Best cheese ever: Brillat-Savarin

Every once in a while I crave cheese. Like, buttery, silky, triple-cream goodness I can savor straight off a spoon. So I head for Whole Foods and buy the ripest wedge of Brillat-Savarin I can find, then eat it like dessert, lingering over every last lick. It’s so rich, sometimes I have it (and only it) for lunch. For the sake of appearances, I’ll occasionally buy a crusty sweet Acme baguette to go with it…and then maybe find a place to eat it in private…but today, nah.

I’ve tried other triple-creams, but nothing beats the Brillat-Savarin’s flavor and texture—and price point. (Although an oozy La Tur does come close.)

(via Vanilla Garlic)

DIY paneer and queso blanco

Just found out that Urban Cheesecraft has launched a new website and is waiving the usual S+H charges with the code “freespring.” So I jumped on it and bought the DIY cheese kit for paneer and queso blanco. I love me some cheese enchiladas and palak paneer, so I dig the idea of being able to make my own cheeses, even in my tiny kitchen. Even though I otherwise would have no clue what I’m doing.

All you need to make queso blanco and paneer should be in this kit.
Minus the milk, of course.

Urban Cheesecraft also offers kits for making mozzarella and ricotta as well as chèvre, but I see DIY stuff for that a lot more in food media, and making paneer and queso blanco seems fun and a little different. (Um, not to mention that kit’s cheaper.) I can hardly wait for it to arrive. And of course I’d like to blog about the process of doing it, hee. More important, though, I’d like to eat something like that and be able to say I made with my own hands.

(via Urban Cheesecraft)

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Ever handy…I love illos like these. Actually, I would love to take a class someday about “the art of food” (that is, an art-historical view of it, not necessarily the plating of a dish) if there were ever one offered near me. I get a kick out of seeing food rendered in art, I enjoy reading about it…and some of my most memorable little adventures involve trying new restaurants or new-to-me dishes in foreign lands.

P.S. If you like this sort of thing, They Draw and Cook—especially the book—would be right up your alley.

Illustrated Bites

Knife Skills

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Lands End day trip

The weather’s supposed to clear up this Sunday after several off-and-on days of much-needed rain, so I’m hoping to take the opportunity to bolt to San Francisco for a little day trip around the Outer Sunset / Lands End / the Legion of Honor.

My plan is to check out Outerlands for the amazing-looking Dutch pancake (just look at that thing) plus possibly the eggs in jail (purely for the name). Although the fried egg open-face sandwich with roasted chicories and goat cheese sounds intriguing too…as do the poached eggs with braised greens and yellow corn grits. Accompanied by hot lemon-ginger apple cider with Buffalo Trace bourbon in a mason jar? Yes, please.

Ever since Weekend Sherpa ran this blurb on the 6-mile Grand Walk that skirts Lands End and Baker Beach before continuing to Fort Mason, I’ve wanted to traverse the trail myself. At least a small part of it. Judging from this Google map, I could easily head up the Great Highway from Outerlands and park at the Lands End lot behind the 1863 Cliff House, jump on the Coastal Trail—sidetracking briefly for a look-see of the labyrinth—and then follow to where the trail cuts up through Lincoln Park to the Legion of Honor. If the trails aren’t too soggy, that is.

Side note: Do you remember the book West from Home: Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder, San Francisco, 1915? It’s a collection of Laura’s letters home to her husband, Almanzo, on their Rocky Ridge Farm in Missouri about visiting their daughter, Rose, during S.F.’s Panama Pacific International Exposition. Laura writes of the delight of dipping her toes in the Pacific Ocean for the first time, somewhere along Baker Beach, and the image always stuck with me because, well, when I think of Laura, I think of the prairie. It’d be so neat to stand on the beach and imagine her there as the waves caress the sand, evoking the same wonder she must’ve felt.

Anyhow, it’ll feel good to be outdoors in the sun after the rain has washed the air clean this past week. And how cool will it be to combine some hiking and books with a little art fix?

John Spencer Stanhope, Love and the Maiden, 1877.
The figures in the background remind me of Botticelli’s Primavera.

The Legion’s exhibition The Cult of Beauty: The Victorian Avant-Garde, 1860–1900 is up, with its focus on the British Aesthetic Movement, and I’m curious to see paintings like this Stanhope mainly as a foil to the fin de siècle Austrian Expressionism I’ve been so immersed in with my MLA thesis on Egon Schiele. In fact, the whole trip will be a nice break from thesis writing and colloquium.

I love planning little adventures like this—and having the time for them again, as well as the head space not to stress out about taking time away from doing what I need to graduate.

(Outerlands montage photo via Foodiggity via Eat Drink Chic; Grand Walk photo via Weekend Sherpa; Love and the Maiden via the Legion of Honor)

Update: On second thought, I may have to swing by Devil’s Teeth Baking Company for a cuppa and some hot beignets first, and save Outerlands for a midafternoonish brunch!

The ultimate egg primer

I can hardly wait to try this out, because it’s just what a novice like me needs: a primer of cooking techniques on “The Incredible Egg,” courtesy of Bon Appétit. It’s got the basics plus the superlatives, like “The Softest Scramble” by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, “The Perfect Poach” by Thomas Keller, and “The Silkiest Carbonara” adapted from what I’m almost positive is the popular version at Perilli (not Pirelli, as the original text says—which, as far as I can tell, refers only to the tire manufacturer) in Rome.

It’s so lovely, the way a well-poached egg oozes golden yolk over eggs Benedict when you slice into it…that “lava-like flow of yolk” to which Per Se chef de cuisine Eli Kaimeh refers in the Bon App primer.

The thoroughness of the instructions reminds me of that one scene in Sabrina (the 1954 version) when Audrey Hepburn’s strict cooking-school instructor is commencing their course in Paris.

“Bonjour, mesdames et monsieurs. Yesterday we have learned the correct way how to boil water. Today we will learn the correct way how to crack an egg. Voilà! An egg. Now, an egg is not a stone; it is not made of wood, it is a living thing. It has a heart. So when we crack it, we must not torment it. We must be merciful and execute it quickly, like with the guillotine. CHAK!”

That scene always makes me laugh.

(Top photo: Peden + Munk for Bon Appétit; bottom photo via Fanpop)

Update: Amanda Hesser guides you through “The Control-Freak Method” of egg poaching in this Food52 video.

A perfect repast

Here’s the best kind of meal according to book reviewer and editor Avis DeVoto (pictured), a confidante of Julia Child, reblogged from Ruth Reichl:

“I also stubbornly maintain that the only real way to cook lobsters is in three or four inches of sea water, in a covered kettle, for about twelve minutes (pound and a quarter lobsters being the ideal size). You then drape these dazzling creatures over the rocks until they cool off a bit, tear them apart with the bare hands, dip each piece in melted butter and guzzle. There should be from two to six lobsters per person. While the lobsters cook and cool off, two dry martinis should be served. Nothing whatever else should be served—we are eating all the lobster we want, we are not fooling around with salad, or strawberry shortcake or even coffee. All you need are the martinis, plenty of lobsters, millions of paper napkins and a view.” –Avis DeVoto to Julia Child, 1952

“Oranges” by Gary Soto

Here’s a poem to enjoy on a wintry day. I’ve always loved it for the imagery of an orange so bright, so molten against the frosty gray day, that it could be mistaken for fire.

By Gary Soto 

The first time I walked
With a girl, I was twelve,
Cold, and weighted down
With two oranges in my jacket.
December. Frost cracking
Beneath my steps, my breath
Before me, then gone,
As I walked toward
Her house, the one whose
Porch light burned yellow
Night and day, in any weather.
A dog barked at me, until
She came out pulling
At her gloves, face bright
With rouge. I smiled,
Touched her shoulder, and led
Her down the street, across
A used car lot and a line
Of newly planted trees,
Until we were breathing
Before a drugstore. We
Entered, the tiny bell
Bringing a saleslady
Down a narrow aisle of goods.
I turned to the candies
Tiered like bleachers,
And asked what she wanted –
Light in her eyes, a smile
Starting at the corners
Of her mouth. I fingered
A nickel in my pocket,
And when she lifted a chocolate
That cost a dime,
I didn’t say anything.
I took the nickel from
My pocket, then an orange,
And set them quietly on
The counter. When I looked up,
The lady’s eyes met mine,
And held them, knowing
Very well what it was all

A few cars hissing past,
Fog hanging like old
Coats between the trees.
I took my girl’s hand
In mine for two blocks,
Then released it to let
Her unwrap the chocolate.
I peeled my orange
That was so bright against
The gray of December
That, from some distance,
Someone might have thought
I was making a fire in my hands.

(Print: Wintery Love – Snow Forest Couple Art by Nidhi Chanani – SF)