Trying to eat something delicious, each and every day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sugar Cafe

Ever since it opened, Sugar Cafe has easily been the cutest cafe on the block. Hip, chic. and new, it is an internet cafe by day and a bar/lounge by night. What's really great though is that they roast their own coffee, and it's always been gosh darned good.

Lately, I've been going to Sugar Cafe to kill time while the contractors finish my apartment. I discovered that in addition to a good cup of joe, Sugar Cafe makes really good food! I've photographed here a slice of ginger cake and three muffins. The cake was moist and intensely gingery, and the muffins are generously sized. Last week I had a banana nut muffin topped with walnuts and a crunchy meringue/streusel, and it was exceptional. I might even way it's the best banana bread I've ever tasted! I liked it so much I bought a box of assorted muffins for my workers today. When the going gets tough, the tough bribe their contractors. After all, little sugar never slowed any project down!

Another day, I had a cheesy vegetable scramble because I needed to spend an entire morning at the cafe. I was very pleasantly surprised. Despite the cool vibe, Sugar Cafe serves some seriously homey grub! Maybe I just haven't cooked in too long, but it was so refreshing to eat a plate of food that tasted like home cooking rather than restaurant fare. Whoever cooks at Sugar Cafe is probably not a chef, but his/her friends probably love coming over for dinner.

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Farm:Table and Verve Coffee

I dragged my *** out of the house extra early today to check on our remodel and go to our new gym (!), so I rewarded myself with coffee.

New coffee shops have been popping up all over San Francisco, bringing with them selections from roasters previously unavailable in the city. Lately, the buzz seems to be all about Verve from Santa Cruz. I had a drink they've dubbed the tendernob, in honor of Farm:Table's location on the edge of the Tenderloin and Nob Hill. the tendernob is equal parts foamed milk and espresso--basically a cross between a macchiato and a cappuccino. It was intensely creamy, which speaks to the quality of the coffee as well as the skill of the barista. I'm very excited that there are now good whole coffee beans as well as a skilled barista in the neighborhood.

And now, dear readers, I hope you've also had your morning coffee. I need you to vote for your favorite hardwood color! The hardwood guys are currently sanding and polishing my floors, filling in the gaps and nail heads, and they'll soon be staining and glossing! Here you can see an area where they laid new hardwood in the corner and are planning to sand and stain it to match the old hardwood. Which stain should I choose? Remember, I'll be covering the whole floor and adding a high gloss, so it won't look quite the same.


Friday, June 19, 2009

French Press Tutorial

Sometimes people ask me how to make coffee, and the answer is a lot simpler than one might expect from an acknowledged addict. I've fiddled with various ways of making coffee, and the French press is now my favorite because it's cheap, doesn't take up any space, and makes a great cup of black coffee.

When you drink black coffee, the freshness of your coffee beans becomes exponentially more important than if you're going to add cream and/or sugar to your brew. Grinding the coffee correctly is also important. The best description I've heard for what French press coffee should be like is this: fine enough that it's like sand you can comfortably stand on, but not as fine as the powdery sand that makes you feel like you're really on a tropical paradise.

For my 80z. French press, I use two to three heaping tablespoons of ground coffee, depending on mood and beans. Remember to rinse your press pot with hot water before you put the coffee in.

Next, fill the pot with hot water. How hot? 180 degrees or so. Just kidding, who measures? I know I don't. I let the water come to a boil, take it off the heat, swirl it until the boiling stops, and pour the water into the pot in a thin stream. It's not perfect, but it's a lot easier than having to take out a thermometer.

This next step I didn't do until recently, but I think it's important because I noticed the coffee looks really different. Stir with a spoon or chopstick. See how a light layer of foam forms on top of the coffee? That's called blooming. If your beans are fresh, when you start stirring you'll hear a slight fizz or whoosh, sort of like the sound of a can of soda being opened. Then the beans will rise a little, and foam will appear.

Now, you wait. Three minutes, to be precise. Put the lid on your pot and adjust the mesh presser so it's hovering above the coffee. You want the lid on to retain heat, but if you let the metal part touch the coffee it'll cool everything down a little. It's not a huge deal, but since this is a tutorial...

When three minutes are up, press the mesh strainer to the bottom of your press pot. You should have to exert a little force to press the coffee down. It shouldn't feel like arm wrestling, but if you're able to slam the strainer down in a second or two your coffee is too coarse. The exact amount of force you exert should be about how hard you would need to press on a bathroom scale with your palm for it to reat 10-15 lbs. But again, when it's 8 a.m. it's more important to get the coffee into your system than to quibble over details.

Pour the coffee out of the press pot, and you should have a rich, clean cup of black coffee with a very fine layer of powdery sediment when you reach the bottom. Bottoms up!

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 5

Alas, all vacations must come to an end. As if to remind us that vacation was drawing to an end, Monday in San Francisco was the beginning of a week of foggy weather after a week of sunshine.

We started our morning at Blue Bottle Coffee and thre in an attempt to buy a glass of Kyoto iced coffee made in one of these fancy machines. They were not available, so we settled for other delicious drinks.

Wanting my guests to end their trip with a bang, I insisted on lunch at Bushi-Tei. Everyone else had the pork cutlet, and I opted for the washyugu sandwich this time. This was remniscent of a buttery skirt steak with plenty of caramelized onions, but the pork cutlet still takes the cake. We had a bottle of sparkling wine and shared a few desserts. A perfect meal, as usual.

After picking up everyone's luggage, we were back at Blue Bottle to say good-bye. Yes, there was a coffee addict on the trip. He had an espresso and I had the affogato with Humphry Slocombe's Secret Breakfast ice cream: the breakfast is corn flakes and the secret is bourbon. As you can imagine, it's perfect with espresso. And the portion is quite generous--two huge scoops of homemade ice cream and a $2 espresso for under $6.

For having spent about two days in wine country and one and a half days in San Francisco, I think my visitors did quite well! We could have seen more, but they did (translate: ate) a ton of things without feeling rushed. I love hosting; everyone visit more!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Russian River Vacation: Day 1

What a weekend! We're finally home from vacation and I'm ready to start re-capping. C and E got in Wednesday night, and after a good night's rest we were off to a rollicking start on day one of their vacation, which was a walking tour through several neighborhoods.

We started off with a healthy breakfast of fried eggs on whole wheat toast and homemade yogurt with raspberry compote.

The eggs were from Prather Ranch in the Ferry Building, which always carries pasteured eggs from Soul Food Farm. The yolks aren't the most orange I've seen, but they have a distinctly rich and nutty flavor.

We bussed down to the Mission and took a walk through one of the alleys with murals in them. I love this one of Where the Wild Things Are.
I also love this because it's so incredibly elaborate and fun to look at. I forgot the name of the artist, but I've seen an entire gallery show of this type of art. It's amazing.

Our first coffee stop of the day was the original Philz on 24th. Drip coffee poured to order. E had a Turkish, which has a lot of cardamom and a mint leaf in it. I had the Arabic, which was rich but not exceptionally flavored. C had a decaf Peruvian and loved it even though she doesn't handle caffeine well. After grabbing these, we kept walking.

Several blocks later we were at Ritual Roasters. E's caffeine craving was still going strong and he had a cup of black coffee from the Clover machine. I have to say, that's a good cup of coffee: clean, crisp, almost like wine or tea in how clear and bright it was. E said he could have drank it all day.

But even coffee fiends need to stop for lunch. We had carne asada and lengua tacos at El Cumbre.

Mmm, lengua. My visitors claimed to never have had lengua tacos before, and were impressed with the meat's tenderness.

After lunch, we wandered around a little and discovered the new Paxton Gate toy store. It's an amazing space with really fun handmade toys.

More coffee! Four Barrel was our third stop. They have a really cool open space with high ceilings, boars' heads mounted on the wall, and a lot of cool antique machinery on display.

E and I shared a cappucinno.

After all that coffee, it was time for dessert. We took a stroll towards Noe Valley and shared a cup of bread pudding at Tartine. As always, the custardy bits were delicious.

More dessert. I couldn't resist; it was only a block away! Bi-Rite ice cream. I had the caramel swirl and E had cherry almond. Everyone tasted the salted caramel, which is still my fave, and C decided she doesn't like lavender in food.
We enjoyed our ice cream as we walked back toward Market Street via the Castro. Then we hopped on an F car and stopped in at Zuni for afternoon drinks. Of course, we got the famous bloody mary.

We also got some shoestring fries to munch on, along with bread.

More coffee! We were really full after the huge bloody marys and all those fries, so we took a walk and ended up at the Blue Bottle on Linden Alley. E and I had Gibraltars.

After that, we walked all the way home and basically passed out for awhile before dinner at Zitouna. This is the Mosaic of Africa assorted salad plate. It was fine, but it was kind of too many things on one plate for me.
Mint tea with plenty of sugar.
House made Merguez sausages. They were good, but I begin to suspect Merguez is not for me. It's always on the dry side.
Lamb tajine with white beans. Really really tasty broth and fork tender meat.

Vegetable cous cous. I didn't know that all the cous cous dishes come with a side of vegetable soup, or I would have gotten cous cous with meat on it. In any case, the cous cous was perfectly cooked and the vegetables were very refreshing.

After dinner we went to Bourbon and Branch. My favorite drink of the night was the Devil's Advocate, even though I had to steal this photo off flickr and I"m not sure if that's what it is.

And, because enough is never enough, we had late night snacks at La Mar. This is the chifa ceviche.

And the Nikkei, which along with the classico retains the title of favorite ceviche flavor. What a day: four great restaurants, four of the best coffee roasters in SF, two of my favorite dessert places, and farm fresh eggs. And that was just Day 1! I was very proud of my visitors.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Blue Bottle

Ah, the things I do for family:

The Gibraltar, a Blue Bottle specialty that's basically an extra short cappuccino (translation: less milk than a regular cappuccino). The minimal amount of milk allows the coffee flavor to come through more. An even shorter drink would be a macchiato. There's not much to say here: Blue Bottle roasts great coffee, buys top of the line machines, and hires people who know what they're doing. The result is consistently fantastic.

What was more surprising was the up and coming Mint Plaza! Just a few years ago, the only two reasons I knew of to walk into this dank alley were for a tostada bowl or to hop on the old person's bus to Reno. Now there's Blue Bottle, 54Mint, Chez Papa, and an abundance of neon orange chairs and tables for public use.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Four Barrel

I don't believe in giving away something for nothing, even to myself. So instead of just bussing down to the Mission to satisfy my curiosity about the newish Four Barrel Coffee store, I made myself jog the two miles there before indulging in a creamy hot latte.

Nothing in SF can yet compare to a single shot latte from Victrola in Seattle, but this came pretty close. Tight, dense foam partnered with a smooth, deep coffee with hints of burnt sugar.

I'm digging the interior, too. Coffee beans are sold in no-nonsense brown bags, and the menu includes 8 ways to have your coffee and an option to use soy instead of dairy. No tea, no soda, no hot chocolate--just coffee!


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Pachamama and Everett and Jones

We did a little house shopping in out near Jack London Square in lieu of Mother's Day this weekend. The weather was gorgeous, but I think we've both decided if we have to live in the East Bay we like Emeryville a lot more than Jack London Square.

It was a fun day, though, and I got to try a new coffee place. Pachamama! Fun name.

I opted for a drip-to-order Peru, which was light with a little of what I call a "paper" flavor. For those who like black coffee that's mild enough to be almost a tea, this is great.

After walking all over half a dozen properties in over two hours, we were starving! Sadly, waterfront dining on Jack London is really pathetic. We were going to walk back towards Lake Merritt BART and see what we found along the way when we stumbled right into Everett and Jones. I had the ribs.

J had the brisket! Both of these huge plates of food were lunch specials for about $9. The only downside is that we didn't get to pick our sides; all lunch specials come with (mediocre) wheat bread and (quite good) potato salad.

We opted for hot sauce on the side.

Consensus: as delicious as ever. E&J excels at getting a smokey flavor into their meat. If it were up to me, the meat itself would be a touch more fall off the bone. However, as a whole package it was really fantastic. So fantastic that I fell into a 90 minute food coma as soon as I got home. Thank goodness the gym didn't close before I could get in a protein-fueled workout.

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