Monday, February 16, 2009

it was a wiley cheesecake

The kid I'm dating, D, is from Huntsville, Alabama -- his father was a rocket scientist back in the '60s -- and he's the kind of person who has kept up with his best friends from elementary school on. (This kind of person mystifies me -- I'm terrible at long-distance communication. I feel productive when I keep up with my roommate.) One of these friends of his owns a comic book/video rental/porn store in Huntsville (and also practices law, awesome), so he comes into Atlanta once every few months with a wagonload of merch for collectors' shows. He stays at D's and we usually all go out for dinner, which always strikes all of us as odd because D is such a good and enthusiastic cook.

So the last time his friend was in town, D and I cooked up a three-person feast: duck, chard, mac & cheese, and a raspberry-swirled cheesecake. The duck & chard were perfect as always (D uses Alton Brown's recipe Mighty Duck, which is fatty and bone-gnaw-worthy), the mac & cheese (a recipe from Paula Dean) was overbaked but worth revisiting with fewer eggs and more cheese than called for, and the cheesecake was surprisingly rad -- the graham crumble crust needed something (less butter? More pre-baking? Parchment paper rather than emergency-subbed wax paper? Better-quality graham crackers?), but the filling was cohesive, creamy, and light, just sweet enough, and with just enough acid from the raspberries.

I asked a couple days later for the cheesecake recipe, and D was like, ?___? recipe whaa? This is the difference between cooks (D) and bakers (me): I would've been scribbling everything I was doing on post-it notes or the backs of receipts or y'know my own arm or the cats or whatever was handy so that I could repeat the chemistry experiment later. D is not a baker: he just MADE the thing, with no fussing or worrying about how precisely it happened. Honestly, I have a lot of respect for that. I also dearly hope that we'll be able to reproduce it from collective memory the next time we want cheesecake!

Have you ever made something that you lost the recipe for, or created in a fit of brilliance and promptly forgot how to reproduce afterwards? Did you ever work it out, or is it The Recipe That Got Away?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

review: Vosges' Caramel Marshmallows

Vosges Haut Chocolate's Caramel Marshmallows are so orgasmically good that it took me five tries to type "marshmallows" just now.

Okay. Center. Concentrate. Down, girl.

First off, these things are huge. 1.5-inch square by 1-inch deep huge. They come only 9 to a box, but I cannot imagine attempting to eat more than one in a go, and probably not more than one per day, so honestly that's okay. (This is Vosges' photo, not mine.)

I take a messy first bite, and the salt and sweet of the caramel hits me first, followed by the vanilla of the marshmallow and then the richness of the chocolate, and then more salt from the toffee and roasted earthiness from the nuts. It tastes like an ice cream sundae -- so much so that my mouth misses the cold bite of ice cream while I'm eating it. The components are each fine unto themselves -- the chocolate deep & slightly bitter, the toffee light & crunchy, the marshmallow and caramel each sweet but not cloying -- but tasted together they just make more sense than they do apart. Candy logic!

The chocolate coating breaks around the edges and bits of nut and toffee go tumbling as I take each bite, but for the most part it holds itself together surprisingly well for something so precarious. The texture is just the slightest bit odd -- the marshmallow is firmish and a little chewy, and the caramel is the gooier, meltier of the pair, which isn't what I was expecting -- I think I'd like it better if the marshmallow were textured more like fluff.

But it's lovely nonetheless, a golden ratio of sweet to salty and rich to bright. It's from Vosges' comfort foods line, and it's exactly comfort: it's summer vacation, it's fairgrounds, it's that long-lost recipe of your grandmother's. This would be a perfect mid-winter gift for some sweet person who could use a bit of warmth (and a sugar rush).

They come shrink-wrapped for freshness (the packaging says to consume them within 2 weeks), and in a sturdy, lavender-colored box that you could probably find a second life for. As I said, they come only 9 to a box -- and each box is $27.00, and they ship via UPS (aka not cheaply). So they're maybe not for people on strict budgets.

Someone more thriftily minded who wanted something Haut might order a couple 4-piece party-favor boxes of truffles (look for the "Asian" boxes) or caramels. Price breakdown on these mini boxes is $2.38/piece, as opposed to the $3.00/piece you'd pay for the privilege of receiving a larger & fancier box. While you can't sample their whole catalogue this way, you can try 12 of their most popular truffles and 9 different kinds of caramels, so it's not a bad deal. Also worthwhile are their full-size Exotic Candy Bars, which cost $2.50/oz for the non-organic bars. I, the dark chocolate fiend, most recommend their milk chocolate ones, specifically Gianduja and Wolloomooloo.

Overall, I find these schmancy chocolate-covered caramel marshmallows worth the monetary and caloric splurge! Especially as a once-in-awhile treat to be shared with friends and other loved ones.

p.s. -- You'll pay upwards of 25 American dollars for the opportunity, but Vosges can get some of these suckers to you by Valentine's Day if you order with 2-day shipping before Wednesday, February 11th, 1:00pm Central time. They ship from Chicago, so Ground MIGHT also work too if you're in the East/Midwest, but no promises.

Monday, February 2, 2009

consumerism wow: SHIRTCORE

Maynard Tee, from kidrobot x Frank Kozik. And, okay, I take issue with the yuppie-punk popart trend manifested in brands like kidrobot and artists like Kozik. On the one reverse-French–manicured hand, I like a lot of the sensibilities involved: bold graphics and colors, DIY encouragement, and subversions of classic styles and the ultra-cute media we children of the 80's grew up with. On the other, exactly how subversive is a $140 limited-edition hoodie with built-in iPod pocket & headphone loop? I'm glad that this kind of art is getting airplay and that these kinds of artists are making money, but it's the collectible equivalent of being served a Peep riddled with solid gold buckshot -- tasty and luxurious, but you've gotta ask yourself why. But hey, shirt! This is a shirt for people who are HARDCORE. It has a BULLET. That bullet is SMORKIN'. Men's sizes only (why you gots to be like that, kidrobot?). Printed with shiny foil! Shirt is $50 and ships via UPS (though if you buy another $5.01-worth of stuff, shipping is free).

High Five, by Chris Hastings, who, yes, still does The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. [I didn't realize that I was repeating one of my previously featured shirt creators until after I wrote most of this. It is not my fault that all of his shirts are awesome!] I have unintentionally made this set HARDCORE-themed. This theme will perhaps not be apparent to you if you have never seen Jaws, Discovery Channel's Shark Week, or King Kong, or if you haven't read Michael Crichton's Congo [the movie version is dead to me, Bruce Campbell or no], or if you never learned that once an action sequence starts, everything has the potential -- nay, the responsibility -- to suddenly and violently explode, preferably with guitars wailin' in the background. Family Guy knows what I'm talkin' 'bout. Men's sizes come in a choice of blue or cardinal for $18, and women's in blue only for $20. Ships via your choice of USPS or UPS.

Petra Ad Infinitum, by Mike Krahulik & Jerry Holkins, aka Gabe & Tycho, of Penny Arcade. Okay, this one is about a different kind of hardcore: hardcore rocking. It's about rocking forever, in fact, if the bad Latin inscription is to be believed. It's about seeing a million faces, and rocking all of them. (Dudes, that's a lot of faces.) This t-shirt is not-so-secretly talking about Rock Band, which is pretty much the best video game ever because it encourages your friends to get drunk, wail on pretend instruments, and sing along with the music they listened to when they were 13. (I'm sure that some people would use this same argument to posit that Rock Band is the worst video game ever, but those people are not hardcore and therefore extraneous to this discussion.) Shirt is $17.99 and ships via your choice of USPS or UPS.

p.s. I used the verb "wail" twice in this post! Party on, Wayne!

p.p.s. I received my Love is Blind shirt in the mail last week, and will post pictures soon. The fit is odd but not unlikeable!