Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Monday, August 21, 2006

The food

Oh those northern Californians eat well. It's a cornucopia over there, with the local produce, wines, cheese, bakeries. You almost can't help but eat well. Certainly there are some culinary holdouts living la vida Frito-Lay, but overall northern Californians seem to take a special pride in their cuisine. Not that they take their food too seriously -- this being California, of course -- but it is one of the major industries there and all you have to do is walk out your door and beautiful produce just falls from the sky. California -- the living is easy there. At least it seems that way to this Brooklynite.

A few highlights from our trip:

Our first meal was at Taqueria el Grullense in Palo Alto. Tacos are great, but the menudo is muy autentico -- a little too autentico, since it's all tripe and no hominy. The horchada (a rice and almond drink) and watermelon juice were the best I'd ever had.

All week we were dipping into Doug and Rebecca's syrupy balsamic -- it went with everything from heirloom tomatoes to sourdough, but my favorite were ripe, golden peaches.

The next day we made a pilgrimage to the Mission for the enthusiastically-endorsed crepes at Ti Couz. Alas, though the day was beautiful we could not get an outdoor table. As you parents know, once you've had a kid everyone puts Baby in a corner. Perhaps with good reason.

But the crepes were good. Rebecca and I had the special, smoked trout with carmelized onion and red pepper sauce. Better were Lane's mushroom with shrimp and Doug's spinach and cheese. For dessert we had to try the excellent banana and nutella. No plate licking, but we left happy.

Rebecca's cole slaw. I usually hate cole slaw but this was undeniable. She mixes shredded cabbage and carrots with black sesame seeds and pine nuts. The dressing is just mayonnaise cut with vinegar -- lighter, fruity vinegars work best.

Doug has this nifty trick for frothing milk. He heats it in his coffee presspot and then simply churns. Whole milk works best. I've attributed the five or so pounds I gained mostly to this morning ritual -- that and all the California wine Doug kept pouring. (By the way, note much fought-over swimming Elmo in the background.)

We took a day trip to Drake Beach at Point Reyes. It's a spectacularly beautiful spot in a protected cove surrounded by buff cliffs. We waded in the waves, buried our children in the sand, took walks. Doug roasted some striped bass stuffed with parsley and thyme and we enjoyed some of my very favorite cheese, Point Reyes blue. Yes, Janet, so rejuvenating! The beach, I mean. Well, the cheese, too.

We returned to tired to cook so ordered from Pizza My Heart in Palo Alto. We got one of those classic Californian non-traditional pies, barbecue chicken with cilantro. Its was very wrong yet so yummy. Later in the week we had scrumptious brown rice sushi from a little alleyway place.

Lane and I went to the Ferry Building, which is basically a high-end food mall. There we bought an olive loaf from Acme Bread Company (green olives), Mt. Tam triple cream from Cowgirl Creamery, Vignette wine country sodas (non-alcoholic, by the way), Arbequina and blood orange olive oils from Stonehouse, delicately-flavored lemon cucumbers, four different varieties of baby beets, cipolline onions, those small, sweet strawberries and yet more Cherokee purple tomatoes.

After a visit to SFMOMA (Matthew Barney's Drawing Restraint 9 is more interesting that I thought it would be) we went across the street to the Yerba Buena for lunch. We found a little tea place on the top of the hill with lovely view. I had the Chinese tea service, which was tasty but very light.

After a day at the de Young, Japanese Tea Garden, and Botanic Gardens in Golden Gate Park we met Liz and her boys for dinner. We went across Lincoln to Marnee Thai, where the food was good but we had an unfortunate incident with a rude diner. We fled to the Haight were Liz and I explored Held Over, the best edited and organized vintage shop I've ever seen -- a whole section just for Bavarian drindl blouses! Then we had ice cream at Ben & Jerry's. Cherry Garcia would have been appropriate, but I had chocolate therapy instead.

The best meal we had was the dinner party Doug and Rebecca threw with some friends. Rebecca roasted chicken (cut into parts) with balsamic vinegar, the cipolline onions, figs, red peppers, thyme, and rosemary. Oh, heaven. She reduced the pan juices for a rich sauce. We had this with a warm fingerling potato, artichoke, and grilled asparagus salad. I made Lucinda Scala Quinn's beet salad with the baby beets, the sangria, and I sliced the lemon cucumbers over some pursilane with some crushed honey roasted almonds on top. For dessert Rebecca made brownies from a surprisingly good mix and I made a chocolate ganache (with chocolate-mint infused whole milk, dark chocolate, and a little cinnamony Mexican hot chocolate) for frosting.

And now here we are, stumbling around with our jet lag and our California dreaming. I think we really may move there someday. A hundred little things are pulling us there. But not quite yet. For now we're planning to spend next summer in the Bay Area. Golly, I thought I would like it there -- I had no idea I'd be so deeply seduced.


Janet M. Kincaid said...

Adriana, it sounds like you guys had an AMAZING time in the Bay Area. You spent time in many of my favorite places--Palo Alto (where we used to have a house, but then we sold it; one of our biggest regrets since moving to D.C.); Ti Couz; Point Reyes/Drakes Beach (we had a friend who had a home up there. She'd give us the keys and let us stay for the weekend. It was divine); San Francisco... It's all so beautiful and rejuvenating and... and... and...

It's a wonder I ever left. And now we just have to figure out when to return...

Anonymous said...

Like I always tell people--California is crowded for a REASON. It's friggin' bee-yoo-tiful!!!! Glad you had such a nice time. And a whole summer?!? Think we can definitely figure out a way to meet up, one place or the other. Date?

Adriana Velez said...

By the way, thanks to my mom for reminding me that horchata is made from rice and almonds, not coconut. Doh! Sometimes my brains turn into scrambled egg while I'm writing these posts.

Writermama said...

You make me want to go there, now. I haven't been to SF since 1993. I think Held Over was on Haight Street when I lived there in '87/88. I LOVE San Francisco. I remember leaving there to move to SLC, looking back one last time once we crossed the bridge, the city, even at night, white and luminous through the fog. That Tony Bennett song totally makes sense.