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Monday, November 28, 2011

New & Notable Chocolate

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly chocolate." -- Debbie Moose Each holiday season there are new chocolates and I am first in line to try as many as I can. This year there were so many I packed them all up and took them to Thanksgiving dinner to let my friends and family try them too. Here are the highlights: I adore Kika's Treats . Kika is one of the most successful graduates of the La Cocina incubator program in San Francisco. Her caramelized graham crackers dipped in chocolate are unique and a wonderful melange of buttery toffee and rich chocolate. But her latest confection is equally compelling. Luscious caramels dipped in dark chocolate with a pinch of sea salt and a surprising twist. They are lightened up with the addition of puffed brown rice that gives them the perfect crunch. A 9-piece assortment is just $16 (and the box is absolutely adorable) Another local favorite confectioner, Michael Recchiuti is also known for his terrific caramel truffles wh...
Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is hand's down, my favorite holiday of the year. I think I even like it better than my birthday, which is really saying something. So here's why: 1. There is nothing you have to do on Thanksgiving, other than share a meal. There are no religious ceremonies or gift giving. You can say a prayer before eating or watch a parade or play football if you want, but you can also take a nap! It's all good. 2. It's inclusive. Anyone who is in America (or outside of America for that matter) can celebrate this holiday if they want to. It's not about race or religion or nationality, in fact, it's about welcoming and helping those who are newcomers and celebrating the harvest. 3. It's about comfort food. I hear a lot of people complaining about traditional Thanksgiving food, they say turkey is boring, pumpkin pie is heavy and stodgy. To them I say, it's comfort food, not fine dining. Get over it. Besides, this holiday is about sharing a meal with f...
Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bargain Shopping at Grocery Outlet

I love a good deal, so you'll frequently find me perusing the wares at garage sales, thrift shops and outlet stores (not to mention sale racks!). Bargain hunting might as well be called "treasure hunting," as far as I'm concerned. Nothing beats the thrill of finding a long out-of-print copy of Better Than Store Bought cookbook, a discarded Moulinex meat grinder, or Santander chocolate priced to move (all things I've scored). Actually, the thrill is in just the possibility of finding something, which is exactly why I like shopping at Grocery Outlet . Grocery Outlet buys closeouts and discontinued items so you never know what they will have. Unlike similar stores, they focus on quality brands and they have just about everything you'd find at a regular supermarket, including some organic produce. Sometimes you can figure it out why the product ended up there, because the size or the packaging gives it away. It might be something that was packaged for food s...
Monday, November 07, 2011

A Visit to Straus Creamery & Cowgirl Creamery

In the San Francisco Bay Area we are very lucky to have such incredible dairy products produced in our own backyard. Though many enjoy the milk from Straus Family Creamery and cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery very few have seen exactly where those products come from. Last week I got a chance to visit both, thanks to Cathy Strange , the Global Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market . While visiting California she took a small group of writers to visit both the dairy and the cheesemaking facility, at Tomales Bay and Petaluma. I learned what makes Albert Straus, Peggy Smith and Sue Conely such pioneers. Albert Straus is a second generation dairyman. He took over his parents farm which was established in 1941. He transformed what was a struggling conventional dairy and converted it to the first organic organic dairy West of the Mississippi River in 1994. Despite all the challenges of running a dairy farm today it is thriving. In moving forward, he embraced many of the practices from the...
Thursday, November 03, 2011

Favorite Foods of Hawaii

During the plantation era workers in Hawaii sat together at lunch and ate a bite of whatever their co-workers brought. It might have been adobo, fried rice or teriyaki. Call it potluck, Hawaii style. Trying new flavors has long been part of Hawaii's heritage and something you should do too when you visit. Trying local specialties and discovering new (and old under-the-radar) places in Hawaii is one of my favorite vacation activities. Everyone has their "must try" things to eat in Hawaii. Here are just a few of mine and where to find them on Oahu. Each one of these dishes tells you a little something about the culinary history of Hawaii. Poke (pronouned po-kay) Where to find: Everywhere, but Alicia's Market has a big selection This is perhaps one of the most "authentic" dishes from Hawaii. It's primarily raw fish and it comes in many varieties such as wasabi, tobiko, and Maui onion, but traditionally it was just chunks of fish such as ahi, sal...
Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Cooking My Way Back Home, Kokkari & Bi-Rite Market's Eat Good Food

I always get excited about cookbooks with a connection to the Bay Area. There are so many things that make eating here special. Of course, it's the fresh produce, but it's much more than just that. It's also the vibe, the service and personality of our local restaurants. The latest crop of cookbooks capture much of that. It may sound odd to say I don't go to Mitchell Rosenthal's restaurants, namely Town Hall and Anchor & Hope (never been to Salt House) primarily for the food. Oh the food is good, some of it is outstanding, but I really go because those restaurants just feel so good and welcoming. It's like a party every night, at both places, not in a rowdy way, in a "I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a restaurant" way. At Town Hall I always sit at the communal table, and I love it. You cannot eat there without making friends with your neighbors and chatting over your dishes. Rosenthal's new cookbook, Cooking My Way Ba...