Categories
dessert reviews

Ici

Ici specializes in artisanal ice cream, made fresh daily in small batches, and it’s been described as some of the best ice cream in the Bay Area. It was smoldering here in the Bay Area last week (90+ degrees in SF???), so we stopped by Ici on our way to Bakesale Betty. Yes…dessert before lunch.


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We got six scoops between the three of us and got to sample a wide range of flavors. I don’t think all the flavors necessarily worked, but you have to appreciate the care and the commitment that goes into every batch of ice cream.

  • Chipotle Chocolate Chip – good, but the heat from the chipotle threw me off. I wished it was chipotle, chocolate chocolate chip. I think a chocolate ice cream would have gone perfectly with the heat of the chipotle.
  • Malted Vanilla – good…mild vanilla flavor.
  • Lemon – loved it…sour at first but I like how it mellowed out.
  • Fresh Peppermint – good minty flavor…not overbearing.
  • Saffron/Orange Blossom – I thought it tasted like Indian food (I know that sounds odd) and my wife was trying to figure out what orange blossom actually tastes like. She liked it though.
  • Peach/Habanero Sorbet – i didn’t think this one worked at all.

I also tried the basil ice cream as a taster and thought it was interesting, but I don’t know if I’d want a whole scoop of it.

Flavors change daily and I’d like to go back and try some more of their ice cream, but I hesitate to join the chorus of folks anointing it the “Best in the Bay,” especially when I didn’t think any of the flavors we tried topped Bi-Rite Creamery’s salted caramel (and I’m not even a caramel fan) or the Milk and Cookies or Orange Sherbet from San Rafael’s Three Twins.

However, it is nice to know that there are so many artisanal ice cream shops are out there making small batches of fresh, natural ice cream, and having more options just makes trying to figure out who’s best more fun and challenging.

INFORMATION
Ici
2948 College Ave
Berkeley, CA 94705 map
510.665.6054
Web site

Categories
bakeries dessert recipes Thomas Keller

Brownies a la Bouchon

Chocolate BouchonOur trips up to Yountville are never complete unless we stop in at Bouchon Bakery to pick up some goodies. If it’s your first visit, you must try the chocolate bouchon (right). It’s a cork-shaped brownie bite that’s their signature delicacy, and it puts those mass-produced Costco ones you’ve probably had to shame. If you’ve ever had the warm chocolate brownie for dessert at Ad Hoc, it’s the same thing…but bigger.

I’ve been wanting to make these ever since I got the Bouchon cookbook last year, and when I saw Sunday Nite Dinner’s epic Valrhona v. Scharffen Berger Chocolate Bouchon Battle, I was even more inspired. But I didn’t want to make the bite-sized bouchons. I was going for brownies.

This recipe is actually quite easy. The most difficult thing about it was getting the freshly mixed batter into a piping bag. I used a jumbo muffin tin because it was the shape and size that I was looking for, but if you actually want to make the bite-size bouchons, I’m sure you can find that online somewhere. Baking time on the muffin-sized brownies is 30-32 minutes. I had some left over batter that I refrigerated, and the next day I made some mini cupcakes using a mini muffin tin. Baking time on the mini cupcakes was around 12 minutes. (no pictures of those…sorry!)


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The original recipe calls for Valrhona Equatoriale semisweet chocolate (55% cacao). Normally I can find Valrhona at Whole Foods, but we missed our opportunity to look at the San Ramon store because they inexplicably close at 9pm when every other Whole Foods in the area closes at 10pm. (Damn bedroom communities!) I ended up finding some E. Guittard Tsaratana semisweet (61% cacao) at Nob Hill and snapped them up since I’m a big fan of Guittard chocolate. The cocoa was Hershey’s unsweetened.

When they’re finished, the brownies are dense and rich with little gooey chunks of chocolate. We tried them both fresh out of the oven and after they’d cooled, and they’re great either way. They’re even good reheated with some ice cream.

Categories
dessert entertainment Filipino Top Chef TV

Dale “Busts Out” Halo Halo on Top Chef

I’m a big Top Chef fan, but I’ve been watching the Chicago incarnation with great interest because of Dale Talde, the ornery and talented Filipino American sous chef at Buddakan, an upscale Chinese restaurant in New York. During the first six episodes of the season, the Chicago native’s dishes have reflected a pan-Asian influence, but last week, Dale got to express his Filipino side during a dessert Quickfire Challenge and received praise and Top 3 finish from guest judge Johnny Iuzzini, the pastry chef at Jean Georges.



Dale chose to make halo halo, a classic Filipino treat of shaved ice, milk (usually condensed or evaporated) and any number of other tropical ingredients, such as sweet beans, tropical fruits, and ice cream. Because of the variety ingredients and personal preferences, there isn’t one set recipe for halo halo, and Dale’s is no exception—a combination of shaved ice, avocado, mango, kiwi and nuts. Sure it was a non-traditional, upscale interpretation, but this is Top Chef, and it was nice to see him bring Filipino culture to the table.

This season of Top Chef hasn’t been nearly as exciting or dramatic as previous seasons, but I still love the show. Dale got off to a slow start, but as the season has progressed, I think he’s found his groove and is now one of the favorites to win. He even showed his “gangsta” side when he grabbed his crotch and went off on Lisa Fernandes after she pandered to Ming Tsai’s “Asian-ness” and then won a trip to Italy despite being negative, whiny, bitch-ass teammate. (Can you tell I really don’t like Lisa?)

Dale goes GANGSTA!What? You say something?

Are you watching Top Chef? Who do you want to win? Should there be a faux-hawk ban next season?

Categories
bacon dessert recipes

With Warm Weather on the Horizon…

I’m definitely trying David Lebovitz’s recipe for Candied Bacon Ice Cream. Here’s a little tease…I only hope mine comes out looking this good.


BACON   ice cream

Then again, why wait for warm weather? Maybe I’ll make some this week! :-)

Categories
dessert Japanese New York reviews

Kyotofu

In the past, I haven’t been a fan of Japanese desserts because I always found them to be bland. What I’m realizing lately is that the blandness is actually subtlety, and subtlety is a good thing. Kyotofu offers up small, light and delectable tofu-based desserts and appetizers. The ambience is very modern, and the presentation of each dish was beautiful.

We started with the tofu and chicken tsukune meatballs. The combo of tofu and chicken sounds a bit odd, but the tofu made the meatballs soft and smooth, and they were delicious.


Tofu and Chicken Tsukune Meatballs

The otsumami, the chef’s selection of appetizers was next. Tonight’s selection was steamed veggies, a tofu quiche, namasu (pickled daikon/carrot salad), and steamed tofu. The standouts here were the tofu quiche and the namasu. I seriously could’ve eaten a bowl of the namasu.


Otsumami - Chef's Selection

The four-course Kyotofu dessert KAISEKI tasting menu featured their signature sweet tofu topped with Japanese black sugar syrup and a piece of dried apricot, which was creamy like panna cotta (excellent); ginger-infused japanese rice okayu, a rice pudding with sour cherries, kuromitsu whipped cream and ginger candy (excellent), a creamy toasted walnut tahitian vanilla parfait (good), and a tofu-based warm chocolate cake that was rich and light and so good my wife ate most of it. There was also a serving of kinako cream, which was like peanut butter smeared on the plate (very good).

KAISEKI tasting menu

My wife ordered the ichigo strawberry anmitsu, which was a lot like Japanese halo-halo. It had gelatin, strawberry mochi bits, strawberries and azuki (red bean) sauce and a quarter-sized dorayaki pancake. This was so refreshing, especially after all of our other food.

Next up were two miniature cookies…kuro goma (black sesame) and an okara cookie dipped in green tea frosting. I think overall, food with black sesame looks cool, but the flavor is just okay, and that’s how I feel about the kuro goma cookie. Okara is a high-fiber byproduct of tofu or soymilk and is used as the base for the cookie. I didn’t think you could really taste it, but the green tea “frosting” was really nice.

As a palate cleanser, they brought us lychee jelly cubes to end our meal.

Now this might sound like a lot of food, but the portions are really, really small. Considering all the eating we had done throughout the day, it was actually a perfect place to end day one of our NY vacation/eating excursion.

INFORMATION
Kyotofu
705 9th Ave
(between 48th St & 49th St)
New York, NY 10019
212.974.6012
Web site

Categories
Best of Inuyaki dessert recipes

Sweet Potato Pie

When I was in college, I had a sweet potato pie at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles that was so bad it compelled me to learn how to make my own. It was one of my first culinary epiphanies.

I’ve been using this sweet potato pie recipe for years. I found it on the Web a long time ago, so I’m not sure who I’m supposed to credit, but here it is:

INGREDIENTS
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 (9 inch) unbaked deep dish pie crust (Dough/crust and I don’t get along. Mrs. Smith’s is my favorite store brand)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F (175C) and place the rack in the middle of the oven.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix the sweet potatoes, eggs, evaporated milk, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. For a lighter, fluffier pie, assemble this mixture in a blender and give it whir for a minute or so to incorporate some air into the mixture.
  3. Pour the batter into the pie crust and place the pie directly on the oven rack.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let the pie cool for a bit before serving.

For variety, you can top with 1 cup of toasted pecans and then drizzle the top of the pie with a little maple syrup before placing in oven.

(Picture courtesy of The Green Cutting Board.)