Friday, June 19, 2009

Baked, another one for New York

New York is a city rich with bakeries, and here's another one this Californian will file away for future adventures. Not only was Baked recommended by a friend and local to the area, but apparently their brownies are one of Oprah's favorite things. While I know the media queen has named a lot of favorite products, I also think she has probably had the opportunity (and the means) to taste some of the best brownies in the world. So I'm taking this place pretty seriously. An open request to Baked: I'm running short on flight money, so please consider establishing a California location.

Putting the camp twist on homemade pretzels

Back in April, I blogged about rising early to prep for a camp pretzel-making program I put together for some kids and their families during a family camp session. Below you can see some of the pretzels they shaped that day!

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The thing I love about cooking at camp is that it really opens people's eyes up to ways of cooking they never dreamed of doing with their families. In the same way that parents introduce kids to the source of their food through farmer's markets, introducing new recipes to families can empower them to experience food as more than food consumers. Also, it's fun! During these activities, I can see that people gain new relationships to what they are eating-- whether through the sense of pride that comes from creating something with their own hands, making a recipe outside one's own cultural traditions, watching kids try something new for the first time, or simply because time spent making this recipe is rare time spent together.

One of my favorite moments was when one of the teen campers started twirling the pretzel dough, in the style a passer by might see in a bakeshop window. When I asked her how she learned to do that, she said that she had seen a baker doing it in the mall. She then proceeded to show others around her how to twirl the dough before shaping the pretzel. "How big should they be?" people kept asking. The great thing about this recipe is that it didn't really matter. Kids could choose to shape their pretzels however they wanted.

Everyone was putting their own twist on the recipe, and that was the magic of it all.

A food blogger can't help but anticipate this film...

Julia Child in any form is extremely awesome.

The Great American Bakery Hunt travels to the great food city of Seattle

The Great American Bakery Hunt recently visited Pike's Place farmer's market in Seattle and found it extremely hard to leave. There was an abundance of great food going on throughout the permanent year-round market, and we just happened to visit during the overwhelmingly delicious Seattle Cheese Festival. (These people had such a passion for cheese that I found myself close to making a career switch to dairy farmer.)

The same day I visited the festival, and my last day in Seattle, we prepared for a food marathon.

I insisted on stopping at a local grocery store, PPC, which seems to be the Seattle version of Whole Foods. I was on a coffee hunt for Newman's Own Organics coffee, which is difficult to find by the bag in Southern California. I also ended up buying a few bags of Cafe Laddro's brews. After reading that kids are entitled to one serving of a fruit or veggie at PCC while their parents shop, I'm glad I bought a few bags of java from them.

Before wandering down to Pike's Place market, our next stop was Macrina Bakery, a charming bakery and cafe whose cookbook I immediately purchased.

They had an impressive selection of breads, pastries, and overall baked goodness that satisfied the bakery hunting soul. The Parmesan, ham and rosemary biscuit had to be my favorite, half of which I saved for the plane ride and then devoured after takeoff-- instantly becoming the envy of the crackers and peanuts crowd. (I always think ahead to the plane snack.) Macrina is the kind of place I would frequent weekly (daily?) if I lived in the area, and I look forward to testing out some of their recipes.

Sadly, after arriving at the market & cheese festival, we realized we missed the owner of Macrina speaking by only an hour! We were too busy leisurely enjoying her food to know any different.

Later that afternoon, we were pacing ourselves through the cheese festival after having already made a sinfully good grilled cheese stop at Beecher's handmade cheese the day prior.

We made our last meal stop at Emmett Watson's oyster bar. This place was billed as the local, laid-back oyster bar, which is exactly what I was looking for. It's nothing against the fancy-shmancy waterfront seafood joints, but this is my kind of place-- the every woman's oyster. There's a tucked away patio where you can sip your hefeweizen in the sunlight and slurp oysters to your heart's content, menus written on brown paper bags, and malt vinegar to put on your french fries. Friendly service, charmingly unglamourous, this one is for the people!

Below, my token tourist shot with the "Rachel" the famous market pig...In the background, the fish market famous for coworkers flinging fish orders at one another.

Thanks to my friends in Seattle, new and old, who introduced me to a truly great city! There was a lot of culinary ground to cover in one weekend (not to mention copper river salmon season), but I think we did Seattle proud!

yet another reason to visit Portland

The Great American bakery hunt has a few Oregon-based hunting buddies, so I wanted to post this tip received about a Portland bakery called La Petite Provence. While I have never been to La Petite Provence, I'm filing it away for a future adventure. Looks like yet another reason to visit Portland, city of rainy weather, microbreweries, and people required by law to have strangers pump their gasoline.

a friend to those with food allergies

The Great American Bakery Hunt has many friends out there who have quite specific food allergies, so we try to keep our eyes peeled for products that can be of help. Enter Cherrybrook Kitchen, a food allergy friendly company whose products I recently spotted at Henry's market. With kid-friendly packaging and an informative website, it's great to see other companies out there who are doing their part! For anyone who has tried shopping for products without traces of nuts, it's not always easy, so please spread the word about these specialty products.

trying to nurse myself back to health with some chocolate pecan pie

It's June, and the summer camp season is in full effect. Days are full of unexpected surprises, including warnings of thunderstorms (in the middle of the desert in June?), wild horse wranglings, and rattlesnake sightings. June gloom has invaded California, and with this invasion, some unexpected headcolds have also taken residence in my supposed sunny state. With the conclusion of the first session, I've come down with a little bug. Of course, I'm combating my soar throat with a little silky spice tea my friend sent me from Seattle, along with some Blackberry infused Moon Valley honey. But to start the real healing, I've had my mind on some pie. Since for three months out of the year, I live in a "peanut and tree nut free" environment, I could think of nothing better to nurse me back to health on an LA day off than some chocolate pecan pie from Babalu in Santa Monica. If you're a pecan pie traditionalist, I can certainly understand, but I would urge you to give this union of pecans and chocolate just one try. Sure, Babalu's pie slices are a bit steep in price, but for my nut-deprived diet, it's just what the doctor ordered.

Still healing,
The Great American Bakery Hunt