Boston Fall 2011

I really enjoyed my week in Boston. I did not finish my writing goals, but I learned a lot about myself, the way an intellectual environment affects people and I found several new sources of inspiration and culinary genius. There are too many photos to showcase from my adventure, so I’ve hand-picked my favorites below.

Austin Bakes for Bastrop!

Kind-hearted denizens of Austin and the internets, I beg of you a small inconvenience that may feed both your spiritual and gastronomical appetite. On Saturday, October 1, between the hours of 10AM and 2PM, a small band of bakers seeks your charitable attentions to benefit the victims of Bastrop’s wildfire.

Check the map and the website for more details:

http://austinbakes.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/austin-bakes-for-bastrop-update-a-blog-button/

Visually Stunning Recipe Compendiums Go to Battle

The three contenders:

Back in college, when I was supposed to be typing notes from a lecture, I would invariably end up on TasteSpotting.com (henceforth, TS) or amazon or a long-forgotten precursor to grooveshark. I convinced myself that watching food channel and browsing foodpr0n was an educational and practical hobby and that forcing myself to salivate outside of mealtime was actually helping me to digest and lose weight. There’s no proof that this worked as part of a weight-loss regiment, as my bathroom scale would tell you.

Nowadays, I’m less hopeful about my cooking prowess, but I still like to entertain the notion of Future-Chef-Karen from time to time. Reddit’s /r/cooking and /r/recipes have been pretty solid sources, but they don’t offer that magical pop-up picture book feel that TS touted. In these past few years, TS has garnered some tough competition as well. In this review, I want to exclusively address websites that organize recipes by photos with less intrusive advertising / textual features – which means epicurious and chowhound, etc. are off the ballot.

Punchfork is a wonderfully safe alternative to TS because it does not immediately link to the blogs hosting the recipes. While this is bad for web traffic numbers on those particular blogs, I want my content screened and safe as a consumer. If the recipe is really worth delving into, I usually click the blog link and read from their page anyway. The variety and plethora of entries also makes PunchFork attractive. I am satisfied with the sorting options and the overall layout.

But sometimes too many options is a burden. Sometimes I just want a delicious meal/photo shoved in my face because my brain is fatigued from hunger or boredom. Rather than bumbling like a drunk savage to WTFSIMFD, This is when I consult Gojee and its massive “HD” foodshot glory. The recipes are meticulously curated, so don’t expect a large database of options, but what they have posted is therefore guaranteed to be of high quality. One of my annoyances with Gojee is the rather advanced ingredient list. Fennel pollen? Is that something I can ingest and where to I find such a thing? Perhaps I am still uncouth in these culinary matters– which is certainly not Gojee’s fault. The recipe preview is also not always easy to navigate.

Are there any other visual recipe collection websites I should check out?

Flash Diet Day 2-4

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Commentary:

  •  Breakfast is always eggs + veggie. Over easy is tastier than omelette, but I really wish I could have toast and soy sauce or ketchup with it. Alas, I am left with pepper and oregano.
  • I made a ground turkey sauté with onions, garlic, spinach and mushrooms + plenty of cumin and curry powder. It tasted like Indian tacos. Yum! I placed some in a ramekin and baked it in the oven with an egg on top for 15 min @ 300 degrees F. At Austin’s elevation, it apparently wasn’t enough time, so I baked it for another 5 min at 315. Sadly, it was overdone. Boo.
  • What you see salad-wise is generally a mix of the same thing:
    • Spinach
    • Sunflower Sprouts
    • Red Grapes
    • “Sunburst” yellow tomatoes
    • Almonds
  • TRIO = Austin Restaurant Week pick. I chose Salmon Ceviche (delicious, but not as awesome as the beef Carpaccio option, according to my dine-fellows), Flounder in Herb Broth (which is the dark monster in the pan that you see there) and I passed on the Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Raspberry/Pear business for dessert. (Secretly, I sampled the Crème Brûlée, which had a delectable layer of smooth chocolate, OMGaw DROOL). Mom loved the cheesecake, though. She plans on dragging the family to TRIO this weekend. Worth it!
  • Today, I had some leftover flounder. Isn’t it creepy how the teeth are still visible? I expect that maw to haunt my dreams. The fish is very light and flaky, but it tastes burnt and rather grass-like. The stench is hard to ignore. I also stir-fried some cabbage, onions, and julienned zucchini. I bought the julienne tool today and it has easily risen to one of my favorite kitchen utensils.
  • I am also soaking some white “great northern” and black beans for tomorrow. I thought the bowl looked particularly Yin-Yang chic, so I tried to snap a good shot.

On an unrelated note, my camera is aging rapidly. My sister laughed at its paltry 6 megapixel capabilities. Although I love the quality of DSLR photos, I don’t have the skills nor the $$$ to support such a purchase. I guess I’ll have to shop around or mooch the beefbeef’s camera.

Day 1 of Flash Diet April 2011

Day 1 Breakfast
2x egg omelette with mushrooms; topped with sunflower sprouts and oregano and pepper
Day 1 Lunch
Awesome salad encircled by dates, grapes and yellow "sunburst" tomatoes.

Forgot to snap a shot of dinner, but it was just sautéed zucchini and onion with boiled carrots and a pork chop simmered in home-made vegetable broth.

Actually, this isn’t day 1. It’s day 2. But yesterday was spent crunching salad and swallowing copious amounts of water. Also, it was an accident that I called this “flash diet” because I have no intention of photographing everything I eat- I just wanted to describe a sudden surprise last-minute desperate diet. I suppose “ambush diet” would’ve been more appropriate.

The rules = abstain from the following:

  • carbs (potatoes, rice, bread… all my beloved companions)
  • salt and salty things
  • sugar and sugary things (including citrus and tropical fruits like mango)
  • processed anything (no frozen meals or fast food or anything with possible preservatives)
  • any liquids but water
  • eating within 4 hours of sleeping

Minestrone

The moon floated on the froth of the night sky. The world churned and warmed the broth, the stars like errant bubbles and the buildings like sinking morsels. It was the soup of my dreams and I awoke each morning with a different aftertaste.

Every new day, I am hungry. How does the day fill me? I find sustenance in my daily work, in the people I meet and in the roads I travel. Experience is nourishment and food is experience.

Living as a Teetotaler in ATX

Teetotalism. Say it.
A bit unsavory on the tongue, isn’t it? Like some sort of teething toy or medieval torture device.

A teetotaler is a person who doesn’t drink alcohol. I am one such person living in one of the country’s best foodie cities: Austin, TX. The gastronomical permutations here are endless. If godly ambrosia ever existed in this mortal realm, it would reside in ATX.

But back to alcohol. Wouldn’t you consider it a half-life without this added factor? Am I not somehow crippled by the lack of spirits to accompany my food? Not at all.

Maybe it’s a result of my eating team; one of my dine-fellows must abstain from porcine products and alcohol as part of his religion. Another co-diner is scrupulously guarding his figure and my boyfriend simply doesn’t enjoy the fumy taste. I’ve tried a few drinks myself, but I’m mostly ambivalent about drinking. I’m a bit of a cheapskate as well, finding the extra dollars better spent on a side dish or dessert.

Dinner portions tend to run large ’round these parts. Only as you venture into the finer restaurants do the portions begin to shrink. But as the price increases, I’m less likely to spend recklessly on frivolous items. For cheaper meals, alcohol just doesn’t seem appropriate.

Maybe it’s also my distance from party culture. Sixth street’s entrance fees are beyond my means:

  • dress code: as a girl woefully ignorant of fashion and make-up, the effort to dress beyond my engineering garb seems foreign and sacrilegious
  • labyrinthine: traffic time and gas prices from Cedar Park suburbia already present a harrowing quest, much less the Sardine-like parking methods required to avoid a ticket downtown
  • creep-factor: despite recently graduating from UT, I feel too old to intrude upon the party scene of college kids… someone might strike up a conversation about my major and the moment I tell them I’ve graduated, the same thoughts are exchanged every time: diploma = wrinkles. pedophiles unwelcome here. back away slowly.

But I lead a thoroughly entertaining life. I am also well fed and surrounded by good company. The point is, I don’t need certain things, because I’m already at what I perceive to be the pinnacle of my joy. There’s no added value from anything else.

Tune in next time for my list of a perfect fooding weekend in Austin. Or some other time. Forthcoming.

(Flourish) À bientôt.