Tuesday, December 30, 2008

morning walk

J and I took a lovely walk up the little canyon behind my house, up on the Berkeley hills. You drive five minutes to be in a forest,with a brook running through,various odoriferous trees, like bay and manzanitas.Now in winter, the colors are sometimes deeper, sometimes softer. J loves to gather a tabletop of natural wonders, so we stop and exclaim at the beauty of a crooked branch covered in almond green moss, or wet leaves in a ditch, marroon and silver under the sunlight. At the top of the hill, there is a view of berkeley below, under a gauzy haze,with the sun sparkling above.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

eggs and candles

When I talked to my mother recently, she complained about the Parisian grey skies, the short dark days,the gloominess of winter. So, I suggested to her" to light some candles, make it a little festive, a tad special, like you used to, with your red candles glowing on the holiday table", but she answered" Oh, it is so funerary..." so, it is , sometimes how you view things, depending of your state of mind, your stage in the life journey. I have always loved candles, I associate them with whispers and kisses, special occasions,our early years of marriage with everyday candlelit diners, a tranquil and peaceful mood listening to Albinoni....
My American family celebrate Hanuka in one day, one meal eaten together, the same every year, with songs and blessings and lighting of the 8 candles.We dimmed the kitchen lights, and had our talk of justice, patience and all.the slim candles burned to nothingness, until next year.

photos by Chloe Halpern

We have been feeling overwhelmed, trying to help Dot find a place to live.She has to move out in a few days, and the pickings were slim.But yesterday, we pushed the little gate and entered the place of refuge that we had hoped to find for her. A big chicken coop in the middle of a vegetable garden, a big orange tree filled with ripe orbs, a row of studio facing the green expanse.The chickens were curious and they gathered by their door, softly squawking.little white fluffy ones, tall oranges, responding to my cooing.Hopefully we sealed the deal and reserved a studio.The owner, went in the coop as we filled the application and gave us the 4 eggs that she had just collected.who knew that such a pastoral existence was possible on San Pablo avenue in Berkeley....

Thursday, December 25, 2008

poire belle helene

For Christmas eve, we always have the same menu : beautiful winter salad ( this year: baby greens, roasted beets,medgool dates, gorgonzola and walnuts) followed by local, fresh and sweet Dungeness crab feast.My aioli mayonnaise was spiked with cayenne and chives. Cremant ( rose champagne from Alsace) was served. But now, desert had to be different: no more buche de Noel,or other mini cakes.To serve something gluten free, I thought of an old favorite of significant, one we used to order in parisian bistrots when we met: the perennial poire belle helene: vanilla poached pears,served with ice cream, chocolate sauce et toasted almonds.Dot plated the poires and took all the pictures.She also hand drew the pattern on the tablecloth.What a phenomene !
you can always click on the image to see it bigger.

Monday, December 22, 2008

winter solstice

yesterday, dark,cold and rainy. J made it magical with her spread and candlelit kitchen. My friend C indulged me with another carafe, my true obsession....

Friday, December 19, 2008

purple haze

Some work,and then some play...going out and about .
Here are my reviews: Went to Bar Julesin Hayes Valley in san Francisco, celebrating a good friend's birthday.cute place, nice decor, waitress with attitude,dismissing our question about types of wine served by the glass( there is no mention on the menu if it is a red or white)" everything goes with the kind of food we offer", then pirouetted out of our sight, probably rolling her eyes( another group of ignorant women on the town......could be her thoughts).hardly anything vegatarian ( poor me), but for a canellini and greens soup, and a gem lettuces salad, both of which are staples at my house.The best was for desert, a ricotta cake with huckelberries with a big pot of fresh mint leaves. The cake was light, lemony,tart and rich, and the berries were tasty (in season ??) if not a little hazzy. and stainy.

review: 3 ( out of 10)
The it was off to Berretta, in the Mission for a cocktail and thin crust pizza in this fairly new place, that sells itself as an authentic Italian restaurant, with mucho alcoohol, big cocktail list with a mixicologist with a degree in " how many flavors can I put in a drink"school. My drink was pretty in cantaloupe tone, and went down well, but still can one improve on the classics ?my answer is NO. One of the pizza ordered was with baccalau ( sounds good doesn't it, until you are told that it is dry cod). I, myself love brandade, when the cod is mixed with garlic and mashed potatoes and slightly gratineed), but a ltlle weird on pizza.Yes, I know... anchovies are one, so why not cod. half the pizza remained uneatten, that's why.
review: 4 ( the margharita was decent, but boring)
The it was off to Sea Salt in Berkeley for what turned out to be a pretty poor experience. The restaurant was full on a saturday night, and as Dot said " they are trying to be like Cesar",but when you have an open kitchen that produces a lot of deep fried food, you end up smelling like a batch of fries. most unpleasant. Keeping up with their name, their use of salt was overly liberal and left my mouth parched, my stomach was upset for hours:The grilled octopus was peculiar, no smokiness of grill.just two big tentacles nestled in a pool of mayonnaise.The cocktail was good and strong.
review: 2
Finally a totally satisfying meal at Camino, in Oakland.Chez P. alumni, opened this restaurant about a year ago. Love the room, craftsman gone medieval, with lots of wood, wrought iron chandeliers and a massive wood fire oven facing the room. The notes were perfect, the food prepared simply but imaginatively,the wine satisfying.I took some pix, but unfortunately they didn't look as good as I hoped for, so trust me simply, head over there ASAP.
review 8

Monday, December 1, 2008

global week end

First a movie to recommend: Slumdog milllionaire. Made by a Scottish director, set in India, in english and Hindi with subtitles. I was swooned by the movie.The way a movie should move you, transport you, exhilarate you, spellbind you. The energy, and the emotions that the movie carries are beyond words. It is also a romance( I am such a sentimental !), even if it is set in chaos, violence and tragedy. It is wrenching and redemptive the way a Dickens novel is, it is also a work of genius the way art can be. The "destiny" aspect at its core. Even that is a little 19Th century, which is also why I loved it.
Lunch one day was a wild mushroom risotto croquette, with a melange of roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts with rosemary and garlic, served with a red pepper " chutney".
more flying glasses and pitchers....