Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chuc Mang Nam Moi (Happy Chinese New Year)

Happy Chinese New Year!

It has finally snowed here in Mammoth Lakes after TWO months of no precipitation.  It has been the driest winter on record since the 1800-somethings when they started recording things like that.  What a good start to the year of the Dragon!  Here are some pictures from this morning.
Snow on the deck

the VW is covered

Matt starting to shovel

Lots of shoveling to be done

Curious George

Despite the look on his face, George is actually happy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Top Burnt Chef's Holiday Gift Guide 2011

The holiday season is upon us! Normally I am working like crazy but this is the first year since graduating culinary school that I will NOT be working in a kitchen.  So I actually have some time to enjoy the holidays!  I actually haven't done any Christmas shopping yet (finals week and all, oh and living in a town where almost everything is branded with the ski area logo) but if you are shopping for a foodie-obsessed individual (or myself) these are the gifts I would give (or hope to receive, HINT HINT).

Gifts to Give

1. Lodge Cast Iron Skillet - from $22-$65
This is the workhorse of my kitchen.  I use this pan more than anything else.  I have fancy All-Clad pans and a Le Creuset but I always return to the cast iron.  It is the best pan to cook grilled cheeses and my favorite pan to cook hamburgers.  I seriously use it for everything, to bake mac and cheese, corn bread, fry chicken. If you are at all serious about cooking, you need to get one of these.  Chances are you grandmother has one that she has been using for twenty years.
                                                                                                     You can purchase it here

2. Cast-Iron Bacon Press - $12.95
My other workhorse. Let this heat up with your cast-iron skillet and you will have perfectly grilled cheeses.  It's also perfect for getting flat bacon.  Who likes curly bacon?  Not me!

You can purchase it here

3. Microplane Box Grater - $34.95
The price is a bit steep for a box grater but Microplane makes the best grater. Every professional chef will have some form of Microplane in his toolkit. Made with surgical grade stainless steel, this box grater has three grating blades, including a fine/zester! It has rubber feet so no slipping when you are grating. And I love how the grating surface is slightly elevated so you can grate the full length of the cheese!  This is the Ferrari of box graters. 

You can purchase it here

4. Fish Spatula - $15
Of all the spatulas, non-stick, rubber, silicone, etc. I like the fish spatula the best.  I use it for more than fish.  It's great for flipping grilled cheeses and burgers.  It's very thin and flexible and I like the wooden handle.  

Buy a fish spatula here

5.  Japanese Mandoline - $21
This is another workhorse in my kitchen.  I absolutely LOVE this tool.  It slices and dices with precision.  It's extremely sharp and people have definitely lost the tips of their fingers but you will not find a better tool that will slice and julienne with precision. For $21, you can't beat the price.  It comes with three different blades (4 if you include the straight blade) and is adjustable so you can make paper thin slices or thicker slices (1/4")

You can purchase it here

My Wish List

1. Momofuku Milk Bar Cookbook- $20
I am obsessed with all things David Chang of Momofuku and I am addicted to his style of cooking.  Christina Tosi is his pastry chef and she has come up with simple yet mind-blowing desserts such as Crack Pie and Blueberry and Cream Cookies.  These are a collection of her pastry recipes for the Momofuku concepts in Manhattan.  

Buy this book for me here

2. Subscription to Lucky Peach Magazine- $28
I warned you, I am obsessed with all things David Chang and Lucky Peach is his quarterly magazine that he edits with Momofuku cookbook co-author Peter Meehan. Not your average food magazine, Lucky Peach is "a new journal of food writing. It is a mélange of travelogue, essays, art, photography, rants, and recipes in a full-color, meticulously designed format. (The) aim is to produce a publication that appeals to diehard foodies as well as fans of good writing and art in general." The first issue was solely dedicated to ramen with guest writers like Anthony Bourdain and Wylie DuFrense praising the glorious soup that is ramen.

Order me a subscription here

3. Cheese of the Month Club Subscription
Who wouldn't want this?  Every month Cowgirl Creamery will send you one pound of cheese with an accompaniment. There are three subscriptions to choose from: 3-month, 6-month and 12-month subscriptions. 

Send me some cheese by ordering here

4. Nixon Kensington watch in Gold- $150
Ok this is not a culinary thing but it has been a long time since I have been allowed to wear a nice watch. Since I am no longer working in a kitchen, I am enjoying wearing jewelry again.  I don't wear too much jewelry in the first place but I am obsessed with mens style watches. I need this watch! Does anybody have a Nixon hook up or access to a pro-form?

Buy me this watch here

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Elderberry Jammin'

In September, I went camping at the East Walker River.  We found a neat little camp site right off the road.  I noticed as we were attempting to off-road my Jetta, there were a number of bushes with blue berries.  The first rule of foraging is to POSITIVELY ID YOUR PLANT! Since we had no cell reception, I couldn't use those nifty apps where you take picture of the plants and it IDs it for you. Luckily, a truck pulled up and these people started plucking berries off the tree! Curious, I asked them what they were doing and I found out they were local Native Americans.  They were picking elderberries for their elders to make syrup and preserves.  My eyes lit up as I was extremely excited to go berry picking.  My attempt to go apple picking earlier in the century old orchards of Yosemite was thwarted by my lazy boyfriend (and the unexpected death of a good friend) so I'll be damned if something interferes with my berry picking!

After finding out the berries weren't poisonous, I began spotting the bushes everywhere.  The elderberry bushes were concentrated with in a 100 yards of each other so I didn't have to walk very far.  Elderberries grow in clusters and are ripe when the fruit has turned almost white.  It should look like a dusting of powdered sugar on the blue berries.

Elderberries are found throughout most of the world, in Europe, Asia, the Americas and even Australia. They supposedly have mystic and healing characteristics. In some areas, the elder tree was supposed to ward of evil spirits and give protections from witches.  Some say that witches congregate under their branches, especially when it is full of fruit. According to folklore, you should never cut down or burn an elder tree.  Spirits will haunt you.  And now for my favorite piece of trivia about the elder tree, the wood from an elder tree was used to create the Wand of Destiny, Death Stick, the Elder Wand aka Dumbeldore's wand from Harry Potter.

 Elderberry flowers are used to create elderberry cordials which are so popular right now with mixologists.  You probably have had a drink with St. Germain in it.  Wine, cordials and marmalades can be made from the berries. A popular dish in Europe is to eat pancakes with elderberries. Elderberries have been used medicinally throughout the centuries. You can find elderberries as an ingredient for almost all holistic cold medicines.  Eating elderberries has been shown to reduce congestion and may be an effective treatment for the H1N1 flu otherwise known as the Avian flu.  It is also effective in treating other types of flus and is even being recommended for AIDS and cancer patients for its ability to boost and sustain the immune system.  For more information about the health benefits of the elderberry check out wikipedia's page on Elderberries.

So what did I do with my 10 lbs of elderberries?  I made elderberry preserves, elderberry grape jelly (with organic, local grapes grown by my neighbor), elderberry syrup and elderberry vinegar!  Hopefully I will have a flu-free winter!
Some of the fruits of my labor

Listening to Bob Marley- Jammin

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I'm going to go off a tangent from my normal food writing.  I want to tell the people of the Internet of how CRAPPY J.Crew customer service is. Normally I love J.Crew.  I would say a good 40% of my wardrobe is from J.Crew.  If you want to buy me a present, buy me something from J.Crew.  So that's what I got for my birthday, stuff from J.Crew.  Cessie, Matt's mom, is slowly figuring that out.  Unfortunately, she still gets the sizes wrong.  So I mailed back the J.Crew cashmere cardigan along with a copy of the gift receipt and note specifying I wanted to exchange the too small sweater for the Minnie Pant , style number 18850, color black, size 00. If there is anything left over, please put in on a gift card.  And then I included my shipping address.  So three weeks go by, I still haven't heard anything.  Concerned that the return may have been lost, I contact the J.Crew customer service.  I spoke with Charlene who assured me that the return was not lost and sometimes because I  didn't print a  return label using J.Crew and because it wasn't an online order, the return may take longer.  She promised to contact me as soon as it arrived.  I even emailed Charlene a copy of the receipt along with what I wanted to exchange the sweater for.
My email was to-the-point, right?  No where does it say, please refund the credit card!!!!

Charlene was true to her word and phoned several days later to inform me that the return had been received and was being processed.  I should receive the exchange in a week.  I waited a week, still no package from J.Crew.  Again I contact customer service.  I find out that instead of exchanging the sweater and issuing a gift card, Cessie's credit card was refunded.  The customer service agent apologized and said they would reverse the transaction and send out a gift card for $184 by USPS Priority Mail and I should receive it within 2-3 days. It has now been a week.  I called again to find out, that they can't issue me a gift card unless they receive permission from Cessie.  So now I have no sweater, no pants, no gift card, NO FREAKIN' BIRTHDAY GIFT.

 Thanks a lot J.Crew for NOTHING! I can't believe this is how you treat a gift exchange.  It says on the effin receipt: Valid for exchange/merchandise credit ONLY

Also I did another exchange with J.Crew, they only credited me the cost of the merchandise and no sales tax.  So when I went to use the gift card, I had to pay tax on that transaction.  So they double tax you!!!!!!!! 

It's a good thing J.Crew makes incredibly cute clothes otherwise, I would NEVER shop there again after this experience.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Orange County Food Fix

People always ask me what my favorite things to eat are.  They assume because I am a chef that I will say something exotic or pretentious like terrine of foie gras or sous vide lamb. To be perfectly honest, I like crappy food.  Not crappy in that it is made poorly, but crappy in that it is bad for you and will cause you to lose years on your life through continuous eating of said food.  I am a huge fan of cheeseburgers, french fries, tater tots, tacos, nachos, anything with pump cheese, macaroni and cheese, cheese (especially the unpasteurized kind) pork products especially bacon, ramen, oh glorious ramen.  These are just a few of my favorite things.  Don't get me wrong, I love vegetables and I am growing quite the vegetable garden but when faced with the choice of an In N Out cheeseburger with animal fries or an heirloom tomato salad, I'm going to pick the cheeseburger and fries. Although I would rather and most likely eat all three.

I was lucky enough to visit Orange County for the last two weeks of July.  One of those weeks was for work but my last week there was all about catching up on the friends and food that I don't get to see when I'm living in the sticks.  I was also very fortunate to be visiting while the OC Fair was in town.  If you read my blog, you will know I LOVE THE FAIR.

One week isn't enough to hit up all the food I wanted to eat, so it took some strategic planning.  I try not to repeat meals so that I can get in as much variety as possible but my disdain for traffic kept me within a 5 mile radius of the coast.  (I always think I miss living in the city but then I drive and I am grateful I live in a town that is 4 square miles).  I ended up breaking my no-repeat rule.  I ate In' N Out and ramen twice.

Here are some of the places I have to eat while I'm in Orange County.  This is the Costa Mesa edition as I was too lazy to drive anywhere.

1. In N Out (duh)
Any Southern California native will tell you In N Out burger is one of the best things about living in So Cal.  It is my first stop as soon as I hit "Southern California," which in my case would be Lancaster.  I almost always drive through Mojave because the In N Out is closer than when driving through Adelanto. (The Lancaster one is 4 hours from my house instead the one on the 15 which is an extra 45 minutes) Yes that is how I pick my driving route: Which route will take me the closest and fastest to In N Out. In fact, I time my drive so that I will arrive at In N Out around 1:30PM, my ideal lunch time.

2. Mitsuwa food court
I love eating at the Mitsuwa food court.  My visit in July was the first time I've been in over a year.  There were two new restaurants since I visited last.  I think one was a bento box place and the other was a Hawaiian place.  I'm not sure because as soon as I entered the food court, I made a bee-line to the ramen.  If you don't know which was is the ramen place at Mitsuwa, it's the place with the longest line.  Instead of my usual salt ramen with char sui pork, I ordered the new special, Pork Ramen.  You can pick the ramen broth; I chose salt.  I'm not sure how it differs from my usual order.  The only difference I could see was that instead of putting the pork in the broth, it came on the side.  Either way, it was a bowl of deliciousness.  I went back once more, making it my last stop before driving home, breaking my rule of never repeating meals.

3. Pupeseria San Sivar
If you have never had a pupusa, I suggest you drop everything you are doing and head down to 1940 Harbor Blvd and try one.  Pupusas are Salvadoran food.  It is a thick corn tortilla (quite similar to a gordita but it isn't fried) that is stuffed with cheese and other good stuff. They are cooked on the flat top and I love how the cheese oozes and creates a crunchy cheese skirt.  I always order a plain cheese and a bean and cheese. If I want to be healthy, I order squash and cheese. They serve the pupusas with pickled vegetables and a red sauce that is more tangy than spicy.  You put the pickled vegetables on top with a dousing of the red sauce, fold it up like a taco and enjoy.  They serve other Salvadoran food as well as some Mexican food but I almost always get the pupusas.  The sweet corn tamales are another treat to try.  They mostly speak Spanish there and the pupusas are a bit slow to come out but I take it as a sign of authenticity!

San Sivar is on the corner of Harbor Blvd. and 19th St. in that small weird little strip mall across the street from Weinersnitzel. You know, the one with the German deli, which by the way is another great place for some cheap eats. 1940 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa 92627

4. Del Taco
OK I know it is weird to put Del Taco on this list especially when there are at least 5 taquerias within walking distance of where I stayed.  It's just that Del Taco has a special place in my heart since we used to forge notes in high school to allow us to eat off-campus.  We would always eat at Del Taco because that was the closest fast food place to my high school.  And there's something to be said about chicken soft tacos and nacho fries at 2 AM after an all-night dance party at Mutant HQ.

Honorable Mentions (places I couldn't go to but are just as worthy)

5. Taco Mesa
So I wasn't able to hit up Taco Mesa while I was visiting but when I lived on the Westside, I ate at Taco Mesa at least once a week. Taco Mesa is a popular family-owned chain in Orange County so I won't bother explaining what it is.  My favorite things are the Tacos al Pastor, the lobster bisque and the agua frescas.

Taco Mesa is located across the street from the Costa Mesa DMV.  647 W. 19th St, Costa Mesa 92627

6. Taqueria Granjenal
I lived in the neighborhood across the street from this humble little taco stand which won "Best Taco" in 2004 by OC Weekly as well as "Best Meal You Can Pay For With Couch Change" in 2010.  Regardless of the titles, I ate there a lot.  The beans are some of the best and are a perfect vehicle for the smoky dark-red salsa that accompanies every order along with a bag of pickled carrots.  It is less greasy and sketchy than the other taqueria that most people are familiar with (Alejandros) My usual order from Granjenal was the vegetarian tostada, a crunchy tortilla loaded with beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and avocados, an order of beans, chips and loads of salsa.  I think the whole order cost less than $5.

Taqueria Granjenal is located on the corner of 19th St and Monrovia in Costa Mesa 889 W. 19th St, Costa Mesa 92627

7. TK Burger formerly Johnny G's
When I first moved in the neighborhood, TK Burger used to be Johnny G's.  It was our hangover spot because most of the usual places (Plum's, Haute Cakes, Cappy's) had waits that were just unbearable when you are hung over.  The breakfast burrito was my favorite but the cheeseburgers were just as good. And they had chili fries!  TK Burger took over and thankfully they kept the breakfast burritos although no more chili fries (or burgers) This TK Burger has more seating than the other TK Burgers plus an extended menu so it's my favorite TK.  I miss Johnny G's and its chili fries but TK is doing a great job filling Johnny G's shoes.

8. El Toro Bravo
I almost forgot to include this little hidden gem on my list.  It would be blasphemous if I didn't include this hole-in-the-wall tortillaria/taqueria.  Tucked in the corner by Smart n Final on 19th St, El Toro Bravo makes corn tortillas on-site.  They make the BEST tortilla chips.  They are perfect for chilaquiles. Especially with the house made salsa sold there.  I love the salsa fresca as well as the blended.  I could drink it.  Along with the best corn tortillas, they sell carne asada and carnitas both prepared or marinated for you to take home and cook.  So you can get tacos or a burrito to go or pick up some tortillas, meat and salsa for your next BBQ.  There is always a line and they only take cash. But it is totally worth it for the fresh tortillas.

El Toro Bravo is located on 19th St in Costa Mesa by the Smart n' Final.  It is tucked away in the corner by Jugos Acapulco. 745 W. 19th St, Costa Mesa 92627.

Did I leave any places out?  What are some of your places to eat in Costa Mesa or Orange County?
Listening to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes-Home

Saturday, August 13, 2011

We miss you Bloo. 1976-2011

photo courtesy of Nate

Earlier this week, Mammoth Lakes lost a friend and sister.  Our friend Bloo unexpectedly passed away.   Bloo was one of the nicest people you will have ever met.  She truly embodied the phrases puravida and stoke for life.  Never have I met such a positive force before.  She exuded life, adventure and all the wonderful possibilities nature had to offer.  We had a mutual love of many things: music, dogs, gardening, all things green, and most of all snowboarding.  There never was a powder day that you didn't see Bloo on the hill.  It was one of those things you can always count on: chair 22 never opening on time and Bloo out on a powder day.  I will never forget our awesome powder days together, our awesome hiking adventures and our brief but wonderful time together. And who could ever forget  that voice?

Even though you are reunited with Mingus (6-19-2011) and I know you two are shredding the eternal pow. We miss you so much, Bloo.  It was too soon, for both of you.

Listening to Bob Marley- One Love

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Summer means berries.
Burnt's Blueberry Vodka

I have been noticing all the blueberries on sale as well as all the great recipes other blogs have been posting.  I usually make blueberry muffins or cobbler but I wanted to try something different.  I saw Bon Appetit's blog, Infuse Your Booze, and I wanted to make blueberry vodka.  In addition to the blueberry vodka, I also made strawberry vodka, pineapple vodka and watermelon vodka.  You have to try this.  It is so tasty and so much better than those infused vodkas you buy at the store (so long Absolut Acai Berry aka vomit inducer)
Bon Appetit also featured Blueberry and Cream Cookies by Christina Tosi of Momofuku.  The same cookie was also the Cookie of the day on Martha Stewart.  I am obsessed with all things David Chang so I had to make these cookies.  They. Are. Awesome. I love chewy, thin cookies and these are exactly that.  The recipe calls for dried blueberries but you can use fresh. 

Hank wants the cookie

Here is a list of my favorite blueberry recipes:
Infuse Your Booze
Blueberry and Cream Cookies
Thomas Keller's Blueberry Cobbler
Banana Muffins with Blueberries -this recipe doesn't call for blueberries but I add them.
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