Tuesday, August 26, 2014

24 hours in pescadero

Last Friday after work, Daniel and I packed up the car and drove down to Pescadero. It was our friend's birthday and his girlfriend had arranged a weekend of camping for a big group of us at Costanoa. I say "camping" but really I should have said "glamping" because the accommodations were quite cushy. We brought a tent camped out at a campsite but there were full working bathrooms and large fire pits well supplied with wood as well as a couple of restaurants and a spa facility. The first night, we pitched our tents and then sat around the fire in big Adirondack chairs drinking wine and eating birthday cake. When we returned to the campsite, it turned out that one member of our party had left a big sandwich and a carton of eggs out and skunks (!) had flocked to the area. Luckily no one got sprayed and we were able to get everything cleaned up without too much hassle, but we did hear the skunks return in the middle of the night to lick up everything, crunching on the bits of eggshell we hadn't been able to pick up.

The next day, our group piled into cars and drove into Pescadero for lunch. We stopped at the terrific Downtown Local for coffee and then wandered down the main street, looking into antique shops and little markets. Afterwards, we drove out to the beach and lounged in the sun for a few hours - the water was so chilly I couldn't bring myself to do more than dip my toes in.

Daniel and I headed home shortly after to shower and unpack and go out for ramen before falling into bed around 9:45. All the sunshine (and wine at lunch) had me ready for an early night, but it was such a fun, quick little trip - definitely something I'll be keeping in mind for future escapes from the city.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

david lebovitz's moutabbal

I have to say, David Lebovitz's cookbook My Paris Kitchen has really be knocking it out of the park. Everything I've made from that book has been terrific - especially impressive because I haven't even started in on the desserts yet, and those are supposed to be Mr. Lebovitz's specialty. I was actually inspired to make this recipe after reading Deb's post on smoky eggplant dip over on Smitten Kitchen the other day. I love eggplant but I'm a little...nervous when it comes to cooking it. It's so disappointing when you end up with an eggplant dish that squeaks between your teeth (a product of undercooking) or one that is so sodden with olive oil that you feel your arteries closing up as you chew (sometimes the case with fried eggplant). Really what you want is a silky texture and the subtle taste of the eggplant itself. And maybe some herbs and lemon. Which is what this recipe gives you.  

You take two large globe eggplants and stick them straight over the gas burners on your stove for 5-10 minutes, turning them a few times to get all sides evenly toasty. You then trim off the top and split the eggplants down the middle, placing them cut-side down on a baking sheet slicked with oil and sprinkled with flaky sea salt. Then you bake them for 40 minutes at 375F.

Once the eggplant has cooked down into a soft, squishy version of its former self, you scrape the insides away from the skin and stir them together with some salt, lemon juice, tahini, cumin, Aleppo pepper, parsley, and olive oil. Then you sprinkle it with some za'atar and drizzle on a bit more olive oil and inhale most of it with some toasted pita wedges.

It's not the most beautiful dish in the world - it's smashed up eggplant after all - but so flavorful and delicious. I can't wait to make this again and to keep on experimenting with recipes from My Paris Kitchen (perhaps the recipe for hummus next?). Happy Thursday, everyone!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

b. patisserie

There are many things I miss from my brief time living in Paris - the bridges over the Seine, the museums and pristinely manicured parks, the Velib, the curio shops and wonderful boutiques, the outdoor markets, the bistros and cafes, the inexpensive table wine...I could go on and on, but I'll stop myself before I succumb totally to nostalgia. To sum it up, Paris is a fabulous city to live in and there's a lot to miss.

Fortunately, I live in another great city where, on occasion, I find little things that bring Paris to me.

I've been curious to try b. patisserie for some time - it's one of those places that catches your eye as you drive by, especially in the evening when it's closed but the bakers are still inside prepping dough, visible through the big street-facing windows. When Daniel and I had to run a last minute errand in the neighborhood over the weekend, I knew exactly where I wanted to stop in for a quick bite.
We ended up with two tartines - one with mushrooms, leeks and goat cheese and one with black forest ham and gruyere - and two desserts - a plum almond financier and a chocolate coffee toffee verrine. Everything was just lovely, and though I wanted to sample every pastry on offer, I restrained myself - unlike Paris, this is just around the corner - I could go back any time I wanted.

So for the times I miss having a buttery kougin amann in the morning, a light tartine and a salad for lunch, or an afternoon sweet and a coffee, b. patisserie is my new spot of choice. It's a charming little place that knows how to do these things just so. It's nice to know that I can still have a little taste of Paris here in San Francisco.

b. patisserie
2821 California Street
San Francisco, CA 94115

Monday, August 18, 2014

napa in august

We drove up to Napa late Saturday afternoon. We were overdue for a visit and after what turned out to be a somewhat stressful week, we were very ready for some relaxation. Daniel and I dropped off our things at his parents' house and headed out to dinner at Azzurro Pizzeria in downtown Napa. We had a leisurely meal (and a great bottle of wine - a Gerard Artistry Napa Valley Red, 2011, courtesy of Daniel's dad) and then met up with Daniel's parents and their friends Jane and Craig for a bit of a stroll and some gelato. Afterwards we headed home and I fell asleep pretty much as soon as my head touched the pillow.

The next morning, we had breakfast and then Daniel's dad took me out to their local farm stand to pick up some produce. It had been pretty well cleaned out by the time we got there, but it did give me the chance to see the vineyards in their about-to-be-harvested state. Because of the unusually hot year, the grapes are ready to be harvested several weeks early this year and I walked around looking at the long rows of chardonnay and cabernet grapes hanging heavily from the vines.

We headed over to another farm stand on Big Ranch Road and picked up tomatoes, torpedo onions, some tiny summer squash, and some greens. The tomatoes in particular are so good right now it's hard to be moderate - I wanted to scoop up big armfuls to take back to the city. 

After picking up the produce, we headed to the Oxbow to pick up pork chops at the Fatted Calf and then stopped in at the Napa Valley Distillery. Daniel ended up joining as a member, so now we'll be receiving quarterly shipments of small batch spirits and other cocktail fixings - heaven preserve us. We headed back to the house and I spent the better part of the afternoon lounging by the pool. In the evening, Daniel fixed cocktails and we tried (without success) to take a few pictures of his parents' Weimaraner, Katie. We ate dinner on the back porch - the aforementioned pork chops, corn, fresh tomatoes - and tried to keep the hungry yellow jackets away from our plates. 

So, a very nice weekend and a lovely break from the city. I wish we hadn't had to come back so soon; it really felt the way summer is supposed to feel - sun-filled and wonderful. But with any luck, we'll be back very soon. 

Monday, July 21, 2014


A while back, my friend Kinzie proposed a trip to Marin to attend Sommerfest at the Nature Friends Tourist Club up on Mt. Tam. Of course I said yes.

On Saturday, I drove up to Kinzie's aunt and uncle's home at the tippy top of Mt. Tam. It may be the most lovely home on the planet and I can't imagine a more relaxing spot. We all had dinner together (including their 14 year old cockatiel Isabel, who crunched on chicken bones all throughout the meal - something I found oddly fascinating) and then headed in for an early night. I slept with the windows wide open so I could breathe in the smell of the redwoods. 

In the morning, Kinzie and I met up with our friend Kala at the house and then hiked out to the Tourist Club. The hike took less time than we had anticipated and we arrived an hour or so before the festivities started, only to find a huge line already in place. We waited (somewhat) patiently until we could have our hands stamped and wrists braceleted and finally headed in to enjoy some midday beer and bratwursts. Kinzie and Kala even put on dirndls for the occasion (I stayed in my boring - but warm - hiking outfit). Such a fun summer afternoon.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

the weekend and some bourbon

We experienced another reasonably quiet weekend in these parts. I had a work event Friday evening (karaoke was involved) and spent Saturday tidying up the apartment and hanging out with my family. In the evening, Daniel and I drove to Berkeley to meet his parents for a terrific dinner at Da Lian, which I must have walked by on an almost daily basis when I was in college but somehow never visited. 

Today we walked over to out to The Plough and the Stars to watch the World Cup (Steins was, unfortunately, full). After the game,  we took our time walking home, stopping in at the wonderful Green Apple Books (I scooped up very cheap copies of this and this) and Healthy Spirits. We had a lovely conversation with the proprietor, bought some bourbon*, and meandered home. In the evening, Daniel fixed us Manhattans and I made rack of lamb with an arugula and tomato salad and garlic toasts. All in all, a very nice weekend. 

*Daniel bought Old Weller Antique. The fellow working at Healthy Spirits spent a long time talking with us about the various merits of the bourbons on their shelves and recommended this based on our expressed desire to buy something that would be good for cocktails as well as sipping. We were very happy to take his advice and can confirm that Manhattans made with Old Weller are quite delicious. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

with each passing month

This weekend, we were pretty much homebodies. Daniel was slaving away at his computer most of the time and I was curled up on the couch reading novels (this and then this), avoiding the gray weather. We did take a few breaks though, mostly to walk around our neighborhood and stretch our legs. On Saturday, we made our way over to 34th and Balboa to check out the newly opened Marla Bakery, and ended up stopping in for xiao long bao and potstickers at Shanghai Dumpling King. This afternoon, we headed back to the same neck of the woods for lunch at Cassava (photo above is their Japanese Breakfast) followed by a quick visit to the Legion of Honor, where we stopped in to see the restored Salon Dore from the Hotel de la Tremoille. I love our neighborhood more with each passing month.

Anyway, I'm just starting to see the sun peek out from behind the thick layer of fog that has been enveloping us all day (all weekend?) so perhaps it's time for me to go enjoy the sunlight while it's here. Hope everyone had a lovely and relaxed weekend. 

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