Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Beaucoup chili.

Ack! I totally forgot to blog about this last week.

The Tustin Street Fair and Chili Cookoff is long gone (June 1), but for the sake of reminding myself what I should try next year, I am documenting it anyway.

The Tustin News did a full report of the chili cook-off winners as named by the International Chili Society, but here are the favorites as named by the Supercool Spicy Sexy Chili Society (my sister, boyfriend, and myself):

Out of the dozen or so we tried, my boyfriend's top pick was Duffy's Fantail Chili (front), which placed fourth in the aforementioned judging. It was just all-around good, flavorful chili -- one of my favorites, too.

The chili in the mini bread boule, for which I can't recall the name, was fricken' adorable but much too salty.

My sister's favorite was the Spice Girls Chili. I forgot why. I think because of the tomatoey flavor.

Mine was the Fire Ant Chili. It was unique, smoky and had a really nice kick. Y'know, it had "layers of flavor," and all that jazz.

I also really liked the Paradise Chili, which I forgot to photograph. Mostly, I think I liked it because it had corn in it. Everything is better with corn. You should know that by now.

And to cool off, Repicci's mango-flavored Italian ice was the perfect treat on this scorching summer day:

Next year I must remember to try:
Blue Ribbon Chili (sold out before we even arrived)
Roadkill Chili
Ring of Fire Chili
Oh, and we overheard people talking about steak chili... but could not find the vendor ourselves.

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Tustin Street Fair & Chili Cookoff
El Camino Real & Main Street
Tustin 92780

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Apparently, I cater, too.

As a bridesmaid for my friend's wedding and one who loves to cook, I offered to be in charge of food for the bridal shower. And because this turned into my first catering experience, I'd like to share how it went.

Let's start kind of backwards -- the dessert is always everyone's favorite part anyway:

These chocolate-covered strawberries were a collaborative effort by both me and my sister -- I dipped and she drizzled. My first few attempts at drizzling the white chocolate resulted in a couple messy, weird, "artsy-fartsy" strawberries -- or so my bride later called it. I called it more fartsy than artsy. To be completely accurate, it looked like a mentally unstable leprechaun took a tiny little can of white silly string and went to town on the strawberries. My sister had pointed and laughed hysterically at them and at me. That's when I made her my designated drizzler.

She was on a roll and helped me decorate the party favors as well -- homemade giant fortune cookies.

After attempting three and a half recipes for fortune cookies, which all failed because they turned out too delicate, too soggy, or too gritty, I finally settled on a standard tuile batter recipe, provided by pastry chef cousin Irene even before the other recipes' trials and errors. She later made fun of me for ever doubting her recipe in the first place. I promise I won't do it again.

Fortune Cookies (Basic Tuile Batter)
5 oz sugar
3 oz butter, softened
3 oz egg whites (equivalent to about 3 egg whites), slightly beaten
4 oz flour (in weight, not volume -- it equals about 1 cup of flour)

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg whites and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until combined. Beat in the flour. The batter should be a peanut butter-like consistency.

Spread the batter evenly in a very thin, 4-inch circle on a silpat or on parchment paper. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 7 minutes or until edges are browned. Remove from the oven and wait 30 seconds, then loosen the cookie from the pan with an offset spatula and flip it over. Place the "fortune" face down on the cookie.

Working quickly (and it helps if you wear thin gloves), loosely pinch two ends of the circle together like a taco. Press the folded side of the cookie perpendicularly against the rim of the baking pan, and gently bring the edges closer together to make a fortune cookie shape. Set the shaped cookie in a muffin pan to cool and harden.

If you're brave and fast, you can try making two at a time.

Other things on the "Asian-themed" bridal shower menu:
Chicken satay
Thai lettuce wraps
Egg rolls
Tofu with peanut sauce

I also offered to make phallic cupcakes for the bachelorette party, but was reminded of the non-phallus policy. Boo!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Farmers Market, part 2: Bounty of baked goods.

Whenever I spend a day exploring someplace new or rarely-visited, I like to take part of the (food) adventure home with me to savor later.

I call it my "bounty." Because it's like a reward given to myself after a long day of food hunting.

My Farmers Market bounty isn't terribly impressive, but it's worth noting:

Baclava from T&Y Bakery, stall #222.

This Russian bakery features astoundingly large pastries in its display case, including gigantic cheese-filled croissants (I was debating on getting those, too). Their baclava was rather different from the Mediterranean treat of pretty much the same name -- instead of layers of phyllo and pistaschios, this was a crispy puff pastry sandwich of whole raisins and large chunks of walnuts. And I don't know if that's how all Russian-style baclava is, but that's how mine was.

Next: Peanut butter bark from the Ultimate Nut and Candy Company, stall #522.

It looks fantastic, no? Unfortunately, it was just mediocre. I tasted 90% butter/milk/rice-crispiness, and only 10% peanut butter. Lame. I should have gotten the rainbow popcorn.

Finally, meringue cookies from Thee's Continental Bakery, stall #316. Actually, my first-ever treat at the Farmers Market was one of Thee's famous apple dumplings three years ago, when my boyfriend and I stumbled into the area while waiting for our movie to begin at the adjacent The Grove shopping center.

Anyway, these are just large meringues riddled with chocolate chips. It makes me wonder how they taste when they're still warm from the oven. The one I decided to feature front and center is mint chocolate, but I actually preferred the regular chocolate chip because of its walnutty surprise. But I really do need to revisit the apple dumpling.

I can't wait to go back to the Farmers Market. I am craving another hunt and an even tastier food bounty.

* * *
T&Y Bakery

Ultimate Nut & Candy Company

Thee's Continental Bakery