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Saturday, October 30, 2004

An Evening Out

A month or so ago I discovered the game FoodSmarts . I was so intrigued that I contacted the two creators of the game and they told me about all of their games (FoodSmarts, WineSmarts, ChocolateSmarts and SexSmarts) They also told me about Vino Venue , a wine shop and tasting bar with a twist--tastes of wine are sold by the ounce, out of wine vending machines. The "tastes" are purchased using a pre-paid smart card. Last night I joined several other Bay Area food bloggers for an evening of wine tasting and conversation at Vino Venue. When I got home, I found that SF Station had posted two articles that I wrote. One article is a restaurant review of Miss Millie's . The other article is about the very same SmartsCo and all of their games. Check back next week, when I will share more about Vino Venue and the second Bay Area food bloggers evening......
Thursday, October 28, 2004

Have you ever tasted ten varieties of salt? Trying them out I only found a couple that tasted different from one another, which confirms my belief that the texture of the salt--flakes, grains, chunks, has more to do with how we taste it than it's origin. They were awfully pretty to look at though. For the record, the smoky salt and the Hawaiian salt were not only differently colored but differently flavored. Another delicious first for me at the tasting this past Sunday was Tupelo honey, which frequently appears in music (band names, song lyrics, etc.) and was also featured prominently in the movie Ulee's Gold. It is produced courtesy of the bees and the Tupelo gum trees in the river swamps of Florida. Special elevated platforms have to be built to house the bees. Unlike other honeys it will not granulate. It is also okay for diabetics because it is low in dextrose and high in levulose. Hard to describe the flavor, it is not as cloying as clover honey and much more complex....
Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Condiment Tasting

Imagine heading into an apartment where four rooms are filled with tables laden with hot sauces, honeys, olive oils, salts and other pantry staples to taste. Each product is labeled, little bowls are filled with condiments and tiny spoons, chunks of French bread and pretzel sticks are always nearby. People wander from room to room, tasting, oohing and ahhing over their discoveries, some even taking notes. Sound like fun? It was for the participants from Craigslist Food Forum who brought all sorts of things to try and compare this past Sunday, and filled up a vacant apartment in the process. In addition to being a great opportunity to socialize, it was a terrific way to try lots of brands of basic items all at one time. Some of the tasting was "blind" notably the butters. Have you ever tried tasting ten types of unsalted butter at one time? If not, I highly recommend it. You might not expect that the taste would vary much, but it really does. The interesting thing for m...
Sunday, October 24, 2004

Persimmon Dream Terrine Recipe

When fall comes around I am always looking for new things make with persimmons. I have great recipes for persimmon bread, persimmon cookies, and I even like to just scoop persimmon over vanilla ice cream. Looking for a new way to use persimmon was the inspiration for this terrine, my entry in Is My Blog Burning? Terrine edition. Terrine is one of those words that has become associated with what is made in it. A terrine is just a kind of loaf pan, but usually when you hear "terrine" it refers to pate. Not always but often. Another example is "casserole". I can't think of any others but I'm sure there are plenty. I have to admit, this was not an entirely successful project. Because my household consists of two people creating a regular sized terrine seemed like way too much food. Some recipes for ice cream terrines I saw used unconscionable amounts of ice cream! Five pints supposedly makes a terrine serving ten people. So I used a mini loaf pan. This ...
Saturday, October 23, 2004

Is My Blog Burning?

Tomorrow is the seemingly monthly event, Is My Blog Burning? This time hosted by Derrick of the aptly named, Obsession with Food blog. You still have some time to whip up a terrine if you'd like to participate. This time around there is a new web site to help you navigate the event. The IMBB web site has a countdown clock, a link to the "host" of the next event, articles, links to blogs, and more. There are also links for WBW. What's that you ask? Wine Blogging Wednesday of course! The other "compendium" site I recommend bookmarking is Food Porn Watch . A one-stop-shop for finding recently updated blogs, the site lists tons of of food blog sites and is updated hourly. Check back tomorrow for my terrine entry!...
Thursday, October 21, 2004

Calories in Bubble Tea?

Ever wonder how people end up at Cooking with Amy? I do, so I take a look at the referring pages, as they are known. Plenty of times readers find my site when searching for information on the internet. Just this week searches for "cooking turkey legs", "pupusa facts", "fried pork chops" and "pumpkin cake recipes" led people to my site. A common search is for "hors d'oeuvres recipes", with hors d'oeuvres usually misspelled. Because I posted something about all the funny misspellings of the word, my site invariably turns up. By far the most common search phrase is "how many calories in bubble tea?" "how many carbs in bubble tea?" "is bubble tea fattening?" or some variation on this theme. It turns out that this is the most popular question that leads people to my site. Why they end up referred here, I don't know, but after a year of seeing this question I decided it was time to find an a...
Tuesday, October 19, 2004

National Donut Month

The smell of doughnuts frying is a killer. We must be hard-wired to react to the frying smell of sugar and dough. Low carb diets be damned! Whenever I go to the Pike Place Market I can't resist getting a half dozen fresh-out-of-the-fryer hot, mini doughnuts. Light and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside when warm and fresh they are simply irresistible. As the doughnut vendor sprinkled my beauties with cinnamon sugar, she drew my attention to the vintage 1940's sign for "October National Donut Month". Though originally from Holland in the 1600's, doughnuts were popularized during the first World War in 1917 when Salvation Army "lassies" served up the treat to tired, hungry and wet soldiers fighting in France. According to Salvation Army legend, the donuts were fried, seven at a time in a soldiers steel helmet on an 18-inch stove. Later, a seven pound shell fitted with a one-pound shell was used to cut out the donut holes. Following the wa...
Sunday, October 17, 2004

All About Chanterelles

What do hedgehogs, lobsters and fried chicken have in common? Here's a hint, they are all vegetarian. In fact they are all names of mushrooms! Last week in Seattle I visited Sosio's Fruit and Produce at the Pike Place Market where you can find upwards of ten varieties of fresh mushrooms. The Pacific Northwest is famous for it's wet weather and the upside is the amazing varieties of local mushrooms including hedgehogs, chanterelles, matsutaki and porcini. Many mushrooms like my favorite the chanterelle, only grow in the wild and are often prohibitively expensive. Right now is the peak of the chanterelle season and these divine mushrooms are gorgeous, large, firm and unbelievably fresh. At Sosio's they were selling two pounds for ten dollars (a far cry from the $12.99 a pound for the lousy looking ones at my local market). Fortunately even if you're not in Seattle you can call Sosio's and they will ship these beauties to you overnight. I got so excited abo...
Friday, October 15, 2004

Harvest Festival 2004

Have you got plans this weekend? If not, consider heading over to the Ferry Building Marketplace for the second annual Harvest Festival . The festival kicks off this evening with an organic wine tasting happy hour. Actually an all organic wine tasting with wines from vineyards such as Frog's Leap and Yorkville Cellars. Glasses of wine will cost $5. There will also be plenty to eat, wild mushroom quesadillas from MIJITA & Far West Fungi, brisket sandwiches from Mistral & Potter Family Farms, fig & quince jam filled crepes from I Preferti Boriana, profiteroles from Miette & Ciao Bella and autumnal inspired varietal chocolates from Recchiuiti Confections. The festivities begin at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m. there will be tango dancing in the main hall! Admission is free. Saturday there will be plenty of traditional barnyard activities for the kids at the market, including sheep shearing, pumpking carving, apple pressing, butter churning, etc. The activities will take p...
Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Pike Place market:Shop

Seattle's Pike Place Market is the real deal. Much as I love our version, the Ferry Building Marketplace , Pike Place is much more accessible for everyday shopping. There are tons more produce stands, and the prices are way more competitive. Just like at our market, there are always plenty of tourists and locals walking around enjoying the sights, sounds, smells and of course tastes the market has to offer. When I go to the Pike Place Market, there are several stops I feel compelled to make. First stop, walking around snacks. I'm a sucker for mini doughnuts which are served hot, with or without cinnamon sugar. Little fried dough balls of goodness. The smell alone will get you. But if you are not lured by the doughnuts, you can try tastes of whatever the fresh produce vendors are sampling and nibbles of the famous Chukar dried cherries or a myriad of jellies and jams. The market has no fewer than three spice shops to peruse. While I sometimes buy spices in bulk at mar...
Monday, October 11, 2004

Candy

A lot of people tell me that they only like to eat something if they know what it is. I wonder if this is really true. Does anyone know what is in most kinds of candy? Does that stop them from eating candy? Today my Japanese brother came over to my parents house for a visit. Tomio is about my age and from Osaka, Japan. He lived with my parents some years ago when he was studying English hence the brother thing. His family makes Japanese confections and candy. Mostly they make delicious crunchy cracker-y snacks with peanuts and seaweed. On this trip to the US, Tomio brought many kinds of confections as a humanitarian gift to children and the handicapped, living in group homes in Osaka's sister city, San Francisco. He also brought plenty of samples for us to try. No one I know ever refuses to try it. But do they know what's in it? Probably not. If from looking at it, they think it might taste good, they are willing to give it a go. I suppose that's human nature in rega...
Saturday, October 09, 2004

All About Prickly Pear

The first time I had prickly pear fruit was in a Mexican popsicle or "paleta". It was a bright cherry red and sweet as could be. Mexican summers can get so hot you need something, anything ice cold, never mind what the flavor is. But I think that was the first and last time I tried prickly pear fruit. So what do you do with prickly pear fruit? Until today, I honestly didn't know. Not that not knowing stopped me from buying some. When I find something unusual at the grocery store I often feel compelled to give it a go. Prickly pear fruit is in season from spring until fall, but I only just noticed them in the store. Prickly pear fruit is also known as tunas, barbary fig, Indian fig or Indian pear. The flesh can be yellowish green in addition to the beet red color mine were. They are popular in Latin America and Italy and also grown in Australia and Africa. A great source of vitamin C, each cactus fruit contains approximately 50% of the vitamin C found in an orange ...
Thursday, October 07, 2004

FallFest & Cal-Italia

This weekend there will be Fleet week and Columbus day activities happening around the City. But more importantly, there will be food events. Saturday there are two promising events. One is FallFest , from 11-4 p.m. at Justin Herman Plaza in front of the SF Ferry Building. This event features a European-style marketplace and food sampling from over sixty purveyors. Many excellent restaurants will be represented such as Aqua, Destino, Fifth Floor, Globe, Quince and Piperade. There will also be wine tastings, and small panel discussions. A fundraiser for Meals on Wheels, tickets are $75. The other event, is the Cal-Italia Wine & Food Tasting . This event takes place from 2- 6 p.m. at Washington Square Park in North Beach. Winemakers such as Bonny Doon Vineyard, Estancia Estate, Frey Vineyards, and Pietra Santa will be participating. The food will have a definite Italian flair with purveyors including Mozzarella Fresca, AG Ferrari, Liguria Focaccia, Etruria Gourmet products and ...
Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Food of the Month

Well it's October. And you know what that means. Or do you? There are so many food holidays this month it can be hard to keep track. So I thought I'd make a list to help you with your celebrations. You are planning to celebrate, aren't you? October is... Apple Month Applejack Month Caramel Month Cookie Month Dessert Month Pasta Month Pickled Peppers Month Pizza Month Popcorn Poppin' Month Pork Month Pretzel Month Seafood Month Vegetarian Awareness Month October holidays 7th is Frappe Day 9th is Moldy Cheese Day 10th is Angel Food Cake Day 11th is Canadian Thanksgiving, also known as Turkey Day 13th is National Peanut Festival 20th is Brandied Fruit Day 22nd is Nut Day 24th is Bologna Day 28th is Chocolate Day 30th is Candy Corn Day But if you want to skip all of these except of course for Chocolate Day, go right ahead! Personally I have no plans for Moldy Cheese Day yet......
Sunday, October 03, 2004

Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way

Watching cooking shows on TV is one of my favorite pastimes. It's entertainment, sure, but I also learn a lot. My all-time favorite television chef is Jacques Pepin. I have many of his cookbooks and watch his television series religiously (let's just say I don't think it's any coincidence that his programs often run on Sundays). The latest 26 part series which debuted today is Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way . Right off the bat the title has to catch your attention; after all, Slow Food is all the rage right now. And fast food is practically a dirty word. But in truth we live in a fast-paced world. Who doesn't want to be able to quickly prepare a satisfying meal at home? No one I know. Some of the things I appreciate most about Jacques Pepin are in evidence in this new show. For one thing, his mastery of technique is incredible and watching him I am able to improve my own abilities and pick up all sorts of tips. Another element is his way of combining simple ...
Friday, October 01, 2004

Plum Cake Redux Recipe

I love the taste and texture of cooked plums. Plum jam is mouth-puckeringly delicious. Somehow when the plums cook, they concentrate and the richness, sweetness and tanginess all intensifies into something much more decadent than the raw version. Even the plum color becomes more bold and jewel-like when cooked. One thing that really complements plums is almonds. Almonds are rich, buttery and almost creamy. They are sometimes a bit bland which is exactly what you need to balance out the intense tang of baked plums. About a year ago I wrote about making a recipe your own. The recipe in question was a plum cake and I shared the changes I made to suit myself and encouraged you to do the same. So with a bag of French plums as my inspiration, I revisited this recipe yet again. The biggest change I made was in substituting some of the flour with almond meal. What possessed me to purchase almond meal, I cannot say. But there it was, along with the bag of plums, taunting me, "c'mo...