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Friday, December 31, 2010

Potluck Posts 12/31

December started out chilly with a quick weekend in Montreal and ended back in San Francisco after a glorious week on Oahu . There was lots of good food in both places, stay tuned for more details! Some of my favorite posts on the Epicurious blog were about cognac and brilliant (non-alcoholic) bubbly beverages . I also ran an interview with Elizabeth Andoh , author of the gorgeous book Kansha . One of my more popular posts was my best tips for making macaroni and cheese . Speaking of tips, my somewhat controversial post on travel tips ran on Between Bites, there was also Dorie Greenspan's shopping guide to Paris (you'll want to bookmark it for your next trip!). Last but not least I also had a piece about the sweet treats you can eat in Louisville. Finally I have some big news to share, as of January I will be the San Francisco editor of BlackboardEats.com . I hope you will poke around the site and sign up for great restaurant deals in Los Angeles, New York or San ...
Sunday, December 26, 2010

2011 Food & Dining Trends

I love reading trend reports and like a horoscope I scan to see what I agree with and what I don't. I hope you enjoy my predictions for what and how we will be eating and drinking in 2011! Agree or disagree, let me know your predictions and opinions in the comments section. 1. Farmers and other producers are stepping further into the limelight as we grow weary of celebrity chefs. Did I just say that? Without naming any names, let's just say some chefs seem a bit overexposed. Lots of cookbooks in 2010 featured farmers, farms and locally grown produce. Farmers markets and eating local continued to grow in popularity as people discovered how good truly fresh produce tastes. Some of the best cookbooks featuring farmers this year were Growing Roots: The New Generation of Sustainable Farmers, Cooks, and Food Activists , Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods , Eating Local:The Cookbook Inspired by America's Farmers and my favorite, Harvest to Heat: Cooking with America'...
Monday, December 20, 2010

Tea-infused Hot Cocoa Recipe

I'm not much of a coffee drinker but I love hot chocolate and I love tea. I enjoy the richness of hot chocolate, but sometimes it's a bit too much. I certainly couldn't drink it everyday. I have tried quite a few chocolate flavored teas and while some of them are pretty good, I've discovered a more satisfying solution. I make hot cocoa with equal parts tea and milk. On the surface this might seem like a weird thing to do, combining cocoa and tea but it's really quite delicious. I learned from chocolate authority Alice Medrich that the fat in dairy products coats your tongue so the flavor of chocolate is sometimes muted in very creamy preparations. She said you can make cocoa with hot water, but I have found that tea provides an amazing addition of flavor. I like a little bit of milk to add some texture. The result is a beverage that is richer and more viscous than tea and milk, but not quite as cloying as hot cocoa can be. In the Winter, I could drink it just ab...
Saturday, December 18, 2010

Top Cookbooks 2010: Sweets & Special Interests

When it comes to cookbooks, there is one for just about everyone. There are also certain categories like baking and pastry where it is impossible to pick just one. SWEETS Baking is not easy, but some cookbook authors explain it effortlessly. At first I was going to call this section "bakers" but it's really more than that. These are books for anyone who appreciates sweets. Even non-bakers will find something to love. Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunch Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies Alice Medrich is a goddess of baking and chocolate. She is like a perfectionist, scientist and genius pastry chef all rolled into one. Her recipes are simply marvels. In this book Medrich works with different flours, and often scales back the sugar and fat so flavors really shine. Bookmarked recipes: Wheat-free toffee bars, Breakfast biscotti, Pebbly beach fruit squares Why? Because these are not just your standard run-of-the-mill cookies. There are lots of originals you won't find elsewhere ...
Friday, December 17, 2010

Top Cookbooks 2010: Basics & Behemoths

It's always tough to choose which cookbooks to recommend from the myriad published each year. Today I'm going to share with you the books I think are particularly worthwhile in two categories, basics and behemoths. Next I'll cover sweets and special interests... BASICS Ah the basics! This year lots of cookbook authors were returning to simpler recipes. I think it's safe to say that at least some of the time new cooks as well as experienced ones want recipes that are tasty and yet not necessarily time-consuming. Harvest to Heat There were a lot of "farm to table" cookbooks this year, but this is the only one I am keeping. It balances the voice of farmers, chefs and artisans. The book is filled with contemporary American recipes that are genuinely appealing and unique. Bookmarked recipes: Angel hair pasta with oyster butter cream sauce and caviar, Creme fraiche galette with heirloom tomatoes, Goat cheese panna cotta with caramelized figs Why? I always...
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010 Foodie Holiday Gift Guide

Every year I fuss and fret over whether or not I should do a holiday shopping post. This year it seems people have saved more, paid off their debts and are ready to spend. As a food writer and blogger I regularly receive unsolicited samples and review units. Some things I send back, others I give away. Not much really makes the cut. If you are one of those people who is ready to splurge, here are the items I treasure most. Buy something special for someone you love, or better yet, for yourself. I got a variety of plates when I got married. While I love my vintage Wedgwood, I was disappointed in my everyday china from Crate & Barrel. After a couple of years it was discontinued and after 9 years my set was chipped, faded and ugly, so I got rid of it. What I replaced it with is lovely Villeroy & Boch porcelain dinnerware that I can use in the microwave, dishwasher (if only I had a dishwasher!) and at low temperatures in the oven. It is sturdy, beautiful and I love how well ...
Tuesday, December 14, 2010

1500 Degrees at Eden Roc in Miami

Photo credit:Brett Hufziger If you are looking for a kind of late 50's early 60's glamour, it's hard to beat Eden Roc Resort, Miami , on the upper "Golden Mile" of Miami Beach. Though just a short cab ride, it feels a world away from the thumpety-thump of South Beach where the party scene is inescapable. The $200 million renovation has the place feeling fresh and modern with a cool and shimmery color palate and nods to a time when it was the resort of choice with entertainers like Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Lena Horne, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr and Elizabeth Taylor. The property has multiple pools, a great view of the ocean but not a lot of choices when it comes to dining. Fortunately I found the new restaurant on property, 1500 Degrees , to be absolutely wonderful. Hell's Kitchen fans will recognize the name of the chef, Paula DaSilva, a past contestant who was named one of the "Top 40 under 40" by Gold Coast magazine and "Best Celebrity ...
Monday, December 13, 2010

Why do YOU cook, Aleta Watson?

San Jose Mercury News readers will surely recognize the name Aleta Watson . Aleta is an award-winning reporter and restaurant reviewer who was on staff there for quite a while. I'm always curious about what restaurant reviewers choose to cook at home. Thankfully Aleta has a gorgeous blog, Skillet Chronicles , that satisfies my curiosity while inspiring my own creativity. It turns out Aleta cooks the way I do and the same things that appeal to her generally appeal to me too. She is also a proponent of the joy one finds in the kitchen! Can I get an "amen"? If you enjoy my blog, I'm confident you will enjoy discovering hers too. "The salty tang of preserved lemon in a chicken tagine. The deep savor of slow-cooked cassoulet. The sweet satisfaction of Sicilian cookies stuffed with ground figs and nuts. I cook because I’m a curious eater. I love to taste new foods, explore unfamiliar cooking techniques and share my finds. When I was growing up, our family meals lea...
Friday, December 10, 2010

La Cocina Gift Fair is Today!

La Cocina is hosting a holiday gift fair where you will have a chance to try and buy lots of wonderful things from participants in their food business incubator program and other local entrepreneurs. Some of my favorites not to miss are Clairesquares for chocolate covered crunchy "flapjack" oat bars, Kika’s Treats for chocolate covered caramelized graham crackers, Love and Hum­mus Co for delectable organic hummus, Sajen for spicy and healthy Indone­sian drinks. In addition, Marcia Gagliardi will be there signing copies of her terrific book, The Tablehopper's Guide to Dining and Drinking in San Francisco . In my experience, food gifts are some the most appreciated gifts of all. In this case you'll also be supporting low-income entrepreneurs in our community and helping turn them into successful business owners. Where: Mis­sion Cul­tural Cen­ter for Latino Arts 2868 Mission Street between 24th and 25th St., San Francisco When: Fri­day, Decem­ber 10th, ...
Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cheese and Cheesemakers of Wisconsin

Wisconsin is not just dairy country, but cheese country. In fact 90% of the milk Wisconsin produces goes into cheese. The state took home more awards than any other at this years American Cheese Society conference. License plates in Wisconsin don't really say "Eat Cheese or Die" but they might as well! While I was a guest on a recent tour of Wisconsin, I did spend my own cold hard cash to buy cheese from some of my favorite cheesemakers. Here are just a few of those I met, and a rundown of what I bought from them. I met Tony Hook of Hook's Cheese at the Dane Country Farmer's Market. Tony has a sparkle in his eye and gave me a Cheshire cat grin when I asked too many nosy questions about how he makes his cheese. He makes an amazing number of very fine aged cheddar and blue cheeses. I adore his washed rind Tilston Point Blue, named after Stilton. It's rich and creamy and has a terrific bite. The texture is crumbly but it can be sliced. I also think it is...
Thursday, December 02, 2010

Potluck Posts 12/2

Since my last post I've been to Miami where I snacked on a fabulous medianoche sandwich . I made appetizers and Emily Luchetti's Cranberry Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake for Thanksgiving and am now heading off again, this time to Montreal for the weekend. Over on the Frommer's website, on the Amy & Amy Between Bites blog you'll find a post that features an interview with Dorie Greenspan . I got her thoughts on cooking at home and in Paris and bunch of great recommendations plus a recipe. You'll also find an interview with Vanessa Barrington where she shares tips for making food to take when you travel, plus a recipe from her book, DIY Delicious. On the Epicurious blog, EpiLog are posts on intriguing flavor combinations. Read about the combination of Peppermint & Mocha , Pecans & Pumpkin Pie Spice , including a recipe for roasted pumpkin pie spice pecans, Cranberries & Camembert , and a post on Savory Oatmeal ideas . Next week I hope to hav...
Monday, November 22, 2010

Why do YOU bake, Irvin Lin?

While Irvin Lin is a relative newcomer to food blogging, having launched Eat the Love earlier this year, he has quickly been embraced by bakers, cooks and food lovers. He's extremely talented as a baker, having won various competitions, including the Food Wars :Pie or Die, also this year. Lin does it all with a sense of joy and humor that is positively delicious. "There is something slightly schizophrenic about being a home baker. It’s a soothing zen-like solitary experience where precision measurements are needed to ensure a perfect end result. It’s a bit magical, when you put that batter or dough into the oven, at the correct temperature, and it comes out a baked good, something worthy of sharing with the people you love. Baking may be a lot of science (as well as a lot of art – don’t let anyone tell you any differently) but it’s also a magic that everyone can access. Few things in life create the warm happy feeling I get when I smell something baking in the oven. But bakin...
Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Today's Special Movie Review

Today's Special opens up in theaters around the US tomorrow. I got a chance to see a preview of it a few months ago at the International Food Blogger Conference and found it to be utterly charming, funny, and a bit of a tearjerker at times. You may recognize the lead actor Aasif Mandvi from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. You will certainly recognize cookbook author and actress, Madhur Jaffrey. She's great in the role of the mother of the central character, a chef in the midst of professional and personal crises. I don't want to give away too many of the details, but the movie is about a chef, Samir, who impulsively quits his job, is pressed into service at his family's restaurant, finds his cooking mojo and of course, the approach to food is really an approach to life. I was disappointed that the filmmaker did not accept Madhur Jaffrey's offer to help with the food scenes, because some of them lack authenticity. It's a shame, because in every other wa...
Monday, November 15, 2010

Meet Chef Gopinathan of Campton Place

Campton Place the restaurant at Campton Place Taj Hotel San Francisco has an illustrious history. Many celebrated chefs have passed through the kitchen including Laurent Manrique, Jan Birnbaum, Bradley Ogden, Daniel Humm, Todd Humphries and Peter Rudolph. The restaurant added an Indian flair to the menu when the Taj took over the hotel and Executive Chef Sri Gopinathan took the helm. The restaurant has flown a bit under the radar for the last few years, but now it's back in the spotlight. Michelin just awarded Campton Place a star in their 2011 guide. Chef Sri Gopinathan hails from Southern India, trained at the CIA Hyde Park and apprenticed in the kitchen of Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones at the famed Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, in Oxford, England, a Michelin 2 star restaurant. Since Campton Place is sure to be on the list for local and visiting foodies, I checked in with the chef to learn more about him and his cooking. How would you describe your food? My style of cooking...
Thursday, November 11, 2010

Meat Cookbooks

Vegetarians, avert your eyes, now! This year there are several cookbooks dedicated to cooking meat. If you are like me, you are eating less meat, but being more particular about what you consume. I no longer buy meat at the supermarket. I am too haunted by images of factory farming. But I am still eating meat and while it makes up less of the plate, the few days a week I do cook it, I want it to be as deliciously satisfying as possible. Each of the following books are written by James Beard award-winners who know their stuff. Their recipes work, their writing is clear and their knowledge unassailable. James Peterson is an experienced cooking teacher, he not only knows how to cook, but knows how to explain it clearly to just about anyone. Meat , A Kitchen Education is his latest book. All kinds of cooking methods are covered in it and it's worth pointing out his book includes chicken, turkey and fowl. Step-by-step photos show how to carve, make dishes like salt pork and veal cho...
Monday, November 08, 2010

Winter Cobb Salad:Recipe

Last year I had the pleasure of having breakfast with Michael Symon at a demo that he did at Williams-Sonoma. From recipes in his cookbook, Michael Symon's Live to Cook , he made creamy scrambled eggs with goat cheese, potato pancakes and of course, plenty of bacon. Michael Symon loves bacon, it features prominently in many of his recipes. The next best thing to eating Michael Symon's food, is seeing him cook, so you can replicate his recipes at home. Right now you can see a number of videos with Michael Symon at EatWisconsinCheese.com , where he demonstrates some very interesting techniques. For example, he makes gnocchi that is cooked in a pan, with no need to parboil. I'm always looking for more salad recipes and I like his version with arugula, apples, radishes and Wisconsin blue cheese. Symon's salad is a side dish, but with just a couple more additions, it actually makes a great main dish. To the salad I added crunchy jicama, creamy avocado, toasted walnuts ...
Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Why do YOU cook, Dianne Jacob?

If you are a food blogger or an aspiring food writer, there is a good chance you know Dianne Jacob , author of Will Write for Food : The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More, now in it's second edition. She's an editor, a writer, a teacher, a cook and a coach. She has helped countless people get book deals and polished their writing. After meeting her at a book signing years ago, we've gotten to be friends and I've been lucky enough to share the stage with her at various conferences. In addition to Will Write for Food she co-wrote Grilled Pizzas and Piadinas , and past work experience includes both newspaper and magazine editing. Her popular and provocative blog addresses food writing and blogging issues, but it doesn't answer the question--why does Dianne cook? So, I'm happy to give her that opportunity here. "I’m a storyteller first, not a chef. As far as cooking goes, I’m just an enthusiastic home cook who makes fo...
Monday, November 01, 2010

Tea at the Laurel Court

There are three things I feel are necessary when it comes to afternoon tea and the beautiful Laurel Court restaurant at the Fairmont Hotel San Francisco atop Nob Hill excels at each. The first is the tea itself. It should be very high quality. It should be loose leaf, not served from tea bags! The service should be attentive and never rushed because tea is meant to be leisurely and relaxed. Finally there should be abundant food. It's funny how the meal is named after a beverage but it often features three separate courses of food. Generally served on tiered trays, there are finger sandwiches, scones with cream and finally pastries, often petit fours. The Laurel Court is a posh room under three domes, decorated with painted murals, columns, and surrounded by cozy loveseats. The room was restored in 2000, and it's a treat just to spend time there, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Because afternoon tea is a bit of a luxury (at the Laurel Court it is $36) the...
Friday, October 29, 2010

Potluck Posts 10/28

I'm getting ready to hit the road again, with a couple of trips in November. First I'll be in Napa for the Worlds of Flavor: Japan conference then I'll be going on my first cruise and adding on a couple of days in Miami. The photo above is from my most recent trip to Wisconsin. If you enjoyed my post here on Switzerland, check out my longer Frommer's report on Appenzell , a lovely region not far from Zurich. I've shared a few culinary highlights of the region, it's definitely worth a visit. On Epicurious, my most recent posts are about sweet piquante peppers , you might know them as peppadews. There's another post with an updated list of my favorite foodie newsletters , all are free and good reads. I explored the flavor combination of zucchini, thyme and lemon . The comments on my post were great. I loved the suggestion to make a lemon pound cake with lemon and thyme sugar glaze. Next week on Cooking with Amy you'll find another post in the ser...