Cardamom Panna Cotta

Cardamom Panna Cotta
Compressed Pineapple // Pineapple Espuma // Pineapple Kisses
Sliced Almond Tuile // Almond Crumble

As San Francisco was hit by a storm last week, so was my workspace.  Not only was I bulking up on production in anticipation for my upcoming trip to James Beard and developing a dessert to serve there, my time was also spent preparing recipes and components for a dessert that Chef could take on a sales tour to Chicago, Washington DC and NYC before I met up with him next week for the big event!


Part II: Mendocino & More

The Chandelier  Drive-Thru Redwood Tree is just one of numerous places to get close to the Giant Redwoods of California.  I would like to visit others, but this is the closest.  The opening was carved in the 1930's and fits a mid-sized car fairly well.  However, I would be weary of trying to get an SUV through!

Chandelier Drive-Thru Redwood Tree, Leggett, CA

To try and wrangle me back onto my blog topic, I'll share with you my newest toy.  I had just bought the Olloclip lens attachment for my iPhone and couldn't wait to play with it on this road trip.  I absolutely love it!  It is a 3-in-1 attachment - wide angle, macro and fisheye.  On this post, you'll see a few fisheye photographs that capture the extensive views of California's natural beauty.

Amazing Scenery on CA Highways

That night, we had dinner at Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there were a few more culinary surprises to be had.  Dinner was decent, but what really blew me away were the house made sodas - we tried the Ginger and Honey Rosemary.  Both were refreshing and packed a punch of flavor.  The other surprise was the Candy Cap Mushroom Creme Brulee.  This was my first encounter with Candy Cap Mushrooms, and I promise it will not be my last.  They have an incredible aroma and flavor of maple with an earthy undertone.  I will definitely try and whip something up with these sweet little fungi in the near future! I am officially obsessed...

House Made Sodas & Candy Cap Creme Brulee, Mendo Bistro, Fort Bragg, CA

The next morning we headed to the Glass Beach.  Decades ago, the area around the beach was a dumping ground.  Overtime, the constant pounding of the waves polished pieces of broken glass into tiny shimmering pieces in the sun.  It takes a little patience to get to the shoreline with the rocky terrain, but I made it through.  As I was entranced picking through pieces of glass, which you are not allowed to remove, a giant wave snuck up on us.  Luckily I was wearing my favorite rain boots and Robert quickly pulled me up on a rock formation.  Rain boots were definitely a must on this trip - perfect on the beach, a mix of wet sand and rocky terrain, as well as for the muddy Redwood Forests.  My favorite pieces of glass were the blueish pieces, some of the harder ones to come by - so pretty!

Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, CA
Alas, it was time to head home - but not without a few stops along the way. First a stop at Cowlick's Ice Creamery for one last taste of Candy Cap, this time in ice cream form.  Next was the Corners of the Mouth Market in Mendocino, CA.  They have an amazing upstairs balcony with endless spices, dried herbs and tea sold by weight at very reasonable prices.  As we winded our way home, we decided to stop at Gowan's Apple Orchard in Philo, CA.  They were advertising Fresh/Unpasteurized Apple Cider, so we got a small bottle for the road and a half gallon to bring home.  I really wish we took home a whole gallon - the cider is so naturally sweet and refreshing.  They also sell a large variety of different apples and preserves, Lastly, in Cloverdale, CA, we hopped out of the car to take pictures of a logging company that could be easily seen from the road.  As we came into view of the Golden Gate Bridge, I was happy to be home and snuggle up in my own bed!

Corners of the Mouth, Gowan's Philo, CA, Cloverdale, CA, Golden Gate Bridge


Easter Brunch

At work, we offered a special Easter brunch today.  I was quite excited when I was asked to make desserts.  I've never done desserts for a buffet style service before, nor have I ever made quite so many bite-sized sweets.  I suppose the excitement got the best of me because I didn't really want to make the cookies or brownies asked of me.  Instead, after a little brainstorming, I made 3 different "Easter/Spring" themed mini-desserts - 200 of each.

Carrot Cake 
Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting // Candied Walnuts // Edible Flowers

Thyme Infused Lemon Posset
Thyme Macerated Strawberries // Fresh Thyme

Chocolate Egg
Chocolate Pot de Creme // Caramel // White Chocolate Crunchy Pearls // Maldon


Part I: Mendocino & More

Slightly off topic, but here it goes...

Power Clutch {Essie}
After working 15 of the last 17 days, I took a long weekend and planned a last minute trip up north. I've come to love these spur of the moment trips, where I don't plan things to the minute. Instead, it's more of a fly by the seat of our pants, do what we please type of trip - a time where we pull over on the side of the road just because something catches our eye. Since I started at my new position, I haven't had the time to take a decent vacation. I don't mean to take away from the quick flights to LA or Vegas, but those aren't very relaxing. It was just tempting to get away from the city and relax for a little. In any matter, I was excited right off the bat because I always treat myself to a few coats of nail polish when I have more than 2 days off in a row!

Our first stop wasn't far from San Francisco - Lagunitas Brewing Company in Petaluma, CA. We stopped here for a beer and lunch. The Tap Room had a nice relaxed vibe with a large dog-friendly outdoor area. Robert had one of his hard to find favorites "Little Sumpin'" and since I'm a lightweight, I had the Pilsner. Unfortunately, we were quite disappointed with the food - next time lunch first before a visit to the Tap Room. Also, don't forget to stop by the Gift Shop on the way out to pick up some souvenirs, your favorite 6-pack or even a keg.
Lagunitas // Piaci's Pub & Pizzeria

Mendocino Cookie Company & Egghead's
Next we were off to Fort Bragg, where we were planning to stay the night. After checking in and a little rest, we were thoroughly starved when we decided to have dinner at Piaci's Pub & Pizzeria. In this sleepy little town, Piaci's was the place to be, lively and bustling! I had the Nonnie Pizza - Chicken, Prosciutto and Garlic Sauce with the addition of Pine Nuts. Robert managed to polish off a huge Calzone stuffed with Pepperoni, Mushrooms and Olives. Dinner was delicious and before I knew it, something clicked. When I asked what Ice Cream flavors were being offered (from Cowlick's, the local Ice Creamery), the response I got was "Spumoni and Spiced Honey Lavender." Apparently, the food on this trip would prove to be surprising and not the mundane choices I expected from tourist traps or a small town. I of course got the Spiced Honey Lavender - Honey Lavender has been one of my favorites for years, but never with Cinnamon spice to give it another dimension of flavor.

In the morning, we headed out for a hearty breakfast before an hour and a half drive to Leggett, CA, home to one of California's Drive-Thru Redwood Trees. We put our name down on a short list at Egghead's (a Wizard of Oz themed breakfast & brunch joint) and popped across the street to check out the Mendocino Cookie Company. Don't worry, I didn't spoil my breakfast. Soon after the cookies were in my hand, our pager buzzed and we returned to Egghead's. I had "Dorothy's Revenge" (Crab Benedict with Champagne Hollandaise) and Robert had the "Lion's Mighty" (American Breakfast). The food was good, the crab was fresh and the service was friendly. The only negative was that my eggs were a little more done than I would have liked. We even came back the next morning and I tried the Pumpkin Waffle which was also delicious and complemented well with what tasted like a liquor infused cream.

Off to the Redwoods in Part II...


Lunch Desserts

Spiced Rum Cheesecake
Vanilla Infused Pineapple Compote // Graham Cracker Crust // Caramel Sauce
(yield: 10" round springform pan)

1 1/2 c           Graham Cracker Crumbs
3 T                 Sugar
1/4 t               Salt
1/4 t               Cinnamon
1/8 t               Nutmeg
2 1/2 oz         Butter, melted and cooled 

Combine first 5 ingredients
Stir in melted butter
Form crust in pan by packing in mixture tightly
Bake at 325 F for 10 minutes

20 oz              Cream Cheese, rt
4 oz                Sour Cream
3/4 c               Sugar
2 oz                Molasses
1/4 t                Cinnamon
1/8 t                Nutmeg
4                     Eggs
1/3 c               Spiced Rum

Cream together first 6 ingredients until light and fluffy
Add eggs one at a time and then rum, mix until combined
Transfer mixture into the springform pan 
Wrap the bottom of the pan with foil and place in a water bath
Cover with another piece of foil and bake at 300 F for about 1 hour, until set
Allow to cool in the refrigerator at least 3 hours before unmolding

Pistachio Panna Cotta
Fresh Raspberries // Raspberry Sauce 
White Chocolate Crunchy Pearls // White Chocolate Shavings