Saturday, December 21, 2013

Last bites

If there is anyone out there who actually wants to make or eat more Christmas cookies, here's a little trio I made recently that were a pretty big hit:

Ginger-spiced molasses cookies
Espresso shortbreads
Pierre Herme chocolate sables

Christmas is upon us in a big way and while I have only a medium-interest in the holiday itself, not being remotely religious, nor having children to ruin with piles of gifts, I do enjoy some things about the season. For one thing, time off. Even for the self-employed, there is time off (it's just unpaid). Also, there's some holiday cheer to be had. And finally, I soak up the spirit of generosity that seems to overcome many of us.

While this season is a joyful one for lots of us, it's also difficult for many. Therefore, I encourage you to donate either time or money if you have either to spare to help make others' experiences of these next few weeks a little better. Some ideas if you need them (and only the first happens to be a client, so don't think this is a plug of self-interest):

Family House
San Francisco/Marin Food Bank
Meals on Wheels
On Lok Lifeways
Toys for Tots
PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support)

This is my last post for the year, as we are off to Kentucky in a few days.  So, see y'all in 2014. Best wishes from me, the huz, Soph, and Santa Hedgie.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Eat, drink, and be thankful

This is a yellow lab puppy born recently at Guide Dogs for the Blind, one of my clients. He's so tiny, he fell asleep in his food bowl!

I hope on this Thanksgiving, you have the good fortune to be off work, surrounded by family and friends, full of delicious food, and headed toward a similar blissful state as this puppy (though hopefully you'll manage it with more dignity). I know I am thankful for good health, good luck, good people in my life, and my very good dog.  Wishing you all the best, too.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Paris, France

Since we returned from our trip a few weeks ago, many friends have kindly asked what we did in Paris. We have answers: we ate great food, went to museums,  saw lots of churches, strolled along the Seine.  These things are all true. But, the real beauty of the trip can be explained in our daily routine: wake up (late, because a 9-hour time difference is no joke), eat something delicious for breakfast, walk around, see some art or old buildings, eat something delicious for lunch, walk around,  stop for a glass of wine, walk around some more, take a short nap back at the apartment, go out for an apertif, eat something delicious for dinner, find a place to drink a last glass of wine outside and people watch until midnight or so.  This may seem repetitive, but no two days were alike and every day was perfect.

Here are some things we did and saw.

Admired the many enormous blue doors.

Ate tiny French donuts.

 Went to the Musee d'Orsay.

Ate salty shrimps with creamy mayonnaise.

Admired this brilliant contraption: bread slicer designed like a paper cutter.

Marveled at the tiny gas stations.

Drank coffee.

Pondered life at the Rodin Museum.

Had glasses of wine here.

 And here.

And here, a wine bar and bookstore.

We ate apple turnovers alone the Seine.

And perused the local farmers markets, which were full of beautiful produce, as well as stands selling the usual charcuterie and crepes, but also Moroccan and African food.

We ate here (burrata with mozzarella, prosciutto, olive oil, and crumbled hazelnuts; monkfish with spinach; dourade with tomato risotto).

And here (crab and potato cake; tartare of oysters, salmon, and shrimp; sea bream with pesto and vegetable fritters).

And here...

Where I had haddock vitrine with sweet pepper puree...

And roast chicken with potatoes Dauphine.

We rode the Batobus.

And admired the skyline.

Shopped for books and art along the river.

 And ate cured meats and cheeses at every opportunity.

We saw French dogs and pined for ours.

Sighed over the Hotel de Ville at night.

Looked at art.

 Looked at people looking at art.

Ate American cheeseburgers.

Wondered what this was and contemplated stealing it for a joy ride.

 Stumbled across this guy.

 And practiced looking French.

In addition to the food described above, we had lovely meals at past favorites Fish and Le Comptoir du Relais. But some of our favorite experiences were at new, very casual spots: a tartine of creamy cheese, smoked duck, and walnuts (which were in season and therefore everywhere) at La Tartine; chicken tagine with dried apricots and polenta at Glou; ham and butter sandwiches from one of the many local bakeries. At Les Temps des Cerises, they won my heart from the moment we sat down and they placed before us a plate of perfect French radishes with a tiny wooden bowl of sea salt.

Some of the best food we had was at Frenchie, where we not only enjoyed foie gras with figs, guinea hen with eggplant, squid ink, and olives, and trout with kale and spaghetti squash, but the company of Camille and her husband, Nick. Camille is the pastry chef for Frenchie To Go, which was pretty lucky for us because we were able to ride her coattails and get star treatment that night, including complimentary champagne and the most outrageous last course I have ever had, a small sort of shepherd's pie. I don't often think of eating oxtail stew topped with bechamel (or mashed potatoes, as the husband claims--either way it was deliciously creamy) at the end of a meal, but I can no longer think of a reason why not.

After a second trip to Paris, I am 100% convinced it is the best place on earth. It's not perfect, but it's beautiful, interesting, (mostly) progressive, easy to navigate, and seems to be populated by people who understand that living well is less related to how much you work or earn and more about how much you stop, sit, and look around, preferably while drinking a glass of wine and eating charcuterie.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Hungry Dog returns

Well, sort of.

I've been missing you guys, and though I wouldn't presume that you have been missing me, or wondering what I've been up to, I thought I might dip a toe back in the blog water. All of a sudden, summer is over, Halloween candy is in stores, and Thanksgiving plans are being made. Guess I missed a whole season.

I've been doing things, though. Like for one thing, I started taking a painting class. I've been enjoying it, in spite of being very poor at it. I think I've discovered one of the cool things about getting older: I don't mind if I'm not good at something. I used to feel bad if I wasn't good at something I attempted, but I don't feel that way about painting, even though I carry the baggage of being the daughter of a painter. It is enough that trying to paint gives me the sensation I was craving--the feeling of pushing everything else out of my mind, which is otherwise crazy 24-7.

This made me realize that it was OK if I was terrible at it, as long as I found it fun. Fortunately, I'm good at other stuff, things that I also enjoy, as well as some things that make money. You don't have to excel in every department.

In addition to my art class, we've done some other groovy things this summer, such as attending the Giants' Dog Days game.

Soph enjoyed that, not only because it was a good old fashioned fun day, but because it gave her a break from a certain ankle biter named Emma we've been spending time with. Emma is our friends' new puppy. She is stupid-cute and completely obsessed with Soph. "Ankle biter" is literal in this case.

Poor Soph, I don't think she misses having puppies!

There's been plenty of food stuff, too. For example, we've been digging this place and have spent way too much on casual but decadent lunches there in the last few weeks. I mean, wine on tap...? How can I not love it?  But, we've also had some thrifty backyard picnics.

In case you're missing a caption, that's a tomato and arugula salad; leftover fried chicken from Wayfare Tavern (eaten cold, natch!); Hawaiian mac salad in the tupperware; and a good basic chianti.

And, I've been making crostatas, like I always do. This one was with nectarines.

 And this fig and almond cake.

 And today, I got some kiwi berries in our CSA box. Here they are in a tiny colander!

They are the size of kumquats and taste like a hybrid of kiwis and blueberries. I can't decide what to do with them.

We also bought a grill, which has revolutionized my cooking. For one thing: fewer dishes! For another: the husband mans the grill! We've been grilling maniacs: grilled chicken, grilled steak, grilled pork tenderloin, grilled vegetables. But I don't have any photographic evidence. You'll have to trust me.

And finally, we are on the verge of our Paris trip. PARIS! Man, I love that place. And, I'm in desperate need of a vacation. Who isn't, I guess. But being self-employed makes me want a vacation in a different way than I used to. While I don't have a routine or a grind to get away from, I am also never fully detached from my work, unless I am out of the country. So, with it being one year since we went to Italy, I'm bouncing off the walls a bit.

I regret to say that my French remains as awful as it was the last time we went in 2011, despite my braggy claims right after that trip that I would be conversational by the time we returned. C'est dommage, non? Two and half years go quickly when you're sitting around doing nothing.

So, have a lovely few weeks, my friends. Be good.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Time out

Trying to decide the future of this blog and I think it requires a little break.  My interest in blogging has changed (and ebbed and flowed) a good deal since I started The Hungry Dog in 2009 and I'm not sure this is where my creative interests lie anymore. Maybe I just need some time out and I will return, refreshed and inspired. In any case, thanks for reading all this time. Those of you who have read -- and especially those of you who have commented--have made this blog a lot of fun, and, at times, very rewarding. Happy summers to you all! I'll see you when I see you.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Hungry Dog gets a summer

While I remain largely afraid of pie crust, I've developed a certain level of comfort with the free-form tart, whose beauty lies in its rustic appearance. "Rustic" is also sometimes used as a synonym (in my house) for "patchy," ""shaggy," or "sloppy," but that's a little bit the point, isn't it?

Whenever I tell the husband I'm going to make a crostata, I'm guaranteed an enthusiastic response.  I think it might be his favorite type of dessert, although he's rather fond of crisps and crumbles, and I'm fairly sure nothing can beat a really good chocolate chip cookie. But in the moment--and that's all there is when it comes to dessert--the crostata (or galette, if you're feeling Frenchie) reigns supreme.

Speaking of French...we'll be headed to Paris this fall, the sequel to our 2011 trip in which we wondered what the hell we'd been doing all our lives, lollygagging around the US of A while a place like Paris existed. I mean, come ON. Paris is the best place on earth--with the possible exception of Kauai.

Anyway, we're heading to Paris, where we will once again unleash some abominable French on unsuspecting locals while eating as much bread and cheese as is acceptable without being asked to leave. Oh, there might be some wine, too. We're also looking forward to returning to some of those lovely museums we enjoyed. But mostly, we plan to settle into our Marais apartment for 10 days and pretend to be Parisians.

Anyway, I digress. The purpose of this post is to share the crust recipe from which this fabled crostata earns its stellar reputation. Don't judge...but it's a Giada recipe. It would be much cooler if it were Dorie Greenspan's or Julia Child's, but what can I say: I've probably made this dough 30 times and it works like a charm every time. As for the filling, I just use whatever I have. All you have to do is add as much sugar as you want, maybe a squeeze of lemon, a dash of cinnamon or cardamom if you're feeling froggy, and you're golden.

Not long ago, I made the strawberry and blueberry tart in the photo above. That was popular, and it might be a nice idea for your 4th of July. More recently, I made it with apricots and raspberries.

This, too, received excellent reviews. I actually preferred it to the mixed berry version, but I'm partial to desserts that are a little on the tart side...especially when there's vanilla ice cream involved.

I expect lots of y'all are having some hot weather and for a change, so are we.  Last night we sat outside for dinner without jackets on! If you don't live in San Francisco, you may not understand how weird and rare this is.  (As a point of reference, earlier this week we were running the heat.) It's even projected to be hot through the weekend, which means people will put on shorts, get in the water at Crissy Field, and sunbathe in questionably appropriate swimwear at Dolores Park.

So, happy summer and happy 4th of July. I have to say, given some of the Supreme Court's decisions recently (though not all), I'm feeling moderately patriotic these days. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't move to France in a heartbeat.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Raspberry crumble bars

My iPhoto library is full of good intentions--all kinds of things I've made over the last few months, photographed for you, then never posted about. Like these delicious raspberry crumble bars I made back in...January? February? And here it is mid-June! Oh well, better late than never.

Like all Ina Garten recipes, this one starts off with a hefty lump of butter and a steady stream of sugar. Pile on some raspberry jam and you're looking at a major toothache. But, they're worth it. I think the real secret is the granola in the topping. And if you happen to have good homemade granola on hand (sans fruit), so much the better.

These bars are simple as can be and crazy delicious. Your only effort is in remembering to soften the butter. The husband and I gobbled a few after dinner the first night I made them and the next day, I brought some in a little paper sack to my friend, Amy. We ate gigantic plates of Hawaiian food for lunch and then went our separate ways. On the way home, she texted me that she had eaten all the bars in the bag in a matter of minutes. Let me back up and say: unlike me, Amy is not gluttonous in the least. She could be--she's about 10 feet tall and thin as a rail. But she's moderate. Also, she works for a food magazine and is always the beneficiary of the test kitchen. So, when she likes something, it's officially good.

It just happens that I have black raspberry jam on hand, as well as a fresh batch of granola. Better put the butter out...

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Camille recently tagged me with this little game making the rounds--reveal 11 things about yourself, answer 11 questions, and pose 11 questions to five blogger friends. (Thanks, Camille!) As The Hungry Dog has been languishing as of late, I figure what better way to kickstart it than by talking about myself? How fun for all of you.

11 things about me

1. I have recently taken up meditation. Every morning, between the dog walk and the beginning of work, I do a 10 minute session. I cannot explain how much this tiny investment of time and focus has changed my outlook, feeling of peace, patience, and overall well-being.

2. I like to give compliments and I don't understand when people are stingy with them. There are easy and difficult ways to be kind in the world, and paying compliments is among the easiest. They cost you nothing.

3. Although I have never been a picky eater, I have now fully embraced two things I used to detest: eggs and coconut.  This just goes to show that even when you think you won't change your mind about something, it can happen without your permission.

4. My favorite albums are: R.E.M.'s Murmur; Pavement's Wowee Zowee; Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker; and Jack Johnson's On and On.  Each one reminds me of a particular happy time in my life.

5. I'm alternately extravagant and thrifty. Example of extravagance: there's a kind of cracker I've discovered that the husband and I are in love with. It's $9 for about 16 crackers. Example of thrift: I use the same comb I've had since high school. It's missing some teeth but I don't see what sense it makes to buy a new one if this one still works. Did I mention I graduated from high school in 1991?

6.  In college, I was an extra in the movie "Strange Days."

7. About 8 years ago, I considered going to pastry school. I toured a local school and did a short, informal apprenticeship at a well-known restaurant here. After seeing the pastry chef break down in tears over a burned vat of quince paste, I decided being a professional cook was not for me.

8.  My nicknames include: Chuck, Shortie, Cubby, Smalls, Bunga, Fritzy, and Auntie Bowwow.

9. If I could only keep one cookbook, it would be Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, because, aside from my parents, it is responsible for teaching me how to cook. If I could keep another, it would be Firehouse Food, because every recipe is a winner.

10. My favorite smells are: coffee brewing, rice steaming, chicken frying, and lemons.

11. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever heard is something my late father-in-law used to say: "Take care of you and one more." To me, this is not just about tending to your partner, kid, or parent. It's about extending yourself to people beyond your circle, even to strangers, being generous and empathetic. I think if more people did this, the world would be a better place.

11 Questions from Camille

1. What was the last concert you went to?
The Knitters.

2. What was the best concert you’ve ever been to?
The Rolling Stones.

3. Name your top three favorite spices and what you like to do with them.
Cardamom, in baked good; smoked paprika, with roasted meats or potatoes; and grated nutmeg, with any bitter green. 

4. Wine or beer?

5. Do you have a pet? What is the most surprising thing he or she has ever done?
I have a labrador retriever that doesn't like to retrieve and doesn't care about the water. 

6. Where have you traveled that you most want to visit again?

7. What movie can you recite by heart?
"Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

9. What was the last book you read?
"Beautiful Ruins" by Jess Walter. 

10. Where do you like to sing?

11. When do you feel most content?
 Swimming at Kahalahala Beach in Kauai.

11 Questions for my friends
For these I am tagging:

Shaz at Test with Skewer
Zoomie at Zoomie Station
Sue at The View from the Great Island
Jessica at Jessica's Dinner Party
and my friend Ami at her new blog, Moonchild Maxwell

1. Who or what has had the greatest impact on your life?
2. What is your favorite thing to cook?
3. Where do you hope to travel next?
4. What is your dream job?
5. Favorite book?
6. If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
7. What is your greatest talent?
8. What skill do you wish you had?
9. Do you prefer sweet or savory?
10. Have you ever lived abroad? If so, where?
11. What motivates you to keep blogging?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fondant au chocolat

Just down the hill from us is an outpost of La Boulange, a local string of Frenchie-type bakeries with delicious pastries, tartines, and the omnipresent macarons. We usually pop in there on Saturday mornings while out with Soph and pick up a quarter loaf of their multigrain, a couple of almond croissants, or, on occasion, a bite-sized fondant au chocolat.

I was pleased to come across the recipe for these little gems in the local paper, which, while largely deemed in this household the most embarrassing "news" paper on the planet (a frequent theme for  front-page stories is then-and-now pictures of celebrities) does have a decent food section (though not in comparison The New York Times or Los Angeles Times, but I should just let it be, shouldn't I.)

These dense little guys are just what you need to propel you through a sleepy afternoon, or to finish off a lovely dinner. They're baked in muffin tins but the batter doesn't fill them up entirely, so what you end up with are smallish little cakes, kinda sunken and gooey in the middle.

And what goes perfectly with a mouthful of chocolate? A tiny cup of espresso, ideally made in this ridiculously cute contraption I just purchased.

Yes, people, that is a miniature two-cup stovetop espresso maker. Get yourself one.