Appetizers
December 17, 2008
Chiming In

I'm happy to be joining Chris and Gina as a contributor to this blog about all things food. I am The Bee's new restaurant critic and I hope to have plenty to discuss in the days ahead about that.

But let's begin on a lighter note - the foods in my life and, well, some that are no longer a part of my life.

What I cook when I want a treat: Filet mignon. My girlfriend and I will make something of a day of it, driving to the Orangevale Meat Shoppe on Main Avenue and picking out our separate steaks. I cook them based on a technique I read in Cook's Illustrated a few years back: heat a sauté pan on high, then sear the steaks (rubbed with olive oil) for three minutes each side before putting them (and the pan) in the oven for about 8 minutes. Oh, and don't forget the handle on the pan - it's now really hot (can you tell I once forgot that?).

What I eat when I'm in a hurry and low on groceries: Peanut butter and banana sandwiches. That's what I ate when I was 6 and, for better or worse, my inner-child never tires of this sandwich. I've moved on to natural peanut butter and better bread, but I still wash it down with a big glass of milk.

Bad eating habit: Keeping a bag of chocolate chips in the pantry and grabbing a handful after dinner. Sometimes it's more than one handful. I really wish I didn't have those in the pantry.

Favorite cookie: Chocolate chip. I'll make these if I have enough chips left (see above).

Bad eating habit II: Eating raw cookie dough. It's great at the time, but I always feel awful an hour later.

Something I wonder if I should still be doing at my age: Licking the inside lid when I open a new container of yogurt.

Food as meditation: I make sourdough bread, roughly two 2-pound loaves a week. It involves a lengthy process that only works if you make it part of your lifestyle.

Something rookies do after baking bread: Eating it while it's hot. Yes, it's tempting, but warm bread leads to a stomachache every time (why haven't I learned this about cookie dough?).

A restaurant I visited just once, just to see: Outback Steakhouse. I figured I would never really understand American dining habits unless I went to an Outback. I was somewhat horrified by the "appetizers," including the notorious "Bloomin' Onion" (2310 calories and 134 grams of fat, according to this site).

How I keep my weight down: I ride my bike to and from work most days (50 miles round trip). With longer rides on the weekends, I do 12,000-15,000 miles a year. I also give away a lot of sourdough bread.

Favorite food on the bike: Homemade energy bars from a recipe I got at www.EatingWell.com.

Favorite recipe Web site: By far, www.CooksIlustrated.com. Not only are the recipes battle-tested and almost always foolproof, but the Web site allows me to archive my favorites in a very organized way. It's well worth the $25 a year.

Favorite kitchen gadget: I find the silicone spatula, or rubber scraper, very satisfying and versatile.

Favorite appliance: That would have to be my coffeemaker. Yes, it cost $899, but it's really awesome and it's on sale.

Very simple pleasure: A really good shot of espresso. Unfortunately, my $899 machine makes very good coffee but only pretty good espresso. I'm dreaming of this machine.

Obsessive thing I do that doesn't make sense: When I eat breakfast alone, why do I obsess over whether I make a perfect "French fold" when cooking myself an omelet.

Annoying recipe detail I should have noticed: "After cheesecake cools, refrigerate for at least 4 hours before eating." Can anybody really do this?

Oh, the "food" no longer in my life: Diet Coke. Gave it up cold turkey months ago(there's still a 12-pack in my cupboard if anybody wants them). Hated myself for drinking it. Replaced it with sparkling water. I also gave up Chicken McNuggets, but that was 25 years ago. Does that count?

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