New Theme, New Era

Hi, there.  You may have noticed things look different around here.  This blog is ushering in a new era.  I’m not really ready to define this new era yet, but it will hopefully be better than it was.  I won’t necessarily be writing more regularly here, but I’ll be thinking about things a lot more.  I admit to being a tiny bit tired of eating out and of endlessly traveling around, although, I’m still a fiend for a great roadside diner.   I do love good home cooking, but my skills are limited and not worthy of an entire blog.  I’m still very interested in seeking out interesting food finds, and hearing about what other regular folks are making and eating and doing.  I love people, places, and food.  So welcome to a period of delicious questioning and transition.  I’m embracing the questions.  It’s an evolution.  This period begins with a trip from my current home base in Chicago to my heart home of New England.  More on that later.

So for now, I’m not saying I will not be blogging about road food and breakfast gems, but hopefully I push myself farther. Thanks.

-Whitney

I tasted my first yucca in a forest in Ecuador, prepared for me by my neighbor.  She and I were similar ages, but had completely different sets of knowledge.  She didn’t know how to use a computer, and I didn’t know how to wash my clothes by hand.   She thought I was silly, but she looked out for me.  I watched her effortlessly build a raging fire in five minutes with her bare hands and a baby on her hip.  She roasted the yucca until the skin was black and the flesh was steaming, and we ate it with butter and salt.

The New Year and Perfect Cake

real Amy’s Bread cake from wonggawei on flickr

My birthday project this year was to make the perfect cake.  When I lived in New York I often celebrated special occasions (and some random grey days) with a slice of yellow cake with pink buttercream frosting from Amy’s Bread in the Village.  It’s important to mention that I used to hate cake.  Too often it was dry with overly sweet frosting.  Why eat cake when I could be eating pie?  This simple yellow cake with pink buttercream frosting is the cake that made me like cake.  It is a perfect cake.  Luckily, James Beard has the recipe online, and I attempted to make it for my birthday.

The frosting calls for fondant, and I had intentions of buying some from a friendly neighborhood bakery.  However, I found that bakeries like to take their Christmas holidays with everyone else, so instead I forgot the fondant and altered the ingredient amounts as suggested.  I woke up and made the frosting before heading to a morning birthday yoga class, and with just one drop of red food coloring it turned out rosy, sweet, and perfect.

Since I spent the day being outside in the beautiful winter sun and doing indulgent birthday things, the cake preparation was put off until late afternoon.  And since I had only one 9” cake pan, I had to bake one layer, remove it, bake another layer, remove it.  (Carey recommended this trick for creating perfectly sized parchment paper rounds.)  This means I was rushing around getting dressed and frosting the cake five minutes before I was expected at an Indian restaurant ready to ring in the new year.   The cake looked divine, and my fabulous roommate helped me rig a genius transportation container involving a metal mixing bowl and plastic wrap.  When I opened the cake just before the midnight countdown, well, let’s just say, the cake could’ve cooled longer.  I had expected rosy, beautiful cake perfection, but the second layer had slid off the first revealing a lopsided mess.

my lopsided cake

NONETHELESS, the cake was delicious, and people ate it.  Plus, by that time I was full of enough wine to not care.  It wasn’t until the next day that I lamented even bothering with so much butter and sugar and time.   And then I heard this obit of Eva Zeisel on All things Considered:

Happy 2012, people!

Edison, WA: Tweet

The population of Edison, WA is 133.  But we decided to take the northern route 20 heading east across Washington because we wanted to stop in Edison for breakfast.  We met friends who drove down from Bellingham and explored town: a couple galleries, a bakery, a handmade furniture maker, a local artist wares shop, and Tweet, said breakfast place.  Tweet looks to be in an old garage and it now peddles veggies, coffee, and scrumptious meals to locals and visitors.  I’d venture to say it’s a two hour detour worthy place.  We ate our last extravagant northwest breakfast there before reluctantly turning the car eastward toward Chicago.

Antique Sandwich Co.

My friend Chaela has influenced many delicious habits of mine (tahini on toast, molasses on granola and yogurt), but I am now taking also taking inspiration from her parents.  We got to visit with them in Chaela’s home state of Washington, and now, I’m determined to replicate their rhubarb sauce and red lentil hummus.  Her parents also bake awesome pies (I feel I owe the success of the Paonia Peach Pie to them).  Her mom, Tamie, has honed her kitchen skills for over 30 years at the charming Antique Sandwich Co. in Tacoma, WA.  Check out some of the photos Chaela took of the place last summer.  Her mom’s cafe was an absolute must-see of our NW road trip this summer, and it was certainly a highlight.  At this point in the trip I was beginning to have eating out overload, so I didn’t plan to order this milkshake, but it looked too darling to pass up.  No regrets.  Espresso + Chocolate + NY Times crossword.

Mallard

I think Mallard’s ice cream in Bellingham, WA makes my top three all time favorite ice cream joints.  It even beats Jeni’s in Columbus, OH.  Last time I was here I ate a very memorable cardamom ice cream.  I was disappointed to not see it on the flavor list this time, but that allowed me to branch outside my indian spices and try basil.  It was sweeter than I expected, but it was perfect.  I will have dreams about this ice cream.  The chocolate earl grey wasn’t bad either.  But, oh man, the basil.