Friday, May 17, 2013

Interlude: Huckleberry, LA

This has been one. crazy. month so far, and it's far from over. This past month, I packed up and moved (temporarily) ~400 miles to Los Angeles for a short four weeks. During that time, I drove three round trips between the Bay Area ↔ Los Angeles and 2 side trips (to Pomona and Davis), racking up a total of roughly 2500 miles behind the wheel. I gave five (different) talks at five different universities and really slept no more than five hours every night (on good nights). And, of course, there was the main reason that I moved: launching a new research project with a collaborator at UCLA. Anyways, I did say it's been crazy, right?

Given this breakneck schedule, I really didn't get to explore as much of the wonderful LA food scene as I would have liked, but I did make sure to carve out a bit of time one Thursday evening to visit one of my favorite bakeries in the city: Huckleberry in Santa Monica. The reason I wanted to go on a Thursday evening was because it's the one night a week that they turn their attention from pastries and breakfast to dinner. And, the Thursday evening dinner at Huckleberry was amazing.

Served family-style, we had dates stuffed with curry mascarpone for amuse bouche, followed by a huge bowl of bright cucumbers, fennel, olives, and frisee tossed in light and (at the same time) velvety mustard dressing. For the main came this big platter of some of the best fried chicken I've ever had, perched atop a bed of white bean cassoulet, which was this hearty, thick, warm-your-soul tomato-y and bacon-y stew. Uh! so, so good! Dessert was simple and sweet, with softly macerated raspberries ladled over an ultra-flakey egg-custard-filled tart. (Their dinner menu changes every week.)

As I said, this month is far from over yet (okay, fine technically, an extended month, but all the days are blurring together at this point). I'm off to the UK next! Tea and scones, here I come!

More details in subsequent posts, after I'm able to get more sleep, I promise. :)

Friday, May 3, 2013

(mis)Fortune Cookies: Matcha-Orange Flower and Brown Butter

A good deal of ink has been spilt chronicling the trials and tribulations of being a graduate student. And with good reason, since said trials are many: the long hours, the miniscule (if any) pay, the annoying ridicule we're subject to from grumpy old professors who don't see the point of the modern probability theory revolution .... ahem and eye roll. And we graduate students undertake all of this knowing full well that only very few of us will make it into academia in the long run (we just really, really hope it's us!).

Part of what makes it all live-able, however, is the fact that we are also terribly good at laughing at ourselves and at our own predicaments. Take PhD comics, for instance, or #whatshouldwecallgradschool. Poking fun at grad students is easy. Even Tina Fey does it!

So last week, when I was scheduled to speak at the year's final lab meeting, my linguist-cum-baker partner-in-crime AndrĂ©a and I thought we should celebrate the end of the year with some special fortune cookies for the lab. Yes, these fortune cookies were special in that some were matcha and orange flower fortune cookies and others were brown butter and almond fortune cookies (flavors far superior to your normal run-of-the-mill types), but really the special surprises were the misfortunes tucked inside. My favorite? p = 0.06.

A full list of our misfortunes is available here.

The misfortune cookies managed to elicit some great hand-to-forehead-smacking reactions at the lab meeting, which was quite gratifying. But really hidden behind these misfortunes was some optimism for fellow students: grad school might suck every now and then and we might not all make it, but at least cookies, laughs, and some good old reflexive schadenfreude can make everything seem better for now.

Read on for recipe....