Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Hashiri Restaurant San Francisco

No matter how much I learn about Japanese food and culture, there is more, much more that I keep learning. Nowhere more is this exemplified than at the latest Japanese restaurant to open in San Francisco, Hashiri. I knew that the changing of the seasons is very important and celebrated in Japan, but it was only at the restaurant that learned that every season has three ingredient phases. Hashiri is the word for first of the season, shun is the peak of season, and nagori is the end of the season. Not surprisingly this restaurant will change their menu with the seasons. In Japan not just the ingredients, but even the tableware changes with the seasons. The porcelain dishes at Hashiri come from Kyoto, known for ceramics. 

Hashiri, which just opened in what was Chez Papa Resto in Mint Plaza is a very unique restaurant for several reasons. Hashiri serves just one menu that is a kaiseki meal (a seasonal tasting menu of small dishes) with nigiri sushi ($250 per person in the main dining room and $300 at the chef's counter). Very few restaurants in the Bay Area have kaiseki chefs and can prepare this exquisite cuisine. Kaoru Hayashi, Ryuichi Terayama, and Yasuyuki Rokuyata own the original Hashiri, a sushi restaurant in Tokyo. It is also perhaps the only high end Japanese restaurant with all Japanese chefs in San Francisco. Executive chef Takashi Saito was the opening chef at Izakaya Yuzuki, the sushi master is chef Tokunori Mekaru who comes directly from Hashiri Tokyo and the kaiseki chef Shinichi Aoki was formerly at Kaygetsu.

The interior will make you feel as if you have been transported instantly to Japan. It’s sleek and modern but also very Japanese. There is contemporary artwork on the walls and the ceiling has 16 HD projectors with seasonal images floating above you. Right now it’s spring, so cherry blossoms shimmer on the ceiling.  


In addition to a fine selection of sake and wine, they also have Suntory Premium Malt's beer on draft. This is really a treat, very fresh and flavorful and not easy to find locally. But what you really want to know about is the food, right? 

Sakizuke—appetizer, similar to amuse bouche 
The meal began with Akaza ebi with snap pea surinagashi and white sturgeon caviar. Surinagashi is a Japanese style creamy vegetable puree. In this case made from fresh peas but it could be from any other vegetable and broth or dashi. The refinement of this dish really set the tone of the meal. 

Zensai—small thing or appetizer
Taira gai or pen shell clam and local spring green salad with fresh bamboo, fiddlehead ferms and wasabi dashi. On top was a sprinkling of karasumi, or grated mullet roe. This dish was a bit like a spring still life, vibrant and beautiful. 

Owan—small lacquer bowl for soup
Amadai kuzu tataki, sesame tofu. Note the fresh herbal sansho leaves. The sesame tofu unbelievably delicate and soft. A very traditional dish, it eases you further into the meal. 

Tsukuri—sashimi style appetizer 
Aburi kinme dai, ponzu gelee. This was golden eye snapper with kabocha and watermelon radish. The exceptional knife work was evident in the finely slivered vegetables that almost seemed grated and the rainbow of colors hinted at the blossoming of spring. 

Mushimono—steamed dish
Morel mushroom, satsuki chawan mushi. The mushrooms were from Yosemite along with a bit of delicate Japanese seaweed. This was the softest chawan mushi custard I have ever had. A very luxurious dish! 

Yakimono—grilled 
Kagoshima wagyu kuwa-yaki, simmer spring dailon, celeraic puree, pickled wasabi stem. This was one of those bites of perfection, super tender and buttery wagyu and for me the pefect portion, just a couple of bites over a celery root puree and almost microscopic shiso blossoms. I don’t think I ever had pickled wasabi stems. They are sourcing their wasabi from Half Moon Bay. 


Kuchinaoshi—palate cleanser, often served after stronger flavored dishes
Junsai. This is an unusual kind of water lily buds, grown in fresh water lakes. It has an almost crunchy jelly like texture. The junsai was hiding underneath the vegetables on top.




Nigiri —sushi
One piece prepared in front of you, each perfection! We had squid served in a modern style topped with crunchy salt, Japanese butterfish, horse mackeral, kohada or gizzard shad, King salmon, otoro or the fatty part of the tuna, scallop, uni from Hokkaido, and 4 things I had never had before Nodoguro or black throat from Wayakyama, baby spring red snapper, torigai or heart clam, imperial prawn. The sushi was truly outstanding, very balanced and luscious each with a distinct texture and flavor than ranged from mild to rich and unctious. 


Tamagoegg
Omelet and at Hashiri they brand it with a branding iron! It's not usually done in front of guests, but we wanted a demonstration. 

Akadashi—red miso soup
This signals the end of the meal in traditional Japanese restaurants, not the beginning.


White sesame ice cream made from soy, not dairy milk with black sesame sauce and 


Kuzu mochi chimaki— a sweet kuzu mochi wrapped in bamboo leaves, It’s served for Children’s Day in Japan. It’s served with kuormitsu a kind of molasses, and kinako a soybean powder. 


Last but not least, this spoon. It’s specifically for ice cream and transmits the warmth from your hands to the tip which allows for easy scooping of even hard ice cream. I want a set!

Hashiri San Francisco
4 Mint Plaza
San Francisco CA 94109
415-908-1919

Disclamer: I was a guest invited to a pre-opening preview of the restaurant. I did pay for drinks and tips. I was not compensated monetarily for writing this or any other post. 

Monday, May 09, 2016

My Salami Story

In my parent’s kitchen there was a hook near the door. It pretty much always had Columbus Italian dry salami hanging from it. It never occurred to me that this was not the case in every house in America. When I was growing up it was my sister who had the sweet tooth, not me. I loved all things savory. I remember asking my mother if people could choose to be vegetarian, could I be a carnivore? I didn’t hate vegetables, I just loved salty foods. I still do. Some of my favorite things when I was young were thick cut potato chips, corn chips, smoked salmon and salami. 

California style Italian dry salami was an integral part of my childhood. I ate fat slabs of salami and thin slices. I ate the crusty ends, peeling off the white dusty paper. I ate it in sandwiches for lunch and for dinner when it was too hot to cook. We used to sit at a picnic table in the Summer on the deck with a big plate of cherry tomatoes, slices of cheese and salami. Take what you want, my mother would say. To us, it wasn’t an antipasto platter but a “take plate.” 

When I had one of my first jobs, working at a gourmet retail shop, I’d head off to a nearby Italian deli for lunch most days. They refused to sell sandwiches but would sell meat sliced to order and rolls and throw in packets of mustard and mayo so you could make a sandwich yourself. Salami with or without mortadella was my fuel and my soul food. Years later when I lived in Italy I discovered many other styles of Italian cured meats and other ways of serving it—proscuitto with Tuscan bread, mortadella draped over warm gnocco frito and various kinds of salami flavored with black pepper or fennel or red chiles. 

Italian dry salami it turns out, is a Bay Area speciality. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, around 1970, local Bay Area salami producers, descendants of salami makers from Milan, Lucca, Parma and Modena formed the Dry Salami Institute and were able to convince the US Department of Agriculture that Italian dry salami should be made according to certain standards and the name protected against inferior products. It is really Italian? That’s hard to say since it’s made in America and has a pungent scent and flavor profile particular to this area. It’s definitely a Californian style of Italian salami and although producers like Columbus make many different varieties such as Calbrese, peppered and sopressata, nothing reminds me of my childhood quite like an Italian dry salami, hanging from a hook.

Salami tips:

Slicing
Here’s a simple rule—for smaller chubs, cut thicker slices and for larger ones, cut thinner slices. This will allow for the best taste, texture and aroma. 

Storing 
Although shelf stable, after you cut into a salami, it’s best to store it in the refrigerator to prevent dehydration. Salami needs humidity, so keep it in a moist plastic bag (you can include a wet paper towel in a resealable bag if necessary). 

Serving 
Salami is often served on an antipasto platter, but consider adding it to a fruit and cheese plate. It pairs well with so many things—nuts, stone fruit, grapes, apples, pears, grilled vegetables and olives. Let salami come to room temperature before serving. 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Columbus for inspiring this post and providing samples. I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other post on Cooking with Amy. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cool Cooking Tools Reviews & Giveaway!

It’s always fun to try out new cooking tools. While I don’t have room for much in my apartment kitchen,  I’ve put these small and affordable items to the test.

First up, the Uten 2-3 cup mini chopper. It has 3 blades and was terrific for a few cloves of garlic and fantastic for chopping olives and a handful of nuts, although I didn’t love it for chopping an onion, that's something I'd rather do by hand anyway. But the real reason I love this chopper? It’s fun to use! Instead of being plugged in or attaching to another kitchen appliance like a stick blender, it works with a pull string. You can pull the string as many or as few times as you like to get the result you want. If you have kids I bet they would love using it too. It's dishwasher safe and currently on sale for just $8.99. To learn more about Uten products, sales and more, visit and "like" their Facebook page.


I use my toaster oven for most of my baking. I always line my baking trays with parchment paper, foil or a silpat. But I recently discovered the Cookina parchminum sheet. Unlike parchment you can use it when broiling or baking up to 550 degrees. Unlike parchment, it won’t burn. Unlike foil, it’s easy to clean and reuse. Unlike a silpat, it won’t stain. One sheet is supposed to last as long as 25 sheets of parchment but I suspect it will last even longer. It’s amazingly durable. While you can serve off of it directly I haven’t really used it that way. I’ve used it to bake cookies, roast vegetables and cook fish. It's a less wasteful, more environmentally friendly solution, it rolls flat for storage, and is PFOA free. Suggested retail price is $9.99.
I have plenty of knives, the last thing I need is another one. BUT I was really impressed with the Crisp paring knife because it has a cover that doubles as a sharpener. This is just so smart. Paring knives get used a lot but they don’t get sharpened as often as they should. This inexpensive knife which retails for $9.99 is perfect for camping or traveling. It’s a really smart innovation. The handle is comfortable and has a rubber inset where you grip the knife which makes it very ergonomic. It’s handy to have a couple knives with covers to use when you’re away from home. Crisp also offers a small serrated and bird’s beak paring knives.


GIVEAWAY! 

Uten is offering one mini chopper, Cookinga is offering one sheet and Crisp is offering one paring knife to a lucky reader. Leave a comment telling me which you’d prefer, the chopper, cooking sheet or the paring knife. Only one entry per person and you must have a US mailing address to be eligible to win. Contest ends on Friday May 6. 2016.

Disclaimer: My thanks to the manufacturers and retailers offering these products I was not compensated monetarily for this or any other posts on Cooking with Amy. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Roast Chicken with Asparagus & Leeks Recipe + Giveaway!

Foster Farms is one of the larger suppliers of chicken in California. It’s a brand you’ll find in most supermarkets. So I was pleased to learn they are now offering organic chicken. At my local supermarket they only had boneless and skinless breasts and thighs, and while I much prefer purchasing whole chickens I did want to give the product a try. 

Because I don’t usually, if ever, cook with boneless skinless chicken thighs, I turned to the ever dependable Faith Durand at The Kitchn for a foolproof technique. I added an herb paste, asparagus and leeks and reduced the pan sauce to make a glaze. It’s easy peasy and great for a quick meal that will be done in just over 30 minutes. The leeks, asparagus and herbs give the dish a fresh and light feel. 

Although I purchased the chicken with my own money, I did accept four $20 Safeway gift cards for you, my readers, from Foster Farms. If you would like one, please leave a comment about your favorite chicken thigh or breast recipe. Only one entry per person and you must have a US mailing address to be eligible to win. Contest ends Friday April 22nd, 2016. As usual, winners will be picked at random. 



Roast Chicken with Asparagus and Leeks
Serves 4 

Ingredients 

3/4 cup of fresh mild green herbs (I used cilantro, parsley and dill)
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon olive oil 
2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and pale greeen
1 package of skinless and boneless chicken thighs, about 1.25 pounds
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 cups medium thick asparagus, cut on the diagonal

Instructions 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Finely mince the herbs, garlic and lemon zest and drizzle in the oil--or process in a mini food processor. Rub the chicken with the herb mixture. 

Place the leeks in a 10-inch oven proof skillet. Place the chicken on top of the leeks and season generously with salt and pepper.  Roast for 10 minutes, then tuck the asparagus in and around the chicken and roast another 10 minutes or until the chicken reaches 165 degrees when pierced with an instant read thermometer. 

Remove from the oven, cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Transfer the chicken and vegetables to a platter and place the skillet on the stove. Heat the skillet and reduce the liquid until only a few tablespoons remain. Drizzle the glaze over the chicken. 

Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: My thanks to Foster Farms for providing the gift card. I was in no way compensated for this post because I wanted you to know my true feelings about the product.