OHMYGOSH I’M SO GLAD SPRING IS FINALLY HERE!!!!!!! The temperature’s been lingering in the 60s all week, so it’s been warm enough to ride my scooter around town; the sun has been out, allowing me to hope that I may eventually develop some semblance of a tan; and, perhaps most exciting of all, Iron Man 3 comes out in four weeks! Whoo!
I am thrilled to be matched in enthusiasm by my soul sister, Amy of Amy’s Nutritarian Kitchen! Hooray! We share a great many interests and pursuits, including, but not limited to, cooking/baking, great beer, knitting, poop jokes, and a mutual love of RDJ (Robert Downey, Jr., for those of you not in the know) films. Months ago, as in before Christmas, we conceived the idea of IronFest, a magnificent marathon in which we watch Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and The Avengers in the weeks leading up to the premier of Iron Man 3. We’re throwing Captain America: The First Avenger in there, too. (I understand the argument for throwing The Incredible Hulk in there, instead, seeing as Tony Stark made a cameo at the very end, but we have decided to exclude it for two reasons: 1) it’s the only Marvel Phase One movie I don’t own, and 2) neither of us like it or want to watch it again.) And, yes, we’ll be going to the midnight showing, because we’re both in our 20s and still do that kind of thing. I love it.
That said, this past Thursday was the kick-off of IronFest 2013! It was an extravaganza, to be sure. There was a snazzy cocktail, fancy foreign cheese, and artisanal bread. Oh, and IMDb informed us that the same day we held our first IronFest soiree was also RDJ’s 48th birthday! Happy belated birthday, RDJ! As Amy joyously proclaimed, “It [was] destiny!”
Amy and I spent the better part of the week planning just what type of cuisine we would enjoy and how we would execute its creation. We happily agreed on making pistachio-parsley pesto and grilled taleggio cheese sandwiches. She had me at “pistachio”. As usual, we went halvsies on contributing ingredients; I love a good challenge, so I was game for tracking down the taleggio cheese. I had never heard of such a
thing; neither had Amy. Fortunately, Wikipedia was kind enough to inform us that taleggio cheese is a soft, washed-rind Italian cheese (it looks like brie) that is produced “every autumn and winter when the cows are tired”. Yep, it’s tired cow cheese. I do want to know more, but I’m resisting the urge to do so for want of continuing to believe that it’s cheese made from the milk of sleepy bovines. My quest required stopping at four different shops, but at the final one, I finally found it. I also found pineapple upside-down cake gelato there, which I promptly made mine. See, perseverance really does pay off!
Regarding the bread, that was another matter. There was no quest for the perfect bread for our Iron-tastic meal, because I was bound and determined to make it myself. It didn’t start out that way, though: for my family’s Easter gathering, I made the rather formidable Tomboy Cake, a cake I’ve wanted to bake since I first read about it last fall. For having been created by an amateur, it turned out pretty well, and I was proud of it, as evidenced by the text Amy received from me with a picture of the completed cake and the declaration that “I am the Cake Boss!” The whole endeavor gave me a surprising boost of culinary confidence, so I felt ready to tackle the challenge of making sandwich-worthy bread for a dynamite grilled cheese. Smitten Kitchen has yet to fail me, so I went with Deb’s rendition of Italian bread. As I’d hoped, it turned out beautifully. However, the loaves were somewhat smaller than standard sandwich bread loaves, more like finger sandwich size. It was OK, though. We dealt with it.
Amy and I were beyond excited to get the show on the road. Truthfully, any evening that includes good drinks, fancy cheese, and RDJ is both of our dreams come true. There was also some chocolate thrown in there, which certainly didn’t make things worse. Once we got all of our ingredients together, we assigned tasks and went to work. We work together in the kitchen like a well-oiled machine. Teamwork! I got to crackin’ pistachios (get it?!) while Amy destemmed parsley and sliced the red onion. In no time, all the necessities found their way into the food processor and came together in harmony like an expertly orchestrated symphony. It was beautiful.
Our last true prep task was to cut the cheese. (I hope that you giggled a little bit at that one.) We were somewhat daunted at this prospect, for multiple reasons. First off, it was a wedge of soft cheese, so keeping it under control and getting it into even slices wasn’t an easy task, nor one we vehemently succeeded at. Second, the rind caused us some initial distress: it was an odd gray color, and we really couldn’t tell whether it was actually moldy or not. We were feeling bold, so we took a chance and ate it as-was, mysterious rind and all. It turned out to be a pleasantly mellow cheese with some nice fruity notes and nary a hint of mold flavor. Dodged a bullet, there.
Ingredients, assemble! We had our system all worked out: Amy sliced the bread and spread pesto on each slice, and I layered half of the prepared slices with red onion and tired cow cheese. George helped us out with the next part. Are you acquainted with George? As in George Foreman’s Lean Mean Fat-Grillin’ Machine? I felt some rather mixed emotions when I won one at our senior all-nighter, but it’s turned out to be one of the handiest appliances in my kitchen. Using George allowed us to save a few calories by not having to spread butter or oil on the bread for the purposes of creating a non-stick sandwich. George did not disappoint us. Our wee finger sandwich-sized grilled cheeses turned out wonderfully warm and melty and crammed full of the most excellent fresh parsley flavor. We each looked at each other with expressions that said, “Oh ,yeah. We done good.”
Are you thinking, “I thought you said there were snazzy cocktails in there somewhere”? You are not wrong. We both love a good IPA, and a whiskey-based drink certainly seemed Iron Man-esque, but we went in an entirely different direction at my suggestion. My train of thought went like this: I recently finished reading “The Paris Wife”, which had me thinking about Ernest Hemingway, which had me thinking about “The Old Man and the Sea”, which had me thinking about dark and stormy seas, which made me think of a dark and stormy. That said, we both enjoyed a dark and stormy. If you’re unfamiliar with this beverage, you’re not alone. I heard about it only a week or so ago while listening to an old Joy the Baker podcast. It’s very easy to make, though: fill a highball glass with ice, squeeze in the juice of one lime wedge, add 2 oz. of spiced rum and fill the rest with ginger beer (we used Cock & Bull), then stir it all up and garnish with a lime wedge. Ta da! Refreshing, oh-so easy to mix, and an ideal grown-up soda to enjoy while assembling sandwiches.
Sandwiches devoured, libations on their way to disappearing, and mess tidied up, it was time to settle in for the main event: the evening’s showing of Iron Man! Once the movie had started and our stomachs settled a bit, we moved on to enjoy a square each of Mo’s Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar. Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. It was altogether dreamy. RDJ’s performance was also dreamy. It was funny: the movie ended the same way it did the last time I saw it. Strange.
That was that for night one of IronFest 2013! We now have only days to plan our next Iron Man-centric get-together, so the chase is on to find the perfect recipe, hunt down the necessary yet perplexingly difficult-to-find ingredients, and make it happen. We are up to the challenge and cannot wait for it! Until then, we’ll go back to our usual routine of making distasteful jokes and quoting Arrested Development to each other via text message. We still think it’s fun, and that’s all that matters.