Saturday, November 28, 2009


it's called beer:30 "because it's always time for beer" and it's in hideous purple cans.

"Smells like freshman year. Cooked corn and cereal grains. Reminds me of sexual interaction with questionable looking girls, projectile vomit, and passing out, only to wake up with penises drawn all over any exposed skin. It's the typical light lager smell."


i love reading beer reviews written like wine reviews
it's not that i don't get it, because i do. it still strikes me as silly though. maybe not silly. frivolous.
it makes perfect sense to me to write about them the same way
but I don't really drink beer
oh, no, i mean from a technical standpoint they are very similar
and all the effort that goes into them warrants attention

it's a tough craft

but at the same time, i wonder if people would really enjoy a beer less if they didn't know its relative gravity

it's like people that get way too into fantasy sports teams and tracking stats and forget to watch the game for what it is
that's a very poignant point
but i suppose than other people revel in the little details more than i do. parts versus whole
it reminds me of a book written about brown bag wine trials. they took hundreds of wines from a full spectrum of price ranges, hid the labels, and had truly blind reviews. and it was hysterical what placed higher
my favorite wine is $8

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Potluck Grocery Night

The way Molly Wizenberg wrote about mayonnaise in Bon Appetit was mesmerizing. So mesmerizing in fact that I went out and got her book, A Homemade Life, for some good subway reading. Her book may be as delightful as her articles, but I was left with one major life annoyance trying to relate to her life. Over the course of her book she cooks through several stints through Paris with chums, discusses friends bringing over adventurous new dishes and has a bi-coastal romance inspired by food. In short - she seems to have spent her life as nearly a member of a foodie gang.

I am not a foodie among foodies. Quite the opposite in fact. I may be the only one of my friends who is passionate about the flavors, smells, textures and ambrosia of food. I once went through a phase where I came home from work and set a loaf of bread to rise every day before I even changed into more comfortable clothes. The roommate that lived with me through that period famously informed me that no matter what I made for her it would never taste as good as Chicken A'La King from a can. Needless to say, I never cooked for her again. Our friendship, however, remarkably remained in tact.

The most collaboration I get is the random vegetarian recipes my sister sends me from another city. Though her spinach and tortellini soup is a revelation, I would love to find people to share in my joy with me. Rather than being a small mecca for the lovers of food, my house has become a safe haven for my bachelor friends seeking home cooked meals. It's not all bad, they know having to wash the dishes is a part of the deal, but they don't exactly inspire me to start experimenting with souffles.

Really, I can't complain - because my boys helped make a great success out of my favorite dinner party: Potluck Grocery Night.

As a freelancer, I'm not always in a position to host elaborate dinner parties. Over this past winter my ability to make dinners large enough to feed the friends that habitually showed up became challenged. Being one of their only regular sources of homemade meals, however, my guys rose to the defense of their stomachs. Each of them was given a list of groceries to bring and I would do the cooking. It seemed simple enough, but I never expected the elaborate sucess that it would turn out to be.

As it turns out, most of my guys would have been happy to pay for my dinner had we gone out to eat. So, as none of them actually knew how to grocery shop effectively, they ended up spending the equivalent amounts for dinner for two at the grocery store. At the time I couldn't afford more groceries until my next paycheck, but for our first Potluck Grocery Night I served lamb loins with a red wine sauce and roasted asparagus. Even as the guys were doing the dishes they were asking if I would cook for them the next day if they could show up with groceries. Talk about a win-win. It became a weekly event for our group and for the next year even larger dinner parties carried the shared burden of buying the food. Recession-proofing the dinner party saved my kitchen habit and created a new circle of friends whom I'll keep for life.

Rules to a successful Potluck Grocery Night

1. Assign each guest a category of food and rotate each week new responcibilities
For example, one person will bring the meat ($$), another the vegetables/sides ($), another the beer/wine ($$) - make sure everyone takes a turn at buying the more expensive items

2. Be specific with your grocery list
I've ended up with lime cactus beer at an Italian dinner party - don't let this happen to you

3. Plan meals that don't take long to cook
Inevitably the person with the most key ingredient will show up last and everyone will eat late - so think 30-minute meals and you're golden

4. Have a kitchen hang out zone
I generally don't let people in my kitchen while I'm cooking, but the party starts before any cooking's been done so you need to let people hang out during the process - give them a safe place out of the range of hot pans of oil

5. Don't get fancy
This is about family meals and celebrating the company - enjoy yourself and your friends

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Current Obsession: Butter (can you blame me?)

I have become recently obsessed with making herb infused butters. I adore cooking with fresh herbs. It was probably one of my favorite things about cooking professionally (well that and my heart has been changed forever after experiencing a well-stocked walk-in fridge). If I ever find myself feeling uninspired to cook - I just pick up a couple of fresh herbs and settle happily into a tirade of ideas for what to make out of the remainders in my kitchen.

It started out innocently enough, I had fresh rosemary, Italian parsley and thyme left over from a lamb roast adventure I had set out on. So there I was with my glass of watered herbs sitting in my fridge starting to look like they'd lost the energy to hold their heads up, and I have too many leftovers in the house to justify doing anything with these poor tired friends. This is where my journey started. I had no idea that it would lead me down a path of butter-induced swooning, but this path would soon overtake the olive oil in my cooking and bring butter back as king.

Sometimes ideas are more of your brain reminding you of things you already know but have yet to really explore. After reading a side note in one of my Sunset recipe annuals* I had recently made a batch of citrus sugar** (it blows cinnamon out of the water as a topping for french toast). With that sitting in the back of my brain, it wasn't too far a reach to get to making an herb butter. So I pull the tiny leaves from my thyme with therapeutic meticulousness, chop it in with my rosemary and parsley, and zested in a lemon that was also waiting for the last leg of it's life to dry up.

Though I would consider my first herb butter relatively elaborate if you were setting out to make it without having a wilting cornucopia of flavorings in your kitchen, one of my favorite things about it is it's casserole-ness. I just dump whatever I have available into a pound of softened butter and store it in my freezer. I even made a butter to baste my thanksgiving turkey with already in October (orange/lemon/tarragon/sage) - I can't wait. Now I eat toast with a frightening regularity and can't leave the grocery store without a fresh baguette. Before the groceries are even put away I've torn off an end of the bread so I can smother it in my new butters.

*the Sunset magazine annuals are some of the best cookbooks I've come across - 1997 is the best (for full disclosure - I was raised in California with a mother who cooked almost entirely out of Sunset cookbooks... so I'm generally as biased as your average Southern Living enthusiast)

**lemon and orange zested into sugar and left to cure together