Thursday, November 26, 2009


The traditional Thanksgiving meal, of course, is a turkey (roasted or deepfried or grilled or whatever) and a wide variety of side.  The tradition persists in the face of historical protestations that the pilgrims couldn't have had those foods, in the face of vegetarians not wanting to eat turkey, in the face of the untasty nature of turkey itself.  At least that's what I had always thought.
     An informal survey of several of my coworkers revealed that many were planning roast pork tenderloin, chicken, or beef roast.  I would be interested in finding out if that's because:
1) we are out west now and that pilgrim stuff doesn't matter so much here
2) the turkey tradition is fading
3) I work with odd people
4) or what. 
Mr EA and I are celebrating with homemade pizza and a movie marathon (Lord of the Rings trilogy, for those of you playing along at home), and we are very thankful for it!  We have done this for years and enjoy it very much.  Also, Mr EA enjoys carving the roast 'za :)

As a concession to the holiday, I made a pumpkin pie because we both like it, and a cranberry relish because I like cranberry. 
Anyway, what did you do for your Thanksgiving feast?


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sourdough Chronicles - Take 2

Well, after a crazy week, I finally had time yesterday to get back on the sourdough horse (? too much metaphor?).  Anyway, this time I opted for the simplest method, which was to mix 2 cups of flour, 2 cups of water, and a packet of yeast in the container, place it someplace warm and stride briskly away. 
It succeeded brilliantly, at least in this initial phase...

It's ALIVE!  Ahh ha ha ha ha !
But seriously.  I decided to do this yesterday because the oven was going to be going to some degree or another for a couple of hours, and I figured the warmth would do the starter some good.  It seems to have worked, at least at this point.  We'll give it a couple of days and see how it looks then.  But anyway, sourdough, at about 75%!  Keep your fingers crossed...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sourdough Chronicles - Temporary Setback

Well, the sourdough starter from the tourist pack didn't work.  It just never took off, but rather sort of lay there being polite.  And then started decomposing.  There could have been a number of reasons why not:
1) starter no longer good
2) starter was never any good, but was instead cruel hoax
3) too cool in house (we keep it around 60F)
4) destiny
...or who knows.
But anyway, back to the drawing board! 
    Thanks to my earlier research, I have about 5 other methods to try.  Since it isn't like I'm gambling with rare and costly ingredients, I decided I am going to just try one method at a time, in a random order, and see what happens. Eventually something will work.  Or else it won't, which will condemn me to a lifetime of shame and buying sourdough bread at the store.
      As soon as the jar is washed out, we're on to method 2, which is yet to be determined.  Stay tuned to see what daring adventures await flour and water in the next installment of...
The Sourdough Chronicles.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Middle Way Cafe

Mr EA and I got up at the crack of dawn today (OK, really 8 am) to meet friends for breakfast at the Middle Way Cafe.  For those of you playing along from Anchorage, it is located in midtown in the same mall as REI and Title Wave. 
Inside, the place is a great big room made cheerful by brightly colored walls and a wide array of art on the walls (which seemed to be available for purchase).  It is semi-cafeteria style, in that you go to the counter to place your order, but then staff bring it out to you.  The menu is semi-hippy, but there is something for everyone.  Our friends had been there several times for lunch and had very much enjoyed the sandwiches and salads available, but breakfast was new territory for them as well. 
   Mr EA got a regular breakfast (don't recall the name of it) which consisted of two eggs, bacon, toast and homefries.  I got an omelette which I believe was called the Shepherd's omelette.  It was filled with spinach, onions, roasted red peppers and feta cheese and topped with a sprinkling of pine nuts. My omelette was very good, and also very large.  I started with the home fries, which was an enormous serving.  Their "home fries" consisted of halved or quartered new potatoes cooked through and fried to a crisp.  Mr EA did not like the potatoes, but I liked them very much.  My omelette was very tasty, with vegetables cooked just enough to be soft, but not completely mushy. It could have used a bit more cheese, but that is a minor complaint.  Mr EA loved his bacon, which was thickcut and delicious.  His eggs were also fine.  We each also got an enormous slab of sourdough toast, which were tasty as well.  The prices were reasonable, and so was the food.  All in all, breakfast was not stunning, but it was certainly tasty enough and well cooked.  Add the charm of a funky and unique restaurant, and you have a winning breakfast experience.  If you haven't been there, try it out.  You'll be glad you did!

Friday, November 13, 2009


     Last night Mr EA and I and some friends went downtown to try out Ginger, a sophisticated pan-Asian restaurant.  Ginger is trying hard and mostly succeeding.  The decor is elegant and clean without being super-severe. 
     I started out with a cup of banana and lemongrass soup, which tasted much more normal than I thought it would.  It was more of a tangy curry soup with an undercurrent of sourness here and there.  There was no "banana" flavor in the form of the sweet fruit.  There was a slight starchiness and a texture that suggested more of a plaintain version on banana.  There was also some crab bits in, which contributed some flavor and texture but did not overwhelm.  No one else at our table had an appetizer, which made things a bit awkward for me. 
     Mr EA got the Garlic Barbecue Ribs and I got the Panang Beef Curry.  Our friends got the Baked Sea Scallops and the Duck Breast Chinois, which they said were pretty good.  My beef curry was pretty good, with buckets of delicious sauce, strips of tasty but tough beef, savory crimini mushroom chunks, and crisp fresh bean sprouts.  There was also some perfect jasmine rice, which proved not only tasty, but useful in mopping up the sauce.  Mr EA was less thrilled with his ribs, which were very fatty and tentatively flavored.  They weren't bad, but they weren't wonderful either.  For dessert, I had Chinese Five-Spice Chocolate cake, and Mr EA had Ginger Pear Cheesecake, both of which were delicious!
     On the whole, while it is a great atmosphere and the food is certainly good, it is not as delicious as the prices would suggest it should be.  We found that neither of us thought about it today, which would not be the case if it was excellent. However, and I can't emphasize this enough, it was tasty enough and also a very pleasant atmosphere. If you want a nice place to go with some pretty good food, you could definitely do worse than Ginger. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Better red than...thirsty

On our last visit to our local Fred Meyer, we spotted a big display of weird soda ("weird" meaning "not a major name brand") and had to try some out.  Neither of us are big fans of soda, with the exception of eastern PA's A-Treat brand weird soda.  However, some of these promised to be interesting.  We got a Cheerwine (cherry cola), various Jack Black pirate-branded sodas, and this selection...
So we had to try it.  It actually tastes pretty good, and the bottle and cap are comedy gold.  With various slogans urging you to "Join the Party" and "Get Hammered and Sickled" it was (and still is) a source of mild but continuous amusement in our house.  It's not the best soda I ever tasted, but if you are in the market for a carbonated, citrus-y beverage with entertaining packaging, Leninade might be the way to go.  Here's the other side...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sourdough Chronicles - Day 2

This is how the sourdough mix looked today - separated into clearish and dense liquid.  There was a sort of yeasty smell, and a bunch of condensation on the sides of the jar.
A brief, brisk stir evened things out...
So far, so good!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sourdough Chronicles

Around this time last year, I began an ill-fated foray into the world of sourdough.  I did too much research and was frozen into inaction by the overabundance of conflicting source material.  This time around, I just went about it in as hasty and unprepared a fashion as I could.  So we'll see how this one turns out!
I started with a pack of sourdough starter which we purchased in the tourist section of Target, and a great big glass jar we bought at Habitat.  (All the directions would say is stoneware or glass, and given a choice I will generally go for glass - I like to see what is going on.)

I threw in the starter, 2 cups of flour, and 2 cups of warm water, as directed.

See how much stuff is unmixed?  That's why I like glass.

Then I mixed it with a wooden spoon.  The directions say metal won't work - which made me wonder if that was malarky or really true, and if it is true, why?  Is it like how fairies die when you touch them with steel?  Inquiring minds want to know.

Then the directions said to cover it up with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, which I did, even though the jar I bought has a lid.  So my next steps are to stir twice a day and wait, and then cook delicious things with my new sourdough. 
     However, as simple as that sounds, this is possibly my 3rd or 4th attempt to make sourdough (as mentioned in an earlier post) and those other attempts were not successful.  So we'll see.  My previous efforts may have been hindered by my tendency to overthink.  Let's see what underthinking will do for me!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Experimental Candy

...because I just can't leave well enough alone.

After the Turkish Delight debacle of earlier post fame, I obtained a new candy thermometer.  Oddly, I decided to break it in on an experimental recipe that I just made up myself.  I am aware that this means I have no way of telling if the candy turns out the way it's supposed to, because the candy itself is an unknown quantity.  However, it's all over now, so I can say that as far as I can tell, the new thermometer works great! 
Anyway.  To start at the beginning.  The story of my new candy recipe starts some months ago, when a conversation with my parents reminded me of a beverage mix we always used to keep around the house, Russian Tea.  As near as I can tell, this was a popular thing back in the 70's, although the mix recipe is readily available on the net.  Here is the one that most closely matches the one we used to use at home:

Russian Tea Mix
1 cup instant tea powder
1 cup unsweetened lemonade powder
2 cups orange-flavored drink mix (ie. Tang)
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves

Mix it all up in a BIG container.  To drink hot, put a couple of Tbsp in a mug and add hot water.  To drink cold, put a couple of Tbsp. in a glass and add cold water.  There!  I should also add that you should shake it up pretty good before you scoop any out to make your drink, or you will wind up with a mug of hot Tang or hot sugar water, etc.  Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it kind of loses the Russian Tea-ness.  Basically, it tastes like moderately sweetened, very citrusy tea.  Although I quite like it, as you can imagine from the quantities given above, it makes a LOT of drink mix.  I know you can cut it in half and so on, but I didn't.  The end result being that I have a lot of Russian Tea mix hanging around. 

To move on with my little story, you may notice there's a lot of sugar in the mix...  and candy is mostly sugar, so...  I wondered what would happen if I made candy out of some of my drink mix.  Here's what did happen.

There's a lot of extra stuff in with the sugar, so it didn't melt as clean as when you cook just plain sugar.  Kind of murky, isn't it?

No thermal weirdness ensued, with the heat going up, just the way it was supposed to!  I thought it was going to boil over, but it stayed in the pan.  Whew!  Sugar candy is not that hard to clean up, but it is pretty sticky and messy until it's gone.

And then, being very careful of the terrifying sugar lava, I poured it in a pan to cool. Then I waited a good long while for it to cool off.  Since I am in Alaska, I didn't have to wait that long, but your results may vary.   I just broke it up and tried a piece.  Surprise!  It tastes like citrusy tea.  If that sounds like a good thing to you, you might want to try this out:

Russian Tea Hard Candy
2 cups Russian Tea mix (from mix recipe given above)
1 cup of light corn syrup
1/4 cup of water

Equipment:  Big pot with tall sides, candy thermometer, hot pads, etc, metal pan with sides to cool candy in (baking pan, jelly roll pan, etc).
Proceed as for any cooked hard candy (basically, after the ingredients, the directions for this type are always the same).  If you do not have directions or recipe, I direct you to this basic recipe at .  Also, if you are inclined to experiment in this type of cooking, this is a great starting point.  Although I should point out that this recipe doesn't involve the covering with powdered sugar or cutting up the cooled candy with a scissors part.  Although I don't really see why you couldn't, if you want to.  Anyway.  Candy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Old favorites revisited

Although I've written about all of our favorites in the past, several of them deserve another mention, for various reasons. 
Moose's Tooth - as always - Best.  Pizza. Ever! 
Also, we were there for lunch this past Saturday, and got intrigued into trying a dessert listed on their specials menu - Maple Bacon cake.  I know - it sounds weird, but bear with me.  When it arrived, it was a layer cake with two layers of maple-flavored cake with tasty bits of bacon liberally scattered throughout.  A reasonable 1/4" stripe of peanut-buttercream icing joined the layers together.  The cake itself was modestly sweet with a pronounced maple flavor.  The bacon cut the sweetness with salty, smoky bacon-osity.  A bite of the cake itself strongly suggested a pancake and bacon breakfast with maply syrup over both.  The peanutbutter icing, which I avoided at first, actually augmented the flavors, adding both saltiness and sweetness.  All in all, this is an unusual treat.  If it sounds like something you'd like, it probably is.  But don't wait too long - it's only on the specials menu, so it probably is limited time only.  Try it - you'll be glad you did!
Arctic Roadrunner - Local Burgerman
This is one place I wrote about early in the life of this blog, when I was not really sure how in-depth I wanted to get with stuff.  In the year and a bit since, we have been back to Arctic Roadrunner many, many times, and have grown to love it more every time.  The decor is a major part of the charm.  The building is basically a big log cabin, and wood is a prominent decorative motif.  In season, outdoor dining is available.  You get to sit next to a beautiful stream, so it's worth doing if possible.  The time we ate outside, a gang of roving ducks was working the tables, and we wound up throwing them most of our fries in self-defense!  But it was still a beautiful place to set and eat.  The best part, though, is the pictures and life stories of patrons and friends of Arctic Roadrunner.  Everywhere you look, pictures of couples, fisherfolk, service pictures, family pictures.  With most of the pictures, a sort of life-story and ususally the date they started coming to the restaurant.  We like to sit at a different table every time we go, so we get to see different pictures. 
     However, as cool as the pictures are, the food is still the main attraction.  It is a burger and sandwich joint, and there isn't a bad thing on the menu.  Although vegetarians will find slim pickings, there is a really good toasted cheese sandwich on the menu, so there is something at any rate.  There are many varieties of burger, with an interesting array of toppings available.  There are also breaded fish sandwiches and a couple of other sandwiches.  It is worth your while to check out the specials board - we have had some awesome sandwiches that are not on the regular menu - a beef au jus most notably.  The sides are likewise exceptional - the fries are pretty good, and the onion rings are perfect - real onion!  If you are in the mood for a great burger or sandwich, Arctic Roadrunner is a great place.  Try it - I bet you'll like it!

Yo ho ho and bottle of...

As you might expect of two childless adults with a tiki room in their house, Mr EA and I like to keep a bottle of rum on hand.  Just in case we need a tiki drink.  Actually, it would be more accurate to say we like to keep a couple of bottles of rum around.  For our regular rums, we generally keep one or another of the Bacardi varieties around.  (I support them because of their pro-bat stance.)  We also like to keep Captain Morgan's spiced rum on hand, because it is one of the more flavorful rums around.  (Also, Mr EA appreciates their pro-fictional-pirate stance.)
Anyway.  This weekend we decided to try out Cruzan's Black Strap Rum just because it looked interesting.  And we're extremely glad we did!  It is a strongly flavored dark rum that is great either straight or as part of mixed drinks.  There is a pronounced molasses flavor, as well as hints of smoke and pepper.  Rum in general tastes pretty good, but this stuff is such a step above it makes you drink slowly and savor.  If this sort of thing appeals to you, give it a try. 

1 out of 1 yard-pirates agree - it's Aaarrrr restingly delicious!