Thursday, November 13, 2008

Frenchy McFrenchy Pants

I went to Bistrot La Minette last night.

To put it simply, I wasn't expecting much (Oh... A-NOTHER French restaurant in my neighborhood), BUT I ended up being very pleasantly surprised and highly pleased with my experience.

I greatly enjoyed the ambiance, the warmth, the open kitchen, the wait staff and their classic French uniform, the maître d' who graciously took our coats upon arrival, and the size, feel, and depth of the menu.

In addition the food was delicious, endearingly authentic, and was eloquently served by a well trained staff.

AND, they did something that many other restaraunts do but far too many more do not. They plated the dishes we were sharing on two plates. This is such a simple but thoughtful thing that restaurants can do for a customer. Obviously you can't do that for every dish - our puff pastry for example would have been a hot mess -

... but our endive and Roquefort salad with walnut dressing just seemed so much better eaten out of my own personal bowl.

Also, they offer a white and a red French house wine out of a clay pitcher - Pichets de Vin (750 ml bottle) - for $18 freaking dollars. I mean, it isn't any kind of mind blowing wine but it is perfectly acceptable quality, the pitcher is appealingly rustic, and you can't beat $18 with a stick.

Good times, good times.

I was wondering what the name is all about. I mean there are quite a few definitions of the world Minette and I wondered which definition they intended... a woman's name? a small portrait photograph? a endearing term for kitten? a syenitic lamprophyre composed chiefly of orthoclase and biotite?

All seemed so equally fitting... (Ok, so all but the last one seem equally fitting). But alas, I perused their website and ... drum roll please...

La Minette [là mi-nè-t']
, French, 1. a pussycat; 2. often referring to the youngest girl in a French family

Good choice my friends. Good. Choice.

Bistrot La Minette - 623 S. 6th Street Philadelphia, PA 19176

You're a Freakazoid

I used to work on food photography shoots and, for a time, one of my clients was a pork producer*. I am telling you this because I'm trying to make the point that I have seen a lot of pork being photographed. For some perplexing reason I am always struck by how shitty photographs of pork look.

The pork always looks white and gross and completely unappetizing... even after styling and retouching.

Why? Why does pork look so unappealing on camera? It looks fine in real life. What is it about being captured on film that makes it look white and gross? I'm genuinely curious.

Beef looks tasty:

Chicken... Sure, Why not?:

But what's up with pork? Ick:

Is there a scientific explanation for it? Does the lens just not like pork's genetic composition? Does it have something to do with a chemical reaction that occurs during the cooking process? Is this the most trivial, worthless bullshit you've ever been asked? Am I the only person on earth that has ever pondered such matters of the mind?

Thank god we're not on a date. You would probably be "going to the restroom" right now to make the great escape. I guess I wouldn't blame you though since it only gets more bizarre once you really get to know me. In fact, if you didn't run I would be forced to lay the blame fully on you... I mean YOU are the one that chooses to entertain me. I mean, I am me... I can't get away from myself. You, on the other hand, have made a conscious decision. Freak.

*As a side note, that client referred to the slaughter of the pigs as "the harvest" which still gives me the heebie jeebies. Just saying.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Mellow on the Mallows Already

Marshmallows are popping up all over the place.

I'm not talking about your average, everyday, run of the mill marshmallows. Oh no. These are "vegan" marshmallows... they are "old fashioned", they are "hand made", they are "artisan flavored", they are just expensive enough to make you feel like you are getting "something special".

I'm going to call them... Designer Marshmallows.

I'm seeing them in magazines, on cooking shows, in natural food stores.

To be honest, I am insanely jealous that I don't have a marshmallow factory so that I can take advantage of what I have determined is the current "Designer Marshmallow Craze". I can see the dollar signs now. I could have made millions (Not to mention the fact that I would get to say "I have a marshmallow factory" which is pretty bad ass).

Having said that, there is just something queer about it all.

I mean, honestly, I have known since I was a kid... since I was crapping my own pants, that there is something about marshmallows that just ain't right. The consistency just doesn't seem like something that god intended... it's just not something that occurs in nature. Plus, they are just so... American, so "Fat Free", so... Kraft.

Even then I clearly understood that they could only come from one of two sources. They were either the poo of magical fairies OR they came from a beaker. It was one or the other I just wasn't sure which at the time.

Later on, as I approached adulthood, I unconsciously concluded that they must in fact be made in a beaker and I left it at that. Which of course is true, although it wasn't until very recently that I realized that real marshmallows are just gelatin, sugar, and corn syrup beaten in a mixer.

Crazy, I know.
Anyone can make marshmallows!

You don't need a laboratory and an arsenal of creepy ingredients (although your grocery store brands still do include ingredients like artificial colour, artificial flavour, dextrose, modified corn starch, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, etc.).

Nope, all you need to make them at home is just some good old fashioned sugar, water, gelatin, corn syrup... get ta' whippin' and... bada bing, bada boom you got yourself some Designer Marshmallows. If you're feeling ambitious you could even give them as gifts this holiday season.

Of course Martha's makes them. Here's her recipe if you want to try 'em on for size:
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners' sugar (for dusting)
Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer with whisk attachment. Let it stand 30 minutes.

Combine granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup of water in a small heavy saucepan; place over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to dissolve sugar crystals.

Clip on a candy thermometer; raise heat to high. Cook syrup without stirring until it reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage). Immediately remove pan from heat.

With mixer on low speed, slowly and carefully pour syrup into the softened gelatin. Increase speed to high; beat until mixture is very thick and white and has almost tripled in volume, about 15 minutes. Add vanilla; beat to incorporate.

Generously dust an 8 x 12-inch glass baking pan with confectioners' sugar. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan. Dust with confectioners' sugar; let stand overnight, uncovered, to dry out.

Oww Girl, put those bitches in some hot chocolate this winter for a real mind bender.

So, yes. The marshmallow's making a comeback. That's great. Really. I'm totally supportive and truly happy for the marshmallow.

If for nothing else roasting marshmallows is second only to a barrel of monkeys on the fun spectrometer. That alone proves it's worthy of a lifetime of praise.

Viva la marshmallow!

... although I still think it's kind of queer. Just saying.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Super Cuddly and Cute Image of the Week

No. You're right. I have never featured a super cuddly or cute image, let alone on a weekly basis, but by god, after seeing this lil' bugger I just might start. Look at those little feet! Almost makes me not want to eat 'eem.

As a side note:
Between the NASCAR-endorsed 'Pork and Beans' label, the weird felt backdrop, and the hairy little piglet, I feel like this photograph might have been taken by that kid in Deliverance who played the banjo.

Maybe it's just me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Cinnamon & Spice

Recently I went to Kanella.

While a number of magically delicious things happened to me there, there was also a string of tragically suspicious happenings... The jury is out.

On the 'Yay' side of the spectrum:

1. The Food - It was undeniably delicious. We ordered a bunch of small plates to share including the noteworthy Dips of the day with grilled Pita bread (Double yay for extreme, but not overpowering, use of garlic here. The dips vary by day. They were flavorful and filling and, for 7 bones, quite a bargain). The Beetroot with yogurt and scallions (simple cubed beets tossed in yogurt with red onions) was also superb. The food was light and fresh and healthy... just the way I like it.

2. The Coveted Cuisine - I'm told it's one of the only (if not the only) places in the city to get Cypriot cuisine (influences from Greece, Turkey, France and Italy). That in itself is a plus.

3. The Chef's Peepers - Konstantinos Pitsillides' blue eye/olive skin combo imparts a pleasing sense of the Med even when set against his cold-patriarchal-Mediterranean-man-attitude.

4. The Name - Kanella is Greek for cinnamon. For some reason I really like that.

5. The Ambiance - The cool blues and whites, the pillows and rustic wooden tables, impart a sense of vacationing in the isles.

On the 'Nay' side of the spectrum:

1. Bread - Our bread was burnt. There were two of us. We were served four pieces while our two neighbors were served 6 pieces (which were not burnt). Do I really want or need the extra two pieces? No. Do I feel cheated when I see that they got more bread then us? Yes.

(OK. Maybe I'm exaggerating with that image but you get the idea.)

2. Temperatures - Some things were served too cold. The tahini served with the bread, the dips, and the dessert (date and almond torte) were all just-out-of-the-refrigerator cold. It was weird. I'm not saying they should have been warm but the temperature imparted a - made earlier, stored in the refrigerator, just plopped on a plate - feeling... it was a major turn off.

3. Timing - ... is everything. Even though we were one of the few diners in the restaurant we were rushed at every step along the way. Word to the wise...
A. Don't ever put more plates on my table then can fit. Unless I force you to at gun point.
B. Don't ever ask me if I am done with a plate that I'm still eating off of... just don't.
C. Don't bring the dessert menu OR even bring up the word "dessert" until after the dinner dishes have been cleared.
D. Don't bring my check without asking if I still have half a bottle of wine left, and then tell me that your shift is ending soon... Cause I don't give a fuck. I'm still dining. Thanks. That shit might fly at Ruby Tuesday but when you start working at an establishment that surpasses the $20/plate mark you are in it to win it so sit back and relax.

So, the choice is your own. I'd say weigh your yays against your nays and try 'er out if you see fit.

Good luck and god speed.

Kanella - 1001 Spruce St Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 922-1773

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Eww... Candy Corn

Seriously. Eww. I mean, the mere thought of getting candy corn in or around my mouth gives me the heebie jeebies.


It's the kind of thing I imagine they feed torture victims so that they die a slow and painful nutrient-free death. The only redeeming quality (if you can call it that) is the "cute" and "festive" autumnal color palette.

Hold on, I got one for you. Let's say you switch out the orange food coloring for gray... BAM! You've got a lean-mean-torture-machine on your hands just like that.

What the hell is it anyway?

HowStuffWorks says:

It's considered a "mellow cream," a name for a type of candy made from corn syrup and sugar that has a marshmallow-like flavor. Although candy corn tastes rich, it's actually fat-free... the recipe for candy corn hasn't changed much since the late 1800s...

Uncle Jimmy says:

Really? I'm shocked (said in my extremely sarcastic voice since it tastes EXACTLY like the recipe hasn't changed since the 1800s).

Who the hell eats it anyway?

I don't know but
Wikipedia says:

The National Confectioners Association estimate 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold each year. October 30 is National Candy Corn Day.

Uncle Jimmy says:

There is a "National Candy Corn Day"?..... Really?

Oh, and 20 million pounds of candy corn in a year!?!?!? My guess is that a large chunk of that is going to the mid-section of our country (pun intended) where they make things like this:

and this:


Shockingly, if you'd like to learn more it looks like there is actually an entire piece written on the subject, History of candy corn. With new colors and flavors, a treat for all seasons by Natalie Saeger.