Tag Archives: English major

Four Fab FiDi Lunches for those not in Finance

28 Jan

When you work in the Financial District but your lunch budget is more Mickey D. than Michael Mina, there will come  a point where you swear you’d rather become anorexic than consume  another Subway sandwich. This is of course an empty threat because food is your main joy in life (at least on weekdays) but seriously, how those damn subs manage to taste exactly the same no matter what the hell you put on them has haunted me for years.

For my fellow flavor-concious but fiscally strapped worker bees, I am thrilled to present  five personally approved, well under $10 lunch options, carefully culled over my many years roaming these mean lunchtime streets.

Happy Donut makes my Post-it problem less sad, no?

  1. HAPPY DONUT (Battery @ Bush). Obviously the first thrill is picking up your brown bag lunch at a place called “Happy Donut.” The second thrill is the House Special Chicken Noodle Soup. For $6, you get 6x the soup you would at Soup Co.  Carry yourself to deskside heaven on the wings of a tiny takeaway Sriracha container (you have to ask for it,  plus then you get to feel cool because you were loving this spicy red elixir long before it became the next big food thing, right?). These Vietnamese soups also make perfect comfort food if you’ve caught whatever horrible bug/flu/cold of death thing is cruelly circulating. Thanks for the tip on this one, @Danibird!
  2. YO YO’S (Pacific between Sansome and Battery).  This is a yummy husband-and-wife microwave-and-hot-pot kind of operation. It’s practically a challenge to spend more than $5. They prepare the soup to order, so you can pick which kind of noodles (Udon), if you want spicy sauce (you do), tempura (natch), seaweed etc. Tack on a set of decent sushi rolls, $2.50 for 6 pieces.
  3. LEE’S DELI (lotsa locales, but the biggest/best is “Far East Lee’s” on Battery between Pine and Bush, dubbed by the genius Mr. Cumpston). I am kind of obsessed with this place. An Asian deli? I was dubious. For my East Coast sensibilities, a true deli sandwich means a meatball parm grinder from Fortuna’s, with acceptable alternatives limited to Jewish and Greek. Lee’s turkey sammy is a steal at $4.50 and the turkey is roasted. You know, like Thanksgiving, but with mayonnaise. Also, they have a great hangover buffet. Anywhere I can fix my own special sodium-craving combo of cafeteria-style tater tots doused in Sriracha topped with a couple stray strips of bacon for under $3 has my bleary-eyed approval.
  4. CHEZ CARLA (Pine between Battery and Sansome). The sandwiches made fresh at the counter in the back are well above par, but we’re not here to talk about $10 lunches. No, no, my friends, here’s the goods: come past 2 p.m. and everything in the salad and hot bar is half off. They even have daily themes, like elementary school, but fancy. How endearing is that? Best in show is Monday’s Chicken Linguini with Hazelnut Pesto. Spoon it over some greens and call it healthy. Shhh.

I was going to make this list five and include my favorite baked potato stop (Napa Ranch), but I found out it just closed (DAMN!) and I don’t feel right making a subpar swap. Luckily for my English major and the obnoxiously alliterative title of this post, four also starts with F.

The silver lining in this 9-5 tragedy is that it leaves a cheap eats opening – any reccs? Please share. It’s all the currency we have in this un-Financial world, after all.


Look Mom, Snacks for Dinner!

2 Jul
  • Because we’re all lazy at the end of the week.
  • Because I’m too tired and over being trapped in this effing cube to be clever.
  • Because I have a sick, sick obsession with alliteration.

For all these reasons, I present Five or Fewer Friday, a new column featuring complete meals made with no more ingredients than you can count on one hand. If you’re a six-fingered freak, you’re a lucky bastard today. Don’t let it go to your head. Or that circus sideshow of a finger. And if you’ve lost a digit somewhere along the way, like in Mr. Feely’s fifth grade woodworking class (yes that was his name and it was as creepy as it sounds) I’m sorry, but you’re SOL. I run a tight ship. I do it in a fabulous sailor costume, though, so there’s that.

I’m going with Top Chef rules, so salt, pepper and pantry seasonings are freebies, as is olive oil. This is both because Tom Colicchio is my vice, and Kevin, the red bearded pork Santa, is my future husband – seriously, he’s better than bacon. I do think it’s only fair that any animal product count as one, including butter. And I’m also going to count packaged condiments, as long as they’re made from whole foods, as one ingredient, although several may go into them. myblogmyrulesdealwithit!

Buttermilk Pretzel Chicken & Greens

I thought the Amurrican flag bowl was a nice 4th of July touch. My thumb in the top right was another.


Buttermilk. Probably the lowfat cultured kind. Luckily for those of us who have already bought dresses we must squeeze into for events later this summer, buttermilk is naturally low in fat and high in protein. It’s even better for you than bourbon and viagra, apparently – just ask these guys.

Chicken. A note about my meat policy: if I’m springing to buy meat, I spring the extra $3 to buy meat that isn’t fed on its own family members. So yes, this chicken was organic, free-range. (Partially because I also secretly want to marry this man. Seriously, watch it. I dig his specs. Now those are happy cows, huh JG?)

Pretzels. This all came about because I spend approximately 25% of the workday thinking about whether it would be reasonable to eat more pretzels. Absolutely, if I can MAKE THEM INTO A MEAL, I justified. I used TJ’s honey wheat because that’s what I had, which makes the whole recipe sweeter than salty. Also because TJ’s apparently doesn’t have plain everyday pretzels. So use whatever kind. GET CRAZY.

Lettuce. I have no thoughts on lettuce. (Lies. I have inane thoughts on everything.) Cilantro does not belong in mixed greens. Other than that, anything goes.

Garlic Mustard Aioli. So yes, this is where I’m using the “one jar one ingredient” rule. However, you actually could use just mustard, or even the buttermilk, some yogurt, or some mayo (preferably Duke’s, obv) with some dill. But this ish is tasty. I mean seriously, aioli just a word for fancy mayonnaise, and one of the few things possibly better than mayo is flavored mayo.


  1. Build me up, buttermilk baby. Pour a few cups of buttermilk into a big bowl or dish. Trim whatever looks narsty from your chicken (freeze those pieces to make stock) and put the good stuff in the bowl. Grab yourself a cold brewski (which would also be great with the finished dish) and let the chicken soak up buttermilk-y goodness for 30 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 375.
  2. Crunchtime. Fill a small ziploc with pretzels and smash them up (use the aioli jar for bonus kitchen scout points). Add salt, pepper and seasoning of choice – I like Italian, personally, with a few dashes of cayenne for kick. Pour over a plate.
  3. You must dip it. Once your chicken is good’n’milky, roll each piece in the pretzel coating. Put the dipped pieces on a lined baking tray (ESHEA KITCHEN LIFESAVER NOTE: Use parchment or tinfoil, not wax paper)
  4. Bake. About 30 minutes at 375.
  5. Dress Yoself. Toss a giant salad with your dressing of choice – to keep within 5, use the aioli cut with a little water, or some buttermilk whipped with dill and a little olive oil. When the chicken is done, serve alongside the greens with a dollop of the aoli for dipping. If you’ve got one, squeeze lemon over the top of the chicken.

Pretzel Buttermilk Chicken & Greens

THOUGHTS: This would also be really good with a half cup or so of shredded charp cheese, like a cheddar or what I think would be perfect is a dry vella jack, mixed into the pretzel coating. If you want to make a real meat and potatoes classic meal, this would be great with red mashed potatoes, and you could even use the buttermilk, like these from EatingWell. The honey pretzels make a really nice soft, rather than cruchy, coating for a meal you can eat with just one fork – no knife required. Uncoincidentally, this meal is pretty ideal for those of us without a dishwasher. Or a houseboy.

Yet. Currently accepting applications.

If I had one, I would have had him pack me this delicious leftovers sammy for lunch today instead of making it myself. Sometimes I don’t even know how I manage.

Yes, I did go out on the balcony to take this bberry photo for the lighting. Yes, I did get weird looks from the Yahoo dudes who work across the street. No, they don't have lives either.

Boy-Crazy Lushes Brave the Fog(gy Bridge Cabernet)

30 Jun

Considering I spend far more time exercising my tastebuds than I do muscles besides my tongue, and let’s be honest, consume far more wine than any beverage that doesn’t flow for free from the tap (and some that do), it seems only right to devote some serious attention to this teeth/reputation-staining elixir. And so, it’s with pleasure that I introduce Wino Wednesday, a small space to celebrate the wonderful possibilities opened with the popping – or sometimes when we’re not so sauve, the mangling – of a cork.

It seems to me most writers share a soft spot for the literary lubrication alcohol can provide. Not only does a general booziness tend to slightly dull that little voice constantly droning its nasal drumbeat in our heads (who would ever want to read this crap, you dumb sack? etc.), it also tends to make meeting the wide range characters that drive a narrative that much easier. I’d like to make this proclivity more than just a byproduct but a subject – and do it in a way that doesn’t make the term “vintage” bring to mind a flabby prematurely aged man who smells like mothballs and spends more each month than my entire year’s salary on the wine cellar he definitely spends more time in than he does his wife. We’ll revisit him. From now on, he shall be dubbed Mothball Man.

The good people at Spencer & Daniel’s (Polk between California and Sacramento) do more than their fair share to aid this quest, which is why I love them. (Partly. Also because a couple of those good people happen to be cute. I’m talking to you, scruffy beard. I’ll refrain from hiding behind a display case to steal a creepy grainy blackberry photo only because getting a restraining order from here would truly hurt the caliber of Wino Wednesday.)

I'm using this bberry pic instead of pilfering one off Yelp because I think the ray of light shining like a beacon of alcoholic glory really casts this place in an appropriate light.

As a girl who hasn’t bought a full-price dress since she opened a Loehmann’s Gold Card, I love a good designer discount – and just like my favorite thrift store one block further south down Polk, S&D’s offers fabulous wares at more fabulous prices. All the tags at said thrift store, apparently called Fashion Exchange, read “Something Special” and it’s no misnomer – you’ll find Betsey Johnson dresses, Prada purses and Rock & Republic jeans alongside threads most popular with the local tranny hooker population. It’s a sight.  As seems to be the Polk Street shopping theme, S&D’s is not going for ambience – metal racks and cardboard signs equate decor.  The staffmember who rang me up told me the current owner has been there 15 years, having taken over when it was just a discount food, etc., bargain bank until some years back he decided to focus on wine.

Sometimes you’re lucky enough to find a current favorite – like the DeLoach Pinot Noir I love for $9. Apparently, Food & Wine named it a top affordable wine pick (thanks EShea!) and I usually see it retail in the high teens – though their flacks quoted F&W $13. But what I really love about S&D’s, moreso even than the discounts, are the hand-written staff pick tags pointing to their favorites by employee name, like you see in great bookstores. This is even better, because you can always read a page of a book and see if it suits you, but you can’t just pop off the cork, take a sip and decide you’ll pass.

So here’s who sold me this time:

I bet the cute one picked this. So cultural.

Cute, right? Here’s some more on Foggy Bridge, which is hoping to open the first visitor-focused urban winery in San Francisco this year, from their site:

There has been a trend towards overpowering wines that are made to satisfy wine critics, or simplistic wines designed to appeal to the mass market. Our wines are crafted from a different point of view — with our own sense of quality, finesse and taste — to be enjoyed alone or with a meal, with fine cuisine or with a pizza.

This was pretty much exactly our  impression of the 2005 “Tradewinds” Bordeaux-style Cabernet Sauvignon blend (69% Cab Sauv, 27% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot; I paid $13 at S&D, listed for $26 on Snooth) before I ever read this. It was a hit.

The phallus. I mean bottle.

Look: I love the label itself – the image of the bridge is beautiful, and the overall look of the packaging is clean and sophisticated. A dark ruby color, the wine looks much darker than it tastes or feels. It’s a gorgeous shade that matches the label, and just to please my English major sensibilities, there’s even a fogginess to do the name justice.

Smell: Peppery, black currant. SECRET B.S. TRUTH: I don’t know what currant smells like. In fact, I’m not entirely sure what it is. Appears to be some kinda foreign raisin, but fancy. But there’s a fruity smell that’s much darker, heavier than a raspberry or even a jam. There’s also a nice woodsy aroma to it that reminds me of that cool, dank you smell you get at wineries themselves. Lightbulb moment! Oak.

Taste: “A high, solid note” – EShea. “More like a Pinot than a Cab” – Unsinkable M. Much less bold than a typical California Cab or any of the few Bordeaux-style blends I’ve had, this wine doesn’t hit you over the head. It’s extremely light, almost thin but not in a “flabby” way, as Mothball Man would say. It’s spare and clean but still full, with a brightness unmuddied by the heaviness or dullness I often taste in Cabs. There aren’t really any detectable tannins, leaving no aftertaste, but it does have a nice finish, kind of like the warm coating after you eat good chocolate. It gets more peppery as it goes, which I love (The Kousman has dubbed me his little peppermonkey, after all). Maybe the smoothness comes from the petit verdot – I think I’ve read this grape described as “velvety.”

Impressions: EShea pointed out this wine is like San Francisco itself in its light approachability – you expect it to be more intimidating as a city than it is, actually warm and welcoming once you give it a chance. To me, San Francisco is much more ostentatious than this wine – but it does remind me of a lazy, foggy afternoon by the Bay, not devoid of depth but certainly with no pressing concerns. I think it would be great with salmon or a light meat, but I think the thing I really loved about it is that it’s a Cab you don’t need food with to drink easily and enjoyably.

Does it make the grade? We all really enjoyed it. Definitely worth the $13 – probably wouldn’t pay the full $26 (though at this point in my life, there are very few bottles for which I would.) B.

NOTE: Eventually I’ll work out a signature Wino Wednesday rating. Systems are not exactly my strong point. If you have thoughts or suggestions, please share – I’d love to hear them! What do you look for in a wine? What do you wish you knew about one before you buy?

Where Words Meet Snacks

23 Jun

If at any given moment I’m not munching away on something savory, you can bet your likely thinner-than-mine-behind that I’m considering the food I just finished, where, how (sometimes with whom) I’m managing to satiate myself next, and/or the upcoming glutfest I have penned, not penciled, into a budget that would probably be better off without it.

Remember those old-timey brain charts? Thanks to the freshman psych course I took as part of the “find yourself” year I spent pretending it wasn’t inevitable I would end up an English major, I happen to know this is called phrenology.

To illustrate, here’s what a normal person’s phrenology chart looks like:

Normal person's phrenology chart (though admittedly "normal" is probably relative when you're a lady rocking the shaved head)

And here’s what my phrenology chart looks like:

My Phrenology

A peek into the terrifying mind of the consumption-obsessed

The rest of those gray blobbies? Things like friends (read: Facebook), work (read: office gossip), world issues (read: suburban guilt), blah blah blah… but I think you get the picture.

Seems to me like an apropros way to set the stage for our meanderings together – very crackpot Freudian, and this is all about fixation, right? (As you’ve probably surmised even at this early juncture, the food chunks of my brain have entirely taken over those pesky little science and math slivers. Sorry Calculus, you’ve been SERVED. Then I ATE you SAY something.)

Point is, I have always been completely and totally obsessed with food. This has had varying effects on the rest of my life thoughout my quarter century, but it wasn’t until I moved to California that I finally found some kindred culinary spirits, stopped feeling guilty about my gastronomic fixation, and now, two and a half years later, have decided to put that English degree to Internet-era use.

So, pull up a chair, grab yourself a bite (naturally, you’re in good company – I’ve been crunching my way through a handful of pistachios), and join me as I turn my insatiable appetite to epicurean topics from recipes to restaurant hype to reckless date-drinking  in what I hope will be a sometimes  informative, always silly exploration of all things edible.