Tuesday, March 31, 2009

I Get By...Part Three

I woke up from a fun Sat night realizing something. I had forgotten to reserve a ZipCar, my little city car share program. And I had errands galore to run. The main one being a trek to the Target just outside of city limits. I had a list of things I wanted to pick up before a weekend getaway with some friends. I was on a schedule and this couldn't wait.

Well, thanks to a good friend (and a little help from Facebook!), my carless problem was not only no longer a problem, but a reason for my friends Wendy and Mark and I to hang out.

Yes, we did an ice cream run at Humphrey Slocomb after Target!

We all need friends. Good friends who just know when you might need some company. Or friends who are willing to help you when you're in a bind. I know that I wouldn't be able to survive without them.

Monday, March 30, 2009

I Get By...Part Two


I've heard people say that sometimes life can be even more lonely in a big city. And there are moments when I believe that. Times when for whatever reason, everyone you know is out of town, or already has plans, and you're left alone. It can be hard for a single city gal. Some of the best ways to enjoy this city are with other people.

I recently had a day like that. And while I am perfectly fine being alone or doing things alone (some times even preferring it!), this was not one of those days. In fact, it was a day where I was craving some social interaction. Of course you don't always have a choice, and it is what it is. You spend the day alone.

Out of the blue, my friend Sabine called me. To say hello, to check in, and to reach out to see what I was doing. She got me to stop working and to get out of the house. And to a glass of wine. She put a stop to the loneliness. And just like that, I was loving this great city again.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

I Get By...

With a lot of help from my friends. This (and the next few posts) is a shout out to some of my dearest city friends.

Cities can be a hard place to live. From the challenges of public transportation, to simple things like getting groceries, little life things can just be difficult. (Especially when it's raining out-don't even get me started on that!) It's one of the only cons to all of the pros to living in such a gorgeous place. This last weekend, I had one of those city con weekends (ironically with the most perfect weather as the backdrop.) It was one thing after another.

It started Friday night. I met an old college friend and some friends from out of town for a drink after work. Aftera few drinks, I made a quick pit stop at home to drop off my work bag, laptop, etc. and promptly headed back out again. Off to a birthday party! And I was running late. In my rush, as I closed the door behind me, I realized something. I had left my keys on the table inside. I was locked out.

Now, I'm a lucky girl. My sister lives a few blocks from me, and of course has my keys. But I couldn't get a hold of her. So off to the birthday party I went, knowing that I'd have no way of getting back in afterwards. In the meantime, updated my Facebook status with news of the lock out.

Within moments, my phone was buzzing and ringing. Friends offering up a place to stay. It was great to feel so loved. And I knew I'd have places to go if I ever needed it. Thank you friends!! With you guys, I'll never be homeless!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Favorite: Omnivore Books on Food

Probably one of my all time favorite places in San Francisco...and a new addition to my must-see list!

A fantastic little bookstore in Noe Valley (you know how much I love books). But this one's different. It's filled with all cookbooks or books about food! You've gotta love that. Go check out Omnivore Books on Food. Not only will you be able to find the latest and greatest titles, you'll find a collection of old cookbooks, and a fantastic speaker's series too!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Missing Those Days

Some of you have been wondering, what happened to my nights in the kitchen? Why no more recaps, or lessons learned, or funny stories (usually around a mistake I made). It was doing so well there for awhile (ok, so maybe not SO well, but good enough, and I was loving it!)

Well. Life kind of happened. And the economy. Let me explain. I was loving working in the kitchen. And was wanting to do it everyday if I could. I was finding myself becoming one of those people that looked for excuses to be in the restaurant even when I wasn't working or suppose to be there. I was looking for ways to increase my hours-even going in on Sunday's when I could.

Then November came. And I had back to back trips to New York, Australia and Hong Kong. And I had a hard enough time juggling vacation and work. No time for the kitchen.

And then January rolled around, and the economy was beginning to take it's toll. All around San Francisco, I was hearing horror stories. "We did 14 covers last night", or "Yea, they're cutting our hours", or "It's been slow in the restaurant". Times were a little gloomy. And overall spirits were down.

On one hand, you could say that now's a good time to be a stage. Free labor! But on the other hand? Some how it didn't feel right to me to jump in and work for free when other's were seeing their hours cut. Not that I would be getting paid, or not that I am realistically a threat to anyone in the kitchen in terms of a job (cause really, do I really have it in me to do this professionally? I don't know...) But somehow, it didn't feel just right to me.

A kitchen is a sensitive place. It's a community. And there are politics, power struggles and underlying dynamics that you don't always see or are aware of. I don't want to "rock the boat" all for my little hobby. I was still a bit of an outsider (although I'd like to think that for the most part the team there liked me and didn't mind me working there!) But still. Better to be safe than sorry.

But do I miss it? Oh my god yes! Do I want to go back? Definitely!! (If they or someone else will have me!) Do I regret ever doing it? Nope, one of the best things I've ever done in my entire life.

The lesson here folks? Eat out! Get our local restaurants buzzin again! There are a lot of people who's livelihoods depend on you. There are a lot of people who can't make ends meet when you stop dining out.

And there's me, who's dying to get back in the kitchen!

My clogs, waiting for their day in the spotlight again

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My Cooking Personality

Hmm. I never thought about having a ‘cooking personality’. But I guess it makes sense. Everyone has their own style. When I read this from Food & Wine magazine's blog, it made me think—what’s my cooking personality?

I’m not sure I really fit perfectly into one of these categories. I think I’m a little like all of them! Well, maybe not a Methodical Cook. You know how I feel about recipes. They make good reading material, but I’m not really a recipe follower.

And Healthy Cook? Sure, I make some healthy foods, and I definitely use fresh produce. But am I all about it all the time? Not really.

Competitive. Yes. That’s me by nature. So sure, when I cook, I do get a little competitive. Even if it’s with myself and no one else. I want to make sure I’ve done the best job I could—and I want to be happy with the end result. (Don’t get me started on some of my ice cream failures, or a roast that’s been overcooked, or something that’s a little too salty…)

In terms of Innovative, I guess I try and be innovative—but nothing like what Ferran Adria’s doing. And even in my innovation, there’s simplicity. Probably not the best category for me.

If I had to pick one of these categories…I’d go with Giving Cooks. I do like to cook for other people, and ultimately, want food to be something that brings them pleasure. Right friends? Ahem. Feel free to chime in here.

Hmmm, sure doesn't seem like any one of these categories fits me perfectly. Maybe I’m most accurately categorized as the Schizophrenic Cook.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Favorite: Oink Oink!

I have always LOVED this photo--and this napkin holder.

Can you see what it is? Yes! A little piggy. ADORABLE. And just in time to get me ready for Incanto's Head to Tail dinner Monday night.

Missing Mom

Some bright tullips to brighten up this dark day...

Mom's favorite flowers

Monday, March 16, 2009

Clothes Horse

I'm not much of a clothes horse. Totally not into labels, designers, the latest trends. I have my own style, but I don't think it fits into any one category.

But one of my favorite things to do is to pick up unique pieces of clothing or accessories when I travel. As I was getting ready to go to work a few mornings ago, a smile came across my face as the top I was wearing brought me back to a specific place in time. I was immediately in Denver, in that small boutique I had ducked into for a second in between meetings.

It got me thinking. Some of my favorite items in my closet have made the trek home with me from various locations from around the globe. The red dress from Paris, the sweater from Hong Kong, the comfy cotton t-shirts and tank tops from Australia, that orange jacket from the sample sale in New York, the Matt and Nat purse from Chicago, the necklace from Seattle, the earrings from Portland...

I guess clothes are now joining the ranks of food and scent as a vehicle to travel back into time.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday Favorite: Tuna Roll Deconstructed

The beautiful deconstructed tuna roll from Postrio! One of the most intimidating things to make from the garde manger station--the outer tuna is cut super thinly, and is so delicate, if you're not careful, or moving too fast, you'll rip it. Then you've also got the tempura rice cake (which is hard to see in this photo), and the tempura batter was a bit tricky for me. And lastly, the great challenge of getting the 'rolls' to stand up!

The perfect dish

Thursday, March 12, 2009

For the Love of Visitors

Part of the beauty of living in San Francisco? You get a lot of fun visitors. And it's not hard convincing friends to come out and visit.

There are weeks, months even, when each and every night, my calendar will be filled with plans. Plans to see and catch up with friends, events and parties to check out, and often, friends that are in town that I get to show around.

Of course, given my profession and personal interests, it's not uncommon to have friends traveling and visiting from all around the world. And again, given my profession and personal interests, it's not uncommon that I'm meeting new people constantly, no matter where I am. And with my interests and my friends' interests, our plans often have to do with checking out some of the 'food sights'--Farmer's Markets, specialty stores, and of course the best places to eat and drink in any given city.

I love that I'm always the first person friends will often ask for suggestions of where to go for a meal or a drink. And I LOVE offering suggestions based on a person's taste, interest, occasion, etc. I find pride in being able to match a person up with a restaurant or bar, for any occasion. I think it's a skill and a talent to not just be able to share your favorite spots with people, but to be able to find spots you know they'll enjoy. I want to be the local expert for San Francisco! (Check out this article on local experts from National Geographic Traveler's Intelligent Travel blog.)

I'm lucky to live in such a splendid place and to have so many amazing people in my life. I love my friends, and love showing them my city even more.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two Christmas Feasts

Geez. How behind am I?? I'm writing (and thinking) about Christmas in March?? Well, I was looking through my old photos, and realized I never shared the feasts from Christmas! Now the holidays are always a time for seeing family and for eating!

This last year, we enjoyed a feast for Christmas Eve, with some family friends of ours. We're all a little food crazed, so it wasn't odd at all to stop everyone each time a new dish came out to take photos!

Christmas Eve Dinner 2008

(Click on the album to see all the photos and of course, the captions/descriptions of each dish!)
Then, for Christmas, we cooked at home! My dad's a rock star in the kitchen, and we roasted a gorgeous prime rib. It was soooo good. Reminiscent of the kind my mom use to make.

We also had eggplant, scallops, Chinese broccoli, baked potatoes...YUM! Our family and friends ate for hours, and enjoyed each and every bite. The wine was flowing, and we were all looking to be there with each other celebrating the holidays.

And what would the holidays be without dessert? As I mentioned in a past post, this holiday, I created a fresh mint, candy cane ice cream!

It was perfect over a little chocolate cake. By then, we were so stuffed, we really could not have eaten another bite!

I always love the holidays, and the chance to spend time with my family and loved ones. I consider myself pretty lucky, my family doesn't wait for the holidays, or even need a reason to celebrate to be together. We do it as often as we can.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Meal of the Month: February

Another month, another Meal of the Month. February seemed to fly by. For the most part, I was still on a pretty good detox from my international travels…but no fear my friend. There were still plenty of amazing meals.

From dim sum at Yank Sing with some good Aggie friends, to a rainy day brunch at Ella’s (complete with good friends AND mimosas!), to lots of home cooked meals—butternut squash soup and baked salmon with Jason and Eric, pasta with Chris and Tatiana (and Easton!), and a delicious chicken dinner with Sarah and Michael! So many good meals. Thank you friends for cooking such delicious meals for me!

I had the pleasure of a great mid week, last minute meal with Wendy and Mark—and we celebrated crab season at Thanh Long in style with two crabs and garlic crab noodles. YUM.

There was also the fun Friday night at A16 with Michelle and Paul (and running into friends Michael and Chad!), and yes, I did eat the maccaronara again! I had lots of bites with Tarlan at Zare at Fly Trap (delicious bone marrow and delicious pistachio meatballs!), a Sunday night catching up at the chef’s counter at SPQR with Kerry (fried brussel sprouts anyone?), and a delicious meal at Aziza with JT and Sarah!

Then, near the end of the month, celebrated Dad’s birthday with family and delicious food—chicken, whole fish and crabs (two!)

But, the best meal of the month? That would have to go to Incanto. I was with a chef friend, Seis, and PR friend, Lisa, and we bellied up to the counter and just started salivating as we looked at the menu. As we were sipping on our prosecco and eyeing the menu, we each started shouting out the things we wanted to try. There were a lot of items.

We started with an awesome savoy cabbage, Taylor Gold pear, chervil and toasted mustard salad; blood orange and fennel salad with San Remo olives; spicy lamb pluck; chrispy beef tongue (served with potato, poached egg and salsa verde!), and an amazing spreadable sausage bruscetta. It was amazing.

We moved onto the handkerchief pasta with a rustic pork ragu (served with an egg on top!) and the pasta chitarra, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk and parsley (my FAVORITE dish of the entire night).

Really, at that point, we should have stopped eating. We should have said thank you very much for the best meal, but we are stuffed. And instead, we moved onto the mains. We devored into the Venetian fluke with minutina, celery and sea urchin and the slow roasted lamb neck. Amazing. Both were so good.

Now by this time, we REALLY should have stopped. I mean, come on. There was only three of us. But no. We looked at the dessert menu. There was the lemon thyme panna cotta with candied kumquat that I had heard so much about (and umm, panna cotta is one of my favorite desserts ever anyways...served with kumquats? You KNOW I was going to get!) But that's not all. There was also a carrot cake, served with a carrot creme fraiche ice cream. This was brilliant. And ironically? Just a few weeks earlier? I had made a creme fraiche ice cream and stirred in chunks of carrot cake. Now, mine was good. But this was better. It was also served with a blood orange caramel and maple candied walnuts.

We had to be rolled out of there. Every dish was amazing. Incredible. I don't know why I don't make it out there more often. There are no excuses. No reason. I want to have this meal every month.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Getting That Fix

Success at the market! Beautiful kumquats!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Friday Favorite: A Piece of Art

One of my most treasured items. It's the first piece of art that I bought. It brought a smile to my face the first time I saw it, and it still does each time I look at it. Someday, I'll have more art, and more wall space to hang it on!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Where I Wish I Was...

Monday, March 2, 2009

Speed Dating

In theory, I think it's a good idea. I mean, if you have a person looking for that special someone, why not put them in a room with other people like them looking for the same thing? Why not see if there's a good fit in the mix. That should work, right? A good way to meet and 'interview' people.

Yes. In theory, it should work. And don't get me wrong, I've even heard of success stories. But I can’t bring myself to doing it. Just feels a little forced to me. Something not right about it to me. At least when it comes to my personal life.

Well. Then I read this post on the Food & Wine blog. Ummm, chef/farmer speed dating?? Brilliant! And at our local Barn Diva?!? Now there’s a version of speed dating I can get behind.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Even More Quats??

Yes. Even I'm getting a little tired of talking about kumquats. And I haven't even gotten any yet! But I can't help it! It seems that everywhere I turn, there they are! The Chronicle featured a story on kumquats (yes, it's like the tenth story I've read within the last few weeks!)

Yes. I've had the chance to eat them this season (thank you Incanto...), but I haven't bought any of my own yet. All I've been doing is TALKING about kumquats, not doing a damn thing about actually going and getting some, and cooking them on my own. But already, I might be getting tired of them. Sigh.

This happens a lot. Every year, I find myself saying things like "If I have to eat one my Meyer lemon..." or "Gosh, I'm sick of heirloom tomatoes!" or "There are blood oranges everywhere, when will this end?"

I am one of those lucky Californians (or to my east coast friends, I'm one of those annoying Californians), with access to lots of fresh ingredients, and where 'food seasons' often go on for weeks and weeks. And yes, I take it for granted. When something is in season, it seems every where I look, everywhere I go, that ingredient is featured. As it should be. But as a consumer, near the end of the season, there are definitely days when I'm ready to move on.

Just like now. Already, I'm thinking about my summer fruits and veggies, and can't wait until I'm tired of stone fruits.