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Recipe inspiration, tips, and kitchen hacks from the Chowhound editors.

Sustainability Smackdown

Journalist Michael Pollan and Whole Foods CEO John Mackey plan to meet mano a mano on February 27 in the face-off that has the San Francisco Bay Area food-politics community buzzing with excitement.

The talk is titled “The Past, Present, and Future of Food,” but those in the know are calling it the sustainability smackdown. The roots of this lie in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma, published last year to great acclaim. In it, Pollan criticizes Whole Foods for presenting a pastoral facade—the supermarket alternative—while not living up to this promise in terms of sourcing their produce from small-scale and local farms.

Mackey, a cofounder of the Whole Foods chain, took umbrage at Pollan’s assertions and posted an open letter to Pollan disputing his assessment. Shortly after this, “locally grown” signs started sprouting at Whole Foods stores. The two men have had a dialogue on the topic ever since—chronicled on their blogs.

The talk, which will be at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Auditorium, is bound to be an interesting one. As of this writing, tickets are still available. As noted on the blog Local Forage, the event will also be available via live webcast for those out of the area.

Chocolate Ice Cream Tarted Up with Olive Oil

You would not believe the stuff that is going on at Bi-Rite Creamery. For one, they’re serving double ginger ice cream, which is hot, intense, and the soul of ginger, says rworange–she’s never had better, period. But Sam’s Sundae ($4.50) will make you realize the point of pouring a golden drizzle of olive oil over ice cream. It adds rich velvetiness to the experience, especially when married with Maldon sea salt and chocolate ice cream. It’s all about the whole flavor of the dish, not the frou-frou aesthetic of daring-for-the-sake-of daring. The ice cream itself is solid, so “if it gets tarted up a little, it doesn’t matter because the foundation is good,” says rworange.

Whipped cream is of excellent quality, reminiscent of creme fraiche–but it’s misplaced on this sundae. Have it on something else. And davina loves Sam’s Sundae, too, but thinks it’s so intense in flavor that it should be half the size.

Emily Hope loves the salted caramel ice cream. The intense, rich, perfectly salty flavor is outstanding, with a caramel taste that stays just this side of burnt caramel. Totally worth the $8.00 a pint.

Bi-Rite Creamery
3692 18th Street, San Francisco

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SF–Bi-Rite Creamery update–Chocolate olive oil sundae with Malden salt, popsicles & the best ginger ice cream ever

Googly Food

Why should Amy Sedaris have all the fun? The actress/author/cupcake baker/cheeseball artiste (and yes, sister of Macy’s-elf-turned-bestseller David Sedaris, he of the whiny voice, New Yorker humor pieces, and house in France) has hit the big time with her entertaining guide to demented-kitsch theme parties, I Like You: The Art of Hospitality Under the Influence.

Now you can take a clue from Amy and make your own kooky krafts for fame and profit. Public TV station WYNC is holding an Amy Sedaris Craft Challenge in honor of Amy’s appearance on The Leonard Lopate Show on Friday, February 9.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to come up with the best interface between a set of stick-on googly eyes and an edible food product. A rapidly multiplying set of Flickr postings already reveals what the kindergartner favorites can do to a pot of baked beans, a bowl of flour, a plate of apple brown betty, a bundle of leeks, a broken fried egg, a plate of hamentaschen, numerous dumplings, and even a very disturbed-looking kitty molded out of cat food.

Winner gets a signed copy of I Like You and a fake cake made by Amy herself. Go crazy, kids!

A Big, Yummy Cake

Do you need a yummy cake to feed a crowd? One South Bay option is Prolific Oven, which can make you a large sheet cake of very good quality. jkg notes that if you’re not sure which flavor to get, they sell slices, so you can do “research.”

katg likes the Asian-style cakes sold by Sheng Kee Bakeries, with light, yummy frosting and fruit inside. They sell cakes big enough to feed 25-30 people.

And Lori SF likes the cakes at Fleur de Cocoa.

Prolific Oven [Peninsula]
550 Waverley St., Palo Alto 94301

Sheng Kee Bakery [Citywide]

Fleur de Cocoa [South Bay]
39 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos

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Where to get a yummy big cake?

Tacos Jaliscos – a Sure Thing at Belmont

Belmont Park has the ponies, but the smart money is on the truck. Tacos Jaliscos, which parks across Plainfield Avenue from the racetrack, turns out nicely seasoned beef, chorizo, chicken, and al pastor tacos, just $1.25 apiece, reports profjmm. Add-ons include beans, onions, cilantro, and two salsas, a green one and a killer red one. Also on the menu: burritos and refreshing agua fresca.

Tacos Jaliscos [Nassau County]
Plainfield Ave., north of Hempstead Tpke., Elmont, NY

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taco truck in elmont

At Devin Tavern, Waffles and Other Brunch Bites

Sunday brunchers can enjoy a near-perfect waffle at Devin Tavern: slightly fluffy, slightly browned, with time-delay deliciousness in the batter. “If it were a wine,” writes kathryn, “you’d say it finished well.” It comes with an exceptionally fresh fruit compote–raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, green apple, pineapple, and melon are a typical combo. Also: perilously luscious strawberry butter. “Be careful, it eats like ice cream,” the waiter warned, and kathryn happily agrees.

Other recommended brunch bites at this comfortable upscale joint: sweet/smoky pork maple sausage, crisp yet juicy thin-sliced bacon, and a breadbasket highlighted by moist, agreeably dense blueberry muffins.

Devin Tavern [Tribeca]
363 Greenwich St., near Franklin, Manhattan

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Devin Tavern Brunch

Corn-Blueberry Muffin Bliss at Tempo Presto

Look for moist, flavorful corn and wild blueberry muffins behind the takeout counter at Park Slope sandwich shop Tempo Presto. “Slammin,’” raves redgirl–and a deal at $1.85.

Tempo Presto [Park Slope]
256 5th Ave., between Carroll St. and Garfield Pl., Brooklyn

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Any great muffins in Brooklyn?

Nibbles and Sips and Sips and Sips

Tasca just got its beer and wine license, so they’re pouring as well as serving up tasty tapas, says can’t talk… eating.

There are small plates and larger ones, nothing cutting-edge, just tasty food like potatoes with linguica, duck and polenta, and grilled scallops.

It’s a laid-back place, pretty much the antithesis of loud, cramped Cobras & Matadors. Two people can dine for about $40 before tax and tip.

Tasca [Fairfax Village]
8108 W. Third St., Los Angeles

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Legal at last
Loving Tasca

The South Bay’s Nishimura

Tucked away in South Bay, Sushi Ken is on par with the likes of Nishimura and Mori, says ToroTaku, but much cheaper.

Sushi is traditional and they don’t do rolls, but the owner, who’s the sole chef, is no nazi. You can’t get a California roll, but feel free to ask for more (or less) wasabi. Nigiri is just the right size for the rice.

The clientele is mostly Japanese, being in Torrance, and the decor is new and very clean–a wooden counter and black-and-marble tables. Rather brightly lit, though.

Omakase runs $60-75.

Sushi Ken [South Bay]
22831 Hawthorne Blvd. # Bi, Torrance

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Outstanding sushi joint

Where, Oh Where, to Sprinkle Pomegranate Seeds?

Pomegranates are in season, and their seeds provide little bursts of tart flavor that complements both savory and sweet flavors.

They are good paired with oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese; or have some over vanilla ice cream. They mix well with grain salads, and they’re a natural garnish for any recipe that calls for pomegranate molasses.

Cook them into a compote to accompany pancakes and waffles, suggests, Sam Fujisaka, who says the same compote goes well with ham, pork chops, or lamb.

pescatarian uses them on crostini: slice baguette and top with brie; broil until the brie begins to melt, then sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.

Pomegranate seeds are wonderful in salads: try them with shaved apples and fennel; with arugula, pine nuts, and crumbled feta with a citrusy vinaigrette; or with shredded green apple and toasted slivered almonds over crisp lettuce with.a dressing of lemon, grainy mustard, honey, and olive oil.

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Ideas for pomegranate seeds?