Category Archives: Asides

Pancakes Pancakes Pancakes!

Since starting the Goat Tower Pancake Breakfast I have been making A LOT of pancakes… It’s great, because pancakes have always seemed somewhat elusive to me, so makeing ~40 a week has really taken the fear out of it, and helped me unlearn some things that have always seemed like the “standards” of cooking them. For instance…

  • You don’t need bubbles to form if you are making thick cake-like pancakes, and you need the top of the pancake to be almost dry and dotted with tons of holes if you are making incredibly thin pancakes.
  • “too hot” doesn’t make the pancakes look weird, too much grease does. Having your pan too hot just burns the pancakes. This explains why the first pancake always looks weird. I’ve found the best way to handle that problem is to use well seasoned iron skillets, seasoned to the point where you don’t need to add additional grease (there is butter in the batter with the recipe I use)
  • sugar AND butter are used in the recipes to help caramelize the pancakes, making them a nice golden brown. If you want to remove or adjust one of these you will need to compensate with the other or your pancakes will be pretty gross (over cooked on the inside, or underdone on the outside)

Just knowing those few things should make a HUGE difference in your pancake experience. Over the next couple of weeks I’m hoping to start posting some recipes. My favorites so far:

  • Buckwheat Pancakes (with molasses)
  • Vanilla and Blue Corn
  • Smokey Oat
  • Cinnamon Whole Wheat
  • Cheddar and Blue Corn
  • Ginger Snap

Look for them over the next couple weeks!


GOAT TOWER PRESENTS: Pancake Breakfast With Special Guests From Turret of Velociraptors!

Get the whole story »


Back in the Kitchen

Photograph by Rosey Lakos

Well. It’s been a long time. What can I say except life took over for a little while. I don’t intend to turn this blog into a diary with intermittent recipes, but I feel like I owe my imagined readership an explanation of some sort. I mean here I was all geared up to create professional food blog, and I suddenly fell off the face of the earth!

Those of you who are close to me already know that Patrick and I split up in November. That was a huge blow the routine of my life, among other things. Since then I have moved to a lovely studio on Beach Hill surrounded by some of my favorite people (it’s a giant house split into apartments, and I adore everyone in each space). But I have found myself without reliable internet, and without the means to get it, and have been making my life increasingly busy, as busy as busy is possible. This has always been my way of dealing with my world when I don’t like it very much. The more I can do and busier I can be the better I start to feel about everything. But this means my focus is split and spastic and wild. I accomplish a lot, but in a bunch of different places.

Get the whole story »


Brunch Slide Show

I spent the entire day canning nectarines, and I am beat! So here are some pictures from the brunches:




sammy sez, “ah got duh yiddeh deh dee do dem bo!”

WE ARE BACK! mykle, the bestest in the whole world made it all better.  ive been saving lots and lots and lots of things, hopefully to start tomorrow.


Consecration | Vieux Carré Absinthe

It’s pretty rare that something is so exciting to me that I feel like shouting from the rooftops, but today is one of those days.  Patrick announced that he had picked up a car today so that he could 1. get a case of beer 2. get a new trash lid 3. pick up boxes to start packing. Totally unexciting, but I decided to go with him anyway.  As we headed over to the Bella Vista distributor I asked him what beer he was thinking of getting and he said “Something HOPPY” knowing it would make me sulk, which of course I did, and tried to convince him to pick up a PBC mixer instead.  He wasn’t going for it.  So we walked around the distributor looking to see if we could find anything we would both like, and of course we couldn’t, until suddenly… as I was checking out the different cases of Belles, Patrick stops in his tracks and says “HEY, did you see THIS?” what? WHAT! A fucking case of Consecration.



Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine the opportunity to buy a case of any sour Russian River beer.  But there it was. All $240 of it.  We quickly started calling anyone we thought would be willing to split it with us until we finally found someone who would answer their phone (THANK YOU JODIE!) and immediately bought it.  We are going to open a bottle of Supplication tonight to celebrate.  BUT THAT’S NOT ALL. no! later, stoping to see if we could pick up some boxes, we happen upon one of the owners of the Philadelphia Distilling Co. showcasing their Penn1681 Rye Vodka (delicious) and their Blue Coat Gin (amazing), which Patrick and I are extreme fans of, and what does she pull out of her bag? A bottle of Vieux Carré, their new Absinthe, which she says will be on the shelves by the end of the week.


It is beautiful, rivals the Saint George Verte, and has already gotten wonderful reviews from some of the geekiest of geeky absinthe drinkers. It will be around 50$ a bottle, which is on the medium/low end American craft absinthe costs.  The Philadelphia Distilling Co. is a company I adore for so many reasons.  Their asthetic, their commitment to using local farmers, their commitment to quality, it’s simply inspiring.  They get their rye strictly from 3 farmers in Pennsylvania, the picture they use on the bottle is from one of the rye fields where their rye comes from, and they ship their rye mash back to the farmers for compost when they are finished with it.  And their prices are still affordable.  They are a model for what all companies should be trying to achieve.  High quality, low waste, low cost, local. She also mentioned that they already have the rye (rye!) for the whiskey they plan to make, and it will hopefully be ready to go in 6 years.  I can hardly wait, a very exciting day for sure!


New Spring

(I am that dorky. But if you got the reference so are you!)

The first signs of spring are clearly visible in my back patio.  For me, this means the onset of new fruits and vegetables, herbs and flowers. I have many plants that I’ll have to say goodbye to this year, so any amount of time I can spend with them before saying goodbye is precious.


The Best Egg Salad Sandwich

The Best Egg Salad Sandwich ever. EVER!!

The Best Egg Salad Sandwich ever. EVER!!

Thursday morning Nate found a folded up note in an open shopping bag that said “5 egg sandwiches please”.  It was like someone placed it on the counter for us in the morning as a breakfast order- so we thought.  “Who would request such a thing! They have another thing comin’!”  But the more we thought about it, the more we wanted egg sandwiches ourselves… mmm…  On a whim, I boiled some eggs intending to Nate, Jason and myself egg salad sandwhiches.  6 eggs, 2 a piece.  Perfect.  Except I forgot two more people were coming in that day.  In a panic I started tossing a little bit of everything in the mix: apple, carrot, celery, onion, trying to extend the eggs and make them two thirds larger.  In the end, I totally did it, and managed to make the best egg salad I’ve ever made.  We used left over whole wheat bread from the shop, one side covered in avocado, the other side in bacon, or for me, horseradish cheddar.  Here is a rough estimate of what went into the egg salad, I’m sure you could adjust to whatever you have in your kitchen, but I’m positive the apple and mint is what made the sandwich great.

Egg Salad Ingredients:

  • 6 eggs hard boiled
  • 1/2 crisp green apple
  • 1 small celery stalk, in small cubes
  • 1/4 small red onion
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced carrot
  • mustard, mayonnaise, salt and pepper to taste

In the end, we ended up making 5 egg salad sandwiches, realizing the note was someones incredible forsight and not a request after all.  Thank you mr mystery man.


The Ramos Gin Fizz

Ramos Gin Fizz Tartlets | Smoky Bananas Foster Tartlets

I first got excited about the Ramos Gin Fizz about a month ago while watching a Humphrey Bogart film.  Bogart kept ordering rye and water (a man after my own heart), while the vamp kept ordering a Ramos Gin Fizz. It looked amazing, frothy, delicious, and somehow not overly elegant.  So when a friend of mine decided to host a cocktail party pot-luck (the kind where you bring the fixes for your own featured cocktail, brilliant!), Patrick and I jumped on the Ramos Gin Fizz.  Felicia, who writes for the Philadelphia City Paper food blog, Meal Ticket, did an excellent write up of the drink, along with the history and recipe which I highly recommend.  Made with gin, cream (do not substitute for milk or half ‘n’ half, it is a completely different drink without it), an egg white, a dash of vanilla, a dash of orange blossom water, lemon, lime, simple syrup, club soda, and shaken for at least 12 minutes, it is probably one of the most annoying cocktails you could ever make, but totally, totally worth it.

Knowing we were bringing this incredibly complex, annoying cocktail, I decided I wanted to bring some desserts and a pickle plate.  I made some Meringue variations from Mark Bittman’s recipe a week earlier (rosemary, campari, and meyer lemon), and the pickle plate was easy (I just picked a variety of things I had pickled over the summer), so of course I had to come up with something more complicated to bring over.  I decided to make mini tarts.  I was totally winging it, but it all came together, and I have to admit I was extremely satisfied.  Below are the recipes for the two mini tarts I made.

NOTA BENE: I made these tarts using a mini silicon baking cup tray thing (about 1″ in diameter and a 1/4″ deep).  I happen to pick them up on sale at Fante’s, but I imagine you could make these by pressing the graham cracker crust into a small cookie mold, and by spooning the chocolate onto a silicon baking sheet.

Ramos Gin Fizz Tartletes


  • 1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup of white sugar
  • 6 tablespoons of melted unsalted cultured butter
  • 1 package (8oz) creme fraiche
  • 1/4 cup of powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of gin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of orange blossom water
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • meyer lemon curd


  • mix the graham cracker crumbs and white sugar together in a bowl, add the melted butter and quickly press into molds.  If you make them too thin they will crumble, so be generous. Bake them at 325F until the golden, about 10 minutes. Let cool then place in the center of baking cups.
  • in a small food processor, blend the creme fraiche, gin, orange blossom water, vanilla, and powdered sugar.  Try not to over process it, when you are finished it should have a texture similar to whipped cream
  • spoon a dollop of the creme fraiche mixture onto each graham cracker crust and top it off with a tiny spoonful of the meyer lemon curd
  • chill until served

Smoky Bananas Foster Chocolate Tartlets


  • 9oz of chocolate (preferably dark)
  • 2 tablespoons + 4 tablespons unsalted cultured butter (divided)
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked sea salt or other sea salt
  • 1 cup of dark brown sugar
  • two bananas quartered and diced
  • six ounces of rye whiskey or bourbon
  • chipotle powder


  • start by making the bananas foster.  This is one of the coolest and easiest things I have ever made.  In heavy bottomed saucepan heat the 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of dark brown sugar until caramelized (about 5 minutes)
  • toss in bananas and shake the pan around until covered
  • add rye whiskey and light on fire (really fantastic), cook until the flames go out, about three minutes. set aside.
  • in a heavy bottomed saucepan begin heating the chocolate and remaining butter on low, stirring constantly until melted.  add the 2 tablespoons of heavy cream and quickly but gently fold in the salt.  It will have a slightly grainy texture.  Quickly begin spooning the chocolate into your molds or onto a silicon baking sheet (or parchment).
  • using a small slotted spoon or fork, pick out 3 pieces of bananas and press them into each chocolate piece
  • sprinkle with chipotle, chill until served

An Open Invitation to Sunday Brunch

Hello Everyone!
Patrick and I would like to extend and open invitation to all of you for

Sunday Brunches at the Larenas-Murray Home!

Every Sunday (starting this Sunday the 25th) we will be opening our doors at 1pm for an informal Sunday Brunch.  We will provide food, coffee, and tea for anyone who would like to attend, and our hope is to spend as much time with all of you as possible before we move to California in May. There is no obligation attached to this invitation, so if you can’t come this week, or this month, come next week, or next month, or anytime you like.  You don’t have to bring anything (but you can if you want), you don’t have to RSVP (unless you have a special diet or allergy).  Feel free to bring a +1 or 2! Come late or early if you need to, like I said, it’s informal, so there will be no sitting at tables or official start times, but the food will be best and hottest at 1pm.

We hope to see you some Sunday

– janina and patrick


  • even though i always say you dont need to bring anything, many people always want to bring something. if you want to bring a something, and dont want to cook, simple things are always good: a small selection of pastries, a cocktail ingredient (orange juice and cheap champagne? vodka for bloody marys?), a bag of coffee, a nice loaf of bread, seasonal fruits, or a common brunch ingredient we can use next week (potatoes, eggs, etc), or a meat dish since i dont know how to cook meat.  but really really, dont feel like you need to bring something.
  • if you want to bring a full meal, or need to use our stove or oven, thats okay, just call ahead so i know whats what and can make room for you
  • if you have a special diet or alergy  it would be a good idea to call ahead and let me know.  there will always be vegetarian food, and likely a vegan option, but its best to be sure, and its no hassel to accomodate.  many of you are vegan and/or lactose intolerant and thats a-o-k!
  • please bring your friends loved ones and family if you like (you can bring your kids, we are a kid friendly house!), please let me know if you plan to bring more than 2 people with you so i can make sure i make enough!
  • if we ever need to cancel a brunch, we will send out an email notification to all of you, and we will be hosting brunch on superbowl sunday since its in the evening, but we will also be watching superbowl, and might ditch you if you hang out too late- just sayin’