Thursday, May 22, 2008

McDonald's Goes Southern, Y'all

Southerners have long vowed that "The South shall rise again."

Who'd have thought that the resurrection would take place at McDonald's?

Mickey D's has introduced the "Southern Style Chicken Sandwich" at more than 15,000 locations. I don't think Southern Californians know what to make of the sandwich, which consists of a bun, a deep fried filet of chicken and two pickles. No mustard. No mayo. No secret sauce. It's drier than a Southern state on Sunday.

To find out what makes this dry concoction "Southern," I consulted my Georgia Peach of a Niece, Emily. She responded, "We have Mr. Truett Cathy founder of Chick-Fil-A to thank. Apparently he invented the chicken sandwich. That is how Chick-Fil-A has been serving their chicken sandwiches since they opened, 'a juicy chicken breast served on a bun with two crucial pickles.' Top it off with a sweet tea and you are in Southern heaven."

I've never been to Chick-Fil-A, and I don't plan on ordering the McDonald's version, but I have consumed a few gallons of sweet tea in my lifetime. Known as the "house wine of the South," sweet tea is a staple of Southern hospitality. McDonald's apparently decided to help customers wash down those dry chicken sandwiches by introducing sweet tea at select locations in Southern California.

What's wrong with this picture? Do sweet tea and lemon go together?

With memories of sweet tea from my West Virginia youth dancing in my head, I cruised through McDonald's and ordered a 24 oz. serving for $1 at the Altadena location on Woodbury Drive. I took one swig of the sweetened brew and poured the rest down the drain. By Southern standards (i.e. the sweeter, the better), I'm sure this must rank high, but it was too much sugar for my lemon-loving taste buds.

But I couldn't stop thinking about sweet tea. It brought back memories of trout fish fries in our old Penn St. neighborhood in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Or sweet tea and my Japanese mother's famous spaghetti and meat balls. (Yes, like a good, cheap wine, sweet tea can be paired with anything.) Or the sweetest memory of all - swinging on my grandmother's front porch with my best friend Charleen. We'd swing and swig from a Mason jar of sweet tea for hours on a hot, humid summer day.

So I've been making my own less sugary version of sweet tea at home. (I use a half cup of sugar per half gallon instead of a cup.) The secret of sweet tea is the simple syrup that insures that the sugar is completely dissolved.

Susan's Swing & Swig Sweet Tea
1 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
six tea bags

Bring the cup of water to a boil. Add 1/2 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve. Remove pot from heat. Add six tea bags and steep for approximately half hour.

Remove tea bags. Pour brewed tea into a half gallon pitcher and fill with water.

Fill a glass or Mason jar with plenty of ice and fill to the rim with sweet tea. Garnish with fresh mint.

Now sit back, preferably in a swing, and enjoy.

Come on over for a glass of sweet tea. I may even offer you a slice of strawberry pie.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fuel for Thought

The proof is in the Prius.

A friend recently asked her teenage son what he thought about her buying a Prius for the family car. "Don't do that, Mom," he protested. "Prius drivers are so smug."

I admit he's on to something there. But who wouldn't be smug about getting more than 50 miles a gallon instead of 15 as I once did in our premium-gas-guzzling Audi Quattro? Who wouldn't be self satisfied about driving nearly 500 miles on one 9.5 gallon tank of gas? Who wouldn't crow a little about saving more than $200 a month at the pump? (That's enough for a few dinners at Mozza Osteria or 25 bowls of ramen at Daikokuya.) And who could resist a little strutting around at the thought of reducing carbon emissions by nearly four tons per year?

I have to admit that I'm even insufferably smug around other Prius drivers, who are averaging (as I once did) less than 45 miles per gallon. Thanks to a great article about maximizing mileage on the Rattling the Kettle blog, I've learned how to break the 50 mpg barrier week after week.

I've also learned that it's better to burn calories than fossil fuel. If my destination is less than 1.5 miles away, I leave the Prius in our driveway and hoof it to the post office, pharmacy, grocery store or coffe shop. I'm even trying to institute a "no driving day" once a week.

Prius drivers smug? Can ya' blame us?

Recipe for Maximizing Mileage
  • Coast whenever possible
  • Cruise along at 55 mph or less on the freeway
  • Cut the AC
  • Start slow and stop slow

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I left my heart in San Francisco

I've just returned from a three-day trip to San Francisco, where I fell head-over-heels in love. I feel like a silly schoolgirl because I can't stop thinking about my new obsession. I keep replaying the memory of our first encounter over and over again. I let out a heavy sigh and fantasize about our next time together.

I fell hard and fast for the gougères at Tartine Bakery.

First of all, if you haven't been to this Mission District destination, you MUST go the next time you're in San Francisco. A trip to Tartine is not optional; it is mandatory. ( It's just a half -mile hoof away from the 16th St. Mission BART Station.) After eating at Tartine, you'll conclude that every other bakery you've ever visited and every other baked good or pastry you've ever consumed have been impostors.

After I ordered my ham and leek quiche and latte, I noticed these beautiful, golden-brown breads sitting in the case. The woman in front of me ordered a dozen to go, so I just had to try one too.

Gougères are as light as a cloud because they're made from choux, the same pastry that's used for cream puffs. The main difference is that the choux is savory, not sweet. Tartine 's gougères, which are loaded with fresh herbs and Gruyere cheese, are crispy, flaky on the outside and slightly doughy, eggy on the inside. It was love at first bite.

The object of my affection: Tartine's gougères

I've had love affairs with other carb and fat combos (potato balls from Portos, biscuits and gravy) but now I see that these were just flings. With Tartine gougères, I've found my GUD soul mate.

Heavy, savory sigh. When can I see you again?

Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 487-2600

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Susan's Eggsellent Adventure

What could be easier than making a protein-packed egg salad sandwich for lunch?

Hard boiling eggs can be a challenge for a post-middle-aged woman with traces of chemo brain and ADD. Here's how NOT to make hard-boiled eggs:

  • 11:00 AM Place five eggs in a pot. Cover with water. Place pot on stove with flame at medium high.
  • 11:01 AM Go upstairs to research on computer how long eggs should sit in simmering water. Bring egg timer to keep self on track.
  • 11:02 AM Answer phone. Reply to emails. Answer phone again. Upload photos from digital camera. Stroke cat. Write post for food blog. Sort dirty laundry.
  • 12:05 PM Go downtstairs to basement laundry room. On way past kitchen hear two loud POP sounds. Rule out drive-by shooting. Put down laundry basket.
  • 12:06 PM Go to kitchen. Follow crackling sound. Discover the "eggsplosion."
  • 12:07 PM Turn off flame. Grab keys and head to Everest for a pastrami sandwich.
So . . . what's the verdict? Age? ADD? Chemo brain? Or just Susan being Susan?