Food, Musing, Review

Season Opener at Sebastian Joe’s

{Originally posted at SKC}

There is no state that celebrates the metaphorical season opener of spring – you know, that first day where it’s perfect outside, the sun is shining, and it’s time to find your shorts – like Minnesota. Spring to me has always meant the D.C. Cherry Blossom Festival, wonderful in its own right, but after I moved to Minnesota for college I experienced a true spring awakening: the true appreciation for spring one gets after surviving three, four months of bitter cold and snow, followed by rainy mud. We probably have the whitest legs of any state, and I never thought I’d see people wearing shorts at 45 degrees, but to some of us in Minnesota, 45 degrees is a whole 55 degrees warmer than January temperatures, so we’ll take it, thank you very much.

The strange temperatures this year meant that even Minnesota barely had a winter. We emerged from the worst of it unscathed, only a few paltry piles of snow to show for it. Normally spring creeps up slowly, achingly, for most of March, April, and sometimes May, with ceaseless rains and dirty puddles. This past week, however, has been beautiful – dry ground, birds, weather in the 60′s, all of it. It’s a true miracle. Driving past the lakes of Minneapolis, I was amazed at the sheer amount of people outside, but knew that they were celebrating with me as well. If there’s one thing you can always talk about here, my housemate likes to say, it’s the weather. But this week no one even had to talk – everyone just smiled.

I decided to celebrate the best way I know how – ice cream. March seems early but sitting outside, the temperature warm enough to melt some ice cream down my fingers, it didn’t feel early at all. There is nothing better than enjoying the first cone of the season, especially at Sebastian Joe’s, a Minneapolis staple. They have delicious coffee roasted in-house and a stunning array of flavors that change daily. I was clearly in high spirits as I chose to order a scoop of what is called “Immaculate Confection”, a mix of ginger, lemon, and apple strudel pieces. Although I normally love luxurious flavors like chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter, I didn’t want something over the top. It’s easy to see how this flavor got its name: the ginger kick, the apple sweetness, and the bright citrus make it out-of-the-ordinary perfection. Immaculate Confection is the ideal combination for a sun-filled day.

Food, Recipe

Raise a Glass at a Champagne Cocktail Bar

Champagne is a wonderful thing. It’s relatively healthy compared to other alcoholic calorie bombs (lookin’ at you, Long Island Iced Teas, which I do love, but only in moderation – or maybe ignorance is bliss?) It has that touch of class. It’s pretty. A few weeks ago a housemate of mine and I wanted to throw a pre-party for a bunch of friends, but realized we didn’t have the bank accounts to provide tons of booze. General free-f0r-all alcohol pot-lucks can be tricky as oftentimes what people bring doesn’t really add up to a cohesive drink. What would be fun and organized, but also cheap for everyone involved? The answer: champagne. For this lovely DIY Champagne Bar, guests can bring $5 bottles. You don’t need to roll fancy. By providing instructions for various drinks, you give your guests the chance to increase their bottle’s potential sixfold. Provide delicious syrups and mix-ins, and I guarantee it will be a success!

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Food, Recipe

Banana “Ice Cream”

I already had a lot of respect for bananas as they are one of the only fruits to have an awesome, arguably better use when they are practically rotten (banana bread.) But bananas have been holding out on you. Bananas….

….can be ice cream.

What’s that? Yeah, you heard me. When I first learned this secret, I was shocked. It seemed like some weird raw-foodie trick that probably wouldn’t taste as good as the real thing. I was skeptical, but I was even more curious. I froze a banana. I stuck it in the blender. It took a little scraping down the side and a little prodding with a fork and a little constant stop-and-start blending action, but lo and behind, I scooped it out and into a bowl and….wow. Creamy, smooth, rich – this is the real deal. Ever since, I’ve kept a constant supply of peeled frozen bananas in my freezer.

The greatest thing about banana “ice cream” is that it is versatile. Craving chocolate ice cream? Add cocoa powder, syrup, or chocolate chips. Fruit? Blend in frozen berries. Nuts? You got it. This is a healthier, but by no means sacrificial dessert.

Banana “Ice Cream”

Serves 1

1 1/2 frozen bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2″ pieces

2-3 teaspoons almond/coconut/soy/regular milk

2 dashes cinnamon

1 tablespoon honey

Add bananas, cinnamon, and honey to a blender. Pulse on low, constantly scraping banana chunks down the side, until it starts becoming creamy. Add the milk as needed to achieve desired consistency, but not too much as you don’t want this to turn into a regular old smoothie. When it looks like soft-serve, spoon into a bowl. Sprinkle with desired toppings or just enjoy plain!

Food, Musing

International Cupcake Guide on SmallKitchenCollege

My travels last year included a very special cultural journey of sorts. I was obsessed with cupcakes at home, but found that when I went abroad, they had just become popular in Europe. And besides that, it became apparent that cupcakes aren’t a universal treat at all. They are very culturally significant to the U.S., and I spoke with cupcakery owners (yes, cupcakery is the name for a cupcake bakery!) about their experiences opening businesses in various cities.

In Germany I learned that some Germans first thought cupcakes were candles, too pretty to be edible. They didn’t understand the massive amounts of frosting, as most German cakes are dry with fruit, alcohol, and cream fillings. Cupcakes were marketed in both Spain and Germany as “muffins” with something extra. My Danish host family thought the cupcakes were definitely “very sweet,” but good.

There was an article written in the Washington Post recently titled “The psychology of cupcakes.” What does our love of cupcakes signify about us as a culture? Are we “hungry for hugs,” connecting cupcakes to a bite-sized amount of personal happiness? Are we trying to be connected to a larger experience, thus explaining our patronizing of cupcakeries and tolerance for long lines? Is it about the creative, new-wave food movement centered around intricate flavor pairings and cupcake decoratings? Or is it just another product of capitization, a fetish that reflects our narcissism as “socially disconnected individuals?”

You tell me. But first, a cupcake while you mull it over?

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