Wednesday, February 29, 2012

suzanne goin's three-day braised beef short ribs

On Sunday, Daniel and I walked down to Hayes Valley to grab lunch at Suppenkuche and then spent some time wandering around the neighborhood, which is fast becoming one of my favorites. We ended up stopping by The Fatted Calf to ogle expensive meats for a while- truly, the place looks more like a jewelry store than a butcher's shop. The meats all gleam so richly from behind the glass that it's hard not to feel a little awed. In spite of our more frugal instincts, we ended up leaving with several pounds of beef short ribs, neatly wrapped in paper.

I already knew the recipe I wanted to try- Suzanne Goin's braised beef short ribs from Sunday Suppers at Lucques.

I knew the recipe would be a bit of an undertaking- you have to season the meat and leave it in the refrigerator overnight, then brown and braise the meat the next day, then skim off the fat and crisp up the meat in the oven on the third day, in addition to making sides- so we decided we might as well make an event out of it and have friends over for dinner.

So in preparation for our little soiree, on Sunday evening I rubbed the short ribs with pepper and fresh thyme (we have an herb garden on our fire escape) and refrigerated them overnight.

On Monday, I came home from work, took the short ribs out of the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for an hour, salting after 30 minutes, while I roasted pearl onions and made a mirepoix. Then I browned the meat. I despise browning meat. Within minutes, my entire stovetop had been misted with heavy brown grease. Yuck. Although it did look pretty good, post-browning.

After browning the meat, I added the mirepoix to the pan to caramelize before adding (almost a half bottle of) port, (almost a bottle of) red wine, some thyme and several cups of beef stock. It all simmered away for a while before I poured it over the short ribs, nestled tidily in my dutch oven, added a few sprigs of parsley, and then put the whole thing in the oven to cook for 3 hours.

All of which made cooking dinner on Tuesday simple as pie. I refrigerated the short ribs overnight and then scooped off the congealed fat in the morning. When it came time for dinner, I sieved the sauce and put the ribs on a baking sheet to crisp them up in the oven before serving. Done.

We served the short ribs over polenta and a pile of wilted swiss chard with pearl onions and it was, in my humble opinion, quite tasty. Three days very well spent. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

the marin headlands

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is how easy it is to drive a few miles and feel as though you don't live in a city at all. 

On Saturday, Daniel and I packed up our picnic basket (a birthday gift from him to me a few years ago) and drove out to Marin. As a pre-lunch bit of exercise, we decided to go for a hike out by Fort Cronkhite.

There are a number of lovely hiking trails and we ended up choosing the Miwok trail that takes you from the lagoon, up through the hills and then winds along Rodeo beach. 

From certain vantage points, there are views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city in the distance.

We also spent some time walking through the old bunkers that pepper the hillside like gopher holes. 

There is some creative graffiti.

After our hike, we hopped back in the car and went searching for a suitable picnic spot. Daniel had the idea  to drive down to the grassy fields at Cavallo Point and it was the perfect choice. There were families with kites and dogs running around in the grass. Daniel ended up sharing his glass of water with a friendly jack russell terrier named Callie. We spread out our picnic and enjoyed the view.

We had a green salad, wedges of leftover cauliflower tart, and a half bottle of Raymond Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It felt wonderful to lie out and absorb the sun like sponges.

It's hard to top a good picnic, especially one with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We're awfully lucky to live here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

deb perelman's cauliflower and caramelized onion tart

Recently, I've been making a concerted effort to use meat less in my cooking. I'm trying to get away from the idea that the central feature of every meal needs to be meat-based, and it's challenged me to be a bit more creative when it comes to making dinner. In keeping with this theme, I made a cauliflower and caramelized onion tart for dinner last night, and it was delicious. Not that that should be surprising. It has gruyere, truffle oil, a slick of tarragon mustard, and a mess of toasted and caramelized vegetables.

We ate this with a big green salad and a glass of wine and it was just perfect. We're also going on a picnic today up in Marin and the leftovers will be making an appearance. I made a few changes to the recipe (listed below) just to suit my own taste and I was extremely happy with the results. Truly, make this now. 

Recipe via Smitten Kitchen, substituting creme fraiche for mascarpone, using Martha Stewart's pate brisee, and omitting the parmesan.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

under the weather

I've been a bit under the weather the past few days. In other words, I've been spending a good amount of my time parked on the sofa under a blanket drinking tea and watching episodes of Downton Abbey. Admittedly not the worst thing in the world, but being sick is never fun. Obviously.

Anyway, I hope to be fully on the mend tomorrow and back with something more interesting to share than tales of tea and television programs. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

the proust questionnaire

I first came across Proust Questionnaire as a child, flipping through my mother's old issues of Vanity Fair. I always liked the questions- so straightforward, and yet often difficult to answer. Still, I've been feeling self-reflective recently (I've been reading a lot of this, so maybe that explains it...) and I was thinking of taking a stab at answering these in my own private journal. In the meanwhile, take a gander at them yourself and enjoy an introspective weekend.

The Proust Questionnaire:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

dinner at home.

For dinner last night, I made a frisee salad with lardons, duck confit and squashed potatoes. For dessert, caramel cake. Daniel provided the champagne (and roses). 

{flower arranging}

{duck legs}

{dutch yellow potatoes}

{frisee with shallot vinaigrette & lardons}



Dinner at home can be so very nice. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

with hearts

Ah, Valentine's Day. As I mentioned before, it's not such a big deal in these parts, but who can resist red velvet cupcakes with hearts? Not I, said the fly. Anyway, I'm using today as an opportunity to make a few special treats for dinner and to partake of some fancy champagne on a Tuesday. 

It's going to be deeelightful. 

Happy Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


When I was fifteen, I came to Berkeley for the first time. I think my dad had some sort of meeting on the UC campus and so my mother and I tagged along and spent the afternoon wandering around the grounds and the south side. For me, it was love at first sight. 

It's been ten years, almost to the day, since that first visit to Berkeley and I have to admit that the place still  knocks me out.

{Cheese Board Pizza Collective}

On Saturday, Daniel and I drove out to Berkeley for the afternoon. He's a Berkeley alum as well, though we didn't know each other in college, so we each have our own distinct memories of the place. We decided we'd stop for lunch in North Berkeley and ended up Imperial Tea Court. Lots of puerh tea and dumplings and hand pulled noodles with spicy broth. Afterwards, we went across the street to the Cheese Board.

The Cheeseboard is a delight to behold. It's just like a French cheese shop except for the fact that they freely give samples. The sheer quantity of cheese is incredible- there are hundreds of different kinds- but we narrowed down our choices and ended up selecting three- an aged gouda, a soft goat from Indiana, and a silky epoisse. 

We wandered down Shattuck a bit and I bought a new pair of sunglasses. We snuck a peek at the menu at Chez Panisse.

Afterwards, we drove up closer to the University. We walked by my old apartment on Virginia Street.

{Virginia Street}

And then we walked through campus.

{view from the east steps of Mulford Hall}

{Daniel, in front of the Li Ka Shing Center}

{Doe Library}

{Free Speech Cafe}

{the Campanile}

It's amazing what has changed and what has stayed the same. Even since I graduated, not so very long ago, new buildings have sprouted up. But the feel is the same.

{sunset seen from the Berkeley Rose Garden}

The light started to fade and we were due at our friends' house in El Cerrito for dinner. We drove up Euclid to stop by the Rose Garden just as the sun was setting behind a heavy bank of clouds. It was a beautiful afternoon. Oh Berkeley, we love you still.

Friday, February 10, 2012

looking forward to that

To be honest, I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about Valentine's day this year. Part of that may be because Daniel and I promised not to exchange gifts and vowed that we wouldn't go out for dinner. Really, it just doesn't feel necessary- I'd much rather make a dinner at home for just the two of us than be crammed in shoulder to shoulder at a packed restaurant with an overpriced Valentine's menu (can you tell we're both still bitter about our dinner last year? A pox on you, l'Ardoise!). Still, I love any excuse to drink champagne and eat rich food in the comfort of my cozy apartment, so I have to admit I'm looking forward to that.

Anyway, apart from my Valentine's day chatter, there are a number of other reasons I'm happy the weekend is approaching. We have dinner plans with friends in the East Bay on Saturday, so we're going to head over early and spend the afternoon in Berkeley. I'm hoping to squeeze in visits to the Cheese Board, Twig & Fig, the Berkeley Botanical Gardens and perhaps a walk down College Ave. We shall see.

 In the meanwhile, here are a few items for you to peruse this February weekend:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

le croissant du jour

oh god it's wonderful
to get out of bed
and drink too much coffee
and smoke too many cigarettes
and love you so much

                                                            -from Steps, by Frank O'Hara

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

pub quiz

Every so often, Matching Half- a small cafe near our apartment- has a pub quiz night. I didn't know this until last week, when Daniel and I were out for a walk after dinner and we saw a flyer for it posted in the window. We decided we should check it out and enlisted our friends Morgan and Joanna to accompany us.

We showed up around 6:45, just in time to grab a table and order a round of beers. The game started. Here are some sample questions from the first few rounds:

  • What is the name for the colored lights you see when you press down on your eyes? 
  • Who played Superman 2?
  • What does a spermologist study?
  • Who lives at 221B Baker Street?
  • What is the name for the semi-structural details on the ends of some of the strokes that make up letters and symbols?
  • Who discovered penicillin?

There was also a music round where a somewhat pretentious hipster fellow played music and then asked us to name the artist or the title of the song. At the end of the music round, after Joanna was able to identify Handel's Water Music and I remembered that the name of the band that sings "Teenage Dirtbag" is Wheatus, we were declared champions of the music round and each of us received a free half-pint of the beer of our choice.

The last round was all about being able to identify sitcom pets by name- so for example, the quiz master would say "Comet" and we were all supposed to know that Comet was the dog on Full House.

I did not do very well at that round.

In the end, we came in second- the winners each received a half pound of coffee (Matching Half is, after all, a cafe). But I was pleased with our beer winnings and motivated to beef up on my random trivia. Next time, it'll be us going home with a half-pound of Sightglass coffee from Rwanda!

Matching Half
1799 McAllister St.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

hello, february

In San Francisco, it already feels as though spring is here. This weather this weekend was soft and lovely- on Saturday, we drove out to the Legion of Honor and sat on the patio drinking coffee and basking in the morning sunshine.

{Legion of Honor}

{Spreckels Gallery}

{the Shades}

{Daniel, over coffee}

Usually when we go to the Legion of Honor, we go to see some exhibit or other. Daniel has a membership and so we go fairly often for short periods of time. At the moment, they have Bernini's Medusa on display, which is something to see, but apart from that there's no big exhibit going on, so we spent our time checking out their collection of Rodin sculptures. When we'd had our fill, we left and drove up to Napa. We'd hoped to stop for lunch at the Fremont Diner, but it was closed due to some sort of electrical problem and so we pressed onward to the Oxbow Market. 

{duck tacos}

We ended up lunching on various fancy tacos at C Casa- duck with spinach, bison with chipotle sauce, lamb with goat cheese- and then poked around some of the shops in the market. Daniel bought a very smelly chai tea mix and I picked up some sea salt and saffron. It was really the first time Daniel and I have had together, just the two of us, on a weekend, in a while. It made our time spent at the museum and at lunch feel particularly precious. Sometimes it's hard to believe how lucky we are to live where we do and to find such enjoyment in the activities available to us. 
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