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March 8-16, 2008
|Sunday, March 16, 2008
Rhone Rangers 2008 Grand Tasting
The Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason was uncharacteristically civilized:
... during the early portion of today's event. Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting highlights American Rhone-style wines:
... so there was more Syrah than you'd find up against Matt Damon's mini-bar.
The 2005 Brawler, a Syrah by Prospect 772, did not awaken any of my latent aggressive tendencies with it's plum and berry taunts.
Copain poured a selection of Syrahs as well as their 2005 James Berry Roussanne.
Eberle Winery's 2005 Steinbeck Syrah had a blackberry and pleasing peppery kick to this volume of grapes (minus the wrath.)
We didn't have to visit the dump bucket:
... during our visit to the Dry Soda Co. table. Their kumquat, lavender, lemongrass and rhubarb non-alcoholic sparkling beverages:
... were lightly sweetened and seriously good.
Bert's Desserts brought our favorite peanut butter cups to the event:
After we had these chocolate rounds at the Artisan Cheese Festival, we were hooked.
This well organized event was filled with new discoveries as well as the usual suspects.
It was difficult to compete with today's gorgeous San Francisco weather, but devotees were lined up:
... to Cotes their palates.
|Saturday, March 15, 2008
You aren’t supposed to say that you don’t like Girl Scouts, but I don’t like Girl Scouts.
It appears as though the purpose of this sexist, ageist organization is to keep girls off the pole and pipe. That’s fine, but I don’t want these adorable, non-threatening, world-ignorant ambassadors to unwise purchases blocking my entry to the grocery store. If they were adults, they would be instructed to Tagalong their asses out of there.
If you like Girl Scout cookies, you only think you like Girl Scout cookies. Those thin mints that you swear by are really pretty mediocre if you focus on their actual mouthfeel. It’s their brainfeel that makes you shell out for these waxy pucks. It feels like a pro-social, up-with-people event when you make your Samoas transaction, but you are giving these shortbread shorties a distorted view of the world. Either they are unaware that these are emotional purchases (and believe selling is easy) or they are fully aware and this will reinforce any budding manipulative tendencies.
As customers, we are supporting a highly competitive contest that pits scout against scout in the uneven terrain of popularity, parental influence and cuteness. Cookie sales are directly tied to the loser index of each and every salesgirl. If you do not bring in the bucks, you are letting the troop down. They sub out “quotas” with “sales goals”, but the burden of moving the product falls upon the parents. They aren’t going to send their little uniformed cookie-pusher out alone door to door so they have to peddle these artery hardeners to associates and friends so that their daughter can hold her little head high at the next meeting.
This lose-lose situation is worsened by parents who just take the order list to work and have their assistants circulate the order form with the subtlety of a pink form immunity sign up sheet.
And what is up with this display in the San Francisco Westfield Center food court?
I’ve heard of “take your daughter to work day”, but not “take your daughter's cookies to work day.”
Do I contribute to their delinquency by purchasing these baked goods? Yes, I grease the partially hydrogenated palm of my neighborhood scout. Why? Because I can’t bear to crush her little spirit. Am I harming her by helping to finance her cult activities? Who knows?
I wouldn’t have a problem with the Girl Scouts if they sold an adequate product or if their profits were used to help victims of disasters (on second thought, I take that back as they do finance themselves.) In any case, I think that their membership should stop their campaign of aggressive cookie-handling.
I’m not crazy about the Boy Scouts either, but they have the good sense not to try to sell me stuff.
|Friday, March 14, 2008
3/14 = π Day
March 14th is known as “Pi Day”.
In keeping with tradition, we baked a celebratory fruit pie (although we do not march in a circle at “pi second” (aka 3/14 at 1:59 and 26 seconds) as we are not orthodox.
We examined Alton Brown’s formula for apple pie, which had some interesting differences from our standard equation.
He introduces variables such as cutting, sugaring and draining the liquid from the fruit.
The resulting juice is reduced and brushed on the crust as a glaze. The baking begins on the floor of the oven to subtract any possibility of an undercooked base (pretty calculating) and then moves up to a shelf after a half hour to get some radian heat.
I had some Grains of Paradise:
... (that we got on a recent visit to San Francisco’s Le Sanctuaire) otherwise I might have resorted to a cinnamon, which wouldn’t have had a fraction of the same peppery interest.
Chubby cut the celebratory pi circum-vent:
Happy Pi Day.
In case you are making your usual S.F. Ferry Building Farmers’ Market run – don’t forget tomorrow (Saturday) is the St. Patrick’s Day Parade so it will be harder to get around, but easier to get a green beer (if that’s your thing.)
Sunday provides us with food coloring-free quaffing - the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting 2008 takes place at Fort Mason.
In meatier news, Boccalone is making little brined hams from suckling pig hind legs as a seasonal Easter special. These are fully cooked (so you don’t have to worry about tricky noses.) Just heat 'em and eat 'em.
You have to email an order in advance and pick them up at their designated Salumi Society gathering.
$35 for a 3 ½ pound ham ($29 if you are a Salumi Society Member)
Email "firstname.lastname@example.org" with your name, phone number, pick up location (Oakland on 3/21 or SF on 3/22) to reserve one of these piccolo cottos while they last.
If you are all about organic vegetables, you can order a Mariquita Farm “mystery box” for pick up between 5-7 p.m. in front of Incanto Restaurant on March 20th. Take a look at what we got for our $25 last week. We plowed through all of these top notch veggies in no time. Check out the fennel, gravlax, preserved lemon and radish salad:
... that this purchase inspired.
You need to email your order to "email@example.com" by this Tuesday to secure your produce and it’s cash only.
|Thursday, March 13, 2008
Taste Napa Valley 2008
We passed through security at San Francisco City Hall only to find the place infiltrated by terrior-ists:
The Taste Napa Valley Trade and Media event had the intimate feeling of a crowded cocktail party.
Most wineries had small, individual, tables allowing each participant to get up close and personal:
... with the people who oversee the production of Napa Valley’s unique bottlings.
... and Merryvale were among the representatives of this appellation pouring their latest releases, as were a couple of the jovial folks from Sullivan Vineyards whose Coeur de Vigne won our Coeur.
We stuck with tasting only, but there were plenty of people drinking:
... and boosting their beverages with cheese:
... (you may be familiar with the old adage, “buy on apple, sell on cheese”) Fortunately, Napa wines as a whole do fine without being goosed up with a lactose wedgie.
It was a nice mix of serious tasters:
... and social butterflies:
Those with palate fatigue gave it a rest in the foyer:
... which served as a reminder not to drive drunk unless you wanted to swirl back in an official capacity.
Taste Napa Valley 2008
|Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Flora Restaurant is the latest from the Dona Thomas and Tacubaya team, but there wasn’t a tortilla to be found in this Art Deco building that used to house a flower market.
The lunch menu is filled with sandwiches and salads.
I got a Persian Chicken salad ($13.00):
... which claimed to include walnuts. There were a couple of micro shards, but it was pretty much nut free. It also was supposed to come with lavash crackers, but it came with a slice of levain bread instead. I figured they call it a “Persian” salad for when the chef says, “Iran out of ingredients”
This fowl ball came with slices of cukes, red onion, olives, feta and some sturdy, roasted fennel. It was okay, but some preserved lemon would give it a needed boost.
Chubby got the Crab and Shrimp Louie ($15.00):
This pink bottom feeder snowball surrounded by avocado, tomato and boiled egg had an old school feel without enough of a modern twist.
The service was friendly but plates were bussed the second they were completed, which often highlights individual behaviors leaving slower diners self conscious and quicker eaters embarrassed.
It’s a new place that doesn’t claim to specialize in salads (even though salads are often flora-based cuisine) so perhaps we didn’t order properly. I regret not going with my initial impulses to get either the burger or the tuna melt which looked more substantial and less ball-shaped.
The bathroom was dimly lit with a mirror curiously placed at butt level which probably is reflected in their bottom line by reduced dessert sales. Perhaps this is also effective in reducing bread costs (they serve it upon request only).
The sunny dining room filled to capacity during our lunch today, so it appears as though business at Flora is flourishing.
|Tuesday, March 11, 2008
In Bruges is a movie:
...about men who do very bad things which results in their forced vacation in Bruges. This destination for holiday makers is a living hell for our protagonist which is exactly how we felt about our pre-cinema dinner. We decided to duck in to the pub down the street from the theatre only to find ourselves surrounded by unruly children:
I’m sure that Iron Springs Pub does not serve alcohol to minors, but it was as though we were in a juvie drunk tank during a preschool spring break. Although we did not order a side of running to go with our double helping of screaming, it was comped to all of the tables like a twisted amuse shut-your-bouche.
The poor wait staff was spread thinner than marmite on toast. Our iced teas quickly ran dry (and stayed that way) and we had to walk up to the server to get the bill (since doing jumping jacks and feigning death did not get anyone’s attention in the midst of the shortie riot.)
We can’t blame the servers however. They were running around like chicken nuggets with their heads cut off as they sprinted to tables with plates of mac and cheese to sedate the ravenous tots by filling their little tartlett holes. While we were laughing at our predicament, the woman at the table next to ours explained that on Tuesdays, kids eat free (with a paying adult’s entrée). Suddenly, it all made sense. This place goes all Chuck E. Cheese Marin-style once a week.
Sadly, my meal matched the chaotic vibe of the room. The Cobb salad ($10.95):
... was a loveless combo of over-boiled egg, over-dressed lettuce with an oily pounded, breaded and fried turkey sheet that reflected my mental state.
Chubby wisely went with a cheeseburger ($12.24 with the upgraded Caesar Salad):
... which, while not brilliant, was dissimilar to my Cobb in that it could not be classified as a pharmaceutical grade depressant.
The moral of In Bruges is that you shouldn’t kill children or midgets. I agree with this, but dining in a roomful of ill behaved ones is another matter.
Whatever you do, do not go to Iron Springs on a Tuesday unless accompanied by a minor. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go yell at some kids to get off my lawn.
From today’s Bunrab email, Patrick writes about Nick’s Crispy Design:
I’d heard about this arrangement, but we haven’t visited during club hours (which I hear are fun.) NCT is also an excellent place to have an engaging meal as Catherine and Jeff did. Congrats to the Musers!
|Monday, March 10, 2008
Okay, let’s be clear, Nick’s Crispy Tacos:
... is not for taco traditionalists. It’s the sort of place that you visit if you want a cheap and cheerful bite in a restaurant that looks like a design team collaboration of David Lynch, Liberace and Rosanne Barr.
You can order your tacos plain or “Nick’s way” which translates into a crisp taco shell inside of a soft tortilla capped off with some guac.
We got all of our tacos in this manner of Nick’s (approx $4.70 each) I went with one carnitas and one with fried fish:
... that had a pleasingly crisp batter shell while Chubby got the pollo asada and the grilled fish:
The turf tacos had beans and the surf had shredded cabbage. They made for perfectly good snacking while we had our clubby flashbacks of what this festive hall must have been like in its dance hall heyday.
This funky counter service eatery is a good place to take an out of towner for a snack after a Tenderloin bahn mi or on your way to get a cup of coffee with some chocolate truffles in North Beach, but if you seek a taco truck style bite, keep on rolling.
From our Bunrab email, Chilebrown writes about our visit to the house of dog:
Top Dog is definitely a Berkeley classic. We love that they have not caved to big soda and dispense drinks in cups emblazoned with a smiling Mr. Top Dog.
|Sunday, March 9, 2008
It’s Sunday, and we found ourselves in a big tent praising cheeses.
The California Artisan Cheese Festival took place at the Sonoma Sheraton and was a culture center where crowds wheyed the differences among the curds.
They filled a ballroom as well as the tent with cheese, wine:
...beer and artisan foods:
Some of our local faves were present like Cowgirl Creamery:
...Cypress Grove and Redwood Hill.
Clare, who we met at the La Cocina Community Kitchen event brought her tasty squares:
Rustic Bakery set up a table with some of their toothsome flatbreads and crostini, Gelateria Cici dished out some water buffalo ricotta gelato:
... alongside a scoop of dark chocolate (hold the buffalo.)
The chocolate peanut butter cups from Bert’s Desserts were the best I have eaten. This Petaluma company produces PBCs that make all the others witherspoon.
They also have respect for lagomorphs:
... what’s not to like?
Cheese making and cooking demos were also staged at the event, Nancy Oakes and her husband Bruce Aidells:
... had the playful familiarity of a two-toque household.
If you were still tolerant to lactose after you did your rounds (as we were) there was cheese for sale to take home. Cowgirl rounds were a mere tenner each (which is an excellent deal.) Since I have nettles on my mind, I asked after their seasonal, springtime, St. Pat cheese. The monger told me that it becomes available on St. Patrick’s day. I guess we’ll have to be patient for a whole week.
This was the second annual ACF and it has already caught on with the locals. Many of the seminars and field trips were sold out well in advance – so don’t sheepishly sit on your tuffet in 2009.
Coagulations are in order for the big wheels that molded the umami of all local cheese gatherings. The Artisan Cheese Festival was a grate whey to unrind.
|Saturday, March 8, 2008
The dog inclusion
We had faith that our trinity of hot dogs ($3.00 each) would banish our affliction of hunger during our pilgrimage to Top Dog.
Chubby got a classic beef top dog:
... which dogmatically hit the spot. He then had a revival of his appetite and ordered a spicy pork calabrese.
I chose to worship a false dog and got a turkey tube, which had a sort of chorizo vibe. Not the link that I have been missing, but not a throwback either.
After our greedy, slothful and gluttonous behavior, we walked over to hear Richard Dawkins’ lecture at UC Berkeley. It seemed like everyone:
... (with the exception of that guy who is protesting in the tree outside the hall):
... came down for this packed event:
Professor Dawkins preached:
... to the choir during his engaging and fun discussion of religion.
Mr. Dawkins didn’t present us with evidence to shake our belief in Top Dog although he is in the business of questioning this sort of following. Even so, he's top Dog-kins by us.
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