June 26, 2009

Be sure to read my CakeWalk column

For those of you somewhat new to my site, you might not be familiar with my weekly column over at Cupcakes Take The Cake. Every Friday I post a column about the cupcake industry, from baking tips to breaking news (and believe me, there is news in the cupcake world).

You can see all the columns so far by clicking here. I also post the links on a weekly basis in the sidebar of Puff and Choux.

Happy Reading!

June 9, 2009

Food journalism event at the New School in NYC on June 11th

Joe Zeimer over at Triple Point PR pointed me in the direction of an awesome food event taking place this week at the New School here in New York City. Check out the details below - I'll be there so be sure to say hello:

WHAT: Craig Claiborne and the Rise of Food Journalism

WHEN: Jun 11, 2009, 6:00PM to 7:30PM

WHERE: The New School, 55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, New York, NY USA

COST: $5

DETAILS: Called the nation’s preeminent food journalist, Mississippi-born Craig Claiborne trained in Switzerland as a chef on the GI bill after World War II. On his return to the United States, he began writing articles for Gourmet and became an editor at the magazine. His career skyrocketed when The New York Times hired him as its first food columnist in 1957. Claiborne's columns, reviews and cookbooks introduced Americans to a wide range of international and ethnic food. Other newspapers followed The New York Times’s lead, and soon a cadre of authoritative newspaper food writers helped attune millions of Americans to the finer points of good food and cooking. Our panel explores Claiborne's life, work, and his seminal influence on food journalism in America. With Molly O’Neill, former New York Times columnist, and author of the New York Cookbook; Betty Fussell, author of The Story of Corn and Raising Steaks: The Life and Times of American Beef; Anne Mendelson, author of Stand Facing the Stove and Milk: the Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, and a contributing editor to Gourmet; David Leite, publisher/editor-in-chief, Leite's Culinaria, and author of The New Portuguese Table; John T. Edge, Director, Southern Foodways Alliance, University of Mississippi, contributing editor, Gourmet, author of Southern Belly. The panel will be moderated by Andrew F. Smith, editor of the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, and Food Studies professor. Sponsored by the Food Studies Program at The New School.

BOX OFFICE INFORMATION: In person purchases can be made at The New School Box Office at 66 West 12th Street, main floor, Monday-Friday 1:00-7:00 p.m. The box office opens the first day of classes and closes after the last paid event of each semester. Reservations and inquiries can be made by emailing boxoffice@newschool.edu or calling 212.229.5488.

For events scheduled during the summer term, the box office will open one hour before each event. During this period only, reservations can be made using the above contact information.

June 8, 2009

Gastronomica's Marshmallow Fluff Extravaganza

Last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the Marshmallow Fluff forum at the Astor Center. The evening was part of an ongoing series organized by Gastronomica, the wonderful quarterly food journal.

The event itself brought focus to article in the Spring issue of Gastronomica by Katie Liesener which chronicled the evolution of this "food" product in New England and the rather torrid love affair it has experienced in America.

Here are some interesting facts about Marshmallow Fluff that I learned:

~ Marshmallow Fluff was invented in 1917.

~ To this day, Marshmallow Fluff is made in a small factory by the Durkee-Mower Company in Lynn, Massachusetts.

~ New England and upstate New York count for over half of all Marshmallow Fluff sales.

Although I'm not a New England native, I grew up eating the Kraft Foods version of Marshmallow Fluff. For my regular readers, you'll recognize it as the key ingredient in my grandmother's fudge recipe. We also used Fluff to make Rice Krispy treats. To be honest, I don't remember a period of my life when I didn't know what Fluff was. Perhaps my early adoption of the product meant I was destined to move East to the land of Fluff and coastal cities.

Over the course of the panel discussion, the Astor Center provided each attendee with a platter of Fluff delicacies, which included a Rice Krispy treat made with brown butter, a peanut butter and Fluff sandwich (Fluffernutter, for you not in the know), a peanut butter, Fluff, and bacon sandwich, and an unusual combination of a saltine topped with tuna, hot sauce, and of course, Marshmallow Fluff. Although the tuna concoction sounds a bit weird, you couldn't actually taste the Fluff through the overpowering tuna and hot sauce, so it really just tasted as expected. The peanut butter, Fluff and bacon sandwich was probably my favorite - you simply can't go wrong with sweet and savory. It's the world's best combination, in my opinion.

However, the real stand out of the evening was a cocktail designed especially for the event. A take on the classic Aviation, the Astor Center mixologist pre-mixed the maraschino liqueur with Marshmallow Fluff in a blender, and then proceeded with the classic recipe. As someone adventurous when it comes to taste (you should have seen me the first time I was offered haggis - I couldn't wait to try it!), I immediately ordered this special drink. And may I say, it might be my new favorite novelty cocktail. Although the drink itself looked like cloudy water, the taste was incredible, perfect for sipping while I enjoyed the fact that I live in a city that hosts entire evenings dedicated to Marshmallow Fluff.

If you're interested, here is the recipe and "how to" to create the Marshmallow Fluff cocktail at home:

Ingredients (Per each cocktail):
2 ounces gin
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons maraschino liqueur, preferably Luxardo, blended with Marshmallow Fluff
1/4 ounce Crème de Violette
Lemon twist, for garnish.

First, blend a healthy amount of maraschino liqueur with Marshmallow Fluff. The final product should be like a normal liquid - not sticky or gummy (Remember: you have to put this in a cocktail shaker at some point!). Combine the gin, lemon juice and maraschino/Fluff mixture in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake to chill well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Drizzle the Crème de Violette into the glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Yield: one cocktail.

Check out my latest CakeWalk column!

Check out my latest CakeWalk column over at Cupcakes Take The Cake - you can learn about all about the silver dragée debacle!

June 5, 2009

Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic...as well as cinnamon rolls.

For someone that loves food as much as I do, many find it shocking when I admit the following fact about myself: I love cafeteria food. Specifically, public school cafeteria food. From first through twelfth grade in Oklahoma City public schools and all the way to the end of my Freshman year of college at the University of Kansas, I was in heaven when it came to my daily lunches. Just the thought of lining up in those hallways alongside my peers in the cafeteria is enough to send me into a culinary frenzy.

Middle school and high school provided countless lunches filled with cheap egg rolls, cafeteria-grade pizza and the best spaghetti (no sauce, just mountains of parmesan cheese) a public school kid could ask for. The novelty food was also brought in – Pizza Hut was a mainstay, and I have a foggy memory of Burger King making an appearance at one point, but I could just be making that up. I indulged a few times in the Pizza Hut offering throughout my years at Kenneth Cooper Middle School, but high school welcomed the onslaught of drivers licenses, my first kiss, and more importantly, the discovery that the general cafeteria pizza was not only considerably cheaper than Pizza Hut, but was also ten times more delicious. I remember many an odd glance from fellow students as I eagerly awaited those generic slices of what looked like plastic cheese topped with soggy pepperonis. How can pepperonis look soggy? I don't know, but they tasted damn good. In retrospect, the food served in the Putnam City school district was probably on par with prison-grade quality, but for whatever reason, I have a soft spot.

College brought more scrumptious dietary dilemmas when I encountered dorm food. I wish I had kept track of how many minutes I spent debating the merits of beef stroganoff versus a waffle with strawberry sauce for lunch. I also had the luxury of checking out multiple cafeterias on campus. I lived in the all-girl dormitory whose cafeteria, on a scale of 1 to 10, was maybe a 6 on a good day. However, I was dating Mike, who lived in the co-ed Oliver Hall across campus (aside from the food, this dorm was more awesome for multiple reasons, mainly because not every single girl living there was in a sorority). Mike and I had one of those really sweet, simple relationships where we kept things simple – we were young and happily content just to kiss and lie in his bed between classes watching Kids in the Hall re-runs on Comedy Central. It was uncomplicated and perfect (i.e no sex). Some of my fondest memories from Freshman year revolve around sitting in Mike’s dorm room eating soft served vanilla ice cream from the machines in the cafeteria. I was in heaven – pre-paid dorm food was bountiful and I was in love for the first time (side note: I was a victim of the Freshman 15, but in my case, it was more like the Freshman 40 – I blame the endless soft-serve).

But although the University of Kansas was gracious in their dormitory ice cream service, it was Harvest Hills Elementary that really took the cake – well, in this case it wasn’t so much a cake as it was a cinnamon roll.

I’m not sure if these cinnamon rolls were sent to all the elementary schools in my district, but any student at Harvest Hills Elementary between 1987 and 1993 knows what I’m talking about when I say “cinnamon roll.” For some reason, they were always served on the same day as tacos. My only guess why this menu combination was made was because in someone’s eyes down at the Superintendent’s Office, a cinnamon bun was as close to a churro as this primarily all-white community was going to get. In the 1980s, Oklahomans might have enjoyed Tex-Mex, but a churro was just a bit too foreign for the liking. Since I didn’t learn about churros until I moved to New York as an adult, I didn’t feel slighted. And man oh man, those cinnamon rolls were enough to not make you care even if you were wise to the secret underground churro.

Always served in the upper right-hand quadrant of the plastic cafeteria trays with built in dividers, the cinnamon roll was always reserved for last. But it was difficult to not sneak a taste prior to finishing off your tacos. It should be mentioned that those tacos were pretty damn good too, but it’s like comparing the Batman film series – Val Kilmer and Christian Bale were excellent “tacos”, but nothing holds a candle to Michael Keaton, the “cinnamon roll”. The man was born to play Bruce Wayne (I realize that George Clooney started in a Batman film too, but any self-respecting Batman fan will agree that he was crap. George Clooney in Batman is the cafeteria equivalent to coleslaw, which is the only cafeteria offering I don’t like). The tacos might have starred in terrific movies, such as The Doors and American Pschyo, but Keaton will forever be the iconic cinnamon roll that disappeared as I wrapped up my time at Harvest Hills Elementary (which coincidentally was probably around the same time Keaton’s career went down the crapper. Jack Frost anyone?)

Back to the cinnamon rolls. It’s been almost 20 years since I last tasted one of these cinnamon rolls, but I can still remember how the sticky to gooey ratio was a perfect 50/50 blend. Also, it’s the only cinnamon roll I’ve seen that didn’t feature haphazardly dripped frosting on top. They were perfectly formed swirls too , looking almost like how a cartoonist depicts those that have been hypnotized. I think the hypnotic association is perfect because that’s essentially what happened to everyone who laid eyes on one of these bad boys. It was like they radiated happiness, but that feeling didn’t just start when you finally tasted the buttery, cinnamony goodness melting on your tongue. On Cinnamon Roll Day, every student at Harvest Hills Elementary was treated with the smell of baking cinnamon rolls wafting through the halls all morning. The fact I even learned how to read or basic mathematic skills is a testament to the quality teachers I had, because trust me – when I caught the scent of those cinnamon buns, the only thing I could think about was my stomach and it’s desire to stuff itself silly with the awaiting dessert.

To this day, I’ve never found a cinnamon roll that was of the same quality as those found in the cafeteria of Harvest Hills Elementary. I find most to be a cheap imitation of what I experienced from the time I was 6 years old until I was 11. I believe they eventually discontinued the cinnamon rolls from the cafeteria, which must have been in a sad day in the history of the Putnam City School District. I can’t understand why something so beloved and famous (and c’mon – we’re talking about a cinnamon roll that more parents were aware of than they were of their own child’s standardized test scores) would be sent out to pasture.

No wonder the Putnam City School District is a shadow of its former self…

June 1, 2009

My latest CakeWalk column - the recession chic cupcake

Be sure to hop on over to Cupcakes Take The Cake and check out my latest CakeWalk column. This week, I give some tips on how to make a chic (but cheap) dinner party cupcake.

Sorry for the lack of posts...

...but one of my best friends is visiting New York from San Francisco. And when it comes to sitting in front of a laptop or hanging out with good friends, the friends are going to win every time!

We're back to our regularly scheduled blogging now...
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