Archive for May, 2008

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More Walking

Tuesday, May 27th, 2008

For some reason, I’ve been noticing the sidewalk writing lately. I don’t know if it’s because we walk so often now that we don’t have a car, or if it’s because people hereabouts tend to express themselves more frequently by writing in wet pavement, but it seems more prominent. April 16, 1970 must have been a particularly inspiring and particularly empty day in the neighbourhood as it is the day that DANNY SCHUMACHER wrote his name and the date in at least 5 different places.

Several statements have caught my notice these days:

  • Love Yourself
  • Scott Loves Jason
  • POOP (with a smiley face with X’s for eyes)
  • Fuck Nixon
  • Fuck Teeth
  • Eat Your Acid, We Ate Ours
  • Let Them Eat Cats
  • The Joy of Soy

… and a home-printed poster taped to a tree in Golden Gate Park that was a memorial to someone’s dog named Dude- “he fought for a long time to stay with us but lost the battle in the end. So long, Dude!”

And while we’re on the topic, I can’t forget the out-of-the-ordinary folks that cross our path in the course of our walks: the guy wearing several random pieces of suede safety-pinned around his person in order to form a kind of neo-native-punk look, complete with feather-decorated mohawk and bead jewellery; the man singing the Star-Spangled Banner, opera-style, alone in his parking garage on a Tuesday morning so that it echoed into the street; the man walking down Stanyan carrying a large American flag for seemingly no reason; the woman who, half-way through walking across an intersection, stopped to get on her unicycle, turn right, and proceed down the hill; the man who asked me about Sam “How’s the baby-boy this morning?” He’s fine. He’d like to know how you are.

Weekend of Firsts

Sunday, May 25th, 2008

First of firsts: I successfully created mayonnaise. The qualifier is important here because this is not my first attempt, but it is the first time mayonnaise was actually realized.

The first attempt was made in Istanbul when, in a fit of craving for tuna salad sandwiches, we gathered together the ingredients I figured would make mayo in the small kitchen in the apartment we had rented. Needless to say, there was no convenience mayo to be found in sealed jars in the local market; plenty of baklava, pistachios and lamb, not a hint of mayo. What exactly constituted this creamy dressing/spread was kind of blurry- I was certain there was egg yolk involved (otherwise why all the hulabaloo about keeping potato salad out of the sun at picnics?) and there was definitely oil, because emulsification was a an ingredient.. but beyond that…? Anyway, that first feeble shot was grossly short of anything resembling Miracle Whip. mayo.jpgThe version of last weekend, because approached with a recipe in hand and the trepidation associated with a previous failure, was a delicious success! Orangette, a food blogger whom I read and who now writes for Bon Appétit, described how to properly obtain a creamy, salty, even spreadable condiment and I was inclined to believe her report. Marc had insisted that we purchase an “emergency” jar of convenience mayo- justifiably, I suppose, as he was witness to the first attempt. But after having tasted the real thing, it remains unopened on the pantry shelf. Sprinkled with chives, it was first applied to home-made burgers, and since then has graced our plates several times- enough that we even had to make a second batch! I don’t know that we’ll go back.

Second of firsts: the Bay To Breakers race in San Francisco. 12 kilometeres, hordes of people, several rollerskaters, numerous mobile beer kegs built from transformed shopping carts, costumes, live bands and plenty of nonchalant nudity. It is really less a race and more a public parade. It wends its way through the park about 2 blocks south our our place so this year we spectated, not knowing what was what; next year we’ll definitely participate.

morels.jpgAnd last, but certainly not least, this past weekend marked the first time I had ever tasted morel mushrooms. Why, you ask? Partly because the sign above their bin in the grocery reads $59.99/lb. and partly because they’re seasonal. But if ever there is a time to lash out and buy them, it’s for use in one of the French Laundry recipes: Pan-Roasted Main Jumbo Scallops with Morel Mushrooms and Asparagus Purée. Sure, we’ll get four ounces. Even the people at the check-out comment on them “Oh wow, going with the morels, huh? I hear they’re awesome.” [direct quote] (Of course, this is the Rainbow Grocery, a place where the beers are gourmet, where the cheese is made from raw milk and where you can buy three different kinds of pink salt. In bulk.)

Once again, this recipe proved to be over-the-top laborious and as such, exceedingly enjoyable as an afternoon’s pursuit. The asparagus stems blanched and puréed, the morels sauteed in a little alot of butter with shallots and brunoise, tomato diamonds, seared scallops with ladles of buerre montée, and I produced this representation of springtime on a plate.


A few brief bites and it’s over, but this is the kind of thing that makes me realize why it is worth whatever we pay for good food. Good food, and good wine- for we enjoyed this with a bottle of Chardonnay (Chardonnay! something at which I normally wrinkle my nose in distaste!) purchased at Bouchaine whilst wine touring in Napa with Dave and Makela the week before. We had viewed the very vines from which this wine was produced, which I suppose is not that miraculous, but when consumed with such glorious food, that one Sunday-evening appetizer made the Monday that followed that much lighter.

Exhibits A and B

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

If I had invented meatloaf, I would’ve come up with a better name. “Meatloaf”. It is what is says, but isn’t there anything better? “Beeflog”? Hmmm… no. “Pork in Shape of Pan”? Um. “Beefyslab”? I kind of like that one; and if it has pork: “Beporkyslab”. Now it sounds fun, and kind of Eastern Bloc, which is not a combination you will often come across.

So, Exhibit A, is the America’s Test Kitchen version of meatloaf, which turned out to be more complex than it needed to be. And involved giant tubs of ketchup. Vats. So much ketchup that I wonder the whole thing didn’t taste of same. It is pictured here with tomato salad with homemade blue cheese dressing. Not unpleasant, satisfying, befitting of the title “Beporkyslab”.


Exhibit B (not pictured) is from a recipe from a work-mate who fancies himself a chef at heart. This was more of a jelly-roll affair, with blanched veg tucked into the middle with soft cheese and prosciutto. Really, anything that involves cheese and prosciutto can hardly be bad. It’s almost cheating- of course it’s going to be good! It’s pork on pork action! Certainly a far and welcome cry from Exhibit A, in all its ketchupness. The one to beat is still the meatloaf at Diner Deluxe in Calgary, located conveniently on the former route home from work. Perhaps I will find or fashion something comparable someday.

Smoked, Slippery and Slimy

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Let’s talk about oysters. All of a sudden and for no fathomable reason, I seem to see them everywhere. They were exulted in my recent library find, Remembrance of Things Paris: Sixty Years of Writing from Gourmet where I learned which ones were eaten by the upper crust and which species people were forced to contend with during WWII. Lately, I can’t resist cracking open a tin each week of slippery, oily, little smoked oysters, pried away from each other with a toothpick and eaten with Raincoast Crisp crackers (arguably the best crackers on the planet earth and inexcusably unavailable in the US) before supper. With a bottle of chilled prosecco, that could be supper.

I can never visit the Saturday market at the Ferry Building without making a stop for second breakfast at the oyster table in front of the fish market. There’s a kid there shucking them fresh for a dollar which we slurp up bare naked [the oysters] as we stand dodging the market crowds; they a protein blast of energy. When combined with a few heavy shots of Blue Bottle espresso, there’s no sleep ’till Brooklyn.

And now I’m craving the tiny, juicy ones they serve fresh during happy hour at Eos, the wine bar down the street. We order them by the half dozen and they arrive at our table creamy and wobbling in their liquor, perched atop a pot-full of crushed ice. These are irresistable with the sauce they provide on the side: a shallot-flecked vinaigrette that is the only thing I will deign to dress them with. These must be consumed with a martini, mainly because the martinis are also a part of happy hour but also because of the delicious contrast of slurping from a shell in one hand and from a martini glass in the other.

And now, flipping back through some food photos from FEBRUARY, I found this one of Pickled Oysters with English Cucumber “Capellini” and Dill, a gem from the French Laundry Cookbook. The capellini in this case, are thin strands of cucumber, which, I gather, would normally be pasta.


This was so long ago, I can’t quite recall the flavour. They look salty with caviar, perhaps a bit sweet from the pickling. I remember shucking them though, my first ever attempt at doing so. Ahhh, now I remember, that was what twisted the tip of the paring knife into a snarly tangle. I thought I remembered prying open something…. The first one was terrifying, convinced as I was that the knife would slip and slice violently through the kitchen towel wadded around my left hand and lop of a finger. The second was aggravating. The rest, as I recall, seemed to get easier. I read a Canadian saying once, a simile for a difficult task which seems, now, funnier and very concise: “…like trying to open an oyster with a bus ticket.”