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Tasty Side to Life Tours Website

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sushi the French way- Avec Foie Gras?!

When in France, I insist that in order to have a true French culinary experience you must stop into Sushi Shop and have a few pieces of a maki roll with foie gras!

Sooo it officially is cold in Reims. The kind of cold where I want a snuggly blanket wrapped around me and gloves pretty much 24/7 despite if I look awkward or not. It's the wet.. nasty kind of cold.

Ahhh.. So tonight I had a funny experience. Don't you just love when the bus schedule says that your bus will arrive at 18:00 and feeling proud that you've actually done some advance planning and checked the schedule, you envision the perfect scenario; you run out of the library, exhausted from class dragging your huge briefcase and you arrive just in time to not have to suffer the cold. Ahh.. you breathe a deep, long sigh of relief as you catch a glimpse out of the corner of your eye of the bus turning around the corner. You quickly scurry along and gleefully jump onto it. You smirk because you're so happy that just as scheduled it pulled into the stop on time! Well, as I am a dreamer, this is how I imagined my night going. But of course I was wrong.

So here is what happen: The library kicked me out a few minutes before 6 (by the way what kind of Univ. library closes at 6? Aren't they suppose to encourage us to study until 12? I'm confused?). Anyways, I checked the bus schedule and I was quite proud that I was finally doing some advanced planning. I realized, via the schedule, it was a perfect time to leave the building giving myself minimal time waiting outside in the cold. I was ready to venture out into the brisk night and run out to the catch the bus. Of course luck was not on my side and the bus was 25 mins late. So, despite my vigilant planning, I stood at the dreaded bus stop with about 15 others shaking in the cold. The girl next to me was actually shaking so violently she was moving the bus shelter. Amazing... Ok, so maybe it's only 39 or 4 degrees celcius but it feels like -5! God I have to get used to this...

Ok, so despite my bus experience and canceled dinner plans I decided to push my luck and go on a solo adventure to sushi tonight. As Hanna says "France is your boyfriend and you must experience something new every single day". So, I was off to do so. Of course once jumping off the bus I was lost b/c I had no idea where the restaurant was. The images of salmon nigiri and avocado and tuna (http://www.bigredfishing.net/images/redBlowFish.jpg)
http://scienceblogs.com/zooillogix/giant%20chinook%20salmon%20battlecreek.jpg were swirrling in my mind and my determination pushed me to walk around lost for about 10 mins. Was I really doing this? It was freezing, I wasn't too close from home and I had no idea where I was going. I called a friend Maria who I hadn't seen in a while and she agreed to meet me there in 15. I turned around, spoke my somewhat embarrassing American-french and got out a few sentences ending with a well pronounced "Sushi Shop" along with a desperate wide eyed lost look and luckily the lady I asked was walking there b/c she worked there. What were the chances?

Anyways, back to talking about food. Only in France would you get to experience the luxury of "foie graset douceur de figues" or sushi with foie gras, figs and nuts? Sounds weird I know, I know but oh my, oh my it was glorious. The perfect odd textural complex of sticky rice, rich, soft, delicate and savory foie gras, sweet fig and crunchy nut. It was like a little French-Japanese explosion in my mouth. I'm not sure if I ever would have been couragious enough to order it on my own but I'm glad that I ran into Mr. Louis De Maillard, that he decided to join us, that he lent me his camera to take pictures and that I got to experience this gout de pur bonheur!

The rest of the sushi experience was incredible as well (ok, ok it might not be real traditional sushi but it was good). Hot green tea that I desperately needed to warm my body, tasty miso soup, a salmon roll with no rice or seaweed but wrapped in velvety, perfectly ripe avocado and a well constructed and perfectly seasoned seaweed salad with a hint of sesame oil and pepper. Oh France... you never cease to surprise me. Here is Sushi Shop's address in case you come to France and want to try this little delight. There are a few in Paris and all around France. It's the middle roll in the pictures where you can see the speckles of fig :)

PS... I know the fish pictures are beautifully random but the guys face with the big nasty fish was awesome and so is the blowfish...who would ever dream about eating either of those 2 fish? Thrillist puts links similar to those into their site and I love their dry humor :) A little healthy imitation never hurt in strategic blogging...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Les Crayerès-Gastronomy in Reims

Ahh... who wouldn't want to stroll into this palace and discover "the art and science of good eating" through savoring a meal here? I think that I could eat here everyday but I worry if my little American stomach could get used to the richness of foie gras. I have eaten so much of it the last few weeks (on honey toast, on baguette, surrounded by apples, etc.) that I think surprisingly my stomach has slowly developed a tolerance for this indulgence :) I had an amazing meal here, at the Brasserie of Les Crayeres, (not far from the Pommery Champagne house) a few Sundays ago and wanted to post some pictures. A 2 course meal for 28 euro at the very nice Brassierie of a 2 Michelin Star restaurant is not bad at all in my book.

The architectural design of the interior of the restaurant was nice with a huge open kitchen and intricate metal rustic lighting. The waiters synchronized both the placement and timing of each dish as they whimsically placed them down before us (which I have to admit does have a certain degree of lure to it). Lastly the food and artistry of the plate was superb. Each dish was engineered with creative precision: first an artistic brush of sauce surrounding the edge of the plate infiltrated with small delicately placed pieces of parsley and rock salt- then in the center a square block of foie gras on top of a bed of warm lentils served along side a tiny pitcher of gravy which the waiter poured after placing the dish on the table before us. Ahh delicious. This was followed by a breast of duck over a bed of fig compote and warm jus and accompanied by a small glass terrine of creamy mashed potatoes. With a few glasses of Champagne expect to be left satisfied and having paid around 5o Euro. I will return... Next week maybe I can convince my MBA business plan French teammates, Thibault and Christophe, to meet there? We shall see... but either way I would like to make Les Crayeres a monthly tradition.

Boulevard Henry Vasnier
51100 Reims, France
+33 3 26 24 90 00

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Ohhh the Adventures of Moving to the Land of Champagne

Ahhhh Reims.... oh my, where oh where to begin. I am going to deviate from my usual food blogs to focus on this little French city and my move for now. Reims is a quant somewhat charming city with a stunning, massive, ancient cathedral in the center which I have a little view of from my bar and 3 giants sky lights. Starts out good enough, right?... Yet, this little gem is pretty quant and doesn't have a lot going on. There also is construction EVERYWHERE b/c they are building a tram. Arriving here I went through the frustrating process of finding a furnished apartment and I then struggled with solving problems such as a half pit bull/rottweiler/lab dog in my building who met me at the door, fangs out, ready to pounce each day I came home (the first time with 7 bags of groceries in hand), no hot water, leaking shower, no internet, no tv, and no heat all in a language I studied for only 3 months. I also just might have wrote a letter to my landlord in french about the leaking pipes and not have known that the word "pipe" in french (despite the fact that my french dictionary says otherwise) means blowjob. Yes, I wrote an entire lengthy email about the frustration I was having with pipes... Wow. Amazing... Maybe I'll post that one later. I'm pretty sure that after this experience I could make it through a war or maybe live in a little bunker somewhere... Well no, let's be honest, I would never do well living in a bunker. Regardless, despite the fact that I might have shed enough tears to fill a little petite pond and developed a new fear of dogs with fangs, I'm glad I somehow pushed through the last few frustrating weeks and came out alive, breathing, and well enough to practice my french with my landlord and her 6 year old daughter each day (and be greeted by the 6 year old with a kiss every morning and night) and well enough to buy a baguette and little cube of amazing french cheese everyday :)

Due to the fact that I did not have internet at home for the first month or so I wrote this entry while at my home away from home, McDonald's. God, I never thought I would say that. So, essentially with each stroke my finger made on this keyboard I was constantly enhalling the entoxicating smell of french fries. Ahh...It was a real test of my self control. I mean 8 am and the smell of French fries is just kind of wrong. Somehow, who knows how, I resisted walking downstairs and buying a little box of fries. I could write a entire food blog on the differences between the US Mcdonald's and the French Mcdonalds but I don't think I can bring myself to stand in line, analyze the menu and take pictures of the food.
I'm not going to lie though it actually does look more appetizing than in the US . It's amazing to me that it is basically a little undercover computer lab on the 2nd floor up here. Nope, no Mcnuggets, burgers or malts on the 2nd floor of McDonalds in Reims just computers, earphones and a bunch of people scanning the room every so often hoping they don't get caught for not buying a single Mcdonalds product and just simply using it as a Skype haven! Pretty funny. I wish you could see it. Maybe I can sneak a picture of all of them..

Anyway, the city of Reims is in the Champagne Region of France and there are 11 houses in the center and hundreds in the km around the city. Veuve Clicqot, Don Perinon, Pommery, Launois Pere and Fils, Gonet Sulcova are all very close. It's fall here and all the leaves are changing and the champagne vineyards are all red. It's breathtaking.. I'm pretty sure that I could go on a drive along the Champagne road and stop into little cute Champagne house after champagne house and then stumble home tipsy with a few bottles in hand every single weekend. And so far, other than my 2 weekends I've spent in Paris, that is exactly what I have done! Ahhh I'm developing a drinking problem. Will I go into Champagne detox if I don't drink it for a day? I have yet to see.

Reims is 45 mins from Paris so it's not too far from big city life...Historically it's the place where the Kings of France were crowned and the Cathedral served the same purpose as Westminster Abbey in England. That's all for now. Hope you found some comedy in my life the last month and cross your fingers that my luck improves here with my apartment!!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Another Mexican recipe....Chicken Tostadas with cumin scented Black beans and lime creme fraiche

So I could.. and definitely will write a few blogs about my adventures in moving to France (because the process has been comical, frustrating and filled with hiccups) but for now I just want to give you a recipe that I love and get back to writing about food b/c its calming in the chaos.

The MBA program I am in is 80% international students and as such we have been having weekly Intl food parties. Last week it was Mexico's turn and I decided to join because understandably California cuisine is very influenced by its neighbor, Mexico. I was a little worried about finding peppers in the land of butter, cream and leaks but luckily the huge "CORA" grocery store was using the perfect pepper that I needed for decoration and I was able to buy about 15 of them for 11 euro. I'm having horrible luck right now and chopped off a little piece of my index finger during the last step of my cooking and only ended up staying for 30 mins of the party because after 2 hours my poor little finger was still bleeding and I started to feel really sorry for myself :( At least my chicken tortilla soup and chicken tostadas attended and hopefully were consumed and enjoyed :)

Here is the recipe which is an adaption from Cindy Pawlcyn's :

Chile Paste-
4 Dried Guajillo Chiles (the big red ones), stemmed
2 or 3 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbls fresh oregano
1/2 tabls toasted cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of black pepper

2 to 4 tbls olive oil
2 rabbits or 6 to 8 pieces chicken thighs
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 cup of each diced celery, peeled diced carrot, chopped onion
Chicken stock (3 to 4 cups)

Lime Creme Fraiche
1 cup creme fraiche
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
2 Tbls freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of salt and pepper

1 or clove garlic- diced
pinch of salt
1 lemon-juiced
2 tbls red wine vinegar
2 tbls brown sugar
2 teasp cumin
pinch of chili flakes
3/4 cup olive oil
Cumin-scented black beans
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 cup arugula or other spicy green
1/3 bunch cilantro
3/4 cup cotija cheese
1 or 2 limes

For the Chili paste: Toast the chilies in a pretty hot pan until they start to give off a sweet and spicy scent, then put them into a pot with enough water to cover. Soak the chilies 1 hr until they are really soft (if they are too hard then the sauce won't work), drain them and save some of the soaking liquid for later. Puree the chilies in a blender along with the garlic, oregano, cumin, salt and pepper. Slowly add more and more of he soaking liquid as needed to get the mixture going. The consistency when done should be a little more runny than warm peanut butter. Strain this and reserve.

For the Rabbit or
Heat some olive oil over medium heat. You might need to brown the chicken thighs in batches b/c if you put too much in the pan they won't brown! Season with salt and pepper on all
sides and then transfer the rabbit/chicken to a platter. Add the celery, carrot, onion to the pan with all the juices of the meat and cook until browned and soft. Now mix in the chili paste and cook 1 to 2 minutes more. Add the chicken
back to the pan and make sure all the meat is coated in sauce. Pour in enough stock to cover and bring to a boil then reduce to low and let it simmer slowly for 30-45 mins. After 30 mins test a little piece of the meat. It should be really tender and almost fall off the bone. Pull out the meat and once it is cool take two forks and shred it into pieces. Watch out for any small bones! Strain the broth to remove all the veggies and then simmer it and reduce it by half so that it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Chill until ready to serve.

Creme Fraiche: Combine all ingredients. Don't forget the lime b/c this is the best part! Cover and chill in the fridge until needed

Vinaigrette: Whisk together the garlic, salt, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, sugar, cumin and chili flakes. Whisk continuously while you slowly pour in the olive oil.

Cumin Black Bean: Rinse a can of black beans with water. Add cumin and a little salt and pepper. Mash the beans up to form a thick paste. Reserve

Tortillas: Either buy tostadas (already fried little tortillas) or crisp regular corn tortillas (cut into smaller disks) in oil for a few minutes per side. After each tortilla is crisp dry on paper towels to get rid of some of the grease.

To finish: Add the meat to the sauce and stir everything to combine and heat thoroughly. Reheat the beans. Combine the cabbage, arugula, cilantro in a bowl and dress with the vinaigrette. Smear each tortilla with some cumin scented black beans, then top with some braised meat, sauce, greens and crumbled cheese. Drizzle with creme fraiche and garnish with lime wedges! Ahhh writing this just made me hungry

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Chicken Tortilla Soup- A Little Mexican Pot of Bliss

This soup is very easy and quick to make, relatively healthy, full of spice and very filling. You really have to try it! If my 29 year old brother, who proudly can only really cook one dish (Rachel Ray's 30 min. Turkey burgers) can make it then so can you! And... you should because it's tasty and I promise you'll make it again!

Chicken Tortilla soup is most likely a dish that you skip right over on the menu when ordering at a Mexican restaurant in the Mission in SF or at your favorite little hidden gem in your home town. I mean if you're going out for Mexican I'm sure you are prepared, and even excited, to ingest lots of cheese, corn, guacomole and grilled meats. I know.... I know.... it's hard to pass up cheesy enchiladas, mole chicken tacos or sizzling fajitas... So, you might ask who in their right mind would choose soup in such an establishment? Well, I do. I probably get a taco too but I def have the tortilla soup if they have it. This might honestly be because i LOVE soup or could be because this soup is just so flavorful, but either way I love it and created my own recipe inspired by my old roommate mom's recipe. I also was inspired by a restaurant called The Little Chihuahua in San Francisco which adds grilled corn, queso fresco and chile de arbol to the soup. Please go there and try it..

The Little Chihuahua

  • 292 Divisadero St (at Page)
  • San Francisco, Ca
  • 94117
  • Andrew Johnstone, Owner/Chef
  • ph 415.255.8225
  • fax 415.255.8353

Here is the recipe. Bon Appetite!!

The only complicated part of this is finding the hot peppers. Jalapeno peppers and Pasilla Peppers are almost always at Safeway or your local grocery. Pasillas are huge and green and pretty mild. Chile de Arbol you don't have to use but they add a nice little hint of spice to the soup. They are dried and you can buy them at any little Mexican market. If you can't find Pasilla peppers or arbols then just use a little more jalapeno. Be careful about seasoning with this soup. It's easy to either get it too spicy or have the end product have zero flavor. Make sure that you let the cumin, garlic and peppers cook for a few quick mins to generate a burst of flavor. Don't be shy with the cumin or garlic either! I just made this during a trip up to Tahoe with the family and everyone loved it. After a bike ride from Sunnyside bike rentals-- to Chambers where we had a few punches--then back to Sunnyside for drinks -- then home- we were definitely ready for some soup!

Chicken Tortilla Soup- serves 4 bowls with lots of leftovers

A couple tbls of extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion diced small
1 tomato diced for garnish
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and minced
1/4 Pasilla Pepper diced (big green pepper that's not too spicy)
3 dried chile de arbols (little red dried chilis)
1.5 Tbls Cumin
2 teaspoons oregano
1 Red Bell Pepper diced
2 Ear's of corn
6 cups chicken stock + cup of water if necessary
1 Block Queso Fresco
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 corn tortillas, cut into 1/8-inch-thick strips
1.5 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
2 avocados, halved, pitted, peeled, and diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
1 lime, cut in wedges, for serving

Place a stockpot over medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the chopped onions, red bell pepper, garlic, jalapenos, pasilla peppers and big tbls of cumin and oregano; cook, stirring for 15 minutes until the vegetables are cooked down and tender and the spices are fragrant. Add the chicken breast, brown it for a min on each side and then pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper, throw in the dried red chile de arbols and bring to a boil, then turn down to low, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn the oven on to broil and put the 2 ears of corn in the oven. Broil until corn is almost burning on all sides, flipping it a few times. Let them cool and then cut off the cob and into the soup. OPTIONAL---I don't always do the strips but its a nice little crunch...Heat 1-inch of canola oil or olive oil in a skillet over medium-high flame. When the oil looks hot, add the tortilla strips in batches and fry until they are crisp on all sides. Remove to a paper towel-lined platter and sprinkle with salt and cumin while they are still hot. Or instead of frying in a pan you can oven bake. Set the oven to 400, drizzle olive oil over the top of the strips and bake for 5 minutes.

After soup has cooked 30- 40 min quickly test a piece of the chicken to make sure it's done. Then pull the chicken pieces out and shred with fork on a cutting board. Add chicken back into the soup. Ladle the hot soup into 4 soup bowls and top with the diced avocado, tomatoes, queso fresco and fried tortilla strips. Garnish with cilantro.

I made a quick little shrimp, red onion, cabbage, jalapeno, cinnamon, cumin, oregano soft taco with a side of canned pinto beans with heirloom tomatoes, cilantro and avocado as a little side dish.

PS my mom was just trying to help me with the title and threw in how about "Senor and Senoritas chug chug chug down the tortilla soup train on your way to Sayulita.. chug chug..." Wow... wow... I think she is officially ready to have grandkids. Garrett, get moving!

Richard Avedon- A photographic genius

If you're in the artsy, culturally diverse, cosmopolitan city of San Francisco anytime between now and Thanksgiving, you really must stop by the MOMA and let your senses indulge in the creative genius of one of the ten greatest photographers in the world, Richard Avedon.

Ever feel like you're having one of the those weeks where you are just kinda off? You go about your day to day routine yet absolutely nothing is doing it for you? Not Chocolate, nor natural fro-yo, or pilates are knocking you out of your mood? You just can't seem to be satisfied no matter what you do? I, unfortunately, have defini
tely been having one of those slumps for the past 2 weeks. My poor little 2.5 year old English Springer Spaniel who is the sweetest, cutest, smartest little guy is dying of Acute Leukemia and there is nothing that we can do. I'm 90% sure most dog owners say that their dog is the best dog in the world but I'm 100% sure this guy really is. If you have met him, please vouch for me! I'm even willing to take a survey. People stop us on the street to tell us how sweet and beautiful he is and he was just recently certified as a therapy dog because he naturally has the ability to help people. Anyways, after spending $100s on acupuncture and herbal remedies he is still kicking and I feel lucky for every last day I get with him. The doctors gave him a few weeks so we will see... I also HATE cancer and have never hated anything more.

Anyways, sorry for the rant. I am finally partly out of my depression cloud and enjoying every second of ball playing with my little furry friend and I have this exhibit, which I stumbled on today, to thank for it. If you're feeling uninspired
or feel like you haven't had any art in your life recently please scurry on down to MOMA in SF. If you are smart and also maybe feeling the effects of the recession go the first Tues of any month b/c its free or any Thrs night for a little inexpensive date night.

Richard Avedon died of Cancer a few years ago and he, just like my little Hudson, got infected by a horrible disease. His passion for photography reminds me of my craze for food. Check out this quote:

"If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it's as though I've neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up." Richard Avedon.

I feel similarly to him in regards to food. If I'm not experimenting amazing food or creating artistry through culinary creations then I feel like I haven't woken up, my passion for the day simply isn't the same without a little touch of cuisine.

MOMA-Richard Avedon-July 11 - November 29, 2009

"Whether photographing politicians, artists, writers, fashion models, or movie stars, Richard Avedon revolutionized the genre of portraiture. He rejected conventional stiff-and-staid poses and instead captured both motion and emotion in the faces of his subjects, often encapsulating their intrigue in a single charged moment. "- SF Moma.

I really have never seen so much movement in fashion photography.

The way that the femme with the umbrella floats over the curb in the picture "Homage to Munkacsi" from the 1950's is absolutely amazing. I'm not quite sure how he captured this moment or how he came up with the idea of having models roller skate while being shot, but I love his insight and wish I had his talent. Also, his portraits, set against plain white backgrounds display how multifaceted of a photographer he is. Mr. Avedon found characters who perfectly displayed American life. From drifters to farm boys to artists and models he captured breathtaking features in the human face. The drifter covered in freckles most likely from years and years of homelessness and sun exposure is one of the most captivating, dramatic and vivid portraits I have ever seen. So is Avedon's young snake skinner and beekeeper. You really must experience first hand the ability of Richard Avedon to capture the "intrigue and charged moment" of his subjects.

"SFMOMA is proud to be the only U.S. venue for this retrospective that spans the artist's remarkable career. Featuring more than 200 photographs along with a selection of vintage magazines, the exhibition presents work spanning Avedon's entire career, from his earliest street scenes to his breakthrough 1950s Paris fashion pictures and the iconic celebrity portraits that brought him world renown. This in-depth retrospective reveals Avedon's singular ability to blur the lines between photojournalism, fashion photography, and fine art."- SFMOMA.

Go check it out if you can!!! Another part of the exhibit is 2 other fabulous artists, Georgia O'Keefe and Ansel Adams which you of course should see as well. I know you might feel like you have seen both of these artists work everywhere but the the exhibit really proved me wrong.
- http://www.sfmoma.org/exhibitions/384

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Catering for 70 with your mom- a good idea?

So, my 29 year old brother is getting married in Dec in Sayulita Mexico. To celebrate the occasion we threw a huge, blowout engagement party for him at my grandmother's house in Piedmont, about 20 mins from San Francisco. Despite numerous hiccups, eye surgery that got scheduled 3 days before and plenty of yenta like behavior from a Jewish family that is quirky enough that we should probably have a reality show, the party turned out to be a success! I still am not 100% sure how I feel about catering for 70... I find myself asking the question "Does catering for 5 times the regular amount that anyone normally cooks for take the fun out of the hobby and turn it into an irrational stressful 8th grade math debacle?" Hmmmmm... You tell me..

Regardless, of the impending question I learned some great lessons from my première adventure in catering!The first lesson that I learned was that it's probably not the best idea to throw the party at an 86 year olds house when on a regular basis any type of change sets her off. I mean if your grandma was the type who obsesses/freaks out over the sugar container being in a different position than the day before, or throws a fit when her help leaves for a once a year vacation for 5 days, would you have 70 people to her house even with her blessing? We decided to do it because at heart Barbara Jean LOVES young people (and has actually talked of wanting a youth hostel at her house) and we were inviting about 50 youngins' over. Also, my brother was dying to have it there and her house was perfect. The second lesson that I learned was that catering calculations aren't exactly as easy as I thought. Taking a recipe for 6, deciphering how many "mini" portions that same recipe makes, then dividing that into 70 portions wasn't an easy endeavor. The repercussions of my shoty calculations meant that we had an exorbitant amount of leftover food (but hey that's better than not enough... right?). The last lesson I learned was if you cook for 70 people with you mother you should slip a Valium into her calcium pill box everyday for 3 weeks before the event. I can't tell you how long before the event that we talked about it, but I can tell you that she stressed over every last detail and had 342 questions for me everyday which almost threw me over the edge. At a certain point I actually contemplated buying ear plugs! Her daily questions went something like..."Sydney, what am I going to wear to the wedding, how is the soup going to work in the shot glass, will they be able to drink it without a spoon, which band should we choose, your making too much, I need a dress, We need to choose flowers, wait which band are we choosing, I need this and that.... and that and this". She really almost drove me insane but I really couldn't have done all of the chopping, sauteing and squeezing of 11 cups of lime juice for the ceviche without her help. If your mom communicates by making a to do list out loud 10 times a day and is prone to being a little too spunky, jittery and inquisitive then maybe you shouldn't cook with her. Despite our bickering and countless laughing sessions where my mom almost peed her pants, we got it all done and maybe in the end some of her questions were needed :)

We ended up making a Latin inspired menu:

Spanish peanuts with Chile de Arbol, cumin, lime and Chili pepper

Spicy Gazpacho soup with Turkish olive oil, avocado and homemade goat cheese and basil croutons served in tall shot glasses

Corn and Pasilla Chili soup served with grilled zucchini flowers from the garden, garlic and a touch of creme (also served in tall shot glasses)

Scallop, Salmon, and Halibut Ceviche with coconut milk and homemade plantain chips served in Asian soup spoons
Papaya and Avocado salad with hazelnuts and papaya seed dressing

Black beans with tomatoes, shallots and jalapenos

Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme's served in little petite egg cups

Dulche De Leche Cake-We bought this from Delessio Bakery in San Francisco. This cake has the most amazing meringue frosting and is incredibly rich from soaking in 4 different types of milk. You have to try this if you're around San Francisco!http://www.delessiomarket.com/
Mexican Taco Truck from 46 and International in Oakland, ca to do 6 types of taco truck tacos to add a little trendy flare to the event!
Here is a description and the recipe for a few of the things we made. You should know that I am kind of obsessed with a local Napa valley chef, Cindy Pawlcyn and most of my cooking comes from adaptations of her recipes which you can find in, Big Small Plates by Cindy Pawlcyn. If you have had my cooking I guarantee you have involuntarily tried something from this cookbook and let me tell you she knows what she is doing and seems like a really great person as well. http://www.amazon.com/Big-Small-Plates-Cindy-Pawlcyn/dp/1580085237

Salmon, Halibut and Scallop Ceviche with Coconut- Serves 6

I love the flavors of seafood and coconut combined. I also like that this dish fits perfectly with the environment of a day time pool party. Even though guests weren't in their bathing suits it's nice to eat something light and fresh during the afternoon heat. I also love raw seafood because its makes me feel like I am being healthy when I'm eating it. This recipe takes some planning, a little bit of lime squeezing and research to find the best place to buy great quality, yet not too expensive fish but it's a great recipe. We got the fish from Pier 42 from a friend who owns a restaurant by Pier 39. I'm pretty sure you can also go down to the docks there and get fish right off the boats!

4 oz Scallops, 8-12 oz salmon, 8-12 oz halibut

1 cup fresh squeezed lime juice (don't use the store bought bright green stuff)

1 tsp sea salt & 1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon finely chopped and seeded Serrano chili

1 red onion

1 14 oz can unsweet. coconut milk

1 or 2 avocados

cilantro and Oil olive for garnish

Slice the scallops into 1/3 inch pieces. Cut the salmon and halibut into 3 or 4 lengthwise strips about 1 inch wide then cut into 1/4 inch pieces to match the scallops. Add the fish to the scallops and put into a non reactive bowl. Pour 3/4 cup of the lime juice into the bowl and mix gently but well, making sure all the seafood gets coated with some juice. Cover and put in the refrigerator to marinate 2 hours. Put the seafood in a colander to drain, and clean out the bowl while it's draining. Return the seafood to the clean bowl, along with the salt,pepper, chile, onion, coconut milk, and remaining 1/4 cup lime juice. Mix gently but well and cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hr but not more than 6 hrs. When you're ready to serve either crack open a few coconuts and serve in the ceviche in on the slices or serve it in Asian soup spoons like I did.

Spanish peanuts with Chile de Arbol, cumin, lime and Chili pepper I think it is essential to have something to munch on as soon as your guests arrive. I'm usually scrambling in the kitchen and a little behind and these nuts are a great amuse bouche with a sharp burst of flavor and will only fill your guests bellies a little. This recipe calls for Spanish peanuts which are small and round with red skins. I couldn't find them but wish I did because I think details like this are important and I really wanted that red color. I substituted by using a regular unroasted peeled peanut, briefly roasted them in the oven and then added red chili pepper to get the desired color. If you can I would make these right before people come over because they are great hot. Since I was catering and I had 90 other things to do I made them the day before and they still turned out great.

Makes a big bowl

2 whole heads garlic (not cloves, but heads!)

1/4 cup peanut oil

2 pounds shelled raw Spanish peanuts, with skins

2 to 4 fiery hot dried chilies, slightly crushed

pinch of cumin

pinch of chili pepper (might not need if you use Spanish peanuts)

1 tbls kosher salt

Grated zest and juice of 1 lime

Separate the heads of garlic into cloves. Trim off the root ends but don't peel the cloves, leave the skin on. Put the oil in a pan large enough to hold everything, and heat it until it is almost rippling. Add the peanuts, garlic, spices and chilies, and cook stirring and shaking continuously for 10 to 12 minutes until the peanuts have darkened in color. Add the salt and lime zest and juice to the pan and it give it another good shake. Pour it out into a serving bowl and Voilà!

Mexican Chocolate Pot de Creme

 I love the cafe La Bolange in San Francisco, ca. I appreciate that this place really makes you feel like you're in France. Everything from the food to the cutlery to the napkins alludes to French culture. They have the most amazing pot de creme that they serve in a cute little glass jar with parchment and a rubber band. If you've never tried pot de creme and you like chocolate you really should try it. It's a perfect chocolate dessert that is incredibly rich but not too overpowering in my book and not bitter. I've made this a bunch of times but adapted the recipe for the Latin themed party and added Mexican Chocolate. I don't know if your a hot chocolate person but there is nothing like Mexican hot chocolate brewing in a terra cotta pot that you use to wash down Huevos Rancheros at a brunch buffet in Zihuatanejo. I used the same type of chocolate for my pot de creme. Don't be scared about not cooking the eggs. It's ok. Be careful.. you might have leftovers and you might not be able to resist yourself from eating a little too much :)

12 Extra Large Egg yolks ( I know.. I know. a lot)

3/4 cup sugar

3 cups heavy cream ( I guess you could use 2 percent milk.. but I wouldn't :)

1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped

1/4 tsp salt

1 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

1 oz bittersweet chocolate finely chopped

2 oz Abuelita Mexican Chocolate (you can buy at an Latin American Market)

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. If your hands are clean crack the egg in your hand over a bowl you're using for scraps and let the whites drip through your fingers, saving the yolk. In a small saucepan, combine the heavy cream, vanilla bean (don't use vanilla extract here... find a bean!) and its scrapings, and salt and bring almost to a boil over medium heat. Just before the cream comes to a boil (the cream will start to rise up in the pan), remove from the heat and whisk 1 cup of the hot cream into the egg yolk mixture, then pour the tempered egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the remaining cream, whisking constantly. Be careful here. If you don't mix this fast enough or let it get too, too hot you could end up with eggs... Discard the vanilla bean. Whisk the semisweet, bittersweet and Mexican chocolates into the hot custard mixture until completely melted and smooth. Transfer custard to medium bowl and refrigerate, whisking occasionally, until cooled to lukewarm and very thick. Pour the lukewarm, thickened custard into 8, 6 oz ramekins. Cover and refrigerate until the custard is completely set, appr 3 hrs. Serve in little egg cups or little ramekins. Serve with 2 raspberries or whipped cream.
If you want any of the other recipes let me know!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Parisian Macarons-A Culinary Dream Cookie

When in the culinary capital of the world, ie. Paris, you must have a French Macaron and take back home a little gout de ciel!

Paris is the epitome of perfection. Not the obnoxious kind of perfection where someone hair sprays their hair with 42 swift sprays until they believe it's finally perfectly in place or the OCD kind where someone cleans the bathroom every 20 mins, but the kind of perfection that leaves things and places looking beautiful, intricate and chic. I'm really not quite sure how they do it, but I would love to learn. I don't think I've ever seen a Parisian wearing sweats, even if by chance they are actually on the way to the gym. I assume that when they're walking to exercise they throw on a Chanel Scarf, a chic leather jacket and hide their sneakers and workout pants in a large Gucci bag. It's no surprise then, that Parisian food is culinary perfection and a french macaron exemplifies this.

Macarons from two of Paris's top bakeries are something that you MUST try if you are fortunate enough to be in the romantic city. Either Laduree (in the Latin Corner off the St. Germaine) or Pierre Herme (all over the place but one off the St. Germaine) will do and you might want to expect a little wait at either one, but trust me it's worth the wait. The macarons at these 2 locations are small, perfectly round cakes which have a fantastic mix of textures and great bright pastel colors. They are crispy on the outside yet ever so smooth, soft and incredibly fragrant in the middle. Macarons date back to the 18th century and are a traditional French pastry made of egg whites, almond powder, icing and sugar. Whether it's chocolate, rose, carmel with salted butter, vanilla, mint or pistachio you are in for a serious treat like no other. The vanilla was my favorite and the sultry center tasted like an African vanilla bean bursting in your mouth. It was the freshest cookie I think I have ever had and was filled with a scrumptious smooth filing which somehow reminds me exactly of creme brule without the torched cover. I would try this one and then restrict yourself to maybe....4 others before you make yourself sick and have to return to your hotel room to watch odd french tv for the next few hours...
Macarons have been popping up everywhere the past year in the US, especially in San Francisco and I think they just might be close to overtaking the mini cupcake or all natural yogurt trend. Yet American macarons, even if made by skilled French expats, aren't quite as crispy or seductively gooey as the ones in Paris. I think it has to do with French obsession with freshness, simplicity and the high degree of patience they must innately have. One of the french secrets to creating heavenly food is due to their absolute commitment to fresh, quality ingredients. The producers have not been swayed by the Western obsession with focusing on profit, profit, profit. They make great quality food and that is what is most important to them. That might be why I love their cereals so much. I mean where else can you find corn flakes with huge chunks of high quality chocolate in the states? God that cereal is good. I should have folded my clothes a little smaller the last time I was there to squeeze in a box...
If you can make it Paris, for one take the Air France direct SFO-Paris flight and please, please, please save 1.50 Euro for one of these or maybe more like 10 euro for a few. If you decide to go to Laduree in tht 6th please take an extra 20 mins and sit down for some tea with your macaron in the picturesque back patio that is decorated like a beautiful garden. Bon appetit :) xx

21, Rue Bonaparte75006 Paris, France
01 44 07 64 87‎

Pierre herme, Paris
72, Rue Bonaparte75006 Paris, France+33 1 43 54 47 77

*Apparently there is a big diffrence btwn. a French Macaron and a Macaroon. I've had Macaroon's in Montclaire, Ca right by Berkeley, ca at the farmers market on Sunday and they are superb as well. Head there and try one!! *
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