August 2007

“The final days of summer are upon us!” scream the radio car commercials. Annoying as they are, they’re right. The season which has so long lasted is finally in it’s symbolic final weekend. I hope you all have wonderful grill-outs before you put your grills away for the summer, and that the brats and burgers are worthy of your attentions.

I, however, am extraordinarily excited. Ladies and gents, autumn is upon us and I love to cook for it. Hearty stews, apple crisps, apple chicken for that matter, and oh, my word, did somebody mention pork? Pumpkin-casserole! Candied squash! The yam!

A drink recipe for you, a summery, chilled drink that yet embodies all that is fall.

Crush 4 graham crackers with 2 tablespoons of sugar into a small rimming dish (a saucer works well). Wet the edge of a martini glass and rim with mixture. Pour in 3oz apple juice (for the kids) or apple pucker (for you) shaken with a teaspoon or two of cinnamon sugar. Shake over ice, or just chill everything before. It’s apple juice/pucker. This isn’t fancy, people. It’s called the Apple Pie Tini, and it’s meant to be easy on the liver. And do let the kids have theirs in plastic martini glasses. Kids are particularly hilarious when you let them be sophisticate.

See you all on Tuesday! Have a happy labor day weekend!


Ace of Cakes franchise? They are being plagued by a Dubain woman who wants an Ace of Cakes. Mary Alice, being more patient than I am, tells her 19 times, no, we are not franchising. Can’t they just start their own bakery, for crying out loud?

Jason’s head being eaten by a pair of zombies. Now don’t go calling up Ace of Cakes to make your own statue of yourself in cake – they don’t do features of people as cake subjects, but if you want to be eaten by zombies, then it’s okay.

Anna gets a cake with horizontal stripes, which is extraordinarily difficult due to the dragging, drooping nature of fondant. They sag and look pretty unprofessional. And they set Anna-the-Perfectionist on this. Whoo, boy, this is going to go over spectacularly. I predict at least 2 meltdowns.

Geoff gets the assignment to make not one, but two stadiums. fuggidabodit. Or however you would spell that.

Of the two, Camden Yards apparently has this very specific grass pattern that the groundskeeper takes great pride in. Geoff decides that this grass pattern must become a part of the cake, though normally he would concentrate on the outside of the stadium. The other stadium is Raven Stadium.

Duff’s method for horizontal stripes? Brute force. Do it. Until you get it right. Anna thinks that someone has to know how to do this better than that. Duff does have to admit that there is no one in Charm City Cakes that has actually worked in a normal cake shop. Therefore, it stands to perfect reason that there is a lot they don’t know. Anna begs him to call Colette, who gives them both tips and reassurance that “there will always be a seam” where you connect the strips in the back.

On the head cake, there are fondant dropping problems. However, Elena has a good point – drooping flesh and torn nonsense is par for the course on a head being shredded and consumed by zombies. Disappointed zombies at that, since they were likely after brains and they are getting chocolate chip cake. Bit of a difference (I hope!)

ICE CREAM MAN BREAK! Cut for a scene where Duff chases him down like a man possessed, to purchase his employees Oreo sundae cups. Now there’s a nice boss for you.

The partially devoured head is pretty gross. Okay, actually, it’s really disgusting. She carved the head and then cracked it open and is now stuffing it with brains. Mary Alice is disturbed. It drips. And it is disgusting. Guh. Ew.

Geof is a perfectionist. And he works too hard. Therefore, he has to delegate a lot of the fun part, namely decoration, to others. Poor Geof. However, they are doing a very good job, and the stadium is beautiful. (Raven Stadium, which has had basically no screen time, also looks really nice)

The zombies are disgusting, and melting due to some dye issues. They seem to think this is a problem, I think they look more like zombies. It could get problematic if they melted off the skeleton, though.

They have 24 cakes. 20 different places. And all of them are due on Saturday. Duff has a lot of traveling to do. Everyone seemed to love their cakes. Oh, and Camden yards was perfect. Perfect.

Last night I ventured into the universe of cheeseburger pizza, or at least started out with that intent. I didn’t feel like making my own dough, though, so wheat dough from the grocery sufficed.  I set that out to thaw, set Josh on browning ground beef, and got to thinking.

I didn’t really want a red sauce. I’d made this before and I personally felt the red sauce detracted from the cheeseburgery flavor. I did want bacon, for a “bacon cheeseburger” experience. This could only lead to one thing, people. Cream of Bacon.

So I set out. I diced up four pieces of bacon. I fried them until they were crispy and delicious, and strained a little of the fat off – there was a lot. I got cheap bacon. I left a tablespoon or so, added the requisite tablespoon of flour, stirred, and started adding milk. Cream of bacon, people. I added some mozz for the sticky factor, but you couldn’t taste it. There was peppery, salty, delicious bacon, and you could tell. I did add a little more s&p, and some garlic salt, but otherwise it was just one of those magical things that will kill you, make you feel so classy (cream of chicken? nope, cream of bacon. What a ring that has!) but, seriously, it’s made of bacon! Just because it sounds trashy doesn’t mean it’s not delicious. And besides, you’re putting this on snooty white pizza, not the regular red varietal. That makes you sound sufficiently pretentious, right?

I mean, think about it. Spinach and pine nut pizza – white sauce. Chicken and parmesan pizza, white sauce. We’ll ignore the fact that CiCi’s macaroni and cheese pizza also has a white sauce. Perhaps it has no sauce! I mean, it has enough cheese, right? So only the most pretentious pizza toppings are graced with white sauce. Yes, on pizza, chicken is pretentious. Work with me, here.

So I spread that over my baked pizza crust (I always bake them 90% of the way first, otherwise my pizza-stone-lacking pizzas get really soggy in the middle), topped with the finely ground beef and cheddar cheese. Yum. Baked until the cheese was appropriately brown and crisped. Delicious. 

But the boys will be eating pasta. It’s kind of like a primavera, just not quite as many vegetables. I’m sauteeing/steaming red peppers and peas in butter with garlic, oregano, and S&P, and then using that to make a bechamel. Toss over noodles and top with Parmesan cheese. Yum!

I’m excited, as school starts next week – and that means The Culinary Society! Two years ago I hatched a plan and a constitution, and I created a culinary society for our school. My idea was a society that understands that stupidly pretentious food is also stupidly easy to make (or incredibly pointless. Like that poisonous blowfish. Why, people? Why?)

It’s not “mine” anymore – I’m no longer president, but it will also be nice to see things from the member position. And, it means I don’t have to be there if I don’t have time. Which will be nice.

We had chicken fried steak tonight, a treat for us all. Yum! I made it from sirloin, which you normally do not do, because that would be a complete waste. But this sirloin was free, and instead of tenderizing it, I simply chicken-fried it. Yum! Dredged in flour seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper, pan fried, and then that oh-so-delicious gravy.

So delicious.

Of course, we also watched Food Network last night, and saw Feasting on Asphalt and the South Beach Live get-together, but to be honest, I didn’t feel either was really worth getting out the laptop to review them. Feasting on Asphalt has been all right this year, but it does feel much less planned. They had one donut shop that they went to where the lady all but kicked them out. I think they could have left that out of the final footage.

I don’t know what I think of the “new” Alton – he’s a bit crazier on Iron Chef (never a bad thing!) but he’s gotten much…..more reserved, perhaps?  Whatever it is, I’m not sure I like it, but then – I still favor Alton best on Good Eats. Though he was the only one worth watching at the bash – he turned an Army-issue Swiss box into a smoker on stage, all while making good fun of himself. That was enjoyable.

However, I was downright embarrassed for Michael, to sit and watch Paula talk about how she thought he was a pervert rapist when she first saw him. Rachel was Rachel, and Giada embarrassed herself by not being able to actually boil pasta on stage. What?! Though she did take it well, and humorously. So it was better than it could have been, but that isn’t saying much.

So all in all, two new things, neither particularly enjoyable, nor particularly awful. Just bland. 

This couple is letting their children design their wedding cake. They sat down with the kids and they came up with a Jeep, four pairs of boots, a skunk and a green (?)gorilla. Mary Alice is hoping there’s some kind of family joke behind it, and as usual she harbors worries that they’ll hate it. However, my guess is that the parents will understand it all and they’ll love it.

There’s a make a wish girl (she has brain cancer) whose wish, apparently, was to make a birthday cake with Duff Goldman. That’s a really cool wish. Whoever you are, kid, I already like you. It is also to be covered in animals, with a jungle theme. Make-a-Wish is also sponsoring her party, from what I understand, which is to be huge.

There’s a Southwest Spirit event, and Southwest Airlines wants a Duff cake present. Specifically, they want a jet that has been covered in the design of the Maryland flag, which is the flag of the second Lord Baltimore and the Crossland family, combined. It should be awesome, as the flag is quite pretty. Duff is, as usual, pumped – Maryland is the coolest place ever! I’ve decided, North Dakota and Maryland come*directly in line after Texas in sheer state pride. I have never lived or visited anywhere quite so obsessed with themselves as a state, entirely separate from their existence as a united state, quite so much as those three.

This week they started with 29 cakes, four more cakes than they’ve ever done before in one week, but then they discovered a cake that they nearly forgot to post. So, 30 cakes, and 5 more than they’ve ever done before. The offending cake, by the way, was a shoe.

Oh, drama! The Southwest event is on Wednesday, and most people want their cakes on Friday – meaning Charm City is set up to deal with “Cakes done by Thursday night/Friday morning.” The early cake deadline, on such an in-depth cake, is definitely causing some stress for Anna. She was having some difficulty getting the fondant on, and as regular fans know, Anna is OCD. Her Scrabble cake was perfect and playable, she insisted that the little man be where she wanted it to be on an airplane cake some time ago, etc. She has an artist’s vision that can be a little detrimental to her effectiveness, but her cakes are more admirable for it. It was a beautiful cake. And of course, Duff managed to deliver the cake 3 minutes before the deadline. He claims to be a stickler for punctuality.

Duff and M.A. decided to surprise the make-a-wish girl, Laura, at the baggage claim. It was pretty awesome, and Laura is a total sweetheart. She was smiling so hard “she [couldn’t] move her face!” It was so cute. She looked dumbfounded, ecstatic, and shocked at once. So perfect.

Laura is awestruck upon getting to the bakery (in a limo, no less). She can’t talk for a bit: “Nice shirt” Duff says. She nods. “Would you like a tour of the bakery?”, nod. She sees Geoff and she does exactly what I would do: stares in awe and waves at the back of his head – he was, of course, cutting cake at the time.

She finally opens up and wants to know if Duff has ever had a food fight. He has, of course.

Duff, of course, thinks he should hire her. Mary Alice was expecting her to be a more heart-wrenching, but she was so much fun. And the cake? The coolest cake in the world. The whole thing was so sweet. It was a huge jungle cake, covered in fondant jungle animals, and then the whole thing was lightly sprayed in silver so it was a very sparkly, marbled jungle. It was beautiful. Go you, Laura!

So, normally I would include a synopsis of how much the parents loved the cake, however, I think you need to hear more Josh’s reaction to the cake. I was reading a blog post over the commercial, and the parent’s wedding cake comes on. He sees two children, a boy and a girl (10, 12?),dressed to the nines, being delivered this cake. He says, “I hope that’s for a birthday” – I don’t even look up yet and I know, he’s talking about the wedding cake that is a jeep and a green gorilla and a monkey. I say, oh, no, that’s a wedding cake. I also don’t see his face of horror – yet. I say then, “That’s their kids, and they said they said could do whatever they wanted for their wedding cake.”

Well, Josh didn’t hear the “That” and thought I meant, “They’re kids, and [Charm City Cakes] said [the kids] could do whatever they wanted for their wedding cake.” He promptly freaked, of course. I was utterly confused for about a minute, and wow. Wow. Okay, maybe you all didn’t think that was half as funny as we did. But it was awesome.

1000 construction workers, a basically non-existent kitchen, and construction workers for sous-chefs. 7 hours. Oh, and whatever he makes, he has to serve in paper bags.

They don’t want him to succeed, do they? He’s cooking in the emergency kitchens in the Salvation Army rehab unit vehicles. Requests: no vegetarian nonsense. Lots of meat. Hot is preferred to cold. It’s like cooking for Josh and Housemate! Only in a brown paper bag.

He sets his construction team on MacGuyvering a kitchen into existence while he and George shop for food – and he finally gets his inspiration for dessert from Raisin Bran of all places. As usual, he’s got an absurd number of courses. I want to know how he’s fitting those in a bag?

Anyway, so he comes to a lack of hardware. No pots. What’s a guy to do? Substitute wheelbarrows. Washed out wheelbarrows. Ew?

The coleslaw looked like so much fun to make. They had it two of those rolling Tupperware that are huge. My family keeps our Christmas tree in a container just like that. They make several hundred pounds of coleslaw in these containers. It was awesome. In this episode, like no episode previous, I really got an idea of the sheer scale of cooking for that many people. Stirring that much coleslaw with your hands. Watching that many meatballs transfer from one container to another. Looking on as someone chops through that many bananas, that fast. Wow, people. Wow.

I mean, obviously catering services do this all the time. Even fast food services. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched that many meatballs fly out of the pan and into the customer’s hands on meatball-sub day, but I wasn’t making them in one fell swoop. They were made in gallon sized jugs. It’s crazy to watch this much food fly through the hands of a team of 10 people in 7 hours.

The chicken and pork sandwiches are to be topped with a peach aoili, so he pours several gallons of canned peaches into a bright red plastic wheelbarrow and he just starts blending with his handy-dandy immersion blender. Awesome.

He’s got all the foods in their huge tubs, and they’re starting to “plate” (read: stick things in covered styrofoam and disposable plastic containers) when it finally starts to rain. Robert finally gets all the food covered and back to moving on the creation and plating of the food when the construction workers decide that being outside when it’s raining is too goof for them. What!? You’re construction workers. Brave those elements! If Robert the snooty chef can do it, so can you!

Being Robert, however, he perseveres even in the face of inanity. He manages to finish. Five minutes to spare, ladies and gentlemen, and Robert finishes the challenge. He gets it all inside for the wee baby construction workers, he completes it all, lines it all up buffet-style, and they love it. Go Robert!

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