Monday, May 30, 2011

Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, More Please

I had heard about this Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce from Trader Joe's.  M had it in San Francisco at a dinner with friends.  I kept hearing how good it was, drizzled over vanilla ice cream.  Yet I never saw it on the East Coast.  Maybe it was too popular to keep in stock.  Maybe it was being hoarded on the West Coast.

But I finally had my chance to try it.  We saw it one Sunday and didn't even debate a second.  It was in the cart.  

And it was delicious.  Salty and sweet.  It's a bit thick so best used at room temperature.  So if you have any left over (you might not!), you'll need to refrigerate it, and let it warm up a bit before using it.

It's best over ice cream of course.  Our 100% Trader Joe's dessert with a friend the other week, care of Trader Joe and Trader Jacque:  morello cherries, fleur de sel caramel sauce and super premium vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I'm Padma for 15 Minutes

Lazy, drizzly Sunday.   We wander out and duck into Chelsea Square Diner.  Somewhere I've walked by a thousand times and have never been to.  So we had a craving for pancakes and went.  And everything was exactly like I expected....PERFECT.  Fast service, diner pancakes, generic maple syrup (and lots of it)...a little bit of grease from over the years....

So continuing on, I had us walk through the Meatpacking because I heard there was some Top Chef thing going on. There is an area where a few streets cross that lends itself to promotional displays, and on the way south when we walk to Soho.  And there was the Top Chef tour with a cook off in 10 minutes, perfect timing!.  We were the last on the list, but secured 2 spots in the back.  

Nikki Cascone (Octavia's Porch) versus Angelo Sosa (Social Eatz, and one of my all time favs).  This was the 12th stop on the tour, and it was certainly Bravo promotional heavy, but still 45 minutes of light entertainment, cooking and behind the scenes info.

Both cooked shrimp with a secret ingredient.  One had watermelon juice and the other some sort of pumpkin seed, I think.  But when I got my sampling plate, they both sort of looked the same.  So my moment to be Padma, well, I failed.  

But it was tasty and I learned a few Top Chef facts. The "stew room" when they are at judges table typically lasts a minimum of 5 hours, but as many as 9 hours.  It's usually the people who think they'll be kicked off that drink the most then.  And each episode is really filmed over about 3 days.

Here's looking forward to the next season!  And no, they didn't tell us where it would be.

Friday, May 20, 2011


TCHO:  The phonetic spelling for the first syllable of "chocolate".  Where technology meets chocolate.  According to the website, they are obsessed with innovation in whatever they do.   And yes, there is a technology spin.  Jane Metcalfe is the President of the company.  She and her husband/significant other, Louis Rossetto, co-founded Wired magazine.  I had heard about this chocolate producer from M, a big fan of Wired magazine (and the pop-up store around the holidays).

When I was looking for my office on the google map, they plotted TCHO at a pier not that far down the Embarcadero (on Pier 17).  It is the only chocolate factory in San Francisco.  Sorry Ghiradelli fans, the chocolate must not be produced in an San Francisco factory.  It is an artisan chocolate producer, that is goes even further than fair trade.  They help the farmers produce better cocoa beans to become premium producers.

Here it is, right on the pier.  We missed the tour by 20 minutes, so we chatted with the sales person and sampled a few at the counter.

The chocolate comes in varietals, and the flavor comes from the cocoa beans that are raised in different places across the globe. The types are fruity, nutty, and chocolately, for example.  The website will show you how to "taste" chocolate:  smell, look, sound (of the break), aftertaste....

Right now, it's all dark chocolate but the very week we were there, they were producing their first batch of dark milk chocolate.  Now that is up my alley.  I love the creaminess of milk chocolate, I won't deny it.

Pretty cool space, pretty cool story.  I'll admit, there is so much "artisan" chocolate out there these days, made by Brooklyn Hipsters who want to sail Cocoa beans from Africa to gets a little much.  I can appreciate the desire to blend technology and chocolate (they have "beta 1.0" rounds to test types).


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CA Hamburgers: The Habit & In-N-Out

Upon learning that there were a few burger joints I had not tried in the Bay Area, I thought I'd try to do some due diligence and check them all out.  But a week of burgers and fries is not good for my bikini body, so we only made it to two.  A new place and an old favorite.

First, a sunny afternoon at The Habit.  It started in 1969 in Santa Barbara, CA.  Yes, that's me in downtown Walnut Creek (after a hard day of bopping into my favorite stores).  The burgers were pretty darn tasty.  Soft bun, good burger, and grilled onions come with.  And the waitress walks around and brings you extra sauce.  I'd say it was almost as good as In-N-Out.  

But then we went to In-N-Out the next day after a trip up to Marin.  And it's still as good as I remember it.  I know people love Five Guys, too (and more than the In-N-Out).  But to me, there is nothing like the California version of the burger.  It'll be a favorite.  

What I didn't get to try was Nation's.  They started in San Pablo, CA.  So many burgers from CA (read "In-N-Out Burger by Stacy Perman, it talks about the start of so many fast food places, many in CA because of the driving nature of the state).

Which made me think of my top burger places.  I'm going to admit, I'm particular about a few (the exact location I like it at, for example)...but my working list is below. 
  1. BLT & In-N-Out (sit down versus fast food) but at the top for different burger types
  2. Shake Shake (must be in Madison Square Park on a nice NY evening after a long wait in line - because I think it tastes better because you've waited so long, not because it's the best burger I've ever had).
  3. The Habit
  4. Five Guys

Dessert will be up tomorrow!  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pepples Donuts at the Ferry Building

Donuts. You know I like them. I like to try new ones. So when I told the woman at this stand I would be back, I wasn't lying. Besides, these donuts looked so pretty!

Continuing on my California adventure...we went into San Francisco one day so I could stop at the office out west, meet a friend for lunch and another friend for dinner (busy day!). While I waited for M to join me in the city, I killed some time at the Ferry building. And there are enough little food shops to poke around in to keep me busy for a bit.

But I committed to the Pepples Organic Donuts. I asked her what was most popular and took it. Salty Caramel. I vowed to myself I would only eat half, too. Just to be sort of good.

Like you might expect here, it's totally organic and vegan (honestly, the vegan part can be a turnoff for me, so you better make it look like a really good dessert if you go down that route). The kiosk at the Ferry building has been open about a year now. I had to snap a shot of the girl who helped me decide, she definitely had a Brooklyn look. She rung me up on her iPad, and if you need to use a credit card, she'll swipe you with Square (how Bay area!). Note: Square is a device you plug into the jack on an iphone/ipad allowing you to accept credit card payments.

I couldn't resist the shot of the donut with the Bay Bridge in the background, so got low on the bench to get close to the donut...slid over to get a little closer....and oops, splinter in the behind! Yes, not pretty. I thought I had taken care of it that afternoon. Alas, I didn't and worried about the wood in my tush for the next few days until my doctor pulled it out.

As for the donut, the caramel covering was DELICIOUS. Sweet and salty - love that combo! The donut part was pretty good, too. Good crumb, and a soft spot near the top middle where it's a little gooier maybe, if that makes sense.

It was a beautiful day. Look at that sky over the Ferry Building!

Pepples Donuts:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

California Time

We just got back from a great week in California. We went out to visit friends & family, relax, and enjoy the fresh, clean air in the Bay area.

This was my first Virgin America flight. And it was great. It leaves from the international terminal at JFK (the only other terminal I like besides Jetblue's Terminal 5). The staff is smartly dressed, they have touch screen computers to check in, and pink/purple lights on the plane. People look much better than in those harsh white lights on other carriers. I slept most of the way out there, but managed to check out the inflight wi-fi on the ipad so I could alert M that I was arriving at 11:30 am and NOT 2:55 pm. I misread the email and just thought that was my arrival time, it was the departure time for the return flight.

On the way back, I ordred a tuna sandwich via the touch screen menu at my seat. Ok, so I also just wanted to try it out. They delivered it in about 10 seconds. And honestly, it was pretty good. As in, the bread was not soggy (it was actually fluffy wheat bread), it was not overly mayo and it actually had capers and olives in it. The beauty of T2 at SFO is that they have great food selections to eat there or take on board.

So I'll finish up with a report out on my first day there...

I had a pick up at the airport. And another slight mistake, I got off at the wrong Bart stop.

Me: I'm here
M: I'm by the parking garage
Me: Me too, I took a left out of the turnstiles like you said
M: Where are you?
Me: I'm here
M: Are you sure? It's by the All Aboard shop
Me: Oh, wait, I don't see that...
M: You got off a stop early


Anyhow, we managed to make it home for lunch with the family and then headed to Berkeley for a BBQ with a bunch of M's friends. We had some time on the way there so traveled up over Grizzly Peak with a stop at the Berkeley Rose Garden. Where the roses were in full bloom.

Good times were had by all, as we crowded around the dining room table and passed food and wine.

More to come! You know me. I couldn't travel and not EAT something. So I'll be reporting back on burgers, cupcakes, donuts...

Friday, May 6, 2011

Finally Kino Weather?

When I was in Florida in February for my sister's wedding, one of the guests said I needed to go to the Kino Factory in Key West for sandals. Kino's? I had never heard of them but was intrigued. Who doesn't love a good deal on sandals. And they are made in Key West, so figured I could get them at the source.

So on our last day, on our trip to the town, I had two must-dos: Southernmost Point and this tucked away Kino store. Found both. And while M kept the bench occupied, I went in and conducted my business.

There was a long shelf of all the colors and styles. I request the 8 from behind the counter to try on and confirm the size. And boom boom boom, I've got the sizes and colors in my hand in less than 5 minutes (nope, I didn't try on all the pairs). Why debate at this price? I just found it funny as some of the tourists, debated, needed different sizes...for this price, you just buy it and give it away if it doesn't fit in the end.

And I'm off to California tomorrow morning (for a week, so looking forward to it). And I think it might be time to break them out! I don't do a lot of flip flop wearing in NY. I walk too much and I find the grime at the end of the day kind of gross. I only need one trip to see what my feet look like and won't do it again the rest of the season.

So I'm sharing the Kino secret...I think you can find them online, so it's not that big of a secret.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

5 Boro Bike Ride

The weather was absolutely perfect for our 1st Five Boro Bike Tour.  The 32,000 bikers make their way from the southern tip of Manhattan, up through the Bronx, over into Queens, then Brooklyn and on to finish up in Staten Island.

We only had one issue last night at around 10 pm when we realized the air was leaking out of M's tubeless tires.  We checked CVS and Duane Reade for some silicon adhesive, but decided not to risk using the wrong this morning at 7:45 am, M made some calls to bike rental places and got the last one at a Toga.  After our rendezvous point on 23rd Street, we started on our adventure.  

The organizers do a great job.  The entire route is blocked off to vehicle traffic, well signed, lots of "marshalls" to help out and fix flats...and nicely organized rest stops.  I can't even imagine the number of bananas handed out.

And I'll admit, we bailed on Staten Island and crossed back into Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge.  A quick change of clothes and we finished off the day with Five Guys burgers.  We deserved it.  


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