Book Review: Koreatown


Koreatown: A Cookbook, by Deuki Hong, is a wonderful mix of delicious recipes and guide to the Koreatown food scene.  Chef Hong is chef at the popular New York City K-town restaurant, Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong.  So far I have made the kalbi (grilled beef short ribs), Korean fried chicken, kimchi fried rice (that includes a ton of bacon), and various sides including a delicious potato salad, jap chae, kimchi, bean sprouts, and spinach.  I have made the kalbi twice already, the marinade imparts a ton of flavor, and it goes amazingly well with the ssam jang, an intense mix of gochujang (red pepper paste), garlic, and fermented soybean paste (doenjang).  The Korean fried chicken was also outstanding, crispy, hot, and tossed in a soy-garlic coating.  There was even a quick recipe to doctor up some Shin ramen with American cheese and an egg, which is actually a pretty good meal in a pinch.  I probably won’t make the kimchi again – the fermenting daikon, cucumbers, and even pineapple made my entire refrigerator smell like kimchi.  Luckily, there are some Korean grocery stores in the Bay Area that prepare many varieties of kimchi.  Overall, I would highly recommend this cookbook for some delicious Korean home cooking.

Link to Koreatown: A Cookbook here.

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Restaurant Review: AL’s Place


Chef Aaron London’s AL’s Place is a vegetable-focused restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District that was named Bon Appetit’s Best New Restaurant in 2015 and has also received one Michelin star.  The menu is divided into snacks (they call them “snackles” on the menu), cold and hot dishes, and meat add-ons, that are all meant to be shared.  One can order a la carte or choose the chef’s tasting menu for $60 (2016) that includes 4 snacks, 3 cold dishes, 2 hot dishes, and 1 dessert.  One can see that a lot of care was put into the conception and execution of each dish, even the “snacks” where I had some amazing figs.  There is a ton of layered flavor, and with the focus on vegetables, meat is really not missed or probably necessary if one orders the 10-course tasting menu.  I went in August, when a tomato and green bean salad showcased these vegetables at their peak flavor.  The style I might describe as new American but there are Southeast Asian (a delicious stone fruit and fish curry) and Latin American (salsa) influences.  Dessert was a very satisfying warm brownie with a gooey caramel-peanut filling, topped with ice cream.  Located in a quieter part of the Mission, the atmosphere is very casual and relaxed.  Highly recommended.

Link to AL’s Place here.

Breakfast in LA: Sqirl, Huckleberry, Eggslut, The Larder


LA has a number of great breakfast spots.  My favorite is Sqirl, run by Chef Jennifer Koslow.  At Sqirl they serve unique grain bowls that are savory, brightly acidic, herbaceous, and deliciously well-balanced.  I really liked their signature dish, the sorrel pesto rice, which comes with tangy goat cheese, pickled radishes and a runny egg.  Another delicious grain bowl is their crispy rice with herbs (add an egg and sausage).  Here in the Bay Area we have $4 toast, and at Sqirl they make an incredible avocado toast with creme fraiche and pickled carrots, and a brioche toast with homemade jam and ricotta.  They also make some specials, salads and sandwiches for lunch, and baked goods (cakes, cookies).  As in LA, one must drive there (on Virgil near Silver Lake), and I have always been able to find neighborhood parking.  There is seating both inside and out, and usually a line (get there early). Several of Chef Koslow’s recipes have been published in a feature in Bon Appetit, and a cookbook will be published Fall 2016.

Another of my favorites is HuckleberryI have been baking regularly from Chef Zoe Nathan’s beautiful cookbook before I tried the actual restaurant, which is a bright and cheerful place in Santa Monica.  They have a display case with all of their delicious baked goods, and one can also order breakfast dishes, salads, and sandwiches.

Eggslut is located in the bustling downtown LA food hall Grand Central Market.  They make egg sandwiches and their signature coddled egg on top of potatoes that is poached in a small glass jar.  Delicious.

I am a big fan of Chef Suzanne Goin and her collection of restaurants in LA.  The Larder, in Hollywood, serves up delicious breakfast fare and baked goods in a casual atmosphere.

 

 

 

 

Bakery Review: b. patisserie (San Francisco, CA)


I had a perfect bite of pastry at b. patisserie recently.  I went to the shop looking forward to getting one of their kouign amman, for which they are justly famous.  I arrived at 5:15 on a Saturday afternoon, and there was a line around the counter.  I scanned the pastries on display at the counter; after a typically busy day there were only a few pastries left, including one lone kouign amman.  Please, no one take it, I thought to myself  Of course, one of the customers ahead of me snagged it, and my heart sunk in disappointment.  Then, disappointment turned to excitement as the person behind the counter announced that more will be coming in six minutes.  Six minutes, and I can taste one fresh out of the oven?  Yes please!  A freshly baked kouign amman from b. patisserie is incredible.  The crisp flaky richness of the outer layers, slightly underdone interior, and warm sweet syrup in the center were at their peak deliciousness.  Don’t get me wrong, a room temperature kouign amman baked that day is still pretty good, but one that is just a few minutes out of the oven?  Perfect.

The store is located on California at Divisidero.  The chef, Belinda Leong, trained with Pierre Herme in Paris and can usually be seen working in the open bakery.  I watched one of the chefs encase an enormous block of butter into some dough, and then use a machine with a conveyor belt to pass the laminated dough through a roller to make perfect layers.  I need one of those!  So much easier than rolling the dough out by hand with a rolling pin!

Cookbook Review: Huckleberry


Someday I would love to open a place like Huckleberry, a bakery/breakfast/lunch venue in Santa Monica, CA.  I first became aware of Huckleberry when they were featured in Bon Appetit several years ago with a recipe for a delicious cornmeal blueberry cake.  Now Chef Zoe Nathan has chronicled many recipes in the Huckleberry cookbook, and I have thoroughly enjoyed baking from the book for the past few months.

The book is divided into several sections including muffins, cakes, scones, breads, fried pastries, sandwiches, and grain bowls.  What is immediately noticeable is the use of various different kinds of flours.  All-purpose flour is still the mainstay, but other flours are incorporated including whole wheat, rye, bread flour, wheat germ, and nut flours like pistachio and almond.  These different flours result in a more complex crumb and flavor and hopefully healthier recipes as well with the use of whole grains.

Healthy does not mean lack of flavor.  So far the recipes have been outstanding, with excellent versions of chocolate-chip muffins, chocolate walnut banana bread, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, and whole-wheat raisin scones.  The most impressive were the pistachio-lemon cake, the cara cara orange galette, and the pear whole-wheat crumb cake, all of which drew raves.

The one recipe I tried that failed was the cover recipe for blueberry brioche.  This recipe called for double the flour that was required, so there was not enough egg to bind the dough.  I saved it by adding two additional eggs, but the ratio of other ingredients like butter and sugar was then off.  Chronicle Books sent me the following list of corrections:

Huckleberry ingredient and measurement corrections:

Page 43: In the ingredient list, MUFFINS, 5th entry (1 tbsp cracked) “wheat, chai seeds,” should be “wheat, chia seeds,”

Page 105: In the ingredient list, 4th line (bread flour), “1 3/4 cups/185 g” should be “1 3/4 cups/215 g”

Page 108: In the ingredient list, 4th line (all-purpose flour), “+ 2 tbsp/280 g” should be “+ 2 tbsp/140 g”; 5th line (bread flour): “+ 2 tbsp/280 g” should be “+ 2 tbsp/140 g”

The corrected version made an excellent brioche punctuated by a ribbon of fresh blueberries that was delicious hot out of the oven.  Overall, this is a great book for impressive breakfast pastries and brunch recipes, introduces a unique use of different flours, and contains a bunch of keepers.  Huckleberry takes a place among my favorite baking cookbooks including Momofuku Milk Bar, Tartine, Flour, and Bouchon Bakery.

Link to Huckleberry cookbook here.

Recipe Review: Cinnamon Cream Brioche


Cinnamon Cream Brioche

Cinnamon Cream Brioche

These Cinnamon Cream Brioche pastries from Joanne Chang’s flour, too cookbook are great.  A brioche dough base is topped with pastry cream, creme fraiche, and a dusting of cinnamon sugar.  Brioche is a rich yeasted dough made with eggs, butter, and sugar.  A stand mixer is a definite must, because a large amount of butter must be incorporated into the dough at high speed.  My mixing bowl got stuck in the base of the mixer due to the force of mixing.  If that happens, I suggest using a mallet to knock the bowl loose.  After mixing, the dough must rise in the refrigerator for a minimum of six hours, so it’s good to make the dough and pastry cream in the evening and do the final assembly and baking in the morning.  The pastry cream is pretty straightforward: scald some milk, add a mixture of cake flour, sugar, and egg yolks, whisk until thickened, and then let set overnight.  In the morning, divide the dough into pieces, shape into rounds, and top with pastry cream, creme fraiche, and cinnamon sugar, and bake.

Couple of notes on how much to make.  The recipe calls for half-recipe of brioche dough for eight pastries, but I used the full recipe to make sixteen.  I used a double recipe of pastry cream.  The creme fraiche I bought from Trader Joe’s, and two tubs were less than what was called for in the recipe but I thought was plenty.  The cinnamon sugar in the original recipe (1 1/4 cups sugar + one teaspoon cinnamon) is more than enough for sixteen pastries.

The baked pastry cream, with a little tartness from the creme fraiche and a little sweetness from the cinnamon sugar, all on top of the airy brioche dough, is a great combination and got great comments.

Cost: about $15 to make 16

Level of difficulty: moderate-difficult

Deliciousness: delicious (4 of 5 stars)

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to flour, too cookbook here.

Link to previous post on first flour cookbook here.

 

Bakery Review: The Mill (San Francisco, CA)


The Mill toast with apricot jam

The Mill toast with apricot jam

As usual, I am many months late following up on trends, but I finally tried the toast at The Mill in San Francisco.  The Mill is Josey Baker’s bakery where he sells his signature breads and baked goods in a joint venture with Four Barrel Coffee.  They make exceptional bread, using whole grain flour that they grind in-house and naturally leaven with wild yeast.  Their bread is served at some of San Francisco’s best restaurants, like State Bird Provisions and Frances.  The toast became famous among various food sites last year as “$4 Toast” or “Hipster Toast” (see write-up in Bon Appetit for example.)

The toast is made from thick slices of one of Josey Baker’s breads, like the country loaf.  It is spread with a generous amount of salted butter and and various toppings, like their own apricot jam and version of nutella.  I thought it was excellent, satisfying comfort food with elevated artisanal ingredients, justifying the hype and the notoriety.  I also sampled their seeded country loaf, which had a great crust, soft interior, and complex, slightly tangy, nutty flavor.  Their chocolate chip cookie was excellent as well, made with 100% stone ground whole grain flour and a generous amount of high-quality chocolate.  The Josey Baker Bread Cookbook is definitely on my list to get.

The Mill has an open, warm interior filled with light from the skylights above.  There is a long communal table as well as smaller tables and a parklet outside.  There is an open kitchen area where the tattooed baristas, bakers, and cooks work, making the toast along with homemade nutella or jam.  The Mill is located in a great neighborhood along the Divisadero corridor in San Francisco, with neighbors including Bi-rite grocery, Bar Crudo, and 4505 Burgers and BBQ.

The Mill, 736 Divisadero, San Francisco, CA

Link to The Mill website here.

Link to Josey Baker Bread Cookbook here.

The Mill on Urbanspoon

Recipe Review: Soy-Glazed Chicken with Asparagus and Scallions


Soy-glazed chicken with asparagus and scallions

Soy-glazed chicken with asparagus and scallions

This is a fast, easy, good recipe from Bon Appetit May 2014.  Chicken is marinated in a teriyaki-like sauce that contains toasted anise seed, soy sauce, honey, garlic, and lime juice (a little expensive because of the great lime shortage of 2014).  The chicken is marinated for 30 minutes up to overnight, then baked with the marinade in a 450 oven.  The recipe states that after roasting in the oven, the sauce thickens into a nice glaze.  However, in my experience, the sauce burned almost completely.  However, the chicken still came out moist and flavorful.  Asparagus and scallions are roasted at the same time and accompany the chicken nicely.

Level of difficulty: easy

Cost: about $10

Deliciousness: 3 of 5 stars (good)

Healthy: yes

Time: about 15 minutes active time + marinade time and roasting time of 30 minutes

Make again: maybe

Link to recipe here.

 

Recipe Review: Apple Snacking Spice Cake


Joanne Chang, Flour, apple snacking spice cake

Joanne Chang, Flour, apple snacking spice cake

This is an easy-to-make cake from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook that is also one of the most popular items at Flour Bakery in Boston.  The cake is full of spices, pecans, and raisins, and the high percentage of diced apple makes the cake really moist and flavorful.  This cake got great reviews, with people coming back for seconds.  I made a few modifications: doubling the amount of cinnamon and cloves (because mine were a little bit old) and substituting about 1 tsp of fresh ginger for powdered ginger (because I didn’t have any on hand), and baking in a 9×9 square cake pan.

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Deliciousness: 4 of 5 stars

Cost: about $10

Time: 20 minutes active time, around 1.5 hours total

Healthy: no

Make again: yes

Link to recipe here.

Link to Flour cookbook here.

Food options in Whistler, BC, Canada


Whistler Village

Whistler Village

Whistler is a great ski resort area in British Colombia, Canada, just two hours from Vancouver.  However, there are limited budget food options.  Here are some places I tried.

Purebread – a good pop-up bakery near Whistler Village Marketplace.  They have a wide selection of breads and pastries.  The apple blondie bar was OK, and the caramelized banana brownie was very good.  The best was the Crack bar, Purebread’s excellent version of Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie.

Zog’s Dogs – an outdoor hot dog and poutine stand at the base of Whistler Mountain.  Decent, not sure if the gravy on the poutine was home-made or pre-packaged.  Outdoor seating and cash only.

Peaked Pies – Australian meat pies.  Flaky pastry stuffed with various fillings.  The “peaked” version is topped with mashed potatoes, mushy peas, and gravy.

Harajuku Izakaya – bar, restaurant, take-out, and mini Japanese food mart, a block away from the Whistler Conference Center.  Decent, reasonably-priced Japanese food.  I had the udon, which was good, and the chicken karaage, which could have been crispier.

Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – a wide selection of candied apples, chocolates, and other sweets

There are some higher end places in Whistler, which I didn’t try.  My advice – ski in Whistler, eat in Vancouver!

Travel tips: Greyhound is an inexpensive way to get to Whistler; much less than some of the other bus services.  Buses depart from Pacific Central Station in Vancouver.  On the return trip, there is a stop downtown at the Fairmont Hotel, which is close to many other downtown hotels.  There is no luggage storage at Pacific Central Station.  A Greyhound agent referred me to the Ivanhoe hostel, a block away from the station, which has left luggage service for $5.  They don’t give out luggage receipts, which I was a little apprehensive about, but I got my luggage back!

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