Sunday, May 27, 2007

Miriam Turns Six

We arrived Friday and had a barbecue with toasted marshmallows. Miriam likes them as well as I do. Saturday morning, Miriam, Alice and I decorated the 2 cakes for the 21 kids and their parents coming at 3:00. Here are the cakes:

The "goody bags" had sunglasses for everyone.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


While in Davis I really wanted to get some of the California local cherries that are just getting ripe. When we lived in Berkeley many years ago, we sometimes stopped at fruit stands on the highway between the Bay Area and Yosemite National Park and bought huge bags of big, very dark, very sweet double cherries. It's a little early for cherries, but the Food Coop in Davis had a big box of local cherries: some were dark and double, and we really enjoyed them.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Napa Valley

The trip from Davis to the Napa Valley takes less than an hour. I had time to look at the vines along highway 29 and the Silverado trail, and to eat a fabulous lunch. When I told the waiter I couldn't have wine because I was driving, he offered to pour half a glass -- and he charged me for half! All the service was this good. Here is the food:

Dinner with Roberta, Phil, and Caroline

Here are Roberta, Phil, and Caroline in front of their beautiful California house in Menlo Park. After a house tour, we went to a great Italian restaurant just across from the RR station. We had nice salads, delicate veal dishes (mine with peppers), and the chocolate souffle, which is like a chocolate lava cake with a soft, creamy center, and surrounded by cream, chocolate, and raspberry sauce.

Sushi in Mountain View

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Wedding Cake Chef

The famous pastry chef Ann Amernick who baked Evelyn and Tom's Wedding Cake has just published a new pastry cookbook titled The Art of the Dessert. I fear it is for bakers much more committed, patient, and skilled than I am.

Reviewed in the Washington Post: The Pastry Chef Who Can Elevate Your Game -- from the review:

As she steps back from day-to-day duties at Palena, the Cleveland Park restaurant she co-owns with Frank Ruta, Amernick doesn't have many baking disasters anymore. With her recently released third cookbook, "The Art of the Dessert" (Wiley, $40), co-written with Margie Litman, she hopes her technician's approach can help home bakers and professionals alike get the same results she does. But this is a book with enough multi-component recipes to aim it squarely at the committed -- "not fans of Rachael Ray," she says.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Book Club

Last night at bookclub I realized how food blogging has altered my manners: I took photos of the refreshments without even first asking if it was ok with the hostess. She was startled, but nice about it when I tried to explain myself.

On the right in multi-color foil wrappers not far from the chocolate-dipped strawberries notice the chocolate covered Oreos. I loved them!

We ate for a while and chatted, and then discussed the book Persepolis by Satrapi. Some viewed it as mainly political, but one person said she considered it more of a coming of age story. We went into the various issues of the book in some detail, as the facilitator had good discussion questions.

Nine out of the ten participants liked the book, though some found it somewhat abrupt or choppy. Some liked it better than others, and all had several reasons. People liked it because:
  • The graphic-novel format was effective in terms of imagery or in terms of not using too much prose to convey ideas.
  • The author's artistic choices were pleasing, especially the use of black-and-white drawings.
  • The author captured a child's point of view and stuck to it as she matured.
  • The subject matter -- the Iranian revolutionary period -- was interesting; and people appreciated the fact that it wasn't a historical tome, but condensed the history and issues. (For some, this made up for the abruptness.)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Food for Mother's Day

Linda and George invited us to a wonderful brunch with quite a few of the neighbors today. The food was prepared by the fathers and a couple of older children (I think). Lenny made cut-up veggies. Marty made a fruit salad. George made salmon on the grill and bought smoked salmon and coffee cakes. Linda made whitefish salad (wow!)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Dinner at the Rackham Building

This evening we attended a department dinner in the extraordinary Rackham Building, recently restored to its original 1920s design. The catered food was quite good, and we enjoyed talking with a number of friends.

Dinner with Friends

Our friends Ellen and Jim invited us to dinner last night, along with several other friends.

I made the appetizers, as I described yesterday. Ellen, Jim, and Alice made meat and vegetables. Jim baked bread and pie. Everything was delicious and beautiful.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Turkish Cooking

This is risky: I just made three recipes from Binnur's cookbook online, and here are the photos -- before I take them to dinner. The top photo shows the stuffed mushrooms baking in the oven, the second shows roasted pepper strips wrapped around a cheese filling, and the third shows a spread called Tarator, which is made from walnuts, tahini, lemon, and herbs.

After dinner I'll have to add a post that shows them being consumed!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cucumber Soup

I was reading the passage about cucumber soup in Barbara Kingsolver's book. I jumped up and immediately got out a cucumber, a handful of cilantro, a carton of goat yogurt, and my brand-new immersion blender that I bought on Sunday. Such a great idea for its inaugural use!

Beautiful dinner

Yesterday evening our friends invited us to a beautiful and delicious dinner at their house. The appetizers included a variety of dips and spreads, cheeses, and bruschetta. The main course was chicken in an orange sauce garnished with fresh sage leaves.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Barbara Kingsolver: "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"

I'm reading the new book by Barbara Kingsolver, author of one of my favorites, The Poisonwood Bible. Here is a wonderful quote:
Once you start cooking, one thing leads to another. A new recipe is as exciting as a blind date. A new ingredient ... is an intoxicating affair. ... We make things from scratch just to see if we can. We've rolled out and cut our pasta, raised turkeys to roast or stuff into link sausage, made chutney from our garden... .

A lot of human hobbies, from knitting sweaters to building model airplanes, are probably rooted in the same human desire to control an entire process of manufacture. Karl Marx called it the antidote to alienation.... When I ponder the question of why Americans eat so much bad food on purpose, this is my best guess: alimentary alienation. (p. 130-131)
Thank you, Evelyn, for the wonderful Mother's Day present.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Mindless Eating in the News

In the New York Times: a new article about Brian Wansink's book Mindless Eating, which I discussed a few days ago. See: Your Plate Is Bigger Than Your Stomach by DAVID LEONHARDT. The article discusses to some extent how this book fits into modern economics trends. Writes Leonhardt:
Over the last couple of decades, a new field of economics, behavioral economics, has emerged to explain why people so often act in ways that are contrary to their own interests. They overeat, smoke, forget to take their medicine and don’t save enough for retirement, saying all the while that they wish they could change. Figuring out how to turn these wishes into action could put a dent in some big social problems.
The sidebar includes references to several interesting websites, including:
My previous post that discussed this book: Yes, they are fooling us

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ann Arbor in the New York Times

I am a modest fan of Zingerman's baked goods. I'm not much of a fan of the deli, and not at all a fan of the Roadhouse restaurant. But I admit it's the most famous food endeavor locally. And today Zingerman's is recognized in the Times:

A Corner Deli With International Appeal

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Rich or Poor

In total contrast to my post about the calories in the $250 lunch at Per Se (which a faithful reader pointed out came to 20¢ a calorie), is this story: A Governor Truly Tightens His Belt - New York Times. (Also covered in Ore. gov. starts week on food stamps - Yahoo! News).

Governor Theodore R. Kulongoski decided that for a week he and his wife would live on a food budget of $3 a day per person -- the allocation for Oregon's average food stamp recipient. The Oregon governor's mansion has no cook, so his wife prepared their single chicken (which lasted for 3 dinners), their cheap Cup o'Noodles, and their peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. They accepted this limit "to raise awareness of hunger here and of a need for the federal government to preserve the current level of stamp benefits."

The contrast between people living on the edge and others stuffing themselves and overpaying is painful. Though other politicians have been asked to follow Kulongoski's example, I wonder if hunger will really be taken seriously. "In Washington, the House Hunger Caucus asked members of Congress to undertake a similar challenge in May. Closer to home, Mr. Kulongoski noted, one of his West Coast counterparts would have a particularly tough act to follow. 'I think Arnold probably has a larger caloric intake than I do,' he said."

Even less seriously: The Onion had a fake poll where people "said" facetious things about the governor's action. This is really sad. Some things aren't that funny.

Turkish Dinner

I've been reading a Turkish cooking blog lately, and tonight I tried some recipes from it: Tomato Dolma -- I stuffed 3 tomatoes and one pepper cut in half -- shown first raw and then cooked:

Pilaf with Orzo:
Creamy Yogurt Dip to garnish the stuffed tomatoes: and Prune Dessert with Walnuts -- I really made the stewed prunes the way I usually do them and added toasted walnuts before serving:
We also had a few mixed Greek olives and some good bread and wine. I really followed the recipes more closely than I sometimes do.

This is a great blog: Binnur's Turkish Cookbook: - Delicious, healthy and easy-to-make Ottoman & Turkish recipes.