Thursday, June 23, 2011

DRINKS: Condensed-Milk-Free, Agave-Sweetened, Avocado Shake (Sinh to Bo)

The first time I heard of an avocado shake; I wasn't sure what to expect.  Once I had it, I was in love.  This genius Vietnamese sweet drink, is typically made with condensed milk (which is incredibly sweet and rich), avocados, and milk.  The traditional preparation is phenomenal, but I fear, highly fattening. My alternative uses homemade evaporated non-fat milk (am I the only one who doesn't have this stuff lying around) and agave, which allows you to enjoy this great drink with alot less guilt.

Servings: 2-3

  • 2 ripened avocados (store tip: buy the avocados with a "mush" factor at the store - go ahead and squeeze them to make sure they're not rock hard), peeled and halfed
  • Agave syrup or brown sugar
  • 2 cups of non-fat milk - this is for the evaporated milk
  • 1 cup non-fat milk
  • 3-4 ice cubes (optional)
  • Simmer the 2 cups of non-fat milk in a small pot for 25-35 minutes - the goal is to reduce the milk's volume by about 60%
  • Stir in at least 2-3 tbsp of brown sugar or agave syrup to the milk while still warm
  • Pour milk in a small bowl and freeze for at least 25 minutes
  • In a blender or food processor, blend avocados and milk mixture
  • Add in an additional cup of milk and continue to blend
  • Blend in an additional 1-2 tbsp of agave if you want a sweeter drink
  • Add in ice cubes or refrigerate for an additional 20-30 minutes
  • Enjoy!

Monday, June 13, 2011

HOTSPOTS: Top San Francisco and Peninsula Dessert Finds

In general, I think of myself as a healthy eater...there are some exceptions, however.  I have a huge weakness for sweets.  While I give in to my sweet tooth on a daily basis through some fairly innocuous items (e.g. Trader Joe's dark chocolate covered almonds, So Good 80 Cal Coconut  Chocolate Ice Cream bars, etc.),  every now and then, I feed the half-ton woman that lives inside of me, and when I do, here's what I enjoy:
  • Kalafia Cafe, Palo Alto - the menu here is amazing all around, especially dessert; don't leave here without trying the Kalafia version of a banana split: carmalized bananas, homemade ice cream, etc, etc
  • Cocolo Cafe, Palo Alto - while the food items here are average at best, the macarons are something to write home about - my favorite is the pistachio macaron
  • Cocolo Cafe, San Jose - do not leave Santana Row before having a chocolate roulette - absolutely phenomenal - perfect ganache, moist cake interior, and just the right amount of cream to bind it all together 
  • Patisserie Philippe, San Francisco - these guys know how to do macarons - pistachio and rose are especially amazing
  • Candy Bar, San Francisco - absolutely love this place - lounge and dessert bar in one- drop by and try it all; the best part is they have games lying around...indulge in a lavender honey creme fraiche semi freddo while playing Connect 4 - perfection!
  • Holy Gelato, San Francisco - move over Creamery, Holy Gelato's homemade gelatos are absolutely amazing: fresh, homemade, and come in flavors like Darth Vader Chocolate - enjoy!
  • Tart to Tart, San Francisco - this is an all around great French-style bakery - I took tarts and various other desserts to a dinner party, and they were a huge hit
  • G:m:me bakery, San Francisco/Peninsula  (by order only for a custom cake and they also have a stall at the Sausalito Farmer's Market) - by far the best classic chocolate cake I have ever had - I ordered custom decorated Le Chocophile Gateaux cake for my husband's birthday, and it was a huge hit - luscious, rich but not overwhelming, and just amazing
  • Dessert Republic, San Mateo - late night, Hong-Kong themed Chinese bakery/restaurant; if you're a bubble tea fan, crepe fanatic, or Chinese dessert afficionado, this is the place for you; try everything 
  • Sweet Breams, San Mateo - amazing little spot that serves fish shaped cream puffs (think Beard Papa, but more fun) - they have vanilla, chocolate, red bean, and usually one weekly/daily flavor - btw a "bream" refers to one of several species of freshwater fish...
  • Cafe Pascucci - the next time you're at the AT&T ball park, stop by this unique and very modern cafe - they have great desserts and unique coffee drinks (some have a pistachio swirl)
  • Teacake Bake Shop, Emoryville/Burlingame - go here, get a coffee and a chocolate whoopie pie - absolutely amazing
  • Kara's Cupcakes - San Francisco/Palo Alto/San Jose - I know the whole cupcakes trend is over, but this place is a reminder that cupcakes should not be forgotten - any and all flavors are amazing (chocolate velvet is a little piece of chocolate heaven)...also, note that the S'mores cupcake has a gelatin-free frosting
I hope you enjoy my picks - you'll note that I didn't include any SF touristy/popular spots (e.g. Ghiradhelli, the Creamery, Miette, Bouchon, etc) - I was hoping to dive a little deeper than the usual suspects.