Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fun Stuff

In the last week, I made fun little things that looked and/or sounded good. I know they would taste good. So, first, from Smitten Kitchen, I tried the breakfast bars. I used both fresh raspberries and blueberries. They were good, just exactly as I had expected though. I do like the earthy oat flavor, but for some reason, I thought they were a bit too sugary...
I also made the fabulous no-knead bread. I was a bit disappointed since I repeat the SAME recipe everytime and the bread is inconsistent: this time it looked great, but did not get the holes.... in the middle (I added 3 oz of beer to the mix for flavor, and that is definitely recommended).

On the other hand, I did some simple Macaroons (I am not sure why, I just happened to be in a coconut mood, and had just bought some flakes for my weekly homemade granola mix - thanks nytimes). So, I did these for the first time, and I was blown away. Simple, elegant, very tasty (healthy too-just egg whites - no milk of any kind, butter or oils) and looked great especially the ones dipped in chocolate and pistachios!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Say Cheese!

One of the many treats of walking through San Francisco's Ferry Building is stopping by Cowgirl Creamery cheese shop (the actual creamery is located about an hour north of the City). The staff is very helpful and very knowledgeable of the array of cheese, which they bring from over 200 producers in the U.S and Europe (Cowgirl produces just under 10 of their own). They also don't push you to overbuy, and they let you taste anything you want! We last tried a gorgeous Spanish Mahon Reserva and a Greek (of course!) Mt. Vikos feta, which was possibly the best we've ever had. I can't wait to go back and try a few of Cowgirl's signature cheeses- or maybe we'll just take a road trip up to the creamery and see how they make them as well!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

With flowers in my hair and great food in my mouth.

I'm sorry for the long long delay since my last post- there were vacations, and moving, and no internet... but all along, the happy food never stopped. I'll begin from my most recent happy foods and slowly work back in time...

Life has taken me to San Francisco. If you mentioned San Francisco to me about 10 years ago, I would think immediately of cable cars and Rice-a-Roni. To my great delight, it has ohh so much more. We settled into an overpriced, and undersized one bedroom right below the Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill. It's a couple blocks to North Beach, and a few more to Chinatown. As you can imagine, there's great food all along the way.

Most people say everyone living in North Beach has their favorite Italian restaurant, and Niko and I, though still trying things out, are already leaning towards Ideale on Grant Street. If you go on a Friday night, you'll probably be seated at the bar for about 20 minutes before getting a table. You won't mind though with the reasonable wine prices, and the upbeat atmosphere - you may even learn a word or two of Italian between the waiters and the owner running back and forth to the kitchen. It definitely beats sitting in the front of a restaurant, completely forgotten (which has happened to us at more than a few other Italian places in North Beach). Some of my favorites are the prosciutto e pera - prosciutto wrapped around bosc pears and mascarpone, and the spaghetti alla chitarra - homemade spaghetti with scallops and garlic in a white wine and tomato sauce. It's simple, tasty Roman food.

Another great little spot is Cafe Divine on Stockton. Overlooking Columbus Park, it's one of my favorite places to go to get a glass of wine (and perhaps a cup of soup on those extra chilly San Francisco summer days) and people-watch.
Their desserts are a bit pricey, but if you're really wanting something sweet, they deliver. I recently tried the "Cloud Nine Cheesecake", topped with a sour cherry drizzle. It was delicious.
They also do a great breakfast. I tried their spinach, goat cheese, and sun-dried tomato scramble. Although the eggs were good, the best part, by far, was the fresh, flaky, cheddar and scallion biscuit served along side.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Taste of MY Chicago: The GCM Annual BBQ in the Park

The annual event was yesterday, and what do you know, I learn something new about the culinary food
in my city. I have never been to this and it is the BEST food fest I have EVER attended. I will explain.
It is an outdoor bbq of sorts on behalf of Chicago's premier farmers market, the Green City Market which
is held Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Park part of Lincoln Park. So, the farmers's famous customers, i.e.,
the TOP restaurants in the city hold this all out cooking showdown with literally the top restaurants
there: rick bayless(above), naha, Vie, spring/custom house, blackbird/avec, Spiaggia, Nomi, 4 seasons,
primehouse, Eve, Hot Chocolate, Mado, North Pond, Fox and Obel, and the list goes on (check out he official list here).
It is an all-you-can-enjoy evening of elk, goat, beef, turkey (amazing turkey from Paul Virant... WOW),
wonderful TROUT, and local cheeses. It is the feast of feasts where everyone walks around with a constant
smile on their face and full hands: a beer in one, and a sample in another. The beauty of it was that EVERY dish was
prepared using ingredients from local farmers: the beef, the greens, the pork, etc,.... It was a festival honoring
our local produce, our local meats, and dairys, and our local unmatched microbrews (3 flyods from hammond, two brothers
from downstate, goose island) and of surprisingly Illinois wine (???). I loved it all. I enjoyed all of it and every dish
I had was better than the one before it (except for the cold Kohlrabi soup).
I cannot wait till next year's. p.s.: Some of these chefs are really

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Grilled Pizza? Yes, please invite me over when you throw one on

I just saw a recipe from Martha's (something) about making a pizza on the grill. Really simple, it says: 1) get dough and shape it like a pizza, 2) brush both sides with olive oil, 3) throw it on the Weber for 4-5 minutes, flip it, 4) top it with your ingredients, and Voila! We put (like the recipe suggested) fontina cheese, and then when it came out, fresh arugula with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. It was AMAZING. I really liked the charred pieces of dough with the crispy edges, and the elegance of it. Plus, the arugula added a nice bite with its slight bitterness and the muted taste of the fontina. And of course, is there anything better than dough, salt, and cheese, all warm and gooey? No there is not. This is just another way to enjoy pizza that is simple, quick and guaranteed to beat almost all of your local delivery options (add Italian ham on top of the arugula next time).

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The STAR in (the) Lone Star STATE? It is the BRISKET!

Yes. It is. According to Wikpedia this is the part of the body that cows lie on, and it is not considered by any means a premium cut of beef (main part of what goes into corned beef). Well, inspired by an article in the latest Saveur magazine devoted to everything Texan, I decided to tackle one of these babies on a medium sized Weber kettle. You see, I have had brisket from the BEST in Texas (Kreuz, Blacks, Smitty's, Cooper's in Llano,...) and so, I know (kind of) what the brisket is supposed to look, feel, and taste like: soft, juicy, really juicy, caramelized on the outside, really lean on the bite, and boy oh so smokey. That is the taste I always remember. The smoke.
Well, I did what I am told: prepared a simple rub and laid it gently on an otherwise unattractive flat piece of meat - about 5 lbs of mangled tendon and fat. I started the next morning and followed the recipe verbatum (with major problems trying to contain the heat in the 250 range - it kept cropping to 300).

Well, it was BEAUTIFUL: Nice smoke ring, juicy and delicious (although a bit salty). I really enjoyed the whole process though. See, "cooking" a brisket is an 8-10 hour process of hands off love so to speak: peaking is not allowed, but you do it, touching, smelling, feeling the temperature are all part of the cooking. Also, just sitting outside on a beautiful day with your Weber billowing in the vicinity, a beer in hand and a nice book. This is cowboy Texan life at its best. And as they say down there, do NOT mess with Texas!