Thursday, July 03, 2014

Sorry, but there's just nothing like a pretty face


This morning I read a review of a restaurant called Trou Normand written by Michael Bauer, the veteran San Francisco Chronicle critic. I stopped when I got to this paragraph: 

The food embraces you like a warm hug. The space is alluring, but not altogether comfortable - it's like a woman who doesn't have the prettiest face but still attracts attention for how she puts herself together.

Gag. Couldn’t continue reading. There are thousands of unpaid, unedited restaurant bloggers who would die of shame if they published a paragraph so trite, muddled, and offensive. Do newspapers have a death wish? 
*****

Flour kept me busy this week. There are two types of coconut macaroon: rich and lean. Rich macaroons call for egg yolks and/or sweetened condensed milk and tend to be sticky and heavy, while lean macaroons involve little more than coconut, egg whites, and sugar and are generally snowy white and a little grainy. Joanne Chang's are some of the best I've made in the "rich" category. As you can see in the photo, they got a little singed, but that didn’t diminish our love for them. Highly recommend. Recipe is here.

Even better than Chang's macaroons: her coffee ice cream with cacao nib brittle. (Chang says it's one of her favorite recipes in the book.) The recipe is here and you should try it.The cacao nib brittle is great, but a big hassle and not strictly necessary so I probably won't include it next time. Coffee is Mark's favorite ice cream flavor and I've tried a number of recipes. This is our #1. I might stop here.

Finally, Chang’s almond-anise biscotti are good, though they're the dense, floury type of biscotti and I prefer the kind that are super-brittle and porous, like coral. Do you crave biscotti? I don't. I think that's the beauty of biscotti. They're not addicting. You can stop at one, which isn't the case with, say, chocolate chip cookies. I'm not sure whether desserts should really be "irresistible." Do other cultures know something we don't?

I finished up Ming Tsai’s Blue Ginger, but that’s for the next post. 

9 comments:

  1. This blog is like a dark-haired woman who would be prettier if she were a blonde but if you can picture her as a blonde then you can tolerate her. Thanks for the hug, blog.

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    1. But is she an altogether comfortable restaurant?

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  2. She would be an altogether comfortable restaurant if her lap is soft and floury like your grandmother. No kidding, gag me with a spoon! I like macaroons, but I have never made them. Odd behavior for a cookie obsessed person, don't you think? I like biscotti, but they are so much work to eat! I agree, the beauty of biscotti is that I can take them or leave them.

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  3. OK, I just read as much of that review as I could stomach. Here's what I think: Michael Bauer is out on sick leave having suffered a sudden catastrophic illness and they have the summer intern, a college freshman, pinch hitting. Because seriously.

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  4. It sounds to me like the reviewer's been watching too much film noir, which has resulted in what amounts to a hard-boiled detective restaurant review.. I don't know which I should feel worse for - the restaurant or Sam Spade.

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  5. I got Flour and Flour, Too from the library and really enjoyed reading the opening pages describing how she got to this point .. 4 stores. She followed her passion and luckily, became a success. A revelation was reading that in high end bakeries where she had worked, trash was filled with cakes, etc. that did not come out perfectly. (I thought when you did something over and over again, everything would come out right.) I'm not going to be as hard on myself if not everything I bake is perfect. Also, it looks like the staff really eats well at a lot of these restaurants.

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    1. In the 1980's, I worked with a food pantry in a major city. Some of the biggest donators were bakeries. They would set the rejects up by the service door and we would swoop in before closing and take it all away. Most of it looked okay, but occasionally there was the obvious "drop cake" or lopsided item. One day we arrived at a bakery and found an incredibly beautiful wedding cake on the donation shelf complete with marzipan flowers. I thought it was an extra in case something happened to the first one, but we were told the bride cancelled the wedding just hours before the event and didn't want the cake despite it being paid for. We would normally portion out a large cake, but the previous day a woman had called asking if we had any donations she could use as birthday cake for her 8 year old daughter. Everyone at the pantry agreed it would be the perfect cake for the occasion. My only regret is the bride never knew how happy she made some family.

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  6. I don't know what the bottom of that macaroon looks like, but the top doesn't look singed at all. I always bake my macaroons until the straggly bits are very dark (or, if I shaped them into pyramids, the edges are very dark.) I use a Cook's Illustrated macaroon recipe that is gooey and uber-coconutty, but contains no yolks or flour. It does call for a can of Coco Lopez though!

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  7. Oh, I do crave biscotti! There's a place here in my town that makes the most wonderful biscotti-my favorite is coconut walnut. Or is it chocolate almond? I could gnaw on them for hours. I'm like a teething baby.

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