Monday, January 28, 2013

A labor of love inspired by the bile acid work of our latest PhD

And another one is out the door in the very near future.  Our PhD mill is churning out new docs at a furious pace.  Even though this one was in an affiliated lab, she was still part of our cake hour culture.  Today was the day she defended her thesis giving her usual public presentation which is followed by a grilling by the PhD committee somewhere behind closed doors. Our friend passed with flying colors and can be called doctor though turning in the final copy and the march at graduation are still before her.
Thesis Defense
It's all about cholestasis - can you say that!
To celebrate her ascension and pending search for a postdoctoral fellowship somewhere one of our colleagues baked her a cake.  In addition, as part of the celebration, she bought or received a cake for those attending the presentation.  If you look at the two cakes, see if you can guess which of the two was baked and which was bought.

Today's congratulatory cakes!
I wonder which is homemade!
This is the labor of love!
If you guessed the brown cake was bought you are very wrong.  It was the labor of love of a colleague to honor the accomplishments of a friend.  There is something unique about it, however. It is in the shape of a hexagon.  Why you may ask? Why we also asked?  We had no real answer so concluded that since our newly minted PhD did work on cholestasis and dealt with a lot of bile acid molecules with phenolic groups, made of atoms arranged in a hexagonal shape, we decided that our baker took that as the inspiration for the interestingly shaped cake.  It's probably a lot of crap but who cares.
That is indeed a hexagon!

Inspired by the molecular structure of bile?
Our bile acid inspired cake was yellow - the color of bile - with a chocolate frosting - the color of, never mind - all made from scratch, wink, wink!  The decoration was plain but it was quite good and we all appreciated the effort.  Fortunately it was not that large because in addition there was a rather good size commercial cake with congratulations and the logo for Brown University inscribed on the top. It was a bit more elaborate shall we say.  Likewise it was a yellow cake with a white commercial frosting probably made from vegetable shortening and powdered sugar.  You know the kind that is somewhat difficult to eat.  Since this cake was at room temperature the frosting was not quite so congealed so all in all it was pretty good.  We were the second stop for this cake and we barely made a dent in it,  however.

A bit more to say than our bile cake!
Regardless, congratulations to the world's newest Doctor of Philosophy!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Québec's Favorite treat!! Who knew?

Today we thought we were just having some version of a whoopie pie or a mallow pie. These concepts may not be familiar to all.  But basically it is a chocolate pie/cookie with some kind of marshmallow filling.  Instead what we were treated to were Dare's Pure Chocolate Whippets.  The description on the box is "a heavenly cloud-like marshmallow cookie coated in pure dark chocolate!"  We like the double celestial reference to heaven and a cloud!  We had never heard nor seen these things but here they were.

What's your favourite cookie?
But there's more!  These are apparently Quebec's, the French Canadian province's, favourite cookie.  Who knew?  (Did you notice I spelled favorite the Canadian way?)  It's hard to fathom that our entire lives heretofore took place with us having no knowledge of Quebec's favorite cookie! On the box it says, "Since its creation by the Viau family in 1927, the irresistibly sinful taste of Dare Pure Chocolate Whippet has been Quebec's favorite cookie for generations!" (Notice they did NOT use the Canadian spelling!) What is a Whippet? " Whippet is a heavenly cloud-like marshmallow cookie that is smothered in a pure dark chocolate for a taste that is sure to satisfy your every desire."  That's quite a claim!  You might imagine that if it could satisfy every desire these would be wildly popular in more places than Quebec! Since that is not the case we have to take that claim with a grain of salt!
On one side the label is horizontal!
On the other it is vertical...clever!

And it is Quebec's favorite to boot!
Are you ready to satisfy your every desire?
These are supposed to do it!

We like how they are creative with their description of the chocolate coating.  On one part of the box they are described as  "coated", on another part they are "smothered" and on a third part they are "enrobed."  We applaud their creativity. 

They are either coated, smothered or enrrobed! Take your pick!
 As for the cookies they have a shortbread type base with a fluffy and not too dense dollop or marshmallow which is then covered with a thin layer of dark chocolate. This chocolate covering does have a tendency to crack so the presentation was not as undisturbed as the picture on the box.  Nonetheless these were very good.  The marshmallow was much lighter than in other commercial cookies which made the cookie seem more...elegant?  The dark chocolate was good and though the cookie base was not much to talk about the overall experience was great and satisfied our every desire!  Not really!   As one our colleagues "discovered" these when they were in Canada, we presume she will pick up more the next time she crosses the border.

A little bit of damage in transit having come all the way from Quebec!
The cross section showing that fluffy marshmallow layer!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Penalty Cake!!

We haven't had a penalty cake in a while.  What is a penalty cake?  It is a good-natured way to let someone know that they missed something obvious.  In this case, one of our friends was looking for a certain chemical that has to be stored in a hazardous chemical cabinet.  The person checked in the cabinet and didn't see what was sought.  They then proceeded to seek assistance in finding some of the chemical, in this case methanol.  Now it just so happens that 12 gallons in 12 bottles of methyl alcohol had been delivered and placed in the cabinet the day before.  Despite being told there was plenty our researcher insisted it was not there.  Here is where the penalty clause takes effect.  If in fact the material they are seeking is indeed there and someone else had to go over and point out the obvious then the person is assessed a penalty cake. They have to sign up for cake hour in the immediate future.  
Penalty cake for the day!
 So our person was accompanied to the cabinet and was promptly shown that there were 12 bottles in plain sight.  So how would this happen. It is perception, of course. Methanol normally comes in a brown glass bottle but this time a different grade was ordered that came in a white plastic bottle. Expecting to see a bunch of brown bottles, the dozen white bottle were totally overseen.  You may think give me a break but we are not so lenient when it comes to cake.  In addition, we try to make it painfully obvious that the stuff is around by asking if they are "very sure" they can't find anything. In other words we drop big hints but sometimes they're not picked up on.  Our methanol seeking friend took it in stride and gamely signed up for a slot and brought the goods today.  It was another coffee cake from Sam's Club. Their brand is Artisan Fresh!
Blueberry Oat Streusel Bundt Cake..and it's Artisan Fresh!
Looks pretty good outside the package!
It was another coffee cake from Sam's Club. Their brand is Artisan Fresh!  We have had many of their offerings and today it was a Blueberry Oat Streusel Bundt Cake. Now that is a mouthful.  It proudly states is made with real blueberries and topped with an oat streusel topping.  We would hope the blueberries would be real. Seriously, what else could they be?  Nonetheless, these Artisan Fresh line of coffee cakes are pretty good.  This one was drizzled with sugar syrup and had more streusel than oats on the top.  The cake was tasty and moist but truth be told there probably could have been a few more of those real blueberries.  As you can see in the representative slice, it was not exactly bursting with them. 
Streusel View!

More streusel than oats, I fear!
The cake is good but not a helluva lot of blueberries to be found!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The iPhone works so we got cake...the Komodos got something too

Ah, technology!  It is great until it stops working.  All of a sudden and iPhone went dead.  Nothing seemed to work so the person called tech support at Apple who went through a range of options that didn't make a difference.  This advice also included having to remove the SIMM card which did not appear at all easy to do given the casing.  Ultimately the conclusion was to go to an AT&T store to have the phone reset or something.  So off to AT&T.  Surprisingly, however, along the way the phone started working again. Incoming and outgoing calls were fine and the email SYNC was also okay. In other word no need to go to the store so our protagonist turned around to head back and found himself right near Gregg's Bakery in Providence.   The perfect opportunity to stop and pick up a cake for the afternoon.  He arrive into the bakery just as they were wheeling in a cart of all their freshly baked and assembled products. He made a great selection and we were all set for today's cake hour.
Just happened to run into this place!
Right out of the pastry shop and ready for us!
Coffee flavored whipped cream - gotta love it!
Gregg's is know for making some big cakes and this was one of them though not their biggest. We have had this before however it has been awhile. This was their Toffee Candy Crunch Cake.
Four layers of a toffee cake filled and frosted with coffee flavored whipped cream and sprinkles of Heath® candy then topped with even more candy.  There is a chocolate crunch along the sides also. Who would argue this description that this would be anything but a great dessert.  It was indeed fresh, good and moist and all the ingredients - especially the whipped cream - together make for a great taste treat.  The crumbled Heath Bars on top was the piece de resistance! We were quite happy to enjoy this once again and it was almost as popular as yesterday's raspberry cake. It was bigger so we had plenty left over.
Smashed Heath Bars make for a great topping!
Lookin' good!
Lots of chocolate crunch on the side!

Four layered cake filled with the good stuff!
It's going pretty fast too!
Today we heard more of the escapades of one of our colleagues who went on a cruise to through Indonesia to Thailand.  In addition to seeing how and where they made the poop coffee (see a few posts previous to this one) they also made a stop on the island of Komodo home of the Komodo dragons.  Prior to debarkation from the boat they were warned that if they had any open wounds or were menstruating not to get off the boat as the dragons can smell blood.  These are the largest reptiles in the world today - relative so dinosaurs even -  but are only found on several Indonesian islands.  Apparently they feed off smaller animals with the major dietary item being deer.  Our traveler got so see one of them stalk a deer that had just been bitten that was declining probably from venom.  Apparently once the animal is rendered incapable of escaping, the komodos take their time stalking after it until it collapses and the feast begins.  To ward off the dragons that might start to attack humans the guides have branches and wooden sticks.  A Taser or tranquilizing dart might be more effective but probably not as authentic.

Not your average reptile!

Lunchtime for a komodo - an unfortunate tourist!

On the way back from Sinagpore there was a child that got sick on the plane - an Airbus A380. What luck that our vacationing colleague was a pediatrician.  The kid got progressively worse forcing a detour back to Tokyo. In order to provide a calmer environment the child was brought to business class and our doc and his wife were allowed to move also.  After caring for the patient the purser on the flight told our pal that they were welcome to remain in business class for the duration of the flight. This was a very nice gesture. However being in business class, for Singapore Airlines anyway, does not mean you are treated as if you paid for business class.  While everyone else around them was being pampered, including a teenager, our cruising couple was served economy meals and generally ignored.  Kind of tacky for Singapore airlines don't you think?  We'll all have to think twice about accepting one of their upgrades!
The best in the world?
We'll upgrade your seat but that's about it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Well that didn't take long....

The Vienna Bakery strikes again!  One of our colleagues who lives in Barrington, also home of the Vienna Bakery, picked up something for today. He had just gotten approval for grant funding so maybe it was a grant cake!  Or a going away cake prior to his leaving for China!  Whatever!  We have seen many things from said bakery but this was something new.  Even though a number of people who saw it immediately assumed that it was something strawberry it was actually a Raspberry White Chocolate Cake.  We don't know if that is what it is really called but that is what it looked and tasted like to us.  There is no picture on the website so we couldn't confirm it so that is what we are just going to call it.
A heretofore unknown Vienna Bakery creation!
Raspberry coating with shaved white chocolate and a whipped cream finish!

Not it's not strawberry or cranberry...

It was a multi-layered yellow cake that was filled with raspberry compote - or something similar.  The "frosting" on the outside was the same raspberry concoction as on the inside. It was sprinkled completely with white chocolate shavings and embellished with a whipped cream skirt around the bottom and a small floret with fresh berry on the top.  It certainly looked good.
Quite a bit o' white chocolate..
And there is really RED raspberry throughout!
In only 19 minutes this is what remained!
Truth be told, however, this looked a little like those cakes that you buy at a supermarket that look great then turn out being terribly sweet with greasy frosting. That was not the case here, however. The cake was quite good. The cake itself was fresh and moist and not overly sweet.  The filling  had serious fresh raspberry taste, was not too sugary and though there seemed like there might be too much it was not overpowering at all.  Everyone liked how fruity it tasted.  As a matter of fact people like this a lot.  It did not take very long for the whole thing to disappear and a couple of our cautious cake consumers even had second pieces.  That says a lot!  The Vienna bakery comes up with another hit.
Two minutes later and it is the end!
I got the last piece and just in time!
We were told of an incident over the weekend that probably falls into the category of what not to do at a pet store.  Someone posed the question to an employee at a big pet chain - "if we were to cut some small animals would you have anything to stop the bleeding?"  This was asked by a person dressed warmly in a fur hat and fur coat.  One can only imagine what the salesperson was thinking!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tub o' Corn instead of cake!

For about six days around the holidays there was this box sitting near the elevators on our floor.  No one seemed to claim it. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be a holiday gift for one of our researchers.  There was even such a message on the outside of the box so who knows why it took so long for someone to say something.  The box was pretty large too which means it was not easy to ignore.  
This baby sat unnoticed for about a week!

A clue as to what's inside!
Ready for the unveiling!
A trio o' corn in the tub o' corn!
Anyway the return address of the Popcorn Factory gave a clear hint as to what might be inside.  It is an appropriate gift as the recipient likes things gluten free and popcorn fills that bill.  It was turned over to the cake hour cacklers so today instead of a cake we had a rather big tub o'corn!

The tub had divider so there could be three different flavors.  There was regular buttered popcorn, cheddar cheese popcorn and finally caramel corn.  We were impressed with the reassurances on the lid of the tub that this was freshly made and all that.  Despite the fact that it said around as long as it did the popcorn was still pretty crunchy and neither soggy nor stale.  So today was a sweet and salty day. For those who wanted their sweet treat there was the caramel corn that reminder a lot of Cracker Jacks.  For the others there was the regular and for those who wanted to up their blood pressure with a blast of sodium there was the cheese corn. 
Electric orange means cheddar cheese!
Bright yellow means butter1
Carmel corn is caramel corn!
One interesting thing about the corn, similar to other food products, is the decision to accentuate the color.  I guess they think people expect it to be the color or need to have it so bright that you can automatically discern what the taste is. Who knows?  But the regular popcorn was an electric yellow beyond what any butter is shaded. Likewise the fluorescent orange of the cheese corn is unlike any cheddar yet seen.  For those put off by such artificial enhancement stick with the caramel corn which is the color it should be.

This much was left after day one!