Category Archives: Chefs

Baking A Childhood Favorite: Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake

Blum's coffee crunch cake -- it's not nearly as hard to make as you might think.

Blum’s coffee crunch cake — it’s not nearly as hard to make as you might think.

 

If you grew up way back when in San Francisco like me, no doubt you grew up obsessed with Blum’s coffee crunch cake.

This neighborhood bakery was famed for this airy two-layer cake slathered inside and out with swirls of coffee whipped cream. The piece de resistance? The shellacking of crunchy toffee pieces all over it.

It was the cake families bought for birthdays, and all manner of other celebrations. Mine certainly did. That cake was always front and center for my birthday, as well as my two brothers’.

The secret was that you had to eat as much of it as you could that very first day. Because once refrigerated overnight, the toffee pieces turned soft and soggy, and not nearly as appealing. So I cop to always cutting myself a rather gargantuan piece as a child. It’s a wonder my parents let me get away with that, let alone eating a coffee-laced product at that age, when they’d never let a brewed cup itself pass my lips.

Thank goodness they did, too, because that cake remains an iconic part of my childhood. Just the thought of it is enough to make me smile big-time.

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Teni East Kitchen — A Gem in Oakland

Chef Tiyo Shibabaw at her Teni East Kitchen.

Chef Tiyo Shibabaw at her Teni East Kitchen.

 

What’s an Ethiopia-born chef doing cooking Burmese food?

Living out a delectable dream, that’s what.

Tiyo Shibabaw, born and raised in Ethiopia where her parents run a hotel and restaurant, always knew she wanted to be in the hospitality industry.

But it wasn’t until she moved to the Bay Area that she found her calling in Southeast Asian cuisines, most notably after going to work at Burma Superstar. Although she started there as a general manager, it wasn’t long before she began apprenticing in the kitchen. She was soon tapped to open the Burma Superstar in Alameda, followed by one in Oakland.

After 10 years, she left the fold to step out on her own, opening her Teni East Kitchen in 2016 that’s named for her mother.

Textbook roti.

Textbook roti.

As she explained when I was invited in last week as a guest of her restaurant, she fell in love with the deep, complex flavors of Burmese cuisine that are multi-layered thanks to its judicious use of spices much like in Ethiopian cooking.

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The Plumed Horse’s Trifecta

Chef Peter Armellino in his element at his new Pasta Armellino.

Chef Peter Armellino in his element at his new Pasta Armellino.

 

If you only know the Plumed Horse for being the chic Michelin one-starred restaurant in downtown Saratoga, wait until you hear what it’s been up to.

It’s added not one, but two sister properties just steps away.

The Plumed Horse Collection, as it’s now known, debuts today the casual Pasta Armellino across the street. I had a chance to check it out last week at a private media event.

It officially opens today.

It officially opens today.

San Francisco graffiti artist Chris Kondo's handiwork.

San Francisco graffiti artist Chris Kondo’s handiwork.

Executive Chef Peter Armellino, who’s headed the Plumed Horse for a decade, has expanded his reach with this 60-seat eatery that’s all about home-made pastas.

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David Chang’s Clam Juk

Tuck into a big bowl of clam juk by David Chang.

Tuck into a big bowl of clam juk by David Chang.

 

If ever a book captures just what a delicious, beautiful and bountiful buffet of cultures and peoples we are, “America The Great Cookbook” does.

The cookbook (Welden Owen), of which I received a review copy, was edited by Joe Yonan, food and dining editor at the Washington Post. It features iconic recipes from 100 of America’s best chefs and food heroes.

What is American food? It is “Creole Gumbo” by Leah Chase of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant in New Orleans. It is “Yun-Hui (My Mother’s) Red-Cooked Pork” by Cecilia Chiang, ground-breaking San Francisco restaurateur. It is “Maple-Glazed Roasted Acorn Squash with Toasted Pepitas” by Sean Sherman, founder of The Sioux Chef in Minneapolis. It is “Soft-Shell Crabs with Shishito Mole, Roasted Tomatoes, and Lemon Balm” by Daniela Soto-Innes, chef of Cosme in New York. It is “Baklava Cheesecake” by food blogger Amanda Saab, founder of “Dinner with Your Muslim Neighbor.” And it is so much more.

AmericaTheGreatCookbook

For me, Asian rice porridge, congee or jook (or juk) is a comforting taste of America, because I’ve grown up enjoying it here. I’ve spooned up its thick, creamy deliciousness countless times when my Mother would make it, typically after Thanksgiving, using the turkey carcass as the base for its broth. Or anytime my stomach was upset, when she would whip it up to soothe me.

“Clam Juk” is by New York’s David Chang, chef and founder of Momofuku. It’s a slightly more fanciful version of the basic congee, with its addition of pickled clams, which are quite easy to make.

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A Fondness For Farro Torta

A most versatile torta filled with eggs, veggies, fresh herbs and nutty farro.

A most versatile torta filled with eggs, veggies, fresh herbs and nutty farro.

 

Is it a frittata? Or a quiche?

It’s a hybrid that is definitely authentic.

After all, “Farro Torta” comes from the new cookbook, “Autentico: Cooking Italian, the Authentic Way” (St. Martin’s), of which I received a review copy.

It’s by Rolando Beramendi, founder of Italian fine food importer Manicaretti, who splits his time between San Francisco, New York and Florence. His expertise on all things Italian has been lauded by the likes of Ina Garten, Alice Waters, Thomas Keller, and Nancy Silverton.

autentico-cover-web

As he writes in the intro of the book: “I cook food in its most authentic form. I cook to break preconceived notions of what food should be — no overcrowded plates, no recipes with too many disparate ingredients, no out-of-season ingredients, no need for a lot of equipment. I make no-fuss food for my guests and myself that nourishes both hearts and our stomachs.”

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