Short and Sweet

Friday, July 31, 2009

Cheese art is always a matter of taste

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2009 at 10:40 AM

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In the right hands, cheese can go from a humble cube to an astronaut sculpture made of cheddar. Popped Culture argues that those hands belong to sculptor Sarah Kaufmann, who has provided the centerpiece for everything from tailgates to a likeness of Miss Rodeo New Mexico.

Kaufmann is naturally from Wisconsin, where she has turned a commercial art degree and a marketing business into a promotional cheese-carving career.

Her structures are semi-permanent, provided they can be stored at the proper temperature. But a recent Kaufmann exhibit to commemorate the first moon landing met the same fate as fondue: Visitors to the Neil Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wakoponeta, Ohio, "were audibly and visibly disappointed" when they encountered the base -- all that remained after the air conditioning unit shut off automatically overnight.

In addition to cooling concerns, Kaufmann also has competition from fellow carver Troy Landwehr, who seems to relish building oversized sculptures including a 700-pound Mt. Rushmore and a 1,200-pound Statue of Liberty. Why can't guys just stick to a sensible, table-top centerpiece?

If this is the first time you've heard of anything besides butter sculptures, you're missing out on a whole world of food-based art. There are artists who work in biscuits, potato chips, melons and chocolate. Should you need something more permanent, there are always wire sculptures made to look like cheese. 

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Wheel...of...Lunch

Posted By on Fri, Jul 24, 2009 at 11:15 AM



Trying to get a large group of people to decide where to have lunch is like trying to win at the Lobster claw crane game -- a Big Choice machine filled with live lobsters: You take a long time trying to figure out how to go about it but you're likely disappointed in the end.

Well, it's time to add a bit of chance to your lunch hour and please your co-workers. Introducing the Wheel of Lunch -- the best food-based wheel since the Wheel of Fish. You just enter your zip code and then virtually spin the wheel. The site combines Yahoo! review with geographic data to offer up recommendations.

The first three spins w/ the Pitch's zipcode, 64108, advised us to head to Lidia's Restaurant, Manny's of Kansas City, and Taqueria Mexico. Since it was best two-out-of-three, looks like it's Mexican today. 

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Monday, June 22, 2009

Danica Pollard's strawberry recipes

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Glasswear such as tumblers or martini glasses also make good holders for this dish
  • Glasswear such as tumblers or martini glasses also make good holders for this dish

Danica Pollard is the pastry chef at Lidia's. She recently returned from New York, where she won over some of the biggest names in the food industry at the James Beard Awards.

Fat City asked her for a recipe that combines her love of baking with an ingredient close to her heart. Pollard delivered with strawberries, saying she absolutely loves them. "The color, taste and especially the smell

remind me that it is warm and lovely outside. Every spring I wait for

them, and the ideas of what I might like to make with them begin

rolling around inside of my head."

She has kindly shared two recipes in one. A strawberry mint panna cotta topped with strawberry-prosecco gelee. (Though you can make either one independent of the other.) Pollard describes this dish as "light, cool and perfectly suited to eating with friends

outside after a nice meal."

Strawberry Mint Panna Cotta


1 ¼ c. cream
1/3 c. whole milk
½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise, with seeds scraped and reserved
¼ oz. fresh spearmint
½ c. sugar
4 sheets of gelatin
1 ¼ c. fresh strawberry puree, strained

-- Heat the cream and milk in a small saucepan.
-- When bubbles start appearing around the edges of the pan, turn off the heat and add the vanilla bean and seeds and spearmint.
-- Let steep for 15 minutes.
-- Place sheets of gelatin in a bowl of cold water until they are very soft and flexible.
-- Lift from the bowl and squeeze out excess water.
-- Add the gelatin and sugar into the saucepan and reheat until the gelatin has dissolved.
-- Strain mixture through a sieve, and whisk in strawberry puree.
-- Divide mixture evenly among 6 champagne flutes, and carefully place in refrigerator.
-- When panna cotta has begun to set, about 2 hours, proceed with the gelee recipe.


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Friday, February 13, 2009

Hey, Ben & Jerry's: Bring back Economic Crunch

Posted By on Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 11:30 AM

Ben & Jerry's has become known for the names of its ice cream as much as for the ice cream itself. And to celebrate our dearly departed president, it decided to let the public name George W. Bush's ice cream.

Not really. What is true is that after Ben & Jerry's released "Yes Pecan" for Obama, every blogger worth his or her pixels tried to outdo one another by picking an ice cream for W. Somebody had the good sense to round up the names on a list.

Here, in no particular order, are my numbers two through nine favorites:

  • Grape Depression
  • Heck of a Job, Brownie!
  • Mission Pecanplished
  • Death by Chocolate ... and Torture
  • Nougalar Proliferation
  • George Bush Doesn't Care About Dark Chocolate
  • WireTapioca
  • Iraqi Road
  • Cluster Fudge

And my number one choice is:

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Now Open: Cupcake A La Mode

Posted By on Wed, Feb 11, 2009 at 10:00 AM

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Lisa Clark is a mother of three children, including a nine-month-old. That's enough work for anyone, but Clark is also the owner/baker/main employee of Cupcake a la Mode at 1209 West 47th Street, five blocks west of the Country Club Plaza.

I asked Clark when she sleeps, and she just laughed. She soft-opened Cupcake a la Mode 20 days ago with her husband, Daniel, but the grand opening is this Saturday. In preparation, she was trying to have an espresso machine set up while taking care of her already growing customer base.

While this is Clark's first foray into a physical storefront, she spent four years operating a word-of-mouth cake business called Over the Rainbow. "I made all these different flavors, but the cupcakes that kept selling were chocolate and vanilla, so I thought, why not open up a store and feature just chocolate and vanilla?"

That translates to 16 varieties of cupcakes, eight with chocolate as a base and eight with vanilla. There's Hawaiian Honeymoon, a vanilla cupcake that Clark ices with pineapple buttercream before finishing it off with macadamia nuts and white chocolate. On the chocolate side is the After Dinner Mint, which features a white-chocolate-peppermint buttercream icing and grated semisweet chocolate. She also plans two flavors of the month, such as this month's champagne cupcake for Valentine's Day.

So far, the most difficult thing hasn't been juggling her home and work life but just trying to figure out how many cupcakes to make. "Every day is different. I'll have a couple dozen left over one day and sell out the next. Last Saturday, I baked 13 dozen expecting to give leftovers to neighbors, and by the end of the day we only had a couple left." Meanwhile, she's seen "lots of foot traffic and lots of dog walkers."

A single cupcake is $3, and a dozen is $33 (there's also a children's size for $2.25). Cupcake a la Mode is opening Tuesdays through Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., Fridays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (closed Sunday and Monday). Its phone number is 816-960-1900 and here's its Web site.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ga-ga over Goo Goos

Posted By on Thu, Feb 5, 2009 at 3:18 PM

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When the James Beard Foundation hosts a Valentine's Tea at the James Beard House in New York City this Sunday, the dessert offerings will include "Goo Goo Pies" created by pastry chef Jennifer Giblin (from the Blue Smoke restaurant -- a barbecue joint in Manhattan). This confection, inspired by the famous candy clusters, will be tartlets "layered with caramel, salted peanuts, cream cheese mousse, chocolate pudding and marshmallow kisses."


It sounds delicious! I'm a longtime fan of Goo Goo Clusters -- a candy that's been around since 1912; it was invented by a 19-year-old entrepreneur named Howell Campell in Nashville, Tennessee. One theory about how the candy got its name is that it was sold as a concession treat at the Grand Ol' Opry (GOO).

During the Great Depression, the slogan for Goo Goo Clusters was "a nourishing lunch for a nickel."

In this Depression, I'd love to find a nourishing lunch for a nickel. I'd go goo-goo over it.

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Christopher Elbow celebrates Valentine's Day

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 12:30 PM

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Last week, Fat City reported that Food & Wine Magazine had named Elbow Chocolates' No. 6 Dark Rocks the best chocolate in

the whole wide great big United States.

Christopher Elbow seemed honored, but his eyes didn't really light up until we started talking about the limited-edition Valentine's Day boxes that he created specially with his wife Jennifer.

Elbow said he started working on the box in October and that each of the 17 flavors took a week -- or weeks -- to perfect. "They're not really an aphrodisiac, but I tried to choose romantic flavors. There's passion fruit champagne, red wine... we just finished them and put them on the counter."

When Elbow makes a chocolate it's not a normal process.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Tiramisu-to-go

Posted By on Mon, Feb 2, 2009 at 7:50 AM

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For the last few years I've been saying that tiramisu -- the Italian confection of spongecake or ladyfingers dipped in coffee and marsala wine and layered with sweetened triple-cream mascarpone cheese and grated chocolate or cocoa -- has become so ubiquitious in the United States that I expected McDonald's to be serving it any day now.

That hasn't happened yet, but Archer Farms, the food-and-beverage house brand for the Minneapolis-based Target stores, has a packaged Italian-style versionon sale in the freezer cases of most area Target and Super Target stores.

The 12-ounce portion of the Archer Farms tiramisu is big enough to feed three hungry people and six people with more modest appetites. It takes a long time to defrost in the refrigerator, but it is easier to slice in a semi-frozen state. The box explains how, for an intimate dinner party, a tasteful host or hostess can cut the frozen confection "into small cubes and divide between four wine glasses. Let stand on counter for 20 to 30 minutes."

There's no wine or liqueur in this tiramisu, of course, and I wouldn't call the ladyfingers light and fluffy (or resembling anything like the photograph on the box), but the recipe is quite close to the traditional recipe -- which I've made many times and it's extremely easy to prepare from scratch. The biggest difference, of course, is that the Archer Farms dessert uses corn syrup, the low-cost staple of most processed foods, candy and soda pop in America.

It's tasty enough, but if I need a quick fix of a really first-rate tiramisu to pick up on the go, I prefer the generous individual portions sold at Avelutto's Italian Delight restaurant and grocery in Mission. It's not frozen, but tasteful hosts can still put it in wine glasses for a festive dinner party. I know because I did!

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Bitter News in the Sweets World

Posted By on Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 2:52 PM

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My parents were both children of the Depression and could remember lots of businesses closing in those troubled times. But not, my late father once told me, the places vital for American life: movie theaters and saloons, of course, and drug stores, grocery stores and bakeries. In those days, people still bought their bread from bakeries -- and their cakes, doughnuts and cookies too.

It's a different world now and no matter how fabulous a unique, family-owned bakery can be, it's hard to survive in this tough economy. Case in point: Last fall, I wrote a Fat City post  about the closing of Artisan Francais bakery in Overland Park. I mean, I knew it was closed, even though the phone message was still optimistic, announcing that the owners, Sebastiene and Briana Saint-Ouen, were on vacation. Three months later, the glass bakery cases still sit empty, the cappuccino machine is unplugged and the doors are locked, with this depressing sign: "Closed Until Further Notice."

On the other side of the metro, another sensational bake shop -- two, in fact -- served their last pastries after 11 years. The two Pastry Goddess shops -- in the Northland's Briarcliff Village and the original venue in Independence -- were shuttered in mid-December. The owners, Kathy and Doug Huddleston, left a brief farewell on the Pastry Goddess Web site

Not only is the economy making things hard, but the competition is getting more intense. Just across the street from Artisan Francais is the very big Whole Foods Market, which has several well-stocked pastry cases. I tasted a first-rate bear claw and a flaky croissant from the bakery department one day. Maybe not as fine as the ones made by chef Sebastiene Saint-Ouen, but pretty darn good. One of the employees explained that the cakes and pastries aren't exactly made on premises: the croissants, for example, are brought in frozen and baked off in the store and the pretty iced cakes (including the surprisingly delicious non-dairy vegan apple layer cake) are "assembled" by store employees.

It's all too bittersweet. 

-- By Charles Ferruzza

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Drink versus dessert; which one is actually worse?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 10:30 AM

Holidays ain't the greatest time to be dieting. Still, a lot of people are hoping not to gain that five or 10 pounds over the holidays, and that involves some concessions.

Instead of giving up entire meals, most people will try to cut back on one thing or two. The foods with the most calories are alcohol and sweets. Preferably, hardcore dieters would give up them both, but you don't want to be a total calorie Grinch. So you're at the Christmas table and the wine starts flowing. Do you pass and wait for dessert or say yes to the wine and exit before dessert?

After the jump, a special Pitch-made chart and a BBC game to help you figure out the answer.

Continue reading »

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