Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Monday, November 27, 2006

I’ll Tell You What You Can Do with Your Brine!

I’m tired of the “brining” fad. Every chef and person who can have him or herself associated with food says we have to brine our Thanksgiving turkey. Scott Tycer, formerly of Aries, currently of Pic, even suggests using a brining needle, to inject the brine into the joints! If turkey is so dry and bland that it requires brining, why bother eating it? We dry age beef to intensify the flavor. But we’re supposed to water down our turkeys with flavorful liquids. Just start with a good turkey, like an organic or a heritage bird, and don’t overcook it.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Carrot Cake Is a Vegetable, Right?

A family member celebrated a birthday this last weekend. For this occasion, we had lunch at Grotto. I went into it with the lowest expectations. Alison Cook panned it. Tilman Fertitta, the showman whom I hesitate to call a restaurateur and who owns the aquarium restaurant and the miserable landry’s chain, lays claim to Grotto. Besides trying to make a profit from crappy restaurants, Fertitta started out peddling porn mags. I am reluctant to patronize any restaurant associated with Fertitta. Nonetheless, the servers and buspersons were polite, they kept the water glasses topped off, they did not try to push expensive items to run up the bill, and the salad I had was impeccably fresh! Unlike the salads that I have eaten at a number of restaurants, there were no greens that were past their prime. I thought our wait staff was deserving of a generous tip.

The member of our party who was paying has a reputation as being an ungenerous tipper. Not only do servers earn a wage below the legal minimum, which is supposed to be augmented by tips, but also they share a percentage of tips with the bus persons. Many of these people so employed are immigrants, just trying to get by in this country, and hoping to send some back to their relatives south of the border. The servers frequently hope just to make ends meet. So, when the individual who was picking up the tab tipped a mere ten percent, I was dismayed. Never mind that the restaurateur is reaping a profit off his marked-up offerings. The servers are doing all they can to scrape by on minimum wage. If you stiff anyone on the tip, you’re not hurting the smut-peddling Fertitta. I formerly was a lousy tipper. However, I have been making an effort to remedy this. I was the last of our party to depart the table. As I was rising, I placed some cash on the table to bring the tip to twenty percent.

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For the birthday cake, the guest of honor had requested one of two cakes. I had not previously made a carrot cake, so I selected that one of the two suggested desserts to prepare. Not only do carrot cakes – which are more akin to quick breads and muffins – require assembly of the wet ingredients and the dry ingredients, but also there is the added step of finely grating six or seven carrots. I was pleased with my first-ever carrot cake, with a delectable cream cheese frosting. Since it has carrot in it, it does qualify as a vegetable serving, doesn’t it?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Madeleines

I had not previously eaten a madeleine, the little French cakes baked in pans with scallop-shaped indentions. I had not even seen a madeleine before. I had always wanted a pair of madeleine pans, though, so I could bake the diminutive French cakes. The birthday bunny, or Santa Claus, or whoever leaves the gifts underneath my pillow on the anniversary of my birth every year brought me a pair of nonstick madeleine pans this year!

Madeleines are probably best known in America because of their role in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, or Remembrance of Things Past, where the narrator’s memories of his childhood are brought back to him when he dips a madeleine into a cup of tea.

Marcel Proust’s madeleine was allegedly dry. The madeleines produced during my first attempt at baking them were delicate, cake like, and moist. I was quite pleased with the resulting scallop-shaped little sponge cakes.

Next, I want some canelé molds!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Participating in the Political Process

I early voted in the midterm elections. From an economist’s perspective, voting is irrational. An individual’s single vote is most likely not going to alter the outcome of an election. Thus, the benefits outweigh the costs of going to the polling place. This is particularly true if one lives in a solidly “red” or “blue” state, or a district that will invariably go to Republican or Democrat candidates. If one is inclined to support an independent or a third party candidate, one is really throwing away his or her vote. Nonetheless, I enjoy participating in the political process. I particularly enjoy voting for independent and third party candidates. Although Richard “Kinky” Friedman, running as an independent, won only 12.6% of the gubernatorial votes, my vote was among those. Quanah Parker, the son of the Native American leader of the same name, running as a Libertarian, garnered 24.1% of the vote in his attempt to win a seat on the Republican Court of Criminal Appeal. My vote was among that 24.1%. I am under the delusion that casting a ballot for an independent candidate counts for more than a vote for a major party candidate would, because my vote is not lost among the votes of the masses. Rather, my voice stands apart from the crowd. My expression of my dissatisfaction with the two major parties is more apparent.

If no one voted, why bother to have a democracy?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Birthday, to Me

My sister did a fabulous job baking my birthday cake. Everything was homemade - from scratch. I was particularly impressed by the chocolate mousse frosting.


Making pizza, one of which my sister captured on film, is always fun, also.