Wednesday, May 25, 2011

garden notes: update on the carrots.

Just when I was about to give up all hope that carrots can sprout in this weather/soil/time of year, these little darlings restored my faith in my fledgling gardening abilities.  After doing a little indoor sprouting using a paper towel and a glass jar (DIY greenhouse, y’all), I put the sprouted seeds into the garden bed and hoped for the best.  What I was told that once you get the little suckers to actually sprout, they just keep growing.  And voila!  Carrot babies. 

Saturday, May 21, 2011

a darling find - journal

We stopped in at one of my absolute favorite stores in Oakland - Entrez!  Open House - which carries all kinds of home decor items and gifts.  They are celebrating their anniversary, and marked down all their in stock items 35%, so when we were running errands in Downtown Oakland, I simply had to stop in.  I pretty much like everything in the store (Alessi and Marimekko and all the scents from Esteban!), but today I had to pick up this little journal by Correspondances for a mere $8 (including the 35% discount).  A cover design by Canadian artist Camilla d'Errico, it almost looks like Japanese anime style.  How adorable is this?  I almost want to hang this up instead of write in it!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

fit for a princess.

To celebrate five different birthdays in our office, I decided to pick up a Princess Cake from the Fillmore Bakeshop, a new bakery that is now where my beloved Patisserie Delanghe once stood.  (Monsieur Delanghe decided to hang up his oven mitts after 25 years on Fillmore, and the father-daughter team of Elena Basegio-Carpenter and Doug Basegio took over and opened FBS). 

Princess Cake, or Prinsesstårta as it is called in its native Sweden, is probably my third favorite cake, coming in after Sacripantina (exclusively at Stella Pastry, North Beach, SF) and Tiramisu.  It is made of a lovely sponge cake with custard and a layer of raspberry, covered under a green-hued layer of marzipan.  It was a huge hit amongst my office mates!  If you’re in SF, go check out Fillmore Bakeshop, and check out the other offerings as well – they have French Macarons! 

Fillmore Bakeshop
1890 Fillmore Street 
San Francisco, CA 94115 
415) 923-0711

Monday, May 16, 2011

allsorts of deliciousness.

via flickr courtesy of accidental hedonist

Reason #542 why I think I was actually European in another life:  I have a crazy love for European goodies.  Here in the Bay Area, we’re a bit spoiled in that there are a ton of Euros here who have introduced us to Ritter Sport chocolate, Bonne Maman preserves, and Illy coffee that are regular staples on the shelves of our grocery stores AND we have really decent patisseries and boulangeries (as evidenced by the amount of macarons and baguettes I personally consume on a regular basis).  All that stuff is pretty normal for us SFers now.  However, I go absolutely B-A-N-A-N-A-S over items such as Jammie Dodgers, Kinder Bueno, and black licorice allsorts!  As in, do not let me loose in Cost Plus or the European foods aisle at Berkeley Bowl.  Seriously.  (Jules is no help in that department, I think he goes crazier than I do.)

Back to the allsorts.  Some people are totally cringing right now over the thought of black licorice.  What’s funny is, I’m pretty sure I hated the taste of licorice when I was growing up.   I mean, weren’t the black jellybeans always the last to be eaten (or thrown away)?   Who knew that I would eventually find a strange happiness in drinking pastis, which is basically licorice in a glass? 

Allsorts are, as depicted above, layers of…some kind of sugary goodness sandwiched between a thin slice of licorice, a coconut mixture wrapped around a chunk of licorice, pieces of straight licorice, and little anise-flavoured jellies covered in sugared dots.  I can’t stop eating them once I’ve opened the bag, so I suggest sharing.  The ones I like the best are actually the original producers of these confections – Bassett’s (Geo Bassett and Co Ltd, now owned by the Cadbury company) – who first started making them in 1899 or so in Sheffield, England.  The story behind the sweets is that a salesman was taking a tray of samples to a prospective client, and then he accidentally dropped the tray and mixed them all up, creating a new and intriguing product.  Ahh, gotta love when mistakes turn to pure gold.

Other items purchased this weekend:  Halvah bars (new to me, but so friggin’ delicious), 70% dark chocolate Kit Kats, Kinder Bueno.  Perhaps it’s a good thing we don’t live in Europe, otherwise I’d be the size of a house with really bad cavities.  

a lovely what's it called?

Dress $59.90, fabric boots $99.90, Zara

I don’t know how you would describe this look:  Desert Boho?  Rugged romantic?  BURNING MAN?  (Please say no.)  I kind of fell in love with this style after seeing the video below by the Pussycat Dolls.  Very natural and sexy, no?  But alas, San Francisco’s weather is as unpredictable as my Cancerian mood swings, so I’d probably have to cover up some of the cuteness with a cardigan.  At any rate, you can get these fantastic clothes at Zara (no online store available in the US yet, my darlings).  H&M is also doing some similar looks with a slightly lower price point, if you’re a fashionista on a budget.  

Friday, May 13, 2011

pasta pasta pasta!

My little mushroom garden had finally gotten to the point where we needed to harvest, so we went to the market to get a few things to make a spring pasta.  SUPER easy recipe, sort of loosely based on the method of making the Roman dish cacio e pepe (pasta with cheese and freshly ground black pepper).  I really need to start learning how to write recipes down, as I am one of those people who just throws pinches and handfuls into pots until it seems correct. 

You will need:

sliced Pearl Oyster mushrooms (any mushrooms will do, really – I like porcinis, morels, and chanterelles too!)
a bunch of asparagus, sliced into rounds; reserve the tips
2 cloves crushed garlic
½ onion, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
½ c of grated Pecorino
½-1 c of chicken broth
olive oil
pepper (freshly ground)
1 box of your favorite pasta (I used capellini because we had tons of it at home)
½  cup of pasta water, reserved from cooking

Start your pasta water – depending on how quick the pasta you choose cooks, you may want to cook the pasta during the veggie prep, OR just wait until right before you mix everything together.  When I use capellini, the cooking time is 3-4 minutes, so I can do it right at the end of all the sautéing. 

Heat olive oil in a sauté pan.  Add the onions and garlic, stirring frequently, until translucent, then add the asparagus (except for the tips) and sauté for another minute or so.  I use a little bit of the chicken broth to deglaze the pan and let the asparagus steam itself.  Add mushrooms and some salt and pepper, then more chicken broth.  Add a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired.  Then, add the asparagus tips and cook until just barely tender.  Don’t overcook the asparagus, otherwise they will turn a shade of green that is somewhat unappetizing…you want to keep it fresh looking and slightly al dente.  Remove veggies from pan and set aside. 

In the same pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat, then add a healthy amount of black pepper and let the pepper flavor release into the olive oil.  Carefully add the pasta water (watch out for splatter!) and stir furiously, then add ½ of the cheese and keep stirring until the cheese melts into the liquid nicely.  Add your pasta and vegetable mixture to the pan and mix everything together until heated through.  Add the rest of the cheese and mix well.

posts from the garden

on the top left:  mixed lettuce.  top right:  watermelon radishes.  bottom:  cucumbers.

As you can see from the photos below, the garden is coming along.  Notice that big void in the middle?  I still have yet to see any carrots growing from the seeds I planted nearly a month ago, so I decided to try and sprout some seeds inside using a wet paper towel and a jar placed on a windowsill.  The indoor sprouting technique in the jar worked within three days, so I planted some seeds on Wednesday afternoon.  I'm getting nervous that these carrots are just never going to happen!

nice growth on the lettuce!

healthy and gorgeous.
Aside from the failure to launch on the part of the carrots, the rest of the garden bed is growing.  The lettuce is definitely doing the best - it looks healthy, no insect infestations (that I can see, anyway), and they are standing up nice and straight.  

traces of insect feeding on radish leaves

unidentified white spots on the cucumbers
The above two plants seem to be problem children - four out of eight radish plants look like they're dying (and they're all located in the same quadrant so I'm not sure what's going on there).  The cucumber plants seem a little dry so we're upping our watering schedule to see if things improve.  I swear, this gardening thing is like having kids!  I'm now a hypochondriac on behalf of our plants....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

days gone by.

I'm not sure where I got this photo from - it was saved onto my computer to use as a background image.  But I love it - the vintage-y feel, the slightly worn and "lived in" comfort of this classic Citroen.  Perhaps I need to start working on some new paintings...

DIY mushroom update!

OMG, y'all - it's only been two days since the last photo (Sunday's mushroom report) and look at how huge these things are!!  Amazing.  We will be having risotto shortly.  :)

spring in the valley!

Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville

While my sister was visiting me from Honolulu, we spent a day up in Napa and went wine tasting drinking.  One of the places I like taking people is the Robert Mondavi Estate, mostly because the property is just gorgeous and expansive and well maintained (despite the fact that Mondavi is a huge commercial producer, I still dig it).

We also stopped at Honig, my other Napa staple.  We usually go up to visit my friend David (speaking in the video above), but he wasn't there this week (total sad face)...though we ended up getting taken care of by another fun dude named Mike.  Even after two years of steady visits to Honig, I still have yet to make it to Frog's Leap (which is literally around the corner from Honig).  In fact, there are a slew of places that I need to visit in Napa, but I always end up going to my favorites!  What are your favorite Napa Valley wineries and hot spots?

Bouchon Bakery macarons

Whenever we're up in the valley, I feel compelled to stop in Yountville, simply to buy treats from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery.  My favorites are the monstrously-sized macarons (not macaroons, mind you) – a large version of the traditional French confection made from almond flour and some sort of flavored filling.  The strawberry rhubarb flavor was really excellent.  I bought a box of six (at $3 each), and Jules got a nice little surprise of sweets when we got back later that evening.

I didn’t take a lot of photos since I was busy driving us around – but we had a great time, as usual!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

tastes like chicken (not really): lapin à la moutarde

Rabbit has been one type of meat that has intimidated me in the kitchen, though I love eating it!  My darling Jules mentioned this dish, and I had to try making it.  The process took a few hours, mostly because you use the least meaty parts of the rabbit to make your own rabbit stock.  But the end result was insanely delicious – tender pieces of rabbit, served with a side of vegetables, and lovely glasses of Aligote!

Rabbit with mustard sauce (Lapin à la moutarde)


1 farm-raised or wild rabbit, cut into serving pieces, including the head if possible
1/2 c. smooth Dijon mustard (moutarde forte)
1/2 c. old-fashioned grainy Dijon mustard (moutarde à l'ancienne)
Kosher or flaky sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 c. dry white wine, such as Chablis
1 c. crème fraîche
2 T. snipped fresh chives

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 leek, sliced
1 medium carrot, coarsely chopped
2 leafy stalks celery, sliced
Bouquet garni of 6 parsley sprigs, 1 bay leaf, and 6 leafy thyme sprigs
6 peppercorns

Optional: A dozen or more freshly pulled white onions 1-2 inches in diameter, peeled but left whole, cooked with water to cover, 1 T. butter, and 1 1/2 t. sugar until the water is evaporated and the onions starting to caramelize.

 Make the stock: In a heavy dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat, and brown the parts of the rabbit that have very little meat (the front of the rib cage) as well as the head if available. (Reserve the saddle, cut in 3 pieces, the thighs, and the forelegs for the dish.) When the rabbit pieces are browned on all sides, add the vegetables (except the bouquet garni), and brown lightly, stirring, for 5-10 minutes. Add the bouquet and water to cover. Bring to a boil and skim. Turn the heat to low and partially cover the pot. Simmer 3-4 hours. Strain, pressing down on the solids and discarding them. Return the stock to the dutch oven or medium saucepan if it is already somewhat reduced, place over medium heat, and reduce by 2/3. Pour into a small saucepan and continue reducing until 1/3 cup remains. Reserve.

Meanwhile, three hours before serving, combine the two mustards with a generous pinch of salt and grindings of black pepper. Smear the remaining rabbit pieces with the mustard, thoroughly covering them, and arranging them in a single layer in a gratin or baking dish. Set aside in a cool place for 2-3 hours.

About 50 minutes before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the rabbit, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Open the oven and pour the wine and the reserved reduced rabbit stock over the rabbit, then bake 20 minutes more. Remove the dish from the oven and drizzle the crème fraîche over the rabbit. Return to the oven for 5 minutes more. If using the onions, gently strew them over the dish. Sprinkle with the snipped chives.

Et voila!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

mushroom report.

Hello dear readers!  Sorry I've been MIA this week, but my little sister is in town and we've been eating our way through the Bay Area and not really spending any time outdoors, unless it involved walking from the car to the restaurant door.

So, I took a trip to Jules' house today, partially to check up on the plants...and look what we have:  baby pearl oyster mushrooms!  Many thanks to my wonderful boyfriend, who has taken extra care of the mushroom kit, religiously misting them twice daily, since I've been so busy.  They are looking great, and I hope they will taste wonderful in the upcoming risotto that I have planned!

allergies suck.

Check out this post from :

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

and then we that aren't evil.

Despite all the spring flower pollen nonsense that has been making my eyes red and watery, and my nasal passages swollen and aggravated, I am a sucker for beautiful blooms.  Jules surprised me with some pretty flowers on our last trip to the grocery store!  Am I a lucky girl, or what?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

test run: DIY fungi in 10 days

mushroom kit, $19.95,
My darling friend and Geek Girl On The Street writer, Kat, told me about this mushroom kit she bought at Whole Foods where you could grow your own oyster mushrooms at home with very little effort.  "Mist twice daily" is just about all you need to do (supposedly).  I happened upon the kit while we were shopping at Berkeley Bowl, and have pretty much roped Jules into misting duties since they will be residing at his house -  we will probably be eating the harvested mushrooms at his place anyway.  

Upon doing a little research about this little box of DIY 'shrooms, I found that they are the spawn of BTTR Ventures - a Berkeley-based entrepreneurship.  The mushroom kits use recycled coffee grounds from another Berkeley-based business, Peet's Coffee & Tea, and essentially diverts 7,000 pounds of used coffee grounds per week into this sustainable and yummy food product!  Amazing stuff.

So - will keep you posted on the progress of the mushrooms.  (Oh my word, I am so corny.)  Mushroom-curious?  Get your own:

apartment gardening (not really)

While at Home Depot picking up pots and soil, look what I found!  The cutest little succulent arrangement for a mere $4.97.  It absolutely had to come home with us, as it is a perfect apartment plant for someone like me who is rarely home and more often than not, forgets to water her orchids.  Welcome to the family, little cacti!

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