Showing posts from August, 2011

The Aesthetics of Food

Recently I came across something that looks like this: It is Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s Summer from the Denver Art Museum. It made me think of something similar I made in high school:  My dad will tell you I went through many burgundy pencils for that plate, sending him all over town to purchase them. It got me thinking about Saxton Freymann , and made me wonder why people get excited about food in art. I feel like it is just supposed to be fun and whimsical and maybe along the same line as the wedding cakes that look like other things, or in one case the bride herself.  Starting from squeeze bottles for sauces in restaurants and going all the way to sugar sculptures , the importance of the aesthetics of food cannot be ignored. I believe that dishes can look better when different colors are combined, and that of course some presentations are more attractive than others ( the plating at Bouchon was nothing short of beautiful), but I think too much fussiness (especially with dess

My Life in Grocery Stores

"I love grocery shopping when I'm home. That's what makes me feel totally normal. I love both the idea of home as in being with my family and friends, and also the idea of exploration. I think those two are probably my great interests. "   -Yo-Yo Ma (C-town, Astoria) We just read the book  A Pigeon and a Boy: A Novel for my book club. The narrator mentions that he thinks he can divide his life into time spent using 4 different grocery stores, and that this division stands out in his head more than times spent in different places or with different people. I think this is an interesting way to look at things. An important theme in the book was loving one's home, since without that feeling homing pigeons cannot complete their missions. I think having a grocery store one loves is an important factor in feeling at home in an area. Here's what it would look like if I divided my life in grocery stores (roughly). When I was in college I frequented a Kroger

Wedding Desserts

I have previously talked about our wedding cake at a couple of times . And I have nothing new to say other than to say again that I loved the red velvet with cream cheese icing, but now we have  the professional photos!  Photos by Jacqueline Lynch Photography Am I the only girl in the world who would put the Mona Lisa on her wedding cake? Yes, I might just be. Another thing we did was make chocolate chip cookies for the favors. The significance of this is that Scott likes when I make him chocolate chip cookies, so cookies for everyone! Spread the love! We used Thomas Keller's recipe from Ad Hoc , which I believe to be the best chocolate chip cookie recipe there is. And thanks to my stellar Matron of Honor and her friend who I had not even met before the previous day, they all got made without any effort from me. For the packaging I used a Martha Stewart idea and slipped the cookies in CD sleeves I had decorated with some paper, stamps, and ribbons. I also bought some neat l

Food Snobbery

"We must never confuse elegance with snobbery." -Yves Saint Laurent Today I got to thinking about food snobbery. I have written previously about my experience when I met Ruth Reichl . Every time I see her books in the bookstores now I think of that meeting and actually don't really want to read what she has to say. Maybe I shouldn't let it influence me, but it does anyway. Eating is obviously in its lowest form something a person needs to do to survive,and making it into some otherworldly or vaguely sexual thing is weird sometimes. Sometimes it is good to lighten up a little . A couple years ago we had an artist at the museum where I work who was doing a piece that was supposed to be about food. He spent time with two families in two different neighboring towns with different positions of social class. This artist himself had a background in a disadvantaged socioeconomic position, had worked as a social worker, and he had lived for a long time in various big cities

Food Truck in the Berkshires

Williamstown, MA (where I work) may not have a gas station. The credit union may be in a house, and  the movie theater may play only one film at a time. The only coffee shop in town may close at 5pm, but there something new that makes us just as trendy as Portland, OR. There is now a food truck in town. I haven't tried it yet because the lines are always really long, and the students aren't even in town yet. Pretty exciting!

Randomness with the CSA

So it goes without saying that signing up for a share with a CSA fills your house with vegetables. Some things are obvious what to do with like eggplant (eggplant parm!) and tomatoes (panzanellla!), and some things are less obvious (bunches of basil bigger than our heads). And while careful thought and planning can lead to amazing results with different and unique dishes, sometimes it is easier to just throw it all together and hope for the best. And in that spirit I decided to make a soup. First I chopped up leeks, both red and yellow beets, both yellow and orange carrots, huge amount of cabbage, garlic, and crookneck squash. I put in the pot some butter and canola oil and added the leeks and garlic. I cooked that down a little and added  the rest of the vegetables and salt and pepper. I added some oregano and red pepper flakes. I threw it a ton of chicken broth, good amount of dry vermouth, and some water. I put in a bouquet of oregano, thyme, sage, and dill from the CSA. At this po

Negri's Family Style Italian Dinners

 For a few days on our honeymoon we had a string of pretty amazing dinners . But by the time we got to Santa Rosa, we were ready for something a little simpler. It would have been fine to go for something fancier if anything had looked interesting, but the food scene in Santa Rosa looked expensive without being thrilling (after Bouchon and Zuni Cafe it was easy to be underwhelmed). So we decided to take a little drive west to an old lumber town, Occidental, and try Negri's Italian Restaurant . I am a sucker for immigrant stories, ever since I worked at Ellis Island for a summer. I think that I am so interested in immigrant stories because they usually make me think about the improbability of people meeting and making a life somewhere, and how easy it is to lose one's way. It makes me think about the struggles gone through and sacrifices made by previous generations for their descendants. I think about the really poor people coming over from Italy with literally one small s

Goodbye Summer

So I am officially getting sick of the watermelon gazpacho I have been eating for lunch all summer, and my InStyle magazine that came yesterday got me drooling over riding boots and Tippi Hendren wool dresses and tweed suits all over again, so I would say summer is coming to a near close. Sure, you say, not quite sure yet, but I want to feel prepared. I want to appreciate it fully so that one day in the not so distant future when I am fighting my way up a mountain through an awful snowstorm, the first of many, I can remember flawless, dry summer days and remember that those will come again. This summer will be remember as the summer I got married, went on a honeymoon (finally getting to visit California, falling totally in love with the Pacific Northwest), and watched years 1990-1996 of Beverly Hills, 90210. It was also the summer we almost hit a grizzly bear with our car on our ten hour long drive from Napa to Portland, which was for some reason was very memorable to me (maybe beca

"It Tastes Like...Feet."

Is Junior Soprano right in his evaluation of dandelion's flavor? Well, I wouldn't say he's entirely wrong. We've been greatly enjoying our first CSA -- this week's highlights included eggplant made into a delicious parmigiana, cabbage turned into great slaw, and a wonderful squash soup. Tonight, the main thing left from last week's bounty was dandelion greens. We used Mark Bittman's recipe , making a salad with a bacon, shallot, vinegar and dijon dressing. Essentially, a classic frisee aux lardons salad without the egg and with dandelion serving as the bitter green. The results? The good news is that dandelion greens are extremely nutritious. The bad news is that they...don't taste real good. I like bitter greens more than most -- escarole, broccoli rabe, love 'em. So I finished my salad, but I wouldn't claim it was with relish. Even if you like bitter greens, the intensity of dandelion bitterness is tough to take. In the fu

Our first CSA

We've recently signed up for a CSA share at the Shaker Mountain Canning Co . in New Lebanon, NY. I totally underestimated how much fun this would be. Not only is it healthy to have a large basket of vegetables to be forced to figure out what to do with, and is it good economics to support local farms, but it forces the kind of brainstorming of recipes that is really a good time. Instead of looking up a recipe and then going to the store to buy the ingredients, it is quite literally what is in season and what can we figure out what to do with these things? Last week we got okra, collard greens, herbs, green beans, lettuce, onions, beats, summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers. We made a variety of foods including summer squash soup, stir fry, cold beet soup, roasted okra with the green beans, and jambalaya, among other things. It is so fun, and I can't wait to see what we get today. Getting ingredients you weren't planning on is a great way to force yourself to try new prepar

Peanut-Free Peanut Butter

I am married to someone who has a nut allergy. And I could just do whatever I wanted, and think it was fine if there weren't nuts actually in his food, but the truth is it is not that nice to have things that bother your loved ones in the air, in crevices on the counter, or on pans they eat off of no matter how hard you try to clean things. I also once heard a story of a guy who ate a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and than came home and kissed his wife who died from the reaction to the peanut particles still in his mouth. Not very nice. I, however, do enjoy the flavors of nuts and once in a while do eat some while I am at work. Somehow not being able to eat certain foods makes them very exciting. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Which is why when my coworker was complaining that the daycare facility that her toddler goes to does not allow peanut butter because some kids are allergic, and instead allows only fake peanut butter , I said "what is this fake peanut butter?

Wine Tasting Honeymoon

 We just got back from our honeymoon this weekend. We did sort of a west coast tour which included a lot of winery visits. In Napa, we visited the Elyse winery where we tasted some really amazing wines , and a port that really impressed us. Previously, we had worried about tasting wines that seemed too expensive for us to purchase, but looking back it doesn't matter if you buy a bottle or not, you still get to enjoy your tasting (many places the tasty fee is waived with purchase of a bottle though so might as well if you really like it). The Elyse winery visits are by appointment only, partially they said to avoid drunken bachelorette parties and rowdy people in limos, but you can actually call that day and still get an appointment. Then, we visited Domaine Carneros which had some really nice sparkling wines. The tasting area is a bit of an over the top ostentatiously French looking set up, which is actually a very nice spot to enjoy some flights of bubbly.  In Sonoma, we vis