Thursday, June 29, 2006

She cried and hid under the piano. She used her hair like a curtain. She beat herself with her fists. She said, "I swear to god, I'm not trying to be rude, but there's just too much light. It's just too bright."

A woman in the audience yelled back, "It's okay -- it's all just bullshit anyway."

the ball game

Monday, June 26, 2006

I heart bratwurst. It's one of the few things at Giants games that's actually worth the price -- $6.50 for a single (but very huge) brat, fresh off the grill and topped with sauerkraut or onions or both. Yum. (Everything else is ridiculously overpriced -- $4.50 for a bottled water! $4 for Minute Maid lemonade! $8 for a beer! $5 for cotton candy! $3.25 for a churro that's probably hard as a rock! Ridiculous!)

I waited in line for that bratwurst. Waited and waited. And while I stood there, I heard a woman about my age tell an older man (about my grandpa's age, were he still alive) she just met while lining up for the bratwurst that her ex-boyfriend of five years was an asshole because she was "giving" and he was "never nice." Since the line was moving slowly, this conversation went on for some time. The older man was very patient and didn't wince when she used the word "asshole." Instead, he said, "So ... did you learn something?"


Thursday, June 22, 2006

I just went over to the tasting room, and they have three baby swallows in a box. The poor things were trying to fly, but their wings are too weak, so they didn't make it very far. Our staff found them on the lawn, and if they hadn't brought them indoors to let them rest a bit, the little birds probably would've fried.

Because it's 109 degrees in Napa right now.

all by my lonesome

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

I am quite possibly the only person at the winery right now. I know everyone in the admin building is gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if the tasting room folks and the production team have left (or are in the process of leaving), too.

Apparently, everyone has something they need to go home to. And fast.

Me? I am wondering about dinner. We are on this thing now, this herbal cleanse, and we are taking six herbal capsules twice a day and not drinking alcohol or caffeine and not eating fried food or red meat or sweets.

It's challenging. I've already cheated (obviously, from my previous posts). And deep down, all I want is a big plate of really greasy French fries.

But maybe tonight we will have some kind of really decadent salad. (Can salad be decadent?) Or maybe we will walk down the street to our local sushi joint. Or maybe I should stop at the store and see what's in season.

All I know is I should probably go home, too. Because I'm starting to hear things creaking and creeping. And it's freaking me out.

things I wish I had remembered earlier

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

1. To take photos of last night's dinner at Jenn's house. The menu included cheese-stuffed mushrooms, seared scallops over spinach and saffron rice. We finished with two desserts from Dean & Deluca (so rich -- we were full after two bites!). The wine throughout the meal was Clos Du Val 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, Stags Leap District -- not exactly what you'd typically choose for a meal of scallops which were seasoned primarily with sesame oil, but hey, it was good.

2. Not to leave the scallops on for so long. They were a little too chewy. My fault entirely. (By the way, I am completely amazed by the size difference between raw scallops and cooked scallops. They shrink so much!)

3. That staying in and cooking with a friend is often much more fun than going to a restaurant. It's also cheaper. And sometimes, you learn something (like how Jenn's recipe for saffron rice is the best thing ever and I probably would've fought her dogs for the leftovers, but that would've been embarrassing, especially since I probably would've lost).

eat your greens

Monday, June 19, 2006

Meep is a very smart cat.

we're not in college anymore

... and free alcohol isn't always good alcohol. Like this Mount Eden Vineyards 2001 Chardonnay from Edna Valley, which his work was giving away for free. (He works for a non-profit. This wine was donated for an event. Apparently, not all of the wine was poured at said event, so employees got the leftovers.)

Um, 2001 was five years ago. And Chardonnay is supposed to be fresh. Especially California Chardonnay, which doesn't have the ageability of white Burgundy.

And who knows where this wine was stored before the big employee giveaway.

But we decided to try it out anyway. (It was actually hot in San Francisco this weekend -- sun, there was sun! We needed refreshment. Plus the Chardonnay grapes were sourced from MacGregor Vineyard, which is a nice spot now owned by Jean-Pierre Wolff of Wolff Vineyards, who is a very nice guy and does a lot of great environmental and habitat-preservation work in his vineyards.)

The results: I felt like I was drinking metal, but with a really astringent aftertaste that made my mouth pucker. There was no fruit left in this wine. And the color was dark. I couldn't handle more than two sips.

Note to self: Drink Chard while it's young.

sheer disappointment

Friday, June 16, 2006

I hate the regular supermarket. To me, regular supermarkets are like gigantic 7-Elevens. Everything is processed, all the labels scream out at you with their big, expensive advertising slogans and overly bright colors, and hardly any of the produce is local. Regular supermarkets do little, if anything, to educate you about where you food comes from and how it was made. And they do very little to encourage you to cook -- all of the products are about "convenience" and how fast you can prepare a meal. I hate going to regular supermarkets, and try to avoid them whenever possible, unless I have to buy something like toilet paper. (We usually shop at Thom's Natural Foods on Geary or at Rainbow, which is like the Mecca of bulk food and organic produce. I love going to Rainbow. It is truly an outing. We actually bring our foodie friends there when they're visiting from out of town. That's how much we love it.)

So imagine my excitement when I heard about Vallergas Markets, which describes itself as "Napa's gourmet grocery store" featuring "natural and organic product lines," "bulk foods: grains, pasta, beans" and "Napa Valley products." Vallergas goes on to boast it's the only truly local Napa store, with just three locations in the valley.

I thought, 'At last! I've found a place where I can shop on my lunch break!'

And off I went to the brand-new store on Solano.

I cannot even begin to describe how disappointed I was. The store may as well be any other grocery store -- aisles and aisles of big-brand processed food -- but with a Boar's Head Deli inside, so I guess that means they can call themselves "gourmet" (lame). And the produce section was extremely disappointing! Their so-called organics took up a teeny-tiny little corner. And I don't remember even seeing a bulk section.

(Side note: Because I was short on time and didn't want to drive to Trader Joe's to buy their produce, which is always wrapped in plastic and comes from Peru, and if you don't eat it in two seconds, it goes bad, I did end up buying some organic zucchini. Later that evening, we did a taste-test with the organic zucchini from Thom's and the organic zucchini from Vallergas, and guess which one was better? Definitely not the one from Vallergas, which likely came from a big industrial organic operation. The Thom's zucchini was flavorful, with a firm texture; the Vallergas zucchini tasted like mush and had the mouthfeel of mush.)

The only saving grace about Vallergas is the olive bar. I'll give them that.

someday, fried cakes will rule the world

Thursday, June 15, 2006

I've been noticing more and more upscale restaurants putting doughnuts on their menus. I assume this has something to do with the comfort food trend that's all over the Bay Area -- seems like everyone (Home, Q, Lime, etc.) has a "gourmet take" on dishes like mac and cheese, fried chicken, corn on the cob, tomato soup and grilled cheese, barbecue ribs and beans. Suddenly, the food you'd normally serve in your backyard (assuming you had one, which is not the case for me) while wearing flip-flops and drinking beer from a can is now top dish, and there's nothing trendier than mixing high and low culture in the kitchen.

Hence the doughnuts. And I love doughnuts. I've been a fan since I was a child and my mom would serve me glazed doughnuts topped with a slice of Velveeta cheese and put in the microwave for exactly 45 seconds. (This story disgusts pretty much everyone I tell it to. Feel free to gag now. But I swear, eating doughnuts this way is fantastic. I suspect the warm doughnut with melted cheese reminds me of my ensemada heritage. Ensemada is a sweet, bready Filipino pastry that's often topped or filled with cheese. It's very bad for you, but oh so good to eat. Especially at breakfast. Nothing like carbs in the morning.)

Luckily, recent doughnut excursions do not involve pieces of processed cheese and the microwave.

Some of my favorites:

Sauce: This loungey Hayes Valley spot offers cinnamon sugar doughnuts with vanilla bourbon dipping sauce on its dessert menu. I ate them last night. They were also topped with whipped cream and strawberries (note: it's strawberry season, so the fruit was especially tasty). The only weird thing about these doughnuts is they don't look like doughnuts at all. They're more like fabulous pieces of fried dough rather than little cakes with a hole in the center.

Citizen Cake: Also in Hayes Valley (are doughnuts taking over Hayes Valley?), Citizen Cake has doughnuts on its weekend brunch menu. (By the way, Citizen Cake is my favorite San Francisco brunch spot. I brunch there as often as possible.) These doughnuts are doughnut holes covered in powdered sugar and served with a side of frosting and a side of jam (usually marmalade, sometimes berry) for dipping. There are six to every order. Order them immediately; sometimes the restaurant runs out.

Boon Fly Cafe: Good luck finding this place -- it's part of the Carneros Inn, and it's on Highway 121, kind of across the road from Domaine Carneros, in this weird little complex that sort of looks like a bunch of ag buildings. But if you can get there, you'll be well-rewarded; the food is fabulous. And their doughnuts are amazing. They actually look like real doughnuts (only smaller) and are served in a paper cone, similar to the ones you get when you order frites in some French bistros. And each order is a baker's dozen, so we had leftovers for snacking later.


Monday, June 12, 2006

I still order tamago whenever I go out for sushi. It was the first sushi I ever learned to love, and it reminds me of my dad, who once lived in Japan and who always eats everything, including the leftovers, the shreds that remain on the bone, even the eyeballs. (Funny how my dad is one of the most adventurous eaters I know, yet tamago is one of the most bland sushis out there.) I always order tamago, and I always eat it last. And I rarely ever share. Not because I'm selfish, but because 90 percent of the people I've met don't like tamago. (It really is sushi for 5-year-olds.)

You can tell a lot about people from their food choices.

People who like tamago and order it regularly are usually (a) Asian, (b) small children or (c) people who hate it but know I like it so they end up giving me their share which makes me really happy.

People who try it are usually (a) vegetarians who don't eat fish or seafood but will eat animal products like eggs, (b) really curious about why an omelette is wearing a rice backpack and a seaweed belt or (c) short on cash and interested in the nigiri sushi that only costs $2.50, which is pretty much what tamago is.

People who dislike it are usually (a) most people I have met or (b) not Shaya.

Anyway, some of the best tamago I have had in San Francisco was at Kabuto Sushi. And if you aren't a 5-year-old Asian kid with a penchant for cold egg custard over sticky rice, there are other good things on the menu, too. (I'm a fan of the aji.)

I won't go back

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

My high school reunion is on Saturday. I'm not going. (And apparently, neither is anyone else. I think only eight people have RSVP'd.)

But I keep having nightmares about it anyway. Last night, I dreamt I went and it was at the home of this terrible girl who shall remain nameless but in my dream still lived with her equally terrible and annoying mother and there was too much shag carpet and all the food was extremely disgusting and made with canned soup concentrate or something nasty like that and there wasn't enough alcohol and all of my ex-boyfriends were there and everyone was mad at me because I didn't offer to help out in the kitchen.

And the entire scenario was tinted red.

horse wine

Monday, June 05, 2006

I admit it: I bought this wine largely because Seattle-based Garagiste (my favorite wine retailer) literally advertised it as the "horse wine." But unlike all those people who buy Yellowtail and Luna di Luna (it comes in a blue bottle!) for the packaging, I did not see the label before I bought the wine. Garagiste merely sent me an e-mail, describing this "horse wine" as "the essence of true Beaujolais" with flavors somewhere between Pinot and Gamay.

(I guess this makes me a sucker for the well-written advertisement. What would you rather be: a softie for words or for images?)

I like horses. I like Beaujolais. And I trust Garagiste.

Plus the price was an unbeatable $13.99.

I'm pleased to say this 2004 Coudert Clos de la Roilette Fleurie did not disappoint. It was light but not watery, fruity but still complex. Imagine a cherry-flavored LifeSaver, but with a hint of spice, and without the nasty sugary feeling that coats your teeth afterwards.

That's the horse wine. And I'm excited because I still have two bottles left at home. Perfect summer drinking.

cheese sandwich, take two

Sunday, June 04, 2006

This is take two because the new cat (Mari, after my favorite video game ever) just walked all over the computer and deleted my post.

As I was saying, I've meant to respond to this column in Food & Wine magazine since March, which is when it originally ran. In it, writer Pete Wells basically criticizes people for having "dear-diary" type food blogs (yes, I am guilty, so yes, this strikes a personal chord). He argues blogs should have a point or a theme and not just be lists of things like, "Today I ate a cheese sandwich." (He cites Deep End Dining and The Bruni Digest -- which I heart, by the way -- as examples of "good" blogs with "purposes.")

I agree -- to a point. Obviously, rather than read a rundown of a complete stranger's eating habits, it's much more useful to read a blog comparing cheese sandwiches throughout, say, Northern California with the goal of finding the perfect cheese sandwich. (And really -- what can be better than the perfect cheese sandwich?) Said blog could even expand, searching for the best tomato soup to pair with the cheese sandwich. And recipes could be included, too, making the whole presentation that much more attractive. ("Utility," my editors used to call it. "Readers like utility.")

But isn't the beauty of blogging the fact that anyone can do it? And that anything can be written? The reason I started blogging was because I wanted to get away from The Editors. After three years in newsrooms/pseudo-newsrooms and two years of fiction workshops (and being rejected by pretty much every single literary magazine I sent my stories to), I needed to re-learn how to write for myself.

And that is no easy task. It is hard to silence that voice.

"Will they like it?"

"Is this too much?"

(And the worst:) "Am I being cheesy?"

I try to remind myself that cheesiness is worth the risk. Because if it's honest cheesiness and not something contrived or artificial or entirely about pleasing or attempting to please someone else, then cheesiness should be okay.

So bring on the sandwich bread, Pete Wells! I make my grilled cheese with goat's milk Cheddar and thin strips of roasted red peppers. I like sourdough, slices buttered on the outside before they hit the heat. And I like to use my fabulous Hello Kitty sandwich maker because it kicks ass and because I am obsessed with cats.

So there.
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