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Monday, January 31, 2005

All About Radishes

Do you think radishes only belong in salad? Growing up that's the only way we ate them. Not that there's anything wrong with that but the French give the radish a little more respect, they eat them with butter and salt. Actually what they do is serve radishes with slices of bread spread with unsalted butter and they dip the whole radishes in salt and eat them with the bread. This is important. If you you do this you are guaranteed to feel very French. Especially if you wash it all down with a crisp white wine. While red radishes are ubiquitous, radishes actually come in lots of colors and sizes. White ones, purple ones, daikon radishes and black ones. Radish comes from the Latin work radix meaning root; they are part of the mustard family. Makes sense, doesn't it? They can be mild or have a mustardy bite to them. They are really an ancient vegetable, in fact there are records of the Egyptians and Romans eating them. Historians suspect they originally may have come fro...
Saturday, January 29, 2005

Bouchon:Cookbook

I was planning on writing something about the crop of wonderful French cookbooks that were published in the last year. But then I received the Bouchon cookbook and quickly realized it warranted it's own review. It is a celebration of bistro food, but it is not just another bistro cookbook. Having eaten at both the French Laundry and Bouchon , I believe that one of the things that make dining at any of Thomas Keller's restaurants such a pleasure is the perfection. The service is perfect. The food is perfect. You may not love every dish, but you are unlikely to find real fault either. Reading Bouchon is a sneak peek into the world of Thomas Keller as much as it is a peek into a bistro kitchen. So the Bouchon cookbook is a little bit of perfection too. It is a huge oversized format 340 page book that is very well written. It features gorgeous photography, wonderful essays about various elements of bistro cooking, discussions on various ingredients as well as techniques and ...
Thursday, January 27, 2005

Fancy Food Show Winter 2005

In January the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade holds it's winter trade show here in San Francisco. It's a terrific opportunity to try all kinds of products, meet those responsible for the food and see what is happening in the industry. I'll be writing about many of the products I tried in the weeks to come, but here is a recap of the top 10 major trends that I saw this time around. 1. Fig everything! I saw more products featuring fig than ever before. Jams, chutneys, sauces, pastes, figs stuffed with walnuts, you-name-it. Most of the fig products were actually quite wonderful. 2. Fruit pastes. You may have tried quince paste served with cheese, but now there are lots of other flavors. This seems to be coming from Australia and New Zealand. 3. More exotic Asian sauces and spice blends. First there were Chinese sauces, then Japanese and Thai. Now get ready for Indian, Malaysian, Singaporean, etc. 4. More tropical sauces. Mango seems like an es...
Tuesday, January 25, 2005

CocoaBella: A Chocolate Love Story

Don't you just love those stories about people who come to a crossroads in life and find true fulfillment? Stories with the ultimate sweet ending. This is one of those stories. Michael Freeman was a passionate chocolate lover who had what might have seemed like the perfect job, he was in charge of buying food for the department store chain DFS (or Duty Free Shopping as you might know it from airports all around the world). But as Freeman travelled the world on business, he discovered most European cities had something we didn't, little chocolate shops on almost every corner. And so he began his quest to find the best chocolate in the world and sell it under one roof. He began asking his contacts "who's making the best chocolate?" and the answers became the basis for the store CocoaBella . As Freeman says, finding the right chocolate to sell took "one year of intense preparation but a lifetime of loving it". The CocoaBella shop though only a open...
Sunday, January 23, 2005

Beluga Beauty Soup Recipe

Do you make impulse purchases? Sometimes when I buy things on impulse, I have no idea what to do with them. For example--black lentils. These tiny glistening little jewels are so pretty to look at, they might just call out to you too, if you saw them on the shelf. Once I got home I looked through various cookbooks and online for recipes using these gems. What I learned was that black lentils are also called beluga lentils because they look like caviar. They are also more "meaty" flavored than other lentils. They hold their shape well and make good salads or soups. I didn't actually find that many recipes, though you can use them pretty much in place of an other type of lentil. A big thanks to Cathy of My Little Kitchen for hosting Is My Blog Burning: Beans, giving me the perfect excuse to break open the bag of black lentils and create a new recipe. Combining a recipe from Judy Rogers of Zuni Cafe and an Indian curried soup, I came up with this quick and easy vegetar...
Thursday, January 20, 2005

Blog Job Opening

Sam over at Becks & Posh keeps a really wonderful list of links to other Bay Area food and drink blogs on her site. Which in turn is how I discovered Molly's blog called Spicetart and this painfully familiar headline: I have to quit my job. How is it possible to work AND blog? Well Molly, perhaps you should answer this ad... Food Blog Editor & Publisher (anywhere) ------------------------------------------- Reply to: cookingwithamyblog@yahoo.com Date: 2005-01-21, 7:34 AM PST Are you obsessed with food and constantly focused on your next meal? This could be the job for you! Work from anywhere, internet access required (DSL or T1 connection recommended). No prior experience necessary. Primary responsibility: Must detail in writing and photographs, all food adventures including cooking, shopping, and dining out. Requirements: Excellent writing skills Highly opinionated Ability to prevent others from eating while hovering with digital camera Energy an...
Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Orange Pecan Cinnamon Buns Recipe

Fresh popped popcorn, barbecue, cinnamon buns. You know what I'm getting at, right? Some foods smell so good you just have to have them. Scientists tell us that our sense of smell is the strongest memory trigger, though I think in this case it just triggers the memory of how good these things taste. I have never made cinnamon buns before because making a dough with yeast seemed like too much bother. But in the January 2005 issue of Bon Appetit magazine there was a recipe for cinnamon buns using buttermilk, baking soda and baking powder for leavening. Perfect! I love the R.S.V.P. section of Bon Appetit. It's where readers request their favorite recipes, it's my turn-to-first section. Too often the pound of butter, the pint of cream or the 8 egg yolks are why the cookies, chowder or cake tasted so good in the first place. But not this recipe. As usual I have significantly changed it to make it "better". Here is my version: Orange Pecan Cinnamon Buns Mak...
Monday, January 17, 2005

1550 Hyde:Restaurant Review CLOSED

What makes a neighborhood place a neighborhood place ? My neighborhood has a lot of good and even some great restaurants but 1550 Hyde is a classic neighborhood place. Here's why I think it qualifies. It's cozy and warm and the staff greets you as if you are a local even if you're not. It's very small so service is good even when the place is packed. Perhaps most key, it's within walking distance of my house. On Russian Hill finding a parking spot can be a nightmare, but 1550 Hyde is on the cable car line making it a good pick for those looking for a place where the locals go. I can't remember all the names of the restaurants that have once been at the 1550 address, let alone how many I've tried. Thankfully the current incarnation is a real winner. It's yet another restaurant I've been meaning to try that I chose this past week based on it's participation in Dine About Town . The menu had so many tempting choices I ended up ordering a couple...
Saturday, January 15, 2005

KQED Food Site

Back in October I wrote something about Jacques Pepin's new series on PBS called Fast Food My Way. As a result, so many people clicked on the link to the website for the show that the folks over at KQED public broadcasting who had produced the series took notice. They put a link to this very site on their cooking section homepage , and more importantly invited me to be one of the writers for their new Bay Area Bites blog . As a longtime fan of Jacques Pepin, how could I resist? I am thrilled to be associated with KQED and to be writing for their site which I think will provide a variety of Bay Area perspectives on our rich local culinary scene. While the site is in its infancy, feel free to check it out and read my first post to the site. And as they say in broadcasting--stay tuned!...
Thursday, January 13, 2005

Trivia Challenge

Thanks to everyone for playing along with the first Cooking with Amy Trivia Challenge. And a challenge it was just coming up with a question! It's tough to find a question that you can't easily answer by heading over to Google these days. What pastry from Vienna made a big splash at the 1889 Paris World's Fair? Pretzel, Croissant, Cheese Danish or Sacher Torte The answer comes from Harold McGee's recently revised and updated version of On Food And Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen , page 567 : "According to Raymond Clavel, croissants first made a splash at the 1889 Paris World's Fair, where they were one of many kinds of Wienerbrod , or Vienna goods brought from the city that specialized in rich, sweet pastries. The original croissants were enriched yeast-raised breads shaped into a crescent. It wasn't until 1920 that Parisian bakers had the idea of forming them from a laminated dough, thus creating a marvelous pastry that is both ...
Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Fork It Over: Book Review

Imagine that you are a professional food writer. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, might be to eat at Alain Ducasse's restaurant Le Louis XV ten times in five days. Perhaps you'd prefer to be sent undercover in search of famed celebrity chefs at places like Spago , Chez Panisse , Olives , Emeril's Delmonico or Babbo ? Oh and you should check out the food as well. Or for a more down-home experience, how about eating at as many wood-smoked barbecue joints as you can find east of US 1 in North Carolina in four days? Only one person that I can think of has really accomplished each of those Herculean tasks and then some-- Alan Richman . You may have read his columns and articles in GQ, Conde Nast Traveller or Bon Appetit magazines. Now you can follow along on his culinary adventures in a recently released collection of his writings, Fork It Over The Intrepid Adventures of a Professional Eater . If you aren't familiar with his writing, let's just s...
Monday, January 10, 2005

Roasted Beet Risotto:Recipe

I love watching cooking shows on TV. Seeing someone cook is just a great way to learn. But even better is watching firsthand. I was very lucky to live with a family in Florence and learn to cook many classic Italian dishes by watching every move in the kitchen. I don't think I really had proper risotto until I lived in Italy. In Italy we ate it all the time as a first course. Since I've been back I rarely order it in restaurants because I'd rather make it at home. Usually when I make it I serve it as a main dish with a salad. I've hesitated to give a recipe for risotto because you use all of your senses to cook it to perfection and there is only so much I can explain. Beets are a vegetable I like cold better than hot, except that I adore beet soup and I think beets make one of the best risotto dishes ever. It might seem like an odd combination--beets and rice, but trust me, it's wonderful. If you've never had perfectly cooked risotto try to find a great pla...
Saturday, January 08, 2005

Chocolate Revisited

Alice Medrich's book Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate was published a little over a year ago, since then I've noticed how crazy we are for chocolate. Again. It seems we are rediscovering how great chocolate is, especially bittersweet chocolate. I've also noticed how many companies are making hot chocolate products (mixes, powders, etc.) Not hot cocoa, but hot chocolate, big difference. Hot chocolate is made with chocolate which contains chocolate liquor (not alcoholic) and cocoa butter. Cocoa is a powder and contains no cocoa butter. Cocoa butter is the fatty part of chocolate that gives chocolate its richness. Perhaps you've also noticed a number of spicy hot chocolates on the market? Hot chocolate in many variations, often Aztec or Maya inspired, is becoming quite popular. In fact, Starbucks has just introduced a new super decadent hot chocolate called Chantico , named after the Aztec goddess of hearth and fire. A 6-ounce cup has 390 ca...
Thursday, January 06, 2005

RNM:Restaurant Review CLOSED

After all the festivities of November and December who wants to eat out in January? Well, I do! And you will too especially if you take advantage of Dine About Town a January promotion whereby you can eat in a whole roster of terrific restaurants for $21.95 for lunch and $31.95 for dinner. Not exactly cheap, but the restaurants are some really outstanding ones. I keep a list of places I would like to try and yet another list of places I would like to return to (when my budget allows). But you know how it is, one tends to go to the same places over and over again. That's what makes Dine About Town so great. It's the perfect excuse to try a restaurant that you might otherwise not make it to. Some of the restaurants on my list to try or try again are 1550 Hyde , A16 and Fringale . I've been wanting to eat at RNM for quite some time and while my dining companion tried and thoroughly enjoyed the three course Dine About Town prix fixe meal, I was happy to make my selecti...
Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Tapas to Meze:Cookbook

I'm sure I used to like the winter. I used to vacation in the mountains and alps. I used to go skiing. I used to spend hours gazing at the falling snow, sipping hot chocolate from a cozy lodge. But not anymore. The minute it gets cold or begins to rain or heaven forbid both, I start whining. Home for less than two weeks and I long to be back in Mexico enjoying the warmth and the sunshine. One way to overcome the winter blues is to transport yourself to the Mediterranean and short of plane tickets, I can think of no better way than by reading Joanne Weir's latest cookbook out in paperback, From Tapas to Meze . There are several reasons to love this book. One is the glorious photographs. Another is the delightful introductions to each recipe. Weir shares secrets and stories with her readers, inviting them into her confidence. But the main reason to love this book is the recipes themselves, all 160 of them. This book covers all kinds of recipes from countries like Spain, It...
Sunday, January 02, 2005

All About Pears

Summer is fruit season. But one special fruit is in all it's glory in the wintertime--pears. Pears are one of the world's oldest cultivated fruits. They probably originated in Asia but they have been cultivated in Europe since at least 2000 BC. In France, Louis XIV popularized pears by proclaiming them his favorite fruit. The pear was later introduced into the New World by the colonists. There are thousands of varieties of pears. Pear trees are can last 50 to 75 years, and anyone who has grown a pear tree knows that the fruit only ripens off the tree. Doyenne du Comice means "top of show" and has gained the reputation as the best tasting pear. It was first produced in France in 1849. It is a pale green-yellow fruit with pinkish-red flushing. It it juicy, sweet and almost buttery flavored. It must be cross pollinated with a Bosc or Bartlett. The largest varieties of Comice are often sold at Christmas time. We got a box of them from some friends and have b...