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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

FoodSmarts, WineSmarts

There is something oddly satisfying about being able to impress your friends and family by showing off all the meaningless information that you know. Remember when Trivial Pursuit was all the rage? And how long has Jeopardy! been on TV anyway? Trivia games are positively addicitive. Last night I was watching Napa Style with Michael Chiarello, who is a renowned local chef and restauranteur. The show featured recipes for "game night" and the game they were playing was a food trivia game called FoodSmarts . Genius! Why didn't anyone think of this before? And how come no one told me about it? I was amazed at how challenging the questions were. I tend to think I know something about food, but I didn't get them all right. In fact when I checked out the product online, and tried the demo, I got even fewer of the answers right. Oddly enough I seemed to do better with the wine version... WineSmarts Do you know what Bombay Duck is? Think you know what "reser...
Monday, September 27, 2004

Summer Rolls:Recipe

When I first started eating Vietnamese food I was impressed with how often fresh uncooked herbs were used when compared to other Asian cuisines. And the quantity! Fresh herbs are used almost like salad instead of seasoning. Once when Lee and I were eating soup in a Vietnamese restaurant the owner came by to tell us about each of the fresh herbs that should be added to our bowls. He explained that one was for your stomach, another for your blood circulation, etc. We had thought of herbs as flavoring, but for our host, it was quite another story. Fresh herbs are commonly found in the Vietnamese sandwiches, in Vietnamese noodle soup "pho" and also in summer rolls "goi cuon". If Vietnamese cuisine only consisted of those three items I'd be happy, but of course there is much, much more to try. While I prefer going out for Vietnamese soup and sandwiches, making Vietnamese summer rolls is fun to do at home. They are full of fresh crispy raw vegetables and herbs an...
Saturday, September 25, 2004

San Francisco Museum Cafes

Today SF Station runs two new pieces that I have written. One is a round-up of San Francisco museum cafes , the other is a trend piece on that formidable beverage, Guinness . Last week they ran the review I originally published here on the French Laundry , in case you missed it. If you need your fix, do stop by and take a gander. As always, feel free to comment here. Monday I'll be back with something new to chew on....
Thursday, September 23, 2004

All About Apples:Cookbook

How would you like a free cookbook? Ok, it's an electronic book, but it's really beautifully written and has gorgeous photographs. Unlike most cookbooks, this one is based on a single tasting menu--the only one I've ever seen that focuses on Washington state apples. Washington state is famous for apples. More than half of all eating apples grown in the US come from orchards in Washington state. The harvest goes on for almost three months (August-November) and apples are available just about year-round so there is plenty of opportunity not just to eat them out of hand, but also to cook with them. Award-winning Seattle-based blog Tasting Menu has published the cookbook called All About Apples , a tasting menu from Scott Carsberg of Lampreia. It features eight dishes and a variety of different Washington state apple varieties. A labor of love, this cookbook is a tribute to the impressive creative skills of chef Scott Carlsberg of Lampreia restaurant, writer Hillel Coope...
Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Panchitas #2 Restaurant Review

Pupusas are El Salvador's most popular snack. A real comfort food, it's hard not to fall in love with them at first bite. And like Heidi at 101 Cookbooks says, it's hard to just say the word "pupusa" without smiling. Like a quesadilla or an arepa, a pupusa is a thick corn pancake made of corn flour or masa. Inside is meat or cheese or both. They are sometimes stuffed with more exotic fillings like loroco buds and blossoms. But even the plain cheese ones are really good. Chewy and slightly crisp on the outside, and tender and fluffy on the inside, they come oozing with mild melty cheese. So good! As long as you're saying pupusa, say curtido as well. Curtido is the pickled cabbage and carrot slaw that is required to be served on top of a pupusa. In San Francisco there are three Panchita restaurants which serve pupusas. Lee and I finally got to try out Panchitas #2 this week, which is not as upscale as Panchitas #3 from what I've been told. But the se...
Sunday, September 19, 2004

Guinness Stout Chocolate Cake Recipe

Blackout! Sometimes deep, rich, chocolate cakes go by that name, but in this case it was the real thing. Heading down the street with my precious ingredients I noticed the traffic lights weren't working and when I got home, I realized that wasn't all. Hard to bake a cake without electricity. But fortunately after a two hour lull, we were back in business. Ever since I blogged about Guinness I've been looking for an excuse to make a Guinness Chocolate Cake and the latest "Is My Blog Burning?" seemed like a good one. IMBB is that mostly monthly event whereby bloggers world round blog about cooking with a certain type of ingredient or on a specific theme. Of course the eighth IMBB event was supposed to be one in which we used spirits or wine, so I imagine using Guinness is a bit of a stretch but then again, you could wash it down with a spot of Irish Whisky or an Irish Coffee. This recipe comes from a St.Patrick's Day special served at Diamond Jim Brady...
Friday, September 17, 2004

Medjool:Restaurant Review CLOSED

In the Mission district of San Francisco there is no shortage of good places to eat. Valencia street between 16th and 22nd in particular, is a culinary corridor. You can choose from Indian, Nuevo Latino, Italian, Vietnamese, Spanish, Mexican, American, Japanese, Chinese, Vegetarian, Vegan--you name it. Some of the City's most interesting restaurants are there, interspersed with hip boutiques, bars, cafes, music stores and furniture shops. But Mission street is another story. Just two blocks away, Mission is still a street in transition, though there are a few gentrified spots, including Minako , Cha Cha Cha , Bruno's and one of my favorites, Foreign Cinema . And now there is Medjool . Medjool consists of a cafe, restaurant and bar. Just a couple of doors down from Foreign Cinema it is yet another "small plate" style place. But here the prices are reasonable, topping out at $12 for a fish or steak plate. The interior is kind of swinging 60's meets Middle Eas...
Wednesday, September 15, 2004

All About Honey

I predict honey consumption will rise dramatically tonight. Why? It's the eve of the Jewish new year and to celebrate, Jews use honey in cakes, desserts and serve it with apples or on Challah bread as a ritual to ensure a "sweet new year". Growing up my mother used to make a holiday treat made of dough cooked in gingery honey and dotted with maraschino cherries that my sister and I were crazy about. But I think we mostly just liked it the novelty of it. Honey is an unusual ingredient, like milk, it is a by-product of the animal kingdom. Though honey should not be fed to infants under one year of age, for everyone else it does have many health benefits, including anti-microbial properties and a high levels of antioxidants. Going back to the time of Hippocrates, it has traditionally been used to heal wounds and as an energy source. My favorite honey dessert has got to be baklava a Greek dessert made with layers of filo dough and almonds and honey. Recently I discove...
Monday, September 13, 2004

Trader Joe's Pizza Dough

Every time I go to Trader Joe's I find something else I can't live without. Some of these items become staples, like TJ's refried beans with jalapeno peppers others are more likely to be occasional indulgences, such as TJ's wasabi mayonnaise. My latest discovery is TJ's pizza dough. Apparently my sister tried it, told my mom about it and then my mom told me. My mother is not just attached to the telephone, in some cases she is the telephone. So this lump of pizza dough costs only a buck and it lives in the fridge until about 20 minutes before you need to use it which is convenient since it takes about that long to get your oven good and hot. One of the secrets to good pizza at home is baking it on a stone at very high heat. While the pizza dough is coming to room temperature and the oven is heating, you can scrounge around for toppings. For my first attempt I used thinly sliced tomatoes instead of sauce, fresh asparagus, corn, and red onions, topped with sh...
Saturday, September 11, 2004

Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival 2004

Did the last post about chocolate whet your appetite? Well there is a solution close at hand. The 9th Annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival will take place today, Saturday, Sept. 11 and Sunday, Sept. 12 from 12:00 noon to 5:30 PM on both days. The Chocolate Festival hosts more than 20 booths each day that feature delicacies from Ghirardelli Square restaurants and cafes, as well as other eateries and bakeries throughout the Bay Area. Tiramisu, truffles, fudge cake, and chocolate-covered strawberries are just a few of the delicious desserts to be had at Ghirardelli Square's 9th Annual Chocolate Festival. The popular event will feature scrumptious chocolate treats from Ghirardelli Square establishments, as well as prominent restaurants, bakeries and chocolatiers from around the Bay Area. Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is the anchor festival participant with four booths featuring truffle-making and chocolate-decorating demonstrations as well as mini-sundaes and chocolate squ...
Thursday, September 09, 2004

Spice Hot Chocolate Recipe

Tonina, Chiapas, Mexico Lid of vessel with monkey and cacao pods, AD 600-900 ceramic, 18.3 cm (7 3/16); diameter: 33 cm (13) Museo de Sitio de Tonina, Chiapas -INAH, Mexico Photo: Javier Hinojosa Once upon a time the snake-footed god K'awiil threw a lightening bolt at a mountain breaking it in two, revealing two plants, maize and cacao. And so from the very beginning cacao and maize were linked. Cacao like maize, was complicated for the Maya to process. The beans had to be fermented, cured and roasted, then ground into a powder that was the basis for a cold foamy more-bitter-than-sweet, chocolate beverage, called cacaoatl, Nahuatl for "cacao water." The Mexican Indian word "chocolate" comes from a combination of the terms choco "foam" and atl "water". Cacao may not have been as vital as maize for the survival of the Maya people, but it was so highly valued that it was sometimes used as currency. It was probably considered sacred, us...
Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Maya Maize

Once upon a time the gods gave life to the animals but in their howling and squawking they failed to worship their creators and so they were banished to the forest. In the second attempt the gods formed humans from mud, but they crumbled and dissolved. Next the they tried to carve people out of wood, but this race too forgot their makers and angered the gods. The wooden people were punished when the gods sent a black resinous rain down upon them. Finally the gods used masa or corn dough to to create humans. And the gods were successful...after all, the Maya people depended upon corn for sustenance so it made sense that they would have been made of the stuff. At the Fine Arts Museum Legion of Honor the current exhibition Courtly Art of the Ancient Maya demonstrates the visual magnificence of ancient Maya art with over 130 stone sculptures, ceramics, masks, and other precious works commissioned by ancient Maya kings and queens. Central to the Maya was the mythology of maize. The...
Sunday, September 05, 2004

Explore Point Reyes

If you say California, many people think "beach". It's not that California doesn't have breathtaking mountain ranges, valleys, deserts, lakes, and forests. It does. But California is rightfully famous for it's beaches. Often featuring dramatic cliffs and unspoiled views, Northern California beaches are a real treat. It's about an hours drive to get from my folks place to Point Reyes National Seashore . Once you're there the options are varied. You can bike ride, hike, go horseback riding, bird watch, at certain times of the year go whale watching or simply laze around at the beach. So guess what we did today? Actually there are two other things we did in addition to lazing around. One was check out the sand castles at the annual sand castle competition and the other was eat barbecued oysters. Even though Point Reyes is a national park, there are several businesses there. One is Johnson's Oyster Company. Johnson's has been operating since t...
Friday, September 03, 2004

Meet Laura Schenone

Meet Laura Schenone author of the James Beard Foundation award winning book A Thousand Years Over a Hot Stove a history of American women told through food, recipes and remembrances. If you enjoy trying recipes with a past, visit Laura's web site and join Not to Be Forgotten and receive a recipe from history once every month. How did you come up with the idea for the book? My husband got a job that caused us to relocate to central NJ, a very boring place and we struck a deal that if I could have a garden I'd give it a try. So we rented a farmhouse from before the civil war with a vegetable garden and I began to look over the shoulder of the women who had come before me, I got connected to the land and I wondered what their life was like, and had the desire to tell my own life story and other's. How long did it take you to do the research? What were your main sources of information? A year to write the proposal and a sample chapter, then it was 4-5 years. I...
Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Blackberry Pecan Crisp Recipe

When I was growing up I knew all the best places to pick blackberries within walking distance of my house. Wild blackberries are relatives of the rose, and like rose bushes, blackberry bushes or brambles have thorns making the prize difficult to reach. But so worth the effort. I had a basic formula that I kept to back then--one berry for me, one for the bucket, another one for me, another one for the bucket. Somehow eating them while picking them, they tasted even better than when eaten at home. Of course it also lead to purple stained tongue and fingers as evidence of my consumption. When asked what my favorite fruit is, I usually say raspberries or peaches but in truth, I probably love blackberries most of all. Because they are in season for such a short time and are usually terribly expensive, they seem like rare jewels and I tend to forget about them. Until they're in season again. Such an intense fruit and so delicate too, they are best used immediately. If stored gently pr...