Category Archives: Apricot

Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene

Reasons why you should visit Oakland’s Insanely Good Food Scene


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Beautiful graffiti art in West Oakland

Had a fabulous day last Friday exploring Tanya Holland’s Oakland’s Brown Sugar Kitchen Restaurant with my friend Sandra. We also took a walk through of the historic Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, one of my favorite places. We shared stories and got caught up while sipping on Peet’s Coffee and nibbling on treats from Fournee Bakery. All this on a rainy March afternoon, so I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

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The view outside Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland

Firstly, If you haven’t checked out Bravo’s Top Chef competition, it’s a must. I’ve been watching since the beginning and I’m hooked. Of course I love learning as much as I can about cooking and I follow the chefs on Instagram to see what they are up to. Tanya Holland owns an Oakland restaurant called Brown Sugar Kitchen. This place is off the beaten path so lucky I had a Google map to find my way there.

Sandra and I were excited to sit at the counter alongside Tanya herself cooking during the lunch rush. The place was packed, but we were happy to sit and watch the chef making her famous soul food recipes like her Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Cornmeal Waffle served w brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup. Yum. Obviously she was teaching her sous chef a few things because I’m sure she is needed in other areas promoting her cookbook written in 2014 and getting other restaurants up and running. Last September she announced she would be opening a BSKC Brown Sugar Kitchen Counter at the San Francisco Ferry Building, and hopes to expand her brand to the Warriors new Chase Center.

The food was exciting, flavorful and soulful. I ordered the Blackened Catfish served on top of rice with roasted red pepper sauce and pickled vegetables. It was good old fashioned comfort food and a huge portion of which I packed up to bring home for later. Sandra ordered the Creole BBQ Shrimp, basmati rice and baby spinach. She kept going back for more of the spicy dish and we shared the garlic green beans. Sadly, I couldn’t find collard greens on the menu, but loved the perfectly seared green beans.

We didn’t stay for dessert, but I got a close up photo of a banana cake w caramel ganache, a red velvet cake and sticky buns with pecans. This place serves my kind of food and it isn’t stuffy like other East Bay restaurants. The drink menu was limited, but I was happy with Drake’s Hefeweizen and fresh lemon. Sandra went for the Urban Cellars California Viognier. And just today I realized Tanya has teamed up with Humphry Slocombes and is making a brown sugar ice-cream with apple jam and a cornmeal cookie. Delicious!

Well,  if I haven’t convinced you to make a trip to the Oakland/Berkeley area yet then I will tell you about a few more places to visit. The Claremont Hotel and Spa happened to be on our way home and Sandra and I couldn’t help ourselves but to stop in for a look see. My husband and I have stayed here before and loved it. We actually spent the first night of our honeymoon there at the Claremont over 29 years ago. It’s historical because it opened in 1915. Even my grandparents frequented there back in the day. My mother and sister and I spent time at their spa getting massages and relaxing by the pool to celebrate Mother’s Day one year.  Their new bar Limewood looked fun and exciting, has a gorgeous view of San Francisco and features craft cocktails, small bites and afternoon tea.

Across from this gorgeous hotel sits Fournee Bakery where we purchased fresh fougasse and French baguettes for our Friday night supper. They sell seasonal desserts like trifles, a TCHO Chocolate salted caramel cake, tarte tatin, Valrhona chocolate mousse cake, and an orange flavored Basque cake.

Lucky for us, Peet’s Coffee was located right next door to the bakery so we could have our favorite espresso mochas while chatting about our day. Overall, I can’t imagine a more fun way to spend a Friday. I loved catching up with Sandra and hearing about her favorite Greek recipes that her and her husband George whip up. They’ve lived near us for over 20 years and have raised their kids in the same neighborhood as us attending the same schools and swim team.

I’m blessed to have the greatest friends who love to have foodie days with me. I hope I’ve given enough reasons to visit the Oakland Berkeley area. I can’t wait to plan my next outing. Any takers? Leave me a comment below and tell me where you would like to go. But first check out this delicious savory tart which would be perfect served on Easter morning or on any occasion. I made it for my coffee group and the women raved about it and of course asked for the recipe. Here it is.

Fennel, Goat Cheese and Cardamom Tart

Pastry Dough Recipe

1 ½ C Unbleached Flour

¾ Stick (6T) cold unsalted butter cut into small cubes

¼ t Kosher salt

4 to 5 T Ice Cold H20

For Tart Filling

2 large fennel bulbs @ 2 ½ lbs

1 large leek

8 green cardamom pods (or 1 t cardamom spice powder)

¼ C white wine or champagne

¼ C H20

¼ C Olive Oil

1 t Kosher salt

½ t black pepper

2 T unsalted butter

2 eggs

1 large egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

½ C whole milk

¼ C goat cheese

3 Oz (½ C) Taleggio Cheese cut into extra small cubes

Make pastry dough for tart:

In a food processor, blend flour, salt and butter until blended. Or use pastry cutter or fingers just until most of  resembles coarse meal. Add cold water and blend until combined. Do not over mix or pastry will be tough.

Gather dough onto parchment paper or plastic wrap and make into a ball and flatten. Cover completely and let it rest in fridge to chill.

Directions for filling:

Cut off and discard fennel stalks and fronds. Cut out core and cut up fennel into ¼ in thick slices. Wash and cut leek into ¼ in slices using white parts only. Flatten cardamom pods with side of large heavy knife, then remove black seeds and discard pods. Crush seeds with side of knife and chop finely. Or sprinkle cardamom spice powder onto leeks and fennel in a 12 inch heavy skillet. Add wine, water, butter, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, covered over moderately low heat stirring occasionally until tender about 20 to 25 min. Cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and make sure rack is in center of oven.

Roll out dough into a 15 in round tart pan. I use plastic wrap to  prevent dough from sticking to rolling pin. Trim dough so that it is flush with rim of pan. Lightly prick dough with a fork, then chill for 30 min. Line shell with foil (I spray with Pam first)and fill with dry kidney beans, rice or pie weights.Bake on a large baking sheet for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove foil and pie weights and bake 10 -15 min longer or until tart shell is golden brown. Remove from oven.

Whisk together eggs, yolk, until foamy and add milk, cream, goat cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer fennel and leek mixture into pastry shell spreading evenly, and dot with taleggio cheese. Pour custard into shell and bake until set about 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before serving. Serves 6-8 people




Should You Take a Summer Vacation or Make Apricot Jam?


July is almost here, which means most people are trying to get out of town for their annual summer vacation. Me? Well, besides starting a new job, I have plenty to keep me busy in the kitchen. Last week I decided it was time to get my apricot jam on. I mean, get going on the dozens of jars of preserves that I make every year. Apricots are my mom’s favorite fruit. It might me mine too, but I’ve got a thing for cherries too. Vacation is definitely NOT in the plans quite yet. Staycation is where it’s at.

Every year in mid June I drive to Brentwood and purchase 3 cases of Blenheim apricots. (I planted my own Blenheim tree a few years ago, but the critters always get to them before I do!) I love to give the jars to friends and relatives as a hostess gift all year long. My sister in law Nancy thinks I should sell my jam, but I’d rather treat those I love to this special treat. It is great on toast with a little butter or my husband’s fav is to smear it on his toast that has peanut butter on it. I like to use it in my home made salad dressings.

It starts with a call to Wolfe Ranch in the beginning of June. I make an appointment to come by and get the apricots when they are first picked. They have my cases ready when I get there.


When I get home, I separate the apricots on sheet pans lined with paper towels and wait until they are good and ripe before starting my preserves.

I always use the less sugar Sure Jell fruit pectin (pink package) because it is not as sweet and somewhat healthier. I set out all the ingredients, have the jam jars and lids cleaned and sitting in a hot water bath, have the wax melted in a sauce pan on the stove, have the food processor on the counter next to my measuring cups, lemon juice freshly squeezed, and butter and sugar out ready to go.


Next, I wash the apricots and cut them in half. I pulse them in the food processor and also cut some of them up with a small knife. DO NOT puree. Then I follow the cooked jam recipe exactly from the Sure Jell package.

  •  I measure exactly 6 cups of apricots into an 8 quart deep sauce pan and stir in 2 Tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp unsalted butter.
  •  Measure 4½ C sugar into a separate bowl.
  • Mix ¼ C of sugar from measured amount into a small bowl with 1 box of Sure Jell.
  •  Stir pectin-sugar mixture into fruit
  •   Bring mixture to a full rolling boil on high heat stirring constantly.
  •  Stir in remaining sugar quickly and return to a full rolling boil for exactly 1 1/2 minutes.
  •  Remove from heat and ladle into prepared jars. Fill to within 1/8 inch of the top of the jar. Ladle in paraffin wax.
  • Cover with lids and screw bands on tightly. When cool, wipe off any excess jam on the outside with a warm wash cloth. Enjoy!

Have you ever made jam? Leave a comment for me below and tell me about your tradition. Maybe you like to make pickles or can vegetables. I’d love to try pickling. What are you curious to make? I’m always inspired by the people who live in the middle of nowhere and have to use these methods to keep their food preserved.


Are you getting away this summer or will you be hanging out at home like me? Either way, keep enjoying what you do. Try to give back when you can. And love the ones you’re with. We need more peace and love in the world. Listen to The Beatles “Let It Be.”  The Beatles “Let it Be”My all time favorite song because my mom played the clarinet to this song at a Catholic Marriage Retreat when I was a little girl.


Feel free to check out a previous blog here:



How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

How and Why You need Blackberry Pie

  Let’s Make Mud Pies

Berries. Wonderful Berries.

Why should you make a blackberry pie? That’s a no brainer. Blackberry pie is one of my all time favorite things to make and eat. You can’t have a bad day after treating yourself to a piece of pie. Especially a homemade one. Served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream it’s the perfect treat. And in just three months the apricots will be back in season and we can bake apricot pies too.

The crust is crispy, crunchy and fall apart melt in your mouth delicious. Blackberries aren’t really in season anymore, but Costco seems to have palates of them. You could  substitute blueberries if you prefer.

This recipe is fairly easy to make and worthwhile for sure. I hope you will try it too!

You can make the berry mixture ahead of time and keep refrigerated and do the same with the dough as well. Here’s how…



1 bag of frozen blackberries

2 containers of fresh blackberries

3/4 C. granulated sugar (more or less depending on the sweetness of the berry)

1 T dried tapioca pearls

1 T of cornstarch

2 T water

2 T lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1/4 teas grated nutmeg

1/2 teas kosher salt

2 T unsalted butter


Dump frozen blackberries into medium sized saucepan with sugar, tapioca, salt, nutmeg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Cook over med high heat until sauce is boiling. Mix water and cornstarch and pour into boiling berry mixture and cook until thickened. Cool. Fold fresh blackberries into cooled mixture.

I  find that by using a mixture of frozen berries and fresh berries, it brings out the best flavor and texture to your pie.


Pie Crust


3 C. Flour

2 T Sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter (1 stick)

¼ C. Shortening

3 Tbsp  H2O

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tsp white distilled vinegar


  1.    In a  large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry blended and working quickly to prevent butter from melting into flour, cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. (or put mixture in food processor and pulse until combined)
  2.    In a small bowl combine water, egg, and vinegar. Stir to mix. With a fork, mix egg mixture into flour just until dough clumps together and moist enough to pat together. If dough is dry and crumbly, add more water 1 Tbsp at a time. Dough should not be wet or sticky. (I use the food processor and pulse until combined.)
  3. Wrap and place in fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
  4.    Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll with pin to flatten

This makes enough for two single-crust pies.

Once you have your dough rested and your filling cooled you can fill, dot with butter and top your pie.  Use any cookie cutter you have, or go with the traditional lattice topping.

Pastry likes to stay cold before baked. So put the pie in the freezer for an hour or so before baking to get that great pie crust, if you can wait that long…

Brush with a whole beaten egg. Sprinkle with additional sugar and bake on a sheet pan in a preheated 400 degree oven for one hour or until golden and bubbly. Serve with vanilla ice cream.



Last Fall, my husband and I visited Boa Vista Farms where they sell frozen pre made pies like apple and berry. We had a blast tasting their apple pastries, apple doughnuts, and caramel apples. They have a fun Wine Tasting counter as well. Worth a drive up to the Placerville area for sure.

Please leave a comment below and follow my blog so you will receive the next one in your inbox. I’d love it if you share this recipe on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Happy Baking!

Teri Smyth


Posted by on March 2, 2017 in Apricot, Blackberry, Dessert, Foodie, Pie, Uncategorized


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