Monday, May 11, 2015

A good cake, a good TV show, what more could you want?


Obviously, I used raspberries.
*The Fika blackberry almond cake is simple and great. You should try it.

*The new Netflix series Chef’s Table is even better. You must watch it! The three episodes I’ve seen have been intelligent, engrossing, vivid, detailed, and altogether superb. Each installment delves into the psychological forces that drive a single noteworthy chef (in all but one case, a him) to do what he does. It’s more about character than cooking; food is treated as a manifestation of personality rather than the main event. You’ll start to see the way the intricate, precise creations of Los Angeles chef Niki Nakayama, reflect her intensity, integrity, and thoughtfulness. The Argentine cook (and long-ago Piglet winner ) Francis Mallmann is bold and unapologetically sensual, as are the pink chunks of brook trout he pulls out of a remote Patagonian fire pit, the primal slabs of juicy meat he slaps onto a hot pan.

In Mallmann’s case, my feelings about the food actually tracked my feelings about the person. At the start of the episode, Mallmann’s dishes -- succulent, elemental -- made me drool. But the more he talked, the less I liked him (you just have to watch and make up your own mind) and the less I wanted to eat that food. Gradually, the unadorned hunks of flesh and rudely smashed potatoes came to embody Mallmann’s selfishness and unchecked carnality. By the end, I was completely turned off by the man and had lost all interest in his food, which was sort of interesting. Anyway, terrific TV. 

You might like Mallmann, by the way. Each to her own.

*Isabel and I are going to Thailand and Myanmar this summer. Her graduation present. We started with a joke about Iceland and somehow ended up in Chiang Mai. I owe her, after the three exotic trips I took with Owen. Any thoughts or suggestions, please send them my way.

42 comments:

  1. This is a great organization in Chiang Mai: http://www.elephantnaturepark.org/. I highly recommend spending the day there if possible.

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    1. Oh, elephants are on the list! When I discussed changing our itinerary a bit, Isabel said, "But we can still see elephants?" I'll check out the Elephant Nature Park. Thank you!

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  2. I don't know if she has any interest, but my lifelong wish (seriously, lifelong, as in, since I was a child) is to interact with a tiger. I am hoping that for my 50th birthday someone I love will orchestrate this for me. But it isn't easy--unless you go to Thailand. If she is at all interested in tigers/tiger cubs, Thailand is the place to be. And I don't know (because I haven't researched it--no one is yet offering to take me to Thailand!) how egregious the living conditions are with these tigers. I'm not condoning mistreatment of tigers (!) but I would love to--touch.

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    1. Can you drop a lot of hints as your 50th approaches? I'm not sure I share your dream of interacting with tigers. They scare me. Two days a bobcat took another chicken (she had escaped from the coop, a sure death) and Owen and I "cornered" it in some brush on the road and we stood 10 feet away looking at it as it held our orange chicken in its jaws and that was as close as I was comfortable to this small wild cat. We are down to THREE chickens.

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    2. I hope it's not spammy to give a link to a post about petting tigers in Thailand. I loved the experience, but I did worry about the ethics of it, and with hindsight, the safety: http://www.tootimidandsqueamish.com/2012/01/mamas-dont-let-your-babies-in-cages-with-tigers/ (at Tiger Kingdom in Chiang Mai)

      You'll probably end up there without the recommendation, but the Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho was beautiful to visit in Bangkok, as was the Grand Palace. The food was great everywhere, both in restaurants and on the street!

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    3. More to read about tiger and elephant tourism here & here & here.

      These places are bad for the tigers on several levels. Giving these businesses money will hurt those tigers and future tigers.

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  3. Thank you the past couple entries as I grew up in a Finnish home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and these posts have reminded me of home. This blackberry cake reminds of what we would usually stop working (at our bakery) and sit down and have coffee and some sweet like this one. It was a delightful childhood. Thanks!

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  4. Tipsy, you and the poster above might like this cookbook:
    http://www.amazon.com/Jim-Fobels-Old-Fashioned-Baking-Book/dp/0962740365
    I've had it since the late 90s. Midwestern with a Finnish/Scandinavian influence. Try the Cardamom Cookies and the fudge frosting.

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    1. I looked for it at the library, but they don't have it. I think I'll type it into the library system and see if it's available at another branch. Thanks for the recommendation -- it sounds like just my thing.

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  5. I made this cake last night with some minor adjustments due to what I had on hand. It's easy and good. I would push the (frozen) blueberries in a bit next time at the edges, because they mostly rolled toward the center.

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    1. I wonder how the cake would work with strawberries. Very few strawberry cakes.

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    2. It might work if you first baked the strawberries, dusted with a little sugar, to partially dehydrate them. Otherwise, strawberries are a watery mess in a cake (I've made that mistake.)

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  6. The cake shop at the Dhara Dhevi is out of the city and will likely require a taxi ride, but go there and eat the Chiang Mai sausage rolls and the eclairs (especially the Thai Tea one!).

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  7. We endend up making that cake three times thanks to a container of hard, sour blackberries that my husband got for my son at Cosco. The last two times, I coated it with cinnamon sugar as the fika authors suggest. VERY tasty. Also made the hazelnut-anise biscotti and the nutmeg slices. Both recipes were flawless. The nutmeg slices remind me of snails (leftover pie dough scraps that have been sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, rolled up, sliced, and baked). Andy Ricker's Pok Pok and David Thompson's Thai Food are pretty informative if you want to expose her to the food culture before your trip.

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    1. I need to study both those books before the trip.
      The Fika coconut macaroons are great. Gone in three days.

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  8. There are nice elephant sanctuaries in Thailand, though make sure you go to one which treats the animals ethically rather than as tourist traps (a real risk unfortunately) - but, elephants! The night markets are touristy but still pretty for a quick nip round. The pollution in the cities was colossal last time I went so do take precautions if you have any respiratory issues. The mountains near the Burmese border are a different kind of interesting, beautiful though surprisingly cold.

    I know people who have been to Burma* since its started opening up and they said it was nonetheless still really harrowing, so be prepared.

    *it's still referred to as such in the UK to represent the junta's illegitimate rise to power and subsequent name change

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  9. I just wanted to tell you how tickled I was yesterday when I was driving through a neighboring town and passed a coffee shop called Fika! I've never noticed it before but after reading your blog posts I saw it right away. Sometime I'll venture in!

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  10. Thank you for your recommendation of Chef's Table. I just finished watching the episode on Ben Shewry, and it unaccountably brought tears to my eyes. I think it touched the heart of how I want to think about food..and how it links with life.
    Thanks again!

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  11. Have you made anything else from "Fika"?

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  12. Great recipe for cooking with my little 3 year old sous chef. We used blueberries and substituted vanilla for the almond extract. Thanks!

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  13. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Thailand. We loved Chiang Mai, because of the markets and the food mostly, but were underwhelmed by the beaches. I had high hopes for beautiful beaches, but I suspect we chose the wrong places to visit. A few recommendations: get a massage at the women's prison in Chiang Mai if you visit that city (sounds weird, but it's great), get up very early at least once in Chiang Mai and wander around following locals to popular food vendors on the street (found my very favorite food in Thailand this way), try the coconut custard on sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf (YUM), if you do a cooking class (we did a couple, and they were fun but not incredibly useful for re-creating recipes at home) it might be worth doing an evening one as they sometimes serve very good cocktails (not great for remembering recipes later, unfortunately). Oh, and if you go snorkeling, it's absolutely worth it to buy your own mask and tube before you go on the trip. We both got very sick from using the gross masks and tubes offered to us (they were clearly moldy and disgusting but we had no other option and it was kind of worth it to see amazing sea life). Also, I can't remember the city where there are monkeys on the beach, but if you hear of monkeys go see them! I second the Allyson's recommendation for Elephant Nature Park. You should reserve your visit in advance if you want to do it. It's deeply heartbreaking to see elephants in the touristy places (I don't even want to share a story about this it's so bad). Kudos to you for taking your daughter on such an awesome trip. I hope to travel with my son as he gets older.

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