Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Best operating instructions ever

  1. Use the quick start guide to brew your first cup of coffee.
  2. Sit down with the coffee and read the user guide.
Sticker on Swiss espresso machine.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Boredom meets can't-find-a-bookshelf I like...

$45 of 1" by 12" by 60" redwood, 60 bucks of 1/2" galvanized steel plumbing supplies, two hours of shopping, two hours of labor. Only thing that sucked was that I had to go back to Home Depot because I forgot to buy the two knees on top.

Smells cool, though. I need to go back sand a bit and put on some beeswax.

A post for Cindy

Since she had a couple of roughish days, I wanted to demonstrate how some people spend on the idiotic consumerist pursuit of kitchen knives. From left to right:

  1. Wusthoff 5 inch utility knife. I had it for about 8 years, sharp, pretty indestructable, but too long for paring and too light for most other things.
  2. JCK Gekko Damascus GE-1 Petty 140mm. Damascus blade of Hitachi white steel and 420. Brilliantly sharp and it has this really interesting hammered surface texture they leave and don't polish out. THE onion knife. Unfortunately not entirely stainless.
  3. Global 5 1/2 inch vegetable knife. I bought this mostly due to the fact that the 8" Wusthoff was a bit heavy for veggie cutting--and because I read Kitchen Confidential and this was the cheapest one. OK, totally stainless and plenty sharp, just not as much as the two other Japanese knives here.
  4. $20 Cold Steel 7inch serrated knife from a bargain bin in Chicago. Actually, even at full price, this is a bargain. Not very good steel on the face of it, but I've had it for 10 years and it's still pretty sharp. Great bread and tomato knife. My dad ruined the other one by cutting drywall--a lot of drywall.
  5. Hattori 7inch V-10 Damascus kitchen knife. I'd lick it if it wasn't so sharp. Cutting with it feels as if the blade gets sucked through the food. Hard to describe, but it's an incredibly sensual experience. It's perfect for microscopic mirepoix. If a recipe calls for 1/4", I do 1/16", just because it's so much fun. Due to the 15 degree bevel, it's not that robust, though. (Unrelated side note, this is the only one that's completely hand made by a guy named Hattori)
  6. 8" Wusthoff Global chefs knife. Can do everything from smashing garlic to trussing a chicken or breaking down beef ribs--it's a total tank. My dead-cold-hands knife. I think I bought this in my sophomore year, has to go for professional sharpening every couple of years, though.
  7. Wusthoff paring knife. Bought it because everyone tells you you need a paring knife and because it was on sale for like $10. I found out that I can do most paring jobs three times faster with the 8" and ten times faster with the Petty, so I hardly ever use it.
  8. El cheapo carbon steel French paring knife from Crate and Barrel, for opening letters, cutting tin foil off wine bottles, packages, duct tape. $5 or so.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


I went to Oyster Fest on Saturday and caught the worst sun burn in the last ten years. Cold and foggy != Safe.

The local oysters were very good, but 7 with two pints of Guinness is still my absolute limit. And I probably don't need any until next year.

Here's something fun. The last two images were taken about 20 minutes apart...when the fog comes in, it really comes in.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The world catches up to me again

A year ago, I mentioned in my blog how US coffee companies over roast their beans. Now the Chron brings up basically the same sentiment, quoting a coffee shop owner saying "the coffee is kind of over-roasted and the barista techniques aren't up to par."

No shit Sherlock! Anyway, read the article, it gives a good overview of how we ended up with semi-burned espresso. As I suspected, it was mostly Starbucks, but interestingly, it started with Berkeley icon Alfred Peet who trained the Starbucks founders.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Another one drops

My sister had her second baby on Saturday. Three weeks early. Anyway, they are all doing well, so here's the first picture of two year old Katherina and Konstantin. (No, my sister is not a KDE developer, nor does she play one on TV).

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Flat head screws

  • Don't use them, use Phillips or Hex.
  • If a plan says to use flat heads, ignore it and use Phillips screws.
  • If anything comes with flat head screws, throw them away and buy Phillips screws.
  • If anyone suggests you should use them, hit him in the head and buy Phillips screws.
  • If your best friend buys some for a project, hit him in the head, make him return them and buy Phillips screws.
  • If your life period partner brings flat head screws, get a divorce, and buy Phillips screws.

That's all.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

If we only had smellevision--a breathtaking experience

Elephant seals in Ano Nuevo SP. No, they're not sick, they are molting. And they stink to high heaven--imagine a huge pile of dead fish and dog poo.
Funny story about the lighthouse, it was basically abandoned in 1948, because the island was overrun by thousands of California sea lions. They broke down doors, overran the gardens, and were generally driving the light keepers insane. If you click on the picture, you can see a couple hundred chilling out on the beach.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Eejit proof cake

As a way to apologize for running out on chatting with Cindy to make some cake for dinner, here's the recipe for my 5 minutes or less prep time cake. I normally HATE to bake--flour gets everywhere and I hate wet gooey stuff like batter. But I am having guests over for dinner, so it's back to one of the two cakes I can do off the top of my head. It's adapted from the if-you-don't-have-it-drop-whatevs-you're-doing-and-get-it Silver Spoon.

Peel, core, quarter and slice 2 medium apples (or pear, or cherries, or)
Toss with juice of a lemon and a bit of sugar (not really necessary, but it keeps them from discoloring)
Put 3/4 cups of sugar into a food processor and give it a few whirls to make "superfine"
Add the eggs and pulse until fluffy
Add 6 tablespoons of butter, pulse
Add 2 3/4 cups of self raising-flour and run until you have a pretty stiff batter.
Mix with the fruit slices (I added dried cherries and a bit of rum this time)
Dump in 9" cake pan lined with non-stick aluminum foil (if you don't have it, buy it. Best kitchen invention of the last three years)
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

The things I like is that I only mess up the food processor and one other dish for the apples and the final mix. And since the apples contain a fair bit of moisture and sugar, this cake is very forgiving against slightly off proportions, over-, and underbaking. It's also not that sweet.

Never were so many so baked by so much so early

After the farmers market (damn, peas are already almost out of season), cooking a gallon of jam, and putting two slabs of ribs in the oven, I went to the How Weird Faire on Second Street. Since we a living through a cold spell, it was less lively than usual, and some of the more scantily costumed were sporting serious goosebumps, but they had a lot of really good DJs.

As mentioned in the headline, the smell of oregano was permeating the air already at noon and only got stronger by the time the earth shaking beats died down at 5:55. But a grand time was had by all--I think I might still have a second hand buzz.

In any other town, a hard core techno dance-in would probably not be a family event; in the city by the bay it definitely is. And weirdly, 65 year geezers rocking their tie die and Birkies next to neon haired 16 year olds wrapped in aluminum foil doesn't even seem out of place.

P.S. Hand knitted pants seem to be de rigeur amongst the great unwashed this year.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I think they go with a wedding dress...or a bathrobe

Harley Davidson steel toed boots . Every women should have one pair to ride, wear around the house, and pair with an awesome wedding dress.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Go Arnold!!

"And that's why I always encourage the legislators in Sacramento, because some of them come from those little towns," Schwarzenegger said. "You know what I'm saying? They come from those little towns, and they don't have that vision yet of an airport or of a highway that maybe has 10 lanes. Or of putting a highway on top of a highway. They look at you and say, 'Well we don't have that in my town, what are you talking about?' So they are kind of shocked when you say certain things."

If he only wasn't so right.