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Friday, December 28, 2012

All about Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar is one of the most popular cheeses in the world and one of my favorites. It originally came from Somerset, in England but is now produced in many  parts of the English speaking world and beyond. But only 14 makers are licensed to use the EU Protected Designation of Origin “West Country Farmhouse Cheddar” which indicates it's still made in the traditional way. The process for making cheddar is similar to other cow's milk cheeses, with the addition of a unique process that has taken on the name "cheddaring." Slabs of curd are stretched, then piled on top of each other to help drain the whey. This helps to harden the cheese and develop acidity and flavor. Farmhouse cheddars are traditionally wrapped in cloth and then aged. Good English cheddar should be buttery and nutty in flavor and should have a soft crumbly texture. Cheddar improves with age, developing those crunchy crystals of calcium lactate you find in other aged cheese, like Parmigiano Reggiano. ...
Thursday, December 20, 2012

Giving the Gift of Experience 2012

I'm sure you've heard that experiences are appreciated and more memorable than things. Speaking personally, I have no more room for stuff. If it doesn't fit in the refrigerator or my jewelry box, it's going to be tough to find a place in my overstuffed apartment. But a tour or a class is something I always appreciate. You know what they say, give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Here are my ideas for the best experiences in San Francisco and beyond... A stop at Craftsman & Wolves for a treat Edible Excursions Neighborhood food walking tours are not just for tourists! In fact, most of the people who go on Edible Excursion tours are locals. Even if you know your own neighborhood, have you really dug into Japantown or the up and coming parts of the Mission? Nothing could be better than going with an expert. I've been on several of Edible Excursions tours and loved all of them. The most recent...
Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rocky Road Recipe

Did you know that Rocky Road was invented in Australia? It seems like such an American candy, but there are different versions in other parts of the world. In Australia the candy has things like coconut and fruit jellies in it. The Rocky Road in the United Kingdom has marshmallows, cookies (or biscuits as they call them), chocolate, raisins and a dusting of powdered sugar. While I like the idea of adding crisp cookies to Rocky Road, it just does't seem like Rocky Road to me without nuts, and toasted walnuts in particular. I blame Tori Ritchie for making me take on Rocky Road. Her email newsletter this week had a recipe for it and after that I was a goner. Rocky Road is one of those things you can't really mess up. I think the easier the better. With all due respect to Michael Ruhlman , the ratios are a bit fluid here, you can add more or less chocolate or nuts as you like. I've seen recipes that have 1 part chocolate to 1 part marshmallows and others have 2 parts c...
Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Books for Cooks 2012

You know the drill, if you want your gift to arrive by December 24th, today is the last day to order with free Super Saver Shipping on Amazon. Of course, you could just go to a bookstore instead!  Every year there is a whole new batch of cookie books. Dozens I dare say. Here are a few worth your while. The Daily Cookie is written by a blogger I consider a friend, Anna Ginsburg. She is a baking whiz! Her blog is Cookie Madness and she is a past winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off. Anna's recipes are very well-tested and never terribly complicated. Bar cookies, drop cookies, sandwich cookies and brownies are all included. Most recipes have photos and for each cookie and each day of the year there is a holiday or special event you can learn about.  Simply Sensational Cookies is another major cookie compendium. What I like about this book is that each recipe is rated--from easy to complicated so you know what to expect. The lovely photos are from White on Rice Couple blogger...
Monday, December 17, 2012

Easy Almond Cookies Recipe

This is the easiest almond cookie recipe ever. And I bet you could use an easy cookie recipe about now. It requires only a few ingredients and you prepare the dough in the food processor so making them takes maybe 10 minutes and there's barely any clean up. They are a variation of almond macaroons, rich and chewy with just a little crunch from the almond on top. The secret is a hint of almond extract, and to really processing the ingredients until they make a very easy to work with dough. I was recently sent some almonds from the Almond Board and I was looking for a good way to use them. There are lots of similar recipes to this one, but the comments on Epicurious led me to make a crucial change in the recipe. I cut the sugar in half. I also made slightly larger cookies than the recipe calls for and skipped dusting them in confectioners sugar. It might seem odd to add almond extract to almond cookies, but without it they can be a little bland. Because they are such dense little...
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saeco Syntia Focus Espresso Machine Review

The Saeco Syntia Focus espresso machine is the most impressive kitchen appliance I have ever had the pleasure of reviewing. I never thought I would actually be reviewing any kind of coffee maker because while I  frequently  drink espresso in Italy (as in multiple times a day) I rarely drink coffee at all in the US. So no regular coffee maker fits the bill for me. It's either an Italian espresso machine and a top quality Italian brand of coffee ( illy is my preference) or why bother?   First a little story. When I was in Italy this past October I ended up in Parma a little too early for an appointment with my guide, so I went to get an espresso with my driver, Gianni. He told me he had an espresso machine at home that he and his wife use every day, and proudly that it came from Saeco, a company headquartered near Bologna, his home town. Saeco first launched a completely automatic espresso machine for home use in 1985 and purchased the iconic Italian brand Gaggia in 1999, and...
Tuesday, December 11, 2012

My Favorite Neighborhood Shops for Speciality Foods

The Candy Store  is a cute as a button (make that button candy) little shop with sweet staff including the ebullient proprietor, Diane and her husband turned candymaker Brian. If you're a brittle fan do try Brian's coconut curry cashew brittle. I could tell you about my favorite candies in this store like the marshmallow ropes, peanut butter malt balls, or the realistic French "river stones" each filled with a surprise of apricot paste, marzipan, almonds and a thin layer of chocolate, but really, what fun would that be? Head over to the store to discover something that makes you happy--something from abroad like a Cadbury Flake bar, or from your childhood like Zotz or Pop Rocks. Try a sample of matcha caramels or chocolate covered pistachios. Some items available online. Candy is one of the last affordable luxuries and it makes people smile! If that isn't reason enough to indulge, I don't know what is. Cheese Plus is  hands down,  the best specialty fo...
Friday, December 07, 2012

Kitchen Gift Guide 2012

I've already written about many of my favorite kitchen goodies from  silicone spatulas to  Microplane graters  and the Vita-Mix blender . Here are some more things I appreciate most in the kitchen. They have each withstood the test of time, especially the cookware. Buy them for yourself or someone you love.  I have every brand of cookware possible--Calphalon, All-Clad, Le Creuset--you name it. But the pots I use the most are from the Anolon Chef Clad line. They are handsome brushed aluminum with stainless steel and can be used on all cooktops and even under the broiler. In my experience they really hold up better than the other top brands and are cheaper. What more could you ask for? Right now the best deals (good discount and free shipping) are on the Anolon site . There is also a lifetime warranty.  As much as I'd like to, I can't quite give up on non-stick pans. With every non-stick pan I've always found there are some compromises but the Zwilling Spirit l...
Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Holiday Gift Fairs 2012

If you are interested in San Francisco Bay Area made treats and treasures, these three gift fairs should be on your radar for this weekend, December 7 - 9, 2012.  La Cocina Gift Bazaar This year the La Cocina Gift Bazaar is taking place downtown! It will be at the Crocker Galleria at 50 Post St from Friday, December 7th from 1 pm - 7 pm. There will be live music and plenty of delicious things to eat and give as gifts. Some of my favorites include Kika's Treats, Global Grub , Maite Catering, Love & Hummus and Azalina's . This is a great event, put on by San Francisco's first non-profit incubator kitchen.  I've gone every year. Don't miss it!  Speakeasy Holiday Indie Mart Hosted by Indie Mart this Saturday, December 8th, from 12 pm - 6 pm is the Speakeasy Holiday Indie Mart at Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, 1195 Evans Ave, Bayview. Tour the brewery, purchase packaged foods and sweets or find something to eat at one of the food trucks. A shuttle will be ava...
Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Holiday Cookbook Gift Guide 2012

  Here are my picks for great gift worthy cookbooks! From coffee table books, to DIY books and more...  Big and beautiful coffee table books Some cookbooks are really coffee table books. They are large, filled with glossy photos and tell intriguing stories--they are the anti-ebook. The recipes and the restaurant recommendations are kind of secondary. These two books will satisfy the armchair traveler who loves to eat. Lonely Planet's Food Lover's Guide to the World : Experience the Great Global Cuisines is over 300 pages of stories, photographs, recipes, and recommendations for where to find some of the most iconic dishes in the world--everything from Korean Bibimbap to Argentinian Empanadas and French Tart Tatin. Along the way you'll find food festivals and drinks, rules of etiquette, cooking schools, ingredients and markets. This is a book probably written using clips from guide books and then some. It definitely is the right book for someone who travels a l...