The last time I was at Pizzeria Mozza I sat at the bar, stuffed full of tricolore salad and pizza, unable to stop eating the mango and passion fruit sorbets in front of me. I’ve had Dahlia’s gelatos and sorbets hundreds of times, I even watched them being made when the machine first arrived, but this time I was mesmerized. As I lifted the spoon to my mouth time after time I just kept wondering, how in the world did she get them so creamy?
When I had the good fortune of running into Dahlia at a party just a couple weeks later I asked. The answer, apparently, is simple: invert sugar.
Anyone who tells you Seasonal Affective Disorder is a load of crap should be subjected to a Pacific Northwest winter. Eugene, Oregon, where I went to graduate school, layered days upon days of glary, gossamer grey light. It’s not that it rained that much there. Don’t get me wrong, it rained. But the greyness was what was most oppressive, climate-coated emotional shackles. I prefer the monotony of 300 days of sunshine. Blue skies, blue skies with puffy white clouds, blue skies and wind-whipped icicle cold air, as long as there’s sunshine, I’m happy.
Which is to say, that my least favorite month living in Southern California is June. The hazy, foggy mornings that fall under the umbrella of June Gloom are such a downer. I find it hard to wake up, hard to concentrate, hard to do anything but laze around and watch baseball. And since May Grey seems to precede June Gloom with more frequency than it used to, by half way through June I’m cranky as all get out. And by the behavior of my fellow Angelenos, I’d say it’s getting to them too.
Fortunately, I’ve learned that the shortest route to an attitude adjustment has to be ice cream. Continue reading
Strawberries from Harry’s Berries@ the Hollywood Farmers’ Market
Sometimes I think I want to just throw in the towel. Writing is hard work, and some days the last thing I want to do, after a full day writing and editing for work, is to sit in front of the computer while the last hours of sunshine and warmth recede into purplish sunsets. To me a bad day writing is like a bad day cooking—you’ve still got something you created in front of you, but do you really want to eat it? Continue reading
Murcotts at Burkart Farms, Hollywood Farmers’ Market, Murcott Olive Oil Ice Cream
The pile of Murcotts at Burkhart’s farmers’ market stand shrank a little this week, the stack looking more like a pile of bright orange tennis balls left behind on the playground than winter’s citrus bounty. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, you can see the stand above, and the selection is far from paltry. But I’m waxing a little poetic this morning about winter’s waning. There are probably only a few more weeks left in Murcott season, and I’m a little melancholy. I almost packed up my sweaters in defiance of Mother Nature, hoping the razzing would prolong the season just a couple more weeks. But it looks like our wedding is going to be next spring, instead of the fall, and I couldn’t afford to piss her off. I may want more Murcotts now, but next April I want warm days and mild evenings and mountains of springtime produce to help execute the dinner menu that’s slowly evolving in my head. Continue reading
Let me start first by saying, no, we haven’t set a date yet. Neal and I might be getting married this fall, or we might be getting married next spring. Or maybe we’ll get married fall 2010—though I think I might lose my mind if I’m in planning stages for another year-plus. We figured we’d pick a date once we found a venue we liked. But that’s just it, trying to find a venue has been like Amazing Race meets Survivor. I’ve gotten lost behind the Orange curtain, hit by a cyclist who ran a red light, seen a wedding venue come menagerie and driven all around Sonoma County with Slingblade barking at me from my father’s GPS, “Bear left, cow right.” All this running around is exhausting. And when I get home from a weekend’s worth of talking about tables and chairs and luxury Porta Potties, cranky for having missed my Sunday morning at the farmers’ market, the last thing I want to do is spend a lot of time cooking.
Which brings me to reason number 2,356 that I love my Le Creuset Dutch Oven: No-fuss cooking. Continue reading
Sometimes money is just not enough. For one of their final projects at Cal Poly San Louis Obispo, Jay Shipman and his business partner, Jack Rice, drew up the plans for a sustainable beef business and wrote a grant to get the project funded. They thought it made financial sense, that it was something that would fill a market niche, and the grant organization, SARS, agreed. But life took hold, and the two graduates never put their plan into play. It wasn’t until a few years later, when Jay’s young wife was suffering from the debilitating effects of rheumatoid arthritis, that the plan took flight. By then it was personal. Continue reading
People who know me know this: I have very few secrets. Maybe I read too much Dr. Seuss as a kid, or maybe I was interested in psychology too early, but I offer up information about myself like a flower does pollen. So when I recently let it slip that I have an obsession with donuts, I think my fiancé Neal was a little surprised.
I wasn’t allowed to eat many sweets growing up, and there were rarely any in our house. My mom occasionally bought coffee cake or, my favorite, boxes of Entenmann’s Donuts. I loved the mildly spicy powdered cinnamon ones best. They were cakey and just a little sweet, and they would almost dissolve into a glass of milk. When the cinnamon ones were all gone, I would furtively sneak the plain cake ones, thinking no one would notice.
I’ve never really been much of a gamer. My brother and I shared an Atari when we were kids—it was our first and last video game system. While everyone else moved on to Super Mario Brothers, my gaming development was arrested at Pong. Not that there were ever really any games I was interested in playing, frankly. I didn’t like blowing things up, or running away from objects that were trying to blow me up. I preferred playing outside, reading books and decorating cakes.
But video games aren’t just for kids anymore. And they aren’t just about blowing things up, either. I love the Wii because it simulates real, physical action—perfect for rainy days or late-night decompressing. I’ve actually improved my golf swing goofing around on it. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver is like the Tiger Woods golf game for foodies and junior foodies, designed for the hand-held Nintendo DS. Released last October, What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver is a cooking training game complete with 100 of the Naked Chef’s recipes. Oliver guides you through timed cooking challenges as you chop, whisk and serve his creations. And you have beautiful pictures to guide you. It’s gourmet gaming! And when you’re ready, you can put the DS down and listen to the instructions while you prepare the meal for real. There’s also room to store 100 more of your own recipes, a virtual “test kitchen” to try them out, and a shopping list mode so you can tote your DS to the market instead of that crumpled piece of paper. What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver is almost like getting to learn to cook with a famous chef, minus the sharp knives and the rolling boil of berating epithets that usually fly around a professional kitchen.
I’m giving away four copies of the new Nintendo DS game, What’s Cooking? Jamie Oliver courtesy of our friends at Cookstr. Remember Cookstr? The site is a virtual repository of recipes from chefs and cookbook authors that is fast-replacing a lot of the recipe sites I’ve bookmarked over the years (though, surprisingly, it’s got me to buy more cookbooks, not less). It’s like having Nancy Silverton, Suzanne Goin and Mario Batali’s brains at my fingertips. I’ve found dozens of great recipes on the site, including the one for the crystallized grapefruit zest I made with my grapefruit and black pepper sorbet.
So how do you win? It’s as easy as scrambling an egg. To enter, post a comment here about which famous chef you’d like to learn to cook from. Your comment must be posted by 11:59 PM on February 28, 2009. For an extra entry, Twitter about the giveaway, then comment again here with a link to your Tweet. Winners will be chosen at random. Sorry, US residents only.
Do you remember when the cupcake was just a lowly children’s birthday party treat—just yellow Betty Crocker cake with some shelf-stabilized, not-even-sure-if-it-contains-cocoa chocolate frosting? It was simpler then, before New York’s Magnolia Bakery threw down the first whisk in the cupcake wars. There was no sneaking off into the bathroom to eat a Sprinkles carrot cake cupcake where no one could see you lick off all the cream cheese frosting first, no hiding the pink cardboard boxes from your coworkers in the bottom drawer of your desk, no snatching the paper-wrapped delights out of a little girl’s hand saying you just want a bite… Continue reading
Share a meal with Diane and Todd from White On Rice Couple and you know you’ll learn something or eat something you’ve never tried before you leave. So when Diane excitedly handed out mottled grey branches at a dinner party a few weeks ago and told us to nibble on them, I went with it. I bit, rabbit-like with my front teeth, slowly breaking down the small, fibrous piece, mixing it with my saliva as instructed. Slowly my mouth filled with a sweet heat. The branch I was eating tasted exactly like the cross between an Atomic Fire Ball and Red Hots. I was struck at first by the spicy, lingering flavor, then by the idea that Fire Balls and Red Hots actually tasted like anything in nature.