Monday, February 28, 2011

day fifty and beyond

Week 8 began with the first milestone of Project 365—at least according to the 365 Community group on Flickr. Saturday, February 19th, was day 50; and of course, of course, it was cold and rainy that day. My hopes of going out and doing something interesting afternoon were quickly superseded by the desire to stay inside where it was warm and dry. I still wanted something special and representative of day 50, so I started looking around the house. Finally, I thought of using my ceramic "5" magnet from the end of my first 365, along with the "o" from our stainless steel magnetic alphabet. I propped them up with Steve's Deglingos mini chicken on the top cushion of our big chair, and voila: day 50.

50/365 celebratory chicken

Steve and I finished our 52 Weeks of Food project the week before, but that didn't stop us from making something new for Sunday's lunch. After all, I had to work again that day, and this was the easiest way to get a picture without a special trip outside or taking my camera to work. We selected a recipe for Cumin-Scented Lamburgers from Gerald Hirigoyen's Pintxos cookbook, which I gave Steve for his birthday. Steve will be Steve, however: he decided that he should make his own mini brioche buns and mini potato chips from scratch. Things weren't quite perfect, but they definitely made a nice picture. They tasted pretty good too.

51/365 cumin lamburgers

Monday was Presidents Day, and Steve had the day off from work. To celebrate, we went to see The King's Speech at the Embarcadero movie theater. (It was great and totally deserved the Oscars it won.) Beforehand, we made a trip to the Ferry Building, mostly to just look at stuff. Usually, we go to buy some specialty food item. This time, we came away with a few pretty napkins and a couple little Weck jars from Heath Ceramics. It will be fun to use them in food photos, I'm sure, but I took a photo of the ceramic vases for my picture of the day.

52/365 heath-tastic

On Tuesday, I ran some errands in Noe Valley. It was a little chilly, but the trees were blooming. It always seems strange to me that the leaves here change colors in December, and the trees bloom in February—not that I'm complaining. I never was a fan of true winter.

53/365 intermittent spring

Wednesday and Thursday were both scrapbooking days for me. (I'm almost up to our wedding—2 1/2 years ago!) I didn't want to go out in the rain or the cold, so my Wednesday idea was to use the weekly theme from 365 Community: Fun and Games. I pulled out the only non-card game I own, Connect Four, and set up a shot. I remember watching many games between my dad and my sister Bethany when I was a kid. "Red always wins" was something of a family saying, so it seemed right to set up the board with the red in the foreground.

54/365 red always wins

Thursday's idea was actually one that I had come up with on Saturday; I just deemed it not special enough for day 50. I used Steve's Ice Bat Ugly Doll, propped him up in a chair, and positioned one of Steve's birthday presents in his lap. While Ice Bat read The Ugly Doll Guide to Eating Out and Keeping it Down, I researched what to eat and where to go in Chicago when we go in late May.

55/365 ugly research

I didn't really feel like going anywhere on Friday either, but I made myself do it. I just couldn't handle a third day in a row of having to find something to shoot in my house. Steve wanted to buy some new shoes from Merrill, and I had been looking at spring jackets online already, so it sounded like a good reason to brave the chill in the air and go downtown. I went to Anthropologie and Banana Republic, before meeting Steve at his office, but I had more luck with pictures than I did with jackets. Picking out Steve's shoes was a much easier task.

56/365 giraffes? giraffes!

And now I'm over 1/7th of the way done! (Yes, I'm keeping track.)

Monday, February 21, 2011

food and more food

Week 7 of Project 365 was all about the food. I certainly didn't plan it to be that way, but between Valentine's Day and rainy, cold weather, the food-related pictures were the ones that came out on top.

Last Saturday's big outing was to Potrero Hill for brunch at Plow. It's a relatively new restaurant, and it's owned by our wedding florist and her husband. (She closed her adorable flower and gift shop in the Mission in 2009.) Plow is pretty popular—and small—so we had to wait 30-40 minutes for a table. We filled the time with a quick walk down the street to check out the little neighborhood and then a short wait outside the restaurant. For my brunch, I was tempted to just order the lemon ricotta pancakes, but since I went with the grilled cheese (with a couple kinds of cheese, plus apples), I was glad that Steve got the signature Plow breakfast with pancakes. It wasn't an especially fancy brunch, but the flavor combinations in the grilled cheese and the lemon ricotta pancakes were great. We probably won't be back too soon, but it's definitely worth another visit sometime.

43/365 plow

After Plow, Steve and I walked over to Big Daddy's Antiques to check out Tell Tale Preserve Company's "Trunk Show." They have a temporary coffee and pastry place in a storefront attached to a very cool antique store. Steve got some coffee, and I got a white chocolate-green tea-black sesame gun. I'm not someone who loves green tea in everything, but this was just too awesome and cute to pass up.

On Sunday, we both spent a lot of time in the kitchen, making things for Valentine's Day. I made an Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake with cream cheese frosting (from Baked Explorations) for Steve's breakfast, and Steve prepped various components of our dessert for the next day. Despite all that, I found time to take a picture of my white chocolate gun—and my Valentine's Day flowers—with Steve's help.

44/365 shiny toy gun

For Valentine's Day on Monday, Steve made us a fancy dinner. We've been doing that instead of going out for the last 4 years or so, and last year's meal was actually what inspired the 52 Weeks of Food project. This year, he made Lobster Cappuccino from Eric Ripert's On the Line, Lobster "Macaroni and Cheese" from The French Laundry Cookbook, and Tiramisushi from Elizabeth Falkner's Demolition Desserts. Everything was very good, but the Tiramisushi picture stood out the most to me. I also liked the idea of ending the project with a dessert picture.

I'll leave it at that, since I'm planning to write a final post about 52 Weeks of Food and Valentine's Day soon.

45/365 valentine's day

The next day, Tuesday, was Steve's birthday. Instead of ordering a cake this year, I decided to make cupcakes and use the pirate decoration set that had caught my eye at Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table. So that afternoon, I made David Lebovitz's Guinness-Gingerbread Cupcakes from Ready for Dessert. Instead of the lime buttercream in the recipe, though, I made cream cheese frosting. It felt like a race against the clock to get them done and decorated in time to take a picture before it got darker (or rainier), but I did it. That evening, we had dinner at Contigo with Dan, Carmen, Rob and Traci; and then we came back and ate the pirate cupcakes. They turned out really well.

46/365 pirate cupcakes

When it came to Wednesday, I was at a loss for what to photograph after the excitement of the previous days. I finally got out one of my chocolates from Valentine's Day that afternoon, and I noticed that it was a pretty red color. I hadn't taken any stereotypical Valentine's pictures on Monday, so I guess I made up for it on Wednesday.

47/365 caramel heart

Thursday evening, we planned to have Dan and Carmen up to eat dinner with us: Maryland crab cakes, shipped to us from my sister and her husband. Steve and I decided to serve them how we did last year, with a citrus salad and some white wine. And for Carmen, I bought a couple sodas from the corner store, which I ended up photographing on our dining room table when I got home. The colors coordinated well with the grapefruit, blood orange, and mandarin orange in the salad, as well as the tulips in the background.

48/365 soda options

Another rainy day on Friday... Steve left me a note that morning, hinting that I should make some hot chocolate with the leftover mocha rum sauce from the tiramisushi. I did just that in the afternoon, finishing up the last of the biscotti (also from the tiramisushi) while I was at it. It was a pleasant break from my work, prepping for Sunday's classes.

49/365 rainy day leftovers

And so ends a very food-filled week. Hopefully, better weather this week will mean fewer pictures of food in my house and more pictures of interesting things elsewhere!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

six (& fifty)

It's my 50th post on this blog! And I'm up to week 6 in Project 365 recaps. Last week was a week of lots of green. And beige... Green and beige.

Starting with Saturday, February 5th, it was a nice day for ice cream in the Mission. Steve and I walked down to Humphry Slocombe, where I got a scoop of Meyer Lemon-Candied Ginger. (So good.) Because the weather was so pleasant, the line was long. That gave me plenty of time to take pictures of the coffee mug shelf while we waited. I didn't bother with the ice cream itself, though. It all starts to look pretty similar after a while, and there was nowhere to sit anyway.

36/365 humphry slocombe

Sunday was our next to last meal of 52 Weeks of Food. We were going to do something with crab, but we went to see a production of the musical The Wedding Singer on Saturday night. That left little time after our ice cream to buy and cook crab, in addition to making Saturday's dinner. Instead, we decided on the Spring Minestrone with Brown Rice from Heidi Swanson's Super Natural Cooking. With asparagus, peas, and snap peas, it felt very healthy. Definitely not your typical Super Bowl Sunday food, but I had to go to work anyway. (We had a calzone for dinner later.)

37/365 soupand bowl sunday

On Monday morning, I got a text message from Carmen, asking if I wanted to go to a piercing and tattoo parlor with her. It turned out that she wanted to go get her belly button ring from 1993 removed before things got ugly. (Pregnancy, you know...) It took the guy less than 10 seconds to do it, and then we were on our way to get a snack on 18th Street. We went to Tartine instead of Bi-Rite Creamery, since I had never been to Tartine. It's this well known, fabulous bakery in our neighborhood, but I had never been inside, since there was always a long line. This time, everyone must have been at Dolores Park or Bi-Rite instead, because the line was pretty short. I got a slice of tres leches cake, and Carmen got a lemon cream tart. Both were delicious.

38/365 tartine

I spent Tuesday doing laundry and making some more granola, so I took some time in between to go out for a quick walk around the block. I only made it about halfway through the park, with a couple "meh" pictures taken, before I spotted some fern fronds. Curly green plants with repetition galore? Yes, please. I took pictures of the fronds on each side of the larger plant, and then I went back home. No further walk necessary.

39/365 fronds

I wasn't quite as lucky on Wednesday. I wanted to start my reading of Rick Steves' Italy, and I had romantic notions of doing that in a coffee shop (again). This time, I didn't go as far as Four Barrel; I went to Ritual instead. Unfortunately, free seats were about as sparse as they were at Four Barrel a couple weeks before. I got my mocha to go, and I shot the cute picture in the window of Gypsy Honeymoon when I passed it on the way back home.

40/365 valentine's day approaches

Thursday was haircut day, since Thomas had an opening at 6pm. That involved a trip downtown anyway, so I went early and ran some errands. I also tried out Cako, a cupcake place off of Powell that I had noticed on the way back to BART the last couple of times we saw shows at the Curran Theater. They have rows of cupcakes in their window, so I figured it would make a good picture/snack option. I got a caramel cupcake (chocolate cupcake with caramel frosting and drizzle), which was very good. Because the top was ever so slightly smushed, I was glad that I had the window cupcakes to stand in as picture of the day.

41/365 cako cupcakes

One of my other stops downtown on Thursday was at Steve's office. You see, he decided that day that he wanted to switch our cell service to Verizon—from Sprint—and get an iPhone. That meant that I got one too! I picked mine up from him at work and was able to put some numbers in it while I was waiting to get my hair cut. It's quite a change from my old dumbphone, the (Red) Motorola Razr from 2007. (Texting was such a hassle on that thing.) I took a few pictures of the new phone on Friday afternoon—after changing the wallpaper on my home screen, but before figuring out how to rearrange the icons.

42/365 welcome to the future

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

one month down (and on to the next)

Week 5 of Project 365. Here we go...

Last Saturday, Steve and I walked over to Pot + Pantry, a relatively new little store in the neighborhood that sells (and buys) vintage cookware, as well as some newer stuff. Donna, the owner, obviously has great taste, because everything there is really cute. We ended up buying two smallish Emile Henry lasagna dishes for $30. They'll be great for macaroni & cheese, gratins, roasted vegetables, etc.

While we were there, I asked if I could take a few pictures so I could get my picture of the day. I shot a few things around the store, including this shelf. I really like those ceramic canisters, but the bean can with flowers is especially charming.

29/365 pot + pantry

On Sunday, we did our new dish(es) of the week. I already wrote about this one in the 52 WoF post for January, but here's the short version. Steve made two recipes for stuffed piquillo peppers, and we ate them for lunch that day. He used a new Ikea plate for the salad with the chorizo and manchego stuffed peppers. It was great for pictures, but it was small enough that I had to be careful not to end up with food on my lap while I was eating.

30/365 stuffed gnome hats

Monday was the last day of January, so I decided to take a picture of the January and February pages of the Polaroid calendar I got for Christmas. I usually put the current month's page on the magnetic board in the kitchen. It's nice to look up and see it, but I have to stand on a chair to change it each time. I figured the window sill in the dining room would make a better setting for the picture, even though it was a more of an ordeal than I expected to clean it off. It wasn't just a little dusty like I thought; dish soap was needed because of that sneaky cooking grease from the kitchen.

31/365 changing of the calendar

I wanted to do some more sanding on Tuesday afternoon, so I shot a few pictures before I got to work—just in case I didn't feel like it afterward. I didn't have many ideas, but I've been trying to get a decent picture of our cookbook shelves for years. I gave it another try, and this was the best of them. It's really only about a third of our cookbooks; we keep acquiring more, since it's the go-to choice for Steve's birthdays and Christmas. Luckily, our 52 Weeks of Food project has made us use them more often.

32/365 cookbook shelf

On Wednesday evening, Steve and I went out to dinner at Farallon and then saw the musical Next to Normal at the Curran. I took pictures at dinner, but in the end, I chose a picture of some blossoms in the window of Sephora. I shot it on our way back to the Powell BART station after the show.

33/365 blossoms & stripes

Thursday morning, I got a call from Carmen, wanting to know if I would like to go out to lunch and to Flora Grubb with her. That solved my problem of what to shoot for the day. We went to Noe Valley for sushi, ran some errands around Noe Valley and Potrero, visited Flora Grubb, and then came back to the Mission for some ice cream at Humphry Slocombe. (I got Roasted White Chocolate-Lavender.)

Flora Grubb was definitely the most photogenic of our stops. It's a garden store in Bayview with really awesome stuff. I'm always tempted by the plants... until I remember that I'm not good at keeping them alive. Photos will have to do for me.

34/365 flora grubb

On Friday, I finally went to the post office downtown to turn in my passport application. (Since I got my old one when I was 15, I had to reapply in person.) Afterward, I walked around downtown a little and ran a couple more errands, taking pictures when things caught my eye.

Steve and I went for burgers with Dan and Carmen for dinner that night, and then we all watched Inception. Later, when I went through my photos from the day, my favorite turned out to be one I took of a sidewalk cafe on Sutter, downtown. I pass it every time I go to Steve's office, so I actually thought about taking the picture on Wednesday evening but decided to save it. Anyway, I thought it tied in well with the movie, since there was a scene at a Parisian sidewalk cafe.

35/365 sidewalk cafe

That wraps up another week—and January too. I leave you with a mosaic of the January 365 pictures. It's fun to be able to make these again.


Saturday, February 5, 2011

more food... quelle surprise

And now for a roundup of the last full month of food for the 52 Weeks of Food project. Only two weeks to go and we'll be done.

On the second day of the new year, Steve made some black truffle risotto. I had bought him two little Perigord black truffles from Bi-Rite and put them in his Christmas stocking, so we were racing against the clock by New Years, trying to make sure we used them before they got too old. We went through the cookbook collection and decided to do the truffle risotto from Avec Eric, and preserve what was left of the truffles using Thomas Keller's method from The French Laundry Cookbook. We still haven't used the preserved truffle, but it's safe in the freezer. It might get used for a Valentine's Day dish.

But back to the truffle risotto...

truffle risotto

We were going to have it for lunch that day, but the whole process of making mushroom stock took longer than Steve expected. We ended up having really mediocre burritos from El Farolito around 1pm—our usual places were closed—and then we ate the risotto around 4pm, when it was finally ready. On the plus side, there was still some light for the pictures. Unfortunately, we weren't exactly hungry for it at that time. I had at least gone easy on the burrito, so I was able to eat more of the risotto than Steve.

It really had nice flavor, although it was pretty intensely earthy. The thyme was also a good addition, since the recipe didn't have any herbs.

By the second week of 2011, we had come to the conclusion that Sunday lunches were good times to do our weekly dishes. That way, there was ample light, and I didn't have to worry about taking other pictures for the 365 project on my main work day. Putting the new Ethan Stowell book to use, Steve made Tagliarini with Totten Virginica Oysters, Prosecco, Chives, and Cream.

oyster pasta

The ingredients all sounded fabulous to me, although we made a few adjustments. First, I made Steve use dried linguine instead of making his own fresh tagliarini. I really didn't want him to be freaking out about pasta that wasn't behaving if I was on a schedule to get the picture taken and food eaten before I had to leave for work. Second, we used Marin Miagi oysters instead of Totten Virginica, since they were available and cheaper than our favorite Kumamotos.

The overall result wasn't as good as I hoped, however. The oysters poached in prosecco weren't my favorite, too much of the sauce for the pasta seemed to have been left at the bottom of the pan, and it needed more acidity that the prosecco apparently didn't provide. My theory is that this would be great with the right oysters, the right prosecco, etc. Anyway, none of that stopped me from eating the leftovers of the pasta the next day.

The following week, we finally did something with local dungeness crab. Steve had been talking about it for quite a while, so I had gone in search of recipes that were specific to dungeness crab. The top contender for me was Carrot Soup with Dungeness Crab from Sunset, a California lifestyle magazine/website that's been around for ages.

carrot soup with dungeness crab

Steve has an old recipe from Williams Sonoma for carrot-ginger soup with orange, so he decided to make that instead of the one from the Sunset recipe. To top the soup, he did the crab (finished in butter), some fried shallots, chives, and a quick infused chive olive oil. Once I had plated my serving, I realized that it was way too busy, rather than simple and clean like I wanted. The soup itself ended up being overly orangey as well, so Steve made some changes when he made it again last week.

This time, he used the same base for the soup (carrots, leeks, potatoes), but he used a little meyer lemon instead of the orange. (The Sunset recipe used regular lemon.) He also didn't bother with the butter on the crab; it didn't need it, and the color was prettier without it. Instead, I suggested he toss it with some of the meyer lemon juice and chives, like the Sunset recipe directed. And for toppings, we just used a few more chives and a drizzle of plain olive oil. It was simpler and tasted better. I'll have to take a new picture of it sometime, since I foresee us making it again.

Then there was the week of caramelized things from Avec Eric. I picked a couple recipes after looking at the index of the book online. The first was the Caramelized Onion and Gruyere Tart. I've been craving this sort of thing for quite a while, just waiting for the right recipe.

puff tart

It turns out, this is not quite that recipe. It didn't help that this was Steve's first time working with puff pastry. He didn't roll the dough out thin enough, so it puffed way more than it should have. There was also a bit too much oil in the tart as a whole and not enough flavor. I think it needed more cheese and more salt. It was worth a try, but the puff pastry thing would probably make a better appetizer than lunch. It looks like the search for the perfect caramelized onion tart-type thing will continue.

Part two of caramelized day was Caramelized White Chocolate Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Marmalade.

white chocolate panna cotta

It was another semi-failure. The white chocolate panna cotta was heavy/rich (too much gelatin?) and grainy from the chocolate. The blood orange marmalade was also pretty thick, but it had too much bitter flavor from the orange rinds and not enough bright orange flavor. I ate both of the little pots of it from the picture as leftovers, but that small size was definitely enough. The main thing I noticed was that each component really needed the other for balance. It was just too bad that the panna cotta and marmalade weren't better by themselves.

We chose another two recipes for last Sunday's lunch. This time, both recipes were for stuffed piquillo peppers. The first was one we saw Anne Burrell make on Secrets of a Restaurant Chef.

stuffed gnome hats

These were stuffed with a mixture of chorizo, manchego, and breadcrumbs and served on with a baby arugula salad with scallions and almonds.

When I was looking for that recipe, I saw another that also looked good: Stuffed Piquillo Peppers with Goat Cheese on the Martha Stewart website.

gnome hats 2.0

The Martha Stewart ones were served cold, whereas the Anne Burrell peppers were baked in the oven and served warm. We were glad we did both; they went well together on the salad. The only thing we would change is the amount of lemon in the goat cheese stuffing. I like lemon, but this was too much even for me. Between that and a little too much vinegar in the dressing for the salad, there was just too much acid. That should be easily fixed, so we might do these two recipes together again sometime.