Author Archives: foodgal

Five Favorite Memories of My Mom

Mother's Day morning was made for Morning Glory muffins.

Mother’s Day morning was made for Morning Glory muffins.

 

1. My Mom was the epitome of lady-like. She always wore dresses or skirts — even on the weekends. I cannot even fathom her ever donning a pair of jeans. In fact, the only time I saw her in slacks was in photos from the cruises she took with my Dad, when pants were required attire for some events. Even today in my mind’s eye, that’s how I still picture her — with her hair coiffed perfectly, and dressed in a silky blouse tucked into a knee-length skirt.

2. She taught me how to sew and knit — and in so doing, the importance of a job done right. Eager to finish the scarf or jacket I was making, I’d often race through it if I could. But my Mom’s eagle eyes would see the dropped stitch that created that wayward little hole in the pattern or the seam that wasn’t exactly straight. I’d point out that the seam was on the inside and nobody would ever see it, only to have her tell me that I’d always know it was there even if no one else did. So, of course, I ripped it out and started over again until it was the way it should be.

3. Even though she worked full-time while raising three kids, cooking never seemed to be a chore to her. Not on harried weeknights. Not on weekends, either. In fact, when she suffered a stroke, it was cooking that she missed most. After enduring months of rehabilitation to regain her sense of balance and the strength in her arms, it was almost as if being able to stand at the stovetop with her trusty wok again was her greatest triumph. That was when I realized just how much feeding her family truly meant to her.

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Chamba’s Soup(er) Pot and A Food Gal Giveaway

La Chamba soup pot. (photo courtesy of La Chamba)

La Chamba soup pot. (photo courtesy of La Chamba)

 

Whenever I make a big pot of soup, I do so in a cheery lapis Le Creuset that I practically fill to overflow with stock and plenty of veggies and heirloom beans.

But imagine making soup in the striking pot pictured above. Its shape makes it ideal, doesn’t it?

Indeed, it was created just for that purpose, handmade in Columbia from black clay that contains mica, which allows it to withstand a lot of heat, as well as to retain heat.

La Chamba cookware is revered for its beauty and its performance. The unglazed pot can go on the stovetop, in the oven or even the microwave (well, if you’re using a small piece).

Just don’t put it in the dishwasher, though. And before using it for the first time, it must be seasoned by filling it three-quarters of the way with water and baking in a hot oven for half an hour.

Its bulbous shape makes me think of Chinese winter melon soup, a soothing sip if there ever was one.

At Chinese banquet meals, that soup would arrive inside the cavity of the huge winter melon itself, its thick jade-green rind often carved intricately with Chinese characters and its flesh having been scooped into balls or chunks to simmer in the bubbling broth.

My Mom often made a more simplified version in winter fortified with small slivers of chicken that had been coated in egg white to add tenderness.

With its quenching, almost watermelon-like texture, and its mild, subtle natural sweetness, it makes for a soup that goes down comfortingly and easily, and somehow always makes me think of family.

CONTEST: One lucky Food Gal reader will win a large, 6-quart La Chamba soup pot (a $69.95 value), courtesy of Toque Blanche, a gourmet cookware store in Half Moon Bay, which also has a sister store, Chefworks of Santa Cruz. It is the only direct importer in California that stocks the entire La Chamba line.

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Fun Nibbles At Oro in San Francisco

 

Say hello to the Scarlet & Gold at Oro.

Say hello to the Scarlet & Gold at Oro.

San Francisco’s Mint Plaza has been a revolving door of restaurants over the years.

So many have come and gone that it’s hard to keep track of them all.

Here’s hoping Oro, which opened last year, has sticking power.

I think the downtown location, while an easy hop across the street from the Fifth & Mission garage, can be a hurdle. It’s hard for people to remember that behind the imposing ornate edifice of the historic Mint Building is indeed a plaza ringed by restaurants.

The three-story Oro presents a sleek veneer with floor-to-ceiling windows and a steel-cable glassed staircase that dominates the first floor.

The sleek staircase that bisects the main dining room.

The sleek staircase that bisects the main dining room.

The artsy dining nook.

The artsy dining nook.

The restaurant also has a lot going for it, most notably Executive Jason Fox of San Francisco’s marvelous Commonwealth restaurant.

When I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant recently, I started with a Scarlet & Gold ($13) cocktail served in a pretty retro glass. This is the perfect sip for those who want something delicate and not-so-boozy. With gin, fennel, lemon, soda and a froth of egg white, it was light and refreshing.

What makes the menu so fun is that you can make a meal out of a traditional appetizer and entree or several snacks and single bites if you’re more in a grazing mood.

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Petit Pot — Pudding and Cookies, the French Way

Dark Chocolate Petit Pot with Vanilla French Mini Cookie.

Dark Chocolate Petit Pot with Vanilla French Mini Cookie.

 

When you shrink down desserts, they just get so adorable, don’t they?

Not to mention irresistible since you so want to covet one all to yourself.

Petit Pot’s pot de cremes and shortbread cookies make that easy to do.

The South San Francisco company was founded by Frenchmen, Pierre Coeurdeuil, a former Valrhona food engineer; and Pastry Chef Max Pouvreau, who has worked at Coi and Radius restaurants, both in San Francisco.

They specialize in certified organic French pots de creme in various flavors that are sold in individual glass jars, as well as little round shortbread cookies. Of course, the two together make for a perfect dessert duo. I had a chance recently to try samples.

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Back in the Day — Brown Sugar Bundt Cake with Butterscotch Glaze

My idea of a post workout snack.

My idea of a post workout snack.

 

Back in the day, my friend Julie and I would spend the few minutes after before our cycling class trading stories about our baking conquests.

Yes, it’s not uncommon for me to talk about food at the gym. No matter if my fellow gym rats know what I do for a living or not, we somehow always manage to gab about what we’ve cooked or eaten lately.

But then again, I guess that’s why we all go to the gym in the first place — to do penance for all the calories we’ve either already consumed or are about to after that grueling class ends.

Like me, Julie loves to bake. After pedaling like there’s no tomorrow, she’d tell me about the fruit pies she baked during the holidays and the biscuits she labored over to perfect, even going so far as to mail-order just the right flour to ensure they’d bake up extra light and flaky.

BackInTheDayCookbook

Although Julie has since moved on to do her pedaling at another gym, I remember how she was especially excited about traveling to the South to take a few baking classes. When she came back, she surprised me with a gift: a copy of the “The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook” (Artisan, 2012). Autographed, too, by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day, the owners of the Savannah, GA Back in the Day Bakery.

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