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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Sprogs — A Fun-To-Eat, On-The-Go Snack

Front to Back: Bacon & Egg, Kale & Kimchee, and Coconut Red Lentil Sprogs.

Front to Back: Bacon & Egg, Kale & Kimchee, and Coconut Red Lentil Sprogs.

 

Are you a fan of onigiri — the Japanese rice balls wrapped around centers of pickled plum, cooked seafood, veggies, and pretty much anything else the imagination can come up with?

Then, you’ll love Sprogs, the small “rice scooters,” that take them to the next level.

The San Francisco company was created by Ching-Yee Hu, a busy mom who was looking for the perfect snack for her kids, as well as herself. When she couldn’t find exactly what she was craving, she decided to make it, herself.

It’s such a brilliant concept that you wonder why someone didn’t come up with it sooner. Hu was already making pressed fresh brown-rice squares for her kids when she decided to expand on the idea with more inventive flavorings.

She uses Northern California haiga brown rice that is partially milled to remove the tough outer bran to make it easier to digest yet retains the nutritious germ inside. Then, she created both “Veggie” (vegan) and “Meatie” varieties.

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The (Cheese) Table

Ribbons of Bohemian Creamery's Capriago cheese cover the top of mushroom-pork ragout with grits at The Table.

Ribbons of Bohemian Creamery’s Capriago cheese cover the top of mushroom-pork ragout with grits at The Table.

 

Last week, San Jose’s The Table was transformed into the cheese table.

The popular Willow Glen neighborhood restaurant hosted its inaugural cheese dinner. This one spotlighted the cheeses of Bohemian Creamery of Sebastapol in a $75 seven-course dinner that included paired beverages. I was lucky enough to be invited in as a guest of the restaurant, which plans to make the cheese dinner an annual event.

Owner and cheesemaker Lisa Gottreich was on hand to talk about her hand-made cheeses, which are sold at retailers such as the Cheese Board in Berkeley and Sunshine Foods in St. Helena, and featured at restaurants such as Ad Hoc in Yountville, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, Nopa in San Francisco and SPQR in San Francisco.

Gottreich makes her 13 types of cheeses the Italian-way, with little salt. The goat cheeses are made with milk from her own herd of goats. The other types of milk that go into her cheeses are purchased from nearby farms.

In the far right, Chef-Owner Jim Stump greets cheesemaker Lisa Bottreich in the dining room of The Table.

In the far right, Chef-Owner Jim Stump greets cheesemaker Lisa Bottreich in the dining room of The Table.

The kitchen at work with Chef "AJ'' Jmenez in the baseball cap.

The kitchen at work with Chef “AJ” Jmenez in the baseball cap.

The first course brought her Bodacious five-day-old goat cheese with a bloomy rind in a spring dish of asparagus and Oro Blanco grapefruit that was paired with Sikyo “Mirror of Truth” Takehara Junmai sake. What a great way to start with a creamy, tangy cheese and a floral, clean sake that worked well with the always tricky-to-pair asparagus.

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Join the Food Gal and Chef Ocean Orssten of Citrus Restaurant For A Cooking Demo

MacysOcean

Chef Ocean Orssten won’t have to travel far when he joins me for a cooking demo, 6 p.m. April 26 at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara.

That’s because he’s the head chef of Citrus restaurant in the Hotel Valencia across the street at Santana Row.

Born in Capitola, he grew up in the Napa Valley, raising heritage pigs when he was 12 years old and cementing his passion for farm-fresh ingredients.

After cooking at Arcadia in San Jose, La Folie in San Francisco, and Campton Place restaurant in San Francisco, he became chef at Citrus in 2011.

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Home-Style Red-Cooked Pork

Pork belly -- red-ooked style.

Pork belly — red-ooked style.

 

It’s no secret that the Chinese love the color red, which is festive, and symbolizes prosperity.

We also love our pork.

And no cut quite so much as the pig’s luscious belly.

Combine all three and you get “Red-Cooked Pork,” an iconic family-style dish of pork belly that’s cooked in a soy sauce-laced braising liquid that’s not really more brown than red. The “red” in the name, though, comes interestingly enough from the fact that the Chinese language doesn’t really have a character to describe “brown.” So, apparently, they opted for the next best color — red.

So writes Kian Lam Kho in his new cookbook, “Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees” (Clarkson Potter), of which I received a review copy. The comprehensive book just won the prestigious “Julia Child First Book” award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The book’s poetic name pays homage to the Chinese characters used as synonyms on Chinese menus for chicken feet and Chinese broccoli.

PhoenixClaws

Indeed, if you are interested in learning more about Chinese cooking, this book is a must-have. Kho of New York City is a private chef, culinary instructor, and creator of the blog, RedCook. He’s written a book that deftly explains the fundamental cooking techniques of Chinese cuisine — from pan-frying to light frying, from flash-poaching to oil-poaching, and from simple steaming to flavored steaming.

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