Friday, April 24, 2009

Crabby Birthday

I love crab. And every time John is out of town, and the Dungeness is in season, Grace and I have our own little crab fest. See, he doesn't like the hacking and poking for little morsels of crab flesh. He'd eat it if you put a big pile in front of him but he doesn't like the work. Me and Grace - we relish getting all buttery and slippery, poking into knuckles and breaking open claws, moaning aloud and proudly showing each other an exceptional find before making it disappear. Which brings me to the birthday crab fest. John out of town, Kate not available (doesn't eat anything that swims or walks sideways.) So I went on Epicurious to see if I could crank up the crabfest by a notch and oh boy was I successful.

I bought the crab at Safeway. It is already cooked. The guy behind the counter will then clean it and crack it a little for you. This time the guy at Safeway was pretty heavy with the cracking. He didn't look upset when I gave him the order but he must of been venting at someone because our crabs were in small pieces, with not much left whole. I took them home and turned the oven to 500. I melted a stick of butter, yes a stick, get over it, this is a birthday splurge, along with some olive oil in an oven proof pan. When this was melted, I threw in two cloves of chopped garlic and let that cook just a little. I didn't want it to burn, just flavor the oil. I added all the crab and a tablespoon of flat leaf parsley and some fresh thyme from the garden, toss the whole mess to coat it and mix it and threw it in the hot oven and set the timer for 12 minutes. Tick. Tick. I couldn't wait twelve minutes, besides it is no fun to have crab that is too hot to eat! So I pulled it out after about 6 minutes. Removed it from the pan. Now this is the part of the recipe I had my doubts about. So far we had butter and herbs - wasn't that enough? This was going on perfectly good crab that would have been fine with just a fork and a lobster bib! But I decided to follow through with the recipe. I squeezed the juice of a whole navel orange into the pan along with a teaspoon full of orange zest. I let it reduce a little, stirring. I had to watch it. I didn't want all the buttery, herby, orangey goodness to reduce to nothing and disappear. I pulled it from the heat and poured it over my crab on the platter. I added some more fresh parsley. Now for the sad part. I did not take a picture of the beautiful mess and a few minutes later I was too buttery to handle a camera.

The orange in the navel added a sweetness to the butter that matched the crab. The garlic was not heavy, the herbs were a side note. We fought for every morsel, occasionally sopping the platter with bread. Soon there was a empty platter, wiped clean with bread and a bowl of crab shards. We decided we could have gone for 3 crabs with no problem. I am still smiling thinking about it this morning! This recipe gets added to Mastercook.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

McEvoy Olive Oil

Nan McEvoy bought 500 acres so her grand kids would have someplace to play. She bought olive trees because everyone else was planting grapes. Now 18,000 trees later they produce a high end olive oil, they call a fruit juice. The ranch is in a beautiful valley west of Petaluma. The scenery is outstanding. I think more beautiful than most wineries - not a road in site from the main house and factory and nothing but beautiful rolling hills planted with silvery olive trees, broken up by the occasional pond. The tour was pricey - $35. Someone else paid for me, thank God. But it was a lot fun and very interesting. Ask me a question about olive growing - the fruit only occurs on last year's new growth.

They trim the trees so there is no center branch. The four remaining branches aim outwards for easy picking. Easy picking by the 100 pickers who come to pick the 18,000 trees at harvest time in November. The fancy mill reminded me of an Italian sports car, maybe because it's the Italian Ferrari of pressing equipment. I was impressed by how shiny, clean and pleasant the building was where the pressing occurs, white tiles walls, big sunny windows and immaculate machinery, including the stone wheels were some of the pressing is done. The clean room where all the oil is bottled was not on the tour. But the guide said because of the square bottle which Nan insists on because she likes it, each bottle must be filled and labeled by hand. The tour ended with a tasting in the tasting room. first a sip from a cup with a noisy slurp at the same time to appreciate the fresh green and bitter notes. Then we tried it drizzled over some toasts spread with goat cheese, then greens from their garden. This is not a glug glug into the pan olive oil. It is a finishing oil, one where you want the taste of the oil to be a component of the final dish. A drizzle over a grilled steak or field green salad, like a quality vinegar. After the tour you can see why it is not a cheap olive oil - all those hands pruning, picking and labeling in place of machinery and because like a fine wine it is grown and produced for its distinctive flavor, specific to McEvoy. The smallest bottle goes for about $22. You can taste it for free at the Ferry Building at the McEvoy store and maybe buy some produce from their huge gardens. Would I do the tour again? Sure if someone else paid. Will I buy another bottle when the one I have is gone? Most definately.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dynamo Donuts

2760 24th Street (at Hampshire)
San Francisco, CA

I have been away from my blog for quite some time. I am making a commitment to keep track of my culinary travels. So here are my latest food adventures:

I am always on the lookout for some new and interesting food in the Bay area and every now and then I will do an Internet search on a food to see what the SF area has to offer. I had heard about Voodoo Donuts in Portland and the outlandish flavors they had to offer so I looked into what was available here. At the time I did the search I heard the rumor that Dynamo Donuts was in the works with some crazy flavors but not yet open. I tucked it away to a little food corner of my mind and forgot about it. Well recently I needed a food adventure and someone brought up Portland which reminded me about Dynamo. I googled it, found it and the adventure began. It is in a part of the Mission I don't often get too. You turn on a quiet, small street with trees, kind of shady, not much to speak of going on. A counter juts out on the street, the menu consists of Polaroids with the beverages and beverage pricing and then glass domes with a variety of doughnuts on display.

I cannot vouch for the coffee. I don't drink coffee. they had a nice shiny coffee machine. It looked like it could make good coffee. But I am here to talk about the donuts. We ended up buying 7 donuts for $19 a little step for donuts so i expected great things. I don't actually know the price of the donuts because I wasn't paying attention to that. I was too busy staring at the donuts in their pretty glass domes. We bought one of everything they had to offer. He began gathering them up. The young guy asked if I wanted some donut bread pudding as well but I declined, saving that for another adventure. He put a Saffron with Chocolate Glaze in the box, then a Lemon Glazed Ginger, a Caramel Banana (against my better judgement) a vanilla glazed, a Pistachio encrusted something and then said "Oh we have some Maple Glazed with Bacon - do you want one of those?" OMG - The sign said they were only available on Fridays and Saturdays. This was Thursday. You are damn right I want one of those - I want TWO of those! John would never forgive me if I was at a place that had Maple Bacon Donuts and did not bring one home to share! The food gods were smiling on me. Grace and I got two glasses of water from a pitcher (no coffee for me remember?) and settled down in the Scion to eat our donuts. No tables, no chairs at Dynamo and we were headed on a two hour drive to Santa Cruz so what could we do but sit in the car and eat. Unfortunately, we started with the Banana donut. I do not like fresh banana. I like banana taffy, banana bread, banana Popsicle but not real banana. Well this donut had to be filled with real banana. It was the only filled donut that day. I handed it to Grace to finish. You will have to ask her opinion. I hated it. I don't like banana. I was hoping it might be banana flavored cake -no such luck. We moved on to the Chocolate Saffron. It was a saffron yellow donut with a nice semisweet chocolate ganache glaze.
The saffron did not do anything for me but the glaze was enough to erase the banana donut from memory. The lemon/ginger donut was great - a little too much zest in the glaze so it left a little bit of a zesty bitterness but in general quite tasty. We had been stalling up till now. It was the moment of truth. Time for the Maple Glazed donut with bacon. Okay - a nice fried donut with a maple glaze, sprinkled with real bacon. I broke it in half and gave Grace her half. I paused. I bit into Sunday morning. The syrup taste of the glaze, the fried donut, like a giant pancake, and the bacon drenched in mapley goodness. It did not disappoint. It was worth the trip. I will go back to Dynamo Donuts. I will go back to see what new and fun flavors I haven't tried and I will always ask for a Maple Bacon.