Friday, January 30, 2009

Foodspiration is Twittering!

Foodspiration is Twittering . . . follow Foodspiration at Some of our recent tweets:
  • Flame Body Spray
  • Bacon Explosion
  • Absinthe
  • Scharffen Berger's plant closing
  • Small Plate Movement
  • Dry Soda
  • SUBWAY texts

Monday, January 26, 2009

Scottish Scones Made in A Skillet- Scone Recipe #2

In the search for the perfect scone to complement jam, I tried this second recipe: Mary Hearty Bye's Scottish Scones. I chose it because of the buttermilk but upon reading the recipe closely, these scones are cooked in a cast iron skillet!

The dough preparation was very much like the other- cutting in the butter, and mixing in the buttermilk and egg. This dough took a bit of kneading and then a patting and cutting into wedges. And as for the cooking on the skillet...

Justin oiled the skillet and I followed the instructions at first: 3 min undisturbed on the first side (okay I checked a little bit). Then I flipped for 2-3 minutes, checking frequently to prevent burning. This is where it began to puff up!

And finally, some cooking and browning on the edges- sconehenge! The only trickiness is making sure they were done all the way through. I did cut one open out of most batches to be certain as the recipe recommended. After a batch or two, the skillet was retaining heat and I had to watch the scones more closely to make sure they didn't burn.

The results were absolutely wonderful. This texture was very different from the previous recipe. It was dense and cakey like a biscuit but it had a lovely complex flavor from the browning on all sides in the skillet- almost savory but not too sweet.

The following day, that flavor was even more pronounced and enjoyable. I think the toasty notes went particularly well with the June Taylor Summer Peach and Rose Geranium Conserve.

Imagine a perfect peach lightly kissed by rose and floral notes and you will have the luscious taste of summer in a jar. This conserve was elegantly delicious and paired particularly well with the toasty scone. June Taylor Jams, in Berkeley, CA, makes their jams using heirloom and forgotten fruits from small family farms. They hand-cut the fruit and cook small batches on the stove-top without pectin resulting in handcrafted, uniquely delicious jams. Check out their website for more information:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Our Favorites at Fancy Foods 2009

Last Monday, we attended the 2009 Fancy Foods Show in San Francisco at Moscone Center. If you haven't been to this show, it is a great way to sample new and interesting upscale products and foods--for a reasonable admission price of $35.00.

We wanted to share 10 things that we thought were inspirational and interesting at the show.

Number One: Bee Raw Varietal Honey

This single varietal honey is beautifully packaged in simple jars or in hand-corked curated flights. You won't find "wildflower" honey here . . . the Bee Raw folks are particular at calling out the specific floral source for each honey. We liked the cheese complementing honey flight shown here:

The hand-corked flight of honey for complimenting cheese

Number Two: Golden Star White Jasmine Sparkling Tea

This elegantly bottled tea is made from tea sweetened with cane juice and mildly fermented. The result is a non-alcoholic (~0.5% alcohol by volume) lightly sparkling beverage with the perfect balance of sweetness and delicate flavor of jasmine that bubbles the palate. It is perfect to pair with cheese, seafood, greens and fruit.

Number Three: Dulcet Spicy Ketchup

. . . and Maya Kaimal Spicy Ketchup

Ketchup takes on another culinary dimension with these new flavors. All of these ketchups had delightfully complex profiles with Maya Kaimal's addition of Indian spices and caramelized onions and Dulcet's Sweet Orange Chile Ketchup, Peppery Moroccan Spice Ketchup, and Mild Indian Curry Ketchup.

Number Four: Honibe Honey Drops

"Honey you can hold" is the tagline of this innovative product from Canada. Made of 100% honey and nothing else, this company has cleverly dried honey into this lovely honeycomb shape allowing you to drop it directly into your tea.

Number Five: Fire & Flavor Maple Grilling Planks for Cheese

We love the idea of "planking" brie cheese. In the same way you soak cedar planks to grill salmon, these maple planks are perfectly sized to bring a smoky flavor to cheddar, brie and other cheeses. We also liked the more flexible cedar grilling papers to infuse your meat, vegetables, seafood or fruit with flavor.

Number Six: Fentiman's Botanically Brewed Sodas

These sodas are botanically brewed-aka fermented for seven days. The results is a delicious selection of flavors from a non-alcoholic Shandy to an English favorite Dandelion and Burdock to the very popular Ginger Beer.

Number Seven: Essential Cane Flavored Sugars

In the same way we have seen infused salts, these sugars are naturally flavored to spice up your sugar. Our favorites were green chili and habenero which we were told are wonderful on chocolate ice cream. Sounds good to us!

Number Eight: Gingerhaus Kit

This gets my "Inner Martha" award for bringing something that can be difficult to the masses. "Have you ever had a gingerbread house collapse?" is what the creator at the booth asked me. I have! and it is disastrous and ever so disappointing. With this kit, you bake your gingerbread onto a paper backing that has tabs. The tabs fit your baked sides into a cardboard structure, eliminating the need for royal icing as glue and giving your house some structure to prevent collapse.

The kit including the frame to hold your gingerbread.

Now you can get right to the decorating! I would imagine that this sturdy structure would allow you to keep this gingerbread house year to year. I'm a fan! Other designs are in the works for you to create an entire village.

Number Nine: New Dry Soda and Vignette Wine Country Soda Flavors

These get the "Most Improved" Awards for their second round of new flavors being even better than the first. Dry Soda's Juniper Berry is a refreshing non-alcoholic take on gin--which is so popular right now and the vanilla bean is a lighter take on cream soda. Vignette Wine Country Soda introduced a Rosé to their line of flavors--perhaps the nicest of all.

Number Ten: Eat Whatever Breath Freshener

This novel product freshens your breath from the inside out. With mints for your mouth and "jellies" or gel capsules of organic peppermint and parsley oils for your tummy, you'll have fresh breath in no time. And after 6 hours of eating cheese, chocolate and many other intensely flavored foods, I really needed this!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Breaking News: Mother's Cookies to Return to Shelves in June!

Great news! You may have heard that Mother's Cookies, a treasured Oakland, California cookie company, recently went out of business and that their recipes were bought by Kelloggs. I have been hoarding my remaining 7 bags of cookies now and frankly, some of them are getting stale faster than I can eat them.


Serious Eats
just reported that Kelloggs will be relaunching Mother's cookies to the West Coast in June. The cookies that are coming back:
  • Circus Animals- YES!!!!!
  • Iced Oatmeal cookies-DOUBLE YES!!!
  • Parade Animal cookies
  • Chocolate Chip
  • Coconut Cocadas
  • Macaroons
  • Taffy Sandwich cookies
  • English Tea cookies- HOORAY!!!
  • Double Fudge Sandwich cookies
  • Vanilla Crème Sandwich cookies
  • Iced Lemon cookies
If you would like to read my Haiku Poem Tribute to Mother's Cookies, click here. Note that all three of my tribute cookies are in the comeback list.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Search for the Perfect Scone: The Cream Scone Recipe

In case you haven't read my earlier post on ThatWouldBeLovely, I am in search for the perfect scone- perfect for jam, that is! This scone must be delicious but plain enough to eat with jam. We have 4 exciting jams to try as well.

This is the first of three recipes I am trying: the cream scone. And it is going to be a tough one to beat because it is WONDERFUL! This lovely recipe is made with heavy cream, butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs and salt (click here to get it from Martha's website). I love this recipe because it is a one bowl recipe! You do have to cut the butter into the dry ingredients. You can do this a few different ways: with two butter knives, with a pastry blender, or with the food processor.

I chose to use the two butter knives which you use to cut the butter into pea-sized balls.

We have two pastry blenders: one that belongs to my Nonnie and that has nice "blades." However, the red paint is flaking off so it's on the DL. The other pastry blender has wires instead of blades.

Once the butter is cut into the dry ingredients, you make a well and, the cream and eggs are mixed in a liquid measuring cup and poured in- all in one bowl. I actually followed this recipe perfectly, pressed the dough to about 3/4" thick and cut 2 inch rounds.

They didn't look very exciting. I brushed them with heavy cream and sprinkled them with sugar and into the oven they went for 16 minutes...

and they turned out to be MARVELOUS. Look at the beautiful transformation!

The tops were crispy and golden brown while the inside was a tender and slightly crumbly crust- perfect!

And how were they with jam? Today's jam was Blenheim apricot jam from WeLoveJam. WeLoveJam uses no pectin to thicken their jams, so the jam is much thinner. They buy fruit directly from farmers and have green packaging- all recyclable or biodegradable.

And they are passionate about Blenheim apricots. Blenheim apricots bruise easily and aren't available in stores as a result. They were originally used for dried apricots but many of the original orchards have been built on and now they are considered endangered by Slow Food USA. The flavor of a Blenheim is absolutely delicious- how do I know? Because a tree grows at a neighbor's house next to my parents' house and my mom made jam from it! I grew up on this exquisite jam and it is all I have ever known for apricot jam.

So, this is expensive jam but it is really, really good and unless you know my mom and can get some of hers, I recommend trying this. They sell the jam online if you don't live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Verdict on Scone Recipe number 1: Outstanding
Verdict on Jam number 1: Equally outstanding and wonderfully compatible with these scones.

Stayed tuned for two more scone recipes and three more jams!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I (Really) Heart Food T-Shirts

Here's one for the food scientists . . . I found this t-shirt on Jim Dandy's Haberdashery Cafe Press site. If you're not familiar with Cafe Press this site allows you to upload your original designs and produce t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers and more. You can print them for your own enjoyment or set up a shop to sell your designs. Maybe you'll see some Foodspiration logo wear sometime soon?

"Maillard browning" is the result of the Maillard reaction, wouldn't you know? When foods turn brown it is usually via three principle routes: enzymatic browning, caramelization, and Maillard browning. The classic example of enzymatic browning is when a fruit or vegetable is cut or bruised and the enzyme polyphenol oxidase is allowed to mix with the other contents of plant cells and polymerizes phenolic substrates into brownish pigments. In carmelization brown pigments are formed by the breakdown of sugars alone under very high heat--think about when you flame the granulated sugar on top of that creme brulee and the sugar melts and browns. In Maillard browning amino acids (from a protein source) and reducing sugars (many of the sugars we are familiar with like fructose and glucose with the notable exception of sucrose, i.e. table sugar) combine under somewhat elevated temperatures and then form an amazing myraid of the brown colors and flavors that we know and love. For me the elegance of the Maillard reaction (actually many reactions) is how simply it starts and then proceeds through a few key intermediates (Amadori and Schiff) to a lend the delicious complexity of flavor to baked bread, roasted coffee, or grilled beef. Think about how bread, coffee, or beef would taste with out the bake, roast, or grill flavors that emerge when we cook or process those foods.

Celebrate the Maillard browning that is all around us!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I Heart Food T-Shirts

Well, of course this is where sprinkles come from... Ok, I treated myself to this t-shirt on This a great site for unusual t-shirts designed by and voted on by the Threadless community. They have quite a few food-related t-shirts but this is the first one I have purchased. I love it!

Do you have a favorite food t-shirt?

Friday, January 2, 2009

Al's Breakfast, a Minneapolis Classic

Al's Breakfast is a Minneapolis breakfast staple located just off the University of Minnesota campus in the Dinkytown neighborhood. Don't be fooled by the sign in the window as this is the sole branch of the restaurant and here since 1950. My brother and I often make a run to Al's when I am in town and this Christmas holiday trip was no exception. NB: If you are in Minneapolis and want to search out this spot don't just type "Al's" into your GPS as you may be sent to Al's Place, which is NOT where you want to go unless you want to find yourself across the street from one of Minneapolis' downtown strip clubs.

Al's Breakfast has a lot of fans and has even won a James Beard Award for America's Classics in 2004, however, this place is about as down to earth as you can get. One of the Al's endearing features is its cramped space. It has only 14 red vinyl stools positioned along a long counter. Typically, a single line of bodies forms only inches behind the row of seated customers and stretches out the door (and on the weekends down street).

View from near the door: griddle where the pancakes, hash browns, breakfast meats, and poached eggs are made. If Al's has a control center this is the it . . . the counter staff take orders and call them to the principle cook here. The main cook calls any egg dishes back across the restaurant to the second cook in the back of the house.

At Al's the menu is unchanging and the waitstaff is no nonsense. If you use a cell phone you may be yelled at. You will be directed to your seat by your position in line. Even after you have a spot it may not be yours for long as when when additional spaces open up you may be asked to slide down to fit groups of people together. If you are a "single" you may be lucky enough to jump a few people in line in order to keep the seats filled.

Al's decor -- no wasted space with various artifacts and foreign currency affixed on the walls; just below the coffee cups you can see a shelf of small books with names on the front that allow you to pay another way . . . you can buy a tab and it will wait for you behind the counter.

The food is prepared short-order style. Everything on the menu is delicious and you can find whatever you are looking for be it carbs (the pancakes and waffles rock) or be it protein (the various cheesy egg dishes boarder on the sublime). A short stack of "wally blues"--two walnut/blueberry buttermilk pancakes--can certainly satisfy, but I personally favor the blackberry buckwheat pancakes when I am going in that direction. However, my brother and I both went eggs.

Our breakfasts: (up top) the "Spike" with a side of hashbrowns and rye toast, (down below) a three-egg "Jose" with dark toast.

When I'm eating eggs at Al's I favor the "Spike". This dish is a two egg cheddar scramble with generous amounts of garlic and covered in mushrooms. I get liberal with the hot sauce and then don't look back. My brother always orders the "Jose" with a third egg. The Jose has the hash browns built right in as the base for poached eggs, melted cheese, and salsa. While the grill is open for all to view, you may not want to watch how much oil gets poured on the hash browns as I have know this to have been concerning to some.

With our breakfasts decimated, we take a very quick glance at the newspaper.

Al's isn't exactly a place you can hang out after your meal and digest. While the staff will always keep your coffee filled, you'll quickly start to feel the piecing stares of the next customer in the back of your head. Since the hungry mob is literally only a few inches away it is sufficient motivation to move on, belly full, to the rest of your day.

As I said, Al's has many longtime fans and even its own reference on Wikipedia (entry on Al's Breakfast). My close friend and once Dinkytown roommate Vince is another "Al"-ophile. Vince wrote in inaugural issue of his zine Breakfast an article entitled "Getting Jiggy At Al's Breakfast" (does this title date it for you?, i.e. to sometime back in the late '90s). Zines are like amped-up blogs in print . . . small-circulation, non-commercial, creative works. When Vince got Breakfast going, the weblog format really hadn't caught on, but his "zine about your favorite meal" certainly inspired me, especially since I once got to contribute under the pseudonym Dr. Food.

Lovers of Al's Breakfast Unite!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Wishing You A Delicious New Year!

Happy New Year to you!
We are wishing you a glorious new year filled with happiness, love and lots of foodspiration!

We toasted the New Year in with Pomegranate-Lemon Drops concocted by Justin...

and are celebrating today with a lazy day of banana-toasted pecan waffles and bacon. The waffles are the classic Joy of Cooking recipe. We ate the Niman Ranch uncured bacon before we could even take a picture!

We hope you are enjoying the beginning of this wonderful new year!