Jun 1, 2010

Pizza on the Grill! The Future Looks Bright...

Home made pizza is a staple in our house, except in the summer when it’s just too dang sultry in new york to dream of using the oven.  So when my friend Krystal showed up at a barbeque cradling a big bowl of pita dough, which she proceeded to bake to perfection on the grill, a little light behind my eyeballs flicked on and I envisioned a future enriched with pizza in the summertime!   

This is the best home pizza we’ve made so far.  You just don’t get this type of crust in a home oven:  bubbled and blackened, crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  Imagine how the tables will turn when meat eaters at your next barbee longingly eye the vegetarian’s gourmet grilled pita pizza!  Better make enough dough to share…

Apr 26, 2010

No Knead Multigrain Bread - you can do it!

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but there's a lot of pics and I think that a video would be better.  I'm too busy planning my vegetable garden and volunteering at a farm to make cooking videos right now, so this'll have to do...

you will need: 

1 cup all purpose white flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 cup rye flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
¼ teaspoon instant yeast
1 T kosher salt
1 3/4 – 2 cups water
about 1/2 cup whole grains, flax seeds, etc.
A cast iron or enameled Dutch oven
In a large bowl mix flours, vital wheat gluten, yeast and salt.  Add 1 3/4 cups of water and mix.  If the dough is too stiff to mix with a wooden spoon, add another 1/4 cup of water.  Cover loosely with a plastic bag and let ferment at room temperature for about 24 hours (18 hours will do if it’s warm, 24 if it’s cool.) 
Prepare a mixture of seeds, grains, etc.  I had a whole multigrain mix and flax seeds on hand, so I used 1/3 a cup of the whole grains and 1/4 cup of the flax seeds. 
After dough has fermented for about 24 hours scrape it out onto a well floured surface.  Sprinkle a layer of grains over the dough.  Fold in half, flatten, and sprinkle on more grains (you may work in extra flour if your dough seems to wet at this stage).  Continue this way until you’ve incorporated all the grains.  You can knead the bread a few times just to mix the grains in well.
Shape into a ball and let rest on a well floured surface for two hours.  Cover with a towel.
At least 20 minutes before the two hours is up, begin to preheat your dutch oven to 450 degrees. 
Transfer the dough to the preheated dutch oven and bake, covered, for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. 
Try to wait a few minutes for it to cool before you butter up a hunk of hot n’ hearty whole grain bread!
To see the full instructional photo album, please go to:  frankie makes multigrain bread on facebook.

Apr 23, 2010

Smoked Salmon, West Coast Style

In New York, if you buy smoked salmon what you will get is Lox.  Because the fish is salt cured without heat, it retains the appearance and texture of raw fish, and the flavor competes with an acute saltiness.  The fish doesn’t taste particularly smoky, and I’m not sure it even is, technically speaking, smoked salmon.  Nevertheless, I’ve come to love raw salty salmon as a topping for bagels, hors d’oeuvres, omelettes and more.     

I grew up in Oregon, where most smoked salmon is heat cured and so more closely resembles fish jerky.  It has a dark, leathery skin encasing firm, intensely smoky and often sweet flesh.  You can enjoy this style of smoked salmon in the same ways you might enjoy lox, and it also lends itself to other culinary realms. 

Heat-smoked salmon imparts its awesome smokiness to anything you add it to.  I recently used a hunk of it to make smoked salmon chowder.  You can make a dip your friends will go ga ga over just by blending it with sour cream.  And you know what I’m thinking?  White cheddar or maybe dill Havarti mac n’ cheese with smoked salmon cooked into it.  Oh yeah!  So many recipes and not enough people in my house to eat everything…

To see how I made the smoked salmon, go to:  frankie makes smoked salmon on facebook

Apr 18, 2010

Building a Better Cookie - and a better world.

I recently found myself wandering around lower Manhattan in search of a big, soft ginger cookie to accompany my four dollar latte.  You know the one – that deep auburn disc with a rustic crackled surface all bedazzled with sparkling sugar crystals.  I love you, ginger cookie. 

I didn’t find one that day, but I did resolve to learn to make them at home.  I’m not much of a cookie baker.  As much as I crave sweets, there’s only myself and my husband here and the last thing we need is three dozen sugar bombs lazing around the house.   

Never the less, for the sake of science, I began baking ginger cookies yesterday.  I started the way I usually do, by looking for recipes online.  The first three recipes I found all called for shortening rather than butter.  Using vegetable oil instead of butter immediately ran against my cooking intuition, but hey, what do I know?  So I looked in my trusty dusty betty crocker cookbook and it said you should use at least 65% vegetable oil in ginger cookies.  Didn’t say why, but fine.  So I used a modified version of a shortening recipe, which yielded perfect looking cookies, but they were NOT the ginger cookies of my fantasies.  I could totally taste that they were made with shortening.  Gross.  And they were only soft in the middle, and crunchy at the edges.  Not good.  And the color wasn’t right.  Me and the hubbs ate a couple and the rest went to the birds.  Literally.  (The crows don’t discriminate, it seems.)

I conferred with my brother and a friend about the failed cookies.  Independent of one another, they both suggested I try a Martha Stewart version.  This time, I decided to indulge my home chef’s intuition as I worked with the recipe.  I made at least two significant modifications to the technique, and the big, soft ginger cookies were a success. 

You can do it!

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 tablespoons baking soda, dissolved in 1 T hot water
a couple tablespoons large grain sugar (for tops of cookies)

Sift flour, cocoa powder, and spices into a medium bowl.

Cream butter and brown sugar together in a large bowl.  Add grated ginger and molasses and blend well.  You can use a hand mixer if you like. 

Add about a third of the flour mixture and blend.  Add about a third of the baking soda mixture and blend.  Continue alternating flour mixture and baking soda mixture.  The dough will be very stiff.  I picked it up and kneaded it a few times.   

Refrigerate cookie dough for at least an hour. 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Shape dough into golf ball sized orbs, flatten and space about an inch and a half apart on a baking sheet.

Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of the cookies.
Bake for about 15 minutes.  What you should observe is that the cookies rise a bit at first, but eventually flatten out. 
I sprinkled a little more sugar on top right when they came out of the oven.
Let the cookies remain on the cookie sheet for about five minutes before moving them to a cooling rack. 
Allow cookie sheet to cool off before you start adding more dough, or it will start to melt before you put it in the oven, and you don’t want that. 

To see more photos of how to make these cookies, go to:  frankie makes ginger cookies on facebook

Apr 14, 2010

Green Eggs and Kale

Chickens really do lay green eggs!  Okay, they’re more blue than green, Sam I am.  Consumers (that massive demographic that buys organic, free range, grass fed poultry ova) are fond of the blueys, thus the farm is mindful to put a few in every carton.  So I was surprised when I got home to find a number of blue eggs in a box I grabbed from the reject pile.  Maybe someone was a little sleepy at the egg sorting table today?  Lucky me.  I was also fortunate enough to receive some kale (that survived the northeast winter!) we pulled up in preparation for this year’s planting.  Now, you might think I eat gourmet meals every night – but one of my favorite breakfasts is simply soft boiled eggs with steamed kale.

Sadly, the kale won’t be around tomorrow morning.  I decided to make “kale chips” I’ve seen recipes for while I wrote this, and now most of the kale has been consumed.  The kale chips were a smash hit, with me at least.  But then, I love kale.

To make crispy kale:  Toss kale with a little olive oil, salt, and whatever seasonings you like.  Spread out on a baking sheet and bake at 300 for about ten minutes.  

Apr 13, 2010

Operation Taco Sauce

My brother Andy worked for a mid-size industrial chicken farm for many years until it was bought out by a Gargantuan Farm.  He started at the bottom, catching chickens and tossing them into metal crates in preparation for delivery to their final destination, so to speak.  My bro gleaned a lot from his colleagues during that time.  Not only did he become fluent in Spanish, he also learned to prepare truly authentic Mexican food.  He’s been sharing those culinary principles with my sister and I, and we’ve been facebooking them for you!

The following recipe is for one version of Salsa Taqueria, also known as taco sauce to us gringos.  It incorporates the smoky garlic chili paste I demonstrated in an earlier post (frankie makes smoky garlic chili paste on facebook).  I’m using tomatillos in this version, but you can also use juicy red tomatoes.  

You will need:
1/4 cup of smoky garlic chili paste
6 – 8 whole tomatillos
1 jalapeno (optional)

Slice tomatillos in half and lay, cut side down, in a baking dish.

Place oven rack about 6 inches below broiler element and broil tomatillos until they begin to blacken - a few minutes.

Transfer tomatillos to a food processor and add 1/4 cup of chili paste.

Blend.  Add some salt (and maybe some of that jalapeno) to taste. 

To see the full instructional photo album, please go to:  frankie's taco sauce on facebook

Apr 12, 2010

Lemon Lovers Unite! Try this easy luscious lemon curd recipe!

Are you a lover of lemon desserts?  And did you just score three dozen farm fresh eggs that you need to use?  Well, I am and I did.  Here is one of the delightul food items I made with some of those eggs.  It’s really easy and amazingly delish!

You will need:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 T grated lemon zest

In a large bowl, blend the butter and sugar together.  I usually start with a fork, then switch to a hand blender.  Gradually add the eggs and yolks while beating, then beat in the lemon juice.  The mixture will look curdled at this point.  No worries, it’ll all smooth out during cooking. 

Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and cook on low heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly.  You’ll see the mixture become smooth and darker yellow as the butter melts. 

Once all the butter has melted, increase the heat to medium and cook until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly.  It should take about 10 more minutes.  Be careful not to overheat the mixture or let it boil. 

My experience with the thickening step goes like this:  I’m standing over the stove stirring and stirring and nothing seems to be happening, and I’m thinking did I screw it up?  Should I turn up the heat?  Then all of a sudden, it thickens.  In like, a few seconds. 

Once thickened, remove the curd from the heat and stir in some lemon zest.

Carefully pour the warm curd into jars and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. 

Put lids on jars.  Give one jar to a friend. 

This luscious lemon curd will keep in the fridge for at least a few days.  If you’re not ready to part with it, you can freeze the second jar for up to a couple months. 

How might you enjoy this wonderful treat?  Put it on your waffles, pancakes, scones, toast, on shortbread cookies, in a layer cake, on top of cheesecake, in yogurt, on ice cream…or just plop yourself down in front of the teevee and spoon it right out of the jar and into your happy mouth. 

To see the full instructional photo album, go to:  frankie makes lemon curd on facebook

Later this week, I hope to show you how to make a couple things I think this lemon curd would be great with:  angel food cake and (true) Belgian waffles.  

Apr 9, 2010

All Creatures Great and Small

My husband is a lover of all creatures great and small.  After finding a mouse’s cache inside one of his speakers and repeated ‘leavings’ in empty coffee mugs, he determined to relocate the offender(s).  He purchased a humane mouse trap and left it on his desk overnight.  Didn’t take long to get one!  We took the little guy for the thrill ride of his life this morning.  Hope he likes his new lake front parcel.  The rest of his family will be joining him shortly…

Apr 8, 2010

Grill Woks Are Cool!

Have you tried one of these? It's called a "grill wok" and it's perfect for grilling veggies or a mess o' potatoes.

I tossed the asparagus in a little olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. Then I put them in the grill wok, placed that on top my grill, and closed the lid.  I turned them once about five minutes later and closed the grill again for another five or so. Nice!

I think this thing works so well because the veggies when piled up this way do a little steaming while they grill, so you get some good searing without the veggies drying out.

I was really impressed with the potatoes a neighbor did in his grill wok.  Gotta try that next…

Dad's Salmon Cakes

When we'd get sick of eating fish as kids, dad could always persuade us with these delicious, crispy, fried  fish-and-potato patties.  Now that I've grown to appreciate the wild-caught fish I grew up eating, I think these salmon cakes are pretty special.  They're easy to make and taste great warm or cold - the Panko crust retains its crunch even after refrigeration.  They make a great appetizer or main course.  You could even throw one on a bun and call it a salmon po' boy!  

I made a ginger mango chutney here - just 'cause it looks pretty in a photo.  Sometimes I make a kind of tartar sauce by blending a little lemon juice and a lot of herbs into mayonnaise.  But to be perfectly honest, I prefer my dad's salmon cakes cold, with no condiments whatsoever.  [I can't believe I just said that.  I usually pile every sauce available on whatever I'm eating.]    

This recipe makes about a dozen salmon cakes
Dad’s Salmon Cakes:
1 cup coarsely mashed potatoes
2 cups cooked salmon or steelhead, cooled and flaked
1/4 cup chopped green onion (parsley and dill are other good herbs for this recipe)
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
about 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
canola oil for frying the salmon cakes

Apr 6, 2010

From the Growing up Kimm Files: A Bittersweet memory

The year is 1984.  I am thirteen years old.  My four siblings and I are living in utter squalor in an old farmhouse in a shitty little redneck town in Oregon.  My mother left my father – and her five offspring by sheer coincidence – a year earlier.  Dad is out drinking, wallowing at the bottom of a pit that would be a ten year long drunken spell.  Tomorrow is thanksgiving.  Dad will come home long enough to roast a turkey and we will have a Kimm family dinner.  It’s late at night, and I am making pies.  My four-year old sister, the youngest of my siblings, is sitting on the counter next to where I am rolling out a crust.  She is desperately trying to stay awake.  Her bare feet dangle over the counter and her little hands grasp the edge as her eyelids slowly droop shut…and pop open again!  In this manner The Keez, short for Keezer, short for Mckenzie, manages to stay up until I slide the pies into the oven and carry her off to bed.

My kid sister, now 30 years old, spends even more time and energy in the kitchen than I do.  She is committed to preparing the highest quality food (her mantra is all organic all the time) and is excited to learn everything.  We recently spent a couple days together, during which she taught me:  how to bake the best angel food cake I’ve ever tasted, how to create an entire Jamaican style dinner of grilled jerk chicken with dipping sauce, fried plantain and spicy slaw, and how to make hollandaise for eggs benedict.  I showed her how to bake bread and make corn tortillas.

I left home for good in 1986, so The Keez and I didn’t have much of a chance to grow up together.  These days, I find it deeply heeling - and a whole lot of fun - to spend time with my adult sister in the kitchen, our hearts at home.   

To see more photos of cooking with my sister, go to:  Cooking with The Keez on facebook

Apr 2, 2010

Oh No, Fish Again?!

My dad has always been a hardcore, though not professional, fisherman.  He was a “professional” musician, which did little to put food on the table for his five children.  Let's just say that we ate a LOT of fish growing up.  I was so sick of fish/rice/salad dinners that I didn’t eat fish for at least ten years after I left home (I still hate salad).  The concept of paying to eat fish in a restaurant was absurd to me.  I suppose that unconsciously, I considered fish to be poor people’s food. 

I’ve completely flip-flopped.  There are now few food items I hold in higher esteem than a nice fresh piece of fish.  And rather than not eating fish in restaurants because I think it’s gross, I now find myself apprehensive about ordering fish because I’m afraid it won’t be fresh or properly prepared!  It seems that I’ve returned to my culinary childhood with an adult foodie’s snobbery.

Here is what I prepared for dinner this evening:  ling cod I caught in Alaska, with veggies sautéed in home made red curry paste and Thai sticky rice. 

I guess I’m pretty fortunate that my childhood meal wasn’t mac n’ cheese with hot dogs, because it easily could have been. 

I Like It Fried: The Hawthorne Fish House in Portland, Oregon

Man I’ve been eating unhealthily of late!  I fully intended to sauté some veggies tonite, but the curry I made included shrimp paste, which contained gluten, which would surely cause a grievous reaction in my dining companion’s protoplasm.  So it seemed serendipitous when she suggested we go to the Hawthorne Fish House, it being on my list of restaurants to try while in Portland. 

I wasn’t aware of the mostly gluten free menu, my primary interest was in seeking out good fried seafood, which I think is pretty much an oxymoron in these parts.  Let’s face it, most fried seafood is crappy for at least two reasons:  the fish is past its prime and no longer tastes of the sea in a good way, then it’s over battered and saturated with grease.  Okay, three reasons.  Still, I’m a sucker even for low quality fish and chips, so when I spied the Hawthorne Fish House on my daily jog around southeast Portland, I added it to my agenda.   

You’ve probably deduced that I found the experience worth writing about.  It was Good Fried Fish!  Really good.  I ordered the Tug Boat, which included oysters, halibut, walleye and catfish [I swear I got cod instead of catfish - a bonus for me].  When the waiter asked, “which sauce would you like?” he read my face and brought me all three. 

I’m sure you’ve had a fish basket in which it was impossible to discern the different types of fish visually, much less through flavor and texture.  That was not the case with tonite’s meal.  The fish was fresh and so delicately breaded and fried (with brown rice flour!) that I could easily differentiate each species and even taste where they came from.  That’s the pleasure of eating fresh fish.  The golden nuggets were succulent and almost greaseless.  I’m not kidding.  The combination of fresh, lightly fried seafood and a tall glass of sparkling pear cider transported me back to my best dining experience in Barcelona. 

I’d like to recommend the Hawthorne Fish House for an additional reason: the casual vibe.  How can a great restaurant so close to 39th and Hawthorne be so utterly devoid of hipsterism?  I gotta tell you, it was kind of a relief.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hipsters.  I’m a hipster.  I married a hipster.  But sometimes I just want to sit down in a comfortable, unpretentious place and have a tasty meal without feeling pressured to relinquish my table or be blasted away with cool tunes.  The Hawthorne Fish House feels just like a casual restaurant on the Oregon coast, except the food is ten times better.  And just to further encourage you to try it, there are plenty of non-fried choices on the menu.  I can’t wait to go back and try the halibut tacos with pineapple-chipotle salsa.

Apr 1, 2010

The Pizza Revolution from New York to Portland

I don’t want to annoy you guys with my constant comparison of Portland things to New York things, but the fact of the matter is that I live in both Portland and New York, so I can’t help it.  I’ll admit that as a person who loves the outdoors, fresh produce, beautiful houses and nice people, I am biased towards my west coast home.  But a city as culturally diverse, economically competitive, and rife with egomaniacs and big spenders as New York is necessarily going to cultivate some high quality eateries.  I can’t afford most of them, but I did recently dine at two of Brooklyn’s new brick oven pizzerias – Motorino and Roberta’s.

They were both terrific.  The crusts at the two restaurants were similar – slightly blackened at the edges, where they were crisp and chewy, but a bit soggy and floppy in the middle (c’mon New York, you can do better!).  The generous use of fresh herb toppings at Motorino blew my mind, but the Portlandy vibe at Roberta’s felt like home.  And when I learned about the rooftop garden they started to provide fresh veg for the restaurant…I was moved enough to donate some cash to the farm fund.  It’s inspiring to encounter people in New York City who care just as much as Portlanders do about where their food comes from - to the point that they will take on the rather extreme challenge of starting an inner city farm.  Amazing!

So I wore my (invisible) New York Pizza goggles when I met up with a group of friends at Ken’s Artisan Pizza in Portland this evening.  I was thinking no way the toppings at this place are gonna be yummier than those at Motorino.  And they weren’t, but they were pretty incredible in their own right.  I mean, roasted oyster mushrooms with bra tenero cheese, fresh basil and chiles?!  So good!  But here’s the kicker:  the pizza crust at Ken’s totally blew New York out of the water.  It had the same lovely char at the edges, both crispy and chewy…but unlike the New York version, it maintained perfect crust consistency across its diameter.  No floppy slices!  I tried six different pies and am confident that I ate more than anyone else at the table.  For research purposes only, of course.  When I asked our waiter if I could keep a menu, he gave it with the caveat that changes are frequent.  I can see this research project won’t be completed for a while.   

To see more photos of Ken's Artisanal Pizza, go to:  frankie's photos of Ken's on facebook

Mar 30, 2010

Pine State Biscuits in Portland or Glorious Gut Bombs Away!

I just ate this.  All of it.  I say if you’re going to eat a gut bomb, then go for a high quality bomb – one that’s hand made from fresh, local gut bomb ingredients.  That’s what you’ll get at Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon. 

There’s a law in New York City requiring restaurants to post a calorie count for each item on its menu.  I might have skulked away from the line at Pine State Biscuits if the number 2000 (I’m just guessin’) was glaring down at me from the chalkboard over the counter.   In self-deluded ignorance I waited for my “Reggie” – an oversized buttermilk biscuit sandwiching a slab of southern fried chicken topped with cheddar cheese, thick cut bacon, and slathered in sausage gravy. 

To be honest, this isn’t my favorite kind of food.  I know I’m not going to feel great after consuming a ton of fatty fried meat and white flour, but I’m committed to researching Portland’s foodie digs.  I didn’t plan to eat the whole Reggie sandwich when I sat down on a bench outside (there’s very little seating - expect a wait and/or make your order to go).  But it was so darn good.  Each component of the sandwich was by itself, exceptional.  The biscuit was tender and flaky inside, with a crispy exterior.  The spice encrusted fried chicken was juicy through and through.  The bacon was…all bacon is good so I’ll skip it.  The cheddar was real, and the gravy was rich and savory without being too heavy.  I kept toggling between taking small bites of the sandwich constituents and unhinging my jaw to get everything in one mouthful.  Thusly I consumed the entire gut bomb. 

As much as I enjoyed it, I won’t be ordering the Reggie again.  Next time, I’ll try the biscuits with stewed apples and whipped cream…

See Guy Fieri visit Pine State Biscuits on YouTube:  Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives: Pine State Biscuits

Mar 21, 2010

Spring Has Sprung in Cold Spring

Look what I found poking out of the mostly dead grass in our front yard. 

We’re enjoying our third consecutive day of what I’d call perfect weather (daytime highs no more than 70, nights in the 40’s).  It feels as if summer could happen any second.  But not yet, please.  Summer is full of wonder since we moved to the country, and spring fills me with the excitement of so much to look forward to.  There are outdoor projects to plan and fantasize about:  starting a vegetable garden, building a hen house, adding to our deck… And the promise of our entire surroundings unfurling in bright blossoms and lush greenery.  The silent winter nights will be replaced with a cacophony of frogs and cicadas and the occasional coyote pack in the distance.  The cabin windows will be thrown open and stay so night and day for the whole season.  Our mountain lake, a frozen sheet for months, being reanimated will become our main source of enjoyment.  We’ll walk down with our coffee early in the morning to marvel at how the rising sun lights up the water, we’ll go for long swims in the hot afternoons, we’ll take the rowboat out in the evening to catch bass, pickerel, perch and sunfish.  We’ll lie on our backs on the wooden dock well after dark, watching for shooting stars, listening to the owls.  And every evening the sounds and smells of friends and families gathering to barbeque dinner will waft throughout the neighborhood, reminding us of what it felt like to be a kid in the summertime. 

Mar 20, 2010

New York's Coffee Revolution - It's About Time!

This will seem totally counter intuitive to my West Coast friends, but New York City has never been a real coffee town.  In fact, the worst coffee I’ve ever tasted was served in the city, and still is, in thousands of delis and restaurants all across Manhattan and the outer boroughs.  Until recently, Starbucks represented the apex of coffee consumption to an average New Yorker (I understand that you are not average). 

Things are changing!  New York’s Coffee Revolution is under way and quickly gaining momentum. The Times recently ran an article about the long overdue sea change that’s occurring in the city:  New York is Finally Taking Its Coffee Seriously.

The first day of spring was a perfectly gorgeous one for embarking on a mini tour of New York’s blossoming coffee culture.  We began at Frankie’s 457 in Brooklyn, where a simple breakfast with a coffee beverage for four ran over $100. The americano was a disappointment, the cappuccino and latte were pretty good, and the bacon was great.  From Frankie’s we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and lower Manhattan to sample the goods at Third Rail, where we shared an iced coffee and a latte in nearby Washington Square Park.  The iced coffee was much needed refreshment and the latte was excellent.  I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but I’ve never had a latte that good in Portland (the issue will be addressed in due time).  From the park, we strolled east to Abraco, where it was clear from the line outside that New Yorkers were on to something good.  We ordered only the obligatory litmus latte with an olive cookie and a slice of olive oil cake.  And there I found a perfect combination:  the latte was terrific, and paired with the salty sweet crumbly crumb of Abraco’s shortbread cookie with Kalamata olives cooked into it…oh man, time for a happy food dance!  Okay, at this point I am deeply perplexed by the difference between the last two lattes I consumed in comparison with just about every other latte I’ve had before.  The New York lattes were above and beyond – the coffee was incredibly deep and rich and strong, but perfectly balanced without a hint of bitterness. The microfoam didn’t disappear after a few sips…no!  Each quaff, down to the bottom of the cup incorporated a bit of buttery milk froth (my concept of Portland is undergoing a paradigm shift and it hurts a little). We were pretty buzzed after Abraco, but we’d planned to hit five different coffee cafés and had only done three so far.  Bluebird was just a few blocks down the avenue, so on we marched.  There we ordered an espresso and a latte, of course.  I found the espresso undrinkable.  It looked and tasted a little like a wee cup of soy sauce.  Too strong for me.  But the latte was…awesome!  Again!  What the?!  We’d had more than enough coffee by that point, and my head was reeling for other reasons. 

People, questions have been raised and I need answers!  Could it be possible that New York’s coffee culture, still in its infancy, has already come to rival and in some cases, surpass that of the Pacific Northwest’s?  What is this blasphemy?!  I shall seek the truth; to heck with my coffee bean allergy.  I am a scientist after all.  Or I was. 

Mar 14, 2010

Maybe I Could Be Happy Living in New York

Sometimes I think maybe I could live in New York.  As in, be happy living in New York.  You know, if I had so much money that I could live in a “house” like this one, overlooking central park, with a private yard in the back and a rooftop garden where I could grow my favorite herbs, juicy tomatoes and fragrant flowers.  I’d never have to take the city’s god awful subway system anywhere again.  I could step out the front door for a long jog in the park, or a short walk to my local French bakery for a cappuccino and a gourmet pastry.  I’d have memberships to all the great museums and the Central Park Zoo.  I’d need to be free to eat at the best restaurants as well.  I’ve had enough of feeling that the finer things New York City has to offer are off limits to the likes of me.  The inside of my house would be clean and bright – all white, with tons of windows and an incredible view of central park.  I could relax there, reading and sipping my Fortnum and Mason, or just watching the sun set over the trees.  I’d have a gourmet kitchen with two sinks and a gas range in a center island, perfect for filming cooking videos.  I’d hold lots of dinner parties.  I fantasize about dinner parties.  The living room would have a fireplace that we’d sit around with our wine or hot cocoa in the winter.  There would be an English garden and an out door kitchen and dining area in the back yard for summertime parties.  I’d hang lots of pretty paper lanterns back there.  It would be magical. The house would have an art studio for my various hobbies and related materials.  I wouldn’t need to clean up my room before I started another project.  I’d have projects all over the place.  There would be a soundproofed music studio as well, for the drums and guitars and a piano.  We could jam out any time.  I’d have to live close to an amazing grocery store that sells organic meat and produce that is truly fresh.  That would really make a difference in my level of satisfaction with life in The City.  Food means so much to me.  I wonder if I could keep bees on my rooftop garden, like that chick in Pushing Daisies?  I wish I was her, she’s so cute and spunky.  I’d love to raise a few chickens and collect fresh eggs for my baking projects.  I could pass the days cooking, making things, playing music, exercising, and entertaining friends.

If I had a life like that, would my siblings come visit me in New York?  Boy, that would really top it off, if I were so rich I could pay for my family to come hang out and be a part of my luxurious life in New York City.  I really miss my family. 

Mar 11, 2010

Maho Bay Eco Camps - My Idea of Paradise.

A mere few hours’ flight, plus a taxi drive, followed by a boat trip, and topped off with a wild ride in the back of a pickup over narrow winding roads making hairpin turns on impossible inclines with soaring views of brilliant turquoise water below…is a nature lover’s dream resort called Maho Bay Eco Camps on the island of St. John in the American owned part of the Caribbean called the US Virgin Islands.  I first visited on a whim following what I refer to as The Great Depression of 2002, during which time I got skinnier than I’d ever dreamed possible but was too despondent to enjoy it.  I have returned to Maho Bay at least once a year ever since.  It is a paradise on earth. 

I hope you have your own idea of paradise, and are able to visit often.  Or perhaps you’re a person who actually resides in your paradise, in which case I admire you for your commitment to living a lifestyle that’s in alignment with your values.  You’re awesome!

Too see a collection of photos I’ve taken over the years, including a few from this past week’s visit, go to:  frankie's St. John photo album on facebook  

Feb 28, 2010

The Big Chill

We awoke yesterday morning to over two feet of heavy wet snow smothering the neighborhood.  Trees that had cracked under the weight of it littered roofs and yards and obstructed our narrow dirt road.   

The electricity had gone out the night before.  Central Hudson predicted a four to six day break in service.  Our next door neighbor, a long time resident of the area, assured us it would be at least a week before anyone would be able to clear the roads enough for us to drive outta there.  Putnam county had declared a state of emergency. 

My husband had booked a job for American Express in manhattan that same day.  When you land a job doing the voice for an american express commercial, you don't flake because of a few feet of snow!  We decided to hike down the mountain and try to hitch a ride into town, where we hoped to get a train into the city.  And since we were flying to the Caribbean in a few days, we loaded our backpacks for the trip. 

And off we set for a potential five mile hike in the snow.  Did I mention we were bare foot?  We didn’t make it too far, because along our walk we encountered a crew that was clearing the roads of fallen trees.  They expected to be able to plow in a couple hours.  And mike had made some calls and was able to reschedule the American express job for monday.  So we hiked back up the mountain with a new intent to dig our car out of the snow. 

We spent a couple hours shoveling, and with some help from a neighbor with a snow blower, liberated the cr-v.  It was getting nice out, and I was awfully jazzed about shoveling snow, so we walked around the neighborhood to see if anyone else needed help excavating their vehicles.  We met some neighbors and I took some photos of the ridiculously cute cabin community in which we own a crappy but cute little house that sometimes loses heat, electricity, and water in the middle of winter.   

We were too tired after all the shoveling to evacuate, so we spent another night under one hundred pounds of blankets, sleeping next to the fireplace.  We drove to new york city today.  

Feb 23, 2010

Not Everything I Do Works Out Perfectly

I probably should have done more testing before I began in earnest on these earrings.  I can be a bit impatient, a quality that’s a real detriment to a jeweler.  I could have taken the time to try some enamels in my kiln to figure out the proper temperature and time, and to see how the various colors would turn out.  I would have gone with a different color had I known the red enamel would come out so dark.  I guess if I’d done sufficient testing, I might have learned how to fire the enamel properly and it wouldn’t have come out dark!  Oh well, the last eight hours haven’t been a waste.  The earrings aren’t a total disaster, and I learned a lot. 

There are a number of things I will do differently next time:  I’ll solder posts on the earrings rather than attaching with PMC paste.  The posts I attached with paste broke off and I had to epoxy them onto the finished earrings.  I wouldn’t sell you a pair of earrings with a part glued on any more than I’d twenty-three skidoo you a song!  The second thing I’d do differently is to file the filigree flat before adding enamel, because as it turns out, I like the look of the slightly domed enamel better than the flattened enamel.  The problem with that approach is that I’d have to apply the enamel perfectly, without getting a single grain of it outside of the filigreed areas…oh man, forget it!  A couple stray grains of enamel so small I couldn’t even see them is what caused the ugly discoloration on one of today’s earrings.  Filing the enamel and filigree flat at the same time serves to ‘clean up’ some of the enamel that isn’t perfectly inside the filigreed spaces, and it’s also what gives the earrings the look I was going for.   

Then again, I get excited when I look at the photo of the earrings after the enamel has been fired but before I filed them down.  Maybe that’s where I should have gone with today’s project.  I could have simply oxidized and polished the earrings at that point.  The resulting look would be fairly different from my original concept, but it would be less work and I might end up with prettier earrings than those I made today.

Today’s project had me tense and made my stomach hurt.  A little lemon ice made it all better!  

To see the full photo album of me making these earrings and some lemon ice, go to:  enameled earrings on frankie's facebook