Tag Archives: San Francisco
Aside

Taking the Guilt out of Guilty Pleasures

6 Apr

There’s nothing like a rapidly approaching wedding date to make a gal think twice about what she’s stuffing in her mouth. Truth be told, I hadn’t felt good about how I looked – or felt – since long before we booked City Hall. The balance between indulgence and sturdy choices I had worked so hard to cultivate over years of precarious swings back and forth in either direction had slowly, slowly slipped through my grasp as a year of major milestones sped by faster and faster.

It was easy for me to say no to the bowl of Tootsie Roll Pops in the office kitchen when I could think – will this be worth an extra pound as I pose for pictures bound for posterity on my (future) living room wall? The hard part is now, when it’s back to the everyday – when work feels like work, when I’m procrastinating or waiting for the hubs to come home from his unenviable library marathons, when I’m depressed over Craigslist listings foreboding of my impending banishment to the boonies (aka, the Richmond. Especially then.).

While it’s clear I love me some decadence, I’ve come to realize that  a chin-dribbling, sauce-slicked burger tastes even better when it’s truly a treat – not a weekly routine over which I’ll feel routinely guilty. So, to help myself to that extra serving of accountability I so crave, I’ve started writing an Examiner.com column featuring localized tips on making better food and fitness choices – all, naturally, while thoroughly enjoying each and every precious Weight Watchers Point Plus.

I’ll be aiming to post weekly here: http://www.examiner.com/weight-loss-in-san-francisco/katie-clark

For your easy clicking pleasure, if you’d care to take a gander at what I’ve posted thus far:

So, what’s in it for you? Why of course, dear readers, this means that my beloved blog has become  the new home of all those delicious, drool-worthy, decidedly un-weight loss friendly secret delights – so stay tuned 🙂

"Doughnut & a Shot" compliments of Jasper's Corner Tap & Kitchen on my family's pre-wedding dinner - well worth the splurge.

The Joys of Moving

10 Jul

Moving. The very word evokes groans, sympathy, shudders, headaches. The curse of being an urbanite in your twenties seems to be that you’ll pack the crap you somehow managed to amass in a seemingly tiny amount of time on a seemingly tiny budget into cardboard liquor boxes with the same frequency you blow out birthday candles.

Until now, I’ve avoided the dreaded repack by avoiding the unpack.This time around, bolstered by immersion in Apartment Therapy and Philz Coffee, I’ve decided to turn my shoebox studio into a home.

Yes, I meant that literally... thank you, artist formerly known as Murphy bed.

For me, the heart of any home is its kitchen (though clearly, I started with the sole of this one).

I get herbs with a little help from my friends... Thank you, Su Su 🙂

So, I’ve spent the last month’s worth of weekends trekking down the hill from my new Nob Hill pad (happily Muni pass-free), tossing the ingredients of a well-stocked life into a series of SF-approved reusable bags as I go. And because whether you’re just moving in or already thinking of moving out there’s nothing like a little something new to spice up the domestic routine, here are the five essential Sunday shopping stops to make you feel truly settled into your humble abode.

  1. Heart of the City Farmers Market: I love this place as much for the unassuming way it takes the snobbery out of Northern California produce as for the cheap heaps of berries, squashes and greens themselves. Nestled between the glistening grime of the Tenderloin and the graffitied glory of mid-Market Street, I can only imagine the characters HOTC has fed over its 30+ years, more colorful even than the $1 afternoon bunches of cheerful carnations. Visit with a travel mug of home-brewed Philz and breathe in the smells of artisan olive oils mingled with the stench of dirty it’s-clear-what rising off a heated Market Street sidewalk, and you know you’ve truly arrived in San Francisco.

    Philz & Plowerz

  2. Kamei Restaurant Supply: I’ve quickly grown to love the minimalism required by studio life. Economy of space not exactly being an American virtue, traditional sources like Target have turned out to be severely lacking when it comes to getting more out of less stuff. It’s the Chinese to the rescue, with wares from an ingenious double-decker drying rack to beautiful bamboo cutting boards on hooks to immaculate bone china in asymmetrical cuts and hand-painted patterns.

    A dishrack as silly as it is sensible. Clearly, after my own heart.


  3. The Container Store: OK I’m caught, despite my righteous Target-bashing I am a huge fan of certain purely American indulgences, this evidently Texas-based, mid-box establishment being one of them. Where else can you create a make-your-own-spice-rack or find a sliding plastic mug-hanger? Never fear, when the fabulosuly bespectacled employees start to recognize you on your third trip in as many weeks, they judge not but instead see a kindred spirit drawn to this homeware oasis tucked illogically smack in the middle of Powell Street tourist madness.

    Who doesn't love a mug on a mug?

  4. The bargain bins: My life-long love affair with cheap shopping is genetic. More than one family member cried when Caldor went out of business. Yes, I wish I was kidding too. While I’ve long been acquainted with TJ Maxx and Marshalls, Ross, with a kitchen department that puts Sur La Table to bloated-price-tag shame, is a new West Coast fling. These are the spots to scour for all things Cuisinart and Kitchenaid. Who says you can’t be a price-conscious brand snob?

    You can take the girl out of Connecticut, but you can't take the rag rug out of the girl.

  5. Sunfat Seafood Co.: When Moh saw what I was willing to fork over at my new local hardware store for things like S-hooks (to hang my shoes, obviously), he decided it was time to introduce me to the Mission Street dollar store row. Giant plastic bags full of 40 necessities for $40 later, we were ready to cash in on the rewards of our sensical spree… and found ourselves conveniently (ok I planned it) across the street from Sunfat Seafood. Browsing bins of 30 different kinds of oysters with names as varied as their rainbow shells of briny sea blues, greens and purples, there is no better way to remember that all this shopping is just a means to an end – breaking in your new kitchen with your first home-cooked meal.

If you’re as lucky as I am, it’s an end filled with seafood and Sofia rose.

So delicious we barely noticed we had to eat standing up because I didn't have stools yet. Very European, no?

On Flowers and Food Processors: A Fall in Review

13 Jan

Considering I am The Ultimate Justifier (seriously, throw me your conscience’s roadblocks, I’ll blast them apart with my shaky moral chainsaw faster than you can yell VICE!), the truly bizarre San Francisco winter/summer parallel would be enough for me to jump right back in like no time had passed whatsoever since my last post. But, skipping over the many months of milestones that have kept me busy since – or at least the meals I made during – would belie the bite-sized lessons I’ve learned over their course. So, since you didn’t ask, some highlights:

1. Don’t be a tool. Or, don’t worry so much about yours.

The setting: A Friday afternoon that finds me deliciously not at the office, but rather in the midst of a Los Angeles Indian Summer. Relishing the idea of playing housewife to my beloved Telanor Kousman, out slaving away on his glamorous Hollywood set, I want to find a dish that’s not only appropriate for the heat, but that will showcase a true labor of love in the rare daylight I’ve stolen. Spying the base of a food processor under his butcher’s block, I decide to cobble together my take on Jamaican Jerk Chicken – more or less this New York Times recipe but with four hours of marinating instead of 12. Apparently, house-wifery requires advance planning.

So, I drag my sweating, sundressed-self to the supermarket to gather my fresh fixings (three different kinds of hot peppers, green onions, shallots, ginger, garlic and thyme), clean and prep them, de-shoe so as to be appropriately barefoot, and set them all triumphantly in front of the food processor, ready to grind them into the “course paste” the paper demands.

Only… where’s the damn blade? I look for an hour. Sticky and defeated, I’m about to give up and trek to Joans on Third for some absurdly fancy and correspondingly priced charcuterie (which let’s be real, I did anyway), when it dawns on me – did the Maroons dragged to Jamaica as slaves who created this dish  have food processors???

No. No, they did not.

So, two hours (/two conference calls) later, knife skills vastly improved, I had my precious paste. Did it look perfect? No. Did it taste incredible? Yes. Did I find the missing blade while cleaning up after dinner hours later? Of course.

Since I don’t have a photo of that particular creation (my Blackberry was angry enough at having to pretend to function while smothered in honey and hot pepper juices – this was my passive-agressive way of punishing it at this point in our relationship), here’s another following the same principle. Martha Stewart’s Winter Fruit Crisp, valiantly executed with not a cheese cloth or electric mixer in sight.

(what’s left of) Madge’s Winter Fruit Crisp

As you can see, it was enjoyed – with nary a comment on clumpy topping. Granted, I made it for my boyfriend, who is arguably obligated to tell me it’s delicious if he wants the real sugar… but he did have three servings, take the rest home and ask me to help him translate the recipe into Arabic for his sister, so I guess we’ll take his word for it.

2. Recycling: Not just for your Diet Coke can; Or, the Evolution of a Saturday Dinner.

Turns out, recycling is also ideal for the paella made for two that you both somehow thought would be a fitting amount:

Miss Aarti, or now truly “Spicy in the City” in her awesome new Marina digs, is one of my absolute favorite cooking buddies, but we do seem to share a rather unfortunate quantity-gauging problem…

In our defense, I’m not sure which 4 – 6 people Mark Bittman, whom I love, intended to serve this yellow rice abundance. Perhaps they are professional class salsa dancers? (I’d say sumo wrestlers, but Marky just seems more refined.)

In any case, I was able to add the ridiculous amount of leftovers (less the tomatoes which became a bit soggy) to a bit of sauteed garlic and tomato paste in my Dutch Oven, split a few cherry tomatoes over the top, and rebake for an even more flavorful, crispier go the following night.

In its second life, the rice served as the perfect base to soak up the juices from Martha’s Clam Pan Roast with Sausage & Fennel, which I made as a Sunday evening dinner for my seafood-loving boyfriend (should there be any other kind?). Seriously though, click through to Madge’s little photo. Great little serving for two, right? Ha. I was eating that rice and sausage (Moh took care of all the clams that actually opened like they were supposed to, briny little bastards) for lunch and dinner for the next two days.

And the potatoes? They were soaked in a slick, delicious broth too good to waste but hadn’t quite cooked through, so I saved them in their own Tupperware. Two nights later, the lovely Carrie came up the street and we halved them again and “olive oiled” them (it’s like pan-frying, but makes me feel better about my life – try it sometime) for a good long time. We ate those damn tasty taters alongside my favorite buttermilk chicken, with a cornbread-ing this time around, and a salad. Which I then had for lunch the next day, with the rest of the potatoes, sauteed spinach and poached eggs doing just fine for a quick, cheap dinner that night.

Moral of the long-winded story? What started as one meal rolled along into feeding me and several other people for the better part of the week. Your food might really hit its stride the second time around.

3. Stop talking, Katie.

Seriously. I had some more lessons planned but even I’m sick of me. And since I’m actually sick, I’m justyifing retiring with my Vitamin-C system shock smoothie (thanks Moh! He threw peeled fresh oranges, lemons and honey into my blender and I feel ten times better already) and last night’s Top Chef (although I swear if Jamie doesn’t FINALLY pack her knives and go, I will).

But I’ll be back, well before the SF fog at long last rolls out for the refreshing spring we all know will come soon enough. Promise.

You're right, EShea, this is pretty much my jam these days. Sometimes a picture is worth more than the 1000+ words that came before it 🙂

Summer Tour, Part II: The Capitol Charade

3 Aug

So, friends: we’ve arrived. We’re officially past the honeymoon (or in twenty-something commitment-phobe terms, with which I’m HOBviously more comfortable, the everything-you-do-is-cute-i-just-want-to-text-you-all-the-time phase) and into that supremely awkward discovery-of-things-we’d-rather-not-know stage. When getting to know me, this typically involves a very genuine, but I’m sure no less frustrating, disappearing act.

So, my apologies. July took me on a whirlwind tour – and I promise, delicious recipes inspired by these journeys from coast to coast will soon follow – but for now, I leave you with some ruminations on a stop I keep coming back to.

WASHINGTON, D.C. Our nation’s capital. I’d always expected this to be a very dry, white-washed place – and no doubts pockets of it are, and will become again. I think what struck me most about it was this two-sided shock of arrogance : first, that I could believe a place so truly rich in history could actually somehow be devoid of an energy sparked by those driven to live there; and second, by the arrogance of a place that draws such fascinating people from all backgrounds, yet still takes its own identity from a symbol it’s literally impossible to capture in a manner more complex than this:

Really, America? Really.

Seriously, though. I tried as we walked the miles up the mall. I tried from a distance and I tried close up. But you just can’t avoid this:

no but REALLY.

Truly, though, besides the allusions I have a tough time…um… swallowing… I once heard DC was a place that had a million different underground scenes, and I think what’s so different about it than other places I’ve been is that they’re not really underground – here, expressing what you find important is expected. Staying with the person I am lucky enough to count a friend whom I admire most in the world, GlyderGrl (uh oh, sorry friend, but I just found your classy-ass professional profile), I was introduced to a world full of bougie pleasures, free from much of the guilt I typically associate with indulging these – because these people are actually involved with something they care about. I’ll repeat in case many of you didn’t understand, actually involved with something they care about, namely through the Congressional Hunter Center (though I gotta be honest, it’s no “Center for Justice,” Kate’s previous place of employ – perhaps my favorite organizational title ever).

Our generational struggle for a way to pay to rent that doesn’t suck our collective soul in the process is something that seeps guiltily out in various ways. One of the silliest?

The prime hipster food obsession dujour: the food cart. After all, what better way to escape the mundanity of your daily cubeland braindead zone than by hopping on the “social network” we all know is most useless to chart out the location of overpriced, mediocre lunch food sloughed from a moving target?

And sorry San Francisco, though you may take your greatest pride in what you percieve to be your undisputed hipster foodie superiority, you’ve been SERVED.

Curry Up, the Indian burrito truck Aarti and I took 45 minutes out of one typically annoyingly busy day to find and wait in an impossibly creeping line for in our own Financial District, served up chalky cheese that left me feeling full of unpleasant sensations I don’t feel the need to detail for my closest friends and farthest internet acquaintances. Ultimately, all they’ve got going for them is one pun. Please.

DC’s Fojol Bros of Merlindia, on the other hand, manages to dish all the ridiculous ish you should if you’re making your daily living desperately trying to legally park a food truck in the barren concrete wasteland of an American center of global commerce.

The lack of soundtrack is really making these baggy officeworkers look sad.

Ridiculous conceit? Check. Blaring disco music and flashing mirrors? Yuh huh. Organic-sustainable-better-than-you folosophy? Obviously. And last and in this case, probably least, yummy food for a price that won’t give you indigestion? Even that.

this picture even LOOKS humid. 100 degree july, how i secretly miss you.

So maybe that’s it. Washington, D.C., seems to do things with a conviction that make the rest of us, busy pretending to have things like “pride” and “cynicism,” look like the sheepish commitment-phobes we are.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll ever believe any principle enough to stand behind it as much as those who populate this city clearly do whatever theirs may be; but in the meantime, I can certainly try to hold myself and my surroundings to a standard of which they’re deserving.

Like maybe writing in this godforsaken blog once every week. 😉

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?