Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Head to Tail 2010!

One of my favorite meals of the year--Incanto's Head to Tail dinner. It's an extravagant five course meal, always full of surprises and delicious dishes. This year, I went with some of my favorite people and we had a great time. Here's the menu:

I've written about this annual dinner before. And like all the other years, the anticipation of the dinner was building and building as the date got closer and closer. My friends and I eagerly gathered at the restaurant and could barely contain ourselves as we waited for our table.

As we sat down and were sipping on our vino, I made every person around the table guess which dish they thought might be their favorite. I always think it's interesting that despite the description on the menu, the dish often comes out very differently and what you had expected and what you thought you might not like, could very well end up being your favorite!

The first course started us off with a punch! There was no easing into the meal! But this was delicious. The mint was perfect to cut the heaviness of the meat, and I was obsessed with the onion ash.

venison pluck fra diavola, mint & onion ash

Then we moved onto a peasant pappa. And it was incredible. It was similar to a rice porridge. It was homey comforting and full of flavor. This dish ended up being one of my top two favorites. I loved breaking that egg and stirring it in with the rest of the dish. The more chefy types at the table were pretty intrigued by the blood mousse.

salted cured pork liver, blood mousse, egg & peasant pappa

We moved onto a lighter dish next--a terrina served with artichokes and tarragon. The dish was fresh and light and so good. Kind of the perfect course mid way through the meal. Definitely my other favorite dish of the night.

beef lip & oxtail terrina, artichokes, tarragon

We moved onto the next dish. The one that had garnered the most comments at the beginning of the meal.

Sicilian cod tripe & tongue

I have to admit, when this dish first came out, we all looked at it with our spoons, and tried to determine what was what. The cod tongue was the easiest to determine, and then either Joe or Evan picked out the cod milt and well, the tripe from there. My favorite component of this dish? (And probably my favorite component of the entire meal?) The broth! It was so good!

Our final course? Dessert! But not what you would expect.

lamb mincemeat pie & lavender hay ice cream

I enjoyed this dessert a lot (although maybe not my favorite desserts of all of the Head to Tail dinners.) But delicious nonetheless. The crust on the mincemeat pie was so good, and the lavender hay ice cream? YUM!

Now. You might say eating this meal just once a year is probably enough. Well, yea. For most people. But for me? I had to go back for seconds. Ok. Not of the entire menu, but I was lucky enough to go back on the second night to sit with some of my friends as they experienced the meal for the first time. (Oh, and well, since I was there, I couldn't help but have seconds of the lip and oxtail terrina!)

Happy girl coming back for seconds!

Another year has come and gone, another Head to Tail dinner under my belt. What will next year bring? Know one knows. But until then? I'll be dreaming of that peasant pappa...

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Favorite: Urban Hike Home

On a recent urban hike, this home caught my eye. It looked so idyllic. So warm and inviting. Cottage like. I love the little gate. And the potential of having a small garden too!

Guess I've always been a sucker for these picture perfect homes. Maybe someday I'll have a home like this. But until then? My little home is pretty darn perfect.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pen Pals

I still remember the days of pen pals. From when we were young, and you'd have that friend that maybe lived in another country, or another state, or at that time, even just the next town over. I had a few different pen pals after our first sleep over camp in elementary school. There was no email back then. And sure, there was the phone, but it wasn't the same. There was something special about taking out that 'special' stationary, sitting down and writing.

Well. In this day and age, even despite email, IM, GChat, Twitter, Facebook, and my blog, I've managed to get myself a pen pal. Ok, so it's not exactly the same. We're not mailing each other letters. We do it over email. But the emails we share with each other are long and thoughtful. They're reminiscent of the letters I use to receive from my childhood pen pals.

Each and every time I receive an email from my pen pal, I drop everything. I have to read it right away. I'm always excited to see what story the email will bring. To hear what's going on in my dear friend's life. And to search for the pearls of wisdom that are always shared. I know I can always share my honest thoughts, and that there is no self editing. We're ourselves. And not trying to be anyone else with each other.

I feel lucky. My pen pal and I have only met in person a handful of times. And I really think we became friends via phone and email even before our first meeting. There was an instant connection. I felt 'good energy' and knew that there was a special bond.

In this day of technology, where I fall asleep to tweets and wake up to Facebook status updates, my pen pal provides me with a breath of fresh air.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Head to Tail!

Tonight is the annual Incanto Head to Tail dinner. And I absolutely can't wait to see what my friend Chris Cosentino and his team have whipped up for us. I'll be sure to post full details of the meal and photos (and I'm sure will be Tweeting live from the dinner! Check it out here.) But until then. Here's a fun picture to get you all ready.

My friend Tatiana's slippers--SO CUTE! Oink oink!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Balancing Happiness and Sadness

Today's a special day for my friend Adam. He's getting married. And while I am so excited for him and thrilled to be a part of his special day, I'm also feeling a little down. Today is the day, three years ago, that my mom passed away.

I think about my mom all the time. Literally every day. And there are times still, when even just getting up in the morning is difficult. But today, Mother's Day, my birthday, her birthday, and around the holidays (especially Thanksgiving), I get especially sad. And today, what's on my mind? The fact that my mom will never see me get married.

But, I balance that out with being happy for my friend. Who's found a partner to share his life with. I guess the lesson for today is to cherish the loved ones in your life. And spend as much time with them as you can. Here's to new beginnings and many fond memories.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Friday Favorite: Spring Herbs

A thoughtful housewarming present from a friend of mine--an herb plant! So perfect for me!

I'm loving having these fresh herbs at my fingertips. Now I just hope it'll survive. I'm not exactly known for having a green thumb, so let's just hope this little guy makes it through the spring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

A High

I'm coming off one of the most exhilarating, stressful, intense, and fun experiences from this weekend. I'm still processing all of it and can't wait for a bit of free time to get it all down on 'paper' and to share my experience with all of you. I think it's a combination of my experiences this weekend and Day Light Savings time--but I have been one happy girl all day.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Porky Goodness

Food porn at it's best. Some Chinese style roasted pork. One of my favorite things to eat when I was young, and it's still one of my favorites. I mean really. Who could pass this up? My mouth is watering thinking about the tender meat and crispy skin. Delicious

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Favorite: Cup of Vietnamese Coffee

A simple cup of Vietnamese coffee. In my special cow mug from my good friend Matt. The start of a good day.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Age Appropriate

Dear AARP,

Ahem. How old do you think I am? A membership card? Don't you think I'm a little young? I think you can take me off the mailing list for now. Thanks.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Meal of the Month: February 2009

February was kind of a hard month for me--emotionally. I was still getting over the holidays and the horribly rainy weather was not making it any easier. Spent a lot of time in Pilates and at home by myself. But what else? I spent a lot of time with my friends.

I had a great catch up night with my friend Jason (which included a delicious carbonara pizza from Pizzeria Delfina.) There was an awesome night of ramen and cupcake baking with my friend Wendy (ahem, we baked DOZENS of cupcakes in one night!)

There was a simple night of nibbles with my friend Vanessa (at Beretta of course.) My LA visitor loved it! A fun night with old college friends, Bahram and John (and Justy!) We had pre-dinner drinks at my house (can anyone say negroni?), and then a delicious dinner at Incanto. We had the MOST delicious pig snouts. And amazing prosciutto--who knew pig thigh could be so good?

My friend Tatiana made me the most delicious dinner one chilly night. Ossabaw ham wrapped asparagus, dandelion greens with lardons, chicken (confit in duck fat!), and braised cabbage (with guanciale just for good measure). Oh so good. Can anyone say comfort food?? There was the cozy Sunday night with Chinese take-out (and Humphy Slocombe ice cream) and a good friend (and a bad Lifetime movie.) Then the rainy night meal at Barbacco with old friends Lil and Micah. Highlights for me? The nduja and egg, and the delicious Brussels sprouts.

There were MANY additional good meals at Incanto. Checking out the new decor with my friend Paolo, taking my friends Joe and Lil, and then my good friend from college who was in town. Denise, Jen and I had a great evening there. Thank you to Chris and his team for SO many good and comforting meals. Highlights? Asparagus salad. The strozzapreti, broccoli rabe pesto, ricotta & pinenuts. SO GOOD. The stinging nettle and chanterelle risotto was also yummy. And the duck leg. Served with greens and faro--yum.

There was no shortage of home cooked meals. Home made won-tons for my friend Lisa. A dinner party where I made my mom's delicious stew with my friends Jen, Troy, Michael, Robert, Lisa and Jonathan. Thanks for all the wine kids--and the yummy chocolate cake!! Then there was the yummy roasted chicken dinner with Tim and Lisa, and a fun night out with those two (which ended in a late night Tommy's Joynt snack.)

There were the nibbles at the Ferry Building during the annual Food from the Heart event. And a Chinese New Year meal with my family. I remembered once again why I love my great aunt so much all while realizing just how much I missed my mom. Those family moments are especially difficult without her.

My very good friends Sarah and Evan kept me sane all month long. And are such a good support system for me. Evan and I have our Saturday Farmer's Market routine (and it's always so much more fun when Sarah can join us!) and then we have our Sunday night catch up times. From the casual and yet amazing pasta dinner at their house, to finally seeing Avatar and then dinner at Nopa. Of all of the times I've had the flat bread there? This time was the best! Just perfect--not too soft, not too crispy. Everything else was absolutely perfect. The salt cod brandade with marinated artichokes were my favorite.

But what really got me through the month? My good girlfriends. So what would my Meal of the Month be? Well, it would have to be all of the great meals I shared with my gals, Defne and Lisa. It all started with a night at Nombe (and then Lazlo), that solidified the bond. Maybe we need to learn to say "no more sake". Then there was a fun dinner at Tuba (after a long afternoon at Zeigeist, and oh, a bottle of tequila.) A mid week night out at Yoshi's where we ate EVERYTHING on the menu, and it was ALL delicious. Umm, can we say bar snacks?? SO GOOD. And then the night that started off with drinks at Bar Drake, and then Fifth Floor, and then ended at a fun night at Uva. What can I say? I don't know if I would have made it through the month without these ladies. They make every meal I share with them a Meal of the Month.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Na What?

NDUJA! A soft spreadable salami that has been quite the hot thing lately. Made popular in San Francisco recently by Chef Chris Cosentino who's making it at his salumaria, Boccalone. I love the stuff. Over crackers. With some scrambled eggs. About a billion other ways. Good in so many things. Two of my favorite dishes in San Francisco right now?

Sardines and nduja at Incanto:

And a farm egg over some nduja at Perbacco:

Really. Both dishes are SO good. Go check these dishes out people. They're amazing.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Friday Favorite: Cranberry Beans

There is just something about them that I love. They're so simple. So pretty. So pink!

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Pops

Today is a special day. My dad's birthday! Happy Birthday to my dear dad. As life hits us with ups and downs, my relationship with my dad has changed and evolved. While we're still figuring it all out but through it all, one thing's been clear. We both love each other.

Thank you dad for everything you've done for me, taught me, and continue to teach me.