RSS

Monthly Archives: August 2017

A Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe, Good Friends and Beer at Calicraft.

A Roasted Tomato Soup Recipe, Good Friends and Beer at Calicraft.

IMG_0715

Recently I met with my friends Kathi and Donna at a local brewery to celebrate our birthdays. We don’t get together often since we all have busy lives, but when we do we celebrate big. Our paths first collided when I was in the dental field 30 years ago. Donna and I met at Diablo Valley College in a microbiology class. We were both trying to get into the dental hygiene program. We studied at each other’s houses while our one year old children played together. We eventually worked in the same offices which was fun.

IMG_0716

Kathi and I worked as dental assistants in a small dental practice in Concord. Kathi taught me everything I needed to know about keeping kids happy in the dental chair. She called the light “Mr. Sunshine”, the suction “Mr. Thirsty” and showed me how to keep kids calm and happy during their visit. Our boys played on the same soccer team and my husband was their coach. All three of us ladies have stayed in touch over the years. We remember each others’ birthdays and I’m grateful for their continued friendship.I digress… Back to the BEER.

IMG_0411

 Calicraft is fairly new in the East Bay. It is located in an Industrial Park area near Kaiser Park Shadelands and most people don’t know about it. Calicraft offers a large variety of lagers. They offer various brown ales with fun and catchy names like “Oaktown” referring to the city of Oakland California that is about 20 minutes away. They have interesting flavors such as Sour Strawberry a blonde beer with 8.5% alcohol, a Sour Black Currant beer at 8.5% alcohol, a Reserve Sauvignon Peach which is a sparkling ale that is made with grapes at 12% alcohol, and their special Reserve Sparkling Rose’ that is made with raspberries, cherries and zinfandel.

I decided to try their beer flight and I was able to choose four different kinds of beer. We were disappointed that they didn’t offer more to eat. They sold bags of potato chips and beef jerky, but luckily we had nuts in our car. Kathi spoiled me and purchased my beer flight. I was interested in the summer sour strawberry, the sour black currant, the apricot haze IPA, and the Buzzerkeley sparkling ale. Each beer was full of flavor and exciting to try. The bartender was nice to share a lime with me since I love drinking beer with citrus.

IMG_0406

Calicraft’s marketing team has gotten extremely creative. I’m crazy for the name Buzzerkeley because it makes fun of the town of Berkeley not too far, about 20 minutes from the brewery. They named a Mexican Lager “Chico Lager” which is only 5.6% alcohol, but must be a favorite since this town hosts one of the more popular colleges in California. In fact, both of my sister’s attended Chico in the 80’s.

Another variety that Calicraft offers is a beer called “Coast” which is a Kolsch-style ale and is 4.8% alcohol. Then there is a “Guava Tree” wheat served at 6.2%. Fun was had by all. It was nice to try out the new brewery and us girls had a blast chatting it up.

Speaking of beer, a few years back, I hosted a dinner party with beer pairings for some of our soccer friends. We borrowed special glasses to get the most out of each beer. Each family brought their favorite beer, Stella, Guinness, a Boston Lager and Corona. I served each beer with a small serving of protein (shrimp, pork carnitas,and steak) that went perfectly with the beer.  I also made a gingerbread cake for dessert substituting a dark Guinness beer instead of water in the recipe. The cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that is tart and sweet. It is a dessert you go back to often when thinking of what to serve your guests. The cake is moist and studded with lots of candied ginger, my favorite. You could substitute vanilla ice cream or whipped cream instead of frosting the cake if you wish.

Whether you are meeting up with good friends at the local bar or entertaining friends at home, keep those you love close. Stay in touch frequently and continue to foster those relationships near and far like Kathi, Donna and I have.

Here’s a wonderful tomato soup recipe that you will want to make. It is best with fresh heirloom tomatoes picked straight from the garden, but any ripe tomato will do.

Roasted Cipollini Onion and Heirloom Tomato Soup

 

Ingredients:

8 Cipollini Onions (Can substitute 1 small white or yellow onion)

1 Pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, halved

4 Poblano Peppers (can substitute 1 jalapeno instead)

3 cloves garlic, peeled

⅓ C Olive Oil

1 tsp Thyme chopped

 

2 C Chicken or Vegetable stock

¾ C a dry White Wine (Pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, or unoaked chardonnay)  

1 tsp Kosher Salt

½ tsp freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper

 

Creme fraiche and thyme blossom for garnish

 

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees

 

Directions:

Place the onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic on a sheet pan. Toss with Olive Oil, sprinkle chopped thyme, and salt and pepper on veggies and roast in oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized and soft.

 

Puree the roasted veggies with ½ C chicken stock in a blender. Push through a sieve to remove seeds and skin.

 

Place pureed liquid with remaining stock and white wine into a large pot. Cook on simmer for about 30 minutes or up to an hour.

 

To serve, ladle soup in a shallow soup bowl and garnish with creme fraiche and a thyme blossom.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Advertisements
 

Baking a Wedding Cake and a Tour of Facebook in the Same Day.

Baking a Wedding Cake and a Tour of Facebook in the Same Day.

IMG_0232It’s been quite a month. I took on making a wedding cake for a good friend that reconnected with me on Facebook.  I also was unusually busy because I met up with my niece at Facebook the same day that I had to bake the cakes. This is what’s so great about Facebook. You never know who you might meet up with again since they have globally 1.28 billion people active users daily and 200 billion monthly active users.

IMG_0186

Last month I was invited to take a tour of the Facebook campus from my niece who works for an accounting firm there. Jasmine showed me around the property. It was quite expansive and the employees  used bikes and busses to get from campus to campus. These busses come frequently, are air conditioned and very comfortable. But, let’s talk about the FOOD at Facebook. When I arrived, I was given a day pass and offered something to drink. I delightedly made myself my fav drink: an espresso w half and half and sugar. It was so exciting to see all the options and everything was FREE.Eventually, we made our way over to the BBQ pork, macaroni and cheese, and spicy greens and I was in heaven.

IMG_0213

Jasmine also introduced me to several snack areas which give away, pretzels, chips, granola bars, fruit snacks, popcorn,candy, gum and pretty much whatever your heart desires. I took Altoids (my Dad’s favorite), peppermint gum and a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup for the ride home. Yum. They also have refrigerators near the exits that have pre made salads, etc so you don’t have to cook when you get home. That’s a huge help to many families that struggle with meal preparation. I can’t imagine anyone being hungry though. Jasmine and I walked down the main campus where there were places to eat lining the street. I saw a Noodle Bar, a BBQ place, a burger joint, a Salad Bar,  a bakery and an ice cream shop. And I’m sure I’m forgetting many more.They even had a cafeteria on her campus which was closed already.  I wanted EVERYTHING. I couldn’t believe that all this food was FREE.

IMG_0194

Cameras weren’t allowed near the workstations, but I was amazed at all the different nooks and crannies all over campus that were set up to work from. Comfy couches and rooms that looked like libraries were positioned all over making it hard to choose where one would feel like hanging out. It felt more like Disneyland than a place of employment. We even walked by Mark Zuckerman’s office! So cool.

IMG_0190

Jasmine also showed me all around Instagram which Facebook also owns. There were huge art pieces all colorful and exciting, a place one could be inventive and inspired for sure.

IMG_8626

The wedding cake story is explained next. I don’t consider myself a professional cake baker. Yes, I have gone to pastry school and made special occasion cakes for different events, but never for a wedding. That’s a lot of pressure that I don’t need to put on myself, and no one had ever asked me before so it wasn’t an issue. Noelle and I had raised our kids together in the same neighborhood, same swim team and same schools. That is, until she and her husband separated about 10 years ago and moved out of the neighborhood. She and I lost touch and I hadn’t spoken for a very long time. Then out of the blue, she sent me a message on Facebook and asked me to give her a call. I guess she saw my many dessert  posts and of course remembered how much I loved baking. About a week later, I had her and another friend from the neighborhood named Chris over for dinner to discuss her new man, anything we might have missed out on the last 10 years and of course THE CAKE.  

 

And Noelle, is in sales and can be very assertive and overbearing, yet I like that about her. I was also excited to have this opportunity to make a wedding cake. After all, she really wanted me to bake her cake and there is something kinda cool about that.

It took some convincing, but I finally agreed. Now I had to do the research, look for recipes, find the right sized cake pans, figure out how what to put them on and learn what kind of supports I would need to serve a wedding cake in Mid July. Thank goodness for You Tube, Pinterest and good friends who suggested I make a tiered wedding cake instead of piling them on top of each other. (Best decision ever!) I spend hours watching home chefs decorate cakes, and got to see what tricks I would need to make this process a success.

I spend days shopping picking up ingredients like drinking straws (to use inside the cake to keep from falling), fresh lemons for lemon curd, eggs, butter (lots of butter), meringue powder, powdered sugar, raspberries, and pudding mix. Yes. I used box cake mixes because I am guaranteed a good tasting cake with the right texture. If I made them from scratch, I would worry that the weight of these cakes wouldn’t hold up to another on top. Like I said, I’m not a cake baker. I generally dislike making a decorating cakes, because it takes someone with patience to make them look just right. They have to be even and the icing needs to be the right consistency with various scrolling, etc…

IMG_0311

Another thing most people don’t know about me is that I listen to motivational podcasts every morning. I like Deleon Motivation , Tony Robbins, and The Mulligan Brothers just to name a few. These talks push me a little out of my comfort zone and ask that you try something new. Do something that you wouldn’t normally do, they say. This cake definitely did that for me. I was waay out of my league, yet I was determined to make it happen for my friend. It was the least I could do for her, after all.

IMG_0274

Lucky for me, my husband helped out by engineering the “tiered look” and stepped up big time at the last minute. I also was fortunate to have our cousin volunteer to make the rose cake topper, which made the cake look professional. Lynie loves flower arranging and I knew I would not have the time or energy to give this cake the finishing touch that it deserved. She only charged me $39.00 for the roses and baby’s breath and refused to let me pay her for her time. It was such a gift.

A week or so before the wedding I started baking the five cakes. I’ve taken enough baking classes to know you never refrigerate a cake or it will dry out. So I had to take my freezer food to my mom’s house so I could make room for all five cakes. The lemon curd was made next, since that can be made ahead. I waited until the day before to make the frosting. Buckets and buckets of frosting! I worried a little, no A LOT about how I would decorate each cake, but in the end they all turned out beautiful. One I topped with the flowers, one I used fresh raspberries and blueberries, and one I delicately placed meringue cookies in a huge pile on top of this enormous round cake.

IMG_0251.JPG

I got excited when I decided to fill the cakes with whipped cream, lemon curd, raspberries, and buttercream. I used Grand Marnier, simple syrup, to moisten the layers before filling. I found pink ribbon and used mylar strips/acetate to keep the ribbon from touching the icing on the sides of the cake.To decorate the sides, I used tempered white chocolate and a piece of a huge metal form that my husband used to build a rock wall. This metal piece had a fun pattern to it that would make the cake look special. (Kind of fun to use something no one else would ever think of using!)

 

The tricky part was making room in the fridge and freezer for the finished cakes and also transporting them to the venue which was only 15 minutes away. The weather wasn’t cooperating with us either, since it was over 100 degrees at 2:00 in the afternoon. My little Lexus came through allowing us to crank up the air conditioning for 10 minutes before we loaded them in the car. I’m sure most cake makers have special vans or large vehicles that make it easier to get five huge cakes to a wedding.Not not me, but we made it happen.

After arriving at Il Postino in Lafayette, my husband built the structure of cake platters and we used a brand new white sheet that covered the table perfectly. I picked a few flowers and greens from my garden and was able to put together something cute to give the presentation a little color besides the rose cake topper.

In the end, everything worked out well. Noelle and Mark got married and they had a beautiful cake that make their day extra special. Who knows if there are any more wedding cakes to be made in my future. At least if there are, I will have the knowledge and expertise this time to do it.

IMG_7450

I genuinely would like to thank my niece Jasmine for taking the time to take me to Facebook. I’m so proud of her!  It’s because of Facebook that I was offered these friends like Noelle and Chris to magically pop back into my life. The wedding was beautiful, the cakes were phenomenal and I have a new trick up my sleeve when it comes to calling myself a pastry chef. And without the help of these morning motivational talks, I can ultimately say I probably wouldn’t have considered taking on this gargantuan task. To say  that I am grateful for the opportunity to make a wedding cake is an understatement. Congratulations Noelle and Mark. Thank you for including me in your special day.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more great stories and recipes.

 

Tags: , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: