Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lunch Box

So if you ever find yourself in North Raleigh looking for a place to have lunch, let me offer a suggestion: Seoul Garden, my new favorite Korean barbecue and tofu place.

There are plenty of reasons to like Seoul Garden. Here are a few:
  • The rice is extra sticky (and the rest of the food is great, too).
  • The waiters are very friendly.
  • The service is speedy.
  • The prices are reasonable.
But here's my primary reason for going: If you order the lunch box, you get your food . . . wait for it . . . in a compartmentalized box! (You classy types will know them as bento boxes.)

There is something so satisfying about having little portions of food separated into little spaces in the lunch box in front of you. Orderly. Cheerful. Every lunch should be this compartmental.

The food: The Seoul Garden lunch box
The verdict: Hand me my chopsticks, please

Friday, August 15, 2008

True Blue

There are plenty of things I like about living in the South, but one thing that really riles me up, culinarily speaking, is the lack of blueberries. Or, more specifically, the lack of good blueberries. All I can get are the highbush, puffy, tasteless blueberries that grow in New Jersey. No offense to any New Jersey readers, or those who dig New Jersey's brand of berry, but people -- these are just poor imitations of the tart little lowbush guys we grow in Maine.

But fear not. My mom -- partly because she loves me and partly because she's tired of hearing me whine about my blueberry situation -- gave me two cans of "the caviar of Maine" for my birthday. I saved them for a while before I found a recipe worthy of them. I ended up making a very yummy batch of muffins. Which I mostly ate by myself.

The food: Maine lowbush blueberries
The verdict: The way blueberries should be

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Piece o' Cake

So for Ben's birthday, I had lots of elaborate plans for the birthday cake. At first, it started out as just wanting to make the "fluffy yellow layer cake" recipe I found in Cook's Illustrated. But then I needed a good frosting -- eventually deciding to lemon-ize both the yellow cake and my faithful standby buttercream frosting. But then, I thought, all that lemon might be too much, so I should add a filling -- like a blackberry curd with whipped cream folded in. Made from scratch.

Here's the trouble. I'm a better cake baker in my mind than I am in my real life. The frosting turned out pretty well -- I've done it enough times now so I have the hang of it. And the curd was very tasty -- I'd recommend it if you're in the market for blackberry curd. (This is the curd recipe I used. It calls for raspberries, but I was mixing it up.) But the cake came out kind of dry and not at all fluffy.

I know cake baking is a real science, so part of my problem is my dislike for leveling measuring cups. I'm of the "close enough" school of thought. But I really went out of my way to be accurate this time. And I made sure I had good baking powder (which has been a problem in the past). And I even used cake flour. Swan's Down, to be exact. A fairly unappetizing name, if you ask me.

When it came time to layer and frost, the cake was looking a little small. And kind of uneven. So I did what any good baker would do -- I covered the whole thing in whipped cream.

Oh well. I guess I'll just keep practicing. In the meantime, if you'd like to see examples of some beautiful (and delicious) cakes, check out what my friend Ellen does! This is one talented baker.

The food: Ben's birthday cake
The verdict: Not fluffy enough