Saturday, January 20, 2007

Pizza and Beer

Friday night. I'm exhausted. Long week at work. What I want is a little comfort. Pizza and beer pop into my head, and it seems so right.

On the way home, I swing into New Seasons to pick up some supplies. Lagunitas IPA, pizza crust dough, some fresh mozzarella, spicy Italian sausage, a bulb of fennel, and a little Pastaworks marinara. Oh, and a cucumber for a little salad. It ends up being a pretty full bag of food.

So, once I get home and get the mail, I put on some music. My friend J.R. has recommended 2 bands for me to check out, The Hold Steady and The Walkmen. I like the Walkmen better, and put them on to cook to. To me, the sound a little like French Kicks, but good...

I preheat the oven, put the sausage in a pan to cook, and get to chopping. I'm tempted to pull out the mandolin to cut the fennel, but I still fear this tool after a mishap years ago that left me, at least temporarily, without a fingerprint on my right index finger... I end up with my big, trusty chef's knife instead. I don't get the fennel as thin as I'd like, but I think it'll be good enough.

Next, I slice up the two balls of mozz I have. I wonder if this is going to yield to much cheese, but it ends up being just right.

Finally, I knead and roll out the dough on my lightly floured counter. I pull out the oven rack (which is supporting the pizza stone) and assemble. Crust, light saucing, mozz all over, thinly sliced fennel, Italian sausage, salt, pepper, and oregano.

I put the whole thing back into the oven, and 15 min later, I have a tasty little pizza.

I've been debating buying a peel for making pizzas. Any one have experience with these at home? Is it worth it? I find that by dressing the pizza on the stone, the crust gets a little hard on the bottom before the top is crisp and the cheese in melted.

I eat the pie with a few beers and watch the excellent, riveting documentary Unknown White Male.

All in all, a nice evening.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

"Cleaner, healthier, cheaper and kinder."

And creepy.... Sounds like a Radiohead song...

Check out the article "Will the Petri dish put Daisy out to grass?" from the Times Online.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

SF Road Trip pt. 3 - Sunday in the city

Cole Coffee

I have this habit of planning a meal or two ahead. You know, asking what is for breakfast tomorrow before we begin dinner tonight…

Before we are served at Chez Panisse, -M- and I ask the experts where we should get coffee in the morning. We briefly consider both Blue Bottle and Ritual, but then rule them out, as we are in Berkeley and they are in the city (you know, San Fran). J finally settles on Cole Coffee, a joint not too far from where we are staying. Before the end of the night, we get directions.

The next morning, we rise and hit the road. Cole Coffee is right where it’s supposed to be. We park and head inside. I had been told that they brew to order. Each cup of coffee ground and brewed as you watch. This isn’t the fancy machine they have down at Stumptown on Belmont, just good, old-fashioned drip. They’ve put together this contraption that can hold 6 or so cups, and dangling above, a filter holder. When the drips stop, you grab your cup and enjoy.

-M- had soy latte and a cinnamon twist. I had coffee. Very dark and rich, just how I like it. It was a little full, so I couldn’t put as much half and half as I wanted into it, but I tried (so now it was WAY too full, and began to drip on my hand from under the lid).

Ferry Market

-M- wants me to see the Ferry Market. We go to CC’s favorite chocolatier, Recchiuti, as well as Boulettes Larder, where I pick up some Japanese salt with gold flecks. Luckily we are there before the crowds show up. Things are just beginning to open, and we have no problem browsing leisurely.

La Palma

After the market, we rendezvous with S and J. We are getting a driving tour of the city. -M- is looking for ‘hoods for apartments.

Lunchtime arrives, and we head to the mission district for tacos. S knows of a great little place, La Palma, which bills itself as a ‘Mexica-tessen.’ More of a market with a deli in back. Piñatas line the ceiling.

They naturally make their own tortillas here. We get some tacos, both pollo and carnitas, and a cheese pupusa . Not bad: tasty, but not spectacular. We eat right outside on the street corner.

To be honest, I was more impressed with their lard, tortillas, salsas and various grains and masas than I was with the food itself. I almost bought a tortilla press…

Good Luck Dim Sum

I still don’t quite get dim sum. –M- and I attempted it in LA. S swears by this place Good Luck Dim Sum. We get seamed BBQ pork bao, pork shu mai (which were greasy but good) Chinese chives, and a couple of fishy items as well.

We get them to go, and take a cool ride through the Presidio. We park and eat right on the bay, under the Golden Gate, where Kim Novak, playing Madeline in Vertigo, leapt into the water.

Blue Bottle Coffee

I’d found the place while doing some research. I was trying to track down the best coffee in SF, as -M- wouldn’t be able to get to Stumptown quite as often as she used to. Both Ritual and Blue Bottle were the two that kept popping up.

The tour continues to Hayes Valley, a nifty collection of shops and a park full of utopic hula hoopers. Stuck in an ally past the homeless and numerous drug deals, a line ran out the garage door of a fairly nondescript and unmarked coffee shop… The smell was fantastic. Again with the individual drip coffee, I’m seeing this everywhere. We want to get some beans for Margo’s place, but they refuse to grind, so we go away with just a cup for me. Again, dark and tasty. I prefer this to Cole, but the attitude has totally put -M- off.

Pasta Shop

We’re tired after a long day of driving. We hit the 4th Street shopping area of Berkeley to pick up a few wine glasses, dish towels, and the like for -M-‘s temporary place of residence.

We decide that our last night in SF will be spent at home. We get salami and cheese, some bread from Acme, and a few other tasty treats (Cyprus black flake salt, cacao nibs) that actually are not for dinner. We are unimpressed with the produce and wine selection (we really want clementines, and theirs leave a lot to be desired). The store reminds me a little of Pastwaorks and Elephants Deli combined, although, in my opinion, not as cool as either of these Portland institutions. Finnochiona, Genoa, and mild coppa. St. George and a fresh goat cheese with herbs.


As we are checking out of the Pasta Shop, the aroma hits us. The unmistakable smell of little tacos and corn tortillas. Should we stop in for a few? Of course!

We get a carnitas and an asada taco, as well as a little plate of perfect chips and so so salsa. Also, a litlle limonada. Very satisfying. We knew we were in for a treat when we spotted carnitas on a spit with a chunk of pineapple melting over the top.

Whole Foods

Yeah, not a SF institution, but we needed a bottle of wine (we got a 2004 Tempier Bandol) and a little fruit (a couple of clementines) for diner. Also, a couple bottles of water. We head back to the house, get Mr. Kitty some kibble, and chill. Later, we eat the spoils of the day and watch the latest episode of Top Chef on -M-‘s iPod (all the while chiding Tom Calicchio as he chides the contestants. His food at CraftSteak in Las Vegas was some of the most disappointing food I ate last year).

The evening was simple and plain, but it was very satisfying, and true to our style (and besides, after the drive, late dinner, and all day in the city, we needed a low key evening).


I really wanted to head back out to Cole Coffee this morning, but time just wouldn’t allow it. We get up a bit late, and leave the house even later. Luckily, the highways are fairly clear and we make it to OAK in plenty of time. I check in at the airport, and amazingly, I get an A boarding pass for my flight on Southwest. As I walk to the gate, I pass by numerous Starbucks. I’m hoping that there is another option up the terminal, and sure enough, there is a Peet’s. Not great, but still miles better that the over-roasted (oft burnt) over extracted sludge Starbucks pumps out. I also pick up a little decongestant and a bottle of Fiji water.

And with that, I’m on my way back to rainy, cold PDX. Thanks, -M-, for a fantastic trip.

SF Road Trip pt. 2 - Chez Panissse

We FINALLY pull in to Berkeley. We are a bit late, so -M-‘s friends pick us up (giving us time to change and get freshened up a little from 11 hours in the car). After a surprisingly short car ride, we get to Chez Panissse.

One of -M-‘s friends works there, so we sneak into a super secret parking area and head inside. Everyone greets us, and we are shown to our booth in the café upstairs. While we are looking at the menu, we get a few glasses of wine. I got the 2006 Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, S gets 05 Colle Stefano Verdicchio di Matelica, -M- and J both have the 2005 Tempier Bandol rose.

We get a bunch of apps to start with, all to share. All are well crafted, hyper local, and delicious. Here’s the rundown:

Bread from Acme bakery in SF
Pizzetta with nettles and ricotta salata
House-cured bresaola with rocket, new oil, and Parmesan
Baked Sonoma goat cheese with garden lettuces
And, one other with fish. I didn’t partake, so I’ll not list it here.

S brought a bottle of 2004 Robert Sinskey Pinot Noir which we enjoyed with the meal. I still took a long and carefully glance over the wine list. Well chosen, priced right, and nicely organized…

We all agree to get what we want entrée wise, but promise to share. S and I both get the ‘grilled heritage pork chop with crispy potatoes and frisee and apple salad.’ -M- gets the ‘braised Marin Sun Farms short ribs with kale and cardoon crostini and anchovy-green garlic salsa verde.’ J gets the ‘pan fried Hoffman Farm chicken breast with artichokes, mint, pine nuts, and chopped egg.’

Bites of chicken, pork, and beef cross the table as we all take turns tasting each others’ dishes. I think we agreed that the chicken topped the bill. My second favorite was the short ribs. My entrée was my least favorite (although still pretty damn good).

Desserts we handled in similar fashion. We ordered up a number of dishes and shared. Here’s the list…

Meyer lemon profiteroles with caramel sauce and kirsch cream
Passion fruit ice cream with orange confit and pizzelle cookies
A bowl of Fairview Gardens clementines and Barhi dates
Mocha custard with bittersweet chocolate curls and crème Chantilly

Oh, and of course Moscato d’Asti.

Of the bunch, my pick was the Meyer lemon profiteroles. Absolutely stunning.

On the way out of the dining room, I spy a dessert I wish we had gotten, the ‘red and white wine-poached pear tart.’ This would have been served with vanilla ice cream. Sounds a little plain-Jane, but it look gorgeous…

On our way back to the car, S gives us a tour of the restaurant, the kitchens, wine cellar, cheese locker, the drying/curing meats, whole pigs hung in the walk in. Everything was just as I had imagined.

A truly lovely evening I won’t soon forget.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Blueplate Lunch Counter and Soda Fountain

I met S at the (apparently) hard to find Blueplate Lunch Counter and Soda Fountain (308 SW Washington). This is Jeffery Reiter's (ex-Park Kitchen) little lunch destination. There is the counter (where we sat) and an additional half dozen or so tables.

The food is simple but delicious. They offer a mere handful of items each day. Each dish prepared while you wait. And, they've got an honest to god soda fountain. They make sodas to order.

S and I both get the French Dip. Jeff cut the roast beef by hand, piled it lovingly onto a grilled roll, an served it up with jus and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy.

-M- was SO right, I should have been here way before now. A true gem.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

SF Road Trip pt. 1 - On The Road

Albina Press

We hit the road early, 6:30 AM. As it turns out, the coffee shop that opens earliest is also the best (and luckily not too far from my house), Albina Press. I run in for coffee while -M- hangs out in the car with Mr. Kitty. I order up a medium double soy latte and a scone for -M- and a large coffee for myself.

Fittingly enough, they are playing Mulatu Astatqé. You know, the music in the road movie Broken Flowers? We just happen to be on a road trip today. It’s also something I discovered from -M- on our first date between dinner at Noble Rot and the Found show at Holocene.


We planned out trip so that we’d hit Redding, CA around lunchtime. Redding, of course, is the northernmost outpost of In-N-Out Burger. We’re a bit behind schedule and don’t get into Redding until 2:15 or so. We also miss the exit. I assumed there would be signs, or that it’d be clearly visible from I-5. No luck. We drive all the way through Redding without finding our destination. Do we turn around or keep going? My thinking is that we have to eat, and Wendy’s and Pizza Hut just aren’t going to do the trick. -M- called 411 and got the number for In-N-Out customer service. They guide us back into Redding, to the right exit, and through a maze of strip malls to the promised land that is In-N-Oout. My oh my is the line long!

The last time I had In-N-Out was in Los Angeles. I ordered a basic cheese burger. I left a little disappointed. Apparently I completely blew it. The menu behind the counter is so vague and simple: little did I know there was another ‘secret’ menu out there for the ordering…

This time, I went in more prepared (thanks in part to both -M- and the Guilty Carnivore). I order up a double double animal style, fries well, and a vanilla shake. -M- gets a double double protein style with grilled onions and no tomato, fries also well, and a coke. [Click here for a link to Wikipedia’s article on the ‘secret menu’]

Since Mr. Kitty is in the car with us, we decide to get drive through and eat in the car. After we eat, we make a trash dump, rearrange the car and hit the road. 3 more hours to San Fran, and 4.5 hours ‘till our reservations at Chez Panisse!

-M-'s Last Dinner in Portland

For –M-‘s last meal in Portland, she picks Le Pigeon, one of our all time favorite spots in Portland, hell, one of our favorite spots anywhere. On the way over, we drop some boxes off with a fellow Reedie who has agreed to carry them down to SF for –M-, whose car is way to full to fit anything else into.

We plan to get there at around 7. I am a little worried, you know, the most popular dinner hour, the fact the they are always packed, it’s a Friday night, and they were just written up in Bon Appetite. We walk in and they are, in fact, packed. (this is a far cry from my birthday dinner back in August shortly after their opening, when we had no problems getting a seat, which is actually a good thing. Gabe and his food deserve all the recognition they are getting, and then some). Tonight, the wait for a two top is 2 hours. We have no option; we have to eat there. It is –M-‘s last night in town, after all.

Gabe, Erik, Bryan, and Leif wish us happy new year as we walk in. They’ve expanded seating as much as they can (it is a small space, after all), and totally revamped the menu for the new year (only two old menu items remain, the beef cheeks and the cornbread dessert).

They take our cell number and will call us when our seats are ready. We walk down to Rontoms for a drink while we wait. We are hungry so we get an order of deviled eggs and an order of Swedish meatballs along with my terminal Gravity IPA and –M-‘s Mai Thai.

We settle up and head over the Ozone to kill more time by browse CDs. We’re about to walk in when –M-‘s phone rings. Dinner time!

We take our seats at the Chef’s counter. M wants the beet/meyer lemon slaw as a starter, and gets talked into oysters as well. They are beautiful together. The beet juice that spills onto the rock salt turns a lovely scarlet color.

I get a frisee salad with pine nuts and cheddar. Dressing is a little strong, but overall, very tasty.

We order up a bottle of 2004 Jasmin Cote Rotie. I fear it may be a bit young, but we are pleasantly surprised. The wine is supple and elegant, with just enough funk and fruit. Very nice.

For the main course, -M- gets the beef cheek Bourguignonne with crispy potato and glazed vegetables and I get Grilled Strawberry Mountain flat iron steak with brandied peppercorn butter, wilted spinach and garlic roasted potatoes.

Cheeks are one of M’s favorite cuts of meat [Last minute correction, she says they are UNDOUBTEDLY her MOST FAVORITE cut of ALL TIME]. She has gotten this dish the last 2, maybe 3 times we’ve been to Pigeon. As mentioned above, this is one of two old menu items left after the new year, perhaps due to it’s mention in Bon Appetite. At any rate, it lives up to the press description ‘so tender they’ll fall apart with a good hard stare.” -M- makes several comments about the melted collagen, and then makes sure that I know I will never find anyone else with such a love a collagen. She’s probably right.

Although they recommend medium rare for the steak, I have it cooked medium; it arrives absolutely perfect. The steak itself (tender and juicy) sits atop a bed of wilted spinach and potatoes. Atop the steak, a lovely pat of pepper butter. I watch Gabe melt it a little with a blowtorch. It’s a little showy, but it certainly does the trick.

I need to backtrack a little here…

As we are about to order our main courses, we hear Bryan (-M-‘s favorite server of all time) tell a table they are out of the cornbread dessert that we have come to know and love. We pull him aside and tell him that we MUST have this dessert. He assures us there is more in the oven.

Jump forward again…

When we are ready for something sweet, the cornbread is done. We get both this and the crème brulee with espresso pot au crème. A couple glasses of Moscato d’Asti make dessert compete. (We get Moscato EVERY time we are here, and they know it; so much so that both Bryan and Leif make sure to let us know they have switched from Elio Perrone to Vietti).

Dessert is lovely, and as usual, the apricot cornbread with bacon and maple ice cream wins out. This is the other item that was held over from last year (again, it was mentioned in the BA article).

On our way out, everyone wishes us well, and says a bittersweet farewell to M, whom they make promise she will stop back in whenever she is back in PDX.

Next up, our road trip to San Fran...