Carbos, Chocolate, Cream & Cinnamon – The Cure for What’s Ailing Me

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BLAH….

This pretty much sums it up – the mood I’ve been in as of late.  And I know it’s from my recent ‘transition’ out of the performing arts (I’m just not as busy anymore…too much free time, my brain is pretty much freaking out). The grey and damp days also lend to feelings of melancholy and moroseness. What to do?  Simple – head down to the local (award winning) bakery for some ‘Carbo Therapy’!

It was a chilly and rainy Saturday morn.  What IS it about cold weather that makes one’s stomach growl and yearn for carbs like crazy? I decided I did not want the usual, soupy-standard type of carb for my breakfast – a pre-packaged bag of porridgy oatmeal. Blech. On this morning, it just WOULD…NOT…DO. Living in the city, I am blessed in that I am located so close to many an amazing food establishment.  One of them just happens to be the award winning Freeport Bakery, purveyor of some of the finest pastries outside of France…and thus, my destination was set.

As I entered through their doors, the wafting aromas of yeasty breads, vanilla, cocoa, caramel, and cinnamon filled my nose. “Yes, yes“, I told myself.  “This would indeed be the cure for what’s ailing me….aaaaaaah.”  And although I could have purchased about half of their case and not thought twice about it, I exercised restraint and only purchased four goodies – two for me and two for my guy. For myself: a chocolate brioche and a ‘custard wheel’.  For my guy: two muffins – a chocolate-banana and a blueberry. I sped home with the giddy anticipation of consuming all of this carbolicious goodness.

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“Still life with brioche”, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, 1763

BRIOCHE….oh, how I could wax poetic on you for hours on end.  But I shan’t – so here’s the condensed version: brioche is one of the most delectable pastries one can enjoy.  A bread of obvious French origin, it has a very high egg and butter content, which gives it a rich and tender consistency. The addition of an egg wash after proofing helps to give it its signature dark and flaky crust.  And this particular brioche I had purchased for myself was filled with decadent semisweet chocolate chunks. Pure carby, chocolate love…LOVE, I tell you!

And then…there was the ‘custard wheel’.  Like baked, spiral, French toast tasting kind of treat.  The custard was baked deep within its flaky layers and was perfectly spiced with cinnamon and adorned with the most succulent golden raisins.  This was the perfect pastry for ‘dunking’.  Dunking was what my grandmother always called it – the fine art of submerging the pastry into milk, soaking up the creamy goodness in to every little nook and cranny.  I’d decided that this must happen…I must dunk.  But not into any ordinary milk, nooooo, no, no.  Organic half and half….warmed a la stovetop….with sugar….AND cinnamon.  With a cinnamon stick to boot. Ha!

It absolutely did the trick.  Carbs…and chocolate….and cream….with cinnamon.  I was no longer ‘blah’….I was transported to my happy place.  And a nap on the couch shortly after consumption (sorry for the snoring, sweetie)…as visions of sugared milk and bread danced in my head. It was outrageously delicious and decadent.  And you know what?  I’m still having dreams of it an entire week later.  It’s the simple things sometimes – milk and bread – that give us the sweetest satisfaction.  And a cure for what ails us.

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Warmed half and half. For the best results, use organic dairy from a local farm (whenever possible). For each cup of milk, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. Stir over a medium-low flame, stirring constantly (so as to avoid scorching). I used fresh cinnamon with a microplaner, but dried cinnamon would work well, too. If you find you don’t have any cinnamon in the house, nutmeg makes a fine alternative as well. Serving the warm milk in a wide-mouthed goblet allows for easier ‘dunking’ of your chosen pastry.

 

 

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Girlfriends, Glitter, and Gastro-Snobbery

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Sugar Cheeks’ photo courtesy of Tymehadder Photography

“Don’t waste your money, Gi Gi”, Casaba said to me the moment I walked up to the booth – she had arrived early to the cafe and had just had a few bites of one of their few menu items (a rice bowl). I could see she had pushed her food to the side of her notebook. She knew I had just come from work and was beyond hungry after a long time spent in commute traffic…yet she was adamant in her tone and staunchly giving advice from one foodie to another – “DON’T DO IT”.

“Oh? Why’s that?”, I asked inquisitively.

“Two words: FROZEN VEGETABLES!”, she scoffed, with one very Italian eyebrow raised in judgement.

Augh….really?  In a restaurant?  Yeah, this tends to be one of my ‘deal breakers’ when dining out.  My ‘gastro-snobbery’ wouldn’t allow me to partake of one of their dishes now after learning of this…yes, I have been ‘ruined’ by culinary school, you could say.

We were meeting to discuss the performing arts careers of two  friends and how I could help them out with my sage wisdom, advice, savvy business mind, and over 25 years of experience in the theatre arts and dance.  Our final guest, Sugar, had yet to arrive…and I needed to make a split-second decision.

“Well, then…I’m afraid I can’t eat here.  We’ve gotta go somewhere else, ok?”  She agreed and I sent a text to Sugar lickety-split.  No….frozen….vegetables.  After all, we live in Sacramento, California – this is the ‘Food-to-Fork Capital’, for goodness sakes!

As we arrived at our second destination of the night (seeking out veggies of the non-frozen variety), I was absolutely starved at this point.  I needed to get my veggie fix and ordered a deep-fried zucchini appetizer and a taco salad.  Sugar arrived at the table and we began to catch up on girlie things and chat about how to best expand their businesses.

By now, it’s obvious that my friends appear to be named after foods – therefore, I feel I must offer some clarification to my readers.  Casaba Meloune and Sugar Cheeks are their ‘performer names’ – they are burlesque artists, meaning they dance in the style of classic burlesque (and sometimes ‘neo burlesque).  Their chosen art form encompasses some provocative elements, mainly the art of striptease.  Since they make themselves vulnerable to their audiences with their very ‘adult’ tinged acts onstage, it’s pretty much a necessity that they have this alter-ego in order to retain their privacy when they are not in the limelight.  Be it known, however, that not ALL performers have stage names based on foods (though, what an ingenious idea…for what is more sumptuous than the combination of sweets, fruits, and the gyrating female form?).

As we began to dig right in to our respective dinners, we spoke of many things.  Dating lives, their respective burlesque careers, reflections on the past week, and of course – FOOD.  With the lovely Sugar of Hawaiian and Filipino descent and the darling Casaba being a Sicilian, good food and the art of feasting were no passing fancy for either of my tablemates but more of a cultural and familial tradition.  I’ve spent more than a handful of times dining with each of these lovely ladies, and I thoroughly enjoy that they adore food just as much as myself, a self-professed gastronome.

After we’d finished sharing the fried zucchini (a veritable staple in California restaurant dining), I began supping on a plate of Mexican food, Casaba was enjoying a plate of breakfast – French toast and eggs (breakfast was this cafe’s specialty), and Sugar on a very decadent sandwich – a tuna melt WITH bacon.  Ridiculously yummy food and fuel for a chat amongst girlfriends.

We covered many a topic on how they could best enrich their performance careers – networking with the right people, setting up their websites, taking more classes, knowing what their ‘niche’ is and pursuing leads that were fits for their performance styles. We spoke of recent events, both humorous and sad. Recent events that had been upsetting to us were mulled over as well as some of our respective small victories as of late.

There were giggles that made for rosy cheeks and the glassy eyes that proceed ensuing tears that fall (though we all managed to somehow hold back from welling up in tears in the restaurant, thank goodness!).  And before we knew it, almost three hours had passed by….it was effortless. Three hours? Yes, indeed. Oh, how time flies when spent with great friends and good food.  It was time for the inevitable parting after our time spent together…goodbyes are always the worst part of a gathering.

The spicy Sugar and sweet Casaba went on their merry ways with their notebooks quite a few pages fuller from our discussions and ‘homework’ assignments on how to grow their own personal performer brand.  We realized that we really needed to do this a LOT more often, as we had thoroughly enjoyed our girl time spent at this cozy cafe in a Sacramento suburb.  And we agreed that we shall…..we shall indeed do this more often. For when three gals of Italian, Hawaiian/Filipino, and Mexican descent gather together, there will never be a shortage of topics to gab about or food on the table to share. Just so long as it’s NOT frozen vegetables, God forbid!

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Photo of Casaba Meloune (photographer not known)

 

 

Dining on Octopi (better known as “How to freak out your boyfriend”)

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It all started with this little, seemingly harmless, transparent package….

For in MY mind, it seemed harmless enough (and merely a high protein, low-fat lunch dish), but had the effect of eliciting feelings of nausea and revulsion in my sweet boyfriend.  I spied this chilled octopus salad at the local large-chain grocery store and found that it tapped into a craving that I didn’t even know I was having.  It sounded lovely – a bit like calamari salad, but with a bit more (ok, a lot more) texture.  I’ve never taken issue with the somewhat ‘chewier’ shellfish delicacies such as clams, mussels, and squid – as a matter of fact, I rather enjoy them.  I find the lovely way that they offer up a bit of resistance to my teeth upon consumption to be quite delightful.

As I entered our home and my love greeted me in the foyer with a kiss and an offer to take the bags from my hands for him to unload in the kitchen, I stepped into the bedroom to change out of my work attire.

“Ummmmm….er…..sweetie?” he called out inquisitively as the contents of the bag were revealed to him.

“What is….this?”  I could hear the terror in his normally soft, soothing voice, no doubt the result of him imagining that something a bit too extraordinary was to be served to him for his dinner.  For this is definitely one meat-and-potatoes man (well, more like chicken-and-potatoes mostly) if I’d ever met one.

It did not matter to him that octopus was a ‘trendy’ protein as of late in many a culinary establishment or that it was a popular delicacy – even a staple – in many cultures (Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and even Italian).  No, no…what mattered to him (we’ll just call him ‘Nick’) was that he was completely and utterly reviled at the thought that these tiny cephalopods would possibly be travailing down his throat and onward to his stomach.  And he was NOT having any of it.

I walked into the kitchen to begin preparing dinner, only to see the look of his pale skin as he reacted to the horror of seeing those tiny bodies trapped within that cellophane packaging.  He seemed more pale than usual even – he fancies himself to be a ‘modern day vampire’, dressing in Victorian garb, shunning the sun, sleeping during the day, and coming alive at night – and I enjoy the mystique of it very, very much.  I then saw that he was holding the octopi in his trembling hands, his long and elegant fingers barely willing to keep them within their grasp.

“Oh, honey”, I reassured him. “No, those are JUST for me…I was craving them and am going to make them into a salad for lunch”.  His body language relaxed almost immediately and an utterance something akin to “oh, thank GOODNESS” emerged from his rosy lips.  I reminded him that he lives with a culinarian now (we’ve been cohabitating for about a year and a half) and that sometimes I’ll be bringing home items which may be considered to be ‘odd’ by most people’s standards and experiences.  And that I would never – EVER – subject him to eating such exotic delicacies (well, unless he of course wanted to partake in my strange foodie ways and hone his palate to become fearless, just as mine had evolved to be).

“Grass-fed burger patties with mushrooms, roasted carrots, and buttered dill potatoes for dinner, hon?” I suggested as I began to reach into the fridge and slowly unwrap the butcher paper.

“Ooooooh, yes…absolutely.  Thanks, babe.”  A tender smile crossed his face as the color returned to his supple cheeks.  He loves those buttered, dilled potatoes like nothing else that I prepare.

And normalcy thus returned to the house of the Glamorous Gastronome and her meat-and-potatoes guy…and all was well in the world again.

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The finished product for lunch the following day….roasted red peppers, diced tomatoes, capers, red pepper flakes, sea salt, lemon juice and olive oil finished off the chilled dish…and it was pure cephalopodic HEAVEN. 

The Glamorous Gastronome (in all of her glory & splendor)

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gas·tron·o·my / ɡaˈstränəmē
noun
the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food.

And so it begins….this blog has been a looooong time in the making [meaning: it’s been stuck in this twisted mind of mine and not yet put down on paper screen].  The time is right for the launch of The Glamorous Gastronome…after a recent (unplanned) transition out of the performing arts, I now find myself with almost TOO much time on my wicked little hands.  Off of the stage and down to my desk & laptop…I have arrived and I hope that you will join me on this journey!

What might you see here on my site?  Hmmmmm…well, it will often be an assortment my musings on the characters that I encounter in daily life, my sumptuous culinary creations (get ready for some salacious food porn pics), rants, raves, musings, perusings, and whatever else finds my way into my mind and down to the keyboard.

I hope that you will subscribe, as I plan on posting several times a week.  Accompany me on this journey, won’t you?  I can absolutely promise that we’ll have an INSANE amount of fun together <wink, wink>.