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.