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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Always Time for Cake   Leave a comment

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Even if there’s no birthday celebration on the near horizon, Gaile Parkin’s Baking Cakes in Kigali will make you wishing for a piece of homemade cake.

Reminiscent of Alexander McCall Smith “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency,” Parkin introduces readers to Angel, who bakes cakes in her apartment and helps, by design or coincidence, her friends and neighbors solve problems of which they are often unaware and in the process dealing with her own.

Angel and her husband Pius are originally from Tanzania, but have moved to Kigali, Rwanda, because of his consulting job. Their two grown children have died from AIDS leaving behind their five children in the care of Angel and Pius. Angel’s grief for the deaths of her adult offspring lies just beneath the surface, overshadowed by her involvement with others and dealing with hot flashes.

Angel bakes cakes for all occasions. Her clients visit her home where she makes them tea while discussing the type of cake that will be most suitable. Some clients have a clear, specific idea in mind, while others are less certain.

Angel is always happy to offer suggestions, although she might sometimes disagree with the reason for which the cake is celebrating/acknowledging.

Parkin introduces a variety of characters representing a range of life experiences and means. Each is carefully portrayed making it easy to share Angel’s sympathies or distrust. Initially it seems that each chapter is a separate, independent story, but they all come together in a fun, albeit predictable, fashion.

Baking Cakes in Kigali
Three-and-a-half Bookmarks
Delacorte Press, 2009
308 pages

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Posted March 31, 2019 by bluepagespecial in Uncategorized

Mexican Food In,well, Mexico   Leave a comment

A recent trip to Mexico, as with previous visits, was a sensory treat. Besides the beautiful sites, thanks to the generosity of my cousins in San Luis Potosi in the central part of the country, we were indulged with exceptional meals.

enchilladas potosinas

I’d heard about enchiladas Potosinas, and was happy they were served the night of arrival. This set the bar for subsequent foods. Shaped more like empanadas, red sauce-infused corn tortillas are stuffed with cheese and salsa. They’re lightly fried for a crispy exterior texture that contrasts with the creamy cheese filling.

My cousins provided numerous opportunities to sample other dishes popular in the region, including gorditas, sincronizadas, chiliaquilles, enmolladas and fundido with chorizo.

fundido

Sincronizadas can best be described as stacked quesadillas. Ham, cheese, salsa between layers of flour tortillas made this an especially flavorful brunch that also included beans and freshly-made green salsa. Although, normally served as a snack or simple meal, molletes were added to the menu simply because my cousin knows I like them and it was our last day in Mexico. It was far too much food, yet far too difficult to stop eating.

chilaquilles2

Part of our trip we began one day in Guanajuato with chilaquilles covered with pasilla sauce and ended it with enmolladas (mole enchiladas) and tamarindo margaritas in San Miguel de Allende. Not a bad way to dine/visit.

Tacos are part of the national cuisine, so our stay would have been incomplete without them. Fortunately, the tacos al pastor, among others, at Taqueria Arandas ensured our palates, and stomachs, were well-sated.

tacos al pastor

Family Mystery, Mysterious Family   Leave a comment

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I thought I had Ruth Ware’s The Death of Mrs. Westaway figured out about halfway through. I was close, but close doesn’t count when murder and deceit are involved.

Ware masterfully creates a sympathetic main character in Harriet “Hal” Westaway, a 21-year-old plagued by debt and loneliness with no known relatives. That is, until a letter arrives naming her as a beneficiary in the will of someone identified as her grandmother. Hal knows this isn’t possible but schemes to learn more, even going so far as to concoct a plan to gain some portion of the will by misrepresenting herself. She makes her living as a tarot card reader who has learned how to tell people what they want to hear based on what they reveal about themselves. Hal is certain she can use the same approach with the Westaway family.

Of course, Hal is not the only one keeping secrets. Much of the fun lies in trying to determine the evil player among the deceased’s other living relatives. It’s clear Mrs. Westaway, the grandmother, was not a loving mother and her grown sons, Hal’s uncles, claim they want nothing to do with anything from her will. That is until it’s revealed that Hal is to inherit the bulk.

A short-tempered, intimidating housekeeper and methodically revealed truths add to Hal’s distress.

It’s hard to go wrong with vivid descriptions of the cold, wet landscape surrounding the dark, old mansion. Thus, Ware sets the scene for an engaging mystery.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway
Four Bookmarks
Scott Press, 2018
368 pages

Pie in the sky. American as apple pie. A piece of the pie.   1 comment

unbaked pie

Pie makes its way into the vernacular of literature, sports, business and politics, but more importantly into our kitchens and, ultimately, our stomachs.

Thank goodness for Heather Briggs, aka The Pie Lady, owner of Gold Star Pies. To say she’s a pie aficionado is an understatement. She’s such a fan that even after baking pies and selling them around Colorado Springs in her pie truck she still enjoys a slice with her morning coffee or any other time of day. “I love pie,” she exclaims!

Her enthusiasm is contagious, yet it’s her knowledge and ability to share her passion that makes her so engaging. This is done in two primary ways: selling pie slices from her truck and teaching others some of her pie making techniques. A group of friends recently gathered in my kitchen for such a class.

After providing a brief history of pie – who knew it has such ancient roots – Heather demonstrates how to make dough while emphasizing the importance of keeping things chill. Literally. Cold dough is essential.

Most of us expected flour to be flying everywhere while dodging rolling pins. Not so. We each made our own dough to take home for future pie crusts. However, the only rolling was done by Heather who’d arrived with two premade-blueberry lemon verbena pies for us to enjoy.

finished pie

Heather offers classes in your home or in a commercial kitchen. She’s organized, knowledgeable and fun; and she brought ice cream for pie a la mode. Cost is $45 per person.

Gold Star Pies Class
Five plates
https://www.goldstarpies.com/

 

Food Bowl Part III   Leave a comment

Downtime cover

The month-long Los Angeles Times Food Bowl is over. I was there for a week and participated in three and a half (I’ll explain this) events. My clothes are still a little snug even though only one of the activites I attended did not involve eating. That was the Q&A session with cookbook author Nadine Levy Redzepi and LA Times dining critic Jonathan Gold.

Nadine Rezepi

She’s married to chef Rene Redzepi of Noma fame. Although she works with her husband at the Copenhagen restaurant, Nadine deserves her own spotlight thanks to her new cookbook, “Downtime.” The recipes, designed as easy-to-prepare, flavorful and for simple at-home dining, are what she serves family and friends.

Nadine’s intelligence, passion for food and humor shone during the hour-long discussion. Gold’s questions and demeanor were less impressive. Clearly he knows food, but his interviewing skills could use some work – along with his wardrobe.

Jonathan Gold

Nadine’s interest in food developed well before meeting her husband. Her parents were buskers and when they had a particularly good day in earnings, the family celebrated by going out to a nice meal. “Food was an adventure for us,” she said. Her talk, and her cookbook, let the audience share in the fun.

 

Oh, that half event: gelato at Gelateria Uli which participated in the Food Bowl by offering different flavors suggestive of Los Angeles. It was horchata the day we stopped in, but I was too tempted by other flavors: white chocolate banana and peanut chocolate chip, for example.

Gelateria Uli
541 S. Spring St.
Los Angeles, Calif.

More Food Bowl   Leave a comment

 

20180518_194306_001The Night Market, a five-day festival of food trucks/pop-up restaurants, is part of the Los Angeles Food Bowl. The entire month-long event not only appeals to foodies but is also meant to raise awareness of issues such as hunger, sustainability, food waste, among others. Some events are free, others cost as much as $150 per person. Proceeds go to help fund the above.

The Night Market features an array of food options ranging from tacos to doughnuts, fried chicken to lobster rolls, from ice cream to bahn mi. I learned it’s important to have an appetite, cash or credit card readily accessible.

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It was fitting that our first stop was Kogi food truck, the precursor of the genre, a giant leap from those food trucks once known as roach coaches that sold packaged food. The short rib taco marries Mexican and Korean flavors. Savory and sweet tender pieces of meat topped with spicy kimchi on soft corn tortillas.

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Several fried  chicken options were available. We considered chicken coated with granola, chicken with waffles and settled on a buttermilk fried chicken slider with siracha. Oh, and French fries with fried chicken bacon, cheese and cilantro.

I expected the event to be larger, both in the scope of participating vendors and attendees. This isn’t a complaint, but a selfish observation regarding the former, not the latter.

Live music, mixed drinks, beer and wine on a cool, clear, May evening created a festive atmosphere for a good cause and a good time.

Food Bowling   Leave a comment

May in LA usually means gray days (the prelude to June Gloom) and the Los Angeles Times Food Bowl. So far, the skies have been clear and blue and my first Bowl experience more than expected.

This annual event highlights food in the City of Angels (and environs) through special events including panel discussions, restaurant deals, film and more.  Casita del Campo’s participation entitled “Dinner Dessert and a Movie” promised chocolate margaritas, Mexican chocolate ice cream and a screening of “Like Water for Chocolate.” We didn’t expect such an attentive the staff, nor such flavorful, well-prepared food.

The margarita is something I never imagined. Tequila and chocolate, really? It works. The secret was the addition of Abuelita Mexican chocolate  and Godiva chocolate  liqueur. The rim of the glass was coated with chocolate sugar. In addition  to chips and salsa, our meal included a plate of sliced avocado and three more salsas, a choice of albondigas soup or a salad, and chicken mole or chile en Nogada. All of the food was featured in the film.

It’s been years since I last saw the film; it was as equally captivating as my first viewing.  The restaurant was packed but only a few of us in the dining area for the dinner/movie event.

As if we didn’t have enough to appeal to our palates, we had a choice of flan or ice cream for dessert. The chocolate ice cream was overshadowed by the fried, cinnamon-coated tortilla accompanying it.

More bowling to come …

Casita Del Campo

1920 Hyperion Ave.

Los Angeles