Friday, October 30, 2009

weekly travels: a chestnut festival in romulus, ny

last weekend the fiance and i made a short expedition through the gorgeous autumnal landscape of finger lake county to experience wine tasting and a chestnut festival. truth be told: until last weekend i had never eaten a chestnut. needless to say my interest was peaked when i heard goose watch winery was hosting a festival solely devoted to the curious nut. and so our adventure was set in romulous, ny - right on cayuga lake. the name romulus sounds powerful and foreboding - but the area is adorably quant and rustic. here are some of my favorite pictures from the day. {all photos taken by bill hoelzer a.k.a "the fiance"}

{ roasted american chestnuts }

to eat the wondrous chestnut meat, just peal off the hard shell. like the love child of a sweet potato and a walnut, chestnuts have a wonderfully sweet, rich flavor with a firm, starchy yet moist texture. yum yum.

later i made chestnut soup by adding finely chopped roasted chestnuts to roasted vegetable broth with onions, garlic, sage, parsley, and a dash of cream. it was quite the fall delicacy. however the soup didn't photograph well and came out looking like caca... and no one wants to look at that.

chestnuts are found on the ground after the tree releases them in these crazy spiky burr-like husks... fancy that.

{ having a frolic in the vineyard. }

at buttonwood grove winery we ran into a curious scottish highland cow that looks part golden retriever. her name is melody. we became friends.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

hydrangea love continues.

typically when thinking of hydrangeas one pictures blue or purple flowers. {see here} however, hydrangeas come in a variety of colors depending on the pH levels of their soil. so in this way they are nature's litmus paper. hydrangeas also happen to be one of my favorite types of flowers - and not just for their scientific capabilities either. i like how simple little blossoms tightly group together to create great voluminous fluffy clouds. (sometimes i wish i could just rollick in a bed of hydrangea blooms as if they were a foam pit at a little-kids' gymnastics class.) and i like how they can add a sense of drama to a vase.

these particular hydrangeas were purchased at the ithaca farmer's market. i find the antique-y pinks and cream colors deeply inspiring - in fact these pictures are part of my wedding inspiration board!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

cheese party!

the power of cheese is not to be overlooked. admittedly i'm biased since i happen to make a living constructing cheese platers. in fact, i think cheese is the dominating factor keeping me from turning vegan. that said, last weekend i hosted an impromptu celebration of cheese and local ale. the motivating factor was that clark's, our neighborhood ale house, held their annual "the people's real ale festival". they featured around 20 cask conditioned ales from new york state micro breweries - pretty darn cool. so we, the peoples, (the fiance and i) had some friends over for cheese to go with the ale.

as far as i'm concerned cheese and beer were made for each other. like any healthy relationship - they bring out each other's best qualities. i made a quick trip over to a little lebanese grocery - samir's imported foods - they sell amazing cheese for cheap. at samir's i also bought dates, cashews, hazelnuts, olives, and honey to pair with the cheeses. all this deliciousness was served with toasted italian stretch bread from pasta's daily bread, a delightful bakery which is conveniently located a stone's through from my crib.

{ the cheese line up }

gorgonzola ~ a buttery-rich, crumbly, slightly earthy and quite salty blue. i heart mold. the "gorg" paired amazingly with date and hazelnut.

asiago ~ a hard, grass-fed cow's milk cheese. this aged italian has a sharp, full-mouth flavor - similar to romano or parmesan. i usually cook with asiago i also find it to be of great character for a spread. it paired wonderfully with some drizzled honey and a bit of rosemary.

pepato (the "mystery peppered cheese") ~ an aged sheep's milk cheese embedded with black peppercorns. it had a flakey, yet creamy consistency with a salty-piquantly sweet flavor. the pepato was my favorite and went splendidly with olives. (if i was to serve cured meat - this cheese would be awesome with prosciutto or serrano ham.)

{ some cheese party hosting tips }

1. don't serve cold cheese: about 45 minutes before your guests arrive take the cheese out of the fridge and cover. the cheeses' flavor is most enjoyed when served at room temperature, especially hard cheese. i promise it won't spoil, just cover it to prevent contamination until party time.

2. prevent an identity crisis: identify the cheese for your guests. it can be hard for them to figure out/remeber the cheeses. the tags/flags don't need to be fancy. i've seen cool cheese flags sold at specialty kitchen stores- but they are pricey and will inevitably get lost in that kitchen junk drawer. (yeah, we all have one). so here is a simple-last minute solution: fold a piece of paper in half and cut flag shapes out along the fold, then label each flag. take a couple sticks of uncooked pasta (like spaghetti) brake them in half, and then taped a piece of pasta in the fold of each flag. finally tape the flag shut. this took maybe 5 minutes its not fancy- but hey, it works!

3. spread the spread: group the cheeses with their best accompaniments (i.e. dates next to the gorgonzola) and place the cheese groupings at different tables around the party. this way people get the hint on what items work together and crowding around one table is prevented.

***note: at the party i totally spaced taking pictures of the spread, so the above photos i shot after the fact. hence the small amount of queso and the condensed manner in which they are placed...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

sketch of the week - another nude

yup, another nude. this sketch is from the same session as last week's post {see here}. i had some great life drawing sessions in portland. also, i'm really appreciating the female form more and more - it's the ultimate sign of beauty's power. so yeah, i like to draw naked chicks.

e.cobb, nude #2 (2009), 12x8" pencil on paper.

Monday, October 26, 2009

modern day craft time.

one of the many things i miss about elementary school is making seasonally themed craft projects. you get the chance to acknowledge and celebrate the world around you by:
  1. playing with colors and paper... among many visually stimulating things - especially sparkly glue.
  2. getting to make a mess.
  3. getting the chance to eat paper. and glue (but not the sparkly kind).
one simple project i remember involved pressing fall leaves between sheets of clear contact paper. the sheets were taped to a window and looked like stained glass when the light shined through.

{ a scan of

i found
my window. }

scanning stuff is a fun way to preserve leaves too. this way i can share!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

wild chanterelle mushrooms {fall feast part 2}

last week i made this fall inspired meal... and i went all out with it. hence the "fall feast" title. on tuesday i featured a side dish {bourbon baked pears}. well today i'm featuring part 2, the main course: wild mushroom risotto (with leeks and sage cooked in brown butter). and i didn't use just any ol' mushrooms... no no. in fact this whole feast idea was inspired by these gorgeous little fall chanterelle 'shrooms i discovered at the ithaca farmers' market. a wild mushroom expert, karma glos, b.s. of kingbird farm in berkshire, ny, identified (and perhaps harvested) these little beauties. so in case you were wondering, no trippy hallucinations, just a deliciously earthy, slightly fruity flavor. by the way, i think my favorite part about these chanterelles (other than their amazing flavor) is their bright orange steams. they remind me of colorful stocking peaking out from under a ruffly skirt.

now, the following must be stated: i am totally not a food expert, just an artist who loves to combine flavors like i combine colors.
that said, this dish turned out magnificently.

here's what i did:
in a medium saucepan i browned a couple tablespoons of butter then added 2 roughly chopped leeks and cooked on low heat for about 10 min (until caramelized). i then added at least a tablespoon of homegrown sage, along with salt and pepper to taste. then added 1 cup of uncooked risotto (short grain rice) and stirred until slightly translucent. next i added 2 cups of homemade roasted-vegetable stock (you can use any stock- but homemade is sooo good - you'll never turn back. when i do make stock i make a lot of it for situations like this. so really, its not as complicated as it sounds.) anyway, i kept an eye on the pan- kept stirring and adding a bit of water whenever the rice mixture was getting dry but still not cooked all the way. (see i told you i'm no pro). once the rice was about good to go (don't have rice al dente) i added thechanterelle mushrooms (about 1 1/2 cups) stirred, covered and cooked them in the rice on low heat for another 2-4 minutes to release the flavors but not make the 'shrooms mushy. then finally, the good part: dish & serve. yum.

{and so with no further delay, the fall feast line up (enter trumpet flair).
chanterelle mushroom and leek risotto, bourbon baked pears, steamed beet chard, and to wash everything down; a double abbey belgium ale by ommegang brewery.
the combination was seriously. amazing. my first inclinations was to have a pinot nior but i'm very glad i chose the abbey ale instead. }

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

sketch of the week - exaggeration of the booty

this week's sketch is a product of a life drawing session i went to this summer in portland. as you can see i am playing around with exaggerated proportions. this particular sketch reminds be of a pear so i thought it would flow nicely after yesterday's post.

{ if you are into figure drawing and you're in the portland area i highly recommend attending the open figure drawing offered every wednesday at PNCA (pacific northwest college of art) in the pearl district. its only $5 and its wonderful- good models, good people. }

e.cobb; figure exaggeration #3 (2009), pencil on paper 8x12"

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

pears & bourbon {fall feast part 1}

now that fall is in full swing there is an abundance of pears at the farmer's market. as an artist i'm infatuated by their sensuous shapes. as a foodie i love cooking with them in both sweet and savory situations... before eating/cooking a photo shoot was first in order:

i'm a huge fan of bourbon so i'm game for any excuse to cook with it. bourbon just so happens to go splendidly with pears. i invented the following concoction completely and totally so there is probably a far superior method. i just figured the flavors would mesh nicely so i gave it a shot - recipe free. well this time my premonition was a success. the combination of sweet, earthy, richness seduced my palate. i don't use exact measurements and am certainly not a professional. however, i can tell you that this dish was delicious...

{ here's what i did: i put 3 quartered pears in a roasting pan and liberally doused them with maker's. i then put a clove in each pear section and lightly dusted them with cinnamon, brown sugar, fresh thyme, pinch of salt. and finished with about 1/3 c of roughly chopped pecans and 1/4 c raisins. i set the oven for around 375, coverd the pan and let the babies roast covered for about half an hour or so and then uncovered and baked for another 10-15 min - until there was a nice caramelization happening. when it was time to serve i crumbled a rich gorgonzola cheese over the deliciousness. oh lordy- this concoction melts in your mouth. }

before the oven.

Monday, October 19, 2009

there's a succulent garden in my apartment.

in past posts { here and here } i talk about how much i like succulent plants (which include cacti). i go on and on about how cool they look, how easy they are to keep... but i didn't even have any- until i finally did something about it. behold: my miniature succulent garden. a neighbor gifted me her late bonsai tree's pot. its shallow shape and the rocky soil it came with are perfect. the plants are doing well- we have been together about 5 weeks and i have only watered the pot twice: at planting and then once more - which may even be too often. i just love the funky shapes and textures - they add spunk to a side table in my living room.

{clock-wise from top left: a bristle brush cactus, an aloe minibelle, and a sedum "burrito" or "jellybean" succulent}

Friday, October 16, 2009

DIY pickles

unbelievably better tasting than the supermarket's neon-green variety. so fresh and crunchy in texture and mysteriously sweet-salty-spicy in flavor. and, pickles are very easy to make - i promise. what inspired me? the farmer's market of course. there were tons of cucumbers for real cheap one day but i was wasn't sure what i could do with a bunch of cuc's before the inevitable mushy-mold-fest. so i asked a vender and he looked at me like i was from mars and said "make pickles!". oh duh - i guess. its not like my generation watched our grandmothers and mothers can all their own food- hence the neon-supermarket takeover. anyway, i bought a massive quantity of cuc's and turned to a recipe from the "minimalist", mark bittman, in his how to cook everything bible, i mean cookbook.

{ all you do is slice the cuc's, sprinkle salt all over, and let them hang out in a strainer in your sink for a couple hours

(this is what gives them the crunch factor). then you boil water and white vinegar (although i was happy with some

cider vinegar) in a saucepan with sugar, a bit more salt, and pre-mixed pickling spices (containing: coriander

seed, mustard seed, dill seed, allspice, clove, chili pepper, peppercorns, bay leaf...) next you pour the spiced liquid

mixture over the salted cuc's in a bowl, roasting pan, or whatever you got. let it cool. then put them in containers like

ball jars and stick them in the fridge. a couple days later... you have delicious homemade pickles. and they keep a

helluva lot longer then fresh cucumbers. }

my pickles model with some feta.

they are so good i eat the pickles all the time- with cheese & eggs at breakfast (very euro), in sandwiches, or anything really. for instance i had some left over rice and beans from a dinner so i put some feta cheese and sliced pickles on it - instant lunch! yum can't get enough...

{pickles save leftovers.}

i heart old stamps!

here is part of my stamp collection - the purple and orange ones. yes i collect old stamps (among a plethora of various ephemera). and yes i organize pretty much everything by color. i have a serious obsession with old school design - that gorgeous detail. why does "contemporary design" have to be so utilitarian-bland and ugly? instead of severe patriotic images why can't we spice things up like hungary with its hot air ballon? there are so many unanswered questions in this life.

{the following countries represent clock-wise from top left: germany, hungary, new zealand, poland, mexico, czechoslovakia (before it was czech republic) & india.}

Thursday, October 15, 2009

the czech's alice

i sure loves me some stop-motion... last night i watched czech filmmaker jan svankmajer's alice and was blown away.

the film is strange, trippy and down-right fabulous. i dare to say: svankmajer's version of
alice and wonderland is probably most true to lewis carroll's vision. i love the props - very cabinet of dr. caligari.

below is a short clip where
alice first enters wonderland. warning: there is graphic use of taxidermy.

{ they actually have elevators like that in prague - minus the shelves of creepery. }

more light-hearted
another short stop motion film by the same film-maker :

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ginormous kohlrabi

kohlrabi |kōlˈräbē| those of you not familiar with this turnip-like vegetable (member of the cabbage family) - they are typically the size of a tennis ball. yet i found the most stupendously sized kohlrabi at ithaca ny's farmers' market. i couldn't resist, so now this cheap/amusing impulse buy is sitting on the kitchen counter. i haven't cooked it yet. hopefully its not too woody. also, i discovered the joy of light green paired with an orangey-red color. random? yes.

{chillin' with the 'rabi - in my stockings. just another wednesday.}

sketch of the week - "one of bergman's girls"

i happen to have a soft spot for scandinavian film makers like lars von trier, thomas vinterberg, and the like. so today i would like to pay homage to the grand daddy of them all (and arguably of modern cinema): ingmar bergman. according to a wikipedia author bergman's "influential body of work often dealt with themes such as bleakness and despair, as well as comedy and hope, in his cinematic exploration of the human condition...his major themes being death, illness, betrayal and insanity." typical swede. i recently came across an article on bergman which included some of his films' stills. i think i was really drawn to the facial expression of, who i believe is, ingrid thulin from the silence. it reminded me of a francesco clemente portrait in a way:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

DIY coffee table makeover

so i know that it looks like all i did was paint the table white. no big deal right? however, re-painting requires sanding - and sanding the varnish off a table by hand, my friends, is no laughing matter. sanding should be considered the major achievement of this whole little project; a fact i had to painstakingly learn. on sunday morning i looked over my to-do list and thought: "ok after brunch, i''l just do a quick sand and paint this baby up, make some calls, have a sandwich, run an errand or two - nice little sunday." truth be told: i tend to be overly optimistic with my capacity to tackle to-do lists, but this sunday i took things to a new level.
i began to understand the magnitude of the task at hand after about 90 minutes of inhaling varnish spores and several severe finger abrasions, at which point, i had only worked on an 8th of the table... i had minor meltdown. then enlisted my fiancé's help so that we could play bloody knuckles with the coffee table together- you know as a pre-marital bonding experience. eventually we got the sanding over with and i then white-washed the damn thing in about 30 minutes- with the setting sun. i'm not sure i used the right paint thanks to the "help" i received from lowes hardware. luckily i was going for a "rustic" look - which gives me the excuse for imperfections. after this little home DIY project i fully understand and appreciate the need for professional furniture re-finishing. so was it worth it for a $25 salvation army table? maybe not. but the learning experience... priceless.

{ before }

{ after }