chocolate brownies, condiments, cravings, eating too much, eating until your belly hurts, edible obsession, Local foods, mid afternoon snacks, pairings, WTF

Shelf Analysis

‘Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are..”–Jean Anthelme Brilliat-Savarian

Some people get a kick out of going through other people’s medicine cabinents to see what secrets their friends and neighbors are hiding–and lets face it a good number of our friends and family are on some pretty fucking interesting medications. But, that just may be me projecting(Busy Brain is as interesting as I get these days). My little fetish is that I’ll snoop your fridge for an insight in who you are. With all of us either labeled, or self proclaimed as, ‘Foodies,” your refrigerator holds your modern shame. If I had taken this photo one hour later, you would have seen three cans of Pepsi Throwback on the top shelf. If I had photographed the vegetable crisper you would have seen a noticible lack of vegetables and and abundance of cheese: Petit Agour, Dubliner with Stout, Dubliner Cheddar, 8 year Gouda and VBC’s Herbed Chevre.

Some of our predilections are obvious and well established, like the ones in my family. I have a feeling if I were to walk right now into my mothers house and open her freezer, there would be 5 gallons of ice cream, frozen dinners and frozen meat. My sister, Rachael, would have left over pasta and meat balls and lots of milk for my three nephews and brother in law. There would be something in there made out of one of her cuilinary school books. I’m guessing there would be remnants of a cake.

This is a look inside of my refrigerator, something very few have actually seen the inside of–the most notable person being a vegetarian coworker I traumatized by showing off my pickled tongue to. I think my food experiments freak a few of my friends out. Hmm… that explains so much..

  1. Butter: Lots of it. This was actually bought to make brownies and polenta with. I ended up not even needing either pound.
  2. Cream Cheese: Plain. We rarely have bagels in the house and this was brought in to make a peanut butter cream for the middle of #7 in the next picture.
  3. Cat stuff. You know ‘Ashy Larry’ from The Chappelle Show? Our cat, Sophie, is a bit like that, minus the crack problem(she opts for catnip, bud and lemon grass). This is cost $10 and was suppose to help and she refuses to consume it willingly.
  4. Pickled Jalapeno’s. I’m actually not sure when I jarred these and, now that I look at the picture, am a wee bit afraid to open it. I think it will remain one of those fermenting things in the fridge that just gets moved around and never opened.
  5. White Truffle Oil. Fancy, I know. It’s only use has been for risotto. It expired last month.
  6. Hakushika Snow Beauty Sake. I’d like to say what I purchased this for but I can’t remember. It may have been after a trip to Pai Men. It may have been because I thought the bottle was pretty. It may have been because I thought I would actually drink it. I obviously haven’t.
  7. Cholula Hot Sauce. One of 5 hot sauces in the refrigerator at the moment. This is their chili garlic flavor and my favorite topping for scrambled eggs on a day off.
  8. Three Wishes Cabernet. Whole Foods answer to ‘2 buck Chuck.’ It cost $2.50 and was purely purchased as a cooking wine. It’s probably vinegar by now.
  9. Sriracha. Purchased to help recreate the Pai Men Pork buns we had for Thanksgiving dinner.
  10. Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. Like many things purchased at TJ’s, this was bought out of pure curiosity over functionality or use in my kitchen. And, like so many other TJ’s branded things it wasn’t that fantastic. I believe this was used for a marinade. The only thing I buy from TJ’s these days is coffee.

  1. Polenta setting overnight to make ‘Crispy Polenta Fries‘ from Find.Eat.Drink. For us, the recipe should have been cut in half, or even 2/3’s, as it made a good 2-3 dozen thick cut fries.
  2. “If you’re afraid of butter, just use cream”–Julia Child. I’m afraid of neither and often have both in the house. This was used to make the ganache for #7.
  3. Morimoto Soba Ale. I brought this into the house sometime over the past year because of a reading a while back that Joe @ PFC recommended it highly. Because I don’t drink beer I rely on others to turn me on to brews to bring home to the Missus. This was one of them and it’s been there for over 6 months. If it’s salvageable, it will be used to make tempura.
  4. Cranky Rooster Eggs from my Cape SoPo Winter Share. Since posting about it two months ago there has hardly been a day where these eggs have not been in my kitchen. Truth be told, my last pick up from the Winter Share had three dozen eggs in it. Three dozen for two people. The yolks, as orange, tall and firm as ever, have made me catch my breath more than once at the sight of how just exactly perfect they are. I probably shouldn’t have said all of this because now you’re going to scoop them up before I’ve placed my order. Jerks.
  5. The required slab of bacon. Uncured, smoked thick cut from Whole Foods 365 line. It was the least expensive bacon in the cooler and far from the best. Too thin(even though it clearly said ‘thick cut’) of a strip made for an easily overcooked, dry piece of bacon. Thankfully it was easily saved on a breakfast sandwich made with the above mentioned eggs.
  6. Beef Shank. I was going to braise it and went for short ribs instead. It’s now living in the freezer.
  7. Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies I dropped the ball on photographing these before they were devoured to the point of pain and then given to my co-workers to get them out of our sights. They were heaven. I added a bit of Mascarpone to the peanut butter mix and substituted some all-natural Nutella knockoff for the peanut butter in the ganache. This was at their final chilling stage.
  8. Castelvetrano Olives. The ‘Kermit’ Olive. So bright green that it turns people off. It seems unnatural but they are one of my absolute favorite olives and worthy of their own ‘Edible Obsession’ themed post. Think less briny and more sweet; A black olive in green clothing with more tanginess than meatiness to it’s flesh. Primary use: sliced and added to a four cheese quesadilla.
  9. Bay Leaves. All of my days off are spent cooking long projects, like braises, and it also includes stock making, whether beef, chicken or vegetable. So, naturally, I use a lot of bay leaves.
  10. Hellman’s Mayonnaise. There are three major things I just can’t make the ‘all natural’ switch to: Ketchup, Peanut Butter and Mayonnaise. I don’t care how bad it is, I refuse to part with it. From creaming up some deviled eggs(do you sense an addiction being confessed before your eyes??), slathering on a sandwich or going Dutch and having some with french fries, I refuse to compromise on mayonnaise. Not only is it a dressing in so many childhood linked food memories(like Grandma’s Potato Salad, Mom’s Deviled Eggs) but it just has a better flavor to me.
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cake face, cupcakes, eating until your belly hurts, end of a trend, homework assignment, katie made, one fifty ate, rosemont, scratch baking co, sugary goodness, tulips cupcakery, two fat cats

Cupcake Capacity

3 Local Bloggers
7 Bakeries
12 Cupcakes
– 2 Vanilla
– 3 Flavored
– 3 Chocolate
– 4 Gluten Free and Vegan
1 Hour to taste, note and judge

I have to be honest, I didn’t partake in the celebration of cupcake mania that swept larger towns like New York City, San Fransisco and Boston. Truthfully my favorite cupcake remains, to this day, the ones my mom would make when I was in grade school. Every year, on my birthday, I would bring in cupcakes baked into ice cream cones. It looked like this:

But not as fancy. Kids I went to school with got as excited as I did for my birthday because of these cupcakes. So, to me, anything that fell short of this awesomeness wasn’t really worth eating. Though, I do have to admit that I hold a sizable soft spot for red velvet cupcakes–even buying them from Starbucks when I get a craving. So, when cupcakes took America by storm in ’09 and stretched their sugary arms well into 2010, I shrugged my shoulders and ate brownies, instead.

But, everyone should have sugar binge every once in a while and I felt due. It also helped that A., over on Portlandfoodmap.com had recently updated his list of bakeries and the new places inspired me to ask Kate and Dawn over for a collective sugar coma.

There were challenges to this as many of the newer bakeries in town are without a storefront and, for logistical reasons, have a minimum dozen order that needs to be met and all cost around $24/dozen. For it being just the three of us, and for wanting a wide variety of flavors, we had to avoid some that we were really intrigued by, like Cupcake Cha Cha, Buttercup Cupcakes and Sugar Hill Baking. So, we’ve made a note to try and obtain some of their cakes if we do something like this again and, this round, we opted to purchase only from those that sold retail around town and in South Portland. The one person we received cakes from that is lacking a storefront was Cakeface, and I know her personally so the arrangement was easy and convenient (cupcakes delivered to your door!).

But, enough about the process, let’s get on with the development of my Type II.


Battle: Vanilla
Katie Made Vanilla vs. Tulip Bakery Madagascar Vanilla

Results:

  • Katie Made, even though it was the first one tried, turned out to be the most commercial tasting of them all. The cake was a bit dry and the frosting was pretty damn sweet. It was, for lack of a better comparison, similar to ones that I’ve had from grocery stores.
  • You could tell that the Madagascar Vanilla, from Tulips, was going to be the polar opposite the second you picked it up with your hands. The cake had a great, moist crumb to it and the frosting was flecked with whole vanilla bean, which stood out over only a slight presence of sugar.
  • Winner: Madagascar by Tulips Cupcakery


Battle: Fruit Flavored/Filled
One Fifty Ate Apple Spice with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting vs. Scratch Baking Co.’s Banana Cream Pie vs. Pumpkin by Tulips Cupcakery

Results:

  • One Fifty Ate’s cupcake was probably the most down home one out of the batch. It wasn’t the prettiest, being the shorty of the group, but it was one of the tastiest. It was akin to eating a moist, but not too dense apple cake with a perfectly made brown sugar and cream cheese frosting–something I love to spread on apple and pumpkin cakes this time of year. There was a bit of a nut crunch hiding beneath the frosting (Pecan or Walnut) that was a pleasant little surprise and added texture. While I was hoping to score a ‘Ricchio’, I would gladly take this in it’s place any day.
  • “Huh..” “Hmmmm..” The first moments of Dawn biting into the Pumpkin cupcake from Tulips wasn’t overly encouraging. When we inquired what was prompting to her ponder so loudly, she just said, “Tell me what you think because I want to see if you get what I’m getting.” So, I bit in and got pumpkin, a bit of spice and a slight bitterness like uncooked flour. Then, as it finished, I got it. At the end, the whole thing tasted like a pumpkin pie filling that someone had added a bit of batter too. While the cupcake started off nicely , it did kind of turn to paste at the end. The frosting, which I think may have been cream cheese based, was passable and not much of a stand out.
  • Scratch Baking, in South Portland, needs to put a sign over their pastry cakes that says “We Do NOT Fuck Around.” Because they don’t. Like One Fifty Ate, it’s a bakery that I just don’t travel to though it’s phenomenal and worth every bit of hype it receives. The last time the Mrs. and I were there, we had their version of a Ring Ding which, of course, was eons better and kept us floating on a sugar high for the better part of the day. But, I wasn’t there for a Ring Ding or Bagels (though I did pick some up there and at One Fifty), I was there for cupcakes and they offered exactly two. Banana Cream Pie is actually one of my least favorite things in the world. I don’t like banana pastry cream or anything that’s filled with it and I was sure that I wouldn’t like it here. And I was wrong, wrong, wrong. First off, the cake itself is fucking amazing. The other cupcakes we had were cake, this was a cloud. Light and airy with an amazingly delicate crumb that was filled down the middle with a very subtle banana cream. Then a whipped cream frosting reeled me in and, even though we were five cupcakes in, had me wanting another section of this.
  • Winner: Scratch Baking Co.’s Banana Cream Pie


Battle: Chocolate
Two Fat Cats Chocolate vs. Rosemont Bakeries Chocolate Guinness vs. Scratch Baking Co.’s Black Forest Cake

Results:

  • Two Fat Cats wasn’t thrown into a fair fight here. We had only one representation of a standard chocolate cupcake, while the others were technically flavored with other things. So, when we tried all three, Two Fat Cats seemed kind of standard all around. It was simple and enjoyable, both texturally pleasing and nicely executed, but it wasn’t memorable. It was a decent chocolate cupcake. I’d actually like to include their Red Velvet if this gets done again.
  • Oh, Guinness, how you’ve brought shame into my life. I don’t know what was more shocking to my older brother, the day I came out or the day I told that I thought Guinness tasted like crap. I believe both occurrences happened when I was 20. Thirteen years later and neither thing has changed. Still gay and I still can’t stand Guinness. Granted, as you know, I don’t drink beer, period, so the heavier and darker the beer, the more I’m going to be turned off by it. And my distaste was right there the second I bit into it, the bitterness of the stout. Blech. I got a bit of the chocolate notes off of it, and it’s frosting is a perfectly done ganache, but I just couldn’t shake the bitterness in the cake. Which, I’m sure if it were any other cupcake from them, I would have enjoyed it…as long as it wasn’t made with beer.
  • This was by far the largest cake of the group, perhaps coming in around the size of a new born baby’s head. It definitely won for the most appealing with the inclusion of a cherry on top. But, when you’re labeled ‘Black Forest MEGA Cupcake’ you better shine on all levels. And, just as they had done in the previous round, Scratch’s representation in the chocolate category was outstanding. Again, normally the fruit filled thing isn’t so much for me but the jam inside was wonderfully tart and added a bit of density to the surprisingly light cake that encapsulated it.
  • Winner: Scratch Baking Co. Black Forest MEGA Cupcake


Battle: Vegan/Gluten Free
Cakeface Mocha Chip Mocha vs. Cakeface Hazelnut Mocha vs. Cakeface Spiced Chocolate vs. Cakeface Hazelnut Maple

Results:

  • Well, needless to say, Cakeface takes this battle. I wanted to have an alternative bakery in here and it definitely helped knowing someone with their own business and offered to deliver. So, this isn’t a shun of the others in town who also bake for specialty diets, it was purely a matter of convenience and cost for me.
  • The Mocha Chip Mocha, sadly was the least favorite of mine. In fact, for the three of us, it seemed that we were really missing a lot of the mocha. It was chocolaty, the crumb was good, but I wanted a bit of a coffee flavor in there, too. It did pair nicely, however, with my jumble cup of house blend.
  • There was an interesting thing that Kate pointed out when we sampled the Hazelnut Mocha: It smelled like freshly baked banana bread. Biting into it, however, completely dissolved that notion. The texture seemed a bit denser than the first one–probably from the hazelnut flour she’s using–but it wasn’t heavy. It did, however, suffer from the same lack of coffee flavor in the frosting and it would have been nice to add another flavor layer in there.
  • I had one Spiced Chocolate cupcake sitting on my counter right now. In fact, I’m probably going to stop right now and go get it…..Sorry, just needed a refresher. So, this was easily one of the best of the night, in my opinion. The cake.. the cake on this one was, dare i say, buttery. Even the next day, it’s retained it’s melt-in-your-mouth consistency. And what’s actually putting the spice in it? I’m guessing cinnamon, ginger, a bit of chili and/or cardamom.
  • I will say that when I opened the box for the Hazelnut Maple, I was worried. The smell that drifted out was so heavy and sweet that I was worried that this wasn’t going to be good. But, as I have learned from eating washed rind cheeses, don’t let the smell frighten you. This was a maple praline in a paper wrapper masquerading itself as a cupcake. Again, the hazelnut flour made for an nice textural base.
  • Winner: Spiced Chocolate

The Top 5:

  1. Scratch Bakery Co.’s Black Forest Mega Cake–A perfect mix of good chocolate, tart cherries, creamy frosting and a cherry on top. Also for having the name “MEGA” in it.
  2. Scratch Bakery Co.’s Banana Cream Pie–It made me a believer of banana pastry cream, which had always turned me off. This is a cupcake I would go out and buy again. Weekly, if I could.
  3. One Fifty Ate Apple Spice with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting–It was homey and simple and so unlike the other cupcakes we ate. It showed that a good cupcake doesn’t have to be bells and whistles and fancy piping. The flavor has to be balanced–sweet but not cloying–and the texture has to be slightly crumbly, but not dry. This is my first impression of One Fifty Ate and I like it.
  4. Cakeface Bakery Spiced Chocolate– I ate the better part of four cupcakes yesterday, I have remnants of all twelve in boxes on my counter and this is the one I reach for. As far as a chocolate cake base, it comes a close second to the one from Scratch on the cake alone. Which I find hilarious knowing the major difference between the two batters. If I woke up tomorrow and found out I had to give up my wheat and dairy, I’d console myself with a dozen of these.
  5. Tulips Cupcakery Madagascar Vanilla–An upscale play on a classic. So far from what my mother baked us growing up (I’m looking at you Duncan Hines), yet a flavor combination that I’ve never strayed from. Just a nicely done vanilla cupcake.

Now as Food Network Magazine (yea, if it’s food related, I’m reading it) calls for our cake to not come in cups, but on sticks, I believe it’s time for the mass hysteria over these childhood favorites to come to an end. Thank you, Magnolia Bakery, for starting it all… but we’re moving on.

Two Fat Cats on Urbanspoon
Scratch Bakery on Urbanspoon
158 Pickett Street Cafe on Urbanspoon
Rosemont Market on Urbanspoon

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