Food Obsessions

While reading about culinary quests in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine issue on food, I started thinking about my own personal food obsessions. As a food lover and cook, there are many dishes, condiments, and meals that I continually obsess over. I am known to frequent restaurants that are way out of my way just to get eggs done a special way or go to a tucked away specialty store to get my favorite variety of mustard. We all have foods that we can’t live without, and below are the items are my food obsessions:

ImageGigantic salads 
Among family and friends and anyone else for whom I’ve cooked, the gigantic, all-encompassing salad is known as my signature dish. I love when a salad is a full meal. My salads have staples: toasted nuts, grilled veggies, cherry tomatoes. I like to vary the seasonings and proteins I use. Sometimes I’ll throw in bacon, other times grilled salmon or another grilled fish. I like to add cheese shavings, particularly aged gouda. Homemade dressing always.

Pesto
Summer in the Whipp house meant an abundance of pesto on hand. My mom made pesto from the fresh basil in her garden and since I soon became addicted to this sauce, I made sure that I learned how to make the perfect batch of pesto. On many summer mornings, I went to the garden to pluck fresh basil for my pre-swim practice meal. To me, pesto goes with everything; on pasta, in sandwiches, and as dip for carrots. I’ve gone to great lengths to make pesto. Once, at a college dinner party, I resorted to using a mortar and pestle to make pesto because none of us could afford the luxury of a food processor.

ImagePizza
Pizza was always considered a treat when I was young and I still view it as such. When my parents left us with a babysitter, we were treated to pizza. When I dined over at my best friend’s house in elementary school, we were surprised with a pizza from the local pizza joint. I could probably eat pizza every day (in fact, I tried that once when visiting the south of France) and though I eat if often, it always feels like a delicacy. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza in my day, but I’m still convinced Zaffiro’s in Milwaukee is the best pizza I’ve ever had. (Joseph’s in Boston runs a close second.)

ImageBrunch
Who doesn’t like brunch?! I’ll eat it at any time of the day. I love inventive egg scrambles with interesting spices, breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros, savory breakfast meats, coffee, bloody marys dragged through the garden and topped with oysters, the list goes on. I enjoy going out for brunch as much as cooking it in the comfort of my own home. Since moving to New York, I know also enjoy ordering in brunch. A few months ago, my friend and I discovered a great little place in East Harlem that delivers brunch on the cheap and they deliver coffee! The best part is that the food travels incredibly well. I’ve become a big fan of cheap, instant brunch that I don’t have to cook and can enjoy in the comfort of my own home.

Deluxe Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
I do not like plain old grilled cheese sandwiches. What I do like are grilled cheese sandwiches stuffed with meats, vegetables, maybe even a crabcake or two. It’s fun to experiment with making melts because the possibilities are endless. You can vary the bread you use, the kind of cheese, the sauce you put on the sandwich, the kind of bacon, etc. Never met a deluxe grilled cheese that I didn’t like. If you need inspiration, check out the Wisconsin Board of Cheese’s Grilled Cheese Academy for recipes (and food porn).

Mustard
My favorite condiment. I’m partial to Grey Poupon, especially of the Country Dijon variety. I put mustard on sandwiches, in dressing, and on crackers. I’ve been meaning to get to the National Mustard Museum in Wisconsin, but time has not permitted. Yet.

Bacon

ImageSimilar to brunch, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bacon (except for my vegetarian friend). Like pizza, I could also eat bacon at every meal. I was delighted to find this “Bacon 25 Ways” article in Sunday’s Times magazine and have already vowed to make all of the dishes. Recently, I discovered the joys of bacon infused whiskey and yes, it is delicious.

What are your food obsessions? Anything you think I’ve missed? Anything I’ve mentioned that you can’t stand? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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The First Annual Best of Milwaukee Web Awards 2011

I had no idea I was even nominated for two of the Shepherd Express’s Best of Milwaukee Web Awards until someone tweeted me to say they had voted for me in the category Best Personal Blog. Voted for me? When I mentioned this fact to another friend and fellow avid tweeter, she replied, “Yeah, you were also nominated for Favorite Twitterer.” The nominations came as a surprise, but who doesn’t like being nominated for your favorite local alternate news source‘s web awards?

Last night’s web awards were a good time. Aside from enjoying complimentary hamburgers, wings, and beer samples from Lakefront Brewery, it was fun to be around the friendly, creative Milwaukeeans who do great things on the web. Milwaukee has a great social media culture. I’ve only been blogging and tweeting for a short while, but through that, I have met so many interesting and innovative Milwaukeeans. Interacting with so many different people on Twitter has made the city of Milwaukee feel like a small town (which most of you non-natives probably think it is anyway).

The Best of Milwaukee Web Awards were all in good fun and if anything, I am inspired  become an even better blogger and tweeter. It was an honor just to be nominated. I ended up being the first runner-up in both the Best Personal Blog and Favorite Twitterer categories and my name was printed in the latest issue of the Shepherd Express. Not too shabby.

Hats off to M.A.A.R.S. Attack for winning the Best Personal Blog title (as well as Best Tumblr and Best Band with an Online Presence) and Burp Blog, for taking the title of Favorite Tweeter as well as Best Food Blog. Here’s to another year of tweeting and blogging!

If You Want to Know What’s Going On in Madison, Wisconsin, Don’t Ask the Local News

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I currently reside, has four major news stations and one major newspaper, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. These local news sources, like every local news source across Wisconsin and now America, have been reporting on all of the latest developments of the budget protests in Madison, Wisconsin and providing up-to-the-minute information whenever possible. The protests started seven days ago and when they did, they were given some interesting labels by the local news.  The protests in Madison were referred to as “Mayhem in Madison,” “Madtown Frenzy” and “The Mad City Showdown.

Mayhem in Madison? To me, the word mayhem implies absolute chaos, political unrest, anarchy, maybe even some weapons of mass destruction.

Madtown Frenzy? Referring to Madison by its affectionate nickname in this situation implies that everyone is running around crazy. Frenzy further implies a state of confusion.

I think the one that makes me laugh the hardest is referring to the events in Madison as “The Mad City Showdown.” It’s even fun to say. Mad City Showdown? Seriously?  This isn’t the wild west. Nobody is facing off at high noon, nobody is wearing spurs or ass-less chaps. The best part is that in the seven days of Madison protests, there have been zero arrests!

I am so tired of the way that the local news has been covering the events in Madison that I decided it was time to see the situation for myself. Well, that and I strongly believe in the cause and fully support unions and working families in Wisconsin.

When I arrived in Madison on Day 5 of the protests, the first thing that struck me was that life on the east side of the city (which is how you enter Madison when you drive from Milwaukee) was that people were going about their daily lives completely unscathed by the events at the Capitol. Some frenzy!

Secondly, the protests and rallies in and of themselves were peaceful. That was the whole point. There were even signs posted inside the Capitol reminding folks that “this is a peaceful protest.” The point of the rallies was for union members and supporters to have their voices heard and to stand together in solidarity. The people I encountered were warm, respectful, and passionate. Having the opportunity to voice my opinion inside the halls of our state’s Capitol along with thousands of other people who felt the same way was pretty powerful to say the least.

After witnessing the events first hand and then comparing them to the headlines and articles I  read, I am through consulting local news sources to find out what’s really going on in Madison, Wisconsin. I’ve stopped watching Milwaukee’s local news reports on Madison because their depiction of events in Madison versus my experience in Madison are complete opposites.

Instead, to find out what’s really happening in Madison, Wisconsin, I’m consulting scores of alternate news sources such as the Huffington Post’s live updates of events, eyewitness accounts on Twitter and Facebook, footage on YouTube, video montages like this one, and Mother Jones.

Anything other than the local news.

Inside the Capitol.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

We all know that baseball is America’s pastime and I feel very fortunate to live only 15 minutes away from my local ballpark. Popping over to Miller Park to catch the Milwaukee Brewers in action requires little effort and there’s always someone who is willing to go at a moment’s notice. There’s always a way to find tickets even if that means sitting where you can touch the retractable roof.  One of the best parts about Miller Park, besides the brats, the beer, the sausage races, Bernie’s Dugout, the retractable roof, singing “Roll Out the Barrel” during the 7th inning stretch,  is tailgating. Unlike Fenway Park, still one of my favorite places of all time, you can tailgate at Miller Park before, during, and after the game.  Nothing like enjoying pre-game bratwursts, pasta salad, and beers in the parking lot of the ballpark.

Even if you’re not a Milwaukee Brewers fan, or even a huge baseball fan, you should still find some team or some thing to root for.  There is no better way to build camaraderie amongst a group of strangers than through cheering on a common outcome.  Sporting team colors or your favorite team’s logo, for instance, helps identify common allies in a crowd full of strangers, building an instant rapport.

 To celebrate my first summer back in Milwaukee in four years, I’ve decided to take full advantage of my proximity to Miller Park by attending twenty Milwaukee Brewers games this season.  There’s nothing more Milwaukee than going to a Milwaukee Brewers game and with the high number of home games this season it shouldn’t be too difficult to make this goal into a reality. Time to show some serious Milwaukee pride and root, root, root for the home team (if they don’t win it’s a shame)! You’ll be able to spot me as I will be tailgating in the parking lot, dressed head to toe in team colors.  I might even save you a bratwurst.