Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Favorite: A Simple Treat

A gorgeous plate of fresh strawberries with some creme fraiche. Isn't it true? Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest things.

Thank you to the team at Maverick for such a lovely brunch treat!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Misery Loves Company

Warning: This post will include honest conversations and descriptions that some people may find gross. Proceed with caution.

It's true. Misery does love company. Recently, I've been sick. Not the flu but some stomach and intestinal issues. They started with sharp pains in my lower stomach. It literally felt like someone was jabbing me with a knife. On top of that? I had trouble keeping food in my system. Even after I cut out all greasy, fatty, acidic, pan fried, deep fried, and raw foods...and even after caffeine and alcohol had been eliminated, the pains and diarrhea remained.

For a gal that likes to eat and drink as much as I do, this is about the worse thing that can happen. The inability to keep ANY food in my system? Horrible. The pain? So horrible that I don’t even bother eating.

Initial tests have told me nothing. Well, it’s told us everything it’s not. Not my appendix, not an ulcer, not my kidneys. Not a parasite and not a virus.

The hardest part about this? Well, in addition to not eating anything and not drinking? Oh and not knowing what’s wrong with me? Well, the need to stay close to home, or really, my bathroom. I didn't feel confident to venture very far for fear that my stomach would act up again.

The plus side? (Aside from some weight loss?) My friends. Of course asking if I had been to the doctor's, if I needed anything, what was wrong with me, etc. All very thoughtful. Many were worried that I had a food allergy. And even chimed in "What will you do if there's something you can't eat??" Seriously. Boy do they know me or what?

But a few conversations stood out for me.

First, with my friend Michelle. She had been experiencing similar stomach pains a little while back, and so I called her and asked her what her symptoms had been. She told me. And then she declared, “Dyspepsia. You have Dyspepsia! No garlic, onions, caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, fatty food, or FUN for you for a month!” Basically described as your stomach having a sunburn, it’s pretty much the worst acid reflux you’ve ever had. Hmmm. Not sure it’s what I have. My pains were much lower in the stomach.

Then my friend Chris called. He was also recently experiencing some stomach pains a few months ago. “Tell me your symptoms. Sharp pains? Bowel movements normal? How often? How long have you had this? Yea, don’t think you have what I have. Think you’ve just got some bug in you and your system needs to flush it out. Hang in there.” Never thought I’d be going into such detail about my bowel movements with him. Much less while he was working (he’s a chef and I swear he was working the line when we were on the phone and that everyone in the kitchen was listening to this conversation. Hmm, awkward.)

My friend Tim was next. “Yea, I’m on my own Master Cleanse, just feels like my system and palate needs a cleanse. You? You eat meals at a regular time? Is it an ulcer? If not, just take a shot of bourbon, you’ll be fine! I’m sure nothing is wrong with you. Sorry if I’m grumpy, I’m hungry.” What was he doing on a Master Cleanse?? I can't believe he hadn't had any solid foods in five days. Some how, I didn't think a shot of bourbon was going to cure me (although I oh so badly did want some bourbon!)

Then my while out with some friends one night, my friend Evan lowered his voice and said to me, “You know, I have sharp pains sometimes after I eat too. Or there are times when I’ve got to run home to use the bathroom after a meal. Maybe it’s just a slight allergy to something. But does it really matter? Can’t you eat through the pain? Is it really that bad?” Umm. Yea. It is that bad. And umm. The pain is not normal! There shouldn’t be any pain. If anything, I want to figure out the cause of the pain. Then if I decide the food causing the pain is worth it, fine.

Finally? Chris called again. “Your pains came back? That’s it, you’ve got giardia. Tell you doctor that’s what you have, take the meds and it’ll be gone. But do it. Because if you don’t, it’ll come back. Have you been near any farm animals? Drink any bad water? Or beer from an unclean tap?” Umm. Farm animals? Not that I know of. (Turns out it’s not giardia. My doctor ran those tests too. No parasites in me!)

Geez. We were a sad bunch. I’ve traditionally had an iron stomach and never have shown any signs that I was allergic to any food. And now all of a sudden, this! And my poor friends…so many people that were able to sympathize and weigh in. So many of them that have had similar problems.

And yet? Despite the many attempts at a diagnosis? We still don’t know what’s going on. What’s next? A specialist. Stay tuned. In the meantime, to quote my friend Tim, sorry if I’m grumpy, I’m hungry.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beep! Beep!

I’ve always envied those people zipping by me on their little scooters. I look on enviously as I’m cramped between two people on the MUNI bus. Or I longingly eye the one parked across the street each weekend day when I think about the errands I have to run and just how easy it would be if I could scoot around town, neighborhood to neighborhood picking up all the things I need. Or even more recently, with a full batch of jam successfully made, I wanted to have my own little jam delivery service. Delivering sweet jars of goodness to my friends.

I know that riding a scooter can be dangerous. But I also know there are precautions you can take. And that I can take some classes and learn tips and ways to be safer. And hey, I can't not do something just for the chance of getting hurt!

After some initial research it appears that my two best scooter options are the Vespa ET and the Yamaha Vino.

Both aren’t too high off the ground (since I’m not so tall!) And both seem to be relatively light and good beginner scooters. Thoughts from anyone? Preferences? Positive or negative experiences with either?

Saturday, July 25, 2009


I've never made jam. There's a lot of things I've never done, lots of foods I've never made, lots of techniques I've never tried. Making jam happens to be one of them.

This weekend, I made jam. It's always been something I wanted to do, and what sparked this jam making experiment? A day of fruit picking in nearby Brentwood. What's a girl to do with 20lbs of peaches? That's right. Make jam. (Well, and ice cream, and pies, and whatever else I can think of!)

As I started researching jam, I realized off the bat, there was a lot I didn't know. First, there is the science behind jams.

Pectin. What the heck is pectin? It's a natural element found in fruits (mainly citrus fruits), and often used as a gelling agent. And apparently, at the height of stone fruit and berry season, stores sell out of pectin. Opps. Should have planned ahead. Two stores later, we finally had success.

Then there's the learning how to get the right consistency. And really, this part is going to take practice. Anyone looking for a jam making apprentice? The perfect balance of acid, sugar and pectin make for the right consistency. This perfect ratio combined with the right cooking times result in good jam. And if even one little part is off? Bad jam. Or a delicious fruit syrup instead.

Canning technique. I really have never canned or preserved anything. This was a first. Aside from the jars, I didn't have exactly the proper recommended canning tools. But my deep stock pot and some tongs worked just fine. I was off and running.

What did I realize in this whole experience? To start, I had researched heavily online. And I don’t think I’ve ever embarked on another cooking project with having done most of my work online. I tend to be a cookbook gal, reading multiple recipes, and then kind of coming up with my own recipe. Not in this case. Not one cookbook was cracked open.

Second? Thank you Twitter! My online community of food friends (and food strangers) were all there for me. Chiming in about whether or not I had enough sugar or pectin. Urging me to give the jam some time and to let it sit and ‘gel’ before deciding I had made a big batch of peach syrup. It was therapeutic to get feedback and support—and in real time.

In the end? It all worked out and I had little jars of sweet peach jam to give away to friends. Success! What’s next? Strawberries? Fig jam? Jarring tomatoes maybe? Bring it on. I’m ready.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Favorite: Chilling with a Friend

One of my favorite moments from my birthday weekend. I spent some precious moments early Saturday morning with my good friend Michelle. We hung on the hammock and just had a nice little heart to heart. It was quiet all around. Most of the house was still sleeping (and the rest were hard at work making our breakfast!) We had a gorgeous view of the valley. And it was just the two of us (well, and Erika snapping the photo!)

What a great way to kick-off my 30th birthday. A huge thank you once again to my friends that made it out there and were a part of the celebration festivities!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


"Poking someone is no longer considered rude. Tweet is no longer a sound made by small birds. A blog has replaced a soapbox."

I saw that on Twitter the other day, and apologies, I don't remember who said it. In a minute of bad judgment, I didn't make a note of it, and of course, now days later, I'm still thinking about this phrase and wanting to write about it! (But if it's you, please leave a comment, email me, @reply me, DM me, or Facebook message me, I'll gladly give credit where credit is due.)

It's funny how our worlds change. The new terms that come into play (one of my favorite things each year is when the list of 'new words' that are being added to the dictionary comes out!) And the new platforms one has at their disposal.

My blog IS my soapbox. I've never thought of it like this, but it's true. This is MY blog. And right or wrong, these are my thoughts and my opinions. I enjoy sharing them with my friends and readers. I welcome dialogue and would love for people to chime in with their ideas, their lists, their experiences and thoughts.

But at the end of the day, if you're going to disagree with me, and do so in a rude way, THEN STOP READING. Because that's not the point of this forum. I'm open to new ideas, and perspectives. Prove me wrong even, but do so in a logical, thoughtful, respectful and nice way.

And if you can't do that? Well then, get off my soapbox and get your own.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Restaurant Clubhouse

I saw a local SF chef, Ravi Kapur, Tweet that phrase a few days ago. Restaurant Clubhouse. He was at Beretta, a popular restaurant in town, and as Ravi pointed out, it's kind of a restaurant industry 'clubhouse'.

A place that's always got a decent crowd. A place you can always get a good drink. A place where good, simple food is always coming out of the kitchen (late night too!). A place where, if you're in the biz, you're bound to run into someone you know.

Whether it's Mon night, or Sat night, or even Sun afternoon, I've never gone to Beretta without seeing someone I know. As we often say, don't go to Beretta is you've got some secret business to discuss, or if you're looking to go unnoticed. Not an 'affair' kind of a place.

I've drank my way through the cocktail list (in one sitting no less), taken friends there from out of town, taken foodies traveling to SF from near and far, gone there for after dinner drinks, pre dinner drinks, post brunch drinks, and have even taken dates there to see how they'd handle themselves in all the craziness.

A clubhouse is indeed, a great way to describe the place.

Why is this so important? It a place where chefs, servers, restaurateurs, and others in the biz can relax. Where we can be ourselves, with the fun of potentially running into other friends and like minded individuals.

Sure, anyone can go and eat and drink at Beretta. But not just anyone can be in the club. And you know what? It's generally easy to spot the members from the non-members. There's just something about them. Maybe it's the secret handshake.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Favorite: A Secret Garden

Recently, I was walking through the Bernal Heights neighborhood, and came across this wonderful garden. It was an amazing plot of land, on a slope, filled with veggies and flowers. It was incredible.

I found myself so jealous. It would be so amazing to have a little plot of land in the middle of this great city. I'd love to have my own little veggie garden! Tomatoes, corn, peppers, squash, fresh herbs, and of course tons and tons of fruit trees. it would be so great!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pet Peeve: The Wine List

I’ve never understood this. Why does everyone get a menu, but there’s only one wine list dropped on the table? I guess I understand that it might have started back in the days when the man of the table was automatically handed the wine list because he just chose the wine. Those same times when the woman’s menu had no prices and only the man’s menu had the prices. (I’ve actually been in a restaurant like that before, it was a weird experience. I didn’t even know restaurants still had those menus!) But haven’t we gotten beyond that now?

Anyways, it’s always been a pet peeve of mine. Although I may not be the biggest wine expert, I still want to see the menu. And I always find that I learn a lot by reading the wine list. Seeing how the wines are organized, looking for some of the same wines that show up again and again on menus, finding the wines I am familiar with and seeing what types of mark-ups there are, and of course, just generally continuing to expand my knowledge of wines.

When I’m out with a group of friends, it’s one thing if we all order glasses of wine. Because then we can each pick what we like, and at the price point we want. In some restaurants, the wines by the glass are listed on the food menu. In my mind, that’s the best case scenario. You don’t have to go back and forth passing the list, and you can each have it in front of you.

But what happens when you start looking to order a bottle? And if you’re dining with people you don’t know so well. Or people that may have different tastes in wine or different ideas of what’s appropriate and what’s not. Then what? You end up in a lot of awkward moments. Either while ordering, or worse yet, at the end of the meal when you’re given a bill, and someone’s not happy or surprised by the cost.

I started thinking about all of this when Michael Bauer wrote about this on his blog recently. And it reminded me of a few different experiences. Times when I wished we had each had a copy of the wine list in front of us. Or times when I wish I had been more emphatic about wanting or not wanting something.

When will restaurants save us from these awkward moments and post-dinner regrets? Until then, I’ve still got to practice my wine assertiveness.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Green with Envy

This recent post by Grant Achatz from Alinea got me thinking. How would I feel if I were dining out and eyeing a table next to me getting the ultra VIP treatment while I was just getting standard service? I guess it would be one thing if it were just any night at my neighborhood restaurant. It might matter less there. But another thing if it was a once in a lifetime type of place. Say Gary Danko, Michael Mina, French Laundry, or Alinea. Then it might be a different story. How would I feel if I was spending a substantial amount of money on a once in a lifetime meal, and all I could see was how the table next to me was being treated better than I was and getting special attention?

Part of me says, it shouldn’t matter. Neighborhood restaurant or any where else. Every guest should be treated equally, and no matter where, I would be envious of a guest receiving special treatment.

But then, I realize. I’m that girl sometimes. Sure, not in these ultra fine dining spots, but in enough restaurants that maybe I’ve been the one on the receiving end of the glare. Ushered into the dining room where the best table in the house is being reserved for me while there’s a wait out the door. Or perhaps a glass of bubbly in my hands even before I have the chance to take off my jacket. A visit from the chef or a special dish not on the menu? Yup, been there. A hello from the manager? Frequently.

Again, I know. I’m a lucky girl. But you know what else? This is part of the reason I return to these spots again and again. And part of the reason they treat me so well? It’s because I do come back again and again. That I bring new people into the restaurant, and return all the time. It’s a two way street.

Regardless, I will gladly spend my money in any restaurant where I’m treated well and greeted with a warm and genuine welcome.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Favorite: San Francisco Classic

One of my favorite photos I took while cruising around San Francisco Bay a few weekends ago. This photo was taken just as we were about to go under the Golden Gate Bridge. It was a great day to be on the water!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dirty Dozen

Recently Michael Bauer from the San Francisco Chronicle talked about the dozen dishes from restaurants around town that he craved. It got me thinking. I'm constantly talking about dishes that I crave. So what would my 12 dishes be?? Well, here they are. In no particular order, but rather just as they came to me!

- Spaghettini from Incanto
- Smelt from Kokkari
- Crab noodles from Poleng Lounge
- Fried brussel sprouts from SPQR
- Pizza from Pizzeria Delfina
- Farro salad from Beretta,
- Baked pasta from Nopa
- Fried chicken from Maverick
- Taco's from Nick's Crispy Tacos (Nick's style of course!)
- Maccaronara from A16
- Crab from PPQ
- BBQ pork fried rice from U-Lee

What are yours?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meal of the Month: June

This was a big month. I had many great meals and enjoyed checking out some new places too! Contigo, Flour + Water and Wexler’s were added to the San Francisco dining scene.

There was good catch up time over seven courses of meat at a Vietnamese restaurant in the Tenderloin, at NOPA over some yummy cocktails, a fried chicken meal at Maverick, Thai food in my hood, and finally the chance to check out Velvet Cantina (what a totally random place!) There were birthday celebrations for my good friend Michelle, over a delicious Korean meal in Japantown (and Bi-Rite ice cream and champagne afterwards!), as well as a fancy meal at EPIC Roasthouse (kicked off with a champagne reception at sunset!)

Seven Courses of Beef and Korean food!

There was my ‘meal’ made of nibbles from five different chefs at the Cochon555 event. The meal was originally recaped here, but highlights included the pork skin roll, trotter cake, chicharrone taco, blood brioche sandwich, pork shoulder with polenta, porky bacon rice crispy treats and a apricot crumble with lard and bacon!

And then the amazing Sunday night dinner with some of my favorite people in the city at Incanto. We went for the Cucina Poverna menu, and in the end? Of course we couldn’t go there and not eat a bunch of other delicious stuff…highlights were the pastramied goose breast and well, the spaghettini (like you didn’t see that one coming!)

Pig's head at the butchering demo at Cochon555 and pastramied goose breast from Incanto

And some of the best meals of the month? Delicious home cooked meals at friend’s houses, including the best quinoa salad and steak at Sarah and Evan’s, a meal with the kids at Wendy and Mark’s, and a Greek feast at Tatiana’s house (which included some sword fighting with Easton!)

But no. Those weren’t the winning Meal of the Month. For the first time ever, I think there might be a tie. What two amazing meals could I be talking about? The first? My last meal at Postrio. I spend a lot of time talking about my last Postrio dinner in two different earlier blog posts, the first posted the week the restaurant closed, the second, more recently. Click on those links for a recap of this incredible experience.

So what was the second meal? An amazing multi course dinner at Jai Yun. A little hole in the wall Chinese restaurant, the place has no menu, and you only get to choose if you want a $55, $65, or $75 dinner (per person.) From there, everything is in the chefs hands. Some people call it the “Chinese French Laundry”. Me? Just one of the best dining experiences of my life.

First, there was 12 plates of delicious appetizers. Ranging from dried shrimp (that had a hint of sweetness), tofu skins, tripe ‘salad’, bamboo shoots, jelly fish, five spice pork, pork tongue, a ginger/radish salad, cucumber with sesame seed oil, lotus root...and more. Then we moved onto the most perfect abalone with egg white dish, a wheat gluten dish, shrimp, spicy eggplant dish, fish fillet, mung bean noodles with Chinese bacon, kung pao chicken, tofu with soy beans, squid, winter melon, fried mushrooms, pork shank, orange beef, roasted duck, fried eggplant and a whole fish. Umm, yes. It was incredible. You can see all the photos here, but below are pictures of some of my favorite dishes:

The 12 plates around the table, and the last bite of the abalone with egg whites

Mung bean noodles and squid!

Whole duck and whole fish
It was an unforgettable night surrounded by new and old friends, and a group of people that really had a deep appreciation for the food that is being cooked here. Not only a worthy Meal of the Month (tied!), but truly one of the best meals of my life.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Last Supper: Postrio

I don't even know where to begin or what to say. I've seen restaurants all around town and all around the country closing, but I never really thought a restaurant that was so significant to the San Francisco food scene would close, a restaurant that was so close to my heart. I never thought I would have a Last Supper at Postrio. I wrote about the significance of the restaurant the week it closed here. But what I didn't get into was my last supper there.

How different these two photos are. One, on the second to last night of dinner service, there are literally 'too many cooks in the kitchen', and the next? The night of the employee party just a few days later? No cooks in the kitchen at all.

I can't even describe the atmosphere in the restaurant the night before the last meal before the restaurant closed. It was upbeat and celebratory, and you could feel the love in the air. Everyone in the room was there to support the restaurant. Everyone was there reminiscing about old times, old meals, old stories.

When we sat down, the left side of the menu was filled with quotes:

"Promise me you'll never forget me because if I thought you would, I'd never leave." A.A. Milne

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." Dr. Suess

"Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never ever the same." Flavia Weedn

"Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos." Charles M. Schulz

It was a nice touch. The funniest thing? In reference to that last quote from Charles Schulz, the restaurant did manage to gather many of the past chefs for two special nights. The menu was also a throw-back, featuring the best sellers of the restaurant through the years. It was fun to see some of these old favorites and classic dishes back on the menu.

Two of the highlights of the night: mushroom risotto and Chinese duck

Our table also indulged in a number of other dishes. Click here to see the entire photo album from the night. Yes, I'm a sentimental person. I have to admit, I teared up when I first started reading the quotes in the menu. It was an incredibly special evening. A night that will forever be in my heart. There's no other restaurant that has such a significant meaning to me and I'm thankful for the time I've spent there, and also for all of the wonderful people I've met through my experiences there.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth of July

Wishing you all a very Happy Fourth of July!! Hope you're all enjoying this holiday with your friends and family. Be safe!

And although I'm not necessarily a super patriotic person, on this day, I do try to take the time to reflect on how lucky I am to be living in the United States. I'm thankful for so many of the freedoms and rights we're all granted in our country. And after a short stint of living out in Washington, D.C. , this holiday especially makes me think of my time living out there and just what a special country and holiday this is.

View of the National Monument, Washington, D.C.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Favorite: A View!

Despite the fact that I'm not a huge fan of Miami, this photo does bring a smile to my face. Why? Well, first, it's a great view! Pool deck on the 16th floor of the EPIC Hotel-and what a pool! The second reason? I took the photo! And I think it's especially 'artistic'. So here's a pool shot to kick off July and a summer of pool time!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

National Ice Cream Month!!

Maybe my favorite of the 'random' holidays...National Ice Cream Month! Whoo hooo! Today kicks off National Ice Cream Month. I have to admit, I've been slacking a little bit with the ice cream making lately. Just seems there have been other things going on and keeping me busy.

BUT, please don't doubt it. I still love ice cream. And have a passion for making it. And want to continue testing new flavor combinations. Maybe during this special month, I'll recommit myself to making the best ice cream possible! And in the meantime, everyone, go out there and eat some ice cream.
One of my favorite birthday presents, an ice cream holder! Thanks Michelle!