Greet the Day with A Smile — With Balsamic Strawberry Muffins

A splash of balsamic vinegar hides in these strawberry muffins.

A splash of balsamic vinegar hides in these strawberry muffins.

 

The title of this cookbook represents two of my favorite food groups: “Muffins and Biscuits.”

So how could I not fall for this Chronicle Books cookbook, of which I received a review copy?

It’s by Heidi Gibson, chef and co-owner of The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in San Francisco.

You might think, what does a grilled cheese sandwich maker know about biscuits and muffins? Plenty, it turns out. After all, in addition to those ooey-gooey sandwiches, the restaurant also sells fresh-baked muffins, biscuits and other baked goods.

MuffinsBiscuitsBook

Muffins and biscuits are among the easiest things to make. The trick is to use a gentle hand. You don’t want to overmix or overwork either of them, lest they will wind up tough.

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Bowled Over by Nordic Nicoise

A Nordic Nicoise bowl to cozy up to.

A Nordic Nicoise bowl to cozy up to.

 

I sometimes chuckle that avocado toast has become a thing.

Really? Ripe avocado smeared on bread — haven’t we been eating it for ages? Why did it all of a sudden become a hip thing to nosh?

Same with food in bowls. Have we not piled food in bowls to dig into since we can remember?

Still, I can see why both appeal. There is something comforting about them. There’s the flex factor, in that you can put most any ingredients together on that toast or in that bowl, and come away with it being pretty tasty. There’s also something exciting yet satisfying in the fact that every bite is a little bit different from the last.

BowlsCookbook

Bay Area food writer Molly Watson has captured that irresistible attraction in her new cookbook, “Bowls!” (Chronicle Books), of which I received a review copy.

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Lobster — Smoke That!

Vinalhaven Smoked Lobster dip (cherry wood-smoked-style).

Vinalhaven Smoked Lobster dip (cherry wood-smoked-style).

 

You may be familiar with smoked salmon and smoked trout. But Robert Young wants you to get to know smoked Maine lobster.

His Vinalhaven Smoked Lobster company is named for Vinalhaven, a small island 12 miles off the coast of Maine, where Young fishes.

For the past decade, he’s been catching fresh lobsters aboard his boat, then steaming them, before extracting the meat to smoke over either cherry or hickory chips. The flesh is then either preserved in oil or turned into a lusty dip.

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part II: Connie & Ted’s, RiceBar, Apple Pan and Shake Shack

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

A fun place to indulge your cravings for seafood.

Connie & Ted’s

Chef Michael Cimarusti has the utmost reverence for seafood. After all, his haute Providence has won every acclaim imaginable for its attention to seafood.

Now comes Connie & Ted’s, a West Hollywood seafood joint at the other end of the spectrum, a modern-day clam shack that treats seafood with equal esteem but in a much more laid-back atmosphere.

On a sunny day (which of course is most every day in Los Angeles), there’s no better place to be.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted's.

A mid-century-modern look at Connie & Ted’s.

A trio of chowders.

A trio of chowders.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

Clam bellies and perfect onion rings.

There are three chowders on the menu: New England, Manhattan, and Rhode Island. The best part is you can get a sampler of all three ($11), which comes with baby doll-sized oyster crackers.

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Eating Adventures in Los Angeles, Part I: Taco Maria, Shibumi, and Mian

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile -- a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

Mussels, clams, lima beans, cherry tomato and chile — a third-course on the Taco Maria prix fixe.

 

I may have been in Los Angeles last month for only four days, but I did some major eating in that short time. Come along for a taste.

Taco Maria

In a building inside SoCo design complex in Costa Mesa is the OC Mix, a mini marketplace of fun trendy shops and small cafes.

It is here you will find Taco Maria. Its artsy locale is fitting because this is high-concept Mexican food by a chef who used to cook at Coi in San Franciso and Commis in Oakland.

Nope, this is not your standard enchilada- or burrito-drowned-in-cheese kind of place. While it serves a la carte lunch, it turns into prix fixe-only at night. And what a fine parade of dishes you’re in for with the $75 four-course meal (wine pairings are $35 extra), which is quite reasonable for what you get.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Sitting at the counter, you are up close and personal with the cooks preparing your food.

Each course offers a choice of two dishes. So if there are two of you dining, you can order the entire menu and share tastes of everything, which is what my husband and I did. Sit at the counter in front of the small kitchen, and you can watch the cooks in action.

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