It must be summer

Posted by Anita on 08.13.06 8:07 PM

It’s almost harvest time…

tomatoes basil (c)2006 AEC

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JoAnn’s da man

Posted by Anita on 08.13.06 4:48 PM

JoAnn's sign (c)2006 AECWe had a ton of house projects to finish today, and that meant a trip to Lowe’s. What’s that got to do with food? Well, Lowe’s is in South City… and South City is home to JoAnn’s, an unpretentious little diner that’s become one of our favorite breakfast stops.

Now, I don’t want to get your hopes up: The breakfasts aren’t amazingly special — JoAnn’s no Dottie — but they’re usually tasty. And even though the place is always busy, there’s rarely a wait. People apparently come from far and wide for their muffins, if that’s your sort of thing.

I also love the place because if you’re not in the mood for breakfast, they serve the lunch menu — including a fabulous burger — all day long.

JoAnn’s Cafe
1131 El Camino Real
South San Francisco, CA 94080

breakfast, restaurants
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Saturday morning special

Posted by Anita on 08.12.06 10:24 PM

Ferry Plaza farmers market (c)2006 AECWe’d been doing really well, getting to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market every Saturday morning, for a while. Then houseguests descended, weekend trips took us away… and we kicked ourselves all week long as we suffered with crappy food from the supermarket at the time of year when no sane food-loving soul should ever tread the fluorescent aisles.

We finally found our way back to where we belong today, and with an added bonus: Our friend Carla was in town, and staying right across The Embarcadero from the market! We kidnapped her from her hotel, dragged her to the market for Blue Bottle coffee and chilaquiles at Primavera, then made our rounds: June Taylor for more preserves, Andante cheeses, Frog Hollow peaches, some amazing Charentais melons and bacon avocados, herbal salts at Eatwell Farms, Toulouse sausage from Fatted Calf, a pork shoulder at Prather, the usual assortment of things at Rancho Gordo… I could barely hold the bags when we were done!

Somehow, even in midsummer, it just didn’t seem that crowded, so we spent more time browsing, finding lots of tasty ideas for things to cook this week. And to get to spend the morning with one of my favorite Seattle people made it all the more fabulous.

breakfast, farmers markets, shopping


Range regulars

Posted by Anita on 08.12.06 1:09 PM

range (c)2006 AECWe started out the weekend at one of our favorite restaurants: Range. We’ve been coming here since soon after they first opened, and we — along with half of San Francisco — immediately fell in love with the coffee-rubbed pork shoulder served with creamed hominy. Then we dug deeper into the menu and found plenty of other strengths: a rotating sashimi/crudo selection, various riffs on pasta appetizers, and a bavette so good that I don’t even mind that it comes pre-sliced. (No need to comment: I know it’s supposed to be like that!)

It’s obvious that the bar staff cares a lot about how their creations get built, and comes up with specialty drinks that — although occasionally more perfect in inspiration than in execution — are some of the most creative cocktails in the city. Service is unfailingly professional and helpful, without smothering or being overly familiar — a solid balance.

The environment is half the fun of dinner at Range: It’s a little retro (industrial-meets-Art Deco, especially in the lighting), a little sexy (indirect lighting behind the backs of the banquettes) and a little hip (modern furniture, lots of brown). We like the banquettes in the main dining room quite a lot. The tables in the hallway between the bar and the main dining room, however, are a terrible place to eat: One person ends up staring at a blank wall, and the other has a view of the cooks’ heads, but none of the fun of the kitchen.

Anyway, back to Friday… Cameron started with a cocktail that featured green-tea gin, Lillet blanc, chartreuse, and lemon juice. It had potential, but needed a little something more: Cameron voted for more gin, while I thought more chartreuse. My drink was the night’s special, a mixture of Sun Gold tomatoes, Plymouth gin, elderflower syrup, and lemon juice. It was a lovely combination, and the tomato was a great ‘secret ingredient’ type of flavor, but they hadn’t seived the tomatoes, so the drink was muddied by pulp and an unappetizing layer of seeds gathered at the bottom of the glass.

Since it doesn’t get any better than mid-August when it comes to heirloom tomatoes, I opted for a salad that featured a nice assortment of varieties along with crescenza cheese and crispy breadcrumbs — an interesting contrast to the usual softness. Cameron, as usual, opted for the raw fish; the selection was paper-thin slices of sockeye salmon with avocado.

None of the newer main dishes caught my eye, so I chose the standby bavette, served with slow-roasted tomates, broccoli rabe, and an oddly refreshing horseradish sauce. Cameron’s halibut was perfectly prepared, but its corn-puree sauce was a touch strange-tasting.

To finsh the evening, we ordered the cheese plate: a perfectly ripe Roquefort served with marcona almonds and slivers of dates. The server also brought us an order of crepes with sauteed plums — presumably as an apology for her boss having lightly spritzed us with champagne earlier in the evening — served with a cardamom ice cream that I loved but Cameron studiously avoided.

All in all, we paid about $150, including tax and tip, for a thoroughly enjoyable dinner.

842 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

drinks, restaurants, The Mission
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Pardon our dust

Posted by Anita on 08.11.06 6:12 PM

We’re going to be moving from Blogger to WordPress over the weekend, so things may be a little wiggly while we put things in their proper place. No URL changes or anything else… just a little (hopefully temporary) aesthetic blip.

Update 08.13.06 10:13PM — We’re done with the migrane… er, I mean, migration. Please leave us a comment if you notice any broken links or other strangeness, apart from the usual author-induced strangeness. We hope you find the new format a little easier to navigate (and look at).

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Persistence pays off

Posted by Anita on 08.11.06 8:34 AM

caramel ice cream photo (c)2006 AECThis post has been brewing for a while. Originally it was going to be called “What’s wrong with my custard?” or “Gourmet gone bad” or something along those lines.

Early in the week, I attempted to make this luscious-sounding caramel ice cream with flaky sea salt from the July 2006 issue of Gourmet magazine. I made a deep caramel, I added it to a custard that I thickened to a precise 175 degrees and then strained through my finest seive. I cooled it in a metal bowl over an ice bath, then moved the chilled custard to the fridge overnight to temper.

The next night, I hauled out the trusty Cuisinart ice-cream maker, and poured in the custard to freeze during dinner. I can’t even remember what we ate… I was so distracted by the thought of this dessert. So you can imagine my disappointment when I peeked into the freezer bowl 30 minutes later and found nothing more than some very chilly custard. Hmm…

I let it keep on spinning for another half hour, until the chiller bowl started to be not very chilly. I spatula’d the whole thing back into the storage container, and vowed to try again tomorrow.

Two nights ago, I tried it again, with identical results. I decided that this was as frozen as it would get in the ice-cream maker, scraped the contents into the storage toot, and put it into the freezer to try and firm it up.

Last night: Ta-dah! It wasn’t really ice cream, but it definitely was frozen to a desserty consistency. And really, the serving shown in the photo was probably excessive — Cameron even said that one scoop would be plenty for a dinner party. And that’s probably good, since it didn’t make very much ice cream.

cooking, dessert, recipes


Drink of the week: Canton

Posted by Anita on 08.11.06 8:15 AM

Canton Cocktail photo (c)2006 AECI figure we drink enough foofy cocktails that we should be able to post one every Friday. Let’s see if we can keep it up…

Today’s cocktail, like so many we love right now, comes to us courtesy of Murray Stenson, bartender to the stars at Seattle’s Zig Zag Cafe. This is a good drink for folks who like their cocktails on the sweet side. For the record, Cameron isn’t one of them…

Canton Cocktail (aka Chinese Cocktail)
2 oz. Jamaican rum — Murray suggests Appleton VX
1 teaspoon Maraschino liqueur
1 teaspoon Cointreau
1 teaspoon quality grenadine
1 dash angostura bitters

Place all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice, and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

If you can’t find good grenadine, it’s easy to make your own. Buy a bottle of unsweetened pomegranate juice (Trader Joe’s sells a nice one), heat a cup of it over medium-low heat until it’s reduced by half, and then add sugar to taste — usually about 1/2 cup — and stir until dissolved. Cool before using in cocktails or Shirley Temples.

Drink of the Week, drinks, recipes


Julie of all trades

Posted by Anita on 08.10.06 1:12 PM

julie's ktichen (c)2006 AECI hate my lunchtime choices. I have the option of pricey chow at the Ferry Building, a long hike to decent places like The Toaster Oven or Cafe Madeleine, or an endless variey of cheerless crap right at my doorstep.

Across the street at 50 Fremont, for example, you’ll find these ‘appetizing’ choices: San Francisco Soup Company, Subway, Baja Fresh, and the new girl on the block, Julie’s Kitchen… located in a space that used to be a Mickey D’s.

As I stood on the corner at Market Street, I remembered a couple of co-workers telling me that Julie’s was a decent place to go when you couldn’t decide what to eat. It’s a pay-by-the-pound ($7.50 per, that is) “gourmet” buffet joint, with a focus on salady stuff and Asian-American food.

The options look pretty good as you walk in, but on closer inspection the various tables feature multiples of the same dish. I passed no fewer than three bowls filled with shrimp-avocado salad along my winding path, and that was far from the only duplication I noticed. Not many takers for that squicky-looking marinated tofu, I guess…

Limited options aren’t necessarily a bad thing, so long as what’s on offer is good. Unfortunately, by trying to be all things to all appetites, Julie’s manages to satisfy none. Make-your-own-salad options are weak, premade salads are overdressed and marred by odd flavor combos, and the Chinese items I tried — including an especially disgusting eggroll — were outright bad. High points included a subtle Japanese-style seaweed/noodle salad, hard-boiled egg halves, and freshly carved roast turkey. And I guess that the pre-tossed Caesar salad wasn’t terrible. But when I pay $8+ for a small box of food, it needs to be much, much better than passable.

Julie’s Kitchen
50 Fremont Street
San Francisco, CA 94105

downtown SF, lunch
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Como se dice “bistro”?

Posted by Anita on 08.09.06 10:47 PM

DonPicos (c)2006 AECTonight, a combination of factors conspired to keep us out of the kitchen. I ended up working late yet again, leaving Cameron to cook solo… and then he realized that the grill had run out of propane. When the universe sends clear signals like this, we’ve learned to listen.

Cameron picked me up at Glen Park BART, and asked: “Mexican, Indian, or Ethiopian?”

To which I replied: “Duh!”

So, we hopped on 280 and pointed the car toward Don Pico’s.

Don Pico’s offers Mexican-food aficionados an interesting juxtaposition. On one hand, it’s an old-school “plate food” restaurante of the SoCal style, serving up combination platos and cold beers. But it also has aspirations to upscale-ness, calling itself a “Mexican bistro,” sporting spruced-up decor straight out of Trading Spaces, and adding daily specials like butternut squash tamales to the usual cheesy fare.

Our friends Andrew & Kathy turned us on to the charms of the Don late last year, and since then we’ve eaten here every couple of weeks. The kitchen always dishes up comida that’s solid, if a bit under-spiced. Service ranges from really great — as it was tonight — to downright spacey; eventually, we always get fed.

I toyed with ordering the chilaquiles (if only for the comedic effect of having the same meal for breakfast and dinner), but settled on my prototypical cheesy combo: A chicken taco, and a cheese enchilada. As always, it was good, in a baaad way. Cameron took the chef’s advice and opted for the amusingly named Mexican Jambalaya, and was rewarded by an interesting riff on the old bayou classic, with chorizo taking the place of andouille, and bell-pepper strips standing in for okra.

My biggest Don Pico’s gripe — other than the fact that they are closed on Sundays and Mondays — is their lack of full bar, so díos only knows what foul tequila substitute goes into their margaritas. Luckily, they have plenty of cold Negra Modelo ready for me.

(Oh, and if you’re a fan of karaoke-style lounge acts, you’ll love it here on weeknights. Don’t say you weren’t warned…)

Don Pico’s Original Mexican Bistro
461 El Camino Real
San Bruno, CA 94066

Mexican, restaurants
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Gag me with a silver spoon

Posted by Anita on 08.09.06 5:02 PM

CUESA newsletterFrom our normally sane friends at CUESA, the organization behind the beloved Ferry Plaza Farmers Market:

Special sightings of Gourmet Editor-in-Chief Ruth Reichl lunching at Boulettes Larder and shopping at The Gardener delighted shoppers & store keepers alike. Ms. Reichl intimated to someone at The Gardener that the food at Boulettes Larder was “sooo good”. Martha Stewart visited again – and showed off the Marketplace to friends – making a point to wave at her favorite mushroom man – Ian Garrone of Far West Fungi.

I had no idea Page Six was writing food stuff now…

Update: Mea maxima culpa… the email wasn’t from CUESA but from the Ferry Building Marketplace management. I should have realized this when they were talking about indoor shops, not farm vendors.

farmers markets, levity, shopping
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