Raspberry season and the cheesecake pan

We are very lucky to have a source of fresh raspberries to pick in season. And that season would be RIGHT NOW.

The past 2 weekends we have picked huge containers of raspberries to enjoy every which way. For example, I made bon appetit's Lemon Cheesecake Squares in mini-cheesecake form.

The result? Fine, but not as good as my favorite recipe (from the Eating for Pregnancy book I mention in my Best Bran Muffin post back in May). But it was a tasty treat on a summer evening, and small cheesecakes are fun to share with good friends. (Thanks for grilling T&W!)

The next day we carefully washed the cheesecake pan and it almost got put away when I decided to try something else. I had been given a sample of a scrumptious raspberry cake recently and begged for the recipe. It turned out to be Gourmet's June 2009 Raspberry Buttermilk Cake. I wondered what would happen if I divided the batter up into the mini-cheesecake pans instead of making one 9" cake.

This time the result was An Explosion. Notice how the top of each cake is much wider than the cake itself. Oops! I guess cheesecakes (or brownies or other dense goods) work well in these pans because they don't rise very much. But this light cake levitated right out of the pan to become turnover-shaped muffins. Not what I was going for, but delicious of course.

Also, this recipe calls for all the fruit to go on top of the batter, but I think I'd put some on the bottom or in the middle too, for variety. The batter is so thick the fruit actually rises instead of sinking in. This may differ with a heavier fruit, like plums.

Stoudt's 5 course beer & food pairing

When have I ever had a 5 course meal before? Not for as long as I can remember. As a very generous and thoughtful (yum, beer!) gift, we were treated to a fantastic dinner at the Brattleboro Country Club's Fairway Tavern. Chef Steve did an amazing job of preparing unique and delicious dishes inspired by and accompanied by Stoudt's brews. I must admit I'd never heard of Stoudt's before. Their rep was there at the dinner and explained each beer as we drank it. He said the brewery is in Adamstown, PA, the heart of Amish country. It has been around for over 20 years, and Mrs. Stoudt, Carol, seemed instrumental in getting the thing going. Very cool.

Course 1 was a "Pretzel Bread Floral Salad." At the bottom was a yummy salty pretzel round, with a vertical salad composed of greens and edible flowers. This was paired with the Gold Munich Style Helles (4.7% alcohol, 25 IBUs). To me the pretzel and the beer combined made for a nice homey ballpark feel. I never knew you could eat fuchsias--they're good.

Course 2: I was so excited about the look and smell of this one that I forgot to take a picture before eating, so this is a picture of the "sample" plate at the front of the room--kinda blurry. It's a spicy jerk-style pork tenderloin with a not-too-sweet mango chutney and fried plantain chips. Everything had a subtle but heady curry aroma to it, and I just inhaled the food. The pork was so tender, the chutney was just the right amount of hot. We had this with the American Pale Ale (APA), a hoppy golden affair that tasted a lot like any other IPA (that is, good). (5.1% alcohol, 40 IBUs)

Course 3: If I had to eat one of these courses every day, I'd pick this one. It was a giant (U10) scallop that had been smoked the day before, seared and wrapped in prosciutto, then served with Israeli couscous perfumed with fennel, a touch spinach and a dab of sweet corn. Just amazing. The chef (who came out and explained each dish as we ate) said that hot scallops just suck up the prosciutto when applied, so there's no need to use toothpicks or skewers. The prosciutto simply sticks. This was served with my current favorite style of beer, Pils. I like the CRISP taste of a pilsner (this one 5.4% alcohol, 40 IBUs). Just as bitter as the APA technically, but to me it was much more precise and single-minded in its hoppiness. As I said to my companion, pale ale is a hot mess compared to the clean edge you get from pilsner. I guess it's something about the pilsnering process (long, cold, bottom-fermenting) that makes for that puckery clean finish I like so much. (Frankly, it's the same exact reason I like Genesee Cream Ale! Not a huge beer expert, obviously.)

Course 4: Our dining companions were cracking us up with many off-color comments about the beech mushroom on this plate. This was a grilled sliced New York strip steak with lots of black pepper, served with mushroom risotto and an incredible "sauce au poivre" (was there brandy in the sauce? Dunno. It was so good though). It was served with Stoudt's Scarlet Lady Ale (4.8% alcohol, 32 IBUs), which the beer rep said was good for both men and women to drink. I have no idea what he meant, if anything, but how can you go wrong with a statement like that?! While I loved Course 3 as a concept and a dish, this course was probably the most fun. The beers were starting to have a positive effect on everybody, we were all loosened up, loving the steak and the funny mushrooms, starting to hand around extra bottles of Scarlet Lady Ale, and generally having a good time.

Course 5: Grilled peaches, with habanero sorbet served in a chocolate cup. I have huge respect for any chef who is not afraid to singe his guests with habaneros. At some point in between childhood and now I started to love hot things. I'm not like a smoker who has to put tabasco on everything to taste it, but I am not afraid of a little--or a LOT of--spice. Bring it on, man. The chef seemed so proud of his invention: The peaches were hot yet sweet, the sorbet was cold yet sweet yet HOT. And the chocolate served to tie everything together. My companion decided to stick the entire chocolate cup of sorbet in his mouth at once, to get the whole experience. I decided to drizzle my sorbet all over everything (after first tasting it to make sure it would really burn... it did). The beer accompaniment, a hefeweizen called Heifer-in-Wheat (5% alcohol, 12 IBUs) was the perfect relief in between bites of the flaming cold dessert. It's supposed to taste of bananas, cloves, and bubble gum, but to me it tasted like peaches and habaneros, which was terrific!

Thank you tons JK for the idea and the treat, we had so much fun on a special day!

Turkey shawarma & tamarind cocktails

Recently I was a passenger in a car for over 9 hours. During that time I ate a lot of McDonald's food, participated in some Invisible Marker adventures, sang Cole Porter songs and handed around granola bars. I also read several issues of bon appetit cover to cover. Here's what happened:

My recipe-reading exploded into a rash of recipe-making when I got home again. For one, I made Tamarind and Vodka Cocktails. Mine were a lot darker than the pretty pitcherful in the recipe. (It was one of those slightly annoying articles where fabulously earthy yet tasteful people give an amazing outdoor dinner party, including one or 2 slightly famous guests who just happen to be their buds, and yay-here-are-all-the-recipes-they-made!) Tamarind concentrate is not something I'd ever purchased before. I was pleased to find it's only $1.99 at the local Indian grocery. Tamarind looks like treacle and tastes like sour. In the end, I liked the tamarind cocktail base a lot better in a different drink of my own devising. I'm calling it the Twisted Tamara Palmer, because... it's like an Arnold Palmer except with tamarind instead of iced tea, plus there's vodka. Refreshing.

I also made Turkey Shawarma with Tomato Relish and Tahini Sauce. This was a big success. It involves several different stages of assembly (sauces, rub, marinating, grilling, slicing, wrapping), but is not too hard to pull off on a weekend afternoon. Above are 2 turkey cutlets grilling, plus onions along with some summer squash that needed to join the party. The idea of the Shawarma recipe is that you can try to replicate the taste of one of those Middle Eastern donair/dolma thingies where the meat is piled onto a rotating vertical spit and then sliced off. For this recipe you grill turkey cutlets, then stack them up and slice to approximate the real thing.

Here are most of the ingredients--dill pickle slices (added a great crunch and kick), sliced grilled turkey, grilled onion (you're supposed to slice up large ones, but I used small halved farmer's market ones instead), pita, plus the 2 titular sauces.

The shawarma is assembled.

And ready to eat. Very very good. The spice rub for the turkey tasted
quite "authentic" in my opinion.

Thanks bon appetit for some inspiring reading in the July 2009 "BBQ Issue." Other earmarked pages are the Chickpea Pizza, Lemon Cheesecake Squares with Fresh Berries ('cept I'd just make mini cheesecakes), Coffee-Rubbed Cheeseburgers with Texas Barbecue Sauce (OMG!) and just about everything in the "Seoul Food" article (shrimp-scallion pancakes, beef bbq, white kimchi).

What magazines or beloved recipes have been inspiring you lately?

Farmer's market scavenger hunt

I went to the farmer's market wondering if I could find ingredients for kimchi. The recipe I was making required a rare confluence of fruits & vegetables, specifically Napa cabbage, Asian pear, green scallions and daikon. Would I be able to find ALL of these at the farmer's market? That was my goal--and I even made a list so I wouldn't get distracted.

Here are a few things we saw while looking.

I love the herring-bone cross-hatch
pattern of these fennel bulbs.
Apparently fresh garlic is in season!

Some non-food offerings:

Selections from Putney Mountain Winery.
If you're the right age, they'll let you taste.

Cute aprons for small people.

Fantasy wear for small people.

Susan Dunning's gorgeous pottery.

So did I find my kimchi ingredients? Well... no. I did find some good looking cabbage as well as some daikon. I know I can get scallions at the Wednesday market and a pear at the supermarket. But I wanted the stars to align for me today and just make it happen if it was meant to be. When I got home I found 4 new summer squash hiding in the garden--they will be my project instead!

Bairrada Churrasqueira, Toronto

Last Sunday, when we were in Toronto, we followed a tip to go to a Portuguese grillhouse (churrasqueira) for dinner on the patio. The place was Bairrada Churrasquiera at 1000 College Street (there are also 2 other branches). Because I had no idea what to expect at a churrasqueira, I did some Web searching first and learned that Bairrada is known for their roast chicken and roast suckling pig. They also have distinctive little round potatoes.

When we got there the front of the place was rather unassuming, and the indoor part of the restaurant seemed a trifle narrow and cafeteria-like. But the patio in the back was wonderful. The sun was just starting to go down and cast the film-maker's beloved "magic light" across the patio. It felt like the kind of place where we could park ourselves at 4pm and keep ordering food, wine, beer, brandy and coffee until closing. (It seemed like some of the other customers were busy doing just that.)

However, this was our third restaurant in one day, so we weren't really prepared for a huge amount of feasting. (It may also be relevant that I'd stayed up until 3am for the previous 3 days running!) Basically, we were mellow. First off, I ordered a Portuguese cheese appetizer.

It was about the consistency of a soft feta, but with a much milder flavor. It went well with the super-crunchy buns on the table, though I could have gone for some olive oil sluiced all around.

As we ate, my companion proudly showed off his new tattoos.

On the left we have "sexy."On the right, "Canada."

(These seem to be a positive commentary on our visit to "sexy Canada." Less than a week later and the maple leaf is already wearing off though...)

Back to the food, I ordered the house special grilled chicken.

There were round (Parisienne) potatoes just as promised. They seem to have been boiled and then grilled or possibly fried. They were very soft and kind of bland. (I ate them all though.) The chicken was... mouth-watering. Super-crispy skin, super-moist but fully cooked inside. But what really made it for me was the sauce that comes with the meal. It's hard to tell from the photo, but it looks like a chili-tomato paste on the bottom, with a deep layer of red oil on top. (My companion's suckling pig sandwich is in the background.)

This sauce was THE BOMB. It was spicy, but not painfully hot. It was a little sweet, but not like ketchup. It was also a trifle piquant, perhaps from vinegar or just acidic tomato paste. I wanted to buy a whole vat of it to take home! Here's a typical bite from my plate, slathered in sauce.

After dinner my 2 co-diners went to check out the rock garden area at the end of the patio. It looks like they can do large events here, or at least have really crazy parties on weekend nights. While I enjoyed the coming twilight, the adorable waiter brought me a perfect espresso.

I highly recommend this place on a sunny summer day or evening. As one loyal customer at the next table put it, it's one of the best patios in town. (OK, he said it was THE BEST, but I can think of some others... gotta go back to Toronto soon!) Thanks P&R for the suggestion!

A morning in Kensington Market, Toronto

I went to Toronto! The main purpose of our visit was to attend one of the Best Weddings Ever. It was everything I was hoping for and more in terms of seeing 2 fabulous people get married and then celebrating with a super-fun party with lots of old friends. Congrats J&B!!! You so rock.

We stayed 2 extra days to explore the city a (tiny) bit. On Sunday morning, we went to Kensington Market to get dim sum. It was kind of a sleepy day in the city--sunshine, blue sky, very little traffic.

Doorway on Augusta Avenue.

Sandwich board for a store called Good Egg.

Our main goal was to visit the Bright Pearl at the corner of Spadina and St. Andrew's for dim sum. Below is the glow-eyed phoenix & dragon display at the far end of the room.

We had several yummy shrimp dumplings right off the bat. Then a really fine rice noodle roll with barbecued pork and garlic chives (I think that's what those green flecks were). I've only ever had the shrimp or beef version of this. The small savory flakes of pork plus the herbal pop of the chives was really unexpected and delicious. We also got a steamer of siu mai (above left). Then came The Thing (right). It was on the far side of the cart and looked vaguely like steamed ribs, but when we ordered it and took some helpings we realized too late it was likely some sort of offal. While I like to be daring, I sometimes have texture issues. This stuff looked gelatinous and fleshy and fatty, with various tubes and segments and... I just didn't want to get involved!

At this point, we had to admit our smallest member was getting extremely antsy. We were also kind of full already. So we let The Thing be our last dish. Note that we were there at 10am and I think the service is slow at that time. It's 10% off between 9-11, but one is likely to get a faster rotation of carts if one goes later. We'd probably have eaten a lot more if we'd gone at noon. I also felt like the service was a little confusing for the non-Chinese dim sum novice. Several carts just passed us by completely, probably because they figured we wouldn't like what they had. That may have been true, but I'd still like to know what I was forgoing. Also, they provided a handy pictorial key at the table, but many of the dishes we saw were not on the card.

I like the idea of the card, but would like to know how it's used. If the servers had just assumed I was a total idiot and pointed to the pictures, I might have been happier. So I'm thinking we should branch out and explore other dim sum spots next time we're in town. Where in Toronto do you like to get dim sum?

Music by the Month

This is the third month when I've posted Beef Jerky Time playlists in bulk rather than week by week. I'm just going to adopt this as my new Cabinet of Prof. Kitty SOP rather than feeling sorry for myself. One advantage of writing up several playlists at once is that I can take a longer view on what has really been burning up my airwaves lately.

But first, the playlist from the recent (June 26) fundraiser "Nite klub" dance that WVEW put on. 7 DJs over 4 hours seemed like a lot to cover. My set was about 35 minutes long, and I went on first. Unlike the last dance where I feel I played too much disco and "wedding" type stuff, I was really happy with this time. I rocked it, and people danced. This list is not exactly in order.

Prof. Kitty's set, 9pm, 6*26*09
  • Tonight's Today: Jack Peñate
  • Steppin Out: Lo-Fi Fnk
  • Lisztomania: Phoenix
  • Filthy (Gorgeous): Scissor Sisters
  • London Bridge: Fergie
  • Déjà Vu: Beyoncé w. Jay-Z
  • Just Dance: Lady Gaga
  • 4 My People: Missy Elliot
  • Adir Adirim (Nickodemus remix): Balkan Beat Box
Let's go back to some Beef Jerky Time playlists. First, back on 6*17*09 I had a really stressful day both at work and then at home, so I decided to just play smooth jazz for an hour and chill everyone out.
  • Sonnet for Sister Kate: Duke Ellington & his Orchestra
  • There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears: Bing Crosby with Bix Beiderbecke
  • Self Portrait in 3 Colors: Charles Mingus
  • Bayou Blues: Pete Fountain
  • I've Got a Feeling I'm Falling: Fats Waller
  • I'm Still in Love: Hadda Brooks
  • From Me: André Previn
  • Body & Soul: Benny Goodman Trio
  • Gee Baby Ain't I Good to You: Nat "King" Cole Trio
  • Moon Mist: Johnny Hodges
  • Just a Simple Melody: Ella Fitzgerald
  • If You Went Away: Joe Pass & Paulinho da Costa
  • A Night in Tunisia: Dizzy Gillespie
  • Some of My Best Friends are the Blues: Shirley Horn
  • Oh Lady Be Good: Teddy Wilson

The next week, I played a little old, a little new. I think my current favorite song from this show is "Brother Sport" from Animal Collective. They're already making "Best of 2009 so far" lists with their CD Merriweather Post Pavilion. I haven't heard the whole thing, but this song is great. Also, M83 has an awesome video for "Kim & Jessie" featuring the use of real 2x2 roller skates. And I like what I've seen so far of Dan Deacon--gotta find out more abut this guy! Here's the 6*24*09 playlist:
  • Brother Sport: Animal Collective
  • We're Gonna Save the Summer: Benett
  • Paris is Burning (Cut Copy remix): Ladyhawke
  • The Sound: Total Recall
  • Perfect Fit: Apostle of Hustle
  • Singt!: Rockformation Diskokugel
  • Paddling Ghost: Dan Deacon
  • Are You Sure?: Block of Yellow
  • Fantastic Cat: Takako Minekawa
  • I Go Crazy: Flesh for Lulu
  • Kim & Jessie: M83
  • Voilà l'Eté: Les Negresses Vertes
The following week was July 1, 2009, Canada Day! Because I have *ahem* Canadian connections, it wasn't too hard to figure out a whole show of fine Canadian sounds. Basically I discovered that because Canada is, like, a huge country, there is plenty of music that I already have that turns out to be Canadian. I tried to stay away from Stan Rogers and Gordon Lightfoot and keep things electro/techno/tapedeck/nuwave just like usual, with a smidge of 80s.
That brings us up to today, seven ate nine. I'm always glad to find more Neon Indian, and I also like "Two Dots" by Lusine. It's exactly the kind of electronic synth-type stuff I'm always going on about. Also glad to find out about another Swedish label, home of jj, that label being Sincerely Yours. Here's the 7*8*09 playlist:
  • Terminally Chil: Neon Indian
  • Feel the Hearbeat: Treacherous Three
  • No Voy a Morir: Palenke Soultribe
  • Two Dots: Lusine
  • Stillness Is the Move: Dirty Projectors
  • Controlar (XXXChange remix): Ceci
  • Song for No One: Miike Snow
  • Big Time Sensuality: Björk
  • From Africa to Malaga: jj
  • Warm Heart of Africa (f. Ezra Koenig): The Very Best
  • World In Motion: New Order
  • Starman (ATOM's Space Funk Journey): David Bowie mashup
  • Geddim!: The Herbaliser Band

Dim Sum comes to Brattleboro

This past weekend we got a chance to go to Cai's Dim Sum Tea House, which is a dim sum extravaganza put on at the C.X. Silver Gallery on Western Avenue, Brattleboro, Vermont. The gallery has been open for several years, but they just this spring started a monthly "Tea House" where dim sum is served from 11am to 8pm. Of COURSE we had to go, since I heart dim sum so much.

What we found was a real revelation for me and my dim-sum preconceptions. There were no stacking steamers, no thick, heavy dumplings, and actually none of the items that I usually conjure up when I think "dim sum." Instead, there was a series of unique "small plates" packed with fresh, light flavors. The main notes in many dishes seemed to be ginger, hot chiles and cilantro. And several of the items were cold, which is also not something I expect from dim sum--but which was very welcome on a bright summer morning. (OK, it was 12:30, but I felt like we were just getting going after a late July 4th nite!)

Wide shot of the whole table.
Top row from L to R: Vietnamese spring roll, mango yogurt drink, shao mai dumplings,
marinated Chinese eggplant
Middle row from L to R: Dan Dan Mian (Sichuan hot & spicy noodles), chicken & celery dumplings, Chinese spring roll, Stir fried rice noodles with tofu & vegetables & turmeric, marinated beef with tea egg
Bottom row from L to R: Marinated tofu, fellow diner's plate with spring roll dipping sauce, Cai's chicken with turmeric & maple syrup

Close up of Dan Dan Mian (L) & chicken celery dumplings (R)

Close up of marinated beef with tea egg

We really loved the Dan Dan Mian, which was a cold noodle dish with lots of spice and complex flavors. (I circled almost everything on the menu labeled HOT.) The chicken & celery dumplings were also excellent, and we were fascinated by the marinated beef and tea egg. They both seemed to have an anise-y flavor that worked well with the solid texture of both the beef and egg. The egg seemed to be smaller than a chicken egg, not sure what it was. I was also a big fan of the marinated Chinese eggplant, another cold dish that just melted in my mouth (and was also HOT--hooray). My dining companion really liked the stir-fried rice noodles. Our smallest member had no problem polishing off a tasty fried spring roll and was interested in the neat cross sections of the pale brown tea egg.

Basically we loved the food and are enamored of the whole idea of a dim sum tea house in our town. We got to sit outside on the porch on a gorgeous day. We sipped jasmine tea with our meal. It felt like we'd lucked into an invitation to a special family occasion with the host turning out her favorite dishes, rather than being at a restaurant. The cool gallery setting didn't hurt. They accept credit cards too! Recommended--don't forget to call ahead for reservations. Let's keep this thing going!

Special thanks to Someone Special, who not only had the idea, made reservations and treated us, but also went home after we ordered because I FORGOT MY CAMERA and retrieved that item. This post is brought to you by him. <3