Saturday, May 15, 2010

The KFC Double Down Adventure: By Ashleigh

This is a stick-up! I want everyone to put their forks in the air slowly and hand over your good taste.


Ah, so this blog is a usually bastion of fine desserts and food, but here to bring some REAL CLASS is I, the ubiquitous Ashleigh, bringing you the wonders of the ultra-classy KFC Double Down. But really, this entry will be about the ridiculous lengths taken to acquire this gold-standard of fast food ridiculosity and how the DD is really just the culmination of a thousand of years of globalized oppression brought on by the…ahem. Nothing to see here! Moving on.

fb-4115It all started with some ITG (In the Groove, the slightly more difficult and apparently more awesome version of DDR). No, actually, it started with Colin picking my friends (Mar and Agent Tsai) and me up from the 40, but really, who needs to know that? (Except now you know all of the characters in this little drama, see that was clevar.) So, we went to the arcade, owned some noobs at Ski Ball, got owned at ITG (except for Colin.) and decided to leave when the locals decided to cut in line and take off their shirts BEFORE playing.

I never thought I’d be thankful for douches but…I have a new found appreciation for them, as Axe-drenched tornado warnings. No sooner than we had buckled our seat-belts, the tornado sirens went off. Me, being a hardened Kansas veteran of many severe storms, determined, since the sky was not yet green, that we should go find a KFC anyway and watch the radar as we went. It was a great idea, and was working until Susan (the GPS) started taking us right into the middle of the storm. And then the sky turned green. And then we made a U-turn. Colin suggested that we go home and so Mar pushed the correct buttons on the GPS and we were off. As this point, my brain switched into full storm-excitement mode aka OMG I LOVE STORMS OMGOMGOMG THIS IS SO AWESOME mode ™. I was just staring at the sky, taunting my friends back home via text (who were super jealous), and occasionally offering reassurances to the team (yeah, we’re a team now). So, I didn’t really watch where we were going. I did start paying attention when we started crossing the river.

Me: “Hey Colin. I thought you lived near the university.”
Colin: “yeah, I do. Why?”
Me: “Uhm, we’re crossing the river.”
Colin: “#$@!”
Me: “Hey Mariam, did you press the ‘home’ button on Susan?”
Mar: “Yessss…”
Me: “Well, Colin’s from New Hampshire.”
Mar & AT: “…”

So they say everything happens for a reason, and in this case, by getting turned around in ghetto East St. Louis, we managed to avoid the worst of the storm AKA death by tornado. By the time we made it back across town, the sun was shining, the freeway was slightly flooded, and KFC was looking fantastic.


Susan decided not to be a jerk and guided us to the objective of the day. Too exhausted to brave the unsanitary confines of the restaurant, we opted for the drive-thru and the relative comfort of the apartment, which brings me to the food part of this blog.


The KFC Double Down, as you might know, is a “bunless” sandwich that consists of cheese, “Colonel Sauce” (mayonnaise, for real), and two pieces of bacon between two pieces of fried chicken. I’m probably going to shock the whole blogosphere by saying this, but it’s really not that gross. Honestly, if you slapped the whole thing between two buns, we’d have a double chicken burger with bacon. Which IS disgustingly disgusting, but it’s not the harbinger of doom that everyone’s been freaking out about. The most horrible thing about it was that it was incredibly salty, just like KFC’s fried chicken. I was genuinely disappointed in the lack of greasy-monstrosityness. As far as taste goes, it was very salty, so it was “good,” meaning that the four of us ate it rather quickly and guiltily. Sadly, the bacon and sauce were buried between the chicken breasts, and only a hint of cheese managed to squeeze through. In a way, this blog entry is like the Double Down, in that the two anecdotes that encapsulate the point of the entry are greater and more delicious than the objective.

We couldn’t subsist on a few bites of fried chicken alone after a long day of being storm chased, so we decided to take Agent Tsai (a Canadian) to Steak ‘n Shake, because “they don’t have those in Canada.” So, battle-scarred and hungry, we piled into the Subaru and told Susan to take us to the nearest SnS (but not before we gawked at a full double-bow rainbow for five minutes). Well, Susan decided to be a complete wanker and direct us to a Steak ‘n Shake that DID NOT EXIST. It was like the Twilight Zone, but unlike the Twilight Zone, we didn’t receive a somewhat twisted moral lesson or become trapped in some sort of inter-dimensional rift, I just yelled at the GPS and we found one that actually existed. Not quite as awesome, but I digress. Steak ‘n Shake, was well, steak(ish) for the half that couldn’t have a shake. The other half had shakes, but no steak. Did that just blow your mind? Because it really shouldn’t. I had the Frisco melt, which was a SNS burger on sourdough with “Frisco sauce” (just a crude imitation of the perfection that is In-N-Out’s Special Sauce). It was pretty good, although I really wasn’t paying attention to it; I was really hungry, and jealous of Mar’s mocha/vanilla shake. (Curse you lactose intolerance!) I think the ice cube sculptures were the best part of the meal…no, our waiter aka “Robo-man” was the best part. I think he might have been lobotomized. Because of lactose-challenged status of half of our group, we decided to seek dessert elsewhere.


Well, yours truly had a “brilliant” idea that we should procure a dessert-only reservation at Harvest. A couple of older, more knowledgeable college students had informed me that Harvest had excellent desserts, and had been there in casual wear. So, running with that information, we made reservations (that should have been our first clue) and finally made it there after becoming lost AGAIN. (Incidentally, Susan was grounded for a few weeks.) So, the amazing desserts thing was correct, but the casual wear? Let’s just add this experience to the awkward-things-Ashleigh-has-dragged-her-friends-into list. However, our waitress was wonderful, courteous, and kind. She suggested the bread pudding which everyone, except for Agent Tsai, ordered. I am not exaggerating when I say that this dessert was the best thing I’ve eaten in St. Louis, and possibly the best dessert I’ve ever had. It was warm, not too chewy, and the cream complimented the sweet vanilla bourbon sauce perfectly; the currants were an added bonus. It was a golden and glorious ending to our gastronomic adventure (that was only supposed to last a few hours by the way). Unfortunately, there are no photos of this wonderful dish, as we were all too cowed to whip out our cameras.

So thus ends my tale of April 24, 2010, despite its supreme ridiculousness, probably one of the best days of my freshman year. There’s something wonderfully relieving, de-stressing, and dare I say it, enjoyable about engaging in a good bout of insanity. (yeah, I just screwed up that parallelism. English teachers the world over just face-palmed) Many thanks to Colin for providing transportation and enabling the whole adventure, to Mar for letting me hijack this blog, and to Agent Tsai, for being a bulwark of stoicism in the midst of the storm. (aka silently panicking in the backseat. Well, to be fair, Mar was assisting, and Colin was “passive-aggressively” panicking, although I suppose he had a reason, being the driver and all.)

FUN FACT: This blog entry is longer than my last music history essay over 17th-century madrigals. Mar, this is how much I love you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kitchen, Knife, and Rootstock?


Since I've gone to school my mom keeps mentioning restaurants to me that I've never heard of, whether they be new restaurants or restaurants they'd just never been to before. One of those restaurants, Rootstock, I heard about from both my mom AND one of her friends via twitter. I ate there with my parents back on December 29th, and, thanks to the contents of our fridge at the time, decided I'd write down the description of one of their flatbreads that sounded tasty and try to recreate my idea of it the following evening:
Prosciutto, garlic herbed sheeps milk cheese, arugula, brandied cranberry vinaigrette & pistachio


I never did get around to giving it a try, despite buying cranberry juice, pizza dough, and having serrano ham, manchego, and arugula in the fridge. (I never said it was going to be exactly the same thing, considering I don't actually know what exactly it is.)

Well, now, 135 days later, I've finally given it a try. Only without the prosciutto. And, okay, not really the same thing at all, but it was still tasty. The dressing was quite sour and strong (I liked it), and I served it with another idea from Rootstock's menu, via their website. This description: Black Earth organic burger, bacon-scallion aioli, red onion, Fiscilini cheddar, w/ mezclun greens & house pickles

Well, that translated into mini bunless burgers, and the use of a few shortcuts. No homemade aioli - yogurt was used instead, but the red onions were sauteed in lard (I know, I can't even believe I just said that. What happened to me in college?).


All in all, it was probably a bit adventurous for my first night back in a kitchen. But hey, there's always take-out if nothing turns out edible.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

an idea a month in the making


So on April Fool's Day, I met my friend for dinner and he brought up the idea of putting nutella into brownies. Much to his surprise, I told him that I'd seen recipes for such a thing before, and we planned to meet again to bake some soon.

Soon is a relative term, and the semester is now almost over, and it wasn't until reading week that we were able to find a mutually agreeable time to bake the brownies. Which aren't just nutella brownies, they're nutella cheesecake brownies from alpine berry.

Her recipe is surprisingly simple, and extraordinarily rich. I didn't quite follow it (I'm sorry, but did I really need to unwrap that third stick of butter? The answer: no), but the brownies turned out anyway.

However, a week ago I made more sweet corn brownies, and my pan disappeared. I had to borrow a pan to make these brownies, and when I get home, I'll have to replace my pan. I'm not looking forward to that - I'm super indecisive, it took me forever to pick out a bundt cake. But I'll be optimistic, I have about 89 more hours for it to turn up before I completely lose hope.

And, it's not the end of the world. It's just a pan.

Nutella Brownie Cheesecake
adapted from alpine berry
Makes a 9x13 pan of very fudgy brownies

Brownie layer:
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup natural cocoa powder

Cheesecake layer:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup Nutella

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Line 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment or greased aluminum foil.

First, make the brownie layer:
Combine butter, Nutella, eggs, and sugar in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in flour and cocoa powder and mix until combined. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Set aside.

For the cheesecake layer, beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Beat in the eggs and Nutella until well combined.* Pour over brownie batter in pan.

Bake until the cheesecake layer looks set, about 50 minutes. Allow brownies to cool completely in the pan before cutting. If storing, keep refrigerated.

*I originally combined all the ingredients for the cheesecake layer together at once, but it was a little lumpy. Hopefully this will solve that problem.