Macarons: The Sexiest Cookie Known to Man

Macaron (Photo Credit: Ben Witten CC BY-NC-SA)
Macaron (Photo Credit: Ben Witten CC BY-NC-SA)

I grew up in the Midwest. There are some wonderful things about growing up in the Midwest: friendly neighbors, sense of community, Big 10 football. Quality food experiences, however, does not make the list. As I started to explore the world and its food, I made some amazing discoveries. Near the top of that list was the macaron.

A little “o” can make a big difference. As a kid I was drawn to these spongy lumps that glued my tongue to the roof of my mouth and left coconut in my teeth for days called macaroons. Then, I discovered a true macaron, with a delicate, crisp outer layer that gives way to a soft, slightly chewy inside sandwiched around smooth, sweet, creamy buttercream. It was an epiphany. I am not saying that macarons are better than macaroons1. I am simply saying that they are not the same.

Macaroon: chunks of hastily prepared stickiness to adorn a middle school pot-luck table.
Macaron: colorful bites of Parisian decadence that can make women swoon, bring men to their knees, and cause unicorns to weep.

Continue reading “Macarons: The Sexiest Cookie Known to Man”

Movie Food I: Mickey, Beanstalks & Jell-O

Imagination is one of the key tools in any great chef’s arsenal. The ability to imagine something new and different is the first step in creating it. Along those lines, these posts are a salute to some of my favorite fictitious foods from television, books, and movies. No surprise, Disney movies claim a few of those spots.

Disney’s Mickey and the Beanstalk
In this Disney short, Mickey, Goofy, and Donald find themselves at the top of the beanstalk and roaming across the Giant’s opulent table. While everything looks delicious, watching Goofy swim and eat his way out of a jello mold sparked a memorable food dream for me.

What are your favorite made up foods?

Your Opinion Matters

The idea of peer review is typically associated with science. My brother feared a mythological villain known as “The Third Reviewer” more than any childhood bogeyman. The food world is no stranger to reviews either. Frankly, science you have it easy.

Not the best I've ever had

In the food world, true peer review, where chefs are reviewing the work of other chefs, is usually reserved for culinary competitions and reality shows. Instead, we have professional reviewers. These are food journalists, akin to science journalists. They are professionals at reviewing and can vary widely in ability. They may or may not have expertise in the actual creation of restaurant food. They generally have spent a lot of time in and around restaurants. They are not exactly peers, but we try to be very nice to them lest you wind up in Guy Fieri’s shoes.

What scientists generally don’t have is the “everyone else that sits down and orders a plate of food” review. If you are like me, you do a little review in your head every time you sit down at a restaurant to eat. That internalized review might even get shared with your friends and family; but the advent of sites like Yelp have made it possible to broadcast those little reviews to the world.

Peer review of articles and grants can make or break a scientific career. Professional restaurant reviews can make or break a restaurant. So can those amateur, Internet reviews. Continue reading “Your Opinion Matters”

ChocolateFest: The Meat Lover’s Guide to Chocolate

Mmmmmm Chocolate by Tim Sackton (CC BY-SA)
Mmmmmm Chocolate by Tim Sackton (CC BY-SA)

Last weekend, I participated in Portland’s annual ChocolateFest. If you’ve never been to a chocolate festival and you like delicious things, I would recommend checking one out sometime. The Portland ChocolateFest, which I have been told is one of the largest in the country, is what I imagine a farmers’ market would look like if Willy Wonka put on farmers’ markets. As you might suppose, ChocolateFest is flush with sweet treats, confections, and rich sugary goodness, which is why I decided to highlight the other side of chocolate in my cooking demonstrations. The following recipes (along with the usual scientific and culinary snidbits), presented to both the denizens of this year’s ChocolateFest and the loyal patrons of this pub, are what I like to call The Meat Lover’s Guide to Chocolate. Continue reading “ChocolateFest: The Meat Lover’s Guide to Chocolate”

Eggnog – Alcohol & raw eggs make the season bright

My father is a very clever man. Long ago, as a Christmas Eve was coming to a close and we were preparing to plate up our milk and cookie offering to Santa, my dad stopped us with a suggestion. Arguing that, because our name was near the end of the alphabet, we were going to be one of the last houses Santa visited. Therefore, the jolly old elf would be very cold and tired of milk. Instead, we should leave him some bourbon to warm him up. It didn’t take long for our young minds to realize that a warmed up and happy Santa was much more likely to leave us better loot. As it happened, Dad had some of Santa’s favorite bourbon (parents know these things), which by amazing coincidence was also my dad’s favorite. I would hazard to say that this was the creation of our family’s traditional Christmas drink: alcohol.

In the spirit (or spirits) of my family’s holiday tradition, this post is going to celebrate my personal favorite Christmasy holiday drink: eggnog. Continue reading “Eggnog – Alcohol & raw eggs make the season bright”