Thursday, November 30, 2006
... turns 25 today. This is the turkey he and his girlfriend made for Thanksgiving. They were the only people at their dinner, which also included a berry mallow yam bake, cranberry sauce (with real cranberries!) and two pies.
And I believe they've already eaten all of the leftovers.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
Took a few days off to have tofurky and stuffing in the Sierras and ride a bike around the Yosemite Valley floor. This was my first Thanksgiving away from home, with someone else's family and someone else's traditions. This time, there was no waiting in an empty house while everyone else goes to church. There was no need to prepare a gargantuan breakfast as explanation for the need to skip church -- who else would cook, right? And there was no sitting around the table and taking turns listing all of the things we are thankful for from the past year.
I missed the last part.
It has been a fast year. Already, the calendar is at the second-to-last page, and we are getting ready to turn it.
Monday, November 20, 2006
When I called, he was at the grocery store, buying toilet paper and detergent and all of the things to replace what he used over the past nine weeks. And he was looking for paper bags. Plenty of paper bags. To pack the magazines and newspapers and art supplies he's collected over those same weeks.
I am picturing it: Tomorrow, a sea of bags, the apartment covered in rough brown paper. The cats crawling and pouncing and climbing in and out. It is an obstacle course. It is cat heaven.
And it is time.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Yes, you can go out for dinner and drinks on a Saturday night in San Francisco and spend less than $40. And that even includes parking.
Case in point: Last night in the Mission. Brian and I had dinner at Puerto Alegre. (By some great miracle, we actually walked right in and didn't have to wait two hours on the sidewalk.) I ordered the super vegetarian burrito and flan; he got the two-enchilada combo, plus another enchilada à la carte (the food is just that good -- you have to order seconds). And we shared a pitcher of margaritas. The bill was $38 (I think -- my memory's a bit fuzzy -- blame the tequila), which we split. Fahabulous.
Then we met up with Jessica to continue the quest of checking out all the wine bars in the city. Our stop: Paréa. The first two pages of the wine list focus on Greek wines. This definitely isn't something you see every day. The last time I had Greek wine was in Sacramento two years ago -- the summer Olympics was going on, so fancy-shmancy gourmet grocer/wine shop David Berkley was doing a Greek wine tasting. Honestly, I wasn't impressed. I thought everything tasted like pine sap.
But since Greek wines are Paréa's specialty, I decided to give them another try. I ordered a white (and am kicking myself right now for not writing down the name and the grapes -- it was a blend of three Mediterranean varietals, none of which I'd ever heard of before). By-the-glass price: Only $5.50. (Seriously, you never see this anywhere in this town. I am so used to paying at least $8 for any kind of alcohol.) And the wine was good. No Pine Sol this time. Instead, it reminded me a lot of an unoaked Chardonnay.
All in all, a good night. And I still have $2 left in my wallet.
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Just got home from pouring at RAP's "Winter Pink!" event at Ruby Skye. Those folks are brave to organize a Rosé tasting at this time of year, especially since their summer "Pink Out!" Rosé event wasn't too long ago, and many of the same producers participated in both.
A noble effort on all accounts, and I hope it pays off: Rosé doesn't have to be just a summer drink. It's one of the most versatile food wines -- good with everything from seafood to veggie dishes to game to steak to pizza. And since the holidays are a time for eating, why not serve Rosé? (And let me add that it's a hell of a good deal -- usually under $20!)
This is what I'm trying to tell the media. Unfortunately, only a handful of press were at tonight's event. I e-mailed a number of contacts yesterday to find out if they would be attending, and the responses included "Sorry, I'm in Paris," "Sorry, I'm in Hong Kong" and "Sorry, I just got back from the Rhône and I must recover."
I need a vacation.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Bok Choy Garden now delivers.
This is amazing. On par with a two-hour full body massage. Or getting out of work early. Or discovering that your cat knows how to fetch (which mine does because he is a genius -- he also talks).
I heard the good news when I dropped by Bok Choy Garden tonight. I was craving potstickers -- vegetarian potstickers, to be exact. And Bok Choy Garden is the place to go for vegetarian Chinese food. The choices are endless -- everything from sauteed soybeans with bean curd and seaweed to bamboo pith soup to taro "fish" with sweet-and-sour sauce. It's no-meat heaven. And I would probably live in their kitchen if I didn't spend so much time being too lazy to walk or drive over there.
But now that has changed, due to new ownership as of a month ago, and I can be as lazy as I want.
And that's not all: Dining in is different too. True, the recipes are the same (same cook and everything), but it's like there's a new energy in the place. The service now kicks some serious ass -- I dined alone and didn't feel awkward or patronized at all. The dishes came out in a timely manner -- no main courses overlapping appetizers, which used to happen all the time. And the new owner is chatty (in a good way), enthusiastic and extremely professional. He told me all about his plans -- the new delivery service, the Web site he hopes to construct, etc. I felt like I was getting five-star attention but in a teeny-tiny, hole-in-the-wall, super-casual restaurant. And that's my favorite kind of feeling.
And here's the best part: When you get your check, you also get a little dessert called a "crystal ball" (other diners at a table behind me kept calling it crystal meth, but funny-ha-ha, that's not what it was). The crystal ball is fabulous -- it's a chewy little ball of green tea curd in a rice-based gelatinous wrapper. And it comes served on a small plastic leaf (cute presentation that sort of reminded me of Japanese toys for some reason). The owner told me a hilarious story about how one customer asked him to save all the leaves because he wants to make a costume out of them. Oh, hell yes. It doesn't get much better than that!
Despite the changes, essentially Bok Choy Garden is still Bok Choy Garden. The display rack filled with pamphlets with titles such as "GOD: Supremely Lovable," "LONELINESS" (not good when you are dining alone and missing your winemaker boyfriend terribly), "Nuclear Power?" and "Marriage: Great Expectations" still hangs on the wall on the way to the bathroom.
I wonder if when I place my order for delivery, I can also request the "CONQUERING DEATH" pamphlet with my meal.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Two rooms, a bar, one server and nearly every table full. A wine list focused on biodynamic, organic, sustainable. Two girls: one all in black with a glass of Languedoc red, the other with curls and swirling a South African Cab.
"So what happens after? What's the plan?"
One day at a time.
Sunday, November 12, 2006
He was here this weekend, visiting, and it felt like he had never left. We went for a long walk today -- breakfast at the counter at Joe's (only $4.50 for eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast) and then May Wah Market for green tea powder (for my next ice cream recipe) and then the magazine section at Green Apple Books.
When we came back to the apartment, he said: "So how are the orchids?" He has this way of touching plants, of lifting leaves, gently. He grew up farming. He knows.
So I am trying now to fix our orchids. I am supposed to be watering them and repotting them and re-staking them while he is gone. But they are on a shelf too high for me to reach without a stool, so I always forget to do what I should be doing.
And now our orchids are infested with mealybugs, probably largely due to underwatering, which makes a plant more susceptible to pests. These mealybugs don't look much different from the dreaded vine mealybug, which I wrote about in great length in my former life. The bugs are white and oblong-shaped with thin horizontal stripes. And they look sort of fuzzy, like they're covered in cotton. And they secrete a sweet, sticky juice that ants like to eat. Hence, mealybugs are often called ant cows. (I can't believe I know this stuff.)
I should have noticed the mealybugs earlier. I shouldn't have even let the plants get to this point. Instead, I just spent at least an hour -- possibly more -- attempting not to be completely sicked out, then researching what to do next and then cleaning each leaf and crevice with alcohol and a Q-tip.
I tell myself, At least, this is a distraction. At least, I am thinking about something else, something besides the day he'll be in town for good.
Friday, November 10, 2006
Alert: A coworker just informed me the Starbucks holiday coffees are here. I avoid Starbucks like the plague any other time of the year (local places like Blue Bottle and Philz Coffee with the mint leaf on top are a bazillion times better), but I absolutely cannot resist the Starbucks eggnog latte. I've tried other eggnog lattes at independent coffee houses, but the truth is, nothing quite makes me as weak in the knees as the Starbucks version.
And it's not just the actual espresso-and-eggnog-in-a-red-cup concoction that gives me unparalleled pleasure: It's the fact that the eggnog latte signals Christmas. And I love Christmas. I love the lights and the terrible music and picking out a tree (we always go out of our way to pick the Charlie Brown one because even the skinniest, littlest tree needs a good home). I love ornaments and stockings and making a gift list (which I already created a few weeks ago -- and it's in Excel format because I'm just that excited). I love wrapping presents and baking cookies and surprising people.
Wow. I think I may have just squealed with delight.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Here's to Mz. Nancy for providing hope.
To the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld.
To Brian and Jessa for sharing some pizza and Merlot and not complaining about sitting on the floor of a very messy apartment with a hostess in smelly gym clothes and a cat that insisted on sprawling across the pizza box.
To the Monday night workout.
To the drivers on 121 who actually drive the speed limit instead of crawling along at 10 miles below while a huge line of cars piles up behind them.
To Jancis Robinson for being the anti-Parker.
To the whole wheat British muffins I eat every morning for breakfast with butter and Parmesan cheese.
To rediscovering raunchy Nine Inch Nails songs.
And to the news that yes, at last, he is finally coming home.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Just got back from pouring at Sparkle SF. It was a night of bubbles and diamonds and beautiful men in vintage YSL. Chocolates on silver platters. Fancy bite-size corndogs on bamboo skewers. A drag queen dressed as Babs. (I took a photo with her and it came out terribly -- she looks cross-eyed, while I look, well, like I have a really bad cold and am about to pass out. Big surprise there.)
Brian and I poured Australian wines: Clover Hill and Taltarni Brut Taché. Clover Hill was a huge hit with the crowd. I was chatting with one woman about the wine and Tasmania and cool-climate growing regions, and she took a sip and said, "Yes, this is very nice. It's like Veuve Clicquot."
I almost leapt across the table to hug her.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
So by now, we are all sick of hearing about the pumpkin ice cream I made for Halloween. (Yes, it was my first homemade ice cream. Yes, it went over fabulously.)
But I have just one last thing to say about that ice cream: I could've made it with butternut squash instead.
That's right -- according to Jeff Cox, my favorite media contact and a fantastic food and wine writer, I could've avoided the nasty canned pumpkin altogether.
I e-mailed Jeff earlier today because I was reading Bon Appétit and the recipe for "Perfect Pumpkin Pie" called for canned pumpkin. And there was even a photo of said can. I thought it was weird that a gourmet food magazine would ask you to buy canned ingredients, so I asked Jeff if using fresh pumpkin is ever an option or if people avoid it because it's a pain to obtain or something like that. And I told him about my pumpkin ice cream and how I sort of felt like I was cheating because I used canned pumpkin. (Can you say something is "from scratch" if you're using canned ingredients?)
Jeff responded to the canned pumpkin with complete horror: " ... that stuff is ug-LEE!"
And this is what he recommended as a substitution:
Go get a butternut squash and, using a cleaver or heavy knife, split it down the middle. Spoon out the seeds from the seed cavity. Place the halves, cut side up, in a 9x12 baking dish. Add an inch of water in the bottom. Place on a middle rack in the oven at 350 F. Cook for one hour or an hour and a quarter, or until a toothpick inserted in the flesh goes in easily and comes out clean. Allow to cool, then spoon the flesh into a measuring cup and use whatever amount the recipe calls for. Use this for pumpkin pies, pumpkin ice cream, whatever. Butternut squash -- like jack o' lantern pumpkins -- is a winter squash -- but a superbly flavored and fine-fleshed winter squash.
Wish I had known this earlier. I'm a huge fan of butternut squash. (And the Winemaker's family farms butternut squash. Which makes me think this is fate.)