Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ice Cream Sandwich

Usually I get pretty miffed when I read that our legislators have been wasting my hard-earned tax dollars passing bills to commemorate nonsense like National Whatsis Month, but I read in a food blog somewhere (sorry, I can't find it to give credit where it's due) that July is National Ice Cream Month.

Now, that's what I call a good use of legislative time and taxpayer money! If we all did our duty and ate ice cream every day, we'd be a better and happier nation, and we'd be respected around the world.

So, here's my salute the passing of National Ice Cream Month and my solemn pledge to do my duty every single day of the year. This is an ice cream sandwich made with tiny chocolate chip cookies and coffee ice cream. I have assembled these for guests for many years so now when they return and the ice cream sandwiches come out, I always hear, "Oh, I was hoping you'd make these!"

Here's the deal - buy the small cookies, like Newman's Own, and freeze them along with the the Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream. Freezing the cookies is important because otherwise the room temperature cookies will melt the ice cream and the sandwiches will stick together in the freezer. Once the cookies are frozen, use one of those little sorbet scoopers (or just a spoon) to put a nice dollop of ice cream between two cookies. Press down gently to spread the ice cream to the edges of the cookies, pop it in a freezer bag and keep frozen until you're ready to celebrate National Ice Cream Month in style.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Haste to the Wedding

I don't want to steal Molly's thunder by writing about the food at her wedding (except to say it was delicious and just what you'd expect from those two!). Plus, you might hear from Tea and Cookies or Gluten Free Girl about that, as well - I was thrilled to meet them and The Chef there, too! (I can't tell you what a tickle it is to meet food blog glitterati!)

having been a florist for several years, I always notice the flowers at weddings, maybe even more than the bride's dress. And the flowers were really wonderful! The pew markers were white dahlias and pale blue delphiniums with a little variegated pittosporum and, here's the Molly and Brandon touch, in canning jars hung with white satin ribbons around the necks of the jars. It seems Brandon haunts thrift stores and often succumbs to an irresistible attraction to canning jars, so they decided to use those for the flowers. The ex-florist approves; I was charmed.

Embracing the Black

One noticeable feature of life in San Francisco is that everyone wears black. Black slacks. sweaters, coats, umbrellas, shoes, handbags, even fancy dress balls - if it can be black, it is. This is a puzzle to me and has been from my first days here 12 plus years ago. What is it with black that's so enchanting to San Franciscans?

Maybe it's the sophisticated image that black projects? Perhaps it's a legacy of the Beatniks of the '50s for which San Francisco is famous? Could it be the obsession with seeming slimmer than one actually is, especially after twelve years of eating all the delights available to denizens of the Bay area? Whatever the reason, San Franciscans wear lots and lots of black.

My friend the Evil Empress, for example, tells me that she is only wearing black until something darker comes along. She even owns a big black dog.

Being one who adores color, I have always felt a little out of place in San Francisco's fashion scene. When my (admittedly antiquated) fashion sense was being formed, women did have a "little black dress" to wear to cocktail parties and men had black tuxedos or sometimes a black suit for funerals but no one would ever wear black to a wedding. In fact, my friend W's grandmother so completely disapproved of her daughter's choice in husbands that she attended the wedding dressed from head to toe in black, complete with black veil, black gloves and black-edged handkerchief; the use of funeral clothes at a wedding made an emphatic statement.

In San Francisco, however, she'd have simply been in style; I see recently nothing but black dresses at weddings. Often, even the wedding party is dressed entirely in black. As I said, it's a puzzle.

I've begun to realize, however, that for whatever reason, this darkness is not a passing phase. Any fashion that endures for 12 plus years is clearly a part of the local identity, like blue jeans proclaiming American citizenship, or wooden shoes Dutch origin. Because I'm beginning to feel like a native, it's time I embraced the Black.

So, when My Beloved needed some new threads and I happened to see a guy on Market Street on day dressed like this, I thought, "Man, MB would look great in that!" And, he does, don't you think? The blue jeans match his eyes and, man, that black is so cool! Easy to embrace the Black when MB is inside it!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Valentine for Molly and Brandon

This is Molly and Brandon's wedding day. In Seattle, we have a morning marine layer with a promise of blue sky by the time the wedding rolls around. Perfect.

This is Molly and Brandon's recipe for their wedding cake, made in their honor. Since Orangette brought them together, what could be more appropriate for wishing them a long and happy life together?

Molly and Brandon, when you resurface after all the wedding festivities and the honeymoon (where did you go on your honeymoon, by the way?), read this and know that My Beloved and I sent our very best wishes for a lifetime of happiness, both in the kitchen and elsewhere!

And, readers, feel free to leave your wishes, too!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Favorite Breakfast

After a dinner that includes an Acme Sour baguette, the next morning I indulge in one of my all-time favorite breakfasts, leftover baguette and unsalted Challenge European style butter with a good cup of coffee from Graffeo's in San Rafael.

After a night on my kitchen counter, wrapped only in its original paper bag, the baguette is even more flavorful and has gotten a little chewier.

I first tasted this breakfast in France when I was parked in a small and very frugal French boarding school back in my salad days. The redoubtable headmistress, Madame Blay (pronounced like the Mutiny on the Bounty's cruel captain - how appropros!) found all kinds of frugal ways to fill up a ravenous gaggle of growing girls. Breakfast of last night's baguette was one of those ways.

On a later trip to Paris I was re-introduced to this delight when we ate day-old ficelles with cafe au lait for breakfast at my brother's apartment near the Arc de Triomphe. The combination of strong, fresh coffee with cream and simple bread and butter starts the whole day out on a happy and satisfying note.

This week's posts seem to feature breakfast a lot; funny, as I almost never eat breakfast. Go figure! So, what's your favorite breakfast? I'd be interested to read...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Food for Mind and Soul

If I had to choose between food and reading, I'd have a tough time. Ever since I read "Skippy" in the fourth grade, I was bitten by the reading bug and have never been without a book to read since.

Luckily, my reading tastes have matured since "Skippy." My latest treasure read is "A Thousand Splendid Suns" by local Bay Area writer Khaled Hosseini. It is a marvelous book, as was his "The Kite Runner."

Set in Afghanistan, it follows two women through their lives with all the political changes happening in Afghanistan and ending after the Taliban was ousted. It's powerful stuff, not a pleasant read but ultimately uplifting and hopeful.

I'm happy that I don't have to choose between food and reading - this is the kind of book that would make that choice next to impossible.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

In my later high school years, when my Mom figured I was old enough to make my own breakfast and elected to sleep in (smart!), my Dad and I would frequently find ourselves together in the early morning kitchen as I prepared to face another day of failure at Algebra and he girded himself for another hated day at the Pentagon. Late high school was not my favorite time of life; ditto for him and Pentagon duty.

We had a little nonsense banter that we shared back then while the eggs poached. I would ask, "Dad, how do you like your eggs?" to which he would reply, "Oh, I like my eggs!" I'd return, "No, no, I mean, how do you like them cooked?" and he'd say, "Oh, I like them cooked!"

I guess you had to be there.

Anyway, now when he has gone to heaven and I'm cooking poached eggs for myself, I always think warmly of our silly Q&A and miss that old guy.

He liked his poached eggs like this: firm whites, firm/runny yolks and, if possible on English muffins. Thomas' English muffins. Thomas' English muffins slathered with butter. And the eggs topped with a little salt and a big grinding of fresh black pepper.

After a breakfast like that, one can face one's duty. Even if it means the Pentagon and Algebra.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Homage to Luther Burbank

Ah, nectarines at last!

I love most fruits - one of the reasons I so enjoy California is simply the length of the strawberry season - but, oh, I do rejoice when the nectarines come into the market.

Like all fruit, if you can't smell the aroma from five feet away, it's probably not worth buying. I've seen nectarines in the market for a couple of weeks or more but until they entice from afar, I resist their colorful blandishments.

Wrapped in prosciutto, they make a splendid appetizer and nothing could be simpler to make. The salty shock of the ham followed by the sweet flood of nectarine may not be heaven, but you can see it from there.

Did you know that we live right close to where Luther Burbank did his many plant experiments, one of which gave us the wonderful nectarine? Just up Route 101 in Sonoma County, you can visit the actual house and garden where he lived and worked. It's a great spot when the fog rolls in to San Francisco on the very day you had hoped for an outdoor picnic. Instead of pulling on long pants and a sweatshirt and shivering in the fog, buy some richly scented nectarines, put on your shorts, and head up to Santa Rosa to pay homage to Mr. Burbank.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thanks to the Peanut Gallery

I'm still pretty new at this blogging business but already I can report that it's not only great fun to write the posts but it's really, really fun to read the comments from the Peanut Gallery!

I'm amazed by the fact that comments come so quickly and from far and wide. Through the blogosphere, I've already been connected with people from Canada, Oz (Aus), NZ, Italy, Ireland, France and several places around the US, as well.

So, in honor of all you in the Peanut Gallery who have already enriched my life, here's a link to the very best peanuts grown in the world, Plantation Peanuts. My former brother in law was a peanut farmer in Virginia and he raised crops for this enterprise. I can recommend especially the unsalted ones but I've enjoyed nearly all their choices.

Thank you!

Monday, July 23, 2007

Smokin' Fish, Part Two

This is what happened to the salmon we planked alongside the halibut. I love composed salads like this, so cool and fresh for summer. Perfect dinner and only one cooking necessary for the two meals!

Smokin' Fish

This past weekend, My Beloved and I found some good looking fish at Andronico's where, BTW, they have a nice system for classifying how sustainable is the harvest of various kinds of fish. Using red, yellow and green, they show you on the price tickets which fish are in short supply in the oceans and which are fished sustainably and without catching other species by mistake. Red is the most threatened, yellow indicates species that are becoming scarce and green is used for fish still in good supply. Our pieces of wild salmon and halibut, lest you worry, were both green.

We decided to plank both kinds of fish, the salmon because that is our all-time favorite preparation for that fish and the halibut as an experimental substitute for swordfish. I love swordfish and I have a great recipe for a summer salsa to complement swordfish but, sadly, swordfish has been red-tagged for years. The sad little steaks you see in the market are a clear indication that younger and younger swordfish are being caught, even before they have reached reproductive maturity. So, I've been looking for a substitute for that firm white swordfish steak that would stand up to my salsa.

The halibut was a home run. Planking it gave it a nice texture, firm but not dry, and the smokiness enhanced what can be a pretty bland fish. Next time, I'll plank it and serve it with the salsa but this time, we snarfed it down plain alongside some fresh greenie beanies and some sourdough baguette from Acme.

If you haven't tried planking, MB and I can highly recommend it as a cooking method for chicken and many kinds of seafood, notably salmon, halibut and sea scallops. We use cedar shingles that come in a large bundle from any good lumber store rather than the very pricey branded ones they sell in the fancy-pants cooking stores. If you want to try it before buying $30 worth of shingles, ask at the lumber yard if they have any samples they can give you; often they have loose samples for contractors.

Be sure to specify untreated cedar shingles - all you want in your smoke is wood, not flame-retarding chemicals!

These shingles have a thick and a thin end. After rinsing the plank with water, I position the fish (salmon should be skin side down) with the thin end of the fish toward the thick end of the plank to even out the cooking time, and set back away from the thinnest portion of the plank. When you place the plank on the barbecue grill, this thin end will burn first, releasing the aromatic smoke into the fish (you can see the plank has begun to scorch in the photo).

Cover the barbecue and let it smoke for about 15 minutes (depends on the heat of your fire and the thickness of your fish) - you can tell salmon is done when it is sizzling merrily where the skin meets the plank and the flesh loses it's gelatinous texture and becomes slightly firm. The halibut was harder to judge but I noticed that when it was ready, it released a clear juice (you can see it running away in the photo) and the flesh turned from white to a rich, almost golden color on the surface. It's a pretty forgiving method so don't worry too much - we have done this many, many times and the fish is always moist and delicious.

Now comes the good part with salmon - run a spatula between the skin and the fish to serve - presto! the skin will stay stuck to the plank. Using these untreated cedar shingles is far more economical than reusable planks from high falutin' shops and no cleanup - just throw away the used plank - yaaay! A big bundle costs about $30 and you get so many that you can thrill your foodie friends by giving them a handful tied with festive ribbon the next time you need a birthday or hostess gift.

They make smokin' gifts! Okay, okay, I know - ouch!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Melting Pot in Larkspur Landing

Our buddy J was having a belated birthday celebration and his wife (also J) suggested we try The Melting Pot in Larkspur Landing since none of us had tried it.

I took some photos, figuring I'd write a blog post about the restaurant after the party, but the very next morning I read this post from Foodhoe, who did a much better job with her pictures so go read hers and enjoy! She even made sense of the somewhat complicated menu of choices and sauces.

Happy Birthday J, even if you are uncooperative when friends try to take your picture. When you make me laugh as I push the shutter button, it turns out like this!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Tectonic Sleeping

Sleeping is one of my strengths; I am an Olympic-caliber sleeper. Compared to me, L'il Abner is a piker. I have slept standing up at the top of Mount Fuji in the cold pre-dawn hours and actually slept well on a platform at Steep Ravine with the wind howling and the rain beating down. My Beloved remarks, sometimes with a little exasperation, that it usually takes me under 30 seconds after the goodnight snuggle to fall into sleep breathing (his diplomatic way of describing my snoring). I'm a good sleeper.

The ISC is, too. In fact, all cats seem to have this amazing capacity for sleep. However, she insists on being served breakfast at a very early hour and has an unlimited repertoire of tactics for getting those two lazy bums out of bed to feed her. One of the most effective is pointing her whiskers straight forward and poking them into one's peacefully sleeping face - it's like walking into a spiky stiff spiderweb.

Another strategy is to jump onto the bed right next to one's head, a sure startle from a sound sleep. That's what I figured she was doing yesterday morning when the bed suddenly jiggled and MB awoke with a start, but I maligned the little darling unfairly - turns out it was an earthquake in the nearby Hayward Fault.

I came to California expecting nearly daily shocks and jiggles - for several months, every heavy truck that passed had me asking, "Is that an earthquake?" I've settled down some since then. Now it takes 4.5 or higher to even break the rhythm of my sleep breathing. And the ISC doesn't notice them at all after she's been served her breakfast and returned to bed with us for a catnap.

Friday, July 20, 2007

NOCA Sizzle

In Western New York (WNY), from whence I moved about 12 years ago, the opening conversation is always about the weather and why it's so awful (it frequently is awful there; Rochester and Buffalo are infamous for it).

In the Bay Area, the starter conversation topics are two: one's commute and all its permutations, or food. I take BART to work so my commuter conversation is enthusiastic but not all that interesting; my food conversation, however, is a lot more fun.

It's not uncommon among my friends to be eating one meal and comparing notes about each person's entree, while reminiscing about other memorable meals or restaurants - the topic is absorbing, to say the least.

There's a reason for it - here in NOCA (Northern California), we have it all. Fresh organic veggies, fruits, meats, dairy and eggs, all locally grown and offered at charming farmers' markets, Mom-and-Pops, or excellent grocery chains like Andronico's or Whole Foods. We are blessed.

And then there's the seafood. OMG. Last night, MB and I grilled wild salmon of staggering price and deliciousness on our vintage '70s JennAir grill. It was beautifully striped, still sizzling and on the medium rare side when we slid it onto our plates alongside a nice, big artichoke from Castroville and a little dish of melted butter.

When I talk to my friends from WNY, I start the conversation by telling them that NOCA rules!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Mexican Sushi

I work in San Francisco's Tenderloin, an area known more for pho and fast food than for fine dining. But, sometimes what I'm looking forward to for lunch is nothing fancier than a plump veggie burrito.

Luckily, nearby, there is a tiny Mexican restaurant, Castillo B on McAllister Street (Castillo A is a few blocks away), too humble to have a website, but they have the smilingest burrito maker in the city and he rolls a mean lunch.

The flour tortilla is heated on his griddle with mild cheese, then spread by a nonchalant flick of his spoon with rice, black beans, salsa (I like wimpy mild and the chef knows that but he always teases me first by threatening with a twinkle to add the spicy one), crema, avocado and lettuce (shredded ice berg - we are not snooty here, folks!). Roll that puppy up and you've got lunch for two days! He will even cut it in two and wrap the other half for tomorrow. They give the chips free on the side and they have a great juke box with plaintive Mexican ballads or lively salsa beat to see you through to the afternoon's activities.

You can ask for one of several kinds of meat, and I sometimes do indulge in the carnitas, but recently whenever I walk the two blocks down to this restaurant, it's the Mexican sushi I'm after.

Little Green Buddy

That's a cherry tomato, to give you an idea of the small size of the most useful kitchen tool I've bought this year.

It's a really, really small colander that I bought mainly because it made me laugh - so small and so very green it was! It's made by Zak!Designs and I got it at one of those fancy-pants cooking stores. I honestly can't recall which one - they are all irresistible to me. On a bad day, some women resort to chocolate; I head for a cooking store to drool over the place mats and the mixers.

Anyway, I remember thinking when I got it home, "Now, why didn't you just pass that one by??" but I have eaten my words many times since then. It's a great size, just enough for washing a basket of strawberries or cherry tomatoes, rinsing a few veggies for us two, or holding just enough mushrooms for making Joe's Special from Cookiecrumb's recipe.

I have used this little beauty so many times that I don't bother to put it away any more. It just lives in the drainboard awaiting the next time I reach for my little green buddy.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Bacon Controversy

In even the happiest of marriages, inevitably some disagreements arise. Not about the excellence of Nueske's applewood smoked bacon - on that, we do agree. Rather, about how it should be cooked.

My Beloved prefers a light sizzle, such that when the bacon leaves the pan, it is still soft (one might even say wobbly) and pliable, slightly more cooked than in this picture but not what one would call "well done."

Right thinking people, of course, fry bacon until it is crisp, lightly browned and shatters to the fork.

I have heard tell of people who even bake their bacon, or broil it, methods I have never mustered sufficient courage to try. So, what do you think, people? Care to weigh in on this important controversy?

What's your favorite brand of bacon and how do you cook it?
I'm particularly eager for comment from Rev. Biggles at MeatHenge, a guy who knows his bacon!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cheery Cherry

Nothing brightens my hideous '70s counter top like a bowl full of cherry tomatoes. I keep them out there as much for their color as for their delicious sweet snackiness.

Is that a word?

Between My Beloved and me, the whole bowl will be gone by the end of the day but that's just a good excuse to hit the farmer's market for more.

When I first moved to California from Western New York state, I rolled out of bed at 6am on a Saturday morning, having read that Berkeley had a good farmer's market. In Rochester, all the best produce is gone by 7:30am; Western New Yorkers are industrious people.

Anyway, I arrived at the site of the Berkeley market, all primed to be squeezing the peaches next to the likes of Alice Waters, only to find one lone booth with a single guy inside. Tragedy! Had I missed the whole thing by slugging it in bed until late in the morning?

I approached with downcast aspect the lone man in the booth, asking when the market closed. "Closed?" he replied, "Lady, it doesn't even open until 10:00am! Go get a latte and chill!"

My first taste of the California attitude toward life in general. Farmer's markets really are better at 10am after a good cup of coffee. Is it any wonder I love this place? I bought cherry tomatoes that day, too, after I got that latte and chilled.

Italian Lunch, Part Two

Being relatively new to this blog thing, I haven't yet figured out how to add more than one image to a post. So, here's My Beloved's lunch from Caffe Delle Stelle, Italian Lunch, part two.

While we waited for our orders to be prepared, the waiter brought us a nice appetizer of fresh Italian bread with a dip of tomato sauce, grated Parmesan cheese and, I suspect, garlic. We dipped and chatted for a bit longer than one might expect for a lunch but when the meal came, it was clear that while we were chatting, they were making everything fresh in the kitchen, so we forgave them as we dug into our full plates.

As you can see, the bun around his mild Italian sausage-and-veal burger was house made and delicious. The burger was mild but an interesting twist on the usual beef burger.

I have a pet peeve - it's limp Caesar salad. Because the main ingredient is sturdy romaine lettuce, you have to really treat the greens badly to make floppy Caesar salad. But, I can't tell you the number of soggy Caesars it has been my displeasure to be served in my life. Ugh. Luckily, at Delle Stelle they know that you must crisp the greens in the fridge after washing and that you shouldn't dress the Caesar before he's ready to go out. This salad was fresh and bright and nicely garlicky.

You might ask how I know this when the salad was served with MB's lunch... okay, I admit that I might have snitched a bite or two from my side of his plate!

Next time your knight in shining armor rescues you from drudgery, consider suggesting the Caffe del Stelle.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Italian Lunch

For those who have never enjoyed lunch at Caffe Delle Stelle in San Francisco's Hayes Valley, you are missing a treat. My Beloved took me there recently after a full week of packing and moving my office from one building to another. He is a knight in shining armor; they really do still exist!

Parking in Hayes Valley can be a challenge even at midday, so when MB scored a free parking space we knew we were living a charmed life.

One of the lovely things about Delle Stelle is that instead of plain water, they bring you a pitcher of fizzy mineral water with a floating slice of orange. It's refreshing, different, and free, so even though lunch is on the pricey side, there is no need to order an extra beverage. I wore blue jeans and a tshirt for the moving exercise, so I felt a little bit sheepish seated in Delle Stelle's dining room with white table cloths but my embarrassment disappeared when lunch arrived.

I ordered the cappellini with fresh tomatoes, garlic and some green sprinks of fresh herbs on top. Every twirly bite was garlicky delicious and Delle Stelle is one of those places that understands that cappellini is best served with a big spoon to help with the twirling, bless their hearts!

Of course, one can't continue packing and moving after a lunch like that. Only a nap will do!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Happy Bastille Day!

If we didn't already admire the French for their style, their appreciation of the best things in life, their culture, their cities, their food, their wines and their beautiful country, we'd surely admire them for their good sense in seeing through President Bush and refusing to support his invasion of Iraq.

Happy Bastille Day to the French. A votre sante' et votre intelligence!

Treasure Park

Tucked away between the SFMOMA and the Metreon is one of our favorite places in San Francisco, Yerba Buena Gardens. This little jewel of a park with its wonderful cascading fountain has improved every year since My Beloved and I lay in the grass when the trees were just saplings and fell back in love after 25 years apart.

Everything about this park is special - did you know you can walk behind the cascade, admire the sculptures, or rest your feet after a tour of the museum at the outdoor cafe above the fountain?

And on a rare warm, sunny San Francisco summer day, just hanging out on the grass or under the trees is not to be missed. MB and I wished on a penny thrown into this fountain and it has worked.

Visit the park when you're in town and make a wish of your own. It's obviously one of those magic fountains!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ya Gotta Love It

Ya gotta love all the funky, wonderful places there are in the Bay area to get a quick but delicious bite to eat! This is one of our standbys, the Seabreeze in Berkeley, right next to the frontage road at the corner of University on the bay side of the freeway.

I imagine the Seabreeze began as a fruit stand, as they still feature big boxes of fresh fruit, but they also offer a huge selection of baked goods, bottled drinks, and snack foods.

A great reason for going there is that you can order a sandwich picnic to go on your way to the Marina or the Dog Park, or hot things to eat at their (chained) picnic tables. Fine dining, it's not, but it's a great place to grab a bite and sit in the sunshine in your blue jeans with no shame.

We are particularly partial to their shrimp cocktail in a cup or their fresh salads. On our last visit, however, My Beloved and I were in the mood for oysters so he ordered the Oyster Sandwich and I opted for the fried oysters with fries and cole slaw. Both were too much to finish and very fresh and yummy.

Heart healthy? Probably not. Gourmet? Nah. But delicious on a sunny day? Ya gotta love it!


I posted about my Great Grandmother's china, but can't figure out how to change the date on the draft in order to have it positioned as the most recent post....hmmm. So, if you'd care to see her china and read the story, scroll down and down and down and down...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

An Old Green Idea

Here's the only part of house work that I truly enjoy; hanging out the wash is a win-win-win-win situation.

First, you get about 15 minutes of sunny, fresh air while your arm muscles get toned - well, not really about the arm muscles. Nothing short of weightlifting or yoga will do that.

Second win, your clothes smell like heaven when they come in off the line. There is no dryer sheet in the world that can match the scent of air-dried clothes, sheets and towels.

Third bonus, it uses no man-generated energy at all. That wonderful old sun does it all for you at no cost.

For those of you who say, "I don't have time to hang out the wash," I reply, "Of course you do!"

Most washers take half the time to do a load than dryers do; so while your next load is washing, you are hanging out the first load. Then, you can just go away and read a good book, commute to work, have coffee with a pal, take your sweetie to bed - whatever! - and come back a few hours later to find it all dry, sweet-smelling and ready to be folded away into closets and drawers where it will perfume your life. It actually takes far less time and waiting around for the darn dryer to ding at you!

It's an old idea whose time has come around again - let's string up our clotheslines and show the neighbors our best undies!

Anniversary Dessert

I don't think I did justice to the anniversary dinner dessert we enjoyed at Rivoli the other night. I keep dreaming about it. Warm apricot and cherry galette with vanilla ice cream and lemon balsamic syrup.


See the oozy stuff on the plate? That's the lemon balsamic syrup. It was tangy-sweet and really added liveliness to the dish. Of course, all that seasonal fruit didn't hurt, either. Nor the buttery crust. And I've always been a sucker for anything a la mode!

You can sell my clothes, I died and went to heaven.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Show Us Your Apron

Ilva at Lucullian wanted pictures of our aprons; here's the back of mine. It's easier to understand the construction when you see it from the back. It's a Japanese-style apron that covers the whole front and sides of the cook and has three-quarter length sleeves. I don't usually tie both ties, just slip it on, tie the top, and go.

When you find the authentic Japanese ones, they are usually white with a pretty little lace inset across the square neck. I wore out my authentic one and searched high and low for a replacement until I found this admittedly ugly print one to replace it. I'm still looking for another authentic one but I've had this one for a long time and we are comfortable with each other.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Anniversary Dinner

Okay, so not content with showering me with tickets to concerts and wonderful champagne glasses, MB treated me tonight to an anniversary dinner at Rivoli in Berkeley on Solano Avenue.

This was our first visit to Rivoli where we admired the small, quiet dining room with a back wall that is completely glass, showcasing the lovely little garden filled with green and flowers.

And the dinner! This is my plate of Mixed Grill of Liberty Duck Leg Confit, Rivoli Chicken Sausage and Fennel Cured Pork Tenderloin with Petite Cassoulet and Watercress Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette.


Everything was delicious, perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the slightly astringent watercress with vinaigrette made the meats sit up and sing. It was all simply delicious but I made sure my last bite was the Rivoli Chicken Sausage - it was unbelievably good!

The service was wonderful, too, attentive without smothering, prompt without the least hint of hurrying us along, and even the guy who cleared the table did it quietly and gracefully. No clashing of plates here.

And the dessert!

I reserved a piece of the apricot cherry galette with vanilla ice cream and lemon balsamic syrup because our server hinted that they were running low on that dessert. Bless her heart! I raise my glass to her! The crust was buttery, the fruit was perfect and the lemon syrup just tangy enough to complement the rest. I'd have licked the plate if I thought I could do it gracefully!

A wonderful end to our 8th anniversary celebration. Happy Anniversary, again, MB!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cantaloupe Granita

As a child, when I wanted something really, really badly, my mother said I had a case of the "gimmes." I've been reading so much about ice cream and sorbet on my favorite food blogs and magazines that I got the "gimmes" for an ice cream maker of my own. I could imagine myself gleefully tasting fruit combos and finally getting a coffee-enough coffee ice cream.

Oh, the possibilities!

On the other hand, said my practical side, how often would you really use it when there's lots of great ice cream to be purchased here in the Bay area and people who know a whole lot more about making it than you do? Hmmm...good point!

So, I decided to make granita instead.

A quick check through epicurious.com showed me more recipes than I ever need, and the Cantaloupe Granita sounded wonderful. Bonus, I already had a cantaloupe on my counter perfuming the air.

Here's the result. It tastes like the essence of cantaloupe, only colder and crunchier. It works as a palate cleanser between courses or as a light dessert. Either way, it's a celebration of summer and so easy to make that I didn't need any equipment more sophisticated than a blender, a glass pie plate (although epicurious recommends metal) and a fork.

Good solution for the "gimmes." And Mom's demitasse cups make a container for it!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Sarita's China

Behold my great grandmother's china. We have a history of gold-on-white china in my family and, apparently, Sarita was the trend setter. I thought my own version was pretty until this set was given to me by my older sister, who had it from our mother, who had it from her mother, who had it from Sarita!

Sort of like the begats in the bible, only culinary and female.

I grew up eating dinner across the room from Sarita's rather stern portrait on the dining room wall of whatever Navy quarters we occupied at the time; if her expression is any indication, she hated sitting for her portrait. I didn't think I'd have liked her until her china showed up.

Being a lover of beautiful tableware, I'm delighted to design sumptuous table settings around this lovely set. The decoration is actually raised, very tactile. Sarita was blind for much of her life; maybe that explains it.

And maybe Sarita was a sensualist. I think I might have liked her very much.

Bubbly Anniversary

My Beloved's idea of an anniversary present; not the champagne (although that was delicious!) but the French crystal flutes, circa 1910, from Culinaire.

I had been drooling over these last month when we went to the Ferry Building to buy some wine. He knows I'm a sucker for beautiful table settings.

Best of all, the celebration started last Friday and our eighth anniversary is tomorrow.

The man is a keeper!

Along with these came tickets to see the Beach Boys and Kiri Te Kanawa (not a double bill!), so the party continues.

See what I mean about being lucky?

Happy Anniversary, Beloved.

The Incredibly Spoiled Cat

Behold the Incredibly Spoiled Cat (ISC). She has two college-educated people working full time to keep her in comfort.

As you may know, dogs have owners but cats have staff. My beloved (MB) and I are the staff. We embrace our humble role. She deigns to accept our warm laps.

One evening when she was about 10 years old, as MB and I were having an intimate dinner for two with votive candles on the table for atmosphere, the ISC jumped up on the table and proceeded to walk toward our plates across the top of the candles, setting her ruff on fire. Luckily MB had the presence of mind quickly to "pat her out," whereupon with a disgusted look over her shoulder at being manhandled, she jumped down again leaving
two incredulous staff and the smell of burned fur in her wake.

She is dumb as a box of rocks but it doesn't matter. She still rules.

New Fridge

It's only a month or so old but already it is covered with fridge "art."

It arrived looking very sleek and clean almost like a piece of Brancusi sculpture, but that didn't last long. Whoever would dare to clutter up a Brancusi sculpture?

We immediately commandeered the space for our favorite pictures of ourselves, reminders of dear and distant family and friends (some even gone to heaven) and of course the toast tongs and the church key, not to mention the cutting boards tucked along side. It merits a clutter-free zone so one could just admire it but I think it's happier this way.

Kind of the Velveteen Rabbit of kitchen appliances. Think I'll at least clean the inside.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Sharp Knives

Behold the humble knife sharpener. She is my friend.

When my knives are sharp, cooking is a breeze; when I have to fight to slice a ripe tomato, it's like sledding with no snow.

Yesterday, I sharpened all my knives and today the kitchen work is a joy.

I know, I know, you're supposed to use a steel or a stone if you are a serious cook, so I guess I'm not. I'm sure my twin idols, Julia Child and Jacques Pepin, would scorn my electric knife sharpener. But, today I'm a happy cook and life is good.