Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Restaurant Review: Aperto

Despite it being in the little hub of Potrero Hill amongst all the neighborhood restaurants we really like, Nick and I hadn't made it over the Aperto until last Sunday. We'd heard a lot of praise about the place in the past and until very recently our good friend's brother used to work there but we don't tend to eat Italian out because Nick is skilled at making pasta from scratch at home. Aperto seems to be known as an Italian restaurant but that doesn't explain why there were two omelettes and only one frittata on the brunch menu.

Service: Immediately as we were seated, I shared the following exchange with the host/manager:
Him: Can I get you anything to drink to start?
Me: I think I'd like to take a look at the menu first.
Him: No, no! I am only asking about beverages now.
Nick and I ordered waters. I am not sure what is so unusual about wanting to see what juices, teas, or espresso items are on the menu before ordering my beverage but I guess that was not okay for this guy, who had no reason to be in a hurry because we were seated immediately upon arrival and there was no one else behind us. Our waitress was friendly though, in the good-at-doing-her-job-without-actually-expressing-her-personality sort of way. She apologized when Nick pointed out that he'd ordered French toast and she brought him pancakes, in the it-is-my-job-to-say-sorry sort of way.

Food: Maybe my exchange with the host/manager before I could even pick up my menu put a damper on things. And maybe their little almond muffins that they serve with brunch were supposed to be dry and hard, but to me a dry and hard muffin is a stale muffin. This is the listing on the menu for what I ordered: "Grilled Four Cheese Sandwich: melted fresh mozzarella, gorgonzola, goat and grana cheeses, Sicilian olives and arugula on Italian bread". It came with homefries. I started eating right away even though Nick had to wait for his French toast but my homefries were already cold; they were also so perfectly cubed that there was nothing homey about them. My sandwich tasted like a Grilled One Cheese Sandwich where mozzarella was the only cheese in it. Also, by "Sicilian olives" they meant half of an olive on one side of my sandwich and about 4–5 olive halves on the other side. The most prominent-tasting ingredient was the arugula.

Ambiance: They had a nice little open kitchen area and a warm color on the walls. The larger tables had bright blue vases with vibrant-colored flowers in them. I enjoyed admiring the cool-looking purple flower on the table next to us but the camera on my BlackBerry decided to make it blue.

Rating: Not recommended.

Aperto is located at 1434 18th Street, San Francisco, California, 94107.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Yuppie Gift Guide, Day 1: Stuff You Can't Have Enough Of

There are some things that you can never have too many of. My friend Jess and I have been gifting each other shoes over and over again for this reason. If you find a good gift but you're worried that your recipient already has something similar, get it anyway. They could probably use a spare. And if anything, these are all items that don't take up very much space in the back corner of one's closet, should they find their way there.

| 1. Forever 21 Linear Satin Bow Headband ($3.80) | I confess that Forever 21 is still a go-to place for me for cheap jewelry and headbands. For a simple headband with a cute bow, they really do have the variety you need.

| 2. OPI Big Apple Red Nail Lacquer (about $7) | I use OPI both at the nail salon and at home because I find that grouped with good base and top coats, it really lasts for a long time. I painted on this color two weeks ago and it still looks decent. I love this classic bright red because it works both during the summer and the winter.

| 3. Royal Tailor Cuff ($38) | I find myself being very drawn to button-themed things like this awesome bracelet that combines gold and silver tones. It is tough for me to find cuff-style bracelets that don't fall off of my child wrists and this one fits very nicely.

| 4. Kate Spade Jingle Flats ($250) | Like I said before, you can never have too many pairs of shoes. I like these because I am obsessed with Kate Spade and also really into sparkly things this season. They're pretty Christmasy with the little jingle bells and all but I would totally wear them all year.

| 5. Kiehl's Facial Fuel Moisturizer ($30) | Despite the packaging, there is nothing about this moisturizer that makes it specifically for men; I once asked a Kiehl's associate about it and she said that many men just need their beauty products to be in manly colored bottles. This is actually just an amazing moisturizer that is incredibly lightweight and soothing and yes, I use it even though I'm a girl.

| 6. J.Crew Tipped Microstripe Socks ($12.50) | The men in my life seem to wear their socks way beyond when the holes are starting to show. Why don't they just get new ones? Every time I am at J.Crew, the contrast of the super dark navy and the yellow on these catches my attention.

| 7. Exuvius Titan Collar Stays ($30) | Collar stays are so easy to lose that guys can always use more. But these aren't just collar stays— they are multi-purpose tools specially designed to serve as thread-cutters, screwdrivers, and bottle openers as well. You can wear them in your collar or stick them on your keyring.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Like a Big Beef Pie, That's Amore.

Here's this year's Thanksgiving meal.

Since it's just me and Nick this year, we decided to skip the turkey entirely. I think Nick put it best—"So 4 hours later, you take out the turkey and it's either dry or moist. That's not a whole lot of payout." Instead, I made a steak, Guinness and cheese pie with a puff pastry lid; peas; cinnamon apple cranberry sauce; and my special recipe for mashed potatoes. Not to be a total narcissist or anything but this might be the best Thanksgiving meal of my life.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Recipe: Ginger Spice Cookies

I made these cookies for dessert when we had some friends over for lunch on Sunday. It was storming the night before so I was in the mood for some holiday-ish flavors. I served chicken-apple sausage pigs-in-a-blanket, butternut squash and kale lasagna, and then these cookies that are loaded with ginger and spice. I used a recipe from the December 2009 issue of Bon Appétit as a guide and then improvised out of laziness.

6 tablespoons room temperature salted butter
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup uncrystallized candied ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup golden brown sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 nubs freshly peeled ginger
1/6 cup wildflower amber honey or whatever honey you have
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
small bowl of unrefined cane sugar

First of all, a lifestyle tip: letting your butter get to room temperature rather than sticking it in the microwave will make a huge difference in the shape and texture of your cookies. So measure out your butter, leave it in a large bowl, and let it get to room temperature.

While you are waiting, you can line your baking tray with parchment paper, place your oven rack in the middle, and preheat your oven to 350° Fahrenheit. You can also cut your candied ginger (I get mine from Trader Joe's) into pieces about the size of chocolate chips and finely grate your fresh ginger. In a bowl, alternate adding your flour and your candied ginger so that the candied ginger doesn't clump together. Add the baking soda and the salt (use 2 pinches if your butter is unsalted). Stir to combine.

When your butter is ready, whisk it until it has a creamy texture. Thoroughly whisk in both brown sugars. Crack your egg into a small bowl, beat it gently, and pour half into your wet ingredients. Add the vanilla, grated ginger, honey, cinnamon, and clove. Whisk thoroughly until creamy. Gently stir in the dry ingredients in two or three batches.

Roll some of the dough into a 1-inch ball. Dip it in the bowl of unrefined sugar and place it on the baking tray sugar-side-up. Repeat with the rest of the dough, spacing the balls 2 inches apart. Bake them for about 15 minutes, or until they are firm on the outside and the tops have that cracked, sparkly holiday cookie look.

Makes 20 cookies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The |2010| Yuppie Gift Guide

The other day, Nick and I realized that we must be some of the hardest people to shop for—the type of people who have everything, and buy themselves whatever they want. At the same time, as the good consumer that I am, I spend about 50% of my waking hours looking at products on the internet. Therefore, with the encouragement of a dear friend in need of gift ideas for this holiday season, I have decided to put together a gift guide to help all my readers find the right gift for the toughest, most spoiled recipients on their lists. Out of dedication to make this a reliable gift guide, I will try my best to recommend items that I have either already personally tested/owned or at least ones that come from sites that I am familiar with ordering from (so this is not a wishlist of mine).

I've divided my gift guide into 12 different categories (like the 12 days of Christmas—get it?) which I will post on 12 different and random days between now and Christmas. Stay tuned and check back often!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Feed the Storks

As I was taking my seat at Plow this afternoon, a group of six girls at the table next to me swarmed towards me wanting to know where I got my dress. I don't know if I have ever received compliments on a dress from that many different people in that short of a time span before, so I guess my dress is pretty awesome. This is it.

| French Connection, Midnight Stalks dress |

In case you, too, would like to own this awesome stork-printed dress, as an added bonus, French Connection is offering a 30% discount on all purchases until tomorrow. Enter the promo code: FF2010.

| Photo Credit: French Connection Autumn/Winter 2010 Collection |

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Breakfast Grub.

I'm obsessed with these themed postcards from Atelier Nouvelles Images with the white backgrounds and the little photos.

I recently picked up this breakfast-themed one to add to my collection. I love the contrast of the soft greens and blues of the dishes with the golden brown colors of the pastries. It has been making me happy every time I look at it on my wall.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Remember, remember, a sunny November.

Do you ever wonder why Urban Outfitters has ridiculous photos of people wearing tank tops while hanging Christmas lights in their catalogs?
It is because this is seriously what it looks like in San Francisco in the middle of November.

| Photo Credit: top. Cass Bird for Urban Outfitters; bottom. Me |

Friday, November 12, 2010

Restaurant Review: Pomelo

Last weekend, finding ourselves not craving any particular cuisine, we came across Pomelo on Yelp and decided to give it a try. The place boasts the slogan "refreshingly global" because each dish on the menu (cutely divided into "side trips" and "destinations" for appetizers and entrées, respectively) is named after a different spot on the globe and represents an entirely different culture's cuisine. I couldn't take or find a very good photo of the restaurant so instead, I drew you this silly pomelo.
Service: There was one guy in there who did everything: greeted us, showed us our table, took our order, served us, and cleared our table. He was friendly and even showed a little humor. He was the sort of waiter who helped guide old ladies into their chairs and patted people on the shoulder as he was checking in on their meals. When he cleared our plates, he asked if we had been finished for a long time; we weren't at all. I liked him.

Food: I had a Provençal-inspired lamb ragout which was delicious; the best part though was the cakes of baked polenta served to the side of it that were the perfect consistency on the inside and crispiness on the outside. Nick had Indonesian-style noodles in a big bowl that smelled great but that I didn't try because it was too different from my meal. He enjoyed it. I think the concept of putting such disparate dishes all in one menu is an interesting and original one, and it works for people who like variety on the menu but not sharing around the table. If you like having a little sample of everyone else's dish but are still looking for a coherent meal, this is probably not the place for you.

Ambiance: This is clearly a neighborhood restaurant. The fresh rose on every table was a nice touch and the soft peachy colors and the dim lighting makes the place a good spot for a romantic but very very casual dinner. After previewing the menu online ahead of time though, I was a little bit surprised when I walked in because I think I was expecting an environment that matched their modern and eclectic theme. I could see this being a fantastic go-to dinner spot for people who live nearby but it does not look like a destination for me.

Rating: Recommended.

Pomelo is located at 1793 Church Street San Francisco, California 94131.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mad Green Party.

While driving past the Concourse Exhibition Center last weekend, Nick and I noticed a sign that said "BIKE VALET" and large masses of hippies heading towards the building, where apparently the Green Festival was taking place. After some quick research, I learned that we could get into the festival (henceforth referred to as the hippie convention) for free by each spending $10 at Rainbow Grocery. Since we didn't seem to have a better way to spend a rainy Sunday, Nick and I proceeded to do just that, and subsequently found ourselves attending our very first hippie convention.

While there, we got free reusable tote bags, free granola bars, and tons of free samples of açaí juice and chocolaty quinoa. It was pretty packed and we agreed was much more fun than the bridal fair we attended while planning our wedding. We almost wished that we hadn't had such a huge breakfast at Brenda's beforehand because we were too full to try all of the organic yogurt, organic agave syrup, and organic whole grain crackers that the hippie convention exhibitors had to offer. And while we didn't learn anything about how to be better environmentalists, we certainly learned that hippies love swag just as much as yuppies do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Incredible Bulk.

Over the weekend, Nick and I experienced Rainbow Grocery for the first time. Rainbow Grocery is a cooperative worker-owned establishment that is apparently pretty popular in San Francisco amongst hippies, people who ride bikes, and now yuppies who enjoy going to novelty grocery stores late at night to avoid the crowds of hippies and people who ride bikes.

What I love about Rainbow Grocery is their seriously epic bulk goods section. There, you can find anything from loose honeybush tea, to juniper berries, to miso paste. This appeals to me because why would I shop at a regular grocery store with only one kind of flour when I can shop at a grocery store that has 30 different kinds of flour? And also lets me decide how much to buy? This totally caters to my loves for having many options and being in control.

| Photo Credit: marispacifica via SFoodie |

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Bay of Pig.

While on the subject of things that have both a pig motif and a San Francisco motif going on, here is this adorable poster by Alyson Thomas. Embedded in the drawing of the pig is a map of all the San Francisco neighborhoods, but what I think makes it cute is how the important pig parts are still labeled alongside them; I love how the northwest corner of my neighborhood touches the ham border.

I almost want to write to the owners of Plow about how they should put one of these in their restaurant. But for now, I have one hanging in my own dining room.

You can get your own here.

| Photo credit: Alyson Thomas of Drywell |

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Restaurant Review: Plow

On Sunday, Nick and I waited for over an hour to get a table at Plow, the bougie breakfast place right in our neighborhood. Plow is a charming little place with a wrought iron pig sign, sturdy plain white plates, and a menu of the breakfast classics done simply but in a very San Francisco way (using fresh and locally-sourced ingredients). You can tell just how carefree and nonchalant the people are around here by how hardly anyone flinches when the guy in the Giants cap taking down names tells them to wait outside and enjoy the sunshine for the next hour and 15 minutes.

Service: The staff here are warm and friendly without being annoying. Despite how busy they were, they never gave off a frazzled vibe. I ordered the fried egg sandwich with added bacon; when the sandwich arrived there was no bacon, but I didn't want to wait again so I just asked them to remove the bacon fee from the bill when it arrived. Instead, the waitress apologized sincerely and put the whole sandwich on the house.

Food: My fried egg sandwich with Grafton cheddar and frisee was delicious. Somehow the frisee was perfectly subtle while still giving the sandwich some produce presence. What really impressed me was how despite my cutting through the runny eggs and being a the slowest eater of all time, the bottom bun stayed crispy all the way through my very last bite. Nick and I also got one of their lemon ricotta pancakes on the side. I'm usually not a big pancake person unless there is truly something special, and this was seriously the best pancake of my life. Instead of tasting and feeling like a disk of cooked pancake batter, this was like a soft sponge cake with the light and creamy qualities of ricotta and a faint essence of fresh lemon. I know that last sentence did not make very much sense but it is because words cannot really describe this pancake.

Ambiance: I felt that the place matched the food in simultaneously achieving simplicity and elegance. The interior somehow managed to be both modern and farm-inspired without a grain of kitsch. I was charmed by the salt and pepper shakers that looked like old milk bottles and how the natural light from the wall of windows on one side of the space created a natural glow bouncing off the walls of the other side. A nice article/slideshow on how wine barrels and other such materials were repurposed for the restaurant can be found here.

Rating: Strongly recommended.

Plow is located at 1299 18th Street, San Francisco, California 94107.