Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Van Leeuwen

I'm pretty into ice cream. By "pretty into" I mean that it is my favorite food. I like all of its variations and I love trying new places. And occasionally new trucks.

While shopping in Soho with Chris I happened upon the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck. Let me tell you, this is not the kind of ice cream truck that attracts the little kiddies by blaring creepy chiming music. It's "artisan" and made with local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. No idea what "artisan" really means here.

Here I am going to town on a cone of Peppermint & Chip. The chocolate is in tiny slivers, and according to their website, this is so they can melt quickly and "expose their true flavors" as opposed to bigger chips whose flavor is muted by being frozen. Yes, these people clearly put a bit of thought into how they make their ice cream. As long as I'm on the receiving end of all that hard work, it sounds good to me.

In other news, John says "hi."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Twenty-seven years ago today my collar bone broke. Is it strange to know the exact date of such an event? Perhaps it would make more sense if I explained that my collar bone broke as I was being born. Apparently the doctors pulled my arm out first and *SNAP* it didn't go well. The way I heard the story my mom glared at the doctor and said "I hope that was ME!" Unfortunately, it was her new baby girl, but fortunately it wasn't my neck. I don't think I had to wear a cast or brace or anything because newborns don't move much. At least I've never seen a picture to that effect. Hopefully I won't relive my birthday experience by finding another bone to break. I wouldn't put it past me though, I'm pretty clumsy.

The Yard

One of the downsides to living in a townhome is that you have no yard. This is especially a downer when you have a dog. Therefore, I have appropriated the nearby park and proclaimed it as our own. Yard, that is.

Maddie pretty much feels the same way. She comes here about twice a day, so it might as well be our yard. I'm not sure dogs are really up on the whole land ownership thing anyway.

Whenever there are no kids around, I let Maddie run around off leash. Don't tell the Mountain View Police, though! Besides, you would blow my cover and Maddie might realize that "our yard" is really a park.

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Day

I started a new job today, and let me tell you, working isn't all it's cracked up to be. I woke up at 5:30 this morning, which is about four and a half hours earlier than I had been waking up pre-employment. Just a slight difference. Needless to say, my body barely cooperated throughout the day and it took a bit of effort to put dinner together once I got home. I'd forgotten what it was like to be too tired to really care what you make. I guess I'll leave my inventive cooking for the weekends.

The hour and 45 minute commute twice a day didn't make the experience any better, that's for sure. I ride the train, so it gives me plenty of time to do some reading, and I already finished a book today. Good thing I stocked up at the library.

Luckily, I had a big slice of ice cream cake to make everything better while we sat on the couch watching How I Met Your Mother. And also I have the knowledge that the job is temporary and only goes until the end of the year. Not sure how I'd survive otherwise.

Julie & Julia

So I finally read Julie & Julia. I was sixth in line when I reserved it at the library, so it took a pretty long time to come in. Lots of people I know had read the book, and most of them said pretty negative or neutral things. So naturally, I liked the book a lot. It's like when you go into a movie expecting the worst and your low expectations make it all the more pleasant. I had been warned that Julie was pretty negative/pessimistic/bitter, that there was barely any info about Julia Child, and that she blathers on about having a baby a lot. And all of those complaints are pretty much on point, but I still liked the book anyway. Any tidbits about cooking fascinate me, so I think this helped. I also like reading books about New York (and watching movies that take place there), so that didn't hurt either. It's hard to deny (as I write this on my blog) that the blogging-about-food thing did kind of make me relate to Julie on a certain level. I heard she has a new book coming out about becoming a butcher and divorcing her husband. Two levels on which I have no intention of relating to her.

NYC Friends

I am lucky to have some close friends still in New York, which made my trip all the more special. Let's be honest, hanging around a big city by yourself is only so much fun.

The good looking gent above is my friend, Chris, whom I met in college. It is possible that we used to sing and dance to Since You've Been Gone (by Kelly Clarkson of course) almost every weekend. If it makes it any better, Eve used to be a part of it. Oh, that's even more strange? Forget I even mentioned it.

Kyle was nice enough to put up with me staying with him for five days. He is not nice enough to put up with pictures of himself though.

I've known him since middle school, when we were in the same core group. Let's hope he doesn't remember what I used to look like back then. Ugh.

And of course I had to see all my old friends from work, Amanda, Stacey, and Ben. Somehow we ended up meeting at the pub we went to when we all found out we passed the New York Bar. Oh those many years ago. This time we got to celebrate the fact that I had to come to New York to take a CLE class. Hooray!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sixteen Candles

Please take a moment to marvel at this beautiful creation. Please take another moment to marvel at the fact that this wonderful dessert was HOMEMADE. Homemade for me!

Natalie and Mitch came over tonight for a bit of an early birthday celebration. We seem to have created a birthday tradition that when it's your birthday you end up doing the cooking and your friends just bring over the dessert. Trust me, you wouldn't mind this tradition if your friend brought you a homemade ice cream cake for dessert!

She kept the dessert a surprise until it was time to eat it, and I never in a million years would have guessed it was an ice cream cake. It never occurred to me that people would be able to make those at home. And boy oh boy was it delicious. The layers were mint chip ice cream and a fudgey/cakey chocolate layer with crushed Oreos. It tasted like frozen Thin Mints. And I've never met a person that didn't love Thin Mints.

I think now is a good time for everyone to reflect on which friend they can sucker in to making them an ice cream cake for their birthday this year. Trust me, this is a birthday cake you will not forget.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Strand

I mention books a lot on my blog it seems, and for good reason. I'm really into reading. One day I hope to be called an "avid reader." Hey, we all need goals, right?

In New York there is a bookstore called The Strand. It's humongous and relatively famous - featured in lots of TV shows and movies. I used to come by here after work and leave with an armful.

They like to measure their books by the mile, and they claim the store has 18 miles of books. On a semi-related note, it annoys me when people measure things in terms of the distance from the earth to the moon.

As far as I know, none of their books sell for the sticker price they would at a normal bookstore. And not just the used books. They have tons of new books that are sold at Amazon prices - if you know what I mean. They also have a huge selection of used books if you really want a bargain. This is especially nice because lots of used bookstores don't have the greatest selection.

A friend once told me, and I think she's right, that it's best to come here to browse and pick up some random books than to come here with a specific book in mind that you'd like to purchase. Usually they would have that specific book you need, but that defeats the purpose of browsing 18 miles of books!

In case you're interested, here is a list of the books I'm currently reading:
Waiter Rant by The Waiter
Second Nature by Michael Pollan
Be The Pack Leader by Cesar Millan
The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thai Things

Can we please discuss how good Thai iced tea is? We can? Thanks! I'm not sure what is in this stuff, but it is possibly laced with crack or something, because it is that good. I have Eve to thank (who has her brother to thank perhaps?) for introducing this drink to me, and now I can't go to a Thai restaurant and not order it. That would be sacrilegious! I think that the creamy portion on the top is either made with heavy cream or half & half. There was a time I thought there was sweetened condensed milk in this stuff, but after handling SCM a lot recently for baking, I don't think the texture would be right in the drink. I'm kind of afraid to find out how Thai iced tea is made because I really don't want to know how bad it is for me, but does anyone know?

Also, don't you just love how Thai iced tea looks and the joy you get from mixing the cream with the tea?

As for the other - clearly less important - part of my meal. I'm really into ordering curries nowadays. I love Pad Thai, but I've been burned by it to many times (read: it tasted bad), that I'm starting to think curries are safer orders.

Ginger Cookies

Don't you just love that fall has its own special flavors? Pumpkin, ginger, apples, cinnamon. Yum. The temperatures haven't really cooled down in California yet, but I'm still in a fall mood. Natalie and I made these ginger cookies last week and they are the best ginger cookies I've ever had. It's Natalie's recipe and she did most of the work, so I'm giving her none of the credit.

Natalie went out and bought a sifter just for this recipe. A woman after my own heart. If you don't have one, don't fret. You can just whisk everything together.

Let's pretend you have a sifter and get started. Add 2 cups flour to your sifter.

Now it's time for your fun fall spices. Add 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Now add 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Cloves - that's another fall spice I had forgotten about!

Add 2 teaspoons of ground ginger. I have to admit I don't own this spice. Good thing Natalie does.

To the sifter add 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda. That's a heck of a lot of baking soda, but I don't question Chef Nat.

Time for 1/2 teaspoon of salt!

Sift it all together, people.

I didn't really know how a sifter worked until we made these cookies. Do you know? Apparently a metal ring circles around as you pull this weird trigger thing and shoves the mixture through the sieve at the bottom.

And a nicely mixed...mixture (ha) comes raining down.

Flour with spicey speckles. We'll be seeing you later.

Now get out another bowl and add 1 cup sugar. Not too much sugar in the batter because the cookies will be covered with sugar later on. Kinda like those cider donuts I mentioned a few posts ago - you need to keep things from being too sweet, especially if you're planning on eating about 10 in a sitting.

Now add 3/4 cup vegetable shortening. Okay, okay. I know shortening is just a tad bit bad for you. This is the first time I've cooked with it since I was a kid, so give me a break. These cookies taste so good it's definitely worth it.

Cream together the shortening and sugar with your electric mixer set on a low setting.

Add 1 large egg to your creamed shortening and sugar.

And get ready for some real flavor - it's time for 1/4 cup molasses. Sadly, I tried to spell this "molasis" before I spell-checked. Spelling is not my strong suit, as my mother can attest.

Now incorporate everything with your mixer.

Secret ingredient time. Dice up 5 heaping tablespoons of crystallized ginger. This stuff looks tame, but if you are tempted to take a little nibble (like me), your eyes will bulge out a bit at the intensity. In the cookies they taste perfect though.

I hope your mixer is ready for a serious workout, because it's time to add the flour to the batter. Keep mixing while you slowly add the flour until everything is well incorporated.

Always the fun part of the cookie making. Bla.

Add the chopped crystallized ginger to your dough and use a spatula to combine.

Using your hands, make 1 inch balls of dough.

Place the dough balls into a small bowl filled with sugar and roll it around until coated.

Now place the balls of dough on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Look at these little cuties all lined up. Wow in retrospect, it's not the least bit surprising that some of these cookies became Siamese twins. Just a little bit packed.

Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. They will get that lovely crackly look on the top that I love.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack for as long as you can manage before eating them up.

These cookies taste as good as they look and are especially perfect for making this fall. Or really any season...because they are just that good.

Ginger Cookies
2 cups flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar, plus more for the outside of the cookies
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 large egg
1/4 cup molasses
5 heaping tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together 2 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 2 teaspoons ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer on low speed to cream together 1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup vegetable shortening. Add 1 large egg and 1/4 cup molasses to the shortening and sugar mixture. Blend with an electric mixer until completely combined. Slowly add the sifted flour mixture to the wet ingredients while blending with electric mixer. Once fully combined, add 5 heaping tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger and combine with spatula. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll in sugar. Place cookies on parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes.

Weird Things in Brooklyn

While walking around Williamsburg, Kyle and I stumbled upon a couple of weird things. The first was this car driving down the street. Yes, it can actually drive. Luckily for me, it was at a stop light, so I was able to break out my camera. It looks like the head of a giant Transformer or something to me. What kind of person would do this??

The next weirdness we saw was this copper mold collection of Amy Von Harrington. Um, what?

Can you believe all those copper molds? Where do you put all those things? All over your house, probably. I mean I gotta give it to this lady, this is quite a collection. I was a collection freak when I was a kid. I collected probably everything you could collect. Stamps. Shells. Pennies. Stickers. Rubber Stamps. Marvel cards. Comics. Baseball cards. Pogs. You remember Pogs don't you? I guess if I had known than collecting copper molds was en vogue, I would have collected them too!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Something ironic happened to me today, and like the Alanis song, it was ironic in the horrible way, but unlike the Alanis song, it was actually ironic, not just a misuse of the word (rain on your wedding day? c'mon!). I lived in New York for two years, and during that time, nothing bad or scary happened to me. I also went to New York for 5 days and returned to the Bay Area yesterday. Today I was in San Francisco attending a CLE class and somehow during the day - I suspect on my lunch break - my wallet got stolen. In seemingly picture-perfect San Francisco! At first I thought maybe I had just lost my wallet, so I went and retraced my steps, and of course no wallet was found. So at this point I'm getting a little freaked. I naturally break down to the unsuspecting parking garage cashier, telling him I was not only missing my parking entrance ticket, but I also had zero money to pay him. He and his boss were incredibly nice and mostly just wanted the hysterical woman to stop causing a scene. I told them I would send them the money in the mail, and they said there was no need and let me go for free. So on the car ride home I started calling my credit cards. And they did not have good news for me. The little thief used every single credit and debit card in my wallet for a fun little shopping spree in Oakland today. Target, a furniture store, gas, multiple grocery stores. It was bad. Overall I think they spent $3000 in between the hours of 1:00 PM and 5:30 PM. Needless to say, it was all a bit overwhelming. Natalie had to spot me for dinner tonight, because currently I'm without a dime. I'm relaxing right now by drinking some tea that's literally called "Nighty Night." What a day.

The Reason I Went to NYC

Okay, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. I didn't go to New York for the pizza, but I sure as hell knew I'd be eating some when I was there. The pizza in California is horrible for the most part, and I was in need of some greasy thin crust. I would have preferred to eat at Patsy's or Grimaldi's, my more go-to pizza places, but that just didn't happen. They serve delicious fresh mozzarella pizza with basil and homemade tomato sauce. That wasn't exactly the case at the hole-in-wall where I snagged a couple of slices, but it was still delicious. Everyone I was with got a huge kick out of the fact that the Parmesan cheese was attached to a piece of string on the front counter. Apparently people must walk out of there with the cheese a lot! Ghetto!

Nuts 4 Nuts 4 Nuts

If you've ever lived or spent time in New York, you have seen plenty of these street vendors. And if you are a normal person, you will probably never eat the roasted nuts that come off these sweet smelling carts. But if you are me, you will be Nuts 4 Nuts 4 Nuts.

When I tell people I am obsessed with these things, they say things like, "Eww you eat those," or "I never even considered eating there." When I lived in New York I used to get them every time I went shopping, occasionally before a movie, and sometimes on the way home from work when I decided to go the "long way" specifically to snag a bag. In my opinion, they taste exactly how they smell - delicious. It's amazing I only succumbed to their sweet scent once this weekend. I want to learn how to make some myself, and I think it's actually pretty simple - requires only water, sugar, and nuts or something. Until that day, I will be eating from these carts every chance I get.


So far as I know, no one actually uses "USFM" as a legitimate acronym for the Union Square Farmers Market, however, I am huge on acronyms and abbreviations, so I often just make them up.

The USFM is an institution in New York, visited by many chefs (and their minions). It's open long hours and four days a week, which is pretty awesome. I used to go every Saturday morning, so being back was a bit nostalgic.

I think this purveyor is new, but I just loved their sign. Not just "I love bacon," but "I love YOU bacon." I have a feeling the piggies wish we loved pigs instead of bacon.

I love all the characters that frequent the USFM. Moms with babies, hipsters, married couples, and crotchety old ladies that have probably been living in New York longer than I've been alive.

One of the specific reasons I wanted to hit up the USFM was to get one of these babies. A beautiful and delicious cider donut.

I'm not sure I'll be able to find these out West, and I used to get them every week in New York. Maybe more than once a week. They have a cakey texture and aren't as sweet as normal donuts. The sugar on the outside gives them that extra bit of sweetness. John was especially jealous when I called him to rub it in that I was eating cider donuts. He was the one who introduced them to me. Good lil hubby.

I was there with my friend Amanda, and we were lucky enough to snag a table behind the market.

The table, however, had this imprinted on it. I'm assuming this table was meant to be reserved for a mom and her which one of us was which?

I love that in all the parks in New York you are surrounded by high rises, so you get quite a view when you look around. Of course the view in Central Park is the best, but this is what I have a picture of, so deal with it.

Maple syrup and candy, straight from Vermont. Not going to find this at the farmers market in Cali.

The woman standing at the booth said it takes 40 gallons of sap from the tree to make 1 gallon of syrup. That's a pretty crazy ratio.

The pure maple candy was what I was after. I got a few pieces of different flavors - plain maple, pecan, and coconut.

The flavors were all pretty subtle - the main flavor was the delicious pure maple flavor with just a hint of coconut or pecan. And it just melts in your mouth. Man I love this stuff.

Anyone from New York might remember this bizarre building next to Union Square. Smoke (or steam?) comes out of the magic wand thing on the right and then there are a bunch of digital numbers racing away to the left. Amanda finally informed me what the heck those numbers mean (it's a clock with the date and it also has a countdown). So I guess the rumors of national debt, population, and other things aren't true. Learn something new every day.
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