Monday, May 28, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Dinner was excellent, as always, especially the pici pasta with fiddlehead ferns and pancetta. I thought my salad (asparagus, cucumber, radish, and green almonds) could have used one rich element for contrast. Green almonds are light and fresh, with the soft texture of grapes. The ones in my salad had been lightly pickled, so they were crunchy, more like cucumber flesh. A light sprinkling of cheese or hard-cooked egg, or even roasted almonds, would've been nice.
The highlight of the night, though, was spotting Jacques Pepin at the table behind us. I don't know him, but I've met him at conferences and I'm always impressed with how warmly he welcomes strangers and fans. A true gentleman, and a Renaissance man. If you haven't read his memoir, The Apprentice, add it to your summer reading list.
*Happy Birthday, Marilyn!
Monday, May 21, 2007
There have been some great meals of late. I discovered that Pizzaiolo, in Oakland, has the Best Pizza in the Bay Area. If only we'd met sooner! It'll have to be a summer fling. Of course, I still love Gialina, but Pizzaiolo's crust was even more flavorful, and the Margherita pizza was as good as any I've had in Italy.
Last night, we paid our first visit to a new Peruvian spot, Piqueo's, in Bernal Heights. Peruvian food is an incredible mash-up of Incan, Italian, Japanese, African, Spanish, and Cantonese flavors. With each wave of immigrants, the cuisine expanded. Consider our favorite dish from Piqueo's small plates menu: the Pobrecito, a highly seasoned white bean and rice cake topped with plaintains and a fried egg. Where did that combination come from? Everywhere.
I haven't studied Peruvian food in enough depth to hold forth on it here, but when I eat it I often find myself craving more aromatic notes, such as you find in Southeast Asian cooking. Flavors like basil, mint, lemongrass, cinnamon. Peruvian food has such range, but the flavors tend to be quite earthy: vinegar, sofrito, sharp heat, corn, and soy. But I suspect there's more to it than that. Maybe the Peruvian food cooked in American restaurants represents only one or two regions. It'll be interesting to find out.
We also discovered a great wine bargain with our dinner: a 2004 Viña Rey "70 Barricas" Tempranillo for just $28. It had all the lightness and fruit of a good pinot noir, with plenty of acidity to hold up against the rich dishes.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Today, however, I found something different. A Google search for the following:
"cool smooth people who are hot photos"
Dear reader, I have failed you.
That last recipe is so unbelievably good that I'm copying it here in the hope that someone will make it. We were literally making up reasons to keep retesting it ("Uh, let's see if the whipped cream sets up differently on an overcast day." "Did you weigh the raspberries?"). Forget any mushy, too-sweet tres leches cakes you may have had. This is more like a dulce de leche cake. And who doesn't like that?
The method is simple: Bake the cake (a foolproof genoise), split it in half, soak with the three-milk syrup (condensed milk, goat's milk, and cream cooked down until thick and caramelized), and layer with whipped cream and raspberries. It's easier than you'd expect. And it tastes best when made a day or two ahead of time. It's my new birthday/holiday/dinner party standby.
Tres leches cake with raspberries
For tres leches sauce:
For filling and frosting:
Preparation1. Preheat oven to 350°; position rack in center of oven. Butter and flour a 9-in.-wide cake pan (at least 2 in. deep) with removable rim; set aside.
2. Make cake: select a large stainless steel bowl (at least 10-cup capacity) that can nest comfortably in a large pot. Fill pot halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. In bowl, combine eggs and sugar. Set bowl over water; with a handheld mixer, beat eggs and sugar at high speed until pale and thick enough to fall from a spoon in a wide ribbon, about 10 minutes.
3. Remove bowl from heat. Shake flour through a sieve over egg mixture and fold in gently. Add melted butter and fold in gently until no streaks remain. Scrape batter into prepared pan. Bake on center rack until cake is evenly browned, just begins to pull from pan sides, and springs back when lightly touched in the center, about 40 minutes. Set pan on a cooling rack and let cool at least 10 minutes. Run a thin knife between pan and rim. Remove rim and let cake cool completely.
4. Make tres leches sauce: In a large pot (at least 6-qt. capacity) over high heat, combine goat milk, sugar, corn syrup, and cinnamon stick. Bring mixture to a boil. Stir in baking soda mixture (sauce will foam up) and reduce heat to medium. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce turns a caramel color and reduces to 3/4 cup, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Remove sauce from heat; discard cinnamon stick, and stir in condensed milk and whipping cream. Use warm (see Notes).
6. With a long, serrated knife, cut cake in half horizontally. Leave bottom half on cake pan bottom. Lift off cake top and set, cut side down, on a flat plate.
7. Put cake bottom (with pan base) on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Poke cake bottom all over with a toothpick, being careful not to poke all the way through. Slowly spoon enough warm tres leches sauce (about 1 cup) over cake bottom to saturate well but not cause it to ooze. Let stand until cool, about 10 minutes.
8. Make filling: Reserve several raspberries to go on top of the cake, then put remaining fruit in a bowl and mix gently with granulated sugar. Set aside. In a chilled bowl, use a mixer to whip cream until it holds soft peaks and is thick enough to spread. Add vanilla and powdered sugar; mix well.
9. Scoop about 1 1/3 cups whipped cream onto cake bottom and spread level to edge. Dot with sugared raspberries, pushing them down into cream. Carefully set cake top, cut side down, onto cake bottom and neatly align. Poke top all over with a toothpick as before, then slowly spoon about 1 cup tres leches sauce evenly over cake top to saturate well. Smoothly frost top and sides of cake with remaining whipped cream; transfer to a clean serving plate. Cover cake without touching (invert a large bowl over it) and chill at least 2 hours. Cover and chill raspberries if held longer than 2 hours. Cover and chill remaining tres leches sauce.
10. Uncover cake and decorate with reserved raspberries. Serve with remaining tres leches sauce.
Makes 10 to 12 servings
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
"Amy is to cherries" as...
a) Bush is to privacy
b) "Lost" is to narrative
c) Cats are to catnip
Answer in my next post. Meanwhile, I'm sure cherries are chock full of antioxidants or somesuch. It's not like I'm eating Pringles, right?
There's plenty of other good produce in the market, too. Last night, I steamed some asparagus, fava beans, and baby artichokes and made a lazy aioli with store-bought mayonnaise and leftover basil vinaigrette. All green! So simple and delicious.
*Scott, my birthday and Valentine's day are very close together.
Friday, May 11, 2007
Around here, I've been trying to cram in as many restaurant visits as possible. I've enjoyed terrific meals at Dottie's True Blue Café (best breakfast in the city), Antica Trattoria (Wow, real Italian, not Cal-Ital!), and Pescheria (Noe Valley's charming--as if that needs to be said--Italian fish house). San Francisco sure loves Italian.
I would have really enjoyed my meal at Maverick if the dining room didn't hit junior-high-cafeteria decibels. Seriously folks, there's no reason it has to be that loud. Stick some foam under the damn tables.
As for going home, I'm fully in the "What have we done?" phase of cross-country relocation. Not that I don't know, fundamentally, that it's the right thing. Not that I'm not excited about many, many things. Not that I don't love the energy of the New England food scene. But I'm also well aware of everything we're leaving behind. I want to spend every spare moment at the farmers market and drive every back road of Sonoma between now and July. A Boston friend recently said, "Don't worry. The restaurants here are really good. It's just the shopping that sucks." Except during the growing season, of course. And there's Formaggio, which is wonderful (though they certainly haven't embraced the localvore trend. I saw Flemish strawberries for sale at about $9/lb). There's the great seafood and cheese (again with the cheese!). And Vermont. And Wellfleet! But it's an adjustment. Like going back to your childhood home and finding it a little bit smaller than you had remembered.