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Skippin’ to the End: The Final Gingerbread Project

29 Jan

So the bake sale for the teachers worked out quite well! I made chocolate biscotti and almond biscotti about 10 inches long and sold them for a dollar each earning me (ahem, the San Francisco Food Bank) a total of $25. They were all gone in three days. :)

For the student bake sale, I made a bunch of muffins – orange cranberry, lemon blueberry, and banana. Luckily, my friends Tina and Michelle made pumpkin muffins, banana bread (the banana muffins I made were such a hit, people kept on asking for more!), and miniature peacan chocolate chip cookies. I even sold bagels with cream cheese and bacon one morning. Let me just say that my friends and classmates were quite happy every morning this week. I can’t count how many times they asked if I had something to sell.

All in all, I ended up earning $75 for the San Francisco Food Bank! This is quite amazing since everything I sold was $.50 or$1 at the most. And that completed my bake sale. I enjoyed selling my baked goods to everyone at school. Amazingly enough, I’ve developed a reputation among my classmates and teachers for being a baker. And you know what, it’s a reputation that I don’t mind. :)

Anyway, so today I formally presented my gingerbread project and titled it, “710-720 Steiner Street: The Painted Ladies”. My classmates and fellow scholars were surprised at the size of the gingerbread. I’m not sure what they were expecting, but you can judge for yourself.

The Painted Ladies

Also, what do you think of the resemblance? Does it look like the Painted Ladies? By the way, I know that there are six, but I only had time to the first four (710-716).

The Painted Ladies - Original


To liven up my presentation, I decided to test the other students to see if they were listening to me. I had just been talking about the science of baking and what the different ingredients (like flour, sugar, eggs, and baking soda) do to the dough. After this slide, I took out little bags with four different kinds of gingerbread cookies from Betty Crocker’s gingerbread cookie mix. (I know what you’re thinking: a mix? My excuse: It was 10pm last night and I still had to finish my powerpoint so I stuck with the mix. I’m not proud, but it worked.)

I asked all the students to taste the cookies and try to tell which cookie was the original, the one with 1/4 cup more flour, 4 tsp more oil, and 4 tsp more baking soda/powder. Here are all the pictures of the cookies. Can you guess which  ones were which?


Mystery Cookie #1

Mystery Cookie #1

Mystery Cookie #2

Mystery Cookie #2


Mystery Cookie #3

Mystery Cookie #3

Mystery Cookie #4

Mystery Cookie #4


Okay, so the answer to the cookies are…

Mystery Cookie #1: Extra 1/4 cup more flour

Mystery Cookie #2: Extra 4 tsp baking soda/powder

Mystery Cookie #3: Original

Mystery Cookie #4: Extra 4 tsp oil

And there you go! How’d you measure up? :)

Before I end this post, I just want to post two more photos to remind you what it started it out as:

Constructing the first house

Marshmallow Trees



Gingerbread Houses Were Made for December

17 Dec

The blueprints and gingerbread house

In the words of my college counselor, I am taking a “university level Great Books” class, also known as Senior Seminar. In this class, I am given 100 hours to do something interdisciplinary that I have never done before. I originally thought of:

a) Making a telescope with real glass
b) Making a miniature, but human-sized planetarium
c) Making kites of different materials in different geometric shapes
d) Constructing a famous SF structure out of gingerbread

Well, when I factored in money, time, supplies, knowledge – and well, reality? – I ended up crossing out the first two:

a) Making a telescope with real glass
b) Making a miniature, but human-sized planetarium
c) Making kites of different materials in different geometric shapes
d) Constructing a famous SF structure out of gingerbread

And then when I factored in my REAL interest, the list looked like this:

a) Making a telescope with real glass
b) Making a miniature, but human-sized planetarium
c) Making kites of different materials in different geometric shapes
d) Constructing a famous SF structure out of gingerbread

And that was how I came up with my final plan: construct something out of gingerbread!

But what exactly? Ah, that question was easily answered: San Francisco’s Painted Ladies.

So, that’s what I’m going to be doing during December – making three of the houses – because January won’t give me enough time with schoolwork and all that.

I think the best part of the project is going to be holding a baking class for De Marillac Academy students, who if you don’t know come from San Francisco’s under-served neighborhoods. These students attend the middle school for free because their parents cannot afford to send them to school. My high school is technically the sister school, so I thought that I would follow in the Lasallian and Vincentian footsteps and help the middle school students out. After all, baking is an art and art is important to a child’s development.

Since I don’t have all the financial means to buy all the supplies and ingredients, I’m writing letters to Safeway, Lucky’s, possibly Trader Joe’s, and possibly Sur la Table. (I’ve taken several baking classes so maybe they would be willing to donate supplies to a worthy cause?) Anyway, I’m hoping this works out because this would be a great opportunity for these kids. They deserve it.

Anyway, since this is officially my last school day of 2010 – as someone reminded me the other day – I am now out for Christmas Break. Life’s good. :)

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

Bake Sale Success

21 Oct

Remember how I wrote that I was volunteering at St. Anne’s kitchen? Well, I have been helping Elvira the head baker these past couple weeks, and her big day finally came: the St. Anne’s Rummage Sale! The rummage for sale included furniture, art, clothes, and FOOD – baked goods.

And guess who had to bake everything?

(No, not me.) Elvira!

But guess who got to help? :)

None other than yours truly!

I helped her make her chocolate oatmeal cookies, tarts, and banana loaf cake. She was even kind enough to let me take home six, giant-sized cookies, which have now prompted my obsession with chocolate oatmeal cookies. I can’t get enough! And just when I ran out on Monday, my friend’s birthday was on Tuesday and her other friend brought in more!

Anyway, here are the photos. Hope you’re eating something good tonight.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and Banana Loaf Cake

Indulge and admire the chewy, chocolate-y-ness of the oatmeal cookie, and the moist crumb of the banana cake.

Guess who’s got the recipe? ;)


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 Almond Brittle Adventure

15 Jun

Went to the SF Ferry Building again today. Seems like I just can’t get enough of the Embarcadero area! I seriously love this place though. It’s particularly attractive when the sun’s out and the Ferry Farmer’s Market stalls are out.

As I was sampling the delectable goodies among the stalls, I happened to munch upon almond brittle.

It was delicious.

Dark Chocolate Almond Brittle - Close Up

Unlike the previous almond brittle that I have had from the store, this one was not as hard probably because it was not processed as much. I’m not sure but I’d like to think it was at least.

I couldn’t actually see as many whole almonds in there as some of the major brands, but the almond flavor was still dominant. It was thinner than most kinds too. Either way, I couldn’t leave without buying a 4 ounce package of the dark chocolate almond brittle.

When I run out of almond brittle, I’m going to have to make some. Any one have any recommended recipes?Dark Chocolate Almond Brittle

I haven’t much else to say except that I absolutely love going to the Ferry Building. The specialty foodie restaurants and fresh produce are simply irresistible!

If you go, check out  G. L. Alfieri’s Fruit and Nut Stand. At the stand you can find an assortment of nuts, nut butters, almond brittle varieties, and more. Reasonably price though not cheap.

To order from G. L. Alfieri online, click here.

Just remember that the farmer’s market is there on Tuesday, Thursdays, and weekends from 10 am to 2 pm. Plan wisely!

La Mar Restaurant and then to Neverland!

6 Jun

Pee-tah! Pee-tah!

Just one of the funny lines in the San Francisco 360 degrees Theater at Ferry Park. I know it doesn’t seem very funny, but just picturing a grown woman with pigtail braids playing a young Wendy Darling in a nightgown saying this in a British accent.

Peter Pan Tent SceneI’m not too sure how purposely comical the performance was supposed to be, but there were for sure some elements that were quite funny because of the character’s dialogue/asides. Some of the other funny aspects came from the lack of traditional technological and theatrical elements. In order to dramatize the fight scene between Peter Pan and Captain Hook, the actors literally faked slow motion while the slow-mo music played in the background. The entire audience underneath the white tent was laughing. So instead of a climax of suspense, it was almost an anti-climax. But, I’m getting too technical here.

The added 360 degree surround sound and backdrop was a nice. It was definitely different than what I am accustomed to having watched numerous Broadyway musicals over the years – Beauty and the Beast, Annie, Jersey Boys, Grease, A Christmas Carol just to name a few. I did find the performance to be home-y and more private as if the actors were more engaged with the audience. I also enjoyed being up close (row D) to the stage. Though the props were simple and used variously for different scenes as new pieces, I enjoyed seeing the actors’ facial expressions. Not that I expected less, but each actor was in-character the entire time whether or not the spotlight was on them. That, I found, was very professional of them.

Of course, my evening in Neverland would not have been complete with seeing Tinkerbell. This, however, she was not the cute green lady-like character Disney protrays her as. Instead, the theater company had an actor play Tink as a grungy fairy with a whole lot of attitude. Her hair was curly and tied awkwardly on top of her head. Her cute green fairy outfit was instead a dirty white tank with a spewing, rough-looking pink tutu with lights. I had to say that she was definitely entertaining as she spat out, “You [Peter], silly little ass!” when Peter could not understand what Wendy truly thought of him.

Unfortuntely, I do not have any pictures of the actual set. The security was very tight. But here are the links to the site where they have ample videos and pictures.

For  official Peter Pan website and pictures, click here.

The Pre-Pan Dinner at La Mar Restaurant, Pier 1 1/2

While I do not have pictures of Neverland, I do have pictures of the mouthwatering seafood at La Mar Restaurant, which is conveniently located right across the street from the Ferry Park. La Mar is known for their Peruvian fusion cuisine, fresh seafood, and diverse menu.

Check out La Mar’s website for their gastronomic dictionary here.

I found the whole experience at this restaurant unexpectedly casual. It’s definitely a casual dressy place, but the waitress assigned to our outdoor table was very nice.  As my mom pulled out her printed out menu of La Mar, the waitress exclaimed, “We love your kind of customers! You’re here for the food and you know what you want.” She was even quite shocked to find out that my mom and I were, well, mom and daughter. With cow eyes, she looked at my mom and asked, “What’s your secret?” My mom laughed and replied, “I don’t drink or smoke”. And to that, she laughed and said, “Well, that’s out of the question for me!” But besides being the great conversationalist, she was an attentive server who returned back at the appropriate times, asked the right questions, and knowledgeably answered all of ours.

Since my mom’s business friend was technically taking us out as her “business clients”, the four of us girls ordered a ton of stuff. Just look at the pictures. I don’t even know how much the bill was – or how we ate it all.

The Appetizers

Ceviche Tasting

Ceviche Tasting: Mixto (Mahi Mahi, calamari, octopus and habanero pepper in ají amarillo leche de tigre), Chifa (Mahi Mahi with peanuts, scallion in sesame leche de tigree), Nikei (Ahi Tuna, red onion, Japanese cucumber, in tamarind leche de tigre with avocado), Classico (California Halibut and red onions in habanero pepper leche de tigre) --- There were about four more varieties available.

Tiradito Nikei

Tiradito Nikei - Ahi Tuna in Nikei sauce with passion fruit and honey leche de tigre

Empanada Sampler

Empanada Sampler: Chicken, Beef, Corn, and Seafood

The Entrees

Arroz Jugoso

Arroz Jugoso - Prawns, clams, mussels, calamari, octopus, white fish and vegetables in a juicy arborio rice with a blend of Peruvian ajis

Special of the Day: Whole Red Snapper

Special of the Day: Whole Red Snapper

Special of the Day: Tiger Prawns, Farro, Beans with Seaweed Foam

Special of the Day: Tiger Prawns, Farro, Beans with Seaweed Foam

Arroz Norteño

Arroz Norteño - North Peruvian seafood combination with mussels, shrimp, octopus, and fried rice with cilantro and Huancaína sauce (like Paella)

The Desserts

Sorbetes Caseros

Sorbetes Caseros - exotic homemade sorbets

Suspiro Limeño

Suspiro Limeño

10 Things I Love About Flipper’s in Hayes Valley

18 Apr

Flipper's Sign

Flipper’s, A Gourmet Hamburger Place

482 Hayes St, SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94102
(415) 552.8880
Online Menu

There’s no denying it. Flipper’s is truly “a gourmet hamburger place”.

First of all: every single the burger is made of charbroiled ground chuck. And, all the unique burgers (with the fries/salad) are under $9. A decent price for some food that isn’t very common.

Second: you aren’t limited to just any plain old burger, cheeseburger, or “Big Mac”. The burgers come in so many different varieties with all unique names, like The Granny Flip (burger with eggplant, jack cheese, and tomato with their famous pesto sauce), the California Sunshine (a burger complete with aged cheddar cheese, avocado and alfalfa sprouts), and the Maui Treat (burger with Canadian bacon and pineapple with a teriyaki sauce glaze).

Mediterrean Chicken Burger

The Mediterranean Flavor Burger with eggplant, garlic and tomato, sauteed in olive oil

Not a burger fan? Then they also have chicken breast, turkey patty, veggie patty, and tofu patty available.

(Have I got your mouth watering yet? How about that imagination? The varieties are endless!)

Three: Their curly fries are so flavorful and crispy! I’ve been to some places where the fries are so dull and lifeless I feel bad for the poor things.

Four: Flipper’s serves breakfast all day and brunch specials until 4 pm! For breakfast, you can choose some kind of combination of two eggs (any style), sausage, bacon, or choritzo, and breakfast style potatoes with toast on the side. Their brunch specialties do seem to be various benedicts and florentines. The short and full stack of pancakes with optional blueberries are also on the menu as well as traditional french toast. And of course, there are omelets (the Greek, Denver, and Salsa are just a few).

Five: Got kids? They have a kids (12 & under) menu too. From what I saw, I believe there was a small burger (chicken, beef, or turkey), chicken tenders, breakfast special (pancake, egg, meat), and something else.

The Morning Blast
The “Morning Blast”: two eggs scrambled with chorizo, onions, tomatoes, cilantro and cheddar

Basically, a condense version of the full menu.

Six: Crepes, crepes, crepes. A small list (6, I think) of different savory crepes: chicken, eggplant, and vegetarian to name a few. The dessert crepes include the strawberry, Nutella, apple and cinnamon, and banana varieties.

Seven: When the weather is nice, Flipper’s has an outdoor garden area with sturdy tables and chairs shaded by personal umbrellas that you can eat in.

Eight: The waiting staff is very friendly! It’s nice to walk into a place that’s very accommodating and smiling. Not to mention that the servers do not hover while you eat your food so you don’t feel rushed.

Nine: There is a restroom! Okay, so this isn’t the most important thing about a restaurant, but it does come in handy when  you need one, especially today when it’s very hot and we had plans to walk around.

Ten: Once you’re done eating, you can enjoy the rest of the afternoon in the beautiful, boutique-filled Hayes Valley, home to Citizen Cake, La Boulange Bakery, Stacks, and more. There’s also a small little grassy square with this giant metal art structure in the center where you can hang out afterward.

So I shared this place with you because I had a good experience going here. I felt very comfortable here and enjoyed the food. Amazingly enough, though the food had lots of exotic creative names, there was a sort of home-style feel to it. I liked the fact that there were different kinds of people there too: families, couples of all ages, and cute excited dogs outside.

I’m not sure where you are, but in San Francisco, it’s beautiful and warm, so if you’re experiencing the same thing, enjoy it! If your weather is slightly gray, I’m sure it’ll get better soon. Spring is here and summer is coming soon.

Hopefully I’ll get to write more soon. I haven’t actually been baking this weekend because it’s too hot! I’ll try to get back in the kitchen sometime this week weather permitting.

Until next time~

St. Patrick’s Day Bake Sale: Green Treats Galore!

17 Mar

My school newspaper The Emerald and literary journal The Oracle held their annual charity bake sale this beautiful, sunny St. Patty’s Day. All the proceeds went to aid the relief in Chile. (Don’t worry other student clubs held previous drives for the people in Haiti). As members of either of these two publications, we were asked to donate our time, talent, and money to this bake sale. Some chose to buy their treats from local grocery stores while others like myself decided to push off homework for a while and get down to baking!

The Crew manning the Bake Sale Table

What did I end up baking up for this worthy cause? Well, I decided that I was going to risk baking two dozen vanilla cupcakes two nights before the actual bake sale. I didn’t have too much time to actually make cupcakes from scratch BUT I did try to make as homemade as possible. The major change that I made was whipping the egg whites and egg yolks (3 each) separate from each other to make the cupcakes fluffier and more like sponge cake. (This is always a request at home because I have a mom that simply loves sponge cake, angel cake, chiffon cake, and any other air-like cake possible).

Denautred Egg WhitesI would like to say that whipping the egg whites made the cupcakes better but I’m not too sure if I’m bias. I do not know if I mentioned this before, but I’ve actually denatured egg whites twice before … by hand. The first time, I did not really know what “denaturing” meant so it was only half-way whipped and consequently the cake was a flat dud. The second time, I had already attended the Sur La Table baking class so I knew what denatured egg whites were supposed to look like. However, what I did not know was how long it was going to take me nor how tired my hand was going to be after. I think it took me about 40 minutes to denature 6 egg whites. “Never again,” I remember thinking, “at least not without a hand mixer”.

So this time, I used my handy-dandy yellow hand mixer to denature the 3 egg whites. In the words from Wicked the Musical, “I couldn’t [have been] happier” to finally: 1) use my hand mixer and 2) denature egg whites ‘perfectly’. Still, I’m very proud to say that I denatured egg whites by hand. Too bad I didn’t have any pictures. Guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.St. Patty Cupcakes

Anywho, this is how my St. Patty- themed cupcakes turned out. I was just so glad that every single one of my cupcakes sold out! And to think that the entire table was filled with different delectable treats! The price of everything was the same too: $0.50 each. At the end, things starting for selling for $.25, but by that time, my cupcakes were all gone.

The exact amount we made today has not been officially released to us yet but I’m hoping for something in the range of $50 – $70. We’re crossing our fingers!

[On a random tangent…This gets me thinking though. Last year, I sold my baked goods at my mom’s office last year and was able to raise about $25 all by myself. I donated all the money to The Great American Bake Sale, which provides funding for after school and breakfast programs in the United States. I was thinking I could do this again, but somehow I wish I could raise more than that, like somehow sell on a larger scale. Hm… I guess I’ll have to think about it and let it simmer for a while on the back stove top.]

Well, at any rate, I hope your St. Patrick’s Day was as festive and fun as mine! And, I do hope that you wore green today or else your arm is probably sore from all the pinches. :)

Omnivore Books and Peter Reinhart & Friends

5 Mar

This is one of the days that I actually like my school administration. Giving the students a day off while the faculty are discussing the future plans was a great idea. (Thanks, Mr. Scudder and Dr. Hogarty!)

As you know if you read my last post, I wrote about how nervous I was for the anticipated trip to Omnivore Books to hear Mr. Peter Reinhart talk about the art of bread baking. Not to mention the fact that I had no idea what to make!

Recipe Story: The Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel

Last night I hastily did an inventory check in my apartment kitchen to find that I had no nuts, no raisins or cranberries, no gruyere cheese, or sour cream. I was completely at a loss of what to do. I mean, there went all my ideas for cinnamon rolls, gruyere puffs, and blueberry buckles. I took out all my baking books flipping madly trying to find a recipe that I could actually make when I saw it:  Applesauce Cake with Oatmeal Streusel.

“Brilliant!” I remember thinking as I remembered having applesauce somewhere in the fridge.

I read the directions which consisted of four simple steps, then began to measure out the ingredients. I took out the flour, sugar, baking power, applesauce, etc. I made the streusel part and then proceeded to make the cake part. I had everything prepared and sifted when it came time to add the applesauce. I opened the jar and frankly, my stomach lurched in disgust.

The applesauce was no longer applesauce. It was pink, fuzzy, and I think it winked at me.

However, I did not come all this way to give up, so I chopped up four medium apples, softened them in a microwave, added about 1/4 cup of brown sugar, and then swiftly pulsed them in a food processor. Ta dah – homemade applesauce!

Two cups of that went into the batter and it was ready to go. Lucky for me, it was well-received (and eaten) at the Omnivore Bookstore.

Omnivore Books – the one and only food bookstore in SF!

Omnivore Books on Food
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
Tel: 415.282.4712
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-6pm, Sun 12-5
Omnivore Books Sign

Speaking of Omnivore … I was excited to head to this bookstore. How could I have not heard about a food bookstore in San Francisco? It is the only one of its kind and it escaped my knowledge. Before I had arrived, I browsed through the website and instantly felt that I was going to like this place. It had new books, old books, signed books, and pictures of a cute and well-lit bookstore in a vibrant and friendly neighborhood on Caesar Chavez Street.

I was not disappointed.Omnivore book shelves

Though I arrived late (I blame the alarm clock for not going off properly!), I somehow fit into the packed little bookstore. I  dissolved into the mass of people sitting in chairs and on the floor and the others leaning against the back bookcases quite easily. I was 20 minutes late, but as I always think “better late than never”. I was just thankful that my mom and I found parking only a block away.

As Mr. Reinhart was talking, I couldn’t help but notice how cute the bookstore was. I do not know if Mr. Reinhart chose this place or the bookstore invited him or a combination of a mutual agreement, but it was definitely the perfect location.

Owner of Omnivore Books: Mary

Owner of Omnivore Books: Celia

It was big enough to accommodate all 30 (or so) of us, yet it was small enough to have this familiar, cozy atmosphere. It was as if all of us had gathered humbly to hear an experienced baker and philosopher talk about his life findings and point of view. We all had crowded in together captivated by the eloquent speaker.

If an outsider had looked in, we probably looked like a family in a home because that is how it felt like: a home.

After Mr. Reinhart finished his lecture, I was able to meet the owner of this bookstore: Celia.

Assistant: Samantha; Owner of Omnivore: Celia

After talking to her, I knew that this was a bookstore I would be coming back to whether it was for the upcoming events, new baking books, or simply to visit a familiar place.

This is a must visit place for any foodie living or visiting San Francisco.

Like Omnivore? Check out their upcoming events here.

Peter Reinhart and Bread as More than a Symbol

I know that I am young so I cannot say with any truth at least “I have seen it all”. I have actually embraced the opposite outlook in life. I am so excited to explore the world around me, meet new people, and learn about new and different things.

Having said that, I’m sure that it comes as no surprise that when I walked into Omnivore and saw Mr. Reinhart, heard him talking about the 12 step process of bread baking, the techniques of professionals and tips for home bakers, and relating the literal process of bread baking to the spiritual transformation, I was completely stunned.

I could not believe that the man I had seen on the back flap of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice was there. This was the same man that I had written a letter to and emailed back and forth to! And there he was standing right in front of me. I was blown away.

As I listened to what he was saying what interested me the most besides the actual bread making techniques was his comment of the four layers of transformation especially how the basic literal level is usually over-looked.

Peter Reinhart lecturing

To paraphrase what he said, “I always knew that bread was a symbol, but I never considered that the actual process of bread baking in the oven was in itself a transformation”.

If you think about it, what he said is true. He went on to say that though the yeast dies when the center of bread reaches 140 degrees, the outcome of the soft, vulnerable living dough is a beautiful, tasty, crusty bread. The theme that he was talking about was “from death comes life” like a rebirth, or in religious terms, the Resurrection.

A religious interpretation from Mr. Reinhart might be expected from him since he was once a brother. (Even at the brother’s house, he worked as the cook there). But, his insight offers another view on the simple task of bread making. Bread has truly been a staple for many cultures all over the world throughout history. There must be a reason why. And Mr. Reinhart gave his interpretation that does indeed make sense.

The parallels between baking bread and Christianity do seem quite numerous. Whether or not it was intended to be so, I did enjoy Mr. Reinhart’s perspective and will most likely be sharing this revelation with my friends.

The book written by Peter Reinhart from a  Theologian’s perspective: Brother Juniper’s Bread Book.

*He also mentioned that he is in the process of writing another theological book as well due to come out in a few months.

The Other Noteworthy People: Wolfinger & Cohn

Eric Wolfinger - photographer and bakerAfter Mr. Reinhart finished talking, the event broke out into “casual mingling mode”. We were all encouraged to try the baked goods that the other guests brought including Raisin Bran Muffins, pecan(?) tartlets, puffs, and my coffee cake.

While walking around, I was able to meet some really cool people like Eric Wolfinger, a baker at Tartine, and Allen Cohn, photo secession baking assistant of Artisan Breads Every Day.

Talking to each of them made me feel that I could work as a full-time baker. I’m sure there are certain things in life I would not be able to do like perhaps buy a mercedes-benz every two years, but I realized that maybe I don’t mind being a “starving baker” (what an oxymoron, right?) If he could live out his passions for photography and baking, then so could I.

For Eric Wolfinger’s Website on photography and baking, click here.

Originally from Los Angeles, Eric Wolfinger explained to me that he actually majored in Political Science, but then took on baking because it was his passion. Mr. Reinhart recounted a story from his book Artisan Breads Every Day in the Epilogue of when Eric brought a “smoky, crisp flaky crust[ed]” French bread to a dinner that made Mr. Reinhart stop in his tracks.

Calling himself “The Wandering Cook”, he currently works as a baker at Tartine where he and the other bakers produce the same french bread that caused time to stop still for Mr. Reinhart. Once I found this out, I was so surprised at who I was surrounded by in Omnivore. There were so many professional bakers in my midst! Being able to talk Mr. Wolfinger was such an honor that I was delighted with the few minutes we stood and chatted.

Tartine's Pumpkin Bread, Fruit Bread Pudding, Blueberry Cake, and Banana Cake

The other man who I had the honor of meeting was Allen Cohn, one of two the photo session baking assistants for Reinhart’s book Artisan Breads Every Day.

Talking to him, I realized that there are other things that I can do to enhance my knowledge of baking. He was kind enought to write down in my notebook (yes, I actually brought a real notebook to take notes) the list of things that I should look up.

I believe the first thing he asked me was, “How do you measure your ingredients?”Allen Cohn

I knew where this was going because I had read that weighing the ingredients is much more accurate than using measuring cups since everyone measures things differently.

I responded and smiled guiltily, “With measuring cups”.

“You should really buy a scale. They’re only $40. I held a class one time and asked each of my students to measure out 1 cup of flour, and they each came out with flour weighing from 3.5 ounces to 4.5 ounces. It should weigh 4 ounces”.

As I was talking more to him, so much useful information was being tossed out that I had to ask him to write in my notebook. In it, he wrote down several links including links to The Bread Bakers Guild of America and The Bakers Dozen. He also recommended Bread by Hammelman Bread Science by Emily Buehler, and Bakwise by Corrher.

As you can see, I’ve so much to catch up on! But first things first, buy the MyWeight kd7000 scale, or else I would be failing Mr. Cohn and the integrity of bread making would be soiled!

For Allen Cohn’s Baking Website, click here.

The Summary

I am glad that I went today and that my mom was kind enough to take the day off to take me. (Thanks, Mom!) I am glad that I did not hide my applesauce streusel cake at the last minute. (I had whispered to my mom, “Take it back to the car. No one is going to eat it”. She refused after seeing me work so hard last night). I am glad that I met so many wonderful people, including Celia and Samantha from Omnivore. (Celia was Omnivore’s photographer, I think, who was the first one to dare to try my cake! After she gave it a thumbs up, others followed suit).

Meeting other people like Eric Wolfinger and Allen Cohn made me realize that my dream to become a professional baker is possible if I just keep on baking. I was so lucky to be in the presence of so many experienced bakers who were willing to share their knowledge and experience with me.

I felt so honored to be mentioned by Mr. Reinhart in his formal talk ‘on stage’ in front of everyone too. At least five different people came up to me asking what my blog’s name is. (“Notebook Worthy”, I proudly replied with a smile). I’m also very thankful for Celia from Omnivore for tweeting about me to her 1,600 followers!, and Heidi Swason from 101 Cookbooks for re-tweeting her tweet! (ah, the beauty of the internet) Most of you are probably here because of her! :)

Also seeing Mr. Reinhart as a theologian and not just the bread baker was a nice experience too. Hearing him relate bread to religion was quite an experience, something I will take with me.

Hear Peter Reinhart Talk in the Taste3 Conference Here

Most of all, I was happy to be surrounded by people who shared my passion for baking. I have to admit that I do not run into too many student bakers at my school.

I have learned a lot about myself and the possibilities of the future because of the people I met today. It truly is rather exciting.