It’s 5 o’clock, and you’re leaving the office in search of some post-work libations and snacks before dinner. You could go the traditional happy hour route — where you’re limited to a few drinks and small bites within a short window of time — or you could up the ante and visit a Japanese izakaya.
Archive for December, 2008
I’m inaugurating a wine blog today on Bay Area Bites. It’s a labor of love for me. I worked for a decade in the wine trade in the seventies and eighties, in New York City, San Francisco, and the Napa Valley. I’ve kept a toehold in the industry since then, while working as a news editor, reporter and anchor at KQED Public Radio. I still get a thrill from tasting great wine, or decent wine that’s a great value; and my cup runneth over with suggestions. People look at me strangely (“Is this nut coming on to me?”) when I make recommendations in the liquor aisle at Safeway. So this blog will provide a more acceptable outlet for my tasting notes. I’ll try to avoid numbers, and talk about how these wines behave on the lunch or dinner table, where they belong. I did a bubbly tasting not long ago; and with New Year Eve upon us, I wanted to share my thoughts, and those of my guests, on what we liked.
I’m going to make just one prediction for 2009:
Urban gardens will become as de rigueur as weekly trips to the farmer’s market.
Of course, I’m not the first to notice the idea of urban food production coming into the forefront. Last year saw the launch of San Francisco’s Victory Garden pilot project and Wired magazine had an article on Urban Farming as well. Most likely you saw Slow Food Nation’s Victory Garden at City Hall or you may have even heard about Graze the Roof, a Summer rooftop edible garden at Glide Memorial. While those projects are over, the idea of producing food in an urban setting has only just begun.
This is the third year in a row that I have published a list of my favorite tastes of the year. My personal rules for the tastes: they have to be something that I first tried in 2008, and they must knock my socks off. I am lucky that every year I am able to taste new dishes that completely change my culinary point-of-view. This year I delved more into Thai food, and spent a lot of time in San Francisco so not many dishes are from out-of-town.
After the holidays’ repeated culinary excesses, my mouth, stomach, and soul are all screeching for something quite simple and healthful. This lentil soup always fits the bill. I’m not sure if it’s the folic acid-loaded lentils or the fresh, cleansing flavor of the parsley that does it for me, but whatever it is, I’m hooked.
One of the things I love about cooking around the holidays is experimenting with all the ingredients in my refrigerator. Although I have a great time planning our Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s feasts, I think I enjoy the impromptu ones even more. Take Christmas breakfast this year: although I had every intention of making cinnamon rolls the night before Christmas so we could have freshly-baked ooey gooey deliciousness in the morning, an ill-timed head cold forced me to bed early. So there we were, Christmas morning with no buns. What we did have, however, was a fridge full of fresh and luxurious holiday ingredients.
Some people look forward to Christmas all year. They start designing their Holiday cards before the dye on their Easter eggs has even dried. Thanksgiving isn’t treated so much as a reflective day spent with friends and family, but rather as an appropriate time to start dragging out the Holiday decorations.
I know people like this, but I am not one of them.
My favorite December day happens to be today, known in the Commonwealth countries as Boxing Day or, more religiously, as the Feast of St. Stephen.
In brief, Boxing Day custom dictates that those of the privileged classes give something back to the little people– those folks who spend the year cleaning their toilets, corraling their children, and fetching them lattes. Little tokens of thanks are offered, like thoughtful long distance phone cards, cash, and things generally gone unused and unwanted by the rich. A dear little tradition, if you ask me.
Upon first hearing about the holiday without actually knowing anything about it, I thought the name implied either the much-looked-forward-to boxing up and putting away of Christmas decorations. Upon deeper reflection, I decided it was a day spent putting unwanted Christmas gifts back in their packaging to be returned at the soonest possible opportunity.
I’ve finally gone and done it. I killed my sourdough starter. It had a very well-meaning life, and when it was good, it was really superb (in my pizza dough). It was strong, at least in it’s youth. But the other morning, when I was clearing out the refrigerator in preparation for Christmas, I came across it, pushed into the back of the fridge, forlorn and forgotten. How could I?
For the second year in a row, Scharffen Berger and TuttiFoodie are hosting the Chocolate Adventure Contest. You have a little over two weeks to put the finishing touches on your best chocolate recipe in one of three categories–beverage, sweet or savory that includes at least one “adventure” ingredient and Scharffen Berger® Chocolate:dark chocolate (mentioning exact cacao content anywhere from 62 to 99 percent), milk chocolate or cocoa.
As we wind up 2008, I will be happily ringing in the new year and looking forward to the new restaurants that 2009 will bring to San Francisco. Here are three restaurants specifically that I cannot wait for: Contigo. Contigo is being opened by a friend — Brett Emerson from In Praise of Sardines. Urbino. Urbino will be the third restaurant to be opened in San Francisco by the group that brought us A16 and SPQR. Heaven’s Dog. In January, we can look forward to a new restaurant from Charles Phan of Slanted Door fame.
Although I didn’t make it Saul’s Deli this year for their annual Neverending Latke sidewalk fest, a lingering craving for piles of crispy potato cakes convinced my husband to brave the task of grating and frying.
He more or less followed a straightforward recipe from Gourmet and managed to deliver, with his first try, a most excellent feast.
It’s no surprise that with the excessive amounts of cooking, cleaning, wrapping, and holiday stress that comes from missing family and friends, Christmas movies can really sock it to your emotional core. Give yourself a night off and huddle up with some classic homey movies, some comforting local take-out, and several boxes of Kleenexes.
Last weekend, I wandered back into Omnivore Books on Food to pick up a copy of Margaret Visser‘s The Rituals of Dinner, that store owner Celia Sacks was kind enough to order for me (without my even having to ask, thank you very much).
I knew Clark Wolf, author of American Cheeses: The Best Regional, Artisan, and Farmhouse Cheeses would be there, talking about his book with Soyoung Scanlan of Andante Dairy.
As an American who happens to love cheese, the timing of my store visit required little thought.
Every family has its own way of celebrating the winter holidays. But what happens when two different cultures converge through marriage? Although my husband and I both grew up celebrating Christmas, this is exactly what happened to us 15 years ago when we started dating.