Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

I forget what I've told you about Thanksgiving plans for this year, so let me recap quickly. Basically, my parents aren't coming to town and I'm not going out of town, so I ended up inviting some friends/co-workers over for the occasion. We ended up with nine guests -- myself included -- which is the largest meal I've ever made for anyone! If I do say so myself, the whole event was a smashing success.

The menu was fairly basic, but delicious. I started with a cheeseboard appetizer made of local cheeses along with some persimmons, local honey, olives, and crackers. The main course was, of course, turkey, which I brined. This was my first brining experience, and both my brother and I agreed that it may have been the best turkey I've ever cooked. I also invested (a whooping $12) in an instant read thermometer, which may have been the best thing I purchased in months. I was able to set an alarm so that as soon as the turkey reached the right temp, I could pull it out of the oven, virtually eliminating the chance of over cooking. Sides included gravy, mashed potatoes, dressing, two kinds of cranberry sauce, classic green bean casserole, glazed carrots, rolls, herbed butter, and sweet potatoes -- all the basics, really. I asked guests to bring dessert, which was great because then I didn't have to cook it! We ended up with pumpkin pie, chocolate cheesecake, and a classic Indian dessert that unfortunately I forget the name of (oops). What made menu planning especially interesting is that one of my guests is a vegetarian. I thought it would be more of a challenge then it ended up being, actually. I made everything with vegetable stock instead of chicken stock (except for the turkey and gravy, which I made with homemade turkey stock) and it turned out perfectly!
A vat of dressing!

A locally-sourced cheeseboard.
The meal was served with a variety of red and white wines, plus mulled wine with dessert. Have I mentioned that I'm a member of the Chateau Montelena Cellarmaster wine club? Anywho, I am, and their zin was the star wine of the day, in my opinion. Side bar: if you haven't seen the movie Bottle Shock, see it! I have vague future plans for some kind of Bottle Shock viewing party involving Chateau Montelena wines, but nothing concrete yet.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Buzz buzz, plus some

So, this may seem totally random, but I took a beekeeping class last Saturday -- and it was awesome! It all started a couple of months ago when I went on a Groupon spree and bought a few different classes to try out (pottery, sewing, etc.). After purchasing one of the classes, a recommendation came up for this beekeeping class. It wasn't very expensive and I figured, why not? In one of the silly life coincidences, I'd just watched Queen of the Sun and The Vanishing of the Bees, which had piqued my interest. Furthermore, my mom had visited shortly prior to that and talked about some grants she'd heard about for new beekeepers, so beekeeping was kind of just on my radar at that point. And then, voila! This class shows up. Almost like fate, one might say.

The class was organized by Round Rock Honey, who work with beekeepers all over to put together these classes. This particular class was held in Redwood City by Golden Harvest Bees, run by Janet and Richard Baxter. They run the apiary in their backyard suburban home, and Richard also has hives throughout the Bay Area. They sell honey, beeswax candles, and soap that Janet makes (if you're in the area, check them out -- they're both super-nice and their products are great -- and no, they didn't pay me to say that).

Friday, September 27, 2013

And now, Bottega in pretty pictures

My dear friend Danielle, whom you may recall from the origins of this very blog, flew all the way from Vermont to visit me last week. We had such an epic adventure, I don't even know where to begin. We started with touristy San Francisco stuff, and finished with an absolutely amazing weekend in Napa. I'm sure I'll be back with all the details and play-by-play, but for now, here are some pretty pictures of dinner at Bottega. Enjoy!

Pasta Fritta -- basically a deconstructed salad of figs wrapped in prosciutto (the undisputed king of meats), Parmesan puffs, and wine foam.
Ricotta gnocchi
Duck! And roasted grapes...
A finale of olive oil cake with macerated raspberries and fig gelato.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

New Chipotle ad

Check this out -- incredibly poignant and haunting, especially considering the source...

Thoughts? And to think, this is barely an exaggeration of reality.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Dinner at Bouchon (in pretty pictures)

Early last month, my dad came for a visit to the Bay Area -- and hence commenced several days of cooking, eating, and sight-seeing. We had a great time, which culminated in a day trip to Napa (dad had never been before and since has been known to say, "That may have been the best day of my life." I could ramble on for a bit about the trip, but instead, I'll just share these pictures from dinner at Bouchon (one of Chef Thomas Keller's Napa restaurants). Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

As promised

Long overdue after my cryptic comment about tilapia -- check it out:


Read the blog, it is pretty self-explanatory.

I know, I know. Like I needed another project. I can't even handle the ones I've already self-imposed upon myself. But oh well -- this has been a really interesting and educational endeavor, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes!

Speaking of projects -- two more recipes down! Zucchini gratin and plum cake tatine. I've just ordered some special baking dishes from Amazon so that I can proceed with some of the other recipes. So, progress!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

An All Over the Place Update

Busy, busy times these days – you gotta love summer. There is just so much going on, so much foodie-ness to bask in. Often times it seems like it is just flying by, but the good news is that I’ve been doing my best to take advantage of it, and I have a ton to update you on.

So, first things first – the cookbook project. I know many of you probably thought I’d abandoned said project, but I haven’t. It was on hold for a while (work has been out of control busy), but I’m back in the game. As I mentioned before, I’m kind of trying to take in chapter by chapter, starting, of course, with desserts. I’ve managed to complete three recipes lately – Coeur la crème, plum-raspberry crisp, and meringues Chantilly (pictured below).  A useful hint about Coeur la crème – when the recipe calls for heavy cream, it means heavy cream. Half and half will not be an adequate substitute and the Coeur will not set up. Not that I speak from experience…ahem. So anyway, making good progress there and I’ll be back with another update soon (I hope).

In other news – I saw Michael Pollan speak last week! It was awesome – he’s a fantastic speaker – funny yet obviously incredibly well-versed and knowledgeable. I found his talk to be both incredibly entertaining and inspiring. He was speaking as part of the Contra Costa County library summer reading festival, and to celebrate the library’s 100th birthday. As such, the tickets were incredibly cheap ($12!) and the venue was very cool – the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek – which, by the by, apparently has great shopping and was a surprisingly cute town.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

After 10 days in New England

I drank seven of these...

Dunkin Donuts medium French Vanilla iced coffee with cream. My life's blood. (Especially when served with a Boston Kreme doughnut on the side...)

I ate three of these...
The Clam Shack's lobster roll, served with sweet potato fries, for $6.95. It literally does not get any better than this.

 And I made this cake from scratch, thanks to Martha Stewart...

Vanilla cake with creamy vanilla frosting, to celebrate grandpa's 85th birthday.

It was good to be home.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Things have gotten a bit out of control

Now, I've never been one to be ashamed of my love of Starbucks, as you all know (a certain poem comes to mind...) However, recently things have spun wildly out of control. I got two of my co-works -- we'll call them N and J -- hooked on the stuff too. J is especially bad -- he gets a venti latte (I usually stick with a grande). Recently we've taken to making Starbucks a daily trip. I'll even admit that there have been days that it has happened twice. I'm officially a gold member with my gift card. Not good for our wallets or our waistlines. So, we collectively decided that Wednesdays would be 'no Starbucks' day. And I have to tell you, I'm jonesing hard right now. I understand that it is just because I've been told (even if just by myself) that I can't have any, but it is all I'm think about. My brain is going "Starbucks...Starbucks...STARBUCKSSTARBUCKSSTARBUCKS!" My hands are jittery. I can barely type.

It doesn't help that today I got an e-mail that a free drink has been loaded onto my gift card.

Tomorrow can't come soon enough.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Now is the time...

...when farmers everywhere are purchasing chicks from their local tractor supply. I really, really want some chickens. And ducks. And a cow. That is all! (Cluck cluck)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CSAs and Monterey

Yes, I’m still here. No, nothing terrible has happened – I’ve just been super busy, as usual. I went to Florida for a quick trip a couple weekends ago and I am still wiped out from it. But, life must go on.
In any event, here are some updates, random thoughts, and so on.
A lot of my “food attention” has been spent lately on the idea of sustainable eating and what that means and how to achieve it. Have you ever done one of those online carbon foot print calculators (like this one: -- this is just one of many, many out there)? They can be quite depressing. I did a couple recently and was dismayed by my results! I realize that I’m not perfect, but hell, I thought I was on the right path – shopping at the farmers’ market, making my own cleaning supplies, recycling – all that jazz. Apparently not. Sigh. Actually, I took this quiz as part of an online class I was participating in through Coursea (you should definitely check this out, there are a ton of free, interesting courses you can take). This particular course was a six-week course about the US food systems, and it was absolutely fascinating and enlightening (I got an A, in case anyone was wondering). The professor was actually very reassuring about the poor results from the quiz, and just how overwhelming these topics can be in general. I mean, no one can ever eat perfectly, even if you’re a vegan, or follow a raw diet, or only eat organic, local produce. There is always room for improvement, and even just making an effort counts for something. In that vein, I joined a CSA out here! I’ve been looking for one for a while now, and it finally all fell into place. This particular one is with Farm Fresh to You, and they deliver to my office, which is super-convenient! It’s all organic and locally grown, and I’m getting a delivery every other week, which is perfect, because in the past I’ve had trouble keeping up with weekly deliveries (I mean, that is a lot of produce). So far I’m really happy with it! I also finally joined Slow Food USA. So, good things happening in that department.
I’ve been kind of all over the place with my cookbook challenge – a recipe here and there, but no real direction. To that end, I’ve decided to focus on one chapter at a time, starting, naturally, with desserts. Yum. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Completely fascinating

Take a scan through this article: I found it to be really, really interesting. There were some staples on the list, but also a few surprises -- and I've met one of them (Alice Waters, I'm looking at you)!

Seriously, though, what I thought was most interesting about this endeavor is that it really opens one's eyes to what influences what we eat. Sure, Food Network or your favorite food magazine (or other media outlet) are obvious choices -- although in those cases, the viewer/reader is already interested in food and taking the initiative to expose themselves to these influences. For the "other" eaters -- those that may or may not care about taste or nutrition, and do not have a strong interest in cooking or food culture -- the big influencers include fast food chains, Wal-Mart and other retail stores, commercials on TV...Maybe it is just me, but I found it quite interesting to think about what influences me and what I cook and eat and think about food. Anyway, the article stuck with me for a while after reading it, and I just wanted to share!

P.S. How awesome is it that Pinterest is on this list?!?! I am soooo addicted -- and in fact, I do get a lot of random food inspiration from the site (for example, the no-bake Nutella cheesecakes I whipped up last night). Don't forget, you can follow me on Pinterest and check out my boards at

Monday, January 21, 2013

An Evening at Baker and Banker

I’m not sure why it took me so long to churn this post out (its already two weeks overdue). I’m sure there’s an excuse of how busy I am, I’m still not over this cold, blah blah blah. Regardless, here (finally) is the recount of dinner at Baker and Banker (

And what a dinner it was! I forget where I first heard about Baker and Banker – Tasting Table? Food and Wine? The SF Inside Scoop? All plausible possibilities. Anyway, the restaurant had been hanging out on my “places to go” list for months when the opportunity to eat there finally presented itself a couple weekends ago. Some friends and I – the roommate among them – were going shopping to the city, and naturally, dinner plans fell to me. I actually tried to get a table at a couple other places first, and then when one at Baker and Banker was available, I snatched it up – and I’m so glad I did!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Proof that it can be done!

As small as this may seem, I actually managed to make a recipe from Barefoot in Paris last night -- the first since looooong before the holidays. Behold!

Warm goat cheese salad with homemade vinaigrette

And also, I have recently discovered the joys on Instagram. This, along with my Pinterest addiction, spells trouble!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Writer's block, a bit

As the title implies, I'm a bit stumped these days when it comes to blog topics. It is my own damn fault -- I haven't been spending nearly enough time in the kitchen lately, or thinking about food, or eating delicious food...basically, I just haven't given my hobbies a top priority lately. There are many reasons why (are you ready for this list of excuses?): I traveled a lot of the last month, the holidays were a completely hectic time, I've been watching my spending, and most of all, my heart just hasn't been in it, as cheesy as that sounds.

These are, of course, completely empty excuses. I have been spending a lot less on groceries lately, but given time and effort, I could still cook up a storm. Instead I've just been taking the easy way out -- pasta and sauce, pre-mixed salad from the farmers' market, leftovers...You get the gist. Well, enough is enough. I am still completely devoted to cooking my way through Barefoot in Paris -- a little hiatus was all I needed. Actually, I never shared these pictures:

Beef bourguignon from that cookbook (you can find the recipe here: I thought it needed a little something, but the roommate went mad for it, so what can I say? So, I'll be sure to keep you all updated on that front. The awesome new chef's knives that I got for Christmas are sure to help, too (thanks mom!). Seriously though, they're awesome. Here's hoping I can keep all my fingers.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Operation 2013 commences

Happy New Year readers (and while you may be quiet, I know you’re out there)!

I don’t want to take too long to reflect on 2012 and the twisty, turny, crappy year it turned out to be. I do, however, want to take a moment to think about Operation 2012. All in all, I deem it a success! For the first time ever, I actually kept some New Year’s resolutions – and then some. To recap: The point of Operation 2012 is that it was a year-long goal, meaning that each day didn’t have to be perfect and there was none of that pressure that usually accomplishes resolutions. I ran my 5K in September, have been successfully planning meals (and cutting down on grocery bills) for several months, I grew some food out on the patio, and my finances are in pretty good shape. Not too shabby, I’d say.

So, given the success of this endeavor, it only makes sense to give Operation 2013 a go. This year’s goals include running a half-marathon (although I’d be pretty pleased with just a 10K), continue to work on money issues, and spend my time/effort/energy/money on clothes, skincare, and general appearance. I also plan on going vegetarian for the month of January, partly to start the year in a healthy, whole way, and partly to atone for the meat I ate in 2012 (lamb at Chez Panisse, I’m looking at you).

I look forward to sharing the mistakes and successes that these goals bring throughout the year!