Sockeye or King Salmon?

Both wild Sockeye and wild King salmon are in the market now, and available fresh and will be until late September or early October. Both types of wild Pacific salmon are a true delicacy, and very healthy. They are high in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D and low in omega-6 and saturated fats. But King salmon is sometimes as much as twice the price of Sockeye. So which variety should you choose? 
In Northern California most of the King salmon comes from California, Oregon and Alaska. The local King salmon is exceptionally rich and has a creamy texture. It has a mild flavor, and is almost slightly sweet. But it’s the buttery texture that makes it so prized. It’s the richest in fat. 
Sockeye salmon often comes from Alaska. It’s generally less expensive than King salmon, because it’s harvested at a smaller size and takes less time to grow. It’s also very rich, but has a more intense flavor and firmer texture. 
While both fish are delicious and can be used interchangeably in recipes, I seared two pieces to compare them side by side.  Looking at the raw pieces you can see the King salmon is paler and thicker, the Sockeye brighter orange, almost red, and thinner. 
For me, King salmon was truly king and worth the higher price. The Sockeye has a deeper red color, and a stronger, almost nutty flavor. But if you cook the King gently, you’ll achieve a custard like consistency that is unparalleled. 
Both are delicious seared, but I would recommend using Sockeye if you want to make gravlax. It’s color, flavor and texture hold up well to the salt and sugar marinade. 
The King is best served very simply to highlight it’s delicate flavor and luxurious texture. I made a compound butter with white miso, honey and orange zest that complemented the fish beautifully. 
Friday July 25th, 2014, King salmon will be on sale at Whole Foods for just $11.99 per pound. Enjoy it! 
Disclaimer: My thanks to Whole Foods, they supplied portions of King salmon, I purchased Sockeye salmon for this taste test.

Make way for Éclairs!

Cupcakes are cute and affordable and remind many people of their childhood birthday parties, but they were never a favorite of mine. That’s not to say I don’t have a favorite pastry from childhood. I do. It’s the éclair. 

Growing up I always scoured the bakery case for chocolate éclairs  The crunchy eggy pastry, the creamy filling and chocolate glaze were much more appealing than any sugar cookie or cupcake. Their appeal has not diminished and In recent years I’ve had some very memorable éclairs including a massive one at Cake Love in Washington DC and delicate skinny ones glazed with matcha and black sesame at Sarahau Aoki in Tokyo.

Though the oblong pastry made from pate a choux and filled with pastry cream and originally called the Petite Duchesse has been around since the 1800's, according to some reports I read last year (from David Lebovitz, The Independent and even the Financial Times) éclairs have become quite trendy in Europe recently. They certainly haven’t hit critical mass here yet. But perhaps that’s about to change.

Last week I got a chance to meet the James Beard award-winning pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini as he kicked off his “Éclair Diaries” a motorcycle adventure to find inspiration for 8 new éclairs for the Le Meridien hotels. As part of the program, each hotel will offer modern versions of three signature éclair flavors – coffee, chocolate and vanilla in addition to one locally inspired flavor created by Iuzzini.

In San Francisco he shared his coffee cardamom éclair topped with bits of edible gold leaf, crunchy chocolate balls and nibs and a bit of flaky salt. The coffee cardamom eclair recipe will be in his upcoming cookbook. After his kickoff at the Le Meridien he was heading out to visit bakeries including Craftsman and Wolves as well as local farmers markets and a distillery and to forage with Chef Daniel Patterson, all to get his creative juices flowing. What will the San Francisco éclair be? We will just have to wait to find out.

With different fillings and toppings, there might be infinite variations of the eclair. Much like, you know, cupcakes. 

Gift Ideas for Father’s Day

Nespresso Pixie
While in Italy I noticed Nespresso boutiques everywhere. Nespresso machines use little pods of coffee that come in many different varieties and the stores are a convenient place to try them out or buy coffee. The machine I know best is the Pixie. It has a 16 bar pressure pump, is ready to brew in about 30 seconds and easily makes both espresso and lungo style coffee at the push of a button. It also takes very little room. The dimensions are just 12.83-Inch length by 4.33-Inch width by 9-1/4-Inch height. 

 If you want to make a cappuccino, you’ll need to purchase an optional Aeroccino milk frother which would also make a good gift.  Both are very stylish machines and just imagine, your dad will think about you every single day when he makes coffee! You can find some models for under $200 on Amazonbut if you purchase it from Nespresso for $229 you’ll get a $75 credit for coffee. 
ThermoWorks ChefAlarm
I am a huge fan of the Thermopen which I use daily. It’s the best thermometer ever. But for dad, I think the ChefAlarm is great idea. It has a temperature probe that attaches to an alarm that has a plethora of features.

Not only is it backlit and easy to read, it has count down and count up timers, adjusts for both high and low temperaures as well as minimum and maximum temperatures, an adjustable volume setting for the alarm and an optional extra needle probe for thin cuts. Because it is designed for commercial kitchens it's also splash proof. It’s less expensive than the Thermopen, but has lots of whistles and bells. $59.99

Burnt Chocolate Truffles from Recchiuti

Recently I received a box of Recchiuti chocolates as a thank you. I think I had forgotten how good they are. It was fun choosing the different flavors from the guide and savoring each bite. But one of the confections that Recchiuti is most known for, are burnt caramel truffles. These rich little squares aren’t really burnt, but cooked until the darker notes are stronger than the sweet ones.

While perhaps not the traditional Father’s Day gift, why not? Recchiuti has long supported the nonprofit Creativity Explored with a selection that features a design by an artist, this time James Miles has created Whimsical Cyclists which definitely has a manly feel about it. A box of 9 is $27

Kermit Lynch Vin de Pays de Vaucluse 
This is my new favorite house red wine and one I plan on sharing with my dad. It's an easy wine to pair with food but just as enjoyable on its own. I first tried it with some sausages and grilled vegetables.

It’s a blend from the Southern Rhone and is mostly grenache, syrah, merlot and just a touch of marselan. A medium body juicy wine, it has limestone minerality, lots of red fruit like raspberries as well as violet and licorice and a bit of leather.

It is not an expensive or fancy wine, but will show dad your good taste and eye for value, $12.99 at Whole Foods Market wine department.

This post includes some Amazon affiliate links

New & Notable Restaurants in San Francisco

One of the nice perks of writing about food is being invited to restaurants and even getting to preview ones that have not yet opened. While busy writing the cookbook I have taken some breaks to see what's going on around town. Here are some highlights:
Hog Island Oyster Co. Bar has long been one of my favorite little hideaways at the San Francisco Ferry Plaza. Tucked away in an awkward spot, it had fantastic views of the Bay Bridge and soul soothing clam chowder, not to mention an always stellar range of oysters on the half shell. The space is certainly not awkward any longer. Now that the oyster bar has taken over the adjacent spot, it’s a spacious and nicely unified expanse with two bars and plenty of outdoor seating. The menu is larger too. My picks are still the classic clam chowder that has no flour so it’s rich and creamy, not goopy, and the white anchovies. Served with piquillo pepper aioli, chopped eggs and green herb sauce on baguette slices, the anchovies are are bright and juicy, nothing like what you get out of a can. In case you didn't know, Hog Island was founded by two marine biologists who are passionate about the future of sustainable seafood.
San Francisco Ferry Building, #11A, San Francisco 
Originally founded in 1893, Schroeder’s was long overdue for an overhaul. The German style beer hall has a brighter, cleaner, more sophisticated look and also a much greater emphasis on food. Chef Manfred Wrembel has German parents but grew up in California so he has a lighter touch with the more traditionally heavy cuisine. At a recent preview my favorite dishes were the delicate beef tongue, sliced paper thin and served with capers, radishes and creme fraiche and the beet salad with crisp thin pumpernickel wafers and goat cheese; a very refined version of what’s become a classic salad. 
240 Front St. San Francisco
Chino is one of the newest restaurants in town, it opened just this week. It was inspired by owner Joe Hargrave’s love of Chinese dumplings and cocktails and desire to enjoy them together. I tried several dishes and the dumplings were superb. They should be, they hired a veteran dumpling maker previously at The Mandarin. The gingery chicken dumpling was my favorite. I also loved the rich and sticky pork tamarind hoisin riblets and the super tangy and crisp chicken wings a recipe from Nick Balla, currently the chef at Bar Tartine, from when he was cooking Asian food. 
3198 16th St, San Francisco
Last but not least, a restaurant that has not yet opened, Pabu is a collaboration between Michael Mina and Ken Tominaga who is known for his much acclaimed sushi spot Hana in Rohnert Park (he also previously worked with Cindy Pawlcyn at Go Fish in Napa). The restaurant will be opening up in the old Atrium space at 101 California Street. The preview pop-up just had a few nibbles, but the Happy Spoon is reason enough to check it out. It’s basically some of the tastiest things all combined—a raw oyster, salmon roe, Santa Barbara sea urchin, tobiko and a ponzu creme fraiche. This is a tried and true dish from Pabu in Baltimore, and sure to make a splash here as well. 
101 California St. San Francisco 

The Chinese Lady’s A Pot of Rice to the Wonders of Wonton

I can’t remember exactly when I met my friend Lorraine aka “the Chinese Lady”  cooking personality of YouTube fame, but I can tell you she is the zing of hot sauce on your plate! Even when faced with obstacles she has an infectious joie de vivre and she positively bubbles with enthusiasm, especially when she talks about food and family. Needless to say, I was charmed by her right away. She shared with me her dream of writing a cookbook so she could share her treasured won ton recipes and stories from her childhood in Hawaii and life in San Francisco, Hollywood and beyond. She asked if I would test some recipes for her and I said yes. 
I provided my detailed feedback on Lorraine’s recipes, but really, they were all delicious and worthy of making it into her book. Some of her recipes are very traditional with pork or shrimp and others are her own inventions. Two of my favorites were her Shrimp & Lime Wontons with tangy kaffir lime, galangal and lime juice and also the Snapper’s Bag, a beggar’s purse style dumpling with snapper served in soup flavored  with ginger, star anise and red onion. 
The Chinese Lady’s A Pot of Rice to the Wonders of Wonton is now available on the ibook store. It’s a gorgeous book, thanks to beautiful photos and tech wizardry from Lorraine’s talented friend and business partner, Josimar. Some features of the book that I particularly like are the embedded videos that show you exactly how to fold wontons in 6 different styles, and Lorraine’s wonderfully told personal stories. But most of all I look forward to trying even more of her wonton recipes. 
The book is available for iPad and Kindle on the itunes store for $4.99 but you can also download a free sample to check it out before you buy so I do hope you'll check it out!