Blog Posts

Cupcake Cars

Seriously? Neiman Marcus and… Burning Man?

Neiman Marcus sells Cupcake Cars

See Burning Man Photos, Neiman Marcus catalog page.

What I want to know: who actually buys these things (at $25k a muffin). Sure sure, it’s brilliant marketing by NM to get press, but I want to know: is there actually someone on the face of the planet (or, well, anywhere else) who actually buys one of these through NM?

Book Club – October 15th, 2009 Edition

This is a guest post by Schuyler Towne. Also attending Book Club that night: Andrew Sempere, Anindita Basu, Shimon Rura, and Sophia Roosth.

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It had been a rough week. Beaten up at work, tension with my friends, and a gutting morning of therapy had conspired to alter my food cravings for the worse. Everything came to a head with with strawberry cream cheese, straight from the container. I’m not asking for forgiveness, I am, in fact, absolutely unapologetic about shoving 4oz of sweet sweet strawberry cream cheese straight down my already trepidatious GI tract. I only mention it to offer you my state of mind when I arrived at Jeff’s lovely home. Both I, and my palette, were cold, exhausted and not feeling too adventurous.

Continue reading Book Club – October 15th, 2009 Edition

Cotton Candy Gun (Prototype)

The fine fellows (and gals) of the Awesome Foundation selected Josh Gordonson as this month’s recipient. Josh is working on a Cotton Candy gun that will shot, well, a stream of cotton candy… Josh, where do I sign up?!

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Meat: Is It Done?

Ever wonder when your steak is going to be done cooking? Fear no more, Cooking For Geeks has the definitive answer! Step right up! Free, no charge at all!

“An equation for the temperature change with meat layer and time was derived. Heat is added during thermal treatment by radiation from energy generators, thermal conductivity, and phase transitions. The proposed dynamic mathematical model is written as follows:

Meat Equation

Continue reading Meat: Is It Done?

Book Club – Oct 8th, 2009 Edition

This is a guest post by Naveen Sinha. Also present: Mac Cowell, Steve Hershman, and Ozge Guzelsu.

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The meal this evening explored the full temperature range available with modern cooking methods: 900 F down to -321 F.

Continue reading Book Club – Oct 8th, 2009 Edition

Book Club – Oct 1st, 2009 Edition

The following is a guest post by Andrew Shalit.

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October 1st was Superheated Cast Iron Pizza night at the Cooking for Geeks Book Club. If you’ve ever wondered how you could make a great pizza without the benefit of an oven, tonight was your night. [flickr size=”small”]3983212655[/flickr]

Continue reading Book Club – Oct 1st, 2009 Edition

Overclocked Ovens

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PyroCeram on the left; HB II glass (“heat barrier II” – glass treated with a IR reflective coating) on the right.

I am now the proud owner of one tricked-out oven. Some tinkering with the lock mechanism, a hundred bucks and one sheet of PyroCeram later, and my oven now reaches a blistering 900F.

Why would I want to take my oven to 900F? To make the perfect pizza! I had a fantastic phone interview yesterday with a geek-turned-chef, Jeff Varasano, who’s thought about pizza way more than anyone else this side of the Atlantic. Take a look at his extensive write-up to get an idea of what I mean by “extensive”:

Oh, and if you’re wondering “What’s PyroCeram?” — it’s a high-heat, thermal-shock resistant glass-like substance that was used in the 50’s to coat missile nosecones and is now used for industrial furnace “view panels”. It’s rated to 1400F, unlike the “normal” glass used (HBII – “heat barrier II” – IR reflective coating), so shouldn’t crack or break in my oven. In testing the “perfect” pizza recipe, I “broke” the glass in my oven door: thermal shock from cold air (or a drop of cold tomato sauce?) hitting it while the oven was at 900F. Definitely not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

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Book Club – Sept 24th, 2009 Edition

The following is a guest post by Christine Liu. All photos are by Shimon Rura.

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We witnessed much on the fateful book club dinner on September 24, 2009: a lot of hocus-pocus, daring acts of suspense, and stuffing strange objects in our gullets in the spirit of sheer adventure not typically seen.

Present this evening, along with host and unabashed warranty-voider (more on that later) Jeff Potter, were Tina Downey, Christine Liu (pictured above), Shimon Rura, and Andrew Sempere.

Continue reading Book Club – Sept 24th, 2009 Edition

Google Trends and Food Seasonality

I’ve been looking at seasonality in foods, and realized Google might have the answer. It’s so rewarding to see theory line up with data!

California users are shown on the top graph and Massachusetts users are on the bottom. Note the difference in amplitudes: the growing season in Massachusetts is much shorter than in California, so it follows that searches for perishable ingredients would trend up and then back down over a much shorter time period.

Google Trends for MA and CA for tomato, basil, and peach
Google Trends for MA and CA for tomato, basil, and peach

(The spike in June, 2008 – “D” – is from the Salmonella scare.)

Book Club: Sept 10th, 2009 Edition

The following is a guest post by Ed & Jamie
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At the table this evening were Shimon, Ed, and Jamie, with Shimon volunteering for camera duty. Tonight’s experiments: homemade mozzarella cheese and sous vide chicken.

Continue reading Book Club: Sept 10th, 2009 Edition

SuperTasting at The Awesome Foundation

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Armed with my trusty Nikon and a pack of supertaster test kits, I used The Awesome Foundation’s September event as a testing ground for my Ignite Boston talk.

Here are a few links to resources that I thought covered the topic particularly
well, if you want to learn more about supertasting.

Genetic info:

Interview with Dr. Linda Bartoshuk of Yale School of Medicine:

Activity worksheet:

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Book Club – Sept 3rd, 2009 Edition

The following is a guest post by Shimon Rura. All photos and text are from him.
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On Thursday evenings, Jeff Potter invites friends to dinner at his place. New ideas are tested and discussed, with Jeff taking copious notes before, during, and after each course.

At the table this evening were (from left to right above): Mac Cowell, Cynthia, Steve, Jeff, and Sophia. I’m Shimon Rura behind the camera.

This was the first “book club” dinner.

Continue reading Book Club – Sept 3rd, 2009 Edition

Making Yogurt

One of the fun things about working on the book is the “need” to test everything. I say “need” because, in truth, it’s a lot of fun to geek out over the details and try more permutations than I might otherwise try. (Just like a good coder, gotta try to hit the boundary conditions in writing recipes!)

Yogurt is really way easier to make than I thought: toss a spoon of yogurt into a container of milk and let it sit long enough in a warm environment, and the bacteria from the yogurt (needs to be “live culture”) will chow down on the lactose in the milk. My oven hovers around 110 F when the oven light is on (it probably helps that it’s 9 billion degrees outside right now) – easier than pie.

There are some precautions you should take to avoid culturing the wrong kind of bacteria, so if you want to be thorough, you should do a bit more than “just” toss milk+yogurt into the oven. For a good write-up, see

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Subversive Supper’s Inaugural Dinner

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Last night marked the inaugural dinner of the “Subversive Supper” movement in Boston: a private dinner for 16 created with the hopes of bringing tech hackers and food industry pros together to experience food in a more informal environment than possible at a restaurant.
Continue reading Subversive Supper’s Inaugural Dinner

Storage Tips: Spices

I spend a lot of time thinking about clever ways to save time by cutting out steps (literally) in the kitchen: storing the garlic press with the garlic, tea pots next to the tea, etc.

My friend Paula stores her spices in a drawer where she can see the labels at one glance. It’s a subtle change from the standard spice rack or “shelf of bottles” approach, but having tried it myself now, I really like it. I find it makes finding what I’m looking for much easier – and faster – especially since I have a pretty large collection of spices.

How do you organize your spices?

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Making Liquid Smoke

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Dr. Kent Kirshenbaum gave a thorough talk on liquid smoke last Thursday at the Experimental Cuisince Collective at NYU, covering smoke’s chemical makeup, alternative methods for generating smoke flavors, and a demonstration of making and using liquid smoke.

I went into the talk thinking: “Liquid smoke must be evil nasty chemicals! Besides, it’s cheating!”

I came out of the talk thinking: “Wow, liquid smoke really isn’t anything more than smoke vapors, condensed into a liquid, and applied to food at a later stage.” Liquid smoke doesn’t appear to be any worse for you than normally-smoked foods, and allows for using smoke flavor in new and fun ways. (No comment on the cheating aspects.)
Continue reading Making Liquid Smoke