Monday, February 26, 2007

Ici Ice

Finally made it to Ici, a cheerful, stylish ice cream shop on College Avenue in Berkeley where the sugar cones are actually rolled in sugar and a dollop of rich chocolate keeps the ice cream from spilling onto one's clothes. Feeling nourished and healthy after a breakfast of granola, I opted for two scoops to appease my inner five year old. Chocolate peanut butter and orange creamsicle. What I liked was that the ice cream was creamy without being overly heavy. I also sampled the pink peppercorn which was subtle and lovely with the chocolate. I wish I'd had an excuse to try one of their beautiful ice cream bombs or ice cream sandwiches. I'll be back.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Holiday Fun

Someone asked how my family celebrates Chinese New Year. All I could think to say was "we eat."

And eat we did. Eight courses, home cooked on New Year's Eve, each representing something good and tasty. True to my peasant roots, I adored the rice dish and chicken soup, though I did not by any means ignore the crispy pork, black bean clams, salmon, drunken chicken and veggie dishes. And I certainly wasn't too full to partake in the soft serve that appeared for dessert.

And then onto New Year's Day which I may as well re-name "A Day Devoted to Chocolate."

Vosges Black Pearl Exotic Candy Bar
Wow. Though I'd been hearing raves about this bar for months, I was still skeptical based upon the description. Dark chocolate with ginger, wasabi and black sesame. Not exactly traditional chocolate flavors. But the thing is, the chocolate is shiny and dark and has a lovely snappiness to it. And the flavors work together, really, really well. So well, that I almost didn't make it to my next chocolate sample which were truffles from...

Fleur de Cocoa
Pink peppercorn + chocolate ganache = inspired. Not that the others weren't lovely too, but this one was exceptional. And then to a more everyday snack courtesy of...

Trader Joe's Figments
Happily, these aren't figments of my imagination. Rather, they're fig pieces covered in chocolate. Two of my favorite sweets, rolled, if you will, into one. Yum.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Bad Snacking

I am waiting for broken saltines to become a trendy accessory, a "must have" for dark clothing.

Until then, I shall say that I am ahead of my time.

Friday, February 16, 2007

More Pies. And Cake.

Hmmm. I haven't written about an actual meal of late. That could be because I've taken to:

a. subsisting on crackers
b. subsisting on chocolate
c. eating boring, healthy food

As an aside, I don't actually consider healthy food to be boring, but it takes effort to make things interesting, and effort has been at a low ebb of late. Call it winter hibernation. At 70 degrees.

I had an exceptionally fine night on the town last weekend where I tried out not one, but two new places. We had dessert before dinner (I'm beginning to think there's no other way!) at Crixa Cakes.

Not a bite was left by the time dinner rolled around. They sounded light enough. Vanilla chiffon cake with passion fruit curd and blackberry puree. And chocolate souffle cake. Okay, not exactly light, but very tasty.

Next up, Pizzaiolo, a really magnificent pizza place though at times I felt like I was the pizza and the dining room was the oven. Never has it been so tempting to dash outside into the very rainy night. But the pizza won out and I stayed seated. Why so special? A thin crust pizza that's chewy and charred. The crust alone has a lovely bready flavor and amazingly enough, the toppings are equally spectacular. A generous scattering of nettles kept company with thinly sliced onion, pecorino and bursts of chili flakes on one. The other, a hearty butternut squash and gorgonzola combination. I can't decide which I liked better. I'm convinced the only way to find out would be another visit.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Why I Love Valentine's Day

I had chocolate for breakfast today. I followed that up with more chocolate after lunch. And as an afternoon snack. And because everyone else is happily consuming mass quantities chocolate, there's no guilt associated with said snacking.

I also enjoyed that at work there's a wedding chapel located in a little room off the cafeteria.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

10 Weird Things About Me

1. Sometimes I think I'm the last Californian who has been to neither Hawaii nor Vegas.

2. Try as I might and ridiculous as I may sound, "dude" and "yo" are just indispensable parts of my vocabulary.

3. I love substituting Kahlua for vanilla extract.

4. Every time I hear "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music, I wish I knew the lyrics. A dear friend even went so far as to send the lyrics to me and I still cannot keep them in my head despite being able to sing along to the rest of the movie (except "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" which really doesn't count since it's so awful and everyone fast-forwards that bit of the movie anyway). The yodelling is just so intoxicating!

5. The shorter I cut my hair, the more likely it is to get caught in the car door.

6. I've been to the The Birthplace of America - Alexandria, MN. No, I haven't figured out why it's called the Birthplace. Something about runestones?

7. The only thing I have in common with birds is that shiny objects attract my attention.

8. When buying new books I'll actually go through the entire stack looking for that perfect one without bent corners or a smashed spine or a scuff on the cover.

9. I love fresh mint and can't deal with the artificial stuff. Except for toothpaste and gum.

10. I live in California and have a fascination with hats and scarves and winter coats. And I actually wear them when it's cold out. Truly, it gets cold here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

TV Time

Channel surfing one night I happened upon, Dinner: Impossible. The premise - putting Chef (I can't even remember his name) into a ridiculous situation where he must cook a meal for 10 or 200. Imagine cooking an 18th century meal at historic Williamsburg. Using only what you can find on the farm. Using only the cooking implements of the (historic) times! Starting a fire with flint! Yes, it was a sight.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Variations on a Theme

If you chose answer # 2 you're correct. Meals during my recent visit to New York took on a curious pattern where I would have sweets before dinner. Unlike at home, where a sweet might be a cookie or a chocolate, my New York pre-dinner ritual consisted of a sit-down meal of sweets. Where did this wonderful pattern develop? Chikalicious.

Though we had to wait nearly thirty minutes for our table at this tiny dessert bar, the minutes passed quickly as we watched Chika and her assistant assemble the decidedly composed desserts. We ordered the three course prix fixe dessert menu and were first "amused" by a brown sugar panna cotta with cranberry relish that was caramelized, creamy, tangy greatness. I'm not usually a panna cotta aficionado, but this one wowed my taste buds. On the heels of this, a delicate grapefruit brulee featuring grapefruit segments topped by a torched cointreau sabayon (and grapefruit sorbet for good measure). My companion's morsel of bread pudding with clementine sorbet provided a rich contrast to the grapefruit selection. To finish, a plate of petit fours where I was pleasantly surprised to fall in love with a homemade marshmallow coated in toasted coconut. That's not to say the meyer lemon mini tart wasn't great. How I got away with dessert and so little chocolate sort of shocks me. More shocking still, was that Amy and I left our dessert party hungry. Happily, Veselka was mere blocks away and off we went to dinner, where the wait was unusually short and the perogi delicious as always.

The next pair was Lady M and Cafe Sabarsky. On this visit I opted for the banana mille feuille which was as delectable as the other slices at our table - the traditional mille crepes featuring a crunchy caramelized top, the chestnut mille crepes, and the checkerboard cake whose precision we were all loath to destroy with our forks. But we did. Every. Single. Bite. And it was good. We followed teatime with a sumptuous dinner at Cafe Sabarsky. A favorite of M and M, we feasted on goulash and spaetzle and a bean salad that took me by surprise because I was thinking black-eyed and instead got green beans (a definite improvement). And then dessert, because it's not enough to have dessert before dinner. Chocolate overload.

Finally, a true teatime at Payard. Three tiers of bite-sized delights, starting with sandwiches. My favorite was made on pretzel bread. Everything was exquisitely assembled and though the sandwiches were savory, the next two tiers were not. Quite possibly the best madeleine I've ever sampled. Crisp on the outside, cakey within and just a hint of lemon. And then scones that were two bites apiece. Clotted cream and jam just made them better. Until now, the portions were quite reasonable for two people, but we still had over a dozen petit fours remaining. Yes, we ate them all.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Pop Quiz

Chikalicious : Veselka ::

(a) dinner : dessert
(b) sweet : savory
(c) Payard : Morimoto
(d) teatime : dinner
(e) Lady M : Cafe Sabarsky

Choose the best answer:

1. c and e
2. b, c, d, e
3. a, c, d, e
4. b
5. all of the above

Back with the answer tomorrow...