Stay for Tea

Month: October, 2011

your requisite “what am I doing here?” post

Fellow bloggers and readers:

How did you come to develop your tone and theme in your blog? More importantly, do you feel a personal blog should have a particular theme, or should the blogger reserve the right to write about whatever they want? Is there an obligation for consistency in a personal blog?

I feel that I’ve somehow set a theme for this to be about all things gastronomical and domestic, but that wasn’t really my intention. True, I love to cook and nest, but I also don’t want to have my blog be some precious cozy thing.

One of my favorite thing about keeping an online journal in the past has been the option to write down stream of consciousness thoughts, discuss current events, share impressions on pop and art culture. I want to write about Anselm Kiefer and how his paintings make me think of ancient hermits and the Atacama desert; I want to gush about Stephin Merritt and how delightful “Strange Powers” is; I want to post bajillion pictures of my roommate’s dog. But I’ve not felt like it somehow… fits in. So I haven’t. I probably would need to get rid of this damned teacup logo (what I mean by precious). I could post these thoughts somewhere like Facebook or Tumblr, but those are not the best platforms for blogging, plus I want to have zero question about owning the content.

Do I rename my blog completely and head in another direction? Do I stick to writing about what goes on in the kitchen? Do I keep it as is and write whatever I want? Do I even owe an explanation for either path?

One thing I was contemplating is keeping all the food related blog posts as a separate section, only occasionally updated with recipes and cookbooks reviews, and then creating a main blog notebook for the more frequent updates that I’ve been mainly keeping on Tumblr. The emphasis would be on my day to day thoughts, with friends being alerted to any time I post a new recipe. Or would that be too disorganized? One of my favorite bloggers, Luxirare, recently reorganized the site in a similar way. It took a little while to figure out the structure, but now there is more content from her and I have a feeling she is able to share even more than previously.

Answer my questions for me, Internet! That’s what you’re here for!

Date Cake with Toffee Sauce (Kate Zuckerman’s “The Sweet Life”)

Yesterday afternoon I tried out a recipe from Kate Zuckerman’s fantastic book The Sweet Life: Desserts from Chantrelle. I couldn’t recommend the book more enthusiastically. I picked it up on a whim and I’ve since bookmarked a good dozen recipes I’m dying to try out.

photo from Empire Design Studio

The book is beautifully designed and laid out by the Empire Design Studio. The recipes and instructions are thorough and Zuckerman covers a variety of desserts, from cakes and tarts to souffles and syrups. She also provides a great deal of information on baking and pastry making techniques, offers suggestions for modifying recipes, and indicates exactly what type of kitchen equipment you’ll need for each recipe. Her enthusiasm for her craft comes through the pages, and the book is brimming with clever recipes like Basil Ice Cream or Goat Cheese Cake with Hazelnut Brittle.

I decided to go with the Date Cake with Toffee Sauce. The recipes require very little prep work. The rich flavor of Medjool dates and spices is balanced nicely with espresso and brandy in the cake, while the toffee syrup (also with brandy) is so gooey and delicious that I want to pour it on absolutely everything. Both recipes are available on Cookstr, so rather than duplicate efforts please refer to the links below.

A couple of personal notes:
– I cut the quantities in half when trying out the recipes, which yielded a delicious and fluffy 5×5 inch pan. Unless you are making the cake for a large party, I actually recommend you do that. It’s only supposed to sit covered at room temperature for 3-4 days max. But maybe you can eat a whole giant cake!
– I did not use a stand mixer. I just mixed everything by hand. The butter and sugar I creamed with a fork, and then everything else I mixed with a wooden spoon. This isn’t out of some old fashioned purist approach but because my stand mixer is very big and heavy and I have to haul it out of the side closet to use it, since there is no room to keep it on the kitchen counter permanently.
– I used Raynal VSOP brandy. The flavors of dates, sugar, spices and coffee are strong enough on their own not to require a flavorful cognac like Grand Marnier. Although I’m sure it would taste delicious, so if you like some extra decadence, go for it.

Everything else is super straight forward. Word of caution: you will have a very hard time resisting the urge to constantly lick the mixing spoon when making the toffee syrup.

Date Cake
Toffee Sauce

tiny trip: LA for Quay

Earlier this week, J. and I took a teeny tiny adventure to LA metro, just for one day.

it’s really bright at the top of Getty Center

We got in Tuesday morning and first headed to the Getty Center for a delicious lunch (grilled Barramundi on a bed of kale and mashed squash), followed by a thorough visit to the exhibit of Medieval illuminated gospels, some of which date as far back as 900 AD. The Armenian books were the most breathtaking, with lots of carefully applied gold leaf and intricate calligraphy and scrollwork.

After taking a break in our hotel room we drove over to Sony Picture Studios to attend a screening of the most recent film directed by the Brothers Quay, “Through the Weeping Glass,” hosted by the Museum of Jurassic Technology and screened at the Cary Grant Theater. The half-hour film provides a mesmerizing visit to Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, part visual poetry, part documentary. Following the screening, Stephen and Timothy Quay discussed their work and answered some audience questions.

As an aside, I have to wonder: why do people have to ask the most inane questions? Or even worse, they don’t ask questions but rather attempt to involve the artist in some sort of pointless, pedantic discussion of one tiny needling detail, masking it as a question. “Oh I noticed this one thing you did, which is like this other thing, and was your intention to blah blah blah?” That’s not a question. You are just showing off. People…

After the moderated discussion we were shown a short behind the scenes film shot in digital b&w, tracking the process of the making of the documentary. While I enjoyed the actual film, I actually found the behind the scenes look even more interesting. It was fascinating to see the artistic process and the techniques used. The Museum is really small, with narrow exhibit spaces and not much room to maneuver. There were some great uses of two way mirrors, scrims and cut-out panels that cast shadows, and some stop motion. Weeping Glass was made on a shoestring budget, but it does have Derek Jacobi (!) as the narrator. All in all, it was a worthwhile event. J. and I also chatted with two women, a photographer and an art dealer who drove from Santa Barbara, and it was nice that the screening also had such a big turn out to support the Quays.

After the event, we drove to Canter’s where we ate kugel and eggplant parmesan and pickles (well, I ate the pickles because I love them so much). And then the following morning, we headed home. Tiny adventure = great success!

Oh, the Sony Pictures lot has a great mural for Cary Grant and Irene Dunne’s “The Awful Truth,” which is one of my favorite old comedies: