What would a food blogger from the East Coast do in a city like San Francisco?
Take chocolate classes from Tante Marie; especially if these classes are taught by the Queen of Chocolate herself, Alice Medrich! When I found out that she was doing some demo classes this August, I knew I just had to be there, even if it meant flying from coast to coast. And I was lucky! She just got a shipment of her yet unreleased book, Pure Dessert and I hold the honor of having the first signed copy! I shall do a sneak peak into her book in the coming weeks. So stay tuned!
*The dessert pictured above was made by Alice Medrich in her demo class
Have dinner at The Slanted Door. I have always wanted to go to this San Francisco institution ever since I’ve read about Charles Phan’s innovative Vietnamese cuisine in Food and Wine magazine a few years ago. It did not disappoint. I had the most tantalizing duck dish that reminded me so much of pato tim with the added bonus of crispy skin. Yum!
Make a pilgrimage to Tartine Bakery. After our croissant challenge earlier this year, I just had to sample the real thing. That first bite into the depths of a warm ham and cheese croissant felt like an out-of-body experience. Gosh! The tender crunch, the flaky dough, the gooey cheese and the aroma of this freshly baked pastry made me want to just take up residence at 600 Guererro street. Alas, the lines out the door told me that I could not linger too long. Others too, wanted to sample this experience.
Make a pilgrimage to Bouchon Bakery. Like the croissants, I just had to sample the real bouchons from Thomas Keller. Aside from these delicious chocolate corks, my friends and I sampled an array of financiers, tarts and macarons. Every single one of them was divine!
But what was the number one thing a food blogger should do in San Francisco , why …
Meet up with some bay area food bloggers of course! Thursday evening, I met with Anita (pictured above) of Desserts First at Citizen Thai and the Monkey. There, over a wonderful dinner of duck curry and grilled pork, we regaled each other with tales of our uncontrollable addiction to cookbooks. As if to compound the obsession further, I brought along my just-signed copy of “Pure Dessert” so we can further drool over it. I told Anita how I envied that she lived in the bay area where opportunities abound for food (dessert) lovers like us. The evening was capped with the best gelato I have ever had!
For Friday evening dinner, Mary of Alpineberry took me to Piperade, a charming restaurant that served Basque cuisine. In the course of our conversations, we found out that we had so many things in common, especially in terms of spending money ;). We had a bite of each other’s delectable dishes. I had the lamb; Mary had the New York strip. We also had to have desserts – after all we were Daring Bakers! Mine was an orange beignet that was so light and crisp it could almost melt in your mouth. Mary had a sensuous little tart that was just as utterly decadent. There seemed to be no end to the topics we could talk about… Tartine Bakery, San Francisco real estate – even shoes!
I feel so honored to meet my fellow Daring Bakers! The opportunity could not have been more perfect. They are both such warm people and their blogs simply reflect how lovely and delightful they both are!
I leave you now with a dessert that Alice made in class. This was a part of her Perfect Chocolate Summer desserts segment. I’m usually not too fond of meringues since I generally find them too sweet. But this particular meringue combined with chocolate and topped with mascarpone and strawberries makes for a surprisingly refreshing treat!
Chocolate Meringue with Mascarpone and Strawberries
Ingredients for meringue:
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
2/3 cup sugar
5 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
2 cups Mascarpone Cheese
½ cup heavy cream
2 tbs rum, optional
1 ½ to 2 pints strawberries, rinsed and hulled, halved or quartered if large
A baking sheet lined with parchment paper
Large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (optional)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 225 °F. Use a marker to trace a 9: circle on the baking pan liner. Turn the paper marker side down.
In a dry food processor bowl, pulse the chocolate with about a third of the sugar (ok to eye ball it) until it looks like fine crumbs. Set aside.
In a clean dry mixer bowl, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed (medium sped in a heavy duty mixer) until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. Beat in the remaining sugar a little at a time, taking 1 to 1 ½ minutes to add it all. The mixture should stand in very stiff glossy peaks when the beaters are lifted. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Pour all of the chocolate mixture over the meringue. Fold with a large rubber spatula just until incorporated. Scrape all but ¼ cup of meringue into the center of the circle. Spread it attractively with a metal spatula. Bake for 2 ½ hours. Turn oven off and allow the meringue to cool in the turned off oven. Cool the meringue completely before using or storing in an airtight container at least 2 months.
Within 1 hour of serving, combine the mascarpone and whipping cream and rum if using. Beat until the mixture resembles thick whipped cream. Scrape the mixture into the pastry bag fitted with the star tip if using. Pipe a ruffle of cream on top of the edge of the meringue. Pipe or spread the remaining cream to cover the circle (only the edge of the cream will show). Or, spread all of the cream with a spatula. Arrange or heap the berries on the cream attractively.