Thursday, June 28, 2007

Herbaliciousness




I love fresh herbs; they add life and vitality to even the simplest of dishes. Though very convenient, I've come to the conclusion that most dried herbs just aren't worth the bother. I can't remember the last dish with dried herbs that really impressed me. Recently I heard the tip to throw dried herbs on the fire when grilling. That seems like a good way to use them. Or a good a way to dispose of them...

Why am I so crazy about fresh herbs? Because nothing smells better than a roast chicken with fresh tarragon. Fresh thyme used in stews or with meat imparts a uniquely earthy forest like quality. A little bit of minced chives is the mildest form of oniony sweetness you can add to delicate dishes like scrambled eggs.

Parsley and mint should never be relegated to the role of garnish. The pungent green bite of parsley takes on a whole other role when used in quantity. Mint can also be like a salad green and adds a cooling freshness to Middle Eastern dishes like fattoush or tabouli salad or to spicy Trapanese pesto.

Frankly I blame Kalyn and her Weekend Herb Blogging. Her herb-centric posts have caused me to spend far too much on little itty bitty plastic pouches of fresh herbs. So this year I gave growing herbs another try. In an apartment with no direct sun, I had little luck the first time around. This time I decided to put a box just outside my kitchen window. So far my mint, parsley, chives, thyme and tarragon are doing very well. And I can't tell you how happy that makes me. Using my own homegrown herbs is much more satisfying than buying them. No houseplant could possibly give me as much joy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Chinese Food & Cake


The only thing better than leftover Chinese food for breakfast are the memories of Chinese food from R&G Lounge the night before. Visions of divine crab, tender and crispy Peking duck, salt and pepper shrimp, delicate pea sprouts, sweet and savory char siu pork and so much more are dancing in my head. Thanks to the maven of all things sweet, David Lebovitz for visiting and giving me an excuse to plan a dinner with food bloggers and to share the best cake around, the Sacripantina from Stella Pastry.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sara Foster's Casual Cooking: Cookbook




When it comes to food, I don't believe in secrets. Secret restaurants, secret menu items, or secret recipes are all bad ideas. Food should be enjoyed and keeping it secret just gets in the way of that. I used to work with a Southern gal who told me her aunt made the best biscuits but she wouldn't share the recipe. Someday that aunt will die and the recipe will too. That's a shame. Sharing that recipe would be creating a legacy for herself instead of just memories that one day will die too.

So I would like to share with you a little secret of sorts. It's a book I've been inspired by quite a bit lately but I've kept the relationship to myself, until now. When I got a copy of Sara Foster's Casual Cooking I had never heard of Sara Foster. It turns out she has two other cookbooks and been featured in a number of national magazines. She started her culinary career as a chef for Martha Stewart's catering company and now runs a take-out business in Durham, North Carolina. Her cooking is casual, and the book is filled with main dish salads, quesadillas, pasta and even egg dishes. The recipes are not fancy, but great and sometimes healthy twists on the classics like a creamed corn that has no cream in it.

My copy of her book is filled with little sticky notes and while I may not be following her recipes exactly, they have been inspiring and intriguing me. I have played around with a couple of recipes, starting with Ricotta Tartlets with Spring Greens and Sauteed Onions. I experimented with my own version of this and it came out great! Mixing ricotta with a little egg and baking it turns it into a lovely starter. I used a muffin pan instead of tart pans and I flavored mine with green onions. Her recipe for Grilled Shrimp and Goat Cheese Tostada with a drizzle of cilantro chimichurri sauce was the impetus for my post on unorthodox quesadilla combos.

Here are the recipes I've bookmarked but haven't tried yet. The first recipe is Rigatoni with Sausage, Cannellini Bean and Swiss Chard Ragu. I have been looking for something new to do with Swiss chard for a long time and the picture of this dish is mouthwatering. Another recipe I have yet to tackle is Warm Sourdough Bread Salad with Chicken and Pine Nuts. This salad is like an Italian bread salad but with peppery watercress, golden raisins and pine nuts. Genius! Next time I have leftover chicken I am sure I will make a version of it. You can follow the recipes to the letter or just be inspired by them, either way, this book is a keeper.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Blackberry Ketchup at Sherrill's Inn: Recipe


Just a week ago I visited historic Sherrill's Inn in Hickory Nut Gap just South of Asheville, North Carolina. Set against a backdrop of rolling hills and manicured gardens I enjoyed a leisurely cooking demonstation that utilized produce and meat from farms less than a mile away. Descendants of the family that owns the inn operate Flying Cloud Farm, named after an old stagecoach, and Spring House Meats. Local farms in the area such as Flying Cloud are primarily organic but have not sought certification. Spring House raises antibiotic and hormone free grassfed beef, lamb, pork and pastured chickens. Both sell at the local "tailgate markets" in and around Asheville.


I enjoyed a tour of the property and the inn, which dates back to around 1800.

Outside was a stone house with a spring running through it that served as a refrigerator.


There was also an old stockade on the property that serves as a smokehouse.


In one room were murals painted depicting early scenes from the inn.


Local chef Joe Scully and owner of the Corner Kitchen just outside the Biltmore Estate in Asheville prepared wilted Swiss chard, cheddar grits and pork chops with blackberry ketchup. Forget any notions of commercially prepared tomato ketchup, this spicy, sweet and tangy sauce is wonderful with pork, chicken or even turkey. Joe said his kids even it use it to dip their fries! It's a North Carolina recipe that can be easily made at home. You can use frozen or fresh blackberries and because they are cooked down into a sauce it's a good way to use berries that may be a bit over or under ripe.


Blackberry Ketchup

1 quart (or 1 1/3 lbs) blackberries
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
salt to taste
1/2 pound butter

Combine all but the butter, boil until reduced by half, syrup consistency, about 20- 30 minutes. Puree and strain out seeds. Return pot to the stove and whisk in butter while sauce is hot. Season to taste. Joe said the sauce will last in the refrigerator for up to one month.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bits and Bites


Culinate is a terrific new food site. It's about food but also about where food comes from and the decisions we make about what to buy and what to eat. It manages to be credible but never preachy. Articles and reviews are often thought-provoking and their profiles tend to go beyond the surface. Lots of great writers and bloggers can be found there including some of my favorites like David Lebovitz, Derrick Schneider, Matthew Amster-Burton, Deborah Madison and more. Check it out, if you haven't already.


Culinate is currently holding a Grilling contest. I know it's an odd request, but please vote for my friend and fellow blogger Matt of MattBites. He really needs to attend a grilling class. The poor boy grew up in Texas and thinks he knows about grilling but is clearly in need of some re-education. Click on the "GrillMe" graphic to vote for Matt's blog, not mine. The contest is almost over so please, sneak over there now and give him your vote. I'm happy with my George Foreman grill!


Over on the KQED food blog is a really cool recipe for Tomato Melon Gazpacho. I know because I posted it! It's from an absolute gem of a book that I reviewed/swooned over, Mark Bittman's Quick & Easy Recipes from The New York Times. If you love "The Minimalist" column over at The New York Times, you will treasure this book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cooking with Amy goes Glam!




Did you know I'm a Glam girl? Ok, not really, but I did get to post a guest spot over at the Glam web site courtesy of Lifestyle Editor and Last Minute Party Girl author and contributor to magazines like Food & Wine, Bon Appetit and InStyle, Erika Lenkert.

Since I am almost always misquoted in interviews I figured, why not set the record straight? I interviewed myself and the result is a cheat sheet to some of my favorite picks and places and a funny story to boot. You can read all about it over at GlamNest.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ratatouille: Movie Review




I was going to just relax and stay in this weekend, but a sneak preview of Ratatouille lured me out of my lair. Set in Paris, it's the story of a talented rat with great ambitions. Because he appreciates fine food, he wants to leave the nest and become a chef. Remy the rat is guided by his visions of a famous chef and recipes he's read in a cookbook. As to be expected from a Pixar film, the animation is amazing and the level of detail will blow you away, but it was the culinary detail that won me over.

It will come as no surprise that Thomas Keller and Anthony Bourdain both acted as consultants on the film. The details of the kitchen brigade, the kitchen personalities and even the cooking itself is a joy to watch. Check out the enamel stoves, the use of rasp style graters and the walk in fridge! Overblown celebrity chefs, kitchen sexism, food critics and even health inspectors are all skewered. This is the least "kid-oriented" of the Pixar films, and if the sneak preview was any indication, it will have a large adult audience.

The idea that a rat doesn't want to eat garbage and has great taste is a brilliant premise. The message behind the film, if there is any, is that credit should be given to those do the real work and not to underestimate the lowly ones in our midst. The catch phrase "anyone can cook" sounds like it came from the Food Network, but the film is way more entertaining than anything on TV. Hands down, this is my new favorite Pixar film. By the way, don't miss the short in the beginning or the terrific animation in the credits. Ratatouille opens on June 29th.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

StarChefs come to town




Have you been to the StarChefs web site lately? If not, you might want to take a look. It's a site devoted to culinary professionals, but there is a lot the non-professional can learn from lurking too. In addition to recipes from restaurant chefs, there are some interesting articles. I particularly liked browsing through some local chef recommendations for where to eat in San Francisco. The "Food Lover's Section" has several other cities covered too such as Barcelona, Chicago and Seattle.

Here's a link to the complete article index where you will find chef techniques like how to transform fats into powders and how to make fizzy tomatoes, articles on ingredients from Apples to White Truffles and food debates over issues like Foie Gras and Future Food...

On Tuesday StarChefs is holding their Rising Stars Revue with a roster of amazing local chefs and an exciting tasting menu--the twist is that many of the recipes have been made available online. Whether you end up attending or not, you can recreate a taste of the experience at home. Some of my favorite rising star chefs are on the bill, especially Nate Appleman, Jennifer Biesty, James Syahout and Belinda Leong.

Tickets are $95 for a taste of what's to come...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
7 PM
The Westin St. Francis
335 Powell Street @ Geary

San Francisco Revue Gala Tasting Menu

Nate Appleman of A16
Napa Valley Lamb and Wisconsin Ricotta Crespelle with Tomato and Pecorino
Ciccioli with Radishes and Salsa Verde
***

Jennifer Biesty of COCO500
Bacon-Wrapped Monkfish with Zesty Tomato Sauce and Broccoli Rabe
Caramelized Marin County Goat Cheese with Baby Romano Beans and Minneola Tangerines
***

Mark Dommen of One Market
Lightly Smoked Sea Trout “Mi Cuit”
Wild Nettle Ravioli with Fresh California Snails
***

Mourad Lahlou of Aziza
Roasted Root Vegetable Couscous, Braised Beef Cheeks, Chickpeas, Golden Raisins, and Harissa
Moroccan Spiced Carrot Soup with Blood Orange Foam
***

Jonah Oakden of The Blue Plate
***

James Syhabout of PlumpJack Café
Chicken Confit with Toasted Curry Spices and Mustard Chlorophyll
Tempered Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Dates in Sweet Vermouth and Pepperberry
***

Seiji Wakabayashi of Bushi-Tei
Sauteed Sea Robin, Squid Risotto, Tomato Fondue, and Saffron Vermouth Sauce
Quail Confit, Quail Egg, Mushroom Melange, and Aged Balsamic
***

Hotel Chef Peter Rudolph of Campton Place
Roast American Lamb with Pistachios Purée
Striped Bass with Ginger-Foie Gras Sauce and Black Radish
***

Pastry Chef Nicole Krasinski of Rubicon
Aged Pecorino and Walnut Financier with Roasted Clementine Jam
Rose Petal-Pistachio Pave
***

Pastry Chef Belinda Leong of Gary Danko
Pineapple Upside-Down Milk Cake with Walnut Streusel and Burnt Caramel Ice Cream
Scharffen Berger Chocolate Fudge Cream with Coffee Soil and Condensed Milk Ice Cream
***

Sommelier Michael Garcia of XYZ at the W San Francisco
Ultra-Premium Wine Pairings with Each Chef’s Signature Dish
***

Sommelier Becky Swanson of Delfina
Ultra-Premium Wine Pairings with Each Chef’s Signature Dish
***

Mixologist Jonny Raglin of Absinthe
Bengali Gimlet

Rhum Clément Creole Daiquiri

Golden Fiddle featuring Square One Organic Vodka

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Table: Restaurant Review

Finding great restaurants on short notice is always a challenge. Before I came to Asheville, North Carolina, I read as many restaurant reviews as I could. When I got here, I asked folks where they like to eat and several places were mentioned time and again. My goal was to get a sense of the restaurant scene here, but also experience some real stand out cuisine that reflected a sense of place, with a strong point of view. Asheville restaurants are eclectic to say the least, you can find sushi, pizza, Indian, French, Spanish, German, Mexican and more. But upscale dining with truly local roots is still limited to just a handful of places. One restaurant that seemed to be flying just below the radar? Table.


Though they describe their cuisine as "market-driven seasonal New American" the chefs at Table are cooking in the French tradition, with a great respect for Southern and Mountain food. What does that mean? Dishes like line-caught red fish, roasted baby fennel, chiogga beets, green olives and aioli ($23), frogmore stew with shrimp, mussels, housemade sausage and hominy ($11), slow-cooked duck leg, pommes Sardelaise, arugula and lemon confit ($22) and roasted veal chop, white asparagus grain and morel sauce Forrestier ($26). Also available is their burger, with homemade bun and pickles and fries that take three days to make--no need to rush the peeling, soaking, oil poaching and frying!


The "sweet raw" turnips I saw at the local farmers market in the afternoon showed up with a hangar steak and seriously the best greens I have ever had--fresh but not too soft, cooked with chewy crisp bacon, of course.


Another favorite dish I sampled was crispy seared sweetbreads,with a cream sauce much like a soubise with Spring green onions tender but still squeaky fresh. The balance of oniony sweetness, creaminess and perfect seasoning with hints of nutmeg and brandy was tongue tinglingly good.


The restaurant itself is clean and modern looking with dark chocolate walls, plenty of glass and wood. An open kitchen in the front features a bar where I sat, able to see the speed, precision and coordination between chefs Jacob Sessoms and Matthew Dawes. Jacob spent time with Jonathan Waxman in New York after college in Asheville and attended The French Culinary Institute. Matthew attended the same college in Asheville, attended Johnson and Wales culinary school and worked at Four Square in Durham. He also worked with a European importer which helps to explain the outstanding cheeses they serve. While they have no pastry chef, Matthew completed an intensive course in French pastry arts, his talent showing up in a luscious peach ice cream that paid homage to the very essence of the fruit.

It was refreshing to see a menu that not only had so much impeccably fresh local produce, meat and fish, but also a level of creativity that you would expect to find in a larger more cosmopolitan city like New York, San Francisco or Atlanta. While a local menu to be sure, the impressive wine list was filled with mostly European selections. Open for just two years, Table may just be Asheville's best kept secret, but I can't imagine it will be for long.

Table
48 College St @ Rankin
Asheville NC
828.254.8980

Weds - Mon 11:00-2:30
Weds - Mon 5:30-11:30* (open late friday and saturday)
brunch Saturday and Sunday 9:30-3:00

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Spinning Spider Creamery



www.flickr.com




You hear about small family farms all the time, but when was the last time you visited one? Today I visited with Chris Owen and her son Cullen at the Spinning Spider Creamery. They showed me around and I learned what it's like to raise goats. This is seriously a family farm, because all of the family members including three school age sons work hard to feed, milk and care for the goats and make and sell cheese. This is often a 24 hour a day responsibility.

The Owen's have a herd of 55 of the sweetest most affectionate Saanen and Alpine goats. Each one has a name and distinct personality. They even have "show goats". Just spending a little bit of time with the goats, you can easily see why the family loves them so much.

They also love goat cheese and create many different styles from fresh chevre to aged cheddar, feta, blue and more. My favorite was the tangy crottin but I understand why the chevre with fig, honey, pepper and rosemary is the most popular of all the cheeses they make. It was sweet, spicy and decadent. Chris explained that this is the best time of the year for goat cheese because the milk is so rich and creamy. The milk changes seasonally which is good to remember when shopping for goat cheese. Fresh produce isn't the only thing on a farm that has peak seasons. Click on any of the photos above to see the whole set (or click on this link).

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Asheville First Impressions


A few years back my mom told me I would love Asheville, North Carolina. So when the kindly folks in Asheville invited food bloggers to town, I cleared my schedule and got on a plane. Driving in from the airport the sight of lush green slopes and a rushing river lulled me into relaxation. Maybe I could find the mountains as appealing as the ocean...?

So far I've found that the town itself is funky and fun and has a small scale that makes it feel accessible and friendly. Discovering glimpses of art deco architecture at every turn is a pleasure and so is the sense of culture here. Food, crafts and even the bluegrass performers playing on the street all seem tied to region in a way that is in harmony with the surroundings.

After only three meals, my greatest regret is that clearly, I will not have enough meals in Asheville! The cuisine here is eclectic, but there are some real standouts using local products--fresh trout, stone ground grits, sweet potato salad, goat cheeses and more. It turns out my mom was right. I do love Asheville. I'll share some highlights soon. Stay tuned.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Peanut Butter & Jelly Cookies: Recipe


No one likes airplane food. The best solution is clearly to bring your own eats. So what snacks do you bring on the plane? That's the question that was posed by Epicurious editor/blogger Tanya Steel a few weeks back, prior to her travels. Suggestions were made for granola, chili coated dried mango, cereal bars, deli sandwiches, beef jerky and more. But it was this comment "I will be staying in hotels, so I can't even pack a PB&J!" by Tanya that got me thinking. How about a cookie that tastes like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?

The first batch I tried was too sweet but the second one was just right. These cookies aren't very sweet, so you get a hit of sweetness from the jelly or in this case, strawberry preserves. They are fairly healthy and great with a glass of milk, of course. The basic recipe is an adaptation of the peanut butter cookie in Jane Brody's fabulous Good Food Book. Just a couple of these really satisfy, but bring more for your seat neighbors.

My favorite airplane food of all is sushi, which I usually try to take on flights to and from Hawaii, but for something that stays fresh and travels well, these cookies are a better choice. I'll be getting on a plane Monday morning and these little goodies will be in my carry on luggage...

PB&J Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

1/3 Cup unsalted butter
1/2 Cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
1/2 Cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 Cups flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
Strawberry preserves or jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and egg with an electric mixer until creamy. Sprinkle in the flour and baking soda, mixing well to combine. Roll into one inch balls and place 2 inches apart. Use your thumb to make a well in the center of each cookie, flattening each ball as you go. Fill the well in each cookie with strawberry preserves. Bake on a greased or parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Let cook on a rack.

Enjoy!

Friday, June 8, 2007

A Sweet Suite Story


Once upon a time a guy wanted to propose to his gal. He decided a romantic trip to San Francisco would be just the ticket. He talked to the folks at the front desk of the hip Hotel Triton and they mentioned that he might want to consider checking out the new "Sweet Suite" designed by Marsh & Clark Design and sponsored by Haagen-Dazs. In it, they explained, there would be a freezer full of ice cream, luscious creamy interior and accessories all designed to extend the feelings of satisfaction that come from eating, well, ice cream. Even the throw blanket was designed to replicate the texture of a waffle cone.

To sweeten the deal, in addition to enjoying complimentary pints of Haagen-Dazs in their room, they could purchase custom Haagen-Dazs bathrobes and ice cream scented candles, with all proceeds benefiting Delancey Street Foundation (plus, a portion of their Sweet Suite guest tab would be donated to Delancy Street as well).

It turns out in addition to loving her guy, this gal also loved ice cream. So the suite was booked, ice cream eaten and the guy and gal? Engaged. And they all lived happily ever after. Let's hope they don't have to book themselves into a Weight Watchers suite for the honeymoon!

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Did you get it?




Just a quick note to say the monthly email newsletter went out today. If you didn't get it, feel free to sign up for it and I'll send you a copy. It is a double opt-in system, so after you sign up you'll be asked to confirm your subscription. In other words, if you don't confirm, you are not subscribed.

The newsletter provides links to some posts from the prior month, a sneak peek at what's coming up as well as some links to sites I think you'll like. This month I share my thoughts about why June is my favorite month. Thanks again for visiting and staying in touch!

Slow Food and all that jazz


The brouhaha over the remarks by Carlo Petrini about the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market lead me to post something that unfortunately lead to some bad feelings and misunderstandings. So I thought I'd take this opportunity to clarify my own positions, once and for all.

Slow Food
It's a movement and a philosophy that was born in response to a McDonald's being opened in Rome. In general I agree with founder Carlo Petrini's manifesto as outlined in Slow Food: A Case for Taste. I do think we should preserve traditional foodways, and fully support the idea to "rediscover the flavors and savors of regional cooking and banish the degrading effects of Fast Food."

On a local level I wish there were more Slow Food events that were accessible to as many people as possible, not only people with considerable disposable income. But I understand an organization tries to raise money with high ticket fundraisers in order to grow and to raise awareness and that's ok with me. The The Golden Glass tasting event this weekend is $50 but that's fairly affordable, considering it is a fundraiser.

As for Petrini's comments, because I believe in free speech, I believe he should be allowed to say what he wants about the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. It saddens me to think he may have exaggerated or outright lied to make a point. But I do believe there was some truth to his comments, however harsh they seemed. It's important to really listen to criticism, not just shut it down. I also know that's hard to do. It's why I'm writing this today.

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
I shop there. Not all the time. Not every week. But I do shop there. It is expensive but so are supermarkets. At both you have to look at quality and at prices and make your own personal purchasing decisions. At the Ferry Plaza Market it's much easier to talk to food producers directly which can help you make these decisions. That's a good thing.

Personally I feel more comfortable at the Alemany Farmers Market because I find a more diverse group of people there and a greater variety of Asian vegetables that I like experimenting with in my own cooking. It's earthier, and I just like that. I also prefer the prepared food at Alemany 100% over the cooked food sold outdoors at the Ferry Plaza. I've eaten both and that's just my personal opinion. Feel free to disagree.

CUESA
The mission of CUESA is "To promote a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs". I appreciate that. Really I do. But I think to overcome the criticism that the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is elitist (which by it's definition is not sustainable), there is a lot more they could be doing. Like what? Like showing consumers how to shop there on a budget. Like highlighting the best deals at the market, just like supermarkets do. Like having educational programs that feature less 5 star chefs and more local neighborhood home cooks and cooking done by Filipino, Latino, Vietnamese, and Middle Eastern cooks and chefs for example. A focus on stuff that people in our community eat all the time, not just high end restaurant food, would be refreshing and appeal to a wide audience.

Ok, that's it for these subjects. For now anyway.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Inside the Kitchen--Treasures of Asia: Far East to West


Just a few weeks ago I ate dinner at Poleng Lounge. It's in an unlikely location near the Panhandle in San Francisco and while part of the restaurant is a nightclub, the food is definitely not an afterthought. Forget about "fusion" chef Tim Luym seeks out unusual ingredients and uses traditional techniques in an effort to stay true to the cultures of Asia. The menu has dishes that span the region from Hawaii to Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Bali, the Philippines, India, China and more. Little plates feature small plate portions of salads, dumplings, satays, and samosas to nibble and share.

So when I heard that the first of the Summer series Inside the Kitchen class at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay was going to be given by Tim Luym I jumped at the chance to attend. I was not disappointed. Inside the Kitchen classes are typically demonstration style in rooms with stunning views so you never forget where you are. Little tastes of every dish prepared are served and there is generally plenty of time to chat with the chef, ask questions, and get a close up look at various ingredients.

The dishes prepared during class were Curried Kaffir Lime Nuts, Ahi Kinilaw, Tamarind Chicken Lollipops and Shortibs with Enoki and Scallion. What did I learn from the two hour class? While I have used kaffir lime leaves before, it never occurred to me that they could be ground into a powder. The scent was lemony and intoxicating.

Ahi Kinilaw is a Filipino recipe much like a ceviche. It uses coconut milk and the chef explained that you should marinate the fish for five minutes before adding the coconut milk to give it time to cook in the acid. He also used calamansi limes which were tiny and juicy. I will definitely seek these out next time I'm at an Asian market.

Another ingredient I will look for is Pandan leaves. Also known as pandanus or screwpine, these long green leaves had a sweet vanilla like scent and can be used in cooking rice as well as a wrapper for meat.

For the tamarind chicken, the chef recommended using the 3 crab brand of fish sauce. Since I didn't actually bring any bottles back from Vietnam, I will keep this in mind when my supply runs low. Another brand name I heard was Yamasa, for a less salty and thinner style of soy sauce that the chef prefers.

As for techniques, the chef showed us how he used a mortar and pestle to grind shallots and explained that this brings out more flavor than just chopping them.

Each of the dishes were absolutely delicious and while I don't know which of them I will tackle first at home, the instruction booklet provided will keep me on track.

Upcoming classes feature a number of local chefs and bar chefs like Elizabeth Falkner, Chris Kronner, Greg Lingren, Scott Beattie and Gayle Pirie and John Clark. But if you want to check out something a little further afield, my choice would be the class given June 8th by Kevin Johnson who is known for his "low country" cuisine served up at Anson Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina. The dishes he'll be preparing are Anson's famous Shrimp and Grits, Duo of South Carolina Quail (fried and bbq) West Coast oysters with Southern Flavors (raw, roasted and fried) and Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla-roasted Strawberries, Strawberry ice cream and Pecan cake "French toast". Yum! To register visit Inside the Kitchen. Classes are typically around $85 and include a donation to Meals on Wheels San Francisco.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Try it, you'll like it!




This Saturday June 2nd Cheese Plus is having an anniversay event. Stop by between 3 and 7 pm and taste local goodies I love like CMB Sweets jam, McQuade's Chutney and Charles Chocolates. In fact, I will be the one sampling my friend Alison's fabulous chutney that I've been raving about forever. Alison is busy with another gig and I offered to lend a hand. Most importantly, this is your chance to see if you like it before buying it.

Should you happen to buy some McQuade's Chutney between 3 and 7pm which is when I will be there, I have a special incentive. I will be giving away goodies from my vast collection of crap treasures. Purchase a jar, show me the receipt and say the not-so-secret phrase "Cooking with Amy" and pick something from the grab bag, while supplies last. You could end up with a book, a knife sharpener, a deluxe vegetable peeler, a wine chiller, an apron, who knows! Even if you can't stand chutney, stop by and say hi anyway.

Also in the neighborhood are Nick's Crispy Tacos, The Candy Store, and two of my favorite wine shops for finding bargains, William Cross Wine Merchant which always has a great selection of wines under $15, and The Jug Shop which has one of the best selections of Australian wines, including my current love, sparkling shiraz. You could also check out Biondivino another addition to the neighborhood, which specializes in Italian wines, though it may be tougher to find bargains there.

Cheese Plus
2001 Polk St @ Pacific
San Francisco CA
415.921.2001