Speaking Jose…

Second Day in LA – Rodeo Drive and New Years
January 6, 2009, 4:44 am
Filed under: Events, Family, Food, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Second day in Los Angeles and after trying to sleep off as much of the jet lag as possible, we went out to Porto’s Bakery in Burbank for breakfast.  Porto’s is a Cuban bakery that offers great breakfast and lunch options, while the bakery puts out amazing pastries and cakes.  We had been there once before with David and Amie, so we had an idea of what we were doing (its a little overwhelming at first, especially if its crowded).  I had a great chorizo omelette on Cuban bread with a cortadito coffee (similar to a cafe au lait but with espresso) and fresh squeezed orange juice.  The absolute best item to get there are the potato balls, imagine a mashed potato ball the size of a tennis ball, but stuffed with some ground beefed and then deep fried! Very delicious, but not exactly breakfast fare. 

After the delicious breakfast we headed out to Rodeo Drive to take a look at the shops and mainly people watch (Kristen) and car watch (Jose). Actually saw a lot of Penn State fans who were in town for the Rose Bowl and Kristen saw Larry King walking along the street talking on his cell phone (“Caller, hello!”). We had lunch at Cheesecake Factory and then headed back to the hotel to rest up before New Years Eve at Amie and David’s apartment.

The party at David and Amie’s was a lot of fun, we got to meet some of Amie’s friends from Yahoo! (including the minds behind the Daemon’s TV blog) and eat some great Italian and Brazilian food. I learned to be very humble after Americ and David both schooled me in Wii Tennis, but I got my revenge when we played Buzz! It was a great party and its becoming a little bit of an annual tradition for us now. Got to see the ball drop in New York (again, we caught the original at 9 PM on the West Coast) and brought the New Years in with family and friends.

Santa was good to Jose this year
December 26, 2008, 3:54 am
Filed under: Events, Food, Pictures | Tags: , , ,


Santa brought a lot of good presents to me this year 🙂 Got a couple of great cooking books from Mom and a copy of The Starbucks Experience from my brother. Kristen rocked and got me a pair of nice flannel PJ bottoms and a universal remote (which I spent all day playing with and programming 🙂 )

My in-laws got me a new bottle of Sapphire Gin which we got to break out today at Christmas Dinner. We had a few people over and it was a little crazy getting everything ready, but we had a good time. Highlight of the evening was my mother in-law leaving us some of her home-baked cookies and buckeyes (pictured below)!

ruths buckeyes

Vampire Cupcakes!
November 20, 2008, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Books, Food, Movies | Tags: , , , ,


Update: Kristen originally found these delicious treats on the Baking Bites blog.

Kristen made some great cupcakes for last Halloween and I wanted to share the recipe with you for the next time you are looking for a scary treat (or you’re getting amped for the release of the movie based on your favorite vampire novel).

Kristen's vampire cupcakes

Kristens Cupcakes

Kristen’s Vampire Cupcakes

Step 1. Make cupcakes using your favorite yellow cake mix, brand doesn’s matter, but just make sure you use a regular size muffin or cupcake pan. Dont try to use white cake mix for the recipe, the filling later on will just turn the cupcake to a pinkish hue and the effect is lost.

Step 2. Make the “blood” by pureeing cherry pie filling until its relatively smooth and liquid with no lumps (like real blood).

Step 3. Once the cupcakes are made and cooled, cut a piece out of the top of the cup cake that is about half the height of the cupcake. The piece that comes out should almost look like circular muffin top with a cone attached at the bottom, think cartoonish diamond shape if it helps.

Step 4. Spoon a couple of spoonfuls of the pie filling into the cavity in the cupcake. You may have to experiment and have a couple of test pieces to determine the relation between how big a piece you cut out in Step 3 versus the amount of liquid added.  The goal should be that a person biting in should get a good taste of the filling but not be wiping away their chin from the excess.  After adding the filling, replace the top on the cupcake.

Step 5. Time to frost! White or light colored frosting works best to show off the blood in Step 7, but feel free to use any flavor you like (we used cream cheese frosting on the ones in the picture). To frost, first put a thin layer on the cupcake around where the cut line from Step 3 is, this will help cover up the edge when completing the frosting. After the thin layer evens out the edge you can finish frosting the cupcake by piping it on the cupcake or just using a flat knife. 

Step 6. To make the fang marks there are a couple of techniques, but again, feel free to experiment to find a method you like (plus it means you can eat the “test cupcakes” in the name of science!). For ours we tries using a straw to cut out the hole (insert the straw into the cupcake and pull out), but while it made a good size hole, the cake got stuck in the straw and was difficult to get out. In the end we used a clean mean thermometer to poke into the cupcake and then mode the hole bigger by moving it around in a circular motion to expand the hole. Make sure you make the fang marks about an inch apart to look realistic.

Step 7. The final and most fun step is to add the “dripping blood” to the fang holes and the top of the cupcake. We used a straw to help us fill the fang holes (an eye dropper works well here too) and then used a toothpick to make the little blood trail.

Step 8. Eat and Enjoy!

Variation on this theme: Make the cupcakes with chocolate cake mix and chocolate frosting to make a Blackula Cupcake. Another thought was to add a white chocolate chip in with the filling for a cupcake to act as lost vampire tooth.

Cool, a Food Meme – The Omnivore’s 100
August 18, 2008, 1:12 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , ,

I found this Food Meme idea on Jessica Baxter’s blog, who got it from the Mighty God King blog, who in turn found it at its orginator, a UK blog called Very Good Taste.  It was a very comprehensive list, though it could have probably have added a couple of more items like scorpions or toro tuna or an In-N-Out Burger.  Go through the list and see which items you have had in the past, want to have in the future, or don’t think you would ever have. The instructions are below, feel free to go to Very Good Taste to report what you found. The links in the list will take you to a wikipedia entry with more details about the food item.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (Had them in Paris, France – was delicious!)
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue (Had them in the Fondue place in Royal Oak, Michigan, has since closed)
8. Carp
9. Borscht (Had it at the Russian Tea Room in New York on a family trip in the late 80’s)
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari (love it fried or just sauteed – best fried ones are from Paradise Cove Beach Cafe)
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich (Grape Jelly – Strawberry jelly is just wrong. For extra points, try adding some marshmallow fluff)
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart (Used to get them all the time from the vendor outside of the Chem Building at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle (Another Paris treat, had it as part of a salad at Le Grand Vefour – very very tasty!)
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes – Dont know here…does Arbor Mist count?
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries – Used to pick wild rhaspberries all the time when I was in Maine.
23. Foie gras – Not as much anymore, a little too much for me.
24. Rice and beans – I’m Puerto Rican, this is the national dish (I do prefer black beans to pinto beans though)
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava – Our company’s 401k manager brings a tray from Shalimar in Dearborn every December.
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas – Great bar treat.
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut – Both plain and on a hot dog.
35. Root beer float – Gotta love A&W
36. Cognac with a fat cigar – Dont care for the cigar, but have tried Cognac.
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects – Termites. They are not bad, as long as you dont spend too long thinking what you just had.
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more – Have had with my Dad, who loved his single malts and Chivas Regal. I usually just stick to the 12 Yr Old Chivas nowadays.
46. Fugu – This is the Japanese puffer fish. I want to try this soooo badly, but the whole potential of being poisoned to death is the only obstacle remaining.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel – Have had smoked eel on sushi, but I think he means actual eel pieces so I’m not counting it.
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin – Both from a fresh from the ocean sea urchin and at a sushi place.
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal – Yeah had to many of these in my teens and twenties.
56. Spaetzle – Like to get it at Metzger’s in Ann Arbor.
57. Dirty gin martini – This is how my brother like’s his martinis. I like mine straight up with a little vermouth.
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine – Havent had this, but its a favorite of the Canadian employees in our office.
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores – Also good: the Ben & Jerry S’mores ice cream.
62. Sweetbreads – Had them before I knew what they were. Still like them.
63. Kaolin – Not really sure what this is, but if it is eating dirt, I’m not going there.
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs – They aactually taste like chicken!
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake – All of the above. Beignets from Cafe du Monde, churros were homemade by family in Spain and serve with hot chocolate. The other two come up whenever I visit the Linden Summer Happening.
68. Haggis – Had it when I visited Edinborough around 1995. Tasted fine to me.
69. Fried plantain – Another Puerto Rican national dish, cant visit Puerto Rico without having a dozen.
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho Great on a hot summer day!
72. Caviar and blini – I ate at Petrossian in New York once and this was explained to me as the only way to eat caviar. Found out later that a water cracker works just as well.
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost – This actually sounds good.
75. Roadkill – Sorry I have some standards.
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie – Cherry flavored is my fav!
78. Snail – Used to love Escargot until I got sick one night after having a plate. Now I can eat them but they are not a favorite.
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini – Good!
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky – Favorite is the Men’s Pocky (Bittersweet Chocolate)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef – Had a filet of A5 Kobe at Bourbon Steak in Detroit. Meat hasnt tasted the same since.
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam – Should have had some at the Burger King in Maui, promise not to wimp out next time.
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Final Score – 54/100. I need to work on eating some of these weirder cheeses and soups. Make sure you leave a comment on my blog or on the Very Good Taste Blog.

Food from the Heavens – Jamon Pata Negra (Spanish Cured Ham)
August 14, 2008, 3:29 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , , ,
Jamon Serrano de Bellota before I cut into it.

Jamon Serrano de Bellota before I cut into it.

My family has it’s roots in Spain, mainly the norther regions of Asturias and Galicia, and I’ve come to love Spanish food as a result. My favorites of all are Manchego Cheese and Jamon Serrano, which both make a great snack thats full of flavor. Although Manchego Cheese is easier to find these days in most grocery stores, Jamon Serrano is more hit-or-miss, which led Kristen to find a great substitute, Figs! The highest quality of ham (called by some the Kobe Beef of Spanish cured hams) is the Jamon Serrano de Bellota Pata Negra. Bellota identifies that the pig had a diet of acorns, which gives it a richer flavor than regular Jamon Serrano, and the Pata Negra name comes from the black hoof.  They are rare and usually command a high price because of it.

So how did I end up with a prized leg of Jamon Serrano de Bellota Pata Negra? Well, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.  You see, until recently (July 2008), it was illegal for Spanish companies to export Jamon Serrano to the US. Back in 2001, though, some companies had offered to take orders for hams from Americans, with an eye to shipping the hams to them once the ban was cleared.  My father had placed an order for a number of hams, hoping to share this treat with the rest of my family. A few years later my father passed away after his fight with cancer, and he never mentioned the hams. Turn the clock to a couple of months ago, where my mother found the order forms while clearing out some paperwork. A few phone calls later and the ham order was confirmed, and after a short stop in Philadelphia at my brother’s place, here it is! 

In the time since I took the picture, I have cut into the ham and it is delicious! For right now I am either cutting a couple of pieces off as a snack when I get home from work or taking some pieces to lunch, along with some slices of Manchego and some baguette type bread. Although it is an amazing treat, it has led me to be a little melancholy, both because it makes me miss Spain and because it was such a nice gesture from Dad that he never got to share with us.

Food from the Heavens – Haagen-Dazs Reserve Ice Cream
August 6, 2008, 2:14 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , ,


Good Ice Cream

Good Ice Cream

Today I decided to try a new ice cream flavor, something other than the Edy’s Loaded Cookies and Cream. After considering some of the other Edy flavors or Ben & Jerry’s, I decided to try one of the Haagen Daz Reserve Ice Cream flavors. I had seen these in the frozen food aisle the last few months and have always wanted to try them out. The flavor I chose was the Hawaiian Lehua Honey & Sweet Cream flavor and it was excellent! It tastes like a very rich vanilla flavor, though when you get a bit of the honey thats swirled through the ice cream, it tastes like you are tasting it straight from the honeycomb. It is not as healthy as the Edy’s, so I have to take my time in finishing the carton. Next I might try the Fleur de Sel Caramel or Pomegranate Chip flavors.  To read more about the Haagen-Dazs Reserve flavors, read this story from FrozenFoodAge.com (they have a site for everything these days!).

Philly Day 3 – Cars, Halo and Cheesesteaks
July 27, 2008, 8:05 pm
Filed under: Food, Pictures, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

So Day 3 started off in a European manner, with a classic Irish breakfast of Soda Farl at Ida Mae’s Bruncherie. For those who haven’t had this before, it is a breakfast sandwich of eggs, suasages and ham on soda bread slices. Very tasty and also very hearty, actually didn’t need to have lunch.

After breakfast Jaime and I took his car in to get the brakes looked at (the car was making a weird rocking motion when braking). We killed time by stopping at Game Stop and picked up Halo 3 for his XBOX. Took some time to go visit cousins in New Jersey and picked up the car afterwards.

Finally, came time to make the brave the streets and get my cheesesteak. We decided to go to Pat’s King of Steaks, one of the two main places people go for cheesesteak. (Gino’s, the other option, was nice but the neon was a little too Vegas) We got to Pat’s at the same time as the crowds from the Phillies game were arriving so we had a little wait (line wrapped around the building), but in the end it was worth it! Sandwich was great and the accompanying fries were also great.

Finally we headed back to Jaime’s and chilled out in the evening with Halo and Jaime’s kegerator (serving Walt’s Wit from Philadelphia Brewing Company). The pictures below are in a nice slideshow created at Rockyou.com.

[rockyou id=118846076]

Food from the Heavens – Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn
June 26, 2008, 1:43 am
Filed under: Food | Tags: , ,

On our last trip to Trader Joe’s we picked up a sample of what we thought was plain popcorn. Thirty seconds later we’re grabbing bags of the stuff and threatening the kid behind the counter if he’s holding out on us. Trader Joe’s Kettle Corn is a delicious snack that can be enjoyed by those that like sweet or salty snacks. To me the real magic about the Kettle Corn is the mix between sweet popcorn kernels and salty ones. instead of trying to make all of the kernels sweet and salty like other kettle corns, each Trader Joe’s kernel is either salty or sweet, leading to a different taste sensation with every bite. Get to your nearest Trader Joe’s and try it out today!

Fresh off the Grill – Ribs
June 23, 2008, 2:40 am
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I love to grill from Spring to Fall.  In preparation for the upcoming July 4th weekend, Kristen and I made ribs today.  

They were delicious! Click More to see how we made them.

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