Archive for the ‘San Francisco, My Hometown’ Category

h1

June 3, 2010

photo by Brooke Gray

In a well run restaurant, both the front and the back of the house are in sync.  A pile of tickets in the kitchen to be “fired” and a jam-packed dining room with standing room only in the bar stretches both sides to the limit.

Luckily at both Waterbar and Farallon the cooks and the waiters have a great relationship. If things get a bit short during service it blows over, or is repaired by the end of the night. It’s important that we all communicate well.

Waiters are the cooks’ eyes and ears to the customers. We rely on them to tell us what the customers are saying both good and not so good. I have a constant dialogue with them about the desserts so I can figure out if our customers are happy. (Clean plates are a good indicator too.) 

The waiters also help out before a dessert appears on the menu. If they pass the pastry department at just the right time we hand them a spoon and say- “Taste this.” Not so surprisingly, most of them look our way every time they walk by in hopes of finding a half -created dessert with different sauces and garnishes as we decide what goes best.

For several days before and after a dessert menu change we plate all the desserts right before service:  5:00 for dinner and 11:00 for lunch. (In the restaurant world this is called line-up). At this point waiters and cooks have a chance to try the final version. While we provide a cheat sheet with each dessert menu describing the desserts and all the components, a taste is worth a thousand words. They are in a much better position to talk to a customer if they have tried the dessert themselves. 

For me a good dessert menu is when each waiter tells me their favorite dessert is something different. I figure if their answers vary the menu is balanced and will please all palates. Waiter knowledge and endorsement  is important for all the food but with desserts it’s especially valuable. When the dessert menu arrives, diners may be full or not sure if they want to indulge in something sweet. I rely on the waiters to tell people what they shouldn’t pass up. Tomorrow they can go to the gym and work a little harder but for now enjoy.

h1

My Cookie Jar Up for Auction

May 17, 2010

 

This is the cookie jar I put together for Meals on Wheels’ Star Chefs and Vintners Gala. It’s filled with lemon cornmeal shortbread, dried cherry pistachio biscotti and chocolate cocoa nib cookies. As part of the silent auction it will be taken home by the highest bidder. Meals on Wheels is a great organization that delivers meals to senior citizens who want to stay in their own home but cannot shop or prepare meals for themselves. It is a national organization and this gala at Fort Mason in San Francisco will benefit people in my city by the Bay. We all need to lend a hand so senior citizens can stay as independent as possible. I hope my cookies help.

 

h1

Easter Saturday Shopping

April 6, 2010

I know Easter has come and gone but I wanted to share an Easter weekend tradition in my husband, Peter’s family. On Saturday, the day before Easter, the whole family gets together and goes shopping in San Francisco’s North Beach to buy food for dinner that night. This custom started over 50 years ago and they haven’t missed one. In the beginning there were just 5 of them- Peter, his parents and three of his brothers. His younger brother and two sisters hadn’t even been born yet. Fast forward all these years later and add younger siblings, spouses, children, and a few good friends for good measure and the group is up to 24. This year the oldest, Peter’s dad, is 87 and the youngest, Isa, is almost a year old. Four generations shopping together.

We have the same route very year. We start at Peter and Paul Church on Washington Square where Peter’s great grandparents were married. There we sit on the steps and get a family history lesson. (People walking by stop and listen as they think we are part of an organized tour group.)  The first food stop is Liguria Bakery. It has the best focaccia in North Beach, if not the country. You have to get there early as they always run out. They have many different kinds but the pizza is the best. For a nickel more you can get it cut up to go. Otherwise they wrap it up in white paper like your shirts at the cleaners. (When you go make sure you peak into the back and see the huge oven where they do the baking.) The next two stops are at bakeries where we pick up bread and breadsticks. Then it is off to the site of Figone hardware on Grant Street. Mel Figone was a duck hunting buddy of Peter’s grandfather. When he owned the store the Luchetti clan would stop by and give him a bag of cookies from one of the Italian bakeries. Now the shop is an art gallery but we still stop by and reminisce about their duck hunting excursions. Mel’s picture is in the window of the gallery.

After stopping for lunch for some nourishment to keep shopping we stop at Stella Bakery on Columbus Avenue. Here we get a walk around treat. Everyone gets something different- (tiramisu, cannoli, cookies, biscotti, éclairs, cream puffs, panna cotta) plus we pick up a Sacripantina Cake which is their specialty. It’s sponge cake layered with Marsala-Sherry sabayon and covered with whipped cream. From there we go to Molinari Delicatessen. Jeff, my brother in law, orders all the cold meats (prosciutto (20 sheets!), galantina, mortadella, Toscana and Genoa salami, sopressata, head cheese, hot and mild coppa) while I select the cheeses (teleme, aged asiago, fontina, gorgonzola, parmesan, pecorino, and taleggio). Here we also get calamari salad, bean salad, olives, marinated mushrooms, artichokes, and tomatoes as well as house made cheese ravioli, red sauce and wines. At Victoria Pastry we pick up a Saint Honore cake and boxes of cookies. A big box is for us and smaller boxes are for gifts family members take to friends and in-laws on Easter Sunday. The final stop of the day is at Graffeo coffee where we all get coffee ground for our specific machines at home.

We load the cars with our goodies and go over to Peter’s and my house, open the wine and visit while we spread all the food out in a huge buffet. (We always end up with a few more people for dinner that couldn’t make the shopping part of the day.)The ravioli is the only thing we cook that evening so it is a holiday where no one gets stuck doing a lot of cooking when everyone else hangs out.

Years ago I came up with my version of Sacripantina cake. While I make it at other times of the year I wouldn’t think of making it at Easter. Part of the tradition is going to Stella and buying it. It’s fun to have a holiday where I don’t feel obligated to make dessert. I had it on the menu at Stars Restaurant but changed the name to Tuscan Cream Cake. People had a hard time pronouncing Sacripantina so they wouldn’t order it. As soon as I changed the name it sold like crazy.

Tuscan Cream Cake

Serves at least 12

2 recipes Sponge Cake (see recipe below)

1 recipe Zabaglione (see recipe below)

1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup chocolate shavings or ground chocolate

3/4 cup crushed amaretti or biscotti

Against a short end of the cake, cut a 9-inch circle out of the sponge cake. With the remaining sponge cake, cut a half of a 9-inch circle. Repeat with the second sheet of sponge cake. Cut each circle and each half circle in half horizontally, so you will have a total of 4 circles and 4 half circles. (You will need all the circles and 2 of the half circles, so freeze the extra half circles and any scrap pieces for making trifles.)

Put a cake layer in the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Top with a generous 3/4 cup of the zabaglione. Top with a second cake layer, and then with another generous 3/4 cup of the zabaglione. For the third cake layer, fit two half circles side by side on the zabaglione. Repeat with more zabaglione and end with the fourth full cake circle. You will have 5 cake layers and 4 zabaglione layers. Refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours.

In a bowl, combine the cream and sugar and whisk until soft peaks form. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and then remove the pan sides and set the cake on a platter. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the whipped cream. Decorate the top with the chocolate shavings and the sides with the crushed amaretti. Cut into wedges to serve.

Planning Ahead

The cake may be made a day in advance, but frost the cake and decorate with the chocolate shavings and cookie crumbs the day you serve it. Keep refrigerated until serving.


Sponge Cake

You can double this recipe and make both cakes at once if your mixer is big enough.

Makes one 11 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Pinch of kosher salt

5 large eggs, separated

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

5 tablespoons boiling water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of an 11 1/2-by-17 1/2-inch baking sheet with 1-inch sides, then line the bottom with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour and baking powder onto a piece of parchment paper or into a bowl. Add the salt and set aside.

Combine the egg yolks and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on high speed until thick and pale yellow, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, add the boiling water and vanilla, and mix until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, about 2 minutes. The mixture should be thick enough so that when you lift a bit of it with the whip, it falls back into the bowl in a ribbon that slowly dissolves on the surface. Reduce the speed to low, add the dry ingredients, and mix until incorporated.

Wash and dry the whip attachment. Put the egg whites in a clean mixer bowl, fit the mixer with the clean whip, and beat on medium speed until frothy. Increase the speed to high and whip until soft peaks form. They should be smooth and not clumpy. Using a spatula, fold half of the whipped whites into the yolk mixture. Then fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks remain. Spread the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake until the cake is golden brown and springs back when lightly touched, about 15 minutes. Let cool in the pan to room temperature.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a small knife around the inside edge of the pan. Invert the pan onto a work surface, lift off the pan, and carefully peel off the parchment paper.

The sauce may be made 2 days ahead and kept refrigerated.

Zabaglione

Makes about 3 cups

8 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher salt

3/4 cup Marsala

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Prepare an ice bath. In a stainless-steel bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and salt until blended. Whisk in the Marsala.

Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water. Cook, whisking constantly, until thick and there are no air bubbles, 3 to 4 minutes. The mixture should mound slightly when dropped from the whisk.

Remove the bowl from the pan and place over the ice bath. Let cool to room temperature, whisking occasionally.

Put the cream in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment and whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Using a spatula, fold the cream into the cooled Marsala mixture just until combined.

Cover and refrigerate until assembling the cake.

h1

Make A Wish

February 11, 2010

Make-A-Wish Foundation

This past weekend on Treasure Island was the annual Make A Wish fundraiser dinner. It’s a wonderful organization that helps kids who have cancer or other life threatening illnesses fulfill their dreams. Roland Passot, owner of La Folie Restaurant, is on the Make a Wish Advisory Council. When Roland calls to ask chefs to participate in this special night we all quickly say yes. We volunteer our time and food as we want to help Make A Wish raise as much money as possible. Plus any event with Roland is worth attending.

There are two parts of the evening you can participate in. The first option is a walk around tasting of wines and hors d’oeuvres. There were at least 15 chefs and 15 wineries handing out delicious nibbles and wines to sip.  Both Farallon and Waterbar were part of the walk around hors d’oeuvres. Fred, the sous chef at Farallon, opened 1000 Beausoleil oysters and served them with traditional mignonette. Parke Ulrich, the chef at Waterbar, served Smoked Sturgeon Tea Sandwiches on Brioche with Caviar and Watercress. Here’s a picture of Parke’s sandwiches:

 

For the dinner the dining room was divided into 2 sections of 200 people each. There were 4 chefs for each side. Here’s the menu from “my side” of the dining room.

1st Course

Chef Roland Passot, La Folie Restaurant,

Dungeness Crab Salad-Cauliflower Panna Cotta, Curry Tuile, Curried Crab Vinaigrette

2nd Course

Chef Staffan Terje, Perbacco

Roasted Loin of Monkfish-Corona Bean and Black Chanterelle Stew, Green Garlic Brodetto

3rd Course

Chef Dominique Crenn, Luce Wine Restaurant

Beef Tenderloin “confit”, beef tongue, Bulgur” tabbouleh” , Buckwheat and pickled kumquat

4th Course

Chef Emily Luchetti

Almond Financier-Apple Marmalade, Crème Fraiche Chantilly

Heres’ a picture of my dessert plating in process. On the right is Lauren, the pastry chef at Waterbar.

We were able to line all 200 plates out at once. (Actually 250 as you always have to prepare a few extra for the wait staff and culinary student volunteers.) Here’s the finished product ready to go.

These events are a lot of fun not just because we are helping a great cause but we get to hang out with other chefs, see their work and have a god time. It is a good way to reconnect and to meet chefs you only know thorough food.

Oliver, the Make A Wish Honoree, is a student at the CIA on the Hyde Park campus. He helped us plate all the courses. His “wish” was to meet Thomas Keller and hang out with him at The French Laundry for a day. Make a Wish (and Thomas of course) made his dream come true. He is a serious enthusiastic young man who will make a great chef. Check out the local Make a Wish Chapter. Hopefully I will see you at the event next year. Mark your calendars- it will be on February 5, 2011.

h1

Truffles- The Chocolate Kind

December 10, 2009

 

Recently I was on the San Francisco television show View from the Bay demonstrating how to make walnut cranberry truffles. Here is a link.

Truffles are a perfect holiday treat for many reasons.

  1. They are made with chocolate.
  2. They are small so you can indulge without going overboard.
  3. They last for quite a while so you can make them ahead.
  4. As a hostess gift they are something different than a bottle of wine.
  5. The flavor combinations are infinite.
  6. They are made with chocolate. Yes, I know that is # 1 but it bears repeating.

Here are a couple different recipes for truffles. If you take the chocolate from the fridge and it is too hard to scoop let sit at room temperature for a bit. Conversely, if it is too soft put back in the fridge. Enjoy!

Walnut Cranberry Truffles

Yield about 30, 3/4 to 1-inch truffles

3/4 cup heavy cream

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped

1 cup walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

In a small pot, bring the cream to a boil just around the edges. Add the chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Stir in the cranberries.

Transfer the chocolate mixture to a pie pan or 9 inch pan. Refrigerate until firm, 1-2 hours.

Using a teaspoon scoop the truffles. Return to the refrigerator and let firm up again, about 30 minutes.

Place the walnuts on a plate or pie pan. Roll the truffles in the nuts and then roll them lightly between your palms until they are a nice round shape.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Makes thirty 1-inch truffles

 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, ground

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl and pour the cream over it. Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the peanut butter. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour to overnight.

Place the ground peanuts on a plate or in a pie dish. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.

Using a measuring teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out 30 heaping spoonfuls of the truffle mixture. Place them in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. When all of the scoops have been made, lightly roll them between the palms of your hands to give them a nice round shape. If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.

To scoop truffles: Dip the spoon or melon baller in hot water after every couple of scoops. Tap gently on the sheet pan to loosen the truffle mixture. To keep your hands clean while rolling truffles, where thin rubber gloves. This will also keep the truffles from getting too soft if you have hot hands.

Roll the truffles, a few at a time, in the ground peanuts. You may need to gently press the peanuts into the truffles to get them to stick. Place in a single layer on another wax paper- lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Before serving the truffles, let them sit at room temperature to soften slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. This will make them a little creamier.

Mocha Truffles

Makes thirty 1-inch truffles

3/4 cup heavy (whipping) cream

1 tablespoon ground coffee

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

4 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

1/3 cup cocoa powder

Warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until hot and bubbling around the edges, about 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the coffee, and cover the pan. Let steep for 10 minutes.

Strain the cream into a bowl and discard the coffee. Return the cream to the pan. Again, heat the cream until it is bubbling around the edges. Remove the pan from the heat.

Put the two chocolates in a medium bowl and pour the cream over them. Let sit for 30 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Spread the chocolate cream in a 9-inch pan or pie plate. Refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour. You can leave it overnight.

Place the cocoa powder on a plate or in a pie dish. Line 2 baking sheets with wax paper.

Using a measuring teaspoon or melon baller, scoop out 30 heaping spoonfuls of the truffle mixture. Place them in a single layer on one of the prepared baking sheets. When all of the scoops have been made, lightly roll them between the palms of your hands to give them a nice round shape. If at any point the chocolate gets too warm and the truffles become difficult to roll, refrigerate the chocolate for 30 minutes until it firms up.

Roll the truffles, a few at a time, in the cocoa powder. Place in a single layer on the second baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Before serving the truffles, let them sit at room temperature to soften slightly, 15 to 30 minutes. This will make them a little creamier.