Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Flickring cities

I've been noticing something unusual lately on Flickr. After I post photos with tags (descriptive terms like "mushroom" and "playground") I sometimes search by those tag terms to see what groups my pictures fall into. Each tag can be organized either by recency or by interestingness, which Flickr calculates on the basis of some mysterious formula. I have been noticing that the Milwaukee photos highest in interestingness are almost all of one subject: the Quadracci Pavilion of the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava. I cannot find another city whose interestingness is so dominated by a single edifice. Neither cities famous for a building (Agra, Chartres) nor cities with other prominent Calatravas (Seville, Valencia) have interestingness pages that are virtually all one thing. (A few days ago Milwaukee's page was completely Calatrava; today there are two photos among the top twenty that are of other subjects: one the lake and one of the river.)

These are the first interestingness pages for the other cities I have inhabited:

London (1972-1973) is a hodgepodge; fewer than half have architectural subjects.

Toronto (1973-1990, 1995-1997) has few shots of buildings, a bit surprising for a city with such a distinctive array of downtown skyscrapers.

Montreal (1990-1994) is eclectic; my favorites are the shots taken at the hippie Tam Tam Jam (Anglos like me used to call it Bongo Park) that convenes at the foot of Mount Royal on weekends.

New York (1994-1995) has lots of architecture and two shots of Christo's Gates. (New York City offers much of the same.)

Madison (1997-2002) includes some images of Madisons that aren't in Wisconsin, and several of the capitol dome.

I can think of at least two reasons why photographers love our museum so much. The other photogenic buildings in Milwaukee are mostly old. And there aren't many buildings like this one in North America, not yet anyway. If you haven't seen it in person, you really must come to Milwaukee.


Want food in every post? Ok: check out these Flickr recipes.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The ice cream project: egg ice cream


In general, we might think of ice cream having two different kinds of appeal.

1. A cold, sweet, rich confection to make you feel good.

2. An uncanny flavor experience. Uncanny is Freud's way of capturing a paradoxical concept that means at once familiar and unfamiliar. In dreams, sometimes we have an experience of the uncanny in which something we recognize is present in an unexpected form or in which something we think of as strange is revealed to be something we know intimately. At once we feel comfort and alienation. This is what I think many of the avant-chefs I have blogged about before are after in their flavor/texture/temperature experiments. Perhaps if you say WOW when you eat their food (and I do mean you; I have never tasted it) it's because it tastes like something you have had a thousand times, and yet also tastes like nothing you have tried before. This is speculative, of course. What I know of this grub is second-hand.

The uncanny appeal of ice cream is that it presents a regular flavor, like sesame or Serrano chile, in a new guise, with a new temperature and texture. This kind of appeal need not be at odds with #1, though I suspect it sometimes is, especially in the case of very odd concoctions like Stilton or garlic ice cream, both of which exist at least in recipe form.

I stole the idea for egg ice cream from the chef of The Fat Duck in London, Heston Blumenthal, who makes a bacon and egg ice cream that captivates everyone who tries it. When I first heard about this I thought the egg part was just fanciful, since ice cream often contains eggs (my regular recipe calls for eight yolks per quart of dairy). But upon further research I learned that HB actually makes the ice cream taste especially eggy by using lots and lots of egg--24 yolks in Chef Heston's recipe--and by overcooking the custard. Ordinarily you stop cooking a custard at 170 F/77 C, but if you keep heating it up it will curdle and...curdled eggs are eggiest. HB heats his mixture to 85 C/185 F, which causes them to thicken considerably. Then he whizzes in a blender and passes the mixture through a sieve. The blender step might actually be to pulverize the bacon but I included it anyway.

The results are an ice cream that tastes only of egg and sugar, like the Platonic ideal of egginess. Chinese egg custard tarts are similar in flavor, completely different in texture and temperature. Making custard with a high proportion of yolks also ups the fat content and adds emulsifiers, which gives the ice cream a texture I do not hesitate to call sublime.

Egg ice cream
Yields about 1.5 pints.

2 cups/1 pint/480 mL half and half (which is half whole milk and half heavy/double cream, so substitute away)
4.5 oz./128 g sugar
9 yolks of large eggs

1. Heat the cream to a bare simmer in a saucepan.

2. Whisk yolks until pale and thick, then add sugar slowly, whisking continuously, and keep going until it has increased slightly in volume. Blumenthal says it should be white but I think he means pale.

3. Slowly whisk the warm cream into the eggs, then dump them back in the saucepan and heat, stirring, to 185 C. Keep them at this temp for 30 seconds, then pour into a blender and liquidize (or skip this step, see if I care). Chill, churn, freeze, eat.

Anticipating your questions...

Q: What would you serve this with?
A: A spoon.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Moka etc.

This is my favorite home coffee maker, though I usually use the more convenient drip machine. Every time I use the moka I wonder why I ever bother with filter coffee, which is inferior in taste and temperature, but every time I wake up at six a.m. I think, it's easier to use the machine. You have to go to the stove to turn off the gas when the moka is done, but the drip waits for you. Sometimes I drink the moka coffee straight, from a demi-tasse (with a bite of dark chocolate if there's one around), and sometimes I mix it with boiling water, which Italians derisively call an Americano. Even a few hours old, a shot of moka coffee topped with a few ounces of fresh hot water is a fine thing.


Because you are dying to know...I ate:

1. An olive oil tuna salad sandwich at Harlequin Bakery. Since I blogged tuna, many a searcher has found this site using terms like "tuna salad without mayo." At first when I saw these search strings I would rub my hands together in glee proclaiming, "Suckaaaz!" But after awhile I started to think that I should at least give it a try the trendy healthful newfangled way.

Mayo is better.

2. A Royale w/Cheese at The Social, an emporium of hipness that vexingly tries both too little and too hard. Too hard because they lavish too much attention on cutesy details of décor (a showy, retro room divider of large oval disks on thin rods of metal separating the tables from the bar) and gimmicky menu lingo (see below). And too little because the food, clever and fun as it is made to sound, still doesn't feel like the product of a kitchen in which people are totally passionate about cooking.

The Royale is one of the fancy-pants hamburgers that are sweeping the upscale enclaves of urban America (there was a whole segment on these gourmet burgers on the May 13 Good Food podcast). The patty, ground up from a cow named Kobe, is as thick as you would make it yourself. When you order it medium rare that's how they cook it. It is topped, as all such things apparently are, with a blue-veined cheese (Stilton) and a caramelized onion condiment (I don't remember if it's a confit, a relish, a chutney, a marmalade...ok the menu online reminds me that they call it simply "caramelized onion"). On top of that they slather perhaps eight ounces of a "red wine 'ketchup'" that has a consistency reminiscent of Thanksgiving gravy.

Aside: the use of quotation marks in restaurant menus has become unbearably pretentious and vapid. Originally, this nouvelle cuisine affectation was supposed to indicate the chef's sense of humor, a kind of antidote to the sanctified tenor of haute cuisine. But this condiment really was ketchup made with red wine.

Back to my dinner: the burger oozes juices, makes a stupendous mess, and despite its name betrays no trace whatsoever of cheese. As I suspected, the use of ground Kobe beef is a stunt to impress naïve, status-seeking diners. My sense is that the point of Kobe beef is that it is tender, but all ground meat is tender. What can I say? It was everything a person might want in a hamburger, and it came with a side of excellent shoestring fries, but I don't think I can taste a difference between Kobe and supermarket beef when presented in burger form.

I loved this food despite my attempt to maintain a cool, critical distance from it. And I even don't mind that they named the burger for Pulp Fiction, which wasn't exactly in need of homage.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Scrambled eggs with morels, toast
I learned a new word today at the co-op. It's "wildcrafted," and it describes the morel mushrooms mixed in with my eggs. For $24.99 you can take home a pound of these locally wildcrafted superfungi and with that many you can make about twenty lunches. Morels are one of the few seasonal produce items that come around this early in the northern Midwest, when elsewhere there seems to be such enviable bounty. It's still early for peas and lettuces here, even.

I chopped two morels into bits, sauteed them in butter (with a big pinch of salt) over high heat so that the butter browned a bit, and then stirred them into my scrambled eggs just a few seconds before they were done. To make the eggs I beat two grade A large with salt and a drip of heavy cream and cooked them in butter over medium heat, stirring constantly, until they were just right. I like them soft and fairly wet.

This was my first taste of morels and they lived up to their billing. As I was eating this I kept thinking about how great they would be atop a thick medium rare hamburger. Hope their season lasts long enough for me to give that a try.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What to do with 110 blueberries (or $6)

Wired/Forbes reports on a new way of selling healthy snacks under the headline "Exotic Food Packaging Fights Rot":
Lucia Klansek wanted her teenage son to tote an apple or a banana to his basketball games, but fruit tended to get mangled in his bag, and containers of juice had to stay cold. The boy is lucky that his mother is a packaging expert. She designed her first soda bottle at age 12; it's still on store shelves in her native Slovenia.

So when she saw a package based on a design developed by Japanese scientists for NASA, she knew it would be perfect for her latest creation. Into a soft, 11-ounce pouch with a screw cap she packs a purée of 110 blueberries, six raspberries, half a banana and one and a half apples. The flash-pasteurized smoothie, which Klansek dubbed "e4b," contains no preservatives, and the package's seven-layer lining locks out air to protect nutrients. It can last on the shelf unopened for a year. Klansek, 48, and son Niko, now 22, used $2 million from the sale of her Slovenian beverage company to start a company to manufacture the fruit purées.

In January, Kings Super Markets started carrying the product in 27 stores and sold 187 pouches in its Short Hills, New Jersey, store during one four-hour promotion. The price is steep -- $6 per pouch, $1 more than a small Jamba Juice. But QVC wants in, as does Whole Foods Market.
Slovenia, Japan, Short Hills. Age 12, 11 ounces, 110 blueberres, six raspberries, half a banana, one and a half apples, "e4b," seven layers, Klansek 48, Nico 22, $2 million for the soda bottling operation, 27 stores, 187 pouches, four hours, $6 per pouch, $1 more than a Jamba Juice. How many bluberry smoothies were going to St. Ives? Does Jamba Juice really charge $5 for a small? There must be some mighty tasty Femme Boost™ whizzing in those blenders.

("e4b" turns out to stand for "easy for busy" and its website is about as annoying as you might expect.)

Senses of nostalgia

I remember being annoyed when an English prof in my undergrad days opined that there must be a circuit in the brain programmed to switch off at age 25, making it impossible for a person to appreciate new styles of music, but as I age he is seeming more and more to have been onto something. It's not that I have no appreciation for new music, but I respond to the sounds of my youth with more passion and intensity than I do to anything more contemporary. In my year of iPodding I have been constantly borrowing CDs from the public library to rip and upload, many of them albums I either used to own on LP or tape (my LP collection has languished in Toronto since I moved away in 1997--actually since my record player died a few years before that--and my tapes have gone to magnetic heaven) or that I never owned but knew very well because friends had them. I have also been listening to new music, mostly indie rock, and old music that is new to me, like Townes Van Zandt, but for the most part I've been on a blinding nostalgia trip, getting wrapped up in songs that I had not heard in fifteen or twenty years that I used to listen to every day. One thing that makes my personal experience of music particularly nostalgia-prone is that the CD was introduced just late enough in my adolescence that I already had a big collection of cassettes and records when I got my first CD player (I was fifteen). For me this means that there are thousands of songs that were basically gone, that never entered my mind any more.

The first popular songs that I loved were AM radio hits of the early 1980s. After Neil Diamond's Jazz Singer soundtrack ("Everywhere around the world/They're coming to America!"), the first records I owned were the K-Tel compilation Rock 82 (Juice Newton, Rush, .38 Special, REO Speedwagon, Huey Lewis and the News, Billy Squire, Kim Carnes), then the real breakthrough, Billy Joel's Glass Houses, which was once my favorite album in the whole world. In the few years after that my collection grew. Much of it was music I learned to like from watching videos on Canadian music shows like The New Music (hosted by J.D. Roberts, who as John Roberts has become the new Aaron Brown) and Toronto Rocks. There was Duran Duran, Culture Club, The Police, Genesis/Phil Collins, and Michael Jackson (my brother always liked him better than I did). Eventually my taste became more sophisticated, under the influence of a Rolling Stone subscription and many smart and musical friends, and by the time I started buying CDs instead of LPs or cassettes I had outgrown the top 40 songs and albums of the early part of the decade.

When I listen to this music now, especially to things you never hear any more like Genesis's self-titled album of 1983 ("That's All," "Mama," "Illegal Alien," "Taking It All Too Hard," and "Home By the Sea") I feel immensely satisfied. The pop-rock style is passé and Phil Collins's romantic persona can be a bit much, especially when he cackles lustily after the choruses of "Mama," but I don't care. One thing I love about this record now (and also its followup, Invisible Touch) is how much it sounds like the Police albums of the same vintage, a similarity I never noticed before. Hugh Padgham produced both bands and you can tell that they came from the same shop . As different as they seem, "Synchronicity II" and "Illegal Alien" are almost the same song: "Synchronicity II" has a minor chorus and "Illegal Alien" is mildly offensive, but both songs have the same tempo and rhythm, the same synth, guitar, and drum sounds. Until the past few weeks I always felt more affection for The Police because I liked them better in the 80s. I never owned Genesis; I just listened to my friends's copies and heard the hits on the radio and at dance parties. But I bought Synchronicity when it came out and listened to it like crazy. After Genesis broke up and Phil Collins became a huge pop star we all decided that he was an obnoxious poseur; it took about six or eight more years to get the same feeling about Sting, whose late-80s solo albums are mostly pretty great (that song about the Russians loving their children too, which my friends and I thought was profound, is now unlistenable). To an extent, I love Genesis because I used to listen to Genesis all the time. It was part of the soundtrack of my youth. Genesis was the first band I saw live in a stadium, in 1986, when I was fourteen and had never smelled marijuana. It was fun but it was really my friends who worshiped the band, not me. Now I can't get enough. Nostalgia isn't rational.

And it seems to work differently with different senses. Lately I've been trying to make the same kind of trip back in time through my tastebuds and it isn't working. At the movies I tried Milk Duds and they were disgustingly chewy, sticking in my back teeth and making my mouth feel all tense and weird. So I had some Junior Mints instead and they were sickly sweet and artificial tasting. I used to love Milk Duds and Junior Mints. At a burger and custard place I had a cheeseburger and a chocolate malt and the combination, which I had been dreaming about for weeks, seemed idiotic. The malt was too sugary and the dessert-with-your-main-course thing was so unappealing. I didn't even finish the malt and I felt a bit silly to have ordered it at all. Then the other night we went to Boston Market, which reminded me a lot of a Canadian restaurant chain called Swiss Chalet that also serves rotisserie chicken. The poultry was juicy and well seasoned, but, well, too well seasoned. It was salty and the skin wasn't crisp. The sides were plentiful but amped way up on salt and fat. I loved this kind of meal in the days when I used to listen to Genesis, but the distance in time has made me accustomed to a very different kind of eating. The old kind of food no longer appeals to me even as the old kind of music really does.

Why today do I like to listen to "That's All" over and over again but not to have a burger and a chocolate malt? It seems counterintuitive but I think it might be because post-sell-out Genesis is actually good and a burger and a malt is actually not. Feel free to spread the word.

More music: my brother on indie rock and racism.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Memes and things

This one comes from Helen, the authority on fish and other sea creatures that you eat. It's called "meme around the world."

Please list 3 recipes you have recently bookmarked from foodblogs to try:

I almost never use the bookmark function in my browser. I try to remember things that looked good and I search for them when I need to. But since the point of this seems to be to flag the good things that other bloggers have cooked, I'll give props to a few dishes that have been in the back of my mind:

-Sesame miso soup from In Mol Araan.

-Pork rilettes from Toast.

-Rhapsody in Rhubarb from The Candied Quince. This last one made me think: Yes, I will buy that pretty fresh rhubarb even if it's not on my list. Now it's sitting on the counter waiting for the right moment. My problem is that this recipe is basically cake filled with rhubarb and I don't want to bake a cake. I might just make the filling.

A foodblog in your vicinity:

A tip from Yulinka introduced me to Undelicious, which promises ranting and raving about local food and drink. I'm still getting to know it, so I won't characterize it any more than that.

A foodblog located far from you:

Culiblog, The Netherlands. Every post is intriguing in some way.

A foodblog (or several) you have discovered recently (where did you find it?)

Jay McInerney (that Jay McInerney) is blogging for House & Garden magazine's website. It's about eating fancy and drinking a lot, mostly in Manhattan. I found it through a link from Epi-log, the blog of the editor of Epicurious, and I read about that a couple of weeks ago on the Gurgling Cod.

Any people or bloggers you want to tag with this meme?

Not really. I have said before that I like these memes but I think I prefer the system in which people just do them if they look like fun and leave them alone if they don't. If this looks like fun, have yourself some fun.


Today was sunny, then rainy, then sunny again, then rainy again, then sunny again briefly before the sun went down. I took this picture

Rainy through the window mesh

through the mesh of the kitchen window right after taking this one

Raspberry frozen yogurt

of raspberry frozen yogurt that I made only because I had things in the fridge and freezer that I wanted to get rid of: vanilla yogurt that I bought by accident when I was in a hurry (I always buy unsweetened plain); some extra heavy cream from my last ice cream; and a bag of raspberries that had been in the freezer for just about too long. This fro-yo is cold, sweet, tart, and fruity, but it's not good. Its texture is slushy, not creamy. The recipe is on my flickr (click on the pic).


Here's a wacky one from my sister-in-law.

When did you last die?
Every time we say goodbye, I die a little. Crazy question!

What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The little man.

What became of your childhood dreams?
There was one in which I was naked and being chased by a gorilla, or actually, a man in a gorilla suit. I stopped having it.

What sets you apart from everyone else?
Nothing. I'm just like everyone else.

What is missing from your life?

Do you think that everyone can be an artist?
Everyone can be an artist, but not everyone wants to be.

Where do you come from?
I'm thinking this one over. My mother and father.

Do you find your lot an enviable one?
Yes. Most people have it bad.

What have you given up?
Femme Feral said "shrinking." Ambiguous! I have given up diet Pepsi, and I'm a better man for it.

What do you do with your money?
Fold it up in my right pants pocket. The change falls out when I sit on a low couch.

What household task gives you the most trouble?
The bathroom floor.

What are your favorite pleasures?
Food and drink, reading, music, film and television, other people. Not in that order.

What would you like to receive for your birthday?
Ice cream. Coffee table books with arty photography are nice too. We could also use one of those very large televisions that you can hang on a wall.

Cite three living artists whom you detest.
David E. Kelley, Kevin Smith, Rick Moody.

What do you stick up for?
I don't do much sticking up but if I did, I would stick up for equality and justice.

What are you capable of refusing?
Fresh fruit. Most of it makes my mouth and throat feel icky.

What is the most fragile part of your body?
No part of my body is fragile.

What has love made you capable of doing?
Early to bed, early to rise.

What do other people reproach you for?
Not doing what I was supposed to do.

What does art do for you?
Makes life worthwhile.

Write your epitaph
Have some more.

In what form would you like to return?
I would not like to return.


New Yorker tables for two on Momofuku, which sounds too obviously like a word you can't say on television:
Momofuku Ramen begins as a bed of noodles; Chang and his fellow-chef, Joaquin Baca (a meat-loving Texan), add pig shoulder and belly and top it with their signature poached egg. The tiny green peas in the bowl--easy to drop with chopsticks--are so robust they bounce. Even Brussels sprouts, which come in a hot kimchi purée, are amped up with thick chunks of bacon.

In a place where the veggies are this loud, the music is bound to be important, and Chang and Baca play everything from Wu-Tang Clan to Ozzy Osbourne, with two firm exceptions: no Springsteen and no Kenny Loggins. No wine, either; just beer and sake. The line cooks, anyway, are the real entertainment. Slamming and sweating their way around an open galley kitchen, they manage to make noodles look dangerous. (The backward hats and skull-and-bones tattoos don'’t hurt.) The other night, one of them threw some squirming crawfish in a pan and lit it on fire, like a pyrotechnic effect at a heavy-metal show. The flames sizzled, and a waitress, squeezing past the stove, reapplied her lip gloss and coyly bumped him with her butt.
Signature poached egg? Bouncing peas? Hot kimchi purée? Loud veggies? Kenny Loggins? Slamming and sweating? Coyly bumped him with her butt? So many things to make me go, Yech.


Someone was directed to this blog after searching Yahoo for pictures of tripe. The #2 hit is my entry here. #1 is the official site of Gigli.

Friday, May 12, 2006

The ice cream project: black sesame ice cream

The consensus among my ice cream tasters is that this black sesame ice cream is interesting. No one proclaimed undying love for it. No one said that if they are ever sentenced to death, they want black sesame for the final course of their final meal before facing the great beyond. No one vowed to name their next child Black Sesame, or even their dog or goldfish. But interesting is better than blech, so I'm happy enough. It is both a virtue and flaw of my ice cream project that I make each one once, that I don't tinker with quantities and substitutions. A virtue because I focus on getting it right the first time and because each batch of ice cream is a total discovery, a new and fresh idea. But a flaw because none of them seems to come out quite perfect. Imperfection can be an end in itself but perfection would be nice once in awhile. If I weren't blogging ice cream it would be more tempting to try it again, but I don't want to write about black sesame twice. E says of Jeni's ice creams (which we sampled a few months ago) that each one overwhelms you with its intensity of flavor and captures the essence of its ingredients. Somehow I haven't accomplished that feat, but I'm just one amateur and I don't do perfection, so that's just how it is.

My immediate inspiration for making this flavor came from Robyn (blog, flickr), aka The Girl Who Ate Everything, whose adventures in New York eating are astonishing and whose efforts to document them constantly amaze me. She blogged recently about black sesame ice cream that she had at a parlor in Chinatown, so that put the idea in my head to try it out. (Mine is much darker in color; I'm eager to taste other renditions of black sesame to see if the intensity of sesame flavor is in proportion to darkness of color.)

Black sesame is a familiar flavor from dim sum confections (they're a filling in sesame balls, which also sometimes contain sweet bean paste). The black seeds taste the same as the white ones, as far as I can tell, but the Chinese love color contrast in their foods and this might explain why they prefer black sesame seeds as a filling inside a pastry made of white glutinous rice. Sesame is used as a flavor in sweets far and wide, not only in China but also in the Middle East and Europe (halva; honey sesame candy, a kind of sesame brittle that I used to eat all the time growing up). I first heard of black sesame ice cream when reading about Il Laboratorio del Gelato in NYC, which is on my short list of places to eat as soon as possible.

To make this ice cream I began by toasting and grinding seeds. I toasted them in a hot iron skillet and ground them in an electric spice grinder, which is actually a Mr. Coffee grinder in which I don't grind coffee. I remember the first time I heard Martha Stewart say that I need to buy two coffee grinders, one for coffee and one for everything else. I thought she was crazy, and maybe she is, but she was right about grinders.

(I have been using my spice grinder for all kinds of unusual tasks lately, including grinding medium bulgur into fine bulgur to make dal kibbeh, little red lentil balls with bulgur, onions, and spices which I have been cooking and eating just about all the time for two weeks. I got the idea from Mumu, and she got it from The Hungry Tiger. The recipe calls for cumin, garlic, fresh tarragon, and hot pepper paste. On the principle of if/then, I have been adding coriander (if cumin, then coriander) and ginger (if garlic, then ginger). I have been omitting the tarragon and following Mumu's substitution of gochujang for the hot pepper paste. And I have been serving them dipped in a raita made of full-fat yogurt, coarsely grated cucumber, finely chopped fresh mint, and a pinch each of salt and sugar.)

I started with two tablespoons of black sesame seeds but this seemed like too little, so I toasted and ground another two. This makes a quarter cup if you're keeping score at home. I thought that they might become tahini in my spice grinder but although they are a bit wet, they didn't turn to butter and it wasn't a bitch to clean. They did smell good. Perhaps I should mention that I buy black sesame seeds in large bags from the Asian Mart, that they're pretty cheap if you buy from an ethnic grocer (I don't care to know what Whole Foods charges), and that they don't seem to go off as quickly as white sesame seeds. I guess this is because they are lower in fat or moisture, but I can't say for sure.

After grinding my seeds, I added them to 3 cups of half and half and brought it to a simmer, tempered in my eight yolks whisked with 9 oz. of sugar to the ribbon stage, brought the mixture to 170, killed the heat, added a cup of heavy cream, and then tasted. It was like halva, like sesame candy, like dim sum, like everything I hoped it would be. I love to taste ice cream when it's warm, a sweet creamy soup in a state of becoming.

It's just as good frozen, but I suppose that the sesame flavor could be even more intense. If I were after perfection I might try a third of a cup next time, a half a cup the time after that. I might see just how far you can push the sesame. I might try a longer infusion in the cream. I might try melting halva down into the mix or adding toasted sesame seed paste.

My favorite thing about this ice cream is its color, but its flavor is excellent if a bit odd and its texture has some of the pleasing granular quality of halva. I'm not going to make it again anytime soon, but I'm looking forward to eating the pint of it still in my freezer

This post is for Barbara's monthly Spice is Right event. This installment is called "Sweet or Savory?" and asks you to cook with a spice that you grew up with as either sweet or savory and to cook with it the other way. I grew up with sesame as sweet and savory--sesame oil on broccoli and sesame candy from the corner store--but I have certainly encountered the majority of my sesame seeds on bagels, which I consider a savory food, and I think it's fair to assume that most North Americans see them that way most often. According to McCormick (and they should know), sesame seeds "may be the oldest condiment known to man." I would love to have been there when man first used a condiment. It was all downhill after that.

My other ice creams:

  • Egg ice cream

  • Green chile mint ice cream

  • Rice ice cream

  • Cardamom ice cream

  • Sour cream anise ice cream

  • Caramel ice cream

  • Apples and honey ice cream

  • Watermelon sour cream sherbet

  • Mojito cream cheese ice cream

  • Peach frozen yogurt

  • Oatmeal raisin ice cream

  • Mango cream cheese ice cream

  • Mocha ice cream

  • Berry buttermilk sherbet

  • Gingersnap ice cream
  • Thursday, May 11, 2006

    For the ears

    I know they've been around for at least a year or two, but I'm just getting into podcasts now. Here are a couple of food ones.

    1. The Los Angeles radio program Good Food on KCRW begins each episode with a farmer's market report recorded live at a market. I was having intense tangerine envy the other day when they were describing the different kinds you can get in Santa Monica. Delicious juicy ones that peel really easily, and some that are even sweeter but thin-skinned and trickier to eat. You have to use a knife and the juice ends up all over your hands. I was drooling on my iPod and I don't even like tangerines.

    This had me cursing, as I was listening last week, because the market season here wasn't even underway yet. But it is now. If you're local, here are two that I recommend:

    West Allis Farmer's Market, corner of 65th and National, Saturdays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays beginning at 1 pm. I would have been there today but it was raining and really windy. This is my favorite place in metro Milwaukee for buying local vegetables and early in the season it has lots of flowers, plants and other garden things that I almost never buy.

    Brookfield Farmer's Market, 2000 N. Calhoun Rd., Saturdays 7:30-noon. This is a very well attended market (I hate empty ones) adjacent to Brookfield City Hall that sells all the regular foodstuffs and also plenty of crafty stuffs. They also have live music on many market mornings and people love to bring their dogs.

    The others in the area aren't open this weekend, so I'll let you know when they are and what to look for.

    Back to the podcasts:

    2. Eat Feed (I found it through Silverbrow's sidebar), is thoughtful, literate, and full of passion. I was listening to a show of theirs from last summer, "Ice Cream Through the Ages", which has an interview with Jeri Quinzio that oozes historical curiosities and novel ice cream ideas. Quinzio is the author of Ice Cream: A Cook's History of Cold Comfort, which has me smacking my forehead (how could I not own that book? how great is that title?).

    One of the Eat Feed ice cream ideas that I'm eager to try is white coffee. You steep whole beans in cream and you end up with a subtle flavor and a light, whitish color.

    I started something ice-creamy today that's much different from that, but you'll have to stay tuned to find out more.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Cheesecake and Ice Cream

    If you're in the mood for hype, consider this profile of Chicago avant-chef Homaru Cantu in Fast Company mag, full of the kitchen genius's wild and wacky ideas for food and utensils. Cantu is doing things in the same aesthetics-of-gastronishment mode as Achatz, Adrià , Blumenthal, and Dufrense. For example, a dish he calls Donut Soup is "an elegant espresso cup containing a few ounces of liquid that tastes exactly like the inside of a Krispy Kreme doughnut, chemical aftertaste and all." But he is best known for his edible paper made of vegetable-based proteins and inks; at his restaurant Moto (warning: annoying website), the guests are apparently invited to eat the menus.

    All this would be fine with me if he didn't have a plan "to change the world for the better" with his edible paper by shipping it off to feed the hungry masses of the Earth's poor nations. Problem: although the paper is light, small, and nutritious, eating it doesn't make you feel full. For this Cantu is contemplating inventing foods that expand in your tummy. Here's the money quote: "if you have time-release pills, you could have time-release cheesecakes." Surely there is a better way of helping the starving children of the world than by sending them boxes of time-release cheesecakes, but I guess you never know. Also, someone should send a memo to the Factory to let them know what tomorrow's competition is up to.

    (Here's some more about experimental food.)


    Ice Cream Vans Face Total Meltdown, puns the Times of London (via A&LD). A great article full of details I was glad to learn. Such as:

    -British ice cream trucks play "Greensleeves" and "O Sole Mio."

    -Local authorities in the UK are setting up "ice cream free zones" to protect children from the health hazards of the frozen treat.

    -British ice cream vendors have a trade group called the Ice Cream Alliance to promote their interests. (I want to form an Ice Cream Alliance. Who is with me?)

    -Gangs used to fight over ice cream turf:
    By the 1980s the business had become so lucrative that gangs fought over the right to sell to certain streets. In 1984 a row between Glasgow-based gangs led to the murder of six members of the Doyle family, who had run the Marchetti ice-cream company.

    -I don't know what this means, but I am delighted by it:
    Depending on whom you believe, "99's" were first made by Cadbury's in the 1930s as a tribute to the King of Italy's bodyguard, traditionally composed of 99 troops; or a tribute by Italian café owners to Il Ragazzi del 99, a band of soldiers who fought in the Battle of the Piave River in the First World War; or named after the address of the Edinburgh-based Arcari ice-cream dynasty at 99 Portobello High Street
    I guess it's not Gretzky or Nena, then.

    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    Derby Day 2006

    I attended my first Kentucky Derby party yesterday and I hope it won't be my last. The hosts, one of whom is a proud son of Louisville, served mint juleps, a chocolatey Derby pie with walnuts, and benedictine, which is what you see in the top photo. Next year, I hope to know all the words to "My Old Kentucky Home."

    Saturday, May 06, 2006

    Labels round 2

    Since last week's entry on critter labels I have become a bit obsessed with taking pictures of bottles and cropping them just right to get rid of any giveaway words. It's undoubtedly because I'm the kind of person whose choices of wine and beer are too much influenced by label design that I have become fascinated by what these things look like. I know enough about my beverages to be able to tell the difference between porter and pilsner, Cabernet and Chardonnay, but I don't speak the language fluently. So even though I know I'm supposed to hate cutesy shit that looks like the product of a corporate marketing department or a focus group study, I'm pretty easily taken in by the same clever tricks that get me to buy "vintage" Polo shirts at Old Navy and Choxie chocolate at Target. I like consumer products that say to me, mzn, this is just the kind of thing a person with your good taste would like, but that say it without seeming to be selling class distinction, without snob appeal. It's all about making the consumer feel comfortable and smart, and neither intimidated nor self-conscious. It bothers me, but only a little, that my resistance to this is quite weak.

    Part deux includes both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (including beer, wine, and fancy soda) but no spirits. You've probably seen the C mascot more often than any of the others. I don't know if this helps you at all, but I took most of these pictures at a Cost Plus World Market store. Answer or just guess in the comments. Or bitch about consumer capitalism!










    Thursday, May 04, 2006


    I've been working on something like a theory of tuna salad, a set of general principles that accounts for all of the various ingredients and techniques one might need and also those that should be avoided. I'm not positive that I have tried every possible permutation of this classic, but the state of my knowledge is now sufficiently advanced to share some of my findings with you.

    I offer this up not because I don't think that you already know how to make tuna salad but for two reasons. First, gourmet sandwich places and cookbooks seem to have decided that it's a virtue to make tuna salad without mayonnaise. Thus one menu (probably many, actually) offers "olive oil tuna salad," basically advertising that it's not made with mayo. This is wrongheaded, trendy nonsense. Mayonnaise is delicious. Second, the most basic preparations, like Martini cocktails and grilled steaks, are often deceptively hard to perfect. I think this is true of tuna salad, which is easy to make but not as easy to make well.

    So without further ado:

    1. The fish. White (albacore) tuna packed in water is always preferable for tuna salad. Light tuna, which is a whole different species (skipjack, tongol or yellowfin) is cheaper and stronger tasting. The exception is the kind packed in olive oil, which is more expensive (sometimes much more) but this stuff doesn't mix well with commercial mayo and since it's more of an investment, it's a waste to use it in tuna salad. Put this good stuff in salads dressed in vinaigrette or in pasta sauces. Albacore tuna is said to be dry in comparison with other kinds, but since you are going to mix many moist ingredients with it, dryness doesn't matter.

    1. a. Solid or chunk? Solid. A can of solid white tuna contains a product that actually looks like a cooked piece of fish. The visuals inside a can of chunk tuna are not pleasing. Exception: the tuna packed in pouches instead of cans can't be solid because it gets smushed in packaging. Even smushed, it still looks more like solid than chunk. Pouch tuna is an excellent product. It requires no draining and takes up less space in the pantry.

    2. Crunchy bits. Celery, destringified with a veggie peeler and finely minced, at a ratio of half a rib per sandwich. This works out to one rib for a regular-size can (yield two sandwiches) or one and a half ribs for one large pouch (yield three sandwiches). By finely minced I mean that the pieces of celery should be minuscule.

    2. a. Sour bits, which may also be crunchy. Here you have two options: prepared sweet pickle relish (the iridescent green relish, easily obtained in Chicago and environs and always a condiment on Chicago hot dogs, is very good), about one teaspoon per sandwich; or minced cuke pickles. If using minced pickles, you can't do better than French cornichons, two-to-three per sandwich. Trader Joe's sells these at a nice low price but they're not quite as good as Maille. American gherkins or "midgets" are ok. Big fat dill pickles are your last choice because they contain too much water and affect the tuna salad texture adversely.

    2. b. Hard cooked egg: no. My opinion is that hard cooked egg is a filler ingredient used to stretch the quantity of the tuna salad. It doesn't contribute a desirable flavor or texture. If eggs are what you want, make egg salad.

    3. Dressing. Three options: Hellman's mayonnaise (apparently called Best Foods in the western U.S.); another brand of mayonnaise; homemade mayonnaise. I don't love using homemade mayonnaise in tuna salad because it lacks sweeteners and preservatives and, seriously, it doesn't taste the same. It's good, it has its place, but it's not the same.

    I don't support lowfat mayo. If you're looking for something very low in fat, don't make tuna salad.

    I cannot tell you how much mayonnaise to put in your tuna salad any more than I can tell you how often to gaze into the eyes of your beloved. Only you know how much.

    (Yes, there is a condiment that starts with "M" that you'll find near the Hellman's in the supermarket. Let's not mention its name.)

    3. a. Additions to the dressing: I like to drizzle perhaps half a teaspoon of pickle juice (any kind) into the mix and I always add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Alternatives here would include lemon juice (subbing for the pickle juice), other hot spices (cayenne pepper, wasabi powder), mustard, or prepared or fresh horseradish. If you have leftover tartar sauce (homemade I hope) you could use some of it. Herbs? I don't know. The pickles and their juice are flavored with tarragon or dill but I wouldn't go adding those things fresh to the tuna salad. Chopped capers are acceptable but not my thing. My preference is simplicity: mayo, pickle juice, salt, and pepper. I still haven't tried shallots or anchovies. Maybe they're good too but I doubt it.

    4. Mixing. It doesn't matter what order you add ingredients but one thing is crucial. You must press with the tines of a fork against the flakes of fish to break them apart and amalgamate them into the other ingredients. I do this for a good minute or two. Press, mix, press, mix, press, mix. Flex your muscles. It should be well blended.

    5. Bread. Obviously, freshness is vital. We almost always have our tuna on some kind of whole wheat but the bread above is sourdough from the Milwaukee Public Market, which sells good breads. Their challahs are even surprisingly acceptable.

    5. a. Additions to the sandwich. Not necessary. Properly made tuna salad served on fresh bread needs no additional spread, vegetable, or condiment, but a leaf of crisp lettuce is nice.

    5. b. Variation: the tuna melt. Best open-faced on an English muffin. Toast a split muffin halfway, just until the surfaces are no longer soft but before they take any color. Top with tuna salad, and then top that with grated sharp cheddar (or Gruyere, or whatever). Heat until the cheese has melted.

    (In case you were wondering, the chips in the picture are Kettle brand sea salt and vinegar and I think they taste like detergent.)

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Dreaming of DQ

    The often nostalgic blog Our Time on the Edge is the work of Daphne Supergirl, a fellow Wisconsin-dwelling Canadian expatriate. Her Dairy Queen appreciation is making me hungry.


    Oedipus as an eight-minute movie dramatized by vegetables. Brilliant widescreen compositions and the nastiest broccoli chopping you've ever seen. (Via Biomes.)


    Bottled water for dogs makes sense in the age of dog psychologists. But bottled water for dogs in beef, chicken, liver, and lamb flavors is making my brain hurt. (Via MeFi.)


    Abbie Making Gefilte Fish is exactly what it sounds like. Abbie Hoffman is the man who once said, "Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger." (Thanks for passing this my way, FF.)


    So why is there an avocado on the cover of the new Pearl Jam album? link link

    Monday, May 01, 2006

    I ate the New Yorker?

    The New Yorker-hating niche of blogland is being exploited just fine, but I thought I'd pay it a visit anyway to reflect on a recent article by Bill Buford in which he butchers pigs. First Buford goes to Tuscany to learn how to cut up a hog from the pupil of a butcher called Maestro. Does anyone else think that this stuff reads like a rehash of his article about cooking in the kitchen at one of the Batali restaurants? I don't think it's all that charming to read in two different articles about the New Yorker's fiction editor screwing up some kitchen task much to the exasperation of a suffering expert Italian. Once was enough. Then Buford buys a pig in New York, shleps it home on his Vespa (this image made me cringe), and makes hundreds of meals out of it. No explanation of the circumstances in which he hosted this many people in his New York apartment or if there were other arrangements for the feeding of these--one hopes grateful--pig eaters.

    This article is narrated in a back-and-forth pattern: an episode from New York, an episode from Italy, NYC, Italy, and so on. This device made it a bit more arty than it needed to be and seemed like the sort of thing they ought to teach you not to do in a creative nonfiction class. Don't just jumble up the time-frame to make it arty. For all I know, jumbling is exactly what they teach. Maybe that's what makes the non-fiction creative, but it struck me as artificial.

    I am envious of Buford's whole hog experience. I must have a pig of my own. I also wouldn't say no to a Vespa.

    Buford should really get himself a blog to compete with the going whole hog blog. This article should have been blogged. Everybody should have a blog.

    Also on the subject of food in the New Yorker, see zp on the Donner Party article in the Journeys issue (Apr. 24). Somehow she manages to avoid the c-word.