Friday, January 30, 2009

Tuesday was the first day of cake decorating class that required actual cake decorating. I have to admit, I was worried my cake wouldn't come out well, and I'd either have to start over or show up with a cake that showed how obviously I did not follow directions.

Friday night I made the icing. Two pounds of drivert sugar and one pound of high ratio shortening later, I had a big bowl of icing ready to go. I only made half, because in class they'd said one batch of ingredients should last two weeks ... but then I was afraid I'd made too little. After all, I'm just learning, and you always need extra when you're learning.

I didn't buy a professional pan with very squared off corners because we have a 9x13" glass pan. I figured I'd just cut off the sides to make the corners square. I did buy a $3 leveler, cake release, and large icing knife. Theses were totally worth it (and less than the cost of one pan!).

Saturday I made the cake and filling. Milk chocolate cake with peanut butter filling ... mmm. This is where the leveler came in huge - it was so easy to level and split!

Sunday was the hard work. The base icing was to be a pastel color, so the decoration could be white. I used an enormous tip and bag to do it, which I'm not sure worked better than using a spatula, but oh well. Mistake #1: do not hand mix coloring in to your icing. I thought it came out really uneven and really bright, but it ended up someone in class had a super hot pink cake. It was awesome.

The end result:

Here you can see the inside, and my leftovers.

Tuesday we were all a little nervous about how our cakes looked. I was feeling a little ... ghetto, I admit. But it ended up they were fine! We practiced some basic borders on wax paper with various tips, and then switched over to the cakes. They drew an example on the chalkboard, and walked everyone through step by step. I'd highly recommend drawing out an icing pattern if you're doing something more complicated. That way you can cover up the less sightly parts (like the "lace" pattern - the border covers the uneven stops and starts).

The end result:

Ta da! It's really not as hard as it looks! Not bad for a first try with the right tools.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

So I've come to the decision it's time to buy a new car. While I think my car's creaks and noises are endearing, we all know what they really mean. I have friends who take their cars in on something called a maintenance schedule. After 100,000 miles, the maintenance schedule seems to be "fix whatever blows up." I have a good job and an MBA; I think it's time I have a regular car too.

Now seems like a great time to buy a car. This guy agrees. Plus, the new year model of the car I plan on buying is much, much cheaper than the MSRP from last year. Awesome.

Then our step-parent government comes out with some ideas on how to get people to buy cars, when no one has saved or spent rationally and can't get credit any more. Guess what? This makes me not want to buy a car. If the government is going to give me a break on it, why buy it now? Why not wait to see what kind of extra goodies fall out? Epic fail, guys.

It must be a slow news day if that's all they have to talk about. Especially if this is major news. I would have so enjoyed seeing that. The traffic sign over one of the highways I take to work has been broken for weeks. And yes, I really do look for the cars in the Amber alerts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sunday was such a fun day. I've been looking forward to it since before Christmas!

A group of friends went to the San Antonio Winery in LA for Wine 101, which is an educational sort of event where they serve a fancy lunch and paired wines. We went for Andy's birthday a few years ago, and learned so much, we wanted to do it again!

First course:

Goat cheese, orange, roasted eggplant with french vanilla glaze.
Louis Perdrier Rose, France

The Rose, for lack of a better description, was pink champagne. But to be called champagne, it has to be from the Champagne region of France, so instead it's a pink sparkling wine. It was pretty dry, meaning not sweet at all, but in my opinion could have been a little sweeter. The salad, though, was unusual and fantastic! The whole course was very light, and would be good for a spring party.

Second course:

Broiled miso Alaskan black cod on potato and chive pancake
Grgich Hills Fume Blanc, Napa Valley
Windbreak Chardonnay, Monterey
Maddalena Vineyard Riesling, Monterey

I love love loved the way they prepared the cod (I've never broiled fish before). The pancake, not so much. Fume Blanc is another name for sauvingnon blanc, and it was ... OK. Standard. A little citrusy, a little sweeter than the rose, but still very dry. The Windbreak was sweeter yet, but still a little bitter, almost like someone added pure vanilla extract. It was pretty decent though. The Maddalena was obviously sweet, but kind of reminded me of corn syrup. So, maybe just a little too sweet for me.

Third course:

Pepper crusted rack of lamb, wild mushroom risotto and pinot noir coriander sauce
San Felice "Il Grigio" Chianti, Tuscany
Sterling Vineyards Merlot, NapaValley
San Antonio Heritage Rhone Blend, Paso Robles
San Simeon Cabernet Sauvingnon, Paso Robles

I have a steadfast rule against eating baby animals. But this looked ... and smelled ... so good ... sigh. It was good. My excuse is I was about three glasses of wine in. I liked the risotto, but mostly because I like risotto period (and yet I've never made it; what's up with that?). The chianti was your usual red wine, but the only thing worth mentioning was that it went very well with the meat. The Sterling was very dry and had a really strong alcohol taste, and would be really good with a steak. I'm not quite sure if the lamb was heavy and peppered enough for it. But, Sterling wines are usually pretty good and affordable, if you're looking for that.

The Rhone blend and cabernet were served at the same time to compare and contrast a wine from a single type of grape (cabernet) versus a wine with more than one type of grape blended. I thought this was kind of interesting. Most of the table agreed that the cabernet was just too strong on its own; very dry and alcoholic. The blend was much easier to drink, but it probably had a lot to do with the types of grapes used, and I didn't write those down.


Mango mousse with candied macadamia nuts and toasted coconut
Maddalena Vineyard Muscat Canelli, Paso Robles

This was fantastic mousse, and even though I don't like coconut it was a little carmelized and very sweet. The Maddalena was also sweet, but it wasn't a very good pairing because it tasted bitter compared to the dessert. In fact, it kind of reminded me of soda.

Other random facts from the day:
  • A 90-92 point wine is probably going to be good. But anything rated higher than that is going to be really hard to find.
  • California wines are usually pretty reliable because of the stable weather here. Yay California!
  • The San Antonio Winery makes the San Simeon and Maddalena labels. I'd have to say these were some of the ones I liked better than others that day, although I'm sure they wouldn't pick wines that outshine their own!
  • Different types of wines traditionally come in similarly shaped bottles. Rieslings come in tall thin bottles, reds come in wider bottles, champagne in big bottles with the big dimple in the bottom ...
Unfortunately there weren't any wines any of us wanted to buy. The best ones were only ... OK. They were all pretty moderately priced, though, so if you were looking for something good and saw a San Antonio label, I think it'd be a safe bet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

One of the admins on my floor has a small section of the kitchen where you can buy snacks and soda for 50 cents. She buys it on the cheap and the rest goes to something akin to Adopt a Family (can you believe as nice as that is of her, and as good of a cause, people still steal from it?).

These didn't stand a chance today, although if there was one left by the end of the day I would have taken it as fate that I am to eat one. This almond kick I'm on is weird as I don't really like nuts. Phoood said it wasn't very good anyway.

Now back to searching for bulk M&Ms.

Monday, January 26, 2009

I'm on Crate and Barrel's mailing list, and I love their catalogs. Most of the stuff I wouldn't want, or is way more money than I would pay for furniture.

But I really like this media center. It's super expensive but I've seen something similar at Ikea. Maybe someday...

Every year Andy's aunt gives Hershey's Kisses in a candy cane tube (you know what I mean). In an effort to not eat them all, I made these simple peanut butter cookies. They came out really well so I'd recommend these, even without the kiss.