Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Crepes at Au Bon Port

Last Saturday, I finally walked into this creperie on Castro Street that I've been meaning to take Hugues, (since he's from Brittany, aka the birthplace of crepes).

Iwas one of those Saturday afternoons where you wake up, have breakfast, and look at the clock to see it's already 3pm! So we dragged ourselves around the hood on fruitless errands to feel productive, until we found ourselves in front of the window of Au Bon Port cafe.

Au Bon Port looks like a cozy cafe with a wooden table right by their window, but it starts to lose itself with too much space and lack of warm lighting once you reach their display case towards the back. Undeterred, we decided to order their Picpus crepe: lemon juice, sugar and butter. I'm not sure what it is about the word "crepe" because if you told me it was a blini or a blintz, I wouldn't be as critical. But I often find myself grumbling my way through what feels like raw chewy dough, overly cheesy, overly sweet, or just plain boring. And though I am no expert on them, I have assumptions on what a crepe should or shouldn't be - and I'd rather not eat it than be disappointed.

But the woman making it behind the counter looked calm and light-hearted as she spread the batter around the ceramic griddle. So when she placed the powder sugared plate in front of us, I knew it had at least been made tenderly. What I bit into was a lightly crispy crepe where the tartness of lemons, crunchy sugar, and soft melted butter filled my senses. The most balanced crepe I've had in a while - even better than the first crepe I had in France when I was 15, pushing sticky dough around my plate with a fork.


So, I actually went back today to Au Bon Port after trying to catch Sean Penn filming his new movie, Milk, with no luck. I re-ordered the Picpus crepe but it was a bit too buttery this time, and the cook had forgotten to sprinkle the sugar inside. Sigh. Well, at least it reminded me it's about balance in all things.

I did have a chance to sit by the cozy window today, and someone actually came up to me as I was reading and said I looked "really intellectual." It is all about how you look that counts, right? It was probably the pen I was holding, along with the mug of coffee. That always helps. He then proceeded to ask me what I was actually reading, which was, unfortunately, a snoozy editing book. He forgave me though by saying, "well you make a nice vignette against the window."

Hugues and I hope to repeat the experience at home for Mardi Gras with some friends. Keep you posted.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Full Belly Farms Lamb dinner

A few times a year, Full Belly Organic Farms allows you to purchase an entire lamb, so a few of us pitched in and fantasized about lamb tagines, ribs, and stews. A month later, we received white papered packages of lamb neatly prepared into chops and ribs.

I ended up making rosemary pesto lamb chops from Epicurious.com, tomatoes with breadcrumbs, and roasted potato wedges. Not surprisingly, the lamb turned out incredibly tender, fragrant, clean. And with every bite, it seemed we were all a bit more conscious of what we were eating, a once living breathing animal. And yes, somehow, it did make you feel more connected to the earth.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Food Fad

I really love food, I can hang out all day in one of those fancy farmer's market where all the delicate perishables were grown in a 100 mile radius and vouched for as organic by acronyms, but I can also tiptoe around tiny Mission markets where cans of Latin chipotles are mixed with Chinese black bean sauce, and mangoes ripen out in the storefront. It really doesn't matter as long as I can stand there wondering what I can do with that edible calendula flower or that chunk of Oaxacan cheese.

But what is slowly starting to crawl up my neck is the status symbol attached to some farmer's markets. When I walk through the Ferry Building market on Saturday mornings, I just don't see the diversity of people I see at other markets, i.e. Alemany market. I see latte cups and incredibly overpriced tomatoes. Of course, when I go home, I realize that that's how deliciously sweet tomatoes are supposed to taste. It's not necessarily the cost that bothers me, although sometimes I admit it feels like someone slapped me after I pay over $6 for 3 peaches. Rather, it's the fact that this market doesn't seem to be accessible to more people. I know this issue isn't new, but it's frustrating to see how vegetables (!) and food in general have taken on such an air of privilege.

I'm not asking for a grungy warehouse nor am I unsupportive of farmers who provide us with the rewards of their hard work. I'm just asking for a little dose of clarity and reality. Fresh organic fruits and vegetables should not be a symbol of socio-economic class. For Christ's sake.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Little Garden

For some reason, I've always had a mental block against planting seeds. I could have related it to baking perhaps, but I just couldn't get over the fact that this little thing that looks like it belongs in my vaccuum cleaner could metamorphosize into a living organism under my guard. It was like trying to be God. And those who know me agree, I ain't no Icarian overachiever.

Anyway, I got free Marigold seeds at some party, and had some old soil and a little terracotta pot lying around. Long story short, all I did was scatter some seeds and water it every 2-3 days. Within 2 weeks, I now have flowers in my kitchen window!

I know any cynic would curl their lips and say that Marigolds are probably the easiest plants to grow, which is why I'm moving on to Viola flowers, and possibly arugula next. Orange Chinese lantern flowers and sorrell leaves had also caught my eye, but the gardening lady at Cole Hardware shredded that idea up without blinking.

I welcome gardening tips and any ideas for flowers or vegetables that can be grown indoors.

I know this makes absolutely no sense, but if you can recommend any non-toxic (non-chemical) pesticide or other environmentally friendly products, I'd appreciate it.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Recent paintings


weekend figs

the figs are ripe, fall is here

The figs are dripping off the branches now, and the fallen ones have soaked the air with the smell of autumn. The fact that I need to drink more and more deliciously subtle Mariage Frères tea to keep my toes warm is just another sign that winter is around the corner. I also started my seasonal baking phase this weekend! To start off, a tomato and zucchini tart that's usually associated with summer picnics, but I added a little extra gruyere cheese for some winter comfort. Here's the recipe:

Tomato and Zucchini Tart
(Tarte aux Tomates et Courgette)

a 9 inch tart pan

Pâte brisée

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled, and cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup cold water


2 small zucchinis, sliced thinly

1 medium tomato, thinly sliced in wedges
1.5 oz of shredded gruyère or swiss cheese (add more if desired)
1-2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

• Flour your counter or table.
• Using a rolling pin, roll out the pastry dough about 1/8 of an inch thick.
• Bake the pastry dough as directed for about 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
• Spread the dijon mustard evenly on the tart.
• Sprinkle about 3/4 ounces of the gruyère cheese over the mustard.
• Arrange zucchini slices in a circular pattern to cover the entire surface of the tart.
• Next, place tomatoes in a circular pattern in the center.
• Sprinkle remaining gruyère cheese on top. Add salt and pepper.
• Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

Serve warm. (6-8 servings)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Roxana on Foodnetwork

I can't believe my little cousin is now on the Foodnetwork website! The chef's hat is so becoming, as well as that pizza box! You go!

Korean Thanksgiving

Last night we celebrated Korean thanksgiving, Chu'sok, just the way I remembered it as a child.

Ripe fruits, Korean rice cakes interlaced with pine needles, and raw chestnuts filled the ancestral table. Children ran around with toy cars as we fried pancakes and picked fresh vegetables in the backyard.

One notable difference was the Catholic hymns sung by aunts and uncles before the bowing and serving of rice wine to our ancestors. The grafting of East and West is rarely seamless; slowly time pulls traditions by its roots. And yet I appreciate the attempt to perserve old rituals as we take on new ones. The fact that my parents and relatives fumbled with the oversized digital TV, while watching Korean karaoke, instead of peeling chestnuts or playing Go, reminded me of just how much times have changed. Their loud voices were a bit muted this time, but their goofy humor still shined through. After a few shots of soju, their voices rose back to the thunderous levels I used to fall asleep to when I was younger. And being home after a year to see the entire family, including a sleepy but sweet new member, Alya, brought home the meaning of chu'sok and the tight bonds of our family.

Today, the rain is starting to blur the landscape out here in Maryland. My living room window is transforming itself into a Whistler painting. It's good to be home.

Korean Thanksgiving Background


Labels: ,

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sailing in Santa Cruz Lesson #1

Sailing could become my new source of debt, but finally, a legitimate reason for the San Franciscan wind.

Watching the wind, sea lions, and dolphins fills you with the selfish quietness you find when you walk through a city still in slumber on an early Sunday morning.

As though you've cheated, as though you've had the good luck to walk through a painting, all the while time stood still.

To find yourself floating by trying to manipulate something with so much potential power, the wind above, the ocean below, a siren's motherly voice making you believe you're back in the womb, is all very seductive.

It could have been the dramamine, but I prefer to be mesmerized by the former.

more sailing to come hopefully...

Labels: ,