Friday, August 31, 2007

as of yesterday I am no longer a cupcake-maker

This is by choice, first off.

I have been angsty lately; this much is obvious.

What I hope is and has been less obvious is this: I have been looking for a new job for the last month or so, ever since one really bad day at work.

For much of that time it was just waiting on one job that I desperately wanted. Actually, it wasn't desperate. I felt fairly confident I would get the position, since I had good references who knew the boss, a lot of experience in the position's requirements, and an abnormal amount of interest in taking the position. But I didn't get the job for various reasons.

After this the angst set in. I realized the junction at which I've arrived: find someone good to work under, while I am still new to my own positions of power, and learn as much as possible from one really strong individual, or else continue taking positions where I call the shots but only learn as I go, from my own mistakes and efforts. What to do. What to do when you feel as I do the decision's been made for you by finances. When you work in this field for some time, your experience demands compensation even if you aren't asking for it per se. At that point the fear set in that I was no longer hireable by a really good chef for reasons that had only to do with money.

All the while, of course, I've been working my fifty hour work weeks and spending my free time in trails. I had my first restaurant trail since March (and they ended up not hiring anyone, but giving their current assistant more hours, though they say they may call me to beg for help when holiday madness descends) and started missing in a physical way (and not an intellectual way, as I always have) restaurant kitchens. That kitchen I trailed in, it was stocked with all the best toys.

So now that I have quit I am going home for a week. Frolicking around SF this weekend with my friend who should be touching down in Oakland very soon. Then going back to Boston, getting to NYC for a day, coming back here and, well, we'll see.

Still working at FH, by the way. Thinking about a brown sugar spice cake with diced poached pears, but then I won't be around for a couple of weeks so nothing new happening yet. What to do with the bread pudding when peaches are gone, hmmm. As they will be soon.

In the profusion of something continuously new, like the parade of stone fruits this summer, you forget how there will be an end. I bought peaches today for another crisp because I hear they'll soon be through. I also bought the most amazing Asian pears, because I understand now that when I like something I have to get it. I've missed too many amazing fruits thinking they'd just be there next week. These Asian pears, they're called Hosui and they taste like vanilla and brandy. Like a long conversation with a good friend. Like how I cried today when I got my farmer-friend on the phone and realized I will see her in NYC in two weeks time.

I still have not told you about the prep cookery, but I'll just say this for now: learning to work the large grill on the fly in ninety degree heat without burning mountains of delicate asparagus spears. Being begged to apply for a job there. Being totally respected by the chefs even though I was an impostor in the savory side of things.

It's challenging to say yes to the things you know are right for you when it means saying no to money and you struggle with having so little of it. It's hard to say yes with your whole heart and sometimes it takes a little while to be ready to say it. To do it.

Some of you know how long I've been looking for something more aptly suited to my interests. I'll wash up in a kitchen soon enough and I tell you this one thing:

It will have a range. Not a hot plate that plugs into the wall.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

cookies to go places with

Ai, miho, there are so many things I want to tell you right now.

Today (and tomorrow as well) I pull on the old battered checks and drive somewhere in Marin and pretend to be a prep cook. It's daunting at times but more educational and at times amusing. I know the savory rhythms are so different from the sweet world and I know why that is supposed to be so, but I've never worked that way.

I won't tell you about the rest of today just yet, but I will say this: there was a little lesson. And it represents just about every possible difference between my world and that world as I have experienced them. What happened was this: the chef handed me a list of ingredients and asked me to make a BBQ sauce. The list was simple: honey mustard cider vinegar soy sauce salt sugar onion chili powder. First I diced and sauteed the onion, rounded up the dry goods from storage, and because he knew I was a baker he said we could make it together, so he poured a good amount of mustard in a pot and showed me how much honey he wanted, and then told me to add the rest of the seasonings. I dumped in some chili powder, then more. I heaped salt, pinched sugar, lightly sloughed soy sauce from the bottle. I was overly cautious.

Everything is measured in pastry and precise. Cups of dry goods (if you are even using cups and not metric) are leveled off with a knife or other flat edge. There is a precision most people liked to call scientific, as if every baker's mind works tha way. Mine doesn't.

So the chef let me play with the sauce and then I went back to prepping some vegetables. He called me over to taste it, and we tasted it together and it was nasty, nothing bland. So he started adding huge quantities of the things I'd meekly put in, instructing me not to be afraid of the salt, or the heat from the chili. He wanted me to understand that because we weren't going to be shoveling spoonfuls of sauce in our mouth, that because of the nature of its end use, it could take such large amounts of these things.

It was interesting for me to be in a place where I knew so little, and to have to ask for so much. Because in pastry if I'm in a position of acquiring information it's usually about something I'm already familiar with, so I can contextualize my knowledge. I can ask intelligent questions. I have a past, my hands have a history.

More on savory cooking tomorrow. To taste memories now, and cookies...I'm making molasses cookies right now. I just put the first batch in the oven. I should be doing other things bow like sleeping, but we are...oh...six days through a nine day stretch of work and well, no longer ill, so whatever. I would give you the recipe for these cookies if it were mine to give, and I suppose I could, since it was given to me freely.

These cookies were made for me right before I left Boston, on the last day of my Oleana stage. I'm not sure why we decided to make them, only that Maura, who thought if you were going to make cookies they needed to be perfect, loved them. At the end of the day she packed me a large sack of cookies, which I stuck in the freezer until the end of February. I took them with me, and Brandon and I munched those, plus my mother's chocolate chip cookies, through snowstorms, hail, traffic, loneliness, darkness, the night of utter freezing hardcore-ness in Ohio. And in the spirit of giving, I gave them to a friend when I arrived here {or, in Oakland}. I was so betwixt when I left Oleana. Finally I had found someone I could learn so much from, and someone I wanted to work beside, and I was just skipping town (although, she knew that when I began). Working at Oleana made me believe I could do restaurant work from a good place in my heart. The cookies were a comfort line into the abyss.

I've been melancholy lately, what with all the coughing and taking-to-bed of Saturday till Monday. And the questions. The things I want. The various routes that have me all confused. I feel I'm at a crossroads and it scares me. I don't want to have reached that crossroads yet. So, the cookies. Keep my hands busy and my mind occupied, and focus me back on the little things, like the taste memory of perfection on a bright wintry day, and all of those deep traits that pull you through the fear.

And this too, the cookies: I am not alone. I think that I am and sometimes I act like I am, but I'm not. Not even out here in SF. Good timing for the cookies, since Leah's coming to town again Friday. And for the Thursday trip to Oakland, to pawn off some cookies on some friends I may not see again before their travels take them away from this place.

What with all these cookies, though, I really like CMON MAN want some malted vanilla ice cream. Ummm. Maybe I just want it regardless of the cookies, but I think it would pair well. Malted vanilla, you're nowhere in this town and I know it, ok, maybe on someone's menu somewhere conceivably, but you are not getting in my mouth unless I make you up, and sigh, I was kinda saving that freezer space for honey-rosemary, and I'm not quite sure where to buy malt powder, but...I just want you so bad.

Monday, August 27, 2007

things we did + didn't say

There are a lot of things I want to say right now but I can't (some of them I just said in an email).

5.13 miles tonight on foot from the Ferry Building basically to home, because I didn't really feel like getting on any of the early BARTs and then by the time I hit Civic Center Vas Ness wasn't much further up or Mission and I could always catch a bus, only if I was at 13 then my home wasn't all that much further away plus now I could see it, that odd hill with the misshapen trees on top that look like some African safari landscape, the fog still holding off. By the time I arrived home the fog was coming down moving fast now.

3.92 miles each way on my bike Friday night (from the hillside through the Mission's flatness eke across Market zigzag around the Lower Haight hills suddenly all the way down Fell cruise the Panhandle for some time and then turn around, in reverse, stopping by Bi Rite for ice cream on the way home)

I put so much energy out in my last post about what I want and what I'm looking for and so many responses came back from the world. But the words to discuss it I can't find or I can't say so I've been restless. Moving not in straight lines. Right now is the quiet time, I understand it even if I don't want to accept it. Waiting for the results of all that energy to manifest in the form of, if not the ideal, something closer.

{I thought I knew what the ideal was but it is not to come to me now, in the most commonsense way, so then what?}

How did I forget that part, that it is my weakness I am impatient for change? That I want to be better yesterday?

And what I enjoy is this: the moment when a question arises or a subject. Buttercreams. Caramel. How to stir ganache. Whatever. And then everybody gives their answers taught to them by some chef or boss or food television personality, who knows. It's a dialogue, a debate, certainly learning. But I don't want to take the authoritative voice or be the center of attention and so I don't call myself teacher.

There is one more this I want to say but it's best not to say it. Exercising my rarely if ever used filter.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The piece of advice that comes most often to mind is something I read somewhere, and I wish I remember where, and it more or less reads as followed:

When you are overwhelmed {in a kitchen} the weeds, as we say...the best thing to do is not rush hastily into some task but take a moment to clean your workspace. When your space is free of clutter and wiped clean, you can really get to work. It's a strategy I used many times at Sonsie when a cluster of desserts-to-be-plated interrupted my mise, and something I try to do in the chaos that is the Saturday market scene in the hot, postage-stamp-sized, my-stove-plugs-into-the-wall kitchen.

{I've recently started missing professional ranges}

I've never had a problem with drive. I've always been after something (much less often someone). I came fairly early to the obvious art of writing and less early to the immediate pleasures and discipline of cooking. I admit to floundering for a while during culinary school (but can it really be called floundering if you're finishing a Masters program, taking 20 hours a week of culinary class and holding down a kitchen job three days a week with someone who either a)didn't want any help anyway or b)didn't want to be there himself anyway?). These last six months I've been acting on the impulse that suddenly made sense, the lens through which everything I'd always pursued was refracted. So what if it meant moving to California? People tend not to believe me when I tell them the things I was looking for in kitchen work were not really going on in Boston and I'm not sure why this is.

{on a super small scale, yes, they were. but on a hey-i-can-afford-a-pastry-assistant scale, nah.}

So here I am and have been and will be and my focus is closing in and it feels great. It feels wonderful. It makes me think that I can still surprise myself. The question now-and there are many questions now-is how to get the rest of the tools I need.

I would like to work with someone who is fast and who doesn't stop working on making things better. I would like to work with someone who appreciates bread and other yeasty things. I would like to work with someone who knows more than I do. I would like to work in a rush of cooks who are digging and digging for something interesting to do. I would like to work with a dough sheeter and a fancy range and industrial sized ice cream makers or maybe tiny and efficient Paco Jets. I would like to play with toys. I would like to work the line. I would like to commit reckless acts of butchery both sweet and savory. I would like to work...

but then I work, already


or so it feels.

I am trying to be patient and know that they way to the information I desire will manifest itself and it may not (is not, has not been) the way that is easy or first apparent.

It is odd I do think that my position at FH has only closed one door to me, being the door that brought me out here, but it is an entryway into so many more interesting things.

And in the spirit of getting-to-play-with-stone-fruit,

I am trying to recall a cake. We made it early on in culinary school, before the basics had really set in. The cake had apricots and peaches but I'm improving it with nectarines. Cheffy called it a clafoutis cake, but it wasn't a proper clafoutis. Nevertheless it was creamy and moist. Like pound cake or brioche soaked in cream, that tender. {but I am not trying to make pain perdu}. I shared it with an ex-friend. I have the recipe, but I tried to recreate it and ended up with inedible disks. I'm going to try it again tomorrow morning on the off-chance I left something out. It is an almond flour cake {though I of course have to make my own almond flour, nonetheless, that shouldn't matter}. It lacks something significant...eggs? No...butter {or oil}. Almond flour, sugar, eggs + yolks, cornstarch, cream, fruit. I've gone through my cookbook library but there isn't anything comparable. How do you search for the-creamiest-cake-ever? I'll google it and keep you updated. And this is also what I need to learn: how to recreate memories in food.

Food is a damn manipulative medium. I've thought all along the writers were the real hucksters but the food artists are guilty of equally great shams.

I do miss restaurants, I do. So much. What puzzles me is why per se. I tend to be a creature of instinct more so than others, so maybe the why is not important.

Of the things I want, what do I get to get? And are they the right things to want? Will the conversations I think I need to have get me answers? What am I still supposed to do with all the information I have, because it really isn't currency if it's a secret? Why are all bakers so gossipy? Who googles me and misspells my name? Why have I been wanting a FOH job lately even at some cheesy tourist hole to bankroll some of thing knowledge-searching? Who are the fellow bodies of this industry and what do they want? Why do I let my anxieties override what my hands know?

Thing is, everyone's weird in a kitchen. We're pasty and sun-deprived, up too early or up too late. If I were still in Boston I'd be {well, probably working somewhere specific with a pastry chef I remember liking a lot, that is, if nothing better had happened along} faced with a rough job market and a much harder shot at getting any of those questions answered. That is if I'd even figured out as much as I have since last November.

The last year has been a string of hot pursuits. Finding a FT job(August). Realizing I needed to move 3000 miles (November). Handing in a quite good short story manuscript for the master's thesis (December). Finding a way to get out here (January). Giving notice and moving (February-March). Getting a job out here (March) or two (May). Landing a dog-friendly yet affordable SF apartment (June). Understanding what will one day be (July). Is August going to be coming full circle or am I, as always, anxious to overanalyze?

In life as in writing I'm always impatient to evolve and it's a fault I have a difficult time tempering.

Considering making a summer trifle with the leftovers of the sponge cake in the freezer at FH and some yummy verbena-spiked peach-berry compote.

What I meant to say and perhaps have not said is yes, the list, the things that are so many and varied I am in the weeds: it's time to take the first step and clean off the table.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


{or, research for the fire story}

Ir's fun reliving the past, in some ways...

The Giants played at Candlestick Park.
Yes, crystal meth was in wide use as a recreational drug with a large percentage of meth usage in San Diego. That said I still might have them switch to crack...
The sky was totally black.
The NES was 4 years old. The Super Nintendo was in the states the month before the fire.
CNN was launched in 1980.
My character may have been able to have a pager, but I am not sure if it would be feasible.
European carousels tend to go clockwise; American counterclockwise.

Communication breaks down. What did we do before we were not always in touch? What did we do in case of emergency? I don't remember hearing anything at all about the Oakland firestorm, and so my memory of it, like so many of my memories, is textual, in this case, from Maxine Hong Kingston's The Fifth Book of Peace.

I am not sure if we are more fragile now, or if we were then. Connections are so tenuous these days {or out here, in the west}. We used to commit all our words to paper. Our phone calls were once tethered by a cord {and I have a really funny story about an ex-roommate who got trapped inside an oven, and was able to reach the phone cord with her toe to call for help, but if that happened now...} We journaled and we typed on typewriters, and we had really amazing cartoons and the other Bush in the White House.

I am not the only one wondering about these things tonight.

after all my crazy dreams, everything was beautiful

The Tenderloin is the perfect place to go when you feel like you're in a noir. Everyone is addicted to something and you're only addicted to coffee, and you wait for your friends and then you talk about work and what the gossip is and you are careful not to talk about women. You think about how the Tenderloin is kind of like Downtown Crossing kind of like Roxbury, and how many times you walked through the Common at night, and how familiarity breeds comfort but it's always a little weird to be queer in places like this.

SF is finally starting to feel like home, at least a little bit. I drive around on autopilot and I am beginning to have lil rituals here. I mostly love the view from my neighborhood, whenever I leave my house. I can see the whole of downtown right before I descend into it and it always feels so inviting. Like I'm about to be hugged (except, I don't really like hugging). I love that view almost as much as I love being down by the FB, with its perfect rows of palm trees in front and amazing sunrises over the Bay Bridge that almost making getting up at 430 worth it.

Was down there today for the Tuesday market today--the man at Alfieri told me I could freeze those grapes I can't stop buying. Got eggplant, cilantro, tomatoes and salad greens. Then a Flavor Heart pluot from FH that was delicious and drippy. And from Blossom Bluff some august red nectarines and tiny prune plums that I thought were gong to be wonderful but were in fact kind of mealy. I tried their peaches and I was super not impressed. Good thing my nectarine fan club is growing.

I'm super excited about going to the Berkeley Saturday market the Saturday after this one. I'm dragging my friend's ass across the bay on BART and we are going in search of the fresh zaatar that La Tercera is supposed to sell and then we are going back to SF so that I can work for a few hours, and then back to Berkeley to Chez Panisse, and I think she is really excited about getting to see it. I'm a little looking forward to it, too. There's something about paying for a nice meal yourself (or at least part of it).

And on the subject of food, I have figured out (or re-remembered) that I want to go to Prune when I am in New York. And after reading the spread on pastry chefs in Bon Appetit I kind of want to go to Room 4 Dessert (because who can resist a man tonguing an offset spatula?) or p*ong...and of course I need to put a bakery roundup together. Because certainly, if we're walking off a really nice meal, we might as well be searching out snackies for later.

Monday, August 20, 2007


You know, just cause I can do twice as much production as other people doesn't really mean you should just leave it all for me.

My life is such a noir right now. Loops of information I can't quite put together and the threat of violence today.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Frank Browning's Apples book

I get the strangest things out of Dewey Decimal libraries, which seem somehow smaller and less accurate than the LOC systems {How I loved, in Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, the scene of her browsing in the HQs, because of course that was me!}. So I picked up Frank Browning's "Apples" thinking, well, I'm in need of some good food writing, I love apples, perhaps it will be...educational. Fun was not a word that came to mind.

But it is fun, heaps of fun, that is if you can't stomach another cafeteria Granny Smith or Red Delicious. If you have ever been apple picking. If you get flummoxed when deciding whether to eat it or bake it. If you think McIntoshes dull, Braeburns mealy. If you are suspicious of the Pink Lady, which seems to be everywhere these days. If you hate the waxy skin of fruit. If you hate supermarket fruit period. If you remember the day you learned about the star inside the apple. If you were a tomboy. If you like hot cider with cinnamon. If you search out apple cider donuts.

Which is to say it is a book for me after all. Excerpts that were most intriguing:

{on organic growing}*"By the time the Enlightenment lit up European science, gardeners were painting their fruit trees with a variety of poisonous unctions dedicated to the death of insects. And much of what organic growers consider appropriate treatments today--copper and rotenotem to name two--are decidedly noxious to humans. Indeed, under some organic regimes, the 'natural' insect poisons my father relied on in the 1930s, arsenic and lead combined as arsenate of lead, would be considered acceptable (24)."*

{on american taste}*"...Jonagold, which he calls his first baby, has been a disappointment, at least in the United States. Even his own son, who runs the Way family orchards down in Pennsylvania, has not planted it commercially. Jonagolds are popular, but they haven't enjoyed the boom of new varieties like Braeburn, Gala, and Fuji. Except in Belgium (104-5)."*

{huh}*"...the Stayman Winesap is a steady producer but we lose 20-25% of the crop each year to cracking when late-season rainfall causes the flesh to grow faster than the skin; as we moved to quicker-producing dwarf trees, the problem grew worse" (107).*

{on pink ladies}"Bland Pink Ladies. Overplanted Red Delicious. Overcolored Fujis. All of these commodity-driven phenomena destined for the 'export trade' have, in Burford's view, impoverished the entire American food supply. They have produced ordinary, uninteresting apples that simply can't compete with the high-salt, high-fat, high-sugar, high-packaged items that have saturated the snack-food market (144)."*

{for reminding why i love apples}*"It seemed to have to do with pleasure. No one else in our part of the world grew anything for money that gave so much plain delight. The annual act of taking the first apple, roundish, blushed with crimson, the flesh beneath its skin firm and sturdy and ready to explode upon the tongue...was an affirmation of teh senses. To eat into the apple, to press the edge of the teeth past the taut unwilling skin into ready white meat, to feel the spray of tart and honeyed juices ran down against the tongue and wash over the palate, was to know again how exquisite are the treasures of the ordinary world." (4)*

This book was published in 1998. Almost ten years ago. It makes no mention of those Gravenstein apples thought so well of out here, and only passing mention of my favorites the Northern Spies. Browning himself is an apple-farmer and cider-maker as well as an NPR-commentator.

Friday, August 17, 2007

notes on caramel, and rituals

At this moment, I'm in Birmingham, Alabama, using the free wifi that DFW and SFO for some reason lacked. In TX I got myself some Dunkin Donuts for the first time since left Boston in March. I *LOVE* Dunkies. It is in my blood. Defenders of Krispy Kreme, y'all don't know what you're talking about. Dunkies is simply always there, whether it's when you're waiting for the bus to pick you up in Central Square and deposit you outside Clio where you kind of wish you were working instead of opposite the dark scary alley you've got to walk down to get to Sonsie where you actually are {were} working or whether it's to get a caffeine hit for your four hour discussion of postmodern literature or the metaphors of Salman Rushdie. Dunkies isn't about good coffee. It's cheap. Weak roast and with a slightly nutty taste. Scalding hot at least if you drink it black like I do. You can't miss the neon pink and hunting orange signs.

Last night I made use of my expiring dairy products and churned the salted caramel ice cream base I'd made. But first I stood with the salt shaker upturned in my palm shaking out grains of plain iodized salt (because really need to get something other than they grey smoked salt, though that might be interesting in ice cream), salting lightly, stirring and tasting. It finally got to a point where it was deliciously salty sometimes and other times I was tired of tasting it. So I churned.

Both times I've made that ice cream the caramel takes on a bitter, smoky complex taste. The first time my friend and I danced around my Somerville apartment licking the dripping off the ice cream paddle and proclaiming it better than sex.

Caramel-and I always want to say Carmel now that I'm on the west coast, as if 'm talking about that town-is such a complicated thing for pastry people.

There is never precise agreement about when to pull a pot of sugar off the heat, nor is there any one way to cook the sugar. In school my pastry chef insisted we bring the sugar to a boil and then skim off impurities, something I've never done elsewhere. Only when our sugar was clean could we proceed to cook it, and you had best be sure the whole time we were brushing off the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water the whole time. It made me happy to see Lydia Shire cooked her sugar that way for butterscotch-making. Oh yeah, and we cooked sugar without adding water to the pan. Punks I tell you!

Other people, like my Sonsie boss and the cupcake crew, just add water and mix to sand consistency and then leave damn well enough alone until it starts to turn. Never stir the pot or else you risk recrystallizing the sugar.

One day at Sonsie I left a pot of candying orange segments on too long. They'd been at 213 F for a wicked long time and just got wrapped up in something else, went over with my thermometer to check, and had caramel with orange pieces. In my frustration I threw most of it away before I realized it was probably going to be most delicious. It was heaven.

My cupcake boss has this theory right now that taking caramel too dark causes it to separate out later as it sits on the shelf for a few days. My theory is there's too much butter in it and that settles out to the bottom. Either way she's on us now to pull the sugar at a super light amber stage. But it's in the cooking that you pull out the flavor. It's a balance between burning it (something I have not done, though I've burnt other things, most recently making the mistake of putting a pot 'd made curd in back on a burner that wasn't off and managing to ignore the fact that the kitchen smelled like lemons when it shouldn't. Yeah that was a bad one.) and cooking it.

At Sonsie, my boss would also show me the color he wanted caramelized confections--almond brittle, or candied nuts. Then as the menu rolled on for months I'd stick to the original mark and watch as his batched got lighter and lighter.

I have a strong palate. I like a lot of coffee in my coffee flavored things and have yet to find a natural coffee flavor I prefer to Trablit.

I love the process of caramel, the debates. Get five people around a stove and have them each tell you when they'd stop it. Pull the pan off the heat adding SLOWLY oh you'll learn why your cream or other liquid and your butter. There's something so magical about watching the sugar start to seize, stirring it out, slowly dissolving the mass back into usable product. It's dangerous, this whole cooking sugar thing.

But it tastes so good.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

fiction research

Tonight after the writer's group I walked down to Aquatic Park to see if night fishing really was possible from down there and what you would see. Not only were there scattered fisher-people, the space provided both a perfect array of SF sights to comment on, a decent vantage point of at least the general area of town where Abeille sits, and a nice dis-location within the city...the groundedness of Coit Tower, the pull of the Golden Gate Bridge, the skulking Bay Bridge, touristy mishmash and the Ghirardelli sign...Perhaps I will revisit that scene before I send Misera out again.

More research to come. Who wants to ride carousels with me? Yerba Buena +/or Golden Gate Park. When is the last time you were on a carousel? What are the horses really made out of? What would you name them? What songs do they play? Does the floorboard creak as you walk down it? The only things that come to my mind in terms of carousels are Nantasket Beach, which is also the east coast beach in my mind (well, Coney Island too, and Newport) and Misquamicut.

Should I move my story that was workshopped tonight into the past, pre cell phones, and make use of the real fires that burned down the Oakland hills? Should I condemn the East Bay to burn again in a fictional future? Should I move the fires elsewhere, give the father a second home outside of town {it could be Tahoe. This summer. But then you wouldn't smell the fires, see the smoke, feel the ash in the air.}

I want my character to have a hobby he can do while tending carousel operations. didn't want him to have a sketchbook so I made him a poet. Should he not be a poet anyway, is it too cliche, and if he is not a poet what should he be. I don't want him playing guitar or being a D&D nerd. Introverted+alienated=what else?

and while we're talking poetry, my favorite part of the RADAR salon with Ali Liebegott and Robin Coste Lewis was when Michelle Tea asked if Sarah Vowell write an essay about something and Ali said that she thought it was from my favorite radio show. ever. instead.

Still looking for inspiration.
Got a haircut, made Chez Panisse reservations, and, oh yes! my review of The Hours is up here. Also, this word-collage, one of the pieces I really agitated for, should be read before it's taken down for rubbing up too closely against the grit of someone else's text.

Writers, dammit.

Monday, August 13, 2007

editing process, and fruit

Is it important at all to come out in my review of The Hours? To say that Michael Cunningham is a queer author and he writes good books, but hey, I like them also because I am queer.

Cunningham tells compelling stories about queer lives, and as I was figuring out my own sexuality I found solace in his work. I took out the last part of the sentence. The review will be up soon.

My friends are getting nectarine and blackberry crisp tomorrow. I followed the proportions in the Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook but changed the AP to tapioca flour and upped it by 2T, so we shall see if it is rock hard or watery or just right. And since my eggs and dairy are going bad, I should make more ice cream before this weekend.

I'm working on editing this piece I've been editing since June, I think. I've written about this piece before.It's almost done, but I'm not satisfied with certain elements of it, and while rereading it last night I realized the narrator spends a long time alone wandering around the kitchen giving pertinent backstory and revealing character information. And while I'll follow pretty much anyone around a kitchen, most people aren't me. And I think the tone of the end needs to change. Darker. Bleaker. Because I am no fun and I don't smile and life is just so bleak (oh wait, it's not 5 a.m.)

I've got to get more of my work out there, but it's a struggle (do I want it in print or is online okay? how do I feel about this piece? what's it worth to me?).

There is this one paragraph, a recent addition. I really like it. This paragraph tells the complete story of The Story. It's evocative and sad. This paragraph is why I like exposition so much more than scene, and that is my weakness as a writer (too much exposition. but the prose can be lovely.). This paragraph, if I expand it or extrapolate out of it to action, to scene, probably stands a better chance of being published than the seventeen page story it is from. When I think that I forget how to create sentences that are haunting or evocative, I should pull up this paragraph among other things.

If you are reading this, who or what inspires you?

And for the paragraph, here we go:

When Erin left, Rachel almost sawed through her hand, I got cleanup duty, and I could only get Rachel out of the house with booze. We were pretty much always drunk, and we worked drunk, and if I sneaked into the staff bathroom with Rachel to slug back tall boys of Bud and stroke her hair while she kicked the wall, how else could we have coped? I’d overhear the messages she’d leave begging Erin to come back. I’d spent my Sunday off cleaning Rachel’s dishes, washing her clothes, walking her dog because it had taken to peeing on the bathroom carpet, because she couldn’t get out of bed. Afterward in bars I’d space out with a pint glass, come back later to find a row of empties, have no idea how many I’d drunk only that everything felt so inessential. I’d go to sleep hungry, smoke on the walk to work to avoid Rachel’s chronic moping, and after a month, I started looking for a new job without telling anyone. I knew it was either Abeille or Rachel that I would have to let go of.

Lastly, I can't stop reading the Chez Panisse Fruit cookbook. I interrupt my friends to tell them that papaya trees are ambiguously sexed and that the lemons we spend so much on have probably been stored in a basement and picked while green.

I bought some nectarines at Safeway for the crisp (1.99 per pound as opposed to 3 or 3.90 at the FB). They were Arcticwhite or something like that. It felt surreal to be buying them in a supermarket no less, very much removed from what a fruit experience should be. I just knew they'd be bad. Not because they were rock hard (I was picking riper soft ones). I could tell somehow that they'd have no flavor and that they'd probable be ok fo baking and I didn't have an alternative if I wanted to give crisp tomorrow to the cupcake slingers. It hit me then what leaving SF would do...whenever I leave this town for wherever else I go I will probably have to say goodbye to fruit. Let me come to terms with it then while I am here, even though that only invites more sorrow in parting.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

confessions, or "It's a POT show...and this is the nicest pot!"

1. My "I" key has been sticking for days. This is very annoying.

2. I'm really sick of making upside-down cakes. I have been making them every week since March, and I don't like them. They always sell really well at the FB market. Whwn I frst started making them, I tried David Lebovitz's recipe, was unenthused, *did not* try the FH recipe because it was basically the same as DL's recpe, tried a recipe that was in a recent Gourmet, and tried (with most success) the recipe from Chez Panisse Fruit. I've adapted the CP recipe and that is what I have been using since, oh, April, and I've been okay with that until this week. I tasted one this Saturday to make sure it was all right since I had to trek over to the cupcakery before they were finished, and I took one bite and threw the rest out. There's nothing I shouldn't like. Brown sugar caramelly ooze. Pluots and nectarines. The cake part is always disappointing bad, tough enough to endure fruit without getting soggy, kind of bland, the sort of cake that makes people say they don't like cake. And I'm frustrated because I thought I solved this. It makes me wish I were still staging at Oleana, because every single time I told Maura I didn't like something (bread pudding, meringues), she would show me a version of it that would change my mind completely about the item in question. How do I reinvent this cake? It takes a lot of time to make it and I don't want to put the tme into something I don't like. And why don't I like it when it's got everything I should enjoy?

3. I ate pepperoni grease yesterday. The pizzeria across the street sent us over a free pizza, half cheese half pepperoni. And the slice of cheese I picked up had somehow been infected with meat grease, because during the first bite my mouth flooded with that flavor, which I haven't eaten in probably 13 years. I ended up eating about half the piece, because I was hungry, and *minded* the meat flavor, but wasn't really *eating* the meat. Eventually it got to me, so I just pulled off the crust. On the long walk back to my car, I felt the grease all slick on my tongue and that was uncomfortable. I had to endure until I got home. What is pepperoni, anyway?

4. I took one dozen cupcakes from my job and brought them to the Slideluck Potshow. I am allowed to take as many cupcakes as I want, whenever want, but it's kind of mean to do it when it's the last dozen cupcakes and the store is still open and customers want cupcakes. And I could have stickered the box so potluckers could see where the cupcakes that were gone SO fast came form. But I didn't. I also brought lavender walnut shortbread cookies.

5. And I thought for a good ten minutes about stealing the big Le Creuset from the potluck table. That's terribly, horribly wrong and immoral. Yes, those things run about two hundred dollars, and yes, really I want one but I'm not a thief. My friend said he'd take it if I wasn't going to steal it, because he wanted one too. The getaway car was around the corner. t would have been so, so easy especially once they turned off the lights. I always think about stealing things I really want.

6. Did I confess already to having a plot to steal my favorite cookbook out of the Boston Public Library. This plot was hatched in May I guess, and Leah was going to join the BPL, check out the book, and mail it to me. even told her specifically where it was and that it was hard to find, but should be there. She couldn't find it, and the plan never proceeded. At that time, the book was going for about 100 on used book sites. Now it is up to $474.00. Retail cost of $40. I'll never find it. Not even at the Strand.

7. Something odd happened to 2 of the 4 buttercreams I had to make yesterday. I have made a lot of buttercreams and by now I know what they look like when you have whipped your whited with sugar for plenty of time before adding cooked sugar, what it looks like when you add the sugar before the whites have really peaked, how it takes longer or shorter to firm up, and so on. n both of these instances I added a small portion of granulated sugar while shipping whites but they never got to soft peaks. The liquid whirled around in the Hobart bowl looking like skim milk. The first time poured the hot sugar. The next time I just dumped it out. The bad batched settled into white foam on top and yellow white on the bottom. I used a mixture of Eggology whites straight from the jar and some whites cracked in-house for the 4 buttercreams. am kind of glad it happened twice even if it was a waste of product and time, because t makes me feel more like the whites were contaminated (or the bowl was dirty or something) than that I personally fucked it up.

8. I don't enjoy decorative work. Even though my piping skills are now adequate.

9. I'm feeling really sensitive to sugar lately. I'm trying to east less processed sugar and more fruits (!?!?!?!). This is pretty much against my philosophy of living. So I hope this sensitivity goes away soon.

10. This whole week (last Sat. market, Tuesday market, and yesterday's market) I have bought nothing but fruits from the FB market. Yesterday delicious grapes again and some figs from my Sox fan at Knoll Farms.

I manhandled a ton of figs at the Slideluck Potshow, because I wanted to eat one but only if they were really ripe, plus I was afraid they weren't going to be as good as the ones from Knoll. I ate peanut noodles and homemade noodles and a really sexy key lime tart. I met my first food blogger and he was wearing leather suspenders and he loved my shortbread. When I fessed up to having a food blog myself, he said he'd blogroll me. I was also made to try a vegan{no dairy/no fat} broccoli soup. This man came up to me and my friends and sad to me (and only me) "Hi, how are you, I made this soup, no one's eating it, you should try it." So I did. I told him it needed butter and cream (such a pastry chef), and pepper. Then I told him he needed to try my cookie. We had the most San Francisco conversation, the three of us, it was all about sustainability and markets and not at all about art.

About the art, it was really refreshing to see an art show. It made me a little sad for the artist I used to live with who once made me a cowboy drawing on a lightbox and who had a wall full of drawings of cutie pie. I have such a crush on visual artists. It has always depressed me that I'm not talented in that way (not that being a writer isn't thrilling in its attention to detail and long, lonely hours--kind of like being a chef). Photography has been on my mind a lot since the Leica dream. These days I feel like everyone things they're a photographer because they know how to compose a shot and they've got a digital. If they're one step above that, they can play with the color balance or saturation in Photoshop (confession: I first started playing with Photoshop back in 97, 98...back when digital photography was a little amusement on a day when the darkroom was crowded). What was so refreshing about the slide show for me was the little things that get lost in the automatic digital age...the color balance, the precision of focus, proper use of lighting, nightshots or blurred shots that say something and don't just look cool (and if I said "cable release" would you know what I meant?). I was always drawn to photography because it was a visual art I could do, and I put in enough time to be ok.

What I actually never realized until last night was how narrative photography is, or can be. This despite the fact that I have actually had so many narrative photo projects myself. I must have known instinctually (it's a writer's art, just like pastry cheffing is, and foil-fencing), but until I saw on the cement gallery floor with my knees up and watched the slide show, feeling like a kindergardener at nap-time and about that tired, too, it wasn't anything I could have voiced. My favorite photographers are even narrativists (Cindy Sherman, Nan Goldin, Nikki Lee, Mary Ellen Mark (though she is less), and for old time's sake Dorothea and Ansel). It was a nice realization to come to, even though haven't touched my SLR in two years (it's got an undeveloped roll of California pictures in it, of all things). It made me feel more comfortable with something I have grown so distanced from. And it made me feel like my favorite art still has merit, authenticity and fun. Photography isn't dying in the age of digital. The book isn't dying in the age of internet. {But what of darkrooms and publishing houses?}

I'm totally going to make dinner now and work on some writing. I have so much to do before the Alabama trip including somehow go to Oakland to return my library books (I was happy to realize that if I do this I can use the free printers at the Oakland library instead of the expensve ones at SFPL), go to the SFPL to pick up a book I should have read a long time ago but is now impossibly trendy, made Chez Panisse reservations, get a haircut so don't look like a scruffy teenaged boy in a dress (though that would be a new sight for Alabama)...

Friday, August 10, 2007


I figured out what I want to do with those pluot-plums in the freezer, and the wad of rose petals I ganked from the Albany shoreline trail and my old Fruitvale house. Plum-rose jam!

I haven't made jam in a long time, not since culinary school when we made buckets of jam, any and all flavors. Some of them are still sitting around my Somerville house. Some were given away as presents. Not sure when I will get around to this jam, but likely I'll try to get a sourdough starter going so that my the time I'm jammed up there will be good toast. I am such a bread-brat these days; I only eat Acme.

My favorite jam excursion is from my days on the farm, when I went across the river to my favorite farmer EVER's house and we had gallons of strawberries from the PFP and we made jam all day long, some with pectin and some without. I'm sure we talked about love, and why we love the wrong people or love too soon, too long, or without giving away all of ourselves. But now I only remember the jam.

I've got three fresh burns from last week as a reminder not to work distracted, and worked distracted all day.

I just got to say to a friend Autumn leaves and apples!

This is why I'm going to Boston in October (and hopefully NYC, the city I love to hate, as well). I make up little lists that go something like apples, apple cider, apple cider doughnuts, apples, ICA, Oleana, East Coast Grill, Lydia Shire stories, Herrell's, Harvard square, crunch of leaves
finding the Doughnut Plant for real, McNulty's, Bklyn, Grand Central, the 6 train, my two favorite places on Broadway ever, will I ever eat at Gramercy Tavern, I could go to Babbo, maybe I'll go be a line cook like Bill Buford, still haven't been to Cafe Lalo, or the Cloisters, Spuyten Duyvil, did I really ever live here.

God I love apples and I'm so nervous they won't have my apples here.

Thinking of doing utterly crazy things, specifically two, but they are secrets.

No more cooking with herbs. Get over this lavender, rose geranium, lemon verbena, slight thyme kick. Find something else and it better not be a spice.

Ai, forgot to make Chez Panisse reservations. I'm gong to have to put Chez Panisse in my cell phone and that is kind of sad. Determined also to go to another fine restaurant while Leah's here...Where I have been in this town: A16, Delfina, Frisson, Jardiniere.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

local eating/thursday rant, or Pardon My Low Blood Sugar

7 pm now and I just finished dinner, after not eating anything all day except for an unfrosted carrot cupcake and a frosted mini cupcake. Dinner was brown rice, lentils, onions, carrots, kale and those ever-lasting 79 cent mushrooms spiced up with some ras el hannout and toasted cumin seeds. I've got some shortbread in the oven (trying out Tartine's recipe, but with lavender and walnuts mixed in.) If it comes out well (skeptical as it's now been in the oven about double the suggested time, but that might just be what I get for using an 8x8 pyrex and not a 6x10) I'm taking it to the potluck.

I was going to put a big post last night about the scraps n leftovers local meal I had...local egg omelette with avocado and Star Route spinach. And leftovers of the best rice I've ever made...Massa's organic brown rice with sauteed spinach, mushrooms, shallot and zaatar mixed in. But then my old college friend called, so I went out to a bar in the Castro where I got mistaken for a man in the bathroom line, got some perspective on the 9 to 5 (or whenever) lifestyle, and discussed our pathetic singledom in a bar full of cute, look-alike fag couples.

I'm on the verge of getting sick and this not eating thing really isn't helping. I brought food today but the cupcakery was zany and even though I promised myself ten minutes for lunch after finishing the vanilla batters that turned into 'll just eat it while I heat the juice for curd and make american buttercream which then turned into well it's one thirty and I'm here till three I'll just take a bite of carrot.

I should just get a tattoo on my forehead that reads I require clear and effective communication and while that might save me a lot of headaches I probably wouldn't get any dates. As I tell my FH coworkers on market day, just make me a list. Cause I'm very good at getting done what needs to be done.

Chef gossip at the cupcakery but I'm not spilling.

I hung out with my favorite cupcake slingers the other night. Took them blackberry picking on Bernal Heights where they, two native SFers, had never been. They gave me their berries in exchange for a promised pie, and I gave them tips on east coast living since their respective college are in Boston and NYC. We went for burritos in the Mission and I understood for the first time how you could prefer burritos to a slice. Time for a good slice, perhaps, as opposed to a whole yuppified pizza?

I've got tickets to Boston in October! Give me apples, autumn leaves, a chance to go to Beehive, the new ICA...if I weren't so food deprived I'd be jumping up and down.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I know how the story goes!

She hasn't been telling it to me very well. She's shy, a little passive, good at hiding things, and working too many doubles for something like sanity. It was meant to be a story about food and power and how you might do something you don't want to do (because you are a nice person who doesn't have the bad habits many people in this industry do, and because you are in a committed relationship you don't really realize you're fucking up by working as hard as you do) for someone you respect a lot. A story about how fame fits into a knife kit, about unintentional sex (if that isn't an oxymoron), about two good people making bad choices for different reasons.

(It's not a good story, yet. The chef is too flawed and she has no redeeming qualities. I should reread Kissing in Manhattan and see how he makes Patrick Rigg a likeable character. Because if she isn't at least a little desirable there's no story.)

What it ended up becoming, thus far: a story about how you cover up love as it's leaving. About how you might have to let go of what you never thought you could lose. It's still about the impossible choices, the recklessness of desire, but it leaves the kitchen a lot, with hands smelling of garlic, and it sleeps on the sofa conflicted between two woman. I'm relieved, because at least I know now where it wants to go, and it's just a matter of following it down those dark paths.

I'm going out in a bit. I think. If the cupcake slinger calls me. Until she does I'm going to work on finishing draft 1. Then another story to get out to the writers group next week, dios mio, I just want to take another look at it before I send it, and by that time my writing buddy should be finished with the story I want to submit to Bloom next. Writing versus the real world.

I bought more of those sensational grapes today (and I found out what kind they are). The tiny green ones (early muscat? something muscat) remind me of the most wonderful dessert wine I've ever had (Naravvo late harvest riesling). I'm taking a friend to Chez Panisse (the cafe) when she comes and I'm hoping they'll still have it on the menu then, so she can taste it, although by then the grapes will be gone, probably. Can't have everything. But will I EVER have decent plums again? Last year they had my favorites at the time when I came to SF. And that time is almost here. I'm growing impatient for my favorites.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

sunday rant

Oh yum, there are 12 cups of real Maine blueberries waiting for me to get back to Boston and make pies! Xmas duck and blueberry pie anyone? I'll be back home before then...October sometime, for leaves and apples and Burdick's hot chocolate. Dunkin Donuts. Oleana. Herrell's, Toscanini's, Hi Rise toast with maple butter MMMh.

What I really wanna know is HOW we went through an entire batch of vanilla buttercream today, almost. Which is to say three pounds of egg whites twelve pounds of butter just over three pounds of sugar. I don't think there's enough left for much after tomorrow morning, which means we've got to make some fresh off the bat, and tomorrow is our most understated day. It's up to me and one other baker to get out 28 times 24 cupcakes frosted fourteen different ways. Plus the orders decorated. With no help for the first two hours of our shift and after our one lone helper comes, we've got to get into batters for the day. I made vanilla buttercream yesterday, that was part of me running around like a zoo monkey. I made a whole batch. How did we not notice it disappearing so fast? I'm so tired of being fucked before I even begin to pick up a pastry bag two days out of five in my work week. And I'm tired of certain people getting preferential treatment in their scheduling and others getting not enough respect for putting out 1,440 cupcakes on a day that's our third busiest and least staffed and for having to do it again tomorrow. I'm going to crawl into bed with the pizza I'm making when it's finished (green zebras, spinach, mushrooms), watch reruns of the L Word and Sex in the City, and work on my knitting.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

my best private moments are in public ...

The FPFM was hopping today as usual! Cardoons, stinging nettles, purslane, lemon basil, heirloom tomatoes in all stripes and colors, figs, peppers sweet and hot. I intended to go shopping for some tomatoes and maybe some greens, lemon basil perhaps.

But then I was seduced on my way to the secret bathroom, where all the chefs and otherwise cool kids trot off to. I found a man sampling grapes, and when I asked to try one he handed me a cluster. I knew they weren't Concords but they looked similar in color. I smiled my thanks and ran off toward the bathroom, absentmindedly plucking a grape off the stem, popped it in my mouth, and came to a stop. The flavor of that grape jolted me, and I didn't move, didn't sway an inch except for the slack-jawed expression on my face of disbelief and thrill, but I felt naked in public. Had I known that grapes could taste like that? Or rather, that grapes could taste so purely and sweetly and not be the thickly fleshy, sexual kind where you work your tongue around the seed, the sort of grapes the Hudson Valley recalls though surely they are everywhere? I promised the man that I'd be back and then I continued my trek to the bathroom, pulling grapes into my mouth and almost laughing, bursting in on strangers in the bathroom, disrobing from my uniform, becoming a person again and not the white uniform.

I bought the grapes (I got them at Alfieri, and I'm planning a trip back Tuesday to see if there are more). And some Green Zebras, some lemongrass for coconut ice cream or sorbet), some spinach from the very expensive Star Route. Two things more on the FPFM: I really love the berries I've been getting from Yerena. They're organic. The blackberries last week were the best I've ever had. The strawberries are prime flavor this week. And best of all they give me heaps of berries (24 baskets between three kinds) for 44 dollars. And second, the Apple Store place in the FPFM had a large bundle of apple sticks tied together and a sign saying Faggot for Hearth or Bonfire. Technically a faggot is indeed a bundle of sticks, but cmon, I think its usage has evolved past that point and I really don't think the farmers market is the place to question your relationship to sexuality.

Cooking tonight for social events. The THINGy ice cream, for the cupcakery. And a grape-rosemary focaccia with my amazing grapes for a potluck in Oakland tomorrow night. Pictures when I can find the digital camera cable.

Body memory tonight while preparing the focaccia. It came time to stretch the dough, and so I oiled a half sheet pan and slowly got ready, not looking forward to this part. I lay my ball of dough on the half sheet pan and then I remembered how I'd done this twice a week for six months (and before that as well in another position). That it was in me, the method to stretch the dough was something my hands knew, even if my brain was nervous and out of practice. So I let them go at it, pulling and stretching and that dough just poured through my fingers out to the edges of the pan like it knew I was the master. It's baking now and I can just begin to smell it. Got to check if the ice cream base is cold. I'm sleepy. Cupcakery was intense today. I hauled my ass for three hours, busting out two 30 quart Hobart batch size buttercreams start to finish in an HOUR while depanning cupcakes, whipping frostings and then on to the decorating frenzy. Left me exhausted. I've been very tired this week. Lots of things on my mind, mostly women and work, and writing.

I want someone to come shopping at the farmers markets with me. And I want someone to share these private moments in public with. Then I get cold when people call me {well, people who haven't had the balls to call me in a year} and say I'm busy like in the middle of five different things gotta run. I want to say that the door closed, and you lost the right to be my friend when you treated me like such a stranger. And you mostly lack the cojones to question that. But is that really the right thing to do? Sometimes I miss these people but they act so much like children. I miss Somerville tonight. Cambridge. I'm on a quest for sahlab and other things appropriate to middle eastern ice creams. Tell me, Bay Area, that someone somewhere is making ice cream with sahlab. Somewhere there is dondurma, somewhere the strange ice cream with noodles that my manager wants. Because, really, are you gonna let Boston have one up on you?

Friday, August 03, 2007

you're not here to make my sad songs more sincere

Hot damn, I MISS ME some Berkeley Bowl!! The things I miss about the east bay are the things I expected to miss. So today when I was given the afternoon off from my second job, and I boarded a Richmond-bound BART to Ashby, it felt like cheating on my new city. But the slight shame gave way to home-coming thoughts when the transbay tube shifted to perfect blue skies of the West Oakland industrial land. I knew which way to walk when I got out of the BART, but it felt odd to be on foot in that area. It was a sunny day, gorgeous and hot, and I wanted to walk to Sweet Adeline and to Bakesale Betty and to my old haunt, the Oakland Public Library, and maybe around Lake Merritt for good measure, but there is only so much walking one can reasonably do.

At the Berkeley Bowl, I scored a giant bag of plums and a giant bag of something else--pluots, I thought, for their skin was reddish-pink like the Dapple Dandys from Frog Hollow, but the interior turned out to be bright fuchsia, so plums, perhaps, but more likely not--and a giant bag of mushrooms, all for 79 cents each! That plus some Arborio rice and a little snack mix for me, and then I made myself go before I started buying up loaves of Acme bread or anything more from the bulk aisle.

I went to Ici and hung out for a while. It's really great when people are passionate about what they do. Especially when it's something I'm passionate about too. On the ice cream front, those pluot/plums have been pureed for future sorbet making, the plums have been diced and frozen for something, and I made caramel for the THINGy ice cream and plan to make the base tomorrow, a chocolate base, as was requested.

I wish the meal I made tonight was a local meal, but it wasn't. It was amazing though. I used up those beautiful leeks I bought from Ella Bella last week and some of my 79 cent mushrooms, and and old shallot. Cooked them down in butter and olive oil, added some of the arborio rice and the chicken stock (not homemade, sorry) I'd defrosted and made myself some risotto. I tried to find a recipe for the rice-broth ratio but was having trouble, so just decided to wing it. I threw in 2/3 cup of rice and figured I'd either have enough stock for it or I wouldn't and if I didn't I'd use water because I wasn't going to open some of my really nice white wine for the risotto. No joke, it was the best risotto I have ever made. Plenty of black pepper and some salt, and when it was *almost* done, so close that you could taste it just needed a couple more minutes, I tossed in some parmesan cheese. My landlady was quite shocked to find I "just decided to make risotto." Apparently she's been inspired by myself and the other female roommates before me who cooked and has decided she should start cooking for herself more. I preceded the meal with some heaping spoonfuls of the blackberry ice cream...risotto does take some time to cook.

There aren't many things that could tempt me back to New York but Molly O'Neill is one of them {well, I need no temptation back to the Hudson Valley, just a chunk of money to afford the real estate there}. Which upstate town is she kicking around? Is it one I know? Does she live in Red Hook or Rhinebeck, Germantown or Rosendale {somehow, I can't see her on the other side of the bridge}? I just read an essay by her today in an old Best Food Writing anthology (2004, I think) and it reminded me of reading her memoir and feeling like that was my life on the page. I would really love to talk with her one day about food and writing and what the Boston cooking scene was like when she was there. Maybe I'll have my farmer-friend find her, and if she can do this, and if she will go here and eat with me, then yes, I'll go east.

A coworker's husband is going to Tarrytown for a business trip and she was contemplating going with him. I told her the foliage would not be at its peak, and it would be an hour or so from NYC and there wouldn't be much to do. But I didn't tell her I was jealous. There's been a lot lately, making me miss the East coast. The spread on Brooklyn dining in my GQ {Alan Richman, can you really be advising we move to Bushwick?!?}, the profile of North Fork + Table in Food Arts, the Molly O'Neill...

Safe enough to say now that my honeymoon phase with SF is wearing off. Which is good-I've been here five months already, which feels like a long time. Four in the East Bay, one in SF, a few friends to speak of, a job I still like...

Speaking of jobs I think we're going to start making full sized cakes at the cupcakery. ?!?