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Tracy K.

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  1. I think there were a lot of unknowns in terms of how this came to pass. The Wall Street Journal article by Russell Adams today said "Gourmet presented the most difficult call. Executives considered reducing the magazine's frequency, according to people familiar with the talks, but the November issue will be the last." You can't tell me that was just a boardroom-only discussion...but I don't know the culture at Conde Nast. Good article by Adam Hanft on the Huffington Post: Gourmet Starved to Death
  2. This is what I mean, a writer in the kitchen, not just another wannabe attempting to "stretch". The link to the $1/issue subscription is still working. This is another problem with the publishing industry, and probably what doomed Gourmet (and more to come)--inability to guarantee advertisers adequate circulation. For some reason, my BA subscription morphed over the years to one that expires (as of now) in 2012, simply because of special offers, etc. I certainly haven't paid for that length subscription. I continued to receive Sauveur for more than two years after my one-year-paid subscription expired and have recently received two other magazines unsolicited with obscenely-cheap invoices to follow. Cooking Light has now gone to the teach-the-novice approach, so the subscription will be allowed to expire in two months. There has to be a happy medium between the "how-to-professionally-style-your-dinner-party-appetizer-trapeze" and the "peel-back-foil-to-reveal-tater-tots" genres....
  3. I actually cheered when I read that Conde Nast is shuttering Gourmet. It is unfortunate, but not a surprise to me at all. Ruth Reichl let her ego drive the magazine into the ground. It's content scarcely differed from that of Bon Appetit or frankly any of the many other food magazines on the stands. If you've never read Gourmet from 20-25 years ago, go the the library or a garage sale and pick up a copy. It was filled with quality travel writing, recipes that could be made at home by normal human beings, a fantastic wine column and more--all presented with panache and class. It devolved into food-porn photography, preachy articles and recipes that were close cousins of any other cooking rag on the stands. Good riddance!
  4. Does anyone know what is going on with Kama Kura Japanese restaurant in Wilmette? This family-run mainstay of downtown Wilmette has the mysterious "closed for remodeling" sign on the door and no remodeling activity whatsoever--chairs set on tables for floor-mopping and plants dropping leaves near the window. Has it met it's demise?? That would be a real disappointment. Kama Kura has always been consistent both in the quality of both sushi and cooked food. Does anyone know anything? This is not a restaurant that should be suffering because of the economy--it was always busy.
  5. Does anyone know why Trattoria Belluno in Glenview, IL closed? It wasn't fabulous, but it was a cut above quite a few others and a bit on the frugal side--and you could get your hands on some New-York-quality Italian cookies a lot easier.
  6. Just my two cents, as I've made quite a few wedding cakes: A cake for fifty is a very small cake! Even if you don't use the stereotypical caterer-sliced transparent cake slice, wedding cake slices are quite dainty. Many times people have other desserts at weddings now; and unfortunately most people believe that wedding cake tastes horrible (which is most often the case for a mass-produced cake). As a guide, a 12-in diameter, two layer high cake will easily serve 50 people quite generous slices. You don't have to go to tiers if you don't want to. You can do something quite elegant, like the photo you shared, with a single layer. Also, if you have a good magazine shop, check out some of the wedding magazines published in England...they have a lot of ideas that can be adapted without too much fuss. A lot of people are going with a simple satin ribbon at the base of a layer; with the swiss dot motif and a simple fresh flower the cake would be elegant. For resources, I really do recommend Rose Levy Berenbaum's Cake Bible--her white chocolate cake is wonderful and really holds up well. The combination of white chocolate and strawberry is a classic. I'd stick to just a simple vanilla buttercream because the flavor of a white chocolate cake is delicate--you don't want too much going on. She has a good chart on frosting and filling amounts...very generous amounts. You have to be a little careful that you don't put too much liquid in the filling or your cake will slide during transport. I'd say bake your cake at a lower temperature, I usually go 300 or 325, and use a good oven thermometer. It will take much longer and the cake will be more dense, like a pound cake, but the flavor will be intense and the cake will hold up better. Plus, flat cakes every time. Try a test cake first. Or two or three! For size and construction, I recommend checking out Collette Peter's "Collette's Cakes, The Art of Cake Decorating". It was one of her first books (1991) and has a great section on sizes and construction. Her decorator's buttercream recipe is quite good--very simple and acceptable to every palate. For August, remember humidity! Fondant will "sweat", i.e., it will attract moisture and will look wet. It doesn't melt, but it doesn't look pristine and matte-finished in the humidity; plus you cannot refrigerate it (it collects the moisture from inside the fridge). Marzipan tastes better to many people. And I've made gumpaste flowers for many years--it is very time consuming and does require a lot of tools and toys to get it right. (Big orchids literally take days to do.) Gumpaste is edible (I make my own), but it dries hard as a rock and can break a tooth--and believe me, people will for some reason put anything in their mouths if they can get their hands on them. A gumpaste orchid will have wires in it and some areas of quite thick, hard sugar. I don't think you'll need the anxiety given that you're a friend and bridesmaid as well. As for moving the cake--oohh, is there any way you can go to the reception site very early yourself? There is nothing worse than having someone else handle the cake and something happens. Believe me, only once did I allow my husband to drive when a cake was being delivered to a friend of his (thank goodness only a birthday, not a wedding, and not my friend!)--he went too fast around a curve and the cake slid--the dowels did not do a thing...ended up in the dumpster, but made a great picture for the portfolio! If you do go with tiers, box up each cake separately and assemble on site. Have fun, and good luck!
  7. Hummingbird Cake is a real classic southern dessert--my best recipe is from Southern Living magazine. However, while it contains pineapple, it doesn't really taste like pineapple as it has pecans and bananas in it also. I call it a spice cake for people who don't like spice cake. It is a crowd pleaser, though, and makes a gigantic cake (3 tall 9" layers). If you're going to bake, you really have to use canned pineapple because the canning process breaks down the bromelain, which is the protein-destroying enzyme found in fresh pineapple (the one that makes your tongue feel funny when you eat a lot of fresh pineapple). Something more elegant might be a white chocolate cake, which has a wonderful texture and richness without having an overpowering flavor, and a pineapple filling--something simple like crushed pineapple with a bit of sugar, water and cornstarch (although I really detest that sort of texture). Or perhaps serve fresh pinapple on the side of a simple cake?
  8. It's not a matter of safety, but whether or not you'll be successful in re-making the jelly. I don't know what brand of pectin you used, but the label should contain information about how to re-make a failed batch of jam/jelly/preserves. Or you could try the Sure Jell website; click on jamming tips. Another great resource is Putting Food By, written by Janet Greene.
  9. You'll really like the 10-inch depth, and with the granite countertop you'll add another 1 1/2 inches or so. You'll wonder how you ever survived without such a deep sink.
  10. Your proportions of fruit/sugar/pectin were way off. Plus, if you used Certo gel pectin, you cannot boil the mixture after you have added it. Jam/Jelly/Preserve making is dependent on the juice and sugar solution reaching 8 (eight) degrees above the boiling point of water--so high-altitude cooks would have to cook beyond 220 degrees. Commercial pectin is concentrated mostly from apple peels; many fruits, including blackberries, have a good amount of pectin in them already and you can make a fine jam/jelly/preserve without using commercial pectin. Usually for berries you can use a 1:1 ratio by weight (e.g., 1 lb. fruit and 1 lb. sugar); you can generally also use 1 cup prepared (e.g., crushed) fruit to 1 cup sugar. Pomona pectin works with a lower sugar amount, but I have never been pleased with the quality that results. I really like the old-fashioned 1:1 ratio cooked gently until reaching 220 on a quality cooking thermometer. (I like my Thermapen) An excellent online source for jelly/jam/preserve making and recipes is the University of Georgia: National Center for Home Food Preservation
  11. Has anyone ever ordered from "Home Bistro"? I've received catalogs from them, and the concept of complete meals by mail is appealing for gift purposes for older folks.
  12. I was up until midnight Monday night making packzi...and except for the ones my husband took to his office, there are none left. My recipe (and I have seen a very strange variety of them) gets its richness from six egg yolks, and only a half cup of sugar (plus the powdered sugar sprinkled on after they are fried). They are not that sweet as a pastry in and of themselves. I fill mine with strawberry preserves, trying my best to only put in strawberries (Bonne Mamman (sp?) makes a wonderful jam). I have also used rose hip jam, which is traditional, but it is very difficult to find in general and difficult to find a high-quality, non-rubbery, actually tastes like rose hips jam. Ah, until next year....
  13. Another nice thing that Zier's does is a spiral-sliced ham that is truly delicious--and if you go in and ask for a ham hock or ham bone for soup, that is what you get...the end of a spiral sliced ham. The Ziers used to live right upstairs from the shop, then finally moved into a house just down the road.
  14. Ohmygosh you are so lucky you aren't in NYC--if you went to Bridge Kitchenware and asked that question they'd throw you out on your arse. Just think this...you get what you pay for and heavier is better, but don't buy into gimmicks like 'air insulated' bakeware or other stuff like that. Look again at King Arthur Flour's website, they sell excellent pans by Chicago Metallic (which, unfortunately won't or perhaps by now aren't, made in the Chicago area any more). And Lou, at this point (post 47million) we're not adding our two pence...more like two quid!
  15. Butter's taste can actually differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, the diet of the cows, the time of year the milk was produced, etc. etc. Even some butter labeled unsalted will have a slight amount of salt in it. Milk on it's own contains sodium naturally, most of it in the cream anyway. I've made a lot of cakes for special occasions/weddings in a former life as a caterer. Please don't trash your cake...I think it would be very hard to get your frosting off to the point where you only leave a crumb coat, as the cake itself will have absorbed some of the moisture of the icing. For me, too much work and hassle. My favorite part of cake-craft/sugarcraft was when the cake was totally destroyed and eaten; so, "Let them eat cake."
  16. Did you ever actually bake a loaf with the starter?
  17. Let me try this: I think that the ultimate margarita (formerly served at Cafe Las Bellas Artes, Elmhurst, IL--RIP) should taste something akin to a very dry Beefeter martini, up, no salt--not Minute Maid lime-ade. And I'm too opinionated to start a thread on this...I'll just drop hints and remain inscrutable. As for steaks--I agree that a real dry-aged steak is very hard to find because it is so difficult to handle the meat properly--a sprightly crust of mold can lead to spoilage if you don't know what you're doing.
  18. Real Paczki are NOT JELLY DOUGHNUTS, they are divine morsels from the depths of 375 degree oil. They are best when fried, which is why home-made really surpass the kinds of jelly doughnuts that get passed off as paczki, even on Milwaukee Avenue. They have to be fried until they are as dark as can be or the interior won't be fluffy (i.e., properly cooked). My grandmother used to make these without any filling at all, just pinch off bits of dough and fry them up. They have no shelf life whatsoever. And yes, that's what Ash Wednesday and the next Friday (two fast days in one week) are supposed to be for. Many of these "Shrove/Fat Tuesday" traditions began in the middle ages when many things were scarce due to the dwindling pantry and/or forbidden by the church (basically for the same reason) as preparation/participation in Lent. The beautiful Ukrainian Easter eggs were a way to utilize the eggs that the hens continued to lay through the winter months without eating them. As for Jewish traditions...the only equivalent I can think of are Hamentashen for Purim or Gelt for Channukah.
  19. Best steak in the universe: Plaza III Best barbecue--I really love Gates ("HI MAY I HELP YOUUUUU?????"), but a good friend and area native swears by Arthur Bryant's. Either sauce is delish; no rib tips or cheap cuts at either place. (And if you think KC barbecue is too sweet, Chicago has the corner on sweet food, especially things that should not be sweet.)
  20. Since you've (and quite a few others...) have solicited advice, I'll add my two crumbs worth. Get yourself a copy of The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. It's a cheap paperback that was originally published in 1970--wow, groovy!! With simple line drawings and clear, concise instructions, you'll learn that the way to make bread is to get your hands on it. I started baking bread in high school with this book--it was the first whole wheat bread I'd really ever eaten (although the book contains many other recipes), and once a week four loaves were gone...and I mean not a crumb left in the house. I also like Bernard Clayton, No Need to Knead by Suzanne Dunaway, and yes, with a nearly-three-year-old-son I've invested in a "Zo" (i.e., Zojirushi) bread machine to do the messy and time-consuming parts for me--but I still rely on the knowledge of dough learned at the very beginning at the (probably smelly) feet of Brown.
  21. I still have my original 1979 copy of Franey's book, which was a gift from a friend, and is quite well-stained and full of taped-in, now-browned newspaper clippings of many of his other 60-minute recipes. But perhaps I'm not part of the current zeitgeist, because as I was browsing through Ms. Moulton's book at a local bookstore (i.e., 'cheapening the merchandise'), I came upon her opinion that veal was only a vehicle for a good sauce. Yet Franey says that "...veal that is cooked to the exact point of doneness...is one of the choicest morsels that any cook could bring to the table." Obviously, I am a veal afficionado. I do hope, though, that with all of her successes, Ms. Moulton is also able to bring more people along into the world of cooking...hours and hours worth.
  22. The white chocolate cake is very, very good, with a fine texture and a mellow flavor that doesn't scream "white chocolate". The raspberry puree is a good preparation, and it does freeze very well. Also, be sure to try the chocolate rolled fondant. It is really easy to work with and tastes like a "gourmet" Tootsie roll--and I'm not a big fan of chocolate either. This is a fun book. Be sure to read the "science" at the back about how this book got started.
  23. lyagushka's review on epinion.com mentioned that it was not considered kid friendly. Would anyone else agree on that point? We'll be in Westchester next week and I really have a hankering for Indian, as most everything I've sampled on Devon Avenue in Chicago has been greasy and caused heartburn! (And I love my Vindaloo hot!!) I have a 2+year old and a husband who runs from the mere mention of spice like the plague, although when we lived in Jersey we were often to be found at Namaskaar on Rte. 4 in Paramus. Maybe it's just a Kingfisher I have a hankering for....
  24. Tracy K.

    I've Got Flax

    Yes, flaxseed oil/flax seed can have a laxitave effect...and I think that that was the "old-fashioned" use for it before the fatty-acid issue came around. There is an old cereal made in Massachusetts called Uncle Sam cereal which is basically wheat flakes and flax seeds; their box used to list the 'maintaining regularity' point before Omega-3 was the hot health item. I enjoy sprinkling some ground flax seeds on salads/cereal, really you name it. A small amount will give a nice nutty flavor.
  25. I second, third, and fourth the opinion that Zagat has become nothing but a source for phone numbers. I noticed a decided decline once they opened up the web to reviews. One used to have to fill out a form by hand. The Chicago version this year is nothing but negativity all around. Obviously the concept has grown too big for its britches; and I wonder if web surfers simiply log on to trash places they've never tried just to pass the time. (Formerly lived in Hawthorne....suffering serious White Manna withdrawl)
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