Monday, September 28, 2009

Who's the Vegetarian Here Anyhow?

When V bought his flat in San Francisco, his real estate agent gifted him a bottle of champagne and gift certificates for various shops and restaurants in the neighborhood. Saturday night we had dinner at one of the restaurants, a pricey place that was new to us. We ordered a bottle of wine, an appetizer to share, and a couple of entrees. Things began well. The restaurant was cozy and intimately-lit, the waiter friendly. The heirloom tomato salad was lovely. Our mains arrived. On the surface, V's halibut paled in comparison to my smoked tofu. We began to eat. So far, so good. Then I noticed something strange on the cucumber garnish. Something black. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a fried insect. A male earwig, from the look of it.

V was shocked, appalled. I was inclined to move it to the corner of my plate and forget about it. But we brought it to the attention of a waiter, who acted likewise appalled (and apologetic). He mentioned that the produce was organic and thus more inclined to be buggy than conventional. Then he pointed to the restaurant's perfect rating from the SF Health Department. He said he'd return shortly with a new dish. In the meantime, V went on and on about the outrage we'd suffered. I've worked in my fair share of restaurants and understand that insects will find their way into a kitchen via produce. Even after I'd received my new plate, V just wouldn't let the matter drop. So I told him a story.

Two monks were walking along when they came to a stream. A young woman was waiting at the bank to cross, and the old monk had her climb on his back and carried her across. The monks continued on their journey. About an hour later, the young monk said, "I can't believe you carried that woman across the stream back there! We're not even supposed to touch women." To which the old monk replied, "I left the woman back at the stream. Why are you still carrying her?" You, I told V, are like that young monk. To which a delighted V replied, Yes! And you are that old monk.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Ice Cream Revolution

My new neighborhood, the Mission, is blessed with an array of interesting ice cream options. This may have begun with Mitchell's, which opened way back in 1953 and makes its own flavors like Jackfruit, Lychee, and Sweet and Salty Peanut. The current trend seems to be toward complex, adult flavors. Among this crowded field, two stand out for their creativity: Bi-Rite (The Creamery) and Humphrey Slocombe.

Bi-Rite Creamery is located adjacent to Dolores Park (and a very short walk from me), and on sunny days when the park is full, a line of customers snakes out and up 18th Street. Like nearby Bi-Rite market, the Creamery prides itself on using organic, locally grown products and operating in a sustainable manner. Signature flavors include the Salted Caramel, Balsamic Strawberry, and Honey Lavender. Their sorbets are vegan.

There are twelve flavors on hand at Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream (Harrison at 24th) at any given time. Yesterday, when I visited for the first time, flavors included Salt & Peppa, Secret Breakfast (Bourbon and Corn Flakes), and Bluebottle Viennese Coffee. A local restaurant asked if they could create a flavor that tasted like smoking, and HS came up with Fume (with an accent aigu on the e), flavored with Lapsang Souchong, the distinctly smoky tea from China's Fujian province. I asked if the sorbets, Honeydew and Hibiscus Beet, were vegan, but learned that they use an animal-based stabilizer. They are, apparently, looking to remedy that.

I opted for a scoop each of the Peanut Butter Curry and Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit. The PB Curry was delicious and tasted just like Indonesia: a complex curry flavor with bits of real peanut butter mixed in. They don't seem to use a generic curry powder either; I distinctly tasted brown mustard seeds in the mix. As for the Milk Chocolate Passion Fruit, it was tasty but I was less impressed. Passion fruit has a very strong taste, and here it threatened to overwhelm the milk chocolate. I think that dark chocolate would be a better match for that fruit's intensity.

Fortunately, Fetal Kitten is not a flavor, but rather the artist's joke.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Wild- and Not-so-wild Life I Saw in Wyoming:

2 herds of bison
2 moose (cow + calf)
2 mule deer
1 coyote
1 herd pronghorn antelope

And lots of chipmunks, horses and cattle. No sign of bears. (Should I count the dead mouse?)