Monday, February 26, 2007

Campton Place Bar

While waiting for our table in Campton Place's dining room, we had a chance to admire the pommes frites guests were dining on in the hotel's adjacent bar. Wrapped in cone-shaped baskets, the fries looked positively irresistable in that cafe-on-St. Germaine-way. So on Sunday afternoon, after doing far too much damage in the nearby Union Square shopping district, we slipped back to Campton Place to indulge our craving.

Campton Place Cheeseburger
Campton Place Cheesburger - $17

Good, but it could have used a dash of salt. The fries helped with that.

Campton Place Fries
Pommes Frites - came with the burger

Ah, that's what we're talking about.

Campton Place Cheese Plate
Cheese Plate - $15

Bleu Cheese, Aged Cheddar, Triple Cream--all from California. A light lunch so I could save room for dessert...

Campton Place Crème Brûlée
Espresso Crème Brûlée - $9

I do love a good Crème Brûlée, and throwing espresso and a little vanilla ice cream into the mix? I must have done something nice to be able to redeem so many karma points in one meal. J took one bite and decided it tasted like pudding, which just meant all the more for me.

- K

Campton Place Bar
340 Stockton Street
San Francisco, CA 94108
866 332 1670

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Campton Place Restaurant

It was pouring rain when we slipped into this Union Square boutique hotel for a late afternoon lunch. And so maybe it was the dreary weather, or the fact that we'd gotten up at the crack of dawn and were now positively famished, but the elegant restaurant immediately felt cozy. Especially when our server promptly pushed the champagne cart our way, reminding us of those days in the school cafeteria when the milk lady had chocolate milk on her cart. On this grown-ups version of the milk cart we had our choice of four different bubblies, sans the calcium and hairnet. We quickly selected a blanc de blancs, and let the games begin.

Amuse Bouche-Campton Place
Amuse Bouche - Coconut and Parsnip Soup with Poached Lobster

The texture of the soup was silky and luxurious. The coconut and parsnip played off each other, keeping the flavor from being too rich or bitter; a perfect harmony. The little bite of lobster was a tease--I longed for more.

Celery Root Soup-Campton Place
Celery Root Soup - Ras al Hanout, Cauliflower, and Olio Nuovo - included with the chicken for $26, or $13 a la carte

Loved the flavor of the soup--that slightly bitter, sour celery root bite--but the little pieces of cauliflower were somewhat distracting.

Kampachi Sashimi-Campton Sashimi
Kampachi Sashimi - Blood Orange, Black Trumpet Mushroom Puree - $14

The sashimi equivalent of champagne and strawberries. The fish was mouth-watering and delicate, and the strawberries and fennel made it sweet and refreshing. Kind of looks like a heart with an arrow through it, huh? After all, we were celebrating an early Valentine's Day...

Chicken Breast-Campton Place
Fulton Valley Farms Chicken Breast - Maitake Mushrooms, Sunchoke, and Nettle Puree - $26

I'm really not much of a chicken fan. Ok, I usually don't even eat the stuff. (Makes it kind of hard to laugh at "tastes like chicken" jokes.) But given that my pant legs were soaking wet up to my calves, this dish just sounded so inviting--like comfort food. The tender, savory pieces of chicken did not dissapoint, and would you look at that nettle puree? A little sliver of heaven.

Duck Breast-Campton Place
Duck Breast with Carmalized Endive, Tangerine and Chamomile - $24

If you've read some of our previous posts then you know J has a thing for duck, and loves the contrast of crispy skin and the tenderness of the breast. The duck at Campton Place was nestled on a bed of ginger and sauteed onions, which worked well with the slices of sweet tangerine. As for the avocado, it really didn't add anything to the dish.

Too stuffed for dessert, we reluctantly abandoned our table to brave the rain again. At least we had a good pinot buzz to take with us.

- K

Campton Place
340 Stockton Street at Union Square
San Francisco, CA 94108

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Butternut Squash Ravioli

Butternut Squash Ravioli
Butternut Squash Ravioli

I have a confession to make: Fresh pasta has never been easy for me. In fact, there is one moment in particular that K will never let me live down. I once got so irritated with the pasta I was trying to make that I threw the dough across the kitchen (into the sink mind you). Ever since, K loves to tease me anytime I suggest that we have fresh pasta for dinner. Tonight was no exception; the "flying pasta" jokes were abundant as I searched for a recipe.

Given my history, I figured I would try a different recipe this time. Typically, I do the 2-3/4 cups of flour and 3 eggs recipe, but this time I decided to try the recipe from Thomas Keller's French Laundry Cookbook (the most beautiful cookbook EVER!). His recipe calls for the following:

1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
6 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1-1/2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbsp milk

This recipe turned out so silky smooth. Thank you, Thomas Keller! Since K loves butternut squash (and our neighborhood market happened to have some) we decided to have a very simple butternut squash ravioli with a butter sage sauce.

Usually, when I do this dish I just use the squash (or pumpkin) and some savory fresh herbs, but this time I wanted to add some ricotta cheese to add a little creaminess to the ravioli. Here's the recipe (serves 4):

Mise en Place

1 butternut squash
1 minced garlic clove
1/2 sprig of rosemary (leaves only) chopped
1 sprig of thyme (leaves only)
10 sage leaves (more or less -- to taste)
1 Tbsp chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
zest of one lemon
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
dash of allspice
dash of ground clove
salt & pepper to taste

Process -

Carefully chop the butternut squash in half (lengthwise) and scoop the seeds out with a spoon. Slice the squash into 1/2" thick slices lengthwise and steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Let squash coool until you can handle it without it burning your fingers. Once it is cool enough use a paring knife (or a spoon) to scoop-out the soft flesh from the skin. Place squash in a mixing bowl and discard the skin.

Butternut Squash Filling

Add the allspice, ground clove, ricotta cheese, egg yolk, rosemary and thyme. Mix well with a fork until all ingredients are combined.

Butternut Squash Ravioli Filling

After mixing, kneading and rolling your pasta dough into thin sheets place about one teaspoon of the filling onto the center of the dough spaced about 1 inch apart. Once you have spooned the filling onto the pasta you can either brush the edges of the pasta sheet with water or egg wash to help seal the pasta (I use egg wash). Finally, fold the pasta in half lengthwise to cover the filling. Gently press down around the mounds of filling to remove any air bubbles that might have formed while folding. After sealing the pasta you can cut between the mounds with a knife or one of those handy pasta wheels.

Butter Sage Sauce

Meanwhile heat a large pan with salted water until rapidly boiling. While the water is getting up to boil (and the pasta has been prepared) heat a skillet on medium heat and add butter, garlic and sage. Cook until the garlic is aromatic and the sage is just crispy (about 3 minutes).

Once the water is rapidly boiling add the ravioli and cook until they start bouncing at the top of the water (about 4-5 minutes). Gently remove from the water with a slotted spoon and place onto plate. Top with butter sage sauce, parsley and grated parmesan cheese.

What a delicate and rich little treat. Once you get the whole pasta making process down, the rest is simple and so rewarding. (Dough throwing not necessary.)


Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tartine Bakery

Tartine Bakery

Tartine's exterior doesn't bost its name, but with the line of people we found snaking out its door just minutes after they opened on Sunday, we got the impression that the Mission District bakery doesn't need to advertise to draw a crowd. "It's always like this," another customer in line mumbled to her friend. We were starving and in serious need of caffeine, but the sun was finally out and so we were determined to be patient and wait our turn; whining kids, hipsters and all. Too bad not everyone had the same philosophy: the brunette with a mass of dark curls, the redhead who made a big production of arranging paper napkins and silverware on her table for two...and all the other people with bad form who snuck into the tiny bakery as their friend or partner stood in line, and HELD a table. Meanwhile, people who had tried to maintain their manners so early on a Sunday were stuck juggling full cups of coffee and pains du chocolat, with nowhere to sit. Us included. But at least the red head and brunette didn't have to be inconvenienced. Way to pay it forward, ladies.

Fortunately, the treats at Tartine are worth the few bad seeds. J opted for an incredible croque monsieur with sun dried tomatoes and fromage blanc, along with a brioche bread pudding. I kept it simple with a mountain of a croissant, flaky and crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside. We would have taken pictures had there been anywhere to sit.


Tartine Bakery
600 Guerrero Street at 18th
San Francisco, CA 94110

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tsunami Sushi (Sugarhouse)

When it comes to sushi, I don't need a lavishly appointed restaurant with pagers to notify guests when their table is ready. In fact, I rather prefer to eat my raw fish at a place that is slightly nondescript, where I know the focus is on the fish, not the fashion.

Located next to a dollar flick theater in a strip mall, Tsunami's Sushi in Sugarhouse fits the bill. The service is inconsistent, the location uninspired, but the fish is always fresh and tasty.

Since we hadn't had any sushi since our fun-filled excursion home for Christmas, we decided to combat our withdrawls over the weekend with a visit to Tsnumai. What we were really craving was some escolar nigiri, even though the white fish's "bio" on does sort of freak us out.

Tsunami Sushi 2.JPG

Lunch Special - $12.95


1/2 California Roll
1/2 Tuna Roll
Eel Nigiri
Escolar Nigiri
Yellowfin Tuna Nigiri
Salmon - Nigiri
Tuna - Nigiri

Our server was a bit frosty at first, but she warmed up near the end of our meal, after J took over my glass of bubbly, sneaking sips in between breaks from his own. "I see you're double fisting it now," she joked, a slight upward curve forming on her lips, suggestive of a smile.

We never received the miso that was supposed to come with the lunch special, but in honor of Tsunami's fifth anniversary, we did receive a cute parting gift: complimentary sushi suckers. The sugary concotions are apparently running the restaurant 75 cents each, as the manager shared with our server while sailing by our table. Charming.

Sushi Suckers2.jpg


Tsunami Sushi (Sugarhouse location)
2223 South Highland Dr
Salt Lake City, UT 84106
(801) 467-5545

View Google Map

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Piccata di Pollo al Limone (Chicken Piccata)

Chicken Piccata

Occasionally weekends at our house involve a full day dedicated to the process of making homemade stock. After reading the "French Laundry Cookbook" and the Culinary Institute of America's "The Professional Chef", I am always worried I will ruin the clarity by not skimming often enough. Thus my laborious process requires hours and hours of skimming, augmented with jazz curling from the computer and several glasses of wine; the end result hopefully being a beautifully clear and flavorful stock.

This past weekend was one of such weekends and I was left with a couple of chicken breasts that weren't needed for the stock. So, when Monday rolled around and I didn't feel like putting much effort into dinner, here's what I put together with the remaining poultry. This recipe is so easy and quick, yet unbelievably sophisitcated and full of flavor. I love how silky and rich the sauce tastes with the juicy chicken breasts and zesty lemon. Besides, the sauce gave me a chance to use the chicken stock I'd spent all day working on. (Of course a canned stock can also be used, but then I wouldn't have been able to enjoy all those glasses of wine while skimming.)

Recipe --

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (halves)
1/4 cup chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
3 Tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 thin slices of lemon
2-3 Tbs capers
Olive oil
3 Tbs unsalted butter
1 tsp paprika
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Process --

Wrap chicken breasts between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and pound until about 1/4-inch thick. Pat dry with a paper towel and sprinkle chicken breasts with salt, pepper and paprika. Most recipes call for chicken breasts to be lightly dredged in flour with seasonings mixed in. I choose to omit the flour because I like the sauce to have a clear, glassy sheen, and I find that using flour tends to make the sauce cloudy.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat and pour enough olive oil to just cover the surface. Sauté chicken breasts until beautifully browned each side (approx. 3 minutes each side). Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Drain excess fat and oil from pan. Deglaze pan with chicken stock and scrape brown bits (fond) with a wooden spoon. Add wine, lemon juice, lemon slices and simmer until reduced by half then whisk in butter. Strain sauce through a fine strainer (retain lemon slices). Plate the chicken and spoon sauce over the top. Top with the lemon slices and garnish with capers (and thyme leaves or parsley if desired).

It's not Chicken Helper, but it certainly helped me get dinner on the table.

- J

Saturday, February 03, 2007

White Bean Soup with Mascarpone

White Bean Soup

In the spirit of the season of conversation hearts and overpriced red roses, can I just tell you how much I love my husband? Not only is J the sole cook at our house, he's also a darn good one. His Tuscan bean soup with pancetta and shavings of parmesan reggiano is hands down my favorite bean soup, and I request it all the time. And so he admitted to being a little worried about this new creation, and how I would welcome it to our repertoire of "what's for dinner tonight," given my loyalty to the original. But J needn't worry; this new concoction, with a dollop of mascarpone and porcini mushrooms, is positively scrumptious in its own right. I love the way the cool, creamy masarpone melts in your mouth against the warm, earthy soup.

From the mouth of the cook himself, here's the lowdown:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 sprig rosemary
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped fennel
1 Tbs fresh thyme leaves
2 cans white beans (or soak dried white beans until tender)
2 slices of pancetta (1/4" thick)
1 cup chicken stock
3 Tbs mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 cups sliced wild mushrooms (I used porcini)
1 Tbs chopped parsley
1 small shallot finely chopped

Process --

Heat 6-qt pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and pancetta. Render fat from pancetta (approx. 10 minutes) and remove pancetta from pan. Add rosemary, onion and fennel and cook until softened. Add chicken stock and drained beans and slowly simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the beans are cooking heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add butter and a chopped shallot. Cook chopped shallot until sweated (about 1 minute) then add mushrooms. Gently stir the mushrooms until evenly coated with butter and add a pinch of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Let mushrooms cook until they are tender and slightly browned, about 5 minutes (try not to stir too much). Add parsley, a small pinch of the thyme and remove from heat.

When the beans are finished cooking remove from heat and carefully blend with an immersion blender (or in a blender done in several batches) until mixed to a smooth consistency.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with sauteed mushrooms. Quenelle (roll between two spoons) a spoonful of mascarpone and softly place into soup.

- K

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Imitation is the Most Sincere Form of Flattery

When I found the cupcake blog, Cupcake Bakeshop by Chockylit, I was smitten. An entire blog dedicated to cupcakes? Kharma is on my side. Inspired by Chockylit's delectable pictures, I decided to give one of the recipes a try.

Chocolate cupcakes with coconut buttercream frosting and shaved chocolate

While I love baking cupcakes, the art of frosting has never been my thing. I am far too ADD to get my ingredients as precise as they need to be for baking. In fact, many years ago, my friend's sister decided to "experiment" on us for her psychology class project, instructing each of us to bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies. We both managed to leave out imperative ingredients: baking powder for me, butter for my friend. Our cookies looked and tasted like shit, and my friend's sister got an A.

So as I delved into this buttercream frosting I read and reread the simple recipe at least a dozen times. Still, my frosting turned out pretty wet at first attempt, until J added a little sugar. I frosted a few cakes for our company that were due within the hour, and stuck the bowl of frosting in the fridge to see if that would help. By the following afternoon, it was firm and the coconut flavor was finally coming through; much better. I slathered frosting on the rest of the devilish cakes, knocking back two a day until they were gone. Chockylit's version certainly look prettier, but I guess you can't judge a book by its cover, because my clumsier version still tasted like a little piece of heaven. Chockylit: my hips and I thank you.

- K