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Scotch Dates

I meant to post about The National Food Experiment Results months ago, but I had some technical difficulties. Better late than never!

I have a thing for the number 12. Mostly because my birthday falls on the 12th. I feel the number is my lucky charm. So much so, I prefer to set my morning alarm on the twelfth minute of the hour when my schedule allows. It guarantees I have a good day. Weird…yeah. OCD, just a bit? Most certainly. So you can imagine how excited I was when the clock struck midnight on the 2012 New Year’s! A great year guaranteed! I was not disappointed. I crushed The Houston Beer Experiment. The magician carried me over our first threshold. We all of a sudden had this crazy family of cats (Don’t judge us.) Then we competed for culinary glory in Brooklyn. Now 2012 will always be known as The Year of the Magic Hops!!! Yeah, 2012 was even better than I could have hoped.

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So how’d we do in the National Championship you ask? Well, we rocked Brooklyn’s socks right off with a solid 2nd place win in the Audience Category. Welcome home Le Creuset grill pan trophy! (You’re even better than those Jet Blue tickets.) No grand Championship or judges’ honors. But who cares? We were treated to a freaking amazing weekend in the most exciting city in the world. Thanks Brooklyn Brewery & The Food Experiments! I’m overjoyed, overwhelmed, and God darn-it people liked our “Scotch Date”.

“Scotch Date”

A Medjool date filled with chive cream cheese, wrapped in chile garlic sausage, breaded with panko, deep fried, and topped with a cilantro jalapeno aioli

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Our dish was out there. A huge risk that I doubted every step of the way. Frying in a catering type situation is a cardinal sin. You don’t do it unless you fry on-site. But in this game, all cooking is done the day before in tight kitchen quarters, and you have little time to prep anything before go-time. You get to utilize a chafing dish and Sterno at the competition, nothing with an electrical plug. Creativity is encouraged. We were advised that a rented oven would be on-site in the brewery to reheat our dish right before the competition started. But surprise, the oven failed. So we gathered extra Sternos and pulled out that torch we bought just in case!

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Thanks to the magician and my friends for encouraging me to stick with the dish despite these challenges! After the first few attendees sampled the date, my doubt faded and the adrenaline kicked in… time to bust out bites to 300 eager samplers. Seeing the smiles, surprising reactions, and satisfaction as the audience tasted the date gave me a high. It made slaving over the tedious prep-work all worth it.

As the crowd grew full and tipsy for the flowing Brooklyn Brewery Beer, we ran out of food. People had circled back to our table for seconds, thirds, and fourths. I was feeling good. My friends gauged the crowd buzz, and we had a shot at winning this! EEEeek…I couldn’t believe it. The votes were counted, the team leaders were summoned, and winners announced. No we didn’t win, but it felt like we did. I teared up and gave a love felt thank you to my magician. I couldn’t have done it without him, and he didn’t say a word about my bossiness the whole time. Plus, I was featured on the “Blue Ribbon Hunter” online t.v. show. Pretty cool.

The Blue Ribbon Hunter

People keep asking me “So “What’s next?” Honestly, I don’t know. I will keep on cooking, keep stirring up mad hatter recipes in my kitchen, keep on blogging, keep on eating like there’s no tomorrow, and most importantly, keep on plotting my culinary empire. More food competitions may come. I can’t deny my competitive nature, but who knows. Life is so curious when you don’t plan it. 2013 could hold all sorts of surprises. Maybe there’s a Food Experiment Cookbook in the works. If not, there should be. I’ll contribute a recipe.

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Domestic Bliss and Brussels

Well, it finally happened! The magician relocated to Houston after 8 long months of the long distance thing. We rented a lovely condo on the edge of River Oaks, and moved in with our kitty boys about three weeks ago. I am in domestic bliss settling in and decorating with my love. And from what I can tell, he’s enjoying it too. He hasn’t tried to make me disappear once. I’m pretty sure he digs the nightly meals, and fridge full of leftovers.

In the midst of our nesting phase, and what felt like years without a steady internet connection, I missed sharing a post I wrote for The Alcalde back in June. They asked me to test out a recipe from Garrett Weber-Gale, an olympic swimmer who cooks up nutritiously refined dishes. I jumped at the opportunity to prepare his Caramelized Brussels Sprouts and Pearl Onions. Read my thoughts on the Athletic Foodie’s Brussels on The Alcalde blog.

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The New Ladies’ Night

When I was in my early twenties, an ideal girl’s night out was spent on  Austin’s  6th street dwindling the early morning hours drinking Kamikazes and  dancing the night away. Fast forward 6 years, and oh, how things change.

 Makin' raviolis

Now my ultimate Friday night means hanging out in the burbs with two of my best lady friends hand-making pasta and sipping sophisticated cocktails. Could it get any better? You could add lobster to the mix…and we did. It seems like adulthood has its advantages.

Lobster Ravioli  with asparagus in a Brown Butter Sauce & Fettuccine with Vegetable Ribbons in Vodka Sauce

Homemade pasta night

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I’ll be back!

Hi dear readers! I know I’ve been m.i.a. the past few weeks, and I’ve got a good explanation for you…promise. I’ll be back next in a few weeks to share the exciting changes that have happened in my life the past 2 months. Look forward to hearing about edible adventures in a new city, and my continual quest to waste less food.

In the meantime, warm up with a hearty bowl of Tortilla Soup. I shared my recipe with The Alcalde this week!

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10 Words of Wisdom for the Dog Days of Summer

1. A bouquet of basil might be more beautiful than a dozen roses.

Bouquet of Basil

2. When mom tells you, “Sweet Dreams, don’t let the bugs bite, ” she means it. Don’t let the bugs bite! They are disgusting, terrible pests that might as well require you to move. Ask the magician. He knows. Fortunately for me, they typically bite only one person in the bed.

I made a tart with strawberry figs, left over El Pollo Rico chicken (see # 3.), caramelized onions, and boursin to cheer him up.
Strawberry Fig Tart

3. El Pollo Rico is a Riverside gem. Order a whole charcoal-grilled chicken combo with extra green sauce. You will not be disappointed. Bonus, El Pollo Rico is really fun to say out loud.

4. Homemade desserts make friends’ birthdays better, particularly home-baked Fat Witch brownies.

Fat Witch Brownies

5. Dirty Sixth Street Scavenger hunts make friends’ birthdays infinitely better.

6. Julia Child must have been speaking about omelettes when she said this: ” The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”

Country Omelette Brunch

7. Building a career is not always as easy as this roasted cherry tomato pasta…especially in this economy.

Roasted Tomato Pasta

8. Mangoes grow in Texas…in McAllen by G & S Groves. Surprised? Me too.

G & S Groves Mango

9. Our hell-like temperatures are not the only topic of conversation. Popsicles, ice cream sandwiches, and margaritas also make pleasant small talk.

Peach-Kiwi Rocket Pop

10. And on a non-food related note, dust your ceiling fan. You probably never notice, while it’s spinning way up there, but it’s filthy. Really, really filthy.

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Snack Time

Turn Gas Station Fare into Tasty Snacks – CHOW.

It Was Only a Matter of Time: San Francisco’s First “Beer CSA” – CHOW.

Whole Foods: Hometown Hero or Hippy Wal-Mart?.

Praise the Lard! | Serious Eats.

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Snack Time

Out with Dirty 6th, In with Rainey – NYTimes.com.

Why Americans can’t afford to eat healthy – David Sirota – Salon.com.

The Great Beer Recipe Challenge – CHOW.

Oh I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Wiener – Eatocracy.

The 78 Most Annoying Words to Read in a Restaurant Review – CHOW.

13 of the Wackiest, Tastiest Hot Dogs in America | Serious Eats.

Something for Summer! — Joy the Baker.

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