Things Consumed

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Sunday, August 31, 2003

I went to see the beautiful Marc Chagall exibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA). The exhibit is gorgeous: the paintings are saturated with brilliant color, Chagall and his wife fly joyously over their home town, vivid goats and giant roosters float over the horizon, people have green bears and red hands... Chagall's friends said that his work was "insane" and "supernatural," but above all it seems happy.

After viewing the exhibit, we ate at the Museum Cafe. I had a cup of tea and a plate of gnocchi with ricotta in a light tomato sauce with spinach, cherry tomatoes, and a light vinegarette. It was WONDERFUL. I had no idea how wonderful the entrees are there. I'd had a pizza there once, long ago, that was just okay, but this was GREAT. I recommend it highly. [The Oakland Museum and Palace of the Legion of Honor, two other great bay area museums, also have fabulous restaurants. I should visit those again soon...]
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:14 AM

A good food story: my mother has been taking classes at the Berkeley Psychic Institute. During a long day of classes, she got hungry. She wanted pizza, which she hasn't had in months. She wanted pizza badly. She talked about pizza in such an enthusiastic way, that she made all of her colleagues hungry.

She stayed there until very late, and had no time to get food on the way to make her train connection. She rushed to the station, got off at her transfer station, and sat on a bench, mentally bemoaning the fact that by the time she got home there wouldn't be a single pizza place open in her home town. Yet she could not stop thinking about pizza.

While she waited, someone sat down next to her. It was a young woman. The young woman's shirt said "Round Table Pizza," and in her lap were two boxes of hot, fragrant pizza.

"Oooh, you have pizza," observed my nearly delirious mother.

"Yes, we get to take the ones that are left at closing. Do you want one?" And she handed my mother a box of pizza.

My mother deliriously consumed the pizza.

The next time she was at the BPI, one of the instructors asked for an example of a miraculous occurrence. My mother raised her hand...
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:04 AM

Friday, August 29, 2003

Oh, what a week it has been. And now it is drawing to a close on a cool, foggy night, over a plate of baked spaghetti squash with porcini mushroom/tomato/garlic sauce, a green salad with poppyseed dressing, and, shortly, Double Rainbow vanilla ice cream with pureed, frozen strawberries on top.


I want to marinate and broil some eggplant for sandwiches tomorrow, but my favorite marinade recipe (and the book it came from, the excellent Vegetarian Grill) is nowhere to be found. Grrr.

Aside from the perfection of all summer produce, there isn't much new here. September is just around the corner, and with it a return of early fall foods: winter squashes, more fall apples, pies, breads that make the entire house smell good, cider. I've been experimenting with zucchini bread recipes, since my community supported agriculture program has provided a bumper crop of squash, but haven't found the Perfect Recipe yet. (Though I've already learned that applesauce, which I added to the most recent experiment, is a very pleasant and moist addition for those of us who don't use eggs.)

Other uses for your squash bumper crop:
-stringed and sauteed with garlic (as is served at the fancy restaurant at Drakesbad Guest Ranch)
-sauteed with onions, peppers, and tofu with black bean sauce
-in a creamy coconut-milk based red or green Thai curry or in a Thai soup like Tom Yum, with onions, peppers, mushrooms, and tomatoes
-curried (onions, garlic, Indian-style curry powder)
-marinated and grilled (I haven't done any grilling this summer, but I know it can be done)
-zucchini bread-breaded and deep fried (as one of my cookbook suggests, but I can't bring myself to deep fry anything anymore); layered as the 'noodle' in lasagna after such treatment (if you can take that kind of heaviness)

posted by Arlene (Beth)8:27 PM

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Speaking of food heaven, not only does the San Francisco Ferry Building host a fabulous farmer's market twice a week, but the food booths in this newly remodeled, historic structure are now open.


Artisan breads, artisan cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery (made with organic Straus Dairy products), olive oils, confectioners, Sharffenberger chocolates, a branch of Restaurant Lulu, an organic produce stand with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes... and of course, Peet's Coffee.

It looks like either I or one of my friends chose the shops. Yes, a bookstore is going in. Aside from photography and stationery supplies, they couldn't do much better, in my way of thinking.
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:32 PM

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Today has been a perfect day generally, but also a wonderful food day. After a pleasant and leisurely morning, we went to the Alemany Farmer's Market before 10 a.m.

Oooh, there are so many wonderful things to eat.

We bought a sack of small pomegranates for just $2. Blue potatoes. A box (six baskets) of fresh, heavenly strawberries, which taste better than the strawberries at our local produce market because they were JUST PICKED. Several pounds of nectarines, because S wants me to bake a pie. 3 loaves of foccacia: mixed olive and garlic, artichoke and mozzarella, and rosemary. (We ate the artichoke one and a basket of strawberries as our late breakfast, sitting in the shade in the garden. Mmmmm.) Three huge, gorgeous yellow heirloom tomatoes, which we'll eat with olive oil and salt later today. Smooth, firm Italian eggplant. Beautiful red grapes; beautiful green/red/yellow bell peppers. Cranberry granola. Aloo paratha (an Indian bread) and Sukhi's tomato and cilantro chutneys. (The nice man at the booth laughingly made us try EVERYTHING, his arms a blur of samples, and once we did that we couldn't resist!) And red-purple California grown olives, from an area we drove through on our way back from Lassen.

There were many other things at the farmer's market we could have tried: bitter melon, mile-long beans, sacks of ripe California oranges, bouquets of chili peppers still on their stalks, fresh unshucked corn, fresh baked pastries, locally made olive oils and vinegars, tamales, kettle corn, peaches larger than my fist, plums of all different colors, figs, artisan breads, pears... But we had full arms.

Go to your local farmer's market! It's food heaven!
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:22 PM

Ah. It's the first weekend day since my return from backpacking in Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California, east of Redding and Red Bluff. The park is gorgeous! I highly recommend Lassen for a visit. Especially if you've seen a lot of Yosemite already, Lassen offers something different: volcanoes, lava beds, mudpots, boiling lakes, all four of the world's types of volcanoes, and several different climate zones. And fewer bears. Inexplicably, it's one of the least used National Parks, so there are few people around, unlike the crowds of the Yosemite Valley.

Go! Go now! And no, it's not very far: the speed limit on highway 5 is 70 mph, so it takes about as long as it takes to get to Yosemite on highways 108 and 120.

I will put up a new page devoted to backpacking soon, and will describe this trip first, in some detail.


The grand champion food winner for our Lassen backpacking trip is still Tasty Bite Indian food, with its co-champion, rice stick. It is unbelievably satisfying and luxurious to eat saag paneer, bengan bharta, and/or madras lentil over rice stick after just two to three minutes of boiling in the back country. We just boil water, add the rice stick and the sealed foil packages that the Indian delicacies come in, and wait 2-3 minutes. It is SO GOOD. It is completely worth carrying the wait of the moist packets. I can say that, because I always carry the food. (Act surprised.)

The first place new food winner on this trip was Trader Joe's garlic and herb pasta, which cooks in 3 minutes. The dried pasta is very lightweight, very flavorful, and is perfect tossed with olive oil. There was enough garlic in the pasta itself that we encountered NO VAMPIRES during the entire hike. We'll defiitely bring this again.

Also, TJ's is now stocking unsulphered fruits, including our trail favorite, dried mangoes. They also stock Balance Bars, our favorite 'energy/nutrition' bar, as well as the Tasty Bites items we love.
posted by Arlene (Beth)6:05 PM

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

[I've just returned from a week long backpacking vacation at Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was WONDERFUL, but I'm not fully adjusted to the computer world yet, so I'll catch up and provide food details this weekend.]
posted by Arlene (Beth)4:48 PM

Saturday, August 09, 2003

It's a gorgeous day in the gorgeous part of California that I call home. Last night was lovely: after a rather hectic and frustrating workday, I took the streetcar to West Portal, had a lovely mushroom, spinach, and salsa crepe at Squat & Gobble, walked through the lushly landscaped Saint Francis Wood neighborhood as the sun cast its golden evening glow on the trees, and then through the lushest portions of Ingleside Terrace before coming home. The air smelled good; the walk was quiet; blooming dahlias lined my way; and the sun was turning the clouds pink just as I reached my front door.

It's good to live here. San Francisco has many pretty aspects.


There is much more of this country and the world that I would like to see. Though my plans for a fall leaf-viewing trip to Montreal and New York City have fallen through for the time being, I was in the map store two weeks ago anyway, buying books about planning a lengthy trip to Africa. The young woman next to me, leafing carefully through the book on Ethiopia and Eritrea, made me instantly jealous. And not just because the food of that region is so fabulous...


Speaking of food in other places, a friend living in Illinois (for educational purposes) wrote to me earlier this spring about how winter's departure finally allowed her to eat local, sustainably produced foods. (I just did a search for her name in my blog, and every result was the herb of the same name. Golly. You'd think I write about food a lot, or something. I'm going to update my 'expressions' web page to reflect the web pages of friends shortly.)

I asked her permission to post this here weeks ago, also to induce an update from her, but she hasn't had time to write back, so I'm publishing her words here anyway:
Food. It's spring, tra-la -- which means I get to eat local food again.
The farmer's market doesn't get going for another month at least (hell,
it *snowed* this weekend) but I just bought a share of eggs for the
summer from a local family farm, and got the first 18 on Saturday, along
with a full tour which included helping to collect next week's eggs &
bottle-feeding a runt lamb whose mother had rejected him (and who, sadly,
will be someone's Christmas dinner).

I wish I had pictures of the eggs to show you. There are white and brown
and red-speckled and green ones, and a translucent white duck egg, and the
yolks are so yellow that when you beat the eggs they're still darker than
the yolks of the store-bought ones.

The hens have a shelter on the pasture, which gets moved every day to new
ground. The pasture where the chickens pecked last year is BRIGHT GREEN
already, since they fertilized it [:)] I'm way too much of an egg lover
(surprise) to go vegan, but it is so *good* to see where the food comes
from and to see self-sustaining agriculture work.
I'm not just publishing this to demonstrate that my friends are also food fanatics, oh, no.


Local food purveyor update: Pearl's International Beverages, a small cafe in the West Portal area, serves very tasty coffee drinks and cookies.

posted by Arlene (Beth)11:46 AM

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Simple mushroom and tomato pasta sauce

-two tablespoons or so of olive oil
-one very large onion, diced
-4 or more cloves of garlic, crushed
-a pound or so (about 5 cups) of white mushrooms, sliced
-28 ounces of crushed tomatoes, canned, or about 5 cups of fresh tomatoes diced finely, with some of the seeds shaken out
-a dash of fresh herbs, especially thyme or oregano, or both, minced.

Heat the oil in a pan. Saute the onion and garlic for about 3 minutes, until the onions become more translucent. Add the mushrooms, and continue to saute for about 5 minutes more, until you can see the mushrooms releasing liquids into the pan and shrinking slightly.

Add the tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes, adding the fresh herbs as soon as the simmering begins. If you're using fresh and very wet tomatoes, you may need to simmer this sauce longer so it will thicken to a respectable sauciness. Serve with fresh, hot pasta.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:04 PM

Pasta in fresh tomato & basil sauce

-a pound of pasta, preferably a bendy shape, cooked per package directions until tender
-6 medium sized tomatoes
-a handful of fresh basil leaves
-4 or more cloves of fresh garlic
-a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
-freshly ground pepper to taste.

Puree two of the tomatoes with half the basil leaves, the garlic, and the olive oil. Chop the other ingredients (except for the pepper) finely and mix them all together in a bowl. Pour the hot, drained pasta into the bowl and mix well, adding a few grinds of pepper. Serve immediately.

Do NOT schedule important client meetings after eating this dish, especially client meetings involving vampires.
posted by Arlene (Beth)10:00 PM

Tarragon and garlic salad dressing

-1/3 cup of olive oil
-1/4 cup or less of red wine vinegar
-1-4 cloves of garlic, depending on who you have to chat with later, crushed
-3 tablespoons or more of fresh tarragon leaves
-several grinds of fresh pepper.

Blend these ingredients together, adding a dash of salt if you're into that, and pour over a salad of crisp, fresh greens, crunchy cucumbers, ripe avocados, and radishes.
posted by Arlene (Beth)9:56 PM

Saturday, August 02, 2003

This is the neatest thing I've seen in a while that doesn't directly involve food: the California Coastal Records Project's website. "We currently have over 12,200 photographs (totaling over 82GB) of the California Coast online, covering from the Oregon Border (42N latitude) to the Mexican Border (32.5N latitude), except for the Vandenberg AFB restricted area."

The California State Parks website links to these images, so you can see aerial views of state beaches, waterfalls, shipwrecks,
and other really neat things.

I'm just awed by this. What a wonderful thing to document!

posted by Arlene (Beth)10:07 AM

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