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Food + Recipes

Party Recipes and Pairings

Cheddar Cheese Coins

May 6, 2018
cheddar-cheese-coins-recipe

I needed hostess gifts for a couple Sunday visits, so I decided to race to Sunshine Market and grab the ingredients for some Cheddar Cheese Coins.

The friendly checker, sizing up the content of my basket, said “Enjoy your cookies!” When I told him I was making savory cheese crackers to pair with wine, the woman in line behind me jumped in with “I want some of those.”

If you think you’re too busy to bake or don’t always like the way your creations turn out — trust me, these Cheddar Cheese Coins are foolproof, easy and deliciously worth your time and effort. I like to make the dough ahead of time, keep it wrapped up in the freezer, and then slice and bake a log or two when I need something for a party or surprise guests.

A former co-worker named Elizabeth shared the original recipe. They’re basically classic savory shortbreads. Over the years, I’ve added some of my own touches — and you should feel free to do the same.

Cheddar Cheese Coins

Make 7 dozen

  • 1 pound butter, softened
  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated and at room temperature
  • 4 cups unbleached flour
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon piment d’Espelette

In a large mixing bowl, add the butter, cheddar cheese, flour, pecans, salt, cayenne, ancho chile powder and piment d’Espelette. Using your hands, mix well until all the ingredients are well-combined and it forms a dough.

Working on a lightly floured surface, take a hunk of dough and roll it into a 10 to 12 inch long log the diameter of a quarter. Wrap log in plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining dough. Put the dough you don’t plan to bake into the freezer, stored in a resealable plastic bag. Let the dough you plan to bake chill in the refrigerator for an hour or two.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a sharp knife, slice the chilled log of dough into discs one-eighth inch thick. Place discs ¼-inch apart on a baking sheet that’s been greased lightly or is covered by a Silpat baking mat. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the coins are golden and the kitchen smells like toasty cheddar cheese and butter. Remove pan from the oven. Let the coins cool completely before removing them from the pan, or they might fall apart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurants

Here’s What You’re Missing at CDP, the Sexy Bar by Commis

March 26, 2018
popcorn and sparkling wine

When I first heard about the expansion plans for the Michelin-starred restaurant Commis, my reaction was mixed. Sure, it would be cool to have a chic bar by chef James Syhabout right next door to my place in Oakland. But it also meant saying goodbye to my favorite designer second-hand store, since they lost their lease to make room.

But after just a few visits to CDP, I’m very happy with the swap.

If you haven’t made it over to Piedmont Avenue to try  CDP (short for chef de partie) yet, you’re missing out on an exquisite cocktail and dining experience where every detail has been considered carefully. considered. The first thing to catch my eye in the space designed by Gensler was a wardrobe fronted by coppery chain curtain — what an unexpected and sexy way to store coats. A gleaming Carrara marble waterfall bar is the focal point of the dimly lit room framed by potted palms starburst chandeliers and sinuous pendant lights.

oakland 09 cocktail commis bar cdp oakland

CDP’s Oakland 09 is a play on the classic French 75.

CDP specializes in brandy and bubbly — two of my favorite things. The signature cocktail is the Oakland 09, named for the year that Commis first opened. Their riff on the French 75 is all kinds of extra: it stars Pineau des Charentes and housemade demi-sec bubbly (seriously, who else does that??)  The final touch: A spritz of jasmine essence, one of the aromas Syhabout associates with his Oakland neighborhood.

Brandy lovers will want the Blood Orange Side Car, a juicy twist on the classic. It’s spiritous enough to relax you, but I like the way the blood orange juice rounds out the flavors.

But for me, the big draw at CDP is the exquisite bar food that shows Syhabout’s creativity and chops.

brussels sprouts with chervil CDP

CDP’s brussels sprouts just might be the best in the Bay Area.

I know Brussels sprouts are on every menu in town, but trust me — you won’t find any as good as these. They’re crisped in a pan, then crispy cook sprouts and raw leaves are bathed in a luxurious, tangy vinaigrette that gets a lift from the under-appreciated herb chervil. That distinct licorice flavor surfaces again in the steak tartare with chervil creme. Syhabout deftly evokes the satisfying flavors of a rib-eye steak with bearnaise, with none of the heft.

And yes, you do need to try the warm boule of bread and chicken skin butter — it’s a nearly life-changing experience and the butter, topped in delicate flower petal and herb design, is downright beautiful.

butter decorated with flowers

Tweezer food alert: CDP’s schmaltzy butter topped with flower petals and herbs.

There’s even a happy hour menu (early from 5 to 6 and late from 9:30 p.m.to close) that starts at $3 for fine nibbles like Marcona almonds dusted in pink peppercorn and rose sugar, a funky little ham sandwich sweetened with honey or my favorite — the popcorn in seaweed brown butter. Try it with a flute of the Gramona Brut Cava or — maybe the Thienot champagne. And then repeat.

The team at CDP knows the way to a bubbly girl’s heart.

August 2018 Update: CDP no longer offers its happy hour menu. But you’ll still find an array of dishes, such as seared scallops with exotic spices, offered a la carte. The popcorn and other special creations are part of a $65 Cote de Boeuf prix fixe tasting menu that requires advance reservations via Resy.

 

 

 

 

Dinner Tonight, Food + Recipes

Cauliflower: My Vegetable of the Moment

August 31, 2017
true_food_kitch_mediterranean_cauliflower

When I’ve made the same vegetable for dinner twice in one week, it’s more than a matter of convenience; I’m officially obsessed.

Right now, I’m fascinated with cauliflower. Sure, this milky member of the crucifer family lacks the superfood sexiness of kale, the exoticism of eggplant or even the sweet crunch of carrots. No, this mild-mannered vegetable is a quiet superhero of the vegetable world with the ability to be anything you want it to be.

It started with a gorgeous Food 52 image of this deep chestnut brown cauliflower steak. In case you’re wondering, you get a cauliflower steak by slicing it about 3/4-inch thick. Here’s a Dan Barber recipe for cauliflower steaks that I spotted on Food 52.

And when True Food Kitchen opened in Walnut Creek, I went to visit their super chef Nathan Coulon. We shared the Mediterranean roasted cauliflower with tahini, harissa and mint, and it’s been one of my favorite dishes there ever since. I can’t find the real recipe online, but there are a few good copycat versions, like this one by Alyssa of Her Modern Kitchen.

I’ve made cauliflower mashed potatoes, and they turned out just as creamy as the ones from the actual tuber, with a fraction of the simple carbs. And buffalo chicken cauliflower, with a tangy hot pepper sauce mellowed with a hint of sweetness, is pretty tasty, too.

But I’ve drawn the line at subbing cauliflower for a pizza crust. You may even like that sort of thing, but there are some places a Chicago girl just won’t go.

Celebrity Chefs, Food + Recipes

Drew Barrymore Has a Wine Brand… But Did You Know She’s a Foodie?

April 18, 2013
drew_barrymore_eric_ripert
Actress Drew Barrymore is the latest celebrity to go into the kitchen with culinary legend Eric Ripert and share a dish. - Photo by Eric Damassa

Actress Drew Barrymore is the latest celebrity to go into the kitchen with culinary legend Eric Ripert in his Reserve Channel show and dish on cooking, work and life. – Photo by Eric Damassa

 

We all know Drew Barrymore as the actress who’s grown up on screen, from E.T. to He’s Just Not That Into You, which also earned her an executive producer credit. But did you know she’s also emerging as a bonafide foodie?

I had the chance to meet the lovely Barrymore, 37, a couple weeks ago when she popped into Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival to talk about her Barrymore Wines and her love of cooking. In case you haven’t tasted it, Barrymore’s pinot grigio is a light and refreshing wine she says is “feminine” sourced from the Tre Veniezie in Italy. But now she’s turning up the heat when it comes to her status as a culinary trend-setter.

In a special webisode that appears today, Barrymore cooks and has a great time cooking and chatting with dreamy French chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin restaurant fame. They explore her family history, knife skills and how the shape of the wine glass changes the flavor of a wine. Here’s the link if you want to watch Drew Barrymore in On the Table with Eric Ripert or you can watch it below.

Her dish? Clams Montecito, a buttery mix of clams, garlic, parsley and Barrymore pinot grigio that’s served over crusty French bread. It’s the dish she loves to make when she’s having a girls’ weekend at her estate home in the tony enclave of Montecito near Santa Barbara, where Oprah Winfrey also has a home.  She loves cooking for friends and it really became important when Barrymore and husband Will Kopelman were expecting their daughter, Olive. Keep reading to the end to try her recipe.

Drew Barrymore signs a chalkboard with her recipe in an On the Table With Eric tradition. Photo by Eric Damassa

Drew Barrymore signs a chalkboard with her recipe in an On the Table With Eric tradition. Photo by Eric Damassa

Drew Barrymore is just one of of the stars that has appeared on the show with Ripert, which is fun to watch because the guests like Roger Waters, supermodel Chrissy Teigen, Tom Colicchio and Elizabeth Olson get to share their thoughts on anything from food to politics to life and goof off a bit too.

This isn’t the first time the actress from a legendary Hollywood family has cooked on air: Drew made an Indian-spiced pasta dish in on The Ellen Degeneres Show and paired it surprisingly with her pinot grigio. And it appears it won’t be the last. When we talked at Pebble Beach, Drew told me she adores cooking shows. And now she’s executive producer through her company Flower Films on the new show called Knife Fight , which debuts on April 23 on the Esquire Channel. In the meantime, here’s her dish Clams Montecito:

Drew Barrymore’s Clams Montecito 
1 stick of butter
5 cloves of chopped garlic
1 large jalapeño (with a few seeds)
1 cup of Barrymore Wines Pinot Grigio
1 lemon
1 Bag of Manila clams – the smaller the better.

Melt butter and add garlic and jalapeño.  Cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat in a saucepan and add Barrymore Wines Pinot Grigio.  Cook down for about 5 minutes. Remove from stove and squeeze lemon into butter mixture. Set aside.

Turn on grill to medium high and spread clams on cookie sheet and spread around until they open.

Warm butter up if need be and toss onto clams and coat. Serve with warm baguette for an appetizer, or pair with pan-seared cod fish to create an entree.

Recipe serves two

 

Food + Recipes, Shopping

Delicious Chocolate & Champagne Candies for Valentine’s Day

February 1, 2013
socola_valentine_chocolates

Words of love are screen-printed on champagne ganache chocolates filled with raspberry pâte de fruits. Sea salt caramels topped with red salt complete the box from Socola Chocolates.

Probably because they’re both foods associated with indulgence and pleasure, people love to talk about eating chocolate while sipping champagne for Valentine’s Day. Know what that combo makes me think? Yuck!

A typical brut champagne is far too acidic to pair with a sweet food like chocolate, so even your favorite champagne will taste tart and thin. And the wine does nothing to improve the flavor of the chocolate. It’s really a waste of both.

Here’s how we can stop the madness: with chocolate truffles that are made with champagne! This way, the champagne lends brightness, fruit and a hint of luxury to the chocolate.

If you’re feeling ambitious, it’s easy to make Chocolate-Champagne Truffles yourself with this recipe from Martha. She rolls hers in white sparkling sugar, but it would be fun to use different colors.

But if you don’t fancy cleaning chocolate and sugar off your kitchen cabinets and floor, here are some great champagne and chocolate truffles to buy for your sweetie or yourself for Valentine’s Day:

Socola Chocolatier’s Aphrodite’s Delight: This chocolate gift starts with raspberry pâtes de fruits enrobed in champagne ganache; each one is topped with the word love in a different language. The other half of the box is filled with grey sea salt chocolate caramels topped with red Hawaiian salt. Super-cute sisters Wendy and Susan, who are based in San Francisco, just became the featured chocolatiers for Zaarly, a cool site that curates all sorts of services. New members can go to Zaarly and snag the 12-piece Aphrodite’s Delight box for just $15; shipping is free in San Francisco and $5 elsewhere.

 

Recchiuti Champagne Truffles: Chocolatier Michael Recchiuti adds the deeply toasty and fruity Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs to super creamy dark chocolate. They’re rolled in powered sugar as the final step. Pick them up at the Recchiuti shop in the Ferry Building, at the new Chocolate Lab Café in Dogpatch or online.

 

Moonstruck Chocolate Pink Champagne Truffle Heart: I met a sweet lady from Seattle’s Moonstruck Chocolates at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco and was eyeing these cute pink hearts. A candied raspberry is at the center, surrounded by a white chocolate ganache flavored with champagne and raspberries and finally a white chocolate shell. Like all of their confections, it’s hand painted.

 

 

Teuscher Champagne Truffles: While I’ve not tried these yet, the website for the Palo Alto-based confectionery makes a compelling claim: company founder Dolf Teuscher Sr. invented the chocolate truffle back in 1946 in Switzerland.  A buttercream center infused with Dom Perignon Champagne is wrapped in either dark or milk chocolate. The milk chocolate original is dusted in confectioner’s sugar for a juicy sensation, while the dark chocolate is rolled in bittersweet cocoa powder for a drier, deeply flavored bite.

 

Vosges Haut Chocolat Champagne Truffles: These truffles and I go way back: We’re both from Chicago. The stylish chocolatiere Katrina Markoff mixes Krug Champagne Grande Cuvée with 85% chocolate and a splash of rosewater. The truffle is finished with a dusting of cocoa powder before being popped in a purple box.  You should know that the Vosges website has a range of other Krug and chocolate gifts, just please promise you won’t drink the champagne and the chocolate together.