San Francisco Eats, Om Nom Nom

How do you work up an appetite in San Francisco?

You slam your coffee and get started by walking across the Golden Gate Bridge!

The earlier, the better — try to beat those hordes of clueless cycling tourists if you don’t wanna get run over!

I spent three awesome days in San Francisco last week — and, as one of those people who puts adventurous eating and traveling on pedestals of near-equal heights, hearing all the people I knew tell me, “Ohmigawd, San Francisco? You have to eat the food there!” only drove up my excitement and expectations!

So, where to start?

Two obvious stopping points for pastry aficionados: La Boulange (croissant bread pudding = must-try recommendation!) and Miette, a bakery that’s been on my list of “places to eat from before I die” for a long time.

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My friend and I sampled Miette’s buttermilk panna cotta, chocolate pot de crème, lavender shortbread cookies, and their chocolate cupcake with strawberry Italian meringue buttercream.

The must-try recommendation: the cupcake — perfect, moist chocolate cake with fresh, flavourful buttercream. So good!

Also, one more stand-out shop in the Ferry Building Marketplace (home to many local businesses, relatively tourist-free): the Cowgirl Creamery. They sell local and international organic cheeses, and ate the best damned grilled cheese I’ve ever had in my entire life from their cafe next door, the Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick.

Later that day I had another amazing food experience on Fillmore Street, close to the trendy Chestnut neighbourhood: Patxi’s Chicago Pizza.

Whoamigawd.

Honestly, this was probably the most satisfying pizza I’ve ever dug into! I’d never eaten Chicago-style deep dish pizza before — was it ever amazing!

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Passion Fruit & Lime Sorbet

First off: apologies. For reals.

I used to be one of those people without an ice cream machine — doomed to gawk in awe and envy of fellow food bloggers with the means of churning their very own frozen desserts.

So, if you don’t have access ice cream machine, I’m sorry whatever unwanted salivation these photos may induce.

Howeverrrrrr — if you can afford to get one, do it!

My recently acquired ice cream machine is one of the best damned things in my cramped and teeny-tiny kitchen — no joke! — and making ice cream at home tastes way better and ultimately costs a lot less than the chemical-laden stuff at the supermarket.

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I’ve been having tons of fun (and failures — cough cough) with coming up with my own recipes, too!

This passion fruit and lime sorbet is creamy and refreshing at the same time, and (who knows what sorcery this be!) the taste reminded me and my taste testers of key-lime pie filling. Seriously.

Convinced yet?

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Strawberry-Almond Shortbread Bars

Okay, here it comes — cover your eyes if you’re not in for a bitch fest or if you hate delicious summer fruit (psych! no one hates delicious summer fruit).

What is up with the weather?

I’m starting to feel like we’re getting a bum deal on our yearly allotment of summer heat around here.

The markets I saw in Europe were bursting with rainbows of fresh fruit (even in May!) and reading about the “warm desserts for cold winter nights” from my foodie friends Down Under is making my eye twitch — your nightly low is my daily high!

Uh, like… hello? This is jealousy talking — can I come visit you?

I went to the local farmers market last Sunday, armed with cloth bags and cold, hard cash for bundles of berries, and what did I see? Strawberries, strawberries, strawberries!

Aaaand that was pretty much it. Just strawberries — all of our other local crops are late.

So, what do you do when life gives you strawberries? Make strawberry bars!

These sweet and sticky bars are full of fresh strawberry flavour and buttery nuttiness, all while being soft in the middle and crunchy on top — oh, and did I mention that they have a delicate and crumby base?

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Chocolate & Praline Madeleines, Praline Powder

Have you ever thought about learning another language?

I think about it all the time — especially when I translate recipes from other languages.

One of the weirdest things about traveling around Europe was not being able to effectively communicate with local people in a local language — I definitely felt more than a little ignorant (and inconsiderate) at times.

Especially at hostels, when I’d inevitably get something like: “But… you’re Canadian — don’t you speak French?”

Well, actually, no.

Vancouver is kind of a weird place, see — a lot of people I know (myself included) opted out of French as soon as we hit high school in order to take an Asian language, like Mandarin or Japanese, instead.

When you live right across the ocean from Asia, it just seems to make more sense.

But now I’ve been thinking of picking up another language. Russian, German, Dutch, and Italian all seem really interesting, and it’d be nice to be able to do more than buy train tickets and coffee next time I travel to Europe!

Anyways, more madeleines today — another recipe from the cute little book I picked up in Milan.

These are different than other madeleines I’ve made before — they actually taste better at room temperature and keep well overnight!

You have to make your own praline powder for this recipe, but whooomigawd — praline powder? Gimme Gimme Gimme! Yes, please!

I like to think of it as “hazelnut crack” because it’s addictive and good on everything.

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Flan Parisian (Vanilla Custard Tart)

It’s a cheese wheel! It’s a moon! It’s a flan Parisian!

Yes, a flan Parisian — not Parisien. Why? Because I’ve Americanized it… err, anglicized it… err, you know, made it less French. Sorta.

It’s not entirely a bad thing — at least not in this case.

While authentic flan Parisien is rich in sweet vanilla and milk, it’s also loaded with cornstarch and has this texture that’s not amazingly appetizing.

The French like it well enough (you can buy it at nearly any coffee shop in Paris), but, unless you plan on building a bouncy ball empire out of rubbery custard, I think this whole chewy flan thing could use a few improvements.

My version of flan Parisian (adapted after following what seemed to be a fairly authentic recipe to the letter and not enjoying the results anymore than I enjoyed flan in Paris) is a little more creamy, a little more eggy, and a little less caramelized on top than the real thing, but, well… I like my version a lot better.

Oh, and I baked it in a fluted tart shell, but gimme a break here — some people don’t bake it in a shell at all!

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Passion Fruit Cupcakes

Before I went to pastry school, I’d never even had passion fruit — it had always kind of intimidated me, to be honest!

I’ll fully admit that this is sort of sad behaviour (especially for someone who considers herself an adventurous foodie…!) but if I pick up a foreign fruit or veggie in the grocery store and I can’t see an obvious way to eat it (like: oh, just slice it and eat it raw… or, clearly you cut away the skin first!) then I tend to put it down and skulk away.

For some reason, I think it’s embarrassing to have to ask someone else, “How do you eat this?” and then I’ve always often forgotten all about it by the time I get home.

Call it culinary pride, or what have you — or maybe lack of culinary confidence! Yeah, that would be more accurate.

Anyways, passion fruit is amazing. I should have gotten around to eating it way earlier in life.

It’s like the lemon of the jungle — very tart and acidic, while also having a very complex and fruity flavour — and, in case you’re wondering, you just crack ’em open and eat the insides (including the seeds)!

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