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Gift A Feast

Our favorite dim sum restaurants in SF
By Gypsy Achong

Dim sum in San FranciscoWith Chinese New Year fast approaching (Feb. 8), we're reminded how much we love dim sum for brunch. In San Francisco, we are lucky to have several good options for this Cantonese cuisine that features bite-sized portions of food traditionally served in small steamer baskets or on small plates. A typical dim sum brunch might include steamed buns filled with barbecued pork; dumplings and rice noodle rolls filled with beef, chicken, pork, prawns, and vegetables; roasted spare ribs; tofu skin rolls; chinese sticky rice; and sesame balls. Rather than ordering from a menu, diners simply point to the dishes they want, as waiters present them tableside on wheeled carts.

Whether you're a dim sum virgin or an experienced regular, we recommend these local restaurants for consistently good food.

Wing Lee Bakery @ 503 Clement

Located in the Richmond district, across from Green Apple Books, this small take-out shop is similar to what you'll find in Chinatown, without the chaos. We're particularly fond of their har gow, a shrimp dumpling wrapped in a thin wheat starch skin. Bring cash, because they don't accept credit cards.

Yank Sing @ 101 Spear Street and 49 Stevenson Street.

This is the go-to dim-sum spot for folks in the Financial District and SOMA. Expect high quality, but don't expect Chinatown prices. You can make reservations online, where you'll also find a brief slideshow illustrating the Art of Eating Shanghai Dumplings.

Ton Kiang @ 5821 Geary Blvd.

Because they serve dim sum all day long, Ton Kiang is a great place to take kids for an early dinner. It's also a great place to meet other grown-ups for a hangover brunch, as their family-style tables will seat a sizable crowd.

Shanghai Dumpling King @ 696 Monterey Blvd.

While all the dishes at Shanghai Dumpling King are delicious, I must make a special mention of their Sugar Egg Puff, a sugar-sprinkled puffball filled with egg custard. If someone comes by with a platter of these, even at the beginning of the meal, take it. Trust me on this.  

Holiday dishes for restricted diets
By Gypsy Achong

Holiday dishes for restricted dietsIf you're hosting a big holiday feast this season, someone on the guest list is bound to have an allergy or aversion to something, whether it's meat, dairy, or gluten. And while there's no need to alter your entire menu to accommodate a potentially long list of food restrictions, it is good form to provide a few delicious dishes that conform to some of the most common dietary restrictions. Here are a few "alternative" recipes we've tried and liked.

Vegetarian Stuffed Peppers

For the vegetarians at the dinner table, simply alter this Stuffed Peppers recipe from Epicurious by replacing the sweet Italian sausages with:

  • 1½ pounds cooked lentils

  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

  • ½ tsp anise seed

  • ⅓ tsp paprika

If you want to make this recipe vegan, replace the egg with some mashed potatoes, cooked oatmeal, or tomato paste.

Vegetarian Roasted Acorn and Delicata Squash Salad

This squash salad recipe is not only colorful, it is hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish, thanks to the presence of wheat berries and roasted squash. If you can't find wheat berries, farro is a delicious substitute, and if you want to make it gluten-free, you can use quinoa. If you skip the goat cheese, this dish is vegan.

Flourless Apple, Almond and Ginger Cake (Gluten-free)

You don't have to be gluten-free to fall in love with this flourless cake recipe, which is decadent without being too sweet. Note that it cuts more like a crumble than a cake.

Coconut Milk Mexican Flan (Dairy-free, Gluten-free)

This is a gluten-free, dairy-free Mexican flan recipe adapted heavily from The Art of Mexican Cooking. I promise you won't miss the milk, and neither will your dairy-loving guests.

What are your favorite recipes for restricted diets?

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Turkey talk
By Gypsy Achong

Turkey tips for ThanksgivingThanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The whole celebration is about gathering with family and friends…and delicious food! As I'm pulling together my menu, I have gathered a few ideas to make your Thanksgiving dinner a success.

Turkey tips:

Choose an air chilled bird and defrost early. Plan on one day in the fridge for every 4 pounds. 

Brining or salting improves flavor by seasoning and increasing juiciness. If you are brining, give yourself another day to let it sit overnight. 

Don't stuff the cavity. By the time the stuffing is a safe temperature, the meat will be overcooked. This is never a popular way to serve the bird. 

Let your bird rest about 30 minutes before carving. Tent the turkey in foil and take this time to allow the juices to absorb into the meat. This also frees up the oven for heating up sides dishes. 

Reheating carved t-day turkey really is simple.  Preheat oven to 275. Wrap meat fully in foil and heat to 130 degrees. 

We talked with a couple of our foodie friends about things they do each and every Thanksgiving. Rik Reynolds, of Rik’s Rubs uses his ORIGINAL flavor rub and this method to brine his bird. 

Line a 5 gallon bucket with a trash bag and add:
1 can frozen orange juice
1 container pineapple juice
2 cups soy sauce
½ cup Rik’s Rubs ORIGINAL
1 gallon water

Add defrosted turkey and top with ice cubes. Keep chilled overnight. Upon removal from the brine, dry with paper towels and rub with avocado oil. Roast as directed. 

Inspiration for side-dishes:

Skip the pumpkin pie and whipped cream this year and try something different! Our chocolatier buddy Christine Doerr, owner and chef of Neo Cocoa, has a few ideas to include chocolate in the Thanksgiving celebration.  Her family tradition includes not one but two Thanksgiving meals: lunch with her parents, and then dinner with her husband Tom’s folks. How delicious is that?

Christine suggests using chocolate in dishes besides dessert. For your green salad try cocoa nibs to replace the walnuts as a crunchy element. “Nibs are 100% cacao, offering a bitter crunch in a good way,” exclaims Christine. They come in small quantities and are available in specialty gourmet markets. 

New this year is the Marshmallow Cranberry Orange Truffle. It’s a cocoa powder coated dark chocolate cranberry ganache sandwich with orange marshmallow in the center. You will not find this truffle anywhere else!

See more sweet treats and holiday specials here.

Three fuss-free pasta dishes for World Pasta Day
By Gypsy Achong

3 fuss free pasta recipes for World Pasta DayCan't make it to Milan for World Pasta Day & Congress next weekend? Neither can we. So we're going to celebrate World Pasta Day right here in our own kitchen by making our favorite, fuss-free pasta dishes. If you'd like to join us in this delicious endeavor, here are a few suggestions for keeping it simple.

Spaghetti as a side dish

If your kids like mac and cheese as much as mine do, spaghetti-as-a-side-dish shouldn't be too hard to sell. And it doesn't even have to be spaghetti! Just boil your favorite noodle (angel hair and linguine are favorites at our table) per the directions on the package, drain, and toss with butter or a high quality olive oil, salt, and some sautéed-until-sweet onions. I usually put out a few condiments on the table so my kids can "customize" their noodles with parmesan cheese, Omnivore Salt, and Olive Hache.

Pasta and Pomi

I make a pretty mean marinara, but I have to admit that Pomi Marinara Sauce is as good as any basic red sauce I can make from scratch. Use it straight from the carton as a vegetarian spaghetti sauce, or use it as a base for a meat sauce with hot Italian sausage, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

As exotic as this dish may sound, it's actually quite simple to make. You'll need bacon, eggs and a decent amount of parmesan-type cheese, but if those are the kinds of ingredients you tend to keep in your refrigerator (like me), you can whip up a fancy, fantastic meal in no time. Here's a basic Spaghetti alla Carbonara recipe from Food Network.

Happy Pasta Day!

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!
By Gypsy Achong

Happy Canadian ThanksgivingCanadian Thanksgiving happens on the second Monday of October, when Americans are observing (or ignoring) Columbus Day. It's tempting to think of as "Thanksgiving Lite."

For starters, there's a lot less football. Canada's Thanksgiving Day Classic is an annual doubleheader between four CFL teams. Secondly, there is no shopping associated with Canadian Thanksgiving. In fact, the biggest shopping day of the year is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas, when everyone returns their mis-sized, unwanted, and inappropriate holiday gifts. Finally, there's no feel-good backstory for Canadian Thanksgiving. It's more closely associated with European harvest celebrations, and it started with an English navigator being thankful for having what he needed.

My sister lives in Canada so we like to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving and us it as a test run for new recipes and techniques to incorporate into our family's Thanksgiving meal.

A few years ago, I roasted a goose for Canadian Thanksgiving. It was expensive, I had to special order it, and I could only get it frozen. It took three days to thaw in the refrigerator, eight hours to roast (with hourly basting), and my kids pronounced it "nasty." My husband was more diplomatic. "It's a bit lean," he said. "And slightly gamey." I won't bother roasting goose for again.

Fortunately we have had a few successful trial runs as well. Here are three favorites:

Deviled Eggs: No matter how much planning and scheduling I do, something will inevitably go wrong or take longer than expected. Hence, the need for appetizers to stave off psycho-glycemia. Deviled eggs are a favorite in our household, but I find them rather labor intensive, especially when there are so many other dishes to prepare at the same time. Then I discovered the Ziploc hack, which involves using a ziploc baggie as a mixing bowl and piping bag. It's both easy enough and fun, which means my kids not only do some of the work, but it keeps them entertained for at least 15 minutes. Tip: unless you like your deviled egg filling lumpy, mash up the egg yolks before adding the mayonnaise and other ingredients.

Lollipop Kale: I first discovered this delightful vegetable at Southpaw BBQ in San Francisco's Mission district, and I immediately sought them out. They're not easy to find (try Melissa's), and they're pretty expensive, but in the end, I thought they were worth the splurge. My kids absolutely loved this simple recipe for Sauteed Lollipops with Pancetta, but I'm partial to the recipe from 1760 restaurant, which was published in 7x7.com.

Peach Cobbler: It may seem a bit un-American, but I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin pie. I don't dislike it, per se, but if there are any other dessert options, I'll choose them over the pumpkin pie. So I decided to add another dessert option to the Thanksgiving feast, but I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. A friend shared her very Southern mother's recipe for peach cobbler, and after we tried it for Canadian Thanksgiving, it became our go-to dessert year-round for family dinners and potlucks. There's just one important tip to remember. As hard as it is to NOT eat it while it's hot, you really should wait until it cools to room temperature to serve it. Once it cools, it takes on a slightly chewy texture that puts this dessert over the top.

Peach Cobbler Recipe


1 cup flour

½ cup sugar

1 stick butter

½ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1 large can peaches (1 quart)


1) Melt butter in 2 qt. baking dish while preheating oven to 350 degrees.

2) Mix t/g dry ingredients in a bowl.

3) Drain peaches, keeping the juice. Cut peaches into chunks.

4) Mix peach juice with dry ingredients and pour into the baking dish with melted butter.

5) Spoon peaches over the top.

6) Bake 30-45 minutes, or until brown on top.

7) Cool before eating.

Note: This recipe does not double well. You’ll need to cook it longer, and it may never brown.

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