Tag Archives: events

Hone Your Knife Skills

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I received a fun invitation the other day, a chance to check out the new San Francisco Cooking School and take a preview of their knife skills classes.

I have been wielding a knife since I was a little girl, my dad taught me how to use a pen knife to whittle and do little projects, I received the first knife of my own when I was about 10 and have a small collection of pocketknives and the very handy Swiss Army knife. Then there is my collection of kitchen knives, my first being a gift from my mom and my sister when I was 17 when I moved out on my own.

My 10″ Wusthof chef’s knife has been my constant friend throughout all this time, and for many years it was the only knife that I owned. I learned to do a lot of things with it, including paring vegetables, fluting mushrooms, and butchering meat.

Who knew, after five minutes in this class, that I have been holding my knife wrong! The wonderful instructor, David Groff, who was a former chef at Zuni Cafe among other places, told me I held my knife like I was going to shank someone with it. Well, he might not be far off from wrong! However, holding it with the correct grip as he showed me felt a whole lot better and I felt like I had more control.

My sister and I used to practice our knife skills as teens, racing each other through bags of onions and potatoes to see who could finish first. I have practiced my knife skills diligently throughout my adult life, trying every technique that I saw on a cooking show or by restaurant chefs and butchers. I live life with a motto that you can always learn something, and it is very true. Life is all about learning and you will never ever stop learning, especially in the kitchen.

The class is really fantastic, and in a full length class the students work with instructors for three hours cutting up every kind of vegetable imaginable and learning all of the basic knife skills and knife safety techniques. I even learned a new kind of cut, which excited me tremendously.

In class we cut up onions, celery, carrots, zucchini, leeks, and potatoes. The students cut up this variety of vegetables and then take them home, along with the recipe for fantastic minestrone soup, then the students are served soup for lunch. In our abbreviated preview class, we cut up all these vegetables, had a shorter lesson, and then we got to have delicious soup as well. I was so touched that the instructor made me a special batch of soup that did not have potatoes in it to accommodate my oral allergy syndrome.

It was really fun to read about their class schedule. I am rather interested in taking the fish course which is three hours per week for three weeks and where one learns to cut and prepare every kind of fish and cook said fish using every technique. They even have special cooking nights where the students cook from local celebrity chefs cookbooks, and the chef is there to guide them along, along with a dinner afterwards.  Wouldn’t you like to play in the kitchen with the chefs from Kokkari or Bar Tartine?  I think it would be a fun thing to do with the team at work or for a party.

We got to peek into the other side of the school as well, where a full roster of culinary students were completing a pastry course. It was always a dream to complete a pastry program at a culinary school, maybe someday if I can get a different kind of job situation I will give it a try. It is intense training, but the students in there were having a blast and what they were making looked fantastic.

When I got home with my mound of baggies of prepped vegetables, I promptly made a wonderful minestrone for myself, although I used Nonnie’s recipe.  How I miss her, but eating her recipes always make me feel like she’s right there with me.  I bet she held her knife correctly!

Take a class!

San Francisco Cooking School
415.346.2665
hello@sfcooking.com

A Foray Out – A Bento Picnic

I was invited to attend a picnic this weekend and I was delighted to accept because the weather during the day has been so un-San Francisco like, warm and sunny, almost like summer!

 

The night before, however, I was beset with anxiety. How would I get there? Where could I sit? Would I be able to access the picnic area? Was there an accessible restroom nearby that I could get to? Would I be able to stay out in the sun the whole time? What could I wear to cover up? Where is my hat? What can I make to bring? Would I be a burden to the other people? Would I have a good time?

 

Oh, anxiety, you are such a demon. I supposed all this comes from feeling helpless and vulnerable during this healing period. It’s only temporary but the lack of sleep the night before and the insurmountable hurdles some of these questions posed felt quite difficult.  Happily, it all worked out beautifully.

 

Fortunately for me, in San Francisco, there are places where a disabled person can picnic and have a good time! We went to Chrissy Field and my friends picked me up in their car. Thanks to my temporary handicap placard we were able to party pretty near to the picnic area. There was a decent dirt path that led to the lawn and we found a nice spot with amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island and the curve of the city to the Bay Bridge.

 

NHK picnic

 

The purpose of this picnic was more than just friends getting together for the afternoon.  My amazing friend Biggie was being interviewed by NHK World television for a program about foreigners making bento.  She is the original bento food blogger and received much acclaim for her website Lunch In a Box.  I personally use her website frequently to find recipes because she’s an amazing cook and when I get home I wonder, how did she make that Thai curry?  Or what is in that sanbaizu sauce?

 

This is such an exciting time for her and so wonderful that the Japanese film crew flew out to watch her make bento and then observe the bento picnic and then (gulp) interview her friends about bento and Biggie.   I grew up eating Japanese food, thanks to my neighbors and living where I did, but I never made or enjoyed a homemade bento before my friendship with Biggie.  It has really expanded my world.

 

NHK picnic

As Biggie says, bento crosses all cultural lines and anything can go into a bento, and it is the best way to use leftovers!

 

With my weird food allergies, I can’t tell you how many times I have ended up in the emergency room because something I purchased for lunch was contaminated by egg.   Bringing a bento box not only is an economical way to use leftovers but makes lunch feel special.  This is a direct-from-Biggie-quote.

 

NHK picnic

For her special picnic I wanted to bring something tasty and special and happily I had enough goodies in the fridge for a special bento.  The focus of my blog and locus of my food preferences are items that are local, sustainably sourced and grown.  The harmoniousness of my bento happily reflected this mindset.

NHK picnic
(my bento is in the little metal tin at the bottom!)

 

Happily, everyone enjoyed my humble bento, especially the Japanese film crew who polished off every last bit except for a sprinkling of red onion.  I also brought a container of Costco’s smoked pulled pork doused in bacon hot sauce (my favorite sauce) and some fresh rice, which got polished off.  Cold bing cherries were the perfect finish to my contributions to the picnic.

 

The other bentos were truly fantastic and I am sorry I didn’t take pictures of them.  Because I was sitting up in a camp chair (the current gimp factor did not permit me to join the others on the picnic blankets), my angle of photography was pretty poor.

 

Biggie made her incredible Spam musubi, the best spam musubi on the planet, I might add (see her site for the recipe); little liverwurst and sweet pickle roll up sandwiches, maki style; a bento filled with rolled local sliced salamis, prosciutto and bresola; Tillamouk extra fancy white cheddar; a fancy prepared bento with fruit and vegetables and the maki sandwiches; and a bento of hot rice and mapo dofu, a spicy pork and tofu dish made extra spicy with lots of Sriracha sauce; and a huge Louisana crunch cake.  It isn’t a picnic without cake!  Friends brought a bento made especially for a child with fried fish, vegetables and fruits, a bento with fried polenta squares drizzled with pesto (amazing!), edamame and vegetables.   We washed all of this down with lots of wine, hard cider and beer, and juice boxes and chilled water and juices for the kids.

 

As one parent said, bringing bento to a picnic is a perfect thing, because it can be eaten alone or shared and it’s not like a huge bowl of food that can get tipped over or go off.

 

We hit that wonderful peaceful lull that comes to every picnic when everyone is sated, the sun feels fantastic and one gazes out over the incredible views with perfect contentment.  Like a bento, it was a perfectly encapsulated moment of enjoyment.

 

NHK picnic
(the fog, rolling in a bit)

 

The interviews were handled with great care and consideration and did not feel at all intrusive.  We really enjoyed getting to meet the crew and chat about food cultures, eating habits in California and San Francisco and how we knew Biggie.  It was such a fun day!

 

Soon the program will be aired and I am excited to see my dear friend on television – soon the world will be sharing in her wonderful food!

 

Later, at home, I reflected on how enriched my life is by knowing extraordinary people like Biggie and the parents from her child’s school, our mutual friends and new friends, and the access to scenes and food like today.  Despite being disabled at the moment, I feel like a very lucky lady.

 

NHK picnic

Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic

We have a wonderfully talented group of food writers, bloggers, photographers and food lovers in the Bay Area and thanks to social media we know who we all are and, on occasion, we get together for some shenanigans.

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From Wikipedia Commons

This year I took on organizing a date for a picnic in San Francisco and chose Dolores Park for our venue. It’s usually sunny there, it has a great view of the city and is reasonably close to BART and other public transportation. The park is also right across the street to BiRite Creamery. A picnic with fun people, a pretty spot and decadent ice cream, it is such a winning combination.

The morning fog blew away pretty quickly and despite the stupidity of the City watering the lawn during the night (very soggy and muddy lawns) we had a very merry time.

Many lovely friends and new friends came to share in the afternoon and of course the food was terrific.  I made my favorite sangria and that was a big hit, and I could have doubled the quantity and still would have not made enough.   Next time I will bring two jugs worth, or six bottles of wine!
Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic

It was one of those magical times when we were not playing with our phones *overmuch* or taking pictures constantly, we were in the moment and enjoying each other’s company, trading stories, singing goofy songs and talking about food and writing.  We did play some hilarious music on our phones, tucked into a red Solo cup for acoustical enhancement purposes.

Yes, it’s true, we were all singing Makin’ Bacon Pancakes, the New York remix, for way too long and it’s still in my head today.

Bay Area Food Bloggers Picnic

When the sangria ran out and the fog started to blow back in, we gathered up our soggy Mexican picnic blankets (funnily, almost everyone brought one) and headed to the long line at BiRite Creamery.
Insanely long line at BiRite but we don't care - sundaes!!!!

Despite the line being ridiculously long we were patient and chatty, and it really was worth the wait.  Just sampling their vast and unusual selection is worth a bit of catching up on life and people watching, and soon enough we all had our decadent ice cream treats in hand.  With frozen mouths and sunburned faces we chatted a bit more before scattering to our own destinations – Tartine, a tour of the Mission, BiRite Market, home.  We said farewell and until next time.

Picnics in the summer are my favorite thing to do and this time so many of my favorite people were there.  Thanks to everyone who attended and for your amazing and decadent treats!

Thanks to:
Faith – Blog Appetit
Diane  – Will Write For Food
Amy – Cooking with Amy
Owen – The World of Owen Rubin
Jenn – FootBat and EastWest Pastry
Lori and Doug – Fake Food Free
Deborah and friends – Lunch In A Box
Nathan – Knit1Eat1
Christian – Dad in the City
Jennifer and Baelson – Revel Kitchen
Orly and friends – Yumivore
(if I missed your name here, I’m so sorry!)

The Recipe:

Carmen Miranda Sangria – San Francisco Style

If you live in the Bay Area and want to join the Bay Area Food Bloggers group on Facebook, ask to join here, and also there is a Google group, ask to join here.  We are food writers, bloggers, photographers, culinary-minded entrepreneurs and food lovers.  We are also people who used to do all of the above (i.e., lapsed) but are still interested in food and culinary scene.  We connect to share opportunities, ask questions, get support and socialize.  These are not forums to promote yourself or your brand, however.

Sharknado Pizza Party

Luna sent me a note on Facebook that said, “There’s this crazy movie coming up on the SciFi Channel called Sharknado, we have to do this.”

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A bit of backstory, we had an absolutely hilarious time watching Snakes On A Plane together, screaming every single time a snake shot out of someplace unexpected, which was about every 3 minutes once the movie got started, so of course I invited Luna over to have a Sharknado party! Then more friends joined in and next thing you know my apartment is full of hungry ladies, sipping on some great wine and ready to be vastly entertained by what could be one of the best-worst scifi movies ever.

There were sharks eating people as they flew by, seemingly unfazed by the lack of water, sharks whapping people across the face and removing most of said face, and sharks eating through cars and bar stools. There was fabulously deadpan acting by Tara Reid and dialogue that was probably written by kindergartners (with apologies to the kids).

And there was pizza. Being flat broke and yet needing to be a good hostess I made up a giant bowl full of pizza dough which rose and rose and rose as we nibbled on treats from the freezer. Yes, we had foie! There was a rather sizeable foie gras mousse from a splurgy purchase in the recent past, and sparkling wine and wonderful red wine from a recent shipment I received that day and Anna brought an amazing assortment of crackers. Everyone brought various treats to top the pizza so we were set.

Making pizza

To have a successful pizza party you need lots of toppings. We had a great assortment but really the toppings can be anything you like on a pizza. You need a sauce or two, many cheeses, vegetables and lots of other savory things:

  • fresh tomato sauce canned by Anna
  • pesto sauce
  • buffalo mozzerella cheese
  • feta cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • ricotta cheese
  • basil
  • arugula
  • slivered asparagus
  • Sweety Drop peppers
  • crispy freeze-dried onion slices
  • assorted olives
  • Bacon Hot Sauce
  • capocollo salami

We would have had sauteed leeks and bacon but the movie was about to start and we felt like we had enough options at this point. The oven was roaring at 500 F, all the windows were open and the wine was flowing freely. I tore off an orange-sized ball of pizza dough from the massive bowl heaped with dough and helped each guest quickly form it into a round which was draped on my makeshift pizza peel – a flat-edged cookie sheet well sprinkled with cornmeal – and then they were free to top it with their choice of sauces, cheeses and tidbits.

Anastasia's pizza

(Anastasia’s pizza – pesto, olives, cappocolo, ricotta, basil, crispy onion)

The prepared pizza was slid carefully onto the super hot pizza stone and baked 10-15 minutes, then we cut it into wedges and everyone got to try a slice. Multiply this by five, we made a lot of pizza that night!

Pizza making hands

(post-pizza making hands)

Each pie was really fantastic, the crust was chewy and blistered black from the stone and crisp on the edges, the cheeses were browned and gooey and buttery and salty and the toppings made it all really interesting and unique.

First pie in the oven

(first pie baking away, despite the crappy apartment rental electric oven they bake up really nicely)

My pizza

(my pizza: tomato sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, asparagus, Sweety Drops)
Luna's pizza

(Luna’s pizza: pesto, cappocolo, mozzerella, Sweety Drops, arugula)

Anjali's pizza

(Anjali’s pizza: feta, pesto, cappocolo, asparagus, tomato sauce, Sweety Drops, crispy onion)

Near the end of the movie as we were mostly sated, a bit tipsy and reeling from laughter, the final pizza of the night was put in to bake, a dessert pizza!

Strawberry balsamic glaze ricotta basil dessert pizza #pizzaparty #Sharkado

Don’t knock a dessert pizza until you try it! Anna’s creation of roasted strawberries, the sweet, creamy ricotta, the tang of the basil and the rich, chocolate jimmies from Copenhagen made this the best pizza of the night.

The movie was over and the apartment was dusted in flour and wine corks. We quickly tidied up the kitchen and inflated the aerobed and those who stayed over fell asleep almost immediately. What a great night and what a tasty dinner! I can’t wait for the next cheesy scifi movie, Koalacane?

P.S. Sharknado II is coming in 2014!

Cocktail Adventures with LUPEC

Like any urban lady I love sipping a well crafted cocktail. It was my pleasure to join an amazing group of ladies called LUPEC or Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. Many members are bartenders or business owners or aficionados like myself and several of the members are some of my best friends.

At our last meeting we had the opportunity to try two fantastic cocktails. The first was a wonderful cocktail using Casa Noble Organic Reposado Tequila.

CN Reposado Angle

Casa Noble is located in Jalisco Mexico and uses blue agave for their tequila. You don’t find organic tequila very often and the Casa Noble tequila is quite special. The Reposado is aged for just under a year in French white oak barrels, like fine wine. Their Anejo tequila is aged between two to five years in the oak barrels. The Reposado tequila tasted more like a fine whiskey to me, smokey and oakey. A fun note about the distillery, they have partnered with famed rocker Carlos Santana. Not only does he make amazing music and sexy shoes for us ladies but now he makes tequila. I just love this guy, and he’s local too.

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Casa noble

LUPEC met at Laszlo, which is a fun bar in the Mission district and the bartender there, Kevin, made a wonderful Old Fashioned for us using the Reposado tequila.

I have long loved the Old Fashioned cocktail, ever since the Commander of the US Power Squadron sat me down one day at the tender age of 12 and taught me how to make one. The Power Squadron is like a country club but for yachts and powerboats, and my late father was Commander for a time. The Commander I remember the most was a family friend and he would have us over to his home on the Peninsula often. The Old Fashioned was his favorite tipple and he was shocked that his favorite “bartender” only knew how to mix the perfect martini. I guess you could say I had rather of an Auntie Mame childhood, mixing cocktails for my family’s friends and guests.

For those of you unfamiliar with the cocktail, it’s a drink of a sugar cube dowsed with bitters and a few pieces of fruit or orange rind, muddled together in an old fashioned glass, named for the drink naturally. Whiskey and sometimes a dash of soda water are stirred in with a few large hunks of ice and garnished with more fruit. I used to carve out the ice myself with an ice pick and block ice because that’s the way he liked it. These days I love the silicon large format ice cube trays such as these from Tovolo.

Tequila old fashioned

You can vary the Old Fashioned by changing up the bitters or the whiskey, using American whiskey or rye, and now, using an aged tequila. What a great twist on an old favorite!

Kevin’s version used simple syrup instead of a sugar cube and although I am not sure what kind of bitters he used I am quite fond of either the Bitter Truth aromatic or orange bitters. This Old Fashioned had a mysterious and alluring smokiness to it from the oak barrels of the Reposado. The brandied cherry was a nice touch.

Square one

We were served another fun cocktail that night featuring vodka from Square One.

Square One is another organic distillery that I have enjoyed getting to know over the past two years. They use organic rye from the US to make their vodka and water from the Grand Tetons; it is so lovely and smooth. They infuse some of their vodka with unusual flavors and I am quite fond of the Basil infusion. It has organic Thai, lemon, Genovese and sweet basil varieties, plus a touch of organic coriander (cilantro), honeysuckle and lemongrass. It is very aromatic and unusual and makes great cocktails.

We were served a riff on the Last Word, called at Laszlo as the My Word and it was definitely refreshing and a little dangerous. One could have quite a lot of these on a thirsty night.

Both of the representatives for Casa Noble and Square One are delightful ladies and it was great fun to get to know them and sip their cocktails. I am hoping to add the Casa Noble Reposado and Anejo tequilas and the Square One Basil to my liquor collection for some cocktail play at home.

Make these yourself!

Reposado Tequila Old Fashioned

2 T water
1 lump of sugar —- or 1 tsp. agave nectar
Angostura bitters – or any bitters you like, there are some amazing ones, my current favorite is the Bitter Truth orange bitters
A 3” piece of orange peel, no pith (white part)
Ice
2 oz Casa Noble Organic Reposado tequila
Brandied cherries or maraschino cherries (or a piece of pineapple, a piece of orange or all of them)

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in an tumbler. You can use agave syrup instead if you like or simple syrup. Add two dashes bitters and a piece of orange peel, but twist the orange peel first then rim the glass with it before placing it inside the cocktail glass. Muddle (smash gently) with a spoon for a few minutes. Add a large cube of ice (large format) or fill 1/3 way with ice cubes, add the tequila and stir well. Garnish with fruit. Sip!

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—–

Square One Basil My Word

3/4 oz. Square One Basil vodka
3/4 oz. yellow Chartreuse
3/4 oz. maraschino liqueur
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice

Mix all together in a shaker with ice, shake or stir well until very cold. Strain and serve up in a coupe or martini glass that has been chilled. Sip!

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I Miss You / I Miss Your Onion Dip

Everyone was talking about what they were cooking and eating for the Superbowl, our last sports hurrah until Spring Training starts in a few months.  It started me thinking about all the fun parties my family used to have for the Superbowl and how much I miss those days.

My mom would have a dichotomous party at her fabulous Russian Hill apartment, the 49ers hopefully would be one of the contenders, we wore our colors and sipped Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and ate her lavish spread of appetizers and something luxurious to fill in the corners, like lasagna and her Boston cream pie.  Friends from the choir, our blended family, and other family friends would join the sports fanatic side of the party rooting for the teams, while other friends (big wigs in advertising) would root for their commercials and discuss that side of the Superbowl experience.  It was so funny to hear people say, “Shhh! The commercials are on!”

My dear sister would often make her onion dip for picnics and football game watching parties to eat with the ubiquitous ridged potato chips.  It’s a marvelous concoction with the usual ingredients (sour cream and onion soup mix) but it had a special, wonderful nuance to it.  She shared with me one day that it contained a small shot of very fine gin, now isn’t that a brilliant idea? Who would have thought, but it really made for the most perfect onion dip.

I always had sort of an Auntie Mame fantasy of my sister discovering this wonderful addition – her sipping an elegant martini in her tiny SF kitchen while adding this and that to the dip, and then…….

Hmmm, perhaps a touch of dill, a little more cracked black pepper, some onion powder, oooops! There goes the martini!  (pause to taste….)  ((big grin))

I am sure it really was nothing of the sort but you know, it’s a fun “movie” to run in my head and I know she would laugh at it.

My family has moved away and life’s changes has made our getting together a rare experience.  As I had the Superbowl on and was alone eating store-bought salsa and waiting for my humble vegetable soup to cook when I had an epiphany that I missed my sister’s onion dip, and I miss her even more.

Diner en Blanc San Francisco

Ever watch those viral videos of flashmobs dancing or doing other crazy things? San Francisco had it’s own version of a flashmob – a dinner al fresco where everyone dresses all in white called Diner en Blanc San Francisco.

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Originally from France, the Diner en Blanc phenomenon is where diners are dressed with the height of fashion and descend upon a secret location at a designated time and dine al fresco, until the end, when everyone magically clears up their picnic and tables and vanish into the night leaving nary a trace of ever being there. Imagine it as an Occupy movement but with food and happiness instead of violence and arrests.

I was invited to attend Diner en Blanc San Francisco with some friends. Months ago the tickets to the event were purchased and the date was set for the late fall but the location was a secret.  We waited excitedly for the email announcing the location, and by 3 pm on the day of the event we learned we would be dining at the Marina Green!

Sadly our brief warm weather departed that morning and the fog was thick and “frizzle” was falling heavily. Frizzle, if you are not in the know, is fog and drizzle, where visibility is hazed and one feels a constant and light prickling of tiny droplets on your skin. It’s quite refreshing if you are a fern but for humans and cats it is quite sodden.

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(Warm but with damp hair)

We had a great time figuring out what to wear and how to decorate our table for the dinner. Our shopping efforts to find elegant, all white evening wear resulted in mostly white denim and linen but we added warmer things like blankets for the laps and luxurious pashmina throws for chilly, frizzled shoulders. I was fortunate enough to have on loan from my mom a luscious cream wool coat with a white fur trimmed hood, normally my apre ski wear but perfect upon this chilly and damp occasion.

We arrived at the Marina Green by 5:00 pm to claim our table and rent our white chairs from the organizers. There were hundreds of dining tables set out on the green and thousands of diners setting their tables and arranging their decor for the evening.

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Our table was dressed in D___’s great aunt’s heavy white damask linen and lace table cloths with matching serviettes, her grandfather’s railroad silver service (Reading Railroad, no less) and a variety of white table wear. I brought along the Block china demitasse set from my late neighbor Lucille, complete with silver demitasse spoons, a S’Well thermos of espresso and another of frothy steamed milk. We had a lovely floral arrangement of cream roses and hydrangea and lime green Irish belles, wrapped in a banana leaf inside a round vase. Tiny votive candles were arranged in little clear cups weighted down with a spoonful of water.

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Despite this elegance, our first effort at Diner en Blanc made our table look like we were the poor churchmice cousins at a fancy dress ball. Surrounding us were tables with extremely elaborate settings teeming silver chargers, 5′ high floral arrangements, candelabra, tiered stands filled with the finest delicacies, silver footed champagne buckets and fancy cocktail shakers, arbors of fairy lights and hanging Chinese lanterns. Someone had recreated the Golden Gate Bridge all in white as their centerpiece!

We vowed next year to take our decor up to the next level and go all out. Nonetheless, we really enjoyed our cozy and quietly elegant table for four.

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Our menu was representative of the bounty of San Francisco: Columbus Salami’s new Farm to Table fennel salami, local cheeses from Rouge et Blanc and an Acme baguette, a salad with strawberries, feta, walnuts and a balsamic dressing, red cooked Chinese chicken, garlic roasted mushrooms and a deluxe French chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting, chocolate dipped strawberries and chocolate shavings.

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We sipped Mumms Cuvee Rose sparkling wine and Stag’s Leap Pinot Noir under the foggy skies, and at dusk, lit our candles to dine. The event began with the ceremonial waving of the serviettes and the crowd hooted and cheered until our arms tired of waving the fine linen around in circles.

Throughout the night pockets of cheering erupted as the San Francisco Giants dominated over their playoff game for a spot in the World Series. We saw elegantly dressed people furtively watching the game in flickering candlelight. GO Giants!

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The wind picked up and the frizzle fell firmly but everyone was undeterred in their enjoyment of the evening. Under the drapery of our table linens we were cozy and warm with heavy blankets covering our laps and feet. The breeze played havoc with our votives but we discovered by toppling the cups over they still burned perfectly protected from the wind.

We savored our wonderful dinner.  The salad was teeming with surprise goodies with each bite.  The red cooked chicken was so complex and melt in your mouth and was perfect with the garlic laden miniature mushrooms.  Our bread basket lined in heavy linen became damp from the frizzle but the chewy sourdough and fresh, sweet butter were the quintessential San Francisco accompaniment to our multi-cultural meal.

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We lingered over the wine, nibbling here and there on cheese and salami until the dessert hour was reached.  Cheers went up and more serviette twirling ensued when the Giants won the game, hooray!   We finished the wine at last and then poured steaming hot espresso topped with hot, steamed and frothed milk. The gorgeous cake was cut and a wonderful sugar and caffeine high lifted our laughter above the crowds around us.

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(Before)20121110-192533.jpg

(After – sorry for the flash photo)

Finally, at 9 pm, we hastily packed up our leftovers and table settings, returned our chairs and strolled over to our princess parking by the seawall.

Farewell Diner en Blanc, until next year!

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My 2011 “Did It'” List

My friend Luna Raven recently posted her 2011 “Did It” List, inspired by one of her friends and I love all the things she got done this year.  Thus inspired I thought I should join the club and write about my accomplishments too.

I went to Mushroom Camp and  learned to mordant yarn and fabric and then dye it using foraged mushrooms.
Green shimmery stems!The red gilled dernacybe makes a gorgeous pinkAmazing spectrum of hues from mushroom dyesRed-Gilles Dermocybes with alum mordant make this coppery hue

I found my first candy cap mushroom in the redwood forests up in Sonoma.
My first mushroom foray, a candycap!

I attended the Fancy Food Show and scored twelve pounds of amazing blue cheese. (no picture, we ate it all!)

I discovered some amazing ramen places, including my current favorite, pork and corn butter ramen at Ramen Club.
*Ridiculous* dinner w @equan55 - butter ramen

I treated myself to some incredible yarn at Stitches West and have actually knitted up a few garments.
Zontee spotting!!The results of our card knitting class! Lorna Miserphoto.JPGChacha shawl

I gathered up all my courage and borrowed lots of courage from friends and had surgery to repair my shoulder from a tragic high fiving injury when we won the World Series in 2011.Two months later I did not listen to my doctors orders and returned to work a month early, which is why one should not make important decisions while taking pain medication!  Major life lesson learned!  (Is that technically an accomplishment?)
The *right* shoulder
(note to the surgeon)

I am still in physical therapy due to yet another accident while riding MUNI.  My  accomplishment there is patience and learning to follow directions and care for myself, and, even though it’s embarrassing, sit in the disabled seats on the bus.

I got to visit with my dearest childhood friend three times! ((Lovi!!))
Me & my BFFGurlzphoto.JPG

My friends and I made ten different kinds of macaroni and cheese on my birthday at a huge blowout party, and we almost ate them all!
Mac'n cheese blowout - in progressMy dear friends...

I celebrated one year at my new job and I am still loving every day. It was great to have health insurance, medical leave and understanding coworkers while I heal. I am so lucky!
Deflating the monkeyphoto.JPGphoto.JPGphoto.JPG

I went to San Diego on the most hilarious girls road trip to BlogHer – the Road Trip of Happiness!
Here it is, on a 20" plate, fried chicken BennieEeek! It's *so* big! @whats4dinnermomGetting reading for #KUYH Party @rubydw is thirsty!Tasering @domesticvalerie while waiting for brekkies is just rude @lunaraven13

I relearned how to embroider after taking a great class from Princess Animal and finished my first sampler.
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I knitted my 26th pair of socks and learned how to darn them.
Skew socks in Alchemy's Juniper sock- Summertime BluesLast view, fun heel stripes, love this pattern!Finished my Twisted socks from @knittydotcomForgotten arts: darning socks (done!)

I created a new diet of bacon, chocolate, beef, wine and cocktails, bread and cheese because of weird food allergy/sensitivities – I’m doing just fine on it, it’s not privation that’s for sure!
Vegan chocolate cake ~ Wacky cake ~ with bourbon ganache. Thanks mOmIt's business time...Mmm lardons - thanks @nueskes @inyaku !

I launched a new blog – The Inadvertent Redhead – as an outlet for my non-food related talents, and I love it! And yes, I’m still a redhead!
Irish coffee #2 at the Buena Vistaaaahhhhphoto.PNG

Because of my blog and social media I was invited to a multitude of wonderful parties and events and I feel so privileged to have these opportunities and to know so many wonderful writers, cooks, chefs, photographers, stylists and artistan food producers from many genres.
Chef Corey Lee of BenuSour Flour

Despite all the challenges and sadnesses of this year it has been a really good one and I am looking forward to many fun things in 2012.

I am most especially looking forward to another year with my wonderful family.
Ken and Barbie

Here’s to health and happiness ahead!
Cheers my friends!

Pigging Out Pub-style

I have to say sometimes my life is pretty fantastic, like a week or so ago when I was asked to dinner to sample a whole smoked pig dinner. I love pork! 

Off I went to meet a few folks down in Ghirardelli Square, home of The Pub. Scott Broccoli, the owner at The Pub had a brilliant idea to smoke a suckling pig and serve it every Thursday.

After sipping a very nice Buffalo Trace bourbon at their bar our little group was ushered to a huge table. Scott, popped out of the kitchen holding a huge platter laden with a lacquered, glossy-skinned piggie. The head and legs were back in the kitchen because that enormous platter wasn’t big enough for all of it! He staggered to the edge of the table and talked about how he boned out the 75 pound pig and rubbed the meat with chopped garlic and herbs. The deboned pig cooks so much more evenly and prevents the meat from drying out from the hot smoke process.

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Scott returned to the kitchen to carve up the pig and shortly the servers arrived with plates piled high with that succulent pork.

That plate was massive. There were huge slabs of pork loin, pork butt, pulled pork, pork belly, and the big prize of shatteringly crisp cracklings. There was a huge mound of sautéed corn with bacon, potato salad with bacon and a hunk of cornbread topped with a squiggle of honey.

The meat was well flavored from the smoking but so incredibly juicy and tender. The pork belly was enough to make me want to run into the kitchen and hug anyone who was serving up back there. the cornbread was better than mine, which is saying *a lot*! There was no way I could finish my plate and at $23.50 it is a huge value for that price.

So if you are craving a juicy smoked pork dinner get down to The Pub this (and every Thursday). Scott starts serving at 6:00 on and it is first come-first served. I hear he can smoke a pig to order with a week’s notice, shall we plan a picnic?

The Pub
Ghirardelli Square
851 Beach Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 351-0500

A Very Thankful Thanksgiving

My ancestor came to this land 390 years ago. Half the colony died that first winter. Can you imagine how sad that must have been, after that long journey with all of the hardships, to finally arrive only to lose so many. The first Thanksgiving, so it is said, was celebrated after surviving a year with a harvest. Our family in this century like to celebrate our being together after much time apart and cook a killer meal. Most of the fun is being together in the kitchen with gentle jostling and teasing, collaborating and handing off tasks seamlessly, and many tastings. A common refrain is, “Are you sure that has enough salt, let me try that again!”

As a special treat this year I purchased a Happy Thanksgiving produce box from Happy Girl Farms, my first experience with them, and hauled all the produce up on the train in a duffle roller bag, also filled with wine. Of course one wheel on the bag broke as I was leaving my apartment and I had to drag that beast around like a mobster hauling a dead body, woof, what a long trip!

It was quite the adventure in what one would consider a relatively simple task of picking up the produce box. I was given an address saying there would be prominent signage near a gate in a fence of a lovely home in Castro Heights. I took a taxi after work; it was 5:30 pm and already inky dark outside. In a dimly lit street, the taxi driver said that he thought a long dark fence was the right one. Thankfully I had a tiny flashlight on my house keys and turned it on and headed towards the fence. On the fence near eye level was a quarter-sized sticker that said Happy Girl Farms, visible only after illuminating it with my tiny light. I saw a door in the fence and pushed it open, saw below me a foot-plus drop down to a dirt slope, and three boxes lying on the dirt. I carefully stepped down and promptly slid on the mud (it had rained heavily that day) and slid to a tall shrub straight below me. I grabbed at it, wrenching my shoulder injured previously from the tragic high-fiving incident at the World Series celebrations. I badly scratched and punctured my hand from the 1″ spines from the shrub which turned out to be a bougainvillea bush! But I prevented myself running into it by a fraction of an inch with my face or falling in the mud. Swearing loudly, I retrieved my keys and baby flashlight from the ground and looked around for the clipboard as instructed in the email but didn’t see anything. There was one large produce box, opened to the elements, so I peeked inside and saw some of the veggies listed on my receipt. I heaved the box off the dirt and transversed the slippery hill up to the gate and sidewalk in the pitch black dark. I managed to lift the box up to the sidewalk level. As I hauled myself out some pedestrians walked by almost knocking me back inside the gate down the slope but one man grabbed my arm to steady me. Whew. Thoroughly shaken, muddy and bleeding, I stood there for a moment, and the cab driver came over and said, “Are you okay??” He helped me into the cab and loaded the muddy box in the back, and drove me home. I called Dirty Girl and got voicemail, then rang up my mommy and whined about the things I do for fresh produce! The cab driver handed me a paper towel to staunch the bleeding and wipe up some of the mud; either it was a kindness on his part or a defensive measure to keep his hack clean. Once home, cleaned up and disinfected, ice pack on my shoulder and a glass of wine consumed (for medicinal purposes), I received a call back from a rep at Happy Girl Farms. The guy informed me that I actually came on the wrong night, despite their email confirmation that clearly said the pick up day was Tuesday. He said something about their having computer problems and asked me to check the box. I did and found that many items listed on their receipt were not in the box. He again mentioned it wasn’t my box, and so I offered to forward him their email to me. He said I could keep the box (how generous!!) and I felt rather exasperated at this point and retorted, “Look, I’m leaving tomorrow at 5 am. If you want to come by tonight and pick up this box and give me *my* box, I would be really happy with that.” After hemming and hawing a bit he said he’d refund me a portion of the price and next time they would put some flashlights in that yard. I think I will pass on using this pick up place on the premise of preserving my health from a broken ankle or bougainvillea-related flesh shredding, and spare the homeowner any litigious opportunities. Ah, the adventures of supporting local farms.

On a positive note, all of the product was fantastic. We have apples, pears, garlic and onions, carrots and parsnips, bunches of herbs, a variety of potatoes, celery and some squash. Once safely at the parents, we stashed it all in the garage and got ready for our Thanksgiving Eve dinner.

We talked about the Big Day menu while feasting on our usual Dungeness crab, sourdough bread schlepped from the city, mOm’s Louis dressing and iceberg lettuce wedges, augmented by crisp-tender asparagus spears. Truly though, any excuse to eat crab is a welcome one. Or Louis sauce. That sauce rocks!

Thanksgiving morning dawned with the fiery blaze of the liquid amber tree and frost everywhere, a brisk 32 degrees.

Just WOW. What a tree!

After lots of coffee and toasted Acme sourdough bread and butter, we hopped to work in the kitchen and I posted the menu and to-dos for each menu item on the fridge.

Our Menu:
o Dry brined turkey roasted with bacon and sage
o Granny’s “Aunt Emma’s” dressing
o Giblet gravy
o Mashed potatoes
o Potato butter buns
o Roasted whole onions
o Carrot and parsnip coins in a beef-butter reduction
o Green salad with roasted quince, pomegranate, pecans and goat cheese, with a quince syrup white wine vinaigrette
o Pumpkin chiffon pie

Mom started with the pie crust. I loved mOm’s comment, “If this pie pan could talk… It is older than you and has seen many pies.”

I started the brown sauce, part two of the three-part gravy process, and prepped the veggies and fruits for the dressing. My sis made the dressing while Mom made the filling for the pumpkin pie elbow-to-elbow with me as I prepared the dough for the potato buns. I love these buns, we all love these buns, in fact, I plan to make more tomorrow. Can you see why?

Everything was going so smoothly, we had time to take a break, take a nap and knit (just me). Around 3:30 pm we put in the turkey, and three and a half hours later the turkey was done!

Mmmm, bacon..

I decorated da boid with strips of bacon and fresh sage leaves. The little onions roasted happily under the roasting rack. Everyone was liberally slathered with butter.

My sis gently tossed and arranged the salad, I dolloped spoonfuls of butter and sour cream onto the mashed potatoes, and mom made the gravy. There was liberal sampling going on. Bliss.

This gravy is so good, you could eat it like soup.

The carrots and parsnips were perfectly done, not mushy but toothsome, cooked with beef stock and butter and reduced to a syrupy glaze.

The potatoes were creamy and showered with parsley and a lake of butter. Mmmm, butter….

The table looked so festive. My sis put a cinammon-spiced cranberry sauce in her pretty Spode turkey dish, with the spoon in a compromising position. Squawk!!!

I tried carving the turkey this year, and overfilled a platter to the point of ridiculousness with the juicy meat. And bacon.

Every single dish was outstanding. I poured an ’09 Serenade from Casa Rondeña in New Mexico (a Gewürztraminer/Reisling blend) and an ’06 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap (a lovely gift from the winery, thank you!!). We filled out plates to match our hearts filled with love, and were too full for pie! Desultory conversation followed and then bed, with blissful turkey dreams.

Today was the culmination of a year-long dream, pumpkin pie and coffee for breakfast (and a few leftover buns slathered with butter) and the leftover turkey sandwich. And a nap. We traded stories all afternoon, about family history, and country and city living oddities. It is so delightful to relax with my family and get to know them better, year after year.

What a great holiday we had, and tonight we get to do it all over again, the only work involved will be gentle reheating!

I’m off to go hang up the outdoor Christmas lights now with my sis, with my stepdad’s supervision, another post-turkey day tradition.

Happy Thanksgiving!