Sunday, March 27, 2011

Next up: Bake Sale for Japan

Here it comes...after all this rain:

                                                                  My favorite tree in the 'hood. 

These delicate-looking (I repeat delicate looking) flowers blossomed in just a few days amidst our downpours this week. Speaking of things Japanese...

Next weekend, in locations across the country: Samin's Bake Sale for Japan featuring a star-studded cast of eateries and collaborators! BiRite, Chez Pannise, Blue Bottle, A16, Four Barrel...oh my...

More reporting on this next weekend. Look for the logo and origami cranes in your neighborhood.

To see a 1:30 minute video that Japanophiles will enjoy click here.

To see an endearing interview that instantly converted me into a supporter of Samin's work, click here.

Juicy & Sweet Cara Cara Navels

Pickings were a bit slimmer than usual this morning at the Menlo Park farmers' market, due to the rain, I am sure.  But there were plenty of oranges.  These baseball-sized fruits were among Leonard's offerings this week.  They are dripping with juice, sweet, and--incredibly--seedless.

Seedless thirst-quenchers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blue Bottle: Baked Treats that Speak for Themselves

Review of three baked treats from Blue Bottle in Oakland.

Holy Pumpernickel!

This coffee cake has the perfect ratio of cake to crumbs. Because the cake is only about a centimeter high, you don't have to have a mouth as wide as an alligator's to taste all the flavors at once.  This moist cake also has a sense of humor.  It's speckled with oats and nuts...and--surprise--pumpernickel seeds! I'd have never thought to combine pumpernickel with a sweet cake, but man my life is better having experienced this.

Talk about a wolf-in-sheep's-clothing.  Shy and diminutive looking--plain, even.  But it's flavored with a touch of rum, bits of almond, and dried fruit.  Truly an adult cake. I can imagine what a divine pairing it must make with coffee.

Now this cookie.

This cookie does not look very dark, but it has a distinct dark chocolate flavor. It is sweet but not too sweet.  It is cripsy on the outside and soft on the inside.  I don't taste any coffee in it, which is a good thing since it is to be enjoyed with coffee.  

Blue Bottle knows how to make rabid followers out of people. As if the coffee weren't enough to travel out also for the baked goods!

Restaurant Notes: Café M

Café M
1799 4th St
Ste F
(between Virginia St & Hearst Ave)
Berkeley, CA 94710

     Poached eggs.  I finished these in just a few bites.  A little salty.  But not at all bad!

On the last day of my Tokyo-cousin's stay in the US, we went to Café M for brunch. It was a rainy Sunday but the uber-yuppy, Fourth Street shopping area was buzzing.  We had to put our name on a waitlist, but were able to be seated within 20 minutes, at around 1pm.  Bette's Oceanview Diner had a 90-minute wait when we'd checked in there. (I wanted to try their soufflé pancakes--darn.) 

I ordered poached eggs with lox and spinach; the cousin had an omlette. 

My mom had a crepe...I think. It looked a bit dry to me around the edges. But she liked it. (I compare my crepes to Coupa's elegant, elastic, buckwheat ones.)  
But the real story at Café M was the banana pancakes, which my cousin and I split. They may not have looked like anything special, but they were. Tender, moist and irresistible, even after my plate of eggs.  
Yum, yum, yum.  Especially on a rainy day.  Who am I kidding. These would be great any day, any time.

The service here was average.  But I don't expect service to be notable at a casual breakfast/lunch place like this.  

Café M has large windows on one side and was full until we left around 2pm.  It fit the bill.

More San Francisco Bites

Here are a few more fun places to hit for small (or big) bites in the city. My cousin was on a visit here a few weeks ago from Tokyo, where she hounds down the most exquisite food.  I was anxious  to impress, but that came easily given the options before us. So here are the remaining San Francisco eats we tried:

Frog Hollow Farm Market
After dumplings from Imperial Tea, we stopped at this market in the Ferry Building. For some weeks now I had wanted to try their oats with conserves.

This is definitely something you can prepare at home. What made this special:  the apricot conserves, which were  chunky and flavorful, and the walnuts, which were toasted TO PERFECTION. They were slightly smoky but not burnt--delicious. So if I wanted to replicate this home, I could buy the conserves...but could I get the walnuts to taste just so? Hmmmmm.

Boulette's Larder
Next stop was Boulette's Larder for their famous canelé. I read somewhere that they only make like a dozen of these a day (but I cannot find that article for the life of me).  Since the crowds were small on this frigid day, there were still some left around noon.   $3.50 each.

This little cake had a wispy, crunchy, burnt-caramel-flavored, exterior; with supermoist interior--yes, almost like custard.  I blindly agree with everything good that has been written about it.

We headed off shortly thereafter to Union Square, and to Williams-Sonoma, where two chefs from Pica Pica, a Venezuelan restaurant in the city, were giving a demo of their corn-based dishes.  Afterwards, we got to try their food.  It was excellent! It is comfort food.  Mild and warm and fried and loaded with carbs.  I am going to the restaurant one of these days.  Corn is like soy. You can do so much with it!

Last food stop was Cafe Madeline, where we refueled on coffee and hot chocolate before heading out to Pampas in Palo Alto.  It's a nice place to stop if you need an injection of caffeine or sugar after too much shopping and tourists.  As you recover from your zombie state, you can check out who's entering the AG shop across the street.

PS: They make their hot chocolate with ganache.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Sun Also Rises

Well. So the previous plan of doing short Tweet-like blog entries did not work.  Meanwhile, a lot has happened since then.

A few top-headlines from our media this week:
  • Japan nuclear plant hit by fire and third blast
  • Fire caused dangerous radiation leak 
  • Japan stock market plunges 10.6%
  • Radiation hits harmful levels at Fukushima plant
  • Struggle to supply food, fuel, water and medicine
  • Nearly Half a Million Japanese in Shelters, as Tolls Rise and Foreigners Flee
  • Japan's dead, missing toll nears 20000

 Suisen - Northern California-grown daffodil variety from the land of the rising sun

Right about now, it's approaching 7:00 AM on Sunday, and the Japanese are waking up to a new day.  The country is still there. It has not liquified, as I was expecting the news to say, and there are quite a number of Japanese, neither microwaved nor drowned finding ways to get back to their lives.

Libya is now dominating the news.  

Here's to peace. The world over.

Scrumptious rum fruit cake from Blue Bottle, Oakland soon.  After a moment of silence.