Social Media and Ginger Cake

Let me open this by saying were it not for social media, you would not be reading my food and life blog on WNYPapers.com. Here’s why:

When I decided to spin my blog away from an online news source in 2012 the first follower I had on my WordPress.com site was WNYPapers. It was not immediate but it got me thinking about the folks who were interested in reading my work. Who are they?

It’s relatively easy to figure out with social media.

Primarily I use Facebook and Twitter. My foodie persona on Facebook is JudeTheFoodie and can be found here. Here people can chat with me directly and I find this to be the easiest way to have direct interaction with other foodie friends. By “liking” this page you can also become part of the conversation.

Twitter is still a mysterious social media to many with lots and lots of rules attached that to someone with little experience would view as mishmash. @JudeTheFoodie is the “handle” I use on Twitter to Tweet my foodie experiences including travel.

Here are just a few things to know about Twitter to help you understand the puzzling world of Tweeting.

When you “follow” someone you can read their Tweets (messages 140 characters or less). Unless they follow you, they cannot read your Tweets. The idea is that we follow folks with whom we are interested without regard to their wanting to know anything about us.

For example, I follow Martha Stewart. I can see all of her Tweets. She, however, (sadly) does not follow me. If I want a Tweet to get to her, even though she does not follow me, I can begin my Tweet with @MarthaStewart and it will show up on her feed. The feed is the list of Tweets from all of the people you follow.

Once you follow a large number of people the feed is very congested. You could spend the entire day reading your feed. I say that a Tweet is a lot like standing on the 50 yard of a stadium and speaking to a packed house without a microphone. In order for your Tweets to have any impact (and for most people to see them) you need to mention someone (using the “@” symbol and their Twitter handle like @MarthaStewart) or use a “#” called a hashtag.

The hashtag is a way to group Tweets. If you Tweet “I love watching #Chopped. The ingredients in the basket are crazy!” anyone else who enters #Chopped in the search area can see your Tweet. It’s pretty cool and you can chat with folks from around the world.

I also post my columns on Pinterest. It is a cool way to group my recipes and travel articles in one place for people who do not follow me on WordPress.com. WordPress is the blogging platform I use and what runs my website. I am slowly gaining followers on my website. If you follow my blog at JudeTheFoodie.com you can click on follow. Whenever I post anything on my website you can read it on your WordPress.com reader.

Now, what does a ginger cake have to do with social media? The recipe I used the other day to make a very moist ginger cake can be found here: http://theworldinourkitchen.com/2011/03/08/ginger-cake/

I have never met Chef and Jen but due to social media I can say they are friends. We started following each other on Twitter which led to Facebook which led to Words With Friends which led to the realization we are only 50 miles apart. We hope to meet this summer.

Every day I post a “JudeTheFoodie.com Question of the Day.” Late last week it was Cake or Pie? Over 600 people viewed that post (and I only have 159 followers on this Facebook page). Chef waxed poetic about his wife Jen’s ginger cake. I asked for the recipe and through the power of social media I baked this cake a few days later.20130422-082849.jpgThis cake is moist and dense. I little piece has a big impact. The recipe calls for ¾ or a cup of ginger and I used the whole piece which turned out to be a little over a cup. I think I will use the recommended amount next time because the ginger was very powerful (not unpleasant but strong).

Also, I recommend using a medium saucepan to heat the one cup of water. When you add the soda you have a bit of a chemistry experiment as it will bubble up. Add the chopped ginger to the pan, stir then add to the batter. Caution: this batter is much thinner than you would expect so don’t worry, its fine.

The recipe does not call for any topping and while it does not need anything to taste wonderful I am going to make a sweet whipped cream to serve on the side the next time I make this great cake.

Please “Like” JudetheFoodie on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @JudeTheFoodie. Begin a Tweet with @JudeTheFoodie to let me know you read this column.

Have a yummy day!

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It’s Fun to Eat at the Bar!

I travel a lot, often by myself. While I am not averse to eating alone with a book or my iPad, I most often enjoy sitting among my soon to be friends at the bar. You usually get served more quickly and you often have small plate options not available on the full menu.

Twice in New Orleans I ate memorable meals at the bar. The first was at the Acme Oyster House where I watched a highly skilled oyster shucker open hundreds of oysters an hour. I settled in my seat after only a few minutes waiting outside in a line that went around the block. A simple question of availability at the bar afforded me the chance to eat an oyster po boy and it was one of the best sandwich bites of my life. I am not sure what the sauce was but the combination of the fresh bread, perfectly fried oysters and sauce makes my mouth water as I write.

The second time was at K Paul’s on Chartres Street in the French Quarter. Again, there was a large crowd waiting for tables but I spotted a spot at the end of the bar. I asked the bartender his specialty and he boasted he won the award in New Orleans several years in a row for his original twist on the New Orleans Hurricane. I must admit, it was a tasty drink.

When it was time for dinner I asked him my usual question: “If I never return, what is the one dish I must try while visiting your city?”

His answer was the stuffed pork chop. It was a very large pork chop filled with herbs and cheese. It has been a while so I cannot remember the particulars but it was a delicious dish. The meat was very juicy, which is no easy task on a cut so think. When a gentleman sat at the bar a few seats over he asked about the specialty that evening. The bartender asked me to let the man know my thoughts and he ordered the same thing. As we chat with the others at the bar we talked about home. He said he was traveling north to New York to attend his niece’s high school graduation. A few more minutes of conversation determined he grew up in Kenmore, NY and was attending Lewiston Porter’s graduation.

It truly is a small world as Lew-Port is my alma mater, as well. You just never know who you will meet.

I twice dined at the bar this past week. On Saturday we had some wine and watched the Master’s at Hops N Vines in Lewiston. We enjoyed the mussels in white wine sauce and lobster bisque mac and cheese brought down from Casa Antica.

Another wonderful bar dining experience happened last week when I suggested to my friend Amy we grab one drink after work. We settled on Oliver’s where we met at Christmastime and enjoyed a chocolate martini expertly created by bartender Mike. I sincerely love watching a bartender mix a drink and interact with the crowd.

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We enjoyed a French 75. This gin and lemon drink must be making a major comeback because it was new to me just a few weeks ago and I now have several ones to compare. Mike offered it with gin or vodka and since reading about it when I wrote my Town Hall review I wanted to try one with gin. He used fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. He added ice and gin to a shaker and shook to chill the liquid. He poured it into chilled martini glasses and added champagne to the top. I may have a new favorite drink.

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I was hungry and I talked Amy into splitting a a bowl of parsnip soup with crispy pancetta. They were kind enough to actually split the soup into two bowls. If you are watching your waistline and your wallet it is a great idea to share. Some restaurants charge a fee for this but it is still worth it because no one needs the portions served at most restaurants.

We also shared a pizza. It was no ordinary pizza, either. It was called a Cuccidati Pizza, bitter greens, fresh ricotta, walnut & fig pesto. I am a big fan of figs and this was really good.

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Mike barely suggested dessert and I pounced on the idea . Yes, the lady may have appeared too eager but the offerings were so yummy who could resist? This was a chocolate torte with a butter crunch ice cream and a toffee crisp on top. There apparently was caramel on the plate but I talk too much and Amy took complete advantage and ate most of it. I forgive her because I ate most of the toffee. It all evens out.

Next time you find yourself alone at a restaurant, I highly recommend sitting at the bar. You will enjoy the camaraderie, learn about the area and never dine alone.

Have a yummy day!

The Glamour of Traveling

When I had the honor of singing the US and Canadian national anthems at Toronto’s Skydome (before Rogers amassed their billions for the naming rights) I met a woman who was to throw the first pitch. Prior to the game all of the pre game folks rehearse according to a carefully prepared and timed script.

She had to go to the mound…or many feet in front of the mound and practice throwing to the catcher. Wow, that’s hard. I was impressed she got it even near the plate. She said she had been throwing the ball to her husband for weeks to practice.

When it was my turn to practice they cued my tape and I (shudder, yes, I lip synced) sang the anthems with all my heart into a dead mic. Easy peazy lemon squeezy.

This whole process blew first pitch woman’s mind. “Wow, you sounded great! Where do you sing? Are you famous?”

“Um…I sing most often in church and I am decidedly not famous.” But, she was not buying it one bit. Not famous? Not possible. She kept at it. “How often do you sing the national anthem?” At that point I had sung for the Sabres a few times and sang at what is now Progressive Field in Cleveland for the Indians.

Of course I was famous, or so she believed. When she gushed again she declared my life must be so glamorous. By then I didn’t have the heart to tell her differently since she already didn’t believe me. Even today, whenever I clean my bathroom I think of first pitch lady and the glamour of my life.

Travel is glamorous. Traveling is not.

I write this from a hotel room in North Carolina at about 12:30 AM. A ten and a half hour journey took nearly fifteen hours today.

Apparently God picked Florida up by the Keys and shook it like a rug, flicking everyone without a Florida zip code back to the northern state where they belonged. I’m convinced that the only people left are the senior citizens and the food service folks who serve them their early bird specials.

It took 3 1/2 hours to drive through South Carolina and those that were not in their cars in post holiday gridlock were eating at the Cracker Barrel. No lie, my mom and I had to wait 20 minutes for a table at 9 PM. Thank God they have biscuits. And sweet tea. And grits.

But the trip was worth everything we experienced today because my family was mostly together last weekend (missing a nephew and family who stayed back home and a niece who was traveling through Italy).

Cousins got to make new memories, siblings and parents played Monopoly and 500 Rummy and I got to cook.

My sister and I prepared our annual seafood feast on Good Friday. The kids actually look forward to it and I don’t think we disappointed anyone. It is a hefty investment but worth the expense and time. We really kept it simple this year with only one hot side (my orzo with roasted grape tomatoes) and a “nice” salad. Our cousin brought a really cool bread bowl and cupcakes. We had a great evening.

20130414-203607.jpgHere is a quick trick for grilled shrimp: marinate them with the shells on with lemon, lots of garlic and good olive oil. Get your grill screaming hot. Instead of just one skewer, use two to create some stability. Cook each side for only a few minutes until just pink.

One of the highlights of my trip was dinner at the Chart House in Fort Lauderdale. The dinner was as good as the view. There are many of these restaurants across the country. Each one has a view of the water. My favorite is in Dana Point, California. If you ever have the chance, I highly recommend it. It will be a special dinner so be prepared for a pricey a la carte menu.

From Thursday through Monday we had nine people living in a two bedroom condo. Close! But I wouldn’t trade the joy on my mother’s face when she saw an entire pew filled with her family on Easter Sunday.

No, traveling is not glamorous, but well worth the effort knowing we once again made memories of a lifetime.

Have a yummy day!

1 Activity + 1 Bite + 1 Sip = Easy Party

Any holiday is busy with church and travel and family so it’s hard to coordinate the fun and have fun yourself.

For Easter this year I decided to schedule an early brunch for our family at a lovely restaurant. This way everyone had time to relax in the afternoon. At 6:00 pm we all convened for an Easter egg hunt for the children, a sandwich platter and age appropriate drinks for all.

Here is a plan that will get you out of the kitchen and into the mix.

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1. An activity: ours was an egg hunt but here are a few ideas for an activity to center around your party

movie night
the playoffs (Buffalo fans, don’t put off having a party just for this :o)
Mother’s Day – have the big kids coordinate a card making party for all of the moms. Think glitter and macaroni.
clothing drive – ask everyone to bring one no longer loved professional outfit to the party and box them by gender and size. Donate them to a job placement center.
game night – you don’t have to stick to the usual ones…have you ever played Candyland with alcohol?

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2. A Bite: I made a sandwich platter. I bought 2 ciabatta loaves and 2 multi grain loaves. Look for bread that will lay flat on both sides when cut in half.
I cut one ciabatta and one multi grain in half lengthwise. I put mayo on both sides and layered a quarter of a pound of provolone cheese, a half a pound of thinly sliced roast beef and sliced tomatoes. I cut the sandwich in quarters then down the middle making eight sandwiches.
Next was prosciutto di parma on ciabatta: i spread pesto on both halves of ciabatta then added a half a pound of thinly sliced prosciutto di parma. On that I spread about 6 ounces of goat cheese. I cut the sandwiches as described above.
The last one was my grilled zucchini Caprese sandwich. You can find it here. https://judethefoodie.com/2013/02/12/grilled-zucchini-caprese-sandwich/
I placed all of the sandwiches on a big plastic platter. Paper plates and paper napkins save time and add to the party theme.

3. A Sip: all you need is one special drink and you have a party. My Easter Punch

20130401-104743.jpgis as easy as can be. Buy a package of frozen mixed berries. Add some to any kind of cool glass (I love these retro dot cups here). Fill the cup about half full with store bought lemonade then complete with sparkling white wine. I used Asti but you can use Prosecco or Champagne.

Give this a try and you actually will enjoy your next party.

Have a yummy day!!
________________________

Congratulations to Colleen Low Larkin who won the March Quick Bite Quick Sip contest.

March theme: Grandma’s Kitchen

“The pies at Mangia Cake and Village Bake Shop, while they’ll never be quite as good as hers remind me of my Grandma Ross-BEST PIES EVER!”

You have won a $25 gift certificate to the Lewiston Village Pub!

Let’s keep the party going. April’s Quick Bite Quick Sip theme is Spring. Head out to your favorite eateries and hang outs and play.

Brunch Is Back! Town Hall – Lewiston NY

20130324-201513.jpgThis pretty and delicious drink is the perfect testimony that brunch has come a long way from the long silver chafing dishes filled with dry scrambled eggs, over cooked potatoes and bowls of fruit cocktail fresh from a can.

Town Hall, an upscale bistro in Lewiston, opened during the USA Today/Rand McNally Best of the Road mega food tour last June. Their addition gave us all yet another option for dining on Center Street. I love talking to folks from around Western New York talk about Center Street like they would talk about Chippewa or Hertel or Maple. People know that a drive over bridges and down a hill takes them to shops and restaurants like nowhere else in the area.

Lewiston may not have won best of the road but being named one of the 10 Best Small Towns in America was not a coincidence.

We made 11:30 AM reservations for Brunch and I’m really glad I did. When I arrived the bar was already busy with folks waiting for friends to arrive or to just hang out after church. The tables were filling up and we were seated at one of the booths along the side. The high backs made for a private dining experience although the room is not large and the noise level pretty high.

Brunch is back in a big way all across the country. My son and his friends go to brunch almost every weekend in New York City. Silly mommy thinks it’s for the delicious food at reasonable prices where, in reality, the fact he calls it “Drunk Brunch” should tell me that the reason is the inexpensive drink specials.

Town Hall brings that party theme to Lewiston. A friend of mine told me about the $1 Bloody Mary’s and Bloody Caesars so I was ready. Unfortunately, New York State does not allow beverage service until 12:00 PM.

What to do?

Sydnee, our capable, busy and very sweet server told us about their brunch specials so we decided to enjoy some sliced cinnamon rolls slathered with a not too sweet cream cheese frosting and sprinkled with a little powdered sugar and a cup of coffee while we waited to order our adult beverages. It’s the first time I have ever ordered an appetizer at brunch. Very civilized.

When noon rolled around Sydnee quickly visited all of her tables where the people were just as anxious as us to order one of the interesting beverage options. Check out their menu online to see their brunch offerings. We ordered a Bloody Mary and a drink called a Berries and Basil. It was a wine glass filled with lemon juice, sparkling wine and simple syrup with sliced strawberries and mulled basil. It was refreshing in a sort of wine mojito way. If you like mojito’s and basil you will enjoy this drink. The Bloody Mary was well made and the size you would expect for $1. Still, you could not drive if you spend $5 so it is a great value.

There are a lot of breakfast/brunch/lunch options on the menu and they are all reasonably priced. I also appreciated the portion sizes. They were perfect not just at noon but all day long. I had a hard time deciding what to have. I waffled (not on the menu and you won’t miss them) between the Lobster Frittata ($10) and the Eggs Benedict ($8) and eventually chose the Duck Hash ($9)

20130325-065152.jpgServed in a cast iron casserole dish, the combination of duck confit, potatoes, onions and a poached egg topped with a Tabasco hollandaise was the perfect choice. Duck confit? That takes two days to prepare and I thought the duck had good flavor. The dish had a great balance and the poached egg was cooked just right so that when I put my fork into the yoke it ran happily to over the spicy potatoes and onions.

We also had the Pulled Pork Quesadilla ($8). It was a crispy tortilla filled with slow roasted pork, Chipotle BBQ sauce, peppers and onions with Jack cheese I liked the crunch and flavor. It was not too spicy and I would not have minded more heat.

When we ate every last morsel on our plates we decided to order another beverage sampling. The BLT was surprisingly good. Usually when I get one of these funky drinks I love the first few sips, like the next few then regret the order. The flavor of bacon in a beverage is unusual and not unwelcome. It was a pretty presentation and good to the last drop.

20130325-070043.jpg I ordered the French 75 with vodka. Had I known the original was made with gin I would have had it that way. It was a light wine spritzer with vodka, lemon juice, simple syrup and sparkling wine. It is the kind of drink I would enjoy on a summer day over ice.

If you go, be sure to make a reservation and remember that it may be noon somewhere but it’s not until 12:00 PM in Lewiston.

Have a yummy day!