Monday, September 26, 2011

New Beginnings

Dark Chocolate & Bing Cherry Frangipane Tart

I very well know that having huge, lengthy time gaps between posts is the exact opposite of what constitutes a good food blog, but I'm just a lazy ass constantly finding myself too sidetracked to keep writing posts.  But by the same token if this blog is supposed to be a reflection of my life to my readers, then I'd say I am doing a pretty damn good job seeing how if there was one word I'd use to describe my own life it would be inconsistent.

But I promise that I have a valid excuse for my absence this time though, and that is I started college everybody!!! 

the chalupa's new headquarters
Most of my friends from high school were ecstatic to finally move away from home.  Me, I sat in my bed the night before I was leaving not knowing what to think.  I actually like living at home, being in the presence of the family and friends whom I have known for the past eighteen years.  Yet, at the same time going away for college is something that might actually do me some good.  It was a mix of excitement, apprehension, anxiety and happiness.

I'll admit that the first couple days were tough.  There were long gaps where I just kept to myself, missing the feeling of sitting in my own room and looking at the chickens in the neighbor's backyard (in a non-stalkerish fashion).  The more I called and video-chatted with people from home the more I felt that I made a big mistake in coming here and that I should jump in the car to take the 4 hour drive back to Orange County.  Talking to family members made me miss all of the comforts I enjoy of being home- for me the sterile look and feel of college housing could never compare with the sensations of being back where you truly feel you belong, right down to that smell you whiff every time you walk through the front door.  I truly thought that the idea of making college my "new home" seemed like an impossibility.

And to top it off, there's only one "Vietnamese" restaurant in the area that serves pho, and while decent, does not compare to our family's secret recipe that I've been slurping since childhood.

a bakewell/frangipane hybrid tart

Cue the cheesiness, but when I started writing this post my longing to be back home turned into a warming kind of nostalgia of the memories of the food I made while back in my own kitchen.  Granted, I now no longer have granite counters, a gas cook top, and a stainless steel convection oven, but hey, I was privileged to have all of those conveniences in the first place.  But nevertheless, writing this post has helped me feel at home again.

I've learned to love where I am right now, and can't see myself at any other college.  Every Thursday night I go to the farmer's market that spans the entire downtown core of the city with a couple of classmates, resisting the urge to buy baskets of the sweetest strawberries I've ever tried for only three bucks.  Fridays my new friends and I will go to the countless small cozy restaurants that line the streets before heading to the beaches for a bonfire.  Saturdays we'll all drive to Costco to stock up on junk food for the week before binging on homework and complaining about the quality of on-campus dining.  Finally to cap off the weekend someone is always hosting a Sunday night dinner with an open-door policy.  There's nothing else I would rather do than eat in the presence of my new family.

damn, these are expensive 

I flipping love cherries.  Behind mangoes, they would have to be my absolutely favorite type of fruit, and if it weren't for their freaking expensive price I'd probably be eating them every minute of the day.  As a kid I was blissfully unaware of this fact since my dad would always return home each week with a huge Costco box of cherries that I would consume in a couple of days.  But alas, a tiny little obstacle called living on a budget has smacked me in the face and has limited my current intake of these little beauties. 

 dark chocolate snow


I stupidly thought though that the my elegant, tilted arrangement of the cherries would hold up through the baking process, but the fruit ended up settling on their rear ends and were engulfed by the frangipane, so moral of the story is don't try to be too particular when arranging the tart.

 fun-size tarts

When I first tasted the tart I couldn't detect any sort of chocolate flavor at all, which severely ticked me off.  However after taking a couple more bites the subtle elements of chocolate (it's slight bitterness, buttery richness, and deep, almost coffee like notes of smokiness) began showing through as opposed to a straight up dark chocolate flavor.  Those background notes actually rounded off the sweetness of the jam and frangipane quite nicely without being in your face.  You can certainly add more if you would like, but that's your call.

And even though something gluttonous and heavy such as sticky toffee pudding or fudgy bricks of brownies a la mode come to mind when I think of an ideal dessert, this tart was seriously good.  I wasn't really expecting to like it as much as I did, but I kept sneaking back into the fridge to sneak bites off of the mini tarts so that I ended up telling everyone there were only two to "begin with".

It's my schmaltzy, unrealistic, and completely inapplicable comparison of the week, but I guess I could sort of connect this dessert with my experience at college so far...  Something that I was lukewarm about at first but after a couple tastes I can't stay away from experiencing all of the flavors it has to offer.

(Gag me if I ever say anything so fruity again.)



Saturday, September 3, 2011

Toronto Part 5: Mill Street Brewery

Mill Street Brewery- Distillery District, Toronto

After a relaxing, lazy brunch at Aunties and Uncles we headed on over to the historic Casa Loma.  True, it does seem like a stereotypically touristy type of activity to do in Toronto, but at the same time I wouldn't check it off your itinerary either.  The gardens in particular are spectacular.

Afterwards we rested for a bit at the hotel and then headed off to the Distillery District for a late lunch.  A collection of historic buildings connected by a sea of paved bricks, the district is lined with shops, art galleries, restaurants, and specialty food stores.  A stroll through the scenic alleys and walkways reveal artisans honing their particular craft, whether it be painting, gelato making, or disitlling the finest spirits. 

Now usually I give restaurants a couple chances when it comes to experiencing their customer service, but Mill St. struck a chord the moment we tried to put our name down on the list.  To put it simply, we were straight up ignored by the two hostesses.  At first I thought that they were confused or something, so we repeated our request, which fell to deaf ears.  I stared around at my dining companions in awkward confusion for a good minute or two until finally the one of the two hostesses acknowledged us.  Now if there's one thing that will:

        1) piss me off
        2) put me in a bad mood
        3) leave a lasting, indelible, negative impression

it's for a restaurant's staff to blatantly ignore me as a customer.  In all honesty, as a first impression it made the Mill St. look like it was run by a bunch of blithering idiots. 

Fortunately, the service inside the restaurant improved somewhat, as our waiter was generally kind and helpful, although noticeably spread thin servicing a large number of tables.

The grilled flatiron steak sandwich ($14.00 CAD) consisted of steak marinated in a coffee barbecue sauce, and then topped with caramelized onions, swiss cheese, and horseradish spread.  I have to say, for a steak sandwich it was pretty damn tasty.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

But things just get so crazy, living life gets hard to do

A message to my dear reader(s).

I still consider myself an amateur photographer, but that being said I have decided to invest in a full-blown photography website, where you can view some of my work and if you would really like, purchase some prints.

Simply put, I am stuck in limbo.  I'm finding it increasingly harder to write blog posts, simply because I'm struggling to come up with words to say.  Don't get me wrong- I love blogging and all of its aspects, from the cooking to the photographing to the writing to the sharing.  It's just that I'm having trouble churning out quality posts. There are some food blogs (that I will not name) who post just for the sake of posting something, with absolutely nothing new or informative.  Either that or they just repost links to old recipes over and over again.  While that's quite a tempting option for me, I just can't bring myself to do it, and as a writer I think that my audience deserves better.  I read somewhere that you truly love a job if you would do it for free.  While I'm not a full-time blogger, it's something I do love and would gladly do for free, and as a result, I have taken down my all ads on this site.

With college looming just a week or two away, there is just too much on my plate right now, and while this blog is an important part of my life, it will just have to take a back seat for now.  I have enough posts saved up to last me a month or two, but I don't know how cooking or even photographing in a dark and humble college kitchen is going to go, so the quality of blog posts in the distant future is a toss-up.


the fatty chalupa