Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Super Fair!

I love the Fair. It's a strange obsession but it probably has to do with summer day camp. For 3 consecutive summers, my parents sent me a to day camp across the street from the fairgrounds. During July, the Fair would be our go-to field trip and we probably went at least 3 times per season. Every summer, excitement grew each day amongst the campers as the Ferris Wheel and the other carnival rides were constructed, their progress being carefully monitored by the watchful campers.

This year is no exception. I got a Super Pass, which gives me daily admission to the Fair. So far, I have gone 3 times and there is still one and half weeks left. I plan on going at least one more time (I'm bummed I missed the Demolition Derby night though).

In my 3 visits, I managed to eat a huge sampling of fair food, ride a variety of the crazy carnival contraptions they call rides, get incredibly sick on the Tango, not knowing that the ride went upside down,(Word of advice people, check out the ride before you decide to go on), win a prize at a carnival game, catch a Magic show, and walk through the Festival of Products.

Chicken Charlie's will fry anything. Word on the street is if you bring him a pickle, he will fry it for you. I wonder if the chocolate covered bacon could be deep fried.

The chocolate covered bacon was pretty lackluster actually. It was cold and tasted like chocolate with a strange salty burnt taste. Interesting concept, poor execution.

I love roasted corn.

More corn.


Best thing at the Fair. The Mexican funnel cake. It is truly super sized. If that is a little much for you, try the bag of churros. For $4.50 you get a bag filled with freshly made churros. Best deal at the fair. They are warm and covered with cinnamon and sugar. I couldn't finish the whole bag (even after sharing with 3 other people) and it still tasted good the next day. They are at the Apple Fries stand by Kiddie Land. Trust me. You will thank me. Oh by the way, apple fries are apples wedges covered with cinnamon sugar and deep fried and served with whip cream.

The fried avocado was suprisingly one of my favorites. The crunchy fried exterior nicely complemented the smooth creamy avocado.

Roasted peppers filled with cheese

Freshly made chips and onion rings.

Deep fried pizza bites

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Blueberry Cake

I am not an expert cake maker. I may technically be a pastry chef but cakes are not my forte. They are a pain in my butt actually. At work, I dread birthdays and special occasions that require a cake or their named piped in chocolate. But cake means celebration so I better get my pastry chef butt in gear. I need to practice, dammit. I cannot rely soley on my pastry techniques. Most people won't care that I can make a perfect creme anglaise or fold egg whites expertly. The people have spoken and they want cake and they want it to look pretty.

I came across this blueberry frosting recipe from Rachel of Coconut and Lime. She is a fellow foodie from Baltimore (of all places!). The color was so pretty and I happen to have a package of blueberries so I just had to try this recipe. I thought it would pare nicely with the lemon filling.

The frosting was very easy to make, although I could see how it could be intimidating to the newbie baker. Pouring liquid hot sugar down the side of the stand mixer can be quite daunting. You could take a note from Alton Brown and use a metal turkey baster to add the molten sugar but it seems like a superfluous step to me. Also if you don't have a vanilla bean, you can add 1 tsp. of vanilla extract to the egg whites after adding the blueberry syrup.

Image courtesy of Coconut and Lime

Rachel's Blueberry-Vanilla Bean Frosting

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 egg whites
2/3 cup blueberries
1 vanilla bean, split length wise
pinch salt


Beat the egg whites and salt to soft peaks using an electric mixer. Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring sugar, vanilla bean, blueberries and water to a boil, stirring occasionally, mashing the berries a bit with the back of your spoon. Continue to boil until it reaches soft ball stage (when a drop of the syrup forms a soft ball when dropped in cool water or 235˚-240˚F if using a candy thermometer) while continuing to stir occasionally.

Whisk the blueberry mixture through a fine sieve into a heat safe measuring cup and discard the blueberries. Keep the mixer running (to be safe use a stand mixer or a friend to complete this next step) and carefully pour a continuous stream of molten syrup into the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 5 minutes or until the frosting is fluffy, glossy and cool. Do not get any syrup on the whisk or it will spread sugar strings throughout your frosting! Frost cooled cupcakes or cake.


Best White Cake

I don't have a tried-and-true cake recipe yet, so I tried Cook's Illustrated recipe. I love Cook's Illustrated because all of their recipes are tested so you know they will come out accordingly. Believe it or not, many of the recipes in cook books haven't even been tested so if you mess up a recipe don't be so quick to blame yourself. It could be the recipe or even the ingredients you used!

Anyhow this white cake recipe from Cook's Illustrated turned out light and moist with a very delicate crumb structure. The method for this cake is different than most traditional cakes, relying on the "biscuit method" of combining all the dry ingredients and then adding the wet. Editor Chris Kimball says this "reverse creaming" (the term they used in the magazine for this particular technique) was the reason for the moist, light and delicate structure.

Note: it is VERY important that all the ingredients are at room temperature.

Cook's Illustrated Best White Cake Ever

1 cup whole milk at cool room temperature
6 large egg whites at cool room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
4 tsp. baking powder
¾ tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups cake flour
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened but still firm

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and adjust a rack to the center position. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with softened butter or Crisco and cover the bottom of each pan with a circle of parchment paper. In a medium bowl stir together the milk, egg whites, and vanilla with a fork.

2. Place the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the batter comes together, about 30 seconds.

3. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans and bake until the cake is lightly colored, feels set, and a cake tester comes out clean when inserted to the center, about 26 minutes, rotating the cakes 180 degrees halfway through the baking time. (Baking time will vary depending on your oven.)

4. Remove pans to cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pans and invert the cakes one at a time onto cooling rack. Reinvert cakes so the top is facing up and let cool completely. Makes 2 nine-inch cakes.

Monday, July 20, 2009

99¢ Hamburgers at E-Z Takeout Burger!

For those of us living in Newport-Mesa, E-Z Takeout burger is an institution. It is like the poor man's version of In N out, except that it's not really for the poor. The hamburgers are kind of expensive here and I swear the patties are smaller than In N Out's (although it's hard to be sure because In N Out won't say how much their patties weigh, trade secret). But every Monday and Tuesday, to celebrate their 40th anniversary, they are selling 99¢ burgers! I'm always looking for a great deal and since I used to live across the street, I frequented E-Z Takeout on Mondays and Tuesdays. They also have onion rings and chili cheese fries, which gives you incentive to choose E-Z Takeout over In-N Out. They do the chili cheese fries the right way too; cheese on top of the fries, then chili and then more cheese! Yum!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My roommate Eddie had a huge garage sale over the weekend so I decided to set up an old fashioned lemonade stand with chocolate chip cookies and fresh lemonade. Unfortunately nobody bought my cookies and Eddie and I drank most of the lemonade because it was so hot! I tried a new recipe for my chocolate chip cookies. I prefer a thin, crispy cookie but instead went with a more traditional recipe. These cookies were soft and chewy. The coffee flavoring complimented the chocolate chips nicely. The recipe I used is the (in)famous Neiman Marcus recipe. Rumor has it the store charged a woman $250 for the recipe and she has been giving it away ever since.

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookie
yields about 2 dozen cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso-coffee powder


1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds)

2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.

3. In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.

4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for 1 sheet at a time for about 7 minutes and then rotate and bake another 7 minutes (total 14 minutes). Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.

**Note: the original recipe says to bake the cookie for 20 minutes but my first batch burned. So I tried less time and rotating the sheet pan which came produced a more evenly baked cookie.

Yield: 2 dozen cookies


Best Lemonade Ever!

1 3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 cups water

  1. In a small saucepan combine sugar and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring sugar to dissolve. Allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.

  2. In a pitcher combine lemon juice, 8 cups water and chilled sugar syrup. Stir to combine. Serve chilled.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cheap Eats.

In these rough economic times, we are always searching for a deal. Until July 12, when you buy one smoothie at Jamba juice you get a 2nd one Free!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Margo's Bark is Tastier than her Bite

Meet Oscar, a 7-year old entrepreneur and philanthropist and his dog Margo. For his 1st grade Science project, Oscar made root beer. It was so popular amongst his schoolmates and teachers that he started to research and test different recipes. The result is Margo's Bark. The root beer is named after Oscar's dog, a black lab-pit bull mix. All the proceeds go to help shelter dogs. You can try Margo's Bark at Tender Green's, Joan's on Third, Larchmont Larder, and the Urban Pet.


Yes please.

Next to the bacon in a tube, this could possibly the world's best food. Mac n' cheese on a pizza! You can find this slice of heaven at Ian's Pizza. Native to Madison, WI, Ian's Pizza is opening a location in Chicago. Their odd menu choices include Spicy Chicken Taco, BBQ Steak and Fries, and Spinach Mashed Potato but the best seller is the Mac n'Cheese Pizza. Ian's Pizza is going to have to open a location in Southern California or I'm gonna have to fly to Chicago or Wisconsin one of these days.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Pulled Pork

Summertime to me means lots of BBQ and outdoor eating! Pulled pork sandwiches are one of my all-time favorite eats and I always seem to eat more pulled pork during the summer months. This is an easy pulled pork recipe using a Crock-Pot, a beer and a coke. Like they say, "Set it and forget it!" I like eating the pulled pork with the soft King's Hawaiian Rolls dipped in the cooking juices, French dip style. The pulled pork needs to cook at least 6 hours so cook it the night before you want to eat it or start it in the morning.

TBC Pulled Pork

Chile Rub:
8 TBSP brown sugar
3 TBSP kosher salt
2 TBSP chile powder
1 TBSP cumin
1 tsp each:
  • black pepper
  • cayenne pepper
  • jalepeno seasoning
  • Old Bay
  • Thyme
  • Onion Powder
5 lb. Pork shoulder (I use the Boston Butt cut) <--LOL
1-12 oz. can of Coca-Cola
1-12 oz. can of beer
2 jalepenos, split lengthwise
1 yellow onion, wedged into 8 pieces


1. Rub the chile rub all over the pork shoulder, massaging gently into flesh. Marinate the meat for at least an hour or up to overnight. Meanwhile, prepare the jalepenos and wedge the onions. Depending on how spicy you like it, the ribs and seeds can be removed from the jalepenos for a less spicier kick.
2. When the meat is done marinating, place in the crock pot along with the beer, Coca-Cola, jalepenos and onion. Set the temperature to low and forget about it!
3. About six hours later, check on the pork. It should be falling of the bone. Separate the liquid into a large saucepan and place on stove to reduce to half the amount. In a large pan, use two forks to pull the pork apart. Place back in Crock Pot with a cup or two of the cooking liquid. Reserve the remaining cooking liquid for au jus or dipping!

Annika's Pasta Salad

To accompany the pulled pork for the 1st Annual Mutant Triathlon, my sous chef/contest co-administrator, Annika, made this delicious pasta salad. The pesto combined with the champagne vinaigrette made the pasta salad flavorful and deliciously tangy! I loved the briny olives, the acidic crunch of the onions and the mozzarella cubes added a creaminess to the pasta.

Annika's Pasta Salad

1 lb. tri-colore fusilli pasta
1/3 cup pesto (homemade or store bought)
1/2 cup champagne vinaigrette
1-6 oz can sliced black olives
1/2 cup julienne red onion
1/2 lb. feta cheese, crumbled
1 lb. mozzarella, cubed into 1/4 inch pieces

1. Cook pasta according to directions.
2. After pasta has cooked, drain in a colander and place in large bowl. Add pesto and champagne vinaigrette and stir to combine.
3. Add olives, onion, and cheeses. Chill salad until cool. Serve chilled.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


Urban Rustic: Roast Peppers, Grilled Chicken, Swiss, Lettuce, on white bread

Parisi Bakery: Smoked Turkey, Fresh Mozzarella, Roasted Red Peppers, on a hero

The News & Observer: The O.B.L.T. (Outrageous B.L.T.) Applewood-Smoked Bacon, Fire-Roasted JalapeƱos, Tomatoes, Avocado, Homemade Garlic Mayo, Local Greens on Sourdough

Absolute Bagel: Lox, Cream Cheese, Tomato, Purple Onion, On a Bagel.
The winner of Time Out New York’s Ultimate Bagel Test.

These are images from my new favorite website Scanwiches. The website creator scans his sandwich into a scanner almost everyday. Each sandwich looks so delicious I want to eat every single one of them. Scanwiches is based in Brooklyn so all those yummy sandwiches are from different delis around the author's area. Thank you Scanwiches for the daily lunch inspiration!

Source: Scanwiches
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