Thursday, December 29, 2011

That's a wrap

You probably thought I was done for, but here I am, trying to resuscitate this thing before we shut down 2011. The year has flown by--for all of us, I'm sure. I remember an older cousin once saying to me that life just went faster and faster as you got older. I didn't entirely understand how that was possible, or why it was a worrisome thing, but now I appreciate it in full. Life spins along with or without you; if you're lucky, you can steer a little and take snapshots along the way.

Overall, it's been a great year.  It started off rough--we lost Frances in January, which broke my heart. But, the thing about life propelling forward is that eventually the hard or sad things get further away and you start to pick up happy and even fantastic things to focus on. Like traveling to wonderful places, or welcoming new members into your family.

Now, all of a sudden, the year is coming to a close. I generally feel neither excited nor melancholy about the holidays; however, this year was a little bit special. Someone I love very much had a serious health scare in the months leading up to the holidays, the kind of situation which demands that you be optimistic while quietly steeling yourself for the unknown. I am delighted to say that good news has prevailed, lending a true sense of joy to the the season. Whether you thank a god or a lucky star, these are the times one simply surrenders to the deepest feelings of gratitude.

To wrap up the year, I've put together a little highlight reel of the past year, food and otherwise.

1) We went to Paris and Barcelona, where we ate, drank, walked, and marveled for two weeks.

First day in Paris, jetlagged and happy.

2) I made a very average strawberry shortcake, which turned out to be my most popular post of all time.

Pretty but boring.

3) We found Sophie.


4) The husband ventured into the kitchen and made clam chowder, giving me a run for my money.

Not bad, even if it was from Esquire.

5) I spent a fabulous day with my sister in New York and ate the famous Momofuku Ssam Bar pork buns, the thought of which still sends me into a dreamy little daze.

Porky pork belly, I'll take two please.

6) We celebrated the husband's birthday on a beautiful, not-foggy day in August at Delfina.

Prosecco to ring in the next year!

7) I became obsessed with both Dorie Greenspan and sardines.

Dorie's sardine rillettes.

8) I had a blogging crisis and started talking about non-food things, which overall seemed to be met positively.

The subject of one of my ramblings.

9) I overcame my dislike of eggs. Sorry, cholesterol!

I ate eggs at home and abroad.

10) We went to Maui and began seriously considering a permanent move to the island.

If you don't want to live here, something is wrong with you.

I hope you all have enjoyed a happy and healthy year, and I wish you the same for 2012!

Hungry Dog

Me and my girl at Pizzetta 211.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Persimmon and apple crostata

All of a sudden we have a pile of persimmons. We got some in the produce box and someone gave the husband a nice-looking one at work. They're in season, you may know. We had some recently in a salad at Ragazza, and they've been popping up on blogs.

I like persimmons, although I doubt I would buy them. However, once they enter the house, I do my best to use them.

There's always the question of what to do, though. And I know for a fact I am not the only one contemplating this exact question! In the last month, my post about spiced persimmon chutney from two years ago has been the most popular one on my blog.

Incidentally, for fellow bloggers, don't you love looking at your blog stats? They never fail to surprise me. My all-time most popular post to date is strawberry shortcake (a bit unfortunate, since that recipe wasn't any good), followed upside-down plum cake, vanilla bean bundt cake, and crazy mango bars (which I love to read and be reminded of my beloved Frances--RIP baby girl!) I also like to see the searches that lead people to my blog. In addition to the expected recipe key words, I get a lot of dog-related questions, such as, "Can my dog eat olives?" and "Are dogs allergic to cabbage?" and a strangely popular one, "What happens if my dog eats persimmons?" (no joke). Apparently a lot of dogs out there are gobbling these odd little tannic fruits and sending their owners into frenzies. Perhaps I should add a canine diet and health page to my blog.

I myself will occasionally search for recipes (thus the chutney) and have come across persimmon bread, persimmon cake, persimmon preserves, etc. In the end, this week I fell back on an old basic recipe I've used a hundred times for a crostata. I've done it with blueberries, pears, and apples, among other fruits. The crust is very simple and since crostatas are free form I don't have to fret about my poor pastry skills.

This time I decided on a combination of apples and persimmons, and contrary to my usual method of just dumping all the fruit in a pile over the crust, I Martha-Stewarted the hell out of this thing and arranged the fruit into elegant little rows (elegant by my standards, sloppy by Martha's).

The result was lovely indeed, with one caveat, which is that although I sliced the persimmons rather thinly (I thought), they didn't quite cook enough. So while the apples were perfectly soft without being mushy, the persimmons were a shade al dente.

It was more than edible, though, the first night with vanilla ice cream and for the next couple of days for breakfast. The husband informed me from his cube at work that the mid-morning combination of the crostata with a latte was "dope." Indeed!

While I can't vouch for whether or not they are dog-safe, persimmons are a perfect fruit for humans to enjoy this time of year. They look like bright little jewels, have a curious texture employable in either a salad or dessert, and bear a distinctive, sweet flavor at home in a crumble, crisp, or this homey little crostata.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Pasta with bacon and eggs (plus bacon and eggs)

Something's going to kill you eventually: I could probably eat pasta every day of the week. I know there are people out there who can resist the siren song of the noodle but I am not one of them. To be honest, I don't even try. I'd rather swim a few extra laps and enjoy a good bowl of pasta when the whim strikes me, which is often and irresistible.

I frequently fall back on old favorite recipes but recently I made this luxurious pasta carbonara, another hit from Firehouse Food.

I'll be the first to admit, carbonara is not healthy, unless you have an alternative doctor that has told you to get fatter, increase your cholesterol, and up your sodium intake. This is certainly not something I would eat too often. But you may as well make the most of your indulgences. Life is short, after all.

I've tried a lot of carbonara recipes in my day, some with as many as six eggs, some without cream, some with garlic. This one has three eggs, cream, mushrooms, and a whopping half-pound of bacon. They're not kidding around, and neither am I: this is good.

Rigatoni alla carbonara
From Firehouse Food

8 oz thick-cut pancetta or bacon, sliced crosswise into 1/4" strips (I used bacon)
1 T. olive oil
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used crimini)
Dash of red pepper flakes
1 c. whipping cream
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1 c. grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan, plus extra for serving
1 lb rigatoni (I used penne)
2 T. chopped Italian parsley
1 t. freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat until it is browned (but not crispy), about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon, using a slotted spoon; drain on paper towels and set aside.

Discard all but 1 T. of the rendered fat in the skillet. Add the oil and heat the skillet briefly over medium heat; add the mushrooms and red pepper flakes and saute until the mushrooms are golden, about 4-5 minutes. Add the cream and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook until the cream has thickened slightly, about 4 minutes. Keep warm.

In a bowl large enough to hold the pasta, beat the eggs and yolk with the cheese. Cook the penne in boiling salted water. Reserve 1/2 c. of the pasta water and drain the pasta in a colander.

Immediately add the hot pasta to the bowl with the egg mixture, tossing to combine. Stir in the warm mushroom mixture, bacon, parsley, and pepper. If the pasta seems dry or the sauce too thick, add a few tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Serve immediately with additional grated cheese at the table.


Speaking of eggs: I now like them.  I'm not sure what happened, but I now eat eggs in all different forms: poached, hard-boiled, baked on pizzas, and even fried on a sandwich. I order them in restaurants! I make them at home!

I've always eaten them sporadically when scrambled and that remains the way I am best at preparing them. I think I make good scrambled eggs. For one thing, they are never dry. My clever trick for this is "not overcooking them." Also, cooking them over low heat seems to result in creamier eggs that don't get watery. And adding a dash of milk, just a tablespoon or two, to the beaten eggs keeps them fluffy. An old friend told me that once and I remembered it. She ended up being a professional cook, so I guess she knew what she was talking about.

Here are some pretty eggs I made a few weeks ago, served with buttery toast and thick bacon. Not too shabby for a former egg-a-phobe.


Happy birthday to me: Today, my friends, I turn one year older. Wiser? Dubious. Happier? Yes!

While I don't love getting older, I have never been one to dwell on it. I have a lot of friends who, in their late thirties or early forties, talk about how old they are. I think this is ridiculous, and frankly, doing that actually makes you seem kind of old. Sure, you're aging. And, you don't get the past back, so hopefully you did some good stuff with those years. But getting older means you have had more experiences--hopefully, most of them good. And at its most basic level, it means you're still around, and that's kind of the point, right?

The way I see it is this: whatever age you are turning, it is the youngest you will be for the rest of your life. Say you are turning 50 and feeling a little blue about it. Well, when you are turning 60 or 70, you will probably find yourself longing for the days when you were a 50-year-old spring chicken. You'd better enjoy yourself now!

We celebrated my birthday this past Saturday exactly as I wanted. It was a beautiful sunny day and we kicked around the Mission for a bit, supporting Small Business Saturday by hitting some of our favorite stores (the huz wrote about our escapades here), then grabbing a cozy lunch at The Monks Kettle. Home for a little nap and Sophie time, plus a long walk to the top of Buena Vista Park. Then dinner at Cotogna (fresh papparadelle with braised oxtail, anyone?) I couldn't ask for anything more.

I also want to give a shout-out to my niece, Emily, with whom I share my birthday. She is turning 11 today, which is infinitely more exciting than turning 38. Happy birthday, little E! I love you!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chocolate snickerdoodles, and another houseguest

Strikeout: After Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip, snickerdoodles may have been the first kind of cookie I learned to make. They're so simple it's no wonder that little kids can master them. And who doesn't like a sweet mouthful of cinnamon and sugar?

When I recently saw a recipe in Food & Wine for chocolate snickerdoodles, I knew I had to make them. Because while I always liked the original recipe, they can be a little boring. Chocolate seemed like a fantastic idea.

I regret to say that this recipe was terrible and I vehemently recommend you do NOT make it. The baking time was way off and the cookies turned out hard as rocks and as bland as can be. I choked down two, the husband one, and the rest hit the compost bin.

Too bad, because they were pretty as a picture, as the husband might say.

But I can't eat pretty. Recipe: fail.


Sophie's BFF: A few weeks ago, Sophie's friend Ruby came to stay with us for a few days. The two pups are about a year apart in age and have developed a rapid little dog friendship. They wrestle and romp until they collapse, exhausted, for about five minutes. Then they're at it again.

Seeing them reminded me of the time we took care of Django, who was Ruby's older brother. He and Frances didn't play together--at that point, Frances was 14 and Django was probably 13--but they did seem to enjoy each other's quiet company, much like a contented old couple. Neither one of them could hear much by that point, which meant they could easily ignore anything we said. They did, however, seem to have a sliver of hearing reserved for the clinking of pots in the kitchen, which always brought them running for scraps. Our friends lost sweet Django a few months ago, and while their world and the animal kingdom still suffer his absence, there is always hope in the next generation.

There's also tug-of-war...

Gazing into each other's eyes...

Watching TV together...

And straight-up snoozing.

We had the best time with Ruby. She is, like her name, a little gem and welcome any time!


Be thankful, be generous: Given my rate of posting these days, I suspect this will be my last post before Thanksgiving. We're not hosting this year (going to Ruby's house!) but I will be doing some cooking: cauliflower gratin,  pumpkin chiffon pie, and, if I'm feeling froggy, stuffed mushrooms.

Although I would like to think I am the kind of person who spends each day being thankful for everything I have and never feeling fussy or greedy or envious,  I know in my heart that this is not true. So, around Thanksgiving, I do try to really appreciate what I have. This year, I am deeply thankful for: my husband, my dog, my family, my friends, my health, my work, and my home, not necessarily in that order. 

I wish you all a wonderful holiday! May it be filled with delicious food in outrageous proportions and spent with those you treasure. Also, I encourage you, if you have anything to spare, to give to your local food bank. If you're in the Bay Area, here are links to food banks in San Francisco (now merged with the Marin Food Bank), San Mateo/Santa Clara, and Alameda. I'm sure I don't need to tell you about the staggering need. And, as someone who fundraises professionally, I can tell you that whatever you're able to give, either in money, groceries, or volunteer time, will make a difference.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Pizzetta 211 and my secret list

Oh, Pizzetta: We've got a few favorite weekend lunch spots in rotation these days, and at the top is Pizzetta, located in the outer Richmond (23rd & California). We usually show up for a late-ish lunch with Sophie and grab a table outside. I absolutely adore this place, from the cozy setting to the friendly service to the innovative and carefully executed pizzas.

We invariably begin with whatever the special starter is. Sometimes it's a simple beet salad, sometimes braised Romano beans with tomatoes, sometimes a fiery hot bowl of melting crescenza cheese, served with crostini. Then we get two pizzas. 

Now, before you judge, understand that these are small-medium pizzas, with a rather thin crust. We're decadent but we're not totally insane. (We are a little insane though, now that I'm thinking about our lunches there, which tend to involve several glasses of wine...each. Moving on.)

Last time we went, we got pepperoni (see above), which I usually don't like, but I do like at Pizzetta, and this one, with potatoes, pancetta, greens, and two sunny eggs. I'm overcoming my aversion to eggs. Will wonders never cease?

Their pizzas are perfectly-crusted (crispy and chewy), well-balanced, and imaginative. Just thinking about them now is making me hungry.

After we do a number on the pizzas, we get dessert. They have a fantastic upside down cake, as well as a delicious ginger cake with a pear compote. Last time, we got a berry galette. Now, I know this picture is horrible (hipstamatic can be finicky). But the reason why I am posting it is to show you one of the lovely things about their desserts, which is that every single one comes with, as the husband says, a "hamster-sized" dollop of heavenly whipped cream. True story:

And of course there's cappucino to be had.

Then a stand-off on who gets stuck driving home, followed by a lengthy nap. The end.


About those good ideas:  Awhile ago, a friend of mine gave me a little blank book to use for whatever I like. There were three nice things about this gift. The first is that it was for no occasion, she just showed up with it one day. The second is, it's pretty. And third, I'd been thinking that it would be useful to have a small notebook I could carry with me to jot down my brilliant ideas when I wasn't near my laptop.

The rather painful thing is, it turns out I don't have brilliant ideas. Instead, I have started using the book to jot down words or concepts that either come up in conversation, or in whatever book I'm reading, that I don't know or understand, as a reminder to look them up later. So, instead of being a record of my intellectual gems, it's a running list of my ignorance. I would share some of it with you, but I don't want to get ridiculed.

The older I get, the more I realize how little I know. Every day, I'm confronted with innumerable things on which I should but don't have a strong grasp: world events (some current, some past); economic principles; scientific concepts. I should really issue an apology to all the wonderful teachers I had growing up; it seems I've retained very little.

Why is this? Is my brain overloaded with dull but necessary things, like work and errands (two inescapable hallmarks of adulthood, no?) Can I no longer read, listen, and remember things? Is my mental agility actually getting worse, in spite of my compulsive crosswording?

I think my secret list should help, even if it's only in baby steps. But please tell me I'm not the only one who isn't keeping up.


And finally: I regret that this is not a more photogenic dish, but really and truly, this chicken curry is to die for. It's thickened with yogurt and ground cashews, easy to make, great with rice, and improves overnight. I've been making it for years but have somehow never posted about it. You can find the recipe here, and for once, I have no changes to it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Beef teriyaki, round #1

If at first you don't succeed: In Hawaii, as you may know, teriyaki is a big deal. Nearly every menu has something grilled and brushed with this sweet-and-salty glaze. (Even McDonald's has a McTeri Sandwich!) Yet strangely, we almost never eat teriyaki when we're there. This may be because it's most commonly paired with chicken or beef, and generally we just eat fish when we're in Hawaii.

When we returned from Maui, I felt like I had failed to consume sufficient teriyaki. A homemade effort was in order. I happen to have a number of Hawaiian cookbooks and plucked a recipe from Sam Choy's Island Flavors. Sam had steered me right in the macadamia nut chicken, so why not beef teri?

The recipe calls for marinating thinly sliced beef in an enchanting mix of soy sauce, ginger, and sugar (among other ingredients) for 4-6 hours before grilling it quickly, then topping it with a teriyaki glaze. Doesn't it look fantastic?

Unfortunately, both the marinade and the glaze (two separate concoctions) were horribly salty. I didn't even end up serving the teriyaki glaze because it was beyond edible. What a debacle!

In the end, good old mac salad saved the day. I LOVE Hawaiian mac salad. The husband and I can really put it away, too. So we ate a little beef teri and a lot of rice and mac.

In one way, I'd like to fiddle with the recipe and tweak it to make it just right. In another way, I'd like for someone to just give me a better recipe that I don't have to fix. I think that way wins. Anyone have a good one to share? I'm ready for beef teri, round #2.


A new acquisition: I recently came to acquire this painting*, done by my father at an unknown date, but most likely before I was born. It made its way to me through my cousin, who was clearing out his late parents' house to prepare it for sale. My dad was a fairly prolific painter, ceramicist, and jeweler, and periodically things of his will sort of reappear in my life.

Although I am fortunate to have several of his other works, this painting has quickly become one of my favorites. I'm not sure why, exactly. The reason why we prefer certain pieces of art over others has always been a mystery to me, but one which I enjoy contemplating. This is a quality passed on to me by my dad, who died nearly 16 years ago.

At the time, because I was on the young side, losing a parent at 22 seemed like a great injustice. Now, with some years on me, it's clear to me that there are far, far worse things to have happen to you in your life, chief among them getting stuck with a crummy parent to begin with. I am fortunate that I lucked out and got two good parents, one of who I am grateful to still have with me.

My dad instilled in me several things which shaped my life:

1) Family is the most important thing, and to have a sibling to whom you are close is a great gift.

2) Food is a source of joy.

3) Art is important.

Some of my best memories of my dad are strolling through museums with him--in San Francisco, Washington DC, Mexico City--and talking to him about art. We started doing this when I was very young. He was never didactic, though when I asked him, he would gladly tell me what he knew about the artist, the period in history, and the significance of the piece. These memories are still very vivid for me. Just recently, I had the opportunity to see an excellent exhibit of Picasso's work, on loan from the Picasso Museum in Paris. As I moved through the galleries, I thought a great deal about my dad, and of how much of the way I see the world--what is beautiful or interesting-- is because of him.

In a few weeks, my dad would have turned 77.  Right after his death, I remember people saying, in some form or another, "He'll always be with you." Hearing this was baffling to me and sometimes made me angry, even though people meant it to be comforting. In the moment, it seemed like the most ludicrous thing to say. With me was the absolute thing he was not.

I understand it a little better now, even though I still miss him. I think once you are over the really sad part of losing someone, you can think back more easily on the good things. And if you're lucky, like me, that person left you with something--an imprint of their perspective, an alternate framework for understanding the world--that you can carry with you the rest of your life.

*Please excuse the poor quality of the photograph...turns out taking good pictures of paintings is rather difficult.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Penne with shrimp and herbed cream sauce

Add this to your repertoire: I've been making this for awhile, but for some reason have neglected to post about it. It's very simple and comes together fast, especially if you get shrimp that is already peeled and deveined. When I do the peeling and deveining myself, I like to leave the tails on, because I prefer the way they look. However, this means you often have to twist off the tail by hand mid-meal, much to the husband's chagrin. He doesn't like to get his fingers shrimpy whilst eating a bowl of pasta. Doesn't bother me. Who am I, Emily Post? I suppose a more civilized household might employ what are known as "knives" to trim off the tail; not so here.

The one addition I have made to this recipe, which was at the husband's suggestion, was adding asparagus. This is reminiscent of a dish I am wildly fond of at Pasta Pomodoro (egads! a chain!), which is pasta shells in a spicy, creamy tomato sauce studded with shrimp and asparagus. I've been known to eat this dish at 10:30am while everyone else is ordering brunchy fare, like poached eggs and French toast.

Giada's sauce is not as delightfully spicy as Pasta P's; I'll have to bump up the red pepper flakes in the future. But in most other ways, it is similar. Here's the link to her recipe. As for the asparagus, I trimmed it, cut in into one-inch lengths, blanched it in the pasta water, then added it to the sauce along with the shrimp at the end.

I'm pretty sure whoever you make this for will fall in love with you (unless they have a shellfish allergy, which would make it a tragic lovestory), so be strategic. Don't say I didn't warn you when you're fighting off someone's unwanted amorous, shrimpy paws.

Gimme your money, then beat it: The other day, the husband and I had a spectacular afternoon: lunch at Out the Door (daikon rice cakes with spicy soy sauce and shitake mushrooms/vermicelli bowls with five spice chicken and imperial rolls/a carafe of wine--perfection!) followed by some leisurely book perusing. We weren't near my favorite bookstore, Green Apple, but fortunately, San Francisco does not hurt for bookstores, and we were a stone's throw from Browser Books. 

We each picked out three books. I brought the stack to the counter where the store owner? employee? grunted at me, flipped over the books, scanned them, then barked out the total. Once I'd paid, he shoved them in a plastic bag and literally swung them on the counter at me. When the bag slapped the counter, it sent a little puff of air into my face.

Why are people who work at bookstores so often surly, second only to record store employees? I don't need a standing ovation, but is it so old-fashioned to want a, "Hi, how are you? Did you find everything you were looking for?" or, upon leaving, "Thank you!" I mean, let's be honest: it's easier for me to order through Amazon. I choose to go to bookstores because I feel, in my heart, that they make a community warmer, richer, and better. This guy was not supporting this theory.

Anyway, I'm excited about the books. Here is what we got. Can you guess which three I chose and which three the husband picked out?


Crazy Town: Two odd things happened today. Not to me, but near me. The first was this morning, around 8am. I was just sitting down to work when I heard a commotion out front.

I peered through the slats of my shades and saw six people pour out of a cruddy looking car, right into my driveway (lucky me!). They were all yelling and taking swings at the other ones. Men and women both. It was like a big free for all! The car was stopped halfway in the street so traffic was having to go around them.

I was about to call the police when I saw one of the men winding up to smack one of the women, when all of a sudden, they abruptly shut up, piled back into the car, and drove away. The only trace they left behind was, disturbingly, a pair of bright pink underwear. Stranger still, when I looked out a few minutes later, the underwear was gone.

Then, this afternoon, while depositing some checks at the bank, all of a sudden I heard a man loudly cursing at some of the bank employees, hollering about having to wait. Like any longtime city dweller, within seconds I expertly assessed how close this lunatic was to me without actually appearing to look at him. (The last thing you want is eye contact.) Then, I surreptitiously identified the nearest exit.

To my surprise, this foul-mouthed character was not what I expected. He looked like a hipster, younger than me, conceivably someone I could be connected to on Facebook. He had a nifty little driving cap on and super stylie sneakers. The bank manager tried to placate him, which wasn't working out too well. The man was on a roll, a furious, expletive-chocked roll.

"That guy was in here earlier," the teller said to me softly as she finished my transaction. She looked at me with wide eyes. "I tried to help him and he yelled at me too. I'm not sure what's wrong with him. Wouldn't you be embarrassed to be yelling like that? If I were him I'd be so mortified."

"I'm pretty sure he's not embarrassed," I said to the teller, who looked about 12. She had her nails painted black and orange for Halloween. "I do, however, think he's a grade-A asshole."

I guess that's what you get from living in a city for a long time. You don't always feel sorry for people the way maybe you should, or consider the reasons that might cause them to act strangely or dangerously. You just want them to get the hell away from you.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Maui Zowee

Returning from vacation is full of lies. You tell yourself that you're happy to be in your own bed, with all your stuff around you. You say you're tired of eating out all the time. Maybe you claim to miss your friends. The most outrageous lie is that you're fully refreshed and ready to go back to work. Honestly, these things are only, at best, half true. I can put up with a mediocre bed if each morning I'm getting up and within an hour I'm swimming in the ocean. I can tolerate eating at restaurants three meals a day if it's a steady rotation of the freshest Ahi, mahi mahi, and opakapaka I've ever had--grilled, in tacos, as sushi, or straight-up sashimi. And, I love my friends, but I don't miss them when I'm on vacation. (I'm not even addressing the work lie.)

Thank goodness for Sophie, otherwise we wouldn't have returned. I mean, why would I want to leave this?

We spent nearly the entire trip in the water or on the sand. Of course, there was eating. Hawaii may not be known for its food, and that's certainly not the reason we go there, but that doesn't mean there isn't good food to be found. Like Star Noodle in LaHaina, where they pull their own noodles. I got the Hapa Ramen, since I'm a Hapa and all.

It was delicious. I especially liked how they brought out a tiny set of sauces to doctor it up.

Miniature seemed to be a theme, based on the teeny glass the husband got for his beer ("Bikini Blonde" by the Maui Brewing Company).

The husband was very pleased with the beer, the noodles, and his new Star Noodle hat.

OMG, he's cute!

We also had a stand-out lunch at Mama's Fish House. Ok, let's just get it out of the way: this place is expensive. My sandwich was $38. But it was beyond worth it. The menu changes every day and includes the name of the person that caught the fish you are about to eat. That's how local it is.

The food was fantastic and the view from our table was:

We had a gorgeous trio of sashimi to start.

For an entree, I had a panko-battered mahi mahi sandwich on a homemade onion roll with creamy, tangy tartar sauce, accompanied by coleslaw with pineapple and edamame and light-as-air taro chips. I forget what the husband had, fish of course, I think with ratatouille. I don't have any good pictures of these, so you'll have to use your imagination.

We were too full for dessert but they brought us some haupia which I enjoyed in spite of my anti-coconut stance. When in Rome Maui...

Tragically, vacation can't last forever. Leaving felt like a kick in the stomach. But, we'll be back. In a year if not sooner.

Aloha and Mahalo, Maui!


As you might expect, engagements, weddings, and honeymoons are big in Hawaii. We saw a few weddings just by chance, including this intimate one which occurred one evening at sunset right in front of us.

Also, while on a boat trip out to Molokini, we met a lovely couple who were to be married a few days later in Wailea. What a beautiful place to get married! we said and wished them well. 

They asked us if we were on our honeymoon, which I thought was cute, since we're six years into marriage and 11 years plus together. That actually happened a few times on the trip, which probably isn't unusual--like I said, people (including us) go there on their honeymoon. But I'm glad to know we could still be mistaken for newlyweds. We really do have fun together, I have to say, both on vacation and at home. Every day I thank my lucky stars we bumbled across each other on this big old planet.


In case you're interested, the title of this post is a pun on one my favorite albums--Wowee Zowee--by one of my favorite bands, Pavement.  

Recently I've been wondering what the hell happened to my interest in music. I mean, I like music. But I never seem to discover new stuff, unless the husband turns me on to something. The last time this happened was with Broken Bells. That was probably about a year ago.

Other people are always discovering music. It comes up all the time. People asking if I've heard this or bought that. I'm always like, uh, no. I'm still listening to music from the mid-90's, when I graduated from college. It's like my music growth got stunted when I entered adulthood. Even the husband is discovering bands --when, I'm not sure. I guess people secretly search for music while I'm watching TV, spacing out, or eating--my primary at-home hobbies.

I'm going to rectify this situation.  I can't be 65 years old and still talking about bands I loved in college. I at least need to add to the list of favorites. Seriously.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Skillet trout

I guess I'm not ready to give up on blogging entirely. I am thinking, though, of morphing The Hungry Dog into something broader,  posting less frequently but about more things, not all food-related. Don't worry, nothing too heady--just stuff occupying my brain.

The first is trout. While grocery shopping a week or so ago, I stopped to admire the whole butterflied trout in the fish case. They were very lovely, with that silver-iridescent skin. Also, cheap. I got one wrapped up to go.

Once home, I had to decide what to do with it. Sometimes I can be very creative; sometimes I'm a total blank. What I decided on was a little on the blank side: lemon slices and rosemary. But actually, it was lovely! I opened up Mister Trout, stuffed him with the goods, and baked him in a skillet at high heat for 12 or 13 minutes. Delicious!

I only have a "before" picture because the after ones didn't look that different and I was in a hurry to eat it.

A few nights later I was talking to my sister on the phone about trout and we started reminiscing about this dish my dad would make sometimes, pan-fried whole trout with brown gravy, Chinese-style. I have no idea what was in that gravy, except I do remember green onions being part of it, which I confirmed with my mother. However, none of us know where the recipe came from.

I've have been mulling over how I might recreate this trout. I'm actually hoping some of my cousins that read this might chime in if their parents--my dad's sibs--ever made something along these lines. Pete, Carole, Tracey: I'm talking to you guys.


The second thing that's been on my mind for a couple of weeks is The Catcher in the Rye. While at my favorite bookstore a few weeks ago, I picked up a used copy of the classic. I found one with a cover I liked, a real old-school edition.

Now, of course I have read this book. I read it before high school, in high school, and quite possibly at some point afterward. But, reading it now, as a fully formed adult, was a totally different experience. Man, this book killed me. I just wanted to cry every 5 pages. I mean, it's funny, too--there's a lot of stuff that made me laugh out loud. But reading it from an adult perspective, I just felt like I wanted to save Holden. His depression is so clearly linked to the death of his younger brother Allie...and isn't this crazy, I didn't even remember he had a brother that got leukemia and died.

The book made me think about all kinds of things: Are there singular events that determine what kind of an adult you will be? How do you learn to face the future? Why are some people able to let the sadnesses of the world slide off them, while others find them debilitating?

One thing that I ended up really thinking about in the end was how glad I was the book was written, published (in 1951!) and that it is/was taught in schools. Sometimes I get so frustrated with the conservative dive this country is taking, it makes me worry that books like this won't get taught anymore. (Re)read it awhile you have the chance, before all the phonies have it banned.


The third thing on my mind is something I've been doing recently. One of my clients is a wonderful organization called Family House. They provide free, temporary housing to low-income families whose children are being treated at UCSF for life-threatening illnesses. They are a fantastic organization and I am honored to work for them.

I recently started volunteering there with Sophie, as part of their therapy dog program. Once a month, we visit the kids, who range from infant to teenager. Many of them are undergoing chemotherapy; for some of them, this is not their first round. Some are part of exciting but exhausting clinical trials. All  of them--and their parents--need a bright spot now and then, between treatments, appointments, and test results.

Here's Sophie about to go into her first day of therapy. Family House is located right next to Golden Gate Park, so I took her for a long walk first to get some energy out. Now she's getting focused.

The kids really love Sophie. There was a teeny girl there the other day--only two--whose father told me she was generally very afraid of dogs and would cry when she saw them. Not so with Sophie. She's extremely docile, you know. The little girl petted Sophie's head, fed her a biscuit, and even let Sophie lick her face.

Another boy, about 13, who was rather shy, hung out with us for the whole hour. He told me that Sophie reminded him of his four dogs at home, who he missed very much. He just wanted to be around her.

There's something about this experience that makes me happy, in spite of it being rather difficult. Not for me--I don't mean to imply that I'm suffering. But, you know, I wish I could fix these kids. No one should have to go through this kind of pain when they are so young. But, I'm glad I can do this one thing for them. It's not a lot, but it's something.