Category Archives: Around Town

primal


In the last few years there have been a growing number of food events in the Bay Area focusing on butchery and whole animal utilization. I actually don’t eat much meat but in an ongoing effort to be a more responsible and informed omnivore I’ve been closely following this trend. (Also see my post on Goat Butchery back in February.)

Last night I went to one of these meat events called “Primal” that also added wood fired cooking into the mix. It was held under the stars amidst the vineyards at Chase Cellars in Napa Valley. Some of the best meat-oriented chefs and butchers in the area (Chris Cosentino of Incanto and Boccalone, Staffan Terje of Perbacco, Taylor Boetticher of Fatted Calf and many others) demonstrated breaking down a pig, goat, cow, and lamb and cooked up the end products on raging wood bonfires.

As the fires burned into the night, the chefs served course after course of meat, from goat tail to beef heart. Refreshingly, Jeremy Fox of Ubuntu was also cooking up fire-roasted vegetarian fare. Meanwhile guests were sampling wine and beer from a wide variety of boutique vintners and brewers.

As captivating as it was to see (and taste) whole animals cooking in the most pure and basic way, my overall impression of the evening was that a lot of people were simply drawn in by the decadence of the all-you-can-eat parade of meat. A handful of others seemed genuinely interested in either the cooking techniques and/or issues related to the whole animal. But the people who seemed to be having the most fun were actually the chefs who were relishing the opportunity to do what they do best and do it outside over an open fire.

For those interested I have more photos from the night on my Flickr photostream and there’s another Primal event happening in Atlanta on November 21.

eat real



I haven't been able to post much here lately despite quite a few things I'd actually like to write about. I'm really feeling frustrated by that old "not enough hours" thing. If only I could have one full life dedicated to the garden, another to cooking, another to the kids, another to work, another to art etc. etc. But who doesn't feel that way, right?

Anyway, one of the things that's been on my overly full plate these days was producing some guerilla-style video clips for the upcoming Eat Real festival. Anya Fernald and the crew who brought us Slow Food Nation in San Francisco last year (you can see my v-blogs from that here, here and here) are back in action with this new festival focused on sustainable street food. Unlike Slow Food Nation (which was amazing but also criticized for being elitist) this festival is free to attend and all about inexpensive, accessible foods.

Last year my foodie compadre, Carla B. of Local Forage, and I had a great time blogging Slow Food Nation so we were happy to accept when Anya asked us back to work on the Eat Real festival. The event is being held this weekend (Aug 28-30) in Oakland, and I'd encourage those of you in the Bay Area to stop by. Besides all the great street food there will also be a farmer's market, music, cooking demonstrations, a canning swap, a butchery contest and a lot more. 

In the meantime, here are a couple video clips of Pizza Politana and 4505 Meats–two of the many food purveyors who will be there. Yum!

goat butchery 101


Last night I went to a goat butchery workshop at Café Rouge in Berkeley. Butchery? Goat? Huh, what? Slaughtering an animal is something I have a hard time thinking about, much less doing myself (after catching and eating a trout on a camping trip one time, I found myself unexpectedly morose and in tears.) Yet I realize what a huge hypocrisy this is since I am not a vegetarian. So in an effort to be a more responsible omnivore (and also just because of my far-reaching interests in food and agriculture) I’ve been trying to become more informed about animal husbandry, meat production etc. Hence the workshop.

The evening started with an overview of goat breeds, raising and breeding, and humane animal protocol by Jeanne McCormack and Al Medvitz of Montezuma Hills Lamb and Goat who sell their meat to Café Rouge. Next the Café Rouge butchers, Scott Brennan (pictured above) and Ben Broadus demonstrated the art of
butchery. Except for some of the sawing, it wasn’t any more gruesome than my experience deboning the capon at Christmas.

After the carcass was butchered, Scott and Ben (along with several volunteers) prepared a variety of goat meat dishes for us all to sample. The first dish was a goat tartare which was shockingly delicious. I was prepared for a strong, gamey taste but was surprised by how light and sweet it was. Jeanne and Al explained that this was the result of the breeding, raising and age of the goat. Next were Kefta (Middle Eastern meatballs), again incredibly flavorful.

One of the unique goat products that Café Rouge’s meat market sells is a dry goat salami invented by Scott Brennan that he calls “Goat-eroni.” He demonstrated the making of these and also talked about the curing process. (Which is something I’ve been avidly studying so I was happy to hear more tips!)

Finally we were all treated to grilled goat chops and stuffed goat roast (made from the shoulder cut). The chops were the highlight of the night for me. If I had been served these without knowing what I was eating I would have been puzzled. They looked like lamb chops but the taste was far more subtle and well-rounded. I have always enjoyed eating birria but this was goat taken to another level. I have to say I’ll be back to the Café Rouge meat market soon to pick up some goat meat for cooking at home.

Until then, here are some recipes from the evening, all courtesy of Café Rouge’s Executive chef and owner Marsha McBride and Chef Rick DeBeaord.

Goat Tartare

1 lb lean goat meat (leg or loin)
1 Tbsp finely chopped scallions
1 Tbsp finely chopped mint
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp capers
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 cup small dice of celery
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
zest and juice of one orange
salt to taste

Finely mince goat meat by hand with a sharp knife. Mix with all ingredients. Let sit for 15 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve within two hours of making.

Kefta

1 lb goat-belly and shoulder
1 lb beef
1 1/2 Tbsp toasted coriander
1 1/2 Tbsp toasted cumin
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup chopped chard or kale
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp esplette pepper
1 Tbsp salt

Season meat with all spices and marinate overnight. Grind through a 3/16 inch die. (They also sell ground goat at the Cafe Rouge meat market.) Add chopped greens and form into 3 ounce balls or around a bamboo skewer (they used rosemary springs last night). Grill or saute.

Grilled Goat Chops

6 4-oz loin or rack goat chops
2 cups fresh orange juice and zest
2 cups honey
2 cups dry sherry
1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
1 bunch fresh oregano, chopped
sel vert
2 cups goat milk

Place orange juice and honey in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook until the liquid caramelizes slightly. Add sherry and continue cooking until it forms a light syrup. Cool. Add herbs and goat milk. Preseason chops with salt and pepper or sel vert. Grill over charcoal or wood, brushing with marinade.

road trip: LA

I just got back from a weekend in Los Angeles, visiting my good friend Harriet. Even though airfares are shockingly low at the moment I decided to drive. There's nothing that clears my head more than hitting the open road alone–moving forward through changing terrain, uninterrupted in my own little world for hours and hours on end. (Check out photos from some of my other roadtrips on Flickr.) 

Once in LA, the theme of the weekend turned out to be Downtown/Little Tokyo and good inexpensive food. My first night in town we went for ramen at the legendary Daikokuya. This is one of those hole in the wall eateries where people line up for hours to get in. Normally I refuse to participate in that kind of lemming behavior, but I was fighting a cold and really wanted what I'd heard was the best bowl of ramen in town.

Even though we didn't get a table until close to 10PM, I have to admit it was worth the wait. For starters, the broth is not the usual clear fare, it's a dense buttery (and by butter, I mean pork butter) stock made from boiling pork bones and soy sauce all day long. And the pork itself is not just any pork, it's kurobuta (Berkshire) pork. Even the hard boiled eggs are pre-boiled in a secret sauce (the waiters were very cagey when I asked them about it) that impart an incredible flavor. The overall result was the most satisfying ramen I have ever eaten, all for a whopping $8.50. (I'd love to hear about any place that thinks it can top it!)

The next night we tried a much newer spot, the hip "exotic sausage grill" Wurstküche. I liked the simple raw industrial space and long communal tables but was even more impressed to find 24 imported beers on tap (I was very happy with my Belgian Tripel Karmeliet). The next choice was deciding from 21 varieties of sausage. As curious as I was about a lot of the inventive offerings (such as Rattlesnake & Rabbit or Duck, Bacon & Jalapeno) I went for a classic Bockwurst with two toppings (in my case caramelized onions and sauerkraut). My favorite part of the meal though were the crisp double-dipped Belgian fries which came with a choice of imaginative dipping sauces (I was intrigued by the Coconut Curry Mayo but ultimately couldn't pass up the Blue Cheese Walnut and Bacon). Not the finest or fanciest meal, but definitely a good concept, well-executed and fun.

The last notable meal of the weekend (not counting the numerous snack stops at Pinkberry) was breakfast at Square One. They have a great breakfast menu and do a flawless job of preparing the food, but my dining experience was overshadowed by being sandwiched between two tables engrossed in "industry" talk. I guess it wouldn't be a trip to LA if at some point you didn't feel like you were in a scene out of a Hollywood satire. At the table to my left was the idealistic young film student (fresh out of college and new in town) looking for advice from a seasoned screenwriter about how to break in as a writer-director. To my right were two cynical TV sitcom writers whose entire worldview seemed not to extend beyond the backlot. I had a hard time having my own conversation because the eavesdropping was endlessly entertaining.

lighted boat parade

Tonight was the annual Lighted Boat Parade in the San Rafael canal. Every year boaters throughout the county deck out their boats to benefit Community Action Marin, Marin County’s oldest and largest provider of family support services. A friend and I brought our kids and shared a nice glass of red wine at the waterfront as we took in the festivities (everything from lighted kayaks to vintage cabin cruisers.) It was a huge hit with the kids since it had all the light-up bling factor plus water vehicles (the coast guard and police boats were a particularly big hit).

All that nautical exposure put me in the mood for fish and chips so afterwards I headed straight to the my favorite place in the area, Fish restaurant in Sausalito. I’ve been a huge fan of this spot ever since it opened. In an area full of waterfront tourist traps with bad food it was a welcome relief to finally have a place for the locals. I love the industrial/maritime aesthetic (warehouse space, picnic tables inside and out, mason jars for glasses), being able to eat right by the water, and the fact that they are strong advocates for sustainable seafood. Not to mention that the food is delicious. They have a very varied menu with great seasonal specials but I always have a hard time passing up the fish and chips–fresh Alaskan Halibut battered with our local Anchor Steam beer and seasoned
flour. Yum! The only downside is the prices; it’s really expensive. But considering the location, the quality and the ethical food practices I can justify it, just not very often.

a day at the olive ranch

Every time I drive by the McEvoy Ranch in Petaluma, I always want to go visit. It’s such a stunning piece of land (550 acres of rolling hills, studded with olive trees) that produces delicious Tuscan-style olive oil. I always seem to miss their tour season so I was really happy when I got an email invitation to their holiday open house. This seemed like a perfect seasonal event that I could bring the kids to and that we’d all enjoy on different levels.

It was a chilly morning when we arrived but we were welcomed with hot chocolate (I think my kids wiped out half their supply) and a spread of delicious olive oil-based treats all made with recipes from their Olive Harvest Cookbook.

There was also a great bluegrass trio called the Earl Brothers playing who we all really enjoyed listening to. They have a refreshingly traditional mountain sound and Robert Earl Davis (banjo and lead vocals) has a wonderfully sorrowful voice. They play shows fairly frequently around the San Francisco Bay area and I definitely would like to go hear them again soon. You can also check out their music on MySpace.

After snacking and toe-tapping our way through the morning, we stepped inside the frantoio (Italian olive oil mill) for a tour. Considering the mill processes olives from 80 acres of orchards, it was a fairly discrete and efficient set-up.

First the olives are poured into a hopper and a defoliator pulls off any leaves and stems.

Even though the olives are “cold processed” (no heat or chemicals) with sophisticated Rapanelli machinery,

The fruit itself is still crushed the old-fashioned way by two heavy (over twelve hundred pounds each) granite
wheels.

After the crushing, the olive paste is pumped into a Sinolea extractor (apparently the only machine of its kind in the U.S.) that works by dipping thousands of steel blades into the paste, retrieving droplets of oil. This gentle process creates no heat of any kind which protects
the fragile composition and quality of the oil. Any vegetative water
remaining in the oil is spun out by a centrifuge.

At McEvoy they bottle two types of olive oil, Olio Nuovo “new oil” which is freshly produced and sold during the olive harvest (and for a few weeks afterwards) and Traditional Blend which is left to settle and mellow in tanks for several months.

I’ve never been much of a fan of new olive oil–it’s much too “grassy” for me, but being there at this time of year it was nice to be able to taste both types side by side.

All and all it was a really enjoyable outing for all of us, festive without being commercial and a nice mix of food, nature, music, education and of course the kids’ favorite–loud machinery!

coconut heaven at the slanted door

Every time I eat at the Slanted Door, I wonder why it is I'm not eating there every month (or week!) It's always an experience that delights all the senses. Even back in the day when the restaurant was in it's original funky location on Valencia Street, it was such a treat to have a meal there–the fresh, innovative combination of ingredients always cooked to perfection (my mouth is actually watering now just thinking of their crispy imperial rolls.)

But when they moved to the Ferry Building, they reached another level of perfection. It's so rare for a stylish waterfront restaurant with spectacular views to actually have decent food, let alone great food. So when you're eating your delectable grilled Hamachi collar or five-spiced duck confit, and find yourself staring out at a sparkling postcard view of the San Francisco Bay Bridge with ferry boats passing by, it's hard not to feel like you've achieved nirvana.

A few days ago I met two of my Slow Food Nation compatriots for a post-event catch-up lunch and as always was wowed by the meal. The show stopper though was the dessert: a creamy coconut sorbet with a young Thai Coconut tapioca, topped with a slice of persimmon. It was not only visually stunning (also in its sexy color combination of Heath Ceramics) but the combination of flavors, textures and mouth-feel was unbeatable.

Part of its elegance was its simplicity which inspired me to see if I could try it out at home. After doing some research online, I found several different recipes for coconut sorbet but ended up modifying this one by not using the shredded coconut. So basically just coconut milk and sugar–simple and delicious.

Then I found this recipe for a pudding with young coconut. I made several modification here: I used young Thai coconut juice instead of coconut milk (and substantially more than the 1/3 cup called for); I used large pearl tapioca instead of small; and I didn't use the pieces of young coconut. I think I got pretty close with this as well. I wonder if Charles Phan has published the actual recipe anywhere. Anyone know?

mangalitsa pork and more


Started my day today by making homemade almond milk. So much nuttier and tastier than the usual stuff in the box. It made a satisfying (if non-traditional) Latte Macchiato to accompany my scrambled eggs and flax seed toast.

Then a friend and I took our kids on a great bike ride through Golden Gate Park with a picnic lunch at Stow Lake. It was such a perfect fall day in the city–sunny, blue skies, but quite crisp and breezy too.

After many hours of biking and being in the fresh air, I was in the mood for a hearty autumn meal. This week a friend sent us samples of the special lard-type Mangalitsa pork from his company Wooly Pigs in Seattle. Perfect. When I started thinking about what to serve with it, I got an idea from the audio CD we were listening to in the car on our way home.

For the last few months we’ve been reading (and listening to) the whole Laura Ingalls Wilder “Little House” series of books. I really love all the detailed descriptions of the pioneer lifestyle (though that sometimes includes delicate topics like “Injuns” that have to be talked through!).

We’re currently in the middle of “Farmer Boy”(about Almanzo Wilder) which has lots of wonderful details about food and cooking. One of Almanzo’s favorite things to eat was fried apples and onions. That sounded like an ideal compliment to pork. (BTW, I recently learned there is also a “Little House Cookbook” with recipes for all the frontier foods described in the books. I’m very curious to check that out soon.)

Then looking through my pantry, my eyes focused right in on the box of hominy grits. After searing the pork chops I braised them in a bottle of Hefeweizen, and grits would be the ideal absorption medium for that yummy pork-wheat beer reduction!

I’m surprised I even have the energy to be writing this post after such a hearty meal. It was unbearably good. If you can get your hands on some Mangalitsa pork, I definitely recommend it. The meat has a rich, woodsy flavor and the fat–ah, the fat–is frankly, a reason for living.

 

yes we did!

Wow. What an amazing night. A friend and I went to watch the election returns at one of my usual SF hangouts, Farmer Brown. That place just always seems to feel "right" whenever I'm there, but tonight it felt especially perfect. There were a lot of big election night parties going on all over the city (of couple of which I had considered going to) but ultimately I just wanted to be somewhere a little smaller, funkier, more down-to-earth. Not to mention that Farmer Brown had promised fried chicken on the house if Obama won!

Even though they had the big screen TV going, the scene was still homey and very folksy. From the start of the evening we were already in conversations with people at the tables on either side of us. Everyone seemed to want to be connected to each other on this hopeful night of promise. But I don't think anyone expected such a swift outcome. When the exciting news flashed on screen I let out an unconscious scream of joy. I wasn't the only one. Within minutes everyone was up from their seats, hugging and kissing each other. All around me were faces streaked with tears and stunned, joyous incredulity.

As the evening went on the DJ turned up the music and the fried chicken started pouring out of the kitchen. There's no shortage of things to say about the importance of this night. But beyond all the significant historic and global impact of this election, it also means a lot to me personally.

For one, it gives me hope that maybe I can raise my children in a fairer, more decent world than I had expected for them. The other is that volunteering for Obama's campaign, especially in this last month, has also been a kind of personal salvation. Because of some difficult relationship issues, I've had a hard time keeping a positive and optimistic view of humanity lately. But being part of the campaign really helped me to focus on the bigger picture and see how good people, working together really can make wonderful things happen. Tomorrow is a brand new day. Hallelujah!

where quirky meets menacing

Tonight I went to a “pie party” hosted by my friend, Kim Smith, for the launch of her new book of collages called “Where Quirky Meets Menacing.” Instead of the usual cocktail party fare, she and her friend Catharine made a stunning array of homemade pies–ten different varieties (apple, banana cream, blueberry-peach, cherry, chocolate with cream cheese & candied orange, chocolate bourbon with pecans, lemon meringue, pumpkin, strawberry-rhubarb, and even a savory “doggie pie” for the one canine that attended). She served the pie with a glass of either wine or whiskey–definitely a nice change of pace from the cheese and cracker scene!