We enjoy our bubbly. It can be the real thing or from other regions or countries, but if it has bubbles and tastes great we are happy campers. Sparkling wine also is a fantastic companion to a wide range of foods. Most people when shopping for wine reach for a red or white, but we encourage you to venture out and try the wide selection of sparklers out there since they pair so well with all kinds of foods. Even the cheap domestic stuff like the organic Korbel for $15 we buy at Safeway is pretty good for everyday drinking. For some reason Whole Foods doesn’t sell this though.
But then what to drink it out of? Now stemware for sparkling wine is divided into three categories: flute, tulip and coupe. The flute is the long thin triangle-shaped glasses like this:
The tulip is pretty self explanatory. Here is a nice set by Orrefors:
The last style will be familiar if you have ever watched an old movie since they usually drank out of the shallow bowl coupe glasses that were in vogue in the first half the the century.
In preparation for the past New Years, during which time we had to work unfortunately, Eric became obsessed with getting some coupe glasses. Maybe it was the childhood memories of sipping ginger ale out of plastic disposable ones when he was a kid and his family would attend the Newport Music Festival or maybe it was all those vintage movies he grew up watching, but he could think of nothing else for weeks on end until he found the perfect coupe.
And then reality struck. All the places online that sell coupe glasses are in Europe or in Australia. For some reason this style is more popular abroad. It was with great luck he finally secured the style he liked dirt cheap and for sale here in the states.
The agony of waiting for them to arrive in the mail was torture, but when they did and we poured some bubbly in them we were instantly disappointed. First, the smell from the wine isn’t as strong since it is not concentrated by the thin neck of the glass, and thus when drinking it (smell is a powerful component of taste) nothing tasted as good as in a tulip which is what we were used to. Also, like drinking out of a martini glass spills are much more likely. You just have to nudge the glass and tidal wave will jump out!
However, when it comes to visual impact the coupe really looks classy in a vintage glam way. So there you have it. Choose a style you like the best, but if you are a serious connoisseur stick to the narrow neck versions. And if you want to dress up in black tie with Anything Goes as background music, bust out the coupes!
A long time customer of ours who buys $500 dollars of our bread and butter pickles at a time gave us a jar of these Spanish marinated garlic cloves as a present. She told us they are a special variety of garlic that isn’t as strong and you don’t get garlic breath from them and they taste amazing. She was right! You can use them as you normally would use garlic. They have a wonderful delicate taste and are a perfect snack on their own. She orders hers from La Tienda which is where we buy our favorite Manchego cheese – the Villajos young and less aged variety we highly recommend. We got a wheel for our parents who are very fussy cheese eaters and they couldn’t stop raving about it. You can also buy both on Amazon.
Yes it is obvious we love cheese! I would say perhaps our all time favorite cheese is Winnimere. This is a wonderful washed rind cheese that to quote from Jasper Hill Farm’s website is wrapped “in cambium cut from the spruce trees on the farm and washed in a beer from our friends and neighbors at Hill Farmstead Brewery.” What is so terrific about this cheese is the super earthy flavors. Imagine a runny brie with mushroomy earthy notes. If you are a cheese lover like us do yourself a favor and give this stuff a try. You can order online with other tasty cheeses at their site.
If you like the super dense chewy moist type of European bread you will love Anna’s Daughter’s Rye. This is small batch stuff made in the Bay Area by one woman of Danish descent, Marianne Weiner, and we love the stuff. Not only is it full of whole grains and full of flavor, but if you keep it in the refrigerator it will stay fresh for almost two weeks. We don’t eat tons of bread so half of what we buy goes stale and you can only make so much bread crumbs! You can order it online along with her chocolate bark. I met Marianne one afternoon while I was doing a farmers’ market in Sausalito and she gave me a bit of the bark saying it was a new product. It is delicious!
While wandering Whole Foods we spotted this almost glowing orange cheese and snapped it up. What is it? A Red Leicester! We simply love cheddar and this is a more mild yet similar type cheese. The one we got is by Thomas Hoe Stevenson and has an almost chewy texture it is so soft. After some research we know why. These cheeses are around 40 percent fat so be careful! Quoting from Wikipedia, “the cheese was originally made on farms in Leicestershire with milk that was surplus once all the Stilton desired was made. It was originally coloured with carrot or beet juice.” I certainly hope they still use the vegetable color, but I highly doubt it. Also ours was pasteurized, but I bet if we were in Leicester we could get some really good unpasteurized stuff.
Mustard is something we use a lot of in our house. It goes in the nightly salad dressing and is a regular ingredient in sauces. While we have purchased a dizzying array of mustard our hands down favorite is the well respected Pommery Moutarde de Meaux. It is so delicious you can just smear some on some good bread all by itself for a snack. While we are sure there are probably better mustards out there we haven’t discovered them yet. Do yourself a favor and get the big size. It is spendy, but cheaper than a decent bottle of wine and will last much longer.
I got the most amazing book titled History of Men’s Fashion by Farid Chenoune for my recent birthday (the photo above is on the cover) and it is so engrossing. I am not much of a fashion type, though I did go through a phase buying a lot of suits and blazers I never even wore out of the house. I think SF is too casual and I felt like a freak. Maybe when I have more courage I will venture out with my favorite accessory – a neck scarf. I was saddened to learn I would not be the only one who thinks this is a cool look since Peter Bogdanovich has been sporting it for years. Anyhow, it reminds me of some movies from the 1950s and 1960s. It has to be small and discrete and if it is tied to one side I like it better. Also, even if you tie it centered, it will move sideways automatically when you wear it.
Here is Miles David and Yves Saint Laurent sporting the look.
And a more contemporary photo…
Of course as I said I am too averse to drawing any attention to myself so I just wear it around the house in my pajamas.
So it was due to these closet tendencies that I received a copy of this book which is so full of fascinating tidbits I think it should be required reading in high school. Just about anything today has been repeated several times in terms of fashion. Oxford Bags anyone? They were massively wide pant legs that put bell bottoms to shame and were at the height of fashion in 1925.
The cover of the book alone is worth the hefty price (it is out of print). The men pictured belonged to the Men’s Dress Reform Party who shunned pants in favor of shorts and preferred sandals to shoes. They didn’t like belts or ties either since all these were considered unhealthy.
The book is packed with photos and paintings and there is nothing more I want to do at night then curl up in bed and read this. Stroking the tips of my neck scarf mindlessly of course.
They are called Tanba kuromame okaki(sarada) in Japan though I am not sure if this is precisely the correct generic term. I been munching on these for years. What attracts me first is the appearance of the black soybeans from Tanba in the toasty light brown rice cracker with a soy sauce glaze. Each piece is slightly different in shape and they have a nice crunchy salty flavor that is great alone or better with a cold beer. There are many different brands that you can find in Japanese grocery stores but you can also buy them online. Asian Food Grocer is the only place online I have found them but I didn’t spend much time looking.
One word of caution, they almost always have MSG in them. I am quite sensitive to MSG and never have any side effects from eating a few so I think it is a pretty low dose.
Many people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area have never heard of Filoli, and those out of state are even less likely to know of this California Historical Landmark estate famous for their well preserved gardens and orchards.
To the uninitiated, and I quote from the California Office of Historic Preservation: “Filoli, built as the home of mining entrepreneur William B. Bourn II, was the last great residential commission of one of California’s most important architects, Willis Polk. Built in Georgian Revival style with its formal gardens, Filoli is an outstanding example of the grand estates of the late 1800s.”
Now we have visited Filoli many, many times over the years. Their website lists what is blooming each month, and we normally go when the roses are in bloom in the summer. They have a small section behind the house devoted to old heritage varieties of roses we like the best, but they are most famous for their massive rose garden to the side of the house.
A very small amount of the land of this estate is accessible to the public. And one of the hidden treasures is the ‘Gentleman’s Orchard’ which requires advance registration to tour. Never being much for advance planning due to our brutal work schedule, we never have visited.
However, this past October we were invited to attend a special fall festival in which to sell our jam among some other selected local companies. We were excited to meet the woman who with her husband cultivates all the honey from the bees they keep on the gardens, and whose wildflower honey we purchased on a recent trip with Phineas’ mom who simply loves roses. There were also live events aimed at children, but the real center of attention was the apple and pear tasting.
OK, are you sitting down? There are over 400 varieties of apples grown on the estate managed by Fruit historian C. Todd Kennedy.
While I was stuck standing behind a small table selling my jam, I convinced one of the employees of Filoli to cover for me so I could run over to the apple tasting. Luckily she agreed for a few jars of jam. Once I entered the room (the building where you pay for tickets) there was a large circle of tables in the center of the room with samples of around 50 apples. I didn’t even make it to the pear tasting tables so I have no idea how many they had. I wanted tart apples. We are on a tart kick. So knowing I had about 5 minutes to do all my tasting, I simply inquired to the wonderful volunteers behind each apple, which is the tartest?
I was directed to two apples which proved to be the most mind-blowingly delicious apples I have ever tasted. The problem is I wrote down the names of all my favorites and lost the piece of paper, so I will have to wait until next year to learn what they were. The bad news is you cannot buy their apples and they secretly guard them. The only way to taste them is to visit the fall festival!
In the world of cookware there are a range of cooking materials and some are faster to respond to heat (and taking them off heat) than others. What material is the Lamborghini of cookware? Today we will find out.
Years ago before we were professionals in the food business a bunch of pots and pans were purchased as a quick way to outfit the new kitchen in the house. All Clad was all the rage in those days and we got a big box full of different sizes at a good discount. Over the years we acquired more. They were easy to clean with the stainless steel lining which matched all the stainless in the kitchen (primary reason for purchase), but were supposed to be quick to heat up and free of hot spots due to the aluminum core. All the fancy cooking stores sold them and still do.
If you haven’t read our prior post about French pastry we can easily say we have been in a mini French food cycle. This was all started at the public library when we got some old Julia Child shows on DVD and were inspired again. While she cooked with some pretty cheap pans, she always pulled out a copper one as her preferred choice. Thus the copper pot obsession started along with acquiring some more obscure classic French cooking books.
The Saucier’s Apprentice: A Modern Guide to Classic French Sauces for the Home by Raymond A. Sokolov is one you should definitely have in your library since it is first off so funny and well written and second it harks back to the golden days of super reduced and complex sauces.
For making demi-glace you are supposed to splinter all the bones that go in the stock first to further extract flavor. When I asked a butcher at a very reputable meat market about splintering bones he said he had never heard of that. Of course he was in his 20s. I should have asked someone older.
We are going to check out other books by Sokolov, especially his book Fading Feast written in the early 1980s about disappearing regional American foods.
Anyhow, I began to spend my free time looking up used copper pots on ebay. I had heard horrible things about them with the tin lining always coming off and how insanely expensive they were. I also thought the copper finish was very dated and clashed with all the stainless in our kitchen. Yes primarily it was an aesthetic issue. But the more I read about them and thought about them the more I wanted one to play with. Were they really that good?
For those of you not initiated with the virtues of copper, it is supposed to be the best conductor of heat over iron or stainless steel or aluminum. It heats up fast, and when you reduce the heat, it cools faster giving you more control. Now, copper needs to be lined with something if you put anything acidic in it since it will cause a chemical reaction and not only tarnish the surface but can impart a flavor to the food. Tin has traditionally been used because it is an excellent conductor of heat and has non-stick properties. However, the melting point of tin is around 450 degrees and while that is very hot, pans left empty on the burner can cause the tin to bubble and melt. I have been told it is the best cooking material but the least forgiving. Also, getting a pan re-tinned can be expensive. Two good companies for doing this is East Coast Tinning and Atlantic Retinning.
Copper can be lined with stainless steel, but stainless is not a good conductor of heat. It is used for its amazing strength and anti-corrosive properties. If you get copper you must get tin. So I sprung for a small sauce pan made of 2 mm thick copper (you can get 2.5, 3, 4 etc.) by the budget copper pot company in France – Baumalu (no website).
I figured why spend money on an expensive Mauviel or Bourgeat pan and be disappointed. The thicker the copper the better but also it can be so heavy you cannot lift the pan. Which brings me to the other importance of material – weight. Aluminum is used in almost all restaurants because it is light weight and cheap. If you are tossing sauteed onions all day you don’t want a pan that weights as much as a small cow. Copper is not as heavy as cast iron but it is certainly more heavy than stainless or aluminum. That is a big drawback if you are working with it all day.
Now getting to the main point of this article. I began to wonder which cooking material really is the most responsive. So I did a simple little test that wasn’t entirely scientific since the pans were all not the same size or weight.
I put a cold pan on a cold gas burner, put a splash proof Thermapen instant read thermometer in the center of the bottom of the pan and waited until it read the ambient temperature along with the surface of the pan which was 62.5 F and recorded the temperature after 20 seconds of high heat. Note, this is a great kitchen tool!
All Clad Master Chef 9 inch skillet (aluminum with stainless steel lining)
Lodge cast iron 9 inch skillet
Baumalu 8 inch copper saute pan with tin lining
Revereware 8 inch saute pan (stainless steel with copper exterior bottom layer)
The results surprised me.
Here is the ranking and temperatures after 20 seconds of heat:
1. Revereware – 155 F
2. Baumalu – 145 F
3. All Clad – 112 F
4. Lodge – 106 F
The explanation of the Reverware coming in first is because it is such a thin layer of material. It is about 1/3 the thickness of any of the other pots. So the poor heat conductivity of the stainless steel is compensated by the ultra thin steel. I am not sure how much the copper plating on the bottom helps but it probably evens out the heat source. One big problem with using thin pans is they do not distribute heat evenly and can have hot spots that can burn. Want to boil a lot of water? Get a thin stainless steel pot. I didn’t do a pure aluminum pan so that might be faster if it is thin enough. There has been a raging debate about Alzheimer’s and aluminum so we stay away from it (all restaurants use them unfortunately).
The copper came in a close second and from experience I know the heat distribution is very even so this would be the best pan to use out of the four when you need rapid temperature control – such as making a Hollandaise sauce. All Clad started off slow to heat up but rapidly raised temperature toward the 15 second mark. The Lodge was slow and steady which is why it is so beloved for slow cooking and simmering. You would never want to make caramel sauce in an iron pot!
So those are the results of my test. I looked online and have yet to see any other similar road test of different cooking materials, so hopefully someone devotes more time and does a better more scientific test – America’s Test Kitchen hint hint. In the meantime I think I might be on the market for a new copper pot – tin lined of course and probably used to save money!
Of course if you have some extra cash, Four and Twenty offers simply the best selection of the finest copper. Look at the beautiful cider warmer above