Wednesday, August 19, 2009
When you wait tables, you hear things. Bits. Pieces. Shards of conversation. Like finding a single, abandoned sock on the side of road: There is no context.
"The eighth graders are the worst. They'll just whip it out and start playing with it."
"It was break-up sex."
"Then he asked if he could smell me."
It is polite to avoid comments, to pretend you are deaf, to stick to the script. So you pick up plates, glasses, forks. You cannot help it. At this point, in this situation, you are looking for what you can take away, those things you can rinse off, pat dry and bring out at another time.
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Remember the bacon chocolate bar? There's something about that salty-sweet combination that can only be described as downright magical. (Think of those chocolate-covered pretzels. Or caramel and sea salt. All works of genius. All absolutely necessary during times of PMS.)
And now I present to you: The dark chocolate bacon cupcake with dark chocolate frosting and fleur de sel.
This is by far The Best Cupcake I Have Ever Made in My Whole Life. (And I truly hope it will be The Best Cupcake Jenn Has Ever Eaten in Her Whole Life because I made it with her birthday in mind.)
Why bacon? Because it is the cult classic of foods. It's the one meat that tempts even the strictest of vegetarians. And people are becoming more and more creative with it -- there are bacon lattes, maple bacon doughnuts, even fancy-pants restaurants have come up with creative bacon desserts.
So I thought: Why not me?
After doing some research online (in which I discovered a number of other interesting bacon items, such as BLT cupcakes from a bakery in Chicago), I stumbled across a recipe from A Good Appetite. Here it is for you, with a few changes and notes from my baking experience:
Dark Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes
8 slices good thick-cut bacon
1 c unsalted butter
1/2 c Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa
3/4 c water
2 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c well-shaken buttermilk
2 T vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 24 muffin tins.
Cut bacon into 3-inch pieces. Cook over medium-high heat in a skillet until bacon is brown and crisp. (You'll want to make sure the bacon is more on the well-done side because you don't want to bite into your cupcake later and find a fatty, oily piece of meaty bacon. The goal is crisp and salty, not chewy.) Remove bacon and transfer to a paper towel to drain. Pat any remaining oil off the bacon. Chop cooked bacon into small pieces, similar in size to what you'd use to sprinkle on a salad. Set aside.
Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt into the cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (it will be a little bit lumpy). Stir in bacon. (Note that the batter will be very, very dark, so it may be a little difficult to make sure everything is mixed in properly.)
Fill muffin tins to about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. It's a moist cake, so don't worry if a few crumbs stick to your tester.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
Dark Chocolate Frosting
1/2 c unsalted butter
2/3 c Hershey's Special Dark
3 c powdered sugar
1/3 c milk
1 t vanilla extract
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Sift in one cup of powdered sugar at a time and add the milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. (It's helpful to use an electric whisk and a spatula for the frosting -- keeps the mess to a minimum.)
Frost the cupcakes and sprinkle with a little fleur de sel right before serving.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Ran in 97-degree heat wearing "loaner" shoes. Nike did a promo at Fleet Feet and brought in a bunch of shoes runners could test out for tonight's group run. I'm a sucker for shoes and a sucker for freebies, so I borrowed a pair.
By mile two, my arches were screaming at me, sweat stung my eyes and I had lost my running buddy (apparently, she hadn't hydrated enough and had stopped sweating and was experiencing chills -- all major heat exhaustion warning signs).
Tonight's workout may have been a bust. But we tried, right? And every effort deserves a reward, or so I tell myself.
So after the running buddy rehydrated and I got rid of the loaner shoes (thank god), we went to Tex Wasabi's for beers and a big batch of Vegas fries: French fries covered in buffalo wing sauce and served with a side of bleu cheese dressing.
Now that's what I call recovery.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
I may have finally discovered the home of the best burrito in the Napa Valley: La Luna Market & Taqueria, a small Mexican grocery with a short menu of hot food, a whole bunch of piñatas hanging from the ceiling (yes, even a Miley Cyrus piñata) and two rickety picnic tables out front.
Met a friend for lunch there today. We both ordered super burritos sin carne. (I love how people are always shocked when I tell them to hold the meat -- they look at me like I'm crazy. But the truth is, I find it much easier to tell if a burrito is good or not when I can actually taste the beans, salsa and everything that's in it -- no meat to mask the flavors.) We also got a gigantic bag of tortilla chips (freshly fried -- they were dripping oil -- it was amazing), homemade salsa and some Arizona Green Tea. And this cost us about $19 total.
And man, was this a good burrito! The tortilla was perfect -- not rubbery, not cold, not dry. Good beans, really good salsa, good guac and good sour cream (not too thick, not too runny). Yo quiero mas ...
Sunday, August 09, 2009
Just as I finished reading the last sentence of a deliciously trashy YA novel, the doorbell rang.
And there on the doorstep, in the growing dark of a hot summer night, stood a man and a woman. The man carried two large coolers. The woman said: "Would you like to buy some tamales?"
And I thought, Yes, there is definitely a god.
Saturday, August 08, 2009
Thursday is my cross-training day, so after work I met Jessa in the Mission to check out the new BurnSF workout -- classes that blend Pilates, weights and a ridiculous amount of jumping (I believe the official term is "plyometrics"). I found myself barefoot and attached to some very large springs, sweating profusely to Madonna dance remixes and wondering when it would be time for dinner. (Blame this on the fact that halfway through the workout, the room was overcome by the scent of toast. Torture, anyone?)
Friday is a run day, so Jessa and I hung out again. (We are both training for marathons, although she is Ms. Boston Qualifier, while I am Ms. I-Hope-I-Don't-Get-Carried-Off-On-A-Stretcher.) This time, we tackled the trails at Helen Putnam. I would like to write a letter to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors and request they rename this park "Big Bitch of a Hill That Mocks Your Pain Park." The entire first part of this run was one gigantic hill (and it sneaks up on you -- from my photo above, it looks like a gradual incline that ends at the horizon, but no, once you round the corner, the ascent continues, steeply, for probably half a mile), followed by a quick downhill and then a flat section, and then the biggest Mother Bitch of a Hill Ever. (I couldn't even run all the way up this last hill. And my breathing was so hard you could've heard me in Novato.) And we did this loop twice.
Then I worked at the wine bar until 1 a.m. (and remember, I worked my day job yesterday as well). I was so exhausted that I could barely squat down to get the bubbly out of the cooler. And you would've been seriously concerned about worker's comp if you saw me climbing up the ladder to pull bottles off of the retail wall.
So now I am hobbling around the house. I am opening a packet of something called Biofreeze (why does this remind me of an Austin Powers movie?) and rolling up my pajama pants so I can tell my calves that I really do love them, despite the abuse.
And I am realizing there is a red wine stain on my leg that runs from knee to ankle.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
This evening's run: 5.17 miles around downtown Chickenland.
Every run begins with a body scan. Does anything hurt? How's that right arch doing? Are my shoulders tensing up? Was the pre-run pizza slice a bad choice? (I'm telling you, proper nutrition is one of my biggest hurdles. Also challenging: My hydration belt, which continually rides up and is the bane of my existence, yet I desperately need it or someone will be scraping me off the sidewalk.)
And after the body scan, Breathe. And begin to settle into a pattern, a rhythm.
Which, for me, means counting: The seconds between steps, the timer on the crosswalk, the minutes on my watch.
And cats. I cannot run without counting cats. This has become a ritual (or perhaps another manifestation of my slight OCD -- you decide).
Tonight there were five cats, most of them calicos. And I was thrilled to see my favorite, the one who suns herself on Keokuk Street. She makes me break the rules, momentarily stop the counting. I will pause my watch so I can scratch her belly. She reminds me of my own cat, my little girl who hides in the warm laundry.
Monday, August 03, 2009
Which I did not purchase.
Instead, souvenirs from this weekend's trip to Phoenix included a very dark tan, excess calories (due in large part to heavy intake of free breakfast croissants and spicy Bloody Marys), a newfound expertise in calling in noise complaints (our resort had been overtaken by the Beta Theta Pi 170th annual convention) and a sore right arm (Wii tennis injury).
Overall, good fun in 111-degree weather.