sarah fama

I'm an adjunct English composition instructor, a freelance knitwear designer, and an occasional blogger. I think food and wine are some of life's great simple (well, not necessarily simple) pleasures.

  • Website
  • Location: California
  • Favorite foods: Irish soda bread, sourdough bread, sushi, a well-made bowl of pasta, arugula, Gordon apples, homemade popcorn, caramel, goat cheese, dark chocolate, roasted red bell peppers, olive oil, the short rib hamburgers my husband makes, and real free-range eggs.
  • Last bite on earth: Either Irish soda bread made with my great-grandmother's recipe, or a really good piece of shiro toro nigiri from Sushi on the Run in Los Gatos, CA.

Open Thread: White Chocolate, Yay or Nay?

A previous commenter mentioned the Green & Black's white chocolate bar, and I heartily second that recommendation. It's divine in white chocolate chip cookies. I used to be all about dark chocolate, all the time, but the Green & Black's white and TCHO's milk chocolate have broadened my chocolate horizons.

The Food Lab: 11 Essential Tips for Better Pizza

The baking steel is amazing. I haven't stopped recommending it to people since we got it, so thanks for writing about it, Kenji! I'm actually planning to make some pizzas tonight; I've got your Neapolitan dough resting on the counter after a three-day cold rise, the oven is preheating to 550, and I'm deciding what wine to open. Not a bad way to end a Monday.

Where To Get Chocolates For Your Valentine (...or Yourself) in San Francisco

I'm normally all about the dark chocolate, but TCHO's milk chocolate is ridiculously good. Poco Dolce didn't make your list either; I've only had their "tiles" a few times, but I thought the burnt caramel ones were very tasty.

Super Bowl Party Giveaway: Pat LaFrieda Sliders

My favorite sushi place is closing in less than a month, so my plan is to go there for lunch and hope that the Super Bowl will keep other potential diners away. (The place only seats 8 people, and I hate waiting in line outside.) However, I'm open to making "gorge self on Pat LaFrieda sliders" my new backup plan!

479° Has Nailed the Sweet Popcorn Game

Their toasted coconut caramel flavor is also very good.

What's the Weirdest Ice Cream Flavor You've Ever Tried?

I live for weird ice creams -- except garlic. I tried that at the Gilroy garlic festival years ago, and it tasted like ass. In the delicious/weird category, I made Irish oatmeal ice cream for my parents' Saint Patrick's Day party last year, and Irish Soda Bread ice cream based on my great-grandmother's soda bread recipe. It was a buttermilk base with sugar-plumped raisins and caraway seeds strewn throughout, and it's one of my favorite creations to date.

The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Made the dough today and baked off half a dozen after only a few hours in the fridge. (Patience is perhaps not my strong suit when it comes to cookies.) They were excellent as-is, so I'm really looking forward to baking the rest with the fully rested dough tomorrow!

Sauced: Dulce de Leche

I've used the slow cooker method, but I poured the condensed milk into canning jars first, instead of keeping it in the sealed can. Slap on a cute ribbon and boom, holiday gift.

A Day in the Life: Robyn Lee, Staff Photographer and Editor, A Hamburger Today

Ummm...was Kenji humming the Greg Laswell cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun? I believe it was on the Confessions of a Shopaholic soundtrack.

A Scoop for Every Plate: Three Takes on Pumpkin Ice Cream

A few years ago, Cook's Illustrated published a pumpkin cheesecake recipe in which they boosted the pumpkin flavor by cooking down the canned pumpkin puree in a saucepan ahead of time, thus reducing the water content. I have yet to make the cheesecake, but I've used the same trick to make pumpkin ice cream using canned pumpkin puree, and it worked like a charm. (I imagine making my own pumpkin puree out of roasted pumpkin would work as well, but I haven't been patient enough to do that yet!)

The Food Lab's Apple Pie, Part 2: Perfect Apple Pie Filling

I know this is an older article, but I'm making an apple pie today (using Kenji's easy pie dough recipe) and I used the sous vide method for cooking my apples. I was surprised to see how much liquid was in the bag after cooking, and at first was worried that liquid had seeped in -- but the water in the cooler was still totally clear, which suggests that my apples just exuded a lot of water (Gravensteins). So, I dumped the liquid in the pot, reduced it, added sugar, waited for the sugar to boil and turn a nice copper color, whisked in some cream, then whisked in a wee bit of butter, and I now have an AMAZING caramel sauce with rich apple flavor. Granted, I had to re-season and add a bit of cornstarch back to my apples for the filling, but that's not exactly a problem when the tradeoff is apple-flavored caramel sauce.

The Food Lab Turbo: Super Simple Gazpacho

My husband made this a few days ago when we had a large group over. He does not have your mad chive-slicing skills, so we were sadly chiveless, and we had to substitute red wine vinegar for sherry, but it was still fantastic. Any chance it would freeze well? We made too much...

8 Essential Places to Eat and Drink in Silicon Valley

Mmmm...Falafel Drive In. Love that place. A falafel + banana milkshake = heaven. (Gulzaar Halaal, practically across the street, was also excellent the few times I've managed to pass up falafel in favor of spicy chicken.)

My favorite individual item at any Mexican place is the Grandma's Special at La Fiesta in Mountain View. That's like liquid dreams, spiced and stirred with an unholy amount of sour cream.

My favorite sushi is at a place in Los Gatos that only seats 8 people, and since the line is long enough most of the time...go somewhere else, please!

It's not really in silicon valley, but my favorite beer place in the area is Gourmet Haus Staudt in Redwood City; if I weren't pregnant, I could totally go for a pretzel and a beer in a glass boot right now.

And just because it never seems to get much love, City Pub, across the street from Gourmet Haus Staudt, has a solid beer selection with an option to order a beer "sampler," and one of the best burgers I've eaten in the bay area. The rest of the menu is decidedly meh, but the burger is pretty consistently great, especially cooked medium/medium rare with blue cheese on top.

Taste Test: The Best Sourdough Bread in San Francisco

I think they only sell at farmer's markets and wholesale, but Crepe and Brioche Bakery is one of my favorites in the bay area. Their massive levain, one quarter of which is the size of -- and sold as -- a regular loaf, is ridiculously good. So is pretty much everything else they make. (Funnily enough, they don't sell crepes, at least not at the farmer's markets! Their brioche is great, though.)

Do I Need to Use Eggs in Ice Cream (and How Many?)

I think I've mentioned this before in response to an ice cream post, but when making vanilla ice cream with Jeni's base, I add two egg yolks. (I stir them in to the hot mixture after thickening with tapioca starch.) Just thought I'd mention it, for those who want to experiment with her base but are also interested in an eggier ice cream for flavors like vanilla and chocolate. You could probably add more yolks; I just keep it to two because I find that sufficient to develop complex flavor without tasting "eggy." It's the only flavor I do that for, since, as Max says, her base is a perfect platform for playing with other flavors, especially infusions like coffee and tea.

The Best White Wines at Costco Under $15

The Cambria Julia's Vineyard pinot is one of the best wine deals at Costco. Usually it's around $17 or so, and it's my go-to red under $20. It seems to go pretty quickly, though, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were only available regionally (it's a California producer.)

New Orleans restaurant good for a bachelorette party dinner?

Thanks for the suggestions!

7 Dishes Worth Traveling For In The Outer Sunset, San Francisco

Devil's Teeth also makes the most decadent cinnamon rolls -- gigantic, gooey, and crackling with sugar. Delicious!

Behind the Coffee Drink: The Flat White

The flat white is the Goldilocks coffee -- richer coffee flavor than drip coffee with cream, but not as milky as a latte. Good stuff. I just wish they were on the menu more places in the U.S. That, and caramel slice. Every coffee shop in Australia seemed to sell giant wedges of caramel slice. Not that I mind making it at home, but it's kind of dangerous to have a whole pan full of it sitting right there...

The Easiest Way to Make Vanilla Ice Cream at Home

I prefer the Jeni's ice cream base (which I guess is Philadelphia style?). It's normally eggless, but I improve the vanilla version by stirring the hot cream/milk/sugar/vanilla/tapioca thickened mixture into a bowl in which I've already whisked a couple of egg yolks. It's a super simple base to begin with, and this way I get absolutely no curdling, but the yolks give it a little extra richness. Then I just continue with the recipe as usual, adding the warm dairy mixture to the cream cheese, cooling, then churning.

Sugar Rush: McConnell's Fine Ice Creams, Santa Barbara

Well, that clinches it -- when I'm down visiting family in Ventura this weekend, I'm going to have to stop by the McConnell's location there.

AHT Giveaway: Case of Pat LaFrieda Burgers

My ideal burger party? It would be a burger-themed costume party. Everyone would dress up as their favorite burger-related character, animal, condiment -- anything goes! Ideally, at least one person would dress up as the Hambugler, and two people would come together as both halves of a cow, because those are really good costume choices for this kind of party. The movie "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle" would be playing in the background. We'd have a piñata, though I still haven't decided if it should be filled with candy that tastes like things that go with burgers (root beer gummies, for example) or actual condiment packets (a piñata filled with ketchup packets could get messy). Drinks would include a selection of beers from my favorite California breweries, as well as a variety of milkshakes -- extra thick, of course. The selection of sides would include french fries with homemade mayo, corn on the cob grilled and served with butter, and crisp salads with blue cheese dressing. The selection of burger toppings would, of course, be served atop a scantily clad Ryan Gosling (and/or Henry Cavill -- I'm not picky). A good time, and delicious burgers, would be had by all.

The Scoop: On Olive Oil Gelato, And Why It Works

The Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream book also has a fantastic recipe for olive oil ice cream. Her base doesn't use any egg, so the oilve oil flavor is very clean and the nuances really come through. I've made it quite a few times now, and people are always blown away by how good it is -- it's one of my favorite flavors now. And by the way, adding crushed marcona almonds as a mix-in works really well!

AHT Giveaway: VIP Tickets to the Sacramento Burger Battle

The balance of all the components. I've had many great burgers, and many of those have been very different from each other in terms of cooking style, patty composition, toppings, and bun choice, but what makes a burger work is how well all of the elements play with their friends.

What wine should we buy for our baby?

You might want to do some research on which wine-growing regions had a particularly good year in 2012. Then plan baby's first wine-tasing vacation to wherever looks good! (Not that baby will be wine tasting, but ykwim.) I've got a couple of cool wines from my son's birth year (2007) -- a Stag's Leap cab and Chateau Montelena chard, both of which were the Judgement if Paris winners back in the day. Hopefully they'll be ok in our cellar-ish area until he's old enough to appreciate them!

New Orleans restaurant good for a bachelorette party dinner?

I've seen some great restaurant recommendations for New Orleans in the Talk forums, but I'm looking for something specific, and could use some help: I'll be part of a group of 8 or so ladies visiting New Orleans in late July (yeah, we know it's gonna be hot and muggy!) to celebrate a friend who is getting married. One of the nights, we want to go out to dinner someplace fun, not too extremely expensive, preferably in or near the French Quarter, preferably serving classic southern/New Orleans cuisine, and able to accommodate large groups. A good cocktail menu would be a plus (for the others, anyway -- I'm pregnant and therefore will just look on with envy.) Anyone have a suggestion for someplace meeting those criteria?