Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Before coming to Thailand, I had never been on a motorcycle. Two of my friends from home have crazy stories involving meeting men for the sole purpose of riding on the back of a motorcycle. But, such an opportunity had never presented itself. Pre-Thailand I sometimes joked with Brian that I would probably spend all my time on the back of his motorbike, arms wrapped around him tightly and shielding my eyes between his shoulder blades.
Surprisingly, I adjusted to motorbike riding pretty quickly. For some reason it does feel safer than motorcycle riding in the States, although it wouldn't directly appear that way. Everyone driving around here seems much more aware of other people on the road. Plus, it's much superior to the alternative modes of transportation around the city - pedal bike, and tuk-tuk.
So when Brian said we would be heading to Khanom this weekend by motorbike I didn't think much of it. He had done the trip before, and it's about an hour. He was driving, and I had the backpack full of clothes and a computer, and a side bag for the books and cameras. Wow, is long distance motorbike traveling not what I was expecting. Fifteen minutes in my butt was numb, and my feet were asleep from resting on the pedals near the engine.
On the way down Friday night, there was some rain, and the most beautiful rainbow I've ever seen in person. It was like something out of a story, at one point it actually appeared to drop off into a patch of green, and it looked like had we veered off the road we might have found the pot of gold at the end of it.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Extreme international long distance dating has its disadvantages to be sure. Chief among them is the impossibility of a first date. That would only be possible with an expensive and lengthy transcontinental flight. So, after being in Thailand for about a week, B surprised me with a fairly elaborate plan for a date night.
First up, B got home from teaching and we headed downtown. There he lead me to an ice cream parlor, Swensen's. I'm talking something straight out of 1920s Americana. There was a huge gleaming counter, the waitresses wear read uniforms, and the sundaes were served in big glass dishes. I went for this Snick-Choc concoction of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream, caramel, a Snickers and a chocolate waffle cone piece. These people were not fooling around.
Next it was time to have a beer on the pier and watch the sunset. Which it does brilliantly and with startlingly accuracy at 6:30 every evening.
Then, dinner not yet ruined by ice cream and beer we headed for hamburgers and french fries at a tiny hole in the wall restaurant. I won't sugar coat it, the cheese on these bad boys was a little odd. But part of me was really happy to be eating a hamburger, as they constitute one of my favorite food groups. They are also my idea of perfect date food.
B: "No one is going to be interested of a picture of a burger in Thailand."
From there we hurried to this giant department store with a theater at the top of it. We got tickets for the only movie showing with an American soundtrack - Pirates 4. I had been planning on seeing that movie sometime around the 4th of Never, but the act of movie going was symbolic, and I like seeing movies in theaters. This one was really nice, but sort of like sitting in a meat locker. Also the popcorn is really really good. Sadly the soda was a bit too sweet, there's something about all the soda here, even the American stuff, that seems just a touch off.
Either way, it was a lovely night. One worth waiting for.
Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Farang is the general all purpose Thai phrase for "white person." To which, with my extremely pale skin, I definitely fit the bill. It also definitely draws stares from time to time. Especially when I'm furiously pedaling down Talad Mai on a hand me down pedal bike. These days, Brian is working again, entrapped at school from 7:30 to 4:30, this leaves me with most of the day to do as I see fit. Since he has no Internet at home, there's only so long I can go before my obsessive need to stare at my laptop gets the better of me. This is sort of like my need to mix butter, sugar and flour and bake but stronger and more intense. To which for several hours a day, I go by my nickname - crazy farang in the coffee shop. Still the coffee shops aren't busy, and I order a steady litany of drinks and foods. So hopefully I'm ingratiating myself. And hopefully I'm mumbling "thank you" in Thai correctly.
Something I've learned, if you find yourself at a coffee shop in Surat Thani and they don't respond to a smile, pointing at your laptop and saying "password", try some combination of 1122334455, it's very popular. Also much can be achieved through glancing at things, like fans in an un-air-conditioned coffee shop and smiling. When in doubt, nod at
Monday, May 16, 2011
Yesterday afternoon I finally made it to Thailand. So far I've been battling two formidable opponents, jet lag and the heat. Neither of which are kidding around, and both trying really hard to kick my ass. But then as I'm sitting here at this coffee shop, visiting the internet while my personal tour guide, aka Brian, has some teacher's meeting. And the skies just opened pouring rain. I'm sitting outside on an open air porch, because this is where the one outlet is and the breeze coming in off the rain is amazing.
Now on to more important topics, like food. Last night we went to the night market, where we had some slightly spicy, delicious concoction I forget the name of at the moment. But today for lunch he took me to "the rice lady." I had the pad krapow moo (fried rice with pork) and Brian had the pad krapow gui (fried rice with chicken). Both worth writing home about. Mmmmm. Thai food.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Spring is here! Kind of. It's been warm and sunny, but still windy and chilly. I really wanted to go strawberry picking and make strawberry rhubarb jam. But the strawberries aren't ready, and I'm too busy packing and cleaning to make jam. Even so I was determined to make something with the rhubarb, before I went and left the country and missed rhubarb season entirely.
So Sunday afternoon I made these Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars. My they were good. The perfect amount of sweet and tart and soft. Trust me on this one. Make these immediately. They taste and smell like summer.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb Bars
adapted slightly from Martha Stewart
For The Streusel
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus room-temperature butter for pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
For The Cake
1/4 pound rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch pieces*
1/4 pound strawberries, quartered*
1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour, (spooned and leveled)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides. Butter and flour parchment and pan, tapping out excess flour. (I didn't use the parchment, and I had no problem getting the bars out of the pan).
Make streusel: Whisk together butter, brown sugar, and salt. Add flour and mix with a fork until large crumbs form. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Make cake: In a medium bowl, combine rhubarb (and / or strawberries), brown sugar, and 1/4 cup flour. In another medium bowl, whisk 3/4 cup flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and confectioners' sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, one at a time. With mixer on low, beat in vanilla, then flour mixture. Spread batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle with rhubarb and top with streusel.
Bake cake until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan. Using paper overhang, lift cake from pan. Cut into 16 bars.
* Martha only uses rhubarb, but mentions you can substitute up to half of it with strawberries. I didn't really measure the berries and rhubarb by weight, I just cut up some of both, tossed them in the flour and sugar and spread them on top of the cake. I didn't want just a smattering of fruit, I wanted lots of it. I recommend you follow this impulse.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Well we could sing "It's a Long Way to Tipperary."
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Last Show
Yesterday was my last Bleier Center screening. Sometime last year I started baking regularly for the screenings. It was just a way for me to get to try new recipes out on a weekly and willing audience. Plus it was fun. Then it became my thing. Since this was going to be my last one, I figured I should go out with a bang. A rainbow layer cake and ice cream cone cupcakes. The baking is complicated by the fact that I have class Monday nights from 5-8:30. By the time I get home it's closer to 9. Occasionally I program too much for myself, but this time I planned ahead.
On Sunday night I came home and made the cake layers. Although I was obviously inspired by Whisk Kid's Super Epic Rainbow Cake, that she described the cake as a more complicated alteration of a coconut cake base didn't sound appealing. When I made a pink/purple pastel version for Liz's birthday I used this Martha Stewart recipe. So I used that recipe again for this cake and dyed the layers darker rainbow colors. Also I highly recommend this icing color set from Wilton. Life-saving.
I baked the layers on Sunday, let them cool completely and wrapped them in plastic wrap until Monday night when I compiled and frosted. Sadly during the baking and cooling of the layers, something happened to Mr. Yellow. This turned out to be fine, because this cake barely fit in the cake carrier with four layers. I should have made another layer and made them smaller, or cut them down more. C'est la vie. I frosted it with the Swiss Meringue Buttercream of Glory. For anyone using Deb's frosting recipe portion's, I made a batch 1 1/2 times the recipe for a 9 inch cake. Last time I made the big batch, and had way too much left over. This gave me just enough.
But of course, it wasn't enough to make a giant rainbow layer cake. I decided to make Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes. Trying not to overextend myself, I did use a box mix. Funfetti for the win!
Ice Cream Cone Cupcakes
from Betty Crocker
1 box cake mix
24 cake cones
sprinkles, for decoration
Heat oven to 350F. Place paper baking cup in each of 24 regular-size muffin cups. Make cake batter as directed on box. Fill each cup 2/3 full of batter (1 heaping tablespoon each - this will look like not enough, but it's plenty). Place ice cream cone upside down on batter in each cup.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in cake comes out clean. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove paper baking cups. Generously frost cake with frosting, and decorate with sprinkles as desired. Store loosely covered.
Different blogs suggested different ways to frost and transport these. But since I already needed to carry an unstable cake, I knew there was no way to do that well. The best though involved lining up 8 of them in a loaf pan, but my loaf pan is heavy and I needed to carry all 24. I ended up laying the cones with wrappers on in Tupperware containers. I made two batches of frosting (Buttercream and Nutella Buttercream) and put those in separate tupperwares. Then I frosted them as needed for people at the screening using a spoon. Basically if you plan on traveling with these, I would pack and frost.
But my heart's right there
Monday, May 2, 2011
Even thought my food loving Professor has been recommending this place to me as the best Mexican food in Syracuse, for the better part of two years, I hadn't made it out there. Some other friends went and had mixed reviews (note to self: don't trust their food opinions). Also the owners close up shop during the winter, which let's face it, is most of the time here. But they just opened back up for the Summer.
This is the Mexican platter, featuring some kind of pork, the chilis and cheese filling, plus all the fixins' and two tortillas. I also got this amazing dulce de leche flan. So sad I didn't try this place out sooner.