Me Day

31 01 2016

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” (Virgina Woolf, The Waves)

Every so often, I just need a day or two for myself. A few days of quiet. A few days just to introspect and collect myself and to recover from all the noise and activity. Life gets really busy, so I appreciate my solitude when I can get it.

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Cinnamon Brown Butter Puffs
Source: Smitten Kitchen
I’ve been wanting to make homemade donuts à la Hint of Vanilla, but I just haven’t had the time or an accomplice to help me in the kitchen. Luckily I stumbled on SK’s post and it is the perfect little donut hole to hold me over until I can make real donuts. Right out of the oven, these little puffs get dunked in melted browned butter and a cinnamon sugar dusting – soft and pillowy – such great cake donut holes. I recommend eating these within a few hours of making, as they become more dense and heavier with time.

Ingredients
Coating:
2/3 c granulated sugar
1 tbs ground cinnamon
6 tbs unsalted butter

Batter:
1 1/2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 c granulated sugar
1/3 c unsalted butter, room temp
1 egg, room temp
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c buttermilk [or 1/2 c sour cream + 2 tsp lemon juice], room temp

Directions
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a mini muffin pan with non-stick spray or brush with melted butter.

For the coating: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat, stirring often, until the butter crackles and browns. There should be some solids floating in the butter, and it should smell very nutty and fragrant. Once dark brown (don’t want to burn it), remove from heat and set aside. In a separate bowl, combine sugar and cinnmaon, then set aside.

For the donut holes: In a medium bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add the sugar and cream until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg, and beat until combined. Add the buttermilk (or in my case – sour cream + lemon juice), and beat until very few lumps remain. Add the flour mixture, and mix just until combined. Do not over mix.

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Using a small ice cream scoop (I think mine is a 1 or 0.5 oz scoop), scoop batter into muffin cups. Using a small ice cream scoop keeps all the donut holes the same size, minimizes mess, and prevents over-filling of each muffin cup. I was able to get about 30 mini muffins. Bake for 10-14 minutes (depending on pan color and oven). Muffin-donuts will be done once a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Once done, remove from oven and immediately durnk each muffin-donut hole into the browned butter. You can choose to dunk the whole puff, or just the tops. Either way, delicious. Allow excess butter to drip off before rolling the muffin-donut into the cinnamon/sugar mixture. Transfer to a wire rack and enjoy.

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These muffin-donut things don’t sit on the counter too long. David came home after work and probably wolfed down a dozen on his own. These are pretty tasty, and while not nearly as satisfying as real yeasted donuts, they definitely hit the spot. And given the effort-benefit ratio, you are getting so much yummy for very little effort. I highly recommend these.

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So this weekend, in focusing on myself – I had time for kitchen therapy. I cleaned. I cooked some more. I organized thousands of photos from our last few vacations. I finished up some loose ends at work. Ok – so it doesn’t sound much like ME time, but for me – this is ideal. For me, this is enough.

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Thanks for stopping by.
AnhD





New Heart

20 01 2016

The last few days have been so sastisfying – mentally, spiritually, physically, emotionally. My kids and I spent a few days on the beach at a retreat focused on renewal, a clean state, a new path forward. I think sometimes we get weighed down a bit too much by the negative/bad things, and we get stuck there, becoming sullen or apathetic or cynical. It prevents us from doing anything meaningful, prevents us from moving to a productove place where we can work to improve on the bad. So through reflection and witness talks and prayer and introspection – we encouraged our students to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, and actively and fearlessly work toward a better future. An improved future. A future where one’s heart is no longer a sullen or apethetic or cynical heart of stone, but a new heart of flesh and love and optimism and idealism and a desire to do better.

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Tiramisu Cinnamon Twist Rolls
Adapted from Laura in the Kitchen
Now technically, I already have a favorite cinnamon roll recipe. But I tried these at a potluck and am now in love with the recipe. My friend who shared this with me also shared her tips for improving the recipe – the deviations are noted below. I proofed/rested this over night and rolled the dough the following morning – a perfect brunch treat without having to wake up early.

Ingredients
For the dough:
1 packet of active dry yeast
3/4 c whole milk
1/4 c granulated sugar
1/4 c warm water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/4 c butter, melted
4 c bread flour
2 tbs cocoa powder
1/4 c butter, melted (to brush over rolls pre-baking)

For the filling:
1/3 c butter, room temp
3/4 c light brown Sugar
1/4 c granulated Sugar
1 tbs ground cinnamon
2 tbs cocoa powder

For the frosting*:
3 tbs butter, room temp
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, room temp (cream cheese is ok too, but trying to keep this in line with the tiramisu theme)
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
a drizzle of whole milk as needed
*Frosting is optional. These are so delish as is.

Directions
In a small Pyrex measuring cup (the one with a lip), combine the warm water, 1 tsp of granulated sugar, and yeast. Let sit until the yeast activates and foams.

In a bowl of a stand mixer (fitted with a dough hook), mix the egg, milk, salt, sugar and melted butter. Add 2 cups of bread flour, cocoa powder, water, vanilla and the yeast mixture, until all incorporated. Slowly add the remaining bread flour, continuing to mix at slow then medium speed until the dough slaps against the bowl and forms a smooth (not shaggy dough).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Place the dough ball into an oiled (or buttered or Pam’ed) bowl, rotating the ball as needed to coat with the non-stick substance (oil, butter or Pam). Cover with plastic and allow to rise at room temp in a warm place for 2-3 hours until dough doubles in size OR allow to rise in the fridge over night. The longer/slower rise time will actually let the dough develop some really great flavor and prevent the dough from rising too quickly, resulting in a much more satisfying and tender pastry.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn the dough onto a floured surface and puch down. Roll out to an approximately 15″ x 9″ rectangle. Spread the soft butter over the dough. In a small bowl, mix the remaining filling ingredients, then sprinkle over the buttered dough. Fold the dough in half, then slice into 3/4″ width slices. Twist the strip of dough before tying a knot. Of course, you could roll the dough and slice like typical cinnamon rolls, but I am loving this twisted version, where you can see the filling swirled into the pastry. It’s so pretty. You can see step-by-step tutorial here. Either way, place the fold down onto a buttered baking pan. Cover and place in a warm spot and allow to rise for another 1-2 hours.

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Meanwhile preheat oven to 350*F. Brush the top of each bun with melted butter and bake for about 25 minutes until golden brown. While the twisted rolls are cooling, make the optional frosting. Beat the butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and vanilla extract. If the consistency is too thick, add a drizzle of milk to think it out as needed. Spread the frosting over the still-warm rolls and enjoy.

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After the beach, we drove to the mountains to go skiing at Squaw Valley. How incredible is it that with just a 4 hour drive, I can go from the beaches of Santa Cruz to the mountains of the Sierras? It really is amazing living here in California. What a fulfilling weekend. A really great start to 2016 so far. Can’t wait to see what else the year holds.

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Thanks for reading,
AnhD





Friendship

24 12 2015

One of the best parts of the holiday season is reuniting with far away friends and family who are finally home for the holidays. We may only see each other once a year or sometimes only once every few years, but the belly full of laughter always brings us all back together. And what I find really crazy is that no matter the time or space or life events that may have passed, we can still pick right back up as though nothing has changed. Or perhaps to phrase it better, that those changes don’t matter. That those changes haven’t fundamentally changed who we are at the core. So I wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with love, peace, and joy, and to end a rather tough 2015 with lots of friendship and good cheer.

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Gingerbread Bars
Source: Bon Appetit via Crepes of Wrath
Steph and Annie came over to make this, and I’ll say that we love this recipe and only made a few small tweaks. It’s soft and chewy and has a lot of lovely warm spices. I also love the crunchy raw sugar dusting on top – it makes a great crunchy crust and much needed texture to the cookie bar. I don’t love candied ginger, but if you chop it up really fine, it adds a great kick without being obtrusive to the cookie. I highly recommend it.

Ingredients
2 c all purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
10 tbs (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp and cubed
1 1/4 c (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup light (unsulfured) molasses
1 c candied ginger, finely chopped
1/2 c raw sugar (nice large crystals)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350*F F and line a 9×13-inch baking dish (or 2 8×8 or 2 pie tins) with parchment paper and butter (or spray with non-stick baking spray).
In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until well creamed and fluffy, scraping sides as needed. Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated. Then add molasses and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients – flour and all spices, baking soda and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, mixing until combined. Fold in the candied ginger pieces. Use a non-stick spatula or hands and spread the (very thick) dough into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup of raw sugar. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the bars a deep golden brown and set. Remove from oven and let cool before slicing and serving. Feel free to top with powdered sugar, melted white chocolate, lemon curd, or in my case – serve with a generous scoop of ice cream. Enjoy.
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Every single bite tastes like Christmas and the holidays. I think these would be a great dessert after a big meal, but also a perfect late night cookie with some warm milk. Or perhaps put a few of these on a plate for Santa. Just saying – these are fantastic and perfectly embody the holiday season.
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Best wishes and can’t wait to see what 2016 unveils!
AnhD





Hatred

7 12 2015

“Including the worst mass shooting of the year, which unfolded horrifically on Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif., a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks this year, many of which occurred on streets or in public settings,” reports the New York Times. There have been over 350 shootings in 2015, or roughly the same amount of days that have passed in 2015, which averages to about one shooting incident a day. The reaction from the media and public figures has been pretty expected – terrorism. Religious extremists. Mental illness. Gun control. Abusive cops. Violence in the media. These are the easy scapegoats, the swirl is always the same. I want to challenge this, and think bigger picture. At the very core of all these shootings – there is one recurring theme. Sure, you may be thinking the guns – but it’s a bit nuanced – some guns are legal, others cannot even be obtained in the States. So no, it’s not that the gun is the common denominator in these 350 shootings. That’s too easy of a scapegoat. What I think is at the very center of all this – is in fact – hatred. A lack of love. A lack of respect for humanity. A lack of human connection. A lack of compassion. A lack of empathy. Hate. Guns and religion and money and violence in the media are all mediums. They are tools, and I think that in and of themselves, are not evil. What is evil is the intent. What makes them sinister is the user.

A few anecdotes.

Recently while playing soccer on a public field, my husband was heckled by a jogger who shouted things like, “Stop making your bombs” and “Go back to your country you faggot”. Serious accusations by the jogger, but dismissed by my husband and his soccer mates. It makes me sad and also upset that such hate-filled speech and such ignorance is becoming OK. When I watch the news coverage of the presidential candidate debates – it makes me enraged that certain candidates can perpetuate such hate-filled and evidence-less platitudes. Or, how many times have I directly witnessed my Middle Eastern (or even remotely Middle Eastern-looking) friends at the airport get “randomly” pulled aside for additional screening by TSA? Why is it that when my black co-workers go to certain parts of the city, they feel out of place or unwelcomed? I feel that if we let hate fester uncurbed, they become the very suspects and terrorists and rogue policemen that we see on the news. How many times have we read their histories and found out that these folks were outcasts who didn’t so much as have a real friend? How many times were these folks so down and out and shunned by society that pulling a Fight-Club-like-atrocity seemed like a good idea? How many of these shooters were ignorant bigots, who didn’t have good and loving role models to teach them about human love and the dignity of human life. How many of these killers were fueled by hate? I think the problem we have to fight isn’t gun control or religious fanaticism or mental illness or violence on TV. Those initiatives are just bandages for a bigger problem – a problem of hatred. And a very small and optimistic part of me truly believes that maybe if someone had extended that olive branch, if we had the sense to befriend and humanize these would-be-killers, that maybe – the shootings wouldn’t happen or would happen less.

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Homemade Vanilla Rose Marshmallow
When I was in college and at worked at Ici, I loved eating the peppermint marshmallows we sold at the shop. Little hand-bagged pillows of fluffy homemade marshmallow – the perfect topping to the thick and creamy Ici hot chocolate. It tasted like Christmastime. In that spirit, I’ve made a batch of vanilla-rose marshmallows – a twist on the traditional. In the future, I would also like to experiment and maybe try a lychee-rose flavor or perhaps even pandan.
Source: Ina Garten

Ingredients
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 & 1/2 c cold water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tbs rose water (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Directions
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the 3 packets of unflavored gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water, and allow to sit while you do the next few steps.

Prepare a 13″x9″ baking pan or Pyrex by spraying first with a non-stick baking spray, then generously dusting with powdered sugar.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup of water and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and cook the syrup until it reaches 240*F on a thermometer (aka the softball stage), about 10 minutes. Once the syrup hits temp, remove from heat immediately.

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Now, turn on the electric mixer to the slowest setting, and carefully pour the (very hot!) sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Once all the syrup is in the bowl, turn up to the highest speed and whip until the mixture is thick and turns from a transparent/clear color to white. Now, as you whip the marshmallow, steam escapes from the mixture. The more steam that escapes, the less liquid remains, thus, the tougher or harder the marshmallow, about 15 minutes. If you want a softer, squishier marshmallow, opt for less time beating the mixture, maybe 13 minutes. Once the marshmallow has turned white and you’ve reached your desired texture, add the vanilla extract and rose water (if using) and mix for a few more seconds to incorporate. Spray any utensils and spatulas with a non-stick baking spray to help minimize sticking, as the marshmallow is really thick and sticky at this point. Use the non-stick spatula to pour and scrape the marshmallow into the prepared pan and spread as needed to achieve desired thickness. With a sieve, generously dust additional powdered sugar over the marshmallow. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until marshmallow dries out.

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When ready, turn the marshmallows onto a cutting board that has been dusted with powdered sugar. Use a pizza wheel or sharp knife to cut marshmallow into squares, continuing to dust all sides of each marshmallow with powdered sugar to prevent sticking. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. Enjoy.

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I served these marshmallows with a really dark homemade hot chocolate, and the unusual rose flavor definitely had everyone guessing and wondering. These marshmallows are soft and fluffy and melt in your mouth. The elastic kind we buy at the store just can’t compare. Enjoy.

I think President Obama said it best in his speech on Sunday evening: “It is the responsibility of all Americans — of every faith — to reject discrimination. It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on who we admit into this country… Because when we travel down that road, we lose.” I would like to expand that further by saying that we lose, when we don’t love each other. We lose when we do not respect human life. We lose when we let our hatred, on either side, to consume us.

I usually don’t ruminate on topics that are too polemical, but felt compelled to do so this time. I hope this did not negatively color your food enjoying experience. Thank you so much for reading, and discourse is always welcomed.
AnhD





Holidays

29 11 2015

For Christians, the holiday season (and specifically Advent) is a time of renewal. A time to clean some of the skeletons out of the closet and prepare the way for Christmas. I think we all have things we aren’t proud of or actions we regret. Perhaps, this holiday season, we’ll take the opportunity to let go of those old hurts, to let go of those things weighing us down. Whether that means letting bygones be bygones, or extending that olive branch, or saying I Love You, or being more empathetic and compassionate – the world needs a little bit more kindness. And that kindness starts from within. Only then, can we truly enjoy the spirit of the holiday season, basking in love and peace and joy.Posole6

Chicken Posole Soup
Adapted from Pioneer Woman
As the temperatures drop (it is currently 50*F in our house this morning), I crave warm soup for sustenance. Unfortunately, living with David means that a lot of the soups I make are not man-friendly… meaning, there isn’t much in terms of nutrition or protein. This recipe fits the bill in satisfying both of us. The broth is enriched with chicken bones (great with leftover turkey too!), and has a lot of body and thickness thanks to the cornmeal. The soup is bursting with vibrant flavors, and the toppings and accompaniments are varied and versatile. After the bustle of Thanksgiving, this is the perfect bowl to ease into a cozy evening before the week starts again.

Ingredients
4 chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
1 tbs salt
1 tbs garlic powder
fresh cracked pepper
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ancho or cayenne chili powder (ancho has a great smokiness that I love in this soup)
1 tsp Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
1 medium diced onion
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 tbs tomato paste
2 diced green bell peppers
4 c low-sodium chicken broth
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2-3 c water
3 tbs cornmeal
1 30 oz can of hominy, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper, to taste
Toppings: avocado, cilantro, lime, tortilla strips, crema

Directions
Thickly coat the chicken thighs with salt, garlic powder and fresh cracked pepper and set aside. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large, heavy dutch oven. Once hot, place the chicken thighs, skin side down and sear the chicken until skin browns and crisps. Flip the chicken thighs and brown the other side. The idea is to impart some fat and flavor into the pot, not to cook the chicken. Remove the chicken pieces from the pot, allow chicken to cool a bit before handling. Carefully discard the (now charred) skin and shred the meat. The meat will still be raw, so handle with care. Take the bones and toss back into the pot.Posole1Heat the pot to a medium high and and add the cumin, ancho chili powder, and Mexican oregano. This will toast the spices and herbs, and help draw out more of the fragrance and flavor. Next, add the onion, garlic, tomato paste and bell peppers, allowing to sweat until tender and translucent, then eventually brown a bit. Stir as needed to distribute the tomato paste. Add the bay leaves, shredded chicken, diced tomatoes (with juice), chicken broth and water. With a wooden spoon or spatula, gently scrape the browned/burnt bits leftover from when you were searing the chicken and heating the veggies. This will add more flavor and depth to the soup. Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.

Posole2Add the cornmeal and stir to distribute. Allow to simmer for another 5 minutes to allow the soup to thicken. Add the hominy and cook for another 5 minutes. At this point, if the soup is too thick, add additional chicken stock/water as needed, and adjust the seasoning. If the soup is too thin, add a bit more cornmeal, making sure to stir to distribute. Again, make sure to adjust the seasoning as needed. Fish out the chicken bones and bay leaves, which have heroically given themselves to the soup.Posole4To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with cilantro, diced avocados, strips of tortilla, crema, and a wedge of lime. Enjoy!Posole7This weekend we’ve been really productive in kicking off our holiday season – our noble fir stands proudly in the corner, perfuming the air with a sweet pine fragrance. The candles and wreaths have been brought out to decorate the entry way and mantles. The presents have been bought and wrapped, sitting expectantly under the tree. The oven and kitchen have been working non-stop (more recipes to come!). It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Even our pup is Christmas ready.Fred3

Hope you have a great start to your holiday season. Thanks for joining me!
AnhD





Anchorage and Alaska

24 11 2015

I never properly closed out my Alaskan trip. Once we saw the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, we hightailed it back to Anchorage, where we spent the remainder of the time relaxing and mentally preparing for our return home.

We drove out to Potter Marsh and were pleasantly surprised to find a protected sanctuary for swans and a few other wildlife. The marsh is beautiful, especially in autumn. The lovely docks allow pedestrians to journey pretty deep into the marsh, but without disturbing the wildlife.

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There were also still a few late salmon trying to make their way home through the marsh. I will have to say that salmon have tough lives. The hardships and travails in my life are no compare to that of a salmon, who spends its life in constant peril of being eaten. After being born, it journeys to the ocean to mature, and if it survives the fishermen, it must then must return home on a treacherous journey where it’s at risk for being bear-food, not to mention that the fresh water slowly intoxicates the salmon and weakens it. And then, once it gets home, it puts all its remaining energy into producing offspring, before dying. What an awful existence. I am never complaining about my life again.

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While in Anchorage, we ate at this sushi joint called Sushi&Sushi, not once, but TWICE. The food was really tasty and the space was great for groups. It’s in a strip mall off the highway, but so worth the trek from the downtown area. Anchorage isn’t all that big, and we had fun exploring the little niches of town via food.0912151844And just because we wanted closure, we had to have fish and chips one last time. This time at Glacier BrewHouse, which is packed with tourists. The portions of food were good, and generally the food was tasty. My one complaint is that the style of fish and chips just wasn’t what I wanted… I was expecting something like and airy, the CORRECT way to do it in Alaska – instead, I got this very thick and dense panko breading. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I wanted.

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I think there’s a slab of fish under there maybe…

This trip to Alaska was pretty unforgettable. The sights and sounds were just too beautiful. Like I’ve probably already said, every bend in the road was postcard-perfect. And no camera lens or cellphone could adequately capture the majesty of the landscape or the dignity of the Alaskan spirit. There is much more here than the caricatured frontiersman or native American. It’s so much more than the oil pipelines or even the cartoonish Sarah Palin. No, there is a beauty and ruggedness here that radiates from within, that bubbles from the streams to the vast ocean, to where the end of the earth meets the corner of the sea and feet of the sky. I’ll be back. I’ll certainly be back.

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My packing list here.

AnhD





Review: Manresa

23 11 2015

David Kinch and the staff at Manresa were recently awarded a third Michelin star as of October 2015. So, of course I had use the hubbie’s November birthday as an excuse to visit this well-known Los Gatos joint. What I’ve always known about Manresa (as through the cookbook and interviews with David Kinch) is that there is a high respect for each and every ingredient on the plate. It’s not so much cooking as presenting, and that really comes out on each dish. And the stars of the dish are most certainly the ‘garden’ items – all grown at Love Apple Farm for the exclusive use of Manresa. It’s a really beautiful collaboration and the results are felt into the dining room. Now to it…

We started off at the bar while waiting for our table, sipping on a delicious pear sour cocktail and a really fantastic (and very exclusive) saison, a result of a collab between Sante Adairius Rustic Ales in Capitola and Chef Kinch. “Mercy Mercy” as its called, is amazing. And since we were bummed we wouldn’t be able to find this at any retailer, we drank one after another.

The meal began with some really special savory petit fours – red pepper pâte de fruit and black olive madeleines. Great flavor in both – the pâte de fruit was sweet and still very peppery, an unexpected though not unpleasant pairing. And the buttery madeleine was delicious – the right level of brine and tang. These nibbles were also presented with a granola crisp – complete with puffed rice, pepita seeds, cashews (I think) and a number of other seeds I can’t remember.

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And lastly for the appetizers was a decadent take on the tortilla espanola – twice-fried (in duck fat!) potato and the egg portion of the tortilla was cleverly disguised as the “lemon zest” garnish on top. How incredible! Little bites of heaven – I probably could have had 5 of these morsels.
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Our first savory dish was sashimi style sea bream with citrus jelly and sesame. It tasted like the ocean – from the texture to the flavor. Like it was plucked right out of the sea. Not unpleasant, but definitely unexpected.
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The signature “into the garden” dish featured a hodgepodge of seasonal greens – there is a dehydrated potato/parsnip/nut concoction to represent dirt. There are raw nasturtium flowers and micro green branches. And under it all there’s a bit of a puree. Lots of earthy tones in this variant of the dish. I also love that it’s presented on a plate of hands – just as though someone had just gone out to the garden and gathered a handful of dirt and greens. So creative!
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This next dish was probably my favorite – charcoal grilled squid, sliced to resemble udon noddles, floating in a light dashi-like broth. What’s surprising is the squid ink jelly, which was really rich, and the sweet persimmon buried under the “noodles”. It was made this dish unique – and who knew persimmon would pair so well with this udon-style dish. I slurped it all up, until the bowl was dry.
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The seared bay scallop dish was also really tasty – just a very light and bright broth of coconut and finger lime.
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In this next dish, under all that black truffle is a piece of black cod, a handful of chantarelles, a meaty piece of lobster mushroom, and a lightly foamy sunchoke soubise to wet it all. All this was highlighted by really fragrant chives and what I believe is a special succulent grown in the Love Apple garden.
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The abalone and sea urchin dish was delicious – reminded me of a bouillabaisse or Mediterranean seafood stew with the saffron broth and chickpeas. Really tasty.
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This next dish was the only terrestrial protein of the night – a juicy aged rib eye served 3 ways: essentially the eye, the ribeye cap, and the fat cap. David’s only complaint about the ribeye was that it lacked smoke… this being a steak after all. But I thought it was technically perfect and served with 5 vegetables, each prepared very differently, with the intent (I think), of providing a very purist enjoyment of the steak. The steak had such great beef flavor and scent. Goodness. If only it had just a hint of smoke, it would have been a Form (in the Plato sense), or that most transcendentally perfect ribeye.
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The last savory dish was a great “tamago” or a Japanese omelet – except that being Manresa, there’s a spin. The egg itself is soft and custardy, topped with a crisp fried brioche toast, all sitting in a bit of truffle oil. Really decadent.
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We added the optional cheese course, and I unfortunately can’t remember all the types and names, not being a cheese connoisseur. But there’s the very mild camembert at the far right, and followed by some kind of Wisconsin half cow, half sheep’s milk cheese. There’s a goat cheese with the ash grey rind, and lastly some kind of blue. All cheeses were domestic, but I will note that not a single one of them were from California. These were paired with some honeycomb (amazing by the way), and homemade lavashes – plain, rye and honey.
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Dessert is always my favorite part, starting off with this lovely citrus tapioca over a layer of yogurt, which had this this creamy texture, reminiscent of pana cotta. It was paired with a fried mochi ball, filled with yuzu curd. This is a really interesting and exciting take on a Vietnamese/Chinese sesame seed mochi ball that’s usually filled with mung or red bean, and found at your local dimsum place. All the yuzu flavors really tied both components of this dessert dish together.
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This was followed by David’s birthday cake – a lovely hazelnut mousse cake. Fluffy and decadent and worth every calorie.
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The next dessert was presented in unison, so we each had a different dish. We started with the squash cake and crescenza and cream cheese frosting, topped with a vinegar reduction and a pepita ice cream and pepita crumble that we really enjoyed.
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The second half of this dessert presentation was a creamy, snowy pile of sorbet over a milk chocolate wafer, then topped with the black walnut cracker you see on top there. Really great and classic flavor combination here, that was livened by the little balls of pickled pear, which added a surprising contrast to the sweet dessert.
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And we end just as we began – a set of sweet petit fours, this time with a strawberry pâte de fruit and chocolate madeleines, followed by a selection of macarons (chamomile and honey; coconut; chocolate banana), and some truffles. To take home, we had this delicious pumpkin granola and handmade salted caramel candies.
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All in all, this was a fantastic meal. The food alone warrants the 3 Michelin stars, but as this was not our first Michelin rodeo – we found some areas for improvement. Firstly, once you hit a certain price point, impeccable service is expected. There is a certain fluidity and experience that is warranted, and to a certain extent, we were underwhelmed in this area. We repeatedly had to ask for another glass of wine or beer. The way in which the cutlery was placed on the table wasn’t quite as synchronized or harmonious as you would expect. The woman who brushed the crumbs off the table often missed, and worse – brushed them right into my lap. So, negative points for service. I also found some parchment paper stuck to a few of the bread rolls… I took a picture of it here. Additionally, we noticed a handful of flies hovering over our table and along the wall behind us. For this price point and star rating, I think it’s rather unacceptable. I also thought it was a bad choice by not featuring any California cheeses on the cheese cart. I will also note that there were very limited California wine options (if any at all, I don’t seem to recall). As a restaurant that bills itself as a farm-to-table restaurant, as a restaurant that believes in sustainable agricultural practices, as a prominent California establishment, I did wonder if perhaps it was an oversight that it chose to neglect California products? All of its produce come from its California garden, but why not the wines and cheeses? If I remember correctly, even the ribeye was from out of state. No negative points there, but it did make me pause and wonder, as I think the cow farms in Point Reyes are fantastic. Anyway, all these little annoyances don’t really amount to much, as I thought the food and drink were stellar and that its very high on our list of ‘best meals ever’. However, these little details need to be ironed out, I think, if Manresa wants to hold onto its newly earned star.

Hoped you enjoy this culinary journey, adventure awaits! See you at the next joint we try.

AnhD








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