Friday, June 29, 2007

Funny Cartoons

Here's a cartoon regarding Vice President Cheney's recent allegations that he is not a member of the executive branch. Query: What branch is he a member of then?

(The cartoon is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a newspaper.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Weekend in DC

June 22-24, 2007; Washington D.C.

Valerie: This past weekend our travels took us to Washington DC.

Adam: And also to the dentist. Be warned: remember those commercials for tootsie-roll pops where the owl took two licks and then bit through to the center? The bite will cost you about $200 in tooth repair.

Valerie: On Saturday we met some of my college friends for breakfast at Afterwords Cafe in Dupont Circle. It was great catching up with some friends I hadn't seen in a long time. In reality, it was a mini-AKPsi reunion.

(On the left: Sean, Pam, Valerie, and Adam. On the right: Sharda, Kevin, Melissa)

Adam: Afterwords is a old college haunt for me. When I was in college, it was virtually the only place near GW with 24 hour food on the weekends, and has an excellent selection of books. It's hard to walk out of there without buying something.

Valerie: After breakfast we headed to the National Zoo in the hopes of seeing some pandas. The pandas, of course, were hidden and/or sleeping. This was the best panda picture I could get -- it's actually a picture of a tv monitor that was recording the panda sleeping. Basically, it's no better than seeing the panda on tv which leads me to wonder why I even bothered to go to the zoo.

Adam: Also - not captured on camera - we saw an impressive fight between two tigers. One of those times you're really glad for the electric fence. Afterwards, we went to Hudson Trail Outfitters - one of the better outdoors shops in Washington - and bought me a backpack! I tested it out on the plane ride home on Monday, and it was excellent: despite being filled, I barely felt it on my back.

Valerie: On Saturday night we met up with some Penn Law friends at 2 Amy's--by far the best pizza restaurant in the city. If you're in town, I recommend the smoked mozzarella and eggplant pizza if it is on the specials list.

(Neena, Liz, Amy, Adam, Valerie, and Lisa)
["Adam and the ladies"]

Adam: The smoked mozzarella pizza was excellent. It tasted as if it were cooked over a campfire somewhere deep in the forest (this is a good thing).

Valerie: After dinner we headed to The Saloon, a bar on U Street, where we met up with some of Adam's college friends.

(Katie, Valerie, Adam's head, and Drew)

Adam: The saloon has an excellent wheat beer on tap, and is generally a pretty relaxing place to hang out. We also met Katie's boyfriend Ben, who is very cool, and I saw my friend Mel from college for the first time in five years! This bar is also conveniently located next to Ben's Chili Bowl, which serves some excellent shakes, fries, and yes, chili.

Valerie: On Sunday, we went to check out some of the national monuments. And because we liked 2 Amy's so much, headed there again for lunch.

We stopped in on the Jefferson Memorial:
Adam: Note the skillful use of the gorillapod (the flexible tripod that we use because tourists take bad pictures).

Valerie: On one of the walls inside the memorial there's the following Jefferson quote, which Adam rightly pointed out makes an argument in favor of a living constitution:

The FDR Memorial:

The new WWII memorial, which I liked but Adam didn't:

Valerie: The controversial memorial (DC residents objected to the location of the memorial) revolves around a pool of water with fountains in the center. There are 50 identical structures surrounding the pool with wreaths at the top. Each pillar has the name of a state etched on it. Their are two larger pillars (the entrances to the memorial) symbolizing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Adam: I might add that much of the controversy revolves around D.C. sovereignty. D.C. residents objected to the location of the memorial on the grounds that it would disturb the layout of the national mall, which provides for a direct and unobstructed line of site between the Washington and Lincoln memorials. Despite local objections, Congress took the project up as a political bonanza (think of all of the voting veterans), and mandated its location. This is just another example of why D.C. needs real representation in congress. For those of you living under a rock, it is basically the only place in the democratic world where people are literally suffering under a system of taxation without representation.

Also, the monument is ugly. If you walk around the rest of the D.C. monuments, you understand what "subtle dignity" means. Then you get to the WWII memorial, and the word "ostentatious" comes to mind.

The pillars and wreaths

Valerie: And of course the Lincoln Memorial, my personal favorite:

(Me in front of the memorial)

Adam: The Lincoln memorial is also a favorite of mine. It was just six blocks from my freshman dorm at GW (Thurston Hall), and is absolutely beautiful late at night, when the hordes of tourists are gone and you can read the Gettysburg address in silence. Note that this monument is simple - a statute, some quotes, and a traditional Greek temple.

After we got done at the monuments, exhausted, we picked up the car, went to Pho 79 in Cleveland Park for dinner, and headed to BWI to drop off Valerie.

I on the other hand, took our sweet ride (a new, red, Ford Mustang) for a nice drive down I-70 to my father's house in Keedysville (pop. 249). The Mustang is an exhilarating car to drive, especially out on windy country roads on a cool summer night. You roll down the windows, turn up the radio, and feel the wind whip by you. Sadly, I had to return the car to Budget the next morning, but for a brief moment....

Up next: Adam continues his U.S. tour, stopping in LA. Valerie hangs in Ohio and begins to pack for her trip to PR. The Doog's comings and goings remain unknown.

Monday, June 25, 2007

How the Doog became the Doog

Many of you have wondered why we call Molly "the Doog." Here's a brief explanation: Molly's full name is Molly D. Doog. Last year, during Adam and I's tenure as legal writing instructors at Penn, we created a hypothetical problem for an office-memorandum assignment. To make the assignment a bit more realistic, we created a fictional associate, who was requesting the memo. That fictional associate turned out to be Molly D. Doog. We derived Doog from "dog" and "dude." Molly also goes by the following nicknames: potato (cause she sits around all day) and black bullet (because she can outrun any dog and most small horses).

Disclaimer: Approved by the Doog.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Down and Out in Ponce

This is a bit of an old post, but my computer has been down all week (Never, ever buy a computer from Dell. They are of particularly low quality).

This past weekend, my mom came to visit me! We spent most of the weekend at the beach or at the pool, and I spent most of my time reading a book that mom brought for me: The Power Broker, by Robert Caro. The book, which I have not finished (it is well over 1000 pages) is about Robert Moses, the Parks, Planning, and Construction Commissioner for New York for over forty years. Moses is responsible for many of the parks and parkways we now know today - the Northern State, the Southern State, the Belt, the Westside Highway -- and either the creation or the renovation of many of the parks we now know today (apparently, Central Park was in such bad condition when he took it over that men with shotguns had to be placed outside the zoo to shoot escaping animals). It's an interesting look at power and how it is wielded, and it is a fascinating insight into what New York (the state and the city) were like prior to the depression. I recommend it for anyone who likes a good history read.

We also made an attempt to visit Hacienda Buena Vista, which is a coffee plantation supposedly located in Adjuntas, which is near Ponce, PR. Ponce is on the southern (caribbean) side of the island, which is in striking contrast to the north (atlantic) side of the island, where I live. Whereas much of the northern half of the island is covered in lush vegetation and towering palm trees, the southern half of the island is basically a desert, covered in scrubbrush and, in some areas, cacti:

[Adam, on an earlier visit to Guanica state park]

Our trip out to Ponce, however, was marred by a series of bad directions. The hotel staff told us that we would be able to connect to the appropriate road in Downtown Ponce (wrong); the signage in Ponce pointing the road led us in a series of interminable circles; and the one gas station attendant who we asked suggested that we should just go back to San Juan. This is probably a result of a general unfamiliarity here with road numbers; many people here refer to roads by names that have not been used in many years, or give directions with reference to locally known landmarks. Needless to say, we did not make it to the coffee plantation.

We did, however, enjoy a very pleasant afternoon in Ponce, which is a lovely city. It has tons of old colonial houses, and a very pretty central square. In this sense, it looks much more like "Latin America" than does San Juan, which often resembles Miami. Of particular note, there is a firetruck museum on one side of the square which is painted in brilliant black and red colors:

[Parque de Bombas = Fire[fighter] Park, more or less]

Across from the Parque de Bombas, there is a great ice cream place called King's Cream. I had a guanabana (soursop) milkshake, my mother had a scoop of pineapple ice cream. Delicious!

The town square also has a really beautiful old church:

. . . and a series of nice fountains. The fountains, oddly enough, seem to turn off whenever you try to take a picture of them, but we managed to get this picture, with my mother sitting on the edge of the fountain:

So our day in Ponce wasn't a complete bust. On Sunday, we also went to the Museo del Arte de Puerto Rico, which is a really neat art museum in Santurce, right across the highway from Condado. The Museum focuses on Puerto Rican art and has a particular emphasis on modern Puerto Rican art. The Museum is particularly noteworthy because the guards in the rooms are very well versed in the paintings, and often will give you a mini-lecture on the origin of a painting. One of my favorite works is a photograph by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla called "Seeing Otherwise." It's a photograph of the skyline of Old San Juan and Hato Rey taken from the shore of Cataño at dusk. Cataño is a really industrial town (it is where the Bacardi factory is located), and you can see the detritus of manufacturing along the shore from where the picture was taken. It's an impressive study in contrasts. Unfortunately, I can't find an image of it online, so you'll have to go and visit to see it for yourself.

Next: I'm going to DC tonight! Expect more posts next week.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


In response to the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, this cartoon was published. I found it so funny I thought I would share it with you all. In Ledbetter, a 5-4 ruling with Justice Ginsburg dissenting, the Supreme Court held that workers may not sue their employers over unequal pay caused by discrimination that occurred more than 180 days before the suit was filed. Justice Ginsburg read her dissent from the bench (a very rare thing)-- hence the cartoon.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Weekend in Miami

June 15-17, 2007; Miami, Florida

This past weekend my great aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. They were married in Cuba in 1957. I flew home for the weekend for the huge surprise party my aunt was planning for them. The party was in Little Havana at Casa Juancho. There were tons of people there (50+ guests), but mostly people I didn't know. The highlight was getting confused for my much younger sister. Almost everyone knew my sister and I from when we were little and, because Cubans gossip like crazy, knew that I went to law school and was living away from home. But when they came over to us to say hi (my sister and I were at the same table), everyone thought my sister was me and would congratulate her on graduating from law school. Needless to say, my sister would point them towards me and tell them I was me and she was Karina and they would gasp and exclaim, but you look to young to be a lawyer. I never thought my sister looked older then me but you can judge for yourself (see picture). In any case, one guy even confused us for twins! I don't think my twenty-year-old sister was at all happy about this.

(Picture above: Me, my sister, Karina, and our cousin, Carolina, at the party)

(My family at the end of the party)

On Sunday, in honor of Father's Day, my family had a barbecue at my aunt and uncle's house. They recently got a puppy, a black-and-white Havanese named Penelope, who I'm happy to report has mastered the sit command (almost).

The barbecue was fun, although at first it seemed like the threatening rain would quash our outdoor cooking plans. Although the barbecue was slated to start at 12:30 pm, it took an hour-and-a-half for 3 men to start the grill. My uncle recently bought the Cadillac of all barbecues (a massive stainless steel machine that looks to be the size of a small car). This was its maiden voyage, so to speak, and no one could figure out how to turn it on. But when they finally started barbecuing the final product was very yummy: churrasco, baby back ribs, and barbecued chicken. I also was able to enjoy a very tasty slice of Flan and chocolate mouse cake before having to run off to the airport.

Up Next: I'm headed to DC for the weekend. My third weekend in a row of traveling! The Doog is learning to swim. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Must Read . . .

No trips or outings to blog about today; only one great book I highly recommend reading: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Great story. Excellent writing. A bit sad.

New York Magazine said the following about Krauss's book: "Krauss’s novel is emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous, idea-driven but with indelible characters and true suspense."

In any case, if you find yourself with some time on your hands, this one is well worth reading.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

The WIndy CIty

June 8-10, 2007; Chicago, Illinois

After a bunch of delays and mishaps, this trip finally got off the ground (although for the first 12 hours, Valerie's and Katherine's planes did not). All of us dutifully showed up at the airport on Friday night: Adam flew in from San Juan, Valerie flew in from Columbus, and Katherine from Washington, D.C. I walked on a plane at 4:45 and had a nice five hour trip to Chicago. Valerie showed up at the airport about twelve hours later (Thanks AA!). Katherine got in on Saturday night (see her story here) but rallied for a late night dinner.

Our initial impression: we like Chicago. It is like New York in size and status --

[view from Hancock Tower]

-- but a little lower key, a little more neighborhoody. In other words, its a place where people can afford to live without working 14 hours a day. After dinner and beers with Rob on Friday night, we went to pick up Valerie early Saturday morning. Rob -- the ever-gracious host -- drove us around Chicago for a few hours. He really has a second career awaiting him as a tour guide.

We got home and went to Ann Sather for breakfast where we tried some very tasty lingonberry pancakes and cinnamon rolls drenched in frosting. Next, we went down to the Chicago Blues Festival.

Chicago is one of the main centers of blues in the United States - largely as a result of the northward migration of people from the Mississippi River delta. The festival was a lot of fun - Chicago is well known for its festivals - it was just as much about food stands and vendors as the music. That being said, the music was pretty cool.

[This guy - a Louisiana bluesman - is named Drink Little. No kidding.]

While we were there, Rob and I decided to hoist a really large hot dog, another thing for which Chicago is well known:

(Ingredients of a Chicago hotdog: a poppy seed bun, hot dog, tomatoes, onions, a pickle, mustard, celery salt, sport pepper.)

After the blues festival, we walked over and saw Buckingham Fountain (notorious as the fountain that appeared in 1980s sitcom Married with Children):

Next we went to Millennium Park. We're big fans of large outdoor sculpture gardens - there is a beautiful one in Washington, D.C., and the Rodin Museum in Paris is also really cool. One of the coolest things in the park is a fountain where you can take off your shoes and cool your feet, which is surprisingly refreshing.
(Our feet in the pool cooling off.)

We also hit the amphitheatre:

(The sculpture in the background was designed by Frank Gehry.)

And this thing:

Which made me hungry for Jelly Belly jellybeans, and Valerie hungry for frijoles! Next, we walked around downtown Chicago, by the river:

(Us in front of the Chicago River)

Afterwards, we went to the Hancock Tower - the indoor time was much needed, after a few hours of walking around in the sun (Adam turned into a strawberry by the end of the day). Hancock Tower is the third tallest tower in Chicago, and is well-known for the bar and restaurant at the top - so we got in for free! The views are incredible - probably even better than the Sears Tower, and you can see all the way to the outskirts of the city!

(View from Hancock Tower of the city and lake Michigan)

Afterwards, we decided to do a little shopping: the Crate and Barrel headquarters, a two floor REI (backpacks for China), Eddie Bauer, Williams and Sonoma - lots of fun (although no purchases). Afterwards, we took the subway back to Katherine and Rob's place in Lakeview - a really hip neighborhood with cool bars, restaurants, and a doog boutique that caught Valerie's eye. Rob went to fetch Kat from the airport, while we cooled down in their townhouse. Kat finally arrived, and after a few drinks and some guacamole, we headed to dinner at Le Colonial -- a French Vietnamese restaurant with very tasty food.

(A picture of Rob, Katherine, Adam, and Valerie outside the restaurant)

Sadly though, Chicago is far away from our homes. So the next day we rolled out of bed late, had breakfast, and headed home.

On the way home, I had a triumph of strength (cue theme from Rocky). The scene: Newark Airport. The challenge: make it from Gate A23 (far south side of the airport) to Gate C123 (far North Side). The contestant: a stocky jew with a backpack filled with dirty clothes and a bag of cherries. The prize: not having to spend the night on an airport bench.

And they're off! Adam is bounding up the jetway, knocking people over left and right. He runs, catches the shuttle where he plots his next move. As soon as he gets to Gate C71 he runs up the stairs. Passersby notice a blur of brown and black as Adam, arms flailing, approaches the gate yelling "stop! stop! I'm here, I'm here!" The gate attendant is locking the door, the airplane hatch is already sealed: will they let him on? Time is running down....and he makes it!

If that dramatization doesn't get your blood rushing, just think: my plane arrived at 8:42. I made an 8:50 flight. On the other side of Newark airport. Oh yeah!

Next time: Valerie's in Florida, Adam's back in PR, and the doog is at the pool, sipping a Bovril cocktail.

Friday, June 8, 2007

American Airlines Sucks

June 8, 2007

NOTE: This is not a "happy" post. This post is a means by which I can vent/rant about the horrible service I received from American Airlines today.

I was supposed to leave today on a 6:05 pm flight to Chicago. Without notifying me, American Airlines (hereinafter "AA") decided to simply CANCEL the flight. Did they bother to call or email me to notify me of the change? No. I only found out because Adam happened to check the status of my flight before he headed off to the airport at 4 pm-- also on his way to Chicago on AA. A bit frustrated with the sudden dent in my weekend plans, I called AA's 1-800 number.

After waiting 12 minutes, and dealing with that stupid automated service that never understands what your response to its question is, I finally reach an alleged customer service representative. I say "alleged" because I received absolutely no "service."

The man on the line was rude, slow, and a bit dumb. After I explained my predicament, he told me that there were no other flights on AA for tonight to Chicago and that the absolute earliest flight on Saturday was at 9:30 am. (I later learned this was a flat out lie.) I had him bump me to the 9:30 am flight after making it clear that I would take any other flight on any other airline as long as it got me to Chicago any earlier than the 9:30 am flight. He said there was nothing else. The only other flight available was a flight on Southwest, he said. I pause. Just a moment ago he told me my flight was canceled because of bad weather in Chicago. If the weather was so bad why was Southwest flying into the city, I asked? Predictably, he had no answer. He tells me I can switch to the Southwest flight but AA will not reimburse me for the difference in price. Of course, why would they.

I decide to drive to the airport to see if a face-to-face conversation will produce any better results. I was wrong. I waited in line for 2 hours at the airport. Although there were at least 75 people waiting to speak to someone, AA had only 4 people working! (75 people at any given time in the Columbus airport is a lot. This is not JFK people.) While standing in line I discover that there are in fact other flights leaving tonight on other airlines and AA was putting people on those flights. But when I finally reached the front of the line, the ticketing agent tells me all the other flights are now booked! Ugh! (This is when I discovered my not-so-helpful customer representative had lied.) I asked to be put on an earlier flight on Saturday, but of course, those were also full. I finally get placed on a stand-by list for an early morning Saturday flight (a change that could only be done by a "special representative" for whom I had to wait another forty-five minutes.)

So now I'm at home, upset that I'm not in Chicago, and waiting for my Saturday flight. I'm curious--Is the weather in Chicago really that bad tonight? Of course not. The forecast for Friday night: Clear, 0% chance of rain, low of 56 (doesn't seem like bad weather to me).

To add insult to injury, I decide to check the schedule for all flights departing today on AA from Columbus to Chicago. Surely enough, although my 6:05 pm flight was canceled, the 7:05 pm flight scheduled for today was not. In fact, that flight left at 7:17 pm and arrived on time in Chicago. And I thought ALL AA flights were cancelled (apparently the reference to "all" meant only the 6:05 pm flight).

I decide to write AA an angry email about the treatment I received only to discover that the text I can add to the "comments" box in their email program is limited by word count. They don't even allow you enough space to fully explain your problem. Of course.

This whole ordeal leads me to wonder: At what point did I no longer become AA's number one priority? After all, AA is a business and as a business they cater to me, the customer. AA can learn something from jetBlue. At least when jetBlue screws you, they're nice and reimburse you for it. But at a minimum, they're nice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Cincinnati, Ohio

June 4-6, 2007; The Queen City

Once a month for oral arguments I make the hour-and-a-half trip to Cincinnati, Ohio (aka The Queen City). I don't know where the nickname comes from but the city, in my opinion, is pretty dumpy and definitely not deserving of its nickname. Take, for instance, Mark Twain's quote: "When the end of the world comes, I want to be in Cincinnati because it's always twenty years behind the times." Enough said.
(Pictured: Potter Stewart Courthouse in Cincinnati)

Usually the drive down is uneventful -- only cows and barns to see. But this time my trip took an extra forty-five minutes because a semi-truck caught on fire in the middle of the road. While I waited for the accident to be cleared, I parked the car on I-71 and took pictures of a nearby barn.

Oral arguments were ok, but not great. They were, however, funnier than usual because a couple of lawyers had some interesting comments. (See below) Caution: This may only be funny to lawyers.

  • Oral Argument in a case is about to begin. The lawyer for the Appellee gets up and stands at the podium FIRST. After a few seconds and amusing glances from the bench, the lawyer says: "I forgot we won below" and returns to his seat to await his turn. (Hint: The Appellee always goes second, after the Appellant has had his time to speak.)
  • After summarizing the case against the appellant, the judge asks the lawyer "Isn't it true that either way you lose this case?" The lawyer responds, "We lose a lot Judge." The Judge then tells the lawyer, "you've got a problem." The lawyer responds "yes we do!" (Hint: Generally not a good idea to admit to the judge that you lose.)
Admittedly, these instances of humor during oral argument aren't as funny when written down. But alas, I'm leaving it up as examples of bad lawyering.

On Monday night I went to dinner with my co-clerk David. We ate at Cafe Istanbul located on the Kentucky side of the Ohio river. The restaurant serves good middle eastern food but the highlight was the views you get of the Cincinnati skyline from the shopping mall where the restaurant is located.
(The Cincinnati skyline from Newport, Kentucky.)

On Tuesday night I went to dinner with 12 other clerks. We at the South Beach Grill on the Waterfront which is in Covington, Kentucky -- across the river from Cincinnati. The restaurant, owned by the Cincinnati restaurateur Jeff Ruby, was ok but not great. The service was slow -- we were "eating" for four hours!

(On the Left: Back of head, RC, Tom, David, Jay. On the right: Pete)

(On the right: Pete, Tara, Me, Maya, Madeleine.)

(The End of the Table from Left: Chris, Alison, Eric, Madeleine.)

Up Next: Valerie visits Chicago for the first time! The Doog is invited to her first pool party (doggie life jacket included)!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

The Weekend: Placita, Blackjack, a Birthday, and Jazz

So, back in PR this weekend, my weekend began on Friday night at "La Placita del Mercado" (trans: the little place at the market) in Santurce, just a few blocks from my home. During the daytime, this small area is actually a pleasant, if somewhat slow-paced market where people come to buy their fruits and vegetables.

[placita during the day]

On Friday nights, placita turns into a raucous outdoor party - the police close off the streets, and the beer costs $1.25! So our new and wise intern Josh, and his two friends (Kyle and "mini-Hulk" - a guy who bore an amazing resemblance to the incredible hulk) ambled on down. The party is generally OK, but one can only drink so many medalla lights before boredom sets in - but this time, there was a fairly large percussion band that was accompanied by fire-blowers! Unfortunately, I failed to bring my camera, so I can't show pictures, but it was pretty cool. Afterwards, we all went to the Intercontinental Hotel to go to the casino - I promptly lost $20 playing blackjack (seriously - nobody should ever play cards while I am at the table.), but Josh won $180, and Kyle $75!

Saturday, after blissfully sleeping in, I decided to go pick up our tickets for the Puerto Rico JazzFest which started at 8. I had been told that this could be easily accomplished by going to any of the TicketPop machines located at movie theatres and some banks. Three hours, forty miles, and $4 in tolls later, I finally managed to make contact with TicketPop, who gleefully informed me that the machines would not be able to print general admission tickets, which I had purchased. ARGH!

Putting that past me, I went to dinner at one of Condado's finest Chinese Restaurants to celebrate my (*gasp*) 27th birthday, which was actually last Monday. A number of esteemed members of the San Juan law clerk community came out to help me celebrate:

[Lory, Josh, Batman, Monica, Anne, Marianne]

Josh, Lory, Monica, and I (along with Lory's boyfriend Ivan) proceeded on to the Jazzfest, which, after a few wrong turns off of the highway, we managed to find. The seats weren't great, but we all had a pretty good time:
[Monica, Adam, Josh]
[Josh, Lory, Ivan]

The first band was a quartet featuring Ignacio Berroa, a cuban drummer. The real highlight of the night was the Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Band, featuring Slide Hampton, a trombonist - particularly neat because I spent three years of elementary school and middle school trying unsuccessfully to learn the trombone.

"we did not have good seats"

Here's a brief videoclip of the performance, which may give you some sense of what it was like:

In any case, the jazzfest is pretty cool - although if anybody is considering going in the future, I think we'd all strongly recommend bringing folding chairs, as the concrete is rather uncomfortable after about two hours!

Next: Cake week 4!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Adam's Cakes: Week Three

This week, I decided to simplify things a bit, and focus on taste instead of decoration. Of course, the most beautifully decorated cake is a failure if it tastes like cardboard. Thus, I went for a single-layer cake, and tried to improve my buttercream (see week 1), which was a bit of a problem last time. I have to admit, this time was a rousing success.

The cake itself was called a "southern buttermilk cake." Basically, it is a slightly fluffier yellow cake than last time (although still pretty dense - I haven't quite gotten that down yet), flavored with vanilla and a cup of buttermilk, which in this case, was just a cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice.

The icing is delightful. It is a classic lemon buttercream, which is rich and light, sweet and tart all at the same time. If anybody has ever been to Buttercup Bakeshop at 52nd & 2nd ave in Manhattan, this is very similar to the icing on the lemon cupcake. Since it turned out so well, I'm including the recipe:

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
six egg yolks
1 lb unsalted butter (four sticks), softened
2 tb lemon zest
Equipment: Small saucepan, instant read thermometer, greased 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, large mixing bowl, hand/stand mixer, whisk

1) Mix the lemon juice and water together.
2) Beat the yolks in the large mixing bowl until they turn a pale yellow color.
3) In a small saucepan, mix the lemon/water mixture and sugar together until they dissolve. Heat over medium to medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until an instant-read thermometer reaches 238 degrees (this is referred to as "soft-ball" stage).
3) Immediately remove the lemon sugar syrup from the heat and transfer it to the greased Pyrex glass.
4) Begin beating the egg yolks again with the mixer (a medium-high to high setting is best), pouring the syrup from the glass into the bowl gradually (careful - it will be very hot). Use a spatula to make sure that all of the syrup gets mixed in with the egg yolks.
5) Continue beating the mixture until it cools completely. I used the instant read thermometer to measure this, I considered it to have cooled when it reached the temperature of my apartment, about 90 degrees.
6) Once the mixture has cooled completely (this is very important - it was my pitfall last time), begin incorporating the butter with the mixture, one stick at a time.
7) Once the butter has been incorporated, using a whisk, incorporate the lemon zest.

This icing is very easy to use, but it must be brought to room temperature before spreading.

Lastly, before we get to the pictures of the final product, it is worth pointing out that I made this cake at approximately 11:30 p.m. At one point, I had to leave my apartment to get eggs and butter at the 24 hour supermarket. The apartment was about ninety degrees. I decided to take a picture of myself before I began icing the cake. I think it accurately reflects my mental state at the time:

Anyways, shortly after regaining sanity, I frosted the cake. Here's the final product: