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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Perfect Fruit: Book Review

Have you ever noticed how the perfect fruit demands your attention? A run of the mill apple or banana is fine, benign even. But really spectacular fruit grabs you and doesn't let go. I hope everyone has the amazing experience of fresh, intensely flavored, sensual and almost overwhelming experience some day that Chip Brantley had when he first tasted a pluot. It changed his life. No kidding. The Perfect Fruit is his personal and journalistic investigation of this relatively recent stone fruit. Barely into the first chapter I found myself inexplicably drawn to a local farmers market where I found the aptly named "flavor king." You have to admit, it is an awfully beautiful looking fruit. It tasted even better. Sweet, tangy, juicy, floral and complex. The season for pluots is pretty much now over, but if you want to read a book about a most unlikely subject that will draw you in, much like a piece of perfect fruit, I wholeheartedly recommend The Perfect Fruit . Brant...
Monday, October 26, 2009

Why do YOU cook, Guy Prince?

Guy Prince is a man with focus. He grills and he smokes and coaxes the best out of food in his own unmistakeable way. Who else would serve squares of bacon as an appetizer at a picnic? There is no mistaking the man, his food or his writing. He's also a true gentleman who never passes up the opportunity to help anyone with their smoking, grilling or meaty dilemmas. His blog is Meathenge and his stunning carnivorous photos will make you insanely hungry. "Excellent question. For me, when I was a lot younger I found that I could cook better tasting food at home. And since I live and grew up in California, I could sure as hell out grill or out smoke any my local BBQ joints. The deal was sealed."...
Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hodo Soy Beanery Factory Tour

Last week I got a sneak peek at the Hodo Soy Beanery factory in Oakland. I learned how tofu, soy milk and yuba (tofu skin) is made and my ability to eat store bought tofu was ruined forever. I am not a tofu hater. I like it. I don't find it bland, but mild, and I love the way it picks up the flavor of whatever else is in the pot or pan. I even like the Japanese style of serving cold cubes of tofu topped with a little grated ginger, soy sauce and scallions. Hodo Soy founder Minh Tsai likes tofu too. But he missed the fresh tofu he ate in Vietnam where he grew up. He experimented making it and his creations were a big success. Today he sells to high end restaurants like Greens , Slanted Door and Coi . Tsai explained at first restaurants used his products for staff meals but quickly it migrated on to menus. Soon his tofu will be at retail outlets and in December you can visit the factory and see it being made too. It's not a very complicated process, though much of the pro...
Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloween Chocolate: Michael Recchiuti

Have you noticed that Halloween has become a major commercial holiday? I'd complain except that I am completely beguiled by the marvelous creations in the October edition of Martha Stewart Living magazine. I actually got a sneak peek at the photos for this issue when I was in New York last year. That chocolate cake with the green snake has been haunting me ever since! If I need one more thing to put me in the Halloween spirit it's this, Michael Recchiuti's adorable Jack o'Lantern decorated Halloween motif chocolates . They are filled with burnt caramel, one of the most popular flavors. A box of eight chocolate confections is $19. Any excuse is just fine to indulge in Recchiuti chocolates and these little sweets are more cute than creepy. But treat yourself soon, they are available only until October 31. Burnt caramel is something Michael Recchiuti clearly enjoys playing with, it ends up as a sauce , coating nuts , and even in ice cream . It really is the flavor of...
Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why do YOU cook, Susan Russo?

In a very short time Susan of the blog Food Blogga has established herself in the food blogging constellation. From the very beginning she reached out to her readers and other bloggers which is how I got to know her. Her breezy honest writing style and solid recipe writing skills has gained her a following not just on her blog but at NPR where she writes for Kitchen Window . Susan doesn't just share recipes but also family stories. Italian American to the core, her perspective spans her youth in New England and current life in San Diego. Next year, look forward to seeing not just one, but two cookbooks she is writing for Quirk Books. "Why do I cook? I could say because I’m endlessly fascinated with San Diego’s local produce (which I am), or because I like to eat healthfully (which I do). But the real reason I cook, the reason I’m drawn to the kitchen day after day is because it’s where I’m the happiest. I have my mom to thank for that. I grew up in an Italian-American fam...
Monday, October 12, 2009

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Apples & Walnuts Recipe

This brussels sprout salad recipe is perfect for lovers and haters of the little cabbage-looking sprout. The flavor is so mild, that it barely has any cabbage flavor. Because the brussels sprouts are shredded, guests might not even know they are the basis for the dish. Sweet apples and toasted nuts add complexity and crunch. It's a nice balance of sweet, salty, crunchy, tangy with just a touch of richness from the walnuts and the oil. Brussels sprout slaw is yet another recipe that was created out of "whatever was in the house." I will admit, laziness that keeps me from going to the store in turn inspires new recipes on a regular basis. In this case I had one apple and a bag of brussels sprouts. Back from a weekend out of town, I had no desire to go shopping. My original plan was to roast or saute them, but raw was a refreshing change from the expected. You could probably slice the brussels sprouts very thinly with a knife, but it's much easier to do in a food pro...
Thursday, October 08, 2009

Goodbye, Gourmet

I am definitely going through the five stages of grief. I could not believe the news on Monday that Gourmet was closing--denial. I quickly became angry. How dare they! Don't they know how important that magazine is? Bargaining came next. Why didn't they sell the magazine? Go to quarterly issues? Charge more for subscriptions? I wanted to find any way possible to save it. Right now I'm firmly in depression. I'm just so sad to see a magazine that provoked, inspired, educated and entertained for so long go away. It's not the end of the world, but it feels devastating, as if an old dear friend has slipped away without even a chance to say goodbye. I didn't always agree with the editorial or art direction but I always appreciated it and I never dreamed it would disappear. Visiting the Gourmet offices last year and the test kitchens was an experience I will treasure forever. It made me appreciate all that went into the magazine even more than I had before. At some po...
Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Why do YOU cook, Kamran Siddiqi?

Photo credit: Kamran Siddiqi Kamran Siddiqi is unlike any food blogger I know. It's not because his blog The Sophisticated Gourmet is beautifully designed with gorgeous photos and an infectious enthusiasm, it's because at 17 he has that appealing confidence that comes with youth. Anyone who thinks teenagers are unfocused, rude and living only in their own world, clearly hasn't encountered Kamran or his blog. "Recipes meander through my head during every minute of every day. As a child, I was always in the kitchen where I would watch my parents, grandparents, and other family members create masterpieces. It was always exhilarating to hear the knife against the cutting board, pots and pans clacking, and spoons tapping against the sides of things. Who knew that these unintentional symphonies could create such amazing dishes? Sure, we all cook and eat to fill our stomachs, but as years go by, for most of us cooks, cooking, baking, and eating (and anything else that has t...
Monday, October 05, 2009

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew instant coffee & giveaway

I got a chance to try "VIA Ready Brew" coffee last week, and perhaps you tried it too over the weekend when Starbucks was offering taste tests in their stores*. It was the best instant coffee I've ever tasted, and it was certainly the most expensive instant coffee I ever tasted, at about $1 per serving. VIA is being sold in a 12 pack for $9.95 and a 3 pack for $2.95. Starbucks doesn't want you to stop drinking their fresh brewed coffee, they want you to take VIA everywhere you can't get their fresh brewed coffee. For people who drink good coffee everyday, this might be an acceptable option when camping, traveling, or for making iced coffee in a hurry, since it dissolves in hot or cold water. The story behind Starbucks VIA instant coffee is interesting. The late Don Valencia was a cell biologist who developed a technique for freeze-drying cells for examination under the microscope. In the early 1990's Starbucks hired him to head up research and developm...
Friday, October 02, 2009

Why do YOU cook, Matthew Amster-Burton?

Photo credit: Lara Ferroni Matthew Amster-Burton doesn't post photos and doesn't blog all that often, but his writing at Roots and Grubs is enlightening, honest and often very funny. He's a dad who cooks which is somewhat rare in the food blogging world. In addition to his blog he wrote the laugh-out-loud funny book Hungry Monkey and you can frequently find his writing online at Gourmet , Culinate , and the Seattle Times . His writing has also been featured in various editions of the annual anthology, Best Food Writing . "I cook because I like chopping vegetables. Because my family appreciates it. Because my kitchen was the only place in my neighborhood to get a Korean taco until, inevitably, a Korean taco truck arrived. Because nobody minds if I drink beer while I do it. Because I like playing with gadgets and shiny objects. Because a new favorite dinner is worth a dozen unsuccessful attempts."...
Thursday, October 01, 2009

McQuade's Celtic Chutney Tasting

I love the idea of 18 Reasons . It's space where people can connect with artists, food producers and learn about food. I keep eyeing butchering classes, but there are also coffee roasting classes, cheese and beer pairing classes, the lineup changes all the time with many intriguing options. If you plan on attending often, you'll want to become a member because you get a stack of gift cards to Mission favorites like Bi-Rite Creamery and Tartine Bakery in addition to discounts on everything they do. Tonight for a mere donation of $10 (or $5 for members) you can taste McQuade's Celtic Chutney with various cheeses, paired with riesling. I always say Alison's chutney is for chutney haters because it is nothing like the glop you get at the supermarket. It's fresh chunky and always with a hit of spice and tang. Current tongue tingling varieties include Plum & Black Pepper, Fig & Ginger, Habanero, and Pineapple Red Chili. I met Alison years ago and interv...