Monday, December 20, 2010

Not These; Not These Either

A couple of weeks before the holidays, the baked goods and other sweets start to amass in our house. I have what you might describe as either a typically male or typically oafish relationship to these goods as they emerge from the oven. "Mine." Or maybe, "Fair game." These however we're not.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Two Days of Dessert and More On the Way

Over the years I've posted photos of this or that dessert with the tag "Just for the heck of it." The idea being that this somehow got me off the hook for putting words together. Or that photos of tasty dessert can do their own talking.

Amy's Gingerbread Pear Upside Down Cake. I'm always amazed when this works, Amy uses an old school Magnalite frying pan we have laying around. Like a charm.

Penny's Pumpkin Spice Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. The cake rode shotgun for our Thanksgiving Dinner dessert course.

We have one last cake engagement to squeeze in before it's back to work. A date with Pumpkin Cheesecake this afternoon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I've been sneaking an Appletini into the line up once a week or so, mostly to make the next Sazerac taste better. I work with the IBA specified ingredients, but skew heavier on the apple pucker - which tastes exactly like an Apple-flavored Jolly Rancher. Goes down pretty easy, which is more than I can say for our recent addition.

Each Year, The Ferry Building

Each year in the fall, work takes me across the bay to the Embarcadero Hyatt. Last year I grabbed lunch at Hog Island, this year I stocked up at Boccalone. If you're local and into that sort of thing, grab some Lardo Iberico De Bellota, the price to ship a chunk your way while keeping it cold is a real bluff caller.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

India Tree's Dark Muscovado Sugar

The India Tree Gourmet line of dark sugars is yours for the grabbing at Berkeley Bowl. My favorite is the Dark Muscovado, jam packed with molasses. It's also a real ding in any perceived aura of locavorism - hauled in from Mauritius. The Bowl has carried this stuff for years, but I don't get over there much these days.

I've been using the sugar like a philistine, i.e. just like anyone would use any sugar. Particularly as the basis for simple syrup in Sazeracs.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Belated Feliz Dia de Los Muertos

We developed a soft spot for this holiday at some point. For me it happened around the time we moved to Oakland. Axel took his first unassisted steps at Oakland's Day of the Dead festival a few years ago. Most years we manage to snag some "Dead bread" at Arizmendi. Slightly orange-flavored, fennel seeds, those are chocolate chips that were his eyes.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wine's Bargain Bin Still Getting Deeper

I've been assembling a case of wine from our son's birth year. The idea is that when he's 21 we'll split it. He has to drink 6 bottles with us, and can do with the other six whatever it is a twenty-one year old does. No one particular wine, no one particular region.

2006 was a pretty good vintage if you're stretching your dollar and looking for wine that'll age for 15-20 years. There was flooding in Napa Valley, but there was a dry and hot stretch that got things mostly back on track. My view is there's only so bad that a bottle of wine from a reasonably distinguished producer can be. I don't drink J Daniel Cuvee or even Jordan Cabernet often enough to appreciate year over year change.

So we started with a few bottles of Bordeaux, and then moved on to California. My wife and I have fond memories of a lot of wines and wineries, and then there are the handful of cult winemakers that I'm cultish about. We maxed out our case before I could even get to Italy or Spain.

And as we get further from 2006, bigger and bigger name wines are finding their way into Wine Dot Com's close out channels. Like their Private Cellar (you can sign up for the emails using that link). You can't see the price for the private cellar wines until you enter a code. I also receive emails from a Wine Dot Com staffer with deals that are pretty good on wine that can be hard to find. You can only buy the wine directly from the email, it won't appear on the website or, at least, won't appear on the website at the same price. It's fairly targeted marketing and I'm falling for it about once a month.

I'm also buying wine that I had previously rationalized as uninteresting mostly because I couldn't afford it. I enjoy Ridge wines, but had always dismissed their Montebello cabernet until it was offered by for well under one hundred dollars a bottle. Similarly Caymus and Stags Leap. Come to think of it, I'd always found Wine Dot Com uninteresting. Their collection wasn't varied enough to keep me engaged, and the price point wasn't great - particularly once you factored in shipping; usually took a gift certificate to get me there.

In April of this year, in a post titled The Coming Carnage in the California Wine Industry, I read about Wine 'til Sold Out for the first time. Checking the link just now, they had an '05 Brunello that Robert Parker had rated at 90 points for 40% off.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paw Paws: "The Largest Edible Fruit Indigenous To the Continent"

Love-hate relationship with the paw paw in these parts. They are best at their ugliest, the blacker the better up to a point.

I lump them in with other fruits that I buy as soon as they show up, generally to wasteful effect. Not quite ripe, they languish until they are probably iffy. Then languish some more, until they are definitely iffy. Compost.

This is probably why I haven't written about them before, aside from this slight mention. I think they'd make great ice cream.

The guy working Lagier Ranches' booth at the Lakeshore market expects to have them for a few more weeks.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Second Level: Lagier Ranches Almond Milk and Bronx Raisins

Years ago, when Doug used to work the Prather Ranch stand at Grand Lake Farmers Market, he introduced us to a three level rubric for understanding the degree to which food is being enjoyed. Something like this:

  1. Level 1: Talking about how good the food is as it's eaten.

  2. Level 2: Utter silence as the food is eaten

  3. Level 3: Gently weeping as the food is eaten

As someone who regularly blogs and tweets about food, I have some kind of disposition to the first level of food enjoyment. There's hardly anything I won't wait to eat until the photos are snapped, the blog post drafted. No foodstuff that I treasure so much that I won't tell everyone I know, and a bunch of people I don't, where to get it. Until today.

I've been coming to the Grand Lake market for about seven years now, and had never seen Almond Milk (sweetened with dates) or Bronx Grape Raisins at the Lagier Ranches stand. I sampled, and then I high-tailed it home and shared with my family. No photos. No tweets.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Fangled Old Fashioned Cocktail

On my first trip to Lake Chalet, I ordered their Old Whiskey Cocktail. I'd struck out with their Dark and Stormy and didn't want to order a drink with a silly name. Also Lake Chalet uses rye whiskey for their Old Fashioned. While Wild Turkey is available in a rye version, I've had a soft spot for rye whiskey since The New Low Down poured me a dram of Old Potrero. How long ago was that?

For whatever reason, the Old Fashioned clicked this year. My first scrounge for a recipe went the usual way - everything I thought I knew about the old fashioned was wrong, because I hadn't read this. Tasty stuff:

'Young impudent sir, he screamed, '...Man and boy I've built Old-Fashioned cocktails these 60 years... and I have never yet had the perverted nastiness of mind to put fruit in an Old-Fashioned. Get out, scram, go over to the Palmer House and drink.' I was rebuked.

Me too. And the adulteration goes further. In place of sugar I like to add just enough cane syrup to get the cocktail slightly viscous. Please be tolerant of this backward, blurry, and uncomposed photo. I'll replace it one day soon:

My new-fangled old-fashioned cocktail recipe goes something like this:

  • 2 full shot glasses of Bulleit Bourbon, aka the best of the cheap stuff at Trader Joe's. Here's Liquor Snob's review.
  • Angostura Bitters, three dashes plus that first splash that splashes out unbidden.
  • Water. Maybe 1/2 a shot's worth.
  • Blood orange if you've got it, an obnoxiously large wedge a la Cafe Van Kleef.
  • Depaz Cane Syrup, to taste and feel. At least 1/2 tsp.
  • Your favorite dried cherries. Will impart hardly any flavor, but are tasty after the fact. My digging for them, as I read in bed, has led to some grumbling from Amy who usually goes to sleep earlier than me.
  • Directions: Get your orange wedge into the glass somehow. It may take shoving, and some incidental juicing is encouraged. Don't go crazy. Cherries if you like. Then dash in the bitters. Pour in the cane syrup, then the bourbon. Then the water. Somehow 3 ice cubes always seem to fit into our Crate and Barrel highballs.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Peko Peko Guerilla Cafe

Speaking of Peko Peko, just received email word that they're doing their pop-up izakaya thing at Guerilla Cafe in Berkeley. We plan on being at Camino that night for crab, but the izakaya poster does say "till late".

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone, hangover-curing ham and cheese popovers at left there.

Time for that annual first post, full of promise and retrospection. While I'd planned on not addressing the specifics, the time that I had spent blogging was given over to other pursuits for most of 2009. There were vacations that I thought would get me back in the blogging saddle. Mostly I rode my bike instead. The accompanying weight loss has been a welcome benefit, though I'm also having an on-again off-again discussion with my physician about whether this renewed interest in cycling and the like has had the positive impact on my overall health that I suggest.

To be sure, we ate well last year. We signed up for a Fully Belly Farm CSA, kept at the Grand Lake Farmers Market, and ate and drank more than our share. I've been slowly assembling a case of wine from Axel's birth year, sampling as we went so we'd know that the cellar-worthy bordeaux and new world stuff were actually interesting. I tweeted about some of these things. Which means some of them wound up on Facebook. I got into the habit of visiting Boccalone once a month or so (Amy gave me a membership in their Salumi Society for my birthday), which got me to the Ferry Building Farmers Market for the first time - a former colleague described this as "going Hollywood".

The last handful of posts here were about the food we were eating in Ukraine. I'm not sure I recovered and I'm not sure what the affliction is. If it's that eating well continues to be too privileged, then surely all these newfangled food trucks represent progress?

Photo credit shout out to Rob Peterson, food truck fan and sometime partner in crime.

Or the community vibe of Radio Africa Kitchen. Or the lack of pretense involved in picking up Peko Peko at some random storefront. When I showed up with Axel to pick up bento the first time, they couldn't make change. So, they offered me a beer while they went to go find some. Commis may hold out a different kind of promise for people getting over the pretense surrounding serious food. Haven't gotten around to going though, in part because it seems so self-conscious.

Our first order of Peko Peko bento for two, with bonus peaches.

It's not the pretense or privilege though; I found ways to cope with that a while ago. I had a great time at l'Atelier de Joel Robuchon - even if the cocktails aren't as good as what Grand Tavern serves up (Mai Tai). I even manage a soft spot for Lake Chalet (Old Fashioned Whisky Cocktail).

Window display at Bitter & Zart in Frankfurt on our way back from Ukraine.

Mostly it's the blogging itself. Which is necessarily what I make of it. Still cracking that code.