Girls on Food

Tiffany

I’m a good cook and a better baker but my borderline unhealthy obsession with dining out tends to keep me out of the kitchen. I absolutely love discovering new restaurants and devouring all the best they have to offer. Here I’ll share my best finds and hopefully hear yours, all in an effort to add to my ever-expanding-and-contracting culinary bucket list.

RECIPE: Dad’s Cioppino

First, I should admit that I don’t exactly come from a family gifted in the ways of the culinary arts.
They did each have their strengths – grandpa could roast a chicken with the best of them; grandma spun peanut butter, honey and toast into magic; and mom knocked out some killer lunch box sandwiches with the pickles and tomatoes packed separately to keep the bread from getting soggy (genius) – but for the most part they didn’t stray very far from the staples.
So when my friend Liz’s mom served up incredible Salvadoran feasts and my friend Andrea’s table was perpetually filled with Swiss delights there was definitely some dinner envy going on. This all went away one day a year though, December 25th when dad made cioppino.No one really knows where the tradition came from and honestly, the man really has no business being this good at it. He’s not Italian and his culinary skills fall almost exclusively into the grilling category, with some spill over into smoked meats. This did not deter him, little does. He set out to own this glorious seafood stew and year after year he does just that.
So I’m happy to share with you the dish that always outshined the presents under my tree, except for maybe the year I got a BMX bike and the movie “Rad.” That year it was a tie…
DAD’S CHRISTMAS CIOPPINO2 whole crabs, cracked and cleaned
2 pounds salmon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
5 pounds mussels
2 pounds scallops
1 package brats or hot sausage, sliced
(3) 28 oz. cans crushed tomatoes
(2) 14 oz. cans chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 hot pepper
4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
8 sprigs parsley, chopped
1/2 cup minced garlic
3 medium onions, diced
1 small package baby carrots, sliced
1 tablespoon fresh Italian herbs
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
1 tablespoon fresh marjoram
4 broken bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
Scrub mussels, let soak in cold water until ready to use.
Sauté onions, parsley, carrots, hot pepper and garlic in olive oil over low heat in a 12-quart pot.
Add salmon and tomatoes to the pot. Cover and cook for approximately 20 minutes.
Add vermouth, chicken broth and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring often.
Add brats, salt, pepper and remaining spices. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.
Add mussels, scallops, crab, and shrimp. Stir often and cook approximately 10 more minutes until the seafood is done.

Add the butter and enjoy with crusty sourdough bread.
 
The recipe is based on one from Corti Brothers but he makes changes to it every year so feel free to improvise!If you have a favorite family recipe you’d like to share please reach out to us on Facebook: facebook.com/girlsonfood We’d love to hear about the best (and worst) dishes your family undoubtedly served up with love!

Drinking My Way Through Portland…

I finally made it to Portland! Once my bucket list for this culinary mecca became too ridiculous to ignore I called my sister and the next thing I know we’re sipping champagne waiting for our flight. Armed with an extensive list of places to enjoy thirty exquisite meals should we please on our three-day jaunt, we were prepared to eat well. (And, we did.) It was the cocktails that took us by surprise.
Of course they were great, but it was the sheer abundance that blew us away. There is a vegan, gluten-free bakery with a cocktail menu. Let that sink in for a second because it took us a beat to fully grasp it when we wandered in… A VEGAN, GLUTEN-FREE BAKERY WITH A BAR. Half the restaurants in Sacramento are only licensed for beer and wine! Impressive Portland.Below is a collection of my favorite sips in a city I can’t wait to taste again… 

The Last Word
Aviation Gin, Maraschino Liqueur, Yellow Chartreuse, Lime Juice
@ Brasserie Montmartre
This is a prohibition-era cocktail, usually made with green chartreuse, and it’s fantastic. It’s not for everyone though. (My sister hated it.) If you’re not a gin fan, this is not the drink that will win you over. It is herbaceous. And strong. But still a little sweet and very interesting. Bronx Cocktail, you’ve now been demoted to number two on my list.
New Horizons
Bulleit, Canton Ginger, Cucumber, Fresh Citrus,  Ginger
@ Departure
In general, I’m not big on bourbon. I tend to like it better in dessert than a glass but cucumber and ginger can be pretty convincing. This one is incredibly refreshing and the best part: it’s served on a rooftop patio with an incredible view of the city, alongside killer happy hour bites.
Bottle Rocket
Gin, Lime, Apricot Liqueur, Soda, Lime Peel
@ Clyde Common
Attention fellow Gin & Tonic fans: Immediately stock your home bar with apricot liqueur and make the switch. That is all.
Bitter Spring
Aperol, Lillet, Grapefruit, Celery Bitters, Sparkling Wine, Orange Twist
@ Olympic Provisions
If you love mimosas, stay away from this. It will ruin them for you. Aperol, Lillet, Grapefruit Juice? Yes. Celery Bitters?? YES!
I can’t move on without mentioning two things: 1) Brunch here was simple and legendary. I had the sudden urge to move here with every bite. 2) The other drink in the picture is a tequila cocktail, that my sister ordered for breakfast. I was proud.
Tom Kat Sour
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, Aperol, KASK Ginger Syrup, Lemon, Mint
@ KASK
This is a terrible photo but I had to include it in the list because it was taken at the best bar in Portland! Granted, I’ve only tried three days worth of bars there but I’m near positive this would be confirmed by locals.
Water Lily 
Aviation Gin, Cointreau, Rothman and Winter Creme de Violette, Lemon Juice
@ Petunia’s Pies & Pastries
And now we’ve arrived at the infamous vegan, gluten-free establishment with a full line of dessert cocktails… This one is definitely dessert, very sweet. Normally this wouldn’t be my cup of tea but just look how cute it is! The bakery is adorable too, don’t let the vegan part deter you.
Passionfruit Berliner Weisse in Coconut Water Sorbet
a ribbon of marmalade made from passionfruit and
Breakside Brewery’s “Passionfruit Berliner Weisse,” in a coconut water sorbet

@ Salt & Straw
Since this blog is technically about food I feel the need to include at least one thing you can nosh on. Of course, in true Portland style even the ice cream celebrates the hard stuff…
This was one of SIX beer-infused flavors! We stood in a line that ran down the block, sweating, doubting it would be as good as everyone says but, like you may have guessed, we were wrong. And in case you’re thinking I got lucky with the one flavor I ordered, I should admit that I sampled eight others in line. (Don’t judge.) They were all amazing and obviously this place knows how to churn out a profit by the look of the lines but the most impressive thing to me was to see a love for beer so strong on both sides of the counter that over a third of the menu was dedicated to it. You’ve got your priorities in line Portland. I like your style.

The Catbird Seat

The Catbird Seat 
1711 Division Street
Nashville, TN
thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com
Your adventure begins thirty days out at midnight, when they open up the reservations online. Yes, you should wait up for this. The thirty-two seat restaurant fills up fast! Once you book all you need to do is show up a month later, prepared to be swept away by three hours of fabulous food, drink and five-star treatment by some of the best chefs on the planet.
The menu is ever-changing so your experience will be different but here’s a peek at the kinds of delights that await you from the night I was sittin’ pretty in The Catbird Seat…
Savory “Oreo”
porcini mushroom cookie with parmesan cream filling

For me, it was love at first sight. This grew stronger with the first bite. Apparently I’m a sucker for clever, delicious takes on popular snack foods because I fell hard for you right away with this one Catbird. And it just got better from there.

Left: Scallop Cone (parmesan cream, roe, chive)
Middle: Jelly Roll (jalapeno jelly, cream cheese)
Right: Hot Chicken (crispy hot chicken skin with Wonder Bread purée)

Picture a scallop, in every form you’ve ever eaten one. Now, picture turning it into a waffle cone. Insane, yes? And incredible. As was the whimsical jelly roll and their version of the Nashville favorite “hot chicken.”

Heart of Palm Salad
coconut, pineapple, habanero, nasturtium
  
Pairing: Joel Falmet Brut Rose – Champagne, France
Sake Cocktail
TY KU, gin, ginger, lemon

As you enjoy the last of your champagne a new cocktail promptly arrives to accompany the rich dish below. My favorite sip of the evening.

Monkfish Liver
steel head roe, spring onion, ponzu, cucumber, avocado
   
Shrimp & Onion
truffle, celery, crispy potato, lemon, tarragon

Pairing: Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi “Podium,” Garofoli 2009
Grilled Chicken
red pepper, broccoli, oyster mushroom, pea purée

Pairing: Penner-Ash Pinot Noir 2010 – Willamette, OR

This was a crowd favorite. The chicken was deboned and pressed together mixing the white and dark meat so you get a bit of both.

Veal Tender
swiss chard, potato, oyster cream agnolotti, parsley, lemon 

Pairing: Le Grand Bouqueteau Reserve Chinon 2009 – France

I know the veal is supposed to be the star of the show here but the oyster cream agnolotti with lemon dots completely upstage it. Two of the most memorable bites of the evening.

Hudson Red
mustard seeds, fried shallots, cornichon, honey vinegar, 
beer & pretzel mustard
   
Pairing: Shneider Weisse, Hopfen-Weisse – Germany

This was the most stunning cheese dish I’ve had in quite some time. It’s a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese that is incredibly rich, elevated by all of the flavors on top.

Coconut
Coconut – Inside
milk chocolate ice cream, coconut, eucalyptus crisp,
sweet plantain, tangerine
Egg
bacon, maple, thyme, custard 
Bourbon
pineapple gelee, vanilla cake, cherry crisp, 
charred oak ice cream, bourbon beads
   
Pairing for Desserts: Royal Tokaji 2008 in a glass soaked with
Black Maple Hill Bourbon

The entire night I couldn’t help but feel that this restaurant just completely gets me, as if they had me in mind when designing the menu. This feeling grew stronger at the tail end of the dinner, when they served cheese followed by three courses of dessert.

The filling in the coconut, unexpected and refreshing. The bacon in the egg, paper thin and delicate. The bourbon beads, a playful surprise. And wine in a bourbon-soaked glass? Genius.
Sweet “Oreo”
chocolate cookie with espresso cream
Oh, and before you go they end the meal as cleverly as they began it – with a parting Oreo, this time sweet.

SF Eats: Nopalito

 I’ve lived in California all my life. This has influenced me in many ways: I talk fast, say the word “like” more times than I’ll ever admit, and I have a deep, undying love for Mexican food. It makes up a solid 60% of my dining out experiences as it is and if I lived a little closer to this place, that number would skyrocket…
306 Broderick St. – San Francisco
nopalitosf.com
It’s a quaint, casual spot with a menu meant for sharing and a small but potent cocktail list. The margaritas are a given but I found this little gem to be the perfect way to kick off the meal:

 

El Diablo
Pueblo Viejo Blanco, Cassis, Bundaberg Ginger Beer, Lime

 

Totopos con Chile
Tortilla Chips, Salsa de Arbol, Cotija Cheese, Crema and Lime
It’s hard to go wrong with their sustainable, organic menu but there are two things you shouldn’t skip out on. The first is this incredible take on “nachos.” The chips are drenched in the fiery salsa and the cool sour cream with fresh lime is the perfect complement. You’ll be tempted to resist this one so as not to “fill up” before the main courses, but my advice? Just come hungry! You won’t want to miss out on anything because it’s all spectacular…
Ceviche Verde de Pescado
Marinated Fish, Lime, Tomatillo, Jalapeno, Cilantro, Avocado

 

Empanada con Desebrada de Res
Fried Masa Pastry, Grass-Fed Beef, Tomato, Jalapeno, Cabbage, Avocado,
Queso Fresco and Salsa Frita de Guajillo

 

Carnitas
Braised Pork, Orange, Bay Leaf, Milk, Cinnamon, Beer, Cabbage Salad,
Pickled Jalapeno and Salsa de Tomatillo
Carnitas is basically my favorite thing on every menu it makes its way onto, and it’s especially good here. The same goes for ceviche. I’ve ordered both every visit and plan to continue this trend.
Whatever you choose though, be sure to pace yourself because the second thing you mustn’t skip out on (no matter how much you’ve had to eat or drink) is dessert.
Mexican Coffee: Siete Leguas Anejo, Araku, Whipped Cream, Orange, Canela
Popsicles: Cafe con Leche & Dark Chocolate Cinnamon
The popsicle flavors rotate but the dark chocolate cinnamon has been on the menu every time I’ve been and it’s incredible. They also serve Blue Bottle coffee, which is fantastic by itself but I highly recommend the tequila spiked version above. I’m not really a “dessert cocktail” type of person, shy away from the sweet drinks for the most part, but this is one I could begin AND end every day with.
Mexican Wedding Cookies

Oh, and did I mention dessert comes in two courses? They save their amuse-bouche for the end of the meal! This single, perfectly crumbly bite will put a smile on your face as you walk out the door, already dreaming about your next trip back.

Homemade Cheese Class: Latin Cheeses

So I’ve decided to become a cheesemaker. I got the idea wandering about a cheese shop in LA and when I found classes in San Francisco taught by someone known as “The Milk Maid,” that sealed the deal. My new hobby was born.
To prepare for my first class I decided to dedicate the entire day to cheese. This wasn’t hard to do as the classes are held at the Ferry Building, which is like a mecca for the creamy delicacy. My first stop was Hog Island Oyster Co. where for the first time I managed to resist their amazing Kumamotos for a shot at their ultra rich grilled cheese…
Mezzo Secco, cave-aged Gruyere and Fromage Blanc
w/house made pickled vegetables
This is a serious sandwich. It’s not all doctored up with clever fillings, just fabulous bread stuffed with a perfect combination of sinfully delicious cheeses. The pickled vegetables are a brilliant side too (and my next hobby – stay tuned!).
Cheese Left to Right: Capriago (Sebastopol, CA),
Herbiette Tomme de Bordeaux (France), Pleasant Ridge Extra Aged Reserve (Wisconsin),
California Crottin (Redwood Hill Farms)
That’s right, I kept going. I followed a meal of bread and cheese with a snack of, well, bread and cheese. I did swap the Cava for Pinot Noir though. And it was after a couple hours of shopping, maybe one. My favorite was the Capriago, an Asiago-style cheese made from goat’s milk.
After a long afternoon enjoying all the Ferry Building has to offer, it was time for class. Just outside the doors a table of illustrations and smiling faces led me to the CUESA Dacor Outdoor Teaching Kitchen, where Urban Kitchen SF holds the events. Here’s a peek at my first adventure with queso…
Meet Louella Hill, the Milk Maid. She’s my cheese hero.
In her hands, fresh Queso Blanco. They were slicing and frying this upon arrival!
Fried Cheese: the perfect way to start, well, anything.
Reacting to perfectly set milk.
My fellow classmates cutting the curds.
Heating and stirring the curds. This takes 20 minutes so while switching off
stirring duty we enjoyed a taco intermission…
Freshly grilled tortillas from Mijita (in the Ferry Building) topped with avocado,
cilantro, lime and Queso Fresco.
Draining the whey. (Save it! There are several uses for whey,
Louella made ricotta with it after class.)
Salting the curds.
After squeezing and working the curds thoroughly, packing the fresh cheese.
At the end you can add flavors, this batch has dried peppers.
Take Home Kit: Lipase, CaCl, Rennet

This week I’ll begin my Queso Fresco/Blanco experiments. I’m feeling pretty confident but this may be because Louella is a fantastic teacher and made it look very easy. These are good starter cheeses though, and I’m determined. Once I get the hang of it I’ll post my favorite recipes. Wish me luck!

Nashville Eats: City House

Juno – Junipero Gin, Blanc Vermouth,
Prosecco, Grapefruit
When I first started traveling to Nashville for work I wasn’t quite sure what to think. It’s not exactly a “foodie” city and I’m not a country music fan. Two strikes. It did surprise me though. First, you have to love a city with live music at the airport. Second, you have to love a city where cute, gentlemanly boys can refer to you as “sweet love” and it’s charming, not offensive. (West Coast Boys: This is not recommended, possible drink-in-the-face results.) And the final thing that made me do a complete 180 on this city was the discovery of one of my favorite restaurants in the country…
City House
1222 4th Ave N.
Nashville, TN 37208
cityhousenashville.com

Reservations are recommended but if you show up and there’s a long wait, sit it out at the bar and enjoy one of their fabulous cocktails! They are all incredibly intriguing and fun but my favorite is the “Juno.” Close runners up include the “Bandit” (Averna, Grapefruit Juice, Ginger Ale, Lime) and the “Moose” (Cynar, House-Infused Lemon Vodka, Peach Bitters, Bitter Lemon Soda).

Frico – Montasio Cheese, Potato
It’s a shared plates type of dining experience and they’re all good so you can’t really go wrong but I feel compelled to share the staple items we just can’t bring ourselves to skip no matter how many trips we make back here. The “Frico” above is the first and simplest dish, cheese on potatoes, but it’s not to be taken lightly. The seven year old inside you will scream with delight at the first bite. My feeling, you have to admire a restaurant of this caliber serving fried cheese with confidence.
House Made Garlic Sausage, Lemon, Red Onion, Parsley – with Cheesy Grits
Another favorite is their sausage – always different, always incredible. It comes with your choice of sides and while all have sounded great we always seem to go with the cheesy grits. Without regret.
Pizza – House Made Belly Ham, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, Oregano, Chilies – with a Sunny Side Egg
When you’re scanning the menu choose your pizza first, it’s what they do best. Then factor in the egg you’ll have to add on top because, trust me. And build the rest of your menu around that. The egg option isn’t on the menu, you have to ask. Definitely ask.
With one more trip out on my calendar I’m looking forward to finally trying out their “Sunday Supper,” a special menu designed to test out new dishes. I’m especially intrigued by the entire section labeled “Pork Snacks”! Oh City House, you get me.

LA Eats: Huckleberry, Milo & Olive

A short trip to LA made me fall hard for their cuisine, so much so that I was dreaming of my next trip on the plane ride home. Here’s a peek at two of my favorites…
Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe
1014 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
huckleberrycafe.com
 
If I lived in LA this is where you would find me every weekend. It’s not exactly a hidden gem so you have to be prepared to fight the crowd a bit. And wait. Don’t be intimidated by the full seats and long line though. They take your order in line and by the time you pay a table usually opens up. At least, it did for me both days I brunched. (Yes, I went here two days in a row on a three day trip. Unheard of if you know me. It’s that good.)
Quiche – Tomato, Bacon, Goat Cheese, Butternut Squash
I’m a quiche snob and this little bite from the pastry case did not disappoint. A perfect treat to share along with your breakfast.
“Green Eggs & Ham” – LaQuercia Prosciutto, Pesto and  Arugula on a House Made English Muffin
Breakfast Burrito – Scrambled Eggs, Roasted Onions, Fiscalini Cheddar, Roasted Potatoes, Guacamole, Creme Fraiche and Tomatillo Salsa
These two don’t look like much but underneath that pile of arugula and inside that simple toasted tortilla are fabulous flavors that promise to delight. It’s simple food done very well. And for me, that’s the definition of a perfect brunch.
Milo & Olive
2723 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
miloandolive.com
After a late brunch and a bike ride along the beach a friend and I found ourselves famished just before the dinner hour, which is apparently not allowed in LA where every restaurant closes down from 2:30pm to 6pm. After an exhaustive search for decent afternoon eats we remembered that Huckleberry has a sister restaurant! This little cafe with a wood fired oven ended up being my favorite surprise of the trip.
Crostini – Smashed Avocado, Roasted Beet, Ricotta Salata
I’ll admit, this is a strange combination. Paired with their fabulous homemade bread though, I would devour just about any topping. Luckily, this proved to be a delightful dish that I should never have doubted.
Free Range Chicken Meatballs – Tomato Sauce, Arugula, Red Onion
Our server recommended this favorite and it was hard to resist paired with the garlic knot below. If you dine here, order both. I haven’t stopped thinking about them since and am going to attempt to recreate this meal in my kitchen.
Wood Fired Garlic Knot – Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Sea Salt
Stuffed with a handful of heavenly roasted garlic!

Oh, garlic knot. You may be the best thing I’ve tasted this year. Pizza dough, roasted garlic, olive oil. So simple! And yet, shockingly good. The menu warns of a 20 minute wait but don’t let that deter you. Sit back, munch on some starters, sip on champagne and wait… to be blown away.

Brunch Three Ways: SF, Folsom, Sac

Bananen Weizen

(Hefeweizen w/Banana Juice)
Much like fellow blogger Marcie, I’m a big fan of brunch. Weekend mornings should be spent sleeping in followed by a leisurely late breakfast with a bubbly beverage. I’m constantly on the hunt for new spots that can fashion an egg in surprising and delightful ways. (I’m a savory over sweet breakfast type of girl.) Here are my latest favorites…

 

Suppenkuche
525 Laguna St. – San Francisco, CA
suppenkuche.com
This popular German spot near the Civic Center has been on my list awhile and the second I laid eyes on the “Mixed Beer Drinks” menu I was thrilled I finally made it a priority. I’m not really a beer drinker any time of day, certainly not breakfast, but when given the option of lacing it with banana juice, lemon soda or raspberry syrup – I’m all in! Champagne who?
I was equally pleased with the breakfast menu. There were quite a bit of intriguing options but I couldn’t pass up the bread dumplings, which ended up being more like slices of bread meatloaf. They spoiled me for toast. Fantastic.
 

Gebratener Semmeknodel mit Zwieblen Ei und Bratwurst
(Sauteed Bread Dumplings w/Two Eggs, Potatoes and Sausage)
Karen’s Bakery Cafe
705 Gold Lake Drive – Folsom, CA
karensbakery.com
I’ve yet to taste something on Karen’s ever-changing menu that I don’t love and I’ve been a regular for eight years. So, yes, it’s good. And quiche is one of the things they do best.
BLT Quiche – Bacon, Basil, Tomato
Grange Restaurant & Bar
926 J Street (The Citizen Hotel) – Sacramento, CA
grangesacramento.com
Smoked Chicken Hash
Bacon, Peppers, Butternut Squash, Onion, Potatoes
and Poached Eggs w/Chipotle Hollandaise

I can’t speak to many items on the menu because once I ordered this, I couldn’t order anything else. After basically licking my plate clean the first time around I’ve started ordering the hollandaise on the side so I can control myself, and feel less guilty about licking the plate clean every time since.

RECIPE: Texas-Style Kolaches

As promised…

I found a recipe that almost matches up to the delicious
kolaches I enjoyed nearly every day I spent in Austin. The dough didn’t turn out as soft
and delicious as I remember but this very well could have been my fault. I’m
more of a cake/cookie/brownie/tart baker than a dough girl. I leave most of that to my bread maker. Still, I count this as a success because they did turn
out very tasty!
Homemade Kolaches:
Ham w/Jarlsberg, Sausage w/Jalapenos & Cheddar
Texas-Style Savory Kolaches 
Recipe (Adapted) from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients 

(Yields 12-15)
for the dough:
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
1/4 cup water, warmed to 110-115F
1 cup milk, warmed to 110-115F
4 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled to warm
2 large eggs
5/8 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 1/4 cups flour
 
The best part about these is the filling and the options are endless! I went with two favorites from Austin: ham w/jarlsberg, sausage w/jalapenos and cheese.
Preparation
1. Pour warm water and yeast into bowl of an electric mixer. Let proof 5 minutes until foamy.
2. With mixer on low add milk, melted butter, eggs, sugar and salt until combined.
3. Add flour, half at a time, mixing until just combined.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and leave out at room temperature until dough has doubled, 1-2 hours.
5. Punch the dough down, cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or longer.
6. Divide dough into 12-15 balls, setting on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover and leave out at room temperature for 15 minutes.
7. Flatten each ball, adding filling to the top then fold the dough around the filling. Set back on the parchment seam-side down. Cover, then preheat the oven to 375.
8. Bake 25-30 minutes at 375, until browned. (My two batches were ready between 15 and 20 minutes. This is likely because I stuffed them very full, so much so that the cheese oozed out of a few. Keep an eye on them from the 15 minute mark on.) 
9. Enjoy!

 

The Crush Collection by Vosges: Fellas, Take Note

I’ll keep this one short and (very) sweet… If you’re stumped for gift ideas as Valentine’s Day rapidly approaches, look no further.
I’ve written about Vosges before, blown away by their
fabulously unique flavors, and they continue to deliver with their latest
aphrodisiac chocolate collection. I thought their cheese + chocolate blend
would hold strong as the wildest flavor but, of course, they’ve soared past it with
their KUMAMOTO OYSTER-infused cream truffle. Yes, oysters. Granted, this is one
of the mildest oysters and arguably the best (I won’t argue) but still, no one
thinks to put them in chocolate! And now that someone has, how can you resist
trying it?!
Kumamoto: kumamoto
oyster-infused fresh cream + champagne + 36% cocoa butter white chocolate +
edible pearl dust
Absinthe: Chinese star anise
+ fennel + Swiss absinthe + 65% cacao dark chocolate
Bronte: Sicilian
pistachio paste + rose water + 44% cacao deep milk chocolate
Edith: Piper Heidsieck
Brut Rosé Sauvage Champagne + 65% cacao dark chocolate + rose water + crushed
rose bud poudre
Mamajuana: Mamajuana (a craft
spirit made with rum and secret spices) + 65% cacao dark chocolate + chamomile
buds
Funk & Disco: banana purée + vanilla powder + 44% cacao deep milk chocolate
Red Fire: ancho chillies +
Ceylon cinnamon + 65% cacao Venezuelan dark chocolate
Xocatyl: Mexican
vanilla bean + 44% cacao deep milk chocolate
I realize that maybe I’m a tad bit adventurous and slightly
food-centric, that not everyone thinks their girl will swoon over an oyster
truffle, but I hold firm that this would be a legendary Valentine’s
Day gift for anyone. I know that girls like jewelry and shoes and handbags and puppies but
chocolate, in its finest form, always trumps. And, a little insight into the
female mind, we will give you points for even knowing that this collection
exists!
Happy Valentine’s Day!

Prison Food: Alcatraz

A short break from my standard post, for something a little darker…
After a far too long stint on my bucket list, I finally made
it out to The Rock! It was just as you might imagine, equal parts fascinating
and disturbing. We did the audio tour with voices of prisoners and guards
leading you with sound effects of prison life as you move through the space, which I highly recommend. Morbid stories of solitary confinement, escape and murder were offset a tiny bit, at
least in my mind, by some surprising tidbits about the kitchen!
Apparently, this place that locked up some of the worst criminals in the country served them up some of the best food in the entire prison system! The guards quickly learned that with mealtime being the most dangerous scenario – convicts all together wielding silverware and bad food being the number one reason to riot – they better serve to please. They hit all the major food groups in their dinners: soup, veggies, a starch, meat, AND they didn’t skimp on dessert! They also set this food rule, which I love: Take all you want, eat all you take.
Knife Lock Box: Complete with outlines of each to quickly determine if any are missing… Chills.
Equipment: What the prisoners used to cook for their fellow inmates, supervised.
This of course made me think about one of my all time favorite ways to peek inside a person’s soul, the admittedly dark question: What’s your death row meal? It may seem like a simple question of favorites, but it’s much more complex. If you were faced with one last chance to enjoy the simple pleasures this world has to offer, what is the one dish that would make your daunting fate a little more acceptable? Is it the best thing you’ve ever tried or something mom used to make you as a child? Something that shocked you or something that comforts you? Something you can’t live without or something you’ve always wanted to try?
I’ve shared mine here before: a perfect Quiche Lorraine. I saw Anthony Bourdain share his at a talk in Santa Rosa: bone marrow on toast.
Now you’ve had a peek into both of our souls. Share yours?

Kolaches!

I flew home from Austin today, happy and full after eating my way around town for a week. This was my third and final trip out producing a TV show and now I’m having a really hard time dealing with the fact that I won’t be showing up to set every day to a box of delicious kolaches. Sigh.

I discovered these incredible Czech pastries in December and
have devoured countless savory varieties from four different places since, with each bite wishing this
Texas staple would make its way west so I can enjoy them in California. They
truly are little pockets of heaven: sweetened yeast dough filled with ham and
cheese, sausage and cheese (sometimes accompanied by jalapeno), spinach
artichoke dip and my personal favorite – egg, sausage and cheese. Heated up
they’re the perfect breakfast on the go, far superior in my opinion to the
breakfast tacos that seem to get all the buzz.
Since my hometown of Sacramento hasn’t caught on to the
kolache craze I’m contemplating trying to bake my own. If I can nail a recipe
I’ll post it here. If not, I’ll just have to book another flight… I know what
you’re thinking and the answer is yes, I would fly for pastry.