Friday, January 28, 2011

A fountain of chocolate bids the latest PhD farewell

Today was a twofer. A few of the graduate students were one day singing the praises of chocolate fondue. So of course we immediately forced, er, encouraged them to sign up for a cake time slot so they could show us everything that melted chocolate had to offer. They dutifully complied and the event was awaited with anticipation. It would then turn out on the same day we would be bidding farewell to the latest graduate of the Brown University PhD program who performed all his studies at our research center. (These PhDs are flying out the door!) Clearly we had to acknowledge his success and thanks to mother nature dumping a load of snow on the city on the day we were to honor him, we had to postpone it to the same day as the aforementioned fondue.
A chocolate volcano!

Preparing the spread

The healthful part of the offerings...

...add some carbs...

...and more carbs to fill out the selection!

A smorgasbord for drenching with chocolate!
Well why not kill two birds with one stone or more appropriately given the nature of research two mice with one trap?  No reason, so we bade farewell to our latest basic scientist doctor by holding a fondue party in his honor.  The fondue ended up being a molten chocolate fountain and instead of dipping the goodies into it you held them in the fountain and let the chocolate flow. It was so fun and there was quite a selection of things to smear chocolate onto including fruit, macaroons, cream puffs sans cream, marshmallows, pound cake, vanilla wafers, rugalach, mini-cinnamon rolls, mini-carrot cakes and linzer cookies. The latter four were not intended for the chocolate but we wanted something to fill out the menu in case there was not enough stuff for the choco-feast.  As you can see from the pictures everyone was having a dandy time or they were gratuitously smiling as if they were having a dandy time. The big surprise is that the person who functions as the food omniscienti and avoids cake time like the plague actually ate something!  Heads turned and we tried to get a tell all picture but did not succeed.
Let me show you how!
The honoree gives it a try.

This is just so fun!!

Wasn't this a good idea!

Hmmm. good!

The crowd was pleased!

Just a little bit more!

 Before sending our next soon to be postdoc to parts unknown we did our usual Brown University makeover and made sure he was equipped with a Brown coffee/tea mug to continue with his own cake time during his next escapade. As he had taken to skiing we made sure he had a fashionable Brown headband to keep those ears warm while plummeting down a slope. Add to that a water color of the Van Wickle Gates and a Brown hoodie (which he might have already had) and ta da - he's on his way unable to forget where he achieved his academic success. Güle güle ve iyi şanslar, Dr. Eken, and hayatını kek ve kayak dolu olabilir!

Another makeover complete - note the fashionable headband!

With a smiling mentor...

...and a smiling mentee!
Posing with the PhD
What's so funny!

They shared a lab!

Add in a compatriot and it's a trio!

With him going only six more left
I can't believe another one is leaving...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chocolates of the World

Chocolates of the exciting!  Where, would you think, one could find a big jar with such a big offering. Chocolates of the World! More aptly it should have been called somewhat select chocolates of European countries that mostly are known for making chocolates. The exception was Canada!  Canada?  Who knew they even made chocolates in Canada.
Chocolates in a plastic jar.

Kirkland - Signature no less!

Spill them out...

The complete selection.

All courtesy of Costco.

And the big jar came from where all big jars usually come from...Costco...where nothing is small!  We figure that Kirkland was probably the packaging company that put this all together but it is interesting to wonder how they chose these particular pieces. Since none of them really were recognizable as commercial products ..i.e. Ferrero, Lindt etc. we figured these were probably second string companies or were packaged by Kirkland (with apologies to Brockmann's of Canada. Canada?  We tried to guess where each came from. Some were obvious - Bella Italia - for example. Others were misleading like Truffini being from Canada. Canada?

Piling up the wrappers as the treats disappear.
Seven types from six countries with two from Canada. Canada?

The piles get higher

The final tally after one day

We finally figured it all out and by color - the blue named Bombones was from Spain. The purple named Gudrun was from Belgium though with that name it could have been from Germany. The red was from Switzerland because it said so. Bella Italia was a dead giveaway but it still reminded us on the label that it was Italian chocolate. The two Truffinis, obviously came from Canada. Canada? Thus by elimination the Stellini had to be from Germany lest the label be wrong.  Since the name Stellini would sound somewhat exotic to a German we assume that's why they didn't call it something like Sternchens that being the German equivalent of Stellini. (See what we mean about sounding more exotic?)

Ready for day number 2...
As we plowed through them we started making piles and thus it became the task to figure out what was the most represented country in the jar.  We did not finish them the first day so it became a two day task.  Stay tuned for the final results.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Yet another carrot cake...

We had another carrot cake. This one came from Whole Foods.  Peruse the blog and you will see that we have had our share of carrot cakes including vegan carrot muffins...which weren't half bad!  Today brought another entry from Bread and Circus bakery at Whole Foods. (There used to be a Bread and Circus chain in New England before it was bought up by Whole Foods. How nice they kept the name for the baked goods.)  The upside to this was that it looked very good and who can resist that wall of walnuts around the outside.  There were cute little tufts of frosting on the surface representing the top of the carrot still in the ground in place of the usual much too bright orange laying carrot decoration. It also had plenty of space for a message had this been for a birthday or other occasion. 

Lookin' good!

Wall o' walnuts!

Nicely frosted and ready had we had a message!

Top of the carrot decoration indicating the rest is in the cake...cute!

Two solid layers with lots of frosting.
The cake itself was pretty standard carrot cake though not as moist as some that we are used to. This one wins on looks. Our Brazilian intern who had not really had carrot cake before was pleased to try something new so from her frame of reference it was superb!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Another one returns and some of the stuff WAS from South Africa

When one of our colleague's heads home for the holidays we don't really expect much when they return. That's a lie!  We expect to get something from the destination from which they are returning when they return.  Is this unreasonable? Most people have willingly complied and we've gotten stuff from as far away as Australia.  I mean, you can always grab something at the airport, no? So we do expect some kind of treat. If one doesn't bring something back we used to have a saying. "Oh, who do you think you are Leonhard Mohr?"  This refers to a certain previous returnee's failure to bring back something from Freiburg, Germany despite being a regular attendee at cake hour. His excuse was that it was a short trip - 3 days - but is that an excuse, really? I mean, you can always grab something at the airport, no?
A selection
Love them Lindt balls
The favourite favourite
Not of South Africa
The ubiquitous Rocher

Today we had a good selection of stuff that was probably grabbed at an airport. One of our cacklers, after whom we have named the size of a slice of cake, returned from South Africa and brought this stuff in to cake hour. Given the familiarity with some of these sweets we were skeptical but the Quality Street bag did indicate it was packaged in South Africa. We seriously doubted that the Rolos were.  The Quality Street included a number of British Type choice chocolates and toffees although they were made by Nestle and the byline on the bag indicated it did originate outside the US where they do not recognize American English spelling rules. Hence the Quality street is the favourite favourite and not the favorite favorite. 

Spread 'em
Lots to choose from
"Choice" selection

Noah Webster would say favorite

Rolos are good. The Rochers seemed to taste better causing some to postulate that they may make them different than those intended for the US and the Lindt truffles more colloquially known as Lindt balls are always fab and they beg the questions "Do you dream in chocolate?"  That would be kind of messy!
Messy question?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Return from Turkey with - you guessed it - Turkish Delights!

But also so much more.  One of our colleagues came back from a break to his native Turkey and thus returned for another installment of our international cake hours.  These included some all-around-the-world famous Turkish delights but also something called Hanimeller Un Kurabiyesi.  These were not the run of the mill Turkish delights although they could be to people who live in Turkey. We have mostly had those that were lightly flavored or contained one type of nut - frequently pistachio.
More than one type of Turkish Delight!
The selection this time included Turkish delights with an assortment of nuts and also Sultan Turkish delights - good enough for the Sultan? The former were pretty typical but depending on what you picked you got a single hazelnut. almond or pistachio.  They weren't exactly stuffed with nuts but were as usual very good.
Mixed nuts are fine with us

Is this what the Sultan got?
Love the Istanbul Skyline
The Sultan Turkish delights were flavored, contained nuts and were covered with coconut not just the normal powdered sugar. These were also very good and it was a new experience for us as we had not had this type of flavored delight before. They were also opaque to look at not clear as usual. The flavors were subtle and the chocolate in particular was interesting. The general consensus was that the Sultan delights were more exotic - as they should be if they are being served up to a Sultan.
Which one has the almond?

Harlequin Turkish Delights - Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry...with nuts!

Did you know the Turkish word for Turkish Delights is Lokum?  We didn't.  The Sultan package gave a nice history of the treat on the back though they get no kudos for spelling.  We were also intrigued by certain ingredients including "Soapworth Juice" and "Nature Identical Strawberry Flavour." We still don't know what Soapworth Juice is but were pretty comfortable that "Nature Identical" meant natural. We also wondered what the ingredient was that made them so dense thinking it might be gelatin and we were chowing down on the byproduct of horses hooves - you know like Jello. But no - it is cornstarch!  And a lot of it we assume! 
The Story of Lokum

Soapworth Juice?
Ülker's Hanimeller Un Kurabiyesi turned out to be a type of shortbread cookie. The exact translation is "honeysuckle flour cookies". Maybe that means they have less butter and have honeysuckle flavor though who knows what that is. They came in piles in the container which included an envelope that was labeled pudra şekeri and contained a white powder. In the absence of a Turkish translator it did not strain our language capabilities to conclude it most likely meant powdered sugar and not anthrax. So we dutifully distributed the cookies on a plate and sprinkled them with the sugar figuring that was the intent of the envelope. Since we have no one with a respiratory ailment we were clearly right and our Turkish colleague confirmed that we served them up correctly.  We love shortbread and these with or without the sugar were just fine. Let's hear it for Hanimeller Un Kurabiyesi.
Honeysuckle Flour Cookies

Snugly Packaged

With the not so mysterious white powder
Our Turkish compatriot is now a PhD and will be moving on to the gray city of Seattle.  Fortunately we have a faculty member who can keep the pipeline for Lokum open.