Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Resource List: Where to Go

Resources: Where to Go…

In response to requests I’ve received from some readers, I have put together a short list of culinary resources I’ve found and go back to often. It would take weeks to research all the amazing culinary resources available to us in the U.S. and there is no inference of one being better than the other on my list. There are so many excellent resources that aren’t listed here and there is no intention of slighting them- if I had my way, I would spend my all time going around the country trying them all! This list doesn’t include all the amazing gourmet food stores out there, too many to count!

Enjoy discovering your favorites…

Cooking Classes:
Draegers- San Mateo, CA and multiple locations in the Bay Area. This is an extraordinary gourmet food store, kitchen supply store and cooking school. Draegers attracts big name chefs and the demo classes are great.

Viking Home Chef- Walnut Creek, CA

Ramekins- Sonoma, CA

Cakebread Winery- Napa, CA

California Culinary Academy- San Francisco, CA

New School for Cooking- Culver City, CA. I can’t even begin to tell you how great this place is. Not only are the workshop classes excellent, the recipes are absolutely delicious and consistently deliver.

Sur La Table- National. I took an amazing pasta making class here that changed my life. Basically, play dough for grown ups with the added bonus of being edible and delicious.

Williams Sonoma- National

Cooks of Crocus Hill- St. Paul, MN

The Ritz- National

Border Grill/Ciudad restaurants- Santa Monica & LA, CA

Delius- Long Beach, CA. Gourmet restaurant with an extraordinary chef now offering cooking classes

Prep- Seal Beach, CA. Gourmet kitchen-ware store and excellent cooking classes!

Food Writing:
If you are interested in learning about professional food writing, writing a cook book, self-publishing etc. I encourage you to sign up for a class with Dianne Jacob in the Bay Area.

Whether you want to just put together a little book of your family’s recipes and self-publish or really want to become a professional food writer/author, her writing course is excellent. Dianne addresses methods for sourcing a publisher, how to write a proposal and pitch letter, resources for self-publishing, and the how-to’s of recipe writing, writing articles etc. Dianne’s focus is also on developing your writing skills and we did several writing exercises in class which we then shared with the group.

Dianne demystifies the steps and provides you with the road map you need to start your project. Dianne is a wealth of knowledge and one of those generous people who is willing to share it all with you.

I originally found Dianne Jacob through the Writing Salon in Berkeley, CA. and she also holds classes at Book Passages in Corte Madera. You can check out her web site http://www.diannej.com/ClassesandAppers.shtml for more class info. Dianne is a professional journalist & editor and publishes a quarterly newsletter.

Dianne Jacob books:

Grilled Pizzas & Piadinas by Craig Priebe and Dianne Jacob. Just released in April 2008 with praise from Wolfgang Puck! This is a beautiful book and if you could eat the pages, you would-the pictures & recipes look so good.

Will Write for Food If you would like to learn more about food writing, this is an outstanding book to add to your library.

Kitchen Stores/Professional Cooking Supply Stores:
Paganos- Alameda, CA. This is one of those large, old fashioned hardware stores with the unlikely twist of having a great kitchen-ware department.

Surfas- Culver City, CA. All I have to say is hold me back! I LOVE this place. Across the street from New School for Cooking. If you’re in L.A. and love to cook this should not be missed. Easy to find on Washington at National.

The Village Gourmet- Evergreen, Colorado

The Peppercorn- Boulder, Colorado. Gorgeous, extensive selection of kitchen ware, gourmet candies, beautiful linens, etc.

Chefs Warehouse- South San Francisco, CA

East Bay Restaurant Supply- Oakland, CA

Prep- Seal Beach, CA

Penzeys- Amazing spice store. Minneapolis, Tustin and many other U.S. locations

Williams Sonoma- National

Sur La Table- National

The Japan Woodworker- Alameda, CA. This is a special place and not really a kitchen store but they specialize in high-end Japanese knives, woodworking tools etc.

Forrest Jones- San Francisco, CA. I love this place, wonderful kitchen supplies, gorgeous wicker baskets, picnic baskets, place mats, chef’s knives etc.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Lotta Dough

Who wouldn’t want to win a MILLION DOLLARS?.... That’s what I thought.

I was amazed when I read this article about the Pillsbury Company’s Baking Contest and the lovely woman who won last month. Out of 100 finalists, her peanut butter cookie recipe wowed the judges and she was the happy recipient of the grand prize.

My first reaction when I read this article was, “why on earth have I never done this contest?” And then I remembered, “oh, I don’t like to bake”… well, I would like to rescind that sentiment because for 1 million dollars, I am happy to be a little more flexible about this rule I have made for myself in the cooking department and apply the power of concentration to overcome this personality defect.

(See Link below to Pillsbury’s official website)


Since all of us love to cook or we would not be writing or reading this blog, I think we need to put our great cooking skills to work- wouldn’t you like to win big bucks? I can think of a lot of things I’d do with that money including buy a house with a great kitchen to support my cooking habit, go to Lorenza D’Medici’s cooking school at her palazzo in Tuscany, go on one of those week cooking journeys with Joanne Weir, etc.

It looks like the contest has different categories you can enter under. Since the most recent contest just ended, they don’t have the dates or rules posted yet for the next one. But check it out! Read the rules and start thinking about recipes you’ve created that might be possibilities for next year’s contest. What I love about this contest despite the fact that it involves baking (which is very detail oriented), is that it involves creativity and originality by the cook. Many of you have family recipes passed down through the generations or ones you make all the time that friends and family rave about. Now’s the time to get out the spatula and apron and start practicing!

This sort of event conjures up a feeling of a different era, circa 1960’s or 70’s when you think about a baking contest, doesn’t it? But that fact is, cooking is big business these days and what a great way to promote a brand name and public interest in a product. I’m perfectly okay with that because Pillsbury is not only making cooking fun, but they are also sharing the wealth! For some good cookie dough, they’ll give you a lot of dough.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Location, Location, Location

You read about how location is everything in the restaurant world; it's why some restaurants make it and others close anonymously... We're all pretty savvy about the "good" restaurants in town and are usually on the look out for the next "hot" one! A good location is important because it gets us there, right? Convenient, central or at least in an area that's accessible. But what brings us there, the reason for going, is the food, right?

Usually it's with anticipation that my friends and I will check out a great restaurant. The service, ambiance and (some type of available parking) all contribute to the experience, but at the end of the meal, it's the food right? That is what it's all about. We know that's true because my closest friend Angela and I will still swear by a Gordo's burrito in San Francisco and believe me, there's nothing to speak of in the way of location or ambiance when you're there- you stand in line and place your order for a fantastic burrito. You watch them place the paper thin tortilla in a steam press and then chop up the crispy and delicious carnitas, grilled beef or chicken and put it all together. No fake guacamole, no weird pretend sour cream. Only authentic ingredients with true pico de gallo and pinto or black beans that are firm and hot. We love Gordos. But again, it's all about the food, not the location.

I bring this whole thing up because I just read the most amazing article in a magazine today about a dining experience in the clouds- I know... HUH?? Okay, well, here's what it is. It is a very high end experience in Europe and South Africa 160 feet off the ground offered by a Belgian entrepreneur. You dine suspended at a large table for 22, seat belts on, with a canopy overhead. The article says for $38,000., you and 21 of your closest friends can have this dining experience....there was no mention of what the food is like. I suspect most people that sign up are doing it for the novelty of this unique experience in the sky and of course the view. Is the food incidental? I would hope not, but how hungry are you when you are swaying in the breeze on a platform, seatbelted in place with exposure to the elements? Just my opinion, but I wonder about that! No mention was made about the food actually, just a reference to "ordering in advance".. gee, what a surprise; it's not like a waiter is going to circulate menus and taking your order and then taking it back to the kitchen..or am I missing something? You're already in the sky suspended- it's not like they're going to take the platform up and down a million times to get everyone's different courses and orders.

I think this is a funny concept because this seems like something people would love to do for the novelty of dining in the sky. But what about motion sickness? And birds?? And what happens if you drop a fork?? Who on earth is going to get a little surprise on the ground when that fork lands? What happens when you shake the crumbs off your napkin or spill some water or drop your wine glass? It's seems a little humerous in a cartoon kind of way. And will you're food be hot? That's something most of us expect when we dine out unless I'm just being picky...

But here's an idea. Why not take your portion of the cost ($38K divided by 22= $1,727.) and create an alternative, amazing dining experience. Say you live in Monterey. Why not take a fabulous helecoptor ride to San Francisco, see beautiful landscape and views and maybe you'll even see a whale in the ocean if you're lucky. From there, take a limo to Gary Denko or the French Laundry in Napa and have an incredible and truly unforgettable meal. You should even have enough left over to stay at a great hotel. Sorry to rain on the parade(no pun intended since for those diners in the sky, inclement weather could "dampen" their spirits a little!) I think there are so many contributing factors to great dining, but I say, if you want to go on a ride, go to Euro Disney! Or take a balloon ride!

When comes to finding a great place to dine, my feet are planted firmly on the ground. I'm more interested in the dining experience than the ride that got me there. Location is of course important and how you got there is a contributing element, but in the end, it will always be incidental to the dining experience itself...