We were still in the airport parking garage, ten minutes after landing that Bill placed a small bucket full to the rim with crabapples and positively so proud of himself said "You love them so much that as soon as I saw them at the store I had to get you some. Welcome back!" Clearly, if you knew my husband, this would make you melt in an heartbeat. This non shopping, non cooking kind of guy had just connected with me on another level. And what did I say in return? "I must recreate Bouchon Lemon Tart in a gluten free version as soon as possible! Shauna must try it!".
Forget the crabapples, forget the pot of soup simmering on the stove, forget the house all shiny and tidy. I could not shut up about the great meal I had had with Anita, Shauna, Danny and Lu the Monday after BlogHer. And I could not stop thinking about Bouchon and their lemon tart. Go figure.
We headed out in the morning to Napa in search of pork. For real. Shauna and Danny also write Pork, Knife and Spoon. It's all about the pork, and we did find it in Napa. We made a quick stop in front of The French Laundry for a "Bench Monday" photo op and then headed down to Bouchon for lunch. What a lunch! I am not sure what I loved the most between our exquisite dishes, Lucy flirting with the people in the room or the decor that sent me back to French bistros back home. I relaxed, I breathed, I paused. I forgot every bit of crappy stuff and wished Bill had been there with me. He would have loved the food, the company and the relaxed setting.
Desserts were all tempting but if I spot a lemon tart on the menu, I blank on pretty much everything else and my mouth quickly screams for a bite. Bouchon lemon's tart is one of the bests I have ever had. The filling is tart just so, the shortbread crust is sandy and crispy just right and the addition of pine nuts gives it an earthy texture that complements perfectly the smooth filling. The slice was big. I ate it all. I did not even think twice. And I wanted more.
I sighed I could not share a bit with Shauna right there as the tart was not gluten free but we all agreed that this would be one of the easiest desserts to adapt for gluten sensitive folks and I set about the task as soon as I got home (recipe and more pictures are right after the jump).
After lunch we headed to Bouchon Bakery where I resisted buying another lemon tart and settled on one of their giant macarons. They are seriously huge which is perfect for sharing. I shared an espresson one with Anita while Lu and Shauna settled on a raspberry macaron. Happy. But we were on a pork mission afterall...
Well fed and satisfied, we felt safe to tackle The Fatted Calf without wanting to eat their entire display. My desire of visiting their outpost in Napa goes back to the days when Sam of Becks and Posh used to describe the content of her Saturday market basket. Toulouse sausage, pancetta, merguez. Finally the day had come! I think I have a disease that makes my brain shut off and erase from memory all previous meals while making room for more food. I could have eaten one of every item in the store.
My heart did skip a bit when I spotted figatelli on the counter. I kept having flash backs to many aperitifs held on my parents' terrace where I'd try to sneak as many pieces of figatelli as I could. After school snacks of olives, bread rubbed with garlic and tomatoes and a few slices of that sausage. I tried my best not to spill the content of my nostalgia to the very nice lady behind the counter. I added some spicy chorizo and petit sec to my loot as I knew Bill would love some of those too.
I was psyched to hear we would also make a stop at Rancho Gordo during our Napa excursion. I have no idea why my first blog reads were almost all from the Bay area but needless to say I have been hearing them sing Steve Sando's praises for quite some time now, increasing my desire to put my hands on some genuinely good heirloom beans.
Yes, I know. I am all about buying and eating local but I think I was a Western local in a previous life and a part of me got stuck there. I borrowed being local for 5 days and the people of San Francisco were very generous in sharing that with me.
Oh! What a day! We headed back to town and reluctantly said goodbye to Shauna, Danny and Lu. I can't describe how lucky I felt to share so much in so little time with them. We all spilled our gutts, laughed and cried. We shared from the most raw places in our hearts and yet with the most uplifting bravery. Thank you guys! Thank you for letting me play with Lu so much!
There was so much more good stuff to come too, starting with a fabulous dinner at Contigo.
Since Brett announced on his blog In Praise Of Sardines that he was opening up his own restaurant, Contigo, I have been cheering him on all the way from SC. Thanks to Anita and Cameron who have sort of made it their joint, I have been able to read rave reviews pouring in about the place and I can add that they are all justified. The tapas menu is creative and fun, the dishes executed with flair with the freshest ingredients and the atmosphere and staff make the whole experience relaxed and delectable. Bravo Brett and your staff!
I was fortunate to share this incredible feast with other smart and dedicated food bloggers, Caron, Sean and Paul, Tea and Anita. Thank you guys for making this evening memorable and lively of conversations, patient of my photographing all the dishes so I could relate the Bill exactly what we had. Everything from the garden steamed vegetables, stuffed piquillo peppers, jamon iberico, lemon verbena flan and churros con chocolate (and many more in between) were spot on! A total of 15 tapas were shared and loved.
I know Brett had quite his share of bloggers' visits for dinner that weekend and it is all well deserved. If you are in San Francisco and have not stepped foot there, run there! If you plan a trip to SF in the near future, run there too! You won't be disappointed. Tapas done right. Local and fresh ingredients. Dedication pays off.
I just want to wrap this post on an incredible day but saying how grateful I am to Anita and Cameron for their generosity and hospitality in having me stay a little while after the conference was over. These two live 100% whether at work or play and it shows. I could not have asked for better hosts and friends in San Francisco.
Stay tuned for another installment of this trip when I get to play a whole day with Tea and discover another side of town. There will also be another dessert adaptation. This time from one I had at Contigo.
For now, I am going to curl up on the sofa with a gluten free lemon tart and dream I were cooking and dancing with all the friends I have left out West...
Gluten Free Lemon Tarts:
Makes six 4-inch tartlets
Kitchen note:I have a very hard time finding brown rice flour and Shauna suggested making my own by pulverizing brown rice until very fine. The gluttinous texture of the brown rice helps with the crust much better than white rice flour.
For the crust:
1 stick (113gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (60gr) unsifted powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
pinch of salt
1 cup (160gr) brown rice flour
1/4 cup (30gr) amaranth flour (you could use sorghum flour)
1/4 (40gr) potato starch
1/4 cup (20gr) ground almonds
For the filling:
5 tablespoons (80gr) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (100gr) sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced (about 1/2 cup of juice)
Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and pinch of salt and mix until incorporated. Add the three different flours and ground almonds and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Do not work the dough while in the mixer or it will toughen it up. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center. Place eight tart rings on a parchment lined baking sheet and set aside.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic. Cut out eight 6-inch-rounds into the dough and fit them into eight 4-inch tart rings. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the rings, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with pieces of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10 minutes. Remove the weights and parchment paper. Keep the oven at 350F.
Prepare the filling:
In a small saucepan, melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, the juice and zest from the lemons. Add the melted butter and whisk to incorporate. Divide evenly among the tarts and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve room temperature.