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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The New Kids On The Block

I have favorite street characters that I pass daily, to and from work. The first, and my favorite, is Frank Chu, whose "12 Galaxies, Quadrogonic Hibernation(s), Economist, Technogonic, Exacerbated Charismatic, Aberrations" haikus can be seen the length of Lower Market Street and at every political demonstration I've been to in the last 5 or so years. Then there is my new favorite, someone I call the Angry, Black Militant, Saxophone Player, who in between smokin', kick-ass performances harangues people passing by about not giving the Black-Man-Who-Built-This-Country a break.

As of late, there have been some new kids on the block. Literally. These are whom I refer to as the Girl Scout Cookie Extortion Racket. Every year they don their monochromatic uniforms and boots and storm the streets, malls, and shopping centers scouting for easy marks. Their form of panhandling is quite insidious; one that is more psychological than physical threat of bodily harm. You've seen the other kids selling candy bars, and your heart has broke knowing that a life of selling candy bars on the street is no life for a child. In many ways, they've entered into an indentured servitude the GSCER will never know. The candy bar sellers are out there braving the cold mornings and hot afternoons by themselves. Whereas Girl Scout Troops, when not engaging in street to street fighting, push their cookies through a sophisticated, underground network of religious, business, and political connections. Think of each troop more as a cell. Often, they bring along their own bodyguards, whose menacing looks between angry, Tammy Faye mascara and pinched lips is enough to make Gotti roll over.

The Girl Scout propaganda is quite efficient at temping the easy mark into buying several dozen boxes of cookies. But let us engage in a little investigation, shall we?

The box says: Strong Values, Strong Minds, Strong Bodies.

I'm tasting: Double Dutch Chocolate Chip Cookies
(In order of quantity)
Enriched Flour
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed oil
Milk Chocolate
Semi-sweet Chocolate
Caramel Color
Natural and Artificial Flavor
Leavening agents
May contain traces of tree nuts

The box says: Strong Spirit, Strong Skills, Strong Community.

I'm tasting: Trefoils Shortbread Cookies
Enriched Flour
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed Oil
Sweetened Condensed Whole Milk
Artificial Flavor
Baking soda
Soy Lecithin
Caramel color

Now, truthfully, I have no problem with the Girl Scouts as an organization, at least that I'm aware of. The Boy Scouts, on the other hand, can go to hell. I realize that selling cookies is a fundraising thing, but these bland, trans-fatty laden cookies baked in an industrial plant can't be good for the girls or the people who buy them.

Can you build a strong mind or strong body eating Girl Scout cookies?

I don't think so.

Wouldn't it be nice if Girl Scouts made their own cookies and sold them on the street corner? Imagine if every Girl Scout troop was unique in the types of cookies they offered? Imagine if you went to Troop 5 for the best Peanut Butter cookies, while Troop 11 were known for their kick-ass Chocolate Chip? Imagine if there was a Girl Scout cookie bake-off once a year that attracted thousands of people, gave prizes that built self-esteem and rewarded teamwork, and raised a ton of money for the troops? Imagine that Girl Scout cookies were made from ingredients purchased in their community and helped support the local farmers, dairies, etc? Wouldn't that be a great civic thing to do? Wouldn't that build strong skills, teach strong values, and foster a strong community spirit?

I know so.

For example, here is a recipe for Bruce's Great Big Oatmeal White Chocolate Chip Cookies, using some ingredients from local producers.


These are best right out of the oven – aren’t most cookies? I make them big…really big. Maybe just less then ¼ cup in size – they cook-up to about a 5 inch disk – that way I can say I only ate two. Blueberries are the popular favorite at our house (I like cherries too) but you could use any dried fruit.

I don’t wish to sound like I own stock in this company but I highly recommend if you don’t already have one, you go out and blow about $20 on a "Silpat". It is a nifty, rubbery, rectangle-y, thing you put on top of your cookie sheets whenever you back cookies, biscuits, mochi or any other cookie-sheet-baked-goods. I have always had to hide at least one batch of six cookies – one sheet full – due to burned bottoms. Since I got a Silpat every cookie has been perfect. My advice…buy one…or two.

Makes about 18 large cookies – about 3 ½ dozen tiny wimpy cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature (Straus Family Creamery)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs (Marin Sun Farms)
1 teaspoon real vanilla
1½ cups all-purpose flour (Gold Medal/General Mills)
1 generous teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
a pinch of mace (optional)
1 slight teaspoon salt
3 cups Quaker Oats
1¼ cups white chocolate chips (Ghirardelli)
1 cup dried wild blue berries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Beat together butter and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, spices and salt; mix well. Mix in oats, white chocolate chips and blue berries; mix well
3. Drop by huge rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. (Use your new Silpat!)
4. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for about 1 minute on cookie sheet; remove to wire rack.


Besides better cookies, what the Girl Scout organization desperately needs is an Extreme Makeover. I can see it now: tears of joy through blackened eyes and chipmunk cheeks. Porcelain veneers. Some queen saying "Let's look in your closet little girl. Gasp! What are all of these cheap (vomiting sound) Kelly green, polyester-blended, burlap sacks? This is child abuse! Burn that beret this instant! No, we're going to do you up in all-natural fibers, faux fur trim, accessories, and short, sassy hair. Now, can you walk in Manolo's? Well, don't worry, you will. There are badges for that now."

Speaking of makeovers, a place I given up on has had one, and the results are muy positivo. It's a tiny restaurant on the corner of Jackson and Kearny called DPD Yong Ming Restaurant. A co-worker recommended it before, but when I went, I was so grossed out by the restaurant and the food that I never thought twice about going back, no matter how cheap it was. But lately, as I've been passing it on my way to get my haircut, I noticed the inside has a fresh coat of paint and an older man waving through the window gesturing passersby to come in. "Eh, what the hell", I thought. "I'm broke and I want Chinese food."

The walls have been freshly painted a bright orange. I mean, a bright, bright orange. What is the deal with orange and lime green on everything nowadays? Imagine a troop of Girl Scouts inside DPD and you have this season's colors at Target, K-Mart, ad nauseum.

My co-worker Gary says they have a new chef, and the last time he went there the food was too salty. I went in and ordered the Dry Braised Fish with rice to-go; total $4-something. Everyone in the restaurant, the owner, the waiter, and the chef were super friendly. I mean really friendly, so much so that if they were any friendlier we have to be wed by the polygamist sect of the Mormon church. While I waited at a table for my food to cook, I was served hot tea. Inside of the tiny restaurant was a large table of older Chinese women who had just finished up a huge lunch, and sitting behind me was an elderly gentlemen working on a large plate of fried noodles. When my order was ready, the owner brought the to-go container out opened, and presented it to me. The cook came out all smiles to see my reaction. When I asked for a to-go menu, they were practically jumping out of their skins to give me one.

The dry braised fish was good. I'm going to hold back on saying it was great, but it was exceptional. It was a little salty, but since I was eating it with plain rice, the rice helped tone it down. The fish, flaky and white (probably cod), was fried in a light crisp batter, along with sauteed zucchini and onions, in a sauce that tasted like a combo of bean sauce, soy sauce, and a touch of garlic.

Dry Braised Fish

Gary, who's originally from Taiwan, and I were trying to figure out what style of Chinese food DPD was. I quote: "So Gary, do you think DPD is Mandarin cuisine?"

"You know, sometimes Chinese food is just Chinese food, unless it's a specialty cuisine. There are some Northern things on the menu such as sweet soy milk. I was listening to them and they spoke a mixture of Mandarin and Cantonese, plus some dialect I didn't understand. Most Chinese you run into are from Hong Kong, but I'm not sure where these guys are from. I liked their old chef. Hopefully this new one is good."

Here are other interesting DPD menu items from the to-go menu (their phrasing, not mine):

Bean Wrap with Mince Pork
Sea Cucumber Tofu
Sauteed Spinach with Garlic Sauce
Preserved Cabbage Yellow Fish Soup
Jelly Fish with Cucumbers
Kao Fu (??)
Chicken with Wine Sauce
Preserve Egg and Pork Porridge
Eight Treasure Porridge
Sauteed Shrimp with Pepper Salt
Seafood Hot Pot

Now that DPD has a new chef and a new makeover, it's very possible that it will become my new standard for cheap Chinese food in Chinatown. Most of these items are $4.00 and under, which makes them a steal. And, if it matters, they are open til midnight. Considering there are so many crappy Chinese restaurants that serve bland food for higher prices, this makes the new and improved DPD a welcome sight.

Sam Wo's, eat your dead heart out.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I love you.



9:40 AM  

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