0913 Vegan Chili

I had a damned good cup of chili at Monk’s Kettle, and that, along with Tina’s enthusiasm for her new slow cooker, inspired me to make chili tonight. Well, last night and today, really, as I did all of the prepwork in advance and just dumped a bunch of stuff in the crockpot this morning, leaving a VERY BIG NOTE for Shane to please please pretty please turn the crockpot on when he left for work.

We came home to the hearty aromas of chili. You’ve gotta love walking in the door after a long day and having dinner already done, right? Much less a dinner that smelled and tasted as good as this one. I don’t have a precise recipe, but what I did went something like this:

1 cup dried kidney beans
2-3 medium carrots, sliced into coins
1 bell pepper, diced
2 medium onions, diced
2 cups crimini (or white button) mushrooms, washed and halved
2 cups diced tomato (1 14 oz can or 2 medium tomatoes)
A hearty spoonful each of: tomato paste, cumin, and coriander.
2 dried chilies, chopped, or 2 tsp red pepper flakes
A generous amount of salt and freshly ground pepper

Prep your vegetables the night before. Put your beans in the crockpot and cover them with water. Do NOT turn the crockpot on. Go to bed and get a decent night’s sleep. In the morning, drain and rinse your beans, then put them back in the crockpot and add the rest of the ingredients. Add enough water to barely cover everything. Turn your crockpot on LOW and go to work or otherwise pass 7-8 hours.

We didn’t have any cheese or sour cream or yogurt on hand, but all of these things would be good over your chili. I would recommend cornbread or white rice under your chili, or spaghetti if you’re from Cincinnati. Again, none of these on hand, but we made it work.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili
Photo by flyzipper, whose chili recipe looks damned good as well!



I’m officially sick with whatever zombie bug Shane brought back from Vienna.  I’m not a zombie in the brain-eating sense or in the Fela Kuti song sense, more in the shuffling around mumbling because my brain isn’t functioning properly sense.  This resulted in some very interesting dream fragments:

  • I was reading Superman graphic novels.  But like, the old Superman, not the new Superman, even though neither my waking nor sleeping brain knows anything about it.  I also rolled down a big green hill.
  • Amy was selling antiques and crafts (though not anything fiber-related) at a swap meet and I was helping out, except that I didn’t know anything about what we were selling, including price or provenance.  This made it complicated when people asked for more wine.
  • We weren’t selling wine, but we did have an astounding array of small bottles of wines for the many people who were working at Amy’s booth.
  • A girl asked me about a person who was mentioned in some olde timey pamphlet that she found at the booth.  For some reason she had decided to do her research project about this person, even though she knew nothing about this person OR the project.  I asked lots of questions and felt like a real reference librarian.

Now it is 10am and I’ve bought two bottles of NyQuil and dropped a big chunk of honeycomb in my tea, so I need to attend to the waxy bits floating in my mug and also to the NyQuil and then to the inside of my eyelids.  I will report back if I have any additional interesting dreams.

0912 Farfalle con Gamberetti e Rucola

Or: Farfalle with Shrimp and Arugula

Sometime in July, I planted arugula.  Shane isn’t particularly a fan – he likes his salad greens a bit milder – but I hoped for a few salads, maybe a batch of pesto or two.  Nothing big.  It was already the middle of the summer, after all, and nothing in the garden was looking particularly well.  I checked on our neglected little patch yesterday and came home with bags full of veg – roughly five pounds of tomatoes, several gorgeous bell peppers, a ridiculous quantity of banana peppers, and the first harvest of arugula!

I’ve had Jamie’s Italy for a couple of years but haven’t had much use for it – apart from dreaming of making our own porchetta or pasta.  This recipe helped me turn a corner in my appreciation of the book, as it was simple, fast, and delicious, all good things for a weeknight or a night when you’re just suddenly and ravenously hungry.  We tag-teamed the prep work, with Shane earning a gold star for his handling of the shrimp when I was getting grossed out, and had dinner on the table in about half an hour flat.  The sweetness of the tomato paste and shrimp complemented the bite of the arugula and cooled the spice of the red chilies.  As with most Jamie Oliver pasta recipes, the ratio of pasta to stuff was off – even with reducing the pasta by 1/3 – but that just meant more little bow-ties for me to snack on.   We’ll be making this one again.

Spaghetti con Gamberetti e Rucola from Jamie’s Italy

0911 Corn Chowder

It was rainy and cool today – a perfect opportunity to make soup.  With corn still in season, I was inspired to riff on my mom’s corn chowder.

Honestly, there’s nothing special about this recipe.  No exotic ingredients, no amped up flavors, no designated pairings – just the warmth and comfort of root vegetables, homemade chicken stock, and the crunch of corn freshly cut from the cob.  My family eats this soup out of bread bowls after Christmas Eve church.  There’s usually a platter of cheese slices and Pepperidge Farm crackers.  Later in the evening we might have a hot toddy.  Again, nothing fancy – just familiar, and after ten days away from home, familiar was just right.

Corn Chowder

2 tbsp butter
1 small white onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 small white potatoes, diced
1-2 small carrots, sliced into coins
kernels from 1 ear of corn (around 1 cup corn)
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp flour, or enough to reach desired consistency

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat, then add the onion and garlic and saute until golden. Add the potatoes and carrots and continue to saute until soft. Add a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper, and stir everything around, then add the corn, broth, and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then whisk in the flour. Start with one tablespoon and increase a little at a time until the broth thickens. You don’t want it to go all the way to a gravy – just a wee bit thicker, so that it clings to the vegetables a bit in the spoon. Let it simmer for a while – maybe 10 more minutes – stirring occasionally, then serve with crusty bread.

Farewell, SF!

With little more than hours remaining on our honeymoon trip, we had to make some tough choices.  Where could we go for breakfast with all of our luggage?  What foods needed to come home with us?  How much could we realistically stuff in our suitcases?  And where would we get our last cups of coffee?

Answer: Blue Bottle. Blue Bottle. More than we did. And Blue Bottle.

The Ferry Plaza farmers’ market runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, so we decided to see if we couldn’t get one last perfect sandwich out of the trip.  The Roli Roti stand hadn’t arrived when we rolled in with all of our luggage, so we settled inside at the Blue Bottle counter, cappuccinos and ACME rolls in hand to tide us over.

Blue Bottle Ferry Building
Photo by niallkennedy

An hour’s a long time to wait when you have a perfect sandwich on the brain. We finished our coffees and wandered in and out of the stands as they opened, buying a bag of Amaro Gayo Washed (which gave me the most lovely coffee buzz every time I opened my bag for the rest of the day), Rancho Gordo beans, fancy granola for our car-sitters, and a very fresh Pliny for Shane’s lunch.

Roli Roti Porchetta Sandwich
Photo by wonggawei

One last perfect sandwich, this one consumed sitting on a bench in perfect weather while Shane sipped his Pliny from a paper cup. The same crispity skin, flavorful meat, and crusty bread. No doubt: this was the right choice. With another hour until I had to leave for the airport – and some room left in our stomachs after splitting the sandwich, we hopped on a bus to the Mission, where we would part ways for a day while I flew home and Shane followed on a separate flight. What better way to go out than with ice cream from Bombay Ice Creamery:

jamine tea ice cream
Photo by Jason Schlachet

With at least 2 dozen exotic options and only 2 samples allowed per person, we had our work cut out for us. I had the young coconut – sweet but not overwhelmingly so – and before you ask, I have no idea what differentiates young coconut from regular or old coconut. Shane had a scoop of pineapple-something – maybe pineapple coconut? – which he found to be too pineappley for his tastes.

I can think of no better way to end a vacation than with a drippy ice cream cone and my sweetheart. Thanks for a really great time, San Francisco. We’ll be back as soon as we can.

If you go:
Bombay Ice Creamery
552 Valencia St (between 16th & 17th)
San Francisco, CA 94110-1115
(415) 621-1717

Choose your samples wisely, but make sure to get something out of the ordinary. No point in getting Cookies & Cream when STAR WARS is on offer.

(Last) Evening in Hayes Valley and SoMa

A visit to Rare Device was at the top of my list – on par with Shane’s trip to Treats – so we headed there after our lunch at Monk’s Kettle. I’ve been internet friends with Rena, one of the owners, since sometime in the early aughts, back when I was a bored customer service wage slave and spent a great deal of time reading fun blogs from internet strangers. (Hmm, sounds familiar.) Anyway, it was wonderful to finally meet Rena and to see the cute SF store – I’d been to the late Brooklyn location, but had missed her on that trip.

Rena asked if we’d been over to Hayes Valley yet – we hadn’t, and were immediately convinced to make it our next stop by her mention of Miette, a sweet candy store a short walk away.

Miette, Hayes Valley
Photo by tastingsf

After careful scrutiny, I came away with a wee bag of salty Dutch licorice and an Idaho Spud, one of the candy bars discussed in Candy Freak, which I recently read and enjoyed. The licorice was fantastic, with a much broader range of flavors and salts than I expected. The Idaho Spud was kind of like a Mounds bar, except with a weird agar-agar texture. Not unpleasant, just odd.

While I was in candy heaven, Shane sought out a bathroom and caffeine at Boulange de Hayes. I found him with an espresso and a few wee macarons – the next big thing in the dessert world, but still a bit of a novelty for us. We both liked the size and crunch of the cookies – we tried coffee, pistachio, and one other that I can’t recall.

I feel I would be remiss in talking about our wanderings in Hayes Valley if I didn’t mention two important things. First, we bought matching backpacks at Timbuk2. $40 each, really sturdy, a great deal! Second, I met an awesome corgi named Zoe while Shane looked at glasses. Zoe was just hung around letting me scratch her ears until someone mentioned cookies, at which point she started doing hilarious pirouettes. You earned that cookie, Zoe.

We had some time to kill before our dinner reservation, so we after an in-depth map consultation, we headed towards City Beer Store. It was a fair walk in blustery weather with our new backpacks strapped on, so we were happy to take a load off with a great beer.

City Beer Cuddles

City Beer Store is tucked away off the beaten path – the sort of place you’d never spot unless you were looking for it – which makes it ideal for a quick drink after work or before an evening engagement. We dug in the cooler – with some help from the bartender – to find another Summer Solstice for me, while Shane debated whether or not to buy a 2 day old bottle of Pliny (he didn’t). We could’ve comfortably hung out and drank for an hour or more, but seafood awaited us!

Anchor & Hope
Photo by magerleagues

Anchor & Hope came highly recommended from Bon Appetit, among others, so we decided that it would be a perfect splurge for our last night in town. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the possibly the most disappointing dining experience we had on our trip.

We were seated right away, and after some time with the menu, our server took our order, suggested wine pairings – and then went home sick. Time passed, and no server or wine. Another server arrived with our entrees: seafood risotto for me, and a seared ahi tuna for Shane. No wine.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m a tentative seafood eater. I can do most shellfish, and am working my way up through meaty white fish. I had carefully checked the menu before ordering, and so was surprised to have four sizeable chunks of salmon in my risotto. Salmon! My food kryptonite! I ate one piece, then ate around the rest as it quickly went cold – not how you want to be eating when you’re paying $25+ per plate. Shane enjoyed his tuna, but liked the accompanying sausage and beans even more. Our wine finally arrived, but only after we’d flagged down another server. Honestly, the highlight of the meal for us was the Blue Bottle milkshake and wee maple macaron that we split for dinner, both of which were sweet and delicious without making us feel guilty about the indulgence.

I’ve subsequently been told that Anchor & Hope can be hit or miss – and I received a very apologetic email in response to my complaint – but I still can’t shake the disappointment of that last special meal.

If you go:
Rare Device
1845 Market St (between Laguna & Guerrero)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 863-3969

Sweet housewares shop and design-y gallery spot on Market.

Boulange de Hayes
500 Hayes St (Hayes & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 863-3376

Busier than the Noe Valley location, but excellent macarons!

Miette Confiserie
449 Octavia St (between Linden & Hayes)
San Francisco, CA 94101
(415) 626-6221

Magical candy store with big jars of all manner of sweets.  Don’t even think about your dental bills.

Timbuk2 Store
506 Hayes St (near Hayes & Octavia St)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 252-9860

Timbuk2’s first retail location, full of fun bags and lots of heavy stuff with which to test the bags.

City Beer Store
1168 Folsom St (between Hallam & Langton)
San Francisco, CA 94103-6028
(415) 503-1033

Tiny beer counter tucked away on a busy, somewhat industrial-looking street.  Great selection – a few beers on tap, and they’re happy to open anything you buy from the case or the shelves.

Anchor & Hope
83 Minna St (between Shaw Alley & 2nd)
San Francisco, CA 94105
(415) 501-9100

Highly rated seafood spot downtown, but our experience was meh.  Probably not worth your money, though the lobster rolls looked pretty epic

(Last) Morning in the Castro and the Mission

After a long day of beer and coffee and driving, neither of us were really up for a big dinner, much less going far out of our way for dinner. Ed gave us a few recommendations in his neighborhood, and we ended up just walking down 24th and checking out menus until we found something that looked good. Maybe we should’ve walked further, but on a blustery night, gnocchi with five hour braised wild boar sounded comforting. We shared the gnocchi and a zucchini salad with truffle oil and black olive crostini at Lupa Trattoria – nothing too fancy, just simple Italian bistro fare that warmed our insides. A short walk back to Ed’s and we were out, cuddled up under a fluffy duvet.

With one full day left in SF, we had a lot to do! Or a lot of nothing to do – a whole day with no agenda except wherever our feet and stomachs would take us. Ed lives in the Noe Valley, a cute neighborhood not unlike Del Ray – full of cute restaurants and shops populated by young families with dogs. We stopped for cappuccinos at La Boulange de Noe, where we also tried our first canelé, a French custard pastry baked in a mold so that the outside is golden but the inside is a little runny.  We were underwhelmed by the canelé but not by the giant jar of Nutella on the condiment bar. Boulange de Noe, please forgive us for being gauche, but that spoonful of Nutella was too good not to share.


Full of sweets, we walked down 24th into the Castro, then spent the rest of the morning wandering around. After an hour or so of walking and talking, it was time for our second cup of coffee of the day – this time at Ritual. Comet often has coffees from Ritual, so while the beans didn’t have the same draw as those at Four Barrel or Blue Bottle, we were still looking forward to trying them. We killed some time with a double rainbow macchiato (me), a cappuccino (Shane), and our books. Ritual isn’t as intense as Four Barrel or as aesthetically pleasing as Blue Bottle, but they did make a damn good cup of coffee.

Counter at Ritual Roasters | San Francisco
Photo by ldandersen

One of the day’s top priorities was a stop at Treats, frequent source of parts for Shane’s myriad mopeds. Treats HQ isn’t really set up as a storefront, but the guys let us in and Shane perused the wares, coming out with a set of handlebars and a few other things. No Treats, though.

After a bit more wandering around, we were starting to get hungry and tired, so we made our way to Monk’s Kettle for lunch.

Taps at Monk's Kettle
Photo by Premshree Pillai

Monk’s Kettle has a seriously impressive beer list – but alas, I wasn’t really in the mood. I know, I know. Who goes to a fantastic beer bar and doesn’t get a beer? Me, apparently. Regardless, they have five page beer list with a wide range of all kinds of excellent things, and Shane was pleased with his pint and his cup of soup. I had a great cup of vegan chili, though my experience was soured a bit by the non-stop new media sales pitch going on at the next table. I suppose this is one of those irritating SF things that you don’t realize is going to drive you crazy until it’s everywhere. I’m not prone to violence, but I was tempted to punch the guy in the mouth. Good thing we were just having a quick lunch instead of several rounds of drinks or I seriously might have.

If you go:
Lupa Trattoria
4109 24th St (between Castro & Diamond)
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 282-5872

Nothing really exceptional, but a nice place for a simple but hearty Italian dinner if you’re in the area. We split the gnocchi and the insalate di zucchine – plenty for the two of us. Two entrees would’ve been too much

Boulange de Noe
3898 24th St (24th & Sanchez)
San Francisco, California 94114
(415) 821-1050

Bay area bakery chain – Kiya raved about their bread, and we enjoyed our cappuccinos here and espressos at the Hayes Valley location.

Ritual Coffee Roasters
1026 Valencia St (between 21st & Hill)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 641-1011

The folks behind Ritual were previously affiliated with Four Barrel, so you can expect a similar caliber of coffee, though the space is less intimidating and you might be able to plug in your laptop.

440 Treat Ave Ste 103 (between 17th & 18th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 255-8957

Not really set up as a retail location, but your go-to spot for assorted moped parts in SF.

Monk’s Kettle
3141 16th St (between Albion & Valencia)
San Francisco, CA 94103-3334
(415) 865-9523

Fantastic beer list, less fantastic food. The space is pretty small, so go for lunch or a beer in the afternoon, or be prepared to wait a while in the evening.

Russian River Daytrip

I’m the wrong person to write a post about Russian River. I really am. I can’t do it justice, and for that, I’m sorry. I can, however, tell you that the Russian River brewpub is located on a quiet street in a cute downtown area – quiet and cute in the middle of a Tuesday, that is.

Russian River

As promised, it was considerably warmer in Santa Rosa than in SF, so we were happy to enter the cool and dim interior, and to face down an intimidating board of options. On the left, the sour Belgian-style ales with religious names befitting the seriousness of the beers:

One of Everything

On the right, everything else, including Pliny the Elder, rated the #2 beer in the world by Beer Advocate (Pliny the Younger is #3):

One of Everything

What to do but to have one of everything? OK, we never would’ve been able to get back to SF had we actually done that – but we did make a fair pass at the Belgians – sour and boozy, perfect on a hot afternoon. And oh, did you notice the prices? $3.75-6.75 for a pint of the Belgians. Outrageously good prices for outrageously good beers.

Beer Mecca?

Food was really necessary, and Kiya said that we had to try the pizza bites. Basically: take a pizza of an undetermined size. Chop it up into bite size pieces, toppings and all. Serve with a wee cup of marinara to happy drinkers. Nibble an dunk your way into a happy greasy pizza coma.

Like I said – I can’t do Russian River justice, but perhaps Shane will weigh in with more information about the beers. That said, he was in a jolly place when we left, so perhaps he can’t do it any more justice than I can.

A Man in his Element

After Russian River, the remainder of our daytrip hardly bears mention. We stopped for an espresso at Flying Goat on our way out of town, then stopped for adequate beer at Moylan’s in Novato. As we drove back into the city, Kiya asked if they could take us to just one more place, and so we ended up at Bender’s, a grubby dive-y bar reminiscent of the Galaxy Hut – which, if you know us at all, you know is a high compliment.

Among the things not allowed at Bender’s are fisticuffs:
Bender's doesn't put up w/shit
Photo by The Mitzikin Revolution

Among the things on offer are a damned good Bloody Mary – including a beef stick! – and Fernet, which we all inexplicably tossed back while Shane and Kiya played pool. It was a great way to end a great day.

If you go:

Russian River Brewing Co
725 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95404
(707) 545-2337

There’s only one reason you’d make the trip here from SF, and that is the beer. Fortunately you can get a damned good pizza (or calzone or basket of pizza bites) while you’re there.

Flying Goat Coffee
10 4th St
Santa Rosa, CA 95401
(707) 575-1202

An out of the way little coffee shop in downtown Santa Rosa. A good place to sober up with a single origin espresso after your lunch of pizza bites and Pliny.

Moylan’s Brewery & Restaurant
15 Rowland Way
Novato, CA 94945
(415) 898-4677

Not really worth the trip unless you need another beer after Russian River. Which you probably won’t.

806 S Van Ness Ave (between 19th & 20th)
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 824-1800

Grubby, dive-y neighborhood bar of the best possible sort. I hear they have good food, but their Bloody Mary was nearly dinner enough for me.

Four Barrel

Kiya had quite the day planned for us, and it went something like this: Coffee. Driving. Beer. Coffee. Driving. Beer. He and Demitra picked us up at 8:15, swearing that the surprisingly blustery weather would let up as soon as we got out of the city, but before we could get there, we needed coffee.

Four Barrel Coffee
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

Four Barrel Coffee is seriously intense. Located in a former Hell’s Angels clubhouse, Four Barrel features the sort of custom work that indicates they’re seriously intense about their coffee. For example, this beautiful piece of equipment sits on a table that can be raised, lowered, or rotated 180 degrees depending on the height and preferred working location of the barista:

Four Barrel's custom-designed three-group La Marzocco Mistral
Photo by Premshree Pillai

There’s a separate counter exclusively for pour-over coffees:

Four Barrel Coffee
Photo by niallkennedy

And on the other side of the main counter is the roasting equipment. I wish I could tell you specifically which coffees we tried, but remembering things that happened before I’ve had coffee can be difficult. I can, however, tell you that our Dynamo donuts were a real knockout. I had the chocolate spice – a doughy chocolate donut with cinnamon and chipotle – and Shane had the orange blossom, which rated as the highlight of the day for him, despite the rest of the culinary adventures to follow. If we could merge the flavor and character of these donuts with the crispity crunch of Washtenaw Dairy donuts, well, we’d both weigh 400 pounds.

probat, macc, dynamo
Photo by tonx

Four Barrel embodies the “Unplug, Drink, Go” approach to coffeeshops recently described in the New York Times. There’s seating, but it’s not super comfortable. There are tables, but they’re not wide enough for your laptop and books and stuff. Which works out well, because there are no outlets for your laptop anyway. What’s that on the wall? That’s a stenciled-on outlet. Just try to plug in your laptop.

Fully caffeinated, we hopped in the car and headed to Russian River – but that’s a story for another post.

If you go:
Four Barrel Coffee
375 Valencia St (between 14th & 15th)
San Francisco, CA 94103
(415) 252-0800

Have a donut and an espresso and leave happy.

More Notes from My Unconscious

In one of my dreams last night, my parents had given us money as a wedding gift – a LOT of money.  Some of it was in olde timey currencies – like colorful pre-Euro Dutch money, but also money from when the states issued their own currencies – and some was US money in denominations that do not possibly exist – like the $1,000,000 bill.

In another dream, we were at Wonderland picking something up and they were super short-handed so I went behind the counter to ring something up, except that the counter was now the size of the entire old store, and in the back were racks and racks of stuff that someone was improbably climbing in the same way that I used to climb up to the top shelves to do inventory – one foot on one side of the aisle, the other foot on the other, back and forth up to the ceiling.  Not exactly OSHA-approved, but whatever.  The book I was trying to scan wasn’t scanning, and it had all of these labels on it, like the used textbooks that are stickered each time they’re resold.  I eventually got it to scan, but then I had a hell of a time gift-wrapping it. [1]

I’ve slept poorly since Shane left for Vienna on Friday, and maybe this is why!

[1] I’m sure the scanning part of the dream is lifted from reality – I picked up a few things at Target last night and the “new team member” had a hell of a time with her register and scanner.