Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Year 2014

“For unto us a child is born…” Isaiah 9:6

  “The pleasure of a great meal is doubled when shared with one whose company you treasure”- Pelagia

 “Your smile is the best curve to make one’s life staright”- Pelagia
Happy MMXIV!
That’s how our friends in ancient Rome would write it, otherwise known as the 2014th year of  Anno Domini Did you know that the earliest recorded festivities celebrating a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years? And did you further know that the Ball dropping at 1 Times Square in New York City was first held on December 31, 1907 to welcome 1908?
Can you name the two years that the Times Square Ball didn’t drop since that initial drop in 1907 until today?
Try 1942 and 1943.
But let’s look at  2013.  How was yours?
Mine was fast. Very. Fast.
It was like Time sat behind the wheel of my life’s sedan with a lead foot. With eyes wide I watched as a passenger as life blurred by like telephone poles on the side of the road.
No excuses here but was I surprised to see that my last blog post was in May. Between a new job and moving and traveling and medical matters and family events and etcetera, 2013 was gone in a blink of an eye.
That doesn’t mean I havent been eating. I have. I simply havent been writing about eating. But while eating I’ve also been musing. So I wanted to take a moment and share some musings of mine on food and love and friends and family as we close out 2013 and step into 2014.

You are going to hear a lot about New year resolutions. Positive life changes. Exercise.  Better behaviors. New starts.  But as a Marriage and Family Therapist I’m going to share with you a resolution that is simple, achievable and a recipe for bringing cheer to life. 2013 was the year that unto us a grandaughter was born. I remember the morning this holiday season when our daughter was leaving for the long drive  home after Christmas.  Her baby, my grandaughter needed to be fed prior to departure abd I held our little princess in my arms bottle feeding her around 4 a.m.  Yes, 4 a.m. She drank hungrily but had stopped feeding for just a moment, locking eyes with mine and smiled. I had forgotten how in love one falls all over again while holding a new grandchild. Babies are truly the kiss of God’s sweet grace. But that moment reminded me of a simple truth that carries across every year. A recipe if you will for good cheer in 2014.
 All our meals and fine dining and exploration of recipes and restaraunts lose substance unless shared with others.  Friendship with food is the secret to life’s  balanced diet.  In 2014, take the hand of those in your circle of life and together enjoy the world of food, cheer and song. Your life and theirs will be better for it. And don’t forget that your smile is the one curve that will help make your world straight.
Thank you to all of you here and abroad who have been a part of my readership.  To all of you I wish a wonderful and magical New Year.
Próspero 2014!
Prosit Neujahr
Feliz Ano Nuevo 2014!
Chu Shen Tan
Che il tuo 2014 sia pieno di tranquillita' e serenita'
Happy New Year!!!


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Around the World in 49 Miles

“I love to travel but I hate to arrive” - Albert Einstein

If you're afraid of butter, use cream.” - Julia Child 


I have a question for you.
Let’s play pretend for just a bit. If you could go to any three places in the world, where would you go? Travel and accommodations all paid for. That’s right, let’s say I found you the money to go. Okay, that’s the pretend part.
So where would you go? Italy? Nepal? Asia? Stay domestic?
Just in case your travel plans are a bit delayed, I want to tell you about a 49 square mile area here in northern California where you can experience the culture, language and cuisine of countries from all over the world.
San Francisco.

The City by the Bay is home to about 112 different spoken languages and as such home to a diversity of culture and cuisine that can give you a sense of travel all while chillaxing in a limited area. San Francisco has long been a place where creative genius has found expression across a range of venues. Consider Santana, the Grateful Dead and Journey.  You can’t forget the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and Lombard Street. Then there’s the fortune cookie, sour dough bread, Ghirardelli chocolate and the Mission burrito.
In my next series of posts I’m going to share some of the City’s hot spots for food and fare. Some are destination spots and some are neighborhood favorites. All of them are places where people have converted their dreams into reality through creative genius, hard work and a little luck. So join me as we go explore and travel around the world in 49 square miles.

First stop: Mitchell's Ice Cream
I've always supported the idea of starting dinner with dessert. And Mitchell's ice cream is the dessert to start it with. I think I know why; 16% butterfat.
Established in 1953, Mitchell's is a family owned business located in San Francisco's Mission district. Their story starts in 1865 when the Mitchell family moved to San Francisco to start a dairy farm. Later in 1913, Mrs. Mitchell had an apartment building built which would face demolition in 1947 when the City of San Francisco  wanted to make room for street expansion. The Mitchell family fought the plans and miracle of miracles, the City agreed to jack the building up and turn it sideways to fit the expoansion plans. Yes, miracles have happened.  Then in 1952, two Mitchell brothers chose to use an empty storeroom to make their dream come true.  They opened an icream shop and now you know the rest of their story.
After all these years they have always had only the one shop. And they still hand make their ice cream fresh in the shop almost every day. Mango is their crowd favorit. Mexican Chocolate is my newly discovered flavor.  But the best I've tried so far is Caramel Praline. Yum and double yum.
And did I mention the 16% butterfat?
Stop by & visit the San Francisco landmark:
688 San Jose Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 648-2300


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Charleston Chow

Have you ever time traveled?
I have.
Sounds strange, doesn't it? But go figure.  There we were.  My wife and I were sitting in a horse drawn carriage riding down this city’s cobbled streets; passing homes and churches that have stood since before the American Revolution. Founded in 1670, some of this city’s citizens would go on to sign the Declaration of Independence.   This was where the first shots of the civil war took place and in this city, a black man named Barack Obama stood on a second floor balcony addressing a crowd, asking for their votes to become the next President of the United States.  They would. He did.

Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina.
But here’s another thing you need to know about this city.
The food is fantastic. 
Charleston’s culinary heritage has been forged over time by the diverse influences of French, Caribbean, African and Anglo-Saxon dishes.  
The result is a unique fusion genre called “Low Country Cuisine”.

So much fine dining to explore but alas, all we had was a week in Charleston.  But I didn’t let the time go to waste.
So here are a few of the highlights.

 82 Queen
(843) 723-7591
This restaurant is named after its address. If you are ever in this city and you only have time to try one dish.  Try the She Crab Soup and try it here. She Crab Soup is a Charleston signature dish and restaurants will offer their own version. 82 Queen’s version is a bisque made with blue crab meat, fish stock, crab roe, butter, shallots, heavy cream and their special seasonings. Garnish with a splash of sherry. Amazing! 
And the Carolina Crab CakeFried blue crab patties with roasted garlic and lemon tartar. Unlike other places, the cakes here have less than 10% filler. Amazing all over again. 
By the way, the web site says they’ll ship that soup direct to your door. 
Mmm, mmm good!

 Jestine’s Kitchen
251 Meeting St.
(843) 722-7224
If I had the time I would slowly eat my way through their menu.  
Jestine’s Kitchen is true southern home cooking.  True soul food. 
Our waitress was the greatest.  
I can’t remember her name but you’ll know her by her attitude and sass. If you see her, say “hello”. 
But don’t make her mad.

Refrigerator pickles awaited us at our table. Our sides included sweet mashed potatoes and black eyed peas. For our main entree we had the fried chicken which is their house specialty. 
Crispy crust, hot and tasty.  Large serving, too.
The fried okra was superb. 
The fried green tomatoes with sweet pepper relish were incredible. 
You may have noticed a pattern in my use of the word, “fried”.

The sweet tea was perfectly sweetened. Served in a generous container, I drained it and had a second. Like crack in a glass. Their menu has a section for Greens where they say, “Salad with mixed baby greens and what got picked this morning”.  Love it. Leave room for dessert. They have a specialty that you will not want to miss. Jestine’s Coca Cola Cake.  Yes, they make it with cola.  Sweet, moist and richly chocolate.
It’s the real thing.

Dunkin' Donuts
Friends have raved about these coffee shops for years.  
Visited my first one in Charleston. Now I'm a raver.   
I ordered a cup of their freshly brewed coffee. But here's the difference. They add the cream and sugar for you. 
Real cream.  
And just the right amount of sweet.  I’d be a regular if there was one nearby. 
By the way, DD now offers a breakfast sandwich featuring bacon and eggs on a glazed donut. 
Dunk that in your cup!

So if you ever find yourself in Charleston, enjoy yourself. 
Do a little time traveling.
But remember, when it comes to good eating, there’s no time like the present.
Now go explore.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

I left my heart in San Francisco
High on a hill, it calls to me
To be where little cable cars climb halfway to the stars
The morning fog may chill the air, I don't care
                                                            -Tony Bennett

San Francisco is a city with a million stories to tell.
And here’s one that happened this Valentine’s Day.

Say hello to Barbara and Carlos. Living in the East Bay, they came up with a plan to make a little romance happen. They decided to celebrate their Valentine’s Day in San Francisco. A drive over the Bay Bridge with its stunning view. A walk on the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. To be followed with a classy dinner later that evening in the City by the Bay.
This Valentine’s Day celebration had romance written all over it.
And it almost happened.
Arriving at the bridge, Barbara saw a black camera bag lying in the parking lot. With tourists moving all about the lot she chose to stand watch over the bag. There was no apparent owner in sight, but maybe one would remember their bag and return.
So Barbara and Carlos decided to wait.
And wait they did for over 45 minutes.  But still no owner. Maybe a clue to the owner’s identity was inside the camera bag.
So Barbara decided to take a peek. 
She first found a camera lens. Then credit cards. Then miscellaneous papers. And then she saw the envelope. Stuffed.  Stuffed with cash.
$11,060.42 in cash to be exact.
“I got nervous at first, it could be drug money," Dolores said. "I was scared."
(Hey, I've seen No Country for Old Men.)
After some consideration, Barbara and Carlos decided it was time to turn in the camera bag to the Police.With the help of the credit cards, 

Police detectives traced the camera bag to a Chinese tourist visiting the city. You can imagine how out loud happy he was. The tourist, Mark, who didn't want his last name used, said he was scheduled to return to China the following day. Mark said that the camera bag contained cash belonging to several families who had traveled to San Francisco together. Mark thought that the camera bag was mistakenly left in the parking lot after taking family photos.
I’m guessing that won’t happen again.

And Barbara and Carlos?
They got a few photos. Spent hours making a police report. Hit rush hour traffic heading back home. And grabbed their Valentine’s Day meal at the McDonald's nearby the Police Station.
Barbara could only say, "So my heart is rested now because the people got their money and their bag."

I’m lovin’ it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

San Francisco: The Alemany Farmers’ Market

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie” -Jim Davis

You've got to love a farmers’ market. 
It’s a community built around food; a place to buy fresh produce from local farmers, a place to find artisan cheeses and extraordinary breads.  Most importantly they can be a place for friends to meet and neighbors to forge new relationships.   
But hey, I've got a trivia question for you.
Do you know where the very first farmer’s market was in the state of California?
Go ahead and take a guess. But you might be surprised at the answer.
Give up?

San Francisco.
Yup, San Francisco was where the State’s very first farmers’ market was founded on August 12, 1943. The Alemany Farmers’ Market was established as a wartime measure to provide an outlet for local farmers’ crops. This along a larger effort nationwide to reduce the pressure on the public food supply by starting victory gardens on public and private lands.
In fact, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park alone held over 800 such food gardens during the era.

But let’s jump back to 2013. My wife and I recently visited the Alemany Farmers’ Market.  What a cool place with it’s’ range of foods and produce. One of my favorite things is to meet the people and personalities on any of our travel adventures. At the Alemany you’ll find no larger personality than Ralph Alves. Ralph is part of the team at Panorama Wholesale Bakery that brings quality breads to your table. Ralph is like the unofficial mayor of the market.  He seems to know everybody and if he doesn’t know you, give him a chance.  He will. With his warm smile and generous attitude, Ralph captures the heart of what makes the Alemany Farmers’ Market grand.  But let’s get to the bread.   

We had a Blue Cheese Walnut Sourdough Boule.  “Boule” is French for “ball” which describes the shape of the bread loaf. What incredible bread. Baked in stone hearth ovens, the blue cheese was subtle which complimented the flavor without dominating. The crust (my favorite) was hearty and the crumb was flavorful. I’m anxious to try their other loaves. 

Their cinnamon twists were good, too. Really good.  We had more than one. Won’t say how many. But in two words; they were decadent and delicious.

For lunch we ate at the “El Huarache” booth.  Que rico! We shared their signature dish, the “Huarache”. It's an oval shaped tortilla filled with beans and lightly fried. Topped with sour cream, cheese, cilantro, onions and salsa this dish was buried under potatoes and chorizo.
How do you say ‘yum’ in Spanish?
They also serve a Mexican coffee which is flavored with cinnamon and peloncillo, which is a Mexican brown sugar. Add a little cream and you will know coffee like you have never known it before.

San Francisco is a city with a million stories to tell.  The Alemany Farmers’ Market is just one of them.

The Alemany Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday.  Dusk to dawn they say, though I’ll just take them at their word.  They are located at 100 Alemany Boulevard. 
And here’s a truly un-San Franciscan treat; there’s ample free parking.

Now go explore.