Friday, October 22, 2010

Peanut Butter Cream Pie - the holidays come early

A few weeks ago in Bernal Heights shop Heartfelt, we made the rookie mistake of looking at a cookbook on an empty stomach thus we have a new addition to our burgeoning collection. It is called Mrs. Rowe's Little Book of Southern Pies by Mollie Cox Bryan. We decided as a little blog/holiday project (which I wanted to call "Branny and Zoe" . . . but someone shot down that idea) we would try to bake one new pie a week (as long as our arteries continue to pump).
We were invited to an early Thanksgiving dinner (long story) and we decided to go whole hog and start with a peanut butter cream pie (also, we figured this way we wouldn't eat it all by ourselves). We started by making our chocolate wafer cookie crust. We didn't have the requisite food processor so we used a handy bottle of wine to crush the cookies and then added in a stick of melted butter and a half cup of sugar.

We smushed the crust into a 9 inch glass pie dish and baked it in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile . . .
I made a custard by cooking 2 cups whole milk with 1/3 cup corn starch, 2 egg yolks and 1/3 cup sugar and a pinch of sugar. Mix all the ingredients and stir constantly over low heat for about 10 minutes. This being my first venture in custard-making, it was VERY exciting when it began to thicken - I felt very accomplished. Once it thickens remove from the heat and let cool. Once cool, whisk to thicken a bit more and then add in 1 cup peanut butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla.
Make sure the crust and the custard are cool and then scoop the custard into the crust, smooth and place in the fridge.
While the pie is chilling . . . whip up some cream (we used 3/4 cup cream and when it formed soft peaks we added in 1/3 cup confectioner's sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla). Plop the whip cream on top and shmear it around evenly.

Sprinkle some salted peanuts on top.
Get yourself a quality dishwasher . . .


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tataki - Sustainable Sushi

Tataki is a pleasant sushi restaurant in Western Addition/Pacific Heights which bills itself as "San Francisco's sustainable sushi restaurant." Tataki has an appealing happy hour menu that I like to take advantage of - all their featured rolls are $4.50 and they have an asian-fruit sangria that's yummy.

I began by trying the albacore tataki (I ventured off the happy hour list to try the dish for which the restaurant was named - how could you not). Tataki is a traditional Japanese way of preparing fish in which it is set to marinate with vinegar and ginger and given a quick hard sear to cook. The albacore was served with a garlic sauce. It was nicely cooked and was served on a bed of shaved daikon which was refreshing and added a nice crispness.

We then had the arctic char and avocado roll (happy hour item!) which is one of my favorites. I was a char skeptic but after Tataki's roll I think I might prefer this roll to a basic salmon roll. We also tried the spicy crunchy tuna roll (I know, it's a little froo froo) but it is SO good. The tuna has a bit of a kick (maybe shichimi togarashi??) and if you put fried panko on virtually anything and I'm going to gobble it up.

To round out my sushi binge I tried the Divisaderoll (Tataki's cross-street is Divisadero . . . get it??) which was albacore, avocado and masago (a type of roe). Very good, but I next time I will stick to my happy hour allegiance.

For further sustainable stories, click here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Georgio's Cucina: A Pop-Up in the Valley

I flew to LA this weekend and had great plans to take advantage of dineLA Restaurant Week (reservations at Ortolan and illusions of more prix-fixe grandeur). Unsurprisingly, my flight was delayed...and then delayed further. Forty-five minutes into the delay, we came to terms with the fact that we were going to have to cancel our reservation, and I put Ortolan back onto my wish list. (It worked out for the best, as I was greeted by a fantastic throw-together, home-cooked meal of veal with chanterelles and salad with purple basil.)
I did, however, take advantage of an exciting development -- a pop-up restaurant had come to the valley (could it be the valley's first?). Georgio's Cucina is a two-month West Coast venture by New York-based chef, Gary Robins. It is in a strip mall off of a relatively foodie-rich part of Ventura Blvd (home to Sushi Nozawa, Asanebo, and Laurel Tavern), and the restaurant itself was an old school pizzeria complete with deep-red leather booths and a dark woody interior. I kind of loved the setting just for being so unpolished (and so valley) and it made the dining experience all about the food, which was fine because everything we had was delicious.
The meal began well with fabulous olive bread (care of La Brea Bakery) and citrus-y Arbequina olive oil (we asked for seconds...and thirds). We tried the house sangria (made simply with fruit and wine due to liquor license restrictions), which was pleasant and nicely infused with blood orange.
For starters, we ordered two different crudos -- they have a variety of flatbreads and an assortment of appetizers including duck polpette (meatballs) and grilled octopus. The crudos: first, the "capesante," which was sea scallop with pomegranate, basil, and toasted hazelnuts in a flavorful broth. The scallop was the most buttery and tender that I have ever tasted.
The second crudo was a thai snapper accompanied by japanese horseradish (I think this would be wasabi, and while I LOVED the dish, I could not detect a hint of the horseradish), yuzu and green apple. This dish was unique and supremely tasty.
For my entrée I ordered the pappardelle with braised duck in a porcini fennel broth topped off with aged pecorino. It was a perfect cozy-feeling Fall meal with a scent of tarragon and maybe a touch of five-spice. We also ordered the pumpkin gnocchi with sage brown butter, walnuts and pecorino -- this is a fairly common pairing but it was done exquisitely. The gnocchi were made without any potato, and they appeared to have been sautéed on the outside to give it a little crust. They were perfectly fluffy and creamy on the inside (some declared this the best dish of the night). Our final entrée selection was the porchetta served with polenta and broccoli rabe. Another great dish. The highlight: the most beautifully crisp skin I've ever tasted.
We couldn't leave without trying a dessert, so we all split the flourless chocolate cake. I really enjoyed it, some wanted it to be more dense. It tasted like a chocolate mousse with a crispy top crust -- what is there to complain about?
I really enjoyed Georgio's (also, our server was lovely, and to top it off we could actually hear one another speaking) and I hope hope hope that Gary Robins decides to take up permanent residence in the 818.

Monday, October 4, 2010

CUESA Sunday Supper 2010

I got an immense treat this weekend in the form of a seat at CUESA's annual dinner at the Ferry Building!
The first part of the event was the 'cocktail reception,' which was made up of about thirty different appetizer stations, each with its own creation from a participating chef (the chef line-up was pretty spectacular, with dishes from big names like Liza Shaw of A16, Chris Cosentino of Boccalone and Phil West of Range).
A couple of the highlights were:
- Smoked opah belly salad with coriander yogurt, dehydrated pumpernickel (aka a crouton), and compressed cucumber (don't ask me what this means, but it was great) from Mark Richardson of Seasons Restaurant.
- Shrimp tacos with pickled chili peppers from Mark Dommen of One Market. It doesn't seem that innovative, but it was extremely tasty.
- Braised red kale agnolotti with olive oil croutons from Dmitry Elperin of The Village Pub. This was the first dish I tried and, I say this as a kale opponent, it was delish -- the tiny croutons provided a great textural contrast.
I'm trying to stop myself but I have one more...
- Chilled avocado soup with cumin crema and corn-poblano relish by Antelmo Faria of Tacolicious.
They also offered ... COCKTAILS! I tried the "proper pluot" (from Tony Devencenzi of Bourbon and Branch), which had pluot juice, gin, something I can't remember and bitters. It tasted like a wonderfully refreshing glass of Christmas (the flavor of the bitters, I guess?). I also sampled the Daisy Cutter from Greg Lindgren of Rye. It was made with watermelon juice, Charbay tequila, meyer lemon juice and a touch of agave. Quite nice, although very similar (virtually identical) to the watermelon margarita I make myself.

At seven o'clock we trundled upstairs to the beautifully arranged upper deck of the ferry building. Having never been there for an event, nor having ever been on the second floor, I was awed by how beautiful the lighting and expansive set-up was (they had six long banquet tables laid out, about 60 people at each table), and each table had a separate menu composed of dishes by different participating chefs. The theme for this year's dinner was the 'whole-beast feast' and they carved the beasts tableside. We ended up at the chicken table (originally slated to be the duck table). The meal began with braised cauliflower and bulghur with bitter green salsa verde, garum, lemon and almonds from Lauren Kiino of Plum (the just-opened restaurant from Daniel Patterson of Coi-fame that I am looking forward to trying - click here for the lowdown). The starter course was wonderful, not too heavy but a nice fall-inspired mix of ingredients.

For the second course (my favorite!), we were served pork trotter scarpinocc (don't worry, this means ravioli) with lobster mushroom, horseradish (so they said, though I couldn't detect any), and watercress, created by Thomas McNaughton of Flour+Water. The scarpinocc was made with a delicate dumpling-like dough and was paired with Big Cypress Brown Ale. I don't usually like ales but I found this to be a pleasant pairing that made the ale taste almost chocolatey.

The entrée consisted of three parts: braised chicken legs with chicken sausages, shell beans with roasted tomatoes (mmm), and a 'salad' of rocket, gizzard confit and chicken cracklins all piled atop toasts shmeared with chicken liver, made by Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf.

To close, we had an almond milk tapioca with spiced kabocha puree and bronx grapes from Chucky Dugo of The Slanted Door. I am not a tapioca lover (texture) but this was very nice - the tapioca was mild with a nice, light nuttiness and the kabocha puree provided a comforting sweetness. The highlight of the dessert, for me, was the addition of the grapes - they were served on a skewer and were coated in some sort of a brittle. This meant that you bit off a piece of the hard, crisp brittle and then got a big pop of the fresh grape in the center - a very exciting closer indeed!