Holiday Shopping Made Easy

I would love to make everyone on my holiday shopping list a big basket full of handmade breads, pastas, and pastries.  But between the constraints of kitchen space, time, and location, sometimes this is not possible.  In steps Zingerman’s.

The first time I felt like a true adult is when I placed an order for a few holiday gifts through Zingerman’s food catalog.  My orders were simple baskets full of pastries, chocolates, and coffee, but they were a huge load off of my mind.  Without having to worry about shipping, packaging, or wondering if the receiver would like it, it was a breeze.

I chose Zingerman’s for a few reasons.  First of all, I love giving the gift of food, especially if that food is savory (I don’t even want to look at another sugar coated cookie come December 26th).  Food to me is thoughtful, the opposite of a wasteful “filler” gift, and something that will make the recipient think of you when she is chowing down.  I chose Zingerman’s for two simple reasons.

1. I had just moved from Michigan and their deli sandwiches were always on my mind (If you haven’t seen The Five Year Engagement, you should, as it will give you an idea of the things people do for these sandwiches), and.,.

2. They have a great quality selection.  The owner of Zingerman’s has travelled all over the world to find the best of the best.  You can rest assured that whatever olive oil you order from them will be infinitely better than your supermarket variety.  Plus, they package gift baskets to help expand palettes, meaning your recipient gets something they like and then some.  In addition, their customer service is through the roof.

I love having this mail order on hand simply because it makes ordering for any occasion easy and I never have to scour the internet to find something someone will like.  There are countless companies out there that do just this, and I invite you to find one that will suit your needs the best.  Until then, I’ll be noshing on some roadhouse bread!


Book Review / Coffee Talk

For someone who was recently unaccustomed to the aroma of such an intoxicating subject, it is hard for me to believe I have taken such interest in coffee.  Not fond of professing my love to something I don’t understand, I took it upon myself to learn all about the substance that has charmed the world for centuries.  Guiding me in my journey was the book Coffee Talk by Morton Satin.

coffee talk

A book jammed packed with the history of the little red bean to the numerous ways people extract the flavor and jolt today, Satin solidified himself as a coffee connoisseur.  Although there may be some points where the information runs a little too deep for the home hobbyist, there certainly was no lack of information.  For example, did you know that American coffee met its demise in quality by the introduction of the bottomless cup at diners and truck stops?

As a person who only a year ago had never brewed her own cup of coffee, I am now a happy user of both the Chemex and French Press.  It amazes me to believe that this plant was only discovered after a goat herder found his goats, young and old, frolicking in a field upon eating the “coffee cherries” in Ethiopia, and today we enjoy the beverage to its utmost delight.

I look forward to learning much more about the subject, and chronicling my journey of different brewing methods, coffee origins, and the like on Hungry, Mostly, and also look forward to your input.

Coffee Talk is a wonderful read for any who enjoy science, history, culture, or just plain coffee.  It is a great companion to understanding the wonderful world of coffee, and how much the average American is missing out on.

Why Cheese is the New Dessert

It may sound like deprivation at first, replacing your sugary bookend of choice with a few slices of something savory.  How can something that is most commonly used as a appetizer be used as a dessert, you ask?  Well, just check out any one of these cheese’s and you might find yourself making the switch, too.

A cheeseboard from Pistache in West Palm Beach, FL

A cheeseboard from Pistache in West Palm Beach, FL

Evalon, raw goat’s milk.  Full of melty, nutty notes that reminisce the taste of honey.

Gorgonzola Dolce, cow’s milk.  This double creme packs a oozy sweet bunch, bringing to mind a sweet ice cream.

Ewephoria, sheep’s milk.  Nothing like the normal salty crunch one would expect with sheep’s milk.  Sugary, with a hint of pineapple, will leave no question in your mind as to why euphoria inspired the name.

Midnight Moon, goat’s milk.  Dreamy, chewy, with a carmel-y after finish that goes all too well under a full moon.

Prima Donna, cow’s milk.  A mix between Gruyere and Parmigiano that tastes a bit like butterscotch candy.

The best part about cheese is that a few tiny pieces are paced with enough flavor that you don’t feel as if you’re missing out.  Plus, pairing cheese with wine, beer, or dare I say spirits?, can peacefully float you into sleeping heaven.  Not to mention, serve a tray of these babies at a party and you might just win most creative hostess of the year.

Attention to Detail

Throughout my life I have prided myself on my close attention to detail.  Whether it was a school project, an outfit for a special occasion, or a party, I always gravitated towards the little things.  I am a firm believer that a simple bouquet of flowers on the table or a well thought out thank you card can make all the difference.


As a food writer, it can be easy to become overwhelmed with all the different possibilities.  However, in the past weeks I have realized that my interests gravitate towards detail in food, as well.  Instead of planning the whole meal, or concerning myself with how to cook a roast, I am fascinated with the steps that go into making the most beloved items on our tables actual things.

I write a great deal about cheese and coffee on this blog, and although I am madly in love with both their complexities and tastes, I adore two things most about them, and other foods like them.

1. Their presence at a dinner party or Sunday morning’s breakfast table are added delights.  To me, a warm cup of coffee is a small reminder that this world provides us with the most beautiful things, if we look closely enough.  The details are not the main event, but they make the main a little more special.

Michael, enjoying a cup of coffee

Michael, enjoying a cup of coffee

2. The process of making these small fixtures, like breads or jams are often small labors of love, from farm to table.  I adore learning about the farmer who made the cheese I’m noshing on, or the process Michael went through to can peaches.  It can be difficult to find these sorts of stories in bigger, more main stream items.  The beauty in detail presents itself again.

So next time you are feel the itch to stretch your taste buds, don’t overwhelm yourself.  Let yourself wander in a cheese shop nearby, try a wine a little out of your comfort zone, or try making a simple bread.  Learning to love food starts small (I am certainly nowhere near being able to execute a beautiful three course dinner) and it is all about enjoyment.

What is your favorite detail?


Saturday Special (The Reserve)

Today’s Special is a restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, The Reserve.  With a commitment to showcasing great tasting local food and bringing farmers in touch with consumers, The Reserve is certainly something else.  Taking advantage of the bountiful region of Grand Rapids and surrounding areas, they also have an impressive wine list under the same philosophy.

Photo courtesy of The Reserve's website

Photo courtesy of The Reserve’s website

As Michael and I prepare to move to the area next month, I look forward to trying out some new places like this one!



Five Reasons to Go Local

Looking around, it seems as if “going local” has become trendy.  Between the t-shirts, all local menus at restaurants, and campaigns to keep what’s on your plate as close as possible, it can all seem a bit like a fad.  Should you even care, or let local go the way of low-fat cheese?  Absolutely not!  Below are ten reasons you should try to make local happen in your kitchen.

Apples courtesy of Kuiper's Farm

Apples courtesy of Kuiper’s Farm

1. Transportation=Food Waste

According to Modern Farmer, 43 billion pounds  of food was thrown away in the U.S. last year.  A portion of this is due to the loss of food during transportation (spoiling in the truck) but is also attributed to the shelf life of a product.  Some produce has a hard time withstanding week long transit periods and looks less than fresh upon arrival, causing consumers to pass right by.  By eating local food, we eliminate the waste generated by long transportation periods and are rewarded with fresher, more flavorful food.

2. Support Local Economy

Farming is a labor of love, and one that certainly doesn’t pay well.  In recent years,it has become increasingly difficult for farmers to compete with big corporations.  Bigger corporations have the money and support to abuse their products, use unsafe preservation practices, and sell their products at a lower price than local farmers can.  Although local products are often more expensive, remember that those dollars you spend at a farmer’s market goes straight back into the farm, whether it be for feed, upkeep, or putting food on the farmers table, not advertising, and packaging.

3. Less GMOs, pesticides, rBGHs

Although this isn’t true with every farmer, many are much more conscious about pesticides and antibiotics, and traditional farmers rarely use Genetically Modified Organisms (or GMOs).  If you are concerned about the growing list of unnatural products being added to foods these days, this is a great chance to talk to a local farmer to see how he treats his animals for diseases or tends to his crops.

4. Environmental factors

Transportation of non-local food also poses a problem to the environment.  Many foods travel over 1,000 to show up at your supermarket.  Can you imagine the carbon footprint of an avocado in the middle of a Michigan winter?  It’s easy to reach for the foods we love when shopping without thinking of how unnatural they are to our climate, but next time, stop and think about where that tomato was grown.

5. Eat Real Food

Did you know that some tomatoes are not perfectly round red bundles of joy?  Some are lopsided and purple-but taste even more amazing than the grocery store variety.  By buying local food you are opening up your eyes (and mouths) to the great bounty that local land has to offer.  That food at the farmers market is about as close as you can get to digging it up yourself, so expect delicious flavors to lie ahead.

Anatomy of a Real Cookbook

When I was ten I took a crack at my first recipe.  It was for pretzels, and the instructions came out of a child’s cookbook I had received from my grandparents.  I took one look at the ingredient list and dumped everything I needed into a big bowl.  I stood there, perplexed at how un-pretzel like it all looked and decided to consult my mom.  “Oh, I do that, too,” she politely lied, “sometimes those recipes are very confusing.”

They weren’t, but as a naive ten year old I agreed with her, even after she pointed out the page of directions I had chosen to ignore.  “Why would they put those on the other page like that?” I had asked, “they are so hard to find.”

I have come a long way in the world of cookbooks since then, but have only recently discovered that a true cookbook is a rare find among the current stocks today.  Here’s why.

A stack of some of my favorites for refrencing

A stack of some of my favorites for referencing

1.  Cookbooks should teach.  Cooking is a craft, and some people are craftsmen.  These are the people that should right cookbooks, not people who have made a few cookies and their mom liked them.  When flipping through Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel’s cookbook, Bouchon Bakery you’ll be impressed at the fact that they have their ingredients measured out to the gram.  The beginning of the book is prefaced with a story and peppered throughout the recipes are tips about working clean, using a scale, and the like.  Not only do I walk away with some great cake recipes under my belt, but I understand the importance of the procedures.

From Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc

From Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc

2. Recipes should be tested.  Have you ever followed a recipe exactly and came out with a less than stellar product?  I have, and it is a major disappointment.  A lot of factors you don’t even think about could contribute to this-a different altitude than that of the author, slight change in the flour you’re using, or even a second of overmixing.  It could also be that the author made the recipe once or twice, liked it, and moved on.  Real cookbook authors made their recipes more times than they want to count, and accounted for many discrepancies that might occur, leaving you with a trusted recipe.

3. Provide background.  Most cookbooks begin with a story of the author’s culinary journey to food publishing.  Many stories are inspiring and leave you excited to begin your baking.  Reading these stories can help the reader understand why they should use a certain tool or ingredient.  When I read Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish, I was compelled to abandon my measuring cups in favor of a scale.  Had he not told the importance of using a scale, or the best flour on the market, I would have simply thought he was being a snob.  But, hey, I learned something new (and that fulfills the number 1 requirement!)


4. Open your eyes to new techniques.  It’s a good thing if you’ve never heard of some of the ingredients or tools listed in a cookbook.  Allow these items to open your mind to the world of cooking and baking, not intimidate you.

5. Focus on basics.  “Give a man a fish and he is fed for the day, teach a man to fish and he is fed for a lifetime,” is a great saying that works well for this rule.  Before you dive into the cookbooks that are purely for inspiration, pick up a few that help you truly understand the art of cooking.


What cookbook has taught you something new?