March 2013

Visiting Friends

First Church of Christ Scientist in BerkeleyMy friends David and Chris from St. Louis are visiting, and i’ve had such a wonderful time trying to keep up with them that i’m exhausted, which means that the next few posts will be mercifully brief, serving simply as a framework for some photos marginally worth sharing.  David’s an architect and got us a private tour of Berkeley’s First Church of Christ, Scientist.  Weird cult or whatever, at least they had the sense to get Bernard Maybeck to do their church, and it stands now as a hundred-year-old jewel.  Here’s the ceiling in the main sanctuary.




Afterwards, we went on up to the UC Botanical Garden, where i found this lovely new leaf coloration on a Tsuga sieboldii, the Southern Japanese Hemlock.

Tsuga sieboldii


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For several years now i’ve been just sick with envy over my friend Louis’ getting all those letters published in the Chronicle.  Well, the tide is turning, and i finally got one published.  Archbishop’s Stand.  Ahhh, feels good doing the Lord’s work.

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Food, Glorious Food

Today, a feed bag.

The other day i made a Rangpur Lime Marmalam out of some that Carol had given me from her tree. I also had the pleasure that day of introducing her to the new cafe at Dandelion. She’d not been in the new place and was impressed by watching a chocolate factory operate at full tilt, and then she was blown away by a cup of their Mission hot chocolate. Her face registered shock at the first sip, it was so good.

And speaking of Carol, i got from her Gyalden’s recipe for chicken curry and have inserted it in the recipes as, oddly enough, Gyalden’s Chicken Curry. This is the best chicken curry i’ve had in this country, and the recipe is easy. Try it. Oh, and getting the recipe spurred me into doing a search for a good Indian grocery in SF. Bombay Bazaar used to be good, but it went into a gradual decline, moved to a little slot on Duboce with a pitiful selection and half empty shelves, and finally closed its doors. From the Yelp reviews it appears that the best of the current lot is a place called Jai Ho in that shopping center by Safeway on Webster, so i checked it out. I went in mainly to get good curry powder for Gyalden’s recipe, and was a bit disappointed by the indifference of the clerk. I mean, i asked him about fried moong dal, and he clearly understood my Hindi but said they didn’t have the item and directed me to a huge selection of dried beans, including lentils. As i cruised the aisles, though, i found bags of fried moong dal in the snacks section. The good news, though, is that they had a wide selection of curry powders. Not only that, they had Patak’s hot lime relish, my favorite brand of this condiment.

The good news from yesterday is that it was the 2013 opening day of the Castro Farmers’ Market, an occasion so gala that i actually shaved for it yesterday morning. My favorite vendors were back, Shelly with her excellent free-range eggs, Spring Hill with the best butter i’ve had in this country, Happy Boy Farms with consistently the best baby arugula in town, and Home Maid with their exquisite Fig and Olive Spread. And there’s a new vendor, Bernard Ranches of Riverside. I was cruising by their booth and noticed those huge hybrid grapefruit bred for sweetness and then beside them some much smaller red grapefruit, also way too sweet for my taste. And then in a separate bin i noticed a slightly smaller one that looked like it could be the old, sour Marsh variety that i love so much. I asked, he complimented my perception, and then put back the identifying sign that had fallen aside. I bought five even though i have a week’s supply of them from Hamada. Well, i had to reward Bernard for bringing them and, of course, needed a couple for comparison. Got home and tried the smallest one even though i’m supposed to eat only one at breakfast, and i’d already had it. Yep, it’s a Marsh, and almost as good as Hamada’s at the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market. Now that there are two places in San Francisco where you can buy these, you have no excuse not to.

The rest of the food news is that i spent today making a kumquat marmalam from a big bag of kumquats Glenn Tanimoto gave me last Sunday at the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market. The light freeze they had down there spared the other citrus, but kumquats are so sensitive that it stymied their full development and Glenn felt their quality was not up to his standards. Still made good marmalam, though. See the 2013 Production Report for what’s new in preserves.

Trametes versicolorAnd finally, here’s a Trametes versicolor growing out of a buried stump on Hartford Street. Spotted by my friend Oliver and identified by my friend CK. The reason it’s in this food post is because Wikipedia says it’s “edible but not palatable”. Hmmmm. Maybe sauteed with some fresh green garlic?

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Cameron Carpenter

I’m so occupied with farmers’ markets, preserving, cooking, eating, and socializing that i don’t usually even look at announcements of upcoming events, but last Thursday my eye was somehow caught by the San Francisco Symphony’s advertisement in the Chronicle about this afternoon’s Cameron Carpenter recital at Davies Hall.  Hmmm, i thought, finally after 28 years of fiddling around i’ve spotted an organ recital at Davies, so i could hear the magnificent Ruffatti for the first time.  Here are the specs.

<Oh, and even though i’d been thinking the best introduction to that organ would be a performance of Camille Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, Carpenter might well give the organ a better workout.  After all, he outrages purists with the liberties he takes with classical compositions, and better yet, he’ll be performing the US premiere of five movements from his work in progress Science Fiction Scenes, described in the program notes as “essentially an opera for organ alone”.  If nothing else, i thought, Carpenter ought to provide some good entertainment since he’s already more flamboyant than Liberace was at his age.  Just saying, but when he performed movements from Science Fiction Scenes for the first time in Berlin last fall, he was described as a “bird of paradise”.  In a word, glitter.

So i agonized for a day and then on Friday went ahead and called the Symphony box office to get a ticket. And then, on the spur of the moment realized i should get two tickets so i could take somebody. But once the order was confirmed i started wondering if i knew anyone who might enjoy this spectacle, which took up most of the day until i thought of Tony, who not only likes classical music but doesn’t mind having it glittered up and is also not averse to a gay spectacle.

The recital? Well, i’d gone YouTubing and was ready.

He came glittering out and launched his transcription of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.  Look, i’ve loved Bach since i was an undergraduate, but i have to say this may have been the most exciting Bach work i ever heard on the organ, or at least the most different one.  He followed this with Bach’s Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, and it was equally exciting although i promise you it never sounded like this in Lüneburg.  You can hear, and see both of these works on the Berliner Philharmoniker’s site  It’s free after you register.

Carpenter followed the two Bach works with selections from Franck and Dupré, which were unconventional but enjoyable. And after the intermission he played the Science Fiction Scenes, getting in touch with his inner theater organ, and i just loved them. IMHO, he’s better at this than at revising the classical repertoire.

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The Bay Lights

Last night my friends Andrew and Frank hosted me at a party in their 50th floor home in the Millennium Tower, where we had a superb view of the premiere of Leo Villareal’s astonishing light show, The Bay Lights.  Magnificent views, good provender, and a lovely crowd made for a delightful evening.

The capper, though, came when i descended from the clouds to the ground and discovered that a snappy little rain had started to provide some entertainment for the Segway ride home.  No, it wasn’t a hard rain even though by the time i got home my lower legs beneath the raincoat were soaked and my toes were squishing, but it was great fun because quite a few bicyclists had been similarly surprised, and we absolutely wallowed in our shared adversity.  Lotsa joking on the themes “This wasn’t supposed to start until after i’d got home,” “Aw, just testing my rain gear,” “Got room under that poncho for me?”

And yes, it’s still springtime, and surely you didn’t think i was going to try to photograph The Bay Lights when their website is full of shots far finer than i could do, not to mention video clips.

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We Have a Winner

I’d written about being all excited over the opportunity to get onto a wait list for some senior housing on Bernal Heights, and yesterday i got great news: I won. They’re estimating that there’ll be an opening in about 18 months, and although nothing is guaranteed, i’m excited, as the place is pretty much ideal.

To celebrate, my friends Ruth and Pam took me to a concert last night at Davies Hall, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis playing works for violin and piano: the Mozart Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, Schubert’s Fantasy in C Major, Lutoslawski’s Partita, and the Saint Saëns Violin Sonata no. 1 in D Minor. The Mozart was good, the Schubert was fine, and the Saint-Saëns was electric. The crowd brought them back for three encores, the second an arrangement for piano and violin of Chopin’s Prelude No. 1, which i’d learned to play in my youth owing to its being within my pitiful technical grasp.

And to celebrate this glorious day, back to the flowers. Well, hey, it’s springtime, and the blossom structure here is five or six feet long. Enormous.

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