Friday, January 29, 2010

Way better than the State of the Union

I imagine it's partly because Obama spends nearly 90 minutes calmly eviscerating every GOP talking point as the Republican caucus meekly lines up to be slaughtered one by one... but I vastly prefer this British style interrogation of the Head of Government by the opposition party to the silly set piece of the SOTU. Stupid Constitution. Anyway... I would agree with Kevin Drum that this particular exchange was unfairly tilted to Obama because he has the microphone... but you'd think that could be ameliorated by changing the format a bit. However, after this display I imagine the concept is dead for a generation... too bad. It was, I think... contra George Will... one of McCain's better ideas.

J. D. Salinger Dies

"Catcher in the Rye" was my mother's favorite book, so I thought I should note that J.D. Salinger passed yesterday. The New York Times as an excellent retrospective on his life and his very public clashes for privacy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Home Baker goes Pro

A nice story in the Atlantic by a journalist who baked his award winning bread in his home ovens for an Alice Waters' dinner:
"We hear you make the best baguette in DC," said Sarah Weiner, Waters's assistant. "Well, yeah, I won a contest," I stammered, "but I just bake at home. The most I've baked was for Thanksgiving dinner."

They needed to feed 40—at a $500-a-plate dinner at Bob Woodward's house. Could it be done in my home ovens? I said I'd call back. I went home to figure out how much bread I needed to bake and realized I could probably do it—five big loaves and several baguettes. I then called Peter Reinhart—a renowned baker and author I've known for a couple of years—to see what he thought. "That's not a lot of bread," he said, and he encouraged me to give it a whirl.

Now, if you read his story about the Best Baguette in D.C., it's pretty clear that Samuel Fromartz is pretty far from a bread baking n00b... so it's not quite as ludicrous an offer as he makes it seem... but it's still an amazing accomplishment for someone without access to a professional bakery.

This reminds me that I need to get back to baking my way through Reinhart. While my baguettes are far from award winning, it's quite a rewarding experience, and it's a shame I've let it slip to the wayside.

Yoga and Food

This has got to be one of the weirdest trend spotting articles I've ever seen... The Rise of Foodie Yoga:
The words of Ziggy Marley’s “Love Is My Religion” floated over 30 people lying on yoga mats in a steamy, dim loft above Madison Avenue on Friday. All had signed up for a strange new hybrid of physical activity: first an hour of vigorous, sweaty yoga, then a multicourse dinner of pasta, red wine and chocolate. As soon as the lights went up, dinner was served on the floor: an (almost) seamless transition designed to allow the yogis to taste, smell and digest in a heightened state of awareness.
It would be sort of exciting if the entire three page article was about foodie yoga classes and about how they are going to explode across the nation, but unfortunately it's more an article about the clash between the old skool vegan yoga practitioners and the upstarts who like them some bacon consommé (Fun Fact: Rick Bayless loves yoga and pork belly).
“A pure yogic diet is one that is only calming: no garlic, onions or chili peppers, nothing heavy or oily,” said Ms. Grubler. “Steamed vegetables, salads and fresh juices are really the ideal.” Yogic food choices can also influenced by ayurveda, a traditional Indian way of eating to keep the body healthy and in balance. Some yogis determine their dosha, or dominant humor, vata (wind/air), pitta (bile) or kapha (phlegm), and eat accordingly. Foods are invested with properties like warming or cooling, heavy or light, moist or dry.

Mr. Romanelli says that such ideas about food are aspects of yoga that most Americans find forbidding, unrealistic and generally, as he puts it, “woo-woo.”

One man’s woo-woo, of course, is another’s deeply held belief system.

Mr. Romanelli believes that any profound pleasure of the senses — a live Bruce Springsteen track, an In-N-Out burger, the scent of lavender gathered in the French Alps — can bring on the “yoga high” that is a gateway to divine bliss.

People are weird about their food... especially when they are trying to crowbar their food choices into a moral and spiritual paradigm. All I know is that no garlic, no chili peppers, and only steamed vegetables would be a deal breaker for me... I'll pass on that kind of enlightenment, thank you.

photo by flickr user miheco used under a Creative Commons license

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

SOTU or ME2?

While I consider myself a bit of a political junkie, the artifice of the State of the Union address totally annoys me... it's just an endless succession of standing ovations vs. one half applauding while the other sits on their hands and looks grumpy. Blech. Since Republicans are apparently planning on being respectful this time, there isn't even decent odds on a marginally entertaining breach of protocol.

And let's face it... while Obama does well with this sort of set piece speech, Mass Effect 2 is polling consistently in the high 90's. I don't really see how the man can compete with that, unless he's planning on whipping health care reform out of his... pocket.

So that's me demoralized I guess, though like I said, I am disinclined to watch SOTUs by default. But at least I've got a good video game to play and some Raison D'Etre sitting in the fridge. Certainly I hope Obama knocks it out of the park, changes the tone, and announces some bold initiatives... but all I've heard about is spending freezes.

I, For One, Welcome Our New Tablet Overlords

Unless you're a technophobe, there's a fair chance you know that Apple announced their iPad tablet today. I don't have many thoughts on the device itself, but I continue to be surprised by the number of people who just don't "get it". People who don't really see the point of having a computing option between a laptop and a smartphone... but personally, I never got laptops as a replacement for desktops. Yeah, I'm old. Thanks. I'm also not a person who ever thought: "Writing a paper or doing analysis would be AWESOME if I could just do it in a crowded coffee house where I can't concentrate!" Laptops are heavy, generate a lot of heat, have small screens, are a PITA to operate without a a real keyboard and mouse, and perform very poorly in regards to a beefier (yet cheaper!) desktop. If you travel a lot... or if your work will happily keep you in fresh laptops (while not caring what stuff you put on it)... I guess it's a different story. For me, however, they just have never seemed quite portable enough... or cheap enough... to justify what would essentially just be "surfing while lying down" for my ideal usage. Indeed, most people I know with laptops use them exactly like desktops (i.e. dedicated desk, keyboard, monitor, and mouse) except they transport them between identical setups at the office and home. They tend to be rooted one spot more than you might think... and for what? To me, laptops just aren't really that good at anything... except cramped typing at forty thousand feet, which is not something I ever need to do.

So yeah, I'd love to have a dedicated internet surfing device. I'd keep my desktop PC as my home entertainment center, but it would free browsing to anywhere else in the apartment (not that there are a lot of options in our tiny Cambridge dwelling, but still). I've already gotten a taste for browsing untethered with my Droid, and while I love it, it's a pretty crappy experience... it's only awesome because you can do it anywhere, so you put up with how small the screen is and how awkward it is to navigate... I'd gladly carry a 1.5 lb tablet in my bag for the alleged superiority.

Now, I won't be buying an iPad... at least in the near future... but I certainly do look forward to tablet-ized future Apple is seeking to create.

photo by flickr user Guillermo Esteves used under a Creative Commons license

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Portland Beer Culture

Over the holidays I was trying to explain why I thought Portland (Maine) had such thriving craft beer culture for such a small town... but got hung up just past Allgash and Shipyard in trying to list the various breweries and brew pubs in the area. Luckily, Clay Risen has similar feelings about Portland, but actually bothered to like... write them out and think about them and stuff. After a brief nod to Portland's surprisingly robust food culture, he gets to the beer... and besides Allagash and Shipyard he notes a brewery I'm only vaguely familiar with:
North of downtown, near the shore of Back Cove, is Peak Organic, one of the country's best-known organic brewers. Brewing organically is trendy but almost impossible to do right. Not only does a brewery have to invest heavily in new equipment, but it also has to pay up to 50 percent more for organic malt and search the world over for reliable supplies of organic hops (Germany and New Zealand being the best sources right now). Not only is this expensive and time-consuming, but it limits the range of available ingredients—there's no large-scale organic producer of the resinous hops found in the Pacific Northwest, for instance.

And yet Peak made a go at it in the late nineties, and it's done pretty well. I was skeptical, having had more than my share of tasteless yet "eco-friendly" alternative foods over the years, but I've yet to have a bad beer from Peak. A few—particularly the King Crimson Imperial Red Ale—are absolutely stunning, with round, bold flavors and a long, smooth finish, and none of the thin, cloying tastes that plagued early organic brews.

I've never paid any attention to Peak Organic, since "organic beer" sounds almost like a scam... like "I can't believe those dirty hippies actually fell for that!" However, if you are going to care about pesticides and whatnot in your food, you probably shouldn't be ignoring the same practices in your beer. Perhaps. But, personally, I don't have any problem with being a hypocrite. I'll give it a shot if I see it though.

So besides having three successful breweries in a city of 60 K, what makes Portland's beer culture special? Well, they also have an outsized number of brew pubs:
Within stumbling distance downtown are Gritty McDuff's and Sebago Brewing, while Sunday River and Seadog are farther out. And for a city lacking even a medium-sized college, downtown Portland is plastered with bars, mostly of the plastic-cup-and-shooters class of establishment.

Skip 'em. Instead, go to Novare Res, one of my favorite beer bars in the country. Located down a nondescript alley off Exchange Street, this relatively new establishment touts 25 taps, 300 bottled beers, and two hand pumps. The selection runs decidedly toward the Continent, with a lot of Belgians and Germans (including some super-obscure offerings like Uerige Doppelsticke Alt, though all of the great American craft brewers are represented. It's got a welcoming vibe, too—it's tricked out to look like a beer cellar, with communal tables and a long bar, counterpointed in the summer by an expansive patio.
With Novare Res aside, since I haven't visited (it's on the list now though), but I wouldn't argue that the others are likely to knock the socks off of any effete beer snobs. My experiences in them have been perfectly passable, but they're not much different than the brew pubs in most cities I've been... and yet, it's still pretty amazing to have a whole city basically drinking craft brews, even if most of 'em aren't getting A+'s on Beer Advocate.

As a huge Allagash fanboi, I'd probably rate Portland's beer culture as superb regardless of any other factors... just being able to routinely get stuff they don't ship out of the area is cool enough... but it really does strike me as impossible to find such a small city with so many different craft beer options.

photo by flickr user DiscourseMarker used under a Creative Commons license

Monday, January 25, 2010

Health Care Stategery

I agree with every word of this.

Pressure Cooker Hype

Oddly, last weekend when we were futzing with the Tuscan White Bean Soup, Anna mentioned that we should think about getting a pressure cooker. While that may not seem odd in and of itself, the very next week Serious Eats did a "Cook the Book" feature on Lorna Sass's Cooking Under Pressure... and now there's a post about how awesome they are on Bittman's blog. A veritable deluge of pressure cooker endorsements! The idea of having perfectly cooked beans in 20 minutes is certainly appealing, but it seems like it would be hard to get used to the idea that you can't see or do anything to your food once you lock it in there. I also enjoy my time in the kitchen (for the most part) so I'm generally not looking for short cuts... but how often has cooking time been the reason for not bothering to cook on a week night? Pretty damn often.

So I think we're going to check Sass's book out of the library and see what the recipes are like before taking the plunge. They're not particularly cheap appliances... it's over $100 for the Cook's Illustrated recommended Fagor Duo 8 Quart, but presumably you want something reasonably well made if it's going to be at high pressures.

Duck Confit

Last week's New York Times article on "easy confit" inspired me to go to Savenor's and pick up some dug legs and make some confit the old fashioned "hard" way, so that I could document how straight forward of a process it is. Really, if I can do it, anybody can. I've also only ever made it before immediately putting it into cassoulet, so I thought I'd make six legs and use two for a duck confit salad and save the other four for cassoulet in a couple of weeks.

Here is the confit recipe I used:
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 12 parsley stems, with leaves attached
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 duck legs
  • 4 cups duck fat
  1. Process salt, onion, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves in food processor until smooth paste with some small chunks forms, about 30 seconds, scraping down side of bowl as necessary. Massage duck legs with salt mixture and place in gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Press out air, seal bag, and place in refrigerator 12 to 18 hours
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse duck legs under cold running water, rubbing off any salt mixture. Pat legs dry with paper towels. Heat duck fat in large saucepan over medium heat until completely transparent. Add duck legs, making sure they are completely submerged in fat. Transfer pot to oven and cook until meat offers no resistance when poked with fork, 3 to 4 hours.
What you see above is 6 dug legs in a gallon zip lock bag all covered in that salt mixture. I miscalculated a bit when I salted them Friday night at 5 pm, meaning I'd not be sleeping in on Saturday... but who doesn't want to spend their Saturday morning elbow deep in duck fat?

Be sure to thoroughly wash off all the residue, or you might find yourself with some really salty confit... it tends to be on the salty side by default, so be careful.

That's about 2 pounds of duck fat which works out to about 4 cups melted (I think). Set me back about $12. Contra the recipe, I believe in melting the fat in a separate pan and then pouring it over top of the duck... that way I know the duck legs fit and won't be splashing duck fat all over the place.

The hardest thing about the entire confit endeavor is finding the right size pan or pot. You want the fit to be cozy so that you don't have to use as much fat to cover the legs... if I was only doing four I'd use a saucepan, but six take up too much real estate so I pulled out a 9 x 13 baking dish. The problem there is no handles and you have to pretty much fill it up to the brim, so there is some hot duck fat spillage danger... just be careful. You'll notice that I didn't quite have enough fat to completely cover the legs, but I'm not really that anal about it anymore. They'll just float up as they cook, so it's a losing battle in my humble opinion, but if you want 'em fully covered but find yourself running short of duck fat... no need to run out to the gourmet shop for another pound of duck fat... just pour some canola oil on top... I won't tell anybody.

I'm not sure you can really over cook confit, but what you are looking for is to see all the meat bunched up top like a duck lollipop.

And here is a duck confit salad. A salad that is delicious with or without the duck by the way.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tomato Cream Sauce

My mom is a good cook. She is not, however, an adventurous one. She's always had about half a dozen dishes that she can knock out of the park, and just stuck with them. She hadn't bought a new cookbook in ages, and thus she has made her pasta sauce how she makes her pasta sauce (i.e. never the same way twice) and that is that. That is, until we were watching the Food Network down at my brother's house for Christmas, and Anne Burrell came on to show us how to make a bolognese sauce. My mother was entranced, and quickly became obsessed. And it's only gotten worse since Eric bought her Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Mom has raved about that book so much that Anna and I thought we should just get it out of the library and see what the fuss was about. While we were waiting for the book to come in, Smitten Kitchen did a post on Marcela Hazan’s "basic" tomato sauce... and guess what? She raved about it too. So expectations were running a little high when we finally got our hands on the book.

As it happens, since I needed to go the doctor yesterday to make sure I wasn't dying (I wasn't! Yay!), that meant we were dangerously close to Dave's Fresh Pasta. So we picked up a pound of Dave's fresh porcini ravioli and a 28 ounce can of imported Italian San Marzano tomatoes. However, for filled pasta, instead of the basic tomato sauce, Marcela Hazan suggests a tomato cream sauce. Besides the cream, the main difference between the two recipes is that this one requires a food mill... a device that not every home cook has, but certainly should if they make sauce with fresh tomatoes with any regularity. I find it worth $50 to not have to make tomato concasse in those situations, but YMMV.

  • 3 tablespoons each of finely minced carrots, celery, and onion
  • 2.5 cups of whole canned tomatoes and their juice
  • 1/3 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
I used shallots instead of onions and I just used the whole can of tomatoes (3.5 cups) and minced a bit more of the aromatics to compensate. I didn't up either the cream or the butter, however, since some of us are having enough trouble fitting into our clothes as it is.

Everything but the cream goes into the pot to gently simmer for 45 minutes. Stir it occasionally, and make sure those tomatoes are breaking down by smashing them against the side of the pot.

Now put it through your food mill your sauce into another pot and bring it back up to a simmer. Stir in your cream and keep stirring for a full minute. Season to taste and you are done. Be sure to toss your ravioli (or whatever) with a little butter before saucing them.

And wow was it good.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Spicy Tofu Soup

No recipe for this one, because I didn't make it... it came from the Korean restaurant down the street, Seoul Food. It gets fairly mixed reviews mainly because the woman who runs it is a little... eccentric? She's hard to describe, but this anecdote should work: if you order bibimbap in a "stone pot" and haven't scraped your rice down into your bowl (to get that nice caramelized rice action) by the time she comes to check up on you... then she does it for you, giving a brief tutorial on the intricateness of bibimbap consumption as she does so.

This seems to rub some stereotypically cold New Englanders the wrong way, but we like it, and joke about how we don't want her to yell at us for letting our take out get cold.


I've still got that sore throat I was whining about earlier in the week, so I'm off to the doctor to make sure it's not serious.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuscan White Bean Soup with Winter Vegetables

I don't have a lot to say about this recipe (subscription required) from Cook's Illustrated, mainly because I thought it wasn't a very good one. Not that the ingredients were a poor choice or anything, just that the central conceit of cooking the beans until "almost done" and then turning off the heat to let them finish didn't really work at all and just struck me as a foolish venture fraught with crunchy bean peril. It may just be that I have a severe bean making handicap, or just prefer mushier beans than others, but I don't think I've ever made beans that finish in a recipe's alloted time... hell, I'll cook 'em another hour than asked and still find a crunchy bean or two... so the idea of cooking beans until "almost done" strikes me as pure madness. Still, I gave it a shot... and, of course, it didn't work. 30 minutes after turning off the heat there were still plenty of still "almost done" beans. So back up to a simmer they went, cooked for a bit, and off the heat and covered for 30 minutes. Nope, still crunchy ones. I'm a slow learner, but after the second time I had to wonder: Why not just cook the beans until they're done? Do I really care that much if a couple explode? No, not really. Why did I do this recipe again?

Now, as a caveat, I do cook my beans in a 6.75 quart oval dutch oven that Anna suspects is not distributing heat evenly enough on our old skool gas stove (i.e. no bridge burner or whatever). I suppose this is possible (though isn't that the point of the cast iron?), but since I'm sure a lot of people are able to make decent beans under similar circumstances, I'm a little hesitant to blame the equipment. However I will concede that we meed a pot in between our 6.75 and 3.75 quart sizes, and a round one probably makes a little more sense for soups.

Anyway, aside from the stray crunchy beans, it's a pretty good soup. Whoever the Tuscan was who thought of ladling the soup over toasted bread was a genius.


Despite the polls, I refused to believe Coakley was going to lose until she did. I will try not to play the blame game too much, but based on the turnout to the Dem primary we got what deserved. Not that I'm some kind of hero for reading about the candidates for 5 minutes on the day of the primary, but that really is all it would have taken to see what a lame candidate Coakley was... but at the same time, I thought she was as inevitable as she and her campaign staff did, and didn't fret too much about it. Whoops. Sorry America!

As for what to do now? The good news is that The Beefcake is only elected for 2 years. So perhaps in 2012 we get Capuano after MA voters come back to their senses.

The one thing I'm certain of is that if Dems don't pass HCR they're screwed. Figure out how it can be done, and get it done. Blaming the GOP for not getting anything accomplished is just not going to work... it's going to justify their every argument about what a terrible job our party has done since getting in power. If we're going to go down, then I'd like to go down fighting to pass some progressive bills at least.

And now I think I'll go back to blogging about food and video games.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Jon Stewart on the MA Election

Vote in MA today

If you live here it's hard to believe that you'd be unaware that there's an election today, but I suppose it's possible. So yeah, go vote for Martha Coakley! Republicans should stay home because that weather outside looks mighty treacherous and we wouldn't want anyone getting hurt. I'm thinking of your safety... yeah, that's it... safety. In all seriousness, I'd rather lose with a big turnout than a small one, so everyone really should go out and vote today.

I've got a bit of a sore throat that's making me somewhat cranky and irritated, so probably no blogging today... it'll be enough just to get through work and go color in my scantron bubble for Coakley.

photo by flickr user Theresa Thompson used under a Creative Commons license

Monday, January 18, 2010


I wish there was some way to get on a Do Not Robocall list. Yes, I know the special election is very important and do not need Robot Obama and Robot Bill Clinton to motivate me to get out and vote for Coakley tomorrow.

Easy duck confit? Who knew it was hard?

Maybe I'm biased because I make my own duck confit for cassoulet a couple times a year and never had the slightest bit of trouble with it, but I didn't find the New York Times justification for a new "easy" duck confit recipe very compelling:
My husband and I gobbled them up, stripping the bones. Then I sadly realized I’d probably never make them again.

It wasn’t that they were that difficult to prepare. But they did involve getting close and personal with two quarts of liquid duck fat, which is not only messy but pricey (upward of $40).

Given that, it is actually cheaper (and easier) to buy prepared duck confit, which is nearly as good.

I don't know why you'd need two full quarts of liquid duck fat (besides the fact that duck fat is AWESOME and thus more is better), unless you are doing it in some gargantuan roasting pan... and it's not like you need to throw it away after you use it... just strain it back into your containers and put it back in the fridge. I certainly have never spent upwards of $40 on duck fat, and I get mine at Savenor's, which is probably the most expensive butcher in Boston. The more you use it (and thus get it up to temps that will kill any bacteria) the longer it's going to keep, so the idea of never making confit again when you have this giant tub of duck fat seems precisely backwards. Maybe I'm living dangerously, but I usually make confit for cassoulet twice a year and replace my duck fat yearly and have yet to see any evidence of spoilage... and since I usually only make 4-6 legs, I can get by with only a quart of fat in the right size pan. I suppose it might be slightly more problematic to recover the fat if I was storing the confit in the fat instead of using it immediately, but once you've used the last of the legs, just bring the fat up to liquid temperature before straining, cooling, and storing and I'd bet you'll be fine.

Here is the confit recipe I used at Thanksgiving (from Cook's Illustrated):
  • 1/4 cup table salt
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 12 parsley stems, with leaves attached
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 duck legs
  • 4 cups duck fat
  1. Process salt, onion, garlic, peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves in food processor until smooth paste with some small chunks forms, about 30 seconds, scraping down side of bowl as necessary. Massage duck legs with salt mixture and place in gallon-sized zipper-lock bag. Press out air, seal bag, and place in refrigerator 12 to 18 hours
  2. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 300 degrees. Rinse duck legs under cold running water, rubbing off any salt mixture. Pat legs dry with paper towels. Heat duck fat in large saucepan over medium heat until completely transparent. Add duck legs, making sure they are completely submerged in fat. Transfer pot to oven and cook until meat offers no resistance when poked with fork, 3 to 4 hours.
Does that really sound that hard? C'mon, anybody can do that! In fact, the New York Times recipe strikes me as more complicated... all in the service of avoiding having a tub of duck fat in your fridge. Which since we've already established that duck fat is AWESOME, really makes very little sense.

Damn. Now I'm hungry for duck confit. Maybe I'll make it this week for a duck confit salad.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Homemade Vegetable Bouillon

101 Cookbooks has a pretty neat post about how to make your own veggie bullion. Veggie broth tends to get ignored in most discussion of the abject terribleness of canned stock... probably because canned veggie broth isn't all that terrible (veggies are much cheaper than meat, so not as much "flavor enhancers" are needed), nor is the homemade version nearly as time consuming to make. At the same time, it does take some time (the recipe I use takes 2 hours) and loads of veggies (more than you'd generally have just sitting in your crisper)... so making your own bullion certainly has some appeal. As she mentions, you know exactly what's in it and can vary the ingredients based on season or preference. Pretty cool... I'd say it's definitely worth a try if you're a vegetarian/vegan.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Chatoe Rogue First Growth Wet Hop Ale

I flagged an NYT article about the rise of fresh/wet hop beers back in the Fall, but never saw one until this week, where Anna's eagle-eyes picked it out at Whole Foods. In January, we're well past the ideal drinking time of a fresh hop beer that was bottled in September, but I thought it was worth a shot since we won't be seeing these again until next year. I found it very drinkable and malty... with the expected lack of dried hop bitterness... and some floral notes in the finish that were new to me. Was that the fresh hops? Obviously I don't know, since I've never had a wet hopped beer, but I suspect so. It's fairly subtle and understated (at least 4 months after bottling), and reminded me somewhat of a wheat based beer, thanks to the freshness of the floral notes.

Probably not a beer that hopheads are going to enjoy... especially if they think "fresh hops" are just dried hops but "more awesome". I'd like to try it a little closer to the harvest to see what I think when it's truly fresh, but I thought the beer was pretty interesting in its character.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hungry Mother

After recovering from late night brisket making, I went with Anna on our first trip to Barry Maiden's highly regarded Hungry Mother (named after a Virginia park ) in Kendall Square. Prime time reservations, even on a weekday, are hard to come by without a week or so of notice, but they do offer a deal with nearby Kendall Square Cinema for 6 dollar movie tickets if you eat before 6pm. Not that having a hundred dollar dinner for two (with drinks) for a couple bucks off of your tickets is a sound strategy for saving money, but I guess it's something. The truly nice part is that they run across the street to get the tickets for you, and your server will help get you out the door in time to make the show. We had a 5 o'clock reservation (when they open)and plans for a 6:15 show... while we didn't get outside until 6:20 ish, the proximity of the theater meant we were sitting down as the last preview was ending... perfect (though I think Anna would argue that since we skipped dessert to make the movie that it was far from ideal - so you may want to allot more on the order of two hours for a leisurely paced meal).

As you might expect from a restaurant that Maiden describes as "French in technique... New England in seasonality... all with a Southern spin," there aren't a whole lot of vegetarian options... pork fat is predictably big here. (Note: If I was a vegan I wouldn't even bother... while if you call ahead they might be able to do something, there was little besides snacks or sides that could be easily vegan-ized) On the current menu, there is mixed lettuces as a first course and a butterbean and hominy stew (pancetta omitted) main course... but that's it... though a fishatarian would be in much better shape (two fish based main courses).

The real excitement of the meal was that the Chef had a special due to the fact that he just got a whole pig in on Sunday. I'm doing this from memory, but if I recall correctly it was: pork belly confit (pork fat cooked in pork fat!?) on a bed of black eyed peas topped with a bacon consommé with a pickled radish garnish. It was awesome... and Chef Maiden actually came out and served it to me (I didn't recognize him, but could easily tell he was important)... possibly it was because I was the first person to order it that week (they're closed on Monday and our meal was on a Wednesday) and he wanted to see how it was recieved, but if so, that's a terrible tragedy. People need to order this. I mainly know about consommé from how endlessly Michael Ruhlman goes on about it in his books (especially The Making of a Chef)... certainly I've never made it at home... but I do know (by reputation) that it's basically the perfect soup - the essence of the meat extracted and purified. I would have to say that was borne out by my experience with Maiden's bacon consommé... which was intense, and delightfully rich with flavor... certainly the essence of smoked pork, and it worked so well with those perfectly cooked black eyed peas. The confit of pork belly was seared on top and nicely crisped, but was mouth meltingly tender below. Unbelievable. Like I said: awesome.

While the catfish I ordered, along with Anna's hominy stew were also superb... it going to be the pork belly confit that I'll be thinking of from here on out.

The service was similarly spectacular, and based on the quality of the food, I'd almost rate Hungry Mother a bargain. It's hard to call a meal that's going to be around $50 a person or more a "great deal", but based on what I'm used to paying for that kind of quality of experience... it really is. These are the kind of meals that even a skilled home cook can't really replicate at home, and well worth the modest cost.

Oh, and if you've never had them before: order the boiled peanuts. They are a unique experience, and so take a little getting used to for non Southerners, but they are also delicious.

photo by flickr user thebristolkid used under a Creative Commons license

Oaxacan Style Braised Brisket - What Went Wrong?

As I mentioned yesterday, I had to take a personal day from work because I was up all night waiting for a brisket to come up to temperature... and it's not like it just took another 30 minutes or anything... we're talking twice as long or more. So what happened? Well obviously I don't really know, since if I did, I wouldn't have screwed up whatever it was... it's not like I really love staying up all night cooking... but I do have some theories. I'll get to those in a second, but first things first, here is the recipe (subscription required) I used from Cook's Illustrated:

Oaxacan Style Braised Brisket

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 beef brisket (about 5 pounds), surface fat retained
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3-5 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (28 ounces)
  • 2 ounces dried chile peppers (preferably Pasilla), seeded
  • kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 3 medium onions , quartered
  • 1 head garlic , halved crosswise
  • fresh parsley leaves , for garnish
  1. Heat oven to 500 degrees. Crush spices or grind them coarsely; press them into brisket and set aside
  2. Using two burners if necessary, heat oil in large, heavy roasting pan long and wide enough to hold brisket and at least 2 inches deep. Add brisket; cook over medium-high heat, turning once with tongs, until brown on both sides, about 10 minutes. Remove brisket and set aside. Add 1 cup broth, tomatoes and chiles; bring to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen brown bits; reduce by half. Remove pan from heat. Season brisket lightly with thyme, oregano and salt, and return to roasting pan. Scatter onions and garlic around brisket.
  3. Put roasting pan in oven and cook, stirring vegetables occasionally to avoid burning, until thickest part of brisket reaches an internal temperature of around 130 degrees, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from oven; reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees. Do not return brisket to oven until temperature drops to 250 degrees. Add enough chicken broth to pan so that liquid comes about halfway up side of meat (2 to 4 more cups), baste brisket, and return to oven. Braise brisket, basting and turning every 1/2 hour or so, until meat just gives when pierced with meat thermometer and brisket’s internal temperature registers around 175 degrees, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.
  5. Remove brisket from braising liquid and wrap in foil. Strain braising liquid into large mixing bowl. Reserve vegetables, squeezing garlic cloves from heads. Transfer braising liquid to tall, narrow container, and let stand until fat rises. Skim and discard fat. Puree vegetables, including garlic, with 1/2 cup braising liquid in food processor or blender. Add pureed vegetables and braising liquid to a sauté pan and simmer until reduced to thin sauce consistency.
  6. Meanwhile, cut brisket across the grain into thin slices (about 1/8-inch thick). Arrange slices of meat on warm plates; generously ladle sauce over meat. Garnish with parsley, and serve immediately.

So, as you can see, after 20 minutes at 500 degrees the brisket is supposed to go into a 250 degree oven for 1.5-2.5 hours... quite a bit shorter than what it took me... by hours. I have an oven thermometer and instant read thermometer, so it's not like I was winging it... but perhaps either one is off? I plan to check my instant read thermometer with some boiling water tonight, but I suspect that neither is off to a degree that would account for such a massive difference.

Now, the recipe doesn't tell you which part of the oven the roasting pan is supposed to go... and I didn't feel like moving oven racks around, so I just went for my default "upper middle"... but my new roasting pan is gigantic and my oven not very large, so maybe since the pan was so far from heating element (gas stove) and large enough to inhibit air flow, the brisket was seeing a much lower temperature than the thermometer below it? A strong point in favor of this hypothesis is that when... frustrated and tired after hours of cooking... I finally moved racks down lower in the oven, the brisket came to 175 in 30 minutes (after being at around 155-160 for hours). Maybe just a coincidence, but probably not.

A final possibility to consider is simply that the recipe is wrong... but being that this is Cook's Illustrated, whom I generally trust, I am hesitant to jump to that conclusion. However, this is a fairly old skool recipe (1995) without the narrative explaining the decisions made... which might mean that there is some critical factor that I'm missing. A quick perusal of other braised brisket recipes suggests oven temps more in the 325-350 range and cooking times on the order of 3 hours... but presumably the reason for getting the brisket to 130 degrees via the blast of a 500 degree oven is to allow you to do a lower temperature and shorter braise. Maybe I didn't get the brisket as hot as I thought I did? Maybe it cooled significantly while waiting for the oven to get down to 250? I did put the cold chicken broth into the pan while I waited, not just before it went into the oven... maybe that chilled the brisket enough to lengthen the cooking time considerably?

Some other notes about the recipe... I used guajillo chiles, not pasilla, and even then I found the resultant sauce lacking in heat. So if there's a next time for this dish, I'll throw in some spicier peppers... and maybe go for a greater variety. Also, I don't think it's entirely clear, but when you make the sauce at the end, the 1/2 cup of braising liquid called for in the recipe is just to make pureeing the veggies easier... you'll mix that puree with the defatted braising liquid to make the sauce. I still found my sauce to be overly thick, but then I braised for hours and was adding stock throughout, so I don't assume my experience was typical.

I suppose it's a little hard for me to fully recommend this recipe given the issues I had... but the brisket really is good. In fact, I would try it again... given what I know now... I'd just do it on a Sunday afternoon when I didn't have any other plans, not at 6:30 on a weeknight when I have work the next day. :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

How to Help Haiti

A list of giving methods from the Daily Beast.

Somewhat embarrassing...

I had to stay home today because I was up all night cooking... and no that's not a euphemism for anything, thankyouverymuch. As soon as I started cooking it I knew I was going to be up later than I expected, but damn it if that brisket just wouldn't come up to temperature (175)... it just hovered at 160 for hours. I figured I was braising it, so as long as I kept adding some more liquid I'd be fine... it took all the chicken broth I had, but I think I was right. Hard to say, since I just woke up from a nap after getting it out of the oven... and sheepishly emailing work... but I'm pretty optimistic about it's quality.

I also got to watch a lot of Netflix instant watch as I got up every 30 minutes to baste for all eternity. Lots of Akira Kurosawa movies on there all of a sudden, so it was by no means a completely lost cause.

Anyway... I'll report back once I've tried it.

UPDATE: Here's a pic.

Delicious! But maybe you expect that, if you braise it all night. Guess I should just be glad I didn't fall asleep and ruin the meat and my brand new roasting pan.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kimchi Pancake (Kimchi Jeon)

It's Kimchi Day 55 or 56, depending on how you count it, and we finally got around to making some kimchi pancakes on Sunday... the delay being fairly surprising given how much Anna adores all those Asian pancake variations. Indeed, it was so easy and tasty, I wish we had tried it earlier.

We followed this amazingly simple recipe from Closet Cooking, omitting the zucchini and the green onion since we had neither... though in the latter case, it was in the kimchi itself already.

There's really nothing to it, to be honest. The batter gave us enough for for 1.5-2 pancakes in a 12" skillet, since I was looking for something more on the order of scallion pancake in terms of thickness compared to Kevin's version.

We were very pleased with it. A nice appetizer, or light snack, that you can whip up in minutes if you've got some kimchi sitting in the fridge (obviously slightly more involved if you do not).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Stove Porn

Chef Pardus from the CIA (no, not that CIA, this CIA) is blogging over at Michael Ruhlman's place this week... and his first video about how to properly cook shrimp (in short: poach in a brine) apparently generated quite a bit of questions about the range he was demonstrating on. It's a little on the dry side from an entertainment perspective, but still fairly drool worthy. Cook's Illustrated has often made the case that Western stoves are really not suited to the use of Woks, and that your average home cook is better off just using a skillet to make stir fries... but I'd never seen a Wok range in action until this. Especially on the larger range, where the inner and outer ring flames can be adjusted independently, you can surmise how advantageous a Wok's design would be. I don't cook nearly enough Asian food to really even vaguely fantasize about that range, but I still find it awe inspiring.

How to truss a chicken

Never knew that Chow had videos... though I've generally only gone to that site for Chowhound reviews of restaurants, so that might explain my ignorance... but anyway, this is a pretty handy video if you ever want to truss a chicken.

Note that while Michael Ruhlman swears by it, Barbara Kafka thinks it's dumb, so YMMV.

I sure hope she's the only one who thinks this

Maureen Dowd caricatures herself:
No Drama Obama is reticent about displays of emotion. The Spock in him needs to exert mental and emotional control. That is why he stubbornly insists on staying aloof and setting his own deliberate pace for responding — whether it’s in a debate or after a debacle. But it’s not O.K. to be cool about national security when Americans are scared.

Our professorial president is no feckless W., biking through Katrina. He is no doubt on top of the crisis in terms of studying it top to bottom. But his inner certainty creates an outer disconnect.

He’s so sure of himself and his actions that he fails to see that he misses the moment to be president — to be the strong father who protects the home from invaders, who reassures and instructs the public at traumatic moments.

He’s more like the aloof father who’s turned the Situation Room into a Seminar Room.

I pretty much just want a President... already got a Dad, and I didn't call him up to comfort me after I heard about the underwear bomber.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Beer Bread?

I've mentioned before that I grew up as an extraordinarily picky eater, and how it's been a long slow process to re-expose myself to foods I used to hate... but another aspect of basically only eating a handful of different things as a youngin' is that I keep running into fairly common things that I didn't even know existed. Alexandra Cooks has a recipe up today for a nice looking cheese soup and some beer bread. Beer bread I says? Yes, making liquid bread into actual bread... why... that's a damn good idea! It's a quick bread (that is, leavened with baking soda/powder instead of yeast) where you use the beer to provide a more sourdough-esque experience. Brilliant!

One of the things we've yet to successfully incorporate into our home cooking life is always having fresh bread to accompany our meals... how often we'll cook in a given week is just too unpredictable, at this point, to know whether we'll eat up a baguette before it gets stale. Anna will just freeze extra bread and then make it into toast for subsequent soups and stews... and that works quite well... but as nice as toast is at sopping up soup, sometimes you really want fresh bread for the task (or at least I do).

Of course, the choice between a yeast bread and a quick bread is no choice at all in my opinion... but find me a sourdough you can mix in 5 and bake in 40. Worth trying methinks... especially on those nights we're making a hearty winter dish and go "[Expletive Deleted]! We don't have any bread!"

beer bread photo by flickr user gin soak used under a Creative Commons license

BU-BC at Fenway tonight

I'll be there in the bleachers freezing, cheering.

"He is a Kevin Faulk with younger legs"

Bob Ryan, why do you have to insult Ray Rice like that? This year, Rice ran for 1,339 yards with a 5.3 yard per carry average. He also caught 78 balls for 702 yards. Faulk has never run for more than 638 yards nor caught for more than 486 yards. Kevin Faulk is an older Ray Rice only in Kevin's wildest dreams.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fancy Pants Mac and Cheese

... or Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi for the Italian speakers and/or foodies among us. In the classic preparation you pretty much always have Parmesan (duh), as well as a blue cheese for a little bite, and then a good mild melting cheese like Fontina or Gruyère... but other than that it's pretty free from. You take some cream, reduce it to your desired consistency, and then mix in the four cheeses. Take that cheese sauce and toss it with your cooked pasta. and you're ready to go. Fairly straightforward really, but who wants to clean two whole pots!? Cook's Illustrated... getting in on the one pot and under 30 minute mania... came up with a Skillet Pasta ai Quattro Formaggi (subscription required) recipe that we thought worth trying on a weeknight. The key "innovation" here is cooking the pasta in the cream as you are reducing it.

It came out quite well... loved the interplay of flavors of the cheeses... and it was really, really, easy. The major drawback, which should be somewhat obvious, is that by cooking the pasta in the cream, you have very little independent control of the thickness of the sauce... when the pasta is al dente, you have to stop (if you don't want mushy pasta at any rate)... so what do you do if you want it thicker? Add more cheese? Dunno. The sauce came out with almost the exact same consitency of Kraft Macoroni and Cheese... which is weird... but not really a bad thing, since I really loved Kraft Mac and Cheese as a kid... the "problem", if you can call it that, was that the sauce to pasta ratio was a little on the high side for me. So bring some bread to sop the cheesy goodness up, or just cook the full package of pasta instead of the 3/4ths called for by the recipe.
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 shallots , minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 4 3/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups cream
  • 12 ounces penne pasta (3 3/4 cups)
  • 3/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
  • 1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 3/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Melt butter in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until softened, about 1 minute. Stir in wine and simmer until almost dry, about 1 minute.
  2. Stir in water, cream, and penne. Increase heat to high and cook, stirring often, until penne is tender and liquid has thickened, 15 to 18 minutes.
  3. Off heat, stir in cheeses, one after another. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
I don't imagine most of us have that quantity and variety of cheeses sitting in our refrigerators, so I can't see it working as something you'd whip up on a moments notice, but I think it's worth planning as a weeknight thing if you're a Mac 'n Cheese fan. Though... given the ingredients... probably not a great choice if one of your New Year's Resolutions involved losing any weight.

Ezra Klein on The Cobert Report

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Drag Me to Health - Ezra Klein & Linda Douglass
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorEconomy

I would say he acquits himself quite nicely. Not the funniest clip in the history of The Colbert Report, but decent push back against the distortions.

All Woodberry Kitchen All The Time

Waiting for an appointment yesterday, Anna noticed that Woodberry Kitchen is in Bon Appétit as one of "2009's Top Ten Best New Restaurants in America"... and since I've already name dropped it on the blog in regards to how much hipper it is than the New York Times... it'd be reasonable to suspect that I knew that. Well... I didn't. In fact, when people asked me what I was doing for New Years Eve I would say that we were going to "Wood..bury...berry? Tavern?" And they'd go "Woodberry Kitchen!?!?!?!?" And I'd go "That sounds right." And then they'd gush about it.

Thus I went into the restaurant with curiosity piqued and expectations elevated... and was not at all disappointed. I would definitely have to put it in the top 5 restaurant experiences of my life. Granted, I don't dine high end more than once or twice a year, so take it for what it's worth, but the food was amazing across the board (we shared) and the service exemplary. I actually had a fish I've never even heard of (John Dory), and it might have been the most perfectly cooked pieces of whitefish I've ever had. There were also a decent number of vegetarian options, with an entrée and several small plates and salads. So if you're in the Baltimore area with some cash to spend, I'd definitely recommend giving it a shot.

Anywayz... they also have posted a Spiced Pear Flatbreads with Goat Cheese and Mustard Cream recipe that sounds awesome, and is likely to blogged here in the near future.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jurrasic Farm

I can't decide if this is creepy, cool, or both:
Located on a 45-acre estate in Newport, SVF is the only organization in the country dedicated to conserving rare heritage livestock breeds by freezing their semen and embryos, a technique called cryopreservation. Chip, now SVF’s unofficial mascot, was the proof that the foundation had mastered the process. In early 2004, as a six-day-old embryo, he was flushed from his mother’s womb and spent the next several months frozen. Thawed and transplanted into a surrogate Nubian doe, a common breed, he was born on May 7, 2004, a perfectly normal fainting goat.

Fainting goats apparently do what the name says... that is, faint when they see a predator. Seems like there should be some obvious flaws in that survival tactic*, but whatever. So preserving bizarre goat species seems like a pretty laudable goal, right?
Chip will never end up on a kebab skewer, but a glance at his stocky wrestler’s build shows that he carries plenty of meat. His squat stature means that, unlike other goat breeds, he can’t leap tall fences, making him suited to small, diversified family farms near urban areas where goat meat is popular.

“These animals lend themselves well to the locavore movement,” Mr. Borden said. “They don’t need a lot of attention. They do well on small pastures, and require no grain.”

Ah, right. They're preserving his breed because he might be tasty... and profitable. Also? Farm APOCALYPSE:
For all their efficiency and high output, modern livestock breeds have become a weak, inbred bunch, Dr. Saperstein said. Fifty years ago there were a half-dozen popular dairy breeds in this country. But today, according to Lindsey Worden of Holstein Association USA, an organization representing farmers and breeders, the country’s 8.6 million Holstein cows make up 93 percent of America’s dairy herd. Fewer than 20 champion bulls are responsible for half the genes in today’s Holsteins.
“Heritage breeds have not been continuously ‘improved’ by humans,” Mr. Borden said. “They have been shaped by natural survival-of-the-fittest forces and can get along without human intervention. Typically, rare varieties exhibit good birthing and mothering abilities. They can thrive on native grasses and other natural forage, and many know how to avoid predators.”

So everyone got that? In our post-apocalyptic future, head to Newport and, in between looting mansions, get some goat embryos! Though seriously, they make some good points... it can't be a good thing to have your food supply concentrated in so few breeds with so little genetic diversity.

It's a little unsettling to be saving species because we might want to eat them later, but I guess that's not far from how traditionally humans and livestock have intertwined. As weird as it is, the surest path to preservation probably is to become part of our diet.

*according to the caption on the photo above, it's a genetic disorder, not a survival technique.

photo of fainting goats by flickr user wallyg used under a Creative Commons license

The Imaginary Cat (and Friends)

The cat pictured above (Bo) is 13 years old. Most visitors to my mother's house over that span have never seen him. They all probably thought we were making him up, but while pretending to have a second cat for 13 years would be a pretty good joke, he does in fact exist.

What can I say? He really likes closets. Strangers not so much.

And, not to play favorites, here are the other two animals of ma mère:

Up top we've got Princess (aptly named btw) and down low we've got Roxxy (a.k.a. Crazy Dog).

So there. Pet pictures (even if they're not exactly mine). I wonder if I've crossed some sort of Rubicon of blogging?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Liquid Earth

Besides a trip to Woodberry Kitchen, Anna and I also headed down to Fells Point to check out Liquid Earth while we were in Baltimore. It's a pretty fine little sandwich shop, with more vegan/vegetarian options for said sandwiches than I've ever seen in one place... granted, it's entirely veggie, so you'd hope they'd have some decent options, but I'd thought I'd point out that they go far above and beyond your standard hummus sandwich. Not that there's anything wrong with hummus, but it seems like it would get boring after a while.

Please pardon the crappy cell phone pics, but I'm not a big enough goober to carry around my digital SLR everywhere I go. Yet.

Above is The Picnic: "a halved baguette with true honey mustard, melted brie, walnuts, thinly sliced bermuda red onions, pears and granny smith apples" which I ordered, while Anna tried the Meatless Muffaletta: "roasted red, gold and green bell peppers with our olive relish, pepperoncinis, hots and melted smoked provolone stuffed into Italian bread."

Both sandwiches were excellent, and what impressed me the most was the quality of the bread. Obviously a pivotal element of any sandwich, but often shockingly average in many of the sandwich shops here in Boston (I'm looking at you Darwin's).

They do the juice/smoothie thing as well, and as always those juices are as pricey as they are delicious... $5 shake territory.... but in a pretty clever move they serve them to you in a Pyrex measuring cup, which makes it feel like a fairly generous serving.

The service was excellent, but then we were nearly alone in the place... don't know how it is when it's more crowded... but the sort of aloof arrogance that generally emanates from servers in trendy hip little places was pleasantly absent.

Highly recommended.

The Brazilian Hipster (Fort Knox Five)

Heard this on my Pandora feed last night on the way home from work and really dig it... I may need to own this album.

The Lies of the New York Times

I, in fact, have tried "The Best Vegetable You've Never Tried" (i.e. rutabaga)... on New Year's Eve at Woodberry Kitchen, where we had a fabulous (and fabulously expensive) dinner. Jaime received rutabaga in gratin form to accompany his venison (i.e. Bambi), and I had a bite. It was good, so yeah, try some rutabaga. Also, I think Anna and Lauren shared a dish with farro, so apparently Woodberry Kitchen is all up inside the Times bidness.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A couple of food photos with the new camera

Trying to hit the ground running in the new year, so I don't have a lot of spare time to post, but I thought I would put up some photos with the new camera. It was my big present for the holidays... I got nearly every family member who would give me a gift for Christmas to contribute money towards it (thanks everybody!)... and it's a Canon Digital Rebel XSi. I've never used an SLR, so I'm still on auto settings at this point, but already it has made a huge difference in my photos... obviously the camera doesn't make the photographer, but as much as I like my Powershot, it's pretty clear I wasn't going to get much better without upgrading.

So here's a potato heavy breakfast (I was tasked with using up some potatoes that were going bad) I had over the break:

The thing that jumps out at me the most as a difference from my point and shoot (please ignore the fact that I'm still pointing and shooting with a more expensive camera) is the ability to focus narrowly. It makes closeups far more interesting for reasons I don't entirely understand... but whatever, I like it.

Unfortunately, a lot of what I like about these photos is the lighting, which is more a part of the gigantic floor to ceiling windows in my mother's house than anything about the camera... but still. I'm trying to figure out how to take long exposure shots that don't suck, but I think that's going to require a tripod and a remote.

I have to say, kindling an interest in photography that I never knew I had is probably one of the weirder side effects of blogging.