Coconut Water Taste Test – Fresh and Fun, or Canned?

My kids love to open coconuts.  Last year (see post) it was on their list of top 5 summer activities.  However we  never seem to actually eat or drink much of it.  This time was different.  Because of all the coconut waters and juices on the market we decided to do a taste comparison.  Does the coconut milk from the actual coconut taste like the kind in the can?  We also needed to learn the difference between coconut milk, coconut juice and coconut water.


Coconut milk is easy.  It’s the stuff you cook with.  Think Indian food.  It’s the liquid and meat that comes from the brown coconut.  It’s pulverized and put in a can.  It can be light fat or full fat.  More of the solids and fats move to the top of the can so depending on your recipe you may spoon the creme off the top, use just the milky liquid or use it all.


But what’s the difference between coconut juice and coconut water?  Both coconut water and juice is the clear liquid in young green coconuts.  Seems the difference is the marketing.  The juice may have other additives (although I bought one that didn’t) and the water does not.  They may sometimes have pulp at the bottom of the can/bottle.


My kids were split on what they like.  No surprise there.  My daughter didn’t like that the juice from the actual coconut was still cloudy after straining.  My son thought is tasted more like coconut and the canned tasted like vanilla.  I, to liked the stuff right out of the coconut, but best after being refrigerated.  However everyone agreed it was lots more fun to break open the actual coconut vs opening a can.


Rediscovering the Mission with Edible Excursions

When my husband and I lived in San Francisco, now 10 years ago, we would search out the latest and greatest in food and neighborhoods.  Sometime this led us to some not so safe or clean areas.  We didn’t mind.  It was always an adventure and part of the experience.  One such neighborhood was the Mission District.  20 years ago we would go directly to our Mission destination restaurant (usually the original Slanted Door) or bar (Blondie’s or the Elbo Room).  Not wanting to stray too far from the crowds.  Some restaurants had valet which was great.  Or we’d try to park near the police lot.  Certain blocks were shady and even scary to walk through to get to your car.   Over the fourteen years of us living in SF this changed and more and more restaurants and shops moved into what was predominantly a neighborhood of taquerias and furniture stores.  Unfortunately Slanted Door moved to bigger and more tourist digs at the Ferry Plaza.  Since moving to Marin 10 years ago, we’d still go to the Mission now and again to dine at our favorites such as Foreign Cinema and Luna Park.  But we weren’t discovering anything new.


Last weekend we did.  I gave my husband a gift certificate to Edible Excursions, a company started by a dear friend of ours, from back before we had children.  After working at Gourmet Magazine, Edible Excursions owner Lisa Rogovin traveled the globe searching out cooking schools and culinary adventures.  Once back home, she brought her culinary expertise and connections to lead culinary walking tours throughout San Francisco and East Bay (Berkeley, Temescal) neighborhoods to discover and share delicious tastes, local artisans and community treasures that you may or may not have heard of (neither  from tour books or even living in the city).  Over the years she has added tours, such as Japantown, as well as guides, called Epicurean Concierges.  These individuals run the gamut from chefs to cookbook authors to food purveyors and teachers.


Here’s a little peek at our tastes…

And when I say tastes, I mean yummy food and lots of it.  Come with an appetite.  My only complaint would be my belt was too tight at the end.  Not sure if that’s the tour’s fault or my will power – not to eat every morsel.  After wine and cheese, chocolate and a lovely courreges, we were served a tasty beef sopa plate, followed by a delicious pork taco and then a rich ice cream.  I could have skipped the pork taco.  Although you needed something to go with the tequila tasting.  Maybe this stop could have been a lighter item, such as ceviche.


Our tour guide Karen, was very knowledgeable and even lives in the neighborhood.  She introduced us to everything from a small batch chocolatier to a farmer’s market food stand and a non-profit off shoot of the famed Bi-Rite Market.  On the way we saw new playgrounds full of kids, the newly refurbished murals at the Women’s Building and small mini community gardens only as long as a car length.  My husband and I couldn’t believe we were in the Mission.  Specifically we spent lots of time on Valencia Street.  And there are still bars on the shops a few blocks over.  But it wasn’t shady.  Overall the area was colorful and jovial and felt like a real community.


There were 6 of us total on the tour.  Five of us were locals of the Bay Area.  Two lived in SF.  And one was from St. Louis.  The tour was a surprise for everyone – locals and tourist.  My husband and I enjoyed ourselves so much we made plans to eat at a new restaurant, The Abbott’s Cellar on Valencia Street a few nights later.  Thanks to our friend Lisa, and Edible Excursions we’ve rediscovered a great hood.  By the way Lisa started the business 10 years ago!  I can’t believe it’s taken us this long to participate in a tour.  Funny our son is almost 11.  I guess that’s what happened.  We swapped culinary adventures in hip, shady places for parenting adventures in safe spots.  I’m looking forward to bringing them together again.


Happy 8 and 48, with Single Layer Cake Recipe

Well she’s not a baby anymore.  I can’t believe my daughter is 8.  Turning 8 also coincided with finally being 48 inches.  I say “finally” because she has been waiting for that height.  48 inches opens many doors to kids, such as the slide at the community pool, a host of carnival rides and being able to drive an indoor go cart.  This is what she wanted to do to celebrate her day.  That and making a birthday cake of course.

I went to my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I’ve had for 20 plus years and found this recipe for a Busy Day Cake (aren’t they all?).  This was a super easy single layer cake that was perfect for last minute making and decorating.  We omitted the broiled coconut topping and went with a classic buttercream frosting.  Which of course we needed multiple colors.  The birthday girl and brother did it all by themselves.  They did a lovely and tasty job.


Busy Day Cake

Makes 8 servings

1 1/3 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cups sugar

2 teasponns baking powder

2/3 cup milk

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl combine flour, sugar and baking powder.  Add milk, butter, egg and vanilla.  Beat on low speed with electric mixture till combined.  Beat on medium speed for additional 1 minute.  Pour batter into greased and floured 8 x 1 1/2 inch round baking pan.

Bake in 350F oven for 25 to 390 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes.  Remove cake from pan.  Cool thoroughly, then frost and decorate.