Thursday, May 26, 2005

Am I a prude because the Paris Hilton Carl's Jr commercial made me blush?

This morning on the radio some people called in to say how they were offended by the Carl's Jr. commercial featuring Paris Hilton making love to a car, a hose, and then the Six Dollar Spicy BBQ Burger.

Yes, the commercial is overtly sexual, but that's not what offends me. I just don't think a major chunk of a company's advertising budget should be spent trying to push a 1,000 calorie hamburger with 62 grams of fat (25 of which are saturated fat - ew!) on impressionable young people.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not one of those people who think that it is entirely McDonald's fault for making people fat and unhealthy. Hey now, you chose to eat the Big Mac and super-sized fries every day - don't go suing McDonald's like they put a gun to your head and *made* you eat that stuff.

You know how celebrities are always saying they won't wear fur, or smoke cigarettes in movies because they want to "raise awareness" about issues like wearing fur and lung cancer? I wonder if it will ever come to the point where the fast food industry has really messed with us (today it's Paris Hilton throwing herself at us so we'll eat her burger, tomorrow it's heroin in the happy meals) that celebrities will refuse to eat potato chips on screen to raise awareness (or protest) trans-fatty acids and high cholesterol.

I understand that it's not in a fast-food company's financial interest to make the food healthier. Grade D ground beef is undoubtedly much cheaper than 95% lean ground sirloin. But you know, I would gladly pay an extra $2 or $3 for something healthier, and I feel like that should be fast food's new marketing strategy. Just because it's convenient and fast doesn't mean it has to clog your arteries. You're paying for quality and convenience. This is coming from a poor grad student who technically should be subsisting on cup ramen and mac and cheese - you only have one body, you might as well pay a little extra to feed it right so that you're around for the next 50 years...

Friday, May 20, 2005

Fruity Panna Cotta Stacks

About a month ago I bought a box of Knox gelatin envelopes, thinking that one day I might try to make panna cotta. Then I found out that this month's IMBB event involves all things jelled - I took it as a sign that I should actually attempt this and put myself out there in the food blogging public domain. :)

As a starchmouse, I feel incomplete when a dessert doesn't have some sort of floury/cookie/cakey-type component to it. And I didn't want to just serve cookies alongside the panna cotta (I made this for my mother's birthday) but I wanted to make the dessert look "fancy." I toyed with making a three-layer panna cotta, but chilling the individual layers would take so long. Then I thought about putting something solid in between the layers, but it would probably get soggy in the chilling process. Voila! Cookie layers!

I have to warn you - since my mom is on the South Beach diet, I had to make some substitutions. I'm writing down the recipe I *would* have used, but if you would also like to make a sugar-free, low-fat version, just substitute Splenda for the sugar and evaporated skim milk for the cream.

Buttermilk Panna Cotta:
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blackberries
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 packets gelatin (1/2 oz total)
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp orange zest

1. Blend strawberries with 1/2 cup buttermilk. Do the same for the blackberries and set aside for later.
2. Sprinkle both packets of gelatin over the water to soften and set aside while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
3. Heat cream, sugar, and vanilla over medium heat until hot. Take off heat and whisk in gelatin (which at this point, will be a solid gross-looking mass) until dissolved.
4. Over a medium bowl, pour strawberry mixture and 1/2 cup of cream-gelatin mixture into a sieve. Strain, then set aside. Repeat for blackberry mixture. With the remaining 1/2 cup of cream-gelatin mixture, whisk in 1/2 cup buttermilk and orange zest.
5. Pour mixtures into molds - I was able to get 2 heart-shaped 6 oz molds out of each component, for a total of 6.
6. Chill for 8 hours. Resist all temptation to stick it in the freezer to speed up the jelling process - you'll get a watery instead of creamy consistency. Not that I'm speaking from experience. :/

The individual flavors, pre-chilling. Aren't the colors pretty?

The assembly was a little tricky, since the panna cotta did *not* want to come out as a complete heart shape at all. So I had to fiddle a bit and it didn't turn out as pretty as I wanted. :( But it sure was yummy. I used an almond orange lace cookie recipe I found on Epicurious. I fiddled with it to make it South Beach-friendly for my mom, and it kinda turned out to be a disaster. I was a little nervous about the dough because it looked like a greasy, goopy mess. So I added more flour. Whoops. Not the way to go. It didn't spread out to make a nice and thin lacy cookie. But the orange flavor of the cookie went really well with the different panna cotta flavors.

The round-up of all the entries can be found here. So many entries! Next time I'll make sure my entry is aesthetically up to snuff. :)

Thursday, May 19, 2005

I heart San Sebastian

About a gazillion years ago I went to Bordeaux and San Sebastian. Okay, it was really in March. My dad had a business trip in Bordeaux, and my mom works for United Airlines. Together, this adds up to a weekend in France! My dad rented a car so we drove down to San Sebastian.

On the way we stopped in Biarritz, an ocean town "exposed to the sea breeze, nestling in the Bay of Biscay." (Loosely translated from the website.) We looked at the pretty pretty water, then ate salad.

Looks yummy, right? But the real eating began in San Sebastian, later that night. My parents and I wandered around Parte Vieja, a mostly pedestrian area full of bars. We don't speak any spanish, and I doubted my german would get us very far, so mostly we pointed. We discovered you just go to a bar, drink a little, eat a little, settle your bill, then walk on to the next bar. Mercifully, they pour small drinks, or else after three places my vision would have been this blurry:

I guess as it was, I *did* have a lot to drink! I think there were some people celebrating something because a whole parade of people were walking around, shouting some songs and banging their drums. Or maybe that's just a typical night.
We started at Bar Astelena:

These were heavenly. I was really never a big fan of anchovies, but they weren't too salty! Next, we tried some cooked pintxos:

Luckily, somebody told us that we were to grab a plate of what we wanted and the kitchen would cook it for us, or else we would have been eating raw scallops! The other things we really couldn't figure out exactly what they were, but they were deep-fried and had meat inside, so we were happy.
After that, we went to a couple other places, where we had a yummy marinated squid salad and a block of manchego the size of my head, as well as some more anchovies - wrapped around garlic, around olives, on get the picture. Stuffed, we headed back to our hotel...and the next few weeks were spent lamenting the fact that San Francisco doesn't have it's own Parte Vieja where I can stumble around, drinking tiny drinks and eating fabulous food without going broke. :)

We drove back to Bordeaux the next day, picked up my brother at the train station, then went to do some serious gastronomic damage. My mother and I tackled a skate filet with a yummy caper sauce and my dad and brother had manly meat. Together, we had an entire bottle of wine - a major accomplishment considering I'm drunk after half a glass, my mom will only have a couple of sips, and brother isn't even 21 yet. I was a little tipsy walking back to the hotel and my family laughed at me as I wobbled around.
I'm still full thinking of all the caneles and croissants I ate! And can I just say how much I love escargot? Yum. We talked to a lot of locals (very friendly people in Bordeaux!!) who loved the fact that we were from San Francisco - "ah yes! San Francisco! Relaxed like here in Bordeaux, not crazy like New York and Paris!" Except all said in a french accent. :)

Other pictures from that trip are here.