Last Saturday witnessed an impressive site: an intrepid crew of eight men and women striding through Chinatown, partaking in a guacamole and margarita crawl. These hardy souls braved the weather, pineapple-laced guacamole, and pre-mixed margaritas, in the name of adventure, a drink, and having nothing better to do.
For those not familiar with the crawl concept, it goes something like this:
- The organizers (and I use the term loosely) select a focus for the crawl. The focus this time was, obviously, guacamole and margaritas. Past crawls have included beer and burgers, fried chicken, hot dogs, crepes (in Paris, no less!), and barbecue.
- The lucky few who receive an invitation congregate at a friendly neighborhood restaurant, where we share some of their finest consumables.
- Then, having sampled their wares and finding them wanting (or wearing out our welcome, whichever comes first), we move to another restaurant, where we do it again.
- Since practice makes perfect, we do it a third time.
- At that point, the crawl ends, and most people head home. The degenerates among us (and you know who you are) typically stumble to the nearest bar, in a vain attempt to recover from eating and drinking too much.
What follows is true*. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
We started at Cuba Libre. When we asked for margaritas, guac, and chips and salsa, we learned two important points: Cuba Libre is, in fact, a Cuban restaurant. And Cuban restaurants, it turns out, don't serve chips and salsa. Nor do they typically serve margaritas.**
Our friendly Cuban server (whose name, he assured us, was John***) advised that we sample either the tequila-based mojito or a rum-based margarita (both of these have names- I just don't remember them, nor can I find them on their menu online. Sorry.). Not wanting to be rude, we tried both. For the record, John's advice was excellent- both drinks were superb.
Unfortunately, the guacamole got mixed reviews. We liked the presentation, but it had a lot of (too much, most people felt) pineapple. As experienced crawlers, however, we ate it all, knowing we would need our strength to survive the day.
Our next stop was Rosa Mexicana. Justly renowned for their table-side guacamole, we felt confident we were in good hands. Except, table-side, it turns out, means 'at a table across the room'. Here are some action shots:
It even comes in this cute little pig-bowl
The margaritas were good, but not as good as Cuba Libre's Cuban versions.
Leaving Rosa, everything was in good shape except our wallets. So we called an audible and went to Austin Grill, where they were serving happy hour for college basketball. (Go Cards!)
Austin Grill was about what you'd expect: full of tourists, overly-processed food, and frozen margaritas.
Okay, I admit. I switched to the swirl too.. the regular drink had too much mix.
Leaving Austin Grill, we did what we always do- we went to get something to eat. We headed for the sole remaining block and a half that makes up Chinatown, and had dinner. How anyone was the slightest bit hungry escapes me, but that's what happened.
All told, this was yet another successful crawl. We sampled some of DC's finest, survived Austin Grill, and left no man behind. Well done, all.
* Mostly. I might get carried away and take some poetic license.
** See my point above, about the "organizers".
*** One of our party, who shall remain nameless, didn't seem to believe that a Cuban guy could be named John, and interrogated him on it. But yup- John.
I'm not a writer. I don't want any confusion about that, so I'll say it again.
I'm not a writer.
But I can
recognize genius when I see it, and Albert Burneko's
Foodspin column at Deadspin is hilarious. I liked his Barbecue chicken thighs
post, but this is better.. possibly because I'm seriously thinking of making it. Maybe for the Superbowl, if someone with a big enough TV invites me over.
Here are a couple of excerpts. They don't really do the piece justice, but I didn't want to have a post that was just a crappy intro and a link.
People will bring all manner of dips and such to the party: There will be that unpleasant-looking but tasty spinach and faux-crab dip served in the bowl of Hawaiian bread; there will be guacamole; there will be a tub of sour-cream-and-onion dip and a bag of potato chips; some bozo will bring a jar of Old El Paso queso dip as if that weren't ridiculous and kind of insulting. All of these are perfectly tasty—the only real problem with all of them is that they are not refried-bean dip.
The first thing you need to do is to soak a pound of pinto or black beans (but really: pinto beans) overnight in a large bowl filled with enough water to cover the beans by a couple of inches. In the morning, you'll be able to tell that the beans are sufficiently soaked by the agonized groaning noise and throat-blistering surge of profanity you will utter when you realize that you altogether forgot this step. Now, remove your still bone-dry and utterly un-soaked beans from their unmolested bag, cover them with a couple of inches of water in a pot, boil them for a couple of minutes, and then remove the pot from the heat and leave the beans to soak in it for an hour and a half.
...mash the hell out of the contents of the pot. You're not aiming for perfect smoothness, here, or anything like it, but you do want to give the beans a thorough mashing—to the point at which your pot no longer contains beans and also water, but rather a spectacularly unappetizing integrated watery beany mixture. This is an opportunity for you to discharge some of the pent-up hostility you are undoubtedly feeling after the draining-and-refilling step and the cooking-a-ton-of-bacon step and the hanging-around-a-simmering-pot-of-fucking-beans-all-goddamn-afternoon step and the reckoning-with-the-end-of-another-wasted-year-of-your-life step. Really give it to those beans. They have it coming. For what they did.
I'm glad the powers-that-be understand what they have here, and are working assiduously to offer us biscoff
in an ever-increasing number of ways. I for one look forward to the biscoff-via-IV product, coming soon to a market near you.
You want more, don't you. That's so typical.. I give you an inch, you take the whole arm.
Fine. Here's more from America's Test Kitchen, on how to make the most perfect bacon ever.
The link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2guC4Badq2s
Just know that I'm going to expect an invitation to brunch for some bacon one of these days.
Ready for your mind to be blown? Check this out.
My parents were in town this weekend, so I stocked up on ice cream. I made four flavors: Coffee-Cinnamon, Pina Colada, Strawberry (sorbet), and Ginger (a new flavor!) My parents are huge ginger fans, so this was for them, and featured chopped, candied ginger from Trader Joe's.
But unfortunately, it's now the work week, and like the hangover from a big night out, my freezer now presents a serious danger: How do I avoid eating the remains of four quarts of ice cream over the next couple of days?
Generally speaking, my first line of defense against junk food binging* is 'Don't buy it'. This works well for me, since I do the food shopping, and I know that if I have anything like a sleeve of Oreos in the house, it won't last the night. But the 'Dont buy it' defense doesn't really work for homemade ice cream. 'Dont make it'? I guess, but while I do take breaks for short periods, that's not a good long-term strategy.Dan Ariely
has a suggestion. Ariely is a behavioral economist at Duke, and author of a couple of books (check out his Amazon page
). He wrote a guest post on Tim Ferriss' blog on something called 'ego depletion'.
(I'll take a shot here at describing the concept, but you're much better off just reading the article. Really.. go read it
). Ego depletion is the idea that you start each day with a bank account of decision 'points'. As you make decisions, both large and small, that bank accounts is reduced. Deciding between the red shirt and blue shirt to wear to work may cost only 1 point. Deciding not to skip the gym after work might be 20 points. And so forth. After the day's account is empty, your ability to make decisions is significantly impaired. And so when you get home to make dinner, and you see four quarts of ice cream in the freezer, the question of 'Should I make dinner or just eat a lot of ice cream?' is more likely to be answered in favor of the ice cream.
(Seriously, read the article, Ariely does a much better job than I did. Click here for the article
I found this idea fascinating, because it helps us understand how we make decisions (consciously or not), and can provide some insight into how to avoid devouring a quart of chocolate hazelnut ice cream (or whatever your weakness is) while sitting on the couch watching basketball (I would call out Kirby here, but he knows that I've done the same thing). And I would add that there's nothing wrong with the occasional binge, but being aware of why you do this is better than being unaware.
As Ariely says in the article,
The key here is planning the indulgence rather than waiting until you have absolutely nothing left in the tank. It’s in the latter moments of desperation that you throw yourself on the couch with the whole pint of ice cream, not even making a pretense of portion control, and go to town while watching your favorite tv show.
To be clear: eating the whole pint of ice cream, in and of itself, isn't the root problem; rather, it's the eating of it because you've used up your decision points and don't have the willpower left to resist the ice cream and make dinner. This is exactly why a good article on getting in shape suggests planning all your meals in advance, prepping everything on Sunday, and packaging the meals for the week in tupperware.
If you're interested in more on this, Brian Wansink (a professor at Cornell's Food Lab .. how cool a place is that) wrote Mindless Eating
, which goes into much greater depth, with a focus on food (for example, why do we sit at a movie theater, mindlessly shoving handfuls of stale, over-buttered popcorn into our pie holes).
The bottom line here is not that you should stop eating junk food. You're not going to. But for those of us, like me, who have serious control problems around food, it can only be helpful to understand better how and why we behave as we do.
And now, with the public service announcement out of the way, here's an ice cream recipe.Ginger Ice Cream
, adapted from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz
- 3 ounces peeled fresh ginger
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 3/4 cups sugar
- pinch of salt
- 5 large egg yolks
- Cut the ginger into thin slices. Add the sliced ginger to a small pot, cover with water and bring to a boil.
- Let it cook for two minutes, then drain the ginger (this is called 'blanching').
- Add the milk, 1 cup of the cream, the sugar, and the salt, and heat until the mixture is warm. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat, and let the ginger steep for an hour.
- Remove the ginger from the milk mixture (you can eat it, it's pretty good), and make a custard with the milk mixture and the egg yolks.
- Put the remaining 1 cup of cream in a medium bowl, and pour the custard into that bowl and mix. From there, follow the usual steps (chill and churn, etc).
- You can add chopped candied ginger, but we had trouble chopped it into really small pieces, and I didn't think it froze that well.
* To me, there's a huge difference between binging on junk food and binging on healthy food. If you decide to eat a quart of cottage cheese, two cups of oatmeal, and a bowl of apples over three hours, you'll be really full, but long-term, you'll be in better shape and in less danger from things like diabetes**.
** This touches on capital N "Nutrition". I'm happy to get into a big discussion on this, but I'm not sure an ice cream blog is the place for it. If you have questions, let me know.
I've mentioned it several times, so here it is. The microwave caramel technique.
I got it from America's Test Kitchen. I found The Feed
*, which has a bunch of one-minute tips, for things like making caramel and stretching pizza dough.
For those unfamiliar, America's Test Kitchen
a real 2,500 square foot test kitchen located just outside of Boston that is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all of your favorite foods. To do this, we test each recipe 30, 40, sometimes as many as 70 times, until we arrive at the combination of ingredients, technique, temperature, cooking time, and equipment that yields the best, most-foolproof recipe.
Back to the caramel. You'll need:
Can we stop for a second and wonder why anyone writes a recipe that uses 1/8th of a tsp? I don't think anyone has a 1/8 tsp measuring spoon. Once I get the hang of this, I'll just double the recipe. Although I guess I could weigh 1/4 tsp of lemon juice on my scale, and then used the scale to determine half? That seems like too much work.
- 1 C sugar
- 2 TBL water
- 2 TBL corn syrup
- 1/8 tsp lemon juice
Combine everything in a bowl, and microwave 5 to 8 minutes, until it's a tan color.The video says the range is because different microwaves have different strengths. I let mine go for five minutes, and then decided it wasn't tan enough, and let it go another minute. That, as you'll see, was a mistake.
Let it cool.
Obviously, be careful removing the bowl from the microwave. It'll be REALLY hot, and melted sugar burns, and doesn't come off your skin easily. Here are some safety tips
from the master, David Lebovitz:
- * Caramel is very, very hot. And very sticky. Keep a deep bowl of water with lots of ice in it nearby if you’re a newbie: if some caramel lands on your hand, plunge it right into the ice water immediately. And wear an oven mitt just to be sure when handling hot pots.
- * Wear oven mitts and a long sleeve shirt. Caramel is hot and can splatter, especially when adding other ingredients to is
- * Use a sturdy large pot or pan that won’t overflow
- * Keep a deep bowl of icy water nearby to plunge your hand in if caramelized sugar lands on it
- * If you have glasses, wear them
I took pictures at a couple different points:
Ready for the microwave
After five minutes
Uh oh.. that doesn't look like their's. Letting it cool didn't fix the problem.
And.. it's burnt. To the trash. Do you see the sacrifices I make for you people? Luckily, this is so easy, I can make it again.
Before I do, a couple of lessons learned:
- Make this in a non-stick bowl, if possible. It's caramel, and so really sticky.
- Have a plan for the caramel. Make it into a sauce, or toffee, or eat it with a spoon. But my original plan to pour the results into a bottle to keep in the fridge wouldn't have worked (it would get really thick, and stick to the bottle). Instead, I'll make a sauce (like this one, fromTracey's Culinary Adventures
), and then pour that
in a bottle. Unfortunately, I didn't find that link until after I burnt my first batch.
So the revised steps:
To the above ingredients, add 1/2 C heavy cream and 1 TBL butter, and maybe a pinch kosher salt. And the new instructions:
1. Mix everything except the cream, butter and salt.
2. Microwave 5-8 minutes // Cook until it's all liquid, and it's a tan color (it'll darken as it cools)
3. While that's cooking, heat the cream (it won't foam as much this way)
4. Let caramel cool on the counter for 5 minutes
5. Let the caramel cool/darken, until it's the right color. Then slowly add the warm cream, and then the butter. Mix well.
I may have blanked out and set the microwave for only 4:30, but after several minutes, it clearly wasn't dark enough, so I nuked it for 3 30-second bursts. And after that? It was pretty dark (and yeah, I was worried I'd ruined another batch), but I stuck to the plan.
I added the warm milk (SLOWLY!), and it foamed up. I wanted to get a picture, but figured it was more important to stir it and not let it overflow onto the counter.
Keep adding a little at a time and stirring. Eventually the milk and caramel will be the same temp and it won't foam. Then add the butter and stir until it's absorbed. let it cool (hey! I said let it cool.. you'll burn your tongue).
Second batch, coming out of the microwave
And then I started the clock, to see it darken over time..
.. except it didn't really get much darker. So back to the microwave. That definitely helped. And to avoid letting it darken too much while it cooled, I added the warm milk and then the butter.
Apparently, I didn't think to take a last picture. I would say it came out...pretty good.
It definitely wasn't as smooth as I might like, but now I've got the technique down, so I'll give it another shot.
*Check out this homemade beer ice cream
recipe from the feed.. definitely coming soon to a freezer near you.
See that? That's my basil. For some reason (More water? Less water? Because it's late summer? Just to mess with me? Really, I have no idea), the basil has decided to flourish in the last several days. Obviously, this means I'm going to make basil ice cream
So the question I put to you, dear readers, is.. what flavors go with basil (besides tomato and mozzarella)?
In particular, how does basil and caramel strike you? I feel like it's a huge mistake, but I have this cool microwave caramel recipe I really want to try. It would be a basil base, with a caramel swirl. Still no? I can see you shaking your head. Okay, fine. Never mind.
Do any sweet flavors go with basil?
I just read a great article from one of my favorite weightlifting authors, Tony Gentilcore*, on how to start a fitness blog
Step #1? Start a blog. Done. This is easy, 1 down, five more.
Step #2? Set a schedule and be consistent. Uh-oh.
Clearly, I'm failing at step #2. And that needs to change. So I'm throwing down the gauntlet here.. I'm going to write AT LEAST once a week, hence forth. I'm making no promised here on quantity, let alone quality, but I'll have something new up here on a weekly basis, and I'll try for more often.
So a couple of things for you guys to do.
First, and most important, hold me accountable. If a week goes by and I don't write anything, get on my case about it.
Second, if you have any ideas for a post, feel free to shoot those my way too (and yes Mike, I know I haven't followed up on any of your ideas yet. I'm a horrible person).
*I'm a big fan of Tony's writing, both style and content (you might say I'm trying to pattern my writing after his, except he puts in a lot more time and effort). Regardless, if you want to learn more about fitness, you could do worse than reading his stuff.
Check these out:
Katie visited her grandparents in Fresno last week, and she brought back (with some eggplants and avocados), these incredibly long green beans from her grandmother's garden. I tried to give some sense of perspective to the picture- that's my usual knife, next to The Sword, on the larger of my plastic cutting boards. And the beans dwarf all of them. Awesome.