Friday, March 31, 2006

Foodography 4 is announced

Green! Foodography
Celebrate the beginning of Spring, the rains have made vegetation vibrant and green, so it's time to give it your best shot. Get out those cameras and celebrate the most luscious of colours...

photograph picture collage green foods

Today marks the launch of the fourth round of mine and Andrew's food/wine photography club challenge, Foodography, for food bloggers and food lovers. This month's theme gives you the opportunity to snap anything and everything food in shades from drab olive to bright Chartreuse.

Participants are invited to join our special Foodography 4 Flickr Group where photographs on the Green theme will be collected over the next six weeks for an automized roundup.

Here are the guidelines:

- Only pictures with a food related green theme should be added to Foodography: we will remove those that are not.

- You can't cheat like I did in the collage above, only pictures taken specifically for this Foodography challenge will be accepted. Any images taken or loaded to Flickr before April 1st 2006 will be deleted.

- Only three Foodography entries per person please. Edit your entries before you submit and choose to showcase just your three favourites on the subject. The challenge is open til mid May so there is plenty of time to experiment and play with the theme before uploading your top three images.

Foodography is generally open to constructive critique, to help us improve our food and drink photography skills.

- If you do not wish your Foodography entry to receive a critique enter NO CRITIQUE in the description. Otherwise, by default, you should expect critique from fellow members.

- If you are looking for Foodography critique, please initiate discussion about your own entry by adding your critique, to your submission. Outline what you like about your picture, what you were trying to achieve, what you think works and where you think there are areas for improvement.

- The Foodography challenge is to take a picture on a theme, not to pick one from an archive.

- Foodography was created for food bloggers but anyone who is into the idea is welcome to join in.

Have fun!

Previously on Foodography:
Foodography 1 - Oranges are not the only Fruit
Foodography 2 - Dairy
Foodography 3 - Tools of the Trade (open to submissions for another 2 weeks)

PS I would like to apologize to my regular readers for my lack of posting recently. Unfortunately my work hours have sky rocketed and I am currently working six day weeks and evening overtime which leaves me sparse time for anything else, let alone blogging. For anyone who is interested, I am still losing weight, albeit slowly. We are going away this weekend, our first whole 2 days off work together this year. Yes you heard correctly. After that we won't be coming up for air again until June. In the meantime, I promise to try and dip into Becks & Posh every now again with a foodie update for you all. I hope to collect some good dining material over the next couple of days. And whatever happens, I won't miss What's For Pud. I have already started some successful experiments with homemade jaffa Cakes. So, until some time in June, when I hope to return to more regular blogging, I thank you for your patience...

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Foodography 4 is announced

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The English & Their Tea

with a Modern Twist
This made me laugh so much I was crying but I don't think my mother would approve. If you similarly would have a problem with rapping and bad language, it's probably better if you don't check out this movie.

photograph picture English Tea Rap

You might have a little trouble with the download - I had to reload a few times before I got to see it the whole way through. Just in - Addition: This link should work better or even this one!

PS. Perhaps this will inspire you to throw a full-on English Tea Party on April 23rd (St George's Day). That's what I will be doing to make the most of What's For Pud?!

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The English & Their Tea

Monday, March 20, 2006

What's For Pud?

C'mon Boys, show me your Spotted Dicks...

photograph picture whats for pud english desserts, sweets, cakes biscuits and uds
... and give me an eyeful of your Ginger Nuts!!

Becks & Posh and Jam Faced are joining forces to celebrate the day that no one ever celebrates and we would love for everyone else to join us. St George's Day is the English National Day. Yes, really, the English do have one.
-It's not a day off work.
-Hardly anyone wears a red rose in their lapel.
-And you would be hard pushed to find an Englishman, or woman, who can even recall its date which is April 23rd!

Together we are attempting to change that and put St George's Day firmly on the world's culinary map, with a celebration of English 'afters'.

We are inviting everyone [that's YOU] to join us with in this blogging event and make any English Dessert or Cake or Biscuits or Pud or Sweets and post about it on St George's day, Sunday April 23rd. We are going to do the round up in two parts. The saucy girls will send their buns and stuff to Monkey Gland and the cheeky boys will send their spotted dicks et al to me.

Afters, pud, pudding, biscuits, sweets - all words that the English might use to describe what they refer to as desserts, candies and cookies in other parts of the world.
We may have to take a lot of stick about British food in general, but I have never heard anyone complain about our pud. It sure can be good.

To join in, all you have to do is make something sweet and English and post about it on your blog on Sunday April 23rd. You could include photographs, recipes, history or stories about the dessert, the choice is yours. Read the full entry guidelines here which includes details about where to send your post in order to be included in the roundup. English puddings - oh yes - this is going to be more than yummy!

A few ideas to get you started:

Clotted Cream Fudge | Summer Pudding | Eccles Cakes| Bakewell Tart | Sticky Toffee Pudding | Syllabub | Gooseberry Fool | Jaffa Cakes | Trifle | Jam Roly Poly | Junket | Spotted Dick | Scones | Fairy Cakes | Victoria Sandwich | Banoffi Pie | Mince Pies | Rhubarb Crumble & Custard | Rock Cakes | Butterfly Cakes | Bread & Butter Pudding | Chester Cake | Queen of Puddings | Treacle Tart | Eton Mess | Apple Charlotte | English Toffee | Simnel Cakes | Posset | Chelsea buns | Bath buns | Lardy Cake | Banbury Cake | Cornish Fairings | Poor Knights of Windsor | Parkin | Easter Biscuits | Angel Delight | Manchester Tart | Mars Bar Cake |

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Looking for English Recipes:
Blog Favourite Anna | Baking for Britain
The Green Chronicle | British Recipes
Cooking by Country | England
Search for English Recipes |
En Francais | Cookies, Muffins & Co de Pascale

More About St George's Day:
A Day For England
St George's Day Events
The Value of St George's Day
Garry Bushell's Opinion
English Heritage

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Coincidentally, I was on my way to ENGLAND, leaving Fred home alone with the Saucisson Sec

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What's For Pud?

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Bay Area Blogger of the Week # 35

Sweet, Sweet Napa

photograph picture sweet napa blog

I love Nina's blog, Sweet Napa in which she documents her experiences on the 30 week baking and pastry program at the Culinary Institute in Napa. Because I sometimes wonder whether maybe I should I have taken up a career in the kitchen instead of in film, I can now live vicariously through her. (Nina worked in the film industry, too, before making the change to baking).

Her latest post, is an account of a practical exam in which the students make hearth bread and rolls. Seeing as I am usually only able to bake one kind of bread, I am totally impressed with Nina's wonderful-looking ciabatta and the other breads the students made. Check out Sweet Napa and you might even have a sudden desire to purchase a banneton.

PS This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the Bay Area Blogger of the Week feature! From Eggbeater to MadEater, the Bay Area certainly doesn't have a shortage of excellent foodish blogs!

Adding to the Bay Area Food Roll this week: Foodstorm | Eat Drink | Dessert First | Emily Style

Previously Featured Bay Area Food & Drink Bloggers:
Cupcake Bakeshop | Tea & Cookies | Albion Cooks | Blogher | Bay Area Bites | Hungry Hedonist | Mighty | Chez Pim | The Blue Bottle Clown College | The Novato Experiment | Amuse Bouche | Feeding Fashionistas | All In | Dr Five Pints | SF Gourmet | Small Farms | In Praise of Sardines | Life Begins @ 30 | Gastronomie | Confessions of a Restaurant Whore | Bunny Foot | Sweet & Savory | I'm Mad and I Eat | Yummy Chow | Nosheteria | Vivi's Wine Journal | Epicurian Debauchery | Food Musings | Pfiff | Marga's Food Blog | Where the Wild Things Are | Eggbeater

Archive Alert! Bay Area Blogger of the Week #1

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Bay Area Blogger of the Week # 35

Friday, March 17, 2006

Fig, Orange & Chipotle Pork Roast

Sweet and Succulent

As I may have mentioned in passing, I have been taking yet another cookery class with Tante Marie. This time round I am learning Latin American Cooking taught by Penelope Alzamora. Penny, a sparkling, passionate Peruvian, has not only been cooking since she was a child, she launched a chain of restaurants in Lima and Chile where she cooked for many years before landing in San Francisco. I have learnt so many new things in the past five weeks and I am already sad that we only have one more session to go.

photograph picture Fig, Orange & Chipotle Pork Roast recipe

Some of the recipes Penelope teaches us are traditional, whilst others incorporate traditional elements in new ways, like this delicious pork roast recipe that is great for entertaining and can be served hot or at room temperature. I have slightly adapted the recipe from the original she taught us. Serves 6.

1 tablespoon chipotle en adobo
Juice and zest of one large, unwaxed orange
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon organic brown cane sugar
4 fat garlic cloves, minced
pinch cinnamon
generous pinch salt
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar

In a blender process the chipotle en adobe and orange juice until a puree forms. Add the zest, honey, cumin, sugar, garlic, cinnamon, salt and vinegar and further pulse until just blended.

photograph picture Pork shoulder roast from Prather ranch recipe

The Pork:
1 (approx 3lb) boneless pork roast (I used shoulder from Prather Ranch Meat Co)
2 fat garlic cloves, slivered
fresh thyme sprigs
black pepper
ground cumin
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/5 cup dry white wine
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced

Put the pork roast in a big bowl and coat with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

photograph picture Pork shoulder roast from Prather ranch recipe marinating in orange and chipotle

Preheat the oven to 350F.
Remove pork from marinade and pat dry.
If your roast still has fat, remove and set it aside and then cut slits in the top of the meat.
Fill the slits with garlic slithers and sprigs of time and spoonfuls of the mainade.
Replace the fat and tie the joint with string.
Generously rub the roast with salt, pepper and ground cumin.
On the stovetop, heat the oil and butter in a heavy bottomed roasting pan until bubbling.
Add the meat and brown on all four sides.
Add the wine and onion to the pan.
Pop a meat thermometer into the centre of the meat.
Cover the pan and put into the preheated oven.
After 20 minutes, start to bast the meat every 10 minutes or so, with the juices.


1/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup dried mission figs, chopped
1 orange
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
When the meat thermometer shows a temperature of 150F, the meat will be cooked.
Remove the joint from the oven and allow to rest, under foil, on a carving board, for at least 10 minutes.

First use the orange peel to make some decorative curls using a zester.
Remove the rind and then supreme the orange into segments
Deglaze the pan with the wine before adding the figs, thyme and orange slices. Simmer for 10 minutes until soft. Remove the from the heat and roughly puree with an immersion blender: This sauce should still be chunky.

Remove the string from the roast and carve into slices. Present on a bed of rocket leaves decorated with the orange zest curls. Spoon some of the fig sauce over the meat and serve the rest on the side. Delicious.

This roast is definitely on the sweet side and as such does not appeal a great deal to my Fred. Well, he liked the meat, but found the sauce a bit jammy. Myself and and friend Katja had no difficulty polishing off everything on our plates. There is a little spiciness, but it is subtle. Definitely nothing to fear here from people who don't like spicy.

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Oranges | Orangewood Farm
Garlic | Affi's Marin Gourmet
Alfafa California honey | Meeks' Honey
Prather Ranch Pork | Heritage Breeds
Thyme | from Eatwell
The Most delicious rocket leaves ever | Tairwa' Knoll Farms
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Saturday Morning | Farmers Market
Penny teaches Spanish Cooking too | Tante Marie's

Other Resources:
How to Make | chipotle en adobo
Bohemia Cafe | in Lima

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Chevre Cheesecake Pots with Caramel and Fleur de Sel, Yum!

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Fig, Orange & Chipotle Pork Roast

Thursday, March 16, 2006

NO, No, no...

...don't watch this whilst you are eating. It might turn your stomach!
A challenge for next Pancake Day, perhaps?

Links, Resources and Further Reading
Link from | A Welsh View
Who got it via | The J-Walk Blog

NO, No, no...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

When Life gives you Meyers

You need to get into the Kitchen

Which is exactly where I went when a very kind somebody gave me a bag of at least 60 meyer lemons from their tree. I decided to get fancy and play at pretending I was Pierre Hermé.

photograph picture tarte au citron lemon tart made using a pierre herme recipe

Although I have already made his honey lime truffles, this was my first attempt at a Pierre Hermé patisserie recipe, a tarte au citron, taken from the fabulous Cooks Book. Let me just say one thing. No, two things. Firstly,if Monsieur Hermé would ever like a lesson on how to rustify the look of his otherwise exquisite pastries, then I'm his girl. Secondly, if you ever substitute regular lemons with Meyers in a Tarte au Citron recipe, then cut back on the sugar because Meyer lemons are naturally much sweeter. Next time I am trying this with the same amount of sugar but using regular lemons instead. Other than being on the sweet side, this tart made with the best local ingredients was scrumptious.

I made this tart to take around to some friends who had invited us to watch France v England in the Rugby on Sunday. But they got the wrong date for its US transmission so the soiree was cancelled. Boy, are they going to be annoyed when they see what they missed out on. (They love Pierre Hermé.) As France trounced England, I don't feel the slightest bit guilty about having scoffed the French tart as a retort. Even though I support Wales. But that's another story...

And here is another lemon Recipe. Preserved Meyer Lemons. Easy Peasy.

photograph picture recipe how to make preserved meyer lemons

Preserved Meyer Lemons:

6-7 juicy, ripe meyer lemons
1/4 cup salt
1 cinnamon stick, snapped in half
6 coriander seeds
4 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
[extra lemons to make up juice]

1 sterilized half litre jar.

Put one tablespoon of the salt into the bottom of the jar. Cut crosses in the lemons to within the 1/2 inch of the bottom so that they are still joined as one. Sprinkle salt on the exposed flesh. Squoosh the lemons into the jar, packing down tightly as you go, adding the spices and more salt evenly between layers. If there is not enough juice expelled by the lemons, to cover them all sufficiently, then add more fresh lemon juice until they are all submerged. Leave a little airspace at the top and seal the jar.

Leave the jar in a warm place for 30 days, shaking the jar each day to distribute the juices throughout the jar. To use the lemons, first rinse them and then remove the pulp. The lemons do not need to be refrigerated.

(in the photgraph above, the recipe was made using double quantities of everything and a one litre mason jar.)

Thanks to Jenn Knapp at Tante Marie's Cooking School for teaching me this recipe.

PS. Thanks to Jill, fellow pupil in cooking class who took me seriously and remembered when I said if she gave me some of her lemon glut, I would promise to put them to good use.

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Glaze for Tart | Crabapple Quince Jelly from Loulou's Garden
Cooking School | Tante Marie
Fresh Eggs | Marin Sun Farms
Butter | Straus

Other Resources:
Citrus Lemon | Fruits of Warm Climates
What to do with Preserved Lemons? | Start searching
Exquisite Pastries | Pierre Hermé

Weight loss, Weightwatchers and diet notes:
23 19.5 17.5 17.0 15.0 14.0 13.0 12.5

I was going to use the tarte au Citron as an excuse for not losing weight this week, but I surprised myself when I still managed to shed half a pound. No mean feat since the last seven days saw me indulging in 3 slices of it, more pate sucree scraps than you could count, a slice of pizza, French onion soup oozing with cheese, several glasses of wine and champagne, a middle eastern dinner with lots of dips and bread and other delicious things. Weightwatchers - I've got to love them, it really seems to work for me.

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Funnily enough, I was mentioning Loulou's Garden at about this time last year too, after a trip to Berkeley Farmer's Market.

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When Life gives you Meyers

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Chipotle en Adobo

Homeade, yo!

I don't know about you, but I hate it when I try and do my weekly shop only to find there is one ingredient lacking and then I have to traipse off somewhere else to find it. This happened to me at the Ferry Building last Saturday when I needed some chipotle en adobo.

photograph picture home made chipotle en adobe with recipe

I was in the The Village Market, looking a bit lost, when someone came to ask me if I needed some help finding anything. Chip-ott-ul en Adobo, please, I replied. Thankfully he didn't laugh at my terrible pronounciation as he explained they didn't stock chip-ott-lay in that form.

What they did have was dried Los Chileros chipotles with a recipe for making Chipotle en Adobo on the back. I scanned the ingredient list and realised I already had just about everything needed to make my own, including some ketchup that I bought for another recipe about a year ago and hadn't used since. It was time to put it to use.

Chipotle en Adobo Recipe

12 dried chipotle, destemmed, split lengthways and seeds removed.
6 Tablespoons organic tomato ketchup.
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/2 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar

Gently simmer all the ingredients together in a heavy, covered saucepan together with 3 cups of water for about an hour until the liquid is reduced to one cup.

Note: The original recipe called for apple cider vinegar. There is a limit to how many different varieties of vinegar I can house in my pantry to satisfy the whims of each and every recipe I come across, so I substituted red wine vinegar and it worked out just fine.

photograph picture home made chipotle in adobe with recipe

PS. Why am I telling you this, you might be wondering? The chipotle en adobe will be featured in an upcoming recipe that I learnt at cooking school. I am currently taking classes in Latin American Cooking with the absolutely wonderful Peruvian Chef Penelope Alzamora at Tante Marie. So watch out, things might get a little bit spicy around here at some point!

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Grocery | The Village Market
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Cooking School | Tante Marie

Other Resources:
Dried Chipotle | Los Chileros
Gourmet Sleuth | Everything Chipotle
Ready-made | Chipotle en Adobo
Chipotle |

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Acme's Citrus Almond Brioche

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Chipotle en Adobo

Monday, March 13, 2006

Doctor's Note

When did you have your last smear,
My dear,
It's been almost a year?

photograph picture DESCRIBE PICTURE HERE
"L'essence de Levure"

Dear Doctor, I spake
The last time I ate,
I had a smear on the side of my plate.

PS. Foodography round three on the subject Tools of the Trade is well under way and round two on a dairy theme is just about wrapping up. If you are interested in taking pictures of food then definitely check them both out!

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Mario's Bohemian Cigar Bar

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Doctor's Note

Sunday, March 12, 2006

XYZ @ the W - SoMa - San Francisco

photograph picture XYZ w hotel san francisco restaurant review

Sometimes we discuss the possibility of spending a night in the W hotel. It's no more than 2 miles from our house but the allure of their perfectly comfortable beds beckons to us from memories of happy nights we slept at the Ws in Seattle and San Diego. I fondly recall how Zoë at the W in New Orleans saved me many times from the dreadful food at the conference centre opposite, a fact which recently caused me to wonder why I had resolutely decided to never give the restaurant at San Francisco's W a chance. The answer to the question was clear. Only tourists eat at W hotels, don't they? Why on earth should I play and pay at being a tourist in my own town?

For the sake of writing this piece for my SFist column, playing at being tourists is exactly what I did last weekend when I convinced Fred and a group of friends, to join me for dinner at XYZ, the restaurant and bar attached to our very own Bay Area W hotel. It was no surprise to note that we had all dressed up for the occasion without being prompted - it's just the stylish kind of place that implies that you have to at least try to make some kind of effort. At 8.45pm, The Living Room was already noisy and crowded so we slunk upstairs to enjoy apertifs in XYZ's lounge-style bar hidden behind the beaded curtain. At that time on a Saturday night the XYZ bar was not even half full. We received prompt and pleasant service before settling on a balcony banquette overlooking our dining spot.

Strong cocktails and large glasses of wine paired with the lively conversation that flowed as we mixed old friends with new put us all in a convivial mood. At that point I guessed that whatever happened, we were going to have a good night. Everyone was in exactly the right mood, we were all the same wavelength and each of us was one hundred percent up for whatever the evening had in store.

After about twenty minutes of gossiping and with our drinks not quite finished, we meandered back downstairs to claim our table in the dining room. Our enthusiastic server bounded over to welcome us in a style that can only be described as jolly, putting the coolness of the entire W operation in jeopardy. I can't complain about his cheeriness, but his description of the soup as "finished with dash of cream" should be called in to question. To the contrary, my appetiser turned out to be more like a luke warm bowl of cream "finished with a dash of some vegetable" (sunchoke, cardoon and lemon oil, apparently). In fact, nary a vegetable could be distinguished in the myre although a hint of lemon did just about burst through and make itself known to the table before disappearing behind a creamy-white cloud.

Instead of licking the bowls clean we attacked a pinot noir (or two) instead and no one seemed to notice as the entrees came and went. I can just about remember the sweet little ball of granita that garnished a small plate of glistening hamachi sashimi. I recall trying a forkful of pasta from someone else's plate that was nothing more than ordinary. Another friend's duck, whilst not bad, just wasn't worth the effort of finding more words for. It was ordinary too.

Nevertheless it was one of those merry evenings. With dessert wine they brought us two plates of complimentary little sugary treats from the chef. It was a nice gesture and one they could afford to do at the steep prices they charge. But simply acting like a high end restaurant wasn't enough for me to drastically change my perception of a W hotel restaurant being a place better suited to unknowing visitors.

It occurred to me later, and my friends agreed, that we had spent a very un-San Francisco kind of evening - it almost really was like being tourists in our own town. Sometimes I need a feeling of a change from my humdrum schedule and the W delivers well on its particular brand of escapism.

By the time we left XYZ's restaurant, a hefty $60 lighter in each of our pockets, the W's bar and Living Room were both too overcrowded to comfortably accommodate us, so we sauntered a block North to people-watch, way-too-high-for-San-Francisco-shoe-watch and bizarre-collection-of-fashion-faux-pas-watch over a refined night cap at the St Regis. We wonder how long it will take before the cool young kids down at the W discover there is another, even more 'trendy', place to hang out, only a stones-throw away?

Links, Resources and Further Reading
Bay Area Resources:
Hotel | The W Hotel, San Francisco
Food & Drinks | XYZ
Night Cap | St Regis
XYZ | on Yelp
XYZ | on Gayot
XYZ | on Citysearch

Other Resources:
Classic Cocktails | Negroni

Archive Alert! This time in 2005: One of my favourite posts - Teaching Tim Vinny's Chicken Scarpelli!

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XYZ @ the W - SoMa - San Francisco

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ham 69

Where do you buy Smithfield-style Country Ham in the San Francisco Bay Area?

photograph picture smithfield country ham from boulettes larder in san francisco

A year and two days ago when I posted this, I could not find Smithfield Ham, or anything like it, anywhere. Today I was at Boulette's Larder enquiring after Jersey milk. [No, they didn't have it and I can't find it for sale anywhere, hmmph, because I wanted to make some clotted cream, cos I am sick of not being able to buy it in America]. Anyway, back to the ham.

Not only do I miss English clotted cream (there I go again), I hanker after a spot of decent ham from time to time too. In Boulette's Larder I spied a ham behind the counter that looked like just the ticket. None of that watery square-sliced rubbish, and no smokeyness either. I bought some for a lunchtime sandwich. It was a little, tiny bit too salty for me. But still it was a joy after so long in the ham wilderness. Too much salt is nowhere near as bad a) square shaped ham, b) smoked ham, c) watery ham, d) processed ham, e) Spam.

The ham at Boulette's Larder is WG White's country ham from North Carolina. It is not true 'Smithfield ham', but it's a better ham than most I've come across around here.

Bay Area Ham Sandwich Resources:
Rustic Bun | from Acme
Unsalted butter | from Straus | at Cowgirl Creamery
Hot Mustard | Voigt Family Secret Recipe
Boulette's | Larder
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Saturday Morning | Farmers Market

Archive Alert! A year on I am still buy a dozen Marin Sun Farm eggs every week or two. Marin Sun Farms suffered devastating losses in recent floods, please give them your support.

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Ham 69

Bay Area Blog of the Week # 34

Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit

Do you ever feel like you have been living under a rock[cake]? That's how I felt earlier this week when I only just discovered Chockylit's beautiful Cupcake Bakeshop blog which not only originates from the San Francisco area, but is also one year old this month! Where on earth have I been?

photograph picture chocklit cupcake bakeshop blog

I have been getting very hungry sifting through Chockylit's archives. Persimmon Pavlova Cupcakes look and sound stunning, a chocolate tarragon combination sounds just like my kind of experiment and the Churros and Chocolate Cupcake is such a charming idea. I am wowed. I am floored. I am sure that everyone in the world except me has been reading Chockylit for months and months, but if she happened to slip through your net too, be sure to put her firmly on your radar today!

Previously Featured Bay Area Food & Drink Bloggers:
Tea & Cookies | Albion Cooks | Blogher | Bay Area Bites | Hungry Hedonist | Mighty | Chez Pim | The Blue Bottle Clown College | The Novato Experiment | Amuse Bouche | Feeding Fashionistas | All In | Dr Five Pints | SF Gourmet | Small Farms | In Praise of Sardines | Life Begins @ 30 | Gastronomie | Confessions of a Restaurant Whore | Bunny Foot | Sweet & Savory | I'm Mad and I Eat | Yummy Chow | Nosheteria | Vivi's Wine Journal | Epicurian Debauchery | Food Musings | Pfiff | Marga's Food Blog | Where the Wild Things Are | Eggbeater

Archive Alert! Mimicing my favourite dish from Townhall

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Bay Area Blog of the Week # 34

Thursday, March 09, 2006


Puntarelle was the answer to yesterday's little teaser. I had never seen or heard of Puntarelle before I grabbed a bunch of it from Mariquita farms last weekend. It looks a little bit like asparagus except all of the stems are joined at the base. Unlike asparagus, the spears are hollow. And unlike asparagus, this vegetable is bitter. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that it is part of the chicory family.

photograph picture mystery vegetable which turns out to be puntarelle

In Italy, Puntarella are traditionally paired with anchovies. I didn't have any anchovies, so instead I made up a salad with marinated mushrooms, sherry vinegar, garlic, chorizo, Manchego cheese and, of course, the puntarelle (which should be sliced lengthways and soaked in salted water a few hours to reduce their bitterness).

photograph picture puntarelle mushroom and chorizo salad with sherry veinegar and manchego

The Fatted Calf have just won an Independent Food Festival Award for Charcuterie to Swoon For from Derrick, a choice which I wholeheartedly support. The Fatted Calf's Spanish-style chorizos are irresistable. What with my testing a little piece, here and there, I am surprised any chunks of it even made it as far as the salad. I warmed the chorizo in a little olive oil, so that the fats started to melt. I used the result, along with Sherry vinegar, to marinate the mushrooms for the salad.

photograph picture fatted calf chorizo

PS. Fred turned his nose up at this salad. The puntarelle is markedly bitter and as such won't be to everyones' taste. In a surprising turn around I did manage to get the chicken livers past him though. More on that another day.

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

What Vegetable is this?

Do you Know?

photograph picture mystery vegetable

Weight loss, weightwatchers and diet notes:

23 19.5 17.5 17.0 15.0 14.0 13.0
Today I received a Weightwatchers STAR for having lost 10lbs. Yay! I have only lost half a pound over each of the past two weeks, but it is still a step in the right direction. And it is refreshing to know, that you can still lose weight, even when you have a weak moment and end up devouring half a bucket of raw Mexican Cookie dough.

Archive Alert! Around this time last year at the Farmers Market and multi-coloured carrots.

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What Vegetable is this?

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Best Place to Dip Your spoon... into a pot of St Benoît Yogurt

photograph picture St Benoit plain yoghurt yogurt

Today marks the start of the Second Annual Independent Food Festival and Awards and I am delighted to have been given the opportunity to give an award for "The Best Place to Dip Your Spoon" to French brothers David and Benoît de Korsak for their wonderful product, St Benoît Yogurt.

The reasons I love St Benoît and their yogurt are many:

First and foremost, this yogurt tastes real. If you are more used to eating mass-produced, artificially sweetened brands of yogurt containing thickeners, stabilizers, preservatives and fake flavours, I can't guarantee that you are going to like St Benoît's more natural version. It tastes so pure, so tangy, so creamy and so fresh all at the same time. Your tastebuds will be dancing on your tongue for joy if you will only give them time to adjust to this unique new taste experience and allow them to differentiate it from the mass-produced yogurts they are more used to.

Delicious Natural Flavours. Personally, I am firmly in the plain yogurt camp. At breakfast-time I like to pair it with June Taylor or Lulu's Garden preserve. Sometimes I even make up a fresh jelly from seasonal fruit to go with it. If you prefer your yoghurt pre-blended and ready-to-go, St Benoît offer their own strawberry and plum flavoured yogurts made using organic fruits grown in the orchards of their Sonoma County terroir. Their most popular seller is a yogurt with honey made by the Marshall's Farm busy worker bees.

St Benoît yoghurt is good for you. Not only does it have high levels of calcium and protein compared to the same volume of milk, because it is cultured after pasteurization, it is also contains plenty of the live cultures that aid digestion. Read more here.

This yogurt is not as dangerous to the waistline as the cream on the surface might have you believe. Recently St Benoît started putting nutritional information on their yogurt pots. Because I have noticed, in general, that artisanal food producers tend to shy away from sharing these facts, I asked Benoît de Korsak what prompted the change. One reason, he told me, is that he was receiving a lot of emails asking for such information so he felt there was a need to communicate it, especially because the yogurt is less rich than what most customers who contacted him thought. I know how those customers felt. Because the pot is large (213g/7.5oz) and the surface of the yogurt is covered with an irresistable layer of yellow jersey cream that belies the lighter tangy yogurt underneath, I had wrongly assumed that it must be horrendously fattening and was limiting myself to just half a pot a day. When I found out that entire pot was only 169 calories I doubled my intake. I wish more artisanal products would include nutritional information. In the case of St Benoît it certainly made good business sense - I now buy twice as much as I used to!

photograph picture St Benoit plain yoghurt yogurt containers

It's really not as expensive as its naysayers claim. If you buy a pot of St Benoît plain yogurt from their market stall, it will cost you $3.25 for 7.5 oz. Of this total, $1.25 is a deposit that will be reimbursed to you when you return the pot for reuse. Total cost of actual yogurt, therefore, $2.00. Two bucks is what you will pay for 7oz of Total Greek yoghurt at Wholefoods. De Korzak further makes a case for the value of his yoghurt. "When you look at the price per ounce and not the absolute price, we are not the most expensive yogurt in the SF Bay Area. Also you need to compare comparable products. We are the only artisanal yogurts available. Most of our competitors make hundreds of thousands or millions of yogurts every week. We currently make only 2000 yogurts a week. Additionally, our margin is actually less than the industry standards because we only use local high quality farmstead ingredients which makes the yogurt more expensive than a yoplait yogurt. Also we only use natural ingredients. We do not use milk powder, we only use whole 100% Jersey Cows milk which is more expensive than any other milk."
If you still find it too pricey, consider that it is paramount to St Benoît that their yogurt production does not impact too harshly on the environment. If you value the environment too, then spending a few extra coins on a product that has a real commitment to addressing environmental issues is going to be money extremely well spent.

St Benoît's commitment to the environment is genuine.:

"We believe the land we benefit from is unique and as a business we want to protect it"

Cleaner Transportation - St Benoît use a Compressed Natural Gas vehicle for their yogurt business. "The CNG truck is very reliable. The maintenance may be a little more expensive but again it fits our philosophy and is worth every penny", says de Korzak.

Potato Spoons - St Benoît use biodegradble spoons made from potato starch for people who want to sample their wares at the market. De Korzak notes, "One key principle of our business is to harm the environment as little as possible. Even though we pay four times more for biodegradeable spoons than plastic spoons, we then feel more comfortable using 1000 spoons each Saturday."

photograph picture St Benoit use biodegradeable spoons made from potato starch

Reusable Ceramic Containers - St Benoît yoghurt is sold in adorable ceramic pots that are far too likeable to ever be thrown in the trash. A deposit encourages customers to return them to the place of purchase for a refund. I asked de Korzak if he was happy with the precentage of your customers who return the pots for recycling? "Yes and especially at the farmers market where some Saturdays we have close to a 90% return rate. It also shows the loyalty of our customers who come every week, rain or shine", he replied.

New lids
- Until just last week St Benoît's yogurt pot lids were made from plastic which de Korsak explained to me that they were not happy using. Their preference was for foil lids, but initially there wasn't a way for them attach them to the pot satisfactorily. So they contracted an engineer to build them a special machine that would do the job. Hey presto: the St Benoît product line now has lids that are now more environmetally friendly than they used to be.

But what about the impact of business growth? Even when it comes to the success of their venture, the de Korsaks' key principals have an effect and instead of the brothers being set on global domination they intend to remain as local sustainable producers. "We keep it locally so that we can properly supply", admits de Korzak. Even so, the business is growing and as of last week, St Benoît now sells its yogurt at The Ferry Building Farmer's Market on Tuesdays as well as Saturdays.

What about the future?
Although I can't persuade Benoît de Korsak to use their rich, Jersey milk to make me a Bay Area version of my beloved and much missed Cornish clotted cream, I can disclose that I may not be a plain yoghurt kinda girl for much longer. The brothers have been experimenting with a new flavour for their St Benoît yogurt and I have been lucky enough to have had a couple of pre-launch tastings. It's something to look forward to, but I think I am going to build up the suspense and keep you guessing as to what their latest pairing might be until it is offically announced later in the Spring.

In the meantime, if you live in the Bay Area, get down to the Farmer's Market or visit one of St Benoit's stockists to find out for yourself just how good an award-winning yogurt tastes.

photograph picture St Benoit use biodegradeable spoons made from potato starchThe Independent Food Festival and Awards are founded on a simple concept:
Food can be a wonderful part of life. A growing legion of people in the world think of every meal as an opportunity for a great experience. And yet, sometimes it seems like an ever shrinking number of people actually make great food. tasteEverything is dedicated to the idea that the more people share their great experiences, the more likely it is that the people who make great food will prosper and increase in number.

Discover other food awards being presented today and throughout the rest of this week over at the 2006 Independent Food Festival and Awards.

Links, Resources and Further Reading

Bay Area Resources:
Yoghurt | from St Benoit
The Ferry Building | Market Place
Saturday Morning | Farmers Market
Accidental | Yogurt Labeling

St Benoît blogged and reviewed elsewhere:
101 Cookbooks
Sweet & Savory
I'm Mad and I Eat

Archive Alert! On this day in 2005: Was the Barbie & Fritz flat romance really a year ago?

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The Best Place to Dip Your spoon...