Wednesday, 31 December 2008

And there’s a hand my trusty friend !

And give us a hand o' thine! And we'll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne*.

*The version sung by Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis (from the Sex and the City soundtrack) is making me cry a lot tonight. Bless my patient husband as he slow dances with me in our living room.

Monday, 29 December 2008

My Favorite Foods in 2008

I love 'best of' compilation lists and love food, so this is going to be fun. I also eat a lot and eat just about everything, so this is going to be huge :) Before we moved to the bay area I came across a thread on chowhound called "Top Ten Tastes of 2007" or something similar. It turned out to be a great jumping-off place from which to explore from, food-wise. Also, all of these dishes are from restaurants--it's not that I don't cook/bake a lot, I do, but somehow things taste better when it's prepared for you. I'm more scrutinizing when it comes to things I make myself. Maybe I'll do another list of favorite things I've made this year.

One of the best appetizers ever--pig's trotter with foie gras, pears and bacon at the best Italian restaurant in SF, Incanto.

The strawberry mochi, made with fresh strawberries, from Benkyodo in Japantown. It's available only in summer.

The Irish brown bread at John Campbell's Irish Bakery.

Smoked salmon breakfast sandwich at Alexis Baking Company here in Napa.

The triple-cream delight that is Cowgirl Creamery's Mt. Tam cheese. One of my favorite memories of this past summer involve Steve, our friend Andrew, and I sitting in the car decompressing after a backpacking trip, going to town on this cheese.

Fava bean soup at Chez Panisse. I could have licked my plate if it wasn't, well, Chez Panisse.

This incredible orange polenta served by Indigo Room at the 2008 Taste of Vero this past May. My one complaint is that the guy serving the polenta got stingier and stingier with my portions when I kept going back to their booth for more.

The light-as-air waffles at Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland. When I was there I saw a woman with a t-shirt that says, "I hella heart Oakland"...well, I hella heart these waffles.

Spit-roasted pork belly with Sicilian chestnut honey, olives and almonds at Oliveto for their "whole hog" dinner. I'm a tad sad because going to the 2009 Whole Hog dinner was something I was hoping to do but it looks like it'll get left behind on the cutting-room floor in an effort to stick to a budget. Maybe I could re-create this dish at home?

Kunafa, a dish at Old Jerusalem. It's warm goat cheese topped with wheat, pistachios, and syrup.

The macarons Boulange, the Fillmore & Pine location. These are so good that when I had Steve try some for the first time he rolled down the car window and shouted, "I love macarons! I love macarons!" to whomever happened to be walking or driving down Pine just then.

Dorado tacos at La Taqueria, definitely our favorite taqueria in the Mission.

Rose gelato at Gelato Firenze in Oakland. I would eat it after every yoga class the whole month of June, a worthy indulgence.

The Best Ever Foccacia (seriously, amazing) at Liguria Bakery. Plain or raisin, I don't care.

Lime souffle at Cafe Jacqueline. This is so so good.

Cold jellyfish at Jai Yun in Chinatown.

Shaker lemon pie at Mission Pie.

The exquisite tea leaf salad at Burma Superstar. I could eat this every night. It's tea leaves, shrimp, fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, and probably some other wonderful stuff too.

The warm sea urchin at Anchor & Hope. It's like a chowder but with bits of crab, potato, beurre blanc and of course, sea urchin. It's dreamy.

Ahi burger with wasabi salsa at Taylor's Automatic Refresher, in Napa or St. Helena. I've never been to the SF branch.

Sweet arepas with cheese at Mr. Pollo.

Carne crudo from Dopo in Oakland.

Fried fava beans with mayo aioli at Delfina Pizzeria. They take the simplest things and make them amazing--I really like that about them.

Bizets at Crixa Cakes in Berkeley.

The "fried" egg breaded with grits and pork soffrito served at SPQR's Sunday brunch. It is incredible.

The two big standouts from my dreamy birthday dinner at Manresa: the soft-boiled Arpege farm egg with maple syrup and sherry vinegar, and the foie gras and abalone "tide pool."

The French Laundry, because I still can't believe we got to eat here. Even though I feel it's worthy of it's own post, here were my three favorite dishes that night: 1) pork belly with tomato compote, hard-boiled quail eggs and capers...our server described this as "the best BLT you'll ever have;" was she ever right. 2) sweet butter-poached Maine lobster with persimmon, celery, sunchokes and black truffle emulsion. 3) donuts with frozen coffee. The "secret" (or not so secret, I guess) course that one has to actually request at the beginning of dinner in order to get. Yay!

The parmigiano pudding with cocoa nibs, pepper jam, and pop rocks (pop rocks!) at Orson.

Roti pratha with curry dipping sauce at
Lime Tree.

Tuna sashimi at Kiss.

Cheeseburger from Prather Ranch at the Saturday morning Ferry Plaza farmer's market. A good Saturday is one spent eating this burger.

The morning buns at Tartine Bakery; they are sticky and orangey and crispy, I heart them.

The caramel goat cheese made by Bodega Goat Cheese, called natilla. It is wonderful and I could easily eat a little parcel of it in one sitting. The sweet man that sells it is at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market in the summer, or they sell it at the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley.

Coffee cream-filled beignets at 1300 on Fillmore. This place was literally less than a minute's walk from our apartment. I wish I had gone there more for dessert.

Nutella-filled bomboloni at the Boriana's Corner, a store at the Ferry Plaza.

The best xiaolongbao in the city at Shanghai Dumpling King. We really miss getting a regular xiaolongbao fix now that we're in Napa.

The fantastic BBQ pork bacon banh mi from Cam Huong in Oakland's Chinatown.Yes. Bacon.

Foie gras stuffed quail at Bar Tartine. I really really like foie gras.

Some places I want to try in the new year are
1) Cafe Majestic just to try the foie gras ice cream
2) Yats' New Orleans Original Po Boys because I actually went to New Orleans, did not eat a po boy and have regretted it ever since
3) Kaygetsu for a high-end Japanese meal
4) Quince for their homemade pastas
5) Cyrus for a blow-out dinner before we leave here.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Let your heart be light

Things I loved (and am loving, since it's not over 'till the Epiphany for me) about our Christmas in 2008

-the de-emphasis on presents, focusing instead on traditions I adore (going-to-see-Christmas-lights night...cookie Sunday...
Love Actually for the gazillionth time...)

-the "tree" I made to surprise Steve when he came home from work one December night (inspired from here)

-our humble Christmas day brunch of roasted fingerling potatoes and pancetta, then cranberry and orange pavlovas (from the December '08 issue of this), with mimosas

-getting to talk--no--getting to see Simona, Nonna, Zietta, Zio, Zia Lina via my webcam with Skype. Skype is wonderful.

Things I wish had been different this Christmas (and if we play our cards right, shouldn't be repeat mistakes)

-I wish our family(s) were closer.

-I didn't get to talk to my mom or dad on Christmas day. They're out of the country and because of insane time differences and their plans for an excursion involving 1) a camel and 2) no phone, we weren't able to connect until the 26th. That felt weird and sad.

-my dumb idea to broil our Christmas Eve lobster from some Cajun recipe I found. We usually just steam it and it's always amazing. This one came out charred, rubbery. Simpler really is better.

Merry, merry Christmas.

Thursday, 11 December 2008