Presenting The Faux Gourmet!

The Faux Gourmet has been on hiatus for a while. I began this blog as a creative outlet during law school. After law school, I started other blogs on other topics and no longer needed this as a creative outlet, not to mention my diminishing free time.

But I kept cooking, kept taking food pictures and garden pictures, kept wanting to share the little tidbits of what I'd made. I occasionally did this on my personal blog (to which, I'm sure, people yawned and wondered when I'd post another cat picture). But I started to miss this space. Of all the blogs I have, this format, culled over several dedicated years and incorporating that adorable illustration by Sam Wedelich (see info the left) is by far my favorite.

So I'm back!

Expect short and sweet posts. Less food porn, more recipes and tips. If you want food porn you can look at any of the 5000 million existing food blogs. I don't have good lighting in my apartment and don't have time to style plates. I just want to make something yummy and eat it. If that sounds ok with you, stick around.

Looking forward to being back in touch!


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    Wednesday, October 31, 2007

    Garden Gallery, Part II: Hidden Gems

    free stuff

    I love it when restaurants throw in a little something 'free' with the actual dish or beverage. I can think of a few Bangkok places off the top of my head that do: the riverside cafe at the Oriental Hotel, [with its own free ferry from the public boat stop; at Sapan Taksin stop on BTS ] tosses in a bowl of fried nuts popular in the North when you order cocktails; it is surprising to see such up-country pub food at the Oriental, but when I was there last my friend and I devoured the bowl and secretly wished for more. Crepes & Co., on Sukhumvit Soi 12, gives a little bite-sized cookie with their coffee and teas, as does the cafe in the Erawan Hotel lobby [by the big Erawan shrine].

    But these places are all a bit chi chi; you more than make up for the cost of your token free food with the oversized bill. Instead of feeling grateful, I just find myself wishing the free cookie was bigger than a one baht coin.

    Garden Gallery on the other hand, while still edging towards Western prices, keeps it considerably more 'real.' When I ate there, the 'free' food was less afterthought, more serious contribution to the meal. One: the aforementioned latte [60 B; a fairly big mug] came with a chocolate-swirl cookie that actually took several bites to consume. Two, the roasted red pepper & tomato soup [50 or 95 B] comes with two bite-sized grilled-cheese sandwich squares. Tasty and oh-so cute. Three, a soup & sandwich set [145 B] comes with a big scoop of potato salad.

    Tomato soup brings fond memories, not just of childhood [who can resist dunking a grilled cheese sandwich into a bowl of steaming red soup?] but of another hidden gem. In Xela, the city in Guatemala where I studied Spanish at a Communist language school for a month in 2003, there was a sort of artsy-hippy-garden cafe/bar in the city centre with cute hippie waiters and big bowls of very creamy tomato soup swirled with basil leaves. After one long weekend tromping through the rainy jungle in search of ancient temples and crawling on my stomach in the mud to set up perfect photographs, I remember sitting down to a hot bowl of tomato soup back in Xela- perfect.

    get yo'self back to Texas

    I came to Garden Gallery with a Texan, and she was thrilled to have her Coke brought to her with a tall glass you can wrap your hand around [and pour an entire can of Coke into] and a wedge of lime, "just like we do back home." Glasses in Thailand tend to be round, about as thick as a paper towel tube and about 5 inches tall so this particular Coke was refreshing on so many levels.

    Also on the menu, "Steak Chili (no beans) [70 or 135 B]: First place "CASI Mid-West Regional Cook Off 1993. "Chili Appreciation Society International." I'm not questioning the veracity of this label, but who wants to bet they did NOT make up the recipe, enter the contest, and get the award? The Internet is a beautiful thing. You could, if you so desired, order your chili with a Beef Brisket Sandwich "Texas Style" Hickory Smoked for 12 Hours in Our Texas Smoker, Served with Cole Slaw & Pickle [265 B] or the Greens, Goat Cheese, Roasted Pepper [our peppers were raw, not roasted] Pecans, Fig & Balsamic Vinaigrette [235 B]. The cheese was a goat brie- I was expecting Chevre [based my trademark salad, recipe below] but this was TA-sty. If only they had some corn-on-the-cob and a square dance going on, I think my Texan friend & I would have been in heaven.

    Bonus #1: the cafe has whole wheat bread & banana bread. You don't appreciate this if you are living in a bread-eating country. Picture eating nothing but Wonder-Bread for months, and suddenly coming upon a thick, hearty slice of wheat-berry whole-grain bread [even better if smothered in peanut butter & honey or humus & tomatoes] and you may begin to understand.

    Bonus #2: the adjoining library with wooden floors and a cool, subdued atmosphere, has an enormous selection of [up-to-date] English language books [including currents like Harry Potter & The Omnivore's Dilemma]; you can sit and read for 50 B, or become a member and check out books.


    JR's trademark salad ['trademark' as in, I make it every night until I run out of my package of figs from Trader Joes; it is better with real figs, but those can be hard to find.]

    -either chop a handful of dried figs into bite-sized pieces or slice real figs into lovely, vibrant quarter-wedges
    -melt some sugar & a dash of water in a saucepan; add a handful of pecans; let sugar coat them & take off heat to harden

    -mix for dressing: a few tblsp nice balsamic, a dash of olive oil to help it coat the leaves, a good heaping spoonful of honey, some freshly ground black pepper
    -toss in bowl: figs, romaine or spinach leaves, & if you like, slices of red pepper or rings of red onions
    -spoon out bits of chevre [a soft, creamy goat cheese, nothing like feta] on top; add pecans & dressing to salad