It may be the case that I am still in reverse culture shock, because for the life of me, I cannot remember when all of our menus included so many items with bacon. Salads, chicken sandwiches, burgers, and now, thanks to Burger King, sundaes. What? Ice cream with bacon? That’s right, Burger King has introduced a bacon sundae. And I have to finally exclaim, “That’s just WRONG!!!”
I expressed recently how a popular L.A. restaurant served a burger that included bacon which was strictly served with “no modifications.” When it was delivered, I promptly removed the bacon. I’ve also seen some bacon comments pop up on Twitter. Is bacon worthy of a tweet? This video was shared on Twitter too. Do you think bacon solves all problems? It just seems everyone is in love with bacon and that all food should be garnished or served with bacon. Does bacon really make the world taste better?
Every once in a while, I do enjoy a couple of slices of bacon with eggs, or a BLT sandwich, but a sundae? A dessert with meat flavor? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me. Seriously, I’m so over this insane enthusiasm for bacon. I’m going to have to say, “Hold the bacon.”
Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season and merry celebrations. As I was going through some of my boxes a few weekends ago (I still have not unpacked them all!), I came across some old cookbooks and Food & Wine Magazines I’ve saved for their stellar recipes. As many of you know, I love to bake during the holidays and serve as the family head chef for the big dinners. One of my absolute favorite recipes is from a December 1992 F&W Magazine article on holiday parties. So here’s my small gift to you this year, the ultimate, the delicious, the amazing:
Makes 80 bite-sized brownies
2 pounds milk chocolate chips or chopped milk chocolate
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1. Preheat over to 375°. Lightly grease four 8-inch square foil cake pans.
2. Place the chocolate and coffee in a double boiler over simmering water. Stir occasionally until the chocolate melts.
3. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter until fluffy. Gradually beat in the sugar, scraping down the sides as necessary. Beat in the eggs, two at a time, beating until the mixture is pale yellow, about 3 minutes. Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon and salt, then carefully beat in the the melted chocolate and coffee mixture until combined. Beat in the flour; you may have to finish this by hand.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35 minutes, until puffed, cracked and slightly resistant to the touch. Let cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate overnight. To serve, cut each cold brownie square in 20 pieces.
Seriously – these are the BEST brownies I have ever had! I hope you enjoy making them and more so, eating them! They go great with coffee! ;p And if you really want to kick it up a notch, you can top each brownie with a dollop of chocolate frosting and a chocolate-covered espresso bean. Divine! Happy Holidays everyone!
All I will say is this – I missed eating really good and delicious, authentic Mexican food! My mouth waters every time I look at this picture! Yummy!!!
If you lived overseas, what restaurant or food would you miss the most?
The moment we arrived at the restaurant, I realized it had been quite a long time since I had taken a cooking class. It’s been at least the two years since I’ve lived in Vietnam, and so I do believe the last class I took was in Chiang Mai, Thailand in 2008…the start of my fabulous travel adventures that year.
Every great cooking class should start with a visit to the local market. I absolutely LOVE markets. They are so fascinating to me. You learn so much about a culture just by watching what happens at the market. You learn what foods are grown in the region and what is imported, what are native species of fish, how food is prepared, what types of flavors or spices go into the food and you learn a lot about hygiene.
What I love to watch is how the people interact. Do they have nice polite conversations? Negotiations on price? A bit of loud commentary on the quality and freshness of the product? At one market in Thailand ages ago, I saw a woman yell at the man who was gutting her fish. I’m pretty sure she thought he was cutting back too much of the meat. In Laos, people were kind, polite and efficient in their shopping.
One little tidbit I enjoyed is that all of the butchers in Laos are women. Our instructor, Joy said that is because the woman were always the butchers…the men hunted and gave the catch to their wife, so they have the most skill at chopping up the animal. Joy says women are quick and precise, and that they make excellent butchers. Makes perfect sense. Why, then, in the US are most butchers men?
Once we left the market, it was off to the countryside, and a lovely, simple space which was perfect for a cooking class. Surrounded by lush gardens, lotus ponds, large fish pools and waterfalls, we set-up our stations and got started. Asian dishes, including Lao food are refreshingly simple…it’s really a matter of having the right and freshest ingredients and the proper tools to achieve the desired dish. In Thailand, we used all organic foods, too and cooked everything in a wok. In Lao, the herbs and spices are similar (chili!!!) but it’s all cooked over a small fire. Even the rice is cooked in a basket in a pot over the charcoal. Somehow, the rudimentary style of preparing food makes it all the more exciting to prepare and cook!
Aside from the chicken-stuffed lemongrass you see pictured here, we also made a sticky rice dip, a soup, fish in banana leaf and coconut rice. The group in our class were all super people, and we marveled at how all of us were using the same ingredients, but each of our dishes came out so totally different. My sticky rice dip, which is like a Lao style salsa, turned out much more Mexican flavored because of my obsession with coriander. Pete didn’t use much if any chili, and so his roasted eggplant dominated the taste in his dip. Our friend Sith, who was participating in his first cooking class, had the most authentic taste – not surprisingly!
My favorite dish we prepared was the stuffed lemongrass. It was fun to make, would certainly impress if served at a dinner party and tasted absolutely divine! Remind me not to let 2 years go by without taking a cooking class. It’s a passion I’ve not tapped into in far too long. I loved the class and remembered why I so favor the flavors of this region of the world!
The Sofitel Metropole, the oldest and most prestigious hotel in Hanoi not only serves high tea, but a chocolate buffet!!! Pete introduced me last month, and I just went yesterday with Mette and her mom & friends. It’s actually my third time in a month!!! I usually eat some bit of chocolate everyday anyway…but my goodness! I feel so divine and decadent at a chocolate buffet!!!
I’ve taken a few photos in my last two visits and give you a little taste here!
I love Lao food and the BBQ is no exception. Much in the style of the Korean BBQ, you get a bucket of hot coals, a bowl with boil and grill space, lots of fresh veggies, meats and condiments, chopsticks and chunks of lard to coat the pan. The Beer Lao is a great companion and all this food for all these people, plus a few rounds of Beer Lao costs only $80. That’s for 12 people total! Bargain!
What do you get when you put two friends together who love the Metropole, who are starvin’ Marvins and have pretty much skipped the lunch hour altogether? You get Pete and Shanna at the Metropole for high tea! I’m not a super fancy person, but there is a certain joy which comes with stepping into a historic property such as the Metropole. Add what is to be a formal service like high tea, and I feel like a little girl dressed in her Sunday best (except that it was Saturday and I was in my jeans).
Both Pete and I were quite starved. Neither of us had a big breakfast and it was nearly 3:00p.m. I thought about getting a salad or a sandwich, but the high tea service comes with a chocolate buffet. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a chocolate addict and pretty much eat some form of chocolate every day. It’s a must. I truly believe that if chocolate were to disappear, I could not go on living. I would have to just give up and go to heaven (which would smell like the Ishiya cookie factory I once visited in Sapporo, Japan).
Our tea came with a three-tiered plate of goodness. Tea sandwiches, fruit and some sweets are nicely presented for two. However, with a fruit and chocolate buffet available to those who enjoy the high tea, Pete and I were both of the opinion that the biggest plate should have been tea sandwiches, not sweets. Note to Metropole – switch this because it looks cheap on your part to give us just 3 little tea sandwiches each when we are paying $25 per person for the service.
Since I had just bought my iPhone, we spent much of our time playing with my new gadget as well as Pete’s iPad. And as is the case with us, forgetting all about where we were, we resorted to taking a few silly photos of each other. Do you like the ganache photo? ;p
Actually, we overdosed on the chocolate treats, making sure to try every piece on offer. I haven’t had a sugar rush like that since Halloween 1983! My goodness! If we weren’t silly before we sat down, we were bouncing off the walls by the end of our 2 hour tea time! If you happen to be in Hanoi, than you must treat yourself to this service. It is special and it will no doubt make your eyes pop out when you see all that chocolate! Yum!