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DC Happy Hour & The Death of Ulysses

I am going to begin this post, which is mostly an anecdote, by telling you how I ended up with my current computer, Ulysses S. Grant.  You see, long before Dan and I started dating, we were friends.  Good friends.  The kind of friends that harbored secret crushes on each other and watched a lot of CSI together.  We met in a class called Exhibition Development Seminar at the Maryland Institute College of Art.  This class was the beginning of what would become MICA’s curatorial studies program.  It gave students the opportunity to (in our case) work with local museums designing every facet of an exhibition.  Dan came on as a web designer and I dove head first into museum education.  I spent three years in the program, the first two were with Dan working on an incredibly intense exhibition called At Freedom’s Door: Challenging Slavery in Maryland. Dan and I joke that if we had actually started dating while we were working on this project we never would have made it, the work was more than any of my other classes combined.

Anyway, one day my sophomore year we had a presentation at Morgan University, an HBCU near Baltimore.  I had brought my computer, my beautiful, giant MacBook Pro with all of my personal information (none of it backed up) so that Dan could use it to give a presentation (he had a desktop).  I showed up and handed it over to be hooked up to the projector.  All went perfectly, it was fine and dandy, until we forgot it.  Somehow in the aftermath of class I thought Dan had it and he thought I had it and it got… forgotten.  By the time I realized nobody had it I was out to dinner with some friends.  I rushed back to Morgan, calling Dan frantically along the way, but it was gone.  Someone had taken it and although Dan and I made a few trips back to Morgan to bug the head of security there was someone out there with all of my stuff.  Which, it turns out, is very scary.

Anyway, shortly after I got my first credit card and purchased a MacBook, named it Ulysses and have had a close personal relationship ever since.  He’s been doing well, plugging along for 5 years.  Last year Dan replaced the harddrive and earlier this year he had to dive in and disconnect the broken optic drive, but the fact that this computer still runs is a near miracle.  It’s been dropped, schlepped to class and on trips and back and forth to jobs.  It’s been in the kitchen dangerously close to hot water and ingredients.  It’s processed thousands upon thousands of photos and taken it like a champ.  Until now.  A few weeks ago it started randomly restarting, and then apparently my kernels panicked.  Dan replaced something but it’s still acting funky so last night we bought a new iMac.  It’ll be here next week and we’ve already decided to name it Admiral Adama.

The point of me sharing all this is that right now my computer isn’t processing much when it happens to be awake.  Which means that posting for the next week is going to be light at best.  I wanted to apologize in advance and promise that I’d be back in action as soon as the Admiral was up and running.  In the mean time, if you’re a D.C. area food blogger, you should stop by Aagain on February 3rd for a happy hour.  After the potluck a few weeks ago I joined the planning committee, along with Arugula Files, Beer Spotter, Capital Cooking, Capital Spice, Common Man Eats, Dining in DC, Gradually Greener, Modern Domestic, Thrifty DC Cook, and We Love DC.  RSVP here.

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Gingerbread Cheesecake

I know that as far as seasonal dishes go, gingerbread themed things fall in the Thanksgiving-New Years category.  I am also aware, believe it or not, that it is now mid-January.  Even late January, depending on how you split your month.  You see, I agree.  I was going to make this cheesecake for Dan’s work holiday party.  But then it snowed, like two feet.  So the party got rescheduled.  And then it got rescheduled again so that it was during the work day.  Which meant that Dan was metroing with the dessert, which made brownies the dessert of choice over say, cheesecake.  So brownies it was.

The thing is, ever since I conceived of this cheesecake, it’s been on my mind.  And when I couldn’t make it for the holiday party, it was the first dessert I thought of every time I had an occasion to make dessert.  So this weekend when we had some company I thought, why not?  Even though it’s way past the traditional gingerbread season it’s still winter.  What’s stopping me?  It turns out, nothing.  I dove in, head first, and made a gingerbread cheesecake.

Incidentally this is also the first cheesecake I’ve ever made.  As this website has documented for a year and a half, I am really a pie person.  I like cake occasionally, but when given the opportunity I usually ere towards pie.  However, I married a cheesecake man.  Dan loves cheesecake.  And since marriage is about compromise, I figured it was high time for me to learn how to make cheesecake.  I researched, learned all about the best methods and techniques, and borrowed a friend’s roasting pan (so as to give the cheesecake a proper bath).

Amazingly enough, this went perfectly.  At least 50% of the time when I try something new, it fails.  Or at least has some defects.  But this cheesecake was near perfect.  I took the advice I found online seriously, omitting flour (to ensure silkiness) and baking it in a water bath (to ensure silkiness).  I even sent poor Dan out to get more cream cheese when it looked like I was woefully behind.  All the finicking and stress was well worth it, though.  It was delicious.  Topped with fresh gingerbread cookies it was silky, full of flavor, and beautiful.

Gingerbread Cheesecake

crust:

4 cups gingerbread cookies

½ stick butter, melted

filling:

4 8oz boxes cream cheese (rt)

1 stick butter (rt)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup molasses

4 eggs (rt)

½ cup sugar

1 tsp nutmeg

2 tsps cinnamon

2 tsps ginger

1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped

Grind cookies in food processor. Mix with butter and press into the bottom of a buttered springform pan. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Let cool.

Cream creamcheese in mixer on medium speed until light. Add in butter. Add in sugar and molasses. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Add in spices.

Heat your oven to 350 and boil a teapot of water. Wrap bottom of springform pan in tin foil to prevent leaks.

Chop your ginger and press in mortar & pestle. Sprinkle over crust. Pour filling into the springform pan and place the pan in a larger roasting pan. When the water is boiling, pour around the springform into the roasting pan, surrounding the cheesecake with 2 inches of water.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour & 5 minutes (65 minutes). Take out while the center is still soft, it will set later. Let cool and chill overnight.

Top with fresh baked gingerbread cookies.

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Basic White Bread

This weekend was Dan’s 25th birthday.  I know, a big deal right?  No, you don’t think it’s a big deal?  Whatever, we’re pet and childless, we just got married, and this is the biggest birthday we’ve had to celebrate since I turned 21.  Incidentally both weekends ended with bacon, egg, and cheese croissants from City Cafe in Baltimore.  Emphasis on the bacon.

For Dan’s triumphant 25th birthday we took advantage of a wedding present from my mom’s good friends Elaine and Brenda, a stay at Baltimore’s new Hotel Monaco.  As you may know, we lived in Baltimore for quite some time, attending the Maryland Institute College of Art.  We now live in D.C., but we miss Baltimore and every square inch of that city holds a special place in our hearts.  So we spent the weekend taking in some of our favorite aspects of the Charm City.

Saturday started with cinnamon rolls and quickly phased into Dan being blindfolded.  You see, I’d been keeping the destination of our big weekend away a secret (a difficult task) for months.  So I made him wear a blindfold for the drive and doubled back a few times to throw him off.  Unfortunately for me he’s been watching too many crime shows in HD because he figured my plan out months ago.  Surprise or not we ended up at Holy Frijoles, hands down the best chimichanga I’ve ever had.  The service leaves a lot to be desired but it’s always worth it for those chimichangas.

After lunch we went to The Wine Source in Baltimore, where Dan picked out some birthday scotch.  He picked out a sampler box and a holiday blend.  Then it was onto the hotel, where we were upgraded to a suite covered in rose petals.  After such an undertaking as the Holy Frijoles chimichanga (and margarita) a nap is in order.  So we rested, watched some travel channel, enjoyed some wine and scotch.  After the hotel’s complimentary cocktail hour we had dinner at their restaurant, the B&O American Brasserie whose Chef Reidt was named one of the “Top New Chefs” in 2001.  Dinner was amazing.  So amazing that I was motivated to try both duck and creme brulee for the first time.

This morning we awoke to, well, hangovers.  We stopped by City Cafe for brunch, indulging in the aforementioned bacon, egg, and cheese croissants.  And lots and lots of coffee.  When we got home to Takoma Park today we were tired, cold, and beat.  Which meant that a trip to the grocery store and the whole “preparing for the week” thing was absolutely the last on my list.  Part of my new culinary life list is a commitment to make all of our own bread.  For a few weeks I’ve been baking this delicious white bread from the recipe book that came with our Kitchen Aid Mixer.  It’s fluffy and just a little sweet with a perfectly crunch crust.   It’s just the first step in my commitment to learning bread baking techniques, my hope is to one day make our own hangover croissants.

Basic White Bread
Source: Kitchen Aid

5 to 6 cups flour

2 tbsp dry active yeast

1/2 cup skim milk

3 tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

3 tbsp butter

1 1/2 cups warm water

In a sauce pan melt butter in milk and sugar.  When sugar has dissolved remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixing bowl.  Add milk mixture and 4 1/2 cups flour.  Attach bowl to your stand mixer and begin to knead on speed 2 with dough hook.

Continue to knead, adding the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time.  Knead until the dough clings to the hook, and then an additional four minutes longer, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Grease a mixing bowl and place the dough inside, turning once.  Cover and let rise in a warm spot for an hour.  Punch down and divide in half.  Roll out on a nonstick surface.  Tuck ends in and roll into a loaf shape.  Place in a greased bread pan, cover, and let rise another hour.  Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.  Turn out onto a wire rack and let cool.

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