Sunday, September 27, 2009

Ice cream dream/the beginning of the reversal of seafood hatred.

Yesterday had many highlights, among them my acquisition of an Amy Hempel collection at Half-Price Books, our eating lunch on a median with a handful of other pizza enthusiasts, and my discovery that I actually like salmon (more on this later), but the highest highlight was a visit to Ici in Berkeley. Ohhhhhhh, man: their ice cream was the best I've had in a long time, if not ever*. I had a scoop of creme fraiche-muscat in a cone, and I did truly feel that, were the confection somehow endlessly self-replenishing, I could have eaten it forever. The flavors were so subtle (especially the muscat), and the texture of the ice cream was beautiful and velvety. The cone, too, was the best of its kind that I've ever tasted - it reminded me in some ways of a pizzelle, and the chocolate in the tip was fresh and creamy. Sigh. I had bites of the wildflower honey and Thai curry-candied peanut creams, too, and both were equally well-crafted.

Part of Ici's appeal, I think, beyond the outstanding quality of the product, is the establishment's presentation. Flawlessly neat, with white-tiled walls and the daily ice-cream flavors displayed (individually) in ribbon-strung picture frames, the shop is quaint and precious (in a good way: only in a good way) without being overwhelmingly so. It felt like a confectionery should: dainty and neat and a little bit frilly.

But enough about that: major discovery: I like salmon(!) Here's how the revelation came about: H and I went to dinner at Adam and Jen's last night, and they prepared salmon as a main course. Never a rude dinner guest, I told them that I love salmon though I did harbor a secret fear about eating such a large fillet. Well, folks: success. I discovered that salmon tastes good, that I do not (as previously thought) dislike it. What's next? Oysters?
I'm kidding! I will hate oysters forever!

Coffee time.

*Sebastian Joe's in Minneapolis and Herrell's in Northampton, MA give Ici a run for its money (esp. S.J.'s), but in a throwdown, I'm confident that Ici would blow both out of the water.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I started work this week. No longer a member of the pseduo-leisure-class, baby!
So I'm a little behind with the weekend update (oops), but there is so much to report that I'm going to post, dubious though this move is. Ahem:

1) Saturday, I went to visit my new apartmentmates/discuss house policies/write a check for my first/last months' rent + security deposit. My new apartmentmates all seem chill - a good balance of personable and reserved - and everyone is environmentally-conscious and tidy. So that's good. Even better? My rent is actually $280 less per month than I was initially told. What? Here's the scoop: the rent listed in the craigslist ad was not the real value (which, if posted, might have elicited responses far too numerous to even be considered). The apartment is rent-controlled, and M. (one of the housemates) has been living there for 15-odd years, so...yes. I was ecstatic to make this discovery.

2) More apartment-related joys: my room is partially furnished, and the lease is month-to-month(!)

3) Also on Saturday, H and I walked to the ocean. I didn't walk down on the beach, not wanting to get sand in my shoes, but bonfire plans are in the making. BONFIRE!

4) Finally saw "Away We Go," which I found alternately grating and kinda amusing. Let it be said that Jon Krasinski is cute but a terrible actor, and that Maya Rudolph is cute and a better actress. Let it also be said that I went into this movie-viewing experience with small hopes, knowing that this movie might be a total let-down but not wanting this to be so. Pros: the soundtrack, the scene in which the plane moves across the face of a mirrored skyscraper, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as a Madison hippie (love!). Cons: the sermonlike/stilted/otherwise awkward dialogue, John Krasinski's total inability to play a character other than John Krasinski, Rudolph's character's (already forgot her name) staunch opposition to Marriage in General (which came across as insincere). I don't know: this movie wasn't terrible, but I expected more from Eggers and Mendes. Did we really need to be deposited at the [very literal] doorsteps of various families/couples to observe and critique their interaction styles? Frankly, I didn't see the point, which leads to my biggest con: where was the conflict? Ostensibly, the main couples' primary obstacle was finding the perfect home while coping with uncertainty (gah), but really? Is that it?

I don't know: maybe I'm used to more problems - or more pressing ones - but this narrative just felt like a big pile of wishy-washy and rigidly-controlled zaniness.

5) Sunday was the Heart of Cole Festival, a street fair celebrating Cole Valley/local artists/residents of this area/and so forth. We went for a bit in the early afternoon to look at the antique cars and the vendors' booths. Lots of adorable screen-printed tees and totes, semi-precious jewelry. H got a sausage and I got a chocolate croissant, and the sun was out, and I couldn't think of any way that the afternoon could be better.

6) OK, so this isn't about the weekend, but tonight is a (mini) dinner party and the Jonathan Richman show. Here's to midweek festivities! (Read also: Isn't My Life Enviable?)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Yahoo has it all wrong:

Drew Barrymore's dress is awesome. Ditto her eyeliner. And that is all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Total pizza bliss

Yesterday's pizza experiment was an astonishing success. I say "astonishing" not because I lack confidence in my/H's cooking skillz, but because the pizza far exceeded our (moderately-high) expectations. Without further ado, here's the method we followed to produce the bad boy featured at left.

First, the dough. I'd never made pizza dough from scratch before and was indeed a bit intimidated about the prospect - but, as it turns out, this fear was unfounded. The recipe I used is really quite simple:


1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons white sugar


1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In a large bowl, combine 2 cups bread flour, olive oil, salt, white sugar and the yeast mixture; stir well to combine. Beat well until a stiff dough has formed. Cover and rise until doubled in volume, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
3. Turn dough out onto a well floured surface. Form dough into a round and roll out into a pizza crust shape. Cover with your favorite sauce and toppings and bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
We made a few amendments to this recipe - I let the dough rise for an hour (or just over), having consulted with my mom (a pizza making veteran), who correctly advised that half an hour isn't a long enough rising time. Also, we baked the pizza at 400 degrees, but that's putting the cart before the horse...

Rather than using a tomato-based sauce, we made a fig pesto. H followed Epicurious' classic pesto recipe and added five fresh mission figs, chopped coarsely.

Classic Pesto Recipe @ Epicurious Ingredients

4 cups fresh basil leaves (from about 3 large bunches)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated pecorino Sardo or Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt


Combine first 4 ingredients in blender. Blend until paste forms, stopping often to push down basil. Add both cheeses and salt; blend until smooth. Transfer to small bowl.

While H made the pesto, I rolled out the dough and placed it on a greased pan. We then topped the dough with the pesto, chevre (about 5 oz.), crumbled feta (1/3 cup or so), sliced white mushrooms, sliced figs (three), a chicken breast that had been sauteed in olive oil with black pepper and rosemary and then chopped, and a wee bit of grated Parmesan. The pizza baked for 22 minutes at 400; the crust was lightly browned and perfectly chewy, and the cheese melted evenly. This was total pizza heaven and a great way of using fresh figs.

One small note: in case you're wondering, the other half of the pizza was a traditional Margherita, made with one heirloom and one Roma tomato. Why make a split pizza, you ask? Having just whipped up the fig pesto idea (and not knowing if the flavors of that pizza would complement one another), we wanted to have a backup pizza in case the experimental one totally sucked. Which it did not, but, you know: precautions.

On that note, make some fig pesto this weekend! You will be filled with so much joy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'll eat the chocolate hidden in the fridge.

It's been a week of culinary excitement! Highlights:

1) This weekend was the annual Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival. Did I plan my weekend around this event? Um, yes. Initially, H and I had planned to go only Saturday, but as it so happened we could not manage to eat fifteen chocolate samples in one afternoon and so we also attended on Sunday. (Aside: I was surprised by my inability to eat fifteen samples in one go. For one, chocolate is one of my favorite foodstuffs, and for another, I've been known to consume prodigious quantities, of chocolate & otherwise.) Without meaning to sound like a betch, I'm not fond of Ghirardelli - it's like a less waxy Hershey's with sliiiightly better packaging - but fortunately, the festival included tons of booths from local vendors. Here's a comprehensive list of what we sampled/who provided it:

- Ganache truffles (Ana Mandara)
- Chocolate martinis (Boomerang Vodka)
- Chocolate Hazelnut gelato (Ciao Bella Gelato)
- Chocolate stuffed marshmallows (Gued Fued)
- Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting (Kara's Cupcakes)
- Brownie bites (Sugar Bowl Bakery)
- Raspberry Rooibos-infused dark chocolate (The Tea Room Chocolates)
- Double chocolate pancakes and vanilla pancakes with chocolate butter (Bo's Best Pancakes)
- Chocolate-dipped pumpkin marshmallows (Pete's Gourmet Confections)
- An unknown gelato made of whole milk, sugar, and chocolate nibs (Gelateria Naia)
- Chocolate malts (Lori's Diner)
- A host of inferior Ghirardelli products

Of the abovementioned items, my favorites were the cupcake and the tea-infused chocolate bar. The cupcake was moist and the frosting was buttery and pure. (I'm salivating just recalling it.) Least-favorites included the martini, which was watery, and the chocolate-dipped pumpkin marshmallow, which was just too sweet - even for my forgiving tastes. Needless to say, I'll be returning to the festival next year.

2) Just before hitting up the festival, we got brunch at the Pork Store. I'd heard a lot about this diner (all good, minus the extravagant wait on weekends) and am a fan of greasy breakfast grub, and I approached the counter with reverence and raised expectations. Were I to rate the dining experience using the letter grading system, I'd give it a B. The food: pretty tasty - I ordered the "Eggs in a Tasty Nest," two eggs scrambled with assorted veggies on a bed of hash browns, accompanied by toast. The browns were as I like them (crispy), the eggs were eggs, but the veggies were super greasy - the tomatoes (which probably don't belong in scramblers in the first place due to their high water content) were sodden, and the other vegetables were just loaded with oil. The atmosphere: meh. The dining room wasn't as crowded as I expected it to be, our waitress was moderately surly (forgivably so), but the restaurant was ueber-humid and I left with frizzy hair and smelling of bacon. Sexxxy. I'll probably go back, but I sure as hell won't wait for an hour.

3) Tomorrow, H and I are going to prepare a pizza for entry in the latest RecipeHacking challenge. The basic premise of the group is to rework common recipes in a manner that makes them healthier and using sustainable/eco-friendly(-ier) ingredients. This month's challenge is pizza, and we have an awesome idea: rather than using a tomato-based sauce (or creating a white pie), we're going to make a fig pesto. Yum. Toppings: chevre, mushrooms, finely-diced dried apricots, and possibly roasted garlic. And anything else that strikes our fancy. There is the chance that this recipe could totally bomb (and we're having company), in which case: takeout. There's always takeout.