December 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
There’s something about San Francisco and name recognition that when you put the name of a certain café or restaurant before an item of food, you instantaneously know it’s good. Tartine is one of those places, always with a line tailing out the door, always full of the smells of fresh baked croissants and scones, and bread, if you’re very, very lucky. So when an old friend suggested we make Tartine’s lemon bars together, I was definitely on board. We used the pine nuts suggested for the crust. We surprised the man down the street from whom we bought the pine nuts with a plate of still-warm bars. We mixed it up with his family’ breakfast of apple pancakes, a whole hidden apple slice enrobed in soft, fluffy batter; a run out for a pour-over Blue Bottle coffee; a break for Vietnamese sandwiches. It was good to catch up and remember times past. He even reminded me of a pear and almond cake which I made for our prom dinner — I had completely forgotten, but he still had the recipe, and remembered being impressed by the spring-form pan. I only remember the pan of black-and-white cheesecake brownies we devoured in the limo on the way to the after-party.
As I was sitting on the bed the other night, having another freak-out about my post-graduation future, my mother reminded me that sometimes I need to try harder to live in the present. So I’ve compiled another list of little things that make me happy, something I’ve found helpful when the big picture starts to seem overwhelming.
Watching the World Junior Hockey Championships, filling the void created by the NHL lockout.
Lemon sugar cookies, the same ones we’ve made every holiday season since I can remember, devoured this year before I could even photograph them. The stained pages of the Christmas Cookie Cookbook, one of the first cookbooks properly my own, now lacking a binding.
Taking pictures of snow on Boxing Day, with absolutely no one on the road and only a scattering of people on the sidewalks.
Everything bagels from the local bagel and coffee shop, actually covered in seeds instead of just lightly dusted.
The burn in my legs, the powder, the trees turned to icicles, and the pure whiteness that is the peaks of the Fernie Ski Resort in the fog.
Sending out my mother’s hand-printed holiday cards to friends far, far away.
Opening wrapped presents, that I um picked out and tried on a month ago. Gray cashmere sweaters and striped silk wraps from Thailand.
Being in the middle of nowhere, until I’m sick of being in the middle of nowhere. By the way, Hi! I’m in Fernie, British Columbia!
December 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
So I should probably start by saying that the last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind of festivities and new things that should have happened a long time ago. Recovering, I’m sitting on a sheet-less bed eating leftover candy from our holiday party and drinking hot chocolate, trying to get my life and laundry in order, so that I can fly home tomorrow in peace. As I’m packing to leave for winter break, it’s funny to think that this is the last time I’ll be doing that. That this year is in fact a year of last times. And also, funnily enough, a year of so many firsts, so many things that seemed to come out of nowhere and now feel so right, so many moments of absolute uncertainty, that it seems strange to be closing out the year because it’s like it finally just begun.
So maybe a couple of days passed since I wrote that paragraph, not really knowing where to go from there. I’m now sitting in the dining room in the house I grew up in, with light pouring in from the skylights overhead. It’s a gray, misty day, but walking around the neighborhood this morning never felt so comforting. A man in red plaid walked past, blasting “All I Want for Christmas” from a pair of speakers tied around his neck. A girl sat on the street corner, peddling “vintage findings,” which, as far as I could tell, looked like a pile of stones. A man in running gear did a handstand leaning up against the wall of a home on Church Street. Inside the neighborhood cookbook store, a young woman asked the shopkeeper for a book on Swedish cooking to give her grandfather to remind the meals of his youth. On Market, the Delancey Street Christmas tree parking-lot shop is framed by a row of palm trees.
I feel a little silly posting about frozen yogurt in the middle of winter, though my original defense is that I’m in California where it is
always sunny hot beach weather all the time rainy. I also have to confess that although I love the Sprouted Kitchen (from whose book this recipe is from, though you can also find it here), I much prefer my mint chocolate chip separate from my Greek yogurt. But maybe that’s just me, because this frozen yogurt has lots of fans. And if nothing else, take away from it a refreshing take on mint in this winter season.
November 26, 2012 § 1 Comment
I was running along Ocean Beach in the late afternoon on Sunday. The sun was starting to set, disappearing under the water line, casting a foggy pink haze over the waves. The air smelled like weed, salt, and kelp, and along the shoreline, trails of smoke drifted up from the bonfires. Couples held hands walking up to the cliff house, volleyball nets were set up in the sand, and every ten feet, a child ran across the path or a group of early-twenties started lighting up. It struck me then how quintessentially home I was.
We managed to pack a lot into a short week: a visit to one of the first bakeries I ever truly loved, and one epic meal after another — an evening at Cotogna with warm ricotta on toasts, pizza of fior di latte, brussel sprouts, and prosciutto; Thanksgiving of course, which for me consisted of a plate of scalloped potatoes, a yam, half a tray of lemon bars, and a slice of gingerbread cake (with browned butter frosting!); a take-out menu of spice, pumpkin curry, crab pad thai, and red curry with bamboo shoots and prawns; a carb fest at Dosa of South Indian crepe-like pancakes stuffed with lentils, potatoes and broccoli rabe, served with dipping sauces. My brother’s 16th birthday, a visit to Japantown with my grandparents.
And finally, a day of wine tasting in Napa Valley with my oldest best-friend. A couple of wrong turns, turning into random vineyard driveways, a couple of tasting sessions, and about 10 wines later, we successfully pulled off probably our most spontaneous day to date. We may have managed to pay bridge tolls going both into and out of the city (that’s what happens when you leave by the Bay Bridge and return by the Golden Gate), but we made it back in one piece, though exhausted. Not to mention, it never occurred to me that in California, where few trees have leaves that change color, grape leaves become brilliant shades of red and orange.
November 8, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I’m sitting at a table, looking out a panel of old-fashioned windows at the mauve and pink clouds descending over white ground. The couple of inches that have survived the day, turning black and muddy at the edges of the path, still form a gentle layer on top of the bushes just outside the window. The first snowfall of the year always seems magical. By the beginning of January, I’ve had it with the cold and the snow, but right now, the light dusting is enchanting, inspiring a childlike joy and innocence with each step on untrodden powder. In just a few minutes, the pink clouds will disappear entirely. The view from inside noir.
I spent last night curled up in my saucer chair with an oversize fleece blanket and The Sprouted Kitchen Cookbook — I didn’t even make it halfway through, past the main dishes, because the photography on every page requires careful and awed contemplation. Reading the married duo’s blog, the harmony with which they work together is both comforting and inspiring. It was the perfect reading material while the blizzard was having its moment outside. This evening, I may be nursing whiskey and apple cider instead of cookbooks, but you know, that’s the life of a college student. All so that we can steal dining trays from the campus center at 2 a.m. and go sledding.
November 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
As if overnight, it’s winter. In the mornings, the lawn outside my entryway is frozen, and crackles with every step. Rumor has it there’s a Nor’easter on the way. Wool socks, my down jacket and the knit hat Granny sent just last week have suddenly become mainstays in my wardrobe. Every morning, I tumble out of bed, across the mess of clothes on the floor, and hop around on the tiled bathroom floor, waiting the ten minutes for the water to warm up to an acceptably hot temperature. Running is no longer a determination to stay in shape, but a battle to emerge from the comforter every morning. I slept for eleven hours last night, and was surprised when my lab partners wanted to talk about our lab report at midnight, don’t they know that’s the middle of the night?
That said, there’s two things I enjoy about the early days of winter and that’s the clothes and the food. I want to crawl onto thick cashmere sweaters with blowsy sleeves. I want butternut squash galettes with buttery crust for dinner and warm open-faced apple tarts for dessert. I want the first snowfall, and then all the miserable days of dirty slush afterwards to disappear into a cloud of gingerbread cookies by the fireplace. Even with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I’m already dreaming in reds and greens, fir trees and ski hills. The pistachios in this poundcake are perfectly festive for my current mindset. Granted the two sticks of butter in it are also perfectly excessive and demonstrative of winter baking, but hey we’re only concerned about the aesthetics of winter here — the picture perfect image of poundcake for breakfast looking out at the pure white flurries of snow falling outside.
November 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
My vacation week was cut short by Hurricane Sandy, and my birthday was spent cooped up in bed, watching the wind and rain rage outside, with a warning from Major Bloomberg to stay inside. But I’m counting myself lucky that I’m safe and dry, and didn’t lose anything in the storm except for a couple of fun times. Watching the news is a sobering reminder that while I was complaining that all of the restaurants were closed for lunch, some people were out there actually losing everything. So I’ve been thinking about the happy moments of this week and they’re actually more plentiful than I thought.
Running down Prospect Street, through the autumn leaves and seeing the neighbors come out to talk to each other in the middle of the street.
These crunchy squares of burnt caramel toffee from Poco Dolce in San Francisco that my dad sent me in the mail.
Having The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook in my hands for the very first time, I can’t wait to spend hours with it.
A lovely day-before-birthday dinner at Prune, which we visited for the second time, and chatting with our table neighbors — a French family confused when their son got asked for I.D. for a glass of wine.
Corduroys and brown combat boots, perfect for November.
A morning yoga session that makes me wonder why yoga ever made it out of my daily routine.
Watching a young boy, who could not have been more than eight-years-old, sip chocolate milk while reading The New York Times, across from me at Small World Coffee.
Sending in my ballot, just in time.
Waking up on my birthday to a lemon tart, a handmade hat from Granny, and a blue Tiffany’s box from my little brother.
Taylor Swift’s new album Red, which surprisingly and embarrassingly, is so spot on I can’t stop listening.