Sunday, July 31, 2005

Short English Stories about A Nice Cup of Tea

Anyone fancy a cuppa char...? Here are some pictures and ponderances about my favourite brew...

photograph picture of my two favourite teapots which I brought with me to America from the UK
Tea is my addiction. It is probably the only thing I consume every day of my life.

photograph picture of my favourite tea caddy
This is my favourite tea caddy. My mother has one too. Hers is so well used that the picture of the dog has completely worn away. We were trying to work out how old they were. I can't remember never not having these caddies. Nor can my mother. They are probably somewhere between 35-50 years old. My mother is adamant they were free with Cadbury's Chocolate Fingers inside. But on the bottom of my tin is a lable which says TEA 1/2lb NET, regd. trademark No80386, so I am not so sure. For the sake of Fred - this is where I now keep the tea bags. He makes a cup of tea, just for me, first thing every morning. This is such a treat, he can make it however he wants, and if that means a bag, so be it.

photograph picture of my two favourite tea strainer a present from my grandmother UK
My gorgeous grandmother bought this little silver plated tea strainer for me from an antique shop several years ago.

photograph picture one of my favourite tea pots
This is the teapot given to me by my friend Penny for my Birthday years and years ago, long before either of us had even thought about moving to San Francisco. I love it. It is extremely hardy and the perfect size for one person .

photograph picture one of my favourite tea pots
Best of all, it has a built in strainer. I use it at the weekends to make a proper cup of tea. (To me, a 'proper' cup of tea means leaves, not bags.) When I was at school, probably aged about 13 or 14, our English teacher set the homework assignment to be 'Write an Essay on How to Make a cup of Tea'. After she had read all our descriptions, I will never forget the teacher coming in to the class and expressing her shock at we'd written. Apparently, every single pupil had simply recounted throwing a teabag in a mug, boiling a kettle, pouring on water, removing the bag with a spoon and then adding a splash of milk. Of course, this was not the way she thought it should be done. I'll never forget the passion with which she described the real way to make tea. Warming the pot, fresh water boiled only once, using leaves instead of bags. It was after that lesson, that I resolved to always try and make my tea properly in future.

photograph picture one of my favourite tea pots
This teapot is huge. It is my teapot for entertaining. It can probably make a dozen cups of tea. It is so heavy when full, it takes two hands to lift it. Hence the little handle you can see between the spout and the lid. In 1989, I was working for a company (long since defunct) called Amazing Array. I didn't like drinking my tea from a bag, so I asked the manager if we could have some petty cash to buy a teapot and she said yes. I went to The Teahouse in Covent Garden and purchased this huge pot for about £20. Shortly thereafter the company folded and I guess I 'helped myself' to the teapot in lieu of some unpaid wages.

photograph picture one of Mariage Freres tea tins from paris
A couple of years ago some friend bough me two tins of tea from Paris. I love them, they are so stylish and French looking. This is where I now keep my loose leaf tea.

photograph picture one of Mariage Freres tea tins from paris
Out of habit, I guess, I favour Twinings English loose leaf tea which I usually stock up on when I am the UK. I simply love the classics, the blended afternoon and breakfast teas and scented Earl Grey. I drink my tea without milk or sugar and I favour black teas like assam and darjeeling the most.

PS This was an entry for Clement's Is My Blog Burning 17, TasteTea.
Archive Alert! On this day in 2004 we were witing about Gordon's in Napa and Crepuscule in San Francisco.

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Short English Stories about A Nice Cup of Tea

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bay Area Blogger of the Week #17

A Blog From the Heart...

photograph picture of a Small Farms a Blog From the Heart

As we fast approach the August Eat Local Challenge, I can find no more apt a blog to feature this week than Tana Butler's Small Farms, a blog from the heart. Based a little further South than the part of the Bay Area most readers are familiar with, Tana writes about local farms in the Santa Cruz region, many of which are still within the 100 mile foodshed of San Francisco. Tana says:

  • "Photographing so many of the lovely little farms around Santa Cruz, California, kindled my love for farms and the people who commit their lives to them. I've traveled all over California's most fertile farmland, and am visiting farms elsewhere this year, as well: we'll see where I land. This journal is intended to share my love and appreciation for the hard work farmers and their families do to create such beautiful places and beautiful food. If you love good food, it all starts here. Ask the chefs: behind every great chef is at least one great farmer".

  • Go check out Tana's Blog, say hello, have a ganders at her beautiful farm-centric photograph albums and read her seasonal and delicious sounding recipe for slow roasted tomatoes.

    PS. Tana describes me as irreverant. I think I quite like that!
    Previously Featured Bay Area Food & Drink Bloggers:
    In Praise of Sardines - Life Begins @ 30 - Gastronomie - Confessions of a Restaurant Whore - Bunny Foot - Sweet & Savory - I'm Mad and I Eat - Yummy Chow - Nosheteria - Vivi's Wine Journal - Epicuran Debauchery - Food Musings - Pfiff -Marga's Food Blog - Where the Wild Things Are - Eggbeater

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    Bay Area Blogger of the Week #17

    Friday, July 29, 2005

    Picco Pizzeria - Larkspur - Marin

    Pizzeria Picco, 316 Magnolia - Larkspur - Marin - CA (415) 945 8900

    photograph picture of specialized pizza at Picco pizzeria larkspur with retaurant review

    Consistently Inconsistent Pizza

    Pizza has been all the rage in the Bay Area over the last month or so, with the local fooderati flocking to both Delfina in San Francisco and Pizzaiolo in Oakland. Whilst they were all fighting over which pizza was most like an authentic Neopolitan one, we quietly took ourselves to genteel Marin to check out the new wood-burning oven at the base of Mount Tam. In the few weeks that Bruce Hill's small, pizzeria has been open in the old Roxanne's To Go space in Larkspur, I've already tried it three times and each experience of it so far has been markedly different.

    The first time, after placing our order inside we sat on one of the two outside tables which are shaded by the building from the unrelenting Marin heat. From the concise menu, where many of the dishes are named after makes of Mountain Bikes, Fred ordered the Specialized pepperoni, tomato, basil, hand-pulled mozzarella, parmesan 12.50. It usually comes with sausage too, but he was just in a pepperoni mood. I ordered an organic salad on a pizza crust aka Piadine, Kona fresh Bodega goat cheese, caramelized onions & thyme, frisee, fig and prosciutto 12.50

    When they arrived, both of our pizzas were thick, pale, dense and chewy. The dough was impossible to cut with the standard cutlery, so much so that it was almost comic to see us attempt the feat. We don't have a problem with eating pizza with our hands, but when it is piled high with salad, and the crust is so tough that it doesn't easily give for folding, it's not such an easy task. Steak knives might have helped the situation. I can understand the reasons for my salad pizza not being served piping hot, but Fred's was barely luke warm either. His mozzarella had already cooled and hardened into a less than appetizing, solid rubbery mass. Even by our own standard of preferring minimalist toppings, the ingredients on the pizza, although tasty, seemed a slightly on the skimpy side, especially around the perimeter where there was a good 2" of naked dough. The Piadine had the same 2" empty space around the edge but the toppings were far more generous. The sweet onions were a perfect match for the thyme and the other ingredients. The cheese added creaminess rather than flavour. The salad was crisp, the fig was juicy and the overall taste combination worked well. If only the pizza base hadn't been so belligerent. We are both avid crust lovers, but sadly there was a ring of uneaten dough left on each of our otherwise empty plates.

    photograph picture of Piadine kona at Picco Pizzeria in Larkspur filed under restaurant review

    I wasn't sure if Fred would want to go back again so soon, so when he was off work sick one day, I grabbed my friend Vinny and told him I had a new lunch spot for him to try. This time we sat inside where we could watch what was going on. Vinny's simple Margherita tomato, basil, hand pulled mozzarella and parmesan $10.00 arrived swiftly. It was piping hot, the cheese was oozing, and he started making happy, gurgling noises. He offered me a slice once I promised I'd return the favour when my own arrived. His was very good indeed, the tomato sauce was perfect and the thinner, hotter more crispy crust was an entirely different and better experience, not a scrap was left uneaten.

    Vinny had finished his pizza, and mine was still nowhere to be seen. I had ordered the special, topped with padron peppers, florida shrimp, basil, ricotta and spinach. Finally, the server spotted the error. (Let it be noted, this is a very small place, it only has a counter, it shouldn't be that difficult to keep an eye on the customers' orders.) She dashed to the kitchen (which is clearly in view) and had what looked like some sharp words with the chef before returning to apologize and let me know the computer had made a mistake and not sent my part of the order to the kitchen. I never heard anything so rediculous - the kitchen is about 4 yards from the cash register, why are they sending the orders via computer?!

    We had nothing to do but patiently wait, so Vinny and I watched the chefs in the background making and baking the pies. Into the wood burner went my lunch. And then, once they'd turned their backs for a minute to do something else, we could see my pizza catch fire and eventually blacken to a cinder. Third time lucky, my pizza finally arrived. The waitress apologized again and informed us there would be no charge for it. Straight from the oven it was delicious, piping hot and a good balance between crispy and chewy. The toppings were good, especially my first ever taste of the padron peppers which I admit to having had a small crush on ever since.

    Vinny, who was waiting patiently whilst I gobbled up my pizza as fast I could, so as not to make us late, helped me a little but really had his eye on the the selection of Strauss Dairy Soft Serve. I hesitate to call it ice cream, because it's more like cream ice. Vinny wolfed down his vanilla chocolate vanilla swirl dipped in El Rey Chocolate without any complaints but I was less keen on my vanilla dribbled with salt and olive oil. It looked like Mr Whippy but tasted nothing like. Instead of soft, creamy yumminess, this dessert was full of little crunchy ice crystals that battered my taste buds. Blaegh! The best part was the rich, soothing dribble of olive oil and sprinkling of salt that gave the dairy some flavour. Every report I have read about Picco on the net so far mentions that they use Maldon Salt but on my visit that didn't seem to be the case. It didn't look like Maldon. I asked the staff what kind of salt it was. Hawaiian sea salt, they told me whilst showing me a plateful of crystals, not flakes.

    The server gave us our bill. She hadn't remembered to comp our pizza as offered. Luckily we noticed and so she recalculated.

    photograph picture of Arugula nectarine salad at Picco Pizzeria in Larkspur filed under restaurant review

    On my third visit I tried the Arugula with nectarines, lemon cucumbers and a Bodega Goatcheese Crostini $7.50. This was a very tasty, perfectly dressed little salad balancing the peppery leaves with the juicy, peachy, sweet fruit. The crostini was sadly pathetic. A cold, tiny, skinny little square of baked-dry brown bread, spread with a smear of innocuous, bland, tasteless mild goat cheese, a disappointing element of what was otherwise a good alternative to pizza. Look here, Bruce, that's how to make a crostini people won't mind paying for!

    Fred ordered a Cannondale with cherry tomatoes, Salami, mozzarella and torpedo onion this time round. This time the pizza arrived very quickly, and was hotter than his first one. Fred's pizza was still a little on the pale side. He looked jealously at the tables on either side of us where the pizzas were far more charred and bubbling than his. The salami was stingy, barely a slice per quarter and the thick, crust dry and hard to swallow again. "It's not the best pizza in the world, but it's ok", was his conclusion.

    photograph picture of Arugula nectarine salad at Picco Pizzeria in Larkspur filed under restaurant review

    No doubt, Picco is getting some buzz, especially as Pizza becomes the hottest subject of discussion in the Bay Area. Since we had much better results sitting inside rather than out, we suggest you might be best at the counter where you can keep an eye on what they are up to. Perhaps specifically requesting you would like your pizza delivered the second it leaves the oven might be a good idea. We saw several pizzas being left for at least 5 minutes or more before being served to their recipients outside and that could just be the five minutes that ruin the pie. Please don't let the pie ruin, Bruce Hill!

    PS This review was during the first month of opening. Wherever possible Picco uses local products.
    Other reviews of Picco Pizzeria: Melanie Wong - BunRabs - Marin IJ - Chowhound - SFGate

    Archive Alert! On this day in 2004 we were sharing a visit to one of San Francisco's oldest restaurants, Flytrap with our readers.

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    Thursday, July 28, 2005

    Jack Falstaff - Second Street - San Francisco - CA

    This is a copy of my latest article for SFist in which I eat my way around the Bay Area in alphabetical order and then write about it in SFist style using the 'royal we. This week we are on the letter J.'

    Sfist has a little crush on James Ormsby. No less than three times in seven months, we have been drawn back to his swanky Gavin-endorsed restaurant in SoMa, Jack Falstaff.

    We are not even quite sure what the allure of Jack Falstaff is. We'll call it the 'James Ormsby Je ne sais quoi factor'. The attraction is certainly not the look of the space, hidden behind a sleek, industrial doorway. The interior is modern but ordinary, dressed in velvetines and sagemint greens that could have jumped straight from the pages of a West Elm catalogue. The ambience fares well from the low, highly-polished dark wooden ceiling that subdues the sound allowing a dinner conversation to flow with ease, thereby helping to keep the dining experience a relaxing affair.

    We start with a drink at the bar. The Pear Green Tea Martini is exceptional, displaying all the aroma and ittybittiness of fresh pear. Floating on the top is a pear crisp, so sweet and delectable you might wonder why anyone ever bothered making chips from potatoes.

    'Jack Snacks' are small $2 servings (created with the nearby SBC Park crowd in mind and packaged for takeaway), perfect for nibbling on whilst you peruse the menu. We tried the spicy crispy sage leaves and spicy Serrano ham chips, which only lasted long enough to work up a thirst.

    We choose a very French tasting 2003 Chinon Vielles Vignes at $38 a bottle. The wine list at Jack Falstaff features wine producers who are "getting back to the land" either through organic or biodynamic viticulture which is explained here in Amy's recent interview with Gillian Ballance, Wine Director and Sommelier for PlumpJack Group.

    When it comes to the food, he's knocked us around a bit has James, we've been all over the scale at Jack Falstaff. Mr Ormsby has the ability to make us weep for joy one minute and then render us almost speechless with confusion the next.

    We were enchanted with the first taste of a duck-liver creme caramel that has been on the menu since the restaurant opened. But by our third visit, the novelty of Mr Ormsby's efforts to fabricate a plausible replacement for foie gras, in advance of the Californian law that will eventually ban it, has worn off.

    As Falstaff virgins we were totally seduced by a twice-cooked Niman Ranch pork belly appetizer. This dish, in various guises, has also retained its menu position and is apparently so popular it is likely to run out, as it did for us, seconds before we attempted to order it. Oh, James, James, James, this is so cruel. Are you treating us bad on purpose so we'll be begging to come back for more.

    And even if we do return for a fourth adventure, the Sonoma Goat cheesecake that rendered us almost delirious on our first and second visits is now nothing more than a distant memory. Likewise, his pot de feu was the stuff dreams are made of . We hope James returns a version of it to the menu next Winter.

    Whilst we hanker after the stellar dishes we've had the pleasure of eating at Jack Falstaff, equally there are things we would never want to revisit. Pasta made from faro may be healthy, but it doesn't have the makings of an out-to-dinner treat. A duck confit from his first menu was over-sweetened (he comped us for that), and a trio of Pacific Fish crudo we once tried, with the exception of the tuna, was unexciting.

    But what about the current state of play at Jack Falstaff? On our most recent cheesecake-free visit, our waitress is a real gem. Professional, extremely knowledgeable about both the wine and the food, as well as being sporty enough to keep the cheekier elements of our party in check with humour and grace.

    We have an enjoyable meal. Among the starters, a Thai-style beef carpaccio roll rocking with the fresh flavours of mint and peanuts is the dish that makes those of us, who failed to order it, as green as the mint with envy. A skillet filled with simply roasted and salted padron peppers is an interesting and brave choice, but only for diners who have the capacity to accept such simply prepared, unadorned vegetables in a restaurant setting. Tuna tartare is nothing extraordinary.

    Three of our party of four order the steak. Although, technically, it can't be faulted, it fails to really wow any of us. It's just plain boring. The $22 plate of succulent fried chicken with its crunchy garlicky crust is more tasty, but not something we'd usually rush to order. When it comes to the entrees, we actually prefer the sides. This is where James really pulls some stunners. Creamed corn with lime was incredible. Seriously, we would be more than happy with a bowl of this for dinner and nothing else. Can you send us the recipe, James, pretty please?

    Consistently good sides, always based on the best of the Farmers' Market, is an area in which Mr Ormsby seems to excel. In the past we have been equally impressed with his Cauliflower Couscous and Curry Butter, lentil dishes and Buttermilk Mashed Red Skin Potatoes.

    After the creamed corn high, the only direction available to us is back down hill again. If only dessert these days was as good as the Goat Cheesecake nirvana of yore. We order a pavolova that comes with meringue so rock solid and hard we would have been better off with pneumatic drill than a spoon. Pavlova is a dessert inspired by a ballerina. It goes without saying it should be lighter than air. The accompanying fruits including a stunning combination of the freshest cherries and nuttiest of almonds surrounded by smooth whipped cream are deliriously good. He knows how to source his ingredients, that's for sure. They could have stood up perfectly well by themselves, as a dessert in their own right, without some sugary over-cooked egg white as a prop.

    James, dear James, we love some of the things you do, you are refreshingly experimental and often inspired but we think you need to increase the ratio of hits to misses. We can see you are trying very hard, we admire your food philosophy and we'd like to dine with you again, in theory. We're just not sure if we can afford to ride the rough edges when there are so many other hot-sounding rivals opening up in town this Summer...

    Jack Falstaff
    598 Second Street (at Brannan)
    San Francisco, CA 94107

    PS. This review was

    Other bloggers review local restaurants beginning with the letter J:
    J & J Hawaiian Barbecue - cafe Jacqueline - Jai Yun - Japanese Grill Hattoriya - Jasmine's Cafe - Jerusalem's Organic Kitchen - Jitlada - Joe's Cable Car - Just for you

    Other reviews of Jack Falstaff:
    SF-survey - Yelp - Food Musings - Where the Wild Things Are - Michael Bauer - Meredith Brody - CitySearch - Chowhound

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    Wednesday, July 27, 2005

    In time for tea...

    photograph picture of cookies baked from recipes in the winter 2005 issue of Donna Hay magazine

    A few days ago, on San Francisco's hottest day of the year, my Winter edition of Donna Hay magazine arrived from Australia. Or neighbour did us a favour so we decided to bake him some little treats as a thank you, using some of Donna Hay's recipes.

    photograph picture  the winter 2005 issue of Donna Hay magazine

    The chocolate dipped shortbread should have been piped with a fluted nozzle. I did try but our nozzle was too small and I couldn't force the dough through it, so we made half-domes with a cookie scoop instead. The recipe was lacking in butter. I had to almost double the amount in order to blend the dough. These cookies were extremely dense and buttery to which the dark chocolate was the prefect foil. I would make these again, but next time I am going to buy the correct nozzle for my piping bag.

    photograph picture of cookies baked from recipes in the winter 2005 issue of Donna Hay magazine

    The pistachio and lemon bites became almond flavoured when I made them, as almonds were all I had in the pantry. Again, these were a fairly heavy cookie, with a marked lack of sweetness (despite the fact the were rolled in powdered sugar). I wasn't so keen on these cookies until I tried one from the fridge. A chilling improved them no end. That's hardly surprising, afterall it is Winter in the Southern hemisphere...

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    In time for tea...

    Tuesday, July 26, 2005

    Uncle Wiggly's Good Time Cooking Contest - Version Weekday

    Ode to the Omelette
    The challenge: Uncle Wiggeley's contest is all about your favorite weekday meals. A meal you have two to three times a month, more or less. If not, something that you love dearly and would work well in a pinch. If your recipe requires going to three or more grocery stores, thats not going to work. Two I think we could handle, maybe one?

    photograph picture of mystery location in San Francisco

    When I first saw this contest announced by Dr Biggles over at Meathenge, my first thought was that contests are things that require effort in a hope that you should win them. Dozens of favourite meaty recipes I imagined would impress the Meathenge Family, flashed through my mind. Which one would be a winner, I thought?

    But then I paused and reflected even further. To really get into the spirit of the competition, I should tell the truth and be myself. None of this digging out a fabulous recipe and pretending I eat it on a regular basis. No making the dish at the weekend, during daylight, solely for the purpose of a fabulous photograph. Instead, our offering is nothing more than a true reflection of our simple reality: a very quick dinner lovingly put together at our normal post-9pm eating time. Our tried and tested, most oft-eaten dinner comes in the form of a sunny yellow disk that always lights up our dinner table with its presence. Oh omelette, how we love you. How we never tire of eating in your company. You never let us down, you are so dependable and reliable and how fresh and original you always seem to be.

    At least once a week, chez Becks & Posh, our dinner is nothing more complicated than this classic egg dish. We often eat omelettes on a Thursday night, our last dining-in night before the weekly shop to restock at the Farmers Market. Hence our omelettes are made from whatever uneaten items and leftovers we have in the fridge.

    Last week I still had some ricotta from the squash blossoms I didn't get around to stuffing as planned. I made myself a small, puffy, plain omelette from some delicious Marin Sun Farm Eggs and then filled it with the creamy ricotta from Cow Girl Creamery topped with some spicy pepper cress to give it some bite. I love the combination of hot eggs and cool cheese. Ricotta is fairly bland and it can certainly benefit from having some extra flavour added. So to serve on the side, I quickly made an Italianesque salsa from the one remaining, lonely heirloom tomato, a few black olives, fresh basil, a dribble of olive oil and plently of salt and pepper. Voila! Fast, easy, simple and quickly adapted to meet the tastes of everyone in the family.

    Usually we share our omelette but on this occasion, I made Fred a separate one as he doesn't much care for ricotta. Fred's most favourite version always contains nothing more than a large amount of grated gruyere cheese.

    Other Omelette Ideas for Dr B and his Family:

    Tasty Omelettes with the fillings embedded (these can be made family-style as a large, slower-cooked frittata too). Serve in slices like pie with extra veggies, salad or toast:
  • Bacon, Sweetcorn and Cheddar
  • Caramelized Onion and sausage
  • Ham, Parsley and Potato
  • Spinach and ricotta

  • Plain Omelettes with separate Fillings:
  • Salsa and Guacamole - serve with Tortilla Chips
  • Ratatouille, topped with toasted pine nuts
  • Leftover cold chicken, cubed and mixed with a little mayo and tarragon
  • Prosciutto and tomato
  • Grilled flank steak and chimmichurri sauce

  • etc...
    The possibilities are endless.

    PS - If you are looking for a lower cholesterol or less fattening option you can make the omelette with a ratio of one whole egg to two or three whites. Apparently it is possible to freeze egg yolk, although the method does sound a little complicated.
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    Uncle Wiggly's Good Time Cooking Contest - Version Weekday

    Monday, July 25, 2005

    The Liberty Cafe - Cortland Avenue - Bernal Heights - San Francisco - CA

    The Liberty Cafe, 410 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94110, (415) 695-8777

    Friendly neighbourhood feel, Toasty Aromas, Superb Eggs Florentine, On-site Bakery. < UpsidesNo reservations. You may have to wait for a table. Some staff seem friendlier & more competent than others.
    Downsides >

    Does Liberty Cafe serve the Best Eggs Florentine in San Francisco?

    photograph picture of The Liberty Cafe in Bernal Heights filed under Cafe Review
    On Saturday I stumbled across a little gem of a Cafe in somebody else's hood, situated on Cortland Avenue, at the heart of Bernal Heights in the outskirts of San Francisco. This a popular place as you can see from the crowds waiting for a table.

    photograph picture of Eggs florentine The Liberty Cafe in Bernal Heights filed under Cafe Review
    If the truth was told, it was really too hot for an eggy brunch dish, but fate intervened when my friend, P and I decided we should should share the Eggs Florentine (like a Benedict but with spinach instead of bacon). Boy, are we glad we did. This was the best version of my favourite brunch dish I have had in a long, long time.
    Everything was perfectly balanced and cooked just right. The spinach still had some vibrancy, the sauce didn't overpower, the egg had just the desired amount of gloopy yolk, the muffin wasn't soggy at all. It was a rendition of a rich dish that seemed to taste much lighter than usual. I'd definitely go back to The Liberty Cafe just for these little beauties. Perfect! I am already dreaming of them. Next time, no sharing.

    photograph picture of cold red pepper puree soup at The Liberty Cafe in Bernal Heights filed under Cafe Review
    The soup, a puree of red pepper topped with creme fraiche, was served chilled which suited the weather, uncharacteristically hot for a San Francisco summer. It looked pretty and it was ok, if a little bitter. The creme fraiche, that might have mellowed it out, was too thick to blend with the soup. Just fine, but by no means spectacular.
    Tucked behind at the back of the Liberty Cafe, is the Cottage Bakery where you can buy bread. All the bread served in the Cafe is baked here too. (With the exception of the English Muffins which are by Thomas')

    photograph picture of the Cottage Bakery Sign The Liberty Cafe in Bernal Heights filed under Cafe Review
    In the Cafe you can try a selection of their bread by ordering a basket of it with butter and a sharp but sweet strawberry jam. For $5 you could fill quite a few bellies. You are given a basket packed with six huge slices of toasted homemade bread. Challa, wholemeal, walnut, currant, raisin-orange and corn. It's a great way of sampling the goodies before heading to the bakery at the back of the Cafe for a take-home loaf.

    Liberty Cafe - smells overwhelmingly of toast and makes great Eggs Florentine. I'll definitely be back!

    PS. This review was If you think you know of another Bay Area brunch spot that you think can outdo Liberty's Eggs Florentine then please share with a comment.

    Other bloggers visit The Liberty Cafe but none of them say much about the food: Le blog d'une voyageuse de femme - Boing Boing - Rabbit Blog

    So here are some other views of dining at the Liberty Cafe Citysearch - Yelp - SF Survey - Chowhound

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    Sunday, July 24, 2005

    5 Childhood Food Memories - not another Meme?!

    This meme, sent to me by farmgirl, asks for five food-related things you miss from your childhood. I am not sure I really miss all these things, but thinking about each one of them brings back some amusing memories all the same:

    photograph picture of a box of Barilla spaghetti and a potato
    1: Spaghetti Bolognese and Chips
    For a while, my mother was a single parent and so she had to go out to work. She was a nurse and she worked some strange shifts. Luckily we had lots of great neighbours and one family or another would always volunteer to look after us at those times. I liked going to Mrs Snowdon's house not only because she had two great daughters, Debbie and Kate, the same age as my sister and me, but because she used to make us spaghetti bolagnese with chips. (For chips read 'fries'.) Yes it really is true, Mrs Snowdon would first cover each plate (she had some fancy oval ones, I think) with the chips (fries) and then hide them under the spaghetti. On top of that she would put the sauce. The chips would just peek out from under the pasta whilst getting all soggy from the damp heat. I loved the double carbohydrate combination. Of course, we would go home and beg for a repeat of this dish, but mum would always put her foot down, refuse and insist that pasta and poatotes just don't mix.

    photograph picture of tea with milk and sugar
    2: Milk & Sugar in my Tea
    In a very un-English manner, I have been drinking my tea unsweetened and black for almost 20 years now. It was not always so. As I child I preferred it with milk and sugar with the emphasis on sweet. I remember, when I was about eleven, I went away for the weekend with the Girl Guides. I'll never forget, over breakfast one morning, competing with the other girls, to see which of us could put the most sugar in our tea and still drink it. I think I got up to eleven spoonfuls. Oh dear.

    photograph picture of a Bassets sherbet dip dab
    3: Make Your Own Sherbet
    Talking of sugar - it seems kids have an infinite capacity for it. When we were kids, we loved our Sherbet Dip Dabs and our Sherbet Fountains (excluding the licquorice part), just fine. But the packets were small and they didn't last long enough. We needed a better price/performance ratio. What could we do? Well, instead of spending our precious pocket money on sweets, we would go to the Chemist Shop (Pharmacy) and buy a box of citric acid instead. Back at home we would help ourselves to as much icing (powdered) sugar as we could get away with borrowing from the pantry, and mix it with the acid to make our own giant-sized bags of sherbet. No wonder the British have a reputation for bad teeth.

    photograph picture of a bottle of sherry
    4: Tipsy Packed Lunches
    It's true that the Brits have a reputation for liking a little drink now and then too. But I don't think my mother quite knew, when I asked her if I could make some little individual-sized sherry trifles to take to (high) school as part of my packed lunch, quite how much sherry I used to soak my Boudoir Biscuits in. In fact she would have been absolutely horrified. Looking back, it probably wasn't really that much sherry, not enough to make me in the slightest bit tipsy, but it made me feel a little bit cheeky taking it to school, nevertheless.

    photograph picture of some Ready Brek
    5: Skin on the Hot Milk - Eww!
    From something I hid from my mother to something I used to like her to hide from me. I loved Ready Brek when I was a kid. For those who don't know - it is a highly processed version of porridge, a hot breakfast cereal that provides kids all over Britain with a warm orange glow as they travel to school on grey, miserable winter mornings. These days you can make it in one go in the microwave without having to worry about hot milk skin. But back in the old days, when I was a young'un, we had to heat the milk in a pan. Not only did I detest the smell, the skin that formed on the top of the milk almost made me physically sick. Thank goodness that my mother dealt with that ugly part of process, delivering me a steaming hot, delicious skin-free bowl of cereal at the breakfast table. Thanks mum!

    How this meme works. First I get to tag four more people (none of whom are obligated to take part):

  • Culinary Fool

  • Monkey Gland at Jam Faced

  • Claire at Clea Cuisine (Maybe the meme will go Francais?)

  • Deccanheffalump at The Cook's Cottage

  • If you are tagged, here's what you do: Remove the blog at #1 from the following list and bump every one up one place; add your blog’s name in the #5 spot; link to each of the other blogs for the desired cross-pollination effect.
    1. Secrets & Lies
    2. Do or Do Not
    3. BeautyJoyFood
    4. Farmgirl Fare
    5. Becks & Posh
    Next: select new friends to tag and add to the pollen count.
    Then create a post listing your own five food memories.
    posted in and and and
    5 Childhood Food Memories - not another Meme?!

    Saturday, July 23, 2005

    Bay Area Blogger of the Week #16

    In Praise of Sardines, A stomach's eye view of the world...

    photograph picture of a Sardine from In Praise of Sardines
    Although this weekend is shaping up to be a bit warmer, Summer has been very slow coming to San Francisco. Whilst I have been stuck in a dark office or blanketed by shrouds of fog, I have been turning to In Praise of Sardines for a taste of the Sun. It's author, Brett, is a San Francisco-based thirty-something professional cook (currently "on hiatus"). Since he recently took off for Spain, I have been living vicariously through Brett, enjoying his pictures and descriptions of the local food including, of course, the sardines which inspired him. Go check him out,say hello and give him a big welcome to the food blogging community!

    PS Brett was one of the people who suggested a Sumeet Multi Grind during my recent Utensibility event.

    Previously Featured Bay Area Food & Drink Bloggers:
    Life Begins @ 30 - Gastronomie - Confessions of a Restaurant Whore - Bunny Foot - Sweet & Savory - I'm Mad and I Eat - Yummy Chow - Nosheteria - Vivi's Wine Journal - Epicuran Debauchery - Food Musings - Pfiff -Marga's Food Blog - Where the Wild Things Are - Eggbeater

    posted in and and and and
    Bay Area Blogger of the Week #16

    Friday, July 22, 2005

    Famous for 5 minutes

    Fancy being a Restaurant Critic? Want to be on TV? Live in the Bay Area? Love restaurants that are off the beaten path? Know of an interesting locale or cuisine? Then read on...
    photograph picture of mystery location in San Francisco
    (Local food lovers might be able to guess where this photo was taken)

    KQED are looking for participants for a new local TV show called Check, Please! in which Bay Area residents will discuss their dining experiences in a lively television roundtable.

    If you have a favorite Bay Area eatery (restaurant, supper club, diner, lunch café) that you would like to review on a future show, head straight here and complete the application form.

    Fill in the application carefully, the more expressive and articulate you are on the entry form, the more likely it is you'll be considered as a guest. They also love hearing about those restaurants that are off the beaten path - the more interesting the locale or cuisine, the better, so bear that in mind too.

    It would be great if some of our readers ended up on this show. Be sure to let us all know if you get selected!

    posted in and and and and
    Famous for 5 minutes

    Thursday, July 21, 2005

    Utensibility Shopping Trip #1

    Recently my readers and fellow food bloggers helped me compile an amazing shopping list of their favourite kitchen utensils to use as a guide for spending the $300 Sur La Table my mum and dad sent me for my birthday. On Saturday I visited Sur La Table to get rid of a bit of the dosh. This is what I returned home with...

    photograph picture of a large 14 inch balloon whisk $11.95 from Sur la Table photograph picture of a sieve $12.95 from Sur la Table

    Christine and Keiko each suggested a whisk. Unfortunately Sur La Table don't stock the brands they recommended, but I wanted to thank them both for the reminder - I needed a large whisk anyway. The one I bought was the largest at 14" and cost $11.95. A better sieve was another thing I was in desperate need of. This 7" one cost $12.95.

    photograph picture of an Asian Skimmer $7.95 from Sur la Table photograph picture of a Messer Meister $5.50 from Sur la Table

    More reader recommendations that took my fancy. Joy suggested the Asian skimmer, a bargain at $7.95. Even better value was the Messermeister suggested by both Lindy and Kevin. It was reduced by 20% to $4.40 in the sale that Barbara kindly tipped me off about.

    photograph picture of a jar of pie weights $9.95 from Sur La Table photograph picture of Kyocera Julienne ceramic mandolin $24.95 from Sur la Table

    I know I could just use beans, but I choose to blame my bad pastry experiences on not having any proper pie weights. Now I have no excuse, this jarful cost $9.95. Although Fatemeh didn't enter the Utensibility Meme, I read about the $24.95 Kyocera Mandolin on her blog and I thought to myself, me me me, I want one too.

    photograph picture of a jar of pie weights $9.95 from Sur La Table photograph picture of Kyocera Julienne ceramic mandolin $24.95 from Sur la Table

    I am quite partial to scallopinis. Now I can pound the meat myself with this bargain beater that cost just $4.95. My friend 'P', swears by her turkey baster for making some of the most scrumptious roast potatoes I have ever eaten. Although she accidentally left her baster at my house, I think she is going to ask for it back soon. No problem, now I am prepared for its imminent departure with this new one, complete with cleaning brush, that cost $12.95.

    My final purchase was a mystery item. Can you guess what it is?

    PS. I have spent $119.35 so far from the $300 Sur La Table gift voucher my mum and dad kindly sent me for my birthday. $180.65 still left to go. The 'big' thing I was planning on buying yesterday wasn't available in-store so I think I am going to have to go online for the rest of my shopping spree. Thanks mum and dad!
    Thank you to everone who took part in Utensibility:
    Seriously Good - Toast - Chubby Hubby - I'm Mad & I Eat - Buttonwillow McKittrick, San Francisco Knitter - Kayak Soup - MedMusings - Delicious Days - Taste Everything Once - Cookin' in the 'Cuse - - Banlieue Blog - The Restaurant Whore - Culinary Fool - Tigers & Strawberries - The Thorngrove Table - Tedamenu Tucker - Stefoodie - Too Many Chefs - Nibble & Scribble - Delish - Eat Stuff - Food & Thoughts - Anne's Food - Mahanandi - I Heart Bacon - In Praise of Sardines - My Epicurean Debauchery - Soul Fusion Kitchen - Esurients - Nordljus - Stack of Toast - The Delicious Life - 18th C Cuisine - A la Cuisine

    posted in and and and and and
    Utensibility Shopping Trip #1

    Wednesday, July 20, 2005

    Blogging By Mail

    photograph picture the gift package I received for blogging by Mail from Truffle Mutt, Liz in a meme started by Nic at the Baking Sheet Maybe you missed out on Blogging by Mail? This was a great idea that Nic of the Baking Sheet had recently. It involved a bunch of us all sending some homemade cookies and a care package to another of the participants. In return, each of us would receive a surprise from somebody else.
    Yesterday I received my mystery parcel from Calgary in Canada. I couldn't wait to get home to open it.
    Lovely Liz from Truffle Mutt sent me a huge box of goodies, some baked by herself and the rest from around town. A bag of kettle corn, both caramel-sweet and slightly salty, grabbed from local street vendors was delicious. Liz made me two scrumptious types of cookies - chocolate chip, burnt almond and lemon nut fridge cookies. I particularly liked the chocolate ones. (What girl wouldn't!) She added a Coffee Crisp chocolate bar because she heard they are not available in the USA. That's a little treat I will be looking forward to on another day. I can't wait to try the leaf-shaped maple syrup lolly either, or the jar of the locally made lavender jelly. Liz kindly included recipes on picture postcards, too. How spoilt am I?
    photograph picture the gift package I received for Blogging by Mail from Nic at the Baking Sheet Obviously not spoilt enough. It's true I was expecting one package, but in fact I received two! Organiser Nic also sent me a parcel containing some of her tasty Cardamom Cookies. One of my favourite spices. You have to go and check out how she made the pattern on the top. Ingenious! As if that wasn't enough, I received tea and ginger candy too.

    What a great idea Blogging by Mail is - it certainly makes a nice change from opening up all the unpaid bills! Don't fret too much if you didn't find out in time to take part in it this month. If you are interested in taking part in the future, keep an eye on Samantha and Nic who, together, are hatching a plot for further editions of Blogging by Mail soon.

    Thank you very much, Nic and Liz!

    posted in and and and and
    Blogging By Mail