What makes a better gift than DIY cocktail supplies? This kind of gift is cute, unique, and way more useful than another pair of hand-knit socks. Best of all, it’s surprisingly easy to make the components of one of my favorite cocktails, the Manhattan. Well, all of the components except for the rye whiskey. That one, I’ll leave to the experts.
Archive for February, 2009
I’ve been spending entirely too much time watching episodes of The French Chef with Julia Child that my friend Craig gave me.
I find Mrs. Child oddly hypnotic. There is something about her uniquely-accented voice and the not-entirely graceful movement of her formerly 6′ 2″ body that compels me to watch her.
And watch her I do. Over and over again.
This week, I’ve been enjoying an early, black and white episode wherein she gives a champagne and coffee party in honor of:
“…the Queen of Sheba, which turns out to be this dark beauty, made of chocolate, and almonds, and rum, and butter!”
She then invites us into her kitchen where she promises we’ll make:
“the best chocolate cake you ever put in your mouth.”
That’s one heavy promise, but I love her enthusiasm.
I decided to put my money where Mrs. Child’s mouth is and examine this cake and the woman behind it, however superficially.
Sure, I love chocolate truffles and Valentine’s Day goodies, but February has another sweet treat: pea shoots. If you haven’t tried these lovely greens before, you’re in luck because they’re all over the farmer’s market right now. And, at $1 or $2 a bag, you can feel the love.
Zinfandel wines leave their mark on you. As I strolled out of Fort Mason’s Hearst Pavilion Saturday earlier this month, I looked down and noticed my fingers were stained purple. I had tasted more than 30 wines over the course of two hours at the 18th annual Grand Zinfandel Tasting thrown by ZAP, Zinfandel Advocates and Producers. The next day, my index finger still bore the mark of Zinfandel. People love this grape because it possesses that kind of indelible power, joyfully married to flavors of raspberry, chocolate, and spice.
One of the great things about living in San Francisco is that perfect pairings are available in all parts of town. Let me explain what I mean by this term: often, an evening out for me will involve dinner and drinks before or after at a location that is in the general vicinity of dinner. When the food and the drinks combine to make for a perfect dining experience, I consider this to be a “perfect pairing.”
Cupid’s bow is strung, the candy hearts are out, and there’s no shortage of $75-a-plate ways to dine with your sweetie this Valentine’s Day. But do the two of you really want to spend next Saturday plodding through four or five overwrought, overgarnished courses, just one more pair of credit-card-toting giraffes shuffling in for feeding time at the Ark?
Especially when you could take that same chunk of change and spend it on a week or more of the best aphrodisiac Nature can provide. I’m talking, of course, of oysters, and better yet, of the $1 (or even free) oysters on the half-shell available all around town.
Peanut butter is the ultimate kid food. From sandwiches made with little jammy hands to apple slices dipped into a creamy mess, peanut butter makes up its own kid food group. Unfortunately, right now we are in the midst of a major peanut butter recall. It’s on the news all the time and grocery store shelves have gaping holes where peanut butter items once sat. Even dog treats are being recalled.
Early this week, I received a rather frantic phone call from a friend of mine.
“Hi, I know I only call you when I need a favor…”, she said, which is entirely untrue.
“Do you know anyone who’d want a case of live crabs? Like, right now?” I was hoping she meant food-grade crabs. Not pthius pubis.
“I was going to send a case of Dungeness crabs to the East Coast, but that’s not happening anymore and I’m… well… I’m not going to touch them.”
I told her I didn’t know anyone off hand who would want them, but that I would post an alert on my Facebook page, since I’ve got at least a good 50 food freaks on my friends list who always seem to be online.
I hung up the phone.
One evening I decided to teach my two American roommates how to make a Spanish tortilla (one of my top egg-and-potato standards, and one of my ultimate comfort foods). If you’ve never had it, a Spanish tortilla is nothing like a Mexican tortilla, but more like a frittata. Made from only a handful of ingredients–eggs, potatoes, olive oil, and salt–it is not only very cheap to make, but you probably have most of the ingredients in your pantry already. I would consider it the national dish of Spain, and you can find it in various forms throughout the country.
One look at Socola Chocolatier’s whimsical mascot, a flying white alpaca named Harriet, and you just know that this won’t be your typical gourmet chocolate. No, Socola Chocolatier is anything but typical. The promising, Oakland-based enterprise is young, exciting, and full of modern day sass. “Delicately Daring” is quite the perfect motto sister entrepreneurs Wendy and Susan Lieu have chosen for their business.
But the 826 Valencia store only scratches the surface of this non-profit’s mission — to support children with their writing skills and to help teachers get their students excited about the writing. Dave Eggers, local writer, was one of the founders of 826 Valencia, and its impact has spread nationwide.
While at the store, I picked up a copy of Seeing Through the Fog: A Gateway to San Francisco, which is one of the projects to come out of 826 Valencia last year. It is a tour guide of San Francisco of sorts, written by 72 seniors of Gateway High School. Essays cover a wide spectrum of the city.
As a Californian trapped indoors by East Coast snow, I was running out of things to eat. It was way too cold to leave the house. A whole day stretched ahead, wide and open. If you have a TV, then you’re set. If you don’t…well, thank goodness for friends who happen to have a big dining room table, a pile of apples in the corner and enough curiosity to humor a restless house guest.
Because, to pass the time, I suggested a lesson on stretching strudel. My host, who once watched his grandfather from the Old World make the famously flaky pastry, had never tried it. We set about updating his memories to include an actual recipe. One day soon, he’ll be able to pass along the tradition to his own little daughter when she’s ready to tie on an apron.
For a high-profile chef from New York City, it takes a certain amount of moxie to stand up at the recent Ecological Farming Conference at Asilomar and admit how much you love foie gras. It’s especially provocative if you’re Dan Barber, buddy of Michael Pollan, chef of the acclaimed Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns restaurants, and very vocal advocate of local, seasonal, and sustainable cooking.