Thursday, August 26, 2010

One Year Later: And Miles to go Before I Sleep...

One year ago tomorrow I pulled the trigger on blogging and began my project, Fork & Cork.  With nothing really to say that day, I posted a picture of what has become the setting for writing my F&C posts:  a glass of wine, an open window and (not pictured) an open mind.  My muse has trended toward the products we cook with, fun music, the latest trends and fads, influences, those who are dubious, notorious and famous, cool things to check out, giants in the field, inspiring books and basically anyone or anything that has pissed me off.

So, I was a bit contemplative when I considered what might be the topic of my one year anniversary post. 

I've made a habit of reposting stuff that I felt was still relevant.  I've done my lists and Top 10s.  And, I've employed a weekly post, the "Chef Quote of the Week" to honor the inspiration of those who help me put that apron on each day.  What then, do I care to talk about a full calendar year later?

I suppose more of the same.

Several lay-outs later and with more of a focus on opinion (and still no logo), I feel like Fork & Cork is going to morph a lot more along with its author.  Yours truly has gone through several changes of his own, and I've always found great pleasure in retiring to my keyboard during it all for solace and therapy.  Still the greatest part of having your own blog has to be that you can write about whatever you like and not care what anyone thinks.  It's kinda like Fox News.  (ZING!) Except, I say right off that F&C is "a biased compendium of cultural artifacts."  I'm biased towards fact.

See what I mean?  Anything.

I confess when I was a kid I fantasized about having my own newsletter in school.  It would have been filled with certifiable gossip and backhanded comments at bullies and meanie teachers.  In short, I wanted to spout off with impunity.  Now I can!  Mind you, I realize it's more like having a magazine with a subscription of only a couple dozen people- kind of a legend in your own mind.  But, sometimes pet theories are healthy to espouse when there's no harm to be done.  

It's a writer's code not to impugn someone's character and to police the blogosphere for comments that do. When I read a blog that does delve into these murky waters, I'm usually less likely to return.  I mean, I'm all about the "freedom" part of speech, but that doesn't mean I have to read it.  That's my freedom.  Just like it's yours not to read mine.  Maybe it's just me, but within all the opinions out there, there has to be a degree of level reasoning, a healthy dose of the truth and a little bit of self-deprecation.  If you talk the talk, then walk the walk- and know when it's time to be humble.  "Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance", as the site lists on their "Bloggers' Code of Ethics".  Of the 20 or so caveats they offer, I would say most fall into the categories of "common sense" and "reasonable logic" I mentioned earlier.  Now if they could only write one for the people who leave comments.

With each and every site that has commentable content, there is the option of identifying yourself or choosing a screen name, even if anonymous.  Oh, the tremendous "muscles" that develop from the anonymous commenter.  Their bravery is surpassed only by the malicious name calling and cracked sidewalk philosophy, like taunting a circus lion from the other side of the bars of the cage.  Basically- it's the opposite of the journalists' or bloggers' code.  It's about character assassination, finger pointing, idle threats and challenges, puffed-up bravado and childish topic derailment.  The best thing to do in those situations is do not feed the trolls.  Still it's hard.  I know I've left my fair share of anonymous comments, haughty and snarky, but usually in defense of a friend or cause attacked by one of the aforementioned turds.  Now I try to live by my own words, and I leave my true identity.  You want everyone to play by the rules, but then that's the appeal of the internet for many.  There aren't really any.

Maybe one day we'll look back on this period of the internet as our caveman era.  There's not a whole lot of finesse, just a natural instinct to survive and evolve.  As magazines and newspapers are replaced by blogs, maybe then the good ones will rise to the top, and actually become a trusted and respected source of fact and information, and dare I say it, opinion, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chef Quote of the Week: James Beard

"There is absolutely no substitute for the best. Good food cannot be made of inferior ingredients masked with high flavor. It is true thrift to use the best ingredients available and to waste nothing." 

James Beard

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

F&C Rewind: It's a Blog, Blog, Blog, Blog World!

This is a re-post.  It was originally made on October 15, 2009
I was checking out the FoodBuzz Food Blog nominees for the 1st Annual Food Blog Awards (talk about a mouthful), and I never had any idea how many people are blogging their meals.  There are people following the Julia and Me route; for example, Alinea at Home is a blog devoted to cooking all the recipes in Molecular Cheftist Grant Achatz’ recent book, Alinea.  Brave soul.  And Bouchon for Two is a blog from a budding chef who is learning how to cook from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon cookbook.  Seems like a more practical project to me.

But, looking at these nominated blogs, it seems these people are as much into the production of the blog as the food and cooking.  And that can be fun, too.  No doubt, cooking is a full time activity in itself.  But, keeping your recipe straight, getting the right amount of light for photos (something I am still working on), making sure steps aren’t left out, editing the shots and then, there's writing and proofing the actual copy or voice of the blog- it’s like a full-time, one-person magazine!  Then, there are you crazies out there who put video in?  My.  Ambitious, to say the least. 

And for all that work, does anyone get paid?  I mean, yeah, there’s the possibility of earning ad dollars.  More like pennies.  But, when you really get some traffic, you might get some sponsors or a bump from a big time blogger like Oprah mentioning your site.  Okay, I made that part up.  But, really- am I being na├»ve that this is supposed to be about expression of creativity and just good clean fun?  My friend and fellow blogger, Dave McDuff of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail says, “Be careful!  It can be very addictive.” (Just an aside here, in case you decide to take issue with my use of "addictive" vs. "addicting", there is even a blog for that- ask Grammar Girl- if you like your grammar tips "quick and dirty".  And, who doesn't?)  So then, are "comments" the payment of the blog world?  If so, I will not be quitting my day job. 

Then there’s the stat checking.  I am amazed at what information is compiled.  I know where you are, how often you check, how you find me, how long you stay, what you look at, when you leave and when you come back.  For example, because of my use of Auguste Escoffier’s picture, I can see I've had hits from just about every country in Europe, Mexico, Bolivia, Canada, and Turkey.  And because my “peanut pumpkin” was tagged with its other names in French, it is the second most common way people find this blog, other than my name and Escoffier's.  It’s crazy, I tell ya. 

So, I guess what I’m saying is that if you want to take all of it seriously, you can.  I could put up sexy food pics as the first image to capture surfersby, or I could make sure the title of each post is catchy, trendy or even a hot topic.  I prefer not to get into gossipy stuff like, for example, what a douchebag Kanye West is.  Oooop!  Too late.  But there it is- now let’s see if it brings any traffic for people using keywords “Kanye” and “Douchebag”.
I wish I was more patient with writing recipes.  People love them.  But, by now in my cooking life, I only think in terms of ratios and order of cooking.  I write recipes for cooks to follow.  And if I buy a cookbook, I want to get the essence of the topic and, what else?  Beautiful, lovely food shots.  But even when I read a recipe, I’m only interested in seeing what’s in it by comparison to how I would cook it or how it is normally cooked.  Amounts are trivial.  It’s no wonder Jamie Oliver and Thomas Keller don’t like to use exact measurements.  They hope you are getting a broader picture of a method for cooking that dish.  Even Julia was more interested in getting the concept of the dish across to you more than an exact translation.  Folks, it took me longer to blog my chili recipe than it did to cook it.

So, by now you’ve noticed that the pictures on this post have nothing to do with what I’m talking about.  I’ve put pictures of dishes that I’ve cooked in the past which photographed well and are appealing to the eye (so much for subtlety).  But, I wanted to see if my theory was right.  If so, regular visitors will read this blog entry in about 2.3 minutes, mostly because of the fetching photos, before moving on.  My “grumpy old man” post about Gourmet closing, for example had only two pictures, and it had one of the lowest “stay times” since I started blogging.  If you’re just stopping back and noticing the new format, you will stay a little longer.  And if it’s your first time here, you’ll stay an average of 20 minutes to check it all out.  But, hey, who’s counting?

So, thanks for stopping by today!!   
And now- Gratuitous PIE!
Good Housekeeping Cranberry Pie.  Not mine.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chef Quote of the Week: Julia Child

"Just like becoming an expert in wine -- you learn by drinking it, the best you can afford -- you learn about great food by finding the best there is, whether simply or luxurious. Then you savor it, analyze it, and discuss it with your companions, and you compare it with other experiences."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Why Is The Rum Gone?!

Rum.  There are many luscious spirits that lend themselves to cool summer cocktails, but the most under-rated in the catalog has to be those made with rum.  Vodka and Gin reign supreme, for sure. We've seen the incredible market that exists for vodka, with flavors that range from orange, raspberry, grapefruit and blueberry to red pepper, and the latest rage, whipped cream.  Gin has only recently begun to experiment with flavor infusions, with lime as the first, and certainly not the last.  But, rum stands out in the crowd for it's versatility.  

The most common is white, with gold (or aged) following next in complexity, and then there is dark or black rum.  Primarily distilled from sugar cane juice, either from the molasses created as part of making sugar (Rum Industrial) or directly from the sugar cane juice (Rhum Agricole and Cachaca), it is only made in countries that grow sugar cane.  

One of the newest dark rums on the market begins in the Caribbean and is finished in the states.  Named after the mythical beast that lives beneath the sea, The Kraken is without a doubt the most well-thought-out brand to be released in years.  With it's full mythological history to back it up, Kraken's motto is "Put a Beast in your Belly".  When it comes down to it, Kraken Rum is of good enough quality that it stands up to its hype. I bought a bottle while on vacation after reading up on it, and we kracked one open for happy hour.  As someone who tastes for a living, I immediately began to think of fun and appropriate mixers that might make good cocktails.
We began with tonic.  One of the most refreshing cocktails I enjoy in summer is Mount Gay rum and tonic, with loads of fresh lime.  In fact, if you have access to fresh key limes, the difference in flavor is significant.  On the East coast, Trader Joe's usually sells a small bag for about two dollars.  If you don't have key limes, just double up on what you would normally put in your drink.

The second mixer we chose was another traditional mixer, this one from Bermuda, ginger beer.  While Goslings Black Rum owns the copyright to the legendary cocktail Dark and Stormy, dark rum, ginger beer and lime is another delicious concoction which was said to be invented by the locals as they would watch a hurricane roll in and watch the tourists roll out.  A veteran of several hurricane parties myself, I love this in a big frosty mug, again with multiple wedges of juicy lime and loads of ice.  There never seems to be a shortage for specialty sodas which claim to be the best in show.  Rootbeer has long been a summer favorite for refreshment of all ages.  And, there are dozens of regional rootbeers, often made from various spices and ingredients, mainly the licorice root that gives rootbeer its distinct flavor.

Lastly, cream soda is a Mid-Atlantic favorite, with the appropriate amount of vanilla, cinnamon and spice that makes it the perfect pairing for light-hearted, spiced rum adult beverages. Rum and cream soda? Huuhyeah?!  It's like a liquid spiced wafer.  Easy, though.  The sugars compete in these cocktails, and they go down easy!  Keep plenty of salty snacks on hand, and if you decide to experiment with  cooking, think of using rum as a "sugar" element.  When needed to glaze it is perfect.  As a marinade, use fresh herbs of the summer variety.  

The Kraken Rum is available in just a handful of shops in Delaware right now, at about $20 a bottle.  I've only seen it in one or two restaurants, but mark my words:  once the beast is unleashed, expect the spoils to be sweet.  If you've had Kraken and recommend any recipes you'd like to share, share with Fork 'n Cork readers!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dressing for Dinner?

No one dresses for dinner anymore?  A true sign of the times.  But, all hope is not lost...Dress UP, Dress DOWN, go out on the town...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Quote of the Week

"The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings."


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