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!


The Faux Gourmet

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    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Eating my way around the world: Amsterdam

    I am Amsterdam!

    At Museum Platz, with the temporarily closed Rijksmuseum & I (am)sterdam sign.

    (Happy Thanksgiving! No turkey-cooking instructions, however. The Faux Gourmet isn't the most seasonal of chefs. But stay tuned for Wine Weekend reports, coming soon. Doesn't that sound better than a turkey?)

    Taste & See: Amsterdam may be better known for certain herbs than for its cuisine but on my recent trip a friend & I sampled some great eats.

    Days 3 & 4: Our Dutch host recommended to us a cafe serving the best Appeltaart (apple pie) in Amsterdam. Indeed, Cafe Winkel in Jordaan was so jammed with people we had to throw some elbows to get in the door. Granted, a sudden downpour had started minutes before our arrival so it was hard to judge whether the popularity was due to the appeltaart or the rain.

    I was utterly unprepared for the rain, and even with a
    barely-broken umbrella, the gift of a thoughtful vendor in the open market still bustling in the square outside, I was in a sorry state when we finally made it in from the cold. But the appeltaart made it all worth it. As a Dishola reviewer noted:
    Thick, soft, dark brown, cinnamoned-apples chunks are lovingly surrounded by tender strudel and topped with fresh-whipped cream in this classic take on the Dutch Apple Pie; Winkel's version is famous and worth the hype. Sitting outside near the open-air market with a coffee and a slice of this is basically paradise in [Amsterdam].
    Delicious indeed.

    Appeltaart, a staple in Dutch cafes (as opposed to coffee shops, which aren't exactly known for their coffee) is very different from American Apple Pie. It has a thick crust up high around the edges and is often stuffed with raisins and flavored with cinnamon and lemon juice. Winkel's version didn't have raisins, but its thick and chewy crust made it taste more like a hardy snack than a sugar rush.

    Do it yourself: Appeltaart has been around for a long time; in fact, one appears in a 1529 painting from the Dutch Golden Age. But even the prettiest pies are better to eat than to look at; see for yourself with the following recipes:

    Crispy Waffle (with raves from a Dutch gal who tried it, with great results)
    My Sister's Kitchen
    Dutch Food, on

    Taste & See, Continued: Later in the day when man-taste buds kicked in, we joined the throngs munching on great paper cones filled with Fries along the water front of one of Amsterdam's main thoroughfares, where many of the canal tours depart.

    Image, Amsterdam Restaurant Secrets.

    The fries are delicious, but the name could use some work:

    Fries from Amsterdam . . . named for the famous Manneken Pis statue in Belgium. How droll.

    Image, Belgium Tourist Information.

    Speaking of national foods, a Belgian bakery was busy promoting its baked goods by going back to cultural roots, sort of:

    And speaking of cultural roots, the Dutch colonial history makes for some far-flung eateries new to a traveler more accustomed to British & French colonial culinary offerings. I knew the Dutch had colonized both Indonesia and Suriname, only granting Suriname's independence in 1975 (!!), but the pairing of a Surinamese/Indonesian restaurant kind of baffled me. I asked which foods were from which country and the waitress said they're all the same. This made no sense . . . until I thought about the Indians in Kenya.

    Like the British, the Dutch responded to labor shortages following the abolition of slavery by importing workers from one colony to another. Hence, the presence of a large Javanese population, part of modern day Indonesia, in Suriname, across the world in South America. Over time the Javanese cuisine (though I don't dare get into the diverse collection of distinct peoples that make up Indonesia here!) morphed with the Surinamese context to form a unique blend.

    And hence the presence of Beef Rendang (featured here after last winter's trip to Malaysia) in Amsterdam:

    Lamb Curry with a roti-like bread:

    Fried Plantains with Peanut Sauce:

    The full spread:

    Incredible food, one of the best meals we had in Europe!

    A bit later we came across this tantalizing restaurant . . .

    But don't get your hopes up, lest you were thinking this an outpost of the Red Light District. Lust, in Dutch, simply means appetite.

    The lovely, airy Cafe de Jaren was a perfect spot for resting museum-weary feat and taking in a mid-afternoon snack. Below, the tasty fruit beer Mort Subite ("Sudden Death") and a Warm Goat Cheese with Honey and Rosemary. Divine!

    And for a final sweet treat, a Waffle laden with sugar, so pretty I could kiss it. Or maybe just eat it with sighs of pleasure.

    Sunday, November 23, 2008

    What's in the Pot? in the News!

    If you recall, I wrote about Wine Weekend last November and December, covering the Thanksgiving weekend festivities celebrating the bounty of Washington's Yakima Valley. I'm going back again this year, so stay tuned for some fun entries to come. In the mean time, one of my photos of last year's event is featured in this year's promotion, available here. (My photo is the color shot in the slide show.)

    Also, thanks to all who have helped What's in the Pot? grow over the past year. I'm excited that we have now surpassed 5000 hits and are seeing more new visits on a daily basis. What's in the Pot? has come a long way . . . and it is only going to get better. Thank you for being part of it!

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Eating my way around the world: Brussels, Leuven, Antwerp

    Avoiding mussels in Brussels
    & other non-traditional Belgian delights.

    Taste & See:
    Fresh from a quick jaunt across the pond, the next few entries will have a few photos of the food I enjoyed along the way--as well as some food that just amused, as you shall see. I hope you enjoy the view.

    Day 1: I arrive in Leuven, Belgium, home of Katholieke Universiteit, where a friend is currently studying. On the way home from the train station she introduces me to one of her favorite things, an individual-serving fresh juice squeezer.:

    Just turn on the tap and out comes juice, squeezed by the oranges funneling down before your very eyes. The company's distributor was there and when he saw me taking photos he offered to mail me brochures and company information so I could install a machine home in New York somewhere. Maybe when I open my restaurant we can have a coin operated machine out front, for the kids . . .

    Off to Brussels, where we wandered down Rue de Bouchers, better known as mussels alley, avoiding the rabid entreaties by the waiters to come inside and dine on stacks of seafood. Even artfully arranged stacks topped with ships could not tempt us.

    And with good reason. According to the Belgian Tourist Office website:
    Known more for the atmospheric charm than the cuisine, Rue de Boucher is a walking thoroughfare abounding with 17th century stepped gables, decorated doorways, cafes and restaurants with lavish pavement displays of seafood, piled high on mounds of ice. It is not recommended to eat there and is often called a "tourist trap" in regards to menu prices and quality of food.
    Anyway, Belgium may be known for mussels but they're a breeze to make at home, another great Faux Gourmet trick. See the link for some tips. I like to add the following to my white wine & water broth: butter, garlic, ginger, a few chopped chilies. The mussels themselves release a fabulous flavor that does most of the work & you'll probably want to feature it by being a little sparse on the accompaniments, rather than masking it with too many competing flavors.

    Instead of mussels, we stopped in a little cafe and had a lovely quiche:

    After lunch we managed to similarly avoid the not-so-tempting prospects of a sugar overdose in the form of a Barbie:

    That night, back in Leuven, we & half the students at KU dined at a popular local eatery called Wok on Air . . . serving, you guessed it, noodles & stir fry, complete with bottles of Sri Racha on every table. So much for your stereotypes of "Belgian" food. Cheap, fresh & tasty, the veggie-noodle combo topped with a generous slab of quick fried white fish lasted two complete meals.

    Day 2: We drove over to nearby Antwerp, an emerging fashion hotspot. The architecture mirrored in the Grote Markt that in the Grote Markt/Grand Place of Brussels but the sky was blue and the square was filled with a lively flower market rather than tourists like us.

    I inadvertently lead my party on a wild goose chase in search of a particular French cafe in a charming old house, only to find we'd vastly overshot the distance (and our own willingness to retrace our steps in search of the elusive cafe). We happily happened upon a cute little broojes shop in lieu & ended up quite happy with the mistake. I had a broojes (broach-es), a cute little sandwich in a roll with some kind of meat and cheese filling. Mine had chevre, smoked salmon & watercress. Yum!

    We then went on a second wild goose chase, this time not of my making, down the lovely narrow streets of Antwerp, on the hunt for dessert.

    We had our "aha" moment with apple pie. Worth waiting for? I think so.

    Finally, ended the day with a long bike ride over the river & through the woods of KU's gloriously peaceful campus, falling leaves & empty on a Saturday night. Stopped in a lively little cafe with outdoor seating on an otherwise deserted square.

    Enjoyed a lavendar tea & a bowl of tomato soup, which came with brown-bagged fresh bread:

    When in Rome . . . ended the day with a delightful glass of Chimay, a Trappist-monk made beer & a luxury in which I rarely indulge in back home:

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    Food for Lazy People

    The Faux Gourmet Wants to Know: What's your favorite thing to put in a tortilla? Please leave your comments below!

    It has been a while since I've done a really good Faux Gourmet recipe, and by good, I mean instructions for making food that are so simple, you wonder why I get to call it a recipe. Well, because I made it up and you didn't. But if you want to make up some 'recipes' of your own & post them below, more power to you. The Faux Gourmet supports people power, especially on the first Tuesday of November.

    My friend J swears by tortilla snacks and I like to think I am responsible. I extol the virtues of tortilla eating only lightly less regularly than I extol the virtues of celery eating, which is often. They're so wonderful.
    You can keep them indefinitely in the freezer, which makes them a great "I'm not sure if I'm really going to cook anything" investment. They're cheap. Even "Tumaro's Tortillas," which Men's Health Magazine voted the best gourmet tortillas in America (um, men vote on that?) are about 35 cents a tortilla. Bite the bullet, baby.

    Best of all, tortillas can be eaten so many ways: open faced like a pizza, rolled up, folded in half, or stacked . . . and they're great with anything, from Hormel pepperoni slices with Kraft shredded cheese to cinnamon and sugar with butter (J's specialties). Tortillas are like that trusty song that works on every playlist, the song to which you never seem to stop listening, but, magically, of which you never tire.

    They're also great food for lazy people. Keep a pack in the fridge, top a tortilla with your topping du jour (read: whatever leftovers are in easy reach in the fridge) and slap on a frying pan or in a toaster oven for a few minutes to crispify the project. Or, pop in the microwave for about 40 seconds, covered with another plate to keep the tortilla soft. Either way, bam, you've got breakfast, lunch, dessert, snack . . . whatever you want, in no time at all.

    Try the two 'recipes' below & add one of your own!


    Do it Yourself 1: In true Faux Gourmet spirit, I recommend the following deceptively delicious combination: Grilled Pears with Prosciutto and Gruyere. I know, "grilled pears" makes it sound all fancy, but trust me on this one. Here's what you do:

    Slice a pear up and put slices over medium heat in a small pan with a teaspoon of sugar.

    Meanwhile, put a tortilla in another pan over low heat and top with a slice or two of prosciutto and shredded cheese. Swiss or pecorino are also delicious if you don't have gruyere. Heck, if you don't have swiss or pecorino, experiment with whatever cheese you have. If you don't have any cheese, there is something wrong with you.

    Flip the pear slices as they start to soften. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over the top. When the pear slices are browned and gooey, add to the (now-melted cheesey) tortilla.

    Remove from heat, fold in half, and enjoy.


    Do it Yourself 2: Another favorite makes a great breakfast (or dessert, if calling food with chocolate in it 'dessert' makes you feel better): Faux Crepes.

    Spread some combination of the following tasty spreads down the middle of a tortilla: jam, peanut butter, nutella, hershey's syrup, honey.

    Slice a banana and layer pieces on the tortilla.

    Cover with a plate and microwave forty seconds.

    Roll up and enjoy!

    I am a big fan of nutella + banana or a PB + honey + banana, or PBJ + banana, but the whole point of the exercise is to get wild & crazy & make up your own variations.


    Note: These options also look amazing but take a little more actual cooking.

    Tortilla Pie, from My Husband Hates Veggies

    Flour Tortilla Pizzas, from Wine With Life Please

    Picnic Tortilla, from BBC Good Food

    Please post a comment & share your favorite tortilla fillings!

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Chef's Corner!

    Note: I'm excited to announce that the Faux Gourmet is now writing a semi-regular "Chef's Corner" column for Airfield Estates Winery, a family run winery located in my hometown. I'll create recipes to go with their wines, which will be posted on a blog on the Airfields website as well as distributed in their wine club newsletter. My first recipe pairs marinated beef kebabs and a wine and dried fruit reduction with a punchy red blend, the 2007 Bombshell Red. The sauce makes use of deglazing, a handy faux gourmet trick I've written about on WITP.) It is simple but delicious, in true gourmet style-- but don't take my word for it. Try it & see what you think!