Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

San Francisco is for Nom Nom Nom

I'd been pretty convinced of New York's status as the finest food city in the States, but a few experiences last weekend have shaken that conviction a bit.

Out in San Francisco, I spent a fast-paced, food-focused weekend hosted by Foodbuzz, an online community of bloggers and food lovers.

Most of the activity was based around the Ferry Building, which is like a gastronomic Disneyland, especially on Saturdays when the farmers' market takes place there.

Mission Minis Cupcakes

So... what exactly does one do at a food blogging fest? I'd asked myself the same thing.

Apparently, you eat. A lot.

Appetizer

Foodbuzz set up a number of truly tasty events, from a gathering of top street food vendors (even now my mouth waters at the thought of the divine porchetta sandwich from Roli Roti) to talks and tastings by food producers (such as Sue Conley, a founder of Cowgirl Creamery) to a delicious closing-night dinner set up in the Greenleaf produce warehouse and set up by the talented folks at Outstanding in the Field.

In between the scheduled events, I met a lot of terrific people and enjoyed some of the culinary delights of the Bay Area. Some highlights:
My deepest thanks to Foodbuzz for putting together the wonder-filled event. Meanwhile, if you'd like a peek at the festivities (and all that tasty food) just click to find the photo tour here.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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11.14.2009

The Untold Delights of Duluth

Gooseberry Falls

The Big View

Ah, Duluth... So much easier to say than, say Keegewaquampe (though in truth, the Chippewa kind of had first dibs on naming rights).

Mum and I met up in Minneapolis and pushed north to take in the promised delights of the Lake Superior region. And delight there was.

We were only there overnight, so I won't be revealing any state secrets here, but I will say that if only famed Kentucky Representative J. Proctor Knott had been able to join our foray, his bitter (though humorous) rant on The Untold Delights of Duluth might have contained more odes to pie and fewer snide remarks about the natives and the bison.

But we'll get to the pie soon enough...

First Stop: Pine City. Every road trip needs a coffee break, and you could do worse than to stop by Java Joe's Bistro in Pine City (take the town's second northbound exit unless you're amped to take the ten-minute town tour).

Java Joe's

With a charming moose head on the wall, homey decor and a fine baker at work in the kitchen, Joe's is welcoming for the road-weary traveler. I recommend splitting one of their enormous muffins over your java.

From Joe's you can cruise along historic Highway 61 (if you're a Bob Dylan junkie) or get back on 35N and make for the lake.

Historic Brass Tubing at Fitger's Brewery

Mom and I splurged for this trip and stayed at Fitger's Inn, an 1880s brewery that was renovated into a hotel with an attached complex of shops, restaurants and an operating microbrewery.

It was a fascinating place to stay, with heaps of historic detail as well as Fitger's very modern microbrew pub built right into the experience.

Immediate access from our room to Duluth's lakeside boardwalk made for both a charming twilight stroll as well as a gorgeous morning jog the following day.

The Bites

Just down the way from Fitger's you'll find Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake, a sweet little pub with an exceedingly friendly staff who served us tasty soups and high-piled sandwiches (don't miss their spicy honey mustard).

Al Fresco Lunch at Sir Benedicts

As you can see in the photo evidence above, I got the bacon-avocado sandwich and chicken wild rice soup with a seasonal Leinkugel's, and ate it under the canopy of a gorgeous spring day... a pairing I'd recommend without reservation.

When visiting Duluth, you really can't miss a lakeside drive to see the lovely, lonely lighthouses, Gooseberry Falls State Park and, of course there must be a stopover at Betty's Pies when you're done hiking "those vast and fertile pine barrens."

Betty's serves other stuff, of course. You can get a full meal there if you want to. But clearly, you'd do well to save space for dessert. The place isn't called Betty's Meatloaf.

Betty's Pies

And yes... you do want it a la mode. The ice cream is real and it's real good. Mom and I sampled the Bumbleberry (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries) and the Great Lakes pie (a combo of apple, blueberry, rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry), and both were superb.

When dinnertime rolled around, Duluth offered up a cornucopia of interesting options (check Chowhound for the frontrunners), but we opted to stay on Superior Street and entrusted ourselves to the historic Pickwick Restaurant.

I was dying for a plate of simply cooked trout and tender-crisp vegetables alongside a quality beer, and the Pickwick provided. Mom chose a barbecued shrimp dish, which was far too sweet and gooey for me, (though I admit that might have be someone's ideal preparation). They do seem to offer a wide variety of American classics, and the beers are good.

The Takeaway

While swooning over the tangy fruit and pastry crust of Betty's Pies, I realized that it'd been forever since I'd eaten a slice of pie that wasn't my own or the work of someone I knew personally. And there's one big reason for this: canned fillers.

It's a darn shame, but most places make pies with gelatinous canned pie filler. Why? It's cheap, easy and few people complain.

In fact, if restaurants charged what Betty's charges for its slices of pie (get ready to shell out six bucks a slice) people would complain.

But the truth is... when it comes to pie, you get what you pay for. So if you love pie, find a trustworthy baker and pay well, or make your own. Betty's inspired me with their multi-fruit combinations, so here's a pie inspired by their delicious Bumbleberry Crunch, a combo that happens to be in season at the moment

Betty's Pie a la mode

Quadberry Crumble Pie (Makes one pie)
1 9-inch single-crust pie shell
4 cups (1 quart) fresh berries (any combo of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest (optional)
Crumble Topping (see below for recipe)
Vanilla ice cream, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In large bowl, blend together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest (if using).
3. Add the berries to the bowl and toss gently to coat.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and sprinkle evenly with the Crumble Topping.
5. Gently place the pie on a baking sheet, and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown color and the juices are thickened and bubbling.
6. Move the baked pie to a wire rack to cool for several hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Crumble Topping
3 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1 dash salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces

1. In a mixing bowl, blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats and nuts.
2. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork until the blend resembles a uniform gravel. Sprinkle atop the pie filling and bake as directed above.

Love pictures? Who doesn't? You can see the full Duluth Photo Set here.

Meanwhile, Happy Trails!
Miss Ginsu

Java Joe's Bistro
Java Joe's Bistro on Urbanspoon
1300 Northridge Ct NW
Pine City, MN

Fitger's Inn
Fitger's Brewhouse on Urbanspoon
600 East Superior St
Duluth, MN 55802
218.722.8826

Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake
Sir Benedict's Tavern on Urbanspoon
805 E Superior St
Duluth, MN 55802
218.728.1192

Betty's Pies
Betty's Pies on Urbanspoon
1633 Highway 61
Two Harbors, MN 55616
218.834.3367

Pickwick Restaurant
Pickwick on Urbanspoon
508 E Superior St.
Duluth, MN 55802
218.727.8901

Gooseberry Falls State Park
3206 Highway 61
Two Harbors, MN 55616
218.834.3855

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7.22.2009

Recession-Proof Espresso: Become a Barista

I must say, I'm a little torn these days between supporting my local coffee shop and saving some money by making my own espresso drinks. They need the money. I need the money. I'll probably just split the difference.

I love the community that local, independent coffee shops provide, but having worked as a barista in college, I also know that the process of creating coffee drinks is easy (and yes! even fun!) once you get the hang of it.

Espresso!

How much can you save? Let's run the math... When you figure about 75 tablespoons of ground coffee per pound of coffee beans, that's about 37 espresso servings in a pound of beans.

At roughly $7 a pound for beans, you can make a serving of espresso for 19 cents. Like lattes? Tack on about 50 cents per serving for organic milk or 25 cents for the conventional stuff.

At about 5 cents per tablespoon for chocolate syrup, you can make an organic mocha latte for just 74 cents. A small mocha latte (with conventional milk) at a coffee shop normally costs between $2.50 and $3, so that's a significant savings. Compelling, no?

My Moka Pot

And yes, I think anyone would love to have a gorgeous espresso machine like J's big red FrancisFrancis!, but at $800-$1,000 apiece, that's just not reasonable... or even necessary.

Instead, I suggest making espresso on the stove using the same inexpensive tool that Italian families use at home: the moka pot or stove-top espresso pot.

This type of espresso pot is cheap ($20 or less) and simple to use. Since they don't have breakable parts, they last and last, so if you figure that a single shot of espresso costs about $1.50 at most coffee shops and amortize the cost, it'll take you less than 20 drinks to pay off a moka pot.

Once you follow the money, it begins to make dollars and sense to learn a little espresso magic.

All you have to do to use one is buy the very fine-ground espresso coffee or, better yet, grind the beans very fine in a coffee grinder.

To make stove-top espresso with a moka-style pot:
1. Unscrew the top of the espresso pot, setting it aside for a moment.
2. Fill the bottom with cold water to just below the safety valve on the side.
3. Fill the funnel-shaped section with about two tablespoons of fine-ground coffee, tamping the top gently to flatten the grounds.
4. Place the funnel back into the bottom section and screw the top back on.
5. Place the pot over medium-high heat. It'll take about 3-4 minutes for the espresso to bubble up to the top. (It's okay... you can peek under the lid while it's bubbling if you want.)
6. When the espresso fills the top section up to the bottom of the pouring wedge, you can remove the moka pot from the heat and pour out the espresso. Yay! Just rinse everything out with water to clean.


Inside the Moka Pot

Dead simple, right? And once you can make espresso, you've opened the door to the giddy world of espresso drinks.

A number of espresso drinks utilize hot milk, which you can obviously just use a saucepot or microwave to produce. A fancy electric milk frother can make quick work of the decorative milk foam, but you can also simply froth the milk with a little dedication and a cheap whisk.

Here are an array of basic recipes for the most common espresso drinks.
Latte
Espresso + 1 cup hot milk + 1 tablespoon decorative milk foam

Mocha Latte
Espresso + hot milk + 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

Breve
Espresso + 1 cup hot half & half + 1 tablespoon decorative milk foam

Cappuccino
Espresso + 1/3 cup hot milk + 1/3 cup milk foam

Americano
Espresso + 1 cup hot water

Cortado
Espresso + 1 tablespoon hot milk

Macchiado
Espresso + 1 teaspoon milk foam

You'll also find an array of cute coffee construction images over here. And clearly, once you know the process, you can go all crazy with flavored syrups and whipped cream, if that's what you're into.

Now go forth, my friends and caffeinate! (Don't forget to tip yourself.)

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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3.22.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 11.17.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was handily spotted in the grand hall of Grand Central Station. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Spam Spikes
Apparently, in hard times (like now) Spam production (the meat kind) goes into overdrive.

Talking chocolate with Damian Allsop
Man breaks back and morphs into modern Willy Wonka. Culinary magic ensues.

What the World Leaders Ate
Planet Money posts the White House menu for G-20 world leaders. Mmm... Lamb, Quinoa and Huckleberries.

The Math on the Starbucks Gold Card
Bottom line: you have to be an addict to make it pay.

Scientists turn tequila into diamonds
My high school chem class definitely didn't feature this experiment.

McDonald's sales rise 8.2 percent
"McDonald's is likely benefiting from diners who might ordinarily go to pricier sit-down restaurants but are gravitating to fast food to save money — a phenomenon called 'trading down.'"

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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11.17.2008

What to Buy For the Eater

After getting a few nifty gastronomy-centric gifts for my birthday this year, I realized another Miss Ginsu gift guide might be in order.

Thus, I give you: What to Buy for the Eater

The basic philosophy is this: if you already know your recipient loves food, all you have to do is just select one of the secondary characteristics listed below and voila... they're gift-ified! (And since most of the stuff here costs less than $30, you shouldn't have to smash the piggybank to make 'em smile.)

The Coolest Temporary Tattoos

Does your foodie have a sense of humor?

Food Lovers' Tattoos

As Seattle's home of the goofy, Archie McPhee has always been a rich source of gifts for foodies, thanks to clever classics like the toast clock and the freeloader fork. And in keeping with our bacon-saturated times, there's even an entire page of bacon items.

But the recent addition of temporary tattoos for food lovers may be my favorite thing yet. All done in the retro "Sailor Jerry" school of 'tats, these sweet slicks are tempting arm candy... no commitment required.

*****

Handmade Mesh Produce Bags

Is your foodie a farmer's market farmers' market fiend or co-op junkie?

Mesh Produce Bags

Ooo! I know just the thing...

I bought a pack of reusable mesh produce bags off Etsy.com in the early spring, and I've been enjoying them all summer long.

They're cheap, too, so consider including a nice market tote bag. (And no. I'm not ashamed to recommend my own.)

These little guys are great because they're light, see-through, easy to open, they help you avoid collecting excess plastic... and they really do make you the envy of the farmers' market. I can't tell you how many times I've gotten envious looks and remarks on the lines of, "Oh! Those are so cool! Where'd you get them?"

Though the supplier I bought mine from is currently pursuing other things (i.e. has a life) there's lots of other folks who are selling them now in lots of pretty colors.

*****

Do-It-Yourself Cheese

Is your foodie the hands-on/DIY type?

Ricki's Cheese-Making Kit

I saw Ricki Carroll's sweet little Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit at Grand Central Market and immediately knew I needed to look her up.

As it turns out, Ricki's the "Cheese Queen" of the interweb, and does a lot of cheese-making education.

Her kit seems like a really fun, accessible way to introduce food lovers — especially younger ones — to the pleasures of cheese-making.

Then again, if the easy-cheesy mozzarella kit seems a bit elementary for your advanced DIY-er, consider a kit for making homemade soda, wine or beer or maybe even a mustard-making kit.

*****

Supremely Cute Salt & Pepper Shakers

Is your foodie a museum-lover? Possibly even... artsy?

Hugging S&P Shakers

The food geeks who are also design geeks are powerless in the face of designware from the MOMA shop.

A little caveat, since I realize any gourmand worth his or her, ahem... salt uses a pepper grinder instead of a pepper shaker for that freshly-ground goodness. I'm a sucker for the cute. And this Hugging Salt & Pepper set has the real cute. Oh! I am helpless in the face of its cuteness.

But if you know your gift recipient is way too sophisticated to be buffaloed by cuteness... you should probably go for the supercool Index Chopping Boards instead.

*****

One For the Road

Is your foodie sentimental?

Serendipity3

Consider a food gift that acknowledges a taste of reminiscence.

For those with a sweet tooth, Oldtimecandy and NostalgicCandy both feature retro packs that coordinate to the era of your recipient's youth.

Homesick former New Yorkers might appreciate things like the Frrozen Hot Chocolate from Serendipity 3, a classic deli-style lunch with the pastrami sandwich kit from Zingerman's or the ceramic version of NYC's ubiquitous We Are Happy To Serve You paper cup.

*****

Yum on the Run

Is your foodie active? Maybe even... sporty?

Happy campers (or boaters, or hikers, or picnickers) will love something practical (and cool-looking) for their alfresco dining.

REI has fun stuff in general, but I really like their Light My Fire Meal Kit, which comes with a compact set of two plates, a lidded cup, a crazy spoon/fork utensil, a little waterproof box (for berries?) and a colander/cutting board.

Pretty colors (a whole range of 'em), recyclable, no metal to freak out the TSA staff at the airport... and it floats.

For the bean-worshipers, REI also features a nifty French Press Commuter Mug, which comes in a variety of colors and serves as a combo coffee press, travel mug and coffee caddy. Pretty slick.

Miss Ginsu

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9.30.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 09.22.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was spotted (by two clever folks!) in Bryant Park, NYC at the Flatiron Building. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Frothing at the Latte
Some casual research on whether lattes signal political preference.

Unscrambling the Boastful Egg
Decoding what all that labeling is trying to tell you.

Dry sodas — soft and complex
Small-batch soda made with care. I approve.

How to be a thriftysomething: scrimping stylishly
Recession-proof for the Brit set.

6 Food Mistakes Parents Make
Seems like sound advice to me.

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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9.22.2008

Food Quote Friday: Paul Reyes

coffee cup

"The crowd swelled and ebbed with regulars dedicated to this brave motherland diet, in a tiny room packed with the odors of hot oil and coffee and sugar and warm bread. And sure, pork skins for breakfast might mean fewer days in the long run, but they added a weird rigor to the morning. If anything, the grease is sentimental."

— Paul Reyes in Harpers, October, 2008

Need seconds? More food quotes can be found within the food quote archive.

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9.19.2008

Food Quote Friday: Marge Piercy

Espresso in Paris

"Mornings you go off in my mouth like an electric
siren, radiating to my fingertips and toes.
You rattle my spine and buzz in my brain."
Marge Piercy from In Praise of Joe

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8.22.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 08.11.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
It's Cupcake's birthday! Hooray, and happy birthday, Cupcake! Last week, our exploratory pastry hero was located out in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Beijing breakfast of champions
Eggs and tomatoes... with ginger!

Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions
Contrary to popular mythology, coffee doesn't appear to cause cancer, send you to the loo or give you high blood pressure.

Cutting Calories and Saving D'oh
Very nicely done.

Consumers are raising cane over corn sweetener
Count me in among the wary. I'm a big label-reader and HFCS-avoider these days...

.: Jen's Chocolate Cake :.
Not a blog, but simplicity itself: a single chocolate cake recipe that Jen (and others) apparently adore. I made a peanut-butter glaze for it last week.

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8.11.2008

Sipping Italy's Cups of Gold

Based around its fresh, local ingredients, Italy clearly boasts one of the world's greatest cuisines.

That said, it's not difficult for a hungry traveler to find a soggy slice of pizza, a vile vino or a poorly treated plate of pasta. Having just returned from a week in the regions of Lazio and Abruzzo, I can attest to a wide range of quality on offer.

Cup of Gold
Tazza d'Oro... a cup of gold

But Italian coffee is a different story altogether. Espresso on every corner. Freshly ground beans in every tiny village. Lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos sipped by members of every social strata.

In Italy, superlative coffee isn't reserved for the well-born. It's drink of the people.

But why Italy? Coffee beans don't grow there. Wouldn't it make sense for the modern-day center of coffee culture be a little closer to the source of the beans? Like, say... Ethiopia, from whence the coffee bean is supposed to have originated?

Coffee Bags
Coffee bags from Crop to Cup

As it turns out, Italy may not be a source of coffee beans, but the country's been an enthusiastic importer for centuries.

The port city of Venice, Italy, sucked up goods of all kinds from North Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Coffee beans made their appearance there in the 1500s, and by 1645, the first European coffee house had opened (by this time the Turks were already old hands at the bean-slinging business, having opened Constantinople's Kiva Han, their first official coffee house, in 1471).

But clearly, this dark, bitter drink from foreign lands must have been the work of the devil. That's precisely what priests who petitioned Pope Clement VIII tried to claim in 1600.

Fortunately for coffee junkies everywhere, the Pope tried a cup and proclaimed it “so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it.”

He determined to “cheat Satan by baptizing it,” and a bloom of European coffee house openings followed. Caffè Florian, in Venice, was established in 1720 and remains one of the oldest houses still in operation.

Caffe Machhiato
Caffè Macchiato

That said, I'm told that Captain John Smith, one of the founders of the colony of Virginia, brought coffee to Jamestown in 1607, and I know that The Boston Tea Party the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York were all conceived in the New World's early coffee houses, so why do I still find weak, insipid coffee as I travel these United States?

I have no firm answers, but my best theory is this: we expect less.

When cloth sacks of green coffee beans sailed into Venetian ports all those centuries ago, they were probably a just few weeks old. By the time those beans traveled through Europe and overseas to the colonies, months had passed. They'd grown older, less nuanced and all the more expensive.

Colonists in what would eventually become the United States grew accustomed to a weaker cup.

That's what they made, and that's what generations thereafter recognized as coffee. The drip machine in the break room. The diner pot resting on the hot plate. We milk it and sugar it. And why not? We usually can't taste the coffee bean's more delicate flavors anyway.

Some claim the Caffè Americano (espresso with extra water added) was created as a more palatable beverage for American soldiers who marched en masse through Italy during World War II. It's probably an apocryphal story, but it sticks around because it illustrates an important point.

Drinks at Cafe Grumpy
Cortado and Cappuccino at Cafe Grumpy, Brooklyn

Though at least 54% of Americans sip coffee every day, the drip pot still reigns supreme. We don't need our morning cup of joe to have delicate flavor. It's about the caffeine.

But in the wake of the Seattle coffee revolution of the '70s, espresso-based drinks are far more widely recognized and consumed in the States. That seems like good news. As a nation, we're learning more about the bean, where it comes from and the subtlety it can show.

And who knows? With any luck, in a few more decades, we might begin to find proper espresso machines posted in all the truck stops and diners of rural America. Four hundred years after good coffee became working-class in Italy, everyone from miners to meter maids might regularly enjoy all that a fresh, well-treated bean has to offer.

Hey, a junkie can dream, right?

Cheers,

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7.09.2008

All-American Road Trips: Denver

Rocky Mountains, Colorado

The Big View

Flanked by mountains and ringed with highways, it's easy to get lost in Denver's strip malls, chain restaurants and outer-ring developments, but once you find your way to Colfax Avenue, you're on the road to dining with the locals.

I was suffering from a dreadful cold on the trip, so we didn't get out to the bars at all, but there were a couple of spots that came highly recommended by my buddy Alex (a former Denverite):

My Brother's Bar: "A classy spot with fantastic burgers (try a JCB burger)."

The Cruise Room: "If you're staying right downtown this is a good bet for cocktails, though the crowd can be a bit obnoxious on the weekend."

The Bites

Jack Daniels Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Just blocks from the Botanical Garden, Liks Ice Cream is a friendly neighborhood joint that features homemade ice creams and sorbets alongside umbrella-shaded outdoor seating. If you're not up for ice cream, the iced coffees and chai seem like a good bet. I had the Jack Daniel's Chocolate Chip, which tastes lightly alcoholic and quite creamy... very much like an iced Bailey's.

Though it's not exactly a cafe, I'm a book junkie, so the Tattered Cover gets a happy mention. Good coffee, tasty-looking pastries and, of course, books! They have several locations, but why not go to the historic LoDo locale? It's huge, comfy, welcoming and chock-full of high-quality staff picks to help you snag a winner or two among the hundreds of selections on the shelves.

Pete's Kitchen

Serving 24 hours daily in a slightly seedy stretch of Colfax Ave, Pete's Kitchen is a classic greasy spoon. My friend Alex recommended it for the chicken-fried steak. The "how ya doin' hon?" staff all seem sweet and genial, if harried. Pete's has been an institution since 1942, so you're here as much for the history as for the gyros platter with fries.

Side Dishes at Domo

If you don't make a reservation, you're going to endure a long wait at Domo's country-style Japanese restaurant. But the lobby is large, the decor is warm and engaging, and you can spend a few minutes walking through the various rooms and gardens. I didn't get a good sense of their fish craftsmanship, but their Wankosushi(TM) combo helps to offer sushi newbies an easy way to navigate various classics by offering a pick-three (or pick-five) small-plate option that arrives with miso soup and an array of kitchen-selected side dishes. It's filling, fun and approachable.

Tacos Platter

El Taco De Mexico strikes me as the kind of place that once featured great food at fantastic prices, but now that it's been listed in a few national publications, they've raised the rates a bit. That said, it's still a good lunch spot. The neighborhood seems like one that's recently been reclaimed by a handful of small, arty businesses, so it's nice for a little post-taco stroll. Order in Spanish or English. The staff is fluent in both. You'll sit with the locals, sip horchata and chew your burrito or tacos in a busy, but tidy, diner booth.

The Takeaway

Denver, Denver everywhere, but I never once saw a Denver Sandwich. The classic Denver Sandwich is essentially a western-style omelette on bread. If you're going low-carb, just skip the bread and eat the omelette. This would also be nice with a slice of cheddar or a spicy pepper jack melted across it. Mmmm...

Denver Sandwiches (Serves 2)

4 eggs
2 Tbsp milk
1 Tbsp butter, melted
Dash of salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup ham, diced
1 green onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup green pepper, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 slices good-quality bread

1. Beat the eggs, milk, melted butter, salt and pepper together until blended. Add the ham, green onion and green pepper.
2. In a heavy frying pan or skillet over a medium flame, heat the olive oil.
3. Pour the egg mixture into the pan, creating an even layer.
4. Cook about 3-5 minutes, lifting the edges to allow excess egg run underneath.
5. Run a spatula around the edges of the pan to loosen the eggs. Turn the omelette carefully, and cook another minute or two on the other side. Slide onto a plate and cut in half.
6. Toast and butter the bread, using half of the omelette for each sandwich.


Tattered Cover Book Store
1628 16th St
303.436.1070

Liks Ice Cream
Liks Ice Cream Parlor on Urbanspoon
2039 E 13th Ave
303.321.2370

Domo
Domo on Urbanspoon
1365 Osage St
(Just off W Colfax Ave)
303.595.8256

Pete's Kitchen
Pete's Kitchen on Urbanspoon
1962 E Colfax Ave
303.321.3139

El Taco de Mexico
El Taco de Mexico on Urbanspoon
714 Santa Fe Dr
303.623.3926

Cheers,

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4.30.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 03.24.08

Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was romping in Barcelona, España (Yes, Mr. Hazard, you were right on with Spain!) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Think you know? Post it in the comments.

The Fat Pack Wonders if the Party’s Over
Fellow NYC food blogger Jason Perlow gets diabetes, drops off the pounds and challenges the culture of excess embodied by some food media heavies.

The Myth of Food Miles
A backlash against the UK locavore movement. "The concept of food miles is unhelpful and stupid. It doesn't inform about anything except the distance travelled..."

Putting Dunkin' Donuts Coffee to the Test
I'd always suspected it was a viral marketing scheme (or perhaps an alien brain wave device?) that managed to convince a nation of Dunkin' Donuts coffee superiority.

The Turnip That Stirred Panic
“I’m now on constant alert against this and other rooted vegetables,” GiaQuinta said. Hilarious.

Leaving Behind the Trucker Hat
It's like a headline from The Onion: American Youth Flee Hip Urban 'Hoods for Country Backwaters.

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3.24.2008

The Donut Wars

I will preface this piece by letting you know this: I'm not a donut person, per se. That said, I will also tell you this: I love donuts in concept.

I love the way donuts are round. I love the way they curve in the palm of the hand. I love the hole in the center. I love that you can sometimes peek through that hole in the center and peer at the someone with whom you're sharing donuts. Maybe you also make a face or a silly noise at that moment. Donuts can be funny. But donuts also show up at wakes and church socials. Donuts can be somber.

Tres Leches Donut
The delightful Tres Leches Donut from the Donut Plant

What I love best about donuts is the idea of donuts and coffee. There's something so classically Americana about donuts and coffee.

The donut of my platonic ideal is the fresh-outta-the-fryer, crisp and steaming cake donut handed to me on a paper towel by an elderly someone who warns me that it's hot, and that I should be very careful not to burn my mouth. Said elderly someone has imbued this donut with his or her old-fashioned care, affection and pride. Needless to say, those donuts are rare as hen's teeth.

Donut Plant Dozen
A recent Donut Plant Dozen... Top left, clockwise: Pomegranate, Ginger, Coconut, Classic Glazed, Valrhona Chocolate, Rose Petal. In the back, Tres Leches, Blackout and another Valrhona.

My next-favorite donut is much more accessible. It's down at the Donut Plant and the cherubic counter man will sell it to you for a dear, but ultimately quite fair, price. Donut Plant donuts will not arrive hot from the fryer, but they are made with old-fashioned care, affection and pride as well as inspiring seasonal ingredients. Donut Plant donuts are taste adventures, and I like that in my food.

My boss liked Donut Plant donuts when I brought a tasting into work recently. He especially liked the Tres Leches donut. But what he REALLY likes are donuts from Peter Pan Bakery on Manhattan Ave. in Greenpoint.

After inhaling his first sampling of Peter Pan donuts just recently, he returned the next day. And the next. He demanded to know why I'd been holding back valuable Peter Pan donut insights for so long. It's not like I was plotting against his happiness. It's just that I'm not a donut person and because Peter Pan donuts were not my first-choice or second-choice donut, their little jellied and powdered gems made a much smaller blip on my personal radar.

One fateful day last week, my boss brought a stack of boxes into work. Boxes filled with donuts. Chocolate Glazed, Powder-Dusted. Some filled with berry jam. Some filled with Bavarian Cream. Cinnamon-Apple Cake Donuts. Strusel-Topped Donuts. Coconut-Flake Donuts.

A Mountain of Donuts from Peter Pan
A Mountain of Donuts from Peter Pan... Top left, clockwise: Chocolate-Glazed Eclaire, Cream-Filled Coconut, another filled eclaire, two custard-stuffed creampuffs, a Glazed Donut and a Strusel-Topped Donut

My coworkers went into a Peter Pan donut frenzy. They yelped. They swooned. They gorged. They ran to their phones and texted significant others with messages like: "OMG!!! We're getting up early Sat 4 DONUTS!" One coworker claimed that these were the long-lost donuts of her childhood, the like of which she hadn't seen in decades. She wrote to her mother about them.

And, yes... They're great donuts. Everyone says so. They're actually much closer to iconic American donuts, raised and glazed, fried fresh every day with good-quality fillings and (presumably) good-quality dough ingredients. (And they're dead cheap. This is Greenpoint, after all.)

The Peter Pan donut is probably very similar to the goods that the very first Dunkin' Donuts shop made waaaay back before they went corporate and started using cheaper fillers, cheaper sweeteners, cheaper fats and mass manufacture. The Peter Pan donut may not be available at every corner, but it really is the pastry of the people.

Admittedly, I felt crushed that my beloved Donut Plant donuts had so quickly rolled to the wayside in favor of a mighty Peter Pan onslaught. It was immediately clear that most people weren't really interested in pomegranate donuts, rose-petal donuts, Valrona chocolate donuts, ginger donuts, coconut-cream donuts or peanut butter and jelly donuts. They didn't want experimental donuts. They wanted donut donuts. They wanted tradition and comfort and sugary cream fillings.

So it seems the traditionalists won the war for the (clogged) hearts of my coworkers.

Down in the trenches, covered in a dusting of powdered sugar and sweating off the sugar-crash shakes, I reflect and find I've learned a few things.

I have strong donut opinions. I may have a delicate donut ego. And I guess I just happen to have a slightly off-the-mainstream donut perspective. And if I have all that, well... hell. Maybe I really am a donut person after all.

Peter Pan Doughnuts & Pastries
Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop on Urbanspoon
727 Manhattan Ave
Brooklyn, NY
718.389.3676

Donut Plant
Doughnut Plant on Urbanspoon
379 Grand St
New York, NY
212.505.3700

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3.06.2008

The Food FEMA Forgets

Two years ago, in the midst of Avian Flu scares, I typed up a quick Foodie's Apocalypse Kit... a nice grouping of emergency preparedness items I felt (and still feel) FEMA and the Red Cross really missed the boat on.

Now that two years have passed and the flu scare headlines have been replaced with the terror du jour, folks may have forgotten their annual apocalypse kit freshness review. So... How're those expiration dates looking? National holidays ought to correspond to the practical needs of the citizenry, so shouldn't the second Thursday of January always be Check Your Apocalypse Kit Day?

As we all take a moment to take stock of our stockpiles, I think it's particularly appropriate to plan for a very practical emergency preparedness component that FEMA forgets: Vice.

Tucked in alongside the 10 Essentials, addicts of every stripe need to lay in stock for their needs. Stressful times are not the right moments to quit smoking or try to kick the caffeine.

There's three underrated bug-out bag essentials I'm thinking about at the moment: Coffee, Chocolate and Hard Liquor.

apple martini

Coffee is a no-brainer for bean-worshipers like me. It's le soma quotidien. I feel ooky without it. Ooky is most certainly not what I want to feel if there's anything that's required of me.

Chocolate isn't much of a mental stretch, either. If there's a disaster, you're probably going to feel very unhappy and uncomfortable. For most people, chocolate is something soothing and pleasant. A staple diet of brown rice and canned beans might keep the body working, but a nip of good chocolate is food for the spirit.

I've already mentioned the liquor in brief, but as it's still not on any emergency preparedness list I've ever seen, I'm pressed to make my case with more persuasive detail.

Even if — like me — you're no fan of clear liquors like vodka (or whiskey, or rum), said fluid should be de rigueur for nearly anyone's go-bag. Aside from obvious benefits as a mental balm during hard times, liquor is endlessly useful:

  • It sterilizes wounds and cleans tools.

  • Liquor preserves foods.

  • It's a local anesthetic and disinfectant. Use it on cuts and broken blisters.

  • For painless bandage removal, rub a vodka-soaked cloth on the bandage to dissolve the adhesive.

  • Liquor can be used as an accelerant.

  • I've not tried it, but vodka's rumored to take the sting out of jellyfish encounters and poison ivy incidents

  • Liquor is a commodity that maintains its value. Trade it to the neighbors for something you want or need.

I was around for the Northeast Blackout of 2003, and I can tell you with great certainty that in the sudden absence of electricity, people become very interested in clean water, long-burning candles and a good, stiff drink.

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1.10.2008

Day 23: Five Hot Little Gift Ideas

This post marks Day 23 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Where has the month gone? It's late in the gift-giving game, so if you haven't already gotten your act together, I've got five quick picks (in a wide range of price points) for presents that'll thaw the icebox.

1. We've seen how an increasingly hotter planet has made Earth-friendly choices all the rage in high society this year.

Habana Outpost, New York’s first "eco-eatery," (complete with indoor/outdoor flea market, biodegradable cups, solar power, rainwater-flushing toilets and a bike-powered blender to mix smoothies and margaritas) has been doing the Earth-hugging thing for two years. And though they might not be selling a lot of their signature limed-up cheesy corn during the off season, I bet they're doing a brisk business in this hot little slice of cheesecake... the 2008 Habana Girls Pin-Up Calendar (made with recycled paper with vegetable ink, por supuesto).

All the models are cafe waitstaff who volunteered for the project, and proceeds are donated to Habana Works, Inc., a nonprofit that aims to better the local community through free programs that educate, unite and engage, such as Habana Labs. Generosity is hot.


Cute Apron 2. Etsy has all kinds of zippy little things, and I especially love their Shop by Color function. (I'm not sure how useful it is, but it's all kinds of fun.)

Everything is made by regular people (as opposed to transglobal mega-corps), so there's some schlock, of course, but Etsy also features a lot of gems.

I'm a big fan of the coy Betsy Johnson-inspired apron (at right), EnfinLaVoila's Funky Chicken cards and these Personalized Artichoke cards


FrancisFrancis Espresso Machine3. Strangely, I'm not a huge fan of Italian food (I'm thinking that's because it's often so poorly executed stateside. Those wishing to re-educate me with a trip to Puglia are more than welcome to offer.) but Italian design... mama mia!

J has a big red FrancisFrancis! espresso machine, and while it's clearly excessive, it's just such a wonderful object. Sleek lines, sexy curves, glorious finish, reminiscent of classic sp With one of these, my gorgeous KitchenAid stand mixer, a long silk scarf and a sweet little Vespa, I'm sure I could be living La Dolce Vida.

Penzeys' Spice Box 4. If you've never cooked with fresh spices, you're in for a revelation. The lowly peppercorn, toasted gently, releases high notes that sing in citrus melodies. The cinnamon stick is more nuanced and powerful than you ever knew it could be. It's like seeing strange new passions burning in your oldest friends.

Penzeys Spices are varied, fresh and easily accessible, thanks to stores across the nation and a web presence. They use bay leaves as packing material in some of their gift boxes, and the bay they use for packing was fresher and more delightful than any I'd previously encountered. Their gift boxes make great spice introductions for newbies and seasoned (ha!) chefs alike.

harissa

5. Apparently, Roast Chicken & Other Stories is the hot cookbook of the season, so there's no way you're going to get your hands on it anytime soon. (I guess being dubbed the "Most Useful Cookbook of All Time," really couldn't hurt sales...)

Take a raincheck on the "must-have" gift and give, instead, a gift of Moroccan flavors, including a hot-hot-hot jar of harissa (homemade or store-bought) alongside an ultra-easy recipe for Harissa-Roasted Chicken (below). If you're feeling generous, make it a Moroccan feast and throw in a nice unglazed clay tagine.

Classic Harissa
You can use whatever chilies you like, or use a blend. Ancho chilies make a milder harissa, New Mexico and Guajillo chilies are medium-spicy. Cayenne, Scotch Bonnet and Chipotle make a searing harissa.

10-12 dried red chili peppers
3-4 garlic cloves
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground fennel (or caraway)
2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1. Soak the chilies in hot water for 60 minutes or overnight.

2. Remove stems and seeds (you may wish to use latex gloves for this task), reserving about 1 cup of the chili water. Place the chilies in a food processor or blender with the tomatoes, coriander, fennel, cumin, paprika, salt, olive oil and lemon juice.

3. In a blender, purée smooth with 1/2 cup chili water. Add more chili water, as needed, into the mix to make a smooth blend.

4. Season to taste and store in airtight container, drizzled with a small amount of olive oil on top. Should keep for about a month in the refrigerator.

Harissa is divine on grilled meats, roasted vegetables, couscous, chickpea curries, tagines and this tasty (and stunningly simple) chicken dish...

Harissa-Roasted Chicken
1 Roaster chicken (about 3 1/2 to 4 lb)
1/2 cup harissa
1/4 cup Greek-style plain yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1. Mix harissa, yogurt and lemon juice and massage the mixture all over the chicken. (You may wish to use latex gloves for this task.) Let the chicken marinate, chilled, for 1 hour.

2. Heat oven to 450°F. In a roasting pan placed in the center of the oven, roast the marinated chicken for 20 minutes. Add 1 cup of water to the pan and roast until the juices run clear and the thigh registers 165°F on a meat thermometer, about 30-40 minutes more.

3. Carefully transfer the chicken to a cutting board, and let it rest for 10-15 minutes before carving. Serve with couscous, roasted vegetables or a cucumber-tomato salad.

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12.23.2007

Food Quote Friday: Ray Nargis

charming coffee cup

"When I am old I'll drink whiskey in the morning
And coffee at night
And laugh and spit and swear wherever I want.
When I am old I'll help Girl Scouts across the street
Even if they don't want to go
And I won't have a car
And I won't have a bike
And I'll walk everywhere."

— from Ray Nargis' poem "When I am Old"

Love food quotes? Read more here.

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11.30.2007

Forget Foodies. Unleash the GastroGnomes!

The New York Times published an article today that features "The Foodie Scene in the Twin Cities," the subhead for which proclaims, "In another sign of a cultural awakening, dining out in this city of sensible industry is no longer confined to steakhouses."

Sitting on the couch this morning, I read this line aloud with ill-hidden outrage.
Confined to steakhouses? Seriously? Did the writer actually visit MSP? I lived thereabouts for close to ten years and I can't remember ever eating at a steakhouse.

My sweetheart chuckled from his desk a few feet away. Having already read the piece, he knew my boiling blood wouldn't cool a bit as the thesis statement of said article became clear.

As it happens, the "Foodie Scene" covered in the Times refers almost entirely to some recent "celebrity chef" action. Oh sure, there's a passing reference to one of the excellent farmers' markets and to Chef Brenda Langton, a Minneapolis fixture who's been cooking tasty things as long as I can remember, but as far as the Times is concerned, the term "foodie" seems to be confined to those looking for high-end five-to-seven course prixe fix dining directed from on high by the new gods of expense account cuisine (Wolfgang Puck and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, in this case).

Why all the rage? Well, if I knew nothing about the Twin Cities (and honestly, that's true of the majority of New Yorkers I've met), I might read that article and think to myself, "Thank heaven for those bold, selfless celebrity chefs. How else would a backwater like that learn any kind of appreciation for organic and regional ingredients? God bless Wolfgang and Jean-Georges."

All of which is complete and utter hogwash. But wait... is it possible that they mean something different by the word "foodies?"

With that thought in mind, it seems the foodies of the Times eat exclusively at tables with very high thread-count coverings. Said foodies would also have to have completely forgotten Celebrity Chef Marcus Samuelsson who ran Restaurant Aquavit in Minneapolis (and NYC) until recently. And they'd have to be blind to places like La Belle Vie, whose chef, Tim McKee, was recognized by Gourmet, James Beard and the local City Pages. (And for that matter, I recommend that those seeking guidance on MSP just skip the Times and read the City Pages food reviews. They know all the best things going.)

I could go on, but I feel we should get back to business: "Foodie." I've never liked the word. It just sounds dumb. Like someone affixed a vowel sound to a random noun to make a label. It's what little kids do to form insults.

They can have that word. I just want to clarify that "Foodie Scene" as used in the article mentioned above should be read as the "Status Dining Scene."

On the other hand, I feel that those people who are dedicated to ferreting out and exploring the world of tasty, exciting, horizon-expanding foods available any a given place should be called something else.

"Gourmets" sounds flaccid and snobby. "Epicurians" seems accurate, but it comes off as a tad stiff. "Chowhounds" isn't bad, but it's rather specific. I'm going to go with something more like "Gastronomes," which conjures up an image of an army of garden gnomes armed with forks and knives, ready to explore and devour. Unleash the Gastro-Gnomes! (A bit terrifying, isn't it?)

Where do the Gastrognomes of Minneapolis-St. Paul eat? In many places, as it turns out. Ask a few. They'll tell you. In that spirit, I'll list just a handful of my favorite Twin Cities food spots:

The Midtown Global Market, where you'll now find a killah combination of cheap+tasty, including Manny's Tortas, Holy Land and La Loma, the home of tasty tamales.
920 E Lake St
Minneapolis
612.872.4041

One-stop picnic shop: The Wedge Co-Op, where you can get a loaf of bread, a fresh-pressed fruit juice, an array of treats and be on your way to the Sculpture Garden for lunch.
2105 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis MN, 55405
612-871-3993

The improbable Sea Salt Eatery for fish sandwiches and crab cakes that have no right to be so tasty. Be warned: They're only open in the good months.
4825 Minnehaha Ave
Minneapolis
612.721.8990

Ted Cook's 19th Hole Barbeque — Classic baked beans, cornbread, greens and saucy barbecue. Worth getting lost on the residential streets trying to find it? Hell yeah.
2814 E 38th St
Minneapolis
612.721.2023

Victor's 1959 Cafe Eggs with black beans and fried yuca? Toast with guava jelly? Yeah, I'm in.
3756 Grand Ave S
Minneapolis
612.827.8948

Hell's Kitchen, which makes awesome bison sausage and their signature brunchy treat: the luxe Mahnomin Porridge.
89 South 10th St
Minneapolis
612.332.4700

Emily's Lebanese Deli I've been trying for close to 6 years to make tabbouleh that tasty...
641 University Ave NE
Minneapolis
612.379.4069

Blue Nile I'm a sucker for Ethiopian. Mmm... Stew.
2027 E Franklin Ave
Minneapolis
612.338.3000

Surdyk's wine + cheese shop extraordinaire
303 East Hennepin Ave
Minneapolis
612.379.3232

Rustica Bakery Breads, rolls and pastries made with love, skill and a bonus helping of tastiness.
816 W 46th St
Minneapolis
612.822.1119

A Baker's Wife's Pastry Shop Unassuming, inexpensive, impressive. Get a tart.
4200 28th Ave S
Minneapolis
612.729.6898

Coffee Gallery at Open Book. This listing really isn't all about the food. There aren't many things I crave more than Books + Coffee. Open Book is an amazing resource for anyone who loves books and enjoys seeing how they're constructed.
1011 Washington Ave S
Minneapolis
612.215.2626

Bayport Cookery Okay, so it's actually a stone's throw from MSP. But my lord, people... they host a morel fest. It's damn tasty and not terribly expensive. Make the trip. These guys were doing sustainable, local cuisine before it was cool.
328 5th Ave N
Bayport, MN
651.430.1066

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4.29.2007

Handy Stuff: Coffee Concentrate

Q. How do you make coffee concentrate?

A. Put it in a quiet, well-lit room with minimal distractions.

ice coffe

Thanks... I'll be here all week. But seriously, folks.

Iced coffee season is officially open, and it's an occasion that fills me with a need to empower any ambitious folks who are willing to listen. For some reason, adding ice to one's java tends to increase the asking price from a straight-up buck to $2.50 or more. Call me cheap, that seems a bit dear.

Iced coffee is something I believe people can and should be able to make at home.

So what's to prevent you from dropping a few cubes in your mug? Well... good sense, naturally. Nobody wants a watery cuppa joe. I've seen some people recommend ice cubes made out of coffee, but I personally think a concentrate is the way to go.

So then, how do you make coffee concentrate?

Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book recommends using a little device known as a Coffee Toddy.
To prepare coffee concentrate, you will need a coffee toddy, 1 pound medium to fine ground coffee, and 1/2 gallon cold water. Set the toddy over an empty jar, place the coffee in the filter, and pour the water over it. Let the coffee drip overnight. This makes 5 ounces of concentrate.

Once made, it's easy to keep coffee concentrate on hand in the fridge for use in ice cream, cakes, smoothies, gelato, granitas and of course... iced coffee.

Take back the power, people. If you're an iced coffee devotee (sipping say, four times a week from now through August) who's paying $2.50-$3 for the stuff, you could end up spending $400 or more to get a summer's worth of fix. A toddy and a bag of beans at the beginning of the season will cost you less than $30.

As an added bonus, by using your own insulated mug, you won't be tossing away dozens of the standard-issue plastic ones. DIY iced coffee is better for your pocketbook and better for the planet. Best of all, it's reliably delicious. And if that's not worth an ounce of concentration, I don't know what is.

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4.28.2007