Journal: 2013

Blindsided

Florescencia gasmaniaThere was a moment of poignant delight at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market last Sunday when i swooped upon Glenn Tanimoto’s booth in hopes of finding plenty of kiwi fruit.  To my delight, i could see from thirty paces that he had piles of them.

Oh, but my delight was increased enormously when i pulled up in front of the booth and he exclaimed, “You blindsided me!” as his wife burst into laughter.

See, the week before i’d given him a jar of Manzana chiles i’d got from Yerena and pickled.  Unfamiliar with the Manzana chile and assuming it was some kind of innocuous sweet chile, he took a big bite out of the top one.  And oh, was he ever surprised to discover that they are at least as hot as Habañeros.

I just live for bringing little surprises to my friends, although i’d assumed he’d know they were hot since i’d given him pickled hot peppers before.

And speaking of little surprises, here’s a Florescencia gasmainia that i spotted while i was out on a walk in Santa Rosa with Gloria on New Years’ Day.

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Love Children

I went to visit my friend Steven the other day and had the ineffable pleasure of watching his six-year-old son climb him like a tree in a joyous display of mutual affection. I just love watching modern fathers play with their sons, showing affection in ways that were vanishingly rare in my generation.

And then Steven showed me some affection by giving me a heads up on a concert where he’d be playing last night, a Silicon Valley Music Festival program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music featuring Son à Trois , a trio consisting of flute, cello, and piano. Piano trios are my favorite musical form, and a program composed entirely of them is not to be missed, particularly since i was familiar with only one of them, the Mendelssohn Op. 49.

I’m embarrassed to admit that i’d not seen the Conservatory’s new facility at 50 Oak Street, a run down YMCA that has been gutted and repurposed with an achingly beautiful interior surrounding a four-story atrium, gorgeous recital halls, and all. This is the most handsome music venue in the city, worth visiting just to see.

The first piece on the program was the Poulenc Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, Op.43, with a flute substituting for the Oboe and Steven on the Bassoon. Loved it, at least partly for the novelty of the instrumentation. I’d heard the Mendelssohn only in the original version with a violin, but the flute worked very well in its stead, and i was reminded of how much i like Mendelssohn’s trios. The Debussy Piano Trio in G minor was next, and i liked it almost as much as the Mendelssohn.

And then, if there had been any way to slither out unnoticed, i would have. I’m old, i tire easily, and i especially tire listening to classical music written by composers younger than myself. Like, for example, Paul Schoenfield, of whom i’d never heard. But i was trapped, so i heaved a great silent sigh and prepared myself for a learning experience during his Café Music.

Oh my goodness. The three movements were like frolicking love children of Gershwin and Shostakovich, and the piece was delightful. Here’s a YouTube clip of the first movement. Watch the grins of delight appear on the faces of the orchestra members in the background.

What a fabulous evening. Thank you, Steven. And here’s a Christmas Day pic from a walk along Santa Rosa Creek with Gloria.

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Solidarity Logo

In his annual Christmas Message last December the Holy Rat announced that folks who wanted to allow women to make their own reproductive decisions and, worse yet, people who favored gay marriage were all Threats to World Peace, and his radiant insanity spurred me to launch a competition for a logo that Threats to World Peace might wear to distinguish ourselves from the mass of sheep in His Holiness’ fold.

I_Do_v01So my friend Mark came up with this, echoing the pink triangle the Nazis forced gays to wear but modernized to push back against the current Nazi in the Vatican:

Oh and maybe i’ll plan a contingent/float in this summer’s Gay Parade having some good clean fun with His Drunken Grace’s little DUI incident in San Diego last summer

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Anchovies

I’m thinking of calling my internist on Monday and seeing if i can get her to call me in a prescription for an asthma inhaler, as the difficulty in breathing is the most annoying part of this cold.

The rest of the story is that i could have called her this afternoon but frittered it away in two pharmacies before i finally got clear that you can more easily buy an assault weapon in this country than an asthma inhaler.

I mean, what if i stormed City Hall brandishing it and took the Mayor hostage?

Bring me a pizza or i’ll spray him and the secretary both!

Extra anchovies.

Window of OpportunityMeanwhile, a window of opportunity on Buchanan Street

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Bulletin

Troops loyal to the President ringed the capital city today as pro-government demonstrators, many members of the President’s minority sect, thronged the streets to celebrate his inauguration.

In the rebel-held provinces, discontent seethed, but there was relatively little violence other than the customary fratricidal slayings by young males armed with the family assault weapons.

In loyalist regions, the celebration was muted since even the sycophants are nervous about the President’s new powers of secret, indefinite detention.

Gloria's Blood OrangesIn other news, an agricultural report from California’s Luther Burbank region: There’ll be a bumper crop this year of organic Santa Rosa blood oranges in Gloria’s back yard.

For which we are grateful.

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Herring Season

The herring run has recovered sufficiently that a moderate harvest is being permitted this year, so i bought a moderate three pounds yesterday.

Fresh Herring

 

Brought them home and filleted them, gently lifting out the roe and milt sacs which i lightly floured and sauteed in butter for a lunch. Then put the fillets in brine overnight in the refrigerator. This noon i packed the fillets in jars with red onion and lemon slices and poured a pickling solution over them, following this Swedish recipe. Here they are.

Pickled Herring

 

Gonna wait a couple of days to try ’em, but the good news is that i’m over the first hurdle. Since i didn’t wake up dead yesterday morning from eating all those innards on Saturday, at least i know the herring weren’t poisoned. I’ll eat a bunch of the pickled ones tomorrow and wait a couple of days before i give any away.

First come, first served. Get your bids in now.

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Feasting With Panthers

The first reviews are in, and the pickled herring is one of my greatest successes. I handed off a jar of it to Ellyn, who hadn’t eaten it in years but had loved it as a child back east, and she reported opening the jar that evening to share a taste with her partner before dinner. Turned out that dinner was put on hold while she and the partner sat there and ate the entire jar, scrupulously taking turns, of course. Mark took his jar to work, where it was set upon and devoured in a couple of minutes.

I was introduced to pickled herring when i was stationed in Heidelberg in the mid-sixties and took to the German custom of stopping at the Messplatz on the way home after an evening of drinking. See, at the Messplatz there were two local items for sale: hookers and Bismarck herring, the herring being of much higher quality and reputed to be a hangover preventative.

I was a little nervous about this since i’d been warned that “Bismarck” was the German word for “raw”. Emboldened by drunkenness, but sober enough to understand that raw herring presented a far lesser health hazard than those sleazy hookers, i took a taste. It was love at first bite.

Half a century later i’m pickling my own.

Then, after getting those good reviews i went browsing around looking for alternative recipes and made an unsettling discovery: the herring worm. Yes, i’ve been feasting on panthers…and passing the feast on to friends. Well, unless my purveyor of fresh herring (or his supplier) has been giving them a really hard freeze before selling them, a likelihood i considered vanishingly small and then confirmed to be absent with a call to San Francisco Fish Company. “No, they’re fresh from the Bay”.

So then the research started and i discovered that in the entire United States about ten people a year are diagnosed with herring worms, but there are no recorded fatalities. Zero. They don’t kill you. Hmmm, so i’m two and a half times as likely to be killed by lightening and three thousand times as likely to be shot to death or die in a motor vehicle accident than i am to be merely made sick by herring worms. And wait, this is the same risk i take every time i eat ceviche, sushi, or raw oysters.

So why do i still feel like i’m feasting with panthers?

Going fast, but a few jars left, so get your order in quickly.

And yeah, Wilde wrote in De Profundis: “It was like feasting with panthers, the danger was half the excitement.” So as to continue the feasting, i bought five more pounds and pickled them using Mexican limes and yellow onion. And continued my efforts as the official lab rat by eating an entire jar of each batch all by myself. Got away with it, too.

Update: As of 11 February i’ve eaten two jars from the first batch and one jar from the second with no ill effects, and considering the state of my immune system, i’m more of a mine canary than a lab rat.

LeucospermumHere’s a recent flower shot, a Leucospermum, not in somebody’s front flowerbed but rather on the sidewalk at a Church Street florist:

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Feasting With Friends

Sometime last year Tangerine, at the corner of 16th and Sanchez, closed and was replaced by Kitchen Story, but it took me until this week to get around to trying it. Shoulda done so earlier. Jeff took me there last Wednesday, and we were both impressed.

In the first place, they’ve spruced the interior up quite a lot, so the appearance is greatly improved. More importantly, so has the food, as the only thing i found memorable at Tangerine was their exquisite cream of mushroom soup, the best of its sort i ever ate. Unfortunately, cream of mushroom soup all by itself is not enough of a draw to sustain a restauant.

Kitchen Story calls itself “California Cuisine”, but the menu is really California/Asian Fusion, with the emphasis on Asian.

For appetizers we had the Free Range Chicken Saté, which was merely good and thus the low point of the evening, and the Ahi Scoops, which were not only a delightful and handsome presentation, but also utterly delicious flavor bombs accompanied by wonderfully spicy cucumber slices.

For entrees, it was the Big Hug, perhaps a little cutesy in name but a gorgeous presentation. Bacon-wrapped scallops with grilled eggplant in a puddle of spicy cilantro sauce with garlic egg noodles. The “bacon” was really more like roasted pork belly, the cilantro sauce was an excellent version of that traditional Indian sauce, and the noodles were lusciously creamy. The other entree was the East Feeds West. a slow cooked, five spice pork shank with grilled broccolini and cucumber salad that were so good i could push off on Jeff my half of the uninteresting lotus-wrapped yellow curry rice. And to be fair, Jeff somehow managed to choke down every last grain of the rice.

The wait staff were relaxed, friendly, and totally competent. I’ll go back soon.

David came into town for lunch last Thursday, and we tried the new Farina pizza outpost at the corner of 18th and Valencia. David had the gnocci, which was much better than my rather ordinary pizza, not as good as Mozzeria’s and twice the price.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterwards, we walked into the next block to 740 Valencia so i could show him Dandelion’s factory and chocolate store and so i could give their newly opened cafe a try.

Oh my goodness. They offer coffee from Four Barrel, but we were both more tempted by the hot chocolates. Yes, plural. Three offerings. I had the one called Mission, which was as expected flavored with a bit of cinnamon and more than a bit of chile, but oh was it ever delicious. I’ve got to go back and try the others.

Not to mention their confections. This time i had the chocolate caramel tart, and it was impossibly rich but somehow lightened by precisely seven crystals of fleur de sel.

Go to Dandelion, folks, and do it on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday since that’s when the production line is running and that’s part of the joy.

Soon.

Meanwhile, here’s some local fauna:

 

Local Fauna

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More Feasting

Couple more recent feasts.
First, Mark treated me last Thursday night to Kronnerburger, a new and trending pop-up in the side section of Bruno’s on Mission Street. Wow. The menu says “Rare” and “Salty”, and it sure is both. We ordered the same thing, the kronnerburger with beef marrow and a side of fries, washed down with bottles of Green Flash IPA. The hamburger and fries were both delicious, and we needed every last drop of those IPA’s to get through the heaviest, saltiest meal i’ve had in ages. The place is worth going to for dedicated carnivores, and in principle i love eating at pop-ups, but to be fair the burger at Pearl’s Deluxe Burgers on Market at 6th is every bit as good and cheaper.

The other recent feast was a polar opposite. I joined my dear ex-colleagues Sharon, Sue, Rachael, and Sharon at the Slanted Door for one of the periodic lunches we’ve been having since 1998, bringing us full circle because one of our first lunches was at the Slanted Door in its original incarnation on Valencia Street.

This time we had the crispy imperial rolls, the Vietnamese vegetarian crepe, the glass noodles with Dungeness crab, the caramelized catfish claypot, and another dish i’m not remembering even though all of it was delicious. And a bottle of Grüner Veltliner that complimented the dishes perfectly. The great joy of the Slanted Door is that the quality of the food has been held to the original high standard. What a wonderful restaurant, and a communal restroom that’s a worthwhile experience in itself. Alas, i keep forgetting to photograph it. Excuse me, ma’am, you’re not done yet?

The occasion was all the more delightful since we did this last Saturday so i got to browse through the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market before lunch. The down side was that i got a bit carried away with the browsing, quelle surprise, and when the bill came and i looked in my billfold i discovered a shortage. Luckily, i had my credit card and everyone agreed to let me put the meal on my card. Not a problem although when i looked at this huge pile of money on the table something seemed somehow wrong. But knowing that the most obvious signal of my incipient Alzheimer’s is a lessened ability to handle numbers, i ignored the warning buzzer. At home i looked again at the bill and the pile of money and realized, to my horror, that the others had put in too much money because i ended up paying nothing for my own meal. The salt in the wound, grrrrr, is that when i did the math at home i discovered that i had had enough money in my billfold in the first place. Sigh. Now to try to make amends.

front porch treatmentAnd since there’s no pic of that restroom, here’s an interesting front porch treatment on 14th Street.

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Food Blogs

Some exciting food blogs are out there, and here are four of my favorites, in the order in which i discovered them:

No Salad as a Meal – He’s been slowing down on additions, but this site is still a valuable resource for foodies, especially Bay Areans.  I find the restaurant reviews almost always spot on, the food tales are highly entertaining, and the site design is great.

Mus E Yum – The new primary focus here seems to be on environmental issues, but he continues to make food entries, and you can’t go wrong digging into the sizable menu of reviews on new bakeries and small restaurants.  Some fascinating reading here, and  excellent ice cream coverage.  What is it about butterfat?

Cook and Destroy – A recipe blog, this one by a southern California surfer.  Who says surfers can’t cook?

Elmwood Eats – This one also focuses on recipes, all scrupulously step-by-step and mouth watering.  And what is it about food writers and photography?  All of these sites have good photos, and Elmwood’s are fabulous.  My food photos rarely turn out, and often i’m reduced to posting pics that veer into the grotesque.  One the other hand, her photos here make my little heart pound in its chest, sometimes in pure envy rather than gracious admiration.  I mean! She makes spent eggshells beautiful!  (See the Lemon Bar recipe.)

wedding cakeMeanwhile, since i don’t have any spare eggshells, here’s a wedding cake closeup:

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