"I don't really know yet how I felt about 2008 in a grand sense."
I wrote an email to a friend last night and talked about my ambivalence about 2008. Sometimes, I have a clear picture of how I felt about a year. 2005 was great. 2006 was terrible. 2007 was better. 2008 was ... I don't know. And I guess it's not important to know. I am really looking forward to 2009 -- I know that for a fact.
As I have in the past three years, I posted my favorite tastes of the year on Bay Area Bites. I realized after posting yesterday that I missed one of my favorite bites: the roasted cauliflower dish at Ubuntu. I can't wait to return and have that again.
I wrote fewer posts to this blog in 2008 than ever -- a price that was paid as I turned my attention to writing for Serious Eats, posting on Twitter, taking 10,000 photographs, and continuing to write for Bay Area Bites.
I had some huge accomplishments in the eat local world, including writing for a national publication and being interviewed for an AP article that was published in about fifty publications this week. My excitement about the AP article had nothing to do with my quote in it, but was much more about the balance with which the story was written. Eating locally is becoming a part of the mainstream lexicon, and it is no longer a fringe movement. For my tiny contribution to that, I am proud.
The blog post series that I was most proud of writing this year is about Slow Food Nation and was written for Serious Eats. Writing about the event really forced me to evaluate the event in a (hopefully) coherent manner.
In 2008, I turned 35. I have often heard people talk about 35 being a transitional age, and I really feel it. I feel strangely more comfortable in my skin, and less apologetic about who I am.
I didn't travel a ton this year, but I did take a couple of trips along the west coast. A spontaneous trip to Portland (can you say 24 hours notice?) was a highlight, as it was spent with great friends and crawling the town for fantastic food.
In 2008, I gathered a group of friends who went to approximately 18 different drinking establishments to try the best cocktails in town. Dubbed "book club," we met on Wednesday nights throughout the summer and had so much fun that we extended the cocktail research through the fall. A complete report about our adventures is coming up on Serious Eats. My favorite cocktail of the year? The Sungold Zinger from Range.
In 2008, I worked on the flickr 365 project, with a goal of taking a photo every day for a year. I stopped at photo 279 because I lost track of my days. But the intent of the goal was achieved as I now carry my camera everywhere, and taking photos of everyday things is second nature. I truly think that my photography practice deepened with this project, and I really recommend it to anyone who would like to further their photography.
Come to think of it, 2008 was a pretty good year. I can't wait to see what 2009 brings. Safe and happy celebrations to you all. Thanks for your support and readership in the past year!
As most of you know, I grew up in Southern California and still spend quite a bit of time there with my family. I was in Long Beach over the Thanksgiving weekend, and mom and I showed around a couple of out-of-town guests.
I've written about our day in a two-part series on Bay Area Bites.
Editor's note: I orginally wrote this post for KQED's Bay
Area Bites in December 2006. I searched for it today to make the boar ragu, and thought I'd share the recipe with you -- especially because posting recipes is such a rare thing for me!
As someone who loves food, and who spends a good amount of time looking for the next great meal, I have many bites each year which are completely memorable and exciting. But it is rare that I have a bite that flattens me, that is transcendent, that makes me want to jump up and down in joy because of its perfection. And that experience? That is what people like me live for. It's the reason that we trudge through insipid bites, through bites that are boring, and through bites that are just uninspired.
It happened to me this year at Oliveto Restaurant. My good friend Jeanne took me to Oliveto yearly truffle dinner this year for my birthday. The dinner is a joyous event. Everyone in the restaurant seems to be in a good mood, and the intoxicating scent of white truffles permeates the entire evening. At the beginning of the meal, we were presented with different sizes of truffles and asked what our truffle strategy for the evening would be. Our choices were to purchase and entire truffle, and to have it as our dining companion for the evening, or to have truffle shaved and weighed on each dish. We opted for the former, and purchased a truffle which we promptly named Luigi.
Each dish that we ate at the dinner was designed to show off the wonder of Luigi, and dish after dish coming out of the kitchen was wonderful. And then came The Dish. The dish that, looking back on this year, will be considered the highlight: a wild boar ragu served on a delicious polenta. It was simple and rich and each bite was full of flavor and depth. There is something about ragus that I have eaten in Italy - it's a back of the mouth tang or bite that I rarely taste here. It also had specific taste that comes from using the best ingredients one can find, and a flavor that only comes from patience and time with the dish.
With my first bite, I declared that I would like to marry the man who created the ragu, who was responsible for this amazing bite (by chance, the next day, I met his lovely wife - the owner of the wonderful Ici).
While many of the dishes this evening were completely heightened and made infinitely better by the addition of truffles, this didn't need the truffle and stood on its own in its fantasticness.
Since that day, I have spent some time working on a recipe for wild boar ragu, and have managed to make a successful rendition at home. I bought the wild boar at Golden Gate Meat Company in the Ferry Building. Wild boar is lower in fat than pork or beef, so I made up for that by adding a couple of slices of pancetta to the recipe in order to bring the richness up a bit. The recipe is very forgiving in the amount of time that you cook it -- I would suggest cooking for three hours at a minimum, and anywhere up to about five hours.
2 slices pancetta chopped into small pieces (about 1 oz)
3 T butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
3/4 pound wild boar, cut into very small pieces by hand
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup whole milk
1/8 t freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup red wine
1.5 cups diced tomatoes with their juice
1 pound dried egg noodles (I like Rustichella D'Abruzzo Pappardelle)
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
Equipment: a large Dutch Oven or heavy enameled cast iron pot that can be used in the oven. I use a Le Creuset 6.5 quart dutch oven.
5655 College Ave
I saw Annie Leibovitz speak at City Arts & Lectures on Monday. I have always followed her work closely, but have never seen her speak. And I have a feeling that hearing her speak will be causing a shift in my photography.
Leibovitz was speaking on the occasion of the release of her book: Annie Leibovitz At Work. I haven't bought the book yet, but my understanding is that it's more of a textbook which addresses technique and composition and equipment.
Leibovitz received her professional training at the San Francisco Art Institute, where she began as a painter. She quickly learned that photography was her forte -- it was more immediate and more social.
During the Monday lecture, she read from her book and a portion was about what she learned as a young photography student.
"We were taught that the most important thing a young photographer can do is learn how to see. It wasn’t about the equipment we were using. I don’t remember being taught any technique. A camera was only a box that recorded an image. We learned to compose, to frame, to fill the negative, to fit everything we saw into the camera’s rectangle. We were never to crop our pictures. We went out every morning and took pictures and developed them in the darkroom the same day. Since the prints were washed in communal trays and everybody’s pictures were lying there with everybody else’s, you tried hard to come back with something good. In the evening we would sit around and discuss our work. We were a community of artists."
I had a family member in town this week and had my camera out most of the time -- I shot a couple hundred photos. And I could hear Annie ringing in my ears during my photos. Reminding me to see. Reminding me to shoot an entire image instead of lazily knowing I'd crop later. Reminding me to compose. I am so lucky to have heard her.
If you're interested in hearing this interview, it will be played on KQED on January 4, 2009.
I have a not-very-environmentally-friendly habit of using these lovely stock cards to make lists for my life. I guess that the eco-friendly part is that I usually start one and then fill every square inch with notes before I start another. I had the urge to take a shot of the list I started today and show it to you all because it's a great example of the disparity of my life right now. Half of those notes are for my day job, while another half are for my writing, blogging or Eat Local Challenge passions. I'm usually totally fine with the chaos, but it's a little hard to wrap my brain around these days.
It's 10 p.m., and I still have several things left on that list. So I'll just leave you with a list of things I'm loving right now.
- Bar Crudo which I finally went to for the first time this weekend. I can't believe it took me this long to get there. I took my friend who was in from the Central Coast and it immediately became her favorite SF restaurant.
- The amazing bloggers who are taking the Eat Local Challenge. They are unbelievably inspiring.
- This episode of This American Life. If you've ever wondered what the last days of a grassroots political campaign are like, listen to this. It's brilliant.
- Massa Organics new almond butter. Delicious.
- iTunes Genius which is helping me remember corners of my iTunes library I'd forgotten about.
- The dim sum vendor at the Marin Farmers Market, which almost had me driving the 15 miles just to have more this Sunday.
- The really comfortable and competent Bar Drake at the Sir Francis Drake downtown.
- Boccalone's pancetta. Tasty salted pig parts of the best kind.
What's new on your list of things you love?
Yesterday, I was invited to attend a party thrown at the Love Apple Farm in Ben Lomond. While the food was amazing, and the company was fun, I was most thrilled to be able to spend some time walking around the farm.
Love Apple Farm has one customer: Manresa Restaurant. I heard many guests tell hosts David and Pim that they hadn't seen them around the farmers market recently. Love Apple is the reason. Chef Kinch and farmer Cynthia Sandberg work together to decide what's grown, and what is needed for the restaurant. It's an amazing relationship, and a fantastic model for restaurants around the country. Chef Kinch is able to ask for vegetables to be grown to his exacting standards, which would not be efficient for larger farms to grow.
You can see my photos around the farm here. The party was a pig roast, and while I missed all photos of the pig, you can see plenty of amazing shots by Anita on her flickr stream.
Aside from the piggie, my favorite bites of the day were a delicious quinoa salad made by Chris Avila and his wife Emily and a beautiful chirashi made by the owners of El Paseo restaurant in Mill Valley.
Michael Pollan has a new article in this Sunday's New York Times. It's an 8,000 word open letter to the next President that has been included in the Times' Food Issue of the magazine. In it, Pollan outlines goals surrounding food issues for the next President including:
1. Resolarizing the American Farm
Your challenge is to take control of [the] vast federal machinery and use it to drive a transition to a new solar-food economy, starting on the farm. Right now, the government actively discourages the farmers it subsidizes from growing healthful, fresh food: farmers receiving crop subsidies are prohibited from growing “specialty crops” — farm-bill speak for fruits and vegetables. (This rule was the price exacted by California and Florida produce growers in exchange for going along with subsidies for commodity crops.) Commodity farmers should instead be encouraged to grow as many different crops — including animals — as possible. Why? Because the greater the diversity of crops on a farm, the less the need for both fertilizers and pesticides.
2. Reregionalizing the Food System
A decentralized food system offers a great many other benefits as well. Food eaten closer to where it is grown will be fresher and require less processing, making it more nutritious. Whatever may be lost in efficiency by localizing food production is gained in resilience: regional food systems can better withstand all kinds of shocks. When a single factory is grinding 20 million hamburger patties in a week or washing 25 million servings of salad, a single terrorist armed with a canister of toxins can, at a stroke, poison millions. Such a system is equally susceptible to accidental contamination: the bigger and more global the trade in food, the more vulnerable the system is to catastrophe. The best way to protect our food system against such threats is obvious: decentralize it.
3. Rebuilding America's Food Culture
Making available more healthful and more sustainable food does not guarantee it will be eaten, much less appreciated or enjoyed. We need to use all the tools at our disposal — not just federal policy and public education but the president’s bully pulpit and the example of the first family’s own dinner table — to promote a new culture of food that can undergird your sun-food agenda.
This is an article that we should all read. I'll be spending part of my weekend poring through the nooks and crannies of Pollan's words.
Additionally, check out this fantastic slide show of photos and profiles which will also print in this Sunday's Times. Photos of some of the people who are fighting for fair, clean food for us all on a daily basis. In addition to folks like Anna Lappe, Tom Philpott and Bryant Terry, I was especially happy to see a profile of the advocates for the Immokalee Farm Workers -- a group working to bring workers' rights to the immigrant farmers in Florida.