A friend of mine from another state introduced me to a new craze – cookie butter. He was in Cali for a conference, shall we say, when he got a request to bring some cookie butter back home. I’d never heard of cookie butter before. He told me that friends of his had brought some from Trader Joe’s. I live 6 blocks from a Trader Joe’s, yet had never seen cookie butter. Of course, I barely eat peanut butter, so it’s no surprise that I had no idea what cookie butter is. Earlier this week I looked up cookie butter on the internet to see exactly what it is. According to the internet, the one at Trader Joe’s is peanut butter mixed with crushed ginger cookies and coconut. Another company makes cookie butter, too, but the one from Trader Joe’s seems to be the favorite. Also, when it first came out, it was apparently so popular that customers were limited to 2 jars maximum. A co-worker informed me that the cookie butter craze has been going on for awhile (she has 2 young boys) and that the Trader Joe’s near her is often sold out of it. This afternoon I specifically made a trip to Trader Joe’s to (a) see if they had any, (b) see what flavors/selections they had, (c) see what the price was and (d) see if there was still a 2 jar limit. The Trader Joe’s on California Street seemed to be well stocked with 3 different types – regular, crunchy and cocoa swirl. The regular and crunchy were priced at $3.69/jar while the cocoa swirl was a little higher at $3.99/jar. Luckily, there was no mention of a quantity limit. Apparently, this part of San Francisco didn’t get the memo that it’s the new phenomenon. Then again, most of San Francisco isn’t quite as cool as they think. Also, I’m obviously behind on this trend myself. Although my friend wanted 4 jars of regular and 4 jars of cocoa swirl, I was reluctant to carry that much home. I was also there to pick up liquids in the form of San Pellegrino, coconut water and Italian blood orange soda. Thus, he’ll have to make do with 2 jars of regular and 2 jars of cocoa swirl for the time being. Now I’ve been known to go to the gym and do a few light weights, but 4 jars of cookie butter, 4 cartons of coconut water, 2 bottles of San Pellegrino, 1 bottle of Italian blood orange soda and a few other sundry items nearly killed me on the way home! My friend can have the additional 4 jars of cookie butter when my arms have recovered enough to make a return to Trader Joe’s! Besides, I need to pick up a jar for myself to see what all the hype is about. Exactly how does one eat cookie butter? On toast? Celery sticks? With chips? With churros? Can one make actual cookie butter cookies, much like peanut butter cookies, with it? What about a cookie butter bundt cake? Feeling experimentation coming on.
Last weekend I was down in the OC to hang out with friends. One of those friends, B., had taken my Chow Chow when I moved from L.A. to San Francisco. She passed away several years later and B. has remained dogless ever since. I assured her that, when I got down there, we’d be checking out some puppies! B. lives in Costa Mesa. She told me that Irvine and Santa Ana (I believe) had passed some type of law in which puppies could no longer be sold at pet shops, or something to that effect. It may possibly be to put puppy mills out of business. On Saturday afternoon, she took me to Russo’s Pets at Fashion Island, an outdoor mall that’s technically located in Newport Beach. They had puppies, kittens, birds, rabbits, guinea pigs and lizards. Only a few of the puppies were purebred – a few English bulldogs, four French bulldogs, an Australian shepherd and a Yellow Lab. All of the other puppies were mixed breed dogs. They had Crested Yorkies (Chinese Crested and Yorkshire Terries), a Schnooker Poo (Schnauzer and Poodle) and a Pappy-Tese (Papillon and Maltese), among others. What’s interesting is that all of those mixed breed puppies came from the same breeder. B. and I think that all of the dogs must have escaped their kennels on the same day and intermingled, resulting in all of the mixed breed puppies. Just for fun, I asked one of the salesgirls what the Pappy-Tese was going for. A cool $995, believe it or not! In the “old” days, when different breeds of dogs interbred, they were referred to as mutts. Generally, there wasn’t a huge demand for mutts. Everyone was after purebred, AKC-registered dogs. So I don’t get what’s going on now. If I wanted a mixed breed dog, I could just go to the SPCA, rescue one (or more) and save myself hundreds of dollars! I personally think it’s terrible to interbreed dogs to create your own new “designer” breed. Previously being the owner of two purebred Chow Chows makes it even harder for me to understand. A cute puppy is a cute puppy, but seriously?
something that should be shown/celebrated every day and not just on Valentine’s Day. At least, that seems to be the consensus from everyone complaining about Valentine’s Day. They say that Valentine’s Day is a holiday created by the media to make more money. Then again, aren’t all of the holidays that way? For those of you who insist that love should be shown/celebrated every day and not just on Valentine’s Day, when was the last time you showed your love to your significant other, child, relative, friend, etc.? Most of us take our significant other and everyone else for granted after awhile. Even when you say “I love you,” it’s more like saying “Hello” or “Goodbye” if it’s not truly heartfelt. So if you don’t actually show or celebrate love every day (which most of us are guilty of) AND you didn’t do anything on Valentine’s Day, all I can say is, what a cop-out!
At this time, I don’t have a boyfriend. In fact, I didn’t have one last year on Valentine’s Day, either. Even so, some floral shop handed out miniature roses last year and I witnessed/took pictures and videos of the Valentine’s Day Pillow Fight that takes place yearly at Justin Hermann Plaza, which just happens to be behind my office building. Both years I had a nice dinner with friends, who didn’t happen to have a significant other, either. This year, I also bought strawberry shortcake cupcakes for the two people in my office that I like the most. I even wrote “Will you be my VALENTINE?” on a pink post-it note for one of them.
Guys are forever bemoaning the fact that Valentine’s Day is for women. Is it? Whenever I have a significant other on Valentine’s Day, I always buy them a card and presents. The presents didn’t have to be extravagant, but something that I knew they’d enjoy. For instance, one year I bought my ex-husband some buckwheat flour and a crepe pan so that he could make crepes. He was thrilled to no end! As a matter of fact, I remember that my sister-in-law used to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for everyone in her family!
As far as showing love on a daily basis, when a certain boyfriend and I lived together, I used to kiss him goodbye every morning, even though he was usually still asleep when I left for work. It didn’t matter if we’d been fighting and sleeping separately or not; I still kissed him goodbye every morning. The reason was because I always feared that something might happen to him that day and I would always regret not kissing him goodbye. I also kissed my male Chow Chow on the nose every morning and begged him to “Behave and be a good boy today.”
So chill out and lighten up, all of you Valentine’s Day nay-sayers. If you show more love, you’ll get more love!
Getting older basically sucks! The gray hair, the weight gain, being tired, becoming a homebody, etc., etc., and so on. After making a mess in the bathroom/kitchen area when trying to dye my hair, I’ve decided that it really is worth the extra expense to have it done professionally. Every six weeks my hair is colored/dyed at the Cinta Aveda Institute by students who are training to become hair stylists. There are three levels of students; Alpha, Beta and Gamma. I always ask for a Beta or Gamma student, although it would be relatively difficult to mess up dying someone’s hair black! The weight gain could have come from me not going to the gym for 3 months! However, I’ve been back at the gym for 3 weeks now, working out harder than ever before and my weight goes up and down by about two lbs., no matter what I do. Usually I lose 3 or 4 lbs. after 2 weeks at the gym and it stays off. My metabolism seems to have stopped altogether! The being tired part is kind of solved by my taking a nap BEFORE I go to the gym (around 10:00 or 11:00 p.m.)! Yes, I’m that decrepit! The homebody stuff doesn’t bother me all that much. I’m home behaving myself and NOT spending money.
Getting back to this weight business, Lent is approaching within the next month. My sacrifices will be much the same as last year – no potato chips, no cupcakes, no sodas. For a person who loves junk food, those are major sacrifices. Last year I also gave up shoe shopping. I couldn’t possibly get any more shoes in my room at this point, so I’m thinking of giving up ALL shopping, other than for food and basic necessities, during Lent. Since my weight is stubbornly sticking to me, I might even go out on a limb and give up candy, sweets or sugars of any kind. Although I’ve always preferred salt to sugar, I have to indulge in gummi bears, a Mounds bar or some hot tamales (the candy) every so often. In fact, one of the guys in the office and I routinely buy each other gummi candy for no reason whatsoever. I’ll arrive in the morning to a bag of gummi frogs or what-have-you on my desk. Whenever I make that snack dash to Walgreens out of sheer boredom, I pick up some gummi clown fish or gummi cherries or whatever for him as well.
Speaking of which, I got the two attorneys hooked on cupcakes from the CupKates truck, as well as macarons from Chantal Guillon. As my main boss was departing last Thursday, he mentioned to me that, if he drove to work the next day (as opposed to taking BART), we might have to go get some “French cookies,” which he affectionately calls macarons. Of course, when I got to work last Friday morning, he’d sent an E-mail saying that he’d taken the day off because he didn’t want me to have to eat macarons. My reply was “That was very thoughtful of you. It’s not as if I needed them these days, anyway.” His next E-mail said “Yeah, I’m feeling like a really good person.” I ended our E-mail conversation by saying that I’d still partake of macarons before Lent, but wouldn’t have him to blame on Friday.
That’s my plan for weight loss; Lent. If this killing myself at the gym isn’t going to pay off in my old age, then Lent has GOT to give me a boost. I’ll be sticking to an austere diet of fruit, salads, tea and the occasional red meat. Somehow it’s easier for me to abstain from those things during Lent than it is at any other time of the year. I guess when the chances of Him paying particular attention are raised, I’m more likely to behave! Wish me luck!
Back at the start of October, as I rushed down to the Tenderloin to pick up some authentic banh mi for my bosses & a few other people in the office, MUNI had their transportation officers all over the place. As I descended the bus in the Tenderloin, they asked to check my Fast Pass. While other passengers were obviously avoiding the transportation officers by arguing with them about letting them see their Fast Pass or simply running madly across the street, I handed over my Fast Pass, assured that everything would be fine. The officer told me that I had NO money on my Fast Pass, so she issued me a citation for $105!!! I told her there must be some type of mistake, as my Company pays half of my transportation costs and always sends the money to MUNI 7 to 10 days before the end of the month to cover the cost of the following month. She informed me that I could protest the citation if I wanted. I went back to the office, printed out the E-mail from my company stating that my “commuter benefits order” had been fulfilled, along with the E-mail from MUNI telling me that it had been loaded (on the FIFTH of the following month), wrote a letter to MUNI stating that it was their fault for not adding the money before the grace period was up (I believe the grace period is the first 3 days of the month), then went down to their offices and dropped it off with a copy of the citation. A few weeks later, I received a letter from MUNI saying that the citation was just in their eyes, but I could further protest it if I wanted. However, if I wanted to further protest, I’d have to send all of the information, ALONG WITH A CHECK FOR $105.00, to a certain address. The letter said that, if MUNI was found to be wrong, my money would be returned to me. Wouldn’t you know it? MUNI cashed that check within a week, but I heard nothing further from them. Now that it’s January, the Bozos send me another letter, once again saying that they found the citation just. They said that I had said the money was loaded on the card, but it had NOT been loaded on the card. Idiots! I did NOT say that the money was loaded on the card. I said that MY COMPANY SENT them the money well in advance of the start of the following month. THEY (MUNI) are the ones that didn’t load in a timely manner! Of course, no one addressed that issue at all. When I looked back at all of my E-mails, I realized that MUNI ALWAYS loads it anywhere from the 4th to as late as the 10th of the month that the Fast Pass is for!!! At this point, I could care less that they cashed my check. What pisses me off is that they had the balls to write me yet another letter stating that they found the citation just, stating that I had said the money had been loaded (which I did NOT!) and that I could still protest it, but I’d have to set up a hearing date and pay a $25 filing fee. Really?! Do they think I have any more time to waste?! I’m going to write them another letter letting them know that I could care less if they took my money, but… they still did NOT answer my question as to why MUNI loads the money onto the card so late. I’ll also attach a copy of the letter(s) I originally sent them, so that they can see that (if they could read English properly), I did NOT say that the money was already loaded onto the card. Lastly, I’ll attach copies of every E-mail from my company last year letting me know when they’d send the money to MUNI, as well as the E-mails from MUNI telling me when they’d actually loaded it. I hate stupid people!!!
Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.
So there’s this Italian waiter at an Italian restaurant that’s my friend on Facebook. He sent me a message telling me about this 4-course prix fixe Italian dinner with wine pairing at Ristorante Milano for $85, including the wine! Casatellani Winery out of Pisa, Italy would be introducing their wines with each of the courses. That’s not a bad price, considering that this is San Francisco, so I roped one of my foodie friends into joining me and we went there on Monday night.
The first course was Bruschetta di Zucca e Mozzarella (roasted squash, fresh mozzarella, cannellini beans, garlic and sage), accompanied by Rosato, Ceppiano, 2012. The bruschetta itself was fine, but I preferred those cannellini beans. The wine was described as an intense pink color, with purple notes, with a bouquet of peach, plum and apricot on the nose, and freshness and sapidity on the palate. I’m not a fan of roses; this was no different. It was fine, but nothing that I’d buy or choose. My friend, on the other hand, really liked it.
The second course was Pappardelle con il Sugo d’Agnello (house made egg noodles with braised lamb, tomatoes and white wine). This was my favorite course, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that I’m a pasta fiend! The portion was huge, too! The wine was “Burchino,” Super Tuscan,” Toscana IGT 2009, described as an intense ruby red with purple reflection, characteristic bouquet with plenty of cherry, berry and balsamic flavors; soft and round with notes of vanilla and licorice; nice acidity and balanced fruit. This was also my favorite wine as well. It was smooth, and (to me) had hints of spice and something woody. My friend didn’t pick up on any of that, however. (He probably thought I was crazy.)
Course number three was Braciole di Maiale (pork rib chop, wild porcini, roasted pumpkin and grilled polenta), accompanied with Travalda, “Super Tuscan,” Toscana IGT 2009. Again, another huge course, which neither of us were able to finish. The chop was a little dry, but I loved the porcini. I’ve never been a fan of polenta; it was alright. The wine purportedly had aromas of ripe red fruit with hints of vanilla and coffee, great palate structure with balanced acidity, intense notes of geranium and jasmine. This was, by far, the most intense of the wines. My friend didn’t care for it at all; I had to finish his. I assured him, though, that it tasted different and lighter after it had breathed a bit. He agreed, but still wasn’t going to finish his. I liked the wine, but still preferred the second one!
We finished with Crostata di Ricotta con Amaretto (house made ricotta tart with amaretto crust). The wine was Fattoria del Cerro, Vin Santo, Toscana 2010 (toasted hazelnut, hay, dried figs and dried apples on the nose, full bodied, honey, dried fruit, roasted chestnuts on the finish). There was something bitter in the tart, which I didn’t care for. It must have been the amaretto crust. What else could it have been? As for the Vin Santo, I don’t care for sweet wines, either; this was overly sweet (as Vin Santos always are).
All in all, not a bad way to spend an evening. I got to gossip with my friend, saw my Italian waiter friend AND checked out our cute Italian waiter! $85 plus tax was a fair price for the amount of food. Nothing was bad; average to good. I would try the restaurant again, on a regular night with the regular menu.
The New Year has found me suffering from a cold. To be truthful, this cold started shortly before New Year’s Eve and is simply dragging on and on and on. I’m not one for taking medicine or getting enough sleep, so that could be a factor that’s delaying my betterment. I still faithfully show up for work every day. No mind if I infect someone with my germs, as my co-workers are likely the ones that gave me this New Year’s present, anyway. To make myself better, I’ve been indulging in food. At home, I’ve been eating chili, spaghetti, cinnamon streusel cake, peppermint bark, miniature chicken egg rolls, etc. Though they may not be the healthiest of choices, that’s what I consider “comfort” food!
My main boss took a vacation day today. One of my other bosses relocated here from Chicago around August. She’s still discovering new places to eat in San Francisco. A few days ago, she and I were discussing our favorite types of pizza with my favorite analyst, A. In his opinion, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana has the best pizza, followed by Tommaso’s. I slightly prefer the pizza at BaoNecci, but feel that Tony’s is a very good second runner-up. I’ve never made it to Tommaso’s thus far. My other boss, C., mentioned that she’s not a fan of Chicago-style pizza, although she’d been living there. I have to admit that it didn’t win me over, either, during the 3 months that I inhabited Chicago. The deep dish pizza at Gino’s East was too heavy; even worse, neither the sauce or the crust had much in the way of flavor. Giordano’s was a little better. My favorite pizza in Chicago was Pizzeria Uno. Yet I will pretty much always choose a thin crust true Italian-style (i.e. Neapolitan, Sicilian or Roman) over deep dish. That being said, Paxti’s Pizza here in San Francisco isn’t half bad, either; not even their deep dish. I digress. Since the main boss was out, C. and I decided to walk to North Beach, eat at Tony’s Pizza Napoletana and take a long lunch.
A little background first. Tony Gemignani is an American, but an 11 time winner of the World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy. He’s most famous for his margherita pizza. You can often see him in the restaurant making pizzas himself. His restaurant is a major tourist draw in North Beach. They don’t seem to take reservations and there’s usually a line out the door.
C. and I arrived around 12:15 p.m. to no line at all! We were told that the wait would be 5 to 10 minutes. Five minutes later, my name was called and we were seated. C. was happy to note that Tony’s serves Neapolitan, Californian, classic Italian, classic American, coal-fired, Sicilian, Roman, Detroit style and New York style pizza. She was thrilled to no end to discover that they serve St. Louis style pizza. I had no idea what that was, but she explained that St. Louis style pizza requires a certain type of cheese called provel. Her heart was set on that, so that’s what she ordered. The description said that it had provel, Swiss, white cheddar and provolone with extra sweet tomato sauce and specified that it would be cut into squares. She also added some sausage, bringing the total to $22. I was tempted by the classic Italian style pancetta porcini pizza, but ultimately went with the California style wild robiola – mozzarella, stracciatella and robiola, wild mushrooms, truffle oil, speck, piave and arugula for $23. In previous years, I was not a fan of arugula on pizza, but it’s grown on me. My pizza arrived first. I offered a slice to her and she was duly impressed. When hers arrived, she offered me a slice as well. Though I honestly liked the St. Louis style pizza, I preferred mine. Once I inhale the scent of truffle oil, nothing else matters! We munched happily away. Of course, we had left overs, which we had packed up to go.
On our walk back to the office, I showed her where BaoNecci is located and stressed how good their Monte Bianco and Contadina pizzas are. Since they’re no longer open in the afternoon (and neither is Tommaso’s), we’re going to have to plan to eat an early dinner there one evening after work. We then made our way to Stella Pastry. She wanted to try their cannoli, though she doubted that any could compare with the homemade ones from her Sicilian grandmother. She admitted that she’s often taken a single bite from a cannoli, then thrown it away because it wasn’t up to her standards. C. got a cannoli, I got a sacrapantina and the guy behind the counter talked her into getting a sacrapantina as well.
Back in the office, she cut the cannoli into 3 slices – one for A., of course! In fact, she made a North Beach “sampler” plate for A. containing a slice of the St. Louis style pizza, a third of the cannoli and half of her sacrapantina. C. was surprised to find that she really liked the cannoli. I was even more surprised to find that I did, too. I’ve never liked any cannoli that I’ve tasted before, but that one was good. A., naturally, protested all of the food that she’d given him, as he’s having a diet contest with one of his roommates. He protested a bit, inhaled everything and raved about all of it. I then told him that I also had something for him. He asked “Is it on my diet?” “Of course!” I assured him. He feigned a groan when he saw the slice of my wild robiola pizza. I promised him that it would be healthy beings it had greens on it. Then, much like me, he caught a whiff of the truffle oil and became silent as he decided to eat it! The consensus – Mikey liked it! The other guys in the office were kind of huffing and puffing around that we never get anything special for them. We explained that A. is like our little brother and we just love to feed him!!!
My favorite analyst in the office, A., has been on a banh mi kick for months; he eats them 2 to 3 times per week! That boy has consumed more banh mi in the past several months than I have in my entire life! As for me, I’m still trying to explore new Vietnamese dishes.
There was barely anyone in the office on Friday. The female attorney, C., had already mentioned the previous week that she was interested in either trying out the Vietnamese restaurant that I like (Mau) or having a liquid lunch. A. heard that we were heading off to the Mission via BART to lunch at Mau, so he wanted to join us. We were chatting so much on BART that we missed our stop and had to go back! Mau opens at noon; we arrived about 12:15 and they already had a decent amount of customers. Although Mau DOES have banh mi during lunch, A. actually was wanting to eat soup, such as pho, because he was feeling a little under the weather. He eventually settled on my favorite soup, hu tieu (xa-xieu pork, chicken, shrimp and ground pork in a garlic chicken broth). I had another soup called bun rieu (minced pork, dried shrimp, gulf prawn, tofu and rice noodles in a chicken-tomato broth). C. went with the bun thit nuong (grilled lemongrass pork with vermicelli noodles). The 3 of shared the Hue rolls (grilled lemongrass pork, shiso, mint, scallion oil and fried shallots in a steamed rice roll) and the papaya salad (green papaya, poached shrimp and calamari, Thai basil and peanuts). Of course, we were given a plate of fresh herbs and bean sprouts for all of us to garnish our dishes with. Nothing was spicy, but very fresh. They enjoyed everything, but particularly liked the Hue rolls and the hu tieu. Although I liked my bun rieu, maybe the chicken-tomato broth threw me off a little. For drinks, we each had a 33 (Vietnamese beer). We finished the rolls and the salad easily. A. downed his hu tieu , but neither C. or I made much headway in ours. Our lunch took a leisurely 2 hours. The bill came to $28 apiece, including tip (it’s not a little hole-in-the-wall place), which didn’t phase any of us.
Am I over Vietnamese food yet? Is A. over banh mi? The answer to both is “No!” I might go back to Mau this weekend ’cause now I want the bun cha again!