animals talking in all caps, my future, put a bird on it

One Day I’ll Have Enough Money To Be This Guy



banh mi, cravings, edible obsessions, kool-aid sandwiches, vietnamese sandwich

Edible Obsession: Homemade Banh Mi

The Missus has had her own ‘Edible Obsession,’ for the past month and a half.  A Banh Mi.  This all stemmed from her attending Chinese New Years with a friend and them visiting 163 Vietnamese Sandwiches and Bubble Tea in Boston. For $3, she said you had the most filling sandwich and I heard about it nearly every other day after.

Neither one of us has visited Kim’s on St. John Street and my only prior experience having a Banh Mi wasn’t the most pleasant one in the world. But, I guess that’s what I get for picking it up at a grocery store deli counter and not a place that would have some general sense of how to make one.

So, to ease the pangs and cravings that The Missus was having for one (seriously, you would have thought she was pregnant with a child that could only survive on these sandwiches), I decided to make one at home.

1 French baguette, twelve to eighteen inches long
1 pound thinly sliced pork chop, loin, or shoulder
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fish or oyster sauce
3 packets of raw sugar, about 2 tablespoons
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped ginger
3 jalapeños, sliced with seeds removed or not, depending on your heat tolerance
2 Gherkin cucumbers cut into thin planks
6 to 8 sprigs of cilantro
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of liver pate
carrot and radish slaw (see recipe below)

In a large resealable bag, mix the garlic, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, onion, oils, ginger and 1 jalapeno.  Mix the ingredients until they are well blended and then add the pork. Marinade the pork in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
Place a cast iron skillet over high heat until water sprinkled on the skillet quickly evaporates. Add the pork slices, cooking one side at a time until both sides are brown and the meat is completely cooked through. Alternatively, “scramble” the meat by cutting it into smaller pieces with a metal spatula and fork while the meat is cooking. After the meat has cooked, remove the chunks of ginger and jalapeño.
Slice one side of the baguette making a pocket to hold the meat and the toppings.  Open the baguette and spread the mayonnaise on the top half. Spread the pate on the bottom half
Top with the cucumber planks and then the pork.  Add jalapeño slices, cilantro, and carrot-radish slaw.
Carrot and Radish Slaw, makes 2 cups
1 cup daikon radish, shredded
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
Combine the ingredients and refrigerate.

I have to say, my only critique of this sandwich is the daikon in the slaw.  It threw way too much water and didn’t add anything at all to the sandwich. Next time I make this, and there will definitely be a next time, I’d skip the daikon and just have it with shredded carrots. Perhaps I’d also use a crunchier baguette, probably one from Standard Baking.  I also deviated from the recipe a bit and added a good schmear of Le Trois Petits Cochons Duck Liver Mousse with Port Wine. The overall flavors of the sandwich were bright and summery, which makes it perfect for fighting off those midwinter doldrums.

chocolate religion, evil chocolate, pot humor, stoner notes

It’s That Time Of Year Again

Yup, there’s some weird Religious Easter candy out there. I should have started collecting them when my friend pointed this one out to me. Maybe I’ll make it a goal this year.

And, well, we all know why this one is funny. But, please also take note of the ‘Village of the Damned‘ eyes on the bunnies just below the stoner eggs.

I also find it funny that these were all (including the link) were spotted at the Rite-Aid stores around town. Shady, shady Rite-Aid

a reason to eat caramel, baking, baking while baked, brown eyed baker, candy bar pie, caramel anything

Take 5 Candy Bar Pie

It’s candy AND it’s pie?


Actually, it shouldn’t be much of a shock considering that Momofuku Milk Bar does it’s own naughy nougaty version of Candy Bar Pie (see the picture above from Serious Eats) and there are various recipes for pies out there naming themselves after popular candy bars. And, because I’ll make anything as an excuse to eat a pint of caramel, coming across a Brown Eyed Baker recipe for a Take 5 Candy Bar pie, was an easy temptation.

I didn’t even know what a Take 5 bar consisted of until I read the recipe and then found myself thinking, “Fuck. I need to stop doing this to myself.” But chocolate, pretzels, caramel, pecans and peanut butter all in one pie is pretty hard to resist.  So, I quickly ignored my inner thoughts and threw together the richest pie I do believe I have ever baked–or, rather, chilled. That’s right, we now have something to rival Crack Pie.

One change to the recipe is that I used toasted pecans instead of the peanuts that are called for in the recipe because I had them on hand.

For the Pretzel Crust:
4 ounces pretzel sticks, finely ground in a food processor or blender
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the Caramel Sauce:
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
¾ cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

For the Pie:
½ cup creamy peanut butter, melted
1/3 cup prepared caramel sauce
¼ cup coarsely chopped peanuts
10 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

1. Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the ground pretzels, melted butter, and sugar. Press the mixture firmly into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and chill in the refrigerator until firm, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

2. Meanwhile, Make the Caramel Sauce. Whisk the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium-size heavy saucepan until well combined. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook the sugar mixture, without stirring, until it becomes a rich caramel color, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream until the caramel sauce is smooth, using caution as the mixture may bubble up. (If the sauce seizes, stir it over low heat until the hardened caramel is melted.) Whisk in the butter and set aside.

3. Assemble the Pie: Smooth the warmed peanut butter evenly over the bottom of the pretzel crust. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Pour the caramel sauce over the peanut butter layer and gently spread with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the chopped peanuts over the caramel layer. Refrigerate for another 10 minutes. Finish with a smooth layer of melted chocolate. Refrigerate the pie until the chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes. Pie can then remain at room temperature until serving. If you have leftovers, cover with plastic wrap and keep at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

chowder in Portland Maine, gilberts chowder house, new england clam chowder, o-rama

Chowder-O-Rama: Gilbert’s Chowder House

I have probably eaten my weight in New England Clam Chowder over the 7 1/2 years that I’ve lived in Portland. It’s an amazing fete really, considering that, before the move, my blood ran red with Manhattan Chowder. Now, to bring up the name, “Manhattan Clam Chowder,” you might as well bring up politics or religion at the dinner table. So, we won’t discuss such things here.

We, my friends, are here to talk about New England Clam Chowder as the latest installment of the “O-Rama” series. This month I copped out a bit by choosing an easy, and popular, spot in town, Gilbert’s Chowder House, located on Commercial Street. I mean, you can’t really go wrong when they’ve got “Chowder” right there in the name.

Vrylena, who had never been to Gilbert’s before now, joined me for a lunch time visit and summed up it up quickly and adequately when she said, “It seems like a place that you take people who are looking for someplace ‘Portlandy.'”  Both the interior (naturally it’s a Nautical theme) and the menu (mostly soup and fried seafood) are easy to cozy up to and decidedly unpretentious. It’s a frequent spot for the Missus and I to visit with guests from out of town.

While they have six chowders listed on the menu, I have only ever eaten the clam one and the day we visited it wasn’t much to write home about.

The soup was thick and, thankfully, not gluey (which is a chowder sin in my book). The potatoes dominated the broth and they were mushy to the point of breaking down every time I ran my spoon through the chowder. There was also a sweetness to the base that I couldn’t quite attribute to anything other than a good dose of clam juice.  It grew on me with each bite, but was a bit off putting at first.

They state on the menu that bacon resides in all of their chowders, but I was hard pressed to find any hint of it. There was no smokiness or texture to signal its addition. The clams, which should be a highlight for obvious reasons, were minced the point of almost being unrecognizable if not for their color different in the stark white broth. Personally, I like the clams to be plentiful and left chunky, so that each bite contains a good helping of them. Sadly, each bite contained more potato than anything else.

It’s disappointing because I’ve had some wonderful chowder on past visits to Gilbert’s. Perhaps the high turnover in the summer months just makes for a better, and fresher, chowder.  Either way, this one fell short of my expectations and failed to impress V. on her first visit in.

Gilbert's Chowder House on Urbanspoon
cause for paws, charitable giving, for a greater cause, helping friends in need

Cause for Paws

Just a year after “walking home” on the Appalachian Trail in 2000, Micah began having trouble with his vision and tingling in his hands and feet.   Soon after he was given a diagnosis…Multiple Sclerosis.  The last decade has brought on many challenges-Micah uses a wheelchair 95% of the time due to lack of strength and balance.  His sudden tremors and diminished feeling in his hands cause him to drop things.  His eyesight comes and goes, making him dependent on others for transportation.

No bones about it, MS really does suck.  But because of MS, Micah was partnered with his first service dog, a furry angel named Wiley.  Wiley did so many helpful things for Micah like opening doors, picking up dropped objects, carrying the groceries, turning on lights, pulling his chair, and fetching various items. MS is a tough disease, and having Wiley around helped tremendously not only physically, but mentally as well.  She had the ability to brighten anyone’s day with a nudge of her nose or a wag of her tail.

Wiley passed away suddenly almost two years ago, and while no dog could replace her, we are ready to start a new partnership.  Micah has been accepted as a client with Massachusetts based training organization NEADS   While the true cost of raising a service dog is over $20,000, clients are expected to contribute $9500. That’s where you all come in!  Contributions of any size  will help to bring a new service dog home and provide a sense of  independence and security that comes with having a furry sidekick to call your own

Thank you all for your support!

Tanya and Micah


Every day I saw Wiley at work with Micah.  Her eyes and ears were always trained on him, waiting for him to need her. Even if she had fallen asleep, she was on her feet the second she heard her name. Food would drop right under her nose and she wouldn’t budge, not unless Micah told her it was alright. She was there by his side at every moment.  When we would visit them at home, if she wasn’t right by his side, then she chasing after sticks or various stuffed animals that she had strewn across the house and lawn.  She was so full of energy that she would end up tiring YOU out playing fetch.  But, again, the second she heard Micah’s voice, she was back at his side, waiting for a command. She lived for him and made life, with his diagnosis, eons more manageable.

She was a damn good dog.

Micah’s need for a service dog didn’t disappear after Wiley passed away and the cost, as you have read, is not a small one. I am asking anyone that reads this to please consider donating a few dollars or, if you have tangible goods, make a donation to their auction to help offset their costs of bringing home a new service dog for Micah.

All information about their financial goals, auction donations, information about an upcoming fundraiser in Cambridge, MA, can all be found at their website: Cause for Paws.

a reason to eat caramel, caramel anything, childhood nostalgia, fat toad farm, stickler chocolates, sweet marguerites

Canadian Caramels

My obsession with caramel is known far and wide. I accepted it long ago, probably around age 5 or 6, that this obsession would forever be engrained in me. It’s an easy truth to swallow.

When you consciously love something for a long time, it’s funny to see the evolution happen. Sugar Daddy’s, Cow Tales, 100 Grand candy bars–they were what I raided my piggy bank for and a huge contributor to my ‘husky’ size as a child. Now, I don’t blink an eye to pay $10 for a handful of well crafted caramels.

Caramel is so special to me that I’ve even given part of myself to it. Several years ago, when I was working in a kitchen in town and prepping some desserts for the day, I was severely burned by caramel. I had just finished pouring some hot sugar into ramekins for Flan and was swirling it around in the dishes when some splashed over the side and onto three of my fingers. The pain was excruciating, as one would image that 300+ degree burning sugar would be when it hits your flesh. As I waited for my chef to help me take care of it, I took my unburned hand and continued to swirl the other ramekins. I wasn’t going to see the caramel go to waste. It didn’t and thankfully, despite my injury, the dessert was saved.

That hasn’t stopped me from making my own, though the feeling of being burned still resides at the forefront of my mind whenever I’m making a batch at home. But, I don’t have to make it too often as there are so many great caramels out there that call to my more adult palate. Sweet Marguerites, of South Portland, and Fat Toad Farm, of Vermont, usually fill the void when I have a craving and no desire to turn on my stove. Sweet Marguerites is there when I want one of their salty, gooey caramel filled chocolate daisies and Fat Toad’s unique creamy goat’s milk caramel is often stirred into my coffee instead of sugar.

But, there’s a new caramel in my life, though it’s one a bit harder to procure. Stickler Chocolates, out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, makes a line of dark beer flavored caramels that are out of this world.

Using beer from Garrison Brewing Company in Halifax, the candies are soft, buttery with more depth, and a slight bitterness, than I’m used to in my caramels. Their color is so rich, that it’s hard not to think that there’s molasses hiding somewhere in the recipe. They’re bite sized pieces of what I imagine Butterbeer to taste like.

But, sadly, they’re not really available in Portland. Not yet, at least. The ones that I had were given to me and were quickly gobbled up, leaving me wanting more. Luckily, though, they are available for order through their website and are definitely something to consider when you’re looking for a gift to give a beer or sugar loving friend.

a reason to eat caramel, caramel anything, matzoh, matzoh crunch, passover fun

Gussying Up Matzoh

Being raised Roman Catholic, my springtime religious holidays–Lent and Easter–were synonymous with fish on Friday’s and glazed ham, respectively. Matzoh, needless to say, wasn’t even in my vocabulary growing up. I have yet to even have Matzoh Ball soup. Yet, somehow, I found myself compelled to make a batch of Matzoh Crunch, the only way I’ve ever eaten Matzoh, after seeing a giant display of it at the supermarket. Otherwise, I can’t think of a single recipe that would have brought it into the house.

It’s quick, it’s easy and so sugary addictive that you will forget exactly how bland the plain Matzoh is. One slight play on this recipe is done with Saltine Crackers, which I’m sure is equally good (especially since Kate raved about it so much).

Matzoh Crunch

4-6 unsalted matzohs

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

3/4 cup coarsely chopped chocolate chips or semi-sweet chocolate

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a large (or two smaller) cookie sheet completely with foil. Cover the bottom of the sheet with baking parchment — on top of the foil. This is very important since the mixture becomes sticky during baking.

Line the bottom of the cookie sheet evenly with the matzohs, cutting extra pieces, as required, to fit any spaces.

In a 3-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the butter or margarine and the brown sugar. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil (about 2 to 4 minutes). Boil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and pour over the matzoh, covering completely.

Place the baking sheet in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 350°. Bake for 15 minutes, checking every few minutes to make sure the mixture is not burning (if it seems to be browning too quickly, remove the pan from the oven, lower the heat to 325°, and replace the pan).

Remove from the oven and sprinkle immediately with the chopped chocolate or chips. Let stand for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the matzoh. While still warm, break into squares or odd shapes. Chill, still in the pan, in the freezer until set.

30 rock sandwich, dirty liberal feminist star wars geek loving sandwich, geek sandwhich, liz lemon food, liz lemon gets a sandwich, liz lemon sandwich, relish the moment zucchini relish

El Tejón

Liz: I believe that all anyone really wants in this life is to sit in peace and eat a sandwich.
Jack: How surprising that your world view is food-based.

I love me some Liz Lemon. Actually, Tina Fey could write or act in anything and I’d say it was ‘brilliant’ and ‘relevant.’ I’m that blind in my love.

I could go into the million and one reasons as to exactly WHY I love Liz Lemon, but that’s what the rest of the internet is for. Instead, I’m going to pay homage to Ms. Lemon and her 41 years on this planet in a way that would make Liz (if she were a real person) quite proud. With a sandwich. You see, in a recently episode, while talking to Jack Donaghy about how cruel New York City can be to those who ‘follow the rules’ and try to make it better (or at least a bit more OCD), Liz says:

I used to be like you–thinking I could make the city follow my rules. I told off the line cutters and the movie theater talkers.
And for what?
Did anyone cheer me or name a sandwich after me..that would maybe be turkey, pastrami, swiss, russian dressing, coleslaw and potato chips?

Message received, Liz Lemon.

I give you, the El Tejón.

The bread is a marbled loaf from Sorella’s Bakehouse on Anderson Street. The bread is never mentioned in the episode, but based on the number of teeth Liz seems to have lost over the years, I thought a baguette–or any other type of crunchy loaf–was out of the question. The chips were Whole Foods Sea Salt Chips and the turkey, roasted in house with herbs, from their Prepared Foods Department. I opted for sliced Jarlsberg as my Swiss cheese and Columbus pastrami from Trader Joes. Both the Russian dressing and cole slaw recipe came from Serious Eats. One note to the dressing recipe as I used a local zucchini relish instead of the called for sweet pickle.

It sounds like a weird, messy mash up of a Rachel/Rueben sandwich, but it worked.

Liz Lemon would approve.