Monday, December 18, 2006

Good Coffee

I was thinking about coffee this evening, craving a post-dinner espresso. Coffee that can make me close my eyes in pleasure when I sip the first warm taste. Not all coffee can do that... It is remarkably rare in fact. But I have been able to find places that make it just right.

It is not an addiction, my love of coffee. I can easily skip days or even weeks without any. In fact, if I'm in a spot where I haven't found any good coffee, I'd easily get a hot chocolate or another drink instead of drinking the bad stuff.

In my opinion, one of the most common problems with coffee in the U.S. is that the beans are burnt. "Dark roast" they call it, but charred to death is what it really means.

In San Francisco, there are a few places that can truly satisfy my longing: Blue Bottle is one of them, coincidentally named after something else that I'm quite fond of. Gabby took me there when I first began editing her film, after we'd discovered a common love of good food and, among other things, coffee. But now, you can find their coffee everywhere. My current favourite place to have a Blue Bottle Cappuccino is in Berkeley, at the lovely Guerilla Café, where they serve the most perfectly poached eggs and they have a waffle curator. Now that should give you an idea of how seriously they take their waffles.

Ritual Café (also in San Francisco) serves Stumptown coffee, another coffee that I love, which is shipped down from Portland, Oregon, where I drank their coffee for the first time.

And then, there was Café Organica which has mysteriously closed and left an empty place in my heart. No idea what happened, just one day, one sad saturday morning, I put a big fleece over my lounge-about-the-house-wear, and shuffled, half asleep, on over only to find the doors closed and huge metal chains keeping the door shut. And that was that. To this day the corner is the same: the remnants of the café are now strewn about the interior and it looks completely abandoned. And this came so shortly after they were written up as the number one best coffee in the city. Whatever happened to them?

*sigh* So only two places in the city right now whose coffee I love. Perhaps I simply need to explore more.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Tahoe Tday Foods

Despite the fact that I slaved over a homemade caramelized shallot and port cranberry sauce (ok, slaved may be a bit of an overstatement), I've been repeatedly informed over the years that Thanksgiving would not be Thanksgiving without the perfectly shaped canned cranberry jelly.

Naturally, we only have documentation of the canned stuff. Really, I did make the real thing! And it's all I ate, too!!

Pecan Popovers with Parsley & Thyme - These were more popunders than over. I had forgotten to bring muffin trays with me to Tahoe, so our bright, resourceful sous-chefs put together a plan that involved oven-safe mugs. It worked well enough that we ended up with tasty bread like rolls, but not quite well enough for them to work as popovers.

First thing I did when I arrived in Tahoe on wednesday night was start brining the turkey. I normally do a brine that involves some sort of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, molasses) but this was the first year that the brine was just salt water, black pepper and herbs. I then rubbed herb butter under its skin before roasting. The bird was quite tasty, very juicy and flavourful.

This recipe was originally supposed to be glazed carrot ribbons, but the baby carrots were so cute and fresh looking, I had to do that instead.

The carrots were boiled briefly then glazed with melted butter, orange juice and seasoned with salt and pepper. Some chopped parsley for garnish and they were ready to go.

In the Kitchen

standing in the kitchen
Originally uploaded by snarshad.
I had the best slew of sous-chefs a girl can ask for. And a fabulous kitchen!!

Molly, Robert, the only vaguely sous-cheffy Schleef and me.

Molly the happy sous chef
Originally uploaded by snarshad.
Molly, with the glowing halo of the perfect sous-chef.

Me wearing Robert's Slow Food apron (mine's blue and I forgot to bring it)

Sara cooking
Originally uploaded by snarshad.

Sonia, looking more glam than sous-chef, was a sous-cheffing rockstar nonetheless.
Originally uploaded by snarshad.

Endive and Beet Salad

Endive salad
Originally uploaded by snarshad.
Based on an epicurious recipe, this salad was quite simple:
I used golden and red beets, boiled then sliced. The topping was crumbled roquefort cheese, chopped parsley and a dijon lemon dressing.


Fig in a pig

Fig in a pig
Originally uploaded by snarshad.
Formerly known as Dates à la Paco, this dish does not actually contain any figs at all. A pitted date stuffed with a toasted almond and wrapped in bacon, then baked till the bacon is crisp.

Quite tasty, pretty decadent. Why we decided to go with "Figs in a Pig" or even "Figs in a Piglet" (better meter?) is a testament to the lovely champagne cocktails with which we kicked off our evening.

Thanksgiving Feast

Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays. Having never celebrated it all that much while growing up in Tunisia, I don't have any set traditions that I feel compelled to follow. So when I moved to the Bay Area years ago, I began hosting a strays' Thanksgiving for all my friends who weren't going home.

As long as I provided one can of the cranberry jelly (served in it's original shape), I could get away with making pretty much anything I wanted, and I began to look forward to this event as the perfect arena for me to practice a huge variety of new recipe.

So without further ado, the next series of posts will be the Tahoe Thanksgiving menu, taken from the lovely Flickr photos of Arshad the Magnificent.


Hors d'Oeuvres
Fig in a Pig (formerly known as Dates à la Paco)
Endive Beet Salad

Butternut Squash & Roasted Garlic Bisque

Main Course
Herb-brined Herb-butter Turkey
Sara’s Stuffing
Herb-Butter Gravy

Mashed Potatoes with Garlic, Mascarpone and Caramelized Leeks
Cipollini onions slow cooked in a balsamic reduction
Casserole aux Haricots Verts - An updated version of the classic, Green Bean Casserole
Pecan Popovers with Parsley &Thyme
Orange Glazed Baby Carrots

JJ's Pumpkin Cheesecake
Ms. Molly's Apple Crisp