Archive for October, 2009

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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”.

One of Them

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

One of them will be my sous-chef and one of them will be the taster.


The Next Level

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

It is high time I took picnicking to the next level.

I have read and re-read the chapter in Peter Mayle’s Toujours Provence where he talks about the picnic his wife plans for his birthday, the picnic he is loathe to attend because of a fear of “a damp bottom and ant sandwiches”.  Of course, the picnic reaches far beyond all his low expectations when he is presented with a table with actual linens and sliverware, set in a sunny, quiet meadow and several courses of a divine luncheon.  As beautiful as that all sounds, I’m not sure that I would necessarily categorize that as a picnic;  it’s more like alfresco dining.   So what I want to target is something that, on the spectrum of Eating Outside, sits far, far from PB&J and rather close to alfresco dining, but without the caterers or linen.

An opportunity to experiment with picnicking arose with Mom & Dad’s visit to SF, and the subsequent – practically mandatory – day trip to wine country.  There are several wineries in the region that have picnic areas for visitors, but one in particular, in Napa, is where we had been before and wanted to go again:  Reynold’s Family Winery.   It’s a small scale operation with a nice patio, some chairs and tables with umbrellas arranged under (what is almost always) the hot sun.  Even better, they have one of the few Chardonnays on the planet that I actually find pleasant to drink.   The wine is where I started the menu, the library is where I continued.

Truthfully, I didn’t plan to actually go searching for a picnic cookbook when I was last at the library, but I happened to pick a most unlikely choice: Tassajara Cookbook, Lunches, Picnics & Appetizers, by Karla Oliveira.

“The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a legendary Buddhist monastery set deep in California’s Ventana Wilderness, is famous for its healthy gourmet vegetarian cuisine.  Guests rave about one particular Tassajara tradition: the bag lunch.”


Ha!   It’s vegetarian, and I still brought it home.  Brought it home and got completely wound up in what were starting to sound like really good spreads and chutneys, even without any meat:  Fennel Mustard Butter, Tarragon Onion Spread, Eggless Egg Salad, Mushroom Pâté…  I had to look up what “tempeh” was, and what “tamari” was (coarse tofu and a kind of soy sauce, respectively) and then designed a menu mindful of chardonnay:

Tempeh Garlic spread with cherry tomatoes

Artichoke, Walnut Tofu spread with Raincoast crisps

Un Mondo Cacciatore Hunter’s Style dried salami & grainy mustard

Cabbage slaw with maple vinaigrette

Coco-Luxe chocolate truffles

Ultimately, though I forgot the forks and the sun refused to shine in Napa (inconceivable!), this picnic was a smash.   We uncorked a thoughtfully chilled 2007 Chardonnay, dressed the salad, sliced the salami, and enjoyed our picnic despite the chilly breeze.  In fact, I’m not sure it could’ve been nicer– the spreads were good protein but not so filling that we would regret them at dinner time, the slaw added a vinegary, crunchy element and the truffles at the end effectively sealed off any overindulgence in white wine.   Only the sun was lacking to make our view out over the vineyards perfect.

…Back to Napa

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

It seems we cannot stay away.  Gail and Daniel’s visit gave us an excellent excuse to explore further wineries and picnic spots.