Winner's Q&A

Winner of Your Best Chocolate & Spice

By • February 29, 2012 • 28 Comments

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Congratulations to vrunka whose Thai Peanut Butter Cups won this week's contest for Your Best Chocolate and Spice!

vrunka  thai peanut butter cups

1. Describe an early food experience that has influenced the way you think about food and/or cooking.

My grandmother was a huge influence on how I think about food and cooking. She lived with us when I was growing up and would do most of the cooking. My earliest memories are of watching her cook in the kitchen. She was a force of nature! She cooked whole-heartedly, completely absorbed in what she was doing -- and at the end would pile the table with a great variety of delicious dishes. One of my fondest childhood memories is of sitting with her at the kitchen table and making dozens upon dozens of homemade pot stickers. Sure, you could buy frozen ones, but what could beat the ones made by hand in your own kitchen?

2. What's your least favorite food?

A year or two ago, I would have said beets, but I have since learned that I like them raw and grated -- delicious! Now there's not much I won't at least try... except maybe durian!

3. What is the best thing you've made so far this year?

I made a Moroccan Butternut Squash Pie for National Pie Day that I have to say was pretty darn tasty (see below). It was kind of a vegetarian version of basteeya. I entered it in a pie contest and though it didn't win, I'm happy I got a chance to work on that recipe because it's a keeper!

's Moroccan Butternut Squash Pie

4. Describe your most spectacular kitchen disaster.

There have been too many to count, but speaking of pie contests... a couple years ago I made a custard-base pie for a pie contest. I guess I was too much in a rush because when I got to the contest venue, I brought out the pie and realized that the custard had not yet set... and had, in fact, spilled all over the car seat. Needless to say, I did not win that contest. 

5. What is your idea of comfort food?

My favorite comfort foods are the ones that remind me of my childhood and my grandmother -- hot bowls of congee, potstickers, ginger chicken. 

6. Apron or no apron?

Despite my large collection of aprons, I often go without -- much to the detriment of my wardrobe. 

7. What's your favorite food-related scene in a movie?

One of my all time favorite movies is Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood for Love. The two main characters are always finding excuses to "accidentally" run into each other at the neighborhood noodle joint. Never have take out containers of noodles ever looked so seductive! 

8. If you could make a show-stopping dinner for one person, living or dead, who would it be?

I never cook very well under pressure so I don't know if I'd try to make a "show-stopper" for anyone. But if I could have someone over for dinner, there are plenty of people I'd love to chat with over a bowl a soup or plate of pasta. I've been reading a lot of Lynda Barry's work recently and she seems like she'd be a hoot to chat and eat with! 

9. You prefer to cook:
a. alone
b. with others
c. it depends on your mood

When I need to decompress from a long day at work, there's nothing better than to just sink into the kitchen and cook by myself, following my own rules and whimsies. But if I'm feeling more social, it's so much fun to cook with other people. I love all that joking around, bobbing and weaving around each other and the serendipitous dishes that arise from all those minds and hands at work. All that good energy really makes the food taste great!

10. When it comes to tidying up, you usually:
a. clean as you cook.
b. do all the dishes once you've finished cooking.
c. leave the kitchen a shambles for your spouse/roommate/kids to clean.

I have often described my cooking style as, "Kitchen Tornado." This results in a whirlwind of dishes, utensils, ingredients flying every which way until dinner is served. So while I truly admire people who can (a.) clean as they cook, me, I'm doing well if I can manage to (b.) do all the dishes once I've finished cooking. Of course, if you ask my husband, he'll tell you that it's really (c.) and that I usually leave the kitchen a shambles. Hey, it's hard to be a cook in a kitchen with no dishwasher!

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Comments (28)


about 3 years ago lorigoldsby

Congrats on a great I'm off to find your moroccan butternut squash pie recipe!


about 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Congratulations Vrunka - a well deserved win....and inspiring recipe! I love it when two seemingly unrelated ingredient sets are brought together, in cohesive form. Very well done


about 3 years ago Sagegreen

Congrats vrunka on the win. Love your sous chef!


about 3 years ago vrunka

thanks, she's a cutie, isn't she?


about 3 years ago EmilyC

Congrats vrunka on your well-deserved win! Enjoyed reading your Q&A too!


about 3 years ago vrunka

Thanks, EmilyC!


about 3 years ago LE BEC FIN

vrunka, you are just one HOT TICKET!! and you have quite the batting average by the way. looks like about one for four (wins and CPs out of recipes submitted)!! congrats!


about 3 years ago vrunka

wow, thanks for the nice comment! I've never thought about a "batting average" for Food52 before!


about 3 years ago gingerroot

Congratulations, vrunka! I loved reading your q & a - makes me want to watch In The Mood for Love again, and, wow, what a beauty of a pie.


about 3 years ago vrunka

Thanks! It's such a great movie!


about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Congratulations, vrunka! I hope to taste your PB cups soon!


about 3 years ago vrunka

yes, indeed!


about 3 years ago vrunka

yes, indeed!


about 3 years ago lapadia

Bravo, take a bow to your chocolate & spice; I’m so happy for your win, Vrunka…Congratulations! Love your photos and Q&A, too :)


about 3 years ago vrunka

thanks so much! yay for spicy peanut butter cups!


about 3 years ago Panfusine

I can't put better than Antonia James.. Congratulations!


about 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Wonderful Q&A by a super-wonderful cook and community member! Congrats on your well-deserved win. ;o)


about 3 years ago vrunka

That is so sweet of you, AntoniaJames. I really appreciate it!


about 3 years ago vrunka

That is so sweet of you, AntoniaJames. I really appreciate it!


about 3 years ago vrunka

thanks, all! and a shout out to my little niece featured in the top picture -- she loves congee about as much as I do!


about 3 years ago Bevi

Congrats Vrunka! That is one glory of a pie!


about 3 years ago vrunka

Thanks, I though that pie was pretty photogenic!


about 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

congrats vrunka!! I love that movie, too!


about 3 years ago vrunka

yay, another fan! thanks!


about 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations again! That is one beautiful pie up there, and of course the peanut butter cups look amazing.


about 3 years ago vrunka

Thank you, aargersi!


about 3 years ago Midge

That's one gorgeous pie! Hope you post the recipe.


about 3 years ago vrunka

thanks, Midge -- I do have the recipe written up so maybe I'll post it soon. And thanks for the close race! Can't wait to try those amazing looking cookies!