To Do List: July 2011


Despite being holed up with cookbook edits (or perhaps because of them), I managed to scope out plenty of interesting things in the minimal free time I did have. Here are my ten favorites:

COOK: Karen Solomon came out with her book, Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It, a few years ago and it’s a great resource for the kitchen crafter in all of us. The problem with DIY projects is that they’re contagious — once you successfully brine olives and bake crackers it only seems natural to make cheese for a complete homemade meal. Her newest book, Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It, has the same playful tone as the first book, but it dives even deeper into the DIY realm. Go figure that the most obscure recipe in the book — Corn Flakes — is the one I had to try. Sure they don’t last long, but I can now cross “make my own corn flakes” off my bucket list and try my hand at other awesomely nutty projects like cacao nibs and tepache.

CRAFT: The DIY fire in me was lit by that food crafting, so I started searching out other homemade projects I could cook up. I found all sorts of ideas over at the delightful More Design Please blog where there are how to’s for everything from basic jewelry projects and hair accessories to quirky lamp shades and the ultimate 70s craft project, macrame planters. Of course, my to-do list is already a mile long so I’m not sure when or if I’ll get to them, but they sure make for good DIY daydreaming.

CLICK: I love the dichotomy of this Real Time Farms website: take one of the oldest jobs around and use the power of crowdsourcing to make it as technologically connected as possible. At least that’s what happens when an ex-Googlite returns to his hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan in an attempt to give a voice to our farmers and transparency to our food. The site is in its nascent stage and still has some growing to do until it becomes my go-to local food resource, but it’s promising so I’ll be watching it closely as it expands.

LISTEN: Speaking of dichotomy, I adore the way the Swedish band, Little Dragon, combines the juxtaposed sounds of soul, R&D, and electronica so expertly that you’d think that’s how it was meant to be. I’ve been a fan of Little Dragon since their self-titled debut, and their newest album, Ritual Union, just dropped. The album has a more aggressive sound than their older stuff, but songs like Brush The Heat and Ritual Union play up their signature dreamy sound.

WATCH: The movie, The Garden, was made a few years ago, but I’ve had it lingering in my Netflix queue until just a few weeks ago. I’m not sure what took me so long to press “play” except to say that I’m not always in the mood to watch a documentary. But The Garden isn’t just any old documentary, it was so well regarded that it was up for an Academy Award for Best Documentary. It’s a must-see for anyone in the food world, in my opinion, as it chronicles the struggle to maintain a community garden in the most unlikely place — the middle of the concrete jungle that is South Central Los Angeles.

READ: Apparently, I was catching up on my “things that I must do someday” list this month because I finally got around to reading The Help. Have you read it yet? Of course you have. If you are, however, amongst the 1% of people in my life who hasn’t yet read it, let me put it to you this way: it’s 464 pages but took me barely two days to read because it’s that good. I don’t want to give much away except to say it’s a definite read if you’re looking for a heartwarming fiction novel. The movie comes out in a few days but do me a favor and don’t see it until you’ve read it because, face it, nine time out of ten, the book is better.

GAWK: Working closely with the creative team when I was food styling at CHOW taught me to look at all my life through the same lens I look at food photography. This was so the case that one day I started seeing my closet not just as clothes but as forms of colors, cuts, and textures. I’m sure fashionistas have always had that view but my perspective came with time. Though I’d like to say I have my personal style down pat, the reality is that I’m in constant search of inspiration. Wear Palettes is the blog I turn to for fashion inspiration because it speaks to me through color — a language I get almost as fluently as food and music.

SWOON: If sticker shock didn’t exist, I’d immediately buy a full 8-piece dinner set of the Astier de Villatte Adelaide line. Each piece is handmade from black terracotta clay and then glazed milky white using a technique that leaves intentional imperfections on the surface. The Adelaide line has pearl-shaped details along the edge that remind me of milk glass — though admittedly these plates have a sophistication that milk glass never quite reaches. Christine introduced me to these plates when we were styling the cookbook and I would’ve snagged a few for my own collection if I didn’t like her as much as I do.

TASTE: Before we proceed, you must answer these question: Do you like Parmigiano-Reggiano? How about those crunchy crystals in aged cheese? Do you like caramel? Do you like toasted nuts? If you answered no to any of those things, it’s possible you don’t actually like food. If you answered yes to all of the above, we can stay friends. Oh, and please be on the look out for 5-Year Aged Gouda. It’s such as hit around my house that we have established an “aged Gouda fund” where we deposit all leftover change.

EAT: I’ve said it before, but to remind you, I really like chocolate and malt. My desert island food would probably be this chocolate-malted tart, because at least then I’d be in a state of chocolate bliss. People in my life who are close to me, like food stylist and friend, Lillian Kang, know this about me and they indulge my obsession. To celebrate the cookbook photo shoot wrap, Lillian scooped up some Choco-Malted Crunch ice cream from Mr & Mrs. Miscellaneous to sweeten the celebration. It has the ittiest of bitty malt balls folded into chocolate ice cream so every bite is a bit malty and chocolate but never one more than the other. I’m now considering a DIY day where I make my own mini malt balls. That’ll happen right after I buy those Adelaide plates, knit some macrame, and roast some cacaco beans, of course.

To Do Lists are monthly lists where I share my favorite discoveries of the last 30 days with you.

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