I have a theory about cilantro. Though it is well known that a distaste for the stuff has genetic foundations, I find it's not quite as cut and dried as that. Take dpaul (please! har.). The tiniest corner of a leaf in a huge bowl of pico de gallo will revolt him. Yet, one time we dined at a friend's house, and she served cilantro pesto as a dip for crudite. And he liked it.
So my theory goes: When cilantro is in something, it overpowers the palates of the haters. When cilantro is the thing, it simply stands on its own and paradoxically tastes less overwhelming.
I came to this deep, philosophical conclusion after going to Tequila last year. I was on a media junket to visit the Casa Noble tequila distillery, and once our group all arrived, we were shuttled off to the lovely and modern Guadalajara home of the distiller, Pepe Hermosillo (who later made me eat bugs.) As we settled into the airy patio, enjoying the balmy desert breezes, Pepe's wife Gina laid out some snacks for us while we got acquainted and, inevitably, drank tequila. One of the things was a vivid green mold, which elicited muffled yelps of pleasure as we took our first bites. Fresh, delicate and light, I knew this was something no one could not enjoy.
Later, one of the other journalists was able to extract the recipe from Gina, knowing that we all had to have it. Since then, I've made variations of it, and happily and proudly served it to cilantro lovers and haters alike. All have enjoyed it. You will, too.
The idea of a mousse is almost amusingly old-fashioned, a throwback to continental cuisine and things cased in aspic. Yet this mousse feels fresh and modern. It's great for Cinco de Mayo, of course, but I think really makes a great dish for all manner of summer entertaining. Tequila is optional, but highly recommended.
Adapted from Gina Hermosillo, who herself adapted it from Chef Iñaki of Goiti Restaurante
This recipe is enormously adaptable. Gina uses a combination of sour cream and cream cheese; Chef Iñaki's original recipe called for yogurt and mayonnaise, and no jalapeño. Dave Yan, marketing director for Casa Noble, uses goat cheese, and having tried that I can recommend it as well. Play with it, and find the balance you like.
1 packet unflavored gelatin * 1 cup plain yogurt (Greek yogurt if you like) 1 cup sour cream 1 jalapeño, seeds and veins removed, chopped 1 to 1-1/2 cups cilantro leaves, packed, stems removed ** 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt juice of 1/2 lime
Mix the gelatin in 1/4 cup cold water and let stand until it becomes spongy. Add another 1/4 cup warm water to turn it into a liquid.
Meanwhile, combine the yogurt, sour cream, jalapeño, cilantro leaves, lime juice and salt in a blender or food processor. Blend until fully integrated, then drizzle in the gelatin mixture while still blending.
Grease a mini loaf pan lightly with spray oil. Pour the mixture into the pan, cover with cling wrap, and refrigerate overnight.
To unmold the mousse, gently warm the sides of the pan by dipping it into hot water for a few seconds, dry, and invert. Serve with crackers or bread.
* It is theoretically possible to make this vegetarian by using agar, but I have not tested it myself.
** Plucking the leaves from the stems is tedious, but worth the effort, as they can be fibrous and mar the texture of the mousse.
I can't think of the last time I bought commercial egg nog. The very thought of it was sort of gag-inducing for a long time. As a child I loved the stuff, but at some point my tastes changed, and the last grocery store nog I remember drinking was sickly sweet with a thick, gloopy texture that evoked a mixture of molasses and Elmer's glue.
But when Amy reached out with an invitiation, collaborating with Beth from Whole Foods Northern California, offering a tasting of different egg nogs, my curiosity was piqued. Surely there must be good egg nogs on the market, and I intended to find out.
I figured it would be all, drop in, taste some nogs, and blow. Yeah, not so much. Beth had laid out an entire table with not just the nogs, but some other goods she wanted us to try. From the bakery, we had a chocolate turtle cake and an orange upside down cake, the latter of which was good by any metric, even though it had oranges all over it.
And there were cheeses, most notably a nice gouda with holiday spices (nutmeg and cumin prevailed) that immediately evoked egg noggy goodness, and a manchego paired with a curiously good cranberry nut cake.
And then Beth whisked away for a moment to retrieve the ham. Because, of course, you need ham to taste egg nog.
Positioned as we were smack in the middle of a very public space, seated around a table positively laden with cartons of egg nog, plates of nibbles, bottles of wine (yes, there was wine) and a big old ham, we of course got a lot of attention. One lady passed by our table no fewer than three times, ogling us with crazy eyes while dragging a granny cart behind her, before she stopped to say, "You've got a picture perfect party going on. But I guess you knew that. Ha ha ha ha. But it could be better, if you had rattlesnake handlers." Riiiight.
We are fortunate to live in an area that, despite an exorbitant cost of living, still manages to support a vibrant scene of artists, artisans, craftsmen and craft food purveyors. So this season I encourage, nay implore you to shop micro-local and support the folks who put their heart and soul into their handiwork. Here's a list of upcoming events where you can find the best and brightest.
Hit up the Bayview Underground Food Scene Community Pop-Up Market tomorrow and each Thursday to get your hands on some serious indie eats. Pick up some organic beauty products from Beautiful You organic beauty products, grab sweet stuff from Earl’s Bread & Brittle, SF Honey & Pollen Co. and Yvonne’s Southern Sweets as a stocking stuffer, and stock up on Gratta Wines for holiday entertaining. Plus, yummy nibbles from a global array of food providers. Thursdays through February, 5-7:30 pm. Bayview Opera House, 4705 Third St. @ Mendell, San Francisco.
Saturday, check out the very popular New Taste Marketplace on Potrero Hill. A huge selection of local foods will be represented, including a few giftables like Il Fiorello's local olives and oil, Hive 707's hyper-local honey, and Jerk 'n Pickles jerky and pickles. But you'll probably bust a gut tasting everything else there. Periscope and Linden Street will again be representing. Saturday 12/7, 11 am-5 pm. 500 De Haro, San Francisco.
Saturday and Sunday, the Jingletown Winter Art Walk decks the walls with local artists' works, including our pal Sam Breach's stunning photography. Textiles, jewelry, and much more, all in a charmingly gritty industrial neighborhood. Saturday and Sunday, 12/7-8, 11 am-6 pm. Various locations in Jingeltown, Oakland.
Also this weekend hit up the SFMade Holiday Gift Fair for, yes, handmade gifts from and themed on San Francisco. Nifty coasters, prints, bags and more, all with a SF motif -- including my favorite, Drywell Art. Saturday and Sunday, 12/7-8, 10 am-5 pm. Fort Mason Fleet Room, San Francisco.
The same weekend and also at Fort Mason is the Museo Italo-Americano's Mercato di Natale, featuring a variety of crafts, jewelry, and of course food. Saturday and Sunday, 12/7-8, 10 am-6 pm. Fort Mason, Building C, San Francisco.
If you're headed south, swing by Happy Girl Kitchen's Holiday Craft Market in Pacific Grove for a carefully curated group of local artisans, featuring, and I quote, "glasswork, ceramics and pottery, knitting and crocheting, baking, preserving, air plants, candles and cordials, kids corner, printmaking, paintings and MORE!!!" Sunday, 12/8, 10 am-4 pm. 173 Central Ave, Pacific Grove.
Next Friday, local food incubator La Cocina will have their annual marketplace, showcasing many of the artisans whom they've helped usher into the world. Longtime favorites like Kika's Treats and Clairesquares (pictured, above, from a previous marketplace) will be there, as well as many others. Friday, 12/13, 11 am-7 pm. Crocker Galleria, 50 Post St, San Francisco.
That same evening, come to our 'hood for Let It SNoe, the final microhood project put on by The Bold Italic and Google Local. Shop the local boutiques in fair Noe Valley, and enjoy drinks, treats and "unexpected delights." Friday, 12/13, 6 pm-?? Along 24th Street, Noe Valley, San Francisco.
The artsiest, fartsiest spot in Oakland, the Crucible will be hosting their annual Holiday Gifty Art Sale and Open House. In the huge 56,000 square foot space, watch industrial art demos, sip and nibble delicious fare, and shop for art, jewelry and, uh, bicycles? Yes, bicycles. Saturday, 12/14, 12-6 pm and Sunday, 12/15, 12-5 pm. 1260 7th St, Oakland.
The Bay Area Homemade Market takes to Berkeley's FIREHOUSE.ART.COLLECTIVE, with a healthy selection of local artisans. Think brittles, cookies, jams, soaps and plenty to eat on hand. Satueday, 12/14, 12-6 pm. 1790 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley.
The South of Marketplace Holiday Fair brings yet another (and as yet unlisted) cadre of crafty souls. Bonus prize: A photo booth, so put on your showiest garb and grab a snap. Sunday, 12/15, 11:30 am-6 pm. 1425 Folsom St, San Francisco.
Last but most certainly not least, just in the nick of time, the Renegade Craft Fair takes to the vacuous Concourse Exhibition Center with more than 250 (!) makers; of course food, drink and music; yup, another photo booth; plus cool workshops to make your own woodcut maps and wood beer case. Saturday and Sunday, 12/21-22, 11 am-6 pm. Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th St, San Francisco.
I've had leftovers on the brain lately. I think today everyone has leftovers on the brain, and on the stomach, but I've been cogitating on them for a couple of weeks. You see, I got tapped by my friend Suzie at KQED's The California Report to do a commentary, a foodie's perspective on the day after Thanksgiving. I knew I was going to talk about leftovers, and I knew where I was going with it, but I was also curious. I asked the Twittersphere: What do you crave on the day after turkey day? The responses were numerous and swift:
JoAmuse turkey sandwich, stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy AND miracle whip. Such a child of the 70's.
outlawdiva Turkey breast sandwich with Best Foods mayo on firm-textured white bread and a slice of pie.
dietsch A day away from the kitchen, frankly. On Saturday, Jen often makes turkey gumbo, and usually for a crowd.
PaulaMaackTurkey, mashed potatoes, gravy and lots of fresh cranberry sauce. For breakfast.
While I can totally get down with the idea of Mexican food on the tail of this über-American feast, I was not surprised to see such a vote of confidence for the classic post-Thanksgiving sandwich ... or sammich. And that is one of the things I am talking about on the show.
If you're in the Bay Area, tune in to KQED 88.5 at 4:30, 6:30 or 11 pm to hear my segment; if you are elsewhere in California, you can find airtimes and stations on their site. The show will be podcasted after the fact, and I'll post it then.
I have to admit I was a little nervous about going on air. You hear about people having "a face for radio," and I was afraid that instead I had a voice for silent films. However, hearing my own voice resounding in the headphones as I read was less horrible than I anticipated. Is the world ready for Hedonia radio? Only time will tell.
Perhaps it's obvious, but this is the appropriate time to say so: I am thankful.
I've been looking back, reflecting on all that I've ever wanted and dreamed of in life.
I wanted to live in a city, one that was bustling and diverse and beautiful. I wanted a home that I was proud of, yet still modest. I wanted to be in a strong relationship with a loving partner. I wanted to have good friends, interesting people who could hold down a serious conversation and yet still enjoy a good belly laugh.
I wanted to enjoy fine things and good experiences, to appreciate all
that the sensory world had to offer, from the simple to the
extravagant. I wanted to travel, to know the sights and smells and flavors of the world, and to truly know points of view other than my own.
I wanted work that was challenging and rewarding, that utilized my skills and forced me to explore new ones, and that was lucrative enough to sustain the lifestyle I desired. I wanted to be creative, if not fully realized in my work than elsewhere in my life.
I wanted to be happy.
I got it all, and so much more.
DPaul and I have lived by one mantra: You make your own luck. If you know what you want in life, maintain a positive attitude and work toward it, the luck will come to you. It's not that luck doesn't happen; chaos is a fact of life, and things good and bad will crop up unexpectedly. But by and large, each of us is at the helm of our own ship.