Category Archives: Great Finds

What I’ve Been Drinking of Late, Part 10

Not simply gin, but a gin liqueur.
Not simply gin, but a gin liqueur.

Pomp & Whimsy Gin Liqueur

Think of this as gin 2.0

Pomp & Whimsy is actually a gin liqueur. It’s gin that’s been distilled, then twice-infused with a botanical liqueur, then re-distilled with 16 botanicals, including juniper, coriander, grapefruit, orange, lychee, cucumber and jasmine pearls.

It was created by sociologist Dr. Nicola Nice in 2017, and was inspired by Victorian times. Nice was perplexed that there was no spirit that appealed to women in the same way that men naturally gravitated toward flights of whiskey, scotch or bourbon when they got together to unwind. When she learned that gin was sold in barrels during Victorian times and often blended with sugar or other flavorings by retailers to create gin cordials, she ran with that idea.

Pomp & Whimsy ($34) comes in a stout, bourbon-like bottle. Its taste, as I found when I received a sample bottle, is profoundly of lychees, bitter orange, grapefruit, lime, and honeysuckle flowers. Juniper, which often lends a medicinal quality that turns off some folks, is present, but just barely. There’s a sweet, almost syrupy or viscous quality, too.

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Super Natural Simple Sensational Big Raspberry-Rye Cookies

One of the best cookie recipes I've baked lately -- and that's saying something.
One of the best cookie recipes I’ve baked lately — and that’s saying something.

Take a long, deep breath. Now, inhale, imagining the sublime aroma of summer raspberries bubbling away, and turning soft and jammy in a buttery, golden pie crust in your oven.

Yet in reality, what’s baking away is not a pie at all, but cookies.

That’s the magical, irresistible promise of these “Big Raspberry-Rye Cookies.” They eat like cookies, but possess the taste and fragrance of raspberry pie a la mode, thanks to a heap of freeze-dried raspberries that give a concentrated berry boost, plus enough vanilla extract to lend a sweet, milkshake-like taste of nostalgia.

This recipe is from the newest cookbook by renowned food blogger and food writer Heidi Swanson, who created her site, 101 Cookbooks way back in 2003. “Super Natural Simple: Whole-Food, Vegetarian Recipes for Real Life” (Ten Speed Press), of which I received a review copy, is her fourth cookbook.

Freeze-dried raspberries give these cookies intense berry flavor plus a wonderful lightness.
Freeze-dried raspberries give these cookies intense berry flavor plus a wonderful lightness.

Like her other books, this one is filled with smart, effortless, and enticing plant-based recipes. The 120 recipes, designed to be wholesome and nutrient-dense, will take you through morning, noon and night, with such delights as “Instant Sriracha Oats,” “Coconut-Asparagus Soup,” “Tangerine & Tahini Ponzu Noodles,” and “Minted Mushroom Kebabs.”

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Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 28

Bake Sum's inventive Croissubi.
Bake Sum’s inventive Croissubi.

Bake Sum, Berkeley, Plus San Francisco, Redwood City, and Oakland

Imagine impeccable French Viennoiserie with crisp, buttery layers to get lost in — but flaunting inspired Asian flavors.

That, in sum, is Bake Sum.

This Berkeley-based bakery, which has amassed a huge following during the pandemic, was co-founded by local baker, Joyce Tang, who had the wholesale bakery Chinoiserie, and previously supplied pastries to Boba Guys.

Each week, Bake Sum offers one set pastry box ($35) filled with about half a dozen treats, as well as a specialty bun box, Gochujang sourdough loaves, mochi bites, and cookies.

Sign up for its newsletter ahead of time because it drops Monday morning with that week’s offerings. It pays to be quick on the draw because the baked goods, especially the pastry box, sell out quickly. Pick up your order on Fridays or Saturdays at the Bread Project in Berkeley; Fridays at Golden Goat Coffee in San Francisco; Saturdays at Grand Coffee in San Francisco; or Fridays at Red Giant Coffee Roasters in Redwood City.

Yes, with Spam and nori tucked inside, it's like a musubi in croissant form.
Yes, with Spam and nori tucked inside, it’s like a musubi in croissant form.

Last week’s pastry box included a Croissubi, a unique riff on a traditional ham and cheese croissant that paid homage to Spam musubi. Just on its own, this was one beautiful croissant — shattering into deep golden shards upon the first bite. Add in the novelty of thin slices of Spam wrapped in nori, and get ready for your taste buds to take a French-Hawaiian ride. Crispy Parmesan cheese and flecks of togarashi dot the top to add more umami, savoriness and just a hint of spice. It is every inch like a nostalgic ABC Store musubi transformed into a perfect French croissant.

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Chef Sheldon Simeon’s Hack For Homemade Chow Fun Noodles With A Microwave

A soul-satisfying plate of chow fun — with fresh, chewy noodles made in the microwave.

Maui’s Chef Sheldon Simeon is many things:

The owner of the lovable, guava-sized Tin Roof Hawaiian eatery. A devoted husband and dad. A “Top Chef” finalist and two-time “Fan Favorite.” And what I like to call, the MacGyver of chefs.

There was the time when I dined at one of his previous restaurants, when he talked about how he and a line cook came up with a way to cook perfect pork belly — in Hot Pockets sleeves, of all things.

Then, there was the time when a table of chefs fell silent and began madly typing notes into their phone, when Simeon let slip that he makes his own chow fun noodles and generously began sharing the recipe just like that.

So when I spied that chow fun recipe in his debut cookbook, “Cook Real Hawai’i” (Clarkson Potter), I knew I had to make it. The book was written with Garret Snyder, a former Los Angeles Times food writer.

Through 100 recipes, Simeon gives you a taste of today’s Hawaii, mixing tradition with fun spins that amplify the unique cross-cultural blend of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Filipino and native Hawaiian flavors that makes this cuisine so mouthwatering. Along the way, you get to know him, too, from how his grandpa left the Philippines at age 18 to work on a sugar plantation in Hawaii to how Simeon slyly fed the tired and hungry camera crew of “Top Chef” with his Spam musubi.

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SugarRoti — An Explosion of Flavor In Every Packet

A tuna sandwich to end all tuna sandwiches -- thanks to SugarRoti's Fish Nu Spice blend.
A tuna sandwich to end all tuna sandwiches — thanks to SugarRoti’s Fish Nu Spice blend.

I just ate one of the most delicious tuna sandwiches I’ve ever had — all thanks to Oakland’s SugarRoti.

This new, women-owned company that opened during the pandemic makes 15 different, single-use Indian spice blend packets of mostly organic ingredients.

The $8.99 packets are an especially convenient alternative to buying a host of separate spices that end up as half-filled jars gathering dust in your pantry.

The company was co-founded by Bina Motiram and Dana DuFrane, who met in the corporate world before deciding to join DuFrane’s passion for design with Motiram’s for cooking.

The spice blends, sold in compostable packets, are each designed to work with a specific ingredient, such as beef, chicken or eggs. But that doesn’t mean you can’t mix and match, according to your own whims. For guidance, each packet comes with a simple recipe on the back. More recipes can be found on the SugarRoti web site.

The spice blends come in one-use packets.
The spice blends come in one-use packets.

Just note that the spice blends need to be toasted or heated to fully bring out their flavors and aromas. They are not necessarily designed to be used as rubs on meats because many of the blends contain whole spices.

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