Travel: San Francisco

October 24, 2011

My program afforded me the opportunity to go to San Francisco for a week of in-class observation. I spent my mornings at Pacific Rim Montessori School in a bilingual Chinese/English classroom, and spent my afternoons exploring the bay area. The people, public transit, food, and landscape were inviting and inspiring, to say the least. I utilized friends’ suggestions as well as 101Cookbooks’ post on her hometown favorites.

Spent an afternoon biking around and across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Muir Woods in the morning was a sanctuary of light and redwood trees – so quiet it was unnerving.

A dear friend of mine from college works at the de Young Art Museum – where I got to expereince their Chamber Music Day, and roam their vast galleries. It is always so gratifying to see work that I studied in school, as well as be inspired by new work. He also took me to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art where we saw Richard Serra’s Drawing Retrospective. It was incredible – simple in its black and white color palate, large in size, and borderline installation art. The immediacy of the hand and the intimacy of the work contained it as drawing.

The Modern had on its rooftop gallery one of Blue Bottle coffee’s shops. Super clean design and excellent espresso.

Other foodie haunts: NOPA for cocktails and dinner (got to sit at the counter overlooking the kitchen!), the DeYoung’s locally sourced café, the Bi-Rite grocery, Molly Stone grocery.

The infamous, yet unassuming Tartine Bakery. Famous for its fine pasteries, I joined the line that wrapped around the building to hold in my hand one of their buttery croissants. So good!

Also loved Four Barrel Coffee. A sweeping warehouse shop and roaster, with warm wood bars, bike racks, and solid espresso.

I also had to touch the door of Chez Pannise in Berkely. Unfortunantly, I was not able to savor a meal here this trip… someday.

There is so much about this city to fall in love with. But as with every trip I take, I find that regardless of the innovative food, excellent art, established architecture, natural beauty, colorful farmer’s markets, etc, etc, etc… it is the interactions with people that make the places so dynamic: the strangers who helped me find my bus route, the friends of friends who hosted me, the people that I met in restaurants, at cash registers, standing in line, the old friends that I got to reconnect with, and the beauty of newly cultivated friendships. It is the people that make this beautiful backdrop of a city come alive. Many thanks.

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I love being in the kitchen, finding fresh, interesting ingredients and trying new recipes. It is enjoyable to pour a glass of wine, saute some onions, chop vegetables, and let the meal begin to unfold. While the process is of great pleasure, the greatest joy happens once I am sitting down around the table with friends and family to share the abundance. On Thursday, I found this beautiful set of 1960’s dishes at a thrift store. The mustard yellow color and intricate pattern is so lovely.  I got to thinking about what the draw is, and why I would spend money on more dishes. While I have had a number of meaningful meals over paper plates, I think there is really something special about the plates and cups that we use to serve food.

The dishes become something which hold value and sentiment, as families use them again and again for celebration and holidays. They can represent a style or a period of time. They can be carefully crafted pieces of pottery made by someone you know (read: my brother) or an artist that you want to support. They can be a colorful set that inspires or an antique set inherited. Beautiful food deserves beautiful presentation. It helps us cultivate a more meaningful relationship with the food we eat and the time we take to eat it. It is a small thing that deepens the ritual. It creates a whole dinner experience.

It is important for us to develop a meaningful way of thinking about the things that fill our home. Things are not here to define us, but because there are so many items that are essential for living and functioning, why not buy things that mean something? If you spend time to research and use your money on the things that inspire, or are made well, they last longer and begin to contribute to the overall experiences of life. Being a good steward of what we are given involves taking care of what we fill our homes with, especially those used daily, such as plates, forks, and cups.

Curious about what other food lovers had said about the subject of dishes and dinner presentation, I turned to my role model, Alice Waters, of Chez Panisse in Berkley. At her resturanunt, all the tableware is from Heath Ceramics. Heath is made in California, and focuses on a blend of functionality and modern aesthetics. She chose them because they are made locally and each piece is crafted carefully with sustainability in mind.

She shares some insights in relation to her project Edible Schoolyard, which works to bring healthy, whole foods and gardens to schools.  Though this article is directed towards kids, the implications are great for all. The whole interview can be found here. A few highlights:

We’ve made a place that is comfortable, because that shows them that we care, too. We want them to see beautiful things, as well as to smell and to taste beautiful things. For example, I love to put down the tablecloth. That’s all a part of telling them that we care. We’re creating an atmosphere that naturally fosters goodwill and respect — an everyday experience that encourages civilized conduct.

We set the table with a tablecloth, and real plates, forks and knives. We think about the center of the table. Maybe it can use a little centerpiece. The kids choose what that might be, whether it’s flowers from the garden, something from the kitchen, some vegetables, or something that’s going to be part of what the kids are eating. The improvements to the food or the surroundings don’t need to be costly. They can be quite simple.

reverb10: [wonder]

December 4, 2010

Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

Cultivating a sense of wonder is an intentional task in a culture of wonder-less, wandering folks, who have, by and large, lost the ability to find wonder in the everyday. We so easily cling to the sentimentalism and nostalgia of our youth, groping for the child-like awe and surprise that once filled us.

It seems not only good, but absolutely essential to cultivate the ability to have open receptors to wonder. I have spent the last year refining my wonder receptors in the area of food. It is at the market or grocer, on the pages of a cookbook, and most poignantly in the kitchen, where I am brought back to the awe that brings life…

The joy of living with an urban gardener, who with her own hands, cultivates the ground to bring forth edible plant life, which we have the joy to eat.

The phenomenon of adding yeast to water, flour, and salt, and watching a loaf of bread be born.

The color of summer produce, in all its variety and boldness.

The potential of a new recipe, a new method, or a new ingredient.

The aroma of onions browning in butter, a fruit pie baking, or grinding fresh spices.

The pleasure of experiencing texture, color, smell, and taste, while being nourished.

The excitement that comes with each season’s bounty.

… and the closeness among people as they share a meal together.

www.reverb10.com

Big Truck Tacos

July 30, 2009

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The much anticipated Big Truck Tacos opened their bricks-and-morter restaurant yesterday. Reclaiming an old drive-in-style building on 23rd Street, they put fresh coats of brightly colored paint on picnic tables and walls, inviting a new life to the place. The small cafe area has a vibrant feel with raised tables and bar stools. On every table are three bottles of their homemade salsas: OMG (a creamy, intensely spicy sauce), tomatillo with cilantro, and roasted tomato. Each one was so fresh and tasty.

Big Truck made their debut a few weeks back in what is the appendage of their cafe – a real deal, on the move, taco truck. The truck travels to different parts of the city for post-dinner eaters to benefit from – often in front of bars, or other night hot spots. The truck can be followed on Twitter.

On this overcast afternoon, we walked over to give the place a try. I often decide I love a new place before I even try it, which can set me up for disappointment. Big Truck Tacos did not disappoint. Welcomed upon entering, we settled onto a bar stool to mull over the extensive menu of tacos, burritos, salads, and other options.

We decided to start with chips and queso. The queso was thick and salty, light in color, and rich in taste. Tyler went for the Beef Al Carbon – Urban Coffee Company-rubbed grilled Skirt Steak, with roasted onions and peppers. I got the Okie Baha – Marinated Tilapia with jicama-cabbage slaw. And of course we also had to try the Crispy’cado – Fried Avocado, romaine, tomatillo salsa, and queso fresco.

Served with two cold 1919 Choc beers, we enjoyed every last bite of our lunch. Not only was the food delicious, fresh, and creative, it is also cheep at most tacos ringing in at around $3.00. Big Truck also offers breakfast and a variety of bottled beers.

We are excited to support this local business as they serve up creative, gourmet street-style tacos. Check them out on Twitter and Facebook.