On weekends, cities, and Instagram

Yesterday my awesome colleague Tony launched his new site: Fourist.

Built on Instagram’s API, Fourist allows you to check out the most popular pictures over the weekend in any city. Come check out what people are doing from Friday at 5pm till Sunday at midnight. If you want your weekend photos to be featured and liked on Fourist, tag your photos with #fourist.

Be sure to check out their site and like them on Facebook.

What are people doing in your city?

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On Yearning for the Summer v1: Mixology

What better way to wear away a cold and dank San Francisco Sunday than to experiment with a little bourbon mixology.

Generally I like my bourbons neat, poured over some cold granite whiskey stones. But I was feeling a bit experimental and decided to remix Dave Pickerell’s famed bourbon concoction: the Summer Breeze.

The initial concept

The Ingredients:

Maker's 46 not shown. Photo by T.

  • 1 part Maker’s 46 (but any Bourbon or TN/KY whiskey will do)
  • 1 part Bundaberg ginger beer
  • The juice of half a mandarin orange
  • Served over 2 Earl Grey ice cubes (brewed strong!)
  • Garnished with a cinnamon stick, mandarin orange wedge, and a sprig of mint

Earl Grey ice cubes. Alternative room temp tincture method is also allowed. Photo by T.

It’s bitter, earthy, and spicy with zings of citrus and mint. The Earl Grey adds a warm taste dimension to the whole mix. If you’re not into freezing your tea, just steep the a tea bag in 1-2 oz. of straight bourbon while gently muddling it for 20 seconds. Doing this will allow the alcohol to solubilize the Oil of Bergamot to create an awesome Earl Grey-bourbon infusion!

Rinse, dry, and reuse your cinnamon sticks. We won't judge you. Photo by T.

Enjoy! Leave us a comment and let us know what your favorite drinks are.

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On the work week, Sundays, and coffee

Work has left us both MIA for most of this week, and the past weekend was a fury of laundry, errands, and general housekeeping. We did get some time to relax and wander around our neighborhood and plan on catching a documentary in Marin tonight.

Tiny plane, old school boarding. taken with my iPhone

Here are the highlights of my week:

  • Meeting clients and colleagues from all around the world from Brazil to Saudia Arabia to China.
  • Dinner with my friend Hannah at one of my favorite Happy Hour places in Portland, Blue Hour and a walk through one of my favorite places ever, Powell’s Books. I felt so guilty for owning a Kindle. If you love books then you have to check this place out at least once in your life. It takes up an entire city block. Thomas and I once sat in Powell’s for half a day just reading everything we could get our hands on.
  • Getting a free minute to get some Stumptown  coffee inside the Ace Hotel in Portland. I’m definitely a coffee snob and I love getting beans from all the places we visit. I made  a nice cup of the Holler Mountain blend, and it was light and smooth. It gave my favorite coffee place in SF, Phil’z Coffee, a run for its money. What’s your favorite coffee place in your city?

    Best coffee PDX has to offer!

  • Some coffee info, photo by T.

Stumptown coffee, photo by T.

  • Exploring our neighborhood coffee shops on a sleepy Sunday. We took a long walk to the beach and had a cappuccino and some cinnamon toast at Trouble Coffee. Sundays are meant for relaxing, reading, and unwinding before the hectic work week.

Trouble makes a fine coffee. Photo by T.


Cinnamon toast and a cappuccino

Busy Sunday morning at Trouble. Photo by T.

Walking home. Photo by T.

Exploring our neighborhood. Photo by T.

Next week will be busy. I’m looking forward to the following:

  • Our upcoming trip to our former home, Washington D.C. Any suggestions on places we must visit or try?
  • Getting back into yoga after a few weeks on the road
And now I’ll leave everyone with a few interesting articles I read this week:
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On comfort food, smelling like soup, and indoor weather

It was a wet and stormy weekend so we stayed close to home for the most part (did I mention that we live upstairs from an Irish bar?).  We made a comfort dish we’ve never made before:  french onion soup.

Be forewarned, this is NOT a dish you should cook if you are short on time. It’s a long process if you want the soup to taste just right, so reserve this recipe for weekends or vacation days. It’s also not a dish you want to make if you want to go out afterwards. You will smell like soup and people will look at you funny.

French Onion Soup. Photo by T.

Ingredients: It’s an affordable dish to make, so if you’re throwing a dinner party you can put on this on the menu. Just wash your hair before guests arrive. I was going to use the Smitten Kitchen recipe, but it proved much too complicated for me so I just used it as a guide and improvised. 

  • 6 ramekins or oven proof bowls
  • 4-5 onions (you’ll have to caramelize your onions in batches unless you have a HUGE dutch oven)
  • olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of dry white wine (we bought the cheap stuff from Costco, nothing fancy here)
  • 1 baguette
  • 2 cups of beef broth
  • 1 -2 bay leaf/leaves
  • 2-3 sprigs of thyme, dried thyme will work too
  • salt and pepper
  • Better than Bouillon beef base (optional, but it’s my secret ingredient)
  • 2 teaspoons of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • Cheese: Swiss and Gruyere (1/2 cup grated or sliced, doesn’t matter, add more or less depending on preference)
  • Slice all your onions. We have a 3 qt. dutch oven and I caramelized our onions in 2 batches and combined them when they were all caramelized.
  • Drizzle olive oil in your dutch oven, and put it on low to medium (around 3). Put in onions, thyme, bay leaf, a pinch of salt (go easy) and some pepper. Toss for about 5 minutes. Add in a teaspoon of brown sugar. It will help with the process.
  • Cover your onions with a lid. Turn down the heat to low. Let it sit for about 30 minutes and stir every 10 minutes. Do this for your second batch of onions, if needed.
  • Pre-heat oven to 325 in the meantime.
  • You can start prepping your bread and cheese while the onions caramelize.

Onions: Before / After. Photo by T.


  • When the onions are done caramelizing, put in 2 cloves of minced garlic. Stir. You don’t want the garlic to burn. Add in 2 teaspoons of flour to thicken. Stir on low heat for about a minute.
  • Time for wine! Add in 1 cup of white wine. Bring to boil. Drink the rest of the wine in the bottle.
  • By now, the smell is intoxicating. Add in beef broth. Add in water. Add in a spoonful of Better than Beef bouillon. This is the secret ingredient and will give it a developed flavor. It won’t taste like much right now, but that’s why you need to let it cook down and reduce.
  • Turn down heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for 30 minutes. If you find it too salty, just add more water.
  • Cut your baguette into cubes or at a bias. Drizzle with olive oil and pepper. Put in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until brown. Once you finish this step, turn your oven over to broil.
  • Spoon soup into oven-proof ramekins. Add in cheese. Top with bread. Add more cheese on top. Put ramekins on a baking tray and place the entire tray into the oven.
  • Cheese is broiling. Watch the oven. This takes less than a minute.
  • After removing the ramekins from the oven, let them cool for a good 2-3 minutes.

Serves: 6, but you’ll want seconds

Time: 1.5 hours

French Onion Steps, taken on my iPhone

*If you have leftovers or not enough ramekins, you can just keep the soup in some containers. Don’t add bread or cheese. The flavors will develop, and second-day french onion soup is even better. You might have to dilute it with some more water or beef broth if the flavor is too intense.

*You can make  a gluten-free version of this soup if you omit the bread and 2 teaspoons of flour. It’s just as delicious with some gluten-free crackers. You can also substitute the flour with quinoa flour, but you really don’t need to.

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On the work week, Fridays, weekends

Fridays are my favorite days of the week. They just hold so much promise for a relaxing weekend.

Here are some of the highlights from my (long) week:

  • I worked from our Denver office for a few days this week. One of my colleagues was upgraded to the Presidential Suite at our hotel so we spent a long part of our night chatting and playing in a hotel room that is bigger than my apartment. There was a TV embedded in the mirror of the bathroom. Oh, to live like the other half…

the living room of the suite.

  • We had a great team dinner at Osteria Marco in Denver. If you’re ever in Denver, you have to stop by. The lamb meatballs and fig pizza are incredible. And it’s always nice catching up with co-workers outside the office.
  • My flight didn’t have wifi so I was able to catch up on some magazine reading. I spent three hours catching up on Business Week, Fast Company, and of course, US Weekly.  I’ll look for any excuse to read in peace and not feel guilty about it.
  • If you haven’t checked out the Leisure Travel issue of Business Week yet, I highly recommend it. I loved reading about the secret world of business travel. I’m also always on the quest for the perfect travel bag. If you’ve found one that can carry a laptop, Kindle, iPad, phone, toiletries, let me know. This is what I’m currently carrying.

Travel must-haves

 

I’m looking forward to this rainy weekend back home. Next week, I’m off to Portland for a few days for work.

downtown Portland, photo by Thomas.

I’ll leave you with some of the things I’m looking forward to doing this weekend.

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On time, simple meals, and laziness

Fast food and my favorite meal

Caprese salad is my go-to meal when I’m lazy, short on time, and my to-do list is a mile long. I always have these ingredients in our fridge because it seems like I’m always in this state of mind, at least M-F. After a ten hour work day and 200+ urgent emails, all I want to do when I get home is climb fake plastic rocks or watch bad Bravo TV (yes, even that horrible Tabitha Takeover show). So in an attempt to get on with my day, I’ll make caprese salad for dinner. In our household, we eat this 2-3x a night, mostly because I’m lazy but also because it’s delicious and simple.

I don’t think I need to write out the recipe, but if you really want to know it’s sugarplum tomatoes, mozzarella (I get the little balls at Whole Foods–seriously lazy),  a pinch of salt and a whole lot of pepper, basil (nothing fancy here, I just use my fingers to rip the leaves), a splash of EVOO, and some balsamic syrup my mom got us in Italy (you can just use balsamic vinegar). Toss it all together and you have a 2 minute dinner!

 

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On teamwork, substitutions, and Batali

Pompano, Peppers, and Endive Salad, as adapted from Mario Batali

Already hungry after a Sunday spent movie-watching, Stephanie and I sat in the Whole Foods Potrero parking lot sluggishly flipping though pages of Mario Batali’s “Simple Italian Food” book. In the doldrums of low blood sugar, we picked probably the most complex recipe in the book:

Polenta-Crusted Pompano Salad with Sauteed Spicy Peppers Vinaigrette, Chicory and Tomato Oil

Three different dressings to add to three different components means your time in the kitchen just got pushed to third power! (t_prep + t_cook)^3!

Ingredients for Tomato Oil

But apparently wemust be bad at math, because we worked as a team and banged this dish out in a show-stopping 40 minutes. Here’s the key: share the job of prepping the veggies, then split up and get one person on dressing and veggie prep, and get the other soul on the range. Even in our tiny kitchen befitting the smallest of pygmy chefs, a lack of physical space is no reason why “two cooks can’t be one” in the same kitchen.

Layering Flavors: Sweet and Smoke

Let’s talk ingredient substitutions for a bit. Some people take recipes very literally and follow ALL steps to the letter. I don’t get these people when they eat their culinary carbon copy and it’s not what they’re used to, or just doesn’t seem “right” somehow. Its all gotta do with substitutions. For example, this recipe calls for chicory. We went to the store and the chicory looked really lame. The endives, however, looked awesome.  Big surprise: we went with the endives. If you read a recipe and understand why something is added to a dish, then it is easy to use some taste logic to make substitutions based on seasonality and availability. If you can substitute an ingredient that is grown locally, then even better. Our endives were from Belgium, however.  Whatever. So my bitter leaves racked up some air-miles—I’ll make an exception for flavor!

"Immersing" ourselves in the art of homemade dressings

Recommendations:

A couple more substitutions are also worth mentioning. Use Bob’s Red Mill corn meal instead of uber-processed meals or quick polenta – Bob’s includes the germ layer, which makes for a pleasant crunch when fried.

Use a pan with olive oil just beneath smoke-point

If you don’t want to go all crazy buying a bunch of different types of peppers for your marjoram vinaigrette-salad, then just use those little baby sweet peppers or just some poblanos. Keep it simple.  As for choice of tomatoes for the T-oil, we had great luck with those ping-pong-sized greenhouse tomatoes sold on the vine. They were wonderfully ripe and retained a stronger tomato essence than the picked-and-plucked ones.

Also, get an immersion blender. Ours is from Kitchen Aid, and it has enough torque to double as an oil drill. For those of you playing the home game: an immersion blender is a small appliance that will change the way you make soups, dressings, smoothies, and other “blendables” for the rest of your cooking days.

What did our meal taste like?

Like flavor profiles that we don’t get enough of: pungent aromatics and pronounced glutamate sensations from homemade tomato oil, crispy and cool bitter notes from the endives contrasted with the sweet smokiness and earthiness of peppers sautéed in paprika and dressed in marjoram, and a very light acidity of the Port-Balsamic vinaigrette countered with the richness of the pompano.

Trying to make it pretty.

I would say that the salad components actually outshined the fish in terms of vibrancy in appearance and taste. Given this, we felt like trout, mahi, or even wahoo would have done just fine, so go with those if they’re cheaper for you. Don’t pay $14 for a whole pompano like we did! If you don’t care, then buy the pompano; the price of a memorable dinner is always justified.

If you have the time and inclination (and a willing sous-chef), this dish will be a pleasure to make, and its flavors will leave you pleasantly surprised!

Color and Contrast

Drop us a comment if you have another Batali recipe that you like. Don’t have a favorite Batali recipe? Then how do you feel about his restaurant paying $5.25M to settle against claims of tip-skimming? Ouch!

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Lemon Blueberry Macarons

We’ve been trying to make macarons for awhile, but they are so intimidating and temperamental. We wanted to start 2012 off with a cooking challenge and finally got around to making these delicious lemon blueberry macarons. We used the recipe over at Food 52. They were on the sweet side so we balanced them out with blueberries. The second time we tried making macarons we cut out some of the sugar in the almond mix, but the cookies did not come out right. If you don’t like it too sweet, we’d recommend cutting out sugar in your filling and balancing it out with some berries.

Make sure it’s not too humid in your kitchen or house when you’re making macarons. They won’t set correctly if it’s too humid. Make sure your eggs are at room temperature before setting out to make macarons.

Ingredients, macarons are gluten-free.

Sifting, so tedious it should count as exercise.

Making the meringue. One day we'll have a nice Kitchenaid.

See the feet? If you have macaron feet, you know you're doing it right. Otherwise, start over. Also, Silpat is totally worth the splurge if you like to cook.

Just a lemon macaron.

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Travel Love

I am traveling to three different cities within the next month and couldn’t live without my favorite travel items. Traveling is so uncomfortable these days, I don’t get why people go out of their way to make the experience more uncomfortable.  These are my essential travel items. The big cashmere scarf makes an excellent blanket when it gets chilly. The BOSE noise canceling headphones are essential on every trip. It cancels out all the airplane noise and crying babies!  The phone, suitcase, and iPad are necessities. And there is nothing better than some leggings, an oversize cashmere sweater, and the Ferragamo flats ( I love mine! They make going through security a breeze).

What are you travel essentials?Travel Set

Travel Set by apartment304 featuring a yoga activewear
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Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful and Jiro Dreams of Sushi

We can’t wait to see to these two films soon. Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful is about a 98-year old woman who has a tenth-degree black belt in Judo. She’s one of four people in the world to hold this high honor. She still teaches twice a week at her dojo in the Castro today. We’re planning on catching this documentary this weekend at the Castro Theatre.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi comes out in two weeks in the city.  Jiro is an 85-year-old sushi chef who works out of a small restaurant in a Japanese subway station. There’s nothing we love more than sushi and people who take such pride in their work.  The common thread in both these films is about discovering your life’s passion and making it your life’s work and purpose.  Are you going to watch these films?  Stay tuned for a review.

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