Food Journeyin'

Life }{ Passion }{ Food

Lists. Upon lists. Upon so many more lists.

  • A list of things to accomplish this year. 
  • A list of strengths that I supposedly have.
    1. Harmony
    2. Intellection
    3. Restorative
    4. Empathy
    5. Deliberative
  • A list of todos, tasks, and what nots ( more like want nots!)
  • A list of food to shop for.
    • A vague mental list of things I have on hand.
      • .5 lbs of White Button Mushrooms, Wild Rice, A bag of Brussel Sprouts, 2 Sweet Potatoes, etc…
      • An assorted array of meals to make.
        • A list of steps for each meal from beginning to end.
  • A list of things that escape my grasp.
  • A list of things that would make me happy (but will they?)
  • A list of addresses, lists of directions to those addresses
    • ❤ A heart full of endless genuine gratitude for the people living in them.
  • Lists of buckets, each tailored towards maintaining different lists in my life.
    • The list of skills I have, want to have, may never have; and skills that I just can’t seem to act on…
    • The list of:
      1. Now
      2. Later
      3. Laterer
      4. Latest.
  • Bucket list – of possible grandiose achievements, or just really wanting to be a comfortable dancer, and not have my shoulders tense up at the thought of it.
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Spilled Milk x LOTR: 1st Breakfast

Beginning my first meal, of <my perfect day of meals> (ala Tolkien) —

1st Breakfast — A <Blue Bottle> Latte + Rosemary Olive Oil Shortbread

About 3.5 years ago I took a week long trip to San Francisco. *alone* . It was my first REAL, leave everything behind and let your mind wander with the clouds kinda vacation in over ~6 years. I had just gotten out of a ~3 yr long/emotionally draining relationship, and I was about to start my job at Sony (which I was amazingly happy and excited about as it was my first *real/grown-up* job [whatever that even means…]) It was definitely a big time of change in my life. I planned the trip a week before taking it and made sure it would be any foodie’s wet dream (with some culture exploration thrown in for good measure…)

A Blue Bottle Latte and their Rosemary Olive Oil Shortbread was the first thing I had.

<rant>
I arrived at 9:00 a.m. to SFO. I was groggy, disgruntled, and slightly uncertain about what I was doing out here. *alone*. About to eat at all these restaurants. *alone* . About to wander around this city – with no friends/family/company. *alone*. That feeling was also accompanied with the strange, out of body feeling of getting out of a long relationship. The constant cycles of unabashed freedom, with overdramatic spurts of – “how will I ever do anything without her?” I was at that moment of recognizing that I had to re-establish that idea of MYSELF — WITHOUT her. Let’s also not forget that every flippin’ thing I saw reminded me of her… And then there was the mere fact that I now had a past that just faded into but a *empty* part of my history (but obviously full of lessons to be extracted and learned from, in order to grow and evolve — something which I’m now <amazingly grateful> for…)
</rant>

As I stepped onto the tiny Linden side street I remember feeling comforted (at that moment I wasn’t entirely sure why.) After being in the city for some more time now, I feel a certain je na sais quo about SF and its small, unassuming side streets that just fills me with joy. It makes me feel as if there are endless side streets to be traversed. Amazing places/lives/ hidden trinkets and gems within the labyrinths of Langtons, Coltons, Lindens, et. al. each awaiting to be discovered — that or full of cardboard boxes with a group of homeless people living out of it… Each is uniquely named, and some only existing for less then the length of a normal city block, never to be encountered on a map again. This one happened to hold the cozy little nook/garage space in which this Blue Bottle doled out it’s expertly roasted/crafted coffee and heartwarming treats.

It was difficult coming to a conclusion of what to get. For coffee, I stuck with the latte — a genuine (yet technical) way to test this coffee spot out. For treat, a rosemary olive oil shortbread — the idea of savory ingredients in a sweet execution was something I had just started discovering and enjoying (oh how innocently naive my taste buds were back than), and I felt like further testing my boundaries (who would have known this would be the tipping point to the now never-ending, pervasive quest of aggressive flavors and toe curling-ly splendid combinations I seek.)

As my rant above slightly (or not so slightly) prefaced – I was in a smidge of a vulnerable place at the time. Vulnerable enough to have a latte + cookie combo win over my heart and lead me to write this verbose piece of prose you are reading. But — on the other hand — it is a spectacular latte and an amazing cookie. The cookie — a slight sense of rosemary (my absolutely favorite herb of all time) helped provide the perfect savory balance. A splendid olive oil infusing itself into the most balanced shortbread base and lending a spectacular brightness. The cookie was not cloyingly sweet, nor had an overt dense-ness to it (which I feel many shortbread cookies do) — it did so much more for my taste buds then the christmas tins of yore ever could. My idea of a shortbread cookie was redefined — with this being the base which all are now compared to. The ristretto in the latte was expertly pulled, and the right balance of foam and milk. The two came together like a match made in heaven — food heaven.

Flavors aside — these two items were the amuse bouche of the grand meal that was to follow that week. Sometimes I even think to myself — this cookie was that innocent “first time we held hands” or “first kiss” that all budding relationships begin with, that evolved into my love with San Francisco (now I know – the city itself would have swept me off my feet eventually — Blue Bottle just helped in having it happen quicker.) It helped me to open my mind up to the trip. Out of the incessant questioning/doubt/analyzing, and into just riding the endless endorphin high that was my week to come.

Indeed – some do think I’m crazy about my romanticized view on a coffee + pastry. Strangely enough – after having moved out here I actually met a <fellow recent transplant> whose heart was also seduced by a similar Blue Bottle coffee + shortbread (quite the mistress ayy?!) But if not allowing the little things in life move you, grab you by the hand, and help lead you on a journey(cross country or otherwise), then what ARE you letting move you?! What ARE you waiting for? I mean — I even went on a 5 minute rant during my Google interview about the shortbread, even sent some to my then future/now new coworkers as a thank you. This cookie has established and engrained itself into what SF means to me…

During the trip, I expanded my palate to no end. I tried calves brain, sweetbreads, and livers abound; I had maple bacon donuts, bourbon flavored ice cream, and more farm fresh asparagus then any other point in my life, oh and ramps — boy did i have my fair share of ramps; I had 10+ courses with wines paired (popping my fine dining cherry), and more tacos out of trucks then I would care to remember. Every morning though – it was a latte and a rosemary olive oil shortbread.

With amazing timing — this post arrives as the book <“The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee“> was just released. The book is a splendid tome to the magnificent roastery, it’s coffee, and baked goods. I was lucky enough to help with the recipe testing for these amazing treats — and am now able to make the delicious shortbread at home —- transporting me back to that first day on Linden Street, whatever kitchen/city/state/country I might be cooking out of at the time.

Why feeling bad for yourself is a waste of time…

There is an ebb & flow to life that leads us through a never ending variation of emotions… The moments of self pity though are so unbelievably counter-productive. Sure sadness engulfs us at times — this is natural! It is staying in that helpless state of sadness, feeling bad for yourself, that will not do you any good. It’s not leading you anywhere. It’s keeping you stagnant. It’s mentally stopping you from being your awesome self! Because let’s be honest, you’re totally hiding that awesome-ness when you are feeling sad for yourself.

I’m breaking this up into a two part post for now. The first being, how to BEAT self pity. The second being, how to get yourself back on track once you’ve gotten out of that rut.

We all go through the moments. Work isn’t what it should be. Love life is horrible or non-existant. Emptiness. There is a lack of drive, motivation, and there is no passion flowing through your veins. You know what passion/happiness/*positivity* feels like, because there are reminiscent moments of truimphant-ness in your past — but not now… And you just wallow. Wading in a pool of self-pity.

I promise this is meant to be an optimistic/uplifting sort of post (hopefully i’ll get there soon enough before depressing anyone TOO much.)

There are things that can be done to help you to shorten that swim, wasting less of your time (life is short) and getting back on track — the following are some that work for me:

1) Surround yourself with positivity… In EVERY_POSSIBLE_WAY! Positivity and Optimism are contagious. Surround yourself with people who are there for you, and remind you of why you are amazing. They do this not to make you feel better (even though that is what they want for you) they do so because they have been beside you for such an extensive period of your life, that they probably know you, your strengths, and your weaknesses better then you.

—– 1a) Take their opinions/statements/comments to heart! While wallowing, the LAST thing you want to do is feel good about yourself — and that is the reason I need to mention this! Take their words for exactly what they are… Don’t doubt them… This takes a certain amount of trust — but if you just have at least one or two people like this during those difficult moments, you will be able to pull yourself out of it in no time…

2) Make a list of your most positive qualities — with concrete examples. We all need a reminder sometimes. We need to remember that we are awesome, and keeping a personal list of this, is the best motivator possible. Write this when you are happy, write it when you are not — but always keep it easily accessible (I have mine over several different random notes on my iPhone.) This helps with keeping you centered, and reminded of why you need stop feeling bad for yourself, and lift up your spirits. They can be anything from “I’m a great listener — because X, Y, Z.” to “I’m a good cook.” Make sure the list includes all of your QUIRKS! I personally appreciate my strange awkwardness. Others may not see it that way, but I do, and it is a personal positive trait (and something most definitely on my list.)

3) Do something you love to do. Sometimes we just need that funk knocked out of us, by something that is amazing and that we love. We need to have that sense of love, passion, motivation shocked back into us. Do something you love, and just envelope yourself in the moment. It doesn’t matter what it is — and you don’t care what anyone else may think of it. Is it too geeky!? It doesnt matter! Also — I hope your geeky-ness is on your list you made! Even if you have to force yourself to enjoy it — you will be reminded of what it is that makes you happy… You will be reminded of that happiness, why you are deserving of it, and why being in your pity pool doesn’t feel as good as being happy and content 🙂

4) Find a volunteering gig. This isn’t necessarily something to JUST do during these moments — but always! Besides doing an act of kindness — it helps to remind you of the truer, more humane moments of life. There is more to life then whatever it is that’s got you down — it helps as a remainder of what to be grateful for. There have been so many times where i’ve been feeling not entirely positive about things, have wanted to skip out on my volunteering commitments and wallow… instead I find that this obligation ends up bringing out a sense of joy, helps in melting away my unhappiness, and just reminds me that I’m better for the world actively contributing to it’s positivity, rather then negativity…

5) Combat self pity with grateful-ness. Find things to be grateful for. They are all around you!

Spilled Milk x Lord of the Rings

Originally, this blog was started as an outlet for all my food loving memories/needs… Strangely enough though, that hasn’t really been the case over the past few posts —- that is all about to change though!

One of my favorite food podcasts is Spilled Milk. Matthew Amster-Burton (he’s actually related to THEE Tim Burton! [not really >_<]) and Molly Orangette pick a random food topic to put together a 15 minute spurt (on a biweekly basis) of over the air rants/rambling/facts/stories/etc… Whether it’s mushrooms, a nostalgic junk food tasting, an international junk food tasting, or a day of perfect meals — the duo are a match made in podcast heaven. They are amazingly silly, humbly informative, spectacularly cheesy, charmingly heartwarming — and their food stories, whether you’ve ever eaten a bag of ranch cool doritos or not — make your heart pitter patter and journey back in time in which a similar meal of yore, made you feel like their personal reflections on the food topic of the day…

Most recently they had an episode on A Day of Perfect Meals.They both choose their perfect breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and dessert — with no care for money, year, or location (you basically have a money tree, time traveling machine, and transporter…) As I listened to the podcast, I started making notes on things I would eat on my day of perfect meals — and ended up finding myself having way more things on my list then can be fit into a day… “No human could possibly eat all of this in a day” I thought to myself… “But a hobbit could!”

I kinda. sorta. love Lord of the Rings… And for those who may not know, the Hobbits are the splendid race that are quite short, leaning more towards the portly end, have leathery feet soles (thus their rarely wearing shoes) and a spectacular appetite (with ~7 meals a day — which I will get into later). The hobbits give presents rather then receive them on their birthdays, and live simple lives of farming, eating, and socializing — their houses (or hobbit holes) are filled with an amazing abundance of food, which helps with their entertaining.

1st Breakfast, 2nd Breakfast, Elevenses, Luncheon, Tea, Dinner and Supper… And snacks…

A Day of Perfect Meals a la Tolkien

I’ll be putting each of mine up over the next few weeks (along with hopefully a few posts on how to stop feeling bad for yourself for good measure 🙂 )

Genuinely Grateful = Grounding / Humbling…

There is an endless list of things I am grateful for… A statement which I’m just grateful for being able to write… Developing the ability to have a consistent sense of optimism/grateful-ness helps so much in conquering difficult times. It makes it easier to recover from terrible blows, it lets you see your life in a grand-esque sort of manner, that all things happen for a reason, and all we can do is learn from difficult moments — retrieve lessons out of them, and keep trekking forward.

Every morning and every evening, there is this point on my drive to work, where the Highway 101 is right beside the SF bay. I might be digging through all the emails I’ve received from the night before, or finishing up some last minute details before getting home, and then I look to the east, unassumingly… I call the view, “Floor to Ceiling Beauty”. The water is sometimes glistening like a sea of diamonds (if it’s sunny), with an amazing gradient of a clear blue sky fading into the land of the East Bay in the horizon. Sometimes the skies are cast and it seems ominous and could appear disconcerting to some.

Floor To Ceiling beauty

Floor To Ceiling Beauty

To me, it is the moment in my day, that I am most thankful… for everything. It triggers a sea of gratitude in my mind. It floods me with the thoughts of the “EVERYTHING_ELSE”. The things that are THAT MUCH MORE meaningful to me then this view, but somehow, have just established themselves as a “matter of life“.

The opportunities I’ve been given (and the ones I haven’t). The loved ones in my life. The job I have. The beauty my eye is able to encounter (physically and meta-physically.) The city I live in. The people I have come across in general (and those I have yet to meet). The road that I’m on — and wherever it may be leading me to. My bus driver who gets me to work (and home) safely. The box of Maple Bacon Biscuits sitting next to me (and the meaning behind them). The  life I am living (with all the good and bad). All the things that DIDN’T happen… Because of them — I am on the road that I am on right now… It also helps me in developing a deeper relationship with the city I’m living in — I have seen the Bay in so many different states over the past 4.5 months, and I am closer to it, and the city because of it (just as it has seen so many of my own states).

 This isn’t a new thing for me. When I was living in New York City, every morning and every evening, since I was 16, and commuting into the city for work after school was done, I would purposely take an express train over the Manhattan Bridge (even if it was out of my way). It lead to an amazing view of the Brooklyn Bridge. And somehow, it also, sent similar thoughts through my mind. It made me happy to be living/working/breathing in such an amazing city. It made me thankful for whatever stage in my life I was in, whatever relationship I may or may not have been in, for every memory created, for every easy(SLASH)difficult obstacle(SLASH)reward.

The life we live in, no matter how hard it may be, is beautiful. Sometimes though, we just get caught up in the hustle and bustle of it all, to even remember. Finding those tiny moments, that constantly develop a sense of genuine grateful-ness in us, have massive grounding/humbling effects. They bring us back down to the moment. The microsecond. A still life of OUR OWN LIVES — pausing time and causing our current world to just fly by us within the blink of an eye…. And giving us a glimpse at everything we have to be thankful for — but may have slightly taken for granted.

TASK! Find a moment in your every day/every other day sequence of events that inspires you. That moves you. That triggers some sort of *sigh of relief*/smile/rush of gratitude in you. You may have to look hard, you may even have to go slightly out of your way for it.

Allow it to just take your mind away. Why does it make you feel the way it does? Look at everything else around you at the moment. The fact that you were able to get there… A sense of gratitude for being able to wake up that morning. Whatever it may be!

Let it carry you away in the most hopelessly romantic-al fashion you can possibly muster! Soon enough you will see your optimism enduring through the never-ending tumultuous moments that life throws at you — and an even grander appreciation for the great ones! (and if you’d care to — share it in the comments 🙂 )

Fear of the NEW & DIFFERENT

You know the moment… You were planning on doing something new or different (that archery/swimming/boot camp/vocal/insert possible interest here class)… You may have been planning it for quite some time, you may have just come up with it that day, you may have just come across it as you walked down a different street (that new restaurant/fro-yo spot/bar/etc)… Then, at the last minute, hour, day, you back out.

Having moved out to a new city — this is a fear I have been fighting pretty often.

A fear of the NEW and DIFFERENT.

Having started a new job, at a challenging company — I’ve had to battle this practically every single day. Sometimes the fear totally beats me, and I beat myself up for it. Other times, I overcome it, and am disappointed by what I was fighting for. While other times I overcome it and I discover new things I love/dislike/grow to like/etc…

It’s a fear that comes out of change. Fear of having a change in your routine. Fear of a change to your level of comfort. It’s a fear of “wasting your time.” (My life is so busy — why would I take the chance at doing something I probably will not like, when I can just use that time to relax, and do something I have done before…) It is a fear building on a slight possibility of self-failure (failing to know yourself well enough, to actually be aware that you would NEVER had actually liked this.) A fear of just failing in general (what if I’m not good at it — what if the experience doesn’t go well…)

It wasn’t until I moved out here, that I noticed how easy it is to become complacent. I’m a creature of comfort. In routine – I find comfort. Places, people, actions and past times that have a vivid memory attached to them — that cause a sea of emotions to flood back into my mind… That is what I lean towards… Especially in a new city, with barely any memories — where it is practically a blank slate, except for the memories I stretch haphazardly attempting to find some form of similarity and sense of “home”.

Getting over that fear though — is what leads you to amazing new memories (durf! I’m sure I didn’t have to tell you that…) I think it’s pretty exciting that now I’m not ONLY known to be a cook/baker — but as an archer — amongst my friends and family… It is a whole new world I’m excited to share with them all — which I wouldn’t have discovered if I would have given into that fear…

Here are a few things that have helped me overcome the fear of the NEW & DIFFERENT

1) Go into it with a positive mindset — This might be easier said then done, but you are taking this step because it’s something you’re at least vaguely intrigued by. You may end up being disappointed by it — but even more positively, you will end up knowing it is or isn’t something you are into. You will learn something MORE about yourself — something that up to this point in your life you are unaware of.  Embrace the reward of introspection!

2) A Check list of NEW & Different — Creating a check list of all these NEW & Different things to do, will help you in seeing progress. The sense of progress (and checking things off your list) can be used as a motivator to push you through those moments.

3) Remember you most likely will not be good at it (but with practice you can be amazing!) — So you want to take lead on that new project (but have never managed a project in your life.) You want to run a marathon, but can barely make it a mile. You want to try to write a blog post a week, but can barely find time to breathe (personal little shout out there 🙂 ) Rome wasn’t built in a day! And you most likely will not step onto that Salsa Dance floor and figure out you are God’s gift to the Salsa world. But you know what — with time you probably will! If you don’t take that first step, and get over the fear, you will NOT be able to start perfecting your talent, your project management skills, or the appropriate breathing/pacing so you DON’T get tired after a mile. Just as with everything else in life, with time, practice, and experience, we grow to become better at things.

4) Reward yourself! — Give yourself a pat on the back and a positive affirmation every time you overcome your fear, not matter how big or small. Did you have lunch alone at one of your favorite restaurants for the first time? Congratulations! Did you make that call to setup your first driving lesson? Go you! Did you exchange witty small talk with that cute barista? You’re such a flirt! Re-affirming yourself for conquering that fear, no matter how big nor small, helps you get yourself into a routine of positivity for overcoming a fear. Slowly helping you build up the association of positive affirmation, with getting over your fear.

5) Channel the fear into excitement — isn’t this awesome! You’re finally doing that thing you’ve been trying to do for so long! You’re finally moving cross country (yikes O-o) you’re finally putting together that business idea you’ve been talking about by going to this business planning session! you’re finally going back to school by sending out for brochure pamphlets from different colleges you’re interested in!

6) Remember, life is short.

You are FINALLY doing it!

When was the last time you let the fear overcome you? I did it earlier today by NOT sending an email out that could have lead me to learn more about my job and the company I work for. I have been doing it for the past several months by NOT setting up my first driving lesson. But you can bet that come tomorrow — that email will NOT conquer me! And I WILL set that lesson up!

Also — I did overcome it by  writing this post out within a night— and putting it up as soon as I finished it…

M to the V

To Market, To Market – The Place Where Food Memories Are Born

On February 14th, 2012, in 213 Water Street, a gathering occurred — one of the food and imbibing kind. A team of young chefs (from I8NY), their friends, and with the help of several volunteers, worked together (in a very professional and seamless manner, might I add) to present a 5 course meal that embodied the warmth and love that food can so miraculously emit…

The gathering was a fundraiser for the New Amsterdam Market A Rooster Supper, it was called… But for someone who has lived in NYC practically all his life (since I was 5), has been completely discontented with the corporate world, has found a love and nurturing embrace within New York City, it’s history, and food in general; this event was so much more… It was an exposure to a room of people, willing to be a part of the re-establishment of a vibrant, messy, food filled market… In an attempt to create a scene even more lively, more communal — a culinary landmark that is ready to establish itself in the history of NYC, with even more force then the Fulton Market did…

Through a series of courses — revolving around the main course, a  Coq au vin (made in the refreshingly traditional manner, with Rooster as the French customarily do) the young chefs put out plates revolving around the produce of the NYC greenmarkets, and the treasure trove of bounty that is brought to them by farmers all around…

The course sequencing was stylized in a very French manner… Salad after the main course, cheese plate before dessert — above all else however, sound technique, and significant restraint… The Coq Au Vin featured a medley of (red, yellow, green, magenta) perfectly blanched carrots ; thick/crunchy/crispy cubes of bacon, juicy earthy mushrooms, delicate, sweet pearl onions, along with a braised drumstick, thigh, and several slices of perfectly roasted rooster breast with an amazingly buttery salty crunchy skin. A pool of the reduced braising liquid was poured into the bowl to be sopped up with bread created in the wood burning ovens of Robertas in Brooklyn.

The room itself, a part of the South Street Seaport Museum (which is now being run by the amazing people at the Museum of the City of New York — my favorite Museum in NYC) contributed the perfect environment. The candlelit, warm ambiance, stretched across the high ceiling/far reaching room. Towering, comforting, yet powerful wooden columns; homey/creaky hardwood floors, and a warm, convivial sense sheltered the guests, workers and volunteers alike, from the cold drizzle of the evening.

The attendees were graced with a splendidly genuine description of markets by Mimi Sheraton and Robert LaValva. Mimi Sheraton, spoke of the cultural impact markets have on the communities in which they arise from. She shared personal accounts of her own venturing in the Fulton Market, while Robert LaValva gave us an in-depth historical presentation on the Market. 25+ diff. variety of ducks, endless amounts of game meats — the idea of such an expansive market in NYC now seems like but a mere fairy tale.

The night flew by in the manner that can only be defined as a New York City minute — but their were several moments throughout the night that will remain as splendid snapshots in my memory forever. As I stood  behind the makeshift pass, Mr. LaValva passionately presenting on the Market and what it was in its heyday — I felt everything I love, come together under this one roof. You know those subjects that just always manage to just stir up an overwhelming amount of love within you; that drive you to endless nights/weeks/months of what others see as “work” but you just see as motivating and inspiring. Standing there, I was at the intersection of all these roads, constructed by these random selection of passions, that have helped lead me to who I am today.

This blog has been in the works for longer then I can imagine. The idea was always for it to be a platform for me to share my food memories with others. The memories that in one way or another I constantly look back on — whether because of the food, the company, the place in my life I was in at the time, or an endless amount of other possible factors. But I Kept_Putting_It_Off. The Rooster Supper Fundraiser led me to stop doing so, for many more reasons then you would perhaps care to read. At the end of the evening though, as I made my way through the narrow streets back to the train station I found myself reminiscing on all the amazing memories I’ve had in food markets. A place where, for so many of us (outside of if you grow your own produce, raise and slaughter your own animals, mine your own salt, etc…) are where our food memories are first conceived. Whether its a local supermarket chain, a farmers market, the Korean deli, the Spanish bodega — it’s where our food memories our born to us. As we shop, whether we expect them to be momentous, or just merely a way of satisfying our physical need to continue moving forward, is unknown, but this is where our food memories are born — and this is to the telling and sharing of many more!

*Cheers*

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