Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Will A Curry Recipe a Day Will Keep the Doctor Away?

MSN has a post on the health advantages of spices, especially turmeric, a major ingredient in most Western curry mixes.

Read about it here. Researchers feel that 200 mg of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) can help prevent the plaque build up in our brains that can lead to Alzheimer's disease.

Yet another reason to make a curry dish.

You can combine old school food tips (eat an apple a day) with new food findings (lap up the curry) by serving this curry dip (really more of a concept than a recipe since I make it different every time) with sliced apples (dipped in lemon juice to prevent browning and to add more Vitamin C if you'd like).

A Dip to Curry Favor or a Favorite Curry Dip

1 cup of nonfat yogurt and/or pureed silken tofu (a combination works well)
1 to 3 teaspoons of curry powder or curry paste, or to taste. (Amount depends on how spicy you want your dip and the strength of your curry powder or paste.)
3 tablespoons or to taste of very finely minced mango chutney or hot or mild lime pickle (you may even want to puree this to make sure all the bits are very tiny)

Combine all ingredients. You may want to add the spice and chuntey in a bit at a time until the mix is how you like it. Let stand at least an hour before serving so that the tastes mingle and the raw curry taste softens.

Can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge. Be aware that the longer the dip stands the stronger the flavors will be.

Serve with apple slices and/or raw veggies, pieces of flatbread or other dipping instrument of your choice.
Photo Credit: Microsoft Office

Monday, May 29, 2006

Chocolate Without a Meltdown

Love chocolate so much that you can't leave home without it, even if you are backpacking or taking some other summer vacation?

Then read The Chocolates of Summer at Sugar Savvy for my roundup of chocolates that won't melt in your hand or your handbag (or backpack) this summer.

Friday, May 26, 2006

It's Summertime and the Living is "See's (ie)"

Sugar Savvy and the Well Fed Network are featuring posts all about summertime food and drinks. My contribution is about See's Candies warm weather packaging and summer specials. Read all about it here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Top 5 Things I Learned from Top Chef and/or a Harold Fan Wonders if Tiffani Was Robbed

The youngest son and I were at our posts at the TV at 10 p.m. last night, anxiously awaiting the season finale of Top Chef on Bravo.

The future pastry chef (well, maybe he'll be one, his career choices change around) and I were high fiving every time someone made a positive comment about Harold and of course were ecstatic when the pencil-toting, stubbled, t-shirted chef from New York won the whole shebang.

It was a bit of an anticlimax though. The show was edited to look like it gave Tiffani a smack down that maybe she didn't deserve. I know, I am shocked at that impression, too. Tiffani seemed to be a bit reformed in her relations with other. It might have been a case of too little too late. She was also very audacious in her menu (which was to be a five-course tasting menu designed to match with wines from actress Lorraine Bracco Italian import line). She chose to make it a 10-course menu by having two variations on everything. Take a look at some of the things I learned from Top Chef last night and then we can discuss the concept that Tiffani was robbed. (Did I really just type that?)

1. Nice guys can finish first, at least when they can cook as well as the mean ones.

Harold's essential niceness always came through as well as his dignity and respect for other contestants. That showed in many ways in the final show, but especially when the eliminated chefs voted for him to be Top Chef.

2. Don't make enemies on the way to the top.

Since Tiffani seemed to be using the Survivor model to succeed, she should have remembered that the banished have some say on the outcome. I will say it is time for Dave to just get over it, though.

3. You can pair artichokes with wine.

I was stunned when Tiffani announced she was doing an artichoke course with the wines and relieved that Stephen had shown some class and volunteered to work with her. Instead of a disaster her artichoke "risotto" was judged by many to be the outstanding dish of the finale.

It was the only dish highly praised by the judges that was solely the creation of a finalist. It was interesting that Tiffani was blasted for the great dessert Dave made since it wasn't her concept, but while Tom and the other judges knew Harold's best dish (the beef two ways) had been Miquel's creation, Harold received nothing but praise. It didn't help Tiffani stammered and inflated her role in Dave's desserts, but still it rankled to see that "nice" Harold got away with what "mean" Tiffani couldn't.

4. You should play it safe to win Top Chef.

Once again my man Harold designed a conservative menu to play it safe and while it was commented on, he ended up taking it all with that approach. Once again, Tiffani went for broke. As Chef Tom said "Her highs were higher, but her lows were lower." There seemed to be no points for pressing the boundaries.

5. If you drink a glass of wine while you watch Top Chef you won't be able to write a recap of it for your blog at midnight.

I guess that fits more in the category of personal lessons that I learned.

So, how about it? I definitely didn't want Tiffani to win, but was the judging fair? Was she robbed? Or was she just a little vandalized and still deserved to lose?

At the end, she is shown teary-eyed talking about what the win and money would have meant to her. If she had shown (or to be truthful had been edited to show) this humanity during the run of the show, she might have actually had a better chance to win. Or at least fared better in the live call in poll (which was something like 93 percent for Harold).

Harold won. I'm pleased. But all didn't feel right. So long Tiffani. I hope you take this experience to heart and become more open and willing to depend on others. Too many cooks don't have to spoil the broth.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

A Little About A Lot, A Lot About Not Much

A bunch of little news/muse items for you. (Kind of a blogging amuse bouche?)

First up, Blog Appetit participated in Sweetnicks' weekly round up of antioxidant rich foods recipes with the summer farmstand corn soup. Check out her 21st weekly ARF Roundup.

Next, have you seen the Bravo promo for tonight's Top Chef finale? They are not giving anything away. Did like the line they were using in the promo: Seasoned Finale.

Last night my local independent bookstore A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, CA, hosted a reception for cookbook author, restaurant entrepreneur and chef David Burke. The talk was of Burke looking at a Bay area spot for his latest restaurant. The buzz was on Montclair Bistro's (no website yet) renditions of appetizers based on recipes from his book David Burke's New American Classics.
My favorite were the mushroom "chips." Meaty and earthy with a nice crunch and well salted, they were a revelation. Burke shared that when he makes them he cuts the gills off of portobello mushrooms and then slices them very thin. He then fries up the mushroom slices in clarified butter until their fungi goodness is concentrated and they are crispy almost all the way through with just a bit of tender bite in the middle. I'd like to try the recipe by baking the mushroom slices to dry and concentrate the flavors and then finish them in the clarified butter or perhaps a little olive oil and toss with some very finely ground sea salt or even sea salt mixed with herbs.

Lastly, San Francisco Weekly, a publication based out of guess where, has published its best of 2006 list. A very full listing for food and drink includes the ethnic, the quirky, the obvious, the "are they kidding" and lots more. The last few years I've spent more quality food time eating here in the East Bay then across the Bay Bridge, but I know a few of their choices:

Best burger (one of several picks in this category) Mo's on Grant Avenue. Big juicy and grilled before your eyes in a great neighborhood, a bit of funk and a whiff of punk between Chinatown and Little Italy.

Best cupcake Citizen Cake near the Civic Center and the fun and quickly gentrifying Hayes St. shopping district. Haven't actually had the cupcakes, but sit at the bar and look through the big plate glass windows and watch the bakers decorate the cakes and other goodies. Food and drinks are delish and the house made candies, pastries and cakes are delectable.

Best French Cafe Cafe de la Presse Grant at Bush (near Union Square) Lots of atmosphere, wicker chairs, croissants and croques monsieurs. Convenient for breakfast if you stay at the nearby hotels. Coffee drinks are exceptional, the food is fine, but nothing to make you think you were back in Paris. Small foreign newstand to catch up with the "real" life that in all rights you should be living in Paris or Prague.

Best French Deli Mistral Rotisserie Provencale, Ferry Plaza. One of the many wonders of the wondrous Ferry Plaza. Last time I was there I had a main dish and a few sides, all exceptional. Garlicky frog legs, wondrous potatoes. It was great. Another time a lamb stew was the star of the plate. Take it out, eat it there at the few indoor tables or go out back and feast on the view of the bay from the outdoor picnic tables.

Best Time Travel St. Francis Fountain, 24th street at York, near the Mission district. Amid the taquerias, panderias and papusa palaces of the Mission is this blast to your grandparents' past, an honest confection of an ice cream parlor dating back to 1918. Old-fashioned lunch counter food and lots of ice cream treats to go with the decor, this place is worth a detour.

There are a few others on the massive SF Weekly list I've sampled, but that gives you a feel for the list. Check it out yourself at the SF Weekly site. The link has all the addresses and phone numbers for the chosen establishments as well.

San Francisco Restaurants
Resource, Rant and Rave:
You can order Burke's book through Great Good Place (see above) but there is no link to the book on the website. Check it out and email the store or buy it at your local independent bookstore. When was the last time Amazon called you up and invited you to meet a cookbook author and sample some free wine and appetizers? Support Your Local Book Store.

I Brake for Trader Joe's

I make one of my very occassional appearances in the Well Fed site Paper Palate today extolling the joys of a store advertising publication. Really. Check out my fetish for Trader Joe's in my post here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Aw, Shucks -- Corn From the Cob to the Soup Pot

My husband has a taste for farm stands. Not any farm stands, but only those selling locally grown, in-season fruit and vegetables. The sight of corn back in the stores reminds me of last summer. We were returning from the Sierras through San Joaquin County in California when he spotted a new (to him) farm stand. After a quick u-turn, we parked, climbed out of the air conditioned car into the baking hot Central Valley summer and checked out what the stand had to offer.

The farm stand checked out. Among its offerings were pale green mountains of fresh, sweet corn. I picked out six likely looking ears. The young salesgirl told me it would be cheaper if I bought a dozen.

“You could always give them away,” she said as she took my dollar. I was skeptical about taking all 12, but just the six ears would cost me $1.50, so I picked out six more, wondering how fresh they could be if the stand was pricing the corn like this. Now I wish I had bought three dozen.

The corn was sweet and fresh and the yellow cobs dotted with an occasional white kernel. It was so hot I was afraid the delicate corn would pop in the car on the way home, but it survived fine.

That first night, I stripped four ears of their silk and thin inner husks, wrapped them up in the remaining outer husks and soaked them for about a half hour in water. I then plopped them onto a hot barbecue where I roasted them, turning occasionally until some of the kernels had blackened and when I slit one with my fingernail, it cut open easily and a bit of juice ran out.

I removed the corn from the grill with tongs and used oven mitts to protect my hands as I stripped the hot and ashy husks off the ears. We feasted on corn with chipotle hot sauce and squirts of lime juice. That’s when I made the decision, I would be keeping – and cooking with – all the corn.

The next night, I turned our leftover grilled chicken into fajitas. I shucked and cut the kernels off a few ears and put them in a preheated, dry frying pan in one layer. I let them pan roast a bit and gave the pan a good shake and continued like that until a few of the kernels began to brown and I could smell the aroma of roast corn. I added chopped bits of red pepper and red onion and a bit of water. I stirred until the pepper and onion had softened a bit and added salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

It made a tasty side dish, but I was sorry I hadn’t added a handful of the fresh corn kernels (which were sweet and juicy raw, not the least starchy) to the homemade tomatillo salsa I had served with the fajitas.

The next night, I still had leftover grilled chicken, so I turned it into a Thai peanut sauce stir fry. I again cut the kernels off a cob of corn. The raw kernels were still sweet and milky and I combined them with a large peeled and thinly sliced cucumber into a Thai vegetable salad, with a dash of salt, a grinding of fresh black pepper, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, a handful of chopped fresh cilantro, a drizzle of Asian sesame oil and a very healthy splash of seasoned rice vinegar.

With the remaining ears, I made a summer corn soup.

Summer Farm Stand Soup

This recipe depends on the freshness and flavor of your vegetables. The taste of the stock you use is also important. I used homemade, but a good quality store bought would also work.

Makes 6-8 servings

Tablespoon or two of olive, grapeseed or vegetable oil
Half of medium yellow onion, very finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
Pinch of curry powder
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/4” dice
Two medium ripe, red tomatoes, cut into ½” chunks
4 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob
2 zucchinis, cut into ½” chunks
One quart of chicken or vegetable stock
Hot sauce or red pepper flakes (optional and to taste)
½ cup of prepared basil pesto (optional)

Heat a large pot. Add oil to bottom and swirl to cover.
Add chopped onions and stir frequently until softened, about three minutes. Add garlic, continue to stir until onions and garlic just begin to become golden. Add the curry powder. Sauté with the onions and garlic until aroma is released. Add bell pepper and sauté a minute or two, then add the tomato pieces. Sauté for a minute or two, then add the zucchini and corn kernels. Sauté for a minute or two until vegetables have begun to soften and give up some of their juices.

Add stock and simmer until vegetables are cooked but not mushy. Taste. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce or red pepper flakes (if using) to taste. Puree, using a hand blender (or in batches in a regular blender and then return to pot), about one fourth to half the soup depending on how thick you’d like it to be. (Be careful, soup will be hot).

Add minced basil. Stir basil throughout.

Can be served warm, room temperature or cold. (If serving cold, taste again and adjust seasonings before serving. You may need more flavoring.)

Optional: just before serving, swirl about a tablespoon of basil pesto atop each bowl.

Friday, May 19, 2006

It's My Duty to Taste and Protect ...

... the readers of Blog Appetit and Sugar Savvy from chocolate that is, well, not worth the calories. Once such piece popped up in The Chocolate Box this week. See why I can't recommend the See's Peanut Butter Pattie. The write up is here.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Top Chef -- Dave Folds in Vegas

Bravo's Top Chef, part one, is done and Dave is cooked.

His food was consistently better liked than Tiffani's by tonight's judges, but in the end his lack of focus, his nerves, his uncontrolled emotions and his (admittedly flavor-filled) relatively simple cuisine led to his elimination. It didn't help that he forgot to make a dish.

Tonight was filled with plot twists, tight deadlines, mystery judges and lots of Kobe beef.

The three finalists, Tiffani, Dave and Harold, had the run of a MGM Grand Hotel kitchen in Las Vegas. To say that the pantry was stocked would be an understatement. From fresh herbs to caviar, the kitchen's abundance almost overwhelmed all three. In fact, they only had 10 minutes to familiarize themselves with the kitchen's equipment and larder before they had to start cooking for the first challenge -- one of the evening's many plot twists.

The evening's challenge was split into three parts and run like a quick fire, but it was an elimination round. The chefs had 30 minutes to complete each of the three different "room service" requests.

First up were three "high rollers" who wanted to be impressed. They asked for two courses, one cold seafood and one hot. The mystery high rollers, and three of evening's many guest judges, were the recently eliminated Miguel, Stephen and LeeAnne. The high rollers gave high marks to Harold's dishes -- mussel and paprika soup and a fish crudo with Japanese cucumbers and avocado. Dave's flavors got a nod (although his grilled fish was ruled overcooked and dry), but Tiffani's dishes left them cold. (By the way, all the contestants had color-coded napkins and their dishes were tasted blind.)

Chef Tom wondered why no one grabbed the caviar and worried that the dishes were not impressive or substantial enough for high rollers. Over and over again he stressed that being a top chef meant being responsive to customers' needs.

The second part of the quick fire challenge was to create four snack foods for a group of poker players at a table in the casino. Phil Hellmouth and his pals were happy to dig into Dave's dishes, all of them giving high marks to his egg rolls, fried shrimp and chocolate-covered strawberries. Dave also had a salami paninni. If the guest judges commented on it, their remarks were edited out. Harold had what the poker players considered the best individual dish -- honey Dijon chicken wings. Ironically, it was a dish that pretty much came right out of the MGM kitchen freezer and into the fryer. Harold's onion rings, mini pizzas and grilled cheese were not really mentioned, but all the poker players thought Dave and Harold "got" the kinds of easy to eat, flavorful food they wanted to eat at the table.

Tiffani, who announced that she was a Las Vegas poker player herself, went all in and busted with her gourmet interpretations of snack food. A quince and flatbread Napoleon looked great, and the players all thought her flavors would make great appetizers but said the dishes needed a fork.

Okay, so far, Tiffani has not scored a win or even a real strong second in any of the quick fires, and Dave is coming in surprisingly strong. But the pressure, the rapid pace (which he continually moans about) and the unfamiliar kitchen all came together to derail him.

The third and last of the night's 30 minute challenges was to create three high protein, high carb and low fat dishes for Cirque de Soleil performers. By now, all three cooks have taken proper stock of the wealth of food offered to them and they all offer Kobe beef. Tiffani also concocts a blueberry, crab and caviar salad and offers a pork dish. Harold creates a lobster pasta and a chicken with crispy skin and potato gnocchi. Dave's Kobe beef is accompanied with a kick-ass, no-oil pasta dish that reminded me a bit of Guy Fieri's cooking on The Next Food Network Star.

If you are counting dishes, you know what happens next. Dave has only produced TWO dishes. According to him, he just spaced and totally forgot he had to make one more until there were literally seconds left and he saw the other chefs' room service carts lined up and ready to go.

My son and I were yelling at the screen. "Grab some apples. Put some bread on the cart. Anything, just do it!," but Dave just stood there, his perpetually worried face looking drained and defeated, his hands and body finally still. (One aside, did anyone else think that even when something good happened to Dave his face registered nervous upset?)

Chef Tom took the food carts to the circus performers who gave very informed and insightful criticisms of the food. Dave's beef was the hands down favorite. Harold's cart was praised overall. Tiffani was criticized for pork (one judge called it rubbery) and her salad (too salty).

While the guest judges had a big say in the individual quick fire elements, in the end it was Chef Tom, Kathy Lee Joel (who had less to say than usual and therefore was much less annoying), Food & Wine's Gail Simmons and Hubert Keller, the chef-owner at San Francisco's famed Fleur d'Lys restaurant, who made the decisions.

After dinging Harold for winging it with the frozen chicken wings, it was clear that Harold was in and would continue to the final challenge. Then the judges started praising Dave and carving up Tiffani.

Dave's food, his win, his almost win if he had only made one more dish, his flavors were all discussed. The praise was so strong, I thought the judges were making a case for keeping the technically weaker candidate. I rationalized this continuation of Dave's Cinderfella story by Dave's continually astute reading of what his patrons would like to eat. It never seemed like he was cooking for the food cognoscenti, it has always seemed to me that he makes food for the "regular" guy.

Tiffani was scored for never having the winning dish or cart and for her misreading the needs of her poker-playing patrons.

Well, I thought, the nice guy is going to finish, if not first, at least second, but then the plot turned, and the judges announced to Tiffani that she was staying and that Dave should pack his knives.

I was surprised but not surprised. In terms of a finale, Tiffani is more evenly matched with Harold. She also adds more drama and confrontation. (See my post where I discuss the Wendy Pepper rule in reality competition shows here.) If the lack of one dish was the reason Dave was eliminated for not following the rules it was never clearly expressed. I think the judges just saw his nervous lack of focus and perhaps his lack of top technical skills as not being "top chef" material.

From clips of the next show, it looks like the judges were all top food professionals, an audience that with one key exception never warmed to Dave's food. (The exception was his win over LeeAnne in the Napa challenge.)

A few other snippets:

Harold has opened his own restaurant.
Tiffani would use the prize money to travel the world and explore the food she cooks with.
The restaurant Dave worked for was sold and he is out of a job. He's being doing some catering and vowed at the end of the show to keep cooking and looking for a mass audience to expose his flavor concepts to.

Was Dave robbed or did he deserve to go home? Leave a comment below and I'll tally them up for next week's wrap up report.

Grilled Salad

It's been a long while since I've been able to sit down and write up a recipe for Blog Appetit, so I thought I would pull one from my files. So here is a little recipe perfect for the good weather we have been enjoying in northern California lately -- Grilled Salad. The grilling creates a smoky interest to the otherwise bland lettuce and the acid dressing is balanced out by the sweetness the cooking brings out of the vegetable. The photo of lettuces below was taken at the Berkeley, CA, farmers' market last fall.

Grilled Salad

The mother of one of my best friends was visiting from Chicago. As her son-in-law was grilling the marinated flank steak, she insisted on grilling the lettuce. Her daughter and I were skeptical.

“Oh, we do it all the time,” Jean insisted. “Well, maybe if it was radicchio ….” Jody and I said.

Well, it wasn’t radicchio, it was romaine and it was delicious.

Whole, washed romaine lettuce leaves
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Parmesan Cheese
Lemon Juice or vinegar to taste

Mix together olive oil, sea salt and pepper
Pour over lettuce leaves and turn until coated
Over a medium fire on a greased grill, lay down leaves and check and turn regularly until slightly wilted and charred

Take off grill, toss with bit of lemon juice or vinegar and grated parmesan cheese.

Eat with knife and fork or chop roughly before serving

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Your Right to Blog May Be Threatened

If you blog, if you enjoy reading blogs, you must read this important post from Pim of Chez Pim.

It seems that Congress is being asked to create a two-tier internet, where those who pay more get to use the internet as their own high-speed playground while the rest of us are on the swingset, but only if they decide to let us play.

Keep the internet for everyone, not just corporations.

Please read Pim's write up of the issue with links to the New York Times and other info and then go to the Save the Internet site to take some action. Be sure to contact your representative and senators, too. To contact them, check out the League of Women Voters for names and email addresses.

Thanks to Pim for alerting us to the issue.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

See's Lemon Love

Girl Meets Truffle.
Girl Loves Truffle.
Truffle Goes from Tart to Sweet
Girl Decides She Only Really, Really Likes See's Lemon Truffle

Taste the experience at Sugar Savvy

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Quickie Top Chef Report

Did you see the Top Chef Reunion Show on Bravo last night?

The youngest son and I did and I have to admit it was pretty much a waste of time.


Well it was manipulative TV without telling you anything new. Following the Project Runway model, the production seems based on getting the participants not just drunk but wasted with the hope they'll say something that makes good TV. Also, suddenly Dave dresses like Cary Grant and Stephen looks like a slob. Do I see the fine hand of pr and image consultants? I will say Dave's dandruff showed up on his suit and Stephen seemed like more of an actual human being. Oh, and there is a whole lot of Mrs. Billy Joel and not enough Chef Tom.

In other highlights, Harold and Andrea continued to be the classiest contestants. Ken Lee remained the most marginal. I could have lived a long and happy life without the Miguel fart compilation/highlight. Tiffani was the one the others ganged up on and the one who left the set and had to be coaxed back.

Just in case the buzz wore off, the producers kept the chefs well lubricated even when the contestants were on camera. Even Stephen was seen swigging wine or maybe champagne directly out of the bottle.

The whole thing just seemed like a ramp up for the two part finale and had no merit on its own.

Tune in next week to see if the show gets cooking.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Yiddisha "Mama" Wants You to Essen*

*Most of my post titles need a bit of translation or at least explanation anyway, but this one needs more than most. The Yiddisha "Mama" (mama is in quotes because I'm not sure if she is a mother) is The Chocolate Lady. Essen means eat. So this is a roundabout way of introducing a new food blog to my blog roll (look to the right for links).

The Chocolate Lady's blog, In Mol Araan, is mostly in English, with some Yiddish thrown in. I can't read her Yiddish postings, but I really appreciate her thoughtful, well-researched posts with their delicious recipes and wonderful photos.

She describes In Mol Araan as being "about food and words in Yiddish and English including but not limited to cooking, recipes, culinary lexicography, delights and curiosities of the plant world, and cookbooks."

Many of her posts and recipes reflect her Jewish sensibilities and heritage. Others just explore a particular ingredient or life experience.

Check her out at In Mol Araan. (FYI - In Mol Araan means "mouthful.")

Update: On 5/19/06 I had a chance to have lunch with "The Chocolate Lady" who was visiting northern California. She was fun to talk with and eat with. I especially enjoyed how consciously she ate and how aware and appreciative she was of her food and the labor and ingredients that go into it. It's nice to now know the face and personality that go along with the screen name.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Meet Guy, Just a Regular Guy Who Happens to be the Next Food Network Star

Paper Palate has published my article about a local newspaper's coverage of Guy Fieri, the rocking and rolling, bbqing and sushi rolling winner of Food Network's Next Food Network Star.

Read all about it here. Want my take on Guy's win? Click here and here.

Update:  Well, all Paper Palate links are dead, dead, dead. Normally I'd give a link to the post on the wonderful wayback archive, but the crawl containing that link is contaminated or ill or just shy and it won't come up.  Here is an excerpt from that post to hold you over until I can get the whole thing:

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an ode to a regular guy, Guy Fieri, winner of Food Network’s Next Food Network Star, who is proud of his California roots and who is an integral part of his Santa Rosa, CA hometown. The article, by Peter Hartlaub, dominated the front of Datebook, the paper’s feature section.
Guy, photographed in all his “off the hook” glory holding a guitar signed by Sammy Hagar being used as a platter to display samples of his no-holds barred sushi, is a popular guy in his hometown. He is well known for his personal and corporate generosity in the town, as well as for his restaurants, including Tex Wasabi’s, which features barbecue and sushi on its menu.
The town was 100 percent behind Guy. The owner of the local movie theater posted “Vote for Guy” messages on the marquee and a local radio show host promoted him as well. A local construction company used a sign it owns near the freeway to get out the Guy vote. Supposedly a Santa Rosa high school principal used the intercom to remind students to text message their votes in to Food Network.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Some Photos for Cinco De Mayo

I have some more food photos from my last jaunt to Mexico and thought I would post a few of them in honor of the day.

This a picture of some catcus paddles on the griddle. See the flat breads in the background? The grilled nopales will be the topping for them.

To the right is a photo of paletas, or juicy, fruit-filled ice pops. A wonderfully refreshing way to end a spicy meal. In the background, one of my husband's favorites, chocolate covered bananas.

This is the inside of a candy store, or a dulceria. This section displays a lot of the candied fruits and vegetables. Please click on the photo to enlarge it so you can see all the wonderful goodies.

See's for Mother's Day. I'll take one of those, and one of ...

My Sugar Savvy contribution for Mother's Day is posted at The Chocolate Box. What am I advocating as presents for our dear moms (and for ourselves if we are moms)? Why See's Candies, of course.

See's has a range of gift packages for our moms that range from small (pink foil covered hearts) to medium (a pink and black "purse" filled with chocolates) to large (hearts, bag AND a one-pound box.)

Or do you know your mom well enough to pick out an assortment? Can you navigate the treacherous waters of mik or dark chocolate, soft center or nut and chew and other selections?

Check it out at See's Piece by Piece #16.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Topsy Turvy at Top Chef

I can't believe it, LeeAnn is out. She and Tiffani were locks to go to Vegas. I thought Dave would be out for sure unless Harold had a meltdown.

Instead Dave's simple truffled mac and cheese won the judges' hearts after too much foofoo and lamb on the part of other contestants. My son predicted Tiffani (or is it Tiffany) would stay, I voted for LeeAnn (or is it LeeAnne). But I forgot the always important Wendy Pepper Rule.

The Wendy Pepper Rule is that all judging is not created equally and producers have a say in who stays and who goes. Tiffani (and possibly Dave) make better TV. I also think it explains why Stephen lasted so long. Don't believe me? Read the fine print during the credits scroll at the end of the show. Why name it after Wendy Pepper? Pepper was the "wild card" finalist that stirred the pot on the first Project Runway. Top Chef is produced by the Project Runway folks. Got it?

The challenge was to use black truffles in a dish for the judges and 10 of the top chefs in Napa to showcase a rare red wine from Shafer Vineyards.

Harold's lamb dish was the clear winner with focused tastes and a combo that amazed the judges (tempering the wine-killing affects of spinach with sunchoke puree). He got dings for gritty mushrooms. He also had a leg up since he won the quick fire reinventing junk food challenge. Tiffani's multi-layered, high concept truffled gnoochi with lamb was dinged as nice idea but mushy execution and several judges faulted her for her choice of pureed cauliflower which clashed with the wine, which she defended at the judges table. LeeAnne's dish was faulted for being too busy (in truth it didn't seem much busier than Tiffani's) and her lamb for being overcooked. Her sauce was widely praised.

Dave had one of his near breakdowns telling the chefs about his dish. His understanding of the wine seemed the weakest. He did serve beef although not much ado was made over it and his side dish. One chef called him a "pepper monkey" for overseasoning with ground black pepper. Another faulted him for not using enough salt. His high brow mac and cheese was a hit, but the rest of his plate was a mess. He had the most to overcome since he had lost the quick fire.

You do the math. It didn't add up to me.

Update: Here's a link to the recipe for Dave's mac and cheese with truffles, cognac, cream, fresh herbs and several kinds of cheese. You need to provide your own truffles. Browse around the Bravo site a bit if you are a Top Chef junkie and read the blogs and LeeAnne's interview. Thanks to Sweetnicks for pointing me in the direction of the Bravo blogs.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

I'll Have Mine Straight Up with Salt

Living in northern California I am very aware of the area's Hispanic heritage, as are most of the supermarkets in my area.

So, what is the number one Cinco de Mayo item I have seen the two big chains here push?


I guess Cinco de Mayo has become a celebration of freedom from being sober and as such has crossed national lines. One need not be Mexican to celebrate by hoisting a beer, margarita other other alcoholic drink.

Safeway featured a display at the front of the store full of margarita mixes and tequila. Albertson's was near the liquor section and featured pinatas (yes, the child's birthday party toy) in the shape of liquor bottles. Of all days not to have my camera in my purse! I had visions of the pinata being stuffed with plastic miniature bottles of booze and inebriated guests trying to whack it open with a stick and then scrambling to pick up the loot as it fell.

On another note, I was very proud to see how many people in this area supported the Hispanic and other immigrants on May 1.

By the way, the photo on this page is of aqua frescas, taken at a street fair in Tijuana this past December. These are refreshing non-alcoholic drinks, although I guess one could add something more potent to them to make an interesting cocktail. The one on the left is horchata (cinnamon and almond or rice or in Spain from tiger nuts), the other was jamaica (hibiscus flower).