Wednesday, July 09, 2008

And so it begins . . .Send Your Friends

The links aren't ready and we're busy pulling entries together, but soon, you'll be seeing more of us at Bay Area Food Blog.

We miss you all!


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Come on over!

So we're still working on the website for the food blog because hey it's the Bay Area and there are a zillion food blogs. But I am now indulging my obsession with weddings and started a wedding blog. This is a place to talk about funny wedding stories, give tips on how to put together a wedding, and share pretty pictures of pretty people. Come on over to The Blessed Freaking Day. Sorry for the radio silence, but you know, we did move across the country.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Last Meal

So Saturday we had our final meal around our dining room table (which sadly will NOT fit in our new apartment). The gathering consisted of our gang and J's mother who came to help us pack and clean (and she's the reason why we can move cross country without killing each other). It was a fitting end and closed the circle for the time we spent at the Cheverly house.

Our first night in the Cheverly house was two years ago when J's mom came to help us move in. We invited our gang to come over the night before the movers arrived to experience the joy of assembling IKEA furniture. My wonderful mother-in-law singlehandedly put together our dining room table and created a no-cook meal that consisted of hummus and pita bread, chips and salsa, sandwich fixin's, strawberries and cookies. Over a meal of paper plates and plastic cups we created a home. Our beautiful buffet was assembled and we hung our pictures and laid out the knick-knacks.

Over the same set of paper plates and plastic cups, our friends came to share one last night around the table. It was a table where we hosted a Thanksgiving. A table that held the love and fun from many parties, bridal showers, and open houses.

It's been such a gift to gather the people I love the most around a table and break bread with them. J made vanilla marshmallows. I made vegetarian and shrimp won tons and a pitcher of mojitos. J's Mom made cookies and Chili Cream - a divine concoction of chili, cheddar cheese, creme cheese and, surprisingly enough, unsweetened whipped cream.

Thank Heaven and her boyfriend
brought Indian cauliflower that just tasted brilliant. I've always had trouble making Indian food. It's never tasted as good as what you get in a restaurant.

Pauline brought her famous Nepalese potato salad. The best potato salad in the world. It was spicy with fenugreek and asefateda and fresh with cilantro and mint.

Slim and Connecticut Bob brought Bob's famous rolls with BBQ from Red Hot and Blue to go inside.

The Marrieds
brought sorbet and frozen custard from the Dairy Godmother in Del Ray. Dairy Godmother has been a key piece of our collective hanging out - talking about politics, pop culture, and youtube videos.

Stinkle was kind enough to bring herself, after coming in from a work trip that afternoon. Even better she was kind enough to host our last last hurrah. A night of beer and pizza the night before the movers came.

My Other Wife brought a wonderful strawberry cake. As a fellow Asian, she knew we Asian love fruit in our desserts and hate sugary frosting.

There were others who couldn't make it. Ron and Shyin and their baby Stonewall. Graphic Designer. Stinkle's boyfriend who we've come to adore.

It's a great way to spend your last days in a city. I'm grateful for our time together.

To you, our online family. Keep your eyes posted. We'll be starting a west coast blog.

Maureen at Barnacle Bill's

Every once in a while, I come across stories I've written in other journals. This was a favorite from an early lunch at Barnacle Bill's in Sarasota, Florida, a place I love to eat. This is not so much about food as it is about freedom.

Janet is the name of the waitress. She has stopped by regularly, filled my raspberry tea, brought me some extra bread, and in general been top-notch.

I came to Barnacle Bill's to enjoy a meal and to remember the time my partner and I had come there for our anniversary dinner after hours of soaking in the sun and sand. It was to be a quiet lunch.

That was until I met Maureen.

I wanted to grab Maureen. Rush out the door quick like an action hero, like freaking Tank Girl, like anyone who could really move up and out in one swift motion.

I wanted to grab Maureen and run down Sarasota's Main Street - home of incense-soaked hippy women, boatless people who dress for boating, and magical skaterboys who will dance in the street off one cup of coffee.

I wanted to grab Maureen and get her the hell away from her parents. To rescue her from a life of being pecked at and being shot down Whack-A-Mole-style by these scattered and smothering people.

They babied an adult child, pushed hard enough to where she could not even fit a sentence in edgewise because her breath was sucked down, forced there by the aggressive word bubbles they kept blowing up and bursting on her. She was against a window.

Maureen sits pliant with her naked salmon.

"Is it good, Maureen?" asks mom.

"It's fine. Just fine," says Maureen from the table on the other side of my booth. There's an odd lilt in her voice. It starts higher and ends low, like she is trying to reassure herself that her entire being in fact is "fine" like her salmon.

"We can get a sauce for it, Maureen. Where's the waitress? This salmon needs a sauce."

I can't see Maureen and her mother, but this was the fourth or fifth exchange like this. Mom knows best. Maureen has a throat full of socks.

I'm alone, reading materials for a board meeting. Before I noticed them I was engrossed in my conch soup and French bread that is so close to perfection it is almost Cuban. But the distractions were ongoing and mom and dad were not going to give Maureen or myself any peace.

A drill in the next room is putting the finishing touches on the bar where I suspect Maureen may want to spend a few hours, months, or years.

Mom yells across the restaurant towards the hostess stand. "I hope they're not planning to work all the way through lunch." She's uptight, old, cranky, and not interested in niceties.

I look at the clock on my cell phone. 11:00. Not even noon yet.

The hostess says, "It's worse in the early morning." She knows it was sassy. She glances my direction and we share a very quick wide-eyed moment of empathy for one another. And for Maureen.

I wanted to grab Maureen and take her out and celebrate disagreement, to hear her resistance or whatever subjective voice she had, if it was still possible. If they would just go to the bathroom or run out for a Virginia Slim. If Maureen could just be alone for a second maybe we could flee?

Would she go with me? Or even alone?

Janet stopped by with some more bread. Maureen's mother got up, preceded by "Do you have a lady's room? Is it all the way in the back? All the way back there?"

She looked pissed. At what, I am just not sure. She passed me in a slight breeze of baby powder and Estee Lauder makeup.

Maureen and I were alone. I edged myself over to the very lip of my booth. Pushed one ass cheek off the left side and leaned over just a bit so I could get a better look.

Brown hair, probably just a bit older than my thirty-two years. A Marcia Gay Harden from a beach town sort. My glimpse could not last long. I have an easily-read face and I am sure Maureen would be able to tell what I was thinking. She'd know I wanted to grab her. This might be disturbing.

I wrote a simple note on my sprial pad. "They'll be back from the bathroom soon. Are you okay?" I signed it, "The Guy in the Next Booth." It was like I was writing Dear Abby. I folded the note and was ready to toss it to her when it felt like someone was coming up behind me. I got back in my seat and turned around.

Just Janet.

But as soon as I recognized it was Janet, from the next table came an uproarious slurp. The end of a vanilla shake met with an eager Maureen wanting desperately to taste every last drop. It was as loud as the drill, a yawp of sorts. This was a hungry woman. Maureen was pulling every sugary drop into the depths of her.

I peeked over again. This time raising myself in my seat like I was leaving. Maureen was still alone and laughing her ass off.

I paid my check, left a double-tip for the waitress along with this story, and walked out the door without Maureen.

I think back on this now and wish I had gotten Maureen's address, but I know it's none of my business.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A Lil' Bay Area review - Maritime East

So isn't weird when you and your siblings grow up enough so you're not just siblings but also friends? Stef, considering your brother is like super cool and you seem to get along, when did that happen for you?

When J and I were in the Bay Area, we got together with my brother who lives in Fremont and is some kind of entrepreneur (and not that kind of entrepreneur that says they're an entrepreneur as an excuse for slacking; he works his ass off and has the income to show for it). We asked my brother where we should all get together for dinner and he suggested Martime East in Berkeley. What he didn't tell us was that he was friends with the owner. It was a really enjoyable evening where we got to talk with the owner about the restaurant business and catch up with my brother.

The dining experience itself was really wonderful, even apart from the free appetizers and dessert. I will agree with the posters on Yelp that say the storefront sign does make it seem like Maritime East is an aquarium store. But the inside looks well designed and upscale. We were worried that we were underdressed but this really was a neighbhorhood joint and we saw people in jeans. The decor modern but warm and the onwer highlighted the showpiece which was a wall with 2-inch lines of colored sand. One thing I will have ot highlight is the excellent sound control. People never think about it unless it totally sucks. And this time the designers did a great job to make sure that the background noise was loud enough so that you didn't feel like you were in a funeral home but not so loud you couldn't hear your tablemates. That is the downfall of Cafe Asian in Arlington where you feel like you are ain a train station.

The food itself was truly excellent, and not just because we got a free appetizer and dessert. There was a clean and fresh quality to the dishes, even the burger tht my brother ordered. This was not a restaurant that depended on heavy sauces and overpowering flavors. Like a good seafood restaurant, Maritime East knew to choose fresh fish and get out of the way. Their flavors are very citrus and spice focused.

We started with cocktails. J got the Maritime margarita and I got the White Out, with citron vodka, white cranberry juice and cointreau. Both were excellent as I like fruity drinks. I ordered the seafood chowder to start that had clams, fish, mussels , bacon, and fingerling potatoes. The soup was resonant with fish broth and scallions. Rather than being heavy, the chowder broth was light and allowed for the individuality of each of the ingredients. As a bonus, we got an order of the dungeness crab gratinee. This is where I am a total west coast boy because dungeness crab RULZ! I find it interesting that they call this a gratinee becuase it's a fresh salad with apples. blood oranges, and micro greens. The sweetness of the crab really comes through.

For dinner, my brother got the burger, I got a wood fired pizza and J got the sole. Surprisingly, the burger was excellent. You would have thought it would be an afterthought but the burger was perfectly cooked. The wood fired pizza had the appropriate chewiness and crunch that you would expect. The toppings of bonito tuna, olives, and capers was wonderfully briny. Craving vegetables, I got the brussel sprout and pea sprout hash, a lovely combination of the two sprouts shreeded and sauteed. The best of the bunch was J's sole which was served with pureed cauliflower, capers, and brown butter. This was an earthy treat for a cold Berkeley night.

While we were all stuffed, my brother's friend gave us complimentary desserts - the chocolate pot de creme, the sorbet and gelato selection, and the apple and cranberry tart. All were excellent but the pot de creme was pure indulgence in a cup.
I asked about the lack of vegetarian options and the owner said that the chef made a vegetarian meal upon request. Knowing her skill with seafood, I hope they would let everyone know about that option.

It's very nice to have a go to place in the Bay Area. This is perfect for a quiet evening or a celebration. Thanks to the brother for a great choice!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Off Topic - The Paper

For anyone who had any doubts. Yes, I am a geek. And therefore, I am totally addicted to The Paper on MTV. Yes, I was on the school paper all four years of high school. And I love The Paper immensely mainly because it's just so over the top. I feel so sad for Amanda, the Editor in Chief. She's Tracy Flick as a real person. Her organizational skills are in inverse proportion to her people skills. She's the high school editor version of Michael Scott, organizing team building exercises and team meetings, all the while her staff is either laughing at her or actively trying to bring her down. I'm not sure who is more loathsome, Giana, the Features Editor who is trying to channel Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls or Alex, Amanda's ex-friend, and the person she beat out to be Editor in Chief. It's clear Alex and Amanda are into each other but Alex is more than happy to sell her out to the "popular" kids on the paper, Giana and her minions. It doesn't help that Alex has some festering resentment of Amanda being editor in chief because she, like, wrote a good application. Seriously folks, this show is my crack. For those of you wonder, I was News Editor two years running. I was one of those Type A folks who read the minutes from the school board meeting to see if there was anything newsworthy.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

An Entry 14 years in the Making

For those Wrinkle in Time Fans, I'm going to pull a Mrs. Who for this entry – using the words of others to capture my feelings.

Something has changed within me
Something is not the same

The thing is, I'm the one who stayed. I came here in 1994 and saw friend after friend move away for a job, grad school, family or just because they didn't like the weather. But I stayed. There's something about DC that feels like home. Maybe it's the scale of the city. Maybe it's the fact that we talk about elections in the same way we talk about sports. Whatever it was, DC wasn't just a place to live.

DC has been really good to me. I sort of stumbled into a career where I get to make change. I found things to do – singing, quilting, playing tennis. I came out. I got my heart broken. Multiple times. I broke hearts. Far fewer times. I found the love of my life and got married. We turned 30. Turned 35.

We built a life together that involved friends, family, and food. We lived in a group house and then we moved to an apartment by ourselves. Another apartment by ourselves on Capitol Hill. And finally a house in Cheverly with a real dining room table. We threw dinner parties. We found the best group of friends anyone could possibly ask for.

Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap

It started as just an idea. Nothing firm. No plan. Just kicking around the thought of moving to the Bay Area. As ideas went, it looked like something far in the distance if it were to happen at all. It was more of a joke than anything else. Wouldn't it be fund to work in San Francisco? We could pay $3000 in rent for a studio! Hahaha.

But then we both had job opportunities with places that we wanted to work. We looked at Craigslist and saw some two bedrooms in our price range. And we visited and spent time with June and Muffin and Rebecca 1.0 and Bellisima. At some point, it felt less like walking away from this awesome life we built in DC and more like walking towards a new adventure.

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity

Then we both started applying. By February, I got a job offer from an organization in Oakland that allowed me to work from home until June and J was interviewing for four different positions in San Francisco. The weird thing was we kept seeing all of these signs for us to move. One night we turned on the TV and PBS was doing a travelogue on the Bay Area. Another day we turned on the Food Network and THEY did a travel show on San Francisco. And then we turned on Lifetime and saw the series finale of the Golden Girls where Dorothy marries the guy from Airplane! in the ugliest wedding dress ever made.

I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you can't pull me down...

We did fall in love with San Francisco. Really all it took was an afternoon at the Ferry Plaza farmer's market. Then Bellisima, who works as a beverage manager at a high end wine bar took us to dinner and showered us with free wine. Then we went to dinner with my brother at his friend's restaurant, Maritime East and J got to taste Dungeness crab. And then J had a burrito in the Mission District.

Beyond the food, was a city with views. We thought about weekend mornings driving ten minutes to the beach or driving across the Golden Gate Bridge to see the redwood forest.

I'm Limited
Together we're unlimited
Together we'll be the greatest team
There's ever been, Glinda,
Dreams the way we planned 'em
If we work in tandem

So here we go. We'll definitely be in the Bay Area by June. My piece of reassurance about this whole things is that I came to DC with a little bit of family in the area and that was it. J and I head to Oakland will each other, great jobs, June and Muffin, and Rebecca 1.0 and Bellisima. We've both been asked to serve on the Board of Directors of two community organizations we love and respect. There are a zillion farmer's markets and hopefully a good CSA we can join. Hopefully, we can find a place that can accommodate our dining room table. Hopefully we can build a circle of friends to eat around the dining room table.

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky
As someone told me lately -
Ev'ryone deserves the chance to fly

Mixed in with the sadness is a huge amount of gratitude. J and I would have never met if it weren't for DC. We wouldn't have started this blog and met awesome people like Scotte, Jason, and Stef.

There will always be a piece of me in DC. This city has sustained me in a zillion ways. I get a clench in my stomach about leaving this city and our friends but as I've told many a person who's left this city before me, the sadness means that you actually did something. Leaving is already hurting like hell because I know there will always be a piece of me in DC.

Tell them how I
Am defying gravity!
I'm flying high
Defying gravity!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another dairy free delight

We visited the Lambers in the Bay area a few weeks ago. They are exceeding fun to hang around with and even more fun to cook with. They have a lovely gas grill where almost every night we made some marvelous grilled protein (turkey burgers, chicken breasts) and a set of grilled vegetables (zuchinni, eggplant etc). So my last night with the Lamers, L made this great tomato sauce composed of quality canned tomatoes, two big springs of basil and two whole garlic cloves. The basil and garlic were fished out of the sauce at the end of the cooking. As the Lambers are conscious of making sure they get protein, I suggested putting in pureed tofu into the sauce to make it creamy. I'd seen in on a vegetarian cooking show where some lady made a fake alfredo by marinating tofu in miso and then pureeing it. I figured we could make a protein-rich, dairy free penna in vodka by doing the same. As it turned out, the pureed tofu was a wonderful addition. It had more of a ricotta texture but definitely added the requisite creaminess. A healthy shot of vodka and some simmering later, there was our penne in vodka sauce. For about two cups of sauce, I would add a half a block of firm (not silken or extra firm) tofu.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Ok this is a tiny little entry. Sunday night, we had the marrieds come over for dinner. This was a very casual thing and we ended up making stromboli with Morningstar Farm "meat" crumbles and a salad (bag of salad greens, walnut, balsamic vinaigrette). I will say I learned to put the seam side down on a stromboli because as they baked, the seam split.

For dessert J bought coconut and raspberry sorbet. As an accompaniment, I made lemon cookies. I am beginning to understand Ina Garten's obsession with citrus zest. At a crafting thing I went to, someone put orange zest in a chocolate chip oatmeal cookie and it tasted amazing. For the lemon cookies, I went to epicurious and their recipe for lemon cookies were simply a basic sugar cookie recipe with two tablespoons of lemon juice and a tablespoon of lemon zest. The result was one of the best cookies i have ever made. It was spring in a cookie with a resonant lemon flavor and aroma. Next up lemon panna cotta! All hail the zest!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Spaghetti Carbonara - SOOO EASY!

CRAVING FULFILLED! I've been craving spaghetti carbonara for ages and I finally got around to making it. The great things about spaghetti carbonara is the sauce is based on scrambled eggs and pasta water as opposed to cream. Given that J is lactose intolerant, this makes a great pasta dish for both of us (as I can put tons of parmigiano reggiano on my plate of carbonara separately). The other great thing about spaghetti carbonara is how totally easy it is to make. Perfect for a cold night after work.

Here's how I did it:

1 pound of pasta
lots of salt
5 slices of bacon (or an equivalent amount of pancetta or guanciale if you want to be totally traditional
3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
3 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup of parmigiano reggiano

Fry bacon (or any cured meat thereof) until fairly crispy and fat is completely rendered. Add the garlic and turn off the heat. Bring water to a boil and add enough salt until the water tastes "as salty as the Mediterranean," which is to say, pretty salty. Cook spaghetti according to instructions. When spaghetti is close to being done, take about half a cup of salty water out and reserve. During that time, heat up the bacon mixture. Drain the pasta and add to the bacon. Toss thoroughly with the pepper and nutmeg and turn off the heat. Add eggs and toss furiously so the eggs turn into a creamy sauce but don't solidify and coagulate. Add about two or three tablespoons of the pasta water and toss thoroughly again to make the mixture creamier. If the mixture is still too thick, add a bit more pasta water. Sprinkle lots of the parmigiano reggiano on top and toss again. Add even more cheese. Enjoy.