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Monday, April 30, 2007

Riva Cucina

Usually I don't write about restaurant openings because really, what can you say? An opening is just a chance to get a sneak peek and a bite and that's usually it. But last Friday's opening of Riva Cucina in Berkeley was a little different, for me anyway. Chef Massimiliano Boldrini is from Emilia Romagna and there were lots of signs that his new restaurant will be a taste of that region, which is known for luscious cuisine. Starting off on the right foot, they served a sparkling red Lambrusco instead of Prosecco or Asti. If you haven't tried this lovely and refreshing wine you're in for a treat. On a warm day like Friday it was just perfect. The chef was serving up a delicious creamy pasta with prosciutto and asparagus. The pasta was al dente, flavorful and reminded me more of pasta I've eaten in Italy than pasta I've eaten in the US. The other bites were tasty as well, some citrusy salmon, savory crostini with a sausage topping, a skewered version of ...
Friday, April 27, 2007

Arugula Shrimp Salad: Recipe

You may have noticed that there haven't been very many new recipes around here lately. But it's not because I haven't been cooking. I've actually been cooking quite a bit. The recipes I've been working on have been for a wine retailer so I haven't shared the results here the way I usually do. Now that one of the recipes is up on the client's site, I thought I'd go ahead and reprint it here. It's a fun challenge pairing recipes with wines. You can plan all you like, but ultimately you just have to taste your dish with the wine and see what develops. Sometimes one element can throw the whole thing off. Other times it just sings. When I learned I would be pairing a dish with a Pinot Gris I decided I would put together a seafood salad. I was very lucky that the dressing only took a couple of tries to get right. Even though I created this recipe almost two months ago, the ingredients are perfect right now. In fact my organic produce box, delivered f...
Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Educating Peter: Book Review

Here's the thing I hate about wine, the attitude. You know what I'm talking about. Wine should be something we enjoy and yet it easily slips into something that intimidates instead. Of course it's not the fault of the wine. It's the people who write about it, sell it and pour it who use it as a weapon against the unsuspecting. I haven't actually met any intimidating winemakers, although it may just be a matter of time. In my quest to learn more about wine I have been attending wine events, reading up on wine but mostly tasting, as you might imagine. Reading about wine sounds like the most boring thing in the world, but as with anything else if the the writer is talented the subject turns out be fascinating. Two recent books have utterly delighted me in this regard--Lettie Teague's book Educating Peter and Rick Kushman and Hank Beal's A Moveable Thirst Tales and Tastes from a Season in Napa Wine Country . They actually have quite a bit in common. Both ...
Monday, April 23, 2007

Rick Bayless at IACP

The conference concluded with an awards dinner where chef and restaurant owner Rick Bayless was given the IACP Humanitarian award. It was the third time I heard him spoke at the conference and as with each prior instance, my admiration for him grew even greater. I have to admit, I have always liked Rick Bayless and adore his cooking at Frontera Grill . Recently I finished reading The United States of Arugula . I was particularly struck by a discussion of the decision Rick Bayless made to work with Burger King. That decision resulted in much criticism. His ideas of engaging big companies, like Burger King, rather than isolating or ignoring them made sense to me then as it does now. I can't help but think he might have had something to do with the recent announcement that Burger King intends to ensure that their suppliers treat animals humanely. Earlier in the week I heard Bayless speak at a session on heritage breeds. He is a great supporter of both heritage breeds and using ...
Saturday, April 21, 2007

Favorite Things:Moo cards

Have you seen these? They are mini cards you can make from your own photos. On the reverse side you can have any text printed you like, space permitting. I used some of my favorite food photos that are loaded up at flickr , and made them into business cards. Not to brag or anything, but they have been a big hit. Everyone seems to want one and it's fun seeing who chooses what. Now the company that makes them, Moo , is also selling notecards. They are a bit pricey, but I just might order them anyway.... FOOD...
Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Vanishing Cookbook

One of the most practical sessions I attended at IACP in Chicago was The Vanishing Cookbook. The panelists included Tanya Steel, Editor in Chief of Epicurious.com , Rick Rodgers , noted cookbook author and award-winning cooking instructor and Pam Chirls, Senior Editor at publisher Wiley responsible for books such as The Soul of a New Cuisine , The Professional Chef and The Bon Appetit Cookbook . Their combined experience in the publishing world is tremendous and provided the audience with a snapshot of what the cookbook publishing landscape is like these days and what it takes to succeed. First the good news. We learned that cookbook sales are up--but that there is more competition for shelf space than ever before. We heard about the growth of the celebrity chef, but also learned food bloggers can be celebrities too(!) The presentation covered topics such as how much income you can expect as a cookbook author (5-100k depending on numerous factors). We heard about all the right rea...
Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Business of Food: Organics Gone Mainstream

At the first morning session at the IACP conference in Chicago there was a panel discussion on the topic of organics. The speakers were an interesting mix--there was Samuel Fromartz who wrote the book Organics, Inc. Michael Abelman, the founder of the Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens , a farmer and an outspoken advocate of organics. Representing the business of organics were Jim Adams a former journalist and the Marketing Director at Chipotle Mexican Grill and Michael Brandeisky, VP Strategic Marketing Initiatives responsible for natural and organic products at Kraft . Fromartz set the context by presenting organic as part of "a larger conversation" about who produces your food and how they produce it. He outlined two directions, one where organics was growing with more choices being offered to consumers, the other was about ideals, stewardship of the land, local producers, social justice and clean food. But is it idealism versus growth? Fromartz doesn&...
Monday, April 16, 2007

Blogging here, blogging there...

Blogging pretty much everywhere! Most of the time my blogging happens locally here and over at KQED but this month I've been blogging all over the place. First I blogged at the University of Nebraska Press about about Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book . And today you'll find my first post over at the IACP Global News Blog. It's an IACP conference First Timers Report . I do hope you enjoy it. FOOD...
Saturday, April 14, 2007

Tru: Restaurant Review

Rod Stewart spoiled my dinner at Tru . Ok, that's not exactly true. Let me just start by saying that as good as my dinner was, I lost a lot of my focus once I spied Rod the Mod from across the room. So with that out of the way, on to the review. Tru is a very elegant restaurant. The dining room feels spacious and has striking contemporary art work on the walls by big name artists like Maya Lin, Gerhard Richter, and Ed Ruscha. It is clean and bold and feels like a sophisticated art gallery. The service is impeccable, well-trained staff strike just the right balance of being cordial, helpful and unobtrusive. My dining companions and I chose to order the Grand Seasonal Collection for $110. In addition to a couple of amuse bouche, we began with a selection of sashimi then saddle of Rabbit in a Rabbit Consommé, with Morels, Pea & Lavender Emulsion. This was light in texture but rich in earthy forest flavors. Next came the tagliolini with a chunk of peeky toe crab and a cream...
Friday, April 13, 2007

Post Modern Cuisine

Homaro Cantu and Ben Roche the Executive Chef and Pastry Chef of Moto are fascinating to listen to. They are brilliant innovators, great creative thinkers, inspired inventors and yet something disturbed me deeply about their presentation, " A Savory and Sweet Look into Post Modern Cuisine" at the IACP conference yesterday. They talked about their kitchen as if it were a science lab. They video record everything because they want to document their efforts, but they don't believe in paper (except for when they are printing with edible inks on edible paper). Cooking, it seems, should not be limited to a stove but be something that is accomplished with "anything you can plug into a wall", including printers, lasers, freezing "anti-griddles", you-name-it. Their goals are noble. They say they want to conserve energy, but really they want to save the planet. They believe in sustainability and in using only the best, most local, organic. and highest qual...

Welcome to IACP

Ok I'm a newbie. That's the reason you are seeing a badge instead of pictures of the opening night event at the famous Merchandise Mart . In the showrooms were different and sometimes interactive and artistic food displays. Highlights? Well the best food was the beef and potatoes with cuban beef, tenderloin, mini meatloaves and brisket. As far as the potatoes go there were potato puffs, truffled mashed potatoes and a smoky cajun potato salad. There was also a deconstructed or perhaps reconstructed bananas foster that was liquid with frozen ice cream beads from Moto and some wacky jelled flower displays that I had never seen before. One jelled display was a whole human being and had different botanical looking elements embedded within. There were also life-sized models of clothing made from cabbage leaves and other vegetables. Go ahead. Use your imagination. Oh! I forgot to mention I saw "Betty" of the Reynolds Wrap ads. More celebrity sightings later. More on...
Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Tofu and Celery Salad: Recipe

There is something tremendously satisfying about making meals out of virtually nothing. Of course, my pantry is far from bare. But there are times the fridge is almost empty. Today I am enroute to a conference and as a result I'd been too busy to shop and so on Monday I was faced with very little to work with. In fact I was down to not much more than a package of tofu and some organic celery! I had thought I would make scrambled tofu for breakfast one day, but really it just doesn't work without toast. Searching on the newly designed Epicurious web site I found what sounded like a terrific recipe . As usual I made some tweaks and the result was very satisfying indeed. For one thing I used soft tofu which I think absorbs the vinaigrette better and I skipped the sesame seeds and added some ginger. I think you could also add garlic if you like. I could see making this for a potluck or serving it as a light and cool no-cook Summer dinner. Poor tofu, so many people seem to di...
Monday, April 09, 2007

Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book

Today a quick break from Passover posts to let you know about Jane Grigon's Vegetable Book . While I may not have a massive book deal like some other food bloggers, I am very proud to have written the introduction to this new American reprint of a classic book, published by Bison Books, University of Nebraska Press. Jane Grigson is one in a line of great British food writers that includes people like Elizabeth David, Claudia Roden, and Nigella Lawson. I was really pleased to be chosen to write the introduction to her book because even though it is almost thirty years old, it is as relevant as ever. Her writing is straight-forward, funny and well-researched, all things I admire. Grigson loved food and loved the wonderful bounty of fresh produce in England. She knew that British food was no joke , and was eager to see enthusiasm for all that was fresh, homegrown and delicious. The recipes in the book are not necessarily healthy or even vegetarian, but are tastes from many coun...
Friday, April 06, 2007

Matzoh Toffee & other Sweet Treats for Passover Recipes

The traditional sweets for Passover are a mixed bag. Sponge cakes are often rubbery, flourless cakes too dense. Passover cake and brownie mixes bought at the store are usually expensive and the end product is not as good as treats made from scratch. Macaroons can be good but many of us are used to the canned Passover variety which, like rainbow colored jelly fruit slices, we mostly enjoy for nostalgia's sake. Just because it's Passover doesn't mean you have to eat lousy sweets. If Passover gives you matzoh, then why not make matzoh candy? Here are three recipes for treats to make during Passover. The first two are good for using up matzoh and farfel, which is kind of like matzoh bits. The last is a recipe to make all year round, but just happens to be Kosher for Passover. Toffee Chocolate Matzoh Crunch Ingredients 2 sheets of matzoh 1/4 Cup butter 1/4 Cup brown sugar 2/3 Cup chocolate chips 2-3 Tablespoon chopped nuts--any kind but I like pistachios Instruc...
Thursday, April 05, 2007

Passover on the web, a food blog round-up

This year Passover seems to have slipped under the food blogger radar. Two years ago there were lots of moving posts that I linked to from many prominent food blogs. You can check out those posts at Eggbeater , the Amateur Gourmet and Tasting Menu ... This year the pickings were awfully slim, but there were some good ones nonetheless. Ok, the posts just keep coming, maybe we were just off to a slow start? Here are the 2007 Passover food blog posts: Ronnie at Around the Table prepared a Passover seder for 31 people and mades a memorable dish called Tsimmes. Coming along for the first time was her high school friend, Christine, who was moved by the experience and almost wished she were Jewish, for the day anyway. She blogs about the experience at Around the Table . Ariela at Baking and Books made an Ethiopian dish for Passover. Head over to her post to learn more about the Ethiopian Jewish connection. Don't skip the racy bits! What do you put on matzoh? Emzeegee and the ...
Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Keeping Kosher for Passover

While most people know about Passover seders, the holiday is actually observed for a whole week. What does that mean exactly? Well, for one thing, it means keeping Kosher for Passover. Keeping Kosher for Passover is a bit different from just keeping Kosher. Here is a basic summary of the major laws of Kashrut or "keeping Kosher" literally proper or fit: * You are not allowed to serve milk and meat in the same meal * Only animals that chew their cud and have split hooves are permitted for example lamb and beef but not pork, and must be slaughtered in a special way * Fish can be eaten but must have both fins and scales * No shellfish is allowed Whether these laws were created for health reasons or for more humane treatment towards animals we may never know, but they have been in effect for a very long time and many people around the world observe them. Kosher for Passover means keeping Kosher plus it means not eating any "leavened baked goods". Specifi...
Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Charoset Recipe

My favorite part of the hilarious bestseller Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris is when he tries to explain Easter to his fellow French class students. The more he explains about Jesus, the bunny and a basket of eggs the more impossibly ridiculous it sounds. So it is with charoset. In the beginning there was a seder plate. Seder means "order" as the Passover meal has a distinct order to it and describing what is on the seder plate, a kind of centerpiece to the dinner table, is one of the rituals of the evening. On the seder plate were various symbolic items, bitter herb which is usually some horseradish, matzoh and a roasted lamb shank. The bitter herb represents the bitterness of slavery. The matzoh is the bread of affliction or what the Jews ate on their way out of town. The lamb shank is symbolic of the lamb offered as a sacrifice. Somewhere along the line, various other things were added making a much more crowded plate. I don't know exactly when rabbis add...
Monday, April 02, 2007

Pesach for the Rest of Us

Tonight is the first night of Passover. But Passover actually lasts all week so why not a week of Passover posts? This week I will be sharing recipes, stories and kicking things off with a book review. Passover is a holiday that commemorates the Jews exodus from Egypt. It has themes that everyone can relate to; slavery, liberation, freedom, redemption, hope, renewal, being a stranger in a strange land. Through story telling, responsive reading, songs, prayers and food the idea is to relive the experience and not just remember it. Making Passover relevant to you is central to the holiday. I'm fortunate that the Passover seders or dinners that I attend are filled with special touches that make them personal and meaningful. At some seders we tell stories from our own lives, discuss personal issues that we are facing, we add songs that feel right and at one we even add a dance. In this spirit is a wonderful new book by the poet Marge Piercy called Pesach for the Rest of Us Maki...