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Savor(ing) Seattle: Pike Place Market

5 Sep

Space NeedleI’m back from my 6-day trip to Seattle with my mom. It was our first time and honestly we had a romantic vision of the city from watching movies like “Sleepless in Seattle”. (Who doesn’t  love Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as a romantic movie pair?)

Yet though I had this romantic notion, I was also wary of the old rumor that Seattle gets a lot of rain. By the way people talk about it I was expecting Seattle to be raining all the time. In fact, I learned from the captain of the Argos ferry to Blake Island that Seattle doesn’t even rank in the top 10 of the most rainiest cities in the U.S. In reality it ranks 44th!

San Francisco gets roughly 19.7 inches of rain per year with 63 out of 365 days being rainy. Seattle gets 38 inches of rain per year. Unfortunately, Seattle is rather cloudy and drizzles more days of the year: 158 days in a year. I even experienced this little drizzle last Tuesday when for 5 minutes the dew-like raindrops drizzled upon our heads just as we went underground the streets of Seattle. (We were part of Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour.)

But who knew Seattle was drenched ALL the time right? I mean, poor Seattle, it gets such a bad rap.

If you want to know the explanation of the bad rumor, follow this link: The Explanation!

After the Underground Tour, Mom and I went to Pike Place Market for our Savor Seattle food tour. We went to visit 11 different stores/shops/restaurants at the market place, tasted the product they’re most famous about, learned about the history of the market and of the shops, and then received a handy dandy VIP card that gave us 10-15% off of over 25 stores at Pike.

Here are some of the photos of the samples with links to the various places we visited.

1. Daily Dozen Doughnut Company

The doughnuts were made fresh right at the food stall. Plus the doughnuts were delicious and came in a variety! What more could a person ask for?

Daily Dozen Doughnut Company's mini doughnut

A mini cinnamon sugar doughnut. Excuse the fingers....

2. Wild Harvest

Wild Harvest's Huckleberry Cheese Cake

Huckleberry Cheese Cake

I had no idea what huckleberries were but the sign caught my attention. It read: HUCKLEBERRY. Well, I lie. That’s not the whole sign. I think it actually read: HUCKLEBERRY SMOOTHIES but I can be certain because as soon as I saw the word “huckleberry” my mind thought of the book by Mark Twain. Then after my nerdy brain switched into foodie mode, I thought about my Uncle who said he grew up eating huckleberry pies in Idaho.

But I still had that lingering question: What’s a huckleberry?

When I searched the food stall I found pictures of actual huckleberries displayed next to Wild Harvest’s huckleberry jams.  I was surprised to see that they looked just like blueberries, I kid you not.

Then I thought, “Is a huckleberry just a fancy term for a blueberry?”

Before I could ask Caroline or the workers behind the counter what a huckleberry was, we moved on. Later that night I looked up what huckleberries were and found out that they were their own species. However, they are related to blueberries so you can think of them as blueberries’ closest cousins.

3. Market Spice

The Market Spice sells spices like the ones shown in the picture but it also specializes in teas. We tried the fragrant Market Spice tea (yes, that’s what it’s called).

The tea reminded me immediately of cinnamon infused with orange (or is it the other way around?). Caroline said that there were three ingredients. A person offered cinnamon. Correct! Another guessed orange. Correct! But what was the last spice? Cloves!

Market Spice's spices

There were about 20 more shelves segments like these two.

4. Pike Place Fish Market

Flying fish, random yells from fishmongers, and delicious smoked salmon are the three things that come to mind at Pike Place Fish Market. This world famous market, which gave itself this title, is now actually just as well-known as its title suggests.

Pike Place Fish Market store front

It's always crowded here!

I don’t usually like salmon. Salmon burgers? Nope. Salmon jerky? Nope. Salmon sushi? Not a favorite. Salmon puffs? Pass.

Ah, but this place made salmon delicious. While on the tour we were given samples of their original smoked salmon, lemon pepper smoked salmon, and salmon jerky. I didn’t care for the jerky, but the smoked salmon was so tasty.

Original Smoked Salmon

Original Smoked Salmon

It was so tasty that two days later, Mom and I came back to buy a pound each of the original and lemon pepper flavors.

Tour guide Caroline with Fishmonger

Tour guide Caroline with Fishmonger

4. Frank’s Quality Produce

“Quality” is their middle name!

Eggplant

Delicious eggplant

How to Choose Eggplant

How to Choose Eggplant: look for a small 'dot' underneath eggplant. The smaller and more circular the dot is, the more likely the eggplant is male and therefore has less seeds and more flavor. (Male shown on right.)

Fresh Rainier cherries and blueberries

Fresh Rainier cherries and blueberries

Local figs

These local figs were so sweet (literally and figuratively!).

5. Pike Place Chowder

The chowder here is amazing and it better be if it won the Monterey National Clam Chowder three years in a row. My only complaint is that they need better sourdough bread bowls. Seriously, the bread had the look and texture of Wonder Bread. There was a slight sour taste but it didn’t complement the delicious chowder well. I guess I’ve been spoiled by Boudin’s sourdough.

On another note, I suspect that the bread was not great because the starter wasn’t good or perhaps the bread just wasn’t baked properly. If you look on Savor Seattle’s website, the bread bowl has a great looking crust so maybe we just went there on a bad day.

Special of the Clam Chowder of the Day

Special of the Clam Chowder of the Day

But if  great chowder is what you’re looking for, then this place has it! My favorite was the original New England style. My mom’s was the Seafood Bisque chowder. Ironically the large bread bowl shown was of their special clam chowder of the day, which was good but not as good as our favorites. We bought this before the tour – whoops.

Sample Clam Chowders

Sample Clam Chowders: Seafood Bisque (red) and Original (white)

6. Beecher’s Homemade Cheese

The cheese is made on-site even for the public’s viewing. Signs and pictures even describe the cheese making process. Then turn around and the counter to buy the cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, and famous macaroni and cheese is right there. Brilliant store planning.

Cheddar Cheese that tastes like Gruyere

Beecher's cheddar cheese tastes like gruyere. Goes well with the whole-wheat seeded cracker.

As I munched on the cheese, I whispered to my mom, “This tastes like gruyere”, and gruyere is one of favorite cheeses after I first used in my baking two years ago. Carolina the tour guide then announced that the cheese was in fact cheddar but that Beecher’s used gruyere cultures. How a cheese can be one kind of cheese when it uses another cheese culture beats me but I was happy that I was correct. It made me feel I was truly becoming more cultured as a foodie!

Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

The macaroni and cheese was a tad spicy but too cheesy for my taste. How did I ever eat macaroni and cheese when I was younger? I ate the Kraft version at least once a week. I even cooked it myself and for my mom as lunch sometimes. She ate it and even added tuna and chicken sometimes. That’s what I call love. I don’t find Kraft appetizing any more and now real mac-n-cheese is too cheesy. Whatcha gonna do?

7. Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe

Pear Delicatessen & Shoppe sign

The deli man and the woman whose family owns this delicatessen are fondly known as the perfect ‘pear’. (Cue the aw’s!) The deli man’s name is Brian Jones and he worked at many famous restaurants all over the world. He finally settled in Seattle and joined the family business. Together they renamed the deli to its current name to show that it has entered a new stage.

More about the history behind the deli: here.

Not only does this pair have a cute love story, but the pair also serves delicious sandwiches! We all sampled the ham sourdough sandwich with glazed onions and greens. I’m glad to say that this deli had much better sourdough.

Ham Sourdough Sandwich

Ham Sourdough Sandwich

8. Etta’s

Etta's crab cakes

Etta's crab cakes (the mini version)

Writing an introduction for this one is hard. I could talk about the award winning chef Tom Douglas who established this and other popular restaurants  (Dahlia Restaurant, Dahila Bakery, Lola, Serious Pie, Cuoco, etc.) each with their own specialty.

It’s nice to know Etta’s is a Tom Douglas restaurant because then you can assume that the food is good. But if you don’t know who Tom Douglas is, then knowing that this is his restaurant offers no insight into Etta’s.

I could tell you it has a fancy atmosphere and that the prices are steeper than other smaller food stalls at Pike Market. This, however, may just deter you from checking it out though.

But if you’re going to a restaurant then you will want to know one thing: how the food tastes.

And let me tell you, the crab cakes at Etta’s are to die for. I only had a small sample of the crab cakes – a mini crab cake to be honest – but if you are  a fan of crab cakes or wish to convince someone that crab cakes are delicious then go to Etta’s.

I didn’t eat anything else at the restaurant, but if the appetizer is this good then the entrees must be good here. It’s faulty logic that would never make it into math or philosophy books but you’ve got to trust me on this one.

If you’re not willing to gamble and go for a full meal, then go for the crab cakes. My suggestion is to take out the crab cakes and then hang out at this grassy area across the street. You’ll get a nice view of the water and boats on a nice day.

Grassy Field

By the way, if you’re wondering if I recommend this 2 hour, walking tour, I would have to say that since the price isn’t steep ($39 per person), it’s a acquaint little way to be introduced to the market place. It was definitely nice getting the inside scoop from the tour guide. Our tour guide’s name was Caroline so if you can request guides, ask for her. She was friendly, knowledgeable, and the store clerks all liked her. She even memorized all 15 of our names!

Savor Seattle also has other tours: Gourmet Seattle (3 hrs), Chocolate Indulgences (2 hrs), Craving Capitol Hill (2.5 hrs), Gourmet Kayak (3 days), and private events for groups. All tours are also by foot so bring a water bottle. They provide the napkins and food as well as nifty personal radio sets to hear the tour guide wherever you go. And if you ever get lost, look for the pink umbrella as each guide carries one – rain or shine!

Eat to Bites: Cheap Burger Joints and an Authentic Italian Restaurant

2 Jul

I love saying Tom Hank’s character in the movie “The Terminal”. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about this man from a fake country called Krakozhia. He’s stuck at New York’s JFK airport because he can’t enter the United States because the US doesn’t recognize Krakozhia as a sovereign nation amid a revolution that broke out just as Hanks landed in JFK. At the same time, he can’t go back because there are no flights going there so he ends up staying at the airport for many years. This is based on the true story of  Mehran Karimi Nasseri who stayed for 18 years in one of the airports in Paris, France.

Anyway, that’s where my post title comes from because in the movie Hanks has a hard time saying “Want to get a bite to eat?” when asking Catherine Zita Jones’ character out for dinner. Instead, Hanks says “Want to get an eat to bite?”.

Sandwiches

1. Red’s Java House

Pier 30
Bryant & Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94107

This place is located right near the the Bay Bridge that links Oakland and San Francisco, but is ultimately located in San Francisco. Don’t worry about street noise pollution though because you can’t hear the cars whizzing by at all nor will your views of the bay be obstructed by anything.

Eggs and Chili Rancheros

Eggs and Chili Rancheros - $6.95

When I visited Red’s about two weeks ago, I was somewhat surprised that only two types of coffee are served so if you’re looking for a wide selection of coffee, don’t come here.

Hamburger on Sourdough

Hamburger on Sourdough; came with pickles, mustard, onions (no lettuce or tomatoes) - $3.42

On the other hand, if you like a place full of history – there are perhaps 50+ historic photos hung all around the inside walls – and cheap breakfast – San Francisco style – then come here. The atmosphere if anything will make up for any of the cons that you may find.

Interior of Red's Javahouse

Interior of Red's Javahouse

2. Buffalo’s Burgers Restaurant

5317 Geary Blvd
(between 17th Ave & 18th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94121

Chicken Supreme Burger

Chicken Supreme Burger - $5.95 (I think)

Now since I live in this neighborhood, I’ve often seen this little restaurant when walking by on my way to the produce market. I never really stopped in there but I expressed my curiosity about going in to my mom several times.

One night when we were with a family friend and were at a lost of where to go, she suggested the place. I wasn’t sure if I was in the mood for burgers, but I was willing to go anyway. Eating at a new place is always exciting.

Mixed Vegetable Terriyaki Bowl

Mixed Vegetable Terriyaki "Bowl" - $6.95 (I think)

Little did I know that I didn’t have to be worried about the lack of choices. Of course this is a burger place, but Buffalo’s offered chicken breast sandwiches/burgers, fish-n-chips, chili, buffalo shrimps (delicious!), and terriyaki chicken and veggie bowls. Oh, and there’s salads too.

Best of all, everything is cheap. Cheap,cheap,cheap!

It’s such a deal, seriously. The staff are friendly, the food is good, and the cost won’t make a dent into your wallet. I suppose the only thing that may be overpriced is their buffalo shrimps since it’s 1/2 lb for $6.95, but they’re still delicious.

Buffalo Shrimps with Fries
1/2 lb Buffalo Shrimps with Homemade Fries – $6.95 Buffalo’s also has a great tangy buffalo sauce. They sell it in containers just by itself.

Italian Cuisine

1. Mescolanza Restaurant

2221 Clement Street
San Francisco, CA 94121
Tel.(415)668-2221

I saw this restaurant featured on Check Please! last year I think. Like with Buffalo’s Restaurant, I never got around to actually going there until last week.

Polenta al Funghi

"Polenta al Funghi":roasted polenta with assorted seasonal mushrooms - 8.75

And let me just say, if you like thin crust pizza you must go here. And if you like vegetable pizza then you must try the Eggplant pizza called “Pizzetta Melanzane”. Pizzas only come in one size (8 slices). If you’re hungry, then you can finish it as a single diner. Also, the pizza is decently priced.

"Pizzetta Melanzane" (mozzarella, grilled eggplant, pesto, tomato sauce)

"Pizzetta Melanzane": mozzarella, grilled eggplant, pesto, tomato sauce - $13.95

The crust is cracker thin, the cheese on the Melanzane is not too overpowering, and the spices are tastefully used. (There aren’t too many.) I also suggest trying the desserts because they are divine!

"Pizzetta Mescolanza" (mozzarella, gorgonzola, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, tomato sauce)

"Pizzetta Mescolanza": mozzarella, gorgonzola, prosciutto, artichoke hearts, tomato sauce - $13.95

My mom and I told the waiter it was our first time there so he was very helpful. When I asked him if he preferred the tiramisu or “Cioccolata Con Amaretti” (chocolate flan with amaretto and crushed amaretti cookie), he told me the Cioccolata. No problem so that’s what I ordered.  My mom ordered the “Frutti de Bosco” (mixed European berries on cream in a shortbread crust).

"Frutti di Bosco" (a medley of European wild berries floating on a cream filling in an all butter shortbread crust)

"Frutti di Bosco": a medley of European wild berries floating on a cream filling in an all butter shortbread crust - $7.95

"Cioccolata Con Amaretti" : chocolate flan with amaretto and crushed amaretti cookie

"Cioccolata Con Amaretti" :chocolate flan with amaretto and crushed amaretti cookie - $7.95

When the desserts came out, he had three plates.

“This is the Tiramisu. It’s on the house,” he explain.

"Tiramisu": espresso, Marsala soaked lady fingers layered with mascarpone,  chocolate and Italian cream 	 - $7.95

"Tiramisu": espresso, Marsala soaked lady fingers layered with mascarpone, chocolate and Italian cream - $7.95

My take on the desserts? The tiramisu and chocolate flan are delicious! Get these. The tart was okay but the berries were kind of tart. Nice crust though.

Also, you should dress a little nice. Otherwise if you wear jeans (like we did) you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. However, if you don’t mind then you won’t be scoffed at by the patrons or staff. The staff were incredibly nice!

More thoughts…

So with all the restaurants that I review, I’m thinking about creating another tab next to ‘On the Shelf’. What do you think? Would this be easier to find my previous reviews?

Back from a Road Trip

30 May

Just came back from LA. Took a road trip with my mom and family friend Eric. I was supposed to help drive, but Enterprise car rental won’t allow drivers under 21 to drive on long distances.

La Brea Farmer’s Market

Since we arrived at our hotel in Fullerton late Wednesday, we basically relaxed in the hotel until the next morning. On Thursday, we braved the crazy freeways to get to La Brea. Our original plan was to see the La Brea tar pits but we accidentally got distracted at The Grove mall and Farmer’s Market.

I was amazed by everything there. I loved the little food stands everywhere and how tucked away everything felt.

Nuts, nuts, and more nuts!

Confetti Popcorn

Confetti popcorn, anyone? Besides this kind, there were at least 5 other varieties.

The French Crepe Company

The French Crepe Company's cute painting. Lately I've been hearing a lot about the historic World Fairs.

Japanese Teapots

Japanese Teapots. Did you know there are only 3 Japan Town's in the whole United States? There's one in San Francisco, another in San Jose, and a third in downtown Los Angeles.

Cute sign

Because we live on one big green planet!

Jams

Would you like jam?

Ordering ice cream

Ice cream stand. Too many choices to choose from!

Vanilla-Chocolate Swirl Ice Cream

Perfect for a warm summer day.

Cajun Menu

Never did get to try that gumbo...

Veggie Chips

Veggie Chips. What doesn't this company make?

Candle Cupcakes

A store even had candle cupcakes.

Fresh Pasta

Fresh Pasta

Veggie Market

We got fresh strawberries, cantalope, plums, and bananas. I bet this market would have even more for better prices during the summer.

Strawberries

We ended up mixing this with the ice cream. A delicious combination!

 From Restaurants: Foxy’s and California Ramen

Fish Taco

Fish Taco from Foxy's Restaurant in Burbank

Fresh dinner rolls with sea salt

Fresh dinner rolls with sea salt. The inside of the dinner roll is made up of strips of bread.

Ramen with grilled chicken and fresh veggies

Ramen with grilled chicken and fresh veggies. The cauliflower were purple and orange, but the waiter assured us they were natural.

Made by Family

Chocolate Loaf Cake

My Aunt Pat made this for me to celebrate my graduation. It's chocolate-y but not dense or fudgy. It has a light crumb and moist texture. The key ingredients: pudding and Bailey's and Vodka. :)

Overall, the trip went well – especially the part beyond the realm of food. :)

Lovin’ Mornings

13 Nov

I can’t even remember what I wrote in my last post … That’s a bad thing, I know. But I’ve got more updates on what I’ve been doing and baking lately!

 

One thing I have learned is that non-expired yeast is ALWAYS better than expire yeast even if the expire yeast has just been expire for 2 weeks. Ick. Not only was this bread made out of expire yeast,  but I didn’t have enough flour so there went my idea for a simple white bread. To come out with 4 cups of flour, I used 2 cups of unbleached flour and 2 cups of oat bran flour. While reading the BreadMan instructions, I noticed that it said oat bran was used to “enhance the texture of the bread” and it made no mention of it being the main source of flour. But oh well, I was craving bread and since I was too lazy to buy any proper ingredients and hand-knead the dough, all the mixed-matched ingredients went into the BreadMan’s bucket and the BreadMan did the rest of the work.

Homemade Oat Bran BreadI don’t think that I hated the bread. It did have an awkward sour-ish taste – was it the yeast or oat bran? But the end result was edible and when toasted with butter was delicious. But let’s just say that I’m glad to have store-bought artisan bread again. :)

So today I went back to St. Anne’s to help out – okay, now I remember what I wrote about last time ^^ – and anyway, after I chopped the carrots, peeled the potatoes, diced the apples, and sprinkled lemon juice over the apples, I was able to make Mexican Wedding Cookies! I’ve never made these before so I don’t know if they turned out the way that they were supposed to, but I’m kind of proud of them! Check ’em out:

Raw Mexican CookiesMexican Cookies FinishedWhat do you think? Did they turn out well for a first-timer’s Mexican Cookies?

Anyway, I just love the weekends. It’s always great to relax and do whatever I like during the mornings. Have I mentioned that I really really enjoy mornings?

Cran Apple MuffinCoffee and Mixed Berry Muffin

Shoulda Had an Inkling…

13 Oct

When my mom picked me up from school today and she handed me the box of candy, I should have known what was up.

The sweet smile and the bag of peaches should have been the second clue.

The third bag with Asian characters on it should have been the third clue.

 

Unknown to me, dinner was going to be really unique. It had definitely stained my memory.

 

This is the first time anything so raw, so squishy, and so natural has appeared on Notebookworthy. Take a good long look at it because I think this may be the only post about these little guys. They’re just so unappetizing to look at! Geez – they have a giant eye!

But if you’re wondering what exactly my mom did with them and how it turned out, I have got to say that when she cooked it, the squid turned into familiar calamari bits. I didn’t see any more eyes.

She sauteed it with vegetables so the dinner wasn’t completely unappetizing. I can’t say it was my favorite meal nor would I want it again any time soon, but it really wasn’t that bad. It sure was inky though!

But I will continue to eat squid just as grilled Ika (Japanese for “squid”) at sushi restaurants and deep-fried calamari at The Bitter End, an Irish pub on Clement Street. I swear that The Bitter End has THE BEST calamari and dip. Better than any calamari I’ve ever tasted.

In the Kitchen with Sarah Lodick (Sur La Table)

9 Aug

When I got back from UC Davis, I did not have much planned except for doing homework. How lame, I know.

So by Tuesday night, I had pretty much finished my summer reading assignment to read and respond to online questions regarding the chapter themes of “The Axemaker’s Gift” by Burke and Orstein. Don’t misjudge the book by my unenthusiastic attitude though. It’s a rather interesting take on how technology has changed man’s perspective of the world and how man can get back in touch with his more natural roots. If you’re looking for a serious read, this is a good choice.

Luckily, my mom already had things planned for me for the rest of the week. She had apparently called the Sur La Table in San Francisco Union Square to see if there was still room in the Teen Baking Camp; and luckily for me, there was not only room available but Chef Sarah Lodick was still willing to let me join the class for the rest of the week! Sarah had remembered me from last year and knew that I was not a troublemaker and readily let me join.Sur La Table Kitchen

Monday was apparently “Breakfast Creations” and Tuesday had been “Shortcakes, Cobblers, and Crisps”, but I don’t mind having missed these classes because Sarah gave me the recipes for the savory scones, nectarine and blueberry crisp, cherry almond crisp, (and more!).

Wednesday, “Pies and Tarts”

When I came in on Wednesday, the theme was “Pies and Tarts” so we – the 12 teens – made a banana cream pie with a Nutella Crust (delicious!), an all american apple pie, a chocolate pecan pie, and a lemon tart.

Chef Sarah putting the final "burn" on the lemon tart

Chef Sarah putting the final "burn" on the lemon tart

Lemon Tart

Lemon Tart - my student partner and I actually made this!

The Apple Pie

The Apple Pie - check out the cute apple cut-outs!

The Chocolate Pecan Pie

The Chocolate Pecan Pie - filled with toasted, nutty pecans and chocolate chunks

Even though the class was nice to take because we got to eat whatever we made, I think what I enjoyed the most was the quick baking lessons Sarah taught us.

On Wednesday, Sarah clarified the single difference between a pie and a tart, which is that a pie is meant to be served in the decorative pie ceramic/tin while a tart is meant to be served on a plate to show its decorative crust.

The second lesson of the day was between the different kinds of salts used in cooking and baking. The first shown to us was Kosher salt, which is what is primarily used in cooking because it does not have a very salty taste. This is why in cooking shows you’ll see the chef put in what seems to be a large amount of salt. Because Kosher salt is not as salty, the chef can put more of it in the dish.

The second salt was sea salt because it was going to be used in a chocolate chip cookie recipe the next day. This salt is often used in baking rather than cooking. The third salt was Morton’s iodized table salt – the salt that is in the salt shaker at a table. This is the saltiest of all the salts so it is only used in small amounts. Sarah then showed us flavored salts, flaky salts, and a block of pink salt. Who knew that there were so many kinds of salts?

Amazingly enough, when I went to check out the open house of the Art Institute in San Francisco, the chef had prepared a similar salt tasting.

Thursday, “Chocolate Overload”

On Thursday, the theme of the camp was “Chocolate Overload”. Simply by reading the name, I should have known what kind of overload I would be in for. But no, I barely considered what kind of overload would be presented to me when I arrived.

The recipes for the day included: Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt, Mini Chocolate Bundt Cakes with Ganache Glaze,  Chocolate Profiteroles with Vanilla Ice Cream, Chocolate Hazelnut Bread Pudding, and Chocolate Soufflés. That’s what I call an overload of chocolate.

Chocolate Souffles

Chocolate Souffles and Chocolate Chip Cookies (in background)

Chocolate Profiterolesand Chocolate Bundt Cake Slices

Chocolate Profiteroles and Chocolate Bundt Cake Slices - it's like a work of art with the light reflecting off the chocolate sauce!

Before any of the desserts were made, Sarah treated us to a mini chocolate tasting. Using E. Guittard chocolate, she gave each of us semi-sweet, bittersweet, milk chocolate, and white chocolate pieces. She explained the difference between all these kinds of chocolate, which is the ratio of  chocolate liquor to to cocoa butter. Best of all, she explained the whole chocolate process. I’ll repeat it here in case you don’t know how chocolate is made. :)

  1. The cocoa beans are taken from the cocoa plant pod and roasted in a large oven after being sorted out for quality. The roasting dries the bean to bring out the aroma and flavors.
  2. The cocoa beans are then cracked and the inside of the beans are broken into bits called cocoa nibs. These nibs taste just like chocolate except they’re extremely bitter. However, they are sometimes used to decorate the sides of a cake.
  3. The cocoa nibs are crushed and thickened into a paste called chocolate liquor – it has no alcohol! The cocoa nibs can also be made into cocoa liquor through a hydraulic machine that will separate the cocoa from the cocoa butter.
  4. The chocolate liquor is then mixed with different amounts of  cocoa butter according to the manufacture’s taste. Milk, vanilla, and sugar are added as well. To make white chocolate, one must only add these ingredients to the cocoa butter – leave out the chocolate and cocoa liquor.
  5. Finally, through a refining and tempering process, the chocolate is made to have the texture of the chocolate bars we know today.

And there you go! The chocolate process.

For more information on the chocolate making process, check out: How Chocolate Is Made

The last lesson in chocolate Sarah taught us was the difference between Dutch-processed cocoa and unprocessed cocoa, which is that Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with alkali to neutralize the chocolate’s acids. Again, I was happy to know that I was doing more than just baking with Sarah at Sur La Table; I was learning too!

Chocolate Tasting

Chocolate Tasting - the small little jars are chocolate at its different phases; the larger boxes are the types of finished chocolate.

Friday, “Cupcake Madness”

When I realized that Friday was “cupcake madness” I was not looking forward to it initially. I have had so many bad attempts at making cupcakes and then frosting them at home that I was not particularly excited about Friday’s class. Not even the recipes for the day really intrigued me except for the coconut raspberry cupcakes. The rest seemed medicore at best.

Oh, but boy was I wrong. (See, this is why I try to keep an open mind because the rare times that I don’t, I am always pleasantly surprised!)

Because of the small size of the class, I only worked with one other student and we got to bake TWO recipes instead of just one! My partner and I baked up the coconut raspberry cupcakes and the brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting. The rest of the groups made the red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting (my second choice), caramel cupcakes with caramelized frosting,  and black and white cupcakes.

Cupcake Madness

Cupcake Madness - the big front three are caramel cupcakes; the front small minis are the brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting; the back are the coconut raspberry mini cupcakes, red velvet, and black and white cupcakes. These lasted my family and I a good three days to finish. My dad agreed on the superb taste. :)

I have to say that one of my favorites (with no bias!) was the coconut raspberry cupcakes because they had a distinct texture and taste. I had never tasted anything like it before so the mingling of raspberry and coconut was new to me. The caramel cupcakes were pretty good. I’m not much of a caramel fan so this could be why I didn’t find it that great. But it did taste like caramel and the frosting paired well with the cake part.

The brownie cupcakes with peanut butter frosting seemed to be an odd pair. I remember reading the recipe and thinking, “Really?”, but the peanut butter actually complemented the brownie. This combination worked well texture-ly because the peanut butter and brownie are both dense.

Another good reliable cupcake was the black and white  variety. I did not help make these cupcakes so I didn’t know what it would taste like but when I tasted it, I was very pleased. The white and black frosting on the top had a distinct sweetness like I had expected, but the cake itself was lemon so it cut through the sweetness and balanced it out. I’m not sure if you’re a lemon cake fan, but this was good. As of recently, I’ve begun to enjoy the taste of a lemon cake. Not of the lemon tart though because the liquidy lemon-ness of the tart was too much for me. But a lemon cake is beautiful.

Of the cupcakes, I did have a “first”.

Before Friday, I had never tried a red velvet cupcake. I know that sounds strange for a baker, but I’ve never actually tried one. The only red velvet cupcakes I had seen before were in Starbucks, but I never thought of buying on there because I didn’t want my first red velvet cupcake to be from Starbucks of all places (no offense to Starbuck fans).

The special ingredient of red velvet, as Sarah explained, is the addition of cocoa in it so basically a red velvet cupcake has  a hint of chocolate flavor in it but it colored red. Apparently, the new fad is blue velvet cupcakes, according to Sarah, but I have yet to see a blue version of this cupcake.

Trying the red velvet cupcake was an experience for me. I took a bite not knowing what to expect, but it was good. The subtle cocoa flavor does the trick with this cake. I can now say that I am a fan of red velvet cake. And this was my favorite of all the cupcakes. :)

Another small tip for making frosting and cupcakes different colors, use gel food coloring! It helps keep the shape of the batter.

So that has been my baking adventures so far. It had only been four days since I got back from Davis and I was already in the kitchen. In fact, the night I got home, I made a pound cake but it was from a box so that doesn’t really count. It’s nice to be back home, but I’m still missing my YSP friends.

"YSP" in frosting

I got a bit distracted and wrote "YSP" in frosting during the time we were waiting for the cupcakes to bake.

If you are interested in the recipes of any of the foods I mentioned above, send me an email/comment and I’ll be happy to send you the recipe. :)

‘Til next time ~

My Time at Davis

1 Aug

Well, the trip is officially over. I am back from Davis and this time to stay. (I came back for the July 4th weekend and last weekend as one of the YSP fieldtrips).

Looking back I have to say that I had a good time. Originally, I was nervous and very unprepared for the unexpected. I was almost ready to call the director and tell him that I had changed my mind, especially since I felt that I was going to miss out on baking internships/jobs/classes. But you know what? I’m glad I went to Davis. There are no regrets.

The research part of the program was especially interesting. I was able to work with tomato seeds all the way from the beginning. I chose the little seeds from the tomato library in the Plant Science building with my lab partner, Jina. We counted ten seeds per tomato introgression line (IL). And for those who don’t know what an IL is – and don’t feel bad because I didn’t know what it was until I got to Davis – is a domestic tomato genome that contains a small, known genetic region from the wild tomato (S. pennilli).
The project was to germinate the IL seeds to see what the wild tomato region in the domestic tomato genome produced. Previously, the lab had already categorized the traits that belonged to the domestic tomato and the wild tomatoes so they could compare the IL’s physical traits to the known traits. If the IL exhibited a trait that belonged to the wild tomato, then the IL was said to contain a quantitative trait loci (QTL), which contains that gene responsible for the physical trait. It’s kind of confusing, I know, but if you’re truly interested in more of the research just comment and I’ll go into depth further.

Once I had the seeds, I put them into sterilized plates that contained a nutrient-rich agar media so we didn’t have to open the plates and risk contamination. I kept the seeds in there until seven days after germination and scanned the plates daily.

Basically the results of the experiment was that certain IL seeds did contain QTL responsible for a specific trait. In the future, the lab will work on genetically identifying the genes within the QTL to establish a gene-to-gene relationship network within the wild tomato. This network will detail how genes interact with other genes, and and how transciption factors and promoters affect gene expression (phenotypes).

Wild vs. Domestic Tomato

A- Wild tomato(left) and domestic tomato(right) B-domestic tomato; contains three cortex layers and linear xylem cell structure in middle C-wild tomato; contains two cortex layers and clumped xylem cell structure

IL seeds on microscope slides

IL seeds on microscope slides. The seeds were made transparent using chloralhydrate so I could count the number of lateral roots (emerged and initiated).

Analyzing lateral roots

Analyzing the IL roots for lateral roots (emerged and initiated).

Planting the IL Seeds

Transfering two IL seeds from the sterilized plates to plastic containers

IL seeds planted

IL seeds planted. Containers are placed in a special plant chamber that provides 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness.

The whole IL family

The whole IL family in the plant chamber.

So these are the photos that I am allowed to put up. It kind of gives you a glimpse of what I’ve been doing these past few weeks. It was very nice to work in a lab especially with this project because it was brand new. The lab researchers were literally just starting the project when I got there so these are the first big batch of ILs (36 ILs out of 72 ILs). I set up the experiment, gathered the data, analyzed the data, and then presented the data and conclusions at my program’s symposium on July 30th.

As far as the presentation goes, I was really stressing out for it. Maybe I wasn’t “stressing” per say, but I was panicking on the inside. I made sure my powerpoint was decent enough and then wrote out my transitions from slide to slide because otherwise everything just seemed awfully incoherent. Because of the number of times I practiced, I actually ended up memorizing my slides and what was on it. I didn’t memorize word for word and I didn’t write everything that I was going to say on the slides so the presentation actually turned  out alright.

My presentation was after lunch so I told myself that I shouldn’t eat too much before it because I knew that when I started getting nervous, I’d get the butterflies in mystomach, and when my stomach is full, I’d get a stomach ache. But, I ate anyway. A lot. Like a lot more than I usually do because it was the last time I’d be in the Dining Commons for lunch. I ended having to wait for my mom and family friend  (Eric) at the dorms because they didn’t know how to get to the lecture hall. This kind of made me more nervous. And then once we got to the hall, we had to wait outside for the presentation inside to finish. Once inside, I sat down near the back but I moved forward because I was up after the guy that was speaking. But then, my researcher (Mily) comes and takes me out of the hall to tell me that my data was somewhat inconclusive for the lateral root counts and that I’d have to mention that in my presentation. I basically nodded my head and said that was fine and went back in. Three minutes later, it was my turn.

I got up out of my seat with an already flushed face from the heat, running around, and nervousness. I thought about my best friend and how she always smiles during class presentations and I figured I’d be okay. Once in front of everyone, I just opened my powerpoint and then looked at everyone. There must have been at least 50 people (39 of which were the YSP scholars like myself). I kinda smiled and told myself, “This is it. Showtime”.

Once I saw my slide and started my introduction, the words just flowed. I glanced at my slides when I needed to and when I was changing topics. I was dreadfully nervous up there though because the seats are ascending so the people in the back are not only far away but really tall. I tried to do hand motions but that kind of failed so I just kept still most of the time, and it turned out okay.

After each presentation, there are about five minutes for questions so when I ended, I waited for questions. Surprisingly, I understood the questions so I could answer them. I felt really accomplished after the presentation because I’m not much of a public speaker. I have a soft-spoken voice – so I’m told – and big crowds can just be a little intimidating. But it worked out, so I’m glad. Best of all, my mom was extremely proud of me. My whole research team and friends even greeted afterwards. Pictures were taken to capture the happy (relieved) faces of all of us who were done presenting.

With friends after my presentation

Hanging with my friends after my presentation. Check out all our spiffy outfits!

I also wrote a paper on my research, but I might submit it to a scientific journal so I can’t reveal anything on it really. All I can say is that it had to look like a published scientific journal and mine came real close. I had the all the parts (abstract, introduction, materials and methods, discussion, etc) and the right format (two columns with headers and footers). It looks really nice, “looks” being the keyword. :)

But enough of the research, the friends I made in the program are hopefully friends for life. I know that I’d love to keep in touch with them if they’d be willing to too. After all, friendship is a two-way street. Now, I’ll be posting up some photos of our fieldtrips, adventures around town or in our dorm, and anything food related.

Plant Life Science Building Potluck

Theme: Food Inspired by Scientists and Their Discoveries

Theme: Food Inspired by Scientists and Their Discoveries

Photosynthesis Salad

Photosynthesis Salad

Indian Rice

Corn Bread

Corn Bread

Allie and Da Hae preparing the pasta

Researchers Allie and Da Hae preparing the pasta

"Mold" Jello
“Mold” Jello. It’s supposed to be how we spread yeast over plastic plates/slides.

Berry Tartletts

Berry Tartlets

My plate of food

My plate of food :)

Making Brownies in My Dorm (Rm. 312)

The set-up and ingredients

The set-up and ingredients

Mixing, mixing, mixing

Mixing, mixing, mixing

Brownies in the oven

Brownies in the oven

Brownies all done

Absolutely perfect for dorm brownies :)

Tahoe Fieldtrip

Tahoe Research Center

Tahoe Research Center

In the Tahoe Researh Center

In the Tahoe Researh Center

Ice Cream Shop at Tahoe

Ice Cream Shop at Tahoe; friends Jina and Ben are shown walking :)

Making wishes at a wishing well

Making wishes at a wishing well

Wish Description

Wish Description

Tahoe Beach

Choosing a spot at the Tahoe Beach

Tahoe Beach 2

Group Photo

YSP Group Photo ... missing a couple of people

Group Photo - full

All of us :)

Professor’s BBQ

The infamous peahen

The infamous peahen that woke up us all up at 5 am.

Jina (lab partner) and Coline (best roomie ever)

Jina (lab partner) and Coline (best roomie ever)

My plate

My plate: portebello burger, chicken alfredo, salad, fruit salad, etc

Professor's tomatoes

Professor's tomatoes in her backyard

Trip to San Francisco & Alcatraz

Ferry ride

Ferry ride

The Alzatraz Tour

The Alzatraz Tour - had to wear funky headphones

Boudin for lunch

Boudin for lunch - the breadbowls were so good! And the tomato soup was actually a good match for the sourdough too.

At Fort Point under the Golden Gate  Bridge

At Fort Point under the Golden Gate Bridge - it was so windy and cold. Don't we just all look wind whipped-lashed?

Move-Out Day

Saying the last goodbyes

Saying the last goodbyes with friends (Ben, Jina and Daniel)

With all these photos, I’m sure you’ve gotten a pretty good view of my time in Davis. There were definitely some crazy moments of pure randomness – my roommate Coline can vouch for that – as well as times of pure scholarly chaos with turning in journals to counselors, writing research papers, and making it to rooms before room curfew. :) But these moments are probably what made my time at Davis the best. And these moments couldn’t have existed without the people there. For sure I’ll never forget anyone from that program let alone the people I spent a lot of time with. Like I mentioned before, the friends I made are friends for life.

Here’s a video my friend Ben made.

YSP 2010 from Ben Yang on Vimeo.