It’s 5 o’clock, and you’re leaving the office in search of some post-work libations and snacks before dinner. You could go the traditional happy hour route — where you’re limited to a few drinks and small bites within a short window of time — or you could up the ante and visit a Japanese izakaya.
Sunset magazine has long been the go-to source for “how to live in the West” especially when it comes to travel, gardening, home improvement and of course, food and wine. Since the centennial of the magazine in 1998, Sunset has been hosting an annual open house called the Sunset Celebration Weekend.
No matter what you do, fruit+sugar=sweet fruity goodness. And just like homemade pie, homemade jam is better than anything you can buy, even from a fancy place. Why? Because anywhere this side of Smuckers, you’re using more fruit and less sugar when you make your jam at home.
I’ve currently got Paris on the brain. I’m about to invade that city for a week of eating and drinking and wandering and thinking.
So, naturally, the first thing to pop into my head for today’s post was, “I should do something German.”
Because that’s how my mind works.
Rhubarb. I have loved it for years. And why not? It’s a tart, refreshing, and completely extraordinary thing when handled properly.
Of course, it is also highly seasonal. It’s one of the first bits of produce to show up in markets when the ground warms up in the spring, it hangs around in the summertime, when the living is supposedly easy, but it has a predictable habit of disappearing when the weather gets rough. It’s a fair weather thing. And, though most commonly lumped together with fruits, it is, in fact a vegetable– a truth I’ve found very difficult to grasp over the past few years.
And I know a lot of them.
Last weekend, I was (cheerfully) roped into helping prepare and serve a “proper” English tea by an old friend who had offered up her home, her china, and her silver tea pots for the benefit of my goddaughter’s school. I have placed the word “proper” in quotation marks, because this was a tea hosted by Canadian-Americans, which means that it just might have been even more so than a true, English tea. The Canadians, after all, still celebrate Queen Victoria’s birthday. The English, however, have long since moved on.
I’d never thought much of the carrot in terms of dessert food. Before you ask the obvious “But what about carrot cake?” question, yes, I know it exists. I just choose not to acknowledge it any longer, thanks to my volunteering to bake that particular dessert for a friend’s wedding several years ago. 150 people to feed and a Barbie-sized oven left me exhausted, but proud of the mission accomplished. I have since moved on. I don’t think I’d even uttered the word “carrot” in years.
And then I went to a potluck dinner at a home I onced partly owned, hosted by a man I used to live with, and a dog who used to know me.
I’ve been spending entirely too much time watching episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child that my friend Craig gave me.
I find Mrs. Child oddly hypnotic. There is something about her uniquely-accented voice and the not-entirely graceful movement of her formerly 6′ 2″ body that compels me to watch her.
And watch her I do. Over and over again.
This week, I’ve been enjoying an early, black and white episode wherein she gives a champagne and coffee party in honor of:
“…the Queen of Sheba, which turns out to be this dark beauty, made of chocolate, and almonds, and rum, and butter!”
She then invites us into her kitchen where she promises we’ll make:
“the best chocolate cake you ever put in your mouth.”
That’s one heavy promise, but I love her enthusiasm.
I decided to put my money where Mrs. Child’s mouth is and examine this cake and the woman behind it, however superficially.
I’d never heard of Monkey Bread until a few weeks ago. The name immediately caught my attention. The image of monkeys picking at a loaf of bread as they would nits off each other’s backs came to mind. Charming, I thought. I wanted to know more about it.
Not that there’s much to know.
The etymology is vague. The term “Monkey Bread” has several possible origins: some people believe that the bread resembles the shape of a monkey puzzle tree, but I feel that these people are out of their heads, perhaps having fallen from the top of one the trees themselves. Other people believe that the name derives from the act of pulling the pastry apart with the fingers, much like monkeys might do, if they were presented with such a treat. I have ruled out the theory that this was a bread frequently baked and fan-mailed to the likes of Mickey Dolenz or Davy Jones by swooning teen-aged girls in the 1960′s because the spelling is all wrong. The timing, however, is only a decade away from being correct.
It’s the Holiday Season, if you haven’t noticed. Sappy music is piped into our ears if we dare venture pretty much anywhere outside. Macy’s is back to putting live kittens in their store windows. People are stressed out at the thought of having to entertain, buy presents, and spend their dwindling piles of money.
And I’m busy– I’ve got lots of parties to go to. Because I’m that popular.
I have decided that this year, in light of my own evaporating bankroll, I shall indulge in the spirit of giving by sharing with my friends and loved ones items I have made with my own little hands. Or not so little– I have more than an octave reach, in piano terms. Not that I play the piano.
This year, I am making Bourbon Balls. No jokes, please. They contain all the vitamins and minerals necessary to get me through the Season: sugar, chocolate, and alcohol. They are relatively easy to make, but look as though I’ve slaved away at them. And they’re good. Chocolaty, not too sweet, slightly salty, and just a little boozy.
I’ve had chowder on the brain ever since I attended a rally a couple of weeks ago at which I mistook the crowd’s chant of “Louder! Louder!” as– thanks to people blowing horns into my ears– “Chowder! Chowder!” I was teased about it by a friend of mine (the proud owner of two hearing aids, no less) who leaned over to me afterward to say, “All this heat and talk of marriage is making me crave a hot, milk-based soup.”
Today is, as I have been informed, Halloween. Well, okay then. Boo. Life can be rather ghoulish– especially now what with Presidential elections, hunger, global warming, terrorism, people who think that inserting discriminatory amendments into the California constitution is a good idea, home foreclosures, and Dancing with the Stars filling our mental goody bags with more tricks than treats. You get the picture. I suppose we might as well have a holiday to celebrate. In contrast to all this unpleasant scariness, I have decided to dedicate my post to one of the sweetest, most innocent desserts to ever cross my path– The Baked Alaska.
If you’ve always wanted to learn how to work with chocolate, you’re in luck. Chuck Siegel of Charles Chocolates will be giving chocolate classes. Head into the Charles Chocolates factory kitchen to learn the basics of working with chocolate through an entirely hands-on, intensive class led by Siegel himself. Starting with the basics of working […]