Ad Hoc – Bringin’ it Home

If you have a birthday coming up or are already starting your holiday wish list, I highly recommend adding Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller to your list. I’ve had some seriously great grub at Ad Hoc the past two years. It’s a style of cooking I’ve dubbed ‘haute comfort’ – meaning, comfort food done super-clean — and stylishly plated, of course!

Just to be clear and give credit where it’s due, the gorgeous food photos in this post are reproduced from the book and are the work of the amazing Deborah Jones who has photographed all of TK’s cookbooks.

With the change in weather (called ‘seasons’ in other parts of the country) and my hungry posse coming over for Sunday supper, comfort food was calling. I dove into Ad Hoc at Home for inspiration and emerged with this incredibly delicious, succulent pork roast stuffed with a fig balsamic jam. I served it with a delicata squash/sweet potato/wild chanterelle hash inspired by a dish made at a competition I judged the week prior (that post is in the queue…)

A pastry chef friend tried out the brownie recipe and had to seriously negotiate with her husband to share one (yes, one) with me. Fortunately for me, she won. After devouring it, I understood why he didn’t want to let it go: it very well may be the best brownie I’ve ever had.

If after making the recipe yourself, you think you have a better brownie recipe, please feel free to bake a batch and send ’em my way! I’ll be happy to offer my opinion.

Having Your Cake and a Tea Towel, Too

My super-talented friend Christina Weber just launched her fabulous new line of tea towels and aprons at Studiopatró. I’ve been eagerly awaiting their debut and am so excited they’ve arrived in time for (forgive me) the holidays!

I love that there’s a whole page dedicated to alternative ideas on how to employ these beautiful pieces of handmade, utilitarian art — other than the obvious, that is. And you’re invited and encouraged to share any other clever ideas you dream up through the Studiopatró blog.

Not only are the aprons smart and tea towels gorgeous and versatile, you can know that they are made by a local team of designer, screeners and sewers who share a passion for creating stylish, high-quality, durable products. I can’t wait to get some!

**I pilfered all these gorgeous photos from the Studiopatró site, taken by the awesome, always energetic and über-talented Wendi Nordeck. All rights reserved © nordeck photography

Royal Par/T

This past weekend, I was down in LA celebrating a slew of friends’ birthdays. One afternoon included venturing to a Culver City I’d not known before: design stores, art galleries, good eats and French Maid-clad waitresses. Yep, that’s right. Apparently, French Maid cafes are a trend in parts of Tokyo. So in the spirit of the Japanese-inspired cafe/gallery/shop Royal/T, owner & art collector, Sue Hancock, provides kawaii and pop eye-candy all around.

From a gallery space that is home to a noodle-skirted, dumpling-winged sushi chicken

and eyeball bedecked tea accoutrements…

to a shop filled with all kinds of novelty items, including food coloring books (had to get one) and heart-shaped egg molds…

to the cafe space where the plants on the back wall of the cafe are grown in felt pouches made from recycled plastic bottles by Woolly Pocket Garden Company

to the super-delicious Kobe beef sliders on brioche buns, topped three ways: bleu with caramelized onion, quail egg up & tomato chutney. The menu offers a nice selection and the tempting cupcakes were very popular at tables all around us.

Loved everything about Royal/T. It’s just the kind of place I’d want to throw a royal party.

In the Moment

So, it turns out, my first experience working with Saveur magazine is not as a food stylist, but as a photographer of sorts. I was working on an Italian cookbook a few months ago with the wonderful and true professional photographer on the project, Sara Remington. We decided the best way to shoot the fresh pasta would be overhead, but didn’t have a ladder handy.

Sara’s a hard core rock climber, so she just hopped up on a chair and balanced herself on the door handle. I was guest blogging for 7×7 magazine at the time, so it seemed like a great photo op. Little did I know a candid shot of Sara, taken with my dinky point n’ shoot, would be my first ‘professional’ photo credit.

How the shot ended up in Saveur goes something like this: the lovely and talented food writer on the book, Janet Fletcher, sees the photo in my 7×7 blog entry and forwards it to James Oseland at Saveur, who sends it to the photo editor, Paul Love, who tracks me down, et voilá!

Eat Real

This is the logo on my new favorite t-shirt. Wow, what an amazing day! Today in Oakland at the Eat Real Festival, I ran into old friends doin’ what they love to do–some were cooking and some, like moi, were eating. If you were there or following any of the vendor tweets, you know it was a gratifying experience on both sides of the fest. Okay, there are lots of pics, so get ready to drool…

I dig the new Ritual Roasters retro trailer. It takes me back to the days of family road trips to Baja. My friends and I jump started our day with a cuppa delicious, fruity drip from Guatemala. Then, on to the grub.

If you like your falafel with a nice crispy crunch, cheerful smile and a whole lotta Liba, Gail’s the girl to find about town. She’s new on the scene and with her stylish aprons and infectious enthusiasm will surely win you over.

After many trials and tribulations, spunky Julia Yoon’s got her killer Korean BBQ tacos goin’ on at Seoul On Wheels. Today there were three to choose from; but seriously,the pork was a no brainer — it’s Korean! And really darn good.

I learned the term ‘appropriate technology’ during my Peace Corps stint in Africa and this is a fun application of the concept by Soul Cocina: the human-powered blender. Dig it.

I was first introduced to the wonderful world of padron peppers by my bud Cory Obenaur at Blue Plate. They’re typically sweet and mild, though beware of the occasional kicker. The padrons from Localicious were skillet-seared with olive oil and sea salt. Delicioso!

What would a food festival be without a little activism and petitioning…

Pretty pictures grab my attention every time. These tasty little ginger ‘sconelette’ morsels by Kleine are available online. AND…

…not just through their own site but through a food website I just learned about today: Foodzie, where I’m sure you’ll see some of your current fav’s along with new temptations. It just never ends.

For all of the expectant and new moms out there, this one’s for you: Little Bug Baby. I can’t attest to the taste, but you know me, I’m a sucker for packaging.

Who knew the pickle folks at Happy Girl Kitchen made refreshingly not-too-sweet lemonade?

I grinned big at this vanity plate, growth demo [two to eight weeks, left to right] and handwritten sign nearby with the proper pronunciation: ‘on-DEEV’

I think the thing that struck me most today about the fest, was the genuine love of making and sharing food by the majority of vendors. A perfect example of this was the impromptu collaboration of Elgin Espiritu, sous-chef at Orson, his lovely and talented wife June Lee, Tim Luym, original owner/chef of Poleng Lounge and Chef Kris from Luce to create Buta (translation from Japanese: pig). In the photo above, June Lee and Elgin Espiritu are gettin’ ready to ramen.

I wish these kids would play together more often. Their ramen is phenomenal! The cold [left] with yuba, corn, hearts of palm, garden fresh tomatoes and stellar dumplings was a perfect summer medley. The hot [right] with two types of handmade fishcakes, pork belly & kimchee was all happyness for my tastebuds.

All that rich, satisfying flavor required a little sugar interlude and Sweetface Bakery came to the rescue. A couple bites of the not sweet, moist cocoa cupcake with the super-sweet carmel frosting blended nicely for a wee sugar fix and palate cleanser.

One of the day’s highlights for this corn lovin’ gal was the fresh corn empanada by El Porteño. I haven’t made it yet to Argentina, but if the light buttery crust is a traditional trait, I’m gonna have to travel there with stretch fabric, elastic waistband garments.

The last glorious stop of the day was Pizza Politana. If you haven’t yet had this perfectly salty, crispy crusted, wood oven baked pizza made with farm-fresh toppings, you need to make a haj to their mobile brick oven stat.


Samovar Tea: Luncheon Lounge

Pretty much since the first Samovar Tea Lounge opened in the Castro a few years back, I’ve been a devotee. I figured anyone as dedicated to introducing the art of tea from cultures around the globe as Jessie (the owner) is–in a cursed location in the midst of the dot-bomb era, no less–deserved my patronage. And he instantly earned my devotion.

On a recent afternoon, I snuck away from the piles of paperwork and untended emails that perpetually haunt me to luncheon at the new ‘Zen Valley’ location on the border of Hayes Valley. Like the other Samovar spots, this one has lots of gorgeous light and a chill vibe. The added dose of mellow from the Zen Center across the street makes it an even more tranquil locale and a new favorite hangout when I want to check out for a spell. Not only is the tea menu extensive and carefully selected, the tasty food pairs beautifully with the teas. I noshed on the curried egg sandwich accompanied by this bright, refreshing, berry/herbal Schizandra infusion iced tea. It’s described as a 2000 year old “adaptogenic tonic” that ‘gives you whatever you need: energy, relaxation, beauty, sexual prowess…’ I figured I couldn’t really lose.

SF Street Food Fest

If you’re in town Saturday, August 22, I’d recommend checking out the debut of SF Street Food Festival. Bring an empty stomach and walk or ride your bike to maximize calorie intake and minimize the aftermath.

(Sadly, I’ll miss this so please report back! And please don’t feel too sorry for me, I’ll be slummin’ it at Sea Ranch.)


I don’t have alot of occasion to head downtown, so it took me awhile to discover Farm:Table, a gem in the Tendernob. It’s a whisper of a place, like a best kept secret (which, I think it still is.)

All the food is of the moment and changes daily. There’s no strict rule for the menu offerings, but typically, there are savory & sweet breakfast creations borne in the teeny kitchen. A few weeks ago on my first visit, I opted for the sweet selection (I know….big surprise!) — toasted slices of walnut bread smeared with marscapone and topped with super juicy cherries. It was a bfast revelation for me.

The owners are not only super nice and friendly, they’re genuine in their love of what they do. The decor is simple and clean. From the name, I think I was expecting a big rustic farm table, but found a nice square communal table with benches and sweet, fresh flowers in the center.

Another day, there was a somewhat accidental tomato tasting menu (she got a little carried away at the farmer’s market): heirloom tom soup, cherry tom salad and a BLT w/ avocado &, yup, more toms. I loved it! That bright juice on the table was a really lovely watermelon/strawberry sip of refreshment on one of our rare warm, sunny days.

The coffee is definitely worth mentioning, cuz it’s from the fabulous Verve roasters in Santa Cruz. If you haven’t tasted their beans, you are in for a treat!

For those of you with canine companions, it’s a pooch friendly location (at least at the few tables outside) with treats all around.

I suggest hitting up this place before the masses discover it.

Are You a Food TV Junkie?

If you’re a Top Chef and/or Food Network junkie and missed this article in last Sunday’s NY Times Magazine, you might want to check it out.

This is not news to anyone who’s known me for more than five minutes, but I’m a huge Michael Pollan fan. I remember being at an event several years back when he wasn’t well known (yet) and in a room filled with glitterati, he was the one I was most eager to meet. I had to laugh yesterday when someone complained on set that this brilliant intellectual ‘Just can’t shut up!’ [If I told you who said it, you’d laugh hysterically at the irony…but then I’d have to kill you (please note: this just an expression of speech.)] I, for one, am happy MP keeps on writing, talking and getting people to listen. I say Bravo! — yes, as in Top Chef.

The Erwin Olaf photos that accompany the article are phenomenal (these are just a few of them). How fun would it have been to style that shoot?!?

There are a whole slew of priceless quotes in the article and Mario Battali’s made me laugh out loud: “Look, it’s TV! Everyone has to fall into a niche. I’m the Italian guy. Emeril’s the exuberant New Orleans guy with the big eyebrows who yells a lot. Bobby’s the grilling guy. Rachael Ray is the cheerleader-type girl who makes things at home the way a regular person would. Giada’s the beautiful girl with the nice rack who does simple Italian food. As silly as the whole Food Network is, it gives us all a soapbox to talk about the things we care about.”

…and then there are blogs for the rest of us!

Scrumptious Sculpture

Wow, I can’t believe a month has gone by since my last post (thanks to those who’ve been gently reminding me that I’m overdue). I’ve been busy working all over creation — and playing hard, too. I have so many discoveries to share and just not enough time to get it all out there. Get ready for an onslaught!

To start, I’ve made it to the new SF MOMA Rooftop Sculpture Garden a couple of times since it opened in May. If you haven’t discovered this little getaway, find it and then don’t promote it too much to folks you know or it will cease to be a best kept secret.

Blue Bottle Coffee won the bid for resident coffee bar in the space and they’re off to a good start with their usual good coffee and, refreshingly, attitude-free service. I’m told (and hopeful) some breakfast pastry selections are in the offing.

Everything’s served in or on the always gorgeous Heath Ceramics and the always fabulous Recchiuti chocolate is featured in the cocoa drinks and confections.

I have to admit I was skeptical about the Mondrian cake, thinking it might be a ‘beauty is skin deep’ kind of treat. But the cake was moist, not too sweet, with a nice crumb and ganache that was perfectly smooth and creamy.

And the ice cream sandwich ode to Katharina Fritsch’s poodles includes Humphry Slocombe ice cream, so you kinda can’t go wrong. Maybe we can lobby for a Secret Breakfast version for those 21+.

I didn’t get a photo of the new aprons the girls on staff wear, but they’re really groovy, Japanese-designed little numbers. You know, if you’re into aprons like I am, just thought I’d point it out…

Basically, the gist is this: this spot is great for enjoying some sculpture with your coffee/tea/treat. And if you’re a member of the museum, you can bypass everyone in the general line and beeline it up there right when the museum opens and have it, virtually, all to yourself.