Friday, September 28, 2012

Food for thought

Some favorite foodie quotes (i.e., words I live by) -- merely an excerpt, as there are so many good ones out there:

“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt.” ― Charles M. Schulz

“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold, it would be a much merrier world.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

“Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” ― Julia Child

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.” ― Julia Child

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ― Hippocrates

“Always serve too much hot fudge sauce on hot fudge sundaes. It makes people overjoyed, and puts them in your debt.” ― Judith Olney

“Tis an ill cook that cannot lick his own fingers.” ― William Shakespeare

“The preparation of good food is merely another expression of art, one of the joys of civilized living…” ― Dione Lucas

“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” ― Mark Twain

“Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” ― Craig Claiborne

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Falling for fall

Right. So, fall in California – official as of last Saturday, but there were signs beforehand. As we all know, I love autumn. As in, I luuuuurve autumn. This is definitely my favorite time of year – I love the cooler weather, the beautiful trees, the clothes, the sense of coziness, apples and pumpkins and winter squash (which, of course, means apple pie and apple sauce and apple cider and apple cider doughnuts and…okay, I’ll stop now. I think you get the point). Plus, to top everything off, we are officially at the beginning of the holiday season! YES! Before you know it, Halloween will have come and gone and it’ll be time to prep for THE BIG ONE (Thanksgiving, which there is already a feature about on and then Christmas. I am already so excited that I can barely contain myself. I just realized that the next round of magazines to arrive will all be Thanksgiving ones! Wyatt says, “Did someone say…turkey?”

But back to the matter at hand. I apologize, I know I tend to get distracted by holidays…and turkey…and cooking…and Starbucks…(wow, I’m in kind of a goofy mood today, huh?). I was concerned that moving out here would mean no fall. After all, I was coming from New England, the kingdom of autumn. And while fall might not be quite as in your face here, it definitely makes its presence known. The weather hasn’t changed dramatically, although it is cooler in the mornings and evenings. But that was kind of to be expected – the weather is fairly steady year round here, and it is always pretty ideal, so no complaints. The leaves on certain trees are changing colors – mostly to a brilliant red, which is very pretty. It seems like the further north one goes, the more color there is – there is even a difference from Oakland up to Berkeley. There are several drives recommended for leaf peepers, pretty much all somewhat north of me, and I really hope to take one with Wyatt and the brother. Perhaps most exciting of all, fall produce has made its way to the farmers’ market – apples, pears, some squash and pumpkins, sunflowers – I’m in heaven! A number of the apples are old heirloom varieties that you don’t see much anymore (including Jonathon, a long-time fave of my dad’s although he never get his hands on any). There is actually a whole section of the region called “apple hill” that features apple orchards, cider makers, and apparently the best apple cider doughnuts ever (we’ll see about that). Anyway, I hope to take a drive that way in a couple weeks, once the season peaks – check out this link for more info: So far, autumn in northern California has been quite satisfying.

Last weekend was the Eat Real Festival at Jack London Square in Oakland. Because I live pretty close, the roommate and I went twice – Friday evening and Saturday morning. And boy, did we eat – lobster roll bites (good, but not as good as at the Clam Shack in MA), nutella-strawberry crème brulee, frozen custard, spring rolls, garlic mac and cheese, cupcakes (twice), and a caramel apple topped with bacon. True story. Everything was delicious, and it was a lot of fun to wander and see what everybody was eating. A whole weekend festival dedicated to food!

Cooked four more recipes from Barefoot in Paris over the weekend, too!

Finally, here’s a funny pic of Alex, hanging his head in shame and admitting defeat to the pancakes – hence the white flag.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A new toy!

I have a thing for kitchen gadgets – have I ever mentioned this before? Seriously, I am a total sucker for gadgets of all kinds, even those ridiculous ones that really only have the one purpose, because you just never know when that is the one thing that is going to make or break a recipe.

I’ve been wanting a food mill for several years, but hadn’t been able to justify getting one – the Oxo one I picked out was perpetually stuck in my Amazon wish list, along with a French rolling pin, a mortar and pestle, a tart pan with removable bottom, a special heart-shaped dish to make coeur a la crème…never mind the approximately four dozen cookbooks…

So back to the point of this post, and please disregard my OCD when it comes to Amazon kitchen purchases. Anyway, a couple weeks ago I saw a recipe for applesauce that sounded super easy – but there was just one catch. You guessed it – I needed a food mill. Finally, the motivation I’d been looking for! It turned out that Bed Bath and Beyond has the same Oxo mill for the same price as Amazon, plus I was able to use one of their infamous 20 percent off coupons, plus there is a location literally down the street from my apartment, with the mill in stock – so yay for instant gratification! My total, including tax, was just about $43.

Over the weekend I finally had a chance to try it out. I made the applesauce (by the way, that recipe is here: and it was divine. I loooooove homemade applesauce. Something about it is just a million times better than the store bought kind. My grandparents always make a lot of “lumpy applesauce” each fall, especially when I am coming to visit because they know how much I love it. I’ll really miss that this year, being out in California. But alas, I was able to make myself a pretty decent substitute, and the food mill definitely made it super-easy. (Confession: this applesauce is so good, I find myself wandering over to the fridge, pulling out the bowl, and eating a spoonful or two every few minutes.) Mavis makes this note at the bottom of her recipe: “Fresh applesauce will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 days.  If you don’t think you’ll go through it that fast, you can always freeze it.” Um, like that’s even a concern. This stuff will be looooong gone five days from now.

As it turned out, another recipe I’d planned to make Saturday also called for a food mill, so double score! I made Ina Garten’s Garlic mashed Potatoes (as seen in Barefoot in Paris) and they were really good – as I’d expect them to be, considering that I love all her recipes. The mill helped make them super creamy but not too thin. That reminds me – I haven’t discussed this yet!

As you all know, I recently moved from New England to San Francisco. There were a lot of factors that contributed to this move, but one was definitely my love for food – SF seemed like an ideal place to nurture that passion. And for the most part, it is. I’ve been able to go to some restaurants/cafes/shops that I’d heard so much about in magazines or on TV. The farmers’ markets are great. Food is just so central to life and culture here, and in that way, I fit right in. However…I was hoping that there’d be some sort of part-time certificate program in culinary or (preferably) pastry arts that I’d be able to do on weekends or something. I want to improve my skills and…I don’t know, legitimize myself. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find what I am looking for. There are some very neat sounding one-time classes around (even at the CIA in Napa, so I’m psyched by that opportunity). I’m bummed, but I haven’t given up. In the meantime, I recently discovered that Ina Garten (one of my very favorite food personalities) really has no formal culinary training. She says she learned to cook mostly from friends and by cooking her way through various cookbooks. In a move completely ripped off inspired by Julie and Julia, I’ve decided to do just that – I am going to cook every recipe in Barefoot in Paris. This is a good choice for such a project because it is a beautiful book, very accessible, but with a moderate amount of recipes (compared to, say, Mastering the Art of French Cooking), plus there is a gorgeous picture accompanying each recipe. Flipping through it the other day, I realized I’d already made two of the recipes (rosemary cashews and croquet monsieur)! After this past weekend, I’ve made two more – lemon chicken and the mashed potatoes. Off to a good start!

For my next post, expect to see musing about fall in northern California.

Friday, September 14, 2012

An ode to...Starbucks

As the summer season begins to turn, my incorrigible heart begins to yearn
For those autumn staples which I love – salted caramel mocha sent from above
And a pumpkin cream cheese muffin too, a seasonal delight for me and you.

Then the local Starbucks is decked out in red and the holiday season comes to head
A peppermint mocha, oh such joy! More than Santa and any toy.
A pound of Christmas blend as always sends me into a delirious daze.

The rest of winter is cozy and warm, and Starbucks is welcome in any form
As spring begins to blossom we lighten up, and then summer brings an icy cup
So many delights all year round – thank goodness a Starbucks on every block abounds!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I may never stop talking about last Sunday

Let me apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I just had so many exciting things to talk about.

No exaggeration – this past Sunday was one of the best days of my life! Alex and I spent the day in Napa before heading to a John Hiatt concert, and the whole day was epic. Here’s the rundown:

We left Berkeley around 11, and didn’t arrive in Calistoga (the very northern part of the Napa region) until almost 1:30. Unfortunately, this is pretty typical – its only a 50 miles drive or so, but traffic tends to suck. Thankfully we swung through Starbucks on the way (side note: fall drinks and treats are back! I got a salted caramel mocha and it was to die for. This also means that its pumpkin cream cheese muffin time! I’ll let you know how that goes as soon as I get my hands on one). It was a gorgeous day and we had good tunes in the car, so the drive was pleasant.

Finally we arrived at a tasting room in Calistoga. I had spent some time on Google and Yelp looking for some inexpensive wine tastings for two reasons – 1, I was trying to save some money (duh) and 2, this isn’t really Alex’s thing – he was mostly doing it to humor me – so I didn’t want him to spend a ton either. It turns out that there are a TON on inexpensive tastings available throughout Napa, you just have to do your research. So anyway, we went to this place (and now I’ve totally forgotten the name, but I did buy a bottle there). While we were there, we got a coupon for two complimentary tastings at Markham ( – where it turns out they also had a free gallery full of photos from Rolling Stone’s original photographer – think Jerry Garcia, Hendrix, Janis Joplin, all in their prime, paired with the original Rolling Stones covers. Alex was ecstatic – this is definitely more his scene, and I was pleased because while the day was rather me-oriented, I wanted him to enjoy it too. So we drank some more free wine and checked out some very cool art. Then we had a delicious packed lunch in the parking lot (cheese, summer sausage, crackers). That concluded our wine tasting for the day – and ringing in at $6 each, it was not bad at all.

Next we headed over to the CIA Greystone, which is practically across the street from Markham. The woman at the first tasting room had recommended that we stop by. Honestly, I hadn’t realized that it was open to the public, and that there was an awesome campus store. The building is beautiful, like a castle, and there are also some neat displays inside – the antique corkscrew collection, for example. I wanted to drop everything and enroll and never leave…but I managed to contain myself (I have been looking for a part-time culinary program to enroll in, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but they are so dang expensive and I guess just not a very practical option right now). I did buy a cute bamboo salt box with the CIA logo on it and a postcard for my grandparents. I saw the cutest pink chef’s coat, too (hint, hint, mom and dad).

Next stop was Dean and DeLuca. I’d been surprised to see the shop last time I was in Napa; I’d always thought Dean and DeLuca was more of an East Coast thing. Regardless, I’d never actually been in one (just heard Julie talk about in Julie and Julia, and of course, Felicity worked there…). Paradise. I walked away with a very cool burlap tote bag, and Alex got some licorice, so everyone was happy. We drooled over the meats and cheese cases, and the homemade marshmallows, but managed to resist. But  I wanted one of everything in the store (of course, I felt the same way back at the CIA shop…I’m incorrigible, I know).