what we love...

This is a delightful area where we will post short correspondence every few days on what we love ranging from products to recipes to who knows what, and updates on our new products. Feel free to stop back and see what we have added. We have intentionally built this page so no comments can be added to keep it clean and easy to maintain - so we can work more in the kitchen! Please note nothing here is an advertisement.

 

November 19: we love lauffer

Autumn is casserole weather, and our favorite cast iron cookware was made in England in the 1970s by the company Lauffer, and was designed by Robert Welch.

We grew up with this cookware and use the original pieces, along with others we have found on Ebay since the line was only produced for a short time and is long out of production. There was an entire collection of casseroles and even skillets. They are super heavy, but the simple design is beautiful.

And speaking of Lauffer, they produced an incredible line of flatware called Magnum designed by Don Wallance in 1968. The balance and design is perfect. It is still being produced with some design changes, but the original made in Norway is the best and you can get them used online. Wallance was an American industrial designer who's archives were donated to the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum.

November 16: Gear Up for Winter

About a thousand years ago - OK the early 1980s - Eric's mom came home with two down jackets she bought (on sale of course!) for his brother and he when they were in junior high school. They were Gerry down jackets and were super warm. They had these neat little pulleys at the waist to pull the jacket tight so no cold air would blow up inside. Eric got a lime green one and his brother got a light blue one. They were both a men's size small and were huge at that time on us. Hey, they were on sale!

Well that lime green, nearly 30-year-old jacket still fits Eric, is virtually unscathed despite years of abuse and is the default protection he wears at farmers' markets in the winter. Yes 40 degrees is frigid for us folks out here in the Bay Area - especially when you stand in one place for five hours at a farmers' market. Anyhow, a search online about the origins of this amazing jacket reveal a fascinating history. We won't rehash anything since you can read about it all on their website. But this cutting-edge company was founded in Denver, Colorado in 1946 and made super high tech outerwear that was way ahead of its tiime. At some point the company was sold to a European company and the original jackets (the ski patrol model above) are only sold abroad. We emailed them asking when they will be avaiable in the US, and were told hopefully some day. You can find used vintage Gerry jackets on Ebay now and then. Or if you are traveling abroad you can buy one.

Check out their site for store locations and read up on this cool company that deserves to be rediscovered.

Gerry

November 15: Consistently Amazing

It is no secret that we have more cookbooks than we could ever possibly need. We are not sure why we buy so many since most of the time we just whip up our own creations. However now and then a cookbook really does become something we can rely on if we just don't want to think. Yes, that is a shocking statement but it is true. You need to think to cook from scratch. Of course it is impossible for Eric to ever follow a recipe exactly. He always has to put his mark on things and that is why half of what he makes at first can be disasters. But Phineas is more trusting and will follow a recipe and then adjust the second time if need be. The cookbooks from Yotam Ottolenghi have proven to be pitch perfect - no adjustment necessary. And that is a tall claim.

They are mostly vegetable centric, though the second cookbook pictured above has some meat dishes. But don't let the vegetable bit scare you off since all we have tried are very savory and satisfying. And everything we have tried have been amazing. One caveat, the oven settings are for UK stoves and are in Celsius which can be a chore to convert if you are used to Fahrenheit settings only. We love how everything is in grams. We do all our own recipes in grams with a scale and this is simply the only way to measure. Follow our advice and get a good digital scale and it will be your best friend in the kitchen. Any cookbook that uses ounces and pounds is for amateurs. All professionals use metric weights since they are more precise. A gram weighs less than an ounce and when it comes to precision you gotta think small.

But back to the topic, get both Ottolenghi cookbooks. They are flawless and beautiful to look at to boot.

Ottolenghi

November 4: Favorite Cheese

There always has to be cheese in the house! We remember back in the day when Cow Girl Creamery opened a tiny little store on California Street here in San Francisco and changed the city forever in terms of offering amazing cheeses. Today you can get top quality domestic and imported cheeses much more readily, but it is at farmers' markets today where you get the super special stuff that is super fresh and direct from the farm.

We discovered our favorite cheese of the moment at the Inner Sunset Farmers' Market we sell our jam and stuff at every Sunday when they made a sudden appearance as a new vendor not long ago. Donna, pictured above, came by and asked for a trade for our jam. Trading is done among vendors of farmers markets and any vendor who refuses to trade is definitely on everyones hate list! Anyhow, we inquired what she had and she said she had goat cheese. She makes it all herself with her family on their farm in Petaluma (huge dairy center in the Bay Area). They make four kinds and our favorite is their Goat Jaack cheese.

Another bonus of farmers' markets is our customers are always bringing us presents which in turn are rewarded with... guess....trades! We have one customer, well he is no longer a customer now, who gives us the best Irish soda bread he makes in exchange for our jam. Their goat cheese on the bread he trades us is so good. Yum!

Achadinha Goat Cheese

January 1: Best Brewed Coffee

We have been using a French press coffee maker for years but on a whim decided to order a Hario siphon coffee maker and there is no comparison - it makes the best brewed coffee. The design, also called a vacuum coffee maker, has been around for over a century. Ever read the Long Goodbye, by Raymond Chandler? Marlowe offers a very detailed description of his coffee making ritual in the morning and it involves a siphon brewer.

Anyhow, what makes it so amazing is first how the coffee is heated by a small flame (or in some cases a halogen lamp) until the water boils and travels up a glass tube into a top chamber where it mingles with the coffee for as long as you like (much discussion on how long and how much stirring the grinds is best). Then you remove the heat and as it cools the coffee seeps through a cotton cloth filter into the lower chamber nice and hot. It is sort of the same principal as the stove top metal espresso makers, but since it is glass nothing taints the flavor of the coffee. There are other brands as well we have not tried, such as the Cona, which uses a mysterious glass wand to filter the coffee, one by Bodum called the Santos and some other brands. The Cona costs almost three times as much as the Hario so we played is safe and got the Hario.

The one drawback is you have to preboil the water before adding it to the lower pot and then you heat it again to a boil with the burner. We were using rubbing alcohol which is the wrong fuel, so it was taking a long time, but after switching to the right fuel it is pretty fast. The cloth filter you can use over and over, and you have to store it in a little bit of water in the refrigerator for some reason. Do a search on Youtube for siphon or syphon coffee makers to see videos of people using them.

Another thing we like is how Hario, the Japanese company that makes our brewer, is very environmentally conscious in their manufacturing processes.

We bought ours from a company in Canada and they email you right back with any info you need. The best customer service ever.

Avenue 18 - sells the Hario brewers. Email them about the best size for you and tips on using. We got the Tech 3 model which makes 1.5 cups. They offer a bigger one for two cups, though some people think the smaller one makes better tasting coffee.

Sweet Marias - sells the Cona brand siphon brewer with the glass filter. They also sell a brand called Yama.

Hario Glass - manufactures the siphon we use. They make many other products as well.

Bodum - famous for their French press pots, they make a siphon called the Santos. You can buy on their site. It is in the Coffee section under Coffee Presses & Pots.

 

December 29: Sweet!

A new discovery yet again from the excellent Sunnyvale Public library. Just when you thought you knew everything about sweet stuff along comes a book that offers a fun yet scientific explanation about how we sense sweet flavors and the cultural ramifications of sweets. Find out about the blotter test to see if you are a non-taster, taster or super-taster (hint this is genetic). Discover why some people don't like sweets and why some just can't get enough. Learn whether there is such a thing as a sophisticated palette and whether the saying "you can never be too rich or too thin" has any truth. A must read! Take the super-taster quiz on the site below:

The Taste of Sweet

 

December 14: Vintage Tablecloths

We have had for years a 1950s modern style tablecloth that has cute images of kitchenware on it that gets pulled out for special occasions. Today on a whim as we were about to toss it in the washing machine, we noticed a tag of the manufacturer which read Calaprint, and decided to do a quick search online. It lead us to a website that sells vintage tablecloths which turned into a two hour episode of browsing hundreds of tablecloths for sale. Yes we did buy two. But we also learned there are people who collect tablecloths and there is even a society. Who knew? Nothing is nicer than owning something unique, and with a couple great tablecloths on hand, your entertaining will always be that much more special.

The Vintage Table - lots for sale!

Vintage Tablecloths Lovers - info, networking and stuff for sale.

 

 

December 2: Vintage San Francisco

As avid cookbook collectors and readers we have many favorite books. Some provide inspiration for recipes we develop on our own, and some are just a joy to read snuggled up under the covers on a cold winter night. Doris Muscatine's A Cooks Tour of San Francisco second edition from 1969 is a fantastic glimpse into dining trends and restaurant decoration which is long gone. Anyone who knows San Francisco will appreciate reading this book.

The book is out of print but you can find it for sale at various websites.

 

October 1: Snow & Graham

 

 

Our favorite source for cards and stationary is the Chicago company Snow & Graham. Everything they make is beautiful. With the holidays coming up, it is wise to stock up for all your invitations and thank you notes.

Read about them on their site for retail store locations:

Snow & Graham

Buy online:

Luxe Paperie

 

 
 

February 8: The Fruit Hunters

 

Once again our public library is to thank for selecting an amazing book for their collection. We found this a few weeks ago and you have to read it! Adam Gollner has chronicled both his own and other exotic-fruit-obsessed people's travels around the world in search the most bizarre fruit. Not only is this book a hoot to read, but it is extremely educational at the same time. Filled with lurid descriptions of fruit hunts, crazy eccentrics past and present - it is our top read right now. We are just drooling over the endless possibilities of jam-making opportunities revealed in this book.

Adam Gollner Official Website

 

December 7: Celebration Breads

 

For those of you who have read this section, you know we frequent our public libraries weekly. We can't emphasize enough how much we love libraries. And the people who seem to buy the books and DVDs always seem to get the coolest stuff. When we find something we like, we purchase it. That said, this book is a recent find we highly recommend. It isn't full of beautiful photographs, but the history of each type of bread is better than any photo.

The breads are centered around holidays from different cultures around the world. While many holidays we don't have here in the U.S., there is no reason not to bake the bread they symbolize. November through January is a great time to bake sweet breads - and this book is loaded with them. Nothing is better than a slice with your morning coffee or for tea time. Available at most online book shops.

Celebration Breads

 

October 17: Picnic in a Graveyard?

Nika Hazelton was born in Rome, the daughter of a diplomat who later studied at the London School of Economics. Somehow she found her way writing cookbooks during WWII up until her death in 1992, as well as a food writer for Ladies' Home Journal, House and Garden and The New York Times Book Review. We have several of her cookbooks such as The Continental Flavor (highly recommended), and the picnic book pictured above. The picnic book is a great gift idea, though it is long out of print. We suggest you find a first edition hardcover with the wonderful illustrations. The book is divided into creative ideas based on Hazelton's personal experiences with fun anecdotes, such as a picnic in a graveyard for two, a fire island costume picnic, a thrifty, but filling wine or beer picnic etc. Written in 1969, it is quite international with recipes for Korean short ribs and kimchee to quince paste to raspberry scrub (no this isn't a facial but a drink recipe from the 1800s). We can tell from her writing that she had a great sense of humor; for example, the photo of her in the back of The Continental Flavor has her hugging a plastic dog. She also seemed to be a vanguard proponent of women's rights - especially in regard to the food industry with her memebership in the still up and running, very cool Les Dames d'Escoffier International.
 

October 12: Kitchen Literacy

 

Author Ann Vileisis has written a fascinating book on the history of food and its origins in America, starting from people who grew their own food or purchased it from neighboring farms, to the insane current world of food today where we have no connection or knowledge of its origins. We found this at our public library (we love public libraries!) and it is a must read. While it is a non-fiction book the writing and content is a page turner. Anyone today who buys food at a market must read this book. It strikes home how important it is to buy locally and to know directly the chain of transfer of where your food is grown/raised to how it gets to you, with an emphasis on as direct a connection as possible - what we are all about!

Kitchen Literacy

 

October 12: Brickmaiden Breads

We drive all the way from San Francisco to Mill Valley's Mill Valley Market to buy the sour dough Brickmaiden bread. It is so delicious - with its crunchy crust and almost chewy interior. The bread is baked in a fire brick oven in a tiny bakery in Point Reyes, CA just a short drive north of Marin and SF. So tiny they don't even have a website. We don't know of a place that sells their bread (they make other types as well) in SF. Worth the trip to Mill Valley Market - an incredible store in the super cute Mill Valley.

Speaking of brick ovens, we were chatting with some bakers in SF who used to have a bakery near the Cow Palace that had 100 year old brick ovens. Apparently they said the ovens always had to be on since there was no mortar between the bricks, and the heat that expanded them was essential to keep the ovens in one piece. If they cooled down the oven would collapse. We don't know if all brick ovens are like this, but that was an interesting tidbit of info.

Apparently there are a few of these old brick ovens still in use in SF. The baker we spoke to swore the bread baked in the brick ovens tasted so much better. We would love to visit these last remaining commercial brick ovens that apparently would be too expensive to build today due to their size.

 

September 3: Favorite Farmers

 

We are still reeling from the Slow Food Nation event this past weekend that we participated in both as vendors and our apricot jam was featured in the Taste Hall. It was such a totally amazing experience. For those of you who came to our booth and bought our jams, pickles and bbq sauce, thanks so much. We were lucky to also have the two ranches we buy our fruit from at this event: Van Dyke Ranch and Blossom Bluff. Yes, we did start making jam from our one Blenheim tree in our backyard, but that isn't enough to meet demand, so since last summer when we started selling to the public, we purchase our fruit exclusively from these two family-run orchards. We encourage you to buy the fresh fruit they sell directly, or at the farmers markets they sell at.

 

July 24: Sean Thackery

The month of July for us is basically non-stop apricot jam production where all else in our lives comes to a screeching halt. Sleep is rare, mail piles up, house cleaning ceases, socialzing evaporates, and hard physical labor predominates (loading 1000 lbs of apricots into our car every two days, hand washing, cutting, cleaning and inspecting hundreds of pounds of apricots every monrning for example), and all the complexities of a very carefully controlled process that is always tested by the follies of nature, make our summers anything but relaxing. After a long 14 hour shift, pleasures other sleep are few. However, a nice glass of wine with a quickly prepared dinner is something to look forward to. Sean Thackery is a master wine maker who makes some of the best wines that are almost impossible to find outside of restaurants. His affordable Pleiades is truely outstanding for $23. A blend of Syrah, Barbera, Carignane, Petite Sirah, Sangiovese, Viognier etc. make for a haunting, tantelizing wine that never lasts more than a few hours. Thackery's website is full of translated ancient texts about wine, and a winefinder where you can locate his wines - both the budget we drink and the fancy stuff we have yet to find.

Sean Thackery Website

Thackery's Wine Finder

 

 

May 29: Slow Food Nation Event

eric with jam at slow food nation

From August 29 to September 1 the first national event by Slow Food USA will be held in San Francisco. We will have a booth in the Civic Center where we will have our Blenheim apricot and Elephant Heart plum jams available for pickup for local customers, and both products will be featured in their Taste Hall where you can sample them. This will be an amazing event that brings farmers and artisan food producers from around the US together. We highly encourage you to visit - what a perfect excuse to come to beautiful San Francisco!

The Blenheim apricot, the mariposa plum and the elephant heart plum are all on the Ark of Taste by Slow Food USA - which is a list of foods that are in danger of extinction. The theory is to eat things to save them. By giving farmers a reason to grow these varieties isn't just about preserving amazing tasting foods, but keeping agricultural traditions alive throughout the American regions these crops have traditionally been grown. We are passionate supporters of Slow Food and encourage you to learn more on what you can do to save good food from disappearing.

Slow Food Nation

Slow Food USA

 

May 10: Growing Apricots

We snapped this photo today of some apricots on our tree. You can see the early blush that is created on the side the sun has the most exposure to. They also get freckles that when we cook the apricots and the skin becomes transparent look like black spots floating in the jam. We try to remove these since they don't look very nice, but if you get a jar with some little black spots in it - you know they are apricot freckles!

In late March for a few hours it dropped down to freezing and ruined some of the early fruit of local trees. Luckily our tree survived as well as the orchard we get our additional fruit from. But there have been crops almost completely ruined years past from either too much rain or freezing temperatures. In our technologically advanced world, nature still has the upper hand when it comes to farming.

 

May 9: Rudolf Steiner and Skincare

 

Rudolf Steiner was an Austrian occultist who is today best known for his invention of biodynamic agriculture used mostly in the wine industry. However, two companies that focus on personal care products use his idea of biodynamic farming: Weleda and Dr. Hauschka. We are big fans of both companies for their vision, corporate philosophy, quality products and environmentally friendly approach. Both products are found mostly in health food stores, but you can also buy them online.

Dr. Hauschka

Weleda

 

March 25: Screw Caps!

If we had a dollar for every bottle of wine we bought and opened before dinner only to realize it was undrinkable because the cork allowed in air that ruined the wine, we probably could go on a very fancy vacation, somewhere exotic and for a long time.

When we buy wine, we look for screw caps. We even wish wine shops had screw cap only sections to make our searching easier. While wine properly stored so the cork is always in contact with the wine can survive a long time, the reality is most wine is improperly stored. And what a horrible waste.

Many people are resistant to screw caps since historically cheap jug wine used screw caps and due to this prejudice, wine shops don't buy that many. We would like to simply add that screw caps are great. They are better than cork. We have never had a corked bottle of wine with a screw cap, and there is never the trepidation when opening a screw cap bottle of wine that what is inside is some foul smelling, disgusting slosh.

We spent years developing a naturally fruit infused soju (type of Asian vodka) but didn't follow through because manufacturing costs based on our process was just too expensive (think starting a new, aged-scotch-whisky business). However, we used only screw caps for aging in small bottles, and can say with authority that aging in a screw cap is better than cork. We have bottles that have been aging since 1999 and with bottle-to-bottle comparisons, quality is consistent and the few we did with cork didn't hold up, And the taste - oh, if only this were for sale. You would go nuts! Passionfruit, plum, cranberry, raspberry...., dry but not too dry, all organic and natural color from the fruit and full of antioxidants.

But the subject of wine...

One of our customers works for Quixote winery and they use only screw caps. And there is also the Loring Wine Company. If only more wineries did this!

 

January 10: Clean Dishes!

When it comes comes to cleaning up after a party nothing beats a machine that will flawlessly clean even the heaviest soiled pots, glasses, plates and silverware in 2 minutes. Yes - two minutes! Welcome to the big leagues. Hobart is the most respected manufacturer of dishwashers, rack ovens, mixers etc. for the food industry and we can't say enough about how great their products are - even if they are designed and priced for professionals. And their LXi undercounter dishwasher, at a cool $5000, is the best you can get for home use. Not only is it beautiful, it is a beast when it comes to cleaning and sterilizing. If you do a lot of dishes, this machine is blazingly fast and very water efficient.

Hobart

 

January 9: Creative Cooking

 

We love public libraries and pay them a visit at least once a week it seems. Where else can you see your tax dollars put to good use? A few days ago we noticed this cookbook from the famed restaurant at the super luxe Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, Calif. and took it home. It is really special because not only are the recipes very creative in the use of ingredients and techniques, but this book is a great place to get ideas. At first glance recipes look complex and have many steps, but after spending some time reading the book, the steps are short and simple, and what is really nice is you can pick say one step such as a sauce, or a technique for tying a strip of fish into a disc, or grinding dried procini mushrooms and using the powder to coat fish to create a crust (not all recipes are for fish) - that you can incorporate into your own recipes. If you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen as much as we do, this book is a terrific source of inspiration. And unlike most cookbooks, this one you can actually curl up in bed and read.

Sierra Mar Cookbook

Post Ranch Inn

 

January 8: Best Juicer

We love freshly squeezed juice and if you don't know it already, freshly squeezed juice changes flavor quickly - and not for the better. That is why the fresh squeezed juice you buy in the market never tastes as good as if you squeeze it yourself and drink it right away. You can do a taste test yourself. Squeeze some fresh citrus juice and put in in the fridge for a day. Then compare it to freshly squeezed. The difference is amazing.

Recently needed to find a juicer to help us gently press lemons for our upcoming Meyer lemon rub we will be making. After doing some research we settled on this Amco commercial juicer. Manual juicers are more gentle with the fruit, not to mention quiet, and this particular model is so powerful that you hardly need to apply any pressure and it extracts all the juice and pulp with little waste. You can use it with any type of citrus. The cheapest we could find was on Amazon for around $112. Just do a search online for "Amco OrangeX Commercial Juicer" and see what you can find.

 

January 5: Addictive Chips

Almost impossible to find, these are really delicious corn chips worth seeking out. Made in Laguna Beach, Calif., and with no website, and in few stores, it will be a real treasure hunt to find a place that sells these. But get your hands on a bag and it is sure to disappear quickly. Today we just went shopping and bought a bag after a long, long hiatus and before we were home it was gone. Seasoned with soy sauce and a bit of lime, and ultra thin, these are amazing chips. Great with guacamole, but be careful they might be gone before you are finished making it.
 

December 22: Love Chocolate?

Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Hermé and written by Dorie Greenspan is one of the most beautifully photographed and well written cookbooks. If you love to bake, and love chocolate, this is the book for you. While some recipes have multiple steps and are perfect if you have time to spare and enjoy being in the kitchen, others are shorter and faster. As with all good cookbooks there is ample text explaining the recipe and its background. A definite must have and a perfect gift.

Pierre Hermé

 

December 20: Best Skincare

When it comes to staying healthy there is nothing like eating in moderation good, healthy and delicious food (this includes desserts), lots of physical exercise, maintaining a positive outlook, and of course skin care. Looking good means feeling good. And when it comes to skin health there is one company that is hands down the best. SKII. One of us has been using SKII daily for nearly ten years and while we aren't exactly Dorian Gray, this stuff works! The active ingredient, pitera, is derived from fermented rice. The best products are the all important facial treatment essence, the facial treatment milk and the advanced signs treatment.

SKII

Strawberrynet.com - best place to buy it

 

December 18: What to Watch?

We spend a lot of time relaxing while watching films. These can be those on the big screen or that we rent. When it comes to DVDs, The Criterion Collection offers a wonderful collection of independent-minded celluloid representations.

Criterion

 

December 16: Buy Biodegradable

We try to buy and use products that offer biodegradable packaging for our personal use as well as for the items we sell. Each time we see some type of product packaged with plastic we cringe. This stuff is normally not recyclable or biodegradable. Once you start to be on the look out for this, you will realize how many products come wrapped in plastic or use plastic in the packaging that cannot be put in the recycle bin or will break down in landfills.

Fortunately there is a movement afoot to offer products that are easier on the environment. They are made from a wide range of organic matter such as sugar, corn, vegetable starch and specially grown trees. For example, the clear cellophane bags we package some of our products in are made from cottonwood trees and being 100 percent biodegradable, will break down in a compost pile in 30-60 days. More and more products are coming to the market like this and we encourage you to seek them out and use them. Email companies that aren't using biodegradable or recyclable products and demand they do.

We purchase our products from a local company that sells all kinds of cool stuff like biodegradable cutlery, plates, bowls, to-go containers etc. online:

Green Earth Office Supply

Here are some other site for companies that sell biodegradable products:

Eco-Products

SunTerra

Simply Biodegradable

 

 

November 14: Best Energy Drink

Our new favorite way to keep on the go is the Sencha Shot. Unlike those other energy drinks loaded with sugar and more vitamins than you need, this is packed with green tea for a caffine boost as well as 152 mgs of catechin tea antioxidant. The flavor is a refreshing grassy clean taste with a hint of bitterness.

Ito En

 

November 14: Delicious Dorie

Dorie Greenspan has authored some excellent, must-have baking books such as Paris Sweets, Baking: From My Home to Yours, Baking with Julia, and her work with Pierre Herme (amazing books with stunning photography). She also has a great food blog that is lots of fun to read and offers recipes, great insight into all things dealing with French food, updates on new restaurants and shops, and so much more.

Dorie Greenspan blog

 

November 3: Indian Pizza

We love all kinds of Indian food including chaat and yes, even pizza. Luckily we live in San Francisco where the very best, and perhaps the original Indian pizza is made. Imagine a traditional pizza with cheese but with curried spinach, cauliflower, eggplant, green onions and cilantro on top. Yum! There is also a meat version, but we have always gotten the vegetarian out of habit. If you ever visit SF, you have to visit Zante Pizza.

Zante Pizza