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).
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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  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.
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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…

 

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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.
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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.
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Thought Nuggets

10 Reasons Not to Live in the ‘Burbs if You Enjoy Good Food

Reason #1 Ratio of food trucks to chain restaurants

  1. Ratio of food trucks to chain restaurants
    Aside from an ice cream truck (which for some reason plays creepy Christmas music in the middle of summer), you won’t find any food trucks out in the suburbs. Instead, sustenance is provided in the troughs of chain restaurants, where you’ll be squeezed into a booth and forced to choose the least offensive offering from a plastic ranch-stained menu. Sure, there are a few decent chains, but the lack of a food truck scene removes nearly all of the potential culinary creativity. If you love dry chicken fingers and bland (yet over-salted) French fries, you’ll be in luck! But, if you’re craving a Coca-Cola braised pork bun with savory cabbage and preserved yellow mustard seeds, you better buy a plane ticket to San Francisco. 
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  2. Reason #2 - No Coffee Shop Within Walking Distance

  3. No coffee shop within walking distance
    Maybe it’s just me, but I have this weird fantasy about how enjoyable it must be to simply walk to a local coffee shop. Get a little exercise, enjoy the weather, fist-bump a few homeless people on the way… You know, the American dream. Unfortunately, I’m living in the other American dream. The one where they squeeze eleventy-billion identical townhouses next to each other, thus making it impossible for anything to be within walking distance. Having to physically get into a car and drive to a Starbucks makes the whole process feel more like refueling a work truck than connecting with my inner muse. And there’s a drive-thru, so why would I get out of my car and use my legs (which are nearly atrophied from lack of use anyway).
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  4. Reason #3 - Every Night is Kids Night

  5. Every night is Kids Night
    Kids are cool. They say funny things and are a great way for their parents to live out their own failed dreams. I get it. But, why does it feel like every night is Kids Night in the suburbs? Red Robin is a solid chain that gets a lot of take-out business from us. However, I always have to mentally prepare myself to battle the hundreds of small humans that will undoubtedly be crowding the entrance. On a Tuesday night the last thing I want to do is hurdle several Eddie Bauer strollers while dodging red balloons, before I get into a fist fight with a four-year old over who gets to high-five Mr. Robin. And that’s white sand beach peacefulness compared to Chick-fil-a…
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  6. Reason #4 - Lack of Hipsters

  7. Lack of hipsters
    Say what you will about hipsters, but clearly the weirdest, most creative food is created with a strong hipster influence. I mean, you can’t NOT find good food in Portland or the Williamsburg neighborhood of NYC. Maybe the county could introduce tax benefits to hipster families who move into the suburbs. Yes. A hipsterfication of the ‘burbs is long overdue. Lets replace strollers and red wine with handlebar mustaches and craft beer.
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  8. Reason #5 - Not a Decent Donut in Sight

  9. Not a decent donut in sight
    With donuts hopefully replacing cupcakes as the “it” dessert in many cities, I’ve been waiting patiently for a hip donut shop to open up nearby. Unfortunately, the suburbs are generally at least ten years behind all the major food trends (In fact, I’m still waiting for the cupcake trend to make its way out here…). For now, Dunkin Donuts has the monopoly over donut lovers around here with no competition in sight. On the plus side, the grocery store chain Safeway is offering their version of a cronut. Is it any good? Who knows, because we have nothing to compare it to and probably won’t until 2024.
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  10. Reason #6 - The Wholefoods Void

  11. The Whole Foods void
    I’ve spent hours wandering the aisles of Whole Foods. It’s a great place to spend a few hours and $500. In order to get to the nearest Whole Foods, we have to make sure the dog is fed, pack a lunch, fill the car with a full tank of gas, and plan our whole day around it like a trip on the Oregon Trail. Alternatively our nearest grocery store is Safeway. Blah. I have a love-hate relationship with Safeway. I love the fact that they have cronuts, but I hate everything else about the nightmare of a grocery store. The products cost twice as much as every other grocery store. Everything is cramped, so you can barely walk around without accidently grinding on Grandma. And the organization of the aisles is about as logical and efficient as the IRS tax code. It took me 45 minutes to buy a dozen eggs once. So, although the trip to Whole Foods sometimes feels like a trip out west, there are many times when I would’ve rather gotten dysentery than shop at Safeway.
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  12. Reason #7 - Froyo is Inescapable

  13. Froyo is inescapable
    Although the suburbs aren’t the only areas with an infestation of frozen yogurt shops, it certainly feels worse due to the lack of other dessert options. As much hyperbole as I try to include in here, there is no stretching of facts when I say that every single shopping center in proximity to our home contains one fro-yo joint. Sweet Frog, Orange Leaf, Zinga!, Pinkberry, Fartberry…We suburbanites apparently don’t care what the name of the place is as long as we can fill up a cup full of diabetes and pay by the pound. This speaks more to the fact that suburban entrepreneurs are more interested in capitalizing on a proven money-maker and have no interest in investing in a more risky, yet creative endeavor. I understand the risk aversion, but it would be great if at least one of these small business owners would take some of their yogurt profits and introduce something new to the area (like a homemade ice cream sandwich shop). Until then, the Orange Leaf employees better get the sample cups out, cause I want to try them ALL.
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  14. Reason #8 - Farmer-less Markets

  15. Farmer-less markets
    Do you envision a farmer’s market with overflowing greens, fresh fruit exploding from barrels, and ears of corn stacked taller than your head? Yeah, I’ve heard about those types of markets, but they’re not in the ‘burbs. Sure we do have a farmer or two, but the suburban markets are more a way for yuppies to try to make money selling mediocre BBQ or cupcakes (is that still even a trend?!).  Even more Ludacris is the fact that on more than one occasion I’ve seen produce that have the grocery store stickers still on them. Weird that an apple imported from Mexico is considered “local” to northern Virginia.
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  16. Reason #9 - Food Service Workers are Dead Inside

  17.  Food Service workers are dead inside
    Local family-owned restaurants are motivated to make you happy, because if you don’t eat at their restaurant and have a good time, they don’t eat, period. But, when the food scene is dominated by chain restaurants, the “trickle down effect” is that the food services workers generally don’t care enough to make the experience enjoyable. Your community college-enrolled server is much more interested in retweeting Kimye than refilling your iced tea. And when she does remember that refill, your glass will be filled not only with tea, but also entitlement and angst. And can you blame her? I certainly don’t care if Applebees hits its goals. But, don’t stiff the server on her tip. Over-tip so she can pay for her books next semester and eventually move out of the suburbs. Just be sure to try and not write on the check, “Take me with you!”
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  18. Reason #10 - Vegetarians Not Welcome

  19. Vegetarians not welcome
    Aside from a few veggie burgers and salads, vegetarians will most likely have to order from the “side dish” section of the menu. If you enjoy seeing blank looks of confusion, just ask your server if the soup du jour is vegetarian. (Luckily they’ll already be on their iPhone, so they can Google it.) Until the hipsters move into town (or someone opens up an Indian restaurant), enjoy your Meatless Monday with a double order of French fries and two pounds of froyo.

Yikes, that was more depressing than I intended, but that’s okay because there is one positive aspect that helps offset all of the above:

    • You can control your own kitchen
      Since going out to eat and finding good food is so difficult, it forces us to become more creative at home. Why would I order a pizza from Papa John’s when I can make a beautiful charcoal-grilled rosemary potato pizza at home? Yeah, it’s more work but that’s part of the fun and how you can create a lasting memory of something so simple. Do you remember every time you’ve ever eaten at McDonald’s? No, but I bet you’d remember a homemade pork banh mi burger with Sriracha-Maggi glaze, picked daikon,  and cool cucumbers. So, even though you can feel trapped in the ‘burbs sometimes, it can be overcome* by simply firing up the grill and inviting your friends and family over.

*That still doesn’t fix the donut problem, so somebody should get on that ASAP.

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Mouf Links

Mouf Links

mouf links

It’s only Wednesday?! Here are a few links for your mouf that will help you get up and over the mid-week hump.

  1. 5 RABBIT INSPIRED DECONSTRUCTED LATIN-STYLE LOBSTER ROLL (theblueberrybison.com) – Yeah, that title is a mouthful, but after checking out this insanely creative dish (inspired by a craft brew from 5 Rabbit Cerveceria) you’ll wish your mouth was full. I mean the base of the dish has orange pork belly tortillas!
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  2. PornBurger.me – Mat Ramsey’s site delivers exactly what you’d expect from something called “PornBurger,” glorious burger porn in the form of uniquely beautiful (and delicious) creations. Burgers include creative twists like the Sookie Monster (with a “bun” made from fried pimento cheese grits), a Game of Thrones inspired burger called The Kaleesi, and even a breakfast creation, the Wake-N-Bacon, which features a bun made from apple fritters, sharp cheddar cheese, caffeinated maple espresso syrup, and a bacon-wrapped burger patty. If you’re in the Washington, DC area, you can even score a chance to be served by Mat Ramsey himself, in his own kitchen, with his pop-up burger bar, Bar R.
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  3. Mini Cherry Clafoutis with Chocolate Whipped Cream (climbinggriermountain.com) – Do you know what a clafoutis is? Until this week, I did not (and I probably would not have guessed that it was food). Lauren’s version of this french, flan-like baked dessert looks impressive and you can’t go wrong with fresh chocolate whipped cream! And let’s face it, it’s just fun to say “clafoutis” even though I’m pretty sure I’m not saying it correctly…
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  4. Go Fork Yourself Podcast:  Guy Fieri – If you haven’t already discovered the Go Fork Yourself podcast with Andrew Zimmern and Molly  Mogren, you’re missing out on some great food talk. This particular episode was fascinating, as they interviewed the polarizing Guy Fieri. Guy gets a lot of hate for being a sell-out, catch-phrase injected cartoon character, but this interview addresses who the real Guy is and how he deals with all the antagonism. It was a quick interview and I actually wish they had time to delve deeper into the off-camera Guy a bit more, but it was sufficient enough give you his perspective and allow for some empathy for Mr. Fieri.
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  5. Dizzy Pig BBQ Rubs – This is not a paid endorsement, I just really love this local spice rub company. And when I say “local” I mean their shop is literally less than a mile from our townhouse. It would be difficult for me to pick a favorite, as you can’t go wrong with any of the rubs, but I’ve been using the “Bayou-ish” to kick my sandwich up a notch (thanks, Emeril) and “Cow Lick” is a great deviled egg topper. Don’t just take my word for it.
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Reviews, Shopping While Hungry

Chef Barb’s B Sweet Hot Bread Pudding

Chef Barb's B Sweet Bread Pudding

It’s midnight, you’re wide awake and hungry. Possibly drunk, but there’s no way to confirm that…

For absolutely no reason, you start thinking about that trip to New Orleans that you took a few years ago. Normally gumbo is the primary focus of your memories, but this time you begin to fall into a paralyzed state where your only memory is of the bread pudding you had at one of the many great NOLA restaurants. Eggs, cream, butter, and an addictive Irish whiskey cream sauce turn already beautiful french bread into a dessert that could make a grown man squeal with joy.

Now you can’t sleep for fear of this bread pudding entering your dreams like a certain striped-shirt horror film character. There seems to be only one way out in order to fight this craving:  YOU MUST EAT BREAD PUDDING.

You may or may not have all the ingredients to  make the dish, but even if you do, it’s MIDNIGHT (and you might be drunk). Do you really want to spend all that time in the kitchen, in the middle of the night? WHICH, coincidentally, is the exact situation in which you’re most likely to be attacked by ninjas. So, you can either be killed by ancient warriors while trying to make bread pudding from scratch, or you can fall asleep and become trapped in a dreamworld, drowning in eggs and cream.

Luckily Chef Barb Batsiste has a third option for just this scenario. (You might know Chef Barb from her successful LA food truck and catering company. I’ve never eaten from the truck, but my sources in LA tell me it’s worth checking out.) Chef Barb’s B Sweet Hot Bread Pudding is a microwavable frozen bread pudding found in the freezer section of  your local Target stores. Thanks to Chef Barb, you’re never more than six minutes away from this warm, rich dessert.

B Sweet Bread Pudding

Of course this is a great idea in theory, but how good can frozen bread pudding be? Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to sample the goods. Flavors include Apple Pie, Glazed Donut, Cookies and Cream, and Fudge Brownie. Here’s what I thought of them, along with a few “grocery store hacks” to elevate this ready-to-eat treat:

Apple Pie with Caramel Drizzle

Aside from the fact that I’m a sucker for anything with “pie” in the name, there was nothing about the taste, texture, or appearance that would lead one to believe that this was ever frozen, let alone microwaved. What made this one stand out the most was the fact that the apples weren’t over-cooked mush that resembled apples–they were still al dente. Joining nine pints of random ice cream, the Apple Pie bread pudding will be a new staple for our freezer.

B Sweet Bread Pudding

Grocery Store Hack:  I haven’t tried this, yet…but I bet if you flatten any left-over bread pudding into patties, lightly coat in flour, and fry like pancakes it will taste awesome. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to complete the a la mode of your dreams. Yeah, that hack basically combines most of my favorite things (pancakes, bread pudding, and PIE), so I will probably be trying that soon…  UPDATE:  I finally got a chance to try this “bread pudding pancake” (check it out on Instagram) and I must say that it was fantastic (and I’m starting to realize that ALMOST ANYTHING can be made into a pancake or French toast). No, it will not win any “healthy eating” awards, but you’re not coming to this blog for tips on losing weight.

Glazed Donut with Icing Drizzle

If you love Krispy Kreme donuts and you have a sweet tooth, THIS is the bread pudding for you. Nearly as rich and decadent as my doughnut french toast, Chef Barb finds a way to make donuts even more fun. Although I love desserts, this one was a little sweet for my taste, but my Dad (who used to eat sugar out of the bag when he was a child) couldn’t get enough of it.

Grocery Store Hack:  Add fresh berries to insert a touch of tartness to complement the sweet, rich deliciousness. I had a few blackberries lying around, so that’s what I used. A minimum “one berry per bite” rule typically applies in our house.

Chef Barb's B Sweet Bread Pudding

Cookies and Cream with Icing Drizzle

A quick confession… I generally don’t love cookies and cream things. Aside from an occasional milkshake, I won’t search out this flavor profile and I’m not a huge fan of Oreos (the original “cookie and cream”). BUT. I do like chocolate bread, which comprises half of the equation in this bread pudding. The icing drizzle ties it all together in a pleasantly sweet way. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be scraping the sides for all the icing, as this bread pudding is probably the least sweet of the bunch (a good thing in my opinion).

Grocery Store Hack: I had some left-over Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to crush them up and sprinkle on top. The texture really helped sell the “cookie” part of the bread pudding.

Chef Barb's B Sweet Cookies and Cream

Fudge Brownie with Chocolate Drizzle

The chocolate bread wasn’t overly rich and went well with the pockets of dark custard and chocolate sauce. It doesn’t beat out Apple Pie as my top choice, but it’s not really a fair fight, ’cause…well…PIE. If you’re prone to brownie cravings, keep this on hand for such emergencies (it might also work as a good diversion when being attacked by ninjas, but the container does not confirm this).

Grocery Store Hack:  I like the way coffee enhances chocolate, so serving this “affogato” worked well. One hot scoop of bread pudding, splash of cold brewed coffee, all topped  with melted vanilla ice cream. You won’t be adding a sprig of mint if it’s midnight, but you also won’t be taking pictures of your food.

fudge brownie Chef Barb's B Sweet Bread Pudding

So, now that your midnight bread pudding craving has been satisfied by B Sweet Hot Bread Pudding (ahem…found at local Target retail stores…ahem), you can worry about more important issues like climate change, the economy, or ninja attacks. Although, like I said, I’m pretty sure this bread pudding can help with the ninjas, too…

Legal blah blah blah:  My fictional attorney, Bob Loblaw encourages me to mention that although I was provided samples of the product, I was not provided compensation for this review. All opinions expressed in this post are mine (with some strong influence from my wife).

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Cooper's Corner, Recipes

Canine Sweet Potato Froyo

Sweet potato froyo

Remember the first time when two of your favorite foods were combined in a way that BLEW YOUR FREAKING MIND?

Bacon on a doughnut? Boom.
Fried egg on a burger? Boom.
Indian spiced pumpkin chicken enchiladas from Avatars in Sausalito, California. BOOM. BOOM. BOOM? (let me hear you say wayo)

Well, it’s only fair that my furry friend, Cooper, has that same experience. And yes, I realize that he’s a dog and probably has his mind blown every time I drop a potato chip on the floor, but let’s pretend for a second that his palate is sophisticated enough to appreciate the effort.

Sweet Potato Froyo

Essentially everything Cooper does is somehow tied to the hope that he will receive either a dried sweet potato or ice cream. If the freezer door is opened and a paper ice cream container hits the counter, he will wake from a solid REM sleep and sprint into the kitchen to stare at me until his bowl is filled with that sweet vanilla cream. And for the former, I never have to worry about him running away when he’s off-leash because a simple shout of “Sweet Potato” will bring him running away from even the coveted buffet of goose poop that is our backyard. (Unfortunately, if a burglar ever breaks into our house and he has one of those delicious treats, Cooper would likely help him carry out our television.)

sweet potato froyo

So, with these two powers combined, I give you: Sweet Potato Froyo. Not super exciting, I know… But, it’s easy, cheaper than those over-priced “dog” ice cream cups, and your pup won’t know that it’s technically not ice cream.

sweet potato froyo

I saw this recipe for Frozen Yogurt Dog Treats on the Two Barking Dogs blog and realized that making “ice cream” for dogs is as easy as freezing Greek yogurt.

You can taste it yourself if you want, but like the Peanut Butter PUPcakes, it doesn’t really taste all that great to us humans. Luckily your dog won’t care and he or she will love you forever into eternity.

Sweet Potato Froyo

If you’re wondering whether or not Cooper actually ate from the plate above, the answer is “no.” I did try, but he just couldn’t wrap his head around this weird “flat bowl” contraption and just walked away. Upon placing the froyo in a proper bowl, he devoured it so fast that he didn’t have time to realize that it wasn’t really ice cream.

CANINE SWEET POTATO FROYO

Makes 12 cupcake-sized treats

  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 15 oz can Sweet Potato Purée
  • 2 cups Plain Greek Yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon Honey
  • 1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
  1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of your choice. I prefer glass for no particular reason at all.
  2. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners, fill each to the top with the froyo mixture, freeze, and enjoy.
  3. Once fully frozen (about 3 hours), remove the froyo filled liners from the pan with a little warm water. Seal in a ziplock bag in your freezer for easy storage and quick access.*

*So here’s the thing about paper cupcake liners and frozen yogurt, they stick together. But, no worries. Just run the liners under warm water and they peel right off. Even if they didn’t, let’s be honest, your dog would eat them anyway.

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Recipes

Coffee-Infused Doughnut French Toast

#cooperthelabradoodle doughnuts

It was 6:30 A.M. on a Saturday when they started calling me.

The beckoning cries echoed from our kitchen, up the stairs and into our bedroom. Although I was sound asleep minutes ago, the haunting calls forced enough adrenaline into my veins to ensure that falling back asleep wouldn’t be an option.

The “they” in this situation was a few remaining Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Stale and past their peak by a few days, but far from moldy. They knew I had a choice to make on this Saturday morning – a choice that could potentially alter the course of breakfast for the weekend.

I could simply throw out the glazed rings of stale dough…OR…I could REVIVE them into one of the most delectable breakfast items known to man: Doughnut French Toast.

Before I had time to even consider my options, the decision was already made. Like a waking dream I looked down and saw that my mise en place was ready to go: Doughnuts, eggs, milk, butter, coffee, fresh oranges, and a hot griddle. This was it. I had a job to do. Clear eyes, empty stomach, can’t lose.

doughnut french toast

I covet this breakfast because the texture reminds me of crème brûlée. The outer doughnut glaze forms a sweet caramelized crust, which hides a gooey custard-ish doughnut flesh.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made French toast out of doughnuts, but it is the first time I’ve tried to elevate it a bit. I wanted to incorporate coffee flavor, but I don’t typically keep cold coffee on hand for serious emergencies like this. And adding hot coffee to the egg-milk mixture was sure to turn out poorly. I decided to blend whole coffee beans and milk to see if I could at least force some coffee flavor into the milk in a similar way that one might make homemade almond milk.

My original idea was to use my Aerobie Aeropress espresso maker to filter out the coffee grinds. Yes, that was the plan

I love my Aeropress, but it turns out that milk is too thick to easily go through the paper filter. After almost breaking my beloved bong-shaped coffee maker and pulling a muscle, I ended up just using a standard strainer to filter out most of the coffee grinds. Sure some of the grinds broke through, but who doesn’t like a little texture? Yes, texture became the new plan.

frying doughnut french toast

Since the doughnuts come pre-sweetened with glaze, no additional syrup is necessary (unless you’re Leslie Knope). But there is one more thing I like to add: A squeeze of fresh orange juice.

So freaking simple. Does the orange really add that much? (Spoiler alert: Yes, it does.)

This is a sweet, rich dish. Not only does the orange juice complete a comforting “breakfast trifecta” of doughnuts, coffee, and orange juice, but it actually brings out the taste of coffee. Cool, huh? Oh, it also adds some much needed acid to the dish (I’ve always wanted to say that).

Despite the struggles with infusing milk with coffee, I was really happy with this dish. Which is good, because if I’m going to wake up at 6:30 A.M. on a Saturday, I damn well better be making something delicious.

doughnut french toast

 Coffee-Infused Doughnut French Toast

  • 6 Stale Glazed Doughnuts (Krispy Kreme works great)
  • 1 Tablespoon Coffee Beans
  • 1/2 Cup Milk
  • 1 Orange
  • 2 Extra Large Eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar (for garnish)
  1. Blend milk and coffee beans in a blender until the beans are thoroughly ground and the milk has a light brown color from the beans. Use a separate cup to strain the coffee-milk twice. Most of the grounds shall be captured, but you do want a few to escape.
  2. In a glass pan or shallow casserole dish, whisk the eggs until the yolk and whites have become one.
  3. Stir the milk into the pan with the eggs.
  4. Slice doughnuts in half, lengthwise and dip in the batter pan before frying in Step 5. You don’t need to let them sit for very long, as the un-glazed side will soak up the batter fairly quickly. (You can also use whole doughnuts, but you’ll need to let them sit a little longer to make sure it soaks up enough batter.)
  5. Heat a griddle pan to medium heat (or around 300 degrees). Melt the butter on the pan, then fry up your doughnuts French toast style. It shouldn’t take more than 1-2 minutes per side. Keep an eye on them, as the glaze side will caramelize quickly and burn if you’re not careful. You want the sugar to brown and be a little bit crunchy, but not burnt.
  6. Slice the orange into wedges, which can be used to squeeze juice onto the doughnut French toast. Since there is inherent sweetness from the glaze, no syrup necessary!
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Beyond the Food, Series

DC Donut Crawl

dc donut crawl

When:  Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 10:00 A.M.
Where:  Mount Vernon Square in Washington, DC
Registration:  Click here to register online.
More Info:  www.dcdonutcrawl.com

“I don’t like doughnuts” – Said by no one I would ever want to hang out with.

“I love doughnuts so much that I’m going to create an event in which attendees ride bikes to various doughnut shops.” – Said by a brilliant man who deserves a handshake, hug, and a bouquet of doughnuts.

That man is Erik Luchauer and in 2013 he had a dream. A simple dream that involved stuffing his face with doughnuts and riding his bike. Turns out he’s not the only person who’s dreamed of spokes and fried dough, because 250 hungry cyclists joined him last November to take an eight-mile bike ride to hit up four DC doughnut shops. This year’s crawl is set for June 7th, so grease your bike chains up and empty your stomachs.

In addition to a four-mile bike ride and three doughnut shops, this year a portion of the proceeds from the crawl will benefit Food For Life, a project of Care Company. Food For Life uses food to educate and train low income young adults in Washington, DC. Sure if you teach a man how to fish he’ll feed himself for a lifetime, but if you teach him how to cook that fish, it will taste a hell of a lot better and maybe he’ll be the next DC restaurateur (watch out, Mike Isabella). Some of the program’s previous graduates are already working in DC restaurants, contributing to the area’s food culture.

Erik handled the project solo last year as it evolved from a word-of-mouth crawl with a few friends, to an official event with its own logo, website, and online registration. The whole thing came together so fast, that before Erik even realized it, he was in charge of a full-fledged doughnut crawl! This year, to help ease the burden, he’s enlisted the help of  Will Fischer (who planned a similar event in St. Louis called the Tour D’Onut) and BicycleSPACE, a local bike shop who’s agreed to sponsor the event.

This year’s stops include three delicious DC doughnut shops:

GBD doughnuts chicken
Photo Courtesy of Erik Kallevig

1.  Golden Brown Delicious (GBD)  – Pastry Chef, Tiffany MacIsaac whips up a great balance of traditional doughnuts (like the classic Vanilla Glazed) as well as new twists including Cranberry Fritter, Samoa, and Passion Fruit. They also serve fried chicken for lunch and dinner that is…well…golden, brown, and delicious.

astro doughnuts
Photo Courtesy of BicycleSPACE

2.  Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken - Having been ranked by the Washington Post as being the best doughnut in DC, the Crème Brûlée doughnut at Astro is worth the four-mile bike ride alone. I can say from personal experience that this doughnut will change your life (goodbye, Dunkin’ Donuts). But don’t make plans for lunch.

district doughnut
Photo Courtesy of District Doughnut

3.  District Doughnut - The crawl ends with a reception hosted by District Doughnut where crawlers can enjoy music, doughnut-themed games, food vendors, and plenty of those magical fried rings of deliciousness. As one of the newer entrants into the DC doughnut scene, Owner and Executive Pastry Chef, Christine Schaefer has created a formidable doughnut menu including Cannoli, Orange Chocolate, and (the one that I most want to try) BROWN BUTTER.

dc donut crawl cyclist
Photo Courtesy of BicycleSPACE

I had an engaging conversation with Erik about the DC Donut Crawl, doughnuts, and food in general. His fondest memory of the circular treats was a Maple Bar doughnut from Daylight Donuts in Searcy, Arkansas. He remembered it being a well-done, perfectly simple maple doughnut which helped him get through many early-morning classes in college. As we reminisced about doughnuts past and our love of the many brilliant food options in Vienna, VA, I realized something…

Erik Luchauer is just an ordinary guy with a passion for doughnuts.

It’s inspiring to see someone take the initiative to organize an event like this, which not only creates a fun experience for the attendees and helps support a local charity, but also promotes three brilliant doughnut-makers. The most effort I’ve ever put into my love of those golden rings was stuffing a dozen from Stan’s Doughnuts in LA into my checked bag to transport back home (shockingly none were confiscated by TSA agents for “national security”). So I’m clearly not putting in as much effort as Erik.

He was very appreciative of any and all supporters and he said that even one single retweet on Twitter was helpful. That’s a fantastic attitude to have and it helps boil down why we (foodies, bloggers, tweeters, etc.) do anything: We’re just looking for someone else to share an experience with. Doesn’t matter if it’s two friends or two hundred strangers. For me, just chatting with Erik for an hour was worth all of the time and effort I put into this blog, tweeting, and “testing” recipes.

dc donut crawl helmet
Photo Courtesy of BicycleSPACE

So there’s bike riding, doughnuts, a ton cool people, AND you get to help a great cause. I can’t see any downsides to this event, so hurry up and register right now. Don’t have a bike? No excuse, because Capitol BikeShare is offering 50 free 1-day memberships to crawlers.

More information can be found at dcdonutcrawl.com and definitely follow @DCDonutCrawl on Twitter for updates and random doughnut-inspired tweets.

glorious doughnuts
Photo Courtesy of District Doughnut

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