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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Bitter Orange Marmalade Recipe

You know how sometimes a whole crop of citrus is destroyed due to frost or unseasonably cold weather? If my mom had her way, none of that fruit would go to waste. My mother is the queen of finding a use for everything. I suppose it's a kind of variation on turning lemons into lemonade or utilitarianism. Sadly her amazingly prolific orange tree took quite a hit this year. And while she questions if the tree will survive, she went ahead and harvested the seemingly inedible fruit and made absolutely delicious marmalade out of it. She may not have actual Seville oranges, but she certainly has a solution for unripe oranges. Their tangy sour bite is mellowed in the marmalade but brightens up your morning English muffin, toast or scone. My mom's recipe came from the Complete American Jewish Cookbook , a book I don't have, but she made a few changes to it. I'd never made marmalade before, but having a recipe that didn't require pectin and processing jars made me game t...
Monday, January 28, 2008

Epic Roasthouse & Waterbar Opening Party

Last night's party at Pat Kuleto's two new restaurants along the Embarcadero was more like a New Year's Eve party than a typical restaurant opening. For one thing, the party was for two restaurants, not just one. Epic Roasthouse is headed up by chef Jan Birnbaum and is his contemporary take on a steak house, but I suspect there will be a lot more on the menu than beef. Waterbar its next door neighbor is a seafood restaurant with spectacular views and live fish tanks. Chef Mark Franz is co-owner and Parke Ulrich is executive chef. For starters, the party began at 4 pm and roughly around 6 pm the two restaurants and a tented piazza in between was at capacity and a line began to form. Waiters headed out in the rain to serve nibbles to the estimated 250 people waiting to get in. Local chefs including Roland Passot, Joanne Weir and Joey Altman were there, as were two past "villainous" Top Chef competitors. For those who follow the TV show I can say that in perso...
Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hotel Chocolat Contest

Waiting until the last minute to buy cheap chocolates and flowers is not very romantic. Plan ahead and win more than affection, win luxury chocolate! This Valentine's Day a heartfelt story will win a prize . If you can romance the judges, you could win a collection of Valentine's Day chocolates from Hotel Chocolat . In fact, at least one person who enters the Hotel Chocolat contest, using this link , is guaranteed to win. To enter, explain in 200 words or less why Hotel Chocolat should surprise your loved one with a luxury chocolate gift. Dig deep and tell a moving tale, as the most compelling entry will win! And it can be a funny story, an inspiring story, a beautiful story, or even a romantic story. The competition closes on February 8th, 2008 and entries will appear live on the Hotel Chocolat site. Don't forget, at least one Cooking with Amy entrant will win! To see what Hotel Chocolat has on offer, take a look here . I'll let you know what my favorite chocola...
Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Super Bowl Onion Dip: Recipe

What I consider "a super bowl" is not THE Super Bowl. It's a sophisticated little serving dish from Villeroy and Boch that's perfect for serving onion dip. I'm of the opinion you can never have too many bowls. Perhaps there is a food stylist somewhere deep inside me, struggling to be free. Recently I had a creamy mushroom soup with chopped green beans and a topping of crispy onions. It was soup based on that classic, and in my opinion somewhat disgusting, Thanksgiving side dish, the green bean casserole. But the soup was delicious, proving some classics really are good if made with great ingredients. That was my idea for this dip which, coincidentally I served at Thanksgiving this year. But I think it would be great for that other major American holiday, Super Bowl Sunday. I basically increased the seasonings and onions in a dip recipe I found on the Whole Foods Market website , which has lots of great ideas, by the way. The dip is filled with onions, leeks ...
Friday, January 18, 2008

The Pineapple Room: Restaurant Review

The Pineapple Room is one of chef Alan Wong's restaurants in Hawaii and it's located in the Macy's at the Ala Moana shopping center. Here you can try some of Alan Wong's style of Hawaiian cuisine without spending as much as you might at some of his other fancier restaurants. At dinner, entrees are in the $20-30 range and are ridiculously huge. I had a green curry braised short rib that came with tomatoes, green beans and eggplant and so many enormous prawns, it was enough for dinner plus two lunches. I really enjoyed the stir-fried soy beans with garlic, chili peppers and soy sesame sauce. This is one of his signature dishes and was enough for the whole table. I inspired me to begin experimenting with a number of variations on this theme. Lee had a wonderful fish dish with a buttery sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds. My father made a meal out a few of starters including a goat cheese tart, a salad and French onion soup that had kahlua pork at the bottom of th...
Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Meet Alice Medrich at Charles Chocolates POSTPONED

Photo ©Abigail Huller Since the 1800's, the Bay Area has been a delicious environment for chocolate. Early on immigrants like Guittard and Ghirardelli made their fortunes not in gold, but in chocolate and their companies exist to this day. Our cool climate is particularly very well suited to making confections and I don't expect chocolate will ever be out of style. Great locally crafted chocolate came into my consciousness back in the late 70's and early 80's when Alice Medrich was selling her chocolate truffles and decadent chocolate cakes all over the Bay Area. Over the years her cookbooks have not only been a source of inspiration, but a showcase of innovative techniques and approaches to chocolate and other high quality ingredients. Her latest book, Pure Dessert was one of my favorite books of 2007. Not surprisingly she has also inspired many artisanal chocolatiers in the Bay Area. Come to a book signing tomorrow to meet Alice Medrich, hear her experience...
Monday, January 14, 2008

Sensible Foods: Favorite things

This won't come as any surprise to you I'm sure, but people are idiots. One day I experienced this first hand when I placed my laptop, which was inside a big backpack into the security machine at the airport. This was before the days of the trays. Out of the machine it came and on the back a big smear of mushed banana. Yes, the dork behind me had put his banana on the belt heading into the screening machine. Sigh. There are times you need to bring a snack with you on the road, and these days, into the sky. Finding healthy snacks is really not that hard to manage. Many fruits and all dried fruit don't need refrigeration and neither do nuts. Other decent snack options, in my opinion, are Asian treats like rice crackers and wasabi peas. Listening to Michael Pollan on Michael Pollan on National Public Radio recently I heard him talk about the price we are willing to pay for packaged, processed food. He pointed out these foods are expensive, unhealthy, and generally not...
Friday, January 11, 2008

Chinese Food in Hawaii

I guess it's the same everywhere. If you're not celebrating Christmas or going to a New Year's Eve party, one of your best bets for finding an open restaurant is Chinese food. In Hawaii I had two memorable Chinese meals this time around. One was at Little Village Noodle House and the other at Panda Cuisine (NOT Panda Express!). Both restaurants were attractive, had excellent food and were inexpensive to boot. They also each have parking, so there you go. At Little Village Noodle House the menu seems rather standard, but even the classic dishes are done well. The orange chicken we ordered for the kids was one of the best versions I've ever had. We ordered mostly from the specials menu which I highly recommend. The volcano pork chops were served from a tin foil pouch and were crispy and salty and studded with garlic. The hot pot dishes were rustic and hearty--one had lamb and the other pork and bitter melon. This is a fun place to go with a group and whether you are a...
Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hank's Haute Dogs Restaurant Review

Despite mixed reviews I was eager to try Hank's Haute Dogs . I rarely eat hot dogs at home, but on the road there is sometimes a special one that calls out to me like a Chicago style or in New York a Papaya King dog or a Nathan's frank in Brooklyn. The story of Hank's Haute Dogs is probably what sent me there even more than the dogs. Apparently the owner was a prominent restaurateur in Chicago before returning to Hawaii where his parents had run a hot dog stand in the 40's and 50's. His hot dogs range from the classic Chicago style to some unusual specials like reindeer dogs, duck and foie gras and even the no dog. The no dog is a bun with chunks of local avocado, tomato, onion, cucumber, spicy chipotle mayo, piled high with grated cheddar and garnished with cilantro. I had the Portuguese sausage which is commonly served in slices, as a breakfast side order, in Hawaii. It was topped with scrumptious melt-in-your-mouth grilled onions. If you are lucky, you can also g...
Monday, January 07, 2008

Cinnamon's Restaurant: Restaurant Review

Before I left for vacation I put out a call for restaurant recommendations. In the comments section I took particular notice of this entry: For a casual breakfast/brunch, check out Cinnamon's Restaurant in Kailua. I love the loco moco there. A few blocks away is Agnes' Bake Shop. The malasadas are the best, better than Leonard's! Have fun, I'm jealous you are in Oahu.
 Chuck Chuck, who by the way has a terrific food blog called Sunday Nite Supper , was right on the money. Ending up in Kailua around lunch time one day, I suggested we give the place a try. Cinnamon's is hidden away inside a business complex in Kailua which is on the east side of Oahu. The menu is extensive and serves breakfast well into the lunch hour, which pleases the proponents of "second breakfasts" in our group. The friendly waitress typified the kind of hospitality you find almost everywhere in Hawaii--making suggestions, giving us extra time to figure out what to order and chat...
Friday, January 04, 2008

BonBonBar: Favorite things

So on the day I vow to return to the gym there is a severe weather alert, bridges close, roofs and scaffolding blows into roadways as rain pours and winds approach 80 miles per hour. I dunno. Perhaps the universe is trying to tell me something? I'm pretty sure the message is "stay home and eat candy." I've been following the blog Sweet Napa for ages and have to admit I was taken with Nina's idea for creating really high quality candy bars and confections from the moment she shared it with her readers. Now many moons later her company, BonBonBar is a reality. The philosophy behind the company is to use fresh ingredients that are organic and local whenever possible, that chocolate should only mingle with equally spectacular ingredients, like butter, cream, California nuts, vanilla beans, and sea salt and to banish artificial ingredients, including high-fructose corn syrup. When Nina offered to send me some of her products I was thrilled. Of course my house wa...