Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Favorite Food Memories 2011

Here are my favorite foodie memories of 2011. Some are bay area related, some aren't. All were absolutely delicious.

Baker & Banker, San Francisco
My Mom and I shared dinner here and we instantly became fans. I love everything about this restaurant. I love how it is a perfectly shaped small, square room with warm wood tones throughout. I love the husband and wife team; he's the Chef de Cuisine and she's the Pastry Chef. I love their Soy & Mirin Braised Black Cod. And what I love most, is how strong every course is.  I am often left feeling "meh" after ordering desserts while dining out. However, Baker & Banker has delighted my taste buds every time...I mean, Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter Bread Pudding? You stop it.

Butcher, New Orleans
Last year, I dated an Italian guy. On one date, he asked me if I had to pick one single animal's meat to live off of for the rest of my life, which animal would it be? Bonus points for a great question, truly. My answer is the pig. I love me some pork. And Butcher in New Orleans does not disappoint when it comes to all things pig. If you are ever in the New Orleans area, visit Butcher for lunch. I recommend the Pork Belly Sandwich. My mom's father, who I unfortunately never got to meet, owned a Butcher Shop. This place felt so old school, in the very best way, and I hope to one day share a Pork Belly Sandwich with my Mom here.

Pinot & Paella at Williams Selyem Winery, Healdsburg
Drinking my favorite type of wine, Pinot Noir, while indulging in a dish full of meat and seafood? Oh, while the sun is shining, it's 80 degrees, and I'm standing here? Sign me up. This day was all about the Pinot's...some of the most delicious I've ever tasted. It left me thinking, how can I marry into this fabulous wine-making family?

Susan Feniger's STREET, Paris Girls Reunion, Los Angeles
It's impossible to describe how much fun I have when I am reunited with my girlfriends I met while eating my way through studying abroad in Paris in 2005. When together, we tend to talk like it was just yesterday we were indulging in crepes at 3am or racing to L'As du Falafel in the Marais district on our school lunch break for the world's best falafels. This year, our reunion started at Susan Feniger's restaurant, Street in LA. It offers a wide variety of dishes inspired by street food from around the world. Yes, the world. Where else can you order both Nigerian Egusi Greens and Cheese Grits? You're welcome.

And on one non-food related note, but equally favorite concert and album this year, which happens to be my go-to cooking music as well:

Bon Iver at the Greek Theatre, Berkeley
It's no secret that I am obsessed with Bon Iver's music. I can wholeheartedly say that I love every single song. His sound is multi-dimensional and his lyrics are completely unique, sometimes puzzling, and leave room for interpretation...the best kind, in my opinion. I was fortunate enough to go to the Bon Iver concert in September. Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver), I'm never going to get over you or that seemingly bedazzled jean jacket you wore while rocking out at the Greek Theatre. Stacks & Beth/Rest forever.


Here's to a delicious 2012.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Santa's Munch Mix

I don't have a cute story about this recipe so I'm going to put this very, very simply. This stuff is good. This is Santa's Munchie Munch Mix.

Like, dangerously addicting, can't get your hands out of the bowl, hate/love the person that made it, might as well put on your stretchy pants, call it a day and go to town good.

But it's the overindulging is okay...right? Right. Glad we got that out of the way. Make this immediately. Not convinced? Here are some reasons why:

1) It's the perfect homemade gift to give out to friends, family and coworkers. Wrap it up in some cute Holiday bag, tie a bow, and bam.

2) It actually makes a yummy breakfast. It's crunchy, sweet with a hint of salt, and absolutely delicious in a bowl with a puddle of your milk of choice. Mine is almond milk, by the way. Just do it.

3) Because even though I love cookies as much as him, sometimes you just gotta switch it up. It's nearly 2012. Santa's OD'd on cookies and milk and wants some damn munch mix.

Do you enjoy lumps of coal? Only on the BBQ friends...only on the BBQ.

Santa's Munch Mix
1 box Quakers Oatmeal Squares (plain or brown sugar kind)
1 1/2 cups cashews
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 cup peanuts or walnuts
3/4 cup corn syrup
3/4 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2) You can do the following using the microwave or the stove (my method of choice). In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the corn syrup, brown sugar, and butter. When it comes to a boil, add the vanilla and baking soda. I love this part! The baking soda acts as a leavening agent and the mixture expands. Smell the heavenly smell and stir until blended.

3) Butter a 9 x 13 inch rectangular pan or a regular cookie sheet. Pour the cereal and nuts onto the cookie sheet and mix. Then, pour the hot mixture over the cereal and immediately stir to make sure the cereal is coated evenly.

4) Place the pan in the oven. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes (depending on your oven). Stir every ten minutes. This is the trickiest part, as the the nuts can burn easily. All ingredients should turn a golden brown.

5) Take the munch mix out of the oven and let cool until warm. Transfer the mixture from the pan or cookie sheet into a bag, box, or cute Holiday tin. The mixture is sticky so it can be challenging to get it off the baking sheet/pan, so don't be afraid to get your hands a little dirty.

Santa will thank you.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Medjool Dates Stuffed with Chorizo Wrapped in Bacon (to die for)

I once got into an argument with a man at a dive bar over pork. More specifically, the best pork chop in San Francisco. I insisted it was Nopa's. They brine that sucker for hours. It's so juicy good. He very adamantly disagreed with me (I don't even remember his top choice for best pork chop) and we went on to argue for a good thirty minutes. After I won we agreed to disagree, I ended up leaving the bar with a napkin in which he wrote his favorite 5 dishes in SF for me to try, the restaurants where I could find them...and his number on the back.

I never did call him. Though he was quite handsome, I knew it'd never work. He thought Nopa's pork chop was "okay." I thought it was pretty damn good. He preferred prime rib. I prefer filet. That kind of thing. Clearly I have my priorities straight, am I right?

Back to the pork. I served Medjool dates stuffed with pork chorizo wrapped in ...well, more pork, bacon, at a Holiday get together and they were received warmly. I think these are the absolute perfect appetizer to bring to or serve at a Holiday party, or any party for that matter. If you like spicy chorizo, you'll like these. If you don't like dates, you'll still like these. If you like bacon, you'll like these. If you don't like bacon, huh!?


Medjool Dates Stuffed with Chorizo Wrapped in Bacon
Inspired by Chef Debbie Duggan (aka, Mom)

12-15 Medjool Dates (Trader Joes sells them, but you should be able to find them at your local grocery store)
2 to 4 oz of Pork Chorizo
1 pack of bacon (15 to 20 slices)

1) Pit the dates: split each date open using a small knife and take out the pit. Place the pitted dates on a cookie sheet lined with foil. Preheat the oven to 375.

2) Cook the chorizo: in a skillet over the stove, cook the chorizo (it's not the prettiest site). Make sure you take it out of the casing prior to cooking. Cook the chorizo for 10 to 12 minutes. Once done, put the chorizo into a bowl and let it cool slightly.

3) Stuff the dates: using a small spoon, stuff a little chorizo into each date; it really only takes a little bit, as chorizo can be quite spicy.

4) Cook the bacon: cook the bacon, but make sure to not overcook it. It should be slightly undercooked and not even close to being crispy. Once the bacon is finished, place on layered paper towels and de-grease it, patting the pieces down slightly.

5) Wrap the dates: take a slice of bacon and wrap it around the stuffed dates, securing each date with a toothpick. This can get messy, and it's ok if your dates are bordering on the obese side.

6) Bake the dates: Bake the dates for 12-14 minutes. The chorizo should be sizzling and the bacon should turn a golden brown color. Take them out of the oven and serve warm, or even, at room temperature.

*Note: I tripled the recipe in the pictures on this blog.