Saturday, October 22, 2011

Birthday on the Bay

Fun fact stat:

Since 2004, I have spent three birthdays in the San Francisco/Bay Area. Rather strange for a girl who lived on the other side of the country and just moved here! And I've loved every one.

My 28th birthday started out with Ina Garten's omelet for 2, since every day is better with Ina's cooking. She is truly my go-to for any occasion...a fancy dinner, quick meal for surprise drop-ins, and the frequent after-work dinner that I want to deeply enjoy.

To celebrate another year, Brian and I went sightseeing in San Francisco for the weekend. We BARTed in, emerging right in the midst of hustling Market Street, eyes wide and immediately clambering for sights of ornate architecture, intriguing people, and of course some Ghirardelli chocolate. Hopping a bus to the Richmond District, we rode west and, reaching our starting point, strode off into the wilds of Golden Gate Park. The dappled sunlight filtered through the giant redwoods as we meandered our way past the Conservatory of Flowers, the Botanical Garden, and fields full of volleyball tournaments and picnics, somehow missing the herd of bison that live somewhere.

Conservatory of Flowers

At the De Young Museum of Art we caught the closing weekend of the Picasso Exhibit, fresh from the Picasso Museum in Paris. Now, I never liked Picasso. But, on a random weekend in Paris I went and fell into liking him very much. His acres of sketchbook pages, some only 2 inches across, showed studies and lines very much like my own doodles. I loved that they were so simple. The exhibit here featured his own collection of Picasso's....his favorites you could say. Brian and I left in silent awe, forced into silence by the vastness of his creativity.
Sculpture Garden at the De Young

We walked all the way down Golden Gate Park (okay, okay, we caught a bus for the last 10 blocks) to the Pacific Ocean. I never think about San Francisco being on the ocean...and definitely didn't think about them having a beach. Who knew? There is a great old building that used to be the beach bathhouses, complete with detailed murals of SF and a live jazz band. We sauntered through the sand, eating asian-inspired tacos and judging the leftover creations from a sand castle contest. Up around past the Cliff-House, the Sutro Baths, and down the Coastal Trail.

Old Bathhouse

Sutro Baths

The Coastal Trail is being restored. Volunteers have planted thousands of native species on the hillsides...hopefully to soon be covering the ground once more. The views are incredible. My breath caught in my throat as we rounded the western corner of SF and caught sight of the burnt red Golden Gate Bridge. As Brian said, it really couldn't be any other color. The red stands out from the green-brown hillsides of the Marin Headlands, and the abundant blueness of the water and sky force it into your vision like a pop-up book.

We didn't make it as far as my optimistic mind initially wanted (the Presidio). But we made it to China Beach, with its towering homes and views behind them that i can only imagine are to die for. Tired and a bit hungry, we headed for the nearest bus stop to take us home.

Brian in front of our house. Just kidding. 

Not bad for a 28th birthday.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Italy is Oakland is Paris is Italy is Oakland

I really want to live in Europe. After studying in Paris and touring Switzerland and Italy, I fell madly in love with their joie de vivre, impressive architecture, love of beauty, and pursuit of authentic food. There's just nothing like it.

At least, I thought so until Brian and I took a jaunt around our new hometown of Oakland. Tell me this is not Europe.

Foot-bound by a nail in my car's rear tire, we started with savoring margarita pizza slices and pellegrino aranciatas at an outdoor cafe, followed by a slow saunter around Lake Merritt. Across the lake narrow buildings crowd the edges and climb the hillside, offering views of the sparkling water and sleek black gondolas skimming by.

Strolling through downtown Oakland we happened upon multiple buildings, some that made us stare up for minutes on end, admiring the details and the history, others that made us grin in delight, laughing in joy at our good fortune and adventure. Check out that sky and those colors!

The afternoon was made perfect by ice cream at the famous ICI. Owned by the former pastry chef from Alice Waters' Chez Panisse, Ici is a delight to the lines of customers that wait patiently along the sidewalk. Candied Meyer Lemon, Mint Chocolate, Raspberry, Rose Vanilla, and Vanilla Malt with Sour Cherry, to name a few favorites. Brian and I marveled in delight at the root beer floats, huckleberry meringue cakes and homemade ice cream sandwiches, then slowly walked back home, licking our two-scoops in fresh sugar cones. That is until I inadvertently pushed mine off and had to use my amazing hand-eye coordination to catch the ice-cream with my bare hands.

Inspired, I made almond meringue cookies. To drink with French-pressed coffee, of course. I think it's safe to say that we're enjoying ourselves.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Food Reinvented

I love food.

I love to taste it, smell it, create it, bake it, cook it, and dream about it. But as of yet, I really haven't had to reinvent it.

My incredibly organized mom always had meals planned out well in advance. Delicious and healthy with beautiful balanced colors, she had a 3-month supply of menus before she'd repeat (we'd have to beg for boxed macaroni and cheese). 6 days on and one night of leftovers a week. Which we would consume in total like ravenous wolves we were. Then I moved out of the house and realized that I don't like leftovers. I'd eat them maybe once, and end up tossing out the rest if friends or boyfriend didn't want to finish them off for me. However, Brian and I now find ourselves in the East Bay, living off of a awfully strict student that doesn't leave any room for throwing out food. Quite a disturbing quandry for me and my food sensibilities.

So, I'm learning to reinvent.

Greek salad skewers of marinated cucumbers, feta, and tomatoes turn into mediterranean lunches when paired with hummus in soft pitas. (Fine Cooking Appetizers: skewers and hummus)

Too-ripe fruit gets thrown in the freezer, to be made into banana bread, snacked on later (grapes), or combined with the last spoonful of yogurt and splash of milk for breakfast smoothies.

Chicken fajitas and rice become hearty salads tossed with a vinaigrette, chick peas, and typical taco toppings. (George Geary: Parmesan Vinaigrette)

Overflowing amounts of pears from the lovely ladies at work are baked with a generous sprinkling of oatmeal (it's cheap), brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter to create my new favorite breakfast. The sweet, nutty flavor and the soft texture of the fruit is perfection.

Like Cinderella, almost-expiring sour cream when paired with almost-expiring strawberries magically becomes a sweet cloud of tart sweetness. (Mark Bittman: 15-Minute Fruit Gratin)

As a designer I've always been told that design challenges always result in more elegant and intelligent solutions. I've never liked hearing that because struggling with challenges is painful and difficult. However, the truth is the same. Our budget conciousness is frequently a struggle, and yet it is producing some delectable, inventive, and fun meals to our repetoire. For that, dear budget, I thank you.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New Ventures

Do you know someone who always has incredible ideas? It doesn't matter what it is, but they can take any idea and run with it in new and creative ways? I'm always in wonderful awe of those people. I would like to think that I'm a thinker too, but they are always brainstorming bigger and better. I've tried to make myself like that but have come to realization that it's not my skill, not my talent. best thing: find someone who IS like that and join them!

I was recently asked my great friend Allison Crnic to be a contributor to one of her new initiatives. I said yes before I even knew what it was, because Allison is one of those incredible thinkers.

I'd like to introduce you to The Bohemian Atlas. It's a beautiful marriage of fun, travel, and finding bohemian beauty in cities and life all over, not just the famous ones. Check it out and let us know what you think. We hope you'll enjoy it as much as we are already.