I'm sorry dear, gentle reader(s) (all three of you). I've been neglecting you like the cobweb in the far, upper corner of my bathroom. I've been busy, and watching far too much tv lately. Stupid, stupid tv. Not that there's anything wrong with media and entertainment, but there are only so many hours in the day, and there are so many wonderful things to do. And there are necessary things to do. I've been neglecting those a bit, as well. Unfortunately. Anyhoo, I apologize. Truly, Madly, Deeply. So here's what I've been up to!
*I started volunteering for the Humane Society for a very worthy cause. The HSUS is trying to put an initiative on the ballot in 2008 to give farmed animals (for meat) enough room in their cages to turn around and spread their wings or stretch their limbs. Specifically, the legislation covers hens, breeding sows and calves. See? It's a good cause. Legislation like this (banning breeding sow crates) has already passed in 3 other states (Arizona, Florida and Oregon) and the European Union, and Arizona has also banned veal crates. If you like animals, or believe in treating any creature humanely, or care about your food, you should support this measure. It is for the good of our health, animals, small farmers and the environment. Unless you are absolutely against the initiative/ballot process, there is no reason why you should not find your nearest Humane California volunteer immediately and sign their petition! We need 650,000 signatures by the middle of February 2008. (This does only apply to registered voters in the state of California, though). For more information (and some horrific pictures and the truth, click here).
Next, I have to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING!! A truly American holiday, and one that my family loves to celebrate. Well, we love to celebrate anything that allows us to get together to eat, drink and be merry. Who doesn't? I'll share a recipe that I made for this recent holiday soon. In any case, it was a great weekend. Two paid days off- who wouldn't like that?? I spent some time with my brother and sister-in-law who I love dearly. They don't live that far away (southern California), but (selfishly) it's not close enough for me. Although I sometimes get annoyed at (read: jealous of) their relationship, I would love it if they lived in the bay area and I could see them every week.
I also went to a baby shower for perhaps the cutest pregnant couple I have ever seen. I can't wait to see the baby when it arrives in this world. Mark my words, it is going to be one cute baby! And speaking of "babes" (it's a poor segueway) I saw not one, but two exes this weekend. One was unplanned and didn't go so well. It's a recent split and it wasn't a particularly nice one. There is still attraction there and I am still torn between calling him (the weak thing to do, since I said I wouldn't do it any more) and being strong, and calling him the asshole that he is. Luckily I was strong this time. Asshole. Grrr.
The other ex was planned and went very well. The relationship was a long time ago, after all, and there's nothing in the way of our being friends. So we met for drinks, talked, hung out. I was nervous about it, but (thankfully) I didn't drink too much and start babbling like an idiot. I tend to do that. It's an issue.
Moving on, I have two very exciting things to share. First: I'm curing olives! Weee! I saw them at the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market at the Knoll farm stall and had to get them. It's a challenge and an adventure and we'll see how it goes. I googled recipes and decided on the one from Hedonia since I didn't want to use lye. Right now I'm about to switch from water to brine. I'm very excited to see how it turns out!
Second: I bought a plane ticket to Europe! That's right, I'm leavin' on a jet plane, don't know when I'll be back again. Only, I do know when I'll be coming back. A month after I leave. A whole month of traveling in Europe! Weee! My dear parents decided they wanted to rent a house in the Provence region of France, and they invited their offspring to join them for a week. Since I had an excuse, I decided to splurge a little. I'll talk about this later, but suffice to say, I am definitely looking forward to next June. I can't wait!!
*sigh* That's it. So what have you been up to? : D
For some reason, Halloween this year made me reflective. It made me think about where and how I was last year, as opposed to now.
Last year, I was so hopeful. I was hopeful about a boy, about some new friendships, about my job, my new apartment and about the life I had started to carve out here, in the bay area. I wasn’t making much money, and my relationship with my family wasn’t so great, but I was having fun. I was excited. I was thinking that my move back home was a good thing, the right thing to have done.
Life was a little simpler, then. Everything was new, and I didn’t have many expectations. I was simply enjoying the flow of the river and waiting to see where it would take me. Of course, sometimes that same river required a delicate touch and a good map. Small town rules, politics and social spheres can be difficult to navigate, and easy to entangle and entrap a person.
Where the river has taken me was certainly unexpected. Life is more difficult, more complicated, in that I have to choose what I hold on to, and what I let go. What is worth it? Who is worth it? I hate that I have to make that decision. I hate that the water is murky and muddied, when once it was clear.
Some of the hopes that I had last year fizzled away, and some were crushed. There are new questions, and some old questions that were never answered. There have been beautiful, lazy days of cruising in the placid waters, and there have been some rough rapids. The river is an interesting ride, to say the least.
breakfast of champions.
a.k.a. a sunny-side up egg and baguette toast. Since there have been a few cold days in the last two weeks, I've been wanting something warm, filling and comforting for breakfast. Plus, eggs keep me full until lunch, instead of leaving me with a growling stomach at 10:30.
Everybody needs a little comfort sometimes.
Here's a quick summary, since I've been M.I.A. for a few days:
First, apparently it's not just Gemini and Cancer boys. It's also boys named Andrew. I think this is some cruel trick the universe is playing on me.
My friend Nicole called. Yay! This might not seem like such a big thing, but she lives in the eastern time zone and since I'm so bad with them (time zones), we haven't talked in months and months.
I took a half day from work 2 weeks ago, *ahem, cough* when the weather was so beautiful and went to the beach in San Francisco with a friend. I know what you're thinking: why did you go to the beach in San Francisco? It's never warm there. Ahh, but my friends, it was. It was warm and clear and the ocean was cold and salty and it was gorgeous. We stayed for sunset and then went out for Ethiopian food. Icing on the cake.
Later that week, I caught the last A's game of the season. I love going to baseball games. I love day games in the sun and night games with the lights. Out of the the NFL, NBA and MLB, I will always choose MLB. It was a nice day, and they won, which is always a plus.
Also, a quick note on food. I showed previously that I do most of my shopping at the farmer's market. I think it's about 75-80% of the food I purchase. This is easy to do in the summer, when there is a bounty of fresh produce. It is also easy to cook it. Or perhaps I should say, not cook with it. The produce of the summer doesn't need much work to create a great meal. Sure, you could turn on the oven and roast or make something complicated out of it, but you don't need to. So, many of my summer meals are salads and simple vegetable dishes, with fruit for dessert. It might sound boring, but it is not. In fact, besides being easy to cook or assemble, it is quite delicious and plenty varied. Now fall and winter might be a different story, but during the summer, this is the life.
Things to come? A book review, and two restaurant reviews (like the second half of that Rubicon one that I should have done 3 months ago). Oops.
It's October. Wow. When did that happen? I feel like this last year (plus a month or two) has sped by like a bullet train. There have been the best of times (weddings) and the worst of times (hospitalized family members). Many questions and decisions, and not quite as many answers. This, combined with the dying of the light and heat, make me want to savor as many moments as possible, take time with my projects and actions (unless they’re undesirable), and really appreciate how things are in these moments. This sounds like an end-of-the-year post, but it feels appropriate now. It is the end of summer and the beginning of fall, after all.
I think I have said before that I love summer. I love the heat and the long days and the light. It is, unequivocally my favorite season. But, there is something heartbreakingly beautiful about fall.
Just the other day, there was an almost perfect fall day (in my opinion). It was a cold night, with a frosty morning- the kind that makes you want to snuggle under your covers with a hot mug of hot chocolate or tea. Eventually, it warmed up, but the temperature was still cool and crisp to the skin. The air was sharp in its clarity, and the sky was such an uninterrupted bright blue that it almost hurt your eyes. The leaves had started changing colors and falling off the trees, crunching underfoot, while the flowers were showing off their colorful blooms, in a last gasp for attention.
It was beautiful.
Soon, the rain will come, and more cold. I don’t specifically dislike the rain and the cold- I especially appreciate rain for what it does, and enjoy the occasional song and dance through it. I like bundling up in sweaters, scarves, and gloves and going for walks in the cold. I also enjoy staying inside, under blankets, or by the fire (a.k.a. my space heater) with a hot toddy, or two.
I only wish there was some snow to go with the cold and rain, but on this island, it’s about as rare as being able to see the Northern Lights. I’m not a big winter sports girl, but I love that soft blanket of white. And let’s not forget the snowflakes falling from the sky! Last winter I took a trip to Chicago, and the sight of the snow falling through the light of the street lamps at night took my breath away. All that individual beauty practically lost in the big picture. Snowflakes are the apple trees of the weather world.
Fall is all about change and opposition. It’s sharp and soft. It has bold colors that fade quickly. It is bright and it is dull, and it can be oh so wonderful. Enjoy it while it lasts!
pesto and boys.
like peas in a pod, right? right? or not. let's get the boys party out of the way: I need to stop falling for smart Geminis and Cancers. I realized a few days ago that as far as I can recall (at least to high school), I think all of the guys I have dated have been Geminis, or Cancers. And I'm a Cancer. They do not mix so well. I wasn't cultivating this at all. I never even realized it. Now I'm going to have to be all weird and ask guys what their birthday is first thing. "Hey, what's your sign? Come here often?"
(Jason and the) Arg (0nauts).
Now, on to the pesto. So many of the food bloggers have been posting about canning since it's the theme of this month's Eat Local Challenge. It sounds perfect to me- having your pantry stocked with your personal tomato sauce, pesto, etc. It may not be less expensive, but at least you would know (and be able to control) exactly what is going into your food. That means quite a bit, to me. Plus, my dear Nonna always canned, and I would like to learn how. So, I took some of her old canning jars. Alas, when I got home, I realized they were all large. Too large. I would need a bigger pot to boil them in. Also, since I'm only cooking for one person (for the most part), storing many large jars of food in my pantry doesn't make that much sense. So I thought about freezing. And then I made pesto.
mmmmmm. Homemade pesto.* I used Mario Batali's recipe. From these pictures, I'm sure you can understand why I don't post many. While I think my photography skills are not that bad, I certainly don't know how to photograph food. And, my camera is very basic.
*after 2 hours with the mortar and pestle, I had a bruised, strained hand, so I switched to a food processor.
oodles of noodles.
Last night I made Orangette's (hubby's) peanut noodle dish. It was delish. It just happened that I had all the ingredients (except I substituted rice noodles for soba) and I looove peanut sauce. I highly recommend this one. It was creamy and salty, juicy and bright, crunchy and slippery smooth.
This is a list of jobs I have done, have considered at some point in my life, or still consider, for some point in my life:
-interior architect at an international hospitality design firm, or clothing brand (like Diesel. yaaaaah.), preferably abroad
-interior architect at a small organic architecture firm, preferably in the city (yes "the city", people.)
-owner/ceo of a sustainable developing firm
-event planner/set builder
-shop owner (selling furniture, furnishings and household goods- mainly environmentally friendly design stuff)
-a job working with the government on sustainable building codes and laws
-a job working with the government on city planning, transportation planning, etc.
-host (at a restaurant)
-farmer (small-scale and all-natural of course)
-cage dancer (always in the cage, never out. no private dancer here)
-professional modern dancer (pipe dream)
-professional soccer player (pipe dream #2)
-zoologist, specifically researching Siberian tigers... in Siberia.
--ummmmmm. well? I dunno.
Why did I start this blog, you may ask? Why bother adding to the countless number of blogs that exist and their din? I wanted to record the minutiae of my life and share it with the world of course! That's actually partly true. I did (and continue to) want somewhere to record my thoughts, ideas, successes, failures, and discoveries while I try to figure out this thing called life. No guarantees on actually coming up with any answers, though! Interestingly enough, I was never good at keeping a diary, but keeping a blog seems to be much easier.
Do you have anything interesting to say or any unique premise? Nah. It's just me and my random thoughts. Some days I think that I should start 3 or 4 different blogs, for all of my interests. One would be a food blog, one would be a design blog, one would be an environment blog and one would be just for my random musings- the day-to-day stuff that I know you're all straining at the reins to read. haha.
Eh, I guess that's it. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me!
I am in love with my new bookshelf! This bookshelf. Isn't it pretty? : ) I bought it this weekend at IKEA. I suppose this picture is deceiving because it's huge. Over 6' tall and about 4' wide. It's clean, sleek, bold and has the capacity to hold all of my books, and other things. It's very impressive. Some of you might think me weird for falling in love with a bookshelf, but remember that I'm a designer and organizer (at heart). Swoon.
calender of events.
The last 2 weeks of August and the month of September are big architecture event times, here in the bay area. I thought I'd share all the events I'd like to go to. I'm hoping that they will reinspire me to
find a way back into the design community. More info found: here. Cheers and Happy September!
September 7, 7:00: Friday Nights at the de Young- Architectural Tour. $10.
September 8, 10 and 4: Heath Ceramics Tour, Sausalito. Free.
September 8, 1:30: Architectural Heritage Walking Tour. $8. "A Walk Along Broadway"
September 12, 5:45: Santiago Calatrava: Angle of Inspiration. Movie on Architect/Engineer Calatrava. Free.
September 14: Dwell on Design Conference. Expensive.
September 14, 7:00: Friday Nights at the de Young- Architectural Tour. $10.
September 15, 11-4: San Francisco Home Tour. $55.
September 15, 1:30: Architectural Heritage Walking Tour. $8. "Beyond Union Street- A Walk Through Cow Hollow"
September 15: Dwell on Design Conference. Expensive.
September 16, 11-4: San Francisco Home Tour. $55.
September 16: Dwell on Design Conference. Expensive.
September 19, 5:45: Blue Vinyl. Documentary on the truth behind PVC.
September 20: West Coast Green Conference & Expo. Hideously expensive.
September 21: West Coast Green Conference & Expo. Hideously expensive.
September 21, 7:00: Friday Nights at the de Young- Architectural Tour. $10.
September 22, 1:30: Architectural Heritage Walking Tour. $8. "Walk The Fire Line: Van Ness Avenue"
September 22: West Coast Green Conference & Expo. Hideously expensive.
September 23, 10-5: Build It Green Home Tours. $20.
September 24, 5:30-7:30: Living EcoCity Salon- talk on what makes a city "green". $20.
September 30, 11: Architectural Gems Bike Tour. $25.
Exciting news flash! Next weekend (September 8th and 9th from 12-5pm) is the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival. There are chocolate tastings, a wine bar; chocolate bar, demos and whatnot. I missed out last year, and I am definitely planning on going this year.
Last night, I went to Isa with a friend for the San Pellegrino Dine Out promotion. It was my first time eating there. Some might say that I missed out on a good thing by doing the promo (which has a set menu); I say that I'm poor and that promos like this help a girl like me eat nice meals at nice restaurants. Mind you, I looked at the set menus quite a bit before I chose a restaurant. Some of the restaurants featured were phoning it in, so to speak, but I didn't feel that Isa was, and I believe I was right. Also, they feature local and sustainable products, which is always a philosophy I can get behind. : )
At first glance, or step in the door, Isa looks tiny. Teeny-tiny. Like a restaurant made out of a closet tiny. It's pretty, though- there's a spiffy bar along the right side and some swanky tables to the left. And just as you wonder where they're going to seat you, they take you to the back, to this lovely tented area with strung lights and greenery and decking. It's like traveling through a dark and damp cave and then emerging into a giant cavern with stalactites and stalagmites. It's so unexpected and very pretty. You ended up a little squished in, but that's okay. How many restaurants in San Francisco really have enough room to dine comfortably? I'm not sure if the tent rolls back to reveal the sky, but if it does, it would be lovely. I can't imagine many more wonderful places to be than that deck on a warm, sunny winter day in the city.
On to the food. My friend started with a sea bass crudo with mango, cilantro and chili. It was delicious. The sea bass was tender and flavorful and paired wonderfully with the sweet, smooth mango and the kick of chili. It was a perfect dish for a warm summer night. I, on the other hand, started with baked goat cheese with basil, pine nuts and a tomato concasse. It was warm (obviously), creamy and crunchy, with a hint of bite from the tomatoes. I could eat it every day for the rest of my life.
For the second dish, my friend chose the halibut a la plancha with artichokes, capers and olives. The halibut was very moist and tender and we lapped up the sauce with bread. Again, a nice light fish dish for a warm summer night. I, however, chose the risotto with assorted mushrooms and parmesan for my second course. Nice and heavy. Let me just say here that I love mushrooms. Real love. True blue, like Madonna. You would think I would love this dish because of that, but the mushroom flavor wasn't prevalent. It was cooked well, though- creamy and smooth with a nice texture.
Last, but not least, we had a vanilla creme brulee and flourless chocolate cake for dessert. The cake had a hint of orange and seemed so light and fluffy that it seemed like flour was involved. However, as you can see from the Adventures in Baking series, I am no baker. The vanilla ice cream accompaniment was quite tasty, too, but there were some chocolate bits under the ice cream that had frozen to the plate and were extremely difficult to remove for that bit of crunch the dish needed. As for the creme brulee, the sugar crust was a little thick, but it had an interesting floral-vanilla flavor to it that I enjoyed.
So that's Isa. I would give it 4 out of 5 stars or hearts or horsehoes or something. I would love to try more of the menu and can't wait to go back again!
p.s.- we washed down the dinner with a bottle of 2004(?) Faiveley White Burgundy. It was good. It had some oak, but mostly it was bright fruit and minerals. It was an excellent counterpoint and accompaniment to our dishes.
Another (slightly tardy) installment in the baking series. Last week I tried making naan. That's right: naan, the delicious, Indian, soft, flat bread. Actually, I think it's made in other Middle East countries, as well, like Iran, Pakistan and whatnot. Unfortunately, my lone Indian cookbook doesn't have a recipe for it. What's up with that? So I had to fall back on my good ol' standby: the JoC.
I had a few issues with making this. First, the recipe states to mix the dough by hand, or with a mixer. I don't have a mixer, so I had to do it by hand. When I added the ingredients, they wouldn't stick together. I had to add more yogurt and water. I wonder if this is a problem of mixing by hand, or a problem with the recipe.
The second problem occurred during the kneading portion of the program. It said: knead by mixer, or by hand for 8 to 10 minutes, until the dough is a smooth and elastic ball. At 8 minutes, the dough looked like a smooth, round ball to me. Mind you, I have no idea what it should look or feel like. This is the same problem that occurred in the tart crust debacle. Moving on, the dough has to rise. Only mine didn't rise much. I let it sit (in the oven with a pilot light) overnight and it still didn't rise much. I think something went wrong there.
The product? Looked like naan, but it wasn't very soft (I have a picture to post here). At least, it wasn't as soft as I'm used to. Tasted fine though, especially with some butter, roasted garlic and beer. And when the leftover dried out a bit, it made a great pizza crust! Weeee. Adventures in baking.
Did anyone see the lunar eclipse last night? I did. I set my alarm for 1:50 am, but when it rolled around, I rolled over and went back to bed. However, I didn't sleep very well last night, so at some point when I woke up, I decided I might as well get my lazy butt out of bed and go look at it. So I did. And it was purdy. Then I went back to bed, but I still wasn't sleeping well. Around 4:30 I decided that at least part of the problem that was causing me to not sleep was that the moon (coming out of eclipse) was right outside my bedroom window and was so freakin big and bright that it was lighting up my room. Seriously. Lighting up my room like it has never been lit before. And that was purdy, too.
Also, I hate Wamu. They have good commercials, but they're liars (free checking, my a**; I get charged fees so often, it's not funny). I deposited money on Saturday and it hasn't posted to my account yet. It's Tuesday! It's not even "pending", a.k.a. their stupid word for holding onto money for 4 days before actually counting it into the account. Seriously? In this day and age of the internet and satellite communication and whatnot, you can't approve money that day or the next? I find that a little ridiculous.
Also, I'm conflicted. Very, very conflicted. See above about not sleeping well. I think I need to write it out, perhaps into some poetry. Although, I haven't written or read poetry in so long, I might have lost the ability. We'll see!
I've been baking quite a bit lately, because I want to learn to be a better baker. So many people say that you're either a good cook, or a good baker; you have to enjoy one more, or be better at one than the other. Following this saying, I'm a cook. I like baking, but I never felt a great desire to do it often. Until now.
All of a sudden, I really want to learn to make bread, and cookies and pie crust (hopefully some day by memory). I have no idea what spurred this on. Perhaps because I like to have people over for dinner and I've never been thrilled by my inability to make something other than 5-layer bars for dessert. Perhaps because lately I've wanted to develop my food skills more.
Mind you, I can follow a recipe. It's just that baking is so intimidating. It's often a precise science to produce something edible, let alone tasty, whereas cooking can be more of an "anything goes" endeavor. Of course, the best chefs value precision and perfection, but you don't have to, to produce something good. And also, when I do things, I like to do them well, or not do them at all. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. So, I knew if I began baking, I'd really have to continue baking with mixed results for a long time, until I was satisfied. So you see? Daunting.
Man, can I ramble on. So about the baking....
I made chocolate chip cookies about a month ago. I've made them many times before (usually the ubiquitous Nestle recipe), but I'm trying to develop/find a really good recipe. This time I got directions from Joy of Cooking. I chopped chocolate bars instead of using chocolate chips, which I like because it spreads the chocolate flavor throughout the cookie (though sparely). I am a fan of the cookie dough flavor, but I'm a bigger fan of chocolate. Other than that, they were too crispy for me. I want more butter. Mmmmmm, butter.
Then, for my dad's birthday, I made a Clafouti aux Pruneaux A l'Armegnac. At least, I think that's how you say it. Clafouti with Prunes in Armegnac because he had bought some in France many years ago and wanted to use them, and I wanted to make a clafouti. Again, I got my recipe from Joy of Cooking. And why not? It's basic. It's thorough. It's reliable, right? Unfortunately, not so much with this recipe. It said to start out the clafouti at a high temperature for 10 min or so, and then turn down the heat to finish the baking. I looked at other recipes and they all said to bake it uniformly at a high heat. Interesting. So I tried the JoC way, and it didn't bake. Or, more correctly, the edges puffed and browned, but the middle was still raw. WtF?? I had to cook it for an extra 20 min at a higher temp. And by that time the edges were not as pleasant as they could have been. *sigh* So I guess now I know for the future... Oh, but it still tasted good. Really good.
Moving on, I made a strawberry tart. Now, I've never made pie or tart dough before, but I was hoping that I had some latent ability that I had gained by osmosis by watching my grandmother do it many times over. I maybe helped... once or twice... when I was 5 or 6. I had a hard time finding a recipe for this one, interestingly enough. Finally found one on Epicurious. Also, I don't have a strainer decent enough for the pastry cream, or a rolling pin, and a few other things that might have made the making easier or the outcome better. So the outcome? The flavors were good, helped by leaps and bounds by the amazing farmer's market strawberries I picked up. The pastry cream was a little flour-y, though. And the dough was hard. I don't know where I went wrong there, but I definitely did at some point.
So that's it for the sweet stuff, so far. There will be more coming. It'll be like a mini-series: Failures of Baking. It'll be great, really. I've got my eye on that no-knead bread recipe...
Wow, html can be difficult. Mind you, I know almost nothing about it, so messing around with it often leads to mistakes that others, who actually know something about it, might not make. Have you noticed my posts have been all screwed up? I'm not sure what happened. I thought all I was changing was my header and layout... : (
Those of you who know me, know that I'm mostly a tee shirt and jeans kind of girl. I especially like tee shirts with prints on them. So, I thought I'd share my critique of these lovely, organic shirts from Nordstrom.
1. "Green is the new black" tee. I agree that "green" should be the new black, and it's a cute saying, but too preachy for me. I'm not the kind of person that puts bumper stickers on my car, and I don't like people judging me based on what saying is on my shirt.
2. WWF Panda tee. I love this. The World Wildlife Fund logo is cute, it gives you a hint of their purpose, but it doesn't scream it at you like a crazy person 1 foot from your face, and it isn't preachy. This equals less judginess. Plus, I support the WWF, and the shirt co. donates $1.50 for every tee sold. The only problem I have with this tee shirt is that it's pink. I don't like pink. I don't like to wear it, I don't like to decorate with it and I don't like to frost cakes with it. This makes me very unhappy because otherwise I would snatch up this shirt like it was the last Tickle-me-Elmo in Christmas of 1996... and I had a child.
3. "100% Natural" tee. I actually might buy this one. It's simple and the color is one I like. The cute WWF logo is discreetly placed, and the saying isn't cheesy or preachy, and it applies to me. I try to be 100% natural. Of course, all the toxins I've been exposed to in my lifetime so far have probably infected me to the degree that my insides are now radioactive. But I'm trying to reverse that!
a quick recap.
I went to Cambria a few weeks ago. It's near Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo- some prime wine territory. As the picture shows, the California coast is beautiful. It can be so worth driving down the coast instead of the interior roads. Of course, it was beautiful; but, I also tasted some good wine. There wasn't enough time for as much tasting as I'd like, but I did get to taste a great Chardonnay from Four Vines. There was a light hint of butter and oak, but those flavors were very well balanced with fruit and acid. I highly recommend it.
This past weekend I went to LA. LA is always a good time since I have good friends and family in the area. There was good food and ice cream. There was some beach time to cure my summertime blues. There was a cat. It all adds up to a pretty good weekend for me. The good food belonged to Mexico City, a decent Mexican restaurant in the Silverlake area. It's a very hipster scene. I had a good chicken mole and a good margarita.
The ice cream was from Scoops. Better than decent. Fantastic, actually. Some very original flavors: bacon caramel, olive oil olive, brown bread, Guinness tiramisu. They also have a good selection of vegan ice cream. I have had bacon ice cream and olive oil ice cream in the past, and those two trumped these. However, the bacon and olive oil ice creams were from restaurants at the top of their game in the Bay Area. That's tough to beat. In any case, the other ice creams were fantastic. My personal choice was the Guinness tiramisu, and vanilla nutmeg almond. It was creamy, and well-flavored, and definitely a good bang for the buck.
Then, there was more food from Square One. This is a small establishment in Hollywood, with a philosophy of using the freshest local ingredients, which is a philosophy I can support. The bacon in my club sandwich was amazing, and on the whole the sandwich was very tasty. I enjoyed the thyme and roasted garlic potatoes, but they didn't have much flavor of thyme or roasted garlic, in my opinion. It's a casual place, and the service was casual, as well, but it was a good meal, nonetheless.
Last, but not least, let's show the cat that I now adore. How could you not??
sterile as a hospital.
This blog is a little plain, I think. I mean, in terms of design. I like things clean and simple, but this is just boring. I tried loading a picture into the title masthead, but it didn't work. Graphic design isn't my specialty, but I think I can do better than this. Stay tuned! : )
my dear cell phone.
I recently discovered something which irritates me. My cell phone has an alarm clock, as most do, I'm sure. It's the alarm that I use when I'm traveling. However, recently I discovered that if my cell phone doesn't get reception, the alarm doesn't work. What is that?? I have good service, but inevitably there are places that my phone won't get reception. Why haven't companies thought of separating the phone and tools functions so that the tools can function even when the phone cannot? Is that so difficult?? Or is it just that I have a cheap phone? In a closely related subject, my regular alarm clock broke. Does anyone know where I can get a cool one? I think it's time to upgrade.
Also, it's August. When did that happen? This year has flown by like a peregrine falcon.
I just read an article about the awful practice of shark finning. I've eaten shark before, but not shark fin soup. I know that shark fin soup is very popular in a few Asian countries (particularly in Chinese wedding banquets), but I didn't realize how much damage it did. I realize that most people think of sharks as animals of terror, and probably do not care about their survival, but as with any animal/plant/bug/microrganism, any slight change in the ecosystem causes major changes overall.
A.k.a. Rubicon, part 1. Because of this post on this fabulous blog, I decided to share an experience I had at a restaurant recently. A little over a month ago, I ate at Rubicon (in San Francisco) with my family. It was a very wonderful meal, filled with good food, and good conversation. I would heartily recommend it to anyone, and I'll speak about it more in a future post, because this post is reserved solely for dessert talk and pastry chefs.
When I go out to a restaurant that is anything decent, I always order dessert. I love dessert, and I particularly love chocolate or a rich and creamy dessert. In fact, I can be a bit of a lush because I don't often deny myself something I want. Also, usually I am the only one to order dessert amongst my family. Not this time though! At Rubicon, 4 out of 5 of my dining party ordered dessert. Yes! This, I atrribute to their love and willingness to please me. At least, I choose to believe this.
In any case, this was not the only memorable part of dessert. While I was perusing the menu, I noticed that the pastry chef's name was listed: Nicole Krasinksi. I feel like I noticed this because it was rare. While I don't scrupulously examine menus to find the chefs’ names, I am an observant person and think that I would have noticed if it were a common practice to list the pastry chef’s name.
Last, but certainly not least, the dessert course was memorable because the desserts were fabulous. Truly. Two stood out from the bunch, but they were all around very tasty. Wanna hear what they are? Huh? Huh? Do ya? Too bad! *ahem* No, just kidding. I aim to please:
One of the desserts was a simple sorbet duo of strawberry and peach. It was very fresh and smooth and tasty. Real fruit flavor abounded like a well-tended orchard. Another of the quartet was a strawberry sorbet, but with ginger and a gingered beignet. The ginger lent that special something to the dish to make it stand out.
The two that knocked my socks off, though, were a chocolate cake and a financier and ice cream pairing. The chocolate cake was my dessert, so although I tasted the others, I really had time to appreciate that one. It was a basic square of chocolate cake, with a very deep, rich chocolate flavor, and a moist, slightly dense texture. It sat in a pool of crème fraiche, with a concentric circle of apricot preserves surrounding the moat of crème. The cake also had a topping of caramelized figs. Woah, man. Wooooooah man! It was amazing. The figs were sweet and crunchy, the cake was soft and rich, the crème fraiche smooth and tangy (almost like goat yogurt) and the apricot preserves added another layer of fruity goodness, to make it more complex. I could eat this dessert for every meal for the rest of my life.
The other knock-out dessert was a pecorino and plum financier with olive oil ice cream. It is more creative than the chocolate cake, but I think it lost a few points in the plating area. In any case, it was just as mind-blowing. The layer of pecorino cheese was salty and tangy, the layer of plum was a wonderful counterpoint and the financier in total was a fine, crumbly texture. It went so well with the olive oil ice cream. Yah- olive oil ice cream. It was divine. Rich and creamy and a little grassy and fruity. In the “odd flavors of ice cream” category, it is only bested by the bacon ice cream at Oliveto’s. Yah- bacon ice cream. Did Jeffrey Steingarten consult on that?
So that’s my tale of dessert at Rubicon. It was mighty tasty. Ms. Krasinski is doing good things.
Hello weather gods of the bay area? It's me- MP. This weather is driving me crazy. Actually, it's not driving me crazy, it's just making me depressed. It's not always cold, though it certainly can be in the morning and at night. It is grey. All day. I think there was 2 hours of clear sky yesterday. It's July! Sun, heat, blue sky for miles, little, puffy, white clouds, water, the beach, cool, refreshing drinks- these are all things you find in the summer! Yet, they seem to dissappear with annoying frequency. My sunglasses languish in my cave-like apartment. My sunscreen has made friends with the towels, tissue and toiletries in the closet, and resigned itself to a year of darkness. I need Vitamin D! I need to get away, out of the bay.
I read this article today about green energy, and how it is bad for the environment. You read correctly: bad for the environment. How or why, you may ask? Well, read the article, duh. The writer for LiveScience.com does a very good job taking the information from Jesse Ausubel's study in the Inderscience's International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology (does the name tell you anything? like maybe he is pro nuclear energy?) and then contrasting it with other experts' views. It's a very objective piece.
I googled Jesse Ausubel's name to find out more about him, to see if I could discredit him at all and I found numerous other new sources citing his study. This one is much more one-sided; it solely reports on his study, and offers no differing viewpoints. This blurb I found to be hilariously succinct. It's very interesting to look at the different ways information is presented in the media.
But, back to the subject: green energy. I happen to agree with the point of view of Mr. Turner (from the article). If you just look at one solution, and don't count space, structure and systems already in place, then it's not going to look like an efficient and practical solution.
Take the wind power example Mr. Ausubel gives. He says that "in order to meet the 2005 electricity demand for the United States, an area the size of Texas would need to be covered with wind structures running round the clock."
- First, relying on only one type of energy for all of America's (or humanity's) needs is a bad idea. Just like monoculture is bad. Just like using bamboo for building, flooring, cooking products, sheets, and clothing is bad. Just like never changing your mind about a war when new information is found, is bad (oops, how'd that slip in there?). In any case, variety is the spice of life.
- Second, Nobody would take Texas (or an area the size of) and devote it entirely to wind power. That would be asinine. You break the energy structure up into little pieces and spread it all over the country. If I could, I would compare the energy system structures we already have around the nation, to the size of what he says we would need. I will predict that it wouldn't be that different.
- Third, it seems that Mr. Ausubel is talking about replacing all of the current energy systems we have with wind power (or other green energy systems). This, again, is asinine. We don't need to replace every single system and structure that we already have. Anybody who has driven from the bay area to the 5 or to the foothills has seen windmills. Do we need to tear them down just to rebuild them? No. They work fine. And, the land underneath seems to be working fine as farmland, which is a point that Mr. Turner makes in the article. This means that the land used for these energy systems isn't all wasted on just energy, as Mr. Ausubel implies.
Mr. Ausubel goes on to state that nuclear energy is the best solution. To this, I think: really? Maybe it has a smaller carbon footprint, but leaky storage facilities, the need to store the nuclear waste for forever, and the possibility of a massive disaster all point to one thing for me: Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!!
*ahem* the end.
West Elm Organic Line
Part of the problem of trying to live a sustainable, No Impact, or in this case, little impact, life is the amount of research it takes to do little things like buying towels, or big things like buying furniture.
This does not apply to food. It's fairly easy (at least where I live) to find a farmer's market and buy most things that you want or need. Also, buying food is fun for me. Going to the SF Ferry Building Farmer's Market? Fun! The Oakland and Berkeley markets? Fun! I get to imagine what I can make with what's available; I get to choose exactly which food I think is healthy and interesting. I get to discover new things. Did I mention I like to cook? I do. Buying food does not apply to un-appetizing (hah!) research.
What does apply is every time I want to buy: paper, pens, pots, pans, sheets, towels, clothes, toiletries, etc. The list goes on, and on. Right now, I happen to need sheets and towels. A friend told me she had found bamboo sheets at Target. Generally, I try not to support Target for political reasons, but I thought it would be an easy answer to my issue of where to find sustainable sheets. Of course, there is no easy answer. Bamboo is not the cure-all wonder plant. I went, and it turns out that Target has organic cotton sheets, as well, so I bought those. Mind you, I have no idea where this organic cotton comes from, how organic it is, or perhaps more importantly, what the worker conditions are like in India, where the sheets were made. Unfortunately, many times there seems to be a choice between labor conditions and environmentally-friendly conditions. For example, buying high-end clothes and textiles might eliminate the awful, third-world country labor conditions, but it might not eliminate pesticide use, which affects the raw element labor force, as well as the environment. Buying organic might help the raw element labor force and the environment, but it certainly does not stop the abuse of the poor textile workers. Why does there have to be a choice?? This is a topic for another post, entirely...
The whole point is that most times when I want to buy a home product, I have to do research into what is "sustainable" and "environmentally friendly." It adds up to be quite a bit of work, and sometimes, I just buy what's convenient. It's not always easy being green.
Here's the thank you part: there are now two accessible, budget friendly, and relatively well-known suppliers of organic sheets (that I know of). Target and West Elm. That means options, people. Options are good. It means that the concept of being environmentally friendly is going more mainstream, and that is always a positive thing.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
So I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I read it because yes, I love food, and believe in the whole local, sustainable movement. But, I also love Barbara Kingsolver. I think she's an amazing storyteller, and this book is no diversion from that. In fact, what I liked most about the book wasn't the sidebars with facts on politics, culture and whatnot from Steven Hopp, the recipes from Camille Kingsolver, or even the facts from Ms. Kingsolver herself. What I enjoyed the most were the stories, egg-raising, canning, turkey sex and all. Hopefully that fact will encourage people to read the book, even if they aren't "foodies" or into the local, sustainable movement. The easiest way to introduce a new idea to the public, and have it accepted, is to normalize it as much as possible. It's a novel, not a sermon.
Next up? The Botany of Desire.
dude looks like a lady.
Has anyone noticed that Mick Jagger (when he was young) looked extremely effeminate? Like a cross between Liv Tyler and Mike Myers circa Wayne's World...
los animales pobres.
I read a very depressing article the other day about puppy mills. It's just like it sounds: mills for dogs. Female dogs are stuffed into cages, never allowed to roam around, fed who-knows-what, impregnated often and then have their puppies instantly taken away. And this is the way that some pet shops and even some "breeders" get their merchandise. It's all absolutely awful, and unfortunately, it seems that in America, today, "ignorance is bliss" is our motto. I, for one, had never heard of puppy mills before this article, and I'm fairly sure that most people haven't. This is outrageous, if only for the reason that many people truly value their pets, and wouldn't like to see this happening to perfectly healthy dogs, and yet it is. You can read more here.
Does this sound familiar at all? Maybe like CAFO's? Animals stuffed into cages so that they have no room to turn around, let alone scratch, peck, root, run, breathe fresh air, enjoy the sun, water, grass, any natural atmosphere whatsoever?? The only difference that I can see between puppy mills and meat mills is that America has almost completely lost touch with the fact that meat comes from animals. (In most cases) we actually like, respect, and care for our pets. Not so much for our meat. In fact, I think most people are all too happy to forget that meat comes from living, breathing creatures. It's so much more civilized and convenient to buy a package of identically chopped, plastic-wrapped (hormone, antibiotic, garbage and corn-infused) squares of meaty substance, isn't it?
When did things get so out of hand in this country? Who are these people that care so little about animals (and in the case of CAFO's, humans) and the environment that they think this is okay or right or just? When did we collectively become so weak-hearted and so ignorant that we allow this to happen in our backyard? Since when did it become okay to turn a blind eye? I have some answers, but not all. Another day, another rant. Bah humbug.