Sunday, September 16, 2012

Food Swap, September in Troy

I've wanted to make Thomas Keller's oreo recipe for a long while now, ever since I read the recipe back in 2010 on Tracey's Culinary Adventures blog. Yesterday my friend Jessica and I were at J & A's Prep Kitchen talking about what to make for the From Scratch Club food swap (derryX went there last year). I was like "Bagels? Pasta? Hmmm..." We talked about low fat foods while eating fattening appetizers, and I said I thought about making oreos one day. Her reaction was like "Ohhhh.." and that made me think it was a good idea to just go ahead and make them. High brow/low brow, fancy from scratch junk food - best of all worlds.

First, I chopped up the butter. I got this awesome knife when my coworker went to Alaska as thanks for dogsitting. It is an ulu knife. People in the arctic in the past used it for everything including cutting hair. It is a really nice knife and perfect for cubing up butter.

Then you combine all the dry ingredients and mix in the butter one small cube at a time. This takes a while, but it will all eventually get a sandy texture.

You wrap that up in two sections, kind of pressing it together and chill it for half an hour. I then rolled out the sections between pieces of parchment paper. This takes a little elbow grease. Then I cut them with a biscuit cutter, although you could really make them any shape you wanted.

The filling is essentially a white chocolate ganache, but after I made the first two bags for the food swap I went a little rogue. I beat in cream cheese, vanilla extract and a bit of confectioners sugar (the recipe only calls for white chocolate and heavy cream). I handed them to my husband, and he said "Even better!"

What did I get for my oreos you ask?

Well, a good time was had by all! There were a lot of delicious items!

 That is: Chicken Pho (we are having it for dinner), tzatziki sauce, bread and butter pickles with a little spice to them, corn salsa, maple bacon marshmallows, and jalapeno poppers (here those are cooked).

Hooray, I did well. I wonder if one thing we can learn from this is that it is cool to bring things people can actually just heat up and eat. I wouldn't normally think about making an appetizer people just have to pop in the oven, but I think that is nice for a Sunday evening first course (well played, Jessica!). They were delicious. I really enjoyed sampling the onion jam and fava beans, and I like how people sometimes bring household items like coasters (even though I didn't get any of them). 

I guess I am a little bit running out of ideas of what to make for the food swap, and googling "What to bring to food swap" brings back results I find a little clich├ęd. Does anyone have future food swap ideas?

I'm glad people liked my oreos!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Jake Moon Restaurant and Cafe, Clarksville

My friend Elizabeth said twice on Sunday "if you want to be a food blogger then you have to try Jake Moon at least once." It is a ways out from Albany on the way to Thatcher Park. It is a "destination eatery in the Heldebergs" according to their website.

For me, this past weekend was really feeling like the end of summer. We were going to head back out to the Finger Lakes for a special event at the vineyard where we joined the wine club in July (it is Damiani and their reds are fabulous), but thunderstorm warnings caused us to change our plans. I started to realize that my wanting to go back to the Finger Lakes was me wanting to revisit summer vacation just a bit more, and with bad weather it wouldn't have been the same at all. So we stayed back, and when we picked up my friend Elizabeth and her fellow for brunch she was dressed like summer was already over (very sharp looking in tights and boots). I, on the other hand, kept the last pretend bit of summer going with a bright green and white polka dot dress with a white collar and pleated skirt I bought at the flea market in July (imagine that tennis and gin & tonics were combined into a cheerful dress). I have since Sunday converted over to brown tweeds, dark tights, and riding boots, but it was funny for the day for us to be side by side channeling separate seasons. Just two gals and their gentlemen suitors out for a drive in the country and some brunch - what could be better?

Elizabeth's boyfriend described it as a low key diner in the sticks that just happens to have a real chef. Elizabeth always has said that she likes how they use fresh herbs for seasoning instead of too much salt or grease, and that they try to grow as much as they can on the premises. She also likes that the portions are not so huge that they weigh you down for the rest of the day. It can be difficult to guess which times brunch places will be more or less busy, and it seemed here to attract an early crowd. We arrived around 11 and had to wait for a table, but the place was really clearing out by the time we left. There were bluegrass musicians playing the whole time, and that really added to the ambiance.

The food was so good. It was worth the drive, which was scenic and enjoyable anyway. Elizabeth's gentleman got the "Heldeberg Heaven--Open Faced Monte Cristo with Two Sunny Side Eggs, Salsa, and Guacamole". He really seemed to enjoy it, and so did everyone who tried it.

Elizabeth got a special, the Garlic Festival Benedict. It had corn pancakes which I thought were great. She wanted me to mention that they put mint on her watermelon instead of the parsley that was on everyone else's watermelon. She thought this was to better pair with her dish, and she really appreciated the attention to detail.

I ordered a side of the biscuits and sausage gravy to share because I wanted to try it. So, so delicious. The biscuits were so flaky, and the sausage gravy was incredibly flavorful.

 I got the "Bennett Hill Scramble--Wild Mushrooms, Fresh Herbs, and Smoked Gouda", and I loved every bit of it. The eggs were fluffy and not overcooked at all. All the flavors meshed really well together. I also got the onion dill homemade bread, and it was delicious.

Scott got a special, the caprese omelette since he was figuring tomatoes would not be in season too much longer. He also got the multigrain homemade bread which was equally as great as the onion dill. Even though it is such a simple recipe, this was a great omelette. It is hard to beat fresh ingredients that are simply prepared.

They also advertised lobster bakes, and that sounded really fun.

We were really glad to try a new place thanks to the suggestion of my friend Elizabeth and her bearded fellow. It was also nice to have a leisurely drive in the country on the way to a lovely brunch as we pretty much officially shift right into autumn.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Back to Brimfield: Flea Market Haul

In the grand tradition of the haul videos on youtube, let me tell you what I got at the flea market yesterday. You remember when I went to the Brimfield Flea Market in July. Well, yesterday my coworkers and I went back. Check out what I got!

This woman had a booth that was basically everything from my wedding - brooches, vintage hankies, gloves and awesome retro things. I saw this apron at that booth, and I had to get it. It is so awesome makes me think I should take an embroidery class at the Arts Center of the Capital Region since I always go so crazy for those types of items at flea markets.

This awesome green kitchen stool was $20 from the 1920s. I figured I can peel potatoes, chop veggies, and hang out in the kitchen for hours all without my feet hurting. I'll probably touch up the paint, but I think it is adorable. I actually walked past it the first time and kept thinking about it (that is usually the sign you should head back and pick up the item).

I got one cookbook for 1906 and one from 1927. They use a lot of gelatin in the 1927 Electric Refrigerator Recipes book. The 1906 Boston Cooking Club cookbook has a lot of pencil notations about which recipes are good, and I like the commentary. I'd like to go through and make all the recipes a la "Julie and Julia". There's also my awesome kitchen stool in the background.

I got some great postcards and a couple of books to read. The postcards mostly were used from 1900-1960, and I like reading what people wrote. It is fun to imagine the rest of the story. I especially like the vacations ones. Someone was having a great time on the beach in 1906 in Maine. People like relaxing vacations now. With all the changes in technology, politics, the world - it is comforting to think that some things never change (there are also some sad ones, but people experience loss the same way now too).

Great artist palette brooch!

I love this little weaving woman. I'm not sure my coworkers got why I loved her so much. She has a bin of yarn and a baby on her back. She is right in the middle of her craft project. I love her so much!

I'm crazy for table linens. I always couldn't wait until I got married to put linen napkins on my wedding registry, but after I got married I just started buying all kinds. Pure class! I think there are many craft projects that can be done with vintage linens, like my wedding invitations.

I bought a spice rack. It was kind of ugly to begin with. It had a whole fake stained glass on plexi sunflower thing going on, and the wood was a little beat up. I painted it black and covered the plexi with fabric. This created so much extra room in our regular cabinets. I was very proud of myself.

I had a great time at the flea market with my coworkers. There was a crazy storm on the way back with massive amounts of rain, wind, and lightening. Rilo Kiley came on my ipod, and I was feeling reflective about the day. It made me think that for all my talk about MWF Seeking BFF this year, what I think I appreciate more than anything is people who just get you without trying too hard (someone who can say "That is such an 'Emily' necklace!" and actually be right), and who can make you laugh. Those qualities are things that aren't that easy to find even if you take the book's advice and ask random ladies out to lunch routinely (which is a good thing to do anyway). I appreciate my coworkers a lot in that way, especially since I know not everyone has that.

Now I can't wait to go back to Brimfield next year! Thanks to the Martha Stewart Living magazine for informing me about it!

Friday, September 7, 2012

"Growing Communities through Local Foods"

Today at lunch time I was lucky enough to see a talk given by Kathleen Merrigan entitled "Growing Communities through Local Foods" sponsored by the Williams College Center for Environmental Studies. Deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the author of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, Merrigan is widely regarded as the moving force behind the development of federal organic standards. She is an outspoken advocate of moving federal farm policies toward conservation and sustainable land use. After receiving a Fulbright fellowship to study pesticide use in Poland, Merrigan joined the staff of the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee in 1987. She then earned her Ph.D. at MIT, where she also worked as a senior analyst for the Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture. From there she was appointed to the National Organics Standards Board. In 1999, Bill Clinton appointed Merrigan to head the USDA’s Marketing Service. At the end of Clinton’s presidency, Merrigan moved to Tufts University, where she directed the Center on Agriculture, Food, and Environment.  In 2009, President Obama tapped her to become the deputy secretary of agriculture.

Interesting things about the talk:

  • She said that many small scale farmers are aging, and work out in the fields well into their 80s. She said it is difficult to get young people interested in farming. One student raised her hand and said that so many people nowadays are focused on money and prestige, and that young people are not likely to see farming as a real job. She said that she found it promising that many college programs in agriculture are seeing increased enrollments in recent years.
  • Merrigan emphasized the importance of buying local foods and conveyed the great possible increase in the livelihood of a local economy based on just each person spending $10 per week on local products. 
  • She put up a picture of a 12 pack case of soda and a pile of fresh vegetables and asked which one was more expensive. Everyone said the vegetables. She said in fact the soda was more expensive, and that a lot of people don't buy vegetables or don't t want to put vegetables in school lunches because they think they are took expensive. She said in fact that a lot of the time they are actually affordable. My friend Jessika afterwards said that not all vegetables are created equal, and we were sure 12 cans of soda would be cheaper than 12 beautiful, huge, locally grown, organic heirloom tomatoes.
  • She showed a diagram of a plate with an increased portion of vegetables. She said that some people say that the country does not produce enough vegetables for Americans to eat that increased amount, but in fact she thought that the amount was achievable to grow and would help small scale farmers. 
It was an interesting talk! Afterwards there were some questions about organic standards (which she thought were tougher than many other countries), and genetically modified foods (she joked she was happy she didn't work at the FDA and didn't have to deal with those issues as much). 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Hungry Fish, Now in Troy

 The crack staff at the Capital Region Dining Blog are big fans of The Hungry Fish, Chef Sarah Fish's locavore diner.   So we were pleased to see that they were moving to a slightly more convenient location (for us) in Troy.   We were able to visit this weekend, and can happily report that it's as good as ever.   The new room retains its offbeat charm, although the store portion is a little smaller.    The food remains both terrific and a good value.  I had the breakfast BLT:

Very good homemade bread, high-quality bacon, fresh tomato, farm fresh egg -- how can you go wrong?   The home fries were very good too, with crisp exteriors. I'm not, in all candor, a big fan of the homemade ketchup -- it's better than most, but I'm more or less part of the foodie backlash that sees it as better in theory than in practice.  That quibble aside, it's a perfect brunch sandwich. 

Ms. Garlic had the Croque Madame:

Again, it was excellent, and in particular the Dijon sauce was amazing.    Both represent what makes the Hungry Fish such a welcome addition to the capital region scene -- classic recipes with a bit of a twist, reasonably priced, with an emphasis on top-quality ingredients rather than massive portions.   I can't wait to go back for the chili.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

North Adams Fall Foliage Festival Crafts

My coworkers and I are going to set up a booth and sell some crafts at the North Adams Fall Foliage Festival September 22. I'm hard at work on my projects. Check out what I have made so far!