Everyday Design: Ovens

My future brother-in-law Chris pointed out that we’re getting so used to well-designed objects (thanks Apple) that, when something isn’t well designed, it sticks out like a sore thumb. While putting the roast in the oven, it became abundantly clear to me that ovens need some fresh thought. The design hasn’t really changed in what — 60 years?

For gosh sake, someone add a thermocouple and read-out so I know exactly what temperature the oven is at, and have some idea how soon it’ll be preheated. While we’re at it, how about an independent temperature probe and readout to stick into my roast so I don’t open the oven just to check if it’s done.

On second thought, someone get me a patent lawyer.

Experimental Cooking

I’ve been doing a small bit of cooking in the last week.

Results:

Samoa Cookie Bars: OK, but unsatisfying. Too much caramel, and the shortbread came out too cakey.

Potato Curry: Fail. I tried re-creating an accidental success from a ski trip many years ago. Not good, not good at all. Anyone remember how we did it way back when?

Pot Roast: Next up. I found a “Beef Eye Round Roast” in the back of the freezer. Considering the weather, I thought I’d try to braise it back to life. If I fail, there’s always delivery.

Update: the pot roast came out fine. Not great, but OK considering it was pretty much refrigerator roulette.

Mini-Bar

minibarOn Friday night, Kim and I had the great pleasure of eating at the Mini-Bar by José Andrés.

A six-seat dining experience nestled within Café Atlantico, Kim had to work a bit to get reservations (call one month in advance @10 am). We were rewarded for our efforts by a 28-course tasting menu of “molecular gastronomy”. Most dishes were just a bite or possibly two, so 28 courses wasn’t the ordeal that might be imagined. Most of the dishes are amazing delicious, and all incredibly interesting to behold. Surprisingly, the chefs (2 for just the six seats) assemble and plate all the food before your eyes, and are willing and able to keep a running commentary of the ingredients and techniques employed in creating the meal.
The service, like the food, was impeccable. At the suggestion of our server we paired the meal with a 2005 Domaine William Fevre Chablis Les Clos. In the end, we had a throughly enjoyable (albeit pricey) evening.

Beginning of the New Year

Just a quick update after one week of the New Year, and 1001 days. With 7 days down, I’ve managed to knock-off a couple of minor items from the 101, mostly just buying small stuff around the house. A quck trip to Ikea and the local big-box home stores yielded a $50 faux-persian rug for the living room (#81), as well as five plants for my room (#83). I also took the liberty of starting an herb garden, it’s not on the list, but I figured it was a good thing to knock out while messing with plants in general.

In terms of some of the longer term goals, I managed to knock off 7 movies from the 102 (let’s face it this one is going to be cake), and I’ve managed breakfast everyday (although one was a frozen dinner, which I’m not counting). I also managed to make dinner 4 times, and ate leftovers once, so 5 homecooked meals. (I should ammend #41 to, “4 home-cooked meals a week”, since I’m counting left-overs). My current weight is 245 lbs., down 5 from a couple of weeks ago, and about 20 lbs. lighter than my max in the fall of 2005.

I had tried to get the dentist thing out of the way, and went to an appointment with a nearby office. Let’s just say I’ve never felt like I was being railroaded so hard outside of a used car lot. Needless to say I’m not going back, and I’m still looking for a good dentist. Hopefully I can knock out that item in the next week or two.

So the current stats are:

99 items, 95 movies, 46 lbs. in the next 994 days.

Stay tuned, it’s going to get interesting soon… (I hope).

Corrected Crabcakes

Apparently I shouldn’t write recipes while tired. The crabcake recipe I had online for the last week was a real mess. Part way through the ingredients I forgot I was entering a half-portion recipe. It’s fixed now, and there’s a new picture to go with the recipe.

The side dishes on that plate are: oven-fried potatoes and asian red cabbage slaw. If there is any interest, I’ll add the recipe for the slaw at some point.

Grilling Season

I inaugurated grilling season last night with: a butterflied chicken, roast corn on the cob, and grilled romaine salad. Unfortunately, the grocer didn’t have any local Silver Queen corn, so we ended up with some random (inferior) variety of yellow corn.
Except for the corn, the recipes were straight out of the grilling section of Alton Brown’s book, I’m Just Here for the Food.

A couple of tips:

  • Charcoal chimneys are a great way to light a grill. They’re fast, easy, and don’t require lighter fluid.
  • Consider using lump charcoal, it’s all natural, burns hotter, and lights faster.

A day in Baltimore

A view of the Inner Harbor from the bow of the Cisne BrancoI had a doctor’s appointment thursday; nothing serious just an initial check-in with my new permanent physician. Normally, I’m not a big fan of going to the doctor, but the new docs are just two blocks from Baltimore’s Lexington Market.

Lexington Market is a cornucopia of food stalls – most selling prepared food, but many with fresh meats, produce, and of course seafood. I’m terribly partial to Berger’s Bakery, not for their (justifiably) well-known cookies, but for their version of a cream-filled sandwich cookies – which are an acceptable facimile of the one’s I used to get from Danny’s Bakery as a boy. But the real attraction of any visit to Lexington Market is Faidley’s Seafood, and their world-famous crabcakes.

I ordered one of their lump crabcakes and a bowl of cream of crab soup. Now normally, I’m a big fan of tarter sauce, but Faidley’s Crabcakes are so tender and creamy inside, that no adornment is necessary. Faidley’s is one of the best this land has to offer; trust me I know, I’m a marylander born and bred, and I’ve had my fair share of crabcakes. I’ve I don’t know where you’re from dear reader, but once in your lifetime treat yourself to a Maryland crabcake made by one of the greats, it’s an experience not to be missed.

After lunch I walked down to the Inner Harbor to catch some pictures for the photoblog. The Volvo Ocean Race is in town, and I wanted a chance to check out the boats up close, as well as tour the tall ships visiting as part of the celebration. The Ocean 70’s were mostly docked, but the Extreme 40 catamarans were out practicing for races held in the harbor. If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn those boats had motors: amazing accerelation, wicked speed, and man did it look like a blast out there. I’m looking forward to catching one of the in-port races later this week.

I finished out the day by heading over to Jef and Becky’s for dinner. Becky had to dash off to her studio, but I had a lovely dinner with Jef and his dad at Paper Moon.