Monthly Archives: March 2009

Food + Drink: Strawberries + Scotch Sabayon

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In my quest to find a dessert suitable enough to make for Jeannie’s (our managing editor who also happens to be a chef) birthday on Tuesday, I ran across this recipe for Single Malt Scotch Sabayon in Alice Medrich’s Pure Desserts cookbook that came out in 2007. She, by the way, is a goddess of epic proportions when it comes to dessert cookbooks. She is meticulous about her recipe testing and offers a very detailed analysis for why and how the recipes are comported. She is knowledgeable, thorough and just a mite bit intimidating for a home cook like me, but I endeavor anyway.

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Community: Food Systems & Sustainability Conference

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Food Sustainability

Last week Ana and I went to the Food Systems & Sustainability Conference at UC Davis and it was fascinating on many fronts. Experts from throughout the U.S. came to talk about the challenges, policies and the effects of U.S. practice around the globe. As Ana recapped beautifully, “Many important people were saying many important things.” Yup, that pretty much sums it up.

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Food: BBQ Pork Spring Rolls

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Every Saturday after a trip to the farmers market I inventory the vegetables on hand and put aside the oldest of the bunch to ensure that I use them post haste. This week, among other things, I had some red leaf lettuce, Asian-style cucumbers and green onions along with some leftover Vietnamese BBQ pork from earlier in the week.

Spring Rolls
Mmmm. Spring rolls seemed just the thing.

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Food: Apple salad

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I’ve spent the past week pouring through my neglected stack of food magazines. One of my favorites is Donna Hay out of Australia; the photography always blows me away and makes me whimper in envy.

When I go through magazines I tear out recipes, articles and photos that inspire me and invariably they end up on the idea walls at work. One of the images that I tore out was a slice stacked apple that was a new interpretation of the Waldorf salad. What a terrific idea, I thought. Must come back to that one at some point.

And then yesterday I ran across the idea again on Cookbook Catchall, one of my favorite food blogs. She, too, was inspired by the same image in Donna Hay. I took this as a sign from the universe that I needed to try this little baby out sooner rather than later. Of course, I had to put my own little twist on it.

At the farmers’ market this morning I picked up a flat of strawberries from my fave berry man and they’re so juicy and sweet that I’ll incorporate them into almost any dish. (Last week I added them to the carne asada salad that I served at the ladies’ wine tasting.)

So, rather than do a traditional Waldorf, I decided to go sweet with a drizzle of plain yogurt mixed with brown sugar and a crank of black pepper drizzled over the sliced apple, topped with strawberries and walnuts.

Another option would be to use creme fraiche and agave nectar. Oh, Lordy.

It was perfect for a bright sunny California spring Saturday. Not a Waldorf, but I’ll argue that it might have been just a little bit better.

Food: Avalanche Frozen Yogurt

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Avalanche Frozen Yogurt

I love Fairfield, I really do. But one of the things that I’ve been lamenting is the absence of a good yogurt shop in town. Finally, one has opened just in time for spring. Welcome Avalanche Frozen Yogurt!

It’s situated in downtown Fairfield right next door to our favorite burger joint, Monsoon Burger, which we voted Best Burger in 2008 after some pretty arduous testing I might add.

Avalanche Frozen Yogurt

From the outside, it looks like any old strip mall shop. But as soon as you open the doors, you quickly realize that Avalanche has style. The interior is simple, contemporary and hip in white and hues of blue (to reflect that arctic igloo feeling) and the space is at once spacious and fun—perfect for the high school crowd across the street—and yet sophisticated enough for adults like me.

It’s a self-serve bar that includes a wide variety of toppings from Captain Crunch cereal to granola, Swedish fish to Reese’s peanut butter chunks, fresh fruit and even mochi. You pay by weight, so watch how big you make these suckers as it’ll add up.

I got the blueberry and vanilla mix, which was tart and light. It tasted like yogurt, not like ice cream, which is a good thing. If I want ice cream, I’ll head to Cold Stone Creamery. Yogurt should be slightly tangy and crispy feeling in the mouth and Avalanche delivered just that.

If you haven’t been, grab a kid (or a co-worker) and go. It’s the perfect way to welcome spring.

Avalanche Frozen Yogurt. 321 Texas St., Fairfield, CA 94533

Citizens' Police Academy: Day 1

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Volunteer PD

Tonight was the first night of the Fairfield Citizens’ Police Academy. As expected there were a lot of introductory shenanigans.

Deputy Chief Paul Bockrath stepped up to say welcome.

Deputy Chief  Paul Bockrath

Turns out he originally started the program six years ago. His boss gave him three weeks to put together this extensive and jam packed 9-week program and he miraculously did. I didn’t get a chance, but I wanted to ask him if Mountain Dew played a part in that coup, as I suspect it probably did. Have I mentioned that I think Mountain Dew is more powerful than crack? Who cares about pot, which just makes people lazy, sleepy and hungry? We need to be focused on addictive stimulants like Mountain Dew, people! Let’s get our priorities straight!

I’m such an asset to this community.

Anyway, back to the big welcome. Officer Jeff stepped up and led the rest of the way.

Jeff Conner

We got to interview (and then introduce) the person next to us as a way to practice our investigation skills; learn how to escape the building in case of an emergency; visit the 911 dispatch office and discover that there are only TWO dispatchers answering all the emergency service calls for a city of 150,000 plus people and their cubicles are outfitted like cockpits and they think that delivering a baby over the phone is just a normal day at work.

We also got to visit the evidence holding area and learn how evidence is processed through the system. There’s a bank of lockers (think high school) that lines a long wall. If you open a locker you can see right through to other side of the wall where police personnel retrieve the evidence and begin the processing procedures. It’s just like submitting your pee at the doctor’s office. You put your pee in a hole in the wall and someone on the other side steals it, logs it, barcodes it and stores it somewhere. I’ve always wondered where, how and for how long they store your pee. Haven’t you wondered that? Like is there a ginormous room somewhere with shelves and shelves of little cups of pee, like something out of The X-Files? How long do they keep it for and how do they dispose it? Is it someone’s job to stand there and pour it down the drain? Hey, it’s just the way my mind works. [You should hear her at the office.–AC.]

Getting back to real life: It turns out that PDs are not standardized in the way they handle and process evidence. They each do it differently. Depends on their equipment, technology, man-power, etc. All of a sudden it’s understandable how the process could be riddled with human error. Can anyone say O.J.?

Fairfield PD makes officers bag and log their own evidence so that they can swear in court that they recognize the evidence. Apparently, in the past, officers would just stick evidence in the locker and someone else would bag and log it, then when the evidence came up in court the officer wouldn’t recognize the bag it was in (cause they didn’t bag it) and this would cause doubt and get the evidence thrown out. Interesting.

The other interesting thing is that after they’re done with the evidence, if it isn’t claimed, they consign it with a business called PropertyRoom.com or StealItBack.com. Hmmmm. Me thinks many a good deal can be had on this site and according to one PD insider’s advice, “go there before you go to e-Bay!”

There you have it folks, the inside scoop!

PS: I did get confirmation that we DO get to do ride-alongs, will get training in the new driving simulators, work with guns, the SWAT team and will MAYBE get a chance to tazer each other. Whoopee!

Wine: Napa Valley Cabernets

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Last night we had a wine tasting at my house with a bunch of friends—all wonderful, witty women. And because we all drink wine, what better excuse to get together than to do some wine tasting?

Plus, life’s been stressful for everyone, so we really needed to let our hair down.

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That smile pretty much says it: Where’s the wine?

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Here’s Ruth. Doesn’t she work it like a rock star? I love that coat she’s wearing.

It’s nearly April and it finally stopped raining so we sat outside as long as we could before moving indoors without breaking the chatter.

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And then we moved on to some serious wine tasting. (Note: the following pics of the wine and food are shot at work the next morning. We had left overs from the previous evening with the ladies and so we brought everything to work for the entire staff to taste and enjoy as well. It was interesting to see what everyone liked, and didn’t like.)

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Our resident wine expert, Julia, decided to lead us through tasting cabernets from various appellations in the Napa Valley so that we could compare and contrast them against each other. We started with six cabernets:

  • Chappellet Napa Valley 2003
  • Chimney Rock Stags Leap District 2004
  • Round Pond Estate 2005
  • Groth Oakville 2005
  • J Davies Diamond Mountain District 2004
  • Ledgewood Creek Napa Valley 2005

Julia gave out maps and writeups of the various appellations that we would be tasting from. What it shows you is that just a few miles in any direction will alter a vineyard’s soil content and thusly, the taste of the wine grape and resulting wine. You can literally taste the difference in soil: loamy, minerally, dusty … it comes through. Fascinating!

Before the wine tasting, we decanted the bottles for a couple hours before tasting. At work, we don’t have that luxury so we use a Venturi to aerate the wine on the spot. Wow, this little doodad makes such a big difference. A number of our staff own them and keep them in their purses or even around the office. How weird is that for you? Not that weird for us. Seems pretty normal, actually.

wine tasting

Typically, when wine tasting I don’t like to mix it with food because it alters the taste of the wine. But sometimes you just need to put something in your stomach, especially with big bold cabernets like we’re drinking. So, we had some breads, crackers and cheeses …

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Again, we tend to fall on cheese like rabid dogs. It isn’t pretty, but it sure is good.

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And of course, chocolate truffles.

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And strawberries that didn’t last too long.

Out of all the wines that we tried, Groth was the clear standout, followed very closely by Chappellet, Round Pound and Chimney Rock depending on how much of sharp back note you like in your cabernet.

Overall, a wonderful tasting. And some pretty darn good company.