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the other coast

I just spent an awesome couple of weeks at my home away on the east coast. Being a first generation Californian, I have as much New York in me as I do California. So when someone (like my California sis in law) asks me what to do and where to go, I am an annoying font of unending response. For the obvious (Statue of Liberty, Museums, Macy’s, Ground Zero), buy a guidebook. If you want a piece of my New York, here you go…

Stay

photo courtesy airbnb how gorgeous is that basement wall?

photo courtesy airbnb…how gorgeous is that basement wall?

Brooklyn. Airbnb is a great option for apartments that are bigger and much less expensive than a hotel room in Manhattan. And it’s a quick couple of stops from Union Square on the ‘L’ train. Easy peasy. We stayed between Williamsburg (hipster) and Bushwich (artsy) in the most adorable apartment. Walking distance from great Brooklyn neighborhoods (think Chestnut Street for the hipster, SOMA for the artsy).

Eat

Seriously eat everywhere. My cousin hooked us up with an amazing pizzeria in Bushwick called Roberta’s. It was totally worth the 90 minute wait, even with a 6 month old. Cocktails and foosball out back keep you happy.

blackandwhite

Eat a black and white. It’s not the same as anything made in California and I’m not just saying that. It’s not a cookie and it’s not a cake. Find them in delis and don’t be put off by the cellophane wrapping…they get stale quickly. Don’t share and make sure you alternate bites or you’re not getting the whole experience. Italian ices. When I was little we could buy Italian ices on the street, now you will find them at pizza parlors and even ice cream stores. Ices are something like sorbet…kind of. Lemon is the traditional favorite, but my favorite is always melon. For the best ices you’ll need to buy in Brooklyn or Queens, but you’ll find them everywhere. Don’t have just one. You need to compare.

Travel

Use the subway, don’t be a wuss. $2.50 to get in (just put twenty bucks on a metro card) and you can go anywhere you want. You’ll get lost but it’s okay…you’re on vacation. Get a map or an app and figure out what line gets you closest to where you want to go. Look at the map and see what’s at the end of the line so you know which side of the track to board on then follow the signs. If you stay in Brooklyn take the ferry to Manhattan at least once. The waterfront is one of a kind.

Visit

Midtown: Don’t wait in the ridiculous line to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a gorgeous building, but a horrendous line. If you want to see New York from the top go to the Top of the Rock. Both buildings are in midtown and you can see one from the other. Walk through Central Park. You have to. And if you can stomach it have a dirty water hot dog…it’s a hideous tradition. If you have a sweet tooth go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and buy mediocre candy in a ridiculously over-stimulated environment. My son’s first stop every trip. If you want to try some amazing chocolate go to Max Brenner’s. Don’t eat there, but buy some delicious, beautifully designed Israeli made kosher truffles. Go to Grand Central Station, find the bar in the center of the station, get a drink and pay too much money to people watch…it’s a gorgeous building. Make sure you look up.

Chelsea/Meatpacking DistrictGalleries and restaurants…do your homework. Spend some time on the High Line, walk, eat, enjoy. The High Line is an abandoned elevated freight rail line that once served the meatpacking district when it was packing meat. Now it’s a unique public park. Chelsea Market is the food hall of all food halls with restaurants that are beyond fabulous. Can you say Buddakan?

Gramercy/Greenwich Village/Soho: Eataly is Mario Bataly’s Italian food mecca with restaurants, marketplace, wine shop. Go hungry. Visit the Strand Bookstore, but only if you go with a friend who also loves books. My people were (kind of) patiently waiting on the sidewalk after about 15 minutes and I was still in the first 1/10 of a mile in and they say there are 18 miles of books. Go to Union Square at night to people watch. Maybe the snake people will be there. Shop on and around Spring Street.

Lower East Side: The Tenement Museum recreated the homes of several turn of the century families that are open for tours…pretty cool to see how my people lived after they came through Ellis Island. Katz’s Deli is famous for their knishes….if you haven’t had a knish in a while you need to visit. And pickles….find a pickle place. Essex Street is a good place to start…you’ll recognize it by the barrels of pickles standing out on the sidewalk. There are a few although once upon a time there were a lot more. Keep your eyes open. Last visit I went to The Pickle Guys…try a few different flavors. And finally find The Doughnut Plant…it’s down below Delancey. The best most interesting and delicious donut flavors you’ll find anywhere. Get something seasonal. Then get a creme brulee and a jelly donut. And go back on the weekend and get some ice cream too.

So there you have it…I’m still a newbie to Brooklyn so don’t have much to say about it yet. But we did love the vibe there. Once the kids are up and out we may just pack up and move east of the East River.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

hello Watson

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So remember a couple of weeks ago I told you about Chef Watson? About 150 of us are now working with CW (I use the term ‘working’ very loosely in my case as this is very entertaining and I really don’t have a clue what I’m doing!), and last night s/he helped me create my first recipe. My veggie box arrived with all kinds of things to choose from, so CW and I had a lot to work with. I had some Cod in the fridge, a bag of roma tomatoes that I had planned to turn into ketchup but never did, the basil on my deck needed trimming and there were some shishito peppers in my box, so that was my start. Although CW didn’t know what a shishito pepper was, so subsituted chipotle pepper and green chiles, which I completely ignored.

Before beginning I plugged in some random ingredients to see what would come back and was extremely amused. CW is a work in progress and outputs things like ‘serve with raw chicken‘ and ‘spray pan with nonstick chili pepper‘. But what is great about this whole thing is the very odd combinations that CW pops out that seem to be working for many of the cooks involved. Someone posted a crostini recipe using strawberries and pepper that looked amazing. And I pulled up a recipe for an orange and mozzarella souffle that I’ll try soon.

But back to my recipe. Below is what CW gave me when I plugged in the ingredients listed above and the method ‘roasted’.

chefwatson1

And here are my modifications:

roasted white fish, tomato and pepper

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The results

The garlic didn’t cook through, so next time I think I’d roast the garlic first and squeeze it into the slits in the fish to see how that worked, and put the rest of the garlic in the sauce on the stove. The shishito peppers are a bit too tame for this dish, so I’d try hotter peppers next time and perhaps even roast them first. But overall the dish was good if a bit bland, the fish was cooked perfectly and it was sure pretty! I served it with a salad of curly green lettuce and kale that I massaged in mustard and lemon dressing. The salad was awesome. Now as you know I’m just a home cook, no chef by any means, so I’m open to your suggestions and criticism….any thoughts? Don’t be shy.

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Happy cooking,
Leslie

dear restaurateur….whine

Dear restaurateur, The good people at Consumer Reports surveyed 1003 people (I know, why 1003?), in March of this year to find out what customers gripe about when it comes to restaurants. And very few of the gripes are about the food….so listen up! Most of your customers’ complaints are very very fixable. Here they are in order, […]

summer food porn

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The summer movie season, which usually leaves us a little hungry, unless of course we are 8 years old and still believe in dragons and princesses, is a great time to catch up on those movies we meant to see but never got around to. As much as I love the worlds of food and restaurants and the people who live and work there, I also love movies about food and restaurants and the people who live and work there. So here is a list of food movies you can find online (except of course for Chef, which is in theaters now and I plan to see at the late show tonight) and enjoy at home with a bottle of wine. Yum….summer food porn. If you have anything to add, let me know in comments. (note: I also covered a few food movies here and here).

Chef…the chef gets fired and decides to buy an old taco truck.

Dinner Rush…dinner and gangsters….

American Meat (documentary)…sustainable meat production is economically viable people!

The Way Back to Yarasquin (documentary)…coffee from Honduras to San Francisco…one woman’s story of bringing hope to a community.

Nothing Like Chocolate (documentary)…Grenada Chocolate Company revolutionizes chocolate….without using slave labor. Mott Green’s story.

Big Night….an oldie (1996) about Italian immigrants trying to make it in the American restaurant business.

Eat Drink Man Woman…another oldie (1994) chef as single father raising three daughters.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (documentary)….a thoughtful meditation on family, perfection, and the world renowned master of sushi, Jiro.

Somm (documentary)….so you think wine tasting is fun? Yea, me too. But becoming a master sommelier, not so much.

The Trip…two friends take a road trip to visit and report on the best of English restaurants. Hilarious.

Food, Inc (documentary)….the dirt behind the food industry and where your food comes from. You should know what you’re eating.

I was going to add Super Size Me to the list, but I just can’t. Watch it if you haven’t seen it, but if you read my blog, there’s a good chance that fast food isn’t a big part of your life anyway and you are hopefully already spreading the good food word. Enjoy the movies!

Keep in touch,
Leslie

 

Watson’s in the kitchen…

It’s a joke in my house that I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. And if I make something once, I very likely will not be able to duplicate the effort a second time.  My problem is not an inability to cook, it is an inability to stick to the program. Any program. So when the recipe calls for an ingredient that I don’t have, or that doesn’t smell as ‘right’ as another ingredient, I just switch. And measuring implements, bah. I know how much a tablespoon of olive oil is! For years I wasn’t allowed to bake…although that is changing slowly and with a great deal of resistance from my family (I’ve learned that baking is chemistry and I’ve agreed to use the called for ingredients and to measure them). Someday maybe I’ll share some of my most embarrassing baking stories. But I digress…

tomato and cheese stuffed summer squash...created without watson!

Tomato and cheese stuffed summer squash. But of course I could never do this again. I didn’t write anything down nor did I measure. Sigh…it was good, too!

Do you remember Watson, the computer of Jeopardy fame?

Well he is apparently changing careers from Jeopardy Human Destroyer to Chef. And if you’re lucky, he will help you in your kitchen. IBM has teamed up with Bon Appetit Magazine to teach Watson how to cook…kind of. Based on the ingredients you input (in my case whatever is in my fridge), the type of dish you’d like to make and the style you’d like to try, Watson will create a list of ingredients and a recipe (actually 100 recipes) to follow using the data collected from Bon Appetit’s 9000 recipes. IBM and Bon Appetit’s intention is to allow the home cook to increase his or her creativity based on the information provided by Watson.

Watson is what IBM calls a ‘cognitive computing system’, meaning that the information that was input into the program is re-organized by Watson and output in a different form….a new recipe never before tried (at least as far as Watson knows), like an Austrian Chocolate Burrito. The technology is amazing and I won’t begin to pretend that I truly understand it, but I am excited at the chance to be part of its development. If you want a chance to play in the kitchen with Watson, here is your opportunity.

Happy cooking! And if they choose me, you can expect lots of pictures!
Leslie

summer food palettes

It’s summer, meaning I need to plan the menu for the hubby/daughter birthday barbecue. And I’m in the mood to build palettes (colourlovers.com as always), so this is me combining the two. If you click on the photo it will take you to the recipe. This menu features a few of my favorite go to recipes every summer….especially that creamsicle recipe!

Watermelon Daiquiri

drink image courtesy sunset.com

drink image courtesy sunset.com

Grilled Rosemary Chicken

food-bbq chick

bbq image courtesy epicurious.com

Crunchy Napa Cabbage Slaw

slaw image courtesy sunset.com

slaw image courtesy sunset.com

Nectarine Creamsicles with Rose Water

food-creamsicle

Seriously, the creamsicles. So easy and so delicious. You’re going to want to save some room for those…and maybe decorate your kitchen to match since you’ll be wanting to make them all the time!

I’m out tomorrow surveying a job, back next week. Have a great weekend!
Leslie

      

great bread is worth a drive

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My friends know what a gluten whore I am and have been telling me for years about this little bakery in a little town out in west Sonoma. I know I know, gluten is the devil and all, but this girl likes just a little bit of devil. And the devil always knows where to find me. So Sunday Steve and I drove the second half of his Giro Bello route and I could not have been happier to drive through the tiny town of Freestone and right to the doorstep of the mythic Wild Flour Bakery.

Opened in 1998, owner Jed Wallach makes bread 4 days a week and sells only at his Wild Flour Bakery….no deliveries, no wholesale, no second location and no credit cards. It is everything I have ever heard. The bakery is designed around the bread, and I use the term ‘designed’ very loosely. There’s a brick oven on the far wall, tables for bread making, racks for bread cooling, and bakers moving constantly around the kitchen either making or selling bread. The walls are painted with whimsical murals of birds and, somewhat oddly, an elephant. But the main design element is the bread. All of the day’s breads are sampled at the sales table, so you can decide before you buy (choose whatever is hot from the oven). They start the day with 4 breads and a scone, and over the course of the day add the rest of the day’s menu of about 2 dozen items plus coffee. My gluten free hubby (I know, sad) loved his gluten free cranberry scone. I snuck a bite and it was absolutely delicious…not in the least bit second rate. We brought home 2 loaves: the Egyptian, a sticky delicious sweet loaf full of figs, pears and candied ginger and warm still from the oven; and the Wild Flour signature wheat round which is perfect with a bit of butter and nothing else. Seriously, it is lunch all by itself.

Out back of the bakery is the Wildflower Garden which itself is worth the hour drive from my front door. Sunday was a beautiful day, so we took a stroll and enjoyed the garden along with the bees and hummingbirds. The rows and rows of raspberries bode well for the future of scones. Enjoy my pictures, then choose a day and make the drive. Around the corner from the bakery is a cheese shop which we didn’t stop for (as we were already running quite late for a wedding!)….so next time, bread and cheese. I may never come home.

Enjoy the rest of your week!
Leslie

10 days till shortlist…

The Restaurant & Bar Design Awards opened their call for entries on January 13, closed entries on April 25th, and the short list will be announced July1. There are 827 entries to pare down. The winners will be announced on my birthday in September! What a fun gift…

It’s been a while since I featured one of these beautiful projects….about time, don’t you think? I’m sticking with US entries for the moment. And while I love the super-decoration of Mister Important Designs, and the heavy masculinity of Zack/de Vito’s work (they’ve both got projects entered), today I’m looking to the US Northwest at one of many restaurants by Matt Dillon, chef and proprietor of Bar Sajor in Seattle’s Pioneer Square.  Built on a white palette, the space centers around Dillon’s only cooking apparatus, a wood fired oven. Ceilings are high and the many windows create a bright interior filled with whimsy (are those gold trimmed seashells on the wall above the oven?) and just enough swirls and soft edges to keep the place from feeling overly cold. Matt Dillon and his Bar Sajor have won acclaim already (GQ’s 25 best new restaurants, James Beard’s best chef). Let’s see what the judges in the UK think. This is definitely on the list for my next visit to Seattle!

All photos courtesy restaurantandbardesignawards.com/Bar Sajor

Keep in touch,
Leslie

ps….and bravo for not using any of those pesky Edison lamps!

The book is available….and they told us not until July!

 

food fetes

photo courtesy cuesa.org

photo courtesy cuesa.org

I’ve covered most of the free events that I love in our fair city…now for a few amazing food events in the Bay Area. Some of these are also free….some not so much, but if you love food you may want to splurge.

June 22

CUESAs Summer Celebration at the Ferry Building in SF will showcase food, drink and the farmers who start it all. The event benefits the amazing work that CUESA does to promote healthy food systems. One of the greatest things that CUESA does for us little people is to provide us ongoing education at every Ferry Plaza farmers market by way of free cooking demos by superstar chefs every Saturday morning at 11. I know, run-on sentence, but I had to get it all out it a breath. Summer Celebration is June 22 and is mostly tax deductible.

July 19

AT&T Park is known to have some of the best food in baseball, but I’m afraid it won’t compare to the 7X7 food fest happening next month on the field. 7X7 Big Eat Live features the magazine’s ‘100 things you have to eat before you die’ and will benefit initiatives planned for The Garden at AT&T (opening the end of this month). This event will showcase some of the best food in SF. July 19 at AT&T Park.

August 1-3

One of my never miss favorites (although I’m weeping because I’ll be on the east coast this year for an August 3 wedding) has changed both its name and location: now called eatDrinkSF and located at Fort Mason, in past years this was SFChefs and was located at Union Square. It’s a weekend of food learning, food eating, and what they call an ‘epic foodie festival’. Although I cringe at the mention of that word ‘foodie’. It smacks of the same smugness as the ‘celebrity’ in chef and makes me want to leave the room. In this case, I forgive since I absolutely love this event. Insider tip: keep your eyes peeled for Industry Day. It’s an affordable day of learning and eating with the most knowledgeable chefs in the biz. Officially the weekend of August 1-3, there will be events as early as mid July.

August 16

We’ve already talked about the Street Food Festival, but it’s food so I’m including it here. August 16 and it’s free to enter, although a donation to benefit the organizers, La Cocina, is always welcome.

September 19-21

Oakland’s Eat Real Festival is another tasty food venue showcasing 3 days worth of amazing Bay Area food, drink and fun. It began as a food truck extravaganza but has grown to include brick and mortar restaurant’s  fare as well as education, music and some great people watching. Free to get in and vendors sell bites and quaffs for $5 or less. Not much info on the website yet unless you want to volunteer or vend. September 19-21 at Jack London Square.

Any other great food events you think I should know about?….tell me!
Leslie

an outstanding weekend

oitf-capay15Saturday evening Steve and I (finally) attended a dinner at the farm that provides our weekly produce. We began buying from Capay Organic (the farm behind Farm Fresh to You) when our kids were small, attended a farm tour when our youngest was still a babe in arms, and haven’t been back since. Until Saturday night. That’s when the good people at Outstanding in the Field set up their third dinner at the farm and, with just a little bit of begging required, I bought tickets. It was truly an outstanding evening.

We arrived a little before 5, plates in hand, and enjoyed wine from Heringer Estates and beer from Sudwerk Brewing Company, served by the owners themselves. Passed hors d’oeuvres were interesting to say the least. We both bravely tried fried pig skin and guinea hearts (from the birds we were going to eat later for dinner. They were about the size of pistachios but not as tasty and awfully chewy. Probably not going to serve them at home. We were welcomed by Jim Denevan (Outstanding in the Field) and Thaddeus Barsotti (Capay Organic) shortly after arriving.

Next we took a lovely walk through the farm. Capay Organic is owned by 3 brothers with day to day operations managed by Freeman and Thaddeus and Noah overseeing wholesale and business operations. Their 4th brother and Noah’s twin, Che, a coast guard pilot, died a few years ago during a search and rescue operation. His presence is still apparent on the farm if you talk with any of the brothers, and a lovely memorial is located prominently near the main house. Thaddeus led our tour and explained the carrot washing machine that he created from an old refrigerator trailer, the quick chiller next to it, the need to drill for water to maintain the farm (something that has never happened in his lifetime), and the growth of the farm since the boys were children. While walking we sampled donut peaches from the tree that Thaddeus planted as an experiment in high school. The bees were enjoying them as much as we did.

After the tour we were led to the long winding table along the edge of a meadow under a canopy of oaks and overlooking acres of farmland. A gorgeous spot made so much more beautiful by the wonderful people we shared it with and the amazing food we ate. The open air kitchen was manned by Patrick Mulvaney and his crew and was set up on the other side of the meadow. Remarkable that they could put out 150 meals of such quality from a tent! Outstanding in the Field began doing these events in 1999 and now Jim Denevan and his crew and their bus (which wasn’t at our event….maybe in the shop?) tour the country and the world connecting diners with chefs at farms, ranches, beaches, orchards and whatever other beautiful surroundings they can find. Steve and I were lucky enough to sit with Kristy and Brian, the owners of Chowdown Farm who provided the guinea hens for dinner, as well as Thaddeus. We talked about farming, writing, food, children. And the difference between a guinea hen and a chicken (they’re smaller and cook faster).

Start putting your nickels together….this is definitely something you should try to experience at least once. I’m already angling for another go.

Have a great week,
Leslie

ps…here’s a code for new customers at Farm Fresh to You: LESL3898. It will get you a $10 discount on your first box and it gives me a credit…so thanks in advance!

 

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summer in san francisco

photo courtesy lacocinasf.org

photo courtesy lacocinasf.org

Mark Twain is credited with never saying ‘the coldest winter I ever spent was the summer I spent in San Francisco‘. A cute saying that was never said and with good reason. Summers in San Francisco may lean toward the chilly, so do bring a sweater, but there is plenty of sunshine to go around. And plenty to do once you arrive. Summers in San Francisco begin (at least as far as I’m concerned) with the Union Street Festival which occurred last weekend. So now that it is officially summer, here is your to do list. Best part, it’s all free….except for the beer and food you’ll be purchasing. And that cheesy sweatshirt if you forget a sweater.

North Beach Festival, June 14-15
The aforementioned beer and food, plus street painting, music, wine, people watching. This is where I first heard one of my favorite a capella groups so many years ago: The House Jacks. You never know what greatness you might discover.

Alice’s Summerthing, June 22
Radio Alice’s free summer concert in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow featuring live bands, food trucks, good old 97.3 fun.

Stern Grove Music Festival, Sundays June 22-August 24
Music every Sunday at 2pm by some of the greats: Smokey Robinson, Rufus Wainwright and Sergio Mendes are three on the docket this year. Bring your blanket and picnic basket, leave Fido at home, and enjoy some of the best music SF has to offer for free!

Fillmore Street Jazz Festival, July 5-6
Always the weekend nearest July 4, this is where I spent the day before my daughter was born, consuming anything spicy that I could get my hands on. I credit this festival for an early delivery! Great food, the very best jazz you’ll find anywhere, more people watching….

Street Food Festival, August 16
La Cocina’s final (at least for now) Street Food Festival in the Mission District. Amazing food from every corner of the globe served up to benefit one of the greatest service organizations in the City. The best people watching last year included a big strong man riding a Segue holding a tiny dog and blasting music from the 70s. Where else but San Francisco?

Opera in the Park, September 7
Bring a picnic blanket, some food and the family and enjoy opera in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow. One of my very favorite events as I feel like I’m getting a little cul-chah while I party with my pack.

Comedy Day, September 14
Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow hosts 5 hours of comedy, 40 comedians. My stomach already hurts. Bring the kids, a blanket, Fido (unless you take MUNI which you really should do….or walk), buy beer, wine and food on site.

Folsom Street Fair, September 21
Don’t bring the kiddies and come with an open mind checking all judgment at the door…then expect to be surprised.  Fetishists galore will show you things you have never even considered. You’ve gotta go at least once.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, October 3-5
Bring the family, a blanket, get on MUNI and join about a million of your friends at Warren Hellman’s best ever party in Golden Gate Park. No tickets needed, no sponsors present….just great music thanks to Warren.

Castro Street Fair, October 5
Started by Harvey Milk in 1974, the Castro Street Fair raises money via donations for benefiting organizations that contribute to running the fair. Music, food, diversity galore in a family friendly environment.

Fleet Week, October 9-13
The Blue Angels are back! Need I say more?

Anything I missed that you absolutely love? Tell me in comments. Here’s hoping for an awesome summer in the city,
Leslie

a devilish hot weekend

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Have you been up to the northern reaches of Sonoma County in the last, say, 6 years? Hubby is doing a 100 mile bicycle ride through wine country in a few weeks (the Giro Bello ride to benefit the Rotary Club’s charities if you want to join him), so yesterday we drove about half the course and ended up in the tiny little town of Geyserville. The ride is gorgeous through vineyards, farms, winding country roads and rolling hills with rest stops at a couple of wineries. Not sure I could enjoy it as much on a bicycle, but beautiful from our air conditioned car!

By the time we arrived in Geyserville it was late afternoon. We’d worked in our garden all morning then jumped in the car to check out his route…lunch hadn’t seemed important at the time. So at 4pm in 100 degree weather I was verging on ‘hangry’ as my good friend Patty says. Hungry and angry. Hubby is gluten free, so the deli wasn’t an option, the cafe was closing for the day, and Diavola was two doors down and serving a limited menu. I don’t speak any Italian, but I know diavola and I think I was channeling her, so it seemed like a match.

Diavola opened in 2008 under the tutelage of Chef Dino Bugica who hailed from nearby Santi (now closed). Bugica’s love of salumi stems from years spent in Italian butcher shops learning the trade. At Diavolo they make their own salumi as well as some amazing pizza. The restaurant consists of a front room where the pizza oven takes center stage with the bar on one side and tables on the other. At the front end of the bar is the chef’s table over which hang meat hooks holding the curing house made salumi. Kind of like the ducks in the window in Chinatown but way better. We were seated in the second dining room, just off the main room. And lucky we were….the heat was stressing the building’s power and intermittently shutting it down along with the lights and air conditioning…it was nice to be away from the pizza oven, pretty as it is!

After powering down a litre of ice water and all of the delicious skinny breadsticks they brought when we sat down, we relaxed enough (barely) to look around and see what a cute place Diavola is. Brick and plaster walls, old fir flooring, a (fake) tin ceiling and rustic furniture. Kitchen towels as napkins are always a favorite of mine…whenever we travel that’s what I collect. Loving anything spicy, we chose the Inferno pizza…roasted red peppers, tomatoes, basil, provolone, mozzarella and spicy peppers. We didn’t even need to add the spicy house made oil provided at each table. In our haste to get food on the table, we forgot to ask our server for gluten free crust, so lucky me I got to eat more than my share while my hubby nibbled at a slice or two muttering ‘stomach be damned’ under his breath. We also shared their mixed green salad which was anything but typical. Mixed greens with pine nuts, gorgonzola, radish, bacon and fried fava beans which were amazing. It was all dressed in a slightly sweet vinaigrette. I could totally eat a whole bowl of the fried fava beans and happily not share a single one.

I’m looking forward to driving the second half next weekend and finding another undiscovered (by me) treasure….I clearly need to get out more! And if we by chance end up at Diavola again, we will make sure it is during lunch or dinner when we can enjoy the full menu and maybe even sit on their adorable patio. Presuming it isn’t 100 degrees.

Have a great week…I hope you get to explore something new,
Leslie

Diavola Pizzeria/Salumeria
21021 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville
open seven days a week, lunch and dinner
707-814-0111    

where herb ate

I grew up in a household that took the San Francisco Chronicle even though we lived in Palo Alto. When we went to San Francisco we wore white gloves and dresses, and the first stop was the flower stand at the corner of Geary and Stockton to get gardenia corsages. San Francisco was a magical place when I was a child full of big, beautiful people living big, beautiful lives. My mom read Herb Caen religiously, and when I learned to read so did I. We read about the beautiful people that Herb Caen met in the dining rooms at Ernie’s and Tadich Grill or at the bar at Trader Vic’s. When he died in 1997, we cried at my house as if we’d lost a favorite uncle. A few years ago at one of my children’s school auctions, someone donated an original column that came directly out of  Herb Caen’s old Royal typewriter with his pen mark corrections. I don’t recall what I paid for it, but that column, touched by the very man’s fingers, was definitely coming home with me. Even now when I read about the closing of one of the venerable establishments that Mr. Caen himself visited, another little piece of me cries. This month, as I’m sure you’ve heard, we are losing another of San Francisco’s finest: Fleur de Lys. Their last service will be June 28, 2014. Fleur de Lys isn’t even one of San Francisco’s oldest restaurants, but it is certainly one of the most loved. In honor of Fleur de Lys and its ilk, here is a list of some of yesterday’s remaining best, and those that are gone.

Yesterday’s Remaining Best

Tadich Grill, 240 California Street
Celebrated as the oldest restaurant in California, in 1849 Nikola Burdovich, Frano Kosta and Antonio Gasparich opened The Coffee Stand on fisherman’s wharf serving fresh fish grilled over charcoal. The restaurant moved and changed hands several times as the city grew and became New World Coffee Saloon. In 1876 John Tadich became barkeep and in 1882 the New World Coffee Saloon became The Cold Day Restaurant and moved to 221 Leidesdorff. In 1887 Cold Day was purchased by Tadich (and a partner), then in 1912 Tadich alone opened a new location at 545 Clay and renamed it Tadich Grill, the original Cold Day Restaurant. In 1928 Tadich sold to his employees the Buich brothers. In 1967 the restaurant moved to its current location.

House of Prime Rib, 1906 Van Ness
Opened in 1949 by Lou Balaski, current owner Joe Betz took over in 1985 and now shares the reins with his son.

Fleur de Lys, 777 Sutter Street
First opened in the late 50’s, Fleur de Lys was purchased by Maitre d’ Maurice Rouas in 1970. In 1986 he brought on Hubert Keller as a partner as San Francisco ushered in a more chef focused era. Rouas died in 2012 leaving the restaurant to Keller. June 28, 2014 will be their last day of service.

Sam’s Grill, 374 Bush Street
Michael Molan Moraghan began as a fishmonger at the open air market  in downtown SF in 1867. The original market was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and Moraghan sold fish from several locations in the city before the market was rebuilt allowing his return in 1919. In 1922 his (by then mostly) oyster business was purchased by restaurateur Samuel Zenovitch and renamed the Bay Point Oyster Co. In 1930 with the businesses merged, it was renamed Zembolitch & Zenovitch. Then in 1931 the restaurant moved to 561 California Street as Sam’s Seafood Grotto. In 1937 it was purchased by Frank Seput and formally named Sam’s Grill and Seafood Restaurant. In 1946 the restaurant moved to its current location. The restaurant has been owned since 2005 by Phil Lyons.

Fior d’Italia, 2237 Mason Street
Fior d’Italia was opened in 1886 by Angelo Del Monte and ‘Papa’ Marianetti. When they and their heirs were too old to continue to manage the restaurant, a group headed by two North Beach natives took over and ran the restaurant until 1990. Bob and Jinx Larive and Hamish and Rosi Fordwood took over in 1990 and ran the restaurant until a fire closed it in 2005. In 2012 Executive Chef Gianni Audieri and his wife Trudy took ownership and re-opened the restaurant in its current location. Fior d’Italia moved several times due to fires, the 1906 earthquake and landlord disputes. From 1930-53 it was on Kearny street, from 1953-2005 it was at 601 Union Street, and today Fior d’ Italia is on Mason Street.

John’s Grill, 63 Ellis Street
Opened in 1908 by a man named John who died the same year, John’s Grill has changed owners approximately four times and is the famous location for Dashiell Hammett’s 1927 The Maltese Falcon. In 1970 the restaurant was purchased by its current owners, the Konstin family.

Those That are Gone

The Blue Fox was at 659 Merchant Street. It opened about 1920 as a speakeasy, was purchased by Mario Mondin in 1942. In 1948 Mondin partnered with the Fassio family (Piero then Gina then Gianni) until finally closing in 1993.

Ernies, located at 847 Montgomery Street, was opened by Ernie Carlesso 1931 as a Barbary Coast trattoria. Ambroglio Gotti became a partner in 1934. On Carlesso’s death in 1947, Ambroglio sold the business to his sons who introduced white tablecloths and ‘nouvelle’ french cuisine to the restaurant, elevating it from trattoria to fine dining. Alfred Hitchcock made Ernie’s famous in his movie, Vertigo. The restaurant finally closed in 1995.

Trader Vic’s original SF location was on Cosmo Place but later moved to 555 Golden Gate. The first Trader Vic’s was opened in 1934 in Oakland by Victor Jules Bergeron, Jr, and began first as Hinky Dinks. In 1936 it was renamed Trader Vic’s and was dubbed by Herb Caen as the best SF restaurant in Oakland. In 1940 a franchise opened in Seattle, in 1950 Hawaii then in 1951 at Cosmo Place. The San Francisco location closed in 2008.

Today

San Francisco is an amazing food town and we will (luckily) never be at a loss for wonderful, leading edge food. But there’s something to be said for the curtained booths, red velvet walls, and waiters in tuxedos of yesterday. So I’ll be eating at as many of these as I can, while I still can! Who else would you add to this list?

Have a great weekend and eat some good food!
Leslie        

my friends cook with pearls

 

juliachild

Cooking shows have changed since I was a youngster watching The Galloping Gourmet and Julie Child’s French Chef. Every Saturday morning on channel 9 they walked me through the details of recipes that I wouldn’t actually attempt for decades, but that didn’t deter me. As soon as Captain Kangaroo went off, cooking went on. And much to the chagrin of my mom, who was a wonderful cook, I had no interest in actually cooking. What I loved about the shows was how accessible the chefs were, how kind they seemed, and how they explained what they were doing with a love for the process, the food and the eating. They looked like real people, sometimes they made mistakes, they tasted their food and talked with their mouths full, they shared their kitchens as if I were right there with them and they were having so much fun! These were my celebrity chefs, although I can’t imagine either of them using the term.

The cooking shows of today I watch with rarity. Recently I was listening to a show on the radio and the chef actually referred to himself as a celebrity chef. I turned the radio off. So many of the cooking shows today seem to be hosted by people more interested in celebrity than chef, and while they may be wonderful at what chef-ing they do, the celebrity part leaves a nasty taste that sends me in search of a good cookbook.

Then today as I was reading through Marcia Gagliardi’s Tablehopper (an awesome SF dining newsletter that you should all be subscribing to), she mentioned that Tante Marie’s Cooking School is closing and that she hoped that the founder, Mary Risley, would continue to share her cooking videos. Oh my goodness Marcia, me too, me too! Please Mary Risley, do keep making your videos! They take me right back to that childhood happy place with my friends Julia and Graham.

Everyone should cook with pearls…just awesome.

 I know, I know, wrong time of year but this is so funny!

Enjoy the videos with a glass of pinot! Keep in touch,
Leslie

my disruptive life

l design disrupted

You know that I’m an interior designer specializing in restaurant design. You’ve read my bio. But you read my posts daily and wonder how does all of this writing fit with your understanding of what I actually do for a living? The answer is I’m practicing my own version of disruption.

Disruptive thinking is the term of 2014. And it follows close on the heels of design thinking. According to Fast Company, design thinking is a ‘proven and repeatable problem-solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve extraordinary results’. Disruptive thinking takes this idea a step further and in a slightly different direction. To think disruptively you must look where you haven’t looked before to find first the problem that no one has yet discovered, then solve it creatively. Disrupt: Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business, published in 2010, was written by Luke Williams, fellow at frog design’s New York office and an Executive Director at the NYU Stern School of Business. (frog design, if you will recall, was instrumental in helping Apple Computer create its design edge.) Luke Williams contends that finding the problem, disrupting the status quo, is the first creative step in the process. Much like scrum has transformed the way problems are viewed and solved, disruptive thinking transforms the way processes are viewed then re-defined and executed. According to Williams, there are 5 steps to disruptive thinking:

  1. Craft a disruptive hypothesis: be wrong at the start to be right at the end
  2. Discover a disruptive opportunity: explore the least obvious
  3. Generate a disruptive idea: unexpected ideas have fewer competitors
  4. Shape a disruptive solution: novelty for novelty’s sake is a resource killer
  5. Make a disruptive pitch: under prepare the obvious, over prepare the unusual

In my case, I’m at number two: discovering my opportunity. I’ve designed space for over twenty years and loved it, except the part where design separated me from the research and writing that feeds me. So on weekends and during my scarce evening hours (I am raising two kids remember), I’ve taken classes and written fiction and essays. Fun, yes, and a nice distraction, but not fulfilling. So I’ve battled with how to be both a designer and a writer for years and finally had that ah ha moment a few months ago….just do both and see where it leads! That is my Disruptive Hypothesis. I’m doing this by reading and writing every day about things that are connected with design, architecture and food. The only three things that I know for sure are that I am a designer, I am a writer and one feeds the other. By researching and writing from the perspective of a designer I am finding ways to meld the two, making me better at both.

As I continue to research and write, I learn daily about all of the possibilities out there and I get closer to disrupting the current system and finding a place we haven’t been before, a place where design and writing can work together that allows me to contribute meaningfully.

That is my very long winded answer to the many who have asked me….what do you do?

Have a great week,
Leslie