Even though we’re in the midst of the high summer harvest season, farmers have to think 1 or 2 seasons in advance. In the interests of a more sustainable food system, our Prosser Farmers, Jackie and Dev, are testing a new summer cover crop, sorghum, in a fallow plot at Prosser Farm. The idea is that the 300 feet of sorghum just planted will add efficiency, productivity, and a high yield of nutritious food in a small amount of space. Dev is planning to bring the cultural traditions of Indian grain rotation to Prosser by eventually using the sorghum to make bread. Who knows what our Tom Douglas Restaurants chefs will do with this new crop? Popped sorghum anyone? Read the whole post by Eva Mrak-Blumberg here.
The local food blogosphere is bursting with the news that Washington State residents love Mexican food, which makes a good lead-in to this Seattle Magazine blog article on Dahlia Lounge’s taco bar for family meal (ie. staff meal). As Chef Brock says: “Taco Bar is everybody’s favorite. People are pretty stoked on it. Everybody likes walking into a taco bar.”
Mark Bittman writes an op-ed for the New York Times called “French Food Goes Down,” about the new “fait maison” (“made in-house”) symbol that the French government and French restaurant industry are rolling out. The symbol is intended as a way to counteract the increasing ubiquity of factory produced, microwaved food in restaurants all over France. But Bittman calls this “just about the dumbest fix imaginable” and says that while he’s “all for regulations that might work… this one won’t,” because the many loopholes in the law will make the symbol mostly meaningless. Bittman points out that the logo “does nothing to address the fact that chains and pre-prepared food now dominate the restaurant industry globally.” (Check out the link in the Bittman piece to an article in NPR’s The Salt reporting that the French are now the second biggest consumers of fast food after the US.) Similar to Bittman’s experience, my first trip to Paris was almost 40 years ago, a time when “you couldn’t find bad food if you tried.” Things have changed.
The new issue of National Geographic has an excellent article on hunger by Traci McMillan called “The New Face of Hunger,” which states that “Millions of working Americans don’t know where their next meal is coming from.” Yes— working Americans. In this country, working full time, even at more than one job, doesn’t mean you will be able to afford enough quality food to feed your family. One of the households profiled in the article includes three working adults, but still there isn’t enough money for the family to afford decent food throughout the whole month. National Geographic sent three photographers to three very different regions of the country- Osage, Iowa (where, ironically, the US grows massive amounts of produce in the form of corn and soybeans), Houston, Texas, and the Bronx, New York. Low quality, non-nutritious industrial food is a big part of the face of hunger these days and because of this, obesity is also a big part of what hunger looks like. It’s a heart wrenching and disturbing article, but you won’t want to miss the eloquent photos and life stories.
Speaking of Iowa, isn’t it interesting that the Des Moines Register newspaper came out with an op-ed that argues that it’s time for Congress to require GMO labeling? Yes, in Iowa, a state dominated by the clout that big food and agribusiness wield, and a state with an economy geared to the cultivation of massive amounts of tax-supported corn and soybeans (increasingly, from GMO seed) intended for the manufacture of processed food. Despite this, the Des Moines Register has the courage to argue that “Corporate America is fighting a losing battle over the GMO issue. …Congress should set a nationwide standard of disclosure and then let the individual consumers decide whether the presence of GMOs in a product is something that concerns them…. keeping consumers in the dark is never the right thing to do.”
Now that we’re hitting summer’s peak, Prosser Farm produce is “cropping up” all over the menus of the Tom Douglas Restaurants. On our Prosser Farm blog, Eva Mrak-Blumberg takes you on a little Tom Douglas Prosser Crawl to show you what our restaurant chefs are doing with the abundance of Prosser produce from the appetizer course to dessert! Read about it here.
Have you noticed we now have Cuoco fresh pasta for sale at Home Remedy? The staff at Cuoco rolls and cuts and shapes fresh pasta all day long for the Cuoco menu, and now we’re boxing it up for retail sale as well, which means you can make perfect pasta in the comfort of your own home in just minutes after you bring a pot of water to the boil. I’ve been playing around in my home kitchen to come up with 4 easy, super-delicious pasta recipes for your summer dining pleasure including the best ever and easiest summer pasta salad! (Your secret strategy: buy the vinaigrette from our salad bar!) Choose a recipe, pick up the ingredients at Home Remedy (don’t forget to pick up a bottle of wine to enjoy with your pasta), and you’ll be all set for dinner tonight.
The Big Pasta Bake
Serious Pie Marinara(refrigerator)
Mozzarella (salad bar)
Veggies! Peppers, Onions, Mushrooms (salad bar)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil
In a skillet, sauté your vegetables in a small amount of oil until soft and cooked through.
Add your marinara to your vegetables, and allow to heat the sauce through.
Add your rigatoni to the boiling water, and allow to boil 2-3 minutes [per package instructions].
Remove the pasta from the water, drain, and add to the vegetables and marinara.
Stir until all is coated and combined.
Transfer the pasta mixture to a baking dish (that can go under your broiler) and cover the top with mozzarella.
With your broiler on high, allow the cheese to brown and bubble- Watch carefully!!
Remove from the oven and enjoy with a glass of Southard Red Wine!
Pesto Linguine with Roasted Chicken
Cuoco Linguini (refrigerator)
Condoni Original Pesto
Grated Parmesan (refrigerator)
Roasted Chicken from the Home Remedy Pod (available after 4pm! Buy whole or half)
Bring a large pot of LIGHTLY salted water to a boil.
Add your linguine to the boiling water, and allow to boil 2-3 minutes [per package instructions].
Remove the pasta from the water, drain, reserving some cooking water.
For 1 full package of linguini, I recommend 3 large tablespoons of pesto; toss and add Parmesan.
Add a little cooking water until the consistency of the pesto sauce is to your liking.
Serve with your hot roasted chicken.
Finish your meal with a small salad from the salad bar or a mini baguette.
My Take on Pasta Puttanesca
Cuoco Spaghetti (refrigerator)
Novia del Sol Olives stuffed with Anchovy, drained and chopped
Amore Anchovy Paste
Laurel Hill Non Pareil Capers
Grated Parmesan (refrigerator)
Cherry tomatoes, chopped (salad bar)
Red Pepper Flakes (Optional)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil
Add your linguine to the boiling water, and allow to boil 2-3 minutes [per package instructions]
Remove the pasta from the water, drain, reserving some cooking water. Put some anchovy paste in a small bowl and use a microplane to grate the garlic into it. Mix.
In a large bowl, combine with your cooked pasta as much or little as you prefer of these ingredients : the anchovy paste with garlic, capers, olives, tomatoes, and Parmesan.
Adjust your pasta with the reserved cooking water to give the sauce the consistency that you like. Taste the pasta as you go, it can get very salty.
To balance the saltiness I added a little lemon juice and red pepper flakes.
“THE” Summer Pasta Salad
Cuoco Rigatoni (refrigerator)
Red wine vinaigrette (salad bar)
Spinach (salad bar)
Mozzarella Fresca Boccocini (refrigerator)
Italbrand Roasted Peppers Italian Style
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Add your rigatoni to the boiling water and allow to boil 2-3 minutes [per package instructions].
Remove the pasta from the water, drain.
Toss the hot pasta with the red wine vinaigrette and allow to cool.
Slice the roasted peppers into strips.
Dice the mozzarella into small bites.
When the pasta is cool, toss it together with the mozzarella, peppers, and spinach, and season with salt and pepper.
This pasta salad is bright and refreshing. It really allows for the pasta to take center stage and for all the flavors to be noticed.
A word about the wine: Southard Columbia Valley Red Wine
A blend of Syrah and Zinfandel, produced locally in Selah,Wa is the perfect pairing to pasta! It is easy to drink, provides a ton of flavors, and finishes with a great aftertaste. I’m not a wine critic, but I love this, and I absolutely will buy another bottle of this local red blend.
By planting the Walla Wallas early at Prosser Farm this year, we finally managed to grow them to the proper large size. (Ok, ok, the onion in the photo is more than properly large- it’s humongous!) These sweet onions are one of our favorite local treats, and we expect a 1500 to 1600 pound yield over the next month. Read the whole Prosser post here to find out what Tom Douglas Restaurant chefs will be cooking up with these spectacular alliums!
Our new Hot Stove Society cooking school launched this week with Operation Dinner Party! This is a special 4-day “boot camp” that was initiated by our Tom Douglas Culinary Summer Campers from Summer Camps of years past. The campers proposed this idea- to plan an elaborate advanced-technique dinner party including the costing and all the logistics- do all the prep- then serve the meal on Thursday night with two invited guests for each camper and wines chosen to pair with each course for a 5-course graduation feast! This meal will be worthy of the finest restaurant and it includes learning to make cured sausages and gallantines, filleting out whole salmons, baking artisan breads, and constructing elaborate pastries. The week started out with each camper getting a Hot Stove apron, a book for notes, a marking pen, a kitchen rag and a big plastic drinking cup complete with straw.
The Operation Dinner Party cooking teams meet with the chefs to go over how menu costing is formulated- taking into account wholesale price and yield of every component of every dish.
Hot Stove Society Director Bridget Charters leads the class through a knife skills class. The camper-cooks had to dice peppers, julienne onions, and slice potatoes- all of which went into a hash for breakfast the next morning and mirepoix for stock later in the week.
After a lesson from Serious Pie Chef Tony Catini, the camper-cooks make chistorra, a cured sausage from Basque country.
Our Beverage Director Adam Chumas leads the camper-cooks through a wine tasting. On this day, they tasted wines with the chistorra and the salmon dishes to determine which wines will be paired with the final dinner.
Tomorrow night, Thursday, the camper-cooks will strut their stuff to pull off an amazing dinner party worthy of a top restaurant!
(Photo credit: Eva Mrak-Blumberg)
It’s never been easier to make an amazing pizza with a little help from your friends at Home Remedy. If you have an oven, you can make some seriously fantastic pizza. I have created 4 simple ideas, but the options are endless. The Home Remedy salad bar can become a sort of “create your own” pizza bar. It includes 4 choices of cheese, pepperoni, and a wide assortment of veggies.
All four pizza include :
The Base=Serious Pie Pizza Crust. Find it in the freezer section. The directions are simple. Heat your oven to 450, brush crust lightly with olive oil, top as desired, bake 8 minutes, then enjoy!
I like the flavor pairings of this sweet, salty and tangy pizza. It would work great as a snack for friends with a bottle of wine or as an appetizer before dinner:
Chevre, Fig, Prosciutto Pizza
Ingredients (in addition to the base, above)
Three Figs Balsamic Fresh Fig Jam
Cypress Grove Chevre (refrigerator case)
La Quercia Speck Americano, applewood smoked prosciutto (refrigerator case)
Spinach (salad bar)
- Heat your oven to 450
-Allow the crust to defrost a bit.
-Brush the pizza with olive oil.
-spread a generous amount of the fig jam onto the crust, leaving a rim of crust
-cut or tear the prosciutto into pieces and arrange evenly
-use your fingers or a knife to place small globs of chevre over the crust
-bake for 6 minutes
-remove from oven and add your spinach
-allow the pizza to bake 2 more minuets
-cut into squares
This next pizza combines all the best ingredients of a Kale Caesar salad, which seems to be very popular these days. Home Remedy sells the legendary KALE SALAD, and they sell A LOT of it, for good reason! For a hearty, soul satisfying meal, serve this pizza alongside a bowl of Cuoco fresh pasta tossed with Serious Pie Marinara sauce.
Kale Caesar Pizza
Ingredients (in addition to base, above)
Olive oil and half of a garlic clove
Grated Parmesan (refrigerator case)
Scalia Anchovy Fillets, packed in olive oil
Kale Salad (salad bar)
-Heat your oven to 450
-Allow the crust to defrost a bit
-Brush the pizza with a lot of olive oil, first using a microplane to grate the garlic into the oil
-Cover liberally with the grated Parmesan
-place your anchovy fillets, either whole or cut, across the pizza
-Bake for 6 minutes.
-Cut into squares then top with the kale salad
-Serve with more Parmesan
Make this next pizza for a rainy weekend day, and enjoy a hot gooey slice. This pizza is great, but what makes it stellar is the West Loop Salumi. The Ciascuola is Italian cured meat that is just firm enough to slice but spreadable, with just the right amount of funk that only amazingly cured meat can offer.
Ciascuola & Artichoke Pizza
Ingredients (in addition to the base, above)
Serious Pie Marinara (refrigerator case)
Organic Valley Mozzarella (refrigerator case)
Or mozzarella from the salad bar
Italbrand marinated artichoke hearts
West Loop Salumi Ciascuola (refrigerator case)
Heat your oven to 450
Allow the crust to defrost a bit
Brush the pizza with olive oil
Top the pizza with ½ c. marinara
Sprinkle with ¾ c. mozzarella
Top with slices or chunks of Ciascuola and artichokes
Bake 8 minutes
Sprinkle on some red pepper flakes and let the meaty greasy goodness consume you.
This next pizza is a MEAL! Can be shared between two people, but who are we kidding? You’re not going to share your meatball pizza. Don’t worry, we won’t judge.
Meatball & Mama Lil’s Pizza
Ingredients (in addition to the base, above)
Cuoco meatballs (freezer)
Serious Pie Marinara(refrigerator case)
Mama Lil’s Peppers
Mushrooms & Onions (salad bar)
Mozzarella (refrigerator case or salad bar)
-Heat your oven to 450
-Allow the crust to defrost a bit
-Remove the frozen meatballs from the plastic and microwave for 4 minutes. They will finish cooking on the pizza. Cut the meatballs in half. There are enough meatballs to top two pizzas (note: if you don’t have a microwave, there are oven instructions on the package, but it will take longer to heat the meatballs in the oven)
-Brush the pizza with olive oil
-Top the pizza with ½ cup marinara
-Sprinkle with ¾ cup mozzarella
-Arrange your meatballs and veggies evenly
-Bake for 8 minutes until the cheese is gooey and your meatballs are hot
Cascina Del Santuario Barbera d’Alba 2011
This wine was brought in direct from Italy. Each bottle has a DOC label and number. DOC stands for Denominazione di Origine, which basically says the Italian Control board declares that it complies with the guidelines set for the particular product.
It’s the perfect pairing for pizza as the acidity is great to help cut the richness of the cured meats and gooey cheese. The tannins are very low giving the wine easy drinkability through the entire meal.
Harissa is a North African spicy, garlicky chili paste, a condiment you need to add to everything you cook this summer. It has great flexibility from vinaigrette to marinade and it kicks everything up! Here are 5 simple recipes to “spice” up your summer.
Ingredients you can buy from Home Remedy:
Harissa, DEA brand
La Novia del Sol Rellenas de anchoa ( olives with anchovies)
Red onions, sliced (salad bar)
Feta (salad bar)
Blue cheese or ranch dressing (salad bar)
Dahlia house loaf
Ingredients from your home pantry or to buy at a farmers market or supermarket:
Corn on the cob
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika
Corn with harissa compound butter:
To create the compound butter, allow your butter to come to room temperature so that is soft, but not melted. To the butter, add harissa to taste, chopped parsley, salt, and pepper. After you have mixed the butter thoroughly, allow it to chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it. Grill, roast or boil your corn and apply a liberal amount of the harissa butter to the hot corn, sprinkle the corn with crumbled feta for a sure fire knock out at your next BBQ.
Easy egg with harissa aioli on toast:
This is great for breakfast, or lunch with a small salad.
Slice your Dahlia house loaf into ½” slices and toast them. Stir mayo (either purchased or homemade) with a small amount of harissa. Add as much or as little harissa as you like. Schmear your toast with the aioli and top with a soft fried egg. Top the egg with chopped parsley, salt and pepper. Enjoy while the egg is still warm and the yolk is liquid enough to create a sauce. The crunchy toast and the spicy creamy aioli mixed with the warm gooey yolk will be sure to make you want seconds and thirds! I warned you!
Couscous salad with harissa vinaigrette:
This salad is super fast and is even better the next day. For the couscous, simply follow the package directions: 1 cup of dried couscous is added to 1 ¼ c boiling water, then simmered for 8 minutes. While this is simmering create your vinaigrette by adding 1 part vinegar to 3 parts oil. For this particular dressing, I combined olive oil, apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper, and harissa. Whisk to incorporate, taste for seasoning and check that you have enough kick from the harissa. Once the couscous has simmered and has absorbed all of the water, add the vinaigrette to the hot couscous. This will allow the couscous to absorb the flavors and will prevent clumping. Chop some parsley, spring onions, red onions, and slice some green olives. Toss this all together and enjoy. Allow the flavors to marry. The salad is even better the next day. I used the green olives that are stuffed with anchovies for an umami flavor in the salad, but any olives sold at Home Remedy would be just as amazing.
Roasted or grilled, these wings are a crowd pleaser and one of the most tasty and easy dishes you can bring to a party! Simply cut the wings into three pieces.
The small end wing is great for chicken stock, but the two more meaty pieces are the pieces you want to use for these two chicken wing recipes. Toss your wings with Harissa, a small amount of canola oil, salt and pepper. Allow your wings to marinate for 4 hours or overnight in your refrigerator. You only need enough harissa to coat the wings. When ready to grill, make sure your grill is well oiled and toss on, flip, and cook until done. Enjoy! For roasted wings, place the wings on a rack or grate. Place into a 425 oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked through, use your low broil setting for 3-4 minutes to make sure the skin gets super crispy. (Tip: you can cut into a chicken wing to be sure there is no pink and it is cooked through.)
Fried wings in harissa sauce:
To fry wings, you will need a heavy bottom pot with high sides. Fill with about 2 inches of canola oil and heat slowly. You will need to a shallow bowl of beaten eggs and another of flour that is mixed with salt, pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Season your wings with salt and pepper, then (using a few wings at a time) dredge into the flour. Drop the wings into the egg mixture and make sure that they are fully covered, then back into your flour mixture. After the wings are breaded and your oil hot (350 degrees farenheit), add 3-4 wings at a time to the oil and wait until they become golden brown and crispy. This took my particular wings about 5 minutes. Remove your wings to a paper towel lined plate. While frying all of your wings, melt 4oz of butter. To the melted butter add some harissa and more salt and pepper. Whisk until all is all combined and there is enough harissa for your taste. When your wings are fried, toss the wings into the sauce until they are completely saucy. Serve with your choice of blue cheese dressing or ranch- both can be found in the Home Remedy Salad bar.
I realized that the farm-to-table movement had officially left the fringe and turned mainstream when McDonald’s came out with an ad campaign calling their french fries part of a “family farming tradition.”
I don’t begrudge McDonald’s for adopting what to me is a meaningful movement–one that advocates for a system of transparency in our food and in our farmers–and turning it into a slogan. But I don’t applaud them either. What this ad campaign represents is the movement’s slide into a hip trend impersonated by bumper slogans and menus that casually drop words like “fresh,” “local,” “organic,” “farm-to-table,” and “eat green” so much so that the concepts behind these words become diluted.
The farm-to-table movement has generated momentum because, as Dan Barber says, food “connects the disparate part of our lives into a whole person.” But when an environmental and cultural movement gets hijacked by the very businesses they stand up against it make us subjects of a widespread Emperor’s-New-Clothes-Syndrome. Moreover, it makes me feel deflated about the local food movement in general.
But then I attended a talk at Town Hall by Dan Barber, chef of Blue Hill and recently published author of Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food. I was re-inspired with a new intention and direction in regards to the movement. In addition to his poetic metaphors regarding sustainability (that I found myself rapidly transcribing), Barber spoke about what systems he truly sees as elevating sustainability from being just a dernier cri to something that feels tangible for farmers, bakers, chefs, and customers: change that doesn’t just benefit our environment and is financially stable, but that holds a cultural value that can be passed on, as food and its traditions have always done.
One such tradition is represented by one of the “heroes” of his book: a goose farmer named Eduardo who produces “natural foie gras” by recreating a diverse forest on his land. Imagine a forest full of naturally occurring mushrooms in which the geese roam free “eating what they eat and allowing them to enjoy themselves.” Admittedly, through this anecdote, I found myself falling easily into this utopic story we often hear regarding sustainable food. Even in my re-telling of it, I practice the same romanticization about which I (and Barber) in turn criticize of the current farm-to-table movement. It is all too easy to honor the “small farmer” and the chef who uses his or her produce as a cultural icon.
Instead, what I found most refreshing about Dan Barber’s talk was his illumination of the more behind-the-scenes, less sex-appeal actors in the quieter sustainable food movement. Take Steve Jones, for example, who is the greatest hero in Barber’s book if counted by number of references in his talk. Jones is actually a local here in Washington. He breeds 40,000 wheat varieties in Mount Vernon, just an hour north of Seattle. His operation is funded by the Washington State University–more specifically by President Lincoln’s long-standing National Land Grants. His task is to research and breed wheat varieties that are nutritious, hardy in our Northwest climate, and keep the soil fertile. Part of his research includes the Bread Lab where he will experiment and actually recipe test wheat varieties for chefs, creating breads and dishes that use his wheat to make sure that they’re also delicious and worth adding to a menu. Jones doesn’t breed old heirloom varieties of wheat for the sex appeal like so many “sustainable novelties” that appear on menus. Instead, he is a proponent of using the old wheat variety to create a new variety–one that will be more nutritious, more efficient calorically, feed more people, and use less pesticides to grow so as to tackle many of our food problems at once. His contribution to the sustainability movement is an effort to close the gap between the starting point–healthy soil–and the driver of sustainability–a consumer willing to pay for that variety over a less sustainable one.
So, to come full circle. Romanticizing the movement with stories of your small farmer (here’s another one from McDonalds) is an easy way to connect what we think is sustainable change to an approachable story. But stopping there feels lazy and incomplete. That story becomes easily appropriated by businesses which aren’t actually accountable for the story they tell.
I myself have felt that I was beginning to tell the same sustainability story in my own posts – blindly waving a “farm-to-table flag.” But then I heard Barber conclude with a simple idea that set a new intention. He spoke about empowering diners to redefine what they expect for dinner and the need for continuing to push the fringe of food. That pushing to stay on the fringe is what creates innovation, as in the case of Steve Jones. Awareness is always the first step in a movement–and we’ve gotten there–but it doesn’t create impactful change for our environment. Change is adding nutrients back into the soil, changing what our plate looks like, making it economically feasible for small and mid-size farmers–essentially inventing a new cultural cuisine. It requires challenging ourselves to ask for more. Or as he put it, “Preach to the choir so we sing a little louder.”
The photo above is of my dear friend Susan (who took BART over from Berkeley) and myself enjoying espresso drinks at Cafe Puccini in North Beach.
My husband Frank and I took a long weekend getaway to San Francisco to attend a wedding reception which took place at Greens Restaurant. So fun because I haven’t been to Greens, which has a dreamy location at Fort Mason, for decades. Back story: I worked there briefly many moons ago when I was in culinary school. Greens was farm to table (Green Gulch Farm at the San Francisco Zen Center) way back then over 30 years ago and was creating a sensation as the first upscale vegetarian restaurant- fine dining with wine- that most people had ever encountered. Also, each meal shift at Greens began with a calm Zen chant. Memories!
San Francisco is one of my top favorite cities in the world. The Ferry Building is always a must, and we discovered to our good fortune that it was walking distance from our hotel, Hotel Triton, which has a fantastic location right next to the Chinatown Gate. First stop at the Ferry Building was Traci des Jardins’ Mijita where I met up with my amazing friend Duskie Estes who, with her husband John Stewart, owns Zazu, which recently relocated to Sebastapol. As Duskie and I shared a plate of chilaquiles, she commented that only Tracy des Jardin (Mijita’s owner) would buy a full battery of beautiful Le Creuset casseroles to line up on the counter of a taco stand!
Because Slanted Door won Outstanding Restaurant at the James Beard Awards in May, I decided it was past time to visit it again and enjoy lunch there. Everything was delicious, but this flat iron steak was one of my favorite dishes. The weather in SF was perfect everyday of our trip so we had the added bonus of enjoying our lunch at an outdoor table.
We visited the Ferry Building one more time on our last afternoon in the City, and since I cleverly got right into the line at Hog Island 10 minutes before it opened, I got the chance to enjoy this fabulous fried oyster po’boy!
North Beach is always near the top of my list for any visit to San Francisco. We got there around 3pm and though Tosca Cafe, recently bought by new owners and completely revamped, was not open for business until 5pm, the door was open for a peek inside:
Susan said: “it looks almost the same!” And it does to some degree, but the marvelous thing about the way April Bloomfield (Spotted Pig in NY) and Ken Friedman expensively and laboriously reimagined the space in order to make it a more modern, more beautiful, more comfortable, more stylish, and I’m sure much more-delicious- than-it-ever-was kind of place, and despite having washed away decades of grime and the odor of decades of cigarette smoke while retaining much of the aged look by, for example, artfully applying water spots to the ceiling, is that they successfully saved the heart, soul, and spirit of this previously down-at-the-heels North Beach fixture. By keeping Tosca’s beating heart alive, these new owners have helped save our precious North Beach, which is always, always being degraded by the encroachment of tourist joints, strip bars, Chinatown, and by the loss of the original Italian immigrant population. Thank you, April and Ken! Happily, City Lights Bookstore seems exactly the same and seems like it will be in North Beach forever. Thank you, Lawrence Ferlinghetti!
We came back to Tosca right at 5 pm and snagged three of the quickly disappearing stools in the bar. I enjoyed a terrific negroni from their top notch bartender complete with hand carved ice cube of course!
We did so much more on our San Francisco visit, but I will only briefly mention: a beautiful dinner at Perbacco with delicious plin and the best ever beef tartare; a fun lunch at Tadich Grill where the white jacketed more-than-middle-aged-slightly-gruff-always-male waiters are the same as ever as well as the same-as-ever menu, the wood paneled comfy dark room and everything else same-as-ever in the best possible way, and we delighted in perfectly grilled branzino and panfried petrale sole accompanied by a whole plate of quartered lemons. Oh, yeah, there was also a fabulous salumi sandwich and incredible arugula-date-bacon salad at Salumeria in the Mission Creek neighborhood of the Mission… I could go on but…
I want to end this post with a few words about our visit to Berkeley (by BART of course- one of the many pleasures of SF is a great transportation system). We started the day with brunch at the Thai Temple, a Berkeley tradition, and ended with my favorite meal of the trip, dinner at the Ramen Shop (technically in Oakland but very close to Berkeley).
The menu has only 5 starters and 3 ramens- each with a different broth. I love a place that has this kind of focus. The kitchen is surprisingly large for the size of the menu. They make the broths of course, which are labor intensive projects, as well as all the noodles and all kinds of pickles. There were big glass jars of small yellow plums on the counter. We asked about them and found out they were not only making umeboshi- Japanese salted plums- but in 3 different flavor variations! A small menu with so much love poured into every detail- that’s my favorite kind of place. The garlic shrimp miso ramen with ground pork belly, shoyu marinated egg, red torpedo onions (tiny ones!), sugar snap peas, chili paste, and shugiku was the star of a star-filled visit to San Francisco, the City where we always leave our hearts…
Welcome to Family Meal, a blog that examines all things new and noteworthy in the world of food, wine, and dining.
At family meal, otherwise known as staff meal, there’s no hierarchy; you’re breaking bread with your friends. For those 30 minutes, everyone is equal- and hungry. Family meal is our version of the water cooler- but with better food.
I’ll be sharing my thoughts, tips, and observations, and, in the spirit of family meal, I’ve invited our creative, energetic staff- everyone from line cook to bartender to bookkeeper- to have a say. I hope you’ll add your own comments and join in the conversation.