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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Happy Blog Day!

Today is Blog Day 2005 . The idea behind blog day is to choose 5 new blogs and share them with your readers. I have chosen 5 blogs launched in the last 6 months and you can find the full post with blog descriptions over at Bay Area Bites where I post every Wednesday. Mostly I do interviews and book reviews for KQED's group food blog, Bay Area Bites, but this time I thought I'd join in this new event and let you know about it here as well. The blogs I wrote about are: 1. In Praise of Sardines 2. Bunnyfoot 3. Delicious Days 4. Beauty Joy Food 5. David Lebovitz I hope you'll celebrate by visiting each one. If you'd like to see a round up of other new blogs, visit the technorati page, here ....
Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Restaurant Best Practices

So last week I ranted against what drives me crazy in restaurants. But it takes very little to make me happy and want to come back again. The following list is of the those very things that I appreciate when dining out: Being made to feel genuinely welcome Good recommendations from the wait staff--not "everything here is great!" An amuse-bouche or any delicious surprise from the kitchen Coat check or a hook where I can put my jacket or coat Signature dishes identified on the menu or by the wait staff A basket of warm homemade chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant Complimentary glass of wine while waiting for a table, especially if I have a reservation and the table's not ready Full disclosure on the price of specials Reasonable portions of dessert--excess is so passe Warm plates--not searingly hot Seasonal fruits, vegetables and fish incorporated into the menu selections Small plates at smaller-than-entree prices Basket of fresh baked goods at breakfast A full pitch...
Sunday, August 28, 2005

Chinese Style Green Beans: Recipe

Fried foods. I hadn't really contemplated fried foods until the current Is My Blog Burning was announced "Summer's Flying, Let's get Frying" . They just seem so taboo to me. That's not to say I don't eat fried foods. If I go out to eat mussels I am more than likely to eat frites. On a super late night if I pass Bob's Dounts and they happen to be putting out a fresh batch I've been known to partake. But frying food at home? Nope. Anthony Bourdain neatly outlines the difficulty of frying French fries at home in the Les Halles Coobook and why it is such a bother--there is the quantity of the oil necessary, the disposal of oil, the lack of a professional "fryer", the difficulty of maintaining the right temperature, the resulting sogginess of the fries and oiliness of your kitchen. While I will probably never make fries at home, there is one solitary dish that I do fry at home--string beans. Have you ever had dry fried string beans at ...
Friday, August 26, 2005

Restaurant Pet Peeves

A great meal at a restaurant is pure joy. It is an orchestrated performance. I am amazed at the amount of hard work and attention to detail involved to ensure that a dining experience goes smoothly. In reviewing restaurants I try to cut some slack because I know it's very hard to control every detail. Sometimes when things go wrong, it's not even the restaurant's fault. It just takes so little to throw the whole thing off. That said I do have a list of pet peeves when it comes to restaurant dining. These are some irritating trends and practices that restaurants actually can have some control over. Here are my restaurant pet peeves: A well done steak or burger when it was ordered "rare" Wobbly tables Bread cut only halfway, instead of into slices Charging $25 for a main dish and then $5 for a side of vegetables Over salted or not properly seasoned food Bad attitude at the host station $10 cocktails Servers who interrupt conversation at the table Tea bags ser...
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Blackberry Upside Down Cake Recipe

When a wine is described as "jammy" I always think of blackberries. Rich, ripe, fruity flavors so intense they almost taste more cooked than fresh. Blackberries, when fully ripe and sweet, not sour, taste like jam to me. Jammy also means "lucky" according to an Australian English dictionary I recently consulted. I think one slice of this cake will make you feel very lucky indeed! I certainly feel lucky to have gotten the berries from my friend Alton who brought them back from his mountain cabin hideaway, Shadow Woods. I'm assuming since you are visiting this site, that you probably use the internet to find recipes. I sure do. One thing I particularly find useful are the reader comments. For example the recipes on Epicurious often have suggestions from readers on changes and improvements they have made to the posted recipes. Sometimes their suggestions make sense, though not always. This recipe started out as one I found online, but based on reader comments...
Monday, August 22, 2005

Be Rachael Ray for a Day: Dine & Dish #4

Food Network star, Rachael Ray . Some people love her, some people hate her and some people positively love to hate her. She's perky and cute or goofy and annoying. But regardless of how you feel about Rachael Ray and her seemingly never-ending television shows and books, she has some very good ideas. In the kitchen her suggestion of using a garbage bowl has kept my kitchen floor much cleaner than it used to be. And the idea of a $40 daily dining budget when traveling is a noble endeavor. So I jumped at the opportunity to Be Rachael Ray for a Day: Dine & Dish #4 . Most of my day puts you way, way, way under $40. My first two picks were so cheap that I could really afford to go a bit fancier for dinner. In fact I have divided my day into cheap, steal and splurge. This turns out to be a lot of food for one day! For those late-risers, I suppose if you decided to eat a late breakfast and skip lunch you could have a glass of wine with dinner... CHEAP Breakfast at Pastores $5....
Sunday, August 21, 2005

For all those food bloggers who post entries everyday, I have no idea how you do it! I have had a few things come up like the subscription offer yesterday and the "Be Rachael Ray for a Day" event tomorrow that require that I post more frequently than I usually do it and frankly it's a bit much! Nonetheless I did want to share some wonderful posts of the week. First off Kate of Accidental Hedonist may be known for her rants and taking on "the man" but her recipes, especially Italian ones are what really get me heading for the kitchen. This week's recipe for Malfatti looks and sounds like a real winner. Next are two sentimental posts from two of my favorite food bloggers. One about the beginning of a life and the other about an ending. Both are moving and stuck with me long after I read them. Cindy of Food Migration has moved to Paris to begin culinary school and Karletta of Culinary Muse writes about toasting the passing of a friend . I hope you enjoy the ...
Saturday, August 20, 2005

Vegetarian Times Subscription Deal

I am not a vegetarian but I do try to get as creative as I can with vegetarian meals. I even created a category for vegetarian recipes in the recipe archive on this site. Another source for finding vegetarian recipes is Vegetarian Times . While I haven't subscribed to the magazine up to now, their website allows you to search for recipes and also has articles on nutrition. But today I subscribed because of a fantastic deal. Today ONLY, you can subscribe to Vegetarian Times for a year for only $4.39. The normal rate for subscription is $19.95. The cover price for just one issue is $3.99 so this is really a steal. (I don't make anything from this deal--I'm just sharing sale information from a magazine subscription site that I use from time to time) Just go to Best Deal Magazines and click on the "deal of the day". You don't have to register for the site to subscribe to the magazine. If you have found some great recipes from this magazine, let me know!...
Friday, August 19, 2005

Cook's Illustrated

I was interviewed the other day by the Online Journalism Review for the article Cook's Illustrated: Stirring up synergy to sell online food content . They asked my opinion about Cook's Illustrated and I gave it. And so the hate mail began. In the interest of clarity I will further explain my opinion of Cook's Illustrated. Because it is my opinion I fully expect not everyone will agree with it. I'm cool with that, but please, refrain from personal attacks. 1. I am not looking for the basics anymore. Not much anyway. I am more interested in recipes that will expand my culinary horizons. Cook's Illustrated doesn't do this. It's not really what they are trying to do. They don't claim to be gourmet or cutting edge and that's just fine for most people. 2. I am not alone in feeling they have an East Coast bias. Both the tastes of their tasters and the products they test are somewhat skewed towards the East Coast. Their Executive Editior even cops to this ...
Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Hidden Vine: Wine Bar CLOSED

Do you have a third place? Your home and place of work are your first two places but you need a third place. Ray Oldenburg an urban sociologist defined a third place in his book The Great Good Place as somewhere that can "host the regular, voluntary, informal, and happily anticipated gatherings of individuals beyond the realms of home and work." For over 15 years this concept has been explored in various books and articles . If you don't have a third place I would like to nominate The Hidden Vine . I hesitate to call it a wine bar, because I really think of it as a third place. A hop and a skip (not even a jump) from downtown and Union Square, The Hidden Vine is a cozy little space perfect for meeting a friend a lover or even a business associate or two after work. It is the perfect mix of relaxing and playful. Warm dark colors and soft candle light hint at romance but don't insist upon on it. The location downstairs in the back of a hotel, allows for discretion...
Monday, August 15, 2005

Food (and wine) Bloggers Picnic/Barbecue

Top 5 ways you know a food and wine blogger picnic is successful: 1. Your clothes and hair smell sweetly of smoke, and you like it 2. You are so full from eating all afternoon you have to skip dinner: Mmm Adrienne's summery fresh succotash with the sweetest corn ever My herby potato salad, no mayo, no onions! Sam's super local salad of oven roasted tomatoes, purslane, sorrel and chevre Dr. Biggles smoky pork roast stuffed with chard and walnuts Shuna's scrumptious berry pie This is only a small sampling of the spread... 3. You're inspired to design a new bumper sticker: 4. Many attendees post about it the very next day: Becks & Posh Gastronomie Love & Cooking Meathenge Bunrab Even someone who didn't make it posts about it: Grub Report 5. Bacon is served as an appetizer, yup, you heard right, just slices of sizzling bacon......
Saturday, August 13, 2005

This week I had no trouble finding great posts from faraway places. I am listing three of my favorite posts and also one from the previous week that I only discovered this week, but it's too good to pass up. Molly from Boston has a blog called My Madeleine in which she chronicles her working from the bottom up in the restaurant biz. Her post a sweetbreads overkill really makes you feel the buzz of a restaurant kitchen, it's a feast for the senses. David in Paris cracks me up yet again with his post about fresh shelling beans . For anyone who has ever bought an ingredient and used it once, this post will surely ring true. Continuing the theme of beans is a post all the way from Malaysia. Boo_licious makes an edamame mint pesto pasta that looks and sounds divine! Check out this tantalizing recipe and photo. Finally, a post from Alberto the Italian blogger living in German and the father of "Is My Blog Burning?" . Last week he posted his " ten (food related)things...
Thursday, August 11, 2005

Made in Marseille: Cookbook Review

In one breath Marseille is described as a glorious place with real culture and the best seafood in the world, in the next it's sadly a gang and drug ridden slum. Located in Provence, a region famous as the place where Parisians take their Summer holidays. Provence mirrors California in climate, and in the wine, the olives, tomatoes, basil, lavender and bountiful seafood that make it such a delicious destination. Perhaps reading about ros&eacute in the new book Ros&eacute A Guide to the World's Most Versatile Wine that I reviewed yesterday made me think about Summer food and the cooking of Provence; a region where the author spent a good deal of time. Or maybe it was buying a bottle of ros&eacute from France that made me want to travel to Marseille in my kitchen. Fortunately I have the perfect book for such exploration Made in Marseille Food and Flavors from France's Mediterranean Seaport . This book has old and newer recipes to excite the senses. Strong flavor...
Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mom's Blueberry Tart: Recipe

Blueberries are intense. Intense color that stains your mouth purple. Intense sweet and tangy juice so rich it almost tastes like wine. Unlike other fruit, such as apples, they don't even need vanilla or cinnamon to give them a boost. They are the boost. The intensity of blueberries make them a nice kind of accent to other dishes, like in a fruit salad or a salsa. They are also great as polka dots in pancakes and muffins but a little trickier in pie. Just too intense. That's why I love blueberry tarts. I know I just wrote about blueberries. But when you pick a bucket full you end up with about four pounds, which is a lot of blueberries! So in addition to taking my own advice when it comes to using blueberries I also called my mom for a recipe for a blueberry tart. This particular recipe uses three cups of blueberries and combines them with a sour cream filling that bakes up like a custard. Plopping blueberries into a custardy base, a pastry cream or clafouti seems like the ...
Sunday, August 07, 2005

I love the weekly "posts of the week" feature over at Too Many Chefs . I can't help but find myself heading over there every Friday to see what they've discovered. Recently Foodgoat also jumped on the bandwagon, even choosing one of my posts as a link. So I'm going to do it too! Every weekend I will post my selection of noteworthy posts. Viv over at Seattle Bon Vivant is always discovering some new treats and sharing them in her inimitable style. This week was no exception and I plan on seeking out the Green Tomato Jam, but it was her French butter post that really made me smile--who else other than Viv would buy Normandy butter at $13.49 pound? Gotta love the girl! Sam at Becks and Posh is signed on for the Eating Local Challenge and after a couple of days of disaster she was able to share a very successful day and some real insight into one approach to eating local that makes good sense to me. The viewpoint shared by a certain chef was that of being se...
Friday, August 05, 2005

Possibly The Best Cafeteria Ever

So I'm having dinner with a group of people earlier this week and I ask my friend Caroline: "Where's your husband?" "Oh, he couldn't make it to dinner this early, he works long hours and besides, he really likes eating in the cafeteria." Mind you, this is no ordinary cafeteria! If we could, we all might want to eat there. With an emphasis on organic and ethnic options, it's about as cutting edge as employee cafeterias go. Here are a few selections from a typical menu: SALADS Ahi Tuna & Avocado Poke Fresh line caught Ahi tuna diced with organic avocados and minced ginger, habanero chilies, cilantro, green onions and sesame seeds, tossed with a fresh dressing of orange juice, rice vinegar, tamari, sesame oil, lime juice, tangerine oil, sambal oeleck and garnished with black and white sesame seeds. Calypso Rice Salad Perfectly steamed wild rice with Valencia orange segments, currants, diced red bell peppers, cilantro, green and red ...
Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Father of American Gastronomy

"I like a well-tailored plate of food, and I want things to look and taste like what they are. I detest cooking that masks one flavor with another, and I dislike fussy presentations that don't respect the identity of the ingredients. A tomato is a tomato not a rose. Noodles are noodles, not birds' nests or baskets." Yup. The correct answer was b. James Beard. I only have one of his cookbooks, The New James Beard but I turn to it often. Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet includes two articles about James Beard, one about his early years and the other about his later years. Both are worth reading, filled with colorful quotes that give you a wonderful sense of what Beard was like as a person, as a teacher and as a chef. Congratulations to contest winners Marcy, Rob and Craig!...
Wednesday, August 03, 2005

A Kitchen Contest

On your birthday I advocate treating yourself right; and by that I mean, you should buy yourself something. That way you get exactly what you want. No disappointment. That's what I do. This time around I used some gift certificates, and I bought a whole bunch of stuff. First off, I bought books I have been meaning to read, namely, Eating My Words: An Appetite for Life by Mimi Sheraton, Return to Paris: A Memoir with Recipes by Colette Rossant and Endless Feasts: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet . I took the Gourmet book on vacation and haven't finished it yet. The others have yet to be cracked open. Over the weekend I also bought a load of goodies from Sur La Table . In addition to replacing things I have broken or mangled, I bought some new goodies specifically a couple of offset spatulas and a set of long and skinny ice cream spoons to reach the ice cream that always gets stuck in the bottom of parfait cups. I also bought a nifty little tasting spoon that is a teas...
Monday, August 01, 2005

Organic Trend or Fad?

You probably already know Atkins Nutritionals Inc. maker of products for low-carb diets, has filed for bankruptcy . We all saw this coming, right? It was a fad, not a trend. But how about eating organic? Think it's a fad too? Think again. Research firm AC Nielsen reported back in May that organic (along with the no/low-sugar segment) has proven much better able to sustain strong sales growth. Perhaps people are coming to the conclusion that organic is just plain better for the environment and for health. It is more expensive, but it's worth it to a lot of people. Given the choice, I think most people would prefer organic over conventional products if all things were equal, especially price. Of course it seems not every one is a fan of organic eating. I thought there was a lot of hullabaloo about eating local but the New York Times Op-Ed piece by Julie Powell of Julie/Julia fame claiming that eating organic is "elitist" has been a lightning rod for many a food ...