Monday, January 31, 2005

Soy Kaviar

Possibly the most bizarre product Derrick and I encountered at the recent NASFT Fancy Food Show was a product called Soy Kaviar which is available in Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga flavours.

It looks authentic. In fact it is uncannily like the real thing in appearance, but the taste lacks the level of saltiness and fishiness you would find in the genuine article. We tasted a fine selection from Tsar Nicoulai shortly afterwards in order to make a comparison. The difference was marked.

I have to commend the idea behind Soy Kaviar. They are trying to create an environmentally sound product which has no negative impact on the world's endangered supply of living sturgeon. From what they told me, they are constantly doing research to try and improve the product. I think they still have some way to go with the balance of salt and the flavour before they convince diehard caviar aficionados.

You would naturally expect a soy product to be vegetarian, but this one isn't. If it was a totally animal-free product, then it's appeal would broaden to a whole new audience but currently they use gelatin to form their faux roe. They would consider an agar substitute if they could get it work satisfactorily, they told me.

After my caviar tastings I tried a slice of smoked surgeon at the Tsar Nicoulai stand which was sweet, moist, very mildly smoked and quite delicious. The fish was farmed, so I hope I won't be in too much trouble with concerned enviromentalists.

Tsar Nicoulai have a cafe in the San Francisco Ferry Plaza where San Franciscans and visitors can try their products for themselves. Soy Kaviar have a sales representative who can be contacted here if you are more interested in the new age fish-free version.


Fond of a wee dram? The Whiskies of the World Expo 2005 takes place in San Francisco at the beginning of March. Tickets must be purchased in advance. More details can be found here and tickets can be purchased here.
Soy Kaviar

Chaat Cafe - 3rd Street - San Francisco

Fast - Fresh - Casual
Chaat Cafe, 320 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA 94107, 415 979 9946
Visit their website here

Click on the photo to enlarge

Chaat Cafe is a bright, colourful, cheap, modern eaterie close to the Moscone Centre in San Francisco. I started eating chaat in London in the late 80s back when I was a vegetarian. I've tried Indian Chaat & Sweets in Berkeley. It was ok, but not as great as I remembered the little string on Indian Vegetarian places close to the British Capital's Euston Station used to be. I was hoping Chaat Cafe might be able replicate some of the dishes I knew and loved from those days of my youth.

Click on the photo to enlarge
Papri Chaat Home made chips, lentil dumpling, garbanzo beans, potatoes, yoghurt, chutneys and spices $3.50
This was my favourite. It's such a contrasty dish. Cold creamy yoghurt, very hot spices, sweet fruity chutneys, savoury beans, soft lentil dumpling and crunchy puri chips. In my opinion, it's delicious. It's quite a mysterious, sloppy dish, you can't really see what you are eating, you just have to trust the taste combination. Fred tried a mouthful. The polite way to describe his reaction would be to say it wasn't to his taste, primarily because it mixes sweetness with spice in a dish he expected to be savoury. If you feel the same way, or you don't like a lot of dairy, this dish isn't for you.

Click on the photo to enlarge
Bhel Puri Rice puffs, noodles, potatoes, green chili, onions, cilantro, tossed with tamarind and mint chutney $3.50
Bhel puri has long been a favourite of mine. This version really disappointed. The ratio of rice and noodles to potato was way too high, throwing the balance off kilter. I could only find three small potato cubes throughout the whole dish. I liked the high level of spice, but the menial amount of the fresh ingredients (noticeably the herbs and onions plus the chutneys) that could have really perked up this tall pile of crunchiness, were too few and far between.

Click on the photo to enlarge
Spicy Seekh Kabob Wrap ground lamb seasoned with green chili, ginger and spices, wrapped in a naan with grilled onions and mint chutney $5.49
This was Fred's choice. He rarely orders anything other than this lamb 'sausage' when he is in an Indian restaurant. The kabob itself was excellent. I am generally not too keen on them but really liked this version which was spicy and well scented with a delightful mix of intriguing flavours. It was extremely hot, though, so bear that in mind if you prefer milder food.

A feature of the Chaat Cafe franchise is that they make 'wraps' but use naan as the wrapper. These were the worst naans either of us have ever tasted. (Fred's was part of his dish and I had an extra one on the side for $1.50.) They were tasteless, chewy and squidgy. Absolutely no crispiness was detected whatsoever. It was if they had been premade and heated in a microwave. I can't tell you how disappointing this was. If they were able to make real, piping hot, fresh, crispy-edged, blistered naan, this would be a place I might return to. As it is, I think we'll stick with the cheaper, Tenderloin, curry joints like Naan & Curry where you can get an enormous, crispy, perfect naan, twice the size for just a dollar.

Total for two, including one questionable glass of merlot and tax, a reasonable: $20.59
Chaat Cafe - 3rd Street - San Francisco

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Views from Citizen Cupcake - Virgin - San Francisco

Citizen Cupcake in the Virgin Mega Store, 2 Stockton St. (at Market Street) San Francisco Tel. (415) 399-1565

If you are by yourself, shopping downtown, or a tourist in need of a sit down and a little treat, you could do worse than Citizen Cupcake in San Francisco's Virgin Mega Store. It's casual and friendly, light and sunny, has great urban views, huge picture windows, art, chocolate and candies from around the world plus sweet confections and savoury nibbles from one of San Francisco's most well-known purveyors of dessert.

Click on the photo to enlarge

The lemon sandwich cookie disappointed, just a little, at first, when I bit into it, because the biscuit was just a tiny bit soft. But a couple of seconds later my mouth exploded with such a sweet cacophony of citrus and sugar accents, that the cookie was forgiven and I settled down to delight, instead, in the outrageously mouth-watering experience it turned out to be. I think I could have eaten at least another half a dozen, if no one had been watching...

Check out a previous Citizen Cupcake post here

Visit the Citizen Cupcake website here
Views from Citizen Cupcake - Virgin - San Francisco

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Scrambled Egg on Toast with Prosciutto

Jeanne from Cook Sister has a hilarious little monthly blogging event called EoMEoTE which grew from some posts between her and Spiceblog , in which they ripped the piss (just a little) out of online food blogging events. Nowadays there are so many, and it's hard to keep up with them all, although Ronald does a good job of hosting a site that tries to track all of the different cooking challenges.

Click on the photo to enlarge

All that EoMEoTE = End of the Month Egg on Toast Eggstravaganza requires, is that you cook some eggs and some toast and post about it. I wasn't intending to join in, but I have been sick. I have been walking around three days with a leathery tongue and a gruff throat, feeling shaky. I was definitely out of sorts, I actually elected to eat lunch at Foodles for two days in a row! I have been quite enjoying having a long scarf wrapped several times around my neck at all times of the day. It's cozy! I was even considering wearing it in bed but Fred rolled his eyes at the sight of me naked with a bunch of little black pom-poms hanging around my neck and I thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea.
Ok, get that picture out of your head right away! On Thursday night, and even though Fred was cooking up a pot of his world famous pasta, all I wanted to eat was some comforting scrambled eggs on toast. It occurred to me, I can take a picture of this and send it to Jeanne, which is exactly why this post came to be...

Whisk two organic, brown, non-pateurized eggs together with salt and pepper. Melt a knob of Celles sur Belle French Butter in a small non-stick pan over low heat. Add the eggs and stir gently until softly scrambled. Serve over a slice of thick, crunchy, white toasted bread and crown with a slice of prosciutto.
Scrambled Egg on Toast with Prosciutto

Friday, January 28, 2005

Bloggers versus Bauer

A little while earlier I was settling down with a Feb 05 copy of 7x7 Magazine when I literally jumped out of my seat and exclaimed "oh my god!" (a phrase Fred heartily disapproves of, and which I rarely exclaim). I was reading the article entitled Blogger v Bauer (Bauer is San Francisco's most famous restaurant critic, writing for the Chronicle), when suddenly I saw my very own name in print.

A quote from the article:

...we figured chefs might also be getting familiar with food blogs such as Chez Pim (written by Pim Techamuanvivt), Tastingmenu (written by Hillel Cooperman) or Becks & Posh (written by Sam Breach and named for a Cockney term that translates to "nosh") Surely, in this technocentric city, chefs must regularly take peeks at websites such as Chowhound, Citysearch and eGullet...

Despite all my initial excitement at having a name-check, it appears that the chefs don't really give a toss about anything us little blogging and Chowhound people might think. If they do happen to witness any of us rant and rave online, then they might just laugh. Bauer's opinion is declared to be far more influential than ours. And, of course it is, his readership is infinitely larger, so it's hardly suprising.

But it's ok, I'm happy making very little ripples. I do it for love, not for money...

NB. Fred assures me I said "oh my goodness", not "oh my god" as previously thought. I am relieved that my old-fashioned, British, jolly-hockeystick speak came through for me in a moment of need.

I do have some more thoughts on the article. I will post them in the comments section.
Bloggers versus Bauer

Honey Mustard Mayonnaise - Cracked Crab - Avocado

Crab was another dish in our eight-course Christmas Extravaganza
We served it with a 2002 Clos Val Bruyere Cassis.
This is a crisp, fresh, white wine from the Cassis Region in France, not to be confused with the more common blackcurrant liqueur, from the same area, that is often added to white wine or champagne to make Kir.

Click on the photo to enlarge

This was my first time at cooking live crab. It's ok, they didn't squeal when I tossed them in the pot. I followed Thomas keller's suggestion which involves simmering the crabs with bouquet garni and some flavoursome vegetables for only 5 minutes before turning off the heat and letting the crabs cool to room temperature.

Click on the photo to enlarge

Mayonnaise was made, by Hans using a very special mustard...

Click on the photo to enlarge

Every year, a friend of a friend makes this mustard. I was lucky enough to sample it last summer when I first met her and just fell in love with it. I begged her for the recipe, but it is a family secret that will never be divulged. Even though I'd only just made her acquaintance, the maker of the mustard remembered how crazy I was about her family's creation, and she kindly put me on the list of people who would receive a jar for Christmas. Lucky me! Love like that needs to be shared, so I chose to use the mustard as a base for the mayonnaise to accompany our fresh crab and avocado salad at Christmas.

Whilst planning the meal, my mind had been filled with pictures of a beautifully composed crab salad. Reality kicked in and my crabs were still sitting uncracked when the guests arrived for dinner. I have to especially thank Michael and Katya for donning aprons to cover their glad rags before diving in to separate the meat from the shells so that we could proceed with our grand celebratory feast.

Wine pairings for the meal were suggested by K & L Wines
Honey Mustard Mayonnaise - Cracked Crab - Avocado

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Incanto - 1550 Church Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco - CA

Incanto - 1550 Church Street - Now Valley - San Francisco - CA - 415 641 4500
Visit the Incanto Website here
A decent enough little neighbourhood place...

Things I really liked about Incanto:
- The generous bread basked contained what appeared to be homemade bread sticks and savoury crackers. Delicious. I have never eaten so many bread sticks in one sitting.
- One complimentary litre of house-filtered Hetchy Hetchy Water (still or sparkling). Refills appeared at no extra charge.
- Dessert - the creamy panna cotta was superb, with a contrasting marmalade-like bitter kumquat accompaniment.
- Wine pairings - I asked the waitress to recommend a wine to match the dessert. She went to ask the chef and I was brought a fantastic 2003 Moscadello di Montalcino 2003 Caprili, sweet, slightly sparkling dessert wine. An excellent match and a delicious wine I hope to try again soon.
- Each wine by the glass is labeled. This is a totally brilliant idea. You can keep a note of what you ordered, what you particularly liked, and you can even take home the labels, which sit around the base of the glass, as a reminder of what you drank .
- The Red Thumb Potatoes that were a backdrop for my appetizer of Grilled Prather Ranch Beefheart & Salsa Rustica $9 were perfectly dressed and tasted delicious. The meat itself was a little more ordinary than I had expected and was overpowered by the large chunks of raw garlic in the salsa.

Things I didn't really like about Incanto:
- The bread portions in the otherwise excellent bread basket were dry and verging on stale.
- A 5% service charge is added to the bill "enabling us to share the awards of serving you with out non-tipped kitchen employees"
- The Handkerchief pasta with rustic pork ragu $14 had obviously been lovingly prepared in detail. Too bad they forgot to season it quite enough.
- My Chestnut papparedelle with duck conserva & chestnuts, $16, was slightly on the dry side, and again, underseasoned causing it to be more bland than I would have liked. I would have preferred a more succulent pasta. The duck itself, thankfully, was a little more juicy.
- The waitress offered to comp one of our items (we ordered it by mistake after a our sorry knowledge of Italian let us down). However, it was still on the bill when the time came to pay. We didn't ask or expect for our misorder to be comped, but because the offer was given, we expected it to be honoured.
- The prosecco, by the glass, was almost flat.
- Apart from my disappointing, less than bubbly, aperitif, a flight of Spicy Southern Reds was unexceptional. I wish I'd saved the $30 round-trip taxi fare and driven instead.

Other Observations:
- The menu is rustic, don't expect 'chi-chi'. I might describe it as peasant food.
- The service was fussy on the surface but lacked depth.
- Another wine chosen, by the glass, was superb.
- Neighbouring diners were bought a small plate of charcuterie (not featured on the menu). When we asked for the same thing, we were told it wasn't possible.

Would I go again?
I wouldn't make another special journey, but if I lived in the neighbourhood, I probably would.


Today is the four year anniversary of me arriving to come and work in the U. S. of A! Thanking America for its hospitality, I'll raise a glass and keep my fingers crossed that one of these days the first stage of my green card might actually come through.
Incanto - 1550 Church Street - Noe Valley - San Francisco - CA

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pansy! Rose 2003

Kim Crawford 2003 Pansy! Rose from New Zealand

Wacky Named Wines

Reduced Price:$9.95 at K&L Wines (I bought the very last bottle in the store so it is no longer available at this merchant)

86 % Merlot, 14 % Malbec, contains sulfites, Alcohol 14% by volume

Produced and bottled by Kim Crawford Wines

Click on the photo to enlarge. (Stylin' by Sam, Photo by Fred)

The Winemaker's Notes:
Pansy! is a sculptured wine. Made from Pinot Noir grapes from Nelson, a portion of juice was bled from the grapes one day after crushing. The wine was then handled like a white wine, cool fermented and sulphured once dry. Once stabilized the wine was bottled early to retain its natural freshness.
Further profile details can be found here

The Blurb on the Label:

Fresh, funky, fleshy and fun, this rose is an ideal apperitif, summer sipper or just because... Like life, Pansy is made to enjoy.

According to Erica Crawford "Pansy wine is about "friendship, kindness and generosity of spirit". The wine is aimed directly at the gay community. Read more details here

Our Tasting notes:

Visual: Deep raspberry red in colour, nearer to a shade you might associate with red wine than what you might expect of a rose. The gaudy screw-top lid is a particularly ugly shade of pink, something like a really bad polish that a little girl might try to persuade you to choose at the nail salon.

Nose: A very mild perfume suggesting Raspberry Ripple Ice Cream, Strawberry Nesquik, vanilla, white chocolate and cheesecake. Overwhelming vanilla and red fruit. Fred also detected a mustard aroma, which I had trouble locating.

Taste: The same vanilla and red fruit accents that came through at the sniffing stage, sweet around the tongue, a buttery feel, almost like a ready made kir, but not as delicious.

If I was gay (I'm not, even though I recently attended Gay Traffic School ), I am not sure how I would feel about a wine, aimed at me, being packaged in this way. I am certainly in touch with my own feminine side, my favourite colour is pink, but in terms of instant of appeal, this bottle isn't talking to me. The language used on the label - a series of flippantly constructed alliterative adjectives which sound appealing but do nothing to actually really describe the wine(funky/fleshy/fun) is certainly not aimed at anyone who takes their wine seriously. I wouldn't have minded if drinking the wine had been a silly, sexy or outrageously camp experience. But to be truthful, it took a lot of effort to find the energy to finish the bottle. Had I been soaking up Summer rays, in a beautiful outdoor setting in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe I would have had better vibes from this wine. But on a chilly, San Francisco night, as an apperitif, with a comforting meal of pan-fried duck-breast, roast potatoes and courgettes to follow, I am afraid Pansy! didn't blossom into a new wine romance for me.

This post is an entry for Wine Blogging Wednesday's Wacky Named Wines, being lovingly hosted over at Chez Pim Head over there to read reviews of more wacky named wines from all over the world.

Pansy! Rose 2003

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

SuperChef Blog reports on Dining to Donate towards the Tsunami Relief Fund, here, in San Francisco

Read Juliette Rossant's post about San Francisco and Bay area Fund Raisers here
SuperChef Blog reports on Dining to Donate towards the Tsunami Relief Fund, here, in San Francisco

Scala's Bistro - Near Union Square - San Francisco

432 Powell Street, San Francisco, CA, 94102 415-395-8555
Visit Scala's website here

Whenever a potential visitor to San Francisco asks the "Where can I eat near Union Square" question on Chowhound , the answers invariably suggest Scala's as an option. The first time we tried it, about a year ago, we loved it and consequently raved about it. Approximately 6 months later we revisited and I had an awful time. Inconsiderate staff, an inedible salad (oversalted with floury-textured peaches) and a tough chewy pizza. Being the forgiving person that I am, sometimes I am want to give a place another chance which is why we visited Scala's for a third time recently.

Nestled in the base of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, this is a large bustling bistro style restaurant that is serving a varied menu all day long which makes it a great pit-stop whilst shopping in the area. For ultimate privacy, try and get one of the dark, cozy booth seats. If people watching is more your scene you might prefer to sit, sidewalk level, at a cafe style table near the window where you can gaze at shoppers, weighed down by their assortment of shopping bags, trudging by.

Grilled Octopus, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Haricots Verts, Salsa Verde 9.50
You might wonder what language this menu is trying to speak. English, French, Italian or Spanish. I pondered for a while, but was too confused and settled for the fact I can speak the universal language of food. This salad was served warm with plentiful, chargrilled pieces of octopus and tender lemony-dressed potatoes. In a nod to the Haricot there were just five of the long green beans. More of them and less tentacle might have balanced the dish a little better. It was tasty and enjoyable enough, but without reaching the dizzy heights of rave-worthy.

Dungeness Crab Bisque, Champagne Crema, Chive Oil $7.50
Sloppy presentation of the soup. No visual or other evidence of any champagne crema. No compelling complaints about the taste.

Pizza Margherita Tomato, Basil, Mozzarella $11.95
Despite the fact the pizza on our last visit had been mediocre, Fred was still in the mood for one. Just like before, the crust was a bit chewy when it would be better crispy. Definitely not the best pizza in the world.

Not the best restaurant in the world, either, but acceptable enough for a pit-stop. Easy to get a table, wide range of Californian/European choices on the menu. Medium prices. All in all, an average, adequate place for some chow, but these days not quite deserving the raves it still gets from some quarters.

Scala's Bistro - Near Union Square - San Francisco

Made in France Warehouse Sale this coming weekend...

MADE IN FRANCE / VILLAGE IMPORTS European Gourmet Food Warehouse Sale

Directions and mailing list details can be found here

211 South Hill Drive
Brisbane, CA 94005

Saturday January 29th (8:30am - 3:30pm)

My recommended buys:
Olive Oil and Lavender soap, Petit Suisse, Puget Olive Oil, Ground Almonds, Badoit Mineral Water.

Take a cool bag and a book to read in case you end up in a long line.

Check previous posts for more info here and here and here

Made in France Warehouse Sale this coming weekend...

Chocolate or Sushi?

Discover the best of both worlds here
Chocolate or Sushi?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Ways not to make mayo, period!

I wasn't sure whether or not to believe Fred a few months ago when he told me that at certain times of the month, I simply wouldn't be capable of making mayonnaise. It's an old, French saying, he added, des contes de bonnes femmes. Maybe I should have marked his words.

The German shows the English and the French a thing or two about making mayonnaise. Click on the photo to enlarge

Rewind to Christmas Eve 2004. I was slaving away in the kitchen preparing for our Christmas Feast. Our neighbour, J, and one of our very favourite friends, Hans, (they met at my Red Hot and Pink Birthday Party back in June) came up to help. They arrived when I was trying to make mayonnaise. I was using my new kitchen Aid and I was certain it would be a breeze. Fred insisted I use a French recipe, but mon Francais c'est pas bien, so I chose to follow one by Delia Smith , the matriarch of Modern-Day British TV Chefs, instead. I didn't precisely follow her recipe, because I had slighty different mustard and oil. I thought I just needed guidance on the method. Everything seemed to be going well, and my mayonnaise started thickening well. Fred came over to see what I was doing. He started giving me advice. I tried to resist his demands that I should pour the oil in faster, until I lost my temper, did as he instructed and consequently spoilt my mayonnaise.

See, he said, I told you, Femme qui a ses regles rate sa mayonnaise. (Pah! I thought.) Fred continued to try and show me how I should have done it. He chose olive oil and Amora mustard. He whisked it by hand. The result of his efforts was almost as pathetic as mine. The olive oil was too strong and the mayo was too runny. Reject number two.

Enter Hans, the German... Hans knuckled down and quickly made perfect mayonnaise. Hand whisked, correct texture, he even managed to educate Fred in the art of separating of eggs. The mayonnaise was intended to accompany some fresh crab on our Christmas Dinner. The poor little blighters, who I cruelly dumped in boiling water whilst they were still alive, will be immortalized in another post, on another day!
Ways not to make mayo, period!


Navy Bean & Smoked Haddock with Poached Egg...

Serves four

Click on the photo to enlarge

1 cup of Navy Beans pre-soaked overnight and simmered for 1 hour until tender.
1 beautiful, fresh, piece of undyed smoked haddock.
1/2 pint of milk
1 bay leaf
1/2 red onion, finly sliced
1 Russet potato, peeled and diced
1/2 cup of frozen peas or petit pois
1 egg per person
Salt & pepper to Season

Click on the photo to enlarge


Poach haddock in the milk with bay leaf and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. The fish will be cooked 8 minutes after you turn on the heat. Remove the fish and leave to cool.
Add potato and onion to the milk, simmer about 20 minutes until vegetables are tender.
Flake and deskin the haddock and add to the milk, potato and onion mixture. Add the peas and cooked Navy Beans and warm through a few minutes until the peas are cooked.
Each portion should be served with a perfectly poached egg on top.

This is an entry for IMBB # 11, Subject, Beans. Check with our gracious host, My Little Kitchen for many more bean recipes from all over the world...

Buying smoked Haddock in CA: It's just about impossible to find. I buy mine mail order from McKenzie. It's not cheap but the quality is superb. It is shipped fresh and each piece is individually sealed in its own wrapper, which makes it easy to freeze. My last 5lb shipment contained 8 large fish, each of which could probably feed two.


Today was a bit of a Food Blogging Day. First I met with Derrick and his friend Tim. We spent about four hours together at the Fancy Food Show. . Unfortunately it looks like we missed bumping into Heidi who has already written a great report about some of her favourite vendors.

Later this afternoon, Fred and I went to The Ferry Plaza. Who should we bump into at the Golden Gate Meat company? None other than Alder. About 10 minutes later, after we'd settled down for a glass of wine at the Ferry Plaza wine Merchants, we saw Kieca and her boyfriend, Matt, who we'd met at Vinography's first birthday party just a week ago.


Friday, January 21, 2005

Traffic School, Girls Night and a Couple of Neighbourhood Sushi Places in San Francisco

Opera Plaza Sushi
(415) 292-9997 601 Van Ness Ave San Francisco, CA 94102
Moshi Moshi (415) 861-8285 2092 3rd St San Francisco, CA 94107

I decided if I had to go to Traffic School, then I might as well try and
make into some sort of interesting experience. Hmmm...? I thought to
myself, how can I wing it so I might be able to spend my obligatory 8
hours of boredom surrounded primarily by an intelligent, smart,
handsome, well-dressed, articulate, liberal bunch of irresponsible drivers. The
answer, I decided, was to go to Gay Comedy Traffic School. And
actually, I quite enjoyed myself. But I felt like such an intruder, such
a fraud. I hope all those lovely people in the class will forgive me. (I
wonder if or how obvious it was that I was possibly the only straight
person there?)

The venue was a down-market hotel I drive past on the way to work every
week day. It's on a traffic-heavy street, not the kind of area you'd
necessarily choose to hang out in. I'd decided beforehand, that
whatever happened, I would at least treat myself to some lunch on the
short break I knew they would give us. I was close to the Opera Plaza,
where I recalled seeing a little sushi bar, tucked away, almost out of
sight. Fred is a non-fish eater so I figured this was a good time to
indulge in one of my passions without having to worry about not
involving him. I guessed I wouldn't feel uncomfortable sitting there, at
the bar, by myself , so off I marched down Franklin street, with an
unread food magazine in hand, to give it a try.

Click on the photo to enlarge

It was empty when I walked in. (We'd been sent for our lunch at 11.45!) I
called out to the guy standing behind the bar and asked if they were
open. He nodded and invited me to take a seat before dashing out through a
back door. A waiter soon arrived and bought me green tea. I ordered a small
hot sake and started to browse the menu. There was a specials board
which caught my eye with it's promise of Aji (Spanish mackerel). Aji is
about the only sushi fish that is more widespread in Europe than it is
here. I love it and so if I see it, I can't resist it. I ordered some,
along with a few standards, Californian handroll (fresh crab, they
assured me), spicy tuna hand roll and sake nigiri. The chef arrived. He
was, in fact, the gentleman who'd originally greeted me, but he'd
changed into a Japanese-style robe and was ready to start preparing my
lunch. "The Aji is not fresh" he told me, "no good", so I ordered unagi
nigiri instead.

Click on the photo to enlarge

California Hand Roll
Crab dry, tough and wirey-textured. No moisture whatsoever left in this
sorry piece of crustacean. The flesh was almost as hard as its shell
must once have been. Ew.

Spicy Tuna Handroll

A generous amount of diced tuna coated in a very hot sauce. Almost hot enough to stop me detecting that the fish was actually off. I am sure the spice was masking the tuna's lack of freshness. Ew, ew. A total reject after just one bite.

Unagi Nigiri
Plump, juicy pieces of unagi, but with a little too much fat for my taste.

Sake Nigiri
Good clean, fresh-tasting salmon. The only commendable sushi I tried.

Click on the photo to enlarge

Moshi Moshi
In the last week I spent a couple of hours with my ex-flatmate, D, in
her China Basin neighbourhood. We parted ways (as roommates) when I
decided to live in delicious sin with Fred, and she started to consider
a move away from San Francisco. I still delight in the rare moments when
just the two of us can get together for a gossip. As she's just, finally, accepted
a job in LA, our time together is now even more precious.
I was returning all the bowls I'd borrowed from her for our Christmas Dinner which was the perfect excuse for the two of us to quickly grab some sushi in her hood, destination Moshi Moshi.

Click on the photo to enlarge

Moshi Moshi is a bright, welcoming space with lively, friendly staff. The food is very good and extremely fresh. We shared a small but tasty seaweed and a cold, clean-tasting tofu appetizer to start. Our tastes don't differ that much when it comes to raw fish so we divided a plate of hamachi sashimi, ten slices of tender, glistening fish, served at exactly the right temperature. It was beautifully presented with half of the pieces curled into a pretty rose shape. It tasted perfect.

We each had a handroll too. I went for a California, and in stark contrast to the Opera Plaza Sushi's version, Moshi Moshi's roll contained whole pieces of crab meat, still shaped like the creature's claw. D's spicy tuna roll couldn't have been further from the Opera Plaza one either. It contained delicious looking, deep red slices of fish. I regretted not having enough room to try one myself.

We lingered, perhaps a little too long, gossiping, after paying for our check, and as we were the last to leave, apologized for having kept the staff hanging on for our departure. They assured us we had caused no problem and continued to tell us about their open-mic nights for poetry readings every Monday. Maybe we'll give it a try, if we have time before D makes her journey to a new life down South...

Traffic School, Girls Night and a Couple of Neighbourhood Sushi Places in San Francisco

Goodies in the Mail

When I got home from work yesterday I had two exciting food-related gifts waiting for me in my mail box. For Christmas my dad had kindly sent me a year's subscription to the beautiful Australian food magazine by Donna Hay. Oz, being somewhere in another hemisphere, is languishing in hotter weather than what we are experiencing here in San Francisco, hence, my first magazine is the Summer edition. But a Californian Summer will come soon enough and in the meantime I can pour over the beautiful photographs, plotting which recipes I'll try once the sun decides to come out. Thanks dad!

Click on the photo to enlarge

The second parcel, contained two of the cutest little boxes of Ready Brek. They were sent to me by Stella over at Stella Bites. When I left a comment on one of her posts last year, admitting I missed my Ready Brek, she told me she knew where to get some in the US and promptly mailed them to me. Thank you Stella!
If you are old enough and British enough, you'll understand when I tell you that a bowlful of this for breakfast will protect me with a cozy little toasty glow for several hours. There will be no more chilling my arse off as Fred drives me to work with the top down on the car. Yes, year-round windswept hairdos are all the rage in our household (unless, of course, its raining)!
Goodies in the Mail

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Picasa 2 Just Released + Other Food Blog News

Bloggers who use Hello to upload their photos should rush and get the latest free download of Picasa here now!

I just quickly grabbed a copy of it and found it has some neat functions. I very quickly made this photo collage of some of the pictures from our Christmas Dinner and uploaded it to my blog in less than 5 minutes...

Click on the photo to enlarge

Check it out, why don't you!


+ Becks & Posh got it's first ever press mention yesterday. We were a little bit chuffed to be included in the list, after the journalist stated The best blogs display passion and personality. We even got described as an energetic and amiable European filmmaking couple. You'd laugh if you knew how lazy we can be sometimes! You can check out the article here
It has a particularly astute observation about a subject close to my own heart...

"One consequence of blogging, he notes, is that online dining reviews are "throwing the balance of power in the restaurant industry off kilter." Up to now, restauranteurs in any one city had to be concerned with only a few restaurant critics, whom they sometimes could recognize and provide with sharpened service. Now, however, anyone with a Web site can be a stealthy restaurant critic."

Elise, from Simply Recipes, who was the main focus of the article, has written a piece about being interviewed for the Sacramento Bee's write-up.


+ Two new Bay Area Food Blogs I just discovered:

Love & Cooking which is nearly two years old, so I am not sure why I didn't find it sooner.

Culinary Muse , a beautiful, brand new, San Francisco blog that appears to be hosted by San Francisco food stylist and author of A Cozy Book of Breakfasts and Brunches, Karletta Moniz.
Picasa 2 Just Released + Other Food Blog News

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Royal Frank - Fourth Street - San Rafael

811 Fourth Street, San Rafael, CA, USA

Chinese Lopchong, dry, slightly sweet Chinese sausage, with lots of very hot spicy mustard, on a toasted roll, $2.90

Royal Frank
is a tiny little Hot Dog place squished between two other stores at the Freeway-end of San Rafael's main shopping thoroughfare.

Click on the photo to enlarge

These aren't my favourite dogs in the Bay area, but they are tasty enough, very, very cheap and will be served up to you by a sweet, friendly couple, who have been dishing out from the same menu, in the same spot for twenty or so years. Condiments include a wonderful Chinese spicy mustard (almost indistinguishable from Colman's English) that will deliver a kick to the back of your nose, swiftly making your eyes water, a side effect I personally happen to think is quite worth it for the glorious taste of strong mustard that follows.

Click on the photo to enlarge and read the menu

There are 10 or so tables for eating in on cold days like today. Else you can take out. Service is friendly, fast and efficient. The place is always packed full of regulars. Read other reviews on Chowhound here
Royal Frank - Fourth Street - San Rafael

Every Little Effort Counts

Never underestimate the power of cake!

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that over the last couple of weeks I did a small amount of baking as a contribution towards fund raising for Tsunami Relief. Until last Friday, my employer was offering to match any donations that staff made to The Red Cross.
A few of us decided to get together and try and raise money above and beyond what people had already kindly donated. For eight days we encouraged people to bake and buy cookies, cakes, savouries, fruit salads and other treats.
Someone quite brilliant also had the idea of a soup kitchen. Several of us made soups, scones and cornbreads, encouraging colleagues to forego their regular lunch for ours. The soup effort alone raised $660.
We were stunned by the great response we got. The final, total amount raised by our food sales alone was $3029. With the generous matching offer by our company, our efforts have meant an extra $6058 for a great cause.

A few days ago, Viv commented on a post and asked if I could share my Potato and Fennel Soup recipe. I diverted so far from the Matthew Drennan recipe that was my inspiration, that I can safely publish what I did to make it here.

Serves 10


5 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
5 bulbs of fennel chopped into small chunks
1 large shallot, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp fennel seeds
2 large cartons of chicken stock
1 stick of butter
1 pint of cream
Salt and pepper to season
Thyme and snipped chives to garnish

Melt butter and gently sweat garlic and shallot until glassy and soft
Stir in fennel seeds and cook a further 2 or 3 minutes to release the aroma
Add potato and fennel and stir well. Put the lid on the pan and leave about 15 minutes on gentle heat until the vegetables soften.
Add chicken stock, season liberally and then simmer the soup for about 40 minutes until all the ingredients are cooked and soft.
Allow to cool slightly, then blend until smooth.
Stir in the cream and gently reheat. Do not boil.
Check seasoning.
Serve with snipped chives and sprigs of thyme.
Every Little Effort Counts

Monday, January 17, 2005

Hachis Parmentier de Canard

I told a French friend I'd made a duck Hachis Parmentier and he reprimanded me. "You're meant to make it from the leftovers", he said. "I did", I implored. When I told him that a pack of six legs of confit had traveled all the way to Tahoe with us, he agreed that the two unused legs that made it all the way back to San Francisco again, 4 days later, could legitimately be classed as leftovers.

Click on the photo to enlarge

I was inspired to make this by a meal we had in Paris at Le Bistro D'Henri . Fred also regularly orders a beef version of the same dish at Cafe Bastille . I didn't follow a recipe, I just made it up from the two versions I'd tried and after consulting with Fred. All it really is, in my case at least, is mashed potatoes, mixed with leftover meat, topped with cheese so you can experiment with different ingredients.

2 large Russett Potatoes
a clove minced garlic
1 dollop creme fraiche
2 legs duck confit
1 tbsp butter, diced
Salt & Pepper to taste.
A cup of grated Gruyere

Peel and quarter the potatoes. Boil until tender.
At the same time, pan fry your duck confit until the skin is crispy and the meat is heated through. Take care not to over cook.
Take the duck confit from the pan. Remove the meat from the bone and shred into small pieces. Include the crispy fat skin if it is to your personal taste.
Gently fry the garlic in the remaining duck fat about 5 minutes until soft.
Mash potatoes together with creme fresh, butter and seasoning.
Stir in the duck and garlic and mix together well.
Put into an ovenproof dish and sprinkle the top with cheese.
Bake for 20 minutes at 350F with 5 minutes under the grill/broiler at the end.

It passed the Fred Test with Flying Colours!

Hachis Parmentier de Canard

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Chef's Market Wine & Tapas Bar - E Street - Davis - CA

Chef's Market Wine & Tapas Bar - 117 E Street - Davis - CA 95616 - (530) 756 6888
Visit the Chef's Market website here

Click on the photo to enlarge

Hunger usually gets in the way of traveling back and forth to Tahoe from San Francisco, a journey that might average 4 or 5 hours. Strip malls alongside the freeways host huge signs promising chain versions of burgers, pizzas, Tacos and other such unappetizing foodstuffs. As for me, I prefer to dive a short distance off the freeway into the lively little University town of Davis, not far from Sacramento, to find a spot to eat.

Click on the photo to enlarge

Chef's Market lured us in with promises of Panini and Tapas. Unfortunately they only do the Tapas on Friday and Saturday evenings so I chose a Panini instead. They were out of my first choice, prosciutto, but when I saw the delicious looking, rare roast beef sitting in the deli counter, I knew it had to be my choice of filling.

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Panini Speciali New York Rare roast beef with creamy gorgonzola and pinenut spread, tomato and baby greens, grilled on Foccacia al Rosmarino $6.95

Despite fresh looking ingredients, the sandwich failed to enthrall. Grilled then served warm with tortilla chips, the filling unfortunately didn't have enough flavour to draw itself out from under the bread. It was a decent but ordinary sandwich, when I was hoping for something a bit special.

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My friend rejected a panini in favour of a couple of small tastes from the deli. I tried the mushroom which was light, with a tasty marinade. She wouldn't let me try the mozzarella, however, because she was certain it was off.

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The Chef's Market is a quick, well-meaning place to stop for some chow. The displays of wines, cold meats, cheeses and deli items suggest you might be for an extraordinary treat, but the results are a little more pedestrian than you might hope for. Counter service only.
Chef's Market Wine & Tapas Bar - E Street - Davis - CA

Friday, January 14, 2005

Is this like reading tea leaves?

Click on the photo to, erhmm, enlarge

No Comment!
Is this like reading tea leaves?

Shrimp Remoulade - Another Food Photo

My ex-roomate, D, usually visits her parents for Christmas. Her mum owns a restaurant near New Orleans. This means D usually comes back with some gumbo and shrimp remoulade. She returned to San Francisco, only just before we all travelled up to Tahoe for New year, so she bought along some of the remoulade to share.

Click on the photo to enlarge

This food photo was styled on indelicate rented-cabin china with a background of plastic tablecloth, only after I'd eaten enough shrimp to spoil the beauty of D's presentation. Yum!

PS This remoulade has nothing to do with the French remoulade, one of my favourite salads ever, made with crunchy matchsticks of celeriac and a mustardy mayonnaise.
Shrimp Remoulade - Another Food Photo

Food Picture of the Day

Preparing for dinner. Belden Place, in San Francisco's European Quarter, where terrace dining is de rigeur all year round. In this picture, one of the staff from the Italian restaurant, Cafe Tiramisu, sets the patio tables, ready for the evening rush.

Click on photo to enlarge
Food Picture of the Day

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Spicetart & more...

San Francisco Food Blogs keep springing up all over the place. I can hardly keep my blog roll up-to-date. A couple of days ago I found a very flattering comment on my blog from "Spicetart"

She wrote: I read your blog everyday and I think you are the best. I'm actually inspired to start my own food blog that I am really enjoying.

Although Spicetart and I have never met, I am familiar with her posts on Chowhound's Bay Area Message Boards . It's great that she's decided to take the plunge and join the blogging community. Only a few posts old, and she's already got the scoop on the fact that Crepe & Brioche are opening a store for their baked goods in SF. Until now their delicious bread has only been available in high-end restaurants and in Farmers Markets. You'll find Spicetart's style quite amusing, I think she may give The Amateur Gourmet a run for his money in the comedy stakes. But when you read her latest diary entry Tarte Tatin Twice Upside Down , you may not know whether to laugh or cry..!

Two other new San Francisco blogs I've noticed this week:

The very beautiful, professional-looking and stylish SF Culinaire is maintained by a mysterious expat Canuck.

Less of a mystery is Bay Area Bites , Culinary rants & raves from Bay Area food professionals including someone quite well known in food blog cyberspace, none other than Amy . In their own words Bay Area Bites is a product of Cooking, a component of San Francisco's Public Broadcasting website. Their food blog combines the expertise and insight of a number of Bay Area food writers and professionals who each bring their unique perspectives the virtual table.

Welcome to the San Francisco Food Blogging Community, everyone.
Spicetart & more...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Cookie commission - The Recipes

From the comments I received on my last post, there was some interest in recipes. I hereby present links to the actual recipes I used to bake my batch of Brit-Centric Biscuits.

Click on photo to enlarge

Ginger Nuts - Classic British Biscuit # 1
Read a little background on the Ginger Nut here
When I was a kid I hated these. I didn't like ginger. I am sure my mum filled up the biscuit tin primarily with Ginger Nuts, just to stop me eating biscuits. They caused the flavour of ginger to permeate through all of the other cookies too and, therefore, I resented them. The fact my sister actually liked them made it even worse. Now I am all grown up, of course, I like ginger very much and I found these cookies quite delicious and extremely easy to make. I could even stand a little more ginger than specified in the recipe I used, which I found here . Please note, too, that I used butter instead of margarine with no adverse affect. And, by the way, the name of these cookies is somewhat puzzling, as they don't contain even the slightest hint of a nut.

Click on photo to enlarge

Garibaldis - Classic British Biscuit # 2
Some very intriguing Garibaldi biscuit facts can be found here.
Thanks to kind readers, I have learnt that Garibaldis, better known in the UK as Squashed Flies, are more often than not referred to here, in the US, as Raisin Biscuits. This strikes me as daft as they have nothing to do with raisins and everything to do with currants. Personally, I have difficulty eating either version of shriveled grape and consequently have never tried a Garibaldi in my life. When I was a kitchen-crazy kid, however, I regularly baked a batch of these for my dried-fruit-loving family. Yesterday, I used the recipe here.

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All Butter Shortbread - Classic British Biscuit # 3
Who can resist these devastatingly simple-to-bake cookies. They only contain three ingredients - what could possibly be easier than that? They just melt in your mouth. It's the starring ingredient so always be sure to always real butter, never margarine or another substitute. That is the secret to shortbread success. Find the recipe here . I made mine without using the mould as suggested.

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Flapjack - Classic British Biscuit # 4
Like the Shortbread above, Flapjacks are a quintessential Scottish recipe. Their main ingredient is oats, so it should come as no surprise. This is another easy recipe, that is great for kids to make. I have managed to find Golden Syrup for sale in the US at Wholefoods. It is also easily available online if you do a search. If you can't find it, substitute honey for equal success. I used the recipe here opting for the lesser of the two suggested sugar amounts.

These cookies raised $60 towards Tsunami Relief funds, an amount which will be kindly matched by our employer for a grand total of $120.
Cookie commission - The Recipes

Cookie Commission

On Monday I got a call at work from someone who wanted to commission me to bake a batch of cookies for his step dad's birthday. He offered to give $60 to our Tsunami Relief Fund (an amount which will be doubled due to our employer kindly matching all donations until this Friday), if I was up for the challenge. To make it more interesting, he told me his step dad, living in the US, is actually English. This gave me a perfect excuse to bake a British-centric batch of biscuits. Hence, last night, I was busy creating Flapjacks, Garibaldis, Ginger Nuts and All-butter Shortbread. Briefly, the result looks like this:

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Slightly more detailed posts about these cookies, complete with recipe links, might be published sometime in the future. Maybe Garibaldi's, which we renamed Squashed Fly Biscuits when we were kids, need a little further explanation! (Do they exist in the US?). I had my work cut out for me yesterday because as well as making all these biscuits, I was whipping up a batch of Potato Fennel Soup with Rosemary Scones for a Soup Kitchen we're having at work today for another one of our Tsunami fund raising schemes. I think I might need a little bit of a lie-in once this week is over...

Head here to find links to the recipes I used for Garibaldi's, Butter Shortbread, Flapjacks & Gingernuts.
Cookie Commission

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants - San Francisco...

...have announced the schedule for their Wednesday Winemaker Tastings, up until June. In their own words:

The word has been getting out about our Wednesday Winemaker tastings in the Wine Bar, and we are proud to present the schedule for the first half of 2005. These events are open to everyone, and the only cost is for the flight of the wine.

In this list, you’ll see some of California’s most rare and celebrated wines and the people who make them famous. This is a great opportunity to taste delicious wines and chat in a casual atmosphere with the types of producers that we love to feature here at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant…mark your calendar, and see you soon!

January 12: Greg La Follette: Tandem Winery
January 26: Donn Riesen: In honor of ZAP week, we will pour single vineyard wines from Ridge Vineyards, mostly Zins but also Monte Bello
February 2: Pam Starr: Pam will present Crocker & Starr, Gemstone, and Adastra
February 16: Dick Grace: vertical of Grace Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and Blank Vineyard
March 2: Robin Lail: Lail Vineyards 1997, 2000, 2001 and Blueprint 2001 and 2002
March 16: James Hall & Ann Moses: Patz & Hall wines
March 30: David Hirsch: Various Pinots from the Hirsch Vineyard, plus his own Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir
April 13: Merry Edwards: Various Pinot Noirs from her portfolio
April 27: David Long: David Arthur Vineyards
May 4: Bob Foley: Robert Foley Vineyards plus consulting projects
May 11: Kelly Peterson: Switchback Ridge
May 25: Andy Peay: Peay vineyards
June 8: Mike Hirby, Wendell Laidley, Juan Mercado: Mike Hirby owns Relic: a Pinot Noir and Syrah label. Realm is a Cabernet owned by Wendell & Juan, and is made by Mike. These are 2 small production new projects.
June 22: Laurie & Tom Clark: Clark-Claudon Cabernet Sauvignon vertical

(Contact them for times and more details. Their website can be found here )
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants - San Francisco...

Monday, January 10, 2005

Hot Chocolate - Hot Topic

Hot Chocolate is a hot topic this winter in the Bay area. In mid-December the Chronicle ran an article dedicated to sourcing a good mug-full of the stuff. They even held a tasting at The Ferry Plaza which drew mixed reactions from Chowhounds who tried it out. About a week ago I reported on what Townhall calls San Francisco's Best Cup of Hot Chocolate. At seven bucks a cup, it's certainly one of SF's most expensive. I also mentioned that Boulette's Larder in The Ferry Plaza sells a very creamy and delicious European version of the drink for less than half that price. Boulette's version is fairly popular with Chowhounds, some of whom like to pair it with a basket of their freshly cooked-to-order beignets.
Over at World on a Plate there is a post called Cocoa Loco featuring the cocoa drink as an alternative to caffeine. Meanwhile, Amy at Cooking with Amy has even more Bay Area related news about this increasingly popular sipable treat.
After sampling the Boulette's Larder version on Christmas Eve, I decided to make my own end-of-2004 version before January resolutions for a healthier lifestyle kicked in.

Click on photo to enlarge

Just over 3 years ago I visited Sydney where I stumbled on the irresistible Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. I couldn't stop myself from purchasing the Suckao pictured above. It's perfect for making a decadent cup of warming hot chocolate.

Light the candle under the metal cup. Fill half of the cup with cream or milk. When the milk gets hot, gradually fill it up with grated chocolate of your choice, until a smooth, thick hot chocolate drink is attained. Use the metal straw to stir it and drink it.

Other Chocolate and Good News

Last week, a few people commented that they were impressed when I refrained from trying the Almond Chocolate Torte that I baked to help raise funds for Tsunami Relief. Well, yesterday I baked another of the same sinful cake, and this time my will power caved in. I had a small slice. But. I had good reason for a little celebration. I found out I was part of a team who reached the final of the Visual Effects Society Awards, for my work on the Lemony Snicket movie. You can read Hollywood Reporter's account of the finalists. I even get a name check. Maybe I'll get to wear a fancy frock and go to a glitzy ceremony in LA. It's not quite the Oscars, but its the closest I'll probably ever get! Quite exciting...
Hot Chocolate - Hot Topic

Peanut Butter Cookies

Today's bakesale offering to raise funds at work for Tsunami Relief (along with another Almond Chocolate Torte are Peanut Butter Cookies. I don't like peanut butter in sweet things much, but I do actually have a thing for these cookies after trying my first one, baked by my friend Vinny's mum, on a road trip to Tahoe over the New Year. Friends who popped by last night couldn't resist buying a few and to my surprise, Fred couldn't refrain from one either. I've already got $9 in the bank! They were incredibly easy to make especially with, you've guessed it, the new Kitchenaid.

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The recipe I used can be found here
Peanut Butter Cookies

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Lemon Cashew Chicken - Crispy "Seaweed" - Creamy, Spicy Potato Salad

click on photo to enlarge

This is an entry for The Second Paper Chef Challenge Four random ingredients, in this case, lemon, chicken, potatoes and savoy cabbage, should be part of whatever recipe you decide to invent. My recipe serves 2.

Lemon Cashew Chicken
For the marinade: 4 tbsp dry sherry - 1 tbsp lemon/pepper oil - 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil - 1" square cube of fresh ginger, grated, 1 tbsp soy sauce - zest and juice of one, large, unwaxed lemon, 1 tsp sugar, 5 thinly slice green onions, salt and pepper to taste.
Meat: 1 large chicken breast, skinned, removed from the bone and cut into bite-sized pieces.
Plus: 1/2 cup dry sherry, a handful of cashews toasted until golden.
Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add chicken pieces and leave for a few hours in the fridge. Cook in a steamer until tender, adding the extra half cup of sherry to the liquid in the pan underneath for added moisture. Before serving, mix toasted cashews with the chicken. Spoon the lemony juices from the bottom of the pan onto the chicken.

Crispy "Seaweed"
Crispy Seaweed deserves an explanation. You might find "Crispy Seaweed" on British Chinese menus. Maybe elsewhere in the world, too, I am not sure. Anyway, often the seaweed is actually no such thing. It is, instead, cabbage, deep fried, drained and then sprinkled with a mixture of equal amounts of sugar and salt. It really is a fantastic (although not necessarily healthy) way to eat up your greens!
Two handfuls of the greenest, darkest leaves of a savoy cabbage shred into the finest slivers possible - 1 tsp sugar - 1 tsp salt - canola oil for frying.
Carefully heat oil until very hot. Carefully add all of the cabbage and fry 2-3 minutes until it is crisp and golden. Turn off the heat. Remove leaves with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen towel. Stir in sugar and salt to taste.

Creamy, Spicy Potato Salad
Tiny, fingerling potatoes (enough for two) - 2 tbsp mayonnaise - 2 tsp hot mustard powder - 1 tbsp soy sauce - 1 tsp toasted sesame oil - leafy part of a bok choy, thinly sliced - a quarter of green bell pepper, diced, 4 green onions, minced, salt and pepper to taste.
Boil the potatoes, in their skins, until tender. Leave to cool. Crush each potato slightly with the flat side of a knife. In a bowl mix the remaining ingredients together. Leave at least 10 minutes to allow the flavour of the powdered mustard to develop. Add the potatoes and stir until they are coated with the dressing.

Serve all three items in a bowl together. Cold and creamy carbs, warming zesty protein and crispy, crunchy, tasty cabbage. Three contrasting elements that compliment each other effortlessly.
Lemon Cashew Chicken - Crispy "Seaweed" - Creamy, Spicy Potato Salad

The British Grocery - San Francisco

Tucked away in a forgotten corner of Potrero Hill in San Francisco, with plentiful parking opportunities, you'll find The British Grocery. Run by a gentleman from the old country, Patrick Alexander, this tiny store is packed with goodies that would widen the eyes of any self-respecting ex-pat. Crumpets, Marmite, Crunchie bars, Shreddies, Heinz Tomato soup, Mint sauce, Bread sauce, Bisto and Hobnobs are among the items for sale. The store, at 726 - 15th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103 is open from 10 to 5pm, Wednesday through Friday. For shipping information and further details, visit his website here

How Foodies Can Help With Tsunami Relief. Tip of the Day #6

Australian Chef Benjamin Christie is trying to find Promotional work for his Thai Chef friends made temporarily unemployed from the Banyan Tree Bintan in Indonesia because of the Tsunami. Skip to the post on his site for further details if you might be in a position to help.

More Blog Awards

This time it's the big one, the 2005 Bloggies and, wait for it, they've added a new category, Food Blogs. Head over there if you want to make a nomination, but be sure to read the rules: At least three different weblogs total must be nominated. That means you have to vote for more than just your favourite food blog! Nominations close on Monday, so make it quick!
The British Grocery - San Francisco

Friday, January 07, 2005

Fatted Calf - Boudin Blanc with Chestnuts

On the evening of Thursday January the 6th 2005, the appropriate night for such things, I had an epiphany. This is what it looked like:

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Steps YOU can take to experience a similar, sudden, intuitive realization through the ordinary circumstance of eating dinner:

1) Read Meathenge and listen to him when raves about Fatted Calf products.

2) Visit the Fatted Calf website and subscribe to their news letter. They sell different things each week, the newsletter will let you know what is available.

3) If you are lucky enough to live in the Bay Area, get your arse over to Berkeley on a Tuesday or a Saturday where The Fatted Calf is featured at the Berkeley Farmer's Markets.

4)Make sure you arrive there early. Meathenge suggests by 11am at the latest. Don't be lazy, like I was, and arrive at 2pm only to find that The Fatted Calf had already sold out and shut up shop.

At the incessant urgings of Meathenge's Dr Biggles Fred and I finally made it over to The Fatted Calf in the East Bay just a couple of days before Christmas, hoping to find some saucisson sec. Unfortunately they were out of it, so we bought some other things instead

The Duck Rillette was smooth, moist, mild, fatty and creamy. Absolutely delicious spread on toast, with the fat melding into the warmed bread.

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I loved the Fatted Calf version, whilst those around me preferred the more strongly flavoured pork rillette homemade by a French friend that we were sampling at the same time. The Fatted Calf one definitely had a superior texture, but I must admit the other one had been sitting in the freezer for a very long time.

The kind Fatted Calf people, on seeing our disappointment at their not having saucisson sec, popped a complimentary Corsican sausage into our bag of purchases. It was dry, tasty and totally delicious. We started eating it when we got home. A nibble here, a little slice there, it was all gone in about a minute. We immediately kicked ourselves for not trying it whilst still at the market. If we had done so, I think we might have wound up buying the whole jarful.

And on to the Boudin Blanc which were stored in the freezer until Wednesday when they were taken out to defrost. On Thursday we opened their white paper packaging to reveal four plump fat sausages. Four seemed a lot, we weren't that hungry. Fred suggest we cook three to share and put the other one in the fridge. I was doubtful that the remaining, solitary sausage would ever get used if we left him in the fridge and decide we should cook all four. One could always be eaten cold, I remarked. "Cold?", said, Fred, "I can't eat Boudin cold". Anyway, the long and short of it was. Those meaty, handmade sausages, with soft floury pieces of chestnut were so darned good that, of course, we ate them all, right there and then. Wow! Best sausage I've had since living in the US (3 years, 344 days and counting).

Fatted Calf, you have our attention, we'll be back. You excited a fussy, charcuterie-loving Frenchman and he's been raving about you to his French friends. Good job! Good job indeed.

(Fatted Calf will be having a short vacation, (how inconsiderate, so soon after I discovered them :).No Markets for them on Tuesday, 1/11 or Saturday 1/15, but news is they will be tanned, rested and ready on Tuesday, 1/18)

How Foodies Can Help With Tsunami Relief. Tip of the Day #5

Locally, in San Francisco, Bart/Safeway/Singapore Airlines/Wells Fargo and Grant Smith have joined together to send 20 tons of water (enough to quench the thirst of 34,000 people) to Tsunami-stricken areas. Visit this website to see how you can help by making a small donation.
Fatted Calf - Boudin Blanc with Chestnuts

Nuts once, Nuts twice and Nuts once again!

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Nuts Once: Divinity

I wasn't planning to make all these nut recipes. But then we started fund raising towards Tsunami Relief at work and so I went a bit nuts myself, and started baking away like crazy. I was trying to be more conscious not to be wasteful and so decided I would only allow myself to make things with ingredients I already had in my cupboards and my fridge. Looking in my new Kitchen Aid Recipe book, I found something called Divinity. It sounded very strange to me, I'd never seen or heard of anything like it. So I asked some questions about it on the Chowhound Home Cooking Message Board. Replies gave me not only a cultural education, but also some great tips. I ended up whipping up a a batch of it and I am assuming it turned out alright. As I have never encountered Divinity before, I am not quite sure what it should look like. Mine seemed to resemble the photograph accompanying the recipe, so I don't think I've embarrassed myself too much. Pantry supplies determined that I should use a mixture of walnuts and almonds. Let's hope they sell well at work today. The recipe I used can be found here

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Nuts Twice: Chocolate Almond Torte

I made this cake on Wednesday night, also from the little recipe book that came with my new Kitchen Aid. I sold slices of it at work on Thursday to make money for Tsunami Relief Funds. Until next Friday our employer will match any money that we contribute. I cut the cake into sixteen slices, asking for a minimum of $2 a slice. Colleagues were very generous, however, and I found $64 in the jar at the end of the day. That amount doubled by our employer's match means my one little cake raised $124 for a good cause. The best thing about this was that I didn't spend any extra money on the ingredients. As with the Divinity, I chose a recipe which I could make entirely from things I already had in my kitchen. Baking it helped me use up some things I might not otherwise have used for a while, like raw flaked almonds and condensed milk. The worst thing about it is that I am trying to be better about what I eat, so despite rave reviews from the purchasers and the chocolatey baking smells wafting through my apartment, I resisted the temptation to try a slice myself.

Click on photo to enlarge

...and Nuts Once Again: Marzipan Pine Nut Cookies (Panellets de Pinyons)

Ok, ok, I know I've posted about these cookies before, in fact I've made them successfully, twice. This is just a very short report to remind you: Never accidentally mistake waxed paper for parchment! These cookies may look very beautiful, but each one of them has a layer of impossible-to-remove wax paper congealed to their backside. I had to carve the paper off and then reform the remainder into Marzipan Pinenut Balls instead! Still, they seemed to go down very well with coffee at the end of our Christmas Feast

These were my short, but sweet, entries for Seattle Bon Vivant's Sugar High Friday 4 Nuts!

Paper Chef Challenge # 2, this weekend.

Check out for an announcement today. Although if anchovies get through, I am afraid I won't be able to take part.
Nuts once, Nuts twice and Nuts once again!