Archive for the 'to market' Category

tuscan porchetta trots into bay area

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2010

At the recent Winter Fancy Food Show, it was my pleasure to sample a number of delectable pork products, among them various hams and porchettas. One of my absolute favorites at this year’s show was Piacenti’s porchetta, imported by The Rogers Collection based in Portland, Maine.

The relatively large booth displayed a number of imported food items, but only a few were laid out on the tasting area at the front of the both. Someone at the booth had neatly arranged small hunks of porchetta on a large white plate for the benefit of curious passersby. I speared one on a toothpick and sampled the wares.

Read more at…

slow food nation

Friday, September 5th, 2008

taste pavilion @ slow food nation 08

I attended the Taste Pavilion at Slow Food Nation last Sunday evening. This was the first Slow Food sponsored celebration of American traditionally produced foods. The food was enjoyable, the lines were not.

At $65 a pop, was it worth navigating the crowds?

Read more about it at Well Fed on the Town



Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

On a recent bright Saturday morning at the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market, I was pleasantly surprised to find large bouquets of za’atar. Star Route Farms grows the herb and sells large bunches of it at the market.

Za’atar is more commonly known as an herby spice mix spiked with sesame seeds. The mix is named after the plant, which is dried and mixed with a variety of ingredients such as sumac, cumin and salt. Traditionally, people in the Middle East have mixed their own za’atar according to family recipes and the local palate. The dried mix is sprinkled on labneh (a sour sheep’s milk yogurt cheese) and on small round flatbreads drizzled in peppery olive oil.

Fresh za’atar is a rare treat. I’ve never seen it in bay area farmers’ markets. It was hard to find the herb even in the markets of the greater Tel Aviv area. Once you get your hands on some, you can use it fresh and dry the rest in the sun. Store it in a tightly sealed jar.

Fresh za’atar has an aroma and flavor somewhat similar to wild oregano, but different. Za’atar has a little more attitude. It’s oregano’s hot-headed cousin. Its scent is a little more heady, its taste a little more powerful. Za’atar goes very nicely with soft cheeses, especially goat and sheep cheeses, as well as hummus. It spices up a roast chicken, along with a little lemon, sea salt, pepper and olive oil. Sprinkle some on sliced heirloom tomatoes in lieu of basil, or add it to cheese kreplach. Gently fry some leaves in olive oil as a sauce for pasta, then top with chunks of cooked chicken or fish and olives with a squeeze of lemon juice. I haven’t tried it, but I suspect it would go well with lamb kebab. It might also enliven a packet of shrimp or fish en papillote.

My favorite use of za’atar—dried or fresh—is on a round of traditional flatbread, warm and redolent with toasted sesame seeds and a thick layer of za’atar mix drenched in strong olive oil.

What do you like to do with za’atar?

introducing the pawpaw

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

I don’t mean your grandfather from Mississippi. The pawpaw is a large berry that is native to North America, and is the only tropical fruit in its family that isn’t “confined to the tropics. ” I picked it up at the Temescal Farmers Market on Sunday morning. The pawpaw has a yellowish green skin that darkens to a muddy brown as it ripens. The farmer described its flavor as banana-like and custardy in texture. I’m not a fan of bananas, so I didn’t have any high hopes for the fruit.

I finally ate one today. Its skin was very dark, the color of an overripe banana. I carefully peeled it away, and the sweet scent of the flesh immediately hit my nose. I coaxed out the large, pebble-like black pits and cut the soft flesh into a bowl. I took a bite.

The pawpaw is one of the more peculiar fruits I’ve eaten. It has a soft, creamy flesh that is indeed reminiscent of custard. Its flavor is like burnt caramel with a hint of buttered popcorn. The slight bitter undertone rounds out the sweetness of the fruit and pleasantly lingers on the tongue. It’s like a vegan crème brulée!

Aside from eating it as is, I think pawpaws could be nice puréed into a pudding or sauce, served over something crunchy. Or it might be fun to eat them frozen. Chowhound has a post on the berry, including a list of ideas for pawpaw preparations. The Chowhound post also mentions that pawpaws change in flavor when stored above 40 degrees F for over two days. Frankly, I think I prefer them that way.

Lagier Ranch is currently selling pawpaws at San Francisco Bay Area farmers markets.


Monday, May 21st, 2007

Claravale Dairy is now selling milk, cream, and colostrum at the Berkeley Farmers Market every Saturday. They plan to set up a stall at the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmers Market soon. I suggested they join the Sunday Temescal Farmers Market as well.

Claravale raw milk is sweet with grassy overtones, and deliciously rich. Try a couple tablespoons of their cream with strawberries—an ethereal experience.

* * *

I’ve recently received Clotilde Dusoulier’s new cookbook “Chocolate & Zucchini: Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen” from Amazon. If you haven’t done so already, buy this book! It’s full of creative recipes that don’t appear too difficult to prepare. It’s also full of Clotilde’s elegant photos and delightful prose you’ve grown to love. Most of all, her book is a source of inspiration—leaf through its pages for ten minutes and see if you don’t come up with a fabulous idea for dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast.


Monday, April 9th, 2007

Not the kind you eat with syrup. These flapjacks are a different kind of culinary pleasure. Read more at Well Fed on the Town.

black garlic?

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

I love tasting free samples of new foods at markets. The try-before-you-buy philosophy is a great idea when applied to food. Sometimes an item looks rather bland, but turns out to be remarkably tasty. Other times a sauce that looks great tastes, well, mundane. Once in a while, the food sample is so unusual that you are compelled to try it.

Such was the case with Korean aged black garlic.

Hold on… black garlic? Curious? Read the rest at the Cook’s Kitchen.

foodbloggers at the food bank

Wednesday, February 14th, 2007

Ever go bobbing for apples in a huge plastic crate? How about filtering out bad oranges, revving up your pitching arm to toss them into a giant composting container? Last Saturday, thirty-odd foodbloggers got together at the San Francisco Food Bank to do just that. The San Francisco Food Bank is an enormous clearing house for food that is distributed to charitable organizations throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. Huge amounts of food come through the food bank every day, all of which needs to be sorted and packaged into cardboard boxes. These boxes are then stacked on a flat, wrapped in plastic to keep them in place, and finally loaded onto trucks for distribution. The whole operation is run by a combination of employees, part-time volunteers, and sporadic volunteers. It’s remarkable to see such a dedicated, hard-working staff process and sort all those massive crates of food.

Our task last Saturday was to sort and package green apples, oranges, and frozen corn cobs. This involved putting together and taping the boxes, sorting the good fruit from the bad, packaging the fruit, taping the boxes shut, and stacking the boxes neatly on a wodden flat.

We foodbloggers spread around the crates of fruit and went straight to work. Some people taped boxes, others lifted and arranged the boxes. Some were especially adept at picking out the bad fruit and throwing them dodgeball-style into the composting crate—I nearly got nailed three times. Our efficient work paid off: the kind folks at the Food Bank said we managed our task much faster than they had expected.

Afterwards, we headed off to Yield Wine Bar for some great nibbles and wine served by Sam—barmaid for a day—looking cool in her officer’s cap. Organizers Amy and Sam provided delicious cheeses and baguette slices, the Fatted Calf gave fed us thin-sliced ham, and Poco Dolce brought us their little sweet/salty wafers of chocolate. (As both Fatted Calf and Poco Dolce are right down the road from Yield, this was micro-local cuisine, as someone pointed out.)

But the stars of the show were the sunny chutneys and spicy Spanish chorizo courtesy of Alison McQuade and Ore Dagan of Fra’Mani Salumi, respectively. I’m not usually a great fan of chutneys as I tend to find them too sweet. But McQuade’s Celtic chutneys are something else entirely. These are complex chutneys brimming with taste and texture. You can’t pick out any one individual flavor–there’s the zing of vinegar, a ginger kick, and a warm, brown sugar sweetness. But there’s so much more, and damned if you can figure out exactly what else is in that chutney. All you know is it tastes fresh and alive, and goes very well with cheese and bread.

The Spanish chorizo was brought to us from Fra’Mani salumi, by way of Ore Dagan, chef and Responsabile Produzione. I could not get enough of it, but sadly, this particular salumi is not yet available in stores. I’ll wager that a small popular movement will soon begin protesting the absence of this chorizo from local shops. Slogans like “Chorizo now!” and “Fra’Mani, not war!” will become ubiquitous. So please, Ore, bring on the chorizo before you have an angry mob of hungry foodbloggers bearing poultry forks and carving knives.

You can find McQuade’s chutneys at the Cowgirl Creamery retail shop in San Francisco, and other fine shops (how about some East Bay locations, Alison? Market Hall, perhaps?). Fra’Mani salumi is sold at the Berkeley Bowl and the Pasta Shop in the East Bay.

Many, many thanks to Amy Sherman and Sam Breach for having organized this wonderful event. It was great fun getting together with other foodbloggers, particularly for a worthy cause.

yuppie soda

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Soda for yuppies? Yup. Read all about it on my latest post at the Cook’s Kitchen.

mystery green: the answer

Thursday, February 8th, 2007

The mystery green is…


This versatile Chinese green tastes like a cross between spinach and bok choy. It’s delicious cooked in a stir-fry, or raw in its baby form. Baby tatsoi look like little green roses. They make a beautiful salad with sliced kumquats and a lemon juice olive oil vinaigrette.

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