Saturday, April 30, 2011

in case you were wondering...

These are the gardening gloves that started it all.  They are ladies' gloves, by Digz, with leather on the palms and fingers, and canvas on the rest of it.  I tell you, these are a serious manicure saver.  I will never go gloveless again!  And only $10 at Home Depot....get yours!

sproutage and sick basil.

baby cucumber comes to life

Greetings, gardening fans!  I got some news on Wednesday night about the state of the garden bed - the cucumbers have finally sprouted!  Three lovely, healthy plants seem to have magically appeared where it looked like NOTHING was growing before.  So, this afternoon, I had to snap a photo of these babies.  Cute, right?

Sadly, the carrots have yet to show any signs of life, so I have decided to try and do some indoor germination (via seeds and a wet paper towel) and have entrusted Jules to watch over them and plant them during the week, should they decide to come out of their hulls.

In other news, I have finally transplanted the remaining three potted plants to their new, lovely terracotta pots and into this amazing organic soil.  We waited a little long before transplanting, and therefore, Barney the Basil plant (as he shall be called) is looking a little Hep-C with signs of deterioration.

Barney the Basil plant, sickeypoo.
I'm praying that the combination of a brand spankin' new home and top quality potting soil will bring him back to the rich green color he should be.  Here's a few more shots of what's going on out back:
Minty Fresh

Lucy the Lavender
our young herbs in their happy, sunny homes

Friday, April 29, 2011

friday photo: more flowers!

I woke up this morning sneezing like crazy – which means, SPRING IS HERE!  Here is one of my favorite photos, taken at the Honig Winery and Vineyards in Rutherford, California.  My little sister is coming into town on Monday, and we're planning to take a trip up to the Napa Valley, so stay tuned for more photos from wine country.  

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

bay area farmer's markets: sf ferry building

Ferry Building Marketplace
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, California 94111
(415) 693-0996

Farmers Market is open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings. 

It's a beautiful, beautiful thing to be able to wake up at 7:30am on a Saturday, grab my canvas shopping bag (and/or my French shopping basket), and drive down to the Embarcadero for the Ferry Building's Farmers Market, a mere three miles from my apartment. The experience of the Ferry Building's Farmers Market is far from ordinary, as we San Franciscans are lucky to be in fairly close proximity to a mecca of agricultural bounty - the outlying cities of Petaluma, Watsonville, Santa Cruz, Healdsburg, Sebastopol, as well as the Central Valley, are full of produce, dairy farms, artisanal cheeses, wine, you name it - it is made somewhere nearby. The quality and variety of produce is unparalleled, in my book. The best part of the Ferry Plaza market is that the merchants are hand selected - operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA) - all of the vendors are local and most of them are certified organic (or working on their certification).

First stop, Blue Bottle Coffee Co., located outside of the Marketplace (there's another kiosk inside too). The line is already long at 8:30am, but wait patiently for the $3.00 cup of iced coffee with vanilla soymilk that is pretty close to the nectar of the Gods where coffee is concerned (New Orleans chicory yum). For the regular drip coffee, each cup is brewed to order - hence the wait, and the price...but it is so worth it.

One of my favorite vendors is  Marin Gourmet. They have samples galore at their tent, and they MAKE you try them (you can get full just by standing there for a few minutes). My favorite product they have is Affi's Aubergine Pesto, a very flavorful mix of roasted eggplant and garlic, great to eat with pita chips or on bread. Luckily, if you can't make it to the Ferry Building, you can get their things at Whole Foods & Andronico's. Next door is the Della Fattoria tent, showcasing baskets and baskets of bread of all varieties, definitely worth checking out. After an amuse bouche of aubergine pesto, you might be ready to get your grub on. The solution is in the  Hayes Street Grill stand. 

It's pretty impressive that these guys can run a pretty organized line in a makeshift kitchen. In place of dupes on a slide (thank you, Kitchen Confidential), they use bright orange post-it notes stuck to the end of the counter. I've had the chorizo scramble, and the Hobbs bacon, tomato and eggs on a baguette. The Early Girl tomatoes topping my chorizo scramble the first time I had it were, I kid you not, the best freaking tomatoes I have ever had in my entire life. I would say it was close to a religious experience. HSG makes pretty hearty fare, and it gave us energy to keep powering through the farmers market, which was beginning to get packed (and it was only 9am).

Here are some more photos:

A bounty of peppers, baby artichokes, and Early Girl tomatoes

See what I mean? Produce that not only looks amazing, but is absolutely fantastic. How do I know? Because most of the vendors will let you sample what they have. I love the robustly flavored Early Girl Tomatoes at Dirty Girl Produce based out of Santa Cruz. Their little booth is quite busy, because of the cases of dry farmed Early Girls and the selections of beans, haricots verts, carrots, and mixed greens. 

If you're a tomato lover, look out for Green Zebras and Lemon Drops, from Devoto Gardens (Sebastopol). 

My friend AJ swears by Marin Sun Farms (Point Reyes) for meat - they have a pretty impressive assortment of cuts. And they sell the avant garde as well....goat spare ribs, chicken heads....not my cup of tea but I'm sure someone out there eats that. A quick stop by G.L. Alfieri Farms (Escalon) yields a sampling of nuts and almond brittle - they specialize in fruits & nuts. Try the honeycomb from Marshall's Farm American Honey(American Canyon), then of course, stop at Cowgirl Creamery for some cheese to go with the honey.  

Here are a few more photos worth sharing:

Della Fattoria breads, a gaggle of grapes, Dirty Girl's Early Girls, and a variety of eggplant

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

a little lace is good for the soul.

urban renewal johann shangri-la dress, $59,
I’m not exactly sure when I started channeling my inner schoolgirl/old-lady (what a dichotomy), but I am loving this vintage inspired dress from Johann Vintage in London.   It’s feminine, but not in the super frilly sort of way – you could wear weathered knee high brown boots with it, or pair with sky high platform wedges.  And just $59!! 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

the easter bunny brought sprouts!

radish baby

lettuce baby

Happy Easter, everyone!  Today, I went outside to check on the plants, and there are 14 little sproutlings pushing up through the soil!  Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

The radish  and lettuce plants have begun to show signs of life, but the carrots and cucumbers seem to be lagging behind...perhaps it's still too cold for them?  There has been a little bit of rain in the Bay this past week, which has relieved us from watering duty (and provided a nice damp soil for the baby plants).  No major gardening news this weekend, except for perhaps replanting a couple of herbs that we haven't had the chance to transfer yet.  

It's still a little wet outside, so motivation to do anything productive has taken a severe nosedive (at least for my co-gardener).  May be a Netflix afternoon instead....

Thursday, April 21, 2011

super zinnia!

zinnia at the green gulch zen garden
I heard that zinnias are pretty easy to grow.  Is this true?  I snapped a photo of this beautiful bloom at the Green Gulch Zen Center in Marin County, and I think they would make a beautiful addition to the backyard.  Look at that color!

florals for spring? groundbreaking.

Miranda Priestly's deadpan delivery of that line in The Devil Wears Prada just popped into my head when I browsed the spring collections of my favorite websites.  But, hey, spring and summer are just about the only time you'll see me in anything floral or light colored.  Here are some looks I love from Free People.

hinted florals maxi dress, $168,

wisteria & lattice dress, $128,
peacock feather cuff, $288,

photo news from the garden

a lone dandelion, before it got weedwhacked

The great outdoors.  Wheeee!

Actually, the backyard is about as outdoorsy as I've been these days.  (It's not even my backyard, I'm so city that way.)  Regardless, we are making good on our ambition to grow some vegetables on the little plot of land Jules and Peezy (his roommate) are so fortunate to have.  Sunday morning, I woke up super excited because it was GARDENING DAY!  I hopped out of bed like a little bunny and looked out the window (it was cloudy), and my super awesome but sleepy dude mustered up the energy to get into gear and mow and weed-whack the entire backyard.  (The things this guy does to keep me happy - he's probably reading this too - what a catch, I tell ya.)

Some supplies:

This was supposed to be a "no-dig" garden, but with the hilly terrain, we had to level out a patch for our garden bed to sit on.  (I say "we" like I actually did any of the hard manual labor stuff.  I didn't.)  The soil back there is rocky and hard - I tried using a shovel to break the top up a little, but a pick-ax was more effective...but not effective enough.  The new tiller from Home Depot was required.  

After constructing the garden bed, we laid down some cardboard, then we added the rest of the layers:  hay, manure, more hay, potting soil, and finally, seeds.  I chose Watermelon radishes, a gourmet mix of lettuces, cucumbers, and some tendersweet carrots.  Most of the seeds have a 40-60 day growing period, so we probably won't see any crops till June.  I will be keeping a close eye on our little plants, so stay tuned for photos!  Below, a play-by-play of the construction of the "no-dig" bed.  We are both total rookies at this, so hopefully we did it (mostly) correctly...

ps.  I ended up getting 26 mosquito bites and no one else in this project got bitten.  wtf.

And here are a few photos of the herbs we planted a couple of weeks ago.  Still alive!  Yay!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

keepin' it fresh: happy girl kitchen co.

courtesy of psrobin via flickr
One of my favorite farmer’s market finds is the freshly canned (yes, sort of oxymoronic) ORGANIC preserved goods from Happy Girl Kitchen Co., based on California’s Central Coast.  They pickle all sorts of things; my favorites being their spicy carrots – reminiscent of the kind you get at taquerias, dry farmed tomatoes (bursting with flavor, really), and summer strawberry jam (a dream in a jar).  The packaging is simple –  somewhat of a throwback to when people used to do a lot of home preserving – Ball jars with metal screw top.  Most of their items run about $7-10, and are really only available in Northern and Central California, or via their online market, here

Ahh, the magic of preservation….allowing us to enjoy the delights of spring and summer well into the colder seasons!

hay fever!

oh, haaaaaaaaay!
Being a city-dwelling San Franciscan, garden space is at a premium here – meaning, you can get it, but you will pay heftily for any semblance of a yard.  I live in a studio apartment, so my gardening efforts have been limited thus far to fire-escape plants (fail), herb planters in my windows (fail), and an orchid plant (win!) that has miraculously survived under my care for the past four years.  When I got the green light for the garden project, I’ve been so excited about it that all I can do is think about plants.

That being said, we got supplies on Saturday, and built the garden on Sunday.  I'm getting ready to do a full play-by-play with photos of our building session, but I just wanted to share the above photo with you – I lugged this bale in my little car to the house (part of the “ingredients” list for our no-dig garden).  I don’t know how those farmers do it, that thing weighed a TON!

RIP, apartment herb plants

provence and the church of anthony bourdain

Sometimes I get my best inspiration when watching my favorite travel-food show, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations (Jules joked that this show is my religion).  After buying a ton of vegetables at the farmer’s market and Berkeley Bowl West, I happened upon an episode in Provence where one of the host families was preparing a traditional Provençal meal:  Le Grand Aïoli.  This wonderfully healthy and tasty dish is quite simple – seasonal vegetables and salt cod served with a magical garlic sauce whipped up by hand in a mortar and pestle.  Quite possibly a very good way to get the carnivorous males in my life to eat more vegetables.

Just for this purpose, I went out and bought an inexpensive ceramic mortar and pestle from Cost Plus World Market – it is medium sized (maybe 5 inches across?) for a mere $6.99.  The aioli was intimidating at first – I heard that it was temperamental and you could easily mess it up. I put 8 cloves of garlic in the bowl and started mashing away.  After a few minutes of pulverizing the cloves, they still weren’t quite a “paste” and my arm was getting tired, so I started considering throwing the whole thing in the blender.  However, as a big fan of doing things “authentically”, I kept going…and ended up with an aioli that was perfectly creamy, smooth, and thick enough to keep the pestle standing upright when all was said and done.  Moral of the aioli story (and in life, really):  just when you think you don’t have the strength to go on, keep at it. 

Le Grand Aïoli  (recipe from
4 to 6 servings
For the Platter
·         Onion, quartered and studded with 3 or 4 cloves -- 1
·         Small boiling potatoes -- 1 pound
·         Carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks -- 1 pound
·         Green beans -- 1 pound
·         Salted cod fillets, soaked for at least 24 hours and cut into serving pieces -- 2 pounds
·         Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved -- 6

For the Aïoli
·         Garlic cloves -- 8 to 10
·         Salt -- big pinch
·         Egg yolks -- 2
·         Olive oil -- 1 1/2 cups
·         Lemon juice or vinegar -- 2 teaspoons

1.    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, reduce heat to medium-low and keep the water at a slow boil. Add the potatoes and cook them until they are tender and just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them to a serving platter.
2.    Next add the carrots to the liquid and simmer them until they are just cooked through, usually around 7 or 8 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and arrange them neatly next to the potatoes.
3.    Then add the green beans and cook them until they are done to your liking, about 5 or 6 minutes. Set them nicely next to the carrots on the platter.
4.    Finally, add the cod filets and let them simmer until cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to the platter. Add the hard-boiled eggs to the platter. Cover the platter loosely with foil and set aside.
5.    Add the garlic cloves and a big pinch of salt to a large mortar and use a pestle to mash the garlic cloves to a puree.
6.    Add the egg yolks and grind them into the garlic puree until the mixture is smooth. Very slowly dribble the olive oil down the side of the mortar, grinding the pestle all the while and always in the same clockwise or counterclockwise direction. The sauce will begin to thicken.
7.    After about half of the olive oil has been added, grind in the lemon juice or vinegar. Then resume adding the olive oil. You can pour it a little faster at this point. The egg yolk and olive oil will form a thick emulsion.
8.    Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with the room-temperature fish and vegetables. Dab every bite in a little bit of the garlicky sauce.

Bon apetit!

no commitment wall decor.

My friend Luis sent me this link this morning, and I had to an apartment renter, I don't really like putting holes in things or painting the wall, just in case I want to move out.  (Side note, I've lived in the same place for 7 years so I think I just have decor-commitment issues.)  If you have the same reservations about putting up wall art, or if you like changing your surroundings often, these might be just the thing for you.  Removable wall decals that come in an array of designs from Blik - anything from flowers, nature, grafitti-esque graphics, and even Tron Legacy battle scenes.  Some of the more complicated designs may require some additional hands to install, but all in all, a fantastic concept.  Check out a couple of my favorites below.

Wee Gallery Garden design decal, $38,
Cyclamen design decal, $50,

iron vines, $60,

cuckoo for quetsches

I made this dessert for the first time in 2009, when I went through a phase of tart making.  The original recipe calls for quetsches, the French variety of plum, but we make do with what we have here - I used some very sweet California plums.  This is a really easy  recipe that will impress the most particular of guests!


1 1/2 C of unbleached flour
1 stick unsalted butter (frozen, cut into small cubes)
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbl. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 Tbl. ice cold water
egg wash (1 egg mixed with 2 tsp. milk)

Tart filling:
1.5 lbs. small plums, halved and pitted
2 Tbl. cassonade (raw sugar)
egg custard (2 egg yolks + 1 whole egg +1/4 cup sugar —- tempered with 2/3 cup of hot milk)

Directions for tart crust:
Cut the dry ingredients with the butter until you have pea-sized pieces. Add the egg yolk and cold water. Stir and combine. Add enough cold water until the mixture clumps in your hand.  Next, place the dough onto some plastic wrap and form a flat disk. Wrap and refrigerate for about 1/2 an hour.  Roll the dough to about 1/8 in. thick and gently place it on your tart pan. Using your fingers, gently mold the dough to fit the tart pan and crimp the edges. Put the whole thing back in the fridge for about 15 min. or so.

Then, in an oven preheated to 350F, blind bake the tart shell for 15 minutes.

Next, arrange the plums on the tart in whatever way you feel  - you can see how I've done it in the photos.  Bake the tart for 15 minutes – the plums will begin to soften.
Take the tart out of the oven and pour the custard into the tart, making sure it surrounds all the plums. Sprinkle the tart with cassonade.

Brush the outer crust with a little egg wash. Lower the oven to 325F and bake for another 30 minutes or so. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.

Bon apetit!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

tis the season: strawberries!

Saturdays, 9am-2pm

While Jules was off doing his working-on-cars-guy-bonding thing, my friend Kat and I met up at the Grand Lake Farmer's market in Oakland on Saturday morning.  I could easily spend a ton of money at this market (it isn't dirt cheap like the Civic Center market or the one on Alemany Blvd. in San Francisco) - it is put on by the same organization that does the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market.  That means organic, top-quality produce and artisanal products.  Woohoo!

I ended up buying long red and white radishes (duh), bright orange carrots (leaves attached), fennel, leeks, duck and rabbit sausages (omg so good), some pastries from Le Fleur de Lyon (cream cheese pastry dough!), a pint of freshly squeezed blood orange juice, and handcrafted butter.  Also available - oranges, asparagus, potatoes, Marshall Farms honey, Cowgirl Creamery cheese, and organic lettuces and tomatoes.  Everything was so pretty, it rivaled any display that the Whole Foods people could put together.

Just for posterity...check out these beauties!

bounty of berries
Tonight, I'm going to try to make Le Grand Aïoli - a dish from Provence based on vegetables and salt cod, served with homemade aioli.  What better way to celebrate amazing vegetables than to cook them simply, and dip them in spicy, garlicky goodness?  

Friday, April 15, 2011

sakura & the city.

photo courtesy of paribus via flickr

San Francisco is holding the final weekend of the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown on April 16th-17th, featuring taiko drumming, a parade, sword demonstration, and a ton of yummy food!  Just a little cherry (& quince) blossom fantasia for you to get you ready.

courtesy of tanakawho via flickr

photo courtesy of paribus via flickr

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