Good eats at Palo Alto’s Reposado

Good eats at Palo Alto’s Reposado

Kid One recently started his First Real Job at a Palo Alto Tech Company, and this was the occasion of meeting him for lunch for the first time. I wanted to choose a place in advance; downtown Palo Alto is chock-full of restaurants and did not want to waste his hour walking around and deciding. Through the magic of Google Maps, I walked around online the night before. Resposado called out to me because we all like Mexican food and I can’t resist queso fundido. I figured it would be fine, maybe even pretty good. I wasn’t counting on it being fabulous.

Macarons from La Patisserie Chouquette

Macarons from La Patisserie Chouquette

Here are a few lovely photos my niece texted to me from St. Louis’s La Patisserie Chouquette. At 13, she has a good eye as well as good taste! The patisserie was started by Simone Faure, former executive pastry chef of the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans. It’s a “peanut free gluten free friendly French bakery” and was voted Best Bakery in last year’s Riverfront Times poll. It’s the place you have to check out the next time you are in the Show Me Stte. ...
Ahi Tartare Just Like Michael Mina

Ahi Tartare Just Like Michael Mina

One weekend LL and I spent the weekend in San Francisco to see Kiki and Herb at the A.C.T., but the show seemed sad and we were happy so we snuck out and walked down to the St. Francis where we went to sit at the bar at the Compass Rose but it was the new Michael Mina (which is the old Michael Mina now) and we were wowed by his tuna tartare.

It was one of those astonishing dishes, prepared table side – in our case, bar side – with gorgeous pink rich ahi and crisp sweet diced pears and salty pine nuts with the zing of garlic and the heat of jalapeño held together with quail eggs. It was a dish we had to recreate.

Scrambled Eggs and Waffle Fries

We’ve been enjoying Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show so much this week! He even holds Kid Two’s attention, and my 15-year old cultural critic is a tough nut to crack. And those suits!  His Late Show was never on my radar – WAY past my bedtime. So even though I’d occasionally catch online clips, I never did appreciate how very creative, polished, and entertaining he is. I’m a fan. I always take note when a song talks about food in some way, so I perked up at a mention in Vanity Fair that Fallon knew that Paul McCartney used “scrambled eggs” and a placeholder for “yesterday” when he wrote the song. Too tempting. He got McCartney to agreed to appear as a guest AND showed him a new verse about “waffle fries” to convince him to perform the piece. They perform it completely straight. Awesome. embedded by Embedded Video  ...
Roadside Sausage Sign, San Jose

Roadside Sausage Sign, San Jose

  There’s a pretty good history of the defunct and demolished Stephen’s Meat Products plant you can read by clicking here. You don’t have to know anything about it, though, to appreciate the lone sign as a testament to times past. Great...
Cook The Books Club Winner!

Cook The Books Club Winner!

Last week Deb from Kahakai Kitchen contacted me asking if I’d guest judge their Cook The Books Club contest for the book “Baking Cakes in Kigali.” Well – yes! The Cook The Books Club is a bimonthly book club and blog event in which the hosts, along with any other interested person, reads a predetermined food-related book, blogs her thoughts, and prepares a dish inspired by the book. Fun! Here are my responses to the thoughtful and inspiring blog posts that were submitted, and congratulations to the winner Camilla from Culinary Adventures With Camilla. Thank you for inviting me to play! I plan to join you next time for Twain’s Feast: Searching for America’s Lost Foods in the Footsteps of Samuel Clemens....
Can I substitute cream of tartar for lime juice?

Can I substitute cream of tartar for lime juice?

Seems like a strange question, huh? And yet someone asked me that recently. I did some research and here’s the scoop: lime juice and cream of tartar are both acidic ingredients that, in baking, combine with baking soda to give a rise to quick breads like muffins and pancakes. While cream of tartar can successfully stand in for lime juice to provide leavening, it will significantly change the flavor and texture of your batter. There are other acidic ingredients that can be substituted for lime juice with greater success. Substituting Fruit Sauces and Purees All fruits are acidic, so their sauces and purees add distinctive flavor along with leavening. Use 1 cup of fruit juice, sauce or puree mixed with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for leavening. Lemons are the exception. It is more highly acidic than other fruits, so use 2 tablespoon juice mixed with a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for leavening. Substituting Acidic Sweeteners If you are looking to add sweetness, honey, maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses all that combine well with baking soda for leavening. Mix 3/4 cup of any one of these naturally acidic sugars with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda for the correct leavening ratio. Cane sugar has a neutral pH and will not give a rise. Substituting Cultured Dairy Cultured, or fermented, dairy products like buttermilk, sour milk, kefir, yogurt, and sour cream add depth of flavor to your recipe and can be used in place of lime juice. Lactic acid is produced in the fermentation process, giving these ingredients the necessary pH. Use 1 cup of cultured milk for every 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda...
Keep your potatoes from turning brown

Keep your potatoes from turning brown

No doubt you’re making all sorts potato dishes this winter, like my favorite potato and spinach au gratin or this tartiflette. Keep your dishes photo-op worthy by following these tips to keep your cut and peeled potatoes from turning brown. First though, a short primer on browning, courtesy Harold McGee’s excellent reference book On Food and Cooking. Foods turn brown in one of two general ways. Non-enzymatic browning happens when foods are exposed to heat. These are the reactions that give cooked meat and bread their golden-brown colors and deepened flavors. Then there is enzymatic browning – not so great. That’s the browning that happens when food is exposed to air, like after you peel or slice a potato and it turns brown. It doesn’t affect the taste, only the presentation. Chemistry of enzymatic browning Science is fascinating to me, so just follow me for a minute. Enzymatic browning happens on the cellular level in fruits and vegetables. Colorless phenolic compounds, also called phenols, are stored in the vacuoles of plant cells. Enzymes are found in the cytoplasm. In a piece of uncut or undamaged produce, these molecules do not come into contact with each other. But once the cell is damaged, phenols come into contact with enzymes as oxygen is introduced. Enzymatic browning happens when oxygen allows the enzymes to bind phenols into new light-absorbing molecules that discolor the area. Prevent browning with lemon juice Enzymes are a type of protein made up of chains of amino acids. The bonds between those amino acids are sensitive to pH; highly acid or alkaline substances break down the amino acid bonds, slowing down or stopping the enzymatic...
How to Prepare a Christmas Dinner Party

How to Prepare a Christmas Dinner Party

Holiday dinner 101 for novices So you’ve bought all the presents, the Xbox Ones and iPads for your closest friends and family, and maybe a Rolex Cosmograph for someone really special. You’ve sent out Christmas cards to everyone else, and it would seem like your holiday obligations are done. That said, Christmas isn’t about “obligations” at all, but rather about spending time with the people you care about. One of the best ways to do that is to hold an intimate Christmas dinner party for you and your loved ones. Throwing a dinner party isn’t as daunting as some people make it out to be. Even if you’re a beginner, as long as you have things all planned out, and as long as you keep preparations within realistic expectations, hosting a great yuletide meal shouldn’t prove too hard a task. The first – and probably most important – thing to do is to know who you want to invite and what their food preferences are; this information will be the basis of your dinner. Take note of which things your guests love to eat, and more importantly, which things they can’t eat due to health or dieting reasons. As far as the number of guests goes, a good rule of thumb is to keep it at five people or less, otherwise the intimate atmosphere might get lost. Next comes the menu planning. Using the information gathered from the step above, plan out the courses of the evening, from appetizers to the main dish to desert. For the novice host, try and keep the meal simple. Also, make sure that the recipes are...
Mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa

Mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa

Our friend The Big Boss from work, a man who could, and did, eat two dozen prawns, half a dozen drumsticks, and an additional two pounds of roasted meat at one sitting, has gone practically vegan. I created these mushroom caps stuffed with red pepper and quinoa for him, a winner of an umami-laden dish that feels hearty and satisfying without any of those pesky high carbs, gluten, or dairy products. My only warning is they take a bit of time. You can make the stuffing in advance; it will keep for several days refrigerated. Ingredients: 36 medium-sized mushrooms, washed with stems removed 1/2 cup quinoa 1/2 teaspoon olive oil 1 cup water 1 red pepper generous splash full-bodied red wine (about 3/4 cup) 1 tbsp nutritional yeast plus extra to sprinkle on top 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper spray olive oil Instructions: First, get your quinoa cooking. (Follow these directions from The Kitchn if you’re worried about doing it wrong) Whatever you do, don’t overcook it; there’s nothing worse than soggy quinoa. Ok, there are lots of worse things – I’m thinking about the brussels sprouts creme brûlée from LL’s ill-fated 50th birthday party – but for the purposes of this recipe, you want your grain more al dente than mushy. Let cool. Then roast your red pepper. I cut it in half, take out the seeds and membrane, and put it right on top of the gas burner on my cooktop just like I roast poblano peppers. Let the pepper cool, then scrape off any black charred spots. Now simmer your wine burn off the alcohol, or at...
Turmeric and honey tea

Turmeric and honey tea

I was intrigued by this turmeric tea recipe Heidi Swanson posted on her blog 101 Cookbooks, based on an Ayurvedic recipe she found. Turmeric became my friend after accidentally creating multiple aches and pains in my knees and hip during last spring’s 22-mile Big Sur Marathon walk. Remembering that a (talented, accomplished, and beautiful) dancer friend once told me they would make turmeric paste to slather on sore muscles and joints while on tour, I found a cream made of turmeric extract, curcumin, that seemed to do the trick without turning my clothing bright orange. Turmeric doesn’t just give curries that wondrous yellow color. It’s is the wonderkind of Ayerveda, traditional Hindu medicine. Lisa Gallant of the California College of Ayervedic names a few of the many 5,000-year old uses for turmeric, including: use as a cold remedy, to give relief from bruises, sprains, and inflamed joints, to soothe skin from rashes ranging from eczema to chicken pox, even an insect repellant. The recipe is simple. This is all you need: turmeric, raw honey, lemon, hot water (not boiling), and black pepper. (I was psyched to find Wild Mountain brand honey at the grocery story. Wild Mountain Honey. Get it?) embedded by Embedded VideoYouTube Direkt   Anyway, mix 1/3 cup raw honey with 2 1/2 teaspoons turmeric. Blend well; it will become a medium paste: To make a cup of tea, add 1 teaspoonful of the past to a mug. Fill with hot water (not boiling water; as Heidi Swanson points out, you preserve the benefits of the raw honey if the water is not hot enough to cook it). Add freshly squeezed lemon juice...
For perfectly straight cucumbers every time

For perfectly straight cucumbers every time

We recently had a gentleman visitor from England, an erudite, entertaining, fellow who, although having travelled extensively in Africa and the Middle East during his first career, was on his first visit to California. We started him off right with a trip to our Satuday’s farmer’s market for a few tastes of the Monterey Bay: Tomales Bay kumamoto oysters from La Marea of the Sea, kraut juice shots from Farmhouse Culture, local Monterey Jack cheese from Schloch Family Farmstead, and fresh strawberries and cucumbers to take home for the evening’s cocktails. A breakfast of princes. He happened to mention, while in line to pay for the aforementioned cucumbers, that as a young man he worked for a grower outside London who shared the ancient Victorian invention for growing perfectly straight cucumbers: grow them in a glass tube. I thought he was pulling our legs, but it’s true. Industrial Age inventor George Stephenson, the man credited with building the first railway in the world to use steam locomotives and who invented the miner’s lamp, tired of trying to make a sandwich from wayward, curvy cukes and came up with – you got it – a glass tube keeping them on the straight and narrow. The cucumber straightener. They became quite popular; here is an advertisement Oh, those crazy Victorians. Click here for more cucumber...