Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Project Underway!

Hey, y'all! It has been a while since the last update here on Deciduous Trees Restock, but for good reason -- I've started a new food blog here, and I have actually been updating it. Food blogging is something I've wanted to do for quite some time (and I've made some half-hearted attempts on this ole' blog), but I've started in earnest. So check out the latest addition to the Garky blogosphere and let me know what you think(!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Restaurant Review: Roam

Having read the Chronicle's review of Roam, a new "artisan" burger joint in Cow Hollow, I cajoled Hook to take me on a date there! (Aside: not much cajoling was needed: Hook likes me almost as much as he likes burgers.) I was pretty pumped for my meal; Britt Billmaier touted the place as being both eco-conscious and offering healthy options*, and any place that makes their pickles on-site ranks pretty high in my book.

H & I arrived shortly after five; the dining room was about half full. We both ordered buffalo burgers: his came with just cheddar and mine was a "Pacific Blue," which came with blue cheese, watercress, tomato, caramelized onions, and steak sauce. We also shared an order of plain old fries. I seriously considered getting a milkshake with a bruleed marshmallow(!), but opted not to. Our food came quickly, the burgers nested in brown paper envelopes, 1950s-style, the fries garnished with parsley.

On the whole, I was pleased with our meal. My burger, which I'd ordered medium, had no pink in it, but oh, well. The bun, a chewy, pillowy, sesame-seed-encrusted delight, was quite evidently baked that day. The sweetness of the onions balanced nicely with the tang of the steak sauce, the peppery bite of the cress. I wish the burger had been served with more steak sauce; I am a steak sauce fiend, and this sandwich had just a dab poured onto the top of the bun. The tomato, too, was pale and toeing the line of mealiness -- not what I'd expect at this point in the growing season. Our fries were solid: crisp, uniform in size, and on the salty side. OH! I almost forgot this detail but I'm very glad I didn't! When ordering, I requested a pickle (wanting to see how these pickles measured up to Hook's and mine) and I didn't get it. Major burn.

Roam's atmosphere left me feeling ambivalent. The furnishings and decor were spot-on: very minimal with natural wood and light fixtures crafted from repurposed Mason jars. The music, however, was not. I don't know who thought reggae would be an appropriate choice, but it seemed really out of place, given Roam's focus. (After further considering the restaurant's location and the demographic of that area, I can see why reggae might be chosen. But really? Surely, there must be a musical middle ground that appeals to both aging frat dudes and also to everyone else.) I suggested that Iron and Wine or Bonnie "Prince" Billy or Bon Iver would have been a better choice. Hook agreed that the choice of music was odd, but I don't think it vexed him to the extent that it did me.

My overall rating of Roam is three and a half out of five. The burgers were solid but certainly not enough to warrant another special trip to Cow Hollow; quoting my dining companion, Roam is "like a more upscale Burgermeister." At the end of the day, I agreed with Hook when he posed the quasi-rhetorical question, "What makes these burgers artisinal?"

What, indeed.

*Looking back, I'm not sure what Billmaier was referring to as "healthy menu options." The Farmers Market salad, perhaps (sans sliders)? Or the seasonal veggies? Because everything else was pretty damn heavy. This isn't bad -- far from it! I like my burgers thick & juicy! -- but I find it strange that this restaurant was promoted, in the first paragraph of the review, as having healthy choices when the bulk of the menu items are fried, fried, fried.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Yogurt Roundup

Like most people, I'm very fond of my routines. I look forward to my early morning bike ride, my post-workout tea and oatmeal, weekend walks downtown and evening "Forensic Files" marathons. (Aside: I realize that the elements of my routine listed here make me seem like a 38-year-old, but it's cool. I'm practically 38.) One major component of my routine -- weekday, at least -- is Greek yogurt. At some point, perhaps a year after trying and becoming obsessed with Greek yogurt, I became that Person Who Eats Yogurt Every Day. Prior to the transition, the exact time of which is unknown to me, I wondered about these yogurt-eating people always mentioned in women's magazines. Who the hell eats the same snack every day? I wanted to know. Well, I do.

Last week, Lucky (the [big] grocery store nearest my house) was sold out of Dannon plain Greek yogurt. This had never happened before, so I picked up a few Chobanis and decided to return a few days later, assuming the stock would be replenished. Yesterday morning, making a 7:30 run for coffee, milk, and Aquaphor, I checked the yogurt case. Still empty of Dannon! This led me to kvetch to Hook about how Dannon has the best product for the price point and shame on Lucky for not restocking like a normal store. My kvetchings, in turn, led Hook to prompt me to write about my system of evaluating Greek yogurt, whose intricacies I will share with you now.

Yogurt Roundup: The Best Greek Yogurt for Your Money

1) Dannon 0% Plain Yogurt.
In the early days of my Greek yogurt consumption, I would never have guessed that Dannon -- plain old Dannon -- would reign supreme in my self-determined yogurt hierarchy. While it's true that Dannon is the best-selling brand of yogurt worldwide (who knew?), it seems, in some ways, mundane. I grew up eating Fruit on the Bottom, you know? I didn't initially trust Dannon's ability to produce an authentic-tasting Greek yogurt because I'd come to associate the brand with the marginal yogurts of my youth.

But the product speaks for itself: Dannon's Greek yogurt is thick and creamy, possessing an almost custardlike consistency. There's very little excess liquid, and the yogurt is tart but never sour. Additionally, one six-ounce carton costs a mere $.99 at Lucky -- about half the price of other, arguably-more-desirable brands (which I'll get to in a moment).

2) Fage 0%. I love Fage: the texture is incredible, the taste is spot-on, and the packaging design is lovely to behold. I don't love that a 5.3-ounce carton of Fage costs $1.79. I'd have ranked Fage as my top yogurt were the price-per-package a bit lower, but sadly, Dannon dominates in the cost category.

3) Chobani 0%. Texturally, Chobani is very similar to Dannon and Fage; tastewise, it's a bit tarter. I've found that Chobani has more liquid than either of the two brands previously listed, and I'm not a huge fan of this runoff (which I either drain off or hastily mix in to the yogurt, though I've been told that one should never stir Greek yogurt prior to consumption! I do not remember who told me this.). In my neck of the woods, a six-ounce carton of Chobani costs, on average, $1.69 -- which means that, in a battle with Fage, Fage will win any day. (Aside: Chobani does have a Pineapple yogurt that is tasty as a dessert, but is a little too sweet for a coffee break snack.)

4) Trader Joe's Fat Free Greek Yogurt.
At $.89 per serving, Trader Joe's Nonfat Greek Yogurt (Plain variety) leads the pack in terms of price. In other areas, though, the yogurt falls flat. I've found TJ's Greek Yogurt to be runnier than the others listed, and the flavored varieties (Pomegranate, notably) miss the mark, both in terms of tangyness and in mimicking the flavor they're meant to mimic. Not wanting to be wasteful but also not really digging the Pomegranate yogurt, I actually left a carton of this in my office fridge last week, hoping someone would sneak off with it. As of Friday afternoon, it was still there.

5) Greek Gods Nonfat Plain Yogurt. I'd like to rank Greek Gods yogurt higher -- really, I would -- not least of all because their packaging is eye-catching (who doesn't love the bright colors combined with drawings of the gods?). My biggest qualm with this yogurt is its relative dearth of protein; yes, a six-ounce serving of the nonfat, plain yogurt is a scant 60 calories, but it also only has six grams of protein -- hardly more than a regular yogurt. Moreover, the flavored varieties (Fig, Vanilla, Honey Strawberry) are pretty damn caloric: one cup of the Honey Strawberry has 310 calories and 15 grams of fat (basically equivalent to a half-cup serving of premium ice cream, which at least seems properly indulgent, unlike this yogurt, which masquerades as a health food). At $1.49 for a six-ounce cup, Greek Gods is not the priciest of the competitors, but the quality of the product doesn't justify the cost.


So there you have it -- more than you ever wanted to/needed to/thought you'd know about my Greek yogurt preferences. I'm always on the lookout for new products and I'm planning to try two brands (Brown Cow and Oikos) that I haven't tried yet. For the time being, I'll stick with Dannon.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I could use about two more cups of coffee right now: yes, please.

Haircut weekend was a success! The story is this: the story is that the salon I'd gone to for corrective color (and which I like quite a lot, actually - in theory, at least) canceled the cut/color appt. I'd made eight weeks prior. Their reason? "Oh, your stylist is going to be out of town." Really? I thought. Do stylists not have to put in for vacation time a few weeks in advance as do people in other trades? On account of this snafu/the fact that my bangs were getting out-of-control-long, I booked an appointment at the Chop Shop and I am so glad that I did. Betsy is not only a good conversationalist but an excellent stylist; indeed, she gave me angled, wispy bangs that I wouldn't necessarily have requested but that I love so much. So, yes: I guess it was fortuitous that the other salon bailed because otherwise, I might never have found this gem.

It was otherwise a pretty low-key weekend: Hook and I went to the Civic Center farmers' market yesterday and got about ten pounds of produce for ten dollars (I am dead serious). I love the Ferry Building's market, but it's more of an event than a practical means of produce acquisition. Every few weeks, I love to go and get baby white turnips and local, organic lavender and heirloom beans*, but the Ferry Building's prices prohibit buying in the quantities that I favor. While Civic Center doesn't quite have quite the variety and covetability of the Ferry Building's market, their vendors are no slouches: they have one local honey booth, a mushroom vendor, a baker, and several all-organic booths, one of which was selling baby greens with nasturtium blossoms(!) (Note: I totally tooted my own for correctly identifying the blossoms.) I still haven't been to the Upper Haight farmers' market -- travesty! -- but I'm hoping to make it there this Wednesday. I say that every Wednesday, but this time, I mean business.

*OK, I only bought those once, eight months ago, and they're still sitting in the cabinet under a partially-used bag of bulk quinoa. This is why I don't buy dried beans, people.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The best blueberry muffins ever.

A few weeks ago, I bought a 2.5-pound clamshell of blueberries at Safeway. They were $5! That's a hell of a lot of berries for $5, and I couldn't resist! After a longish bus ride home (any bus ride is longish when one is schlepping 15 pounds of groceries in a flimsy paper sack), I was like, "Man, what am I going to do with all these berries?" So I ate some and froze the bulk of them. Since then, I've been making delicious, delicious blueberry muffins. In addition to being lip-smackingly good, these muffins are also low-sugar and low-cal. Also, they're hella easy to prepare. Here, then, is Simple Daily Recipes' take on the traditional recipe:

  • 3/4 cups low fat milk
  • 1/2 cup natural applesauce
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 400ºF degrees. Spray muffin pan with non-stick cooking spray.

Blend milk, applesauce, egg in a small bowl and set aside.
Stir flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and pour wet ingredients into the well. Stir with a spoon just until the flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Fold in blueberries. Divide batter among muffin cups. Bake until golden brown; regular size muffins bake in 18 to 20 minutes, mini-muffins bake in 10 minutes. Immediately remove from pan.


Note: the muffins are really good when prepared according to the recipe listed above. My second time making them, I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract and a generous teaspoon of cinnamon, and they were even better. You could probably add a quarter to a half cup more berries, too -- I haven't tried this yet, but I probably will, for batch #3.

Happy weekend!

And what a weekend it shall be! I'm predicting a three-day stretch conspicuously bereft of Fernet, Jaeger, and tortilla chips ground into Hook's area rug. (Wait, that sentence didn't make as much sense in person as it did in my brain, but I think you get the drift: there will be no powdered corn products dusting Hook's living room floor.) Yessiree: I have no plans for this weekend, other than a haircut at noon today (yea!) and a possible viewing of "I Am Love." Also, going to Nordstrom to return this North Face fleece I got online (during the Anniversary Sale, people! It doesn't count as shopping if it's on sale.), and by "return" I mean "exchange for the correct size." Also, cleaning the hell out of my room, poss. involving the use of Lysol and a power washer. (Note: my room is really not dirty -- certainly not dirty enough to warrant the use of harsh chemicals and heavy machinery, but I'm feeling dramatic this morning. There are a lot of errant issues of Runner's World that need to be re-stacked, however.) Also, I want to get a donut. I've been hankering for a donut so badly for the last week.

Plans seem to be forming themselves as we speak.


Sad news: Circus Bear has passed on. For those of you who are unfamiliar with my plants, Circus Bear is the Croton Banana plant I bought at the Galesburg Target during the spring of my sophomore year at Knox. He grew from a tiny (4") sproutling into a majestic mini-bush, and he survived several cross-country trips. At the agricultural checkpoint at the California border, the DNR worker commented on CB's impressive spread, noting too a bit of sun damage on CB's outer leaves (a prediction of the doom to come, perhaps?). I'm not sure what ultimately felled my plant; Hook suspects poor soil quality and possibly too much light, though I think Croton Bananas prefer high light conditions. I have suspicions that the clover that set up shop in CB's pot is some sort of parasitic species that diverted nutrients from my plant, suffocating it. I'll never know for sure. Now, I'm left with the sad task of depositing Circus Bear's corpse in the compost bin and cleaning the pollen leftover from the hell-clover. Sigh.


In other news, I want to go here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


Kind of a slow day. Hook and I hosted a party last night and it was a total success(!), but one that left me unable to do anything today besides reading and watching "Steak Paradise" on the Travel Channel. (Aside: I am totally, totally disgusted by the 72-ounce steak challenge at the Big Texan.) Back to the party, though: Friday, my food processor arrived in the mail, and Hook and I made good use of this new toy in prepping party foods. Hook made Lemonhead- and Red Hot-infused cream cheese frosting for the green velvet cupcakes; I made hummus. Both were delicious. I also made mascarpone-stuffed dried apricots, some of which were topped with chopped cashews and some of which contained a chocolate chip. I never otherwise have the chance to make the apricots -- what would I do with all that leftover mascarpone, you know? -- which is one reason why parties rock: I have the chance to make big batches of food that I'd never make for myself.


Right now, I am craving Twizzlers. I blame Lindsay Lohan*.


Last week, I read a NY Times story about the increasingly popular concept of the clothing diet, individuals following which devote themselves either to buying no new clothing for a specified amount of time (i.e., a year), or who wear only a certain number of clothing articles for a given amount of time (i.e., six articles over the course of a month). I'm fascinated by this concept: I know that I shop too much and don't even wear most of the clothing I own. (Embarrassing aside: in some cases, I've "discovered" in my closet clothing I'd forgotten I had.) While I'm not going to commit to wearing the same six articles for a month, I am going to become more conscious of what I buy and cut down on needless buying. That way, when I do decide to get a new pair of jeans, the event of selecting and purchasing the jeans will be a more enjoyable event. Wish me luck on this venture!

*On Friday, I read a news story claiming that L.Lo is spending her jail time writing and eating large quantities of Twizzlers.