A few months ago, I bought a fun cocktail ring from my lovely friend Shana. When it arrived, the package included a little candy extra, pictured here:
I’m a cautious tryer of new things, and in truth, a pudding marshmallow sounded nasty. So it sat on my counter untouched for a week or two until a sugar craving made me bold. I tried it. It was love at first marshmallow. It’s a flat little disc of lovely, powdery marshmallow, filled with a sort of nougat version of vanilla pudding. Almost pudding-textured, but not quite. I got hooked fast, and when Shana and I made a pilgrimage out to a flea market in the suburbs, we stopped at the store where she’d bought them and I got more. And then a couple of weeks after that, her kind and funny husband bought a couple more bags and gave them to me and that’s when the fun really started.
To truly appreciate pudding marshmallows, I had to go through several stages of tactile interaction. First and most obvious, unwrap it. Admire its dry, powdery surface, slight sponginess and perfect pillow shape.
Next, a natural curiosity led me to examine the anatomy of the marshmallow. Its marshmallow outside separates in a pleasingly simple fashion from its pudding inside. I enjoy taking them apart in little pieces, savoring the deconstruction. Or eating one whole and seeing how long it takes for the marshmallow part to dissolve. Or peeling the outside off of the inside and eating them separately. Oh, lovely!
One day I was melting silver wire to make ballpins and spied the bag of pudding marshmallows on the counter. I had a brilliant inspiration: toasted pudding marshmallows! I got some chopsticks out of that drawer where you put chopsticks when the chinese food is delivered, and skewered a marshmallow. I discovered quickly that they catch fire pretty fast even from several inches above the flame on my gas stove. Scorched marshmallow, what a waste. It took a little finessing to perfect my technique, but I forged on undaunted, and achieved the pudding marshmallow in its purest form: hot pudding on a stick.
The marshmallow puffs up like magic when toasted. The outside caramelizes to a beautiful crisp texture, and the pudding bit melts into actual pudding. Unadulterated, unholy addiction. The rest of the bag of marshmallows disappeared in three short days.
We took a short daytrip to Boise last weekend just to see what we could see. It turns out there’s nothing much to see, especially on a Sunday, but we had a peaceful day of wandering around town admiring the architecture and walking along the greenbelt.
The highlight of the afternoon was an early dinner with just the right combination of spice and complication. Idaho has a sizeable Basque community and history, and there’s a small but charming block in downtown Boise dedicated to Basque history, culture and food. Traditional songs are carved into slabs of concrete embedded in the sidewalk, as are lists of family names – there are pictures of both below.
We ate at Bardenay, a restored and functioning distillery named for a Spanish sailors’ word for the cocktail hour. Inside, it’s one of the loveliest buildings I’ve ever seen, and the bar was exceptional. I didn’t want to keep snapping photos while people were eating and drinking, but I got one that conveys it to some extent. Not only was their drink list extensive, inventive and appealing, but the physical space of the bar was great, too. I love wood bars, and this one was wood from top to bottom, incorporating shelves for whiskies and liquors, racks for wine, refrigerated glass cabinets with taps for white wines and taps for beer. Delicious.
We ate outside in Idaho’s usual blue and cloudless clime. Faith ordered a black bean and sweet potato chimichanga with a Caesar salad, and I had red curry and turmeric chicken satay with a frisee of carrots and lemongrass. Both were outstanding – well prepared, well seasoned, delicious and unusual. By far the pinnacle of this meal was a martini over ice that we shared, a specialty drink called Basil Instinct, made with Bardenay’s own gin, Patron Citronge, fresh lemon and lime juices and muddled with a sprig of basil. It smelled like a kitchen herb garden and was striking and refreshing – a less sweet, more complicated version of a mint julep. I bought a bottle of the restaurant’s gin and am hoping to recreate this frosty wonder when I get back home. Summer has a new drink…