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Missing Majorca: Orange Marmalade and Chocolate Crumble Muffins

30 Aug

Oh, sweet summer, where did you go? I long for the lazy afternoons lounging by the pool, soaking in the golden sun rays, the mornings when I would wake up with no plans- those days are gone now as the school year has officially begun. Say goodbye to popsicles and impromptu weeknight barbecues and hello to piles of homework, furious studying, and curfews. One of the most memorable weeks of my vacation was spent on the beautiful Spanish island of Majorca, where my family and I hiked miles to secluded island coves, ate simple meals of fresh seafood, and disovered a quaint citrus stand selling marmalade of oranges plucked from the nearby groves.

We happened upon this stand while strolling through the tiny, mountain village of Deía and knew that we had to purchase a jar to take home with us as a souvenir. I certainly wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to capture this fun foodie moment. In classic blogger fashion, I whipped out my Canon and began snapping away photos.

I first sampled the marmalade with a dab of butter spread on a crusty French baguette. The citrusy flavor was so pronounced and vibrant, unlike the overly-sweet jarred stuff we’re used to in The States. I immediately began dreaming up ways to incorporate the marmalade into a baked good and after much deliberation, I ended up with these awesome Orange Marmalade and Chocolate Crumble Muffins. 

The orange flavor really shines in this recipe without being overbearing, contrasting well with the slightly bitter dark chocolate chunks. The interior of the muffin is tender and subtly moist and crowned with a generous crumble topping. Since marmalade is the key ingredient in this recipe, make sure you invest in a quality brand- maybe from your local farmers’ market.

Recipe barely adapted from The Pioneer Woman 

For the muffin batter:
4 cups all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tblsp baking powder 
1/2 cup cold butter  
1 3/4 cups orange marmalade 
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice 
1 tsp vanilla extract 
2 eggs, beaten 
1/2 cup dark chocolate chunks

For the crumble topping:
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tblsp, plus 1 tsp melted butter 
1/4 tsp salt 

Makes around 24 muffins.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together the flour, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Use a pastry cutter or fork to incorporate the butter into the dry ingredients. Mix the marmalade, orange juice, beaten eggs, and vanilla extract in a small bowl and add the mixture to the dry ingredients.   Gently mix all the ingredients together, using fewer than 10 large strokes with a wooden spoon. Do not overmix; the batter should be just barely combined. Before the last few stirs, fold in the chocolate chunks. In a small bowl, mix all the topping ingredients together (the mixture should be clumpy).
2. Fill the lined muffin tins almost to the top with batter. Sprinkle one heaping teaspoon of topping over each muffin. 
3. Bake the muffins for 20-22 minutes. Remove the muffins from the pan and allow them to cool on a wire rack. 


San Francisco Gourmet Chocolate Tour

2 Aug
A wide array of chocolates fill the display case at Swiss chocolatier, Teuscher. 

Last weekend, my sister Lena and I embarked upon a three-hour gourmet chocolate walk around the beautiful city of San Francisco, where we sampled chocolates from some of the world’s finest chocolate purveyors. 

Our journey began at The Ferry Building, where we learned proper chocolate tasting technique and tested our skills at our first stop:  Scharffen Berger. Of the bars we sampled, my personal favorite was the dark chocolate with sea salt. We then moved on to La Cocina, a business incubator that provides young entrepreneurs with commercial kitchen space and technical advice. The kiosk we visited sells products engineered by many of the students in the program, including a wide array of hand-crafted chocolate confections. My favorite item from La Cocina is the cinnamon truffle: a silky smooth chocolate ganache interior coated in an additional layer of chocolate and dusted with spicy Vietnamese cinnamon. Our third destination, Recchiuti, offers Parisian-inspired chocolates handmade in San Francisco. As someone who prefers rich, unhindered chocolate flavor over fruity and herbal concoctions, I was completely blown away by the jasmine tea truffle. 

 Scharffen Berger’s giant chocolate chunk cookie is to die for. Paper thin and crispy, blotted with pieces of the classic 70% cacao bar. 

We then walked a few blocks over to Fog City News, San Francisco’s most plentiful newsstand and candy store. Not only does Fog City offer an extensive selection of magazines, newspapers, and periodicals, but it boasts one of the largest chocolate collections in the country. We really saved the best for last, though, as we concluded the tour at Teuscher Chocolates of Switzerland and CocoaBellaBiting into Teuscher’s Champagne Truffle is chocolate heaven: a thin chocolate shell dusted with confectioner’s sugar surrounds a center of creamy chocolate ganache and Dom Perignon champagne cream. CocoaBella is a gourmet chocolate carrier, sourcing its products from the world’s acclaimed chocolate artisans. The store is divided into two sides: North America and Europe. The European chocolates contain traditional flavor pairings and simple presentation whereas the North American offerings are more adventurous, including options such as a cayenne spiced truffle and a bleu cheese truffle. 

Aside from all the taste-testing, I learned quite a bit about the history of chocolate, chocolate composition, and even the political controversies surrounding chocolate production. It was also a pleasure to chat with the other foodies on the tour and to analyze the different items we sampled. Whether you are a chocolate lover or a curious foodie (or both!), this gourmet chocolate tour is a real treat. 

Best of the Bay, Part II: A Day in Berkeley

8 Jan
Café Fanny’s perfect almond croissant.

          In 1971, Alice Waters first made her mark on the culinary map with her acclaimed French bistro, Chez Panisse. She advocates the idea “that cooking should be based on the finest and freshest seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally.” Alice’s hole-in-the-wall café, affectionately named after her daughter Fanny, Café Fanny is no exception to her trademark philosophy. 
          Alice allows the food to shine, showcasing the ingredients’ natural goodness with simple dishes such as poached farm eggs with vinegar and oregano on thinly-sliced toast. Other favorites include the light buckwheat crepes with homemade preserves and fresh, vibrant pink salmon with crusty rye bread, cream cheese, and pickled onions. The café’s ambience is quintessentially Berkeley: small, rustic, the fragrant aroma of coffee permeating the space. Both for its casual atmosphere and superb food, Café Fanny cannot be missed.

Ici’s cherry vanilla rum and chocolate cocoa nib ice cream served atop their organic, hand-rolled  cone.

          Ici Ice Cream shop makes me want to move to Berkeley. Their delicious, seasonal flavors and homemade cones with chocolate-filled tips are the finest I have ever tasted. Like several other Bay area institutions, Ici bases their products on the highest quality, sustainably raised ingredients. From the perfectly round scoops to the elegantly adorn ice cream bombes, every offering on the menu is crafted with extreme attention to detail. The store’s chic decor makes me reminisce of summer afternoons in Paris spent strolling by the Seine with a refreshing ice cream cone in hand. With the clean marble counter, shiny trash cans with gold piping, and the dainty, individually-packaged candies and cookies, Ici brings French sophistication and style to Berkeley. If you have never visited Berkeley, Café Fanny and Ici Ice Cream are two wonderful reasons to plan a trip.

Best of the Bay, Part I: The Slanted Door

20 Dec
Wild California uni (sea urchin) with black tobiko, avocado, and strings of cucumber.
Moist daikon rice cakes with shitake mushrooms and scallions.
Cellophane noodles tossed with soft dungeness crab meat, scallions, and cilantro.

          I have visited San Francisco an handful of times and cannot begin to explain what makes this place so special. What I can say, however, is that one experience three years ago marked the start of my love affair with the vibrant city. That was the moment I sat down for lunch at The Slanted Door

          Since my first trip, I have returned on a number of occasions. With each new visit, I come to The Slanted Door to remember where it all began. Serving modern Vietnamese cuisine, this Michelin recommended restaurant blows me away every time. You cannot go wrong with any option on the menu as every dish contains bold flavors that come to life in your mouth. Some of my favorite items include the daikon rice cakes, the shaking beef, and the clay pot catfish. Juicy, tossed with fragrant cilantro, ginger, and Thai chilies, and caramelized to perfection, the catfish is a must. In addition, the polished wood tables, floor length windows looking out into the bay, and clean, minimalistic decor create a comfortable ambience. If you are an adventurous traveler with a passion for food, The Slanted Door is just the place to start your memorable journey in San Francisco. 

Best Chinese: Wing Lei, Las Vegas

13 Nov
Alaskan king crab, soft, juicy mango, avocado, aromatic cilantro, chili flakes, and miso-yusu dressing. 

Pan-seared pot stickers with minced pork and sweet Napa cabbage. 

Tender sauteed prawns and crunchy caramelized walnuts in a thick honey cream sauce and garnished with strawberries.
Imperial peking duck, airy steamed buns, crisp cucumber, scallions, and sweet Hoisin plum sauce.

          Rarely do I use the adjective “best” to describe anything, especially when it comes to food. Why? Because I cannot declare something of the highest quality or standard without exposing myself to all that is available. I want to sample every possible option before deciding which one rises above the rest. 
          I live in Los Angeles, the city with the second-largest Chinese population in the country and host to countless Chinese restaurants. I have dined in some of the most acclaimed Chinese restaurants in the world, including London’s Michelen one-star-rated, HakassanThat being said, Wing Lei, located in Las Vegas’s Wynn Hotel, is by far the best Chinese restaurant I have ever been to, for a variety of reasons. 
          Wing Lei offers a refined mix of Cantonese, Shanghai, and Szechwan cooking styles. Each dish wowed me beyond belief, combining several distinct tastes into an incredible final product. My family and I barely conversed throughout the meal and when we did our comments pertained to the food. We savored every bite, “oeeing” and “ahhing”and ultimately arguing over which dish reigned supreme. To cap off the evening: refreshing homemade fruit sorbets and smooth green tea and red bean ice creams accompanied by slightly chewy, petite almond cookies.
          Inspired by early, French-influenced Shanghai, the regal red and gold decor created a warm, inviting ambiance. The waiters remained professional and attentive throughout the meal, though not invasive. In short, I have no criticism of Wing Lei other than I wish the restaurant relocated to Los Angeles.