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archive for October 2010

autumn redemption + giveaway

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

Recipe: apple cider doughnuts

Autumn is when the nights drop below freezing and we throw the big flannel quilt over our bed. In the mornings, Kaweah is slower to stretch out because the cold makes her hind legs stiff. When I look south from our third floor loft, I can see fresh snow mantled over 13,294-foot James Peak turning pink as the sun breaks the horizon in the East. The changing season is invigorating and I find myself making mental notes of things I want to do now that the weather is cooling down.

our resident fox scouting the yard at dusk

the skeletons of summer’s glory

A modest little parcel found its way into my mailbox the day before I set off for San Francisco. Lara Ferroni’s new book Doughnuts had been sent to me by her publisher. I smiled because I would be having dinner with Lara in just over 24 hours. Travel, dining out, and cool temperatures conspire to make me long for cooking or baking after having avoided the stove and oven for most of summer. What better way to get reacquainted with the kitchen than making some doughnuts?

totally counterproductive to the ass reduction plan

Choices! Choices! The book offers all manner of doughs – raised, baked, fried, cake, gluten-free, vegan, and then some. You can pair those with various glazes, flavors, styles. If I weren’t obsessed with a specific kind of doughnut, I would have had an awful time deciding which recipe to try first. Malasadas: I had those in Hawai’i and nearly went BLIND eating them. Sopapillas – ubiquitous in New Mexico and a necessary ending to any proper New Mexican meal. Crème brûlée – because it’s so brilliant! Bavarian cream – my favorite. French crullers – my other favorite. But I had to try the apple cider doughnuts first because I have been plagued with the most frustrating failure from last fall when I attempted to make them from a different source and had to throw the entire endeavor in the trash.

add cinnamon

egg yolks taking a dive

The only deviation from Lara’s recipe was the apple cider. Instead of straight apple cider, I reduced mine to concentrate the flavor from one cup down to a quarter cup. Having never eaten an apple cider doughnut before, but always craving one at the very mention of it – I knew I wouldn’t regret that step.

pour in the apple cider (or in my case, the reduced apple cider)

stirring the dry ingredients in

**Jump for more butter**

visiting jordan vineyard and winery

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Recipe: meatball sandwich

On our quick 2-day trip in California’s glorious wine country, our first stop was Jordan Vineyard and Winery just over a mile north of Healdsburg off of beautiful Alexander Valley Road. I had met Jordan’s director of communications, Lisa Mattson, at IFBC in Seattle this past summer. Lisa was spunky and hilarious company during dinner. When she gave me her card, I only registered that Jordan was in California.

the lovely grounds at jordan winery

old oaks grace the patio

A couple of weeks before I left for BlogHer Food, I tweeted that we’d be spending a few days near Healdsburg after the conference. Lisa tweeted back that I should visit Jordan – perhaps attend their Harvest Lunch. The dates and locations all matched up, except that Lisa was going to be away on travel the day we arrived. But she made sure we were in good hands. Laura greeted us and walked our group through the stunning grounds to the incredible Harvest Lunch spread that their resident chef created. It was like being transported back to summer (California does that to you).

our table for harvest lunch

What I noticed and loved about Jordan was how all of their employees came in from the fields, the buildings, and gathered at the tables across the lawn to share lunch. Every day, Jordan’s chef prepares lunch for everyone at the winery to eat. There was a nice family feel to it. Laura told me she was excited about the mac and cheese (it was deliciously fancy mac and cheese) they were serving at lunch, but I was completely enamored with the vegetables – most of them straight from the garden, bursting with flavors of summer. Our lunch was served with Jordan’s crisp and bright Chardonnay. The winery is known for two types of wines: Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Chardonnay grapes are harvested from the Russian River Valley, but the Cab grapes are harvested in Alexander Valley.

tomatoes picked from their gardens that morning – still warm from the sun!

just a fraction of the beautiful dishes on offer

jordan chardonnay on ice

During lunch, we learned that Jordan was founded in 1972 by the Jordans – two petrologists who moved from Colorado to California. Petrologists are a flavor of geologist and so I was delighted to hear that the winery recently began incorporating soil mapping into how they grow their grapes. The property itself spans over 1,500 acres of rolling hills adorned with majestic California oaks and 75% of that is left natural and wild. As Laura led us down to see the chef’s garden after lunch, she explained Jordan’s commitment to sustainability and ecological balance of their land. The business is certified carbon-neutral and they implement several policies to minimize their impact on the environment. The garden was an enormous plot with tomatillos, all manner of herbs, precious heirloom tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, strawberries, figs, beans, onions, corn.

strawberries down at the chef’s garden

Because it was the harvest, we could see large stainless steel containers being loaded with hand-picked grapes and then transported up to the winery. We watched the operations as each container was tipped and emptied of its contents. The grapes fell into the hopper and then moved via conveyor belt past inspectors who removed debris and lesser-quality grapes before speeding into the building to be processed further. Meanwhile, the stems and leaves that were separated were trucked out to their compost (I love that!). The sheer volume was mind-blowing.

petit verdot grapes pouring into the hopper to remove stems and leaves

sooooo many grapes!

picking out burned grapes and other plant matter

On the way back to the reception area, I couldn’t help but admire the architecture and all of the trees and plants growing in courtyards and on the structures. Grand walls were blanketed in ivy which helps to keep the buildings cool from that hot hot sun. It’s the kind of place – with all those idyllic little nooks in the shade – that makes you want to grab a book, some cheese and bread, a glass of wine and go sit down and forget about everything else. Our sincerest thanks to Lisa and Laura for such a special visit at Jordan Vineyard and Winery.

persimmons ripening

a quiet courtyard with a statue of bacchus, roman god of wine

Full disclosure: Our group of four received complimentary harvest lunches and tours from Jordan Winery with no obligations.

It’s a small world, you know. When I was photographing lunch at Jordan, Laura asked me if I knew Matt Armendariz because he had been there not too long ago for a photo shoot. Are you kidding me? I love that guy! I just hugged his adorable self at BlogHer Food not five days ago… Food connects everyone in some form or another, but food and the interwebs bind us all like The One Ring. Not long before I flew to San Francisco, Jeremy informed me that the first year graduate students in his department gathered and took turns cooking for each other every weekend. He told me that the coming weekend they were going to make my recipe for Italian meatballs. Somehow, someone found my blog. I asked Jeremy if he thought it was weird to have these separate worlds colliding. He shrugged. I don’t think it phases him anymore. Okay, but where was I going with all of this? Those meatballs are not *my* recipe, they are Lorna’s recipe and when I saw her at the Queen Anne farmers market last month, I promised her I had another post on those meatballs coming.

i made meatball sandwiches

I must confess that I have always had a problem with meatball sandwiches. I began to discuss this with Jeremy because I had never had one before and he asked me why not. I’ll tell you why not. Because meatballs are spherical and they don’t stack nicely between two planar surfaces, that’s why not. Who the hell thought up such horrendous design mechanics of a sandwich? Also, they are discreet spheres rather than a continuous filling in the sandwich space. Ultimately, you know what this means, don’t you?

*inherent structural instability*

**Jump for more butter**

chapter 3: family (lots of pics)

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Recipe: wonton soup

My trip to San Francisco was originally intended just for BlogHer Food 2010. When I checked my calendar to book my flight, I realized the following week was my dad’s birthday and my grandma’s birthday. I drummed my fingers on my desk – could I afford the time to hang out for ten days or should I fly back home and then back to the bay area? The wheels began to turn and I quickly formulated a plan checking with my parents, my aunt, my grandma, and Jeremy. For my father’s 70th birthday, I’d take him on a tour of wine country as his designated driver. Dad likes it when I make all of the plans and arrangements, and that’s exactly what I did. Mom isn’t a big drinker, so Jeremy joined us to taste wines with my dad. My parents love Jeremy. He is the perfect Chinese son-in-law, except for the fact that he isn’t Chinese.

wine tasting

one of several vineyards we visited

jeremy checks out the room’s balcony at the hotel healdsburg

Our first stop was Jordan Winery just outside of Healdsburg in Sonoma Valley. I’ll talk more about Jordan in a later post, but it was a gorgeous introduction to Sonoma’s wine country. It was also blazing guns hot – in the 90s! If ever my dad doubted my love, enduring this heat should be proof enough :) After visiting a few other wineries, we drove into town. I adore Healdsburg. I had such a lovely time last year that I wanted to share it with my parents and Jeremy on this special occasion. We stayed at the luxurious Hotel Healdsburg for the night where they leave you a bottle of local wine (and in this case, local is freaking awesome) in the afternoon, the staff come in and turn down your bed and leave freshly baked cookies… and the wifi is not only FREE, but it WORKS. That evening, we had dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen to celebrate dad’s birthday week.

patio dining at dry creek kitchen

chef’s tasting menu

toasting dad’s 70th

We had the chef’s six course tasting menu and for the most part, it was exceptionally executed. The only real disappointment was the final main course – the American Kobe beef. A good deal of my cut was gristly and rather unpleasant, which is a shame. Having had Kobe beef on several occasions at The Flagstaff House, I came to appreciate just how awesome Boulder’s own restaurants are. My dad commented as much too. I think my parents are sold on Boulder (full double rainbow all the way). Dry Creek Kitchen’s service was impeccable and overall I think everyone had a truly delightful time.

seared hawaiian ahi tataki

roasted sugar pie pumpkin soup

butternut squash ravioli

lemon-marinated petrale sole

american kobe flat iron

spice cake

warm valrhona chocolate cake

After a good night’s sleep (those beds are like clouds) we took a stroll around town before setting off toward Napa Valley. Jeremy and I mapped out the vineyards to visit based on our route, some of my dad’s preferences, and the encyclopedic recommendations that Lisa emailed me a few months ago. The pleasant drive along California highway 128 from Healdsburg to Calistoga rolls through picturesque hills of wine country. My dad’s favorite aspect of wine tasting is… the wine. My favorite part of the wine tasting is walking around the grounds of the nicer vineyards (some are better than others, to be sure). I let Dad decide if he wanted to sit down to lunch or pick up some goodies from Dean and Deluca in St. Helena. He opted for a baguette, pâté, and cheese from Dean and Deluca and we circled back to Beringer Vineyards to get a nice bottle of wine.

i had to take them by seghesio family vineyards before leaving healdsburg

driving from sonoma valley to napa valley

so neat to visit wine country during the crush

wow, that is huge

chateau montelena winery

at beringer vineyards

Dad was happy. Very happy. He fell asleep in the car as we drove south. I thought about all the years that I fretted over what to get my dad for his birthday. It’s like that with my parents – I can’t buy them things because they either get what they need or don’t want more stuff. So to plan for and take him on a trip into wine country was something I could finally do for my dad that I think he really enjoyed. In fact, I know he enjoyed it because he mentioned something about how he liked having me drive him around and that we should do more trips like this in the future. Okay, well… good thing he doesn’t turn 70 every day ;)

We returned to San Jose just in time to meet up with Grandma and two of my aunts for dinner. Jeremy had to fly home for the day job while everyone else was starting to arrive for the two birthday banquets – my dad’s and my grandma’s. When my family gets together, we eat… and eat… and eat. It’s suuuuuch a Chinese thing. The first thing we did after I picked my parents up from the airport in San Francisco was head to a Sichuan restaurant for lunch. We bond over food.

a big spicy sichuan lunch

cantonese dinner

beef noodle soup, congee, shredded pressed soybean curd sheets, and other goodies (lunch)

everyone grabs a slice of hot scallion pancake (another lunch)

It’s a little surreal hanging out with my family. We’re always celebrating someone’s birthday. Dad turned 70 and Grandma turned 89. Those are big numbers. But when you look at them, look at my family, they all seem remarkably young for their ages. Good genes, I’m telling you. I remember what they were like when I was a little kid and to be honest, they haven’t changed all that much. But time moves in one direction and as I grow older, I know they won’t be there forever and so I cherish these moments. Grandma said next year is going to be extra special, because my cousin turns 20, my other cousin turns 30, I turn 40, my uncle turns 60, my mom turns 70 and Grandma will be 90. Grandma told me the Chinese like those round numbers. I told her I like her.

On Dad’s actual birthday, we had a 10-course banquet at Dynasty Seafood Restaurant in Cupertino (thanks again to Lisa for her outstanding recommendations). The dishes were: Chinese cold appetizers, shark fin soup (hey, I did not pick the menu), crab balls, stir-fried scallops, Peking duck, abalone, lobster, smoked sea bass, special noodles, and peach buns. They weren’t real peach buns, they were steamed sweet buns with lotus seed paste shaped like peaches – shou tao or longevity buns. The food was terrific. My favorites were the duck (I always love duck) and the sea bass.

four beautiful women: my mom and my three aunts

stir-fried scallops

peking duck

happy 70th birthday, daddy!

The next day was Grandma’s birthday, so we had yet another banquet that evening at Chef Chu in Palo Alto. I know you’re wondering how it is that we can all keep eating like this. The only explanation I can come up with is that we expend a lot of energy shouting Chinese at one another. It’s exhausting! Grandma’s banquet menu included: an incredible plate of Chinese appetizers, lobster special noodles, Hunan tofu, mustard green hearts, some kind of beef (seriously, I lost track), miso sea bass, and tapioca taro root soup for dessert (in addition to a mango-raspberry mousse cake). The best part of the evening was seeing my mom and my grandma smiling so much.

delectable plate of chinese appetizers (the pickled cukes were the best!)

you’d never guess my grandma turned 89

lobster noodles

a chinese birthday isn’t complete without a *crazy* birthday candle

The following morning, most of us shipped off to our various corners of the country and I felt that pang in my heart whenever I leave my parents or my grandma. I think it comes from those feelings of being a kid when these adults were around to care for you and make everything right. I’m an adult now and I still get those warm fuzzies remembering how I used to go for afternoon walks with Grandma or when Mom would hold me in her arms when I was sick until I fell asleep. But when I come home to Jeremy, his gentle embrace has a similar effect on me. And when I open the front door and Kaweah bounds around me, sniffing and licking my pants (I know, she’s an odd dog) because she’s so excited to see me – I see it is the progression of family and I’m grateful for that. Also… I noticed that the heat wave in California broke the day I left. Thanks a lot.

my aunt, grandma, and mom

Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I’m always busiest right before a trip. That’s because I plan ahead for Future Me. I clean the house, and prepare for the day I return from my trip. I always think to myself that if I were to die on my trip, that would totally be wasted effort. But I still do it. I can’t help it. So before my trip to California, I was busy making wontons. Not for Jeremy to eat while I was away (I made plenty of food for him), but for when I came back so I wouldn’t have to cook because I knew I wouldn’t be in the mood to dine out. What I realized was that I hadn’t blogged soup wontons before – I had only fried them.

wonton wrappers, pork filling, and little dippy bowl of water at the ready!

chopsticks are far easier than a spoon for filling the wonton skin

Unlike the fried wontons which had a shrimp filling, these are pork wontons. The reason I like wontons is because I find it mentally acceptable to purchase wonton wrappers and so it is super easy to make heaps of them. Dumplings are another matter. I cannot buy dumpling wrappers. Physically impossible for me. I have to make them from scratch and that is a bit of a commitment.

moisten the edges

pinch the top together

**Jump for more butter**