Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Macadamia Coconut Brittle

Macadamia Coconut Brittle
Ed & Don's

If someone you know is heading to Hawaii for vacation, and if you selflessly volunteer to take care of whatever needs tending in their absence, you might just be rewarded with some tropical delicacy or other. Try hinting that a can of Ed & Don's Macadamia Coconut Brittle would be just the thing.

Made by hand on O'ahu since 1956, this crackly brittle is full of both actual butter and buttery macadamias.  Add in the toasted coconut, and this confection's perfume is so potent, you get some residual satisfaction by huffing the empty can. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Goat Milk Fudge

 Goat Milk Fudge
Toggenburg Goats of Arizona, $8

Two questions to which I will always answer YES: 

"Would you like a sample of fudge?"

"Would you like to hold a 3-week-old goat?"

I heard both from Suzanne Eaton at the Yuma Farmers Market stall where she and her husband Bob sell goat milk-based soaps, lotions, cheese, and fudge.  The Eatons raise Swiss Toggenburgs, the oldest domesticated breed of goat.  Because the girls need to get used to being handled during milking, the Eatons often bring youngsters along to the market, where the spend the morning charming the crowds from a playpen next to the tent.  

Although her mother sounded about as happy as a car alarm, the baby only struggled for a few seconds when Sue hoisted her out of the pen and into my arms.  Then she leaned in and started to nibble delicately at my chin.  I was proud to play this small part in creating the next generation of rich, chewy goat milk fudge. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Bienenstich II

Das Bratwurst Haus, $4.99

Opened about 3 years ago by a former American GI and his German wife, Das Bratwursthaus is Yuma's one-stop shop for Bavarian specialties--whether edible or collectible.  When the Haus closes down for summer, the owners head back to Germany to stock up on wine, beer, decorative nutcrackers, and souvenir tea towels. 
The umlaut-heavy menu offers full meals as well as a roster of schmankerl or Bavarian snacks.  Desserts include both daily specials and old standbys such as strudel, schwarzwalder kirschtorte (black forest cake), cheesecake, and karrotten kuchen.  I had my eye on the unfamiliar donauwelle (yellow cake topped with chocolate cake and cherries, covered with German butter cream and chocolate glaze) but sadly, this labor-intensive torte only appears on special occasions.  Instead, I opted for bienenstich (a 15th century "bee sting" cake with layers of yeasted pastry, cream, and sliced almonds) and followed the dirndl-clad waitress' suggestion that I enjoy my dessert in the Bavarian manner:  warm and washed down with beer. 

Das Bratwurst Haus
204 S Madison Ave
Yuma AZ
928 / 329-4777

Friday, February 21, 2014


Tacos Mi Rancho, $1.50 

It's not certain where the Spanish and Portuguese got the idea for churros, but they certainly took the treat with them wherever they went.  Found today throughout the Americas and the Philippines, most churros are made by extruding soft dough through a star-shaped die into hot oil.  The resulting crisp sticks may be eaten plain, or glazed, sprinkled, or filled with ingredients ranging from cinnamon sugar to fruit paste to cheese.  Often eaten at breakfast with a cup of hot chocolate, a churro hot from the fryer also makes fine end to a good meal.

Tacos Mi Rancho
188 S 4th Ave
Yuma AZ
928 / 783-2116

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Back in Time Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie
Back in Time Pie Shoppe, $4

Starting in 1864, Yuma's Quartermaster Depot played a vital role in the operation of US Army posts throughout the southwest.  Located on a bluff over the river, the Depot's warehouses were both secure and accessible, an ideal place to store necessities such as clothing, food, and ammunition; the goods were delivered by river, then distributed as needed via mule-drawn wagons.  With the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in the late 1870s, the Depot had outlived its original use, but it continued to to house tenants such as the Signal Corps, Weather Bureau, and Customs Service, until eventually becoming a state park. 

With the state facing severe budget cutbacks in 2009, the city took over the operation of the Depot's Heritage Area, five original buildings housing exhibits on everything from military insignia to irrigation.  Searching for ways to simultaneously attract new visitors and enhance those visitors' experience of the park, someone came up with a genius idea:  pie. 

Since late 2012, the Back in Time Pie Shoppe has offered a wide variety of pies, baked on site, sold from glass stands on a crowded counter, and served on doily-covered tables by women in long skirts and aprons.  You can borrow your favorite teacup from an assortment on the wall, or find a keeper among the many antiques and trinkets for sale in the tearoom and adjacent shop.  You can hold a tea party, play "teago" (the Shoppe's version of bingo), and pick up a loyalty card that allows you to come in for pie without having to pay for park admission. 

Sure, it's a little on the kitsch side, but the Shoppe offers a sensory experience straight out of the Depot's glory days, when pie was an everyday food, often made with and ingredients at hand (like the local nuts in the pecan pie above)--and sometimes served by charming waitresses like those found at 19th century Harvey House restaurants at rail stations throughout the southwest. 

Like attractions in many tourist towns, the Back in Time Pie Shoppe is closed during the off-season--in this case, summer. 

Yuma Quartermaster Depot
Corral Building
Yuma AZ 
928 / 323-2034

Date Rolls

Date Rolls
Yuma Quartermaster Depot, $3.50 /.5lb

For a cold:  hot soup.  For a hangover:  bloody mary mix.  For when a sudden shift to a hot dry climate leaves you feeling like a wrung-out rag:  gallons of water and a pack of date rolls.  Available from the Yuma Visitor Information Center's fridge, each energy-packed log is made from fresh dates pureed into a smooth, creamy fondant, then rolled in either shredded coconut or chopped nuts. 

Yuma Quartermaster Depot Visitor Information Center
201 N 4th Ave
Yuma AZ
928 / 783-0071

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Date Shake

Date Shake
Basket Creations, $4.75 / 16oz with extra dates

Native to the area around Iraq, the date palm has spread around the world thanks to its rich, sticky fruits and an ability to thrive in deserts.  First introduced to North America's southwest in the 1760s, the trees were subsequently planted by orchardists in arid regions of Nevada, California, and Arizona.  But despite the high quality of their products, the domestic market for dates has generally been lukewarm.  

One bump in popularity came in the 1930s, when Russ Nichol, owner of a roadside stand in the California desert, discovered that dates are a delicious addition to milkshakes.  Since the hot, dry areas where dates grow best are also great spots for a winter vacation, date shakes became a must-try refreshment.  

As the sunniest spot on earth, Yuma Arizona is both an ace date producer, and the kind of place where a milkshake makes a great lunch.  At Bard Date company's downtown storefront, Basket Creations, date shakes are available with your choice of ice cream and in either smooth or chunky formats.  Both are flavored with date puree, but the chunky version also includes a handful of roughly chopped dates that sink to the bottom of the cup and swell up as they soak in the dregs of melted ice cream, turning into a kind of accidental custard.  

Not in date country?  It's easy to whip up your own date shake by soaking chopped dates in a little boiling water until soft and then blending them into a smooth paste that you can for topping or blending with vanilla ice cream.

Basket Creations
245 S Main St
Yuma AZ
928 / 341-9966 

Sunday, February 16, 2014


Arizona yards, free! 

As much as I enjoy elaborately crafted treats, nothing beats found food.  Encountering fresh pecans for the first time, I gorged myself under the tree by squeezing them together two at time until the weaker shell gave way, allowing me to scrabble out the sweet, soft meat inside.  Best of all was eating those nuts that conked me on the head as I snacked:  sweet, sweet, revenge. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Brown & Haley's Mountain Bar

Mountain Bar
Brown and Haley, $1.25

Seattle's gritter neighbor to the south, Tacoma was long renowned for a distinctive "Tacoma aroma" produced by its many local industries.  But since the early twentieth century, at least one inner-city manufacturer has given locals a good reason to inhale deeply:  the Brown & Haley confectionery company.  

Starting their business in 1912, founders Harry Brown and JC Haley faced both challenges and opportunities similar to those faced by budding confectioners in 2008.  With the country on the brink of crisis, the demand for affordable luxuries rose steadily even as supply chains became increasingly unpredictable.  

Launched in 1915, the "Mount Tacoma Bar" became a particular favorite with the young soldiers training at nearby Camp Lewis (now Joint Base Lewis McChord).  A center of vanilla fondant layered with tempered chocolate and crushed peanuts, the confection was soon renamed the "Mountain Bar" as its popularity spread beyond the city limits.  A cherry version was added in the 1920s and a peanut butter one in 1974.  The female "dippers' who originally made each bar by hand (below left) were eventually replaced by machines capable of making 592 bars per minute.

Brown & Haley is still operating in downtown Tacoma, led by JC's granddaughter Anne Haley.  Although the factory floor is now closed to visitors, you can visit the outlet store (housed in a kiosk recycled from Seattle's 1968 World's Fair) for seconds, specials, and generous samples. 

Brown & Haley Factory Store
110 E 26th St 
Tacoma WA
253 / 620-3067
110 East 26th St, Tacoma, WA 98421(253) 620-3067
110 East 26th St, Tacoma, WA 98421(253) 620-3067

Friday, January 10, 2014

Jat Juk

Jat Juk

With every graphite-colored day that drags by I find myself grasping for new winter survival strategies.  Currently, I'm leaning on homemade pudding and awkward song parodies. 

This recipe for Korean jat juk, an intensely comforting pinenut-rice-date porridge, comes from Mark Reinfeld and Jennifer Murray's excellent "The 30 Minute Vegan's Taste of the East."  I added only this optional theme song, sung to the tune of Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer in the City":

"Hot pudding!  Winter in the city!  Back of my spoon feelin' really cinnamon-y!"

Jat Juk

1/2c lightly toasted pine nuts 
1 1/2c water 
pinch of salt 
1/4 c brown rice flour 
3T agave or other sweetener 
4 finely chopped dates 
pinch of cinnamon 

Blend the nuts and 1c of water in a blender or processor until smooth; pour into saucepan and place over medium heat.  

Meanwhile, use a frying pan to dry fry the rice flour over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently; slowly add 1/2c of water, whisking for a smooth paste.  

Add the pine nut mix and salt to the rice mix; cook until it thickens, about 5 minutes, whisking well, then stir in the sweetener. 

Pour into serving bowls and top with chopped dates and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

"Hot pudding!"

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Egyptian Date Cake

Egyptian Date Cake

Spellchecker may object to my saying so, but many traditional Egyptian sweets are what you might call desert desserts, based in large part on sweet crops like apricots, grapes, and dates that thrive along the damp margins of the Nile in what is otherwise a hot and arid environment.

In their A World of Recipes: Egypt, Sue Townsend and Caroline Young give this recipe for a spongy, spicy Egyptian date cake:

11oz/325g fresh dates, pits removed

5oz/150g blanched almonds
4oz/100g soft brown sugar
1 orange, washed
4 eggs¼ c superfine granulated sugar

½ t ground cardamom
1 ½ oz/40g butter
3T cornstarch
1t confectioners sugar

Butter a a 9” springform pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

In a food processor, blend the almonds and brown sugar until coarsely chopped; add the dates and blend until finely chopped, but not ground.

Grate the orange rind, then squeeze one half of the orange.

Separate the eggs and whisk the whites into soft peaks.

Beat the yolks with the granulated sugar and cardamom; add the date mixure, orange rind, 1T of the orange juice, and the cornstarch.

Gently fold the egg whites into the date mixture.

Spoon the batter into the pan and bake 35-45 minute at 400/200 degrees until the cake springs back with pressed.

Dust with confectioners sugar before serving.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Buttermilk Pie

Mini Buttermilk Pie
Emerald City Fish and Chips, $2

At Emerald City Fish and Chips, the emphasis on Southern style and family recipes extends from the entrees to the desserts.  An in-law bakes the four-bite mini pies, filled with either sweet potato or a rich, sweet, golden custard that the name "buttermilk" doesn't quite do justice to.

Emerald City Fish and Chips
3756 Rainier Ave S
Seattle WA
206 / 760-3474

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Various groceries, from $4.99/lb

Google "cherimoya" and you'll inevitably lean that this tropical fruit was hailed by Mark Twain as "deliciousness itself."  (It's curious that an early American writer would dominate an such an indirect internet search.  Is it because he hit the nail on the head?  Or because in the 150 years since his pronouncement, no one has been quite so effusive?)

Originating in either Central or South America, cherimoya shrubs are now grown around the world, particularly in the southern parts of Asia, California, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.  The fruit's strikingly bumpy skin is aptly characterized by Wikipedia as "'slightly tubercular," but it's the tendency of its pale flesh to turn creamy when fully ripe that earned cherimoya the English name "custard apple."  Flavor notes vary among varietals, but descriptions commonly refer to a combination of other fruits, especially banana and pineapple, leading the first time taster to expect an all-in-one tropical fruit salad.  Whether those expectations are met hinges on factors including how far the fruit has had to travel and how well it was treated along the way. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Pie in a Bowl

Pie in a Bowl
Skillet, $6

Acknowledging that baking pie filling inside a pie shell isn't always worth the risk, Skillet takes a surer route to satisfaction by cooking the components separately.  Not until you place an order for "pie in a bowl" do the tender chocolate pudding and shards of perfectly cooked crust come together in the eponymous bowl, where their sweetness is balanced out by a smattering of sea salt and bitter cocoa nibs. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nab Vam

Nab Vam 
Seattle Center's Hmong New Year, $2

Food is a big component of Hmong New Year or Xyoo Tshiah, the only major holiday observed throughout the Hmong diaspora.  There's pork in several formats, there's a spicy salad of pounded green papaya, there's the chewy confection ncuav, a mochi cousin made from pounded sticky rice.

And there's nab vam, a dessert-drink hybrid so colorful it rivals the appliqued costumes worn by many of the young celebrants.  Although nab vam is often translated as "three color dessert," the variety of textures in each cup is at least as important and often more numerous.  As Sami Scripter and Sheng Vang explain in their excellent Hmong cookbook, Cooking from the Heart, "Westerners are  used to solid and liquid food being separate.  That is not so for the Hmong (and Asians in general), who delight in a variety of slippery, crunchy, chewy, and watery sensations all happening in the same dish.”

Nab vam's textural delights usually include crunchy crushed ice, runny caramel syrup, unctuous coconut cream, slippery strings of rice flour jelly, and bubbly balls of "frog egg" tapioca.  Extras might include crisp water chestnuts, soft-cooked beans, or juicy bits of chopped fruit.  How popular is it?  Scripter and Vang's standard recipe makes 40 servings.