Operation Degustation

A young gourmand's love affair with food and words on the quest for a life full of flavor!

The University of Adelaide’s Food Writing Prompts

In my search for a graduate degree that will complement my in-progress Bachelor’s in Nutrition and Dietetics, I came across the Food Writing Graduate Certificate offered by Australia’s Adelaide University. They offered the following valuable advice:

"If you need to work on a portfolio now, here are some suggestions. Commence reading from such publications as Marion Halligan’s Eat My Words, Gay Bilson’s Plenty: Digressions on Food, Barbara Santich’s Looking for Flavour, the anthology Forked Tongues from the University of Adelaide’s Creative Writing Program, then try writing about similar issues. Try writing, for example:

  • restaurant reviews
  • wine reviews
  • about recipes your mother cooks
  • about the worst meal in your life
  • about your desert island foods
  • about travel and food
  • about the history of food
  • about your favourite cooking implements
  • about food in your family
  • about food in literature, or film or visual art”

I am looking to build my portfolio, so my next blogs will be a series that follows one of each of these prompts, perhaps including reviews of the books that the website suggests in the first paragraph. I’ll skip restaurant reviews for now since I already have a couple of them. Look for the first one tomorrow!

tumblrbot said: ROBOTS OR DINOSAURS?

Robosaurs.

Sweet Potato Pie: The Neglected Cousin of Pumpkin Pie

Originally posted on 1/3/13

Sweet potatoes are surging in popularity of late, thanks to sweet potato fries and other sweet potato products becoming more widely available on the food scene. Foodies and average diners alike are always eager to sample something new, especially if it is in-keeping with another popular trend: nutrition. Sweet potatoes are rich in 
vitamins, minerals, and fiber, adding to their nutrition appeal (click on the links in the text for more nutrient info!).

Many people mistake sweet potatoes for yams, which is unfortunate, because yams are bland, unrelated vegetables that are not interchangeable with the flavorful, bright sweet potato. In my quest to try new things and to deviate from the norm, I found a recipe for sweet potato pie and decided to try it out.

I bought some individually shrink-wrapped sweet potatoes from the local grocery store. They were a better price, and they were much easier, faster, and neater to cook than naked sweet potatoes; I just had to microwave them for seven minutes in their shrink wrap rather than boiling or baking them for two to four times as long. Next, I blended the softened butter with the cooked, peeled sweet potato using an electric mixer. The recipe calls for one cup of white granulated sugar, but I used 2/3 c. brown sugar and 1/3 c. white sugar because I believe that the brown sugar perfectly complements the sweet flavor of the root vegetable and lends color and a richness to the pie. After adding the sugar to the mixture, I put in the eggs, spices, milk, and flavoring, making sure to sufficiently aerate the batter (for a minute or two), since the pie is essentially a custard. If the eggs are not whipped well enough, the pie will be dense and gelatinous with an uneven flavor rather than fluffy and smooth.

When the batter was finished, I poured it into an unbaked pie crust that I had made approximately a month ago and frozen. I rolled it out and it was still in perfect condition! The pie needs to bake for an hour at 350 degrees. This amount of time may seem excessive, but, trust me, the end product is well worth it! The finished pie is light, sweet, and creamy, with a crisp and chewy crust. I would highly recommend this simple, delicious recipe. Bon appetit!

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Pho America: Though the Name Suggests Treason, the Food Fulfills the American Pursuit of Happiness

Originally posted on 1/3/13

My roommate and I frequent a little Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of PCH and Pacific Avenue in Long Beach, CA that has the best, most reasonably priced pho around, among a nice selection of other dishes. They offer such delectable appetizers as spring rolls, egg rolls, fried tofu, sugar cane shrimp, and wontons. Main dish categories include rice dishes, vermicelli dishes, pho, and vegetarian options.

I almost always go with the beef pho (Pho Chin Nam, or pho with well-done steak and flank), while my roommate selects the chicken pho or the veggie tofu pho. Whichever protein you choose to grace your rice noodle soup with, the broth is always savory and delicious. The pho comes in two sizes; the regular size is plenty of food, but there is also a large option. Oyster sauce, “rooster sauce” (also known as Sriracha, or chili garlic sauce), sambal oelek (chili sauce), chopsticks, soup spoons, utensil roll-ups, and napkins are pre-set on the table. Before the pho comes out (always in an extremely timely manner, usually no more than five minutes), the waiter or waitress places a plate of garnish on the table. This plate contains the basics: a generous bunch of Thai basil, a pile of bean sprouts, a whole, fresh, sliced jalapeno, and at least two large lime wedges.

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As an appetizer, we got the shrimp spring rolls, which come with a sweet and spicy peanut sauce and a bonus dish of fish sauce. A bright mix of vegetables, fresh shrimp, and rice noodles wrapped in rice paper, one is large enough for two people to share. Their Thai iced tea is incredible, and the chrysanthemum tea is refreshing and light. Sometimes I get a large cup of hot green tea, which is complementary. When the bill came, we were each out $12, including tip (that’s with a shared appetizer, two bowls of pho, and three drinks). At these prices, we considered dessert, but were fully sated already. Though we didn’t have room for dessert this time, the Thai Tropical Fruit Dessert, Mango Madness, and Tri-Colors Dessert caught my eye. Next time, lovelies… next time.

Go and see for yourself!

Kristy’s Wood Oven and Wine Bar: The Halfway-Point Rendezvous Between Long Beach and Santa Barbara

Originally posted on 12/22/12

Kristy’s, located off of PCH in Malibu, is a quaint brunch spot that’s tucked away in the cliffs above Zuma Beach. My friend and I chose it because it was halfway between Santa Barbara and Long Beach, our respective towns of residence. The view, as many California beachside restaurants can boast, is simply breathtaking. When my companion and I visited Kristy’s last weekend, it was a rainy December day, which only meant that the scenery was a different degree of stunning. On sunny days, the glass-walled patio would be a wise choice, but we opted for the coveted spot during the fall and winter months: nestled up next to the free-standing vintage fireplace. Greeted by the friendly staff after parking in the private parking lot comprised of plenty of terraced, two-to-a-cubby individual parking spaces, we were seated right away.

 The decor was a pleasant mix of modern and vintage that somehow went together perfectly. The salt and pepper on the table were kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper in an open dish with two wells and a demitasse spoon. Our server directed our attention to the unique “Tabanero” sauce (a fiery, flavorful blend of Tabasco and habanero sauces) on the table beside the salt and pepper. My companion and I each ordered house water (we were also offered sparkling or still bottled water) and Kristy’s signature brunch beverage, a POGmosa ($9). This delightful concoction is a combination of cava wine with passion orange guava juice from Maui. My friend also got a cup of Illy coffee ($4), which was excellent, as always. When our drinks came, we were ready to order!

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My friend ordered the Benedict of the Day ($19), which comes with their stellar rosemary potatoes and a lovely fruit and muffin plate (containing a blackberry muffin that was made in-house that morning, slices of pear, strawberries, and pineapple). I went traditional, with the Classic Breakfast ($15). I got two eggs any style (in my case, scrambled egg whites), the brightly-flavored and perfectly seasoned rosemary potatoes, bacon (the other two options are ham steak or sausage), and the pretty, delicious fruit and muffin plate. It was the perfect amount of food, and the Tabanero added just the right amount of heat and flavor to our dishes. The only flaw that either one of us could find in our tasty, satisfying brunch was that the Eggs Benedict were overcooked, the yolks’ consistency being more hard-boiled than poached, though the flavor was impeccable. The prices are a bit on the high side for young professionals and college students, but are completely reasonable considering the high quality of the ingredients and the freshness, flavor, and obvious care that goes into each part of every dish.

 On the way out, we noticed the flowers that lined the stone trail leading us back to our cars in the parking lot.  The sweet, colorful garden was peppered with wooden signs that displayed lines of poetry and quotes from famous authors. It was a fitting end to a lovely meal with a poetry of bright flavors, and I will definitely be visiting again soon!

 

Pay them a visit!

As the world doesn’t end, my blog is reborn!

Originally posted 12/21/12

I’m back!!

Yes, it’s been over two years, but I have returned.

Since my last post, I’ve been busy! I moved to Long Beach after getting accepted to California State University, Long Beach to finish my Nutrition and Dietetics degree. I worked at a private club as a Banquet Cook, and then at a local hospital as a Catering Associate and Diet Clerk in order to gain experience for my Nutrition career. Now, I’m refocusing my skill-building on Management and Journalism.

I’d like to eventually get into School Foodservice, being an Administrative Dietitian for a school district. My path to that career includes finishing my Bachelor’s in Nutrition, getting into Utah State University’s distance Dietetic Internship, passing the Registered Dietitian exam, and getting into Framingham State University’s distance Master’s degree program in Education with a School Nutrition Specialist certification and specialization. Somewhere in that mix, I would like to earn my certificate in Journalism through UCLA Extension so that I can be better equipped to achieve my dream job, which is to be a Food and Nutrition Writer.

Though I definitely have a passion for Nutrition, my passion for the written word has never left me, and I feel compelled to find a career niche that indulges my three passions: food, nutrition, and writing. Writing, and everything that goes along with it (grammar, spelling, punctuation, editing, etc.), come naturally and easily to me, though there’s always room for improvement in the skills that we are blessed with. I also immensely enjoy writing, and I feel that it would be conducive to having a family one day, since careers in writing sometimes offer you the option of telecommuting.

With this blog post, I’m dusting off the cobwebs and refocusing my purpose, which is now to try out a variety of miscellaneous writing angles (interviews, ingredient profiles, recipes, easy meal ideas, food critiques, food trends, etc.) and find my professional writing voice.

*Ahem, ahem! Mi mi mi mi miiiiii…*

My next post (hopefully tomorrow!) will be a restaurant review of Kristy’s Wood Oven and Wine Bar in Malibu, CA where I had (spoiler alert) an excellent brunch last weekend!

Good night, and tasty dreams!

Here we go.

Originally posted 10/25/10

"Oh, this is the start of something good… Don’t you agree?" -Gavin DeGraw

Welcome to Operation Degustation, a blog that marries my love of all things food and all things written. Definition 6a of Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary explains “operation” in the way that I mean it: “a usually military action, mission, or maneuver including its planning and execution.” Wikipedia defines “degustation” as “a culinary term meaning ‘a careful, appreciative tasting of various foods’ and focusing on the gustatory system, the senses, high culinary art and good company.” That sounds fabulous to me! As a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, I’ve definitely heard the word before, but never truly understood it. This I seek to do through cooking, eating, and writing, which are probably my top 3 interests… But this isn’t a dating site, so I digress. The origin of the word “degustation” is French (just add a few accent marks, and voila! French. By the way, there should be an accent grave over that a in “voila”, but, um, I’m on a laptop and can’t figure it out… haha…), and at some point, I would love to travel there since I figure that if they came up with the word, they must truly understand it. For now, I’m a struggling college student who is working and trying to pay off all of these debts that I’ve accrued in the process of becoming a grownup! This leaves little time and money for fine dining, or fine ingredients, so I have to get creative. I love to cook, but always have SO many leftovers since it’s only my roommate and I, so I’ll address that problem as well, hopefully with weekly dinner parties with friends! I live in such an adorable part of San Diego that’s full of little restaurants, food markets, farmers’ markets, and specialty shops- a veritable chef and foodie mecca. I’m absolutely going to explore what the neighborhood has to offer my taste buds. I’ll touch on budget shopping, too, since all you need in order to turn some plain ol’ staples into a great meal is creativity and flavor. Flavor is also crucial to the field of Nutrition, which my second degree (that I’m working on now) will be in, so I’ll touch on using flavor to make healthy food less scary. I’m so excited to embark on this culinary journey, attempting to put into words the flavors, flavor combos, and new ingredients that I discover and experience along the way!