Category Archives: From the Kitchen

The Devil’s in the Details of the Modern Cupcake

Finished cupcakes croppedI teamed up with Red Ridge Farms – an Oregon Vineyard, olive oil press, and garden nursery – for a wine dinner event. We served a five course meal inspired by street food using Red Ridge Farms’ locally grown and pressed olive oils with wine pairings from Red Ridge’s wine label, Durant Vineyards. I always enjoy developing a menu, especially a tasting menu and especially tasting menus paired with wine (or beer or cocktails).Copy of Notes

While I had fun writing all the recipes, my time as a pastry chef makes me particularly partial to desserts. Therefore, we are going to focus on our sweet selection, the Malted Devils Food Cupcakes with Passion Fruit Cream Filling and Olive Oil Buttercream – and some of the science behind its chocolatey decadence. Continue reading

On the underrepresentation of cheese in literature…

GK Chesterton expounds on the poetic nature of cheese and condemns its notable absence from poetry. The essay is well worth reading, and I a particularly endorse this line with the proviso that it is applicable to man, woman, or child*:

…nor can I imagine why a man should want more than bread and cheese, if he can get enough of it.
-GK Chesterton

*My four and five-year olds are extremely fond of Stilton, which is how we know they are mine.

Hat tip to Steve Silberman.

Chocograms

I recall, as a child, being mesmerized by a holographic cover of National Geographic. I think it was the November 1985 issue.

Now we have chocolate holograms. The images are, reportedly, created by Morphotonix by using molds to microscopically alter the surface of the chocolate to create the holograms. As an added benefit, the system needs chocolate with small crystal structures (ie, not grainy) in order to create the correct textures.

*Hat tip to Melissa Pandika at NPR.

The Manhattan Project

VTR - Barrel-Aged Manhatten by Edsel Little (CC BY-AS 2.0)

VTR – Barrel-Aged Manhattan by Edsel Little (CC BY-SA 2.0)

If you were wondering what to drink while you watch Manhattanhenge, the choice is obvious – a Manhattan, preferably barrel-aged.

As I grew into manhood, my father promoted a strong set of core values in me – politeness, gratitude, compassion, kindness – as well as respect for a good glass of whiskey and Winston Churchill. What, you may ask, does Winston Churchill have to do with this classic whiskey cocktails and science? Glad you asked.

The most common Manhattan origin story states that it was created in 1874 at New York’s Manhattan club for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, Winston’s mother. That was the same year Winnie was born. I doubt he, of all people, would discourage the notion that helping coordinate the creation of the Manhattan cocktail in utero may have been early practice for coordinating the Allied victory in WWII. At the very least, the Manhattan and Winston are akin to each other. Watch out Jagermeister! Continue reading

Food, Remembered: Dad’s Floating Island

Floating IslandFloating island is why I am a chef. My father, who is an exceptional cook*, was always in charge of preparing our special occasion meals. Christmas dinner, friends coming over, celebrations – he would turn out some kind of delicious feast without fail. On one such occasion, when a boss was joining us for dinner, my dad once more set off to pull out all the stops. In this instance, the boss happened to have a sweet-tooth. So, in order to pluck at his food soft spot, my dad decided to making floating island for dessert. The dinner preparation was a large undertaking so he enlisted my help. At 12, I would have been just about the right age to start an old world kitchen apprenticeship. In a life changing moment, he slid his copy of Julia Child’s The Way to Cook over to me and pointed to the recipe. I could practically hear Julia’s voice speaking from the pages as she told me that I “must have courage” in preparing the crème anglaise. To this day, that book is sacrosanct among my cooking library.

The recipe above is my recipe, for copyright reasons, not Julia’s. As floating island is extremely simple in its base components, there is little difference between the two.

*Editor’s Note: This is also my father. I can vouch for the truth of this statement.