Friday, February 27, 2009

Chez Panisse

How can food taste so good? A simple beet, cauliflower salad is transformed into a mouth-watering delicacy. Traditional Indian spices are combined with potatoes, chickpeas, turnips and chard to create a to-die-for entree. What can I say that hasn't already been said about Chez Panisse?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Holden and Music

As a respected member of CD group, Uncle Altaf acknowledges the importance of introducing music to Holden early and often.

For the uninitiated, two members of the group make mix CDs to share each month. Music, musicians and other geeky things are discussed, snacks are eaten and a merry time is had by all.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mad Men

Trusting recommendations from friends, I'm watching "Mad Men" via Netflix and I have to say, I'm not sure I get it.

It's a series about a group of advertising executives (and their wives) set in 1960s New York City. The lead character, Don Draper (pictured above), reminds me of a cynical Michael Steadman from "Thirtysomething," and I really like that one of the secretaries played the president's daughter in "West Wing." But, overall, it's just very soapy ... oh, and everyone smokes ... A LOT!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Shrimp Etouffee

In honor of Mardi Gras, I made shrimp etouffee last night and, boy, was it yummy. I tried it on a whim and didn't really know what to expect, but it's got an unusual spicy, smoky flavor. It took a bit longer than I usually spend making dinner ... what with the chopping and whisking and "stirring constantly" ... but it was definitely worth it.

Here's my friend Mona's recipe:

Serves 6

4 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Cooking spray
1½ cups chopped yellow onion
2/3 cup diced celery
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon salt-free Cajun seasoning
1½ teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 30 shrimp)
4 cups hot cooked long-grain rice

Combine first 4 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat; bring to a simmer. Cover and remove from heat.
Melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Add flour to pan; cook 8 minutes or until very brown, stirring constantly with a whisk. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup broth mixture to pan; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add remaining 3 cups broth mixture, stirring with a whisk until smooth; set aside.
Melt remaining 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter in a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add yellow onion, celery and bell peppers to pan; cook 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender and onion is golden, stirring occasionally. Stir in 3/4 cup water, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add tomato paste, Cajun seasoning, garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper to onion mixture; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add reserved broth-flour mixture and Worcestershire sauce to pan, stirring well to combine; bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add green onions, 1/4 cup parsley and shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Discard bay leaf. Serve over rice. Sprinkle each serving with 2 teaspoons remaining parsley.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I know I've already gushed about "The Reader," but can I say how thrilled I am that Kate Winslet won the much-deserved Best Actress Oscar last night. I read that the role of Hanna Schmitz was originally meant for Winslet who had to pass because of a scheduling conflict. Nicole Kidman (yuck!) was chosen in her place. Thank goodness she got pregnant and backed out, so the role went back to Winslet who did an outstanding job! Go see this movie.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

As you may have noticed, I keep a running list of the books I read on this blog. Partly, it's for me ... I started reading a book I'd already read until I saw it on my list ... and it's also to recommend good ones. One of the best books I've read in some time is Khaled Hosseini's "A Thousand Splendid Suns." Again, it's a character-driven story set in Afghanistan. And I thought it was even better than his bestselling "Kite Runner."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Andrew Bird

My CD group introduces me to all sorts of music. One of the artists who's shown up more than once on compilations is Andrew Bird. On a bit of a whim, I bought Brian and I tickets to see him last night at the Fillmore.

The show was fantastic! Andrew's first instrument is the violin and he often played it with his guitar strapped on his back. He used loops and other fancy electronic stuff in the most beautiful way. It was a lovely evening of great music.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tina Dico

I "discovered" Danish singer-songwriter Tina Dico on WXPN nearly a year ago. Her release, Count to Ten, rarely leaves my car CD player. Imagine my excitement when I learned she'll be playing Cafe du Nord, one of my favorite SF venues, next month! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Travel Bug

No, not the bug that makes you sick ... I've got the bug that makes you want to travel! Luckily, I have a trip to Mexico coming up April 1 and with the rain and the wind and the cold, it won't be a moment too soon.

Molly and I are going to Mexico City, then to San Miguel de Allende where we'll be staying at my friend Laura's house. See photos here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Reader

I've now seen three of the five Academy Award nominees for Best Picture: Milk, Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader. While they were all quite good, my favorite was The Reader. Simply beautiful from beginning to end. It's also one of the rare times the movie is as good as the book.

Monday, February 16, 2009

A Rose

I was very pleased when Brian brought me a red rose on Valentine's Day. Aw shucks.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Pisco Sour

I'm generally not a big mixed drink gal (with the exception of the occasional filthy dirty martini), but last night I tried a Pisco Sour, which I loved. It's a cocktail containing Pisco (a regional brandy), lemon or lime juice, egg whites, simple syrup, and bitters. Apparently, it originated in Chile or Peru -- no one's quite sure. But it's light and refreshing with a bit of a pucker.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

25 Things

There's a phenomenon on Facebook these days. Your "friends" ask you to list 25 random things that people may not know about you. Silly, yes. But it's also interesting. Here's mine:

1. I am legally blind.
2. I attended Catholic school for 12 years.
3. I hate team sports. Always have.
4. I don't eat meat. Never have.
5. When I was 13, my parents bought me a sewing machine. I exchanged it for a typewriter.
6. I served in the military.
7. I've lived in seven states and one foreign country.
8. I was a pom-pon girl in high school.
9. I married my first "love." Big mistake.
10. I despise shopping.
11. I've met many famous people.
12. I was voted "most likely to achieve fame" senior year. Hmm.
13. I shoplifted once and got a huge rush. Never did it again.
14. I'm inherently lazy.
15. Bonnie Raitt once called me a racist.
16. I could subsist on bread, cheese and wine.
17. I dislike animated movies. Okay. Actually, I refuse to watch them.
18. When I was 15, my mom drove me 45 minutes through a snowstorm so I could audition for "Fiddler on the Roof." I wimped out when I realized you had to sing, too. Duh.
19. I am a sun-worshipping, beach person.
20. If money was no object, I'd open a flower shop.
21. When I was overseas, my mom mailed me Cool Ranch Doritos. More than once.
22. My combat boots were the most comfortable shoes I've ever owned.
23. I studied Polish in high school and I remember enough to get in trouble.
24. I got my dog from a date.
25. My mom once put me on a diet to GAIN weight. Sigh.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parking in SF

Last night, I had an appointment after work, so I took the bus home, got in my car and drove to Noe Valley. (If I take the bus straight from work, I don't get home until nearly 8:30 p.m.) By the time I got home at 7:30 p.m., there were no parking spaces near my apartment. I parked in front of the hospital, which means I had to move my car by 9 a.m. today. Easier said than done. Circling my block at 7:45 a.m. turned up nothing. So, rather than risk a $50 parking ticket, I drove to work and paid $14 to park all day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Last night, Brian and I went out for sushi. He's not a big fan, but neither was I when I first moved here. It's good to start with rolls. They're less intimidating than big hunks of raw fish.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Early Spring?

Or did we just skip winter?

Unusually high temperatures and a marked lack of rain means a lot of things -- global warming, drought, water rationing. On the upside, spring has sprung early and it's beautiful.

(Thanks to Brian for the photo.)


I'm probably one of the last people in SF to see "Milk." Nonetheless, I can recommend it highly. It's a tad long, but fascinating. If Sean Penn doesn't win the Oscar for Best Actor, there's no justice in this world.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Spanish Tortilla

During my morning blog check, I do a bit of prowling around. One I check out regularly is called Bay Area Bites and yesterday I found a recipe for Spanish Tortilla, which came along with a charming story, by the way.

I was so inspired by the recipe's simplicity and potential yumminess, that I made it last night for dinner. Served with asparagus, a salad and a bit of salsa, it was quite tasty. Highly recommended.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cassandra's Dream

What? A good Woody Allen movie? I thought he stopped making those about a decade ago, but Cassandra's Dream proved me wrong. Maybe my brother was right when he said Allen's dialogue sounds better with a British accent. Regardless, this was a good one. Really.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Last night, I spent a few hours babysitting for Holden aka Handsome. I learned a few new things about the young man -- he's quite interested in food, he enjoys books and he loves to laugh REALLY hard.

(Photo courtesy of Tod and Linda's blog)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Today I feel like an advertisement for ibuprofin. I slept horribly and woke up with a kink in my neck. While I wait for a call from my chiropractor, I wondered about the origin of the idiom "kink in my neck."

Turns out it's derived from the Dutch word "kink" (twist, twirl), as in a rope, wire, or lock of hair - especially one causing obstruction. The expression was first used in the 17th century. Interesting, yes. But does my neck feel better? No.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Gin's Birthday Party

No, I'm not a freaky dog person. Yes, I hosted a birthday party for Ginger. She turned 14 on Saturday and I thought that deserved special acknowledgement.

Karen brought hats and a special lei for Gin. She wore both proudly!

Friends, neighbors and their canine friends enjoyed cake and mimosas.

By party's end, Gin was pooped.