Category Archives: books

books aren’t always good

T wonders how I have time to sit and read books when there are so many other things to do at home. He doesn’t even mean fun things, like sitting in the hammock or running around with the dogs. He’s talking about bill paying, checkbook balancing, laundry, putting dishes away, brushing the dogs, vacuuming… stuff like that. Sometimes, I put off laundry for a day. Sometimes I just take the dogs outside and pet them vigorously and hope their fur lands in a neighbor’s pool. Sometimes I cheat and just suck up the visible stuff off the floor with the hand vacuum. Usually, though, I read while I’m waiting for T to finish brushing his teeth. Or instead of taking a nap with him. Or while he’s puttering around doing something that doesn’t require me.

I love books. Total fiction, not-learning-anything books. I like having a few on the bookshelf so when I feel like reading, one’s available. Otherwise, I would consider getting them from the library. Instead, I go to Costco and browse their new arrivals. Now, books on things like building a chicken coop or how to raise chickens, those I request from the library and wait for them to show up. Sometimes, the books I read are coming out in movie form, but I don’t want to wait for the movie, so I go read the book. My Sister’s Keeper is coming out soon, with Cameron Diaz and Abigail Breslin. It looks like a sappy movie, so I figured I’d read the book and not have to wait for the movie to come out on DVD. It’s written by Jodi Picoult, who also wrote Handle With Care. Two books about a family with a really sick kid. Apparently, they also have a crazy one-track-mind mother, too. It’s almost like she wrote the same story twice (using the same one-chapter-per-character rotation) but with a different illness. Really, that’s the only difference I could see. There’s a kid; she’s sick. The mom is so focused on caring for/curing the sick kid that she kind of overlooks the other kid(s). Other kid(s) feel like they deserve some individual attention, but also guilt because, you know, they’re not sick. Dad kind of just works to a) try to get away from the mom-crazy and b) try and keep up with the huge medical bills. At some point, there is a lawsuit. Household erupts in more emotional craziness (with mom trying to keep it all from the sick kid) and then mom and not-sick kid are on opposite sides of the lawsuit. Just when you think the not-sick kid will cave into the mom’s dominating pressure, Dad decides that Mom is not thinking clearly and perhaps not-sick kid has a point. Now the parents are on opposite sides of the lawsuit, each wondering how they got to this point and missing the easy, loving relationship they once had. Lots of emotional back and forth happens, then the lawsuit ends. And then, when the lawsuit ends and the family comes back together and they all love each other and are now looking forward to moving on with their happy lives, Jodi Picoult decides that the only way to write a really good book novel is to take the ending and slam it into your heart while laughing fiendly. Ha ha! You thought you might get a nice ending but real life isn’t nice and so I have thrown your emotions into the garbage disposal and now you can tell people that I write really touching and heart-wrenching stories novels.

So, my recommendation to you is to stay away from her books. Or, if you’ve read one, you’ve probably read them all. Unless you like reading about the same story with different character (names) and thinking the story will wrap up nicely but then having the tragedy shoved in your face all of a sudden.

While we’re talking about similarities, let me also tell you that we went to see The Proposal on our “date night”. And it was cute. It was a total romantic comedy, but we like Ryan Reynolds and think he’s funny and there was a really cute puppy in the movie that made us think of Cassie. So, I was enjoying watching this silly movie, eating my overpriced Reese’s Pieces (because you should always buy your date expensive theater candy if you want to show her how cool you are), and then Sandra Bullock starts her I-love-you-all-so-much-I-can’t-lie-anymore speech. And, if you’ve seen While You Were Sleeping, you will recognize this speech and marvel how she managed to do two separate movies that have such similar speeches! What luck!

In all honesty, though, it was a cute movie. Maybe not theater-price worthy, but definitely rentable.

I suppose if I want to be thorough in my warnings and/or announcements, I should also tell you that Luc’s Bistro is not open on Sundays. Don’t forget this! They have very good food (my mom thinks they don’t give you enough food for the money; I say it’s plenty of food and along the lines of Urban Solace in portion size, if that helps you) and delicious cupcakes and you should definitely go there so they can pay their rent and not get evicted like Miami Grille. But don’t go on Sunday. If you go on Sunday when you are hungry and looking forward to some braised chicken or gooey mac ‘n cheese or perfectly moist salmon and a cupcake, you will be sorely disappointed and then you’ll have to go to Poway Sushi Lounge and spend more money than you ever planned on spending at Luc’s Bistro. I’m just saying. Continue reading

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Vampires are the new Harry Potter

So, we went on “vacation” and I even took pictures of most of the things we did because I felt like that’s what people do on vacation.  I only took one picture of food, though, as my habit of digging into delicious dishes before thinking about pictures is kind of ingrained into my brain.  Sorry.  The point is, I have pictures on the camera and had the best intentions of getting them posted here, but I got sidetracked.

As usual, I’m a little late to the party, but I’ve been sucked into the Twilight series, no pun intended.  I’ve seen that a lot of people have been mesmerized by the books, stealing them from their teenage kids, coveting them in secret, and whipping through them at breakneck speed.  And I thought, “Meh. Like I need more books to read. I have a shelf full of books that need reading.”  But then my curiosity got the best of me and I kept seeing Breaking Dawn at Costco, so I went ahead and ordered the whole series (and The Host) from Amazon.  T saw the stack of books and asked if I really liked the author.  I had to tell him I’ve never read any of her books, but I know how I am and if I get into the first book I’m going to want to know how it all ends.  That’s why I just ordered all the books all at once.  So when I finish the first one, the next one will be right there.  And I’m almost done with the first one, after just 2 nights of reading.  I actually stopped at the Epilogue last night because it was really late, even though I was so close to finishing the book.

I like the story.  I can see why it’s a young adult book – the main characters are teenagers (more or less) who don’t really fit in with the high school crowd, find forbidden love with each other in that heart-pounding fashion that teenage girls like to dream about, and form a bond that (I’m guessing) lasts a lifetime on their first try.  I read books like that in high school, dreaming of falling fast and hard in love with some dreamboat.  Except my books didn’t involve vampires.  Honestly, if the characters were 5-10 years older, it wouldn’t be any different than the adult fiction novels around.  Well, the tension between people probably wouldn’t be over something as small as a kiss. 

Having said that, I started watching True Blood on HBO.  I don’t know if I like it.  I hear a lot of raving about it, maybe from fans of the books?  Maybe the people in the books are being well portrayed on screen, but they kind of annoy me.  I watch it and it annoys me, yet I keep watching.  It’s like I feel I’m supposed to enjoy it and I’m just waiting to figure out when that will happen. 

Anyway.  That’s why you haven’t been told about what we did on our vacation.  Because I’ve been swept up by vampires.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

There has been a lot of chatter on the internet (and blog) regarding this bread book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I am consistently behind when it comes to cookbooks and new things, something I like to attribute to the avoidance of buyer’s remorse.  I mean, I don’t want to buy a book just because everyone’s raving about it.  I already have stacks of cookbooks that rarely get used (but look so pretty!).  But then, the more people rave about it and the recipes and the food, the more I want to try my hand at it.  I want to know what I’m missing.  It’s kind of a vicious cycle.  I was specifically resisting this one because I honestly didn’t think I needed a whole book on variations of the No-Knead bread (which I’ve only made once).  But then I thought about it, read some of the recipes being used and adapted and I really wanted to see what the fuss is about.  So I bought it.  And then found out you can buy it at Costco (where books are almost always cheaper).

The first recipe I made was the brioche master dough.  I was going to try the challah, but figured if I’m going to try one, it might as well be the butter-laden recipe, right?  I used a 3-quart Rubbermaid container to hold the dough, so I only made a half recipe (each dough recipe calls for a 5-quart container) and I totally made the right decision.  After a night in the fridge, the dough had practically risen to the top!  Of course, after I dropped the container on the floor, it all collapsed back down.

I used half the dough (the recipe is good for 4 loaves) to make the caramel pecan rolls, which were pretty awesome, and the other half for a regular brioche loaf to eat with the rillette in the fridge.  I’ve never made traditional brioche, so I don’t know how this compares, but the bread is soft, airy, and not chewy.  It makes beautiful toast and also a nice PB&J sandwich.  The caramel rolls were rich and soft and very easy to eat.  The caramel sauce on the bottom didn’t turn out very gooey and caramel-like, but the part that stuck to the rolls was delicious.

After those were done, I turned right back around and whipped up the original master recipe.  Half recipe.  It sat in the fridge, silenty creeping T out with its bubbles and oozeyness.  I baked up a piece of it tonight with dinner (meatballs in that grape jelly/chili sauce).  Instead of a baking stone and pan of water, I’m used a preheated Dutch oven, a la the No-Knead bread method.  It worked really well.  I’m starting to think I don’t need a pizza stone.  Pizzas go on the bbq grill and breads now go into the Dutch oven.

I pulled the dough out and formed the little smooth ball.  It seems like the brioche dough was way stickier than this one, so that makes me happy.  I set the ball on some parchment paper (yay Reynolds!) and let it sit for about half an hour (the book says 40 minutes; I am impatient).  Meanwhile, the Dutch oven was in the oven-oven, preheating to 450ºF.  Had dinner been ready and if I had been hungry, I’m not sure I would have waited for this bread.  But, I wasn’t terribly hungry and T was on the elliptical anyway, so I waited.  30 minutes later (I forgot to take the lid off, so the the top wasn’t very brown), I had a little round loaf of bread!  The top was crackly, the insides were soft, the bread was warm and had a nice chew, and we basically went through half that loaf with dinner.  I could have eaten the whole thing, but I managed to show some restraint.  Good job, bread book!

Now, I am all for raving about good books.  You all know that when I find something I totally love, I tell you all about it.  Having said that, I have some misgivings regarding this cookbook.  First, it’s a little misleading in the title.  It takes about 5 minutes to mix up the dough.  It takes about 5 minutes to grab the “grapefruit size” hunk of dough, “cloak” it and shape it, and put it down.  But there’s the rise time, which is longer if it’s cold out of the fridge.  And there’s a fairly long bake time, depending on the type of bread you’re baking.  Since most breads require maybe 6-10 minutes of kneading, this is the only step you’re cutting out.  Now, I do like that you can make a big batch of dough and keep it for a week, baking small loaves as you feel like it.  But this method will not save you huge amounts of time if you have an instant craving for fresh bread.

The organization of the recipes are a little wonky.  There’s a master recipe section, a peasant loaf section, flatbreads, and an enriched bread section.  I thought that meant there were 3 or 4 master doughs and then dozens of variations within the section, meaning you only had to learn 3 or 4 dough recipes.  Nope.  Each section could have multiple dough recipes.  Some recipes use a master dough, others you need to make from scratch.  This means that if you’ve whipped up a batch of challah dough, but you want to make another type of pastry, it’s very likely you’ll need to mix up new dough.  Some recipes call for an add-in, recipes for which are often provided.  However, I’d rather have a separate section for these add-ins, instead of having them inserted directly after the bread recipe.  I know, I know.  It’s kind of nitpicky, since it is also convenient to have the add-in recipe right after the bread recipe.  But I’m nitpicking!

You’ll see pictures of the cloaked dough (it’s just turning and smoothing the ball of dough – it replaces kneading) and it all looks beautiful and sounds easy.  It’s totally not.  You’ll end up with dough-covered hands and flour everywhere.  Don’t get me wrong, your cloaked ball of dough will definitely look smooth, but it’s a sticky, messy process.  For this method, I’ve been flouring a piece of Reynold’s parchment paper (they come precut and folded, not in a roll) and I set the cloaked dough on top of that.  It makes it much easier to move the dough around, and I plan to just plop the parchment into my Dutch oven for baking from here on out.  I’ve heard people do this with the No-Knead bread, too, so it’s not like I’m a complete baking genius.  I just have some kitchen common sense!

I do like the book and I think the more I work with the different recipes the more I’ll start tweaking it to where I’m happy.  I don’t think it’s a revolutionary book that is a must-have on every baker’s bookshelf.  I also hope it doesn’t discourage people from breadbaking due to the sticky, messy cloaking step.  I can tell you that with traditional breads, the kneading step is typically much cleaner for me.  These recipes will probably be good for having dough at the ready, but I’m sure I will still want to make bread from scratch that involves kneading.

Yume Cafe in Poway

update: Weird. Now the categories are back.

First, my “Poway” category and “Books” category have gone missing (and I can’t re-add them for some reason), although the posts are still in existence. For books, all you need to know is that I read the last Harry Potter solely on the elliptical and some parts of the story were so intriguing I actually did a second workout after the first just to justify continued reading. Also, I read Blaze and Lisey’s Story and I was “meh” and “blech”, respectively. Recently, I finished The Choice by Nicholas Sparks and I kind of wish he would write a book that didn’t just wrench my heart around so much. However, if you want a true heartbreaker, a story that will have you sobbing out loud, then go read The Time Traveler’s Wife. Really. It’s good. You’ll be bawling, but it’s a good read. Don’t take it on a plane trip, though.

As for the “Poway” posts, most of them related to the fire updates that went on last week. Some posts were related to local events and restaurants, and it would be nice if you could just click a category that would tell you what’s good to eat in this little city, but it’s just not going to happen until I figure out how to fix whatever it is that’s broken.

I do have a good place to eat in Poway, though, if you’re interested. It’s a new place called Yume Cafe and it’s located in the LA Fitness shopping center where the Lucky Chinese place was. They call themselves a Japanese Bistro, and I’m inclined to agree with the description. The menu has a very Japanese foundation to it, but there are also dishes that are more mainstream and bistro-like. Menus are on the webpage so you can take a look before heading out.

We went for dinner tonight because I like to go out to eat before leaving on a trip (I don’t know why since we always eat very well when traveling) and I couldn’t face another night of leftovers. Even if they are good leftovers. It was getting late and we were hungry, so we drove all 3 minutes to get there instead of walking like we could have. Whatever. We drove a Prius, which should offset any negative environmental impacts, right? When we got there, one couple was seated and one couple came in after us (and left before us… they must not have eaten much). Because they are so new, I wasn’t too concerned about the very empty restaurant. After looking over the menus (dinner, specials, drinks – one set between the two of us), we had to decide if we wanted to go for the “tapas” arrangement (a selection of small plates, quite varied, some smaller versions of the entrees) or just order an appetizer/tapas plate and entrees. T was set on the Prawns in Chili Sauce, so I settled on Kurobuta Schnitzel, which is a weird way of naming the Tonkatsu. Entrees come with miso soup, rice, and steamed vegetables – T was, surprisingly, able to substitute the house butternut squash apple soup for his miso. We also ordered the gyoza – our server told us they are made individually by hand and would take some time to come out. Oh, it was also emphasized that the menu focuses on fresh ingredients. Personally, I’m getting tired of the food buzzwords – fresh, seasonal, artisanal, sustainable, organic. I don’t argue they mean good things for everyone, I’m just tired of hearing it.

The soups came out first (due to the individual hand crimping of the dumplings, I guess) and they were good. The miso was tasty but not too salty and not watery at all. The butternut soup was creamy and full of flavors while managing not to be too rich. They were served in perfect mugs for sipping or drinking with the provided spoon.

Soon after, the dumplings came out, one side steamed and soft, the other side crispy and golden. I think they are either steamed or boiled and then pan fried until crispy, being inverted onto the serving platter. They are definitely handmade and not from a freezer, but I’m guessing they’re put together ahead of time. Folding up 10-12 gyoza to order seems a bit too time consuming (I didn’t count… I was hungry and they were really good. It seemed like there were a lot, though). The gyoza are small, with tender pork filling and a tasty dipping sauce, but they are worth ordering. The doughy wrapper melts away and ends with a bite of pan-fried crispiness. I’m glad we got those instead of the edamame.

Our dinners arrived and they looked amazing. Presentation is very lovely here, which I appreciate. Both dishes came with a small pyramid of rice, a potato pancake/croquette, a steamed baby bok choy, and some steamed baby squash. My pork had the tonkatsu sauce in a little dish with the cutest tiny ladle. The ends of the pork were a little chewy and the breading was starting to fall off some of the moister middle pieces, but the pork was tender and tasty. Honestly, it wasn’t the best tonkatsu I’ve had, but it was quite good and with everything else on the plate I was more than happy. T’s prawns were in a tangy chili sauce that was just spicy enough to make you sniffle, but just tangy enough to make you eat more. It was addictive in a way. The shrimp were perfectly cooked and had no trace of fishy-shrimpiness. They were good. We polished our plates and were pleasantly full. Yum yum yum. I’m still thinking of that chili sauce, it was so tasty.

The tapas plates are priced very reasonably (prices are on the website, too) and I could see stopping by for an assortment of 3 or 4 for dinner. The entrees are a few dollars more than the typical Japanese restaurant, but I think the quality is worth the extra money. There is also a standard sushi menu – one of the tables ordered some and it looked beautiful. It’s not a cheap dinner, so I don’t know how often we’ll end up at Yume Cafe, but it is good food and I hope they are successful.

The other nice thing about Yume Cafe is that it is just a few doors away from my beloved Golden Spoon. If we are anywhere near Golden Spoon, I don’t even bother looking at a dessert menu. I know we’re going to get a mini cup of Peanut Butter cup frozen yogurt, the tastiest fat-free dessert I know. Except, tonight we walked out with a mini cup of Pumpkin frozen yogurt, something that is almost better than full-fat pumpkin ice cream. Crazy! It’s that good, though, trust me. We may have to take an additional trip there while pumpkin season is still on, just to get another taste.

In other news, Three Dog Bakery is offering opportunities to open a franchise and one of their markets is San Diego. You’ll notice a similarity to the name of this website, which is purely coincidental. While I think running a dog bakery would be a lot of fun, especially since it already has a strong marketing presence (kind of like opening a Nothing Bundt Cakes store), I am well aware that it would be a lot of work and definitely wouldn’t allow me the freedom to take vacations like my present job does. It’s fun to dream, though, especially since it would be a job that would allow dogs in the office!

Edible San Diego

There’s a new magazine coming to town – Edible San Diego. Per the website:

edible SAN DIEGO is a community-based quarterly publication that promotes the abundance of local foods, season by season. Our mission is to transform the way our community shops for, cooks, eats and relates to food one decision at a time. We celebrate local, sustainable, seasonal, authentic foods and culinary traditions.”

It’s scheduled to launch March 1, 2008. I’d assume that as the date gets closer, the page will be updated with information on how to pick up one of these magazines. Based on the other cities it’s debuted in, circulation will either be via subscription or pick-up spots around town. I’m excited to see a neighborhood magazine that focuses on food, the people who produce it, and the people who prepare it. Hopefully, it will have an equal amount of articles to go with advertisements. San Diego already has home decorating/improvement circulars, why not one whose subject we can taste?

The magazine is produced by Edible Communities, if you’d like to see what other cities have going on and check out the site’s recipes and pictures.