Monday, June 30, 2008

It made me so happy to be out and about though the sky was sadly hazy

I haven't been to a farmer's market in nearly a year. It was a sad realization, especially at the close of June. To make up for lost time, or rather, to catch up on what I've been missing, I hit up two markets this weekend. As I walked to the market, I spied people departing with their finds. Peaches! Sunflowers! Strawberries! With each passerby I'd make a silent declaration, as if I'd failed to note such beautiful produce before. The joy of rediscovery. And of market samples. And of cherries and eggplants and peppers. Now, how to prioritize these summer treats among my week's grazing...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Chocolate - Round 1

It's been nearly a month of studying with chocolate. Time for my first round of reviews.

Veritas True Flats - Cacao Nibs (54% cacao)

I've never been fully won over by cocoa nibs, but this bar might be an exception. It's a visually beautiful bar with cocoa nibs liberally sprinkled on top of a snappy flat of dark chocolate. The bitterness of the nibs goes well with the chocolate and I enjoyed the darkly nutty combination. I still don't love cocoa nibs on their own, and have yet to meet a baked good where cocoa nibs enhance the pastry, but this is a bar I would consider buying.

Vosges - Mo's Bacon Bar (41% cacao)

Hello, bacon! We tasted this bar in a group setting and the group was sharply divided over this bar. I adored it, others abhorred it. We all agreed it's an unusual bar. It's probably not surprising that I like this bar since I've long been a fan of bacon and maple syrup, another sweet bacon combination. What I love about this bar is the addition of salt to the milk chocolate itself. With each bite a little sweet and a little savory hit the palate. The bacon flavor is ever-present and distinctly meaty. As I sit here writing I find myself wanting another taste.

Dragoba Organic Chocolate - Lavender Blueberry (59% cacao)

I did not expect to like to this bar. Despite being a bar of the dark chocolate variety, the name conjured up something that sounded too sweet to me. Lavender I've always thought better suited to soaps than dessert, so it was with decidedly low expectations that I sampled this bar. I was very pleasantly surprised. The lavender does not dominate the bar as I had feared, and the blueberries are surprisingly nice - not cloying, and they add a little texture to the bar. It's a happy moment when I find myself so wrong in my assumptions. I'm not sure I'd buy this again, but it's certainly a pleasant bar.

Ghirardelli - Intense Dark Espresso Escape (60% cacao)

It was a very sleepy Saturday morning and I was in class for the day. I'd packed this bar thinking it would make good afternoon snack. And then I decided it might be appropriate as a morning snack because my coffee had done nothing for me, and the bar did say, "with finely ground espresso beans." Somewhere around 11 a.m. I had my first square, daring, willing hoping that the bar would do something to my sleepy brain and trick me into thinking I was alert. That didn't happen. Apparently I need more caffeine than this bar supplies, but on the plus side, the act trying to eat discreetly in class was enough to get my brain out of its stupor.

Vintage Plantations - 2006 Harvest, Dark with Roasted Salted Peanuts (75% cacao)

I really hated my first taste of this bar. It's very dark, but on my second square, I realized that while the chocolate was very dark, it really isn't bitter. It also doesn't resemble what my taste buds expect when they think "chocolate" because it has so little sugar in it. I like peanuts, I like chocolate, and I'm trying to keep an open mind about this bar, but I have to say that I don't particularly care for it. Maybe 2006 wasn't a great year? Maybe my palate just isn't up for this challenge.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Squash Rhapsody

Summer squash ribbons
Pine nuts, basil, Parmesan
Tender, dressed and crisp.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Sweet Treats from Portland

Because I haven't anything else to show for my trip besides my memories of delicious savory treats.

Here's how it usually went. Very hungry, I arrive at an eating establishment and order delicious items from menu. Delicious items arrive and I'm so famished (or in such a dimly lit place that photography is out of the question without blinding nearby patrons) that I just start eating. After about three bites I remember I might want to share a photo of deliciousness with friends. I weigh the merits of a half eaten duck leg or nearly polished-off saddle of rabbit against the oddity of post photos containing bite marks. Do I really want people to think I'm writing a vampire blog? Nah.

Contrary to what you might think, that's strawberry sauce on the plate, and not, uh, vampire food.

The cassata at Papa Haydn's satisfied my intense cake craving that plagued me for an entire day of my Portland visit. Kahlua - yay! Espresso - yay! Sponge cake soaked in both - triple yay! With a chocolate-ricotta filling and strawberry sauce, it made for a pretty nice slice. Did I mention I requested the dessert menu with my dinner menu? The waiter laughed, then listed his menu favorites.

Finally, there's Cupcake Jones. Though I've yet to find a cupcake on the West Coast that matches the splendor or the ones I've sampled in New York (and yes, I know there are many who find the NY cupcake scene overrated, but I've found the West Coast scene so pathetic that I don't even try cupcakes here anymore), I had to try Cupcake Jones because of the novelty they sell - filled cupcakes. The menu changes every month, and every day at that. After indulging in a few samples and checking out the case where one could see a cross section of the day's varieties, I settled upon the peanut butter cup, which featured a chocolate cupcake with a chocolate ganache center, and peanut butter frosting. While sweet, it was a familiar and delicious combination. I even enjoyed the frosting. In fact, it may have been my favorite part.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Meet my new platinum level sponsor. Expect chocolate reviews.

Up close & delicious view:

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Bites from the Pearl Bakery

The delectable Pearl Bakery in Portland, OR is were I spent several mornings dreaming up my day's activities and plotting another visit to Powell's Books. Besides coffee, there were lovely pastries. My two favorites, featured here. While the rhubarb tart was lovely, it was the cinnamon crown that I loved best. Part croissant, part cinnamon bread, all goodness.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

All of the Above

That would be the right answer.

All of these peanut butter sandwich incidents happened within the span of a month. Blaming a sandwich for tardiness may seem excessive, but it's true.

Why I Was Late For My Exam

Because I had to finish my peanut butter sandwich. There was a multitude of time separating me from exam time. Knowing that writing exams makes me beyond hungry, I like to make sure I've eaten properly before I arrive for such events. Why I insisted upon eating before I left the house rather than en route I cannot explain, but after struggling to finish the sandwich, I bolted to the car and promptly got stuck in traffic. Watching the clock with growing dread, I finally arrived and literally ran to my exam just in time to hear the proctor announce "you may begin."

And yes, I was famished by the time I finished writing the exam.

Why I Almost Missed My Train

Because I had to make a peanut butter sandwich. Having learned from my previous mistake of eating before leaving the house, I've since resorted to bringing the sandwich with me to my destination. Unfortunately, wrestling with bread and peanut butter in the morning can be a bit trying. While natural peanut butter and non floppy bread make sandwich assembly much easier, a poorly planned morning does not. Which is how I found myself running to the train platform hoping that the gate wouldn't come down before I had crossed the tracks.

What Is A Gold Level Sponsor?

A summer of studying means a summer of sponsorship, and certain snacks have made the list. PB, while magnificent, has not yet attained platinum level status, but it might. At the moment, a jar of creamy organic and crunchy (not organic) sit in the pantry at the ready for my peanut butter sandwich needs. Happily, I have found that making a sandwich the night before compromises neither sandwich quality nor my ability to get to my destination on time.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Quiz Time!

Pick the best answer.

Peanut Butter Sandwiches:
a. have made me almost miss the train
b. have made me late for a final exam
c. have achieved gold level sponsorship status
d. all of the above
e. none of the above