We’re coming up on the six-year anniversary of the day I adopted my child Edward Lewis; which happens to coincide with one of the most mortifying moments of my life. Here’s what happened.
Eddie, which is what his paw pals at the park call him, is a rescue from the pound. I know it’s hard to believe it when you look at him, but it’s true. I mean seriously, not every dog can do this? And by this, I mean wear a yarmulke while peeing on a Christmas tree. Amazing, right?
It was an alliterative sunny San Francisco Saturday, and I’d just finished a three-mile run along the Marina from Fort Mason to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge and back. I was single back then; so naturally I was thinner, healthier, optimistic and free—a real Adonis. I’d been bitten by the I-want-a-dog-bug a few weeks prior after dog sitting for my brother. All the undivided attention and adoration I got from his pooch for that one week was all I needed to confirm it was indeed my destiny to have my own fur-covered bestie too. Not only could I go running with a dog and stay fit, but I also figured owning a dog would up my game with the fellas, figuring a dog was the one thing I needed to attract the perfect husband? You know how babies are chick-magnets for straight guys? Well, dogs are the gay version. Though heed this warning, if yielded incorrectly, your canine combo might attract butch silver-haired lesbians. I’m just putting that out there, because, well, it was super awkward when I got hit on by….oh never mind.
“I’m gonna go look at dogs,” I said to a dog-owning friend on the phone as I zoomed across the city towards the SFSPCA.
“That’s a horrible idea,” she said, reminding me of the tiny room I was renting in this crazy lesbian’s Noe Valley victorian. “Have you even run the idea by her?”
“We talked about it and she said it was fine,” I said. Which was technically true, because we’d discussed it briefly and she said it was fine for me to get a dog; although, she never specified a size. So I figured it was fine to get a black lab. “And don’t worry, I’m just gonna go look at the dogs and check things out. I’m not gonna walk out of there with one.”
“What about work? Who’s going to take care of the dog when you’re at work all day?”
“We have a dog-friendly office.”
“I guess you’ve thought of everything,” she said, laying the sarcasm on thick. “Have fun!” and she hung up.
So I did exactly what they (whoever they are) say not to do until you’re 100% ready to adopt a dog—I went to the pound. And to make a long story short (too late), I didn’t want to lose Eddie to some hipster Facebook engineer and his booger-binging ten-year old daughter; so I went back the next day and adopted him before anyone else could.
Cut to a week later….I’m plugging away at my desk at work, and the phone rings. Within seconds I found myself on the receiving end of a vendor’s attempt at selling me advertising I didn’t need. I was naïve back then, and lacked the confidence to hang up on solicitors mid-sentence–so I listened. Suddenly I heard some commotion off in the distance.
“Philip come quick!” someone yelled, which was immediately followed by frantic tapping on my shoulder. I swiveled around to see the office manager standing at the entrance to my cube. Both panic and laughter seemed to be battling it out in her facial expressions.
Cupping the phone receiver with my hand, I said, “I’m on the phone,” and whispered it with exaggerated expression for emphasis.
“You need to come now.” She said, her brow raised stiff.
“I’ll wrap this up and be there in a minute.” I said, rolling my eyes as I swiveled back towards the corner of cube.
“Eddie pooped in IT!” she shouted, “you need to come NOW!”
The words sounded nonsensical at first. Who’s this Eddie? Why are we talking about his poop? And where’s this IT department she’s screaming about? Then it clicked. Eddie was that furry thing I was now responsible for, and our IT department was a work area where colleagues sat. FUCK!!!!!!
I slammed down the phone and leaped from my seat. As I approached the pod-cube-thingy where Jen and Jon—our two IT technicians—worked; I could see the disapproving shake of her head. Then she pinched her nose shut and turned to the wall to fight back a gag. Eddie came running from behind me like he always does; wagging his tail, and smiling with wonder as to why I was walking so quickly across the office.
And there it was. On the light gray burber carpeting in the middle of the cube floor—a giant piece of dog shit glistening in the afternoon sun. It was shimmering and ripe—freshly laid. The horrible smell was the result of me trying-out a bunch of different food samples I got from the SFSPCA on Eddie because I’m cheap and didn’t want to just throw away the food they’d given me. It was clear from the whiff of things, that morning’s sample was NOT gonna do….for Eddie’s doo-doo.
“Why didn’t you stop him?” I asked Jen, trying to place the blame on anyone but me. I’d walked him at lunch and was crate training him at home….this wasn’t supposed to happen.
“Are you kidding me?” she said, and immediately I knew I was in the wrong. The only appropriate thing to do was to get rid of it—and quick!
I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the entire roll of paper towels, a wet sponge and some dish soap. “Remind me to through this away,” I said to a colleague while holding up the sponge, because I didn’t want to forget and let people wash their dishes later with a sponge that had been rubbed in dog shit. And by the time I’d gotten back to the IT cube, more of the office had gathered around to gawk. I was like a murder crime scene that nobody could look away from.
“Oooooohhh gross!” someone said, as I clawed my way through the crowd. Then the others followed suit. “I’m gonna throw-up!”
“It’s just dog shit.” I said, thinking everyone was being a little immature and melodramatic.
And it wasn’t until I got down on my knees, and reached out to gently lift the poop without smearing it; that I noticed it was moving. Yup! Moving….because Eddie had worms!
“Oh my god! They’re crawling along the carpet!” someone screamed, and all I could think was this sucks, and the SFSPCA sold me a lemon. Then I started to gag a little, and before I knew it, I was reaching for a trashcan so I could vomit. And that’s when the real applause came from my colleagues.
I made several trips to the kitchen that afternoon, and one to the local store for some carpet cleaner and a tin of super strong Altoids mints. And just when I thought I’d experienced the true meaning of embarrassment, it got worst. The next day, a giggling colleague suggested I take a look under Eddie’s tail. And when I did, I noticed a lone little larva trying to squirm its way back into my dog’s ass; which I then proceeded to grab at with a tissue, per the request of our Vet. “You’ve got to grab them when you see them or this de-worming process will take longer.”
Needless to say, my computer problems never got fixed after that…..which, now that I think about it, I can forgive. But none of us will forget.
Flash to today. The dog is healthy and there isn’t a squirmy-wormy in sight. I’ve developed some coping mechanisms for what to do when I’m horribly embarrassed, and one of them is to soothe out my jitters with some creamy scrumptious decadent desserts, like this chocolate budino. I got the recipe from our friend Chef Danny Kedan of the Backyard restaurant in Forestville, CA (Sonoma wine country). It’s super easy and delicious. The first time I made it I tried to get creative with a salted maple caramel, which is great! But you can top this with a simple salted caramel sauce if you’d prefer. That’s why some of the photos show a budino with a different color caramel sauce on top. Enjoy!
Chocolate Budino recipe with Salted Maple Caramel Sauce
- 250 grams whole milk
- 250 grams heavy cream
- 125 grams sugar
- 170 grams chocolate (70% cocoa) roughly chopped
- 6 egg yolks
Once this recipe gets going it can all happen pretty quickly, and you don’t want to let your egg and cream mixture sit and heat while you futz with measuring and chopping other items. I like to have everything measured and out on the counter like this.
Roughly chop the chocolate and set aside.
I was able to find Guittard 70% cocoa chocolate at the grocery store down the street, so you should be able to find something similar to this without too much trouble.
With an emersion blender, mix the sugar, egg yolks, milk and cream in a small or medium saucepan over medium heat.
Bring it up to nappe consistency, blending along the way. You know you’ve reached a nappe consistency when the mixture is frothy and coats the back of a wooden spoon. You should be able to see a clean track in the wake of your finger running across the back. The mixture will be thicker and resist the whisk more than when you first started, and this will take about 15 minutes at medium heat. Don’t worry if the mixture curdles at all, because everything will get smooth with the emersion blender.
*This is an example of a nappe with the completed budino mixture. Before you add the chocolate, this will be a pale yellow frothy mixture….kind of like an Orange Julius.
Then add the chopped chocolate and blend everything together until completely combined and smooth.
and a little more….
and a few more seconds….
When combined completely, remove the chocolate budino mixture from the heat and pour it evenly into ramekins, jars, espresso mugs, or whatever you have lying around; and let cool for a few hours, or over night in the fridge. You want the budino to be chilled and set before you add the warm salted caramel sauce.
Salted Maple Caramel Sauce
Truth be told, I ran out of sugar when we started making a regular salted caramel sauce, and so I substituted some of the sugar with granulated maple sugar that I had from a previous recipe. It turned out to be a slightly stiffer consistency than I would have liked, but the flavor was awesome! This is what we created.
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup maple sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ¾ cup heavy cream
- 3 ½ tblsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp salt
Combine the granulated and maple sugars with the water in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium heat and stir often with a wooden spoon until the sugars dissolve. You can use a pastry brush dipped in water to wipe down the sides of the pan if some of the sugar seems to be crystalizing around the edges. Once the sugar granules are all gone, stop stirring and turn the heat up to medium-high so the mixture will bubble and boil.
With the maple sugar, the mixture will look tan or golden brown naturally, which is what you’re looking for when making caramel with granulated sugar and nothing else. So it gets a little tricky, but you want to let the mixture bubble away until it thickens and the bubbles start to grow larger and pop more slowly—about 6 minutes.
Remove the pan from the heat, and carefully whisk in half the heavy cream. Once combined, whisk in the rest of the cream, butter, and salt.
Add the saucepan back to the stovetop and whisk over medium heat. The mixture will deepen in color and thicken as it bubbles and some of the moisture burns off. You’re only going to cook the salted maple caramel sauce for 3-5 minutes this second time.
Pour the caramel sauce into a bowl, or a measuring cup with a spout so you can easily pour it over the chocolate budino. Pour a thin layer of the slightly cooled salted maple caramel sauce over the set chocolate budino. Finish with some pink Himalayan salt and top with some whipped cream, or some decorative chocolate curls like this.
- This recipe is validation that all those jars I’ve been collecting in the cupboard were not for nothing. Fill up whatever vessels you’ve got, and then bring them as individual servings to a friend’s dinner party and you won’t have to worry about getting your ramekins back later.
- This caramel gets a little stiff when it cools. The same recipe can be used if you want to make caramels (IE: the soft chewy caramel candies you see wrapped in wax paper at specialty markets and candy shops).
- A traditional salted caramel sauce works great with this chocolate budino as well, so if you don’t have granulated maple sugar—don’t worry.