Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Talenti Sea Salt Caramel Gelato: The Most Evil Hostess Gift

This is a little tub full of sin.
It's summer party season. And you know that a great hostess gift is mandatory. But what about an evil hostess gift?

I'm talking about something so scrumptious, so mouth watering, so absolutely delicious that it renders one speechless. I'm talking about Talenti's Sea Salt Caramel gelato, possibly the meanest dessert ever devised. Many sea salt caramel gelatos and ice creams lack the true unctuous mouth feel of real caramel; they're simply cold with a tangy salt hit at the end. Not so with this stuff. The wicked food scientists at Talenti use Argentine dulce de leche and excellent salt, for a gelato that reads, in your mouth, somewhere between ice cream, mousse, and candy confection. If that weren't enough, there's also little chunks of sea salt caramel truffle lurking in there, forcing you to dig for them like the greedy candy crazed child you really are. It's evil stuff. Luckily, gelato has less fat than ice cream, although (note to self), that's still not an excuse to consume the entire container standing up in the kitchen with a soup spoon held like a shovel.

If you're not a sea salt caramel person, Talenti offers an excellent chocolate and a host of other flavors. Bring this as a hostess gift and watch her (or him) bury it in the bottom of the freezer for a little "alone time" after the guests have left. Go to Talenti to find suppliers; I know it's unfortunately at my neighborhood Gelson's.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Bittersweet Father's Day

This bag spits at baggage handlers.
Before I even begin what is going to be undoubtedly one of my more personal posts, I just want to get the official Father's Day gift idea out of the way (since that's, presumably, why you read this thing; it can't just be because you find me so endlessly amusing).

Anyway, I've chosen a most durable and practical gift idea, one that embraces the whole outdoorsy, macho, "maybe I'll blow my best friend's face off with a shotgun" vibe, but is still cool enough for corporate air travel or a grubby road trip. I'm talking about a gift card to Filson, that revered house of hunting, tracking, and shooting accessories that makes the best man bags I've ever seen. Seriously, I bought one for Mr. Crab (who, while crabby, doesn't actually shoot anything except photographs), and it travels with him everywhere, holds everything of value, and looks virtually the same as when he first was gifted it. It's a workhorse, way nicer than those Land's End bags, not at all twee like Jack Spade or Varvatos. Plus, a good solid carry on bag can be had for a hair over $200. Give your dad a Filson gift card and watch him go, but don't be surprised if he orders a flak jacket in camo instead. Some small fantasies are worth fulfilling.

Now, for the personal. My dad would love to go on some trips. I think it's one of his fondest wishes. But I don't think it's going to happen. Illness has taken this wish away. So what do you give a father for Father's Day who used to have everything, and still sort of does, except for his health? I can't give him health, or energy. I can't offer him fifty pounds of muscle to make him walk miles and do yoga. Giving the man a Filson bag right now would be a sad reminder of a unfulfilled wish.

He used to love to eat, so I'm going to cook for him this Father's Day. We have a long California tradition of spicy stews, meals in a bowl that restore most of us to health. I have no illusions that anything I prepare will give him his health back, but perhaps it'll give him the taste of family, and togetherness, and the joy we all took in being pigs together. Thus, I give him (and share with you) my Chicken Posole.

Not So Traditional Chicken Posole
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 boxes chicken stock, preferably organic
3 cans white hominy
2 cans whole potatoes (sounds weird, but canned potatoes hold shape better in soup)
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Step one: Saute, in large heavy soup pot, the onion and garlic in a bit of canola or light olive oil. Once translucent, throw in the chicken breasts and add all the stock. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Let simmer about 20 minutes, then remove chicken to cool on plate. Shred chicken. Add potatoes, chopped, and the hominy. Slide shredded chicken back in and leave whole cauldron at a simmer.

Step 2, for green mix:
In Vita Mix or food processor bowl, arrange:
1.5 pounds tomatillos, husks removed (you may use canned if there's no fresh available)
1/2 chopped onion
one whole bunch cilantro
about a handful of dried Mexican oregano (it really does need to be Mexican)
2 or 3 dried chiles
Either 3 pasilla chiles, charred and skinned, or a medium can of fire roasted green chiles
2 jalapenos, chopped
a few pieces of Romaine lettuce, if you have them lying around
Blitz into a green liquid.

Step 3: Pour all the green liquid into soup pot, and cook on medium low for 20 minutes. The pozole is now ready, to be topped with:

sliced radishes
shredded cabbage
chopped cilantro
a squeeze of lime
Queso Fresco
fried corn tortilla strips (slice tortillas, gently fry in non stick pan, tossing until moderately crispy but not burnt

Enjoy the Father's Day Pozole love.

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Casa for Your Kleenex

Your nose should feel extra special using a tissue from this modernist manse.
Now that I'm done painting (pictures coming soon), I'm busy sort of tarting up the joint. One wonderful thing about moving is tossing a bunch of outdated stuff you accumulated and never liked much, and replacing it with stuff you've handpicked. I'm not talking wasteful accumulation, but lasting replacement, so please, don't get all green on me.

And speaking of green (this is The Toad, after all), check out this full on green house for your tissue supply. Called the Casa, this streamlined neon residence covers up a square box of tissues in your bathroom or bedroom, and the lovely white tissue streams out the chimney like the purest of smoke. That's one stylish way to dress up potential snot rags, especially when you consider what the usual boxes look like (I once stood in that Kleenex aisle, staring at the "designer prints," and wishing like hell for a basic black or white box. Now that would really be "designer"). Plus, since it's allergy season, we have boxes all over the house. They could all use a makeover. Now, if there was only a device to instantly transport the used tissues to the trash.

This Casa makes one awesome house warming gift. Want to know what else is awesome about it? How about the price tag: just ten bucks! Buy 'em in bulk and hand them out like party favors. At Fred Flare.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

A Wolf In the Door and Installed in the Kitchen

The Bertazzoni Maserati we didn't pick. 
I'm continuing this trend of departing from The Toad's original gift finding goals to discuss my new kitchen. Please forgive this self indulgent transgression.

We moved into this new house and discovered one shitty stove. I mean, it had to be decades old, or at least it looked decades old, and it pooped out a Bic lighter's worth of gas every now and then. I did manage to boil a pot of pasta on it, but overall I was not even remotely impressed. The reason why is: I had a Wolf.

A Wolf stove is sort of the epitome of at-home professional level appliances. It blasts out an incredible 16,000 BTUs of gaseous flame per burner, yet has the gentlest simmer setting available. If you love to cook (and I do, although at this point it's hard to remember actually cooking anything of note), an awesome piece of machinery like this makes true cuisine possible. I'm willing to forgo many kitchen features to have a Wolf; there will be no custom cabinetry, marble countertops, or Sub-Zero fridges in my new kitchen. Sacrifices must be made.

So Mr. Crab and I sojourned to Pacific Sales to check out excellent stoves. We hoped to save money by buying a less status conscious brand (what Mr. Crab brilliantly terms "the second shitty," the first shitty obviously being the current stove we're planning to throw off the nearest cliff), but the helpful sales guy convinced us otherwise. That absolutely stunning Bertazzoni stove? "It's like a Maserati. It's pretty, but you don't want to drive it every day," Mr. Stove Expert told us. How about a Viking? "They had problems in the past. They've fixed them, but you're not saving that much by buying a Viking instead of a Wolf." Second shitty, indeed. Finally, Mr. Stove Expert told us it was the last day of the Wolf special deal (we saved about 500 bucks). Sold!

The little Wolf that could. This is not my kitchen, by the way.

So there it sits, the Wolf stove. It's a little one with big cooking potential. It has the pretty red knobs. It can sear anything to a crisp. We're grateful to have it. And The Toad recommends it heartily, even though we will be eating Mac and Cheese out of the box in order to fund it.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Is Little Ruby a Free Range Chicken?

Here's Little Ruby, shaking her hand felted tail feathers right at you!
Sometimes I'm just farting around online and come across something that's not exactly right for Find A Toad, but entirely too weird not to mention. I think Little Ruby here qualifies.

Little Ruby is a footstool in the shape of a stuffed chicken. Now, I suppose you could use any sort of stuffed chicken you could find as a foot stool, but this is the first created just for resting your feet (and good luck with that multi purpose stuffed chicken search, by the way). Little Ruby is hand crafted in Lyons, Kansas (she has an actual farm girl pedigree) from fallen logs, hand felted alpaca, and possibly hand mined bronze (for her feet and beak). While your first instinct would be to place Little Ruby in a country home, please resist this temptation, as she would look so much creepier and quirkier in a modernist environment, plunked down in front of a Womb Chair. And you know, Little Ruby longs to be quirky, because she's one funky, handcrafted kind of chicken.

Did I mention that Little Ruby has a big price tag of $700? That's why she's not exactly right for the Find A Toad $200 price limit. Talk about putting pearls before swine, this is cash before chickens. Or something like that. Find Little Ruby and the rest of her flock at The City Girl Farm.