Bay Area Steps up to the Plate

The San Francisco Giants are in the World Series for the first time since 2002  and Bay Area foodies are getting into the spirit of the hometown team by devouring variety of Giants-themed delights. Here are some tasty treats from local food establishments:

SusieCakes is making cupcakes that include the Panda, Fear the Beard, and more.

Giants Cupcakes from SusieCakes

Kara’s cupcakes, which appeared on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, also has Giants themed cupcakes.

Famous sourdough bread maker, Boudin, has loaves sporting the Giants logo.

Giants Bread from Boudin

Gott’s Roadside is offering a Go Giants pumpkin milkshake with chocolate drizzle for the remainder of the Series.

4505 meats has a World Series Cooler that contains a beer- and jalapeno-braised brisket, spicy peanut cracker jacks, chicharron bean dip, 4505-made Fritos, “big-ass bag o’ chicharrones,” and pork “butter” rillette, for $55. For an extra $25, you can upgrade to a 4505 Deluxe World Series cooler, which includes all of the above plus half a dozen beer brats (buns and 4505-made condiments included), and as many Gigante Dogs (100 percent beef links with cheddar and jalapenos).

All that’s missing is a Tim Lincecum brownie!

Go Giants. Beat Texas!

Beat Texas Rangers Cupcake from SusieCakes

Decluttering my kitchen

Our place is pretty decent-sized compared to most apartments. Still, my large kitchen has turned into a culinary Jenga puzzle. Everything is looks neat and is very organized (thanks to my slight OCD) but in order to get at anything – a bowl or even a baking pan – you need to move three other things. And of course, everything must be put back EXACTLY the same way or it won’t fit. We are bursting at the seams. Ugh!

Although it’s now officially summer, I decided to finally start my spring cleaning and focus on clearing out my kitchen, which is overrun with small appliances and little-used gadgets.

As a very enthusiastic home cook and someone who loves entertaining, I fell into the trap of thinking that my food would taste better if I had every conceivable gadget under the sun – or at least every one available at Sur Le Table. So, now I am drowning in a sea of salt mills, herb cutters, nut mills, cheese slicers, ice cream scoops, pinch bowls, griddles, baking pans, spatulas, melon ballers, corn on the cob plates and more – so much more. I was a willing victim (ok, that would be an active participant) in the marketing hype and the Food Network notion that I needed all that stuff.

I bought too many of those fancy one-trick-pony items, when a multiuse tool – most often a knife or frying pan – would do. Why did I buy the Griddler, (which is a great product by the way), but I already have two wonderful grill pans and an outdoor grill? Same goes for that expensive and huge toaster oven. I have a toaster and I have an oven. Toaster oven – redundant.

Seems that in the moment, I get caught up and decide that I must have an item – don’t get me started on the ice shaver – and then that product just sits there taking up valuable drawer or cupboard space, mocking me.  In some cases, I have multiple versions of the exact same item. I forgot I had three OXO cheese graters because two were carefully placed in the way back corner of a drawer. That is just lame.

I also have a tendency to buy kitchen stuff for specific occasions. Think turkey lifters. But I’m trying to change that. From now on when I need massive stock pot to cook chili for 50 people once every five years or so, I’ll ask to borrow it from a friend and not buy one. Been there; done that far too many times.

I guess it’s finally sunk in that having more kitchen tools does not make me a better cook. Actually, it’s been just the opposite. It was making me a frustrated cook who can’t access what I need and therefore I didn’t want to cook as much.

Pairing down has made things so much more pleasant in the kitchen. And my decluttering efforts resulted in four very large boxes of stuff from the kitchen including glassware and dishes. So, in the next month we are going to have a big yard sale and kitchen items will make up a lot of what we are selling. If you come by early you just might snag a slightly used Griddler or snow cone maker at a bargain price.

Review – WeOlive Olive Oil Club

Certified California Extra Virgin Olive Oils from WeOlive.comWhen I first heard about a chain of stores that focuses on selling artisan olive oils (along with a few balsamic vinegars and other olive-related products like soaps) I was reminded of those stunts on David Letterman, in the very early years, where Dave would venture into a store that sold only one type of item – stores with names like “Just Stools” or “Only Pillows”. I always got a huge chuckle out of those comedy segments and back then thought it was close to ridiculous to carry just a single type of item. Times have changed.

We Olive is a chain of retail outlets that began in 2003 and has grown to eight stores in California. The company seeks to overcome the idea that premiere olive oils are imported from Spain and Italy and sells only oils made by California producers. The oils are certified Extra Virgin Olive Oils by the California Olive oil Council. I had no idea that there are more than 200 companies making olive oil in the Golden State. Now I’m glad I know.

Going into a retail outlet (the newest opened in San Francisco’s Marina District in November 2009) allows of tasting of hundreds of California-made olive oils with tastes that range from mellow and buttery to robust, which can be peppery or grassy. Like the grapes used in winemaking, there are many different varieties of olives and each produces a very distinct blend of oil.

Visiting a We Olive location ( is an educational experience. It’s about tasting and finding oils that you like. Sometimes you don’t even know what might appeal to you until you try a wide variety of different things. You also quickly find out what you don’t like, which is just as valuable.

We Olive opens you up to that opportunity to try different oils, support local growers and producers and even take some specialty cooking classes. Sign up for their newsletter to get information for events in your area.

Prior to receiving a complimentary sample pack from the company, I thought I just needed three olive oils at the most – one for everyday cooking and salads, etc., a high-grade one to use as finishing oil or for dipping bread; and a flavored oil – like lemon olive oil or garlic olive oil. But gradually I started finding even more ways to incorporate olive oil into my cooking. Because there is an online store, I can also reorder what I like. I will be ordering more of the Mission oil that was sent to me. It was smooth with light fruity taste. I used it for everything from marinating fish to drizzling on bread and even popcorn. Yummy.

And, often when people become enthusiasts or connoisseurs of an item – like coffee, chocolate beer, wine, or cigars – they join a club that delivers new supplies of their passion each month. The We Olive Oil Club delivers bottles a variety of oils to members on a quarterly basis.

My first thought was I just don’t use enough olive oil to warrant receiving a new shipment every three months. But that’s just me. Some folks love the surprise of what will arrive. I’m more of a routine gal and like what I like and will keep using a single brand or product with ferocious loyalty.

As a club member receive 10 percent off all online purchases, as well as those purchases made in participating stores. You can get 20 percent off all items included in your quarterly shipments. There are also coupons and special offers for club members only.

Still, at this stage of my introduction to quality olive oils, it was seemed a bit pricey to join the club. But perhaps, after I learn more by visiting the store in San Francisco, I will appreciate it more.

Funky Food Friday: Can O’ Bacon

Bacon from a can?People know I love bacon and that means that oddball bacon items are often sent to me by friends and even random acquaintances.

Recently I received a Yoders Can of Bacon from my pal (and fellow bacon badass) Wade. Because he purchased this can of bacon from a camping and survival company – Gloria Gaynor’s iconic disco hit “I Will Survive” came to mind and I began singing, “As long I have my can of bacon, I know I’ll be alive.”

But that joy was short-lived. I starred at the can for two days before opening it. Normally, I eagerly rip open any bacon-related item with glee in anticipation of that first bite. But this was different. I wasn’t sure what to expect inside and I was also a little scared.

Curiosity, on my part and that of the sender, got the better of me, but I may have been better off burying this can in the backyard (if I had one) or putting it into my giant earthquake kit. The anticipation of what was inside far exceeded the actual contents.

If you truly love bacon, like I do, this product might not be for you. The quality of the meat isn’t up to the standard that I now have for bacon. It’s hard not to be a bacon snob when you live within walking distance of gourmet treats and creative bacon concoctions like pistachio-bacon ice cream , maple glazed bacon apple donuts and bacon potato chips Plus, when it comes to just straight up bacon strips, I like mine center cut, thick and peppery.

As for the can of bacon, it looks like nearly 3 pounds of raw bacon go into each can and that there ends up being about 9 ounces (or 45 slices of fully cooked and drained bacon). But for me, it had a tinny taste and the fact that it was not hot meant there was also sort of a layer of congealed bacon fat on the meat and the waxed paper sheets rolled up in the can. You can see here how it looks in and out of the can.

There is a chance that had I waited to eat this after a disaster or in a survival emergency, it might have been the tastiest bites I ever devoured. But I can’t really think of any other reason to eat a can of bacon. Even on a camping trip, I’ve usually been able to cook real bacon.

And this stuff is not cheap. I’ve seen it online starting at $11.95 a can, plus the shipping charge. You can get an entire case of this, but unless you are a conspiracy or doomsday theorist that is stocking a bunker, I would only see this as sort of a novelty item.

A Triple Threat to Your Wallet, Your Waistline and Your Idea About Burritos

The Triple Threat Burrito at Papalote San Francisco

The enormous "Triple Threat Burrito" from Papalote

I’m a semi-frequent watcher of Throwdown with Bobby Flay on Food Network.  I like the concept of an Iron Chef challenging and surprising other cooks and chefs to make what they do best, while he does his own interpretation of their specialty. I also like that sometimes Bobby wins and other times he has to concede that these chefs are just top notch at making this one dish. I was really excited to hear that Throwdown was coming to my neighborhood and Bobby would be challenging Papalote, a well-known and one of the beloved Mission district taquerias. The throwdown – burritos.

The Mission District of San Francisco is famous for its Latino culture and food. And Papalote is a favorite with long lines of people waiting at all times of the day and night to eat their great Mexican food. I live about a block from Papalote and I’ve eaten there dozens of times over the years.

However, I had never tried the burrito they would be making for the Throwdown – the Triple Threat Burrito. The Triple Threat is named after legendary Bay Area DJ crew, Triple Threat DJs. It is a massive delight of carne asada, chicken and shrimp, rice, beans and that special (and top-secret Papalote salsa).

Papalote defeated Bobby’s Green burrito, which I totally wished I could have tried. It looked amazing. It had spinach rice, and white beans in a green chile stew and guacamole. I hope Bobby puts in on the menu at one of his places in New York, so I can check it out on my next visit to Manhattan.

The Throwdown aired on February 17 and for days after I was thinking about both of burritos. I’m normally a little burnt out on Mexican food. It happens when you live in a neighborhood with more than 50 taquerias within five blocks of your house. But I was determined to try the Triple Threat.

Earlier this week my husband and I decided we didn’t want to cook and I figured this was my chance to experience the Triple Threat. I went online to get Papalote’s number and order the burritos to be picked up. I ordered two Triple Threats with the addition of sour cream, guacamole and cheese on both. Why not really go for it? When I asked how much, just to make sure we had the cash on hand, I was told by the person taking my order it would be $46. Excuse me! I only ordered two burritos. The person taking my order informed me that it was not a mistake and my total was $46. I quickly changed my order to just one Triple Threat. My husband and I decided to split one since we weren’t about to pay $46 dollars for burritos that we didn’t know if we would love.

By the way, the price for the Triple Threat was not on the online menu and my husband, who picked up the order, confirmed that the price is not posted in the restaurant either. Most of their other burritos cost about between $5 and $10. I had total sticker shock. Now, I have plunked down some serious cash for dinners in the past at nice places, but I am in disbelief at the cost of this burrito. You can get a regular, and very delightful, burrito at any number of authentic taquerias in the neighborhood for around $8 or $9. The Triple Threat is actually $19.99, but making it super (adding guacamole, cheese and sour cream) added another $2 dollars – bringing the total a whopping $23 for a single burrito.

For me, paying that much is akin to being in New York and paying $30 dollars for a room service burger. It’s just against my nature. I might pay $30 (maybe even a little more) for a gourmet burger at renowned chef Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar, but that is only because I’ve eaten several times at his high-end French restaurant , Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and loved it.

So would I order another Triple Threat? Yes, but with the caveat that I split it with someone. It was delicious. I liked the idea of having three kinds of meat. I always have a hard time choosing what to get, so this was a good way to avoid that dilemma and get everything at once. And, it was huge. It could easily feed two people. Although, my husband was eyeing my half and I had to munch quickly to avoid his fork on my plate. However, I think it will be a while before I order another Triple Threat. It’s a little more of a novelty than an everyday (or every week) grab and go burrito.