Monday, July 26, 2010

Photos of Phood: Cucumber Salad

This is, in fact, the best use I've found for my mandoline so far. It's vastly easier than trying to cut all those cucumbers into perfectly thin slices. We accidentally got a lot of very cheap if not free cucumbers from the Farm Market and well, had to do *something* with them...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Photos of Phood: Caramel Corn

So darn easy, and so tasty.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Photos of Phood: Enrobed in Chocolate

Ah, here is one of the ganache balls finished! In the foreground are my attempts to do the same thing with caramel. Semi-success, mostly turned into puddles. Next time they'll be in cup form instead.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An Insufficiency of Data

Experience is a poor guide to man, and is seldom followed. A man really learns little by it, for it is narrowly limited in range. What does a faithful husband know of women, or a faithful wife of men? The generalizations of such persons are always inaccurate. What really teaches man is not experiences, but observation. It is observation that enables him to make use of the vastly greater experience of other men, of men taken in the mass. He learns by noting what happens to them. Confined to what happens to himself, he labors eternally under an insufficiency of data.

From Minority Report, H. L. Mencken's Notebooks
, Knopf, 1956, p. 248, nabbed from this page of Mencken quotes.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Photos of Phood: Chocolate Ganache

I think I need lights so I can shoot my food stuffs properly. The lack of focus and the flash bother me. Nonetheless: Chocolate. I believe this became centers for little chocolate covered ganache balls.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tuesday Night Dinner, part IV

Somewhat delayed! Possibly by a month! whoops.

So after the pesto and whatnot I made scones as an afterthought. The recipe came from the Washington Post food section, but of course I didn't quite have everything required. I substituted whole wheat flour for the barley flour and used some chopped up and slightly macerated strawberries as the center layer. They make a fantastic not-too-sweet dessert or a snack with tea and are in fact ridiculously easy to make. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures, but rest assured that they're very tasty and attractive scones.


For the scones
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, plus more for greasing the baking sheet
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons barley flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
For assembly
  • 1/2 cup strawberry jam or marmalade
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

Find the rest of the recipe here.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The true shape of frontiers

"In the sad August of that year we made a trip to Mentone, ordering bouillabaisse in an aquarium-like pavilion by the sea across from the Hôtel Victoria. The hills were silver-olive, and of the true shape of frontiers.

Leaving the Riviera after a third summer, we called on a writer friend at the Hôtel Continental at Cannes. He was proud of his independence in adopting a black mongrel dog. He had a nice house and a nice wife and we envied his comfortable installations that gave the effect of his having retired from the world when he had really taken such of it as he wanted and confined it."

From Show Mr. and Mrs. F. to Number –, by F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, May-June 1934, as in The Crack-Up, edited by Edmund Wilson.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Photos of Phood: Cucumber Sushi

I have a terrible weakness for sushi rice. Sometimes I'll just make a bowl of it for dinner. This cucumber roll is probably the most perfect piece of sushi I've ever made. I think I sharpened my knife immediately beforehand to make the cuts neat.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Photos of Phood: Stir Fry with Almonds

I love how the edge of the wok looks a little like vignetting. Almonds, broccoli, rice, a little soy sauce. Nuts are awesome to cook with, like chestnuts in stuffing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Photos of Phood: Caramelized Onion Tart with Goat Cheese

Flaky pie crust, slow cooked onions with a bit of pepper and assorted herbs, a little custard and crumbled goat cheese. Wonderful hot and just as good at room temperature for lunch the next day.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


To say that I'm a little behind on my reading would be putting it mildly. To say that I'm a little behind on my blogging would be just plain true. So it is with great pleasure that I bring you [totally dated] noteworthy blurbs from the January 2010 issue of Wallpaper* magazine.

First off, this issue used a customized version of QR codes (example above right) to supplement the physical magazine content with online content. They called these "Augmented Reality" or "AR" graphics (below right). Unfortunately for those of us without the requisite cutting edge technology of a webcam, the idea fell a bit flat. In theory, one would find the AR graphics (little pixelated squares) throughout the magazine and hold them up to a webcam while on the appropriate Wallpaper* website and see some spiffy extras. As yours truly doesn't have a webcam to test this with, you'll just have to believe that it was awesomely augmented. QR codes are a pretty neat idea in general, but I haven't seen them catching on much in the States. I like the idea of being able to easily access information on the fly. Someday, someday we'll catch up to all these bits of the future. Someday I'll have a car that flies, dangit.

The interesting bits (which I summarily tore out of the issue, the better to blog about) were these:

Gapminder: From Sweden, a data toy that makes statistics about social, economic and environmental development do things like cartwheels. What makes me most happy about the service is that they neatly list where the data comes from. With 430 tidy data sets, it's a pretty handy tool for the general public. I'd be interested to hear what people who work in data services think about it.

Gapminder also offers that you can make your own visualization using Motion Chart in Google docs, and since their data is downloadable, you're free to use it. It's also the same gadget that does visualizations in Google Analytics, from the looks of it. I wanted to embed one of their graphs here, but I don't think "Trendanalyzer" will let me do it. Click through the sample image for the real thing:

And then there's Enhanced Editions: Again with the augmented, this time with plenty of peripherals added into an ebook to make the experience more, uhm, contemporary. It looks like you can alter (annotate and change the font size) your ebook on your iPhone (and only your iphone) to your desire the extent that they allow, as well as get video and audio content interspersed with the text. Personally, I don't think our short attention spans needed any encouragement. However, this is a much better use of ebooks than simply putting text on a digital screen and expecting a revolution to come through the front door carrying flags and blowing trumpets. Their premise is that everyone goes to video for their "information" these days (quotes because I don't think the greater part of youtube could be called a research repository), and this is certainly reflected in their features page. There isn't even an option to read, you have to watch the video.

Quite frankly I find that frustrating and I never watch video unless it tells a story itself (you know, movies, music videos...) because if it's informational, I can get that information much faster by scanning text. I suppose I'm old fashioned, but I just haven't got time to sit around watching video after video, no matter how short they are.

And now I can check "get that pile of stuff I've been meaning to blog about into the recycling" off my to-do list. Hoorah!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Happy 5th of July

For years when I lived near Annapolis I thought I wanted to be on the National Mall to see the Fourth of July Fireworks. Surely, they would be greater than the average display, something on par with the Weasley brothers' display in Order of the Phoenix. And the crowds would be remarkable and dynamic, the experience thrilling!

Well, we didn't go down to the Mall tonight, because it would be a long walk on a very hot day. Instead, we watched from the end of Arlington Ridge Road, where there's a small park that overlooks 395. From there we had a full view of all the monuments along the Mall, the Pentagon and the airplanes landing at National Airport, and of course, the fireworks exploding over all of it.

As it got on towards nine pm, cars began to park along the highway below us, first a single row on the shoulder, then double parked in the far right lane, then triple parked across most of the road. The hillside around us filled up and police helicopters circled, just in case. As dusk fell we could see small explosions of sparkling lights on the far horizon, likely fireworks displays in nearby suburbs of DC. The Mall fireworks themselves were not any different or more beautiful than those I had seen in the past. I suspect that physically being on the Mall makes all the difference.

In the photo (from my phone, hence low-quality) you can see the Washington Monument to the right of the fireworks.

On the way home and late into the evening local North Virginians set off screaming rockets and snapping crackers, accompanied by the crackle of the nearby Arlington display finishing up for the evening. The scent of exploded firecrackers wafted across town and down the street before blowing away down river.

If I had a camera with me then I would show you... Sometime towards the middle of all the explosions and lights, a plane flew between our vantage point and the Mall, silhouetted against the flying sparks, briefly, before fading back into the dark night sky.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Photos, great and small

In my experience as a photographer, I have waffled between being a black and white darkroom purist and messing around with larger digital prints. The work I did in the darkroom focused on 4x5 contact prints, which felt precious and significant. Small photographs force the viewer to lean waaay in to see the details, practically putting their nose to the glass to get close enough. I like that because there's a certain amount of focus and concentration needed to view the work, and you can be more assured that your viewer will really look. I saw an exhibit a while back that really exemplified this, but of course I can't remember who or where. It was an early 20th century photographer who printed everything very small, usually 2x2 or smaller. Ideas?

This first photo is a series of prints I did mostly on location at the Whetstone Inn in VT. These nine prints hung in the Vermont Center for Photography for a month as part of a group show. It's tiny and hard to see the photos so you can't steal them, but trust me, they're really neat up close.
On the other hand, large panels of texture and colour can also pull a viewer in, but in a different way. A vast field of detail will make them feel as if they're floating away, swimming deeply in the content. The viewer is engaged in the print, but in a more meditative way, simply enjoying the patterns and colours. My interest in Rothko fits under this category.

Here's a quick example from my senior thesis show. I interspersed photos that represented memories with tight frames full of pattern or texture to explore how people observe and remember things. Unfortunately the Epson 7800 (I think) didn't print a lot bigger than this, as much as I would have loved a 5x6' print.

Anyone have good examples for either of these?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sing It Low and Smooth

A random title, a need to post something to get the blog rolling, and a complete lack of oomph in working on any of my 9 drafted posts brings to you the following:

I have successfully created the world's best smoothie... and I don't know exactly what I put in it. I suspect the ingredients went something like this:

Dark, dark cherries, pitted by hand, leaving cherry-blood stains on the counter. (3/4 cup)
Apricots, recently pitted, sliced, frozen because no one ate them in time. (3/4 cup)
Two fragments of melon ice, hunks of cantelope that turned glacée after a thawing and refreezing. (~2 slices)
Orange juice concentrate, spoonful of, another frozen fragment.
The last of the yogurt, perhaps (1/2 cup) the thickest trimmings of cream.
Milk, to fill the blender to the blade; to ensure a smooth result.
Finally, a dash of orange liqueur, a half shot of dark rum, to round the taste and emphasize the tang of the apricots.

I didn't sing for a long time, the last few years. Now I'm bringing back fragments (word of the day) of songs half forgotten and wishing I hadn't taken singing for granted when I had a chance to perform. If I wasn't so self-conscious I would like to sing classic jazz tunes again, like Bye Bye Black Bird and That Old Black Magic. I wonder if people don't take music for granted these days, since everyone has an personal music player of some sort.

The reason these things are connected is because I'm vaguely synesthetic. Which is not, apparently, a word. It's to do with seeing colours for tastes, feeling music for colours, and a sort of triangle created between the three. So, this tangy and sweet smoothie, quite pink from the cherries, feels like orange and aquamarine on my tongue, and sounds like xylophone (perhaps Street Song, Key people?) in my head. Bright and sharp with a bubbly underside.

Anyone still with me on this?