Monthly Archives: October 2015

Tony’s Pizzeria Napoletana:  A San Francisco North Beach landmark

Walk into Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in the heart of San Francisco’s Little Italy in North Beach on most days, and without fail, you’ll encounter a bustling, boisterous vibe – and a wait for a table. See what the hype is all about as you sample both Italian and American pizza making traditions and watch the hoarded of locals, tourists, and business meetings alike.

Tony’s is one of those establishments that successfully caters to everyone. Who doesn’t like pizza? With so many styles from across the boot of Italy and coast-to-coast America, the menu can seem overwhelming with possibility. Love Neapolitan pizza? Try their prize-winning Margherita (limited availability), fired in a 900 degree (Fahrenheit) wood-burning oven. Or go Roman – long and thin from a 700 degree gas oven. Of course, who could forget their Sicilian pizzas, which also have garnered international recognition. 

Perhaps you’re feeling a bit more nostalgic for Americana. Maybe massive New York – or Trenton – style pies are your taste. Or head to the Midwest, where you can try a Detroit style pie in a Detroit steel pan, or a super-thin St. Louis style pizza. If those don’t hit the spot, go California-style with the state’s trademark alternative spin on tradition, with a crust made from a range of flours (including whole wheat and spelt), fired to 900 degrees in a wood-burning oven, and with toppings one might not expect. The Hang Ten, for example, pairs Korean BBQ short ribs, pickled vegetables, and mozzarella.

So what did I choose? Both times, or selections were from the Classic Italian lists. 

  
I couldn’t resist the combination of basil and Rosemary, so on my first trip, I chose the Di Napoli (pictured above). Slightly more complex than a traditional Margherita, the savory rosemary and basil were perfect for a cool, damp evening.

 

Classic Italian Diavola

 
On the second visit, my local friend – a regular well-known to the staff – was convinced to revisit her favorite pizza, the Diavola (substituting prosciutto for the sopressata). This pizza is a wonderful juxtaposition of salty meat and cheese with slightly peppery, fresh arugula all on a thin, not quite Neapolitan crust.

Lest you not feel like pizza, or you’d like a vegetable main or side dish, don’t skip their other offerings. The quinoa salad is a light, satisfying meal or side dish, with a citrus vinaigrette bringing together arugula, quinoa, red onion, and feta.

 

Insalate Quinoa

 
The best insider secret is to customize their insanely mouth-watering deep fried green beans by asking for them to be topped with burrata and shishito peppers (that addition does not appear on the menu, and it went far too quickly to photograph). I never would have thought to pair creamy burrata with garlicky green beans, but the combination is a wonderous taste and texture explosion. How is this not a thing?! It almost made me forget about pizza entirely, had it not been for a few glasses of rosé wine.

Whether it’s your first or 18rh visit to Tony’s the experience will never grow old. Your options would take a lifetime to cover!

Foster’s Market Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip cookies: A taste of North Carolina fall

The CD is finally back in the kitchen! From California, I’ll continue to share flavors and unique finds imported from around the globe, but I’ll also share my old East Coast culinary traditions and discover new perspectives of the American West. It is fitting that the East Coast gal marks her return to the – now West Coast – kitchen with a bite of the American South.

Durham, North Carolina’s Foster’s Market was a go-to for a creative, globally inspired weekend lunch while I was an undergraduate. After graduation, nostalgia led me to a recipe-filled calendar about 10 years ago. After I tried out Sara Foster’s recipe for Pumpkin White Chocolate Chunk cookies, they were such a hit and great, homemade addition to (or substitution for) the Pumpkin-palooza that hits the American packaged and prepared foods industry every fall.

This chewy cookie employs a secret ingredient: butterscotch chips. How, might you ask, is that a secret ingredient? They are nearly hidden in the recipe, almost undetectable: they are ground and incorporated seamlessly with the flour in a food processor. The result is a subtle butterscotch flavor that only enhances the pumpkin flavor. I’ve also made a few minor tweaks to the original Foster’s recipe – raised the baking temperature and added pumpkin pie spice for that comforting, familiar flavor.

  
If you intend to share them, you might want to double the recipe – they go quickly!

  

Foster's Market Pumpkin White Chocolate Chip cookies

  • Servings: 3 1/2 dozen
  • Print

Adapted from a recipe by Sara Foster of Foster’s Market

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks or 12 Tbsp) salted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or All-purpose flour)
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt.
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light or dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup puréed canned or fresh pumpkin
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup whole rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips

Directions
In a large mixing bowl, bring butter to room temperature. Preheat oven to 365 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, combine butterscotch chips and 1 cup of the flour, and pulse until the chips are ground finely into a meal. Gradually add the remainder of the flour (or as much as will fit in the processor), the baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Pulse to incorporate. Set aside.

Cream butter and each sugar. Beat in egg by hand. Continue to stir/beat briskly while adding pumpkin and vanilla. Stir in oats. Gradually fold in flour and butterscotch chip mixture until well incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips.

  
  
Roll into 1″ balls and arrange on cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes; cool on a wire rack or waxed paper.

Stoneacre Pantry: The Bounty Of New England’s Surf and Turf

Island hop to charming Newport, Aquidneck, Rhode Island for a food scene that is unexpectedly diverse and refined for the town’s size and relatively remote island location. Along the foodie’s paradise that is Thames Street is Stoneacre Pantry, a small, locally owned and sourced restaurant that emphasizes the quality and sustainability of local farm produce.

   
 Both the restaurant itself and its menu are intimate, like offerings from a private chef at a dinner party. The wait staff certainly are attuned to their customers’ needs, ensuring a fabulous experience by the end of the meal. As an example, the first wine I tried (a boutique French red) was not a match for my palate. The accommodating waitress allowed me to try two more reds before I found one I really enjoyed – and switched my friend’s glass when she discovered this red’s deliciousness.

  
To start, we enjoyed an amuse bouche – elegant, simple spoonfuls of green gazpacho along with grilled bread. The soup’s refreshing, earthy tang was a great palate cleanser.

  
We both chose a starter salad of kale massaged with a pungent, salty miso Caesar dressing, asiago cheese, and confit chicken. It was a satisfying portion with vibrant flavors.

  
For our main courses, we went for vegetarian and fresh New England seafood, respectively. The vegetarian plate consisted of a red bell pepper roasted over high heat and stuffed with a fluffy mixture of spinach, ricotta, and pine nuts. Lightly seared eggplant and decorative swipes of red pepper coulis and a potato purée accompanied it. The dish was cohesive and perfectly executed.

  
My friend’s seared scallops had an exemplar wisp of crust on two sides. An unexpected farro pilaf, interspersed with a touch of cauliflower florets, was the sort of side dish that signifies the promise of nutrient-dense foods when prepared with a deft hand. It was wonderful and could have been made into an entree in its own right.

  
You know you have stumbled upon an irresistible dessert when you order one to share and immediately realize that in no way is it possible to share. Stoneacre’s milk chocolate mousse was that dessert. Like a parfait surprise with its hidden layers, the first bite is a slightly tart, subtly sweet whipped creme fraiche and cocoa streusel that only adds to the anticipation of what is next to come: The light cloud of the milk chocolate mousse. Lest one feel disappointed to near the bottom of the jar, one reaches the dessert’s most unexpected element – a perfectly intense salty-sweet, liquified toffee. While toffee might have been a more apt descriptor for the salty butterscotch, we couldn’t get enough of this sauce without equal.

Full and satisfied, we couldn’t turn down the simple homemade truffle served upon delivery of the bill, it was a perfect sweet way to ease the pain of the end (and $) to a wonderful dining experience. I enthusiastically recommend Stoneacre Pantry to any visitor to Newport.

The Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival

Ghirardelli, a San Francisco icon, is the perfect host, and its bayside Ghirardelli Square is the perfect setting for a festival celebrating all things chocolate. Experience the gluttony and homage to all things chocolate.

For 20 years, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company has hosted an annual chocolate festival outside its factory at Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco. Sponsored not only by its host, vendors of chocolate, coffee, ice cream, baked goods, wine, beer, and even coconut water participate. From boutique businesses to large corporations, these companies tempt festivalgoers with their products, vying for their tickets. It’s done in the name of charity; this year’s charity was Project Open Hand.

Two types of tickets are available for purchase: The Chocolate Road, which allows tasting samples, and the Chocolate and Wine Pavilion, which is indulgence central: sugar plus fermented sugar. Mmm!

I visited both pavilions – possibly accidentally (umm, they might have given me an extra ticket). I started with the Chocolate and Wine pavilion. I was slightly disappointed to see large, lower-quality wine producers represented. Call me a wine snob, but I tried very few wine samples that I truly enjoyed. All was not lost, however, because chocolate makes everything better, and most wine enhances most chocolates.

Leffe Blond and chocolate covered popcorn. A strange but surprisingly good combination!

Chocolate and peppermint covered popcorn paired surprisingly with Leffe Blonde ale of Stella Artois, offered in complimentary souvenir tulip glasses.

Socola’s rich confections

Boutique chocolates from Socola were rich and more intense when tasted with red wine.


A local cupcake confectioner distributed mini cupcakes, including an outstanding cookie dough flavor that was unlike most cupcakes I’ve tried. A moist chocolate and espresso cupcake frosted with toffee buttercream was quite a contrast from the former but was no less scrumptious.

After that pavilion, I needed to take a break from the gluttony (something I never thought I would say). After a salad break, I returned to the festival, recharged and ready for more sweets.

Along the Chocolate Road, Ghirardelli was front and center with tents handing out their mini chocolate bars. Nearby, rich drinking chocolate samples caught my eye. Though less intense and slightly sweeter than my favorite European varieties, the flavors evoked memories of fine hot chocolate. Get me back to Europe!

Three Twins ice cream and another local vendor served up rich and creamy tastes of their frozen desserts. Vegan and lactose-free rice milk “ice cream” and four varieties each of single-origin chocolate and vanilla ice creams were a nice departure from the intensity of chocolates and truffles. Two small toffee-making companies wooed festivalgoers with their various flavors – pumpkin, Oreo, and even white-chocolate covered pistachio and Cherry flavors called my name.

Other homegrown businesses offered small batch, fair trade dark chocolate bars, along with an assortment of truffles, cookies, and brownies. Some lines were too long for my taste, but plenty of vendors were more easily accessible. I certainly left the chocolate festival fatter and happier, if not a bit sick of chocolate.

Never fear – I was right back to eating chocolate the next day! Next year or any September, should you find yourself near San Francisco, stop in to a great festival at an American icon.