Weekend!

I have mentioned before working at The Restaurant back in the mid-90’s when I was working my way through college.

The Restaurant itself was more of a cafe/bakery than restaurant proper. It wasn’t really a sit-down restaurant. More of a stand in line, give your order at the counter, receive a number, go find a table, your food would be brought out to you shortly kinda place. We opened first thing in the morning and served pastries and baked goods and espresso products and we had hot breakfast options (mostly of the “put some fresh cooked eggs on one of the baked goods/pastries” variety) and shut down the kitchen between 9 and 11 to prepare for lunch when we’d serve hot and cold sandwiches (made on the store’s own baguette!) and soups and salads and, of course, pastries and baked goods. We’d lock the front doors at around 6ish (though people were there working through the night to make the baked goods and pastries for tomorrow). And then it’d start all over again. Sometimes I wouls accidentally lock myself outside and I´d have to call locksmith London to come and help me out.

Well, the story behind The Restaurant was that the owners met while working together at Epcot. He was in charge of the French Pavilion’s main courses, she was in charge of the French Pavilion’s pastries. They fell in love and realized, hey, they’d make one heck of a killer team. They came out to Colorado after a country-wide road trip that discovered that Colorado Springs was the place most in need of such a restaurant that would respond the best to it.

And it was from those beautiful people that I learned a lot about Cooking For Real. The Boss’s Husband was a student of Paul Bocuse (yes, *THAT* Paul Bocuse) and the secrets that I learned from them about cooking are, more or less, things that most anybody familiar with Cooking For Real could tell you. Heck, I won’t even bother giving you the short list when Pixar already hit most of the high notes:

Keep your station clear

The only thing that I can really add to that is that The Boss’s Husband taught me was that you should *ALWAYS* use the freshest and best quality ingredients. Like, *ALWAYS*.

And so, with that in mind, I took the attitude for how if I’m baking a cheesecake and I’m wandering through the grocery store and I’m looking at the Kroger Brand Cream Cheese and seeing that 24 ounces is three dollars and 24 ounces of Philadelphia Cream Cheese is $6.50, I get eight ounces of each, take them home, but first make sure you have good plumbing with ventura plumbing before you start or else there could be an unwanted disaster in your kitchen, and then cook with both of them and figure out which one is the best quality before picking which one to use. Not the best value: the best quality. If I make some bagels, make some mini-cheesecakes, and I see that the Kroger Brand is 90% as good for, look at that, less than half the price, then I’m going to be buying the Philadelphia Cream Cheese to make my cheesecake.

Of course, both might be as good as each other and, in that case, get the Kroger Brand because, jeez, we’re not crazy. We’re just trying to make the best quality cheesecake we can possibly make.

After we make the best one, the *PERFECT* one, the one that we might wish to take to the State Fair to see how it stacks up? Okay, at that point we’re good with a cheesecake that is 90% as good for half the price of perfect.

And it’s with that in mind that I had been toiling over my cheesecakes before bringing them to friends to taste-test for me (given that I’m not really a fan of cheesecake). Which brings me to how, when at Costco the other day, I had been walking to purchase some meat for my dang low-carb diet when I walked past a guy handing out samples of a figgy goat cheese. I took the sample and felt my third eye open and my mind expand a little bit as it melted on my tongue. Seriously, it was the best culinary experience I’ve had so far this year. As I came down from the endorphin high of enjoying the cheese, the voice in the back of my head told me:

“You should make a cheesecake with *THAT*.”

As such, this weekend, I will be making a Figgy Goat Cheesecake.

So… what’s on your docket?

(Image is “Play” by Clare Briggs. Used with permission of the Briggs estate.)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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47 thoughts on “Weekend!

  1. I have never been so disappointed to be lactose intolerant in my life. However, goat’s milk DOES have slightly less lactose than cow’s milk, and my reading tells me that certain structural differences make goat’s milk easier to digest, so…

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  2. I really want to learn how to make those big, jiggly Japanese cheesecakes but every YouTube video I find where an American attempts one, they fail. So, maybe I’ll just wait until I actually get to go to Japan and get the real thing.

    We use Kroger brand for certain things. I think their peanut butter is as good as Jiff. I like most of their canned vegetables. Etc. Where we don’t skimp is on things like Saran Wrap or my wife insists their ketchup is inferior. As you said, it’s about testing.

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    • I think that Philadelphia Cream Cheese has the best texture for stuff like “spreading on bagels”. When it comes to flavor? They’re both good… and, after you whip them for a while with an electric mixer and throw some sugar and vanilla and a little flour in there, they’re pretty much indistinguishable.

      Kroger it is.

      But if I’m making bagels, heck with that. Gimme Philly.

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    • Their premium brand (Private Selection) is, by and large, very good. Their organic brand for certain things is good, too – and they have a line of canned beans that is not explicitly “low sodium” (some of the very-low-sodium canned beans are awful) but are low enough that they’re OK on my diet, and they are good. Their canned beets are good.

      their basic brand is okay in some things and meh in others.

      With cream cheese, I tend to buy Philadelphia. I tried some Challenge brand once and was disappointed, and there was some brand that boasted being “greek yogurt cream cheese” (I forget the exact brand) that was AWFUL.

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  3. Dang. Figgy Goat Cheesecake. That sounds amazing.

    My favourite cheesecake is quark cake with rum and raisins, but I am the only person in the house who has that as their favourite cheesecake (or indeed who particularly likes it), so I don’t make it often.

    This weekend Fledermaus is going up to Grande Prairie for a dance workshop, and I will take a beekeeping course as mandated by the city for those who would keep bees within city limits.

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  4. We tried a vegan roast last night. It tasted like what it was, and what it was was beans mixed with salt and sage and pepper and the whole thing compressed in a hydraulic press until it became a unified block. The flavors didn’t really combine so much as all enter your mouth simultaneously like cats trying to get into the kibble bin.

    I guess it was okay. Used like one might use sausage it would work pretty well, I think, or sliced onto a sandwich and used instead of deli meat. As a main dish it salt with salt and salty salt salted flavor with salt and did I mention the salt? I mean, I’m okay with salt, but this was, like, whoa. Needed a sauce, maybe something with mushrooms and cream and not really any salt at all.

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    • I have tried to experiment once or twice with vegan recipes and I keep finding myself either with a flavorless mash (who has two thumbs and always cooks with cheese? *THIS GUY*) or with something that tastes like a mélange of spices but spices that have been dumped into a flavorless mash.

      (Desserts are usually fine but vegan dessert is easy mode.)

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  5. Dang, that goat cheese in my favorite and I can’t eat it while I’m pregnant! Plus cheesecake?! Excuse me while I drool all over.

    I was stuck doing baby stuff all day today and it did not go well. I know 8 months pregnant with a surrogate baby might be too late for coming to this realization, but this is not my pregnancy. The sooner I let go of the selfish reason I wanted to do surrogacy, to enjoy a beautiful pregnancy and then give the child to their family to joyfully raise, the happier I’ll be. I just have to let it go and give away any power and control I thought I might have had.

    That being said, I’m attending breastfeeding and new born care classes with the baby’s dad this weekend. Will I be breastfeeding or caring for this newborn, you might very logically ask yourself. Nope, but in class is where I will be. Let it go, let it go.

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    • A co-worker is pregnant and is ready to have the baby happen *ANY DAY NOW*.

      Good luck. Her brain is currently awash in all kinds of preparation chemicals. Her story today involved yelling at her husband about a window screen that had a hole in it and how that indicated that the house was not yet ready for the baby. She told the story with a laugh implying that part of her knows that the screen issue is not a “house not ready for the baby” issue.

      But she also laughed when she told us the screen was patched.

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      • My problem is similar, I think. I keep finding myself saying “it’s not about the [fill in the blank]”. It’s isn’t about the screen having a hole in it, it is about the feeling that the screen is giving you. This might sound silly, but it sucks to feel like you’re not ready or something is going horribly wrong, and of course the sign that something is wrong is small. It’s always small, until it’s not and you fall in to a sink hole when you walk out of your front door!

        I clearly don’t have to worry about preparing my home for this baby, but I do have to worry about the relationship that I’m going to have with this family for the rest of my life. What was I thinking?! I can’t believe I connected myself to these strangers for the rest of my life! I can’t believe I didn’t understand about how this would effect my autonomy, my most precious and dear right that is probably the root of all of my commitment issues, so severely. I’m totally freaking out, man! And once you freak out, you lose control. And once you lose control, the hole in the screen feels like it’s going to swallow you up.

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        • Both of our children were early, one by two weeks (the docs said “fully cooked”) and one by four weeks (not fully cooked, but the placenta had started to separate and uteri tend to panic when that happens). I simply accepted that when I got home from work there was going to be an impossible list of things that had to be done that evening. In hindsight, it was good practice — the message “You are going to be chronically short on sleep for the next several months” seems to get glossed over. Also seemed fair, since I wasn’t the one walking around with a six-pound parasite :^)

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          • A handyman is a wise investment at that time in your life, if you don’t have a handy partner. In my case, I am in need of an emotional handyperson, so I hired a doula! She totally gets me. I highly recommend a doula to those families expecting a little bundle of joy.

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  6. The Innocence Project has a gig tonight w/ free food.
    I don’t know what it is, but I’m all over it.
    I’ll probably wear a flannel shirt with a plastic bag on my shoulder underneath, so I can get my to-go order.
    That Innocence Project food washes down a bit better w/ a good porter, but the university tends to frown on that sort of thing.
    I might try pouring it into an empty bottle from some organic tea that I saved.

    BTW, you see a Polish deli, go check out the tea. Good India tea there cheap, good tea all around. Poles have a superior concept of tea, from what I’ve seen.
    Make sure it’s one of those places where you have to wait for the person who speaks English to get the counter to wait on you.

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  7. I’ll start the weekend with the NBA Finals game tonight. My expectation is that we’ll see history made, with the Warriors going 16-0 for the post-season. I think the Cavs mindset is now quite fragile — in each of the first three games, at some point when it mattered, the Warriors put up a 10-0 or better run of points. When that happens tonight, too many of the Cavs will fold.

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        • I take a certain amount of pleasure in watching the broadcast teams struggle when the NBA has applied its version of “the fix is in”. The director becomes real reluctant to put up replays, and when replays are shown, certain camera angles are avoided entirely. The announcers sometimes get clearly frustrated at getting the play-by-play wrong. By midway through the first quarter it was clear that the Warriors would not be allowed any 10-0 point scoring runs. I gave up before halftime.

          Give Cleveland credit for shooting the lights out, so it was a blowout instead of a close win.

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          • There was a broken play, maybe in the 2nd quarter, coming after a fraught sequence of questionable calls and rising anger amongst the Ws. The Cavs were in a scramble drill on the break. The end result was McGee getting called for a foul contesting a dunk attempt by Love. It seemed like a fair call but the announcing team questioned it. What went unaddressed was a Warriors player (I think Curry) getting knocked to the floor as the play evolved, creating the break opportunity. Now, maybe he tripped and it was innocuous but I couldn’t know because they never showed that part of the play.

            The announcers harping on what seemed like a good foul call felt like their way if calling the entire sequence bogus without highlighting the egregiously blown call itself.

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          • The announcers were flummoxed. The Warriors were confused. The bookies were pissed. I’ve never seen a first quarter like that. The Cavs had 22, 23 (?) free throw attempts in that quarter alone?

            On the up side, LeBron is making another argument he’s the best of all time, going 31, 10 and 11 in 41 minutes for a +32 (team was -11 over remaining seven). In game three he was +7 in 46 minutes, team -12 in the 2 minutes he sat. Averaging triple double thru four games. Historic stuff.

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            • Are basketball conspiracy theories politics? If so, apologies. Various places around the web are pointing out that in the last seven games between the Cavs and Warriors, the Cavs are 3-0 when Mike Callahan is on the officiating crew, and 0-4 when he’s not. Callahan was the lead official last night.

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  8. The other day I made an umami burger (by adding Red Boat 45N fish sauce) and instead of the accepted circular or rectangular burger shapes, I made it a pentagon. I think pentagonal burgers will be the next big thing. Or maybe hexagons.

    Other culinary experiments on my docket are Swedish Fish on pizza and a gummi bear salad.

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      • Not that I know of. I just eyeballed it.

        I’ve also long maintained that hot dogs should have a cross section shaped like a pizza slice so they can wedge perfectly into the bun, but the industry ignores me. Of course they can’t even get the bun makers and the hot dog makers to agree on a standard package quantity. There’s a glorious poached-egg on a hotdog style, which would mean that to come out even you’d need 15 packages of 8 buns, 12 packages of 10 hot dogs, and 10 dozen eggs.

        Not to be forgotten, I invented the idea of adding hot cocoa mix to Welch’s grape juice to make liquid Raisinettes. One day someone will try that. Maybe movie theaters will even sell it.

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  9. My wife loves food and cooking. Like seriously loves, takes classes*, gardens for, farmers markets both meat and veg to enable, reads cookbooks for fun, used to have a food blog, plans vacations around, loves food. But has never worked in a restaurant. No idea about commercial cooking, outside of classes in food safety. I am rather indifferent to food, in a too much hassle, better things to spend money on, whats quickest kind of indifference. But, I have worked as a cook, in a restaurant. This leads to interesting “discussions” on kitchens and their uses.

    Its her choice for date night tonight, so we shall see what I will be eating. Other than that, trying to finish up some projects in the shop as I was on a business trip last weekend and next is a family thing. So, nice and quiet.

    *From people you might have heard of, like favorite Hank Shaw.

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      • Oh dang, I broke the website.

        On a completely opposite note… we’re in full Goat Dairy mode getting a couple gallons a day from our little trio.

        My wife has turned in to quite the cheese maker… so funny you mention goat cheese. We have pounds of fresh Chevre that we just scoop out of the bowl onto just about anything that goes with Chevre… which is everything.

        We also have an experiment with a brie like runny cheese underway in the cellar… won’t know for a few more weeks if that worked.

        We make a fantastic feta that my 90-yr old Greek uncle says reminds him of the village. We’re currently eating the batch from December that’s been sitting in nothing other than salt water brine.

        Also experimenting with a recipe that makes a sort of hybrid queso fresco that you can eat young and fresh but also cure into a grating cheese like Romano… that’s about 6-weeks out.

        Oh, and Goat milk in Bolognese sauce is simply a cut above… it adds a slight earthy/truffle note that’s indescribably subtle and delicious.

        If you were in Virginia we’d trade you some Cheese for Cheesecake.

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    • “Take classes for cooking” is on my “what to do if I won the lottery” list.

      And cooking for two (or four) is exceptionally different from cooking for two, and then four, and then four, and then two, and then one, and then four, and then eight, and then two, and then three, and then four, and then… anyway.

      You need two different kitchens for that sort of thing.

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  10. I’ve also made fermented fish using tilapia and kefir (which is in the dairy section). It’s pretty tasty.

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  11. I’m taking mom to the Livermore Rodeo for her birthday.

    It is also my 15th College Reunion which I am not attending because being in the Hudson Valley and the East Bay at the same time is really difficult and 15th reunion isn’t always that well attended from what alumni officials tell me. Usually people go to 5, 10, 20, 25, 40, 50, etc.

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  12. Cheesecake post-mortem:

    My original recipe calls for 45-50 minutes. Normally, with regular cream cheese, I get closer to 50 than not. For goat cheese, I set the timer for about 44 minutes.

    I should have set it for 35 (and then I’d have had the option to let it go another 5 minutes or so to 40). They weren’t burned, but they were medium well instead of medium rare.

    That’s overcomeable.

    The flavor was *VERY* good. Very rich, very robust. Not particularly sweet, even though I used the same amount of sugar as with regular plain old cream cheese (and the cheese was fortified with figs).

    Instead of using two teaspoons of vanilla extract, I used one teaspoon of vanilla bean powder. It gave the cheesecake a nice visual texture without overpowering the fig flavor (or the goat cheese flavor).

    Tentative thumbs up. Might switch to enthusiastic if I can avoid overcooking.

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  13. Nice. I love cheesecake and used to make it. I have been hankering to make real key lime pie.

    Current projects: I quick pickled some carrots with apple cider vinegar, curry powder, and ginger. Preliminary tasking suggests I should have added some sugar for balance. I’m also marinating some pork tenderloin in tandori spices. After 48 hours, it should be good in the over.

    I met my actress friend for some italian food Sunday and had shrimps with pesto on linguine. Got me inspired to do pesto (have to get a blender as mine broke). The pesto was a bit oily-I know if i make it it’ll be better. But I think I’ll put it either in risotto or just on some break.

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