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Blog Archives

Whole Foods Bakery, Oakland CA

whole foods desserts

whole foods desserts

Since Easter we’ve had the category Bakeries but we’ve only found two so far that met Zach’s standards.  When we look for bakeries, we expect more than croissants, muffins, and cookies.  True bakeries show depth and breadth of skill; baking is a science, but there is also artistry.  You might think that there must be better bakeries than Whole Foods in the Bay Area, but to be honest, the showcase here is hard to beat.  With a gelato freezer, large cakes, and dozens of mini items, it’s nearly impossible to do a shopping trip here without drooling over the plenitude.

mini tiramisu cup

mini tiramisu cup

Looking like a tiny frothy latte replete with a handle, the mini tiramisu cup is at once cute and tempting.  A dark chocolate cup, edible through and through, is the vessel for layers of soft and soaked moist cake, whipped cream, sweetened coffee, and cocoa.

mini pecan pie

mini pecan pie

Pop a mini pecan pie in your mouth, and you’ll be rewarded with a rich, gooey filling, meaty nuts, smooth cream cheese frosting, and flaky crust.  The cream cheese frosting gives it an extra rich deepness that is usually lacking in pecan pie.  It’s a wonder how many textures can fit in one bite.  Imagine a few of these warmed up with a scoop of ice cream – yum!

mini fruit tart

mini fruit tart

This mini tart is a bite of the season, bursting with freshness.  Four types of berries and a kiwi slice top the tart with a delicate tart shell and refreshing key lime filling.  Some key lime fillings are overwhelming, but this one was on the mild side of tart (we know, a tart tart would be bad).

mini chocolate cheesecake

mini chocolate cheesecake

Of the many kinds of cheesecake in the world, chocolate might be one of the most decadent.  If you can’t bring yourself to buying a standard-sized chocolate cheesecake, a mini is ideal for getting the same flavor without the temptation (and subsequent guilt of eating the whole big one).  Details don’t disappoint, all the way down to the tiny chocolate fan.

mini vanilla cupcake

mini vanilla cupcake

Even the mini cupcakes aren’t simply frosted and boxed.  Detail is everything at this bakery, all the way down to the precise placement of the swollen blackberry atop vanilla frosting on a white cake base.  It may have simple flavors, but this is not a dull cupcake.

assorted cookies

assorted cookies

A cart nearer to the cash registers than the bakery has a sign decorated with a Cookie Monster.  If the real Cookie Monster ever visited a Whole Foods, he’d be in trouble.  Pick up a bag, a box, or a tin, and load up with any of dozens of varieties, all for the same bulk price.  Please all of your family members/coworkers/friends with different tastes at the next big gathering you attend.  From alfajores to ice box cookies, all are fresh and delicious.

Don’t waste time going to a “bakery” in the East Bay, when Whole Foods provides any treat or dessert imaginable plus so much more.  If you haven’t been to a Whole Foods yet, find your local store and take time to explore.  The smells, sights, and tastes are indicative of the quality.

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Gooseberry Fool

gooseberriesIt sounds like a punk rock band name, gooseberry fool, but we found gooseberries and a fool is an appropriate dessert to use them.  Of course we had heard of gooseberries, but we had never seen them before so we had to get them and try a recipe with them.  A fool is an English dessert of stewed gooseberries stirred into sweet custard or whipped cream.  Gooseberries are traditional, but there’s no reason you couldn’t substitute any other fruit.

Makes 2-3, depending on serving vessel

1 cup of vanilla Greek yogurt

3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup of gooseberries (remove the stemmy bits)

3 tbs. of white sugar, plus 2 tbs.

3 tbs. of honey

1 tsp. of vanilla extract

Splash of water

pureed

pureed

In a saucepan over medium heat, simmer the gooseberries with 2 tbs. of sugar and water for 5-6 minutes, until the berries are softened and almost broken in half.  Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth; you will see seeds at this point.  Chill in the refrigerator, as it has to be cold to mix with the yogurt.

Make whipped cream by mixing the remaining sugar, vanilla extract, and whipping cream in a bowl with a whisk or hand mixer for 2-5 minutes until it is fluffy and peaks form.  Make sure not to over-whip, or else you will make butter.  Store in the refrigerator.

Once the gooseberry puree is cold, fold it and the honey into the yogurt.  Layer the yogurt and whipped cream with a pastry bag or by spooning, and garnish with a few whole gooseberries if you like.  Almond shortbread cookies are a nice touch to serve on the side.

gooseberry fool

gooseberry fool

August’s Family Reunion in Mammoth Lakes, CA

games in the back yard (can you see the birdie?)

games in the back yard (can you spot the birdie?)

Every year on a Saturday near the Fourth of July, August’s family has a reunion at her grandmother’s house just south of Mammoth Lakes, CA.  Some family members come from as far as Colorado for one afternoon!  It is always a wonderful opportunity to catch up with each other, and of course, share a meal.  Because some people had to travel, not everyone could bring a homemade potluck item.  However, some salads are staples and are expected to be brought every year.  Sandy loves Nanci’s pasta salad, August loves Laura’s potato salad, and it goes around and around.

grandpa pete's barbecue pit

grandpa pete’s barbecue pit

August’s grandfather built the house that her mother grew up in.  At 91 years old, her grandmother still lives here and enjoys views of the White Mountains in the east and the Sierra Nevada range ending in her backyard.  Behind the house, built into a retaining wall, is a barbecue pit.  Every branch of the family brings a side and/or a dessert to share, but the meats are cooked here communally.

scotty and the bota

scotty and the bota

Being Basque, the family is all about sharing, community, and good times.  Taking wine from a bota is a Basque tradition, and Cousin Scotty is one of the best in the family.  August’s grandpa taught Scotty how to drink from the bota when he was ten.  The goal is to maintain a steady stream flowing from the bladder without spilling any wine, and today, those who tried were all successful.

A tradition that never falters for how we begin our reunion is a linguiça appetizer.  We grill the linguiça and serve it with choice of jack or asiago cheese, tomato, red onion, and mustard, on sourdough slices.  We like a milder linguiça (our family doesn’t do spicy), which is enhanced by the snappy onion and spicy mustard.

We cannot start our reunions without linguiça first.  The kids, who have only come for a couple of years, even know that it’s not a reunion if we don’t have linguiça!

sandy's salad/dip

sandy’s dip/salad

After linguiça, we dug into Cousin Sandy’s tasty dip/salad.  With chips it’s a dip, and with a fork it’s a salad!  Almost like a super chunky guacamole, she mixed avocado, black-eyed peas, corn, tomato, cilantro, and green onion, with a dressing of red wine vinegar, olive oil, garlic, and cumin.

sandy's fruit salad

sandy’s fruit salad

Cousin Sandy is married to Ted, who works with fruit.  They always bring the most delicious selection of fruits.  This three-fruit mix of strawberries, cantaloupe, and blueberries was simple, but perfect for the season.

kelly's bean salad

kelly’s bean salad

Cousin Kelly used five types of beans in her salad.  She tossed garbanzo, kidney, green, white, and pinto beans with red pepper, red onion, cilantro, and a dressing.  For the dressing she combined red wine vinegar, light extra virgin olive oil, lots of garlic, dry mustard, oregano, and black pepper.

laura's potato salad

laura’s potato salad

Cousin Laura brought a chunky and warm potato salad.  She used russet potatoes for the base, with bacon, green onion, mayonnaise, parsley, green onion, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and olive oil.

nanci's pasta salad

nanci’s pasta salad

August’s mom Nanci made her enviable pasta salad with lightly steamed broccoli, grape tomatoes, black olives, red and green onion, pine nuts, sliced and toasted almonds, and Parmesan cheese.  Served cold and without a heavy dressing like many versions of pasta salad, this is a great summer side.

All of the salads were so tempting to look at as we waited for the meats to be done.  At least it gave us lots of time to chat and relax.

Every branch of the family had their own meat, but the men worked together to prepare it all.  Shuffling the meat around on the pit made with a repurposed snow grate, everything was cooked perfectly.

the spread

the spread

This was not our biggest reunion, but with the turn out we had, the spread of food was pretty good!

dig in!

dig in!

Finally, time to eat a meal that we had been waiting for since last year!  Seriously, this is one day that many of us look forward to, not just for family but also for food.  Nanci brought boneless ribeyes for our branch, and she “salad dressed” them with what she found in Grandma’s kitchen: olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper.

angie's strawberry rhubarb pie

angie’s strawberry rhubarb pie

The kids couldn’t wait too long for dessert, and frankly, neither could the adults.  Cousin Angie brought a strawberry rhubarb pie, but she gave credit to her young daughter Jadyn for making the lattice.  That’s not a bad job at all for a six-year-old!

sandy's frosted walnut brownies

sandy’s frosted walnut brownies

Cousin Sandy, along with her avocado dip/salad and fruit salad, also made brownies.  These were rich and smooth, with chunks of walnuts and a light chocolate frosting on top.

"kelly's" lemon bars

“kelly’s” lemon bars

Cousin Kelly brought lemon bars in addition to her bean salad.  She used her son-in-law’s mother’s recipe, and was worried that they didn’t turn out.  There was no reason to worry, though – the crust was flaky and crisp, and the lemon flavor was strong but not overly acidic.  It was a great summery treat to round out the meal.

dessert course

dessert course

There were a few store-bought items, but we wanted to show you things that our family members were proud to cook.  None of us treat the reunion as a cooking competition, although we do compare notes and commend one another.  We do these reunions so that we can catch up, but the food brings us closer together.