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September 1-7, 2007
|Friday, September 7, 2007
... today. Don’t be confused by the name, it’s not a place to grab a chai frappuccino to wash down a Black Forest ham sandwich, the eats are strictly their factory output and the drinks are hot chocolate (either bittersweet or caramelized cinnamon.)
They are changing the name of their café to a “chocolate bar”so that there won’t be so many confused visitors expecting a Starbucks-ified experience. We were a little disoriented when we entered since we didn’t know the drill, but you order at this choco-stand:
... pay and take your goods to the long room off to the side. There are plans to expand their seating:
... but in the meanwhile you will find a long counter with tall stools that face the factory floor:
...where you can witness the fabrication of the perfect little chocolate jewels that you are savoring. Keep in mind that they break for lunch and that the café is open after the oompahs loomah out the door, so if you want the full-on treatment, come during their factory hairnet-based activity hours.
For our flight of six chocolates ($9.00):
... we chose a A) Yankee blood orange, B) espresso caramel, C) bittersweet fleur de sel, D) Meyer lemon Yankee, E) mojito heart and an F) Earl Grey truffle. All of these were delish, with unique flavors and perfect textures, but if you suffer from decision paralysis, just go with their predetermined flight of the month.
A hot chocolate:
... comes with this flight and I chose the bittersweet. Chubby got the caramelized cinnamon hot chocolate ($2.00) the initial sips of both felt a touch grainy in texture, but as we kept going, they both tasted smoother and rich enough that these diminutive cups needed no encore.
Our well tempered treats were all the high quality chocolates:
... from Charles Siegel that we have always enjoyed. We avoided ordering some of our favorites (from the Teance collection) in order to try some new items.
They plan to get an espresso machine in a couple of weeks (yea!) but in the meanwhile, you can take advantage of their happy hour (4-7 p.m. daily) and you’ll get 2 hot chocolates for the price of one.
If you like to set up your own personal office by plugging in your laptop in a public space for hours on end, cross the street and you’ll find a Starbucks. There are no electrical outlets or WiFi for those seeking squatters’ rights in this hunk of Emeryville real estate. It’s also a great place for extremely well behaved or sedated kids, so if your shorties are rambunctious, homicidal maniacs, you might prefer the Jelly Belly Factory tour.
Charles Chocolates has factory tour info on their website if you are a serious pod person.
|Thursday, September 6, 2007
When David Lebovitz posted a sugar-free ice cream recipe, I thought that more than a dessert had frozen over. Turns out that he didn’t created a new Jenny Craig mass marketed dessert for Kirstie to push; it is actually a chocolate ice cream that uses cactus goo instead of sugar. “Agave nectar” sounds even more familiar when you drop off the second word and think about your last margarita.
We picked up some organic agave nectar:
... at Whole Foods and gave David’s recipe a whirl:
We used his one pan method (rather than dirtying a bunch of dishes) and topped our churned reward with a few Maldon salt flakes. Delish:
|Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Taylor’s was way too crowed today to be an Automatic Refresher:
It wasn’t that it was packed with tourists, it was mostly local workers grabbing lunch in this noisy Ferry Building eatery.
They have always had those chain restaurant, electronic customer surveillance devices, but they now have one that looks as though it can double as a taser:
It even displays advertising for a credit card which seems strange since they give you the device after you pay (rather than the credit card advertising on the check sleeves at restaurants that indicate what card they want you to insert into their plastic pouch.)
In the past, we have had some decent chow here, but today’s salad felt a little airporty.
The plastic, lidded bowl was not only impersonal - it was impervious. We worried that we would give this leafy bowl an accidental extra toss as we wrestled with opening this child safe, non-narcotic. A lady at a neighboring table had to ask her gentleman companion to utilize his superior upper body strength to open her veggie lock box. They really should offer them lidless for those eating on site.
The Cobb salad ($9.99) had sad, green tinged, hard boiled egg slices on top:
The sight of overcooked eggs makes my heart sink because it shows a lack of care. Organic lettuces, blue cheese, chicken breast, bacon and avocado were all okay, but I wish that the cherry tomatoes weren’t refrigerated which took away some of their flavor.
The fish tacos ($9.99):
... were filled with overcooked Mahi, Mahi bits, slaw, sour cream and salsa. I liked the lime juice tang but not enough divert my attention from the deflavorized double named fish.
Perhaps we were unlucky on our last couple of visits, but it appears that there are items with which we have had greater success. The cheeseburger and sweet potato fries have been safer selections than veering off the refreshing track (like we did today.)
Taylor’s Automatic Refresher
|Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I am convinced that the Custom Burger Lounge is a front for a covert and elaborate psychological study. A beef-haviorist research grant was approved to correlate the relationship between the privately written culinary selections of a subject and the observable process of their public interaction upon its receipt.
Step one of this experiment was filling out individual cards with our meat, cheese, topping and saucing preferences.
I requested the half and half fries ($3.79) “extra crispy.”
The sweet potato strips were flavorful with a nice crunchiness, while the traditional spuds were fine but would have been even better with more frying time.
They serve wine and beer if you need to loosen up before your multiple choice burger assembly exam. If you want to think outside of the Skinner box, you can order a lamb, fish or veggie burger and have a slice of house made pie or cookies.
It places the customer in a strange position when the tip amount is requested before there is any evidence of the service or the quality of our chow. Because you pay at the counter as you hand in your burger profile, if you are using a credit card, you must fill out your tip before you total is rung up – awkward….
It is clear that they are in the process of ironing out the kinks due to their recently opened status. We were asked to wait as they did a shift change, but the other cashier didn’t materialize so the person who asked us to hold up had to help us after all. The kitchen was also having some minor timing issues. A neighboring table of 4 got part of their order and had to wait for some of their food and a forgotten sauce.
Since both of our burgers were cooked until our Pavlovian responses were no longer present, we probably won’t rush back for our next session, but this eatery housed in the Best Western Americania is a good addition to the otherwise eroded restaurant landscape of this block.
Custom Burger Lounge
|Monday, September 3, 2007
Michel Cloes moderated today’s Gastronomy by the Bay roundtable entitled, “food guides vs. the internet gourmet and new economic models.”
Liz Johanssesen from OpenTable.com:
... noted the rising trend in online dining decision making which supplies immediate gratification for those seeking information and opinions. 92% of the 7,000+ restaurants listed on OpenTable.com have official websites. She stated that the most effective marketing tool is a happy diner.
... a well credentialed journalist and food critic trusts the printed word, not the internet (although he thought it was a good tool for looking up a menu.) He chuckled while recalling a chef refer to the American palate as “plastique.” He shared the view of “Gastronomy is not a Democracy” with:
Jean-Claude Persais, the VP of Operations at Aqua:
Jean-Claude has had some sour experiences arise from blogs generated from his own staff. He dislikes blogs that do not come from professionals and finds them to be unfair and easily misinterpreted. In the interest of presenting first-hand information, Aqua has a newsletter and Jean-Claude gets direct customer feedback in order to remedy any problems.
Kate Mascaro, a managing book editor at Flammarion in France:
... isn’t a fan of blogs because, “they are just a blogger’s personal opinion” and “they have not been edited.” She noted that bloggers with book deals have created an audience and that the “book is an important delivery method.”
... a hospitality and restaurant consultant, said that clients frequently ask, “What do we do about the blogs?” He feels that some blogs are “crap from people that don’t know what they are talking about” but concedes that “there are couple of good ones.”
He also spoke about the need for some customers to go to highly designed restaurants with the attitude of: “I don’t care about how the food tastes, I just want to be there.”
Due to the blog discussion, Michel pointed out, “there are a couple of bloggers in the audience now” and invited us to say a few words. We discussed our belief that the food blog audience isn’t a group incapable of making their own evaluations based on the gathering of information that comes from many sources.
Gastronomy by the Bay came to a close with the last of the book signings and cooking demonstrations:
Despite the temptation of panelists to throw us in-the-bay, we had a fine time and are sorry that it won’t be on our home turf next year.
|Sunday, September 2, 2007
Michel Cloes, the founder of Gastronomy by the Bay:
... gave Joyce Goldstein the challenge of assembling a panel to discuss sustainability. The difficultly in this task is to put together a group who won’t put you to sleep with all those tired catch phrases and predictable rants.
... deftly moderated this antithesis to a Monsanto pep rally, which included:
Andy Griffin of Mariquita Farm:
... who employed a humorously engaging tone to share his perspective as a farmer. Organizations that have tried to speak for him and his farm have had their own agendas. He has been asked to show up for a photo shoot to validate canned stories, which has fueled his desire to communicate more directly with the public.
Julie Johnson of Tres Sabores Winery:
...underlined the importance of sharing information and ideas to support sustainability. She pointed out the leap of faith that takes place “when you put something in your mouth that you have no connection to” (sounds kind of icky when she puts it that way.)
When Tyler Florence was being criticized (for bringing false credibility to Applebee’s Restaurant with his promotional gig) she cautioned us not to become effete, that there are “Applebee’s chefs in Ohio that may have potential to be awakened.”
Chef Marsha McBride from Café Rouge:
... defines sustainability as her relationships with growers and purveyors, her community, customers and employees. She discussed the impact of catch phrases like “cage free” and “free range” which are meaningless in terms of giving you actual information about a chicken. Her Berkeley background led her to “preach with comfort” on the virtues of recycling and solar power.
Chef David Kinch of Manresa :
...prefers to leave the preaching to others and does not include information regarding biodynamics on his menus. He believes that green and sustainable practices should be accepted as the conventionality.
Manresa’s three acre garden produces 80% of the kitchen’s produce in the winter and 100% in the summer. This isn’t a “show” garden to snip a few herbs, it supplies a “closed circle” among the guests, staff and garden.
Chickens, goats, pigs and bees share this acreage and help to support the sense of place or “terrior” for his Los Gatos dining spot.
We said hello to a beneficiary of his fine cooking: the always-fashionable lady in the red dress who had a front row seat.
Tom Worthington of Monterey Fish:
... was fearless in speaking his mind. He shook things up (in a good way) with his hit on how you can’t rely on a credit card sized printout to direct your purchases – you need to educate yourself. As an example, he noted that Atlantic Cod appears on all of the lists of fish to avoid; yet he purchases this fish from cod fishermen who hook and line fish and adhere to strict guidelines, which insure the next year’s harvest. If you were to boycott their wares you will put them out of business.
He also advised us to point a critical eye at the “greenwashing” of the public with all the right catch phrases.
This highly articulate group doesn’t subscribe to the confinement of strict localvore practices, but are still mindful of the spirit of community. All the panelists noted that sourcing locally can be accomplished with greater ease in the Bay Area, but as Tom said, “it’s almost disingenuous to discuss this here – go to Nome, Alaska and talk about it..”
Joyce concluded that sustainability should be a topic that reaches a wider audience and lamented the current state of the Food Network (which highlights cooking as entertainment and competition) and suggested that they speak about these issues. She added, “we don’t need to shoot the messenger, we need to seduce the messenger.”
|Saturday, September 1, 2007
I liked the diversity of the panel:
... (aside from the fact that they were all whites and no reds.) A professor of Enology, a winemaker, a sommelier and a director of on board products from American Airlines were present to share views from their different vantage points in the wine-chain. .
Master sommelier and wine director Emmanuel Kemiji was peppery in his knowledgeable and verbose delivery (with a long finish.) He passionately spoke of how wines should comport a sense of terrior and expressed his lack of satisfaction with the role of professional critics.
Mary McKee from American Airlines has the task of sating taste buds dulled from the in- flight environment while trying to maintain alcohol levels that won’t result in a police escort at the gate.
Mareketta Fourmeaux of Napa’s Chateau Potelle:
... added an effervescent dosage of wisdom blended with humor in her comments such as, “the word “terrior” is like “democracy”, it is understood in many different ways.”
Professor Pierre-Louis Teissedre of the University of Bordeaux had some illuminating information on the hot topic of climate change and it’s influence on wine growing regions and alcohol content.
Animated discussions ranged from organic and biodynamic practices to China's and India’s roles in wine production.
Jordan kept everyone on topic and was respectful to those with differing positions so that there were no drunken brawls when it came time to lift a glass.
Meanwhile, Roland Passot of San Francisco’s La Folie showed that he is not only a chef, but also a showman:
He had a standing room only audience:
... for his cooking demonstration and spoke of the important issue of sustainability as it applies to your fish purchases.
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