Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

San Francisco

Just a few pics from the Frisco trip last week. Thor had a conference up there and I was able to go along.

First up: Coit Tower - The whole story (click on the link) fascinates me, so I try to grab a shot of it when I can.

The whole city is interesting for a girl who lives in the barren desert! This kind of concrete congestion is mind blowing!

The architecture around the city is gorgeous!

I spent the whole of one day just shooting the block where we were staying. Even into the night I kept photographing. I like the Walgreens shot...looks like the place is up in flames!

More shots over the next few days!

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

bay city rollin'

Thor and I are off to San Francisco (Francisco! That's fun to say! Francisco. Frannncisco. Franciscooo!) It's been a while since we've been and I'm looking forward to it.

Frisco is weird. It's like your schizophrenic cousin. Too many icons, so many variations, a new personality around every corner that it is difficult to pin down just one description. There are things I love love love about Frisco (the museums, being close to the water, the hip-ness, the hippy-ness, the real China Town, Coit Tower, recognizable film scenes, mass transit...). There are things I just don't get (the guy peeing on a tree in front of the hotel, the hills-Sweet Mary the hills!, it's usually cold, the expense...).

So camera in hand I am off. I hope to grab some lost shots and eat good salad and generally bum out. See ya!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010


I never really liked ribs until a few years back, when after much coaxing from the boys and Thor I was persuaded to try. Before I made them myself, ribs were work! Lots. Of. Work.

The whole cooking process was a mess, then after you cooked them you have to fight to eat them. Even in a restaurant, they always were a struggle. I hated the fact that I had to tear the meat from the bone and then pick it out of my teeth like a barbarian. This was not my idea of relaxing family fare.

Then I ran into a terrific teacher who taught me his professional tricks. It got down to very little:
1. Buy the best ribs you can afford.
2. Trim off the membrane from the underside of the ribs (tough to do, but try to get as much as you can.)
3. Cook them low and slow.

Now beyond that folks decide whether they like dry or wet, hot or sweet, yada vs yada. Me? I use a dry rub, slightly spicy (read, barely this side of hot, but according to The Hygienist they are no where near hot). I place them on parchment, wrap them tightly and bake them 6 (yes SIX) hours at 250 without so much as a peek. They come out deep brown on the outside and fade to a sweet pink to light brown near the bone. I wait to bathe them in a sweet honey barbecue sauce until just before serving. I let it caramelize and then we act like the cave men we are and gobble them down.

The photos do not do them justice! However they do prove that those bones literally fall off clean. No pulling, no struggle, no meat in your teeth. Just perfectly tender juicy caveman fare! I pair them up with fresh cole slaw, slow cooked baked beans, and grilled fresh pineapple. Better grab the napkins!

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

From the sublime to the rediculous

Last post was on the fine art of making French Macarons. This post is on cheating.

I was contacted earlier this day and asked to make some cookies for a Fireside tomorrow night. I said I would however the day already had a pretty full agenda and also, making macarons takes a few days, so I just went to something easy and called it a night.

Peanut butter cookies with chocolate ganache drizzle. Easy.

You'd think. The thing is, no good deed goes unpunished. I had all the cookies baked and cooling and grabbed the ganache, put it in a squeeze bottle and went to town. I was doing pretty well. The chocolate was flowing! Then POP went the lid and about 3-4 tablespoons drowned about 4-5 cookies in a deluge of fudgy goo. Oh well, screw the lid back on and keep drizzling! Luckily I always make more than required, so there are plenty to make it to the party.

And well, those cookies drowned in ganache will just have to be eaten at home. sigh.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The French Macaron!

So, as promised, I will now wax poetic about the French Macaron! Not the coconut haystack dipped in chocolate we are more familiar with here in the good ol' U.S. of A.; but rather the uber sweet, domed little sandwich cookie the French have perfected. (Please do not use the photo as the idea of perfection here. That's my macaron, kind of the plain Jane of all the cookies we made. Still as sweet and tasty, but with a cracked shell, she's just left to dance alone on the wall until all the other gals were taken. It's a shame, because WOW, ya wow, she can bust a move!)

The perfect macaron has just enough poof in her dome to make her attractive, a crisp shell, pretty "feet", and a chewy interior that lends itself to a flavoured filling. Made of at least 50% almond flour, French meringue, and some sugars, these little cookies are delicate to touch as well as to the taste. Helene Dujardin, of Tartlette was our (excellent and esteemed) teacher. (seriously...go to her blog SOON!) She has made every possible combination of flavours in her macarons, both in shells and in fillings...even a PB&J!

The class was attended by (little did I know) other famous and illustrious Foodie Bloggers. (I'm such a dork!) This is only about half of the gals there, and unfortunately I couldn't name them all here if I tried. For this I am truly sorry! Such a bummer to meet folks and then immediately forget names and blog names...I'm telling you, never get hit by a truck! (it's a long post, you may need to scroll, just know that taking a hit means you can't remember much.) My sis is there and next to her is La Fuji Mama aka, Rachel; who helped organize the class and get Helene to come all the way out to CA! (Thanks everyone!)
You can see that everyone pretty much just laughed through the class! Helene was hilarious and fun! Oh ya, those pretty bags? They were filled will all kinds of baking goodies for us to take home, and some Fuji (coincidence?) water and pistachios in case we got hungry! So thoughtful ladies!

The first thing we learned that, no matter which recipe you choose, make sure you measure precisely! Each ingredient was measured carefully and set aside prior to mixing so that when it was "go time" we didn't need to waste time!
Freshly ground almond flour, confectioner's sugar, egg whites and a bit of white sugar...that's about it!

The egg whites were beat until they were perfectly stiff and then then we began to mix everything together!

Now, each of us was given a small container of powdered food colouring. Mine was blue, Robyn got "cherry red", and others in the class got those colours or green. Helene told us that about 1/2 tsp. of powder would suffice, except the blue, which was very potent! So heeding her advice I sprinkled my powder on top like it was salt. Hmmm.
Robyn's batter came out a lovely pale ink, adorable and pretty! The gal next to me made hers a gorgeous berry, the gal next to Robyn: a perfect mint green for spring. All over the class there were amazing shades, perfect for holidays and celebrations and even a glorious "Avitar" blue (-which took everyone's breath away!) Mine? Well, I should have "salted" a bit more. In the batter my "blue" looked like pale pale green, after it was baked it took on a lovely and "appetizing" moldy gray tone. ick.

All in all everyone's cookies came out "o.k.". But one of the most important things Helene taught us was that even with the experts, a perfect batch, all of your cookies coming out splendid, is rare. Almost every batch has a few goofy ones. (Good to know!) Also, she said "Confidence!" Confidence is what you need more than anything! If the cookies don't turn out this time, shrug it off, eat the "failures" (not too tough to accomplish!) and try try again! Each oven and each kitchen will alter a recipe, so keep trying until you find the perfect match! Stick to what recipe works for you and keep playing with different flavours to tempt your family! The ovens in our kitchen were partial to the top shelf, so only two bakers had "perfect" cookies, the rest of us had what I would say fantastic first efforts! Amazing taste, texture and the confidence to go home and make a batch all by our self! Now isn't that the goal of every good teacher? Thanks Helene! If you want to learn more about French Macarons, or good food in general, Helene is the go to gal, she is a food stylist, photographer and all around friend to whoever reads her blog. So go!

That's all for now, I need to set out my egg whites!

Oh yes, that beautiful pastry box filled with delicate pink delights would be Robyn's! My only (quasi) good cookie is that lonely and dented one on the rack! Who cares? The rest of mine may have been misshaped, but Dang! they were yummy!

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

gorgeous and yummy

Well there you go.

Last Saturday I went with my sister Robyn into LA to attend a small class with Helen (of Tartlette) to learn the idiosyncrasies and special techniques involved in making the perfect French Macaron! My niece had made a sudden move (literally, she moved from SoCal to Utah in one week!) and couldn't attend. Wahooo for me! I really didn't understand who or what was in store, only that I'd be learning to make a macaron. I have looked at macaron recipes before and just thought they were way too much trouble for the end result, so pffftht! But to take a class where I'd actually go home with a product of my own experience, well count me in!

Helen, I later realized, is one of the most popular blog authors for foodies. She gets high hits and ratings for her talented insights and friendly writing. She is in all rights a Foodie Idol! However, taking her class is like going next door and learning your girl friend's best recipe while you talk about the family and other friends. She is casual and easy and helps you laugh while you learn. And learn we did.

Although the majority of the class had "failed" macarons (oddly shaped, sticky 'feet', or cracked on top) the fault wasn't in the teaching, but rather in the oven playing favourites with the top two shelves. All of our macarons tasted delicious, beyond any macaron I have ever had, and frankly, odd shaped and cracked they still had the perfect texture.

Of course Robyn had perfectly shaped and consistently sized macarons, so when hers came out of the oven, they fit beautifully together and looked amazing. She was also fortunate enough to have been the first put in the oven, i.e. the top shelf- so they also had the best chance for perfection in baking. She left with a pastry box filled with little sandwiches of heaven, while I left with one perfect cookie and a box full of mismatched shoes and some, that in all reality, were just peeled blobs of yummy goodness. All in all it was success. They tasted fabulous and they encouraged me to make them again.

In the long run I went home with a box of confidence and French temptations --eager to try again. I also came home with new friends, a list of foodie blogs to add to GoogleReader, and the motivation to tweet. Yes, I have a twitter account. Haven't got a clue how or what to do with it, but there you go. If you tweet, you can add me - I'm "Gottabesmee".

Currently I am babysitting and away from my camera, which has the photographic proof of the aforementioned macarons and experience. As soon as I get my camera back, I'll post pictures. And yes, you will see the differences between a foodie (aka Robyn's) macaron and a schmo's (read: schmee's! or it that schmine?) and mine.

oh, that photo? doesn't have anything to do with macarons, but it is gorgeous and yummy, no?

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