December 2012

Wine and Feasting

The plan was to stop posting until i’d figured out how to continue posting photos, but two events just begged for coverage.

The first is that i received in the mail a bottle of Caprock Winery‘s Roussanne with no clue as to who the gift was from, only a cryptic note saying that i’d receive an explanation. It’s already pretty complicated, as minimal research reveals that the package was shipped from Canyon, TX while the winery is in Lubbock and the Roussanne grapes were grown in Meadow. Well, and that i don’t know anyone who lives in any of those three places.

The other major happening is that i finally pulled it together to cook a dinner, the first since i broke my leg in August. My friends Ian and Andrew from Vancouver were visiting the city, and there was a window during which i could cook dinner for them. Since i’m notorious for eating things that give many people the creeps, i specified in the invitation that i’d be serving mole, but the invitees are all sophisticated diners and saw right through my subterfuge, at least possibly because i’d served some of them a mole poblano in the past. They brought splendid wine.

Tony and Stephen brought wine and jars for canning, which are appreciated as much as wine.

Mark and Steve brought a delicious salad from Steve’s garden, and to put my stamp on it, they used my Blackberry Pasilla Jalapeño Vinegar in the vinaigrette dressing. They also brought a bottle of good wine and for an appetizer a selection of delicious cheeses from a new cheese store in Dogpatch called La Fromagerie.

For the dinner courses i served a mole poblano based on the mole crumble from the Tierra Vegetables stand at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. All i did to it was add a tablespoon of chile powder from New Mexico that Charmazel brought me last year as part of her ongoing mission to keep me supplied with New Mexican delicacies, four tablespoons of roasted sesame oil to cook the dry ingredients in, a couple of ounces of Tcho extra dark chocolate, a couple or three tablespoons of almond butter, six cups of chicken stock, and three tablespoons of masa harina to thicken it. That mole crumble saves hours of tedious work. Try it. If you can’t get to the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, you can order it from Tierra’s website.

I got my stewing hen from Casa Guadalupe on Mission Street at 25th, where they call them gallinas. I poached her for an hour and a half, let her cool in her own stock and tore the meat off the bones. Threw the bones and fat back into the stock and simmered them for three hours, then strained the stock out, using some for the mole poblano above, into which i threw the chunks of chicken for a final simmering. I used the rest of the stock for the balsamic rice, atop which the chicken in mole poblano was served.

To accompany the chicken dish i served cranberry beans that i’d bought fresh in October, shelled, blanched, and froze. I cooked the beans with a chopped carrot and about ten stalks of chopped fresh green garlic. A couple of our blessed vendors somehow manage to get an early crop of fresh green garlic out at Christmastime, when it is deeply appreciated.

The other accompaniment was a Brussels Sprouts Piccata with tiny whole sprouts from Iacopi at the Ferry Placa Farmers’ Market. And to be in keeping with the Mexican theme, instead of lemons i used those little Mexican limes (usually marketed in upscale groceries as “Key Limes” for five times the price you pay at Casa Guadalupe and other Mexican markets).

For a bread, i made Grandmother’s Cornbread, tweaking the recipe slightly in a mostly successful attempt to duplicate the Cornbread Skillet at West of Pecos. I was very pleased with the result, as were the guests. Alas, i didn’t write down my tweaks and now can’t recall what i did. Well, see, it’s complicated because i increased the recipe by 50% and am now thinking that i somehow miscalculated the amount of either the cornmeal or the flour.

The dessert was a fallback, the New York Cheesecake from Sweet Inspirations, because when i went to Noe Valley Bakery in the morning to pick up one of their legendary pecan pies, i was informed that they’d not be available until the weekend. Oh well, the cheesecake was delicious.

But the most delicious aspect of the evening was the conversation. The others all knew each other, but Mark and Steven were fresh new intellects who hit it off splendidly, and the conversation was electric.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Stop Them!

San Francisco is celebrating Obama’s reelection with a construction boom.  All those empty corner lots up and down Market are growing condo and apartment complexes like weeds, and throughout the Mission i see cranes twirling and buildings rising.  Hell, even on Noe Street between 17th and 18th Street there are two new buildings, one completely new and its neighbor, which had stood gutted by fire for several years, totally reworked into a pair of modern condos over a double garage.  Lean, clean lines, with a tangy touch of red detail around the sunken doorways.  A handsome building.

And then they screwed in a pair of neo-early-American light fixtures!   Aaagrhhhh!

Stop them before they decorate again.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Official!

Yes, i know some of my readers had already figured this out, but now it’s officially confirmed.  In his annual Christmas Message Pope Benedict XIV – Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God, and Handmaiden of Satan – announced that i am a Threat to World Peace.

Yes, little me – 72 years old, 5′ 9″, 160 pounds soaking wet, lame, chronically ill, a bit dotty, and utterly unversed in weapons of mass destruction – a threat to world peace.  I have never been so flattered.  His Holiness went on to explain that i had achieved this distinction by favoring gay marriage and, perhaps even worse, wanting to allow women to make their own reproductive decisions.  Gasp.  Yes, that bad.

You know, since i’m detecting some of the same levels of logic in the utterances of Herr Ratzinger and Wayne LaPierre, it occurs to me that the Vatican and the NRA may now be using the same scriptwriter.

In any case, this compliment from His Hatefulness inspires me to open a competition for an appropriate logo that all of us Threats to World Peace might wear as a gesture of solidarity and so we’ll be easily identifiable on the street.  Something tasteful and readily reproducible, please.  Send your entries to

Late note:   The first response to my request for suggestions was from Louis, Matte’s best friend and Most Loyal Reader, who suggested that since the Roman Catholic Church has now usurped the National Socialists as the most indefatigable foe of gays, an appropriate recognition of this role would be to use a pink triangle like the Nazis did but differentiate and show a little attitude by inscribing “YES” inside the triangle as an affirmation of the rights the One True Church wants to stomp into the ground.  Perhaps one of Matte’s artist friends will send him this as a graphic he can display here.

Later note on 24 December:  Better than “YES”, inside the triangle put


Or something totally different and better.

Meanwhile, i was out the other morning prowling around our derelict waterfront where Cesar Chavez hits the bay and spotted this threat.  Sure don’t want that to fall into the wrong hands:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Breaking the Silence

I’d put off posting new material here since we all knew the world was going to end last night at the end of the Mayan 13th b’ak’tun.  Instead, to my great surprise, the 14th b’ak’tun started up seamlessly at about three AM as i slept right through the transition.  Damn, good thing the world didn’t end, or i’da slept through that, too.
The big news around here focuses on health issues, the first one being the failure of my ankle to heal properly after my orthodoc had pronounced the leg bone OK back in October.  But see, that got complicated because he had told me to pick up an ankle brace and wear that instead of The Boot that i’d been clumping around in, but when i stopped in the Special Foot Stuff Store on the way home, it was crowded and i didn’t feel like waiting.  And then decided i didn’t really need no steenkeng ankle brace.  Ummm yes.
Of course that left me in a difficult position when my ankle kept hurting because i can’t very well go crawling back to the orthodoc now and whine about my ankle since he would doubtless feel a need to extract from me an explanation of why i was not sporting an ankle brace.  And of course by now i’d forgotten the name of the damn Special Foot Stuff Store or where it was other than way the hell out in the avenues someplace more or less between here and the orthodoc’s office.
But i found another store and bought a brace, and the kind young man helped me put the thing on with all the damn straps in the right places.  And oh, does it ever feel good.  It’s like two strong, loving hands are clasped gently but firmly around my ankle.  Warm and loving hands.
Meanwhile, i was out at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market the other day and encountered this busker i’d enjoyed hearing before, but this time i actually stopped and listened for a while as he sat there improvising on his cello.  It was so good that i bought his CD.  Joshua McClain
Wouldn’t hurt to try for a good pic, but for now this’ll have to do:
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Holiday Feasting

Back during one of the previous oil price runups, chicken farmers in East Texas figured out that they could strike a balance between heating the chicken houses in the winter and just giving the chickens extra food to grow them to market weight in the allotted time.  So when the price of natural gas reached a certain level vis à vis that of Purina Chicken Chow, the chickens had it a little colder but got more to eat.  I thought about that a couple of weeks ago, looked down at those three pounds of Noe Valley Bakery’s superb pecan pie that i’d put on at Thanksgiving, and reached for the thermostat.  Yep, i’ll just shiver ’em off before Christmas.

And it’s working.  Well, along with cutting back on the carbs, increasing the weight on more exercises, and adding more tenths of a mile to my elliptical trainer routine.

Dry Rot

Meanwhile, last week i rode over to Carol’s on Potrero Hill, and we went out to The Ramp for a fine long afternoon of unsweetened tea, conversation, and photography.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Mozzeria Again

Jeff took me out the other day to the deaf restaurant, Mozzeria, where he’s eaten a number of times since i wrote about our first excursion there last June.  It was just as much fun as the last time although this time the patrons seem to have included a few too many talkers, and you know how noisy those people can be as they jabber louder and louder trying to hear each other over the din in an arms race of shouting.  Still, in compensation, all the staff this visit were as pleasant and friendly as before, but this time they were all deaf, which cut down the noise.

In preparation for the visit, i’d gone again to an internet ASL site to learn a few more words, thus doubling my ASL vocabulary.  And oh, did it ever pay off because this time i experienced the thrill of successfully eavesdropping for the first time on an ASL conversation.  Of course 99.9% of it went right past me, but i saw the deaf couple ahead of me sign to the waitress that they wanted a table rather than the two seats at the bar, or at least i thought i saw in quick succession the words for “want” and “table”.  And we got seated at the bar while they got the next table that opened.

I continue to think i ought to sign up for an ASL class since my interest in languages is as strong as ever, even as my hearing deteriorates.  The only problem i see, other than my fading memory, is that owing to banging up my hands in my little accidents, three of my fingers no longer operate like they did as original equipment, and i have trouble forming some of the signs exactly like the ASL demonstrators on the internet.  Still, i’m expecting it’ll be like folks filtering my Dutch, German, French, and Spanish through my American accent.  Understandable after a beat.

But the food, yes.  I think one of the main reasons Jeff and i enjoy taking each other out to eat, aside from both of us being dedicated trenchermen, is that we set such a bad example for each other.  What happens every time is that we go into a careful negotiation over the menu and reach a selection that will be plenty of food, and then whoever’s buying has a compulsion to throw in a couple more dishes, of which out of politeness the other forces himself to eat his full share.

I was starving for pizza, so my non-negotiable demand was a couple of pizzas, which is actually quite sufficient food for two.  See, it had to be two pizzas because Jeff needed the Margherita and i needed the Italian sausage with fennel, red onion, mozzarella, and garlic.  And then Jeff wanted appetizers, so i agreed to a couple of those.

The first was the Roast Duck with Brussels sprouts, black garlic, and potato puffs.  The second was the Crispy Pork with white beans, escarole, and tomato.  Both were fireworks displays of flavor.  Delicious.  The pizza at Mozzeria is the thin crust, Neapolitan style cooked in the huge oven that dominates the room, and it’s also delicious.  Jeff claims he beat me to an extra slice of the Margherita, but he doesn’t eat the outer rim and since i’m in anticipatory carbohydrate starvation mode in preparation  for returning to my diet after Christmas, bread tastes especially good to me and i gobbled all his rejected rims.

So we were both stuffed when the waitress handed us a note saying our pasta course would be out shortly.   Well see, Jeff had pointed to that after he ordered our pizzas, and he ended up telling them to just pack it to go.

Oh, and just to make the review more believable, i’ll pick a flaw:  That pizza oven does a fabulous job cooking the pizza, but it also sure does heat the room up.  Wear layers you can shed, and make sure the bottom layer is presentable…or that your ink is fresh.

budsMeanwhile, some buds on a 22nd Street palm:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

West of Pecos

No, not Law West of the Pecos, that’s Judge Roy Bean, whose life reads like fiction and who was one of the most colorful characters in Texas history, which is saying a lot. Bean was a thief, a robber, a rustler, a murderer, an outlaw, a serial entrepreneur, and a self-appointed judge, but he was not a gourmet, so we’re talking about a different West of Pecos here – the new restaurant on Valencia that Jeff took me to last month.

The folks behind it are the McNiven brothers, the same guys who brought us the Woodhouse Fish Company with its delicately cooked fish and crustaceans and the best clam chowder i’ve eaten since that served in the Officers’ Open Mess at Ft. Devens, Mass in the early sixties.

So what’s West of Pecos like? Well, it’s a cavernous, airy space decorated with a gigantic bull’s head and long ristas hanging from the ceiling. And it’s bustling and noisy but that’s not a prob if you stick your hearing aids in and dial them to “noisy restaurant”. The servers are laid back and helpful.

The food? Well, i’m a Tex-Mex food bigot and very fussy, so luckily this isn’t traditional Tex-Mex. What it is, is a melange of southwestern dishes, most of them done fairly well and some, excellent.

To start, the Grilled Pacific Prawns were superb and taken over the top with a stingy dab of some superb sauce not mentioned in the menu description. The Campfire Cornbread Muffin Skillet suffered from menu overkill, as it isn’t a muffin and for damn sure never saw a campfire, but it was a clever presentation and tasted just divine. Actually, and it pains me to admit this, it was better than my Grandmother’s Cornbread. Well, not much better, and so different that it’s unfair to Grandmother to compare them. I’ll just say that the next day at home i experimented with Grandmother’s recipe in an attempt to duplicate the Campfire Cornbread Muffin Skillet and pulled from the oven something that wasn’t as good as either dish. Stay tuned, as i’m not giving up.

The Crispy Duck Tacos were a major disappointment. Yes, they were crispy, and yes, they had duck in them, but the marriage of flavors was never consummated, and they left me unsatisfied. The Messy Texas Ribs were messy and good, and the coleslaw with them was very good. Alas, they were a pale shadow of the ribs from Gorilla Barbeque in Pacifica. The Hearth Roasted Pork Carnitas was good, but it really seemed to me to be a pretty good pulled roast pork rather than carnitas, and you can get better carnitas at many of our taquerias. Like for example Pancho Villa on 16th off Valencia, El Toro at 17th and Valencia, and Zapata at 18th & Collingwood.

And since we’d had two fine dishes and two middling ones, we had to break the tie by splitting an order of flan. How was it? Well, let’s just say that there was a skilled competitor across the table, and i had to eat really fast to get my full share of an excellent and generous dish.

I’ll definitely go back to have the shrimp, the cornbread, and the flan. Besides, there are several items on that menu that i need to try.

Fall foliageMeanwhile, who says we don’t have fall foliage in foggy California. Here’s some across the street from Gloria’s in Santa Rosa:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment