Chilebrown at home

Friday, December 27, 2019


I kid you not, it is National Fruitcake Day. Who would of thunk?. It seems a little appropriate seeing I have been on a fruitcake roll lately. In fact, I was so motivated, a trip to San Francisco to visit Artizmendi's Bakery was put into the fruitcake itinerary. I went very early Saturday morning. This was a strategic move because Bay Area traffic is very unpredictable. A swift 35 minute drive and nearby parking made this trip fairly pleasant. Arizmendi's is a very popular local bakery in the Sunset district. It smells fantastic inside. I stake my place in line and soak up the aroma. This fruitcake is under a pound and cost 25 dollars. I asked if there was booze in this cake and the clerk guaranteed a healthy glow after a slice.. 

When I got home I unwrapped the festive butcher paper to reveal and unleash a brandy fueled aroma that permeated this cheesecloth covered Christmas cake. This cake was very moist. Lots of dried fruits with a very heavy hand of Christmas themed spices This cake was very good and the only critique I would have is to lessen the spice mixture.

In closing for my fruitcake year end adventure are two very inexpensive (cheap) cakes found at the local Wally World. I did purchase them in the name of research. I have not tried them but just handling them they seem very moist and I am going to guess very sweet. I hope your Holiday season is full of fruitcake. Happy National Fruitcake Day.

Friday, December 20, 2019


I love fruitcake and when Ms. Goofy suggested making a fruitcake Biscotti I was excited. She found this recipe on the World Wide Web. Ms. Goofy is not a fan of fruit cake and it took some gentle persuasion for her to make this recipe. She does like to bake. I was tasked to source the ingredients. You know it was not that easy to find glaceed fruits. Apparently these fruits are not in high demand anymore. The Berkeley Bowl where every food ingredient known to man had my preciousness fruitcake material

This recipe includes pistachios, flour, sugar, butter, fruitcake material and spices. Biscotti is baked twice to create a brick hard texture. I would say biscotti is not for everyone. It is not overly sweet and is a flavor and texture kind of cookie experience. Traditionally it is served with coffee or espresso for dunking. I chose eggnog for my fruitcake biscotti dunking medium. Ms. Goofy's rendition was crunchy and sweet with the addition of glaceed fruits. I loved it.  Tis the season to love fruitcake.

Monday, December 16, 2019


Love them, make jokes about them or just plain hate them, fruitcakes bring deep passionate biases from everyone. I personally love fruitcakes. My mother used to make fruitcakes and shared a love I still have to day. Usually the cakes are made this holiday season. It actually is a plus to make them months in advance to let the flavors mellow and age especially if your cake has liquor as an ingredient. This year I did not make the cake for various reasons. Instead I purchased the Christmas themed cake from several bakeries and a very special cake from an artisanal jam maker from Berkeley. I would like to share and make some observations about these purchases.

My first cake was bought at ‘A Taste of Denmark” (formerly Neldams for you old timers). It is a seasonal cake and sold by the pound. I got a little sticker shock when I found out this cake would cost me 40 dollars for approximately a pound of cake. This cake did not have liquor as an ingredient. It had raisins, nuts, candied cherries with a dense dark cake. It was very sweet and I enjoyed it. My only criticism was the actual cake was a tad dry.

We will skip to my third purchase from the Alpine Bakery. This was the cheapest cake at 20 dollars for around a pound of cake. This cake did have rum as an ingredient. The ingredients were currents, raisins, lemon & orange peel and cherries. The cake was similar in taste to the first but was moister. It may have been a cheaper because it did not contain nuts. Because it was moister I enjoyed this cake a little more.

We move to the Grand Dame of fruitcakes; June Taylors Christmas Cake. Let’s talk about sticker shock. Enlarge the photo below and you will see the price for this possibly less than 16 ounce cake. I would like to share a cut and pasted description of her cake.

 What she refers to as Christmas Cake (“I am British and Christmas cake is traditionally a rich fruitcake in the style that I make it,” she says) is a testament to Taylor’s painstaking year-long process. In the fall, she dries five different varieties of grapes to make currants and raisins; in the summer, she dries stone fruits (her mashup usually includes Bing cherries, apricots and plums); and in the winter, she candies citrus peel. It’s Seville orange this year. All the fruit gets macerated in a private reserve port from St. George Spirits (based in Alameda) before baking. Taylor relies on premium ingredients from local producers like Massa Organics for their Mission Almonds, Straus for sweet butter and Soul Food Farm in Vacaville for pastured eggs. The result is a powerful but balanced cake washed in Chardonnay brandy for a hint but not a wallop of alcohol.

I bought this cake and was trying to justify the cost. I know I can easily spend this amount in ingredients for the cake if I made it myself. This also would make enough to last me all year and give several away. June Taylor has made a labor intensive cake that can only really be duplicated at your home. She also uses steps like drying her own fruit. Oh what the heck, I do love fruitcake. I gingerly unwrapped the water colored paper hand stamped letterpress design inspired by “The Book of Kells”. Immediately a distinct odor of brandy permeates my receptors.

This cake is very moist. The dried fruit is distinct flavored but marries together to form a symphony of flavor. The cake has a warming effect by the booze. There are many layers of flavor to this cake. This is one of the reasons I am a fan of fruitcake. June Taylor has captured the spirit of this cake. Her attention to detail with all of her ingredients works for me. I cannot justify the price tag for everyone. I have made fruitcakes myself and know the labor and costs involved. The most important factor here is; I love fruitcake.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019


There is a new kid on the block. There has a been a buzz about the Grand Opening of a new taqueria in Richmond California. In the Bay Area we have hundreds of taquerias that come and go but for some reason Tacos El Tucan was receiving a lot of attention. It was a dark and stormy morning that I braved the elements to get in line to experience El Tucan.

They have a 12 noon opening and the line was 10 deep. I took my place in line. Taco El Tucan is housed in a former hot dog establishment that had been in business for probably half a century. This building was receiving new life with a new paint job, owners and cuisine.

Tacos El Tucan is serving the trending flavor of "Tijuana Style Tacos". This an open face taco with freshly grilled meats, salsa and a dollop of guacamole. This place offered a quesataco which involved cheese crisped on the griddle flat top. What this place does have is fresh made tortillas. The meat is grilled to order and there is a scrumptious looking roast of marinated pork shoulder spinning on a custom grill.

I should of tried the Tijuana style taco but I had a craving for a super burrito. The smell of grilling beef was a very pleasant aroma that made my wait difficult. I want to mention the salsa bar. They had three different salsas that were pretty decent. They also had a curdito which consisted of pickled cucumbers, onions and (I initially thought they were carrots) habanero peppers that will knock your socks off with heat. Be careful.

The place was packed so I took my burrito home  It tasted fine and nothing really rang any bells. I did order the super buritto which was supposed to include guacamole and sour cream. This cost extra. As some of you know I posted my journey on Facebook. I also mentioned this absence of sour cream and guacamole. The people of Tacos El Tucan saw this post and offered me a replacement meal free of charge. What great customer service.

When I return the Tijuana style taco will be ordered. Tacos El Tucan has several things going for it and we hope for their success. The place offers freshly cooked meats and accompaniments to create great food. The customer service is fantastic by their reaching out to me to make things right on my order. I selfishly hope the line is smaller.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


Ms. Goofy went to the Dickens Faire this last weekend. One of the performers tried to sell her some rat pie and gave her this advertisement flyer. Ms. Goofy did not admit to actually trying said pie but I would imagine it might be served with these utensils.