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Saturday, February 28, 2004

Patricia Unterman's San Francisco Food Lover's Guide:Book

I remember reading "The Food Lovers Guide to Paris" by Patricia Wells back in the early 1980's. It was a revelation to me. Someone who knew and loved food so well took the time to catalog all the best places in Paris for eating and shopping for food. It had history and trivia and even some classic recipes. The book certainly was a mainstay for my parents trip to Paris and as an armchair traveler I got my first good introduction as well. The very fact that this guide is now in its fourth edition is proof positive that it found an appreciative audience. If you are going to Paris--you owe it to yourself to check out this book. In San Francisco I turn to many resources to find good places to eat and shop. Word of mouth of course, terrific tips from the craigslist food forum , Citysearch for on-the-fly reviews and now "Patricia Unterman's San Francisco Food Lover's Guide" . Patricia Unterman is a well-respected authority in the Bay Area when it comes ...
Thursday, February 26, 2004

Thai Sticky Rice

Before I ever went to Thailand I was very fond of mango and sticky rice. In fact, when Lee and I would order Thai food to be delivered to our home, our choice of restaurants would often be influenced by which one had mango and sticky rice on the menu. In Thailand we ordered it every time we could. At home I looked and looked for a recipe to stave off our dependence on Thai restaurants. The tricky thing is, while there are many types of rice on the market locally, it's virtually impossible to find sticky rice. I take that back. It's virtually impossible to find any rice labeled sticky rice. The rice you use for making sticky rice is often called "glutinous rice" which is odd since it is free of gluten, or it's called "sweet rice". After much searching I finally found a package of sticky rice called sweet rice in of all places a Smart and Final store. In Thailand small baskets are used to steam and serve sticky rice with meals. Sticky rice is very...
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Fun With Food

Food should be fun. Don't you think? In the Bay Area we take it very seriously. There are food celebrities. Food trends--from nouvelle to regional to raw. Political food causes--slow food, organic, sustainable, etc. How about just having a good time with food? The New York Times did an article on the trend of bakeries that specialize in cupcakes recently and while cupcakes are not really my thing, I like the idea behind it. Let's stop taking food so seriously all the time! Especially dessert. If that can't be fun we're in real trouble. Here are a few examples of having fun with food, specifically dessert, that I think the Bay Area in particular could learn something from: In Portland Oregon, Pix Patisserie serves up "Dim Sum Yum Yum" nights, rolling carts are piled with miniature versions of desserts for patrons to pick by the plate, dim sum style. Chopsticks are provided and patrons who show up in Asian garb such as kimonos are rewarded with fortune co...
Sunday, February 22, 2004

Perfect Brownies Recipe

Everyone likes their brownies just so, and so it comes as no surprise that there are untold thousands of brownie recipes. How do I know this? The web site Recipe Source has 569 recipes alone for brownies. The recipes on that site include such varied additions as zucchini, frosting, apples, butterscotch, cream cheese, chocolate chips, marshmallow, pineapple, mint, carob, walnuts, raspberries and Kahlua. Whew! I made quick friends with my sister-in-law to be by presenting her with a batch of brownies sans nuts. Nuts, Lori said, only take up space where there could be more brownie. I have to agree with her. For me a brownie is a brownie is a brownie. No nuts, no zucchini, thank you very much. In my preferred purist version I don't want them too dense and fudgy and I don't want them too cakey and fluffy. I also like to make them but I find most recipes that call for baking chocolate to be a real bother. I never seem to have the right amount on hand--if the recipe calls for unsw...
Friday, February 20, 2004

Search Away

Some day I hope to have tabs on this site so that you will be able to find specific things like restaurants, cookbooks and recipes, of course. For now, I am pleased to announce the addition of a Search Field. On the left hand column after Syndicate and before the Archives you can now enter any search term you like. So if you want to find that plum cake recipe I posted back in September, just enter plum, and low and behold every post that mentions plums will appear. It's by no means perfect, but I think this works rather well. I hope you find it useful! Cheers, Amy...
Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Easiest Swedish Pancakes Recipe

Going to Ikea is an all day affair. Or at least a several hour affair. No in-and-out at Ikea. The store is big and those nifty Swedes have found a way to make you go through just about every department, no matter what you've come to shop for. Also you are bound to purchase at least one thing you had no idea you needed. For me these purchases sometimes take the form of Swedish food, either in the strategically placed Cafe or the comestibles department. Ikea makes all the food of the 50's seems hip again. Yes, they have funky TV trays. And Swedish meatballs. So why NOT make some Swedish pancakes? (as those jars of ligonberries just seem to be suggesting). This past weekend I looked all over for Swedish pancake recipes and I found that while I am used to making little half-dollar sized pancakes some recipes actually seem to suggest that 10-inch crepe-style pancakes are traditional as well. Sometimes what appeals to me most is the simplicity of a recipe and when the same formula...
Monday, February 16, 2004

Grand Cafe Restaurant

We can all use a holiday to celebrate love in the middle of one of the more dreary months of the year. And I can think of no better place to celebrate Valentine's day than at the Grand Cafe. First off, the interior of the restaurant is an architecturally restored, turn-of-the-century ballroom with 30 foot high ceilings. Modeled after the world-famous La Coupole, if you squint you feel you really could be in Paris. There is the warm lighting, the murals on the columns, the blonde wood, the art deco lighting fixtures even the bustling sights and sounds of the scurrrying waiters plying diners with large seafood platters and drinks. There is something so romantic about all things French. Don't you think? I guess it's some sort of cultural conditioning, but a meal in a French restaurant makes me want to befriend the people at the next table, drink champagne, hold hands and make proclamations of love. Fortunately I was with my husband at the time so there will be no embaras...
Saturday, February 14, 2004

Food From The Heart

Last night the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace held a fundraiser for Slow Food called "Food from the Heart". The vendors, all of whom I would call proponents of the Slow Food movement, offered up samples of their fare, for free or minimal cost as a way to celebrate Valentine's eve. It was a terrific evening filled with good food, fine wine, smiling faces and satisfied bellies. Slow Food sounds like something you have to wait for. Think of sitting in a restaurant and glancing at your watch trying to remember how long ago you ordered, was it thirty minutes ago? Forty minutes ago? Geez this food is slow! Actually that's not what Slow Food is at all. "The Pleasures of Slow Food" by Corby Kummer published by Chronicle Books not only explains the Slow Food movement but also profiles some of its heroes; people who are dedicated to preserving authentic traditions in producing food. It includes how crops are grown and harvested, animals raised and ...
Thursday, February 12, 2004

Mayonnaise Recipe

From the "I-don't-know-how-I-missed-it" news department: HOUSTON, Dec. 4 -- A Texas woman was sentenced to 10 years in jail Thursday for running over the manager of a McDonald's with her car because she wanted mayonnaise on her cheeseburger. First off this was in Texas, so normal rules do not apply. I'm not talking about running people over or even eating at McDonald's, but actually putting mayonnaise on a cheeseburger. Let me explain it this way: burger=juicy and greasy, melted cheese=greasy, mayonnaise simply NOT NECESSARY. Mayonnaise is a really great sauce though and shouldn't be relegated to only sandwiches. One of the five French "mother sauces" along with hollandaise it's an egg and oil emulsification. If you've only ever had store bought do yourself a favor and make it from scratch. It makes a great sauce for grilled fish or poached chicken, shrimp, and steamed vegetables like asparagus and artichokes. You can really dress ...
Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Romantic Ideas

This year Lee and I are going out for a romantic Valentine's day dinner. But just because it's too late to make a reservation somewhere doesn't mean you can't celebrate the holiday in style. Here are my top 5 ideas: 1. Make your meal all RED Here are recipes for a twist on the Valentine's day theme. 2. If you have kids, use heart shaped cookie cutters to stamp out heart shaped toast, pancakes, sandwiches, etc. 3. If you are dining just the two of you, think about creating a menu made for sharing. Sharing is romantic and you can even feed each other. Any type of appetizers would be good--an antipasto tray, sushi or a cold seafood platter are all good options. You can make it or pick it up on the way home from work. 4. Go for aphrodisiacs. No proof of course, but the mere suggestion that they possess "powers" may be enough. Here's a list to take shopping: Caviar Oysters Asparagus Mushrooms Figs Chocolate Strawberries Honey Whipped...
Sunday, February 08, 2004

Threeway Shortbread Cookies Recipe

When I was growing up you could tell what season it was by a cursory glance at a bakery's current cookie selection. Christmas tree cookies meant Christmas, shamrock cookies meant St Patrick's day, flag cookies meant 4th of July and of course heart cookies meant Valentine's day. Unfortunately they all tasted exactly the same. And not very good I might add. Oh they looked good with all the colored sprinkles and icing, but they were hard and tough and lacking any flavor as I recall. A seasonal cookie need not be boring. Melt-in-your-mouth shortbread for example can be shaped, not to mention flavored, any which way. The tricks to making great shortbread are to not over mix the dough--handle it as little as possible, roll it out to a uniform thickness, use the best butter you can get your hands on and don't whatever you do over bake it. Take it out of the oven before it gets brown, it will harden once it cools. This year I suggest making a variety of heart shaped shortb...
Friday, February 06, 2004

Apricot Ginger Quick Bread:Recipe

I buy bags of dried fruit all the time and promptly forget that I have them. Then one day, I go rummaging around and realize I had better do something before it all turns into an archeological discovery for future generations. I also try to keep small amounts of nuts on hand because they too don't last forever. What I can't use quickly I store in the freezer and that's meant to be a temporary solution. Unless of course I forget that they're in there and then they too can become relics of a time gone by. What I intend to do with dried fruits and nuts is to snack on them, add them to homemade granola or bake with them. I'm not much of a baker, but I do like making quick breads. Quick breads are breads that do not use yeast to rise and so they are much "quicker" than the traditional breads that need time to rise and rest. Quick breads just cry out for dried fruits and nuts. Banana bread is a classic example of a quick bread. And frankly, it's the banan...
Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Even More Food Web Sites

Do you have favorite food web sites? I have favorite recipe sites, but I don't really have any favorite honest-to-goodness food sites. Places where the conceptual aspects of food and cooking are explored. From time to time I post about other food blogs that I like. And as a ritual on Wednesdays I do check out the New York Times and Los Angeles Times food sections online (both require free registration to access). There are also some interesting "communities" like the Craigslist Food Forum , Fud Court , Chowhound and eGullet , but I believe there is still room for more cutting edge forums on the subject so close to my heart--all things culinary. I recently came across a site in its infancy called spooncore . The publisher was soliciting contributions and has an interesting take on how we think about food: "spooncore began with an idea towards finding commonality with strangers, a pick up line, if you will, that started with the inquiry: "do you eat food...
Monday, February 02, 2004

Vegetable Carving

Have you ever seen delicate flora and fauna carved from vegetables gracing a plate in a Thai restaurant? Carving those creations is a craft that is practiced in Asia as well as Latin America and probably in France as well. While traveling in Asia I marveled at those elaborate carved vegetable decorations. But I never saw anyone actually doing the carving, until tonight. Suzanne of Heirloom Catering also wondered about the techniques involved in vegetable carving, something apparently not covered at the California Culinary Academy where she studied. So when she happened upon a vegetable carver at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market it seemed like fate. Just a few weeks later a group of ten of us were gathered around her kitchen table watching and following along as Arthur Escoto dazzled us with his skill and creativity. Perhaps most interesting was the way in which like a traditional sculptor, Arthur looks at vegetables and figures out what to carve. We followed along and c...