Friday flyby of links

It’s been a rough week for many in light of the tragedies in Boston and Waco, Texas. Besides bringing people closer, these events also make us stop and appreciate all the good thing in our life. This week, I got to see a good friend who was visiting from Austin, explore new restaurants in Durham (more to come on those) and start running again after sustaining a minor injury two weeks ago. I hope that the clouds will soon part for those who have not been as fortunate as I have.

Time for an HBO documentary [Policy Mic]

The  next HBO documentary [Policy Mic]

Without further ado, some reading to brighten (or lighten) your day:

  • The Cupcake Crash of 2013 [Grub Street]: Here’s a tongue-in-cheek rundown of why the iconic sweet’s reign of sugar is coming to an end. Hint: Mitt Romney and Two Broke Girls may be implicated.
  • Great Balls of Goodness [My Whole Food Life]: I may have finally found a recipe to replicate Laura’s Wholesome Junk Food. Oh, happy day!
  • Earth, pans and fire [NY Times]: Michael Pollan’s latest book Cooked will hit shelves Tuesday, and his new mandate — Eat whatever you want as long as you cook it — is already stirring the pot.
  • Beantown establishments give back [Eater]: In case you’re in the Boston area, here’s a list of restaurants that are pooling their resources to help the local community and visitors, as well.

Best of Boston

It’s a sad day when an iconic race that brings people together from across the country and even the world warps into something so scary and so sad.

Many people have pointed out that the single malicious act was overpowered by the goodwill and bravery of countless people in Boston and beyond.  In the end, the good will always outnumber the bad.

Along that same vein, I wanted to post a quick visual feast of the best of Boston. I went once (literally 20 years ago) as a kid but remember it as a vibrant, walkable city filled with a perfect mix of historic and new; city and town; down-to-earth and extraordinary. Let’s send them all some lovin, even if we’re far away.

Start the day with a hearty Irish breakfast via Flickr

Start the day with a hearty Irish breakfast [Flickr]

A lunch of Boston chowda via TasteBook

Warm up to a cup of  ‘chowda’ [TasteBook]

Stop for a drink where everybody knows your name

Drink where everybody knows your name

Finish with lighter-than-air Boston Cream Pie

Finish with lighter-than-air Boston Cream Pie [America’s Test Kitchen]

CCC: Celebri-chef crush

A few Sundays back, I spent a couple of hours browsing Southern Season, which is a massive gourmet food store/cafe/restaurant in Chapel Hill, NC. Think a giant Fresh Market or more epicurean and less organic Whole Foods. It has a deli, a fresh pasty section, a wine emporium and a wall of chocolate. The saying goes “it’s like a kid in a candy shop,” and in this case, it’s quite literal.

Every time I visit, I discover some new tool or tasty goodie that threatens either my wallet, my waistline or both. This time, I was already committed to a shopping list (pure anise oil and anise seeds for this recipe), but that didn’t stop me from ogling the  oolong, rooibos and sencha. My eye was quickly drawn to the colorful Ambessa tins — a collaboration between tea powerhouse Harney & Sons and one of my celebri-chef crushes: Marcus Samuelsson.

IMG_1853

Ever since I caught this Today Show feature on Samuelsson and his global approach to cuisine, I was smitten by the soft-spoken Ethiopian who was raised in Sweden, became the youngest chef to receive a three-star review from The New York Times and now owns a number of inventive restaurants. I’m eagerly awaiting a paperback version of his memoir, Yes, Chef and plan to hit up the affordable Red Rooster Harlem the next time I’m in NYC. I know: culinary stalker.

I’m more of a java girl than a tea-totaler, but my caffeine sensitivity and months-long coffee cleanses have helped me develop a palate for the leaves. And now, that these Ambessa teas with playful names like “Earl of Harlem” and “Lingonberry Green” have graced the shelves of Southern Season, I’ve got even more reason to brew a pot.

Friday flyby of links

It’s not my intention to only post on Fridays, but between beach trips, starting a temporary assignment and seeing Jurassic Park in IMAX 3D (highly recommend!), the days keep slipping away. Since my temp position is a “hurry up and wait” type of gig, I have had time to catch up on plenty of online articles and blogs.

Bountiful and beautiful harvest. Photo courtesy of tavorminaphotography.com

Bountiful and beautiful harvest. Photo courtesy of tavorminaphotography.com

Here’s some food for thought (har har) to make those last few cubicle-tethered hours fly:

Happy weekend!

Ode to oysters

Monday I went for an overnight trip to Indian Beach on Emerald Isle, and today I’m heading to Wilmington. It’s hard not to feel spoiled living just two to three hours from the beach when growing up, it was more like four or five.

According to NASA, more than a third of the human population lives within 60 miles of the coast. While there is no conclusive data on the correlation between oysters and oceanside residence, I think the shellfish speak for themselves.

These bivalves hailed from Bordeaux

These bivalves hailed from Bordeaux

While visiting Paris for the first time last October, I also got to taste these raw beauties for the first time. Until then, the only indirect experience I’d had with them involved an uncle nearly missing Thanksgiving dinner following a nasty bout of food poisoning.

When my friend and I sat down to La Cabane a Huitres — a hole-in-the-wall, family-owned establishment that was probably the best dining experience of the entire trip — I was timid about the bivalves.

“What do they taste like?” I asked.

“The ocean,” she said.

And it was that simple. Letting a half-shell slide down your throat is not unlike submerging the deep blue. Briny, salty, sweet and totally satisfying.

Happy Friday, all!

At La Cabane a Huitres in October

At La Cabane a Huitres in October

Oysters of North Carolina

Oysters of North Carolina

A sunny day by the sea

A sunny day by the sea

Forget the Easter Bunny and welcome the Easter Bread

It’s hard to believe that Easter is already here… and that it’s still in the 40s in North Carolina of all places. Every year it seems like March comes in like a lamb with a random warm spell and exits like a dying lion making a last-ditch effort for shivers. The upside of the enduring chill is that it’s the perfect excuse to fire up the oven.

Looks like a savory bread, tastes sweet like licorice

Looks like a savory bread, tastes sweet like licorice

Last year, I took third place in a bake-off at work and was rewarded with Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible. Of the 300 recipes, it seems that a good ten percent of them are Easter breads; who knew the varieties ranged from the familiar Hot Cross Buns to Byzantine Easter bread and Kulich (Russian coffee cake)? Ultimately, I decided on the Italian Anise Easter Bread for reasons of heritage and simplicity– the directions for the kulich and accompanying paskha looked downright scary.

A fellow baker at Southern Season suggested I use anise oil instead of the pure anise extract that the recipe included. He did warn me to use it sparingly, but I added about three-to-four drops instead of the prescribed two. The result is an intense licorice flavor, which I love, but it’s also a buzz kill for folks who don’t hunt for the black jellybeans like I do. For those people, I recommend using one teeny-tiny drop of the anise oil. I also added a cup of golden raisins.

I think that like the panettone from Christmas, the leftovers of this eggy bread will find a second life in the form of French toast. Or just toast. With blueberry jam, mhmm.

Happy weekend to all!

It's similar to braiding sticky hair

It’s similar to braiding sticky hair

A little egg wash for glaze

A little egg wash for glaze

And the whole house smells of licorice

And the whole house smells of licorice

Earning my Girl Scout cookie badge

Between the layoff, moving back home (Hi Mom!) and job-hunting ad ridiculum, it has been a bumpy ride. I’ve avoided writing about that pesky stuff here because it’s no fun rehashing the negative, and I would like for my blog to be a positive place, not a pity party. 

When life throws lemons at you, throw some back and use the rest to make a lemon cake. To clear out downtrodden thoughts and get a fresh perspective, I love a good baking challenge — and boy did I get one this time.

It's not the Girl Scouts...

These cookies didn’t come from the troops

Named Left-Behinds as a riff on the iconic Girl Scouts Tagalongs (see also Fijis and Slim Mints), these little cookies were probably the most involved project I’ve ever undertaken. I spaced it over three days to keep the steps from becoming overwhelming, and all in all, it took about six hours. Tempering chocolate — something I had never done before — wasn’t as difficult or time-consuming as I thought it would be. An entirely different matter was dunking five dozen cookies, tapping out excess and keeping the chocolate warm all the while. That took an hour alone.

The result in a blind taste test? Tagalongs had more peanut butter and were sweeter with a crispy cookie base like a Kit Kat. My base was more like a sugar cookie. Rather than following CHOW’s recipe of mixing all-natural PB with confection sugar, I just grabbed a jar of Jiff.

Definitely a delicious treat, but it will be a while before I’m ready for chocolate tempering again.

Which is which?

Which is which?

Pairs perfectly with a glass of (almond) milk

Pairs perfectly with a glass of (almond) milk