Bucking the trend

Posted by Anita and Cameron on 04.11.07 7:57 AM

Perbacco (c)2007 AECWe haven’t been writing a lot of restaurant reviews lately, mostly because life has kept us from eating anywhere new or noteworthy. We’ve also both come to the conclusion (separately, we might add) that writing a negative review, or even a so-so one, is exhausting. You feel the need to justify every criticism, and defend every quibble. And, really, who wants to read our bitchy moaning, especially when it comes to a place that so many other foodies adore?

But a number of people have noticed our Perbacco shots on Flickr, and asked when we were going to post, so it’s getting to be more work ducking the question than it is to just… come out with it.

Let’s start out by saying we had high hopes for Perbacco. Not unrealistic ones, we hope, but strong expectations buoyed by heaps of affirmative press plus an early report that the chef, a former butcher, spends his weekends curing his own salumi. Truly, a man after our own hearts.

Our initial visit left us disappointed but convinced that the food was worthy if you steered clear of so-so main courses in favor of pastas. We both decided that it was only the colossally amateurish service that prevented us from having the sort of night that we’d gush about. But after a second visit yielded significantly better service but much worse food, we just can’t join the chorus of adulation being sung in Perbacco’s key.

To start with a positive note, the salumi options improved between our first and second visits. Our first time around, the starter menu offered only a single house-cured sausage plate and a large sampler platter, which forced a frustrating choice between a one-note (and, dare we say, stingy?) sampling and an appetite-spoiling array. On our second visit, we were happy to see some more-interesting options: both greater variety and a selection of smaller assortments, each with a different stylistic focus.

But uneven notions of scale and surfeit extend beyond the salumi at Perbacco. All through both meals, the theme continued: Too much, not enough, too much, not enough… like some practical joke played by the kitchen at our expense.

First: Overkill. On our initial visit, Anita loved the taste of her burrata appetizer, but quickly tired of its unctuous, truffled intensity. Cameron’s strongly flavored salad was another tastebud-killer: All the components hung together well, but by the time he was halfway through, the richness of chestnut honey, gorgonzola, and hazelnuts exhausted his palate. On our return trip, Anita’s beet-and-arugula salad offered just too much of the same flavors, over and over, without relief.

Next: Underflavored. Although the feta-like Castelmagno cheese on Anita’s beet-and-arugula salad provided more of a salty kick than was pleasant, the beets themselves were flat and nearly flavorless. On our second visit, Anita’s pasta didn’t appear to have any salt in the dough, and had been dressed with unsalted butter. A cauliflower passata presented a perfect, velvety texture, but didn’t actually taste like its sponsor vegetable — a cauliflower soup for people who dislike cauliflower.

We always feel sorry for chefs who present a traditional Italian three-course menu of appetizers, pastas, and mains. We Americans are so attuned to the pasta-centric dinners we grew up on that it seems almost futile for chefs to run the antipasti-primi-secondi route. We do our best to support the traditional flow when our appetite allows, but the too-variable portion sizes at Perbacco made this an exercise in futility.

We loved the tajarin (hand-cut tagliatelle) with pork-and-porcini sugo as a middle course on our first visit, but an entrée portion that we ordered on our second visit was only a smidge larger — nowhere near sufficient to serve as a main course. Likewise, the sides accompanying all three of the main courses we ordered (two the first visit, one the second) were so skimpy that you wished the chef would just offer his entrees a la carte and be done with it.

And frankly, Perbacco’s entrees are its weakest link. Anita loves milk-braised pork and she’s ga-ga for grits, so Perbacco’s pork shoulder al latte with whole-grain Anson Mills polenta and shredded Savoy cabbage seemed like a shoo-in. But the unappetizingly symmetrical chunk of pig — plated like Lean Cuisine on a small oval dish — lacked the cut-it-with-a-fork tenderness that’s the hallmark this traditionally braised dish. And again, the sides were laughably meager, a criminal offense given their peasant-like affordability. (Could there be anything cheaper than corn mush and cabbage? Why such tiny nibbles?)

Both times we opted for a trio of gelati for dessert. Presented in adorable ceramic dishes made to look like partially crushed Dixie cups, the flavors ran the gamut from delightful (a fleur de sel caramel that tasted identical to a version we made last year) to unpleasant (an overwhelming pistachio).

Sadly, we doubt we’ll take another stab at dinner at Perbacco. We can envision returning for a plate of salumi at the bar, alongside one of their well-made cocktails… especially the Rosmarino. And certainly, if friends suggested we meet at Perbacco, we wouldn’t decline. But for the price — dinner both times hovered near the $200 mark for a full complement of food but minus any blow-out wines or other additions — we can’t afford the gamble of another hit-and-miss meal.

230 California Street (near Front Street)
San Francisco, CA 94111

downtown SF, Italian, restaurants



Posted by Cameron on 04.10.07 4:31 PM

Tom Douglas Rosemary Lemon Polenta Cake (c)2007 AEC **all rights reserved**Last Saturday, we enjoyed a pre-Easter dinner with our friends DPaul and Sean and Anita’s mom, Toni. Anita has already described the first course; my contribution was Cornmeal Rosemary Cake with Lemon Glaze from one of our two Tom Douglas cookbooks, Tom’s Big Dinners.

I’m not sure exactly why I ended up making it, as I’m not much of a baker. Anita is usually the head chef in our kitchen, but she was called away to help with the transportation of Sean and DPaul’s new (and absolutely adorable, but indisposed) family member. We needed to get cracking on dinner, but when Toni–who is an accomplished baker–asked to be put to work, I pointed her at the soup, not the cake. Go figure.

The batter assembly went smoothly. Or at least I thought it did until I realized that I had used rough, coarsely ground cornmeal instead of the medium-grind called for by the recipe. I pinched the bridge of my nose and rehearsed stand-up material to explain the…er…crunchy cake. “So rustic, isn’t it?” I imagined myself saying through my best Joy of Cooking smile. “Here, have another large glass of whiskey to wash that down. It’s a family tradition.”

Then, after fifteen minutes of baking, I noticed that while I had set the oven to 350 degrees, the thermometer inside read 325. Great. I turned up the heat.

The baking time recommended by the recipe came and went and I hovered at the oven window. The top started to brown and the cake tester came out clean, but when the cake was lying unmolded and upside down, it was obviously still mushy in the middle. Rummaging through our generous assortment of nonstick cake pans, I said a silent little prayer of thanks for my lovely, brainy wife and her talent for collecting cookware.

I re-panned the cake and shoveled it back in the oven, setting the timer in five-minute increments and wondering how the hell I would know when the damn thing was done. Out of desperation, I fell back on my grill-fu and started poking the cake with my (scrupulously clean) fingers, comparing the center with the edges, which I figured were sufficiently cooked.

Eureka! The top was much browner than I would have dared let it go otherwise, but eventually the cake stopped feeling like a waterbed. Cooled and unmolded, it actually looked edible–after Anita helped re-assemble the chunks that had stuck to the non-stick pan.

But I had the baker’s ace up my sleeve, the magical stuff that hides an epic poem’s worth of sins. I generously brushed on a Meyer lemon syrup (fruits from our tree!) and then took great comfort in watching my missteps and misgivings disappear beneath a dense white robe of sugary glaze speckled with rosemary leaves and lemon zest.

Didn’t taste bad, either. No whiskey necessary.

baking, cookbooks, dessert, family, holidays & occasions


Spring in a bowl

Posted by Anita on 04.09.07 6:07 PM

Green Soup (c)2007 AEC **All Rights Reserved**The gorgeous soup we served for Easter-eve supper — as a first course before a tried-and-true potato gratin and a succulent Fatted Calf Petit Jamon — is an old Soup of the Fortnight favorite. But last time I wrote about it, I only linked to the original recipe (which serves 16+!) and didn’t include a photo. As you can see, it’s a soup that looks much more elegant in the bowl than it sounds from a simple reading.

The recipe made its debut a year ago in Seattle, at a dinner organized by a group of MouthfulsFood friends to celebrate the start of spring. We weren’t able to make it to that dinner, but the recipe sounded so amazing, I couldn’t wait to try it. I whipped up a batch for a dinner party a few days later, including the chive oil and the lemon creme fraiche — touches I probably wouldn’t have bothered with for an everyday meal. But, as I learned, it would not be wise to skip them: Unlike many garnishes, they’re the crowning glory of this soup, elemental pieces whose presence would be sorely missed in the end result.

Jan’s Spring-Green Soup
– serves 6 as a first course

3 cups good quality chicken stock
1 to 2 oz. bacon strips
1T unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, trimmed well of strings, chopped
2 stalks green garlic or 1 medium leek, washed well (tender parts only), chopped
1 T chopped Italian parsley
2 T dry vermouth
4 oz. fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
1 small head butter lettuce (aka Boston or Bibb lettuce), rinsed well and chopped
3 cups frozen petit pois, thawed (such as C&W Early Harvest Spring Peas)
1 long sprig of fresh rosemary
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream

Put chicken stock in a large saucepan or small stockpot (at least 4-quart capacity) and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath under a large, metal bowl.

Meanwhile, sauté the bacon in a large sauté pan until browned and fat is rendered. Remove strips and put them in the stockpot with the stock. Pour out all but about 1T fat from sauté pan, add 1T butter. Add onions, celery, leeks and rosemary sprig to pan. Stir to combine, add a pinch or two of salt, and sweat for 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to brown vegetables. Add more pork fat if needed. When soft, add parsley, deglaze the pan with vermouth, and reduce the vermouth briefly. Add these ingredients to the stock.

Bring the stock back to a boil; add the sugar snap peas and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the lettuce, bring back to the boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peas, bring back to the boil, and cook until everything is just tender. The lettuce gets dark and slimy, but don’t fear: All will be well. The peas should still be quite bright green …don’t overcook or it will all turn grey.

When all vegetables are tender, immediately pour the soup into the large bowl over an ice bath and stir to cool. This will keep it from overcooking and darkening. When cooled to room temp, remove rosemary sprig and bacon strips.

Puree the soup with a stick blender (or, using in a traditional blender, in batches) and strain the puree into another pot or bowl. You’ll need to work for a while with a rubber spatula to push the soup out and leave the solids behind. This is one time where pressing hard and stirring around is not just fine but required: You want just the fibers left behind. If you leave too much vegetable matter in the strainer, your soup will be thin, and you won’t have enough to make six servings.

(The soup can be refrigerated at this point for a day or two.)

To serve cold:
Add cream as desired, being careful not to overwhelm the fresh, green flavor. Start with 2T of cream; taste. Adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper, and small amounts of lemon juice.

To serve warm:
Heat soup over medium-low. Add cream as desired, being careful not to overwhelm the fresh, green flavor. Add cream as desired, starting with 1/4 cup; taste. Adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper, and small amounts of lemon juice.

To finish:
Ladle into bowls and add swirls (or a dollop) of lemon crème fraiche and droplets of chive oil. Garnish with an edible flower, if desired.


Lemon Crème Fraiche
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
Lemon juice to taste
Fresh ground pepper

Stir up crème fraiche with drops of lemon juice and some of the zest, starting with about 1 tsp. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Taste and adjust amount of lemon juice/zest to taste. If you need to thin more, but don’t want to add more lemon juice, use milk. Put into squeeze bottle or drop by the spoonful into soup.

Chive Oil
1/2 cup oil, preferably mild olive oil
1 bunches chives, cut into thirds (divided use)
Salt to taste

Blanched one third of the chives for 10 seconds and shock in an ice-water bath. Puree the blanched and raw chives in a small blender container with the oil and the salt. Taste for salt, and add more oil if the salt or chive flavor is too strong. Let the puree sit for several hours. Strain twice to remove solids.

holidays & occasions, recipes, Soup o' the Fortnight


MxMo14: 1 week to go

Posted by Anita on 04.09.07 11:48 AM

RamblinRose(c)2007AECI was cruising through previous editions of Drink of the Week, and found that a suprising number of them have called for some form of bubbly. I guess you know my weakness now! Here’s a recap, in case you’re stuck for ideas:

Rosemary Five: You haven’t forgotten this one already…
Black Velvet: Guinness stout and bubbly
Gilded Pear: Pear Cognac, ginger-infused vodka, bubbly
Poire Royale: Pear Cognac or eau du vie, bubbly, raspberry

And here’s a new one, a riff off the classic Champagne Cocktail. but replacing the bitters with rosewater. At The Front Porch, our local Caribbean-meets-Soul joint, they’ve put together an interesting drinks menu despite their lack of a full liquor permit. Instead of the dreaded sake-tinis and soju-tails you often find at limited-license restaurants, all of their libations are based on ciders or bubbly.

Ramblin’ Rose
from The Front Porch, San Francisco

Sparkling wine
1 sugar cube
Rosewater (available at BevMo and most grocery stores)
A pesticide-free rose

Soak a sugar cube in rosewater, and place in a flute or champagne saucer. Fill the glass with bubbly, and garnish with rose petal.


A comment about comments: We’ve implemented a new spam-prevention system behind the scenes, which should remain invisble to most users. At the worst, you may get a challenge question now and again, especially if your comment includes multiple links and/or is posted from an IP address that’s ever been flagged as a spam source. (Apologies to those on Earthlink and AOL, specifically.) If you post a comment that you don’t see pop up on the site in due time — or if you get sick of dealing with the challenge question — please drop a note to chef (at) marriedwithdinner (dot) com, and we’ll add you to the approved commenters list, so you don’t get caught up in the filters.

drinks, Mixology Monday, other stuff, wine & bubbly


DOTW: Rosemary Five

Posted by Anita on 04.06.07 7:24 AM

DOTW Rosemary Five (c) copyright AEC - Married With Dinner - All Rights ReservedI’ve confessed, repeatedly, to my tinkering tendencies. I never met a recipe that I couldn’t futz into an unrecognizable state. Now, it seems, my little problem is taking on a life of its own: I can’t even drink nice cocktails at perfectly respectable establishments without wondering just what might help make them a wee bit better.

This whole sorry tale started out a few months ago with a dinner at Perbacco, SF’s ultra-popular downtown ristorante. True to their Italian niche, the Perbacco bar menu features a number of cocktails that feel like a hip bartender’s fantasy of la dolce vita: a bit of Carpano Antica here, a splash of Prosecco there, a titch of amaro, and plenty of sassy citrus for everyone! The drink that caught my eye on our first visit — and held my fickle gaze on a return trip — is a pretty little thing called the Rosmarino: Grey Goose vodka, lemon juice, rosemary simple syrup, and Clear Creek apple brandy; shaken, up, rosemary garnish. As delicious as it was, the apple flavor seemed a little misplaced, and the rosemary notes a tad thin (despite the not-terribly appetizing bits of muddled herbage floating around).

Not long after this, I tasted another citrusy drink on the menu at Bemelmans Bar on our NYC trip. Christened La Cinque (that’s “the five” in Italian for you non-jetsetters), the menu listed pear vodka, moscato d’Asti, fresh lime, simple syrup, and Angostura bitters. Surely, it was a lovely combination, although the syrup combined with the sweet moscato to take the sugar hit right over the top.

I’d made a batch of rosemary syrup a couple weeks back — steeping a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in a warm batch of 1:1 simple syrup — in an effort to figure out precisely what was needed to fine-tune the Rosmarino to my liking. But time got away from me, and the jar of syrup ended up in the freezer. So when the time came to try to replicate La Cinque at home, I decided to combine these two Italian-inspired recipes into a single cocktail. It took a few tries to get the balance right; you’ll want to tinker with the syrup levels depending on the dryness of your bubbly. Using a bone-dry California sparkler, we needed the full 1/2 ounce; if you opt for a Prosecco or other off-dry option, you’ll likely need the lesser amount… unless you like your drinks on the sweet side.

The Rosemary Five
– adapted from La Cinque, Bemelmans Bar (NYC) and Rosmarino, Perbacco (SF)
1 oz. pear vodka or pear eau de vie (such as Absolut Pears or Clear Creek Williams Pear)
1/2 oz. fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/2 oz. rosemary simple syrup
3 dashes Angostura bitters
dry sparkling wine

Shake the vodka with the lime juice and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into a 6-ounce cocktail glass, and top with sparkling wine, to fill. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary.


A gentle reminder from your host and hostess: You’ve now just over a week to break out the bubbly and show us your best Champagne cocktails for MxMo14. In the meantime, we’ll be posting a few other sparklies we’ve collected over the last couple of months… all in the name of “research”, dontcha know?

Drink of the Week, drinks, Mixology Monday, recipes, wine & bubbly


Beauty and the beast

Posted by Anita on 04.05.07 7:45 AM

Vij's cookbookYou’d think that after torturing myself for three months, poring over recipes that I couldn’t begin to attempt without a proper kitchen, I’d be able to choose one or two candidates from a single cookbook. But there were so many delectable-sounding recipes in the copy of Vij’s: Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine that my sister gave me for Christmas, I finally had to force myself to pick a couple at random.

After much deliberation, I set my sights on a buttermilk curry, which Vij admits “from a visual point of view … won’t win any prizes”. Hey, if a dish is ugly enough to require forewarning, and it still makes the cut for inclusion in your restaurant’s signature cookbook, it must be pretty tasty. And indeed it was: Scented with cloves and cardamom, and thickened with mashed potato, the comforting stew-like dish reminded me of a Thai massaman curry. (No big surprises there, as the Thai dish was originally brought over from either Persia or the Subcontinent, depending on who you ask.)

True to Vij’s disclaimer, it looked for all the world like the stuff you’d scrape off the top of a simmering stock, an unappetizing mass of curdled dairy and greying meat. But inside each bland-looking cube of meat lurked a secret: Vivid, almost violet-hued shreds of beef, meltingly tender and softly perfumed with spices. The sauce, too, came together into something a bit less rotten-looking in the last few minutes of simmering. Although it never turned into the proverbial swan, I suppose I could admit this curry was a slightly less-ugly duckling on the plate than it had been two hours earlier in the pot.

greens and paneer (c)2007 AECI don’t think I consciously picked a gorgeous dish for my second recipe, but that’s certainly how Sauteed Greens and Paneer turned out. I hope you won’t think I’m being immodest when I say it looked almost as good on the plate as it did in the cookbook photo; I mean it as a compliment to the recipe, not to my (admittedly weak) food-styling skills. Despite being listed in the book’s appetizers chapter, this savory melange proved plenty rich enough to serve as a very satisfying vegetarian entree, or to divvy up into smaller portions for a true starter.

I’ve been lucky enough to eat at Vij’s famed Vancouver restaurant — and its take-away branch next door, Rangoli — on trips to Vancouver a few years back. Both of these recipes felt true to the flavors and presentations I remember enjoying there, modern Canadian riffs on traditional Indian flavors that somehow managed to avoid the caricature-like glitches that mar most fusion cuisine. Both restaurants seem like the kind of places where we’d eat a lot if we lived nearby, or even if we visited more often. Since a trip to Vancouver isn’t be in the cards for a while, I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this gorgeous collection of recipes. But on the strength of these two dishes alone, this book’s already a keeper.

Please note: The recipes below differ slightly from the published versions, mostly because I scaled them to match the quantities of raw ingredients I had on hand. I also clarified some instructions that I found confusing on the first read-through.

Sauteed Greens with Paneer
14 whole raw unsalted cashews
1/2 pound raw spinach
1/2 pound rapini (aka broccoli raab, choi sum, etc.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 cup pureed tomatoes (about 2 medium)
2 tsp. ground black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup water
4 oz. coconut milk, stirred
6 oz. paneer, brought to room temperature

Toast the cashews in the oven (3 minutes at 375, stir, 3 more minutes) or on the stovetop; let cool.

Cut the tougher stems off the spinach and the rapini. Heat oil in large frying pan for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds, stir and allow to sizzle for 30 to 45 seconds. Add tomato puree, mustard seeds, turmeric, salt, and cayenne. Stir and reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid and stir. The top of the sauce should glisten with oil; if it does not, cook uncovered another 1-2 minutes.

Stir in water and increase heat to medium-high. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a steady simmer, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, until sauce thickens. Add coconut milk, and continue cooking until the mixture starts to simmer briskly. Add greens and cook for 2 minutes or until well wilted, stirring regularly.

Slice the paneer into 4 pieces the long way, then slice each half again to make vaguely square-ish blocks. To serve 2 as a vegetarian entree, place half of the slices in each bowl; to serve 4 as an appetizer, divide among 4 bowls. Using a tongs, place the greens on top of the paneer slices, leaving the corners peeking out. Spoon the curry sauce over and around the greens, again taking care to leave part of the paneer visible. Top the greens with the cashews, and serve.

Buttermilk Curry
3 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup water
2 pounds lamb or beef stew meat, in 2-inch cubes
1-1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1T cumin seeds
2T chopped garlic
10-15 2-inch pieces of dried red chiles
10 cloves
1 tsp. cardamom seeds (not pods)
2 tsp. salt
1 medium potato, peeled, boiled, and mashed

Pour buttermilk into a large mixing bowl, and add the meat. Mix well. If there is not sufficient liquid to cover the meat, add enough of the water to do so, and mix again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate 6 hours, or overnight.

Lightly pound the coriander in a mortar to break the seeds in half. Heat oil in a pot over medium heat for 1 minute. Add cumin seeds and cook until they pop (30-45 seconds). Add garlic and saute for 5 minutes, or until golden. Add remaining spices and salt; stir well and cook 3-4 minutes.

Add marinated meat, buttermilk, and remaining water. Stir continuously and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for about 1 hour. Remove the lid and stir in the mashed potato. Cover the pot again, and cook for another hour, until the meat is tender.

Remove the cloves before serving, or warn your guests to expect them. Serve over rice.

cookbooks, cooking


Pub lunch, please

Posted by Cameron on 04.04.07 4:28 PM

Napper TandyI just loves me some lunch at a pub, I do I do. To be fair, I love eating at the bar just about anywhere. But a pub lunch is special: a good one is an oasis of calm happiness, and a great one can transform an entire day.

The Napper Tandy in the Mission District of San Francisco falls solidly into the “good” category. On the right day, it might make a serious push for “great”. The Tandy has all the trappings of the sort of place that on Friday and Saturday nights serves raunchily named shooters to the loudly drunk. But in the afternoon and early evening, it attracts locals, laborers, and workers either on their way to or returning from shifts at other food-service businesses.

There’s a happy mix of beer on draft: nothing too adventurous, but you can get Smithwick’s and Guinness pulled with reasonable skill. The menu has plenty of choices and, if the fish-and-chips are any indication, the kitchen can be trusted. To be fair, it’s unlikely that any of the food at the Napper Tandy is as first-rate as the fresh, house-cut chips. But those chips are so damn good that even getting close to the mark would be a worthy accomplishment.

The Napper Tandy
3200 24th Street
San Francisco, 94110

bar culture, restaurants, The Mission


Welcome to our kitchen

Posted by Anita on 04.02.07 11:17 PM

(c)2007 AECLast week, one of our regular readers asked me if the new kitchen was everything we were hoping for. That’s a huge order, isn’t it? But, you know, it really IS everything we were hoping for.

Which is not to say that we aren’t ready to strangle both our cabinet vendor — who still hasn’t delivered the replacement doors (hence, no knobs!) — and our contractor, who left for vacation with about a million little unfinished details on our punch list. And of course there are things we’d do differently.

But even with every caveat I can think of, there’s no denying that the new kitchen is both beautiful and functional, and a true pleasure to cook in. The countertops are gorgeous, the light and views are stunning, the storage space is abundant, and the stove is one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

And I am swooning over conveniences that I’m still not sure how we lived without: a garbage disposal, an icemaker, filtered water in the fridge door, and a real range hood — our old ventilation system was an open window and a box fan.

(c)2007 AECOur old kitchen was bigger — we added the wall with the open cabinets to create a back hall for the house — but I’m not exaggerating when I say it had about 2 feet of usable counters. Now we have three distinct work zones, plus the breakfast room. It’s a great two-cook kitchen, and I hope it will be a good small-party space, too.

In many ways, the kitchen in this month’s photo tour on Flickr doesn’t look dramatically different than it did at the last update, a month ago, but it’s barely recognizable from the “before” shots. By this time next month, we should be 100% finished. Keep you fingers crossed, and stay tuned!



Fool proof

Posted by Anita on 04.01.07 10:33 PM

strawberries (c)2007 AECWhew! I made it to the end of April Fools’ Day without falling for any crazy practical jokes. Considering how easily I usually walk into pranks, it’s a minor miracle. (It probably helps that the only person I saw all day was my sweet guy, whose own brand of humor is more clever than cruel.)

We spent the day getting the downstairs rooms back in shape — no mean feat considering that they were inhabited by the two of us and two dogs for three months, with very limited storage to begin with. We also swapped the spaces that we use for our offices, which required a trip to Home Depot and Best Buy.

Big-box stores make me itch, so after visiting two in a single afternoon, I really felt like we deserved a treat. We were both so exhausted, there wasn’t a spare drop of energy for elaborate desserts. But we had a pint of strawberries, and a carton of cream… and a quick perusal of Joy of Cooking turned up an all-too-appropriately named dessert that even a fool could master.

Berry Fool
1 pint strawberries
1T superfine (baker’s) sugar
1/2 pint heavy cream
3T ruby port

Rinsed, dry, top, and quarter the berries. Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with the sugar; set aside. Meanwhile, whip the cream with the port until soft peaks form. Stir the sugared berries into the whipped cream, and refrigerate well before serving.

dessert, holidays & occasions, recipes, wine & bubbly
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