Monthly Archives: January 2007

Food Meme

food.jpgDid we already do this one? I don’t think I did. And I saw it over on FeedYourLoves and felt like doing it. Here goes!

1. If you were stuck on an island and could only eat one cuisine (e.g., French, Italian, etc.) for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?

That is a very difficult question, but I guess ultimately I would say Japanese.

2. What is the most unusual food you’ve eaten?

When I was in Mexico, I took a teeny tiny bite of fried grasshoppers.

3. What is the most unusual food you’ve eaten and liked?

When I was little, everyone thought I was totally freaky for liking eel (unagi). But now everyone likes it.

4. What foods will you avoid eating (either because of a dietary choice or allergies or just plain don’t like)?

Bananas bananas bananas. (just don’t like) Brussel sprouts. Beets. Anything licorice or anise tasting, including FENNEL. Except the fennel that Christine tricked me into eating at Pearl.

5. Do you cook (and by that, I mean prepare a meal that you’d serve to friends)?

Yes. But something about making dinners 5-6 nights a week for a bunch of oppositionally picky people has taken the wind out of my cooking sails. Maybe one day I will really enjoy it again, when I can serve meals that Certain People don’t push around with their forks and say, “Do I HAVE to eat this?!”

6. If yes, what is your favorite dish to prepare to impress someone?

Hm. That is a good question. I know that my Thanksgiving feasts have been fairly impressive, just on a yummy comfort level. Sweet potato casserole with bourbon and pecans, green beans with lemon butter and pecans, chicken-apple sausage stuffing, pecan pie. LOTS of pecans.

7. When you go to a restaurant, what’s your ordering strategy/preference?

I have no idea what this question means. My general approach is one of mass confusion and indecision. I always try to order last, after everyone else. My father’s strategy, which I loved and admired, was that he would poll everyone at the table (even up to 20 people), instantly memorize it, and then recite the whole thing for the server.

8. Have you ever returned a dish or wine to the kitchen at a restaurant? Why?

No, I never have. I am the self-effacing, suck it up and don’t complain kind of diner. If it’s a cheap restaurant and it’s bad, I figure I get what I’m paying for (not much). If it’s an expensive restaurant, I figure I don’t know enough to realize that the food is what it’s supposed to be like, and if I don’t like it, too bad.
9. How many cookbooks do you own?

About 20. But I only use a small handful: Cover and Bake, and the original Moosewood. I also use quite a bit of Epicurious.

10. What is one food that you wouldn’t want to live without?

Cheese. And rice. (whoops)

Now I tag all the Muffin Top contributors, and all of our readers.

Doug’s BBQ

doug's bbq

People get very religious about their BBQ, and as far as I know, the city of Berkeley is not even located in Texas or Missouri or The South, where I can only imagine people are Religious about their BBQ. Still, BBQ is a beloved food wherever you go–and in Berkeley and Oakland, there are quite a few barbecue places catering to The Craving: Flint’s and Everett & Jones come to most people’s minds. Our friends have recently called Bo’s Barbecue in Lafayette to our attention. They are all worthy barbecue sources.

But my preference? Doug’s BBQ.

My favorite place for BBQ is Doug’s, located on an indiscriminate corner of San Pablo, near the 580 Freeway in Emeryville. It is in such a busy and low key corner that I drove past this barbecue joint for years before stopping in a few years ago.

doug's bbq

The place is as spare inside as it is outside: Doug’s is take out only, there are no places to sit (except maybe on the concrete retaining wall), the inside could use a lot of refurbishing, and the scenery is wholly unglorious (you’re sitting underneath a very busy freeway). But the food’s good. And it’s glorious watching them fetch a slab of ribs or what have you out of the big brick oven inside right before they slather your barbecue in a gorgeous sauce.

Though they are the least popular of all his entrees according to reviews on Yelp, my hubby and I like Doug’s BBQ beef ribs–we’re just beef rib fans, a very rare sort of people. Doug’s brisket–something he’s well known for–is fabulous, too. I like his weird spicy spaghetti, and all his sides. Especially the beans–his beans are to die for.

ari's plate of doug's bbq ribs and sides

Isn’t it fabulous? My belly’s singing happy songs tonight.

Doug’s BBQ
3600 San Pablo Ave
Emeryville, CA 94608
(510) 655-9048

Sneaky Fennel & Short Ribs

lunch at Pearl

Christine and I had lunch at Pearl today. This was very thrilling for me on many levels: one, because I hadn’t seen Christine in almost two months and I missed her; and two, because ’til today, I had only experienced Pearl for dinner or cocktails (both wonderful, but always crowded). Apparently the secret is not out yet; there were only two tables filled the whole time we were there, including ours. The server was quite attentive although he admitted he was New; he didn’t know if we were sitting on new chairs or not. (they seemed different but maybe it was just the difference between night and day, ha)

We ordered three “small plates” but they were hardly miniscule: crab cakes; flatbread with vegetables (sweet potato, feta and spinach? greens?) and short ribs. The flatbread was like a very delicate, delicious pizza with sweet potato puree instead of tomato sauce. Different, but yummy.

lunch at Pearl

The crab cakes were small – about the size of a large scallop – but just a perfect bite or two. In between the crab cakes lay a small quantity of extremely beautiful saladish material. Some flat strands of delicate white stuff with pale green dots; I thought it might be shaved jicama (I love jicama) along with some mandarin slices. It was all very fresh and a little crunchy and citrusy and perfect along with the crab cake. Christine said, “Do you think it is fennel?” I shuddered. “No way!” I hate fennel. I hate anything even remotely licorice tasting. I don’t like black licorice or even red licorice Red Vines. Ugh. So I adamantly shook my head and denied that it could be fennel. Our server came by to see how everything was. “Delicious!” we said. “But what is this white stuff?” We picked up a strand and held it up with a fork. “Oh, that’s fennel,” he said.


I had eaten fennel and liked it?! Christine laughed. “I really like fennel, but I don’t like this particular fennel,” she said. She had known it was fennel all along, the sneaky girl! But she hadn’t let on because she knew I would have flung it across the room if only I’d known. Here she got me to eat fennel. I even had another bite after I knew, and I still liked it, but I was able to detect a very faint licorice undertaste. It wasn’t half as awful as I’d feared.

But the best thing on the menu was by far the short ribs. It was a completely boneless rib and when I touched it with a fork, it all just fell apart into melty, tender strands. It was shockingly delicious; braised on the outside and like butter on the inside. I was absolutely swoony. Unfortunately, the potatoey things (I really do not think they were potatoes, but what else could they be? some kind of root veggie) were hard as a rock. The only false note.

We virtuously passed on dessert, which was a good thing. Little did I know that I was going to be ordered to haul my bottom up 90 stairs ten times, less than an hour after this meal, so it really is just as well we didn’t get dessert. But it was, overall, one of the most satisfying lunches I’ve had in eons.

Oh, and P.S. Christine took all the stunning photos.

lunch at Pearl

Memorable Sights at the Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show Montage

In addition to the Memorable Eats, the Fancy Food Show has its share of memorable sights–the place is a feast for the eyes as well as…well, a feast (of samples).

First off, the show encompasses both north and south halls of the Moscone Center–no small feat. Connie and I walked the halls for five hours and we saw “the whole show,” in disbelief at our accomplishment. To tell the whole truth, we walked past the majority of stalls without checking in to manage this feat. In other words, the fancy food show is really close to that vision of heaven with eternal food and samples.

My memory is a blur of tastes and sights…

But amidst all the sights, I want to call out a few that I saw…

What is a food show without a handful of food celebrities hawking their wares and shmoozing with the thousands of foodies crowding the convention hall?

Paula Deen…
paula deen

Here’s Paula Deen hawking her brand. When Connie and came around her booth earlier in our walk, we remarked on all the Paula Deen products, only to have the booth people claim she’d be by later. Oooh. I love Paula Deen. We made a note to try to come back in a couple of hours.

When we finished roaming the South Hall we went back to her booth, only to see a HUGE line of people waiting to meet her and take a picture with her. Patience is not one of my virtues; I snapped a picture of her from afar. Hell, I’ll photoshop myself in if I’m desperate. 🙂 I would like to say, however, that she was the only food celebrity hugging her admirers and taking pictures arm in arm with her fans.

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Tyra Banks and Muffin Top

Tyra Banks has a muffin top:

“I don’t want to sit in front of you and be soap-boxy and fake and say, ‘I love myself, I’m beautiful, it’s great,'” says Banks, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall. “I still feel hot, but every day is different. It’s when I put on the jeans that used to fit a year ago and don’t fit now and give me the muffin top, that’s when I say, ‘Damn!'”


Sorry, I could not resist posting Tyra Banks’ mention of her muffin top.


Woo! Many of you who know me, know that I am obsessed with germs–and yet, despite my obsession with germs, I still dine out VERY frequently (nearly every meal). Somehow, I have closed my eyes to the fact that my meals are thoroughly handled by other people in potentially questionable environments. Perhaps it’s just part of the whole “letting go of control,” letting other people cook for me, etc., that comes out of dining out.

But of course, true to my obsessive nature, I have hit upon the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s restaurant violations and their score page. (And yes, I am typing the name of almost every restaurant I’ve ever eaten at). I am making my OWN list of restaurants that have had “high risk” violations and crossing them OFF in my mind.

Have fun browsing.

Thank goodness–most of the restaurants I’ve looked up and eaten at are near 100. Um, so far. (But I’ve seen a couple horrific violations).

Here’s Berkeley’s restaurant violations page, not so detailed as San Francisco’s page, and without the famous score.

Update: The San Francisco Chronicle has an article on the new grading system of restaurant public health scores. After writing the above post, I forwarded the site to coworkers, and cut and pasted familiar restaurants to us. My coworkers were interested, searching through frequented venues–in the end, no one really cared unless a score was very low. One person said he didn’t care at all, that he’d anywhere. Brave man!

Memorable Eats from the Fancy Food Show

Fancy Food Show!

Connie and I went to the Fancy Food Show yesterday–she’s an experienced attendee and as we prepared for a drive to the Moscone Center in San Francisco, she advised newbie me, “Pace yourself, there’s a lot of ground to cover,” and “Don’t forget to bring some water to drink.” Hrm. It felt like we were going to the Himalayas. Awesome.

The Fancy Food Show covers both the north and south wings of the Moscone Center, no small feat. Every inch of space is taken up by exhibitors–and they ranged from the ubiquitous olive oils, cheese, chocolate (some of the most heavenly purveyors!) and drinks…to collagen marshmallows and goat milk ice cream. Everyone’s offering samples (including the collagen marshmallow people), so we paced ourselves (even so, the food stands were doing a screaming level of business–who has the room and time to eat after noshing on samples all day?).

In five hours, we made quick work of the place, except for the hour “rest” at the Sardinia cooking demonstration where we got to watch the chef make 3 dishes out of pane carasau (a crispy flatbread thing) and then EAT the 3 dishes.

at the sardinia food tasting booth

The chef was quite a character, just to note. He loved the following analogy the best: “It’s like pizza…” I guess we Americans are known for equating pizza as The Italian Food.

Ah, but I am writing this post to talk about one facet of the Fancy Food Show: the standouts, at least for me. When Connie and I stopped by a British cheese stand in the last hour of our stomping around perusing, the cheesemonger asked us, “I haven’t been able to get out of here. What do you think is notable out there?”

I was at a loss for words, and at a loss for memory. We’d just tasted some FANTASTIC fruit, but I couldn’t recall them (carica and yumberry). Yet Connie had a GREAT answer, “Collagen marshmallows!”

marshmallows with collagen for your skin!

Yes, these collagen marshmallows were the oddest, yet most intriguing (to two women obsessed about skin care anyway) food artifact we’d seen all day. Apparently, you don’t need botox injections, you can eat yourself to firm-faced beauty with these suckers. They come in various flavors, as the vendor handed us a bag each (Connie got strawberry, I got…uh…yogurt flavor) of this “functional food.”

collagen marshmallows

Each marshmallow contains 3000 mg of collagen, and can be toasted, too–the vendor stated eating them will have the same effect as a collagen injection (where?). And the cheesemonger’s reaction to Connie’s proclamation? “Oh! I wonder if they will lift ALL FOUR CHEEKS!”

(Cheeky monkey!).

Connie had the press packet for the product, which had the following testimonies for the product:

what consumers are saying about collagen marshmallows

The last one had us bowling over with laughter.

If and when one of us starts eating the marshmallows, we’ll let you know the progress.

The other products that pierced my psyche were some of the “new fruits” on the market, and I mentioned them earlier: yumberries and carica.

These days, there are some fruits coming out of the deep recesses of other countries, and they are a true fad (pomegranate was BIG this year, even though I have been eating them since I was a child off the numerous trees in our Southern California backyard). Where have these fruits BEEN all these years? First off? The yumberry.


They weren’t feeding us the yumberry fruit, though the vendor did have a handful on display. They look like rambutan, and reminded us of lychees, just like rambutan. What they were selling was the juice of the yumberry, and the juice felt like a sip of the tropical–not quite like mango, but a lot milder. (They also had mangosteen juice at the show–and sipping the juice is the closest I’ve gotten to tasting the fruit that I have been looking for for YEARS).

My favorite? The carica fruit.

BEST discovery ever!

We ran into the carica fruit late into the show, our bellies distended from all the snacks and the visit to the Sardinia cooking demo. (We had moved on from the Italy section to the “other countries” section, which really was the most interesting). The booth was lit up by all the bottles of this golden fruit, and we were drawn into the golden color of the fruit jars.

“Do you want a taste?” asked the vendor. We had been asked this a kazillion times, and after awhile, we would just nod our heads in a haze, but here in this Chilean booth, we nodded our heads with fervor. She cut the fruit into small pieces, pierced the golden yellow fruit with a small fork and handed them to us.

We bit into something that was really tropical heaven–especially considering the fact that we were not eating FRESH fruit but something out of a jar.

“It tastes like a combination of mango and pineapple!” she chirped.

Connie and I nodded our heads in agreement, in revelation. All throughout the show, we had been in search of sorbet stands, in need of palate cleansers, and here we were, feeling that same sensation from a piece of fruit. Connie’s eye was quick, and she pointed to a pitcher, “Is that the juice?” Yes it was. And we had a sip of that, too.

Carica is a rare boutique fruit, grown in the semi desert valleys of Northern Chile on trees that only live five years (ack!)–and as far as the literature tells us, it is a gourmet product over there that can be used with savory dishes and with desserts, hot or cold. This particular vendor was Tamaya Gourmet, which claims the previous uses for the fruit…and that the juice can be used to make things like martinis. I’m not the only one who found this fruit a revelation; Sam over at Becks n Posh made a note about carica from the fancy food show on her food blog, too.

The Fancy Food Show is still going on at the Moscone Center in SF, through tomorrow. More pictures on my flickr set. (See if you can spot the food celebs at the food show).

Next Up from C(h)ristine: Memorable sights at the Fancy Food Show

schwag from the fancy food show

A time for meyer lemons

meyer lemon buttermilk pudding cake, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

There are times in the year, at least in my head, that scream with a certain fruit or food. For instance, Spring means tons of stone fruit like peaches, Summer means watermelons and tomatoes, Fall means pumpkins and stews, Winter means things like meyer lemons. It’s not like I wait all year for these items to arrive; I’m hit by their arrival with great surprise and delight, even though they arrive almost on schedule.

For instance, I walked out in my backyard a few weeks ago and discovered our meyer lemon tree bent over with bright yellow-orange fruit. When had the tree blossomed? When had the lemons started growing? I had missed the entire process, and yet I would still be rewarded by an entire basket of juicy meyer lemons.

fresh meyer lemons from the backyard

I had no idea what I would make out of these meyer lemons, though plenty of ideas danced in my head. Meyer lemon marmalade! Meyer lemon cord! The wonderful orange yellow rinds were just so beautiful that morning.

Meyer lemons as you may or may not know, are a variety of lemons that are not quite as sour as your standard lemon, and are rounder with more tender skins than your standard lemon too–they are more reminiscent of a cross between lemon and orange, as many scientists believe they are. I’ve spent most of my life in California, where I’m surrounded by meyer lemons; it’s only recently that I’ve learned they’re quite rare in other regions. I wish I could ship a box off to so many of you.

With quite a surplus of meyer lemons, I used the lemons as much as I could: to stuff a roasted chicken, for starters. In the end, I had to start getting creative with how I would use them (short of marmalade, I’m suffering a health condition that makes baking and cooking very complicated for me these days–I have to stick to simple things).

After rifling through quite a number of ideas, I decided to make a mayer lemon buttermilk pudding cake. That’s a long name!

add one to the other!

The buttermilk pudding cake is a tangy wonderful soft lemony custard-like “cake.” Like so many cakes, you make the cake in two parts and then add them together. In this case, you whip the egg whites into a fluffy white meringue-like mixture…and the buttermilk and egg yolks into a dense custard. You add the two together, and bake to make a wonderful cake.

meyer lemon buttermilk pudding cake

You have to hold off a bit–no bites of this warm cake! Let it cool, then stick it in the refrigerator to cool for a few hours. It’s only after the cake is entirely cooled that you can serve it with some whipping cream and fruit.

Above, you see the cake prepared with mixed berries. Below, I served it with a rind of lemon. (I prefer the berries, but both were delicious).

meyer lemon buttermilk pudding cake

I hope you get ahold of some meyer lemons and enjoy a winter treat! Lemons are so refreshing, they can really brighten any wintry day.

A little note: if you so desire, you can make these into individual sized cakes, too.

Recipe follows after the jump…

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Morir Sonando

morir sonando, originally uploaded by c(h)ristine.

I picked up Saveur Magazine’s “100” issue–the issue that lists their 100 favorite foods, restaurants, drinks, people, places, and things. While reading through it (this is a yearly tradition in my life), I dogeared all the pages with especially attractive items, for example: (9) Breakfast in the Raw (“tamago kake gohan,” a favorite of mine throughout the years–raw egg stirred with soy sauce and hot rice)….(50) a recipe for pecan pralines….and (86) morir sonando, a Dominican beverage of fresh-squeezed orange juice, milk, sugar, and a dash of vanilla extract shaken with ice.

The morir sonando sounds a bit like a creamsicle or florida freeze (or most probably the other way around), and it’s just what I felt like whipping up today while convalescing at home. I shook the concoction in two glasses until it was a fizzy, creamy, orange-scented blissful mix.

And then? I guzzled it down. It was what I needed today–a cheerful, uplifting drink of orange and milk, with the right amount of sweetness and vanilla complexity.

My recipe was simple:
equal parts of orange juice and milk. A dash of sugar (a handful?). And a splash of vanilla extract.

Here are some other recipes for morir sonando, which means “to die in a dream”–most of the recipes call for a mixture of orange juice and milk. One recipe in particular calls for lime/lemon juice and milk. I’ll have to try that next.

Recipes follow after the jump…

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oh foie gras!

foie gras sign

Michael Bauer has a post up entitled, “Gourmands protest: Eat more foie gras”. As a foie gras lover myself, how could I stay away from such a post? And really, how could I stay away from such a suggestion? I’d be happy to eat more foie gras, as much as my body could handle.

In his article, Bauer has a list of restaurants with enviable foie gras dishes: Circa, Cyrus, Ame, Bushei-Tei, Scott Howard, Village Pub, Myth, Vetri, and Lampreia (in Seattle). Sadly to say, I have not been to any of his suggested foie gras haunts–even though I find Ron Siegel’s foie gras dishes at The Dining Room over the top and Michael Mina’s foie gras trios decadent. And nevermind the places outside of San Francisco!

Course One

But I suppose a foie gras lover always has her special sources. I’ve got a whole lobe in the freezer (yes, I know it’s bad but I got the lobe for a GREAT deal and couldn’t resist purchasing it) waiting for a day of searing (or slumping). In the past, I’ve seared my foie gras.

Foie gras -- before

I guess it’ll be time soon to invite a bunch of friends over for some seared foie gras. After all, despite Bauer’s wishes, one just can’t eat a whole lobe by herself.