Tuesday, June 30, 2015
This past weekend, I took some time off to head north to Sacramento and visit foodwriter Garrett McCord of Vanilla Garlic and Melt fame. Garrett's been trying to get me to visit, and finally thanks to the flexibility of summertime, our schedules synced up. I've also been meaning to check out Sacramento for some time now, since recently its food and arts scene has sort of been exploding. Of course, it's always been the California state capital and home of some awesome Gold Rush era sights that I visited on school field trips as a little kid, but other than that, in the past while I was growing up in the Bay Area, Sacramento as a town was never particularly a destination (especially to us snottier SF Bay folks). But all that has been changing recently, and after hearing so much buzz about the town, I was really excited to be able to see it for myself. And Garrett, who knows the food/arts scene there really well, was the perfect guide. I was only in Sac for about 24 hours, but I already can't wait to go back again.
I kicked off the weekend by doing some cafe writing at Chocolate Fish Coffee Roasters (waiting for Garrett to get off of work) so that I could try the new "nitro coffee" craze. Nitro coffee is cold coffee served out of a tap, and it has this ultra clean taste with tiny bubbles. It's not at all bitter and doesn't have any of that deep roastedness that regular coffee has, and it was an interesting experience to drink coffee that texturally felt like beer. Then, Garrett took Sabrina of The Tomato Tart and me to this amazing Thai restaurant called Thai Basil for dinner (pictured below). It takes a lot to impress me with good Thai food because there's so much of it where I live, but Thai Basil did not disappoint at all. There's this amazing seasonal menu that had dishes I've never seen before at a Thai restaurant, like this nam prik ong dipping platter, of ultra fresh veggies and rice crackers, with a meaty, tomato, chili-y sauce. So. Good. We rounded off the night at B Street Theatre, watching the current production of The Explorers' Club, which has this awesome mix of high society British colonialization comedy and unexpected slapstick. We sat in the dark, popping Andy's Candy chocolate-covered salted caramels in our mouths between laughing, and all in all having pretty rollicking good time.
The next day, I spent quite some time hanging out with Garrett's adorable menagerie of pets. I travel too much to have animals of my own, so I try to spoil my friends' pets with all the love and affection (and camera stalking) that I can whenever I get the chance. ♥
Then, we headed to the farmers' market to pick up some ingredients for a potluck that we were attending that afternoon. Garrett and I waffled back and forth about what we wanted to make...a salad? a dessert? It had to be something that would be delicious and simple but stand up well in the heat outside. And it also had to be something that struck the right balance between light and heavy, since no one would be wanting to eat a triple-layered cake in 100 degree weather under the afternoon sun on a dusty, drought-parched hillside. Finally, inspired by what looked best that day at the market, we settled on a blackberry, peach, & corn cobbler.
Garrett has a beautiful section of thyme in his garden, and so I chose some silver thyme, which has bright lemony overtones to throw in with the sweet yellow peaches and inky, midnight-black berries. For the biscuit topping on the cobbler, we added plump kernels of fresh yellow corn for a natural sweetness and gritty cornmeal for extra texture, and used sour cream instead of butter for a lighter tang to the biscuits. The overall cobbler was not very sweet at all, and allowed all of the market-fresh summer flavors to shine through in their unadulturated glory.
(Also, may I say that I am now sooo lusting after Garrett's beautiful Le Creuset oval baker that we used.)
The cobbler was a hit at the potluck. Someone else brought orange blossom meringue cookies, and we discovered that in breaking up some of the sugary sweet, floral meringue cookies and mixing them in with our rustic, fruity, earthy cobbler upon serving, together they made an even better dessert. It was like the best of potluck kismet.
Thanks once again to Garrett for the wonderful (and naturally, delicious) Sacramento weekend!
Read on for recipe...
Blackberry, Peach, & Corn Cobbler
makes one 9x13-inch (or equivalent) cobbler
1 ear of yellow corn, with husk on.
2 lb. yellow peaches
2 punnets blackberries
3 to 4 sprigs of silver thyme (optional)
1/4 cup (32 g) cornstarch
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/4 cup (45 g) cornmeal
1 3/4 cup (230 g) all-purpose flour
2 tspn baking powder
1/4 tspn salt
1/2 cup + 1 Tbspn (130 g) heavy cream, plus extra for brushing
1/2 cup (115 g) sour cream
coarse turbinado or demerara sugar, for sprinkling
1. Preheat oven to 450° F.
2. With the corn still in its husk, heat the corn in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Remove from the microwave and let cool. Once cool, remove the husk and cut the kernels from the cob. Set aside.
3. Pit and slice the peaches. In a large bowl, combine the peaches with the blackberries. Add the thyme leaves, if using. Toss the fruit with the cornstarch and sugar. Let macerate for a few minutes while preparing the biscuit topping.
4. Meanwhile for the topping, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, sour cream, and the corn kernels. Gently fold the cream mixture into the flour mixture, being careful not to overmix. You should have a clumpy mess rather than a uniform dough. If the dough is a little bit dry (e.g., leftover flour at the bottom of the bowl), add about 1 more Tbspn of cream.
5. Using a slotted spoon, strain the fruit and transfer into a baking dish (9x13-inch or equivalent), discarding the leftover liquid (or, you can cook this down into a syrup for other uses). Using your hands, form loose biscuits about 2-inches in diameter in size and place on top of the fruit. Brush the top of each biscuit with heavy cream and sprinkle generously with turbinado or demerara sugar.
6. Bake in the oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the cobbler is golden on top. Remove from the oven and let cool briefly before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dash of cream or a scoop of ice cream, if desired.