Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Take 3

Most Silicon Valley companies are known for their excellent benefits and work conditions and some would even qualify as truly generous towards their employees. Wel,l the Big Cahuna has got to be at the top of that list. This became more evident when the Big Cahuna sprung a surprise on its employees. A very pleasant surprise ...... I might add. It scored 13,000 tickets to a private showing of Cirque du Soleil's tribute to Michael Jackson - The Immortal World Tour. The tickets were available on a first come, first serve basis, two tickets for any employee  (one for the employee and one for a guest) ,totally free of charge and including transportation from the Big Cahuna campus (all large companies in Silicon Valley use the term campus to describe the space they occupy which can sometimes be a few dozen buildings in one area) to the venue in Oakland. Thankfully, my husband was one of the lucky ones who responded early to the invitation and got two great tickets. Unfortunately, hundreds of employees were disappointed when tickets ran out and let's just say they missed a fantastic show. Imagine 13,000 people all converging to one venue and most of them from the same site. Huge luxury coaches were hired for the event and everything was so well organized that transportation went very smoothly. The show is what you can usually expect from Cirque du Soleil, namely unmatched quality and great talents but this time with the added bonus of Michael Jackson's songs  and the scenarios created around those wonderful hits.  I have had the pleasure to see several Cirque du Soleil shows including some at their very beginning in Montreal, where you sat on benches to watch and under a big top. Back breaking for sure, but in line with tradition of the circuses of the world. This time it was quite comfortable and our seats were very good at Oracle Arena in Oakland. Many thanks to the Big Cahuna for a wonderful time.

Bay Area Air Quality Management District has an environmental program here called Spare The Air and this program is set up to determine whether people should be burning materials such as wood logs, Duraflame or pellets in their fireplaces or wood burning stoves. Each time there is a ban, it is announced on the newscast on tv or the radio and if you miss those, you can go check the status of the air online at sparetheair.org/. The only people allowed to burn something on those days are the people who's sole source of heat is through burning wood, etc.. Should you miss the warning and burn despite the ban and someone complains, you will first get a warning in the mail. Should you sin again, it'll cost you upwards of $400.00. So, each time we plan to light a fire in our chimney, we go online and check. Recently on tv, there was a piece about that group often getting it wrong by banning when they shouldn't and not banning when they should be doing it.  One group against another. Who is right? Who knows! At least, it appears someone is on the lookout for clean air. 

I must mention a wonderful place we have discovered in San José and that is Bijan. This is a pastry shop + cafe, etc. (two locations in San José) we came across it on our first visit here before moving to the USA. If you want to eat the best croissants available without shelling out a large amount of money for a ticket to Paris, this is the place and at a very low cost. They have the best croissants we have eaten outside of France and also the best pains au chocolat (chocolate croissants). Although we are not big fancy cake eaters, we have also indulged, each to celebrate our birthday, in one of their single portion confections. OMG. Well worth the visit to Bijan, either downtown ( next to the Fairmont Hotel) or their  Saratoga + Kiely location and at both locations, the personnel is extremely nice and helpful.

Here is another wonderful recipe borrowed from one of my favorite food bloggers if not my top favorite. His name is David Lebovitz and you can find his website and blog at www.davidlebovitz.com  Mr. Lebovitz is an American who lives in Paris. He worked for 13 years as a dessert maker and professional baker at the renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. He is also the author or several books of fantastic desserts. I own two of his books and although they both contain great recipes and tips, the one entitled  The sweet life in Paris is hilarious. Mr. Lebovitz captures brilliantly the oddities and quirks of living in the city of lights and of its native and adopted sons and daughters.  

Chocolate Cake

9oz (250g) bittersweet chocolate chopped
8 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter
1/3 cup (65g) sugar
4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
2 tablespoons flour
Pinch of salt

-Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9 inch loaf pan and line bottom with parchment.
-In a large bowl set over simmering water, heat chocolate and butter until smooth.
-Remove from heat, stir in half the sugar, egg yolks and flour.
-Beat egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually add remaining sugar and beat until stiff peaks.
-Using a rubber spatula, fold 1/3 of egg whites into chocolate mixture, then fold in remaining egg whItes. Scrape into pan and smooth top.
-Bake 35 minutes until center feels almost firm. Cool in pan.


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