Sunday, March 30, 2008

Girls, Cookies, Eco-Cocktailia

jesus died for somebody's sins
but not mine

Happy Easter, everyone! Did you enjoy your bunny cake, your chocolate eggs, your righteous pagan fertility worship? Glad to hear it. And now, on to Passover, and rhubarb.

But first, fabulous femme Shar Rednour is doing a reading/talk with Michelle Tea and Chelsea Starr on this Tuesday, April 1st, at the 3 Dollar Bill Cafe at the LGBT Center on Market St. Starts at 7pm, free, and if you ask a question during the Q & A, you get a homemade cookie!

As Shar says, "They have beer and wine at the 3 Dollar Bill Cafe and pretty good potato salad. All a femme needs, right?"

And before that, the swanky XYZ bar in the W Hotel, right near SFMoMA, is kicking off their new green happy hour called, I kid you not, Ecolicious, from 5:30 to 7:30pm. How this will be more green than say, the Easy Lounge's Saturday afternoon happy hour, when they make cocktails out of stuff from the Grand Lake Farmers' Market across the street, is the serious research PQ will be doing on your behalf tomorrow afternoon. Is this the bevvie version of Toyota's latest hookup to the green bandwagon, the hybrid SUV? Tune in on Wednesday for a report...

Friday, March 14, 2008


Free samples are one of the happy perks of any job. I showed up at The Alley in Oakland the other night with a bag of salted caramels, hazelnut bonbons and big slabs of chocolate studded with candied orange peel and almonds, just because we'd been rotating the display boxes at the chocolate mines and there were loads of extras in the big "eat me" box behind the counter. Everyone needs some sweets to go with their cosmos and French fries. (Of course, when you work for, say, Goldman Sachs, these free samples are called "money", that being the stuff they rotate around. But I digress.)

And now, doing some freelance writing work for an organic produce distribution company, my perks come in the form of bunches of asparagus, bags of kumquats, a cherimoya or two, and most exciting of all, a Buddha's hand! Do you know the Buddha's hand? A very trippy citrus, like a citron made up of a dozen curling fingers covered in bright-yellow, intensely aromatic peel. No real pulp to speak of; it's all about the zest. What to do with it? I'm going to my favorite resource, former Chez Panisse pastry chef, Parisian homme-about-town, and cookbook author, David Lebovitz. His book "Ripe for Dessert" is a fantastic resource for fruit dessert-making, and his citrus-prosecco gelee was a huge hit at the PQ family Christmas dinner last year. So, David, qu'est-ce qu'on peut faire avec le main de Buddha?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

spray-on tan

Remember pancake batter in a can? We were talking about this back a month or two ago, and today, the Bay Guardian's "Cheap Eats" Leone does the perfect sum-up.

The verdict on aerosol-can waffle and pancake batter?

Yeah. Whatever. No, I mean, it was free, and it was delicious. But being a person who loves to cook, and who loves to spend as much time as possible doing the things that I love to do, like cooking, why in the world would I ever in the world squeeze waffle batter out of a can? And then blow time looking out the window that I could have more wisely spent separating egg whites and hand-whisking until they hold soft peaks?

No kidding, I make three meals a day. I want to have my hands in the food, and my arms, teeth, and tongue when appropriate. Like sex, I actually want it to take as long as possible. And dirty all the dishes. (I'll do 'em in the morning.) You're in a hurry, I know. You have a job. Me, I'll keep doing what I do ... stirring constantly.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tiptoe through the Tulips

This being San Francisco in citrus season, I may not be the only girl walking around the city with 4 kumquats, a tangelo and a cherimoya in her purse. Ok, two kumquats and a cherimoya, because I ate the rest, dripping juice down my sleeve and biting through that aromatic kumquat skin to the sour pulp within. It's a breezy early-spring day, the stripy, frilly tulips out in buckets in front of Heartfelt, our local card-and-giftie store, and it's pretty, pretty, pretty out there, yet again. And I'm skipping around on this, my day off, singing that Be Good Tanyas song "The Littlest Birds" over and over again and hanging my laundry out to dry in the backyard, so it will come in smelling of sunshine and eucalyptus.

Another reason to be happy: you didn't wake up today as Eliot "Mr. Clean" Spitzer, a man who's having a Very Bad Day, the specific sort of Very Bad Day you have when you pledge to clean up corruption in the Empire State and then get busted as "Client 9" by the booker of a high-class escort service, who, alas for the Gov., was wearing a wire when he set up his NY-to-DC assignation with "Kristen" the petite brunette. Did he really think that paying the Amtrak fare for a NYC working girl to come down to DC was somehow more discreet than booking a date with a local? Now, as the result of that train trip, he's doubly busted for the whole crossing-state-lines-for-the-purpose-of-prostitution thing. Politicians: Toujours Stupides!

On another note: good books! Almost finished with Amy Bloom's novel Away, yet another in the sub-genre of Jews in Alaska, stories about (see also Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union). A rambling picaresque, and better than almost everything else I've read by her, except for the small, perfect story "Love is Not a Pie", which remains unsurpassed.

the littlest birds

Well it's times like these
I feel so small and wild
Like the ramblin' footsteps of a wanderin' child
And I'm lonesome as a lonesome whippoorwill
Singin these blues with a warble and a trill
But I'm not too blue to fly
No, I'm not too blue to fly, cause
The littlest birds sing the prettiest songs...

-Be Good Tanyas, "The Littlest Birds (Sing the Prettiest Songs)", from Blue Horse

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Normally, I don't love being booked for work down in the Marina chocolate mines all weekend, especially on sunny spring days when all the ladies of leisure come breezing in for a couple of fleur-de-sel caramels, full of cheery commentary on how beautiful it is out there beyond the barred gates of retail. But last night, the Giant Scary Dogs arrived in my home, courtesy of my roommate's visiting girlfriend. I haven't seen them, but I've heard them, and they sound like the Hound of the Baskervilles looking to take your leg off. So having a paid excuse to be out of the house today and tomorrow will be very welcome.

Off to the Libery Cafe for coffee and apple turnovers, then on to Bart to see K. off to the airport, where she flies back to Richmond for 3 more months of Army-officer training. Meanwhile we took many slow buses out to Lincoln Park for a spin around the Legion of Honor museum, followed by whole fish and goat cheese with tomato-preserved lemon jam at Aziza.

Which was swell, really, except for the service at Aziza, which was way snootier than anyone doing business at the Outer-Richmond side of Geary deserved to be. I learned a few tricks during my 10 years as a restaurant critic (back pre-Yelping, pre-blogging, when this was a job one got paid to do, with the accompanying professional standards), and one was that the chillier the waiter, the more likely that he or she would know next to nothing about the menu, or the food being served, or anything but the most basic info about the ingredients. And that he or she would, when pressed, b.s. with aplomb, usually in the most patronizing manner possible. So when we asked what was argan oil, exactly, we got the spectacularly unhelpful but smug response that It's Smoky And It Comes From a Tree. Like maple syrup, presumably.

Nothing about the small, oily kernels of the nut of the argan tree, a gnarly little tree native only to a certain part of Morocco. Or how the nuts are encased in a rock-hard shell that is in turn wrapped in a small, olive-like fruit delicious to goats. The goats clamber up the branches, eat the fruit, and drop the nuts (still in their shells) to the ground. Each nut must be cracked and the kernels removed and ground between heavy millstones to release their dark, pungent oil, work often done by women's collectives in rural Morocco. A good story, non? Especially if there had been enough oil dribbled on the white chunk of cheese to actually taste, rather than merely providing gourmet-cachet to the menu.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Beautiful Day

Oh, sunshine! Daffodils! Prettiness! It's the nicest day you could imagine out there, even if the burly guys in neon vests are jackhammering up every square inch of the Cortland Street pavement outside Martha's coffee where I'm trying to write this. A day to frolic in the green, green grass, where there should be fluffy white sheep grazing on the top of Bernal Hill. Waiting for the 24 the other day, I heard a rooster crowing, something that never happened in Park Slope. This led to a conversation with an elderly woman at the bus stop, about WWII-era victory gardens, her husband's and my dad's WWII experiences, how hens will lay eggs regardless but it takes a rooster to fertilize them into potential chickens (which led my new pal into singing a verse of "It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House"). All in all, not a bad way to pass a little of the inevitable waiting for Muni.

Then, down to the Ferry Building, to admire the oranges and watermelon radishes, and to lunch on lamb stew, roast chicken, yams and herby polenta from Mistral, followed by a spin around MOMA (free Tuesday!), tea in very stylish black-and-white cups at Caffe Museo, a trip to the main library to see Dorothea Lange's luminous photos of the summers she spent at her cliffside cottage at Slide Ranch. Family snaps, really, but heartfelt, and some exquisite. And then, around the corner, a fabulous little exhibit of SF nightlife souvenirs. Connie Champagne, hoofers at Bimbo's, eyelinered bartendresses at Coconut Grove, pool players at the 500 Club, Tosca's neon. And a photo of the old 17 Reasons Why sign, just to warm the PQ's heart. Dinner at Little Nepal back home on Cortland, where yak-butter tea has been replaced with mango shakes and chai, but we still enjoyed the mustard greens in tangy ginger broth, and the chunks of chicken in a cashew-thickened, creamy orange garlic-ginger-tomato sauce.