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Preview: I must have a lot of time on my hands...

Lisa is Bossy

Updated: 2017-12-04T09:18:24.649-08:00


On the half shell


We went on a little adventure up the coast this past weekend.  It was my special someone's birthday and I planned a relaxing few days in Bodega Bay.  But what made me pick Bodega Bay was actually an area about 20 miles south of it: Tomales Bay.  If you like oysters and live in the Bay Area, you should know about Tomales Bay and specifically Hog Island Oysters.  There is also Tomales Bay Oyster Company for those who want options!  We LOVE oysters on the half shell.  Actually prefer them over grilled/cooked oysters!  So I made my reservations at Hog Island before I decided where we were going to stay in the area!  Fortunately, there are many options right up the coast.Un-shucked Sweetwater Oysters from Hog Island Oyster FarmPerfect, and ready to down!Along with wine, avocados, Dungeness crab, artichokes, olallieberries, garlic, Thomas Keller and sourdough bread, oysters can also join this list of "California does it better".  I love West Coast oysters and the ones from Tomales Bay are fantastic.  I'd been waiting years to get to the Farm (and was excited to disguise it as a birthday stop for my man!)There is a lot of construction going on right now as they expand (notice far right)If you just want to eat Hog Island Oysters, you can go to the Ferry Building in San Francisco or the Oxbow Market in Napa.  Sit at the bar, order them shucked with a glass of white wine and some crunchy French bread and you're good to go!  But if you want a different, more hands-on and memorable experience - head across the Golden Gate bridge and up Highway 1 about 45 minutes north of the city and you'll be at the Hog Island Oyster Farm.If you're shucking - buy your oysters here (for shucked, around the corner at The Boat Bar)Clams and oysters for sale todayThe oysters are about half as much if you shuck yourself!It's sort of shi-shi, rustic here.  Where hipsters and yuppies can break bread (and oyster shells) while sitting astride picnic tables and chatting each other up.  I might wager a guess that this is the only business in Marshall, CA that has a valet out front (for strictly practical reasons tho, not the glam factor).  However, we rolled in on a Friday afternoon which is still rather light, and said hello to the valet after we parked our own car right in front.  We checked with him upon leaving and he'd parked 8 cars, but was planning for 3-4 times that, come weekend... Here's how picnicking at Hog Island works...[Because I am a foodie and a thorough/organized perfectionist] I packed up half my kitchen and trekked it all to our picnic table.  I had originally made a reservation (they book up THREE months in advance on weekends!) but since it was so light that Friday, we didn't really end up keeping it.  We checked in at the bar, picked a picnic table and started setting up our food-stuffs.  When I said rustic, I meant rustic.  There is no indoor place to eat.  You either buy shucked oysters and sit at a picnic table to eat them, or you buy unshucked oysters and sit at a picnic table to eat them.With all the gear you could possibly need...It got very easy very quickly!But we were there for the experience.  We got a quick lesson in shucking, then opened a tab at the oyster bar and dug into some small Sweetwater oysters!  Shucking was not difficult after the first 2-3 and the oysters were delicious.  Smooth, plump and creamy...  I made a shallot jalapeño mignonette which went over VERY well with the birthday boy.  We managed to break into 36 oysters - I think we beat some personal records, but once you start you just don't want to stop!Get in my tummy please!!Brought other picnicky items and ended up making them into a fantastic grilled cheese sammie!Forgot to get an "after" shot: Gruyère & St. Andre cheeses, tomatoes and prosciutto! On this particular October Friday, the weather was PER-FECT.  In typical California coastal weather fashion, Fall is beautiful and clear.  The sun was warm while the a[...]

Perfectly salted


Note: in response to the requests for my recipe...I'm really very sorry, but since this is a potential business venture for me, I won't be publicizing the recipe. However, if somehow/some way it is successful and grows - you could then order some! :) It's a slow afternoon.  That doesn't happen too often as is perhaps illustrated by the amount of time that has passed since my last blog post.  I know I've made these empty promises over the last year that I *will* get back to my blog and *will* try to post with more frequency.  But I guess I'm not gonna say that anymore since clearly - I won't.  But it doesn't mean I'm gone forever!  It just means that life is so busy and full that you will have to be patient between postings!!I'm really not cooking a whole lot of new stuff.  And only baking for special occasions.  But you know what I AM making a lot of?  Like literally by the hundreds?  Caramels...This might be the perfect little candy...Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels to be exact.  This is an old, old recipe that my aunties have been making for my entire life (and I suppose, longer).  Originally there was no vanilla bean, no salt, and included walnuts.  The aunties would make huge batches around the holidays and they were given out as gifts.  And occasionally off-season, if you showed up at someone's house they'd bring a bag out of the freezer and you had to be PATIENT as the caramels warmed to room temperature...or just chip a tooth (they're just about worth the sacrifice.)I don't precisely recall when I started playing with the recipe.  It was probably a few years ago when I was making marshmallows and decided I wanted to attempt a "Scotch Kiss" à la See's Candy.  The scotch kisses (caramel covered marshmallows) didn't work so well due to the caramel hardening too quickly, but one thing I did discover is that the family caramel recipe is incredible!!For the Bake Sale I made about 240 caramels - that is one HUGE batchI had a large batch of vanilla beans -- Costco had been selling them.  And this was also about the time salted-fill-in-the-blank was becoming so popular on the dessert scene.  It of course started with caramel (salted caramel ice cream practically went viral), but I was also seeing salt sprinkled on chocolate and various chocolate tarts and even over unsalted butter to serve with bread at restaurants.  I personally love the flavor and crunch a sprinkling of salt adds to an item.And there we have it.  I took out the nuts (woulda been a lot going on in there), threw in some vanilla bean, sprinkled them with sea salt and watched them get devoured.The cutting and wrapping really is the hardest part - takes FOREVERI've always said one of the reasons I love to cook and bake so much is to watch people enjoy the food I make.  Maybe it's an ego-boost, so maybe it's semi-selfish of me.  But who cares.  Making people happy is making people happy!  And I have not seen people get quite so happy about something I've turned out of my kitchen since the latest batch of macs!  People LOVE these caramels.  How simple it is to toss a few in a baggie and deliver them to a friend over lunch, dinner, coffee and then watch them smile!Call me crazy and oddly frugal, but I cut my own wrappers out of wax paper tooThey're very tedious to make (all that cutting and wrapping) but they keep forever in the freezer!  And they don't get crushed under the weight of a tissue (like macarons, I swear...)  So I'm loving my salted caramels.In fact, I'm loving them so much - and so is everyone else - that I'm thinking I might start selling them to friends locally.  Just to test out the demand.  So friends - stay tuned!!  And watch Facebook!  And if you're not on Facebook - then I guess you won't get any... but who's not on Facebook?!!I don't always enjoy eating my creations, but these I will devour!!Depending on how this goes, maybe I'll expand and *gasp* ship.  An[...]

Trapped in paradise


I realize it's taken me like, two months to tell you about my entire Costa Rica trip, but a trip to the Monterey Peninsula and a very worthy bake sale took a handful of my blogging time away.  I also realize you might not even really care about the remainder of it but I write this for myself just as much as I write it for all of you.  And I guess I want to write a travel journal here!  If you don't know what I'm referring to, please click here.Our third and final stop in Costa Rica: La Fortuna (Arenal Volcano)  Arenal Volcano loomed over us everywhere we went!So... we left the rolling green hills and small quaint towns of Monteverde and headed down the mountain back to the heat and humidity.  Our next and last stop in Costa Rica was the town of La Fortuna.  However, La Fortuna is probably less well known by name than it is known for the active volcano whose shadow shades it: Arenal.The drive out of the mountains towards the volcano in the distanceThe "Jeep-Boat-Jeep" option from Monteverde to La Fortuna did not include a Jeep, but a van...Arenal Volcano was thought to be extinct until it unexpectedly erupted in 1968 and killed over 70 people in the villages of Tabacón, San Luís and Pueblo Nuevo.  It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and while it should be viewed as a danger to the people living around it, it is also a fascinating draw to those who don't.  After the eruption in 1968, tourists began flocking to the area in droves, to see the steam and rocks it spits and marvel at its magnificence.The doggies in La Fortuna know how to handle the heat and humidityThe town of La Fortuna sort of reminded me of a small California Central Valley townOf course the small local towns and villages had to accommodate the tourist demand, but as will frequently occur, it seemed to happen hastily if not even a bit crudely.  La Fortuna shows signs of this for sure.  It's not really an attractive town, however there is no shortage of restaurants, tours operators, taxis or souvenir shops.  The area grew to accommodate the tourists as opposed to the tourists coming because it was such a lovely area. We got fresh squeezed fruit juice smoothies everywhere we went!The fact that we could see the top of the volcano most of the time was apparently very rareAt the other end of the spectrum are the large and luxurious resorts and hot springs which have popped up along the roads leading away from town.  They too, bank on the tourists and capitalize on the geothermal activity in the ground which produces naturally occurring hot springs.  And the people, they do come.Our pricey prison ;)One cannot complain that Tabacón was not gorgeousWe stayed at one of these places; perhaps the most famous, actually: Tabacón (named for the village the volcano buried 40 years ago).  I'd been told by 3 different friends that I had to stay here.  And I don't exactly regret that we did, though I have some mixed feelings about this place.  While it was gorgeous, had earned 5 stars and is considered one of the Leading Hotels of the World, I guess I am still too Chinese cheap for these accommodations.  The room was affordable in my book at under $200/night, but NOTHING else was.  No meal was less than $25 (even breakfast) and no drink was under $5 (even cans of soda).  The spa treatments cost more than some of the nicest spas in San Francisco and to "escape" to town cost $24 for a round-trip taxi.  Upon arrival we felt a bit "trapped".  But I suppose there are worse places to be trapped...Can this be my room at home, too?Some of the beautiful grounds at the hot springsTabacón is not only famous for being a luxury resort, it is famous for its prolific hot springs.  Set about a 1/4 mile from the hotel is the famous Grand Spa which we joked was like a Raging Waters for adults.  I lost count of the (supposedly all natural) hot spring pools and waterfalls that meandered through the expansiv[...]

It's coming...


"What's coming?" you ask?"The BIG ONE!!!" I say.If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area your next comment will be "oh yah... 'The Big One'. We've been hearing about 'The Big One' ever since Loma Prieta..."But you are incorrect, since of course I'm not talking about an earthquake and instead am talking about San Francisco's SECOND ANNUAL FOOD BLOGGERS BAKE SALE!!!  And it is truly going to be BIG!Gotcha, right?But yes, it's true.  Remember last year?  We're doing it again this year!This coming Saturday is the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale which is part of the Great American Bake Sale. Gaby Dalkin of What's Gaby Cooking came up with the wonderful idea to invite food bloggers from across the country to unite and support the cause by holding bake sales in their states. May 14th is that day! Check out her list of food bloggers hosting bake sales in various states across the country.Vanilla bean salted caramels are already made and will be there for sale on Saturday!!Money raised will go towards Share Our Strength’s efforts to end childhood hunger in America.Anita, Shauna, Irvin and Annelies (and sorta, kinda, a little bit, moi) are generously hosting this year's sale during which we're hoping to DOUBLE our fundraising from last year, which was a whopping $1700!!  Yes, *just* 1 day of selling baked goods in San Francisco raised $1700 for Share Our Strength!Join Us!!!We have TWO locations this year.  At the last minute, I'm jumping in to manage the Kiehl's location and will be there at Kiehl's on Fillmore all day, Shauna and Annelies at 18 Reasons, and Anita and Irvin splitting time between both locations.I'll have red velvet cupcakes for saleAnd will also be selling cream puffs filled with vanilla custardAnd if there's extra time - the "famous" chocolate chip cookies!I'll be selling Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Vanilla Custard filled Cream Puffs and (time permitting) those "famous" Chocolate Chip Cookies.  But don't forget - there will also be 20+ more bakers contributing to the 18 Reasons location and 10+ more bakers contributing to the Kiehl's location!  Come early to get the best pickings!! The Deets:Where: 18 Reasons, 593 Guerrero Street, San Francisco, CA 94110When: Saturday May 14th, 2011 from 10am-6pmWho: Shauna, Annelies and 20+ additional food bloggers/bakers! Anita and Irvin will split their time between here and:Where: Kiehls, 2360 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115-1813When: Saturday May 14th, 2011 from 12pm-4pmWho: I'll be here the entire time! And so will 10+ additional food bloggers/bakers.  Anita and Irvin will also be spending some time.If you can't make it out or live too far from San Francisco, you can always make a donation from right here:Click here to donate!It's for a wonderful cause... but in reality - we'd prefer to meet you in person! Come on out - it's gonna be big!![...]



I just returned from a gorgeous weekend on the Monterey Peninsula.  This weekend was something of a perfect storm for me.  I'd planned months ago to run a portion of the Big Sur Marathon on Sunday (10.6 miles to be exact.)  But as I poked around The Internets one night, I realized the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival was the same weekend!  Clearly, it was meant to be!  It was as if someone had wrapped up a weekend, tied it with a bow and handed it to me.  Eating and drinking, then running all in one of the most beautiful and charming areas of California!Goat Cheese tart from Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas, TXThe hustle and bustle under the tents at the Grand Tasting on SaturdayI'd been wanting to go to Pebble Beach Food and Wine for a couple years now.  I remember seeing photos and reading statuses of my extremely lucky Facebook foodie friends last year and yearning for an opportunity to attend some time in the future.  Not so much to wine and dine and be fabulous, Dahling - but more to rub elbows (and perhaps protruding bellies) with some of the country's *pause* the world(?)'s greatest chefs!Andre Bienvenu's crew working the Joe's Stone Crab booth (Andre was just to my right and not in the shot)Joe's Stone Crab: Crab tamale and a butter rum shot -- yummy!I pored over photos and blog posts dreaming of the spectacle it must have been...all these chefs in ONE PLACE?  What if there was an earthquake and everyone fell into a crevasse?  Could we as a world, risk placing all these amazing cooks in one place at one time?  Who would continue to receive Michelin stars?  Ok.... I over-dramatize a bit.  But it was still an occurrence I dreamed of witnessing with my own eyes (not the earthquake/crevasse bit - but the PBFW bit...)Baby Burgers on brioche - from Justin Sledge of Calistoga RanchTim Love of Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth, TX was serving more tamales (a popular item today!)Hmm... well.... sooo....  while the event was almost fabulous, I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed.  I knew my mind likely embellished the fabulousness of that which could be Pebble Beach Food and Wine, but even taking that into consideration, I was *still* disappointed.  I'm ridiculously thankful we were fortunate enough to receive comped tickets and didn't drop the $195 per person.  I'll save my $195 for an experience in a restaurant, thankyouverymuch.Mindy Segal (far right) from Mindy's Hot Chocolate Restaurant in ChicagoIt's not that the tents weren't beautiful or that the music wasn't fun and "club-like".  It's not that we didn't taste little bits of heaven here and there.  Nor was it that we couldn't have sampled 4-5 quadrillion wines.  In fact, for what it was - the event was nice.  There were lines, but they didn't take more than 10-15 minutes (and were made better if you had a sidekick to run and swoop up additional tidbits to bring back while you stood there and sipped wine).  It wasn't uncomfortably crowded nor were folks too pretentious or ostentatious (I said "too").  Really I was most disappointed by... the chefs.Michael Ginor who is the co-founder, co-owner, & President of Hudson Valley Foie Gras & New York State Foie GrasThere was foie gras on this plate - I don't remember anything else because it doesn't matter... *drool*OK, ok now let me fill in some blanks before I go off the deep end here.  We went on Saturday (perhaps they all came out to play on Sunday?) and we only attended the Lexus Grand Tasting as opposed to any other events.  I realize that the "schmancier" chefs perhaps were merely meandering with us Foodies under the tents that day.  Meanwhile for an extra $100-1000 one could hobnob with them more intimately at a cooking demo, lunch or dinner party, golf tournament, etc.  But the dreamlike delusions in my head saw me running from table to table, w[...]

Colorful cookies


Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter, yesterday.  Remember these?  I made them again yesterday.  SO pretty!!I'm going to briefly veer away from my Costa Rica recap and head back to the reason I originally started this blog: to talk about food!  Baking in particular!  You all know I love tea.  I. Love. Tea.  I'm not talking about a good ole cup of Earl Grey, but afternoon tea and all the frilly girlie goodness that goes along with it: silver, china, tablecloths, cloth napkins, finger sandwiches, lemon curd, scones, sugar cubes, clotted cream, petit fours...  Frequently you'll also find cookies served at the end of afternoon tea, along with the petit fours (or in lieu of).  I'm hot and cold about cookies in general.  I know that sounds crazy since I'm a baker.  But bakers don't have to love everything they bake...  I mean, I don't even love eating my own macarons!  (I know - I know... there's something wrong with me).Cranberry tea cookies with.... tea!However, these cranberry tea cookies are ridiculous.  I can't stop eating them.  In fact, I think I can't make them anymore because I will NOT STOP EATING them.  To make matters worse, they're super easy to make.  So combine easy-to-make with delicious and you're in a dangerous spot.It's kinda crazy how good these cookies are - especially for how simple they are to makeI'm not sure why I don't love cookies.  I also don't love cake - but I guess that's another blog post...  Cookies are boring to me, maybe.  They're not always very pretty - even when they taste great.  I think cookies are frequently done poorly too - especially homemade ones.  OK, ok... I know - now I'm just getting snobby.  But it seems people so often over-bake cookies that I just no longer trust I'm gonna get a tasty morsel when I'm offered one.  Instead, by default - I always turn them down. *sigh*I ate all of these after I took this photo... seriously.OK, so less tooting of the horn and more discussion on the blog post topic, yes?  The cranberry tea cookies.  These are technically called Cranberry Noel Cookies and I believe the original recipe has coconut in it.  Um, no thanks.  With a name like cranberry NOEL cookies - these are really a Christmas cookie.  But I love them.  And I wanted some in April.  So I'm calling them Cranberry Tea Cookies.  Problem solved.Of course you can eat these cookies with coffee instead of tea.  Or a glass of milk.  Or like I do, out of the cookie jar with no accompanying beverage.The original recipe doesn't call for this - but I thought it was a nice touchI decided to make a little change to the original recipe which was given to us by a family friend... I roll the edges of the cookies in sugar before baking.  I originally did this because I thought I'd been a bit too generous with my cranberries and nuts in one batch and made the cookies not-sweet-enough.  So I rolled them in granulated sugar.  I loved how they turned out though; the sugar made them sparkle and the little crunch it added was very lovely.  I continue to roll them in sugar whether I'm heavy handed with the accouterments, or not!Want the recipe?  I know you do...Cranberry Noel Tea CookiesMakes 35-40 cookies2-4 oz sticks salted butter at room temperature (8 oz total)1/2 cup sugar2 T milk or cream1 t vanilla1/2 t salt2 1/2 cups flour1/2 c chopped pecans3/4 c chopped dried cranberries1/4 c extra sugarCream butter and sugar til fluffy. Add milk and vanilla - mix. Add flour and salt - mix well.  It might seem crumbly at this point but if you keep blending it will come together eventually.  Add the cranberries and pecans. Add cranberries and pecans...Roll into 2 logs about 8 x 1 1/2".  Wrap and chill for 2 hours in the fridge.  I've also put them in the freezer for 3[...]

Green Mountain


Wow!  I was a little overwhelmed at how many folks *DO* still seem to read my blog and even, gosh... missed me while I was gone!  I knew this to be partially true from comments I've received from some friends over the past few months.  But those are my personal FRIENDS!  It's wonderful to see so many of you out there commenting to me in various places.  Hopefully it'll keep me going!Monteverde was just beautifulA little cheesy but a little cool too: the Tree House RestaurantOur Costa Rica trip continued with 3 nights in Monteverde.  Monteverde is about 100 miles from Tamarindo but takes upwards of 2.5 hours due to the BUMPY and ROCKY roads as you get into the mountains.  I tend to get car (& sea / air / hand-filmed-home-video)-sick and was a bit concerned about the winding roads to get there, but when the roads are THAT rocky, one can't get to traveling any faster than maybe 25 mph on them.  No speed = no carsick.  Perfect!!Our home for 3 nights: Arco Iris Lodge. VERY happy with this place.In hindsight we would have rented a car while in Costa Rica - but the price (and an amazing amount of concern from friends) caused me to go the shuttle/private driver route instead.  I actually think we still spent less on transportation than a rental would have been, however a rental would have provided us flexibility and of course a lot more freedom.More casado... *yawn*We loved the fresh fruit drinks all over CR - tho I was a bit skeptical of the BLUE cherry?Monteverde might have just been my favorite stop on our trip!  But I think that may have had something to do with the weather.  At 4600 feet in elevation, it was MUCH cooler here.  And I am absolutely a cool-climate girl.  It was beautiful and sunny during the day, with temperatures maybe into the 80's but at night it dropped as low as the high 50's.  It was like San Francisco Bay Area weather!  The one thing I didn't love was the wind.  At night it was so loud I thought it might actually tear the roof of our hotel off!  But I guess, it also made bundling up under the thick blankets seem more cozy and appropriate.One of the lodge's doggies - they have a very rough lifeBreakfast buffet at the Arco Iris Lodge - $7/person (yes that is passionfruit spread!!)We stayed at the Arco Iris Lodge in Monteverde.  Again, I found this place on TripAdvisor and for the millionth time since I began seriously traveling 10+ years ago, thanked my lucky stars for TripAdvisor.  The lodge was no-nonsense, basic accommodations but clean and safe and affordable.  And while it was right smack dab in the middle of town, it was up a long [steep] driveway which put us just far enough off the beaten path that we were not at all bothered by foot (or car) traffic.  It was very quiet and relaxing.  (OK, how *old* am I getting that I'm continually recommending places because they're "quiet"??!!)We did a night walk tour one night, which I don't mention in this post - it was OK... mostly insectsThe beautiful gardens at Selvatura ParkWe did what I'd say were our most interesting tours in Monteverde.  What's the one thing everyone comes back from Costa Rica talking about?  Well, okay maybe the mediocre food too, but: ziplining!! (aka: "canopy tour").  We spent the better part of a day touring Selvatura Park.  Selvatura seemed to have the most prominent reputation for ziplining and hanging bridges tours in the area, versus others like Sky Trek (where The Bachelor went) and Extremo.  While Mr. Travel Companion felt they were a little anti-climactic, I had a great time zip-lining from tree to tree, HUNDREDS of feet in the air.  I only wish I could have paused to take photos from up there!  Our 13th, and final zip-line was done in pairs and because of that, was the fastest line (more weight = more inertia).&[...]

Hello again


I've never been gone this long.  I'm not even sure anyone's still out there waiting for me to return.  But life has been good.  So good in fact, that my blog has clearly moved to the end of my priority list.  There are a few reasons for this... 1) I kinda did a big makeover of myself which includes running (a lot) and consuming A LOT FEWER baked goods.  When you consume a lot less, you bake and cook a lot less.  You also lose a lot of weight - so this is a good thing.  2) Most of my favorite things to bake and cook have already been blogged!  You wouldn't want to see repeats, right?  3) Blogging used to fill a void in my life that I seem to no longer have.  I won't go into detail on this, but it still comes into play here.  4) I've been busy living a fabulous life!  Can't blame me for that one, right?!Mine's the beer, J/K!So I haven't been baking a lot, or cooking a lot, or eating a ton... but I've still been traveling!  And I've always said, my blog is my blog to blog about what I want to blog about.  So if I go somewhere and want to tell you about it - I shall!I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Costa Rica.  No, not exactly the adventure travel I've gotten a little used to (Africa or China, anyone?) but still a great vacation.  I always say there's a difference between "travel" and "vacation".  Travel is hard work, but one can have the greatest experience of their life while learning so much about themselves and the lives of others.  Vacation is relaxing, vegging and the dulling down of one's brain.  We thought Costa Rica would be travel, but in fact, it turned out to be a vacation.  I didn't complain too much.Our view each morning from Villa Alegre's patio (breakfast)Monkeys playing in the lobby of a local hotel!I planned my own trip after doing a few zillion hours of online research.  No all-inclusive resorts or package tours for me.  I like learning about a place and then picking exactly which towns/hotels I want to stay in and for how long.  It's just my controlling organized nature.Playa Langosta -> Monteverde -> La FortunaWe spent 3 nights in 3 different towns all in the northwestern-ish part of CR.  We started in Playa Langosta / Tamarindo, then headed east to the mountains (4600 ft in elevation) of Monteverde, finally ending in hot-humid, La Fortuna at the Arenal Volcano.First and most importantly, in light of this blog... The Food.  It is nothing to write home about (hmm and yet here I am).  We kept discussing how even the most average meal in San Francisco is better than most of the food we ate in Costa Rica.  We constantly claimed how spoiled we are living in the Bay Area, where the food and restaurants and chefs and ingredients are not only good, but phenomenal.A couple additional local faves: Imperial cerveza and sea bass ceviche (and in all honesty - Lizano Salsa too)We kept asking the locals for their favorite local food and KEPT getting the same answer: casado.  Casado is the traditional national dish of CR.  The plate consists of a meat (beef, fish, pork or chicken) beans, rice, fried plantains and sometimes a salad.  It's certainly well-rounded.  But it's EVERYWHERE.  I mean it'd be like if a foreigner came to the U.S. and everyone they asked told them to get a steak and potatoes.  Sure it's tasty the first few times but after that you just want some VARIETY.  I hate being "that" traveler who orders pizza or a burger in a foreign country, but by the end of our trip I found myself doing just that.  It was sad... I was ashamed of myself, but really I couldn't HANDLE it anymore!My First Casado: mahi-mahi. Not bad...One thing I was quite happy with about our trip were our accommodations.  Sure I did a lot of research, but the re[...]

Oh, Alinea


I've been putting off a post about my trip to Chicago and it's not exactly 'cuz I'm lazy - but more because my trip to Chicago was such a Foodie Tour, that I don't even know how to begin sharing it! I'd want to share EVERYTHING and then this post would need a table of contents, a prologue, chapters and an appendix! However, certain news came out this week which has helped me to narrow down which part of my Chicago trip I should share first. Anyone hear about this? Or care? Cuz, hell, I do!!"Cocktails": Pisco sour, Juliet and Romeo rosewater and cucumberand an 'Improved Manhattan'Steelhead roe on top of frozen coconut mousse with pineapple powders.This was just about our FAVORITE dish of the night!I heard rumblings about Alinea when they first opened back in 2005. And I've basically been wanting to go ever since! Molecular gastronomy was brand-spanking new (and if you live in San Francisco, you'd think it's still up and coming!) A few years ago, my BFF and I decided we'd go to Chicago together sorta specifically to dine at Alinea, but also 'cuz neither of us World Travelers could believe we'd never been. Well life sorta got in the way so our grand plans were pushed out. And we FINALLY made our way to the Windy City in September. The FIRST thing we did was make that Alinea reservation... then plane, hotel...Yuba (tofu skin) wrapped in gulf prawn with miso mayonnaise.Sugarcane with compressed shrimp broth, Thai chilis. Heirloom tomato salad with frozen powders:Mozzarella, pinenuts, bell pepper, Parmesan...Oh and in case anyone is wondering? [Chef] Grant Achatz rhymes with Ant Jackets.I wish I'd taken a photo of the front door and hallway into the restaurant. But I was trying to not be a huge touristy dork. *TRYING* is the key word here (since I soon became aforementioned huge touristy dork upon being seated at my table). We are big dorks - and *SO SO SO* excited to be here!! Thai flavors distillation - palate cleanser.Fish sauce, lemongrass and Thai chiliWe kinda had no idea how to get into the restaurant once the cab dropped us off. There was no sign and no address. If I recall correctly, all that stood out was a small valet sandwich board - but I don't remember seeing a human out there. Fortunately Debbie and I are reasonably well educated and figured we'd try the unmarked door. It led to a dimly lit, long, entry hallway. But I had a feeling we were on the right path due to the very polished and contemporary feel that little hallway exhibited. We walked to the end and began to ponder what to do next - but before we could panic, a door to our left electronically whizzed open to produce a bustling foyer and smiling faces welcoming us to Alinea!Wow, it's almost like Disneyland! OK, kidding... kidding. Though, if you consider just how happy this meal made two grown-up girls, perhaps it IS like Disneyland... Spring roll of Pork belly confit Add the other ingredients to the spring roll: salt, cucumber balls, garlic chips,mango with curry, lime, daikon matchsticks, red onions, "sriracha".And basil seed vinaigrette.Wrap it all together and shove it in your mouth...well, that's what we did at leastWe had a very early 5:45 reservation. But were extremely surprised to see that we were in no way the first diners that evening. In fact the other Super Foodies who were eating in our room were done as we got to about our halfway point! What time did they start? 4pm??Note this awesome serving dish.It started like this - serving: King Crab mousse with plum jelly,candied lemon, ginger pâte de fruit. Over buttermilk lilac sorbet.Remove the top of the dish and we get another course:More King Crab, flavors of plum, daikon, avocado, mustard seeds.The bottom level of the dish:Fennel glissade (?). More King Crab and plum flavors.Star anise "explosion" and cippolini onion. A course of Midwest memor[...]

A Passion


I can't even begin to explain where I've been the last month. So much is going on but so much of it is fantastic - that I'm almost not too apologetic. There are things going on at work and things going on personally and they're just keeping me busier than I've been in an extremely long time. Then in the midst of all of this craziness - my hard drive decided to die and I basically had to rebuild my entire computer. It to say the least. But let's stop with the excuses and just get to what you REALLY want to read about:Tart and sweet and simply, perfectI was just a little bit obsessed with passionfruit this past summer. I think this post still holds the highest number of hits on my entire blog. But even outside my blog I'd find myself ordering passionfruit cocktails and tarts and pâte de fruit... and loving them! Then I did this and got to sample Jen's passionfruit ice cream à la David Lebovitz when we had dinner at her house. Uh oh - you mean this recipe is in my "The Perfect Scoop" book at home? We're about to be in trouble.Passionfruit might just be my new obsessionIt didn't take long for me to start thinking about that ice cream once I got home. And I even had tubs of passionfruit puree in my freezer just *waiting*. But what I didn't have, yet really wanted was passionfruit SEEDS to add that tiny crunch to the ice cream. And those basically only come from real passionfruits (duh)! I looked but didn't very obviously find any fresh passionfruits at local grocery stores - even the Asian ones. It's possible I needed to go INTO San Francisco for this, but I never made the time. ~I can find the Perfect Puree at Draegers in the Bay Area~Combining the puree and creamThen I was reading my cousin Courtney's blog. She and her husband have been living in Melbourne, Australia for the better part of the last year. Well, in one of her entries she talked about a pavlova she made. And what did I spy on top of her pavlova? Passionfruit puree WITH SEEDS! (Please re-read the title of this blog post in case you're wondering why I'm getting so excited.)Tempering the egg yolks with the hot milk mixture - work fast!Cook until you can draw a "line" on your spatulaAt this point I knew I'd be seeing Courtney for our other cousin's wedding just a few weeks later and sweetly asked her if she could buy and bring me a can or two of this wondrous passionfruit puree! Of course she did - and I LOVE HER FOR IT!! *Thanks Snort!!*If we had a Woolworths selling passionfruit pulp here in The States,you can bet I'd be there buying itHow beautiful is that passionfruit pulp?Anyone going to Australia and wanna pick some up for me?...So I was ready! I finally had all my ingredients and I could make this fantastical passionfruit ice cream. Gosh - it takes a village doesn't it? Jen, Courtney and I guess even Mr. Lebovitz! ~The original recipe made *so* little I doubled it for you!~Of course after churning, the volume is greater due to all the air mixed inI made it more per Jen than Lebovitz, tho the differences were small. She omitted the orange oil/zest and I decided I wanted to as well. I'd also personally suggest a TAD more sugar, like probably a full half cup instead of 7 T. I do tend to like things a bit more sweet than tart though.Oh shucks I have to clean the rest of this out...This ice cream is phenomenal. And in all seriousness - it NEEDS the seeds. I don't know what I'll do when my small stash of Australian passionfruit puree is gone. But for now I'm portioning it out to each batch of ice cream in a manner where the LEAST amount possible goes in to still have a few bites of seeds in a serving. Did I hear someone say anal retentive?!?So make this ice cream. Seriously. No, seriously. It's incredible.Sublime.I doubled the original recipe:1 cup fresh or frozen pa[...]

A remodel


Everyone loves seeing a fantastic remodel, right? Especially when it includes a kitchen! Well, I suppose I'm banking on this theory in writing this post... I personally LOVE seeing before/after kitchen remodel pictures so I thought you all might enjoy them as well!This might get me to visit Tahoe more often...Before: was cozy, but not too polished(note the location of the entry tile and bathroom door remains the same;the Tiffany glass lamp was made for my parents by a friend & they still love it)I'm not sure who's been reading my blog this long, maybe 4 of you? (Mom, Dad, Tracey, Amy?) Well, you 4 might recall this post about our home in Tahoe. I love our Tahoe house and *wish* I went up more often. I think I need some friends who REALLY egg me to go or I just won't battle the weekend traffic, no matter how much I love it up there.Before: Mom demonstrates where she'd spend most of her timeBefore: LOVE that faux-wood Formica!After: There is now room for 2 to work at that [granite] counter!My parents, however, spend A LOT of time at the Tahoe house in their retirement, and for this reason, my mom decided it was about time to junk the 31 year-old kitchen. You may recall from many of my posts that she really is the cook who taught me to cook. So for that reason, I can't believe she tolerated that dinky kitchen for all those weekends over the past 27 years we've owned the cabin. And not just dinky but: electric stove, original fridge and dishwasher, [super ugly] Formica counter-tops, atrocious linoleum, and even an old, squat faucet!Before: Dad demos the "super cutting-edge in its day, I'm sure"ice compartment in the old fridgeBefore: Faux-wood trim on a fridge is ALWAYS a great ideaAfter: The wall next to the fridge was moved forward just a few inchesYes, yes, it all worked and it's for this reason that it took 27 years to remodel. But we are a family that believes in just a bit more than "if it's not broke don't fix it". We value and greatly enjoy when things not only work but look nice and feel good while they're working. And of course, they also enlarged the kitchen a bit by removing a wall and extending a counter. Suddenly you can comfortably fit 3 people in the kitchen when it was previously PACKED with just 2!Before: When we bought the house, that microwavewas a small overhead ovenAfter: My mom is 4'11"... we'll someday need toresell to another tiny Asian womanBefore: The... idda know, actually? Bar? Nook? Desk? Sideboard?After: Much better. Let's call it a desk.They essentially remodeled the entire downstairs of the cabin which includes a bathroom, entry and living-room. The best part is of course that kitchen - especially when I sit and think about the relevance to my blog. But the bathroom is worth showing a bit as well. I wish I had a better before picture, but I just don't. It's only superficial changes anyway.Before: Baby Lucca and her audience - but behind her, the real reason for the photo: Old flooring, cabinetry, doors...Before: Okay really I just wanted to put this picture in'cuz she was SO DANG CUTE at 10 weeks old!!! After: Sorry I don't have a "before" to compare with the picture on the rightI suppose in a way, Lucca is a before & after as well, so here she is 2 years after those pix...The remodel was finished in June but I was the last in my family to see it completed, even behind my brother. I finally got up to Tahoe last weekend on a fun little trip with my parents, auntie and uncle. And yes - we three women *did* test the capacity of that kitchen. 3 of us cooking at once. Well, the kitchen passed. With flying colors.[...]

Thanks for breakfast


I love breakfast foods. There's something so incredibly comforting about breakfast foods. Although I suppose I love MORE the homemade pancakes, waffles, Dutch babies, croissants, bagels, French Toast, scones, blueberry muffins, biscuits, cinnamon rolls, coffee cake, crepes, hot cereal and Danishes we'd get on weekend mornings growing up, as opposed to the cold cereal we'd get on weekdays. My mom has a very simple French Toast she's done for as long as I can remember. Just white bread plunged in beaten egg, lightly fried in butter and eaten with lemon juice and powdered sugar. Yum.Well this isn't that recipe...Mom and I do "Girls' Weekends". If you've been reading for a while, I think you know this. The first of these was while I was in college and reasonable driving distance to Santa Barbara. We fell in love with the Bath Street Inn and even returned there a year or two later. The folks at Bath Street are/were FANTASTIC cooks (it was quite a few years ago - but I must assume they still are!) This is partly why we returned. Santa Barbara's not too shabby either... The inn is an old Victorian with all the charm one expects from a B&B. I love all those little nooks you can find to hide out in and read a book. And best of all - it's about a mile walk to the gorgeous downtown shops and restaurants one imagines when they think of Santa Barbara. Crumbled butter, sugar and nuts ~~ Drizzled with [real] maple syrupI like my bread slices a tad wider so I cut on a bit of a diagonalOf course there are breakfasts. Unbelievable breakfasts! We'd wake up each morning wondering what we were going to get that day and LOVED the anticipation of knowing it'd be mouthwatering. Two recipes we happily trotted away with were for their scones and their Baked French Toast. I love when B&Bs not only prepare scrumptious food, but have recipes printed up and ready to share with their guests when asked. Fabulous of you Bath Street!!As it sits overnight a lot of that egg will be absorbed into the breadIn the morning - they're like sponges!I don't very often make the Baked French Toast. Not 'cuz it's not ridiculously heavenly, but because it contains scary amounts of sugar, eggs, butter and carbs. However, this past weekend the gloves came off. I ran 10 miles on Saturday. Now that's no feat compared to my marathon-training buds running 16+. But it's still a friggin' lot. I decided Sunday morning I could consume a bit lot of sugar, eggs, butter and carbs.Coming out of the oven all bubbly and delicious smelling!Is that a cinnamon bun or a piece of baked French toast?Ohhhh... breakfast comfort food. Why is there so often so much *bad stuff* in comfort food? Seriously - is the word "salad" in anyone's definition of comfort food? Not unless you're a huge, weird freak! So needless to say, the Baked French Toast was a hit this weekend. I think it comforted all who partook. And even drove some to seconds. Thank you Bath Street Inn!It really didn't take long...Bath Street Inn's Baked French Toast c. 19986-8 tablespoons butter (salted/unsalted - not a big diff)3/4 cup brown sugar1/2 cup ground nuts1/2 cup maple syrup3/4 loaf of French bread cut into 1-1/2" slices8 eggs1 cup milk*Note: the overall recipe came from Bath Street, but I have reduced the amounts of butter, sugar and maple syrupCut the first 3 ingredients together until crumbly. Sprinkle over a 9x13 dish. Drizzle with maple syrup. Place the bread over the syrup. Beat eggs with the milk and pour over. Press the bread down to help absorb the egg. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bake covered for 35-50 minutes in a 325° oven until it's bubbling. Serve upside down.[...]

The Pilgrimage


I know, I know, I know... it's been a LONG time. I've actually never let this much time lapse on my blog. Even when things were really rough, or I was out of the country, or it was the holidays, or I was housetraining a puppy. I know. I really can't believe it myself. AND - I have NO good excuses. I know.Someone told me Snoqualmie Falls is the #1 destinationfor tourists in Washington state!Yes, I've been busy. I flew 12 times from March-July. And being single now, I'm honestly not cooking or baking that much. Cooking/Baking for one = more food than necessary = weight gain. I have the pounds to prove it. Instead, I've been running. A good trade-off, yes? I'm training for the Nike Women's [Half] Marathon in San Francisco in October. (instead of a medal, we get Tiffany necklaces - YES!!). But I don't think you want to read a blog post about my running.That would mean this place is NOT the #1 WA tourist destination!SOoooo what to blog about? Well I *have* been traveling. So this blog entry is going to be about my latest trip, to Seattle. It was actually more to Bellevue, but I flew into SEA so I'm calling this my Seattle entry (you know it's not like you say "I'm going to Anaheim for the weekend!", you'd exclaim that you're going to LA... At least I would.)The happy new Mr. & Mrs.!!I was in Seat...err... Bellevue a few weeks ago for my little baby cousin's wedding. You really start to feel old when a kid whose diapers you changed gets married. But that's a separate story.Breathtaking...I could probably do that for hours, literallyScottie married Michelle in a GORGEOUS ceremony and reception at the Snoqualmie Ridge Golf Club. It was gorgeous. Gorgeous. Greens as far as one could see and a backdrop of Mount Si looming in the distance. I was there for the rehearsal which was full of harsh lighting and gawd-awful shadows. But Mother Nature was oh-so-kind to them on their wedding day and threw up her natural light diffuser: overcast, but no rain. Gorgeous.Congratulations to Scott & Michelle!I stayed in Bellevue and took a couple trips to Seattle but way MORE trips out to the Snoqualmie area. It's seriously a beautiful place, this "Seattle". I've been a few times in my life but appreciate it more as I get older. The hills are green, the weather is kind (if you love overcast like I!), the people are intelligent and the views are just lovely wherever you are.Forget about Starbucks... Cooks come to Pike PlaceMarket to visit the very first Sur la Table! Farmer's Market even in the cold and drearinessSince I'm fundamentally a "food blogger" I will next talk about food. Because really - that's all you want to hear about, yes? Let's talk about foods one will travel long distances for. Like the Cuban Roast sandwich at Paseo in Fremont. Rarely have I seen a restaurant with close to 1000 yelp reviews *still* averaging 4.5 stars. Paseo does. This particular sandwich also won Esquire Magazine's "Best Cuban Sandwich in the US" award in 2008. And let's not forget that Scott & Michelle have been telling me to go there since perhaps the night I met Michelle. "Hi, I'm Michelle! So you're a big food person too? Ok, well I grew up in Seattle and you HAVE to try this sandwich..." (kidding). I knew it would be a stop on my next visit. And fortunately, a lot of my family shared my passion. My cousin Ron is such a REBEL! ~~ The line at [the first] SB at 10amThe first Starbucks has a completely different logo thatjust didn't translate well worldwide for perhaps a few reasons...Schwag, schwag, schwag...Our pilgrimage began late on a cold, Saturday morning. Did I care that this was wedding day? Nope. The #2 with a side of corn was calling and nothing was stopping me. I'd spen[...]

'Cots and crunch


I had some friends over for dinner the other night. And while the reason I invited them over was to thank them for continually and repeatedly taking care of Lucca for me while I'm out of town, they showed up on my doorstep with a bucket full of apricots. Freshly picked THAT day. In fact they ran a little late arriving 'cuz they were out picking apricots. How wonderful does that sound?? I mean first off - how dare they show up with "gifts" but could I turn them away? OF COURSE NOT!The cream is there to dress it up, but really, it needed no dressingGorgeous. Simple, rustic and gorgeous.The apricots were small, but perfect. I'm not a huge fan of fresh apricots but I seriously love them cooked into things desserts. And these apricots were so fresh and perfect that even this "non-apricot-lover" enjoyed a few uncooked ones!Fresh picked the day beforeI knew I needed to make them into something quickly since there was no way I was going to let them get past their prime when they were a gift and started off so beautiful the day I received them. So I got down to it the very next day. But what to make them into??Yup, throw an egg yolk into your crustYup, throw some cornmeal in there too...It's summer. I'm currently training for a half marathon (note the Team in Training badge to the right). I will likely be donning a bathing suit in the near future. Therefore, I didn't want to make anything too heavy and sweet like an apricot pie. I also didn't have any social functions at which I could "get rid of this" dessert, so I wanted to keep it small and simple. It's quite a crumbly crust, but it DOES come togetherI was thinking a lot about apricot tarts but didn't want the typical apricot and almond tart with the almond filling. I was craving just fruit and crust. I finally put a whole bunch of epicurious recipes together and made up my own: Honey Vanilla Poached Apricot Cornmeal Galette. Yes, when you put 3 different recipes together you get a mouthful of a title. And no, you do not poach the baked apricot galette in honey and vanilla...I just rolled it out on the Silpat, assembled, then baked. Très facile.I've been reading about cornmeal pie crusts a lot and they intrigued me. I ♥ cornmeal. I ♥ the crunchiness cornmeal adds to muffins and breads. I ♥ it! So I wanted to make a cornmeal crust. But I didn't want a double crust since I was trying to keep this a little light. So I used this crust recipe, but halved it and left some of the sugar out.Beautiful color on those 'cotsI also didn't want to fuss around with a pie plate or baking dish and figuring out if I had enough filling and what not. So I decided to make a galette. Making a pie into a galette suddenly allows you to call it "rustic" and "earthy". I liked the freedom a galette gave me. Just make it as big as I had filling for. So I kinda studied this recipe a little, but didn't use any of the elements from it.I cheated with peach preserves *ssshhhh*For my apricot filling I again didn't want a super thick and sweet pie-filling type apricot mixture, so gently poaching them sounded like a much better idea to me. I found this recipe and like it a lot, though next time I might throw a cinnamon stick in as well?...It's okay that I drank that syrup afterward, right?I KID!!!And here's how I put them all together: made up the cornmeal crust and let it sit in the fridge. While it sat, I poached the apricots (though I'd probably suggest a full pound instead of 3/4). While the poached apricots drained, I rolled my crust dough on a Silpat, to a 9-10" circle and spread 1/3-1/2 cup of peach preserves over it (I didn't have apricot in the fridge - peach worked just fine). Next was the layer of poached apri[...]



It's not very often I prepare things that come out of boxes or containers and feed them to people. For instance, one of the most beloved cakes we make in our family calls for a box cake mix to start (horrors!) Yet I'm on a mission to find a "from scratch" recipe that will taste the same (or better)! I know - there's nothing really WRONG with it, but somehow it just seems healthier to NOT dump something out of a box, manipulate it a bit and serve...Such a corny name, but what would you call it?Another favorite recipe also calls for "boxes" and "containers". Four Layer Delight. The original recipe includes instant chocolate pudding and Cool Whip. Yes, it could be worse - and I could instead make my own chocolate pudding and sweetened whip cream. But the way we've made it for years is with Jello pudding and Cool Whip. So why make it more complicated? The crust alone would be a yummy cookie!!Mmmm... cream cheese and powdered sugarFour Layer Delight is a dessert my mom has been making for just about as long as I can remember. And until this weekend, I thought it was something we only ate in our family. Then I Googled it. Here I thought no one would know what I was talking about if I said "four layer delight" but apparently it's not as original as I thought.Yes you could make a complicated homemade chocolatepudding - but this is instant It's such a perfect summer dessert 'cuz it's fast and easy, it's cool, and it can be made way in advance. The way we make it (which I think happens to be the most common, though I did see a butterscotch version) is:Layer 1..... Pecan shortbread crustLayer 2..... Sweetened cream cheeseLayer 3..... Chocolate puddingLayer 4..... Cool Whip sprinkled with nutsAw Nuts!It was difficult to pause and take this picture - yes I was eating itOk maybe you call that five layers? Do the nuts count?Heck though, I'm not counting. It's too refreshingly yummy delicious!!Four Layer Delight:1 1/4 c flour3 T powdered sugar1 cup ground nuts1 cube salted butter, melted1-8oz cream cheese (low-fat ok)1 cup powdered sugar1-8oz container Cool Whip (light or fat free ok)2 small (3.9 oz) boxes instant chocolate pudding2 cups milk (skim ok)Mix the 3 T of powdered sugar, flour and nuts in a 9x13 pan. Add melted butter. Mix & press into the pan. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees - until brown. Let cool completely. Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and 1 cup Cool Whip and spread over the cooled crust. Combine chocolate pudding with milk, beat until thick and spread over. Top with remaining Cool Whip and ground nuts. Let sit in the fridge for at least a couple hours.[...]

Bloggers in Boulder


If you spend much time hanging around the food blogosphere you're probably already aware of the Food and Light Photography Workshop that Jen from Use Real Butter coordinated, executed and instructed in Boulder, CO early this week. She invited fellow über bloggers, Diane & Todd from White On Rice Couple and Helen from Tartelette to assist and teach alongside her. Combine this with the fact that my dad's best friend, Nick lives in Boulder and I really couldn't turn the opportunity down!A few of my shots from the workshop In order to be a kick ass food blogger, you must own and love at least one's a rule.(this one happens to be Jen's Kaweah)I'm not entirely sure how to boil an incredibly full 4 days down to 1 blog post, but I'm going to try. Let's preface this all by saying that the days I spent in Boulder were absolutely incredible. It truly resembled a summer vacation the likes of those we had in elementary school where we would forget all responsibilities and just PLAY. I talked my parents into coming along to Boulder and Anita accompanied me as well. We all stayed at Nick's Boulder Foothills home; played with his doggies, laughed with his friends and ate his wonderful food. I've visited Boulder many times in my childhood, mostly due to Nick and Carol, but coming as an adult is a totally new experience and I'm already looking forward to coming back. Todd popped the champagne ~~ We all toasted to Anita's recent marriage!No one was surprised that Jen's table looked PERFECTAndrea, Susan and Helen ready for bubbly on the deckBut then of course there was the workshop. Oh, the workshop. Other than 1 Nikon course I took a few years ago (long before I knew anything about photography and therefore the content flew right over my head) and some HS classes which were more about developing than photography, I've hardly taken a photography class. And now I'm afraid that I will never again take another photography course strictly because this one was SO INCREDIBLE. Now, part of the reason this course was so awesome is because it was so perfectly designed and catered to food photographers and really, that's what I tend to be. A sports or nature photographer wouldn't have gotten quite as much out of it; but that's why it was called the FOOD and Light workshop. Roasted beets with goat cheese & hazelnuts and marinated flank steak (with chimichurri)! I ♥ Jen! Photo courtesy of HelenNow, for some shout outs. I must begin with our UHMAYZING instructors. First, Jen Yu. In some circles, all you do is mention her name and people light up. If it's not clear from reading her blog, it's ABSOLUTELY clear when you meet her in person: Jen is a FREAKING gem. She's sweet and generous and super sharp and thorough and honest. I had such high expectations for this workshop and she managed to exceed them! It was very clear that since the workshop was in UseRealButterLand, Jen was the one who hustled to make it happen and make it happen WELL. From the CRAZY packed swag bags we got full of goodies from Izze, Chef's Catalog, Stonyfield, Savory Spice Shop, Earthy Delights, New West KnifeWorks, Nations Photo Lab and more, to the free endless coffee she arranged for us at Atlas Purveyors, to the prizes she organized to give out for best photos, to the lists of restaurants and accommodations she gave us, to the questionnaire she sent us in order to plan the teachings. *whew* I'm tired just listing it!!! She DID IT! Helen shows us how she can make Frito-Lay bean dip look fancy - brilliant woman!As if the above weren't enough, Jen also pulled some additional fantastic people/fantastic photographers/fantas[...]

Pink meringue


Meringue. I love meringue. I mean come on... we've established this, right? One of the first things I baked with a vengeance back in early high school was lemon meringue pie. And I made TONS. What? You didn't like lemon meringue pie? Too bad - I was gonna make you one if you came to our house back then. I loved and still love meringue.So it perhaps isn't too surprising to hear that as I flipped through my [February?] issue of Martha Stewart Living, and thumbed past this; my thumb basically screeched to a stop in its tracks. The first chance I had, I made it. And yes - it was February and I bought raspberries. Lots of raspberries. I think I spent $10 or more on 2 small boxes of raspberries. But anything for a fantastic new meringue dessert! Tinting the egg whites - I like a bit more red than the recipe calls forIt's rather time consuming yet not overly difficult. But the time consuming factor was not great enough for me to only make it once. In fact, I've made these a couple times since February. Most recently of course, at the bridal shower. Each time to RAVE, RAVE reviews. I mean people almost die when they take their first bite. The combination of flavors is UHMAZING.This is how it goes...A "cupcake" made completely of sweet, soft meringue (yes it's solid meringue)Spoonfuls of raspberry curd in and around the cupcakeA dollop of sweetened and whipped creme fraicheSprinkle with a few fresh raspberriesEach element can be made on its own: the meringue, the raspberry curd and one time I even made my own creme fraiche! It's so easy as long as you know you need it at least a couple days in advance!Make your own, or... you can just buy some?Ok and secretly - if you don't have time to make the meringue cupcakes... AT LEAST make the raspberry curd. After tasting it, I thought I'd died and floated up into the cumuli. I could drink that stuff. Or spread it on... anything. At the *very* least - make the raspberry curdAdditionally, you learn something new every day: did you know creme fraiche whipped up to stiff peaks like whipping cream? Ok well maybe YOU did, but I didn't. Impressive stuff.My "February batch"The only aspect of the recipe I might change (though I have not tested this yet) is spraying the cupcake wrappers with non-stick spray. If the non-stick spray pools in any way in the bottom of the wrapper it puts a hole in the bottom of the cupcake and makes it extremely fragile. The next time I make these I'm not going to spray them and see if I can still get them out of the wrappers without breaking. It's also important to note that a regular ole serrated knife will not cut these babies in half without causing it to crumble in your hands. No joke - you MUST use a pumpkin carving knife. Like this one:You MUST use a pumpkin carving knife to cut the cupcakesPerhaps a fingernail file would work if you don't just happen to have one of these in your drawer in the middle of February or May, like I did.Since mixing the meringue takes at least half an hour (LISTEN to the recipe where it says to add the sugar 1-2 T at a time and then beat for a minute - if you don't, the sugar will not dissolve and it will never be meringue) and baking these takes about 4 hours and you can't really fit more than 12 in the oven at once (unless your oven is AWESOME and HUGE) and many will break and crack as you peel the wrapper off and cut them in half... I would strongly recommend you NOT make 45 like I did for the shower. You can do the math - but it took me ALL day...Mix each 1-2 T of sugar into the meringue and wait 1 minute before adding the nextLearn from my mistake and DO NOT rush thi[...]

This is how we do it


"This is how my family does it". I say this a lot. I'm very proud of my family and I'm very much like my family (go figure). People often ask me where I get my interest in baking and cooking and planning events and photography and why I'm such a perfectionist. Well simply - I get it from my family. Last month, my cousin Robin threw a bridal shower for my other cousin's fiancée. Michelle will be joining our family in July when she marries Robin's sister's son, Scott (we are a complicated bunch). Well this was a shower like none other. It was FABULOUS. It felt like we were afternoon tea-ing in a fancy restaurant. This is how my family throws a tea partyMichelle and my cousin, ScottFlanked by her parents, sister and brother-in-lawWhen Robin started planning this shower, she KNEW she wanted to do it "Tea Party" style. Add in there that Auntie Betty and I have been talking for MONTHS about throwing a tea party for our family and it really couldn't have been a better situation.I get my love of afternoon tea from my family too. Namely these two cousins:Bride's future mother-in-law, Lorie and her sister, the hostess, Robin I played but a small part in the hostess duties. I was in charge of dessert. However I don't take this responsibility lightly. I made Martha's meringue cupcakes with raspberry curd. They are SO fabulous I can't even begin to explain... But I'll save talking about those for a future post. Seriously you CAN'T wait for it... so I'll try to hurry.A sneak peek at the dessert I served - coming soon in a future blog post!The shower was at my auntie's home in Half Moon Bay. Remember this? I told you I spend a lot of time out there! We got very lucky with the weather though. HMB is typically *very* overcast and cool. But shower weekend the weather was PERFECT (which meant it was like 90 in the rest of the Bay Area).If there's ever a great reason to have nice china and silver, it's if you entertain a lot... or throw a lot of tea parties! And you'll never believe how many teapots we owned collectively. I think there were 13 fancy teapots there that day!I think 3 people in my family collectively own this many teapotsWe might obsess a littleOur menu for the tea:Mixed baby greens, blueberries, pears and glazed walnut salad with balsamic vinaigretteChocolate covered strawberriesMixed fresh fruitAssortment of four tea breads: date nut, banana nut, carrot and lemon served with lemon curd, jam and butterVarious tea sandwiches: egg salad, cucumber and butter, smoked salmon and cream cheese, and roast beef with horseradishChicken salad filled puffsAnd a selection of Bigelow Teas: English Breakfast, Constant Comment and HerbalThese cucumber sandwiches were the most amazing and flavorful I've ever hadGimme MORE!!Let's not forget that there was a bellini bar on the patio. With no, not purchased flavorings - but homemade: strawberry, peach and blueberry! And finally - favors of white and dark chocolate covered pretzels... YES also handmade!! OK, not the pretzels, but Robin dipped and sprinkled them!The bellini bar on the deck: strawberry, peach or blueberry purees mixed with prosecco or ginger aleActually, I don't think I need to tell you that EVERYTHING was homemade. Auntie Betty's task was to make a couple breads and she made FOUR. Not to mention she was still sewing cushions for her patio furniture (so that they would match the bride's colors) the DAY before the shower. She made the lemon curd and strawberry jam and the clotted cream - but um, it didn't really "work" so we skipped it and hoped no one noticed. Chocolate covered pre[...]

Happy Birthday


Am I allowed to talk about my birthday on my blog? Isn't that almost like fishing for birthday wishes? Well like I've said many times before... this is my blog so I get to write about whatever I wish! And today - I'm going to talk about my birthday! OK not really specifically my birthday, but one of the things I did for my birthday! Brunch at Navio at the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay.Navio gave me a little gift of chocolates!My appetizer plate - ♥ all the seafood!Not 1, not 2, but 3 types of caviar!!Trout roe, Paddlefish caviar and Whitefish caviar...My Auntie Betty and Uncle Bruce started me down the road to Foodie-ville when I was but a wee baby of 20 years old. They took me to a "fancy shmancy" dinner at Charles Nob Hill which at the time prided itself on claiming Ron Siegel - the first American chef to win on the Japanese Iron Chef. Needless to say, I was hooked. We have since made our way down the very extensive San Francisco Michelin Star list as it has grown and changed over the years.My "entree" plate. I was already stuffed by this point!Duck breast, fruit, prime rib and even dim sumVarious ways to eat your caviar - here's my way:blinis topped with crème fraiche, caviar and chivesNavio at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay isn't on the list, but that didn't stop me. I'd been hearing about the brunches at Navio for years now. And we all know that dining at just about any Ritz is always a sublime experience. Walking lunch off ~~~ Gorgeous sushi!My auntie and uncle live in Half Moon Bay, so I'm out there fairly frequently and *LOVE* visiting the Ritz. Not to mention the hotel boasts my very favorite New England shingle-style architecture. It sits up on a small bluff over the ocean. And let's not forget - it's frequently cool and overcast, which to me - adds to the charm.SO many little desserts!My dessert plate: pana cotta, tropical tapioca, mango pavlova,tiramisu, chocolates and macs!I was already stuffed and Auntie brought me this freshlymade crepe with apricots and creamI decided I'd treat myself to Navio's famous brunch for my birthday this year. And lucky me, Auntie and Uncle are always willing to partake! We had high expectations of course, but the Ritz somehow managed to surpass even our expectations! I guess I wasn't prepared for even a buffet to be so amazing and top notch.Beautiful breads and pastries!!Carving it up! I ♥ prime rib.From the sushi, freshly shucked oysters and three kinds of the table filled with imported cheeses and shelves of breads and pastries......and the dim sum, ceviche, crab salad and ahi tuna roasted lamb, prime rib and roast duck breast......and that's just on TOP of the regular breakfast foods......not to forget the desserts... OH THE DESSERTS...Macarons! The cookie was great. The flavor could have been better...(but I'm so critical of macarons)This chocolate was filled with peanut butter and jelly!It was a fabulous birthday brunch, only made better by fabulous birthday brunch companions.And then after stuffing oneself silly, you can stroll the STUNNING grounds. Nap by a firepit. Smell the sea air and gaze over the golf course grounds. Or even walk the coastal trail which runs along the ocean.It was a foggy day - as it usually is in Half Moon BayThese two are like second parents to meI love it hereThis brunch was yesterday. My birthday was today. And it was all fabulous. I love my friends and my family - everyone made me feel so loved. And this being a *tough* year - it was all I could have asked for and more.[...]

Frozen salty caramel


My mom has been telling me for YEARS how adding a bit of salt to MOST things (desserts and breads included) vastly increases the flavor. And as usual...she's right. I'll look at notes I've written to myself on various recipes. "This one has great flavor"; "this one has perfect texture but is a bit bland". And sure enough, when I compare the recipes, it's salt (and not vanilla which most people assume it needs) that has an increased amount. I can't tell you the number of times Mom has bitten into a piece of bread and said "oooh this needs more salt". And just the other morning, told me my Dutch Baby pancakes needed a bit more salt. I KNEW they needed something! Thanks Mom...If you are to ever take my word on something which is TO DIE FOR - this is itNow we all know that while this isn't great for our blood pressure, it's FABULOUS for our tastebuds! Over the last few years SALT has really become trendy! All of a sudden salt is sprinkled on top of butter at high end restaurants, scattered across chocolates at the truffle counter and I'm being asked at my cousin's fancy Easter brunch whether I want gray salt or kosher with my meal! Salt has gone viral! Why else do you think bacon is showing up in desserts? It's not for the meat flavor... it's for the SALT!Now THAT is a beautiful caramelIt seizes when you add the cream, but as you heat it and stir it it melts backMy family has a caramel recipe that is just ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean tremendously delicious in every sense of the definition. But there's no salt in the recipe. I've recently started making them and sprinkling the tops with Kosher salt as I wrap them. And now, if something that was previously ridiculous could be even more so? is!Sugar, butter, cream, milk, salt? Yes please.Salted Caramel is definitely the newest trendy flavor in the dessert world. EVERYTHING is salted caramel these days. Caramel without salt? Does anyone even WANT that?Pour through a sieve into a waiting bowl of chilled milkEveryone in the Bay Area talks about the salted caramel ice cream from Bi-Rite. Believe it or not, I've never been. But I'd heard about it enough to decide that I was going to just make my own. I mean, I make ice cream. I make salted caramel. It couldn't be too hard to make salted caramel ice cream...Nothing some stirring won't immediately fixI have Mr. Lebovitz's ice cream book. I scanned it and found nothing. So I did a web search. And guess what came back? Mr. Lebovitz. Again. He must be the master!I have to be honest here... I actually made 2 batches of this ice cream. I don't know what I was thinking when I made my first batch. I've worked with cooked sugar MANY times before. I know how quickly it can burn. And yet... I still burned it. And not only that - continued on adding the milk and cream and what-not without even realizing I'd burned it. Until I sampled the finished custard. #^@%$!@$^&* Suddenly new names were rushing through my head: "Burnt caramel ice cream", "Burnt sugar ice cream". I even let the custard sit in my fridge for a couple days thinking I might actually churn it. But then I let it go and I waved to it as it went down my garbage disposal... *sigh*I ♥ my ice cream attachment!Churn baby, churn!The second, SUCCESSFUL time, I made sure to take the sugar off the very low heat before it had even all melted. WAAAAY better. And not just better. UNBELIEVABLE. I couldn't be-LIEVE how good it tasted. It was so good, it was devastating. I kid you not.It didn't stick around very longWant some? SORRY![...]

Mama's mama's day


My mom. She's happiest in her kitchen. But after that she's happiest in her yard. Yes, I inherited my mom's crafting and cooking and baking and sewing (and bossiness). But what I didn't inherit was her gardening. My mom loves, loves, loves to putter around her one third of an acre and landscapes the entire plot herself. HERSELF. She loves it. She's truly in heaven when she's in her yard. Vegetables and fruits and flowers and shrubs and trees and grasses and ground-cover and hanging plants. They're all out there. And on Mother's Day all she wants to do is be out there with them.Mom and I both ADORE her gorgeous peonies.She grows TONS of these and they bloom every May.So today... Mom gardened. She also got Dutch Baby pancakes for breakfast (made by moi) and went shopping and to Starbuck's with me. And got dinner made for her (for the most part; she CAN'T stay out of her own kitchen!) And got her kitchen tidied by Dad and my brother, collectively... with some grumbling from the brother. Hrmph.This is just about my favorite color roseI followed her around her yard today shooting my favorite flowers. There are so many more, but I didn't want to write a long post. :)The snapdragons are magnificent right nowCheesy with the droplets, but it was legit - it rained this morningLucca helped too. Until she no longer helped. And got a time out. Naughty grandpuppy.Naughty doggie...Happy Mother's Day to you and your mother and any other mother you know or used to know. Moms are the best.[...]

Three little milks


Cinco de Mayo was a few days ago. I don't particularly make a point to celebrate every little holiday that comes around, especially if times are busy (when are they not?) But Wednesday night, I found myself with no plans and at the last minute decided to get together with my friends John, Janelle, their dog Abby and their foster dog, Bo. I brought over Mexican takeout, a tres leches cake, margarita mix and Miss Lucca.Tres Leches = Three Milks (evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream or half & half)Ok, let's not lie: the main reason we decided to get together was to let Bo roughhouse with Lucca since they'll basically play together nonstop for as long as they are within reach of each other. Have you heard that phrase "a tired dog is a happy dog"?"What world?"YES.But the whole Cinco de Mayo "party" was fun too.I have an incredibly difficult time showing up places without baked goods. Potlucks, dinner parties, friends' houses, my office, picnics, bike rides, birthdays, kid parties, dog parties, my parents' house, housewarming fêtes, holiday get-togethers, BBQs, meeting friends for lunch, baby showers, bridal showers, kickball games thrown by friends at a park close to my house. You get the idea."Cinco de Mayo Hangout with John, Janelle, Abby and Bo" was no exception. I'd thrown some Mexican dessert ideas around all afternoon. I wasn't overly excited about Mexican Wedding Cookies since I make them all the time. And flan should really sit overnight in the fridge before serving. So I suddenly remembered an "award winning" tres leches cake my old VP made for this baking contest we had at work (which I actually WON with this pie!!) Everyone loved her tres leches and fortunately for me she still had the recipe on her blog at work.First things first - go out and buy a nesting set of mixing bowlsWell as I always do - I reworked the recipe. I'm not entirely sure why I always do this. Maybe so that I feel like the recipe is my own? Or to challenge myself to find a "better" way to do something? So I really didn't do her recipe. Actually, I did something similar to this and roughly used my veep's ingredient measurements.I put a couple teaspoons of cinnamon in with the dry ingredientsThe cake is made like a sponge cake. Whip egg whites to pretty stiff, beat yolks and sugar til they're ribbony, then fold it all together with some flour. It's important that the cake be light and spongy since this is what keeps the cake from becoming too soggy and drenched with the milk. If it were too dense, it'd fall apart after a night of soaking.There is a rumor that Nestle helped the tres leche cake popularity along during WWIII wonder how that got started?After the cake bakes you soak it or drench it in a mixture of three different types of milk. OBVIOUSLY where the name "tres leches" or "three milks" comes from. Evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream or half and half.I became stupid for an hour or so and never thought to make a half recipe for 3 people.So I made "2 cakes" instead and took one to work the next dayThere seem to be a couple of different methods to soaking the cake in the milk mixture:1) pour the tres leches over the cake while it's still in the cake pan, let it soak and cover it with the meringue topping2) put the cake on a platter and spoon the tres leches over the cake until it is "milk-logged", then cover with the meringue topping*poke*poke*poke*I did #2. Initially, I was a little disappointed. As I was assembling the cake, the[...]

Macaron Passion


It's been quite a while since I posted an entry that one might find in a "Food Blog" around here. It's not that I haven't been baking. I have. Though not as much as I used to. Nor am I cooking all that much - but I guess such is life. It'll all get figured out in time...This cookie jar didn't stay full for very longI've been making a lot of macarons lately. Something I hadn't really done much of since the craziness that was 2 years ago... But as your average foodie knows, they've become something of a mainstream delicacy. I predicted this would happen, 2 years ago when I swear Helen single-handedly seduced the entire food-blogging world into making French macarons out of their home kitchens. And look what's happened - they have totally become the "new cupcake". The only problem is that they are nowhere near as simple to make as cupcakes!After making probably 50-100 batches of macarons over the last couple years I think I've ACTUALLY and FINALLY gotten to the point where I can produce a pretty consistent product. It used to be so hit or miss. One batch would be gorgeous while the next would be a disaster. And I had no idea what I'd done. Or if perhaps I'd done nothing wrong and it was...the oven... or, the weather... or, the egg whites... It was infuriating!I've said it before and I'll say it again - macarons are just about the most difficult item I've ever turned out of my kitchen. It's one of those things that's all about feel and experience, so teaching oneself to make them can be a very frustrating process. It'd be a whole lot better if one could be shown. But I didn't have a teacher. So I taught myself from books and websites. That's probably why it took me a gazillion tries to really GET IT.My very favorite flavor of macarons is pistachio. I grind up pistachios and use half pistachio powder with the ground almonds in the cookie and then I make a simple pistachio buttercream for filling. HOWEVER. I think I have a new favorite after this weekend. Passionfruit. Oh lordy!! Passionfruit macarons. I think I've died and gone to the tropics (or wherever passionfruits come from...)I have to just mention here that I would not have been making passionfruit French macarons this weekend had I not tasted Anita's friend, Ray's passionfruit macarons at our bake sale a couple weeks ago. Ray brought some passionfruit macarons that day and as soon as I tasted that buttercream (the flavor is all in the filling - the cookie is just 'yer average unflavored mac) I HAD to make my own! Fortunately for me/us, Ray is a sharing type of guy and told Anita the ratio of buttercream to passionfruit puree he used in his filling: roughly 1.25 to 1! Hot diggity dog! I got my grubby paws on some (excruciatingly expensive) passionfruit puree, whipped up some swiss buttercream and... was in heaven.I don't think I've ever actually put my macaron recipe on the blog before and that's mostly because I didn't feel "solid" enough about it to share it. But I'll share this one since it's the one I use most of the time and it's quite SOLID by this point.Now keep in mind that I really wouldn't suggest that anyone who has never made macarons attempt to do so from this recipe alone. I'd try asking someone you know to show you. Or watching some videos online or something. Or be prepared for a lot of trial and error. It's just sadly not so simple that you can follow a recipe and get it... Makes about 35 macs:100-110 grams egg whites (left[...]

I ♥ NY more


I promised - and I will keep my promise (especially since I already had a bunch of this written when I decided to split up my posts) to continue with my New York eatings wanderings in this second blog post. As you know, a certain fantastical bake sale has popped up in between these postings, but I'm back to finish this up!We could see the Statue of Liberty from our hotel room windowWhen I visit New York, it seems it's all about revisiting a few key places I truly love while trying to squish in some new places I've never been. This trip was no different. I saw the areas with which I'm most familiar: Midtown and 5th Ave, Theatre District, Upper East Side, East Village, Soho, Greenwich Village and Chinatown...but I also visited some to which I'd never been. Chelsea, Meatpacking District, Hell's Kitchen, Flatiron and of course - Brooklyn. Left: the High Line from inside The Standard HotelRight: The Standard Hotel from outside on the High LineOne of the Top 5 things I did on my trip was to subway my way to Brooklyn for some pizza and ice cream and then walk back to the city over the Brooklyn Bridge. Not only was the day perfect for this (and for some photos) in that it was cool and overcast, but it wasn't very crowded either. I must thank my friend, Maria profusely for this spectacular suggestion!!As I walked the Brooklyn streets I glanced over my shoulder and saw this. Magnificent! Empire State Building framed by a tower of the Brooklyn Bridge!There are a few destinations just over the bridge that are absolute "Must Do's" if you visit Brooklyn.1) Grimaldi's Pizzeria2) Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory3) Almondine Bakery (but only if you're a bakery addict/macaron stalker like I)Almondine Bakery was so charming from the outsideI was IN.CRED.IB.LY lucky that the line for Grimaldi's at 2pm on a Wednesday in March was no more than about 15 minutes. I hear the lines are easily an hour long during the lunch hour on a weekend. But one thing I did have enough time to notice while I waited in line (by myself)?: the sign that said "No Slices". Uh oh.Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory in the little "house" on the far left, Beekman Tower in the Financial District across the river (with the red scaffolding), one of the bridge's towers at the top and Grimaldi's (green awning)Lower Manhattan and a New York Water TaxiSo maybe a half hour later I found myself staring at a 16" pepperoni pizza which (as per their menu) feeds 1-2 people. That's gotta be some BIG person who can eat a 16" pizza. I ate 2 slices. But oh was it worth it to have to carry leftover pizza in my bag the rest of the afternoon! What fantastic pizza! Thin crust, not overly sauced but perfectly simple while still being generous - it's actually hard to explain. You'll just have to go wait in line to find out yourself.The nice waiter made me let him take a picture of me (little dim in there - hence, the blur)This is what was placed in front of me *gulp*And even though I'd just stared at an entire pizza, I couldn't leave Brooklyn without a stop at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. It's not really a "factory" so much as a "cute little house" that sits RIGHT on the dock and looks out over lower Manhattan.Pizza? Check. Ice Cream? Check. Stop into Almondine Bakery, wait in a silly long line, get 2 macarons, carry them gingerly in my purse all afternoon, lose them somewhere in or around my hotel room before I sampled them? Check... Oops.What a spot for an [...]

Food Bloggers Rock


I decided not to set my alarm this morning since I've been up baking until 3am and 2am the last couple nights. I guess it went to show me how much sleep I needed since my eyes opened to see 11:02am on my clock and a hungry doggie staring me in the face. All this baking was of course in preparation for the National Food Bloggers Bake Sale to raise money (no, not for Food Bloggers, like one guy asked) but for the charity Share Our Strength which fights to end childhood hunger (which would be quite different than ending "food bloggers' hunger"..)Three different macaron flavors and three different macaron fillings = not a lot of sleep over the last few nightsShe planned this ONE MONTH before her wedding! ONE MONTH!What a day it was! It was quite possibly as close to Perfect as it could have been!GORGEOUS weather (and after a gloomy rainy weekend, prior too)Lots of passersby walking dogs and babies and grandparentsA fabulous group of not only talented but helpful, giving, funny, sweet and heck, good-lookin' bloggers who contributed and worked and donated baked goods!A wonderfully organized leader in Anita who rallied us just ONE MONTH before her own WEDDING. Folks, - ONE MONTH!!A SUPER accommodating and generous hostess in Celia at Omnivore BooksUnbelievably chic packaged goodies - we looked SO professional!Ending on the high note of hearing Baking Goddess Rose Levy Beranbaum speak at Omnivore about her newest book Rose's Heavenly CakesBaby Gingersnaps and Lemon Madeleines UNBELIEVABLE how fast that cake sold!Spicy and Salty Caramel Corn - I ♥ this packagingRidiculous amounts of precision in those fruit tartsI am SO proud and SO excited to report that San Francisco's food bloggers raised ONE-THOUSAND-SIX-HUNDRED-AND-FIFTY DOLLARS for Share Our Strength yesterday! $1650!!! *pausing for all the applause* *bowing* *patting Anita on the back* That there is one of the highest totals we've heard of being raised throughout the entire nation! Gaby, who came up with the phenomenal idea for food bloggers to host bake sales on 4/17, hosted her bake sales in LA and they came in at a whopping $2300!Mike, the Money Man - look they're waving money at him even as he stands there!GORGEOUS breads by Penni WisnerStorefront on far left: Omnivore; Storefront on right: Noe Valley Pet Co. Owned by two fantastic women - we're so thankful for them!I feel like I'm still coming down off the high that was yesterday. Making some truly wonderful new friends. Chatting with baking fanatics from the hobbyists to the professionals. Seeing Rose Levy Beranbaum in the flesh! Even right down to visiting with all the friends who came out to support our bake sale and chat with me!The PLACE to be on Saturday was that corner right thereRose Levy Beranbaum speaks while Celia (owner of Omnivore) looks onSome of the wonderful bloggers who contributed (and with whom I actually found the time to chat):Shauna at Piece of Cake (not only is she incredibly friendly - she has one beautiful little girl!)Daphne at Cooking San Francisco (made a very generous donation in the end and "adios-ed" a bunch of our leftover goodies)Allison at Bake Your Heart Out (turns out we're neighbors!)Irvin at Eat the Love (heard about the bake sale the morning of and still managed to bake!)Pat at Ringalings (also known for her ipies which currently sell at the Palo Alto Farmers Market)Faith at Blog Appetit (a friendly, happy face I got to [...]