Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blu Blogging : Chocolate Cabernet Tart

Tonight Blu Seafood and Bar offered an ever so smooth and rich chocolate Cabernet tart. It was perfectly petite, but completely satisfying with dark chocolate ganache on a sugar dough crust. I did not share and I did not feel guilty. In fact, not only had I eaten a healthy meal prior to dessert, but I did my part to combat global warming by only eating raw seafood.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Homemade PIzza Crust

A couple of days ago, I made a pizza, which I shared with my Most Faithful Readers. Making pizza crust is surprisingly easy, particularly after you've made it a few times.

  • 1 package yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons canola or olive oil (olive results in crispier dough)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
Dump most of the flour into your mixing bowl (preferably in a stand mixer). Dissolve the yeast and the sugar in the warm water. Dump that in, start mixing and add the oil. Add the rest of the flour and the salt. You may have to add just a little bit more flour if the dough is extremely sticky after mixing a while. Let it rise a little.

I've been putting all my yeast dough in a cold oven, turning it on the default temperature for two minutes and then turning my oven off. It gets to approximately 120F in that length of time. My house is just too cold for dough to rise otherwise and this method works beautifully every time.

Spread out the dough on a greased cookie sheet. The dough was very cooperative this time, but I was very patient with it. You may not be so lucky.

For this pizza, I spread out olive oil as the base and then topped it with (drained) marinated artichokes, kalamata olives, sliced onions and mozarella. I also like using pesto, pre-cooked shrimp and bacon. Of course, you can use tomato sauce and traditional toppings, if you have them.

Bake at 475F for 10-11 minutes. I baked this one for 10 minutes, but it probably could have used 11. Yes, that's a lot of olives.

It was good! Like any other pizza, the leftovers are always good, too.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Angel Food Cake : No Yolks, Please!

I made angel food cake yesterday! My Most Faithful Readers gave me a tube pan for Christmas, so I wanted to make angel food cake as soon as possible. I'm a big fan of angel food cake. I used the recipe from the Baking Illustrated cookbook. It called for a teaspoon and a half of lemon juice, but I left that out, because I didn't have any lemons yesterday. It's more challenging to acquire such things on Christmas Day. It also called for the egg whites from 12 eggs, which led me to wonder what on earth I would do with the yolks and posed the question to my followers on Twitter. I got a lot of suggestions from them and from friends on Facebook, which resulted in my freezing a bunch of them. One of the suggestions was to make spongecake, which requires 12 yolks, but I didn't really want to make two cakes in one day. Is it really a big deal? Eggs aren't very expensive, but I don't like the idea of wasting them for some reason. They're yellow, after all.

Everything I read in various sources suggested that using a stand mixer makes baking an angel food cake particularly easy and that turned out to be true. Separating all the whites and yolks was probably the most tiresome part of the process. I do think it's pretty nifty how much the cake rises in the oven without any leavening at all. It's like a really dense meringue.

Last night, I made a Brown Sugar Orange sauce, from the Joy of Cooking, to go with the cake. I didn't have any orange juice handy, so I substituted some clementine IZZE. That worked surprisingly well, but the orange flavor probably wasn't as strong as it could have been. Over all, it tasted good, but it was on the thin side for serving with the cake.

Today, once I had some lemons, I made lemon pudding from the recipe in the Luscious Lemon Desserts cookbook, using three of the yolks. It's basically like lemon meringue pie filling in pudding form. It's pretty easy to make, but it requires a lot of stirring while almost paying attention to what you're doing. The recipe specifies that you should strain the pudding while putting it into the serving bowl, but I decided to skip that step. If you use a Microplane Grater/Zester to get your lemon zest, it's pretty fluffy and straining is unnecessary. I discovered this when I made lemon curd a while back when I ended up eating the contents of the strainer.

Don't they look beautiful together? Use your imagination. It just needs a garnish. They certainly tasted good together.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Secular Winter Holiday 2008!

Merry Christmas to everyone! It is on this holiday that we all gather to celebrate the birth of all that is holy and by that I am referring to my blog. Ok, maybe that's not what you thought you were celebrating, but deep down inside, you know it's true.

Yes, that's right. My blog is five years old today. It's hard to believe. Those of you who have been following along the whole time know that my blog has changed greatly since I first started. I no longer describe every little banality of my life. Now it's more like a travel guide for people who don't like traveling. There must be a lot of you who stick close to home, because I have way more readers than I ever dreamt I would.

You can read posts from blog Christmas past and compare trees from year to year. Frรถhliche Weihnachten!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Blu Blogging : Another New Dessert

We went to Blu Seafood and Bar this evening and I had some humongous blue point oysters. Their oysters are half-price every Tuesday.

I also had some spice encrusted calamari with cilantro dipping sauce. I hadn't ordered any since I fixed my camera's white balance, so that was a nice treat. Their calamari is always nice and tender.

They offered a new butternut squash bread pudding, which was really quite nice.

It was also great to see Chef Tim Lyons's parents, who were visiting for the holidays! It's always great chatting with visiting blog readers, particularly since their son owns one of my favorite restaurants.

ACME Blogging : Black Mamba Fruitcake

If you're anywhere near Carrboro, you need to head over to ACME Food & Beverage Co. to try their latest dessert sensation, the Black Mamba Fruitcake, which is served with the most wonderful and tangiest mandarin orange sorbet. The fruitcake is very dense and the combination of the two is, indeed, sensational. I recommend scooping up some sorbet with every bite of cake.

What does near Carrboro mean? I'd say if you're in North Carolina or in a neighboring state.

Disclaimer: I like fruitcake. Even if you don't ordinarily like fruitcake, you may like this, because it's no ordinary fruitcake.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kim Son

On Tuesday, I went to Kim Son with a couple of friends. It must have been at least two years since I had been there, for some inexplicable reason, since I've enjoyed every meal that I've eaten there. We started out with some delicious steamed dumplings. I must apologize that I don't remember full name of my entree Pho, but it was #7. It had lots of sliced roasted pork with egg vermicelli, in a delicious broth. I've never decided on the best way to eat vermicelli in a soup, but I'm quite positive that my method of twisting a fork against a spoon as if it were an Italian pasta is not an approved practice. It worked, though.

We followed our meal by eating two wonderful desserts. We had a huge serving of fried bananas with ice cream and chopped peanuts. I love fried bananas and this was really good.

We also had coconut flan, which was very good and comparatively light. It had a lovely design on top that we all tried to identify. Was it a scorpion? A salamander? The Virgin Mary disguised as some sort of legume? We were too eager to eat it to put it up on eBay and find out.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blu Blogging : Cuban Hot Chocolate

Blu Seafood and Bar has a new special dessert, a Cuban hot chocolate. This thick, tasty and very rich hot chocolate has a little bit of a kick, with bird peppers and cinnamon. Like many things at Blu, it was just the perfect thing for a warm and soggy December night like tonight.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Tagged Again

A few weeks ago, I was tagged over at Green Grounded, by Ashley Sue!

The rules go something like this:
Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
Share 7 facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter.

I'm feeling very lazy at the moment and I did this before, so I'll attempt to come up with seven new facts, but I'm not going to tag anyone else.

  1. I don't really like for other people, even family members, to put dishes in my dishwasher. Actually, I don't like putting dishes in my dishwasher either.
  2. My favorite composer is Beethoven. I am particularly fond of Piano Sonatas 8, 14 and 23.
  3. Watching Sesame Street as a child completely warped me in that I love both Carmen and oranges. Katerina Witt probably reinforced this in 1988. Owning a CD of Bizet's Greatest Hits was what really did me in.
  4. I have never seen "It's A Wonderful Life".
  5. Several years ago, in Page Auditorium, on Duke's campus, the tuba player from Canadian Brass, Chuck Daellenbach, sat next to me during a portion of their performance.
  6. I really want to make a quiche, but not right at this very moment.
  7. I am very fond of weeping willow trees.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Thai Cafe Blogging: Thai Iced Tea

I decided to take a few vacation days, so I recently had the opportunity to join my Most Faithful Readers and some family friends for lunch at Thai Cafe. I love Thai iced tea, but just a little caffeine with dinner will keep me up during some portion of the night that I want to sleep, so I am careful to avoid it. That makes any trip to a Thai restaurant during the day quite a treat. Of course if I haven't had any caffeine in the morning at all, then I have to resort to Thai Iced Coffee, which I don't like nearly as much.

The important thing is that Thai Cafe's Thai Iced Tea is excellent and beautiful, too.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Bullock's Barbecue Blogging: Chocolate Pie

In this day and age when desserts are commonly $6 or $7, it's refreshing to still find homemade chocolate merinique pie at Bullock's Barbecue, for what I believe was only $1.25. It may not be quite as good as it was 20 years ago, but I assure you that it disappeared awfully quickly. The meringue, in particular, was extremely good. I also had a bite of their coconut pie and that was quite good, too.

UPDATE: A slice of chocolate pie actually costs $2.50. That's still pretty cheap these days, though.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Free Light Show

My camera is better suited for photographing food, but I wanted to mention that Venus, Jupiter and the moon have been putting on a show for us, so it's worth taking a look in the early evening. I don't think this star map will be necessary.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Charleston : Middleton Place

On our last full day in Charleston, we visited Middleton Place plantation, which was started in 1741. It's over 65 acres of gorgeous formal gardens with sasanqua camellia hedges and trails that evoke thoughts of the Fire Swamp.

I wanted to see lots of Spanish moss while I was in Charleston and I saw plenty of it there.

The plantation had loads of bald cypress trees, which were gorgeous reflecting in the water.

I even saw Bald Cypress knees, or pneumatophores, which are protruding extensions of their root system. I referred to them as "lumps", which was not appreciated.

The Middleton Oak, a live oak, is one of the largest oaks in the United States. Unfortunately, several of its largest branches broke off earlier this spring, but it is still extremely impressive. The tree, which is estimated to be five hundred years old, apparently survived unscathed when hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in 1989.

As you can see, there are several gigantic live oaks at Middleton Place.

The symbol of Middleton Place is the wood nymph statue, which was carved by a German sculptor, Schadow, in 1810. It was buried during the Civil War, which is why it survived intact.

They have lots of different animals in the stable yards, including these Turkish Water Buffalo. I didn't pet them, but my Most Faithful Reader said that their hair had a very strange texture that felt almost like plastic.

As we left, I got to pet these very large Belgian draft horses.

We are very thankful for our friend, WB, who showed us around Middleton Place. In addition to her splendid company, she is a docent there and shared with us her wealth of knowledge about the grounds and their history. She made our visit to Charleston truly wonderful, indeed.

Thanks also to my 2nd Most Faithful Reader for all of the photos depicting birds or animals in this post.

More of my photos taken at Middleton Place.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tokyo Fun

A couple of friends and I recently went to Tokyo Fun, on 55, in Durham. It has modern decor, with very interesting furniture. I was pleased with the service and the sushi, too. Their creativity shines through their presentation. The little umbrella shaded an Obama roll, which was eel and avocado covered with wasabi lobster salad.

My friends ordered vegetable tempura and I had two excellent broccoli pieces. As some of you know, I'm just a big fan of tempuraed broccoli. I liked the fact that it wasn't breaded too heavily. I also ordered a sashimi appetizer, which came with nine pieces of fish, including snapper, tuna and salmon. I liked the salmon the best.

We also shared a Nemo roll, which was spicy tuna with salmon. It actually wasn't that spicy at all, which I liked quite a bit, but it might be underwhelming for those expecting it to be hot.

Tokyo Fun was also recently reviewed by Carpe Durham.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mez

A couple of weeks ago, I met a bunch of friends at Mez, on Page Road, in Durham. It's owned by the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group, the same people that brought us 411 West and Squid's. It's basically an attempt at upscale Mexican. The interior is on the posh side, but the prices are quite reasonable. With taquerias on practically every street corner, I would expect even the fanciest Mexican restaurant to be somewhat less expensive. They have a wide variety of dishes on their menu and I chose a chile relleno as my main course. I'd actually never ordered one before, but I had a bite of my 2nd Most Faithful Reader's at ACME a few weeks before. I'm not exactly a big fan of any kind of peppers, by any means, but both of the ones I've tasted have had such a thin layer on the outside that they weren't objectionable at all. In fact, this Poblano pepper was delicious and was filled with rice, Chihuahua cheese, rasins and served with a slightly sweet almond cream sauce. It also came with a slaw that was very good.

For dessert, I ordered their tres leches cake. My Hippest Friend makes a tres leches (three milks) cake that is out of this world and I'm afraid it was impossble for Mez's version to live up to it. It didn't come close and yet it was still quite good. My general reaction is that it was not nearly as moist and didn't contain nearly as much, if any, alcohol. Those two observations may be related. It did come what tasted like sliced pistachioes, but the menu says it was supposed to have candied almonds. Whatever they were, I liked them.

I would definitely like to go back someday and try some of the other interesting looking things on their menu, including their aqua frescas.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blu Blogging : Potential Controlled Substance

Have you had the mac and cheese side dish at Blu Seafood and Bar? If you had, you would remember, because you would have already ordered it more than once. It should be a controlled substance. It's way more than habit forming. It's macaroni and lump crab meat with prosciutto and truffle cream. I had some on Wednesday night and by Friday afternoon, I'd already decided that I needed to make reservations for that evening. It's that good. I recommend sharing with someone and ordering an entree or small plate as well, because it's very rich. I keep thinking how good it would be with Chef Tim Lyons's watermelon, goat cheese and tomato salad, but I'll have to wait until summer for that combination.

They were having a German Wine dinner last Wednesday and Tim made a melt-in-your-mouth apple strudel for the occasion.

I had the opportunity to go out to lunch at Blu last Monday. Yes, that is three times in one week, if you're counting at home. I had a wonderful fried oyster caesar salad with lots of fresh oysters and plenty of parmesan. It was really good.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pauly Lies Down On The Job

Apparently, Pauly didn't think I had been stopping by the Pauly Dogs kiosk often enough to get hot dogs this semester.... He finally let me go past. I guess I'll have to quit bringing leftovers to the office for lunch.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Charleston : Yorktown Aircraft Carrier

We could see the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier from the harbor, next to the aquarium, so we decided that our next stop would be the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, which was awesome. The USS Yorktown (CV-10) was commissioned in 1943 and renamed in honor of the original Yorktown (CV-5), which sank during the Battle of Midway.

It was uncharacteristically cold in Charleston during the last week of October and it was extremely windy.

It was particularly windy on the flight deck. The deck had quite a few planes from various eras.
They have a submarine, the USS Clamagore, which can also be toured.
You can visit a destroyer and a Coast Guard cutter, the USCG Ingham. An entire day could be spent exploring everything.

We didn't even have time to really look at the planes on display in the hanger deck. There are plenty of things to read about each plane and various locations on the ship, so it would have been nice to spend more time reading about the planes and the air craft carrier itself. Looking around and taking lots of pictures was a lot of fun, though.

From an accessibility standpoint, it was great. On the flight deck, the wind was blowing so hard, I didn't even have to push myself in one direction. The Yorktown had elevators, so it was completely accessible. The submarine, the destroyer and the cutter are not similarly accessible, but they are pretty nifty to look at from a distance.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Charleston : South Carolina Aquarium

One of the first places we visited during our first full day in Charleston was the South Carolina Aquarium, which exceeded my wildest expectations. We got to see Liberty, a rehabilitated six year old bald eagle, who may have had an unfortunate encounter with some power lines. She seems to be very happy in her current home, which is surrounded by vertically strung piano wire for safety and patron visibility.



They have a 42 foot deep tank, which is the deepest tank in North America. Their gorgeous exhibits of the tank are from floor to ceiling, making it optimally accessible to viewers in wheelchairs or strollers. Horizontal supports are invariably near eye-level for me, so I rejoiced when I saw how how beautifully everything at this eight year old facility had been designed. Since there were also fewer people there, it was probably an even more pleasant experience than going to the New England Aquarium.


They have several exhibits open to the outdoors, including one for this frisky otter.

This yellow bellied slider thinks you should visit the South Carolina Aquarium if you are anywhere near Charleston.

You can look at more photos here and I'll be adding additional videos to the set.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Charleston : La Fourchette

Last week, I spent much of my time in Charleston, which was a fun and new experience. Of course, I was eager to try out some new restaurants, too. At the recommendation of E & L, who had been there a few weeks before, I went to La Fourchette, a French bistro on King Street. I was very pleased. It's a comparatively small place and it was very noisy, but I thought the food was great. My 2nd Most Faithful reader had the pork chop with apple sauce, grilled vegetables and fries. I had a bite of the pork and it was delicious. He was very happy with the meal. My MFR had a small plate with shrimp and puffed pastry and our friend, WB, had a buckwheat crepe, both of which looked good.

I had their entree portion of the mussles and fries. Both were wonderful. Their fries are double fried in duck fat, so they are naturally superb and crispy. The mussels were in a white wine sauce with butter, shallots and garlic. I could have eaten a couple of baguettes to soak up what was left if I hadn't wanted dessert.

For dessert, I had the creme caramel, with slivers of orange peel. It had a lovely and delicate orange flavor, which made it very different from any other creme caramel or flan that I've had before. I'm sure I've said this before somewhere, perhaps just out loud, but I really need to try making this at home.

The verdict? If you're in Charleston, check it out.