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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Herbaliciousness

I love fresh herbs; they add life and vitality to even the simplest of dishes. Though very convenient, I've come to the conclusion that most dried herbs just aren't worth the bother. I can't remember the last dish with dried herbs that really impressed me. Recently I heard the tip to throw dried herbs on the fire when grilling. That seems like a good way to use them. Or a good a way to dispose of them... Why am I so crazy about fresh herbs? Because nothing smells better than a roast chicken with fresh tarragon. Fresh thyme used in stews or with meat imparts a uniquely earthy forest like quality. A little bit of minced chives is the mildest form of oniony sweetness you can add to delicate dishes like scrambled eggs. Parsley and mint should never be relegated to the role of garnish. The pungent green bite of parsley takes on a whole other role when used in quantity. Mint can also be like a salad green and adds a cooling freshness to Middle Eastern dishes like fattoush...
Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Chinese Food & Cake

The only thing better than leftover Chinese food for breakfast are the memories of Chinese food from R&G Lounge the night before. Visions of divine crab, tender and crispy Peking duck, salt and pepper shrimp, delicate pea sprouts, sweet and savory char siu pork and so much more are dancing in my head. Thanks to the maven of all things sweet , David Lebovitz for visiting and giving me an excuse to plan a dinner with food bloggers and to share the best cake around, the Sacripantina from Stella Pastry . FOOD...
Monday, June 25, 2007

Sara Foster's Casual Cooking: Cookbook

When it comes to food, I don't believe in secrets. Secret restaurants, secret menu items, or secret recipes are all bad ideas. Food should be enjoyed and keeping it secret just gets in the way of that. I used to work with a Southern gal who told me her aunt made the best biscuits but she wouldn't share the recipe. Someday that aunt will die and the recipe will too. That's a shame. Sharing that recipe would be creating a legacy for herself instead of just memories that one day will die too. So I would like to share with you a little secret of sorts. It's a book I've been inspired by quite a bit lately but I've kept the relationship to myself, until now. When I got a copy of Sara Foster's Casual Cooking I had never heard of Sara Foster. It turns out she has two other cookbooks and been featured in a number of national magazines. She started her culinary career as a chef for Martha Stewart's catering company and now runs a take-out business in Durham,...
Friday, June 22, 2007

Blackberry Ketchup at Sherrill's Inn: Recipe

Just a week ago I visited historic Sherrill's Inn in Hickory Nut Gap just South of Asheville, North Carolina. Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and manicured gardens I enjoyed a leisurely cooking demonstation that utilized produce and meat from farms less than a mile away. Descendants of the family that owns the inn operate Flying Cloud Farm , named after an old stagecoach, and Spring House Meats . Local farms in the area such as Flying Cloud are primarily organic but have not sought certification. Spring House raises antibiotic and hormone free grassfed beef, lamb, pork and pastured chickens. Both sell at the local "tailgate markets" in and around Asheville. I enjoyed a tour of the property and the inn, which dates back to around 1800. Outside was a stone house with a spring running through it that served as a refrigerator. There was also an old stockade on the property that serves as a smokehouse. In one room were murals painted depicting early scenes ...
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bits and Bites

Culinate is a terrific new food site. It's about food but also about where food comes from and the decisions we make about what to buy and what to eat. It manages to be credible but never preachy. Articles and reviews are often thought-provoking and their profiles tend to go beyond the surface. Lots of great writers and bloggers can be found there including some of my favorites like David Lebovitz, Derrick Schneider, Matthew Amster-Burton, Deborah Madison and more. Check it out, if you haven't already. Over on the KQED food blog is a really cool recipe for Tomato Melon Gazpacho . I know because I posted it! It's from an absolute gem of a book that I reviewed/swooned over, Mark Bittman's Quick & Easy Recipes from The New York Times . If you love "The Minimalist" column over at The New York Times, you will treasure this book. FOOD...
Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cooking with Amy goes Glam!

Did you know I'm a Glam girl? Ok, not really, but I did get to post a guest spot over at the Glam web site courtesy of Lifestyle Editor and Last Minute Party Girl author and contributor to magazines like Food & Wine , Bon Appetit and InStyle , Erika Lenkert. Since I am almost always misquoted in interviews I figured, why not set the record straight? I interviewed myself and the result is a cheat sheet to some of my favorite picks and places and a funny story to boot. You can read all about it over at GlamNest . FOOD...
Monday, June 18, 2007

Ratatouille: Movie Review

I was going to just relax and stay in this weekend, but a sneak preview of Ratatouille lured me out of my lair. Set in Paris, it's the story of a talented rat with great ambitions. Because he appreciates fine food, he wants to leave the nest and become a chef. Remy the rat is guided by his visions of a famous chef and recipes he's read in a cookbook. As to be expected from a Pixar film, the animation is amazing and the level of detail will blow you away, but it was the culinary detail that won me over. It will come as no surprise that Thomas Keller and Anthony Bourdain both acted as consultants on the film. The details of the kitchen brigade, the kitchen personalities and even the cooking itself is a joy to watch. Check out the enamel stoves, the use of rasp style graters and the walk in fridge! Overblown celebrity chefs, kitchen sexism, food critics and even health inspectors are all skewered. This is the least "kid-oriented" of the Pixar films, and if the sne...
Saturday, June 16, 2007

StarChefs come to town

Have you been to the StarChefs web site lately? If not, you might want to take a look. It's a site devoted to culinary professionals, but there is a lot the non-professional can learn from lurking too. In addition to recipes from restaurant chefs, there are some interesting articles. I particularly liked browsing through some local chef recommendations for where to eat in San Francisco. The "Food Lover's Section" has several other cities covered too such as Barcelona, Chicago and Seattle. Here's a link to the complete article index where you will find chef techniques like how to transform fats into powders and how to make fizzy tomatoes, articles on ingredients from Apples to White Truffles and food debates over issues like Foie Gras and Future Food... On Tuesday StarChefs is holding their Rising Stars Revue with a roster of amazing local chefs and an exciting tasting menu--the twist is that many of the recipes have been made available online. Whether y...
Thursday, June 14, 2007

Table: Restaurant Review

Finding great restaurants on short notice is always a challenge. Before I came to Asheville, North Carolina, I read as many restaurant reviews as I could. When I got here, I asked folks where they like to eat and several places were mentioned time and again. My goal was to get a sense of the restaurant scene here, but also experience some real stand out cuisine that reflected a sense of place, with a strong point of view. Asheville restaurants are eclectic to say the least, you can find sushi, pizza, Indian, French, Spanish, German, Mexican and more. But upscale dining with truly local roots is still limited to just a handful of places. One restaurant that seemed to be flying just below the radar? Table . Though they describe their cuisine as "market-driven seasonal New American" the chefs at Table are cooking in the French tradition, with a great respect for Southern and Mountain food. What does that mean? Dishes like line-caught red fish, roasted baby fennel, chiogga bee...
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spinning Spider Creamery

www. flick r .com You hear about small family farms all the time, but when was the last time you visited one? Today I visited with Chris Owen and her son Cullen at the Spinning Spider Creamery . They showed me around and I learned what it's like to raise goats. This is seriously a family farm, because all of the family members including three school age sons work hard to feed, milk and care for the goats and make and sell cheese. This is often a 24 hour a day responsibility. The Owen's have a herd of 55 of the sweetest most affectionate Saanen and Alpine goats. Each one has a name and distinct personality. They even have "show goats". Just spending a little bit of time with the goats, you can easily see why the family loves them so much. They also love goat cheese and create many different styles from fresh chevre to aged cheddar, feta, blue and more. My favorite was the tangy crottin but I understand why the chevre with fig, honey, pepper and rosemary is the most p...
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Asheville First Impressions

A few years back my mom told me I would love Asheville, North Carolina. So when the kindly folks in Asheville invited food bloggers to town, I cleared my schedule and got on a plane. Driving in from the airport the sight of lush green slopes and a rushing river lulled me into relaxation. Maybe I could find the mountains as appealing as the ocean...? So far I've found that the town itself is funky and fun and has a small scale that makes it feel accessible and friendly. Discovering glimpses of art deco architecture at every turn is a pleasure and so is the sense of culture here. Food, crafts and even the bluegrass performers playing on the street all seem tied to region in a way that is in harmony with the surroundings. After only three meals, my greatest regret is that clearly, I will not have enough meals in Asheville! The cuisine here is eclectic, but there are some real standouts using local products--fresh trout, stone ground grits, sweet potato salad, goat cheeses and more. I...
Monday, June 11, 2007

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies: Recipe

No one likes airplane food. The best solution is clearly to bring your own eats. So what snacks do you bring on the plane? That's the question that was posed by Epicurious editor/blogger Tanya Steel a few weeks back, prior to her travels. Suggestions were made for granola, chili coated dried mango, cereal bars, deli sandwiches, beef jerky and more. But it was this comment "I will be staying in hotels, so I can't even pack a PB&J!" by Tanya that got me thinking. How about a cookie that tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? The first batch I tried was too sweet but the second one was just right. These cookies aren't very sweet, so you get a hit of sweetness from the jelly or in this case, strawberry preserves. They are fairly healthy and great with a glass of milk, of course. The basic recipe is an adaptation of the peanut butter cookie in Jane Brody's fabulous Good Food Book . Just a couple of these really satisfy, but bring more for your seat...
Friday, June 08, 2007

A Sweet Suite Story

Once upon a time a guy wanted to propose to his gal. He decided a romantic trip to San Francisco would be just the ticket. He talked to the folks at the front desk of the hip Hotel Triton and they mentioned that he might want to consider checking out the new "Sweet Suite" designed by Marsh & Clark Design and sponsored by Haagen-Dazs . In it, they explained, there would be a freezer full of ice cream, luscious creamy interior and accessories all designed to extend the feelings of satisfaction that come from eating, well, ice cream. Even the throw blanket was designed to replicate the texture of a waffle cone. To sweeten the deal, in addition to enjoying complimentary pints of Haagen-Dazs in their room, they could purchase custom Haagen-Dazs bathrobes and ice cream scented candles, with all proceeds benefiting Delancey Street Foundation (plus, a portion of their Sweet Suite guest tab would be donated to Delancy Street as well). It turns out in addition to loving her ...
Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Did you get it?

Just a quick note to say the monthly email newsletter went out today. If you didn't get it, feel free to sign up for it and I'll send you a copy. It is a double opt-in system, so after you sign up you'll be asked to confirm your subscription. In other words, if you don't confirm, you are not subscribed. The newsletter provides links to some posts from the prior month, a sneak peek at what's coming up as well as some links to sites I think you'll like. This month I share my thoughts about why June is my favorite month. Thanks again for visiting and staying in touch!...

Slow Food and all that jazz

The brouhaha over the remarks by Carlo Petrini about the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market lead me to post something that unfortunately lead to some bad feelings and misunderstandings. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to clarify my own positions, once and for all. Slow Food It's a movement and a philosophy that was born in response to a McDonald's being opened in Rome. In general I agree with founder Carlo Petrini's manifesto as outlined in Slow Food: A Case for Taste . I do think we should preserve traditional foodways, and fully support the idea to "rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food." On a local level I wish there were more Slow Food events that were accessible to as many people as possible, not only people with considerable disposable income. But I understand an organization tries to raise money with high ticket fundraisers in order to grow and to raise awareness and that's ok with...
Monday, June 04, 2007

Inside the Kitchen--Treasures of Asia: Far East to West

Just a few weeks ago I ate dinner at Poleng Lounge . It's in an unlikely location near the Panhandle in San Francisco and while part of the restaurant is a nightclub, the food is definitely not an afterthought. Forget about "fusion" chef Tim Luym seeks out unusual ingredients and uses traditional techniques in an effort to stay true to the cultures of Asia. The menu has dishes that span the region from Hawaii to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, the Philippines, India, China and more. Little plates feature small plate portions of salads, dumplings, satays, and samosas to nibble and share. So when I heard that the first of the Summer series Inside the Kitchen class at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay was going to be given by Tim Luym I jumped at the chance to attend. I was not disappointed. Inside the Kitchen classes are typically demonstration style in rooms with stunning views so you never forget where you are. Little tastes of every dish prepared are served and ther...
Friday, June 01, 2007

Try it, you'll like it!

This Saturday June 2nd Cheese Plus is having an anniversay event. Stop by between 3 and 7 pm and taste local goodies I love like CMB Sweets jam , McQuade's Chutney and Charles Chocolates . In fact, I will be the one sampling my friend Alison's fabulous chutney that I've been raving about forever. Alison is busy with another gig and I offered to lend a hand. Most importantly, this is your chance to see if you like it before buying it. Should you happen to buy some McQuade's Chutney between 3 and 7pm which is when I will be there , I have a special incentive. I will be giving away goodies from my vast collection of crap treasures. Purchase a jar, show me the receipt and say the not-so-secret phrase "Cooking with Amy" and pick something from the grab bag, while supplies last. You could end up with a book, a knife sharpener, a deluxe vegetable peeler, a wine chiller, an apron, who knows! Even if you can't stand chutney, stop by and say hi anyway. Als...