Saturday, April 30, 2005
Gremolata sounds like a character out a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Perhaps Gremolata could be a princess? Or a witch? Or even an enchanted kingdom? But no, gremolata is a garnish made of lemon peel, garlic and parsley. Some versions include anchovy or rosemary as well.
Gremolata is traditionally served as a garnish with Osso Buco. In Italian osso means bone and buco means hole. Osso Buco is a dish made with a veal shank bone which has a large marrow filled "hole". What gremolata means I have no idea.
What I do know is that the pungent raw flavors of gremolata "brighten" up a long-simmered dish such as Osso Buco. Versions of it are used with different kinds of soups and stews as well. Gremolata is always used as a garnish after a dish is done, but I recently started musing about all sorts of other things you could do with gremolata in recipes. By adding another ingredient or two it becomes a great addition to meatballs, or a topping for pasta or fish, even a marinade for seafood or chicken. Are you seeing a gremolata cookbook? Ok, maybe it's just me!
Who doesn't love a lemony roast chicken? There are version of lemon roast chicken that use a whole or a cut up bird, but I like butterflying a chicken before roasting it because flattening allows it to cook much more evenly not to mention quickly. It's a definite comfort food. By adding the juice of the lemon, a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper to gremolata you can make a terrific lemon chicken. Of course, if you like you could call it Princess Gremolata Chicken.
Note: this recipe goes great with roast potatoes, by peeling the potatoes and chopping them into thumb-sized pieces and putting them in a pan with a little olive oil you can roast them while cooking the chicken.
1 lemon, rind (no pith!) and juice
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup parsley
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh ground epper to taste
1 chicken (2 1/2-4 1/2 lbs)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In the food processor pulse the lemon rind, garlic, parsley and salt. Add the lemon juice, olive and pepper. This will be used as a marinade so if some of the lemon remains in strips that's fine. Place chicken in a large plastic bag, add the marinate and seal. Marinate in the fridge for at least one hour, ideally 24 hours if you've got the time, but I never seem to...
Slice the chicken along the backbone. Flatten the bird with the palm of your hand. Pat dry and place skin side up on a rack set in foil-lined pan. Bake at 450 degrees for around 30 minutes or until juices run clear or temperature reads 180 degrees. Time is dependent upon the size of the chicken. Let stand for 5 minutes before cutting into quarters or halves.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Time for a quick vacation! I will be in Hawaii for one week, swimming, snorkeling and eating my scoops of rice and macaroni salad. Those of you who have had a plate lunch know exactly what I'm talking about.
I will be posting from the beach, but don't expect anything about Hawaii until after I get back and have a chance to upload some original photos. If you have any hot tips or favorite restaurants on Oahu, please feel free to post them in the comments section.
Aloha & Mahalo!
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
Passover began this past Saturday night. By Monday morning there were many posts about it on blogs so I thought I would add mine as well.
Passover is a major Jewish holiday and involves themes of freedom, liberation, redemption, Spring, family, connection--many things we all hold dear. The "telling" of the Passover narrative is done through songs, prayers, rituals and stories around the dinner table. Seders takes place two nights in a row, while the holiday lasts a week. The concept of a seder is a hard to explain, it refers to the dinner and service, but actually seder means "order" as there is a prescribed order for all things at Passover.
The collage above is my attempt to capture one of the two seders I had the pleasure of participating in this year. It is a pleasure because it means reconnecting with an extended group of family and friends that I care so much about. Starting on the left, the table is filled with flowers representing Spring and the care and love that goes into the preparation for the evening. In the center is Jay, leader of the seder who has created our very own deeply personal haggadah or seder guidebook. He makes the seder meaningful and fresh every time by encouraging everyone who comes to share their own stories and experiences.
On the far right is the seder plate. One of the rituals of the evening is to explain each symbol on the plate. You can explore an interactive seder plate here. The washing of hands is also a ritual of the seder. In the center is a bowl of matzah ball soup one of the most traditional Passover foods (though it is also eaten year round).
Finally there is a picture of my darling nephew Noah, opening a gift he received in thanks for doing his part in the seder. Children play a very important role at the Passover seder. They represent the future and participate by "ransoming" a piece of matzah called the afikomen and singing or chanting the four questions. The number four is repeated many times in the evening--four questions, the story of the four sons and even drinking four cups of wine (don't worry, they are very small cups!).
If you have never had a chance to experience a Passover seder in person, I hope you will visit some of the other accounts of Passover on the web, there are some wonderful ones I discovered this year at Bay Area Bites, Eggbeater, the Amateur Gourmet and Tasting Menu. If you know of any other sites with Passover stories, or Passover stories of your own, please feel free to share in the comment section below.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
I just wrote about a Hong Kong style mango dessert, but when I heard the next "Is My Blog Burning" was themed Orange your hungry? all I could think of was "I MUST come up with a mango recipe." I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to fixate on mangoes.
In general I like mangoes uncooked. They are terrific with Thai style sticky rice, as a filling in crepes, in fruit salad, in a salsa and also in mango lassi. Lassi is an Indian beverage made from yogurt or buttermilk, and water. It can be sweet or salty and is a great thing to drink with spicy food. Mango lassi is a sweet drink, flavored with mango puree.
It occurred to me that mango lassi is so cool and refreshing, what about chilling it down even further to the point of freezing it? When I was growing up we used to make a dessert of pureed frozen bananas, so why not mangoes? I always like to find a recipe that only has two or three ingredients but tastes like heaven. Mashed potatoes, grilled cheese sandwiches, and even s'mores fall into this category for me. So now I give you another three ingredient recipe, brought to you by the color orange:
Note: This would be great for dessert after an Indian dinner, but it's also healthy enough to eat for breakfast.
Frozen Mango Lassi
1 medium mango
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
honey to taste
Cut up the mango into chunks and freeze. Pour the buttermilk or yogurt into ice cube trays or a very shallow container to freeze. When solid, take mango and buttermilk or yogurt cubes and place in the food processor, blend until creamy. Taste and add honey to sweeten if necessary. Scoop with an ice cream scoop and serve immediately.
Friday, April 22, 2005
Have you seen the new food pyramid put out by the US Agriculture department? One the plus side, it's awfully colorful, it has a person engaged in activity/exercise in it and it's customizable (you can put in your age, gender and level of activity). There are twelve customized versions of the pyramid now. But sadly it's a poor replacement for the original.
First off, the old pyramid had actual icons of food in it so at a glance you could see the basics like "eat more grains, and less meat". The new one has no icons because the government says it's "conceptual". All the blocks have been turned sideways and into bands of color so seeing their relative size differences is tough. The idea of twelve different pyramids to reflect differing needs and calories for everyone is probably a good one, but who's going to count calories every day? Not me! And how often are you likely to go to the web to remember what you ought to be eating? The government must have assumed you'd go all the time because you have to use the interactive web version of the pyramid to understand the specifics.
The actual information in the government report is useful and the key recommendations in particular are excellent. There is just no way they could have fit into a pyramid. So couldn't they have tried to come up with a little song or rhyme or something other than a pyramid? Considering that they put four years of work and 2.4 million dollars into the project I'm sad to see that they couldn't have come up with something really simple and easy to understand and remember.
The best thing to come out this project may be the themes.
Variety--Eat foods from all food groups and subgroups
Proportionality--Eat more of some foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products), and less of others (foods high in saturated or trans fats, added sugars, cholesterol salt, and alcohol.)
Moderation--Choose forms of foods that limit intake of saturated or trans fats, added sugars, cholesterol, salt, and alcohol
Activity--Be physically active every day
So here's my idea. Instead of the goofy day-glow triangle that has been criticized as looking more like a gay pride flag than a pyramid--remember VAMP (variety, activity, moderation and proportionality) and you'll do just fine.
UPDATE the government is now using a much simplified plate image. Let me know what you think.
Wednesday, April 20, 2005
For a time, quiche was the quintessential lunch dish, and then it wasn't. It was all because of one silly book: Real Men Don't East Quiche which was published in 1982. Quiche? Girly? Suddenly no one wanted to to be seen eating quiche.
Quiche originated in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. The Alsace borders Germany, actually the region was once part of Germany. Not surprisingly the name quiche comes from the German word "kuchen" a type of German cake. It's a pastry shell filled with a savory baked egg and cream custard. There are lots of varieties of quiche, some of the most well-known versions are Florentine which has spinach, Alsacienne with onions and Lorainne which has bacon and usually Gruyere cheese.
I like quiche but it's a bit rich with cream, eggs, cheese and a butter-laden crust. Welcome to France, eh? A few years ago I came across a recipe for a Gouda, Bacon and Leek Pancake in Bon Appetit, it was similar to a quiche but without a crust and used milk instead of cream. My adaptation is even leaner than that recipe, but equally delicious.
Note: With a green salad this makes a great lunch or dinner dish. It's also good cold for brunch or breakfast.
Quicheless Leek Lorraine
5 center cut bacon slices
2 large leeks (white and light green parts only), coarsely chopped, rinsed and spun in a salad spinner to clean
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed shredded Gruyere (about 2 ounces)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using heavy 10-inch nonstick ovenproof skillet, fry bacon until brown and crisp. Drain and crumble bacon. Pour off all the bacon drippings from skillet. Add the wet leeks to skillet and cover pan. Steam for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Saute with cover removed until they begin to brown and soften.
Combine eggs and flour, whisk to combine then blend in milk, mustard and sugar until smooth. Season with pepper.
Scatter bacon over leeks in skillet. Pour batter over. Top with Gruyere. Transfer to oven and bake until puffed and cheese melts, about 15 minutes. Loosen from pan and cut into wedges.
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
I can't remember the first time I had Indian food. But I do remember the time I had my first non-restaurant Indian meal. A friend of mine from Bhopal who was living in Europe made dinner for me. I watched eagerly to learn techniques that were completely foreign to me, such as toasting spices in ghee. That meal took hours to make. In a communal dormitory kitchen I watched as others waltzed in and cooked their dinners in minutes.
The most successful Indian feast I ever cooked was with a neighbor. We made it a progressive dinner and each of us cooked several courses. It was a lot of fun but a lot of work. These days I have a box dedicated to Indian spices and every so often I take it out and tackle a few recipes.
At the Fancy Food Show this year there were several companies selling sauces that really impressed me. In general I'm not likely to use pre-made sauces but these were different--no artificial ingredients and exotic flavors that were so delicious and not the kinds of things I am likely to create on my own. The first sauce I tried was a delicious curry flavored sauce from Dulcet Cuisine based in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Dulcet Cuisine's Madras Curry Sauce & Marinade is a real winner; it's tangy, almost fruity, spicy, but not hot. It can be used on vegetables, rice salad, noodles, salad, meats--you name it. No special techniques required. The flavors of India, but in minutes flat. I tried the curry sauce on Tombo tuna. First I marinated it, then I cooked it and served it over a green salad with sliced apples and radishes and dressed it with the sauce as well. Easy-peasy. And so tasty. I'm betting it will be fabulous to marinate chicken or as a dressing for a cold couscous salad.
Dulcet makes several other sauces including a Lemon, Mustard & Dill Sauce and an Asian Salad Dressing. They are now available locally at Ledson Winery in Santa Rosa or Christopher Fine Foods in Napa or you can visit the web site to locate them near you. They are also available for purchase online. No matter what kind of cook you are, novice or expert, a few great sauces are a terrific thing to have on hand and they also make a nice gift for someone just getting to know their kitchen...
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Last week I got a chance to hear Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine speak at a City Arts and Lectures program at Herbst Theater. I took copious notes so I will probably be regaling you with tidbits over the next few weeks.
One of the questions asked was: What are your favorite cookbooks, the ones that you couldn't live without? In addition to such classics as Marion Cunningham's Breakfast Book, volumes by Marcella Hazan, and Bruce Cost's Asian Ingredients Reichl also mentioned what she called an "odd one" Marian Morash's The Victory Garden Cookbook. "If you have some vegetable that you can't think quite what to do with she always has great suggestions." said Reichl.
Let's just say, I can relate. I bought a used copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook at a garage sale about ten years ago and it immediately became one of my go-to cookbooks. It's long out of print, but you can find it easily on eBay or Amazon. Whenever I am stuck in a rut with almost any vegetable, I find something new to do with it in this book. Some of the recipes I have come to love are the sauteed radishes, the beet borscht, broccoli de rabe with penne, and the Portuguese kale soup.
Victory gardens were a phenomenon that took hold during the second world war. The idea being that we could all be could become more self-sufficient by planting a vegetable garden. The book is really a companion to a gardening television series that ran many moons ago. While I don't have a garden, I am certainly more self-sufficient because of this book!
Each chapter focuses on a different vegetable that might be grown in a backyard type garden. There is a discussion of the vegetable, information about how to store, preserve, cook and use up leftovers. Then there are the recipes. For example there are ten different suggestions for finishing touches for warm asparagus, another five suggestions for cold asparagus and six recipes. How could you ever get bored of asparagus with that many suggestions? If you can find a copy of this book, do yourself a favor and buy it.
Friday, April 15, 2005
In the past couple of weeks I have tried several recipes that have bombed. Recipes, I'm sad to say, I found on the internet. Fortunately there are plenty of good ones out there too. One way to find really good, solid recipes, is to use a credible source.
The recipe sites I have listed to your left are tried and true. Food bloggers put their reputation on the line when they post recipes and in my experience, their recipes are quite good as well. If you want to experiment I suggest starting with a recipe from a reputable source, and then making some changes to see how it goes. Don't pick some random recipe and hope for the best. Trust me on this one!
I've been making biscotti for years. Biscotti mean "twice baked" in Italian. Like biscuit in French. Biscotti were all the rage a few years ago. One year I even gave them away at Christmas time. But now inspite of no longer being trendy, I like the fact that they are fairly healthy as far as cookies go, have a satisfying crunch, and I can make my own twisted up versions.
The latest version I have made is almost a sort of British "fruit slice". I took a basic biscotti recipe with a good track record that I found on Epicurious and added a ton of dried fruit to it. It was originally a ginger and almond biscotti recipe. It is easiest to bake in a loaf pan which means it no longer has the distinctive biscotti shape but that's ok with me. They still taste great!
Biscotti Style Fruit Slice
about 25 cookies
3/4 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a loaf pan with parchment or wax paper.
On a baking pan toast the almonds in the oven for about 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool and very coarsely chop. Roughly chop the ginger and apricots. Into a bowl sift together flour, sugar, ground ginger, salt, and baking soda. Into a bowl with an electric mixer beat together whole egg, egg white, sugar and vanilla. Sift into the bowl the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in the fruit and nuts.
Pour the thick batter into the loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Turn loaf out onto a rack and cool 20 minutes. On a cutting board with a serrated knife cut loaf into 1/8-inch-thick slices. Arrange slices laying flat on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until crisp, about 10 minutes then flip and bake another 5 minutes. Cool cookies on rack. The cookies will crisp up even more when they cool. Keep in an airtight container.
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Recently several people have asked if I maintain a mailing list or an email newsletter. Voila! As of today I do. My plan is to send out a monthly email to let you know what I've been up to, share some links to interesting sites and possibly give you a sense of what's to come.
Just so you know, I will never share your name and address or sell it nor will I try to sell you anything. I will only send you a newsletter once a month and you can unsubscribe at any time. The sign up form is to your left if you just scroll up a bit. When you sign up you'll be asked to confirm your subscription. If you don't get a confirmation email, check your spam filter--my confirmation got sent there and yours may too.
Thanks for your support!
Monday, April 11, 2005
Imagine a parade of brightly colored fruity concotions--drinks, puddings and the like in vibrant green, orange, red and yellow. Welcome to the world of healthy desserts. Welcome to the Hong Kong based Creations Dessert House. This chain of shops has expanded from Hong Kong to Taiwan, Singapore and now the U.S.
The menu extolls the virtues of various ingredients including the lovely sounding bird's nest and crystal snow. Bird's nest is of course a delicacy made of gelatinous bird spit. And crystal snow is made from frog fat. I swear, I am not making this up. Each is touted as a healthy and nutritious ingredient.
Tastiest of all are probably the fruit desserts, many of which prominently feature mango. Coming into the shop for the first time last week, I saw a stack of no fewer than twenty crates of mangos! The mangos I saw seemed to be a flattish yellow variety. Other than mangos, mangos everywhere, the decor was decidedly modern and youthful with oversized chairs, tiny tables and an interior color palette of black and red.
I chose a dessert which was mango pudding, mango ice cream, and chunks of fresh mango floating in--you guessed it, mango puree. It was bursting with juicy, tangy, mango flavors. In addition to being delicious mangos are packed with vitamins A, C and D and are also high in potassium and fiber so you can really feel good about eating them. Mangos also contain tryptophan and several enzymes that aid in digestion.
The Creations web site claims that more mangoes are eaten fresh all over the world more than any other fruit. Often referred to as the "tropical king of fruit" the mango tree is considered sacred in India where the fruit comes from originally. Mangos are grown in Asia, Latin America and here in the United States. Available practically year round, you can indulge in all the mango-ness you like at Creations Dessert House, the prices range from two to about five dollars for each dessert. Unless of course you want to try the crystal snow...
Creations Dessert House
5217 Geary Blvd.
Open from noon-midnight, everyday
Saturday, April 09, 2005
Do you have any favorite blog or newspaper column that you read on a regular basis? Do you feel you know the writer through their writing? If so, I know how you feel. That's why meeting up with other bloggers is always such a joy for me.
This week I participated in two food and wine blogger dinners. One was the first get-together for the participating writers on KQED's Bay Area Bites blog. It was a chance for all of us to meet and get to know each other better. We had a terrific time, talking non-stop, sharing flights of wine and eating off each others plates. We had wine at Nectar Wine Lounge and dinner at Bistro Aix. You can read all about it from each person's perspective on Bay Area Bites today.
The other get-together was actually a send off for another food blogger, Pim of Chez Pim who has announced on her blog that she is taking a year off. This same informal group of local bloggers has met several times, we know each other from reading one another's blogs. There was lots of catching up to do as most of the group seemed to be planning or returning from trips, getting married, or changing jobs. Lots to celebrate!
The celebration dinner took place at the Moroccan restaurant El Mansour, dinner was fine, though a bit disappointing after having eaten at the vastly superior Aziza just a few weeks ago. The restaurant was a comfortable place for a big group and seeing fellow bloggers belly dance made it all worthwhile. Sorry, no pictures of dancing bloggers!
The biggest discovery came thanks to newbie food blogger Shuna, of Eggbeater, who introduced several of us to a Hong Kong style dessert shop on Geary Street called Creations Dessert that I will be blogging about next week for sure. Stay tuned!
Thursday, April 07, 2005
The weather can't seem to decide what it wants to do, in turn making it hard to decide what to eat: something comforting and cheesy or something fresher and green? I decided the only solution was to combine the two.
One of the great American dishes has got to be macaroni and cheese. Gooey, cheesy and rich with a slight crunch on the top it is pure goodness in a casserole dish. The one problem I have with macaroni and cheese is the guilt. It's soooo rich, it's not the healthiest dish in the world.
One way to make a dish healthier is to cut back on the rich ingredients, like the milk, butter and cheese. Well, that's no fun! I'd rather add in some heathy but tasty stuff as a compromise that really doesn't feel like a compromise at all. My healthy additions are some peas and artichoke hearts, both tasty Spring arrivals. They both go particularly well with gruyere cheese. And gruyere is a perfect cheese for macaroni and cheese.
The topping for this dish is a Japanese type of bread crumb that you find on pork tonkatsu and other Japanese fried dishes. It crisps up like a dream. Use it for a topping when you want crunch on almost any gratin style dish.
Ok, I wish I could say I used the freshest Spring vegetables straight from the farmer's market, but I didn't. I used frozen peas and canned artichoke hearts. Are fresh ones better? Sure, but frozen peas are one of the few vegetables I don't mind using. Canned artichokes have a way of dressing up a dish and are so much less bother than fresh. I love the baby artichokes you can buy this time of year, but canned ones are just fine in this dish.
Spring Macaroni & Cheese
1/2 lb macaroni or mini penne
1 cup gruyere cheese, shredded
1/4 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
3 Tablespoon butter
3 Tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cup milk
salt to taste
8 1/2 oz canned or frozen artichoke, quartered
1 cup frozen petite peas (with or without pearl onions), defrosted
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cook the macaroni according instructions, but subtract 1-2 minutes from the cooking time. Butter a 3-quart casserole dish or two smaller dishes; set aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When butter bubbles, add flour. Cook, whisking over low heat, 2 minutes.
Continue whisking and slowly pour in milk. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.
Remove pan from heat. Stir in salt, nutmeg, cayenne and parmesan cheese. In a large bowl mix the macaroni, the cheese sauce and add the rest of the cheeses, peas and artichokes.
Pour mixture into prepared dish (or into two dishes if you prefer). Sprinkle Panko bread crumbs over top. Bake until browned on top, about 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool 5 minutes; serve hot.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
Restaurant Gary Danko is quickly becoming San Francisco's top choice for celebrating special occasions. And so it was that I ate there twice last month--once for a birthday and once for an anniversary. The service is amazingly good and the attention to detail ensures that your meal will feel special. The environment is elegant but relaxed with contemporary art and dazzling floral arrangments throughout the dining rooms. On the downside the tables are so close together that when a glass broke at the table behind us, the glass landed right on me, and my chair...!
The format of the menu is somewhat unique. There are five courses to choose from, appetizers, fish and seafood, meat and game birds, a cheese course and desserts. You can choose three, four or five courses and mix and match them any way you like. For my first time dining there, I choose two appetizers a game course, cheese course and dessert. The second time I ate there I had an appetizer, a different game course and dessert. The portion sizes reflect the number of courses you choose such that even a three-course meal resulted in a doggie bag.
The menu offers lots of options, but the preparations are more classic than cutting edge. The ingredients highlight the seasons and the sauces are what steal the show. One of the signature dishes, the Glazed Oysters with Osetra Caviar and Salsify and Lettuce Cream is a perfect example of this. While the oysters and caviar are great, it's the creamy green herbaceous sauce that really elevates the dish. Danko also has a real talent for game. How often do you find squab, guinea hen, duck and quail all on the menu? I enjoyed both the Moroccan Spiced Squab with Chermoula as well as the Roasted Quail stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Foie Gras with a Kumquat Cashew Relish. I also got a chance to try the duck and guinea hen and both were flawless.
The menu is eclectic but rooted in traditional French cuisine, with dishes such as the Pan Seared Beef Filet with Bacon, Leeks, Potato and Perigord Black Truffles. There are also some international ingredients such as garam masala, Thai red curry and even Israeli couscous that find their way into the menu.
As far as dessert goes, choose from a new styled peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the form of a Chocolate Peanut Butter Napoleon with Milk Ice Cream and Blueberry Gelee, lemon or chocolate souffles or a tangy and refreshing Rhubarb Soup with Frozen Vanilla Parfait, Candied Kumquats and a Lime Sherbet. Sweet endings also come in the form of some petit fours at the end of the meal, no matter how many courses you have ordered and a fresh baked muffin to take home, making sure you will still remember your meal the next day over breakfast.
800 North Point @ Hyde
Dinner nightly 5:30-10 pm
Sunday, April 03, 2005
A big thanks to all who braved the rain and came out to see me in my "guest baker" role in the one-woman show "I Look Like An Egg, But I Identify As A Cookie". I had a great time and enjoyed chatting with folks after the show, over cookies of course. This was the second time I saw the show and it's really a great slice of life. You don't have to be Canadian, gay, Jewish or even from the Bay Area to laugh at Heather's view of the world.
This week is a crazy busy one for me, but I look forward to posting a restaurant review and a new recipe here as well as another Take 5 interview over at Bay Area Bites . Meanwhile if you haven't yet read last week's Take 5 with Jarrett Byrnes of Food Porn Watch, do check it out.
Oh, and here's to daylight savings time. Bring on the sun!
Friday, April 01, 2005
You know the popular image of hot chocolate as well as I do. Hot chocolate is most notable as the beverage of choice when one is relaxing fireside, in an alpine lodge, possibly after schussing down a snow-covered mountainside. But it really shouldn't be limited to that. In fact I'd like to start a campaign with the slogan "Hot chocolate, it's not just for the dead of winter anymore."
Hot chocolate is not the same as "cocoa". Cocoa is a powder and does not contain the cocoa butter that makes chocolate such a luxurious ingredient. Drinking chocolate is the name given to hot chocolates as of late. Drinking chocolates are rich and have more of the bittersweet flavor we have come to love. Hot chocolate is gaining popularity on restaurant menus as a dessert and a number of premium chocolate companies are also now producing drinking chocolate products for home use. As proof of it's popularity even Starbucks has jumped on the bandwagon with "Chantico".
Last month I had the pleasure of participating in a blind tasting of a number of drinking chocolates in the company of Michael Freeman, proprietor of Cocoa Bella chocolate shop and Alice Medrich. Medrich is a reknowned chocolate expert and author of several books on chocolate including Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate, the 2004 International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year.
To begin with, a couple of tips from Alice Medrich. First, because fat coats the tongue, lower fat milk actually helps you taste the chocolate more clearly. Medrich recommends mixing one part water with one part milk for a superior cup of hot chocolate. Second tip--because chocolate can take some effort to dissolve fully, allowing the melted chocolate to hydrate with liquid by letting it sit overnight (refrigerated) will improve the texture and probably flavor. Rumor has it this is the secret behind the famed hot chocolate served at Angelina's in Paris. I also noticed that when the temperature of the liquid gets too hot, (over 180 degrees according to Medrich) some rather unpleasant flavors can develop. Like wine that has had time to breathe, when the temperature lowers undesirable flavors disappear.
Here are the brands we tried and our comments.
Chuao Abuela Hot Chocolate
Perhaps because this chocolate was prepared with water, it tasted a little thin and was a bit sweet, though this might be a good choice for someone with a sweet tooth.
Scharffen Berger Drinking Chocolate
More bitter flavor, more consistency and lasting flavor, generally mild and not overly sweet. One of our top picks.
La Maison du chocolat la Tasse de Chocolat
Very thick with fruity tones, almost plummy, tingly taste and lingering flavor. Our top pick.
Dolfin Flaked dark chocolate 77%
This was the least interesting of all the brands we tried. It had a malty flavor and was very weak.
Joseph Schmidt Hot Chocolate Dark Pleasure
This was a cozy beverage, but not chocolate-y enough. A good choice for those who like milk rather than bittersweet chocolate.
The last two were "spiced" varieties:
Chauo Spicy Maya Hot Chocolate
Noticeable chile flavor, a little sweet but nice spiciness in your throat going down. Could be very good as a demitasse style drink.
MarieBelle Aztec Dark Hot Chocolate
Very rich, almost chalky, thick and delicious. Did not detect much chile flavor