Tuesday, July 31, 2007

birthday cakes for diabetics

...Someone just called me and now I'm all fidgety and my mouth is quirking itself into funny little expressions. Fidgety fidgety gonna fidget till Friday, dios mio.

My buddy Brandon told me last night that all he wanted for his birthday was a birthday cake, and no one got him one. I'll hook you up I said, what do you want? Yellow cake, chocolate frosting. So tonight I'm calling my mom for the yellow cake recipe I like best, the 1234 cake from Joy (one of the many things left in Boston). I think I'm going to make american buttercream for the frosting, because I think the unfussy sweetness would be right for him. I kind of want to decorate it with rolled fondant diamonds, hearts, spades and clubs, cause he's a gambler, but I kind of want to try preserving nasturtium blossoms in egg whites and sugar, like violets are treated. I've got a couple weeks to figure it out. And it might just get some royal icing writing like a true birthday cake should.

Tonight I'm going to try making the ice cream base for the caramel THING-filled ice cream.

Trawl down Mission and back up the hill after a couple of drinks with your friend, the bartender, who orders you fancy cocktails because he'd prefer you drink something fussier than a beer. Enjoy the smiles and stares of the girl in short shorts who finds you something you don't find yourself. Discuss your industry, from your various points of reference. You landed here on flight from the nine to five world, and to give safe haven to your creativity. He landed here on a plan to get back to that world and put himself through college. Discuss what you want, what you really want, and how you've always thought you'd do more than what you have done thus far {but also, how you haven't rested, how you've always been fighting your way forward}. When he opens up to you about things you have not yet heard, you keep the information like you keep all your secrets. But you're also a storyteller. Bits and pieces of the private stories find their way into textual longings.

In college I always used to ask my favorite professor how I'd still write after school. How to get published and how to be a better writer. I wanted him to tell me what to do. The five-point step to be the next Jhumpa Lahiri {Amy Bloom. Michael Cunningham. Carole Maso.} All he'd ever tell me was that the fact I was asking these questions was the evidence that I would do it. This is what I've been repeating to myself these days as I focus so much energy on other things. The fact that I'm still here spending so much time and energy on the page is the proof that I'm for real. I'm going to spend more time focusing on how to get my words out there.

This week at Frog Hollow the nectarine cake should be making her debut, if all goes well. I've tried so many peaches lately but they just don't do it for me the way the nectarine does.

Monday, July 30, 2007

all the little things

Making ice cream for one of my coworkers, because her birthday was today. "Something caramelly and nutty," she requested. She liked ice creams with THINGS in it, too, like Cold Stone. So I'm thinking a vanilla base, with chocolate chunks, soft caramel folds and walnuts. Or pecans. Though I'm sort of tempted to have a coconut base with caramel and nuts. Hmmm.

Today was a nice day at work. A fair amount of production, some cupcake decorating, and some quiet. We actually finished early and sort of lolled around cleaning and answering the phone. I wish all the days could be like that. Of course there's still an undercurrent of secrets, a currency of information, a white noise from one job to another job to out across the hills.

Going out tonight, I think. Helping a friend chase some women and other spectator sports. Mulling over my letter from Bloom. Keeping bigger secrets than usual, because I realized last week what I really want to do with my professional life, and I feel amazing about it.

Back to work on my review of The Hours, and other Fringe submissions for the reading period.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

bakery roundup of the last week more or less

Dianda's, where I went because of all the people of Chowhound who can't stop going on about it. Or maybe just those one or two. I had an eclair. Basics: vanilla pastry cream, ganache or some kind of chocolate frosting on top, choux. The pastry itself was okay but there was something violently wrong with the pastry cream. It was really cold and fairly grainy in my mouth. About the only good, enjoyable facet to the eclair was the chocolate on top. I don't think I'm going back, not even to give them another shot. I tend to shy away from places with gaudy or scary looking pastries. Maybe it's just the snobbishness of my French training rubbing off on me. But I don't think so. In Poughkeepsie I used to go to the little Italian bakery right by the train station and get a big box of assorted cookies, and one morning Jes and I went there for cake, and the cakes were quite nice. I forget what that place is called, which makes me sad, but I can still see the interior, the parking lot, the neon sign, the Poughkeepsie streets leading down to the water, where many important conversations were had with loved ones. Caffe Aurora, I believe, was the name.

Delessio, where I went because I was starving and it was across the street from the DMV, where I went this week to change my car over to California plates after a good three and a half hours of waiting. This Delessio outpost was tucked into an Italian foods shop and my first thought was that everything looked amazing. But I was totally starved. I bought an excitingly crunchy looking pastry with intriguing red fruits inside, which turned out to be a plum (or pluot?) muffin. I'm not a muffin person but this was quite good and the fruit almost tasted spiced. I was intrigued also by the little cupcakes. They had so many and they were all very elaborate and cutely decorated. I got a lemon one, with lemon curd inside, and coconut-kissed lemon frosting outside. The cake was dry (sigh) but otherwise it was great! Same thing with the banana cake...banana cake, cream cheese frosting perhaps(?), and butterscotch chips. Lovely tastes, dry cake. But I won't let that stop me from going back and trying oodles more, although the large-style pyrex pans of bread pudding, tres leches, etc...totally unappealing.

Mission Pie, where I went because I wanted some pie and book-reading. It was cute inside. The pieces needed a little love. Either in the decorating department and lord knows I'M hardly one to talk there, or in the size department...they seemed to have deflated loads on their way from oven to store. And for 3.50 for a piece of pie, I want a piece of pie bursting with fruit, nuts, flavor. They did win me over by offering me free whipped cream and even bagging up the whole operation so I could carry it and still walk cutie pie. And also by having compelling food writing on display and lots of postcards about sustainable agriculture. The pie was good, not too juicy. The peaces were pretty flavorful (suncrest if I recall). But I missed the complexity of the peach pie I made last month.

I've got blackberry ice cream in my freezer and I keep stealing bites as I walk by. It tasted just like blackberries and cream with a slight graininess but the most gorgeous creamy mouthfeel. I kind of want to make it some chocolate sauce. Would that be wrong? And since I've got milk that expires soon and lots of heavy cream it seems time for more ice cream...

Cupcakery's been pretty zany lately. Busy today, but also lots of confusion about who is responsible for what. What gets done when. And last week's words are forcing me to be on best behavior. Communication keeps changing even barely after it's been established. All day I kept telling myself I wasn't going to own any of their stress. I as just going to pretend I was on a desert island, drinking tropical drinks and playing cards and watching a gaggle of bikini-clad girls play beach volleyball. And that worked, for a while. I really function well in places where there is clear communication. Or when I'm the one in charge.

Spent some time tonight reading submissions for the journal I'm involved with, Fringe. I'm working on a review of The Hours for the Fringe blog rollcall of our top/most influential 25 books in counterpart to all the standard-bearers by old white men. It's hard to say why Michael Cunningham is one of my favorite authors, but to talk about it in a detached way. I was never very good at nonfiction. I got one of those encouraging-rejection letters from a journal of note, too, today, which about made my day. The issue is that when they ask you to please send more, usually you've sent them your best piece, so you just kind of slink away. Note to self to get back to writing. It can't be all food all the time...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

comfort food

Feeling a bit better today. Went out for lunch with my old buddy Brandon who just moved to SF from the Sacramento area--he's a Californian and we've been friends for five years more or less, and I am at this point one of his oldest friends. He took me to a Chinese restaurant on Ocean Ave called Emmy's where they gave us a big table for 8, because it was all they had. Perched in between large groups of older Chinese men we ate sesame chicken (for him) and orange peel chicken (for me) which wasn't all that spicy. In fact it was so not-that-spicy that I kept eating pieces of the jalapenos (and wondering why they didn't use fresh or dried red chilies) and ate the piece with all the seeds still attached. And then ate lots and lots of rice.

Man, I miss the Millhouse Panda and their spicy orange tofu. Sigh.

I used to always wonder in places like that if the chicken is really chicken, and if not what it is. I used to care much more but these days not as much. Lots of rice and watery tea and discussion of various girls and crushes and jobs. It's nice to be with someone whose patterns you know. And who knows yours. Eating warm, greasy, crispy food and lots of fluffy soft rice and feeling hemmed in by the low-lying fog--but in a safe and comforting way--is good. I don't have many connections here in SF, but I do get little bits of what I need from various people out here and so it's nice to have something like an old friend. Brandon is the one who drove with me here, and the only person I think that I know who would help me travel three thousand miles to change my life.

After Emmy's we drove out to Ocean Beach and scuffed through the sand, and then back to his apartment in sunny Visitacion Valley, and then he left for bartending and I came home to take the cutie pie to Bernal Heights park.

We went blackberry picking and I came home with enough to make wild blackberry ice cream courtesy of Chez Panisse Desserts, which I am a little skeptical of because it contains all cream and no eggs. If I were a better pastry chef I'd know how to cut down the cream, add some milk, and supplement the fat with yolks. But ice cream experimentation usually ends in ice crystals and not silky-soft perfect ice cream. Lucky thinking ahead, I put the cuisinart bowl in to freeze this morning. Also considering using up the rest of my cornmeal dough (if it's any good) and making some pies even though the berry seeds tend to annoy me. The dough's less than a month old (just barely) and came over here from Oakland with me. Meditation class tonight, good for the stressed out baker.

Cornmeal in the fluffy, soft sweet nectarine cakes, maybe? What is my recent obsession with the grit in things?

Monday, July 23, 2007

you say sink or swim, what a cruel cruel phrase

It's always my big mouth. I don't tell secrets ever. But I'm one of those filterless people. Know me long enough and I will utterly offend you without meaning to and often without being sure of why whatever I said was so mean in the first place. That is, of course, if you are lucky enough to befriend me without first getting to see the cold side of me. I'm not that nice of a person in the abstract.

But I will cook you dinner and give you rides. I'll take you to all my favorite places, I'll give you my bed to sleep in and I'll call you on your birthday and I'll remember your favorite pastries and make you pies. I am actually very sweet, it's just that the outside is cold and hard, and I'm shy in person and not all that interested in making small talk.

Things fly out of my mouth. My emotions are all over my face. I am always very challenged by working for other people/ Why is it that I should care about your goals and dreams? How is this worth my valuable time? Beyond paying me you need to win me over, and then I'm quite loyal. However it's rare. I have a short fuse and I'm smart and I get bored. I vent my frustrations before working on a project with a clean conscience unmindful of the fact that my frustrations are then carried by others. I'm not big on complimenting people and rarely do it. I'm hard to impress. I'd usually rather be reading a book.

I got in trouble at work today. Well all of us did but then the focus came down on me. Not too sure exactly what the ramifications will be but it's very hard to deal with. I give everything I have every day at work and most of the time the hard work is unacknowledged and only the problems are picked out. In that situation it's difficult for me to remain positive and to find something left to give. I've got to try to keep the things that irk me to myself and be a better employee, or give up and do my own thing.

I'm really tired of falling into the same unhappinesses. I'm tired of moving through jobs. I don't handle criticism well. I disengage. I think that if I weren't flawed in these ways I'd have a smoother, less stressed life. This side of my personality is all wrong for kitchens. As for most things.

But the part of me that's mostly me, where if I'm going to be working I wanna work and work hard, dammit, where I come in and do my job and get my hands dirty and work hard all day long with barely five minutes to sit and eat something that isn't sweet, where I sleep little and have basically no social life and am fast and efficient, that part does all right.

Frustrated with myself. And how I always want to be a better person faster. Note to self, let go of expectations of your self and of others.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

local eating 2

I went down to Rainbow last week to get some supplies for locally-made pizza. Really just an excuse to play with some yeast. It was actually my first time using active dry yeast so it was a little intense and I ended up throwing out the first batch because I wasn't sure why the yeast wasn't blooming. By the second batch my internet was working enough for me to understand it really would take ten minutes, but anyway, the groceries...

organic heirloom tomato (cherokee purple)
organic scallions
bulk bread flour at last (and you'd think the Berkeley Bowl would have gotten on that long ago)...which may or may not have been local but I went with it anyway cause I've been wanting to play with breads for a while.
It was the cheese that posed the problem. I intended to just go to the FB and hit up Cowgirl but they were closed, so I wandered in the Rainbow cheese aisle for a while reading the little signs and trying to gear myself up because I don't even like cheese anyway. I try it raw and it makes me gag. I was sad and frustrated in the cheese aisle knowing there's all these little Sonoma county cheese maker people and wondering why Rainbow didn't have more of an emphasis on their products. Thinking whether I wanted to go with goat cheese, which I tend to be ambivalent toward or not like at all, or non local fresh mozzarella. I had the mozz in my hand and was going to leave, but rounding the corner of the cheese aisle I caved and went back. I picked up some Redwood Hill goat cheese that looked oozy and unappetizing and said fuck it. I'm buying heirloom tomatoes and I don't like tomatoes really. I'm making pizza dough. I ate goat cheese last week in the new Frog Hollow turnovers (summer squash, corn and goat cheese, yum!)This is the only night I have to give this project this week and I'm not pussying out in the cheese aisle.

I can't pretend anymore about food. I can't claim any relationship to vegetarianism when I eat fish and fowl and just had bacon and foie. No matter how much I love tofu. I have to own up to it now:I eat mushrooms and I eat tomatoes in things and I make grilled cheese and zaatar sandwiches and I can't speak anymore about the way that I eat in those terms that I used to, which is to say: egg whites only, all vegetables except mushrooms and olives, no tomatoes raw, no meat except for chicken, no cheese except cooked and then only some kinds, no food cold that could or should be eaten hot. No cold pizza, no cold leftovers, no picnics, no things. Oh! And no sandwiches, except pbnj.

Why? I didn't really have a reason, except "I don't like it." And still cold cheese makes me gag and un-warm food I'll choke down if I HAVE to but I won't like it. But those rules are all bent.

I moved out here for food (yes, it's ridiculous, but it's also true). I want to eat locally one time a week because it's a commitment to the culture of food and the values I try with my meager income to support. It's easy to say that you support farmers and farm markets. It's easy to tell everyone you love about the farm bill. But it isn't easy for me to go to the market once a week and put a meal together out of food that's traveled to me in an hour or less.

How, incidentally, was the pizza? The dough was ok. I used my recipe from school because it was in cups not ounces. It wasn't amazing but it was fine and I've got three balls frozen for later use. The goat cheese smelled bad in that funky cheese way. It wasn't great alone. When mixed with the tomato, the scallions and some parsley I had kicking around from the Berkeley market the week before, it tasted very good indeed.

On Saturday I stole ten minutes to shop the FB market. I zipped around in my Sox hat and got nods and smiles, picked up a few more heirloom tomatoes from Eatwell (Pineapple, Green Zebra) and some divine looking leeks and basil from Ella Bella, bread from Acme, and was back to tend the ovens without too much chaos in the Frog Hollow system. A little chaos, of course. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing my job.

Tonight I cooked up a sauce with the tomatoes and basil and some shallots and ate it with the remainders of my local vegan whole wheat pasta (sheesh).

How do you support the things you value? The things that are so entrenched within you that you don't quite see how other people don't hold them close the way you do? I've worked at farmers markets and I work for farmers now. I've worked on farms. I still hope one day to own some land in the Hudson Valley where my best farmer friend can farm and grow me some fruits and berries for pies and such, even though at this rate we'll never be able to afford to live there unless we live in the boondocks reaches of Ulster County.

Tonight while I made pretty use of the things that smelled of summer, I cut three tomato pieces and reserved them from the sauce. As a child I'm told I used to eat raw tomatoes, but never (and quite vigilantly) since, except in salsa (and just now I'm making the connection that it's rather odd to eat salsa, or pico de gallo, and not tomatoes, but if you know me then you know how I'm often odd that way). I popped them in my mouth to taste the difference. Green Zebra, you win. I'm taking you home again one day soon.

On my mind:
thyme-ginger shortbread
peaches...and rosemary? good or bad?
divine soft nectarine cake
whether the panna cotta should stay or go
what to do with rose geranium
when shall there next be good plums
why my dreams have been so intense lately
cinnamon ice cream, or oatmeal, if i can find some freezer space to chill the bowl

Keeping lots of secrets at the moment. Went back to Oakland tonight and going back again next week, I believe.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

there was indeed birthday pie

There's a story in it somewhere. How Leah and I drove down Route 1 after work on Monday with vague plans to camp somewhere between Santa Cruz and Monterey, with a car full of cupcakes, one dog, and no gas. How every campsite was full until darkness hit halfway to Big Sur. How I told her of Kerouac's nighttime arrival in the book of that name and said I don't want to be driving this road in the dark. As the fog rolled in, grey upon grey, I asked the gods (and yes, I don't believe, or know what to believe) for a sign of this next year.

How we drove some time more and found an empty campsite and a store to buy groceries (hummus+stoned wheat thins for me, beer, smores stuff, tuna sandwich for Leah). How we brought the dog into the no-dog campsite hiking in darkness and me in flip flops but he wouldn't stop barking, so we stopped trying to set up the tent and hiked back out. How we ate in the car and brought beers to the hood to watch more shooting stars than I've ever seen before. How I slept in the car and Leah slept on the car and we woke five hours later bleary eyed, starving, and stumbled up the road to a diner where I ordered not one but two breakfasts (huevos rancheros, homemade cinnamon bun) and the coffee was good.

How I wanted to go to the aquarium but instead we went wading in the cold and dark blue waters with sea anemones and otters.

How that entire day we kept stumbling into scenes of freakish beauty. How I had so many things to think about, but found the time to get away and stop thinking so much about everything, but only about the important things.

How there was, after all, birthday pie, and strawberry picking in fields that kissed the sky.

Swanton's berry farm just happened to be on our journey home, so we picked strawberries, which Leah had never done before, and bought a big ollallieberry birthday pie for me.

How we ate sweet sweet strawberry shortcake, but it wasn't as good as mine at the FB.

How we arrived back to SF and didn't' get to go to Aziza. But had marvelous beauty, deep fog, and undertones of fiction I'd written when moving to the Bay was just a dream in my writer's mind.

That's the sort of story I want to write about food. A story about how food is sustenance when you're starving and haven't eaten in 24 hours, but then again food is a sign from above, and a sign you're doing something right {for once}, how food is a gift you give someone else, a memory, a key. I will write the story of that trip south. I may have been tasked to write it in longhand, in the shadow of the Maritime Museum down by Ghirardelli Square. In the place where my characters would have fished.

It was a very literary trip, as well.Good for the mind.

Things are afoot but no time to explain.

Friday, July 13, 2007

just wanna feel the sand beneath my toes

The air this morning smelled like the ocean {which is to say, the east}. Next week I'm driving down to a beach, though of course we won't be able to go swimming. Things we can do, though: see fish (I love fish), drink wine, get fruit, see the Santa Cruz Wednesday market where I have a coffee vendor friend, go camping, smoke birthday cigars (that wasn't my idea. my idea was pie.)

Last night I did something I shouldn't have done and now I'm tempted. SORELY. Last week someone tempted me too and then today, just now tempted again. Going to think about all this temptation while I'm trying to find the perfect Santa Cruz beach on Route 1, that one I dropped my keys in six years ago, the first time I came to California in my big black car.

Reminder: I came here for specific things.
Counterargument: Thinking on that.

I'm back in a kitchen and things are better. Discipline, order, sequence. Even though the fictional world is fragmented, petulant, needy.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

you said the world was magic i was wide eyed and laughing

Crushes...just when you forswear off the forever, decide you're deluded, you get a glimmer of hope faint down the line, and you're back on the train. This is proof that despite y tough guy act I really am a romantic at heart. Sssh.

Things that are stressing me out right now, despite the fabulous SF location:

I live in a creepy spider filled basement (but only for 2 more weeks).
I haven't written in 2 weeks.
I have not been working much or cooking much of anything. Apparently now I get weird when I don't cook as well.
Crap to deal with, but no internet connection.
The Leica dream... It showed me another way to see. To create. To give. It made me really happy, and I went off into the San Francisco night with it. But I don't have a Leica, and I'm not going to get one anytime soon if ever...so what, then, what?
Things are at maximum capacity at the FB...there's not much more I can do without another pair of hands or another day. That should make me happy and not stressed out. We'll work on that.

Important anniversaries that are probably also contributing to malaise:
The birthday.
One year ago I met _____, who changed my life immensely but will never know it.
Just before that time I lost most of my Boston friend base.
And after that I started at Sonsie.
Four and a half months ago I moved west.
Two weeks ago I moved out of Oakland.

That last one was really hard. People are different out here and though I've assimilated some I still don't have a community out here and I still don't get it right sometimes. When I first came, it was like a new set of rules every other day. I got NYC and I got Boston and I got Potown but the Bay area had never fit me right. I don't understand the intense but brief connections I seem to make here. With writers in bars or girls in cafes or poolhall players or neighbors or FB types. I don't understand the paranoia and gossip, or the strange generosity. It all ebbs and flows and, though I think mostly I forget the weirdness and just get my things done, it pops up still. Unsettled.

Trying to figure out how to give {better, more, and only what I truly value}.
Old patterns have been cropping up. Things that have faded into the past. Lots of talk about Miette, for one. What I'm supposed to do with that information I'm still not sure.

Right now, though, I wish the ice cream fairy would show up with some goodies. Still haven't eaten y dinner, but I' warming up some Delfina leftovers now. I can't get up at 5 and get through the next 2 days. I'm just not ready...all this time off, all these distractions. This weekend's gonna kick my ass.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

local eating part 1

Wow. To my newest reader and oldest friend {like, ever, seriously}, welcome! Zaatar, wicked addictive, so tell me where do you get yours and what do you do with it? I live in California now...my accent blends right in.

My oldest friend and I used to make cookies at my house, and answer the phone as if we were the only bakery we knew in the next town over {Quincy} making cookie orders for people. And we used to write books together too. And here I am, still baking and still writing, though not as much {of the latter} as I should be doing. Holding off for one more week until the visitors leave.

Today my mother and I went to the Tuesday Berkeley market and got fresh whole wheat pasta made with Vital Vittles flour, crimini mushrooms from the mushroom people, and a whole of of vegetables (summer squash, zucchini, salad greens, tomatoes, shallots, parsley and garlic) from the farmers (including Dirty Girl and Full Belly, though I'm not sure who else because we were in a foodie haze).

We were actually looking for that new heartthrob of mine, lemon verbena. In the July Gourmet there's a special section on ice cream and it features lemon verbena, and my mother became enamored with the idea of making lemon verbena ice cream...which of course I supported because lemon verbena is my new reason for getting up in the morning, and because this meant I'd have some birthday ice cream, which is half of the ice cream + pie equation. So after we stalked the market unsuccessfully for lemon verbena, I discovered she actually thought we were looking only for verbena leaves to blend with lemon flavored ice cream! Which made sense, after all, because she was seriously after this taste experience she'd never encountered and I wasn't sure how to react to that. How do you decide to want something you've never had? How does the initial obsession take root, and is it really worth the bother? Like foie, for me, or now, like the idea of making violet ice cream (which in reality would probably not taste like much of anything at all unless mixed with other ingredients, or would probably just taste flowery in that lavender sort of way, but which right now has got me craving).

After the veggie explosion, we went to the Berkeley Bowl for some Acme bread, morel mushrooms and more unsuccesful attempts to get some lemon verbena (the produce guy we asked had actually never HEARD of it and wanted to know if it was the same as lemon thyme).

We made a salad with the salad greens, shallots, parsley and carrots from an earlier Berkeley market trip and used some of that Stonehouse aged Balsamic and olive oil to dress it...their Balsamic doesn't have that syrupy pine tree taste that,come to think of it, mastic has. So I like it. Then we sauteed up the veggies, added some red wine from an earlier Napa trip and read about the farm bill while we waited for the whole thing to come together. It was tasty. Not very adventurous or unusual, but local and quite seasonal and easy.

Ici this afternoon was crowded. I got one scoop of the Santa Rosa plum sorbet and a scoop of the rose pistachio. The pistachios were candied, which was a nice touch, and the ice cream was very much rosewater...but were there actual roses, and if not, what made it pink? That one evoked a comparison, of course, to the Oleana days and the mastic ice cream, and the nougat glace. The Santa Rosa plum sorbet was a little tart, perfectly plummish, and the ideal consistency. The kind of sorbet I am never able to make myself. I made my happy ice cream eating face for a very long time, on the way there, and on the way home. I think I'm beginning to accept that ice cream is my thing. Perhaps at times I wish chocolate were my thing, or cakes (and I always thought cakes were more my thing than they seem to be),but I'm okay with it. Cookies are not my thing. Muffins, no. Pie, sort of,although fruit is not my thing. Ice cream, though? It always inspires.

Monday, July 09, 2007

my mother used to call it "piggy meat"

Yeah that was me this morning at Cafe Flore. EATING BACON. just a bite, but oh, I'm slipping, I'm not me anymore, I'm down the rabbit hole.

There was SO MUCH foodie gossip at the cookout last night in an East Bay suburb. FB gossip too. My boss gave me some more background information on market stuff, the Slow Food fight was discussed, chef ventures rated, farmers markets in many towns discussed. We had many offers, for instant reservations at Quince, job hookups for me at ice cream joints, vacations, dinners, whatnot. Wild times were had.

It was really great to see the family of a dear family friend, which so happens to include my boss (whom I never see) and her husband. And it made me want to be the next Jonathan Franzen so I could write about how an interest seeps its way through one generation of a family, how its roots grow. How the children marry cattle farmers and fruit farmers and become the sort of people who covet reservations at The French Laundry, how the generation after that becomes chefs and bakers and coffee-makers. My own family is fairly small, and no one is quite sure where I got my passion for sweet things or voracious appetite for bookishness.

I'm not doing a very good job of keeping out of the East Bay. Chez Panisse two nights ago (upstairs, this time). Rocket salad with pickled onions and warm figs on toast. Morel ravioli in pea sauce. Warm fig and raspberry tart with honey ice cream (the most well matched flavors I've had in a long time in dessert, though it could just be I'm in a figgy mood). Tomorrow we're walking cutie pie at the Albany shoreline, going to the Tuesday market, hitting up the Berkeley Bowl and stopping by Ici so we can compare it to Bi Rite. In other words, doing all the day off things I normally do.

Bi Rite tonight was better than the Bi Rite we had at work (honey lavender, salted caramel, cookies n cream, all with those Michael Recchiuti fleur de sel chocolate things). The honey lavender was too much lavender for my taste. And I don't like honey ice cream unless it's that amazing honey lavender candied pistachio ice cream I made for my Chez Panisse dinner party. And their salted caramel ice cream is not Claudia Fleming's. Ici, however, does not inspire me to make comparisons to recipes I prefer. It only inspires me to eat ice cream and lots of it. Tonight, though, was a banana split with vanilla ice cream, caramelized bananas, hot fudge sauce, lightly whipped cream and walnuts, made slowly and carefully just for me!

It's my birthday soon and I really want some homemade pie and ice cream. Perhaps the rosewater mastic ice cream, or sweet corn, or oatmeal to go with something yummy and fruit. However I don't actually think I'll have time to make myself something for candle-wishing and growing older. I may very well be in Santa Cruz looking for the most perfect beach ever or in Monterrey communing with the fish

(my last birthday actually was also spent at an aquarium and, ahem, if you were with my on the last birthday, this one is sure going to be better). Should we make ice cream next week? If so what kind? Pie? Or would you rather just hit up my favorite spots, go zaatar tasting and remember those perfect desserts?

Saturday, July 07, 2007

foie, FB flashbacks,

Wedding tonight (not mine, obviously). I wore a dress and looked almost pretty, in a mermaid sort of way.

I was reminded that I come from a long line of feisty women and hedonists, and that it is nice to have people that are family, in a sense, out here in the west.

I tried foie, finally. It was sort of okay, bland until the cracker was gone and the berry coulis was gone and I was left with a mouthful of buttery, fatty protein. The foie. Not exactly how I wanted to do it. But I'll do it again, in a kitchen I trust.

I had ham, too, hiding under the cheese in my pizza. The taste unpleasant in the way a mouthful of swallowed salt water is when you're trying to swim.

I met some nice kids who work, or used to, in the FB. They all know the guy who used to have my job. Many have referenced him. There are conflicting stories, rumors, told to me by people I don't quite trust and some chef I used to like, and then normal reports told to me by my boss, whom I do like. One of the girls I met works for the Miette candy store, so we discussed Miette, the internship, and all of that. Lately I'm feeling like I've been around a block or two out here, like I know people or know of them or they know me, and things really are getting small. It's so strange to feel a part of this community, and all its conflicting relationships, rumors, gossip.

What to do about love, that bastard?

a damsel with a dulcimer in a vision once I saw

...except it wasn't a dulcimer, it was a Leica. And she gave it to me.

And since then I've been seeing things differently.

The size of the chocolate chunks in the scones has changed, and so has the color of the cherries. The sugar feels like salt in my hands, its grains square.

Back in the city, but still not really around.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

the xmas duck

After dinner at Manzanilla (roasted sea bass w/ salt-fennel crust, roasted veggies for me, pea ravioli with shallot butter and truffle shavings for mom), we decided to establish a new holiday tradition. We are a small family and holidays tend to be not very fun, a little lonely. I offered to roast a whole pig, but we downsized to duck because I don't eat pork. So now we're having roast duck! My mother offered to get it from Savenor's, where Julia Child did all her shopping I believe. It's my duty now to figure out how to handle and properly roast a duck. Among other things. For dessert, because it was decided: gingerbread! If you're in Boston you may get an invite to the roast duck feast. If you roast ducks, tips please?

I realized something really important about my dessert composition tonight.

Healdsburg day 1

too short, but in brevity:

Dinner at Cena Luna, fabulous as ever. Arugular salad with peaces, champagne vinaigrette, me: "a peach is just a peach." So Gertrude Stein, and the peach was good, it was fine, not at all mealy and pleasant and peachy but it wasn't Al's peach and I wasn't in love. Then spinach raviolis with a bright and perfect tomato sauce, veal canelloni for mom. Then through idle chatter at the bar we met the chef/owner/"I'm the pastry chef too cause we don't have enough money for one!" Yvette, a fabulous ball of energy who gave her pedigree (Elisabeth Daniel, me smart enough now in this city to ask if Daniel Patterson was there at the time) and comped us some desserts (lemon curd cake, banana split with caramelized bananas and heath bar gelato). Nice to be hooked up but even nicer to talk the chef talk. She said she wanted to learn desserts because she'd never been good at them, but she preferred working the line because if you fuck things up you can fix them.

Breakfast at the downtown bakery--perfect sticky bun, sub par cookie.

(it's nice being back in Healdsburg because I set a story there, so I'm scoping out places for my characters. Would this interaction happen in this shopping plaza, or on this sidestreet? What wineries would they visit? And I realized that the tone of the piece is not what I need it to be: Anna is smarter than Chef, and also corrupt, and there are few things more painful than the slight betrayal from your best friend, who is your sous, which is closer than any lover might get. And also, it's the female/queer Sideways, so at least there is a loose plot to follow, though I do diverge. I think the story lacks tension but only because I haven't dug deep enough into it yet, but if I can get it there, to the slight edge of fallingapart and perfection of craft, which is what these characters deserve. Or when, I should say. In between the cooking. )

Wineries, many: Hop Kiln, Toad Hollow, Thumbprint, Rabbit Ridge, Mauritson, Meeker, Rued, Johnson Family Winery, among others. Sweet whites and pepepry reds. Dinner soon. In the car on the way up, my mother: you should have a blog about desserts

me: ...

The heat's so sticky. Familiar. Should be 100 tomorrow, and my dog turns 7!

I'm in a decision making mood lately and I've decided the following: I want to learn how to play tennis. I am going to participate in the one local meal a week program, unofficially, as it will give me a chance to shop the farm markers. I am going to learn to cook fish properly but, first, to butcher it. Show me how to debone, fillet, skin, whatever needs be done. Somehow this will happen...Oh, and yes, for the writers out there, I think I'm going to participate in this year's NaNoWriMo and construct a novel/seriously linked stories from my chef stories. While technically illegal to use previously drafted material, I'm doing this for me. There's too much that's good in those pieces to sit around.

From the cute as pie Healdsburg Tuesday market: one peach for my mother, cherries, wild plums, Adriatic figs.