The SFPFS Blog

Sassy Salsa SIG recap by Rodger Helwig

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1093797_599659063390763_184341601_oLast eve at Micki Weinberg’s we tasted nine fresh tomato salsas from stores around the Bay Area, followed by a prodigious potluck.

The winners:
Coming in at #1 and a real bargain, Trader Joe’s Fresh-Packed Mild Salsa, 24 oz. for $2.99

#2 Whole Foods “Made Right Here” Mild Salsa, 16 oz. at $4.99

#3 Casa Sanchez Mild Salsa Roja, 15 oz., $4.99, at Safeway and other area stores.

Ole!

A Culinary Break-Through: Grape Skin and Grape Seed Flours and Oils

by Jane Bonacci

In February SFPFS had the opportunity to experience a line of unique new food products that are naturally gluten-free, SUPER nutritious, add shelf-life to baked goods AND are environmentally friendly, in that they are leftovers from the winemaking process, which would otherwise be discarded.

The folks behind Kendall-Jackson Family Wines and Chalk Hill Vineyards wanted to reduce the wine industry’s environmental footprint by creating new uses for normally discarded grape skins and seeds (known as pomace). They founded WholeVine Products http://wholevine.com/ and hired a team of experts to create the new flours and oils.

They have created 16 varietal flours (eight each from the skins and seeds) and eight culinary grapeseed oils including Syrah, Merlot, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The seeds are pressed to extract the oils, and then, along with the grape skins, are dried and milled into flours. These flours have all the flavor profiles of the wine varietals they come from, producing an unmistakable nuanced quality that is hard to describe, but delicious and earthy. When you open the bag, it smells a lot like the inside of a winery with the wine-soaked wood barrels, one of my favorite scents in the world.

The WholeVine grapeseed oils are truly remarkable. I would categorize them as finishing oils as opposed to everyday cooking oils. They are full bodied and rich, with distinctive flavors reminiscent of the wines they originate from. In the same way that wines carry the flavor profiles of the soils the vines are grown in, the oils will vary depending on where the grapes were grown and harvested. The same concept of terroir that is discussed in wine tasting, applies to the oils as well.

The event was held at Ketchum Public Relations’ award winning, beautifully appointed Culinary Center in San Francisco. We were welcomed with glasses of Kendall-Jackson chardonnay wine and sat down to learn about how these new flours and oils are made. It was exciting to hear about the high levels of anti-oxidants, fiber, amino acids, and protein that the flours naturally have, knowing that adding even small amounts will boost the health-quotient of my baked goods. Another benefit is that adding these ingredients to baked goods extends the shelf life for days and weeks longer than other flours.

Right now WholeVine products are sold primarily in Marin and Sonoma county stores, (also at Rainbow in San Francisco and Draeger’s) but are rapidly expanding throughout the Bay Area and are also available online.

For recipes and more information on this article go to http://theheritagecook.com/wholevine-grape-skin-and-seed-flours-and-oil-a-culinary-breakthrough/

Lifetime Achievement Award goes to…Joyce Jue!

The SFPFS 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Joyce Jue by Lili Rollins, last year’s Award Recipient, at the 2013 AGM in January.
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Joyce’s energy and commitment to SFPFS (she has been an SFPFS member since our organization’s inception in 1978 and was President 2009) has truly made our group more memorable and delicious!

Over the years Joyce has shared her valuable knowledge, time and endless support, whether it be helping fellow members or working behind the scenes at just about every BBQ. Joyce is an idea person and has always been available to lend her creative ideas and expertise to help us grow as an organization.

This was a timely award, because, we learned at the AGM that Joyce is moving to Oregon! We are delighted to send Joyce off to her next adventure with this award. We can think of no one more deserving. Thank you, Joyce, for giving so much to us all.

The Lifetime Achievement Award is given each year, below is the criteria for eligibility:
• SFPFS Member for at least 10 years – not necessarily consecutive
• Shared with the culinary world
• Active in community service
• Excels in their field
• Possesses mentor qualities
• Dedication to the SFPFS

Traveling Table at Hakka San Francisco

by Amy Sherman
On March 19th SFPFS members enjoyed the year’s first Traveling Table dinner at Hakka Restaurant in San Francisco, with Linda Lau Anusasananan, member and author of the award-winning The Hakka Cookbook. In the book Anusasananan traces her roots and shares stories from the people she meets on her journey into her past.

Since Hakka people moved all over the world, there are stories about the cuisine from places like Peru, Hawaii and certain cities in the US and Canada. There are classic recipes for Fried Pork Hash Wontons, Salt Baked Chicken (which Anusasananan thinks may have been the creation of a crafty salt salesman) and lots and lots of vegetable dishes including Braised Mountain Mushrooms, Pickled Carrots and Radishes and Stir Fried Iceberg Lettuce and Garlic. Anusasananan was previously a recipe editor at Sunset magazine, so needless to say you won’t have trouble with her recipes.

According to Anusasananan, the Hakka are like the “Jews of China,” nomads, who migrated from North-Central China to the South in the fourth century. They have their own language, and the name Hakka literally means “guest family.” Their cuisine is the food of the working person, robust and sometimes fatty. They use a lot of salt-preserved ingredients such as preserved vegetables, cured meats and soy sauce. The food is related to Cantonese, but more rustic. Famous Hakka classic dishes include Steamed Pork Belly with Preserved Mustard Greens, Stuffed Tofu, and Salt-baked Chicken.

Some highlights of the meal we enjoyed at Hakka Restaurant
Hakka Restaurant
4401 Cabrillo St @ 45th Ave
San Francisco
415-876-6898

Chinese Bacon with Preserved Greens
Chinese Bacon
This is a very rich dish of pork belly which are somewhat sweet, served with luscious preserved vegetables.

House Special Pan-Fried Tofu This was one of everyone's favorite dishes. Lighter and with a delicate sauce. Inside the tofu was a mild ground pork filling.

House Special Pan-Fried Tofu
This was one of everyone’s favorite dishes. Lighter and with a delicate sauce. Inside the tofu was a mild ground pork filling.

Fried Pumpkin Strips with Salted Egg Yolk If you've never had salted egg yolk before, I'd describe it as tasting a bit like cheese. It has a strong umami flavor.

Fried Pumpkin Strips with Salted Egg Yolk
If you’ve never had salted egg yolk before, I’d describe it as tasting a bit like cheese. It has a strong umami flavor.

Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens The chicken was good, but the gingery preserved green stuffing was particularly delicious/

Chicken Stuffed with Preserved Greens
The chicken was good, but the gingery preserved green stuffing was particularly delicious/

Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Beans I'd say the garlic and green onions were the predominant flavors in this dish.

Clams with Spicy Salt and Black Beans
I’d say the garlic and green onions were the predominant flavors in this dish.

Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli with Rice Wine Another unusual dish, this one had a sweet wine sauce.

Stir-fried Chinese Broccoli with Rice Wine
Another unusual dish, this one had a sweet wine sauce.

Home-Style Steamed Sea Bass Another knockout dish, this one had a thin sauce but was loaded with shredded pork, and sour, crunchy and juicy sliced preserved mustard greens.

Home-Style Steamed Sea Bass
Another knockout dish, this one had a thin sauce but was loaded with shredded pork, and sour, crunchy and juicy sliced preserved mustard greens.

Traveling Table: A warm, dry night at Frantoio Ristorante

By Rory Earnshaw

On Tuesday night, December 4, 20 San Francisco Professional Food Society members braved high winds and heavy rain to attend a delightful dinner at Mill Valley’s Frantoio Ristorante.

Early arrivals were treated to a small plate of appetizers, house-cured olives, prosciutto and house-made focaccia, thinly sliced and wonderfully salted. By the time everyone arrived, the group was comfortably sitting at one long table at the back of the large dining room, next to the in-house olive press.

Chef Duilio Valenti described the upcoming meal to the group, and the dinner began. The starters were small green salads with Star Route Farm young lettuce, gorgonzola, house-made truffle oil and potato chips. Following the salad was spinach potato gnocchi with rabbit ragu and porcini. Finishing the savory potion of the evening was black cod in olive crust with braised chard, capers, lemon and olive oil. Dessert was a substantial portion of grappa-infused panettone with gelato.
All in all, it was a warm evening of good food and company, a relief from the storm outside.

Book club report: Yes, Chef

by Kathy Lassen-Hahne

On November 14, at the lovely home of Barbara Shenson in Foster City, the San Francisco Professional Food Society Book Club embarked on a worldwide voyage of far-reaching destinations, social introspection and amazing tastes — inspired by Marcus Samuelsson’s Memoir Yes, Chef.

The discussion opened with Kara Nielsen’s canvassing those members who were originally reticent to read the selected title due to an overload of Marcus Samuelsson in the media and his well-known personal history. Were their minds changed? The answer was a resounding “yes,” with unanimous agreement from all present that this is a very compelling memoir (as opposed to the other suggested mystery story, Nightwatch; all thumbs down). Some noted that the skillful editing/co-writing by Veronica Chambers really contributed to making Yes, Chef so engrossing.

The story begins in Ethiopia where the author was born into poverty, afflicted with tuberculosis and then adopted, along with his older sister, by a Swedish family from Goteborg, Sweden, following the death of his mother. With his innate culinary talent and teachings by his Swedish grandmother, Marcus studied culinary arts at a vocational high school and climbed the professional chef ladder by cooking at restaurants and hotels in Sweden, Switzerland and Austria. He made several journeys as culinary staff on cruise ships that opened his eyes and palates to the flavors of the world.

He eventually landed in Manhattan at Aquavit, owned by a fellow Swede. His hard work, passion, experimentation to create signature dishes and continuous search for excellence were rewarded when he became the youngest chef ever to receive a three-star rating from The New York Times at Aquavit.

His success continued as he went on to open other restaurants, compete on Top Chef Masters and even prepare President Obama’s first state dinner for the prime minister of India. After a harrowing episode where he had to “buy back” his name from the owner of Aquavit, he now owns and runs the Red Rooster in Harlem, where he celebrates the roots of American cuisine and diverse culinary traditions of the neighborhood.

Not until arriving in New York did he confront true racial discrimination. Like Barak Obama, Marcus Samuelsson was too black for some, too white for others. “A hundred years ago black men and women had to fight to get out of the kitchen. These days, we have to fight to get in.”

Besides Samuelsson’s professional story, equally fascinating is his personal story, which includes his lifelong issues with race, including being taunted as a school child in Sweden, being refused work in kitchens in Europe and integrating as a black, but not African-American, chef in New York City. There is also the story of his relationship with Ethiopia and Africa, and his reunion with his birth father and siblings there. Samuelsson also fathered a daughter with a young woman in Austria at 20 and then waited years to meet her. The interesting social note here: his Swedish mother immediately embraced and supported his daughter Zoe, even though Marcus did not meet her until she was a teenager. We also learned about his glamorous Ethiopian-born, European-raised wife Maya Haile and their nuptials in their native country.

A recent Wall Street Journal article featured a story on Marcus Samuelsson and potluck dinners.

Our discussion was of course accompanied by an array of delicious dishes, including Scandi breads, Smorrebrod, Gravlaks with sweet Mustard Sauce, Parsley Root Soup with apples and walnuts, Lentil Stew with Berbere spices, Red Lentil Hummus with Berbere spices, Swedish Meatballs, Lingonberry Sauce, Roasted Vegetables, a Swedish Aunt’s Dream Cookies and the classic Swedish Princess Cake from San Francisco’s Schubert’s Bakery. (N.B. Berbere is a key ingredient in the cuisines of Ethiopia and Eritrea, and includes chili peppers, garlic, ginger, dried basil, korarima, rue, white and black pepper and fenugreek.) It was a perfect feast over which to discuss a fascinating, human and compelling memoir.

Nona Visits True Grass Farms!

By Nona Lim

I was really happy to had the opportunity to visit True Grass Farms recently on a beautiful Saturday morning with the San Francisco Professional Food Society.
True Grass Farms is unique in many ways. Located in Marin County, California, it is a family-owned farm that has been there for four generations – the farm’s history goes all the way back to 1867! They value sustainability (embracing only eco-friendly farming practices), and it is in their utmost priority to provide the best that nature can offer. They grow Black Angus cows as well as California Kobe cows along with American Guinea and Blackworth hogs and heritage chicken breeds: all pasture-raised and USDA-certified organic meats.

While at True Grass Farms, not only did I learn more about cows, pigs, and chickens, I was pleasantly surprised to find that pigs, when given the space and raised properly, don’t smell at all. And I certainly had a great time cuddling Iris, the hen (as you can see above).

It was inspiring to see the four young farmers – Guido, Holly, Matt and Evan – absolutely passionate about their beliefs and willing to work to fulfill their dream of creating a sustainable farm.

It is also such a wonderful thing to be able to connect with our food, and with those who have made it. We shared a farm-to-table lunch from ingredients farmed or foraged from the area.

Hope you enjoyed some of the pictures from the visit. True Grass Farms does regular lunches and I thoroughly recommend you to go up for a visit. Just as we would go to a winery for wine-tasting, this is a great way to connect with your food, and to meet those who have grown it.

Bon Apetit.

For the Love of Chocolate: SFPFS Chocolate-Tasting SIG

text by Laura Martin Bacon
photos by John Wiest

Photo by John Wiest

“Chocolate-tasting is hard work.” That’s what Guittard’s Micki Weinberg tells us when we arrive at Sophia Markoulakis’ beautiful Burlingame home on October 16 for the SFPFS official chocoholics’ tasting SIG meeting.

As we look around, we notice that the scene is set rather like a business meeting. Or at least, the table setting indicates that this is serious business.

Micki and Sophia have equipped all tasters with freshly sharpened pencils, professional-looking tasting sheets and flavor descriptor wheels, along with palate-cleansing water crackers and carafes of water. For those of us whose stress level may need reduction, there’s also plenty of wine and port.

The evening’s blind tasting will include 13 commercially available chocolates. Some are single-origin chocolates and others are blends, but they’re all within a 70-75% cacao range. Micki assures us that she worked hard to narrow down the assortment -– we could easily have tasted at least twice as many noteworthy chocolates within that range.

Wondering exactly what the term “70-75% cacao range” means? Micki informs us that the number refers to the percentage of dark chocolate that comes from the cacao bean, which will be a combination of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. The rest of the chocolate is typically composed of sugar, plus tiny amounts of lecithin (an emulsifier) and vanilla (which highlights the flavors of chocolate).

Chocolate liquor, Micki says, is the essence of the cacao bean -– it’s what you get when you grind the nibs (similar to grinding peanuts for peanut butter). And, contrary to its name, chocolate liquor does not contain alcohol. Cocoa butter is the fatty part of the cacao bean that results from the process of pressing the chocolate liquor, which separates into cocoa butter and cocoa powder.

Milk, semisweet and bittersweet chocolates contain varying amounts of cocoa butter -– and white chocolate is pure cocoa butter, plus sugar. According to FDA standards, anything with over 35% chocolate liquor qualifies as “sweet dark chocolate.” As for terms like semisweet, bittersweet and dark, there are no standardized definitions, so one chocolate maker’s bittersweet offering could have exactly the same amount of chocolate liquor and cocoa butter as another company’s semisweet.

Even though the chocolates we’re tasting fall into the same cacao range, Micki tells us that they’ll likely taste very different, have a distinctive mouthfeel and will function differently in recipes. These factors will depend on things like ratios of chocolate liquor to cocoa butter. And, just as it does with wine, coffee and olive oil, terroir affects the attributes of chocolate.

You have to learn how to really taste the chocolate, Micki notes, as she tells us about the professional taster’s approach to this challenging task. Let it melt in your mouth to get a nice flavor release and to really gauge the mouthfeel, she advises. Be sure to note textural factors like smoothness, graininess and whether the cocoa butter comes through.

Micki and Sophia have set out tonight’s chocolates on each taster’s plate. They’re numbered, but we can taste them in any order we want. Tasting sheets request that we rate each chocolate, as well as provide comments about its distinctive attributes. For inspiration, we have a flavor wheel that provides descriptors ranging from floral, citrusy, coffee, caramel and tropical fruit to burlap, mothballs, barnyard and hammy (I swear I am not making this up).

“Please take this seriously,” Micki requests. “Have fun with it, but realize it’s a special opportunity. After all, how often do you spend $50 on great chocolates –- just for tasting? Also, try not to have conversations, so everyone can concentrate.”

Really? We can’t talk? Well then, it’s work, a few folks grumble good-naturedly. But as I begin to taste the selection on my plate, I realize that it really is better not to talk –- I don’t want to miss an instant of the extraordinary show each chocolate seems to be performing.

One of the things I learn is: wait for it. Like a great wine, chocolate reveals its distinctive flavors in layers -– it’s a full sensory experience that evolves as the chocolate dissolves on the palate.

As if that’s not enough, SFPFS President-Elect John Wiest reveals a delectable tidbit that he’s gleaned from the AP newswire: the more chocolate a country eats, the more Nobel prize winners per capita. Also: the antioxidants in chocolate can help slow the aging process.

The bottom line: eat lots of chocolate. It tastes wonderful, feels great and it just might make you smarter -– and younger.

For details on the SIG, please check out these tasting stats from Micki:

SFPFS Tasting SIG
Dark Chocolate, 70% – 75% cocoa solids
October 16, 2012

Sorted by # Who Would Buy

Shopper’s List:

1. Callebaut-Belgium 70% $8.50 lb Pasta Shop, Oakland

2. Cost Plus World Market Private Label 70% $1.99 3 oz bar

3. Ghirardelli Intense Dark Twilight Delight-USA 72% $3.29 3.25 oz bar

4. Trader Joe’s Pound Plus-Belgium 72% Dark Chocolate $4.99 17.6 oz bar

5. Lindt Excellence-USA 70% Cocoa Lunardi’s $3.59 3.5 oz bar

6. Green & Blacks Organic Dark Baking Chocolate-Italy 72% Lunardi’s $5.99 5.3 oz

7. E. Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate-USA 72% Cacao Draeger’s $17.49 16 oz

8. Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Baking Chunks-USA 70% Cacao Lunardi’s $5.69 6 oz

9. Dandelion Small Batch Chocolate, San Francisco Single Origin Sambirano, Madagascar 70% $8 2 oz bar, Serendipity Chocolate, San Carlos

10. Tcho, San Francisco Single Origin Ghana 70% $7 2 oz bar, Serendipity Chocolate, San Carlos

11. Rogue Chocolates, Massachusetts Single Origin Rio Caribe 70%
$8 2 oz bar, Serendipity Chocolate, San Carlos

12. E. Guittard Quetzacoatl Bittersweet-USA 72% Cacao Mass
Mollie Stone’s $2.99 2 oz bar
Same as Onyx 72% www.KingArthurFlour.com $10.95 16 oz

13. Waialua Estate Extra Dark Chocolate, Hawaii
Single Origin North Shore Oahu www.Chocosphere.com $6.95 2 oz bar

The 2012 SFPFS BBQ was a great success!

By Carl Drosky, Special Events Chair

2012 SFPFS BBQ. Photo by Rory Earnshaw

The 2012 SFPFS BBQ was a great success! Members and guests enjoyed a beautiful, sunny day in Walnut Creek on the grounds of the historical Shadelands Ranch Museum, Sunday, August 26.

Guests nibbled on enticing appetizers provided by the vendors of Savory California, strolled with a glass of wine in hand as they previewed the expansive used cookbook selection set up by Rene Matthew, and were able to witness the BBQ competition teams (Sierra Select & Gene Schick) up close–smoke and all. Congratulation to team Viking headed by John Ruloph for winning the competition this year.
The Auction Gazebo was headed by Karen Diggs. Between the Silent Auction, raffle ticket sales for the “Big Green Egg” Grill (won by Andrea Cope) and cookbook sales, SFPFS raised over $3,000 for nonprofit causes.

Finally, everyone feasted on a buffet of BBQ Ribs, grilled corn on the cob and wonderful desserts provided by the bake-off competitors (plus extras from Rene and Lili).

A big thanks to members and board members who volunteered to ensure the day was a success.
Click Here to Watch Video

For a video of the day’s events, click HERE.

Tasting SIG report: Goat Cheeses

by Sophia Markoulakis

Chevre Tasting Plate

SFPFS members convened at Dianne Jacob’s home on August 20 to sample and compare a variety of goat cheeses from nearby farms and around the globe. Laura Chenel’s director of culinary development–and fellow SFPFS member–Jacquelyn Buchanan graciously attended and provided not only her award-winning cheese, but also other brands to taste and discuss.

Before the tasting commenced, Jacquelyn informed us on the two main factors that contribute to flavor variations: milk and culture quality. In addition, feed also plays an important role, which is why LC works closely with the 16 farms from which they source. Slight variations in butterfat, which affects flavor, also occur seasonally when goats are producing milk for offspring. Producers, including LC, spend a lot of time and money on educating distributors since the handling of this time-sensitive product can also affect flavor once it leaves for distribution. It’s customary for most goat cheese manufactures to use frozen curds, since freezing at optimal flavor ensures consistency.

Of the five fresh goat cheeses that we tasted, a private label from Petaluma Market came in first. Second was Sebastopol’s Redwood Hill Farms, and third was France’s Couturier. Finishing out the last two were Cypress Grove and Laura Chenel. All were pleasantly clean-tasting and tart with only slight variations in flavor. The top two choices garnered 8 and 7 votes out of 10. Still, everyone agreed that any of the five brands would be desirable for purchase and all showed appealing levels of freshness, tartness, and creaminess. Comments for usage included incorporating the buttery Laura Chenel into a dessert.

Fresh walnuts and figs, and balsamic vinegar and honey were passed, in addition to bread, making this a tasting fit for a gourmand.