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The Melt


The man behind the Flip video camera has opened up a high-tech chain of grilled cheese fast food restaurants called The Melt all over the Bay area. Since we were at the Stanford Mall in Palo Alto to pick up the new S’more cupcake at Sprinkles we stopped in for lunch.

The menu was fairly simple composed of 6 grilled cheese sandwiches (called melts), 5 soups, 3 sweet melts and drinks. I was expecting some highly creative sando options but you basically just choose a cheese and bread. Mike ordered the special of the day… The Dirty combo (without jalapeños) – sharp cheddar, tomato, bacon, and BBQ chips on sourdough + Sweet Corn Tortilla Soup. I went with the Classic combo of sharp cheddar on potato bread w/bacon + Two Tomato Basil soup.

The Dirty

We took a seat and admired the cool order board that let’s you know when your food is ready. Since the menu was a bust I was hoping for a taste sensation. Unfortunately, that was also a disappointment. When biting into our sandwiches all we could taste was the cheese. The toppings were so sparse they disappeared completely. I was pumped that you could add bacon to anything for FREE (that should be a rule everywhere) but found you get what you pay for. It was razor thin, limp and flavorless.

The Classic

I can easily make better grilled cheese at home on my favorite panini grill. I will say we enjoyed the corn soup.

I guess if I was at the mall and wanted to grab a quick bite (we were in and out in 20 minutes) I might stop by again for some soup. If you are looking for grilled cheese done right, check out the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in SF.

Note: if you don’t want to stand in line you can order in advance online.

Website: https://themelt.com/

The Melt on Urbanspoon

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Sprinkles New Cupcake Flavor! I want S’more!

S'more - Belgian dark chocolate cake filled with bittersweet chocolate ganache, topped with toasted marshmallow with a graham cracker crust

Although not photogenic, I had to show you the inside. The graham cracker bottom was genius!

Blake Lively of “Gossip Girl” teamed up with Sprinkles to create a cupcake for charity. 100% of the proceeds from the SUPER FABULOUS S’more cupcake will go to Oxfam.

Hurry up and go get one because it’s a top 5 flavor!

xoxo…Bay Area Foodie

Note: Only available January 6 to February 2, 2012

See how it ranks

Potato Latkes


I’ve had the best of both worlds because I’ve grown up celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. This year my parents came to my house to celebrate Chanukah and we made latkes. When I broke out my new Cuisinart food processor to grate the potatoes and onion my mom shook her head in dismay. “I always use a grater,” she said, “we are not making hashbrowns!”

My mom likes her potato and onion mixture to be like mush, not shredded. So after I used the shredder attachment and it was not to her liking I changed the blade and gave it a few pulses to get it to her perfect consistency. Making latkes is pretty simple and delicious. Happy Chanukah!

Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside

My Mom’s Latkes Recipe
Makes about 16

Ingredients:
2 large russet potatoes (peeled)
1 onion
1 tsp. salt
1 egg (beaten)
3 Tbsp. matzo meal
Vegetable oil to fry
Apple Sauce & Sour cream for serving

Instructions:
Grate the onion and potatoes with a box grater or as I described above (much faster!) into a bowl. Then mix with the remaining ingredients. Heat a skillet with vegetable oil (enough to cover 1/2 of the pancakes) over high heat. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil (don’t crowd) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain the latkes on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.

Coconut Macaroons


For holiday gifts this year I chose to make the 2011 Food & Wine magazine coconut macaroons because I thought it was going to be quick and easy. I was wrong. My first batch was a disaster. I tried to half the recipe because it said it made 40 and I only needed 20. What resulted was a bunch of coconut pancake-like cookies.

Round 1 = EPIC FAIL

I tried again and made the full amount because it was obvious I didn’t have enough coconut. Whoever “tested and perfected” this recipe at F&W mag didn’t do a good job.

Reason 1 – The recipe doesn’t come close to making 40 macaroons as stated, it was more like 25.
Reason 2 -Don’t bake for 25 minutes! If you don’t want badly burnt cookies watch them carefully once they hit 10 minutes in the oven …anything over 15 and you are in trouble.
Reason 3 – There was no mention that the macaroons may run during baking so if you want them to look like what you see in a store (round balls) then you will have to trim the edges.
Reason 4 – They say to stick the finished product in the fridge for about 5 minutes for the chocolate to set. It takes a good 20 min.

In the end they still tasted killer but in order to not have to doctor them up to look presentable they need either more coconut or less sweetened condensed milk.

Recipe link
Food & Wine magazine, Dec. 2011

Chez Panisse


Who knew that it was harder to get a reservation at Chez Panisse than the French Laundry? I had no idea that it was still so popular. We attempted to reserve a table for my birthday about 3 weeks prior but they were fully booked. The reservationist said I had to call exactly at 9am one month in advance, to the calendar date so that’s what we did. To Mike’s disdain my usual 1 week birthday would now last 2.

Chez Panisse is a Berkeley institution where famed chef Alice Waters creates her fabulous farm to table feasts. In the 70’s Waters pioneered the concept of preparing meals using fresh seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. The restaurant is located in an Arts and Crafts style house on Shattuck Avenue that is small and intimate. Each night they serve a new 3-4 course menu so you won’t know what you are being served until the week you have a reservation (you can check the website). If you are a picky eater and don’t like quail, duck or rabbit eating here may be a gamble for you. Mike and I are down to try anything so this was not an issue for us, but we ended up with a pretty safe menu.

Menu

Nov 19, 2011

An apéritif
Grapefruit champagne cocktail
Course 1
Bellwether Farms sheep’s milk ricotta with fall vegetables and coriander vinaigrette
Course 2
Roasted halibut with savoy cabbage and lobster butter
Course 3
Spit-roasted Piedmontese beef rib eye with Beaujolais sauce, potato cake, chanterelles, and Cannard Farm salad
Course 4
Black Mission fig tartlet with Chartreuse ice cream

Dishes were rustic and simply presented but service was a little stiff. I’m a meat and potatoes girl so course #3 was my favorite. They made beef melt in my mouth and a basic potato cake taste scrumptious. Mike and I both loved our meal. Chez Panisse lost its Michelin star in 2011 to many people’s dismay. If they are not deserving then I tend to question the guides’ ratings because it was more than a meal, it was an experience.

Note: if you are looking for a less formal (and less expensive) meal check out the upstairs cafe.

Rating:

Website: http://www.chezpanisse.com/

Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon

Delicata Squash Soup


I’d never seen or tasted a delicata squash until it arrived in our CSA delivery. After some research I found out that it is sweet and most commonly prepared by simply roasting it in the oven, but I decided to take it a step further and make it into a soup.

You know it's a delicata squash by the cool green stripes

When they said it was sweet I expected flavors similar to a butternut squash but it was much more subtle. This tasted like a potato soup with a touch of sweetness. I’ve made many squash soups and sometimes they turn out bland but this, although mild, I found uniquely delicious.

Recipe link
Food & Wine magazine / Feb 1999

For more winter squash recipes check out other bloggers participating in the Food Network’s Fall Fest (a season long franchise where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about seasonal produce every week)…

 

 

And Love It Too: Warm Winter Chili
The Sensitive Epicure: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Cooking Channel: Kabocha Squash Pasta
CIA Dropout: Stuffed Winter Squash
What’s Gaby Cooking: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bisque With Sage Cream
FN Dish: Simply Roasted Winter Squash
Napa Farmhouse 1885:
Pomme d’or With Wild Mushroom Risotto

Umami Burger

When humans eat, they use all of their senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) to form general judgments about their food, but it is taste that is the most influential in determining how delicious a food is. Conventionally, it has been thought that our sense of taste is comprised of four basic, or ‘primary’, tastes, which cannot be replicated by mixing together any of the other primaries: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. However, it is now known that there is actually the fifth primary taste: umami
Umami Information Center

Umami burger if you are not familiar is a beloved Southern Cali chain that has now opened up on Union Street in San Francisco. When we arrived on a Monday night at 5:30pm the small space was almost empty. I made sure to come at a non-peak time to avoid the long waits I’ve read about.

I went with the signature Umami burger and Mike chose the Manly burger and we shared the truffle cheese fries. When everything arrived I was surprised by the petite size of the burgers (they look larger in photos). I gotta be honest we were hungry… we both downed our burgers within 4-5 bites so I can’t give you a real in-depth evaluation. All I know was mine was sweet and had kind of an Asian vibe and Mike’s had little yummy bacon lardons. Oh, and when I took my first bite my wedding ring was swimming in meat drippings (which was a good thing). The burger was cooked to perfection at medium rare which is their standard. It was juicylicious!

Manly burger (beer cheddar, onion rings,bacon) & Umami burger (shiitake shroom,onion,roasted tomato,parm crisp)

The truffle cheese fries (not on the menu but should be) were great and not overly truffley. They came with a trio of sauces but what I liked best was the homemade ketchup which kinda tasted like it was made with brown sugar.

We will have to go back again to savor the flavor.

Note: I thought we were going to leave hungry but in the end we were perfectly full. No burger bloat.

Rating:

Website: http://umamiburger.com/

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

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