July 2004

Ebert, Sliders and Sex

This part of Ebert’s review of “Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle” made me laugh and since it’s food related, thought I’d share:

“”Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,” on the other hand, is about two very specific roommates who want to smoke pot, meet chicks and eat sliders in the middle of the night. Because this column is read in Turkey, Botswana, Japan and California, I should explain that “sliders” are what fans of the White Castle chain call their hamburgers, which are small and cheap and slide right down. We buy ’em by the bag.

Is a slider worth the trouble leaving home and journeying through two states? If you’re stoned and have the munchies, as Harold and Kumar are, and if you’re in the grip of a White Castle obsession, the answer is clearly yes. The only hamburger worth that much trouble when you’re clean and sober is at Steak ‘n Shake. Californians believe the burgers at In ‘n Out are better, but that is because they do not appreciate the secret of Steak ‘n Shake, expressed in its profound credo, “In Sight, It Must Be Right.” (Many people believe the names of In ‘n Out and Steak ‘n Shake perfectly describe the contrast in bedroom techniques between the coast and the heartland.)”

All About Albany

My impressions of Albany are entirely negative. This may have nothing to do with Albany and everything to do with the bar exam. Here’s a list of impressions and you be the judge.

1) Walking out of the Albany airport, I followed the signs for “Taxis” and found a line of people. When this happens in NY or even Atlanta, there lines of taxis waiting to grab the next sucker…I mean customer. Here, there were no taxis. There was just a man who asked people where they were going and stood awkwardly waiting for cabs to show up. I stood there for a long time.

2) Eventually, a cab came and this Swedish girl who also lives in Texas shared it with me. She was slightly abrasive and when we got to the hotel there was a huge cluster of people outside. “Wow, look at all the law people here already,” I said. “They’re not law people, they’re black,” she said matter-of-factly. I stared at her, mouth agape. “Sorry, I’m European—we’re not PC.” I jumped out of the cab, still moving.

3) When the driver caught up he said: “16 dollars.” “Each?” I asked. “Yes,” he said. The ride was like 10 minutes. That was slightly ridiculous. But I’ll grant Albany this—it’s the same thing in every city.

4) The hotel was decent. I went down to the local Starbucks to study some. The funny thing about that Starbucks is that the people working there looked like they’d never seen customers before. I got the impression that Albany comes to life twice a year–July and February–when the law people come to take the bar exam. When they leave, all goes quiet. At least that’s the impression I had. And my drink came out ok.

5) The first morning, (the day before the bar: Monday), I went to Bruegger’s Bagels for breakfast. I’d never been to a Bruegger’s bagels. I figured since I was in New York the bagels would be better. Sadly, no. These were about as bad as bagels could be. Well, they were edible. People were friendly.

6) For lunch that Monday, my friend Andrew and I went to a local deli. They had corned beef there and I figured since I was in New York the corned beef would be better. It wasn’t…it was dry and awful. It made me sick.

7) Albany, it seems, does not represent New York in any way, particularly its food. Unless I missed something.

8) Monday night–the night before the bar–Andrew and I went to an Italian restaurant across the street from the Pepsi arena, where I took my test. We ordered spaghetti and meatballs and salad. The bill came to $22 each. No, the meatballs were not made of gold. Albany meatballs are pricey. And not very good.

9) The day of the test I went back to Brueggers. Then I went to Subway to get a sandwich to go for lunch. All sandwiches had to go in a bar-approved plastic bag so they could see what you were bringing in. For example, an Answer Sandwich is strictly prohibited.

10) The bar itself was very hard. And the Pepsi arena was crazy cold. Literally, I lost three toes to frostbite. The girl across the aisle from me was wearing HORSE BLINDERS. People are crazy about not being distracted during the bar. There were many ear plugs. And did I mention the horse blinders?

11) That night, feeling much relieved (beacuse the first day was the ultra-hard essay day as opposed to the ultra-hard multiple choice day where you can at least guess), Andrew and I sprung for a fancy dinner at a fancy restaurant. Well, I didn’t realize it was a fancy restaurant until we got there. We had asked the front desk for restaurant recommendations and they scratched their heads and gave us faces that suggested this was the first time they had ever been asked for restaurant recommendations. “Ummm,” they said, “there’s ***.” “Ok,” we said. We walked there and the menu was ultra pricey and strangely varied. Foie gras, ravioli, lobster, steak, lamb, all kinds of fish. Where were they getting their ingredients from? And the place was nearly empty, something was up. I bravely ordered the duck. Bravely, I say, because my mom always warns me not to get duck in a strange place because she once got violently ill from it. But I like duck. I’m brave. And it was—ummm–decent tasting. Actually, it tasted like it sat in a freezer for months and then they burnt it beyond recognition so as to hide its aged flaws, but the sauce–orange sauce–covered it fairly. Luckily, I didn’t die.

12) A happy point, however, from that meal. The salad was great. It was called Jerusalem Salad and it had tomatoes and cucumbers, olive oil, lemon, olives and goat cheese. I really loved the goat cheese. This was a new revelation and I spent a strange part of the next day (taking the multistate) craving goat cheese. So, to reward myself, I bought a goat. Her name is Terri and she’s a true companion. She bleats hello to you all.

13) After the bar was completely over (Wednesday) night, I crawled back to my room and passed out watching the Democratic National Convention. John Edwards gave a great speech and I recalled meeting him last summer because his California headquarters were in the firm I worked at. I remember he came through shaking hands and afterwards I was like “Who was that?” and everyone said “John Edwards” and I said “Oh.” Now I feel the fool.

14) Leaving yesterday, I heard the hotel had a free shuttle to the airport. I sat outside waiting for the shuttle to arrive. A cab pulled up. “Where you going?” he said. “The airport,” I answered. “Ok, get in,” he said. “How much? I inquired. “Twenty bucks.” “No way!” I said, “I can wait and go for free.” Another cab pulled up and overheard that and the driver said: “Yo, I’ll take you for fourteen.” That sounded better and this shuttle was taking its sweet time. “Ok,” I said, and got in. “Hey!” said the first driver. “OK ok, I’ll do $14.” “Sorry,” I said. I hate when cabbies fight over me.

Now that I am back I feel like the guy in the Green Mile who sucks all the evil out of everyone and then spits out that giant explosion of black flies; except I still have the evil in me and I’m waiting for the flies to come out. I thought the feeling of release would be worth the 2.5 months of misery but the release hasn’t sunk in yet. And now I have to get packing because the movers come Monday! I arrive for my new life in the Big Apple one week from today. That gets me totally excited. Until then, your fly-fillled host bids you adieu.

Hell is Over.

The good news: I am back from Albany and the bar exam is over!

The bad news: I am exhausted beyond belief and can barely muster the energy to type this sent

Make War Cake, Not War [by Katy]

For the past three weeks, Katy & Josh have blogsat. This is the end of the run.

Oh, how I have suffered for you people! I have just had a devil of a time deciding what to do for my third and final post on historic American desserts. Having done a pie (vinegar), and a fruit dessert (blackberry grunt), I wanted to do a cake for you before you return into the Amateur Gourmet’s loving hands.

Decisions, decisions!

For instance, there was the intriguing and holy option of SCRIPTURE CAKE. If, at any point in your life, you have been churched, and that church put out a fundraiser cookbook, you’ve probably seen this spice cake recipe before. It is an old, old recipe, going back probably to nineteenth century revival meetings.

The ingredients for Scripture Cake are traditionally listed as 3/4 cup Genesis 18:8, 1 teaspoon Exodus 3:23, 3 cups sifted Leviticus 24:5 … the idea being that you should look up the specific verses to see what food they mention.

That’s right! It’s good for your belly, and good for your soul! Sometimes the whole thing is drizzled with a Burnt Jeremiah Syrup, or dotted with an Lamentations reduction, candied Zechariah, and essence of grated Habakkuk.

But okay. Scripture Cake sounds good, but it is SO MUCH work. I’d have to, like, find my bible and a pen and paper. Forget it. Next!

Another option was ELECTION CAKE, an interesting American dessert dating back to 1771. (Which is weird because that’s before elections, but that’s neither here nor there.) Election cake dates back to before there was such a thing as baking powder, so it was a yeast-leavened cake baked in a loaf pan, with molasses, spice, raisins, and brandy. It was a New England tradition to bake these cakes on election days, and supposedly it was served in the 1830s in Connecticut only to those who voted a straight ticket.

I don’t just know this, by the way. I learned this all from reading this interesting cake history. (Did you know birthday cakes date back to ancient Greece and Rome? Of course you didn’t.)

But you know what? This isn’t an election day. Nope. There IS an election coming up here, which all of you Americans should remember to vote in, but it’s not until November. Hadn’t I better wait until then? I think so.

That’s when I decided the very best option was WAR CAKE.

That’s right, WAR CAKE. War cake comes from this country during World War II, when clever women figured out ways to make cake during wartime ingredient shortages.

Here are some of those clever women, figuring stuff out:


For one thing, I just like the slogan: make war cake, not war. That’s good, right? They should put that on a bumper sticker. For history-dorky foodie anti-war types. Which might end up just being, well, me.

My war cake recipe came from World War II. But there seems to be no end to war cake recipes from various wars. It seems that no matter what is going on in the world, there’s always someone MacGyver-like enough to make cake.

Which begs the question: do you think MacGyver could make a cake? I don’t think so. I don’t ever REMEMBER him making cake. Gadgets, yes. Cakes, no.


There are 1917 War Cake recipes out there, too. (Meaning they’re from the FIRST World War, for those of you who were passing notes during history class.) I even found this 1994 Bosnian recipe for War Cake , — a no-bake cake made from bread and cocoa powder.

In 1943, the government put butter on the list of rationed ingredients along with cheese, eggs, white sugar – all of which, for reasons I don’t quite understand, were desperately needed in large quantities for the soldiers abroad. (Were they making quiche and shortbread?)

This rationing had all kinds of crazy, long-lasting effects on our national eating habits, including popularizing margarine for the first time, as well as giving Kraft macaroni and cheese a chance to shine, since these blue boxes offered a way to eat mac-and-cheese without butter, or, well, cheese.

This also led to the birth of my War Cake recipe, which has entirely no dairy in it. That’s right. You can make this for your vegan friends, as well as your friends from the 1940s.

Yum! It has undeniable spice.


Here’s the first step. If this cake were a world war, this step would be like the assasination of the Archduke Ferdinand. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, mix up a cup of brown sugar, 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/8 cup shortening, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground cloves.


Bring this mixture to a boil, and then let it simmer and get all syrupy for five minutes or so. Set it aside to cool. You want it warm, but not so that it burns your finger.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit, and grease and flour a 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch loaf pan.

I don’t recall where we got our loaf pan, but it’s pretty old. It might have been Elenor Roosevelt’s once. Who can say?


Mix up your dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl. (That would be 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon each baking soda and powder.) Add the cooled sugar mixture, and let your KitchenAid go at it to smooth out that batter:


Once that batter is smooth — and at this stage it really reminds me of batter for, like, pumpkin bread or something — add 2/3 cup chopped walnuts and stir them in well:


Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Strangely, I found that the batter did not nearly fill the pan up, resulting in a rather short loaf. But maybe that’s because people were shorter in the 1940s. You could use a smaller loaf pan.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. This is what the finished loaf looked like, cooling:


What does War Cake taste like?

It is chewy, quite sweet and dense, not overwhelmingly spicy, with the walnuts and raisins giving it some texture:


I liked it. I made a note of it as a future option for guests who don’t eat dairy. When Josh returned home from the front, I gave him a slice, too.

“That’s pretty good,” he said, “I mean, considering.”

Exactly. Considering the WAR and all, that’s not bad cake. Which is precisely what it was designed to be. No grandiose extravagance, but excellent under the given constraints.

Which is what I hope our interim rulership of this food blog has been for you dear people, too. Our beloved Amateur Gourmet will return to us tomorrow, and not a moment too soon.

He will no doubt have much to share with us about the bar exam. And perhaps he will make Bar Cake. Or perhaps just go to lots of bars.

As it is — to stretch this post’s thematic thread until it can stretch no further — I do hope that these three weeks of rationing have not sapped you of your desire to make cake. Your hero is returning! Let’s throw him a parade.

— katy

There’s No Fortune Like Cookie Fortune [by Josh]

[For three weeks, Josh & Katy blogsit]

Actually fortune cookies rarely hold fortunes anymore … unfortunately. When we broke open our cookies after a meal at Burrito Art (more “art” than “burrito” but quite tasty despite that) we found the following non-fortune fortunes:

Katy: “Be charitable, it will be appreciated.”

Josh: “Prosperity is our God given right.”

A better pairing I challenge you to find.


731 Days of Marriage [by Katy]

For two weeks, Josh & Katy blogsit.

Can you remember two years ago? If you are a full-grown adult, I certainly hope you can. Otherwise, you should really drink less. I’m serious. That’s ridiculous.

Two years ago tonight, I put on an expensive-ass white shantung silk dress and went dancing. I went to this GREAT party in wine country, with all my family and friends.

This is a picture from that party. See? Josh and I really know how to cut a rug.

In honor of the party that happened seven hundred and thirty-one days ago tonight, Josh and I went out to dinner tonight at one of our favorite Atlanta restaurants, the Horseradish Grill.

Josh and I fantasize about the day that we have a restaurant we consider “our” anniversary place. Josh’s Aunt Gail and Uncle Steve, who have been married — what, maybe 24 years or so? — have a particular French restaurant in downtown Mill Valley, California they go to in order to celebrate their anniversary. There they drink a ton of excellent wine, eat the most exquisite shellfish-stuffed quenelles, and take a cab home. We find that an appealing notion.

As it is, you all have no doubt gleaned that we’re a pretty budget-minded duo. Tonight, however, we splurged a bit on the Horseradish Grill, a lovely restaurant in a converted barn in Buckhead that serves up upscale southern-style cuisine. The mindset there is that southern food should be what it originally was: always seasonal and always multicultural.

This is the building. The location is a bit unreal. Although Buckhead is a very developed, business district of Atlanta, the Horseradish Grill is across from Chastain Park, and seems like the genteel country:


They started us off with a basket of fresh and warm biscuits, delightfully flaky and moist, served with a side of what tasted like homemade peach preserves:


Josh loves peaches. He also loves biscuits. Here is my handsome husband post-biscuitus, with a satisfied yet dreamy smile:


The North Carolina-style pulled pork on cornmeal pancakes has a great reputation at Horserarish Grill, but we don’t eat the mammal, of course. And we skipped starters anyway, budget-minded romantic couple that we are.

A tip for the budget-minded and amorously-inclined: if you want romance, skip the salad and steamed mussels, and invest in the BOTTLE OF WINE. I think this applies as well to single folks as it does to married. It is actually good advice for the Amateur Gourmet himself. NOTE TO ADAM: if you put as much attention into ordering wine as you do into ordering crab cakes, you’d get more action.

Considering our options, we went with a bottle of a predictable Northern Californian Chardonnay. We ordered the Kenwood Yulupa 2002 — which they didn’t have. Then we went with the Cambria 2002 — which they didn’t have. Both of these are fairly popular labels that we know pretty well. But when they eventually produced an actual bottle of Chardonnay, I was so delighted to suck down a glass I didn’t take careful enough notice of its name.

Suffice it to say it was a typically American oaky, buttery Chardonnay with a little bit of a cut-grass flavor. I’m not one of these pooh-pooh-on-oak snobs, so it was fine by me. Indeed, I drank it enthusiastically.

Here’s me, happy about my oh-so-oaky glass of Chardonnay:


Our entrées came quickly. How great is it when your food comes quickly? I mean, I don’t mean to be too unclassy about the dining experience and all — but don’t you secretly get really excited to see your food come out fast?

Josh got the cornbread-crusted Georgia mountain trout, with whipped potatoes, garlic green beans, citrus butter, diced green tomatoes, capers and dill:


I got something truly scrumptious — the pan-seared sea scallops, surrounding a bed of creamy red pepper grits, topped with the most mouth-watering caramelized onions and bell peppers. My goodness, this was tasty:


Now by now you might know that Josh is a first-class pie man, and I’m a solid cookie girl.

Nevertheless, our siren of a server tempted us with the Horseradish Grill’s specialty non-pie, non-cookie dessert, the Kentucky Oatmeal Spice Cake, with their in-house churned caramel ice cream:


The top of the spice cake had a hard caramel “brulée” on it, as Josh put it, that made this a pretty pleasant thing to sink a fork into, what with the melting caramel ice cream soaking into it.

Next, we ate this:


No, boys and girls, I’m just kidding! That’s our wedding cake. It was a delicious chocolate mousse layered chocolate cake inside, but that was 731 days ago, not tonight.

All in all, I would recommend the Horseradish Grill for visitors to Atlanta who don’t know if they can handle hole-in-the-wall-style southern cooking. Who like to drink Chardonnay with their barbeque, so to speak. You know who you are.

I’d also recommend it to anyone celebrating that day that they dressed up in excessively expensive outfits with their partner and made a spectacle of themselves for unabashedly cheesy photos.


Me, I like to drink Chardonnay with my unabashedly cheesy photos. Cheers, everybody!

— katy

Beginning Bagelogy [by Katy]

For two weeks, Josh & Katy blogsit.

I have a confession to make: I’m not Jewish. When I was thirteen, I wanted to be Jewish. I read lots of books, scored lots of bar/bat mitzvah invitations, and watched Woody Allen movies, but it didn’t work. I’m still not Jewish. I’m still just Catholic.

Moreover, I’m also not from New York. I’m from Missouri and Georgia.

But despite this background working against me, I am a woman with a firm commitment to bagelogy. I think it is safe to say that in the spirit of this blog, I am an AMATEUR BAGELOLOGIST.

My love for bagels started young. I was a bagelogical baby. Back when I was sans teeth, I used to gum the enormous bagels my parents bought me from the old man in Soulard’s market in St. Louis. I’d sit in my stroller and work on one of those, my dad recalls fondly, until it was entirely slimy all over, and eventually even liquid. Then my parents would put it in a bottle, and let me suck it down. Yum.

See? Here I am in my pink leisure suit. CLEARLY I’m scheming about ways to get bagels, little devil that I am:

Now before we EVEN get started on this, kids, let me say this: there is no question that the best bagels I’ve ever eaten have come from Manhattan. That’s that. No question. Would anyone question that? No. No one would. Best bagels = New York.

And yet, while living in San Francisco, I took it upon myself to learn how to make my own. Dare I admit it? I hoped — nay, DREAMED — that I could come close to replicating H&H’s bagels, or some of the other greats. Mock me if you will, but I would not be deterred.

Tonight I channeled that original excitement, and decided to make my bagel recipe for Josh, who is always appreciative of freshly baked carbohydrates in general, and my bagels in particular.

And more importantly, I thought it might be interesting for you all. Might you make these bagels? I think you might. Here’s how.

First, mix together 3 cups warm water with a package of yeast, and 2 tablespoons sugar. You’re just doing that dissolve-the-yeast step familiar to anyone who does much baking:


After that’s dissolved for five minutes or so, stir in 4 teaspoons malt syrup, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2 cups unbleached bread flour, and 4 teaspoons salt:


If you all are like me, at this point you might be saying: WAIT. What is this malt syrup crap?

In San Francisco, I went to, like, four different stores looking for it, including some fancy-pants gourmet cooking shop in Laurel Heights. I never found it. Instead, I found this:


Brown rice syrup? Is that even close to the same thing as malt syrup?

Here’s the truth, folks: I have no idea. I do know that I’ve used the brown rice syrup now every time I’ve made bagels, and they’ve turned out pretty well. It may be superstition, but now I insist that I need this particular kind of syrup. Who knows?

This is where your KitchenAid comes in handy. Add about 7-8 more cups of unbleached bread flour, making a nice stiff dough.

This is not stiff. This is sticky. See how it forms ominous stalagmites off the bread hook?


Once your dough is sincerely stiff, knead it for ten minutes (or let your bread hook do the hard work for you) and let it rise, but only for 15-20 minutes or so.

Next, divide your dough into 12-16 sections and form each section into a bagel shape. You can roll them into 10-inch strips and roll the ends together, which is what my original recipe suggested. Or you can do it the easy way, like me — make round balls which you then puncture with your thumb like this:


Make them a little smaller than you would expect, because boy howdy, can they puff up sometimes!

Once you’ve formed your bagels, let them sit and rise for another 15-20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. Also, get out a large pot and fill that sucker with six quarts water, one teaspoon salt, and three tablespoons malt (um, brown rice) syrup. Get the pot boiling on your stovetop.

Now this is where it gets fun! Bagels are bagels because they are BOILED before they are baked. Boiling the bagel gives it that shiny skin, the one that your teeth tear into before they reach the delicious chewy inside.

Reduce your boiling water to a simmer, and plop two raw bagels in the water. Simmer those bagels for 45 seconds, and then flip over for another 45 seconds.


With a slotted spatula, place the boiled bagels on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and sprinkled with cornmeal.

You can add toppings, if you want. I didn’t mention this before, but you can also gussy up the dough with fancy flavors, if you choose.

Some will argue chocolate chips, brown sugar, cranberries, orange zest or blueberries are bagelogical sacrilege, a HORRIBLE departure from authentic eastern European bagels, which date back to early 17th century Poland. But back in those days, bagels were a food given to pregnant Polish women — and now you don’t have to be Polish or pregnant to eat them. Plus, I will say those flavored bagels are always the first to go when you present a group with a plate of bagels.

Still, tonight I stuck with a classic topping: poppy seeds. You might add an egg white glaze to plain bagels, were you so inclined. I’m told a sugar water glaze is even more authentic:


Place your cookie sheets in the hot oven, reduce the heat to 425 degrees, and bake 17-25 minutes. You will find they puff up pleasantly in the oven.

And they smell delish when they come out:


Do my bagels match New York bagels? Not exactly. They could be chewier, which is something I’m working on. (Any suggestions?) Maybe the malt syrup IS the secret. Maybe my recipe leaves out some critical step. Or maybe it’s true what they say, that there is something in the water in New York that gives the bagels there their special quality.

But my bagels ARE delicious. Certainly better than most chain bagel shops’ bagels, if I do say so myself. I mean, they taste phenomenal when sliced up hot from the oven, spread with a little cream cheese or butter:


And they are SO much easier to eat now that I have teeth. It’s amazing how we take our teeth for granted.


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