and then josé andrés and i became BFFs

15 Apr

When we got to Atlanta in December, one of the first things Savory did was join a science meet-up group. We’ve gone to science trivia and a couple of lectures at bars (I know, we’re hard core.), but as a guy with a Ph.D. in physics and a gal with a food blog, we were especially excited when they held an event a few weeks ago titled “The Physics of Cooking.” So cool, right?!

I was pretty stoked when we walked into the lecture hall at Georgia Tech and they had a whole lab table set up next to the podium–but just about went into complete freak-out mode when the emcee casually mentioned that, along with two physicists from Harvard, José Freaking Andrés was presenting!

tapas: a taste of spain in america, by jose andres

my ultimate guide to spanish cooking

I was first introduced to JFA when I received his tapas cookbook as a gift. Dudes, the tapas in that cookbook are beyond legit. His flan recipe is the best I’ve tasted (close second: the flan from Colombia restaurant in Florida). Best of all, I finally found a recipe for croquetas that truly reminded me of those sauteed pieces of heaven I so frequently enjoyed when I studied abroad in Spain. I make those croquetas once or twice a year, and I am not exaggerating when I say it is a spiritual experience.

So what’s a famous chef doing with some geeky physicists? Turns out, JFA is as passionate about innovation as he is about food. He teamed up with Michael Brenner and David Weitz from Harvard and they put together a class on culinary physics.

For Andrés, the pairing of food and science “opens new highways to creation” in the kitchen. They did some cool experiments with food and talked about the importance of collaboration and reaching beyond the boundaries of your discipline–but what really made the experience unforgettable was JFA himself. I don’t know how to describe it except to say that his storytelling is as delicious as his food; when he speaks you just get entirely engrossed by his absolute passion, a mix of both urgency and joy.

As soon as the presentation was over, I rushed the stage to meet him–the man whose tapas have been a delight to me for years, at whose restaurants I dined at with friends and forced every single one to order the flan for dessert, and whose stories of the next food frontier left me completely entranced. And as I shook his hand with a grin that threatened to devour my entire face I blubbered, “Mucho gusto. Can I get a picture with you?” Then, as I dragged the two professors from Harvard into the photo and Savory snapped the picture,  “I have a food blog. You’re going to be famous.”

Really, Gina? I have a food blog?? You’re going to be FAMOUS??? JFA humored me despite what a pompous lunatic I must have looked like, and I could barely contain myself as I literally skipped out of the auditorium and into the street before shouting “OHMYGOSH I GOT A PICTURE WITH TWO PHYSICISTS AND JOSEFREAKINGANDRES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Jose Andres visits Georgia Tech

josé andrés, pre-'hot plate' fame bump

best foodie moments in film

19 Mar

What are the best foodie moments in film? My favorite is the episode of True Blood where Sookie’s grandmother dies. Sookie is berieved, but constantly surrounded by others and unable to grieve. Finally alone, she sits down at the kitchen table and eats an entire pecan pie her grandma made. I love this scene, because it feels like the first moment she gives in, bite by bite, to her loss–savoring the last of her grandmother’s earthly delights.

True Blood_pecan pie scene 

Ironically, the only place I could find the video was on a blog bashing the scene as "completely devoid of emotional impact."

Runner up: The egg scene in Cool Hand Luke.

What else deserves to go on the list?

my breakfast is broken

11 Mar

I don’t know about you guys, but for me, breakfast is the most difficult meal of the day. This is the diatribe that plays itself out in my head every time I wake up:

  • Will I have enough time to make, or even just eat, something for breakfast?
  • Does my breakfast have too much sugar?
  • Too many carbs (grain)?
  • Too little protein?
  • Will it keep me full?
  • Is it too processed?

If I don’t make/eat breakfast before leaving for work, the battle continues on the road: Can I stop somewhere to grab something without being late? What’s cheap, but still healthy? How long is the line? If I just don’t even bother, will I make it to lunch without gnawing my own arm off?

Somewhere along the line, it finally occurred to me that breakfast is WAY TOO COMPLICATED.

Think about your typical breakfast foods: Cereal (too many carbs, too much sugar). Yogurt (won’t keep me full). Bagels (too many carbs, too little protein). Pastries (no brainer–not healthy). Pancakes (too much time, too many carbs). Fruit jams (too much sugar). Granola bars (too many carbs, too much sugar). I finally gave up and started eating eggs almost every day.

Why, I wondered, is something that should be so simple–easy access to a filling, healthy meal–so jacked? Then one day I heard this crazy idea on the radio:

People can just eat the same foods they eat for lunch and dinner, for breakfast. 

Japanese breakfast

a traditional breakfast in japan. doesn't look very familiar, does it?

Wha whaaaaaaaaaaat? WHY HAS NO ONE THOUGHT OF THIS SOONER, you ask? Breakfast has changed in America over time based on work schedules, work environments, and the migration of women into the workforce (and out of the kitchen). All of us now have less time to prepare, and to consume, breakfast–but I think just changing the way we think about what breakfast is will at least give us some better options for what we eat.

For me, understanding my morning meal doesn’t have to be limited to “normal” breakfast foods opened up a world of opportunity for healthy, yummy and filling ways to start my day:

  • Meats: Why not grab a small piece of leftover dinner or a slice of lunch meat from the fridge instead of fried sausage or bacon?
  • Hummus: No duh–I’ll eat this any time of day!
  • Eggs: Easy to make fresh or hard boil for something filling on the go.
  • Cheese: see Hummus.
  • Yogurt: Also quick and easy. Pair with an egg or some cheese/hummus, and you’re set ’til lunch.
  • Fruit: Quick! Easy! Great with any of the above! (Noticing a theme here?)

What do you think? Is breakfast a breeze, or a royal pain in the tummy? I’d love to hear about your breakfast challenges or meal ideas!

what up, pinterest?

10 Mar

Oh my gosh! I just checked out the (completely unimpressive) analytics on my blog for the first time in forever, and discovered people have been pinning pics from my posts on Pinterest! HOW COOL IS THAT?

Image

Deb Balai, I love you. Also, note to self: Pin blog stuff.

be a chef’s knife ninja in 3 steps

7 Mar

Back in DC there’s this totally awesome cooking store called Hill’s Kitchen, where I took an intro knife skills skillz class. Guys, I had no idea I could do so many things wrong with something as seemingly simple as chopping stuff. Have no fear, however; if you’re in the same boat, here are my three must-know tips from the class on how to be a better cutter:

1. Get a grip. So turns out there’s actually a proper form to cutting, y’all! Grip the (chef’s) knife just above/in front of the handle, stand up straight and put your feet hip-width apart. I think this is to make you pay attention so you focus on cutting the food, and not your fingers. Which I support.

proper chef's knife grip

cue psycho soundtrack


2. Off with ‘is ‘ead! And feet! The first three chops to everything (disclosure: I haven’t actually tried cutting everything) are to nip off the ends and then do a cut down the length so that the food can lie flat on the cutting board, like so:

chopped eggplant

and thus ended the dynasty of King Eggplant IV


3. The magic’s in the motion, baby. When you think of cutting, you hear “CHOP! CHOP! CHOP!” and picture an up/down, up/down, up/down motion in your head. But really the noise you should hear when you cut is a smooth “swish, swish” and the motion of each cut should be more of a rocking backward then forward and through the food, with the tip of your knife never leaving the cutting board. Here, take a look:

That’s it! Now you can chop with the best of ‘em. Here are a couple additional resources from About.com with more info. Happy cutting!

The Anatomy of a Chef’s Knife

How to Use a Chef’s Knife

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