Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Scandinavian Eats!!

Long before refrigeration and vacuum sealing, the preservation of food in other countries was done in a much simpler way.
The Scandinavians mastered methods of salt-packing, and smoking perishables for the long dark winters. All though technology is now readily available, these forms of cookery are still alive and well in countries like Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Pickled herring, and smoked horse meat are common food items. Plant vegetables tend to be scarce, but root vegetables are readily available.
The East Bay is made up of few Scandinavian restaurants, but many stores that provide goodies from the lands of the vikings.
Nordic House of Oakland offers meats, cheeses, candies, Dry goods, and most importantly cookbooks. Not only are they right in the East Bay, but their site offers a full shopping service. Order your items and have them arrive at your home in no time. If you live near Berkeley you are in luck! Nordic House will be moving their current location In April.
Scandinavious's site offers a full directory of all things Scandinavian in the bay area. Retail shops, Coffee hangouts, and even the best place to get caviar.
Mild and rich in their cuisine, Scandinavian food is sure to please even the pickiest of palates!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hey ho Gyro!!!!!!!!

The Gyro is believed to have begun hundreds of years ago. Where it originated we are not quite sure, but Greek historians hold to the idea that the dish began during the time of Alexander the great. Grecian soldiers would use their swords to kabob the meat and turn it slowly over wood burning fires. The Nan like wrap made for easy eating. The first fast food perhaps?

It was not until the 1970's that Americans caught on to this pseudo sandwich when street vendors starting selling it on the streets of New York. Famed for being tasty and realitvely healthy, a good Gyro can be easily found in the East Bay.

Simply - Greek has locations in Oakland, as well as Pleasanton. Fillings include flank steak, vegis, and grilled chicken all topped with a perfect tzatziki sauce. Also offering fantastic Greek Cuisine is Yanni's of Martinez.
Making Tzatziki sauce at home is easy, and can be used on more than just Gyros. It also subs as a refreshing dip for fresh vegetables.

A fine recipe is listed below:

Tzatziki Sauce:

16 ounces plain yogurt

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Pinch kosher salt

4 cloves garlic, finely minced

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

Monday, March 15, 2010

Happy Persian New Year!


Give me your beautiful red color and take back my sickly pallor!” A Persian new year tradition begins with this beautiful quote. It is screamed as one jumps over fiery flames to mark the end of winter and beginning of spring. Persian New Year is upon us and Tuesday March 16th the city of Berkeley will celebrate in style. The Persian center brings an evening of dinner, dancing, and children's crafts.

Not only does the Persian center offer this event, but it is a place for Persians to meet, share ideas, and keep customs alive.

If you are not available to attend, The restaurant Bijan, has opened its second location in Walnut Creek. Offering traditional Persian Cuisine as well as live belly dancing. Menu items include Must-o-musser (homemade yogurt with wild shallots), and a variety of different hummus.

Persian food is known for its combination of savory, sweet, and sour. A personal favorite of mine is Tah-Dig. It's a golden crusted crunchy rice. The recipe is as follows:
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 cups long-grain rice (not converted; preferably basmati or jasmine)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

In a large saucepan bring water with salt to a boil. Add rice and boil 10 minutes. In a colander drain rice and rinse under warm water.
In a 2- to 3-quart nonstick saucepan melt butter. Spoon rice over butter and cover pan with a kitchen towel and a heavy lid. Fold edges of towel up over lid and cook rice over moderately low heat until tender and a crust forms on bottom, 30 to 35 minutes.
Spoon loose rice onto a platter and dip bottom of pan in a large bowl of cold water 30 seconds to loosen tah-dig. Remove tah-dig and serve over rice.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

A New Era in Peruvian Cuisine

Few meals can boast ancient influence, a diverse culture, and the open embrace of foreign cookery. Peruvian cuisine does just that.
Peru has long been known for its colorful flavors and the borrowing of other countries culinary flare. All though some dishes remain firmly their own, most have been revamped with a new spin.

Throughout the nineteenth century Peru was an immigrant haven. Arabs, French, Italian, and the British flooded this South American country. Rather than shun the new arriving cultures and recipes, Peruvians adapted to them. Inca tribal food and French Basque were brought together creating what exemplifies fusion.

Boconova of Jack London Square depicts this custom in perfect form. Chef Rick Hackett, and his Peruvian Sous Chef fuel the creative menu that is sure to surprise the palate. Boconova's mostly Latin staff brings flavors from their homeland straight to your table. Chef Rick's Classical French training is visible as well in each dish. Menu items include Sea Bass Ceviche, Organic Black Bean Soup, Enyucados, and Yucatan seafood stew.

Boconova also allows local artists to show their own creativity right in their dining room. Continual displays are changed out for your viewing pleasure.

As Peru embraces other cultures it's only fitting that you try theirs, and Boconva isn't to far of a travel to do it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Beautiful Beignets! :)

While originating in France, and being the official doughnut of Louisiana, this powdered deep fried fritter has thankfully made its next stop in the East Bay.

Powderface of Oakland has perfected the Beignet and offers this sweet treat daily. With Plenty of powdered sugar your craving is sure to be satistfied. All Beignets are made to order, and are best cosumed with a large coffee.

Making your own beignets is not as daunting of a task as one would think. offers this recipie that will make home feel just like Cafe du Monde. The Blueberry sauce adds a fantastic kick!

Whether you try at home, or sample Powderface, Beignets are a perfect delicacy.

FOR THE BLUEBERRY SAUCE: 4 pints fresh blueberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
FOR THE BEIGNETS: 1 cup warm milk (about 105 to 115 degrees F)
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
2 medium eggs
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups (or more) all-purpose flour
Solid vegetable shortening (for deep-frying)
Powdered sugar
1FOR THE BLUEBERRY SAUCE: Puree all ingredients in food processor until smooth. Strain through fine sieve into heavy medium saucepan. Season sauce to taste with more sugar, if necessary. Simmer sauce over medium-low heat until syrupy, about 20 minutes.
2DO-AHEAD TIP: Sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
3FOR THE BEIGNETS: Combine milk and yeast in large bowl; let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Whisk in eggs and melted butter. Add 3 cups flour and stir to form moist sticky dough.
4Knead dough on floured work surface, incorporating flour as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic, and no longer sticky, about 10 minutes. Form into ball. Lightly oil same large bowl; place dough in bowl. Cover with kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes.
5Heat shortening in deep fryer to 325ºF.
6Transfer dough to floured work surface. Punch dough down; cover with kitchen towel and let stand for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle dough with flour. Using rolling pin, roll out dough into 12-inch square. Using pizza cutter, trim edges slightly to form perfect square. Cut dough crosswise into 4 equal strips. Cut each strip into 6 pieces, forming 24 rectangles total.
7Working in batches, fry dough rectangles in hot oil until golden brown, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Using slotted metal spoon, transfer beignets to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain.
8Arrange 3 beignets on each of 8 plates. Ladle blueberry sauce over and around beignets. Generously sprinkle powdered sugar over beignets. Alternatively, place beignets on platter. Generously sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve blueberry sauce alongside.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


Paella is quite possibly one of the most personal meals to prepare . Somewhere, someone's Spanish grandmother has perfected her concoction and passed it down to the next of kin. The perfect Paella may taste wonderful to you, but there seems to always be someone who claims they have had or can make it better.

Pleasanton's Casa Madrid creates a wonderful Paella and adds a memorable experience. Single servings are brought to the table in it's cooking pan. All Paella's are cooked to order with choices of meat, shellfish, or vegetarian. It takes 30-40 minutes for this meal so be prepared for a wait.

For a much more personal experience Chef Raquel Hermosilla brings a very unique service wherever you desire. Personal Chef Raquel will come to your home and cook her perfected Paella fresh, and to order. Her personal chef services are available through out the entire bay area, and seem to be strictly Spanish so be prepared for an authentic experience.

Paella is a wonderful meal, and is sure to be next on your list of comfort foods.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Turkish Cup Of Joe

Finding a cup of great coffee in the East Bay is for the most part an easy task. Finding a fabulous cup of Turkish coffee might be a little more time consuming but worth the undertaking.

For the Turkish people coffee has been an established part of their culture since 1555. It was in that year that Syrian traders brought the first coffee beans to Istanbul. Beans were eaten whole at first. It was not until much later that a drink was made with the fermented pulp of the beans. As the recipes became more developed so did Turkish rituals and ceremonies. Soon coffee makers (or "Kahveciusta") and their forty assistants were depended upon by Sultans to serve a proper brew. As Coffee became more socially acceptable men began using it as their assessment for a quality wife. Women were trained at an early age to prepare Turkish coffee. If she wasn't able to do so, she risked her dowry.

Turkish coffee has become less ritualistic and places like Barneys in Berkeley have put their own spin on this Turkish delight. The very popular Turkish Shake is tasty and is sure to give you the buzz you need.

The Turkish Kitchen of Berkeley offers a much more traditional approach to the drink. At $2.25 you can dicover just how this drink should taste. The Turkish Kitchen's menu is "recession proof" as well! Just about everything is under $10.00, making it an affordable and exotic night out.

For as step by step on making this treat at home, gives a great tutorial.

Whether you make it at home, or venture out Turkish coffee is sure to leave a lasting impression on your tastebuds.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Hungarian Pastries

A sweet pastry is memorable, But a treat with history is unforgettable.

In the late 1600's the Ottoman empire was at the height of it's reign. As the wars continued Hungary was slowly being Vanquished. One morning a few Hungarian bakers arose to begin their daily work. Their early rise helped to warn the local villagers of an impending attack and claim one small victory over the Turks. In celebration, what is now know as 'Kifli' was created. Shaped like a Crescent, or the Turkish symbol, These small morsels were filled with an apricot compote in remembrance of that day. Regardless if the legend is true or not, one thing is for certain. Kifli has stood the test of time for a reason.

A handful of lovely Eastern European bakeries reside in the East Bay. Crixa cakes of Berkley not only offers a few different Kiflis but many Russian Delicacies as well. Crixia's Facebook Deal isn't to shabby either! Become one of their friends on Facebook, and every Wednesday you will receive a special word that gets you a nice discount from their Berkeley shop.

City Of Delights in San Ramon has quite the Eastern European Flare as well. Chef Atilla's Hungarian background and Chef Lynn's Asian heritage offer a unique blend of beautiful and flavorful desserts.

hand-crafted, and rich with stories, our own East bay bakeries continue the tradition of reflecting on the past to sweeten the future.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Afghan food! Yuuummmmm!

Trying a new cuisine can often be daunting. When that cuisine has some familiarity to your own culture it often makes it easier to be brave and take that plunge. Afghan food has just that appeal. Land-locked Afghanistan borders six countries thus creating a culinary melting-pot worth sampling. Grilled kabobs, lamb stuffed dumplings also known as Mantu are staples. A pilaf topped with pistachios, grated carrots, and varied stewed meats is the national dish.
Oasis Grille and Wine Lounge serves many of these items regularly and offers a very attractive happy hour. Don't feel like eating out? Bolani is a delectable Afghan flat bread and lucky for you it can be found at numerous east bay farmers markets. East and West Gourmet Afghan Foods proudly sells Bolani as well as other organic breads, sauces, spreads, and even jellies.
Afghanistan's colorful dishes are not difficult to make at home, and can wonderfully change up your typical dinner party. Listed below is a fantastic recipe for Mantu.
Mantu (recipe credit:
Makes 3-4 Servings
1 Lb ground beef
1 1/8 tp salt
1 tp pepper
1 ½ tp coriander ground
¼ tp cumin ground
2 large finely chopped onions
2 cup & 2 tbsp water (plus boiling water for mantoos)
1 package wonton wrappers
2 tp tomato paste 6 tablesthingy oil
¾ cup yogurt
¼ tp dried mint
2 mashed garlic gloves

1) Filling: Combine ground beef, onions, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander ground and 1 cup water in a skillet; stir and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Let it cool off.

2) Place wrappers on a cutting board covered lightly with flour one at a time. Place 1 cup of water in a bowl. Using your finger, wet the edges of the wrapper with cold water. Place one tablespoon of beef mix on the bottom half of the wrapper. Bring the other half on top of the bottom half making a triangle. Take two opposite cornors each in different hands and seal them together making a bow. Place the oil in a bowl. Dip the bottoms of the filled mantoos in oil and place them in a (steam cooker); Steam them for 40 minutes

3) Sauce: While waiting, place the remainder of the filling back in the skillet with tomato paste and cook uncovered for 10 minutes.

4) Yogurt: Add garlic, 2 teaspoons of water and mint to the yogurt mix.

5) To serve, put a layer of yogurt on a flat serving (ghori) dish; then place the mantoo on top of the yogurt. Put another layer of yogurt on top of the mantoo; then put a layer of the beef mix and sprinkle the mint.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"Beer me"

It is the third most consumed drink in the world (after coffee and tea). Beer has been thought to have originated long before the discovery of bread by prehistoric nomads. It has stood the test of time and is only getting better.
Just about every culture has it's own distinct brew but no single country takes the art more seriously than Germany. German beers are different solely based on "The Reinheitsgebot". Translated it means "Purity Law". This law keeps recipes dating as far back as 1516. Keeping with tradition, each German brewery takes recipes and the law to heart.
Although some East Bay Breweries do use the laws, some prefer a more creative route while still using German methods as well as German hops. Some stay true to the original brewing methods while others are swaying to new methods.
Our own East Bay has jumped on this bandwagon. Breweries like The Hopyard (locations in San Ramon and Pleasanton) and Jupiter of Berkley are pushing out fantastic Pale Ales, Pilsners, and even blends. Pyramid Brewery and alehouse (also located in Berkeley) offers fantastic food as well as their award winning Hefeweizen.
One East Bay restaurant seems to take the cake on its Germanic beer obsession. Speisekammer of Alameda offers Eleven German beers on tap and a menu that is nothing short of traditional.
So, if you don't have the funds to attend Oktoberfest in the next few months try what might be just as best in our own backyard.
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