Archive for ‘Bread’

May 26th, 2014

Bread and Chawanmushi

Everybody has a favorite carb.  Depending on my mood, my favorite carbohydrate is either Japanese rice or noodles.  My husband?  His choice is predictably, bread.  One time, I left him to fend for himself for his meals, and found out later, that he ate two baguettes by himself in a day. I like the smell of freshly baked bread and eat it at restaurants, but I never brought a baguette or any bread home before I started dating my husband.  One of our first dates, we went to a restaurant which name contains bread and bar for lunch.  Two of his favorite words.  We ordered a bread basket, expecting lots of freshly made warm bread.  Unfortunately, they didn’t deliver anything close to our expectations as we got scraps of bread pieces.  Right there, we established the unspoken code of “NEVER ORDER THE BREAD BASKET”.

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Bread Plate | Faith & Flower

Fast forward five years to the current day where we just realized that we’ve ordered a bread basket twice in a few week…and even more surprising, one was my idea.  Faith & Flower, a rustic Californian restaurant opened near our home, and a few weeks ago, they started offering brunch.  The menu offers a variety of interesting selections.  You can get something familiar like twice cooked potatoes or something exotic, like “Chawanmushi”, which is coincidentally my favorite dish of all time.  It’s a traditional Japanese savory egg custard made with eggs and seafood stocks, but at Faith & Flower, it’s made with lemon dashi and chicken confit.  The brunch also offers their signature dishes,  “Eggs Benedict Pizza,” and “Oxtail Agnolotti.” Both are available on their lunch and dinner menus as well.  I usually order something interesting so I was deciding between their handmade ramen or their Chawanmushi, but since my husband ordered the potato, fried egg and a bread plate, I picked a protein instead of a carb.  Western style Chawanmushi.

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Chawanmushi | Faith & Flower

The bread plate came with a couple of slices of chewy and hazel nutty oatmeal bread, right out of the oven (with the proof being a slight burn on top) croissants, and a pistachio bun with butter and homemade berry preserves on a pretty French antique looking plate.  Very pretty. Even prettier: the bread.  All three kinds of unique, fresh and warm bread made me happy, but the highlight was the pistachio bun.  It was soft, moist and had the perfect density, with a pistachio creme and citrus zest on top.  We were hooked.  Everything that came after was good, but my husband and I were already discussing how we could come back the next day and get this bread plate again. Fortunately or unfortunately, one of us has to work on weekends for while, so we didn’t get to revisit this gorgeous plate of bread for a couple of weeks, but we did talk about it a few times, so that counts.  All that changed this Sunday while I was making us brunch.  I made a call to the restaurant and ordered the bread plate to go.  I had to, because now, I understand the beauty of good bread.

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Pistachio Bun | Faith & Flower

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Crispy Egg | Faith & Flower

 

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Crispy Twice Cooked Potato | Faith & flower

 

 

April 5th, 2012

Bruschetta

They say all married couples start to look like each other.  Is it true?  Today, my husband said, “You are turning into me.”  Why?  After eating my homemade bruschetta with a fresh baguette, I said, “I could eat all of this bread by myself.”

In my single days, bread was my least favorite carb.  Did I ever even buy a baguette?  Sure, I like bread, but if I’m going to consume lots of guilty calories, I’d rather it be something nutritious and versatile.  Bread is pretty much the least nutritious and the least versatile of all carbs compared to Japanese rice or pasta/noodles.  I firmly believe that I’m right, but I married a bread snob, who claims he could eat a dozen of bagels if I leave him alone for the day.  On top of that, he doesn’t like rice, so I have to find interesting ways to use less-than-nutritious bread.  One of which, is bruschetta.

My recipe is quick and simple.  Dice tomato, chop garlic & onion, chiffonade basil leaves add olive oil, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and good salt to taste.  Leave in a tightly lid container for a few hours to overnight in the fridge.  Spread on a nice piece of bread and you’ll feel like you are biting into a little of Italy; bright, fresh and delicious  It’s so good that it may change your opinion of that evil white bread.  It surely changed mine.  At least I found a way to include fresh vegetables so that I don’t feel guilty reaching for that third piece.  Maybe I am turning into my husband.

 

August 10th, 2011

Pretzel

I’ve always thought pretzels were a sad replacement for potato chips, when it comes to the world of snacking. To be fair, pretzels do beat out ‘baked’ chips, but just barely.  Did we have Pretzels in Japan?  I don’t remember seeing them when I was growing up, but there was the similarly named snack, ‘Pretz’. Other than the similarity in the name, the two snacks will never be confused for one another. 

The Japanese ‘Pretz’ is longer and skinnier than its twisted American cousin.  It has a tan color, and comes in flavors that Americans would never want nor expect in their snack food.  The best example?  Have you ever eaten a salad flavor snack?  For the uninitiated, it’s crisp and mildly salty, with a nice buttery taste that has a bit of a consomme taste… not quite ‘salad’, I know, but still tasty.  With only ‘Pretz’ in Japan, you can imagine how hard it was for me to explain what American pretzels were like to a Japanese audience.  You’re probably thinking, ‘How often do you need to explain pretzels to Japanese people?’  The answer: every time a US President almost chokes on one.  (which is once…so far)

While hard pretzels aren’t my snack of choice, I do love soft pretzels. I had my first one in Pennsylvania Amish country, which is about 2 hour drive from Manhattan.  It was warm, soft and drenched in butter. I still remember how delicious it was and the instant I wiped my buttery fingers clean, I began planning my return trip to Amish county for another one.  I would’ve saved me a lot of time and travel had I known back then that every American mall has an Auntie Anne’s ready and waiting.  And yes, in Manhattan, there are street vendors everywhere, selling these savory delights, I’d eat them, but it’s rather dry (read: no butter).  By the way, Auntie Anne’s is now available in Japan as well.

The small, dry, pretzel has evolved into something wonderful: pretzel bread.  They’ve made the rounds from farmer’s markets to Whole Foods, and are even turning up in restaurants.  When we went to a nearby gastro pub, the Local Peasant, we decided to order their pretzel with truffle butter.  My husband, who is a self claimed bread snob, always complains that he loves pretzel bread but laments that it can be too salty, even if you scrape off the excess.  How did the Local Peasant’s pretzel fare?  It was pretty good; the doughy texture soaked up the truffle butter nicely.  So the bottom line, hot and doughy–fantastic; small and crunchy–well, to quote our greatest philosopher, Seinfeld,”These pretzels are making me thirsty.”