28 January 2005

new friend

a few weeks ago, i flew back to eugene from ann arbor, landing around midnight. while waiting for the shuttle into town, i befriended b., who had just arrived from haiti and spoke the most minimal english. he was on a fulbright, had no place to stay and no idea where he was supposed to go. i called and woke my friend heather, who speaks much better french than i do and in no time at all, we had b. safely checked in to a room at the Quality Inn. b., as we learned, had come to the university to learn english and take the TOEFL and GRE before pursuing his studies in economics at an american university. our friend, 31 years old, had never left haiti, except to travel to the dominican republic. haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere, plagued by corruption, poverty, disease and all other nasty things, which, come to think of it, plague our country, too, but in a more covert way. i don't know too much about b.'s experience there, but i think it's safe to guess that coming here is pretty intense.

all this is the background to our Welcome to Eugene dinner last night with b. at Iraila, a mediterranean restaurant in town. it occurred to me, on our way to to dinner that b. was probably unfamiliar with mediterranean foodstuffs, thus rendering our description ("oh, you know, sun tried tomatoes, feta cheese, couscous, that kind of thing.") somewhat useless. we were seated at the restaurant after b. puzzled over his options for a bit, he asked us to chose for him...he doesn't know "menu" english yet. we ordered, for the table, an olive plate, halumi salad, beet salad, vegetarian cassoulet (a contradiction in terms, perhaps) and persian rice. he also asked for assitance in chosing a beer...we got him a Stella Artois. unfortunately, b. didn't eat too much -- mostly just salad and his beer, which he was very happy about. huh. maybe it was too much and too overwhelming. it reminds me of arriving in southern india and sitting down to a table of mysterious food (at the time, most of what we got in the u.s. was northern indian) -- it's more comfortable to go with what you know, especially when you've just arrived and you're completely overwhelmed by everything else...who wants to worry about food, too?

anyways, that's all.

27 January 2005

not in sf anymore.

in a dramatic shift from this weekends insanity, today i've eaten:
  • turkey, swiss and sprout sandwich
  • carrot sticks
  • lemon yogurt
  • orange
  • coffee
woah is me!


you all love the San Francisco tome, right? okay, it's a little long, but i just had to pour my heart out. because it was so good! how could i leave anything out??

26 January 2005

First Annual Feeding Frenzy

this weekend was quite possibly one of the best of my life. the decadence, gluttony and whatnot seems to have been to much for my body, and i'm now sick at home in bed. oh yes! and so i bring you, my weekend(photos provided by ms. cynthia):

cindy, laura and lacey. laura on her way to connecticut, cindy possibly leaving soon, lacey staying in san fran. although i have other dear friends in the bay area, this was a weekend dedicated to those i was with so, sigh, i called no one else. but not because i don't love them. rather, because i was committed to spending every waking second eating and drinking with my dedicated foodie friends.

Day One
laura generously picked me up from san jose airport (an hour from berkeley--oops!) and drove me to a lovely dive bar whose name i cannot remember. all i remember are the two jack and sodas and the very happenin' scene. laura claims that it had never been so busy, but, whatver, she's a total scenester.

Day Two
after a fabulously luxurious night spent in garett's bed (mind you, it was without garett), i was retrieved by laura and taken to Cafe Fanny, named either after the "diva daughter" of a certain famous berkeley chef whose fingers are in every berkeley foodie pot, or after a Marcel Pagnol movie of the same name, whose posters dot the walls. my double americano and prosciutto with garlic toast was amazingly almost worth the $10 i forked out for it. it went ever so nicely with laura's poached eggs with herbs and vinegar. but, as i'm learning, what doesn't go well with vinegar? poached eggs, drizzled with vinegar, dusted with herbs, sitting on a bed of prosciutto di parma atop a toasted piece of garlic bread? yes, yes, yes! from there we ventured to cindy's cute little studio in fairfax, where cindy and laura, who i believe may be soulmates, finally met for the first time! having talked them both up to each other considerably, i was actually nervous about the meeting, but they hit it off swimmingly and have already both offered, at least once, to be the others love slave. if that's not an immediate friendship, i don't know what is.

laura left to do various non-food and therefore terribly uninteresting things, while cindy and i hopped into her sporty little vehicle (after a conversation with her self-identified "travel slut" landlord about italy or something) and headed out to napa. i would stop here to explain how wonderful it is to use the phrase "headed out to napa" in describing my activities, but we must stay focused on the food...no digressions! except to say that the drive thru napa was beautiful, spotted with vineyards, full of promise, etc. how exciting to think that every side-of-the-road diner may hold unknown culinary bliss.

We exited at Yountville, home to the French laundry and its sister restaurant bouchon. “I hear,” explained cindy, “that you can get a seat without reservations in the late afternoon at bouchon. We could go and just get some appetizers and have a fairly reasonable lunch there!” easy to get a table? Yes. Reasonable lunch? Only if you have the self-control of a zen master. It was the most expensive lunch I have ever had, at a whopping $105 (total, not per person). But the server clearly got a kick out of us, snapping shots of every dish, asking him if we could keep the menus, etc. we had:

• Petit Plateau: ½ lobster, 8 oysters, 4 shrimp, 4 clams (raw), 6 mussels
• Salade de Poireaux Frais: chilled leeks vinaigrette with egg mimosa
• Beignets de brandade de Morue: cod brandade (cindy’s favorite!) with tomato confit and fried sage
• Tarte au Citron
• Sancerre of some kind, which was lovely with the petit plateau

I blame myself…the petit plateau was my idea. But it was a vacation! Besides, how often to you get to see a waiter at one of the finest restaurants (or affiliated with one of the finest restaurants) in the u.s., take a quick look around to see if anyone is watching, lean over and whisper that the green bit of the lobster is, “well, it’s the lobster’s crap!” anyways, I’ll say that I enjoyed the leek salad, despite the sliminess and cindy preferred the brandade, which was a bit too deep-fried for my taste. “egg mimosa,” as it turns out, is grated hard-boiled egg yolk. I liked that part. Raw clams, though. No thank you. Overall, I’d say that the food was disappointing for what it cost, but the experience was wonderful.

After a rather hearty lunch, we headed across the courtyard to the Bouchon Bakery, where cindy, being the hostess extraordinaire that she is, treated us to a macaroon, two gummy fruits with fancy names I can’t remember, a little “chocolate bouchon,” and a giant homemade oreo. After sitting in the courtyard, dining on our second round of desserts (less we forget the very tasty lemon tart), we hopped back into the sporty vehicle and headed to Calistoga for mud baths, stopping briefly at the Niebaum-Coppola Winery, which I found to be almost comically majestic. You’d, uh, never guess that a filmmaker put this place together. Har! At any rate, we signed up for mud baths at Golden Haven Spa, and, with 45 minutes to kill before our turn, set out to explore the three blocks of downtown that Calistoga had to offer. We stumbled upon a cute boutique where they were serving wine, champagne and various snacks in celebration of Friday. Not the kind to rudely decline a free beverage, cindy and I each had a glass of champagne.

I won’t detail the mudbath experience, except to say that being entirely submerged in a mixture of mud and peet moss feels, despite being naked, like wearing pants. And is one of the funniest things I’ve ever done. Here’s a photo from the website:

ridiculous, non? But it felt nice and I think that all that naked time was a good bonding experience.

After the mudbath, we drove back to Fairfax for dinner at the vegetarian and mostly raw food Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods (“healing the world one tummy at a time”). Cindy had “curry” with “rice;” I had the tapas plate with ocean friendly nori (tasted like salmon mousse), pesto pizzaz (raw “pizza”), spring roll, stuffed zucchini, “crackers” and “cheez.” How can you not love a restaurant that puts half of its menu in quotations. Also, without going into detail, I’ll say that the cleansing properties of my Lydia’s dinner were, uh, immense.

Day Three

I woke up early on Saturday, energized and ready to go. Eventually, my knocking about the apartment woke cindy up, and she got out of bed. We were to meet lacey and her cute new boyfriend for breakfast, but I insisted that we stop and get coffee first, so we arrived late to Miss Millie’s, a fabulous breakfast joint in Noe Valley. It was my fault…like the petite plateau. We started with an amazing breakfast appetizer of prosciutto-wrapped figs, gorgonzola and poached pears, which was fantastic! For my main breakfast entrée, I had a large baked pile of eggs, cheese, ham and bread. Cindy got the gingerbread waffles; lacy and her cute new boyfriend both got omelette-type dishes. I don’t think a linebacker could’ve polished off my dish, but, wow, was it good! Thumbs up to Miss Millie and her artery-clogging masterpiece!

After breakfast, we, sans Zak, headed to Ferry Building Marketplace to meet up with laura. Because lacey had only had oysters only three times previous, we felt it our moral obligation to get one and a half dozen oysters, wine and a cowgirl creamery grilled cheese sandwich at Hog Island. We all preferred the sweetwater oysters. I won’t detail the rest of the Ferry Building Marketplace, except to say that it is a foodie’s dream come true! Chocolate! Cheese! A farmers market! Oysters! Wine! Restaurants with strange spice offerings (including mastic tears. Huh.)! And produce stands with “mandatory sampling.” Heavenly! We dined on a variety of foods including plum yogurt, more macaroons (so much better than the shaved coconut clumps I am forced to eat every Passover), chocolate from a store that had multiple “varietals,” dried kiwi and more. Having in-part justified our gluttony with talks of a long walk thru town, we sadly left Ferry Building Marketplace, split from laura and tromped across town to Hayes Valley where we looked at designer clothing and furniture, and ate nothing. which was all fine, since we were on our way to Millenium, an upscale vegetarian restaurant “dedicated to supporting the essential earthly concepts of organic food production, small farms, sustainable agriculture, recycling and composting.”

Lest you think that we dined on tofu and broccoli scramble, let me assure you that Millenium offered one of the best meals I have ever enjoyed. Yes, upscale dining with friends rather than parents is still something of a novelty and, certainly, that everyone was eager to order and split five appetizers and four entrees, had something to do with its charm, but, also, the food was just spectacular. I will say, though, that the cocktails need work. That said, we had:

  • Pickled vegetables
  • Kombu noodle and avocado salad
  • Butternut squash raw-violi
  • Tandoori spice glazed tofu skewers
  • Black bean mole torte
  • Cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms
  • Blue hubbard squash risotto
  • Pecan crusted Portobello
  • Masa verde cake (two orders, which I considered protesting, but was a smart move)
  • Roasted beets
The meal can be seen, in all it’s glory at Cindy’s Feeding Frenzy gallery. My favorite was the masa verde cake; everyone else seemed taken by the Portobello. I’d go back in a heartbeat.

Day Four
Another early breakfast but this time we were on time. Cindy and I met Andy and Laura for breakfast at La Note, a charming French bistro in Berkeley that takes no reservations and usually has an hour long line. Our 9:30am arrival allowed us to avoid the crowds, and we were quickly seated by the adorable French hostess. Laura and I both had the Cote Nord, scrambled eggs and goat cheese served on toast with grilled tomato and home fries. Andy ordered the risotto pancakes which he declared one of the best things he’s ever eaten, and cindy had the orange-cardamom brioche French toast. The creamy perfection of the goat cheese eggs, with a bit of tomato all but brought tears to my eyes, it was so good. Apparently Berkeley, with its vinegar eggs and goat cheese eggs, has conquered the world of egg dishes.

After breakfast, andy left for work, and laura took us to Berkeley Bowl, a massive grocery store and any hippy/yuppie/recovered co-oper/foodie’s dream. The produce section alone is about the size of my local grocery store. Sadly, being the most amazing grocery store ever, most of Berkeley was shopping there, and the cashiers’ line wove through the aisles. They’re hoping to open another bigger Berkeley bowl nearby, but the entire population of Berkeley is up in arms about the crowds this will bring in. geez.

We left Berkeley Bowl and met up with Rachel, a college friend I hadn’t seen in five years. They took me to a cute Oakland bakery for a morning bun and then we spent some time wandering about the Tilden park farm. After our brief Oakland/Berkeley tour, we met back up with Andy, Lacey and Zak for lunch at Vik’s Chaat Corner, where we got heaps and heaps and heaps of delicious Indian food. And I got a Fanta, which despite being both orange flavored and sickly sweet (two ordinary food no-no’s for me), I adore. From Vik’s, we dragged ourselves to the Takara Sake factory to learn about the sake-making process and, more importantly, to sample sake and plum wine. I know that I had preferences, but at that point, everything was getting a little hazy, so I just bought a random bottle and hoped for the best.

When we left Takara’s, we all realized that something horrible had happened—we were no longer hungry. And thus, we had no idea what to do. After loitering outside the sake place, we finally decided that we might as well go to a bar and get some drinks. We headed to the Albatros, a cute, dark and smokey bar with free boardgames and popcorn. A few hours and a few drinks later, our numbers had dwindled and our group had shifted. Lacey, Rachel and Zak left; Garett and Steve arrived. We decided to leave and Cindy took off for Fairfax. Garett, Steve, Andy, Laura and I rallied for one last meal and headed to Cesar, Cindy’s cousin’s restaurant that she recently dined at with her parents. It was next to Chez Panisse, which had listed for its January 19th menu, the most divine combination of food, none of which I can remember. Cesar was also rather tasty, but after a sake tasting, drinks at the bar and a bottle of wine with dinner, I couldn’t really say what it included. I’m sure I’d go back, though.

And with that, we retired home to Laura and Andy’s, where I slept like a baby – a very very overfed baby. I hope that we do this again. It is such fun to bring together folks who derive such pleasure from eating and are interested in devoting so much time to trolling about exploring all this food stuff. I was taken by this throughout the weekend. And I feel so blessed to have these wonderful friends who I love and who all get along so well. It’s a nice thing to be sitting with a group of good friends, surrounded by fantastic food and realize that you are experiencing total bliss. Honest. It’s the best.

And now, we rest. (except, of course, we went straight from here to get more.

17 January 2005

food reviewed

+last week i, a new meat cooker, decided to make chicken teriyaki and went with the cheaper cut of chicken. lesson learned. ick. it wasn't a horrible dish or anything (there weren't enough ingredients to give it the chance to be horrible) but the meat was all weird and fatty. so only the finest chicken breast from now on for me.

+my best friend came into town and we ate at Marche, Morning Glory, Sweet Life and Zalaya, the three basics for out of town guests who pay for my dinner. if i can convince a. to take (i say "take" because of course she'll be hired if she applies) the presumably high-paying corporate job that i just discovered online, then maybe we can become regulars at Zalaya, which i suspect is lesbian-owned. we had to send the halibut back last night because my buddy felt it was bad fish (and it was overcooked) and they went above and beyond in making up for it -- free wine, constantly checking back on us, etc. it was very nice. and the paella was much better than the halibut would've been had it been good.

that's my story. the end.

12 January 2005

it's worth it in the long run...

have been feeling blah lately, so i decided to give up caffeine and sugar. i consume both in attempts to cure lethargy but, in fact, they suck dry any remaining energy. so now i have a crashing crashing caffeine headache. aaahhhhhhhhhhhh........... it huuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrtttttttttttttttsssssssssssssssssssss!!!!!!!!! my heeeeaaaddddd......

11 January 2005

i don't think it's possible to be a food blogger without a digital camera.

Maybe i should start up a fund or something.

as all good companies must do, every year, we here at the library have a holiday staff potluck. you vast squadrans of loyal readers will remember my referencing a "fish eye salad" and jello some time back. well, while the holiday potluck was something of a showcase for strange yet appealing midwestern-like concoctions, it was also graced by the presence of the Savory Vegetable Cake with Wild Chinook Salmon, made by a cataloger. when i initially posted about the potluck, i lacked the words to describe it's greatness so i didn't mention it. well, dear readers, i have just been blessed with a photo of the cake, and here it is:

pretty, ain't it?

10 January 2005

perfect lunch

today, perhaps inspired by my snow-shoe cohort, i took to work the following lunch:

1 peanut butter (crunchy) and jelly (rasberry) sandwich (on wheat with crust)
small bag baby carrots
cheddar cheese sticks
1 small container cinnamon apple sauce
1 apple

even though i had a mere 15 minutes to snarf it down, the whole ensemble was just ever so tasty, in that 3rd grade lunch kind of way. everything was totally predictable in flavor and each item had to be tempered by the others. i could only take a few bites of cheese without having a bit of carrot, and only a bit of pb&j without a few bits of the apple. basically, my lunch was working in perfect union. though i haven't had pb&j since living in Chicago, it felt like something i'd been eating every day for years, in a really nice way.

and i should say that right now i'm noshing on a "Congo bar," from the new cook's illustrated cookbook that everyone (everyone meaning my mother) is raving about. fresh out of the oven, it's basically a blondie with coconut. i'm sure it's named a "congo bar" in reference to the civil war that ultimately emerged after the exploitative hegemony of french colonization in congo. i mean, duh. of course! that Cook's Illustrated...it really gets ya thinkin'!

09 January 2005

when i bite into a york peppermint patty...

i am instantly transported to the snowy trails of the oregon mountains, where i race over hills and across valleys in my sleak, aerodynamic snow shoes!

seattle addendum

and of course, last minute props to the wonderful fantastic host of the cast party who, in addition to giving me a lovely anthology of bicycle stories, laughed at my tasteless sylvia plath joke (perhaps any joke about plath is inherently tasteless but i think i really topped it) and made me feel very comfortable in a house full of strangers! thanks!!

08 January 2005


Today I went snow-shoeing at Willamette Pass (note in the photo on linked page, they're not actually doing anything) with some new friends. out down the trail, in the middle of the mountains, standing on a 70 inch pile of snow, surrounded by huge snow-covered firs, and with more snow slowly falling, one of my new friends stopped and pulled a ziplock baggy out of her backpack. "Would anybody like a peppermint patty?" she asked. hell yes!

so, do you remember those peppermint patty commercials from the 80s? A dowdy secretary, cooped up in a windowless office, or something like that, takes a peppermint patty out of her desk, looks to the camera and announces: "When I take a bite of a York Peppermint Patty I become a world class skier, racing down the slopes in the Swiss Alps." and >poof<, with one bite she is indeed whisked away to her choice destination. so, we're all standing together on the trail in the middle of this winter wonderland and it was like we were at the conclusion of a peppermint patty commercial! it was so weird! so we took a picture.

later that night, at dinner at some of my new friends' house, the other new friends served this awesomely midwestern dessert: brownies with melted peppermint patties spread atop. hello! fantastic sweetness! one day when i pull together my midwest potluck, they are so invited!

07 January 2005

the $1.80 lunch

too busy to leave the building to grab lunch, so i had to make due with a lunch that fit my wallet's budget: in this case, a mere $2 (gotta get to the atm).

$1.00 - egg bagel, toasted (that part was free)
$0.20 - pat of butter for the bagel
$0.60 - stick of string cheese

$1.80 - total

not bad, eh? and i'm not even really hungry anymore after eating it, either.

05 January 2005

Ann Arbor rocks my socks

i spent new years, and two day on either side, in lovely ann arbor with my lovely lady. it was a good extended weekend for eating because it's so much more fun when you're cooking/eating with someone. a someone who is willing to cook with me even though i'm a bossy brat in the kitchen sometimes. the weekend, in summary:

  1. we started my vacation with a lovely breakfast at mchill's with her out-of-town aussie and nick. huge pancakes and coffee. and so nice to see friends!
  2. dinner at Grizzly Peak with a's parents, who are of a somewhat different religious persuasion than i. but i think we got along famously. and i enjoyed my chicken sandwich with pub fries. a has remarkably different culinary style than her folks, who haven't tried artichokes, mussels or any number of other things that she dies over. well, maybe she doesn't die over artichockes. i'm not sure. i do, though.
  3. much better than the very tasty Grizzly Peak dinner were the Pigs in a Blanket that a's parents brought me -- something of a peace offering, i think. these were not your typical canned weiners wrapped in pilsbury croissant dough. they were the traditional dutch treat from Russ's in Holland. we ate them with weekend highlight #3,
  4. brunch w/buddies at their very nice house with their very very nice stuff, including a lovely matching creamer, sugar and butter set from pottery barn (the registry being a primary perk of officially tying the knot, in my opinion). we used new years eve leftovers to make veggie omelettes and cooked up the "Pigs," which were properly eaten with ketchup. we talked about home ownership, the advantages of a finished basement and other such grownup topics.
  5. dinner at Argiero's Italian Restaurant, thanks to a's financial aid check. thank you loaning institution! we split fried calamari and a gorgonzola salad, the latter of which was better than the former. for dinner i had a sizzling hot plate of eggplant parmesan, smothered in parmesan-y goodness. it was fantastic and i barely managed to get through half of it. i'm sure a's dish was tasty, but i can't remember it, so lost was i in my heaping pile of eggplant, cheese and tomato sauce. for dessert, we split tiramisu, a dish that strikes me as either being an astounding success or abysmal failure. argiero's wins! it was fabulous, though not as good as the elusive perfect tiramisu i had five years ago in san francisco's north end. i dream of that tiramisu almost daily.
  6. highlight #5 was our new years eve banquet, for which we spent an entire day preparing (that doesn't include grocery shopping). a likes to cook and i like to cook, so you get the two of us together to throw a party and we lose any sense of self-control. we made, with a's roommate:
    • cucumber cups stuffed with cilantro salmon
    • antipasto containing roasted asparagus, eggplant, garlic and red, yellow and orange peppers, gerkins, pepperoncini, marinated mushrooms, artichoke hearts,
    • a meat plate
    • a cheese plate
    • a pickle tray
    • tapenade
    • goat cheese pesto dip
    • thai peanut noodle salad
    • pear relish with crostini
    • white bean salad
    • raw veggies with dip
    • nacho cheese dip with chips
    • mochi
    and our friends brought
    • red pepper artichoke dip
    • pineapple upside-down cake
    • brownies
    and a flurry of other foods that i can't recall at the moment. i believe about 1/3 of the food was consumed. maybe we should have told folks to skip dinner.
  7. a good post-new years hang-over breakfast at friends' house of pancakes and waffles, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and coffee. i don't drink so much any more and was feeling the few whiskeys, the glass of champaigne and the beer i'd had more than i'd expected. thank you carbs and grease for bringing some respite to my tummy.
  8. last and most exciting (though new years was a close second), was my chicago style polish sausage and cheese fries at Red Hot Lovers. to say that i've been craving cheese fries is sort of like saying that animals crave oxygen. i ate my polish (with ketchup, mustard, neon green relish, peppers and salt), my cheese fries (with i generously shared!) and a small diet coke (watching the calories, you know), became almost immediately comatose and absolutely elated. it was everything i'd hoped it would be. there is nothing that can compete with the cheese fries. and the company was swell, as well. nice to see people show up, despite their disinterest in Red Hot Lovers (and i think i changed some minds on that day).

so it was a wonderful time. with wonderful food and company. my cooking situation in eugene is is so dire, with no one to cook with or for. it was so nice to have that opportunity in ann arbor.