The meltingly good carnitas, buttery corn & zucchini pudding and expertly made daquiris (nothing but Mount Gay rum, lime juice, sugar) at Dona Tomas. Totally worth driving across the bridge and back for -- and even worth missing an exit.
I have two words for all you sugar freaks: Campton Place. I was there a week or so ago as part of my mission to sample the wares of nearly every worthy pastry chef in town (and, alas, some not so worthy). To put it simply, it rocked.
I called ahead and made a reservation just for dessert and, though that doesn't ever happen (I know, I asked) they handled it with aplomb. They asked if it was a special occasion (I said it was not) and went so far as to inform the pastry chef that someone was coming in just to eat his sweet nothings.
Our plan was to just order a few things from the menu, maybe a dessert or even two more than we could reasonably eat. We'd top it off with coffee (for him) and wine (for me) and walk out, bellies full, into the night. We kicked things off with a dinner of scrambled eggs, bacon and champagne at home -- something simple but still decadent enough to merit a fancy dessert out.
We walked in and were greeted by name. Obviously ours was the only 9 o'clock reservation -- I'm no dope -- but still, it was classy.
Upon being seated we were told that Boris (as in Boris Portnoy, the pastry chef, formerly of Winterland and before that Cru in NYC) was very happy we were there and had prepared a special dessert tasting for that evening. I looked at Mr. Food Musings. He looked at me. We smiled.
The 6-course dessert tasting proceeded from there. (Yes, 6 courses, that is what I said.) From the palate cleanser (tomato sorbet with olive oil and a breadstick) to the finale (frozen chicory cake wrapped in milk skin with coffee mousse and coffee cookies) it was a show stopping, palate pleasing, eye popping extravaganza. Some items were on the menu, others were not. The mead in the rose mead sorbet, for instance, was brewed just for this dish. Never have I had such incredible dessert -- NEVER. Clever. Whimsical. Technical. Beautiful. Most of all, delicious, from the first bite to the last. The dessert equivalent of my first time (every time) at Manresa.
The service was extraordinary. I haven't been to CP in ages -- missed out on the Daniel Humm years, alas -- and I was very impressed. Everyone was on their A game, but also very friendly, even a bit colloquial, which is often missing from those joints. Chef Portnoy even came over at the end with the mignardise to say hello, which I thought was a lovely touch.
The wine pairings were also extraordinary. I'm not enough of a wine expert to know, but I suspect I had some pretty rare wines. They poured everything from a Moscato d'Asti to a Jurancon to a Riesling to a Trockenbeerenauslese (say that one three times fast!) to a Madeira. The Riesling pairing nearly made me cry -- never have I had such a perfect pairing in my life.
If you are in the mood for something special, make your own reservation for dessert. Though the tasting isn't offered on the menu, I'm sure he'd do it again, but he has to know you're coming. The prices were a steal: expect to pay $35 for dessert and $25 for the wine pairing.
Apparently, bagged fresh spinach is to blame for a recent E.Coli outbreak in multiple states. Until a grower, region or distributor of the contaminated spinach can be ID'd, health officials are warning consumers away from eating any bagged spinach.
Just doing my part to keep everyone healthy.
(psst...it also says you should always wash pre-washed bagged lettuce and spinach. I mean, I 'fess up to my abject laziness, but isn't that the freaking point of buying bagged yums? Saves time and all that?)
It's not that often that I go out to dinner and come home with an organic, heirloom eggplant. It seems the folks at Pauline's Pizza have a glut of eggplants from their Berkeley garden, and they're literally giving them away!
(They're also roasting them and pairing them with salami and provolone cheese on top of pizza.)
I am currently doing what I have come to think of as the World Tour of Pizza. Pizza, pizza and more pizza is what my life revolves around these days. I hit up Pauline's for the first time this week and was delighted. It's a bright, cheerful spot where talking is a snap. Most of their toppings including herbs and chiles are home-grown in two gardens, one in Berkeley and the other in Calaveres County between here and Tahoe. They also bottle their own organic Cabernet and Merlot wines, which are pretty darn good and a good value.
Though Mr. Food Musings still finds Little Star supreme, I dunno. I'm waffling. Pauline's crust was mighty good -- not Naples-thin, but thin enough, and the lip managed to be crispy on outside and nice and soft on the inside. I liked the tomato sauce, which is one thing I think Little Star excels at. Pauline's was robust but not too sweet, and the mix of toppings has something for everyone from kale to fontina cheese to muffaletta sauce. Next time we go, we're trying their famous pesto pizza.
Next up? Pizzetta 211, now that they're back from vacation.
I was awoken early that morning by a phone call. It was my friend R., someone both Mr. Food Musings and I worked with then. I recall being annoyed that she was calling so early -- it must have been 7 or 7:30 in the morning -- but I got out of bed and, rather than ignore it, decided to answer. I figured maybe she was going to be late that day, or had a question about a client meeting.
"We have been attacked by terrorists," R. said. "The United States has been attacked. Turn on the news."
In the first fraction of a second after hearing those words, I remember thinking: yeah, right. R. is exaggerating. And then I turned on the TV and watched for a minute, and then I understood what she had said. We sat in silence for a while, watching the towers burn. We agreed not to go into work, and after a bit I went to wake up Mr. FM.
"Honey, we've been attacked. The World Trade Center is on fire," I told him, shaking his shoulders. "You should get up." Like me, he didn't really understand what he was hearing.
"I'll get up in a little while," he muttered, and rolled over.
When the first tower fell, I ran and got him out of bed. All I remember is being stunned.
The day from there on out is a blur. I remember checking email to see a note from the president of the agency telling us all to stay home. I remember getting out a notepad and trying to keep track of the flights that were missing, and the ones that had crashed. At one point they thought there were 5 planes in danger, and no one was sure which plane had crashed where. It was utter chaos. And I sat there, on the floor of our living room, in my nightgown, trying to keep track of the world's scariest logic problem.
I remember deciding we should drive down to Portola Valley to be with Mr. FM's mom; his dad was stuck in Canada, and it would take him several days to get home. I remember hearing from my mom, either by phone or email, and trying to get a hold of Little Sister, who was living in England at the time. I emailed work friends in London who knew her, and they got a message to her. I don't remember where Little Brother was; San Diego, I think. At that time I didn't have many friends in New York, so I wasn't terribly afraid that someone I knew and loved had perished. Mr. FM's boss always took the Newark flight on Tuesday mornings when he had to come out to SF, but we were pretty sure he wasn't on it that morning.
In the days after, I remember looking around constantly in fear, staring up at the sky, afraid of what might rain down. Watching people. Constantly watching CNN, every morning, every night. Canceling a business trip to Atlanta because I was too afraid to fly, and no one at work batted an eye. Mourning for those who were lost, even though I didn't know any of them. Mourning more than that the death of our collective innocence. Hating the birth of a fear that is quieted from time to time, but never really goes away, and probably never will.
Aren't these pretty? They're from this morning's farmer's market. A few of us met up and did some shopping, and these caught our eye -- mine especially because we used to have crabapple trees when I was little, and because the color heralds the imminent return of fall. The morning's shopping ended, as it so often does around this crew, with some bubbly. After a glass, I headed home, put away my bacon and heirloom lima beans, and scooted off in search of pizza. Our original destination was closed for vaca (drat!) so we hit up spot #2 and ended the meal with some scrummy Mexican wedding cookies. Mmm, Saturday in San Francisco...
photo credit: S. Breach
I realized that it's probably time for an update on Mr. Food Musings. After all, I've made you suffer through rants, rants and more rants during his long recovery from the multiple skull fractures and resulting "severe brain trauma," so it's only fair to give you the good news, too.
Here's an example of a conversation I used to have a lot.
Friend: So, How's J***?
Me: He's good, but you know, I mean, he's not good. He's still pretty light-headed all the time, and the nausea is mostly gone but it still bothers him, especially when he's in the car for more than 20 minutes. And his legs are cold and numb and he just plain doesn't feel good.
And here's an example of that same conversation, as of about a week ago.
Friend: So, How's J***?
Me: He's...good! He's really, really good!
Friend: Oh. OH! Oh my God!!! [cue sounds of screams, cheers, hollers and woops]
That's right: Mr. FM finally turned a really big fat brick corner sometime last week!
1) Two separate specialists confirmed that they expect him to make a full recovery -- always good to hear! -- and that his recovery so far is astoundingly fast -- my little overachiever! (It's hard to fathom that a 7-months-and-counting recovery is fast, and I pity the poor soul who has it worse than we have.)
2) One of the specialists told us that one of the nastier symptoms that really had us worried, namely these crazy, all consuming twitches that would overtake him througout the day, are not conscious but they are voluntary. (Figure that one out.) And then the doctor basically said, "Quit it." And he did. Just like that. Crazy, isn't it? As of about 3 weeks ago, he no longer looks like a dancing Elaine on crank.
3) His physical therapist is cutting him down to once a week, and he's started running again, outside on his own. He can run up to 2 miles in a row -- something the specialist we like to call "Dr. Kevorkian" said he'd probably never be able to do again. Idiot.
4) On certain days he can actually say, when asked how he feels, that he feels good. No qualifiers. Just good. Not great, not perfect, but good. I mean, shit -- we'll take good around here!
5) He's working again, nearly full-time, and really enjoying it.
6) A lot of the things in our lives that have been on hold for seven long, dreary, scary, horrible months are now starting to move again. Maybe we can't hang out hats on 'em quite yet, but they're close enough that if we threw some hats their way, one out of four might hit the hook.
Most importantly, there is a lot of joy in our house. Finally. Living in the present is really, really important when things suck. It's a skill that you are forced to learn during dark days if you want to survive intact. But once things get good again, it's nice to be able to look forward -- and see good things. Better things. Bigger things.