Tuesday, February 28, 2012

winter picnic

getting ready to enter the day. sipping on my coffee. seeing and hearing folks begin their commute to work....likely making their way downtown. the odd spot of sunny winter weather that shined in on san franciso is retreating. as i get myself settled into my day, i thought i'd take a moment to share some pics of a recent picnic in a local park that happened over the weekend.

while i picked up a couple of things on saturday at the ferry building farmers market, it seemed even more busy than usual. perhaps it was the combo of sunny winter weather, folks that didn't visit last week because of the bridge closure, there was free parking for those visiting the farmers market, and the usual market crowds. i suppose that i wasn't in the mood. after a couple of darting visits to a couple of the core vendors i like to visit, i felt like i needed to leave. methinks i was looking for a bit of peace and quiet....so i left to just walk downtown. when i visit downtown, my preference is during the weekend in the morning or during twilight during the week. when downtown isn't as crowded, it becomes easier to stroll and just appreciate the beauty of the buildings and the scene.

admittedly, i've also shown this preference when i am in other cities....i like walking around the chicago loop or paris in the mornings on the weekend...when folks aren't out and about yet. after walking around a bit, i could tell that folks and tourists were beginning to really wake up ....which was my cue to exit. as i still wanted some peace and quiet, i settled upon having a picnic in a local park (that wasn't delores).

my picnic was supremely simple. i boiled some pasture-raised eggs from rolling oak and made a simple spice mix by grinding some dried espelette chili from tierra vegetables and then adding some maldon salt.

then, i rounded out my picnic with slices of acme bread, crispy salty tart pickles with a hint of heat from wing wings, and a duck fat pecan pie from humphry slocombe.

once i gathered the components of the winter picnic, i headed to the city park....taking in some of the green in this public space among such an urban landscape as well as a dose large of vitamin d from the sun.

i found a nice spot to settle in to nosh and read a bit.

it was a nice simple quiet moment.

Monday, February 27, 2012

a good start

this past weekend, i was finally able to experiment with infusing bourbons and ryes in a more systematic manner.

this happens when with me sometimes. i get my nerd on when it comes to an ingredient or doing some experimentation. for example, there was a solid three weeks where i was experimenting with different ratios, different levels of fat in the dairy, temperatures, etc. when making creme fraiche.

now, i seem to have booze on the brain.

what i wanted to do was try different types of citrus (peel, sliced, juice) and spices (vanilla, cloves, cardamom, long pepper, sichuan, all spice, and cinnamon sticks) in different variations using bourbon and rye.....

and do them at the same time so that i'd be able to have some side-by-side comparisons.

for example, will the sliced fruit really be more bitter in the infusion because of the inclusion of the pith than the infusion with just the zest? or how about the juice that just sits with the bourbon or rye? what kind of effect is that going to have to the texture or make up of the liquid? or if i use the bulleit rye (which is already pretty hot) with the sichuan...what will the spice factor translate into in that infusion?

so many questions. so many possibilities.

all twelve jars are just hanging out in my fridge right now.

i'm definitely not done.

i have a feeling that my next round of infusions will include different types of coffee, tea, honey, maybe maple, chilies, ginger, and there is this mix of asian herbs that i'm thinking about trying out as well.

see what i mean by getting my nerd on?

this is an example of why i love being a home cook....being able to tinker....make mistakes...try out random things....and just see what happens. sometimes, i just love cooing over the color of the citrus as i do the prep. it is difficult to explain why i love seeing the colors....and inhaling the bright fragrance of a just cut citrus. it is simply a lovely moment.

i was able to make myself a cocktail with some of the random bits left over (like the fruit fibers leftover after i'd crushed them in a citrus press...to wring out some additional use from the fruit).....

and had this very tasty cocktail with blood orange, kumquats, meyer lemon, spiced pear syrup (june taylor), carpano, bulleit bourbon, and ice.

as i was sipping through the cocktail, i was thinking that perhaps....perhaps my next party will be a cocktail playground of infused bourbons and ryes. i love being able to have friends over....and all of us having a chance to just play.

we'll see.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

didn't look back

Thursday, February 23, 2012

loosely inspired cocktail

winding down for the evening....there are some early morning meetings in a few hours so i'm going to try to get some sleep in beforehand. i'm sipping on a cocktail experiment....which is loosely inspired by the "wry rajah" from dosa...in the sense that the combo of bird's eye chilies, carpano, and fruit stayed with me. the dosa cocktail used birds-eye chilies, carpano, cherry liqueur, mango juice, and rye....while the cocktail i decided on experimenting with this evening includes bulliet bourbon, carpano, orange juice, candied yuzu, spiced pear syrup (june taylor), and dried bird's eye chilies. while they are significantly different cocktails...there was a not so small part of me that felt like i should say where the idea for this experiment came from.

it just feels like the right thing to do.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

hapa ramen + wing wings

yesterday, my day started out being off kilter. at this point in my life, i'm a complete coffee addict. i caffeinate myself all day. why lie about this? so after i went through a large deluge of email and meetings yesterday morning, i went to make myself some coffee when this happened....

i cracked the french press glass carafe. there were some choice words uttered in the foodie hunter household at that moment.

i tried to look on the positive side, i really didn't like the french press. someone bought it for me as a replacement when he stayed at my place in berkeley a few years ago when i was visiting paris. i didn't like it but the frugal part of me didn't think i should buy something else....even when amy brown brought her shiny lovely stainless steel french press during our foraging mushroom trip a couple of years ago....and i immediately coveted it. she knows this...because when i informed her how much i coveted it...she provided some guidance on where to get one. but i resisted the temptation to buy one for myself because the frugal part of me won out.

however, fast forward a couple of years later and my having broken the glass carafe (not on purpose!) ...provided quite the opportunity. dontcha just love the rationalization that goes on? plus, i knew that blue bottle at the ferry building were selling the very french press i wanted and i also knew that i wanted to check in with hapa during their ferry building tuesday gig to see if they wanted me to bring them a family meal at their popup at wing wings later that night. sometimes, when they are running from event to event....they don't have much of an opportunity to eat themselves.

so yeah, i went to the blue bottle ferry building to buy the stainless steel bodum which is truly lovely and not a hint of glass in sight. thank goodness there will be no more cracked glass in my future. i also checked in with sus at the hapa stand and she indicated it was not necessary for me to bring them a family meal and that they had it covered. so i went back to work and continuously feed my caffeine addiction until the hapa popup at wing wings.

like many events, i arrived early to the wing wings popup to hang out. i must admit that there was this really odd feeling that came over me when i stepped through the swinging "w" doors of wing wings to go behind the counter and into the kitchen to hang out with the hapa folks while they were doing their prep.

it wasn't a bad feeling....it was just different. i'm so used to being on the eating side of wing wings...not crossing that almost invisible line between the customer section and the proprietor section. it was also cool to have a chance to chat with the wing wings owners, lisa and christian during the visit as well. i do think it is great that they are opening up their space (on their night off no less!) to other folks such as hapa.

when the hapa popup officially started, it was fascinating to observe the buzz of service....a mix of ferry building farmers market hapa regulars, wing wing regulars, families, people on dates, folks from the lower haight neighborhood, lots of industry, and folks that were excited because they hadn't had an opportunity to come to the previous hapa popups at bar tartine or the hapa stand at the farmers markets. it was quite a diverse crowd on many levels. while observing service, there were a few key moments that stood out in my mind for various reasons

  • i've never said this before....and it isn't my idea...i think it was sus' idea actually but don't quote me on that....or maybe it was marcia's....anyway...whose ever idea it is...i completely agree .....someone should be following mooney, a wing wings FOH person, around with a camera. holy shit is that man funny. seriously snarky wickedly funny in a very smart sly way about everyday life. if he had a reality tv show, i'd actually buy a tv and subscribe to whatever channel. i'm very serious about this.
  • the ladies...i suspect a mom with her grown daughter....that had never had the food before, ordered the ramen, ate it, went to the atm, and then came right back to order two more bowls to eat the next day.
  • the mother that came back to indicate that her kids refused to share their bowls of big daddy ramen with her to try, so she needed to buy another one. i suspect that was the 5th or 6th bowl for that family.
  • "yes, chef".....and that is all i'm going to say about that one. everyone involved in that one knows exactly what i'm talking about.
  • the gay couple on a date....waiting for seats.....having such a good time....and when finding seats next to each other....connecting over their chopsticks, ramen, and riblets. tres adorable.
  • a young cook that was eating the big daddy ramen bowl with the crispy pig face add on...who was so happy standing there eating the bowl...and talking about how full he was...but how he wasn't about to stop eating because it was so good.
  • a wife that was so relieved that she...a meat eater...and her husband...a vegetarian...could both be happy with their different bowls of ramen.
  • a young man from the neighborhood, who never had the food before...and likely wandered in....he was very uncertain and very self conscious. FOH gently and quietly guided him through the menu....and doing something slightly customized that folks at the ferry building have no issues ordering. he came back later....waiting and wading through the crowds...looking happy and definitely not uncertain....to just say thank you.

it was interesting for me to be something a kin to a fly on the wall...or being able to have a sneak peek for a bit ...just observing....seeing folks from two crews....hapa and wing wings....hapa in the kitchen...and wing wings folks keeping tabs and checking in on the clients in dining area. seeing former strangers comfortably talking to each others in the small space...spilling out into the street....eating, laughing, and connecting.

richie told me a while ago that one of the chefs he worked for before he started hapa ramen used to say that you have to feed everyone like you love them.

i think i understand what that means a bit better now....and why that is important.

Monday, February 20, 2012

tea and biscuits

taking a break after a few hours of work this morning.....sipping on some spicy chai (brewed strong tea from the uk with cinnamon, cardamon, black pepper, dried chilies, and cloves from the pantry....and i add hot full fat milk and a bit of cream...yes, i said cream). with that level of spice going on, my breakfast snack this morning are leftover biscuits from wing wings....they reheat beautifully in the oven.

last night was a work late kind of night and to help get through the night, i went by to pick up some fried chicken and biscuits. i purposely bought more biscuits than i knew i could eat in one sitting for the express purpose of having them for breakfast today. by now, dear reader, i'm certain that you already know that i'm an advocate of christian's food and have been eating at his and lisa's place since they opened last summer. not only does christian cook some delicious food (i'm sighing out loud right now as i think about it and remember the first time i had his fried chicken...i was like DAMN!... anyway), i also respect how they are active in the community....from past mentoring work with la cocina, to organizing events in the lower haight (aka holiday fair as an example), to providing food for a fundraising effort for fire victims at haight/fillmore, to giving industry folks without a brick and mortar an outlet for goodies or popups, and providing a comfortable space that draws in community.

quite frankly, i have teased certain members of wing wings (who shall remain nameless) about their unofficial fan club filled with very passionate members. many o' many times have i personally seen folks who are walking by...just pop their heads in to say how much they love the food...or wave to FOH folks with unflinching gusto. there are also the regular clients who provide unsolicited and very enthusiastic assistance to newbies in line about what they love on the menu. there are also the other random community oriented moments that make me smile....there was this one instance when a young lady had just bought buddha's hand from a local market (i suspect it was bi-rite) and came in specifically to show them and talk about it. i remember that moment quite clearly because i remember wanting to take a picture of that moment...because it was an adorable moment that i thought spoke volumes about being present in the community. but i didn't because it wouldn't have been appropriate. while i have never had conversations with anyone at wing wings about this....i get a sense that certain FOH prefer to stay under the radar (or away from cameras). i can completely understand that.

if i was with hapa and a moment like that happened...and i wasn't working service...then it is very likely that i would have taken a pic...yet my relationship with hapa is different. hapa has become family and with wing wings i am an unabashed member of the unofficial fan club.

i do hope that when hapa opens up the brick and mortar space on fillmore off of geary that folks will have that same level of enthusiasm, comfortability, and bring in people from all around the city.

personally, tomorrow night (i.e., tuesday) is going to be interesting as hapa is going to have a popup at wing wings starting at 6pm. wing wings is typically closed on tuesdays. while some may be surprised at the event....however....if you follow either wing wings or hapa ramen via social media outlets such as twitter....this won't be surprising at all. there has always been mutual support.

unfortunately, i was out of town for the last hapa popup at wing wings so i wasn't able to stop by. as i am in town this time, i'm looking forward to seeing what it is all about.

well, break time is over....and must get back to work....until later....


Thursday, February 16, 2012

citrus flight of fancy

at this very moment, i feel a bit fried from the day. i was able to make some very solid progress on a key work project, so i thought i'd take a moment to wind down here at the sfmoma rooftop....before attending the chef panel put on by inforumsf this evening.

i'm thinking about unexpected moments and how sometimes i really do not know what the day will bring.

this week i was having dinner with a loved one and the discussion turned to how i ended up making a cocktail for 50 people at a private hapa event a while back. i had just finished kid sitting and AC was kind enough to gave me a ride to the hapa kitchen before he went to work so that i could meet up with everyone before heading to the private event. little did i know that when i arrived into the kitchen that i would obtain the responsibility for creating a cocktail for 50 people.

i learned of this about an hour before we all squeezed into the car and left for the event.

i admit that when i first heard the words "you're on cocktail", there was a flare of utter panic...that was instantly squashed down because really there was no time for panic....and my immediate thought was "what do i have to work with?" after taking a look at the available ingredients...then i thought about what flavors would work with what was available, be aligned with the menu, and be a yummy first taste for the clients that evening. fortunately and unsurprisingly, ingredients that were available were excellent....including in-house created syrups, fresh citrus juices....from local organic produce from farmers markets, and in-house candied citrus peels. after a bit of analysis, i pitched the idea of a winter citrus bourbon spritzer that i decided to call a "citrus flight of fancy". this was due to the "flight" of different winter citrus, how this would be a whimsical first taste (a spritzer in a martini glass) as well as a hidden reference to the fact that i was making this up on the fly. once i received the ok/approval on the overall flavor profile and vision of the cocktail....it was all about math.

lots and lots of math.....figuring out how many glasses (with some fudge factor), estimate milliliters/oz per glass, then how many parts of bourbon versus other ingredients to be served to 50 people. then, there was also factoring in the visual presentation of the drink, how could it be made to scale, and delivered quickly for the 50 clients that would be likely arriving within a 30 min window.

i'd like to point out that i'm not a bartender.

i'd also like to point out that i'm not in the food industry.

yet, those dear readers that have been following me for a while are likely well aware of my research into cocktails and my specific interest in different types of whiskey. i had a clear idea in my head of what i wanted the drink to taste like (nothing like pressure to make one very focused)...something to point to what folks would be having later on and winter citrus appeared on the menu that evening.

yet, everything was theory until we arrived at the venue. once there, i set up my station and made a sample drink for the hapa crew to try. now this moment.....this moment was by far the most stressful moment of the evening for me....and i exhaled a breathe that i didn't realize i was holding once richie provided his ok for it. when the event began, it was show time....answering questions about the hapa, richie's background, the provenance of the food, the cocktail....doing all this while making glass after glass of the "citrus flight of fancy".

i think most of you dear readers can understand just how relieved i felt when i started hearing guests speak to each other about how much they liked it. one of the event organizers also came into my station area while i was making the cocktails to provide positive feedback... which was very kind of them to do so. i was extremely glad that the first taste of the evening went well....because i knew just how much tasty, lovely, and comforting food was on the menu that evening....and wanted to ensure that i was being respectful to hapa and the folks eating the food. at the end of the evening, it was fascinating to see different clients glow and smile broadly from being well-fed. while i observed this, i remember thinking that this is likely one of the reasons people decide to make careers out of feeding people...to see this kind of happiness.

well, it is time for me to head over to the commonwealth club to listen to some chefs talk about their food....

until later dear hearts....

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


just finished up the last of my morning meetings and am taking a break. i'm noshing on my latest tasty snack.....

which this morning consists of greek yogurt with maple syrup mixed thoroughly and then topped with some grated candied citrus peel + chili (i.e., taking a piece of dobashi-beni satsuma mandarin peel from june taylor and a dried pulla chili from tierra vegetables and then using a microplane grater) and a pinch of cinnamon in the middle (i grind small batches of bark/sticks at a time and keep in my pantry).

simple but effective.


perfect for my mood.

before i dive into this work project that will be having my full attention over the next few hours, i wanted to take a moment to write a bit about something that has been on my mind for quite some time.

basically, i wanted to write about owning who you are and what you want.

once upon a time, when i was a neophyte....i had this unwavering belief that people will say what they want and take responsibility for who they are. then, as time went on.....i realized that people will often not say what they want and even more confusing....they will say the want something but it won't be what they really want...because they can't or won't accept who they are....or take responsibility for it. this isn't always done from a place of malice or deception.

it just happens more often then not.

when i was a wee neophyte, i didn't realize people didn't take responsibility for who they are and what they wanted..... because i was always a very stubbornly strong personality (aka a total shit) and when i wanted to learn, discover, explore, and grow...i took steps on my own to make sure that happened....and i really didn't care if supposed friends, queen bees, or family approved. oftentimes, when they didn't approve and try to get me to do things "their way"....i would counter with some very pointed observations that were quite unsettling coming from a little kid. punishments, maneuverings, or various nasty things that children will do to each other ended up strengthening my resolve, my level of stubbornness, and comfort with who i was...and who i am.

as you can imagine, childhood was quite fascinating experience.

as i grew older, i learned to keep my mouth shut about the things i observed in other people...because the majority of people really don't want to know....they really don't.....which is why i don't volunteer observations unless people ask me directly....and as some loved ones have recently pointed out...you really do have to ask the right kind of questions when you do ask.

yet, while i may be relatively gentle with loved ones....when it comes to myself i am not gentle. there is no one that will push me harder than i push myself. there is no one that has higher expectations for me than me. there is no one that will be more critical of me than me. for better or worse, i have always seen me. i know my weaknesses, my strengths, and the areas that i want to grow in....the areas that i need to grow in. i know...and have always known....to stop growing and learning is not what i want and is not me. for me, life is too short to not learn and discover as much as possible and just because someone else doesn't think something is possible "because it hasn't been done before" or "because it has always been done this way"....doesn't mean that they are right.

it means that they can't see what isn't right there or that they are scared to.

if i had stopped myself each time i came across someone that has said something "wasn't possible" to me in my lifetime, i wouldn't be where i am now....i wouldn't have experienced what i have.....i wouldn't have loved who i have.....i wouldn't have the passions i have.....i wouldn't have lived.....and i wouldn't be excited about the possibilities that life still has to offer.

admittedly, i can point to rather pivotal moments in my life when someone or a group of someones has said that i couldn't do something because it didn't fit into a "box" or some preconceived notion of theirs.....me and my epically stubborn prideful self wasn't very gentle about showing them how wrong they were....and then...ummmm...providing succinct summary bullet points afterwards.

yet, that isn't the case for everyone.

there are many people that will say that they want things...whether it be a lifestyle, types of love affairs,
careers, or whatnot....that they really don't want. they will say they want these things because they want a sense of belonging to what everyone else is doing.....or they want approval from their social group. they will say they want these things because they think it is what they should want. they may also say that they want these things because it is the path of least resistance ....and it means not taking a closer and deeper look at who they really are. then, they....in turn....will pressure others to do the same...to affirm their choices....and makes them feel better about themselves.

it is difficult to see who you really are and take ownership for it.

it means conflict, doubt, fear, potential multiple levels of disapproval, and heart break. yet, it also means amazing experiences filled with joy, supreme satisfaction, and passion. it means having a level of confidence that can never be given to you....but always earnable and obtainable.


many times, when i see people that seek to change, maneuver, or influence others in a detrimental manner ...it stems from a rather deep seated unhappiness within themselves and where they are in their lives. they are living a life of self-deception and want others to do the same to make them feel better about their own choices.

those are the times when i just shake my head and sigh....and mumble something about how this is reason 10,015 of why i shouldn't be around people.

they would be a lot happier and a lot less evil if they just owned up to who they are, what they want, what they are lacking in their lives, and pursued ways to make change in themselves.

i do think that they are forgetting that the life that they are living is a choice....or a series of choices. i also think that if they aren't going to take responsibility for it...they should stop whining about their lives, where they are, and longing for some fantasy "what if" life. i think the first step towards change is truly seeing who you are, where you are, and being honest about where you want to be.

basically, i think you should own who you are.

this is neither a new or revolutionary concept.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

maple coffee yogurt with spiced pecans

winding down for the night before i go to sleep. it is one of those situations where i'm not writing about what i'm really thinking about....but rather something else instead.

sometimes, the best way to process something is to step away from it and think about something else for a while.

i'm looking through some pics that i took earlier today during a break from work. it was one of those dishes where i randomly threw together what sounded good and what i had immediately on hand. after a few hours of meetings and such this morning, i went into the kitchen to grab a snack. i decided to have some fage yogurt and instead of having yogurt and honey....i decided to add a bit of the chilled coffee (philz) i had in my fridge to the yogurt.

yes, i often make chilled caffeinated beverage for me to drink throughout the day such as lychee infused black tea, chai, or coffee. sometimes i'll have coffee with condensed milk over ice or with just a bit of cream or full fat milk....so having chilled coffee easily available is not unheard of in the foodie hunter household. once i mixed those together, i looked around the kitchen to see what else i could add. i saw that i still had a few of the honeyed spiced pecans left over from yesterday's oatmeal so i thought....why not? and then added some maple syrup for some sweetness. i already knew that maple and coffee would go well together (ahem...the coffee bourbon maple bun from the no longer around tell tale preserve is a prime example of how coffee and maple works.....as well as having coffee with pancakes + maple syrup....)

unsurprisingly, it was pretty delicious and i was able to take some fun food porn shots as well.