival that of a second-string American Idol contestant. The morel has fan pages and message boards and brings people together…together in their forage for a fungus. No other mushroom inspires the fanaticism that the morel does (unless you count the truffle...but a truffle is a truffle, not a mushroom).

So I bought into the hype. Literally--because it's a solid two months past morel season in Tennessee (and I am not one to brave the tick-infested back ways of the Natchez Trace anyway), so I bought some. Typically, they go for about $50 per pound, but Whole Foods had some on sale for just $30 per pound (what a bargain!), so I got half a pound of somewhat fresh, genuine Oregon morels.

I did my research and discovered there is a lot of debate on the proper way to prepare morels. Soak? Don’t soak? Fry? Sauté? Many morel fans assert that soaking the ‘shrooms compromises the flavor. But unless you like critters with your dinner, you have to soak. Yeah, that’s right--that’s the dirty little secret of the mushroom. Many--and particularly the morel--are havens for bugs and worms. And even though the morels I purchased had (ostensibly) been sitting in the store for at least a few days, they contained plenty of larval worms. Larvae of what, I’m not sure. Flies, moths…who knows. All’s I know is nearly every morel had at least one worm--a tiny little white guy with a black spot of a head. Even after soaking, I discovered more.

After soaking and slicing and washing again and even picking through each pore, I battered and fried up about half my batch. Two problems: 1) I’m just not good at frying and 2) I found yet another worm. So Mr. Eats had that batch of fried morels.

So I soaked and picked through the morels again. And then I decided to sauté them in a little olive oil and sea salt. The purpose of this was to get as much of the real morel flavor as possible. Because that’s what it’s all about, right?

Well, I was not impressed. Maybe they were not as flavorful as they should be from all the sitting and the soaking. Maybe my already-queasy stomach could not appreciate them. Maybe I should have had more than three bites, but I just couldn’t go on wondering if there was yet another critter lying in wait inside the mushrooms. Blah blah…FDA and rat feces…I know. There’s all sorts of crap in my food that I don’t really want to eat. But I don’t know it; I don’t SEE it. And I saw these guys. Several of them alive and one of them fried. And it’s just not worth it (see this thread on Chowhound  for a lively discussion of the morel and its unwanted stowaways).

For my money and effort, I will stick with the maitake (hen of the woods), the shiitake, and the oyster. I’m now officially crossing the morel off my to-do list.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Free Cheese!

The winner of the free cheese is...

Commenter #1--Sally from Sallaboutme! Sally happens to be hosting her own helpful hints giveaway right now, so go sign up (but hurry--it ends tomorrow!). And that reminds me...I really need to update my blogroll!

Congratulations to Sally and thank you to everyone who entered. Parting thought: don't buy budget brie at your local warehouse store. If you learn anything from me, I want it to be that. No budget brie.

Monday, June 14, 2010

25th Purity Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' -- A re-cap

Yesterday, Mr. Eats, Baby Eats and I braved the heat and humidity to try out the 25th Purity Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' event. It's an ice cream tasting event, so it wasn't hard to convince Mr. Eats to go.

Wow. It was my first time at this event and there was more ice cream than I ever imagined. Even having mostly just two-bite portions, my body gave up long before my brain really wanted to. There was an entire tent of ladies with some spectacular-sounding ice creams (Shoo-Fly Pie!) that I didn't even get to try. I'm getting teary just thinking of it. But by that time, Baby Eats looked like she'd had enough. These kind ladies did give us a bottle of water for her. She doesn't drink water, but I thought it would cool her down. She proceeded to caress and lick the bottle. Parent of the year right here, people.

Before having to leave, we spotted local food friends Beth, Sallaboutme, Lindsay and Taylor, and Nicki P. Wood. I asked everyone about their favorites, but most couldn't name just one. The standouts for me were:
  • Triple Ginger--Penzeys ginger powder, candied ginger, and fresh ginger--fantastic
  • Wildflower Honey Cream--very delicate and refreshing
  • Chocolate Cherry Chunk--my first of the day
  • Dulce de Leche Crunch
  • Tequila Mexican Vanilla--Mr. Eats convinced me to try it noting that it tasted a bit like flan
  • Cheesecake--looked like mint chocolate chip, but was very cheesecakey and good
  • Snickerdoodle
  • Lemon Lime (Slush?)--far more tasty than its name implies
  • Ninth Plague of Egypt--a super dark chocolate memorable not just for its name and intense taste, but for the fact that I spilled some on my white shirt (which is now soaking in Borax) and it also ties with...
  • D's Nuts for best name!
  • Lemon Pie--one of at least 10 lemon-based flavors I saw (and I tried most of them; I love lemon)
  • Strawberry Swirl--neck and neck with lemon as a favorite fruit flavor
  • Twix!
  • Chocolate Almond Hazelnut--at least, I think there were two nuts in there. The hazelnut was more a flavor and I think there were slivers of almond. Loved it.
  • Toasted Peach
  • Ginger Pear
  • Chocolate Banana (on a "Stiiiiick")--okay it wasn't named that. Nor were any of the other three chocolate banana ice creams I had but they were all good.
  • Maple (something or other--I was in a sugar-induced delirium by that point)
  • Apple Pie
  • Grape!
  • Pomegranate Sorbet with chocolate covered pomegranate seeds--my last taste of the day, a much-needed, refreshing palate cleanser (with no cream)
And there were more. Many more. And many more that I didn't taste. I didn't taste any of the vast number of Oreo, Butterfinger, Snickers, or peanut butter ice creams. I don't do peanut butter and I didn't want to waste valuable real estate in my gut on Oreos. I'll eat Oreos and Oreo ice creams, but they're not my first choice. I skipped a lot of vanillas, pistachios, and coconuts too. Though it turns out that the winning flavor was Coconut Waltz. Oops!

Despite the large crowd of over-sugared and over-heated ice cream lovers, I only noted a couple of flavors that ran out. I have to say, what would be fantastic for next year is a map of the flavors. Or just their general vicinity. It would be a big help in prioritizing so you don't run out of steam before you find Shoo Fly Pie. One could argue that takes the fun out of it, but I'm just sayin'. I'd gladly volunteer to create this map next year. Ahem.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Taste Test and Giveaway -- Alouette

Recently, I was contacted by the nice people who represent Alouette to ask if I’d like to review their products for the blog. Now that I can eat soft cheeses again (and I love brie), of course I said yes!

The first product I tried was the Crème de Brie. I was intrigued because, like many of you--and you know you’re one of them--I’ve never really been sure what to do with the rind on brie. Eat it? Don’t eat it? Generally, it’s a game-day call for me. Is the rind delicate and taste okay? If so, I’ll eat it. If not, I leave it on the plate like the privileged first-worlder I am. The Crème de Brie solves this quandary!

And the Crème de Brie is just as creamy as my favorite triple cream brie, St. Andre. The flavor is incredibly delicate. So delicate that you need to be careful what you pair it with. I’d suggest a slice of apple, a water cracker such as Carr’s, or a thin slice of a French baguette (fresh, not toasted).

For my second taste test, I tried the “award-winning” Baby Brie. Alouette suggests that you let the Baby Brie warm to room temperature before serving, but even so, it’s a significant bit toothier than the Crème de Brie. It’ll stand up to toasted breads but also to baking recipes. So with the remaining portion of the brie, I made a pizza. Though inspired by a recent visit to Amerigo (which includes mushrooms on their brie pizza), I opted to use this brie pizza recipe that included potatoes and apples. Yes, brie AND potatoes on a pizza--because I have given up on ever being my pre-pregnancy size again.

My pizza didn’t look quite as lovely as the pizza on the 30-Minute Dinner Party site for a couple of reasons:

1) I used my Microplane box grater’s slicer for the potatoes and apples which yielded a thicker slice than I would have gotten from my food processor (along with the anxiety of adding a thumb tip to the mix) and

2) I underestimated the coverage I needed.
Regardless, this was one heckuva pizza. The Baby Brie melts nicely and its rich flavor stood up well to 450 degree heat and a lot of rosemary and salt.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself! Or any of the Alouette products. Leave a comment for an entry (one per person, please) to win two certificates for a free Alouette product redeemable at your local grocery. I will mail the coupons to the lucky winner, so the contest is open to anyone with a U.S. address. Enter your comment before 7pm CDT next Wednesday, June 16 and I will announce the winner on Thursday. Good luck!

ps--and sorry for the earworm to those of you who took French classes. I've been singing it in my head for weeks now.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The perfect sandwich

Silke's baguette

Fresh mozzarella (and fresh basil) from Lazzarolli's

The season's earliest tomatoes from the farmers' market

A little olive oil and sea salt


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strawberry Bread

I’m not one to waste fresh Tennessee strawberries on something that requires them to be consumed any way but raw and mostly naked, but I got a couple of quarts that were good but not great. So I thought, “Why not try something baked?” with these berries. I wasn’t feeling ambitious enough for a cake (mmm…strawberry cake…) so I remembered getting an email with a recipe for strawberry bread in it. Couldn’t find the email, so I just poked around the internet a bit and (once again) came up with my own from the best of other recipes. Because I had a lot of strawberries to use and I really wanted a strong strawberry flavor.

Strawberry Bread
Yields 2 9 x 5 inch loaves

2 cups fresh strawberries sliced
2 cups pureed strawberries
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cups vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease and flour two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans.

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in large bowl and blend well with a fork. Place strawberries in a medium size bowl and blend in oil, eggs and vanilla. Add the strawberry mixture to the flour mixture, blending until dry ingredients are just moistened. Divide batter equally into pans and bake for one hour or until done (insert a toothpick; if it comes out clean, it‘s done). Let cool in pans for about 10 minutes and remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
Well? This bread is MOIST. Probably too moist. And not quite strawberry-y enough for me. I suppose I should have made strawberry cake to achieve that level of strawberryness. But the bread is good. I’m thinking though that instead of pureed strawberries, a strawberry jam might be better. About 8 ounces instead of 16 (and increase the oil if the batter’s not loose enough). However, strawberry season is just about over here, so I suppose I’ll have to wait until next year to try it out. I'm also thinking some lemon in here somewhere would brighten it and add a nice tang. Hrm.