When I lived in California, I'd often meet up with my friend Susan and hike the hills of Marin. Situated just North of San Francisco, Marin has some of the most beautiful trails -- in the spring, there'd be boisterous waterfalls and in the fall there were dry and humble hills. I owned a tattered hiking book that covered the region and over the phone the night before we'd meet, Susan and I would eagerly decide on a trail to tackle. The funny thing about the book? It wasn't at all accurate. It wasn't fact-checked. We got lost each and every time we used it. And for some reason, we kept coming back for more. I'm not really sure why, especially considering I'm not someone who favors getting lost off the beaten path just for the heck of it. Repeatedly. But I do know that, because of the poor directions, an adventure always seemed to sneak into our afternoon hikes. The book got us to the trailhead and then about halfway through, we realized we were very much on our own.
Remember when you started middle school and didn't really know what to expect or what kind of shoes the other kids would wear or how the heck to open a damn locker? But within a matter of days you kind of slyly studied the older kids out of the corner of your eye and put together the pieces pretty quickly? Well the thing about a long-distance relationship is there aren't really any older kids to study closely and teach you exactly how it all goes down. I guess I should back up and say that I have a few wonderful friends (and so many of you who commented on the last post!), that have offered great advice and shining examples, but ultimately I think on this one -- there's much you must discover on your own. You have to account for two sets of schedules, different needs, and worries and joys. But you navigate, as you must. As you do.
So here's what a day off looks like--a day off nearing the second half of June where I try to squeeze in way too many things because I know I won't have another leisurely day in awhile. Is that what you do on your days off? Oy. There was a double espresso with almond milk, my favorite yoga class, and plenty of ball with Noel: There were also drop biscuits to make. Whole wheat drop biscuits from Good to the Grain to be more specific. There were also strawberries to wash and slice. My sister's boyfriend flew in tonight from Philly and I wanted to make dessert but didn't have much time. Solution: drop biscuits with strawberries and cream.
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.
Over the past few days, I've seen seven apartments. And we're still looking. Some were unbelievably small, one only had heat "available" in one room (hmmm), and one of the landlords seemed legitimately insane. I actually dragged my mom around the city with me yesterday looking at places; she was a trooper. We did have many stops for fuel which helped ease the bustle/weirdness/stress/anxiety: Miette on Hayes St. for a gingerbread cupcake, La Boulange for a mini latte, and Paulette for an almond macaron to take home for later. I was thinking a cocktail was in order, but it was really only late afternoon. So I waited until we got home. Then it was time to put on a pot for mulled wine. I often have a glass of wine with dinner, but with the evenings becoming cold and even icy, why not have warm mulled wine instead? If you've never tried it, it has notes of citrus and warm spice and is perfect to ease the pain of dingy, disappointing apartments...or whatever it is that's ailing you at the moment. I got this recipe from Romney Steele's My Nepethe Cookbook. I have so many recipes bookmarked to try from the book that it almost seems silly that this simple drink recipe was the first up. If you missed it, Heidi over at 101 Cookbooks recently made Romney's Orange and Oat Scones and they looked awesome. Other stand out recipes I'm looking forward to trying are the Persimmon Pudding Cake, the Nepethe Cheese Pie, and Javier's Chile Rellenos. If you haven't seen Romney's book, it is a collection of recipes culled from her family's Big Sur Restaurant, Nepethe. While narrative cookbooks based around family lore are certainly nothing new, Romney's book is a bit different in that it speaks so much to how a singular place can color an upbringing, a family, a restaurant, and a community. Sara Remington's photography is absolutely stunning in that earthy, muted, moody style that displays and celebrates the landscapes and colors of Big Sur.
Two east coast visitors in two days makes Megan a happy girl. Jeb, my charming and hilarious friend from Boston College, stopped in for a night on Sunday and fabulous Anthony has graced San Fransciso with his presence for the next few days. On Sunday we took Jeb up to Sonoma, ate at The Girl & the Fig, drove to Yountville and had macarons and espresso out on the patio of Bouchon Bakery, and chatted away until it was dark and my flip-flopped feet were freezing. Then tonight, Linnea and I were supposed to meet up with Anthony and Liz to have some drinks in the city. Blame it on daylight savings time (because I am) or my minor social anxiety (likely) or just pure laziness (very likely)--but I'm sitting here in front of my computer screen instead of on a bar stool. I actually took a shower, got dressed, put on a little blush (generally the extent of my make-up) and was ready to roll. I was in the passenger side of Linnea's car, deciding which playlist to listen to. For a few blocks, there were lots of internal pep-talks about how much fun this would be and how productive Tuesdays were over-rated anyhow. Nope, turn the car around. I just couldn't imagine staying out late, having to get up early, and navigating around noisy bars. Instead, I turned to brussels sprouts, chorizo, and onion and tried a recipe I'm thinking of making for Thanksgiving. While I'm dying to see Anthony and hear about what's going on in his world, I was thrilled with a hot plate of these little guys with dinner. I know that brussels sprouts aren't everyone's favorite, but these are quite tender and absorb the flavor of the chorizo and onion beautifully. I'd go out on a limb and say that even non sprout-loving folks may appreciate them.
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 love making lists. It's a sure bet that at any given moment there will be to-do lists in my jean pockets, grocery lists scrawled on napkins by the sink, or post-its with songs I want to download or books I want to check out splayed across my desk. But this one was hard. In fact, I lost sleep over it, arguing with myself about how I could include Saigon Sandwiches but not, say, Nettie's Crab Shack (which is a wonderful lunch spot in the Marina, by the way). But ultimately, I reasoned, this is my list. It's not Zagat's list, it's not my old coworker's list. It's born from my experiences and love affair with a select few places I either discovered or heard about. I got nervous positing this for many reasons: what if it changes? What if, in three months, I disagree with my rankings (yes, I'm a first child and a Capricorn--type-A and anxious)? But ultimately I decided to post such a list because people are always asking me where to go in the city, and I have a few new food blogger friends attending the upcoming BlogHer conference and thought they might appreciate some suggestions. So take them for what they are. It's not the list I'd give to the Prime Minister, but it's a 'down and dirty,' my kind of places list. If you hit them up, let me know what you think.
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.
In the Bay Area, we often have an Indian summer. It descends each year around this time. And each year, I always wonder why it's heating up as we ease into September. Just when all the fall clothes pop up in store windows, when the morning light begins to change, and when you feel like you should be making soup--it's damn hot. And with the heat comes my kitchen lethargy. Rather than cooking, I find myself putting things together instead: salads with tomatoes and squash from the garden, sandwiches with cold cuts and lots of mayo and crisp lettuce, simple pastas with olives and shaved Parmesan, my infamous rustic Mexican pizzas (if you're lucky, more on that later). So in the summer, I like to make this pesto and keep it in the fridge to have readily available when cooking sounds as enticing as changing a flat tire. Now before we get to the recipe, you may be asking yourself, 'wait a second. I thought Megan lived in San Francisco where it's rarely above 75.' Well, I've lied to you. Probably not a good tactic so early on in our relationship. I actually live right outside the city, about 8 eight miles North, in Marin County. I live on a wide street with big leafy oaks in a very large house with a pool, two back yards, a circular driveway, lemon trees, and a box garden.
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.