Tag Archives: California

Truffle Salt- my new addiction

Avocado on Toast with Truffle Salt

This week’s gourmet in a flash recipe in Globe Life. Avocado and truffle salt on toast.

How did I not discover truffle salt before?  It was in California visiting my brother that I got slightly obsessed.  Dave and Erin had received some for Christmas from Erin’s food loving brother Chris.  Soon we were sprinkling it on everything– on eggs to finish pizza (amazing–why have any other toppings in fact) and even on our steak fajitas and what better on popcorn?   And you can always just go with plain Tuscan butter, baguette and truffle salt.

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This week we featured it the weekly  quick gourmet recipe for the Globe.  My new favourite lunch, see above.

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Truffle salt from Williams- Sonoma

Not all truffle salts are created equal I have discovered, some taste more like salt with some black specs that might be truffle– but the one I got from Williams Sonoma is amazingly earthy and rich–the smell is fantastic.  Keep it in your bag–smelling salts for foodies.  Not cheap–about $35.00 but you really don’t have to use much at all.  Maybe a nice host or hostess gift even, if you really the people.  Otherwise stick with the Yellowtail….kidding!  (Unless you always bring Yellowtail and it works, then yah, def stick with it.)

Pass on any good truffle salt uses you have found if you like it too.  Because you know, using it a zillion times a day just isn’t enough.

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Zuni Cafe, Hope and Anchor and boy is it hard to park in San Francisco

The beginning of San Francisco

The beginning of San Francisco

We drove to the Zuni Cafe straight from the airport with loads of time to get there.  Or so we thought since we allowed not too much thought for finding parking (you’d think coming from Toronto…) but I suppose we were in vacation mode.

Anyway, 40 minutes later, many one way streets and devastating parking spot “sightings” that were not parking spots because the street cleaner has priority wed between 12-2pm we found a place.  And headed down to the Zuni Cafe

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The famous made-to-order Caesar salad and house cured anchovies.

Here’s a little excerpt of history from the website–read the whole thing it’s quite a great story….

“Billy West opened Zuni Café in 1979, with a huge heart and exactly ten thousand dollars. In the early years, the restaurant consisted of a narrow storefront with a creaky mezzanine, roughly one quarter of its current size. To capitalize on the neighboring and highly visible corner cactus shop, (where Billy had been a partner, until it became clear cactus sales wouldn’t support three partners), he hand-plastered the walls and banquettes of his new space to give it a southwestern adobe-look. He chose the name Zuni, after the native American tribe, and decided to offer mostly simple and authentic Mexican food, drawing inspiration from Diana Kennedy’s cookbooks. A Weber grill was an important early investment, and was rolled on to the back sidewalk for each day’s service. Next came an espresso machine, which doubled as a stove since you could scramble eggs with the milk steamer.”

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Tad’s lunch: roasted quail…

I started with a glass of white wine (my actual request was local and not excessively oaky) and ended up with a lovely glass of minerally Zuni Chardonnay which hails from a vinyard in Santa Cruz.  Felix has the best apple juice he’s ever sipped-organic, fresh pressed.  Tad had an Anchor Steam beer.  His main was the Wolfe Ranch quail with quail egg, pan-fried sweet potatoes, kale salad and harissa.

It looked a lot less phallic when it was on the table in front of me I promise you.

I really was torn about posting my lunch photo which was described as house-made  Llano Seco Ranch fennel sausage (so juicy and delicately flavoured it was heavenly) with escarole, roasted Yellow Finn potatoes, cracklings, watermelon radish and caper-shallot vinaigrette— but somehow my photo has turned it into something phallic.  Avert your eyes if you have to.

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So while Felix used the best manners at his disposal to finish his pasta and tomato sauce (with a side of fennel sausage) Tad and I decided we made the wrong decision by skipping the fresh oysters and remedied the situation.

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We shared a pair of Pacific Hog Island Oysters (bottom, from Tomales Bay just north of San Fran) and Marin Miyagi’s (top, also from Tomales Bay).  Here is a great blog piece about the Tomales Bay oysters and area.  We liked the Hog Island the best, lighter and a little sweeter but both were lovely–the ocean in your hand.

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And then dessert.  Meringue crisps, coffee and chocolate whipped cream with chocolate sauce and toasted almonds.  With a coffee.  And Felix only ate a bit–too full.  Spoils for me.

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Moe proof we were in San Francisco–Felix watching the cable car being turned.

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Anchor and Hope on Minna Street

Our second day we went for lunch at the Anchor and Hope (thanks Janice!)  Here is their lunch menu-there was definitely a business lunch scene happening but the overall atmosphere is casual, open and funky space with huge nautical ropes strung around the ceiling beams.

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Kettle Chips and garlicky aioli arrive when seated.

And would have been nice had we all been there at the same time–again not knowing the parking secrets, it took Tad about 35 minutes to park and finally Felix and I had to order without him.  I had the Cubano, roasted pork, jamon de paris, swiss cheese, pickles, Dijon, taro chips and Tad had their extremely juicy burger.  Felix had their fries, aioli and ketchup. (yes, I just gave in to maintaining calm child while people negotiated business around us.)

The beer menu was impressive and long and a satisfying read in itself if you like beer.

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S’long San Francisco…..may we only ever take the amazing vintage style trolley next time we visit.

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I am flying 6 hours to get to lunch on Wednesday.

Zuni Cafe Lunch Menu

CLICK ON THE MENU TO SEE FULL SIZE AND BE JEALOUS

HMM, I guess the above menu could have used an outline or something.  Well, let’s just call it free form blogging.

So I am off to San Francisco tomorrow and still have to pack, wash hair, pay some bills, charge iPad, iPhone and laptop, remember to pack passports, panic that I forgot to pack passports, panic that my name does not match my passport on my ticket and figure out how to wake at 4-year-old gently at 4am knowing we have 15 minutes to be out of the house.

And snacks.  Must pack snacks.

But otherwise–check out the deliciousness that will greet me at 1pm California Time.  Will report back from the ZUNI Cafe.

And did I mention my reservation at Chez Panisse?    Oh boy oh boy.

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Tawse Winery: Offering Delicious Wine… and speedy automotive repair (thank you!)

One fine day my pal Linda and I set out to for the Shaw Festival to see a play, taste some wine in Niagara-on-the-Lake and visit Upper Canada Cheese Company.  I had never been to the Tawse Winery though I am a  big fan of their chardonnay.  We made that our first stop.  Tawse is beautiful as you can see in the picture above.   To the left of this driveway were some of the vineyards (below).

We arrived right at 11am sharp when the tastings begin and were taken down into the cellar/lower tasting area.  We started with a flight of the Tawse Chardonnays:

• 2010 Quarry Road Chardonnay  • 2010 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay  • 2010 Tawse Estate Chardonnay

2010 Tawse Estate Chardonnay

Already a fan of the Quarry Road (which is only being sold in half-bottles, a perfect not-for-sharing, weeknight size) I had never had the Robyn’s Block and had not yet tried the 2010 Estate Chardonnay.  These wines all have different taste profiles by virtue of the fact that the Tawse vineyards are several kilometres apart.  The terroir helps impart their distinct character.

Quarry Road is lemon, green apple, mineral, refreshing, just hinted with oak and I find as it opens and warms slightly you get rounder peachy notes.

Estate Chardonnay is a combination of  fruit from a few of the vineyards.  It is a medium body white which spends a year in French Oak and is a little more toasty and creamy than the quarry road– just thinking of it makes me eager to pack it for the cottage this second.

Robyn’s Block is what Tawse calls their “flagship chardonnay” and comes from 28-year-old vines.  Spends a year in French Oak barriques and then 6 months in stainless steel.  The 2010 vintage was a warm year so it rounded and softer with stone fruit notes.

Tawse Cherry Avenue Vineyard 2010

I also walked away with a bottle of the Cherry Avenue Pinot for my “cellar”  (basement wine rack).   Nice long finish but the tannins were still a little unintegrated (is that a word?), the wine seemed a bit young yet for drinking. I was told that the Cherry Aveue could age still a good 5-7 years and will continue to get more complex.

And while we were chatting and sipping and generally sinking into the ease of a relaxed summer day in wine country….

Keeping it classy in the Tawse parking lot.

My car battery died.

CAA did arrive in quick time.  Less than 30 minutes but meanwhile we had been offered a glass of wine by the people at Tawse and while we stood in the beautiful, air conditioned store area, one of the Tawse gentleman (why did I not ask his name?  Sorry)  went out to see if he could get the car running.

When the battery was finally charged, we left not only with a good story (all’s well that end’s well) but a complimentary bottle of the Tawse sparkling wine, and a bottle of wine was given to the CAA driver (all’s better that ends in free wine).

The wine was an unexpected gesture on top of already amazing customer service– and just a kind bunch of people.

Linda and I are saving the bubbly for when we re-watch His Girl Friday (the movie) as we cannot recommend the play (sadly).  We couldn’t really connect with it 100%,   the script was a bit uneven in tone and the humour fell flat a few times.  (The cast was excellent, we will give it that.)

Linda happily sipping while our car drifted into a deep summer slumber.

But looking back I think we’d have rather spent that two hours  stranded at the Tawse Winery.

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Toast Post: Cravings for the Fourth of July-California’s San Joaquin Gold

San Joaquin Gold shaved onto toast

As the Beach Boys sang on a forgotten B-Side, “Wish they all could be California Cheese”.  And you will hum along too after a taste of the Fiscalini San Joaquin Gold from Modesto, CA.

It’s the salty buttery combo that is so seductive when balanced perfectly in a cheese and this one had me at first bite of this firm, aged wedge.  It will keep you captive well into a long, smooth finish.

In fact, I had to laugh at myself because I took a piece and held it up to my nose to get a sense of the aroma when suddenly it was gone! I ate it on impulse.  It was like holding a piece of ham up to my cat.

I’d better lay my cards on the table-you can’t get the San Joaquin Gold in Canada right now, but as many of us travel to the US I figured it might be a good one to enter into you TO DO list on the iPhone or Blackberry (or jot on a piece of paper that you will find 2 years from now in your denim capris).

Above is the label for your shopping reference.  You can see the cheese is farmstead, made from the milk of the Fiscalini’s own cows.  They are very proud that their milk standards exceed even the California State Standards and “cleaner” than organic.  The farm is animal welfare certified, environmentally certified and powered by renewable energy produced on-site.  This cheese is made from raw milk in 32 pound wheels and typically aged about 16 months.  The one I had was a bit older–from March 30, 2010.

The slightly “blueing” on the far edge of the cheese is simply a small crack where oxygen and natural bacteria snuck in. Nothing to worry about.

The cheese has a similarity to Parmigiano Reggiano and was originally created to be a Fontina-style product which ended up evolving into something rather unique.  The Fiscalini’s refer to the Joaquin Gold as their “Gold Medal Mistake” (winning Gold at the World Cheese Awards in London 2004/2005).  As it ages the cheese develops the tasty and crunchy tyrosine crystals and develops some toasted nutty notes.

Snack on it, grate it, melt it, travel with it.  This cheese is extremely versatile.

Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar, 18 month–Fred Lum, The Globe and Mail

And while your mouth is watering you CAN get the amazing Fiscalini Clothbound Cheddar here in Canada (Sobey’s carries it).  For more details you can read my ravings in this Spread piece (because it really deserves to be raved about.).  Cheesemaker Mariano Gonzales, who honed his skills at Shelburne Farms in Vermont (where he created one of the first American clothbound cheddars) is responsible for the Fiscalini clothbound but credit for the San Joaquin’s creation goes to Tom Putler.

The San Joaquin gold is vegetarian friendly as it is made with a microbial rennet (and has a natural rind).  (The clothbound is also made with microbial rennet but rubbed with lard before being bandaged).

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