Category Archives: Reviews

Flashback: Bakesale Betty’s in Oakland

Bakesale Betty's Chicken Sandwich

Bakesale Betty’s Chicken Sandwich, Oakland California. Kendra Williams-Valentine.

This month’s Bon Apetit arrived, and behold, emblazoned on the front cover: A crispy chicken sandwich with fresh slaw- I instantly knew that somehow, someway, the Bakesale Betty gospel had reached the east coast, and now the nation for sure.

The perfect chicken sandwich

The Bon Apetit magazine cover that set my memories in motion: Bakesale Betty’s!

It was August 2011 when I visited this lunch-spot supreme. I was in Oakland, working with La Wanda from CocoaDiva for the month of August. She, aware of my culinary sensibilities (read obsession) wanted to take me to the new hot lunch-spot for a “Fried-” I instantly interrupted with a “yes!” eyes wide with anticipation. I regained my composure, apologized, and let her finish with a laugh: “fried chicken sandwich…but really really good, and fresh”. I have to admit, when she said “fresh” I was thinking “fresh out the fryer” so I was not expecting the glory that awaited (Although freshly fried was also true, she was referring to the fresh slaw in the sandwich). So what does two hard working women do on a hot summer afternoon in the middle of prepping for a food event? Ride over to the other side of Oakland to wait in line for a sandwich, that’s what (I’m in Cali baby, what do you want?).

Starbucks in Stockholm?!?

Starbucks billbord

Look what I found in Stockholm!

This morning, I was woken up with a phone call: “You’re not going to believe it, there’s a pop up store of one of your favorite places…. Starbucks! Right next to the castle!(Literal castle, this is Stockholm)” Me: “No way… no way, oh snap! Merry Christmas to me!”

So, I gathered up my snow gear and went over to check out the situation, and indeed found a contingent of Starbucks ‘workers’ next to the castle, however it wasn’t the unimaginable portable Starbucks cafe complete with pastries I like to look at but never buy, I had tried to imagine… it was a promotion. A promotion for a cold latte product for sale in stores.

Starbucks Discoveries Latte

My free sample of the retail product: Starbucks Discoveries Latte

That’s right, cold Starbucks for a cold winter day… funny, funny. But who am I kidding, I indulged, after all it was free. I didn’t earn my Starbucks Gold Card from passing up on the goods.

Howard Schultz, if you get this: Please save me airfare by opening a real Starbucks in Stockholm. Me love you long time.

A happy Starbucks promotion worker

A happy Starbucks promotion worker: I think she would be happier inside a real warm Starbucks ;)

Glögg Mat: Cooking with mulled wine- Pork Tenderloin

Leftover bottle of Glögg

Here is the Glögg or spiced mulled wine that I used in my cooking.

Its Christmas time, and in Scandinavia that means time for cups of warm Glögg (mulled spiced wine) at parties. Last year, I had a lot left over from the holidays, so I decided this year the holiday drink should pull double duty and I should think of a couple of ways to use it in my cooking.

The first great opportunity came last Weekend, I was making a pork tenderloin. I crusted the tenderloin with freshly coarse ground peppercorns and allspice. As we all know, pork goes well with a bit of sweet and spice, so I instantly though of using some leftover Glögg for a sauce. You can tweak the flavors any way you like, but using the things I had on hand I made a reduction using:

Pan drippings from tenderloin

Glögg

Dijon mustard

Apple cider vinegar (tiny splash)

Ginger ale

Agave syrup (or honey)

A dash of salt

I started with the Glögg on high heat to scrape pan drippings from the pan and then turned the heat to medium high. I added the rest of the ingredients, in about the same order as listed, allowing each one to blend into the sauce before adding the next. Just use a bit of each ingredient, keeping ratios about the same (except the vinegar, just a small splash and the Gløgg should be double the amount of the other ingredients combined) You can always taste as you go, and tweak the ingredients to your taste. To finish, I reduced the liquid down, cooking until I had a few spoonfuls of a glossy sauce. Done.

Pork tenderlion, Jul mat, Kendra Williams-Valentine

Peppercorn & Allspice crusted Pork Tenderloin with Glögg Agave reduction

 

Czech Food: meat sweats may be a real thing- Prague

Chilli Sausages

Chilli Sausages
No side plate, so I had to beast it.

 

That’s right, Czech Republic.  The quintessential European city.

Czech food is the grandmother of good old ‘meat and potatoes’ cuisine, and you get great value for your dollar. You truly don’t need to worry about budgeting for a good meal.

 

Prague is a MEAT LOVERS PARADISE (Vegetarians, this is not your culinary city) however, heaven can quickly turn into hell (read: meat night sweats by day 3 and dreaming about a salad to cool.) Of course you can find more then just Czech food to get a bit more variation, I spotted a couple Vietnamese places in the Vinorady district… but I couldn’t help myself and indulged in Czech fare exclusively.  Just remember: that Pork knuckle you are ordering is a dish, of a huge pork knuckle (with perhaps a bit of horseradish and mustard on side) you will need to scour the menu (and even then I would just ask to see if they have any sides, that isn’t a potato)

Nakládaný hermelín (pickled cheese)

You know you’re neck deep in a beer culture when all the starters, even at a restaurant, pairs well with (you guessed it): BEER. It would be great to have some of these bad boys to start making an appearance on the local pub menu… or gastro pub for that matter (hint hint all you cool bar owners out west). I must say, I do enjoy a good sausage, and this city rules this specialty. However, there’s lots more then sausages, I’d try the Nakládaný hermelín (pickled cheese)

LOKAL: I like this place

Lokal is a beer hall restaurant not far from old town square, and my meal here really made my whole trip. Not just the food, but also the atmosphere. It is more of a beer hall, with long communal tables, bustling with life (and a bit of smoke in the front section). I am still thinking about the tripe soup (from bar buffet) … it was so tasty, I wanted to go back for more the next day. True to Czech fashion, there was only tripe in it- but between that and the broth I really didn’t need anything else. On the menu they state “no flavorings added” and Maggie (a seasoning salt) on request with goulash. This lack of confidence must only be as far as the goulash because all I needed was a spoon for that tripe soup… I don’t even want to talk about it anymore.

The schnitzel with potato salad didn’t look like much coming out, but cut a piece and it’s buttery crisp in all the right places. Very well done. Don’t let it get cold while you take pictures, eat it fresh out the pan or not at all. I don’t claim to be a schnitzel aficionado; but I know a damn thing or two about fried food… hats off. Well played.

Blue Bottle Coffee, and the difference between the Entrepreneur and Auteur

I have been away, working on developing a new food product… yes, yes I am. But this is not an undertaking that has spontaneously arisen from thinking I’m a brown Rachael Ray because I write a blog… nope it’s been a long time coming, and let’s just say, Rachael Ray isn’t my steeze.

It actually started 1.5 years ago at the same time as I was introduced to the topic of this little write up: During an immersive entrepreneurship program funded by the Swedish government (A strong public sector is socialist perk!), that took me to San Francisco to study food culture, entrepreneurial endeavors, etc, etc. Many of the other students in the group were all about Silicon Valley… I just wanted to see, be seen, and eat.

I ended up attending a panel discussion; I think it was on marketing your food product. I was helping a lady with a business in the Mission district, so we went together. This event was put on by the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, a wonderful resource for the community. It was very nice for these successful bay area entrepreneurs to give their time: one of which was James Freeman, the Founder of Blue Bottle Coffee.

After the panel, the image from his at times ‘soliloquy’ styled presentation, which was intended as advice, stuck with me.

The nu Knäckebröd

 

 

Deborahs Knäckebröd

Okay, so I have to admit. I am not the biggest fan of Knäckebröd…. For all my none Swedish readers, Knäckebröd is a really hard thin bread (I’d prefer the classify as a category of cracker, but I suppose I don’t have a vote on this one.) It is typically made with mostly rye flour.

 

Not to say there is anything wrong with it…. I’d actually hope I had some to store in my fall out shelter for the apocalypse, as it stores well forever… its just really hard and more vehicle then delicatess.

 

Deborahs Knäckebröd

That was until I tried Deborahs Extraknäcke.

 

This incredibly thin knäckebröd is a bit more on the crisp end of the spectrum… and in my opinion this is the key to its delight. You can just as easily snack on a few right out the bag or dip into hummus.

 

Not only is it  offered in a great selection of intense flavors… but the knäckebröd itself looks like works of art. This comes as no surprise as the wonderful woman who runs the show (Deborah naturally) is an art gallery owner and teacher. 

 

Deborahs Knäckebröd: Macadamia & Chili edition! I had to get a few packs for dinner parties (my favorite flavor being the Macadamia nut, rosemary and chili). Of course, I came to this conclusion through a tough tasting process… I couldn’t help myself and opened all the bags I bought on a rampage one day. Its okay though, I wrapped up leftovers… knackbröd stores forever remember?  Although I doubt these will stay on shelf long enough to find out just how long.

I keep it Kosher Stockholm… Kosher Salt that is…

Not a surprise to nearly any cook back stateside but kosher salt, something I consider a kitchen staple, is elusive in the Swedish cupboard.

There is no way of getting around kosher salt for a good brine, it is an absolute necessary in my kitchen, I’ve learned. That’s why I’m thankful for my dear friend Lyota (Owner of www.zuzy.se) who lovingly hauled 3 kilos of Kosher salt from the states to hold me over whilst looking for a supplier.

Kosher Salt!

So what is so special about kosher salt then?

It looks like coarse ground salt, however its actually not cubic crystals, and has a flat platelet shape and is usually manufactured with a grain size larger than table salt grains. Kosher salt also does not have iodine in it.

The traditional use of kosher salt is for removing surface blood and impurities from meat, as part of the koshering process. The meat is covered with a thin layer of salt, then allowed to stand on a rack or board f

or an hour. Left on longer, the salt starts to percolate through the meat and tenderize while seasoning, hence my love for it.

I really need to find out where my Orthodox Jewish brothers and sisters shop in Sweden… I put an ad out stating “hunting for Jews!” but no one answered…. odd.

Say What? Pink Garlic !?! Ail Rose de Lautrec

 Ail Rose de Lautrec

So there I was, walking around the international food market in central Stockholm, and I saw it… huge bushels of pink garlic! There is surprisingly not much information on Pink Garlic in English online but search “L‘Ail Rose” (French) and you will get some pages you can scrimmage through…. Apparently this garlic has some serious history in the town of Lautrec … gotta love how serious the French can be about their ingredients!

Now, Pink Garlic is from the south of France and the new harvest is typically ready around August. The time being a couple months before that, I figured perhaps I could haggle down the price a bit…. Why? Because Pink Garlic lasts 6 to 12 months! And is harvested annually, thus making these bunches potentially old news… but no dice. The vendor saw my mouth watering over it from the start.  So I took my new friends home to figure out what the big deal was with the pink stuff.

Ready to get your garlic on? Here goes….

A HORSE of Course! Horse Meat in Sweden (Gustafskorv)

GustafskorvYou’re eating Horse?!? Nehhhhhh!(In my best Mr. Ed impression)

I’m no Andrew Zimmerman but when it comes to regional food I never turn my nose up on something large numbers of peoples eat… no matter how cute it was in its living state… sorry but I’ve been that way since learning what veal was when I was a kid… after that it was “hot damn, well if everyone is doing it….” But alas we come to the meat in question: Horse meat or Gustafskorv.

Gustafskorv

Gustafskorv “Original”

Why? Well, as my companion in Dalarna (county in central Sweden) put it “Why not? What’s the difference between a horse and a cow?” Okay, riding a cow is neither practical nor romantic, but for all intensive purposes, they are pretty close hooved amigos. Now, I’m not advocating adding a My Little Pony to the little pictures on the food pyramid, especially since it wouldn’t replace any meats we already over consume…. But just as much as I like the idea of better meat practices, I also believe in eating local, and in Dalarna “Gustaf’s Korv” (Horse Sausage) is as local as it gets!