Kitchen Nightmares: Macaron Adventures

I have never claimed to be a great baker… only a great chef. Haha…

The thing that gets me down with baking is that there are specific, measured amounts, orders of operation, tried and true methods from which you cannot deviate. This has always killed the major fun for me, as really the best part of baking is eating the final product. I just don’t have the patience to follow some unknown author’s orders.

It’s not something I completely shy away from. Baking occurs at key points during a year for me, a few holidays, the random craving, maybe some birthdays. The desserts I can bake without need for looking at recipes: Butter Mochi and Shortbread Cookies (and… box cupcakes). There was one Thanksgiving I had started to make the butter mochi, realizing a bit too late that I was out of vanilla. Whelp… too far now to go out and get some, I’ll substitute a little bit of Almond Extract. Whatever: (this is the artist in me). Thanksgiving comes and goes, great food, stuffed to excess. Come home, open the microwave to heat up some leftovers from earlier and see a bowl of melted butter still sitting in there.

BUTTER.

But this means…

THERE WAS NO BUTTER IN THE BUTTER MOCHI!

No wonder it tasted so healthy…

Usually I enjoy cooking, the spontaneity, oftentimes scouting out my kitchen becomes my own personal episode of Chopped. Just as bizarre, but absolutely amazing what you can come up with when you are really forced to get creative. Really the best dishes have been results of curiosity— [I relate this to my senior year in college. I was exploring mixed media and decided to try every combination of mediums together. I quickly found what can give what effect, not that I wanted them all but it was useful research.] Same goes with food…

Back to baking… recently been getting into some French desserts. Craving things I had abroad, wondering why it had to be something I couldn’t have. OR could have but was difficult to get. OR expensive. Thinking about baking in terms of the impossible. Why? I tell myself I can do anything, so why not bake a macaron. Goodness. Didn’t realize I had made those barriers for myself, so I’m glad to say no more of that. I contacted an old friend (TY Deanna!) for recipes and general help. I scoured the internet. Stalked Martha Stewart. Watched countless youtube videos. Got a notebook and went John Nash writing out variations on this-and-that. Re-read the recipes till I had them inevitably memorized. Googled more recipes to where I could spot the differences and forsee the results. Yeah, when I commit…

I
GO
HARD
(core)

Step 1: Actually acquire the necessary supplies and ingredients.
This turned out to be just coconut extract on the first outing, 2nd outing—–>


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What happened next.. there are no pics to show the process. It was probably the most frenetic, haphazardly done macaron making. This was because I heard it would take many many tries to get this right, so why worry about everything being perfect on attempt #1? It was good fun. Had to redo a few things multiple times. Crack a few more eggs, separate the whites. Try to separate the whites. Rewhip some eggs. Repour out the sugar. Spill coconut on the floor.

Moment of truth, two trays out of the oven…

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Decided to change the recipe a bit. But what resulted:

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I only ended up making a few actual macarons, as they were too good not to eat as is, or with buttercream just drizzled on top. Yes, for shame, but tasted all the same to me. Close up:

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BATCH 2

Time to get mechaniacle. Mechanical + Maniacal = Crazy Baking Robot
Followed the recipe to a T. Blended. Sifted. Made a little circle template for the macaron piping. Took my time. Somehow ended up burning half a batch. Oh well! Also some of the tops cracked, meaning I either underwhipped the mixture or didn’t tap out enough of the air bubbles. I’m guessing its the former. Soft peaks. Stiff peaks. I’ve only done that once, and that was the previous nights adventure.

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Buttercream: lots of butter. Lots of sugar. Ended up throwing this one out completely and changed the recipe. *See below* Added some unsweetened coconut and leftover almond grounds for texture. This first buttercream tasted good, but the second attempt was way less sweet aaaaaand healthier (lesser of two evils really…)
This is just what happened after I refrigerated it!

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BATCH 3

Alright. Bust out the mini food processor. Again. Make my almond flour. Again. Sift. Combine. Process. Time to use that hand mixer a bit longer. Make those peaks softer. Stiffer. The perfect white of the egg whites now burning holes into my pupils. Done? Flip the bowl upside down test! Doesn’t fall. Must be stiff enough now. (!!Not SURE THOUGH!!) Re-pipette everything out. Good thing I’ve always had a steady hand. Throw some coconut on there for decoration. Shove in the oven.

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Finished batch cooling… Cooked for 5 less minutes than the previous two– This is a total of 10 minutes baking time!
They look great!

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From left to right: Batch 3, 2, 1…

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I also created a Peanut Butter filling which tastes delicious!

PB RECIPE
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (I used Jif Natural Low Sodium)
1/3 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbsp of butter, room temp

COCONUT BUTTERCREAM <<< I made this up 1/2 cup unsalted butter 1 cup confectioners sugar 1 tsp coconut extract 1/4 cup coconut flakes 1/4 cup ground almond (leftover pieces that had been sifted out) 2-3 cap-fulls of almond milk Here are the perfectly imperfect, finished macarons! Toasted Coconut Peanut Butter Macarons in front and Coconut Macarons in all their glory. Taste testing is hard work, and now that I'm sick of macarons I can move on to perfecting the fruit tart or strawberry pie... Not!

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OTANJOUBI 日3

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The night was young.
So young it wasn’t even night.

First stop, little Russia, aka

KACHKA

This was my first meal of the day right here, breakfast of champs:

Moscow Mule
vodka, ginger beer, lime
Mmmmmm…. Pretty much love lime in any beverage and prefer drinks not be super sweet.
Classic. I downed this one real fast. Prefaced by, “It’s my birthday… *insert insane claims for the night*”

Baba Yaga
chamomile vodka, liquore strega, lemon
I don’t know much Russian, but I do remember Baba meaning grandma! Guessing the chamomile vodka would do the trick. Surprisingly strong but I wouldn’t expect anything less from a Russian g-ma… Also downed in quick succession.

“Herring under a fur coat”
Russian 7 layer salad: eggs mayo beets carrots onions herring potatoes
Layer after colorful layer blanketed together, each part richer than the next.
Altogether creamy and luscious textures. Best shared.

Tvorog Vareniki
Dumplings: Scallions & farmer’s cheese
Pillowy dumplings sliding in a cream sauce, filled to perfection with farmer’s cheese and topped with scallions.
Can’t get enough. Although I admittedly, love any kind of filled dough:
ravioli/tortellini/gyoza/dim sum/won ton/shu mai/manapua/gnocchi*/spaetzle* ! These were fun to eat. Hard to share. Haha.

*Or just dough…

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“Smoking Kills” Drink vodka.

2nd stop:
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OSO MARKET

Giant Steps
Rum, Bonal, Strawberry brine [aka li hing mui juice!?], bitters, cube
Mesmerized by that cube. This drink ain’t for the kids. The strawberry brine alone reminded me of something from home, totally a salted plummy pull on your tongue, combined with the rest (love bitters) (love rum), very palatable. Bonal I learned: French, mixed drink on its own– a reddish wildflower sweet wine of sorts. First time for everything, even at this age.

Vermouth [Flight of 3 ?!]
Imported
Excellence. Light, floral. I really hadn’t given Vermouth a fair shake.
I knew my mom used it in some cooking (although that was probably dry vermouth), and from the smells I recall it wasn’t something that seemed… drinkable.
This however, was lovely.

Dessert aka Crack Cookies:
Warm chocolate chip & B-A-C-O-N butter cookies w/ caramel sauce
Literal crack rocks. Went well with the Vermouth. At least my tipsy brain thought so.

Next:

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Technically we made a pit stop to say hi to some Golden Girls at Proper Salon — pretty rad. Right across the street! Thankfully this was before things got too cray…

TAQUERIA NUEVE

Margarita
(In my shallow recollection of the hour or so prior, this looked exactly like the moscow mule from Kachka, same cup, 2 black straws, drink color… therefore I did not take a picture {technically unable to take a picture at that point} KEEP IN MIND, my state of mind. HAHA. Didn’t want to break the new camera.)

Tacos:
Lingua/Beef/Carnitas
+ green/red salsa
These were delicious. I know they were although it’s hard to pinpoint or recall differences. I might’ve had a bite of each. I might’ve eaten all of one. Who knows. The salsa was also good, not spicy or hot in any way (nothing is for my tongue), but absolutely great to drown tacos in.

It is now 6:30 pm

The sun has not even set yet.

Things blur a little during this stop… aka I remember being in the restaurant but not-quite-sure-how-I-got-there.

Neat-o…

Kids sitting next to me.

Cool.

Dropping stuff under my seat.

Awesome!

Good times, would love to go back… maybe stay out later next time 😉
Sorry to all my friends who got couch selfies.

#HASHTAG:SORRYNEVERSORRY
#DRINKONCEAYEAR #COUCHSELFIES
#IMSODRINK

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31. Andina

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PISCO SOUR
Macchu Pisco pisco puro mixed with lime juice, sugar and egg whites, served up, topped with a dash of bitters and a squeeze of key lime

I was told this was one of the most ordered drinks! I was suckered by the inclusion of egg whites (ie: ever had a handmade fountain drink? old school Orange Julius?) Couldn’t much tell besides the lovely froth designs on top that it was there. Also, the drink was pretty potent. Not quite my perfect cup of tea.

MOJITO DE PIÑA
Pineapple amber rum shaken with fresh crushed pineapple, lime juice, basil and cane sugar, served tall

This was actually the perfect mojito. Why hadn’t I thought to put pineapple in it? Not so strong, very fresh, and naturally sweet. Finely muddled mint. Stick of cane sugar… fun to chomp and just delectable to drink. Would order again.

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Bread with three colorful dippings. Fun to look at but all pretty mild– even the green one which contained some jalepenos. That was probably my favorite, the middle was too sweet (passionfruit) and the other was a creamy peanut sauce.

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OYSTERS
WEST COAST
Freshly shucked, smaller sweeter oysters and served on the half-shell

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ANTICUCHO DE CORAZÓN *
Marinated beef heart kebobs, served with a spicy salsa de rocoto

Heart-breaker. These skewered pieces surprised me in their tenderness. I shouldn’t have been, but usually meat with sticks through it turns out dry and sometimes difficult to consume. This was easy to slide off and bite through– the orange salsa a cool complement. Scooping generous heaping piles of orange onto my meat, and not running out of salsa. Eating this with my hands= perfect. I ended up liking this sauce better for my leftover bread than the ones that actually came with.

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ANTICUCHO DE PULPO
Grilled octopus kebob with rocoto and caper chimichurri

Where to begin. Probably my favorite plate. Thick tentacle of octopus, sliced easy as butter. Tako and mashed potatoes? Chimichurri? Riiiiiiiich. Meat so steaklike and yet still melt in your mouth. I couldn’t get enough. Thought about ordering another.

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CONCHAS A LA PARRILLA
Grilled diver scallops with a tamari-brown sugar butter sauce and crispy onions

Next favorite plate, besides the price for the size of the scallop, I didn’t eat this slow enough to really savor it in all of its glory. The gravy soup this scallop was bathing in… could’ve drank the whole cup. The scallop itself softer and more butter-like than the octopus. I haven’t had great scallops before so this was a real treat.

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PLATO DE CREMA QUEMADA
Three pots of crème brûlée each highlighting a distinct Peruvian flavor
(Vanilla, Lavendar, and Passion Fruit)

Trouble. Not one but < 3 > Creme Brulees. Yes the pots are smaller, but after all the plates prior I thought it was a good idea. My favorite of the trio: vanilla (same as my favorite ice cream flavor… VANILLA!) Next, really a tie. The lavendar flavor was light, passion fruit so obvious with the classic lilikoi tang. Is passionfruit the flavor of the year? I am noticing it everywhere recently. Ah, even after dessert I was left thinking about those beef hearts and octopus. Good first food experience at Andina.

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PortlandORBridges

Cotton candy skies!
Thought I could take a lovely stroll across this one.
No clue what the name is or what the dillio was on why it happened to be closed.
Maybe its brand new. Maybe I’m not observant. I couldn’t find it on my location services. Thanks for nothing Google.
Bugging me… tell me in the comments what this place is called, it’s going to irk me forever.

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OTANJOUBI

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Drove to a part of Portland that really felt as if I had crossed over into SF somehow. I kept forgetting where I was, and I definitely don’t remember ever being there before. That’s a great feeling, going down a road never traveled. It was a beautiful, sun-shiny day but being near the Willamette made the air extra fresh and crisp… also reminiscent of SF. Wind whipping my hair into tangles. Chill in my lungs. Weather like this makes me feel like I can run for miles without stopping. Silly but true. Thankfully I only had to jog a little bit after the spontaneous exploration, up to the Dragon Tree Holistic Spa where I had my spa day planned out.

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I’ve only had a “professional” massage once, and I will not even name where that was because from what I was told some of the things performed on me there were illegal.

Yes, that’s right.

Against the law!

Haha. This is just my luck. Anyways– walking in, the spa was half lit, the sound of a fountain running and light background mood music playing. I was led to the sauna area where I was given a locker, (appropriately labeled: Bliss) — Wasn’t really told what to do with the things in the locker. Do I shower first? After? Do you wear anything under the robe? Sauna? Oh well! I changed into the nude colored robe 10 sizes too big for me and sandals also many sizes too big for my feet. Stumbled around sipping my infused water and waiting on some plush pillows near the water fountain. I noticed some kind of steampunk looking cereal dispensing contraption but I decided not to indulge. Imagine that.

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From there was led into another interesting room, this one containing 70s-ish purple couches on raised platforms all around the walls. The ceilings were very high and strung across the faux ceiling were hanging planters with vines outstretched from corner to corner. After jumping up and struggling in all the oversized things I was wearing I saw some kind of hot pack waiting there for me; so I draped that around my neck.

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Whew.

SO hot.

Put it on my lap. Then back onto the couch. A girl appeared to explain what would be happening next. She was preparing my honey bath. Awhile later she wheeled in a huge copper bowl with steamy water and black rocks sitting at the bottom. Foot soak for awhile. Then she would dump ice cold water on my tootsies. After that, back into the hot water. Good for circulation. After the cold dunk I couldn’t even feel my feet. That was interesting. She toweled and sprayed my feet with some kind of lemongrass moisturizing spray. I might’ve made that up. I had no idea what was going on. Not used to that kind of pampering!

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Next up: Hand and back/neck/head massage! Performed by two people at the same time.
… Just amazing. Probably the best idea. Ever. Then a paraffin wax treatment on the hands, while concurrently getting a foot massage. After the wax had set for 20 minutes the bags were slid off in one quick motion, leaving them babies bottom silky smooth.

After that: 1 hour Full body Swedish massage. Laying on the massage table itself nearly put me to sleep. The working of my muscles… blissful. She asked me some questions mid way through, I think it was simply “I need you to turn over now” and I was really confused. That’s how asleep I was! She told me to take my time getting up. Of course after she left the room I jumped up quickly and regretted it instantly.

Went back to the sauna area to enjoy the heat a bit and then shower off all the oils. The place was stocked with everything you could possibly need or want. Shampoo. Conditioner. Body soaps. Deodorant. Hair spray. Moroccan oils. Lotions. Body sprays. Perfumes. Straighteners. Hair Dryers. I wanted to live there for the cool ceiling shower alone! Alas, I had to walk out of the doors and get blinded by the sunlight but this was just the first stop on my birthday ride.

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The Food List [19/50]

Just a few months into the new year and I’ve got only 11/30 places on my list left to try,
that’s less than 2 a month for the rest of the year (and I had a feeling this might happen) so I did extend the list into a fuller, somewhat less attainable 50…


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< P O R T L A N D >

1. Apizza Scholls
2. Bamboo Sushi
3. Beast
4. Bete-Lukas
5. Biwa
6. Broder
7. Chez Machin
8. Cocotte
9. Double Dragon
10. Egyptian Food Cart
11. Fireside
12. Fogo de Chao
13. Good Taste
14. Kachka
15. Ken’s Artisan Pizza
16. Le Happy
17. Le Pigeon
18. Little Bird
19. Lucky Strike
20. Pok Pok
21. Portland City Grill
22. Roe
23. Screen Door
24. Sok Sab Bai
25. Tanuki
26. TarBoush
27. Wong’s King
28. Yakuza
29. Yama Sushi
30. Yuzu
31. Andina
32. Ataula
33. Blue Star: Coffee Coconut Cheesecake Donut
34. Bollywood Cafe
35. Daily Cafe
36. HK Cafe (dim sum)
37. Imperial
38. Khao San
39. Lang Baan
40. Lardo
41. Luc Lac
42. Marrakesh
43. Matador/Mother’s Bistro
44. OSO Market
45. OX
46. Piazza Italia
47. Tabla
48. Teote
49. Toro Bravo
50. Ringside

< H O N O R A B L E M E N T I O N S >
51. Ground Kontrol (haha)
52. Bunk Sandwhiches

*EDIT*
Updated 4/4
Updated 4/7

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SE Hawthorne

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A slice of Eugene. Smell of it. Hippies at the bus stop. Plentiful land of the chic hipster. Stickers. American Apparel across the street. Expensive vintage. Guy shooting up heroin on his guitar and snorting coke off the sidewalk. Crepes. No donuts today. Tomorrow 8 am. Painted murals. Empty growlers. Lebanese down the road. Space invaders on the wall.

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Take 10

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Sometimes you find yourself in a place you assume has no beauty. It’s those times in the mundane, familiar surroundings that I like to take a few minutes to appreciate the details. It’s not always easy but again, a worthwhile endeavor for any artist… [waiting for the takeout].

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Lardo

30. Lardo

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L A R D O

This place originally started out as a food cart, now there are three Portland locations to choose from. The first brick and mortar shop is right across of the SE 12th and Hawthorne carts. Lots of great sandwiches to choose from, although I’d suggest splitting everything especially if you’re going to get sides. It’s not called Lard-o for no reason…

O R D E R E D
Pork Meatball Bahn Mi (pickled veggies, sriracha mayo, cilantro)
Good Bahn Mi, would’ve loved if it had been a bit juicier as it seemed the bread to filling ratio was a little high. The meatball itself was tasty, but as always I couldn’t help but remove some of the cilantro. The pickled veggies were great.

Dirty Fries (pork scraps, marinated peppers, herbs and parmesan)
These fries wouldn’t have been anything special to me without those yellow/orange/red peppers. It was tangy, spicy, savory and there was a good mix of crispy and soggy fries to satisfy my french fry texture cravings.

Fried Brussel Sprouts (mustard sauce and scallions)
Dark and unctuous… There was double the amount of bitter, although I feel like the mustard might’ve been stronger than the natural brussel sprout flavor. I would’ve liked a little less oil on the vegetable, it felt more unhealthy than the dirty fries.

S A W
“Tron” tree

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