Sunday, December 23, 2012

Perfect birthday cupcakes

I made myself birthday cupcakes this year, and they were perfect.

Carrot cupcakes.
Crushed pineapple and five spice powder were the secret ingredients.
Creamcheese frosting
Rum raisins

Best birthday gift to myself. Ever.

Perfect carrot cupcakes

1.5 cups vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 eggs
2.5 cups flour
1 lb carrots (2 cups grated)
6 oz crushed pineapple
2 tbpsn. brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
3 tspn five spice powder
1 tspn ground ginger
2 tsp baking soda'

3 tbspn brown raisins
4 oz your favorite rum

2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 tsp grated orange grind
1 tbspn milk

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2. blend corn oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs. beat until fluffy. 
3. add crushed pineapple to wet mixture
4. in a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon
5. over low heat, add carrots and brown sugar. cook over low heat for 5-7 minutes, until carrot is softened and sugar forms a light syrup
6. slowly add wet mixture to dry mixture and mix to combine.Add carrots and mix well. 
7. add to a greased cake pan and bake at 330-350 for about 1 hours until outside is browned and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean
8.  Mix raisins with rum in a small bowl and microwave for 1 minute.  Let sit and cool for 1 hour
9.  While cupcakes are cooling, make icing. cream together all ingredients until well blended and no clumps remain. Refrigerate for at least1 hour. 
10. After cupcakes have cooled, top with icing and rum raisins!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

SF wine bar faves: Bacchus

Im sharing one of my top secret SF favorite spots. The best wine bar in Russian Hill.


Now that the secret's out, let me explain the superlative. Bacchus is in a tiny niche on the trolley car-passed, fairy light-lined part of Hyde street. Its cozy and filled with locals on a Saturday night. The owner is equally cozy and local- Bodhi is a norcal fixture and just a cool dude. And the wine selection is great. Just watch for exploding champagne glasses! ;o)

The neighborhood feel of the place is wonderful. Last weekend, we enjoyed a bread pudding from Frascati down the road. . . which the host hand-carried to Bacchus, replete with silverware. Ate it up with an amazing madeira that Bodhi had on hand, and enjoyed it to a a patron-curated playlist of techno, Beastie Boys and Radiohead.

Check it out. This is a quintessentially SF wine bar that offers an amazingly local feel.

1954 Hyde Street
San Francisco CA 94109

Monday, September 10, 2012

Palatable Portland: Clyde Common

The trendy Ace Hotel in Portland has a really yummy restaurant called Clyde Common.  The scene is totally hip(ster), but if you can get past the intense vintage mustaches and flannel - and if you can manage to get a server - the food's pretty rad.

It's classic new american (oxymoron, but you know what I'm sayin) fare - locally sourced ingredients, simply prepared in a way that showcases what went into the meal.  Think a deconstructed steak sandwich with roasted tomatoes and padron peppers.

Dessert was a highlight.  Peach shortcake done as a parfait - with panna cotta instead of yogurt (yummmm).

Clyde Common
1014 Southwest Stark Street
Portland, OR 97205

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In a pinch, preserves

The magical thing about preserves is that they can save you in a pinch!

Like when you have dear friends over and are hopelessly out of milk and eggs and are on your last smidgen of butter.

Thankfully the fridge had strawberry preserves from our Swanton Berry farm adventure. And Mary Norwak's book of English puddings had the perfect fruit crumble recipe. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where to eat in the Last Frontier

We went to Alaska recently. The trip was amazing.  We saw lots of stunning wilderness (see top).  Caught some amazing salmon (sockeye! see below). And encountered many grizzly bears - some too close for comfort.

We also ate some amazing food.  The culinary scene has changed a ton since I was last in Alaska 10 years ago. This is no longer the realm of just hamburgers everywhere and impossible-to-find vegetables. There are some very special places that make local Alaskan ingredients sing in inventive ways that I strongly recommend.

I'll save the rustic, off-the-beaten-path local joints for a future post.  But for now, let me tell you about my favorite restaurant in Alaska.

229 Parks Restaurant and Tavern is a lovely new spot that's just past mile marker 229 (229.7 to be exact) on the George Parks Highway to Denali National Park. 8 miles south of the "glitter gulch area," this hidden spot is a sparkling gem in Alaska's interior.

Everything about 229 Parks is local, organic and fresh. Owner and Chef Laura Cole was the executive chef at Camp Denali and the North Face Lodge prior to opening 229 Parks with her husband.  This is her first full-fledged solo venture. This woman is gifted beyond the kitchen - her inspired and talented hand is evident in so many of the restaurant's details from the colorful wildflowers growing around the outside, to the carefully designed cabin that 229 Parks sits in and to the local folk art adorning the walls.

And Chef Cole has certainly done phenomenal things with the fare. The menu features seasonal, fresh ingredients that are sourced locally as much as possible. The kitchen even has its own garden.  The star dish when we dined was a plate of Alaskan King Crab ravioli in a butter-lemon sauce, garnished with sweet little nasturtium (above, top). And anything with spot prawns from this kitchen just sings - especially when paired with their house-made prosciutto (above, bottom). The ice cream sandwich dessert it also not-miss-able (below).

The level of creativity and precision in the flavors that come out of the 229 Parks kitchen are even more remarkable given the resource constraints facing any upscale restaurant in Alaska. It's simply harder to get high quality ingredients, especially in a location so near to Denali, which is largely uninhabited for 6-8 months of the year. So if you make it to 229 Parks after a 13 hour bus ride to Kantishna and back in pure wilderness, as we did, you will really relish it!

And if you're lucky, you may spot a moose as you very slowly walk your stuffed self back to your car. . .

229 Parks
Mile Post 229.7, George Parks Highway

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mario Batali is a Pasta Magician

Babbo does lunch, I recently found out.

And the pasta is as dreamy as ever.  A semolina symphony in your mouth, right in the middle of the work day!

We had a classic - the pappardelle bolognese, and a house specialty - the beef cheek ravioli.

The true sign of a great restaurant is whether they can nail (or convincingly reinvent) an adored classic, and innovate enough to offer diners something surprising and unusual. Both dishes demonstrated this impressive range.

No surprise I suppose. I've already expressed my adoration for Batali and this particular jewel in the Batali-Bastianich restaurant crown before

The real star of the show, though, may very well have been thanks to pastry chef Gina DePalma - her pistachio and chocolate semifreddo is something truly special. Order it and two spoons.

Of course, the entire bottle of Bastianich 2010 Friuli that we had alongside our meal made it that much easier to enjoy everything ;o)

110 Waverly Place 
New York, NY 10011 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Strawberries: from farm to delicious fork

This is a story of organic strawberries that grew up with Pacific breezes and coastal views, that were handpicked by two San Francisco bobos and ended up in a most delectable shortcake, devoured by a group of friends atop a city rooftop on a perfectly summer day.

Once upon a time... Organic, union labor-grown perfection on a vine at Swanton Berry Farm

Rescued from a more evil fate... 22.5 lbs of strawberries in the summer sun can, it turns out, make your car smell divine

They all lived happily ever after... Idyllic, atop a baked shortcake with summer bbq accoutrements

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

DC Has Awesome Soul Food

Great food has definitely arrived and hit a peak in DC.

Go to Founding Fathers and order their fried green tomatoes.

This place does farm-to-table DC style - with a southern touch in their dishes. Shrimp and grits, amazing chocolate mousse pudding, chicken and waffles, collard greens - it's all on the menu. And they've got some damn good cocktails.

Not sure exactly what the secret ingredient is in their fried green tomatoes, but I'm guessing it's some kind of stone milled cornmeal that they put in the batter.  Jessica Tandy would totally approve.

Founding Farmers
1924 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington DC 20006

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Weird ice cream

Check out Smitten in Hayes Valley.

Top three reasons to go:

1. A strange, liquid nitrogen-using custom machine - the founder designed it herself to freeze fresh ingredients on the spot. He's called Kelvin. See below.

2. Interesting flavors. I recommend the meyer lemon. The salted caramel is also pretty special.

3. Entertainment value.  This ain't your mother's ice cream shop. Perhaps a bit pricey, at about $5 for a custom cup!  But part of that cost may be the pure entertainment value of watching them use this crazy machine ...

432 Octavia Street, Suite 1A 
San Francisco

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Going to Moscow? Have Dessert at Cafe Pushkin

Best dining experience in Moscow, hands down, is Cafe Pushkin. Even Time Magazine concurs.

It's a taste of old world Moscow service and ambiance where you'll be surrounded by pretty young things.

Go, eat dinner - I'd recommend the blinchiki with caviar.

But definitely save room to split a few of their desserts. Especially the flammable ones! These are easily the best sweet eats in the entire city.

We thoroughly enjoyed an amazing strawberry and pistachio Pavlova, and some delicious creme brule-sugar crystal domed-caramel sauce coated concoction that was heaven set aflame on a plate.

Cafe Pushkin
26a Tverskoi Bulvar 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Bar Tartine's Chocolate Torte

Chocolate Dobos torte. Burnt orange carmel sauce. Hazelnut slightly-soured cream.  Two spoons.


Bar Tartine
561 Valencia St. 
San Francisco CA

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Best Bagel & Lox in NYC

Russ and Daughters in the LES.

A perfect bagel with spread and fish will set you back more than $10, but it's worth it. This is the most perfect lox and cream cheese bagel I've ever had.

I opted for the Scottish salmon, a plain bagel, horseradish cream cheese with capers.  Tomorrow I'll try something else ;o)

There certainly is no shortage of choices.

Grab a coffee and some of the delicious chocolates or pastries from the sweets counter while you're there too. Or stock up on R&D's own caviar - never know when you may need that.

Russ & Daughters
179 E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10002