Etheric Recipe #2: Grilled Lamb on Flatbread

Grilled meat, grilled bread, and cool yogurt make this dish a well-balanced way to kick off the summer

A bit of friendly note, this is a very meat centric post, so if that isn’t quite your thing you may want to skip this post.

Onto my second recipe installment for Daniel Swensen’s Orison, hot off tail of the last beverage recipe of Barley Cocoa Tea. So if you wanted something a bit more substantial you’re in luck, I’m giving it to you with a take on street food. Daniel asked for something a soldier would partake of, so I wanted to make something hot, savory, and filling.

Given the time of year, I really wanted to leverage the freedom to grill something up, and try a few takes on lamb. I’ve gone a bit further and grilled the flatbread over the charcoal as well, which I imagine would translate well into fiction, ideally into a three person operation over a very long built-in grill so they could work the fires side by side, one dutifully turning the meat skewers, another firing bread to order based on the number of people in line, and finally a runaround handling any prep work needed for the resting meat and add-on condiments.

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Popsons: A Burger review to kick the year off right.

Popsons’ burger is so good it brought me out of blogger hibernation

I actually thought my first blog post of 2016 would be a review of 2015 (soon to come). But after serendipitously stumbling upon Popsons, and trying out one of their amazing burgers, I knew I had to change my plans.


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If life (and your bread) are feeling a bit stale, make Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding!

Want a different way to get your pumpkin spice fill? Try this bread pudding recipe.

Tis the season to pumpkin spice just about everything. And you know what? I’m ok with that. I’m not too extreme about it, but I’m definitely more on the side of “pumpkin spice all sorts of things” side compared to that raging “I hate pumpkin spice” movement that seems to surface at the same time.

In case you want to move beyond the Pumpkin Spice Latte options at the coffee shops, I present a more “solid” dessert option, Pumpkin Spice Bread Pudding.

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Geekonomic Stimulus Portland Edition: Day 1– Breakfast, Bridges, Books and Branch

Sunday in Portland: Cameo Café, Bunk Bar, Downtown Portland, Powell’s Books, Dixie Tavern, Branch bar

If Diane Sawyer is to be believed, supporting our country by buying American things is a great way to improve the economy. While buying “Made in America” is not always practical for the average American, I figured going on a “Geekonomic Stimulus” road trip to visit some of the cities on the West Coast might be a fun way to take a well deserved vacation and inject some money into some local economies.

Let’s not worry about the gas money being distributed in large share overseas, I was on vacation here.

The picture below sets the tone of my trip pretty accurately. Portland was a great city, and I had the pleasure of hanging out with Nathanael Cole, online friend who I have now met in the “meatspace” and also the creator of Motobushido, among other games. It was great to have such a talented and creative guy as my first tour guide to the city of Portland!

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A Rib Eye Roast for the Holidays

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Merry Christmas, Happy New Years, and Happy Holidays to everyone.

You can take that as spiritually or as secularly as you’d like.

But if you’re in that giving sort of mood, I will unobtrusively mention that my e-cookbook, Farewell To Foie Gras: The Food and Drink of Arduise, is now Pay What You Want on DriveThru, and it makes a great (virtual) stocking stuffer, if you’re really a last minute type!

Something about Christmas just makes me want to roast things, so I considered it a wonderful Christmas eve opportunity this year when my parents brought home a 6.5 pound rib eye roast and asked me to look for some recipes for the night.

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Balsamic Vinegar Chocolate Truffles Recipe

Add a touch of class to a gaming night with these elegant and rich bites of chocolate, with the fruity finish of balsamic vinegar and cherries.

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At the request from the splendid and wonderful Tiffany Simmons, writer of the soon to be published +5 Food of Eating, I have boldly completed a quest on her behalf, testing a new recipe for some chocolate truffles!

These chocolate truffles are great for both geeky and nongeeky affairs. Why? Well it’s chocolate! And most people like chocolate. Unless you’re a supertaster perhaps, in which case other options need to be explored.

As for the straight gaming applications there are at least a few ways they could add immersion to a game.  Given their origin they fit in quite well with settings placed in the late 19th or 20th century, or perhaps in a French inspired setting as well. Their rich sweetness lend themselves to the image of high society balls and intrigues. And the small but generous portions of chocolate truffles make fantastic dessert finger food.

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Cinnamon Mocha for Cinnamon Week

A splendid sweet drink for the morning

With this year’s sudden onslaught of projects, classes, and all the like, one of those things which has unfortunately fallen by the wayside was my participation on the 52 Weeks of Cooking subreddit challenge.

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While I’m not going to be able to make up all the weeks that I’ve missed, I’ll do my best to jog along with the more diligent posters until the end of the year. Thankfully this week’s theme, cinnamon, requires a bit less planning and grand productions!

Cinnamon has been quite a versatile spice that has found its way into so many different cuisines for uses both savory and sweet.

Growing up, cinnamon was primarily featured in my mother’s pho broth along with star anise and black cardamom. As I grew older I discovered it has its place in things like hot cider, cake, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch (I preferred Golden Grahams though.) One of the more exotic things I’ve done with cinnamon was actually making a cinnamon ice cream.

This morning I decided to go the hot drink route however, and found that a cinnamon mocha would be a splendid way to start the morning, quite a bit different than my usual black coffee.

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+5 Recipe Test #4 and the notion of “Sandwich Gaming”

Wild Rice Pancakes

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Before launching into this post’s specific recipe, I want to talk about a phrase I call “sandwich gaming.” These are hobbies (preferably geeky ones) that are easy to do while eating at the same time, provided that the food being eaten isn’t terribly messy. Actually I’d give bonus points for an activity that allows you to eat really messy food while being entertained at the same time.

There’s very few ways I enjoy relaxing more than cracking open a book or playing a more relaxed kind of game, say one that is easy to put down like Suikoden or Shining Force II,  while noshing on a well made sandwich or some other easy to eat finger food. And of course I have to add other role playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons or Apocalypse World as fantastic social games for the sandwich recreation phenomena.

It is perhaps this leaning that drew me towards the +5 Food of Eating project, with its emphasis on finger foods tailored toward the tabletop gaming community, and by extension, perfect dishes for other kinds of “sandwich gaming.”

This recipe for Wild Rice Pancakes that Tiffany asked me to try out is no exception either, and I personally found it marvelous. It was served at the +5 Food of Eating West Coast event I mentioned in my first post here.

There is a weakness with the dish though, and that it does not do well cold at all. While deliciously fluffy and savory right off of the pan and into my mouth, being placed into an icebox and plated did not do any favors to the guests or to the recipe at all, but some quite rewarming on a cast iron pan helped considerably. Still, if I were to serve this again for guests or at a function, I’d definitely make a point to fire these up on site!

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+5 Food of Eating Recipe Test #3: White Pepper Strawberry Sorbet

White Pepper Strawberry Sorbet

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of those trusted foodies that Tiffany Simmons has selected to do some recipe testing for her food for gamers project, the +5 Food of Eating cookbook.

In case you’re wondering why this is #3 and not #1, I’ve done two posts earlier on Cast Iron Therapy, one on Peanut Butter Jalapeno Hummus, and another on Olive Oil Crackers.

For A Cook and a Geek, I’ll be starting off with something sweet with a hot twist on it, White Pepper Strawberry Sorbet, a definitively vegan dessert that leaves a lasting impression, melding the sweet tartness of strawberries with the unapologetic bite of freshly ground white pepper.

I didn’t exactly get Tiffany’s thoughts on how this could add to the immersion of a board gaming night, but it certainly provides an impact. It would perhaps effectively accent a rousing tabletop gaming session involving chilly climes, or then again it could simply be a very effective way to wake up people in the late hours with its surprising contrast of heat and cold.

Ah, for the record, I’m not a vegan, in case you think that is the purpose of this blog.

As a matter of process, if you just want the bare bones recipe, you’re welcome to just skip to the bottom. But if you want pictures and the thoughts that pile into my head as I worked through the recipe, keep on reading!

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Introduction to A Cook and a Geek

Welcome to a new blog of food, cooking, and geekiness.

Hello and thanks for checking out my new blog! You might be here because you’ve followed me from my earlier cooking focused blog, Cast Iron Therapy. Or maybe because you’re a follower from the various social networks I’m part of where I occasionally spout off something I’ve presumed to be clever (or perhaps not so clever.) Or perhaps you’ve just stumbled here.

No matter where you’ve come from, thank you for joining me as I embark on this new endeavor!

For my first post, I’ll be introducing myself. My name is Brian Vo, and….

…I’m a Cook…

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Grilled Pork Ribs Glazed with Root Beer Barbecue Sauce

The first thing you should know about me, is that I love to cook. It all started* when I was in 7th grade and my mother dared to teach me how to make scrambled eggs, which was a revelatory experience. Being able to produce something out of other things in a short amount of time, that people appreciate you for? The instant results and instant satisfaction nature of cooking hooked me, and the bug hasn’t left me since then.

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Hoecakes, Alton Brown Style

I’ve developed this love of cooking in many different ways. The first was cracking open the French cookbook that my father used so often. This one to be exact. After that I opened up the Sunset magazines in search of more inspiration.

It was really in sophomore year of college that I began hitting my stride with access to an apartment kitchen unfettered by parental views on what a decent amount of time spent cooking was, and bolstered by the willing appetites of my college roommates who for the most part were supportive of my culinary experimentation. This freedom was a great period in my life, where I was able to try out all sorts of recipes, mostly from the internet, but also a significant amount of influence from Henry Hill’s The Wise Guy Cookbook.

Oh yeah, I was also influenced from watching a whole lot of Food Network. You know… back when they actually cooked things on that channel. I wouldn’t know, I don’t have cable anymore.

Lately I’ve been heavily influenced by the works of Michael Ruhlman, and the unfortunately inactive guys from The Paupered Chef.

There’s lots more I could get into, but that’s my obsession in a nutshell, I’m always trying to up my game as a cook.

…I’m a Geek too!


There’s so many ways to define being a geek these days (here’s one handy chart describing the dweeb/nerd/dork/geek breakdown.) There seems a whole lot more controversy than necessary it seems these days about what exactly the right definition is, which a number of people claiming that various people are just jumping onto the bandwagon now that being a geek is acceptable.

I’m just going to sidestep all of that controversy to the best of my ability and go with the following, perhaps too encompassing viewpoint:

If you think that you like geeky things and you are willing to call yourself a geek, then you’re a geek. If that’s not good enough for other people, well that’s their problem not yours.

So why do I consider myself  a geek? Well, lots of reasons!


I have a huge penchant for tabletop games: Dominion, Dixit, Bohnanza, Arkham Horror, Settlers of Catan are some of the more prominent titles worth naming.

I might also have an unjustified amount of fond memories of the 80s era of gaming: Pong, NES, Sega Master System.

I absolutely love anime. I’ll get into that later! I will readily admit that my love of anime was cursory at best, but it has really resurged in the last year, and even then it could take a while to go through what I like about it so much.

I’m also on the lookout for more of the pencil and paper variety of gaming. While I really liked the idea of Dungeons and Dragons as a kid I honestly never got to play enough of it, and the groups that I found I wasn’t able to stick with for one reason or another. I’ve played two awesome sessions of Apocalypse World with David Hill and Filamena Young of Machine Age Productions, alongside my stalwart buddy Jeremy.

…I’m a Cook and a Geek!


An awesome artistic rendition of me, ready to geek and food out, illustrated by the extremely talented Jenna Fowler

So, a Cook AND a Geek? Isn’t that reaching a bit far you might be asking?

A person can be one thing and another thing, and sometimes a person can be both things at the same time. I’ve been very fortunate in 2012 to be able to blend these two interests of mine in many different ways, on both a hobbyist and professional level.

How have I done these things? I’m glad you asked!

To combine anime/manga and cooking, all one really needs is a desire to cook Japanese food for the most part, as episode after episode one sees some fascinating stuff that one can’t help but want to try out. From all the episodes featuring Yakisoba bread, omuraisu and Christmas Cakes, it was a simple matter to do some googling and find the requisite recipes and give them a try.

That’s not even getting into the media that’s focused on cooking, from Addicted to Curry to Yakitate!! Ja-Pan. In a tribute to the latter, I’ve made a version of Ja-Pan #16, which is “a tribute to Mt. Fuji and the “traditional Japanese meal, curry.” Or basically a naan.

I’ve also made a tribute post to a recent RPG offering from Machine Age Productions, Flatpack: Fix the Future in the form of a possible post apocalyptic meal.

It was this tribute that actually allowed me to take a step deeper into the world of the geeky cooking on a more professional level. David and Filamena have allowed me to write a cookbook supplement for Farewell to Fear. And Tiffany Simmons, author of the soon to be published +5 Food of Eating has not only allowed me to be a recipe tester, she generously allowed me to throw one kickass gaming and eating tasting party where lots of fun and food was had by all who attended, a great event I truly hope to repeat again soon.


One of the delicious treats we served at the event, Raspberry Lemon Bars! (Photo provided by Verlsa.)

Well, I think that’s enough of an intro for now. I’ll be working on this website to pretty it up in good time but I wanted to get it up and start posting, so if you’ve any suggestions feel free to shoot them my way on Google+!

Until next time fellow cooks and geeks!

*That’s if you discount the terrible “toaster oven pizzas” I made as a little kid (following the advice of an enterprising cousin) using the ever so highbrow ingredients of white bread, American cheese, ketchup, and sliced up sausages from those winter sampler packs that are so popular as Christmas presents back in my youth. Nothing wrong with any of these ingredients on their own, but it is really a testament to the power of youthful enthusiasm that I was able to enjoy these creations as much as I did.