In my opinion, there is nothing better than sharing a little adventure with the people you love. When I went home to San Francisco a few weeks ago, three of my best friends from high school were there for the holidays – it is a rare occasion when we’re all in town at the same time - so we had to celebrate.
Though I’ve never known a more dedicated foursome to so eagerly indulge in all accessible food and drink (our reunions are only ever spent around a dining table, at a food fair, in a bar, at a winery...or on a couch with a glass of something and a plate full of homemade goods) we wanted to find a way to kick it up a notch this time – enhance our indulgence, that is. Together we brainstormed and came up with, what we now believe to be, the greatest day in the history of the world.
As Bay Area natives, we love to explore our beautiful part of Northern California. So in a rare moment of genius, we decided to take the afternoon and drive up to Tomales Bay*. Oysters, wine, and waterfront dining - it doesn't get much better.
After an hour of scenic driving through rolling hills along Northern California’s coastline, we stumbled upon a delicious, seemingly undiscovered - but apparently famed - eatery called ‘Nick’s Cove’ in Marshall, California. Marshall, you say? That’s right, population of 400 most days, 408 on that particular afternoon as the four of us and our appetites sat down and decided to stay a while. A few dozen oysters, a bottle of champagne, multiple orders of breaded-covered dishes, and a pot of Dungeness crab macaroni and cheese later, we found ourselves roaming down the beautiful pier looking out across the stunningly quiet bay as the sun went down. We were in heaven.
Destination: Marshall, California (approximately an hour north of San Francisco)
Eatery: Nick’s Cove
Order: Oysters, in any and every form possible – fried, BBQed, buttered, etc.
Drink: A Bloody Mary, or two
Do: Nothing, but indulge and take in the view while you eat until the sun goes down.
*Tomales is pronounced Tow-Mah-Less not Tuh-Mah-Lees as in "multiple tomales, por favor"
My beautiful sister and cooking muse, Anna, just recently got engaged. To celebrate this exciting new chapter in her life my mom has decided to throw her a small party a few days after Thanksgiving. Being the angelic daughter/sister that I am, I valiantly offered to bake a few goodies for the party. Because Instagram filters and editing techniques present me as a much better baker than I actually am, I decided to test a few recipes prior to this celebration so that I know what I can commit to.
Since I think Pinterest is one of the greatest things to happen to me in my 20s, I started sifting through the hundreds of “Tasty Treats” pins I have stacked on my ‘board’ (check it out here). All of my most poignant words of wisdom come from quotes I’ve found on there, as do most of the yummy recipes I find. For that reason, I was able to pull a few things that I’ve been dying to try and decided to dedicate my 48 hours of free time to baking myself into oblivion. 5 recipes, 3 happy taste-testing friends, and one messy kitchen later, I was able to settle on a few dishes that will surely be a hit…or that I will end up eating all myself, because I think they’re amazing.
There is a genius website called PinterestFail that captures all unsuccessful attempts people make at creating something from Pinterest. What I love most about this website is that it represents an average-skilled DIYer who simply cannot figure out how to macramé her own rocking chair from knitting needles, a mason jar, and a handful of glitter despite some Pinterest-pro’s false claims that “it can be done while dinner is cooking!” Sorry, gal, I’m going to have to call your bluff on that one. We all have our strengths, amateur-welding and creating home-blown glass stemware just don’t happen to be mine.
I mention this website because I had two ‘WTF’ moments this weekend when I tried to make cookie dough bark (recipe and anecdotes to come) and pumpkin pie streusel bars (not sharing this recipe, it gets two thumbs down). I chose the bark because 1) it looked amazing (FYI- Pinterest-recipe posters only ever use the most amazing photos to display their food – in reality (my reality), they never look like this), and 2) it seemed really easy. Long story short, my big learning this weekend is that melting white chocolate is a real pain and not a strong suit of mine. It called for 1 bag, but it took me 3 bags to get a consistency that was semi-usable, and even then I still ended up hand flattening the chocolate because it was such a clay-like consistency…mmm tasty. Though it looked semi-accurate when I pulled it out of the fridge, I cut right in and was not-so-surprised to see the top layer of white chocolate and mini chips stick to the knife while the bottom layer of dark chocolate and Cocoa Krispies had a ninja grip on the bottom of the pan. After a few good whacks with my spatula and some death-defying tactics with a paring knife, I was able to present the bark to a friend, holding together the two separate layers like an artfully delicate sandwich. It was good, but it was ugly. I was mad. This was what I started my day off with. Silver lining: it could only get better. And it did, world, meet the strawberry butter cookie and the coconut Kiss macaroon. Hot diggity damn, these are some good treats, and I am not mad about it. Read about these bad boys in the following post titled “It Gets Better”…because it did.
My second blackout rage came the next day. I survived 7 more hours of baking on Saturday afternoon and woke up feeling like a champ with a tummy full of dough on Sunday morning. I nailed the creation of my favorite cookie – Nutella seasalt sugar cookies (recipe here), and felt pretty good going into my fifth and final challenge: The Pumpkin Streusel bar. I should have known from the get-go that this was going to be bad, if only because it called for pecans which I don’t love, nor do I support any kind of nut in my dessert. I learned an important lesson throughout this baking project, however. I’ve always been big on listening to my gut instinct in all things related to life, and now I know to do the same when it comes to baking. The takeaway: if it looks wrong, it probably is wrong. The crust of pie-like things is usually the only part that I eat (did I mention I hate pie? HATE pie. Call me anti-American, but mushy fruit, and flaky crust don’t belong together. The only pie I will eat is filled with banana cream), and this one looked bad from the start. I guess it was supposed to be crumbly? But crumbly things need more butter (note: everything needs more butter), and I was fooled by this woman’s lackadaisical and cocky approach to cooking: “This is so easy to whip up on a moments notice, everyone loves it!”…ok show off, we get it, you’re better than me. I can’t do anything on a moments notice unless it involves popcorn, grilled cheese or a bowl of cereal…you’re welcome, guests.
Anyways, I was cheerfully tossing together all kinds of scrumptious holiday spices when I took a step back and saw what was supposed to be the “crust” and just thought, nope, this is wrong. But, I committed, as all uncertain and skeptical novice-bakers do, and believed that if I followed the recipe word for word, I wouldn’t be led astray. I’m here to tell you that 1) I did, and 2) I was. I pulled this unappetizing looking dessert out of my oven on two separate occasions hoping for improvements and it just made me sad to look at what was happening. To summarize the problems with this endeavor I will leave you with this math problem: too much flour + not enough butter + lumpy cream cheese + pumpkin pie filling = no one asking for seconds. I guess the second lesson I learned is when in doubt, smack around some graham crackers, melt butter, and mix it all with sugar until you’ve got a killer crust sans the sense of failure.
Also -- let me just say that I LOVE photography, but when I take pictures of food I'm not concerned about getting the lighting and angle right. Hence, the the bootleg photos I display on this blog. I'll work on that...
If anyone finds themselves in the beautiful borough of Brooklyn some time soon, hit up the Smorgasburg on Saturday mornings in Williamsburg. There are a lot of reasons to be a part of this weekly (read: open until November 23/24) food fest, the most important being because of a tasty something called the Ramen Burger. Not a meat-eater, you say? Go because they also have everything else delicious, it's all made from local vendors, and it's all fantastically set up upon the East River with an amazing view of Manhattan as the backdrop. Think global, eat local...or something like that. Support your nearby cooks and cookeries, is all I'm saying.
In my humble opinion, this ramen burger is pretty much the greatest thing to happen to Top Ramen since little kids realized they could eat it raw and dip their fingers in the seasoning while munching on dry noodle-nibbles during snack time.
Like the cronut, parts of the ramen burger-creation process really blow my mind, aka all parts of making it. I see that the ramen is artfully made into a circle shape (you know my thoughts on food in the shape of a circle - I'm a fan) to play the role of a traditional bun... well, betwixt these two ramen "buns" is one of the best meat patties you've ever munched on, and the sauce that goes with it...it'll knock your socks right off. As for the cheese, seasoning, garnish additions: I'm about that life.
I'm contemplating trying this at home, but I know I won't do it justice...so for the time being I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that, like the cronut, this heavenly thing makes its way back west and into my eager tummy.
Ooh...well would you look at that: careful what you wish for.
I'm going to start this off with something near and dear to my heart - and that is the donut. I'm sure most of you have heard of this delicious treat. It's circular, as all the best and most delicious desserts are, and it's missing its center. Don't be alarmed, when said missing piece is found, it too can be eaten.
I recently discovered that one of LA's best donut-shops is walking distance from my home. This came as a shock to me, but also as a message from God - that I should be eating more donuts. Challenge accepted. A good friend of mine, who knows my eating habits all too well, mentioned that this donut shop, DK's Donut's for those of you in the area looking for Heaven, also sells food's latest and greatest creation: the cronut. Needless to say, the 10 block radius of my beach-side life is now complete.
The cronut is a combination of all things tasty - the flaky buttery-goodness of a croissant is layered to mirror the size and width of your average donut, then the middle is cut out (obviously), and then it's deep fried, as all things should be. (Let it be noted: I made all of these details up, I thought about how it was made when I was eating it, but didn't take the time to ask or research.) I can only assume that these cronuts are made by Oompa Loompas similar to those found in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory...and who am I kidding, it would be bad news bears if I knew how this was made, because 1) I would then know the amount of butter and sugar it takes to make one of these bad boys, then 2) I would try to make it myself, likely fail, and thus be forced to eat the dough. Cronuts are made to be eaten and enjoyed...don't think about it any other way.