Sometimes, it’s ok to call it quits

In a perfect world, I’d be experimenting with sourdough breads regularly.  I’d create boules of beauty, and share them with friends and family.

However, this isn’t a perfect world.  A handful of close friends are gluten free.  I rarely get to share the things I cook and bake because I’ve messed something up just enough that it doesn’t feel fit for sharing, or I’m just make enough food for myself for the week.  At the end of the day, I’m just feeding myself.

I do make bread on occasion.  I even had a rye sourdough starter going for over a year.  But those two statements?  Rarely done at the same time.  When I make bread, it’s usually with SAF instant.  When I was maintaining my sourdough starter, I was just finding ways to cook the discarded starter.  I was almost never making proper bread with my starter.  It even got to a point where I forgot I had a starter hanging out in my fridge.  I literally did not notice it in my fridge until about two months after its last feeding.

Even then (!!!), it took me a couple of weeks to finally toss it in the trash.  Some part of me hated feeling like I was giving up on a project.  But logically, it didn’t make sense to try again.  More so, because I have a place in a 10 minute walk away that does a wonderful sourdough.  I’ve started going there a bit more frequently because I absolutely love their sourdough pizzas, but you can pick up bread to take home.  I can spend 2-3 days making sourdough bread on my own, or I can spend $4 – $7 at my local restaurant.

Pizza at my favorite place #food #pizza

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It will do me more good than harm to recognize what I am willing and not willing to do.  If I didn’t live so close to awesome bread, I’d probably feel differently about this.  Or if I had a large family to feed, which I don’t.

But you know what they say: when one door closes, another opens.

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Why must some relationships end?

I discovered Blogging for Books toward the end of 2014.  For those who don’t know what it is, Blogging for Books is a website created 10 years ago to help bloggers connect with publishers to get access to books for review purposes.  For someone with such a small blog like my own, it was a boon.  Unless you have a minimum of 5,000 followers, most publishers don’t want to work with you.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  Back in 2014, I wished that I had found the website sooner.

As of this week, the closure of Blogging for Books was announced.  Saying that I was sad when I heard the news is an understatement.  I’m now back to floundering as a small time blogger.  And I am always going to be a small time blogger.  I did a weekend workshop once with people who all wanted to be food journalists (not necessarily food bloggers, so I was a bit out of place), and several people were amazed that I had absolutely no ads on my site.  Unlike my classmates, I was the only person who blogged purely for fun.  I don’t want to turn my hobby into a job.  I don’t want to churn out content everyday or every other day.  Food blogging has always been an outlet for me.  It’s a place where I can funnel my experiences and thoughts on this one subject that is important to me.

So here’s my good-bye to Blogging for Books.  Its value as a resource to me can’t be quantified easily.  I can only hope that I can find a replacement, or that publishers will one day take this little blog of mine more seriously.

Milk Street Kitchen’s Open House

Milk Street Kitchen (which I could also call Milk Street Magazine, Milk Street Cooking School, Milk Street Radio, or even Milk Street TV) had an open house this evening.

Here’s how it went…

:: I got a goodie bag from Che Maksou salon. There’s a little bottle of conditioner, shampoo, and some sort of “salt infused spray designed to work with other volume infusing products.” Uh, ok. BUT HOLY COW THE LABELS SAY THAT THE PRODUCTS ARE WORTH $30 ALTOGETHER.  So, I’m looking forward to testing out some hair products in the near future.

:: We got to taste some recipes. There was, I think, a recipe from every issue of the magazine so far.  There was Thai Steak Salad, Chili-Lime Melon Salad, Spanish Spice Crusted Pork Bites, Thai Coleslaw with Mint and Cilantro, and Tahini-Swirl Brownies. The brownies were good but I couldn’t taste the tahini. I was grossed out by the coleslaw because I didn’t realize that there was cilantro in it until I tucked into it. Having said that, it was still pretty decent. The other flavors of the salad helped to make the cilantro less disgusting. lol!  (Yes, I am anti-cilantro.  Sorry, not sorry.)

I did stay away from the steak salad from the start because I could tell immediately that it had cilantro. I’ve made my peace with not eating the steak because the pork dish was delicious!  I ate a handful of that. Overall, I think the fruit salad was my favorite. So, I had a good serving of that too.

:: Andi Wolfgang, founder of NamaKiss, was there with samplings of her chocolates. I really liked them! The chocolates were the reason I was inclined to go to the open house. It turns out that I can get her chocolates just a couple of blocks away from where I live, so I’ll probably stop by the store sooner rather than later to pick up some. There was a goji chocolate fudge square (it also had a seed in it but I don’t remember what… pepita maybe?) that was my least favorite just because it didn’t see that special to me. I really liked the coffee bean chocolate fudge and the peanut butter chocolate fudge. The citrus vanilla truffle was good too.

:: BRIX Wine Shop had samples.  I don’t drink wine so I stayed away.  But they were quite popular.

::  There were cooking demos throughout the evening but I only watched the steak salad demo.  Overall, the evening was lively and fun.  I just didn’t want to spend my whole evening by myself watching demos in a crowded room.  Plus I have access to all the magazine issues so far, so I’m not worried about getting a copy of any recipe.

: : And of course, there were issues of the magazine available.  The issue was the March-April one, which is where the tahini brownie recipe lives.

All in all, I was glad I went.  And I’ll be returning to Milk Street Kitchen this month for a cooking class.  As long as I’m not lazy, I’ll do a write up on that too.

Havard SEAS lecture, 11/7/16, Sister Noella/Ben Wolfe/Mateo Kehler

More specifically:
“Delicious Decomposition: Tales from the Cheese Caves of France”
Sister Noella Marcellino, Ph.D., Abbey of Regina Laudis, artisanal cheesemaker and microbiologist who studied the biodiversity of cheese-ripening fungi in France; featured in Netflix documentary series “Cooked,” based on Michael Pollan’s book “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation”
Mateo Kehler, co-founder and manager of Jaseper Hill Farm and Caves, Greensboro, Vt.

Or in the words of Sister Noella, the presentation could be renamed to “cavemen I have known and loved.”

I’m not going to go into super detail.  It was just a fun lecture.  I wanted to attend because I remembered her from Pollan’s Cooked.  I got there early (doors opened at 6pm even though the lecture didn’t start until 7pm), and took my old spot in the audience.

We got cheese samples!

Cheese sampler

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Sister Noella’s presentation was really informative, but I think Mateo’s and Ben’s presentations were a bit more of interest to me.  She mostly talked about how the Bethlehem cheese came to be, certain microbes (like the geotrichum candidum, which I think smells a bit like daikon), and how she won a Fullbright scholarship that allowed her to study cheesemaking in France.

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Mateo’s presentation was almost half-advert, but was really about the structure of Jasper Hill Farms as it relates to cheesemaking.

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He also made a comment about grass-fed cheeses.  Basically a cheese made from the milk of cows with a 100% grass-fed diet doesn’t taste all that great.  He said that dairy production requires a lot of energy, and lactating cows need to be fed a little bit of grain.  (Grains provide more energy than just grass.)  If I recall correctly, he also mentioned that the Jasper Hill cows are fed dry hay, which promotes good microbes and none of the bad ones like lysteria.

Anyway, Jasper HIll has prospered enough and worked with scientists often enough that they’ve actually built their own lab on the property to study their cheese microbes.

Toward the end, there was a surprise mini-presentation with everyone’s favorite microbiologist, Ben Wolfe, Tufts University.  Ben quickly chatted about DNA sequencing and patterns of microbes.

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And that was the lecture.

The end.

Or not, because let’s go back to that cheese sampler!

Seven cheeses were listed on the sponsor thank you slide, but the audience only got five cheese samples per plate.  The very top cheese in the photo (at 12 o’clock) is the Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam.  I definitely liked this one.  It was like brie, but creamier and maybe saltier.  I found the overall flavor to be clean and fresh.

The cheese to the bottom right of the Mt Tam is probably the Bethlehem cheese.  Maybe, probably.  I thought it had some citrus overtones to it.  Overall texture was dry and brittle.  Flavor was mild.  I liked it enough.

The bottom right cheese (at 5 o’clock), I’m fairly confident, is the Kaltbach Gruyere.  It was hands down my favorite.  I liked the scent and the flavor of it better than all the others.  It was strong but nothing offensive.

We only had one blue cheese, and that was the Jasper Hill Bailey Hazen Blue.  I really thought I was going to hate this as I normally find blue cheeses to be too stinky and too boldly flavored for me.  Not this one.  Having said that, it was still my least favorite on the plate.  It reminded me of a stack of papers.  Probably old papers.  But it was very salty and metallic tasting on my tongue.  So, metallic old papers?

The last sample on the top left is probably the Jasper Hill Winnimere cheese.  My first impression of it was that it was sharp in scent and flavor.  It also smelled salty.  The texture was soft, but not as soft as the Mt Tam.  The flavor of the Winnimere reminded me of beer.  It’s a good cheese, but not one of my favorites.

So yeah.  I want to stock my fridge with Mt Tam and Kaltbach Gruyere right now!  (^_^)

No lie, I’m on a Korean foods kick (cookbook review)

First of all, I may or may not be addicted to dongchimi right now.  (Dongchimi is a radish kimchi that lacks the red color from gochugaru, Korean chili flakes.  It’s a fairly mild kimchi and a great gateway drug into Korean fermented foods.)

Second of all, a friend of mine expressed an interest in a special event at a local restaurant called the Feast to Celebrate the Debut of Koreatown: A Cookbook.  Per the event page:

The Kirkland Tap and Trotter is excited to welcome Chef Deuki Hong and writer Matt Rodbard to The Kirkland Tap & Trotter for a one-night-only event celebrating the soju-slamming, pepper-pounding, kimchi-everything adventure that is Koreatown: A Cookbook (Clarkson Potter/Publishers; on sale February 16, 2016). For two years, co-authors Hong and Rodbard gathered recipes, stories, in-the-moment photos, and thoughtful interviews from Korean American neighborhoods all across the country to comprise their portrait of a culture in Koreatown. With a penchant for global comfort foods, killer wood grill to complement the flavors of Korean barbeque, and convivial atmosphere, Kirkland is the ideal place to kick-off the cookbook tour.

I was immediately intrigued, and did some digging around.

It turned out that I had this book available to me to review.  OH HAPPY DAY!

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This cookbook is definitely Korean American in flair.  Some recipes are traditional (ie. baechu kimchi* and kongguksu*) and some are not (ie. kimchi triple-cream grilled cheese and Korean fried broccoli).  But it still provides a great sample of Korean dishes.  I think recipes for all the most popular dishes are here: jjampong*, jjajangmyeon*, and gamjatang*.

I also love how the Korean names, hangul, and English translations are listed for every recipe.

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(That makes a lot of dongchimi.  I’m also unsure about the use of soda for serving.)

The photos are pretty gorgeous, and interviews with Korean Americans across the U.S. are a nice addition.  There are definitely recipes that I want to make.  The first one might be the kalbi meatballs because kalbi is always a good reason.

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Long story short – I feel inspired and this book has a permanent home on my bookshelf.  I hope to have a follow up post in the near future, so I can let you know how a recipe went.

Reference:

baechu kimchi =  napa cabbage kimchi
kongguksu = soy milk noodle soup
jjampong = spicy seafood noodle soup
jjajangmyeon = black bean noodles
gamjatang = spicy pork neck and potato stew

 

Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  I’m not getting paid for this post.

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/feast-to-celebrate-the-debut-of-koreatown-a-cookbook-tickets-20933491637?aff=ebrowse

http://koreatowncookbook.com/

(note – the official cookbook website has 3 recipes available)

P.S. Completely unrelated to Koreatown, I made the octo vinaigrette from Lucky Peach 101 Easy Asian Recipes book.  I used it as a dipping sauce for a hot pot night with friends.  If I remember correctly, I didn’t use the full amount of garlic but it was still plenty garlicy.  And I got compliments.

A Story of Star-crossed Lovers

Sort of.

Ok, not really.  But this is a story about some carbon steel skillets that I really wanted, only to realize that they’re not quite the right fit for me.

For almost a year now, I’ve been on the hunt for a carbon steel pan.  However, I had trouble deciding on one.  Cooks Illustrated/America’s Test Kitchen champions for the Matfer Bourgeat, but in doing so caused many Matfer Bourgeat pans to sell out.  At the time of this post, the largest Matfer Bourgeat is priced over $200 on the Amazon Marketplace because it’s nearly impossible to find until the manufacturer releases more.

To be honest, there aren’t a lot of reviews on carbon steel skillets.  In general, it feels like the internet embraces cast iron skillets.  I got excited when my other favorite food company/website, ChefSteps, gave Darto pans a thumbs-up.

Darto is an Argentinian company.  I bemoaned the fact that shipping was going to cost more than one pan.  Earlier this December, they offered free international shipping for a minimum order of $150.  I found a friend who expressed interested and we shared an order.

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I bought the 20cm and the 27cm for myself.  They are beautiful!  They are made from a single sheet of metal which means that there are no bolts where the handle meets the body of the pan.

So, the pros:

  • construction
  • price (well, before shipping costs to the US)
  • handle stayed cooler than I thought it would
  • carbon steel has a wonderfully smooth surface (which is why I wanted it)

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The cons?

One con, and one con only.  The 27cm is really difficult to use for my smaller stature.  I’m not even 5’3″.  The handle of the 27cm pan was too tall, and too long.  The only way I could comfortable hold it was to brace my arm against the length of the handle.  That’s not the right way to hold a pan.  If it had a helper handle, I could probably over look the issue.  Sadly, it doesn’t.

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The 20cm is smaller all around, so I can use it more easily.

In sum, the search for a carbon steel skillet continues.

Reference Links

https://www.chefsteps.com/forum/posts/carbon-steel-pan-comparison

http://www.darto.org/us/