…or rather, I can’t leave, because my car needs a new clutch in San Francisco. There are worse ways to be stranded, since I’m staying with loving friends in my favorite big city, and I brought along some crucial work I need to do. But still. I’m missing my Eugene peeps and my kitties.
Here’s the difference between Eugene and San Francisco: when I realized I wasn’t going to be able to make it back to Oregon, I called my mechanic. He diagnosed the problem, told me what his garage would do for this day-long job, provided tips about preventative maintenance I could ask the mechanic to do while he was doing the job, warned me that there was going to be a big surcharge in labor and time in a SF garage, told me that he wished it had happened in Eugene, and gave me his home number to call him in case I needed any more advice. I then took it in to the SF mechanic. Also a great guy. Explained the situation, assured me he would do the preventative maintenance, apologized that they were short-staffed because of the holiday and said it likely wouldn’t be ready ’til Tuesday, and charged me ten gazillion dollars.
So what does this have to do about food? Well, nothing and everything, really. This means I have a few more days to eat delicious ethnic food, a veritable world banquet. After the conference, which was really all about eating and drinking (I even mentioned martinis in one of my interviews — I couldn’t help it, I swear, since we were in the Mark Hopkins!!), I headed off to the East Bay for a wonderful dinner party with my vegetarian foodie friends, accompanied by great jazz, handpicked and cured olives, and marvels of artichokes, gratinéed fennel, a vegetable legume cassoulet, and little mushroom puff pastry tarts with a side dish of butternut squash caramelized onion custard.
As usual, I’m being treated like a queen by my friends, who have taken me out to some of the most darling cafés, the most delicious restaurants, and the most comfortable drinky bars in the city. We had post-colonial Indochinese food at Bodega Bistro out in Little Saigon yesterday. I quelled my guacamole fixation at Mexico DF, after drooling into my tequila flight when I saw the stuff made tableside at Colibrí. I enjoyed a zucchini salad and a zuppa di pesce at Jackson Fillmore, a cozy neighborhood Italian trattoria, had yummy sushi at Katana-ya, a *great* ramen place in Union Square (of all places), and a lovely light lunch at Serpentine, a “New American” casual bistro in Dogpatch that would absolutely thrive in Eugene. And the edge of my constant Ethiopian craving was shaved off by a meal at my favorite, humble Ethiopian restaurant in Oakland, The Red Sea on Claremont.
As for the cooking…we’re on our second variation of homemade Chinese chive dumplings tonight, after a perfect New Year’s Eve supper with friends of Chateaubriand à la ficelle (a tender fillet bound with string and poached in rich chicken stock), pommes Dauphinoise (potatoes gratined with milk and cheese), braised leeks, an arugula and pear salad, rich caramel desserts, etc., etc., etc. My contribution of pickles and two Oregon cheeses (Willamette Valley’s boerenkaas (thanks, PNW Cheese Project! :)) and the classic Oregon Blue from the Rogue Creamery, both of which I picked up on my trip down at Rogue) wasn’t shabby, but the real contribution I made was not in cooking at all, believe it or not…
I became a bartender!
I was in charge of the cocktails. It’s a lot more fun when the person stocking the bar has a great selection of booze instead of mason jars full of weird vinegars and fruit liqueurs, let me tell you. I poured Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s fab version of a French 75 with an absinthe wash (carefully squirreling away every extra drop of St. George’s absinthe so I could drink it, heh), Ryan Dawe-Stotz’s champagne cocktails with a drop of apple cider vinegar and Fee Bros. new rhubarb bitters, and the most amazingly refreshing cocktail ever, the Southern Exposure from Alembic, here in San Francisco, which employs freshly squeezed celery juice (!), mint, Junipero gin, limes, and simple syrup to create a bright green, vibrant libation just perfect to usher in a new year. We even managed to score a bottle of the Bitter Truth’s celery bitters at Cask, the new high-end liquor store around the corner from the SFMOMA for a criminal sum, but the element it added to the drink was worth every penny.
Honestly, the drinks themselves were so good, no one noticed my rather seriously lacking bartending skills, so I’m grateful that I can (sort of) mimic talented mixologists.
Whew! Just writing this is making me hungry, and I haven’t even talked yet about my shopping. I think I’ll fill you in on that later. Right now, I need to torture myself with some leftover brie de meaux or a salt caramel or some fresh mint tea. Or something else. I’m in San Francisco!!!