Sunday, October 28, 2007

Do Right with Bi-Rite

I’ve been in San Francisco long enough now to have sampled some of the city’s finest food offerings. There are many to choose from, but the one worthy of my first SF entry is hands-down the amazing ice cream at Bi-Rite Creamery. Their cold concoctions evoke delicious childhood memories of monkey bars, birthday parties and light-up sneakers. . . Well, maybe not the sneakers.

Bi-Rite has been around for over 50 years. The small, locally-owned joint makes batches of artisanal ice cream in unusual but scrumptious flavors. They've nailed the basics - the ice cream is light, airy and not too sweet. In fact, the flavors are the creamery's biggest highlight! The combinations are not predictable, but they sing on your tongue and usually pair two seemingly mis-matched ingredients which complement each other well. The creamery offers up to 49 such flavors – I tried to sample them all and failed, but here’re some of the highlights: salted caramel, balsamic vinegar and strawberry, honey and lavender. The Mint Chip is great too.

Bi-Rite’s salted caramel deserves a special shout out. The salty-sweet combination is incredible. It’s like caramel popcorn without the annoying bits that get stuck in between your teeth!

A double scoop will set you back $4. The portion sizes are just right, and come with cute wooden spoons to boot. If you’re feeling like a real cacophony of flavor, go for one of their many sundaes. The banana split comes with caramelized bananas! Otherwise, for the lactose intolerant (or diet-abiding people who foolishly venture past), the creamery has popsicles in refreshing flavors like pineapple mint.

Bi-Rite is a quintessentially SF place – quirky, exceptional . . . and a bit of green mixed in. After you order your cold or baked goodies, you can walk just across the street and enjoy them in beautiful Dolores park! (If you have time, be sure to check out Bi-Rite Market just down the street for unique, hard-to-find gourmet food items)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beaches, Pink Flamingos - and Key Lime Pie

I made a lot of key lime pie this summer in Florida. It’s one of my favorite parts of going home. My neighbor has this prolific citrus grove in her backyard, and her key lime tree usually has plenty of little yellow-green gems begging to be mix with condensed milk and turned into a delicious tart pie. It’s such a quintessentially Floridian thing, I can’t say no.

Before I share my tried and true recipe for key lime pie, it’s worth mentioning that key limes really are different from the standard Persian limes that you see in grocery stores. They taste and look different. They’re a lot smaller – about the size of a ping pong ball. When they’re ripe, the skin thins and they turn a bright yellow color. It’s got more zing too – more acidic and a touch of bitterness, and a more floral bouquet than the normal grocery store lime.

Key limes are named after the Florida Keys, where they grow well and are the signature ingredient in our state’s best dessert. The limes themselves are said to have immigrated to Florida from Malaysia or somewhere else far east, transported by Spanish ships. Key lime pie is from Key West, which helps explain the other unusual ingredient in the recipe – condensed milk. The recipe originates at some point in the 19th century, when shipping families in Key West had to substitute canned condensed milk, since few people had ice boxes to keep fresh milk. originated in

Aficionados will argue incessantly about the proper or best way to make key lime pie. Graham cracker or pastry crust? Sour cream or crème fraiche? Meringue or whipped cream topping? Cooked or uncooked filling? I’m taking my own stand. Here’s my favorite key lime pie recipe. . .

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
½ cup vanilla wafer crumbs
¾ cup brown sugar
4 tbspn butter, melted
2 (14oz) cans condensed milk
1 cup key lime juice
2 whole eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
¼ cup whipped cream
2 tbspn powdered sugar
1 tbspn key lime zest


1. Preheat oven to 375F

2. Mix the crumbs, brown sugar and butter together in a medium bowl until well blended and moist. In a lightly greased 9” pie pan, press the crumb mixture in, distributed evenly along the bottom and up the sides, to form the crust.

3. Bake crust in the oven about 20 minutes, until browned. Remove and let cool.

4. Decrease oven temperature to 325F. In a large bowl, combine the condensed milk, lime juice and eggs. Whisk until well-blended and pour into cooled pie shell.

5. Bake 15 minutes in oven. Remove and let chill in fridge for 2 hours.

6. Once chilled, in a separate medium bowl, mix powdered sugar, whipped cream and sour cream. Use to top pie. Sprinkle with lime zest (and optionally a sprig of mint) to garnish. Serve cold.