Tuesday, December 16, 2008

'tis the season for lost arts

i like to give homemade gifts at christmas. i think this is due partly to the fact that i am broke but also because making something from scratch and giving something delicious to a person you love is the bees knees.

over the last few years i have crafted a select trio of the perfect christmas gifts. number one on the list is jam. growing up my maternal grandmother used to have the BEST strawberry jam. i loved it. loved, loved, loved it. she kept it in little plastic containers in the freezer. at some point i asked my grandma how she made such amazing strawberry jam. "sure-gel. the recipe is right on the box." what?! i couldn't believe it was so easy.

a few years later my paternal grandmother offered me her water bath canner and i snapped up the offer. then i made jam and i have made jam every christmas since.

i don't make the freezer kind like my grandma used to. i like to actually cook and can it. i do this so it last longer but also cuz it is fun and little mason jars are cute.

this year i made two batches of strawberry and one batch of triple berry (strawberry, raspberry and blackberry) - about 20 jars or so. now, i love giving people jam. i LOVE it cuz it really does taste awesome and it is a fantastic homemade gift. but i'll tell ya' it is a real labor of love. canning is a lost art probably for good reason. it is time consuming. very time consuming. but spreading homemade jam on toast or on one of kp's biscuits is just so kick ass that i sweated and toiled all day sunday in order to deliver.

i've also started canning pasta sauce. i used my trusted and true recipe of crushed tomatoes, olive oil, garlic (lots of garlic), salt, red pepper flakes (lots of read pepper flakes) and lemon zest. i canned the sauce is cute lil' pint jars. they are just darling......and delicious!!

so jam and pasta are the canned duo of my trifecta of perfect homemade gifts. the third of course is cookies. this year i am doing two. another trusted and true recipe - oatmeal, dried cranberries or cherries and chopped pecans. mmmm. mmmm. mmmm. i think i'm going to do some sugar cookies as well.

you better keep your fingers crossed that you're lucky enough to get one of my holiday delights!

and check this out. kp found this gem for me. she's definitely getting some christmas delights!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

slow cooked cheap hunks of meat. mmmm.

hello again. still here. and tonight i finally discovered what the hell everyone has been talking about when it comes to short ribs. i've had 'em before. here. my friend gentle ben and i decided to check it out some time ago after reading about it in the free times. oh hey - it's even on beer advocate's website.

the short ribs were the special - braised with carrots, tomatoes and those lil' onions and it was spooned over mashed potatoes. i was just getting into magic hat then and it was one of the only places i knew with no. 9 on tap besides the lizard. huh - guess that was a while ago.

anyways - they kicked ass. soooooo good. and then i was inspired by this kid and i decided to try my hand at braised short ribs.

he braised his short ribs in beer but i opted for wine. (beer braise next time). it was a lil' like the faux osso bucco. i seasoned two short ribs with salt and pepper and browned them in my dutch oven in some oil on all sides. i took out the short ribs and browned some chopped onions, carrots and celery. i added about 1 1/2 cups of red wine and really reduced it. then i put the short ribs back in and added some beef stock just to cover them. i brought it to a boil and then put 'em in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

while those were braising i decided to make some cookies. i was inspired earlier by some dried cherries i picked up at the peanut shoppe. i've also been wanting to try out pioneer woman's pecan crispies so i thought i'd combine 'em. i made the dough and chilled it in the fridge while the short ribs continued to braise.

i made some mashed potatoes and topped 'em with one of the short ribs. then i spooned the yummy reduced sauce over everything. oh man oh man. soooooo good. the meat just pulled apart with my fork and taking a big bite of all the different things was sooooo good!!

then i started baking the cookies. these are pretty damn good but i think next time i'll use butter instead of crisco. like with these cookies. butter is just so much better. and i think i'll use more pecans next time too.

so yea. tonight was pretty delicious.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

pork! pork! pork!

so yea....no new updates. no camera still has me unmotivated. i'm still cooking of course. i mean, i have to eat. like tonight. tonight i baked some chicken and made some twice baked potatoes for my friends kp and mk and we watched, "mr. smith goes to washington." fabulous movie. i love jimmy stewart. so cute. so honest. so genuine. sigh....... they don't make 'em like they used to.

so the chicken. i picked up some boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs and pounded them out. then i marinated them for about 1 1/2 hours in fresh squeezed lemon juice and minced garlic. i melted some butter and olive oil in a small pan and then let it cool. i brushed the chicken with the butter/olive oil and then dredged it in a mix of breadcrumbs, fresh thyme (from my garden! the herbs are still kickin'!), salt and pepper. then i baked the chicken on a cookie sheet for about 25 minutes.

in the meantime i baked two potatoes in the microwave. then i scooped 'em out and put the hollowed out skins back in the oven to crisp up. while those were crisping (and the chicken was bakin') i smashed together the scooped out potato, some chopped green onions, sharp cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and some sour cream. i re-stuffed the skins and then put 'em back in the oven. mmmmmm....it smelled good in my kitchen. when everything was done i topped the potatoes with a lil' more cheese and some chopped chives (also from the garden!).

kp, mk and myself enjoyed this dinner with some red wine (me) and some cider and rum (kp and mk) while we watched jimmy stewart as a young idealistic junior senator take washington by storm!

oh! and last night i was feeling like i could accomplish things so i finally set up the printer/scanner/copier that my aj and uncle stu-hoo gave me months ago. and since i can scan now i scanned the following photo:

i took this photo months - maybe years - ago up at the west side market. man, i love that place. and i love pig. next time kp, mk and i get together to watch an old timey film i'm cookin' up a pork dish!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

nothin' you haven't seen before

i am still without a digital camera. this sucks so badly. i think i'm going to try to finagle one outta my parents for either christmas or my birthday. my friend gentle ben offered to sell me his for $30 but at that price i'm not so sure. is it busted? does it suck? i think i'm just gonna go ahead and shoot for a new one.

last night i made myself a fine meal but it's nothing new to you. i acquired a ton of collard greens last week and i've been keeping 'em fresh in a bowl of water in my fridge. i also had the other key ingredient handy - bacon. i've taken to freezing it now so i almost always have some on hand. i whipped up some greens and a yummy half of an acorn squash.

i ate this delightful dinner while drinking a few guinness and watching some like it hot.

i guess this movie is a classic. i liked marilyn monroe cuz she is nice to look at and she had a great line, "i'm not a drunk. i can quit drinking any time i want to. i just don't want to." ha! however i decided that i don't really like tony curtis. he just isn't very good looking or much of a leading man. and the ending of this movie.....gimme a break. at least i was comforted by collard greens and squash.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

bad news on the blog front

last weekend the shitetarian and i headed out to the beautiful beaches of delaware. bethany beach to be exact and it was
fucking awesome.

the seafood feasts we cooked in our tiny condo kitchen were remarkable. outta this world. i'm talking mind blowing, buzz inducing seafood feasts (or was that the vodka......)

the bad news in this otherwise heartwarming tale of good eats, good friends and good booze is that my digital camera bit the dust while we were out there!

i captured day one's dinner (grilled shrimp two ways [a chipotle, lime marinade and a simple olive oil, red pepper flakes, salt mix], steamed clams in white wine and garlic, and steamed hard shell crabs with melted butter) but that was it. i attempted to capture the remaining dinners with my 35mm but who knows if those photos will end up being blog quality or not (that might have something to do with the vodka......)

so yea. i can't get the few digital pics i was able to take off of my camera and i am flat broke (from the seafood....and maybe the vodka....) so i can't afford to develop my film, let alone pick up a new digital camera.

it is a sad, sad miserable time for the erratic epicurean (so sad in fact i am talking in the third person. christ. maybe that was caused by the debate beers - MY FRIENDS, my friends, mY fRiEnDs - the viper knows what i'm talking about). so yea. no digital camera. it makes blogging much less fun.

what do you care if i made a kick ass pot roast with carrots and onions and mashed potatoes and pan gravy tonight?
you can't see it.

man, this totally blows.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

northeast ohio tomatoes. yummmmmm......

so the other day i came across this recipe for tomato soup. it sounded so delightful i couldn't resit. i had an onion and peppers and i decided to hit szalay's after work for a couple of big, homegrown tomatoes.

i cut up some tomatoes, a red pepper, an onion and a couple of yellow peppers. the recipe called for NO yellow peppers but it did call for three yellow onions. hmmmm. well, i only had one onion and i picked some peppers just cuz they were yellow and spicy and i threw in a few extra garlic cloves to make up for the lost onions.

i poured olive oil over everything and then sprinkled it with some salt. i left the garlic in the peel cuz the recipe told me too and also because roasted garlic is one of the best things ever.

i roasted the veggies in the oven for about an hour.

once they were brown and tasty looking i took 'em out of the oven and started scooping them into my food processor. when garlic is roasted just right you can just squeeze ir right outta the peel. mmmmmmm. squeeze this out on to some triscuits - that shit is tops!!

i scooped in the roasted veggies and i slowly added some vegetable broth. i seasoned it with some salt and red pepper flakes and i just pulsed away.

mmmmm. it smelled so good in my apartment. those roasting veggies - yum!

soup's on. here it is. roasted tomato soup.

i picked up a really yummy lil' block of parmesan cheese up at the market last week. you know you have the good stuff when it just crumbles between your fingers. so i crumbled some into my soup. i paired this soup with a tasty mojito cuz i had all the fixin's and they just taste so damn good. roasted ohio tomato soup and mojitos with my own garden mint. yum. yum. yum.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

a marathon weekend of eating and drinking

whew. what a weekend it has been. saturday was the annual road runner akron marathon - one of my favorite days of the year!

three of my friends were in the race. gentle ben did the half marathon and the martini and the the viper ran the whole damn thing. in order to celebrate their athleticism we gathered for brunch and boozing along the route at a friend's - mile 23 or thereabouts i believe.

for this year's brunch i opted for two dishes - cinnamon rolls and skillet cornbread.

i created my cinnamon rolls by snagging elements from both the pioneer woman and margaux sky.

i made the dough thursday night and used the first half for a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread. eh. this was ok. it was much too much dough for my teeny tiny loaf pan and it created one helluva mess in my oven but i digress.

friday evening i used the second half of the dough for the cinnamon rolls. i rolled it out thin and then shmeared it with a mix of melted butter, brown sugar and chopped pecans.

i rolled the shmeared dough away from me - rolling in the edges as i went. then i cut the rolls.

now, the pioneer woman puts her rolls in a round pie pan and margaux recommended muffin tins.
i tried both to see what works best.

i let these rise for about an hour and then baked them for like 40ish minutes or so.

of course i had to try 'em out to see if they would be acceptable to serve to friends. they were.

i will also say that i preferred the muffin tin method and will use that from here on out.

saturday - race day - i woke up early and attempted a frosting for the cinnamon rolls. it did not turn out so well so i opted to serve them sans frosting.

i do not have a photo of the skillet cornbread for some reason (it was early) but i will say it turned out pretty damn good. to go with the cornbread i made some sweet butter. i let a stick of butter soften up to room temp and then whipped it with a splash of vanilla and about a 1/4 cup of honey. man oh man. that was good. real good.

we watched the race for hours clapping and cheering for runners of all shapes, sizes and abilities. we saw both the martini and the viper and i distributed booze to both of them. it was a moment of real pride for me. boozing while running 26 miles.
that takes gumption.

we hung out all day and snacked and snacked on delicious brunch items and drank and drank a variety of drinks. finally as evening approached our bellies were growling for more. what better way to finish off the day than some fried chicken?

delightful. wonderful. exquisite. i fucking love the marathon!

oh, and i love this photo.

this is the viper - post race.

the marathon eating continued sunday afternoon as it was browns tailgating at my place. my neighbors put a tv in the bed of a truck and we all gathered outside to cheer our brownies to victory!

my menu was a good one. perfect for football watching. pulled pork, roasted rosemary red potatoes, roasted veggies, polenta and carrot cake.

i picked up a sweet 8 pound bone-in pork shoulder up at west side market from my favorite pork guys over at d.w. whitaker.

i rubbed it down friday night with a mixture of garlic powder, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and paprika.

i wrapped it up tightly with plastic wrap and stuck it in the fridge till tailgating day. sunday morning i set my alarm for 6:00 am so i could get that baby in the oven. (then i crawled back into bed until about 8:30ish.) i cooked it in a 300 degree oven for about 4 1/2 hours. once it was done i took it out and let it rest covered in foil while i worked on the sauce.

you'll remember the sauce from the yard sale blowout chicken. it is the best bbq sauce. i fucking love it.

for that lil' something extra i deglazed the pan of pork drippings and reduced it by about half.

then i poured it into the bbq sauce. yum.......
i simmered the sauce for just a few more minutes before attacking the pork roast.

some people chop it. some people use two forks. i decided my own two hands worked the best.

i paired this pulling with a labatts and some clutch. elephant riders to be exact. kick ass album. especially while pulling pork.

once it was all pulled i put it into a big bowl and dumped in the sauce. i stirred it all up and then put it into a crock pot on low while i worked on the rest of my menu.

and this is where the photos end. people started showing up and the browns started playing and i just had too much on my hands to be fucking with my digital camera.

it was a helluva weekend though. eating and drinking killer eats with some of my favorite people on the planet! here's to the marathons and the camaraderie and good times they bring!!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

faux is the new gourmet

the quest for new foods continues and last night i tried my hand at osso bucco. i went down to the local farmer's market on saturday in the hopes of scoring some veal shanks but by the time i got to the meat man he was wiped out. out of lamb shanks too. poop. he did have some beef shanks though so i gave 'em a go.

my friend c-dog loaned me her giada cookbook and i also came across another recipe calling specifically for beef shanks - a faux osso bucco if you will. since i didn't have everything either recipe called for i opted to take lil' snippets from each for my own version of low rent osso bucco.

speaking of low rent - beef shanks are cheap. this pack of two was only $4.

i guess beef shank is just a glorified term for soup bone.

i seasoned the shanks with salt and pepper and then dredged them in a lil' flour. while i was doing that i got my skillet ready.

when it was good and hot i browned the shanks on both sides and then set them aside. to the same skillet i added chopped carrots, garlic and onion and let them cook for about five minutes.
(the fancy name for this veggie mix is mirepoix [i learned that from michael ruhlman] but i didn't have celery so i guess it was a faux mirepoix).

after the veggies were tender i added about a cup and a half of red wine (both recipes called for white but like any good wine drinker all i had in the house was a cabernet)
and let it reduce for about 8 minutes or so.

once it was reduced i added a cup of veggie broth (one recipe called for beef stock and the other called for chicken stock but all i had was some vegetable bouillon. when i said this was faux osso bucco i meant it!). both recipes called for some kind of tomato too - one was diced, canned tomatoes and the other was tomato paste but keeping with the tradition of missing ingredients all i had in the house was a can of whole tomatoes. i chopped 'em up
and tossed 'em in.

(i love this brand - it's like a buck at marc's!)

i put the shanks back in the skillet and also tossed in a sprig of rosemary for good measure.

giada says to do all this in a roasting pan, cover the pan with foil and then braise. the faux recipe suggested a dutch oven. i just decided to keep working with my cast iron though and covered it in foil. i put these in the oven at 350 and cooked them for two hours - flipping the shanks every 30 minutes.

now, i didn't start this meal - chopping veggies or anything - until about 7:00 not realizing (or forgetting) that it took two hours. to keep my hunger in check i made a lil' tomato basil salad. the tomatoes came from my dad's garden. delish!

and here's the faux osso bucco.

this smelled soooooooooooo good. and it tasted fucking killer!

and here's the finished product.
please note that i am using a spoon. the meat was so tender i could use a spoon! it melted in my mouth!

i paired this meal with a labbat blue cuz i used all the wine in the dish. you'll also notice two slices of cheapo white schwebel's 'taliano. *sigh* what i wouldn't have given for a warm, crusty french loaf to soak up that goodness.
oh well, i guess them's the breaks.

this would have been so f'n good over mashed potatoes or rice or grits - i don't know why the hell i didn't make one of those. i will tonight though. leftover osso bucco over creamy grits. yummmmm.......

Sunday, September 21, 2008

looking for slow cooked hunks of pork? i'll find it!

apparently i have a nose...er snout...for pork.
if there's bbq in a 10 mile radius i'll find it.

it all started when aNw called me up saturday morning and asked if i'd like to join her and check out the mum fest and because i fucking love stuff like that i agreed.
what's better than a small town festival?

so we looked at some mums. they were beautiful.

we watched some trick water skiers on lake anna (who the hell grows up to be a trick skier?) and we looked at some god awful crafty crafts like these. ugh. kinda morbid. who the hell would buy these? worse, who would make these and think they're cool?
ugh. terrible.

by now i was getting a little hungry and we were considering walking back towards the food stands when i noticed a sign stapled to a telephone pole. it read, "trolley to piggery." hmmmm. what the hell is a piggery? would there be cooked pigs?

while aNw picked out some mums to go i asked at the information desk. there was no information. the woman said, "i'm not sure. i think there it's food and fun." hmmmm....food AND fun? we headed out to find the piggery.

and i'm glad we did cuz the piggery turned out to be pretty
fucking sweet.

there weren't quite as many crappy craft vendors and there was bbq and beer. beer! it was like the heavens opened up and shined right down on us! pulled pork and beer!

yum. yum. yum. this was delish. aNw went with a couple of rib bones and i of course went for the pulled pork sammich. i am convinced - 100% convinced - that a better food does not exist. nothing is quite as exquisite as a pulled pork sammich. and the fact that we came across this magical place in barberton, the city of magic, completely by accident was even better! it was my snout! it led us right to the good stuff!

we walked around the piggery which really is a beautiful building and we ended our adventure on a sweet note.

moose tracks in a sugar cone. ahhhhhh. a nice cold beer, a pulled pork sammich and an ice cream cone eaten in and around a piggery. magnificent!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

PW inspired sea planning eats

pioneer woman. god bless her. her latest delicious inspiration was enchiladas.

my dear friend the shitetarian and i decided we need a trip to the beach and in order to brainstorm we would need some beer and good eats. with PW's blessing we opted to test out her enchiladas.

first i chopped up some cilantro and green onions.

then i whipped up the sauce. i cheated a bit (again with PW's blessing) and used canned enchilada sauce with a few extra trimmings: some chicken broth, cilantro, salt and pepper. i also started it all with a roux-ish type mix of oil and flour. pretty tasty although next time i'll just make my own. seems easy enough.

the meat was pretty easy. hamburger and a can of chopped green chilis. an onion would've been nice but i didn't have one.
c'est la vie.

i fried the tortillas in a little oil for about 15-20 seconds per side. i drained them on paper towels and then dipped each one in the sauce.

here's the shitetarian loading up the enchiladas. she brought beans and rice as she is not much of a beef eater. she also stuffed some chipotle peppers and cheese in there.

here are the enchiladas all sauced and cheesed and wrapped up and bubblin' away.

and here's the finished product. i paired these delightful enchiladas with a blue moon because that's what the shitetarian brought over.

these were pretty damn good. next time i will definitely make my own sauce. i needed more heat and since it's so easy i might as well. and shredded chicken would be so, so good.

perhaps we can have seafood enchiladas at the beach!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

makin' somethin' from nothin'

finally. FINALLY i have red tomatoes! i've been waiting for so long. they've been green for what seems like forever and i was only getting one or two red ones at a time. tonight i had to take a little bowl out there with me so i could carry them all in. and some basil. yum. this is my lunch tomorrow.

sunday morning i ran down to szalay's and picked up a couple odds and ends. of those odds and ends i had a few brussel sprouts and a couple red potatoes left. i also discovered one lonesome frozen chicken thigh/leg combo in my freezer.

upon defrosting and further inspection i discovered that the end of the drumstick was broken. the bone was broken and it looked kinda weird - like little bits of bone just floating around. with no other prospects in the freezer i just used my knife to saw off the end. good to go.

i plucked some rosemary from my herb garden and stuck it up under the chicken skin. i seasoned both sides with some salt and pepper and plopped it down into my dutch oven with a little
olive oil.

i decided to steam the brussel sprouts. they're so cute.
lil' cabbages.

i didn't really feel like messing around with the potatoes so i just stuck 'em in the oven with the chicken. mini baked potatoes.

once the chicken was done i wrapped it in foil and deglazed the dutch oven with a little water.

then i thought, hmmmmm.....gravy would be good. i put about a tablespoon of flour and a couple tablespoons of water in a little plastic container, shook it up and added it to the chicken juices. milk works much better for gravy. much better. but the only liquid in my fridge is beer so water it was.

yes things weren't looking too bad for this brokest of broke ass dinners but then i realized - shit! the brussel sprouts are still in the steamer. poop. thus you can imagine that they were just a wee bit overcooked. oh well. two out of three on this budget ain't bad.

and here's the finished product. i paired this fine meal with a harp lager because i came across a 12-pack on sale at the liquor store.

much better than the 89 cent frozen jeno's pizza i thought i was gonna end up with.

oh and one more thing. you may be wondering, "why does she go and buy a 12-pack when she has $17 in her checking account and no food in her fridge?" the answer - priorities. it's all about priorities people. go ahead and judge the eats but please refrain from judging my alcoholism. cheers!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

so broke as hell i can barely eat well

so not too much happening on here as of late. why?

this is why.

san francisco put a hurtin' on me and i've been eating nothing but spaghetti and red sauce and since you already know about my red sauce i didn't feel the need to document it.

in other sad news this blog is likely to get less exotic here soon as i have decided to be an adult and take my gargantuan student loans out of forbearance. monthly payments? egats! this will definitely put a hurtin' on my already limited food budget. c'est la vie.

so stay tuned for the cheapest of cheap eats and the occasional splurge. i will do my best not to disappoint too much.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

just like heaven

i have returned safely from san francisco. i have returned with a full tummy and delicious memories of some of the best eats i've ever eaten. it was like foodie mecca and with only one strike-out i had a pretty good run.

i nerded out and took photos of most of the meals i ate. i couldn't help myself. i wanted to share them with you but more importantly i don't want to ever forget some of these gems. i was in the city for 4 nights and 5 1/2 days and then i spent two nights in the napa valley. food, wine, food, wine, food, wine. seriously, does it get better than that? i don't think so.

ok. let's get started. here's my culinary recap.

wednesday morning. my first breakfast in san francisco.

i had this super satisfying bowl of yogurt, granola and fresh fruit at the acre cafe in the presidio. it was delicious and super cute!

after this breakfast i walked and walked and walked all over the city. i checked out the presidio and walked along the ocean at crissy field. then i stopped by the exploratorium which was super sweet! after nerding out with interactive science experiments i decided i would go check out the haight ashbury neighborhood. as a teenager i loved the whole idea of haight ashbury and i loved janis joplin and the grateful dead and all that hippie stuff. i still think i may have been born in the wrong era but that is another story.

on my way to haight ashbury i noticed that my stomach was starting to rumble. thankfully i stumbled across herbivore while making my way up (way up!) and down (way down!) divisadero street.

yum, yum, yum and totally vegan. curry and coconut milk soup with noodles and cilantro and an avocado and homemade pickle sandwich on fresh baked foccacio bread. man oh man. delish!

i walked and walked and walked some more and then made my way back to my hotel to "freshen up" and meet up with my friends for dinner. we hopped the BART and made our way over to berkeley.

before leaving for san francisco i had dreams of eating at chez panisse but i hate to "live by a reservation" so i didn't make one. i figured we could get to berkeley and see what happened. miraculously, there was a table in the upstairs cafe of chez panisse. holy shit!! we could not believe our luck.

i tried to take a photograph of my meal but it was really dark in there so it really didn't turn out too well. it was way too cool of a place to use my flash (i hate to draw attention to myself and a flash is NOT discreet) so all you get is a photo of the menu. i had the braised lamb shoulder with garlic rosemary mashed potatoes. oh man. sooooooooooooooo good. the sauce was so wonderful. i savored every single bite. i also had some dessert - peach and nectarine cobbler with mulberry ice cream. holy cow. this place lived up to the hype and served up some serious good eats!!

thursday night was our strike out. my friend had read in her travel guide that sam's grill was one of the oldest and best seafood joints in the city. sounds good right? so we decided to check it out.

well, the oysters were good but you can't really fuck those up unless you serve up bad ones. these were good BUT they served them with worchestershire (ick! i had to ask for some hot sauce) and they barely loosened 'em up from the shell so i had to do that before i could slurp. as for the main course, my sole, did not deserve a photo. this place was a total bummer. if you go to san francisco - please avoid sam's grill.

after this debacle my friends decided to check out the modern art museum and i decided to check out north beach and try to catch some of obama's acceptance speech. i finally found a place with a seat and a tv but sadly i forget its name. after the speech i wandered around and came across vesuvio. great bar. i had several beers and chatted with the bartender and a few patrons before the owners of the bar got there. they sat right by me and i chatted with the one woman all about the slow food movement and other topics involving local, fresh organic eats. good times.

friday the conference didn't start until 2:00 so i had all day to myself. (oh, did i not mention i was sent to the city by the bay for work? ha!). first things first - breakfast.

after a hard night of drinkin' a bloody mary and two tylenol's were the perfect pick-me-up. even funnier - i had my bloody mary breakfast at a little bar called grumpy's. ha! that was exactly how i felt!

after breakfast i headed over to the ferry building. the ferry building was originally built as the hub for people arriving/leaving the city by ferry. now the building has been renovated to include offices and the entire downstairs is an awesome marketplace with specialty shops and restaurants and on weekends they have a farmer's market.

a great place to meet my friends for lunch.

we went to a lil' place called mijitas and i had the braised pork tacos. we also split some chips (homemade - SO good) and guac and i enjoyed a very refreshing margarita.

after lunch we walked around a bit and took in the sights and sounds of the market. i spotted this cool tomato stand and it made me wish i had the fixin's for a blt (or a bot for that matter!).

for dessert we spotted a little gelato stand. that is one of the best things about the big city - you can always find gelato.

i had two scoops - dulce de leche and coffee. YUM!!!

north beach is san francisco's little italy. the smells were so good thursday night (but i wasn't hungry. thanks for nothin' sam's!) that i decided to go back to north beach for dinner on friday night. all i could think of was gnocchi and i knew i could find some in north beach.

yep, here it is.

i ate this delicious bowl of homemade gnocchi with red sauce at trattoria pinocchio. it was soooooooo good. it melted in my mouth. the fresh bread and two glasses of pinot noir were also fantastic. yum, yum, yum.

saturday it was back to work but for our lunch break we opted for cafe de la presse - a super cute little french restaurant. i wanted to go super authentic so i opted for the croque madam and a side of frites.

man oh man. so, so, so good. delicious. amazing. yum!!

after lunch my friends and i hopped in our rental car and headed out to the napa valley for the weekend. now here, i lived by the reservation. if you know anything about good eats and the napa valley then you know about the french laundry. and if you know about the french laundry then you know it is IMPOSSIBLE to get a dinner reservation let alone have the money to pay for such a meal.

with that in mind we opted for thomas keller's other yountville restaurant, bouchon. i was able to score a reservation (about two weeks in advance!) and i was super, super excited about this place.

it DID NOT disappoint. in fact, it was the best fucking meal i have EVER eaten in my entire life. hands down. hands fucking down.

we started out with some mussels. delicious. (sorry for the dark photos but you know how i feel about using the flash on my camera - especially in such a classy joint.)

for the main course i had the veal. now, this was my first experience with veal. for a long time i've thought, "that is mean. it's baby cow." thank god i've gotten over that. this was the best thing i have ever tasted in my entire life.

and it wasn't just veal. it was "braised veal breast with sweetbread sausage, warm bean salad, arugula and sauce gremolata." it was crispy on the outside and the inside was soft and melty. so, so, so good. incredible. totally, 100% lived up to the hype. hell, it exceeded the hype.

i had sweet drunken dreams saturday night and sunday i arose early looking forward to an entire day of wine drinking. we knew a good base was imperative so we decided to have breakfast at sweetie pie's. it was this totally adorable little bakery and cafe in downtown napa.

i went with the scrambled egg and bean breakfast burrito with some fresh fruit. very yummy and super satisfying - an excellent base for my belly which was about to be hammered with wine, wine and more wine.

after breakfast we stopped by a little grocery and picked up the essentials: bottled water, almonds, a chocolate bar, some olives, a fresh baguette and some creamy brie.

we were able to hit six (yes SIX!) wineries for tastings. we started the day at trefethen (fantastic!) and eventually made our way to clos du val (eh), cosentino, (very fun. generous pours and the girl was from coloumbus! i ended up buying two bottles: the pinot grigio [for my gma's christmas eve party] and the zin [for myself.]).

then we hit up nichelini's for more wine and our picnic.

nichelini's winery was my favorite place. it is the oldest family run winery in the valley and it is off the beaten path (about a 20 minute drive from the main road - hwy 29). it was beautiful. very friendly. FREE tastings! i had written down this place cuz one of my books said it was a great picnic spot. and it was. it was marvelous.

there was a bocce ball court and there were fountains and beautiful old italian music was playing in the background. we sat outside at a picnic table with the local cat enjoying the tunes, shmearing soft creamy brie on pieces of crusty baguette that we ripped apart with our hands and sipping cabernet. it was heaven. seriously. if heaven exists this might be it.

from nichelini's we hit mumm (eh. i was there last time. they have sparkling wine and it is beautiful.) and then racing against the clock (every winery closes at 5:00 or 5:30) we were able to get to merryvale. merryvale was ok because they stay open until 6:30 but otherwise it wasn't too memorable. by then my palate was shot anyways.

by now we were feeling the effects but it is only like 6:00 (our dinner reservations weren't until 8:00) so we had to press on. i had read about the calistoga inn so we headed north for a beer. my co-travelers opted for waters here so i plunged in head first and after a day of drinking glass after glass of wine i ordered their wheat beer. it was pretty damn tasty!

we tried to see the geyser - the old faithful of california - but it was $8 and wouldn't go off for another 40 minutes. we piled back in the car - me passing out in the back seat with my feet sticking out the back window. when i woke up we were back in downtown napa and headed to uva.

uva was recommended to us by the very nice ohio girl at cosentino after my friend mentioned she was hungry for italian. there is no photo. please cut me some slack. i could barely order. i think i had some angel hair......

that night i slept not so soundly as i was struck with a killer case of heartburn. ugh. red wine and beer and spicy angel hair pasta with roasted garlic and red sauce put a hurtin' on me. it was worth it though. every burn. every burp. totally worth it.

monday we woke up early and hit sweetie pie's again for our departure breakfast. no picture from here either. i was too tired. i had a big steaming bowl of stick-to-your-ribs oatmeal with brown sugar and currants. yum. a nice start to a day spent sitting in an airport, crammed into the middle seat on a plane full of screaming kids and bad cheeseburgers.

san francisco is at the top of my list. i fucking love the city by the bay. the people, the food, the weather. it is beautiful and fun and i love it. i just fucking love it.

"i wasn't born there. perhaps i'll die there. there's no place left to go, san francisco."