Browse Category: Foods

Foods I love, recipes I like, recipes I want to try….

Musings: my favorite coffee cups

I’ve always had a great appreciation for china, stemware, things of that sort. I value both the functionality and beauty that they bring to my meal and drink. I had this one favorite latte/macchiato glass that I would use to make beautiful coffee drinks in the mornings. One day, I heard the unmistakable sound of broken glass. I came into the kitchen to find my coffee glass shattered and an expression of guilt and horror on my husband’s face. I reassured him that it was alright, that I would get a new one sometime soon.

My beautiful glass before it broke, holding something delicious.

Months went by and some mornings, I really missed my glass. ‘It’s just coffee,’ you may say, but as someone who tries to celebrate each meal and drink, it’s not just caffeinated black water for me. It’s good coffee that deserves to be served in a beautiful vessel. One day recently, I decided that I would replace my glass and get a few extras, so I went onto the Nespresso website to buy some and was sorely disappointed–no more of their signature latte glasses. And none on ebay or Amazon either.

Fortunately, I’ve acquired many beautiful cups over the last few years and they bring a smile to my face every morning as I admire the artistry that went into their design. A couple of them are pictured below:

Espresso cups by Konitz
Bloomies espresso cup by Villeroy & Boch
A colorful New Wave cup and saucer by Villeroy
Cups by Konitz-- a wonderful gift from dear friends
Evening coffee
My favorite regular mug
The cup I drink from when I'd rather be on a farm in France.

As is obvious, I have a thing for coffee cups and teacups. I have many different kinds, and love collecting them; I consider them little pieces of art. There’s one particular set of cups and china that I’m happiest to have acquired, mostly through different auctions: a vintage collection of the Acapulco china by Villeroy & Boch, designed in 1967 (pictured below). The Acapulco line’s pieces are covered in groovy vibrant bird and flower artwork, inspired by Mexican art. Villeroy re-introduced this lovely look a few years ago in a more modern form–they applied the Acapulco pattern to their popular New Wave china for a masterful blend of sleek and artful. But I like the old collection better. It’s incredibly charming and I feel that the colors pop more. I often drink my coffee out of these pieces. I love that the old run of Acapulco yielded lots of oversized/in-between sized cups, which means I have cups that are perfect for espressos, but also ones that are perfect for lungos, cappuccinos and whatever else I make. Since I like to add whipped cream to all my coffee drinks (because coffee rocks a little harder with whipped cream), I like to use these bigger cups to run one or two shots, and there’s still plenty of room left for the whip without it overflowing. Some of my pieces are from the ’60s, some are from the ’70s. I ended up loving the cups so much that I’ve bought several different pieces here and there through auction– trays, teacups and saucers, plates, trivets, coffeepots, teapot, egg holders, teabag holders, ashtrays (I don’t smoke, but these ended up being bundled in with other pieces I liked, so I’m glad to have them anyhow) and I’ve amassed a great collection.

Some Acapulco cups

For our anniversary, my husband presented me with a big, heavy, beautifully-wrapped box. Inside was a set of beautiful latte glasses. These particular coffee glasses (pictured below) are tall ones by Villeroy, with removable stainless steel handles in the curved New Wave shape. The glass is a classic, pretty window to the drink; the steel gives a funky modern finish. So, I pine no more for long-lost coffee cups as I’ve been given this lovely set of replacements. I’m happy.

Villeroy New Wave Latte Macchiato glass
Something yummy on my balcony

Wine: from small to medium

Good wine ruins the purse; bad wine ruins the stomach.” – An old Spanish saying

Hello lovely readers 🙂

I read an article a while back in Food & Wine magazine. The author described her first foray into expensive wines, explaining that drinking an expensive, truly great wine helps properly mold your palate. Having a well formed palate for wine, in turn, aids you in recognizing good wines at all price points.

My husband and I love wine, and drink it often. We usually buy bottles anywhere from $6.99 (the price of the smile-inducing Opala Vinho Verde at Whole Foods when it’s on sale) to $35 (a yummy ’05 Pierre Amadieu Gigondas Grande Reserve). But I was curious to expand the horizon a bit. I wanted to know: when I’m paying more for wine, what exactly am I paying for?

We decided to scale up from small to medium. My choice? A 2006 Les Forts de Latour as a birthday gift for my husband. Yes, I’m aware that ’05 was a better vintage for Bordeaux, but research seemed to point to ’06 as a decent wine for drinking now as opposed to holding (which many wine lovers are doing with their oh-fives), so ’06 it was.

Les Forts is a second wine from First Growth French wine estate Chateau Latour–essentially, their second-tier wine that doesn’t quite satisfy the criteria for the estate’s Grand Vin. Not that such a classification implies second-rate wine. Chateau Latour states that Les Forts is produced:

a) with the grapes from the ” young vines ” of the “Grand Enclos”, which are less than 12 years old.

b) from the grapes grown on three plots situated outside the “Grand Enclos”,

c) in addition, and depending on the quality of the vintage, certain vats of Grand Vin may not, after numerous tastings, be up to the standards required.

They may then be demoted to ” Les Forts de Latour “

Fair enough– and at $125 for the bottle (the price at a South Florida Total Wine), it costs several hundred dollars less than its big brother, the Grand Vin. We cooked a good meal at home to pair with it–or my husband cooked a good meal, while I took a hot bath. A dry aged ribeye and mushroom caps off the grill; tomato basil salad; many, many, many sauteed cloves of garlic.

Thanks, love.

Wine poured. My husband took his first few sips and shared his first impressions with me. His descriptions were peppered with colorful language that I wouldn’t post in my blog, so suffice it to say that he quite liked it. Overall thoughts? It’s a good wine. In all honesty, that’s all anyone wants to know, isn’t it? My detailed impression is that it was ultra smooth, very blackberry and floral, more balanced than overly tannic, and of medium body. But hey, that’s just my two cents. Was it great? Yes, but there are cheaper bottles that are comparable, like the unarguably delicious Almaviva from Chile that runs anywhere from $75-$95 depending on the vintage.

Final verdict? Apparently I have either to go big or go home. It was a delicious wine, but it wasn’t earth-shatteringly different from a much less expensive good wine. Maybe spending more money on a bottle of wine is just a stronger assurance that you’re weeding out bad or weak competition, i.e. “If I spend $150 on a bottle of wine, I’m guaranteed that it will be a good albeit safe wine.” Perhaps sparks fire louder and brighter around the $500 price point? Cheers, happy drinking, and please have a designated driver!

The coolest yogurt ever

First of all… hi. Long hiatus, I won’t even bother explaining, but please know that the blogging world was in my heart 🙂

I went to Whole Foods recently and had a meltdown in the dairy section because they were out of the yogurt that I usually buy (whole milk plain yogurt by Traders Point Creamery; greatest yogurt EVER). So I resigned myself to scouring the shelves for a temporary replacement. I decided to try Skyr, an Icelandic yogurt that I had read about a few months back. I found a plain single serving 6-ounce container of plain skyr priced at $2.79 (ouch!) and was pleased to find that it had only 100 calories (yay!), 6 grams of carbs (double yay!!) and 17 grams of protein (triple yay!!!). Oh, and it’s fat free (I’m out of ‘yays’ by this point because I’m still reeling that this miracle food exists).

It’s a yogurt made with skim milk; the milk is incubated with live active cultures and rennet. The whey gets strained away and you’re left with something like soft cheese. Not to worry–historically, all that strained-out whey didn’t go to waste; it was used to pickle foods during the winter. You need to use a lot more milk to make skyr–at least 3 or 4 times more milk than it takes to make the regular liquidy yogurt that fills most supermarket shelves–which I guess explains both the higher price tag and the high protein content. Today, it’s made mostly with cows’ milk although it used to be made with both cow’s milk and sheep’s milk.

The following morning, I eagerly opened my container of skyr and turned it upside down over a bowl. Nothing came out. I grabbed a spoon and stuck it in to swirl it around a bit and was surprised to see how thick it was. The taste? Sour, like sour cream mixed with plain yogurt. Consistency? This is yogurt that you can chew. I drizzled my Haitian-smuggled honey and ground cinnamon over it (which is how I normally eat my plain yogurt). It took getting used to; it took me a lot longer to eat because it’s more like a soft cheese than regular yogurt.

Verdict: I love it and now regularly shell out for it. My trusty Traders Point is still the greatest ever, but this stuff has gotta be the coolest ever. I’ve also tried the blueberry and vanilla flavors. But you should be warned–none of the flavors take away that tangy mouth-puckering dairy taste, so don’t expect blueberry-infused skyr to taste like sugary fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. All flavorings are very subtle. I’m enjoying mixing in different ingredients–I like to add a spoon of vanilla extract to it. Sometimes I mix in some of the more liquidy plain yogurt. I might try it with jam and fruit sometime–Icelanders often eat it this way. Apparently Icelanders also stir in milk & sugar, or cream & sugar. I can’t imagine adding cream to such a creamy cheesy dairy product, but Icelanders have been making and eating this stuff for about ten centuries, so I readily assume they’ve come up with sound recipes for this product along the way.

I tried Siggi’s skyr, a New York-based skyr-making company started by a homesick Icelandic immigrant named Siggi Hilmarsson. I buy this particular brand at Whole Foods, but it sells in other specialty shops too. Siggi’s flavors include plain (yum), blueberry (yum), vanilla (yum), orange & ginger (would like to try), pomegranate & passion fruit (have no desire to try, as I hate passion fruit), acai (would like to try), and grapefruit (curious). Certain Whole Foods locations also carry another brand called, but it’s not at my location. Major kudos to the website for sharing lots of fun skyr recipes with the public! Happy eating!

To the food snobs out there…

Hello people!

We’re blessed to be living in an age that allows us such easy access to great food. We’ve come a long way since the 1950s (unarguably a horrid time in American dining history). Just consider this fun fact–during the decade of the 1960s, the word “sushi” appeared only 8 times in the New York Times. Today, 50 years later, you can probably name 8 different sushi restaurants in less than a minute.

These advancements in access  to new and different foods is great. Unfortunately, these advancements have turned way too many people into snobs who aggressively uphold ideas about food and drink that are offputting to others. It always bothers me on shows like Top Chef when diners dislike a dish for whatever reason, and chef contestants say things like, “Well, these are regular people, they don’t really know food.” Um, why? Because I didn’t go to culinary school? Does that make me incapable of having a properly developed palate?

I argue that these snobby people don’t always know better about food and drink, and that they uphold certain myths to make themselves appear superior.

Here are some food and drink attitudes that I’m tired of experiencing from people who think they know best:

1) You’re inferior because you like sugar in your coffee. Those of you who take sugar in your coffee know what I’m talking about: that condescending smirk from people who deem themselves “real” coffee drinkers–the look they give you when you sweeten your coffee. Folks, there’s no rule that says people can’t mix sugar with coffee– the practice started during the 1600s when a man named Jerzy Franciszek Kulczycki opened western Europe’s first coffeehouse in Vienna. He served the coffee plain during its early days, then started experimenting with adding sugar and milk to taste to create coffee drinks and well, the rest is history. Earlier than that, coffee drinkers in the Middle East often sweetened their coffee with cinnamon. If you like your coffee without sugar for whatever reason, that’s fine, but lose the “Sugar?? Oh Heavens no!” attitude–it’s obnoxious.

Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, and sweet as love.” – Turkish proverb

2) You’re inferior because you like your meat fully cooked. This will always be a battle of the wills between those eating and those preparing the food. Yes, I love sushi, sashimi and beef tartare. I eat beef carpaccio pretty often. When I cook salmon or tuna at home, I cook it rare. But I also acknowledge that it’s well documented that undercooked meats make people sick. I accept that while I may enjoy eating raw or rare meat, I may be exposing myself to various infections like salmonellosis, trichinosis, toxoplasmosis, listeriosis, and E. coli . Bottom line–whether avoiding illness is worth eating slightly dried-out meat is a matter of personal opinion, and someone shouldn’t be made to feel stupid, unsophisticated, or close-minded because he or she would rather eat their meat fully cooked.

3) You’re inferior because you like sweeter wines. Unfortunately, many wine snobs disdain sweet wines; this is shortsighted and simplistic. Even the snobbiest of snobs will admit that a glass of a Chateau d’Yquem Sauternes (a wine beloved across the board) is the ideal pairing with a decadent foie gras. I dare you to write off a delicious glass of Tokaji–described in Wine Spectator in 2004 as today’s most underappreciated truly great wine– as a glass of glorified grape juice. And don’t get me started on ports, ice wines and sherry. There are a lot of rich complex sweet wines out there; please resist that bias and try them!

4) You’re inferior because you ordered the chicken. “Why don’t you try the liver/veal/braised short rib/monkfish instead?” I know others may deride you for choosing that rock of ages at a fine restaurant, but stick to your guns, chicken-lovers! Ancient Egyptians and the Sultans of Delhi along with countless other great ones who came before you have eaten this bird with gusto. I maintain that it’s a challenge to find perfectly cooked poultry seasoned in a simple manner; delicious chicken that’s not tasty only because it’s smothered in sweet and sour sauce or drenched in syrupy teriyaki glaze like the kind found at mall food courts. Assuming you have access to well-raised free-roaming birds that will yield flavorful meat, chicken remains fully deserving of your love.

Photo Courtesy of hddod

Are there any food myths or mindsets out there that get on your nerves? Please share!

Experiments in ice cream

Hey all!

One evening last week, my husband phoned me from the store and asked me if I needed anything. I said ‘ice cream.’ He decided to surprise me.

After dinner, he brought me some frozen goodness, remaining secretive about the brand. I could tell that it was an extra dark chocolate, because it had a very dark color. I tried a spoonful and tasted an intense chocolate flavor. My first taste of it didn’t exactly lead me to ice cream–it reminded me of chocolate mousse. It had the flavor of an intense creamy homemade chocolate dessert that managed to have the consistency of ice cream. Very strong on the cocoa, slightly nutty. Completely different from any other chocolate ice cream I had ever had, but in a good way.

My husband grabbed the pint so I could see what it was, and it threw me for a loop. Goat’s milk ice cream, Deep Chocolate flavor. Not that it should seem so farfetched–we eat goat’s milk cheese, and it’s pretty delicious. It’s only logical that we should do other useful things with this milk.

Pros of goat’s milk? It does a body quite good. It’s a complete protein. It’s much easier to digest than cow’s milk; it’s not lactose-free, but it has a lot less lactose than its moo counterpart. It’s also lower in fat. I was quite pleased to find out that the serving of ice cream I was having had 160 calories and 6 grams of fat. The same amount of chocolate ice cream from Haagen-Dazs would have run me 270 calories and 18 grams of fat. The biggest pro in my book: it boasts a super short ingredient list. This is a biggie for me–I hate seeing loads of chemicals in my food (which is just one of the reasons I mainly cook at home). I look at these pints and their ingredient lists read something like: goat milk, evaporated cane juice, egg yolks, pure vanilla locust bean gum, guar gum, carrageenan.

Cons? This particular brand of goat’s milk ice cream, Laloo’s, was pricey: $6.99, a hefty price tag for just a pint. Although if I was unable to consume cow’s milk and I discovered something like this, I’m sure I would easily cough up the seven bucks to get my ice cream fix. Another con, it’s a bit hard to find. A 100-mile radius search on Laloo’s website let me know that I’d only be able to find this ice cream at Whole Foods. I also conducted a 100-mile radius search for other cities, and similarly the brand is almost exclusively available at organic specialty stores and markets.

Considering that Laloo’s is currently the only commercial goat’s milk ice cream out there, I give them kudos for featuring a wide array of flavors. Their line-up includes fun flavors like Vanilla Snowflake, Deep Chocolate, Strawberry Darling, Rumplemint, Capraccino (a coffee flavor that plays on the root word for goat “capra”) and Black Mission Fig. They also have a couple of different frozen yogurts as well as an ice cream sandwich. Unfortunately, my neighborhood Whole Foods only carried two flavors–another disappointment. I’d love to try the strawberry, but I only have the chocolate and vanilla available at my store.

I marched (as in got in my car and drove) to Whole Foods a week later and got the Vanilla Snowflake. While I do generally prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate, I assumed this would have a more pungent flavor than the chocolate because it wouldn’t have the benefit of a strong outside flavor to stand up to the goat milk flavor. I was quite wrong. I actually fell pretty hard for the vanilla. It had a very strong vanilla bean flavor–a big plus for me. It was intensely creamy and it smelled amazing–like sweetness, vanilla and cream.

Verdict: There’s no other like Chunky Monkey, but goat’s milk ice cream has earned a favorable spot in my freezer.