what we love...

This is a delightful area where we will post short correspondence every few days on what we love ranging from products to recipes to who knows what, and updates on our new products. Feel free to stop back and see what we have added. We have intentionally built this page so no comments can be added to keep it clean and easy to maintain - so we can work more in the kitchen! Please note nothing here is an advertisement.

 

October 4: The Art of Eating

A few years back were were in the Pasta Shop in Berkeley and on the way out saw this thin publication on a rack as we exited. Thinking it was free because it was so small, we just took it. Later we found out we stole it! Yes, the Art of Eating is very thin, and only comes out four times a year, but it offers excellent, in depth articles on food.

The current issue is impressive since it has an article about real wasabi. We hate to break the news to you, but all wasabi in the U.S. and just about everywhere else is really horseradish with green food coloring. Real wasabi is very expensive, hard to grow and even more difficult to find. And the taste is much more delicious. We love it and buy it at a Japanese food market here in SF when it is available. We make cold soba buckwheat noodles and grate the wasabi into the dipping sauce.

We need to order the past issue since it had an article about the odd preference for California olive oil production focused on the Tuscan style. We are not fond of this type of peppery, harsh oil that is so trendy. We prefer the more delicate and tasty southern Italian olive varieties that are not grown much in CA. Anyhow, check out the Art of Eating. Every issue is a treasure. Oh, we now pay for it!

The Art of Eating

 

October 4: Good Booze

When it comes to small production booze with extremely careful attention to quality, to tipple with Germain-Robin is a treat. One of our favorites is the apple brandy. Then the Fine (VSOP) brandy is a bargain at $40. And their single grape grappas are truly out of this world. The zinfandel is spicy and very delicious.

For the uninitiated, the difference between small production and high quality distilled spirits and the run-of-the mill variety is the choice of premium ingredients and attention to detail. Traditionally, mass-produced distilled spirits have been made with inferior ingredients since distilling usually masks the taste. But people with refined taste buds have always been able to distinguish the sludge from the sophisticated. This explains why a fine vintage armagnac that costs over $100 tastes better than a cheap brandy for $15. Some people might not be able to taste the difference - but you're not one of them are you?

Germain-Robin

 

September 29: USM Modular Furniture

USM Modular Furniture is a Swiss company that makes some of the most amazing products. Almost impossible to find in America except for a showroom in NYC, and used primarily in european corporate settings, it is simply beautiful. The storage units and shelves must be hand-assembled on site by specially trained technicians using special tools made by the company. We have a friend who is one of the few people trained to assemble these units. We especially like how strong they are. If there is ever an earthquake, we know what to take shelter next to.

usm

 

September 26: Laurel Olive Oil Soap

We purchased a bar of laurel olive oil soap in Nice (amazing modern art museum there that has cool artists like Arman and Niki de Saint Phalle, who are rarely exhibited in the U.S. ) a few years back and have been sold ever since. When we ran out we had trouble finding it here in the U.S. and while searching online found this cool site that sells all kinds of olive oil soaps from around the world. This particular soap is made in Syria. It leaves your skin very, very soft. Warning, sometimes it takes a long time to get your order from this site. Hmmm...sounds familiar huh?

Olive Oil Soaps of the World

 

September 26: Any friends live in NYC?

Many moons ago Eric was staying at a good friend's Mom's loft on Jones Street in NYC. Wanting to leave a gift of thanks for letting him stay, he discovered a tiny wine shop a few storefronts down the street. That's where he met Jeff, the owner who had just opened up this shop. The concept was very smart - sell only wine that was at its peak to drink. What makes this shop so cool, is not only Jeff, who is the nicest guy, and the great wine he sells, but that he will deliver whatever you buy to anyone who lives in NYC. That means you can be living in Paris or Naples or LA, and buy some wine on Jeff's website for a friend who lives in NYC and Jeff will deliver it! We also love that he has a screw cap wine section. Never need to worry about corked wine - did we say we love screw caps?

winesby.com

 

September 26: Freitag

In europe most trucks that transport items are covered by large rubberized tarps with company logos and text printed on them. Freitag is the brainchild of two brothers in Switzerland who picked up tarps that they found on the side of the freeway and started making messenger bags out of them. Each bag is completely unique. Today they make a wide selection of bags and even wallets, and our favorite a shopping bag. On their site you can purchase the bags already made, or you can design one yourself on the site but it is very confusing, so it is best to just buy ones premade. They also sell them at:

Flight 001 shops

Modern Artifacts in SF

Freitag

 

September 25: Gewürztraminer Juice

Some of you might have heard of Navarro Vineyards, since their wine is pretty delicious. They are the bane of wine shops since they hardly sell to retailers, but exclusively to restaurants and individuals on their website. If you are from California and dine at good restaurants, you might have heard of them. But what few people know is that they make the most amazing non-alcoholic grape juice from certain grapes.

Let's flashback to 1995 to Valencia Street in San Francisco when a tiny Vietnamese restaurant called Slanted Door opened. The neighborhood is called the Mission District, and at that time was largely home to not only prostitutes and drug dealers, but to small mom and pop stores run by people from a wide range of Spanish-speaking countries.

Well, Slanted Door was pretty amazing back in those days; the owner still was the cook and the food was incredible.

Slanted Door also had on their wine list Gewürztraminer grape juice, yes grape juice, from Navarro Vineyards. Forget all grape juices you have ever tasted. This is by far the best in the world.

While the Mission District has changed - almost all the immigrant shop owners have been displaced by chains or fancy shops due to raising rents, and Slanted Door has moved several times and is no longer a secret little place, one thing remains the same: this amazing juice. Order it online - the only place to get it. You will love it!

Navarro Vineyards

 

September 25: A Good Tamper

If you are serious about espresso then you need to get serious about tamping - that is pressing down on the freshly ground coffee in your filter.

Most espresso machine companies supply cheap plastic tampers, but a heavy metal tamper provides the perfect weight to press coffee grinds. The art of tamping can get a little crazy - with all kinds of techniques and such. What it comes down to is feel - and nothing beats a finely-machined, hunk of stainless steel.

Reg Barber is the ultimate manufacturer of tampers. All professional and competitive baristas use them. You have the choice of different handles and bases. Our favorite is the powder coated aluminum handles in a variety of colors (black to match our Cremina - see posting below) and the absolute must of the stainless steel euro curve base (allows water to penetrate the tightly pressed grounds more easily). But even making that claim is bound to cause controversy in the coffee geek world. Then why do we say this? Because our vintage 1960 La Peppina, a future posting here, came with a plastic tamper with the curved base and that machine makes some mean espresso.

Reg Barber - the ultimate tamper

 

September 25: Root Beer

Recently, and for no particular reason, we have become obsessed with root beer. One of us as a child used to try to make their own from sassafras roots he picked in the nearby woods - but it was more a sweet chilled tea from boiling the roots in water and sugar. At first we bought the usual stuff in the supermarket - like A&W or Mug. But after doing some research online we discovered there are countless companies that make the stuff - and a few are all natural micro-brews. So we sought out the gourmet variety and have two favorites: Virgil's and Natural Brew. Virtually all other root beers have artificial flavors which is reason enough to avoid them like the plague. Even Henry Weinhard's, the cheap beer company, makes a very expensive root beer ... and has artificial flavors. Why? is all we can ask. Anyhow, the history of root beer and the ingredients are fascinating. Here are some sites made by people who are way more obsessed then we are:

Root beer world - history, recipes and more.

Gourmet root beer - lots of reviews

 

September 24: The Seasonal Kitchen

Here is a copy of Eric's Mom's original, first edition 1973 cookbook that as you can see has been well used, along with many vintage newspaper strips serving as bookmarks. This cookbook, The Seasonal Kitchen, by Perla Meyers was revolutionary when it came out because it focused on using seasonal ingredients, many of which were virtually impossible to find in those days, but today are in most supermarkets. Many of the recipes are derived from French, Italian and Mediterranean regions. The book is divided into the four seasons and offers appetizers, main courses and desserts. In true form to the period this was published, there is a lot of butter used in recipes, but we do substitutions with various oils to lighten the sauces at times.

We have this book in our kitchen and it is an absolute necessity for anyone who cooks. Not only are all the recipes excellent, but the design is amazing. In fact, we think it is the most beautiful cookbook ever printed. The kraft brown paper it is printed on was the inspiration behind our own label designs.

This book is out of print, but if you get a copy, go on Amazon and find a hardcopy. The paperback lacks the great graphic design. We love Perla Meyers!

 

September 24: Olympia Cremina

The olympia cremina is hands down the best lever espresso machine made. We use it every day and once you have used a lever machine you will never use a pump driven one. Between the 1940-1960s all espresso machines were lever operated. To facilitate ease of use, electronic pump machines were introduced and took over the market. The advantage of a lever over the electronic pump machines on the market now is similar to a manual transmission vs. an automatic one - you have complete control. The end result? Flavor. They are also completely silent without that noisy pump. The only noise is if you steam milk - which this machine does in seconds. Next time you go to some fancy coffee shop, ask them why they aren't using a lever machine.

Olympia machines are hand made in Switzerland and only a few are made for the American market. We bought our vintage model on ebay and completely restored it since we like to preserve stuff. It took two months since it takes forever for the parts to ship from the factory! But you can buy one new if you aren't the tinkering type like us at the Olympia website below. All machines are made to order. Think couture. You will deal with a real person who builds and fixes these machines. But be prepared to wait. Oh, and it takes a few months to master this machine, but it is worth it.

Here is the Olympia site

A step-by-step guide to restoring one

Best place to have repairs

Beautiful Book On Italian Espresso Machines

 

September 23: Hobart N50 Mixer

We do tons of baking and absolutely love our old Hobart N50. For those of you who work in the food industry, you know Hobart is the de facto equipment found in virtually all restaurants and commercial kitchens because of their tank-like construction and durability. Unlike the Kitchen Aid mixers, these are much better built and much more powerful, and only a few inches taller. There are also adapters you can add to slice vegetables, shred cheese and grind meat. Luckily Hobart has just brought back this amazing mixer, the smallest they make, after it was out of production for a while. It is a thing of beauty and we love it so much we are telling you about it. Yes, it is expensive, but if you are a serious baker, this is the machine for you.

Read about it at the Hobart site