Friday, December 24, 2010

recipe: linzertorte

Some facts about the linzertorte: 1) It is basically an almondy cookie cake. 2) It is filled with raspberry jam. 3) It is spiced to taste like Christmas. 4) The amount of effort it takes to make < the amount of impressed your friends & family will be.

By "facts" I might've meant "reasons why linzertortes are a holiday tradition in my family". Here is one additional reason:

linzertorte

I never feel like it's really the holidays until I've made one of these. It's the perfect thing to take to parties, and can safely be made a day or two ahead (fact 5: it's tastier after a day or so) and/or in steps, as your schedule allows.

Linzertorte
Adapted from The Joy of Cooking, Not Derby Pie, and The Joy of Baking.
Serves ~12 (it's very rich, so small wedges will do)


INGREDIENTS

1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour (If you like/have white-whole-wheat, 1/2 c. of that plus 3/4 c. all purpose also works)
1 c. almond flour (or fine-ground blanched [skinless] almonds)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon or orange zest (1 lemon or ≥1/2 orange worth)

2/3 c. white granulated sugar
3/4 c. (1.5 sticks) butter
2 egg yolks

1 1/4 c. (~1 jar, ~10 oz.) tasty raspberry preserves
2 tbsp fresh-squeezed lemon or orange juice


METHOD

Add your dry ingredients into a medium bowl (you can zest the citrus straight into the bowl to capture all the good zesty oils) and whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for ~3 minutes, until they've lightened in color and texture. Beat in the egg yolks for ~1 minute until well incorporated. Stir in the dry ingredients, 1/3rd-ish at a time, until well combined.

Divide the mixture into 2 parts, one a bit larger than the other -- about 60%/40%. Ball & smush one part in your hands until it's happy (read: non-crumbly) enough to stay in ball form, then flatten it slightly into more of a disc. Do the same for the other! Wrap each disc separately in plastic/foil/a sandwich bag and pop them both in the fridge. They need to chill for 30 minutes at the very least, and preferably at least an hour. They will not be harmed by hanging out in there for a whole day, in fact, if you find that you've got Other Things To Do.

When the dough is chilled and you're ready to bake, butter & flour a 9-inch springform. (A cake or tart pan would also work, provided it's at least 2 inches deep.) Prepare to roll your dough out: sprinkle some flour on a large surface (I like sticking a piece of wax or parchment paper to the counter with a few drops of water and rolling on that for ease of turning the dough and moving it into the pan, but your mileage may vary if you can't get the paper to stick), get some flour on your clothes/face/hair, rub your rolling pin down with some flour, panic.

Next, stop panicking. This is not pie crust, this is cookie crust. It's really forgiving. Take out the larger piece of dough and roll it out into a big, evenly thick, mostly circular shape that's ~1-2 inches larger in diameter than your pan. A few cracks around the edges are okay -- just pinch them back together. Drape the dough down into the pan as centeredly as possible and press the bottom down and the sides up. The sides need to be 1/2 to 1 inch high -- just high enough to hold your jam. You can smoosh the dough around, breaking chunks off where there's too much and adding them where it's sparse -- like I said, not a pie crust.

This is a good time to preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure out your jam into a small bowl and mix in your citrus juice, then pour/spread the mixture evenly into the crust.

Take the second half of the crust out of the fridge and roll it out into an oval that's about as wide as your pan the short way across -- it'll be a bit thinner than the bottom crust was. With a large, flour-dusted knife, slice it width-wise into strips 1/2 inch wide.

Now, if you're very motivated you could lattice the strips properly across the top of the jam-filled crust, but what I do is just lay one set of strips down across the top, 1/2 inch apart and parallel to each other, and then lay a second set down perpendicular to and right across the top of the first set. It'll still look plenty pretty. If you do it my way, I think it's helpful to start in the middle with the longest pieces and move towards the edges with shorter pieces.

Either way, you're going to want to press the ends of each strip down into the edge of the crust. Trim off any extra lengths and smoosh them down into any gaps between the strips, and use any leftover dough to further even out the rim of the crust. I like rolling the excess dough into snakes and using strips & bits of those to fill in the gaps.

I brushed an egg wash onto the linzertorte pictured (beat 1 egg with a fork and then use a pastry brush to spread a thin layer over the crust), but it's not necessary. Iiii actually think it's prettier without it.

Pop the torte in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until it smells lovely and the crust is golden brown and pulling away from the edges on the pan. It'll be crumbly & sorta dry when it's warm and will get better the longer you let it sit, so try to let it cool completely before serving -- it might take a couple hours. You can decorate it with a bit of powdered sugar (put a tablespoon or two in a fine mesh sieve and tap the edge while holding it over the torte to sprinkle it on) if you like. The torte will be even nicer the next day, once the jam has had a chance to seep into the crust a little and all the flavors have really melded, so I recommend baking it a day ahead if you have time, or saving a slice for breakfast if you don't. Just seal it up in airtight containers and finish it within a week or so if there happens to be any leftover.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

bathy congratulations!

Real quick, and with many thanks to humankind for working out how to put wifi on airplanes so that we wired kids never have to be far from our Internet surfboards:

Congratulations to WendyLady, the winner of my contest for a bathy gift from The Happy Manatee!

Thanks to everyone who dropped by and entered -- hopefully I'll be able to post another contest soonly. In the meanwhile, did you know that The Amazing Screw-On Head is the best short film/comic book thing ever created? Because it is! And if you disagree, then pardon me if I say "Poppycock".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

review: The Happy Manatee bath products

Facebook is perhaps not entirely a social time machine of evil. It occasionally reconnects you, not like a disgruntled switchboard operator hoping to break all the phone jacks but rather like a gentle breeze returning a fallen leaf to the cradling branches of its tree, to good people. Like, for example, my friend Breena, who once drove from Tallahassee to Gainesville to pick me up for hangouts because I didn't have a car in college, and didn't even hate me when my grown-ass ass had to ask for instructions on how to pump/pay for gas.

Breena and her husband recently started up a line of bath & beauty products out of South Florida under the name The Happy Manatee, and since I like soap and they like me, they sent me a bunch of samples to try out. I'm perhaps obviously biased, what with the owner being a friend of mine and having received free samples, but what follows are my honest, objective-as-possible opinions about the products I tried.


Gingerbread Salt Scrub [$7.99 for a huge tub]
I'm a) wary of scrubs and b) in love with this stuff. The former is because my skin's pretty sensitive (read: acne prone, with a tendency to flake & fall off at the very thought of exfoliation & other preventional attempts), and the latter is because this scrub is blissfully massagey without being scratchy, with a lot of moisurizing oil and a comfortingly warm, very clovey ginger-cinnamon-spice scent that will last a couple hours on your skin if you don't wash it off. It'd be great for unwinding by yourself or with a showerfriend (nod-nod-wink-wink-say-no-more). Use it before you soap up for a little moisturization, or afterwards for a whole, whole lot. I'll get several applications out of this tub. My only gripe about this stuff is the snap-lid container, which becomes difficult to open when it's oily and wet, which is necessarily what happens in, say, a shower. It might be easier to use in a bath, or when the container has seen a bit of wear. They've also got a Peppermint Salt Scrub and a Coffee & Sugar Scrub.

Peppermint soap [$4.99 for an averagely bar-sized bar]
This soap smells lovely, like a meltaway peppermint candy with just a hint of vanilla. It foams up really creamily with lots of suds and practically no scent other than a touch of sweet cleanness when used with a loofah (the peppermint comes out more, like tea, when it's used directly), and the scent lingered on my skin for maybe half an hour after my shower. The soap is marbled red and white, with a sweet surprise of red glitter scattered sparingly throughout. When used all by its lonesome for test purposes, it did leave my skin a bit dry -- but that's mostly just my sensitive skin + dry winter weather. I'd absolutely recommend this as a body soap for people have sturdy skin or who don't mind moisturizing after a shower, or as a hand soap to everyone. They've also got 6 other scents & formulas that I'm not going to read about right now because I have a weakness for soap and currently own more than I'll use in a year.

Cocoa Body Lotion Bar [$4.99 for 2 1-inch-square bars, 1.5 ounces total]
In bar form, this solid lotion smells like -- well, like a piece of chocolate. Just from the cocoa butter it's made with, apparently! It comes wrapped like a chocolate, in pretty gold foil (which is a bit difficult to peel off when the bar is cold -- you might want to warm it in your hands for a minute or so before trying to remove the foil). Once it's settled into my skin it smells a bit less sweet and more musky/dusty/sexy, and the scent lasts a good couple hours but doesn't have very much throw, which I like in a lotion. It feels greasy until it soaks in, but that's how solid lotion bars go -- it's a very rich sort of moisturizer, best for when your skin really needs help. A little is quite enough to get along with, so even though the bar is only about an inch square, it'll last me awhile.

Mint Chocolate Body Butter [$9.99 for a 6-ounce tin]
This stuff smells and feels sinful. I'm honestly not big on lotions, but I keep coming back to this -- the texture is velvety, and it smells like Thin Mints. Like the Cocoa Body Lotion Bar, it's a bit greasy on your skin until it's had time to soak in, so give it a few minutes after application before you go putting on nice clothes. The mint fades and the chocolate amps on me after it's been on awhile, going more musky/dusty/sexy. I think it's got maybe a tiny bit more lasting power and throw than the Cocoa Bar, but not by a lot. Just thinking about it makes me want to go put some on. I apply lotion sparingly, and this tub will last me just about forever. They've also got 3 other body butter scents.

Baked Goods Candle [$10.99 for a big ol' Bell jar filled with candle]
When I first received it, this candle had an almost overwhelmingly strong bakey/cinnamony scent, but I left it to cure for a few weeks and it mellowed into something quite gentle and nice, like snickerdoodles (and this coming from a monkey who prefers subtle, cleaner, more boylike scents in candles). As it burns, it mostly just smells waxy -- you really only get the bakey scent by sniffing it directly, and when you blow it out -- which I consider a candle win. I haven't had it lit for very long, but it didn't smoke or sputter, and seemed to be slow burning. I'm looking forward to reaching the other layers to see what they smell like. And I love that it comes in a Bell jar -- makes it easy to minimize the scent when you're not using it. They've also got 10 other candle scents and 3 massage candles.

Cleopatra's Milk Bath [$5.99 for a 6-ounce tin]
My tablespoon-sized sample of this wasn't quite enough for a tubful of water (I suspect you'd need at least twice that much for a full bath), but it softened the water and gave off a gentle, cleanly pretty, soft citrus-rose scent. I used mine in the teabag it arrived in to mitigate potential flotsam (you might want to do the same if you don't like floaty bits in your bath), but the rose petals, lavender buds, and orange peel would probably be very pretty when used loose. It's just a tiny bit pinkish from the rose petals, which you shouldn't leave sitting in your tub, as they might leave a stain to be scrubbed. I'm curious to try using more!

Japanese Cherry Blossom Fizzie (currently only offered as part of gift sets [$14.99 for a bar of soap, 2 fizzies, and 2 lotion bars])
If the Milk Bath smells pretty, the Cherry Blossom Fizzie smells sexy. Possibly dirty-sexy. In an excellent if incongruous-to-bathing way. It's floral and musky, and I could swear that ylang-ylang is involved in it somehow. One li'l hemisphere was enough to just lightly scent my bath, but I'd probably use two next time 'cause I'm so enamored with the scent. The fizzie action was excellent and entertaining, not at all lackluster the way some bath fizzes can be, and it had just enough olive oil in it to make the bath moisturizing without the tub getting all slippery. The light pink color only barely affected the bathwater. They offer 3 other fizz scents in other gift boxes.

A Note on Packaging and Ingredients
Though the packaging isn't anything fancy, it's all very greenly minimal, mostly practical, and (best of all) mostly reusable. Though the ingredients aren't listed in full on the website at the moment, they're similarly minimal and practical, generally vegan and with no preservatives. I'm picky about what I put on my skin (see above re: sensitive and acne-prone), and I felt good about using everything I received. If you have any questions about their products, I'm sure The Happy Manatee staff would be glad to answer them. Or leave a comment here, and I'll get answers back to you as soon as I can!

And hey, as a thank-you to Breena for sending me things and to you for reading (or, y'know, scrolling) this far, I'm offering a contest! One lucky commenter will win a small gift box of their choice from The Happy Manatee! Just leave a comment with your email address and the name of the small ($14.99) gift box you fancy (for yourself or someone deserving of a good pampering), and one week from today, on Sunday, December 19th at 5:00pm, I'll randomly draw a winner to receive their desired gift. You must comment with your email & the name of a gift box to enter, but I'll give you an extra entry for linking to this post publicly on Twitter, Delicious, and/or Facebook, for a possible total of 4 entries! Just comment with a link to your tweet/delish/FB post so's I'll know you aren't a dirty liar did it. Good luck, and happy bathing!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving can also have tricks and treats

Happy Thanksgiving, American compatriots! If you're looking for something to do with that extra bag of cranberries you accidentally bought, I recommend sugaring them for a pretty table setting/delicious cranberry candy 2-hit combo.

sugared cranberries on a table set for Thanksgiving dinner

My contribution to the dessert table this year will hypothetically be this Pear Butterscotch Pie from Epicurious. "Hypothetically" because it's in the oven right now, and it's looking a lot more like one of Mrs. Lovett's pies than the thing in Gourmet's picture, and we're out of tin foil so I can't tent the edges of the crust to prevent overbrowning. [Though really, if I manage to not set it on fire I'll be doing better than I have with Thanksgiving dishes in the past. (I apparently only bust out the en fuego accidental for special holiday occasions. It's the best hostess gift ever? It's thematically warm & stressful?)] Will let you know how it turns out!


In the meanwhile, a non-caloric holiday treat: a new episode of Consumerism WOW by Adam & me! Adam picked the things we talked about this month, including but not limited to this shirt design:

Thing #5


a happy exclamation point
Lauren: Your dour demeanor so frequently belies your gleeful mood that you want to reassure people that on the inside, you are super excited about everything. OR you want to trick people into thinking that you’re super excited about everything so they’ll be off their guard for the unequivocal pants-kicking that you’re about to deliver them.

Adam: Well now that you explained about the pants-kicking my success rate at fooling people is going right in the toilet! And hey, I’m not dour, Lauren! I am inscrutably magi-cranky, thank you very much.


Visit Adam's blog to discover his nefarious consumer desires and learn some Science! He sure learned me about rainbows.

Friday, November 12, 2010

recipe: Not Quite Mom's German Apple Cake

Halloween may have super-sneak-ninja attacked me this year, but I had Fall all figured out. The day that the scent of cinnamon brooms battered me at my first step into my local grocery store, I bought some Granny Smith apples, went home, and apropos of no greater occasion than the season made this version of my mom's German apple cake.

cake topped with chopped apples, with a wedge cut out

If you wanted to be proper about it, you'd use all white flour and all white sugar in this cake to achieve the sweetest richness, and you'd slice the apples thin-thin-thin for galette-style decoration and chewy caramelization. My modifications yield an earthier, more everyday cake for those of us who don't own a mandolin and have come to comfortable terms with the fact that we'll wind up eating leftover cake for breakfast, and will feel better about it if there's a bit of whole wheat flour involved.

Dense and buttery with a bright, tart kick from the apples and a warming touch of cinnamon, this cake is Fall comfort. Unmodify it for a fancy party treat, or try my relaxed version for a laid-back, party-optional sort of thing.


Not Quite Mom's German Apple Cake
Serves 8-12 people.


INGREDIENTS

3 granny smith apples
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
half a lemon, de-seeded as best as possible

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped)
2 tbsp bourbon, if you've got it


METHOD

Peel & core your apples, slice them into wedges, and chop the wedges into roughly equal-sized chunks. As you go, place the resulting applebits in a medium bowl, tossing them with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning each time you add a batch. Once all 3 apples are chopped, add the cinnamon & sugar and toss/stir/muss about with your hands to coat the apples. Set aside to macerate (i.e., soak & soften) while you prepare:

A pan! V. important to the cake-making process. I used a 9-inch springform for the cake in the photo, but a larger round or square should work so long as you shorten the baking time. Butter and flour your pan of choice and set aside.

Set your oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure your dry ingredients out into a medium bowl and whisk gently to combine.

In a larger bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together your butter and sugar for ~3 minutes or until the mixture has lightened in color and texture (indicating that cake-buoying air has gotten into it). Add the eggs, vanilla, and optional bourbon and beat for another 2 minutes to combine thoroughly.

Add your dry ingredients to you wet ingredients and stir with a spoon/spatula/other nonelectric device to combine. The batter should be shiny and smooth (keep stirring if it's not). Pour it into your prepared pan and wiggle the pan to distribute evenly.

Drain most of the liquid from your apples (they can be wet but shouldn't be dripping) and scatter the pieces across the top of the batter, pressing them in just slightly.

Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 60 minutes. Well, check it around 50 minutes. You're looking for the sides of the cake to be deep golden and pulling away from the pan, for the liquid between the apples to be sizzling merrily, and for little bits of batter to be poking up between the pieces of fruit.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan until said pan is handleable, then either remove it from the springform, carefully flip it out of your non-springform pan (using a plate to flip with instead of a wire rack), or simply slice and serve the cake from where it is. Seal tightly and refrigerate any leftovers, which should keep for a week.


*If you leave it in the oven too long, no worries: you can abuse this cake and it'll still come out okay. As long as it's not actually charred, just stick it in the fridge in a tightly covered container overnight and it'll be lovely and moist the next day. When you eat it for breakfast. Because that's what responsible adults who have used whole wheat flour do.


[I previously posted an iteration of this recipe done with pears instead of apples, which is lovely if you have heathens friends who dislike cooked apples.]

Thursday, November 4, 2010

feliz el too-busy-to-update mes!

Faithful readers! Fear not, for I have not abandoned you (entirely)! The past few weeks, I've been quite busy traveling to Boston again, doing that aforementioned job-what-makes-me-work thing, and making Halloween happen (I mean, not for everybody, but for some 80 people, anyway).

While in Bostontown I ate here and here, and had a tasty cocktail here. More about that later on when I have fewer wines and encroaching bedtimes the wherewithal to serve up proper foodpr0n.

a dog that is really excited about getting petHere in Atlanta I've been living the questionably glamorous life of a Social Media Nomad, which comes with an 80s-Saturday-morning-cartoon-style theme song, frequent visits to coffee shops with patient baristas & free wi-fi, and a really psyched dog (see illust., right). One of these days I might post a whole entry about all the coffee shops in town, and about how I'm spending too much money on Jeni's Ice Creams at Star Provisions and on sandwiches with Vietnamese-style pickles at Bocado now that I'm occasionally hanging out around the West Side. Until then, you can count on me to be fading in and out of shadows, a loaded MacBook on my back.

Somewhere among all that dull "necessary" stuff, Halloween happened! Through careful planning and wonderful friends, I managed to make this calavera Catrina costume go (please excuse the mess):

la calavera Catrina costume with an Edwardian-style dress

A seamstress friend, Jennifer, made the Edwardianish dress for me -- and if anyone else out there is looking to commission a garment (not necessarily Edwardianish), contact me and I'll get you in touch with her 'cause she's fabulous. The crucifix was cobbled together with bits from the jewelry-supply sale rack at Michael's, the makeup is Ben Nye cake and grease pencil, the gloves are Leg Avenue fingerless things from Sock Dreams, and the hat is all the spray paint, ostrich feathers, 50-cent ribbon, and hot glue that you can apply to a straw hat while in a mild state of hat-panic on the afternoon of your Halloween party. Both the makeup & hat were completed with the gracious assistance of a certain dreamthrum, who I guess I like pretty well.


So! What've you been up to?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

i'm not at NYCC (sadface)

But if you're going to New York Comic Con, you should say hi to my friends there and have them sign some books I've edited!



Adam will be there with copies of both I Slept With Your Imaginary Friend and Stays Crunchy in Milk in Booth #349 in the small press area, between Bob Burden and Dr. McNinja. Yes.



Actually, you could stop by Bob Burden's booth while you're there and see if he's got any copies of the Flaming Carrot/Killer Robots crossover photocomics, which I worked on as well.



And if you're there with kids and/or think that bodily functions are kinda hilarious, you should visit Angela of Fierce Fun Toys, who might still be there today at the Laughing Ogre Comics booth (#3016) with copies of Norman PhartEphant: First New Day and bunch of adorable, apologetically rude plush toys.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

consumerism WOW: huh it's October

Adam and I somehow lost September. In a tragic accident. Involving gummy fish. Apologies, faithful Consumerism WOW readers! To balm your wounded hearts, we offer this October edition of Consumerism WOW! For those of you who look so confused, a) your keys are probably in the vegetable crisper again and b) Consumerism WOW is where either Adam P. Knave or myself (in this case, myself) professes desire for several commercially available products, then the other of us (in this case, Adam) tries to guess why the first person wants said products. And the guesser is usually so wrong that we then threaten their pets with sporks.



Thing #1


pendant made of a crystal and a bullet casing

Adam: You want this "Phantom" quartz bullet in order to shoot The Phantom Menace. I can see it now -- you with a sniper rifle, one bullet, and only Jar Jar between you and a shitty trilogy ending for all time.

Lauren: No! Well, yes. Well, I mostly want this because I think that turning something functional and potentially violent into pretty jewelry is nifty, and also you can't prove that I've been playing so much Halo: Reach just to practice my sniper skills. Also, no jury of my peers would convict me (unless they were 6-year olds, and this is precisely why we don't let 6-year olds sit for jury duty).



Thing #2


high on stress shirt

Adam: Are you saying you're stressed, Lauren? Is that a jab at our working relationship? Do I stress you? Are you stressing at me? Are you? Because I don't see anyone else here.

Lauren: I like to think that I'm not stressing at you, but rather with you. There is no "I" in "Oh fuckcakes, when were we supposed to have that done?"



Thing #3


steampunk controller shirtsteampunk controller shirt back panel

Adam: The steampunk controller is pretty cool, but looks like it would hurt your thumbs. Why do you want to make people hurt their thumbs, Lauren? WHY?

Lauren: I'd rather people hurt their thumbs than have to live without video games merely for having been born in the Victorian era. Also this shirt has a bit of design on the back as well as the front! Comprehensive use of the whole t-shirt canvas is important to me.



Thing #4


batgirl shirt

Adam: I 100% approve of this. Just, you know, watch out for really pale men in Hawaiian shirts knocking on your door late at night, 'k Babs?

Lauren: I always do! (A good friend of mine taught me that much.) Just to be clear, you mean this guy, right?



Thing #5


vintage-inspired jewelry with stylized bees

Adam: I can not approve of this. It is not a real bee. I thought, perhaps, it was a real bee. Cast in metal. Cast down! But no. It is a wireframe bee. A faux bee. Which is close to a Flow-Bee. Which is even worse. So no. I do not know why you would want a flow-bee. Perhaps you like Tron?

Lauren: No no, I want this jewelry because when I'm wearing it, people who want to flirt with me can say, "I like my women like I like my coffee -- covered in bees!" And also because I love bees.



Thing #6


floral print silk purse with wooden handles

Adam: I enjoy how the handles look like wooden mustaches. I just thought I would throw that out there so that if you ever got this bag you would forever think it. I say things like that because I care, Lauren. But as to why you want it, well, that much is obvious. But I will tell you right now you're wrong. You can not smuggle kittens in that bag.

Lauren: I don't think there has ever been a mustachioed purse, ever, in the entire existence of the Universe, that has been more suited to smuggling kittens. C'mon, they could keep themselves entertained by playing with the beaded tassels! Don't you try to ruin my most-adorable-ever smuggling ring.



Thing #7


authentic and delicious shirt

Adam: Oh great. I know you want this because you think it will go with your steampunk corset and jodhpurs. However, it will also end with far too many people asking to taste. And your baseball bat arm will get tired. Just a thought. Respect the swinging arm.

Lauren: But you forget, I will have a tortuous yet intriguing game controller with me. When people start to ask for tastes, I distract them with the controller and then their thumbs are bleeding too much for them to think about saying inappropriate things.



Thing #8


magnetic star ring

Adam: You want this ring because it symbolizes both Captain Planet and Jem for you, at the same time. Bravo.

Lauren: ....Well now that you mention it, yes. This ring is clearly From The '80s, and therefore fabulous. Radical. Tubular?



Thing #9


pixelated dino shirt

Adam: So are pixel fossils from 8-bit game monsters? Are you a video game archeologist? 8-bit-ana Jones? Wow, that line was bad enough I won't snark at this shirt. Sorry. Next.

Lauren: First off, this shirt has a glow-in-the-dark pixelated T-rex on it, you shouldn't snark at it anyway. Secondly, check out those tiny little glow-in-the-dark pixely T-rex arms! They're so vestigial and becoming! I think that's a trend that genetics should bring back.



Thing #10


star-crossed merpeople shirt

Adam: Look, Lauren, I know you liked Finding Nemo, mmmkay, but this is a sickness. Stop getting your fishpron on. It's upsetting. And it makes us wonder about lobster suits and raise eyebrows.

Lauren: It's clearly not fishpron, it's tragic, star-crossed merpeople lurve! I hope that by next month you'll have grown enough, heartwise, to realize the value in unbees, cute contraband, and emo merpeople.


And so, with a challenge issued and sleep to be had, we leave you each on your own in the consumer-Internet wilderness for another month! Be brave out there, intrepid readers!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

guest post on Ginger Lemon Girl

During all the hubbub of September, I completely forgot to mention: A cookie recipe of mine appeared last month as a guest post on Ginger Lemon Girl, a guilt-free, gluten-free cooking blog! My lemon-lavender-almond cookies, moist & chewy with almond meal, really lend themselves to being made gluten free, so I reworked the recipe for Carrie & her friendly readers. (I also made the baking instructions less rambly, 'cause, guys, I tend to go on a bit. Perhaps you've noticed?) Check out the resulting version of the recipe here:

Gluten-Free Lemon-Almond-Lavender Cookies

lemon lavender almond cookies, photo (and cookies) by Lauren Vogelbaum

Saturday, October 2, 2010

creature comforts in Boston

New job has been full of learning curves! Thrilling, anxiety-inducing, curly-wurly learning curves. But it's also been full of friendly, nerdly people, being encouraged to tweet for fun & profit, and a trip to Boston during which the aforementioned nice people introduced me to restaurants with delicious foods.


My first night in town, after a ridiculously long day of travel/office shenanigans, extraface, @rubicantekid, and I grabbed pre-collapse dinner at Chutney's, which lives in a tiny food court space in The Garage on Harvard Square. It's an Indian fast-food sandwich shop -- like Subway (a franchise of which the owner also runs), except the breads you choose from include naan, roti, and paratha, the components you choose from include aloo chana, basmati rice, lamb kabob, and chicken tikka, and I've never been offered tamarind chutney at a Subway. I got the paneer tikka with rice, tomato, cucumber, and mint & tamarind chutneys on naan. They smooshed the ingredients inside the naan and then toasted the whole thing in a panini press, and it was near-terrifyingly unabashed comfort/junk food, the textures all gradients of soft and the flavors warm & savory-sweet with just a touch of heat. I very much recommend the place to hungry students and weary travelers.


The following night, with a bit more planning & wherewithal, extraface, Ian, and I headed to Central Kitchen in Cambridge on Central Square. Tucked into a space no larger than Brick Store minus the Belgian Bar, Central Kitchen's cozily dim tables and short, seasonal menu of increasingly intriguing comfort foods made me feel instantly at home. The craft cocktail list, beginning with the old-standard Aviation, helped too. My Tom Collins concocted with house-made rosemary simple syrup was somehow refreshing and savory at the same time in a way that was lovely rather than conflicting.

For food, Ian and I shared a daily-special appetizer of spreadably soft, creamy chicken livers with rich balsamic gravy and a kick of sweet & sour cooked berryish things (currents, maybe?) over soft, just-caramelized toast -- which was pretty much transcendental. Dave had the cocktail shrimp, which were elegantly presented and reportedly delicious. My entree of seafood bouillabaisse was a tad bit salty, but the squid, mussels, and clams were all perfectly chewy-tender, and the cod, shrimp, tomatoes, and saffron conspired to make the broth both bright & rich. We tried two of the desserts -- a baked chocolate pudding that was nearly sensory overload (think solid, spoonable hot chocolate) and a deceptively simple butter cake with berry sauce (like a warmer, denser berry shortcake). I absolutely recommend Central Kitchen to gastro-geeks.


Let me know if there's anywhere in particular I need to go the next time I'm up Boston-way!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

steam-powered influenza, book projects, and employment

Oh my, I still have a blog. It didn't die while I was gone like my mint plant did.

I have been busy the past couple weeks with: going to DragonCon, having the flu, helping Adam Knave finish his new compilation of essays and fiction, getting a new job, quitting my old job, and blatantly ignoring this blog. Not necessarily in that order.

Details!

DragonCon: For those who've never been, it's basically Nerdi Gras in downtown Atlanta. Pop culture celebrities and fans attend, the latter dress up in elaborate costumes, and everyone dranks and giggles. The big trend o' the year was steampunk everything, and nothing quite working out how I wanted it to with the exception of some excellent peanut butter sandwiches. I have no pictures! Except of how someone modded the elevator buttons in the Marriott Marquis:



The flu: Is lame.

Adam's new book: I Slept With Your Imaginary Friend is a compilation of essays and fiction -- some from the Intarwebs and some written fresh for this publication -- that, like DragonCon, is all about the pop culture of our lives. But it's a lot more hygienic than DragonCon, and there are no German ladies named Ilka in it who will try to sell you corsets. This is what the cover will look like:



New job: Despite my dropping the f-bomb within the first 3 seconds of my first interview, these nice people hired me on to be a Writer/Strategist for their content team, which basically means that I'll be writing some blog copy, wrangling some freelancers, helping companies that don't know how to Internet Internet better, and, um, doin' some other stuff. It's a shiny-new position, so none of us are entirely sure what it'll entail aside from my generally making myself useful in a geeky way. Which is pretty much what I live to do, so, yay!

Old job: I've been editing rheumatology manuscripts for the past 4 years and I'm really not going to miss that part at all, but I will miss my coworkers. If you're one of them, you should comment/email and let me know how we can keep in touch! (And no, they're not letting me keep the lobster suit. NOT THAT I'VE ASKED.)

Blog: Holy whoa I just wrote some words and will now upload them. And I anticipate repeating the process in the near future! I bet it's what you never expected, which is, apparently, how the upstanding fellows in this video feel about being On A Blimp.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mockingjay and Top Flr

Just picked up my long-awaited copy of Mockingjay, the third and final book in the YA Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins! Along with a keychain so's I can properly advertise my dorkiness (since Scholastic has, for some reason, decided not to cash in on the pins they're making but rather to offer them only as prizes and student incentives).*

Please note that I'm being responsible and doing the writing/editing I've promised to finish tonight and tomorrow, and that I'll bloody well put an arrow through the pig of anyone who spoils me before I get a chance to read this thing. ^____^




In quick food updates, I had dinner at Top Flr last night -- they do a $15 3-course prix fix on Mondays, and you should really go the next time you've got a Monday evening free.

Last night, the first course was a salad of peppery-green arugula with sweet slivers of dried fig, heat from slices of pepperocini, bright cherry tomato halves, creamy-sharp parmaggiano flakes, and a bare, tart lemony dressing to bind the lot together.

The second course was an option of a crumbled chorizo, jalapeño, onion, and arugula flatbread or a seared scallop with a warm, Asian-inspired salad of kale, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, celery, onion, and octopus. The flatbread was tasty in a distinctly late-night-college-snack sort of way, but the scallop dish was really delightful -- the sugared soy & sesame dressing playing against the bitter of the vegetables and the sweetness of the tomatoes and seafood, and both the scallop and octopus cooked to tender-chewy excellence.

The third course was an option of a chocolate ganache tart, which I didn't try, or a coconut bread pudding with a spiced sauce and carmelized sliced bananas. Though I didn't detect much coconut in the bread pudding, the dessert was warming and lovely, not too sweet and slightly strange for the Indian-inspired heat of the sauce. Fans of chilies + chocolate should be on the lookout for this one.

For $15 it was a light dinner (dessert doesn't count as filling. Hungry diners might want to order a pre-prix fix snack), but an excellent value for the experience of such playful flavors. Service was polite and attentive, but the kitchen didn't seem to be in a rush to get the courses out -- I would reserve Top Flr for a night that you don't have a schedule to keep. And I feel obligated to mention feeling a little foppish when the price of my dinner nearly doubled upon ordering a cocktail -- which was terrific, something they're calling A Sordid Affair: smoky Scorpion Blanco mezcal tequila, bittersweet Cynar artichoke liquor, spicy black peppercorn simple syrup, bright blackberries, and a squeeze of balancing citrus, served over ice with a straw for sipping and a pretty circle of lime set against the interior of the glass. But yeah, I'm just sayin' -- even with the prix fix in hand, Top Flr isn't tight-budget friendly. Which is okay sometimes! I'll definitely be back to try the regular menu and more of the cocktails. Let me know what's best there if you've been before.


* Scholastic, won't you please let me give you cash monies for a Mockingjay pin? I approve of ALSO using them as prizes and student incentives, and I'll make one myself out of the aforementioned keychain, but you're making fandom difficult, here.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

an art commission for a grammarmonkey

Take a gander at my shiny new okay not new anymore but I keep forgetting to post about it, so old-but-still-newsworthy graphical representation of my grammarmonkey self:


an angry grammarmonkey

It was drawn for me on commission by one Mr. Eric Clausen for just 30 bucks, careful shipping included, as part of his Drawings for 30 Bucks fundraiser for the surgery he needed after a bike accident earlier this year. Eric's all surgeried up now but still accepting commissions because, undaunted by mere physical injury and suffering, he's planning on biking and drawing his way across America and would like to be able to eat while he's doing it. And since commissioning a drawing is as simple as posting a request to his Facebook wall, I recommend doing that. (I was super unspecific about what he should draw for me and I heart what his imagination came up with, so I especially recommend just sorta setting him loose on a prompt.)

And if you've got any gandering left in you, take one at Eric's page on Kickstarter -- he's already met his goal (yay!) but could probably stand to have a few extra dollars sitting around, and his incentives include hand-drawn postcards from the road(side) and personal hangouts during which he'll draw your portrait and eat your food. So if you're looking to toss less or more than 30 bucks at him and still get something nifty in return, that is a highly possible thing.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Spanish pigs and Georgian burgers

I'm finally getting out to The Iberian Pig for dinner tonight, and hopefully I'll have the wherewithal post-dinner but pre–food coma to jot down some notes to share with y'all. For a person who's insisted on vegetarian meals all week, I'm fairly ridiculously excited about trying as many different preparations of pork as possible in one sitting.

Part of my recent vegetarianism has been penitence due to my visit to Farm Burger last week. It wasn't any one thing that pushed the meal into a hedonistic experience, but rather the combination of a few bites each of the fried chickpeas (non-breaded, prepared in their papery shells with a dusting of salt like significantly heavier edamame -- interesting but too raw-crunchy for my liking), fried chicken livers (the size and shape of the richest-ever chicken nuggets with a sweet, thin mustard sauce for dipping -- highly recommended), beer-battered onion rings (the ultimate kind, with an even ratio of crisp breading clinging to thick cuts of sweet onion), sweet potato fries (a bit bland and soft compared with the other sides), French-fried potatoes (also on the soft side, but that's a good thing with such lovely hand-cut potatoes 'cause it allows the potatoes' earthy flavor to emanate), the smoked paprika mayo for dipping (a bit too creamy but with excellent smokey flavor), a glass of Terrapin Hop Karma IPA (a peppery and rich brown ale/IPA collision), and my No. 3 burger with à la Grecque mushrooms and onions, gruyere, and arugula. The burger was cooked a perfect, pink medium with an excellent outer char, the bun was soft and squishy but boasted a similarly delightful caramelized char on the inside, and though the mushrooms and onions were a bit too vinegary for my tastes, they sure did provide a needed cut to all the fatty flavors.

I'll be sure to go back to try their veggie quinoa burger, their floats (hibiscus + cinnamon? vanilla porter? yes pls), and more of their toppings (I'm plotting a Ludicrously Expensive Burger: their beef patty topped with roasted bone marrow, aged smoked gouda, arugula, and thick-sliced heirloom tomato). If you beat me to it, tell me how everything was!

Pro-tip: I went on a Thursday and the place was slammed at first but cleared out after 8:30 or so, leaving lots of elbow room and a friendly-if-slightly-punchy staff. So aim to arrive around then if you dislike crowds.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Concentrics' swank Summer Swag

Just a quick clue-in for any Atlanta eaters on a budget who haven't heard: For the rest of the month of August, you can get 50% off at any of the Concentrics restaurants (up to a $25 discount everywhere but Bakeshop, which offers a discount up to $10) simply by going to their site and either printing this Summer Swag flyer or downloading it to your phone.

The Concentrics group encompasses One Midtown Kitchen, Two Urban Licks, Murphy's, Parish, Bakeshop, TAP, Room at Twelve, and Lobby Bar & Bistro. If, like me, you're on something of an unofficial mission to eat at every restaurant and pub in the city, this is a good opportunity/excuse/Jedi mind trick to try a few out at a relatively low dollar-risk.

Of the Concentrics lot, I've only ever been to One Midtown Kitchen and Two Urban Licks (and the now-defunct Trois), which have offered experiences that were intriguing if not always precisely solid. I've found that all three provided better cocktails and small plates overall than entrees -- if you're into the craft cocktail scene and sharing dishes with your dining mates, I'd hazard to say that you'll be pleased with any of Concentrics' offerings.

Of One and Two, I personally recommend One Midtown Kitchen for being a bit more laid back and pared down. The space and staff have this particular calm & collected kind of eccentric-artist vibe to them that compliments the poshly understated menu. If you go, ask the knowledgeable, friendly waitstaff for opinions and recommendations on the ever-changing offerings -- but definitely try the house-made charcuterie. The bizarre-sounding but delectably spiced chocolate-jalapeño pork sausage is one of my favorite cured meats in town. And their seasonal cocktails are blissful -- boozy, balanced, and none too sweet.

Two Urban Licks is a more hyperactive sort of posh: all bright lights, bold colors, big noises, flashy food, and glitzy people. I feel like it's designed to be sensory overload -- the exhausting sort of [dinner] party. Try their house-infused cocktails -- they've always got some strange, sassy thing brewing.

And if you get out to any of the other Concentrics places, let me know how they are! With such an awesome deal going, I can nearly guarantee that by the end of the month, I'll be able to compare notes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Popgun, Fierce Fun, and Twithulhu

Hey, so congratulations to D. J. Kirkbride, Adam P. Knave, and lots of other people who I'm not friends with (yet?!) who worked on Image comics' Popgun Volume 3 for winning a freakin' Eisner award this past weekend. (All I did this weekend was throw a party, discover what's potentially a watermelon plant growing in the middle of the front lawn, and fail at making creme caramel. I feel relatively unproductive.) This is what the cover of Popgun Volume 3 (with art by Tara McPherson) looks like:

popgun volume 3 cover

And this is what a link to a place where you can purchase it looks like:

Holy whoa, a link!



I've been busy these past couple weeks working with Adam on his upcoming book, I Slept With Your Imaginary Friend, which'll be a compilation of essays and short fiction. And on a few different projects with Fierce Fun Toys, which is growing and learning and sneezing and hiccuping and, yes, still occasionally farting.


Oh, and Adam & I did another episode of Consumerism WOW, hosted on his blog this month:

Thing #2



Lauren: I… I don’t want any of the Elder Gods using Twitter. It’s bad enough as it is! I mean. ReTweets and pronfollows and foursquare are enough to drive anyone mad already. Are you one of Twithulhu’s cultists? Is that why you want this shirt? Fess up.

Adam: Cultist is such a strong word. We prefer “Empire-Building Joy Minion” these days. Besides when Twithulhu comes and devours the souls of everyone on twitter who will notice?


Click through to Adam's blog to see the rest! [The Twithulhu shirt is a special edition that might disappear forever at the end of July, so order one now if you like it! And order this one in medium if you're getting one for me. (Merely a suggestion!)]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

review: siggi's pomegranate & passion fruit skyr yogurt

A quick sequel to my review of siggi's orange & ginger skyr yogurt:siggi's pomegranate passion fruit skyr yogurt container

I tried a cup of siggi's pomegranate & passion fruit flavor, which has a gram more sugar than the orange & ginger flavor (bringing it to a still-teensy 11 grams total) but just as much protein (a Juggernauty 16 grams). For that one gram of additional sugar and a lack of woody ginger bits, the pomegranate & passion fruit skyr is much less aggressive and more to my tastes than the orange & ginger was. The sour of the fruits in this one blend just perfectly with the (still quite strong!) sour of the yogurt.

The passion fruit is the more forward of the two fruit flavors, and it's very bright on the tongue. (The taste reminds me -- and forgive me this analogue, I blame the '80s -- of the scent of Hawaiian Punch.) That brightness compliments the thickness of the yogurt, making it feel a bit lighter than the orange & ginger did. Not having any bits or pieces of fruit mixed in with the yogurt helps as well, allowing a creamy mouthfeel. (Pro-tip: If you find this yogurt grainy when you first open it, let it sit out for ten minutes or so. As it warms up, the milk solids relax and it becomes more smooth.)

Overall, the orange & ginger flavor reminded me of something sturdy. Like drywall. The pomegranate & passion fruit is much more friendly -- more luxurious [and for $2.50 or more per cup, I want to be pampered, not spanked (personal preference)] and dangerously seductive, budgetarily speaking -- I'm going to be craving these bright flavors again soon. If you're going to plunk down the cash to try siggi's, I'd highly recommend this flavor.

Friday, July 16, 2010

kickstarter and cobbler

My musically inclined friend Juliana, who also blogs at write.play.repeat. and Bear & Honey's Clueless To-Do List, is working on 2 new albums! They're going to be seasonally themed sorts of things, which -- I tell you in case you're unaware that Juliana is an incarnate of Mama Nature via a) the 80s and b) the Internet -- is highly appropriate.

Juliana Finch in Piedmont Park
She's using the faboo Kickstarter.com to raise funds, and you should toss monies her way 'cause I really want to hear what she's working on. Erm. And for other, less monkey-serving purposes as well (I guess), like "advancing the arts" or "I want advance-release copies of the albums and/or an in-home concert for myself." You can sample and purchase her previous EP and LP on CD Baby (I particularly recommend "Rattlesnake" from How to Take the Fall), though donating 25 bux on Kickstarter will earn you both of those AND both of the new albums once she's all funded and finished. Just sayin'.


In baking news, I've been making all the cobbler lately -- cherry, blackberry, and peach in just the past two weeks. I think the peach was the most successful -- I grated a maybe 1/4 tsp of nutmeg over the peaches and added maybe 1/2 tsp of vanilla extract while they were mascerating, and yeah. Heavenly.

peach cobbler, with a biscuit in the shape of a star
I've been using a bottom crust from smittenkitchen's apple tart and a biscuit topping (with hard-boiled egg yolks instead of raw!) from her rhubarb cobbler. My only advice if you try this is to prepare a LOT of fruit -- ~3 quarts of cherries, blackberries, or other things that come in quarts, or at least 10 peaches or other pieces of single-serving fruit. Just mascerate whatever fruit you're using in 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar (depending on the natural sweetness of the fruit) while your crust & biscuits are chilling, then assemble, bake, and feel like a rockstar.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

recipes: lemon curd and a mango-blackberry tart

Did I mention that I have the best (if slightly self-serving) group of friends ever in the whole Universe?

This was my birthday present. (Thank you, friends!) Having it makes me unafraid of pastry dough for the first time ever, and being unafraid of pastry dough makes it necessary for me to stock lemon curd.

If you've never had lemon curd, it's a bit like a tart citrus version of apple butter -- or like a creamy marmalade minus the bits of rind. It plays with sour-sweet flavors, has a pudding-smooth texture, and is terrific as a spread on toast, waffles, pancakes, muffins, or other breakfast/brunch baked goods -- or it can be used as a filling or glaze for cakes, cupcakes, or dessert pastry. I love tart flavors and generally prefer less sweet desserts, so I think it should be used in all of the above pretty much all the time.

I made a batch of lemon curd a couple weeks ago, meaning to spread a layer of it atop the crust and beneath the fruit (i.e., mascerated mangoes and fresh blackberries) in a pastry based on smitten kitchen's simplest apple tart.* In my pastry-assembling excitement I completely forgot to put the lemon curd in, but I melted 2 tablespoons of lemon curd plus 1 tablespoon of butter to brush over the crust & filling instead of just butter, which worked wonderfully. It was so successful, in fact, that I also forgot to take any pictures of it. I fail as a food pr0nographer.

Lemon Curd
Adapted from Haalo of Cook [Almost] Anything at Least Once, who got it from Stephanie Alexander.
Makes ~12 oz. of lemon curd


INGREDIENTS

4 egg yolks
3/4 cup (150 grams) white granulated sugar, the finer-grained the better (but plain ol' sugar is okay too)

5 tbsp butter (70 grams)
7 tbsp lemon juice (~3.4 oz., or 100 mls, or ~3 lemons' worth)

METHOD

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl and blend on medium-high speed for 3 minutes, until the mixture has lightened to a cream color.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan on medium-low heat, then add the lemon juice and stir to combine. Stir a couple tablespoons of the hot liquid into the yolk & sugar mixture to temper it, then add the yolks & sugar to the saucepan. Whisk constantly until the mixture just reaches a boil (~10 minutes or so, depending on how hot your stove runs), at which point the lemon curd will thicken sort of drastically and separate a bit, turning a brighter yellow underneath a layer of cream/foam.

If you happen to have the equipment and wherewithal to sterilize and seal jars, you could jar the lemon curd and store it at room temperature for up to 3 months until opened, at which point it should be kept in the fridge (for up to 4 weeks). If, like me, you're better with Tupperware than boiled glass, just seal it up and pop it straight into the fridge. It'll need to sit awhile to set to its proper, jellylike firmness.

I plan to experiment with making all sorts of other fruit curds using this recipe by simply swapping out the juice and adjusting the sugar content -- if you happen to try making any other flavors, let me know how it goes!


*Simpleish Mango & Blackberry Tart
Adapted from Deb of smitten kitchen, who got it from Alice Waters.
Serves 6-8


Follow Deb's excellent instructions on making and refrigerating the tart's crust. In addition to that, you'll need:

INGREDIENTS

4 large red/green mangoes (or ~8 smaller yellow [champagne] mangoes)
1/3 cup white granulated sugar (I'd try less, maybe 1/4 cup, with the yellow mangoes)
At least a half-pint of blackberries (or your other berry of choice)
~4 tbsp prepared lemon curd (optional)

2 tbsp butter (or 1 tbsp butter + 1 tbsp lemon curd)
2 tbsp turbinado/raw granulated sugar (optional but very pretty -- white sugar would work fine too)

METHOD

While the crust is chilling, cut your mangoes into cubes, and stir your sugar into the cubes. Let the cubes sit for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally to redistribute the mango in the syrup. This is called masceration, and it'll help break down the stringiness of the mango and work some of the moisture out of fruit so that you don't wind up with an overly soggy pastry crust.

Once the mango is mascerating, rinse and dry a pint of blackberries. You could also use blueberries, or slice some strawberries into vertical quarters -- use whatever's ripe and sweet and readily available. (You may end up only using a half-pint, so if you're on a budget you could buy less berries -- I just like having extra around to make up for inevitable berry loss due to over-ripeness and snacking.)

When the pastry dough is chilled and the mangoes are mascerated, get out two clean bowls. Use one to drain the mango syrup into (through a fine mesh sieve if you've got a big one, or through a pasta strainer or even a slotted spoon in a pinch) and the second to hold the drained mango pieces. Butter and flour an ~9-inch tart or pie pan (with a removable bottom, preferably), and roll the dough out to ~4 inches in diameter larger than your pan. (I always get lazy when I'm rolling dough out, but you want to roll it enough so it'll come up over the sides of the pan by at least an inch.) Drape the dough into the pan, gently tucking it down into the corners of the pan and letting the edges hang over the sides. Get your oven heating to 400 F.

If you've made a batch of lemon curd, try spreading maybe 4 tablespoons across the crust with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Arrange the mango pieces evenly in the crust -- it's okay if you don't have quite enough to fill it. (If you didn't use the lemon curd, you could use a couple tablespoons of the mango syrup to help fill in any gaps.) Spangle the tart with the berries, then fold the loose edges of the crust over the filling. It doesn't need to look perfect -- rustic and tasty is what you're going for with this thing.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter (or 1 tablespoon each of butter and lemon curd) and spread it over the edges of the crust and the top of the fruit with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sugar over the crust if you wanna make it extra pretty.

Pop the tart in the oven for 30 minutes, coming back to rotate it every 10 minutes to ensure even browning. Mango and berries don't need all that long to bake, so really you're just looking for the filling to be bubbly and the crust to reach a nice, rich golden brown. Once it's out, let it cool for 5-10 minutes, then slice and serve -- whip cream wouldn't go awry with it, but I think it stands really well on its own. If you happen to have any left over, wrap it loosely and refrigerate it. It should keep for 2 to 3 days.

Friday, June 25, 2010

romance, knives, and one particular parasol

Two books I've managed to cross off my reading list lately:

If you read Ellen Kushner's Privilege of the Sword like I told you to, I just wanted to remind you that you might want to go back and read Swordspoint if you haven't done that -- or jump ahead and order a copy of Kushner's short followup story to Privilege, "The Man with the Knives". It's being sold, via mailed request only, as a limited-edition paperback chapbook sort of thing for $20 including shipping, is printed on paper that's gorgeous to the touch, and comes with a folded bit of artwork by Thomas Canty. Kushner's use of the language in this short is just as decadent as its presentation, making the story, altogether, a pleasure to read. However, if Privilege was double chocolate chip cookies? "The Man with the Knives" is lemonade that no one's told you is being served add-your-own-sweetener style. The sugar bowl is right there, but you might find yourself cursing at the cook after your first big glug.


A book which I didn't curse at even once is Gail Carriger's Soulless, the first in her Parasol Protectorate series. But I did giggle at it a lot. Or with it, rather, because although it’s a book about people who take themselves Victorian levels of seriously (i.e., Seriously with a capital “S” and, probably, multiple layers of undergarments), Soulless is in it for the romp. And it's a wondermous romp, featuring all the nude werewolves, gay vampires, daring escapes, and canoodling that I've come to expect & adore in urban fantasy/romance -- just, the "urban" is an alternate-history 19th century London. Which is really just an excuse for added hilarity and fabulousity, assuming that you're as amused and impressed by comedies of errors, bustles, and dirigibles as I am. The plot and characters tend to be a bit predictable in this book, but that's not preventing me from craving the second one in the series. (It doesn't hurt that someone or something in the book is at least as obsessed with cephalopods as I am. Go Team Cephalopod!)


Loosely relatedly (erm, to urban fantasy, not cephalopods), and not to criticize Soulless for what it is but as an open question to all authors & consumers of supernatural romance at large: Why is it that there aren’t any books in popular circulation in which the female lead is the ancient beastie and the male lead is the human ingénue who catches her interest?

If such books do exist and I just don’t know about them, please enlighten me! But, assuming there aren't, I figure it’s a combination of it being more simple/fun to tell a story through the eyes of the person who'll be most like the readers -- a human and a n00b who’ll need the supernatural parts explained -- and of age and gender stereotypes indicating that the man should be the older, more powerful party in the relationship.

But I wanna hear your opinion! Would you want to read a story about Civil War-era vampire Sookie moving back to her hometown and falling for the psychic boy next door? Or, say, assuming that Darla and Angel were interesting characters, about Darla’s decision that Liam was a person she wanted to chat up eternally?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

#yogurtpost

So I get this e-mail from a nice lady claiming to have read my review of siggi's yogurt (an unverified claim, but likely) and to be from the Associated Press (which she actually is, I checked. On Google). And she asks if I'd like to talk with her about yogurt. I like yogurt and I like talking, and that's how I came to be quoted in an AP article with a doubleplusgood pun in its title: Yogurt crosses cultures with new styles, imports.

I feel like I should provide you with some new yogurt news now as so to uphold my status as public yogurt expert, but really most of my yogurt opinions these days orbit around my finding everything from StonyField Farms awesomely inexpensive & worthwhile and everything from everywhere else shades of acceptable to inedible. My current obsession is with StonyField's Lowfat Plain yogurt. Very lowfat (2g fat, 1.5 saturated) and yet very tasty plain! No honey or other additions necessary! (Though it sure is berry season, and fresh berries are most excellent in yogurt.) I just wish that more (read: any) of my local stores carried Lowfat Plain more regularly.

Have you made any yogurt discoveries since the last time we talked about my favorite breakfast quick-breakfast-so-I-don't-eat-anyone's-face food?

Friday, June 11, 2010

review: Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams

One of the members of the organization that I work for sends our staff the most excellent foodpresent ever twice a year: several pints of ice cream from Jeni's, a company out of Columbus, Ohio (his hometown) that ships their treats throughout the US for those of us unlucky enough to be out of range of their Ohio shops or the few schmancy markets they sell pints through.*

With a focus on local, seasonal, whimsical, and responsibly-raised ingredients, Jeni's makes 15 signature (standard catalog) flavors and also has an ever rotating, ever dreamy line of seasonal flavors. Which are so seasonal that in the past week that it's taken me to pull this post together, one has vanished from their sales list and the other is going to be switched out this Friday. So if those seasonal flavors interest you, consider ordering nowish! Some of Jeni's flavors seem more like experiments in oddity than earnest desserts, but I've never, ever had one that I regretted trying -- or one that I didn't go back for a second helping of.


Seasonal flavors, available for a limited time:

Savannah Buttermint is so creamily rich that it's more like a custard than an ice cream. But the sharp, perfect mint makes it refreshing and light on the tongue. Tiny flecks of frozen white chocolate provide that bit of crunch that I love in mint ice cream. For me, having liked mint chocolate chip best when I was a kid, this one is comforting, homey -- like iced tea sipped under fans on the front porch. I'd want to serve this one plain, in little glass ice cream dishes with sprigs of fresh-picked mint topping each perfect scoop. This one is possibly only available through today, 6/11/10, so make the ordering happen if you need to try it!

Meyer Lemon Blueberry Yogurt is as tart as a sorbet -- so tart that the creaminess doesn't even register as anything except smooth. The small, dense, near-gummilike blueberries provide a sweet respite from the lemon. I'll be craving this one the next time I'm hot. I feel like anything sweet it was paired with would be overpowered by the tartness, but I might try a bit with something simple like angel food cake, pound cake, or shortbread.

Rhubarb Rosé carries a whiff of booze up front and a full-mouthed winey funk at the back, sandwiching a bite of sweet cream & tangy rhubarb. Tiny bits of frozen rhubarb provide occasional, near-crunchy texture. The total effect is relatively mild and subtle -- I'm pretty sure this flavor could pass for strawberry if you weren't paying much attention. Probably best eaten on its own as so to appreciate the flavors -- unless you were going to serve it over a rhubarb crumble or pie. It's not one of my favorite flavors, but it'd be lovely as the finish to a summer back-porch picnic. Erm, next year... this flavor has disappeared already!


Standard catalog flavors, available year-round:

Salty Caramel tastes simply like the perfect bite of rich, roasty, lightly salted caramel -- just in colder, melty-er, creamier form. Though it's too plain for me on its own, a scoop of it would make a warm, chewy brownie (or a thick pour of hot fudge) pretty much the best thing ever.

Mackenzie Creamery Goat Cheese with Roasted Red Cherries is sophisticated with its deep twinge of savory goaty flavor -- like cherry cheesecake all grown up. The cherries are dense and chewy, bright and tart. This one feels like a cheese course in a pint, or like something you'd find at a gastropub. I'd serve this on its own, or possibly in a glass of Guinness as a float.

Thai Chili (newly renamed Bangkok Peanut) is a divisive flavor -- though roasty peanut & fruity coconut are definitely dessertlike, their combination with the sharp chili heat that hits way at the back of each bite of this ice cream is so unusual for a sweet that it's either loved or hated. I love it. If you can forgive that it replicates Thai entrée sauces a little too closely, you'll love the custardy creaminess and fine texture from bits of coconut, too, and might become just a little addicted to cooling the tongue-burning aftertaste of this ice cream with another spoonful in a vicious delicious circle.

[I've tried a bunch of their other flavors in the past, but wanted to report only on what I've had recently -- if you're particularly curious about anything, just ask!]


A note about ordering: These ice creams aren't cheap, and shipping ice cream near midsummer is similarly not inexpensive. Prices start at $48 for your choice of 4 flavors, and shipping starts at $10 on top of that. (That works out to $14.50 per pint, assuming you're not in a more expensive shipping area. Cheaper-in-the-long-run options include $68 for your choice of 6 flavors plus shipping [$13 per pint] or $85 for 9 set flavors [$10.55 per pint].) So, this stuff is kind of a crazy treat. But crazy-wonderful.

* I almost forgot to mention! Here in Atlanta, Star Provisions is supposedly selling several of Jeni's standard-catalog flavors now -- if you go and look, let me know what you find!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

reading list: summer '10

I have this problem where I can't help buying discounted books that look really interesting. It's a combination of wanting to read everything, having a secret hope of one day possessing a library with tall rolling ladders and padded leather armchairs to contrast with all my tattered paperback SF, not having all that much disposable income but feeling like it's okay to spend a little if I'm getting a deal, and thinking of discounted books like they're discounted puppies -- oh they are so cute I know I can't save all of them but can't I take just a few?? Books need love too.

Which is how I end up like this:

My reading list. Holding me hostage.

But of course, that's not enough books. I'm also embroiled in no less than 4 pop urban (or, in one case, rural) fantasy series, which I alternately beg from the library, borrow from friends, or order from the UK 'cause it takes how long?? for them to be published here and I need them sooner than that.

So, yes. In addition to the books pictured above and a few stray issues of comics that I at some point purchased and promptly forgot about, I've also got on my list: Turn Coat, from the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher (who, in addition to the great humor he's always given the series, learns to write by the fifth or sixth book, and is a rare SF author who doesn't look down on geeks 'cause he is one), The Naming of the Beasts, from the Felix Castor series by Mike Carey (much grittier wizard noir than the Dresden series, reviewed here), and The Lunatic Café, from the Anita Blake series by Laurell K. Hamilton (don't judge me, I like vampire pr0n and earning the right to be indignant about poor writing). Usually there'd also be a book from the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris on that list, but I just this past Saturday read Dead in the Family, and the next one hasn't been announced yet. (Harris is the Paula Dean of modern fantasy -- an unabashedly Southern-voiced & pervy-minded purveyor of things you know are bad for you that you'll devour anyway.)

Um, also? Every time I read an issue of Publishers Weekly (i.e., once a week), I'm moved to add a few new or old books to my Amazon booklist.

What I'm actually reading right now is... well, I'm between books, so technically nothing. But my copy of The Man with the Knives by Ellen Kushner just came in last week, so I think I'm gonna go for that.

So! What're you reading right now -- and do you have a backlog of books? Also, because I'm a reading-list masochist, you should give me recommendations for anything you think I'd dig.