Saturday, December 30, 2006

reason #35 to head west

Citizen Cake.

the restaurant just for pastry chefs...

from gourmet: [chef emily faulker] began as a complete novice in pastry, working her way up from Masa's and Elka's to Rubicon, where she drew raves from such deliriously witty finales as "A Chocolatework Orange," an asymmetrical meringue cake with chocolate ganache and bitter orange marmalade buttercream, inspired by a Richard Serra sculpture.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Obnoxious/Alice Waters 2 /chocolate and lemon

I'm having a Chez Panisse dinner party. I never thought I would become this person:

For everyone familiar with the cuisine of Alice Waters--and those of you who are not--I'm having my first-ever dinner party in my new house and I hope you all will come!

Menu to Include:
Endive Salad with Figs and Walnuts
Pollo al Mattone with Lemon and Garlic
Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Spicy Broccoli Raab
Honey-Pistachio Brittle Ice Cream with Lavender Sauce

I will possibly obtain the chicken from Live Poultry Fresh Killed in Cambridge. If anyone is interested in checking out the place with me you are certainly welcome. If anyone wants to take me to the real Chez Panisse for dinner, you are also more than welcome to do so any time you would like.

And while we're here what is with the presence of lemon in chocolatey desserts. Maybe I should try it before I knock it.

From Spire's Valentine's 06 menu: Hot Chocolate Tart with Meyer Lemon Ice Cream and Espresso Sauce.

From Frisson's winter 06 menu, Hazelnut Chocolate Parfait with Cocoa Noir Cake, Meyer Lemon, Lavender Ice Milk.

Spire/Alice Waters

I think the trail at Spire went okay...we'll see. They had me make an almond cake, an anglaise, and a chocolate-guinness mousse. The pastry chef was this cool Irish woman and it was nice, because I was telling her how I wanted an environment where the communication was better/different and where I could learn and grow, and she said they really wanted people who would play around in their free if the place was quiet for the night, I could play with some new desserts. Pretty neat-though I think the prime duty of the job would be plating, with some low-key prep depending on how busy it was that day. In general though Spire is one of the 50 best hotel restaurants in the country and Nine Zero is a top boutique hotel in Boston so it'd probably be a step up from Sonsie in terms of quality and reputation. We'll see.

I'm making dessert with Julia tomorrow night. Profiteroles with Caramel ice cream and Chocolate Sauce, courtesy of Delphin, Alice Medrich and Claudia Fleming. Should be delicious.

Tonight I made really good rice with garlic, onions and carrots, and a touch of adobo. I also made chard with red pepper and lemon, courtesy of Alice Waters's Vegetable cookbook. It was really good and kind of brought back the Chez Panisse experience for me of making something simple taste so good. All I did was saute the chard in olive oil until it was tender, then add a crushed dried thai chili and some sea salt, then squirted it with a lemon wedge. I thought it might be too lemony or something but it was perfectly seasoned. In fact I might always make chard that way from now on. It made me feel like an actual chef, not just a patissier.

The chard was California grown and organic and one of the leaves was larger than my head. I saved the stems to make chard stem gratin as Alice suggests.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


So I think the new restaurant going up in Wellesley where the Figs used to be is a Michael Schlow thing. After all that talk about how it wasn't going to be. At any rate, he's opening up something in Swellesley. And my friend at Bread and Chocolate is leaving because the owner's gone all weird and uncommunicative on her. Dante's hiring (again), Jody Adams is hiring, and thank the lord that bizarro pastry chef at Beacon Hill Bistro is going because those bad-style fusion desserts did not mesh with their menu. They should send him over to Om, where someone if not Rachel Klein herself has Orientalized the dessert menu. I made Claudia Fleming's Coconut Sorbet and don't like the sweetness of it...too sweet, kind of toothachey. Maybe it'll be better with the roasted dates, but I can't afford to buy sherry right now.

How does one make cheffy friends, given that there were only six chances in culinary school adn I consider myself friends with all six of those people? The culinary world is so small and competitive, and the pastry world within that is its own tiny community, and so far the people I've worked for have all been men and all been reluctant to share knowledge...

every baker for herself? really...?

why i enjoy the ferry building

Aside from being a nice piece of architecture, and an old building made functionally and psycihcally new (kind of like the Dia: Beacon, only for foodies), I had a really geat breakfast there. My mom and I didn't even intend to go to the Ferry Building on our SF trip, thinking it too touristy, but then we found out about the Frog hollow store. The night before, we'd gone to the chez panisse cafe and had a Frog Hollow nectarine for dessert, and this was our last day in SF. Since there was no way we were going to get to the farm--and we called out friends, Frog Hollow relations, to make sure--we could at least buy some more produce at the Ferry Building, and get a good cup of coffee to boot. So we walked down Market past the bike messengers and enjoyed a beautiful morning, nosed around the fancy shops a bit...

I snagged some plums and mom got a peach, then we got some breakfast pastries and took them out to the patio where we sat in t-shirts in the sun, and I ate fruit crisp, ad we talked to some nice man about how hte produce was overpriced and all. He asked where else we were gonig and we told him the itinerary--Gualala, Mendocino, Healdsburg, and we chatted about wines and redwoods and were generally approved of by this man. Maybe it was the chez panisse experience, but I started feeling a sense of belonging, or of understanding (more accurately) this city that seemed to always resist me. We shopped the afternoon away in Pacific Heights, found a boutique chocolatier and a grey cashmere sweater, and in a bookstore in the Western Addition I bought my first food book, Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires. I got hooked on Ruth and her wigs while waiting for it to be time to meet my mom's cousin and her daughter across the street at some fancy Nob Hill hotel, and then they whisked away to Frisson and perfect roast chicken, and by the time we left SF in the morning, driving over the Golden Gate Bridge in fog, I was a different person, though I didn't know it at the time.

anyway, not only is Frog Hollow hiring right now, but Boulettes Larder is hiring a pastry chef as well, adn though I am no doubt both too poor to get out there and unqualified for the second position, I am jealous. To work in the Fery Building adn spend every afternoon in the shadow of the Bay Bridge, reminiscing about the Berkeley days and who I used to be...and to write...and to eat, and be in such bounty.

Well, with global warming and all perhaps New England will grow into a bounty of its garlic is coming up already, and it's supposed to be "overwintering". Al
Gore was right. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

the Baker's Dozen

While looking (online) through the Ferry Building Cookbook (or the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market Cookbook as it is officially called) I found out about this. The Bakers' Dozen baking support group has branches in SF, NYC and...Utah. Maybe one day Boston will officially be happening enough for such things. Maybe I can start Bakers Dozen New England, or something...or I coudl just join BDE and hang out with Colette Peters and Nick Malgieri.

in the meantime it'll join the list of reasons to return to SF (guess I've finally been bitten), which include:

Chez Panisse
Cocolat/hands-on baking class with fucking Alice Medrich (if she still does them)
Scharfen Berger
Slanted Door
the Ferry building
Frog Hollow
Rued's tasting room
snooty Cyrus cocktails
the twins
Cafe Fiori
La Mediteranee bien sur
Anchor Steam
the Exploratorium roof cam, and
the Munucipal Pier, which feature in stories of mine...
the As new stadium
as always the best beach ever in Santa Cruz
as always my West Coast friends

Reasons to go to New York, onyl for a visit: Prune and Gramercy Tavern, going to eat at Babbo now that I've dreamt about it, snagging some Northern Spies at the Greenmarket, the planned CIA dinner excursion with Jes, oh yes, the Kiki Smith show.

Reasons to stay in Boston: I ridicuously have not gone to Sam Adams or Harpoon, I have not eaten all of Maura Kilpatrick's divine creations at Oleana, Oleana's informative open kitchen, I suppose I should check out Clio's Rick Billinger, then there's that chocolate brunch.

I've been avoiding my blog and I think it's because I've grown dissatisfied with my job. Slaving away for $11/hour is well and good when you are learning, but I'm not sure what else I will learn in my position. Sure, every time we do a menu change there are new treats to master--and maybe the fall menu was easy and the new menu will be more challenging--but I don't think the desserts are exceptional and when I ask a question about why we're doing something a certain way my boss gets very defensive, when all I'm asking for (and in a nice way) is information. Maybe my boss in intimidated by me...I think he wants to get into food writing and I'm a writer, I have my masters, I'm his age, and I'm a chef too. But I have an interview Thursday at the fancy, boutiquey, $15-an-hour-paying Spire restaurant in the nine zero hotel, so I feel a little better. Whether or not I'm interested in that position I think it's nice to see what other people are doing and get a reality check on how my job compares to others in the field. The pastry chef asked me if I knew how to make ice cream. Um, yes. And I hope that doesn't mean I'd primarily be spinning ice cream, but maybe it does, but for fifteen an hour I might be chill with that. I really would like to work for a woman.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

foie gras bans...

It was either the New Yorker or Food Arts that featured an article on the Chicago Foie Gras feast now that foie gras has been banned there. Since the article mentioned a similar ban in CA and I saw tons of foie gras when I was out there, I thought I'd check it out. Apparently foie gras in only produced in California and New York and both states' lesgislatures are considering banning the production of foie gras.

But what really peeved me was learning this, from here:

While the ducks may be happy, others at Hudson Valley Foie Gras are not. To further complicate this debate, the 80 or so feeders at the farm, all Mexican immigrants, complain that they are required to work 30 days in a row, because if they took a day off, the feeding process would be disrupted and the ducks would become stressed, ultimately impacting the quality and flavor of the foie gras. Izzy Yanay, Ginor’s partner at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, cites that producers in France, Hungary and Israel conducted experiments with backup feeders and concluded that they negatively affected the quantity and quality of the foie gras.[11]

For the love of za'atar

Leah and I rode our bikes today down Mt. Auburn Street out to the Watertown line, because we'd just for the first time in our lives tried za'atar--a Middle Eastern spice blend of a wild herb in the thyme family, with sesame seeds and other goodies--at the Ana Sortun cooking demo, and we were hooked. Sortun had talked about spice combinations and spice cravings--how when we say we want Indian food, what we really want is a spice combination.

And za'atar, she said, is going Doritos fast. She'd seen Mario Batali and Daniel Boulud with it, and za'atar has no obvious connection or place in French or Italian cooking, so if Batali and Boulud were doing it, she pressed us, we needed to go get ourselves some za'atar while we were still ahead of the bandwagon.

I'm not a fan of thyme, at least not in dessert and not when it's used overwhelmingly alone. So I wasn't too excited by za'atar's prospects.

But there we were, hunched on a stoop next to the post office, me with a bag of halwah, rose water, a giant baggie of za'atar, and za'atar bread, cramming the bread into our mouths with giant smiles and without talking.

If you ever go out here without me, she said. Just get me more...

We're eating at Oleana next week...which will be so much better now that we've seen chef Sortun in action and heard her talk about her cooking...kind of like a friend in the kitchen.

AND, she said, she's opening a bakery in the area next spring, so if I'm still cooking in Boston, I can hop on her bandwagon and bake mediterranean treats.