Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bye, bye, Hickey Faé!

Every year, for the last three or four years at least, we have a Brazilian medical student join us in the laboratory.   This is part of a program that offers scholarships and travel for said students to participate in a research program and get them started on possible careers in academic medicine.  They come from the hospital Santa Casa de Misericordia which translates to Holy House of Mercy. Because Misericordia looks more like misery we jokingly call it the Holy House of Misery for no other reason than the resemblance of the two words. It makes the Brazilians laugh at least. For more on this program check out previous posts.
Treats for today!

Can always expect something good from these guys!

Our Brazilian Bro is heading back home!
Thumbs up for his final cake hour - at least for now!
Today we had to say farewell to this year's lab participant. The title refers to a nickname that we gave him based upon the Brazilian penchant for having long names.  We shortened it! Unlike the students in some other labs in the program, we make the person do a presentation of his work in front of the whole group with Powerpoint and the works. It's good experience for them to  get up and present in English what they were attempting to accomplish over a period of eight weeks when they weren't trying to cram in as much sightseeing as possible. This year's students got to experience a real New England blizzard. Needless to say up to two and a half feet of snow is something they are not likely to see in Sao Paolo anytime soon.  Our guy did a great job explaining the work in alcoholic myopathy that he was part of and presented some great videos showing what tobacco carcinogens and alcohol together can do in an animal model.  It's not anything you want to try at home so lay off the smoking and to a certain extent the booze.
It may not look like it but there were a lot more people at the talk!

Hard at work in the lab!

Our Brasiliano was a fan of cake hour so we had a celebratory send off with a banana/blueberry/craisin/walnut bread baked by one of our grad students and a nice mocha creme cake from Pastiche brought by one of our postdocs.  The cake is something we have had before and like just about anything from Pastiche is high quality, not sickeningly sweet, and tastes great. To our departing friend it was very reminiscent of tira misu.  This was true but given our previous experience with tira misu we certainly know the differences.  The only down side for anything from Pastiche is the cake is difficult to cut. We attribute this entirely to our probably not waiting long enough for the butter creme to soften enough. Without doing so they frosting tends to break into pieces and the knife goes through and destroys the cake layers as they are cut. Pastiche recommends placing the cake at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.  We had it out for over half an hour and still had the problem . One of these days we will figure it out but in the meantime everyone gets butchered up slices.  This does not detract from the fact that the cake is very good.
Mocha Creme Cake from Pastiche...looking good!

View from the top - it was supposed to say Bye, Bye, Ricky Faé!

If we could only get it to cut a little better!
The banana/blueberry/walnut/craisin cake was also quite tasty.  It was moist and dense and as good as such a bread should be.  Thanks to our grad student for the contribution - the second one in about a week. So we all feasted on cake and banana bread while we wished our friend a safe return to summer in Brazil.
Baked for him with love!

With a sombrero as decor!  (Its actually an umbrella.)

Loaded with nuts and other good stuff!
We were just about to break it all up when out of the blue another cake appeared!  This was described as a partially eaten cake, that was chocolate and gluten free.  The presentation was not quite up to the level of Pastiche for sure but it looked more like a cake that had been broken up to fit into a plastic container. As a gluten free alternative the base is largely almond four with some egg whites and chocolate. As an indication of his diplomatic skills our departing friend responded "fluffy" when asked how he thinks it would taste.  It was pointed out that he hadn't tried it yet but he offered a complimentary description prior to any taste test. He was happy to find it was as he described - fluffy and light not dry and hard to swallow. It was perhaps a bit crumbly.  It was very well received and out of the blue quite a number of people showed up to give it a try.
Partially eaten gluten free cake?
It may not look that way but the gesture is much appreciated!
Lots of takers for the gluten free delicacy!
All in all our buddy got and appropriate sendoff!  We were glad to have him and wish him well back at home in Brazil and look forward to his next visit.  If people hold him to his word, however, he may have a few visitors in 2014 when the World Cup takes place in Brazil.  How nice of him to offer them some tickets!  Hopefully he won't regret that promise! 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Valentine Leftovers and a patent lawyer for the poopamatic

There was a sale at one of the local CVS stores of Valentine's Day products.  Since it was 50+% off it seemed like the opportune moment to pick up a few backup treats in the even that we failed to get a cake hour donor.  Today was such a day and so we used the backup to ameliorate our cravings for sweet and as a side to a cup of coffee.
Today's selection courtesy of 50% off at CVS!

Leftover Valentine Heart!
And some M&Ms with a very unromantic looking character!
We had a lovely Russel Stover heart and some M&M Valentine's Day candy.  The latter, as you might expect, is just the classic M&M chocolate candies only packaged in colors associated with VD. So in this case we get the red, white and various shades in between.  This will be the last specially colored batch until Easter when all the pastel colors arrive. Isn't it funny that they don't make them for St. Patrick's Day.  That would be white and green. This is doable because they have red and green for Christmas but I digress.
Red, shades of pink and white make for VD colors!
What you do when you are bored!
The Russel Stover hear was filled with Russell Stover chocolates although given the size of the heart they could probably have squeezed in a few more. Russel Stover is ubiquitous around the holidays here in the US.  According to the package insert they got their start in Denver, Colorado, use only the freshest ingredients and make their candies in small batches.  Given how they can be easily found I am not sure the final point is true but let's give them the benefit of the doubt.

So what's the deal with Russel Stover, snyway!
A little bit of history!
And their customer pledge!
There is no doubt over the years that Americans have come to appreciate chocolate more.  This has probably put pressure on the old line confectioners like Russell Stover to try to keep pace and work towards a better product.  Truth be told these may not be Lindt or Godiva or the La Maison du Chocolat in Paris, France which makes the most freakin' awesome chocolates, but by and large these were not bad.  Cheaper chocolates usually mean colored or fruit flavored cream fillings that are grossly sweet. No one really likes them.  When we were younger we used to take a toothpick and stick it through the bottom of a piece. If it was a colored cream filling back it went and you ended with a bunch of chocolates with holes in them.   This box however had chocolates that hued to the caramel, truffle, dark chocolate types of fillings that are more appropriate and better tasting.  They also use the term enrobed to describe the milk or dark chocolate coating. These were better than expected and certainly worthwhile given the discounted price.

Not the largest selection given the size of the heart!

They do look appetizing, however, and were pretty good. Belgian chocolate is safe, though!
We found out that our Brazilian medical student, here for a research rotation, was actually working on his second career given that he already was a practicing lawyer back in Sao Paolo.  Who knew?  The legal career was paid for as part of his public education but now that he is in medical school it is up to him.   That's fair.  His specialty was patent law and the one thing we took away from what he had to say was you would be better off selling your technology for a profit rather than try to get a patent given the expense, the length of time and the lack of guarantee that it would even be awarded.

Yes, I'm also a lawyer....

...and my specialty was patent law!

Obviously patent law gets a lot of attention...
...from the whole room!
Some of us will remember this when it comes time to try to get a patent on a poop blender.  It seems there is quite a bit of research and quite a few studies being done that involve taking and processing poop samples. Their is even something called Fecal Microbiota Transplant where chronic diarrhea is treated by putting someone else's poop inside your colon.  In one of these protocols the poop has to be blended for ultimate storage.  This requires a blender and after each sample the blender has to be thrown away so there is no breach in protocol. Clearly this is a waste of blenders.  One of our entrepreneurial colleagues came up with the idea of a disposable pool blender...a Poopamatic! This would be less costly than tossing away a whole blender after each sample.  The probability of getting a patent on this remains to be seen. Another method that may interfere with the patent, though, is the protocol where the poop is merely placed in a bottle of normal saline, covered and then shaken.  This is effective in making a solution and is a lot cheaper. Sorry to dash the dreams of our Poopamatic gang but you should have thought of this in the first place, don't you think?

Maybe he can help patent my poopamatic!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Borak's Back with lots of goodies!

We had a courtesy visit from one of our most accommodating cake hour vendors.  Some of them periodically stop by to ply us with their wares as it were or at least let us know what is new.  Our friend whom we call Borak because it reminds us of Borat, came by with quite a selection of goodies from Whole Foods market which admittedly does have a good bakery section.  Anticipating the usual crowd interested in seeing the latest he had to offer, he made sure there was plenty of stuff to go around. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us there was a class taking place at Brown University given by one of our pros that a number of people decided to attend. That brought the likely cake hour attendance down resulting in a lot of stuff to be left over.  Did that deter us? Not at all!  It only meant that we would be able to stretch out the sweets over the course of several days.  Is that anything to complain about?

He's Back!
Brownies and mini pastries to begin!
A hound dog cupcake - lots of frosting!
Chocolate ganache cake - which we will eat tomorrow!
And some Moose Crunch!
We decided to go with the selection of various brownies and other mini-pastries and leave the Chocolate Ganache cake and Moose Crunch for later days.  The selection was quite varied and went well beyond brownies.  In addition to brownies there was a mini-pecan pie tart, a mini-carrot cake, single serving of chocolate mousse, mini chocolate ganache torte, mini apricot cake, a lemon square and a piece of an almond cake. They were all good as judged by the positive responses we saw from those that stopped by.  We had no complaints and hereby can attest to the quality of the baked goods from Whole Foods.  There was also a personal treat in the form of a basset hound cupcake.  This was special, much appreciated, fun to look at but seriously that's a lot of frosting to eat.  This is the latest cupcake craze taken to a bit of an extreme and wonder what the nutrition information on this puppy would be.

This will be our feast for the day!

Digging in!
Almond bars, mini ganache and that's a single serving mousse on the left!
Sort of an apricot streusel!
Here we have a lemon bar!
And a classic brownie!

I got the carrot cake!
I'll start with the pecan tart!
And finish with a brownie - not shy about cake hour!
Speaking of nutrition, we ended up breaking into the Moose Crunch. This is nothing more than a popcorn nut mixture that is covered with three different sweet toppings. There is the caramel coating - can you say Cracker Jack - , the dark chocolate coating and the milk chocolate coating.  Isn't it interesting how many things they dump onto popcorn?  These coatings were a but thicker than some of the others we have had so in reality you are getting more caramel and chocolate than popcorn. This in effect makes it an even better treat for cake hour.  As far as nutrition goes we had a bit of a betting game as to how many calories were in the container full of Moose Crunch. The closest guess was 3000 calories.  The actual amount was about 3600 calories with there being 200 calories per serving and 18 servings in the whole thing.  As usual their definition of a serving is probably a lot less than what your average person consumes.  We had no takers on the promise of $1.00 per calorie if someone ate the whole thing but then again we are never serious with these suggestions.  So much for popcorn being a good caloric treat comprise mainly of air!
The trio of coated corn!
The caramel coated "Cracker Jack" style.
A rather copious milk chocolate cover!

And some dark chocolate to get your flavinoids!

How much per calorie do we get?
Our vendor buddy showed off his latest catalogs, told us of the latest promos and special offers.  There is always something special being offered.  The fun thing about the company is that they ship everything with a thank you present. It can be anything from a small bag of jelly beans to a water bottle.  What fun and it is certainly an incentive, on top of lower prices, to order something.  Now if I can just get them to deliver those $#@*&! pipet tips!
Checking out the latest promos - but lacking pipet tips!