Friday, April 28, 2006
Friday, April 14, 2006
Friday, April 07, 2006
Rain, rain, go away.
Will it ever end? I'm tired of turtlenecks and mittens and layers. I want to wear flippy skirts and tank tops with dangly earrings, or filmy blouses with narrow cropped pants and chunky necklaces. I want to show off my NARS Chinatown pedicure with open toed pumps and strappy stiletto sandals. I want to stop lugging my umbrella around and wear my sunglasses because the sun's out, not just to hide my dark circles and the need for a brow was. I want to wear flip flops instead of Uggs when I take out the trash. I want to hang out on my porch, sipping a mimosa. I want to sit on the median in front of Cheese Board and eat a slice of pizza with a side of roasted garlic and a glass of cotes du rhone. I want gelato... wait a sec, I eat gelato rain or shine, hot or cold. Nevermind. You get the idea.
Or, I need a brow wax, stat!
Why oh why isn't Yelena available at my beck and call? I get an eyebrow wax, and for the next ten days to two weeks, my brows look fantastic. A few errant hairs appear, and I clean them up ith my trusty Tweezman tweezers and forget about them. The next thing I know, I'm washing my face a couple weeks later and look up into the mirror and shazam! My brows have exploded into two fuzzy black caterpillars. Not the kind of sight you like to see late at night or first thing in the morning. Only years of plucking and waxing has saved them from becoming a unibrow. And of course, Yelena's not available for another week. Grrr.
For those of you who tire of my rambling about yoga, I give you this.
Thursday, April 06, 2006
Chuck Taylors are the devil.
A few weeks I went to a 3-hour inversions workshop taught by my yoga teacher, David. I'd been looking forward to it with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. Although I have a fairly solid yoga practice, inversions are my weak point. I can kick up into handstand and forearm balance (pincha mayurasana) as long as there's a wall behind me, and I can lift both of my legs at the same time into a freestanding headstand or tripod headstand. But once I get up there, and there's no wall to lean on, so to speak, fear takes over and I lose it (I'm okay with shoulderstands). I could swear that David's watching me during class, and that he'd been addressing me, specifically, when he would announce the workshop during class. So as soon as I heard about it, I marked my calendar and registered.
Earlier that day, I decided to forgo my regular class and take a "beginners" class at the same studio with Thomas. I wanted to warm up before the workshop, but not get totally exhausted. Also, I would have a break between the class and the workshop so I could have a snack. As it turned out, the class was was a small group of regulars, so after assessing our fitness level, Thomas ramped it up. The next thing I knew, we were jumping into handstands, balancing in bound ardha chandrasana, dropping from standing into backbends, and practicing full pigeon. He even instructed us to flip from backbend into handstand (not me - I've only done it once, reluctantly, with a wall, spotted by a teacher) and try one handed handstands (No. Just No.) Definitely not a "beginners" kind of class.
I was relieved, then, when the workshop turned out to be very basic, no fancy variations, focusing on proper alignment and foundation fundamentals. We also spent a lot of time talking about the importance of inversions, our limitations and aversions, and when not to practice them. We spend a decent chunk of our yoga practice standing and channeling energy from the earth. Inversions reverse that flow so that our energies are in balance. (Feel free to ignore the new agey chakra stuff. I understand if you might be skeptical - I used to be.) The number one reason for aversion was fear of falling. David assured us that it was okay to fear inversions - it's natural. After all, you're upside down and your perspective of the world reverses (or inverts). And the best way to overcome falling is to let go learn how to fall. The proper to fall out of headstand is to tuck your chin, release your hands and roll into a somersault. Make sure there's nothing behind you to block your exit path, like walls, props, water bottles or other people.
I had meant to ask David to show me how to fall out, but I was too busy thinking about my alignment and lost track of time. The next day, I found an empty room and decided to just simply practice falling. Well, I got up into headstand and.... chickened out. I chickened out so much that I wound up holding headstand much longer than I normally do. I did practice somersaults, though. First time since I was like, ten! It wasn't so bad. I will practice somersaulting out of headstand soon.
What exactly does all of this this have to do with Chuck Taylors? Admittedly, not much. Last week, I was rushing across the street during my lunch break to a yoga class, of all things. It was drizzling (when is it not, nowadays?) and I stepped on one of those slippery metal grates in front of BART. I lost traction in my Chuck Taylors and fell. It was one of those kinds of embarassingly graceless spectacular falls where my legs cartwheeled into the splits midair and my arms flailed about before I landed flat on my back. Literally. I was lying on the ground, staring up at the sky, raindrops pelting the entire length of my body. Everyone crowded around and tried to pick me up. Luckily, my ass absorbed most of the shock of that fall. Amazingly, I didn't land on my knees, or elbows or ankles or wrists. Just my ass. It probably has nothing to do with that workshop, but I did fall properly. There are no sprains or breaks or scrapes or even bruises, except to my ego.
Wednesday, April 05, 2006
These canneles are kicking my ass! Though I did find some at Boulette's Larder today. I am going to have to try again. I may resort to ordering the silicon molds.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Adventures in baking.
I had a cupcake the other day. Cupcake bakeries are all the rage now, with Citizen Cupcake (Citizen Cake's "diffusion" line) in the city, Love at First Bite in Berkeley, and Emeryville's Teacake Bakeshop, where I sampled the aforementioned cupcake. Even carb-fearing Beverly Hills has Sprinkles. The cupcake I tried was okay. The best I've tried are from Miette, in the Ferry Building. I like Citizen Cupcake's wacky flavors, but they don't always taste as fresh as they're charging for them. But quite frankly, I sort of got over cupcakes two years ago, though I did go on a cupcake eating spree last year. (Zack kept threatening to report me to the cupcake police - "your words will haunt you!" though truthfully, I cannot turn down a *good* cupcake) Now I'm all about the macaron. I'm working on perfecting it, (the whole molten sugar thing is still problematic for me - I think I'll try again this weekend), but I'm also working on the cannele.
What is a cannele? Hailing from Bordeaux, canneles are individual vanilla custard cakes with a crispy caramelized shell. They are dark brown, nearly black, and they look like extra skinny mini bundt cakes. Paula Wolfert calls them "portable creme brulees". I've only seen them in three bakeries in the States: Bay Bread Boulangerie in San Francisco, (the original) La Brea Bakery in LA, and Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. In Paris, they are fairly commonplace, though not as popular as the macaron. I started researching them after my French coworker gave some to me a few years ago, but decided they weren't worth the effort. The recipe is a 4 day long process, and "requires" copper molds that cost $18 per (vaguely egg-sized, not shaped) mold.
My trip to Paris reignited my love of canneles (and macarons, and cheese, and chocolate, and wine, and cassoulet, and...) and as luck would have it, I found Bay Bread Boulangerie's cookbook containing a cannele recipe on sale at Sur La Table. I also found tin cannele molds for a fraction of the cost of the copper molds, so I set to work.
The secret to the crispy caramelized shell is to coat each mold with a layer of "white oil," a mixture of melted beeswax and oil/butter. I found the beeswax at the farmer's market, chopped it up and melted it over the stove in a glass jar set inside a pot of simmering water, then added safflower oil, as instructed. (I wound up going with Paula Wolfert's recipe from the Slow Mediterranean Kitchen) It really wasn't so hard, but I learned that I did have to be extra careful, and extra vigilant about monitoring the heat. I was constantly paranoid that the glass would expode or shatter or that the beeswax would light on fire. Once it was melted, I let my guard down and allowed my curiosity to get the better of me and wound up spraying hot beeswax and oil all over the kitchen. It was a real mess.
Once I cleaned up, I was pleased to discover that I had made enough "white oil" for several batches of canneles, though next time I make it, I'm going to use butter instead of oil. I seasoned the molds with regular vegetable oil in the oven (like a cast iron pan), and once they cooled, I brushed them with the "white oil" and put them in the freezer. (Paula says the molds and the batter must be very cold.)
The batter was actually very simple - Pulse some butter, sugar and flour in a food processor, add egg yolks, pulse again, add hot milk, pulse again, stir in rum and vanilla extract, then let the batter rest for 24-48 hours. I didn't use vanilla extract - I steeped vanilla bean in the hot milk instead.
Tomorrow: the baking! (Note: this is my third attempt. More on the first two later)