Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Two Meals Out, Two Meals In, and an Eggbeater Ice Cream Class

Two Meals Out

1. Last Friday, we biked to Palo Alto and had dinner for the first time at St. Michael's Alley. It's on a side street that I don't go down very often, so I kept forgetting it existed. It was a small, cozy restaurant with interesting textile art (gathered fabric, thread, and zip ties) on the walls. Since it was a Friday night and we didn't have reservations, the only available tables were outside on the sidewalk. At first I was happy to be seated outside, but then it got dark and chilly, and it was less pleasant. But it was a good excuse to order a pot of Earl Grey with dessert.

Patrick started with a salad of baby greens, beets, walnuts, and fried goat cheese in a mustard vinaigrette. I had one of the specials--duck breast in a berry sauce with goat cheese polenta and Blue Lake green beans. Patrick had crab ravioli in a tomato cream sauce. For dessert, we shared a piece of apple tarte tatin with a scoop of vanilla bean gelato and the aforementioned hot tea. It was a very nice dinner, but nothing really stood out about it. I think I'm spoiled by all the awesome restaurants in this area. I hear their brunch is really good, so maybe we should go back on a weekend.

2. On Sunday, we went to Suppenkuche again, this time with Tree and Andrew (strangely enough, I also attended one of Shuna's classes this weekend, same as last time we visited Suppenkuche). We were seated right away, next to a couple who I overheard speculating about the relationship between the four of us (I ended up sitting next to Andrew but sharing my food with Patrick, and we were all wearing wedding rings, so I can see how it might have been confusing). Our waiter was incredibly nice and smiley. It kind of caught us off guard. Also, I got a picture of the butterflies on the ceiling (they're the white textured parts of the ceiling).

butterflies at Suppenkuche

We started by splitting an order of their awesome potato pancakes with applesauce. I'd forgotten how good they were. I really wanted to try the spaetzel, so I got an order of Kaesespaetzel (with a plate of beets, red cabbage, and citrusy grated carrots). It was too much for me, so I shared with the others, and I got some of Patrick's yummy pork chop (Kassler vom Grill) in return. It was one of the best pork chops I've ever had--very moist, with crispy skin. I'm glad I trid the Kaesespaetzel, but my curiosity is satisfied; I don't need to order it again.

potato pancake at Suppenkuche

Kaesespaetzel at Suppenkuche

It was a good and filling dinner. I don't know how all the beer-lovers in our group managed to drink beer and eat all that German food! Patrick and Andrew each got 1-liter mugs (quails) of beer, while Tree stuck with a dainty 0.4-liter glass (squirrel!). Patrick shot me surly looks every time I tried to photograph him with his giant beer. I suppose that's appropriate behavior when you're drinking large amounts of German beer.

surly Patrick at Suppenkuche

menu at Suppenkuche

As the meal was winding down, we admired the beautiful pine table at which we were seated. The square-head (Robertson) screws were especially nice. Patrick and I agreed that we should have tables just like that someday, along with a wall-mounted bench.

lovely carpentry at Suppenkuche

Two Meals In

1. Skillet Roasted Chicken with Rosemary, Garlic, and Maple-Balsamic Glaze (from The Cast Iron Skillet Cookbook), using a mixture of cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, and onions under the chicken instead of potatoes; Wild Rice Medley from Whole Grains Every Day Every Way.

chicken, veggies, wild rice medley

I've made better roast chicken, though I did like the maple-balsamic glaze, and the vegetables turned out well. The wild rice medley was a little boring by itself, but it went well with the chicken and vegetables. Not bad, not great.

2. I had some zucchini to use up, so I decided to make Deep Dish Pizza (using a similar recipe from the America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook) with zucchini, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives (only on my half), tomatoes, garlic, and feta cheese. I didn't have quite enough potato, and instead of just scaling back the recipe, I temporarily took leave of my common sense and decided to supplement the cooked potato with some mashed banana (similar consistency, right?).

deep dish pizza

Because of the banana, the dough required more flour than the recipe called for, and I had a hard time shaping it in the pan. Despite all the trouble, the pizza actually turned out pretty well. The crust was sturdy, brown, and crisp (and you could only taste the banana if you knew it was there). Just imagine how good it would have been if I'd actually followed the recipe! Definitely worth trying again someday.

deep dish pizza

Two Dairy-Related Items

1. I made a second batch of yogurt (here's the recipe) recently, using the modifications I described last week. It turned out much smoother and tangier, as desired. It was still pretty firm, even without the powdered milk.

yogurt v2

I think I'm pretty close to having a yogurt recipe that I'm happy with, but I still want it to be smoother. It has a subtle graininess that I don't like (the texture is much better than the first batch though). My next modification will be to use all 2% milk instead of 50/50 skim and 2%.

yogurt v2

(And speaking of things I made last week, Granola #4 was much better after going back into the oven for 30 more minutes, though still too lemony)

2. As mentioned above, I went to my second eggbeater cooking class this past weekend. This class was all about ice cream and sorbet--perfect timing, what with my new birthday ice cream maker!

As with her pie dough class, Shuna's ice cream class was chock full of useful and interesting information, and I learned a lot! Plus we got to taste lots of delicious frozen confections. It was totally worth it! With this class under my belt and last night's purchase of Perfect Scoop (I stayed up too late reading it cover to cover), I'm ready to start churning out all kinds of delicious ice cream! Too bad it isn't healthy. I'll have to enjoy it in moderation.

After talking about ice cream basics and ingredients, we all went into the kitchen (at Poulet, same as last time), and Shuna showed us how to whip up a batch of coconut-cardamom ice cream with chocolate pieces using a rich creme anglaise base. She also made a big pot of real butterscotch for pouring over the ice cream. It smelled so good!

coconut cardamom ice cream

Then we moved on to the tasting portion of the class. Shuna brought in a bunch of different kinds of ice creams and toppings that she had pre-made, and we enjoyed them along with the coconut-cardamom ice cream. The coconut-cardamom ice cream and butterscotch sauce were my favorites (they were both soooo good!), but everything was delicious. Here we have Redwood Hill goat yogurt granite in the middle, ringed by pecan vanilla shortbread, roasted apriums, cherries, strawberries, butterscotch ice cream, lemon thyme ice cream, butterscotch sauce, and brown butter butter pecan ice cream. Oh, baby!

lots of yummy ice cream

lots of yummy ice cream

There was also amazing lemon sherbet (it tasted just like lemons!) and mango sorbet, made in ice cream balls (to show that you don't need a fancy ice cream maker).

mango sorbet in an ice cream ball

Like I said before--Shuna's classes are great. I definitely want to take another class in the future so I can learn even more!