Sunday, 26 February 2012

Jambalaya and Roxbury Road: a Few Hours in Columbus

Da Levee on Urbanspoon

Well, it's Oscar night and I haven't quite yet found the motivation to cook up anything "blog worthy." I do, however, want to let you know about a great dining experience I had last night in Columbus following my haircut experience at Phia Salon in Columbus. As I noted in a previous post, Lauren and I won haircuts following a whirlwind tour of the salon during January's Gallery Hop; in sum, the staff is wonderful and I especially loved seeing a sense of camaraderie and desire to learn from each other. (And the haircut was just what I needed.) For dinner, I headed over a few meters away to Phia's next door neighbour, Da Levee, a culinary cultural hotspot that claims itself as "bringing fast, hot, delicious Cajun Creole food to your neighborhood." Outside of the French Louisiana course I took while at Albion, I can't say I'm an expert of Cajun/Creole cuisine, but I can say yesterday was only my second time and I once again enjoyed it.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

From Our Lily Pod to Yours: Baby Shower Friday

Despite yesterday being a Friday, there was little sense of "rest," as it was one of my busiest Fridays in recent memory; that being said, it was also quite a meaningful one. In conjunction with our monthly-ish gathering of Student Development folk, under Kristan's leadership and with Laurel as host, we held a baby shower for the Bill and Kirsten as they will soon be expecting their second child in the next few months after having recently adopted Nathan. And so, there was as much to be thankful for as there was to be celebrating and looking forward to. Now I can't say I know much about baby showers, but apparently diaper cakes are a great way to go and it certainly beats wrapping up a bag of diapers. The diaper cake pictured above was beautifully constructed by the craftily-talented Kim (click on her name to check out video footage of the "cake"), one of the members of our working group. This past fall, our different offices were arranged to work in groups around a central theme. Ours brings together our three Centers (Cross-Cultural Engagement, Religious and Spiritual Life, and Women and Gender Action) under the theme of exploring identities; over time, our group's been affectionately dubbed as the "Identity Pod".

Friday, 24 February 2012

Mardi Gras 2012, Part II: Less Than $1/ Serving

Every so often, I like to dabble with food and put together multi-course meals. Hmm, imagine that. And while I've cooked dishes to bring to our office, I haven't quite had the time or the focus to work on a meal specifically for our student workers... until this past Tuesday which was in itself a rather festive day of all days to prepare food. So, with about 90 minutes of solid prep time, I headed to Marilyn's kitchen where the accidental tornado of my culinary presence made its mark as I prepared a five course meal, the average cost of each serving of food being less than $1. On the menu: Brie en croûte with fresh fruit; Baked tri-coloured rotini with romesco sauce and breaded chicken under a layer of mozzarella cheese; Bagged salad with (read: saved by) goat cheese and sliced strawberries; Rocky road ice cream cake with homemade marshmallow sauce, chocolate ganache and toasted peanuts; and Red velvet pancakes with Neufchâtel icing and diced strawberries.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Mardi Gras 2012, Part I: Nutella-Filled Pączki

Joyeux Mardi Gras ! et laissez les bon temps rouler ! Well, okay perhaps it's a day too late to be claiming that, but nevertheless I spent yesterday around much more food than Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season technically permit; so much in fact that I've decided to split my Mardi Gras meals into two separate posts. This particular one focuses on one Mardi Gras (also known as Shrove Tuesday) tradition that seems to be especially popular in Michigan, given the Polish population in Hamtramck (Michigan's most internationally diverse city): Pączki Day. Pronounced pünch-key (though I've also seen punch-key) for more than one pączek, these pastries are simply more than just another jelly-filled donut. Aside from their differences with the lesser pastry (yeah, I said it), pączki hold a special place in my food memory bank as they stand out as part of my high school experience. In particular, I always looked forward to the chocolate cream filled ones, and for whatever reason it was only at UDJ (and of course the place from where they were purchased) that I was able to find them. And so here in central Ohio, despite the possibility of making a Mardi Gras/New Orleans, Louisiana (NOLA) favourite--beignets and coffee from the Café du Monde--(though one could expect to eat these any time of the year), I decided to make my own pączki... and fill them with Nutella. Seriously, these were [are] good.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Afternoon Snacking with Leftovers

For those of you who haven't had a chance to stop by our Center, one thing that you could more often than not expect to see is food. This was certainly the case today, as new items and leftovers from other programs made their way into the refrigerator sitting in my office (it is otherwise known as the Resource Room, after all). With the afternoon lull creeping in, I decided to gather some of the items in this diverse pantry of ingredients and fix up a snack. Among the ingredients I had at my disposal--all which were very good on their own--were fresh strawberries, cookies (chocolate white chocolate chip, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin), whipped cream and my midnight mousse à la chocolat Chantilly. Okay, so it wasn't difficult to come up with something, but who said it would be? (Plus, I just really wanted to share the photos with you.)

Rodale and Round 2 of Chocolat Chantilly

In my previous post, published earlier today, I wrote that I would again attempt to make Hervé This's chocolat Chantilly (for all intensive purposes, read: chocolate mousse) out of nothing more than a bar of chocolate and water. And as I write this post, I am mentally preparing myself for the challenge. Indeed, I plan to do so during (quite fittingly) the second showing of tonight's Top Chef: Texas; perhaps the on-screen culinary influence will support the molecular structure of the chocolate as it gets whipped into shape. But before I step foot into the kitchen, I do want to bring to your attention to a quite informative lecture and brief follow-up discussion I attended earlier this evening titled "A Flawed Food Production System & An Organic Solution" and presented by Jeff Moyer, Director of Farm Operations at the Rodale Institute based in Kutztown, PA.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

A Valentine's Day Experiment: When Chocolate and Water Actually Fell in Love

Sometime around noon, one of our student workers asked me if I had ever read Molecular Gastronomy by author, cook, physical chemist and fellow blogger Hervé This. I immediately thought of the frankly über-expensive but brilliantly gorgeous Modernist Cuisine: The Art of Science and Cooking by Nathan Myhrvold which I had first read of shortly after its release. (I can't remember the actual article, but check a few out here, here and here.) It's such an epic collection that many of the chefs of this season's Top Chef: Texas were adamant of their desire for their own copy. But who am I kidding? I can't afford (yet?) to own a used copy, let alone borrow one. That said, I was pleasantly surprised to check out the much more affordable MG on Amazon. No, I haven't read this one either, but after recently checking out M. This's blogs (here, here, here and here), I very well may get around to this text in the near future. Here's what originally hooked me in: apparently M. This thought of a way to make chocolate mousse with nothing more than just chocolate and water, two ingredients that don't typically go well together on their own. And especially after watching the YouTube clip above, I just had to try it for myself. If this actually worked, I may be making yet another book purchase to add to my collection. Speaking of which, I should note I recently added The Frankies Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual, What's a Cook to Do?: An Illustrated Guide to 484 Essential Tips, Techniques, and Tricks, and What's a Wine Lover to Do?. [In addition, it's worth mentioning that I recently contact M. This not only for permissions to link his blog sites and referencing links to my blog, but to also ask him whether or not today's molecular gastronomy is any different than the molecular gastronomy he initially envisioned in the late '80s with Nicholas Kurti. At the time, the phrase being used was "Molecular and Physical Gastronomy" (coined in 1988); following Kurti's death in 1998, this was shortened to today's "Molecular Gastronomy". To check out his thoughtful response (in French), click here.]

Monday, 13 February 2012

Dance, Dance, Dance; Dine, Dine, Dine: Dinner with the Dance Department

A little over two weeks ago, I briefly mentioned a culinary opportunity I just couldn't refuse. And after a great albeit very short weekend (which included restaurant visits to The Vine, Soho Japanese Bistro and Cosimo & Susie's) with Lauren, I made my way back to Granville to prepare what I consider to be one of the biggest meals I've prepared in my limited culinary career. [Ironically, Lauren and I also saw Safe House, an especially recommended film for the RSA-fans among you.] A farewell dinner for brilliant dancers Dada Masilo and Lulu Mlangeni, yesterday's aptly determined theme (without wanting to sound like I'm boasting) focused on food fusion and the dikenga as I aimed to infuse nostalgic African themes and inspirations with my more comfortably situated Western cooking view, techniques and ingredients. It is wroth noting that Dada is especially known on international and classical dance scenes for somehow merging African dance with classical ballet (two extremes on the dancing spectrum) while Lulu won South Africa's second season of So You Think You Can Dance. In many respects, their experiences reflect similar fusion contexts in terms of dance, and their two-week residency in Granville and their time spent throughout campus undoubtedly exemplified this. Both hailing from Jo'burg, Dada and Lulu brought the spirit of S'Africa to our little section of the Midwest and especially to our Sunday evening gathering that lasted six courses in a solid four hours.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Rusk: A Migratory Concoction

I'm sure that at some point in your life you've heard some variation of the adage "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." While I understand it's premise, is it not true that if something isn't broken, it must be to a large extent "perfect"? For those of you who may be familiar by this point with my writing style (at least in blog form) and my approach to the recipes presented throughout this blog, rarely do I truly replicate a recipe. More often than not, I find myself spending quite some time pouring through a variety of recipes in search of the common ingredients, averaging their quantities and then doing something different to make the recipe more my own. Now, this is not to say I'm seeking the perfect recipe of any given dish but rather I find myself looking for my voice among the voices of recipes past, present and future. Indeed, I am convinced there is no such thing as an "original" recipe, or at least the recipes of today have undergone an evolution by way of new ingredients, techniques and inspirations. On another end of the spectrum, many of the variations to recipes presented here are present because of convenience (followed by trial and error) more so than intent. One such recipe that falls in this category is one that I have cherished for a few years now: South African rusk.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Community Culture Kitchen: Pilgrimage Cultural Cuisine

It's not often that you get to travel, more or less, about 7500 km in under 75 minutes; with a wonderfully diverse mix of faculty, staff and students, this evening's Community Culture Kitchen participants went on a migratory journey to the culinary cultures inspired by the countries of three religious pilgrimage sites: St. Peter's Basilica, Mecca and the Holy Land. Now the journey could have been shortened by about 2000 km but my travel itinerary skills were clearly out the window as I planned tonight's dinner menu (the cartographers and geography specialists among you should know what I'm talking about). In any case, a pair of dishes nevertheless accompanied each stop of our gastronomic tour de cuisine which further prompted discussions of the movement and migration of not only people but of the very food we had today to enjoy.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Many a Bowl for the Super Bowl (XLVI)

Good evening, sports fans, and the non-sports fans among you! I write to you all following the aftermath of last night's Super Bowl between... New York and New England? I think? Clearly that's not where my focus was, at least not until the last play of the game. Indeed, continuing my annual tradition begun last year, my focus was kept in the kitchen as I worked on my takes on two recipes that recently made their way to my Facebook wall. On last night's menu, I present: Bacon Wrapped Cheddar Wurst Jalapeño Fritters, and Neufchâtel Nutella Cheesecake Brownies.

Friday, 3 February 2012

This Is Ohio?: An Adventure at The Refectory

The Refectory Restaurant and Bistro on Urbanspoon

Late night greetings (and a special salute to French 418)! As the midnight hour approaches at the start of my writing this post, I continue to hear the sounds of the familiar weekend college crowd, a rather stark contrast to the experience I was so fortunate to enjoy this evening. But before I continue, for those of you who make the random trip to this blog post on a pseudo-regular basis, my apologies once again for not having written much as of late. I know I've said this one too many times in the past, but this week in particular has not left me much time at all to cook, let alone write (though at least I've surpassed my own New Year's commitment to writing an average of at least three times a week). This is not to say that all things food-related have escaped my consciousness altogether as we move into February; rather, I'll sincerely take this to mean I have been fed centuries of gastronomy this week especially in preparation for a true culinary adventure. From the Gauls and the Middle Ages, the French gastronomy class I'm auditing this semester has made the transition to the Renaissance (by the way, many thanks to the Italians, i.e., the other half of my culinary comfort zone) and through the era of Louis XIV when France began to develop a "French" culinary identity and establish itself among the gastronomic elite. The timing for our transition, I think it's safe to claim, could not have been any better, as our French professor Christine had the good fortune of reserving limited special first Friday prix fixe menus at The Refectory Restaurant & Bistro in Columbus. Little did I realise when we left campus on our adventure with Christine earlier this evening that our adventure awaited us at the dinner table 45 minutes away.