Salt Fat Acid Heat: Cookbook Launch Party

In February, I heard about a new cookbook called Salt Fat Acid Heat (SFAH) that was going to be published in a few months. In this book, the author, Chef Samin Nosrat, another Chez Panisse alumni explains how using these four elements properly can help anyone become a better cook. Chef Nosrat describes how salt enhances flavor, fat carries flavor and provides texture, acid balances flavor, and controlling heat creates texture. I was immediately intrigued because I wanted to learn the simple science of this and be able to rely less on recipes.  
The cookbook has actually taken Chef Nosrat five years to write and it has finally been released. To celebrate, Chef Dominica Rice threw a party at her restaurant Cosecha in Oakland today. Chef Nosrat and artist Wendy MacNaughton were present to sign books. MacNaughton includes tons of illustrations that makes the book fun and appealing. They were both friendly and down to earth people and meeting them was an honor.  
What kind of party doesn’t provide good food? Not this one. Chef Rice not only hosted this event, but she and her crew catered delicious food. They served chicken tamales, as well as nettle and corn tamales.  
They also served duros, the Mexican puffed wagon wheels. With a little lime and chili sauce, I couldn’t stop munching on these.
The one recipe we got to try from the SFAH cookbook was the Green Goddess Dressing which was used as a dip for the fresh jicama. I can’t wait to make this.
To drink, we had delicious horchata and cucumber lime agua fresca. I really wish these were in the cookbook. Chef Rice… When are you writing a cookbook?  
I have browsed the book and am super excited to go through this cookbook page by page from beginning to end and be able to use SFAH properly in my own cooking.  
Today was a great day! Congratulations Chef Nosrat and thank you Chef Rice

Aztecali: My Latest Addiction

It was Chef Dominica Rice of Cosecha posting a picture of three tacos on Instagram that brought me to Aztecali, a new Mexican restaurant in Oakland. If it’s good enough for Chez Panisse trained Chef Dominica, it’s definitely good enough for me. The owners Juana and Claudia opened up this small neighborhood establishment close to Adam’s Point in January.  

  
My first visit there was technically a pre-visit. I had already made a plan to go the next day, but was checking out the location on my way home from work. Driving up north on Oakland Avenue from Lake Merritt is a usual route I take and I never noticed a business on the left, let alone a restaurant. With a parking spot in front, I pulled over and walked into Aztecali.  

Claudia greeted me and went through their menu printed on brown paper on the wall. It was too early for dinner, but I could use a late afternoon snack. I ordered the chicken tinga tostada and ate it there. It was love at first bite. The sweet, bold aromatics of the chicken tinga braised in a chipotle sauce was a match to the creamy black beans, the fresh cabbage, and the crispy delicious tortilla that held it all together.   

 I had let Claudia and Juana know that I would be back the next day when they opened at 10:30am. Chef Juana asked me if I liked eggs. I answered yes. She asked me if I liked chilaquiles. I answered that I loved chilaquiles. Chef Juana said if I came back tomorrow, she would make me some.

As promised I returned for a late breakfast the next morning with a friend. We hadn’t had our coffee yet, so we ordered the iced High Wire coffee with horchata. It was a refreshing beverage and a nice treat.  

  
The chilaquiles that were specially being made for me were cooked in a lovely green sauce and came with a side of black beans, avocado, crema, and topped with a runny egg. Using both my fingers and my fork, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every crisp and delicious chip on the plate. 

  
My friend ordered the three tacos so she could try each of the three meats – beef, chicken, and pork. She especially enjoyed the barbacoa, beef marinated and braised in an adobo sauce, so much that she ordered a beef burrito “togo” for her lunch she would eat later in the day. 
 About a week later, I convinced another friend to split a barbacoa torta with me. She actually is from Mexico City and was excited to see this style of cooking at Aztecali. Using Acme bread as the vessel to the juicy and flavorful filling of the beef with refried black beans, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, and crema was perfect. 
 The fresh ingredients and homestyle cooking at Aztecali has gotten me hooked. Three visits within a week is evidence enough.  

Celebrating Dia de los Muertos

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Dia de los Muertos aka Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated November 1 and 2. It is a time to celebrate those loved ones who have passed away. I was invited to celebrate Dia de los Muertos on Friday evening at Cosecha located in the Housewives Market in Old Oakland. Cosecha is a relatively new addition in Oakland, about 14 months, and I have dined there a handful of times. Their food is authentic and excellent. Like many other alumni from Chez Panisse, Dominica has opened up a successful business.

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Doors opened at 7:00pm and the host wearing traditional make-up checked us in and seated us at communal tables. Wine and peanuts were available to us as we got situated and got to know our neighbors.

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The first course was a beautifully colored salad made up of persimmon, pomegranate seeds, lettuce, cucumber, jicama, pepitos, and avocado. It was a generous portion and I ate every bite of the fresh ingredients.

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The main dish was a chicken mole and came with two tamales. The base of mole sauces are chili peppers. Dominica had been working on this dish for two days. It had a rich flavor with a nice heat to it. My friends who in my opinion are “Mexican food connoisseurs” thought this was one of the best mole sauces they have had. I haven’t had enough experience with mole sauces, but this one was the best I have had and ridiculously delicious. I enjoyed the tamales. They were prepared thin which I liked, and a great compliment to the chicken and sauce.

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The sides were brought out for us to share. We had bowls of rice, beans, and zucchini & tomatoes. The experience of passing the sides allowed for a fun, family style environment.

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For dessert, we had Pan de Muerto which translates to Bread of the Dead. They are sweet rolls shaped like a bun. Cosecha was serving two types, one was coated with sugar and one with sesame seeds. The breads were fluffy and fresh. It wasn’t as tasty as a flan, but it was fun to participate in the tradition. Platters of grapes also came around to the tables as well as Mexican coffee with a hint of cinnamon.

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This was the second year Cosecha has had the Dia de los Muertos dinners and I hope this ritual continues.

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Me and Dominica