Cold, Wet, Jazzy Sunday

Ham PieUnfortunately, the music today was also pretty terrible. You could tell the motivation just wasn’t there, because so many people weren’t there, because it was just so insistent with the rain. We’d intended to get brunch at Vitus, since a zippy-looking band was scheduled to play there, but when we got there, the sky had already opened up and everything inside was absolutely packed. So we mosied over to the Hotel Orphée instead. After a little bit of confusion with the waitress (we didn’t know they had a special Jazzfest Weekend menu and she didn’t know we’d been looking at the ordinary one), huddling together under a drippy awning outside we enjoyed a lovely couple of Milchkaffees and Quiche Lorraine — known to the likes of Po fondly as “ham pie.”

So, without further ado, today’s audio samplage:

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p7133731 p7133732 p7133735 p7133737

p7133727And just for good measure: here’s a couple of Döner spindles. I guess the one on the left is in the process of thawing.

p7133739Oh, and a THINGpad? (Click it and look closely.) I guess, for many around here, “sink,” “think,” “thing,” and “think” are all mutually indistinguishable.

Big Cuke / Chess Fest 2008 opening night

First the interesting part — check out this cucumber we spotted at Edeka today while shopping!

Big Cuke

Next, a sampler from Chess Fest 2008’s opening night last night:

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Locals: wondering why Sarah’s not to be found outside the apartment this weekend? Here’s why. To be fair, the weather was positively awful. The wind noise at the beginning of the track was that of wind getting amplified through the salsa band’s microphones and speakers, not my MD recorder. It was pouring. So I gotta give ‘em credit for gumption inspite of the weather, at least.

I’m hoping for some less whitebread-sounding stuff this evening. Stumbling upon something as cool as the Jazz Police like at last year’s Bürgerfest would be redeeming.

Jazzfest Jazzfest Jazzfest

Has he had a talk with Steve?

So I’m chillin’ here at home after a hard day at work and checking out some tunes I purchased recently and I came across Beck’s Dark Star from the album The Information. Seemed pretty familiar pretty quickly. Take a listen; the first 30 seconds are my man Steve and the second are Beck. Is that an out-and-out ripoff?

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what is that god-awful medley?

So I’m lounging comfortably with all the windows open enjoying the breeze, for the first time in days, I might add, where there’s been breeze and no rain, having worked all day from home.

Suddenly a piano-y folky terribly offkey uptempo version of Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Going to Take It which medley’d into the Proclaimers’ 500 Miles from the not-very-groundbreaking album Sunshine on Leith (ZOMG why do I know that?) .

Oh, crap. It’s Gassenfest.

Oh Lord, now it’s a gospel version of Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning.

Mirabelle

The Joint

Mirabelle
Drei-Mohren-Str. 11
93047 Regensburg

Tel: +49 941 5956550

Cliff

Mais oui, c’est tres charmant!

We didn’t do our annual (?) Frenchy (road) trip this year. I have been missing something all Spring and unable to put my finger on it. I’d been trying to fill that hole void with imported cheese (ask Sarah, she’ll vouch): in casseroles, appetizers, even straight. It was all very tasty, but none of it was hitting my Gallic spot. Last night, I think I got a little closer to it. Mirabelle did the trick.

This place was hard to get into on our first attempt — we called one afternoon and asked for a reservation later that evening and were regretfully and politely, yet resolutely, turned down. On our next attempt we booked about a week in advance. The maitre d’ who took our reservation considerately asked whether there was a particular occasion we were celebrating. “No no, just four friends having dinner” was my answer. “Na, prima. Bis Dienstag, 19:00 Uhr dann. Vielen Dank!” Even the reservation-making was pleasant (to be fair, she was quite nice when turning us down, too).

I didn’t sample the wines, but did appreciate Alte Liebe — my favorite brand of dark wheat beer which is a little hard to find around here, even though it’s brewed in a nearby town. It’s in no way French, but I know what I like, and none of the non-German beers on my list are French. I thumbed through the menu and oohed and ahhed at the beef and lamb offerings…but in the end I opted for the menu: smoked salmon salad, pork tips with a side of ratatouille, and some kind of carrot/potato mash thing followed up by Bayerisch Créme* in a fresh berry sauce. All very good — even the carrot/potato mash thing.

My only suggestion for improvement (and I freely admit this is really picky of me): the waitress seemed a little less…fitting to the atmosphere. In contrast to the setting, the telephone experience and the food itself, she seemed just a little off in terms of timing: finding the opportune moment to clear the table or the pause in our conversation to offer drinks, etc. Or even reaching across the table to grab empty dishes where I would have expected her to walk around and retrieve from the proper side.

I am glad our friends were pleased with the place, especially since it was new to them too. It’s nice when “locals” (to the extent that we don’t yet qualify) thank us for our local gastronomic joie de vivre.

Sarah

Très charmant, indeed. I was impressed from the moment we set foot in the joint. Honestly, the décor struck me as a little dark for summer dining, but we were led out to a lovely little terrasse – which Cliff didn’t specifically ask for in the reservation, so that was encouraging. I had a glass of Riesling (yeah, I know it’s not French – don’t you judge me) which could have been a little colder, but was light and really fresh tasting without being overly dry. Kerstin, one of our dining companions, had an equally lovely Grüner Veltliner.

The food was the impetus for our visit, though, and it was enough to help stave off regrets of not making it to France this year. I had the rolls of goat-cheese-stuffed roasted eggplant, dressed with vinaigrette, marinated tomatoes (think bruschetta topping) and pesto. These are all ingredients that I love, so I was pretty much in heaven. Plus, this was a cold, antpasti-type of thing and it’s been pretty hot and miserable here, so it was a great seasonal offering. The main course was a stuffed red pepper, filled with ground lamb, ratatouille, roasted cauliflower and the same mashed potato/carrot thing that Cliff had. It was all very good and prettily presented, but it wasn’t particularly innovative or surprising, like some of the meals that we’ve had in France. Dessert was a mixed-berry crème brulée – small, but creamy and potent.

I was, like Cliff, a little puzzled by our server. This place was so unfailingly professional and polished on all other fronts that her bad timing and chilliness (polite, but seemingly on the edge of irritability) was almost jarring. Maybe she was having a bad day. But we didn’t! We were so looking forward to our dinner at Mirabelle – it’s nice when things live up to your expectations.

Coconut Cake with 7-Minute Frosting

Coconut Cake Got inspired to try this one after Carolyn and Max sent over some links to the Food Network’s “Good Eats” show on YouTube. I’d read others’ raves about Alton Brown and the show, and I guess it’s a good thing I haven’t discovered the show until now. Neat stuff to be seen, then prepared, then enjoyed.

As usual, there are some recipe fluctuations to be had here, due to availability of ingredients and the particulars of our kitchen. I’m posting our adaptation, but you should compare it with the original if you’re interested in the famous version. Generally we try to stay true to the original, but sometimes that results in less than appetizing results.

There was a learning curve on several fronts in effect. That’s part of the reason why it took us ALL FREAKIN’ DAY to hack up that coconut, make the cake, let it cool, hook up the frosting. And the icing on the cake — so to speak — is that we can’t fit the cake in our cake transporter into the fridge to cool off. It (the transporter, not the cake itself) is too big. So our cake won’t get the chill it richly deserves before we try it out for dessert tonight (and breakfast tomorrow?).

Oh, and speaking of breakfast tomorrow: if you have to tap into a new can of coconut cream just to make this (or another recipe) and end up with some left over, fear not! Substitute it in for cream for a delightfully tropical twist to your morning coffee. On with the show!

  • 1 coconut, see Cook’s Note
    For the cake:

  • 14 1/4 ounces flour, plus extra for pans, approximately 3 cups (can’t seem to find any flour with a lower number than 405 at the Edeka near us)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (kosher salt? I could swear I’ve seen it here in Regensburg, but we couldn’t find it today when looking for it)
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut milk (we used canned stuff)
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut cream (we used canned stuff) – not to be confused with Cream of Coconut!
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 16 ounces sugar, approximately 2 1/4 cups
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract (we couldn’t find anything like this at the Asian market near us, nor the smaller supermarket — maybe Kaufland? The lady at the Asian market broke into her suprisingly good English (not at our request) to explain that she knew what we were looking for but that it’s hard to find in Germany…wonder why?! Anyway, we had to replace this ingredient with vanilla extract entirely.)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1/3 cup coconut water
    For the 7-Minute Frosting:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 3/4 cups
  • 1/3 cup coconut water
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (same deal with the kosher salt as above)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (we beefed this up to a whole teaspoon since we didn’t have any coconut extract…hope the coconut flavor doesn’t get overwhelmed by vanilla)
  • Grated coconut from 1 coconut, approximately 8 to 10 ounces

Cook’s Note: To open a coconut: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the coconut onto a folded towel set down in a large bowl. Find the 3 eyes on 1 end of the coconut and using a nail or screwdriver and hammer or meat mallet, hammer holes into 2 of the eyes. Turn the coconut upside down over a container and drain the water from the coconut. Store the water in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Place the coconut onto a 1/2 sheet pan and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. The coconut should have cracked in several places. Using an oyster knife or other dull blade, separate the hard shell from the brown husk. Using a serrated vegetable peeler, peel the brown husk from the coconut meat. Rinse the coconut meat under cool water and pat dry. Break the meat into 2 to 3-inch pieces. With the grater disk attached to a food processor, grate the coconut.

That SO didn’t work as planned.

  • We didn’t get nearly as much coconut water as expected out of ours. The recipe calls for one coconut and 1/3 cup coconut water. I reckon we got a couple tablespoons, max. And that was after selecting the single juiciest-sounding coconut at the store.
  • Baking the coconut as instructed yielded no cracks to speak of and I absolutely couldn’t wedge a cheap, blunt, old knife into the outer shell. It just wouldn’t work. So we had to resort to the web. Thankfully, Sarah found this guide to bashing open a coconut. Method #1 worked for us; which is good because we don’t really have any concrete steps or curbs to do our prep work on.
  • The hopper on our food processor lost its plunger a ways back due to mysterious cracks. Consequently we’ve been grating stuff in our food processor with either the weight of the food-to-be-grated as the downward force or by carefully grinding it (carrots for example, when we’re making plov) down as far as we we dare skewered on the end of a fork. That was tricky this time because of the density (lower than a carrot), flexibility (moreso than a carrot) and shape (less fitting to the shape of our hopper) of the coconut flesh pieces. Somehow we managed to get it done, but there was a fair amount of coconut strewn about the kitchen.

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour (or just use Baker’s Joy and revel in it!) a 9×13″ baking pan. Set aside.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

Combine the coconut milk and coconut cream in small bowl and set aside.

Place the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer and using the paddle attachment, cream on medium speed until fluffy, approximately 1 minute. Decrease the speed to low and gradually add the sugar slowly over 1 to 2 minutes. Once all of the sugar has been added, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides. Turn the mixer back on to medium speed and continue creaming until the mixture noticeably lightens in texture and increases slightly in volume, approximately 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the coconut extract.

With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture to the butter and sugar in 3 batches, ending with the milk mixture. Do not over mix.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the batter, just until combined. Bang the pan on the counter top several times to remove any air and to distribute the batter evenly in the pan. Place in the oven on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is light golden in color and reaches an internal temperature of 200°F.

Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes then remove and transfer to a cooling rack. Once the cake has cooled completely cut across the equator to form 2 layers. Place the 1/3 cup coconut water into a small spritz bottle and spray evenly onto the cut side of the 2 layers. If you do not have a spritz bottle you may brush the coconut water on with a silicone pastry brush. We didn’t have enough coconut water to do this part at all. Allow to sit while preparing the frosting.

Frosting:

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium to maintain a steady simmer. In the meantime, place the egg whites, sugar, coconut water, cream of tartar and salt into a medium size-mixing bowl. Place the bowl over the simmering water and immediately begin beating with an electric hand mixer set to low speed. Beat for 1 minute and then increase the speed to high and continue to beat for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in the coconut and vanilla extracts for 1 minute. Allow the frosting to sit for 5 minutes before using.

Coconut CakePlace approximately 3/4 cup of the frosting on the first layer of cake, sprinkle with 1/2 cup coconut and top with the next layer. Repeat until you reach the top layer. Frost the top and sides of the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Coconut Cake OK, as mentioned above we couldn’t get our cake to fit in the fridge to chill and with the weather recently an outside chill is also not an option. Maybe this cake is a better winter option for us just for that reason. We could have maybe sliced our single layer rectangle in two pieces to create a layer and use up our extra frosting that way (and why oh why do we habitually have about twice as much frosting as we need?!), but we definitely wouldn’t have had enough coconutty fluffy love to spread around two layers. Therefore: next time TWO coconuts suffer the vengeful wrath of the blunt side of my cheap Chinese cleaver — and maybe we’ll get enough coconut water out that way — and maybe we’ll get someone to smuggle some coconut extract into the country for us (100ml is still carry-on-safe!). And then we can try this whole thing again from the start.

Indiana “Goonie” Jones and the Kingdom of Dr Pepper

Good news and bad news.

A colleague visiting from the U.S. brought us two twelve-packs — one each of Dr Pepper and Mug Root Beer. How cool is that? I’m having a cold Dr Pepper right now. It’s the first one in I don’t know how long. And it’s not even a fountain drink from one of the local Subway restaurants (you can get Barq’s there, but the mix is usually off). Given that we even dilute fruit juice with fizzy water to make Schorles, a full-strength cold Dr Pepper is knocking my socks off.

But that’s not the only of my senses to be teased with a twist of Americana this evening. We just got back from an OV* showing of the most recent (last? please?) installment of the Indiana Jones movie series.

Boo.

There, got that done. OK, ok…it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared, but it wasn’t as good as I’d dared hope. I think I liked it better when it was about pirates, not conquistadors, and the Fratellis were chasing the protagonists instead of the Russians. And yeah, I know both movies were Spielberg vehicles. That’s why there was a smart-aleck kid constantly combing his hair in both.

Oh, and remember that wacked-out Act III of AI? It’s here, too.