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Raph

The Perfect Holiday Gift: Robert Lambert Fruit Cakes

Holiday fruit cakes have gotten a lot of slack over time, and in all honesty, some of them don’t hold a candle to Christmas cookies (ahem the ones with neon green and pink fake fruits that don’t taste like fruit at all.) We’re proud this season to be selling exquisite fruit cakes hand-made by award winning cookbook author and chef Robert Lambert.

The White Fruit Cake is Robert’s grandmother’s original recipe.  Although he removed most of the glacéed fruit and added his own, the cherries and pineapple are still there. To those he’s added Brazil nuts, local pecans and whole blanched toasted almonds. The walnuts are doused with boiling water before toasting to reduce their bitterness.  Deeply ripe oranges from DeSantis Farms are squeezed for juice just before it’s added; their golden raisins are also there.. Lambert’s own candied young ginger, candied bergamot, Rangpur lime, Meyer lemon and blood orange peels are all included. Each cake is soaked in the finest French cognac, topped with a California bay leaf and candied white grapefruit peel star.

But there’s more! Cooks traditionally made both a light and a dark cake, so named by the tone of their fruit and batter. Lambert’s Dark Fruit Cake, with molasses, brown sugar, port wine and spices, is darker in flavor as well. Since Robert’s grandmother’s recipe was lost, he worked from many old sources to forge a unique take on this classic.  He mixes in cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, 10-year-old Ficklin port, local hazelnuts and pecans, plus the walnuts and fresh squeezed OJ from DeSantis Farms. He uses their dark raisins in this one, plus prunes, and their black figs soaked in Pear William eau de vie. Kadrawi dates, an ancient variety, come from Flying Disc Ranch in Thermal, California. The recipe isn’t complete without his own rare candied Texas lemon and Buddha’s hand citron, bergamot, blood orange and white grapefruit peels, and candied young ginger. Each cake is soaked in Jack Daniels bourbon whiskey, topped with California bay leaf and candied blood orange peel star. Whew!


Recipe for Fall: Thai Style Carrot Ginger Soup

If you’ve been taking carrots for granted (we don’t blame you, it happens!) it’s time to re-discover them. Their combination of sweetness and great vitamins is hard to beat. We worked up a soup recipe that makes them shine with zing from fresh ginger, and a hint of sweet richness from coconut milk. Cozy up and let us know in a comment how you tweak it your way!

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Makes about 8 cups.

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbs. butter

1 large yellow onion, diced

Kosher salt

1 ½ lbs. carrots, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)

3 Tbs. chopped ginger

1 Tbs. mild curry powder

4 cups vegetable or chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium)

15 oz. can coconut milk

1 Tbs. lemon or lime juice, more as needed

Heat the olive oil and butter in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onions and 1 tsp. salt and cover the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrots, ginger, and curry and continue to cook uncovered for another 2 minutes to “bloom” the spices. Add the stock, bring just to a boil over high heat, and then reduce to a simmer. Cover the pot partially and continue to simmer for another 20-30 minutes, or until the carrots are completely tender.

Carefully puree the soup in batches in a blender and return to the pot. Stir in the coconut milk and lemon juice and rewarm gently. Taste and season with more salt or lemon juice as needed.


2009 German Rieslings with Jon Bonne: Trac Goes Wine Tasting

Recently I did a tasting of 2009 German Rieslings with Jon Bonne of the SF Chronicle and Yoon Ha, sommelier of Benu. If this tasting was any indication, the 2009 vintage is going to be stellar, especially with the Kabinett and Spatlese ripeness level.  Blindly tasting through about 50 wines, we diligently narrowed the group down to about 10 wines that we deemed the best of the bunch.

We were impressed by the overall quality of the wines, but two producers stood above the others: Christoffel and Willi Schaefer. I gave Willi Schaefer “Graacher Dompbrobst” Kabinett Riesling my highest rating and was thrilled because Schaefer has always been a favorite of mine. Another surprising finding from the tasting was the group of Rieslings made from native yeasts. As part of the natural wine movement, native yeasts are a big topic these days; I was surprised these wines didn’t show as well. Most of them were marked by high sulfur notes and I couldn’t figure out if these producer were over sulfuring, or if the native yeasts gave off these aromas. They tasted good but I couldn’t get past the “off” aromas. This is probably why natural wines haven’t taken off in Germany yet. Nevertheless, I truly enjoyed the tastings and having the opportunity to taste with Jon and Yoon. Keep an eye out for Willi Sachefer at Bi-Rite Market– their wine is truly remarkable.

Here’s the article Jon wrote in the Chronicle- the official breakdown of what we tasted:  http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2010/10/10/FD1Q1FP6HV.DTL&feed=rss.wineselections