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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    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Thanks + WITP "in the news" + What's Next

    I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who has been visiting What's in the Pot? I've really enjoyed hearing how you've enjoying the photos, stories & recipes. I hope to spend some time making the format for What's in the Pot? even better over the summer- so keep checking in!

    In the News: What's in the Pot? was recently on the Tacoma Art Museum website (for the recent post Thrice All American.) Find it--and read more about the museum--here.

    I know being on Tacoma Art Museum's blogosphere update because I reviewed Tacoma Art Museum hardly counts as being "in the news" but until Gourmet magazine picks me up, it's all I have to offer.

    What's Next:
    Today I had a chance to revisit Tacoma, checking up on some of the favorite spots I mentioned in the previous Tacoma entry (linked above). I had coffee with the best foam ever at Cutters Point Coffee, another great Thai lunch at Galanga, and felt like I was a local thanks to the homey neighborhood feel of One Heart Cafe (so it is One Heart after all!). And yup, I did some shopping at the very cool Urban Xchange. Looking forward to writing about it soon & posting some pics of my own.

    Monday, June 23, 2008

    Sweet Lady Jane!

    Just a berry cordial away
    from an Anne of Green Gables remake.

    Image from

    Taste & See: The name of this well-loved bakery sounds like something Anne of Green Gables might have exclaimed, wearing a straw hat and sipping on a lemonade at the church picnic. In roll the thunderclouds and Anne yells out, "Sweet Lady Jane, I think its gonna rain!" I can see her clasp her bosom buddy Diana's arms now, running to take shelter under a tree--but only after grabbing a big slice of Princess Cake to share while the storm passes.

    Image from

    Today, though, "Sweet Lady Jane!" is probably reserved for exclamations of delight following a first bite (or a hundredth bite) of one of these pretty little cakes from this pretty little bakery by that name.

    Image from

    The bakery also has a lunch menu with a few kinds of sandwiches and salads, and serves undrinkably strong French Press coffee, but let's be honest, we're here for the cake. They're so pretty, its kind of difficult to disturb the day-dreamy swirls (though once we got going we had no problem polishing them off without a trace, pretty swirls and everything):

    Images from

    See here for more info on all Sweet Lady Jane's cakes- and to find out what yummy treats the pretty little things pictured above have inside.

    The cake the other cakes must love to hate, the one always lauded in reviews, is Triple Berry Cake:

    I don't mean to rain on the Triple Berry Cake's parade (or picnic, as the case may be). The bright berries against the ivy-bedecked white whipped cream and yellow butter cake are lovely:

    But the cake itself was just . . . cake. Sweet Lady Jane generally makes good cake (though some complain it is too dry) but I like a some pizazz with my sugar high, and this was a little too normal for me. But apparently I'm the only person on the face of this earth who thinks so; even the USDA recommends this cake . . .

    Another favorite, the undeniably girly Princess Cake--probably the cake all the boy-cakes get crushes on:

    The green outer shell is not-too-sweet marzipan (almond paste).

    The red is a layer of raspberry jam. I liked this a bit more than the Triple Berry; a little more mystery to it, with the nutty sweet of the marzipan and jam. The combination worked well.

    But maybe beauty really is only skin deep, because delightful as these cakes appeared on the surface they were nowhere near as satisfying as Lemon Tart with Meringue-- the ugly duckling of the cake world.

    Little Meringue, you may be big and round and your skin may not be smooth, but don't you worry, you'll grow up to be a beautiful swan of a dessert.

    Now cupcakes are quite the rage in NYC- many people pin it to lady SATCs' obsession with a certain hallowed cupcakery-so I've had me a good cupcake or two. Tonnie's Minis, behind NYU law school in New York, is still my favorite. They might not be as pretty, but they're oh so good, and the people there are wonderful.) Sweet Lady Jane's versions make a strong showing, though, with perfect frosting, not too sweet, as perfect frosting must not be, and the moist red velvet cake.

    But Sweet Lady Jane, I think your frosting decor needs a little inspiration from my own personal Valentines Day art project.

    My favorite:

    Well. What I lack in skill I make up for in originality.

    Warning: Most of my reviews are overwhelmingly positive, but I should note a fair number of folks have complaints about rude service and dry cake, not worth the pricey slices. (Though others complain the portions are too big--and I'm prone to agree, I couldn't finish one by myself.)

    As for me-
    I had a great time. Maybe it's hit or miss? At any rate, definitely worth going to see the temple to sweetness for yourself.

    Tuesday, June 17, 2008

    Found: One Hep, Hungry Cat

    Regular readers may notice the usual headline is missing today. I deliberately avoided including it here, mainly because the temptation to make bad cat puns (e.g., cat's meow) was irresistible. Instead, let me tell you a sob story.

    The one and only classified ad I ever posted ran, "Wanted: One Hep Cat." I was looking for someone with whom I could swing the night away. Oh, I got replies, but sadly, none up to my hep hep standards. Maybe the kind of people who respond to blind classifieds looking for a dancing partner are not the best 'hep' crowd. (Of course, this reflects nothing at all on me . . . ).

    Fast forward a few years, and just when I'm no longer looking for a hep cat, the oh so very hep Hungry Cat found me. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?

    The Hungry Cat logo, from

    Taste & See: What this entry will not do is review The Hungry Cat. Many, many people have done that, 131 on Yelp alone, and that's just the tip o' the iceberg. What it will do is show you some lovely photos and tell you more stories--about a liquor that has generated international conflict and Casanova's preferred method for eating oysters. The stories behind the food--that's why I'm here. Oh, and of course, for the food itself.

    We start with the lovely cocktails to which I introduced you the other day. In addition the cucumber-mango Echo Park, people tried a raspberry-infused-rum lemonade (back) and blood orange seasonal sangria (front). Hungry Cat does cocktails really, really well.

    I forgot to mention the Echo Park used monopolowa vodka, which is, btw, a centuries old Austrian potato vodka. Duh.

    Image from

    For appetizers, raw oysters ($15 for 1/2 dozen)

    Oysters are, of course, "the ultimate aphrodisiac." (Ours were au naturel.) Perhaps the reputation derives from the high amounts of phosphorus and iodine, believed to be conducive to stamina, and amino acids which stimulate certain hormones? Or it could just be . . . Anyway, I hear Casanova ate 50 raw oysters every morning with his mistress in a bathtub designed for two, with a particular method of serving them:

    ‘I placed the shell on the edge of her lips and after a good deal of laughing, she sucked in the oyster, which she held between her lips. I instantly recovered it by placing my lips on hers.’

    See The Old Foodie for more where that came from. As for us, we just had one a piece, at the table, so there was no funny business.

    Swordfish Ceviche with pisco, citrus, cumin, cilantro and ribbons of yucca chips ($14). There are also bits of orange & grapefruit, red onion, and (rather spicy) red peppers.

    Pisco is a liquor worthy of international legal spats, literally. Pisco the word comes from pisqu, Quechua for "little bird," and pisco the liquor is a brandy, distilled from grapes in Peru and Chile. Chile, Pero and Bolivia not only consume it more than any other spirit (most iconically, the pisco sour), they've actually fought over the right to produce and promote pisco. People can be very territorial about their iconic regional staples . . . (Exhibit A, Exhibit B,Exhibit C)

    Tempura fried squash blossoms stuffed with shrimp and pine nuts ($12)

    Squash blossoms are quite the perishable treat, and equal opportunity vegetables: you can cook with either the female or the male. But only the girls make baby squashes.

    Do It Yourself: Christina promises to have your guests moaning with pleasure, if you're into that kind of thing. They're delightful raw, or cooked as above, but beware, my squash-gardening, farmers-market-visiting friends. Lest you think you can tear a squash blossoms from its moorings and neglect it until you find the time to make that squash-blossom frittata you always knew you had in you, you should know the poor dears are rather delicate: they have about the same shelf life as a mayfly. Not the best visual image, but at least you'll remember to take care.

    To get the most from your blossoms: rinse them, let them air dry, wrap them in paper towels and "nest" them in a sealed plastic storage container in a fridge set at precisely 34 degrees. Or just go to The Hungry Cat.

    Diver scallops with spicy tasso, corn, roasted squash and romesco ($26)

    A special, sea bass with pine nuts, eggplant, onion, & stone fruit (apricot & prunes? alas my memory fails me and the photo looks like currants) all sauteed together to create the most lovely, almost honeyed sauce and equally flavorful oil. The fish had a nice crispy crust on the outside, reminiscent of another gorgeous meal.

    I have a lovely stone fruit recipe of my own I've been meaning to share; one of these days I'll put it up; you can make it and console yourself for not getting to eat the sea bass at The Hungry Cat.

    And if I'm really good, I'll work out a do-it-yourself substitute for this most marvelous of desserts: glorious, glorious chocolate bread and butter pudding with crisp sugar crust, gooey bread pudding, and chocolate pot at the bottom ($8)

    With food like this, who needs a hep cat?

    Sunday, June 15, 2008

    Sugar & Spice, + Thrice All American, correction

    In my tribute to Tacoma, Thrice All American, I inadvertently referred to the cafe adjacent to Grand Cinema as Kickstand Cafe. I'm told the cafe is now Open Heart Cafe, but online searches seem to indicate the name is "One Heart Cafe." I'll be in Tacoma again in a week or two, so I'll investigate. Whatever the name, it is definitely next door to Grand Cinema, and it is definitely cool.

    I also forgot to mention, my friend's art studio coop is called Broadway Artist Cooperative
    . If you're in town, stroll on over to Grand Cinema and see her striking oil paintings inside the cafe next door, whatever it is called.

    Taste & See: I recently had a drink at The Hungry Cat (see here and here for more; my own more extensive review coming soon) that recalled the pictures of guava from the previous entry and the chili sugar & salt mixes for dipping the fruit in.

    Called Echo Park, the drink was made with rum, lime juice, and muddled cucumber and mango seasoned with chili and salt, meant to capture the flavors of the cucumber and mango sold on the street in the LA neighborhood of that name ("where everyone is more than they initially seem"). The drink, too, is more than it initially seems. Cucumber, chili, & salt are not the stuff of which dreamy cocktails are usually made, but the balance here with just a hint of salt & a hint of spice against the kicky lime is superb.

    From what I gather, the fruit on the street in Echo Park is a Mexican snack, but freshly peeled & sliced guava, mango, & pomelo are also sold
    on the street in Thailand, livened up with a little chili mix.

    Slightly ripe mango, with a bit sweet on the outside to even out the tangy crunch. Usually about 25 baht (60 cents) a bag, 1 fat sliced mango.

    Durian ("poop fruit"), in the back and peeled, to the left, and pomelo, like an enormous sweet grapefruit. 20 baht (50 cents), and well worth it to have it pre-peeled--it takes a machete to cut through to the fruit.

    Chili salt & sugar, and skewers for dipping the fruit in. It comes at no charge,
    deftly tied in a little plastic baggy and shut with a rubber band then tossed in the bag with the fruit.

    I have never seen cucumber done that way, but thousands of California spa-goers don't think its a bad idea.


    Cucumber Water: Cucumbers generally seem to be a trendy-spa vibe thing, and I have to admit, as bizarre as I thought cucumber water was on my maiden voyage into "sceney" (i.e., a place that is "a scene," or so I'm told) territory, a couple cucumber slices tossed in a pitcher of ice water adds a subtlety cool freshness. Slide a fork down the side of the cucumber all the way around to help infuse the water with more flavor.

    Photo, courtesy The Kitchn

    Sweet & Spicy Fruit: Try mixing up your own sugar/chili or chili/salt blend, using red pepper flakes for heat.
    Use fruit that is more on the sour or under ripe side. Slice fruit into long spears, good for dipping, and serve with skewer sticks.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    Better be street if you lookin' at me

    Presenting, the fruits of my labour.

    Taste & See: Bangkok is nothing if not swarming with places to eat outside. Every corner is dotted with vendors selling hand-held snacks to go for mere pennies. Entire lanes are lined with sit down made-to-order street stalls. Around every side street is an impromptu buffet line, tables stacked with pan after pan of heady, homemade dishes whipped up every morning in time for the working crowd's breakfast rush. Street food is the life-blood of the city, the real reason to be a tourist in Thailand.

    Last winter I spent one blissful day traipsing through the grimy sludge of Bangkok's back allies in search of hidden food markets unknown to those who stay on the beaten path. After a good five hours of grazing from a few dozen tiny eateries, snapping hundreds of photos, and chatting it up with Thailand's true celebrity chefs, I had plum wore myself out. (Naturally, the only thing to do was commemorate all my hard work by sitting down for a nice meal--but that will have to be another entry.)

    Eating as much as I ate that day is not a feat to be attempted by any but the seasoned,
    intrepid snacking journalists. The rest of you, stick to your three square meals and leave the hard work to us. Not to say you shouldn't try the food! If you're lucky enough to be in Bangkok, eat all you can. Do push-ups at night in your hostel to whip up a second bout of hunger. Sit where crowds gather, point to what looks tasty and gobble it up without knowing if the water is pure.

    If Western Thai restaurants, with their predictable (but still-tasty!) standards of phad thai and penang curry are all you have to go on- well, you might still miss out on the pleasure of dousing hours of walking in the sweaty sun with a 25 cent ice-cold half pineapple.
    But at least you can gaze longingly upon Thailand's glorious culinary array from a safe distance through, I'm sorry, I have to say it- the fruits of my labour.

    From top left: cantaloupe, papaya, pineapple; rose apple, mango, watermelon, (red) rose apple, guava.

    The pun had to be made sooner or later. Now that we've got that out of the way, we can all relax and daydream about strawberry smoothies.

    My raving about all things small and red as harbingers of summer notwithstanding, mounds of strawberries and cherry tomatoes are a delight to be savoured in Thailand's cool winter season.

    This devastatingly handsome bag of strawberries can be yours for 15 baht, or about 35 cents.

    Guava, 25 baht per kilo- about 60 cents.

    The guavas to the right are what we might find underripe, crunchy but a touch sweet and fleshy in the middle.

    Guava are hacked into slices with a machete, the seedy center deftly cut out, and lid into a plastic bag with a scoop, which is then put in a second plastic bag with handles for easy carrying, along with a bit of chili sugar or sweet-spicy dipping sauce and a handy wooden skewer for nabbing bites on the go.

    Strawberries and tomatoes come with a skewer too, but with fruit this luscious, there's no need for sauce.

    The strawberries do make an incredible smoothie, however.

    Strawberries float lazily in a bowl of icy water, ready to work their magic on parched passer-bys.

    Nothing but strawberries, ice and a tiny bit of sugar water . . . bliss at 20 baht (50 cents) a cup.