Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
When I first heard the gabble over Tartine AfterHours, a uno night per month calamity where Tartine Bakery and Chef Samin Nosrat pair up to make a family style feast, I KNEW...oh yes, I knew that is where I wanna be.
I excitedly emailed them for a reservation and marked it on my calendar. ONLY to realize that getting in was not THAT easy......It runs on a lottery system, so everyone has a fair chance to get in...wonk wonkkkkk
So after over 8 months of trying to get in, I finally got my golden ticket in email form. Informed my dear Mr.Phi that we were IN and he said "YAHooo..uummmm... what date was that again?....eeeks!" He had assumed that this was going to be another tartine-fail and had double booked himself for a 5K marathon the same evening! It was his first marathon and he had been training for it, so he couldn't quit it, even though it killed his very soul. So instead I attended the event with my tough and cuddly cousin. This was her first city meal since moving from NYC and now her standards are set impossibly high!
We arrived in front of Tartine, there was a huge crowd outside and they were calling out names from a list. People were licking their lips in anticipation of being chosen...and I'm sure the smells of the food, too. Felt like the movie "54"1 as our names were called out and envious eyes fells all over us.
We were seated at a long table with a gang of fellow foodies since the meals are served family style. I ordered a nice glass of Rose but wish I had gotten the Syrah after I took a closer look at the menu. (ShortRibs!) But it was warm inside and I can't resist crisp wines under such conditions. Many people took advantage of the $10 corkage fee and brought their own bottles, which I definitely plan on doing in 2013. 2
Immediately they placed a huge wooden platter of Fresh Figs, Fried Squash Blossoms, Padron Peppers and Salumi in front of us. Everyone was really kind at our table and conscious of each other getting equal shares of the bounty. Plus our waitress asked us if we needed refills of any item and thank the gawds, she brought out more freshly fried squash blossoms. When I told my dear Mr.Phi about them, he banged his head on the wall.3 After much chewing, there was one final awesome blossom left on the platter, and a war of eyes went over the table, who would be the piggy to take it..who WHOOOooooo?!?!.....This went on for 5 WHOLE minutes before I squealed and grabbed it! I did share it with my cousin though, who would of given me Indian burns had I not. The crust on the squash blossoms was a cornmeal which holds a delectable crunch for far longer. Not sure of the cheese but my guess is it was a Bellwether ricotta. In any case, one of my favorite parts and I could eat a zillion of them.
While the tables were munching down, the band "John Ingle's Ghost of a Chance" was filling the room with old time tunes and I really could not have asked for a better soundtrack to the evening. If my Mr.Phi had been there, I may of asked if we could slowdance behind the Tartine counter veryyyyy carefully.
"Late summer bean & tomato salad" was the second course to be placed on the table. This was really a beautiful display of some of the best seasonal vegetables at this time of year. Sweet red tomatoes, yellow cherry tomatoes, green beans, snap peas, yellow beans and nice crunchy cucumber with a dressing that brought all the flavors together. This was really refreshing and a perfect blend, like eating crunchy, juicy sunshine.
Along with the salad came out baskets of Tartine Bread with big slabs of butter on plates. I asked Miss Samin what kind of butter it was, but she was not sure besides it being European in style and we would gape at the mere size of it. Didn't get to do that on this evening, but I did try to make a dent in it by the amount of butter I spread on my bread. This was my first time eating Tartine Bread, not that I haven't attempted to get a loaf. Usually it is sold out and being a relatively new Bay area transplant at 3 years, I never really made the effort to buy it until this year.4
"Braised Short Ribs" was thankfully the main course since its one of the few proteins my cousin loves. I proclaimed them to be the juiciest ones I have ever had. Drooling a lil just remembering them....
Another amazing item was the corn and beans side with roasted red peppers. The beans had an amazing flavor and raised themselves to be the most memorable vegetable of the entire night. Samin told me they were from Dirty Girl Farm and gushed about how tasty they were as well. The vegetarian entree was an eggplant and farrow dish, which the Veggies at our table kindly shared with the group. In addition, there was a Cilantro Salsa which I did not really care for, but I'm not a good judge since not a huge Cilantro fan in general.5 Worries over if there would be enough food family style was quickly put to rest as there was leftovers of a few dishes, but the bean dish was almost licked clean.
By this time in the meal, people were tipsy from so much good food.... aaaannnnd maybe a few glasses of wine. The place really had a family atmosphere as people hung on one another, whispered closely and savored last bites. As Samin and her staff entered in with trays of strawberry-lime popsicles and fresh watermelon slices, it really added to the whole merriment in the room. The popsicles were even made in dixie cups! You had to use your hands to warm the dixie cup so you could free the popsicle from it's paper cage and be promptly rewarded with hot pink lips. Samin walked around the room admiring her handiwork of getting an entire group of adults to become kids in a matter of minutes. I loved the sweet tartness of the popsicles which actually contained no sugar! But my cousin said was too much "sour/super sweet" for her taste. But I managed to eat a ton of it before my ears started leaking strawberries.
Samin said this menu was her "love letter to summer" and I really felt that. The fresh figs, perfectly ripe tomatoes, crisp corn, beans, sweet summer strawberries..... Makes me sad thinking the season's almost over....actually made me more sad that the meal was over and who knows when I'll be lucky enough to get another reservation. This had to be one of my all-time favorite meals. The atmosphere, family style seating/serving, music, and friendliness of everyone involved pushed the high quality ingredients to a whole new level for me. This is what I would love every meal to be like... Good Honest Food.
1 I didn't know about Studio 54 was an actual place, until the movie "54" came out.
2 I would not be surprised if it took me until 2013 to get another reservation.....
3 On the morning of our mini honeymoon, we went to the hotel's fancypants breakfast buffet and they had a muthaeffin' fried squash blossom station! I'm pretty sure Mr.Phi set the world record for amount of squash blossoms you can put in your mouth at once. And really....can you eat too many fried squash blossoms....
4 My first two years was a love affair with Acme Bread, after having a particular amazing Baguette during my first month here. But I haven't been able to duplicate the experience since...until I found Pinkys...
5 Especially when I buy a salad mix from TJs and discover cilantro in it. But tacos is a different story....
Thursday, October 6, 2011
So I used to hate Dates. "What the what?!" you say....
And by Dates, I mean those big shrively.. for lack for a better description...dried 'animal turd-lookin' fruit. Actually, the fruit's English name evolved from the Greek word for "finger",dáktulos because of the fruit's elongated shape So another way to think of them is as old dried fingers. By now you must be wondering if this is a halloween post, or saying "youze nasty gurl!!"
I think all this hate stems from my intense dislike of raisins....which I'm still slowly getting over. (Though the sun-maid black raisins still make me gag.) But I have started to become a fan of fresh golden raisins. In addition, I kept getting dates confused with prunes( dried plums) and thought it was just something old people needed to poo. 1
So imagine my surprise when I moved to California and started attending Farmers Markets to find single "Date" stands among all the produce stalls. And I started to get curious, because there was so many different kinds of Dates at these stands. Big ones. Small ones. Fresh ones. More shrively than usual ones....
After a few years, I decided to finally take a sample and I was completely flabbergasted. Dates tasted like delicious candy! What had I been doing all my life to ignore a healthy and yummy sweet....
Personally, I prefer very sticky and chewy dates or ones that have been given some time for the sugars to cystalize so they have a tiny bit of crunch. To get more a variety than just the Medjool ones at the grocery store, you really should head to a farmers market or mail order from Flying Disc Ranch for amazing selection as well.
My favorite variety is the Barhi. The best description and a bit x-rated is Flying Disc Ranch describes them "Succulent, sensual, luscious" My simple description would be "Best Date EVA"
So if you ever see dates at the farmers market, run over and give yourself a treat. And if you ever see a bacon-wrapped date at a party, make sure to pop two in your mouth because thats why we have 2 cheeks.
1 This post is becoming more and more gross. What is it with me and Dates?!
Monday, October 3, 2011
This past year, I basically put my life on hold to finish my Thesis Film for my Animation MFA at UCLA. (Graduated in June woot! (still working on kinks in film booooo)) So a big fat NO time for updates to food blog. I definitely didn't stop eating, but posting photos and writing meant precious time away from "filmmakingprettypictures."
But, now that I have a smidgen more time....the food blog started gnawng at me.... And lately, I really started questioning what I would like to do for a living. Drawing and talking about food emerged at the top of my list of dream jobs.
So I'm going to give it a shot with this blog. Maybe I can get some kind of food illustration jobs from this....mayyybeeee not. But its worth a shot and if anything it will just improve my art skillz yo!
In honor of this new endeavor, I changed the name of the blog to "Cheese n' Jam" in homage to two of my most favorite foods. (I made 186 jars of jam for my wedding favors and dude, I joined a Cheese CSA ) Originally I tried some other food names but they are all taken by jerks who haven't updated their blogs since 2004 from it's original uno post...
My goal is to write twice a week until the end of the year and we'll see where it goes from there. If you have anything you'd like to see or curious to have me draw, please feel free to msg me or comment. Yay for cheese n jam!