Saturday, 31 December 2011

My Final Post for the Year and 2012 Food Resolutions

In just a few hours, my blog will receive a new year on the navigation side bar's Blog Archive: 2012. Almost a year ago, I began this blog as "Ukonwabele Ukutya Kwakho" (Let's Eat) in homage to my voyage to South Africa when I first chronicled my foodie experiences in photos. As 2011 nears its end, I have altered the title to emphasize my overall approach when it comes to food. It's not only that I learn about food, but even more so what it represents to individuals (including myself), societies and cultures, as well as how these groups are perceived by outsiders looking in. Now 117 posts into this blog (at the time of me writing this, I still have five to complete), I'm already looking forward to the new food memories and challenges that await me after the clock strikes midnight. In this final post for the year, I offer the final dishes I prepared this New Year's Eve. Before these, I'd like to present my new year resolutions as they (of course) pertain to food.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

When "Chopped" and "Iron Chef" Combine in F.H.

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of cooking alongside one of my college roommates Tony in Farmington Hills. Another avid Food Network and Cooking Channel enthusiast, he and I brought together our culinary minds in a challenge that once again brought together "Chopped" and "Iron Chef". Though we didn't quite make five dishes in 60 minutes, four in 90 wasn't bad at all, especially given our required ingredients of red bananas, Grāpples and young (whole) chicken.

Another Quick Review: Qdoba (of Southfield)

A few days ago, I posted a review of Lafayette Coney Island and its next door Detroit rival American Coney Island. Though I'm not much of a connoisseur when it comes to Mexican-type food, I was just yesterday introduced to the rivalry of Qdoba vs. Chipotle. Unlike the Island rivalry, it was rather difficult to find a video talking about the differences between the two (outside of food eating contests), but the above video serves a good introduction to this "burrito battle" of sorts. (Click here for another analysis.) I had eaten before at a few Chipotles but my visit to the Qdoba located in Southfield marked my first-ever visit to the family-friendly restaurant chain. (Ironically, though perhaps unsurprisingly, there's a Chipotle located nearby, also in Southfield; in any case, the Southfield Qdoba was certainly friendly. Whether or not this is a tribute to Qdoba's employees, the Southfield workers' vibe, or a combination of both, remains to be determined.) Luckily, one of my high school classmates and former Qdoba employee Chuck (who I apparently haven't seen for three years!) was available to offer his perspective on the different dining experiences.

And Back to Frankenmuth We Go!

What can I say? Just as much as I adore Franco-Italian cuisine, I remain an avid fan of German food. A short post, I did want to comment briefly on our post-Christmas Day visit to Birch Run and the Bavarian Inn Restaurant.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Cooking at Home for Christmas

When it comes to the holidays, there are one of three things you can now expect from me (if you don't already): I'll be eating, I'll be cooking or I'll be doing both; this Christmas season was no different in the way of doing both. In addition to the rest of the food being prepared for my family's Christmas Day dinner, I made some homemade chicken stock to be added to pancit and as the base for my chicken noodle soup; my green bean and red skin potato salad with bacon; and red- and green-coloured Christmas butter cookies half-coated in chocolate and nonpareils.

Regions of Choice?: German and Irish Meals

As I continue to ponder which areas bordering France I might prefer to work in, my natural leaning falls to the southeast and the Italian border. However, German and Irish meals are subtle reminders of northern comfort food; on Wednesday and Thursday evening respectively I was able to get to both and just couldn't decide which I'd preferred. Then again, why not make a life of sampling regional cuisine?

Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Quick Review: Lafayette Coney Island

For those of you who are very familiar with Detroit (or at least for those in the know whether by word of mouth, a visit or watching one of many food vlogs or television programs), you may know of the food feud between next door neighbours and friendly rivals Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island. A few weeks ago, my mom had told me that she, my sister and one of my godmothers had gone on a foodie quest to the Islands to see for themselves what their preference was. In my previous post, I wrote about Toni's 21st birthday celebration; after an evening Mass on her actual birthday, we went to the chosen Island. Unlike Adam Richman in the video above, Lafayette was chosen as their clear favourite-- and so to Lafayette we went.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Celebrating Toni's 21st

This past Sunday was my sister (Toni Rose)'s 21st birthday. Without question, I had to make something for her and, after editing out the idea of a cake in the shape of a duck, somehow settled for some kind of checkered cake. I remember a few months ago seeing on The Best Thing I Ever Ate the creation of a Mondrian Cake (favoured by Chris Cosentino and created by the folks at Blue Bottle Coffee at SFMOMA) and used that as my point of reference. In addition, I created a gluten free option to go alongside the rest of the food (as if we needed more), the recipe of which I also share below.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Dining, Listening, Learning: Community at the Dinner Table

With the go-ahead to continue campus-wide conversations on campus this academic year, I have been part of the steering committee that leads this charged. Now known as "Listening for a Change,"  the way I've understand the work we've been doing is through the underlying lenses of community building and cross-cultural understanding through open and honest dialogue. End goals defined or not, there is a recurring theme that dialogue in itself is action and, as such, a worthwhile endeavour. This evening, I had the absolute honour to dine with most of our small group dialoguers; and where there's food, there also exists continued community development. All the theory and rhetoric aside, we were able to take a true break from the campus environment and spend some quality time together as an extended family. Before I continue, I would like to recognise the fact we were down one member, but for a very understandable reason: she recently welcomed a new baby into the world.. perhaps another dialoguer in the future? Indeed, I can't imagine the dialoguing and the dining would stop here, and I'm already looking forward to the next time we meet!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Food and Culture Programme #3: Low-Budget Cooking

Last week, I received a request for a food and culture programme in one of the residence halls. As fate and timing would have it, Wednesday happens to be a Top Chef night and by default a cooking night, albeit the already packed week of multi-course prep. In the end, however, the fact that students were willing to take time out of their finals study time to actually take a break and talk about food is motivation enough. I offered the resident assistant a choice of three dishes per course (appetizer, main course and dessert), all of which I was convinced could be prepared under a budget of $70 for potentially 10-15 people. What I would consider staple ingredients aside (flour, sugar, salt, eggs, oil, etc.), the total for additional ingredients ended up $22.96. For our group of 10, the menu included: mixed salad served in an Italian cheese bowl; crêpes served with mozzarella, ham and/or Parisian-style vegetables; dark chocolate microwave cake and Nutella-filled strawberries.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Celebrating Marilyn's Birthday & the Start of Another Cooking Week

As of late, it seems, it's a rather rare occurrence for me to be writing (let alone beginning to write) a blog post shortly after a meal; with a string of cooking evening's ahead of me, I know it would behoove me to get a strong start on these postings. After a few weeks of solidifying a date and a few hours of actual time in the kitchen, the staff of the Center for Cross-Cultural Engagement (along with special family guests) celebrated one of our colleague's (Marilyn's) birthday this evening with quite a few food experiments gone right. On the menu: roasted caprese salad with balsamic served on biscotte; bacon and fried corn chowder; grilled salmon served with a mango pineapple salsa and rice pilaf; homemade raisin bread served with brie en croûte and smoked provolone; faux brown butter lemon pound cake with limoncello glaze.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Dining with Drummers

following our final performance as a drum ensemble...

And just like that, the end to another semester draws near. Before we get there, though, there remains an entire week full of final exams and papers, the anticipation of next term's events, and of course holiday gatherings and food. On the list of "finals" that have recently passed was the final dance concert of the semester; titled "3 plus 1," this year's concert brought together three Denison colleagues and one guest artist, three men and one woman, and three dance pieces and one drum piece. I, and eight others, throughout the course of the semester had taken lessons from the brilliant Terrence and the dance concert provided us with a great opportunity to put into practice what we had learned. Unfortunately for us and for Denison, Terrence will be moving further north for the next chapter in his life. Indeed, gratitude abounds for his unselfish willingness to teach and ultimately inspire. Especially in recent weeks, our group of drummers has become a relatively close bunch and we definitely have Terrence to thank for that. All of this said, we gathered in my apartment on Thursday after the show for a special drummers dinner.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Couldn't Find the Cocoa: Microwave Oven Day 2012

I remember waking up one Sunday morning and catching an episode of "The Hungry Girl" on the Food Network. Admittedly, I'm not much into focusing my food in a health-conscious way, but one recipe as part of Lisa Lillien's chocolate-focused episodes caught my attention. Similar to Rocco DiSpirito's Now Eat This! which sits as part of my library collection, Lisa presents healthy, guilt-free alternatives to dishes you'd otherwise crave but try to resist. The recipe I'm specifically referring to is "Mississippi Mug Pie" not because of the health component, but because of the use of hot cocoa mix as part of the recipe. All this being said, in celebration of Microwave Oven Day on Tuesday, given the opportunity to try a microwaved dessert, and because I (thought I) couldn't find my regular baking cocoa (which I naturally found a little too late), I successfully made a mint hot cocoa microwave oven cake. But before I get to the cake itself, I would like to point out that I thought it wise to try out the recipe beforehand and good thing, too!

Monday, 5 December 2011

Celebrating Two Holidays on One Day: Apple Fritters

Especially for those of you who don't typically keep track of the national food holidays, perhaps you didn't know that last Thursday was "Eat a Red Apple Day" and Friday was "National Fritter Day." Indeed, my response came in the form of none other than red apple fritters, cooked and tender gala apple slices enrobed in a batter much like funnel cake which provides a nostalgic fair-time crunch. While many fritter recipes called for small cubes of fruit to be mixed into the fritter batter and fried up in rounded scoops, I had first envisioned and eventually carried out fritter slices, as exemplified by Paula Dean.