Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Grocery Store Tourism

This may seem a bit strange, but one of my very favorite overseas travel activities isn't visiting the museums or galleries (though they're very nice, of course)... it's touring local grocery stores and food shops.

I like to see how the average person lives. In Italy, for example, your average shopper has access to powerful traceability and sourcing information.

Behold! Egg coding!

Italian Egg Coding

The eggshells come with printed sets of numbers. The packaging includes the key to translating the numbers.

What do you find in that code? Everything about where that egg came from, including the state, province, municipality and farm where it was produced, the breed of the chicken and of course, the date on which the hen produced the egg.

Pretty cool, no? One glance at the eggshell, and you know just where it came from, what kind of chicken made it and how fresh it is.

Similarly, when I visited both Italy and France, I noticed that the produce is all labeled with the country and/or region of origin... even at the farmers' markets.

Farmers' market labeling

The second reason I enjoy checking out other peoples' groceries: they have things we don't.

While looking in rural France (Les Eyzies) for food that would work well on the grill, we were delighted to find an upgrade on the traditional canned campsite "pork 'n beans" duo. This canned duck confit and lentils heated up just fine on the grill and made couple of très magnifique dinners.

The same shop also had shelf-stable jars of duck rillettes (essentially a fatty duck spread), which tasted amazing when spread across a fresh baguette.

Can of Lentils & Duck Confit

And finally, there's the joy of discovering cool packaging logos and graphic design. You'll find some of my recent favorites, below:

Goat's Milk Yogurt
An adorable goat's milk yogurt label from Trento, Italy

Devilish Rotisserie Chicken Bag
A devilish rotisserie chicken bag from Toulouse, France

Devilish Rotisserie Chicken Bag
A charming nut sack from Berlin, Germany

Corleggy Cheese Label
A lovely little cheese label from Belturbet, Ireland

I know I can't be alone in my tendency toward grocery store tourism. Anyone have foreign food discoveries to report? Let me know in the comments or link me over to your adventures.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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10.18.2009

Recycled Bird (or Squirrel) Feeder

Correct me if I'm wrong, because I don't buy a lot of juice, but I believe this image is showing off a clever way to reuse an old plastic juice container.

Squirrel Modeling the Bird Feeder

Visiting in Minneapolis last weekend, mom and I stopped in at a roadside rest stop and found this little household recycling project swinging from the trees. (And come to think of it, that actually looks like an onion bag filled with suet in the background. Yet more great recycling. Go Minnesota DOT, go!)

Looks like all you'd need is a big plastic juice jug, a utility knife (to cut the flaps in the sides), a nail (to pierce a hole in the lid), a knotted piece of string (to push through the hole in the lid) a stick or dowel (to give the birds a perch) and a little premium bird seed.*

It's certainly not squirrel-proof, but with squirrels this charming, maybe you don't really want to repel them.

Squirrel Close-Up

As a kid, I remember using the canisters from orange juice concentrate to make pencil holders, but I'm a bit of out of the loop on the world of food packaging projects.

If you're so inclined, post in the comments if you've seen any other inventive recycling ideas lately.

In the meantime, I hope y'all had a delightful weekend!

Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

* And conveniently, we learned last week that buying premium bird seed lets credit card companies know that you're reliable and creditworthy.

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5.26.2009

I can haz cute now?

Had a terrific trip to upstate New York yesterday to tour Ronnybrook Farm and nearby Coach Farm.

I'll get into the dairy details and post some tasty video soon enough, but I wanted to get to the cream first: all the squishably adorable baby animals.

Behold, my friends... the cute.

Jersey Calf at Ronnybrook
A charming Jersey calf at Ronnybook Farm. Check out that little black tongue.

Newborn Dairy Cow at Ronnybrook Farm
Newborn dairy cow at Ronnybrook Farm. Those nose freckles are killing me.

O Hai. A wee little kid at Coach Farm
O hai... a wee little kid at Coach Farm.

A slightly older, cock-headed goat at Coach Farm
A slightly older, cock-headed goat at Coach Farm.

Yet another charming Alpine goat at Coach Farm
Yet another charming Alpine goat at Coach Farm.

Yours in love of cuteness,
Miss Ginsu

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5.09.2009

Google Scores PhD in Tea House Cute

Now, I may not be a cuteologist in the same league as the experts over at cuteoverload or meomi, but I'd say I've done enough concentrated independent study to rate as a connoisseur of cute.

That said, Gmail users, I address you today. Have you seen the fantastically awesome cuteness that is the Gmail Tea House theme?

If not, I urge you to go to your Gmail account, hit the "settings" tab at the top-right corner of the page, select the "themes" tab at the end of the settings bar, and scroll down to the "tea house" theme.

Cute little fox in a grass hat. Cute peach trees. Cute Japanese garden. But wait... it gets even cuter.

Throughout the day, the little fox conducts his cute daily activities. At noon, the sun is high in the sky, and he's playing his flute for the ducks.

Later on, he might enjoy tea and cakes with a little monkey friend or tend his bonsai tree. As I cook dinner, the stars come out and he's making ramen just outside his adorable pagoda as the chicks peck the ground. Under the moonlight, he lights the lanterns. CUTE!


My little foxy friend eats his dinner.

Ace cute. The bus stop theme is pretty great too, but I compulsively come back to find out what the fox is up to. Bravo, Google.

We'll be to the regularly scheduled food blog tomorrow. Just had to share.

Cheers,
Miss Ginsu

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11.23.2008

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

Another Dose of Pain

Okay, I'm only doing this for you folks, so don't say I never did nothin' for ya.

A while back I made a couple of new designs for the Swag Shop and there was some insistence in the comments that I make a tote-bag suitable versions.

Who am I to turn down a tote-hungry public?

But as it turned out, the initial design was just not up to snuff for that kind of thing. So I got me a book and learned how to make vector graphics. I sweated. I slaved. I gritted my teeth... and here we are.



So there you have it. Bring the Pain tote bags. Great for bringing home the bread. Or the bacon. Or whatever you prefer to put in your tote bags. I'm not judgmental.

Two Sizes:
Big (13.5 deep by 15 wide)
&
Bigger (15.5 deep x 18.5 wide)

Back to your regularly scheduled food blog tomorrow!

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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9.10.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 07.21.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
As surmised, last week Cupcake was visiting the handsome polar bear at the Musée d'Orsay. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Be the envy of your friends and the bane of your enemies by posting a guess in the comments.

Vertical Farms for Urban Areas
Critics question zucchini-in-the-sky visions: “Would a tomato in lower Manhattan be able to outbid an investment banker for space in a high-rise?”

Cutest. Spaghetti film. Ever.
I love this short so much. PES, you rock.

The Food-Truck Revolution
NY Mag offers up a handy map of NYC's most mobile meals... with recommendations, of course.

Red Hook vendors in the red
I know they mean well, but I kind of hate the health department.

felt egg cosy
I can't say I've ever had need for an egg cozy, but... OMG SO CUTE!

Is Eco-Wine Better?
An exploration of the "green" wine spin factor.

Parker's Wine Vintage Chart
A good "print out and take along" reference for the next time you're out wine shopping.

Fun with Toxins
MUG sends out a call to New Yorkers... Help keep consumer labeling on your milk!

Good Fish, Bad Fish: A Consumer Guide
Think wild Alaskan (sablefish, salmon) or think small: mussels, oysters, anchovies, sardines

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7.21.2008

Day 18: Tag!

This post marks Day 18 of Miss Ginsu's 2007 Advent Calendar. To click into other days and other projects, use the calendar page to navigate.

Who couldn't use a little something around the holidays that's both timely and free?

I've made up a downloadable PDF with 18 handmade holiday gift tags. Penguins. Snowdudes. Holly. Cupcake and Miss Ginsu in holiday finery. All cute, fun, useful and free for the downloadin'. Yay!

Just click the sample graphic below to get the full page and print it out at 8 1/2 by 11. It'll look better on a color printer, but black & white should suffice in a pinch.

There's room on the left side of each to use a hole punch or a skewer if you want to attach them to jars or boxes with ribbons.

snowman tag

Cheers, ya'll!

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12.18.2007

The Cookies of the Dead

Much as I love Halloween, I think the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is far cooler.

A couple of hundred years ago, Halloween held a solid position in the autumn calendar as a religious event. These days, I'd bet a lot of people don't even realize that the "Eve of All Hallows" is supposed to be followed by All Saints' Day on November 1st and All Souls' Day on the 2nd.

Similarly, the Day of the Dead (sometimes called the Día de los Fieles Difuntos) is observed in Mexico from November 1-2. Annual rituals involve activities like cleaning and decorating loved ones' graves and building altars or small shrines that include supremely amusing little skeleton figurines made from paper mache, photos of deceased relatives, crosses, orange marigolds, candles, liquor and food, such as the pan de muerto (bread of the dead).

Dia de los Muertos Altar

While our modern Halloween has lightened its dark roots in favor of overflowing candy buckets for the little ones and sexy cop, nurse, shepherdess, fairy, zombie, etc. costumes for the adults, the Day of the Dead really can't help but remain conscious of the tenuous barrier between life and death. It's right there in the name. More than that, it's rooted in a culture that's apparently more strongly linked to remembrance than candy and costume. And because remembrance is such a personal process, the Day of the Dead necessarily demonstrates a more handmade and individual texture.

Dia de los Muertos Parade

A while back, I visited Tulum and Playa del Carmen on the Yucatán Peninsula during the Día de los Muertos celebrations. Different towns have different celebrations, of course, but Playa del Carmen went all out with an elaborate parade sponsored by the local culture center. It was a stunning carnival of fire and fireworks, undead musicians and jugglers, whirling dancers, springing acrobats and skeletons (both tall and tiny).

Dia de los Muertos Children

Homespun, heart-filled and gorgeous, that celebration was rich with reminders of death, and it made me love life all the more.

You can imagine how ecstatic I was when I found an Alice Medrich recipe for Day of the Dead Cookies in her excellent Chocolate Holidays cookbook. A whole stack of chocolate-vanilla skulls. The accompanying photo was both cute and creepy. I was instantly sold.

When I actually baked them, I discovered that this cookie is little complicated to make and it has about a 50% success rate. By that I mean: Only about half of the cookies are recognizable as skulls. I was initially a little crushed, but then I reconsidered. Even the rejects were delicious and the skulls that work are pretty cute.

Here's my recommendation: Make the cookies and separate them into two piles. Label the rejects, "Chocolate-Vanilla Crinkle Cookies." They're crispy, tasty and excellent with a cup of coffee. Take them to work and give them to your hungry coworkers. The other pile with the more successful skulls are your "Day of the Dead Cookies," and they're cute and crispy and tasty (and also good with coffee). Revel in the fact that they're delicious and imperfectly homemade, much like the Día de los Muertos itself.

Dia de los Muertos Cookies
Spooky, scary or just plain dumb. A gang of tasty skull cookies.


Maya's Day of the Dead Cookies
from Chocolate Holidays by Alice Medrich
(Makes about 3 dozen. About half of them will look like skulls.)

Vanilla Dough:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Dough:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, Dutch process or natural
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup (packed) brown sugar, lump free
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Equipment:
Baking sheets lined with parchment paper

1. To make the vanilla dough, mix the flour, baking powder and salt together thoroughly with a whisk or a fork. Set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour until just incorporated. Form the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter. Set aside.

3. To make the chocolate dough, in a medium bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together thoroughly with a whisk or fork. Set aside.

4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar with the back of a spoon or an electric mixer until smooth and creamy but not fluffy (less than 1 1/2 minutes with an electric mixer). Beat in the egg and vanilla. On low speed, beat in the flour until just incorporated. Form the dough into a log the same length as the vanilla log. If the dough is too soft and sticky to handle, place it in the freezer to firm up.

5. To shape the skulls, reshape each log of dough so that it is skull-shaped rather than round: Make one side of the skull narrow for the chin and jaw and leave the other side wide for the cranium. Wrap and refrigerate the chocolate dough. Form features in the vanilla dough, using the handle of a wooden spoon to poke holes for eyes through the entire length of the log. Form the nose with a skewer, poking two holes for nostrils. Form the mouth by inserting a narrow table knife and wiggling it back and forth gently to lengthen and widen the opening. Don't try for perfection: irregular holes make the best and weirdest skulls. Wrap and refrigerate the vanilla dough. Chill both doughs at least two hours, preferably overnight.

6. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the chocolate dough into 1/8-inch slices and place them at least 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. Cut the vanilla dough into 1/8-inch slices and place 1 slice on top of each chocolate slice. Bake until pale golden at the edges, 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking. Slide parchment liners directly from the baking sheets to the rack with a metal pancake turner, waiting 1 to 2 minutes if necessary to let the cookies form up before moving them. Cool cookies completely before stacking or storing. Cookies keep at least 1 week in an airtight container.

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11.02.2007

Introducing: The New Chez Ginsu

Miss Ginsu & Cupcake

After months of thinking, tinkering, plotting, planning and fussing about, I'm proud to present the new & improved MissGinsu.com. (With boundless thanks to J for patiently debugging my buggy code and The Roomie for her advice on cuteness.)

It's still not perfect ("Dammit, Jim! I'm a cook, not a programmer!), but I hope that once you have look around, you'll agree it's a heck of a lot better.

The new display is best viewed on Safari and Firefox, tolerable on IE 7 and still miserably broken on IE6. If you're on a PC and you don't have Firefox yet, you can download it here for free and get the whole awesome Miss Ginsu experience.

What's Changed
  • The Name: Is the site called, The Hedonista? Is it called, Miss Ginsu? In truth, it was supposed to be "The Hedonista: A Food Blog by Miss Ginsu", but it was pretty confusing. That's over now. We're going totally Miss Ginsu from here on out.

  • Simplified Navigation: The navigation bar has been stripped down to the basics: Tasty Places to go, tantalizing Recipes to cook and our favorite Food Finds. Looking for something? Check out the search bar (at right) or browse the archive.

  • The Color Scheme: It's brighter, happier and more diner-like.

  • The Miss Ginsus: The place is chock-full of 'em. Why? Well, why not? They're cute. And we think the world could use more cute. Also: Naps. But we'll work on cute for now.

Meanwhile thanks for reading, and I hope you like the new look!

-Miss G.

PS: Completely unrelated, but also important... The Roomie wants anyone knitty (or crochety) to know that the Love Keeps You Warm program could really use scarves or yarn donations to help warm folks that are living with HIV/AIDS. If you have skillz, scarves or a bunch of extra yarn sitting around, contact Diana Previtire at Actor's Equity NYC before November 30. More info on the flyer at Miss Heather's Greenpoint Dog Log Blog.

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10.28.2007

Crushably Cute + Yummy

Ike & Sam

Three products I'm wild for right now (that also happen to have have meltingly cute packaging):

MarieBelle:
aztec dark hot chocolate

Laloo:
goat's milk ice cream

Ike & Sam's:
kettlecorn*

(* Limited range of sale... if you happen to live in the Tri-state, pick it up at Garden of Eden shops in Manhattan and some Key Foods and C-Town stores on the Upper East Side.)

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12.05.2005

Mowing the Kiwifruit

kiwifruit

Yes... I realize I've been a negligent blogger. There have been technical issues.

I'll be chewing on the web again next week — but in the meantime you must-must-must go see this ever-so-cute French foodporn site.

Tiny people excavating watermelon seeds!

Itty-bitty astronauts exploring the rocky surface of a crème brulée!

Lilliputian workers mowing the kiwifruits! Swoon!

Step up and see all that (and more) right here: Minimiam

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10.20.2005

Hey, Hey, Babycakes!

Babycakes

Aw! A cupcake mosaic on the front stoop of that spanking-new Lower East Side bakery! Adorable.

Oh! The pretty shopgirls all wear obscenely cute candy-striped pink pinafores. Sweet!

Whoah! Vegan? Really? No, wait... Not just vegan but sugar-free, gluten-free and all-natural? Daaaamn!

Babycakes

Yes, my LES operative reports that the mint-lemonade is refreshing, the lemon cake is tasty and the menu is... well, confusing.

Imagine! A whole shop filled with baked goods whipped up with no cream, no refined sugar, no eggs, no white flour and no butter. In short, a traditionally-trained pastry chef's worst nightmare.

And yet... they have muffins. They have poundcakes. They presumably have cupcakes. So what do they use to construct their sweet treats?

J. reports it's spelt and garbanzo flour sweetened with things like fresh, farmers' market fruits (local peaches, for example).

He's sworn to eat his way through their menu for the sake of science (and those friendly gals in candy-striped aprons). Brave man. We await his report.

Babycakes
248 Broome St.
(btwn Ludlow and Orchard)
212.677.5047

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9.08.2005

Introducing: Darth Tater

Darth Tader
Forget Obi-Wan Kohlrabi, Luke. Join Monsanto and together we'll rule the marketplace as father and son!

I'll admit it. I find the Darth Tater figurine totally adorable.

Unfortunately, if Episode 1 and 2 are any indication, Grocery Store Wars is likely to be better than Episode 3.

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5.13.2005