Friday, January 22, 2016

Stuff and listeria hysteria

It is after the holidays and a number of gifts baskets that were given have been disassembled and the stuff that was in them is ready for consumption.  Hence today’s offering being called “Stuff”. 
Our stuff for today!
Something different!
Nor sure what the moose has to do with toffee!
The spread!
There is a tendency for some of these baskets to have weird things that profess to be gourmet. Sometimes they pull it off and sometimes they don’t.  The thing we had today that would fit that category would be Asher’s Dark Chocolate Smothered Potato Chips.  Asher’s byline on the package is “The Official Chocolate of Everyday Life.”  It seems a tad presumptuous, don’t you think.  These were ridged potato chips with a lot of dark chocolate on them.  If you were worried that taste combination would be strange, not to worry because you could hardly taste the chip.  The chocolate was very good but a little more of the salty taste might have made it even better.
Smothered potato chips?
More chocolate than potato!
So much for Hershey's!
In addition we had a chocolate bar from Chuao chocolatier, which we had never hear of but is based in San Diego. It was called “Peace, Love and Peppermint”. It was their paean to the glee of the holiday season.  This was a dark chocolate bar with small pieces of smashed candy cane.  We are not fans of candy canes, particularly when they are smashed into things but here the pieces were small enough so the mint taste did not overwhelm. It wasn’t so bad and the chocolate was pretty good. 
It sounds more unappealing than it was.
Not so bad after all!
Other stuff included some piroullines, the tube-llke wafers with a chocolate filling, and some toffee shortbread cookies. The latter were very good and nice and buttery as shortbread should be.  We noticed from the nutrition facts that if you ate two thirds of the small box you would have gotten your full day’s requirement of saturated fat.  Good stuff!
Classic piroulines!
Get your saturated fat right here!
We are hoping that this did not turn out to be last cake hour for one of our colleagues.  Apparently he is a purchase of Dole salad mixes that have been implicated in a listeria outbreak. If he was unlucky enough to get one of the recalled lots he might succumb over the weekend and in the worst case scenario, never return.  He isn’t really in a big risk group, not pregnant or immuno-compromised, for example, but far be it from us to downplay his concerns. This will teach him next time to just buy a head of lettuce. Here’s hoping we see you on Monday!

Listeria and salad story here:

Will he make it?
Got Doled onto salads!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Let’s have Canelés! And let’s do yoga on a plane!

Another treat from France today!  Our colleague prepared some Canelés for us.  It sounds a little like cannolis but they are different! According to Wikipedia, a canelé is a small French pastry with a soft and tender custard center and a dark, thick caramelized crust. It takes the shape of small, striated cylinder approximately five centimeters in height and is a specialty of the Bordeaux region of France. It can often be found in Parisian pâtisseries as well. Made from egg, sugar, milk and flour flavored with rum and vanilla, the custard batter is baked in a fluted mold.
How about some canalés?
Creative with the shapes!
Although there is normally a specific shape, our friend used differing types to give us an assortment of shapes. 
This is the classic shape!
But we added a round!
And a heart shaped one is always special!
These were indeed small, very moist and tender with a vanilla eggy taste. Rum was supposed to be included but there was none at bake time so we did without.  They were very tasty and much appreciated. We are always happy to have our cake hour horizons broadened with something nouveau et différent!
Happy to get to know Canéles!
Another or our esteemed colleagues is on the way to Japan.  In order to minimize jet lag and stay healthy, one should be allowed to practice yoga on the plane.  Why there are at least 13 various positions that could easily be done in the aisle of the plane.  Can you imagine but oh would we like to see this!! However, as far fetched as it may sound, there might be something to it!
If you can't trust the NY Times, whom can you trust?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chinese Neapolitans, Mousey Heads and Wife Cakes.

We’re in good shape for the rest of the week for cake hour. Today, although no one officially signed up, two people came through with our daily treats! We saved one for tomorrow and went with the pastries etc. that came from one of the Chinese bakeries in Boston. There were three groups of treats!
No Asian bakery in Providence so they sent to Boston!
Interesting selection!
The first group we named Chinese Neapolitans because of the way they were presented – rectangular, with several layers and mousse like filling.  We had four flavors to choose from – chocolate, strawberry, green tea and tiramisu. These were all good, not too sweet, which we expect, and very light.  I suspect the filling was probably gelatin based, rather than egg whites, as it was airy as opposed to dense.  From appearance, they seemed somewhat elegant and indulgent. This is not what we have seen heretofore from Chinese bakeries.
Very elegant, don't you think!
Chinese Tiramisu, believe it or not!
There had to be something made with green tea!
Is it strawberry mousse or jello!
Finish it off with some chocolate!
The second batch of things was like cupcakes but because of the decoration on the top we called them mousey heads. As you can see, there is a frosting decoration that looks like the head of a mouse!  Actually they weren’t cupcakes, per se, but rather cylindrical cakes that might have been cut out of a larger sheet. There were a few layers with frosting and jimmies on top.  These were also lighter than expected and with just the right amount of sugar. Who knows what the reason for the mouse heads.
They look like cupcakes but they are cylinders!
See why we call them mousey heads!
It is actually a two layered cake!
Lastly we had these flat pancake-like things that are called wife or sweetheart cakes. We are certain that is what they are called because each Chinese colleague that came in identified them as such.  “Oh, those are wife cakes!” These were flat, with a flaky bread-like crust and a filling made from slightly sweetened sesame and almond paste that contained winter melon pieces that we thought were onions. Apparently this is a Cantonese treat.  
Is it a pancake - no it's a sweetheart cake!
Cracking that open!
Slicing it for the sweethearts!
The filling includes winter melon!
We liked these although they seemed less like a dessert at first. In truth, we have learned that not everything has to be as overly sweetened as we tend to get in American bakeries and we’ll take these kind of cross-cultural treats any day!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Stuff regifted and genocide is pretty bad too.

Just about everybody gets some kind of food gift basket for the holidays.  Most of the time they are not the really expensive kind with fine wines and gourmet foods. No, usually they contain several treats of some kind in small enough sizes so that you don't end up with 10000 calories or something.  We have gotten very used to a large tin that comes from the Popcorn factory once a year intended for one of our colleagues from her pathologist co-worker.  The package did indeed come this year, but was noticeably smaller.  We figured the guy economized and just expected smaller amounts of the usual selection of three types of corn - butter, cheddar and caramel.  But he threw us a curve ball in that this smaller tin was in fact a gift basket with smaller portions of five different types of popcorn an some other items including chips and salsa, little holiday balls of chocolate, some cookies and a bag of mints.
Eclectic choice today!
A much bigger box usually attives!
The tin is more festive than in the past!
Not the usual three sections with three flavors!!
The full spread from the tin!!
The five packages of corn were quite a step from the ordinary. Sure one of them was cheddar corn, but the others were butter toffee, cinnamon, peppermint bark and holiday cookie!  The latter three..seriously?  We liked the remarks regarding the cinnamon about how it was "zippy" a "true original" and with a "brightly tinted color" hinting at its "warm, spicy, flavor!"  If you say so!  It truly was bright and almost and unworldly shade or red.
At least three types of popcorn!
Holiday cookie corn?? The other two are familiar!
We held the toffee and the cheddar corns for another day and went with the other three.  The cinnamon had its supporters. The holiday cookie corn, which was a sweetened glazed corn with drips of chocolate and sprinkles was roundly condemned. Who makes their holiday cookies and came up with this idea. The peppermint bark, which probably had a white chocolate coating. also little bits of candy cane or similar candy. If you are good with peppermint you probably would be good with this, but some felt it was better if you knocked off the little candy cane pieces.
Our three selections for today!
Brightly tinted and zippy!
Whoever does their holiday cookies should rethink this popcorn.
If you knock off the candy cane pieces it's not bad!
The chocolate balls were okay but a version of the never spectacular milk chocolate that is ubiquitous with these baskets.  The chips and salsa filled a void for those that couldn't deal with these flavored corns.  Somehow we need to get the message back to the sender to go back to what he had yearly sent.
Bad chocolate. Worse than genocide?
Someone, we know who actually, dropped off some cookies and salt water taffy so it was a pretty eclectic cake hour.
A few additional re-gifts!
Gluten free? We know where these are from!
They look okay but bring back the gluten!
 The quotable quotes were the exchange..."there's nothing in the world worse than bad chocolate."  Response: "I don't know, genocide is kind of bad too!"  Yes, indeed!