Sunday, February 28, 2010

February Blues

February is always such an odd month in the catering calendar.  It seems that people like to hunker down, the slowest month of the year.  The farmer’s market is looking a bit dull, I love my root vegetables but only so many.  You know that the spring is so close you can feel it, that things are just yearning to pop up or bloom out.  My days are filled with planning for the Summer season, meeting with many (many) Brides and Grooms, planning menus, doing tastings and site visits...  This is looking to be a really fun year with several new venues that we'll be catering at, and some interesting menus.

The highlight of these cool days have been tacos.  I have just had the want for tacos.  From Asian inspired with Thai grilled chicken to pork chili verde or just classic carne asada, I can’t get enough.  I have discovered that the local Mexican markets have these adorable 4” corn tortillas that are just perfect size.  Just like little taco sliders.

For the Asian inspired I grilled chicken thighs with our Bali BBQ sauce (sweet and slightly spice) then warmed the tortillas and topped with shredded cabbage and cilantro.  Very simple, very good.

The Chili Verde came from an over cooked pork tender loin.  I diced the pork and onion then sautéed them, simmered in a bit of green chili enchilada sauce – sometimes mistakes turn out great!

Spring will be here soon…I hope :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nice thoughts

Got a nice compliment today from an online business to busness newsletter.  Always nice to hear.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine’s Day

Chocolates vs. Bonbons?  If you ask most people they will say chocolate, well I guess that I'm on the other side. My favorite candy is the Maple Pecan Bonbon from See’s.  This all started many years ago, when we were kids my mom would buy us the candy egg assortment from See’s. To be fair she would always give us each three chocolate and three bonbon. We would immediately swap to have 6 of our favorites; my sister Chocolate and me Bonbon.

So what is a Bonbon you may ask.  In much of the world a bonbon is synonomous with candy, but in a more culinary sense a bonbon is a bite size sweet (not chocolate) that is covered with a thin shell of fondant (sugar) or chocolate.  The more traditional bonbon is a fruit filling with a fondant covering (mmm fondant).  As opposed to a truffle which has a thick chocolate covering and a soft center which may also be chocolate.

See’s no longer does the egg assortment, but they still have a number of handmade bonbons to choose from, including my favorite.

My valentine was a trail of my favorite bonbons to get me through the day. Thank you love.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A quick note to my fellow foodies:

I have found a great new website/email that I am getting.
TastingTable SF []
They have all of the updates and happenings in SF.
Great to subscribe to.

MMMMM Chocolate (The Petaluma Post)

In case you missed it, here is my last column from The Petaluma Post.  I hope you enjoy it.

Do you really need an excuse or a holiday to enjoy chocolate? Just as we hit the days that are rainy and gloomy chocolate is just the thing to raise the spirits; both scientists and Harry Potter (remember the Dementors?) say so. But if you are trying to be good and only have it on special occasions, Valentines Day is right around the corner.

In recent years the classic chocolates of the past have been set aside in favor of more gourmet items. As you are shopping for your sweetheart, if you are buying dark chocolate you are likely to see number like 74%, 82% or even 54%. What do these mean? It is the percentage of Cacao Liquor. Which brings up the question of what is Cacao Liquor? It is the purest form of chocolate, the beans that have been roasted and then conched (ground between two usually stone wheels) until smooth and silky. From here products like sugar and fats are added so it will hold in bar form. Having always been a dark chocolate fan, I personally like a mid range chocolate of 65-74% cacao; this is a rich but sweet dark chocolate. For those who want to go less sweet try for a higher cacao percentage anything in the 80s is likely to be on the bittersweet side, milk chocolate falls in the 35% range and also has milk solids (hence the name) added. Fat is added for texture, volume and to help it solidify. Those fats are often vegetable oils (less expensive chocolates) or for a silkier mouth feel look for one that has cocoa butter added for the fat (by the way cocoa butter is high in vitamin E). Cocoa butter has a very low melting point, so care needs to be taken not to allow finer chocolates to go over 75 to 85 degrees. But there is nothing more luscious than a square of dark chocolate that just melts on your tongue like butter.

When cooking you can use chopped block chocolate or chocolate chips. All of the recipes will work well with either. In a pinch I have learned that if you need to melt chips, then for every cup just add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil or cocoa butter which will counteract the wax coating. They coat the chips with a bit of wax to help prevent melting in transport.

Thinking of Valentines Day I have a couple of easy recipes for you to share at home. We often do a Triple Chocolate Fondue for parties, if one kind of chocolate is good three is great! Here are recipes for all three.

Chocolate Fondue (milk or dark) (serves 2 to 4)
4 oz Semisweet Chocolate or Milk Chocolate (chocolate chips work fine)
4 oz Heavy Cream (yes heavy cream people)
Bring the cream to a boil, then remove it from the heat and stir in the chocolate till melted.

White Chocolate Fondue (serves 2 to 4)
4 oz White Chocolate
3 oz Whole milk
Use the same directions as milk and dark.
Note: When working with white and milk chocolate the sugar content will be much higher and more likely to burn or scorch, so take extra caution if reheating.

Serve warm with you favorite dippers, such as Strawberries or Bananas, but any fruit is great with it. You can also dip marshmallow and put them on graham crackers for s’mores too. Think of serving the chocolate in a martini glass for a romantic touch

For something even richer try Chocolate Marquis, this is like a mousse but without the whipped cream. It does contain raw egg so it should be handled carefully and kept refrigerated.

Chocolate Marquis (serves 6-8)
10 oz Chocolate Chips
4 oz Butter
4 Eggs (separate the yolks and whites)
2 T Sugar

Place the butter in a heavy bottomed sauce pot and melt slowly, making sure not to brown. Remove the butter from heat and stir in the chocolate chips, stir till melted then return to a very low heat if necessary. Transfer the chocolate and butter mixture to a mixing bowl and cool to room temperature. Whip the egg whites till soft peaks, slowly add sugar and whip till glossy. Fold egg yolks into the chocolate butter mixture, then fold in the whipped egg whites and refrigerate till firm.

Scoop in to a beautiful glass or even a chocolate cup and serve with fresh berries.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nick's Cove and rolling green hills

As a chef I have rarely had Sundays off.  Even owning my own company Sundays are a day of work, bridal appointments and sometimes the quiet day of the week to get a few things done like menu writing, creating and ordering.  My weekend is Tuesday and Wednesday. This last weekend (Tuesday) when we finally had some sunshine I had to take advantage of it and go for a ride.

During January-March when business is (supposedly) slower I recharge my batteries and cultivate ideas to prepare for the season ahead.  This week we decided to hit the road to the coast.. Should it be Bodega Bay?  Not this time.  Maybe out to the lighthouse?  No, the weather was not that good.  Instead we head out to Tomales Bay - a chance for a beautiful ride through our green rolling hills.  And it is green right now, every shade of green.

After buzzing through the city of Tomales we headed south along highway one. Deciding to stop for lunch at Nick’s Cove. I had heard for a while that they were bringing great things to Marshall (town of about 80 people) and boy were they right.

Situated right on the pier overlooking the bay we had a great lunch. The view across the water of the birds and the boats was wonderful and so was the food.

They do a great locally produced menu, being members of Marin Organic.  I had a blood orange & arugula salad with toasted almonds and one of my favorites Truffle Tremor from Cypress Grove.  Jim had a grilled treviso (a member of the radicchio family) salad with fried fresh oysters, and of course we had to share a bowl of clam chowder.  A great location to take a drive and enjoy the day. They now have a number of cabins right on the water to rent- I am thinking of a moonlight night out there- maybe this summer.