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Café Hacienda San Pedro, a trendy coffee shop in San Juan, is buzzing. A long line snakes through it. People are chatting; dogs sit snoozing. Everything looks normal.

But in a few months, it probably won’t.

After a 2 1/2-hour drive into the mountains, through denuded trees and winding roads cleared by chainsaws, it’s clear that this coffee company has been devastated at its source.

When Hurricane Maria hit nearly three weeks ago, it wiped out more than three-quarters of the island’s small agricultural sector overnight, by some estimates.

“I think that maybe 90 percent of the plantation was destroyed by the hurricane,” says Roberto Atienza, the third generation of his family to grow coffee on this land in central Puerto Rico. He has turned it into a specialty coffee company, with hand-picked beans that are dried in the sun.

Harvest season came late this year, he says. They had picked just 2 percent of the beans before Hurricane Maria blasted through. The ripple effects will continue — he expects the company, including the San Juan coffee shop, to run out of beans in December.

His daughter Rebecca Atienza owns the coffee shop, and she says they are trying to work out contingency plans, such as asking for waivers to sell coffee from outside Puerto Rico and working reduced hours.

She walks through mangled hillsides and broken coffee plants. Orange and plantain trees are crumpled, with fruit rotting on the ground.

“This was a beautiful place with a lot of trees,” she says. “It’s like a different place.”

Rebecca remembers first surveying the damage after the hurricane. “No words. Like — what are we going to do now? And we have so much to do, but we didn’t know where to start.”

They started with cleaning the family home, which was flooded by a river flowing through the property. Then, Rebecca says, they began the long, slow work of clearing the plantation of downed trees and branches.

Agriculture is traditionally important to Puerto Rico but is currently less than 1 percent of the economy. U.S. policy in the 1940s and ’50s pushed manufacturing on the island over farming.

In the mountainous, rural area of Jayuya, Hacienda San Pedro is one of the largest job providers. Roberto says it employs about 100 people during peak harvest times. Now fewer than two dozen are working.

The area was hit hard by the storm, and employees are dealing with rebuilding their homes. There also simply isn’t much coffee that can be harvested.

Roberto examines beans growing on a tree damaged at the roots. “This is OK, this is OK,” he says, pointing to a few mature beans that are pink and red. But, he adds, “really the percent of trees like this is very, very small.”

The coffee that remains on trees is not of the quality that this artisanal grower usually sells. And many of the plants are completely stripped bare, as on one hillside next to Tres Picachos, one of the tallest peaks on the island.

“From here to the top of the mountain, everything looks like this,” says Roberto, pointing to rows of what used to be full-fledged trees, reduced to spindly branches. “Those without leaves are coffee. No coffee, no bean, no nothing in some places.”

The Atienzas say that getting their plantation back to full capacity is likely to take years.

Roberto expects that it will take at least six months to receive new coffee plants from the Department of Agriculture that they can replant, because the nurseries supplying them were also devastated by the storm.

Finances are also going to slow the replanting process. The plantation has insurance, but Roberto says it won’t cover all of the damage. He will focus his immediate efforts on areas in relatively good condition, then move on to the rest of the plantation when he can afford it.

Roberto has a dollar figure for how much the damage will cost: “I think that the damage on coffee and crops and everything is more than $500,000.”

He expects the next good season will be in three years — as long as another hurricane doesn’t hit.

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Article taken from NPR All Things Considered

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My quarterly Naked Dinner parties have been so much fun. Guest Chef David Williams from Bull Valley Roadhouse really turned up the heat the night he cooked in my kitchen. Keep your eyes open for news about the upcoming Naked Dinner Cookbook.

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PIMENTO CHEESE SPREAD by David Williams

2 small to medium red bell peppers (14 ounces)

1 ⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar

1 cup Mayonnaise

1 3⁄4 tablespoons finely minced red onion or shallot

1 tablespoon finely ground black pepper

3⁄4 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon vinegary hot sauce of your choice( I used chipotle tobacco)

20 ounces sharp cheddar, finely grated

15 ounces gruyere, finely grated

8 oz finely grated grana  

A loaf of bread toasted in oven for serving

Roast the peppers until black on all sides by placing them directly over a high gas flame.

Place peppers in a metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit for 15 minutes. Use a dish towel to gently rub off the skins of the peppers; don’t run them under water, as this will wash away some of the flavor. Remove the stems and seeds, and finely dice the peppers. You should have about 3⁄4 cup.

In a small bowl, combine the diced peppers and cider vinegar to lightly pickle the peppers; refrigerate overnight.

Combine the peppers and their vinegar with the mayo, onion, pepper, salt, and both hot sauces in a large bowl; mix well. Combine the cheeses in a separate bowl and mix well. Add the pepper mixture to the cheese and mix to combine. Let the mixture chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour before serving; it should be thick but still spreadable.

Cut a loaf of good bread in half lengthwise sprinkle with olive oil and toast it lightly in the oven, spread cheese on it and broil until bubbling and golden…or use the spread on cheeseburgers, just saying.

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Mexican Chocolate Cake

2 tablespoons butter, for two 9” round pans
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder, plus more for pans
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups warm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Butter the cake pans and line bottoms with parchment, butter again and dust with cocoa.

Sift the following ingredients into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment: cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl combine eggs, 1 1/2 cups warm water, buttermilk, vegetable oil, vanilla and almond extracts and vinegar. With the mixer on low slowly pour into dry ingredients until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Divide batter into the pans. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean about 45 minutes.

Let the cakes cool completely before removing from the pans and frosting.

Mexican Chocolate Frosting
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Pinch of salt
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
3/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon brandy

Beat the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer with a paddle on medium speed until smooth. Sift together the cocoa powder, sugar and salt and add to the mixer. On slow speed add the extracts, brandy and chocolate slowly. Finally add the sour cream and mix until combined.

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My grandmother in the backyard of the house in Hayward in the 40’s and on her last trip to her birthplace Lihue, Kauai mid 90’s.

 

My great-grandparents were born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. They left the island in 1899 as part of only 5000 documented immigrants to work on the island of Kauai in the sugarcane fields after two devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. They settled in Lihue, just a mile away from where the airport is today. My great-grandparents had 13 children there before bringing them to California and settling in the East Bay during the early 30’s.

They bought a house in Hayward and moved it across town to a small lot where my grandmother grew up as a teenager and would eventually pass away in. I would spend as much time as I could in the kitchen with her. When we sat and looked through old photo albums the images of celebrations from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s reminded me of what a special place this was.

My grandmother didn’t have a written recipe for this dish and things were never labeled on the pantry shelf – most of the time ingredient portions were measured with “just a little bit of that.”

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Arroz con Pollo

1/4 cup achiote oil
6 chicken thighs,
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Sofrito, recipe follows
1/4 cup pimiento-stuffed olives, cut in half
2 cups long-grain rice
3 1/4 chicken stock
1 can gandules

Achiote oil:
1 cup lard
2 tablespoons annatto seeds

Sofrito:
2 yellow onions, cut into large chunks
8 cloves garlic, peeled
1 bunch cilantro, washed
1 red bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into pieces
1 tablespoon white vinegar

Soak the rice in hot water for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse until the water runs clear.

Heat the achiote oil in a wide, shallow pan (that has a lid). Season the chicken with salt and pepper and fry on both sides until brown. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the sofrito, cooking until most of the moisture is gone.

Stir in the rice and coat with the sofrito and achiote oil. Stir in the olives, gandules and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Arrange the chicken pieces into the rice and let the dish come back up to a boil. Lower the heat and let some of the liquid evaporate before covering with the lid. Cook on medium-low heat for about 40 minutes.

Achiote oil:
Heat the lard and annatto seeds in a small pan over medium heat until the lard turns a deep orange color. Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Sofrito:
Place the onion, garlic, cilantro, peppers and vinegar in a food processor and puree until smooth. Any extra can be frozen or refrigerated.

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Pistachio Shortbread with Orange Blossom Glaze

2 sticks unsalted butter, soft

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

3/4 teaspoon fine salt

2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pistachios

Using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer combine the butter, sugar and salt mixing until smooth. Add flour and mix until dough forms. Mix in chopped pistachios. Shape the shortbread dough into logs and wrap tightly in plastic. Place in freezer until firm.

Preheat oven to 350*

Cut dough into 1/4-inch slices and place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake about 12 minutes until cookies are just done. Slide the parchment paper onto wire racks and cool.

 

Orange Blossom Glaze

1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

Zest of one orange

Juice of 1 ½  oranges

½ teaspoon orange blossom water

1 teaspoon orange liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Dip half the cookie in the glaze and place on wire racks and let set.

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Cranberry & Meyer Lemon Curd Tart
1 12 ounce package Cranberries (separate 4 ounces aside)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice plus 1 tablespoon regular lemon juice
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) room temperature butter cut into small chunks

1 pre-baked 10” tart dough

Bring 8 ounces of the cranberries, sugar and 1/4 cup water to boil in a saucepan until the cranberries burst and are soft about 15 minutes. Cool and then puree in a food processor until completely smooth.

Over simmering hot water in a double-boiler cook the puree, eggs, egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juices, salt and 1/2 cup sugar stirring with a whisk constantly until the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve and allow to cool a few minutes before incorporating the butter. With your whisk add the soft butter one piece at time and beat until all is incorporated about 5 minutes (you can also use an electric beater). Pour into pre-baked tart pan.

This next process can be omitted but I cooked half of the extra 4 ounces of cranberries in a bit of sugar with water until they were completely cooked. Then I strained the juice on top of the tart to create a glaze.

For the sugared cranberries:
Place 1/2 cup sugar and a 1/4 cup water to boil in a sauté pan add some cranberries and cook for just about a minute. Immediately place on a rack to cool completely. Toss in sugar and place on top to tart.

Serves 8

Jane Kim Eats Out

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I’m happy to say that I’ve endorsed Jane Kim for State Senate. She’s currently working on a project to save the fifty year old STUD from closing along with being one of the cities most progressive voices fighting for our homeless.

Wednesday September 28th I’m hosting an event at the Starlight Room which reflects my voting guide for the November ballot. Almost everyone I’ve endorsed will be in attendance and there are no scheduled speeches or fundraising planned. It is just a chance for people to meet and talk to the candidates I feel will shape the future of San Francisco politics.

To learn more about the event read the article over at the Bay Area Reporter.

Floor 21 - 4th May 2016.

Jane and I applying lipstick at Floor 21, Starlight Room / Image Gooch

Jane Kim is a current San Francisco Supervisor and candidate for State Senate, District 11. Jane is a proven progressive leader who has fought to expand access to affordable housing, protect renters, close the income gap and improve public schools.

Jane answers my foodie questionnaire here:

What is your favorite dessert?
Chocolate Chip Cookies with a lot of butter.  Butter is big for me.  I am not really big into sugar or most sweets, but I like a lot of buttery things like croissants.

What restaurant would you call your home?
There are actually like 3 restaurants I spend my time at: Turtle Tower – I LOVE LOVE LOVE their Phô, Tin Vietnamese because it is a couple blocks from my house and their food is delicious and Happy Shabu Shabu – I love hot pot and ponzu sauce!

What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid?
I never ate cereal as a kid; although my family got into cereal after I left the house.  I remember coming home and my mom was eating cereal with kim chi because she always had to have kim chi with everything, and the milk turned orange and she still drank it.  That was too much even for me!

What is your favorite food to pig-out on after the club?
There are always two places that I want go eat at after the club – Korean food because the restaurants usually stay open until 2AM. And, I used to also really love Sparky’s on Church Street when I lived nearby. I’d always get the tomato, cheese and fried egg sandwich with a strawberry milkshake.

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