Thursday, August 30, 2012

Whole Foods Pizza - in honor of National Cheese Pizza Day

What can I say? It was getting late, I was hungry, and I had a coupon. I usually get my slices at Napoli on Polk, but I was closer to the Pac Heights Whole Foods and I had a BOGO from Chinook Book, so I gave it a try. I took my slices home to reheat, as they would have cooled off on the way, so that may have made somewhat of a difference.

My first choice was the white pizza. It had a cottage cheese (I think) base, with rounds of mozzarella on top of slices of tomato on top of basil leaves, so it was more of a Caprese. Later I discovered the third round of mootz stuck to the bottom of the foil separating the two slices (see naked tomato in picture). The crust was thin, but nowhere near crisp.

 The cheese slice didn't look very enticing, but I didn't want two of the same thing. I know I can't expect every pizza to be a stunning experience, but this was more of a soggy-crusted melted cheese experience. You can check out some great cheese pizza experiences at Serious Eats in honor of National Cheese Pizza Day.

I grew up in New Haven, CT, where pizza is taken as seriously as religion. Or maybe it is a religion. Arguments between the advocates of the various pizzerias can get pretty heated. The restaurants themselves don't have a problem with each other, but their customers are fiercely—and sometimes combatively—loyal.

My family almost always went to Sally's on Wooster Street, with an occasional visit to Pepe's or The Spot. The last time my childhood friend and I went to New Haven, though, we hit town at 9:00 on a Saturday night. Wanting to eat, not stand in line for two hours, we went to Ernie's in Westville. Immediate seating and New Haven pizza. We were happy.

In the future, I will go further afield to Napoli, which makes an old-fashioned New York street window pizza, or Victor's, which serves a very crispy crusted pie. Both also have a full menu of Italian specialties. Check out Scoutmob, LevelUpGoPago and Chinook Book (requires buying the coupon book in advance, though) if you want to sign up and get deals for food and restaurants around San Francisco without having to buy a deal in advance!


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Food Festival, Part 2

Welcome to the second section of the report on our adventures at the San Francisco Street Food Festival (version 2012). We have an abundance of food porn to share with you, so let's get going on the rest of this epic day of eating!

This Pickled Cucumber Salad comes courtesy of Nojo. We have eaten at Nojo restaurant several times (see blog post Domo Arigoto Mr. Nojo). This cucumber salad with seaweed dusted on it was umami all over. It also helped to balance all the fried and fatty foods we consumed throughout the day.

Even though Angela can only think of that Cracker song whenever someone mentions Eurotrash, the Prawn Baguette was a nice blend of crispy shrimps, tasty bread and a veggie slaw.

Zella's Soulful Kitchen Jacked Up these Hush Puppies with corn, hot peppers and aioli.

Rice Paper Scissors  were a winner of the Food Fest Local Foragers contest and were able to get a *free* booth to help them tout their wares. None of us had eaten fried daikon cake before so it was a delicious adventure. We have eaten their Bahn Mi when they've hosted their pop-ups. Both J.K. and Angela voted for them.

Nombe Izakaya brought their A-game with Takoyaki!! Yay! (octopus, ginger and  scallions with bonito flakes) Angela always tries to get her fix in Japantown, but these guys were piping hot with the cripsy outside and the wonderful soft inside she loves (mmmm, mayonnaise--more for me J.K. since you don't like it.)

Sadly their drink choice did not hit a home run, in fact, it struck out!

We got 4 drink tickets with our passport. This one was a 'free' drink in our book. (We didn't want to pretend we paid for it!) The words Virgin Hibiscus Sangria sound very appealing. The actual taste was Lipton's iced tea+lime juice+steeped in hibiscus. Why is anyone serving Lipton's at a food show in this day and age??  We all agreed this drink would have been helped immensely by a non-citrus juice as the lime and hibiscus combined sour forces. The pucker of this drink was mitigated somewhat by a couple shots of the raspberry syrup that accompanied our next choice, the fried caramel pop from Claire's Squares.

Uh-oh! You'll have to tune in for the next installment of SF Street Food Festival (version 2012) in order to see the Claire's Squares treat we tried. Thanks again to La Cocina for sponsoring the festival and helping people with food dreams get their start in the business world!

Monday, August 27, 2012

This dinner brought to you by the letters "F" and "S".

It's dinner time! Come on over and see what everyone else made. That's right, this dinner features goodies from the Food Swap. Specifically, pulled pork, creme fraiche, mahummara, gazpacho and brandied cherries. The 'theme' for tonight is multi-ethnic tacos. Using the pulled pork as the protein, the mahummara as sauce (instead of as dip) and creme fraiche instead of sour cream. I'll let  guests assemble their own tacos (avocado, tomato, shredded cheese, giant white beans and blackened jalapeno peppers will also be available). The tortillas I bought are made by a partner of the 2011 SF Food Fest, Mission Foods. I really like the Ancient Grains flavor.

On the side we will have Stephanie's gazpacho and a raw kale salad (with apple & carrots). Dessert will be fruits, Big Choffy Balls and toffee.

Our featured cocktail will be a Bacon Ginger Beer. This will be a mixed drink using my Pear-Ginger Beer, Bakon flavored vodka and  Boozey cherries with sliced pear as garnish.

Let's eat!!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

SF Food Swap -Angela

For this Food Swap, I made Rustic Chocolate Choffy Truffles .
(informally named 'Big Chocolate Choffy Balls).

Per my disclosure in the Ginger Beer post, I didn't use a recipe. I did use a recipe the first time I  made truffles, but I no longer remember which one or even where it came from (cookbook? internet? magazine?) More about the truffles below, but on to the SWAP!

This was my second Food Swap, and thanks to Aimee and Stephanie for being the guiding lights behind this great SF event. For basic info on how a Swap works, click here.  Around 20 people gathered in the Sport's Basement Grotto ready to share and trade homemade goodies after a delicious potluck. Pictured is my First plate (and dessert plate). As people continued to arrive, the potluck table continued to grow with an amazing array of fruit, meat, salads, desserts, crackers and dips (this was in addition to the foods on offer as a part of the swap). These pictures show only a very small sampling of the culinary delights available that evening.

I brought 8 baggies (with 8 big Choffy balls each) plus some to cut up for tasting. My favorite overheard comment regarding these truffles, "They don't look that chocolate-y, but they have a Strong chocolate flavor." Thank You! It's nice to get feedback about your goodies, especially as I had been a bit worried that the Choffy was too strong flavorwise for most people to handle. I was lucky enough to swap for these 9 items.

You may have noticed, hey Angela, you brought 8 items to trade, but left with 9? Well, that is the nature of the swap. I had handed out all 8 bags, but had some of the truffles left over from the tasting tray which allowed me to swap (with a bonus bag of caramels from JK's stash) for a ninth item. So I guess I'm sharing those boozey cherries. I may blog more in the future about what I'm using from these items as there are so many, too many to do justice to each on this one post. Below is my very basic set up on the swap table. Some swappers made lovely presentations for their goods, but I went simple. No muss, no fuss this time around!

Okay you guys, here is a basic truffle recipe.(dessert circus!!) I'm sure it will work fine. If not, well, let me know and I'll do a step by step photo blog and write the truffle recipe down as I go--which means I'll have to measure and whatnot, but hey in the interest of other peoples interest that's a sacrifice I can make. I suppose.

More importantly I have some chocolate truffle Tips for you.
1. Do not be afraid. Rustic truffles are VERY EASY. Unless you are afraid and then it is very hard.
2. Equipment=easy
I use- glass bowl+sauce pan=double boiler, 2 forks, one heat resistant spatula, 2-3 round cake pans, parchment or wax paper (you only need a tempering machine if you want shiny truffles, not the rustic kind)
3. the chocolate melting/tempering
Good chocolate = Valrhona 
decent chocolate = Trader Joes 72% pound plus bar (what I had on hand this time)
You can remelt (temper)  anything. This means when your Amazingly delicious Valhrona seizes you take a piece of unmelted (tempered) chocolate bar and add it. Wait until the heat from the chocolate has melted it and then stir until your coating chocolate is once again smooth and glossy. 
4. Round cake pans allow you to roll your truffles easily in your choice of Rustic coating (nuts, cocoa powder, whatnot). Place pans in the fridge for a few minutes to crisp up the chocolate after their final coating.
5. Do not forget which is your dipping fork vs your coating fork.
6. Make very small ganache balls if you want the truffles to be bite size. Mine are usually 2 bites as I always forget this step when beginning and then can't be bothered to change size midway through the process.
7. Truffles take time. Do not scrimp on time or try to make truffles in a hurry. They are easy, but labor intensive. Make a friend come help if you are in a hurry. You can do things while making truffles, but only if they are simple. Consider these okay- put laundry from washer to dryer (wash hands first), let demanding cat in/out the door, toast a cheese sandwich. Do Not think you have time to- check email, blog or facebook. Do not vacuum. This is not a lasagna.

Good Luck and get ready to impress!

P.S. If you would like me to do a step by step truffle blog, please let me know in the comments below.

4th Annual San Francisco Street Food Festival pt. 1

For the third year in a row, Angela, J.K., and our friend Mel went to the San Francisco Street Food Festival (Saturday, August 18, 2012) sponsored by La Cocina. This was such a massive event that we're going to have to tell you about it in several posts. We purchased the $100 Passport, which gave us $115 of food tickets and 4 soft drink tickets. (We were expecting more people, but knew we could make it work out if they didn't show.) Tokens ($4 each) were available for alcoholic beverages, but at one token for beer and two tokens for very small drinks, we decided to forgo the adult beverages.

The day was glorious. Hot, but not too hot, so we could spend the whole day outside, eating, people-watching, and generally enjoying ourselves. We arrived early, picked up our passport and two flavors of Hint water (watermelon and pomegranate-tangerine). This brand has hardly any flavor at all, but good smells waft around every time you open the bottle. If you're looking for a sugary soft drink you won't like it, but it's a refreshing change from the “raw water” taste of most bottled waters.
This year's arrangement was much better than last years festival. Instead of a “square” of streets, the whole festival ran along Folsom, from 20th to 25th, with limited use of cross streets for non-food booths, so it was easy to find all the vendors, who were lined up on one side of the street. There was plenty of table and seating space, much of it under trees, so there was shade for those who wanted it.

State Bird Provisions was by far the most popular booth at the Festival. They just won Bon Appetit's 2012 Restaurant of the Year, so people were eager to try them out. There was already a substantial line at 10:45, but the line moved fast, and we had to wait only 15 minutes after the Festival opened at 11:00 to get our delicious garlic bread with cheese and tomato giardiniere. The giardiniere was delicious, but not what we expected. Instead of having a tangy vinegar flavor, it was sweet.We paired the State Bird selections with sweet potato fries from Liba Falafel. Also delicious. Actually, almost everything was delicious, so we're going to stop using that word. We'll just let you know if we didn't happen to like something, and why.

Next we tried the grilled leg of lamb and and lemon verbena lemonade from Radio Africa Kitchen. Mel and J.K. grabbed some table space while Angela went to get a tinga tostada from L's Caffe to go with it. The lamb was rare and tender; the veggies were good, especially the carrots. We liked the tostada with its creamy mexican cheese and crunch from the 'shell.' The lemon verbena lemonade was a surprise pink, but we learned that comes from the root of the plant. The flavor was subtle and yummy.

On the way back to eat Angela spotted the watermelon ice at the Bi-Rite Creamery stand and couldn't resist getting that, too. The popsicle tasted like summer, a yummy watermelon puree. We could have cheerfully eaten another one, but knew from past experience to save room for more culinary delights.
We hope you enjoyed reading part one of our adventure. There is much more to blog about the Street Food Fest and we are delighted to share it with you. You'll notice following the links that this festival is about everything from well-established restaurants to food trucks, catering and even food businesses just getting started. This helps make the venue fun and brings together a wide (tasty) variety of choices for the consumer. The tiered pricing allows people to try a variety of  foods even on a budget. (small bites $2-4/large bites not allowed to cost over $10) Viva La Cocina! Next year let's figure out how to make a tequila jello shot NOT cost $8, eh?

P.S. Angela also hopes they adopt this pricing structure if they continue forward with the charity event Night Market, which was Friday night. I attended and was disappointed by the prices vs. small unimaginative portions at some booths. The lack of preparedness at other booths made me hope it was just first year wrinkles that will be ironed out by next year!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Ice Cream Social

Even though we don't have "Summer," San Francisco eats a LOT of ice cream. Lately our fair city has had more than its fair share of shops scooping up delicious in-house made ice creams. 

Our latest adventure was at the Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley. This place features servers in black and white (men wear bow ties please) with perfect smiles ready to take your order (and supply tasting spoons to the indecisive) at either the Ice Cream counter or the Soda Fountain counter. They offer a wide variety of flavors including vegan options. The prices are reasonable considering everything is housemade. There was a small line when we arrived, but Angela chose to wait to decide. Of course J.K. knew right away what she wanted....

Milk Chocolate+Chocolate Sorbet

The Chocolate Sorbet was very rich. It was like having hot fudge sauce on top of the mild Milk Chocolate flavor. When J.K. ordered the two scoops, the server asked if she wanted both scoops in the same dish. Obviously, she didn't know us!

Angela finally narrowed it down and chose a trio of flavors topped with Caramel sauce. A healthy helping of calcium featuring....

Honey Buttermilk+Butterscotch+Bourbon Malt Peanut Butter Cookie.

We also got a handmade Root Beer from the Soda Jerk working the counter. He put the plain soda in our glass and added house made syrups to make it Root Beer flavored. There was a very strong licorice scent, but the flavor was not overpowering. It didn't have much 'bite' to it, but was a gentle flavor until the bottom of the glass where it was a bit bitter. Perhaps we should have stirred it?

We will visit here again, to try more flavors of ice cream and perhaps check out their hot foods as well. Thanks for the suggestion from Snackreligous  who sent this Serious Eats post reminding us to point our feet in the door of the Ice Cream Bar instead of just walking on past. It was well worth stepping inside.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Pear+Ginger+Sugar=Beer? -Angela

I have been enticed into making my own Ginger Beer. I first read the recipe on Homemade Trade's blog and followed the recipe around to WellPreserved. Once I aquired the bottles to use for ageing my Beer, I started my Ginger 'bug'. Amazingly it was foamy and bubbly the next morning. I wasn't sure what to do, so I kept feeding it for a couple days and it was happily fizzing the whole time.

My ingredients. I chose to add pears to the mix, as our tree in the backyard has been making them doubletime. I had to use two kinds of sugar to make the 1 1/2 cups needed.

Here is the 'bug' ready for action. This yeasty little guy will make the bubble action happen in my soda.

 I decided about this much pears would be good added into the pot with the sugar, whole (rough chopped) ginger root and vanilla bean.

Okay, full disclosure. I am a cook. I am not a scientist. My co-blogger J.K. loves baking for its cups and measures. Recipes are nice, but I prefer to think of them as guidelines. I like to follow it the first time and see how it goes, but I'm liable to mix it up (hence pears and vanilla bean, instead of the lemon juice suggested in the original recipe). However. It disturbed not to know How Long to boil this medley. It roiled along for about 5 or 10 minutes and then I tasted it, decided it was yummy and turned it off. Time was wasting!

 In interest of time, I chilled the 'syrup' (see that was my dilemma, how can it be syrup if it's thin? Was it supposed to be thick? If so, how the heck would it yield 4 liters of soda/beer??) the quick way, using ice packs in addition to stirring to help it get to room temperature.

I strained it several times after stirring in the bug using a small strainer lined with cheese cloth. Some commenters on WellPreserved had made me nervous with stories of mold and bad Beer due to food left in the Beer. Sadly this meant much of my vanilla seeds were left in the cloth. Next time I would boil the bean whole with the fruit and then slice it to add the vanilla nuggets before bottling.

Once the final water was added, I gave it a stir and then bottled it. Yay, Ginger Beer! We will see what happens. I didn't want any explosions (even though the bottles are in the basement in a cardboard box.) so I left room for air at the top. I have no idea if that choice will affect the fermentation process. I suppose I should have looked it up. I'll update in a week or so after the first taste. Fingers crossed!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Domo Arigato Mr. Nojo

Tea Time Alert--

Nojo's has temporarily closed as it was recently purchased by a global restaurant concern. We hope the rumors of it turning into a ramen shop are false... where will Tea Time go to get our Sundae Fix?? Also, we'll miss the Support Your Local Nojo t-shirts the staff wore. It's scheduled to reopen 10.01.15 under the new management. 
Nojo is a great not-so-new restaurant in the Hayes Valley hood. We originally found this city gem through Blackboard Eats, a local discount site. The coupon was for a five course "Seasonal Miso Omakase" tasting menu. It's a great deal for only $30, letting you taste a wide variety of their dishes.

The first course is a lovely salad, “little gems with creamy miso dressing.”  We forgot to take a picture of it. (Beginning Bloggers! Don't worry we'll soon be annoying regular diners at every flash.)  It was a normal butter lettuce salad, excepting the flat (homemade!) noodles which one diner liked for their creamy texture, but one diner didn't because they didn't "add" to the salad for her. 

The second course was miso soup, with a lot of little mushrooms and other bits and bobs floating around in it. Strong delicious smells and flavor in the beginning, but by the end of the bowl the tastes had homogenized. Perhaps a slightly smaller portion to enhance the flavor profiles?

Next up was a chicken skewer with garlic-barley miso butter. The sauce was light and the chicken hearty.

After that, the kitchen got confused and served us dessert, a beer and buckwheat crepe with a scoop of miso ice cream. "Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."
Angela prefers a crispy crepe, but this one was good with a nice variety of textures. 

So after dessert, we had our fish. The Nojo menu said trout, but we were served an excellent piece of salmon with a white miso glaze, chives and forest mushrooms.

If you are able to go check out Nojo make sure to skip the crepe for dessert and get their Nojo Sundae! Please, eat one for us. (link stolen since she had the best photo–Thanks mystery Yelper!)

If you have any ideas about where we should eat, drop us a line! We are always on the lookout for tasty new-to-us eateries, be it at Tea Time, Lunch Time, or  Food Truck Timereally we are down to snack just about Any Time.

National S'mores Day--JK

Campfire Cookies

Years ago, I bought a product called Marshmallow Gems from King Arthur Flour. These are the mini marshmallows the cookie manufacturers use. They have a list of ingredients that I don't want to think about, but they don't melt in the oven. I have been looking for them ever since, to no avail.
Recently, the crunchy little marshmallows that come in those envelopes of hot chocolate mix have become available. They don't work in recipes that call for mini marshmallows, but Carrie Vassios over at Serious Eats published a recipe that uses them. Friday was National S'Mores Day, and these are Campfire Cookies.

I made my graham cracker crumbs in my Vita Mix, and used milk chocolate chips instead of chocolate chunks. The cookies are delicious, but they would be even better with Marshmallow Gems. Anybody out there know where I can get cookie factory marshmallows?