Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday Supper and saddest movie of the year

Sometimes I hate Sundays. Even the really great ones, as this past Sunday proved to be. Brunch with an LA friend in town, north bay friends over for coffee and conversation, lounging with NYTimes Sunday crossword, popcorn and a matinee...all the elements of a perfect Sunday still can't fight the simple fact the weekend is over. DH and I were both feeling the Sunday blues so decided to make a home-cooked meal to cheer us up a bit.
Dover sole fillets, lemons, garlic, rosemary oil, kale, seeded baguette
 We picked up some Dover sole fillets and kale at the nearby market. DH prepared the kale while I handled the fillets.
lemon garlic rosemary fillets
flaky, smooth consistency with subtle lemon-garlic-rosemary flavor
Sole fillets are my favorite type of fish and a quick pan fry is my personal favorite preparation. I used rosemary infused olive oil, garlic slivers, lemon slices and a splash of acidic white wine to saute the fillets. This is the simplest, quickest and most delicious fish dish in my book. 
Bulgarian sheep's milk feta, goat gouda & cowgirl creamery Pierce Pt cheese
one of the better designed labels around
DH assembled a quick cheese plate from what we had in the fridge and opened a bottle of white. Sarapo is the brainchild of Kent Humphrey of Eric Kent wines who was DH's first boss in the wine industry and now good friend. The label itself is simple, graphic and recognizable, as all good labels should be, yet few are. The wine inside the bottle stands up to its well designed label. Crisp and acidic, the chardonnay complimented everything, including our bad attitudes!
Part of our melancholy stemmed from seeing the new Inarritu film, Biutiful. A film about a man who is dying is probably not the best film to see when you are already a little blue. Javier Bardem's capacity for sadness is astounding, as is Inarritu's, though both actor and director alike make one feel completely a part of the sadness and the humanity of the story they are telling. The film is nominated for best foreign film and Bardem is nominated for best actor but if the academy had a 'saddest film of the year' category there would be no contest. It is a beautiful, compelling movie, not for the faint of heart.

One particularly beautiful scene as Uxbal walks across a bridge at dusk and observes the migrating formation of birds in the sky reminded me of our move up here New Year's day. We witnessed those very same formations and attempted to capture it on video, albeit not as successfully as Inarritu. Regardless, it was breathtaking scene in the film and in real life.

Cookie Contest at Omnivore Books

Ominvore Cookbooks
This past Saturday, DH and I trekked across the bay to flex a little sweet-tooth muscle at the Omnivore Books Cookie Contest. Omnivore is an adorable hole-in-the-wall cookbook shop on a residential street in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in style and content, offering both new, antiquarian and collectible cookbooks of all interests.
new amid antiquarian cookbooks line the shelves
The cookie contest was free to enter and $5 to eat/judge the cookies. Omnivore was offering to split the door money evenly with whoever won first place.
A cookie contest that is free to enter and involves eating several other delicious cookies...I can think of few better ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
My prizefighter cookie would be lavender shortbread. Several cookie recipes made the shortlist but ultimately I decided to pay homage to our favorite cookie in Los Angeles, the lavender shortbread cookie at Trails Cafe in Griffith Park.

My shortbread is more 'short' and buttery than chef Jenny Park's Trails cookies, which are chewy and with the perfect tooth and crumb. Easily the best in town in fact, if you are in LA, please go there and enjoy one for me...Today!
The trick is lavender infused butter which delicately perfumes the whole cookie.
I chop lavender beforehand to bring out the aromatic essence.
bite-size lavender shortbread cookies
As advised, I made 3 batches, or over 150 bite size cookies!

polenta poppy seed triangles and s'more macaroons

more cookies. peanut butter oreo's were stand-out.
When we arrived to the event, the doors were already overflowing with both people and cookies. In all, there were over 60 cookie entrants and at least 60 'judges', not including children. First prize was a whopping $150 cash and went to a run-of-the-mill chocolate chip toffee cookie. The fix was in for sure. *joking.
l to r: gf puddingcakes, polenta triangles, almond-raspberry sandwich, pb'oreo' palm: salted-caramel whoopie pie
The room was amass with sweet aromas and the adrenaline of competition. Everyone was a critic and DH even overheard someone harshly critiquing mine, "nice flavor and great taste but too much crumb and poor presentation". I had no idea we were all taking things so seriously! I should have known never to use plastic Tupperware, the shame! Sugar high and snobbery aside, it was a delightful afternoon in the city.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Tool Lending Library

Tool Lending Library, South Berkeley Branch
Shortly after discovering the date that would spawn this blog, I noticed a sign adjacent to the Berkeley Library that read 'Tool Lending Library'. Clearly it was connected to the library but the skeptic in me questioned this Utopian notion of being able to rent a tool at no charge with nothing more than a library card. I had to inquire further...
In fact, in Berkeley and in Oakland, one is able to rent any myriad of tools at no charge with nothing more than a Berkeley or Oakland library card (and proof of residency). 
ladders galore!
every tool you ever wanted...
The selection is extensive and includes tools of all kinds; gardening tools, power tools, ladders, dollies, even bike tools! Also handy are how-to books and DVD's available for whatever task you are undertaking. I decided I'd try it out and rented a cordless drill and a 20 piece drill bit set. 
I was all set to go when it occurred to me I was on bike and would now have to coordinate bike riding home one-handed with the drill case in tow!  
A power tool is one thing I never imagined operating, let alone renting from my local library. And as for riding a bike, let's just say I never thought I'd learn, let alone ride with confidence (more on that in an upcoming post). Apparently 2011 is shaping up to be a year of big change. First with the bike, now with a cordless drill...what's next?
cordless drill and drill bit set

utility holder, up close

utility holder. first use of a drill!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sourdough Pancakes

Monday morning pancakes
As the old adage goes: "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade"
Well that's all well and good but I've come to live by an even tastier phrase of similar sentiment: "When your sourdough starter fails, make sourdough pancakes!"
Blini-esque pancakes

In the last year or so I have become increasingly interested in the art of bread-making. While I have a few recipes under my belt, I find the art of constructing a sourdough starter evades me. The last baguette I attempted to make using my 'liquid levain' starter came out more like a bagel in density. NOT the taste you want from a baguette!
The starter passed the 'sour smell/taste test' with flying colors so I decided to use the batter-like starter as pancake 7:30 am Monday for DH to start the week right. Lucky man, eh?
Biga Semolina. day one
As far as me and starters go, I am now attempting a 'biga semolina', or semolina starter. This starter is a traditional Italian starter from the Altamura region of Italy. More to follow soon...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jimtown Store

Jimtown Store.
Off the 128 highway, in the heart of the Anderson Valley lies the most adorable throwback roadside cafe and market by the name of Jimtown Store. Just a few miles north of Healdsburg, Jimtown feels like its in the middle of nowhere, in a good way. 
Highway 128 is a scenic two-lane highway most traversed by locals in flat bed trucks, tourists taking in the wineries of Anderson Valley and cyclists, both amateur and advanced, out for a breathtaking ride. Jimtown Store serves all riders of 128 alike, with its delicious menu, serene setting and I-never-knew-I-needed-this-but-now-I-gotta-have-it marketplace.

Former county firetruck is now Jimtown's mascot.
gr8 pl8

Grab a hot coffee then order off the chalkboard

Americana Everywhere! Lunchbox & thermos collection

adorably curated knickknacks everywhere you turn

colorful oilcloth, available by the yard

Santa Rosa gold-embossed votives

inside seating

outside patio
When we first started dating, DH used to send me the sweetest letters written at Jimtown where he enjoyed a baked egg sandwich in the middle of a long ride (bike ride). 
My first impression of the place was from his writings so naturally I insisted we go my first time visiting him up north, years ago. It quickly became a favorite of ours, so much so that we replicated the baked egg sandwiches for the entire family at Christmas Brunch last year. 
The baked egg sandwich has a simple layer of house made romesco on each slice of rosemary foccacia. Sweet and spicy pickles are the perfect compliment. The option of bacon or ham is available but I prefer the sandwich without. It is delightful for breakfast with a latte or lunch with a local Pinot and well worth the long drive...or ride! 
baked egg sandwiches, with or without bacon or ham.

house-made romesco

I have every faith the entire menu at Jimtown is stunning  but I must confess I've never managed to venture past the baked egg's just too good!

Winter Citrus Tart

winter citrus tart. finished product
This winter citrus tart recipe comes from The Big Sur Bakery Cookbook. It is one of my favorite recipes from one of my favorite cookbooks from easily my favorite restaurant of all time. 
I look forward to making this tart every winter when the citrus shines and each varietal is better than then the next.  Whether you make the pastry dough by scratch or use a high quality store bought one, the tart is always a crowd-pleaser, in large part thanks to the decadent almond cream pretty citrus rounds. This time around I made the dough, the marmalade and almond cream by scratch. I left the citrus to the farmer's market farmers!
First layer: homemade blood orange marmalade
Next layer: almond cream
Final layer: citrus rounds
This time around I chose blood orange, cara cara and cocktail grapefruit. In my book the best desserts are the ones good enough to eat for breakfast the next morning, as we always do with this one, provided there is any left by then!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

winter veggie roast

Decided to take advantage of our brand new 3-rack oven and roast up a slew of winter vegetables. Easiest dinner of the week!
Top shelf: cumin cayenne carrots; Middle shelf: butternut, rutabaga & potato; Bottom shelf: brussel sprouts

First home-cooked dinner & 'Blind' tasting

For our first home-cooked dinner, DH asked that I 'blind' him. By this he meant pick out any wine in the cellar and pour it without revealing the labeled bottle. He was able to detect it was an '07 Pinot Nior from the Russian River Valley but could not detect the producer. I was impressed he could 'taste' the year, varietal and region but DH assured me that was not impressive. My humble man.
tempura tilapia fillets, roast red bliss potatoes, romanescoes and arugula persimmon salad
DH with first dinner and 'blind' wine...    

'Blind' wine in question!   
The producer of the wine was Williams Selyem, one of the top Pinot producers in Sonoma County. Light bodied in style with an almost saline finish, this Pinot was a perfect pairing with the delicate tilapia fillets and earthy romanescoes and potatoes.
For dessert, we decided to walk to SCREAM, the new (vegan!) ice cream shop on Telegraph. Ice cream sandwich combos always inspire, from almond pink peppercorn sorbet on valrhona chocolate cookies to Blue Bottle coffee-hazelnut sorbet on ginger cookies...a dangerous new local spot!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Butter Date, photos

Butter Dates!

paper-thin skin slides right off.

peeled. almost translucent fruitmeat

seeded. sticky honey-like fruitmeat.