Friends. It's been awhile. But baby Frances is here so there hasn't been much free time to sit down and write. She's here, she's here! After what felt like a verrrry long pregnancy, Frances arrived one day before her due date at a little before 9 am on a cold but unusually sunny late January morning. Those of you who have been readers for awhile may remember that our son Oliver was born completely bald and remained that way for almost two years (!) but sweet Frances has a full head of hair, a hefty appetite, and loves to rock n' roll from around 8 pm until at least midnight.
Friends, it has been a long time. But I'm back to report that on a sunny mid-September day just over a month ago, Sam and I made it official. We got married on a farm on Whidbey Island, just off the coast of Seattle with friends and family beside us from near and far. There are so many details I want to share with you, but the one thing I'm most proud of when I think back to that Saturday is that we both managed to stay present and really experience the day together. It was my one request of Sam, of each other: that we not let any concerns about family, friends, seating charts or how the dessert table would look come into our minds that afternoon. I wanted to trust that with all of the planning behind us, the rest would come together behind the scenes somehow. And magically it did (I will never forget watching out the upstairs window of the house as I was getting my hair done while our friend Molly was running up and down the farm road setting up signs and balloons with our friend and officiant, Ben. I believe Sam and Brandon were down the road a bit, too, doing the same. I was stuck inside at that point, smiling and thinking: Yes! Gooooo, Team) I'd heard that the day itself goes by in a blur, and you're lucky if you have a chance to truly talk with even a handful of your guests. I'd also been advised to elect someone to make sure that we had dinner and a drink because it'd be impossible to facilitate that (we had a family style dinner so that wasn't a problem BUT we joke in looking back that we were more sober that night than on an average weekend and that we hardly remember about 50% of the food). But in the midst of all that blur -- the hugs and tears and toasts -- there was so much true, true clarity that I'll be ever thankful for.
There are many reasons to make cake for breakfast. Especially if that cake is made from 100% whole-grains and uses ripe bananas, fragrant coconut and toasty walnuts with just a touch of natural sugar. The main reason, today, is that it's time for a new album. Have a seat. Let me explain. We had a small dinner party in our backyard last week to celebrate a friend's new business idea. She needed some photos for her website, so she offered to cook a summery spread if we'd host it and I'd snap a few shots. It was one of those 'let's plan it 6 weeks ahead to jive our Google calendar' affairs, but at the end of the night -- after too much wine and a rollicking game of Farkle -- we were so happy to have had the company, the music, the Indian-spiced roast chicken and rosé. But most of all, the company, in what has felt like a summer that's had too much work and not enough company.
Early last week brought longer days than usual, a bit of a commute downtown, parking garages, to-go coffees and take-out lunches. It brought a complete lack of yoga, a few more glasses of wine in the evenings, and immense difficulty sleeping. All of this thanks to the photo shoot for my cookbook, Whole-Grain Mornings. I entered into the week nervous and apprehensive: what if for some reason the recipes don't look photo-worthy? What if the many personalities on set (photographer, food stylist, Ten Speed art director, myself) don't all mesh? What will be on the cover? What if, what if, what if. It turned out all those worries were for naught and I really could've slept a bit more, and perhaps had one fewer glass of wine.
This picture was taken in a moment of minor delirium--setting out what would be only 1/4 of Tuesday's necessary shipping and getting a moment of sunny fresh air. I believe this was day 4 of granola baking, little sleep, and major shipping logistics the likes of which I've never had to orchestrate. There was a lot of USPS googling, some Pay Pal live-chatting, a bit of pacing around our living room, and a few 'get yourself together' pep talks from Sam. I wanted to write a special breakfast post for you this week but it's just not going to happen. So I thought I'd write a simple post talking about what we've been cooking or doing around Seattle but I can't even do that because it would look like a whole lot of coffee, take-out and work. I've been joking that the house motto this week is "All Granola. All the Time." In my most exhausted state, I've considered answering the phone that way. Let's just say, it turns out that people still read The Wall Street Journal.
Let's not beat around the bush. There won't be a recipe today. That just hasn't happened in a bit, and we'll have a heart to heart about that soon. I promise. There are a few things we'll chat about, actually. But for now, I missed you all and this space and checking in. So let's just start there. Let's start with saying yes. Saying yes to spring (sun: finally!), new coffee tables you stumble upon and decide you must own, walking instead of driving, cherry blossoms, warm honey oatmeal muffins, and little leaps of faith. Or big ones.
Do you ever have those spells where you just feel really alive? Where you're ravishing good music and everything tastes better and you're curious and engaged and people who cut you off in traffic just don't seem to matter all that much? When you battle wanderlust as you sit paying mundane bills or replying to even more mundane emails? Glimpses of hiking around Big Sur, wandering aimlessly around Nashville, or paddling through Vietnam pop up when you least expect them to? Travel and travel companions and the grand itch of spring when change and possibility seem to linger in the air: that's where we find ourselves today.
It's been a busy two weeks. I moved! Not far--right across the bridge into a sweet little 1920's building in Oakland that's close to bookstores, coffee shops, cafes, and running trails. I'm vowing not to move ever again for a very long time (please, please hold me accountable for this if you start to hear any restless musings in the coming months). So far, I'm settling in just fine. I'm happy to be close to friends who are doing amazing things. Like opening a restaurant.
I do believe this may be the first ever A Sweet Spoonful Gift Guide. And I'm excited to share with you a few things that are making me happy right here right now, and that may make a few of your loved ones smile as well. Gift guides are kind of a funny thing, aren't they? They're from a very particular point of view and perspective, so you'll notice that mine are heavy on the treats and books. Shocking, I realize. Before we get started, have you ever stopped to think about what makes a really good gift? Something relatively unique that you don't necessarily find in every big-box store. Something that will make people smile--that will indulge the senses or the imagination or the mind. I think you'll find one or all of those things here. Happy gifting!
I've been a big tease lately. I mention secrets and new endeavors without as much as a hint. Truthfully, I wasn't doing this to build suspense or for any other weird reason. I just have this theory that it's bad luck to say you're starting something unless you're pretty darn sure you're starting something. So today... I'm pretty darn sure that Marge is actually happening. Health permits are filed. Logos and menus are finished and Sam is working his magic on a lovely, more detailed website.
I got home from Seattle today with a mailbox full of fall catalogs. Yikes. Then I was talking to a friend and she mentioned how wild it is that tomorrow's September. I can name something equally wild: the fact that I haven't updated this blog in two weeks. The truth is that I've been a very busy gal; I'm working on a project that I'm not quite ready to mention because I don't want to jinx it. But hopefully soon I'll be able to spill the beans and we can have a little chat. In the meantime, let's talk about this past weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? I hope it involves a little lounging. Perhaps some ice cream. Below is a photo I took two weeks ago while up at Tahoe with my Dad. We went to Log Cabin Ice Cream -- where I spent many a summer night as a kid. It's still around and they still have the same exact sundae menu. It makes me smile. And maybe...if you find yourself with a little downtime, you'll want to check out a few of these sites. You know, we often talk about how much trash is on the internet (and don't get me wrong, there is), but there are also mini pockets of genius. Everywhere. Here are a few new-to-me sites and projects that I think you'll get a kick out of. Happy weekend.
Every now and then I like to share with you a few things that are inspiring me. I hope you had an amazing weekend. I worked a lot, wrote a lot, drank a lot of coffee, and packed a lot (more on this soon).
Whether you celebrate Easter or not, we’ve got a day on our hands that signifies fresh starts, Spring, a little color, a little more chocolate. So I don’t have a recipe for you today (although I have a great one coming up in just a few…
Well, I missed the boat on all of the "Best of" or "Looking Back on 2009" posts. A Sweet Spoonful's not yet a year old so maybe I get a pass this year...regardless, as I sit here this very second, drinking mint tarragon tea with freezing cold feet and a darn fine looking dog draped over my knees, there are a few things to be said. First, it's finally happening. What I vowed would happen a year and a half ago is going down on Saturday: Linnea and I are moving to San Francisco. Yippee. For those of you who are confused, thinking I already live in the city, remember this post? That should explain it. It was a bit of a search and we saw some pretty heinous apartments. If you follow the blog, you've already heard of the odd landlords and heating situations. Perhaps I forgot to mention the fabulous apartments we found in our price range BUT if you read the fine print, the rent quadruples after the second month. Nice. But, we finally found a very small (eek) little place that is in a "great up-and coming area" (as everyone I talk to about it tells me). I actually almost fill in people's responses now before they say it because I know what's coming. But it's renovated, has hardwood floors and lovely period details, a nice view of the city from the kitchen, and is walkable to many cool neighborhoods (lower Haight, Alamo Square Park, lower Pac. Heights). So I think we'll settle in there just fine. I'll show you a picture soon. There are so many things to look forward to about living in the city. I get to see my gal Chelsea more often, and there's a gagjillion coffee shops with free wifi. I'll run in Golden Gate Park all the time and eat dumplings for breakfast. Oh, and the Farmer's Market and my favorite ice cream shop. So for today, there won't be a recipe because my life's pretty well boxed up. But, in addition to looking forward with excitement, I wanted to take a moment to think about what I'll miss about living at my mom's, in the suburbs, where I may be one of the youngest inhabitants and where--apparently--no one ever eats after 9 p.m.
Well, food blogging has brought about many firsts. I look at food differently, often thinking about how to plate it and how to capture the light just perfectly in a photo. I read recipes differently, always pausing to think about adapting them to my own interests and taste. And last but not least, I look at dishes and linens much, much differently. Even if I'm eating alone and in a rush, I still always set a place for myself. There's something depressing about standing in front of the TV or perching on the edge of a chair at the counter. I always put out a nice place mat and silverware, and there are usually flowers on the table. The aesthetics of a room, table, and a place setting is important if you think about eating as a sensory experience and not just a habit or necessity. Now I'm not talking fine china and stemware with each meal. I'm just saying the presentation of food matters. So I've been very aware of dishes, napkins, linens, and antique silverware lately. And during the past week, Heath Ceramics has come into my radar. I was having coffee and a macaron at Cibo in Sausalito and noticed their beautiful dishware. After a little investigation, I realized it was Heath, and I'd just read how Chez Panisse uses Heath Ceramics for their dishes and serving ware. I promptly hopped online and discovered they've been around since 1948 and, low and behold, the U.S. factory is in my backyard. I knew what I had to do: the next morning I woke up and headed over to investigate. And that's when I found the plate.
I was pleasantly surprised last week when I came home to find a review copy of Vegan Yum Yum: Decadent (But Doable) Animal-Free Recipes For Entertaining and Everyday on my doorstep. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Lauren Ulm's (or "Lolo's") blog, you're missing out. As most of you know, I'm no longer a vegetarian and I'm far from vegan--but I've book-marked numerous recipes that I can't wait to try. The book is written clearly and intuitively with stunning photography. Lolo took all of the photos from the book herself: have you seen her post on digital food photography? If you're at all curious about food staging, lighting, lenses and the like, it's been an invaluable resource for me. In her book (and on her blog) Vegan Yum Yum, you truly feel like Lolo is sitting at the counter with you, peeling carrots, and hollering out directions. The recipes are all very accessible and casually written. From baking donuts to lightly frying samosas or caramelizing leeks, her encouraging 'give it a whirl' voice guides you through each recipe. So yesterday as I was tying up some odds and ends at my desk (bills, bills, and more bills), I started flipping through her lovely book to see if there was something relatively quick to whip up for lunch. I stumbled across the recipe for Pepita Fettuccine with Spinach and Cranberries. The dish is simple with vibrant colors and interesting textures. Even better? Lolo wrote the recipe for one person and I had all of the ingredients. Sold.
Many of you know that I'm training for the Nike Women's Marathon this Sunday. And most of you know that currently, what I do for "work" is write about food. Now thankfully, those two things have been a really nice pair. It's been working out just fine. Eat, run, eat some more, write a little. But I've been advised that after Sunday, I may have to cut back on my generally ravenous appetite. I'll worry about that later...for now, here's a visual chronicle of a food writer's week. And not just any food writer, but one with a penchant for sweets, and cookies in particular. There's a great new lunch pop-up in the Tenderloin called American Box. Remember the lunch boxes you had as a kid? Well they're doing them for adults. This is a warm oatmeal raisin cookie fresh out of the bag. I will add that right before I got to take a bite of this cookie, I was pulled over for having an expired registration. My grown-up lunch box cost me about $117. How is it that I've never, ever been to Mitchell's? I had a fantastic meal at The Front Porch with Craig and Linnea last week for a piece I'm doing on Soul Food in the city. We were cruising around the neighborhood, walking off our fried chicken and macaroni and cheese, when we stumbled upon Mitchell's. I'm much more of a chocolate ice cream kind of girl, but their fruit flavors are pretty incredible. The young coconut and cantaloupe were flying out the door.
While recently strolling down Fillmore St., I noticed a new yogurt shop. Now, like most places on earth, San Francisco's had a major influx (read: glut) of new-wave frozen yogurt over the past two years. I'll be the first to admit, I've spent many a dollar on the clean, subtle flavor of the tart yogurt--so proudly boasting healthy probiotics without added flavors, colors, and heavy sweeteners. But I'll also be the first to admit that I'm over it. It's still delicious, but it's not nearly as much of a treat when there's one on every corner. However, enter Fraiche. First, from a design perspective, the shop is lovely. The walls are rather bare, and the colors are muted. If you're at all familiar with the popular chain frozen yogurt shops, you'll remember neon colors and Japanese new-wave pop seem to be the norm. Not here. You actually want to hang out--for long periods of time. Although it's crowded, the space itself is light, airy, and serene. Now onto the yogurt. I opted for the organic original with a pureed apricot sauce. Linnea had the plain yogurt (unfrozen, housemade) with cinnamony peaches and raspberry sauce. You'll notice I didn't mention Fruity Pebbles or Oreo toppings: from bright pureed fruits and local honeys to shaved Callebaut chocolate to-order, the toppings are as conscious and thoughtfully constructed as the yogurt (owner Patama Gur spent a long time perfecting her special blend of probiotic cultures).
I thought that painting would be a good task today to keep my mind occupied--it turns out painting's quite the opposite. It is methodical in a lovely way, but it's also a large chunk of uninterrupted, alone time. Not really what I was looking for. But it was sunny and beautiful outside, the dogs were napping away, Gillian Welch was playing on my ipod speakers, I made a really foamy latte, and started priming...and that's how today played out. It was a nice break from sad phone calls, and talks and planning regarding Jean's service. I'm so looking forward to being surrounded by Jean's friends and family and all sitting around and finding comfort in one another. I'm looking forward to meeting her dear girlfriend Lauren, and giving her mom Ann a really, really long hug. I'm also terrified for the service to be over. Because-then what? Last night, I was digging through some old notes and things that Jean gave me over the past 15 years--and I came across Mary Oliver's book of poetry, New and Selected Poems (vol.1). In it, there's a poem called "The Summer Day."
As a relatively new blog, I struggle sometimes with its identity: only recipes? Restaurants, too? Will I bore people with cookbook reviews? And I really struggle with how to incorporate personal writing. I gravitate towards personal writing naturally, but sometimes as a food blog, it seems out of…
I’ve been feeling a little guilty when I think that almost a week will have gone by before I post again…no interesting recipes, certainly no macarons. I’m catching a flight tomorrow to Seattle (kind of a spontaneous decision) to attend the FoodSnap photography seminar. I’m…
My Labor Day weekend had very little to do with labor, and everything to do with long days of wandering, writing, and eating. Three lethargic days showing inquisitive and delightful Anthony around the city, and time elevating my knee, cursing my clumsiness, and trying not to cry whenever the thought of not being able to run the marathon crept into my mind. On Saturday morning, I tripped and fell while running, landed directly on my knee, and it hasn't been reacting well. It doesn't really bend. I can't stand for a long period of time, so going to the grocery store or cooking hasn't sounded like much fun. A good excuse to eat out. A lot. So on Saturday morning (post-pavement encounter), Linnea, Anthony and I all piled into the car and headed over to the Dogpatch, fast becoming my new favorite neighborhood in SF. It was once the industrial center of town (if you could call it a "center" of anything), and much industry still remains. It's gritty, it's often sunny when the rest of the city isn't, there are big deserted lots, sweet hidden galleries, independent jewelers and furniture designers, and lunch windows serving out of loading docks. It's got spunk. And it's got Serpentine, a corner restaurant on 3rd, touting "honest food and classic cocktails." And a damn fine brunch.
On my ferry ride into the city Friday night, one of the drivers came on the loudspeaker announcing, "No we do not have air conditioning. No, the city isn't any cooler. Have a lovely evening." Yikes. Well, to his credit, we were all a bit grouchy. This past weekend, a heatwave descended on the Bay Area. The ferry was stifling hot and the air was stagnant. Not exactly the perfect night to stand around a simmering pot of strawberries for two hours making jam. But we don't always have a choice in these matters. So in a tank-top, flip-flops, my hair pulled back, and extra-large water bottle in tow, I walked into Urban Kitchen SF excited to begin. There's a part of me that's always felt like maybe I was born in the wrong era. I loved Little House on the Prairie (I still have the boxed set up in my closet somewhere), and always fantasized about what it'd be like to live off the land. I despise wasting food, and will eat the same meal for days to avoid doing so. So I'm actually surprised I haven't gotten into canning sooner. I'm not sure what inspired me to take this course initially, but after meeting Jordan Champagne from Happy Girl Kitchen Co., I know it will not be a waning interest.
The Ferry Building is one of those unique places in San Francisco that locals and tourists happily share. Residents run in for a loaf of bread at Acme or some oysters from Hog Island while tourists scoop up Scharffen Berger bars and snap photos of heaping market stands. Set back towards the side where the ferry actually lets off is the small Mexican eatery, Mijita, run by chef Traci des Jardins (of Hayes Valley's Jardiniere fame). On a Thursday or a Saturday when the farmer's market is up-and-going, it's tough to get a spot at one of the coveted oil-cloth tables. However, on an off-day this week, there were plenty of free seats right by the window: perfect for a little late afternoon grazing and people watching. A nice pairing. When you walk in, notice the specials of the day are printed in the chalkboard portion below the posted menu. Ask for a printed menu: it goes into much greater detail than the listed title of the dish alone. Behind the counter, if you peep (which I did), there are orange and yellow Le Creuset pots bubbling away on the stove and colorful dishes stacked neatly, waiting for the early dinner crowd. Looking into the kitchen, it seems more like a Mexican grandmother's domain than it does a commercial production--certainly part of its charm.
When I worked at Two Hands Paperie in Boulder, CO–a lovely little paper store on West Pearl St.–the owner, Diana Phillips, used to have a bowl of matchbooks on her desk. When I’d sit talking to her about the shop or how business was going, I’d…
We all have memories of foods that remind us of Summer. For me, it's Log Cabin ice cream. My family has been coming to the same little funky cabin in Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe for almost thirty years--beginning soon after I was born. When we lived in Eureka, the drive was much longer than it is now (a quick jaunt from the Bay Area); we'd load up the car with blow up rafts, word puzzles, and juice boxes and head on out. Although we'd only go up in the Summer and the Winter, I can't think of a place that has been more of a constant in my life. This from the girl who moved into three different apartments during the three years I lived in Boston. I feel like I always have a box packed. Things have changed, for sure. When my parents got divorced, my dad got the house. So a place that was so much about my mom isn't any longer. We don't hear the late night sound of her sneaking out to the casino ; we don't look out onto the pier to see her perched on the edge with a floppy hat and a fashion magazine. The lake levels fluctuate, neighbors come and go, restaurants change ownership...but Log Cabin's always there. In a world where things change by the microsecond, I love that I can come back to Tahoe, walk through the dilapidated motel with bats, drug deals, and screechy electrical wires, over to The Log Cabin to see the same menu that I did when I was four, fourteen, twenty-four. I realize you don't get a good sense of each sundae with this photo, but as a kid this is pretty much how it looked. A big board with lots of words, colorful swirly's and zig-zags, and endless opportunity.
The Sebastopol Gravenstein Fair was this past weekend. I had a few food adventures planned in the city, but Craig, Linnea, and I decided a little jaunt up North might be fun. It's been strangely cool in the mornings and evenings here; the light is even starting to change. I've been in denial that Fall is looming. The Gravenstein Fair, I figured, would be a nice way to come to terms with this fact. When I was going to graduate school in Boston, I couldn't wait for Fall. The leaves turned overnight (I kid you not), the air was crisp without being frigid, and there seemed to always be a good reason to make soup. One of my favorite things to do was go apple picking out on an old family farm in New Hampshire. They gave you special apple picking bags with super sturdy handles, and you could buy provisions at the little country store to have a picnic out in the orchards: honeys, apple butter, farm-fresh eggs, apple chutneys, and homemade apple breads. I miss that. But I was thinking the Gravenstein Fair might be similar: paper cups full of cider, bales of hay, maybe pick some apples. Instead, I found something very different. I realized quickly that, amidst the Thai BBQ and corndogs, there wasn't going to be any apple picking. I really had to hunt for cider. And people were walking around with carnival toys and huge, furry hats. But the more I excused the fact that I'd had the wrong idea of what the festival would hold, it was actually a nice afternoon. We saw a restored tractor exhibit, ate doughy apple fritters, and tried Grandma's Fried Apple Rings (apple rings, lightly battered and fried, and dusted with powdered sugar by none other than Grandma herself):
[do not print] Everyone is off and running today. Except for me. Things are pretty mellow here. Not many emails or leads on freelance work--the kind of day where you hear the mailman drive up and head out immediately to see if there's anything of serious import (there wasn't). Linnea's at work, Zoe and A.J. went to the Academy of Sciences; I have some work to catch up on but instead, decided to make a nice lunch and sit outside reading Molly Wizenberg's stunningly beautiful food memoir, A Homemade Life. We have a bunch of tomatoes out in the garden just starting to ripen: Brandywines, Romas, little cherry tomatoes...many of them aren't quite ready, but every now and then, there are a few stray rogues. I've been thinking about my favorite tomato recipes to contribute to food52's site (they're featuring tomato recipe's this week), but decided to keep it simple today with a toasted avocado, sharp cheddar, tomato, and grainy mustard open-face sandwich along with a simple, summer beet salad (I had a few roasted beets leftover from the other night). Now after a little coffee, I'm ready to jump back in --quietly-- and make something happen this afternoon. Hope you are, too.
I've had some unexpected new beginnings during the past month. First and foremost, I roasted beets a few nights ago. I have to admit that I always buy them pre-done at Trader Joe's although everyone in my family tells me how easy it is to make a little foil pouch with some oil and roast away. They were right. They turned out beautifully and I'll never buy them pre-done again. To bigger and better things (I just had to mention the beets): I've started applying to jobs that are not at all related to my field. And I'm strangely calm about the whole thing. Since it's a pretty crummy time to be a teacher in CA right now, I've thrown myself into the world of food writing, started a column doing restaurant reviews for a local website, and have sent out a million and one queries to local and national magazines. It's funny working so hard towards something, knowing that nothing may come of it. I may never hear anything from the million and one magazines. Who knows...but I decided that, logistically, if I keep working this hard towards this new goal, something must come of it sometime. So I plug away each morning. Making coffee, feeding the dogs, trying to stay away from Facebook and Twitter, putting my ideas down on paper, and crossing my fingers.