Hand holding is a valuable thing. Yes, you can watch videos of how to cook certain dishes on the internet. You can read all kinds of books. But there is an extra burst of confidence that comes from working beside someone who has mastered a technique.
I left the class inspired, and set out shortly thereafter to my teacher’s preferred Indian market. Wow. This blew the doors off the small little shops I’d been picking up beans, spices, and cans of mango puree for the past few months. Anyhow, I needed to get ingredients to make a coconut chutney. This was especially important because I wanted to test the adai batter I took home from the class, and it wouldn’t be the same without this classic accompaniment.
Seriously, once you have the ingredients, you won’t believe how easy this is.
Why would anyone write about eggnog in the beginning of April? Well, would you believe that one of my greatest regrets of this sabbatical in Princeton has to do with this yuletide drink? It’s true.
What can I say? I’m a very lucky guy. Also, I’m very comfortable with the decisions I make and almost never look back and second guess what could have been.
Well, except for this one time back in January when I stopped into Halo Farm. If you recall, this is the dairy right outside Princeton that makes something that approaches my ideal ice cream. It’s closer than anything else that I’ve ever had. And while I’ve never had Jeni’s, my ideal ice cream doesn’t have tapioca starch in it. Ever.
But this isn’t about ice cream, it’s about eggnog. On that fateful visit, Halo Farm had what I expected to be their last eggnog of the season for sale. And it looked amazing. On the strength of their ice cream and the promise of no junk in the carton, I had high hopes that this eggnog would be some truly special stuff.
However, I had just recently turned to some new healthier eating habits that did not include eggnog. To make matters worse, Halo only sells fluid dairy in half gallon containers. And this half gallon of eggnog was set to expire on the very next day. Given how much I would have to drink in such a short time to avoid waste, I declined. At the time, I knew full well that since we would be moving back to Albany in July, I would probably never again have the chance to try this special stuff.
Regret washed over me. For months. Until the strangest thing happened.
When you do something enough times, eventually your hands can execute the job without involving your brain. Just a few years ago, when I started trying to teach myself how to play the guitar, I could barely form chords. The notion of being able to transition from one chord to another in any sort of musical way was laughable, at best.
But like all things, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Eventually, it gets so easy, one might even forget it was hard in the first place.
This past weekend I went to take a class on making dosas. For those who are unaware, these are an impossibly thin and crispy south Indian pancake that is typically filled with spiced potatoes. The instructor was a little flabbergasted that anyone would be interested in learning such a dish, because she considered them to be so easy.
I look forward to the day when making dosa is as easy for me as scrambling eggs. But when left to my own devices, what I learned almost led to disaster.
Cheese and wine are two of my great loves. To most people the two are a natural combination, like peanut butter and jelly or milk and cookies. And I recognize how amazing it can be when a wine and cheese come together in perfect harmony, each making the other better than it would have been on its own.
But I must confess, I generally avoid cheese when I’m drinking wine. And if there is a cheese that has captured my desire, most likely I’m enjoying it without wine.
The thing about these two items is that each one actually changes the taste of the other. When I’m drinking wine, I want to experience what the winemaker made, I want to taste the flavors that are in the bottle. Cheese will take away some of the edges, soften some of the tannins. And this can result in a sublime experience, but it’s a different one than what I’m after.
Today’s post is actually not about creating or avoiding these pairings, but rather two unique opportunities to learn more about cheese and wine independently of each other. The best way to learn is always to taste. And there are some great tasting events on the near horizon in the Capital Region.
Just yesterday I heard that my cousin in Philly got his first iced coffee of the year. With sun and warmer weather, people are finally starting to dig out from winter. Kids are playing outside without their coats and gloves. Seasonal soft serve joints are open.
It’s finally starting to look more like spring. I know, I probably shouldn’t say that too loud. Maybe I should knock on wood. What else can one do after tempting fate?
But I’ve been waiting for the weather to warm up just a wee little bit to share something I learned over the winter. It was so incredible that when I first read about it, I thought it couldn’t be true. And then after testing it out, it was so easy and delicious I felt compelled to share it with the world.
Now that it’s starting to warm up, it’s high time you learned this foolproof way for making the best iced tea you’ve ever had with virtually no effort at all. And no, it’s not sun tea.
There’s a distinct possibility that I’m in the best shape of my life. It’s a good thing, too, because one of the current household staples is pints of ice cream from Halo Farm. We just recently discovered Peanut Paradise, which is vanilla ice cream with a peanut butter swirl and chocolate covered peanut pieces. Damn, that’s good.
Mrs. Fussy finished it last night. The kids are not going to be pleased.
But I also have a couple cups of clarified butter, some home-rendered lard, and a cup or so of olive oil infused with the flavor of Tonno del Chianti. I’ve been roasting root vegetables in the latter, and man are those good. Oh yeah, and I just finished up the bag of lard chips.
The big question will be if I can keep up this exercise thing when I get back to Albany, or will I revert back to my old ways? Speaking of questions, it’s been a long time since I’ve answered any on the blog. You do remember that I’ve committed to answering all questions asked in the comments section of the blog, provided they use proper punctuation.
So let’s get on with another installment of Ask the Profussor.
Maybe it doesn’t feel like spring, but that probably makes it the perfect time to start thinking about the spring tour. Every year around this time a bunch of FLB readers set off to try and find the best frozen treats the Capital Region has to offer.
At first it was seasonal soft serve, where On the Farm in Latham stole the show. The following year we tackled homemade hard ice cream, and The Ice Cream Man in Greenwich was triumphant. Last year we finally got around to the Tour de Gelato where Villa Italia edged out some seriously good competition.
Now we can finally get to the serious business of comparing all the new fangled FroYo joints.
We’re not interested in the soft frozen yogurt options at seasonal ice cream stands. This isn’t about the homemade frozen yogurt that can be at places like the Snowman either. No. These are the newly tarted up places, many of which are more redolent of discotheques than snack bars, where you can fill an impossibly large cup with tangy yogurt and a dazzling assortment of toppings.
But before we can go any further, it’s time to open up the floor to nominations (and I’m also going to solicit input on a date for reasons I’ll explain in a moment).