Friday, September 28, 2007

kitchen humor

I may not be the best assistant. But I do try. And I am careful to know what I have on hand. So last night when service was almost over and we were waiting for the last table to finish up, one of the sous chefs was practicing his quenelles, and leaning over to rinse the spoon in the sink between each try. I was cleaning my station and lent him my bain of piping hit water. With the Spoons in it.

The Silver Spoons. The You-Are-Good-As-Dead-If-These-Disappear Silver Spoons. I put the spoons in there before service and I knew there were four of them, amidst an assortment of plain spoons and paring knives. He tries to joke with me about losing them and I tell him it's all him. Who would my boss believe, me or him? The bain makes it back to me a short time later and I'm inspecting it and suddenly there are only two spoons. I ask the sous Where Are My Spoons? Where Did They Go?

He feigns innocence. I Need Those Spoons, I say. Otherwise You're Replacing Them. One is stashed in his chef coat and he gives that up easily enough, but then there are three spoons. He tells me I lost one, or that my coworker took one back to the station. There Were Four When I Gave It To You, I am insistent.

I am about to jump on him. Pummel, bite, try to wrestle six feet of man to the ground. But we're in an open kitchen and there are diners about. Still I know there's fury written all over my face.

I clean and wrap my stock. What am I going to say if the spoon doesn't turn up? Am I a hundred percent sure my coworker did not take the spoon? No, but I can't leave the station.

The last desserts are fired, and when I am cleaning up my station I see there are once again four Silver Spoons in the bain. I am saved.

It's only on the way home that I remember what Anthony Bourdain has to say about situations like this...too late, but I need to remember it for next time, how to react to the special brand of kitchen humor.

Work today was like banging my head against a wall. My electricity kept shorting, so I'd be whipping whites and power. Trying to boil milk for pastry cream and it would short out twice. Everything took about three times as long as it should have. My manager sent my coworker to buy a new power strip, but the cord was too short and of course, no extension cord. But it all got done, if ever so slowly. My manager wants me to do a rice pudding, which is just one more thing to go on the burner amidst the pastry cream, poaching Hosui and Warren pears, making custard base...

you know, I don't think I've actually ever *eaten* rice pudding before {aside from the risotto tart filling}. Nevermind made any.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

envy, that old flame

It's so much worse to feel disappointed in yourself than to have someone thundering about screaming at you. or giving you the disappointed-father-routine. I let myself down last night. And then dreamt about cooking all night long.

No rest for the weary, I suppose?

There is one female line cook at the new job and I kept watching her last night, in the quiet moments. She didn't once seem flustered. Just kept flipping pans.

My coworker and I both got burned from the same droopy oven door. Some mistakes, you make once and then you learn. Today I'm gonna learn to do something I've never been able to do. It will happen.

Monday, September 24, 2007

doughnut plant, i miss you so

don't don't don't let's start

i got a weak heart

&i don't get around how you get around

I tried out Eagle Donuts today, on Mission 2-3 blocks after Cesar Chavez. It didn't get much press on Chowhound, but it was one of what, two, places in SF proper. I went with a maple old fashioned, which was lighter than the one from All Star. I should have gotten a yeast doughnut also for comparison's sake, but they didn't look so good.

I've been craving doughnuts. Ever since I finally found Doughnut Plant. I checked and of course they don't ship doughnuts...which means that there's just no way to get them and they're little pieces of heaven. And the only way to get close to them, of course, unless this Bob's place delivers that kind of insane goodness, is to learn how to make my own doughnuts.

Doughnuts. Malted vanilla ice cream. Sometimes you just can't stop thinking about something that is completely inaccessible to you. How can I get them? Where can I get them?

In all my free time, hah. NYC report...almost ready.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

how i got my new job and other stories

It's all starting to come full circle. It rained today in San Francisco. At FH, we've still got the gamut of summer pastries but the winter staples are starting to trickle in...pear frangipane instead of peach. Get your stone fruit while you can. Today at the market I bought quince from Farmer Dan with the two apple trees, Black Missions figs from Knoll and dry-farmed tomatoes from Ella Bella, and was given an onion by my coworker. The last two are getting turned into tomato sauce tonight. The quince, I'm not sure yet and the figs are just for eating out of hand.

Last night I went to Chow, where the waiters are just all so cute. It helped that we were starved after a day of eating only desserts, but my wood-oven spinach and cheese lasagna was yummy, and then I polished off my friend's mashed potatoes as well. We split and analyzed dessert: a ginger cake with whipped cream and pumpkin ice cream. The ice cream was appealingly orange but not properly pumpkin, the cake was dry, the caramel made it slightly better.

I have such an uneasy relationship with writing and cooking. One is always being done at the expense of the other. I told my friend last night that the day I opened up my secret shop would be the day I was never going to write a book. It Doesn't Need To Be That Way, he told me. Sure, I'm getting lifetimes of great material and I've already used some of it. Sure, I'll one day be too old to cook. I Would Love To Go On Book Tour In Like, Three Months, I told him (an impossibility for sure). Y'Know, Just Take A Break From Work.

Would You Give Up Cooking In Three Months? he asked. And Never Go Back To It?
I sighed. I pouted. His question was an impossibility it seemed. Something laughable and off the map. No, I said.

You know you're in it when you come home from working your sixth day in a row and cook dinner and make sorbet. You know you're in it when you read cookbooks for fun, and when you order more than one dessert after dinner. When you get up before dawn and everyone asks you how you do it, and you don't know how you do it, but you don't even complain about it anymore really. It is what it is. When you let kitchen words seep into everyday life and suddenly you want to yell Behind at all those slow walkers. When another burn on your arm is just that: another. When you agree to spend your one day off helping your boss plate desserts. When the farmers at the market know your name, give you the good stuff, when you know their names.

I have a new job. This means I'm now working six days a week, since I still have the old job. Details? Not tonight. Tonight I want to tell you about how my job offer came to me.

Last month I was in Marin working as a prep cook. I was at George Lucas's ranch. I was dealing with meat and cutting up vegetables and pretending I knew how to make sauce. I worked with these two guys who started campaigning for me to get a job there. The head chef was filling in until the current pastry chef could find a replacement for her position and move across the hill to the other ranch. Maybe I said on day one. On day two I started getting the specifics: when would I work, what would I do. It was tempting to work making muffins in the middle of Marin County for Mister Star Wars and his people. Even though I *still* have not seen Star Wars. It would have been Monday through Friday but I would have had to get up every day at 430, and quit FH. We were still all just talking--which is usually nowhere near getting a kitchen job--when I got the phone call. Let Me Think About It. I'm Working Right Now is what I said. The rest of the afternoon I floated around plating food, breaking down the barbecue, busting out dishes, having the guys urge me again to please apply, thinking all the while about the new thing that had come my way.

When I got back to the city I called back, said yes, and quit my job the next day. I'm still in that post-relationship phase with the cupcakery. I miss certain of my coworkers. Occasionally I miss the cupcakes. I don't miss the screaming, the tension, the back and forth, the one who lied. I sort of want to visit but only at certain times. I want to hear the news. I wish them all well, certainly, and I didn't really get to say goodbye since my boss basically gave me most of my last week off. The weight of it all is still on me. While I worked there sometimes I'd wake up in the morning and my hands would be frozen. Clenched open. I'd force them to move and think about what I was doing to my body with all the piping and with only eating cupcakes and perhaps a carrot during an eight hour shift (and I didn't even pipe that much).

The new job is new and exciting. I get the feeling it's all ready to burst right open. It's giving me all this writing energy.

But I got sidetracked and what I wanted to say was how it's nice to have people to talk to. Especially when you can't stop talking--and you get going on a half hour digression from the original question so that by the time you think you might be done you're still so far away form the original point so you've got to talk your way back. So you walk around some, eat a horrid cookie, resist telling the cookie-seller that you know it's underbaked because you're a pair of bakers, dammit. Then you've walked everywhere and you're still not done talking so you go up to Bernal Heights. You point out the landmarks in the city below, map its geography. You stay up past the hour when you should reasonably be in bed and then you get up in cold darkness, bike to work, stand in the rain and buy quince and tomatoes and muscle through the exhaustion because what else is there to do.

My flash fiction is up here. The editor says "the piece sure does have atmosphere." Tell me what you think about the ending.

Oh, & hell yeah. Baseball. Postseason. Do you know what I"m talking about?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

queer(ing) food

Tonight I’m thinking about food, ancestry, homelands and food knowledge. How do we come to know what we know about food and how do we pass it on?

I got home from working today un-hungry (for once) and with a pile of FPFM veggies in the fridge and some open tofu and leftover brown rice. So I walked to the store to get myself some supplies to make a giant pot of Indian-style curry. I hadn’t made the dish in…I want to say, since I lived in New York but that might not be correct. Although I don’t recall making it in the Somerville house, or since coming west. I started sautéing a potato with the pot lid on to get it moist, and after ten minutes or so I added broccoli, then a lil later some peppers and zucchini, and somewhere along the way a liberal dose of curry powder. At some point when everything is fairly cooked, put a few dollops of yogurt in, check the seasonings and let it come together for a while on the stove. I added more+ curry powder, some chili substance, hot pepper flakes, apple cider vinegar and salt and ended up with a tangy, spicy-but-not-overly-hot yogurty pile. I had to change skillets because it outgrew the 9" cast iron pan. There’s currently a big baggie in the freezer and 1-2 servings in the fridge.

The smell took me back to college. Our school cafeteria had this area called The Vegan Station, where you could create your own stir fry with an array of vegetables, noodles/rice, spices, although for sauce you were pretty much limited to soy and a couple of oils. The more hardcore indie-rock-vegan kids got fairly adept at creating little vials of orange-teriyaki or peanut sauce while they waited in line. When I moved into senior housing, we were cooking a lot of Indian and I think I started making this dish then, with some jar of curry paste I’d gotten at Pearl River or something {back in its Canal Street days, before it got all Soho-chic}. I used to make it all the time with an assortment of veggies, plus chickpeas, almonds and raisins. Tonight I missed the chickpeas.

My roommate asked what I was doing and if I was going by any sort of recipe. Not Really, I told her. But I Used To. And the winging-it factor, though informed by my career of course, was more a matter of having made the dish so many times, and in so many places. I have a vivid memory of my friend cooking it for us and her then-boyfriend-now-husband in their Manhattan apartment. Nothing Needs To Be Made With Heavy Cream, she told me as she dolloped in nonfat yogurt. I pouted in protest.

It’s all the Claudia Roden article that’s got me thinking, really. In the excellent New Yorker profile, they discuss her work, her personal history, and how she filters time though recipes, through food. Try to find Claudia Roden’s Istanbul, Jerusaelm, Damascus. It’s historical, emotional, art as much as artifact. Her treatment of cultures is part meditation, part documentation. The article made me want to go out and request all of her books from the library. But that’s be a lot to bike ride home with.

In the spirit of food as passageway, food as memoir, food as sign and signifier, is there such a thing as queer food? Can food be queered and if so what would that look like? To think of queering food as a transgression or a coupling of inappropriate items, well, so much of cuisine is exactly that anyway. If that were the case it seems like fusion food would be queer food. The heterosexuals can have classical cuisine and the homos can have the rest.

We have ways of dressing. Ways of acting. We read each other in all kinds of settings. We negotiate various codes of silence or appropriateness. Sometimes we pass for straight. Sometimes we’re mistakenly addressed as Sir or Ma’am or assumed to be dating someone who’s really just a friend or offered to be fixed up with a nice boy and sometimes we make these same assumptions about our own. Sometimes we say one thing and then at other times we can’t speak those same words. We love, we fight, we fuck, we surrender, we work, we worry about if we will get beaten up, we worry if we can get health care/marriage/babies/tax breaks, we go to pride events or not, we read the rights books, we someone and slowly learn all of these codes. I Can Just Tell I’ve told my mother how many times about men or women that are queer. We read; we’re read. How strange and wonderful it would be if we had a cuisine for all of that too, but who would be its cookbook author and what would we serve? Our community, such as it is, is far flung and divisive. International. Multilingual. Representative of every gender variation. If we can’t queer food, and surely some theoretician more dedicated than me will prove we can do this, then can we prepare queer food?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

new york: day one

Day 1: Momofuku Ssam, Greenmarket, City Bakery, Il Laboratorio del Gelato, Gravy, White Horse Tavern.

Momofuku Ssam: Very polished and quiet. Hard to imagine the place bustling with foodie types and chefs, but then they do a lot more at dinner than they seem to do at lunch. I really wanted to go here because of all the foodie buzz, the Beard nomination, etc etc...and because of all the places I wanted to check out in New York it was the only slightly affordable one. I got a ssam with chicken, white kimchi, pickled shitakes, edamame and whatever else it came with. My friend got the pork rice bowl. My ssam was super messy. and kind of huge. and fairly fun. The shitakes were really good. The kimchi kind of made me nervous. The Tablehopper has a way better review of Momofuku Ssam, but then she had a giant pork feast.

We walked over to Union Square where I demanded we see the Greenmarket even though Dale, my adventure buddy for the afternoon, was quick to point out the SF farm markets were probably better. Apples and pears, same as here, but better apples and adorable Seckel pears. He got apple cider, which was a lil tangy and not very complex. Then he declared me an Honorary Jew, even though I met only half of his criteria, it being Rosh Hashana and all.

How is it that I never went to the City Bakery while I worked in Union Square? Was it not there? Or was I just too busy selling books? Either way I suppose it's a good thing, because the place would have been dangerous to my wallet. Not really feeling all that hungry after the ssam I went for the classic: pretzel croissant. A slightly pretzel-shaped croissant with toasty sesame seeds and a liberal sprinkling of salt on top...born to confuse the eater (is it breakfast or snack?) and infuriate the french. My friend snitched a piece and pronounced it all right. The general consensus was good croissant, curious about all the hype. I think I might have even passed the judgment of "it's all right" before we slid back onto 18th and took a lil walk upon my insistence to someplace I really wanted to go.

Yes, we went and just looked at Gramercy Tavern. Mostly so I could see if they were open for lunch and how costly such a thing might be, was fairly geeky and I'll be the first to admit it.

From there we hopped a train to Delancey Street for some gelato. I'm quite glad I went to Il Laboratorio del Gelato, but the counter help was a dick! They had some kind of ice cream made with mastic, and I wanted to know what was in it. It's all gone, we just sold the last of it, was his response, even though that wasn't my question. I tried to explain again how I was just curious, but when he still appeared to be functioning not quite up to speed I figured it was either give up or reach across the counter and shake him by his dishwasher's coat. I mean, how many people know what mastic is in the first place? Sheesh.

Ice cream weirdness aside, we shared a cup of honeydew sorbet, strawberry gelato and honey-lavender gelato. The strawberry was surprisingly good. Likewise on the taste factor of the sorbet, though it was a lil icy and needed a fresh spin. I always feel totally awkward in that situation...I want to tell them, and it is true, but I know I'd be rolling my eyes if it were me behind the counter. Anyway...the honey lavender was decent. I'm just really picky about the flavor. The entire experience was revolutionary in that, here in SF, I've had gelato a couple times recently and been very disappointed...and those times aside I don't think I've had it since Italy maybe years ago. So it's not that I don't like gelato, per's just I haven't had the right kind.

While meandering toward the subway we even saw a cake tag! {yes, I've got pictures} Stuffed to the gills we retired to Carroll Gardens for some sitting around the giant kitchen, talking about crushes, and watching my friend's grad school videos. Brooklyn felt low and small, familiar enough with its landscape and people. My friend tried to convince me that if I'd lived in South Brooklyn rather than North, I would have stayed.

Perhaps this is the point in the post where I explain briefly that my entire life I wanted nothing more to live in New York and be a famous writer. I wanted to be the Diane Keaton character in Manhattan; I wanted to be Dorothy Parker and co. at the Algonquin; I wanted to be Allen Ginsberg. I grew up going to New York a couple times a year for shopping and whatnot, saw all the major art shows all through college. When my New Yorky Vassar friends would tell me I didn't really know New York I'd get all confused...

Life for me in New York most closely resembled The 6ths song "I've Got New York." At first it was intense and hard and exciting and then it slowly ground down at absolutely everything I thought I wanted was slowly taken from me. For a couple of years I went back, barely, through grit teeth and tensed muscles. My friends were still there. Every neighborhood held bad memories or false hopes. Then finally I went back (in October of last year and February of this year) and it was neutral. How nice to be free of all those experiences...that said, I still won't go to Times Square...

Finally {and is it being 3000 miles away, or having a whole other career, or growing older, or being unable to take it for granted} it's over. It's official. I Love New York (Again). All of my memories are open now. The horrible, hard times are there but so are the times from my youth, from college, from when I lived there. So many of the people I love most are New York people and I knew they'd be happy to hear this.

When I took her hand the next morning and looked into her eyes, told her I had big news she needed to hear, my farmer did something special: Now You Can Love It Like A Real New Yorker, she said. You Know What It Means. You've Seen The Best And The Worst.

Oodles of awesome food, sweet and savory. Key epiphanies about my life. Becoming an Honorary Jew and a Real New Yorker...could it get any better? Well, I only walk myself into blood sugar oblivion and am saved Simpsons-style by doughnuts, but that's the next day...

Philz Coffee, 24th + Folsom

Thank heavens for my caffeine addiction and my mother's desire to take a walking tour of the Mission back in July...otherwise I might never have found Philz. The location's all screaming bright awnings, Mission murals, people hanging on the streets. Outside there's an assortment of mismatched chairs and plants. Inside is coffee for serious types. Twenty blends of coffee, store-bought Arabic pastries (I keep thinking I'll offer to make them some homemade kunefe, baklava and muhallabeya), muffins, cookies.

Philz is packed right now with hipster kids, scrabble players, queer couples, writers. I've seen ambulance crews and cops pile in for a shift rush. Once, a boy in a dress swept the sidewalk and watered the plants, and he didn't even work there. It's so writerly, Philz. Everywhere there are outlets, cords, things to trip on or bump into. You walk up to the counter and pick your blend, then pay at the register. My first time there we waited a good five minutes wondering why we weren't getting any coffee before Phil explained the system to us. Today I asked what a blend called New Manhattan tasted like, and was told that Phil said "it tastes like new downtown San Francisco." According to the wall chart, that meant a medium roast with lots of busy flavors and bright aromas. So I went with the Philtered Soul, a medium dark blend with chocolate notes that is seriously close to heaven.

And today is the perfect day for writing, baking, and knitting. I'm working on the New York update and a new piece of flash fiction.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

back, and back to work

I'm back...writing from work.

San Francisco is doing her best flirting with me's sunny and I just bought prickly pears from Yerena. I got a ride from a friend last night and seeing the FH people wandering in at six thirty this morning was like getting back to my kitchen family.

But what I wanted to say is this: I love New York. Again.

{I never thought that I would. I'll tell you why, and what I ate, later.}

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Beehive, Sibling Rivalry + Picco: a South End report

{When I was just a kid, the South End...which is not the same as South Boston, yo...was the up and coming gay neighborhood and, coincidentally or no, the place where food-with-a-capital-F came to town. Since gentrification of course, the gays moved away and the neighborhood has seen many restaurants come and go}

The Beehive was something I found out about right before I moved to SF and it's finally open. Housed inside the old Cyclorama, it's got a bar, live music, a funky downstairs dining space...and lots of noise. Too much noise for my mom and I to actually stay and enjoy a meal, not that the menu was anything we'd especially want to stay for. I really wanted to poke around--the Cyclorama's a gorgeous and interesting space, and I'd worked a couple banquet gigs there and wanted to see how they'd transformed the space--but we went for the food and it appeared to be one of the last considerations. The restaurant had a good management team with a strong background. The chef was ex-Via Matta/Michael Schlow. What could be bad? Evidently you need to have your priorities straight in opening a restaurant and the Beehive team seemed to be focused on getting young straight people drunk in a stylish setting.

We left and walked a few doors down to Sibling Rivalry, which is run by Chef brothers David and Bob Kinkead. The brothers split the menu between them, each developing a dish around a key ingredient: shellfish, tomatoes, bacon. Then you choose whose food you eat. Gimmicky if it weren't so well executed. This time we shared a ravioli appetizer with fresh pasta and the lightest, creamiest filling, a side of zucchini fries that tasted too fishy from the deep fryer, and a vietnamese style crispy squid salad which I agreed to try because my mother told me squid tasted like onion rings. I've actually never seen *her* eat it before but she swore she liked it. Sibling Rivalry used to have an awesome pastry chef who has since left, and the dessert menu only really tempted with orange blossom crepes with cheese and poached pears, so we headed down a few more doors to

Picco, an ice cream and pizza joint. My mother got peach, which was a mild vanilla base with some peach pieces. I got coconut and caramel peanut swirl...the coconut was delicious. It was smoothly textured and looked to have a vanilla bean in it (or what else would make it flecked?), but every now and then I'd get a mouthful of coconut flakes. The peanuts had me skeptical but they were nice (salty), if the caramel was a tad sweet.

Home for baseball-and-knitting. Challenging to remain calm when the Yankees are coming to town on Friday, even if we're five games up and tonight we were losing {to the Devil Rays, which is just pathetic} right from the start. I'd furiously knit in between batters and stop when the count reached 3-2 or if anyone hit anything. I make so many mistakes when I knit while watching baseball, but it's one of the only things that keeps me even tempered. Cooking while listening to a ball game...yeah, I'll let the timers beep and the milk bubble over if we're in a tight spot. Heh.

I love the people here. Get to know your local New Englander, if you don't already. I love how they talk. I love the Yankee-hating. I love the way we can never be optimistic especially when baseball is concerned. I love how humble people are here, how the greatest enthusiasm is tempered through all kinds of filters and registers only to the observer as casual interest. I love the way culture is underground, food culture especially. It's very different in SF. This is a town you need to know how to navigate. You need to know the rules. Even if you have lived here always.

That all said I just told someone I was ready to get back to SF, and it's true. I've seen or will see everyone. I'm ready to be in the kitchen postage stamp, hot plate, FPFM-madness kitchen and the insanity of the Saturday market. see you there?

Monday, September 10, 2007

bakery list/local chocolates

My list of New York options is growing out of bounds of what one girl can possibly eat, but here it is, as the Chowhouds add and amend. Any comments? Anything I should see or do in the city I love to hate, other that the trip to my favorites the Strand + Dean and Deluca?

Balthazar Bakery
Chelsea Market/Amy's Bread
City Bakery
Doughnut Plant
Il Laboratorio del Gelato
Kee's Chocolates
Madeleine Patisserie
Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery (LES)
Birdbath/Build a Green Bakery (West Village, East Village)
Black Hound (East Village)
Ceci-Cela (Soho)
Levain (UWS)
Bouchon Bakery (UWS)

Dinner hopefully at either p*ong or Momofuku Ssam.

And would I pass up the chance to visit a Somerville chocolatier in his chocolate workshop and stalk the elusive orchid root here?

The Beehive is tonight. I have been waiting at least nine months for this restaurant to open and I'm so very glad I get to go. !!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

it's midnight and my. stomach. hurts

Tonight I found out a piece of my food writing is going to be published online in a few weeks. The journal had been really interested back in April or thereabouts and dropped the ball. While there are a lot of things I like within the piece it's sort of a negative piece in a lot of ways--definitely not a favorite with the writing group--if an important piece for me. It's strange to publish something I don't feel like I LOVE...although I do feel it's important, at least personally (though that is not a great reason) speaks to a lot of things I feel about this industry, and it's very of a certain time in my life, and it's perhaps challenging to think of it out of that time.

Nervousness and listmaking. My vacation is almost half over and there is so much left to do. It's so wonderful to see each person I get to see, but it's also an obligation:

do not leave anyone out.

So people want to see me again or have coffee or go driving but there's no time.

To go to New York or not. I will want to have gone by the time I'm back in California. It's just a lot to plan. Right now I'm researching bakeries and whatnot I want to hit up and I still don't really have dinner plans {which I should just make, right} and it's like...this is my, relax already. The list so far:

il laboratorio del gelato
buttercup cakery
city bakery
doughnut plant
kee's chocolates
amy's bread/chelsea market

Boys night out on the town Saturday to check out the new club, but it was all posturing and bored girls, me included. Been spending lots of time lately with people who remind me of myself too much and it's strange to see my reaction mirrored in someone else's face.

You can accuse me of being too intense, and you'd probably be right

I went to Oleana tonight. There are a lot of things I want to say about Oleana...and Aziza as well while we're discussing Turkish-North African cuisine...

{and I've tried to write already about Aziza a couple of times but it doesn't come out in a way that satisfies me as being accurate, and then there's sort of a lil rant I'm not sure if I should get into even though it really bothered me and it still bothers me a week later}

so for now there is only the things we ate at Oleana:

padron peppers with fleur de sel, yogurt
warm buttered humus with basturma, olives
zaatar focaccia
fideos with chickpeas and chard
spinach falafel with greens, beets, tahini
crispy zaatar-lemon chicken with turkish cheese pancake, greens
swordfish with eggplant-macaroni timbale
goat's milk ice cream (made with sahleb!!) with blueberry jellies, blueberry sauce, rose petal jam
umm ali with peaches and peach jam, honey pot de creme

and Aziza:

grilled flatbreads with mediterannean spreads
giant lima beans with roasted tomatoes, feta, fresh zaatar
chicken basteeya

There were so many familiar taste memories in those desserts. Not surprising-many of the components I'd tasted before, or at least variations on a theme.

I'm nervous about everything that happens when I get back to San Francisco, but that is another list to be made. It's easy to be here and it's easy to slip into things.Being back here is so emotional. Every street corner in Somerville is the scene of secrets, fights, attraction, breakups, longing. It's so marked in so many ways that diminish the abstractions I seek in SF. I moved away for food? I start to think...and it all seems so trite.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Boston update, to be continued

It is hot here. Heat something I left behind. Getting used to old houses, windows, air conditionless places.

I have eaten lots so far. I'm trying to take you to my favorite places. Or at least take me back to them. I forgot my camera last night at the BarBQ that I love so much. Where I went last night for corn fritters and a Brooklyn Brown. Where I have watched so many Sox games, gone on so many dates, had birthday parties and met friends' new lovers and taken most people I love, had so many writing conversations and food conversations and last night saw people I knew (but not really knew). Sitting in the worn leather seats I thought I had my answer to Ruhlman's perfect bar and wondered why I was out on SF.

Sure, they have biker-beer bar places...but they don't serve BBQ and have bicycle valet parking or, more importantly, history.

We went apple picking. The first rite of fall. I'm trying to teach my mother how to make pie dough:

and we had some wild Maine blueberries...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

yarr, the writing life

It seems two of my favorite food bloggers are focused right now on the economy and sociological history of farm markets. In general, and in particular, they seem to be something of great emotional attachment. I'm still thinking over the Ruhlman-Parsons debate and it will be in my head as I bike down to the FB and sell people coffee and fruit.

{Cause, y'know, when you tell your boss you're going on vacation abruptly and that if your next kitchen job, when you find it, be too demanding you might need to cut back, but you're not quitting, and you know they're in desperate need of barista-types, you end up offering to spend your last free days before vacation working}

Which might explain why I'm going to be lugging half a box of Frog Hollow peaches first on my bicycle this afternoon and then on my cross country flight to Boston. Why I'm going to be biking to the Bi Rite market and, probably the Miette candy store {shocking, I know} to look for local sweets.

How I'm going to protect my peaches on the plane I'm not really sure. Under the seat? In the overhead? Neither seems right. But I want the people I love to taste the bourbony-vanilla Hosui and Al's sweet peaches in the hopes that they can in tasting understand why I am here. To be honest it doesn't hurt that I may as well buy Al's peaches as any other, since I get a great discount.

Crazy FB gossip right now. Dios mio, how food drives us.

I'm still thinking about Ruhlman's prior post, too, in which he says:

It is, literally if you will, the make or break fact of the aspiring writer’s life: you either have or do not have the capacity to maintain a daily writing routine—same time, for the same amount of time, producing roughly the same quantity of words.

I've been slacking lately, what with the job hunting, the working extra shifts, the vacationing with friends in town. I wrote last night and it was hard; it's always hard. It doesn't feel good to write, most of the time, but it feels worse not too and I get a little crazy anyway. All melodramatic and apocalyptic. I'm so jealous of the people in my writer's group who get published with so much more regularity than I do, and I'm still trying to finish up stories from March. I need to write, even if I'm spending all my time in kitchens. And I don't want to be the persons who comes this far and makes as many sacrifices as I've made to get this far, and gives it up to ponder peaches. Nor do I want to give up peaches.

Monday, September 03, 2007

this one's for aaron

Two nights ago I had the most amazing dream.

I dreamed that the Claudia Fleming cookbook was back in print. In paperback actually. I spied it atop some woman's pile and stole it, and started making my way through the bookstore's aisles so she couldn't find me. Then I realized it was actually a remaindered copy, and only cost 18.99. So I set off to try to find the large stack of Claudia Fleming cookbooks that probably were there, because I knew someone who would exactly appreciate having a copy of that cookbook. Or five.

if only.
More about dinner at Aziza soon, when I can focus enough to write it.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


Running around the town. Chez Panisse last night, Aziza tonight followed by an Ocean Beach bonfire and home to peach crisp that's currently baking. Frog Hollow Summerset peaches with some Woodleaf Blue Diamond plums tossed in for good measure. Running through the streets of Berkeley with a battered takeout box carrying the rest of my perfect eggplant pizza from CP, getting hit on by drunken boys (boys!) on BART, falling asleep standing up with my head resting on burned-up arms, trying to make it to Ici twice in one day, not being able to get there, eating gelato instead which just isn't the same as ice cream, even if it's violet flavored, cuddling the cutie pie, making BBQ plans for next week, having brunch and hanging out with normal people because it's the weekend and I'm not working for once, getting an open invitation to play with an ice cream machine(!!), spying on someone else's new ice cream machine(?!?), staying up until mid morning and being very un-bakerly, and of course, gossiping, for the last time perhaps, with the cupcake makers, about why the boss was surprised to hear I was leaving...I mean, really, surprised...and what I'm going to do next.