Budget organic

August 24th, 2005 § Comments off § permalink

UC Berkeley NewsCenter, the campus’ unusually journalistic publicity site, just published an interview with the owner of Caffe Strada, whose location (across the street from hundreds of architecture students) would guarantee its success even if its espresso drinks weren’t as good and reasonably priced as they are. The owner, Daryl Ross, also runs several cafés and restaurants near campus that are all much better than they need to be, including Adagia, the only restaurant on the south side of campus that might conceivably qualify as fine dining. Ross’ businesses use lots of organic and sustainably-grown ingredients, and apparently he’s planning to open an über-sustainable café in the MLK Student Union next year. Good stuff, sir, and thanks for helping me stay well caffeinated for the past couple of years.

How Jefe got his groove back

August 18th, 2005 § Five comments § permalink

I should have mentioned sooner that my cooking troubles are behind me, and that I ended them not with a sure thing but a gamble: a rosemary sorbet, the recipe for which I found in The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook. My anemic little Cuisinart ice cream maker (on loan from a friend) even yielded somewhat better textural results than usual, though not nearly good enough to stop me from lusting after a much fancier machine.

Anyhow, the rosemary sorbet is easy to make: Put 2 1/4 cups of water and 1/2 cup sugar in a small saucepan and bring them to a boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped fresh rosemary and remove from the heat. Steep the mixture until the rosemary flavor is fairly strong, 20 to 40 minutes. (Remember, it will taste less strong after you freeze it; just don’t let it get too piney-tasting.) Strain the mixture and discard the rosemary. Put the liquid in the fridge for a few hours, then run it through the ice cream maker and put it in the freezer until it’s firm.

I suspect this would be lovely with some buttery, bready thing like pound cake. Jack Bishop suggested pairing it with strawberries and pineapple, or with a warm apple tart.

My cooking woes continue

August 11th, 2005 § 10 comments § permalink

At the time, last week’s failed pickling attempt seemed like a minor setback. It has since grown into a full-blown New Recipe Slump. Yesterday, I attempted to make hummus, but I was doomed from the start by my lack of a food processor. After a great deal of effort spent on breaking up chickpeas with a fork and mashing them with an improvised mortar and pestle, I created a beige substance with decent flavor and a revoltingly chunky texture. This morning’s cooking experiment was a recipe for quick pickled carrots, which turned out to be edible but rather dull.

Now I need to get my confidence back up, so I think I’ll look through my recipe binder tonight and see if I can find a sure thing—perhaps a refreshing summer beverage of some sort. I can still toast bagels and boil pasta without difficulty, so at least I won’t starve.

An open letter

August 6th, 2005 § Four comments § permalink

agnès b.:

You, madame, are one foxy French corporation. Most of your men’s clothing is a perfect match for my own aesthetic (although I wouldn’t have guessed it from your current website). Even your store in San Francisco suits me—simply appointed, with early-vintage Cure songs playing from overhead speakers. Also, since I have the build of a Frenchman, I can only assume that your shirts would fit me properly rather than billowing out like sails.

Your prices, though, give me pause. As much as I would like to exchange $180 for one of your fine shirts, I simply do not, as we say in the States, have that kind of scratch. I’ll let you in on a little secret, though, one that your market research may not have turned up: In America, we have never had a royal family, so the grandchildren of former viscounts who apparently comprise your target market are unlikely to materialize. Might you be willing to offer, say, a 75 percent discount to those of us who are not descended from nobles?

By hoping that this solution will appear interesting to you, I remain, agnès b., sincerely yours,


Peter Franus, you’ve done it again

August 5th, 2005 § Seven comments § permalink

As if to compensate for the recent margarita-swilling escapades, my leisure activities this week have been distressingly wholesome. For example, I bought Kirby cucumbers at the farmers’ market and tried, but failed, to make fresh pickles; alas, my brine proved insufficiently briny. I’ll try again next week, possibly with green beans rather than cucumbers. (This experiment was the first in a new series, in which I will try to stop being lazy about purchasing things at the store that can just as well be made at home. Next up: hummus. And there might be some canning before I’m through. Look out, people.)

Oh, but the virtue doesn’t stop there. I also got a card for the Oakland Public Library; sold a few unneeded possessions on eBay; attended a going-away party for an old friend; and cleared away the piles of paper in my office. What’s going on here? I’m a young, city-dwelling, single male who can pass as a hipster in dim light, and yet I’m sitting at home on a Friday night, updating my weblog and sipping a minerally Sauvignon Blanc with a pronounced note of grapefruit. Shouldn’t I be drinking Jack Daniels and trashing a hotel room somewhere instead?

Well, I suppose that wild abandon has never really been my métier, as evidenced by my use of the word “métier.” For this week, at least, I’ll have to settle for the simpler pleasures of responsible adulthood.

Where am I?

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