Spice Program for Baker’s Dozen on January 26, 2016
Tammy Tan, owner/spiceologist from Spice Hound (meaning, “those who seek the best spices”, according to Tan) searches locally and globally for fresh fragrant flavors which inspire her line of spices, herbs, blends, salts and spice accessories. Spice Hound offers advice on how to use unusual spices and salts through her website, www.spicehound.com. You can also find her in person at the Palo Alto and Campbell farmer’s markets. She loves talking to her customers about spices and anything food related. She feels she learns a lot from her diverse customers and their feedback influences what she offers. Tammy continually educates herself on new food trends and unique cuisines to create new blends and seek out unusual spices. She recently went to the Fancy Food Show to get more ideas on the latest trends.
Tammy shared her expertise and extensive knowledge of one commonly used spice in the U.S.: cinnamon. Cinnamon is in the Laurel family. There are two main groupings of cinnamon—Ceylon/Sri Lanka and Cassia. Ceylon is a soft bark variety and tan/light brown in color whereas Cassia is a hard bark variety, normally darker brown to reddish brown in color. The flavor profile for Ceylon is woodsy and mild with no bitter notes. Cassia has an agreeable bitterness and a higher oil content. Americans often prefer it because of its pungency. Either kind of cinnamon can be used in baking or cooking. It just depends on your own preferences. Vietnamese cinnamon is even stronger because it has more bitter/volatile oils. Tan went on to explain the process of stripping the cinnamon from the bark of the tree, which sounds like an incredibly labor intensive process.
Our next guest speaker was Andrea Johnson, the pastry chef at All Spice Restaurant, in San Francisco (which has another location in San Mateo). Andrea first spoke of her two favorite books, which inspire her ideas for pairing spices with desserts. She likes: Medicinal Herbs by Rosemary Gladstar and The Flavor Bible by Karen Page & Andrew Dornenburg. Andrea went on to share her thought processes for putting together a dessert and dessert menu. She starts with the seasons: Winter, spring, summer and fall. Then she thinks about the types of moods or ideas that could create an emotion within each season. An example of which could be fall: which makes you think of pumpkins, which could lead you to a pumpkin spice cake paired with caramel ice cream. She likes to work with three elements. One element to enhance another and another one to mute a more spicy one. She brought along a sample of how she balances out a dessert. She made a chocolate bonbon that was white chocolate on the outside. Inside was a ganache made from coconut milk that she flavored with turmeric and cloves. She used the cloves to boost the turmeric flavor while using the coconut milk to tame the cloves. The balance was phenomenal. And for extra chocolate bonus, the bottom was dark chocolate. It was such a nice combination. She develops her own menu to have 3 items—one chocolate, one fruit related and one caramel. She also shared her chai drink as well.
While at lunch, Chef Sachin Chopra commented that one of his biggest challenges in the restaurant is finding good help, referring to chefs. He doesn’t mind the time he spends on the road driving back and forth between SF and San Mateo. It gives him time to contemplate his next menu ideas. It’s more of a challenge, because both restaurants have different menus. He believes that the SF diners are looking for more of an “experience” whereas the San Mateo restaurant is more about a really good meal.
Written by Rose Gillen