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March 2011
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May 2011

Our Easter Eats: Spicy Lamb Roast and Strawberry Gooey Bars

Sonoma County vineyards
As planned, I made Jam Hands' gooey bars for easter dessert. I couldn't find lemon cake mix though, so they became strawberry gooey bars, since that was the one fun flavor I could find at Target. They looked incredibly festive. No photos of them, unfortunately, as I never did figure out a good way to capture their yumminess in a photo without making a mess.

And yes, I made dessert first. Because it was a lot less daunting than making a lamb roast for the first time.

I used Charles Phan of the Slanted Door's lamb marinade, at my colleague Melita's suggestion. I love spicy sweet combinations, and knew from the get-go that I was going to love this marinade.

I modified mine slightly to be as follows:

2 large shallots, peeled and chopped
1 small jalapeño, stemmed and chopped (left the seeds in)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce

I combined all the ingredients in a bowl then used my pestle to smash them all together nicely. I placed my Boneless lamb leg roast into a ziploc plastic bag, poured the marinade over it, then sealed the bag up and left it in the refrigerator to soak it up for about 2 hours.

I preheated the oven to 375, and baked the lamb, having poured the marinade over the top of it in the baking dish, until it was no longer pink in the center, which was about an hour and a half. I served with a tamrind chutney, some sour-cream laden mashed red potatoes, and some Roederer sparkling wine.

Glad that I finally tried my hand at lamb. It wasn't any trickier than any other meat I've roasted thus far. Too bad I can't make gyros at home...

To Make: Lemon Gooey Bars, Cheddar Biscuits and a Pinterest Account

It's been another week full of good stuff to read, coming to me via folks on twitter and my blog reader. Here are a few things that have recently caught my eye:

  • Lemon Gooey Bars at Jamhands.
    Don't these look yummy? I would have made these already if any of my local grocers had lemon cake mix. 
  • Spaetzle at Smitten Kitchen.
    Whenever I make it to Suppenkuche in Hayes Valley, my entree choices are limited by what they have that comes with spaetzle, because it's ne of those things I can't pass up. It looks to be pretty simple, so why haven't I made this yet?
  • Pinterest
    I've been wanting to make an account and start my own pinboard here. Unfortunately it looks like they've been having server troubles, so I haven't yet. I wonder if any of you are using it?
  • Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits from Serious Eats
    These look a lot like the amazing cheddar biscuits from Fog City Diner. And I need to work on my biscuit technique-- I've gotten rusty! Also want to make their Jam Muffins with something lovely from June Taylor.
  • Pop Tarts and Other Junk Food, Homemade
    I keep forgetting that I have a half dozen pop tart recipes stashed away here and there. I really should make some one of these days, given our easy access here to amazing jams from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.

Still needing to do a big old blog list overhaul-- not nearly enough to read currently.

Hello Kitty Ruled the NorCal Cherry Blossom Festival

hello kitty bouncy castle

Hello Kitty was everywhere at this year's Cherry Blossom Festival in San Francisco's Japantown. On the official t-shirt, towering over the car show, and all over the place indoors too. I'm a big fan of hers, so this was a good thing.

The festival was, as always, a good excuse to wander around the Japantown shops. And thanks to the festivities, there were more goth lolitas than usual in New People and its vicinity, which made for fun people watching.

I always love seeing all the handmade items at the festival. This year was heavy on the kawaii t-shirts, which is no surprise given the saturation of silkscreen apparel in general right now. I loved the soap booth with sumo wrestlers, sushi, and even a soap taco. Totally fun and creative. I did come home with some pretty earrings (teeny blue rice paper circles covered in resin.)

Tokidoki Hello Kitty bag
...and I couldn't resist this awesome, over-the-top, Tokidoki Hello Kitty bag. I tried. I really did. OK, maybe not *too* hard. I'm actually starting to get a nice little Tokidoki collection going.

 I suppose it is a little bit much for every day use. But sometimes, isn't it nice to be just a little too much?

I also picked up some gorgeous letterpress cards at Kinokinoya stationary shop, plus some supplies for future crafty projects. And at the bookstore, looking at all the kooky cat picture books, I plotted some craft projects to keep my furry little monsters occupied with some handmade kitty toys.

Just another fabulous weekend day in San Francisco.


Red Velvet Cookies

sort of more auburn velvet cookies

I finally got around to making those red velvet cookies I saw over on Fake Ginger's blog.

After making them today, I would call these more like devilishly chocolate chip cookies more than red velvet, truth be told, but I did really like them. I'm less excited about having ruined my manicure with the red food coloring.

I made a couple of tiny tweaks to the recipe, trying to get more of a red velvety taste, and to account for the original recipe's comments regarding amount of wet ingredients.

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

In a liquid measuring cup, add together:
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1 tsp lemon juice
fill up to 1/4 cup line with heavy cream

In a large bowl, sift or stir together:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven to 375. Cream the butter and sugars in an electric mixer. Mix in the egg. Pour in the cream mixture, scraping down the sides to get as much of the red coloring into your bowl as possible. After this is just mixed in, add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips. You will have a fairly thick dough.

Use a cookie scoop to form your cookies. Bake 8-10 minutes or until cookies start to firm up.

Yields 38 cookies.

Uncorking the Urban Wine Scene at the Commonwealth Club

I attended a great program at the Commonwealth Club last night -- Uncorking the Urban Wine Scene, a conversation with folks making wine in the East Bay. As a wine lover who only seems to ever trek up to Napa or Sonoma once or twice per year, I was excited to learn more about my hyper local tasting opportunities, and to live vicariously through some everyday wine lovers like me who'd actually found a way to make the leap to winemaker without having a couple million dollars to invest in wine country.

Panelists were Jim Mirowski, Co-founder and Owner, Treasure Island Wines; Derek Rohlffs, Proprietor and Winemaker, Bravium Wines; Sasha Verhage, Winemaker and Proprietor, Eno Wines; and Kathryn Cohen, Proprietor, Eno Wines. Jim and Derek both make wines as part of the Treasure Island wine collective.

Sasha, a founder of the East Bay Vintners Alliance noted that there is strong community support for urban winemakers, with local restaurants and wine shops actively seeking out local winemakers, which makes sense given the Bay Area's locavore focus.

Something I had not thought about that Kathryn brought up during the conversation is local tasting rooms can be a ot more approachable for those new to wine appreciation. I do remember that on my first trip to Napa, when I was barely over legal drinking age, it did feel a little intimidating to go into a well-established winery's tasting room, vying for attention with those older, more well-versed, and certainly more well-heeled than myself. She said that she felt that the casual, inclusive nature of the East Bay's wine scene attracts a lot more diversity in its patrons.

WHile tasting up in Sonoma last week, I'd noticed a couple of wineries had growlers avialable for taking away wine, which had initially surprised me. I'm quite used to seeing them at brewpubs, but think this was the first year they were around enough to notice them, and the proliferation of wine on tap. The panelists touched on these new packaging options, with the consensus being that both options are nice due to less waste and lowering the costs involved.

Now before you start making boxed wine jokes here, think about it for a moment: how many bottles of wine per night does a busy restaurant go through to service its wine by the glass program? Now imgaine istead their having that wine on tap, where it's never stale, and they're not wasting all those bottles. I call that a worthwhile innovation. Sasha, however did say that although he supports packaging innovations, he's "not ready for a capri sun" wine distribution package, which got a good laugh out of the crowd (and especially from the two grandmotherly ladies in front of me who said more than once how adorable they thought Sasha was.)

By the time the conversation ended a little after 7:30, I was too tired to stay for the wine tasting (I know, I can hardly believe it either), but they did have a nice tasting setup that included R&B Cellars, Carica Wines, Dashe Cellars, Urban Legend Cellars, Tayerle Wines, Rock Wall Wine, Treasure Island Wines, Bravium Wines, Eno Wines, Stomping Girl WinesAndrew Lane Wines. The way I'm looking at it is I now have an excuse to set up an East Bay wine tasting day.

My, What a Huge Bee Hive You Have

bee house, Sonoma, California

It's interesting what catches our eye from the street. I didn't notice this house when we passed on the opposite side of the street; I was too intent on trying to guess which tiny street we should go down on our way to the Bartholomew Park tasting room at the end of a maze of narrow roads in Sonoma.

On the way back past, we drove past initially as well, but I had L stop the car and back up. You see, the motion had caught my eye. What was the cloud in front of the house? As I was peering out the window, trying to decide if this was a plague of locusts or a swarm of bees, a local stopped to chat us up.

"$1.2 mil…" was how he started the conversation. After we'd all stopped laughing, I asked if the flying insects were bees, which he confirmed. "They live in the walls," he said. "This is the first warm day we've had so they've gotten all riled up."

The man went on to tells the place had been vacant since the 50's or 60's. It's always surprising to see that in wine country -- it feels like every piece of vacant land get planted with grapevines. But can you imagine what purchasing this house -- now a giant beehive -- would entail exactly? You'd need a bee expert to supervise the removal of the bees, and then would have to get permission to demolish the house (because you wouldn't want to inhabit a giant beehive and you can't exactly show the bees your deed of sale and ask them to please not come back into the walls/house.

And thus, this beautiful piece of property sits vacant, occasionally flaring up into a David Lynch-worthy piece of wonder like this, to enchant passers-by.

P.S. more pictures of the house in my Sonoma set on flickr.