Monday, September 20, 2010

A few thoughts on food (particularly deviled eggs).

So I was making some of my (kind of) famous deviled eggs recently, and I had some thoughts I felt might be worth sharing. That sounds narcissistic but I don't mean it that way at all.
I don't know how many times Nick and I have had conversations about how peoples' number one mistake in cooking is over-complicating things in an effort to make them better.
As I mentioned before, my deviled eggs are (kind of) famous. It is probably the only thing I am ever asked to contribute to family functions, but I am happy to do so. Now, I don't fancy myself a gourmet in any sense of the word, but I do make pretty damn good deviled eggs. People have apparently tried to replicate their awesomeness without luck.
I don't have any secret ingredient.
The only secret about my deviled eggs is that there is no secret.
I will say that blending your filling mixture with an immersion blender makes ALL the difference, but as for the ingredients of said mixture, I use five, and ONLY five. Boiled egg yolks, mayonnaise, mustard, salt, and pepper. I have been deviling eggs since I was a wee girl trying to help my mom prepare holiday meals. I have perfected the craft and have been doing it the same way for years. I have never and will never use a recipe. I always make different amounts of eggs, and the eggs are not always the same size, though I do prefer Extra Large or Jumbos. I can tell a lot about the flavor by the texture and consistency of the filling, but I still taste it. I cannot stress enough how important this step is. Why would you feed something to people without first tasting it to see if it is any good? That just doesn't make sense. If you are making something that you cannot taste due to raw ingredients, try and get everything together that you can taste before adding anything that must be cooked. Tuna patties come to mind. I use egg as a binder, but I taste and make sure everything tastes good before I put the eggs in.
Now, back to the deviled eggs, I use MAYONNAISE... not Miracle Whip. This is important in the flavor profile I like in my satanic ovum. The mayo must be cold or it will separate, especially if you subject it to an immersion blender. As Alton Brown says, that makes it NOT good eats.  Also, I put enough mayo in to clog an artery or five, but that's why they are good people! I don't use any vinegar, relish, sugar, or anything else weird. Maybe that's what you're into but I am not.
I like things simple and delicious. I am not a food snob, and I can appreciate fine cuisine, but sometimes a chick just needs some McDonalds french fries. I think there can be artistry in all cooking, whether it be hamburger helper or  five-star french fare. You can really spruce up a 'Helper and you can really mess up simple things. The worst cooks are those who follow recipes and never learn what they're about. I suppose it's like people who can read music but don't learn how to improvise or come up with anything original.
Just remember this, more ingredients does not mean better taste. Keep it simple, and in the wise words of RuPaul, "Don't f*ck it up".


Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Crave Brothers Les Freres Cheese

Well, this is my first dalliance into food review. I feel I must preface this by saying I am in no way, shape, or form a seasoned food critic. I am, however, a very seasoned eater. Hey, do you see what I just did there? With the "seasoning" thing, talking about food? Ahaha, I slay me. Anyway... this is about cheese. I like cheese a lot. I feel there are but a few things (namely desserts) that cannot be made better with the addition of it.
The Crave Brothers Les Freres is a pasteurized cow's milk cheese from Wisconsin. It is a little stinky, but nowhere near some of the other cheeses I have had. Your hands will smell a little like feet after handling the washed rind,  but your taste buds will thank you. I like this cheese much better after it has come to room temperature. As my windows are open and it's kind of humid, that didn't take long today. The smell mellows and the taste and texture improve with the temperature equilibrium. Straight out of the fridge, the soft cheese has a little bit of spring to it, being borderline rubbery but not in an off-putting way. This cheese has a good saltiness to it and it is not overly creamy or rich. For some reason today I am getting a huge cracked-pepper taste from it which I have not noted in the past. It has the acidity of many other soft cheeses I have tried but it doesn't smack you in the face with it or linger on your tongue. This is somewhere between the mild D'Affinois and a salty brie. It doesn't have the mushroomy quality of nice brie, nor does it have the buttery subtlety of D'Affinois. If you like those two cheeses, give this one a shot. My quarter round was $4.92 at the Newport Kroger Marketplace Murray's case, and is labeled as $11.99 a pound. I recommend tasting this on a crispy unleavened wafer (as pictured) or a slice of crusty french or batard bread. 

Happy Eating!

(Nearly) The worst of the bunch: The Sakura Gelly Roll Gold Dust

The ONLY reason I purchased as many of these as you see here is because they were not available individually. With the other Gelly Roll pens, I have been able to pick and choose the colors I wanted in any given finish, as well as try them (on my hand if nothing else) in the store before purchase. I thought these looked cool, and they must've been decently priced, though I don't remember how much they were. I am guessing no more than $12. Jeez, I'd really hate myself if it was more than that. So these pens are basically the same premise as the "Metallic" Gelly Rolls, except that in this case, the metal is gold. In saying that, I mean these have gold "dust" or glitter over a colored ink background. If you really like gold, you may like these. Personally, I like silver better. Come to think of it, I really shouldn't have bought these at all, but I'm a pen addict; it's what I do. The colors on these are okay. Just okay. The green looks sort of like oxidizing copper. Maybe that could come in handy for something? The black is probably the only interesting one, but for me it teeters between interesting and ugly, like modern art. The purple looks more like mauve and the pink looks like a salmon color to me. With gold. If the Golden Girls had a line of gel pens, I think this would be the perfect palette. I could see Blanche Devereaux sending lurid love letters to younger men written in one of these inks on paper spritzed with Jean Nate. Alright, so the colors are kind of ugly. That pales in comparison to how terribly they write. Oh my gosh. The ink in these things is horrible! Not only is it globby and kind of sticky or oily or something... it smells! There is something in these things that causes little strings of ink to follow the pen from line to line. It is a lot like an old ballpoint pen when it hasn't been used in years and is all gummed up when you restart it. The only difference is that these pens are always like that. I don't like these pens and I wish I hadn't bought them. That's just about all there is to it. 

Sakura Gelly Roll "Metallics"

I have owned these pens before, in the same colors even. I remember liking them a lot. I don't know if I had finer-tipped versions, if there even ever was such a thing. Maybe I was just more easily impressed then. These pens aren't horrible, and I'm sure they'd come in handy for scrapbooking. The problem is, I don't scrapbook. I journal, and doodle, and make lists. Sometimes, I write in my planner. I like pretty pens, and I like unusual pens. I like neat-o colors. That doesn't mean I throw form and function to the wind. I'm not the type to wear a pair of shoes because they're cute if they give me blisters. I like a happy compromise. As much as I want to, I'm not quite getting that from these Gellies. The colors are good, and as advertised: metallic versions of purple, blue, and black. The black ends up more of a dark silver/gunmetal color though. The ink flow on these is WAY too generous. I'd go so far as to say soupy. Goopy. Globby. Just plain yuck. These colors would be good if you could read what you had been writing. These are nice to have around, but I don't know what I'll really use them for. I purchased these individually a while back at Michael's. 

We had the good, now the bad. Foray Liquid Medium Turquoise

This pen has to be one of the most disappointing ones I've purchased since really getting back into pens earlier this year. I bought this at Office Depot, and I don't know if this is "their" brand or what, but this pen just plain sucks. It is a liquid rollerball with a medium (.7mm) tip, so it should have a nice consistent ink flow. It most certainly has no such thing. I had tried one out in the store and like it, which is why I bought this dud in the first place. Now, I will say, this is a rather attractive pen. It has a very nice feel in the hand. It has a "heft" that makes it feel like it is going to be a much nicer writing implement than it is. Deceptive minx! The color is typical of a turquoise liquid ink. Not bad, but not extraordinary either. The ink flow skips something fierce, and there is just nothing else to make up for it. The grip is slick and hard to hold on to. I can imagine this being a real problem if I could stand writing with this long enough for my fingers to fatigue and sweat a little. I bought it individually at Office Depot, and while I can't remember for how much, I assure you it was overpriced. This is the kind of pen that if I had stolen it from a friend based on promising looks, I would "remember" I had borrowed it and give it back. The writing sample doesn't do justice to how poorly it performs (it behaved a lot better than usual today). 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sanford Uni-Ball Gel Grip Medium Burgundy

This one is a little bittersweet for me. I absolutely LOVE, let me say that again, LOVE the color of this pen!  The writing experience, however, could be better. The tip is fine for a medium point, and I am guessing it would be a .5mm. In my experience, that's a fine point, some would say extra-fine but I think that's a stretch. That said, this pen does scratch and skip. I find it kind of annoying, but it's not enough to keep me from using it as the color makes up where it lacks smoothness. Unlike a lot of "craft" gel pens, this one actually has a rubber grip, which is another positive in my eyes. The ink color is a perfect middle point between dark red and dark purple. I love both colors, so it doesn't get much better. I am drawn to dark red pens, but I often find them a brownish brick color, and I don't like that at all. This one was amongst today's Michael's plunder. At $1.79, it is more expensive than a Gelly Roll, but it seems to have a thicker ink cartridge, so hopefully it will last for a while. A little tweaking by Uni and this would be a show-stopper in my book. 

ps- I realize now I spelled burgundy wrong, so sue me. I spell grey wrong too, cuz I'm edgy. 

Sakura Gelly Roll Fine Purple Gel Pen

This was picked up at Michael's today as well. I was looking for the same pen, but in Royal Blue to replace one I have that is dying. They didn't have that color, so purple it is! The Fine point Gelly Roll pens are sooo much nicer than their bolder counterparts. They lay down nice, clean, smooth lines. They are not scratchy on the paper, and they just look so nice. The only way to improve them would be a better grip and perhaps the option of retract-ability. I loves me some retractable pens. The purple color of this pen is a dark bluish purple without any pinkish or red tones to it. Very nice and royal looking. I'm pleased with this Gelly Roll as well.  

Happy writing,

Sakura Gelly Roll "Moonlight" Gel Pens

So I got these pens today at Michael's in an attempt at retail therapy. They are colors I have been looking for for quite some time now. They are kind of milky, and almost pastel-ish, but brighter. If chalk and gel-pens had babies, the colors would look like these. Supposedly they glow under a blacklight, but I don't have one to try it out. These Gelly Rolls lay down bold lines, but they are not goopy or sloppy like other bold Gelly Roll pens I have used. Overall, I am more than pleased with these. The green is almost a sea-foam green color, and I dig that. I love having pens in colors that not everyone else has. These inks would show up well on colored paper, even black. As they are intended for crafting, I assume that is good, though I don't really use my pens for that kind of thing. 
For this and other pen reviews, I will try to attach a written review/sample so that you can see these bad boys in action.  
(click to enlarge sample)


Be ready, I did some work! Or: LOTS'O'PENS!

I got inspired and did some pen reviewing today. If nothing else, it gives me a reason to play with them when I can't think of anything I really want to journal about. It's not like I have a pen-pal or anything. Even if I did, stamps are too damn expensive these days. Today I am going to give you the positive reviews.
Hold on to the hats that Nick told you to buy, suckas!

Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens

Okay, so if any of you pay attention to my Facebook, you know I am slightly obsessed with pens. I think that writing on paper, be it journaling, doodling, or even making the grocery list, is inherently therapeutic. There is a sense of art, and of control, that the act of putting pen to paper brings me. I feel more responsible, more organized, and sometimes a little pretentious when I write. But enough about me, more about pens.

The Pilot Varsity is one of two major disposable fountain pens. The other is the Platinum Preppy, which I have not tried, and as of now am not interested in doing so. I had never tried a fountain pen until I happened upon a Varsity being sold individually at Borders. I bought one to try it, loved it, then bought a few more. I enjoyed them, but they went to the wayside. Other than journaling I really had no use for them. As you can tell from my lack of posts on this site, my commitment to writing is sporadic at best. So I finally re-enrolled in (real) college in April and spent a quarter taking notes and tests. My lifelong addiction to pens now had a legitimate purpose again, and I brought out the Varsities to re-try. You would think I had found a long-lost sibling. Writing with a fountain pen is much different than with any other writing implement. You do not have to use much pressure, if any at all. There is more room for personality in your writing, and your hand fatigues much more slowly. I LOVE fountain pens now! Keep in mind you must still keep a more sturdy pen around for tasks like check-writing, or anything you want to make a carbon duplicate of that requires pressure to be applied.

I had originally purchased Varsities in black, blue, and purple. They are all beautiful, but a girl needs options. For my birthday I asked for the Varsity seven color pack (pictured above). The pen itself is not particularly eye-catching, and other than having a more ergonomic grip, that is all I would change about it. Perhaps Pilot knows that if this pen were very attractive, it would be even more likely to grow legs and run away, if you get my drift. The Varsity lays down a rather bold line; if you are a fine point or extra-fine point person, this probably isn't the pen for you. Since it is a fountain pen, it is quite generous with the ink flow so you must consider the paper you are using. Feathering of the ink on the paper grain can occur as can bleed-through to the opposite side of the page. I haven't really used these pens on "nice" paper, but on regular old notebook paper they perform admirably. I try to avoid writing on both sides of my paper, so bleed-through isn't a huge concern for me.

Varsities are available in black, blue, red, green, purple, pink, and turquoise. The colors are very vivid and rich. The green probably surprised me the most. I want to love green pens, I really do, but I am often disappointed by the hue they spit out. The green Varsity is an exception. The ink is a bright true green. It is not dull or dark, but it is easy to read and far from neon.

If you want to try a fountain pen (and I HIGHLY recommend that you do), you can buy these rather inexpensively. The price does depend greatly on where you purchase them. I bought my first ones for $2 a pop I'm sure. I got my seven color pack for $11 online. They are $24 at Hobby Lobby and $20 from Staples online. I believe they have three-packs available at Staples stores for a reasonable amount if you want to pick a few up just to try. I have since bought another pack of Varsities just so I have plenty to spare. My sixth wedding anniversary brought me my first "real" (ie: non-disposable) fountain pen in the form of a Lamy Safari, but that is another entry. I will leave you with this thought:

A pen may be mightier than the sword, but a sharp tongue is the most harmful of the three. Words to live by.

Later edit: added writing sample.


We are poor at updating, apparently.

Both Nick and myself have had many ideas for blogs, but none have come to fruition yet. Nick has been quite busy with his school work, and I have been just plain lazy. On top of that, we've not had the extra funds to spend on any interesting items or occasions to review. Unless you want tips for jazzing up your hamburger helper, we wouldn't be of much use as of late. I will say that I have at least one wine that I want to review, and I may dabble in a few pen reviews. Pens aren't exactly an aspect of life we'd planned on exploring here, but I dig them, so it will be done. I am hoping to get some more stuff posted before I start back to school in early October. I will nag at Nick to do the same.

Hope to entertain you more soon,