Tag Archives: san francisco

warning: explicit ‘head to tail’ food pornography ahead

no, that’s not a kinky fetish subcategory at the adult video store on mission street.  get your mind out of the gutter.

i’m just emerging from a weekend full of some serious meat eating. i just finished poring over the meat issue of edible San Francisco magazine last week and then serendipitously found myself in several places serving kickass sustainable meat. yeeeeeaaah.

for example, incanto in  noe valley has won a bunch of awards for their sustainable practices. check out their website for a whole write-up on their attempts to respect animals and the environment,  including only buying humanely raised and killed animals, obsessively recycling, growing their own herbs, and using all parts of the animal in true ‘head to tail’ fashion.

what’s included in head to tail? we started off with asparagus, poached eggs and sweetbreads. mmm…nothing says tasty like thymus gland.

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someone else obviously thinks about baking bread as much as i do…

flour-and-water

drunken photo. 2am.  20th and alabama. mission district.  san francisco. california

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826, food politics and renewing a love for cooking

One of the fantastic things about caring about food and food politics is the convergence of my desires to eat really really delicious food and for that food to be humanely and sustainably produced. As one of the audience members at 826 put it, you don’t really have to make a choice between hedonics and ethics, because for the most part, the most humanely raised cow makes the best tasting beef. Sure, there’s always exceptions, but the cow that lived a long life munching the grass that its stomach was evolved to digest is going to taste better than a cow eating ethanol waste (!) and getting pumped full of antibiotics. The organically raised, locally grown early girl tomato just trucked from the farm to the farmer’s market tastes a million times better than the vaguely reddish balloon-like item at the supermarket that’s been sitting on a truck for a week. It definitely makes it easier for me to fully support conscious eating, because it doesn’t mean restricting yourself. I’d way rather eat a buttery tart filled with organic strawberries than a nasty-ass sugar-free snack cake or Hostess Twinkie and I feel better about where it came from (btw, read Twinkie, Deconstructed for a fascinating yet also horrific account of all the chemicals that go into both twinkies and…rocket fuel!)

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826, food politics, and i have an intellectual crush on Michael Pollan.

after letting the ideas from the 826 food politics discussion marinate in my brain, i’ve decided to serve up some thoughts in bite-size morsels rather than one huge and  indigestible essay. sorry, the whole evening ended with a nod to bad food puns, i can’t help myself.  i’m doling out ladlefuls from the jumbled soup pot of topics and carving off idea slices from the humongous turducken of food politics thought in my brain (that’s a gross mental picture. i’ll stop now).

here’s some details about the evening and the panelists, thoughts about food culture and ecology and production systems, and a whole lot of michael pollan…

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826 valencia and an incredible food discussion. for now, food but no discussion.

i just got back from a fascinating and thought-provoking food science and politics discussion at 826 valencia. yeesh. i don’t even know where to start with all the incredible topics covered over the three hour talk and it’s almost 2am, so i’ll leave the heavy thinking for tomorrow. for now, i’ll post some photos of the incredible food served at the event. i didn’t even know until fifteen minutes before it started that they were serving food, and then it showed up on mission mission like a specially delivered message from the blogosphere to my stomach.  thanks interwebs, for saving my ass from eating dinner so i didn’t show up full when they’re serving stuff like this:

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and this:

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ooh, you ask, what are those, mei? and i’m like, ummmm, you know,  some delicious mushroomy shit and some awesome creamy asparagusness bruschetta thingy. okay, i don’t know. but they were mighty tasty. luckily, the creator of most of the dishes, a chef named leif hedendal, not only knows how to cook but knows how to get all arts and craftsy:

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the ultimate bacon smackdown menu! aka 8 courses of delicious pig.

i am virtually comatose from bacon overload, but the first annual top iron chef bacon invitational showdown competition was a huge success. the pork belly has never been showcased to such creative heights. both kwame and i produced four dishes – an tiny amuse bouche/starter, an appetizer, and an entree, as well as a bacon related dessert, for a judging panel of our serious foodie friends. kwame was a formidable opponent and i’m proud to have been a part of this culinary extravaganza.  to give you an idea of the level of competition, the preparation included, but was not limited to, a blowtorch, brining with juniper berries, homemade icecream, bacon-infused bourbon, white truffle oil, chocolate-dipped bacon, and that’s just the beginning. continue reading to get a brief overview of the menu with some food porn orgasmtastic photos. i dare you not to read further after seing part of kwame’s dessert below…

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mission taste tour: tartine and the devil’s bread. plus, panzanella!

someone at tartine bakery must have sold their soul to the devil because their bread is fiendishly, hellaciously, fire and brimstone-y good (no, i don’t even know what that means). sure, their banana cream pies, ham and cheese croissants, bread pudding, morning buns, croque monsieurs, and just about everything they make deserve every deliciously over-the-top superlative i can think of, but their bread merits its own separate tribute. bread is oh so simple, yet oh so fucking hard to perfect. it’s just a few ingredients – usually flour, water, yeast, and salt – yet making that ultimate crusty yet chewy, structural yet yielding,  flavorful but not overpowering loaf is an absolute work of art.

i know i sound obsessive, but every person i’ve served it to starts off skeptical, chews for a few moments, then says something along the lines of, ‘i would trade one of my kidneys to eat this every day.’  i couldn’t agree more (you only need one, silly).  every time i buy a loaf to serve as an appetizer, i can never enjoy as much as i want because an entire dinner is coming. so my roomates and i planned  a dinner last week of  just tartine bread, cheese, and salad. they sell the bread only on wednesday through sunday and it comes fresh out of the oven at 5pm. i almost didn’t want to write that because the bread goes so fast, but hell, it’s on their website and everyone knows about it.  which is why all of it had been sold in less than an hour when we stopped by last thursday. GAHHH. arrow straight to the heart. they were nice enough to give us a small piece of tester loaf for free, and we bought a still-really-good-but-poor-substitute-for-tartine-bread loaf of acme cranberry walnut bread from bi-rite.

on our way back, we stopped in tartine to have a glass of wine and listen to a weekly band that always seems to include some form of accordion (bean, you’d love it) and what did we see on the counter but this thing of beauty:

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apparently it was a test loaf of fougasse, which is basically a french version of what would be focaccia in italian. i spoke to a really nice guy who works there named eric, who was taking photos of the bread. i asked if i could take a photo too, then snapped a few shots of him and the fougasse with his camera. we chatted a bit about how we’re neighbors cause he lives over the bakery, and told him about how we came home empty-handed after missing out on the day’s bread. i sat back down and then after a few minutes he came up to us and handed over the fougasse because apparently they had to get rid of this mountainous bready wonder of a test loaf.

GOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! the bread score of a lifetime. we took it home, added the other tester loaf, one of my favorite cheeses – the incredibly rich and creamy king island seal bay triple cream brie (anything with triple cream is triple awesome) – as well as a really fresh mozzarella, some deliciously spicy and fruity mcevoy olive oil, and a fantastic bottle of charles creek cabernet that we got at a tasting room up in somona last week. nom nom fucking nom.

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it was like a meal you have as a kid when your parents are out of the house – i’m gonna eat whatever i want! thirty-six marshmallows, two pop tarts, a bag of cheese puffs, and a hot pocket! – except the grown up version. no thought for nutrition, balance, or even vegetables (the salad greens were ignored in the fridge) but just what tastes good, and a lot of it. the fougasse was incredible –  it had a crunchy and cracker-y crust with a thin sheen of oil and a sprinkling of salt on top, and a very airy inside without a lot of heft that the traditional loaves have. it was fantastic with the cheese (duh), but we came to appreciate its true bread-y power because of its deliciousness when standing alone with no accompanying flavors. truly awesome.

and the best part – leftovers! despite attacking the fougasse like a ravenous pack of marauding t-rexes, there was still a fair amount left at the end of our meal (note: this is not because we eat like corseted duchesses at a garden party, it’s because the fougasse started off the size of a fully grown koala bear, i kid you not). here’s an important food tip – never throw out good bread. there are tons of dishes you can make with leftover bread like ribollita (tuscan bread soup), panzanella (tuscan bread salad), bruschetta (holy shit, italians are geniuses!), or breadcrumbs for mac-n-cheese and a bajillion other dishes. just throw the bread in a plastic bag and tie it up tight for a day or two, and stick it in the oven to crisp it up when you want to use it.

the next day,  i decided to make bread salad with the leftovers, which is super easy because you can throw in pretty much any vegetable you like. tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions are standard, but you could also throw in asparagus, artichokes, green beans, white beans, any kind of bell pepper, pine nuts, olives, anchovies – basically anything you’ve got lying around in the fridge or whatever’s fresh at the farmer’s market. we went with just the basics, made a garlicky vinaigrette, and it turned out smashingly delicious:

panzanella

for the salad: leftover bread. four tomatoes. half a red onion. one cucumber.

chop the tomatoes and cucumbers into bite-size pieces and the red onion into thin slices. toss the bread in the oven for about 10 minutes at 350°, until it gets crispy. tear the bread into bite size pieces. don’t do it straight out of the oven or you’ll burn the shit out of your hands (yes, sometimes i’m not that smart).

for the dressing: one big clove of garlic, a chunk of red onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper.

mince the garlic (i like to lay my knife blade flat on top of the garlic and then bring my fist down hard to smash it – boooyakasha i’m a ninja! –  then it’s really easy to peel and dice) and the red onion. splash in the olive oil and vinegars. i like red wine vinegar for the acidity and tartness and balsamic to sweeten it up. add salt and pepper. whisk everything together with a fork. the fresh garlic will give it that spicy garlicky taste that perfectly complements the richness of the olive oil and sweetness of the balsamic. mmmm.

once you’ve made the vinaigrette, pour it over the bread and veggies and toss. if the bread is very dry or in thicker pieces, let it sit for a bit to soak up the vinaigrette. enjoy!

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mission taste tour: stop one, bi-rite market

since i’m leaving town soon, i’m going to do a damn-this-shit-is-delicious tour of my neighborhood and the places i will miss most. i’m prepared to argue to the death (or at least to the pain) that the one-block radius surrounding my apartment is one of the best food blocks in the country. tartine bakery. delfina restaurant. bi-rite creamery. pizzeria delfina. bi-rite market. these establishments devotes themselves to producing and/or selling, respectively, the best french baked goods, italian cuisine, artisanal ice cream, thin crust pizza, and general market products they possibly can, and arguably, the best you can find anywhere. all of them make their creations with top-notch ingredients that are locally or sustainably sourced and organic whenever possible, and infuse their food and their environments with passion, unpretentiousness, attention to detail, and an obvious love for eating, sharing, and enjoying the delicious things in life.

all these places are full of super friendly people who don’t mind waiting while you try the salted caramel and the balsamic strawberry and the honey lavender ice cream before you choose your flavor. even though all these spots usually have lines out the door and down the block, the people who work there are warm, welcoming and fun to chat and joke around with, especially at bi-rite market. since i go there a few times a week, i’ve gotten to know a bunch of the incredibly nice and even more incredibly knowledgeable people who work there, but tonight was the first time i’ve ever met sam the owner.

i stopped by  to pick up some salad fixings for dinner and decided to ask for pork belly at the meat counter (i’m slowly stocking ingredients for an iron chef-style bacon smackdown, more to come on that later). the women behind the counter weren’t sure if they had any, so a really nice guy behind me in a bi-rite shirt came up to help. he asked what i wanted it for, so i started telling him about all the bacon-y dishes i’m planning to cook, and he got all excited and pulled me towards the back to show off their house-cured pancetta. then he personally checked for me to see if they had any pork belly in stock, brought us into the walk-in cooler to show the hanging pig parts, and gave a full overview on the whole pigs that come from iowa to bi-rite and how the market turns them into insanely tasty pork products. (fyi – he also confirmed that pancetta is cured pork belly and bacon is smoked pork belly – both are allowed in the upcoming BACON-OFF).  when i thanked him and introduced myself, he told us his name was sam, to which i responded with the oh-so-intelligent ‘you’re bi-rite sam?’ yup, it was bi-rite sam. i ended up with a pound of uncured pork belly, some pancetta, and this photo:

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i think i embarrassed him to no end by asking to take a picture, and i look crazy goofy because i was so excited to meet him (and, i admit,  to be in possession of two pounds of pork belly). it may seem odd that annie and i were so happy to meet him, but until you’ve been to bi-rite, it’s hard to understand what a special place it is. there’s an incredible cheese selection, and there’s always someone really nice standing there to help pick your gorgonzola or give you a taste of some crazy triple creme. i can never walk by without needing to wipe the drool off my face after staring at the wheels of parmigiano.

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there’s a beautiful selection of organic, sustainably produced, and/or locally sourced fruits and vegetables from farms all over northern california. the whole produce section is filled with signs telling you that the blackberries were grown at blue moon farm in aptos or the early girl tomatoes are from two dog farm in davenport or whatever.  green means organic, yellow means local, and they’ve got a whiteboard with info on what’s new, what’s seasonal, what’s local, and what just tastes amazing.

birite-veggies

not pictured is the excellent prepared foods and meat counter, where you can get fresh soup, delicious sandwiches, and dishes like apple-fennel salad or duck leg confit if you want to put together one classy-ass picnic. you can buy whole free-range chickens, grass-fed beef, and pork chops they butcher in house. they’ve got a sustainable seafood counter and informative handouts so you know exactly where your fish is coming from and that it wasn’t overfished or pumped full of antibiotics.  then they’ve got a phenomenal chocolate selection, a huge variety of affordable-to- expensive but always delicious wines, great beers, an amazing array of olive oils, an olive bar, an incredible shelf of fresh breads, and that’s on top of all the general grocery products like cereal and homemade jam and eggs and milk and endless other shit. phew.

clearly it’s an amazing place just by virtue of the quality of products offered, but i especially love going there because everyone there is so damn nice. and i’m okay with sometimes spending $5 a pound on tomatoes because i know they were grown without pesticides at some family-run local farm and it just may be the best tomato i’ll ever have. can everyone afford to shop there? no,  and i fully agree that if you’re having trouble putting food on the table at all, it’s ridiculous to drop a ton of cash on organic sunchokes.  slow food sometimes gets a bad rap for being elitist, and yes, it’s out of reach for most americans to buy organic food much of the time. but i really appreciate that there’s a model for a successful and thriving neighborhood grocery store for people who care, and certainly also have the disposable income that allows them to care, about sustainability in our food systems.  i think people who can afford to spend a few more dollars on sustainably produced food should do so, for the benefit of the environment and the people who grow and harvest the food, as well as to minimize the hidden costs of health care and environmental destruction and energy costs that come with industrial food production.  this is a big topic that i plan to address more later regarding the production and consumption of food on a larger scale, but on a smaller scale of buying things that are delicious from people who care about food, bi-rite is IT.  in an ideal world, everyone would have their own bi-rite on their block to be able to give their money to a thoughtful and socially and environmentally responsible market who passes these dollars on to local farms and producers who take pride in the food they offer.  in a truly perfect world, i will move to london next month and miraculously find a flat right next to my very own british version of a bi-rite.  if only it were sustainable to deliver my groceries overseas…

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duc loi: a mexicasian wonderland

i’ve been waiting for duc loi market on the corner of 18th and mission to open for a long time now. for so long it was just construction, then the hint of a supermarket came with the installation of electronic sliding doors. then the sign for duc loi arrived and i knew i was in luck. the mission has some of the best grocery shopping options out there – bi-rite and rainbow for pricey, artisan, and organic and mi ranchito, evergreen and all the other numerous mission markets for super cheap produce, fresh made tortillas, chipotles in adobo, every kind of chile you can imagine, and vaguely terrifying meat products. the only thing i really felt was missing was an asian grocery store to score bulk soy sauce, wonton wrappers, and even more terrifying animal parts.  now my grocery life is complete thanks to the arrival of duc loi.

i noticed that moka from missionmission did a similar recon mission (ha) recently, but just glanced at the photos. reading her (his?) post upon my return from duc loi, it looks like we noticed a lot of the same things. quail eggs and frozen dumplings and bags of peeled garlic for $1 are also my idea of excellent.

one of the things i appreciate about duc loi is how it reflects the diversity of the neighborhood. so freaking mexicasian. they sell tortillas and wonton wrappers! jarritos and green tea! even the signs are multilingual:

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i love that they even sell lotus root, although i question the spanish translation as BEANS:

lotus-root

speaking of diversity, here’s some grocery store globalization for you. red bull next to basil seed drink. worlds will really collide when they combine the two for a grass jelly red bull. although that’s probably for sale in asia right now, let’s be honest.

red-bull

i love the mishmash of foods and cultures, frozen and fresh, hella processed shit and…well, i did see one organic frozen pizza. but i love the wealth of options in this neighborhood so i can make multiple stops for whatever kind of groceries i choose. today i made my stop at duc loi for mexican and asian productos, then hit up rainbow for organic bulk oatmeal and mixed greens.  speaking of options, this is true freedom to choose:

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skin or no skin? can’t decide? enjoy both! you may be facing a similarly difficult conundrum when confronting seafood choices for your next meal. shrimp or fish? can’t decide? enjoy both!

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and last, a photo present for my friend kwame…since i learned this wonderful fact about your love for animal parts, i’ll buy some and figure how to cook this for you soon. while it may not be so attractive, can’t beat that price…

chickenfeet

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missionmission is triple awesome and shares the love.

one of my favorite local blogs, missionmission, has posted some of my photos, like the triply awesome photo car. thanks allan! it’s bringing people to this blog, which is a bit trippy but also exciting, considering that my sister (irene aka bean aka green bean) and i started it to keep in touch with each other and didn’t really tell anyone else about it. but she’s fallen off the planet into college-is-hard-and-all-i-can-think-about-besides-studying-is-getting-pet-rats-named-rascal-and-bunny land anyway, so i’m holding down the fort with food rantings and photos i’ve snapped while scooting about town.

now that i’ve gotten going, i’m enjoying the creative outlet and the chance to share all the amazing food and non-related food things about the mission, SF, and random shit on the interweb that i find or that my wonderful friends send me. i’m working on making this blog more readable and user-friendly if people are actually going to be reading it, so thanks for checking it out!

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