Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Joe-Joe's

In order to adequately sum up my feelings regarding these delectable 150 calorie treats that make Milk Chocolate Oreos look like they come from an onery child's Easy Bake Oven, I turn to a quote from one of my favorite movies, My Best Friend's Wedding.

"Kimmy says if you love someone you say it, you say it right then, out loud. Otherwise the moment just... passes you by."

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Joe-Joe's, I love you. Don't ever leave me like Mrs. May's Pecan Crunch or Big Train Chocolate Chai did when the evil top hats decided to stop stocking them at Trader Joe's. My mouth and your all-natural chocolatey, cream-filled goodness are a match made in sweet heaven. Keep those fat grams coming.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Chicken Marsala: He'll Never Know What Hit Him

When I'm not pretending to be modest, I like to tell myself (and anyone who will listen) that I'm a "catch." Any man would be lucky to have a blond, statuesque, long-limbed neurotic like me on his SoCal tanned and toned arm. I work out with the regularity of a professional athlete, I'm not afraid to get dirty (see "Diana Takes a Bite... of Dirt"), I have the brain of a woman with a much darker hair color, and I even eat carbs. In a rational world (ie. not LA), men would be in fisticuffs vying for my affections.

Of course, because all men are intimidated by my beauty, wit and brawny brain power, most of the fisticuffs in my life involve watching The Hills' Lauren and Heidi duke it out over she-she martinis at Les Deux. Some may mock my television viewing habits, but The Hills has taught me something other than the words to Natasha Bedingfeld's "Unwritten." If being pretty and moderately personable was enough to please a man, Lauren and Brody would be half-way down the aisle by now. Female competition in LA is fiercer than the stage on American Idol: In order to get the nod of approval from the judges, or the companionship of a man with a large bank account, contestants, and women, need an edge over their competitors.

For some, it's plastic surgery. For others, it's sluttiness. For me, it's chicken Marsala.

In their January 2004 issue, Glamour published a recipe for "engagement chicken." According to the piece, soon after three female Glamour staffers whipped up the rather basic roast bird for their honeys, they each received a wedding proposal. While cynics may shake their heads and scoff at the notion that a simple recipe can secure a rock, I secretly harbor the romantic belief that when I make my chicken Marsala for a special (ie. taned and toned) future boyfriend, he will immediately drop to one knee and demand I give him my perfectly manicured hand in marriage.

To this end, I have been making and perfecting my chicken Marsala recipe since I made it for the first time at my parents' 25th anniversary party when I was 14. I have cooked the surprisingly easy entree so many times that I no longer even need to measure the ingredients and have become one of those annoying chefs who tells people that they cook on instinct, adding a splash of this and a splash of that until the dish looks "just right." Over the years, my chicken Marsala has evolved to include roasted shallots, thyme and even a little lemon pepper, all depending on my mood and cabinet contents. Despite these subtle changes, every time I sit down to a plate of my never-fail dinner, I marvel at how it keeps getting better. I can't help but feel as though I am perfecting it for my future husband until I really do have it "just right."

I have yet to make my chicken Marsala for anyone other than family members, and don't intend to make it for anyone else until I find someone worthy of what I consider my version of Glamour's "engagement chicken." Love doesn't always come at first sight, but I'm fairly convinced that any man lucky enough to date my fabulous blond self, will immediately fall in love with me after the first bite of this dish. And if he doesn't, I'll slip something in his wine glass.

As for the recipe? It's not to follow. Go find your own edge. (I hear pregnancy is really in right now.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Terroni: Pasta and Pizza for the Masochistic Diner

I like jerks. While I appreciate a cute butt, nice smile and dazzling pair of blue eyes just like the next girl, the quickest way for a guy to gain my adoration is to ignore the heck out of me. I blame it on my competitive nature and innate desire to prove my fabulousness, but part of me also gets super itchy and suspicious when a guy pays too much attention to me. I hate to be the poster child for a cliche, but in my fairly short history of dating, the nice guys really have finished last.

When it comes to restaurants however, I generally enjoy being wooed. A guy who pulls out my chair for me gets a scowl, but a waiter who does the same? He gets a smile and a big tip. Given my desire to be fussed over when I go out to dine, I shouldn't like Terroni. In fact, nothing about the reservationless eatery on Beverly Blvd. should be particularly pleasing to my attention-whoring dining self. Especially considering they took the place of my beloved Authentic Cafe.

Yet despite treating me like I am just an average Jody with mousy brown hair and clogged pores, there's just something about Terroni that makes me still sort of like him -- just like I still sort of like my male friend who doesn't contact me for weeks on end and then suddenly pops back into my life like an evil human incarnation of the Jack-in-the-Box. But that's an entirely other post (or autobiographical companion piece to He's Just Not Into You).

As far as Terroni's mistreatment of my emotions, stomach and arteries, I have prepared a long list of their abuses in order to convince myself that I really don't need the casually hip Italian eatery as a companion in my LA foodie life.

1. The no reservations policy makes for pre-dining anxiety and probable hunger pains during the practically assured waiting period.
2. Amendments to the dishes are not welcomed, rendering me completely incapable of performing my usual Sally-esque ordering behavior.
3. Wine is served in stemless glasses. What's the point of ordering wine when I can't look sophisticated and cultured by holding the glass by the slender stem?
4. Pizza is deposited on the table uncut. I do not like to cut my own slices of pizza. (Plus it slows down the rate at which I am able to cram said pizza into my pizza pie hole)
5. Menu items are generally of the greasy, cheesy, meaty variety. My Bar Method instructors would be so ashamed. My stomach and intestines are not the biggest fans either.
6. Servers do not offer a Parmesan blanket for pasta dishes. If I want extra cheesage on my pasta, I have to ask. In the words of Stephanie Tanner, "How rude!"
7. Dessert options are lackluster. 'Nuff said.

C't Mang Pizza

In reviewing my list of reasons to hate Terroni, part of me feels inclined to never walk through those chic glass doors again. Why would I want to put myself through the torture of dining there and risking life, limb and sparse pizza toppings trying to cut a slice of their glorious C't Mang pie with speck, walnuts, Gorgonzola, pear, and honey? And do I really need to give my arteries a sucker punch with a plate of the maccheroncini Geppetto pasta, an anti-heart healthy dish with minimal dandelion greens, and chunks of spicy sausage and melted Fontina cheese? My heart shudders with pain at the memories.

maccheroncini Geppetto

But then I remember the way the pizza serenaded my tongue with its unique flavor combinations. And how decadently delicious the first few bites of the pasta tasted when the Fontina cheese was still ooey and gooey, and coated the chunks of sausage like a mother coats her freakishly pale-skinned spawn in sunscreen. While the food wasn't revolutionary, it was comforting, and like my occasional male friend who pays me no attention, a safe and reliable choice for an enjoyable evening out. I know I'll be going back for more abuse in the near future. But only because I'm a masochist, and I really really liked that pizza.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bouling for Macarons: The Real Reason French Women Don't Get Fat

I have a new hypothesis for why French women aren't popping the buttons on their chic black capris. While I have never actually read the book, French Women Don't Get Fat, and am not an authority on anything other than pretending to be an authority on all things excepting cars and things with too many electronic buttons, I do have the benefit of real life experience. And by "real life experience," I mean " real life experience eating in and around Los Angeles."

As an American woman, I am well-acquainted with the rituals of eating fast, eating often and eating quantities that are better suited for wild animals preparing for hibernation rather than pudgy humans who sit in cubicles all day. I also know that in order to turn back the tide of obesity that threatens to feast upon my future spawn and future slower-metabolizing self, it is necessary to begin exhibiting a little restraint when faced with a box of dense, thickly-frosted Sprinkles red velvet cupcakes, or the plate-sized, 1/2-inch thick banana brown sugar pancakes from the Griddle Cafe. Unfortunately, because sweet and fatty food taste really really good, and my stomach is accustomed to a door policy of "the more the merrier," I'm not always able to resist shoving absurd proportions of the aforementioned treats down my throat.

Fortunately, not all the sweets in Los Angeles have been designed to eradicate my capricious desire to eat like a French woman. That's right, amidst a sea of cupcake bakeries and ice cream parlors, I, Diana H., author of nothing reputable, have found the answer to all image conscious Los Angelos' prayers. The real reason French women don't get fat is not because they chain smoke or expend loads of energy looking angry, but because they have a glorious, reasonably proportioned cookie called the macaron.

From the outside, macarons (not to be mistaken with the baffling and exceedingly unpleasant coconut macaroon) don't look like anything particularly decadent or delicious. With their delicate egg-white shells sandwiching a moderate amount of fondant, the typical macaron is certainly tea party-pretty, but hardly seems worthy of displacing a hunk of dark chocolate or bowl of ice cream for a mid-afternoon calorie splurge. When I want dessert, I want dessert -- not some impostor disguising itself as a fancy cookie.

Despite being socialized to judge books and people by their covers, approximately a year and half ago, I decided to pay a visit to the West Hollywood French patisserie Boule to give their famed macaron one chance at romancing my belly. Insert the cliche, "It was love at first bite" here. While it would be somewhat of an exaggeration to say that after 18-months of eating Boule's macarons, I now weigh less than a pre-preggers Nicole Richie, it would not be an exaggeration to say that I now know that I don't need a Sprinkles cupcake or a verbal beating from "Sweet" Lady Jane to shift my insulin levels into high gear. All I need is one macaron, preferably chocolate or fleur de sol, to transport me into a state of sugar-induced bliss.

Though a macaron is gone in approximately five small bites (two for males and Angelina Jolie), what it lacks in size it makes up for with its decadent dollops of flavor. I always want to mock (or stab) celebrities who boast that they are satisfied with "one spoonful of ice cream" or "three jelly beans," but I can honestly say that I actually am satisfied by one of Boule's macarons. So much so that I am inclined to send them a suggestion card proposing they advertise their macarons with the phrase, "Betcha can eat just one!"

Or, because I'm so credible, I'd be perfectly willing to let them steal my byline and use "The real reason French women (and Diana H.) don't get fat." (I won't mention the time I ate four.)