Trouble With Toast

All I Can Eat?

July 6, 2011

First, let me say this – I have loved Trouble With Toast and all the wonderful people and experiences it has brought into my life.  I know my slice of the interwebs is very small indeed, but it has been a cozy little home for quite some time now.

The thing is, I feel like the blog always comes last on the priority list.  First come things like family and work and exercising and critters, and then there’s traveling and spending time with friends, and oh, right, I’m supposed to SLEEP at some point, too.  I’ve been torn many days between just throwing up a quick post to ease my guilt and waiting to publish something of quality that people might actually want to read.  Again, I know that I don’t have zillions of avid fans hanging on my every word, but I do take pride in my writing and don’t generally like to slack in any aspect of my life.

So, where does that leave me?  Well, I have a bunch of recipes that I am going to post – quickly, and probably with minimal commentary and “extras” – and then I am going to ponder whether TWT has run its course or if it still has a place in my life.

Of course, it will always have a place in my heart.

To make an end is to make a beginning

December 30, 2010
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”For last year’s words belong to last year’s language,

And next year’s words await another voice.”

T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding”

Wow, another year down the drain – can you believe it?  I know that the ol’ blog hasn’t been as hoppin’ as usual in 2010, but you’ll have to forgive me – between travel (two trips to DC, one trip to Salt Lake City, one trip to Tampa/St. Pete, one trip to St. Paul/Minneapolis, one trip to Destin, two trips to Charleston, and one trip to Chicago), my sister’s wedding, four other weddings, three triathlons, one full marathon, and buying a house, I didn’t have as much time as I wanted to tackle this list of food resolutions.

I didn’t TOTALLY bum out, though.  In January, I discovered some killer blueberry muffins, thanks to America’s Test Kitchen.  In February, my husband and I made friends with the Four Coursemen, and I wrote about the beginning of my love affair with Holeman & Finch.  I was eating healthy in March, which brought this awesome barley salad into my repertoire.  I was doing a lot of fundraising in April, for Share Our Strength and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  May involved lots of low and slow cooking, despite the warmer temperatures.  The worst season of Top Chef EVER, Top Chef D.C., started in June.  July had lots of salads, as one would expect during summer in the south.  We took a tasty trip to Chucktown in August, during which we revisited Poe’s but also tried FIG and The Glass Onion.  In September, I was obsessed with peaches.  October was busy, what with that pesky marathon, but I did find a new go-to chicken dish.  November of course included Thanksgiving, but before the holiday, I made two great Martha Stewart meals.  Which brings us to December – an exciting month in which Top Chef started its all-star season, and I posted about my first experience in trying to mimic Thomas Keller.

What will 2011 hold?  We already have a trip to San Francisco on the books (in 2 weeks, woo hoo!), BlogHer Food is coming to Atlanta in May, I know we’ll be in Charleston at least once, and I still have lots of cooking to do in my new kitchen.  So, all signs point to an exciting and tasty year!

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and a fantastic end of 2010.  See you next year!

TCAS – Game, Set, Match

December 24, 2010
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You know I’m into a television show when I stay up till 11 PM on a school night to watch it a la minute (in the parlance of our times), instead of on DVR the next day.  I think the Fantasy Top Chef game I’m playing helps my late-night motivation – and, for those of you who are keeping score, I am currently beating my husband 11 to -5.  Yes, that’s negative five.  Tee.

I shouldn’t give him too hard of a time – this week, it could have easily gone the other way, since one elimination challenge team had TONS of my players, and the other team had tons of Jason’s.  Thankfully, the team with tons of my players ended up winning.

I’m not going to do a recap, since it’s Christmas Eve and I’m much more interested in snuggling on the couch with my pup while my delicious prime rib roasts away in the oven.  However, I will say two things:

1) As always, if you want a really good recap, go visit my girl Jordan Baker.  You won’t regret it.

2) This whole “Jamie doesn’t participate in the challenge for whatever lame-ass reason and therefore gets a pass” game is straight up bullshit.  As Fabio might say, “Ees Top Chef, not top spectator.”

Some level of normalcy should return to my life next week, so regular posting (recipes, woo hoo!) and TCAS recapping should resume.  In the meantime, happy holidays to all – I hope everyone is eating well this season!

2010: A Food Odyssey

January 7, 2010

Thanks to a well-timed honeymoon, my new decade started with some amazing culinary experiences in our nation’s capital.  I am extremely fortunate to have broken bread at Churchkey, Matchbox, Rasika, Palena, Jaleo, and Proof, and really, there wasn’t a bad meal to be had during our entire trip to DC.  There were so many highlights, and I know I am super lucky to have had these and many other food experiences over the past year.

So…what about 2010?  What does the year hold in store from a culinary perspective?  Here are my food “resolutions” for the first year of this new decade:

* Eat less meat – More specifically, my biggest goal is to prepare at least one vegetarian dinner each week.  I’m already pretty good about meatless breakfasts (I eat a lot of yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, and soy sausage), and I’d consider it a bonus if I could incorporate some veggie lunches as well.  This is a small gesture, I realize, but hopefully it will start me on a path that will involve healthier and more eco-friendly habits.

* Master the art of breadmaking – Prior to 2009, the thought of making my own bread was totally horrifying.  Then, not only did I acquire a breadmaker, but I actually managed to bake a homemade loaf without any gadgetry!  My first couple of attempts have been far from perfect, but I am determined to keep at it and bake healthy and delicious bread on the regular.

* Attempt to make cheese – I’m not going to turn into a milkmaid or anything, but I’m told that homemade ricotta is pretty darn simple and tasty.  Once I get the hang of that, maybe there are other cheeses that I can explore.

* Eat at Woodfire Grill – Due to Chef Kevin Gillespie’s popularity and success on Top Chef, reservations have been really difficult to come by.  While I am thrilled that a local chef is enjoying an increase in business, I hope that calorie- and budget-related resolutions cause the crowds to taper off, allowing me to score a table by February or March.

* Perfect Chef Vikram Sunderam’s recipe for chicken green masala – This is a recent addition/obsession, but I am determined to give it the ol’ college try.

* Reduce waste – While my husband and I are pretty good about meal-planning and eating leftovers, we can always improve in terms of not throwing food away unnecessarily.  I’m thinking about things like dating ground spices (or, better yet, buying small quantities of whole spices and grinding them myself), keeping the fridge/freezer organized so nothing gets overlooked, and shopping smarter (meaning, smaller trips to the market more often, and not buying groceries while hungry).

* Buy a whole fish and take it apart (and use as much of it as possible) – Every year, I say that I’m going to do this.  2010 is the year when I actually accomplish the goal, I’ve decided.  Fish is so good for you, but it is VERY expensive.  Buying a whole fish is pound-for-pound cheaper, and I can definitely find uses for the “nasty bits,” since my husband won’t eat the head or tail or skin or anything that reminds him that the fish was once alive.  I just need to sharpen my knives (another resolution, actually) and get down to business.

* Continue the “Personality Profile” series, focusing more on Atlanta-based food figures – This one is pretty self-explanatory.  I have so much fun conducting the interviews and writing up the stories, and it is such an interesting break (for me AND for you, I imagine) from the usual recipes and restaurant reviews.  If anyone has any ideas or contacts, feel free to hit me up.

* Try to make homemade pasta – I’ve already done gnocchi, but now I’d like to attempt some sort of filled pasta, perhaps ravioli.  I have more counter space now, and it would be great to have fresh, scratch-made noodles to go with the various homemade sauces I make.

* Explore my neighborhood’s ethnic dining scene – There is a large Korean population where I live, but international restaurants of all sorts surround me, and I’ve not given them their due.  That is going to change ASAP.

I think that’s enough for now, though if I accomplish all of those tasks by mid-year, perhaps I’ll add a few more.  How about you?  Any food-related resolutions/goals/hopes/dreams for the coming year?  Share them in the comments!

2009 – Full Throttle, Full Circle

December 29, 2009

As I look back on the past twelve months, I can’t help but wonder what the hell I was thinking.  I mean, I crammed an AWFUL lot of action into one year.  I got promoted.  I ran two half-marathons.  I completed two triathlons.  I traveled a LOT.  My cat was deathly ill, then miraculously recovered.  I got married.  My husband got laid off and then started his own business.  We moved to the suburbs.  Whew.

Food wise, it’s also been quite a year…

I started the year in DC, eating my way through the city and making cheap and delicious food with Miss Lemmonex, and then I came home to be interviewed by the AJC.  In February, I perfected roasted chicken and granola, and Tom Colicchio redeemed himself to me.  In March, I finally wrote about the life-changing experience that was my dinner at The French Laundry, and I made grapefruit cake with Lexa after binging on burgers.  April found me turning the tables and interviewing John Kessler, and since my triathlon training was in full swing in May, that month brought some fantastic healthy recipes (in addition to another fascinating interview).  June was a wash, but in July I mastered pesto and made some great seafood dishes.  In August, I started recapping Top Chef, but my biggest hit was this non-traditional take on tiramisu.  September’s highlights included my wedding (duh) and my bachelorette party meal at Tomo.  October was a big month: first and most importantly, I challenged myself (and my husband) to eat and drink on $60 for an entire week, and it was an incredibly eye-opening experience that I hope to try again in the coming year.  Also in October?  I met Kevin Gillespie and discovered the beauty of the perfect pancake.  I made bread for the first time in November, and in December, after a really cool interview, comfort food was the name of the game.

I find it cathartic that I will end 2009 where I (sort of) started it – in Washington, DC.  Yes, my husband and I leave tomorrow for our belated honeymoon in the nation’s capital, which happens to be where we met.  We’re going to see some dear friends, ring in 2010 at a James Bond-themed party, eat and drink at some of our favorite haunts, see some shows and museums, and gear up to start another incredible year together.  I hope to have lots of interesting nuggets to share about the DC dining scene when I return!

This will be my last post until early 2010, so I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year!  As far as resolutions, I only have one – to have as much fun with this blog in 2010 as I did in 2009.

See you next year!

Food-related musings

December 10, 2009

* I should not commit to recapping Top Chef when I often find myself unable to actually stay up and watch it at its scheduled time.  Cut me some slack, I get up at 5 AM.  Anyway, I will write up some closing thoughts once I actually watch the finale, and I will try to keep my bitterness regarding spoilers (come on, major newspapers, can you PLEASE not announce the results on your websites’ front pages????) in check.

* Relatedly, I had a happy little dream last night involving BOTH of the Voltaggio brothers.  I think that is because I read this hilarious and brilliant post yesterday, and I also tuned in to this WaPo chat.  Both are definitely worth checking out.

* I don’t think I could justify an entire post on Little Barn, the first truly local joint we’ve tried in our new Gwinnett County surroundings.  However, here are some initial thoughts: first off, it really is a little barn, with inside seating for about 20 (ish) and a drive-through window (definitely the more popular choice, while we were there at least).  The biscuits, which are highly lauded and the reason I wanted to visit, are as big as my head and very, very good.  I ordered a chicken biscuit ($2.29) and a sausage biscuit ($1.79), and I couldn’t finish them.  The meats on my biscuits were just “meh.”  Jason ordered a breakfast platter, which included scrambled eggs, a biscuit, gravy, and country ham, all for $4.59.  The gravy was delicious–great texture, and incredibly flavorful.  The country ham was awesome, too.  Counter service was quick and friendly, and prices are definitely reasonable (I think our breakfast for two, with OJ and TONS of food, was about $13).  I think that once you figure out what you really like on the menu, Little Barn is a great alternative to fast food or chain breakfast places.

* My hubs and I are hosting a little housewarming/holiday get-together on Saturday night.  I am serving heavy appetizers, and I think I’m pretty set on the menu, but I’m always up for suggestions.  Does anyone have just a KILLER h’ors d’oeuvres recipe that they’d like to share?  Leave it in the comments!

Lazy Wednesday Food Meme

October 29, 2008

It’s Wednesday, but it feels like it should be Friday (actually, it feels like it should be NEXT Friday).  I’m sans fiance this week, and being the sole caregiver of our pup is sucking every last bit of energy out of me.  I’m also eating like a bachelorette, so I don’t have any good recipes to post.  So, you get a meme!  At least it’s food-related…

Favorite food to crunch: Dill pickles, garlicky croutons, apples from the orchard of my childhood.
Favorite comfort food: It sounds crazy, but McDonald’s.  After EVERY one of my surgeries, as soon as I’m wheeled out the door, I want some McNuggets and fries.  I always regret the decision later (there’s a reason they tell you to eat light after anesthesia), but at the time, it is so good and makes me feel so much better.
Favorite picnic lunch: A killer sandwich with fresh fixins, my grandmother’s potato salad, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
Favorite food scene in movie: Meg Ryan’s fake orgasm at the deli in “When Harry Met Sally.”
Favorite food lyrics: All I can think of right now is Zac Brown’s “Chicken Fried,” which I have heard at least half a dozen times over the past 24 hours.
Best food smell memory: Home fries in a hot skillet with onions and paprika, clam chowder simmering in a pot, and German pancakes browning on the stove.
Favorite summer snack: Sliced tomatoes with fresh cracked pepper, any kind of corn salad.
Food that reminds me of the ocean: My dad’s fried shrimp, and oysters on the halfshell.  Drool.
Favorite winter snack: Hot apple cider (or hot cocoa) and warm cookies.
Most likely to eat for lunch: A sandwich, or leftovers from the previous night’s dinner.
Least likely to eat for lunch: A salad.  I’d be hungry again in an hour!
Makes me gag: Olives and blue cheese, either together or separate. 
Food tradition I love: The fact that my family has prime rib instead of turkey for Thanksgiving, and that we always break out the pigs-in-blankets during fall football games.
Food tradition I loathe: Fruitcake.  And cheese balls/logs.
Favorite wild foods: I don’t know that I’ve ever just encountered something in the wild and then eaten it.  I guess the closest I’ve come is stealing home-grown tomatoes from my neighbor’s vines.
Favorite medicinal food: Matzo ball soup, hands down.
Food that reflects my heritage: See above, at least for my Jewish heritage.
Food most like me: Probably some sort of over the top, ridiculously decadent dessert.  You know, something that has to be the center of attention.
Favorite raw food smell: Cilantro.

Nice cliche!

September 25, 2008

While having a delicious lunch yesterday (that included local pecans and fresh muscadines), my dear friend and I were chatting about Michael Pollan and noting that his books have sold “like hotcakes.”  Once we chuckled about using a food cliche in the context of a discussion about food writing (the irony was not lost on us), we pondered–where did that idiom COME from?

After some research, it seems like old-timey county fairs were responsible for that particular saying, since griddled/fried goodies have always been popular (and, thus, commercially successful) at such events.

But there are so many other food cliches, such as:

“The big cheese”

“Bring home the bacon”

“The best thing since sliced bread”

“Apple of my eye”

“Bun in the oven”

“Take it with a grain of salt”

“Cool as a cucumber”

What are the origins of these strange food sayings?  What are your favorites?  Least favorites?

* Real cooking content to return shortly–I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been off lately, which makes grocery shopping and dinner prep significantly less fun.

The Southern Omnivore’s Hundred

September 12, 2008

Earlier this week, Lemmonex did a wonderful job of compiling a purely American version of the Omnivore’s Hundred.  As I tallied my score, though, I couldn’t help but think that even an American list would be vastly different depending on the region of the country from which the author hailed.

I’ve spent the majority of my life in the Deep South, so naturally, I decided to create yet another list of foods and beverages.  I hereby present to you…drumroll please…the Southern Omnivore’s Hundred.  These, in my humble opinion, are the 100 items that every good Southerner should eat during his or her life.

1. Collard greens
2. Sweet tea
3. Grits
4. Squash casserole
5. Moonshine
6. Okra
7. Boiled peanuts
8. RC Cola
9. Moon Pie
10. Hoppin’ John
11. Bojangle’s
12. Krystal
13. Waffle House
14. Apple butter
15. Brunswick stew
16. Fried pickles
17. Chicory coffee
18. Frogmore stew
19. Peach cobbler
20. Sorghum
21. Butter beans
22. Red-eye gravy
23. Krispy Kreme
24. Chick-fil-a
25. Memphis BBQ
26. North Carolina BBQ
27. Texas BBQ
28. Georgia BBQ

29. Boiled crawfish
30. Etoufee
31. Minorcan clam chowder
32. Pig’s feet
33. Banana pudding
34. Key lime pie
35. Mint julep
36. Hot brown
37. Abita beer
38. Sweetwater beer
39. Macque choux
40. Chow-chow
41. Fried green tomatoes
42. Pimento cheese sandwich
43. Bread pudding
44. Muscadine wine
45. Hominy
46. Country ham
47. Coke float
48. Any food at a SEC football game tailgate
49. Fried chicken, cooked in a cast iron skillet

50. Sliced tomatoes, picked off the vine
51. Buttermilk
52. Chess pie
53. Divinity
54. Deviled eggs
55. Cornbread
56. Salmon croquettes
57. Chitlins
58. Livermush
59. Candied yams
60. Grouper sandwich
61. Peanut brittle
62. Sawmill gravy
63. Chicken fried steak
64. Biscuits and gravy
65. Monte Cristo
66. Jambalaya
67. “Kegs and Eggs”
68. Green beans cooked in fatback
69. Peel-and-eat shrimp
70. Gulf Coast oysters
71. Benedictine spread
72. Pralines
73. Derby pie
74. King Cake
75. Burgoo
76. Stack cake
77. Bananas Foster
78. Po’Boys
79. Turtle soup
80. Fried pie
81. Molasses
82. Pecan pie
83. Pound cake

84. Hog jowls
85. “Pot likker”
86. Red beans and rice
87. Andouille sausage
88. Gumbo
89. Mufelletta
90. Tabasco sauce
91. Moravian cookies
92. Gullah/Geechee cuisine
93. “Tennessee Truffles”
94. Ambrosia
95. “Arnold Palmer”
96. Pecan crusted trout
97. Scrapple
98. Mississippi mud pie
99. Fried pork chops
100. Kudzu jelly

My score is 80/100, and I am of the mindset that you have to score at least 60 to call yourself a Southerner.  What do you think?

The Omnivore’s Hundred

September 9, 2008

Thanks to Capital Spice, I was directed to a very interesting concept devised by a blogger in the UK.  Very Good Taste has developed a list of the 100 things that “every good omnivore” should try over the course of his or her life.  The idea is this: copy and paste the list into your blog, use bold text for all of the things you have tried, cross out the things (if there are any) that you would NEVER consider trying, and then tally up and discuss.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile*
6. Black pudding**
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich***
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes

22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float

36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail

41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk

45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads

63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail

79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict

83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee

100. Snake

* Does alligator count?  If so, I’ve tried it.

** Most disgusting thing I have ever put in my mouth.

*** I realize this makes me un-American.  Sue me, I’m allergic.

So, if I’ve counted correctly, I’ve tried 56 of the 100.  Not bad, but I could definitely do better.  If I could choose a place to start tackling the rest of the list, I think number 84 has a nice ring to it.

What do you think of the list?  On the one hand, I think it’s cool that there are a lot of “ordinary” items on it (like Krispy Kreme, Hostess, and McDonald’s), but I feel like there are some definite omissions.  Like, what about pizza (of course, whether it should be deep dish or NY-style is a significant argument in and of itself)?  Kebabs (or any other meat on a stick, for that matter)?  Really, this list could have thousands of versions, as each culture has its own definitions of what is customary to eat and what is “weird.”

Thoughts?  If you play along, let me know what your results are!

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