Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Strawberry Summer Cake

strawberry summer cake lemon smitten kitchen
Strawberry Summer Cake
Inspired by another baker friend, I bookmarked this strawberry cake recipe to try out since strawberries were on sale recently.  I'm usually not a fan of baking cakes, particularly because it's hard to taste test a cake before serving it to others.  Previous times I've shown up somewhere bearing cake with a missing piece, or I just give the disclaimer that I hoped it turned out okay since I didn't get to taste it yet.  I guess a good comfort level among friends doesn't hurt.  Thankfully, everyone liked this cake and agreed that it was a great recipe - flavorful yet not too sweet, with a texture more dense and crumbly than a regular yellow cake.  I added lemon zest to the batter and I think it added a nice touch.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Hawaiian Poke at More California Costcos!

Since my original sighting of Hawaiian ahi tuna poke at a Bay Area Costco last month, many more Costco locations have started selling poke.  Today I even saw it at my local Costco being sold alongside other fresh seafood like shrimp and crabs.  The employee said he wasn't sure how long they'd be there, but that it would make a regular appearance at least a couple times a month.  I'm guessing it'll be there whenever they have the fresh seafood counter.  Is there a set schedule for the seafood counter?  Friends and readers have also spotted poke at their local Costcos, though the exact schedule for the locations listed below is still unconfirmed.

Friends in Orange County have also sighted the poke at the District Costco in Tustin where it is being sold on the weekends.  

See the original list of Bay Area Costco warehouses carrying poke!

Newly spotted locations:
Costco Northeast San Jose (possibly twice a month)
1709 Automation Parkway
San Jose, CA 95131

Costco Danville
3150 Fostoria Way
Danville, CA 94526

Costco Sunnyvale
150 Lawrence Station Rd
Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Costco Mountain View
1000 N Rengstorff Ave
Mountain View, CA 94043

Costco Fremont
43621 Pacific Commons Blvd
Fremont, CA 94538

Costco Tustin (weekends only)
2700 Park Ave
Tustin, CA 92782-2708

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mille Feuille in Paris

As we were nearing our last days in Paris, I started making a list of items I still wanted to eat.  This probably would have been more helpful in the beginning, but with 9 days I thought I'd have plenty of time.  Oh, how naive and wrong I was!

Mille fueille Pain de Sucre Paris France Napoleon dessert
Mille feuille dessert from Pain de Sucre
Near the top of the list was a mille feuille dessert.  Also known as a Napoleon, mille feuille means "1000 leaves" and is typically comprised of three layers of puff pastry filled with two layers of pastry cream.  The patisserie Pain de Sucre was already on my list and I was even more eager to go after I read this post about their mille feuille.  Sadly I didn't have time to try several mille feuille desserts to pick my favorite, so the next best thing was to take the word of someone else who's done all the research!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Dinners in Paris

cheese, baguette, flan, paris, dinner, eric kayser
Dinner Night 1: cheese, baguette, flan
Paris is a city full of decadent food. Restaurants usually have prix fixe menus and meals can easily take up to 2 hours as you enjoy three or four or more courses. Most prix fixe menus are actually a pretty good deal compared to ordering à la carte, but can quickly add up as lunches run from €15 up and dinners average €30 on the low end.  Since we were staying in Paris for 9 nights, we decided to rent an apartment studio with a kitchen so we could eat the majority of our dinners at home.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Award-winning Bakery Du Pain et des Idée

Du Pain et des Idée L'escargot chocolat pistache Paris France
Du Pain et des Idée: L'escargot chocolat pistache
Du Pain et des Idées is touted by many, including David Lebovitz, as one of the best boulangeries in Paris.  Winner of the 2008 Gault Millau award for the best baker in Paris, owner Christophe Vasseur is known for his pain des amis, which are giant, flat, crusty loaves of bread.  The bakery is also known for its innovative and delicious pastries, such as the matcha tea croissant and escargot pastries.  Escargot pastries are named for their spiral shape, not for the presence of any escargot snails.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bordier Butter

French Butter Bordier Smoked Sea Salt
Bordier Butter with smoked salt
I never knew butter could be so rich and flavorful until I had Bordier butter in France.  Sure, butter always makes everything taste better, especially in the form of browned butter or caramel or buttered anything.  Take what you know about butter's flavor and fragrance and elevate it ten levels higher.  That's what Bordier butter is like.  It has an amazing flavor even when cold or at room temperature.  This butter is not a condiment, but the main attraction.  I would eat more bread just so I could eat more butter!

Le Beurre Bordier is made by Monsieur Jean-Yves Bordier in the Normandy region of France.   People say his butter is the best in France and possibly in the whole world. Good butter (and cheese) comes from happy cows, like the ones that feast on French pastures with rich soil. Bordier takes 3 days to slowly make his butter, including a 36-hour maturing process for the cream, hours of churning, and then beating the butter with wooden paddles to relax it into the proper texture. He supplies butter to many of the top restaurants in France, molding them into unique shapes for each restaurant. His butter is also available for purchase in small slabs from several shops around Paris.  A small slab approximately 4"x2.5"x1" costs roughly €2.30, about the price I'd pay in the US for a pound of butter. It's not cheap, but totally worth it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Galettes & Crêpes in Paris

Little Breizh Paris France Sea Chic Galette
Little Breizh: Sea chic galette, butter galette, & side salad
I researched beforehand and knew I wanted to try traditional Breton galettes and crêpes in Paris.  Galettes are made out of buckwheat flour while crêpes are made of white flour .  Galettes, such as this plum one, are also freeform pies that make for an easy, rustic dessert.  The two can be quite different though equally delicious.

Breton galettes, which hone from the Brittany region of France, consist of just buckwheat flour, water, and salt.  The galettes come out browned and crispy with a nutty flavor from the toasted buckwheat flour.  Fillings are simple, often consisting of emmental cheese, ham, and a sunny-side up egg.  I wasn't used to seeing savory crêpes/galettes like these.  The ones in the US are often folded into cones and stuffed with a variety of ingredients and sauces.  I loved the simplicity of these galettes and especially how crispy, buttery, and flavorful they were.