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Entries in experiences (31)


This is What Way Too Many Latkes Looks Like; and Maybe I Should Buy a Food Processor


This is, by weight, approximately ten pounds of latkes, and making them entailed the grueling and forearm-building process of hand-grating every last ounce of potato. That's just how much I like my friends (who needs a Jewish mother for guilt when there's Hungry Sam?).


The following is a list of things I learned last Saturday in the context of the Chanukah get-together I was hosting and feeding (after the break):

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How to Improve Canned Chicken Noodle Soup

I've been sick the last few days. It's felt a bit as though some sort of demon virus was trapped in a little cage in my throat, tearing at my vocal chords in an effort to break free. Or something.

Accordingly, I've been eating/drinking a lot of chicken noodle soup. And, as Hungry Sam, I've put what little energy I've had into experimenting with improvements to an often bland, texture-less experience!

As my base, I've been using Epicurious' favorite canned chicken noodle soup, Progresso Traditional 99% Fat Free Chicken Noodle Soup:

Yeah, I know it's not the 99% fat free version.

Having eaten six cans in the last two days (truly I was sick, else I would have made some soup from scratch) and experimented with each one, here are my findings and suggestions (after the break). Also, apologies in advance for the totally unnecessary Star Wars references.

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Enough Haba├▒eros to Kill a Reasonably Small Army

I've always thought of the habero pepper much as I do the jaguar or great white shark -- they're all pretty to look at, rather dangerous, but not really my problem. 
Sure, I had a run-in with haberos in high school, but I foolishly sought that out (when you don't know what these chilies can do, a recipe for habero salsa with equal parts chilies and tomatoes doesn't seem so problematic). Sure, habañeros are hot, but I'm just not going to stumble across these piquant little fireballs in my sheltered, everyday American life.

However, during my time in Mexico, I had to actively avoid habero peppers. Perhaps one in three of my meals came with a roasted habero chili on the plate, whether as garnish or an integral part of the meal I'll never know, because my Spanish language education (generally adequate for my Yucatecan adventure needs) did not cover the word for garnish (it appears to be "guarnicion").   
Moreover, I came across this impressive stand at el Mercado Municipal in the city of Mé rida:
It hurts just to look at. Also, the price is five pesos per bag -- about 38 cents. Cheap!

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The Great 5-Hour Energy Experiment

Just seconds ago, I drank a 5-Hour Energy brand energy shot. Like Dr. Henry Jekyll's potion, it has begun to wreak terrible changes within me.


 "The Transformation: 'Great God! Can it Be???'"

Dawn, upon hearing I'd done so, just said, "Uh oh." Based on the sickening, pseudo-fruity aftertaste I'm currently "enjoying," I'm beginning to agree with her assessment.

Update: I drank the bottle 5 minutes ago. Pretty gross, no immediate discernible impact on my energy level. I'm still yawning.

Allow me to back up. Now, I'm a pretty energetic person, and have generally been scornful of those who needed "energy drinks" to feel normal. "Pshaw!" I say. "They should just do what I do and drink 30 plus ounces of coffee every day!"

Alright, maybe there's not much of a distinction. Yes, I know I have a little problem -- but to be fair, 30 ounces of coffee is slightly less than two Starbucks mediums, or grandes, or what have you.

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Avocado Margaritas, Decoy Cakes, and SLIDERS TO GO

I hope all my hungry readers had an excellent and food-filled Labor day weekend! I was in Santa Fe at a pretty fantastic wedding, so mine was jam packed with interesting and decadent foods and drinks. And some incredibly cool touches, like sliders! In a doggy bag! After the wedding at like 11 PM. I was physically and gastronomically incapable of leaving that wedding hungry.

Read on for more.
Although I was in constant possession of my camera, you'll have to forgive me if I was primarily focused on people. I did, however, get a few good pictures of some of the dishes served. Perhaps the most exotic of these (and one for which I have yet to find a recipe) was this Avocado Margarita:

"That's right, woah," I respond to your inevitable exclamation. "Woah indeed."
Come to think of it, this might be as simple as blending the makings for a margarita with half an avocado. 

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Seriously, People, Don't Trust Cafeteria Lobster

Lobster Bib.

I'm going to try hard to get through this post without cursing.

Seriously, people, don't trust cafeteria lobster.

Just...don't. So, for example, if you show up to the cafeteria at the National Education Association and see they're serving a lobster lunch for $12.95, just walk away.

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Learning to Love Black Coffee Again

I'm drinking a cup of coffee right now, and it's really, really, really good.

It's black; I've added neither milk nor sugar. It barely tastes like coffee -- it's closer to a very intense black Darjeeling tea. This is coffee a coffee-hater might enjoy.

Ephemeral! and cool reflection.
This cup of coffee has nothing of the oily, dirt-like bitterness of a Starbucks coffee. (I say this as a person who will quite contentedly drink Starbucks coffee, though I tend to drown it in milk). Instead, this cup tastes light and floral, almost effervescent. There's even some citrus and lemongrass -- I'm not full of it; there really is so much more complexity here than I generally taste in any coffee except very good espresso. So much so, in fact, that I refrained from my normal splash of 2% milk. I like this cup of coffee.

How did this coffee come to be in my cup? Why is this morning unlike most mornings?

Well, for starters, I cleaned my coffee maker -- for the first time in the six months I've had it. Like, really cleaned it, by running a vinegar-water mixture through twice then rinsing. I have no idea whether or not cleaning the maker has a net positive impact, but it really can't hurt.

Oh, also, I stopped at Peregrine Espresso on 14th St. on the way home last night and purchased some SUPERB Ethiopian coffee. I asked the fellow working the counter for something light and interesting, and this is what he gave me. I should have photographed the beans, I suppose. Oops.

Now, I regularly buy decent coffee, but I'm often a little lazy and careless -- I'll keep extra beans in the freezer (a no-no), grind more than I'm using in a given pot (nope), and kinda eyeball measurements (like most of my cooking). But armed with very good, fresh beans and a clean coffee maker, I ground fresh this morning and carefully aimed for one level-ish tablespoon for every 5.5 ounce "cup" delineated on my machine. What a difference these tweaks made.

That's right, I've got a Magic Bullet As Seen On TV.

The questions remain: Will I change my ways? Will I clean the pot, grind fresh, and always buy in small quantities? Will I make that extra effort in the morning to elevate my coffee from pleasurable to phenomenal?

Stand by for a hostile takeover of Hungry Sam by Religion-Major Sam (Who is Also Hungry).

I think I will. My morning already possesses its ritual elements. I make the coffee, the omelet, and I prepare lunch, then I sit and watch TV or read or write. I relax into my day, rather than rush to meet it. Ritual imbues routine with a sense of intentionality and of transcendent reality; it can make my coffee into a hierophany (in Eliade's The Sacred and the Profane: the breakthrough of the sacred into the World) -- though that might be the caffeine speaking. Adding the morning coffee grind to my coffee-making procedure has already, in just one instance, improved not only the cup in my hands, but also grown my morning ritual in a new direction. And the best rituals seem to arrive from creative experimentation and combination -- just look at Christmas or Passover.

Anyways, it was a REALLY good cup of coffee. Washingtonians, definitely check out Peregrine. Those among you who brew in the morning, give a fresh grind of a new coffee a chance, and try it black. You may find, as I did, that a morning habit can become a morning treat.