World on a Plate

Exploring culture. One plate at a time.

Category: San Francisco

Bacon – Chinese Style


A few weekends ago, after
leaving the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market I ended up being diverted through
Russian Hill.  As I navigated the car
over the hills I met up with a curiosity–a middle-aged Chinese woman tightening
twine  off a wooden stick held up between
two wooden chairs.  From his line hung
long 7” to 10” slabs of meat.  I
double-parked to take a closer look. 

 The basement level
apartment was dark inside excepting for a shadow of movement.  I waved and out came a middle-aged woman
with a warm face. It turned out to be Chinese bacon air-curing in the dry,
winter sunlight. As good a place as any right outside her apartment door on the
city sidewalk.  What I was able to piece together was that it was Lop
or Chinese bacon.  Her mother
made a new batch every six weeks or so. 
“It’s much better and you save monies.” She said grinning. The simple
recipe involves the belly cut of the pig treated with Chinese wine (shaoxing)
soy sauce, brown sugar, and spices for seven to ten days or until it is hard.

 In order to use it in
recipes it needs to be soaked for about 6 or 7 hours before being sliced,
chopped and fried for use in recipes such as Chinese stir-fried greens or
Chinese sticky rice.  I’ve also simply
sautéed it and added it to scrambled eggs.

 Unfortunately the woman I
chatted with said that she never made it herself as her mother “only” was the
one to make it for the family.  She
said, “someday! I watch very careful!”

Chinese Stir Fried Greens with Bacon

Adapted from The Bacon Cookbook by James Villas


3 oz. air-cured Chinese
bacon, soaked in water at least 6 hours (rind removed), coarsely chopped

1 tblspn peanut oil

1 tblspn sesame oil

3 garlic cloves, peeled
and finely sliced

2 tspns salt

2 lbs Chinese shredded
greens (e.g. bok choy, spinach)

3 tblspns chicken broth


In a large skilled fry the
bacon over medium heat until crisps, drain on paper towels, and pour off all
but 1 tablespoon of the fat.  Add the
two types of oils to the bacon fat, increase the heat to high, and when just
smoking, add the garlic and salt and stir fry for 15 seconds.  Add the greens and stir-fry until wilted,
about 3-4 minutes.  Add the broth and
bacon and stir-fry until the greens are still slightly crisp, about 2 minutes.
Serve immediately.


Serves 4

Ice Cream: The Whole Scoop


I’ve been a little obsessive over ice cream lately. It is, after all, National Ice Cream Month. And I don’t mean frozen yogurt or low fat knockoffs. No. Full-flavor butterfat-rich frozen diary with a cone please, the real cream experience.  It may be because for a number of reasons I’ve been either fasting for medical reasons or eating super lean and freshly for mind-body efforts that I crave just one treat that is full on flavor.  But quite frankly for me, there’s just something about a cone in summertime that takes me back to family outings to Crescent Ridge Dairy.

As you see in the photo I’ve been exploring all kinds of flavors (clockwise, starting from the top left): my Homemade Swanton’s Strawberry Mint Chip; Swenson’s Chocolate Chip & Mint Chip; Double Rainbow It’s A Goody and Swenson’s Mocha Fudge.  There’s many others but one must maintain some semblance of control. I’ve also re-discovered Dr. Bob’s Scharffen Berger Works.  At $7.00 a pint this is not for the casual ice cream indulgence.  Warning, this chocolate ice cream is nirvana: containing bittersweet and semisweet chocolate bits and ground cocoa beans in a dark chocolate base, it is like no other.  The secret is in the amount of butterfat at least 16%.

So why the fuss over the butterfat?  Well, federal law, it seems, sets the standard. Ice cream must have at least 10 percent milk fat. This seems to me to be a small amount, that results in a very airy ice cream. In the churning process the amount of air affects the density and quality of the ice cream.  The more air there is the poorer the quality.  Super-premium ice creams typically has at least 12 percent and sometimes as much as 16 percent butterfat.  You get what you pay for, eh?

According to the International Ice Cream Association,  about 8% of the milk produced in the U.S. in 2005 was used to make frozen dairy products.  The top flavors are vanilla (by a very large share), chocolate (a distant and paltry showing), Neapolitan, strawberry and cookies ‘n’ cream.   The numbers work out to be about 52% of us walking the straight and narrow.  The rest of us, if we look to Ben & Jerry, have freezers full of Cherry Garcia, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream, Chocolate Fudge Brownie Ice Cream and Chunky Monkey Ice Cream. The complete list can be found here.

There are all kinds of tales as long as the summer about where it all started. It all started back in the fifth century BC, ancient Greeks sold snow cones mixed with honey and fruit in the markets of Athens.  Later Roman Emperor Nero is said to have eaten fruit chilled with snow brought by slaves down from the mountains. However, elsewhere, Mongolian horseman are said t o have taken cream in containers that were formed from animal innards as provisions across the Gobi desert in winter. Galloping along the cream was shaken and frozen all at the same time.  As the empire spread through China, Marco Polo picked up on the idea and brought it to Italy in the late 13th century.  In turn Catherine de Medici who at 14 years young was married off in 1533 to the future French King Henri II she brought with her an entourage of Italian chefs and the ice cream fixings. All good stories but the true history probably has more to do with the invention of the ice cream maker in the mid-19th century and the rise of refrigeration.

Today there are essentially two methods of making ice cream:  Philadelphia-style, made from with a base that is a blend of milk and cream, flavorings and sugar or the custard-style often referred to as French made from a pre-cooked custard base that includes egg yolks, sugar, milk and less cream; they are also whipped before they are frozen.

Around the world ice cream is popular. In Japan these days they have a rather unique flavor set, sweet potato and a saltwater fish flavor that is combined with large amounts of brandy. One of the more popular flavors rice ice cream.  This is made with Japan’s favorite rice, koshihikari, which is also used to create some of the country’s finest sake. In Italy, granita, the savvy Sicilian cousin to gelato, is a semi-frozen sugar-water flavored grainy ice treat. In a recent NPR story I learned that a summertime breakfast in Sicily is often coffee granita served with brioche.  And if you live in or around San Francisco you can taste ice cream India-style at Bombay Ice Creamery. this eight-year-old looks-like-nothing-much location showcases flavors that are homemade and reflect that tastes of the Indian subcontinent including saffron-pistachio, cardamom and mango, and chicku.

And in case you are the extra-curious sort the average person eats about 22 quarts of ice cream a year about 3-ish small cones a week! And it takes, on average about 50 licks to finish a scoop of ice cream. So really I think I may need to pick up the pace in the efforts of keeping with the stats!

My Recipe for Strawberry Mint Ice Cream

Wacky World of Japanese Ice Cream

NPR: Ice Cream A Perennial Favorite

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Spätzle a la Suppenküche


Willkommen to a new cooking frontier that has long stopped me cold. Spätzle.  Recently fate knocked on my door, when I was assigned this dish as my ticket in for a dinner gathering of food bloggers. Eek.

Long a comfort food in southern Germany Spätzle, it is a delicacy traditionally associated with the regional area of Swabia. In the northern part of the country you are more likely to find potatoes. Today this pasta, however,  is eaten all over Germany. Spätzle literally translated means "little sparrows" in the Southern dialect, it consists of tiny noodles or dumplings made of flour, eggs, water or milk, salt and occasionally nutmeg.  The measure of a quality tasting Spätzle, is found in the number of eggs used.

Maybe fear is too strong a word.  It is more of an equipment obstacle — the single purpose utensil, a Spätzle press.  In the IBK I have a philosophy: in order to keep my sanity and efficiency in check all kitchen tools should have at least two, if not three, purposes.  The press is similar to a potato ricer but has larger and fewer holes.  The dough is extruded out and into simmering salted water. What else would you ever use that for?!

After reading many recipes of varying ratios of egg to flour I arrived at a recipe from Suppenküche a popular New German restaurant in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley. I’ve tasted this pasta several times since its opening in 2003. The restaurant remains a favorite not only for it’s unique contemporarizing quality but most likely due to its selection of beers.  As this recipe requires six eggs I knew it had to be good.

A reported 40,000 tons of Spätzle are produced in Germany each year. Of course, this figure does not include the many homemade batches of Spätzle everyday. And yes I can now see why it could and can be made every day. I used the colander to press the thick batter into the simmering water. Now that I have overcome this silly bit of intimidation preparing Käsespätzle  {Off the Broiler-instructional vlog} or maybe even that Charlie Trotter recipe, Rack of Lamb with Vegetable Ragout with Mustard Spätzle that now sounds more than within reach.

But the true test? There was hardly any noodles left after the 24 food pros and bloggers finished their goose dinner.

Suppenküche Spätzle

Adapted from Savoring San Francisco by Carolyn Miller & Sharon Smith

6 whole eggs
2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 to 3/4 cup water

Fill a lrage pot with water. Bring the water to a boil and salt liberally.

While the water comes to a boil prepare the batter.  In a medium-sized bowl beat the eggs lightly. In another bowl combine flour, salt and nutmeg. Gradually add the flour mix to the egg.  Add water spoon by spoon until batter is stiff but smooth.

Using a perforated pan or colander and the ball of your hand, push batter through holes into water that should simmer throughout the whole process, but not boil. You’ll want to do this in 3 shifts.

For best results there should only be one layer of spätzle at a time in the cooking water. Stir the Spätzle with a spoon so that they do not stick together. When they rise to the top they are done. Sometimes this happens to quick, say 45 seconds. Depending on the size of your Spätzle you may need a minute or longer. It’s very similar to cooking Italian pasta. Remove Spätzle from water with a perforated spoon and place in a bowl of iced water to ensure not to overcook the noodles.

To reheat, sauté in a little butter about two minutes; season with fresh chives. Serve.

Little Miss Muffet goes to School


I am an absolute freak when it comes to goats. I can’t explain it. Hearty and spunky what’s not to like, including their milk in all its forms. Be it Humboldt Fog, cajeta,  or LaLoo’s ice cream. This fascination also includes long entertained flights of fancy of becoming Little Bo Beep and having my own heard.  I’d make cheese, soap and lotions and sell it at a nearby market. And then I took a class at the newly opened Cheese School of San Francisco.

Many of you like myself will now ask why, in this city of food-crazed dwellers has there not been a formal education outlet until 2006?  It’s such a smart idea. Sure, there have been classes offered through many local cheese shops such as those taught by Judy Creighton (who is list as faculty) at Leonard’s 2000 now Cheese Plus. The cheese school, is in Russian Hill and was founded by Sara Vivenzio, who arrived in the City a year ago, after a time in NY advertising (no wonder the graphics for her school are clean and inviting), to live out cheese-filled dreams here in the land of fog and artisanal splendor. Today, she is a professional cheese monger and buyer at the nearby Cheese Plus

Now I’m not naive, but let’s just say that I was lacking in herd management knowledge. Will Edwards of Harley Farms in Pescadero led the class and focused on the flow of milk–from goat to cheese. The farm is organic and sustainable.  Little touches go a long way. The whey is feed to the goats which increases the butterfat in the cheese.

Will is absolutely passionate and enthusiastic about the goats and the cheese. He shared some of the questions that he gets during tours of the farm, ‘Which part of the goat do you use for cheese? Do you milk male goats?’ Yet another reminder of how disconnected many are from food sources.

Harley Farms was started by Yorkshire-born Dee Harley who married the owner of Durate’s Tavern–a landmark eatery, don’t miss the pie!–they settled down at his father’s 1910 farm. Will, joined shortly after things were getting a bit too productive on the farm for Dee. They do not call themselves cheese makers, the goats do the work so they wear that title. There are about 220 American Alpine goats roaming the 9-acres of coastal pasture down in Pescadero. These goats are excellent milkers. Goats need to be milked twice a day every 12 hours. This cycle produces a gallon of milk which yields one pound of cheese. Milking a goat by hand takes about 15 minutes. With a milking machine that process is seriously compressed to 3 minutes. And here’s the big surprise, in the Spring goats give birth to twins or triplets. The herd can grow to over 500! 

Will mentioned in passing that currently there are just a mere 12 farmstead cheese goat operations in the U.S.  Here’s what I can find to so far:

      1. Achadinha Farms, California
      2. Amaltheia Dairy, Montana
      3. Capriole Farms, Indiana
      4. Elk Creamery, California
      5. Harley Farms, California
      6. Haystack Farms, Colorado
      7. Bodega Goat Cheese, California
      8. Pug’s Leap, California
      9. Redwood Hill Farms, California
      10. Rollingstone Chevre, Minnesota

      The Harley Farms tasting include a Monet, with fresh flowers and herbs d’ Provence, an apricot pistachio and a tomato basil.  These 4-day old chevres were not goaty in flavor.  The Monet and the tomato which was paired with a lush Stephen Vincent Merot (2003) are new favorites. We also sampled other California farmstead cheeses including, a Fiscalini 30-month bandage wrap cheddar; Bellwhether Farms San Andreas and a crottin from Redwood Hill Farms. At the end of the class we moved into the kitchen and watched Will complete the makings for fresh ricotta cheese.


      Future classes include a Pub Tasting, Cheeses of Spain and if you really want to indulge there’s a Valentine’s event with pairing bubbles and triple crèmes. Check out the schedule–there’s something for the Miss Muffet in you.  For me I’ve got to start envisioning the whole cycle of life–how did I miss that?

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      IMBB #20 – Souffles


      Illustration: Philippe Weisbecker

      Too many technical difficulties that made time evaporate.  I  can’t figure out tags, my JumpDrive is not being recognized or is it that my USB port is not reading my card reader and my flash drive? So photos, are forthcoming.

      IMBB round #20, hosted by Kitchen Chick, is all about soufflés.  To begin with, the French word soufflé means ‘breath’ and can also mean ‘to be inspired’ as in avoir du soufflé. I would say that by the end of this IMBB challenge the effort did just that and more. What I always thought I couldn’t do I see that I can. 

      Many more experienced cooks, magazines and cookbooks suggest that soufflés aren’t as tough to prepare as the less experienced seem to think they are. This is what I kept on saying as I worked quickly in the kitchen this morning.

      Soufflés, from what I can understand are made from two basic elements, a base of flavored cream sauce or purée and beaten egg whites providing the elevation. Some of the tips I picked up in doing my research for this first-ever outing into souffles, include separating the eggs while cold, as it’s easier, but they will beat to a larger volume if they are allowed to come to room temperature.


      When, the moment came to remove the soufflé it was golden, puffy and fluffy, however it feel rather quickly.  My understanding is that it takes 20 or 30 minutes. So I wonder if I did something wrong.  The inside was perfect, the outside was a bit chewy, a bit like a popover in taste.

      NockerlnNo matter, I’m inspired.  Next a chocolate soufflé, eventually the Austrian version called Salzburger nockerln, (Salzburg Dumplings), a sweet soufflé or omelette that resembles three or more golden church domes in a baking dish.. The puffy baked eggs, are served simply with whipped cream  Ah, avoir du souffllé

      Tagged with: <a href="; rel="tag">IMBB # 20</a> + <a href="; rel="tag">Souffle</a>

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      Pastrami – What is it anyway?


      Years and years ago, when I lived in New York  my Saturday routine involved a purposeful late afternoon meal.  This meal  took care of lunch and dinner on a young and budget conscious eater while also fueling me for a very long evening of dancing and reveling. The meal of choice was a pastrami sandwich with mustard on rye usually at Second Ave Deli.  Lately I’ve been nostalgic for  this sandwich and the East Coast–fall does it, it’s the one time of year that it breaks my heart not to be there.  Baseball, football, apples, cheddar, foliage, crisp air…sigh–so my inclination for this sandwich has only grown stronger.

      Since moving to the other coast I have lost all hope of finding that sandwich of days gone by.  But life has a way of presenting you with gifts. On Saturday I found myself at the SFFP market a bit later than I like to be.  I have a very low threshold for tourists and crowds. The last stop was Golden Gate Meat Company where I decided to feed my melancholy by ordering a pastrami and spicy mustard sandwich for $7.00.  The sandwich, served on a soft torpedo roll with just the right amount of pull and chew was the perfect balance of fattiness and spicy mustard.  Mekhaye!

      But as I savored every bite I began to wonder, what, exactly is pastrami? To make pastrami, you start by making corned beef.  This cut is a beef brisket soaked in brine and a bit of sugar and spice. If you decide to smoke the corned beef, it becomes pastrami. And as we all know smoking elevates meat and adds flavor. Pastrami is traditionally made from the forequarter of the animal from a cut known as the deckle or plate, but is sometimes made from brisket. 

      So what’s the corn got to do with the name ‘corned beef’ anyway? Well it is called "corned" because the grains of salt used in the brine in days of yore were referred to as corns. And the word pastrami is derived from the Romanian word pastra, "to preserve." Pastrami is thought to have originated in Eastern Europe and the Levant. Here the meat was preserved by a combination of salt rub and air drying.

      It’s still not like home but that’s OK.  Food is as much about place as what you are eating.  This sandwich is damn near close!

      Food Fit for a Queen

      Uor4_2Over the weekend I went to the annual Fancy Food Gourmet Sale, sassily called ‘Food Fit for a Queen’ sponsored by Under One Roof. The non-profit organization, based in San Francisco is focused on raising money for over 37 AIDS service organizations such as PAWS, Visual Aid and Project Inform.  Every year donated gourmet food products are donated to the organization by participants of the Fancy Food Show–over 30 pallets of food.

      The event was held in an empty and small storefront in the Castro. The volunteers keep on stocking everyday.  There is excitement in the air.  One man was shopping for his wife via his cell phone–"do you need 2 liters of raspberry syrup?"  Another woman was back for day two/round two.  "Did you get to the jams yet? No? Could I help out by stocking them?" There’s cookies, oils, spices, chocolate, syrups, jams, sauces, crackers, soups and beverages. I definitely got carried away by the selection and made the mistake of not enforcing a budget on myself.  Of course knowing that all proceeds went back to the service organizations lessened the anxiety.

      I’ve had a chance to taste test a few of the products.  I picked up two new dessert sauces from Charlie Trotter’s line, Bartlett pear and caramel, the other a bittersweet chocolate-Kona coffee ($2.50 each).  I served the pear sauce over a Cuban coconut almond pound cake for Sunday dinner’s dessert.  Dee-lightful.   

      However the best food treasure that I found was a hand-made yellow porcelain bottle of Spanish olive oil produced by the Nuñez de Prado family ($8.00). Since the late 1700s this nectar has been Spain’s finest olive oil.  According to their distributor, it is hand-crafted in a unique process, whereby the oil is extracted from the crush before the first cold pressing to preserve the "flor del aceite" (flower of the oil). This effort results in extraordinarily low oleic acidity. The unfiltered oil carries notes of green apple, almonds, and burnt orange.  So besides the great price and beautiful bottle why was I excited?  It retails for $45.

      Mark your calendars for next year’s sale. 

      continue on for the CUBAN COCONUT POUND CAKE recipe

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      Best Use of a Tortilla

      Ifflogomed By now the whole world seems to know that the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market  is the showplace of foods to visit. What many marketgoers and non-locals don’t know is that one of the best single breakfasts to be had in the City is at Cocina Primavera.

      Owned by Karen Taylor, the canopied stand with the big yellow umbrella in front is your signal to yield for good traditional Mexican flavors. And the foundation of many of these breakfasts entrees–pork punuchos, juevos rancheros, shrimp toastados de ceviche, chilaquiles–are thick, homemade, and organic corn tortillas. These tortillas are the essence of freshness, tradition and downright great eats. 

      A line begins to build around 10:15 and the wait is worthwhile.  The tortillas are not pre-made. There’s someone working with a bin of fresh masa, pinching out small balls of dough and patting out the tortillas and then cooking on the electric griddle. So yes while it would certainly save time for all to have a make-ahead reserve the owner has decided that flavor and quality is first. 

      Last week I had an order of pork punuchos ($8). The breakfast was made up of two lightly fried tortillas stuffed with chorizo, beans and a sliced hard-boiled egg, all topped with a citrus spiced marinated pork, onions and chopped avocado. I also grabbed a freshly made jamaica (hibiscus flower) agua fresca.  The portions are generous, the flavors bright, and overall it’s a meal that would make your grandmother smile.

      The Sonoma-based Primavera offers tamales on the menu that are equally remarkable in quality ranging in selection from chicken mole poblano, Oaxacan chicken red mole and roasted pumpkin with white chedar.

      You can take home some tortillas, as they are also sold pre-packaged for about $4.00 with about a dozen per package for the small taco-sized ones.  There’s assorted flavored ones, such as cotija cheese and green chile, too.

      = = = = = = = = =

      Taste Everything is dedicated to the idea that the more people share their great experiences, the more likely it is that the people who make great food will prosper and increase in number.  Taste Everything is food experiences shared.

      Prima3Prima2 Prima4 

      Call Me Crazy

      PazzowineA few friends on Friday night migrated from our places of work to Vino Venue before we all headed into our weekends. 

      Located just South of Market (SOMA) and footsteps away from the SF Museum of Modern Art this wine tasting "bar" has received quite a buzz since its opening in September.  For those outside of San Francisco it works like so–you buy a smartcard ($10-$100), receive a wine glass and visit wine stations which are arranged by varietal, insert the smartcard and select the wine choice and a tasting pour is dispensed.  Yes, a bit of a novelty.

      There’s over 100 wines to choose from in this combination wine bar and retail shop.  Unlike a winery tasting room there’s no pressure to buy a bottle.  So it’s a very inviting way to try something new.  Apparently, after tasting is complete you can have Vino Venue check your smartcard to generate a list.

      My sense is that the owners didn’t nearly anticpate the popularity of the concept. I’m certain they are making a lot of money on the concept.  My friend C. and I tried to calculate the number of pours per bottle and carry the math out and do a analysis of mark up to margin.  We got lost in a cloud of Rhone.  Suffice it to say that there’s money being made. 

      The establishment works on several levels but you certainly can’t linger too long here as, unfortunately, this place is limited in the nibbles.  It’s minimal and tasteless and more than overprices for what you get. Ideally I would visit this spot with an out of town wine lover or as  finish to a day at SFMOMA–post lunch at the Caffe Museo. 

      Aside from all the above I did taste a new wine from the "Adventurous" station–Bacio Divino Pazzo 2002 ($26/$2.40 1 oz. taste). This particular blend is unique– 66% sangiovese, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 7% zinfandel, 5% petit sirah and 2% viognier.  The wine is full, fruity and has a taste of cherry and plum but overall the taste is not too assertive.  As a French-wine drinking friend once remarked to me–you do like a big wine.  Italian wines are a favorite of mine.

      Photo:  Bacio Divino

      Vino Venue – 683 Mission Street @ Third, check website for hours

      Caffe Museo – 151 Third Street btween Mission & Howard

      open late Thurday until 9pm

      Crabby Cakes

      Crab01wDungeness crabs are unique to the west coast of North America, and reportedly take their name from a small fishing community on the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington state.

      The coast of Northern California and on up into Washington State has been home to commercially fished Dungeness crabs since the 1800s, with the present fishing season from December through April.  This year the season opened early and coincided with the release of the new Beaujolais.  After checking to see if I could eat without guilt over at the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch  (seriously eating here in the Bay Area can get challenging) I decided it was time for crab cakes. 

      One thing to understand here is that I’m a New England gal.  I can do many things with lobsters that non-New Englanders wouldn’t even consider.  I’ve been known to crack other people’s lobster with the skill of a chiropractor (payment excepted in lobster meat!).  So fresh crabmeat is somewhat of a new culinary endeavor.

      After an early morning (read as ‘pre-tourist crawl’) down at San Francisco’s Pier 49 I returned home with a ‘culinary compromise’–a just-steamed crab.  I set about cracking the crab.  This was a lot of work.  I prefer tangoing with a lobster.  I was in a nasty mood after the effort.  But I was determined to make the following recipe — Calypso Crab Cakes.  The recipe is from America’s Most Amazing Brunch Host, Camilla Saulsbury.  Given that she lives in Indiana I’m pretty sure she wasn’t cracking no fresh steamed crab before guests arrived. 

      Photo: Waterfront Crab Crawl, by J. Brophy (c’est moi)

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