When I received dried morels as a gift, I set them aside for some time and consideration. I adore mushrooms and these fungi, with their clean-dirt aroma and nutty flavor, deserved proper celebration. On a winter night during a particularly damp weather week, we found ourselves craving these jewels of the wet earth and I brought them out from hibernation.
Morels go particularly well with the richness of butter or cream, so this cod recipe from Daniel Boulud was an obvious choice. Paired with fresh asparagus and sweet pearl onions, the delicate cod is not overpowered by any one flavor and the result is elegant and harmonious.
Initially, I was nervous that a recipe from the renowned chef would require intricate technique and specialty ingredients that would be too overwhelming for me on a weeknight, but this delightful recipe was not too challenging and in fact was a joy to make. A good sign of fun in the kitchen: the enjoyment of an Anchor Steam while preparing the mise en place.
Using dried morels in place of fresh is quite easy (and just as flavorful), and I just reconstituted them in the cream called for in the recipe. From Wild About Mushrooms, The Cookbook of the Mycological Society of San Francisco by Louise Freedman:
“The intensity and character of the morel flavor is not lost in drying. We have used them after three years of storage and found them to be just as aromatic, if not more so, as when fresh.
Reconstitute them in hot water for 5 minutes or simmer them in cream until soft, about 15 minutes, not allowing the cream to boil. Always add the rehydrating liquid to the dish for which your morels are intended. A great deal of the flavor remains in the liquid.
When incorporating dried morels in a recipe calling for fresh specimens, use 3 ounces as the equivalent of 1 pound of mushrooms. Once reconstituted, they should be equal in volume.”
To round out the meal, roasted cauliflower with lemon-parsley dressing added some sweetness and zest to offset the creaminess of the cod’s sauce. This side would be a bold compliment to any other fish dish or Mediterranean style meal, or even the holiday table.
This past year was scrumptious, spicy, piquant, a little saucy, and plenty delectable. Some of my favorite eats on the road:
Perfectly proper tea at Chocolate Maven in Santa Fe for a refined bachelorette party.
What’s better than birthday cake? How about adorable, precious, and simply sweet tiny pies shared with birthday celebrants under the California sun, at I Like Pie in Claremont.
Crispy on the outside, hot and fluffy on the inside, this homemade conch fritter is like a subtly sweet hushpuppy. Served just steps from clear blue waters with sea turtles sunning themselves at Vie’s Snack Shack in St. John.
The fresh crab salad at the Olde Port Inn at Avila Beach is so fresh and succulent, you might forget to look through your glass table into the waters below.
Strawberries and cream from America’s oldest ice cream shop, Bassetts in Philadelphia. There’s a reason this classic ice cream flavor is favored by many: when it’s simply made with the best ingredients, you taste summer down to the last melted drop in the cone.
Pre-partying for BFF wedding duties with fantastic cocktails at the Red Owl Tavern in Philadelphia: Tom Traubert’s Blues and Of Two Minds.
Tackling a wood-oven baked pizza with plump shrimp, sweet corn and avocado while devouring and arugula and strawberry salad with creamy burrata at Revolution Brewing in Chicago. Paired perfectly with the Coup d’Etat.
Parson’s Chicken and Fish is a summertime DO for the Negroni slushy best consumed while making friends at the outdoor picnic tables on a warm Chicago day. Nevermind that it’s not legitimately a Negroni without the Campari, but it is legitimately delicious.
The stuff sugar-dreams are made of: the ooiest gooiest cinnamoniest sticky bun at Little Goat in Chicago.
One thing I have learned from living in the Bay area, is that no matter how much you may enjoy or dread cooking, you always have the option of OK, great, and amazing takeout and delivery. Why leave your neighborhood or sometimes house for delicious good food? Unnecessary. Here are some of my faves:
The tofu banh mi at Saigon Sandwich is less than a fiver and the bread is perfectly shattering in crispness.
Over by B’s place, we frequently lumber over to the dive bar Broken Record, where you can just as easily find a stellar goat cheese, salmon and asparagus omelet with caramelized potatoes and onions as you can get a pint of beer and a game of pool.
Oh La Boulange, how I love thee. Yeah, you can now find the Bay area’s favorite local bakery chain in Starbucks, but you can’t replicate the charm of each location. I am completely addicted to the morning bun, with its layers of pastry wisps holding a bit of orange sweetness within each swirl.
Why, hello sweet little apricot brioche doughnut from Arlequin – I’ll be grabbing you in a sleepy stupor and stumbling back home.
For those cold an foggy days, nothing beats a savory broth stuffed with noodles, veggies and pickles from Kaka Udon.
And thank goodness for delivery services, because I can munch on my corn arepas stuffed with tofu and avocado with a side of sweet plantains from Pica Pica while doing some heavy duty couch-surfing.
Here’s some pocket sized treats from newcomer 20th Century Cafe.
I really love the tofu banh mi from DragonEats as well, because the tofu is so flavorful and the veggies so crisp that it could be the last sandwich on earth for all I care.
Over at Smitten, have your ice cream made to order with a shot of liquid nitrogen.
Bread pudding at the Boxing Room is crisp caramelized brioche doused with salty sweet butterscotch and tangy buttermilk ice cream.
But some things you can’t take out for the full experience, like the tofu temptation at Izakaya Kou with its pungent sauce against wobbly cold tofu.
And alas, Smuggler’s Cove has yet to allow takeout tiki cocktails. I guess some things, like the cozy Goonies/pirate ship ambiance at SC, are worth putting on pants for.
Recently, I was in Austin, TX, celebrating the birthdays of a few of my favorite Librans (my life is full of Librans that are close to my heart) at the Austin City Limits music festival. I got to spend much needed face time with my pals Niti and Josh in their old/new home state and spend some much needed downtime with birthday boy, and fellow Austin first-timer, B. The good news is that although I didn’t hit up even a tiny percent of the places I wanted to eat at, it was only because I kept getting diverted by other interesting eats (and drinks) along the way. The bad news is that the festival got rained out the last day, so we missed some amazing music. The good news is that we had a free day to spend around the city gorging ourselves with breakfast tacos. The bad news is that despite the rain, its only a few degrees cooler than the temperature on the sun’s surface. I’ll be be back, Austin (when you chill out just a touch more.) You can listen along to these pairings with a (free) Spotify account.
What better way to take your mind off the unobstructed blazing sun, grass sticking to your sweat soaked ankles, and general feeling of listlessness that overpowers every muscle in your body than the breezy, waves-crashing-ashore harmonies of Local Natives?
The first day was all about acclimation to the sun against our bodies, so there wasn’t a lot of food ingested. There was a lot of snow cones, and beers, and juices, and beers, and water, and beers. One of the few things I ate was the avocado banh mi from Second Bar + Kitchen with a cell-quenching strawberry lemonade. Verdict: too much toppings and not enough avocado, but the real offense was that the sandwich was served on a squishy sweet roll, so it should have been advertised as an avocado-ish HOAGIE. The lemonade was divine, though. This sandwich was only OK, but what was truly spectacular was that after 30 years, DM still puts on a new wave synth-pop show to shame younger bands. Niti and I sang along to our favorite songs, arm-in-arm, gasping to keep up with their dazzling showmanship and energy.
Breakfast tacos and Tito’s vodka, part of your well balanced Austin breakfast. I can eat these every day (and not just for breakfast). Soft tortillas filled with gooey cheese, soft scrambled eggs, picante sauce and meat or potatoes as you wish. These provided the ballast we needed to soldier through the heat for the long day ahead. We needed that fortitude to hold our own amongst the sea of fans, by far the biggest crowd for a non-headlining act, for the inimitably smooth flow of the unaffectedly cool Kendrick Lamar. Bottles up.
A full 24 hours after setting foot on Austin soil, my blood finally got acclimated to the heat and my hunger started up again full force. Niti pointed me in the direction of The Mighty Cone for a hot and crunchy avocado. It never, ever occurred to me to deep fry avocado, nature’s most perfect food, but *because* of its perfection it goes without saying that a fried avocado is a mighty tasty avocado. After spiking the next strawberry lemonade with the contents of our flasks, we enjoyed the sharp but soulful stylings of English rockers Arctic Monkeys.
And then it rained (and rained, and rained, and washed the next day’s concert away.) The last thing I ate at the festival before ducking under an umbrella to watch The Cure serenade a football field of drenched fans is the fantastic spinach and mushroom empanada from Mmmpanadas. The pastry parcel was tender and flaky, and the flavorful filling warmed my cold, wet heart. Hand in hand with B, grinning in the rain as the music washed over us, I was pretty sure this is just the moment that the complex, lush melodies of The Cure’s music is made for.
Oh, but the rain didn’t stop us. We headed out to the flooded streets of Austin and started our evening, at midnight, with another round of tacos. From the upper left: fish, shrimp, carnitas, and egg & potato. We pushed forward into the rainy night, raising another glass to future tacos. We compared notes of the festival so far, and I delighted in the fierce edginess of Savages, who played a brilliant set (despite blistering away in the sun) as if they were born to play these songs.
Alas, the next day of music was not meant to be, so we used our bonus day to eat and also to eat. We started at the Blue Star Cafeteria where I was allowed to indulge in my enduring love for grits. The grits were buttery and smooth, with the perfect tang of cheddar. They were soul-comforting and rewarding on an unexpected level, like the heart-and-brain-engaging country-ish jams of Wilco.
Since we didn’t have anywhere to be, we shared a stack of pecan French toast and a round of all the sparkling breakfast drinks. Crisp, sparkling and sweet can describe the Smith Westerns’ music as well. Like their show at Austin, our brunch was meandering and left us overstuffed. I might stick to them on headphones.
All the drinks, then all the cheeses. That’s what we ordered at Hopfields, a small gastropub bursting with charm and Austin hospitality. After a few beer tastings to choose the perfect accompaniment to our meal, we settled on Belgian style brews to compliment the selection of hand made savory tarts. This place is a little modern, a little rustic, a whole lotta thoughtful and and a whole lotta smart – very much like breakout star singer/songwriter Jake Bugg.
Leaving Austin on a sweet note, and obtaining sweet release indeed from the unyielding heat, we waited in line next to the historic Continental Club for Amy’s ice cream. Although I loathe waiting in line for food, the queue gave us time to tailor our ice cream concoction wish list down to a personal signature creation. In addition to their famous Mexican Vanilla flavor, the have some boozy choices like Honeyed Brandy and Guiness Stout. I walked away with a cup of intensely smooth Belgian chocolate ice cream, with a a free topping of peanut butter cups because I knew the answer to the trivia question that day, hooray! And with Amy’s in town I now I see an upside to the constant heat. Good one, Austin. Let’s celebrate with the garage-rock exuberance of the precocious The Orwells, shall we?
It’s been a *ahem* number of months hiatus for the blog, folks, but not for my tastebuds. I’ve cooked a bit, and eaten a lot. These past few months have been packed with family and friends, because of which I am renewed and recharged. These next few blog posts are a bunch of my favorite taste memories, quite often recalling laughter, relaxation, and joy. First up, some fun meals out with lovely people involving silly stories, dorky jokes, and plenty of munchies.
The cheese board at Fat Angel has all of the perfect pairings for your cheeses, just add beer from their mile deep selection.
Why have one popover when you can have three? Apples with salted caramel, berries and mascarpone, and egg and cheese makes a well-rounded brunch (with the bottomless mimosas, of course) at Luna Park.
Ridiculous brioche French toast with caramel and ice cream at Farmicia.
An SF picnic would not be complete without the Kentucky from the Creme Brulee Cart: candied pecans swimming in bourbon caramel.
and for parties, having friends with excellent taste and talent means black bean and shrimp tostones.
Digging into the last of the heirloom tomatoes of the season at Mateo’s Cocina Latina; and even though this is wine country, it is fitting to indulge in a fresh margarita on a sultry summer day.
They don’t take kindly to cake-ists at the Petaluma Pie Company. Here, their nectarine-blueberry hand pie (if you have giant hands).
Golden poached eggs over rice with fried shallots and nori at 903; a perfect breakfast today to inspire me to share more, and more often.
Our eating trip….er, I mean sightseeing trip…ended in the other “Asia Lite” of Hong Kong. It was a short stay here, but we managed to cram in a few great meals. You can’t go to Hong Kong and miss out on dim sum:
B’s favorite dish of the entire trip: the best shu mai he’d ever had. Piping hot and direct from the kitchen’s steamers, these plump little dumplings are filled with minced pork and shrimp then tipped off with crab roe for a punch for saltiness.
And of course, we also had to compare the xiao long bao in Singi to the ones in HK. Yup, those soup dumplings never broke until they reached your mouth and then watch out for that delicious explosion. Maybe we should’ve ordered another steamer to make sure….
You can get a hundred kinds of dessert soups, hot or cold. Here, a cold sweet almond milk soup with mochi-like ice cream dumplings. Accompany your sweet with milk tea, a sweet condensed milk tea that was traditionally strained through silk stockings.