Friday, September 27, 2013

I've moved to Tumblr!

Hi friends, I've moved my blog over to Tumblr. We'll see how it goes! You can find me at Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

I'm back

Hello! It's been a few weeks! I've been busy...I guess? Sort of hunkered down, really, mostly cooking, and baking, and traveling. I just got back from a week in New York, which included a few days in the city (not enough, I didn't get to see nearly as many people as I would have liked) and then a trip upstate for Mike's cousin's wedding. I have pictures and stuff that I'll post soon. But for now, I'll leave you with this:

As a replacement for children who split no wood this year, dad and I have adopted a 100 pound baby. It doesn't talk or eat either. She's a beauty. Love mom

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Adventures with Ma Brennan

My mama was here this past weekend! She and my dad each visit about twice a year (for elder-dog-care reasons, they almost never come together), but it's been a while since her last trip, so I planned us a day in Napa. I usually gravitate toward more laidback Sonoma, but with the moms, why not fancy it up?
My mom showed up  in San Francisco with a huge suitcase full of produce from her garden: zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, potatoes, an 8 pound cabbage (!), and, hallelujah, a re-up on my honey stash. Muchas gracias mama.
Her visit coincided nicely with an outing to Cal Shakes, a theater in the Berkeley hills where my friend coordinates group trips a few times a season. It was an Oscar Wilde play, Lady's Windermere's Fan, and was therefore delightful. I made us a kale and pasta salad and a plum almond tart to picnic on before the show.
Over the weekend we went north to wine country to seek non-Chardonnay whites, because oaky = gross. At Honig we made friends with their sauvignon blanc (though not so much with the rose pictured below) and a rich cab.
Caitlin scooted us over to Addendum in her Mini to pick up boxed lunches, which are the best and cheapest way to get your hands on Thomas Keller's fried chicken. We tolerated ten minutes in the car with the fried chicken aroma tickling our bellies before we scarfed it at our next stop. I love Casa Nuestra's laid back vibe - there are goats on the property, their tasting room is a slightly rundown old house, and they have folk music posters on the walls. We stocked up on a chenin blanc (not officially released yet, but ask and ye shall receive) and their tinto.
At St Supery we tried some super peachy and crisp sauvignon blancs that mom loved, as well as a sauvignon blanc-semillon blend. I don't know much about semillons, but I did brew a saison last year that used semillon grape juice, and it was one of my best beers. We ended the day at Domaine Chandon, which was overrun with dudes in tight shirts and bachelorette parties. The vibe was off, but it was nice to wrap up with a glass of bubbly, and Caitlin snapped a photo of me and my mom where we're both smiling, which is an absolute miracle.
Other Things That Happened:
Street art on Divis: $$$ won't love you back.
 A visit to Temescal Alley in Oakland brought us to Esqueleto, a beautiful jewelry shop.
 I finished off the plums we got at the farm via a plum crumb tart. Cooking the plums in a little bit of port first was a good off-the-cuff move.
 I also whipped a cake via The Yellow House. It has peaches, butter, cornmeal, fresh lavender (the first time I've clipped any from the plant in our backyard!), basically all the good things.
Speaking of the garden, I found three cucumbers ready to be picked! These suckers really know how to hide.
Or maybe we're just not so good at looking, since this zucchini managed to grow to over a foot long before I saw it. Holy moly. 
All this zucchini went into a vegetable paella, along with some of its vegetable brethren.
On a completely different note, Helene and I went to dinner and discovered this bizarre urinal in the women's room. Why is it there? Why is it filled with flowers? And why is it so high up? 
 We'll never know.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Oh my goodness, our friends' baby Pele is a wee little model for Pottery Barn Kids. She's on the right here...
And is a precious pumpkin here.
If you have ovaries, I apologize for setting them a-stirring.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gimme all your produce

Red Earth Farm is owned and run by our friends Katie and Larry in the Sierra foothills, and it is a magical place. Katie and Larry are not only two wonderful humans, but they grow food that is so delicious and nutritious that people clamor to buy it, all while raising two unimaginably delightful children. It boggles the mind.

Last week was Katie's birthday, so we headed out to the farm to celebrate. Now that I am 30, I get a sense of satisfaction every time a friend joins me in old age, because I am a really good friend. Welcome to 30, Katie! Mike and I packed the California Raisin (which will soon go to car heaven - more on that in a later post) full of homebrew and warm-weather clothes - see ya later, Fogust! - and drove east.
Nestled in a cooler alongside the bomber bottles of Chocolate Orange Porter and Semillon Saison was my contribution to Katie's potluck, a homely fig and almond cake. You know when something comes into your life and is just what you need at just the right moment, kismet? I had placed my first order with Good Eggs (thanks to a $25 off coupon), and when the delivery arrived, it turned out they were out of lemon verbena, but gave me a beautiful basket of ripe figs to make up for it. The figs were plump and squishy and perfect, and after gorging myself, I turned to this fig and almond cake recipe, which came together quickly and turned out beautifully. I didn't photograph it, alas, but it looked exactly like the one in the New York Times, sans the fancy lighting and charmingly rustic tablecloth.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Pretzels redux

We came home from Montreal with a dozen bottles of mustard, courtesy of a friend of the newlyweds who made a bottle for each wedding place setting. As is inevitable, many people left theirs behind, and Mike scooped them up. They now have pride of place on our countertop, and I've been slathering mustard on everything I can - homemade bread, a dinner omelette (trust me!), and, appropriately, pretzels.
I've made pretzels before, so I was an old hand this time around, and they turned out beautifully, aside from one that inexplicably came apart into fluffy goo during the boiling process. I used this Food & Wine recipe, but replaced step 4, the dunking in lye, with a dunking in boiling water souped up with baking soda. Much less hassle that way.

Just to make you extra jealous, in addition to piling them with grainy mustard, I also dipped the pretzels in a jar of strawberry chevre that Katie made from her goats' milk and roasted strawberries from her garden. It was heavenly.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Belle Ville de Montréal

Sometimes, at the end of a trip, all you can think about is your own home and your own bed. And sometimes, instead, you want to stay, maybe forever, get a little apartment with exposed brick, and learn French. The latter is what summertime Montreal did to Mike and I.
We were in Montreal for an auspicious union, the wedding of our friends Ronak and Uchenna. First, though, we stopped in Boston (after a weird flight) and I worked from the Cambridge office. I caught up with some old friends, got my fix of lobster and ale, and had brunch at The Neighborhood. All the necessary things.
We headed out of Boston by car, driving up through New Hampshire and Vermont so that Mike could see the glory that is New England in the summer. Montpelier, by the way, is just precious. We arrived in Montreal at sunset, with hot air balloons and gliders suspended over the fields on the outskirts of the city as the sun fell behind Mont Royal. Well, hello.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It frames our focus

A really well-written recipe is a delight. It brings a freshness to the ingredients, an elegance to the preparation, a feeling of accomplishment to the final product. It's inspiring. Tamar Adler and MFK Fisher are masters of food writing, but Food52 has been making a play for posterity lately as well.

Case in point: this rough recipe for green beans with garlic.
You throw raw green beans into a hot pan with butter and nothing else, and sear them over an irresponsibly high flame. 
When they start to get some brown splotches, cover the pan. Resist the temptation to add liquid. They'll stew in their own juices, and their flavor will be completely undiluted. 
Then, just when they're looking a little saggy and soft and they taste sweet (roughly 15 minutes later), you take them off the heat and add ingredients 3 and 4: salt and pulverized garlic. 
You could leave the garlic out, but its pushy sting will soften a little on the warmth of the beans. It frames our focus. 
Which, of course, is those green beans, sweet and singed and alive, with none of their goodness overwritten or left behind.
I want those beans. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

On being the only chick in business class

Yesterday I got upgraded on my flight to Boston. It doesn't happen often, so usually I'm one of the horde shuffling to the back of the plane, eyeing the lucky ones with legroom and free booze. And usually, at least on business routes (I'm sure flights to Hawaii are different), there is at most one woman in business class. And she is almost always clearly part of a couple. Maybe there's a quota.

On yesterday's flight, I was the token business class lady. It felt odd. When the agent called the first boarding group, I was standing in the half-line, half-scrum around the gate. Two men pushed right by me like it hadn't even occurred to them that I could be part of their group. Maybe they were just dicks who would have done the same had they been in the last boarding group instead of the first, but my assumption is that they figured I was part of the hoi polloi.

When the flight attendant came around to take dinner orders (because that is a thing that happens in business class - also, ice cream sundaes!), she asked each guy individually what he'd like to eat. "And you, sir? And you, sir?" When she got to my row, she addressed me and the guy next to me together: "And what will you two be having?" Aside from the fact that I was sitting next to him, there was no sign that we were traveling together - we hadn't even spoken. It was awkward.

Finally, the kicker: three hours into the flight, I used the business class restroom, and the rolls were still completely new, their ends glued down. Because everyone else had penises.

None of these things was malicious, or even really upsetting - just discomfiting. Where my business class ladies at?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Welcome, baby: here's a pizza

It's baby season! Or soon-to-be-baby season; right now I'm surrounded by pregnant ladies and their anxious partners. Yesterday I heard from my oldest friend (oldest as in friendship duration, not as in age) that she's going to be having a little girl this winter; college friends are spawning all over the globe; and don't even get me started on how many friends here in San Francisco are "trying", which is a phrase that really needs to be banned. The biggest concentration of bebbes, though, has been at my office, where you can barely walk down the hallway without squeezing by an enormously pregnant lady. I almost spilled hot coffee on a belly today - serious faux pas.

I have learned so much about fetii in the last few weeks. Did you know babies hiccup in utero? It apparently helps with lung development. I watched my boss's stomach jump when her baby had the hiccups the other day. Did you know that a baby's fingers can get caught in the mother's ribs, necessitating chiropractic intervention? It happened to my coworker's wife. Did you know that a baby can kick its mother in the butthole from the inside? This happened to my coworker during a meeting last week. Her: Oop! Me: What's wrong? Her: Oh, the baby just kicked me in the butthole from the inside again. Me: THAZZ NOT OKAY.

Since I have absolutely nothing helpful to say to those expecting a child (except "Jesus, really? Wow, gross."), last night I cooked up a storm for a few coworkers who will soon be heading out on leave. I also drank most of a bottle of red wine and muttered at the radio while Malcolm Gladwell talked on NPR - I can't decide if that guy would be a delightful or infuriating dinner party guest. My kitchen wound up covered in sauce and my freezer is stuffed to the gills, but it was worth it this morning when I opened my cooler and my coworker's eyes bugged out of his head. The fastest way to get people to love you is to drown them in enchiladas, pizza dough and tomato sauce when they are most overwhelmed.
1/6 the output
I feel like I had a breakthrough on the enchilada front, so I'm going to give you the lowdown. I find canned sauce a little too thin and bitter, so I pump it up with some added ingredients. Maybe making it from scratch is next, but I'm not there yet. I started off with three cans of medium red enchilada sauce, and added them to a pot of onions and garlic cooked in oil until soft. I started reducing the sauce, then added jarred sundried tomatoes and their oil, honey, and lemon zest to taste. My handy immersion blender smoothed it all out when it was reduced to my liking. 

For the enchilada filling, I half-mooned a few different kinds of summer squash, drew out moisture by salting them for a half hour, then pan fried them for a few minutes to get some browning. On the bean front I went with canned kidney beans, but I usually prefer to go with dried beans cooked in a big batch at home with half an onion. The squash, beans, fresh corn right off the cob, and shredded cheddar went into the tortillas, into pans coated in the thickened sauce, into a final layer of sauce and cheese, into the oven at 375, and then, when the cheese on top was browned, into my belly.

I wanted the pans to cool completely before going in the freezer, so I put them out on the back porch. I wish I had a photo of them steaming into the fog.
What Mike and I did at 10 p.m. Shameful.
I also made a few batches of pizza dough and tomato sauce (which conveniently served as ice packs in the cooler today - when my boss was suffering from Pregnant Lady Overheating Syndrome I suggested she slap a pack of frozen sauce on her neck). My go-to tomato sauce recipe is simple: onions, garlic and red pepper flakes sizzled in olive oil, cans of whole tomatoes cooked down with some lemon zest (plus whatever I have on hand, usually basil, though last night I included arugula from the garden and olives), finished with some butter and whizzed together with the immersion blender.

These babies are gonna have it good.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013


I signed up for OhLife - a daily email service that prompts you to share thoughts on your day - on the recommendation of Rachel of Erstwhile Dear. (As a side plug, I really enjoy checking in on her writing now and again - it's soothing, and presents a kind of alternate universe where I decided to stay in Boston and have some bebbes and not be frenetic.) I am intermittently obsessive about documenting my life, as evidenced by this blog and the fact that I carry a hardbound planner with me everywhere so that I can not only calendar future events but also scribble down past ones. OhLife presents an easy way to calm the obsessive in me. Time, it is slipping away! But at least it will be documented!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer weekend

You know how weekends can be full and lazy at the same time? That's how things have been going lately. It all started with Friday, a good indulgent day. I met a friend for lunch at Tacolicious, and there may have been a pitcher of strawberry margaritas involved. We walked around the sunny Mission, then I forced some Bi Rite salted caramel ice cream upon him, because it is required. I finished up work for the day at home, then another friend came over to drink some fizzy gin cocktails and help me prep food for an outing on Saturday. Thank you for your watermelon juicing skillz, Esme.
Friday night we went to watch the Giants get spanked by the Cubs. Ugh. I am so in love with that ballpark, though, that I didn't mind a loss, or nosebleed seats, or crazy high prices (well, that I do mind a little bit). Good company and strong drinks don't hurt. Hot tip: if you're ever at a Giants game, get the Ghirardelli ice cream sundae with extra hot fudge, no matter how foggy and chilly it is. 

Friday, July 26, 2013


Last weekend I went to Palm Springs with Caitlin for a gathering called Yes by Yes Yes, an "unconference" for tech geeks, "makers" (sorry, nerdierarite it without quotes), and tech-adjacent  folks like me. A friend was the organizer, and when she asked if I wanted to go, I said yes (a-ha!) for a few reasons. I liked that it was a techy conference organized by women. I was feeling antsy in my professional life and it seemed like it would give me some food for thought, maybe even a career jumpstart. And going to the first year of an event like this appealed to the organizer in me, as well as the person who wants to be able to say "Oh, I was there in 2013" when something blows up. All equally honorable motivations, right?
The source of the name, by the way, is Ann Larie (my friend, one of the organizers). The founding group was discussing how SXSW had lost its early energy amid its increasing size and rapid transformation into a marketing free for all. Why not, they thought, pull together a smaller, more focused event, and have it be all the things that SXSW no longer was? No to the hype and yes to all the good things. Thus was Yes by Yes Yes born. The name seems to have become a real mantra for the group: say Yes to conversations, to ideas, to each other. A little too sincere? Also yes. But inspiring anyway.

I'm still working through what the weekend meant to me. In some ways it was fantastic. We sat by the pool, got massages, drank cocktails, and had interesting conversations in a geeky safe space. It was baking in Palm Springs that weekend - I think it hit 110 degrees - and getting to dip into the water every few minutes was heavenly. The timing wasn't ideal, however, since I'd just come off a week on the Russian River and was feeling like I needed some time at home. I was also already sleep deprived.
That sleep deprivation didn't get any better during YxYY; late nights were inevitable, given the party atmosphere. At the time, I felt a little lost, even though I had a few friends on hand. It's unusual for me to be out of my social element, and while I'm an extrovert, I'm not a great small talker. I have a hard time introducing myself to strangers, even a self-selecting group like the one at YxYY. The structure of the event was to do away with as much structure as possible. Bring hundreds of like-minded folks into one glamorous place, throw a cocktail party and a prom, and see what happens.
What happened, it seemed, was more than anyone anticipated. I witnessed the expected - pool floating, flirting, imbibing of adult beverages, and sunscreen application - but also the unexpected. Friendship-bracelet making (hell yeah I did that), "miracle" berry eating, 3D printing, tshirt modification (i.e. slashing and fringing), underwater photo booths, kazoo jam sessions, late night cigar smoking, and a grownup prom featuring 80s outfits and a Chewbacca costume. 
Did I have a life-altering experience that left me feeling recharged and full of creative energy? No. Did I appreciate being surrounded by people as nerdy as or nerdier than I am (I realize that's saying something) and interacting outside my comfort zone? Yes. 
I did a debrief with Ann Larie over the weekend and went to a Yaysayers happy hour last night, so clearly I'm still chewing on the experience. Most interesting, given that the weekend was for me an excuse to be lazy by a pool, is the ongoing conversation that is happening among the Yaysayers. Folks are DRIVEN. Projects are shooting out of this group at a wild rate: brunches and cocktail hours and dinner parties in cities around the country, videos and photo collages and online magazines, plans for co-rental apartments in New York and San Francisco, and techier stuff that I don't understand and am therefore tuning out.
Even if this winds up not being my crowd, it's fascinating to watch a community bloom overnight into a multi-legged clamoring army of energy. I hope that it gets slightly less earnest since snark is more my style, but my comfort level isn't the important thing here. My only contribution is likely to be a Napa/Sonoma distillery tour, less creative but no less fun. When in doubt, say yes to booze.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Porch swing

Yesterday I said I was going to whip a Chile-nectarine Smash when I got home, but it turned out that the nectarines I had were still crisp and crunchy, exactly how I like to eat them. So instead of attempting to pulverize the fruit into submission, I changed gears and went with a pitcher of the Porch Swing: gin, Pimm's, lemonade, and some bubbles. I didn't have cucumbers and so substituted mint for a fresh note, and went with the output of my beloved Sodastream instead of using lemon soda. It was refreshing and tangy (I went light on the simple syrup), and I hogged most of it instead of sharing equitably with Mike.
Porch Swing
  • 3 tbsp gin (I used Tanqueray)
  • 3 tbsp Pimm's No. 1
  • 1/2 cup lemonade (juiced lemons + simple syrup [which is 1 part water to 1 part sugar])
  • bubbly water or lemon/lime soda to top
  • 10 thinly sliced half moons of cucumber (or, in my case, torn leaves of a sprig of mint)
Pour gin, Pimm's and lemonade into a tall glass, add ice cubes and a splash of soda/bubbly water. Garnish with cucumber slices (or bruise mint and add).