Thursday, March 30, 2006

Fighting the "Mean Reds" with a Croissant

If you've seen or read Breakfast at Tiffany's, you know that whenever Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) got a case of the "Mean Reds," as she called her horrid moods, disgruntledness, etc., she would buy coffee and a croissant and eat them in front of the magnificent window at Tiffany's. (Incidentally, that famous scene at the beginning of the movie was one of the hardest to film, according to Hepburn.)

Well, so I woke up with a good case of the Mean Reds this morning, most likely incurred by too many impending article/book deadlines. It was a beautiful morning--a most inappropriate morning to have the Mean Reds, so I thought a natural way to kick them was a quick trip to La Chateleine, one of my favorite bakeries in C-town, and most importantly, a five-minute walk from our house. (I love the cheery "Bonjour" that you are always greeted with when you walk in the door there.) Sure enough, that freshly-baked chocolate croissant tasted heavenly, the Mean Reds left my body, and the croissant's soft, flaky texture soothed the sore throat that's been bothering me all week. The pastry was gone by the time I returned home, but my cup of coffee was not, so I got to sip a nice French Roast for the rest of the morning.

Lesson learned: Authentic chocolate croissants can drive out demons.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday Food News Roundup

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Weekend Planned around Food

I had to go to Dayton yesterday to be filmed/offer sound bites and eloquent musings for an educational video, so I didn't have time to post about our weekend, which happened to include lots of good eats! On Friday we got to try some lightly fried fish, courtesy of our friend Anthony, who breaded the fish with--get this--hand-ground corn meal. It was unbelievably crunchy and delicious--I had to have seconds! There's nothing nicer than eating a meal cooked by someone who has obviously put together each dish with great care, as Anthony did.

On Saturday I led a "Columbus culinary tour" for my friends Mary and Peggy. Of course I took them to the North Market, Whole Foods and Katzinger's Deli, and we also stopped at Sur la Table. Saturday night was the best food adventure of all, but I can't write a thing about it right now because we were doing research for a story I'm working on for a major magazine. Someday I will...

Of interest: Read about Wine for Tightwads at Slate.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wednesday Food News Roundup

  • This New York Times article explains why radio cooking is catching on.
  • From The Seattle Times--my favorite food section in the nation--recipes using homemade naan.
  • The Chicago Tribune offers a primer on parfaits, otherwise known as skyscraper sundaes.
  • If you're looking for something really bizarre, check out these bacon band-aids.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Mmm, Snacks!

I love to experiment with new recipes. My companion tells people we never eat the same thing twice, and that's mostly true. When the mail carrier tucks new copies of Bon Appetit, Gourmet or Cooking Light in our mailbox, I'm usually poring over the new issue by nightfall. Part of it is that I like to cook seasonally, but I also like the challenge of a new recipe, in addition to the sense of anticipation that comes from wondering what something will look and taste like when it's finished.

That being said, I do have a few treasured recipes that comprise my unique repertoire, my collection of no-fail, fabulous things to make for all kinds of occasions. One of my mainstays is this recipe for chewy coconut granola bars, which I've adapted from a Cooking Light recipe. You can have these bad boys in the oven in less than 20 minutes, and you can pop one in your mouth for breakfast, a snack, or dessert. I have this habit of baking late at night, and these homemade granola bars are perfect for late-night, "extreme baking," as we call any baking that takes place after 10 p.m. These healthy confections don't take so long that I regret what I've started as I'm baking away in my pj's and starting to get sleepy.

Chewy Coconut Granola Bars
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons skim milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups low-fat granola without raisins (I've used oats in a pinch.)
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried mixed fruit (like Marian Premium Tropical Medley)
  • 1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut


  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Coat a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with cooking spray; dust with 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour. Lightly spoon 2/3 cup all-purpose flour and whole-wheat flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine sugar, oil, milk, and eggs in a large bowl;beat with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture, stirring until blended. Fold in granola and fruit. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle with coconut.
  • Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 20 granola bars.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Sickie!

Unfortunately I caught some flu-like bug late last night, so I was down for the count all day today. Fortunately I'm feeling at least a better now, thanks to a day of r&r, the homemade grilled cheese sandwich my companion made me, and a scoop of Jeni's dark cocoa gelato. Comfort food always seems to do the trick when I'm sick--I highly recommend it as a remedy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

St. Patrick's Day, Anticipated

If you're still contemplating your culinary plans for St. Patrick's Day, consider creating your own festive spread chez vous. My companion slaved away all day in the kitchen this past Sunday for our PSPDF (Pre-St. Paddy's Day Feast). The result? A scrumptious traditional Irish feast to share with our Chinese friends Hong and Xin. If you're looking for a St. Patrick's Day menu this year, may I recommend the Corned Beef and Carrots with Marmalade-Whiskey Glaze, courtesy of Bon Appetit. Other highlights from my companion's menu include two delicious recipes from the Irish Food Board, which I highly recommend. Colcannon, an Irish peasant dish of milk-and-butter moistened mashed potatoes mixed with chopped kale, was delicious, as was the smoked salmon on potato cakes we enjoyed as an appetizer! In my mind, however, the crowning glory was the Bread Pudding with Caramel Whiskey Sauce, courtesy of Cooking Light's web site. Only subscribers and newsstand buyers have access to the Web site, and if you are a newsstand buyer you have to enter a code from the inside of the magazine. Sshhh, don't tell anyone, but this month's code is "kitchentips." But you didn't hear it here.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Veggie Heaven

This weekend my companion and I had one of the best dining experiences we've ever had in Columbus. The venue: Dragonfly Neo V, Columbus's premier purveyor of vegetable-based cuisine. I would highly recommend it not only for a Friday in Lent, which happened to be our night of choice, but for any evening. I was already a little hip to the scene, since I had written a profile of Dragonfly's chef, Magdiale Wolmark, for The Dispatch, which you can read here, but I hadn't eaten at Dragonfly before, so the dining experience was completely new. (I knew we were in for a different sort of experience when we were told at the beginning of the meal, "We'll be right out with some filtered water for you.")

I kicked off the evening quaffing Dragonfly's signature lavender gimlet, intensely flavored with a lavender fusion and Bombay Sapphire offset perfectly with a twist of lemon, and my companion thoroughly enjoyed his ginseng manhattan, made from single-batch bourbon. Highlights of the meal included our amuse-bouche (French derivative for appetizer, typically referring to a small one-to-two bite portion to tickle the tastebuds) of king oyster mushroom and beets, drizzled with something that was absolutely delicious. What it was, je ne sais quoi, but believe me, I never knew beets could be so satisfying.

I really enjoy Magdiale's approach to cooking, which means not only a reliance on local, seasonal ingredients, but also sparing, indulgent use of the finest ingredients, with smaller quantities of food. (When I say smaller quantities, I mean that they're actually normal, un-Cheesecake Factory, non-Friday's-mile-high-chocolate-pie-sized portions.)
One example: Instead of the typical bread basket (which I usually inhale) our server brought us a small plate with two carefully arranged homemade baguette slices and a dollop of handmade savory olive tapenade. The smaller portion size made me want to savor my entire slice of bread, which I did, spread generously with the tapenade, and I found that I didn't eat it as mindlessly as I usually eat bread at Italian restaurants, sopping up endless quantities of olive oil and requesting another round.

We enjoyed our leisurely dining experience so much that we opted to stay for dessert (chocolate mousse spread over a coconut cake accented with an orange tuile) which meant that we missed the $5.00 showing of Crash at the Arena Grand that we'd planned to see. We caught the late showing of Brokeback instead. Dragonfly is one of those places that I'm really looking forward to sharing with my out-of-town guests, so come and visit soon so we can go back!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I like my green beer just as much as the next person, but...

...according to Maureen Petrosky, author of The Wine Club, March is a great month for Syrah (or Shiraz if you're drinking Australian wine).

Looking for a great bottle of Shiraz to bring to a party? Petrosky recommends the irreverently named Woop Woop, a $12 bottle that earned a three-star rating from The New York Times. I haven't yet tried it myself, but I did spot it at Wild Oats the other day, and I'll be sure to make this my next dinner party pick! Every other wine she's recommended has been absolutely spot on.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


...I wanted my wardrobe to advertise my occupation to all those in my path, this is what I'd wear with my jeans.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Broccoli Has Never Been So Much Fun...

I'll be the first to admit that I don't eat as many vegetables as I should. I like my veggies just fine, but it's hard to come up with ways to cook them that are creative and fun, and so usually I just don't bother. Is there anything less exciting than a bag of mixed greens doused with bottled red wine vinaigrette? I think side dishes in general are sort of daunting--by the time you make your main dinner, who wants to mess with anything else? (I have a friend who actually made a New Year's resolution to prepare more side dishes.)

All this being said, I was excited when I came across this recipe for Broccoli with Toasted Garlic Crumbs in the "quick kitchen" section of Gourmet. It was delicious, and it's a great way to use up leftover panko bread crumbs, which add a delightful light, nongreasy crunch to this dish.

Try it! Try it! You'll love it!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Humble Pie

A growing genre in the world of food writing is the food memoir (like Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires or Julie Powell's Julie and Julia). Being a mostly nonfiction-reading kind of gal, I usually snap up these books soon as they are published. I finally bought Anne Dimock's Humble Pie after hearing her read an excerpt on NPR. It's wonderful--the kind of book you could both start and finish on a Saturday afternoon.

My favorite chapter: "Pie as a Feminist Tool." Brief summary: Baking pies can be a subversive act, so don't be fooled by the benevolent matrons slaving over crusts in their kitchens. They're up to something, that's for sure.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Life of a Chef

I spent last evening in the restaurant kitchen of Columbus's most decorated chef--for over four hours I observed the dinner preparation, trying to stay out of the way of Chef and his kitchen minions as they crisscrossed the room with hot saute pans, boiling pots of stock and vats of freshly whipped cream. Chef and I chatted while he chopped scallions and seared racks of lamb, and we enjoyed a sizeable feast together until 11pm, from which I'm still reeling today. I'm just not used to eating that much, and though it was delicious, I'm still in the early stages of gastronomic recovery today.

A few observations:
  • Kitchens are noisy, noisy places--a far cry from the refined banter in the dining room. While I wouldn't trade my experience for anything, the sounds of oven fans, the clanging of pots, the clinking of dishes, and the terse (often tense) exchanges between the kitchen staff all provide a formidable auditory challenge to conducting an actual interview throughout the evening.
  • The life of a chef is far from glamorous. It means 16-hour days, sweating over hot stoves, thinking on your feet, and, in the case of many chefs, never actually being able to see your customers enjoy their meals.
  • It's very difficult for me to eat foie gras--not only do I not like the taste, but I fall squarely into the "it's not ethical" camp as far as that whole debate is concerned. (For a great article on the whole foie gras issue, check out "Should You Give Up Foie Gras?" in the March issue of Bon Appetit.
  • When Chef tells you that you'll be ending the meal with the "dessert symphony" (mini-creme brulee, white and dark chocolate terrine slices, fresh fruit in a crispy tuile cup, and freshly whipped cream, SAVE ROOM. This, by far, was the best part of my day!