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archive for January 2011

boulder: zoe ma ma

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Long-time readers and basically anyone who has been around me for more than five minutes know how I have bemoaned the utter lack of decent Chinese food in Boulder, Colorado. That is part of the reason you find so many Chinese recipes on this blog – because I can’t get the real stuff where I live unless I make it myself. But hold on there, pilgrim! Ma Ma has come to the rescue.

and you can find her on pearl street

Zoe Ma Ma is a newish Chinese restaurant that opened in 2010 on 10th and Pearl Streets in downtown Boulder. I first noticed it on my way to my favorite sushi bar, which is right next door (Sushi Tora). I looked at the menu with anticipation and suspicion. I’ve had my hopes dashed to the ground countless times in Boulder before. I wondered if this would be any different. When my parents were visiting and we walked past Zoe Ma Ma, my mother looked up at the Chinese characters and said, “Oh! Zoe Ma Ma. Looks interesting.” So right, it’s not Zoe as in zo-ee, but Zoe as in zoh. But everyone calls her Ma Ma. When customers enter, they say “Hi, Ma Ma!” and when they leave they wave “Bye, Ma Ma!” or “Thank you, Ma Ma!” Sometimes you’ll even hear it spoken in Chinese. Yes, the Chinese people in Boulder (all three of them… I’m JOKING!) dine here. That’s a good sign.

this is ma ma

It’s a small restaurant with seating for about 25 people inside and another 8-10 at the bar outside when the weather is nice. I know for a fact if you go right at noon, it can be quite busy. I’ve seen the bar lined with diners happily slurping their noodles as the steam dances up into the sunlight. Walk up to the counter to place your order. Depending on the day of the week, you can also choose the special. On Sunday, Monday, Tuesday you can get a big bowl of Sichuan braised beef noodle soup. On Wednesday and Thursday they serve savory pork belly zong zi (think of it as a Chinese tamale made with pearl rice). Friday and Saturday’s special is roast duck and wonton soup.

ma ma serves homemade organic noodles

I was curious. Very curious. The menu items looked more like the homestyle food I grew up eating and loving rather than the deep-fried, day glo sauce-drowned abominations of the typical Chinese restaurants around town. When I introduced myself to Ma Ma, we spoke in Mandarin and shared our paths. That’s what all Chinese people do when they meet. “Where are you from?” And that, for me, means “Where are your parents from?” because when I say I was born in the U.S. they (they = any Chinese person, especially immigrants) immediately ask if my parents came from China or Taiwan.

jason and i sampled the menu for lunch one day

**Jump for more butter**

going bananas

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Recipe: chocolate banana bombes

It’s easy to catch sunset. You start to notice the light softening and getting longer (in terms of wavelength λ – actually what happens is that the shorter wavelengths are getting kicked out by scattering off the atmosphere) and there are all these signs that it’s going to happen so you have time to get ready. Sunrise is another matter. Sunrise happens backwards and you start in the dark. In winter, you start in the dark and cold and lonely because everyone, including the dog, is snoring away under the covers still happily chasing bunnies in dreamland. Tons of people catch sunset, but not as many catch sunrise. Sunrise is glorious and I usually witness it alone, but it’s lovely to share with others too. I like sunrise because it’s the beginning of the day and I love beginnings. It means the long winter night is over, or it means you have a little peace before the mosquitoes of alpine summer begin to stir (and bite!). Sunrise can be quiet, peaceful, pensive. It also feels like opportunity. I’m feeling it!

pink light of sunrise ignites the tips of our lofty high peaks

If you will recall I discovered the joys of single-ingredient ice cream a while back. I finally found a way to use up overripe bananas as well as make a non-dairy ice cream alternative that is healthy and pretty creamy. It got me thinking about chocolate-dipped frozen bananas and how I had a lot of trouble eating those as a kid because the bananas were frozen solid like a rock. I wanted something similar, but easier to consume.

you just need some chocolate chips

i prefer to temper the chocolate

Okay, I just wanted an excuse to use my bombe molds. They’re so cute and whenever you give someone a bombe, a smile spreads across their face. You don’t have to temper the chocolate, but if you do it winds up with a beautiful sheen and snap. Just a note based on my experience – if you temper the chocolate it’s easiest with a minimum of one pound of chocolate even though you’ll only need a fraction of that amount for the actual coating. The heat capacity of a smaller amount is just too low to maintain a steady working temperature for very long.

paint the bombe molds with three coats

chop some peanuts

**Jump for more butter**

i like you

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Recipe: chinese almond cookies

I appreciate your kindness and encouragement. The fact that so many of you urged me to do what I felt was best for me even though it may not necessarily be the outcome you want says a lot about this readership – that you are all very caring and understanding people. That’s a great feeling for me to know that so many of you who visit this space are good folk. Thank you for being awesome.

The idea of leaving the blog has flitted in and out of the corners of my mind – but it’s usually only triggered when I have to post on deadline (and I’m trying hard to eliminate those) or when I drop a lens cap in cake batter and wonder why I bother with step-by-step process shots. I don’t want to quit blogging, but something has got to change.

we’ve had some impressive colors at sunset lately

and cool clouds too

I do not enjoy writing. I know this may seem surprising because blogging is writing, but I don’t write the way real writers write. I type what I’m thinking in my head and that is merely what I would be saying aloud if I didn’t shut my mouth. I talk. I never shut up. The only reason the blog exists is because I have reasonable typing skills to keep up with my motor mouth. But I do love cooking and photography and archiving and sharing. Writing consumes more time than I’d like because I try to edit my rambling thoughts into something coherent and maintain a fairly regular posting schedule. Without a regular posting schedule things begin to pile up and fall behind, snowballing into a big mess. That stresses me out. I’m OCD.

Anyone who blogs knows that it takes time. This blog, my archive of recipes and random stuff that goes on in my life, is a labor of love… but it’s still labor. I need to change things up on my end which may or may not become apparent here on the blog. I’m working to strike a balance in which I don’t allow use real butter to take time away from important stuff like time with loved ones, my health, my work (this is not my work), and my other passions. So when I said it’s me and not you, I wasn’t just saying it – I meant it. But it certainly isn’t my intention to break up with you… because I like you!

getting some turns in before work

impromptu lunch at l’atelier

As quickly as 2010 flew past me, I’m amazed that it’s still January. Actually, I’m happy that it’s still January and perhaps that is because I’m changing up how I prioritize. It’s also because I have an ass ton of things to get done. Typically, Chinese New Year sneaks up on me and I get all panicky. This year, I’m well aware of its approach and I’ve decided against hosting a big bash – mostly because I like being feeling sane. Of course, we celebrate the arrival of Chinese New Year no matter what. I’m still going to make several of the traditional dishes because there’s all this good luck that you need to get in on!


flour, almond flour, sugar, almond extract, egg, blanched almonds, baking soda, salt, butter

**Jump for more butter**