Rise to Shine Again

Mezze Sampler

Ful Medames

Baba Ganoush

Soup Du Jour

Kofta (meatballs with allspice, cumin, mint, cilantro, onion, and olive oi)

Saha Yellow Curry (aeasonal vegetables, wild mushrooms, tofu,  rice or quinoa)

Bastilla (almonds, onions, parsley, spices wrapped in phyllo and baked with powdered sugar garnish)

Wild Mushroom Knaffe (wild mushrooms, shredded phyllo, vegan cream cheese, coconut-chermoula-chipotle sauce)

Ya Mama (roasted seasonal fruit, date & almond marzipan, and dark chocolate wrapped in phyllo)

From San Francisco to Berkeley and back again, the east bay lost a shining star last spring when the cooks at Saha packed their knives, but the light continues to burn brightly on the other side of the bridge. Originally a destination commanding crowds inside the Hotel Carlton, Chef Mohamed Aboghanem has reignited the flame back where it all started sixteen years ago.

Drawing from a lifetime of Yemeni cookery and family recipes, Chef Aboghanem sources local, seasonal ingredients to lend a contemporary twist to his menu. Boasting a wealth of vegan, gluten-free dishes, his own daughter’s dietary needs inspired the innovative, meatless bill of fare, but rave reviews keep these offerings in heavy rotation. Presented with elegance and finesse, the experience is on par with fine dining, without the typical price tag. Bold spices romance the plate, capturing nuanced, harmonious flavors from start to finish, allowing diners to focus their amorous intentions on their dates.

Separated from the boutique hotel lobby by gently parted curtains, Saha is a world apart from it’s humble roots, but still true to the soul of the cuisine.

Saha
1075 Sutter Street
San Francisco, CA 94109

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Social Butterfly

CBD has been all the buzz lately, which is rather ironic for a supplement that positively cannot get you buzzed. For anyone that needs a quick crash course in Cannabidiol, also known as CBD, it is a compound that interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system.  These series of receptors regulate pain, mood, the immune system, memory, appetite, stress, and other important functions. Unlike THC, CBD will not get you high or create any psychoactive effect.

Let’s be honest: While unadulterated, straight CBD oil is unarguably the ideal for assimilation, it tastes much like raw hemp, which is to say… Grassy, at best. That’s why I generally steer clear of drops and tinctures, in favor of flavorless capsules. Mary Poppins had the right idea that a “spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” but in the case of Social CBD, all it really takes is a bit of sweet flavor.

Far more palatable than your kid’s cough syrup, Social CBD Broad Spectrum Drops are stevia-sweetened and infused with the essences of Pomegranate Tea, Meyer Lemon, and Vanilla Mint. Unflavored, for you purists out there, is composed of only MCT Coconut Oil and CBD Hemp Extract.

Finally, a tincture so tasty that I actually WANT to take directly from the dropper! Vanilla Mint not only lifts my spirits, but immediately freshens my breath. Pomegranate Tea provides warmth and comfort, without the cup. Meyer Lemon is an invigorating, zesty wake up call, perfect for kicking off the day on a bright note.

While I’m happy to take this treatment without further adulteration, the beauty of these blends is how easily they lend themselves to further recipe experimentation, too. Inspired by the fresh, fruity flavor and antioxidant powerhouse of pomegranates, I took the Pomegranate Tea Broad Spectrum Drops and blended them into a spoonable smoothie bowl.

Pretty in pink, it’s both powerfully tasty and nutritious, using pomegranate juice and arils to pump up the flavor. While the CBD drops are certainly optional, I’ve found it incredibly helpful in stabilizing my mood throughout the day, which makes the full combination an ideal, complete breakfast. Alternatively, if you need a boost to beat the midday slump, reach for this bountiful bowl instead of that second (or third) cup of coffee. Energize, satisfy, and soothe yourself, all in great taste.

Use the promo code MOMSMEET25 to save 25% on all Social CBD products. Offer ends August 31, 2020.

Continue reading “Social Butterfly”

Age is Just a Number

“14 (fourteen) is a natural number following 13 and succeeded by 15,” as the dictionary so helpfully explains. That’s one earth-shaking headline for you there, right? Try as I might to find something witty to say about the figure, some pop culture reference to connect it with, there’s just nothing particularly exciting about the figure. So here we are, the day of BitterSweet‘s fourteenth blogoversary, which is little more than a blip on the radar at this point.

Growing older isn’t easy, but as they say, it sure beats the alternative. Merely surviving for so many years in a world that’s constantly evolving, rewriting the rules of the game at every stage of play, definitely calls for some sort of celebration. Rather than writing at length about my navel-gazing and self-congratulatory blogging victories over the years, I’m raising a glass to you, my dear reader, for really keeping this crazy dream alive.

Tempting as it was to just keep on writing without proper acknowledgement of the milestone, that would be like forgetting your birthday, and I just wouldn’t be so cruel. Even if it’s an unremarkable age, a relatively unimportant number, you still deserve cake.

Little cakes for a little festivity; seems to fit the bill, don’t you think? Mini bundt cakes condense all the show-stopping beauty of a full, gargantuan baked good down into manageable single serving portions. Make a batch for a party, freeze extras for later, and never worry about either running out or over-serving. We can make this revelry even more low-key by fashioning the batter into standard muffins, for those seeking that everyday sort of sweet gratification instead.

Suitably unconventional for such a quirky little blog, gluten-free sorghum flour and maca powder work in concert to create a uniquely malty, nutty, toasted cereal flavor that plain malted milk powder could never replicate. Chocolate is a natural pairing with that nostalgic scoop shop taste, which is why I doubled down, employing both rich chocolate chips and crisp, crunchy cacao nibs. Decadent enough that there’s no need to gild the lily with frosting, you get the complete package in every bite. If you had to add a bit of extra sparkle, I suppose a gentle dusting of confectioner’s sugar wouldn’t hurt, though.

Should I have something more profound to share on this 1900th post on the 14th year of BitterSweet? Perhaps. Then again, I’d like to think that it’s just one of many more birthdays to come. We’ll have plenty of other opportunities to trade wisdom on aging gracefully, and sweetly.

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Meatless Meet-Up

Macadamia stuffed date, pomegranate
Endive, chive walnut cheese, pear
Potato nettle croquette, hedgehog mushrooms

Baby Bloomsdale spinach, broccoli, tahini, nettle gomasio salad

Baby mixed greens, beets, fennel cara cara orange, hazelnuts, macadamia cheese

Black eyed peas, smoked tomato, collard greens

Broccoli soup, panisse, cauliflower, black olive, Meyer lemon

Black trumpet mushroom lasagna, spinach, herbed cashew cheese, spring garlic marinara, rapini

Lemon cloud cake, lemon curd, vanilla custard, lemon coconut whip, cara cara orange, macadamia crunch

Chocolate bread pudding, vanilla anglaise, blood orange caramel

Encuentro; a meeting, a reunion, a match, or place to gather. Encuentro in Oakland, CA is all that and more, providing a place in the heart of the bay area to celebrate plant-based cuisine and carefully curated wines. Previously existing as a daily restaurant, Encuentro now hosts monthly tasting menus where chef Lacey Sher showcases her culinary creativity. Seasonally inspired and locally sourced, no two menus are alike. The exact dishes on offer are almost besides the point, taking the complete experience into account, because the ending is always the same. If you’re lucky enough to snag a ticket for these limited seatings, there’s no doubt you’ll meet enticing bites upon arrival, a rich, flavorful entree that satisfies with substance and style alike, sweet morsels for dessert, and perhaps a new friend along the way.

Encuentro
550 2nd Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Seeds of Revolution

Ben & Jerry’s is making headlines so fast, you could get whiplash trying to keep up with these two men. No sooner than I hit “publish” on what I thought would be the ice cream review of the of the year, or at least of the season, did a brand new press release come flying through my inbox. Thrown in there as if it was a second thought, a little note to just slip under the door while no one was home, turned out to be a bombshell.

Beyond announcing another flavor, this was a brand new base entirely, never before seen in commercial ice cream production.

Sunflower butter.

No nuts, no dairy, pure indulgence.

If you were a fan of the original almond milk line from Ben & Jerry’s, you’re going to be disappointed… Because you’ll be deeply displeased that the entire range of flavors can’t be upgraded to this new base instead.

Almonds have enjoyed mainstream success for their established identity as wholesome, fairly neutral carriers of good fats and creamy textures. Sunflower seeds are the underdogs, with all those positive qualities, but none of the recognition. Masterfully blended with decadent flavors and extravagant mix-ins, I personally would have never guessed the seedy underbelly supporting it all. Not a hint of nuttiness, no matter how carefully I tasted, came though above the intended indulgences.

Coming this summer, keep an eye out for these three sensations that will rock your local freezer aisle and scoop shops:

“Milk” & Cookies (vanilla with chocolate chip cookies, chocolate sandwich cookies, and chocolate cookie swirls):

Delightful doughy bites swimming in a frozen pool of non-dairy milk, slowly returning to a more liquid state, coating each morsel in a luscious cloak of thickened cream. Huge chunks of sandwich cookies jut out of every other spoonful, as if they hadn’t even been chopped before being loaded into the pint. The end effect is neither vanilla nor chocolate, but somehow, all the best components of the two all at once.

Crème Brûlée Cookie (burnt caramel with brown sugar cookies and salted caramel swirls):

Dirty blonde with a dark, mysterious edge, this complex little vixen is my new obsession. Though it sounds like a straight shot of sugar in a waffle cup, it manages an impressive level of balance with subtly bitter, lightly salted caramel, toasted and nutty, perfectly complimenting the seeded base. The interplay between gooey swirl and soft, fudgy molasses-flecked cookies makes every bite exciting, right down to the bottom of the carton.

Mint Chocolate Cookie (mint with chocolate sandwich cookies):

Fresh, bright, sweet peppermint cradles a fine mist of crumbled wafer cookies, interspersed by enormous cookie boulders. Treading the fine line between rich and refreshing, the overall experience is solidly one of indulgence.

These seeded pints are being added to the current dairy-free offerings, making 17 flavors in all for the truly lactose intolerant to raise a spoon to.

Tongue Thai’d

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I was still fresh off the plane from Thailand. For weeks, I still dreamed of stone temples and skyscrapers, street markets and tuk-tuks, elephants and endless green plains.

Even now, so many months removed, the taste of numbing chilies lingers on my lips, a haunting memory that teases at the tip of my tongue. Northern California is not lacking in exceptional eateries, yet none can quite match the full experience. Actually being in Thailand to enjoy the native cuisine probably has a lot to do with the flavor, more so than the mere ingredients.

Taking into account that one can never quite match the full bouquet of flavors, complemented by the nuances that each cook uses to season their dish, as passed down by generations of chefs and mothers and eaters alike, I was able to take away quite a few lessons on Thai cookery that have served me very well since then. It’s truly selfishness, and laziness, that has kept me from sharing the secrets abroad. Well, the time has come to divulge at least a taster of those truths! It all comes down to the expertise from May Kaidee‘s legendary cooking school.

Alongside about a half-dozen other hungry students, we learned straight from the source how to make the best Thai food anywhere in the world. It all comes down to balance, like everything else in life, and quality ingredients. That should come as no surprise, but it was the tiniest little things that shook me to the core, completely changing the character of a dish in unexpected ways. Whereas I had always thought that the delicate perfume of lemongrass, that fibrous stalky aromatic, was the key to essential “Thai” taste, it turned out that makrut lime leaves were actually the silent source. Otherwise known as kaffir lime, the zest and juice add their own piquancy of course, but those tender green leaves, difficult to source fresh overseas, held the key. Grassy yet mild, sweet but subdued, they’re the vanilla extract to every savory success; adored yet rarely identified and properly celebrated.

Furthermore, tom kha paste, a shortcut ingredient I would have looked down my nose at on grocery store shelves, comes to life in a completely new palate when made from scratch. Every home cook has their own blend, just like a curry paste of any color, but May Kaidee’s stands alone as more than mere soup stock.

We smeared it atop sliced seedless cucumbers piled high with sticky rice and pumpkin hummus, lending a gentle burn, a comforting warmth, to the whole assembly.

Then there was the pad Thai, one of the last dishes I would ever order at a restaurant. Nothing against the noodles, but most renditions I’ve twisted around my fork have been gluey, sugary lumps of starch, with vegetables being few and far between. No, this isn’t how it should be! Replacing the egg with an startling splash of coconut milk, of all things, we were taught that this keeps the strands of rice vermicelli lubricated while enriching the light coating of sauce. Never would I have dreamed of trying such an incongruous addition, but there it was, advised by the experts and working its magic in real time.

Som tum is a light starter salad that I have certainly dabbled with in the past, but never put the proper muscle into. Lazily mixing raw vegetables in a bowl, it turns out that technique is everything in this application. Do not give in to the food processor and think you can just blend the base for an equivalent outcome. It takes just as much time, if a bit more elbow grease, to bust out that mortar and pestle to do a proper pounding.

At first, I was aghast at the inclusion of exotics such as pineapple, corn, and the suggestion of apples, even grapes! Previously these items would have struck me as “inauthentic” interlopers that had no place on this plate, but it goes back to balance. Yes, while green papaya salad should be primarily sour, bitter, and spicy, it still needs a dose of sweetness to balance everything out. Don’t forget the peanuts for a satisfyingly crisp crunch. That’s not just the western love of the legume speaking; Thais truly love the goober, too.

Hungry for more than the basic sustenance of these staple foods, we devoured platters of spring rolls, vats of curries and stews, steamer baskets heaping with rice, trying to take in the knowledge as if it could be directly consumed. From start to finish, the revelations arrived with a smile, a spoonful, a laugh and a dance. If there’s one thing you do in Thailand, let it be a lesson on how to bring this cuisine back home in its full-flavored, unabridged glory. If that’s still a venture too far to consider, I’ve heard May Kaidee has setup shop state-side in New York City, too…

Better study up to keep the ball rolling, along with your tender wheat wrappers or softened rice papers, to get a taste of Thailand in any kitchen.

May Kaidee Restaurant and Cooking School
59 Ratchadamnoen Avenue
Talat Yot, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200
Thailand