Archive for June, 2007

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Friday, June 29th, 2007

cimg6715-320.jpgMarc found a recipe that called for chayote just so we could taste what it’s all about. It turns out that it tastes fine – sort of like a cucumber – but the Shrimp and Sweet Potato Cakes with Chayote Slaw and Chipotle Sauce was one A+, 5-star, put-a-fork-in-me-I’m-done kind of appetizer. The sweet potato – baked, and then mashed – was a terrific medium for holding together the shrimp and panko, etc. But what really added the “+” to the “A” was the chiptole tartar sauce. Little bit of caper, mayo, chiptole, wow. It kind of oozes over the warm shrimp cake and onto the slaw; it is worth the thousand calories per bite. We were absolutely melting over this and Sam, living better than half the free world as he does, got up from his late afternoon nap in order to eat some shrimp cake. He said it was a flavour-storm.


We went out for pizza this week and found, quite possibly, one of the top contenders for best pizza in the world. (The best – in my book – still stands at Alegretto in Valparaiso, Chile. Their goat-cheese pizza was so good we went back twice in 3 days.) I suspect that Gioia’s puts grams and grams of salt into their sauce because it was marvelous. However, I will withhold final judgement until we try the pizza from The Cheeseboard Pizza Collective, also recommended as “the best”. Tonight, perhaps, we shall see.

Land of Gin and Pride

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

I am starting to realize that there is almost nothing that California cannot do, except offer good universal medical insurance and reduce the volume of cars on the freeway. But whatever, they make a pretty smooth gin.


On a unrelated note, we missed the pride parade this weekend in San Francisco. I was looking forward to it but it completely slipped my mind. I am told that it was far more commercial this year than it has been in the past, as evidenced by this paragraph from an article in the Examiner:

“The event was nothing if not star-studded. George Takei, the actor who played Mr. Sulu on the original ‘Star Trek’ series and who revealed his homosexuality in 2005, rode with the Google contingent in Sunday’s parade. “

If Google has a contingent in the parade, I think it’s fairly safe to say that it has gotten commercial.

Newly Eaten

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Strange New Ingredients With Which We Cooked Last Week:

1 – organic goji berries (a.k.a. Tibetan wolf berries; Tibetan wolves must be crazy for them)


2 – vital wheat gluten flour
3 – epazote leaves (in the picture)
4 – tomatillos


5 – smoked Hungarian paprika (which I’ll admit, isn’t really strange or new, but rather unusual)
6 – gnarled-looking heirloom tomatoes
7 – chayote
8 – purple potatoes

Some Direct Results From Having Experimented With Above Ingredients:

1 – Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce and Braised Fruit


2 – Peel and Eat Shrimp with Barbecue Spices


3 – Skewered Honey-Glazed Scallops with Peach Salsa


And this is just the tip of the iceberg; we are eating like kings out here!
We do other stuff, too. Like, walk the dog, shop for groceries, walk the dog to the grocery store for shopping. We showed up at the Berkeley Bowl last Saturday before it opened, hoping to beat the rush, only to find the parking lot full already and a queue at the door. A queue at the grocery store! Love it.

A Culinary Day Trip

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

One of the best things about staying here in Dreamville (aka. Berkeley) is its proximity to überDreamville. Just a quick trip on public transit across the bay and we’re in within reach of the Ferry Building Market.cimg6596-320.jpg

This is the market to end all markets; big, crowded on the weekends, expensive, touristy and overflowing with delicious, pretentious food- my favourite. First things first, though: if we were going to make a trip all the way across the Bay, we were going to first visit Marc’s all-time favourite coffee place, the Blue Bottle Company on Linden. A mere slip of a place, it serves coffee and espresso-coffees from freshly roasted and ground-to-order beans. We made quick work of finding it again and slurping down a delicious macchiato and cappuccino. (Sidebar: it turns out that there is a café 5 blocks from our house that sells this very coffee, about which we knew nothing until last weekend. We plan to be regulars.)

From there, it was a long-ish walk down Market street to the Ferry Building so we stopped, briefly, at Crate & Barrel – just briefly- just to see what they had on sale. An hour later, we continued the journey, with nothing to weigh us down but a mental list of all that we saw that we “needed”. Seriously considering starting an heirloom cast-iron frying pan.

Finally, there was the Ferry Building. We needed lunch, we needed oysters, and we needed to browse the food stalls and kitchen store. Lunch was most critical so we ate at the first place we saw that wasn’t – for the moment – overflowing with customers, Lulu Petite. Marc ordered a duck confit and arugula sandwich and I had a ham & provolone melt with truffled honey. We also had some sort of extravagent sparkling pomegranate juice and it was all extravegently delicious.

Next, we tried to visit Hog Island Oysters for a little oyster sampler but it was egregiously busy and there was a waiting list to sit at the bar, so we walked over to the seafood company and ate two each, raw, barenaked and juicy, from the kid selling them at the little table out front. Even that kid was busy, taking money in between his concentrated shucking.

The food stalls were a little too busy to peruse, even for us, so we instead inspected all of the products on offer at Sur La Table. Unfortunately, we could not justify buying all the things we wanted – what with the fact that we are leaving in a couple months – so settled for just an oven themometer and a promise to return if/when we can really do some damage.

Smells Like Berries In Here

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

We bought some strawberries on the weekend- beautiful, ripe and red. Who knew that strawberries could be so fragrant, but after rinsing them and setting them out in a bowl to go with our sparkling prosecco, I found this to be so.


Ages ago, Holly told us about a woman she had met who pronounced it “pron-say-co” and now, as a joke, that’s what we’ve started calling it. And you just know that someday, the joke will be forgotten and we will become the person of whom we made fun.

Within Acceptable Parameters

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

We’ve been making some decent meals lately, if I do say so myself. First, we have Miso-Glazed Sea Bass with Asparagus.


I love that we didn’t have make any substitutions for the ingredients in this recipe, as so often we have had to do in the past. But what do we do with a cup of left-over miso paste?

Another meal that turned out to be surprisingly tasty was the Sausage, Sourdough and Bell Pepper Spiedini.


I’m surprised partly because the recipe didn’t look anything special and because we don’t actually have a BBQ; we do have a George Foreman grill. Never used one of those things before and, for a novelty kitchen applicance, it operated within acceptable parameters. It grilled the veg evenly, though they lack that irreplaceable BBQ flava.

cimg6623-320.jpgLast night, for dessert, I roasted some fresh, Mission figs with honey and cream. If we had a broiler, I would’ve broiled them, like the description in the book, “Under The Tuscan Sun” but we don’t and I didn’t. They were not perfect – and not organic, BTW, even though that option was available at twice the price – but they still tasted lovely.

Also, being the nerd that I am, I’ve also started keeping a wine log online. The idea is that one can keep a personal log of wine consumed, complete with notes, tags and comments, price, vintage, winery, etc. One day, when one of us (read: Marc) has an iPhone, we can refer to our wine log while in the wine store in order to find something that we liked in the past. What adorable efficiency!

Best of Berkeley

Thursday, June 14th, 2007


We ironically found ourselves in a wine store that sold only French wine within an hour of arriving in Berkeley, a stone’s throw from Napa. Rather than splurging on local a bottle we had to celebrate our arrival with champagne, which neither of us has had much experience tasting. We usually enjoy the sweeter, and less expensive, Italian prosseco. I would say the champagne was refreshingly crisp, instead of dry. I was once again reminded that spending a few extra dollars can make a bottle of wine into an experience.

533528168_a5ff078fbd.jpgAfter driving for 24 hrs, we grabbed food at our nearest source, a gourmet takeout restaurant named Gregoire’s. They managed to squeeze our order in between the 30 other boxed meals that the one cook was creating at a frenzied pace. I had a chipotle flank steak with creamy gremolata and roasted sunburst squash and zucchini. Janet, in a continuation of her endless streak of selection the best dish, ordered a Puffed Pastry with Potato and Eel. I couldn’t imagine what how my experiences with barbeque eel sushi, one of my favorites, might be reflected in this french style dish until I tasted it. The textures of smooth oily eel, crispy pastry and starchy firm potato slices struck me immediately. There was sauce inside the pastry, possibly the same sauce used in eel sushi, which added a familiar flavour for me. This was her second choice, so I can only imagine how great her first choice would have been. For sides we ordered a potato gratin with olives, which was a little pasty and cold. Fresh from the oven, it may have been better, though more butter and cheese would also have helped. The spinach salad was fine, but nothing to blog about.

I’ve been searching for an excuse to go back to Gregoire’s. Perhaps, “because it’s Gregoire’s” will suffice.

Expectations Satisfied

Friday, June 8th, 2007

It’s been two days and I still can’t stop talking about my trip to the grocery store. Not the kind of thing I would normally swoon over, this version of the market is independently owned, local, and brilliant. It is called Berkeley Bowl.

I made ready for the inaugural trip to the store with a huge list of items, the kind of list one makes after having just moved, the kind of list that mostly involves low-key staples like flour, mustard and butter. I had found a recipe for sea bass and was crossing my fingers that this place would have both the fish (it’s sort of rare and I think the Chilean sea bass might be an endangered species) and the miso paste for the glaze. cimg6590-320.jpgIn Calgary, I would be looking at a morning spent visiting at least a few different store in order to find those two ingredients but here in Berkeley, people are spoiled with the choice of fresh or frozen sea bass and no less than seven different kinds of miso paste. But, oh, that was just the beginning!

I had left Marc working at home and was thus free to take my time and examine what this place had to offer; that’s why it took me two hours to get through all the aisles. Honestly, I have never seen so much variety in food- not anywhere, not even in Asia. There was a massive bulk food section (I didn’t even know there were six different kinds of lentils or that one can buy ‘rainbow’ peppercorns), a pile of choices for organic breads, milk, yogurt, meat, and cheese, fresh sushi made on-site right next to the in-store Taqueria, a whole row of juices that I’ve never seen before made from fruits and veg that are new to me (what does sweetened with agave mean?) and this was all before I got to the produce section.

The produce, wow. I can’t even- it’s so fantastic- so many choices- where do I start?! First of all, there was a section of the store devoted only to organic veg and fruit. These are the more natural, rough-around-the-edges, more-expensive-than-the-rest types. I picked up a couple things here just because I’m curious to see if/how they taste any better than the standard. Then I rounded the corner to cast a glance over the rest of the marvelous produce and it was actually pretty exciting. There were kales and chards, frisee, live butter lettuce, banana flowers, ramps, large asparagus, small asparagus, wild asparagus, coconuts, all the fresh herbs, more than several types of mushroom, chayote, spiny chayote, tomatillos, okra, plantains, more types of eggplants than I imagined existed, ditto for the squash, piles of grapes, row upon row of apples, peaches, apricots, nectarines, berries and then just slew of vegetables with Asian names that I didn’t recognize. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I wish I could remember half of what I had tried to mentally record to I could tell Marc what he had missed. A few things I couldn’t resist buying just to try them for the first time: goji berries (a.k.a. wolf berries), a French Kiss melon, sunburst squash, jarred kimchi and bulk organic coffee.

The next time we go shopping, I’m going to go out of my way to pick recipes with crazy ingredients just to test the Bowl.

P.S. They don’t sell Coke, which I kind of admire.