Sweet Pork

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Both Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream and Dynamo Donut have been recommended to us several times.  The highest praise for both comes from Brad, our boot camp leader, who often tells us about his latest enjoyment of either, or  both, as we press our free weights up the sky or jog up the steep incline to the steep set of stairs.  Incongruous, perhaps, but inspiring in an odd way;  because we do the exercises, we have earned the right to eat donuts.  Or so it goes in my head.


So when Rebecca and Matt from Montreal were visiting the city for the 2009 Nike Women’s Marathon and they expressed an interest in eating some of the legendary SF cuisine, we proposed a mission to the Mission for fattening foods.   First stop, Dynamo.   The plan was to procure some for take-away and eat them later, when we could sit somewhere with a view.  The hand-made varieties on sale that Saturday were Huckleberry, Lemon Vanilla, Chocolate Spice, and Maple Bacon.  Yes, a maple-glazed donut with real bacon bits sprinkled on top.  This is Brad’s favourite.


With barely a pause, we walked straight down the street to Humphry Slocombe.  To say that the ice cream flavours here are out of the ordinary would be putting it mildly.   Rebecca ordered a cup of “Secret Breakfast”, which is cornflakes and bourbon, Marc got “Peanut Butter Curry”, and I bravely ordered “Boccalone Prosciutto”, labeled with the bracketed sub-title “Tasty Salted Pig Parts”.   In ice cream.   Pig.



Everyone sampled everyone else’s, and no-one but me liked the pig parts ice cream.   Truly, it was unique:  my mouth tasted salty prosciutto but my brain knew it was eating ice cream. It was hard to reconcile, but after consuming half a scoop, I was really enjoying the salty, sometimes crunchy, sweetness.   Marc’s was delectable, thankfully non-spicy curry was used.  The “Secret Breakfast” was highly unusual. Matt observed that it was impressive that there could be so much taste of bourbon in the ice cream without ruining the cream or making it runny.  And therein lies the secret of why Humphry Slocombe is more than just creative, it’s really, really good.

Later, having found an appropriate viewing point at which to consume our donuts, we snagged a bench in the sun near the Golden Gate Bridge and tucked into the donuts.


So fresh, I’ve never had donuts with this texture, practically melting in the mouth.  If Tim Horton’s donuts are good enough to be a national icon, then Dynamo’s deserve their own anthem.  The lemon and the vanilla really come through;  the bacon on top of maple, mouthwatering. Thank goodness this place isn’t within walking distance, because we’d have a problem that goes beyond what three days a week of boot camp could solve.   As Rebecca put it, “If we lived nearby [each other and Dynamo] we’d all be happier, but we’d all be a little heavier”.

Go Ahead and Eat the Bacon

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I was reading a New York Times article this morning, Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch by Michael Pollan.  Ostensibly, he is promoting the new Julie & Julia film but he also finds the space to consider his pet subject, the lamentable state of America’s eating habits and trends.   He mentions the usual scapegoat suspects as causes of the increase in obesity: fast-food culture, high-cal-high-fat pre-packaged foods, lack of time to cook, the ubiquitous soft drink, etc.  But there were a few things in this article that I found especially compelling.

Writing about the shows on the Food Network, he makes mention of the competition-based shows like Iron Chef America, Top Chef, and makes an observation that I’ve many times proclaimed myself:  “If you ask me, the key to victory on any of these shows comes down to one factor: bacon. Whichever contestant puts bacon in the dish invariably seems to win.”    No question about it: bacon is always the right answer.  If one of the competitors adds both bacon and cheese, it’s practically cheating.

Offering some facts about the cooking and eating habits of Americans, he writes,

“…as the “time cost” of food preparation has fallen, calorie consumption has gone up, particularly consumption of the sort of snack and convenience foods that are typically cooked outside the home. They found that when we don’t have to cook meals, we eat more of them: as the amount of time Americans spend cooking has dropped by about half, the number of meals Americans eat in a day has climbed; since 1977, we’ve added approximately half a meal to our daily intake.”

Interesting.  Convenience = more calorie intake?   That might be one of the reasons that we, living on a steep hill and not owning a car, now consume far, far less “food of convenience” than I think either of us ever has before.  It’s like we’ve created obstacles to convenience which means that unless one of us is willing to down and up at least two blocks of a steeply graded hill, we’re cooking at home.

Which segues to the third thing I found particularly interesting in the article,  a quote from the food market reseacher Harry Balzer, whom he interviewed.

“So I asked him how, in an ideal world, Americans might begin to undo the damage that the modern diet of industrially prepared food has done to our health. ‘Easy. You want Americans to eat less? I have the diet for you. It’s short, and it’s simple. Here’s my diet plan: Cook it yourself. That’s it. Eat anything you want — just as long as you’re willing to cook it yourself.’ ”

Remarkably succinct advice, if a little trite.  A few times, people have asked Marc and I how, as two people who take so much pleasure from eating and cooking, we both maintain a reasonable weight.   Doesn’t eating all that butter and bacon and cheese and duck confit add up?   Well sure; our long-winded and circuitous answer generally dilutes down to the statement that we mostly cook for ourselves.  Now, I think I’m just going to shorten that answer to what buddy said:  “Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself.”

Encheapifying, Part II

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Et voila!   The results of a week’s worth of cheap meals.



Bacon and Squash-filled Crepes with Salsa Verde – a recipe pinched from Simpatica Dining Hall in Portland, Oregon.   Admittedly, the bacon was rather pricier than the other ingredients (flour, squash, parsley, eggs) but when one considers that the bacon we purchased was used in a two other meals during the week, the price evens out a bit;   at most, there was a third of a pound of bacon in this filling.  Mmmmm..   baaaacon.

What is really amusing is that as we were eating this for supper in front of the TV, a commercial came on for Applebee’s advertising their new “why spend $20 on a meal at home [cut to image of bucket of chicken] when you can come in to Applebee’s for a meal for two for the same price?”   And I’m thinking:  a)  dinner at home does NOT cost $20,   b)  dinner at home has the added bonus of leftovers for lunch the next day, and c)  Applebee’s?  ugh.  mozzarella-wrapped parmesan chicken breast with potatoes and breadsticks is not something  I would relish eating, let alone paying $20 for.     How much did our crepes cost?  …. roughly $4 per person?  Scrumptious (from the bacon) and filling (from the butternut squash) and SOO much better than either bucket-ized  or encheesened-chicken.


There was a sale on brussels sprouts at the grocery which afforded me yet another opportunity to try my hand at replicating the glorious, beloved roasted brussels sprouts from Eos Wine Salon down the street.  I cannot resist ordering these beauties each time we go and though I have tried, I have never successfully been able to make them at home.  I guess the sixth time is a charm because finally, I have mastered the roasted sprout!   Tossed with olive oil, a splash of sesame oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper, roasted and then drizzled with more sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and black and white sesame seeds.  A little crunchy, a little bitter, caramelized, savoury and cheap!    Aha!  Cheap makes it taste even better-  the seventh taste, after umami.


Lastly, we have the home-made perogy with sauteéd cabbage.  We rarely see perogies in San Francisco so Marc determined to make his own.  It would seem that perogy-making is an art, has an element of dexterity associated wtih it.   That the dough is maddenly springy and that the stuffing may not touch the edges of the dough, lest the filling burst forth during boiling, make these frustratingly difficult to make.   Make them we did, however, frying them in hot sauce after boiling to give them a crispy, piquant edge.   Superb.

Encheapifying, Part I

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

Two weeks ago, we got a report from the credit card company that aggregated and charted our spending habits for the past 12 months.   Nothing like seeing all our expenses laid out in pie chart glory to put a fine point on how much money is marching out the door, and for what.   Not surprisingly, the amount allotted to groceries was pretty high, despite the fact that we hardly bought any foie gras and, like, zero caviar all last year.   But the fresh whole chickens, the Cowgirl Creamery cheeses, the meats, and certainly the wine, do add up to a pretty penny.

The positive outcome of this analysis is that we were inspired to reel in the grocery expenses a bit;  we can afford to eat less meat, can experiment more with root vegetables, can buy cheaper wine.   A challenge!   Let’s see how little we can purchase for a week’s worth of breakfasts, lunches and dinners, no meals out.   Let the credit card breathe.

First things first, I went through the pantry, fridge and freezer to find out what we could make use of:   shallots, coconut milk, bread flour, artichoke hearts, frozen home-made pizza dough, a couple ounces of goat cheese, parmesan, cabbage, some fresh herbs, vegetable broth, fish stock, one frozen sausage, yeast, oatmeal, 100 different kinds of rice, barley, couscous, farro, cornmeal, orzo, frozen pasta filling, asaparagus, refried beans, and eggs.    Plus staples.   And liquor.

Next, we sat down and connected the dots bewteen the items on the “have” list.  Let’s see, we could make coleslaw with the cabbage, and that could go with inexpensive fish and chips;  and maybe fried cabbage with some home-made perogies;  we can cobble together pizza toppings to go on the dough;  can make some pasta to become ravioli with the frozen filling…   how about artichoke and asparagus risotto?    salad with goat cheese dressing?


The only “brand new” meal on the menu turned out to be bacon and butternut squash crepes.   I suppose bacon is rather expensive, but a little goes a long way:  we can add it to the perogy filling, the crepes and then make some BLTs for lunch so we’re not constantly eating leftovers at noon.

We took the bus ($3 return for both of us) and used our backpacks to get the groceries.  $89.60, including two bottles of wine.   Under $100 is an all-time low, a new record.   Plus, I made some whole wheat bread, some chocolate chip cookies and the pasta.    More work than usual, no question.   More rewarding, too.