Category: Slice of Life

A Slice of My Life – Week 18

May 7, 2013

Last week was a fun and busy one with three separate trips into the city and some serious heat in the East Bay.  (Side note: I remember a conversation with Irvin as we were starting to think more seriously about moving to the Bay Area.  He told me that people in San Francisco call it the “the city” or, very occasionally, SF.  No one calls it San Fran or, heaven forbid, Frisco.  I thought this was kind of silly – “the city”?  Aren’t there a lot of cities this could be referring to?  But no.  I now, 9 months into being a Bay Area resident, always refer to San Francisco as “the city” and occasionally SF when I am writing.  He was right!)

I swear I could move my bed into the Ferry Building and be very happy.  The Ferry Building has a huge (and very crowded) farmers’ market on Saturdays.  They also have a much smaller and much less crowded one on Tuesdays, so I ventured in to check it out and stock up on favorites inside the terminal.  I swear, every time I go in there, I see so many new treasures.

I bought a huge bag of English peas.  One of my earliest food memories is walking through the Pike Place Market in Seattle with my mom and just popping peas out of the pods and eating them raw.  It is still my favorite way to enjoy English peas.  Whenever I see them at markets, I buy a ton of them and put them in everything.  I thought I had finally met my match with this bag but every single pod held candy-sweet treasures, and we had no problem finishing them.  See also: pen in the background.

Dinner al fresco.

On Wednesday, I got to go back into the city for a book event with Jennie.  I had the good luck to meet Jennie last summer when we both happened to be in Paris at the same time.  In true Jennie fashion, she invited us over for a glass of wine and snacks.  We arrived, with a lukewarm bottle of rosé, to a huge hug from lovely Jennie wearing an apron around her waist and her signature sunglasses on top of her head.  We sat around her small kitchen table eating melons and bread and cheeses, and got to know her and her sweet girls.  It is one of my favorite memories of our trip to France.

Now Jennie has a beautiful cookbook out called Homemade with Love and she is stopping in a few cities to promote it.  She had a signing at a bookstore but she also invited some friends old and new and she cooked a beautiful lunch for us.  Everything was vegetarian and I loved every bite of everything.  That panzanella, on the left, is the first thing I’m making from the book.  I kept stealing croutons long after I was full.

This (deep breath) is Mollie Katzen.  The woman who wrote The Moosewood Cookbook among many others.  She is to vegetarian cooking as Justin Timberlake is to pop music.  Mollie was at the party too although I didn’t know it until she said “excuse me” on her way out.  I might have squealed.  I might have thrust my hand at her in a lame attempt at a shake and said something dumb about how I’ve been a fan forever.  Damn!  I wish I had had time and clarity of thought to actually thank her for all she has done for the vegetarian cooking world.

I got to try out a new-to-me tip for fava beans.  Use a Y-vegetable peeler down the seam of the pod to open it easily.  I’ve always used a paring knife but the peeler worked better.

The favas got puréed with lots of lemon juice, mint, and olive oil.  That got put on top of toasted bread and topped with pecorino.  Also, burrata topped with crushed pink peppercorns, olive oil, sea salt.  Look carefully and you can see my reflection in the pan.

It was hot all week, one day close to 90º.  We were very thankful for friends with pool memberships.  This one in the Oakland hills…

…this one just a stone’s throw from the Ferry Building.

Heat means lots of ice cream.  This is Graham in his favorite jersey with our neighbor.  He is SO proud of that jersey, he asked for one from Santa.  Now that the Warriors are in the playoffs (right?  I’m not a basketball fan), he got lots of high fives from people on the street while wearing it.  Also, my son has darker skin than his Persian friend.

Hot nights mean gatherings on our amazing street.  S’mores as soon as the sun went down.

I got a request recently to do a post on books.  Novels I like as well as cookbooks.  What do you think?  In the meantime, I really liked this book.  I loved Olive Kitteridge too.  Both books were very readable but made me feel like I had accomplished something when I finished them.

Sunday trip to the farmers’ market.  All of this (plus a bunch of cilantro and 3 years of corn) cost me about $45.

A Slice of My Life – Week 17

April 30, 2013

Coming home from a vacation is never easy.  Coming home from Hawaii is particularly jarring.  Where is that smell of gardenias?  What happened to my lei?  Why is there no shave ice anywhere near me?  Why does the air feel cool at night?  You know.  But I have to say, coming home to sunshine and warm temperatures for now and the foreseeable future make re-entry a lot easier.  Above, a little sprinkler running.

Indian food testing.  Of all the classes I taught in Seattle, my Indian class was the most popular.  I planned to teach it twice and, because the class kept selling out, I ended up teaching it six times.  Earlier this fall, our school had an auction and I teamed up with a friend to offer this class as an auction item.  (She hosted the class because my kitchen is too small to teach in.)  In preparation, I practiced all my recipes and added a new one that was a big hit.  I’ll share the recipe with you this week.

This is a bathroom in our house that we recently remodeled.  It is hard to photograph because of how the light comes in.  I wish I had a before photo because the change is pretty miraculous.  I’ve mentioned this before, but our house is in the fire zone of Oakland.  In 1991, a huge fire came through and burned over 3,000 homes.  Almost every single house in our vicinity burned.  The people who rebuilt our house tried to recreate the house they lost and tracked down all the outdated paint colors and finishes that had been in the original.  Fortunately for us, another couple owned the house before we bought it and systematically remodeled almost the whole house.  The rooms they didn’t get to were two of the bathrooms, the room that became Graham’s (which was used as a storage room), and the laundry room.  The bathrooms were covered in hideous wallpaper and had mauve toilets and mauve shell sinks, and terrible ugly tile.  We opted to leave the bathroom in Spencer’s room in all its ugly glory since he and Graham are the only ones who use it.  This bathroom we updated and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.  The laundry room is much more functional and organized and Graham’s room went from being the worst room in the house to probably the best.  I will post more photos soon.

This little light hangs in my kitchen.  It is right above a small seating area.  I almost never turn it on because there is almost never anyone sitting in the seating area, but it always looks like it is on because of how the sun hits it.

My new favorite single girl (as in husband is out of town) dinner.  Quinoa, kale, avocado, 4-minute egg, chile sauce.

Last weekend, I attended the Big Traveling Potluck.  I didn’t take many pictures.  Many people try and capture as many shots of themselves and friends as they can and write big recap posts about events like these.  I opted to not do that.  I had kind of mixed feelings going in to the event.  I am no longer interested in going to the big blog events (like BlogHer Food or IFBC) because I feel that the content is constantly repeated and the conferences have gotten so huge that all sense of community and intimacy have been lost.  The Big Potluck and its sister event, The Big Traveling Potluck appealed to me because of its size (about 80) and because the message seemed to be about building community rather than learning about how to get more hits on your site.  I’ve made some amazing friends in my years as a food blogger and my interest in attending events is more about seeing the friends I know, meeting friends I know only through social media, and meeting brand new people.

I say all that and then I have to add the caveat that big social gatherings are hard for me.  They are hard for me even if I know every single person but they are especially difficult when most of the people are unknown.  I majored in theatre in college and I am good at acting like an outgoing person but inside I am an introvert and continually extending myself socially can be exhausting for me.  This event was wonderful in that I did see some of my old friends, I did meet some of my Instagram and Twitter friends (all of them as lovely as I had thought they would be), and I did meet totally new-to-me people who surprised me with their friendliness and graciousness.  I feel like I earned at least ten new friends which is such a treat.

Ever since moving to California, I’ve thought about trying In-n-Out.  I know they are famous for their hamburgers but I know you can get a grilled cheese and I had heard the fries are good.  Wah-wah-wah.  The grilled cheese, which is just a cheeseburger without the burger part, was gross enough to not finish it, and the fries were limp and terrible.  I have heard you should get them “crispy” but I don’t like crispy fries.  The best part of the meal was the Diet Coke.

Whenever I wear these shoes, I get compliments on them from strangers and friends alike.  I decided to count the people who said they liked them on a day when I was around a lot of people (the end of the Potluck and the flight home).  I got 13 compliments on these shoes in one day!  Too bad they kill my feet…

Aaaaaaannnndd back to reality.  Lunch box packing.  I hate packing lunches.

A Slice of My Life – Kauai Edition

April 23, 2013

Last week, that week of utter craziness in Boston and Waco and unbelievable disappointment in our government, I was in Hawaii.  Kauai to be exact.  We heard the news about the bombings because a friend who came with us on our trip happened to be watching the news as she ran on the treadmill.  We were six hours behind the East coast and, it felt, a million miles away from all the bad things that were happening.  Kauai was actually a great place to be in a time of fear and uncertainty.  We didn’t have to shield our kids from the news because they were in the water from morning until evening.  And truthfully, whenever the tv was on, it was tuned to the Disney channel or Cartoon Network.  I relied on Facebook and the New York Times on my phone for updates and I felt utterly sick at times that I was sitting by the pool with a Mai Tai and watching my kids splash around while people were recuperating from unimaginable injuries in hospitals and others were imprisoned in their homes while a manhunt went on.  But what can I do?  I was on vacation, on an island in the middle of the Pacific, while some really bad shit went down in our country.  Does that mean I shouldn’t tell you about our trip?  I don’t think so.  So here we go.

This was our family’s fourth trip to Kauai.  Our first time Spencer had just turned a year and Graham was three.  I remember, viscerally, the stress of traveling that far with children that young.  My kids actually did great, I was the one who was a mess.  In general, I am not a high stress worrying kind of person.  But traveling across time zones on long flights with my children when they were young was hard for me.  It is so different now, at ages eight and six.  They pretty much entertained themselves, with the help of a combination of iPad, Leap Pad, and DVD players, and all the snacks that I don’t usually let them eat (think those white crackers with spreadable cheese), for the duration of the five hour flight.  We left Oakland early in the morning and arrived, thanks to a three hour time difference, around 9:30 in the morning.  That left us with a bonus day of sun and swimming.  Above is where I parked myself for the first three days of the trip.

If you have been to Kauai, you know the weather is not a sure bet.  Our first time there, we had six hours of sun in seven days.  (You should click on that link if for no other reason than to see my kids at ages two and four – impossibly cute if I do say so myself.)  After that trip, we decided it would be a good idea to tack on a couple of days in Poipu at the beginning of the trip.  Poipu (which the boys thought was the funniest word ever) is on the sunny side of the island and it is nice to know that, if nothing else, we will get a few days of sun.  The Sheraton has a terrific pool and the beach is just steps away.

The view from our room in Poipu, setting up for the luau.  We contemplated going but realized that there was almost nothing for the boys and me to eat (the vegetarians in the family), so we opted to just watch from our balcony.

The boys liked the pretty girls “shaking their booties”.  All righty then.

Several examples of island style.  My dress is from that cool boutique in Oakland.

It wasn’t all sun and swimming and fruity beverages.  After three days in Poipu, we headed north and west to Princeville.  We stopped on the way for lunch in Kapa’a at a restaurant where we have eaten before.  Randy ordered fish tacos as he usually does when he has the opportunity.  About five minutes after finishing his lunch, he got a really bad headache.  Then his face turned bright red.  I suggested we turn around and head for the hospital near the airport.  He told me that he wanted to press on and we’d see how he felt.  This is something that Randy sometimes does, he won’t admit that something is wrong until it is dire.  Is this a guy thing?  Not only would he not turn around but he insisted on driving.  As we got on the road, I saw a sign for an urgent care just out of Kapa’a and made him make the turn.  It turns out they have an ER, thankfully.  In just a few minutes after checking in, his whole body turned bright red.  In order not to scare the boys or have them tear up the waiting room, we went back into town to get shave ice, more on that treat later, and waited for the call to come get him.  It turns out that Randy got scromboid poisoning, something that can affect certain kinds of fish if they are not refrigerated properly.  The redness was basically one huge hive that covered him in a histamine response.  It is amazing what the body can do when faced with an invader.  After some IV benadryl, his color was back to normal and away we went.  Needless to say, I drove the rest of the way.  Later in the trip, Randy got a bad cold and was hit by a car while riding his bike.  Again we were lucky and he was all right.

Princeville.  The only downside to our time share is that is not on the beach, although the pool is terrific.  We are just a few miles from Hanalei Bay, one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, and we are up the hill from a lovely St. Regis, where we have beach privileges.

Not too shabby.  We have to bring our own towels so we are recognized as the riff raff and we are NOT allowed in their pool.  We are allowed to order $15 cocktails however.

I’ve lived most of my life on the West Coast and right near the water.  The water has mostly been a Sound and is most recently a Bay.  Being in Hawaii and looking out on the Pacific Ocean is awe-inspiring.

I read three books.  Two are not really worth mentioning (all right, I read The Night Circus after hearing great things about it and all I thought was meh).  This one though.  Wow.  I’m kind of a fiction snob and was prepared not to like it or just to think of it as a beach read.  It was a beach read in that is has a great plot, but I also found it moving and very well written.  I half expected it to fall apart at the end as so many books that start well do (helllloooo Gone Girl), but the end was just as great as the rest.  Pick it up!

Every single day we had shave ice.  That is not a misprint.  In Hawaii it is shave (no “d”) ice and it is nothing like a sno-cone.  The ice truly is shaved from a huge block so it melts on the tongue like ice cream, and there is no crunching or pool of syrup left in your cup when you are done.  At first we got one for the boys to share (they are large) but Randy and kept dipping our spoons into it.  Then we got each of the boys their own but Randy and I kept dipping our spoons into it.  Finally, the boys each got their own and Randy and I got one to share.  Such good stuff.

Those rainy days I was telling you about.  It was still in the 70’s so it did not stop the boys from swimming.

Or me from drinking.

The annual boys in Aloha shirts in Randy’s arms photo.  (Here is the one from last time.)  I warned him that after poisoning, a bad cold, and a collision between his bike and a car that he did not need a hernia on top of everything.  Maybe next time the boys will pick him up.

A Slice of My Life – Week 11

March 19, 2013

Last weekend, the one before this past one, Randy and I went to Napa with a busload of parents from our school.  We were supposed to be on a tricked out school bus but instead it was like a big prom bus.

We bought this excursion at our school auction and the organizers did a great job.  We went to three wineries.  This is Trefethen which was our first stop.  We all really liked the wine although Randy said he would never order it in a restaurant because he wouldn’t know how to pronounce it.  That made me giggle.

Next stop was St. Supéry where they prepared a lovely wine and cheese tasting for us.  We also got to have a catered lunch on their grounds.

Last stop was Louis Martini.  It isn’t the most scenic winery but I loved this tree.  They were the only winery that would allow a busload of 28 people come by on their last wine tasting stop.  Let’s just say things were a little rowdier toward the end of the trip than in the beginning.  There was even an after party that we did not make it to.

First baseball game.  All the little league teams are named after major league teams.  Spencer is a Texas Ranger.

I’ve been leaving my cookbooks alone for a bit and have been just cooking things I like.  I will share three recipes this week and share a bit more about this style.

Love the intersecting lines.

Fog!  All of lower Oakland, San Francisco, and Marin socked in.

An amazing (and brand new!) shop near my house.  Lesley Evers is a local designer and, as it turns out, a mom of kids at our school.  Apparently she has trunk shows.  I bought this one.

Washing farmers’ market lettuce.

This is Veronica.  She was taking a break from being on the wall because the wall was being painted.  We started calling her Veronica because she looks like one (and we call our GPS Veronica), and then we found out from the artist that the model’s name was, in fact, Veronica.

New shoes.  I’m in love.

New bracelet.  Ditto.  You can see the tiniest little bit of my tattoo in this photo.

Strawberries from the farmers’ market.  The best.

When we first moved in to our house, we met some neighbors up the street who mentioned that they too had moved from Seattle.  They also mentioned that occasionally when it was a “hot night” many of them would gather in the cul-de-sac, order pizza, drink wine, and make s’mores.  After the first of these that we joined in, Spencer started asking when it was going to be a “hot night” again.  So the gatherings are now officially called a “hot night” by everyone.  It is pretty amazing sitting in a camping chair, watching the sun go down over the Bay, drinking California wine, while the kids ride bikes in endless loops.  Life is good.

A Slice of My Life – Week 9

March 5, 2013

A couple of Sundays ago, I got to go on another Edible Excursions tour, this time in the incredibly exciting Temescal neighborhood of Oakland.  I was thrilled to be invited because I am still learning so much about this part of town and new places are opening all the time.

We met at the farmers’ market, which is in the DMV parking lot!, and right away ate two amazing things.  From the Cholita Linda booth, we got fish tacos (tofu for me) that were a terrific first bite.  I was excited to hear that they are opening a permanent location along Telegraph Avenue, where most of the action is happening.

Next up was a kouign-amann, a French pastry that I have somehow made it 42.5 years without tasting.  In all my many travels to France, I can’t believe that I never had the pleasure.  I remember seeing them in the better pastry shops in Seattle, but being nervous about how to pronounce it and what it actually was, I went for something more familiar.  The shame!!  Maybe it is a good thing because the one I tasted, here in Oakland, was so exquisite – I’m not sure the ones in Seattle would have set me off on the right foot.  I do not have a picture of it, probably because I was too busy stuffing it in my mouth (it was warm!), but above you will see the other offerings from Starter Bakery.

We got a sneak peek (and taste) of the then soon-to-open Juhu Beach Club which is operated by former Top Chef contestant Preeti Mistry.  Indian food is one of my favorite cuisines and I am thrilled to have a place so nearby that serves Indian street food.  The menu is super exciting and even offers the kids food in tiffins.  We got to taste an amazing fried potato puff sandwich, putting an end to any thought that potato and bread is too many carbs in one bite.  The surprisingly salty mango lassi, called the Sassy Lassi, was awesome.

Having thoroughly enjoyed myself on the Gourmet Ghetto tour last fall, I knew enough to pace myself.  Three hours of almost constant eating can be a bit much.  I took small appreciate bites of a grilled cheese and tomato soup at Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop, I took the doughnut from Doughnut Dolly to go, and went whole hog at Scream Sorbet.

Scream’s incredibly passionate owner came out from behind the counter and introduced us to Cranberry Tangerine, Coffee Hazelnut, Lime Mint, and three or four other amazing flavors.  I had enjoyed their surprisingly creamy sorbet on several occasions and it was a true treat to taste so many flavors at once.  Alas, once we had all fallen love with a flavor or two (or three), he informed us that Scream would be closing their doors due to high expenses.

Our tour ended with tofu stew, with a table full of delicious condiments, at Sura Korean Cuisine.  I have walked by this place plenty of times and was so glad to have a chance to try the food.

As if spending the day touring Temescal eateries and enjoying tacos, French pastries, potato sandwiches, and sorbet wasn’t a great enough Sunday, I got to go to an Oscar party with some of the moms from our school.  I can tell you, this is the first time I have watched the Oscars outside.

I met a friend for lunch in San Francisco and saw Bakerella.

At the same place (Marlowe) I had my new favorite lunch.  From left to right: artichoke purée, broccoli rabe pesto, burrata topped with olive oil and chile flakes, and grilled bread.

Dinner for one.

My parents came to visit.  Me and mom at the Ferry Building.

I never ever tire of seeing this beautiful bridge.  (That is the Bay Bridge, which connects San Francisco to Oakland and Berkeley.)

On the crazy long pier at the Berkeley Marina.  My dad just celebrated his 70th birthday.

Graham ordered hot chocolate and this is what came out.  Coolest thing I have ever seen.

Waiting for our Saturday night dinner guests to arrive.

Spencer’s future bride.

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