Food Physics and Freakonomics

The Freakonomics Podcast has a two-part series in the making called "Waiter, there's a physicist in my soup." The first half is on the Freakonomics blog on the NYT now and covers the topic of Molecular Gastronomy.

Physicist Nathan Myhrvold is releasing a self-published reference work called "Modernist Cuisine: the Art and Science of Cooking."  I call it a "work" because Amazon clocks it at 2400 pages.  It's gotten a strong endorsement from Harold McGee, and sounds absolutely fantastic.

Intrigued? It lists for $625, but you can score it on Amazon for $467.62. AND it's Prime-eligible.

I will stick to On Food And Cooking.

The discussion in the podcast is pretty interesting, but when they interjected Alice Waters as a counterpoint, I thought the whole "face off" on each side felt forced.

Waters points out that she doesn't personally think the Molecular Gastronomy movement is the way she wants to eat.  She says: 
"In my view it’s to, you know, make it into something you can’t imagine. You know, surprise you.  That’s not to say that I haven’t been delightfully surprised.  It’s not that.  It’s that I am so hungry for the taste of the real that I’m just not able to get into that which doesn’t feel real to me. It’s a kind of scientific experiment, and I think that there are good scientists and crazy old scientists that can be very amazing. But it’s more like a museum to me. It’s not a kind of way of eating that we need to really live on this planet together."
As the counterpoint (offered by Dubner), Myhrvold says he loves Waters' restaurant, but then he goes off on this point:
"Well like it or not, physics happens, OK? So it turns out when you heat a piece of meat there’s a set of physical principles that are at work. Wishing doesn’t make the food hot, it’s the way molecules bump into each other that makes it hot. And if you are going to understand that in a reasonable way, I think it informs how you do cooking.  Now is it possible to cook without understanding? Of course it is.  For people that want to just, in a rote way, to repeat exactly what they were told to do without understanding why it works, hey go for it!  You don’t need me.  If all you want to do is repeat the recipes of the past and you have no curiosity about how or why it works, then you don’t need to have this physical understanding. On the other hand, why does it ruin the experience to understand how and why it works? You drive over a bridge, don’t you hope the civil engineer knows why bridges stand up? Or you go up to the ninth floor of a building here, don’t you hope that all those floors below us were designed by a guy who knows how buildings stand up? I think that informing people, whether it’s chefs, or foodies, or the average person, informing them on some of the ways that stuff actually works, I don’t see how that is a problematic notion."

He sounds as if he's answering/defending against a different point.

I'm assuming that this is the result of two separate interviews, spliced together to make a neat piece.  But I don't think it addresses Waters' comment - is this how we should be eating?

Does Molecular Gastronomy offer a more healthful or sustainable cuisine? Does it promote appreciation of resources or the whole animal?

Does it add to our food identity, the lack of which is in part driving morbid obesity, foodborne pathogens, and a drop in food IQ?

Something I take more issue with... you don't have to be an advocate of Molecular Gastronomy to appreciate that cooking is science, and to know the science behind cooking. 

With a little work, you can learn the science in your favorite recipes, whether they're handed down or cut from a magazine. Following a traditional recipe doesn't necessarily mean a surrender to ignorance, particularly when you have learned the techniques and skills that allow execution of that dish.

I'm sure Myhrvold's 6 volume work goes layer-by-layer through those basic techniques of cooking. It's probably phenomenal (even if it exceeds the price range or storage ability of many home cooks).

But I'm not convinced - from this interview at least - that learning how to make watermelon chips or baked potato foam or deep fried carrot juice will help me to appreciate how food works. It might be that I'm just inexperienced or lack the appreciation or palate. 

For something as visceral and personal and compelling as food can and should be.... should that matter?


Crunch Crunch Crunch

I am a snacker: crunchy, salty, crispy, you name it, I like it.

Keeping potato chips, etc, in the house is a problem.

Recently I've been coming across a lot of healthy-alternative snack recipes, including one that's stood out for Kale Chips.

You heard it right. Kale. Chips.

I had to give this a try. 

When I took a look at the recipes, I noticed a huge amount of variation in cooking times, oven temperature, seasonings, etc. I needed something easy. Loosely following the recipe above, I took a few handfuls of kale pieces (I used the environment-un-friendly pre-bagged stuff. *guilt*) and dried the leaves as best I could.

Oh, yeah, I set the oven to 300 degrees, F. Then I went back to drying.

Salad spins. Paper towel blotting. Real towel blotting. Air drying. 

When they were dry enough, I tossed them in a bowl and added a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil. If I'd had regular olive oil, I would have used that. It's a little better for roasting, IMO.

At one point, Matt asked, "Aren't they just going to come out mushy?"

"Of course not," I scoffed, confidently tossing green leaves about the place. Of course, I had no idea. I only knew that there were many recipes online, and none of them said the kale got mushy. Unless they were all covering up the truth.

Oh, the paranoia.

I carefully put the leaves on two baking sheets in a single layer, and then added a liberal dusting of kosher salt.

Since I'm all sciencey from time to time, I used two kinds of baking sheets - my stone one, and a standard cookie sheet.  I just wanted to see if they'd come out different.

Spoiler: Other than the finish time (the cheap sheet cooked a little faster) they did not.

Within about 10 minutes, I could smell... something. I still can't describe exactly what it was, but it was good.

I pulled them out around 20 minutes - probably a tad too long, to be honest.

I couldn't get a picture to come out right that really showed these at their best.
I promise, they looked a little weird but not gross.

Gone was the pretty bright green.  I picked up a leaf, cautiously.  It was stiff, still a pleasant dark green (going to brown toward the edges).

I took a bite. Salty. Crispy. Oily (in a good way). The well-done ones tasted browned, like the deep brown of homemade potato chips or the tiny slivers in a batch of hand-cut fries that inevitably get overdone. 

The chips were really crumbly. One recipe suggested crumbling them and using them as a popcorn topper.

I can definitely see it.

I'll make these again, they were an interesting, different sort of snack. I wouldn't call them healthy - not for the amount of oil that went into them, or salt (I will cut back on the amount of salt) - but they were good. I can already see them dusted with old bay. Maybe even sugar for a salty-sweet thing?

Have you ever had Kale chips?  What's your favorite snack recipe?


99th Page Blogfest

Today is the 99th page blogfest!  I've talked about writing a few times here, but I'm realizing now that I don't talk much about my writing.

No promises on changing that.

Still, the 99th page blog fest - hosted by Erinn, Alicia, Holly, Pam, and Quita - is a pretty cool thing. 

Here's the rundown.

I post the 99th page of a work in progress.  The reader (that's you, assuming you don't hit the "back" button now) decides the following after reading:

1. Would you turn to page 100?
2. Why or why not?
3. Based on what you read, how likely would you buy the book?

It was kind of fun to see what was on my 99th page. This is the first time I've opened this document since November.

“I grew up in one,” was all Kat felt like saying.
“I see.  Well, it’s best you don’t spend any time there, Katherine.  I’ll be back in a few days, either to pick you up or to bring more food.”
“You think it might be that bad?”
“I don’t know.”  Mrs. Finch maneuvered the van over a bumpy stretch of road and turned left.  Before Kat was ready, the van came to a stop.  “Here we are.”
The two women got out of the van and stared at the vacation spot.  It was a small cabin with a wrap-around porch.  The house backed against a lake.  The water was steel-gray against the sky, bordered by trees wilting and growing brown with fall.  Kat thought she saw a few other cabins scattered around the lake, but all were dark and the area seemed largely undeveloped. 
She shivered in her jacket.  The air was much colder here than it had been in the city.  She realized too late that Mrs. Finch had been talking. 
“…here all the time when I was a girl.  My daughter loved it, too.”
“I didn’t know you have a daughter,” Kat said.  Mrs. Finch had never once mentioned family before, and always seemed to travel on the holidays.

I look forward to hearing what you have to say! Don't forget to give the other blog-fest-entries a look, there's some fabulous writing out there.

Food versus Food: Flapjack Fight

There are few things as good as breakfast food.

I grew up in a family of eight. That's right. Six kids, all pretty close together in age.

I can't imagine what it must have been like to be my mom (a woman of almost-eternal patience and a prominent Queens accent when she finally does get pissed off) especially when we all hit grade school and she had to pry us out of bed in the morning. I know it was like for me.

"Five more minutes!" ZzzzZZzzzZZzzz...

But some days were different. Some days, she cooked a really awesome breakfast - bacon; french toast; cinnamon buns. Or she might have purchased a favorite, like croissants or honey buns.

If you didn't pop out of bed right away, chances were good you didn't get that awesome breakfast. Not because we didn't have enough to eat, but because with that many growing kids crammed around the table, well... food goes quick. I remember breakfast as a powerful motivator.

So maybe that's why I heart pancakes.

Enter... the pancake challenge AKA flipping flapjacks AKA Give Me Morning Noms.  Sadly, I wasn't awake enough to remember to write the exact total for each meal down.  But they were pretty comparable - about $12 each (including drinks, extra sides, etc).

Challenger #1: Pancakes, two eggs and bacon at Frank's Diner in Jessup.

Frank's Diner is located on Route 1, just south of Rte 175 (7395 Cedar Avenue, Jessup).  It's easy to fly right by it if you're not careful. Frank's offers budget-friendly, hearty diner-style food.

Bigger on the inside (geek points if you can name that reference in the comments), Frank's has a cool white and metal interior - sorry, it was a little too crowded for me to feel comfortable taking pictures. Covered cake stands display cakes of ginormous proportions, and there was a little jukebox at our table.  Despite the retro touches, I noticed a sign that advertises free WiFi.
I am at a loss to explain said hostility.
An intervention may be needed

Then I noticed another sign (several, actually, plus another mention in the menu) that they limit coffee to one free refill. I typically require more than two cups of coffee in the morning, and the idea of paying four dollars for diner coffee, well... it sparked some (totally internal) hostility.  

Once I got over that, though, I dug into the pancakes.

Pancakes at Frank's Diner.

The pancakes came out slightly crispy and blazing hot. I could tell they had spent some time sunning under a heat lamp (the plate was also blazing hot), but it didn't negatively affect the food.  The crispiness kept the pancakes from getting too mushy when I doused them with syrup. Starving after a long run, I had to slow down to keep from plowing through them.  

The pancakes were sweet and rich thanks to a generous swath of butter. Over time the bottom cake sopped up the syrup and transformed into something equally awesome, but different: soft, mapley, and a little doughy. (Seriously. I've never thought so much about eating pancakes before.) 

The eggs I could have done without, they were flimsy and mostly tasteless, but the bacon was good. There was a nice mix of crunch and soft in each strip. 

A pretty good start to the day, really.  And I did get by on two cups of coffee.

Challenger#2: Pancakes and bacon at The Forest Diner in Ellicott City.

Interior, Forest Diner.
The Forest Diner (10031 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City) is also easy to miss, nestled in the same immediate area as the now-closed Forest Motel, a Soft Stuff, and a Double T Diner. The Forest Diner also has an expiration date: it is only slated to be open for another four years. (I discovered this after my visit.)

Inside, The Forest Diner has a close, cozy feel.  One half of the restaurant looks like a converted dining car; the other, an addition with dark walls, white-trimmed windows, and some neon lighting. The place feels old, and my booth had cracked vinyl and an uneven base, but it was a good old: homey and comfortable. 

The menu was smaller than Frank's, but I had no trouble finding what I needed.  And coffee.  I had no problem getting as much coffee as I wanted.
Hellooooo griddle cakes.

The Forest Diner didn't offer a combo, but they did offer pancakes, which is what I really wanted. While I was waiting for my company, I also sampled their homemade Old Bay chips. Yes, chips go with pancakes.

Don't judge.

My pancakes - 3 in all - were literally the size of a dinner plate and steaming hot - fresh off the griddle hot. They were huge.  They lacked the crunch I noticed at Frank's, but they were also dense and sweet, and had a really pleasant flavor.  Possibly buttermilk.  And the pancakes were thick!  I doused them in syrup at least twice before I called it quits.

Pancakes and Bacon from The Forest Diner.
Splenda Packet included for scaling. I don't think it does the portion size justice, though.

Despite all the syrup, the pancakes didn't turn to mush or dissolve.  They benefited from a little butter but certainly didn't need it.  I had entered the place hungry, but could only finish half of my breakfast. No worries, it made a great lunch the next day.

The bacon was pretty awesome too, entirely crunchy.  I suspect a deep fryer was involved, of which I heartily approve.

Needless to say, I left more than fueled for my afternoon nap to start my day.

The Decision: This battle was really tough, because both breakfasts were quite good. I would go back to both places.  Ok, who am I kidding, I will go back to both places.  But when I compare the two meals, there is one that I found to be just a little bit better... so The Forest Hill diner is the winner!

Where do you go to get your breakfast buzz?  Do you have a favorite diner spot? (hocoblogs@@@)  Tell me in the comments below!


Divorced, beheaded...

I used to say, I don't watch a lot of TV, but that's not entirely true.

We don't have cable - or even broadcast channels. For a long time, we were never home to watch TV, and while the house has an antenna, it's broken somewhere and fixing it seemed like too much trouble.

We do have Netflix, however. So when we watch TV - say.... on a spare eight hours on a Saturday... -- we watch the "watch it now" via our TV.

I'm constantly 1-2 seasons behind any remotely popular show.  This is OK, even if it means I have one less thing to talk about at parties.

"Hey, do you think Jim and Pam are EVER going to get married?"

We just started watching The Tudors. It reminds me a lot of other series I've enjoyed - Rome, Deadwood, Carnivale - only I'm slightly more familiar with the history and the story. 

I like that it's very visually striking, that it feels gritty and a little more real than other pieces. 

I dislike some of the bizarre, creepy, and/or exposition-y dialogue that they have to [choose to?] interject to make the character motivations and backstory clear.

I'm willing to look the historical inaccuracies so far.

I'm really interested in some of the side characters that to this point (Ep 7) have only remote connection to the key storyline - sometimes moreso than Henry, Anne, Wolsey, and even Thomas More.

What are you watching on your TV?  Leave your suggestions (but no Tudor spoilers - I'm hoping everyone lives) in the comments below.


A list, and the snow day that isn't

In case you missed it... there's snow on the ground. Quite a lot more than I was led to believe earlier, for all the forecasts that said most of it would come this evening. There were 2+ inches on my car, and that was an hour before the winter storm warning officially began.

The drive to the lab was not fun. That's not even considering the fact that I was here late last night trying to fix a problem - roughly ten hours passed between when I locked the door and when I came back.

So, to put myself in a better mood and to start the day off right better, here's a list of 10 things that are awesome about the Snow Day That Isn't so far.

  1. The snow was really easy to brush off my car.
  2. I was able to stop for a hot cup of Dunkin coffee to go - and it was made the way I asked for it.
  3. When I walked from the garage to the lab, the precipitation was mostly snow. It's really nice to walk in the snow.
  4. There are a few people here. I had a spontaneous conversation with one dude by the elevator, he was pretty entertaining.
  5. The department ice maker is running really low for some reason, but because I'm in so early, I didn't have to fight for my ice.
  6. Since I'm the only one in the lab, I can listen to We're Alive while I work and not have to worry about the zombie sounds and screams disrupting my coworkers' concentration.
  7. I am wearing one of my favorite tee-shirts. If I'd stayed at home, I'd probably still be in my pajamas.
  8. At least one thing I left last night worked. I might be 3/3 by the end of the day.
  9. I have plenty of time to organize my desk. (I thought about posting a picture of the mess, but I don't want photo documentation...)
  10. Since I'll already be on the road, I can swing by the store and pick up some essentials on the way home.

Enjoy your snow day, and if you have to be out on the road, drive safely!


"Mr. Watson, come here...

...I want you," said Alexander Graham Bell on January 25, 1915.

To which Watson replied, "Do you have any idea what time it is here?!?!"

Alright, I may have taken some artistic liberty in the re-enactment of the conversation. Today marks the anniversary of the first transcontinental telephone call. Amazing to think about now, in an age where calling around the globe or videoconferencing over the internet is more or less routine.

I wonder where we'll be in another hundred years*.

Somewhat ironically, I left my phone at home today. It's thrown me off a little, but at the same time, has been somewhat liberating.

We may get snow tonight and tomorrow - stop by the store for milk, bread, and TP. Then bring them all by my house, 'cause seriously, I'm almost out.

Happy Tuesday, everyone. 

*Barring destruction via global warming, Zombie Apocalypse, or the election of Sarah Palin to the presidency.

Write that down.

A few weeks ago, while driving down 95, I caught part of an interview on NPR, the "Fresh Air" program. I was in a hurry - I can't remember why, I was probably late. 

What I do remember is this: the interview was background, I was only half-listening, until the guest got to this point. And then, suddenly, I was listening. Intently. 

Transcript quote:
"...what happened was, I wrote so much in this book, I would sit at my table for hours and hours 'til my mother made me go to bed. And it was like this - this obsession with words and with writing. And as I got further away from that notebook - now as I was on the street and these ideas would come, I would run into the corner store, the Bodega, and grab like, a paper bag or just buy a juice, anything just to get a paper bag. And then I'd write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket 'til I got back."  

(Italics and hyperlink mine) 

Who was the guest?  Jay-Z.

So, rap/hip-hop is not a genre of music I know well. It's not that I don't like it. I just don't often choose it. In some cases, I don't feel connected to the songs.

Still, this guy with a dramatically different life experience that's conveyed in a medium I don't know was talking about something I did know (well, sorta).

Ideas happen, often when I'm far from my workspace. I've stopped in my tracks and scrambled for my phone to snap a picture of something that prompted an idea for story. I've dug around for a pen to scrawl an idea in my notebook or on the back of a receipt if the notebook wasn't handy. 

So I thought it was cool to hear him talk about that passion for words. I'm not saying I understand Jay-Z's life experience, but I connected to an aspect of a story he told about it. 

That brief connection definitely made me want to listen as long as I could to the rest of the interview, found here

Incidentally, Jay-Z did a rap I that really liked when it came out - because I found it interesting and different. It was cool to hear him talk about that in the interview, too.

Video is courtesy of YouTube.
May contain NSFW/Adult language, content.

Have you ever had a moment of surprise connection?  Tell me in the comments below.


Chen Hibachi Buffet

I had a hot date tonight. We went to Chen Hibachi.

I know, impressive, right?

The last time I was there, the restaurant was Panda Buffet, and the experience left me... under the weather. Since then, we've stopped going to buffets for the most part.* The whole "eat until you pop" thing doesn't fit in the lifestyle anymore.

But we wanted sushi, Sushi King is closed on Sundays**, and Chen Hibachi beckoned, the great unknown entity that it was.

Good news: I think I finally learned not to stuff myself how to eat at a Buffet-style restaurant. I do not feel ill.

Better news: This was a fairly economical way to dine out, and we found coupons online.

Best news: There was some pretty decent food here.

What makes Chen Hibachi special is the Hibachi and Sushi stations.

Also, the staff was extremely attentive, friendly, and polite.

The Hibachi station offered made-to-order meals - what I would call teppanyaki, I guess, although I suspect I might be missing the right word(s). In any case, all the ingredients laid out looked both fresh and tasty.  I chose to focus on the sushi buffet, however.

Selection from the Sushi Station at Chen Hibachi

There was one guy working the buffet, and he was working hard to occupy roughly a dozen plates with different nigiri and maki: tuna/salmon rolls, shrimp or fish tempura rolls, and rainbow rolls were the most recognizeable. There was also a nice roll with pickled daikon and tamago, something that looked like uni although I'm not convinced, and eel. At different points there were salmon, tuna, shrimp, salmon skin, and red snapper (or so it looked) nigiri. 

The place filled up a few minutes after we arrived, and people would step up and clear the plates in one fell swoop. 

Maki from the Sushi Station at Chen Hibachi
Still, the sushi chef was chatty and pleasant, explaining to us what each item was and encouraging me to try different ones. Which is definitely never a problem. The hardest part was patience.

I made a few forays into the center, where for the most part deep-fried American-Chinese fare lives, along with a few oddities like potato wedges, pizza, and ribs (spare ribs and BBQ) - stuff that reminded me of the old Panda Buffet. They also offered the standard buffet-items like melon, canned fruit, jello, salads, etc.

A few small pieces of cake - 2-3 bites each - were a pleasant way to end the meal.

We'll be back - and probably just for the sushi and hibachi. Since it took us a visit to get the system down, I figured I would summarize it below to save you the trouble.

Try to stay in the blue zones. (You will thank me.)

Chen Hibachi is located in the Lotte Plaza in Ellicott City (8801 Baltimore National Pike). (hocoblogs@@@)

*There are exceptions. The one that comes to mind is Todai, but that's a hike from Columbia.

**I know there are other sushi joints in Columbia, but we have our preferences. This may be fodder for a later blog post. Part of me still mourns the passing of Narita Sushi.

Have you been to Chen Hibachi?  Have a favorite spot where you wine and dine your honey on the cheap?  Tell me in the comments below!


Food versus Food: Gnocchi Knockout!

Hello SwimWriteRun’s Food versus Food fans!  I am Thoughts From A Swimmer Cindy doing a guest post on gnocchi.  

I come from a pretty Italian family so I get a bit picky about my pasta, especially when I go out to eat. I am not afraid to admit that I am a Pasta Snob and if it is something I could easily have made at home I am not ordering it.  With that I want to highlight two local Italian resturants that, as an Italian, get my stamp of approval(hocoblogs@@@)

So what is gnocchi you ask?  Well Wikipedia defines Gnocchi as:
...various thick, soft dumplings. They may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, potato, bread crumbs, or similar ingredients. The smaller forms are called gnocchetti. Gnocchi are eaten as entrĂ©es alternatives to soups (minestre), or pasta. They are widely available dried, frozen, or fresh in vacuum sealed packages in supermarkets and specialty stores. Classic accompaniments of gnocchi include tomato sauces, pesto, and melted butter (sometimes fried butter) with cheese.
While they are often available frozen in specialty grocers, they are typically homemade in Italian and Italian-American households.
If you want to give it a try, get it from a restaurant - don’t try to buy the prepackaged, dried stuff.  Even the vacuum sealed ones are questionable. Go for the refrigerated kind or just treat yourself and get it from someone that knows what s/he is doing.  

Generally gnocchi is made from potatoes but even if you are not a mashed potato fan you may still like them as the final product really doesn’t taste like potatoes at all.

So you want to try and make some yourself?  Here are a few links:
But before you pick up that fork/gnocchi paddle, let's get to the faceoff.

Contender #1: Gnocchi Sorrentina at Facci Ristorante.

Pear and Arugula Salad at Facci.
Facci is a sit-down style Italian restaurant in Laurel that features low lighting and lots of yummy-sounding pasta creations. They don’t take reservations currently but are expanding the location and should be taking them in the future. 

I got the pear and arugula salad to start.  Good acidity and very simple and crisp.

I ordered the Gnocchi Sorrentina described as housemade potato dumplings/ tomato ragu/ricotta cheese/ mozzarella, for roughly $13. 

This was stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth good.  

The gnocchi was pillowy but not soggy. The cheese and pasta stuck to the top of your mouth.  The sauce tasted fresh, kind of sweet but with a definite fresh acidity.  There was ricotta mixed in to the tomato sauce, parmesan sprinkled and mozzarella melted on top.  The best bites were the ones that had the stringy mozzarella on the gnocchi pillows. 
Gnocchi Sorrentina at Facci
Please note this is more appetizing than the picture makes it look. 
We accidentally left the good camera at home.
I liked that there wasn’t too much mozzarella coating everything otherwise you wouldn’t realize how good those bites are.  I liked that some bites were more tomato-y than others.  As you can see in the picture not every bite is going to the same sauce or cheese combination.  It made each bite taste different and your taste buds didn’t get tired of one flavor too early.  

While the taste was good I was not a fan of the mixed-in ricotta , it made the dish seem curdled.  A lot of Italian dishes mix ricotta and tomato sauce, though, so that is  more of a personal preference.  Depending on if you get salads this could definitely be two meals even though it looks like one.  

Contender #2: Gnocchi Caprese at Pazani Trattoria.

Pazani is located in the Meadowridge Shopping Center on Marshalee Drive.  It is walk up trattoria style where you pay ahead of time and food is brought to your table. 

I ordered the Gnocchi Caprese which comes with a house salad and fresh, warm roll.  The dish is described as “Potato dumplings tossed with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and garlic.” This meal costs $10.  

Gnocchi Caprese at Pazani.
The gnocchi portion was not small but not hugeJust the right amount that you will eat the last couple bites because you don’t want them to go to waste.  This really isn’t one you are going to save for another meal but since it comes with a house salad and roll you are nicely full at the end of your meal.

The presentation was very nice with a light, slightly chunky sauce, topped with slightly melted petite chunks of fresh mozzarella.  A piece of basil adorned the top.  The edge of the dish was drizzled with olive oil.  It definitely looked appetizing.

The gnocchi dumplings were slightly grainy and didn’t have a stick to the roof of your mouth consistency.  Something just tasted slightly off.  It wasn’t bad at all I just felt a little was missing but that was made up for in the sauce.  The sauce complemented the dumpling it had a very smooth taste.  The tomatoes had minimal acidity with an ever so slight sweetness.  If you weren’t looking for it you wouldn’t realize it is there.  It is just enough to cut through the acidity of the tomatoes.  

The sauce was deconstructed and rustic with small chunks and the liquid part of the sauce was very light and oily (but in a good way).  The pieces of cheese were good, since they were small chunks that you could easily break them apart and choose which bites got them.  There was also a smidge of parmesean mixed in to the dish.

The Battle

So both of these were very good and it is definitely hard to figure out a winner.  I would order both again at either restaurant.  

Presentation – Pazani hands down

Value – Pazani for $10 I had bread, salad, and a nice size portion of gnocchi

Gnocchi dumpling taste and texture – Facci this was much smoother

Sauce – Pazani much smoother, the acidity of Facci gave it a very fresh just picked taste but at least for comfort food winter the smoother was better.  I was also not huge into the ricotta mixed into the sauce.

Cheese – this was hard but I would say only by a cheese string Facci and it was because the cheese was stringy and I could twirl it around my fork. I love my melted cheese bites.

Overall taste of sauce and dumpling – Pazani even though the dumpling was not as smooth as Facci the way the sauce and dumpling worked together in taste and texture was a perfect fit.

The overall winner for the Gnocchi Knockdown? Pazani!


Hey Food Versus Food Readers, I hope you enjoyed Cindy's excellent guest post today! It definitely made me hungry. Check out her blog (especially an awesome entry about how she kicked her soda-drinking ways).  

If you're interested in guest-posting a battle between HoCo Noms, feel free to shoot me an email at swimwriterun at gmail dot com!  

Happy Friday!


HoCo Blogger Party

Tonight was the HoCo Blogger Party at Second Chance Saloon

...and the Old Bay Wings were still tasty.

I got to shake the rust off of my Meeting People skills and hang out for a while. I had a really great time. It was fun to put faces to some of the blogs and columns I've been following, and everyone was very friendly.  I definitely didn't get to meet everyone there, but hopefully I'll get the chance at a future event.  

A quick summary -- I'm very sorry if I miss anyone, or if I've forgotten some names...

Thanks to Computer Blues and 53 Beers for hosting! It was really nice to meet and chat with Bill and his wife.

JessieX amazed me with her introductions and awesome ability to keep straight who blogs about what. Thanks for the beautiful cards. Did anyone write down/post the info to the charity she mentioned in the beginning of the meeting?

Awesome to meet some others from Patch - Brian Hooks from Savage-Guilford and TJ Mayotte from Elkridge.  TJ also has a great blog, 1000 Words.  And it's always great to hang out with David Greisman from Columbia Patch.

I briefly met Sarah from SarahSays, a blog that always features really interesting and thoughtful posts. I've been saying her name all wrong in my head, but I've got the pronunciation down now! :)

It was great to hang out with Meghan and Jilly.  Meghan is a writer and posts some of her awesome fiction on her blog.

I totally almost forgot my coat, even though Cindy warned me not to. Whoops! Did you know that she and Jeff were at CreateBaltimore with JessieX and a few other HoCo Bloggers?  Has anyone blogged about that? Sounded like a really cool event.

Nice to chat with Frank Hecker about the his multi-part posts on things HoCo - like the history of redistricting. I learn a lot from his blog.

Thanks to Amy @ Jefita for the tip about business cards. I'll be ready in February. :)  

I talked briefly with Thursday Bram, who's written some great docs about writing/blogging. Looking forward to seeing the next one.

Anna AKA Annethologie, hope to see you at a run in the future.  Good luck in the half, let me know how it goes?

Did you know that you can follow the HoCo Public Library on Twitter, Facebook, AND youtube?  (and maybe more places, but I got too excited to remember more)  Dennis and Donna at the HCPL are really nice, enthusiastic folks! I already love my public library, and it's nice to meet the people who enable my addiction to all things books. 

Good night everyone, please tune in tomorrow for the newest Food Versus Food