recent posts

Sunday, March 11, 2012

White Chocolate Macadamia Cranberry Dreams

makes 18 cookies
recipe adapted from
prep time: 20 min / cook time: 10-12 min

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4c + 2 tbsp sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar, packed
1/2 c butter, softened
1 egg, room temperature and slightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c vanilla baking chips
* I chopped up white chocolate
1/2 c macadamia nuts, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
• In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
• In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the sugars and butter.
• Beat in the slightly beaten egg and vanilla extract.
• Add flour mixture until just mixed.
• With a spatula, stir in the vanilla chips, macadamia nuts and dried cranberries.
• Scoop our batter with a small cookie scooper and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
• Bake for 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove from oven and let cool.
* Cookies will sink slightly.



Wednesday, March 07, 2012


There are a few evocatively-named foods that can get your mouth watering by just hearing its name. Krispy Kremes and salted caramel always does that for me. And Maverick’s Butter Burger can get you there in that same kind of way. It just sounds rich, smooth, indulgent. You totally know what you’re in for.

For awhile, Maverick only served these burgers on Tuesdays (and only 17 per day), but recently added them to their Saturday brunch menu. Here’s how it breaks down: 70% ground beef, 20% butter, and 10% bacon make up the patty that is cooked sous vide in more butter, and then pan-seared to a juicy perfection.

Add to that bacon-pepper marmalade, jalapeno aioli, gruyere, a purposefully runny egg (for an extra $1.50), and an onion ring all on a yummy Acme bun. At $18 it’s not exactly cheap, but according to MFM, it's totally worth it.

But knowing that I could steal a bite or two from MFM (it was delicious!), I opted to try the duck confit hash, which our server claimed was his favorite thing on the menu.

Just as an aside, I have to say I have a thing for duck, and feel inclined to order it whenever I see it on a menu, (except for the time I dined at Incanto and discovered duck “fries” weren’t really fries).

And while most of the duck brunch offerings I've had bombed, I actually liked Maverick's rendition, which included nettles, harissa, figs and over-easy eggs was a nice combination of sweet, savory & spicy flavors.

Other friends gave a thumbs up for the crab benedict (which offered generous portions of crab meat) and the baked eggs served with butter beans and chorizo. I was also impressed by their soft & blissful housemade doughnuts and their "bloody Maverick" - which was made with sake, housemade bloody mary mix, and if that weren't enough, was topped with sprinkle of black sea salt and a curl of candied bacon.

Ah, candied bacon. That's another one of those words that gets me going too.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ramen Parlor

So last month, in a moment I should file under "what was I thinking," I made a new year's resolution to eat less carbs. It lasted all of 2 1/2, maybe 3 weeks, until I heard about about Ramen Parlor, the newest member of the uber-popular ramen family that includes the crazy crowd-drawing Santa Ramen and Ramen Dojo.

Driving up to the busy San Mateo spot for lunch, I liked it better already, since RD already had a line about 25 people deep. RP is located just down the block and while it was bustling, the wait wasn’t nearly as long.

The menu is a bit limited at lunchtime, especially for our friends with kids who weren’t able to order dinner-only items like miso soup (come on, really?) or chicken karage. But I guess that's what happens when you're very, very focused. Ramen is definitely the draw here, boasting rich, complex broths and chewy, toothsome noodles. Oh, and did I mention lobster oil?

At RP you have your choice of three broths: miso, pork or soy. Each bowl comes standard with roast pork, diced onion, shrimp, a quail egg, mushrooms, lettuce and ground chicken, as well as a generous drizzle of lobster oil.

I choose the regular ramen with the soy sauce-flavored broth, which was a salty, savory and unctuous (without feeling heavy) delight. The noodles were flavorful and chewy, and the lobster oil added a subtle seafood-y luxuriousness (plus, it just sounds super fancy!)

There were a few specials that day, including a spicy tan men that included soft shell crab which MFM raved about, while others at our table added a variety of the extra toppings, which included corn, mushrooms, and spicy cod roe.

If I compare it to its siblings, I have to say I liked it more than RD (which was wasted on me since I couldn't handle the spicy, "stamina" style ramen) but slightly less than SR, which to me is a bit simpler and purer (plus they have that yummy stewed pork belly).

But I'd have to go back at least once or twice to be sure. At least.


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Fat Fluffy Snickerdoodles

makes 16-20 cookies
recipe adapted from How Sweet It Is
total active prep time: 20 min / cook time: 10-12 min

1/2 c unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp milk

1/4 c sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

• Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until smooth.
• Add egg and vanilla, mixing well until combined, about 2 minutes.
• Stir in flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix until dough comes together.
• Add in milk.
* If dough is still crumbly, add milk 1 tbsp at a time until it comes together.
• Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F while dough is chilling.

• In a bowl, combine remaining sugar and cinnamon.
• Remove dough from refrigerator and roll into big 1 1/2" balls.
• Dip in cinnamon sugar mixture and place on a baking sheet prepped with parchment paper. Lightly press down on dough to flatten.
• Bake for 10-12 minutes.

• I used a medium cookie scoop to scoop out the dough.



Thursday, February 09, 2012

Baker & Banker

“Your party will be dining at our special Chef’s Table.”

What I envisioned: A posh, private, and ultra swanky dinner in a posh, private and ultra swanky secret location.

What we got: An arguably posh, semi-private table set up in the restaurant’s adjoining bakery that you have to tromp through the dining room and kitchen to reach.

Okay, so I didn’t mean that to come off as snarky as it did (and who am I to talk, since my only previous private dining experience has been at the Pope’s Table at Buca di Beppo). In truth, the delicious food, cozy atmosphere and warm service at Baker & Banker made for one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time.

To make sure we reached the chef’s table minimum (which was $750), my dining companions and I ordered their 8-course tasting menu, with a few adding on the wine pairing as well. And for the next 3 1/2 hours, the gracious chef and friendly waitstaff delighted us course after course with exciting food, warm hospitality and great conversation.

Maybe I can blame it on too much Top Chef (oh wait, that's Judges Table, not chef's table) but as I said, I was expecting something a little more that a table set up in its only-open-during-the-day bakery. Still, it was a cozy, charming space with lovely, lingering bakery smells, and hustle and bustle of the pastry chefs busily preparing desserts nearby.

It began with a spicy tuna spring roll amuse bouche and then went on to a delicate, flavorful butternut squash soup. Next came a rabbit sausage and foie gras salad with lentils (tasty, but perhaps not my favorite way to enjoy foie) and seared scallops with chanterells and brussel sprouts.

Speaking of Top Chef, there were plenty of Top Chef moments, including duck confit with smoked almonds, dates and some kind of foam, and a chorizo-crusted flounder in garlic saffron boulibasse, Israeli couscous and fried parsley. There was definitely a lot of wow factor going on here.

My favorite dish was the soft, tender and melt in your mouth wagyu beef that was served with winter vegetables and short rib canneloni. Or maybe it was the dessert of custard filled lemon meringue donut holes which was an amazing combination of some of my favorite things.

The chef (Mr. Banker) brought many of the dishes to our table himself and both he and our server, Brian, made us feel at home while serving us these beautiful, delicious dishes that felt truly special. Our last dish was a spiced apple sorbet that was brought to the table and doused with sparking wine before serving.

So despite my prior snarkiness, I can say nothing but good things about this dinner, which turned out to be one of my favorite dining experiences ever. And that pie-in-the-sky notion of a chef's table I had seems so not the point after thoroughly enjoying myself here.

But I'm still a bit curious. Has anyone else out there had a memorable chef's table dining experience?


Sunday, February 05, 2012

Brown Butter Bittersweet Chocolate Cookies

makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies
recipe adapted from Lauren's Latest
prep time: 25 min / cook time: 7-8 min

1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 light brown sugar, packed
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1 c bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
• Line baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat and set aside.
• Place butter into small pot or pan over medium heat. After butter has melted, start swirling pot/pan gently until it starts to brown and become fragrant. Once butter is a golden amber color, take off the heat and pour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
• Add in sugar and brown sugar and beat for a few seconds to mix.
• Add egg and vanilla, beat to combine.
• Add dry ingredients and mix slowly until combined.
• With a spatula or wooden spoon, fold in the chopped chocolate.
• Scoop by the teaspoon into pan and bake for 7-8 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges.
• Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.

• For tips on freezing cookie dough, check out The Pastry Affair.



Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Ferry Building Farmer's Market

I was listening to something on the news about Groundhog Day – the actual day, which made me think about the movie, which started my wondering what my ideal/perfect day would be if I had to re-live it over and over. And while I’m still figuring out what the majority of that day would look like (so far I have Milo (my dog) time, a Storage Wars marathon, playing Words With Friends in peace, and a nap) – a visit to the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market would be nice to add onto that list.

Which is why it’s crazy that it’s taken me this long to actually go. Happening on Thursdays and Saturdays, the Farmer's Market at the Ferry Building is definitely a destination for foodies and shoppers alike - a gourmet's paradise against the picturesque backdrop of the bay. Add to that clear skies and sunshine, and you have one of those perfect, why-would-you-want-to-live-anywhere-else San Francisco type of days.

I was first drawn to Roli Roti, this ridiculous food truck-slash-rotisserie on wheels, as were a ton of others as I joined a line that was probably 50 people deep. I didn't even know what porchetta was - but quickly learned it's pork loin wrapped in pork belly and herbs and roasted to a juicy, glistening perfection. Add some fresh greens, onion marmalade and a chewy Acme roll and you have # 12 on 7x7's 2010 list of things to eat before you die.

Next I siddled up to Blue Bottle Coffee's stand for one of the Bay Area's strongest, purest hand-pours. At $4 a cup it's a bit steep, but experiencing the near-science experiment skill and precision of the barista is almost worth it.
I was a bit torn at my next stop, Mexican food spot Primavera, between ordering one of my all-time favorite dishes, chilaquiles - or chicken tinga, something I never had before. The chilaquiles won out and me over - as I dug into a warm, spicy plate of soft eggs, beans, tortilla strips, cheese and fresh avocado covered with a gorgeous red chile sauce.
I'm already a big fan of Namu, but couldn't pass up a chance to try their version of loco moco - a comforting bowl of rice with a grass fed beef patty and fried egg and topped with a luscious dashi gravy. And while I'm still not 100% sold on a sheet of nori being an adequate taco shell stand in, Namu's taco with tender short rib meat, pickled daikon, seasoned rice, kimchi remoulade and a drizzle of homemade teriyaki was pure yum.

Finally, I stopped at 4505 Meats and while I sadly didn't have any more room (their bacon hot dog sure sounded enticing) - I bought a couple of bags of chicaronnes. For the uninitiated, these fried pieces of pork skin aren't quite like the stuff you get at 7-11. An article I read referred to them as "pig candy" and they will simply amaze you. One bite is a crunchy, crispy, slightly sweet, spicy, melt in your mouth combo that will make an instant addict out of you. (And it's not just me, SFoodie ranks it #76 on their top local foods list).

So yes, an hour at the Ferry Building Farmer's Market is defintely something I could re-live over and over. So what does your ideal/perfect/Groundhog day look like?


Sunday, January 29, 2012


makes 4 serving
recipe adapted from Food Network
prep time: 10 min

1/2 c boiling water
1tbsp espresso powder
* I used Medaglia D'Oro brand
1 pint vanilla bean gelato

• Whisk the boiling water and espresso powder in a 1 cup glass measuring cup until the powder is dissolved, or use an espresso machine to make 4 shots of espresso.
• Scoop 1/2 cup of the gelato into 4 dessert bowls/glasses.
• Pour 2 tbsp or 1 shot of espresso over each.

• To add extra flavor, try using caramel or hazelnut gelato.



Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Miki Restaurant

Long story short: If MFM didn’t get a new car, I might never have been introduced to Miki.

Which means I might not have said hello to silky, shitake-studded chawanmushi or met one of my new favorite bowls of garlic ramen. But I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Does anyone else use their garage for storage (and not for parking a car?) Ok yes, I happen to be one those people. So this story begins when MFM bought a new car, and after we cleaned it out, started parking his car in the garage when he visited.

However, we soon discovered that the opening and closing of the old, antiquated garage door was causing a huge, disturbing clatter. Enter family friend Pat-strami, who generously offered to help install a new Home Depot-bought garage door opener, which saved me from plunking down almost $700 to hire someone.

So as a thank you, we took Pat-strami to dinner. He chose Miki, a tiny Japanese restaurant in the outer Richmond. I don’t know why I’ve never been here before! It’s tiny – holding 8-10 tables at most – but its compact kitchen churned out some of the tastiest, most reasonable, and authentic-tasting Japanese food that I’ve had in a long, long time.

The aforementioned garlic ramen was rich, hearty and toothsome, topped with tender pork belly and a potent punch of garlic – and was probably one of two or three bowls I’ve had in San Francisco that I’d go back for again and again.

Our appetizers of agedashi tofu, a spicy scallop roll, and seaweed salad were among the best I’ve tasted, and the karage curry delivered the deep-fried, spicy kick it's supposed to. But our table was probably most impressed with the chawanmushi, a smooth, silky dashi-flavored custard that was studded with shitake mushrooms.

Which was special, as it’s a dish you don’t see everyday. Also unique – they serve natto – a sticky, slippery dish of fermented soybeans – if that’s your cup of tea.

We ended the meal with a yummy dessert of fried mochi, red bean and green tea ice cream. It was one of the best meals I’d had in a while, and I’ll happily go back. And by the way, just in case you’re wondering – my new garage door opener, the Chamberlain Whisper Drive, is really, really awesome. I'd recommend that too.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Bittersweet Chocolate Pear Cake

makes one 9" cake
recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 40-50 min

3 tbsp bread crumbs
* I used graham cracker, finely ground
1 c all-purpose flour

1 tbs baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

3 eggs, room temperature

4 oz unsalted butter (1 stick) 

3/4 c sugar

3 pears, peeled, in a small dice
*I used anjou, but would recommend a softer variety, like a bosc or any other of your favorites
3/4 c bittersweet chocolate chips/chunk

Preheat the oven to 350°F.
• B
utter a 9" springform pan and dust with breadcrumbs, set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside.
Using a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on high speed until pale and very thick.
* In a professional Kitchen Aid, it takes at least five minutes.
While the eggs are whipping, brown the butter. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan (because it will foam a lot) and cook it until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). Remove from the flame but keep in a warm spot.
* It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning.
Add the sugar to the eggs and whip a few minutes more. Just as the egg-sugar mixture is starting to loose volume, turn the mixture down to stir.
Add the flour mixture and brown butter to the egg-sugar mixture. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the browned butter, 1/3 of the flour, the remaining butter, and the rest of flour. Whisk until just barely combined — no more than a minute from when the flour is first added — and then use a spatula to gently fold the batter until the ingredients are combined. It is very important not to over-whisk or fold the batter or it will lose volume. Pour into prepared pan.
Sprinkle the pear and chocolate chunks over the top.
Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back to the touch, about 40 to 50 minutes or a tester comes out clean.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

HRD Coffee Shop

I have a feeling this place may be my new Kenny's.

When I was in college, my friends and I frequented a cafe in West LA called Kenny's. It was always a treat to go there, and after my first bite of a "royale" - a simple, heartening scramble of Asian-marinated meat, onions and eggs served with rice and topped with salsa, I was smitten. Every biteful was meaty, eggy, spicy, and slightly sweet - a perfect balance - and comfort food at its best.

Which is why we were all heartbroken when a city-mandated redesign (you entered this homespun spot by first walking through its open kitchen) proved too expensive, causing them to shut down.

Fast forward more than a few years, to when my friend Ms. Gorgongzola, who knows a lot of great spots in the Bay Area, told me about an old school Asian-infused coffee shop located at the edge of South Park. It piqued my interest. But delivered way more than that.

I’m not exactly sure what a greasy spoon is, but HRD has a lot of that dive-y, diner-y, old school energy (in fact, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives featured this very place last year).
Starting with the name, which according to lore, derives from an old Human Resources Department that used to be housed near there.

Whether that’s true or not, there’s certainly a well-worn authenticity about this place. The grill looks like it’s satisfied millions of hungry customers, and the formica-topped counters and stools look almost Edward Hopper-esque.

But the menu is 100% in the moment – without being trendy, if that makes sense. You’ll find typical diner fare – like burgers, omelettes and fries, but the bulk of the menu offers Chinese, Korean and Japanese dishes. Only done with an American slant - like Korean tacos, Asian pork chops with fries, or a sloppy "jojo" with pork and kimchi.

I tried the spicy pork burrito, which was delicious with Korean-marinated meat, kimchi, fried rice, nori, and a spicy bean paste sauce instead of salsa. And their “Mongolian cheesesteak” was a sweet/savory combination of meat, mozzarella cheese and hoisin sauce – a hearty combination I have never quite tasted before.

Ms. Gorgongzola also advised trying the “Crunchy Roll fried rice” – a fiery dish of spicy pork, spam, and chicken fried rice topped with a fried egg – which is a plateful of Asian comfort food at its best.

And that’s the thing about comfort food – if it does its job correctly, one bite can take you back to a moment or place in time. For me, it took me back to my college days and Kenny's in West LA. To royales and coffee and the kind of good times you can only have in those days before life got serious. And that just might be one of the highest compliments I can give.

But be forewarned, just like Kenny's used to, HRD only opens for breakfast and lunch Monday-Saturday, and if you're going for lunch, you'd better get there early to avoid the long lines which snake out the door and down the block.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Maple Bacon Baked Doughnut Holes

makes 3 1/2 with a doughnut hole maker
doughnut recipe adapted from Our Chocolate Shavings
maple glaze recipe adapted from The Hungry Mouse
prep time: 45 min / cook time: 35 min

1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1/4 c maple syrup
1/4 c water
* I used milk

1 1/2 c of all-purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 c of lightly packed brown sugar
1/4 c of white sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp nutmeg
1/3 c of cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 c of milk, room temperature
* I added an extra half cup because it looked dry
1 1/2 c of bite size chunks of apple, peeled and cored
* I grated the apple
1 egg, room temperature
1 c coarsely chopped cooked bacon

In a medium-sized bowl, mix all 3 glaze ingredients until you get the consistency you like. Set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, sugars, salt and and nutmeg in a bowl.
Add the cold chopped butter. Rub the pieces of butter with the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Mix in the milk and fold in the apples.
In a separate bowl, beat the egg then add to the flour mixture. Stir using a spatula or spoon making sure not to over mix.
• Preheat your doughnut hole maker (refer to your box instructions), this only takes a couple minutes.
* I greased the mold with a bit of melted butter to prevent sticking.
Place a spoonful of batter into each mold of a buttered mini muffin pan.
Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the donuts are just golden. Remove from the doughnut hole maker.
Dunk in the maple glaze then place on a wire rack.
Immediately sprinkle with bacon.

If you don't have a doughnut hole maker, you can use a mini muffin pan. Preheat your oven to 350˚F and bake for 15-18 min.
• The doughnut holes get soggy the next day, so they should be eaten the day they are made.



Visit InfoServe for Blogger backgrounds.