December 8, 2009

At the Christmas House Inn....

DSC06013

... the good conversation is just icing on the cake.

47 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

These houses are more fun to make and look at than eat. Which is okay.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Were there any with tiny "short sale" signs on them? Maybe one with a ginger bread family leaving in the middle of the night with just the clothes on their backs?

Ann Althouse said...

Personally, I have standards when it comes to gingerbread houses, and uncooked spaghetti does not fit them.

1. The house should be entirely edible, with no cardboard foundation or wires or glue. (Stick things on with icing.)

2. The foods should work together: cake, cookies, icing, candy.

3. It should be an amusing, Christmasy, winter fantasy.

4. It should make children happy.

traditionalguy said...

The houses all have nordic pitched roofs to let the snow slide off. Northern European Christmas Houses look the best and the taste best.

jayne_cobb said...

As long as they're lined with gumdrops that can be pried off and eaten I'm happy.

edutcher said...

Ann Althouse said...

Personally, I have standards when it comes to gingerbread houses, and uncooked spaghetti does not fit them.

A lot of contests are like that, but don't be grumpy. Somebody was having a flight of fantasy, Hansel und Gretel's haus, perhaps. In any case, Fred's right, usually they're just about inedible when completed.

Jason (the commenter) said...

The white frosting tastes awful. It's always disturbing to be given a gingerbread man and having to scrape his face off.

EDH said...

Richie: All of the ginger bread people appear to be large breasted women.

Fonzi: Aaay, that's why it's called Sugar Beach.

Palladian said...

The house should be completely edible. Even Carême's elaborate pièces montées, while not really meant to be consumed, were entirely edible. To use anything else in the construction of a pièce montée, whether a gingerbread house or a Carême architectural dish is unacceptable!

verification word: squall. Something not good for your pièce montée.

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AlphaLiberal said...

Apparently, this sign was necessary..

peter hoh said...

Speaking of things that come out of the kitchen, I wonder if Chip has any thoughts about Megan McArdle's Kitchen Gift Guide.

Maybe Chip can put together his own list. Aspiring cooks want to know.

John Lynch said...

I'm so hungry I could eat a house.

Ron said...

Both of these houses are underwater...

LonewackoDotCom said...

I like this one from Jane Galt's Guide:

Mosquito Netting Believe me, it comes in handy in more ways than one! Of course, you're going to need lots of it all over because, here in Somalia, there's no health infrastructure. But, at least we aren't mooching! Anywhoo, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, the netting in addition to preventing you from getting sick, can be used as a great strainer. And, as Instapundit was telling me here in our communal (yes, I know!) shelter, that's especially important since we don't have a reliable water supply here at Galt's Gulch.

(I probably should add that Jane Galt, Instapundit, and all their little friends "went Galt" last month but, realizing that you can't go Galt anywhere in the U.S. without being a "looter" due to our shared national defense, decided for once in their lives to be intellectually honest and just went to Somalia. So, that explains that.)

Palladian said...

peter,

As someone who has been cooking for many years and has an extraordinarily well-equipped kitchen, I can say that McArdle's list is mostly trendy, gadgety stuff that's either unnecessary, ill-designed or overdesigned, or all of the above.
Forget the OXO junk, much of it is overprice, unwieldy and all of it is made in China. The only OXO item I like is the big plastic gravy seperator, but just because it's big.

The only items on her list that I would agree with are a KitchenAid stand mixer, Le Creuset enameled ironware, (though the old Le Creuset ware was better, before they diversified and diluted their brand and cut so many of their classic shapes. Look for the old stuff on eBay, you can get it much cheaper than the new stuff) and of course any kind of high-quality copper cookware. I have a lot of mostly old, tin-lined French copper cookware (my oldest pan is from the middle 18th century, most is from 1900-1960 and I have a few new pieces from Mauviel). It's really far and away the best thing to cook in, but it has the drawback of being extremely expensive (the new stuff), slightly more fragile (the tin lining) than other kinds of cookware and it requires a bit more maintenance (occasional retinning). If you're buying copper cookware make sure it is thick, solid copper and not just copper coated. The best copper still comes from France, though most of it is now stainless steel lined which reduces its conductivity compared to the tin and makes it much heavier and much more expensive. Look for older tinned copper pots on eBay and get them retinned if necessary. I use Rocky Mountain Retinning.

Palladian said...

Here are a few of my suggestions for the serious cook, or would-be cook.

A Lincoln Wear-Ever non-stick frying pan. Forget the fancy nonsense. Get one of these great, economical, no-nonsense pans.

The most essential cooking tool is a knife. I have quite a lot of knives, but I think you really only need a few to do most kitchen tasks, a large chef's knife, a medium-sized knife and a paring knife. You will also need a steel to keep your knife's edge. Get the longest steel you can find.

To me, the best knifes are high-carbon steel knives, like the "Sabatier" French knives. They require a bit more attention than stainless knives because, being carbon steel they rust if not dried immediately after washing and they stain (though that's just a cosmetic problem that's easily remedied). The great advantage of them is that they are much easier to re-edge with a steel than stainless knifes; consequently they need less resharpening.

Two bits of advice about knives. Get expensive, high-quality knives. Don't skimp on knives. It's not worth it and a good knife if cared for will last forever.

Use magnetic wall-mounted knife holders. Much better for the knife than any other storage method.

DO NOT ever, ever use a so-called knife sharpener at home. You will really mess up your knives. Unless you are an expert tool sharpener with a proper grinder, do like professional chefs do and send your knives to be sharpened periodically. You can keep them sharp for a long time if you store and use them properly and if you use a steel to re-edge them.

Another suggestion is a black steel frying pan for making omelets. They're inexpensive and perfect for making the perfect omelet. Since they're plain steel they require similar care to the carbon-steel knives. And if you are using one as an omelet pan, you should NEVER COOK ANYTHING ELSE IN IT. Once you get it seasoned, you'll never have to wash it again, just wipe it out with a paper towel when finished. Get a 9.5 inch diameter one for omelets.

A Rosti Margrethe melamine mixing bowl. I love these bowls. I have a few 2 liter ones and I use them constantly. I'm also a big fan of the Rosti spoons and utensils.

A Sani-Tuff rubber cutting board, the absolute best cutting board you can get. They last far longer than the polypropylene boards, they're reversible so you can use one side for garlic/onions, the other side for other things, though they don't readily absorb odors. They're very easy on your knives, and unlike wood they don't split or crack and most importantly they are easy to sanitize. The drawback is that they're ugly and they smell like rubber when they're new, but who cares. I'm recommending items for people who are serious about cooking, not people who want designer kitchens.

I'd add more to this list but it's bedtime. I hope my few suggestions are useful.

Fred4Pres said...

Ann, thank you for maintaining principals with gingerbread houses.

Is someone doing Frank Lloyd Wright gingerbread houses? Yes!

erik said...

Wow! Very creative! I had never made a gingerbread house for Christmas. I am always busy and I don't know if I am going to be creative enough for that.
small house plans

Ralph L said...

uncooked spaghetti does not fit them
I'd like to see you thatch a roof with cooked spaghetti.
I thought it was a clever idea but poorly executed.

I second the Kitchenaid stand mixer. My maiden aunt used to work for Hobart in the 50's, selling commercial versions of the mixer. She ain't much of a cook, however. Some years ago, I had to show her how to make french toast.

Ralph L said...

Love the goose lamp.

Chip Ahoy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chip Ahoy said...

Peter,

Jeeze, I really don't know how to begin compiling a list of what might be useful for other people.

I would like it if people would try the Aeropress for coffee. But I think people have their coffee routine habituated and resist thinking differently about what makes coffee great. Shame, because the result is outstanding.

My favorite things are weird: ice cream maker, chocolate temperer, pasta roller/cutter, clay cloches for baking bread. I do not recommend those things unless you're a bit of a nut.

Here, have yourself some retro deviled eggs with increased evil.

blake said...

Of course, it's helpful to have phrases like "palladian's well-equipped kitchen" or "chip's deviled egg recipe" or even "Estes Kefauver loves gingerbread houses" so that you can fine these comments in the future.

Shanna said...

As someone who has been cooking for many years and has an extraordinarily well-equipped kitchen, I can say that McArdle's list is mostly trendy, gadgety stuff that's either unnecessary, ill-designed or overdesigned, or all of the above.

Alton Brown always talks about using "multi-taskers". With as much junk as you can buy for your kitchen if you're not careful, that sounds like a good idea to me.

kentuckyliz said...

pain is my new normal

Michael Hasenstab said...

pain is my new normal

By choice or unplanned event?

Paul Zrimsek said...

The Russian climate denialist spies that DeltaMinusLiberal has been warning about have struck again at the University of Victoria. This time they've hit the Psychology Department, which only proves how broad the scientific consensus is.

peter hoh said...

Chip, it's cool. Palladian delivered what I was hoping for.

Despite the bitter cold and snow that needs shoveling, I am happy this morning because my friends' son is back from his final tour in Iraq.

brer rabbit said...

It's not a Christmas gathering without a gingerbread man.

Bissage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bissage said...

I waitered very briefly at a fancy French steak house back in 1982 or so.

It was the week before Christmas and they hired me because I lied when I said I had waitered down the shore. I lied upon the advice of a high school chum I bumped into who had, in fact, waitered down the shore who said they wouldn’t bother to check my references. He was right.

Anyway, this fancy restaurant (we wore tuxedos – ha!) had a big fancy gingerbread house on display by the maître d’ stand.

I thought that gingerbread house was way cool and I checked it out every chance I got but I had to sneak around to do it because I was supposed to be working, obviously.

There was this one waiter who kept hitting on me. There was this other waiter who had a large penis who boasted that he had seen the inside of every hotel room at some fancy hotel in Cherry Hill where he used to work. There was this other very serious waiter who used to be in the service who had a wife and two kids.

I would have been a very good waiter if all that was required was to be very polite and to behave in the same manner as I’d seen fancy waiters act in the movies. Regrettably, there was more to it than that, and I hated working there, and I quit before the week was out.

But I liked the gingerbread house.

k*thy said...

I concur on the gingerbread house standards.

A FB entry, today, from a niece, in town: "it sorta looks like someone went crazy with the gingerbread house frosting outside."

peter hoh said...

The last two posts tagged with "Sarah Palin" have lost steam after 191 and 157 comments, respectively.

The times, they are a-changin.

t-man said...

I'm calling shenanigans on Bissage. There is not, nor has there ever been, a fancy hotel in Cherry Hill.

madawaskan said...

These things never taste good-

trust me.

David said...

I am trying to avoid the Christmas Spirit for another ten days or so and Althouse you are not helping.

Bissage said...

[T]-man has caught me dead to rights!

I couldn’t remember before, but now for some odd reason I recall that that hung waiter dude was talking about the Sheraton Inn on Route 70 near the 295 interchange.

But hey look -- in my own defense -- where I come from, that was fancy.

Ha!

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Can anyone recommend a good gingerbread recipe? Something that both tastes good and would hold up well in the construction of a house? And that wouldn't get too stale if on display for a few days?

And while you are at it, a good icing that could act as a structural adhesive?

I've never made a serious attempt at a gingerbread house, but this may be my year to try.

peter hoh said...

Bissage, did we ever do the "You're from Jersey? I'm from Jersey" thing?

I grew up in Woodbury. Worked a couple temp jobs in Cherry Hill office parks.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I spent my summers in Surf City, NJ, but the rest of the year I was just north of Philly.

t-man said...

Hey Ignorance,

I spent the summers in Surf City, NJ too! What a small world.

Bissage said...

(1) We did it right here, Peter.

(2) I got my heart broken in Beach Haven. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one. Oh well. Whaddayagonnado?

(3) The stuff that comes out of the faucet is called wooder.

peter hoh said...

Ah, yes.

Ralph L said...

that hung waiter dude
How did you find out, or where you taking his word for it?

Blogger Indramayu said...

Thanks for this information. See you again. christmas

Payperbiz said...

This is fun, did it with the kids last year. However, we nobody touched the cake as everybody enjoyed just staring at it. We even had unique furniture in Chicago which we copied and placed into the miniature cake house.