Happy Thanksgiving, Potrero Hill!

Today, I had the sincere pleasure of singing with a friend from the Hill at a true community event.  A few years ago, a neighbor was grilling for thanksgiving and found herself handing out plates to passersby. What began as a simple neighborly gesture has grown – only three years later – into a free Thanksgiving meal and party for the neighborhood.

480e3152cf17c5edf11e1cb5a2a98961_jpg_max700Uzuri Greene coordinated volunteers from the neighborhood, got corporate sponsorship to pay for more than half the food, invited city representatives, coordinated face painting, a bouncy castle, live music, crafts, a raffle with great prizes, and most impressively: the SFPD showed up in force! They served food, played games, jumped in the bouncy castle, took pictures, answered questions and cleaned up afterward. I was so impressed to see the Chief of Police milling about, as well as senior city officials, and representatives from all sorts of organizations and companies.  At least 250 people – probably more – enjoyed a wonderful, sunny, happy day with neighbors and friends and their community over an incredible spread of wonderful food.

And, oh, my, what a spread it was!  Several kinds of rolls – kings and cornbread… Turkey, ham, pork chops AND roast beef… Gravy, cornbread stuffing, some amazing corn with sausage, relish, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, green salad, and some of the best roasted vegetables I’ve ever eaten.  Perfectly caramelized, sweet and delicious.

And PIE!  Oh, my.  You know I love pie.  Blackberry pie is my most favorite, and there were more than a dozen types of pie – pumpkin, of course, and apple, pecan, cherry, and some of the best most delicious blackberry pie I have ever eaten! (I want to know who donated those, so I can bribe them for more!)

Thank you, Uzuri, and everyone involved, for making this such a special day for so many people – you brought hope and thanks to many people, and made my holiday!

This is community action.

This is Thanksgiving.

This is America.


Restaurant Jeanne D’Arc

Have you ever eaten a truly spectacular soufflé?  My guess is perhaps not… But if you’re ever in San Francisco, let me tell you about the best place to visit for the best desert you’ve ever had.

I enjoy regular outings to French restaurants organized by a good friend who lived most of her life in Paris and is an active part of the SF French community, and we frequent a very special place in lower Nob Hill.  This evening, there were nearly 50 guests – and that is thanks to not only the company of good friends, but to the souffle…

hotelcornellHidden away beneath the impeccably detailed Cornell Hotel de France, lies the Restaurant Jeanne D’arc.  Enter the hotel through the classic San Francisco sidewalk awning decorated with lights and french flair, and enter an exquisite old world hotel filled with charm and comfort.  A gorgeous, sweet long-haired yellow lab was frolicking with the manager and a rope toy in the reception room when I arrived for supper last night.  Literally frolicking; bunny hop and all.  That’s how I felt in anticipation of my dinner – a little hop in my step!  The owner, Monsieur Lambert, was chatting with a guest just inside the door and recognized me from previous evenings.

“Replete with tapestries, stained glass and artifacts, the decor celebrates the life and deeds of France’s legendary heroine, Joan of Arc.


Founded by the Lambert family in 1972, the restaurant is the favorite of locals and visitors. Jeanne d’Arc offers a prix fixe menu (four courses) of authentic French cuisine and a selection of well-chosen French and California wines.


Enjoy our specialty dessert: the Grand Marnier Soufflé.”

jeanne-d-arc-papertowelIt is hard to describe the level of attention to detail throughout this hotel and restaurant.  Every inch is hand-painted with 15th Century peasants and nobles, flora and fauna, fleur-de-lis, and symbols and images of the Saint herself.  Really – visit the ladies room when you come here to see the most beautiful paper-towel holder you’ve ever seen.  Ever inch of this place is a canvas and the beautiful art work is truly impressive in both detail, technical ability, and tender beauty.

20161117_034635511_iosOn to the food!  Our Menu tonight was designed for our group but follows their traditional 4-course Prix Fix style:

  • Asparagus Soup – a blended creme soup, subtle and a perfect appetizer
  • Choice of mixed green salad, escargot, or tomato and mozzarella
  • Choice of Trout, Rabbit, or Lamb
  • Choice of Chocolate Mousse or Soufflé.  (But really, we all know we came for the soufflé!

And of course, french wines and coffee with desert.  A rich, flavorful meal shared with friends — such a treat!


Work lunch – Lungomare

Sometimes, you get really lucky.  You work with special people, and get to brainstorm and strategize over a rosé and a delicious past while the sun glistens on the water just beyond your table.  Really.  This happened!


Lungomare sits in a prime spot on the first floor of the building that is the Waterfront Hotel at Oakland’s vibrant Jack London Square.  They serve Northern California foodie-inspired fare with an Italian slant, and reference a commitment to local production and quality ingredients.  The restaurant is such a pretty space, and they have a lovely patio that is the perfect mix of shade and sun.  Inside, they have several large spaces, restaurant, bar, lounge – lots of options for events.  A glass wall separates their patio from foot traffic of the Jack London Square plaza, giving it just enough privacy while not blocking the view.

I had the bucatini with Bolognese – a nice thick chewy noodle with a salty-sausage-y-sauce.  My friend/colleague/brilliant business partner had a lovely flatbread.  And we both enjoyed the sunshine!  It’s a little on the pricey side –  not a daily lunch spot, but not prohibitive for a work lunch.


Our server/s were very attentive and friendly – this time and each time we’ve come.  They did a nice job transitioning us as we sat through a shift change, and we never felt ignored.  We let them know when we were seated that we hoped to settle in for a couple of hours – it was a quiet afternoon and empty patio, so we were glad they were willing to accommodate.

If you’re over to Jack London Square, which you should absolutely check out, this is one of a number of enjoyable places on the waterfront.  There are other great food choices, but we choose this place for the water view, good service and peaceful ambiance.


Artichokes in the Instant Pot

This week, my niece came for a visit and mentioned she likes to cook.  So when we had friends over Sunday, we got a little adventurous and cooked up some artichokes.  Since they are in season and notoriously tricky to get soft enough, we decided to get out the Instant Pot.  Now, you can do this in any slow cooker, but I’m enjoying experimenting with my Instant Pot so that’s what we used.

20161009_181835877_iosPrepare your fresh artichokes by rinsing, trimming back the stem, and slicing off the sharp tips on the top of each artichoke.  Before you set them into your slow cooker, open each choke by pulling your fingers over sliced top.  Once they’re nesting happily in your slow cooker, you can start layering on the yummy goodness:

Drizzle olive oil
Spread freshly-chopped garlic
Pour over a nice buttery white wine
Sprinkle with salt and pepper
Squeeze a fresh lemon
Splash of water in the bottom

Place your lid on – and if it’s an Instant Pot, be sure you adjust the lid so it’s properly seated and the vent is open since we’ll be slow cooking rather than pressure cooking.  Turn on your slow cooker setting to medium high and let it go 3-4 hours.

When it’s done, you’ll have lovely soft leaves, perfect for dipping and chewing.  The choke will still need to be scooped out, but when you’ve enjoyed the leaves, you’ll be left with a perfectly steamed and seasoned artichoke heart.  This is where the next layer of fun can start – you are now ready for anything you can dream of with artichoke hearts! Baked, au gratin, in a spread…

What’s your favorite?

Hardly Strictly: Picnic & Food Truck


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is a San Francisco institution – A free, three-day music festival held every fall at Golden Gate Park, featuring more than 100 incredible bands on seven stages.  As it’s name implies, it was once a bluegrass festival but has grown and is now moved beyond strictly bluegrass.  People come from all over the world to listen and perform, and I had the pleasure of spending a mostly-sunny Sunday with a good friend, who set up early and held down a comfy tarp and blanket at the Swan stage while friends came and went throughout the day.  I had the pleasure of seeing all or part of the following acts:


So what is all this fabulous music doing on a food blog, you ask?  Well, when a music fan sets out to spend the day at a festival, planning food is a big part of a successful day.  Usually, my friends pack the world’s best picnics, but today – with a smaller group and less room for picnic set up – we kept it simple.  I brought along a lovely large Pink Lady apple and several cheese sticks, as well as a bottle of wine to share, and a beer or two.  By the end of the day, though, I was ready for some real food and made my way through the crowds to find a really wonderful dinner.  From among the many choices, I picked the adobo truck and had myself a really good dinner.  http://www.dabba.com

2016-10-15-2They call this lovely bowl of deliciousness simply a “pork bowl” – which undersells the flavor-packed mountain.  On their menu, it’s described as follows:  “12 hour braised Duroc pork finished in our famous Caribbean jerk.  Everything comes with our 25-year old family recipe of marinated carrots, seasonal fruit chutney, tangy tamarind reduction, spicy herb relish, Straus Family yogurt & turmeric rice. Bowls & burritos get yummy garbanzos. Burritos & tacos get our handcrafted, organic, whole wheat tortillas.”

The layers of flavor were distinct and complementary.  I loved finding the garbanzos under the chutney, and the turmeric rice is worth coming back for, all by itself.  I was started at how well the tamarind combined with the smoky jerk flavors, and the marinated veg and just-right-sweetness of the chutney made for a really excellent multi-layered bowl.  I have to say, a little dabba was enough to get me to com back again, and again!

Add a sunny sunset, and Emmy Lou Harris singing in the background, and this was a perfect meal.


Humphry Slocombe

20160927_010209808_ios In a city known for fantastic food and numerous ice-creameries, one stands out for me: Humphry Slocombe.  Luckily, the original Mission District location is walking distance from my house!  It was my favorite evening walk even before folks caught on and they were invited to add a location at the Ferry Building, and for good reason: Salted Caramel Cocoa Nib, Elvis: The Fat Years, Brown Sugar Fennel, Sweet Summer Corn, Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, Harvey Milk, and of course their most famous flavor: Secret Breakfast.


20160927_004653758_iosThis evening’s particular trip was to bring several out-of-town guests to my favorite spot… their full flavors list is incredible, with some flavors so unique they’re probably unlike any you’ve heard of.  All the flavors I’ve tried are oh, so rich and dreamy it’s hard to describe.  My flavor of this day: Malted Milk Chocolate, topped with their infamous bourbon caramel.  D-E-Vine!


There really isn’t much more to say about Humphry Slocombe than this: Simply the best.  If you do not live in SF, be sure to visit Humphry Slocombe when you visit.  And if you are lucky enough to here, I surely hope you make this a regular stop!

Beurre Blanc Sauce

Are you a saucier?  Me, neither.  But I live with a Frenchman who likes sauces.  So, I’m learning.  The only trick is that I don’t tend to be strict in following recipes.  So, I like these things that can follow general guidelines and still turn out delicious.

I took a twist on a traditional beurre blanc sauce, by using up some leeks I had pulled from the garden.  Beurre blanc — literally translated from French as “white butter” — is a hot emulsified butter sauce made with a reduction of vinegar and/or white wine and shallots into which cold, whole butter is blended off the heat to prevent separation. I, clearly, used white wine.  A nice Pinot Grigio from Kirland, which also pairs well with the dish at hand.  And, as I didn’t have shallots but did have a heap of leeks, I chopped them thin and sautéed them thoroughly first, getting a bit of a caramelization before adding the wine. This makes for a very different sauce than a traditional one, since the leeks don’t ever quite disappear like shallots would have.  But for our purposes tonight, it was lovely.

Butter is essentially a smooth mixture of fat and water. The secret to making a smooth beurre blanc is to preserve its texture by allowing each addition of butter to melt thoroughly as you mix it in, without coming all the way to a boil. So, once the leeks were sautéed and simmered in the white wine, I turned off the heat and added butter a bit at a time until smooth and blended.  I topped the whole mess off with the juice of a lemon, and voila! Dinner.

wp_20160818_19_12_02_richAgain, as per normal, I didn’t follow a specific recipe; I just went with the concept of using generally similar ingredients to come up with something resembling a sauce. I will say, the quality of ingredients is important – what comes out is only as good as what went in.  I only use organic dairy including butter, and for this sauce I stuck with my go-to, Kerry Gold Irish Butter.  Tonight, it was served over a filet of sole and some zoodles zipped up from my new hand-held zoodler. (I also love my Inspiralizer, but stuck with the little one for tonight’s dinner for two – fewer dishes to wash!) Leeks and zukes from the garden, and fresh fish made a lovely, healthy supper.

If you want more specific instructions, I tend to trust whatever Alton Brown tells me is the recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/raymond-beurre-blanc-recipe.html

Chocolate cake

Inspired by the Great British Baking Show, I decided to make a cake for a dinner party with friends this weekend.  I took inspiration from local bakery, Miette, and went with a nearly-naked chocolate cake with pretty pink frosting.

wp_20160724_15_46_06_proWe had weekend guests staying with us for a special trip to visit relatives in the city.  One was gluten intolerant, and I wanted to make something special since we were hosting everyone for dinner.  I used the Epicurious recipe, found here: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/chocolate-cake-367670

You can admire my grandmother’s salt box – which I actually use to store salt.  I’m told she used it to hold recipe cards later in her life, but I’ve been so happy to have it handy for throwing a pinch over my shoulder from time to time as she once did. And for cooking.  You’ll see my Costco groceries again on display here; They have the best price on almond flour. And I have the Kirkland vanilla and honey, too. Trader Joe’s has limited baking stuff, but what they carry is good and who doesn’t love a trip to TJ’s?

Unlike cooking, with baking, I at least try to follow the recipe somewhat closely.  I suppose people go to box cakes for presumed ease, but scratch cake is far easier to bake than people think.  I covered this one with a fluffy raspberry cream cheese frosting.

I wp_20160724_19_01_28_richwanted to be sure this was a fluffy, light cake, since I know almond flour can have a tendency to bake into a dense sponge.  Some of the comments on Epicurious talked about this recipe turning out bland and a bit dense.  So in addition to the requested 1/2tsp baking soda, I added an equal part baking powder.  I’m not one who knows the chemistry of baking, but I have found this to be a good way to boost the raise on a cake like this.  I didn’t have agave on hand, so I used part honey and part regular sugar with a spot of oil to replace the missing wetness.  I bumped up the cocoa powder, too, and I made just one other adjustment: For fun, to literally spice things up, I added a bit of a kick to half the batter by stirring in a pinch of cayenne. Not too much, but a little bit of heat was a subtle surprise to one of the tiers.

No recipe needed for cream cheese frosting: Add cream cheese to the Kitchen Aide mixer and a little splash of lime juice.  This time, I had fresh raspberries and blackberries, so into the cream cheese they went! When that was all blended up, I added powdered sugar until it was the right consistency: Fluffy, and peaks up nicely when you pull out the beater. Topped with more fresh berries and a little sprinkle of fairy dust, et voila!

My guests brought some fantastic icecream along – I hadn’t tried Alden’s before, but I was sold!  Salted caramel was a surprisingly perfect pairing for chocolate cake. What a way to end a meal!



Sink Tools

Any good chef knows C.A.Y.G. helps make the best meals better: Clean As You Go. You can find your tools more easily while you’re still working, and then when you’re done the clean up is, too!

What do you use to keep your space clean?  Long before the Konmari method became popular, I adopted a commitment to only using things I love.  For me, that means details – and it makes everything just a little easier when my tools are both functional and full of beauty and meaning.  Let me tell you about my wash station:

I guess I should start by commenting that there is no dishwasher in my 100-year-old house.  So, all our dishes are hand washed.  That’s fine, but it makes the tools a bit more important.  Silly though it might sound, I use a beautiful old Spanish oil/wine bottle for my dish soap.  Yes, it’s glass.  No, it hasn’t broken even with years of daily use, though it has been dropped a time or two. I bought it on a trip to Seattle with my two best girlfriends years ago, at a little store in the Pike Place Market.  I think of that trip every time I wash dishes and smile with memories of my friends.  I use a sturdy liquor spout I ordered online to make soap dispensing easier, and then buy dish soap in bulk.  I tend to use Seventh Generation dish soap, thinned a bit – it stretches well, is a little more eco friendly, and ever so much nicer to live with a beautiful memory on my counter rather than a plastic bottle. The sink strainers and stoppers are handy dandy and live on a little glass dish covered in lemons, which I bought at the Legion of Honor when I went for the Pierre Bonnard show last year.

It might not look exciting, but we upgraded our plumbing recently: A new faucet with pull-out sprayer makes life easier and I love our new sink-mounted water filter.  The wooden paper towel holder is also a new addition and saves space on my counters without sticking out like a sore thumb.  And hanging right there next to them are the most beautiful hand-crocheted dish cloths a girl could want.  My sister’s best friend made me a set of these a couple years ago and I feel like I receive a little hug from her every time I touch them. Who knew you could find so much happiness in a dishcloth!? Plus, little metal scrubbies from Daiso.

Other bits and bobs in this picture include a woven bread basket (acquired on sale at Sur La Table one sunny afternoon while meandering through the SF Ferry Building), which I use to hold my various Kitchen Aide attachments.  The little crystal ring holder and the porcelain duck in the window were both my grandmothers.  My cobalt mixing bowls came to me on an antiquing adventure with a dear friend – we spent a weekend driving from Minneapolis down the river into Iowa and stopped for a lovely afternoon at several antique stores in Stillwater, MN.

What makes your cleaning space feel more loved and lovely? Is hand washing dishes a thing at your house?  Any tips or tricks on finding things to make clean up fun and friendly?

A new old hutch!

This spring, we were consolidating households, and my sweetie had this lovely oak hutch in his old house.  It was just too pretty to give away, but oh so much wood grain!  Inspired by my lovely two-tone island, I refinished and selectively painted up the hutch and it now has a new life in the Hidden Cottage Kitchen, where it looks perfect and adds both much-needed storage as well as ambient lighting.