Travel

Five Things We Miss About New Orleans

Canal Street NOLA

View of Canal Street from the JW Marriott hotel.

FIVE THINGS?! We recently spent a long weekend in New Orleans, but even though it was a short trip, narrowing down everything we’ll miss about this unique city was no easy task. Hell, gumbo alone could take up all five spots (mental note for a future gumbo post…) And you can’t ignore the po’ boys. Or fresh Leidenheimer french bread. Oh, and Abita on tap!

Having been to New Orleans a few times, this list partially reflects some things that we consistently miss every time we fly back home. And aside from one item, we tried to avoid the obvious answers (ahem, G-U-M-B-O). With the exception of a trip outside the city to Gretna, most of these are in or within walking distance of the French Quarter, so it’s easy to relive all of these things within a day. And with all the food you’ll be eating, you’ll need to walk it off.

If you don’t mind the heat and aren’t afraid of hurricane season, flights and hotels are pretty reasonable in August (about half the price as they are in late fall). But don’t forget to pack an umbrella, as there’s a good chance you’ll see a few brief rain showers during your late summer visit. And bring a pocket full of dollar bills–Not for the cavalcade of strip clubs on Bourbon Street, but for the street performers, homeless, and vendors at the French Market.

1.  Chocolate Pecan Crunch at Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House
This dessert from Bourbon House‘s Sara Toth won gold prize at the 2014 New Orleans Food & Wine Festival. One medal doesn’t seem like enough for this rich, salty, sweet, crunchy, smooth, dessert that is almost impossible to describe with words and pictures alone. The inside includes layers of chocolate mousse, crispy pecan brittle, caramel, and a chocolate crust. All topped with rich chocolate ganache and pecans, served with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. We were too full to finish it at the restaurant, but that didn’t stop me from wrapping it up and shoving the leftovers in my carry-on bag. Two days and 1,055 miles later it was still worthy of a gold medal.

0pecan

And the award for the best dessert of the trip goes to…

2.  Merchant
Yes, we’ve already dedicated an entire post to Merchant, but it’s worth repeating. For a break from the noise of Bourbon Street, stop by Merchant for good coffee, crêpes, and friendly staff. And don’t forget to grab an almond croissant for the plane ride home (sorry, United, for all the powdered sugar on seat 9B).

Fork and knife bench

It’s a fork and knife bench! (@ Merchant)

3.  Chargrilled Oysters
Okay, yes chargrilled oysters are pretty common in NOLA and it’s almost superfluous to even include them on the list. However, every single time we go to New Orleans, one of our first meals includes them and it’s one of the first dishes we miss when we return home. And as a little bit of a #FoodPSA, I want to note that even if you THINK you don’t like oysters, you should still give them a try, ’cause you haven’t had any like this. Of course if you’re allergic you should use common sense…but it might be worth it…

Bourbon House Oysters

Chargrilled oysters from Bourbon House

4.  Beignets from Café Beignet
Standing in a sweaty line at Café Du Monde for beignets and a café au lait holds an iconic place in many peoples’ hearts. But honestly, if you want to avoid the crowd and (dare I say it) find better beignets, then check out Café Beignet. Everything also feels a lot less manufactured than at Café Du Monde, plus one of the locations is next door to a police station, so it’s most likely the safest place to enjoy a beignet (insert joke about cops stealing your beignets).

Cafe Beignet

Beignets are even good in a hotel room. Look at that sexy green carpet.

5.  Three Happiness Restaurant
Technically, Three Happiness Restaurant isn’t in New Orleans, but it’s only about 15 minutes outside of the city in Gretna, LA. We have pretty solid Vietnamese food in Northern Virginia, but you simply can’t beat Vietnamese food in the New Orleans area. With a huge Vietnamese population (Tina’s family being some of them!), Louisiana has some of the best Vietnamese food you’ll find in the Western hemisphere. If you need an expert’s confirmation of this, check out Season 11 of Top Chef. The food at Three Happiness Restaurant was delicious (no really, seriously delicious), but it was the good vibes from the owners that made it truly unique. Their hospitality was so genuine that you felt like you were eating in their own home. Highlights included the crispy egg rolls (wrapped in lettuce and basil and dipped in nước chấm), tender cubes of ribeye sauteed in butter, and a seemingly never ending seafood hot pot with shrimp so fresh they were still wearing mardi gras beads.

Egg Rolls

I ate every single one of those egg rolls.

Runner-Up:  JW Marriott New Orleans
Also, as a “runner-up,” I want to give a shout out to the JW Marriott on Canal Street. The hotel’s location was perfect for accessing the French Quarter, while also not being right in the middle of all the action (because it’s nice to be able to sleep a little bit). The hotel food wasn’t anything memorable (especially for the steep prices), but it was fine if you needed a quick bite or late night room service snack. The rooms were clean and the staff was friendly (except for one condescending guy). The bellhops were all awesome and took care of us and our luggage like we were BFFs. So, we would definitely recommend JW Marriott for its cleanliness, friendliness, and location.

Standard
Reviews, Travel

Merchant | New Orleans

Merchant New Orleans

Ah, New Orleans. As we learned from our recent trip back to the Big Easy, some things never change. From the second you step foot in the French Quarter, it’s as if the city grabs you by the Mardi Gras beads and continually blasts jazz into your ear, while force-feeding you seafood, butter, and alcohol (I say this lovingly and as one of the positive aspects of the city). It’s an exhaustively fun experience that I don’t believe is replicated anywhere else in the country.

But as much fun as the debauchery of Bourbon Street is, everyone needs a break (especially that one guy we saw being carried into our hotel by his bros–he knows what I’m talking about). Everyone needs a quiet place to relax, enjoy some coffee, and reflect on the mistakes that were made the night before.

That place is Merchant, a small, zen-like crêpe shop just a few blocks from the French Quarter.

Veg Crepe

Veg Crêpe – squash, zucchini, fennel, cucumber, beet pesto, goat cheese, spinach

Before you even order your food, you’re met with a strikingly clean, modern design. Its serene design fits the calm atmosphere—a welcome change from the noise outside. And despite what could be a cold, sterile environment, the southern hospitality shines through and provides a warmth from the friendly staff.

The menu (which is updated based on seasonality of ingredients) mirrors the simplicity of the shop’s design, while having the complexity to make you feel as if you couldn’t get the same food anywhere else in the city. And although you can find illy brand coffee elsewhere, it’s hard to beat the capable hands of the Merchant baristas. 

It will come as no surprise that this beautifully designed coffee house is co-owned by architect, Marcel Wisznia, and illy coffee distributor, Rosario Tortorice Jr. Surprisingly though, Wisznia did not design the shop, rather it was Ammar Eloueini, a Tulane professor and world-renowned designer. 

Coffee
I enjoy my coffee sweet and creamy (and always with whip), but for some reason while at Merchant it just feels right to order an unsweetened cappuccino. No syrups or several ounces of sugar needed. An iced cappuccino on a sweaty summer morning perks you up and quenches your thirst, while a hot cappuccino on a cool fall day warms your soul.

Sweet Crepe

Sweet Crêpe – fresh peaches, lemon juice, granulated sugar

Crêpes
A good crêpe is a beautiful thing. Its popularity and simplicity has spawned many chain shops pumping out overly thick, chewy, flavorless blankets of flour. Not at Merchant. The crêpes here strike a perfect balance which help showcase the fillings. You can’t go wrong with any of their savory or sweet combinations, and although I’m typically drawn to any combination of Nutella, bananas, and berries that I’m offered, we’ve recently been wooed by the simplicity of a crêpe with granulated sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

Egg Sandwich

Smoked Ham Sandwich – egg, speck, goat cheese, basil

Sandwiches
If you’re going to judge this place on anything besides crêpes, might I point you in the direction of one of their breakfast sandwiches. You can choose your own adventure as far as the bread choices, but how can you not take advantage of the quality croissants available (thank you, French influence!)? As if a buttery, slightly crisp croissant alone wasn’t enough, Merchant’s options include toppings you might find at a local farmer’s market (because most of them ARE) fresh basil, arugula, turkey, speck, fontina, soppressatta, other seasonal specials. However, the real pinnacle of breakfast deliciousness is created through the egg. A perfectly fried egg with a golden runny yolk satisfies not only your tastebuds, but also your heart.

So if you’re looking for a place to relax and forget about the prior night’s public vomiting, throbbing music, and constant barrage of gentlemen who want to guess “where you got your shoes,”  head to Merchant for a cappuccino, egg sandwich, and lemon crêpe. It may not cure your hurricane hangover, but it’s a great start.

You can find a sample of Merchant’s menu online, but also check out the Merchant Facebook page for updates on events (like coffee classes from master baristas) and food specials.

Merchant on Urbanspoon

Standard
Imitation Creation, Recipes

Peach Pie with Candied Rosemary

Peach Pie with Candied Rosemary

It was June 25, 2013.

Dirt from Muir Woods stained our clothes–a tailored suit for me and a wedding gown for my bride–and our stomachs were in a constant state of growl. It was late and we were tired. And VERY hungry.

Our elopement was far from a traditional wedding, so we had a lot of memorable surprises on our wedding day. Since we “ran away” to California, we didn’t know our officiant or photographer very well. Rick Kaplowitz, our officiant, turned out to be a sweet, thoughtful gentleman who customized the ceremony to fit our vows. While Ryan Polei was an organized, talented photographer, and such a nice guy that in under 30 seconds we felt like we had known him our whole lives. The rain was another surprise, which luckily stopped just in time for our ceremony and helped fuel some epic fog. And little did we know that on this special day, one of the final surprises would reveal itself in the form of the greatest peach pies our moufs have ever experienced.

peaches and rosemary

After having fun and dancing in the redwoods, we headed to downtown San Francisco for dinner at Wayfare Tavern. The food here was not a surprise, as we had eaten there once before and experienced some of its famous fried chicken during a prior gluttony filled visit. I’m not sure if it’s a saying (or a sign of good luck that I made up), but I’m 99% sure that if you eat the equivalent of a whole fried chicken on your wedding day, then you’ll have a long and happy marriage. Just to be safe, I ordered and ate all of said chicken. Tina enjoyed a sweet pea ravioli that was so artfully plated that it belonged on a wall at SFMOMA. And those were just the entrees which we devoured AFTER several light, buttery popovers, a few deviled eggs, and a burrata appetizer that would have been fit for a royal wedding.

peaches and rosemary

We were clearly too full for dessert; another spoonful of food was sure to send both of us into a Thanksgiving worthy food coma. HOWEVER, we couldn’t NOT take a peek at the dessert menu. That’s when we both saw it…

DARLENE PEACH PIE | Frog Hollow organic peaches, brown butter ice cream, rosemary sugar

No words needed to be spoken between me and my new wife. She knew I was going to order it. And I knew that she knew that I was going to order it. I promptly told the waitress to box up some Darlene Peach Pie. I thought about sneaking a bite, but it arrived to the hotel minifridge without a blemish. Apparently, I can occasionally exercise restraint.

peach pie

We ended up eating the pie and ice cream the next morning after breakfast (because even breakfast needs a dessert). Although it was a day old and cold, it was still remarkable. It was everything a peach pie should be. The peaches were plump with little filler, letting the natural sweetness and flavor of the bright orange flesh shine. As much as I love pie, rarely have I experienced a pie filling that gives me the feeling as if I were eating the fresh fruit. I assume peach pies don’t grow on trees, but this tasted so good that only the earth could have made it. (If anyone knows where I can get some peach pie seeds, please let me know.)

rosemary

Let’s not forget about the rosemary! I can’t think of a better complementary herb to peaches than rosemary. Herbaceous, sweet and crystallized from the sugar. Do you, Peach, take Rosemary to be your lawfully wedded pie wife? I certainly do.

candied rosemary

And it all came together with that brown butter ice cream. Come on! This dessert should be illegal. But I’m glad it’s not, because otherwise I’d find myself at the center of a police chase crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. So, while many couples have memories of smashing cake and buttercream into each other’s faces on their wedding day, we ended our wedding celebration by (what should be a new tradition) eating peach pie after breakfast in our hotel room. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

Except maybe next time I’d order TWO pies.

precooked pie

Since there is only what feels like a three-day window for good, fresh peaches in Virginia, we haven’t had too many opportunities to recreate this dish. Fortunately for us, this year mother nature was kind, so our area has been cranking out good quality peaches by the basketful.

peach pie rosemary

peach pie

pie from above

The recipe below is a modified hybrid of several different recipes that we found online. Recipes and inspirations include Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust, Smitten Kitchen’s peach pie filling, and of course no part of this “imitation creation” recipe would be possible without Wayfare Tavern.

PEACH PIE WITH CANDIED ROSEMARY 

Pie Crust (Ina Garten’s Perfect Pie Crust from Foodnetwork.com):

  • 12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) COLD Unsalted Butter
  • 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 Cup COLD Vegetable Shortening
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 6-8 Tablespoons Ice Water

Pie Filling (Smitten Kitchen)

  • 3 1/2 Pounds Fresh Peaches (approximately 7 medium)
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Corn Starch

Candied Rosemary:

  • 2 Sprigs Fresh Rosemary
  • 1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  1. For the crust: We’re no strangers to Ina Garten’s recipes and her “Perfect Pie Crust” is definitely a winner. Consistent, tasty, and most of all easy. If you’re looking for a flaky, no fuss pie crust Ina’s will certainly serve you well.
  2. For the filling: It is too often that peach pie fillings are overly sweet and texturally gloppy, but not this one from Smitten Kitchen. It has the perfect balance of sugar and just a hint of cinnamon to highlight the natural peach flavor.
  3. For the candied rosemary: We’ve never candied anything before…ever. I’m not even 100% sure that this is proper candying technique, but it was delicious and served our purposes just fine. Start by combining the rosemary, water, and sugar in a small saute pan and bring to a boil. Carefully watch and stir the mixture until it reduces slightly and resembles a very thick syrup (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Let it cool and harden while you prepare the pie filling.
  4. For the pie:  Place the bottom crust in a 9-inch pie pan leaving about a half inch over the edges for crimping. Place the peach pie filling inside (no need to bake the bottom crust first) and cover the top with the remaining crust. Fold the edges of the top crust under the edges of the bottom crust and seal together by either crimping with your fingertips or by using the prongs of a fork. Using a sharp paring knife, create a few steam vents in the middle of the top crust making sure they are big enough so that the dough doesn’t seal back together when it expands in the oven. Next, break-up a small portion of the candied rosemary in a blender (a coffee grinder also does the job). Brush the top crust with heavy cream and lightly sprinkle the blended candied rosemary mixture on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 for about twenty minutes or until the crust begins to brown. Reduce the temperature to 375 and bake for another 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.
  5. Let cool for 3 hours, then serve each slice warm with extra candied rosemary and your favorite ice cream. Brown butter ice cream works best, but we’re still working on finding a good homemade version to post on the blog.

True Confessions:

  • What’s with all the books in the pictures? Wayfare Tavern has a masculine library kind of vibe, so we were aiming for that. Grab a pipe and slice of peach pie.
  • I made brown butter ice cream, too.  But I screwed it up, so it didn’t make the cut. It tasted great, but it was gritty. Whoops. I have since learned the ways of Jeni Britton Bauer and believe my next batch of ice cream will be better than Wayfare Tavern. Yeah, I said it.
  • We ate the pie before we got a chance to snap a sexy pic of a single slice with peaches oozing out. So, as a bonus how about an action shot?

Animated GIF of Peach Filling Being Poured into Pie Crust

Standard
Mouf Links

Mouf Links

mouf links

  1. Elvis Rolls (Bacon and Legs) – It’s hard not to shake your hips at any food with the Elvis-inspired combination of banana, peanut butter and bacon, but Fontina Turner’s idea to roll all that legendary goodness up into a cinnamon roll will definitely have you all shook up for breakfast. Breakfast?! Let’s not kid ourselves, this is late night drunk food at its finest (and possibly a hangover cure).
    .
  2. I Had A Terrible Experience At This Restaurant Because I Am A Terrible Person (Clickhole) – I’m a sucker for parody sites like Clickhole and The Onion (hence, the foodgawker Rejects post), so OF COURSE I’m going to love anyone poking fun of yelp reviewers. The title alone makes me laugh, because it’s way too true of many Yelpers out there. If only there were a way to rate the reviewers themselves…
    .
  3. Lessons from Ice Cream Maven Jeni Britton Bauer (Food and Wine) – If you’ve experienced the foodgasmic properties of Jeni’s Splendid ice cream, then you’ll understand me when I say the founder, Jeni Britton, is the Steve Jobs of ice cream. If you haven’t experienced a scoop of her brilliance, then go order some Brown Butter Almond Brittle right now. This interview/masters class on ice cream making will make you wish Jeni was a politician, ’cause she could fix this country one scoop at a time.
    .
  4. Planet Money Podcast:  Episode 555 – Why is milk in the back of the store? – In another fine podcast, the folks at Planet Money attempt to answer why milk is always at the back of the store. Maybe it’s because the grocery store gods want to manipulate you into walking through the entire store just for a gallon of moo juice. Maybe it just makes more logistical sense and helps facilitate the “cold chain.” Either way, the podcast is great fun, especially the friendly debate between food writer Michael Pollan and economist Russ Roberts.
    .
  5. SamePlate.com – Did you know there’s a dating site for foodies?!  Screw eHarmony’s 29 dimensions of compatibility and just find a partner with your mouf. (Through FOOD. Talking about food, here…)
Standard
Thought Nuggets

PieCake Theory

piecakemath

I was a bit of a picky eater as a child. Vegetables had little place in my diet, experimenting with new foods was a rarity, and my parents’ conversion to a health food/vegan lifestyle (before vegans were cool) was a huge hit to my Slurpee and candy bar diet. I spent many meals complaining, rather than embracing what was on my plate and exploring potential new foods to eat that fit within the healthy/vegan box.  I was just a stupid little boy who knew nothing about PieCake Theory.

Confused? Good.

My mom recently made a PieCake. Although it sounds like a mythical love child between the Greek Goddess Piesyith and God Cakeus, it’s really much less interesting. In fact, it’s exactly what its name implies, an entire pie baked inside of a cake. I was excited to try it, because it’s yet another hybrid food gimmick that had the potential for deliciousness.

My excitement quickly diminished, as I found myself eating around the cake simply to get to the pie. And because the cake was being a real pie-block, it upset me even more. I JUST WANTED THE PIE. (Sidebar: In case you’ve not picked up this from my numerous tweets, subtle references, and Instagram pictures, I love pie like no other food. And cake is… Cake is the food equivalent of shrugged shoulders.) Anyway, back to the PieCake.

It’s odd that a dessert could bring out so much vitriol and I wasn’t quite sure why. I love pie and I don’t hate cake, so shouldn’t the simple addition of Pie + Cake = PieCake result in the following relationship:

PieCake > Pie > Cake

My mouf would disagree.

As I thought about it more, I realized that when two food items are combined, the end result is only greater than the sum of its parts if the person eating enjoys each individual part equally. Instead of the food items cooperating and elevating each other, they balance each other out in terms of deliciousness. It’s a little more complicated than simple addition, rather it requires some seventh grade algebra to illustrate.

I could eat pie almost every day. Conservatively, let’s say that I could eat pie every day except on Tuesdays (I’d need a caloric break at least once a week). Assuming there are 52 Tuesdays per year, that means I’m eating pie on the other 313 days of the year (what a fantastic year that would be). So, my Desired Annual Consumption Value (DACV) would be 313 pies / 365 days or .86. Notice that this is essentially a percentage (which I’ll get to in a second) and the highest possible DACV is 1.00.

Cake, on the other hand, I could probably eat once every other week. (And I’m talking about really good flourless chocolate cake with berries and two pounds of fresh whipped cream. Not those vegetable shortening-soaked grocery store rectangles of gluten.) A cake every other week would mean that my DACV would be 26 cakes / 365 days or .07.

Clearly my desired annual consumption value for pie of .86 is MUCH higher than my desired annual consumption value for cake of .07. We could convert the values into percentages and essentially say that during 86% of all days each year, I want pie, while in just 7% of those same days I would enjoy a cake. (Notice that the two percentages do not add up to 100%, as they are independent values. Also notice how quickly you begin scrolling down for more pictures.)

Okay, now that we know my cake and pie DACV, how does that relate to the PieCake hybrid? Well, the pie is baked inside of the cake (rather than a cake baked inside of a pie, which would be a CakePie), so by default the dish is predominantly a cake. Based on eyeballing the PieCake, I’d say it’s about 60% cake 40% pie. Those of you who are astute might recommend I calculate this part based on the ingredient measurements or weights, but this isn’t Nikola Tesla‘s blog, so please adjust expectations accordingly.

If you’re still with me (as if you’re THAT busy at work), then to figure out my cumulative DACV for PieCake, we would have to multiply each DACV by its corresponding percentage and add those together:

.86 Pie DACV x 40% = .34
.07 Cake DACV x 60% = .04
.34 + .04 = .38 PieCake DACV

Thus, the PieCake DACV is .38, which falls between the pie DACV of .86 and the cake DACV of .07

OR

Pie > PieCake > Cake

So, assuming each individual component is not equally delicious, the PieCake Theory kind of makes sense and explains why I was dissappointed and was forced to search out only the pie. However, if you follow through on the math and assume that you love each individual component equally, the results would indicate that no hybrid foods could ever taste better (only equal to) their individual components.

But what about the CRONUT?

By my theory above, even if you loved doughnuts and croissants equally at the highest level possible, the best case scenario would always result in equality across all three foods:

Cronut = Donut = Croissant

But that’s simply false, because I would argue that based on taste, texture, and the glorious sounds of heaven that herald me when I bite into a cronut, that the actual relationship is:

Cronut > Donuts = Croissant

Now that makes no freaking sense at all (from a seventh grade algebra standpoint).

E X A C T L Y.

Eating is NOT a science. Cooking might be, baking definitely is, but eating and enjoying food cannot be predicted with numbers, calculations, and made-up theories from a nobody food blogger.

Just because I don’t like PieCake and I can sort of prove it with a faux-theory (based on my own flawed estimates), doesn’t meant that YOU won’t love it. And it doesn’t mean that I won’t eventually find a PieCake that I do enjoy. And that goes for all food.

So, PieCake Theory isn’t about calculations or even really pie and cake. It’s about the idea that you should give all food a try, regardless of past experiences or whether somebody else likes it or not.

And to my younger self, just because I tried a few vegan foods that I didn’t care for, I shouldn’t have assumed that I would hate them all. If I had based all vegan eating on my childhood experience with “wheat meat,” then I never would have opened up the possibility to enjoying an outstanding fried tofu dish at Maple Ave Restaurant (which will eventually be discussed in a later post).

And yes, it’s odd that a dessert filled with dairy and eggs could teach me something about vegan eating, but pies are powerful.

Cakes are okay, too.

PIECAKE RECIPE

PIECAKE

Pardon the poorly-lit iPhone photo.

My mom used this recipe from the Home & Family television show, with some modifications. She used a cherry filling rather than blueberries and made a half-recipe (one layer). I recommend skipping the part with the cake.

Standard
Thought Nuggets

foodgawker Rejects

foodgawker reject

The deeper into food blogging we immerse ourselves, the more we’ve discovered the power of foodgawker. Acceptance from them can lead to an explosion of hits on your site, while rejection helps to load the bullets of a gun pointed at your ego. Without knowing of its ALMIGHTY POWER, I submitted a photo from our deviled egg post and was rejected for being too dull. No biggie. It probably wasn’t quite up to the level that it should have been anyway.

Maybe spending years aspiring to be a screenwriter somehow prepared me to expect a very high amount of rejection out of life. Maybe I have low self-esteem (BWAHAHAHHAHA). Or maybe we just haven’t been rejected enough times to build up a hatred/envy/hunger for foodgawker acceptance.

Part of me is afraid to submit too many photos–not necessarily for fear of rejection, but for the fear of addiction. I picture myself staying up late, running off the high from submitting photos. Calling in sick to work so I can compulsively check my phone for acceptance emails. All eventually leading to a binge of cocaine and heroin for “creative inspiration.” And is foodgawker going to pay for my rehab?

Too real. Anyway…

To help facilitate the hunger for acceptance, foodgawker recently tweeted a PDF of submission guidelines to remind everyone of what they’re looking for in a food photo. While the tips were technically accurate, I think they were a little too “dull” (to use their word). Sometimes it helps to know what NOT to do. So, I thought it might be helpful to offer up a few specific samples of “foodgawker rejects” and what their corresponding unedited rejection comments might look like.

after photo
Rejection Reason:  What happened to the food?

foodgawker reject
Rejection Reason:  We do not, nor have we ever accepted selfies. And why are you eating a slice of bread in what appears to be a bathroom?

foodgawker dog
Rejection Reason:  This is just a picture of your dog. Yes, you have a handsome dog, but this is a #foodporn website.

food porn
Rejection Reason:  Not that kind of food porn…

foodgawker threat
Rejection Reason:  We don’t respond to grammatically incorrect threats.

I heart foodgawker
Rejection Reason:  We do not accept bribes. And come on, a dollar?

toast gawker
Rejection Reason:  Closer, but this is just a piece of toast. Have you even been to our website?

foodgawker bread
Rejection Reason:  This is clearly just a photo of our website. And WHAT IS GOING ON WITH THE BREAD?!

Maybe one day (far into the future when we’ve completed rehab), we’ll be able to provide a post full of useful advice and examples of accepted foodgawker photos. But until then, there WILL BE BREAD!

Standard
Mouf Links

Mouf Links

Mouf Links

  1. Foodie Brunch at Casa Oaxaca (Adventures of the Repatriate) – I was fortunate enough to participate in a lovely bottomless brunch organized by Jessica of Adventures of the Repatriate. It was a great time comprised of a few of us #FoodieChats participants in the Washington, DC area. Considering so much blog interaction is online through social media, it was nice to meet some fellow bloggers and foodies in person. It may very well be a reoccurring event, so drop me or Jessica a line if you’d like to be kept in on the loop for future meet-ups. And as you can see by her pictures, the food and beverages were delicious (guava mimosas > normal mimosas).
    .
  2. Brown Sugar Peaches and Cream Grilled French Toast (Half Baked Harvest) – It’s almost as if Tieghan somehow snuck into the deepest crevices of my mind and compiled some of my favorite food components into one super breakfast. The title says it all, so just click the link and commence drooling.
    . 
  3. The Best Iced Latte in America? (The New York Times) – I stumbled across this article a few weeks ago about Los Angeles based G & B Coffee and their almond-macadamia nut latte, which is purported to be the best iced latte in America. Ever since then I haven’t been able to shake the idea of a coffee-spiked macadamia nut milk latte; I literally think about it a few dozen times per day. But until I have a chance to visit LA, I guess I’ll be ordering a nut milk bag so I can try to recreate this cold, caffeinated moo-free beverage at home.
    .
  4. Gluten Free{dom} (Poor Man’s Feast) – An eloquent and personal take on the gluten free “movement,” Elissa Altman tries to unite the naysayers and the yaysayers by underlining the bigger, almost simpler issue at hand: real food > processed food. If you hate reading (then why are you here?), you can also check out her interview on the Go Fork Yourself podcast.
    .
  5. Novel:  The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill - I don’t read nearly as many novels as I should, so there will be very few book recommendations on this blog. Fortunately, during our recent trip to Puerto Rico, there was plenty of time dive into a couple novels. I was turned on to the book when Alton Brown mentioned on the Alton Browncast that it was one of his favorite novels and also happened to take place in the restaurant industry. Beautiful prose, a tragically unique protagonist, and plenty of narrative #foodporn make this a perfect book to read during a vacation.
Standard
Travel

Five (mostly food-related) Things We Miss About Puerto Rico

Condado Puerto Rico

I’m not sure what we were expecting of Puerto Rico, but I feel like we went into the vacation with relatively low expectations. Part of it was our love of California, so taking a trip to Puerto Rico meant we’d have to wait even longer to go back to San Francisco and/or San Diego.

Part of it was the fact that everyone we told about our trip had the same emotionless response of “Oh. [long pause] That’s cool.”

And part of it was reading a few too many articles about the drug trade in Puerto Rico (despite the fact that very little crime is directed at non-drug dealing/buying tourists).

Needless to say, we didn’t expect to leave Puerto Rico with any feelings of loss or sadness. We figured by the end of our trip we would be more than happy to head home and look forward to our next vacation (hopefully on the west coast). But by the time the trip was almost over, we realized that we really enjoyed this sort-of-foreign place. We found some new food, a little bit of adventure, and even made a few friends along the way. Going home meant that we’d have to say good bye to some of our new favorite things:

Banana Pancakes Ben & Jerry's

The best damn banana pancakes in Puerto Rico

  1. Banana Pancakes at Ben & Jerry’s Café
    “But isn’t Puerto Rico known for its plantains?” Sure, we ate plantains at every meal, but one of the culinary highlights was breakfast at a Ben & Jerry’s. Confused? Don’t be (and yes, I’m talking about the ice cream place). It’s a weird co-branded ice cream café, but what’s not weird is the fact that these pancakes were ridiculously good. So good that at one point I started to plan our days around eating multiple plates. Thankfully Tina was there to reign me in. They had a crisp crust on the outside and despite being a pancake, had a banana-y crepe taste that would make you sell part of your soul to the highest bidder. And the guava jam…oh that guava jam… Alright, I’ve just booked a flight back.

    Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes

    Taro chips and guacamole on the left, Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes on the right

  2. Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes at La Concha Resort
    We’re not travel experts, so I’m not going to review La Concha Resort. I’ll say that we had a great time and would absolutely go back.  Room service was good, despite the usual high resort prices (go for the omelet and skip their pancakes), but the real bright spot was the Mahi Mahi Chicharonnes served from their poolside restaurant Solera. These little fried bites of fishy deliciousness are something you don’t see much of in Northern Virginia. And sure they’re not technically “real” chicharonnes, but “fish nuggets” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    Yokahu Tower

    View from Yokahu Tower @ El Yunque

  3. Robert of Sunset Tours
    I can count on one finger the number of times I’ve gotten into an unmarked white van with a stranger. This was the one time. And no, Robert did not lure us in with candy and promises that “he’s a friend of our parents,” rather we were drawn to him by a near perfect TripAdvisor rating. Aside from being knowledgeable and friendly, he was just a great dude to hang out with for a day. We were in a small group of just four people (shout out to our partners in crime, Saville and Ashley!), so it felt like a very special private tour of El Yunque rainforest and Luquillo Beach. During lunch he even went out of his way to find some vegetarian options for Tina (which was not easy*) and took care of ordering food for everyone from the local food kiosks. OH, and he even slowed down to avoid hitting a stray dog on the way back to the hotel. Big bonus points for that. We would go on a thousand more tours with Robert of Sunset Tours and so should you.

    El Jibarito

    El Jibarito = Delicious

  4. .El Jibarito in Old San Juan
    This restaurant came recommended from our buddy Robert (see above) as one of his favorites in Old San Juan. We ended up hanging out with our new pals, Saville and Ashley in Old San Juan, so not only did Robert give us an awesome tour, but because of him we met two really cool Texans who kept us laughing the whole time. Nobody was disappointed in El Jibarito and even Tina with her meat-less plate left the restaurant craving more rice and beans. I ate the pork-filled “Christmas Special” which was accurate because when my plate arrived, I felt like little Timmy on Christmas day. Plantain pork tamales, roasted pork, rice and pigeon peas and (of course) fried plantains. Feliz navidad!

    Chicken Asapao

    Asopao de pollo (chicken gumbo)

  5. Asopao de Pollo at Cafe Del Angel
    Asopao = Gumbo. That’s all you need to know. In fact, I wish I had known that Puerto Rico had its own gumbo equivalent. Everyone always talks about the mofongo. Mofongo this. Mofongo that. Yeah, mofongo was fine and about as good as mashed plantains can be (not better than mashed potatoes in my opinion), but this rich, gumbo-like stew was comforting. Luckily I found some that tasted like my grandma would’ve made (if she were Puerto Rican) at Cafe Del Angel (right across the street from La Concha). The bowl was enough for two meals, which came in handy because I ate the leftovers for dinner the next night. I NEVER eat leftovers on vacation (and waste another chance to explore more foods?!).

These aren’t the only things we’ll miss, but at a certain point it would absolutely bore you to death if I started writing about every single grain of rice we ate (most of them delicious), the thread count of the sheets, and the way the warm sand felt betwixt our toes. And honestly, Saville and Ashley deserve their own category of awesomeness, but I won’t embarrass them here (I’ll save that for a future “Things we miss from Texas post”). The bottom line is that Puerto Rico is a great place to visit and we can’t wait to go back to explore more attractions (with Robert!), more islands, and of course MORE FOOD. Just make sure you bring plenty of sunblock, because the Puerto Rican sun is NOT the same sun we have in Virginia. Now I know what a crème brûlée feels like. ALSO, if you live in the U.S., you do not need a passport to visit Puerto Rico. So, that’s a plus for folks who are lazy and have not yet applied for a passport (stop looking at ME!). Seriously, I’m going to get that passport this month…

*Yes, you can find vegetarian options. And you can even find vegetarian restaurants like Verde Mesa. However, if you’re just having a chill vacation in the Condado area of San Juan and for convenience you want to hang out near hotel La Concha, your options will be less plentiful. If you go to less-touristy places in smaller towns, you may want to just eat pork. Those damn vegetarian-friendly California vacations have spoiled us rotten…

 

Standard
Mouf Links

Mouf Links

Mouf links

  1. Every State in the USA, Ranked by its Food/Drink (Thrillist) – I’m sure some people might be upset by this list (which ignores Washington, DC), but it’s still fun. Virginia is at 32, which I think is nearly accurate (albeit a bit too rough). Of course Virginia doesn’t really have much of its own food identity, but hey we’re like RIGHT NEXT DOOR to Washington, DC. Spoiler Alert: California wins the top spot. That’s about right. .
  2. Vanilla Ice Cream without an Ice Cream Maker (Ice Cream Science) – This is actually an older post from last December, but I just discovered Ruben Porto’s blog this week. With Alton Brown-like perfection, this guy is clearly an ice cream scientist and his ‘how to’ post/video are entertaining and informative. You will feel smarter after visiting his blog and I really wish I could’ve taken this as a high school science credit instead of biology. .
  3. Alton Browncast Episode #48: Andrew Zimmern – In general, Alton Brown’s podcast is like the culinary version of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast. If you’re unfamiliar with Zimmern’s backstory, you’ll enjoy this conversation about not only Bizarre Foods, but also stories of his pre-cable show fame and struggles with addiction. .
  4. Food Photography Blunders (Fork & Good) – In a world of perfectly staged food photos with glistening afternoon sun rays and a background of reclaimed barn wood, it’s nice to see Emma poke fun at some of her old food photographs. While you’re there, stick around for some tea (she LOVES tea). .
  5. Thanksgiving Leftovers Tacos (Cook In / Dine Out) – It’s not November, but it’s never too early to start talking about Thanksgiving! This is one of those ideas where it’s so brilliantly simple that I get angry and jealous that I didn’t think of it. But come this November, I’ll certainly be THANKFUL (see what I did there?) that Andrew posted this.
Standard
Recipes

Chocolate Cake, Hold the Flour

Chocolate Cake, Hold the Flour

In my opinion, a chocolate dessert should include three key components:

  1. A rich (nearly sinful) chocolate centerpiece
  2. Something fruity with both sweet and tart elements
  3. FRESH whipped cream

Notice the use of ALL CAPS. Manufactured “whipped” cream in a can has no place in our refrigerator. And don’t get me started on non-dairy whipped toppings…

Cocoa Powder Sifting

Aside from my militant attitude toward whipped cream, it’s a pretty straightforward template that can be utilized for a quick dessert. If you’re feelin’ fancy, it can be as complicated as a an espresso chocolate waffle topped with orange raspberry compote and a mint whipped cream. But, if you’re in a lazy mood (like me on a Sunday afternoon), you could buy all the required ingredients at a 7-11 and serve dark chocolate candy bars topped with strawberry jelly and whipped cream (Slurpee pairing anyone?).

Ingredients

Luckily this Franken-recipe (sewn together from Bon Appétit and Ina Garten) is somewhere between that espresso waffle and a trip to 7-11 and is as easy to make as any cake. Actually, it’s easier because there is one less ingredient in this cake: Flour. Addition by subtraction. Which also means that it is…

Gluten-free!

What?! How dare I sneak a gluten-free post into what is normally a blog filled with chicken wings, doughnuts, and Krispy Kreme doughnuts turned into French toast? Well, Sherlock, the title says “hold the flour,” so it wasn’t that sneaky…

Flourless Chocolate Cake Batter Pour

Since Tina has removed gluten from her diet to see if it helps reduce what appears to be un-diagnosable abdominal pain (possibly our very own Monsters Inside Me premise!), we’ve been a lot more aware of gluten-free products and recipes lately. It’s definitely tough and forces us to be a bit more creative when eating out or dining at home, but this recipe doesn’t feel like anything is missing. I’d actually prefer eating this flourless chocolate cake over any other flour-filled chocolate cake out there.

Fresh Strawberries and Blueberries

So, in a gluten-filled world, a flourless chocolate cake can be a decadent beacon of hope. Don’t be afraid to go towards the light…

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Mammollop of Whipped Cream

Notice that you can barely see the chocolate cake because of the mammollop (“mammoth dollop”) of whipped cream. It ain’t quite as pretty, but that’s how we eat it. And its likely that I’ll run out of whipped cream before I’m finished with my slice. Yes, I have a problem.

FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE CAKE

This recipe is not modified at all from its original version. Bon Apétit doesn’t mess around, so no need to mess with their recipes!

  • 1 Cup (2 sticks) Butter, cut into pieces
  • 8 Ounces Semisweet Chocolate Chips (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 1 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Sifted Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 6 Large Eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Lather up a 10-inch-diameter springform pan with butter and line the bottom with waxed paper.
  3. Stir butter and chocolate in heavy large saucepan over low heat until melted.
  4. Mix sugar and cocoa in large bowl. Add eggs; whisk until well blended.
  5. Whisk in chocolate-butter mixture slowly (unless you want a scrambled egg cake).
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan.
  7. Bake until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
  8. Cool cake completely in pan on rack.
  9. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cake. Release pan sides.

TRIPLE BERRY SAUCE

This is a slightly modified version of Ina Garten’s Triple Raspberry Sauce featured as part of her Mixed Berry Pavlova on Foodnetwork.com.

  • 1 lb Fresh Strawberries (sliced)
  • 1 Pint Blueberries
  • 1 Half-Pint Fresh or Frozen Raspberries
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Cup Raspberry Jam (12-ounce jar)
  1. Place the raspberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 4 minutes.
  2. Pour the cooked raspberries and jam into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process until smooth.
  3. Gently mix in blueberries and sliced strawberries.
  4. Chillax in the refrigerator.

FRESH WHIPPED CREAM

  • 1 Quart Heavy Whipping Cream
  • ½ Cup Confectioners Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  1. You can use a hand or stand mixer, we use the latter. The sugar is also adjustable to your sweetness preference.
  2. Chill the bowl and whisk in the freezer for about five minutes.
  3. Throw in all of the ingredients and mix on medium-high speed for about five minutes or until the cream has thickened to your preferred state.
Standard