How pretty is this lemon cake from Sycamore Kitchen?
Sure, they serve lunch, but I was there for the baked goods. But of course.
Husband and wife owners Quinn and Karen Hatfield cooked for a spell in San Francisco, before departing for Los Angeles to open Hatfield’s. In 2012, they also opened the Sycamore Kitchen, an urban cafe and bakery with a large outdoor patio.
Karen is a long-time pastry chef, so it’s no surprise that the pastries excel here.
How good are they?
Let’s start with the buttercup ($3.50), the renamed version of a kougin-amann. It’s buttery alright. It’s also the closest kouign-amann I’ve found to that of Belinda Leong’s of B. Patisserie in San Francisco and John Shelsta’s of Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Redwood City (he trained with Leong). It’s golden and crisp, with airy layers that are just a smidge heavier in texture than Leong’s and Shelsta’s versions. It’s a dream to nibble on.
The buttercup (kouign-amann).
Yup, this is a babka.
Then there are the cookies. At first glance, they look incredibly flat and thin — almost as if they were a mistake. But take a bite of the rice crispy cookie ($2.50) and the oatmeal toffee cookie ($2.25) and you know they were baked with purpose. The thinness means they are somehow crisp and chewy through and through. Brilliant.
A new way to enjoy tea.
Pique will definitely pique your interest and taste buds.
Imagine brewing a cup of tea — without any loose leaves or tea bag involved.
Pique makes it possible with its genius tea crystals.
Simon Cheng, who grew up in Hong Kong and California, founded the San Francisco company. A lifelong tea aficionado, he wanted to find a better, more convenient way to enjoy a cup of tea.
So, he brewed tea, then removed the leaves, before distilling it into crystals that are packed into individual one-cup packets.
What a year in food.
It’s never easy narrowing down so many meals to just the few dishes I can’t stop thinking about, and could eat again and again.
Here are my Top 10 eats of the year, in no particular order. Cheers to all the chefs who work so hard to make our lives so delicious.
A bone-in ham to put all others to shame. From Snake River Farms.
I often keep old Christmas cards, and sometimes the gently-used ribbons and bows, too.
But one thing I make a point never to discard is something all together different.
From the Thanksgiving turkey. From the Christmas ham.
They are always wrapped carefully with aluminum foil, then tucked inside a heavy-duty plastic bag in a safe place in my freezer.
That’s when I take them out for their intended purpose, one that I look forward to every year after the holiday season.
Yes, this is pretty much how I ate this fantastic spread.
See that hazelnut spread above?
I’d like to tell you that I came up with all sorts of inventive ways to use it in baking. But the truth is that I ate that entire jar of Nuubia Hazelnut Spread simply by the languid spoonful, day after day, until it was emptied.
I’m not ashamed. Because it was that irresistible.
So forget braving the malls today. Just do yourself a favor and go Nuubia’s online site to order a jar instead — for yourself or your chocoholic friends. Or take a trip to the Nuubia store/cafe, which just opened this year in the lobby of the Twitter building in San Francisco, or to its Pleasanton headquarters that has an artisan kitchen.