Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Jeni's Ice Creams are Truly Splendid, as Advertised

My sister knows I'm trying to lower my fat intake but still helpfully sends me this photo from the grocery store:


Yup, all-butter cookies. I think I'll pass on those. Jeni's Ice Creams, however, are another story.
Jeni's

I read so many food blogs that I don't remember where I first learned about Jeni's. One day this spring I noticed Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge started carrying this new ice cream line, but didn't think much of it. Only recently Formaggio tweeted that they had a new batch of Jeni's ice creams in that I coincidentally read a review that raved over the the unusual flavor of Strawberry Buttermilk. The artisanal quality behind its production is apparent on their website:

"Each batch of Jeni's ice creams is carefully tended to; each flavor artfully achieved with fresh ingredients found in the Ohio countryside as well as responsibly-raised exotics from around the world. All of Jeni's ice creams, sauces, pralines and marshmallows are handcrafted in Jeni's production kitchen in Columbus, Ohio."

It was enough to convince me to try it, so off we went to Formaggio. The selection wasn't quite this bountiful (this picture is from Jeni's blog http://www.saltycaramel.com/), but there were enough flavors for my husband and I to become indecisive. We settled on both a signature ice cream flavor (Salty Caramel) and the Riesling Poached Pear sorbet.

Jeni's

It was an indulgent decision to go with two pints, and I'm glad I didn't know the price beforehand because they ended up being $13 each!!! I don't think we've ever paid that much for ice cream. It's a good thing we're not the type of people who can eat a carton in one sitting (my husband is very good at rationing a half cup for each of us to eat or whatever the recommended serving size is) because that is one expensive dessert. I do think it's worth it - the Salty Caramel is a little stronger tasting of burnt sugar than I expected but not offensively so. The pear sorbet is to die for though - intense pear flavor with a creamy consistency, not icy and grainy as is the case with many sorbets. I think it has to do with the tapioca in their recipe since there's no dairy. This is probably going to become my low-fat treat, and to heck with the expense.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Falling off the wagon with guanciale

Yesterday's food diary:

  • Breakfast - multigrain oatmeal with flax, a tablespoon of sliced almonds and a little almond milk
  • Lunch - half a falafel wrap (vegetarian)
  • Dinner - when all hell broke loose

Back in January, long before I needed to care about my fat intake, I impulsively bought a pound and a half of fresh slab pork belly from Vermont at Savenor's because I'm a big fan of pork belly, particularly the way it's prepared at the Momofuku restaurants in NYC (more on that another time, but I think plenty's been said about the heavenly pork buns in other articles). It sat in our freezer for 5 months before I came up with a way to prepare it - spaghetti carbonara.

The recipe I found on Epicurious (fantastic iPad/iPhone app, btw!) was really easy, though it took multiple days - dry rub marinate of salt and coriander for 2 days, braise in oven for 2.5 hours, let cool for up to 2 days, then remove skin, chop into bacon-sized pieces, crisp up and add to the egg/cheese/pasta mixture. We ate the pork belly version for dinner one night and it was surprisingly not that fatty, since I had essentially taken all the fat off the pork belly and it was only the meat left. While it was good, I impulsively decided that I would try it the next night with guanciale.

Guanciale is unsmoked bacon made from the jowl or cheek of the pig. My husband and I had never eaten it, but since it was the traditional meat product in spaghetti alla carbonara, I went off to Formaggio Kitchen to procure it. I'm glad a little goes a long way since this stuff is $21/lb. In reading up on this new pork product, someone claimed (perhaps it was the Babbo NYC restaurant site?) that guanciale is less fatty than other pork cuts, but I would have never known with the amount of fat I had to pour off. The flavour, as detailed in my background reading, is more intense than pancetta and was nothing like I'd ever eaten before. Rich and salty is the best way I can describe it, and those adjectives really don't do it justice. The guanciale-version of spaghetti carbonara was over-the-top decadent and unbelievably filling - the husband and I sat on the couch for hours in a carb/fat comatose and was passed out by 10pm. While delicious, I think it will be a very long time before I cook that dish again.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Doughnuts? I told you I don't like ethnic foods!

For those of you who may not understand the title, it's a quote from a Simpsons episode where Homer tried to serve a doughnuts to Mr Burns and that was the response that he got.

According to Devra First of the Dishing Blog at the Boston Globe quoting the Food Network magazine, Craigie on Main's doughnut is the best breakfast in Massachusetts. Craigie on Main is my favourite restaurant in the Boston area, and their doughnut is to die for. Just a very tasty plain yeast doughnut, fried with a dusting of sugar, but it's the milk jam that comes with it is what puts it into a new category. Milk jam is just a code for caramel - warm, thick, buttery, caramel to slather over the hot doughnut. The doughnut alone is worth the trip to Craigie for their brunch, though everything else we've eaten here is top-notch.

Incidentally, I've read that doughnuts are the worst food for people with high cholesterol to eat! Apparently sugar + fried = no nutritional value at all.

Boston.com - Dishing Blog

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Everywhere else they're cooking "co-ops", whereas in Boston they'd be "coops"

I think you may have to live in Boston to understand the "co-op" vs. "coop" reference - it's one of my pet peeves, even after 5 years of living here. How hard is it to pronounce co - op people?

In food related news, I just read this article in the NY Times - I'd never heard of cooking co-ops before, but it sounds like it could be a great concept, following on the dinner club theme.

NY Times Article: Cooking Co-ops

No to Lipitor

In dreaming up the concept for this blog, out of boredom during a quiet spell in my day job, I thought this would be a forum where I could pay homage to the finer things in life. My favorite thing in the world, other than my husband, is food. I love food. I work in the biopharma industry to pay for my habit, hence the name of my blog. Though let me clarify - I seek out good food. I'm one of those people who go out of my way to try restaurants featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, No Reservations, NY Times, etc. I read about food - new recipes, memoirs, essays, travelogues - and I talk about where I've gone to eat and what I've eaten with a passion that people probably think is a little weird. My husband's the same way as I am about food, though people seem to ask him for restaurant recommendations.

But I digress. So I had planned to write mostly about my food adventures, general complaints on my exercise regimen to balance the calorie intake, a little bit on my latest fashion purchases (my second addiction) and maybe throw in the occasional comment on my work. However, just I was planning to start this blog, I received the results of my routine blood tests in the mail from my doctor. And horror of all horrors, I have high cholesterol. High LDL, the bad cholesterol. I also have high HDL, which is the good stuff, so my ratio isn't bad, but my LDL numbers have been steadily climbing over the past couple of years. While I generally eat healthy, I should explain that I'm a big believer in full fat, natural dairy products and I'm a hardcore carnivore, so I guess I really shouldn't be surprised to find myself in this predicament.

Now the easy thing to do (and I think the reason why my doctor wants to see me in the next two weeks) would be to take a statin like Lipitor, but while I work in the drug industry and I'm a big believer in taking medicines in general, statins are one of the few things I don't want to take. I don't feel like putting up with muscle pains for something that's asymptomatic and not immediately impacting my quality of life. I recognize there's a risk in not doing anything, but I don't think the risk benefit tradeoff is worth it in my current situation.

I'm also not planning on ignoring the problem, so I will be trying to eat a low-fat and heart-healthy diet. We'll see how long that lasts. I'm not trying to radically change my lifestyle but to start cutting back on my best friend (aka butter) and to be a little less enthusiastic about red meat. Wish me luck and any encouragement or recipes would be welcome!

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