Tuesday, December 28

Really, Kenneth?

Aren't pregnancy tests kind of a one time thing? Yeesh.

Thursday, December 16

Caring community = den of thieves

From my company's mission statement:

"…dedicated to promoting children’s academic, ethical, and social development"

And yet, this is what I have to resort to so that my lunch fixings in the company fridge don't get stolen and I'm not left lunchless:

Saturday, December 11

sometimes your heart warms just a little...

One of my favorite things about our local pub Lucky 13 is that it's not a dark drinking hole, but has windows on all sides so you can people-watch while you drink. Last night, we stopped in for a quick beer with Sam, Darren and Tracy, and were treated to this little spectacle. I don't even care about Christmas, but this demonstration of Alameda's clinging to simpler times pulled even me off my barstool to experience the cheer close-up.

Monday, December 6

Turkey overload = chile craving

The past couple of weeks have been both busy and off-kilter because of sickness, Thanksgiving, and rainy weather. Time for some updates, yes?

We missed out on trying a turkey trot this year, but Liz and I finally completed our Couch-to-5K program last week (yeehaw!) and are continuing to "train" a couple times a week for an upcoming race in January.

My mom came to stay with us for thanksgiving weekend. We had a nice, mellow visit featuring lots of cooking, eating out, foot massages, holiday madness in SF, Yahtzee, and a shopping day which resulted in Mom buying us a new TV for xmas!!! We had an old 19in CRT which we kept hidden (and dwarfed) in a cabinet in the living room and my mom apparently felt sorry for us and helped usher us into the 21st century with a fancy 32in LCD model. Thanks, Mom! 

Thanksgiving dinner was awesome. My sister and Darren, and Cara and Chris joined us and we had your stereotypical overstuffing fest. Here's the menu:
  • Appetizers courtesy of Samantha: Spinach/Bacon/Green Chile dip; fancy meat and cheese board 
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Corn Pudding
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Fiery Sweet Potatoes (w/red curry)
  • Cara's awesome lemony thymey beets
  • Dried fruit and herb stuffing
  • Dry-brined, herb-buttered happy, happy turkey
  • White wine turkey gravy
  • Whole-wheat sourdough cloverleaf rolls (hot damn, they turned out!)
  • Cranberry sauce ala Liz
  • Weird grapefruit-cranberry relish ala me
  • Liz's cranberry-apple galette
  • Darren's pumpkin cheesecake
  • Cara's homemade french vanilla ice cream
  • 3 terrific wines: Borra Member's Reserve Rosé, Dashe Les Enfants Terribles McFadden Zin, Clos Tita La Sierra Azul Red

As a result of that crazy amount of food, we have been eating turkey leftovers for the past 10 days. I'm actually quite proud of the fact that this year we didn't let one speck of our spendy 16+ lb. bird go to waste. In addition to a few rounds of turkey sandwiches, we also made turkey stock to freeze for later, cat food (from the carrots and scraps that came off the bone in the stock), turkey-orzo soup, and turkey cottage pies. 

I finally reached turkey fatigue this weekend, so yesterday returned to the simple, delicious basics of New Mexican food and made a pot of beans, red chile and flour tortillas. Here are some crappy photos of the yumminess:

Mis frijoles vegetarianos

Chile rojo, te quiero

On the topic of beans: I've been eating pinto beans all my life and just recently perfected my recipe for a vegetarian version that's equally as delicious as the traditional pot of New Mexican beans cooked with a ham hock or salt pork. Trust me, I have nothing against meaty beans, but since I like pork in my chile also, I thought I'd make a nod to healthiness and global responsibility and all that by not putting meat in both parts of the meal. Anyway, this recipe works out really well since the chipotles add that same rich, salty smokiness you'd usually get from pork. Here 'tis:

Pocha beans
1 lb /2 c. dried pinto beans, sorted and rinsed* 
7 qts. water
2 large cloves garlic, smashed/minced
3–4 chipotles in adobo sauce, chopped finely (these come in cans and can usually be found in the "ethnic" aisle)
2 tbsp dried oregano

Put all the ingredients in a crock pot and set to high for 30 mins. to an hour until the crock heats up nicely. Switch the heat to low and let the beans cook for 7ish hours. You will know the beans are done when you blow on them and their skins wrinkle. You can then add salt to taste (quite a bit—like 2–3 tsp kosher) and let them continue on low for another 15 minutes. Perfection.

*I have to make one more comment here: I bought my last couple of pounds of beans from a local Mexican supermarket and not only were they dirt cheap, they were perfect. I didn't find one bad bean or rock, and they were so fresh that the the skins and texture of the final dish were flawless. I'd imagine that this is because of heavy turnover and demand, so I highly recommend that if you are anywhere near a Mexican grocery, you try buying your pinto beans there.

Tuesday, November 23

Winter Tonics of the Beef and Potato varieties

Last Monday, we headed up to Chico, CA for Sierra Nevada Brewing's 30th anniversary party which was awesome— 30 mostly rare beers on tap in their HUGE and amazingly beautiful facility. I made it through the party, but came home with the icky cold that's going around this year. So, the past week has been all about resting, watching TV (current projects: Being Human, Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, maybe Brew Masters and maybe 30 Rock), and soup. Here are the 2 I made to try to kick this bug:

Beef and Barley Soup
1.5 lbs. stew meat (Mine was lean chuck. You could pretty much use any cut, as long as it's on the lean side.)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, halved lengthwise and sliced (so they're semicircles, I mean)
3 large stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 c dry wine (I had white open, but you could certainly use red)
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
couple dashes Tabasco
1 qt beef broth (I used a natural beef bullion dissolved in boiling water)
1 can (14 oz?) of diced tomatoes
3–4 c water
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp dried parsley
2/3 c pearl barley
(optional) 3/4 c fresh green beans cut into 1 in pieces

  1. Cut beef into bite size pieces if not already done so by your butcher. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. When oil's shimmering, add beef and spread it into an even layer. Don't touch the meat for a few minutes so it gets a bit of a sear, then stir it around to cook through.
  3. Add onions, carrots and celery to meat and cook until onions soften, about 4 min. 
  4. Add garlic, wine, worcestershire and Tabasco and cook another 2 min.
  5. Add beef broth, tomatoes with their juice, and water (enough to cover everything by 1 in). Cover and continue to cook on med high until it comes to a soft boil.
  6. Reduce heat to a simmer, but keep covered. Add herbs and cook for about 30 min. 
  7. Add barley and cook (still covered) for another 20–25 min until barley is tender/toothy. Note: DO NOT use more barley than called for even if it seems like too little. It'll absorb all your liquid and puff up. I promise.
  8. If you're using green beans, you'll want to add them about 10 min. before barley is done. 

This next one is one of my favorite old standby meals. My mom taught me how to make it when I left for college, so it's really comforting. Plus, it's easy and super-cheap, but surprisingly hearty and warming with lots of black pepper (you may want to put in less… Liz and I both have an unusual fondness for the stuff). It's especially solid with a bit of bread and cheese to accompany it.

Potato Soup
3 tbsp butter
4 stalks celery, sliced
onions of some sort: this time I had 1 smallish leek, which didn't seem like enough so I also used 1 medium shallot. Usually, I use a small yellow onion, diced. Basically, you want about 1 c. of onioniness.
4 large russet potatoes, diced, skin on
1 tbsp dill seed (This is important as it gives the soup a nice dry herbiness.)
1 tbsp black pepper
32 oz chicken or vegetable broth
2 c (or so) milk
1 tbsp chopped fresh dill weed or 1 tsp dried

  1. Melt butter in soup pot over medium heat. 
  2. Add celery and onions and cook until softened.
  3. Add potatoes, dill seed, and pepper. Cook another 2 min,
  4. Add broth. It should just cover the potatoes. If not, add a bit of water. Cover and bring to a low boil. Cook until potatoes are soft and you can smash them with a spoon.
  5. Add milk and cook uncovered about another 5 minutes until milk warms up. If you're using dried dill weed, put it in now.
  6. You have many texture options here. I like to just stand over the pot and smash a bunch of the potatoes against the side of the pot with the back of a spoon to give the soup some thickness while leaving several chunks. You could also ladle 1/2 or all of the soup into a blender, puree it and return it to the pot. Or, if you've got a handy immersion blender, you could attack it that way. Or, just leave it alone—up to you.
  7. Garnish with fresh dill, add salt to taste.

Not beautiful, but that's OK for us peasants.

Friday, November 12

Sunday = (sometimes misguided) project day

Every Sunday when Liz goes to work at St. George Spirits, I get to have an afternoon at home to myself— a "me" day in daytimeTV-speak. Usually, I end up filling the day with cooking projects I've been ruminating on all week, and/or my ongoing yeast and bacteria enterprises (sourdough and yogurt, that is).

Here's what this past Sunday had in store:

1. Sourdough english muffins.
2. Maple yogurt
3. Pulled pork
4. Sourdough rolls for #3 and as a test for Thanksgiving dinner

My inspiration for making pulled pork was the fact that every time I order pulled pork at a restaurant around here, it's only OK— not smoky or spicy enough for my taste. It's disappointing because Oakland is supposed to be a BBQ mecca, and my experience is that east bay BBQ is on the sweet, not too challenging side. Plus, Oaklanders love them some hot links which are usually cooked to the point of mush in a casing, and that's just gross. We won't even talk about the sad state of the sides I've tried.

Anyway, I rubbed a pork shoulder with a Tarheel rub I had picked up at this awesome spice store in Seattle (+ brown sugar, salt and NM red) and let it sit overnight. Then, I got it in my head that I had to smoke it in the Weber despite the fact that it poured rain for most of the day. No matter— I just brought the grill up to our fabulous porch and slow-cooked the roast for 4 hours over hickory chips. I finished it up in the oven for about an hour, then pulled it and stuck it in the crock pot with this crazy creation:

Everything in the Kitchen BBQ sauce

2 tbsp butter
1 medium shallot, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 heaping tsp red chile powder
1 largish chipotle in adobo, minced
1 1/2 c tomato sauce
1/2 c cider vinegar
2 tbsp worchestershire sauce
2 tbsp molasses
2 tsp dijon mustard
3 tbsp strong brewed coffee or espresso
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 oz. whiskey or bourbon
hearty pinches of thyme, oregano, parsley, and black pepper

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until it's soft, about 3 min.
2. Add garlic, chile powder, and chipotle and cook until fragrant.
3. Add everything else, and stir well. Bring to a low simmer, and cook for 30 minutes. You may want to add a little bit of salt, but it depends on what you're putting it on. The BBQ sauce will still taste pretty vinegary, but don't worry— that will dissipate as it cools and/or when you add it to meat.

I may work on refining this concoction so that either the whiskey or the coffee stands out more, but it's got a deep, dark, tangy hotness as is.

Tuesday, November 9

30 minutes? No prob.

Thursday, Liz and I enter week 9, the final week, of our Couch-to-5K training schedule. In week 9, the idea is to do three 30 minute runs, and ideally be ready for a 5K.

In addition to the Cto5K app, we've also been tracking our distance and pace with another app called WalkWatch (we are quite the fashionable pair in our running outfits and iPhone armstraps, let me tell you). The good news is that we're improving and running farther than I ever thought possible (2.43 miles in our last 28-minute run). The other (not necessarily bad) news is that we're not likely to be able to do 5K (3.1 miles) in 30 minutes at the end of the week because we're still a little slow for that. This just means that after we get used to running for 30 minutes, we'll continue to work on our pace and distance 'til we get up to 5K-running speed.

One of our lofty goals when we started this regimen was that we might be able to enter a 5K Turkey Trot this year. Will we make it? Will our maiden race be a Xmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Solstice run instead? Stay tuned to find out what happens…

Tuesday, November 2

Chilling Turkey Chili

This Sunday, Liz made a request for Halloween chili of the sort that we New Mexicans sometimes call "Texas chili." (Nevermind that we were watching the World Series and rooting for the SF Giants to trounce the Texas Rangers…) You might know it as Chile con Carne or Chili Beans, but basically, it's the yummy meaty, beany, tomato-saucy stew that is distinctly different from NM chile (with an "e"). At some point, I'll expound on the whole New Mexican chile taxonomy, but for now, I'll just share the recipe I came up with. I have to say it was pretty great considering my prejudice against Texas and that I made the decidedly California move of using turkey instead of beef. Ah, regionalism… Anyway, this is how it goes:

1 green bell pepper, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 largish onion, diced
4 or 5 jalapeños or other hot peppers, diced (so about 1/2–3/4 c. depending on how hot you want it)
5 cloves garlic, minced

Saute all of this in olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until veggies are soft.

Add to the pot:

2 lbs. ground turkey (I used 1 lb. each of white and dark meat for the best texture and flavor)
3 tbsp. red chile powder (NM red is, of course, the best…)
2 tbsp. oregano
2 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tbsp. green chile flakes if you've got 'em, otherwise red will do (I also like to grind these up in the spice grinder a bit)
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. unsweetened cocoa (yes, cocoa)
1 tsp. black pepper
1/4 chopped up cilantro stems

Turn up the heat a bit, and mix all of this together. Break up the turkey as much as possible, and cook until spices are fragrant and turkey is cooked through. 

Now add:

3 c. chicken broth
1 c. beer (I used Eel River's Porter, which has a pretty strong coffee flavor that works well in the chili. In fact, next time I make this, I may throw some finely ground coffee in, too.)
28 oz. can of diced tomatoes in their juice
1/2 can of tomato paste (I think that's about 3 oz.)

Cover and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and let simmer over medium heat for about 10 min. 

Finally, add:

4 c. cooked, drained beans—I had cooked up a batch of beautiful nightfall beans earlier in the day (it was Halloween, after all), but you could use canned beans or a combo of different kinds of beans—whatever suits your bean fancy. For more on cooking beans, please pop over to Aly's blog for her definitive bean treatise at the end of this recipe.

You may need to add more chicken broth at this point—just make sure everything's covered with liquid. Simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes or so until the liquid reduces a bit. Add salt to taste.

Serve with grated cheese and cilantro.

I also made a spooky blue cornbread to go with, but stupidly neglected to take a photo of it. Another post  on that will undoubtedly show up soon.

Wednesday, October 27


This is a disgrace. Squirrels should be chased off the property. Even 3-legged cats know that. Pathetic. It is cute when it purrs, though. Hmmph—thunder-stealing rodent.

Friday, October 22

lunchtime "errands"

Earlier this month, I got a tweet from Drake's Brewing in San Leandro. I've been a fan of Drake's since I started working at my current job in Oakland's Embarcadero Cove and first tried a Drake's Amber at Quinn's Lighthouse, a kooky, piratey dive across the street from my office. Drakes' e-newsletter enticed Liz and I and a couple of work pals to their First Friday event (which deserves a post of its own at some point), but also offhandedly mentioned that they're now selling/filling growlers on Thursday and Friday afternoons. Since then, I've had the Drake's growler on my mind.

Today was/is a slow day at the office, so I decided to make the quick jaunt down 880 to satisfy my craving.  I knew I made the right decision when I pulled up to the brewery and there was Cheesus' (my Kia Soul's) stripeless, orange twin. I'm starting to see more Souls around the bay area, but had yet to see one of the same obnoxious orange color as mine (go Giants!).

Baby Cheesus (L), naked orange Kia Soul (R)

Anyway, I popped into the brewery and was treated to tastes of both Drake's Red Eye and their Hefe. I had hoped to get to taste the Kewl Hand Luke, a recent experimental wheaty IPA, but one of the brewers said they'd already pushed out all they had to local pubs. I went for the Red Eye which is my favorite of their regularly available beers: it's a hoppy copper ale that's got a nice balance of bitterness and sweetness that I tend to go for.

Round trip, including a stop at Costco (I play this mental game with myself where I say I'll drive through the parking lot, and if the fates let me find a space within 2 minutes, I'll stop for a hot dog—today they wanted me to have a hot dog) was only 45 minutes, so I can see this becoming at least a semi-monthly outing. Cheers.

safety first, please

Tuesday, October 19

When even a rosé is not enough...

Following up on the recent Lodi wine-tasting adventure, here's a shot of the Rosé that Josh "accidentally" bought for us when picking up some wines for Tracy. To be sure, it is tasty. It also features an awesome label with a disgruntled looking cat. Here's a glimpse of it with another, somewhat disgruntled, cat. That's what happens when he gets left at home while everyone else is gadding about...and even his own bottle isn't enough to smooth things over.

Sunday, October 17

Lodi with the Ladies

Yesterday we made a trip to Lodi, one of our favorite wine-tasting regions, to help Marcy and Kathy do some research about which wine to serve at their upcoming wedding in June 2011. Liz and I started going to Lodi a few years ago when we began our wine-tasting habit... er, hobby... and kept finding out that many of the Zins we liked were made with grapes from Lodi. It turns out that Lodi produces a majority of the wine grapes grown in California, and has for over a century, but kind of flew under the tourism radar as they sold most of their product to winemakers in other regions, and didn't do a whole lot of the tasting room thing in Lodi proper.

Anyway, we immediately liked tasting in Lodi. In contrast to better-known regions, we found the Lodi tasting rooms to be super laid back, often with the winemaker present to chat about their wine, and the wines to be reasonable and delicious (many, many old vine Zins with tons of farmy character). One of the highlights of our first trip to Lodi was Borra Vineyards where we were charmed by their wacky pourer, Barb, who showed us pictures of her cat on her phone and treated us like old friends. Borra makes an amazing Barbera, awesome Syrah and Rosé, and one of my probably top 3 wines, a Field Blend. We joined the club.

Another Lodi fave is Heritage Oak. They had just opened their tasting room the first time we visited, and we were impressed by their variety of Zins from different parts of the vineyard. Their tasting room is homey, and Tom the winemaker, is friendly and full of great information.

So, we hit these two yesterday along with St. Amant, one of our friend Tracy's favorites. (We like their Tempranillo and Rosé, but their tasting room is a warehouse, so not our favorite stop.) Marcy and Kathy found a couple wines at Borra, and a couple at Heritage Oak that are good possibilities for the wedding. It was great to spend the day on a little road trip with the girls and, of course, Odetta. We had a great picnic courtesy of Marcy at Borra with a bottle of their new Chardonnay, which is surprisingly (I am loathe to say this about a Chardonnay) delicious.

Possibly the best part of the trip was our stroll along the trail at Heritage Oak at the end of the day. They hand you a map in the tasting room and send you off to explore the vineyards and the Mokelumne River that runs through the grapes. They also loaned us their chocolate Lab, Hershey, to show us the way and keep Odetta company. We ended up at this totally idyllic beach (which was actually mostly underwater since the river was high) watching the dogs swim and planning our next trip to come picnic and watch Marcy swim. Two other folks showed up with 2 more Labs, and it turned into this hilarious, chaotic, splashy doggie paradise. We strolled back to the tasting room just in time to catch a great Lodi big-sky sunset before our drive home.

Friday, October 15


Have we mentioned the lovely produce box we get every other week from Dan's Fresh Produce? We found about about their box program a couple years ago and have been getting one ever since. We're now spoiled by having a bunch of fresh vegetables and fruit routinely show up on our very doorstep (it's only $3 more for home-delivery!).

We wind up cooking with ingredients we'd be unlikely to have on hand otherwise and have been introduced to some entirely new specimens. However, no matter how diligent we try to be, we also wind up stockpiling veggies. As a result, one or the other of us periodically has to find a way to use up a random assortment of veg. Therein was my inspiration for combing through soup recipes and combining several to create what I'm currently calling Gumbostrone, for lack of a better name.

It borrows from a couple Minestrone recipes, several Gumbo recipes, and has a dash of Green Chile Stew for good measure. Happily, it used up a good portion of our vegetable crisper that day.


-2 tablespoons olive oil
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 cup chopped onion
-1 cup chopped celery
-1 cup chopped bell pepper
-1.5 teaspoons chili powder
-3 cups canned tomatoes (with their juice)
-2 cups chicken broth
-1/2 cup water
-1 cup dark beer (I used a porter)
-3 bay leaves
-1. 5 teaspoons dried oregano
-1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce, though I may have used a bit more
-1 teaspoon dried basil
-1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
-3 tablespoons white rice
-1 andouille sausage
-1.5 cups zucchini
-1 cup corn
-1/3 cup New Mexican green chile
-1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
-salt and pepper to taste

I followed a basic (albeit vegetarian) Gumbo recipe, while consulting several more traditional meat-based Gumbo recipes online. Since we did not have okra on had but did have zukes that needed using up, my attention wandered over to the nearby Minestrone recipe; this upped the amount of tomatoes and rice I used and brought parsley into the mix. We also had a stray bit of green chile on hand, so I tossed that and some corn into the soup-pot on a whim.

In a saucepan, heat the oil and add onions, celery, and bell peppers. Cook, stirring regularly, until softened. Add garlic, chili powder, and sausage; stir until chili powder is absorbed. Add tomatoes and cook (stirring) for about 3 minutes. Add broth, water, beer, bay leaves, oregano, Tabasco, basil, and thyme; bring to a boil. Add rice. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes. Add zucchini, green chile, and salt. Reduce heat and simmer another 10 minutes. Add corn and simmer another 10 minutes or longer, until veggies are done to your liking. Discard bay leaves. Add parsley.

I liked how this turned out, but I already want to play with it more. I'd up just about all the spices, and I do want to toss in some okra next time. More green chile would do nicely. I'd also like to start with a more traditional roux, although I liked how easily this recipe started off. More rice would be good, too. It made a tasty dinner and sets a good base for further experimentation.

Thursday, October 7

Qiiii (ice cream)

In a recent experiment I attempted to reproduce the flavor of Qi Black Tea Liqueur in a delicious ice cream form. The exciting part is that (for the most part) it worked!

To quote from the label on the bottle, Qi Black is "handcrafted from cedar-smoked Lapsang Souchong tea, rare fruits, and invigorating herbs." When I first tasted this spirit, I did not like it at all. The second time I was less against it, and with my third taste I found myself intrigued. Clearly it won my love, as this is now one of my favorite spirits anywhere. It's delicious on its own, mixed into a slew of cocktails, and I've used it to make truffles and other desserts. Once we got the ice cream maker I knew it was only a matter of time.

For my first batch of Qi Black ice cream, I chose a night we were having distillery friends (and distillery wives) over for dinner. This seemed like the easiest way to test the success of the maiden QB batch. I then spent a portion of the day playing with the following ingredients:

3 iterations of Qi Black/Lapsang Souchong
-1 tea-ball full of Lapsang Souchong tea (steeped for about 15 minutes in 3/4 cup milk)
-1/4 cup Qi Black reduction
-1/4 cup Qi Black liqueur

All of that added up to about 2/3 cup Qi Black Base. I rounded that out with 1/3 cup of milk (and one more tiny splash of Qi Black) so that I had a full cup of "milky Qi Black mix."

In a large mixing bowl, I added 3/4 cup of sugar to that "milky Qi Black mix" and stirred it 'til the sugar dissolved. Then I added 2 cups of heavy cream and again stirred until everything was combined. Worried that the Qi Black might not be coming through quite enough, I tossed in one more shot of the liqueur for good luck. Following our ice cream machine's trusty instructions, at this point I put my ice cream mixture into an ice bath to cool it down quickly. Per the instructions, I then let the ice cream mixture set in the fridge for a several hours until it was ready to come out as a finale to our mac-n-cheese-off (chronicled earlier by Josh).

To my delight, the flavor of Qi Black came through very nicely. Our esteemed friend Brad (who may be one of the world's most dedicated Qi Black fans) declared it a victory, and everyone else chimed to agree. Sadly, the ice cream was just a little bit on the soft side. I think it was that last shot of booze (for luck) that did it in. Next time, I'll go with a bit more reduced Qi Black, and a little less of the straight spirit. For now, I'm pleased to have developed at least a "working" Qi Black Ice Cream recipe. I'll update as I continue to tinker with it.

Wednesday, October 6

We've been running… yes, running

When I first moved to Alameda 5 years ago, I had this fantasy that I would become a runner. I was living alone on this lovely island that's completely flat, has a really nice running path alongside a beach with a view of the San Francisco skyline, and where cars don't generally go over the maddeningly tame speed of 25MPH. The running idea also appealed to me because, at the time, I was spending upwards of $150/mo on yoga classes in Berkeley and I liked that running is basically free and you don't have to drive anywhere. You just step out your front door, and off you go, keeping fit, enjoying the scenery, all independent-like.

So, one weekend I threw on my sneakers and shorts and off I went… fast. 2 blocks away from home, I was huffing and puffing, feeling my face turning red, and my only thought was "fuck this." I gave up on my romantic idea of island running.

Then, last summer, 2.5 years and 15 lbs into our relationship, Liz and I decided to revisit the whole running idea, inspired by our friends Britta and Emily and their talk of "wogging" around Lake Merritt. We started slowly, doing 1 min walk/jog intervals with Liz pacing me since I tend to want to run too fast (possibly to make up for my freakishly short legs)—wogging. The wogs felt pretty good even though there were some lessons learned right away such as: 1) good running shoes are important, and 2) pavement hurts 37-year-old knees not used to running.

Since then, we kept up the wogging, making tiny bits of progress (up to 2 min intervals), but only in fits and starts for a variety of reasons/excuses: swine flu, Liz being crazy jumping off the bar at work and injuring her foot, brutal bay area winter weather, Battlestar Galactica, moving, and so on.


Liz came across a training program called Couch-to-5K AND discovered that there's an app for it. Basically, it's a 9-week program of interval training that you do 3 times a week for 30 mins, and at the end of it, you've worked up to running a 5K! The iPhone strapped to your arm does all the planning and timing for you in the form of a bell and a bland, not-very-coachlike voice that tells you when to run, walk, and (our favorite part) when you've reached the halfway mark so you can turn around and head home. It's a simple pleasure, I know, but somehow, this silly bit of technology is working for both of us.

This past Saturday, we finished Week 5 with a 20-minute (2 mile!) run between 5 min warmup and cooldown walks. We even entered a smiley face in the record the app keeps of how your run feels. My goofy fantasy of being a runner on Alameda took 5 years to work itself out, but it's actually taking shape. This shape, actually:

View Larger Map

Tuesday, October 5

one of my favorite carbs

Croissants are delicious. Especially the ones from Feel Good Bakery in Alameda. They're incredibly buttery and flaky and perfect with a cup of coffee (café au lait, to be exact). The ham and cheese croissants are a particularly indulgent treat. Feel Good also does awesome baguettes (the seeded ones are best, but they often run out of those first); cheese sticks (basically a chewy mini-baguette sprinkled with a different cheese each day); and chocolate-rosemary scones. One other tip for you third-wave coffee hipsters with no options on the island: Feel Good also sells whole bean Blue Bottle Coffee.

Tuesday, September 28


Did you know that the mild form of frostbite is called frostnip? I know this because I suffered a bit of frostnip on my left index finger in an incident involving ice cream, a sleeping baby, and a crowded kitchen on Nacho Night at my friend Sarah's house.

It's complicated, but basically I was serving up my first experiment from our new ice cream maker (roasted hazelnut/vanilla bean with a whiskey caramel swirl—yeah!) and due to an odd-shaped scoop, was using my finger to coax the ice cream out of said scoop and into bowls. I wasn't able to immediately access the sink, so the ice cream stayed on my finger for a few minutes while I served. For the next 3 days, there was pain/burning and a dark spot on my fingertip. It's OK now, but still sensitive to temperature. Seriously. The hazards of owning an ice cream maker are revealing themselves...

Monday, September 27

Mac 'n' Cheese Exhibition Match

Friday night we hosted what we were touting as a "Macaroni and Cheese Off" between myself and Liz's coworker Paul. It turned out to be more of an exhibition event because 1) macaroni and cheese makes everyone so happy that the competitive spirit really can't find a foothold, and 2) the entries were so disparate in style, yet equal in deliciousness, that the judging was impossible.

Paul's wife Amie did the actual cooking for the visiting team. Their entry was a layered concoction with 4 or 5 different cheeses—smoked gouda being the dominant player—and proscuitto sprinkled about.

My entry was a more standard baked mac and cheese that I've been perfecting for a few years. I confess: I did make a practice round last weekend in preparation, and I'm glad I did because I needed to make a few risky last minute adjustments to achieve optimal cheesiness.

Young Brad and Shannon did their best as our impartial judges, giving me points for breadcrumbs and creaminess and Paul and Amie points for overall flavor and the inclusion of meat.

Here's my recipe. Don't worry about the fat content—it's good for the soul.

Macaroni and Cheese
1 lb pasta of a shape that cheese can grasp onto all over (rotini, conchiglie, chiocciole, etc)
4 c milk
1 stick/8 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground mustard seed
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp black pepper
7–8 c shredded cheese: my current favorite combo is fontina/gouda/aged gouda
1 c breadcrumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Melt 2 tbsp butter and stir into the breadcrumbs to coat them. Set aside.
  3. Bring salted water to a boil to cook pasta. Put the pasta in.
  4. While pasta cooks, melt remaining 6 tbsp butter in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
  5. When butter is bubbly, add flour, whisking constantly to avoid lumps. 
  6. Cook flour/butter roux for about 3 minutes 'til it starts to brown. Whisk.
  7. Slowly pour in milk. Whisk.
  8. Add mustard, nutmeg, cayenne, and black pepper to sauce. Cook it until it thickens to a gravy-like consistency, whisking often so that it doesn't stick.
  9. Your pasta should be al dente around this time. Drain it.
  10. Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in all of the cheese minus about 1/2 c until it's melty and smooth.
  11. Add pasta to cheese sauce and stir until it's all covered with cheese. 
  12. Spread the breadcrumbs in an even layer over the top. Also sprinkle the remaining cheese over the breadcrumbs.
  13. Put it in the oven and bake for about 20–25 minutes until the breadcrumbs brown slightly and the cheese sauce bubbles. 

Friday, September 24

Freecycle wordsmithery

The title is almost Shakespearean.

I promise this won't become a blog that only makes fun of Freecycle, but I am surprised almost daily by the entertainment value of receiving the digest.

Wednesday, September 22

my familiar has 3 legs

When Liz and I were talking about this blog, we knew we had to include Greenie as a collaborator in some way. As you might imagine, this is a tricky thing because, well, he's a cat. It'd be way too easy to get precious with the whole thing. He's got a profile, which is cutesy enough, but then how do we represent Greenie's voice? 1st person? Op-ed style? In English sprinkled with meows ala Henrietta Pussycat? All somewhat problematic. Plus, there's the whole issue with furthering lesbian stereotypes...

All that said, he does have a place here because, cheesy or not, he is a big part of the unformed idea behind 3 Bridges and a Tube. He plays as much a part in "keeping" our home as we do— not in the sense of cooking and cleaning, of course (although, the cat has a seriously unnatural interest in watching us prepare food), but in the sense of being a major presence in our homelife. I know that can be said about any pet, really, so maybe it's as simple as that. But, being our pet, he gets to be part of the blog. And, I swear, the little beast truly does have a ton to say.

At this point, I'll just give a brief bio, and in some internetish way, the voice of Greenie will emerge— maybe in posts about cats in the news, maybe in posts about the minutia of living on Eagle Ave., maybe in posts about cooking.

I adopted Greenie 15 years ago when I lived in Palo Alto after graduating from Stanford. In our time together, he's lived in 10 apartments in 5 cities (PA, SF, Brooklyn, Oakland, Alameda) with 3 girlfriends (Dr. Jones, she who shall not be named, Liz [the keeper]), 6 roommates, and 2 co-cats (misunderstood Creeper, RIP, fabulous Stella, RIP). You might say that Greenie is high-maintenance healthwise: his list of allergies, urinary issues, and psychosomatic quirks is too long for this post, and his recent amputation is a story unto itself. Of course, to me, that just makes him more lovable and our relationship more joyfully codependent. Pathetic? Maybe, but he and I have been through quite a bit together (including most of my twenties... yeesh), so who cares? He is my familiar.  

Saving the earth, 1 packet at a time

Apparently, Alamedans have a hard time disposing of sauce packets of all sorts:

How did I live before I got on the Alameda Freecycle list?

Saturday, September 18

Spaghetti and Meatballs Beta

Last weekend for our little dinner soiree, I got a bee in my bonnet about making a big spaghetti and meatball Sunday dinner. Now, I can do a pretty decent tomato paste-based red sauce with sausage, or a basic fresh tomato/basil marinara. My history with meatballs is my mom's recipe with carrots and potatoes and a can of Campbell's tomato soup (which is delightful it its own way). But, alas, I had never made the archetypical tomato sauce and meatballs completely from scratch.

I decided to go with the America's Test Kitchen recipe as a good, basic place to start. The tomato sauce was easy: oven-roast tomatoes and puree them; saute garlic, onions, and red pepper flakes; add tomatoes, simmer; add salt, pinch of sugar, parsley. The meatballs were also pretty simple: the trick is to soak some white bread in buttermilk, then add beef, pork, egg, parsley, garlic, parm, salt, pepper; shape, brown in olive oil, stick in the sauce. 

The meal was successful: meatballs were moist, sauce had good texture, everyone was happy and full. Of course, this was only a beta test: it was a little on the bland side for my taste. I actually find that to be generally true with the ATK cookbook: foods turn out technically sound, but not too exciting flavor-wise. Next time I will:
  • Increase the amount of ground pork in the meatballs (instead of 3:1 beef:pork, I might go 2:1. I might even use a little sausage... or bacon/pancetta!)
  • Put way more herbs and spices and some finely chopped onion and green pepper in the meatballs
  • Put a touch of tomato paste or sauce in the meatballs
  • Not bother with fresh tomatoes for the sauce unless I can find a bunch of REALLY good ones. The romas I used didn't have a ton of flavor, so it wasn't really worth the hassle. My usual thick red sauce with canned tomato paste usually has a better tomatoey flavor, so that's probably what I'll fall back on. And, of course, more herbs, spices (definitely more red pepper flakes)...
Not bad for a first try, but with lots of room to improve. I foresee Sunday spaghetti and meatballs as a possible regular event... but not tomorrow. Tomorrow is training for the Mac and Cheese-off coming to our kitchen next week. Report on that TK!

Tuesday, September 14

industrious or debaucherous: notes on the weekend

Liz and I are homebodies. We like time at home together doing not much of anything: cooking, reading (well, that would be Liz who reads—I have a contentious relationship with the New Yorker), keeping house, watching our Netflix. Some people (=my sister) even like to tease me about being a boring old woman who only likes to cook and clean and spend time with the cat.

While that may be true, when I started thinking about which old-lady thing to blog about from this past weekend, I realized that our weekend events actually make us look like rock stars. Well, if not rock stars, and least semi-interesting drunks.

Here's the rundown:

  • Met sister and friends at the Trappist in downtown Oakland for beers after work. Not being fans of Belgian beers, Liz and I hadn't been there since right after they opened about 2 years ago. They've since expanded and have more seating, a few good non-Belgians on tap, and food, including a very generous charcuterie plate. 
  • Met young Brad and Shannon at Burgermeister for impromptu dinner. There's not much to say about the restaurant, but I'm enjoying getting to know B & S since they also are antisocial boozers.

  • Woke up and put together a batch of sourdough English muffins. More about my sourdough project later, but suffice it to say I was glad to find that I didn't just have beginner's luck last year. It seems my yeast has recovered…
  • In the evening, we BARTed to San Francisco to meet my old pal Holly for an art opening at her friend's gallery. After, we walked over to Blue Bottle where we were treated  to an espresso con panna and a cappuccino—Holly's their hotshot siphon barista!
  • Energized by the coffee, we walked up to North Beach to The Comstock Saloon. I went to this bar a few times when it was the SF Brewing Company and had mediocre beer and a pervasive stink. Some saint has returned the beautiful bar (of which I only have crap photos) to it's former Barbary Coast glory, sans stink. Highlights: the Southside (gin, lemon, mint, sugar, seltzer), pickled egg and bacon on rye toasts, super-friendly service, the barkeep's whimsy, and tactile wallpaper. 
  • We walked around the corner with Cara (who had caught up with us post-rehearsal) to 15 Romolo, another dark and lovely bar tucked into a little alley. Bar snacks were tasty and super-reasonable ($5-$7), but again, the cocktails were the real draw. I had my favorite of the evening, the Spaghetti Western, which was like a boozy, sweeter version of a Michelada (I chose the repo):


Sunday's glamour was more low-key since Liz had to work, and I stayed home to prepare for our first small dinner party in our new place. Company was: Cara, her new beau Chris, Marcy (my friend since we were 11!), Kathy, Kathy's awesome service dog, Odetta (more on her later, too), and Maureen, another service dog in training. Look at these two:

Maureen (L), Odetta (R)

So, it was a serious full house, including Greenie, who cared not that there were 2 Labs in his space and impressed everyone with his ability to climb the spiral staircase with 3 legs. 

The menu:
  • Garlic bread
  • Spaghetti and Meatballs (notes/recipe coming soon)
  • Green Salad with Balsamic-dijon vinaigrette
  • 3 good wines (Rock Wall Mixto, M2 Duality, Irish Monkey Sangiovese: see Twitter feed on right)
Marcy brought fabulous vanilla corn muffins with strawberries, peaches and whipped cream. Chris contributed oatmeal cookies with some sort of crack drizzled over them: we ate them ALL. 

I was really happy to finally have everyone over. Not to brag, but our new place is really big and cavernous with its high ceilings, so it felt good to have the space feel more full with good food and conversational chaos. 

    Monday, September 13

    thwarted plans

    When Josh and I met we were both lapsed vegetarians. Each of us had spent over a decade away from carnivorous eating, although she'd picked back up with meat a few years prior. I was only beginning to dabble in the occasional pizza with meaty toppings, or maybe some Pad Se Ew with chicken. For the most part, I was still happily subsisting without meat. Because, let's face it, a lot of meat-based meals out there just aren't that good, especially once you've lost your taste for meat.

    Dating and then moving in with someone who can cook meat really well changed that. Josh introduced me to the wonders that are green chile stew, spicy sausage and greens pasta...and re-introduced me to meat-filled deli sandwiches and BLTs. I quickly developed what I began to think of as a meat-problem: I was eating meat at every meal some days, craving meat, thinking about how to cook with meat. I decided that I had to try to regain some sense of moderation.

    I would eat less meat, and try to focus on "happy" meat that enjoyed a good life while it was alive. I'm sure you already know how much more (way more) that happy meat costs. It seems worth it: I get better tasting meat that also registers a small economic vote against the scary industrio-farmed-futuristic meat products that abound. And since I can't afford this meat all the time, I tend to eat vegetarian a bit more often than I otherwise might.

    For instance, yesterday I packed a wholesome veggie lunch to take with me to work...but I had nowhere near enough willpower to resist the siren song of Ben's BBQ when one of my coworkers offered to run out for sandwiches. They are simple sandwiches, not fancy, but oh so satisfying. Clearly, the vegetarian lunch had no chance. Perhaps I need to focus on some enticing veggi sandwich plans soon.

    Saturday, September 11

    "maybe there should be a 'crapcycle'"

    That's what Liz had to say about this gem from Alameda Freecycle.

    Don't get me wrong: I think Freecycle is awesome and necessary. I've used it myself to pass on reusable stuff instead of adding to the landfill. But, really? KFC packets?

    I also like the poster's concern with food safety in her admonition about leaving buttery spread packets out all day and night. For the utmost in quality, one should definitely eat buttery spread straight from the fridge.

    Wednesday, September 8

    3 legs and a spiral staircase

    Greenie also had a new beginning of sorts this summer. As far as he really knew, it began one early June morning when our admirable house vet came by to pick our cat up for his "procedure."

    Six or seven hours later, a groggy, woozy, just-coming-out-of anesthesia cat was returned home, minus one leg. Greenie spent the rest of that evening trying to get back on his feet, literally and figuratively, given he was missing his back left leg. For the next several days, one or more anxious humans were in attendance as our estimable feline recovered from the meds and figured out how to sit up, get to his (3) feet, and walk all over again. Some of his more entertaining an/or inspiring efforts are chronicled elsewhere on this blog.

    Adding insult to injury, the leg taken was the one with the spot! However, Greenie has come through like a champ, and in the end, at least he's not this guy.

    Tuesday, September 7

    more on beginnings

    Cooking, drinking, cats, Alameda...Josh already laid out some of what will surely figure in most of our posts. What else might show up, and why?

    Our friend Aly dubbed us radical homekeepers but neither of us feels up to such a lofty title right off. Adding "experiments in" feels more honest, since we both like dabbling in new recipes, crafty-type projects and so forth. Example: our recent purchase of a (long desired) ice cream maker already has us scheming about all the flavors we can create, plus all the desserts we'll need to go with. This naturally leads to some serious ponderings regarding which liquor should be first into the ice cream maker. If we're adding booze to the ice cream, what kind of cocktail does one make to sip on while waiting on the ice cream?

    So maybe not so much radical as experimental. One homekeeping experiment leads into the next. Either or both of us might stop in to share random thoughts about herb gardens, sourdough starters, coffee-roasting, cheese-making, or brewing beer. We're already involved in some of these while others are new endeavors. Herb gardens lead to drying herbs, making tea, and back into cocktails. Sourdough opens up questions about the perfect calzone crust or english muffin recipe.

    And then there's the cat. The cat clearly needs some room to express himself.

    Plus all the things we both love about Alameda (and the East Bay in general), other places we like to visit, and the people scattered everywhere whom we want to keep up with. Since most of those lovely folks tend to be foody, drinky, crafty types too, we wanted to set up a space to chronicle things...a clearinghouse of sorts for all the times we've said, "I'll send you that recipe, link, photo, etc." Since we don't always actually follow through, now folks can come here.

    Monday, September 6

    how it all started

    It's hard to start a blog, especially one with a nebulous purpose such as 3 Bridges and a Tube. It's sort of about living on Alameda. It's sort of about cooking. It's sort of about drinking. It's sort of about cats.

    It is certainly about me and Liz, so why not tell you how we met?

    grown-up tomboy seeking same

    Reply to: pers-266998349@craigslist.org
    Date: 2007-01-22, 11:15PM 

    34, 5'1", brown/blue, relatively fit, glasses, tattoos.

    Mostly a homebody, but almost always game hang out with friends; foodie-- love to cook, eat, brew coffee, drink beer, read about cooking, grocery shop, eat out, etc.

    Will see just about any movie at the Parkway; much too self-conscious to dance; ex-punk rocker (of the suburban variety).

    Shy, mature, and good at taking care of things.

    Looking to meet another andro/boi/butchy/tomboy in the 30-40 range for dating+.

    Please don't be poly, in an open relationship, vegan, a smoker or a man.

    Pic for pic.