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A Look Back at the Tastiest Bites of 2012

Monday, 31. December 2012 5:25

Which restaurant dishes would I gladly enjoy again and again because they were deliriously delicious and magically memorable?

Oh, so many.

When putting together this list, though, I left off any foie gras dishes (since restaurants are banned from selling them in California now) and any dishes that I deliberately chose not to photograph in order to just enjoy the moment (Le Bernardin in New York).

Here, in no particular order, are the 10 dishes of 2012 that were my most favorite:

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Category:Chefs, General, Great Finds, Restaurants | Comments (11) | Author:

Bouchon Bakery’s Incomparable Blueberry Muffins

Wednesday, 28. November 2012 5:25

Just try to resist these perfect blueberry muffins.

Imagine a muffin that’s moist through and through, tender and fluffy rather than dense, filled with plump blueberries, and crowned with a majestic halo of crunchy, nutty streusel.

Leave it to one of the world’s best chefs, Thomas Keller, to elevate the humble blueberry muffin to a work of art.

I’ve had these many a time at his Bouchon Bakery in Yountville.

But with the publication of his “Bouchon Bakery” (Artisan) with his Executive Pastry Chef Sebastien Rouxel of the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group, I can now make them happily at home. The cookbook, of which I recently received a review copy, includes 150 recipes for pastries and breads. Some like the Pear Feuilletes, made with homemade puff pastry, are geared to the more skilled baker. But there are plenty of others such as the Chocolate Chunk and Chip Cookies that novice bakers will embrace.

The “Blueberry Muffins” are quite simple, too. Keller writes in the book that the key to a great muffin is resting the batter overnight in the refrigerator. This allows the flour to absorb all the liquid, resulting in a very moist muffin. Plus if you make it the day before, it’s all set to go for baking in the morning. What a way to wake up.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, General, Great Finds, Recipes (Sweet), Thomas Keller/French Laundry/Et Al | Comments (17) | Author:

William May, the Famous Doorman at the San Francisco Fairmont

Friday, 16. November 2012 5:25

San Francisco's fabled doorman, William May.

Most people only notice service when it’s bad.

Because when it’s good, every need is anticipated so you never have to ask for anything.

William May prides himself on that kind of outstanding service.

For 26 years, he’s been the main doorman at the world-famous Fairmont San Francisco, the grand hotel where kings, queens and every U.S. president has stayed.

For many guests, he’s the first face to greet them when they visit San Francisco, setting the tone for the rest of their stay.

You might not think the position of doorman anything exceptional. But May has turned it into not only a skill, but an art form. In the process, the 60-year-old May has become as much of a  celebrity as the 105-year-old hotel atop Nob Hill, itself.

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Category:General, Great Finds, More Food Gal -- In Other Publications | Comments (7) | Author:

Best Apple Cake EVER — Courtesy of Pastry Chef Joanne Chang

Tuesday, 6. November 2012 5:25

The apple cake to end all apple cakes. Sheer perfection.

Throw out all those other apple cake recipes. Even the ones handed down to you by relatives (Sacrilege, I know. But you’ll get over the guilt.)

Because the only one you need is this one.

How incredible is this apple cake?

My husband, who doesn’t even like apples (Is there such a person?), took one bite and mid-chew mumbled, “This IS good! And you know, I don’t even like apples.” (Uh, yup, duly noted.)

The name, “Apple Snacking Spice Cake,” doesn’t even do it justice. That moniker conjures up a simple after-school cake baked in a square pan, and cut up to eat out of hand.

That is not this cake.

Rather, this cake is round, tall and the color of dark caramel. It is jam-packed with fruit, too. The batter is quite thick. In fact, it’s almost more apples than actual batter. If that weren’t enough, there’s also a full cup of toasted pecans in it, too. For good measure, there’s also a big handful of raisins. I actually used dried mulberries instead because I love their date-like taste.

A profusion of apples and pecans in every slice.

The result is a cake, in which every bite is a riot of apples and nuts, as well as warm spices of ginger, cloves and cinnamon. But don’t think this cake is too moist like a dreaded fruitcake. Nope, it’s tender and its moistness level is just right. What’s more, when it bakes up, the top of the cake gets that heavenly crisp, crackly texture we all can’t resist.

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Category:Bakeries, Chefs, Fruit, General, Great Finds, Recipes (Sweet) | Comments (29) | Author:

Chinese Cheap Eats in Los Angeles

Friday, 19. October 2012 5:25

Hainan chicken -- comfort on a plate at Savoy Kitchen.

LOS ANGELES and VICINITY — Hainan chicken is pure comfort food to me. It’s nothing fancy. But there’s just something wonderfully satisfying about a plate of tender poached chicken served with rice infused with the resulting savory chicken broth.

So, when Chef Will Pacio of Spice Kit in San Francisco and Palo Alto recommended Savoy Kitchen in Alhambra, famous for its Hainanese chicken rice, I knew I had to check it out.

With its European sounding name and bistro-type outdoor seating flanked by trees lit up with strings of blinking lights, it hardly resembles an Asian restaurant from the outside. Inside, the space is tiny, with just a few tables and some counter seating. It also has a rather head-scratching menu. Yes, there is the Hainan chicken. But there’s also escargot, sausage pasta, and conch pizza. Go figure.

We were there for the Hainan chicken, of course. For $6.95, you get an ample portion of chicken, served traditionally at room temperature, along with a mound of rice that has soaked up all that chicken-y flavor, and three dipping sauces: pounded ginger, chili with garlic and sweet dark soy. For $1 more, you can exchange a portion of the rice for a simple iceberg salad with tomatoes and a creamy Italian-esque dressing instead.

The white meat chicken was juicy, and the rice moist and slightly oily from all that chicken-y goodness. Smear some ginger sauce over it all and experience total contentment.

The place was packed on a Saturday night. There were plenty of folks picking up take-out, too. With chicken this good, who can blame them?

The Din Tai Fung dumpling mascot greets you at the door.

What I wouldn’t give for a Din Tai Fung in the Bay Area. But alas, this dumpling house out of Taiwan only has locations in the United States in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Whenever I’m in Los Angeles, I have to stop into the Din Tai Fung in Arcadia. Actually, there are two in Arcadia, practically right next to one another. There’s almost always a line to get in. But because they’re so efficient (think servers with headphones who roam the dining room while always in communication with the kitchen), the wait is never that long.

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Category:General, Great Finds, Restaurants, Travel Adventures | Comments (7) | Author: