Wednesday, August 25, 2010

cupcakes, cupcake trucks and lots of capital letters.

Taking a look at this reminded me of my anger about this whole cupcake frenzy.  Frenzy?  Is frenzy the right word?  I'm not sure.  It could be a frenzy because I have the summer off (almost over by the way) and I read a lot of local food blogs and I have plenty of time to ponder ridiculousness.  But I want to ring in on this - so for me, frenzy is the right word.

I like cupcakes.  I make cupcakes.  I sometimes buy cupcakes.  I have to say that the best I have ever purchased were from a place that wasn't even playing the whole cupcake game.  Last year our friend, Heather brought us a box of cupcakes from the Bread Basket in Saratoga and still to this day, none have rivaled them.  She brought them as dessert for some meal I was making friends and we never got to them, which meant that Chuck and I got to them systematically in the days after, and each one was amazingly delicious and totally different from the last.  Since then, a cupcake "frenzy" has exploded over Albany and surrounding areas.  And we were late to the party, as usual.  NYC did the cupcake thing eons ago - the trend has since moved on (from what I can tell - to frozen yogurt and noodle shops).  But we are North and we are Slow and we dig things with butter and sugar so it is here.

And here we are.  Now there are cupcake trucks.  And they park in places so people can meet them there and buy cupcakes.  And they tweet where they are and Facebook where they are going and email and call and print and yell:  THE CUPCAKE TRUCK WILL BE IN SUCH AND SUCH PARKING LOT FROM 12 - 3.  COME AND GETCHER DELICIOUS MORSELS OF DECADENCE.

And it's a cute idea.  And buying things out of trucks can always be awesome and sometimes exciting.  But my problem lies with the fact that THEY AREN'T THAT GOOD.  And on top of that - THEY COST TOO MUCH FOR NOT BEING THAT GOOD.

Listen - I will pay an obscene amount of money for something that tastes good.  With that I have no problem.  No matter how trendy it is, or obnoxious or fattening or whatever.  But if it is not worth it - everything goes to hell.  The whole concept will start to annoy me, as the cupcake frenzy has begun to.

Maybe it is because I had a bad trip to a cupcake place this summer where I recieved bad service, crumbly, uncreative, old-tasting cupcakes, a HORRIFIC excuse for a root beer float and a more than disgusting excuse for an egg cream and I overpaid for the whole shebang to boot!  This has possibly made me bitter.  But after that experience, I got mad.  All this business did was cupcakes.  IT'S ALL THEY DID (besides the bad drinks).  If you do ONE THING - shouldn't you be able to perfect it so it is so awesome people almost drop dead from the experience?  ONE THING!  I mean, restaurants make hundreds of things, and good ones do a great job at it.  But a cupcakery does ONE THING.  So do it RIGHT.  Sheesh.  I should be goddamn swooning over these things and I was less than impressed.  AND YOU DON'T NEED SOME SORT OF FANCY PALETTE TO ENJOY A CUPCAKE EITHER!  It's not that complex!

Whew.  I am apparently hitting a nerve in this entry.  But I can't HELP it!  Are business owners just not honest with themselves?  Do they not snag some product out of the case every once in awhile and check it out for themselves?  Do their customers have no taste buds?  Do they give NO feedback?  Are they just "trying to be nice"?  Because - customers...your "niceness" is ruining your own experience.  Say when something sucks.  It's an owner's JOB to make it better.

I think the other issue I have is these places have the gall to charge 3, 4 or 5 bucks per cupcake.  For real?  Do you people understand the markup on these things?  THEY SHOULD HAVE GOLD FLECKS IN THEM FOR THAT PRICE!  And they are small.  Well, not small.  They are regular sized.  They are not jumbo.  They should be jumbo.  Jumbo and delicious.  And they are not.

And this is why I am mad.  We are collectively making a fuss about mediocrity.  It's like when parents make a big deal about something their kid did that really is not that impressive: 

"Can you believe little Johnny picked up the magazine and said 'Mommy there are words in here'?  Is that the MOST PRECIOUS THING you ever heard?  He is so smart I can't stand it! Because there ARE words in there.  A magazine is FULL OF WORDS.   He is going to grow up to be Bill Gates!  BILL GATES I TELLYA!"

Ugh.  And then comes the part where I have to agree.  But I don't.  Just like the cupcake thing.

I.  Don't.  Agree.

I will end this entry with a picture of Chuck and I eating one of the cupcakes purchased from the Bread Basket so long ago.  They were great.  And inventive.  And large.  And I want more.  I am heading up to 'Toga this weekend and on my way from Albany I will pass at least THREE cupcake places that I know of (probably many more that make cupcakes but don't have trucks or labs or buses) and I plan to keeeeeep on driving.  And go get some deliciousness from Bread Basket.  Hopefully, they are still as good as I remember.

lunch




onion roll with butter, tomato from our CSA, sharp provolone.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, August 23, 2010

antipasto dinner




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Madison Ave,Albany,United States

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pupusas Probably in My Belly. Ok. Definitely in my belly.

After having Pupusas a few times - once with Albany Jane and E and crew at Flores Family Restaurant and another time with Matty G in Noho, and then looking up the recipe and realizing "holy jeez there are only 2 ingredients for the basic recipe?" - well...it was time to make them.

It was a Stephen Monday so it was our project for the day - we had to do some prep stuff in the afternoon and then our friend Jenna was coming over for the making and eating. 

We started by making the curtido - a coleslawish side dish that is served with the pupusas which can be made up to a week ahead (we probably should have thought about that a week ago) - so we got right to it.  The recipe is on the link and the only thing we did differently was skipped the boiling water step and we boiled the vinegar, salt and water mixture instead, hoping that would help it permeate throughout the cabbage mixture a little quicker.  Then we threw it all in a bowl and covered it and weighted it down, hoping that would help "pre age" the mixture.  Final result:

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It is a little boring to look at but tasted delicious - and I have a feeling tomorrow it will taste even better.

Then Stephen and I parted ways a little bit - he made the Salsa Roja, another thing served alongside pupusas, and I got busy making a sour cherry almond cake because I bought two containers of sour cherries  at a farmer's market a month ago and I just threw them in the freezer and never did anything with them.  It was time!!!

Stephen can tell you more of the Salsa Roja but this was the basic recipe we used.  I know he used ancho chiles instead of the serrano and it gave the salsa so much more depth I wanted to hug it.  I happily have a jar of leftover yumminess in my fridge that I plan to pour on everything I eat until there is no more left.  Here's a shot of the insanity:

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I threw together the the Sour Cherry Almond Cake pretty quickly after I figured out how to pit the cherries.  I did not have a cherry pitter so Stephen and I Googled it - we saw a few ideas.  We watched a video with a great how-to and I read an article so we decided to try both ways and see which was better.  I guess you can say we "pitted" one idea against the other.  Heh.  Pitted.  (btw - I am turning into my father with the ridiculous jokes how is this happening?)

ANYWAY - Stephen made the fork thing from the video and I used the idea from the article and my way won BY FAR (shhh Stephen).  I basically just stood a chopstick up and impaled the cherry on it and the chopstick did all the work (and yes sometimes I made a noise I thought a cherry would have made if it was impaled on a chopstick and had a voice and was alive).  Most of the time the pit was just pushed through the other end with hardly any mess.  My way MIGHT have been better because the cherries were still semi-frozen - but either way I WON!  After everything was prepped I assembled the cake and baked. 

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Cakey goodness.  The cake was tasty and moist and I would make it again. Maybe with some booze next time too.

Jenna showed up with her pupusa filling and Stephen had put together some more fillings while I was lounging on the couch and yelling at him to peel me a grape - so I was time for the making of the you know whats.

We made three kinds:  Chicken Salsa, Bean and Cheese, and Chorizo and Corn .  We rolled the dough into balls and then stuffed and flattened them.  This was not the easiest thing to do at first but after about two or three we got the hang of it.  For us the trick was wet hands so everything didn't get all sticky, not overstuffing the pupusas and being careful while flattening so the goodness didn't seep out.

We then fried them on a cast iron jobby.

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and we ended up making a lot...

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We were only THREE PEOPLE eating - but we made...23 in all I think?  Next time I think I would make them a little bigger and make less in total - but this was a great first effort.

We also made some Queso de Freir (frying cheese) while we were frying things up...

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which came out toasty and delicious

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and I would like to eat it every day with Salsa Roja until I turn into a piece of fried cheese with salsa on top wearing a dress and glasses.

When all was said and done - wow.  A meal I will have again - maybe with some small tweaks - but it tasted delicious and was incredibly filling.  The best way to eat the pupusa I found was this math problemy way:

Pupusa + salsa on top + curtido and a squeeze of lime = maximum deliciousness. 

The vinegar in the curtido plus the richness of the salsa really cuts the heavy quality of the pupusa.  I guess you can equate it to kind of like a wierd Salvadorian pizza from the planet Awesome.

It is possible this might be fun to do at a dinner party - everyone can bring a filling and you can make the dough and fill and fry and then chow down.  But maybe I would be the only one that could have fun at that kind of party?  Probably.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cucumber Challenge

So today I cut up a cucumber and decided to have each slice a different way to see what I liked best.  I am not a huge fan of cucumber to begin with, but I was eager to find a way that I like it more - because eating more cucumber and less home made ice cream is probably a good idea.

The following is what I topped the cuke slices with:
  • salt
  • cayenne pepper
  • red pepper flakes
  • honey
  • powdered ranch dressing mix
  • lemon pepper
  • chocolate syrup

And the winners were:

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Powdered  ranch dressing mix (savory) and honey (sweet).  Now I realize that you could probably pour these two things on ALOT of other stuff and have it taste good, and that ranch dressing on vegetables is not antything new - but I was surprised by the honey. 

I will try to top more veggies with strange things in the future.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

STFUAE - First Unofficial Meeting

So Stephen and I have been hanging out on Mondays because he is off and I am off and we like food and think eachother's poop jokes are funny.  Today ended up being excellent as usual because we planned and cooked but then got even better because Elizabeth came over!  E and I have been discussing the idea of a dinner club (my friend Ashley does one and her entries about it make me drool!) and when we were all putting together dinner and dessert using ingredients we had around we realized that this was our first unofficial meeting!  We were cooking, sharing ideas about food, eating - it was great. 

We had already picked a name for the club - STFUAE (can you guess what it stands for?) and we laid down some easy to remember rules:

1.  First rule of STFUAE is...well...STFU.  AE.
2.  Second rule of STFUAE is you cannot name your dish anything longer than the dish would take to eat.  For example - Jerk Chicken Pizza cannot be called Pizza with Jerk Spices, Poultry and Sauteed Vegetables on Whole Wheat Pan Crust - TOO LONG!
3.  Meetings will most likely be themed  - possibly as loosely as just "Italian Night" or as specific as "Peppercorns".  Within that we will probably assign courses so we don't just have a table full of mains or apps or desserts (which really would be ok if you ask me).
4.  There were other rules but I can't remember them - more when the Unofficial becomes Official.

 Later our friends Alex and Heather came over to share dessert with us and were pretty excited about the club idea (this might have just been excitement about the Dulce de Leche but whatever) so we think we already have two more members when we actually decide to get this thing going.

So - we made and ate:

Baked Kale Chips - no picture because we ate them so fast but I highly suggest you trying this!  I like kale a heck of a lot but this is a great new way to eat it!

Bacon Wrapped Mango

Bacon Wrapped Mango

Cut Mango.  Wrap in bacon.  Secure with toothpick.  Bake.  Eat.  It was a great combo but I suggest you use big pieces of mango so the bacon doesn't overshadow the taste of the fruit.

Seafood Broccoli Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

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I had some leftover seafood mix from Trader Joe's (calamari, shrimp and scallops) in red sauce in the freezer so I defrosted it, strained the sauce out and reduced it then put it back together again.  A quick toss of some broccoli in some olive oil and a quick bake in the oven, then lay pizza crust out, quick pre bake for crispness, and put toppings on (plus cheese and cheese and cheese). 


Jerk Chicken Pizza on Whole Wheat Crust

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This one you have to ask E about.  She brought over chicken and pepper already delicioused in jerk seasoning and we threw it on a pizza crust we pre baked with some smoked garlic cheddar that I had lying around (Trader Joe's again).  We threw on some jarred peppers too. This was a little spicy and delicious!

Chocolate Gelato from this recipe (just the gelato part not the rest that sounds so amazing).

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This was easier than ice cream and soooo creamy.  I think I might switch to the cornstarch method for my ice cream, especially after reading this

Dulche de Leche

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We made this earlier in the day by boiling a can of sweetened condensed milk for an hour in a big pot filled with water about an inch above the can (soooo easy).  We let it cool then opened the can and saw this creamy goodness. 

Apricot Tart with Dulce de Leche

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I had some apricots in the freezer I got from a farmstand awhile ago then blanched and pitted and peeled.  Stephen made a delicious crust and we thawed them and tossed with some cornstarch. We baked it up and threw some Dulche de Leche on top.  This was a good combo because the apricots were pretty tart.  Maybe next time a little sugar in the apricots would have chilled it out a bit. 


Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche and Toasted Coconut

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After I took that picture I realized that it could easily be made into a Cake Monster and voila:

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This cake monster was born from a small cake E brought over.  She sliced it and we filled with Dulce de Leche and while she was spreading I toasted some coconut that we threw on and in.  In case you are interested, they eyes are roasted soy nuts stuck on with Dulce de Leche and the tongue is a fruit gummi thing I lovingly carved with a paring knife.


After we ate until it hurt we played a foodie trivia game that Alex and Heather brought wherein I sucked and lost badly - but it was totally fun.

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I have hopes for the next congregation of STFUAE!  Yeah!