Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Delicious winemaker dinner at Acquerello Restaurant
Delicious winemaker dinner at Acquerello Restaurant last night. The winemaker brought wines that the chef wanted to pair with her food. It was all =really= delish.

Before we went, his nibs said, Piemonte wines. I think we've been to the village this wine is supposed to come from. He named it. I checked. I rummaged through old digital photos we'd taken on a trip in September 2002. And, yes, we had indeed walked through the village of Serralunga d'Alba.

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We'd poked through the square and climbed up into the castle that dominates the surrounds.

We'd walked through Gaja vineyards in the morning and watched them harvesting, before we walked up to the village

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but I'm pretty sure we hadn't walked through Ettore Germano, which is a ways from the village and on the other side of the village from Gaja.

Tasty wines last night. He had a sparkling to start and a gem of an un-oaked Chardonnay before he dove into Barolos and such.

Plus Sergio Germano was a very charming man with loads to talk about truffles and wine and winemaking. Entertaining evening all around. We need to visit Acquerello more often than we do. Suzette Gresham-Tognetti makes such amazing food.

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Friday, January 15, 2010
[RECIPE] Chicken mole for dinner last night
Last night we used up the last few pieces of chicken from the rotisserie chicken I bought for the book club meeting here 04 January. That meeting was canceled because of issues with the sewer -- alas -- and we found ourselves with a $5 rotisserie chicken from Costco for the second time in our lives.

(Why don't we buy rotisserie chickens more often? Is it because I think, "I can cook my own chicken! Why do I need to buy a pre-cooked chicken from Costco?" That Monday was a day of upsets, though, with several issues precluding a home-cooked meal for the bookers. Then, after all that, the sewer problems. ...)

We had chicken legs &c. on Monday, January 4, for dinner. Salad. Garlic bread. Chicken again the following night or maybe two.

A week later, this Monday, we took the solid pieces of chicken off the carcass and saved them and threw the carcass and the wings into a pot and made chicken vegetable soup w/ spaetzle. Finally, we're coming to the end of the chicken and have had ... eight-plus meals out of it? Amazing. (And despite me eating chicken soup w/ spaetzle for breakfast twice since the 11th, we =still= have another serving of soup and spaetzle left as well. ...)

I made mole sauce last night and popped the cooked pieces of chicken leftover from the 11th in the sauce and let them simmer a bit before serving. Delish.

Chicken Mole recipe (a snap, a cinch, easy-peasy)

Large heavy pot of a proper size to hold everything.

Add ~ 2T olive oil to the heated pan. Heat oil. Add 1 small onion, chopped. Stir around while it browns.

While it's browning, chop 2-3 garlic cloves. Put in custard cup. Add to custard cup
2T chili powder
1t ground cumin
1/2t ground cinnamon.

When the onion is showing signs of browning, toss the garlic and spices in on top. Stir until you can smell them toasting.

Add one can diced tomatoes. (I used Hunt's fire-roasted diced tomatoes w/ garlic)
Add a cup or so of Trader Joe's ménage à trois peppers, chopped. (or one green pepper, chopped)
Add 10-oz chicken broth.
Add large spoonful of peanut butter (adds some bass tones to the sauce)
Add 2 oz. chocolate, broken into smaller pieces. (Bitter preferred, but if there's no bitter in the house, any dark chocolate w/ >70% cocoa. DO NOT EVEN THINK OF USING MILK CHOCOLATE!)
Add two chipotle peppers, chopped, if you have them, or some chipotle pepper salsa if you don't, or don't worry about it if there's no chipotle peppers of any sort in the house. The flavor =is= a nice addition if you have it.

Keep stirring sauce on heat until the chocolate's melted and the peanut butter has blended in. At this point, you throw in the chicken pieces, if you are not dealing with leftover chicken.

In either case, keep stirring and bubbling until the sauce has reduced to the thickness you're happy with. (And the chicken is cooked, if you weren't dealing with pre-cooked chicken.) A bit before then, I put the pieces of cooked chicken in so they'd absorb some of the flavors before serving.

Tonight I plan to cook a few boneless chicken thighs and toss them in the (leftover fr last night) mole sauce and have an encore performance.

Delish. (And easy-peasy!)
(w/ hattip to Paula Deen, whose recipe is the foundation of this one. ...)

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Monday, January 11, 2010
Chicken soup for dinner tonight. ...
Chop. Chop. Chop. Garlic. Onions. Carrots. Celery. Brown a bit in olive oil. Add bay leaves, 8C water, leftover bits of a denuded roast chicken: meaty bones, wings, whatever. All tossed into the pot. Bubble for 2hrs.

Strip the chicken off the bone and tear into shreds and add back into pot. Discard bones. Retrieve bay leaves & discard.

Add some leftover chicken salvaged from the pre-denuded roasted chicken to the pot. Taste. Add Herbes de Provence. Bring to boil then shut off.

Boil some water. Make spaetzle. Strain spaetzle. (Made four batches worth so I didn't overwhelm the boiling water.) Add butter and toss spaetzle.

Reheat soup. Serve. (Me) : Spaetzle in the bowl, covered w/ soup. (He): Buttered spaetzle on the side. Soup in a bowl.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009
Last night I cooked kohlrabi for the first time.
Last night I cooked kohlrabi for the first time. (Gee. That reminds me of the first line of REBECCA: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.)

ChefRussell had served it onstuponatime, iirc, and CarolP served it up at a bookgroup meeting but me? Never. Know kohlrabi?

Bought some in Chinatown. Leaves not included. Last night I searched through cookbooks for directions. None to be found. So I turned to the Web and found the utterly delightful Farmgirl Fare blog and her paean to kohlrabi. ... Although I didn't use her recipe or any other I found on the Web, she gave me permission to cook it any ol' which-way I'd like when she wrote

Sweet and mildly flavored, kohlrabi can be braised, boiled, stuffed, sliced, scalloped, steamed, julienned, roasted, and sautéed. You can grate it into slaw, toss it into salads, slip it into soups and stews, snack on it raw with dip, and stir-fry it. You can even wrap it in foil and grill it. I've seen recipes where kohlrabi was covered in cream, sautéed with anchovies, stuffed into empanadas, fried into cakes, served with hollandaise sauce, and turned into a cinnamon brunch bake. This vegetable is versatile.

Sal's Kohlrabi:
Peel two kohlrabi. Chop into thinnish chunks, about the size of the upper joint of a thumb. Throw into a Dutch oven and sauté with some bacon fat to slightly brown the veg. Add water to barely cover and top with lid. Cook until softened and most of the water is gone. Mash with residual water. (I could've pureed in the Cuisinart but wanted a more chunky mash.) Add a generous dollop of sour cream and seasonings and a chopped green onion. Stir.

Yum. (Served two as vegetable side dish. ...)

(I also snacked on a piece or two of raw kohlrabi while I was cooking and liked it. Good addition to a veggie-and-dip platter. Kohlrabi has a texture like jicama but a more green taste. )

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Monday, December 14, 2009
Truffle-palooza last Saturday night
Last Saturday was the last but one dinner for the Dissident Chef. He's putting his pirate ship into drydock so he can focus on the new restaurant that's a-building at Pier 5.

The Theme was truffles ... the fungi not the chocolate. Saturday night's menu was the long-form (we got home waaay after midnight) while Sunday's (the final final final dinner for at least a year) was a shortened version to allow folks to get to work on Monday.

Eight courses, followed by three desserts. Every course, including the desserts, had truffles either in or on or over.

(White truffle ice cream .... mmmmmm)

Photos (and menu) from Saturday's Truffle-palooza

SubCulture Dining Finally Waves Goodbye

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Saturday, November 28, 2009
Sliding toward the end of the year ...
Sliding into the end of the year.

Halloween's been and gone. The clocks rolled back an hour. Day of the Dead. Guy Fawkes. Siblings' November shared-birthday, although the older sibling of the two skipped the family gathering and Thanksgiving to go off gallivanting in France and Italy. In another week December comes and with it Dad's (RIP) and Dan's shared bday, my sister-in-law's bday, my oldest brother's (RIP) bday, his nibs' bday that he shares with my uncle. Christmas. And then, around the corner, is the New Year, awaiting discovery.

And the sound of hoofbeats creeping up behind. ...

Instead of Black Friday, yesterday, his nibs and I met up at the California Academy of Sciences, where he had two shifts of docent duty, and went to the Moss Room for dinner. The Moss Room isn't, anymore. The living wall of mosses never gained traction and has been replaced by a living wall of ferns and other such flora.

Will they rename the restaurant the Fern Room? I doubt it.

We shared a delicious turnip soup with cream, a splash of this and a bit of pork belly. We shared a Lon and Bailey Farms Pork Belly with spiced pumpkin puree, sweet onions, pheasant egg, balsamic -- eggs and bacon by any other name. He had opah. I had guinea fowl on a pool of green curry, greens, fingerling potatoes. We shared a side of gratin cauliflower.

So what's on the table tonight? Leftover Thanksgiving fixings, courtesy of my talented brother (brined turkey, mashed, two kinds of dressing, corn casserole) and courtesy of my talented son-in-law with able assist from our son (salad, rolls), and my contributions (sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, pumpkin pie).

And then the November holidays will be gone and we'll be skidding into December and what?

Where has this year gone? Anything accomplished? Happier now than last year this time? Who is gone? Who has arrived? Books read? Words written?

Flowers planted and picked and enjoyed, then tossed into the compost bin.

The days grow short when you reach the end of November.

Time to make plans.

Time to re-commit to and internalize the final panel of Calvin and Hobbes.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009
A swell evening out, followed by an SFMTA ... messup.
Last night we headed over to the Galleria at SF Design Center for Wine & Spirits' Top 100 Wines event. We bought the plebe tickets and had a discount on those, so the evening was the cost of a nice dinner. Walked down the hill and caught the 10-Townsend at Levi's Plaza. A while and a ways later, we arrived just as the plebe doors opened at 6:30P.

Fine time. In addition to the wineries that made the list (of which we had far fewer than 100 tastes and red-wine-only at that), the interspersed foodie tables included wares from Flour & Water, Il Cane Rosso, Hog Island Oysters, Heaven's Dog, Gitane, Cliff House, and more.

The event was shutting down at 8:30P, and with a last hurrah we handed our Riedel wine glasses to the gent at the exit and left to catch the bus home. The 10-Townsend stops running at 8P or so, but we could catch the 19-Polk at 15th and Rhode Island and take it up to Union and Polk where we'd catch the 45 down to Washington Square Park.

We thought.

We walked around the corner and down a block to the bus stop. NextBus signage said the next bus was due in 20 minutes or so. We could wait. The weather's been relatively warm with the Japanese storm and it wasn't raining. Thanks be.

The signage counted down (with some hiccups) to four minutes more to wait and then, suddenly, flipped to saying the next bus was due in 15 minutes. Wah?

The signage counted down (again) (again with some hiccups) until it said, "ARRIVING."

We watched a different bus heading south on an adjacent parallel street and our next bus info changed its mind. Our next bus was now due in twenty-two minutes.

Is NextBus based on GPS in the buses? Or is it all just wet-finger guessology?

One of the other people waiting for the phantom bus called to see where the 19-Polk might be and when we could expect it. Oh, the answer came back after he'd been put on hold, there was a shooting and that's why your bus is delayed.

(So tell me again why it said, "ARRIVING," if it had had no intention of arriving and was, in fact, twenty-some minutes away?)

(Still can't find any news reports of such a thing online this AM. Had we misunderstood? Would a fire at Union Square interrupt a bus route on Polk, because that's the only trouble that happened last night that seems to have been deemed newsworthy.)

It's now quarter to ten rather than quarter to nine, when we first arrived at the bus stop. No bus. No one knows if the latest ETA is even accurate. When will the next 19 arrive? None of us trust the system at this point. Pretty crummy for bus service that is supposed to arrive every twenty minutes at that time of the day.

The crowd waiting for the 19 at 15th and Rhode Island started to disperse. Each of us headed off to the location we thought would most likely result in a bus ride before midnight.

We opted to walk from 15th & Rhode Island to 4th and Townsend (a little less than a mile) to catch the 30 back to Washington Square Park, which still would leave us about half a mile up hill (and down) home. (Most of the other nearby bus stops we knew about were either no-longer-running 10s or the mysteriously-missing 19.)

Finally reached home around quarter to eleven. Far later than we'd intended.

What if we hadn't been in shape or willing to walk over to catch the 30? Would the 19 ever have arrived?

What responsibility does SFMTA have to their customers waiting after dark (or during the day for that matter) to get them from where they are to where they are wanting to go according to the published schedules?

Inquiring minds.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Farmers' market tomatoes in my future
Last year we watched the tomatoes ripen on a neighbor's deck and I thought, ho. Hadn't realized we got enough sun and warmth here to grow tomatoes but maybe I could add some tomatoes to the mix of herbs and flowers I currently grow on the deck.

The die was cast when we were in a nursery and saw six-packs of begonias that had volunteer tomatoes growing in them. Two six-packs of begonias. Three "free" tomato plants. The two tomato cages were picked up for free on the sidewalk down by Union and Cadell Place where someone had left five for first-takers. I bought pots. Pots are reusable. I bought bags of potting mix. Also reusable. I potted my tomato plants and began the adventure.

Net cost $0 except for the cost of water.

One pot's contents turned out to be cherry tomatoes. So far I've got two cherry tomatoes off the plant. Something four-footed seems to get to the tomatoes before I feel they're ripe enough.

The two plants with large tomatoes? So far all of the tomatoes have met the fate of this one.

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Sometimes the entire almost-ripe tomato disappears overnight. Sometimes just part of it, but the rest disappears soon enough.

We're talking either roof rats -- possible, although they've been nowhere to be seen for four years, since the cat moved in -- or raccoons -- more possible because they know their way up five stories of spiral metal stairs. The Guy says it could also be parrots, nibbling during the day and we just don't check the tomatoes before we go to bed. Whoever is doing this, boy, do they make a mess, spattering tomato juices on the wall behind the pots.

No deck-grown tomatoes next year. Farmers' market at the Ferry Building will be my tomato source instead.

Was worth a try.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009
The subject was hotdogs and the Fourth of July
The link was to a classic hotdog-eating scene from a classic movie.

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Monday, June 01, 2009
Adieu, Joseph Schmidt
Joseph Schmidt, a local purveyor of fine chocolates, now a subsidiary of Hershey's, will close as of June 30. Their chocolates are now on sale (3489 16th St.) as they skid toward the end of the month, although you wouldn't be able to tell from their Web site.

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Old friends brought a "spring" box collection as a hostess gift when they came for dinner a few weeks back. The box is beautiful. The chocolates ymmm.

Adieu, JS. Another San Francisco tradition signs off.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
A not-so-typical Sunday
The traditional brunch scheduled for last Sunday was re-scheduled, so we found ourselves with an unexpected free day on the calendar.

After checking the clock several times to make sure we timed it right, we used our Ukraine-specific calling card to call the younger younger guy, who'd requested a Mother's Day call. Later, I talked with the older younger guy. Happy Mother's Day to me.

A bit after lunch, we headed down the hill to the Ferry Building for bread at Acme. After scoring our sour bâtard, his nibs took me out for a delish Mother's Day brunch at Butterfly on the waterfront. I watched the Bay: he watched the family dynamics of the Mother's Day celebrants in the restaurant.

Our meal started with a small platter of four amuse-bouches for each of us: a Bloody Mary oyster shooter, salmon and strawberry salad roll, tuna poke tartar, and -- my favorite -- Rob Lam's outstanding meatball of Kobe beef wrapped around a bit of foie gras and then cooked until the outside is crispy. (We'd had these meatballs at a wine tasting event at Butterfly a while back ... memorable. Hot. Crispy. Rich. Ymmmm.)

The amuse-bouches were followed by a choice of first courses. From four or so we chose two different items -- a rich, creamy shrimp bisque in puff pastry with white truffle oil, minced chives =and= spicy green papaya and mango salad with Vietnamese carmelized shrimp. We swopped halfway through.

Next, we had a choice of main courses -- again, four or so ... we both chose the Eggs Benedict three ways: traditional, w/ crab, and w/ wild mushroom. And, finally, a dessert plate from the chef. (We boxed up the non-melting portions for later consumption.)

On our way home (after opting to head straight up the stairs rather than go roundabout with the 39bus up to Coit Tower and walk down), we stopped off at a neighbor-on-the-steps' everything-must-go sale. She's headed off to Fiji with the Peace Corps and off-loading as much as possible.

We were so thoroughly full that even the walk down to the Ferry Building for bread (0.9mi), over to Butterfly for brunch (1mi), and back up the hill (0.5mi), didn't wear off enough calories. We both went to bed later Sunday night without our supper (and without having a single regret that we'd missed a meal).

A lovely day it was. ... extended by the package that arrived from our PCV (sent from Berkeley) this morning.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009
The classic Alice B. Toklas recipe
I found a good home for my softcover edition of The ALICE B. TOKLAS COOKBOOK. I have an older, hardcover, first edition that I intend to keep but, really, there aren't many differences 'twixt these two.

One difference, the newer edition has a foreword by MFK Fisher.

One other crucial difference, for those of us who spent our young adult years in the sixties and seventies, this edition contains the recipe that (for legal reasons) the publisher could not include in the first edition. Yes, the recipe for Haschich Fudge -- no, not brownies ... fudge, even though the talk was always of Alice B. Toklas brownies.

The Haschich Fudge recipe is not a Toklas original, but rather came to Toklas from painter and film-maker Brion Gysin, according to the notes.

Haschich Fudge (which anyone could whip up on a rainy day)

This is the food of Paradise -- of Baudelaire's Artificial Paradises: it might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies' Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR. In Morocco it is thought to be good for warding off the common cold in damp winter weather and is, indeed, more effective if taken with large quantities of mint tea. Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one's personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected. Almost anything Saint Theresa did, you can do better if you can bear to be ravished by 'un évanouissement reveillé.'

Take 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 whole nutmeg, 4 average sticks of cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of coriander. These should be pulverised in a mortar. About a handful each of stoned dates, dried figs, shelled almonds and peanuts: chop these and mix them together. A bunch of canibus sativa [sic] can be pulverised. This along with the spices should be dusted over the mixed fruit and nuts, kneaded together. About a cup of sugar dissolved in a big pat of butter. Rolled into a cake and cut into pieces or made into balls about the size of a walnut, it should be eaten with care. Two pieces are quite sufficient.

Obtaining the canibus may present certain difficulties, but the variety known as canibus sativa grows as a common weed, often unrecognised, everywhere in Europe, Asia and parts of Africa; besides being cultivated as a crop for the manufacture of rope. In the Americas, while often discouraged, its cousin, called canibus indica, has been observed even in city window boxes. It should be picked and dried as soon as it has gone to seed and while the plant is still green.

Now that I've saved the recipe (although for what reason I don't know), I can pass the copy of the later edition on to someone who will give it a good home.

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zoomed in food... look closer
Thursday, February 26, 2009
It's Not What You Eat, It's How Much
Thursday, February 05, 2009
20 Worst Foods of 2009 - 1. The Worst Food in America of 2009
20 Worst Foods of 2009 - 1. The Worst Food in America of 2009 (from Men's Health)

Baskin Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake
2,600 calories
135 g fat (59 g saturated fat, 2.5 g trans fats)
263 g sugars
1,700 mg sodium

We didn't think anything could be worse than Baskin Robbins' 2008 bombshell, the Heath Bar Shake. After all, it had more sugar (266 grams) than 20 bowls of Froot Loops, more calories (2,310) than 11 actual Heath Bars, and more ingredients (73) than you'll find in most chemist labs.

Rather than coming to their senses and removing it from the menu, they did themselves one worse and introduced this caloric catastrophe. It's soiled with more than a day's worth of calories and three days worth of saturated fat, and, worst of all, usually takes less than 10 minutes to sip through a straw.

The Men's Health article has twenty of the worst foods in America: worst salad, worst breakfast, worst burger, &c. (Hard to navigate, but interesting. ...)

[via Sour Grapes' Google Reader]

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Chocolate news :-(
But not a big surprise. And here's my big "I told you so."

In 2005 Hershey's bought Scharffen Berger chocolate in Berkeley and Joseph Schmidt chocolates here in the city. At the time it was all like "nothing's going to change." My reaction was, Hershey's? Who do you think you're kidding? We've heard it all before, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Now the news is that Hershey's is closing down both factories and will "consolidate production at other facilities." "The plant closures will affect a total of about 150 employees from both facilities."

Same chocolates, Hershey's claims. No change at all. Just no longer locally made. The quality will be maintained, they say. Heck they were already making most of the Scharffen Berger stuff in IL anyway. What's the diff?

Nice way to buy the competition and co-opt it, Hershey's.

Chocolate news to cry for.


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Monday, January 26, 2009
Kung pao chicken
In honor of the day (Happy Year of the Earth Ox to you too!) I made kung pao chicken for dinner. Loads of cutting and chopping and mincing of garlic and fresh ginger and green onion and chicken.

The recipe -- one that I've used for years ... used so much in fact that the page has fallen out of the cookbook -- calls for 1tsp. chopped garlic. 1tsp. chopped ginger. Wha? Wimps. I threw in a certain amount that might've been five or ten times what they asked for.

Loads of measuring and stirring -- first for the goop the chicken sat in before cooking and then for the cooking sauce added after the chicken was cooked through. Measuring of peanuts. (Well, I didn't measure, really. I scooped up about twice what the recipe called for.) Counting of red hot dried peppers. Cook this. Set it aside. Then this. Add that. Add that back in. Stir until thickened.

Cooking of rice in rice cooker. Making of veggie to accompany -- in this case, a green salad with cherry tomatoes. Not very traditional but something his nibs likes. (He made it.)

Cut, chop, cook, stir.

Well worth the effort.

We'd seen a bottle of "kung pao sauce" at the grocery store over the weekend when we were getting a fresh bottle of hoisin sauce, having used up our bottle dregs when we were eating egg foo yung the other night. Bottled kung pao sauce? Why? And what's in it anyway?

Still, I'd already been thinking of kung pao chicken and we had peanuts on the shopping list because we were out and I couldn't make kung pao chicken without peanuts. Seeing the bottled stuff kinda shoved me over the edge.

Today seemed like an appropriate day.


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Monday, January 12, 2009
/ RECIPE / A different way with brussels sprouts - not Kosher
(1) Trim brussels sprouts' stem ends. Shake in water and shake water off. Toss into covered dish and microwave, just enough to cook, don't let them get soft and soggy. I usually cook for four minutes and then use a fork to pierce the sprouts to see how they're doing. Keep cooking until they're as done as you like them.

(2) While the brussels sprouts are cooking, take two or three strips of bacon. Cut them into small pieces. Toss them in a frying pan and cook until crisp. Take the bacon bits out of the pan and pour the bacon fat into the refrigerator dish you keep full of bacon fat down on the next to the bottom shelf in the 'frig.

You do have a bacon fat dish in your 'frig, right? How else do you cook your eggs in the morning, mon? How do you fry your leftover noodles? What do you add to the pan for some added flavor when you fry chicken? What do you use when you're making fried mush? SAVE YOUR BACON FAT.

(3) Throw a couple large spoonfuls of sour cream into the frying pan, which should still have teeny bits of bacon stuck to its bottom. Stir around until the sour cream warms up and thins and the bacon bits stuck on the bottom of the frying pan get mixed in.

(4) Add horseradish to taste -- make sure you can at least taste the horseradish in the sour cream sauce.

(5) Add the crispy bacon bits.

(6) Either toss the cooked brussels sprouts into the pan and stir until the sauce is evenly distributed

Or serve the brussels sprouts and add the horseradish-sourcream-bacon sauce on top or to the side.

Trust me.

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Monday, December 22, 2008
Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding - David Lebovitz
Warm Sticky Toffee Pudding - David Lebovitz

Sounds delightful. His nibs isn't a huge date fan, however.

David Lebovitz' site and blog are full of foodie gems. Worth perusing.

We were discussing mincemeat over at Debbie Ohi's facebook. I favor meat & suet homemade mincemeat with apples & brandy & sultanas, &c. Others tout a no-meat-only-fruit mincemeat. Lebovitz has a dandy meatless mincemeat.

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Costco chicken from the roasting spit = redux
Used the breast meat I'd set aside on Friday night for dinner last night: THREE GINGER CHICKEN

Roux made w/ flour and 2T butter.

Add chicken broth (canned ... sorry for the purists who might blanche at the thought), madeira, cream. Use hand blender to get any lumps out of the sauce.

Add white meat sliced into finger sized pieces. Toss in ginger powder, chopped up candied ginger, minced fresh ginger. (I added a lot of each. I love ginger.)

Heat through and let sit while flavors mellow.

Serve hot with steamed rice and green beans, zapped in the microwave.

We still have three or so servings of chicken pot pie in the frig. Dinner tonight is either chicken pot pie with added mushrooms browned with garlic and butter (must use up mushrooms) or we'll save the pot pie for another day and laze around tonight with white wine, crackers and Boccalone coppa di testa.

Update: Dinner tonight was chicken pot pie.

Didn't feel terribly hungry after lunch: salmon over a [deconstructed] rock shrimp hash on a bed of pesto. Delish. Shared dessert was a poached pear with what appeared to be whipped cream. But it wasn't. The "cream" was bleu cheese whipped with cream into a light-ish froth. Sublime. Delish as well.

Tonight when the clock rolled round to 7:30/8:00 I still wasn't hungry. Didn't feel like adding mushrooms browned with garlic and butter to the pot pie. Still full from lunch. Luckily, his nibs was of a similar mind.

Light supper.

We'll figure out what to do with the mushrooms that need to be eaten. (Mushroom omelet for breakfast tomorrow?)

Tomorrow evening we're off to a short-notice spontaneous year-end HOLIDAYS! house-gathering/dinner with friends. Attendees include old friends from twenty-plus years back. Half of the host couple is a sib of the twenty-years-back friend and her family. Really nice that we wound up so close to them, geographically.

Gathering will include new friends and neighbors too. Children we haven't seen in years. Not children anymore.

Looking forward to it. Sweet. This is why we try not to overbook at the year-end holidays.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008
Costco chicken from the roasting spit
On Tuesday, when I was fasting and girding my loins for the prep mix I needed to drink, his nibs was at work. He stopped at Trader Joe's and Costco on the way home for milk, eggs, gas, things we'd run low on before we left town.

At Costco, he bought a rotisserie chicken -- $4.99 -- something we'd never bought before. He needed something for dinner because he knew I was fasting and wouldn't feel like cooking, and he didn't want anything complicated. Roast chicken sounded good to him (and smelled sinfully delicious to my poor fasting self when he arrived home with it). He said the rotisserie chicken shelves, usually filled with packaged roasted chicken, were bare and a line of people (young, old, moms with kids in tow, more) waited for the butchers to take the roasted chickens off their spits and packaged them up.

Tuesday night he had roast chicken for dinner. Wednesday night we both had roast chicken for dinner. Friday night I stripped meat off the chicken carcass and legs and made chicken pot pie for dinner, setting aside enough white breast meat for two sandwiches or another meal.

Friday, while the pot pie was baking, I broke the chicken carcass into pieces and put it and the wings and the leg bones whose meat I'd used in the pot pie into a pot. Added chopped fresh garlic, ground pepper, chopped carrots and chopped onions. Covered just barely with water and let it simmer. After dinner, I fetched out some of the bones and picked the meat off, then threw the bones back in and set the pot to simmer some more.

Let the pot cool overnight on the stove. Yesterday afternoon I picked the bones out of the cooled broth. All the meat had fallen off the bones and the broth had thickened due to the collagen in the bone-ish bits. I took the hand blender and swirled the broth and chicken and carrots and onions and garlic into a thick soup and put the soup back on the stove to heat up. Meanwhile, I minced up a few cloves of garlic and browned some button mushrooms in butter and half the garlic. Tossed them into the soup. I snapped some green beans and cooked them in butter and garlic for a bit and tossed them (still crisp) into the soup. Added some hot curry powder and some fresh tarragon I fetched from the deck while we were giving the architects the grand tour.

Had the soup for supper with dead easy garlic Parmesan bread:
Slice four pieces of sourdough bread.
Lightly butter one side of bread.
Finely mince two garlic cloves. Sprinkle minced garlic on bread slices.
Top with shredded Parmesan cheese.
Broil until cheese melts and turns golden brown.

What's left to eat from our $4.99 roasted chicken after one dinner (Tues), two dinners (Wedn), two potpie dinners (Fri), two soup dinners (Sat)?

What's left is enough breast meat for two sandwiches or two dinners and enough leftover chicken pot pie for three-four dinners.

Maybe those $4.99 roasted chickens from Costco are a better deal than I realized.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008
Pier 39. Decked out for Christmas.
This is last year's pic but saw it today and it looks just the same.

Went for a walk down the steps this afternoon. Mailed some letters at the bottom of the hill, walked out Sansome to the Embarcadero, then walked along the edge of the water until we cut in toward Cost-Plus and B&N. We cut in a bit earlier than we really needed to because the crush of people was shredding my nerves.

Our destination had been Cost-Plus because they were having a wicked sale with 2 for 1 Christmas ornaments and deals on this and on that, but once inside I saw nothing I really needed. A few things I wanted but not enough to open the wallet.

We skipped B&N, which is next door to Cost-Plus and always the next stop, because I have a mile high stack of books to be read. We did stop at Trader Joe's on the way home for milk and for crackers for the Boccalone coppa di testa we'll be eating for dinner tomorrow.

Tonight will be chicken thighs with trumpet mushrooms, shallots, garlic, sour cream, marsala. Rice. Some vegetable.

Last night was dinner at Coi with friends. Absolutely delish. We plumped for the paired wines with the tasting menu. We wound up with that and with a couple extra glasses of wine thrown in as well as one of the dishes none of us had ordered when choosing "or" at one point. Delish, that.

The Coi staff is wonderful. Welcoming. Relaxed. Not as starchy as Gary Danko. Did I mention the food was delish?

Our reservation was for five folks at 6 p.m. They ushered us into a private room in back that I didn't know existed. We had the room to ourselves. Four hours later we rolled back out onto Broadway, us to walk up Montgomery home, our three friends to head down the peninsula.

We went for a walk today because the weather sparkled and we needed to make a vague effort to work off some of the calories for last night.

(0.9mi over and the same back, according to 2 miles, if that.)

Did I mention we saw the Christmas tree at Pier 39?

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008
!Candied yams
I volunteered to bring the yam-ish dish (among other things) to the family Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Not candied yams, which is what we had at Thanksgiving growing up.

This year I'm bringing sweet potato fries because I like them and hope others will too and, on request of the son-in-law, "those yams you made last year."

Except. I can't remember how I made the yams last year so in lieu, I did something entirely different. (Sorry, Bill!)

Cooked and peeled a certain number of sweet potatoes (0.49/lb in Chinatown). Mashed them with a chunk of butter, juice of one orange (10/$1 in Chinatown), shredded fresh ginger (0.79/lb in Chinatown), brown sugar.

Cooked and peeled a certain number of white yams (0.59/lb in Chinatown). Mashed them with a chunk of butter, maple syrup, a dollop of vanilla extract and ginger powder.

Took an old soup can out from the stash under the sink. Took the label off. Cut off the bottom to make a metal pipelike object. Washed thoroughly.

Put the can vertical in the casserole dish. Filled with mashed white yams. With can still in place, piled and patted all the mashed sweet potatoes to fill in the vacant spaces OUTSIDE the can. Used the metal bottom I'd recently cut off the can to press the white yams through the can as I removed it.

Sprinkled sliced almonds around the perimeter of the casserole dish, covering the mashed sweet potatoes.


Mañana I will bake the casserole until heated through and the almonds get all toasty.

Not the yams I made last year. Not the candied yams of my youth.

What shall I call this?

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Sunday, September 28, 2008
Election Pie Party
The younger niblet is far away. (His mom and dad miss him.)

We talked with him today over a spotty line that probably is Skype'd over to that end of the world and then fed into his cell phone/Handy. Who knows who taps in from here (Hi, Tony!) or there (Hi to you too, Yuri!)

The younger nib said he's hoping to have a party. Where he is is ten hours off from us. If we call him at ten in the morning, it's eight in the evening there.

So, he's planning a party to watch the election results in November at another PCV's place. This PCV has access to a big screen TV. Our niblet is homesick for pies. The plan is to get pies made and brought over, to sit in front of the big screen TV and to watch the American election results and hooray! or commiserate over the results.

Pie will be involved, though. No matter if the wrong party wins and the world comes to an end, the niblet will have pies and the companionship of friends.

I think that works.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008
AQUA - Autumn Mushroom Tasting Menu
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Follow up on "The Omnivore's Hundred" list
Follow up on The Omnivore's Hundred list post.

K asked,
Where on the list are: head cheese, Rocky Mtn.Oysters, Finnan haddi?

I've eaten head cheese and Finnan haddie.

Mom used to make Finnan haddie when we were young. Not one of my faves at the time. Didn't like her Swedish meatballs either. Maybe I would now.

She used to make Grandma Towse's goulash -- which is not really goulash by any stretch of the imagination -- and humored me by letting me have the macaroni and the ground beef and the tomatoes separate on my plate. She then tossed the ingredients together for the goulash for the rest of the family. For some reason, I liked the ingredients fine apart but I thought that goulash was awful.

Note: this is the singular instance I can recall of Mom making anything special for anyone not much liking what she was making for dinner. I think it was because I wasn't asking her to go much out of her way -- just give me the separate ingredients before you mix them all together.

Had Kobe beef as part of a Dissident Chef dinner over at Crush Pad last night.

Earlier this week, after his nibs had seen my list, he said I'd already eaten both Kobe beef and horse.

"Really?" I said. "Horse?"

"Yes," he answered. "Well, =I= had it in France and I don't think I've been there without you."

Maybe so. I have a mind like a sieve.

I meet your head cheese, Rocky Mtn.Oysters, Finnan haddie and raise you:
  • tongue (beef tongue is soul food for his nibs)
  • pork or lamb kidney (kidneys of any sort. I like them. his nibs doesn't.)
  • tarasun (Buryat 'vodka' distilled from soured milk)
  • fiddle-leaf ferns
  • yak (We passed on a chance to eat yak eyeballs.)
  • Retsina
  • chicken feet
  • scrapple
  • tripe or menudo

and I'll stop there.

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Friday, August 22, 2008
Fish Tale Has DNA Hook - Students Find Bad Labels
Fish Tale Has DNA Hook - Students Find Bad Labels -

Two teenagers, recently graduated from high school, decided to check whether the fish in restaurants and at the fishmongers is really what it's labeled as.

Upshot? They found 25% of the fish with DNA they could identify had been mislabeled.

(The mislabeling usually meant the fish was identified by the seller as a more expensive fish than it really was. Shock.)

The teenagers shipped the fish off to someone at FISHBOL who did the DNA analysis using a newish technique that is simpler and cheaper than a full-bore analysis.

Bad enough that your wild-caught salmon might not be wild-caught. It might not even be salmon!

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Beautiful soup, so rich and so green, bubbling in the soup tureen
via Paula -- foodie stuff, which originated over at Andrew Wheeler's Very Good Taste.

I so seldom do these things ... but this appealed. I'd never have seen it but for Paula. Thanks, Paula!

The Omnivore's Hundred

Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you've eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea (no ... yak butter tea though)
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (not that I remember. ...)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp (not that I remember. ...)
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes - I don't recommend Maui pineapple wine.
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream - My sister made THE BEST coffee ice cream for the family BBQ on Sunday. Yum.
21. Heirloom tomatoes The Dissident Chef prepared a 10-11 course dinner a week or so ago that had tomatoes in every course. Loads of heirloom tomatoes.
22. Fresh wild berries - used to pick them at my grandparents' farm
23. Foie gras -- Paula says, "cruelty!!" but I say, "Yum." PETA and other folks are really aiming to get rid of all meat animals including chickens, who have a much worse life than the geese, but they start with foie gras. Because most people don't eat it, they don't care if it's banned. If they'd started with the Sunday roast chicken, they'd've been stomped out of business.
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper (Raw? No.)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar (I haven't had that many cigars in my lifetime, let alone big fat ones.)
37. Clotted cream tea -- Clotted cream. Ym. With scones to spread it on and jam and tea? Dbl-ym.
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects -- Grilled grasshoppers in Yunnan, iirc. I used to put chocolate covered insects in my dad's stocking back when I played Santa.
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu - I don't play Russian roulette either.
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal - don't like the oversized soda
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini - I've had so few martinis in my lifetime. Never a dirty one.
58. Beer above 8% ABV - La Trappe Quadrupel (Koningshoeven) is 10%ABV and my beer of choice at La Trappe restaurant on Columbus Ave, North Beach, SF.
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads - his nibs wooed me with home-cooked sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (not that I remember. ...)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian - saw some yesterday in Chinatown. $1.09/lb. Some day ...
66. Frogs' legs - when I was very young I used to go to the pond with my grandfather to catch the frogs for frogs' legs.
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain - comfort food from the days in Brazil
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu - I believe this was the firewater we picked up in a market in remote Yunnan
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini - how could you stop at Harry's Bar in Venice and not indulge?
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict - I judge hotel restaurants by how good their Eggs Benedict are at breakfast. (Eggs Benedict at breakfast, Reuben sandwich at lunch. If a hotel restaurant can provide both of those flawlessly, I'm there.)
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant - cheating really. We went to a Penfold's event at the French Laundry and the tasting menu was what we got. We usually opt for the tasting menu at Manresa (two-Michelin-stars).
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse (not that I remember. ...) I've had cuy, though.
90. Criollo chocolate (don't know)
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake -- tastes like chicken!

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Sunday, July 27, 2008
Neighborhood dinner
And so it came to pass that we had our second annual neighborhood progressive dinner last night.

As usual, I skipped town -- after offering my minimal help in designing the flyer and settling on dates (dinner scheduled for a week and a day after we got back) -- and left the delivery of invites, acceptance of RSVPs, and scheduling to my charming co-conspirator, co-host and next-door neighbor.

We got back from Africa and I sent a note: Is dinner still on? Did we get enough RSVPs? Indeed it was. Indeed we did.

Some last minute re-shuffling of venues and a dinner we had. First stop, Napier Lane for kickoff and appetizers. Next stop our lane (and the charming next-door neighbors') for appetizers. Then upstairs next-door for salads. Then here for tapas (goat-cheese-stuffed Anaheim peppers, chicken piccata empanadas, beef and pepita sauce empanadas from me and vegetable frittata from a Napier neighbor). Then back next door and yet another floor up for dessert and coffee.

Neighbors included a couple who is putting their San Francisco life on hold and heading to Malaysia for a few years, a neighbor I'd never met but whose apartment I'd wandered through on one of our open house Sundays a couple months back, a neighbor who has left her job to go back to school for a post-graduate degree, the neighbors who have the colossal re-model just uphill from us, others, and the chocolate guy.

The chocolate guy lives on Napier Filbert but, because his life is still in boxes, decided he couldn't host and in lieu brought the desserts for the final gathering on the top floor next door. He had chocolate bars

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and two types of chocolate gelato (chocolate/cardamom ym!) and I went home the happy owner of a bag of chocolate nibs from his latest tonnage. My assignment: think up new ways of using chocolate nibs.

"add to salads" is already a known use.

I finally put the bag away this morning. I'd been nibbling out of hand during and after breakfast, over reading the Sunday papers. Nibbling out of hand is good enough for me.

Say, Timothy. Why not just sell nibs as a straight-to-the-vein snack for chocolate lovers who don't want to wade through all the other ingredients needed to make a chocolate bar?

Tcho -- the chocolate guy's chocolate -- is that good. Tcho is a San Francisco company, working out of Pier 17.

Buy online! but only if you think milk chocolate is not worth the paper it's wrapped in and dark chocolate with chocolate content > 70% is the way to go.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008
Home again, home again, and wilted spinach salad and garlic bread for dinner
We got back from our flying visit to Obama country late Tuesday.

Posted by Picasa   (One of the reasons we visit Obama country. ...)

Weather when we landed was spitting. (Oh, please give us more rain before the dry summer months kick in.)

We caught the Super Shuttle in from the airport. His nibs had signed and paid online (cheaper that way) before we left home. There were two other guys in the van before us and we wondered where we'd be taken on our way home. Super Shuttle is a fantastic random way to see parts of the City that we don't usually see.

Both guys -- turned out -- lived in the Sunset, just a few blocks from each other. One was like at 26th and Noriega, the other at 27th and Judah, maybe?

After dropping the second guy off, the driver drove like a bat outta hell to get from the Sunset to Telegraph Hill, through the park, up Park Presidio to 101 to Lombard then over on Larkin and up Union, down Montgomery.

Home again, home again. Drop the bags on the floor. Pick up the mail that's sitting where it fell after the mail carrier stuffed it through the door slot.

By now it was past 7:30p and our usual behavior would've been to walk down to Mario's Bohemian Cigar Store and order a large carafe of cheap red wine and two orders of canneloni. Soul soothing food for tired people. Ymmm. But there was this drizz, see? and I was tired and ... I can make dinner quicker than we could walk the four blocks down to Mario's and wait for our order. Not to mention I didn't feel like walking uphill home after dinner.

Dinner Tues

Preheat oven to 375dF or so. Set the rice cooker cooking rice. Fish from the freezer, thawed in the microwave. Place on aluminum foil. Sprinkle with mixed herbs. Squeeze half lemon on top. Wrap up and put in oven for 15min. (~$3)

Prep broccoli and put in microwave for 3min. (~$0.50)

Hmmm. Hmmm. Start sorting through mail. 15min up. Check fish. Put back in for another five minutes. Check broccoli. Zap for another minute. Rice is done. Fish is done. Broccoli is done. Dinner is served ~ twenty-five minutes after we decided not to walk down to Mario's.

Cost: maybe $4 for the two of us. ($0.50 for broccoli. $0.20 for rice, maybe? $0.20 for lemon. $3 for fish. ... Cheaper than Mario's, that's for sure.)

Dinner Wedn

Last night I just wanted something simple. Still lagging from the trip. His nibs had stopped off in Chinatown on his way back from his doctor's appointment and stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit. What sounded good?

Hardboil two eggs. Well, three eggs, really. Save one for an egg salad sandwich Thursday or Friday. Peel and chop two eggs.

[How to boil an egg. Place egg in small pot. Cover with cold water. Place pot on burner. When water boils, turn off heat, put lid on pot and wait ten minutes. After ten minutes, pour hot water from pot and cool egg(s) by filling pot with cold water.]

Rinse bag of spinach from Chinatown. Shake dry. Put in large heat-proof bowl. Cost: $0.50

Toss chopped egg on top. Cost: $0.40 +/- for two eggs.

Take about 1/3 lb bacon and cut into small bits. Fry. Cost: ~$0.70 (bacon 4lbs/$8 @ Costco)

While waiting for bacon to crisp, slice a chunk of sour batard in half, butter, sprinkle with garlic herb sprinkle, put back together, butterside<->butterside, wrap in aluminum foil and heat in 400dF oven. Cost: ~$0.60

Take fried bacon bits out of frying pan and toss onto spinach in bowl. Pour off all but 3T of bacon fat. (Save remainder of bacon fat in refrigerator dish with bacon fat already saved there for another day. ...)

Add 2T olive oil to bacon fat in frypan. Heat. Add 1/2 onion, chopped. Brown. Add ~ 3T balsamic vinegar and scrape up bits from bottom of frypan. Cost olive oil/onion/vinegar ~ $0.50

When hot through, pour onion/vinegar/fat over spinach/egg/bacon and toss. Serve with garlic bread.

Cost for tasty, nutritious (well, except for the bacon and bacon fat) dinner for two: $3, if that.

Home again, home again. Let's take a boat to Bermuda. Let's grab a plane to Saint Paul. Let's take a kayak to Quincy or Nyack. Let's get away from it all.

But it's oh. so. nice. to come home.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008
Dinner last night - give me that old time sauce and sole
Simple really.

We buy fish at Costco in big cheaper-by-the-pound lots and then divvy it up into 1/2lb. bags for the freezer.

Cost of fish ~$3.

1C of dry white wine. (Doesn't need to be the pricey stuff, but at least make it something you'd drink out of a glass without spewing. Peter Vella Chardonnay out of the box we stash in the hall closet for just such uses.)

Chopped onion. I used maybe half an onion. (onion $0.39/lb in Chinatown)

Add wine and onion to saute pan and heat to boiling. Add fish. Cook until fish flakes easily with a fork. Take fish out of pan and put in a glass baking dish.

While the fish is cooking. Melt a cube [1/2C] of butter in a measuring cup in the microwave. Butter melted? Fish done and removed to baking dish? Good.

Boil down the wine and onion until reduced to about 1/3C. Add the hot wine/onion reduction to the melted butter in the measuring cup.

Separate two egg yolks.
(We used the egg whites in the scrambled eggs this morning. ...)

Put two egg yolks in blender and whirl. You see where we're going right? While the yolks are whirling, pour the wine/onion/melted-butter mix into the blender and whirl until it all thickens up. Call this a Hollandaise variant if you must.

Pour the sauce over the fish that's in the baking dish. Sprinkle with a bit of shredded Parmesan cheese. On top of that, sprinkle a dusting of paprika.

Put under a broiler until the sauce browns lightly.

Served with rice and asparagus, which happens to be 99c/pound in Chinatown and local, not shipped in from Chile or some such place. We had about half a pound between us.

Total cost something like $4, maybe $4.50 for the two of us.

Delish. Hard on the arteries, but delish.

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Friday, April 04, 2008
"Gordon Ramsay always advises his victims on Kitchen Nightmares to simplify, and it's good advice."
Ah, jeez.

I don't watch TV. Period. None. Zip. Even if I did, I don't think I get the Fox Network in the subset of available channels that comes with our barebones ($2.80/mo in addition to my computer connection) from Comcast.

After SG's comment (see title of this post), I hied off to Google with a /kitchen nightmares gordon ramsay/ search.

First up: the Fox Kitchen Nightmares Web site. Entertaining little itty-bitty less-than-a-minute clips.

After some poking and prying around in YouTube, HotDiggity! a stash of episodes (which I have, with great reluctance, set aside until later. ... His nibs doesn't care to be forced to listen to YouTube clips I'm playing while he's plunked in the chair of the desk face-to-face with me. ... Later!)

Thanks, SG! I just caught up on the season finale of Project Runway yesterday and was wondering what I'd do ... Gordon Ramsay it is!

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Cookbooks as Anthropology and the art of cooking
comment on the cookbooks post:

Mainly, though, I don't use cookbooks for meals any more. Everything we eat seems to be variations on about ten themes. Gordon Ramsay always advises his victims on Kitchen Nightmares to simplify, and it's good advice.

Of course cookbooks are not only, or sometimes hardly at all, for cooking. From the pure book POV I love David, and Claudia Roden. I have a fat tome of classic techniques in Italian cooking by Antonio Bugialli, which is only for thumbing through.

We pretty much stopped cooking from cookbooks when the youngsters were in the house. No time for browsing through cookbooks when you are working and raising, and it's disappointing to spend time prepping something that's downed in ten minutes and appreciated just as much as if you'd made them their favorite meatloaf. We had dishes we knew they liked that we varied in one way or another but yeah, ten themes is probably accurate for our cooking repertoire then too.

I like cookbooks, whether I'm cooking from them or not. I sit and read them and I'm in another world, a world with cuttlefish on the table or an endless number of cabbage recipes, or no eggs-milk-butter. You can tell a lot about how people live by looking at the cookbooks written for them.

A friend once asked, "But really. How many cookbooks do you need?" What can I answer to something like that?

Cookbooks aren't just something for checking out a recipe for mu-shu pork or Char Siu Bao or gingersnaps. No, when I need a recipe, it's usually not a specific cookbook I head for. I pull out five cookbooks and find five recipes and mix them up, or I go to the Web and do something similar with Google.

Cookbooks are for dreaming over, for sitting curled up in a chair with a breeze coming in off the Bay with a pad of sticky notes, marking pages with possibilities for future dishes or snacks or desserts.

Dinner the other night (and last night as leftovers) was a variant on shrimp à la king, made without recipes. Simple, ready?

Olive oil. A small red onion. Garlic.
Bell pepper strips from Trader Joe's, mélange à trois green/yellow/red: frozen. (16oz bag)
Medium-sized shrimp from Trader Joe's: cleaned, cooked, frozen. (16oz? bag)

Butter. Flour. Heavy whipping cream.
Parmesan cheese. Pale dry sherry.

Olive oil in pan. Heat. Add garlic and sliced onion. Cook until browned. Add red-yellow-green pepper strips. Cook some more. Add shrimp and stir until shrimp is hot. Set aside.

Butter in pan. Add flour for roux. Add cream for Béchamel sauce. Toss in shredded Parmesan cheese and sherry and then fiddle with cream and cheese/sherry until you have a nice thick not-too-cheesy sauce. Grind of pepper. Stir sherry sauce into shrimp/pepper medley. Serve with rice.

Total cost ~ $10, if that. From that we had two dinners, or four meals. It was delicious.

Would I have known to toss those things together if I hadn't already made seafood enchiladas =and= chicken with the sherry Parmesan sauce? Would I have tossed the melange à trois peppers with the shrimps if there hadn't been a shrimp à la king in my past? I don't know. I think, like many things, it's easier to cook without recipes, once you have enough time booked using someone's tried and true directions.

Natural cooks do not spring from Zeus' brow.

Oh, how I love cookbooks.

Update: "So, what are you planning for dinner?"
"I dunno. Haven't decided yet. Have any preferences?"
"I'd like meatloaf."

Meatloaf for dinner tonight -- "Cottage Cheese Meat Loaf," to be exact.

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from "the spillover effect" to the dance of knives: restaurants in San Francisco
comment on the cookbooks post:

I love the spillover effect. Do you use double-sided tape?

I assume you mean the paper bits behind the picture of the younger younger guys?

Those bits are on a French board, or whatever you call it, that hangs over the edge of the counter. Had to hang over because if I gave it a 90deg turn, it wouldn't fit under the upper shelf.

French board: padded board with criss-crossed ribbons that you tuck your bits of whatever under. Seems to me Sabrina had one where she kept her memorabilia and spent tickets and pictures and invitations and whatever.

The original plan -- still in general play -- was to use this board for restaurant business cards and menus for places we might want to return to. The cards would not only remind us of places we'd liked but also provide reservation # and address information.

Alas, as we've found, this town has thousands of restaurants and they are constantly changing chefs or closing or deciding they want to be small plates or deciding they want to change direction or ...

Keeping business cards and/or menus doesn't mean the restaurant will be the same or even in business should we decide we want to go again.

We try to keep up. Every Wednesday The Inside Scoop column in the Chron food section covers the who's leaving, who's arriving foodista gossip. Cortez on Geary (yummy food) just sold. New owner says food and chef will stay the same. Sure. Michelle Mah (formerly of Ponzu) will be the chef at Midi, which is taking over the Perry's space on Sutter. Bruno Viscovi has sold Albona Ristorante Istriano to his nephew and the chef who's been there ten years. Nothing will change. Sure the food won't change, but you won't have Bruno going over the menu with you in caring detail, telling you exactly how the soup was prepared and which vegetables go in the beef stock. sigh. Shuna Lydon left Sens before we had a chance to taste her desserts. Scott Howard closed recently. A loss.

And the knives dance. 'Round and 'round we go.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008
The Best Cookbooks
Mark Bitten is asking for help updating his "50 Cookbooks I'd Rather Not Live Without" cookbooks list.

417 comments so far.

I don't know what I'd do if I had to choose my fifty favorite cookbooks. I have bookcases filled with cookbooks elsewhere and maybe a foot-plus of cookbooks above the bar sink here. Are the cookbooks here the ones I'd rather not live without? Are there fifty of them?

On the shelf above the bar sink:
[* means that this blog post accomplished its purpose of making me think about the cookbooks I have here and I'm taking this book elsewhere and freeing up some shelf room ...]

  • The Microwave Guide and Cookbook (no author given) *

  • Eliason, Harward, Westover - Make-A-Mix Cookery - a classic used constantly while raising my family. I still pull it out to make cream cheese swirls, a coffee roll with cream cheese filling sort of like a cheese Danish, which I make for Easter brunch and other special occasions.

  • More Make-A-Mix Cookery ... vol 2. of the classic

  • Sunset Chinese Cook Book - this book falls open to the kung pao chicken recipe page, now stained and splattered and no longer attached to the binding it's been used so much

  • Sunset Cooking Bold & Fearless: a cook book for men *

  • Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes *

  • Betty Crocker's Bisquick Cookbook * - used constantly while raising kids. I'd make the biscuit mix from Make-A-Mix Cookery and use the Bisquick recipes from this book

  • Shinojima - Authentic Japanese Cuisine for Beginners - picked up on our trip to Japan last year. [or not. When I was going through it, I noticed the price information on the back was in $$$. Picked up where, then?] I need to sit down with it to see if it deserves to be kept in the limited space here. [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • Mabel C. Lai - Chinese Cuisine Made Easy - "Hot & Spicy Soup" (p32) 'nuff said. I always need to check how many golden needles, wooden ears and bamboo shoots the recipe takes. Gee, I haven't made the soup in a long time. Need to get some fresh tofu and check the cupboards for golden needles, wooden ears and bamboo shoots. The "Ginger Broccoli Beef" recipe is exceptional too.

  • Ranck, Good - Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook: feasting with your slow cooker - another classic.

  • Shirley - Wonderful ways to prepare chicken - bought for $1.95 at some Gemco/KMart-like store more years ago than I can remember. (c1979). "Piquant Chicken" (made with honey, lemon juice and ginger) is a favorite. "Chicken Diva" (with a sherry-Parmesan white sauce and broccoli) is another. "Sherry Creamed Chicken." Maybe chicken tonight. Hm.

  • Sunset Recipes for Ground Beef - falls open to the splattered page showing "Cottage Cheese Meat Loaf." The recipe not only includes cottage cheese but also uses rolled oats instead of bread cubes. Delish. When the young ones were MUCH younger, I'd cook the meatloaf with carrots, beans and/or peas mixed in as the accompanying vegetable. I tend not to look at the other recipes for meatloaf (24 variations ...) but say, "Almond Studded Curry Loaf" using Major Grey's chutney sounds not half bad. Am I in a rut?

  • Killeen - 101 Secrets of Gourmet Chefs: unusual recipes from great California restaurants *

  • Goldstein - From Our House to Yours: comfort food to give and share - provenance unknown. I need to sit down with this one. I really liked Joyce Goldstein's cooking at Square One decades back and enjoy her articles in the Chron food section. [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • Duchess of Devonshire - Chatsworth Cookery Book. Signed. Picked this book up when we were back visiting the relatives last fall. Need to sit down with this book too. Should it be taking up space here? [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook - a new classic. I love this stuff.

  • Rombauer, Becker - Joy of Cooking. 'nuff said. I love the nitty gritty detail but don't much love the "see White Sauce 111, 341" and "Please read About Doughnuts, 244" sorts of forward and back references in practically every recipe. Still. If you've never quite got the hang of preparing sweetbreads, the Rombauer clan will set you straight. Superb indexing.

  • The Best of Bon Appetit (1979) - Ginger Cream Chicken (p69) (madeira, ginger, chopped up candied ginger, cream -- what's not to like?)

  • Cooking Light 5 Ingredient 15 Minute Cookbook - Goodwill purchase. I don't know if I've ever cooked from this book. I need to sit down with this book.

  • America's Best Lost Recipes - I adore Christopher Kimball and his crew at Cook's Magazine and America's Test Kitchen and all the affiliated incarnations.

  • Betty Crocker's Cookbook - the classic. The cookbook I used most after I moved out on my own. Splattered. Marked. Oooh. Here's a piece of folded paper with a recipe for "Rasa Malaysia Portuguese Egg Tarts" Those were exceptionally tasty. BCC is my go-to book when I can't remember how long to cook a roast because it's been so long since we had one.

  • The Silver Spoon from Phaidon Press. 1263pp. Can't remember where this one came from either, but like the America's Test Kitchen books, it's just a fun read. Perch: four recipes. Octopus: six recipes Catfish and tench: four recipes. Cuttlefish: six recipes. How can you not like a cookbook with recipes for "Heart Kabobs" and "Cream of Fennel Soup with Smoked Salmon"?

  • Eichelbaum - Cooking for Heart & Soul: 100 delicious lowfat recipes from San Francisco's top chefs * a cookbook to benefit the San Francisco Food Bank - this was a prize from a drawing at a Food Bank event. I need to sit down with this one. [Made the cut. Keeping here.]

  • Bon Appetit - Too Busy to Cook? Also kept (it seems ... page falls open) for the Ginger Cream Chicken recipe. That is one delicious recipe. I make it these days with boneless, skinless chicken thighs instead of chicken breasts, but then I make most of my chicken recipes with thighs instead of breasts. I don't hack up whole chickens like I did back when now that there are only two of us to feed so we have neither chicken breasts nor chicken livers as much as we did then. A large bag of chicken thighs from Costco is in the freezer and we take what we need for whatever we're cooking. Buy a new bag when the current bag is getting near gone.

  • seven different editions of the Presto pressure cooker recipe book and a Wards Cooker (pressure cooker) recipe book from 1947 and a Wards Magic Seal Pressure Saucepan recipe book. How many books do I need to look up how long to cook artichokes or beets or pot roast in a pressure cooker? I think I need to re-think this stash.

  • Royal Cook Book (from the Royal Baking Powder Co)(1925) - classics like "Eggless, Milkless, Butterless Cake" "Lady Baltimore Cake" "Royal Sponge Cake" but also a bunch of recipes that don't use baking powder at all. I'm assuming the Royal Baking Powder company wanted a free giveaway that the fickle homemaker would hold on to, that would keep their name front and center even if she didn't =yet= use their baking powder..

  • Recipe Finder Index - a critical item back in the days before I could find a recipe for just about anything on the Web. Once the number of cookbooks in the house reached a certain point, there were times when I was all,"Oh, I'd like to make that sausage pie thing with spinach and basil again but which cookbook has the recipe?" The Finder Index is broken into categories (Appetizers & Snacks, Beverages, Desserts -- Pies). Space for recipe name, source & page#, date tried, and notes. I'd forgotten about most of these: "Nanking Liver" from the New Poor Poet Cookbook, "German style Kidneys" from Sunset Cooking with Wine, "Migg's Fish" from the Southern Junior League Cookbook, "Sherried Chicken Livers" from Sumptuous Indulgence on a Shoestring.

  • Law - Pacific Light Cooking. Another Goodwill purchase. Need to look at this one.

  • Child, Bertholle, Beck - Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A classic. I have no idea why it falls open to the section with onion recipes. Looks like something spilt there once upon a time. Heavily stained page: "Navarin Printanier" [Lamb Stew with Spring Vegetables] I love this cookbook for its sense and its recipes and the way they laid out the pages. Its sequel is over with the other cookbooks,as is Simca's Cuisine and two and a half shelves of books on French cooking: Beck, Child, Pepin, others.

  • Dailey - The Best Pressure Cookbook Ever - so why all the Presto recipe books? Oh, look! There's yet another Presto recipe book inside! That settles it. The batch listed earlier is going elsewhere.

  • McLaren - Pan-Pacific Cook Book: savory bits from the world's fare (1915) e.g. #63 Tchi - a Russian national soup. "Chop fine half of a small cabbage and a large onion and fry in dripping for a few moments; stir in two tablespoons of flour. Cook for three minutes, then add slowly two quarts of beef stock. Simmer for half an hour, add a few forcemeat or sausage balls and a wineglass of white wine. Simmer twenty minutes more and serve." Fun. His nibs' great great aunt was involved with committee work for the 1915 Fair so we pick up books and whatever we can find about it, if they can be had for a reasonable price. This cookbook was $15.

  • The Daily Echo (Halifax) - Good Housekeeping Everyday Cook Book. Very beat up. Of uncertain age. Falling to bits. First six pages gone, which is probably where the date information was. Recipes provided by the Daily Echo, plus handwritten recipes inside in various hands and pasted-in recipes cut from papers or magazines. A look into the past.

  • Small-ish book with many pages, separated by alpha dividers. May have been intended as an address book but used instead for recipes. Recipes written in different hands. Provenance? Recipes assigned to letters higgly-piggly. "Pots de creme" recipe under "P" and a different "Pot de Creme" recipe under "D" for "dessert" Also under "D" "Iced Tea" ... "drinks," I suppose. Also in "D" "Daiquiri" with a note, "Edie, Ethel and Emily liked"

  • Robertson, Flinders, Godfrey - Laurel's Kitchen. (1976). This book was my second go-to book after Betty Crocker. Vegetarian. The younger ones consider "Chillaquillas" (or ChileeKillees, as we called them) comfort food. Cheap, tasty, good.

  • Ayer y Hoy de la Cocina Navarra - with a handy dandy translation of the recipes into English. A goodie gift from the Kingdom of Navarra during a meet the winemakers of Navarre event. I need to check out the recipes. This book probably belongs elsewhere.

    and last but not least

  • Stewart - The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook. 1200 recipes. Tasty.

What does that add up to? Thirty-plus. I'll weed through the ones I set aside and take them elsewhere, opening up space for other cookbooks I'd be happier to have close by. For now, here's what the shelves above the bar sink look like.


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Thursday, January 24, 2008
Five in the fridge, tagged by Paula
Five in the fridge. Tagged by Paula.

We ate out last night: winemaker's dinner at Spruce Restaurant on Sacramento. Walked down to Sansome. Caught the 10 to Sacramento. Caught the 1 California at Sacramento and rode allz the way to California and Spruce. Walked up Spruce a block, hung a right. Spruce Restaurant is between Locust and Spruce on Sacramento. Took us forty minutes door-to-door, which made us half an hour early. We hung out in the bar.

Dinner was delish. Klaus-Peter Keller was in America for the first time. He provided eight different German wines. Dade Thieriot (of DeeVine wines, which was sponsoring Keller and the dinner) brought two old Rieslings from his cellar. Well, more about all that later. So. No dinner at home last night.

Dinner on Tuesday was at La Trappe (corner of Columbus and Greenwich) because I had a hankering for their moules frites and they aren't open on Mondays so I had to wait. Moules. Frites. Koningshoeven La Trappe Quadrupel. Probably more about that later too. So. No dinner at home since Monday.

Here's the fridge (after that long explanation)

Messy, eh? The instant coffee in the back is for a frequent guest. Lots of leftovers. We had dinner guests on Saturday. And bits and pieces from other meals which, when the stars align, come together for another meal. Not tonight, though. Tonight is Good Eats and Zinfandel with ZAP over at Fort Mason.

Here, front and center, though, is evidence of my split personality. [1] Trader Joe's Heavy Whipping Cream. The best when you're making scrambled eggs or omelets.

Two shelves down? Trader Joe's 1% milk, which I put in my mug of espresso, which I drink as I'm eating the fat-laden eggs. Cheese on the eggs too, did I mention? Sometimes bacon too. Oh, noze! Oh, yesss!

... on the mornings I'm not having oatmeal (real oatmeal, the kind you cook on the stove and let sit for three minutes to firm up) with raisins and 1% milk.

[2] Here's the 1% milk I mentioned. The yellow dish has bacon fat from bacon cooked for something and saved. Sometimes I fry the potato skin from the night before's baked potato in bacon fat and serve with egg for breakfast. The red dish right behind it has duck fat for similar fattery. The 1% milk, though, is good for me.

The bottled water in the back has been there for months. We're tap-water people. San Francisco's public water comes straight from the Sierras. That's why we dammed up Hetch Hetchy back a hundred years or so after all. Might as well drink the water. The dam's not coming down.

The Trader Joe's grapefruit juice is for the days his nibs has to leave for work at 7:10A and doesn't have time for a leisurely breakfast and his usual grapefruit dismantling.

[3] Fish sauce, just soze you know we're Californians.

[4] Salumi from Boccalone. Don't know if I mentioned that the older younger guy and his partner gave his nibs a 3-month subscription to Boccalone's Tasty Salted Pig Parts club. We go by 2d and 4th Saturdays of the month and pick up a small box with TSPPs. This Saturday we're due for more and we haven't finished the last. (Evidence above.)

And so good for you! Chris Cosentino (he of Incanto Restaurant, where we pick the box up, and Boccalone and, of course, Offal Good) tells us that pork is the new vegetable.

Not Paula's idea of terrific, I think, but there you go.

[5] Top shelf needs restocking. Currently one bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and one of Chardonnay. Room for three more bottles. Next shelf again shows our Trader Joe's dependence. Eggs. Sour cream. Cottage cheese. Crumbled bleu cheese. Also non-TJ cut onion, cut lemon, some other cheese (bleu variety).

The lower drawers are filled with veggies from Chinatown and mixed greens from Costco. The freezer is filled with frozen stuff. A pint of coffee ice cream takes about three months to get through. By the end it's crystally and only good for putting in the morning espresso.

Oh, and for those who wonder, yes, there are a lot of zip-lock bags in that fridge. We wash and reuse the zip-lock bags, unless they've been used for holding meats, so we're not quite as dismissive of "where do plastics come from, eh?" as it may seem.

And that's the refrigerator of Sal and five things therein.


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Monday, January 14, 2008
Looking very grumpy ...
Went to a Vintners' Club event at the Bankers' Club on 08Jan. ... a pinot tasting.


We went because his nibs lurves pinot noir and because David Bruce was going to speak.

One of his nibs' students at UCSB (who grew up just a stone skip from the bucolic ville we used to call home) is someone with whom we still hang out and whose ballpark tickets HipLiz sometimes buys.

This guy, as a teenager, spent his weekends at his dermatologist's Santa Cruz mountains home (dermatologist being Dr. David), digging dirt to plant the vines that became David Bruce's foray into pinot making.

Here's me looking very grumpy ... ah... focussed.

Look at those glasses! We had twelve pinot noirs to taste. They were lined up and poured before we came in: six up, six down.

I am such a naïf. I could say, "Here are my top three. Here is my least favorite."

Ask me to rate the intermediate eight wines, given forty-five minutes?

No can do.

But we had fun. ...

Each person (who wanted) sent in their scores.

Each table put together their tasting notes.

The guy clockwise plus one was the winemaker for one of the wines being tasted (Domaine Chandon Reserve. Russian River Valley) and served as table chair.

I'd rated his wine [2] but the accumulated crowd wasn't so generous.

The experience was interesting. What was really interesting was looking at the accumulated scores. Here's a top scorer: five people rated it #1; five people rated it #2; six people rated it #12.


It really is all about what you like in a wine.


So for the Vintners' Club events, you rate the wines you're tasting with no regard to what your spouse, best friend or most erudite wine snob might think.

Then you go 'round the table and seat#2 says, "This was my favorite wine because ..." and everyone else goes round and says "Well ... this is what I thought of the wine ..."

Next person (seat #3) says, "This was my favorite wine because ..." (or my least favorite wine or my second favorite wine because someone else already mentioned my favorite wine.) ...

... until all the twelve wines have been discussed.

David Bruce (the gentleman on the left in the photo)... scored highest when the overall wine scores were totted up, and well he should.

We had a splendid time.

Afterwards, we said farewell to the amazing views from the Bankers Club and said farewell to our co-conspirators and headed up hill and home, stopping off at Boccadillos on Montgomery for some tasty pig parts before we walked the rest of the way ... home

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Saturday, December 08, 2007
Welcome to FoodieBytes - eat something new
Welcome to FoodieBytes - eat something new

Choose your city (Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco, DC) and fill in "what" you are looking to eat.

Choose "San Francisco"
Enter: foie gras

Read entries for 142 (mas o menos) restaurants that serve foie gras in San Francisco (mostly, found one listed in Larkspur). Some restaurants are listed multiple times for multiple items on the menu. Brief (lunch, appetizer, &c.) indication of where on the menu, brief detail ("with stone fruit mostarda and cornbread") and a click to View Menu.

Don't know how current the menus are as the listings included an entry for Monte Cristo which died a while back.

[via Eater SF]

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Thursday, December 06, 2007
Away, back, and what we did there.
We've been gone on a short run-away that started Sunday morning when we left for an AIWF crab feed at the Silverado Brewing Company, outside St. Helena.

The menu consisted of wine, beer, bubbly, and a plate each with salad, bread, and pasta plus a portion of hot Dungeness crab, followed by another piece of hot crab and another and another until they had to toss us out of there because another party had the banquet room booked. Cookies for dessert.

At some point when we were wrist deep in cracked crab, Michael Fradelizio, owner and operator, gave his impassioned pitch about how for seven years he's been running the brewing company, a restaurant that eschews hydrogenated fat and serves free-range chicken and Niman Ranch all-natural meats, how he spent time and effort to eliminate high fructose corn syrup from the premises (including having to find substitutes for bottled catsup and the like) and how he wouldn't serve his patrons anything that he wouldn't serve his family.

His food was great. I loved his attitude. The crab was delish with a peppery finish.

From Silverado Brewing, we headed a short piece north to Calistoga, and checked into our room. Later, we walked down Lincoln Avenue as we browsed on our way to dinner, sticking our noses into shops, checking menus posted outside restaurants, staying a spell at Copperfield's, where we bought a book, natch.

We wanted to eat somewhere we hadn't before. We chose Pacifico Restaurante Mexicano (1237 Lincoln Ave., Calistoga) because his nibs wanted a light supper after all the crab. Hah. His chicken mole included half a chicken under the mole sauce. My chile rellenos was also a healthy, tasty dish. We were ready to snooze.

Next morning we headed off to Santa Rosa to meet up with old friends for lunch at Monti's (prime rib sandwich, yum!) after which we off-loaded sixteen boxes of books from our car into their van for delivery to the Point Arena Library.

Book exchange complete, we headed upland to Fort Bragg. (101 to Dry Creek Road, past Lake Sonoma

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to Stewarts Point and then up 1 to Fort Bragg) The weather was windy and rainy. The road was windy. At one point on Skaggs Spring Rd/Stewarts Point Rd we stopped the car and his nibs got out to help some locals who were using their chain saw to take a fallen tree out of the road.

"Those County guys just sitting up there in their truck with their flashers on?"

The "County guys" eventually joined the group that was busy dragging branches and stumps off the road. One of them stood and watched. The other dragged a couple branches then stood and watched as well. They claimed to have no chain saw themselves. Said they were waiting for another County truck to arrive with a chain saw. ... Eventually, the guy with the chain saw busted his saw as the fallen tree slipped down the bank. Luckily a lane's-width of the road was clear and with an "after you" "no, after you" the cars and trucks made their ways through the gap and off to their destinations.

We arrived at our B&B (The Country Inn Bed and Breakfast) on Main Street in Fort Bragg in the pouring rain, after five. We carried our bag in and settled in for a bit before heading off to dinner at Mendo Bistro, our reason for going to Fort Bragg in the first place. We drove to dinner even though the distance was only about four blocks because the rain was savage and we didn't want to get soaked.

Mendo Bistro is open seven days a week from 5-9 p.m. upstairs at the Company Store, Main and Redwood. We showed up some time after six and ordered. When we saw Nicholas Petti come up the stairs, we asked our server to tell him we wanted to talk with him.

"Hi," he said.
"Hi, I'm Sal," I said just as Nicholas was saying, "You're Sal."

I'd warned him we were coming back again and had promised we'd snag him this time so he'd know the face of the person he'd exchanged e-mails with. We chatted for a bit as we were scarfing up his crab cakes. Oh, those crab cakes ...

Turned out we'd lucked into the first evening Nicholas'crab cakes had been on his menu this season.

Delish, delish, delish. Fat, soft, 99% crab, served with a light tarragon aioli and a vinegary tart cabbage salad. The crab cake ingredients are simply crab, a bit of bread crumbs (not much) and finely-chopped green onions with the tarragon aioli to hold everything together. We both started with crab cakes.

His nibs had Grilled Venison Leg with Chestnut Spaetzle and Cranberry Sauce. The spaetzle reminded me that I make spaetzle far too seldom. Spaetzle is comfort food for his nibs. The cranberry sauce was a smooth, not chunky, sauce with what might have been five-spice seasoning. Tasty. I had the special which was chicken stuffed with wild mushroms with a wild mushroom sauce. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. Delish. Both entrees came with seasonal vegetables. Mine had mashed potatoes. Takes a brave chef to put brussel sprouts on a plate. We happen to love brussel sprouts. We had a bottle of the Costa Vineyards Pinot Noir (MB serves only local county wines) with dinner.

For dessert, I chose a small glass of Esterlina port because I tend to get headaches if I eat sweet desserts after having wine with dinner. His nibs opted, with my encouragement, for the Candy Cap Mushroom Creme Brulee with Spicy Chocolate Bark. After one snitched taste from his serving, I kicked myself for deciding to have port instead of ordering the creme brulee. The dessert was perfect -- a rich, smooth custard topped with burnt sugar, which you'd expect, but the addition of the Candy Cap mushrooms gave the dessert a subtle mapley-wintery-earthy taste that's hard to describe.

This Is A Dessert Worthy Of Five Stars.

And Nicholas Petti was even nicer than he needed to be.

Next morning, our innkeeper served us coffee, squeezed orange juice and a breakfast frittata with slices of cantaloupe alongside. The frittata was excellent, a nice blend of bread, egg, sausage, apple and cinnamon. She served the frittata with a small jug of maple syrup, but honestly, it was sweet enough all on its own.

After breakfast, we headed north in the fog with me freaking out as we rounded curves on the highway at the edge of the coast. As the road got narrower, we turned around and came back to Fort Bragg through Inglenook and Cleone and then on to Caspar and Caspar South and the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse where we stopped a spell

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and walked down to the restored Point Cabrillo lighthouse

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and chatted with the volunteer there, then up to the museum in a former assistant lightkeeper's house.

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The folks who restored and run the lighthouse and museum rent out one of the lightkeeper's houses if you want to be away from it all. Not cheap, but what a getaway that would be!

From Point Cabrillo, we carried on to the Mendocino Headlands and Little River Beach and Big River Beach, then circled back to Mendocino for some holiday shopping. I found the perfect gift for one of our giftees.

We rested up a bit at the Country Inn before we headed out to dinner. The question was, did we want to eat elsewhere or were the crab cakes and Candy Cap mushroom creme brulee calling too loudly?

We walked into town, stopping in at the North Coast Brewing Company to sample some of their wares. Tuesday was $1 taco night and the tacos did smell yummy. The place was full of locals -- a gang of six guys who seemed to be grabbing a dinner after work, two older couples, a couple sets of young couples. A guy at the bar had three glasses of Old Rasputin in front of him as he read MERCHANT OF DEATH. (Three glasses isn't really =that= many as 10 oz is the largest glass of Old Rasputin they'll serve.)

But in the end we couldn't resist returning to Mendo Bistro. We both, again, had crab cakes for an appetizer. We both had the Candy Cap mushroom creme brulee for dessert. This evening, though, his nibs opted for the fish of the evening (yellowfin, iirc), grilled, with Dijon-Tarragon Cream. I had the Braised Short Ribs served with Root Vegetable Hash and brussel sprouts. We shared a bottle of Navarro Pinot Noir. Neither of us was disappointed with our choices. Far from it. We have not had anything but tasty food at Mendo Bistro and Nicholas serves up healthy portions as well. Yummy. Good value. Worth a trip north.

The next morning at the Country Inn, our innkeeper served baked eggs on a bed of artichoke hearts with sourdough toast and garlic-rosemary country-fried potatoes with coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice.

I heartily recommend the Country Inn. Our room was comfortable and clean. If we'd wanted to indulge, there's a hot tub out on the deck. It's a short walk to the center of town and (of course) Mendo Bistro. The breakfasts were superb. We took advantage of the Inn's special which we found on the Web: book two nights Sunday through Thursday and your room (without a fireplace) is $50/night. Wow.

We drove straight home on Wednesday because we had to be somewhere at 4:30p. -- straight across 20 to Willits and then down 101 to San Francisco. Total time, including a stop for gasoline, three and a half hours.

Why don't we do this more often?

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: views from the Hill

Bertold Brecht:   
Everything changes. You can make
A fresh start with your final breath.
But what has happened has happened. And the water
You once poured into the wine cannot be
Drained off again.

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