The Haight, Sandwiches, and Farmer Brown

I’ll admit it: I was a wanna-be hippie in high school and college. I wore tie-dye and had Jim Morrison posters on my walls. I even have photos to prove it:

My First Dorm Room

Like every kid of my ilk, I had fantasies of packing it in and moving to the Haight, of bathing in patchouli and growing my hair long, of breezy sundresses and good vegetarian cooking. I’ve long since grown out of those dreams, discarded along with the ill fitting tie-dyed t-shirts, the books of Morrison’s poetry, and the nag champa incense (though I did buy A Whiter Shade of Pale on vinyl over the winter), so I’m not sure what I expected when we caught the bus from the Sutro Baths in the direction of the Haight. Lunch, I guess, and to see the sites that I’d imagined had held sway over me at 17.

These days the Haight is kind of like Disneyland for hippies: washed up, sold out, and packed with tourists. The streets are full of shops – ranging from cute boutiques selling lingerie and retro fashions to hip menswear stores to the obligatory headshops – and shoppers, all of whom moved at a glacial pace. We hit Amoeba Music, an epically huge record store near Golden Gate Park, and Shane had a tough time not buying records to bring home. I’m only being minorly hyperbolic when I say that they might have every album released ever. It was intense.

Equally intense the was the bar at The Alembic, our lunch destination, whose awesomeness was matched only by our hunger after a morning of hiking around.

The Alembic

Now THAT is a bar. I ordered a Corpse Reviver #2, partially because it sounded refreshing and partially because it’s what Foursquare told me to do. It did not steer me wrong. Shane ordered a beer which wasn’t memorable enough for me to remember it at the moment, but he enjoyed it. And then lunch: another epic sandwich and two kinds of tasty chips:

Mushroom Bánh mì

Mushroom bánh mì – spicy, nutty, complex flavors tucked in a perfectly crispy baguette – served with cassava chips, also subtly spicy. We neglected to notice that we’d be getting chips with our sandwich, and so shared sumac dusted potato chips with a zesty yogurt dip. San Francisco has seriously spoiled sandwiches for us. There’s not a chance we can go back to the occasional Five Dollar Footlong after this. Not a chance.

After a thoroughly satisfying lunch, we wandered around the Haight for a few hours, picking up a few gifts for ourselves and others, then continued in the direction of Toronado, in the Lower Haight. Shane had committed to at least two trips to Toronado, so this fulfilled the quota. Unfortunately this time it smelled terrible, and I was getting tired and cranky and definitely didn’t want beer – so while Shane got his beer and picked up a fantastic grilled sausage from Rosamunde Sausage Grill next door, I walked down the street for more lemon cookie ice cream from Three Twins.

By the time we finished our snacks, we were both wiped and not feeling motivated to find anything else to do, so we headed back to the hotel and the confines of our very comfortable bed. Shane perused the TV listings, all of which contained curiously concise and helpful descriptions (Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “Boy wins tour”) for a while I napped a bit, waking up hungry at 8pm.

Our late dinner options were limited by the hour and the fact that it was a Sunday night before a Monday holiday, but fortunately Farmer Brown – recommended by Heather – was open and serving up pretty fantastic soul food just a few blocks from our hotel. After a day of walking and talking and shopping and snacking, it was nice to just take a corner table, share a thyme-infused lemon cocktail, and be quiet together. I was craving vegetables – sunny, light, delicious veg – and found them in the form of a summer vegetable succotash served over creamy polenta. Shane had some equally delicious pulled pork sliders on the house made biscuits. I hear their brunch is amazing, and I’d believe it based on the wonderful late night meal that we shared. Definitely one to check out next time we’re in town.


If you go:
The Alembic
1725 Haight St (between Cole & Shrader)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 666-0822

Do yourself a favor and get a cocktail. We split a sandwich, so I can’t vouch for the rest of the menu, but everything we had was delicious.

Amoeba Music
1855 Haight St (between Shrader & Stanyan)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 831-1200

All the records in the history of records. There’s another location in Oakland, I think.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill
545 Haight St (between Fillmore & Steiner)
San Francisco, CA 94117
(415) 437-6851

Limited menu – sausages – but everything smelled amazing, and Shane’s weisswurst was outstanding. Buy a sausage here and take it to Toronado next door. You’ll thank me as long as you aren’t sitting somewhere stinky.

Farmer Brown
25 Mason St (at Market)
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 409-3276

Seriously good soul food sandwiched between the Tenderloin and the Financial District. Don’t be skeeved out by the location at night. It was surprisingly delicious.

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0828 Sweet Cherry Tomato & Sausage Bake

First, I am officially throwing in the towel on no-knead bread.  If the last attempt was a mess, the loaf I made tonight was an all-out disaster.  The dough stuck to the mixing bowl.  It stuck to the floured silpat mat and did its best to ooze off all sides of the mat, resulting in me propping up the edges with various kitchen implements.  It glued itself to the sides of the pot in which it rose and baked, and it had to be HACKED AND PRIED out with a couple of knives.  I find kneading to be therapeutic, so perhaps it’s not surprising that I find not kneading so exasperating?

The rest of dinner, however, was a resounding success.  We tried this recipe from Jamie at Home last winter and loved it, despite the cherry tomatoes being wildly out of season.  This time around, we have a rogue cherry tomato plant that is remarkably out-yielding nearly everything else in the garden, so we had several cups of fresh and free Sweet 100s to toss in with half a dozen pork sausages.  While you’re meant to use larger and fatter sausages in the bake, we’ve had great success with the wee breakfast links.  Tonight’s were no exception – the sausages were bursting with flavor, as were the tiny cherry tomatoes.  Everything was swimming in a delicious broth which we happily sopped up with hunks of bread.  This recipe is so simple but so rewarding – I’m looking forward to eating leftovers over pasta or polenta this week.

Recipe:
Sweet Cherry Tomato & Sausage Bake from Jamie at Home

0729 Impromptu Pasta

I’m not sure what I had in mind tonight. Our planned meals got all switched around this week by my moods and our lack of interest in things that seemed fantastic a few days previously. To some extent, this worked out in our favor tonight, as we had a bit of a lot of things to use up.

I suppose this could also be appropriately called ‘End of the Fridge Pasta’, as that’s what it contained. A few leftover sausages from Sunday’s breakfast. A handful of 2nds tomatoes, too ripe to leave on the windowsill amidst the onslaught of fruit flies. A quarter of an onion. A few spoonfuls of ricotta, purchased for pasta we never made. The last of a box of whole wheat angel hair, tossed into boiling water when I realized the sauce wouldn’t wait for farfalle.

The end result? Two bowls of creamy, hearty pasta studded with bite-size pieces of excellent pork sausage. Two happy faces and full tummies.

0713 Pasta with Favas, take three

Fava beans weren’t on the shopping list on Saturday, but an impulse buy from Tantré Farms turned into stocking up when the helpful market staffer told me that they’d just done the last fava pick of the season.  No more favas?!  But we just found a new favorite pasta dish!  No more favas for another year?!  Such is the heartbreak of seasonal eating.

When I started shelling the favas, however, I understood.  Gone – mostly – were the wee bright beans of early summer, now replaced with large green-yellow beans of indiscriminate texture.  They made for a fine pasta tonight, but I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of them, and frankly, I’m a little disappointed.

I’m also disappointed that we didn’t take pictures of each iteration of the pasta with favas, sausage, and tomatoes, as I wish I could show you how much the beans have changed in just 6 weeks.  Alas, you’ll just have to wait until next year, when I’m bound and determined that we’ll be planting favas of our own.

Recipe:
Pasta with Favas, Tomatoes, and Sausage from Smitten Kitchen

0628 Pasta with Favas, take two

For our second go-round with this recipe, I made a few alterations – some improvements, others just alterations.  Last time I drained and used a jar of whole tomatoes from last summer – we’ve since run out of tomatoes and didn’t pick up enough from the market, so I used a can of diced tomatoes in sauce.  This made a big difference in the resulting  quantity and consistency of the sauce.

Sauteeing onions

Second, we didn’t have any white wine around, and I didn’t want to buy and then open a bottle for a measly 1/4 cup.  I made a dubious substitution, using the Pillar Box Red that has been open in the fridge for *cringe* almost two weeks.  While iffy to drink, it was perfectly serviceable in the sauce – in fact, I think I preferred it to the white, which may have been overly sweet.

Third, in an effort to use up pasta leftover from a potluck a few weeks ago, I used whole wheat angel hair instead of the fresh sheets of pasta that the recipe requests, or the wee shells we used last time.  I quite liked the way the sauce coated the pasta, and the way the angel hair broke up amidst the beans and sausages, but Shane preferred the shells, so we’ll probably go back to them next time.

Pasta with favas, sausage, and tomatoes

I also made the whole recipe instead of halving it, remembering that we’d devoured every last bite.  Had we not cleared the table and exercised some self control, I have no doubt that we could’ve put away the entire thing tonight.  Fortunately, however, good sense prevailed, and I’m really looking forward to leftovers for lunch tomorrow.  This recipe is definitely a keeper!

Recipe:
Pasta with Favas, Tomatoes, and Sausage from Smitten Kitchen

0528 Homemade Pizza

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is impossible to be unhappy on a moped – at least on a day like today, when the weather is perfect, the ‘ped is running beautifully, and maybe you even get to combine those two things with a spontaneous lunch date, resulting a really pretty perfect afternoon.  On top of that, and with the help of a very nice listserv person, I finished the workday off by figuring out a tech problem that has been plaguing me for two months.  Pizza was definitely in order.

We had a couple of pork sausages to use up, so I squeezed them out of their casings and browned the meat while the toaster oven heated up.  I can’t tell you what a difference this toaster oven has made in our cooking!  I mean, it’s not like we’re cooking totally different things than before, but having a device that heats up quickly and maintains a consistent temperature without also heating up the kitchen makes things like pizza on a warm evening much more feasible.  I rolled the dough out into oddly shaped rectangles and pre-baked it for about 8 minutes, then topped it with a bit of concentrated tomato paste, a handful of sausage, and some mozzarella cheese.  Along with an Oberon, it was a just-right kind of start to the long weekend.

0525 Fava Beans, Sausage, Pasta

I bought fava beans at the coop late last week with no real idea of how to use them.  Or what they tasted like.  Or the fact that you have to peel them twice.  All I knew was that I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to figure out what the heck I could do with them.

A little internet research later, and I’d hit on this recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  In addition to being seasonal and lovely, it paired a new ingredient – the favas – with things we already had on hand – garlic and onion, tomatoes canned last summer, a package of sausage from our pig.  If I’d been more ambitious, I would’ve made pasta from scratch, but we stocked up on the dried stuff a few weeks ago, so we used small shells, an appropriate shape for catching the beans and sausage.

Apart from the double peeling of the favas, this dinner was proof that complex flavors don’t always necessitate hard work.  While the pasta water came to a boil, I sauteed the garlic and onion, then browned the sausage in the same pan.  While the pasta boiled, a bit of white wine simmered away, and then tomatoes and favas were added to the pan.  From start to finish, this recipe took about 30 minutes, and then we were treated to a bites of pasta cradling the nutty favas, savory crumbled sausage, and a delicate garlicky-wine sauce.

We’re out of favas now, but if I see more at the coop, you’d better believe I’ll be snapping them up.  We were both surprised by how much we liked this simple dish in general, and the favas in particular.  Perhaps we’ll do a Moroccan broad bean salad? Smashed beans on toast? Broad beans and pancetta?  So many recipes to try, and so few favas to eat.  Summer, you can’t come soon enough.

Recipe:
Pasta with Favas, Tomatoes, and Sausage from Smitten Kitchen