Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Foodbuzz Community Table Dinner at Bushi-Tei

Less than a week after an amazing dinner at Spruce with Foodbuzz and Black Box Wines, Bay Area foodies again gathered around the Community Table to talk, eat, drink, and of course take pictures. Last night, we were given the chance to dine together at Bushi-Tei in San Francisco's Japantown. Old faces and new sat around a beautiful wood and glass table as we were introduced to the owner and sommelier and served a sparkling wine from South Africa, the same sparkling wine President Obama toasted with on his inauguration.

Our place setting:

After an amuse bouche of miso marinated kobe beef, our first course arrived. The ankimo torcon, or monk fish liver, was plated with snow crab salad, spicy fish roe-potato mousseline, julienne vegetables & parsley coulis. The monk fish liver was rich and deeply flavored and paired nicely against the sweet snow crab and the crisp julienne vegetables. We were served a sweet Domaine Fevre Champs Royal Chablis that went down beautifully against the salty dish.

Next course was a slow roasted natural beef tenderloin with matsutake mushroom risotto, English peas, pinor noir reduction & espresso oil. This beef tenderloin was perfect; just medium rare, the meat seemed to fall apart with a touch of the fork. The pinor noir reduction & espresso oil added a rich peppery flavor that contrasted perfectly with the buttery risotto and the earthy matsutake mushrooms. The dish was paired with an Expression 39 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, a great, deep red wine that really brought out the richness of the tenderloin.

And, finally, desert. A precariously balanced tower of different textures and flavors, a peach melba with daiginjyou sake-kabosu cube, stuck through with a spike of sugar. Not being a huge desert person, this was a nice surprise. The layers of different textures and flavors all stood out on their own, but were great all together on a spoon. The jello-shot like sake cube was interesting, certainly not something you would typically find atop a desert dish. Paired with a Gonzalez Byass Solera 1847 Oloroso Sherry, a thick, rich and very sweet wine that complimented the desert well.

Dinner was fantastic and as always it was a great time getting to eat, drink and talk with all my food blogger friends and all the great folks from Foodbuzz. And here's looking forward to next week, and the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Foodbuzz Community Table Dinner at Spruce

Last night we once again gathered around the table together for a Community Table Dinner hosted by Foodbuzz and Black Box Wines at the stylish Spruce restaurant in San Francisco.  Black Box, a wine company breaking the conventions of how a great wine is presented, partnered with Foodbuzz to pair their great varietal wines with the fresh and creative cuisine at Spruce.  

The night started in the foyer of Spruce, enjoying house made charcuterie, Merlot and Reisling from Black Box Wines, catching up with old faces and getting acquainted with new ones.

Once we were ready for dinner, we were led into the beautifully appointed banquet room, where we heard a few words about the delicious wines we were about to drink and the dishes they would be paired with.  Then, it was on to the good part:  The food.

With camera flashes popping, this beet and pear salad with aged goat's milk cheese and walnut vinaigrette was placed in front of us.  The flavors of the salad were perfectly balanced and paired nicely with a 2008 New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

Next came a dish of roasted halibut with fennel, chanterelle mushrooms, and a fennel fumet.  (Sorry, all my photos of this dish were pretty abysmal.)  The best part about this dish were the chanterelles piled onto sauteed spinach, all nestled into a beautiful bright green fennel sauce.  The halibut was paired with two whites, a 2008 Monterey County Chardonnay, and a 2008 Napa Valley Reserve Chardonnay.  Both paired well with the dish, but the standout was the Napa Valley Reserve.

The highlight of the meal was the grilled bavette steak with duck fat potatoes and bordelaise.  The steak was grilled to a perfect medium-rare, juicy and flavorful and absolutely mouthwatering.  But it was the duck fat potatoes that made everyone rave.  Crisp skin and soft interior, these potatoes were completely different from any fry you might be used to.  The flavor of the duck fat was so light and buttery, we were all in heaven.  Not willing to take a back seat to the dish, the 2007 California Cabernet Sauvignon was dark and peppery and a highlight of the wines for the night.
The dinner wrapped up with a Farmstead cheese plate paired with a 2007 Central Coast Shiraz.  The cheese was good, but a little underwhelming after the previous dishes we had just enjoyed.  
It was another great dinner with a great group of folks talking, drinking wine, and doing what we all know how to do best:  Eat.  It was a blast to sit and eat with food blogger friends, the folks from Foodbuzz, and of course our new friends at Black Box Wines.  Thanks to Kiersten, Chef John, Marc, Jesse, Rebecca, Bridget and the rest of our table for making it such a great night.
For a few more looks at our dinner at Spruce, check out Jesse's phenomenal photos at Beer and Nosh and Chef John's witty recap (and a picture of my belt buckle) at Food Wishes Video Recipes.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs

Here in the Tiny Kitchen, we are always looking for new ideas and fun things to make, and while I love baking it is hard to justify baking a batch of anything when there is only the two of us around to enjoy it. We always feel a little gluttonous faced with stuffing our maws with a dozen or so tart, fruity scones or warm, crumbly muffins yet for some reason we rarely feel inclined to dump our excess baked goods on our unsuspecting co-workers.

Despite all of this, as the days have grown shorter, a bit colder, and much wetter, it seemed like the right time warm the Tiny Kitchen with the comforting smells of baking. With that in mind, we flipped through the pages of a few of our Gourmet magazines to find just the right thing to bake to welcome the beginning of Fall. The missus had a hankering for "something with pumpkin", and these adorable little Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs seemed to fit the bill nicely.

So in honor of our friends at Gourmet Magazine and the first cool nights of Fall, here are the humble Orange Pumpkin Cloverleafs:

3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted, divided
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon mild honey or sugar
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading and dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup canned pure pumpkin
2 large eggs, divided, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water

Equipment: a muffin pan with 12 (1/3 to 1/2 cup) muffin cups

Butter muffin cups with 1 tablespoon melted butter. (or, what worked for us was to take the unmelted butter and smear it inside the muffin cups with my fingers.)

Stir together yeast, warm milk, and honey in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixtures doesn't foam, start over with new yeast.)

Mix flour, salt, pumpkin, 1 whole egg, yolk, orange zest and juice, and remaining 5 tablespoon butter into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

Put dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. (Our kitchen was not exactly "warm room temperature" so we turned the oven on low and left the door open to provide warmth.)

After the dough has risen, punch down dough (do not knead), then halve. Roll half of dough on a lightly floured surface with lightly floured hands into a 12-inch-long log (keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap.)

Cut log into 6 equal pieces, then cut each piece into thirds. Roll each piece into a 1-inch ball by cupping your hand and pushing dough against work surface as you roll in a circular motion. Put 3 balls side by side in each of 6 muffin cups.

Make more rolls with remaining dough in the same manner. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draf-free place at warm room temperature until dough is about 1 inch above rim of muffin cups, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 deg with rack in middle. (That is, of course, unless your oven isn't already on.)

Whisk together remaining egg and water and brush on tops of rolls. (You will have leftover egg wash.)

Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes. These rolls are best served warm the day they are made, but can be frozen for up to 1 month, thawed & reheated in a 350 deg oven.

These little rolls are soft and doughy, with a bright citrus tang and have just a the slightest sweetness of pumpkin. They would make a nice change of pace as a dinner roll or a great little breakfast muffin topped with melted butter. These little beauties were a lot of fun to make, the missus and I working together in the Tiny Kitchen to mix, knead, cut and roll them to life.

Finally, a toast to our friends at Gourmet Magazine: It was a sad day when it was announced that Gourmet Magazine would be stopping publication after their November issue; surely the food world will be a much blander place without this magazine to tease our appetites and encourage our love of all things edible. Gourmet gave us a joy for food that no other publication can bring. Whether it was an article about a restaurant's fascinating avant garde cuisine or one person's passion for the traditions of cheese making, Gourmet considered food as something to be treasured and enjoyed. While their work at Gourmet will certainly be missed, Ruth Reichl, Ian Knauer and the whole staff of writers and editors will easily find a home for their talents and passions, and we all look forward to seeing what they do next.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Simple Things

Big, beautiful golden Chanterelle mushrooms, sauteed in butter and white wine....

Juicy, bright red Early Girl tomatoes, the very last of the season...

And a big bowl of whole wheat linguini, topped with melted parmesean cheese.

It is the simple things, like a warm bowl of pasta tossed with earthy, buttery Chanterelles and fresh, juicy tomatoes that make food worth eating. And, in my humble opinion, life worth living. As we close out summer and welcome the crisp chill of fall, take a moment to reflect on the amazing bounty we are able to pull from humble soil, a few drops of water, and a dash of sunlight. Here's looking forward to what the next seasons will bring.