Saturday, November 29, 2008

Morning Regulars

How much do you know about the people around you? I don’t mean your colleagues at work, but what about the people living next door to you? Or the people that you interact with on a daily basis?

I grew up in a suburb south of San Francisco. It was a wonderful neighborhood and community. We knew all of our neighbors, we knew the people walking down the street with their dog, and the kids riding their bikes around. Parents knew each other. My friend’s younger brother might be in the same grade as my younger sister. Their older sister would have been our babysitter. We were all interconnected.

When I moved to San Francisco, it all changed. Not only did I know longer know my neighbors, but I was living by myself, and I felt more cautious. I’m lucky, I generally feel extremely safe in my neighborhood, but I still don’t let down my guard, and have to remember that it is a city. And things are just a little different.

I found myself thinking about this a few weeks ago when I was waiting in line to cast my vote in the elections. (There sure is a price for civic duty—lines at voting booths were long that day as it was one of the highest voter turnouts in history!)

In any case, I found myself looking at the people in line—they were all in my precinct, which meant they all lived nearby. Since I live in a pretty high density neighborhood, it meant that everyone in that line was literally living within a few blocks away from me (as there were 2 other voting stations within blocks!). And yet, not one familiar face. It was odd to me how little we know about the people around us.

After I voted (or Ba’rocked the vote if you will), I headed up the little hill and stood waiting for the cable car (some days I walk, some days I take the bus, but when I can, I enjoy taking the cable car to work. It’s early enough so none of those pesky tourists are on and it really is the most enjoyable way to get to work!). I looked around me. Now here were my many familiar faces. The school crossing guard lady that I see every morning. She was talking away to the kids and parents. The lady walking up to the corner restaurant, unlocking and opening her doors and beginning her long day. Then there was the guy that ran the corner liquor/grocery store. He was outside smoking, smiling at his regulars walking by—including a nod and smile to me as I walked by. I looked across the street and who did I see? My cable car buddy. An older gentleman that’s on the same schedule I am, and almost always on the my cable car I’m on when I take it to work. Always with briefcase in one hand, and book in the other. And always a serious look on his face.

I didn’t know any of their names, and they don’t know mine, but I see all of these people virtually every day. In some creepy way, there’s something comforting about that. It’s not a suburb. It’s not the type of place where you do know every one of your neighbors. But yet, every morning, I could count on these people being there.

As I got on the cable car, I thought about the conductor I haven’t seen in weeks now. He’s my favorite. Really smiley and talkative. He grew up in the Mission neighborhood, and has since moved out to Alamo. He’s got kids (a son and a daughter) and his parents still live in the same house that he grew up in. He’s great. He’s literally held the cable car in the middle of the street waiting for me when he seems me half way down the block walking up. He knows the stop I get off at. And when ever I’m leaving and we’re saying good-bye, he always leaves us with “Bye, have a good day kids. See you all tomorrow, now don’t be late!” I never had to take a school bus to school, but I’d imagine this is what it would be like. He’s great. Oh, what’s his name you ask? No clue.

Well, I have been secretly fearing that he was gone. Retired. Or off the route. Or what if something happened to him? It had been weeks since I’d seen him. So on this morning, as I was thinking so much about my neighbors and ‘morning regulars’, I asked the other conductor about him (also a guy I see regularly, and ummm, yes, also another guy who’s name I don’t’ know!) After he finally realized who I was talking about (I guess not having the name didn’t help), he said, “Oh! Just on vacation, he’ll be back next week!” Phew!!

Cheerfully walking down the street, I was excited that I’d be seeing my regular conductor next week. Next week—I’ll learn his name.

As I continued on my short walk to work, I realized. There were ‘morning regulars’ everywhere! The doormen of the three hotels I walk by each morning—all of them always wave or smile at me. The guy that opens up the doors to the convenience store by the tunnel, so cheerful always! And what about the maintenance guy at the French church/school? He’s always outside sweeping or cleaning the steps and sidewalk with a hose—he’ll see me walking down the hill from a distance and stop the watering so I don’t get wet, and then smile and say “Good Morning”. Every time.

Speaking of ‘morning regulars’—what about the most important one of all? Your Starbucks barista! We all have our local, corner Starbucks (or ten or twenty), and at mine, I have a favorite barista. He knows my name. He knows my drink (grande soy chai on a cold day, grande non fat iced latte on a hot day). He greets me by name, and is always smiling.

A few months ago, I was going in for my coffee and after he handed me my order, he told me, “Today’s my last day.” I literally stopped in my tracks. WHAT?? How could this be? What would I do without him? He excitedly told me that Apple had recruited him and hired him to be a manager of one of their new stores they were opening. Wow. Good for him. With his fantastic customer service, Apple was lucky to have him (I’ve been a fan of Apple for a while—but ever since their public support and generous contribution to the NO on Prop 8 campaign, I kind of have an even greater love for them.) I wished him luck, and as I walked out, I realized. All these months, and all these conversations, I didn’t even know his name. How rude of me! I was only comforted in that I saw him on his last day and hadn’t decided to skip my Starbucks indulgence that morning. Otherwise, I would have never even have known what happened to him.

Most people I know have some type of routine. Whether it’s a morning routine in getting out the door for work, or that yoga class Monday nights that they love to go to, or even that meandering path to the Bart station to avoid the pesky pigeons, everyone’s got some type of routine at some point of the day. Something. If you’re paying enough attention, you’ll realize, you see a lot of the same people around you. They may not be people you have an actual interaction with, or you may just make small talk with them.

But regardless, would it be so bad if we all took a little bit more time to get to know the people around us? Could we create a better sense of neighborhood in some of these high density city neighborhoods? Don’t tell me we’re really that busy and can’t take an extra minute to say hello to someone. Why not start by learning their name?

Me? I’m going to vouch to start with my cable car conductors. If a man can back up traffic for me and keep the cable car waiting for me, I should at least know his name, right??

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

Wylie might be thankful that he’s still open for business (a tough feat during these tough economic times, even Eater has eliminated DeathWatch), but what are you thankful for?

I'm thankful for many things...but most of all, I'm thankful for:

My family
I honestly don’t know what I’d do without my dad, sister and Uncle Young. I love them! They’re my back bone. My foundation.

My friends
I have a lot of friends. I have a lot of really good friends. I am one of those lucky gals that has friends from a lot of different times, places and stages of my life. And I love that. I cherish and value each and every one of them for everything they’ve taught me, all that we’ve been through and all of the good times. I’m looking forward to many more fun memories with them!

I have a passion for life. A passion for challenges, for personal growth, for new experiences and for new adventures. Oh. And then there’s my passion for travel and food of course. I’m thankful for all of it! It’s what makes me, me. It’s why I get giddy over silly things, it’s why I tend to always say yes to new challenges, it's why I jumped out of a plane (skydiving!), why I like to explore new places and try new foods and it’s why I love life.

I am thankful for those things today.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Missing Mom

Happy Birthday Mom. I miss you so much and think about you every single day. Not a day goes by when I don't have something I want to tell you, or find myself wondering what you'd think, wanting to ask you a questions, or wanting to pick up the phone to call you and talk.

Wishing you were here with us're in my mind and heart.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Heading to Australia!!

I'm heading to Australia tonight, yay! I can't wait to get away and to explore and experience a new country.

I've written a few posts that will be popping up while I'm away, so please continue to tune in. But expect a slew of new posts, observations, photos and stories when I return! G'Day Mate!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Meal of the Month: November - New York City

It’s only the middle of November…but I have to give an update about my meal of the month. In an unprecedented move, there is going to be MULTIPLE meals of the month for November. Yes, it’s true. Given the month I’m going to have, I just know, that I’m not going to be able to pick just one outstanding meal. Heck, I’ve already had about half a dozen or so meals that in any other month would be the Meal of the Month. Slam dunk. No doubt about it. And yet in this month? Not so easy. In a month where I’m spanning the globe, and eating in San Francisco, New York, Sydney and Melbourne, there is no way I can choose just one favorite meal.

SO. We’re going to start with a recap of the many meals I had while in NYC. Let’s see…starting with an amazing experience at Insieme (which by the way, has a pasta tasting menu—what could be better??) My friend Marshall was behind the bar that night (umm, why else do you think I went here?), and we tasted so many delicious special cocktails and had perfect wine pairings for each of our courses. My favorite from the night? The classic and simple linguine con vongole—perfectly cooked linguine with clams, garlic and hot pepper and parsley. Delicious! Simple and perfect for a chilly NYC evening. The sweet potato tempura dessert was also unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before.

Another fantastic meal? Bobo! It’s a fun space (if you blink, you’ll miss it—there’s no sign, and it’s a non descript brownstone with small stairs that lead you down to the restaurant). Because we ate downstairs, we were able to order from both the dining room menu as well as the bar nibbles menu. Chef Patrick Connolly prepared a great meal for us (he’s adorable too!), and the gals and I enjoyed bone marrow tots (YES! Like tater tots!) with a house made catsup, braised short ribs, a yummy crab salad, fried pickles, a hamburger…and of course, delicious cocktails! Tons of cocktails and wine.

And then let’s see…a delish cheese course at Artisanal Fromagerie Bistro Wine Bar (can we just say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a restaurant with more cheese!) A great brunch at Pastis, where not only did I have a perfect Eggs Benedict, but I ran into an old coworker (who would think I would run into Mr. Jimmy Suh himself with his wife and new son?!) Small world!

Another yummy brunch? Restro, near my wonderful 70 park avenue hotel, where I ate the Hangover Pasta, cause as it turns out, I was a little hung over. Also the place where I had my first Dutch Baby! (You always remember your first!) AND, a place that has one of my all time favorite cookbooks, Pork & Sons behind the bar. Gotta love a place that’s got the Pork & Sons cookbook in house.

Then let’s see…there was the perfect rainy Saturday mid-day snack. Ramen, smoked chicken wings and David Chang’s famous pork buns at Momofuko Noodle Bar. With a large Japanese beer of course. Nothing better than slurping up ramen noodles with a good friend (coincidentally, another West Coast gal!) on a cold rainy day.

Let’s not forget the casual Monday night dinner at Blue Smoke…perfect spot for a casual and comforting meal after a long weekend of eating, drinking and staying up late. They also have one of my all time favorite beers there—the Allagash from Portland Maine! Yum.

On top of that, there were endless nights of drinking…and yes, to some, these count as a meal (haven’t you ever heard of a liquid diet?) Those liquid meals include:

- Drinks at Tailor (where there was a Sam Mason sighting!)

- Beers at The Room (such a cute place! Awesome beer and wine list!)

- Too many to count yummy Plymouth gin drinks mid-day at Bar Milano from Ross the bartender (my friend Jamie would be proud!)

- A local Brooklyn distilled beer at the Spotted Pig (a beer 'that'll put hair on your chest!' according to my friend Tim)

- Drinks at PDT, from Mr. Jim Meehan himself…where not only did we try most of the drinks on the menu, but I met two awesome OZ industry folks who gave me a long list of places to check out, but also where I had a yummy late night snack of tater tots and a David Chang dog (yum!!)

THEN, to top it off, I was able to attend the new Boqueria Soho opening night party…where I ate more padron peppers than I’ve ever had before…and where there were sightings of local NYC chefs such as Anne Burrell, Marco Canora, Patrick Connolly, and supposedly Johnny Iuzzini made a late appearance (I was LONG gone by then, Barry please don't be mad!) In addition to the yummy pardon peppers, there was quail eggs and chorizo on toast, lamb skewers, cheese, olives and much more. YUM! (Go Baltz team for throwing such an awesome party!)

So! What if not any of those meals, is my Meal of the Month: New York, you ask? (And just how many days was I there for?? I know, it’s a lot of food and drink…) My Meal of the Month would have to go to Dell’anima. I haven’t been able to stop raving about it since I’ve been back. Our table of five took one look at the menu and almost ordered the whole thing. Luckily for our stomachs, we refrained and just ordered ALMOST everything from the menu (they were also kind enough to bring us a few items we didn’t order.) Let’s see. Where do I begin?

Well, first, we ordered all five of their bruschettes…chickpea with preserved lemon, avocado with sea salt, octopus aioli, a soft scrambled eggs bottarga, and a ricotta with sea salt. It was all so good. I could have just eaten these and been happy. The bread was grilled and rubbed with a little garlic. Not too garlicky, but just enough. The soft scrambled eggs were my favorite!

From there, we moved onto some other starters…grilled sweetbreads, braised boar with polenta, and escarole hearts (we had to have one order of something green--Sam and Jamie insisted!)

As if that wasn’t enough…we haven’t even gotten to our pasta course! (And those of you that know me know that I sure do love pasta!) We ordered the tagliatelle alla Bolognese, linguini neri puttanesca, trofie with bacon, tomato, shallots and rosemary, and the garganelli with funghi trifolati, lemon and parsley. How could five people eat all of this?? We’re pros. Not a bite left on the plate. But wait. There’s more.

We finished off with the pork chop, served with sunchokes, prosciutto and mustard fruit, as well as the chicken ‘al diavolo’ served with braised escarole and raisins. The pork chop was a huge piece of meat, and yet when we cut into it, it was perfectly cooked and so moist. Too bad it came at the end of the meal and I was too stuffed to eat more!

Dessert you ask? Sigh. I know they brought us some. But what you ask? I’m a bad blogger and I have to admit, I think I was starting to creep into food coma by then (after all, we had a ton of wine and I was exhausted after a really long weekend.) All I can remember was the perfect shot of fernet I had. Yummmmm, just like at home in San Francisco!

So, what else will this month bring? No doubt lots more good food? When's the next time I return to New York? No doubt, very soon.

Thanks to all of my friends that made this such a fun trip...all of the thoughtfully planned meals, reservations, invitations, suggestions, etc., MUCH APPRECIATED! When are you all coming to San Fran?? Happy to return the favor!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Where I Wish I Was...

New York City

Saturday, November 15, 2008

A City United

We might not be a state united, but we are a city united. I saw this on Curbed SF a few days ago:

Such a powerful and yet subtle statement at the War Memorial Opera House. The fight is not over...this country still has a long way to go for civil rights. Wanna know how you can help? Click here for information. We should all be doing our part.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Lessons from the Kitchen

A few weeks ago, I had my toughest night in the kitchen. No, nothing horrible happened, and in terms of actual mistakes, I didn’t really make many. But I was off. I even knew it as was coming. It had been a long week. And I was beginning to feel a sore throat coming on. It had been a little while since I had been in cooking, and I knew of at least one new menu item that I didn’t know how to prepare and I didn’t feel ready. There was just a lot going on. I wasn’t 100%.

As I started setting up the station, I was running around grabbing different things, cutting board, a rack here, a hotel pan there, etc. But for some reason, things were missing today. And I swear, I was looking in the right place, but for one reason or another, I just couldn’t seem to find the things I needed. It was as if someone was trying to make it harder for me. Sigh.

We had a busy night ahead of us—with a little more than half of our diners for the night all coming in between 7:30 and 8 pm. Yikes. We were going to get hit hard over a short period of time.

I’m a perfectionist. I work hard. And I want my team and my superiors to be happy with my work. Crap, I just want to be happy with my work. Is that too much to ask? With my ‘day job’, I know what I’m doing. I have a good grasp of the industry. I know what I’m suppose to do. And although there are always new things to learn and new skills to master, I do fairly well.

With my ‘night job’? I’m not there (yet). And it’s hard for me not to be the best. It’s hard that there’s much more that I don’t know, than I do know. It’s at those times, that I have to remember. I’m there to learn. I’ve been doing this for a split second. The people around me? They’ve been cooking for years. Just being allowed to work the line means something. And I should be thankful, and happy that I’m even there.

So although on this particular night I was disappointed in myself, I have to put some things into perspective. First, there were lots of good moments. Lots of successes (which given my personality, I can easily forget about!) From simple things like remembering a few more names of the people working there, to changing my energy and ending the night better than it started. I’m also beginning to be able to anticipate things and do certain things before I’m asked to. It’s a great feeling.

Also, I realized, in terms of this being a learning and growing experience? I’m getting so much from it. Some of the things I learned this night?

1. Not every night is a good night
Early in the night, one of the cooks came by to talk to me and asked how it was going. I told him I was having a bad night. His response? Everyone has a bad night. Don’t worry about it. Shake it off. There’ll always be another night (well, sure, for him. But what about me? I’m just a stage. One bad move and am I out?) But seriously. No matter what type of job you do. It’s ok if it’s not your night. Not every night can be your night.

2. Knife skills are important!
You’ve heard it before. And I’ve always known that I’ve needed to learn/improve my knife skills. Well, when you have one of the executive sous looking down on you and wincing at the way you’re holding your knife, it sure does seems like a good time to learn the correct way to hold the knife. My moment of pure embarrassment as I felt his eyes on me quickly passed after I realize this was my chance to learn. And for all you home cooks out there? You’re probably holding that knife wrong. (For the record, he was right. My new grip has made a world of difference in terms of my ability to control the knife!)

3. Don’t slouch! Don’t hunch!
Back problems (along with carpal tunnel syndrome) are very common amongst chefs. You have to stand up straight (especially when you’re working in an open kitchen), but when you’re working and cutting and cooking, you also can’t hunch over. Imagine hunching over your cutting board for a minimum of eight hours a day, at least five days a week, it’s not good for your body. It’s like those days of the awkward school portrait. Tilt your head a little to the left. Move your shoulders to the right. But oh wait, tilt your head back. It takes some getting use to. And all I keep wanting to do is hunch over and concentrate on what’s on my board.

4. A smile will get you a long way
I may not know what I’m doing, but my please and thank-you’s have gotten me far. I don’t know everyone’s name (it takes a lot of dishwashers, prep cooks, line cooks, expediters, servers and managers to run a restaurant, and with my sporadic shifts, I’m not making fast enough headway on learning all the names), but I smile at everyone. Those of you that know me know that I tend to just generally smile a lot. So this isn’t really anything different. It’s amazing how once you look up at someone and give them a smile, it just opens them up to smile at you back. It just lightens things up a little bit. And no matter how stressed everyone is, or how fast they’re moving, or how behind they are, they can still take the time to smile. And I don’t know about them, but I feel better.

5. There are kitchen politics just like there are politics in every office
Not that I ever thought it would be any different from a ‘traditional office’, but it is definitely obvious that there are politics in the kitchen just like any other place. I’m learning a lot by being a silent observer.

6. Cooks and kitchen people are nice.
Seriously. They’re all nice. And mean well. Even when they don’t seem like it at first. And even when they scare and intimidate you. They have a passion for cooking. For making delicious food for others all while they eat scraps and make minimum wage. For the most part, they’re all there because they want to be. And the fact that you’ve chosen to do the same with your time? (And in my case, my free time!) I think it wins big points with them.

7. Everyone’s got a slightly different way of doing things
Again, kind of an obvious statement. But I’m quickly learning that one person may say one thing, and another may expect it done differently. I’m trying to ask as many questions as I possibly can (not hard for me!) and just do all I can to make everyone around me happy and to meet their expectations. I’m excited to think that one of these days, I’ll have my own style and small unique spins on things.

8. When someone teaches you, listen.
I can take critique. Especially when it’s in regards to something I don’t even know much about! So, when people take the time to teach me something, I take the time to listen. And I’m grateful. It means I’m worth teaching.

9. Passion counts
A passion for food. A passion for cooking. A passion for perfection. A passion for creating something that can bring happiness to other people. Do you have that passion? Is it in your blood? I find myself CRAVING being in the restaurant when I'm not there. Like literally wondering if I have a reason to swing by. Just to see what's happening. Who's coming in to eat? How many are in the books? What's new on the menu? Dumb right? I need to find more things to think about? Well, I can't help it! It becomes a part of who you are.

10. You have to remember why you’re there
And it can’t be for any superficial reasons. You're not going to gain riches nor fame. You have to want to be there. You have to truly invest your whole being into the job if you’re serious about it. Don't forget the reasons you're there. Don't forget the way you felt the night after your first service. Strive for that feeling each and every night.

I learned a lot on that night. Whether or not I am able to return in the kitchen, I'm grateful to everyone who has taught me something through this experience. I know that not everyone is given a chance like this and I really do appreciate my opportunity. I am having an amazing experience and so thankful for everything I've learned and all the great people I've met.

Monday, November 10, 2008

If you're ever asked to autograph something for someone...


Seriously people. If someone actually wants YOUR autograph (yes, YOU!), then please have enough respect to take the time to get the correct spelling of their name. Whether you’re a famous actress or musician, or a well known author, cutting edge scientist, or Nobel Prize winner. Whether you’re a professional athlete or a renowned chef, please get it right!!

I’m one of those dorks that likes getting books autographed. Fiction, non fiction. Autobiography, cookbooks. You name it. If I have the book, and I liked it, and I have the opportunity to meet the author, you can bet I’ll try and get the book signed.

I don’t go anywhere without carrying a Sharpie (my days working in the NBA have taught me well!) I don’t get star struck often. And most ‘celebrities' won’t even catch my attention. You’ll be lucky if I even recognize them. But a chef? That's usually a person I want to meet.

I recently brought a local chef's cookbook, and brought the cookbook into the restaurant a few weeks ago, in hopes that he’d be there that night and I could get it signed. What luck! He was! The server was very kind, and said that ‘Yes! I’m sure Chef would be happy to sign your book.’ She mentioned that not a lot of people have been coming in with the book and asking to get it signed. And it was a relatively slow night—so I thought ‘Hmmm, maybe he’ll even come out and say hello?’ Seems like the right thing to do, right? Guess again.

He didn’t come out. Which was fine. He was working after all. (Although in my simple PR mind, part of ‘working’ for a chef does mean going out and ‘touching tables’, but I digress.) So the server tells me she’d be happy to bring the book to him to sign, and she asks for my name. I’m careful to tell her, “It’s Jamie. J-A-M-I-E. M-I- E.”

She was really cheerful. Really nice. Said she got it. But when my book came back to me, what did it say? “Jaime, Keep it simple!”

I realize it’s not the chef’s fault for spelling my name wrong. But the server? Would have been nice if she could have at least written the correct spelling down so she wouldn't forget. I they've got a lot going on. And getting cookbooks signed sure isn't her job. And I’m sure it was a bit of a pain for her to go and ask Chef to sign it. But especially if it doesn't happen often...why not do this simple thing to make someone's night?

Now what do I do? Anyone know a Jaime that would like an autographed cookbook?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Mystery Fruit

I was at the grocery store a few weeks ago up in Healdsburg. As my friend Wendy and I were racing through the isles grabbing all of the items we needed for our fall harvest/apple dinner, a few things caught my eye. They were fruits that I didn't recognize. I had to stop and snap a few photos with my camera phone.

Do you know what they are??

The green fruit is a feijoa. Similar to a pineapple guava, I guess this fruit originated in Brazil. But did you know it can also be found in Australia?? I'll have to keep my eyes open for it when I'm out there! (Or at least buy one the next time I see it in my local grocery store.)

The second fruit? The tamarillo. Or tree tomato. How cool. Now why oh why did I not buy one of each?? Am I going to spend the next few weeks obsessing over these unusual fruits until I find them again and taste them for myself?

Has anyone tasted either? Am curious to hear what they taste like and your experiences with these unusual fruits!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Weekends With Dad

When I go home to visit my Dad, it's one of the most relaxing ways for me to spend my time. I let myself sleep in...whether that means waking up at 8 am or 10 am, I just let it happen. There are rarely alarm clocks, and never pressure to get up. The best way to start my day there? A hot cup of coffee:

My dad's gotten good with the espresso machine. Coffee's perfect. Milk foamy. Perfect way to wake up.

We spend the days hanging out. Running errands. Seeing family friends. We'll watch some TV, or if the weather's nice, lounge outside in his backyard. We'll sit and read, talk, and drink good wine, sake, or cocktails. Sometimes I get a nap in too. (Ok, most of the time!)

By the time dinner time rolls around, we're completely relaxed. Sometimes we go out to eat, but if we're lucky, Dad will cook! He's really good in the kitchen, and I'm lucky to have picked up some tips and skills from him. When I was young, Mom did most of the cooking, but whenever Dad did, it was always something special. (I can still remember his yummy BBQ chicken on the grill in the backyard, and the simple 'cake' he'd steam.)

Nowadays, I crave Dad's creations more and more. And sometimes, even though he'll want to be lazy and eat out, my sister and I will convince him that we should stay in and eat at home.
We frequently request his yummy steamed fish, just simply with soy sauce, parsley, oil, and a little bit of mushrooms. It's so perfect, and delicate. I love it.

Another specialty he whips up? A chicken dish, with Chinese sausage and mushrooms. It's cooked slow, and inspired by a similar restaurant dish, served in a hot pot. It's delicious. And it's one of those dishes that sounds simple, but isn't. Or at least I've found that people often mess it up! And one of the most important things to remember? Use chicken on the bone! That's what helps give it flavor.

We always have some yummy wine to go with dinner, and it's nice to sit around the table and eat with my family. I grew up eating dinner each night at the table, without the TV, and with my family. It's nice to be able to still do that when I go home.

Oh. And dessert you ask? Sometimes it's a simple bowl of ice cream. Other times it'll be slices of fruit. And when we want a treat?

Souffles! Dad loves souffles. I'm going to have to learn how to make them myself for Dad. Until then? These ones from a nearby cafe are pretty good!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Favorite Food Aromas

Scent, like taste and music, can take you back to a special time and place. And like taste, scent can sometimes be hard to recreate, which means, when you are able to recreate the scent, it means even more.

This recent post on Accidental Hedonist made me think about my favorite food aromas. What are some of yours? Here’s a random list of my favorite food aromas:

Fresh baked bread
Garlic and onions browning
Fresh cookies/brownies from the oven
Fresh dill
Roast beef cooking in the oven
Dad’s BBQ chicken on the grill
Watercress soup on stove
Fresh apple pie
My homemade chicken curry
A freshly cut lemon
Walking into a Chinese BBQ shop- with the roasted duck, char sui and soy sauce chicken smells all together
Chestnuts roasting (preferably from a street cart!)
Fresh mint
A Chinese apothecary--all the herbs mix to create a unique smell, I love it
A fresh pizza coming out of the oven
Crab--cooked with garlic and green onions, Chinese style

What are your favorites? And where do they take you back to?

It's Election Time!

And what better way to celebrate than with Red and Blue Maker's Mark? I saw these cleverly packaged bottles (note the red wax top vs the blue wax top) at one of my favorite liquor stores in town, John Walker.

The labels on the bottles themselves are half red and half blue, and there's a 'Rock the Vote' tag on the bottle as well. You can even keep up with all the Maker's Election news on their blog. It's a neat idea, and I have to admit, I wish I could have seen the inside of the Maker's traveling bus!

So people, as you're watching election returns come in, maybe you'll be sipping on a Maker's Manhattan?

Here's hoping we'll see some big victories for Obama and the No on Prop 8 Campaign (here in California!)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote No on Prop 8

Friends, I think you all know where I stand on this issue. I'm a big supporter of the No on Prop 8 campaign. I don't believe it's right to tell someone who they can and can not marry. I believe it's unfair and prejudice.

You can imagine my HORROR when I was looking at my blog site this morning, and BAM! In one of my Google Ads way down at the bottom, there was a Yes on 8 ad. I was mortified. I quickly went through all of my Google AdSense stuff to try and block that ad (and while I was there, any ads for McCain/Palin).

Click here to see an awesome and amazing video that my friend Brendan and his friends created. So great to see the younger generation taking the initiative to be politically active!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Current Favorite Ice Cream Flavor

I’ve had my ice cream maker for 7 months. My strategy when I first got the ice cream maker? I thought, this is my chance to make healthy and yummy ice cream and frozen yogurt. Strawberries were just coming into season. And I tried strawberry frozen yogurt. It was ok. Not great. Then, I was visiting my dad, and he had all these great lemons growing. And I thought, “I know! I’ll try lemon gelato!” Ok. But too icy.

I’ve written about this before on this blog. One of my first encounters is posted here. I finally hit my stride when I added the fat into it. I’ve really mastered fresh mint chip and peanut butter. And my bourbon raisin isn’t too bad—depends how much you like bourbon I guess. I haven't quite mastered the fruit ice creams. Need to spend more time on that. And while I want to master the basics, vanilla, chocolate, rocky road, etc., I’m more interested in making the special flavors. Decadent flavors. Flavors I love. Flavors you can't buy in your typical grocery store.

Up until now, I’d say that Peanut Butter or Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip is probably the favorite. Even people that don’t love peanut butter love this flavor. It just works. It’s rich and creamy, and really delicious served with something or all alone.

But me personally? Fresh Mint Chip is really my favorite. None of that fake mint flavor. None of the artificial coloring. Just fresh mint flavor. It’s so good. I really think I could eat it all the time.

Well. That was until today. Now? Sorry to report, but there’s a new favorite! Crème Fraiche ice cream!!

Fall is here, and while I’ve been debating trying to make a pumpkin flavor, or maybe even gingerbread or chai flavor, I haven’t gotten to those yet. I couldn’t really get behind those flavors. Why? Because when I thought about fall, I found myself not thinking about ice cream, but about the desserts. Pumpkin pies, and gingerbread cake...bread pudding and apple pies. SO. Rather than doing an fall ice cream, I wondered, “What ice cream goes best with all of those flavors and can complement it?”

Blurry photo of a yummy homemade apple crisp and scope of creme fraiche ice cream!

Crème Fraiche! A little bit more sour and flavorful than just a plain vanilla. But not as sour as sour crème. So perfect. My first batch is pretty good—a basic recipe from Emily Luchetti’s ice cream cookbook (which has the best ice cream recipes!!)