Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dharma Initiative Rations

Dharma Snacks=
photos: Insanely Great News, Lost-Media

A Dharma theme for Lost night? The Lost Label Project provides PDF's to make your very own Dharma snacks! The beer labels are especially relevant, considering the latest episode. Hurley would be proud!

Beat Box Baking

I am amused.

Beatbox Fame Game

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Geek Cocktails: The Wow Starts Now

Bellini Base
On Episode 12 of Windows Weekly, Brian Livingston reported on the pre-Vista launch luncheon at Cipriani's, where he dubbed their signature drink, the Bellini, the official Windows cocktail, or the Vista.ini. I was not at all familiar with the Bellini, but Food Geeks describes it as "an alcoholic beverage made with peach nectar and sparkling wine that is served as an aperitif" and provides a few alternative recipes. Brian described it as a "nice, feminine European drink" that he thoroughly enjoyed. If everyone hadn't been too busy for Lost night, I would have served Vista.inis in honor of geekdom.

The word on Windows Vista? It's nice, but no need to upgrade now. Wait until you buy a new PC.

Eleven City Diner 2.0

Just look at that motzoh ball!

All the talk of Eleven City Diner yesterday, combined with still feeling a little under the weather, meant that I had to pay a visit today. In the process, I gathered a bit more information. First, upon perusing their menu for orange juice (they have fresh squeezed, and it was marvelous) I noticed that they have a menu item named the 'Tom Waits 2am Breakfast 1987: 2 Eggs, 2 Flapjacks, 2 Bacon, 2 Sausage, House Potatoes." They also have a photo of Tom Waits up behind the bar. I asked about it while I was waiting for my orange juice, and while the guy behind the bar seemed slightly confused by my interest, he said that the owner had met Tom Waits at a diner around 2am and that's what he was eating. This officially makes Eleven City Diner the coolest diner ever. Just so you know.

I also noticed that I like their menu design. The Rx marks by the chicken soup are cute.

Upon closer inspection (they are now employing labels) the freezer contains chicken broth, not chicken stock (labeled Chicken Soup but it's broth). Still, quite handy, especially since the broth is very good. And their coffee supplier is Lavazza (although I'm pretty sure that it was previously Intelligentsia).

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Die Skull Uhr finden Sie hier!

photo: Sonic Nonsense

By way of the Unfathomable Dr. Mongoose, it's a Goth Toaster! Thank you, thank you, Pirates of the Caribbean.

The skull clock finds you here? Sweet toast of mine? I have no idea, but I really want this toaster. It would go marvelously with the Porcelain Skull Plates by DL&Co.

I'm so HOT!

That was an homage to Paris, but I meant feverish. My boyfriend is sick with a cold that he has apparently shared. I knew something was up today when 1) I wasn't hungry and 2) I was finding the office unpleasantly sauna-like and no one else was complaining. I'm very rarely not hungry and I'm even more rarely hot. I almost gave myself heat exhaustion once because I was riding my bike around Chicago oblivious to the fact that it was over a 100°F outside (thankfully I was keen enough to realize that I shouldn't be feeling cold).

Eleven City Diner
photo: Julia Steinberger, CitySearch

I still don't have much of an appetite, but I thought it would be a good time to post my favorite sources of get-well food. If I'm at work and not feeling so hot, I crave Bubbie's Chicken Soup with a huge matzoh ball at Eleven City Diner. As I live in the Second City, not the first, I'm not so familiar with what makes a good Jewish deli, but I imagine that Eleven City Diner fits the bill. The restaurant side is reminiscent of an old style diner, although a little more upscale and a good place for a comfortable business lunch. The deli side (the side I frequent) has a case filled with smoked salmon, deli meats, side salads and some of the best bagels I've had outside of my Baking and Pastry class. There's also a freezer case filled with homemade soup and homemade chicken stock! I haven't tried it yet, but I was very impressed that they sell homemade stock. Centerstage gives it a rave review and mentions that you can get phosphates and egg creams from a trained soda jerk, and that they have great Espresso drinks (they sell Intelligentsia) and desserts.

Thai Avenue

If I'm at home, I often order tom yum soup with seafood, rice paper spring rolls and steamed rice from Thai Aroma (via GrubHub) or Thai Avenue. This is a meal I order on a regular basis, not just when I'm sick, but the spiciness of the tom yum soup is great for a cold and it's light but filling. I'm trying to perfect this meal at home, but my first attempt was less than stellar. When I've got it down, I'll post it here.

For now, Gilmore Girls is over, Veronica Mars is being DVR'ed, and a margarita at Fiesta Mexicana sounds divine. It comes with a lime in it—citrus is good for colds, right?

Bacon! Bacon! Bacon!

Wake n' Bacon
Photo Credit: Mathlete

Oh, it's adds a whole new meaning to the term "Wake and Bake!" Widely reported on the gadget blogs, and monumental enough to inspire an entire episode of CNET's Gadgettes, I present to you the Wake n' Bacon!

In the words of the creators, Matty Sallin, Daniel Bartolini and Hsiao-huh Hsu, here's how it works:

"A frozen strip of bacon is placed in Wake n' Bacon the night before. Because there is a 10 minute cooking time, the clock is set to go off 10 minutes before the desired waking time. Once the alarm goes off, the clock it sends a signal to a small speaker to generate the alarm sound. We hacked the clock so that the signal is re-routed by a microchip that in responds by sending a signal to a relay that throws the switch to power two halogen lamps that slow-cook the bacon in about 10 minutes."

Having been through a Sanitation class in culinary school, I can't imagine how this would ever be able to measure up to U.S. safety standards, but maybe they have that covered.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spring Salad with Spicy Vinaigrette

Spicy Spring Salad

Below is the recipe for the salad that I made with the gumbo. It was an experiment, and I had to fiddle with it for a couple of days after the Lost night dinner, but I think it turned out pretty well in the end. I don’t know that I’d really call it Cajun, but it made a tasty salad that I’d make again.

Spicy Vinaigrette

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons Cider vinegar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon spicy mustard

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

cayenne pepper, to taste

tabasco sauce, to taste

salt and pepper , to taste

4 ounces olive oil


Spring Salad

1 bunch spring salad mix

1 orange, supreme

1/4 cup cranberries

1/2 cup pecans, toasted (or use the sweet/spicy pecans if available—both Trader Joe’s and Whole Food sell them)

1 small red pepper, roasted

goat cheese

Laissez Les Bon Temps Roullez!

New Orleans

New Orleans holds a special place in my heart. Before the storm, it was the one place that my boyfriend (a die-hard Chicagoan) and I both agreed on as a possible place to move to. Many people have assured me that if we had moved there we would’ve felt differently. “It’s too small, too poor, too dirty, too crime-filled, and much, much too hot.” And it is. But I love the heat—there’s a still a Southern heart in this Yankee urbanite facade—and I love that it’s so old. The crime is, I think, an over-sensationalized reality that requires awareness, but is perhaps a part of the city’s appeal. There’s a dark, sweaty, dangerous undercurrent to New Orleans, and something in that speaks to me.

Then there’s the food. I love Southern food in general, but I especially love New Orleans food. I never cared for raw oysters until I had them at Uglesich’s. I will never forget the delectable sample of Mr. B’s Shrimp and Grits that I had at the Tennesee Williams Festival. And there is absolutely nothing like an order of Beignets and a Cafe au Lait at Cafe du Monde at 5am, languishing in the predawn August humidity before heading off to bed.

So in a modest homage to the Crescent City I spent Fat Tuesday drinking imitation Hurricanes at Blue Bayou and then decided to make gumbo for Lost night on Ash Wednesday.

I’ve never made gumbo. In all honesty, I haven’t really even eaten much gumbo. But the New Orleans theme was somewhat last minute, and I wanted to keep things relatively simple: Gumbo, a Cajun-inspired salad, and Bananas Foster. So I did a little research (my favorite site: The Gumbo Pages) and came up with the following recipe:

Serves 6–8

1 pound andouille sausage, sliced, cut in half circles

1 tablespoon cajun seasoning

2 pounds chicken thighs, skin on (or skinless chicken breast, medium dice, can be used if desired)

4 ounces flour

4 ounces vegetable oil

1 onion, medium dice

2 stalks celery, medium dice

1 green bell peppers, medium dice

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 bay leaf

2 quarts chicken stock

1/4 pound okra, sliced 1/2" thick

1 pound shrimp, peeled (reserve shells to make a stock if available)

1 package canned crab meat

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce, or to taste

fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley)

2 cups long-grain white rice, cooked

sliced scallion tops red pepper curls for garnish

  1. Simmer shrimp shells with 1 cup of the stock, along with some chopped onion and a couple of stalks of celery if desired. Skim and strain before adding to gumbo.

  2. Brown sausage. Set aside. Drain oil if needed.

  3. Season the chicken with cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Sear until well browned, and finish in a 350 degree oven. Set aside. Strain oil into a clean pan.

  4. Add 8 oz. vegetable oil. Over medium heat, add 8 oz. flour while stirring with a whisk to make a roux. Cook the roux very slowly over medium heat, stirring often, until it becomes a copper-brown color, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour.

  5. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, garlic, bay leaf and the remaining salt and pepper mix. Cook for 5 minutes.

  6. Add the stock, seasonings, chicken and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about one hour, skimming fat off the top as needed.

  7. Add the okra and strained shrimp stock (if made) and simmer another 30 minutes.

  8. Add shrimp, crab, cayenne, worchestershire and herbs 10 minutes before serving.

  9. Serve over rice. Garnish with chopped scallion tops and red pepper curls (if you’re feeling fancy).