Sunday, April 30, 2006

food and family...

gourmet carousel
Originally uploaded by starchmouse.
It's not very hard to figure out my family. If you ever want to get in good with them, tell them you love food. Not just love food, looooove it. Then eat lots of it in front of them.
I don't know how we became such food-lovers. Growing up, I don't remember food playing as obvious a role in our daily lives as it does now. Sure, we went out to eat, but never because we wanted to try something new or exciting. And we were *never* told to finish our plates - ours was the "if you can't finish just leave it!" household.

I've learned a lot about my family through food. My father subscribes to the if-there-are-lots-of-people-inside-it-must-be-good school of thought when it comes to choosing a place to eat. It doesn't matter if it's a dingy little place - as long as there are tons of people inside they must know something we don't. I suppose it's because he really wants to see the best of everything and everybody, and has a lot of faith and trust in others. A common phrase that will come out of my mother's mouth is "you are *exactly* like your father!" and if you see us in a restaurant, it's true. We're the ones who will try something new because it seems silly to order something you've already had, even though it's good. My mother, on the other hand, takes comfort in what she knows to be good. It takes a bit of a wrestle to get her to try something we've never ordered before. It makes sense - she needs order, organization, and cleanliness to function. She loves cookbooks and trying to cook new things - yet she'll rarely try new recipes unless she's seen a food network chef successfully execute it on TV first.

It was food that helped me appreciate my parents more. It first hit me in a restaurant in Paris. There was an amazing place tucked away on a little side street near our apartment - crowded, smoky, and a slight risk because everything was in french. But we loved it so much we went three nights. On the third night, I just shook my head in amazement - there sitting in front of me were two people who at the tender age of 25 hopped on a plane, each carrying two babies adopted by families in the US (crazy - four babies on a 12 hour flight!), so that their tickets would be $200 instead of $2000. They landed in Minnesota and went to school (all over again) so that they could have two kids and move them out to sunny California. All they knew growing up were the soups and stews and pickles of postwar Korean cuisine. They could have stopped right there, but they were not content to be immigrants who just got by in a new country while feverishly clinging to the only customs they knew. They really embraced what they thought to be the american spirit - trying new things not for trend's sake (which is typically Korean) but really because you had the opportunity to. And here they were in Paris, devouring moules, poisson gratin, aubergine caviar and fried anchovies. They had an organic garden waiting for them back at home. I never understood the significance of what my parents had went through to get here until I saw how they took that opportunity and ran with it. And while I'm normally proud of my parents, at that moment I wanted to burst with it. And that was just the beginning. There was curry eaten off of banana leaves in Singapore. Glasses of cider and plates of tapas while tottering around San Sebastian. Haggis in Edinburgh. Churrasco in Brazil. Guacamole in Mexico City.

My brother and I are so lucky - we could have been pulled in so many different directions, trying to assimilate to a culture foreign to my parents and living life the way my parents had when they were young. Instead, we were shown that whatever you decide to do you should just throw your whole self into it while keeping the best parts of your past experiences.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Looking closely at the Chronicle's Top 100 list and their Bargain Bites list, I noticed that I've eaten at more Top 100s than Bargain Bites. Interesting. I swear, I'm still a struggling grad student. I guess my priorities are just not typically that of a starving student...

Yummy birthday eating...

It's only fitting that as a birthday princess, I should eat a princess cake.

My weekend of yummy birthday eating started at Luna Park. After months of harping "I wanna go there! I wanna go there" my roommate took matters into her own hands (I was a little resistant to the whole celebrate-my-birthday idea) and made reservations. I had been ogling the goat cheese fondue for some time and it didn't disappoint - in fact, I may have drunkenly told my friend Liv that I wanted to slather it all over my body and lick it off myself. That was the pomegranate cosmo talking. She also marveled at how little I ate, and again, I blame the cosmo. I also blame the cosmo for nearly reducing me to tears at the bar when I opened my birthday presents. (But what girl wouldn't cry when she unwraps a long-coveted food grinder attachment for her stand mixer?) In fact, I blame that one drink for anything crazy that may have happened later that night (although nothing did.) I stumbled into bed at around 2am and slept so soundly that night I didn't even notice when Liv rolled over me. But getting back to slathering food all over my body, I might have done the same with the chocolate part of the s'mores. And with the marshmallow, if it wasn't so sticky...

On Saturday I went to my parents' house and brought my birthday cake with me - Swedish Princess cake from the Schubert Bakery on Clement. We cut it open and it was so yummy-looking it enticed even my mother, who is seeing an acupuncture therapist and is under strict orders to not eat wheat, pork, chicken, coffee, dairy, and pretty much anything that tastes good.

Sunday night we went to Delfina. I'm always nervous about going to places that I've wanted to go to for a long time - I guess there's a fear that I'll have built it up so much in my mind and then it will disappoint me. But everything about our meal was amazing. First of all, if somebody had told me they had the most crispy, greaseless fries EVER I would have made it a point to go there much sooner. And if that somebody had also mentioned the fried sage and rosemary leaves mixed in...well, I would have kissed that somebody many times. Many many times. We ordered the green garlic sformantino with black trumpet mushrooms to start. "That sounds good!" my mom said, and I agreed. Basically, nobody had any idea what a sformantino was but "green garlic" sounded good. Then they bring a bright green flan to the table and much confusion ensues. "Did they make a mistake or are they giving this to us just because?" my mom whispered. So I asked "um, what was this again?" "Flan!" replies the server as she scurries away. We dig in, and it is the most creamy version of garlic I have ever tasted. The next 20 minutes were spent trying to figure out how we could make it at home. I'll let you know if I ever succeed.

After a weekend of drinking my one little glass of Dolcetto d'Alba left me tottering about, so I ordered an espresso with our buttermilk panna cotta. Still not sober enough to drive, I took my parents to Tartine and we ogled the breads. I caved and bought a half loaf of sesame (there's a parmesan panini with my name on it for dinner later, yum!) and a small serving of bread pudding for breakfast next day. And with that, my weekend of birthday debauchery comes to an end. Phew. Now to catch up on some sleep....
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Sunday, April 02, 2006

When you gotta have it, you gotta have it...

This morning I woke up after a mere 4 hours of sleep with a desire to eat carbs. Lots of them. Taped to my fridge is a recipe from the last time I had this same desire - a recipe for Ina Garten's sour cream banana pancakes. Yum. Who wouldn't want to eat that? Nice and lemony and tangy. I even had an extra large lemon to zest.
For some reason I decided to add a spoonful of poppy seeds. I've been on a poppy seed kick lately - those suckers are so nutty and flavorful even though they are tiny. I stirred them into my dry batter and decided, heck! Why not through in another spoonful? Mix mix mix. Then I somehow wake up and realize....I've put in black mustard seeds!!
Do I throw the whole thing out and start all over again?? Oh no no no. First, I don't have another lemon. Second, I'm stubborn. So I park myself in front of the TV with bowl and strainer and start picking out those suckers one by one.
I kid you not. See for yourself: