Friday, December 23, 2011

Hot Tips on Hot Sauce

Recently I went into Blue Front Cafe on Haight street, and in addition to loving their food (lentil rice and avocado? spicy hummus? yes please!) I absolutely love their wide array of hot sauce choices.

I'm a believer that everything is better with hot sauce!  But not just any hot sauce, people.  Hot sauces have soul mates too.

Here are just a few pairings to get you started:
*Sriracha* mix it with mayo and use as a spread for hamburgers, or a dipping aioli for crabcakes or steamed vegetables.
*Crystal* sprinkle liberally into a salad for a little kick with your dressing.
*Tabasco* top your soup with a sprinkle or two.
*Belizean Heat* dip your pizza crust in this hot mama of hot sauces.  Or if you're really feeling fiesty, use it as a light sauce on a homemade pie.  
*Cholula* when in doubt, apply liberally on just about anything.  Cholula is pretty exceptional on omelets or scrambles.

What are your favorite hot sauce pairings?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Bûche de Noël

It is becoming a lovely personal tradition to wind down the weekend with a close-knit group of friends over a Sunday "family" dinner.  I hosted a week or so ago and one couple brought this bûche de Noël to enjoy for dessert (from Tartine! Deliciousness!).  

The bûche de Noël is a classic French holiday dessert, traditionally styled as a log with mushrooms and moss.  Food publications, food TV, and the blogosphere have erupted this holiday season with profiles of the many ways this dessert is showing up.  From professional pastry shops to gorgeous home attempts, the bûche is becoming a more widely accessible way to participate in a holiday tradition (and far more tasty than the television Yule Log of my childhood).

I loved the idea of incorporating a classic holiday tradition within our budding Sunday practice. What are your favorite holiday traditions this year? 

Friday, December 16, 2011


I know the ramen craze has been happening for a while here in SF, but frankly, I didn't really get it.  I mean, I appreciated a warming broth and chewy noodle as much as the next person, but I didn't truly get the potential of umami in this dish.  Until I went to Katana-Ya, that is.

Even at 10pm on a weeknight, there was a line outside waiting for both tables as well as take-out.  I placed an order for some take-out ramen, hoping to take the edge off a chilly San Francisco night.

I ordered the namesake ramen in a rich miso broth, which in addition to being loaded with noodles, came with a little bit of everything: long slivers of mushroom, dumplings, fried chicken, corn, and meaty slices of chasu.  (Next time I am going straight for the chasu.)  Unlike some spots where I find I run out of noodles quickly and am left with a gaping bowl of broth, I actually could not come even close to finishing this dish.  I bet the leftovers would make a mean breakfast.

Katana-Ya is definitely going to be part of my regular rotation this winter.  It's a good reason to get excited about the next rainy night!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bacon Bacon

Hey folks. Do you like bacon?  (Thought that would get your attention.)

If your answer was yes, then you really need to head out and try the Bacon Bacon truck. Immediately.

Check out this grilled cheese sandwich, loaded with crispy bite-sized bits of bacon ... and lined with a tangy bacon jam, positively the best part.  This sandwich has the sweet / salty thing going on all day long.  I could barely pause to take this picture ... maybe next time I will post one of my post-meal smile.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cocktails in Hong Kong

Decked out in gorgeous white lights for the holidays, the Peninsula Hotel is a clear choice for a swanky cocktail in Hong Kong.   We enjoyed a glass of bubbly in the lobby bar, to the sounds of a live jazz band.   It was quite a festive treat after a few days of meetings (and an action-packed evening of Nathan Road shopping!).  Next time I return, I am hoping to check out their famous take on high tea.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spice Cupboard

I finally finished my DIY spice jar project and had to share the finished cupboard. I had no intention of dedicating a whole shelf to spices ... but once I got started, and saw those lovely jars all lined up, I really couldn't help myself.

In addition to consolidating all my spices (getting rid of not only mismatched jars but plastic bags, paper boxes, and other random little messes) I spent some time going through the rest of the contents of the cupboard. Let's just say it was the food equivalent of a junk drawer.

Inside I found 4 containers (Yes! 4!) of oatmeal, some long expired; several bags of panko breadcrumbs; a myriad of beans and lentils; a variety of nuts, slivered, sliced, and whole. That's but a small sample of the food obsessions I found in there. What have you found when you braved the depths of your cupboards?
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Spice Rack DIY

My spice cupboard is in perpetual disarray, filled with mismatched jars, boxes, plastic bags, and tins.  While I am happy to have the arsenal of flavors at my disposal, it saddens me every time I open the cupboard door to this eyesore and rifle through the mess.

Inspired by Adrianna of A Cozy Kitchen, I finally tackled a section of my kitchen that I hate to love and love to hate.

I wanted to get all my spices in containers that are not only uniform but also pleasing to the eye.  I have always loved the shape of mason jars and couldn't resist the opportunity to get a miniature army of them! 

I bought 5oz jars from Sur La Table and painted the lids with chalkboard paint. It took a couple of coats to get a smooth surface and I needed to let them fully dry overnight.  After that, I wrote each spice name on the lid in chalk and filled, enjoying the fall hues and textures of each spice as I repackaged it. 

Although I am not quite finished, I am thrilled by the look of my new spice jar family and so excited to start using them in dishes this fall!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Fountain sodas

There are some times when only a fountain Coke will do.

I discovered this year, while training for my first marathon, that the best way to mentally get myself through the last few miles of a hard training session was to picture an icy fountain Coke at the end. Something about the cold, the caffeine, or the sugar (or perhaps all of the above) really gave my spirits the extra lift I needed.

This Saturday I woke up with a deep and mismatched craving for both the fountain soda as well as a big plate of eggs.  Odd, I know, but the only place to go was St Francis Fountain, who satisfied on all fronts. 

We were early enough to get seats pretty quickly at the counter, a prime position for quick soda refills.  I loved the striped straws just as much as the red plastic cups. I had my eggs scrambled with avocado, cilantro, cheddar cheese and salsa, and appreciated the sourdough toast alongside -  not too toasted, not too buttered, but a perfect crunchy, golden accompaniment to my breakfast. 

I wish the St Francis were my little secret, but judging from the perpetual line of hipsters out front ... it isn't.  Oh well, like I said, sometimes only a fountain Coke will do!

Friday, July 22, 2011


I just celebrated a special occasion at Frances, but to be honest, eating at Frances is cause enough for celebration!  For me, it is the perfect blend of sophistication and accessibility, in terms of the food, service, and ambiance.  I also love the small intimate environment, the focus on local and seasonal produce ... and of course the house wine paid by the ounce!

To maximize our coverage of the menu, we ordered three of the bouchees, a gem salad, two entrees... and a dessert.  Yes, that was certainly overdoing it, but I don't know what I would have skipped! 

The hands down favorite for both of us was the Panisses Frites, a plate of chickpea croquettes with the most amazing and creamy consistency inside, crispy crust outside, and served with a lemon and black olive aioli.  Also in the bouchee category, we enjoyed an onion dip with a black sesame lavash cracker, and the bacon beignets with maple creme fraiche.   A gem salad with roasted beets, blue cheese, and hazelnuts gave us a little bite of something fresh before we dove into our entrees.

While Lafe's bavette steak with bordelaise sauce was faultless, we both practically screamed over my delicious salmon.  Served over a creamy polenta with a Meyer lemon gremolata and roasted root vegetables, there was an amazing range of texture on the plate and a very happy synthesis of flavor.  We both agreed it was the best salmon dish we have EVER tasted.

And, we couldn't refuse a taste of their highly regarded lumberjack cake, a ginger-molasses apple date cake with maple walnut ice cream that somehow managed to show great refinement of flavor despite its country leanings. 

I hesitate to tell you all how good this meal really was, because it was hard enough to get a seat there!  But for me, I want every special occasion to involve a meal at Frances.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paella night

A recent email from Sur la Table made me jump out of my office chair and hot-foot it across the street to the Ferry Building, in search of a great deal on a paella pan.  Pan in hand, what else was a girl to do besides organize a paella night?

A group of friends joined me one Saturday night for an amazing Spanish style feast.  To start, we had a salad made with roasted red and yellow peppers, capers, and sevillana olives in a sherry vinaigrette topped with Manchego cheese and toasted almonds. 

From a recent cooking class I learned to blister the peppers directly on the flame of my gas stovetop before sweating them and removing the skin.  This was WAY more effective than trying to do the same in the broiler, and an inspiration to start eating homemade roasted peppers more frequently.

I served the salad alongside some crusty bread (courtesy of my neighborhood Boulange) and of course the paella, a chicken, chorizo, and mixed seafood combination that did not disappoint.  I made a basic sofrito to start (sauteed onions with tomato and garlic), and added about a teaspoon of saffron threads I had bloomed in hot water as well as paprika.  I stirred in rice and stock, and buried the meat and seafood inside the rice, adding the mussels and clams last.  When the mussels and clams opened it was nearly finished, although I tasted the rice to be sure. 

I brought the paellera to the table so that all could dig in directly to the broad and inviting dish ... and of course scoop their own crusty rice from the bottom.  The socarrat, as it's called, is coveted in Spain and now in my house as well!

Friday, June 17, 2011

El Metate

Looking for a quick and casual dinner the other night after a workout, we stopped in to El Metate on Bryant and 22nd.  For less than $15, we got 2 plates to share and the ability to quietly enjoy our meal in a cheerful, brightly colored environment, more upscale than the average taqueria.

The chile verde tacos were delicious if a little over-salted, but I was more satisfied with the rice and beans which came sprinkled with cotija cheese.  The quesadilla, however, made me long for a quesadilla suiza from El Farolito instead. 

I enjoyed El Metate for a sit-down choice and a little something different but for a quick burrito or taco run, I am sticking to my old haunts.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yamo noodles

Yamo House Noodles with Beef
Monday was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my post-marathon carb cravings with lunch at Yamo.  I had been eyeing the small noodle counter (on 18th at Valencia) for a couple months, and was lucky to get one of the six counter seats for a quick fix. 

I ordered the house noodles with beef, which came stir fried with scallions and topped with fresh cilantro and fried bits of garlic.  A tasty (but not mindblowing) treat, it was much improved when tossed with sriracha... all in keeping with my general rule, that everything tastes better with hot sauce.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Off the Grid

Thursday night, I met some friends for dinner at that mecca for street food lovers, Off the Grid in Upper Haight.  I had to take two full laps to carefully consider the menus of the many trucks that flanked the cordoned-off section of Waller Street.  I could not resist ordering the tikka masala burrito from Curry Up Now, but also sampled a couple of delicious items from Seoul on Wheels, including a Korean BBQ beef burrito that might be at the top of my must-eat list next time. 

Speaking of next time ... anyone up for dinner this Thursday?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Blueberry oatmeal cookies

Yesterday I took a quick time-out to bake cookies.  We have an oatmeal cookie recipe in our family that is dead-on, dependably delicious every time.  Occasionally someone tweaks them and adds raisins, but I have been a lover of the straight-up, plain oatmeal option... until last night.  I added dried blueberries and came up with a new Top Cookie.  Come by and get one before they are gone!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Every once in a while, a girl needs a good burger.  (Preferably one made with grass fed beef by a butcher she trusts.)  My close friend Kristi feels the same way (maybe not about the grass fed part), so we have planned a burger tour to get some quality time on the calendar while sampling one of the city's current culinary crazes. 

Our first stop was Marlowe, a bistro concept that brings farm-fresh ingredients to an industrial-chic space near the CalTrain station.  In addition to sharing the burger (served with cheddar, bacon, and caramelized onions and a horseradish aioli on the side), we had a couple of killer apps.  Spicy jumbo prawns were served alongside a mason jar filled with "hot and boozy" cocktail sauce, a blend of mezcal, tomato, celery, and spice that evoked a bloody mary.  At the server's recommendation, we also tried the steak tartare, which did not top Bix's version but still struck a nice balance with the poached quail egg and fresh cracked pepper on a light bed of arugula. 

My favorite component of the meal was the wine, however. Whenever I see the Unti Petit Frere on the menu, I leap for this reasonably priced Dry Creek blend.  It opens up so nicely after a glass... just like conversation with a close friend.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Tonnarelli in squid ink
 Tuesday we had a late night dinner date at A16.  As excited as I was to feast my eyes upon the deep Italian wine list, I wasn't sure the trek across town would be worth it.  I left, however, wondering why I don't do it more often.

First up, we selected a wine, choosing an Aglianico del Vulture lauded by our server for its complexity and "wow" factor. He almost teared up describing it to us, which was good enough for me to take a chance ... especially since I have never met a Basilicata I didn't like.

Wine in hand, we negotiated how to best sample from the menu and selected two small pasta plates as well as a pizza.  The pizza arrived first: a bianca with green olives, chiles, and basil.  Those ingredients created a medley of texture and heat, the mozzarella brilliantly married with the grana, and the pizza overall delivered a savory, rich flavor that was more than the sum of its parts.  As much as I would like to be tired of talking about pizza, I definitely have to keep this one top of mind.  The crust was light, crispy, chewy, and nicely blistered and held up well as we worked our way through slice after slice.

We also sampled two small plates of pasta, one a tonnarelli in squid ink with sea urchin, chile and tomato, and the other the highly regarded housemade maccaronara in ragu napoletana with ricotta salata.  While the chewiness of the maccaronara matched up well against the bright tang of the tomato ragu, the tonnarelli was my surprise favorite of the two.  Notably briny and refreshing, it was almost as fun as swimming in the ocean.

A16 thrilled and delighted on this visit and I will definitely be making plans to return again soon.  Hopefully we can make it a standing date!

Maccaronara with ricotta salata

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pi Day

Yesterday, in celebration of Pi Day (3.14...), I made a couple... pies, that is.  With two guests coming over for dinner, I made pizzas inspired by the day as well as by a new Rioja I just picked up.  Pizza is such a simple weeknight choice that can seem more impressive with a few thoughtful ingredients and a well-executed crust. 

I made an arugula salad with strawberry, toasted almonds, and manchego cheese to accompany two pizzas:  one with salami and sevillana olives (a meaty green Spanish choice), the other with roasted red peppers and goat cheese.  I am happy to have leftovers!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chairman Bao

Red sesame bao; pork belly bao
More than a few of you know that I am obsessed with food trucks. I like to eat at them, look at them, talk about them, follow them on Twitter, and strategize about launching one (more on this topic later). 

Anyways, a recent object of fixation has been the Chairman Bao truck, whose integration of pork belly and witticism really tickles my fancy.  And for those who are also passionate about happy hours, their partnership with Bloodhound on Wednesdays is a practically perfect combination.  Go with a friend, share the 2 Bao and chips combo (crispy wontons with nori ... delicious) ... and don't forget the sriracha!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


Bury me in an earthenware pot and come get me in three months; Namu was delicious. I want their kimchee on everything. 

We started with the shiitake dumplings, each handcrafted dumpling floating in the most delicate, nuanced, and earthy broth I have ever tasted.  We shared the plate and each had two bites but I would have probably stolen the others from my friend, had she looked away.  I will be ordering this again, without a doubt.

After the dumplings we shared some okonomiyaki. The server helped me learn to pronounce it properly.  It was a lot of syllables and a lot of food; a sizzling plate of gargantuan proportions arrived at the table. Like a deep dish pizza, each bite was expansive, savory, and heartwarming ...  and it took some time to identify the ingredients.  The colorful construction was made of cabbage, kimchee, Korean barbeque sauce, some beef, and of course the egg yolk we punctured and spread on top. 

In addition to the food, the service was exceptional.  The brothers came out from the kitchen twice to see how we were enjoying the meal.  The answer was, "Immensely!"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


About once a quarter, I am able to take a moment to get out of my building for lunch.  Today was one such great day.  I was able to walk off some of Sunday's half marathon soreness and meet Casey for lunch at Sushirrito, one of the most currently-hyped additions to the SOMA lunch scene.

Three Amigos Roll
Imagine the flavor profile of sushi on the scale of a burrito and that's what you get at Sushirrito.  It has hints of deliciousness but in general too much rice (and not enough spice).

The Three Amigos combines tuna and salmon with avocado and tobiko for an uber-fresh tasting roll.  It comes with wasabi mayo which was hardly noticeable, but way more like mayo than like wasabi.   I would have loved either a side of soy to dip this in, or some dimension on the flavor.

Crispy Ebi Roll
The Crispy Ebi roll was way more my style.  Tempura sushi (irresistible) combined with a splash of crab meat, avocado, and sriracha crema.  It reputedly had pepperjack cheese as well as plantains, but I can't say I noticed either one.  And again ... I could have used more sriracha! 

Sushirrito was a filling and mostly tasty way to spend a lunch hour but I hope they make some tweaks to their proportions.  Next time I venture out, I am going to chase down a food truck for some JapaCurry or perhaps a little Chairman Bao, both becoming regulars within walking distance!  Check your Twitter feeds for locations by day...

Monday, February 7, 2011

Race Day Eats

Prepping for yesterday's half marathon, I had a lot on my mind. Had I logged enough mileage? Had I tapered too much in the last couple of weeks?  How was I going to deal with keys/wallet/phone as well as getting home from the finish line?  And of course, what was I going to eat before the race?

The night before, we headed for Emmy's Spaghetti Shack for a delicious and heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs.  We were so hungry by the time we finally sat down that when the plates arrived, silence reigned at the table until we had had our fill.  Long wait, but so worth it for those amazingly carb-loaded bites. 

On race day itself, I woke up early and made a steaming bowl of oatmeal with fresh blueberries ... and a glass of cranberry Emergen-C in an effort to get, and stay, hydrated. 

Little did I imagine I would be dragging down the Great Highway in 80 degree weather just a couple of hours later!  In addition to taking advantage of the many water/electrolyte stations, during the race I enjoyed a couple Sharkies for some additional fuel.  The good news was, I made it, and in almost exactly the same time as my first (ahem, only other) half marathon.  There were moments of feeling really strong, and moments of feeling pretty weak, but I guess that's what the whole experience is about!  I wish I had turned in a little faster time ... but I have a few more months of training to improve. 

Yesterday's gorgeous weather was probably best enjoyed at the beach.  But, I was proud of my morning endeavour and it made the Superbowl beers taste that much better in the afternoon! 

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gimme Sa-MO-sa!

Last night's early office departure teed up a brilliant opportunity to sate a deep craving for Burma Superstar.  We arrived just before the masses and cozied into a side table, eager for a taste of samusa soup.

The smoothly curried broth counterbalanced the dense and chickpea-textured bites of samusa.  After one bite, I immediately wanted to stick my face into this bowl of soup. Please, please, please give me sa-MO-sa!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Belizean Heat

As I mentioned in my last post, I am obsessed with a new hot sauce, Belizean Heat.  It is a combination of habanero for kick blended with carrots for texture (plus the usual onion/garlic/vinegar additions), and I promise it makes EVERYTHING taste better!  It is particularly good on pizza crust. 

After our trip to Belize, I brought home about eight bottles: seven for me (across a variety of flavor/heat profiles) and one as a gift for my Dad, the original hot sauce lover in the family.

We have both been cranking through our hot sauce and worried about what happens next, but thanks to Dad, we need worry no more!  Check out the Hot Sauce Super Store for all your hot sauce needs ... including the elusive Belizean Heat.  Thanks for the great find, Dad!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Top Ten of 2010

Before I jump headfirst into 2011, I want to take a moment to reflect on the many things that made 2010 a truly special and happy year.  Here are ten of my favorites (not all about food, as you might expect!):

10.  PHILZ COFFEE.  I have vacillated over the years about getting dependent on coffee during the weekdays.  After all, it is such a reliable weekend delight.  This year, however, was a coffee year for sure, with many morning coffee dates at Philz.  I have to say, I am happily hooked! 

9.  BELIZEAN HEAT.  The flavor, texture, and heat of Belizean hot sauce is in my opinion totally unparalleled.  I first tasted the Heat at Deluxe on Haight, served alongside a delicious pizza.  When we planned our short vacation to Belize, I reserved space in my suitcase and brought back over 8 bottles ... and I am already concerned about running out! 

8.  OWLS.  Retreating to my parents' house in Monterey is relaxing for many reasons, but one of my favorites is waking to the soft hooting of owls in the neighborhood in the early morning hours.  Each with their own pitch, it is truly an owl symphony.

7.  PIPELINE WORK.  A weeklong project at work, totally immersed in the opportunity to be creative and redesign they way we approach our roles, was invigorating and gratifying and totally motivating.  I got to work with an amazing group of partners, among the top thinkers in the brand, on the 15th floor of our building in the midst of a rare and breathtaking modern art collection.  Talk about job satisfaction. 

6.  FARM FRESH DELIVERIES.  I love the biweekly arrival of my fresh farm produce, which inspires me to make healthier choices and explore new ingredients, all while supporting local farmers. 

5.  WORLD CUP SOCCER.  Every four years when the World Cup rolls around, I indulge my obsession and watch match after match after match.  This year I made the trip (with ten friends) out to South Africa for a phenomenal adventure.  Watching Messi from the third row in Soccer City, Johannesburg, was one of the most special sporting events of my life.  After I returned, I got to cheer Spain on to victory sporting my awesome souvenir Spain arm warmers!  ARRIBA ESPANA!

4.  TRAVELS.  In South Africa, in addition to being in my personal soccer mecca, I got to follow lions through the wild, meet amazing fans from around the world, taste local wines and food, watch social change in the making in Kliptown Township Soweto, dive with great white sharks in the cold waters off the Cape, all while spending invaluable time with an incredible group of friends.  Love you girls!

3.  WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP.  Though I grew up in the Bay Area, I am nothing like a lifelong Giants fan, having dedicated all my passion and energy for the sport to the Detroit Tigers.  That said, it was a very special season for the SF Giants and amazing to be part of this city as it embraced its oddball, ragtag group of champions.  Plus, they clinched the Series on my birthday ... pretty sweet birthday present!!!

2.  POWDER DAYS.  Nothing tops a powder day, except a whole season of them.  In 2010 I was lucky enough to get about 30 days on the mountain, including a day of powder hijinx in Big Sky Basin at Vail.  This year on my new Lines, I am looking forward to enjoying many more. 

1.  DOLPHINS. One day while out for a run in Carmel, I saw a pod of over 50 dolphins jumping and frolicking in the water.  Intelligent, friendly, and playful, dolphins also augur good luck in Greek mythology.  That day is especially memorable to me but I consider the year 2010 a very lucky one indeed.  I am a happy, happy girl with dolphins in my life.