Category Archives: Food & Cooking

San Francisco

I am so tired.

We have had a very full couple of days. Yesterday morning we went to the OB for the first visit. They went over our insurance coverage (which is thankfully very good), drew blood (5 vials!), and the prenatal nurse took our history and gave us a kind of crash course introduction to pregnancy as well as some Enfamil swag and various reading material.

After that we ran home so I could quickly pack my bag for the trip. I had already packed Sean’s the night before and gotten some of my stuff together, but still needed to pack my own bag. I was just finishing when Sean’s mom came a little early to take us to the airport. Call it pregnancy brain or just being rushed, but I completely forgot to grab my coat from the car… which had my bank card in the pocket. Didn’t think about that until we were at the airport. Great.

By the time we got to the airport I was getting pretty hungry. And these days hungry means nauseous. That was something I am learning to balance, having to eat small amounts almost constantly with a goal of six small meals a day. So far I have still not actually thrown up, but I have certainly felt like I was tipping closer to that the past couple days. Luckily between the food I was able to grab at the RDU and ATL airports, the cheese and fruit tray I got on the airplane, and the snacks I packed I was able to mostly keep the nausea tolerable. The fatigue though… ugh.

I was so exhausted by the time we got to San Francisco. The flight was so uncomfortable I couldn’t sleep at all. We got to the hotel about 10 minutes to 11pm, which is 2am for us. And we were both hungry. There is no way I can ignore being hungry these days, especially not at bed time. We were both too tired to go out and find food, so we managed to sneak in a room service order before they closed at 11. It was totally not worth what we paid, but the food was surprisingly good. The best salmon I have had in a very long time! And the ramen was delicious.

We are staying at Hotel Kabuki, which is adjacent to the Japan Center mall in Japan Town. The hotel is looking a bit worn, and the prices for some things are quite ridiculous. For instance, the “honor bar” in our room has $4 Snickers bars and $8 bottles of water. But the bed is comfortable and the staff is friendly. And we can’t beat the location for Japan Town. The only other hotel in this area is this crazy anime themed place.

Today we had a tasty breakfast at the hotel and then went out to do a little exploring in the Japan Center. Ermahgerd! This place is wonderful. We might have gone a little overboard while shopping. And there are so many restaurants! It is hard to choose! There is also a little stand that sells tea and mochi… they have the best warabi mochi I have ever had. It was so good that we had to go back for seconds later in the day.

After walking all over the Japan Center I was pretty wiped out. When we dropped our loot off at the hotel I ended up taking a nap, which helped tremendously. When we woke up we decided to venture out to the Old Navy store to see if they had any coats left, since it was getting pretty chilly. Driving in San Francisco really is an adventure with all the hills, traffic, one way streets, pedestrians, lack of parking, etc. We found Old Navy pretty easily with the help of Google Maps, but we only had to circle the block twice before we found parking.

The store we went to is apparently the flagship store, and is huge. It is a three stories, each one a little larger than the stores back home. Despite that, they only had one coat left in my size. I actually really like the coat, but it is orange! It is growing on me, but I definitely would never have chosen an orange coat. I couldn’t argue with the $20 price tag though. We also found a coat for Sean to wear over his hoodie because he was pretty cold too, and some hoodies that say San Francisco on them to fill the souvenir obligation. Then it was back to Japan Town for more yummy food.

After all the walking I am exhausted, despite my nap. I guess it is really midnight by eastern time. Time to crawl into bed!

An Excellent Staycation So Far

We decided to take a couple weeks off, and I am so glad we did. Things didn’t go as planned at work on Friday, so I actually ended up working from home a bit on Monday… but I have managed to not work since then. It has taken me until today to stop thinking about work all day, I barely even read my work email.

What grand things have we done? Not much. Just relaxed and took care of some things that we have been putting off like routine doctor/dentist appointments, searching for a new dining table, etc. Today was probably the most awesome day so far. Earlier this week the shopkeeper at Savory Spice told us about Counter Culture’s weekly Friday cupping while we were chatting with her about how awesome Jubala is, which lead to a conversation about coffee and stuff.

Every Friday at 10am Counter Culture has a “cupping” at their training centers, which are open to both employees and the public. Since the Durham location is where they roast all their coffee, the Durham location has the added bonus of a tour. It was pretty cool, although some of the people there were definitely a little too into coffee for someone that is not employed in the coffee industry. They set out three types of coffee and walked us through the “cupping” process used by coffee buyers to determine what they want to buy.

The first step of the process is to sniff the grounds to determine the “fragrance” of the beans. After that they add hot water and sniff again to determine the “aroma” of the coffee. Next you “break” the crust of coffee beans on the top of the cup and stir it to settle the grounds to the bottom, once again sniffing. All this sniffing is done with your nose pretty much shoved in the cup. The final step is to use a large spoon to scoop up some of the coffee and quickly (and loudly) slurp it up. While tasting it you are supposed to look for four qualities: brightness (acidity), flavor, body, and after taste.

After each step we would all talk about what we had smelled/tasted and what we thought of it. It reminded me of a wine tasting class we did at a local wine shop once. It was definitely interesting to learn more about the finer points of coffee and hear everyone’s interpretation of the different coffees. The best part was the tour though, but then I love that sort of stuff.

The facility was surprisingly small. It pretty much consisted of the “training center” which was a good sized room full of various coffee gadgets and machines, a small hall with a few offices, and then the roasting area and warehouse. I assume there was another warehouse for their outgoing stock that we didn’t tour, but that would have been boring anyway. The tour really only had two stops, the first being the warehouse that stored the bags of green coffee beans. They said they keep about 2-3 weeks worth of stock there at a time. The second stop was the roasting/packing room, which was cool to see. I loved watching the masterful coffee roasters at work, and the machines were nifty. It is cool to know how/where our coffee is roasted, and that it is shipped out the same day it goes in a bag.

We hadn’t eaten and were starving, so I convinced Sean we should go to Dame’s Chicken & Waffles in downtown Durham. It is an awesome place, and I wanted to use the opportunity to take him since the chance to get him to downtown Durham is rare. Dame’s gets crazy busy at lunch, so I was kind of expecting to have a horrible time finding parking, and then have to wait for a table. It couldn’t have been more perfect though! We found a parking spot right out front, were seated immediately, and the kitchen sent our food out incredibly fast. And it was so very yummy. Sean was impressed, and I was happy he enjoyed it. That place has the best mac & cheese ever, and their chicken is simply delicious. The waffles are merely good, but everything else they serve more than makes up for it.

I am grateful to have had the week off to spend with Sean, and it has been a good week even if we haven’t done anything overly exciting. I am only sad that it is coming to a close. Tomorrow we have to go pick up the turkey from Ray Farms, which is the beginning of the end. It means now we have to start focusing on cleaning up the house, shopping, and all the other preparations that go into hosting Thanksgiving. And then, once Thanksgiving is done, we will be focused on cleaning up again and then it will be time to go back to work before we know it.

Thanksgiving, We’re Getting Ready

I can’t believe it is almost November already. Thanksgiving is trying to sneak up on us again, but we are trying to keep on top of it this year. We are starting to form plans!

Last night Sean ordered a turkey from a local farm. Sean is excited about getting a bird from Ray Farm, which we visited a couple years ago. The turkeys are damned expensive in my opinion, but I am willing to try it. Who knows, maybe free range turkeys that have only been dead/frozen for three days before we get it will be tastier than our usual Fresh Market bird.

Sean also wants to smoke a turkey. He has been talking about this for the past couple years now. Since the farm raised bird will probably be small, we are going to buy a small bird from Fresh Market as well so that he can try his hand at smoking a turkey. So there should definitely be plenty of meat!

Every year I try to balance good food and stress levels by ordering what I can pre-made, and then letting guests bring dishes as well. I normally just order a few things like stuffing, gravy, and mashed potatoes from Fresh Market. This year I have decided to also order some stuff from La Farm Bakery. Last year Sean spotted their Turkey [shaped] Bread and really wanted it, but we didn’t get around to ordering it in time. This year I have given him a list of things to order from La Farm so we don’t miss out… yeasted rolls, turkey bread, and a couple desserts.

Right now the Thanksgiving meal plan is:

Main:
– Roasted turkey (Ray Farms)
– Smoked turkey (Fresh Market)
– cranberry sauce (both home made and canned)
– stuffing (probably home made)
– gravy (made by Fresh Market)

Desserts:
– bread/rolls (La Farm Bakery)
– Pumpkin tart (La Farm Bakery)
– Pecan tart (La Farm Bakery)
– home made lemon pie

Haven’t made it so far as to think about sides yet. I am sure potatoes and/or sweet potatoes will be involved, but at this point I am waiting to see what others will be bringing. I will have to explore some recipes as well, see if I can find some easily made (yet tasty and healthy) sides.

Mundane Update

I realized I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I should write something… apologies in advance because this is probably not going to be that great of a post since I don’t really haven’t anything all that interesting to talk about.

Nothing all that exciting has happened lately. I took a break from my canning hobby for a bit. This weekend was the first trip to the farmers market in a long time. It was pretty much just inspired by a recipe for “Dilly Beans” that I had found online. It is pretty much wax and green beans in a liquid mixture of vinegar, wine, and a little sugar and salt, and then some dill seeds, dill, and mustard seeds were added to each jar. I made it last night using some new Weck jars I picked up Sunday. This was my first experience with Weck, and I still have not decided if I like them or not. I think the standard mason jars are easier to deal with, but maybe it just takes some practice. The jars were also kind of large and made fitting them in the pot more difficult, and my jar lifters didn’t fit them well either. My current thought is just that I will stick with the mason jars, but I will definitely use the Weck ones I already have because the damned things are too expensive not to.

My new weekend obsession is the cafe in Grand Asia. They have dim sum on the weekends, and I am in love with their shrimp dumplings and the pork rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. They also have bubble tea, which is pretty awesome. And a some tofu “puddings” of which we have tried two. The spicy and salty one wasn’t all that great, but the (slightly) sweet one with tapioca pearls was wonderful. This obsession is fading since we have been three or four times now, but I still love it.

And we have of course been playing Guild Wars 2 constantly. Love that game! Although now TV shows are coming back so I don’t know which will win out yet… TV or GW2. It is going to be hard. It is tempting to try out an adapter to use my iMac as a TV!

I know everyone is wondering if we have the new iPhones yet, and no we don’t. We aren’t eligible for upgrade at the discounted price until next summer, and I don’t think they are waiving it this time. I am considering going down to an AT&T store to see if they will waive it though. We did briefly stop by the Apple store to play with the new one yesterday. They are so light they almost feel cheaply made. After leaving the store our phones felt about 10 times heavier. If we do get the iPhone 5, I want a white one for the first time ever; I liked the look of it a lot with the new backplate.

Foster’s Concluded

I am not so sure I want to do this Foster’s thing again, unless we reach some period in our lives where we just can’t spare the time to plan out meals, shop, and then cook meals. But maybe my impression has just been clouded by feeling like crap the past couple days. Wednesday was our hanger steak night, but I woke up feeling terrible that day. Stomach stuff, general queasiness, and a light headache that I took to be either IBS, after effects of eating that sausage, or a combination of both. I think it really turned out to just be a herald of the migraine that took over that night though. So I didn’t feel like eating all day, and had to force down a few bites of the steak and sides. The steak wasn’t really flavored to my tastes, but then I wasn’t even wanting to put food in my mouth at the time. Sean seemed to like it though. I did manage to eat my bread and spinach, which was good.

Last night was the deciding point for me. We were down to the last two dinner options: Summer Hoppin’ John (or something like that) and Pesto Penne Pasta with Veggies. I was craving protein, probably from not eating much in the past couple days, so we went with the Hoppin’ John since it had beans in it. It was this mix of rice, scallions, beans, and a couple other things I can’t remember. It was unimpressive. It came with salsa to top it with, and it was the only thing that made it somewhat tasty. I shouldn’t be eating the salsa though.

It made me realize I don’t really like the lack of control over my menu. I was fine the first day because it was stuff I would have chosen anyway… chicken, spinach, cucumbers. But I would have never chosen sausage, the steak was meh, and the thing last night we only ate because it was there and paid for. Not so sure how the reboiled week old pasta will be tonight. Not sure why they even bothered to cook it really, I mean, it is pasta. If I have to reheat everything else they gave us for half an hour, why can’t I take 10 minutes to boil some pasta?

Fosters Day 2

The Foster’s experiment continues. Day 2 was the italian sausage hoagies with peppers & onions. This is not something we would have ever made on our own, as it isn’t exactly healthy and I am not really a fan of italian sausage.

I don’t think Day 2 went as well as Day 1. There were two large sausages in the tin, one was browned and the other was not. I am not sure the second one was cooked much at all, as the interior looked more un-cooked than the browned one. So, after following the “heat for 25-30 minutes” instructions, Sean took them out and tossed them in a pan on the stove. The sausage was okay, if I liked italian sausage I would probably think it was great. I mostly ate the veggies and bread. So it wasn’t an unenjoyable meal, just disappointed in how the sausage was [not] cooked and I felt like I should have been eating something healthier.

Tonight we will try the hanger steak…

Foster’s Experiment – Day One

20120731-145032.jpg

As I think I mentioned, we decided to give the “Family Dinners” from Foster’s Market a try this week. So far it is going well, but then we have only eaten one of the meals so far.

So the deal is that you get five nights of “made from scratch” meals plus a dessert, salad, bread, and you have the option of adding more sides. For two people it is $100, and there are options for vegetarians and kids. The meals are fixed though, so you can’t make changes or substitutions. That is the downside. It means that you better like the whole menu for a week! Luckily the menu for this week sounded good, but I am not so sure about the August menus… there are a lot of tomatoey things in August. For us, $100 seemed fairly reasonable for a week of dinners we didn’t have to put much effort into.

When I was picking up our bag-o-food yesterday, I was reminded how much people over-eat in this country. I was thinking it seemed like a lot of food, but then, Sean and I normally split a lot of meals. The lady picking up her order before me though said, “This is supposed to last a whole week?” It is actually refreshing for us to have meals portioned for two people for a change, rather than having everything sized for four or more.

The picture above is everything laid out on the table. I did that to kind of take stock of what we had for the week. As you can see, plenty of food. Maybe too much! I can’t remember what all is there off the top of my head, but I will try. A whole chicken with a herbed butter to crisp up the skin, italian sausage with veggies and provolone hoagies, hanger steak, pesto pasta with veggies, spicy cucumbers with onions, huge bag of spinach for sautéing with a sesame ginger sauce, huge bag of mixed greens for salad, cheese cubes, balsamic vinagaraette, and some french bread with butter for toasting. And I know I am forgetting something because that is only 4 meals. Oh, and there was a trifle with blackberry, raspberries, yellow cake, and chocolate cake mixed with whipped cream for dessert.

Most of this stuff still takes about 20-30 minutes to heat up, and that kinda makes it feel like you are still cooking. So you don’t exactly feel like a slacker for doing this, but it takes any stress out of dinner time. There are no recipes to follow, just a simple “heat in 375 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, then put the cheese on it” sort of directions. Not that I find following recipes difficult, but after working all day sometimes I don’t want to have to do anything that requires thinking. Which is probably why we often end up in a food rut, just sticking to recipes we know by heart, or simple “toss it on the grill” sorts of things. Plus, these days I usually don’t get home until 6pm or later. So poor Sean often ends up being the primary dinner maker and I know he doesn’t want to deal with recipes. And neither one of us wants to deal with cleaning after cooking! We also decided we would just go down the list (there is a reheating instruction sheet included) so we didn’t even have to worry about the nightly “What to cook” debate.

Last night we opted for the chicken, along with some of the french bread, sautéed spinach, cucumbers, and a spoonful of the trifle. We put some of the mixed greens out too, but were so stuffed we didn’t touch them. Everything was quite tasty, and we felt like we were eating a healthy meal. Well, aside from the dessert and buttered bread. The only negative was that the chicken was a tad dry, but it is to be expected with a reheated chicken I think. In all it was a good first experience. The italian sausage hoagies are next on the list, so we will be having that for dinner tonight. Not quite so healthy, but I bet it will be good.

So my opinion as of Day One of this experiment? I am happy with it. It is breaking us out of our normal dinner routine. And that includes the debates and grocery shopping that go with it.