Sunday, August 8, 2010


I was grocery shopping at Wal-Mart last week when my sweet tooth bit, and I decided to check out the bakery section for carrot cake. While I did not find any actual cake, I did find carrot cake whoopee pies. At first, I thought this was just another example of how I can always find almost what I want at Wal-Mart but never what I'm really looking for, but after an additional moment of consideration, I tossed some in the cart.

I was not entirely disappointed. The carrot cake was typical grocery store delivered-frozen-and-then-baked-fresh cake with a pleasantly spicy flavor and just a hint of nuttiness. The cream cheese icing was also standard, but it's hard to mess up this icing. The real selling point of the carrot cake whoopee pie, though, is the cake-to-icing ratio - a full 2:1, meaning that 30% of each bite is all sugary icing goodness. A few hours in the fridge sets the icing firm so is doesn't ooze out the sides - better ensuring maximum icing distribution.

Overall, for a grocery store carrot cake, this was good. As a concept for serving carrot cake, the whoopee pie is superior and just the right size to satisfy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

You Say Aioli, I Say Mayonnaise

Gareth takes a certain amount of pride in his cooking, as he should. He produces a consistent quality of food like I have never eaten before. My first year living with him, I gained 20 pounds and have been fighting to keep the weight in check for the duration of our relationship.

His recent delving in Spanish cuisine has resulted in much experimentation with emulsified sauces, most of which I refer to as mayonnaise. He has a tendency to cringe at the word, as if it could only refer to Hellman's Best, and then informs me that the sauce I am eating with such enthusiasm is actually an aioli. Which inevitably leads us to a discussion about the fine line between the two.

Both contain a base of egg yolk, oil and acidity - usually vinegar, citrus juice, or both. (Gareth has gotten exceptional results with orange juice.) As he has explained it to me, an aioli contains some vegetable matter - most often garlic. But it actually goes a little further than that. A real aioli starts with a mortar and pestle. The fresh garlic is "muddled" - a technique in which the pestle is used to gently mash the garlic, releasing all its aromatic qualities. Then, oil is added and further muddled. The mixture is added to egg yolk and citrus juice and blended until emulsified.

Either sauce works well as a dressing for fish and vegetables fresh off the grill. We are still discussing what to call that. I say salad, he says..... well he's not sure what it is.