Food, Glorious Food (Inc.)

This film is a beautiful thing! Not the reality of our industrialized food system, to be sure, but the efforts of Director Robert Kenner and Michael Pollan, our most eloquent advocate for establishing a safe and sustainable food system. I’ve been doing my best to help spread the word for many, many years and am just so happy and thankful there’s finally a mainstream film to broadcast the tale (and hopefully reassure my friends and family that I’m not a total nutcase).

Before going to see Food, Inc. last night, my friends and I had dinner at Cafe Gratitude. For any of you who know the place and its amazingly delicious (and healthful) food, you know the ‘question of the day’ can sometimes be, ‘What are you grateful for?’ Today, I am especially grateful to live in an area with so many wonderful farmer’s markets filled with plentiful, sustainably grown food. I’m also grateful that so many talented, creative people are making wonderful products using produce and meats grown and raised by these dedicated farmers. Living in San Francisco, it’s easy and convenient for me to make good food choices. It’s my hope that we can all work toward the day when we may all share these same choices.

Happy-ness in Healdsburg


Has anyone else noticed that Healdsburg just keeps getting better? I’ve become really quite smitten with this little town for it’s ever-improving eats and shops, and the very do-able-in-a-day distance from San Francisco. It’s just the right speed for a little downtime out of town.

14feet

My most recent Healdsburg obsession is 14feet. — a fantastic home design store where the super-nice owners, Mike and Marne, bring together vintage and contemporary so gorgeously, you don’t even notice the line. I found so many incredible grub-related gems parsed throughout their collection, it’s hard to know where to begin.


There’s everything from these über-groovy, hand-crocheted potholders in vibrant, though not-quite psychedelic, colors…


…to more subdued/zen/wonderfully soft, hand felted and stitched bowls…


…to luxurious, upholstery fabric market totes made lovingly by Marne’s mum…


…to my absolute favorite pieces in the store. I mean, seriously. Check out these plates. How much fun would it be to have a dinner party and serve your guests on these plates only for them to be greeted at the end of the meal with a personalized message!?! Tip: you might want to consider placecards.


Or if you’re having some friends ’round for tea, these could be fun.


And for your own amusement, there are the Seven Deadly Sins — one for each day of the week.

Barndiva


When it’s summertime and foggy in the city, I often think about venturing to Healdsburg to sit in the garden at Barndiva and enjoy a meal or even just a drink. It’s one of my favorite spots to dine and drink al fresco.


The food style here is fresh with bright flavors and provides the added bonus of being sustainably sourced. This past weekend, my tribe gathered for Father’s Day and shared a variety of delicious dishes for brunch. The fav’s of the group were the garlic roasted prawns alongside a fried green tomato topped with a Hollandaise smothered, poached egg.


And the other fav was the elegant beef hash atop roasted potatoes with a tangy watercress salad.


My family’s funny about dessert. No one will ever say they want dessert, but put it in front of them and they will clear every single sugar/butter/cream-laden crumb and drip from the plate.
This chocolate and berry mousse cake actually got me thinking this flavor combo can actually have merit from time to time, when done right. And while I’m pretty vehemently opposed to non-functional garnishes (don’t get me started on mint…), I did think the Bachelor’s Button flower lent a nice bit of color and cheer.


Next door to the restaurant is the Barndiva shop where you can pick up all kinds of things new and not so new, locally and not so locally made. I snapped up a jar of quince marmalade as a souvenir. This way, I’m sure to conjure the image of the lovely Barndiva garden while I munch my morning toast at the kitchen counter before dashing out the door to work.

Flying Goat Coffee

One more little addendum to the Healdsburg experience: if you’re wanting a good cuppa Joe before driving back home, Flying Goat Coffee (just across from 14feet.) serves up flavorful fair-trade, shade-grown, house-roasted brew. And for those of you who, like me, prefer their coffee frothy, the milk is local and organic. Consider yourself forewarned, you’ll also be confronted with a tempting variety of pastries and cookies baked in-house, daily.
Happy trails!

Burger Bliss


As soon as I found out Orson was serving lunch during the week, I hightailed it over. I already knew I’d enjoy sitting at the gorgeous marble bar where, even on a gloomy day, beautiful light pours in through the massive skylight. Plus, chef/owner Elizabeth Falkner always has something new up her sleeve that I’m happy to try. Little did I expect I’d find my new favorite burger! There are a few righteous burgers in town, but I kid you not, the Orson burger kicks ’em all to the curb. I eat maybe a burger a month but this one’s so incredibly delish, I went back just a couple days later for another –with a different friend.

Here’s the deal….the lightly grilled bun (baked in-house, of course) is pillowy soft, buttery and, miraculously, doesn’t get soggy. The burger comes with a trio of condiments, which are a Cobb relish (egg, bacon, bleu cheese), truffle mayo and house steak sauce with a chili/chipotle kick. Elizabeth recommends slathering it all on the burger along with the pickled carrots and onions. I wholeheartedly agree, though recommend saving a little of the truffle mayo for your duck fat fries. You know, just in case you’ve soaked up all the heavenly brown butter Bearnaise sauce that comes with those fries, you’ve got a little extra deliciousness to dip into.


And I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time leaving one of Elizabeth Falkner’s restaurants without having a little something sweet. So I capped off that rockin’ burger with a chocolate cupcake — rocky and road on the outside. How cute is that!

Then I rolled myself on out the door with a full belly and a big smile….and I just might roll myself back in again next Weds. night to watch Top Chef Masters on the huge digital screen over the bar. Did anyone else catch the episode last night? All I can say, is: totally unexpected outcome (and sign me up for one of those chocolate chip cookies, please).

Holy Crack!


I spied these little innocent-looking cookies, all sweetly packaged, and brought a batch home to try. After a morning filled with sorting receipts, invoicing, attending to the bazillion emails lurking in my inbox and tracking down produce that’s 4 months out of season (tasks that are among the joys of being a food stylist), I opened up the bag of Clarine’s Florentines. Whether that was after lunch or in place of it, I can’t recall. At any rate, this photo (above) was taken at approximately 1:37 pm.


Six florentines later and with a still seemingly insatiable craving for more, this photo was taken at approximately 4:08 pm to document my newest food addiction. Not that this has in any way *replaced* my addiction to Sweet Revolution caramels, mind you. I just now have to add even more mileage to my weekly runs. Thanks, Clarine! Love ya. Mean it.

Loading Dock Luncheon


The first day our lunch showed up at the studio in this packaging, I was hooked before I even took a bite. Packaging pushover, that’s me. AND it’s all compostable — extra points! So then I learn it’s Doug Monsalud (of the famed LRE Catering) and his crew that are behind the brainchild kitchenette. They’re rolling up the door at the loading dock and cranking out ‘spontaneous organic covert nourishment’ Monday through Friday from 11:30 to 1:30, or ‘whenever they run out’. This is definitely known to happen, so I recommend going on the early side.


The menu is simple and changes daily: a coupla sandwiches, salad(s), housemade chips and/or chicharrones, freshly baked cookies and some sort of seasonal drink like strawberry rhubarb refresher. You can check out the menu, posted daily, to get your salivary g’s in gear. kitchenette also serves up plenty of friendly neighborhood attitude and smiles which, I have to say, is counting for more and more in my book these days.


There’s nothing fancy about the digs; but if you’re staying, there’s bench space and lots of folk around you who also love good, simple, tasty fare, so you know you have at least that much in common.


This little sign is what to look for on Illinois St, just about in the middle of the block between 20th and 21st Streets, in Dogpatch.

To kitchenette, I think I can say on behalf of all of us who work in the vicinity of the American Can building, a big fat Thank You!!

Haute Coach


Innovations on the food scene spurred by the times are makin’ me smile from ear to ear. Laurent Katgely, chef/owner of Chez Spencer, now has the haute-est mobile menu around. He’s made a long-time desire come true with Spencer on the Go! In his converted taco truck, Laurent is bringing his Chez Spencer grub to the streets of SOMA.


When I visited Saturday night, the menu offered up everything from blue crab soup and lobster salad to frog leg curry and escargot lollipops. It was ALL scrumptious…

… including the tasty cookie nuggets from Sweet Construction sweetly displayed atop the lavender plants (a little bit of summer Provence ambience).

If you have the willpower to not dive into your food immediately, you can take your little box of delicacies across the road to Terroir Natural Wine Merchant and Bar where the boys will set you up with some nicely paired wine(s). Settle in and enjoy the good tunes, candle light and all-around great vibe. Terroir offers their wonderful collection of natural wines and is open every day of the week.

You can find Spencer on the Go! a few steps away on Thurs, Fri and Sat nights from 6 pm on. Chin chin et bon appetit!

PS – Soon you’ll also be able to find Laurent’s fine fare at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on Tues and Thurs. Plus, he’s offering to take his truck to the locale of your choice for any special catering occasion you desire.

Stayin’ Local for the Holiday Weekend

After the fog moved my outdoor garden brunch with friends indoors, I was happy to bookend my day with the splash of garden colors in the mural adorning a space that is so refreshingly different from the ubiquitous wood table, wood chair, concrete floor uniform of SF eateries of late. Midi is fresh on the scene (just over two months) and welcome breath of fresh air. The interior feels urban and un-San Francisco, which made it feel like I was dining in a different city. The room is intimate, comfortable and sophisticated — like the Galleria Park Hotel decor that surrounds it, but different.

The oval plates (including the wee bread plate) are a refreshing change, and the crisp lines of the stemware and comfortable, contemporary cutlery are just right. I love the individual wine carafe — lets me linger over my one glass.

The bright, clean flavors are just my taste. I had the jumbo asparagus salad with paper-thin breakfast radishes and a perfectly delicate sauce gribiche. It was absolutely delicious — and asparagus is not an easy sell for me. It’s been at least a couple of years now, but after sorting, peeling, blanching and roasting 45 lb of asparagus for a tv spot, I never thought I’d want to eat it again.


To Chef Michelle Mah, I say a big huge, ‘Thank you!’ for combining a tangy watercress, raddish and picked onion salad with bleu cheese butter topped grilled hangar steak. Fantastic! And if you’re a die-hard who has to have frites with your steak, you can order ’em on the side.

Oh yeah! Don’t miss the caramel slurried, silky-smooth, chocolate pot de crème garnished with a quenelle of whipped crème fraîche. I happen to know one of the servers who confided she loves watching people go into a savor zone and shut out their dining companions. Chocolate isn’t what I typically order for dessert but my dining companion does. I must say, it was a memorable treat and worth a special trip.

Martini Anyone?

The next day I headed north to escape the frigid wind and fog, and found a bit of sunny poolside heaven up in Calistoga. At the end of the day, I sunk into a chair on the garden-surrounded patio of Martini House in St. Helena to enjoy the last vestiges of the day’s sunshine and warmth. I decided on the mushroom and spring vegetable tasting menu, which proved to be a terrific choice.

We started off with a ramp and green garlic vichyssoise, with sauteed morels, marinated potatoes and pickled ramps. The colors were beautiful and the little fried bits of green garlic add just the right crunchy texture.

Then came the saffron gnocchi with violet artichokes and olive oil braised King Trumpets in a mushroom glaze and crispy persillade.

The portobello ‘steak and frite’ with pan roasted fiddle head ferns and red wine butter sauce was a clever, fun and tasty play on the classic.


Even the dessert course was made using dried Candy Cap mushrooms which were steeped in cream to impart their maple syrup aroma. Two nights in a row, I found myself thoroughly enjoying desserts that wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice (note to self). This particular bread pudding was light enough to finish the meal. I do love maple and who can argue with currants and a maple sugar anglaise.

I have to admit that though I was really looking forward to dinner at Martini House, I was somewhat skeptical, fearing it’d gone the way of so many wine country restaurants whose menus have become stale and uninspired. I was happy to experience Chef Todd Humphries still keeping it fresh, delicious and lovely. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Los Mercados de Los Angeles


In the past several months, I’ve been the lucky recipient of two beautiful gifts from Mercado in Silverlake. It’s a different and unique kind of marketplace — one I was smitten with before I even stepped foot inside the door. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I’m a sucker for packaging and the logo and these gorgeous boxes alone had me hooked.

Visiting in person only served to deepen my fondness for this haven of unique and beautiful wares that have been carefully selected by the owners, Chelsea Iovino and Michelle Weaver. These gals have found gorgeous, high-calibre wares and handcrafted pieces from near and far. Their perfect little Mercado is a beautifully curated collection of offerings from greeting cards and housewares to clothing and jewelry.


Of course, with my ever-keen eye for sweets, I spied the goods from Sugarbird Sweets. I’m a big passionfruit fiend and her marshmallows are tangy little pillows of fresh passionfruit.

I bought a couple of small gifts for friends (and something for myself, too!) I’m still contemplating a knockout necklace, the likes of which I’ve not seen before. I can only hope that if I do decide to purchase it, someone else hasn’t already snatched it up – like a certain celeb who was shopping at the store when I was there.

Hollywood Farmer’s Market

Going to the Hollywood Farmer’s Market is something of a tradition whenever I’m in LA on a Sunday. It’s always fun for me to break out of my regular farmer’s market routine to see and experience new and different offerings and vendors. I tend to be a curious person, so I enjoy getting to pester other vendors for a change.


Maybe I’ve skimmed right past these before, but limequats were new to me. I’m familiar with loquats and kumquats, but not limequats. I’m not sure why I didn’t buy any (I must’ve gotten distracted) but am now wishing I had. Next time…


I thought it was interesting berries were being sold in trio’s—by most vendors. Is this a regional thing? Anyhow, I kept getting a twinge of July 4th every time I passed one of the displays.


One of the changes I noticed on this visit was the expanded prepared food section. It’s grown even since my last visit just a few months ago. You can literally get almost any type of food you’re craving: from mac & cheese with a side of cornbread, roasted chicken and bar-b-que to curries, tamales and crepes. You name it. I was so psyched to discover the Thai sticky rice & banana, steamed in a banana leaf…for a buck! I felt like I was back in SE Asia (okay, there it’d be about 10 cents, but you get what I’m saying). That’s one thing LA and SF share in common, a rich ethnic diversity. And for me that’s a precious gift that never ceases to make me smile.


The little info card on Sugarbird Sweets I’d picked up at Mercado noted her goods were also available at Carmela Ice Cream at the Sunday market, so I had to check it out (more sugar!) I discovered Carmela has a tasty product, cute logo, eco-friendly packaging and a good story to back it all up. Turns out one of the owners is from the Bay Area, too.


In addition to using mostly local, organic and seasonal ingredients, Carmela offers a bargain on vanilla beans: $6 for two fresh Madagascar beans. The owners get a big break buying in bulk and generously decided to pass the savings along to their customers at the market. Carmela also sells vanilla sugar and cocoa nibs in smart, gift-ready little glass tube packaging.