Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eating for Education

Last Saturday, I hung out with Samin Nosrat who organized Bakesale for Japan in April.  
Samin at the bar at Tartine Bakery.
To find out what's next on the plate of this dynamic but down-to-earth culinary mover-and-shaker, check out my blog post at KCRW's Good Food Blog.  

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Breaking Bread with Tartine

I have declared my love for Tartine in the past. I shall do so yet again.
White bread with raisins.  But far more interesting than it sounds. 
Their pastries are so otherworldly that it is difficult to look beyond them.

But today, I tried their bread.

It is super crusty on the outside, tender and chewy on the inside. Did I say super crusty? I'll say it again:  It is SUPER CRUSTY.  Tis tasty enough to eat plain, but smeared with butter, it becomes an addictive drug.  By the way, you need your teeth to eat it, it is so chewy. 
Country white bread. Huge. Heavy.  Thrown, it doubles as a weapon.
Store-brand sandwich bread tastes like cardboard in comparison. Even bread from restaurants  seems suddenly sub par.

Chad Robertson is Tartine co-founder and master bread maker. He wrote the book.  

Looking for Barcelona in San Francisco

Since returning from my trip to Barcelona, I have been anxiously sniffing for signs of Catalan life in the Bay Area. I may have found it at B44, in the financial district in San Francisco.
Piquillo peppers stuffed with Dungeness crab
B44 is located in the middle of a tiny strip off Pine Street that is lined with other European bistros (eg Plouf, Cafe Bastille) with indistinguishable store fronts.

Mine was a quick dinner on a Saturday in mid-June to scope the place, see how authentic it was compared to my Catalan experience, and see how it might fare as a place to catch next season's Barcelona (Barça) football games.
Escalivada:  Grilled red peppers, yellow peppers, eggplant, and onion.
There was a TV at the end of the bar broadcasting a Mexican soccer game.  Check. I liked the warm glow of the place, and the high ceilings. Check. The tables outside on the narrow strip make the place look very European.  Check. And the food wasn't bad (check) though the only thing I could compare was the Catalan toast. B44's was made with sandwich bread and arrived cold. In Barcelona, it was served on much thicker, crustier bread...and  was warm. I was put off by the chilled toast.  But I had no problem finishing it. 

I had come for the grilled sardines but my waiter, Brad Pitt, asked the chef and the chef said they were out of season so I ordered the piquillo peppers stuffed with crab.  I have tasted fresher, meatier crab, but it was still pretty good.  
Catalan toast, after one piece was eaten.
Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me until after I paid the check that my cordial server, who looked like a very long-haired Brad Pitt (with blonder hair) might be Catalan. He spoke excellent English and was blond so I assumed he was American.  In my American accent, I asked him if the place broadcast Barça games.  "Barça?" he asked rolling his r:  Barrrrrgh-sa

With that, he game himself away. Had I known, I would have been interrogating him throughout the meal. 

I forget that some Catalans are not dark.  I know this.  I just...forget.  

In any case, B44 is on my list as a possible resource for Catalan life 6,000 miles away.  I have a list of Spanish eateries I want to try, but hardly any of them are Catalan which makes it less of a priority.  Next food adventure will probably be French since I am digging brunch right now and there are plenty of French restaurants  that are open during brunch hour on the weekends.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I Wanna go Back to B * Star

Last Sunday, Jane and I had brunch at B* Star, (no this is not a math problem) a few blocks from mothership, Burma Superstar (BS).
Lentil Ragu with two paoched eggs and whole wheat toast. Savory and filling.  East Indian-inspired.
She and I agree that B*Star is more sophisticated than BS.  B*Star's cozy interior is hipper, and its menu, while fusion, includes some of BS's most popular dishes, like the Samusa Soup and the Tea Leaf Salad, which is a bonus for those of us who enjoy both.  
Azuki Almond Banana French Toast - delicious, sweet..and rich.  
I LOVE B*Star's brunch menu. Endearingly, it reflects San Francisco's heavily Asian and Latino-American population. You will find items like jook, huevos rancheros, eggs benedict, ochazuke, pancakes, and hybrid dishes like the ones featured in the photos here.  But the thing is, it ain't just a cutesy menu: the food is really good!
Divergent textures abound in this chunky soup with a kick.
B*Star is potentially a superstar in my book. To find out, I'm returning for more East-West comfort food...and Strawberry Nutella French Toast.

Deconstructing Calafia's Veggie Burger

This is the California-esque, rainbow-colored Vegetable Soy Lentil Quinoa Burger from Calafia in Palo Alto. If it reads like a mouthful, that's because it is. In fact, it is laboriously more than a mouthful.
Stacked between the halved and dense multigrain bun (speckled with pumpkin seeds and other bird seeds) were:  a thick layer of guacamole, the veggie burger (the yellow slab in the center made from soy, green lentils, quinoa, and brown rice) and beet relish.  

The burger came with pickles, mayo, house ketchup and Dijon mustard.

I must say, this was a weird combination. I usually slather ketchup on my veggie burgers (assuming they are mimicking meat) but ketchup didn't work on this one.  Because the burger was so big, I ended up eating it the way I eat Oreos, which is by taking it apart and eating the layers separately.  However,  I did try to get the flavor of the burger as a whole by stuffing my mouth a few times.   

Each component of the burger was quite tasty on its own.  But together they seemed random, as if someone had come up with a list of stereotypically "Californian" ingredients (eg healthy/nutty/macrobiotic) and attempted to make a dish out of them. Unfortunately here, that person didn't think enough about how those ingredients would go together.   

The ketchup was fresh (making my bottled ketchup seem dull a flavorless) and would be delightful with scrambled eggs or meatloaf. The beet relish would be great on a hotdog with mustard. The guacamole delicious with chips. The burger would go well, I think with a more conventional, softer--even commercial--burger bun. 

Bottom line: for the Vegetable Soy Lentil Quinoa Burger to be memorable, its components need to split up and get together with other ingredients.