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Sunday, August 08, 2004

SF Food Bloggers 1.0

rfcrostataMy life is taking over my blogging life again. Work is more than hectic, and so is my social life. Next week I will have two consecutive house guests, one from New York and the other from London!

But I really had to take time from my crazy schedule to write about the fun event last night. (I will also take a bit more time soon to write a response to the sizzling discussion in the comment section of my blog on Trio.) Anyhow, first about last night, a bunch of us San Francisco food bloggers got together at Heidi's lovely place in the Height. The idea got started in my correspondence with Amy (of Cooking with Amy), who kindly took the initiative to make it happen. Left to my own devices, it would have been 2006 before I managed to organize one!.

It was a great deal of fun to make new friends and have faces to match the blogs now. As Derrick (Obsession with Food) put it, it definitely gives a new perspective when reading a blog. The only person I knew before through some work connection was Alder of Vinography. It was really interesting how much everyone was so much like their blog. I suppose that we spend so much time writing and tending to the blogs that our personalities just couldn't help but come through in spades. How very interesting?

I was again late to the party. (Why are you not surprised?) Luckily I was bringing desserts so the party could start without me. With my usual genius planning, I met up with Chiraz at the farmer's market, and suggested we grab a “quick” bite at the Slanted Door before I must go home and make my desserts. But of course, the “quick” lunch easily turned into a two-hour affair, with us chatting happily about the world and the sweet Francisco behind the bar perpetually refilling my glass with that yummy Christoffel Reisling, despite my meager protest. It was way past three o'clock when we were done.

I ran home, frantically planning in my head how to finish a raspberry and fig crostata and a vanilla-crème fraîche ice cream in under three hours. I got home, carrying the three arm-loads of loot from the market up four flights of stairs, and collapsed with exhaustion on the couch. At 4.30 my eyes sprang open with panic. The party was to start at 7! I began prepping the desserts, first making the crème anglaise for the ice cream. That was done in a jiffy, then I looked around the kitchen to find where I had stashed the ice cream maker, only to realize, in horror, that I had given it to Linda and Sasha! I hadn't made ice cream in such a long time I gave the machine away. Oh dear. Down I ran, again, to the car, racing down to Williams-Sonoma in the Marina to acquire a new machine. I had already been thinking about buying a fully automatic one anyway, so this was just as good a time as any. Bought the first one I saw at WS, ran home, lugged the 200-pound box up four flights of stairs. My fellow bloggers had better liked my ice cream!

One disaster averted, my vanilla-crème fraîche ice cream happily churning in the brand new Cuisinart, I turned my attention to the crostata. I had been planning to make a tarte aux quetsches, with the French prune plums I saw at the market, but the quetsches were too hard, it would be a day or two yet before they were ready. The figs and raspberries, on the other hand, were plentiful and gorgeously ripe, so I decided instead to make the raspberry and fig crostata from Baking with Julia. The dough was super easy to make, and almost entirely fool proof, really. Unfortunately it wasn't fool-proof enough for me today, so, on the way to lace up the top part of my lattice top, I dropped the whole tray of dough strips on the floor, so, my lattice top only had one layer. Oh well.

Finally, fashionably late, I showed up at Heidi's door. The party was already going full swing. Besides the names I already mentioned, there were also Melissa, Derrick's partner, Anne (the Cheese Diaries), Alaina (NYC Eats) who just moved to the city with her partner Anil, who, though not a food blogger, has his own blog extraordinaire, and Heidi's friend Heather, who writes reviews for the North Bay Bohemian (and I am sure a few more that my limited-capacity brain last night couldn't remember).

I'll let everyone tells you about what they brought to the potluck, and I'm sure they will also give you recipes on their blogs. Everything was delicious, but I must say my particular favorites, ahem…aside from my own desserts…ahem, were the gazpacho from Melissa and Derrick and the grilled beef crostini from Alder.

There were also a plethora of wine, Alder, being the designated wine guy here, brought a few nice ones with him. He was also observed taking copious tasting notes, so I suggest you pay a visit to Vinography to see what he has to say about them. I brought one of my 95 Burgundies, this one was a Hospices de Beaune from Dominique Laurent. The cork was slightly molded at the top, which was not good and I will definitely give Premier Cru a call to let them know about this, but luckily it didn't affect the wine. There was some musty odor at the beginning which blew off in no time. What was left was a deliciously earthy Burgundy, just the kind I like. I also tried a few other ones that other people brought. At one point I had the Burgundy in one hand, a California Shiraz on the other. A study in contrast that I really don't recommend you try. Well, at least not until you've had a few and your palate is long gone anyway.

We really must thank our generous hostess, Heidi (101 Cookbooks), who was so sweet she gave everyone a mini bag of her yummy lemon scones to take home at the end of the party. I also got to take a look at the draft print of her upcoming cookbook Cook 1.0., which not only has a cute name--yes I am a geek--but also more than gorgeous. I can't wait to see the real thing when it's out.

aveclaglaceI made two things for this party, a Raspberry and Fig Crostata, which was a recipe from Baking with Julia, and a vanilla and crème fraîche ice cream, which was from my own recipe. Most vanilla ice cream recipes I've seen are simply the recipe for Crème Anglaise whipped in an ice cream maker. I find most of the Crème Anglaise recipes out there just fine to use as a sauce for other desserts, but not to eat out right as vanilla ice cream. So I thought I would try adding some crème fraîche to the Crème Anglaise to add a hint of tanginess and lessen the sweetness. I love crème fraîche so much I would add it to almost everything anyhow, and this one turned out so very well.

Here's the recipe for the the ice cream. For the Raspberry and Fig Crostata, you'll have to look up Baking with Julia for that recipe.

Pim's glace à la vanille et à la crème fraîche

100 cl. (about 33 oz.) whole milk, or heavy cream, as you wish
1 vanilla pod
10 egg yolks (room temperature)
180 g. sugar
350 g. crème fraîche (12 oz.)
a pinch of salt

1. Heat up the milk with the vanilla pod, sliced lengthwise and the seeds scraped into the milk. Let the milk come to a gentle boil. Then turn the heat off and let the vanilla infused for about 10-15 minutes. You can skip this wait if you are in a rush.
2. Whip up the yolks with the sugar.
3. Pour the warm milk into the yolk/sugar mixture, taking care to temper the yolk mixture first with a little bit of the warm milk before you pour the whole thing. This is especially important if you didn't have time to wait for the milk to infuse with the vanilla and cool off a bit first before adding to the egg.
4. Add the crème fraîche and a pinch of salt and whip everything together with a whisk until well mixed.
5. Pour the cream mixture back into a pot, and heat gently, stirring vigorously and continuously, until the mixture coat the back of the spoon or, if you have a candy thermometer it should register between 170-190 F, or 75-95 C. If you let the cream mixture heat up to about 200F or 100C, the egg will curdle. Any lower than 160F or 70C the ice cream would not have a good texture. But, unless you are just as obsessive compulsive as I am, the old coating the back of the spoon trick would do just fine—as in, when you drag the tip of a finger across the back of a wooden spoon, you should clearly see the trail of your finger on the back of said spoon, which means that the mixture is thick enough that the trail remains in place. That's when your cream is ready.
6. Pour the cream into another bowl immediately. You can strain it if you'd like, or if you're lazy just fish out the large pieces of vanilla pod. It will help if you put the bowl of cream on top of another larger bowl filled with ice and water to cool off the cream mixture and prevent it from overcooking from the residual heat.
7. Let the cream mixture cool of for a half hour or so in the fridge before putting it in the ice cream maker.


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