Make Butter:Bring heavy cream to around 50F degrees, this took about 30 minutes out at room temperature for me.Pour cream into the bowl of a stand mixer, cover top with shield, plastic or a dish towel. Really, do this or you will be wiping buttermilk spray from your kitchen ceiling. Whip with whisk attachment on medium-high for about five minutes, beyond the stiff peaks of whipped cream, until you can see that the fat has separated from the liquid. Alternatively, you can use a food processor or hand mixer.Pour over a strainer into a bowl, and knead the butter to release more liquid. (This will make your hands very soft and give them a deep buttery flavor until you shower, which is kind of lovely, but can get a little gross after a while.)When butter stops releasing liquid and feels so creamy—voila!Save the liquid “buttermilk!” and drink or use for cooking.Salt if you like (guilty non-local eco-sin confession: I added Himalayan pink salt).http://www.care2.com/greenliving/the-green-dish-make-butter.html
So cool!Video recipe sharing!http://www.imcooked.com/Christopher Walken is featured there!
Chuck Williams at 90 - Karola Saekel, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, October 5, 2005
"Do you know why souffle dishes have these pleated sides?" Chuck Williams asks with an impish grin, sipping a cup of tea in the Williams-Sonoma store on Union Square.
He was visiting the store as the company that bears his name prepared to celebrate his 90th birthday last Sunday, featuring tastings of some of the honoree's favorite recipes. Returning to the souffle dishes, he explained that in the great houses of ancient France, when a souffle was pulled from the oven, it was quickly wrapped in a collar of pleated starched linen "just like the collars people wore back then" so it was attractive enough to be presented at the table.
That's what inspired makers of the souffle dish as we know it today to give the outside of the dishes a pleated look.
Charles E. Williams should know. After all, he was the one who introduced the American home cook to French kitchen staples such as the souffle dish, the madeleine mold, the bain marie, the saute pan, even the hefty, mighty chef's knife.
Outside of professional kitchens, Americans in the middle of the last century had to make do with "lousy equipment," says the man who, in 1956, turned a section of an old hardware store in the town of Sonoma into a kitchen shop that offered the home cook high-quality French pots and pans, gadgets, dishes and novelty foods such as Dijon mustard and wine vinegar.
Rags to riches
Forty-nine years later, that little shop has grown into the 260-plus Williams-Sonoma chain. With spin-offs like Pottery Barn, Hold Everything, Pottery Barn Kids, West Elm and Williams-Sonoma Home, the total number of stores rises to more than 550.
The financial success of the company hasn't changed its founder's simple lifestyle, but it has enabled him to become a benefactor for culinary education (see related story).
Although it has long since morphed into a publicly traded company (WSM on the New York Stock Exchange), and its satellite enterprises have branched out into home furnishings, Williams-Sonoma still carries the kind of quality, un-gimmicky merchandise Williams made his trademark from day one.
The merchant himself, soft spoken and unassuming, explains simply that he never listened to hype and never bought, or sold, anything he didn't personally like.
He also never bought anything he couldn't afford. In 1972, on advice from his friend and later partner, Eddie Marcus, of Neiman-Marcus, he decided to incorporate his business, but his long-time bank, Wells Fargo, didn't want to give him a loan.
"I had no credit rating,'' Williams recalls. "I had never borrowed money before."
A "good eye"
An old friend, restaurant consultant Clark Wolf, admires Williams' business acumen, but is most impressed by his "good eye." If Williams approved -- and sold -- an item or a brand, that validated it, Wolf says. "We learned from what he chose."
A part-time Sonoma County resident himself, Wolf says using Sonoma in the name bolsters the quality image. Sonoma food, wine and craftsmanship have had a solid reputation for generations, he points out.
Wolf also thinks Williams' Depression upbringing, tough and sad as it was -- hard economic times scattered the Williamses across the American landscape and left him without family for the rest of his life -- had some positive influences. "Chuck appreciates things that will last a lifetime," Wolf says, like a fine knife or a hefty skillet.
Chuck is a wonderful and loyal friend, says Marion Cunningham, grande dame of American cookbook authors, who met Williams in the '70s through the late James Beard. She considers his taste -- both in food and in cookware -- "superior to anybody's." A frequent dinner companion over three decades, Cunningham describes him as "jovial, kind -- the way people ought to be but few of us are."
Williams, with the title of founder and director emeritus, profoundly influences Williams-Sonoma even today. He drives from his Russian Hill apartment to company headquarters at the foot of Van Ness Avenue almost daily to consult and proofread all the Williams-Sonoma cookbooks -- that is, when he is not attending a company event in New York or Los Angeles or wherever.
"I really don't travel any more," Williams demurs, referring to his many years of international travel -- mostly to France -- ferreting out the best skillets, or knives or Champagne glasses. He loved it, but he never cottoned to travel for travel's sake.
Traveling with a purpose
"My trips had to have a purpose. I am not a tourist," he says, although he admits that he loved to wander down main streets and alleys in Paris and other cities, looking for that antique store or cookware emporium that might lead to a new item or reveal the name of an artisan producer or high-end manufacturer.
Williams would track them down, often ending up with exclusive deals for his enterprise and, in many cases, friendships that survived for decades.
"Just the other day, I had a visit from Wolfgang Wüsthof," he says, "his last, I am afraid. He is retiring. I visited him often in Solingen (Germany)." That would be the CEO of Wüsthof Trident, a sixth-generation member of the Wüsthof family, who started making high-grade kitchen knives in 1814.
Williams doesn't just deal in superb cookware; he uses it in his own kitchen, and truly enjoys good food.
Because he's an excellent cook and appreciates both homey and sophisticated cooking, "he's the perfect guest,'' says Cunningham, who hosted him at many Thanksgiving dinners.
"Oh, sure, I cook for myself," Williams said last week, "but I don't entertain any more."
He describes his life at 90 as simple and satisfying: A few hours of work almost daily, occasional visits with friends, modest exercise, a little cooking and a lot of reading -- Time, the New Yorker, upcoming Williams-Sonoma books.
As for retirement, "Why would I do that?" he asks with his winsome smile. "What would I do? I'd be bored."
He stops for a moment when asked the inevitable question aimed at people of advanced years and remarkable energy: To what do you attribute your stamina and health?
He answers that he has always taken care of himself. Ten years working as a carpenter in Sonoma before starting his cookware business probably made him strong, he guesses.
Aside from that, "I have always eaten well, but never excessively. I like fruits and vegetables, and I have never been one for junk food, never acquired the soft drink habit."
When he was growing up in Florida, his Dutch-German grandmother, who in earlier years had run a restaurant in Ohio, taught him the basics of pie making and other cooking. And once in a while, she would take the young boy to a soda fountain.
"That,'' he says, "was a real treat."
E-mail Karola Saekel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Cupcake cravings These irresistible confections bring out the kid in all of us - Amanda Gold, Chronicle Staff Writer Wednesday, March 29, 2006
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The late summer Sonoma and Marin rural terrain radiates a golden Wild West feeling that makes you want to abandon city life for the dirt and dust of cowboy movies. Just turning east off Highway 101 onto Highway 37 north of Terra Linda evokes a sigh of relief. It’s the beginning of my cheese tour.
Following the signs to Sonoma, find Vella’s Cheese on Second Street East, a block east and a block north of the northeast corner of Sonoma Plaza and Mission San Francisco de Solano. Located in a stone building that once housed a brewery, the tiny cheese producer wins medals all over the world, particularly for its Dry Jack.
Vella’s Cheese proprietor Ignazio (Ig) Vella served as a Sonoma Country supervisor and director of the Sonoma County Fair. With cheesemaker Roger Ranniker, Vella makes sensational lightly salted butter, a creamy blue cheese, a Toma soft ripened Piedmontese-style cheese, and a perfect Asiago. Vella’s high moisture Monterey Jack comes au naturel, and is also available in spicy flavors, all of which are achieved with natural ingredients such as Mezzetta peppers and garlic from the Sacramento Valley. The Vella partially dry jack and cheddars are mouthwatering. The company shop also sells Laura Chenel’s goat cheeses (since she isn’t open to the public), as well as crackers and sausages. The proprietor is usually around to answer questions.
Vella gets all of its milk from Mertens Dairy about three miles south in Schellville, where cows ingest no growth hormones or animal products. All Vella cheeses are made with vegetable coagulant, not animal rennet. Orange colorings come from annatto seed, and all cheeses include a maximum salt content of one percent by volume.
While you are in Sonoma, be sure to visit Ig Vella’s daughter’s cheese shop, appropriately called The Cheesemaker’s Daughter, on East Napa Street just a half block east of the Plaza. Ditty Vella and partner Gary Edwards carry the finest imported cheeses anywhere, Nan McAvoy olive oils, divine natural Greek yoghurt with honey, local breads, and the best gelatos and coffees. Ditty encourages tasting as part of your educational and cultural experience!
The Sonoma Cheese Factory on Spain Street on the north side of Sonoma Plaza offers cheeses and decent sandwiches and hamburgers, but no longer makes cheese here.
To get to Spring Hill Jersey Cheese west of Petaluma, take Hwy. 116 to Hwy. 101. From 101 take the Washington Street exit and go west. Washington Street’s name becomes Bodega Avenue (some places called Bodega Highway). Follow it eight miles and turn left onto Spring Hill Road at Two Rock Church. After one mile you arrive at 4235 Spring Hill Road, with pumpkin and potato patches in front and a long, straight dusty driveway back to the barns, cheese “factory,” tasting room, milking station, and calf hutches. Owner Larry Peter lives in the main house, a classic 1876 Sears Catalog relic.
Spring Hill is a rare find: it makes estate grown cheeses. Peter sold his car and got around Petaluma for five years on a bike to save money, buy a house, fix it up and sell it—all to start this farm and make cheese.
He keeps only Jersey cows, because their milk contains higher butter fat content, although they produce less milk than Holsteins. They are milked right outside the cheesemaking building, and the milk goes directly into the pasteurizer and cheese vats. Spring Hill produces delectable quark, ricotta, cheddars and jacks, fresh curd, Gianna (like Taleggio), Dry Jack (his just beat mentor Vella’s at the International Cheese Competition), Old World Portuguese, a brie, and a dry brie, all with no antibiotics, additives, or preservatives.
If you have time to venture out to Sebastopol, visit a real Portuguese-American cheesemaker, Joe Matos, at his Jose Matos Cheese Factory, at 3669 Llano Road. From the Azores, Joe makes just one fabulous cheese: white, called St. George.
Otherwise, turn right as you leave Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, then turn right on Chilean Valley Road, and right (west) on the Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Station Road, which will take you quickly to Marin French Cheese Co., formerly known as Rouge et Noir, just southwest of Novato Boulevard, and then on to Cowgirl Creamery in Pt. Reyes Station. Marin French Cheese Co. majors in bries and camemberts, some with flavorings, but also makes Schloss and Breakfast cheeses. Try samples of Triple Crème Brie, Quark, and Crème Fraiche. They also use non-animal rennet and Jersey milk. Here you can buy soft drinks, sandwiches (romaine lettuce in separate bag), Marin and Sonoma wines, shirts, and even pot holders. Kids can fish in the pond, while loads of people enjoy picnic tables, Frisbee, and a generally delightful atmosphere. Great place to stop on your bike.
Continue out westward to Point Reyes’ Cowgirl Creamery and Tomales Bay Foods, both located in a redone Giacomini family barn. Chefs Sue Conley and Peggy Smith started Tomales Bay Foods, a much-needed assemblage of fine local produce, wines, deli, espresso drinks, and Strauss Family Ice Cream. With friend and cheese director Maureen Cunnie, Cowgirl cheeses are made exclusively with Strauss Family Dairy organic milk, which comes from the dairy a few miles north in Marshall, also the home of Hog Island Oysters. You can usually watch cheesemaking in progress in the tiny tidy glassed-in factory.
Be sure to try Cowgirl’s Red Hawk, Mt. Tam, St. Pat, clabbered cottage cheese, fromage blanc, and crème fraiche. They also offer the best of other producers’ cheeses from around the world, including Point Reyes Original Blue by the Giacomini family, Joe Matos’ St. George, a special selection from famed Neal’s Yard in London, and Redwood Hill Camellia. Top it off with a memorable Strauss Family Farm ice cream cone, and you are equipped for the drive back to Berkeley. Enjoy!
Kathleen Hill is co-author with husband Gerald Hill of Sonoma Valley-The Secret Wine Country.
Has anyone seen Martha's new show yet? I have and I am wondering what everyone thinks.
Smoothie MakerYou know how you screw in the blades to the pitcher? Well, it went on not correctly threaded and is now jammed. What can I do to get it to come back off? Have tried:WD40Hot waterCold waterSoapy waterand Forcing it on.Help!
Food That's Worth the Wait Food lovers, families flock to Oakland restaurant of former Chez Panisse chef ( Read more...Collapse )
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