In My Kitchen: March-Detox Veggie Stew

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Eep!  I guess the writing everyday thing isn’t really working out so far.  Partly because as Max pointed out this morning “No one comments on [Megan’s] blog anymore.” But when I was sitting here just now thinking about how to spend the next hour or so, I remembered that I started this blog for me, and so it shall continue on at whatever speed makes me happy.

I’ve been devoting all my time (and most of my mental fortitude) recently to dealing with our puppy, Roo’s, separation anxiety.  It started out mild and has steadily gotten worse.  It is impossible to leave him alone now.  We are working with some professionals because apparently dog separation anxiety is a big deal.

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Poor Roo. (And poor me for having to clean up after an anxious pup)

It is rather consuming of my time and energy with so much at stake, so I haven’t been going to the gym.  I even put my membership on a one-month hold.  Because of that, I’m extra conscious of what I’m putting into my body right now.  When the only exercise I’m getting is via copious dog walks, I need food that will minimize the damage I’m doing with my more sedentary life right now 🙂

So this family soup recipe seems appropriate.  I hesitate to even call it a recipe when the entirety of it is comprised of stewing down every veggie you can get your hands on in a giant pot with chicken broth, but it is thing of beauty that should be shared so that everyone knows how delicious this non-recipe is.

Now, it is a soup (aka hot), and I did make this in February after my mom left as a way to sort of detox from all the deliciousness we consumed together, but I think it works for any time you need to jumpstart a new period of healthier eating.  My mom used to make this for us regularly, and when I found out you can eat for a week off one pot I started making it regularly, too!

All I can say is that this soup/stew is more than the sum of its individual veggie parts.  When all are combined and time and heat have worked their magic, you have a surprisingly hearty and satisfying meal.

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Step 1: Chop all your veg.  The only veggie I don’t recommend throwing in is spinach.  Somehow doesn’t work.

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Step 2 (and Last Step): Stew in a giant stock pot for many hours until all the veggies are cooked down and soft.

Add a swirl of ketchup on top for the acid if you want to do it old school.

Berkeley Bowl on Valentine’s Day

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So now that a month has gone by, lets finally talk about Valentine’s Day. Ha! Just a tad behind, right?

This year was cool because Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday, which meant that Max was actually off work and available to spend the holiday with me.  My mom and Uncle Wen were in town and stayed with us for the weekend, and during the weeks leading up to their visit Max and I toyed with going for a nice dinner on Valentine’s Day with everyone.  But, ya know, when it comes right down to it, Valentine’s Day is The. Worst. day to go out to eat at all but the neighborhoodyist of neighborhood joints.  You get a shitty tasting menu and they charge you more for it.

Instead, we all day-tripped to Berkeley hitting up Acme Bread‘s original location before heading to the massive and OMG Berkeley Bowl.  Then Max cooked up a delicious meal and we all sat around our tiny table in our small San Francisco apartment.  It was intimate and beautiful-all the things Valentine’s Day should always be.

Pictures from our day in Berkeley and our night in below.

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And, of course, no celebration would be complete without a cheese plate and a bottle of champagne sabered off the balcony!

 

Good Stuff: Chocolate Twist

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Photo via chocolate-twist.com

When my mom and Uncle Wen stayed with us over Valentine’s Day weekend (and yes, I realize this is over a month ago now), they came bearing flowers and chocolate.  Ever so appropriate.  But this was no ordinary box of chocolate.  It was a box full of treats from Chocolate Twist!

Chocolate Twist is the brainchild of Kate Coffey who goes by “The Queen of Twist” or simply “The Queen” on the candy’s website and is operated out of and mostly sold in retail stores around Illinois, but of course you can place online orders.

The flavors are unexpected and whimsical and oh so very on-trend.  The Queen collaborates with other local artisans to source ingredients, relying on companies from Chicago and the surrounding area to supply the best pretzels, jams, and other items for her unique products.

Our box came filled with caramels, chocolate candy bars, and a peanut butter cup.   We had the peanut butter pretzel & rosemary Cheezit white chocolate candy bars, which feature a bittersweet chocolate ganache layered on top of a caramel base. The caramels were to die. The addictive beer and pretzel caramels are embedded with bits of crunchy pretzels.  The soy balsamic caramels were just the right bit of strange tangy.  But the burnt toast caramels completely stole the show. Apparently, Oprah is a fan, as well, so you know it has to be good stuff.

I would encourage going to the site and checking out the rest of odd, yet irresistible-sounding treats they make.  I can attest that a combo pack like ours makes an excellent, tasty gift, but there’s also nothing wrong with just sampling on your own!

 

Vik’s Chaat & Market in Berkeley

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I’m always hounding Max to tell me where to eat.  I figure he knows what’s up since he’s in the biz and all, but surprisingly, he generally has very few suggestions for me, especially ones that don’t break the bank.  So I was pretty excited when he turned to me while on his computer the other day and said, “There’s this Indian street food place in Berkeley I’d like to try.”  I put Vik’s Chaat & Market on the physical (or digital) and mental list I keep of restaurants to check out in San Francisco and waited for the right time.

The right time came when we were planning our mini road trip out to Oakdale to pick up Roulot.  We were already driving hours out of our neighborhood, so why not tack on a few more minutes and swing through Berkeley to try this place? Plus, getting a dog was definitely a Megan-centric activity, so I thought it would be pleasant to do something for Max that weekend, as well.

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So Chaat (literally “to lick”) is a term describing savory snacks, typically served at road-side tracks from stalls or food carts in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.  Traditionally, this road-side snack was served on a leaf and was so tongue-tickling that one could not resist licking the last morsels from the leaf before discarding it. Trying street food is one of the best parts about traveling to new places, and it’s a delicious window into new cultures.   Think tacos, bahn mi, or jerk chicken.  Some of the best stuff around.

Vik’s Chaat has been said to have the best chaat in the United States, so that’s quite an endorsement. I’m told it grew in response to the burgeoning Indian population that came along with the growth of Silicon Valley near by.

It is a no muss no fuss restaurant, a warehouse actually. The food is ordered from a counter food court-style and served in paper (if you’re taking it to-go) or metal trays, and most of the food is vegetarian, through they do have weekend specials incorporating meat. They have daily curries, samosas, and other snack foods and sweets. It is jammed packed every weekend and during the lunch and dinner hours. The prices are very reasonable.

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We sampled a whole host of different items, including Dahi Batata Puri, Bel Puri, Aloo Tikki, Samosa Cholle, and Keema Samosa , but we’ve been back twice now and the Sev Puri is our favorite. We could each eat 2 orders of these to ourselves.

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Afterward, you can peruse the Indian market where they have EVERY KIND OF LENTIL YOU’VE EVER IMAGINED and some that you couldn’t have.  There are frozen prepared items, as well, which seems like a good thing to know about. Max was really into the market, but we both die for the food.

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I even took my mom and Uncle Wen there when they came to visit this past weekend.  But more on that later.

In My Kitchen: February-Asparagus Soup FTW

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This past week I made a really dope chicken shawarma-esque recipe out of the NY Times in an attempt to create my take on Max and my favorite chicken shawarma plates from Al Wazir Chicken in LA.   When Max lived in Hollywood, we used to go there just about every other day!  Aaaand now I’m homesick and craving Al Wazir.

I healthied it up a bit by adding some extra veggies and made a Greek yogurt-garlic-lemon juice-mint sauce.  Anyway, that was fun. Max and I both crave chicken shawarma on the reg, and we are constantly saddened by the total lack of shawarma up here in SF.  If you have any leads on places we should check out that might change our mind and rival our beloved Al Wazir (or even Zankou, if we’re slummin’ it), PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do tell.

Ya know, I try to keep this from becoming a total food blog, because I could do that.  It would be pretty boring, but it could be done. And I have another post (another freakin’ soup post at that) that I plan to create this month, but I absolutely could not not tell you about the asparagus soup I made to go with my chicken shawarma because it is NUTS good.  Like restaurant-good.  And it is ridic healthy and stupid easy and quick to make.  I definitely emailed the recipe to my mom, so you know it’s the best of the best.

So let me just direct you to the recipe, which has approximately 3 steps, but is basically sauté onions in butter, add asparagus and chicken stock, boil, remove from heat, add cream cheese (or Greek yogurt, which I used and works like charm), blend with hand blender.  The end.

Also, you should probably check out Skinnytaste and see what’s up.  I haven’t had a chance to go browsing, but I will when I’m looking for my next meal inspiration for sure.  Looks like a goldmine!

 

Dim Sum & Bordeaux

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Clearly, I’m not pro photographer, but I do have a pretty nice camera and I do sometimes manage to take a decent photo with it.  I want to be so good at photography.  I really do.  I have made a few weak-ass attempts to really learn how to be awesome at it, but I haven’t been able to really commit to anything long-term.  I won’t bore you with the details.  I plan to get to it one day.

In any event, despite my non-professional status, because Max is what we jokingly refer to as “food famous” he was asked to write a blurb about where he enjoys drinking Bordeaux wines for Eater so I got to take some pictures to accompany his writing.

It was cool because it was just an excuse for us to go to Yank Sing and enjoy some dim sum, as we often do on weekends.  We embarrassingly took a bunch of super stagey photos and drank good wine and enjoyed yummy food, so all in all, it was a lovely morning.

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Max enjoys drinking wine with just about everything, hence our new dog named Roulot, and it is pretty trendy these days to pair wine with unexpected, generally low-brow foods for that cool dichotomy effect.  Since Max enjoys almost all Asian cuisine, he was excited to share his musings about pairing a Bordeaux Blanc with our typical dim sum order, particularly har gow and xiaolongbao, rice noodles with pork, shrimp and chive dumplings.

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And yes, I took every single one of those pictures, so I’m a little bit proud.  Power couple! haha.  The photos above are ones Eater didn’t use, save the top photo of Max, so I thought I’d share them here.

If you’d like to check out Max’s writing on Eater you can find it here.

 

The Pop-Up

It has been a little slow around here lately.  Rainy winter weather and work have kept me rather isolated.  I’ve been doing quite a lot of cooking, but because this is not a food blog, I will spare you the details.

I’m no food-writer, and since I know people that are, I’m aware of how inappropriate any kind of restaurant review or blog post would be.  Besides that, Max has forbidden me from ever going public with my thoughts about any particular restaurant in any other than the most lay of fashions.  Which is totally appropriate, I think, since we are so encircled by the service industry these days.  That said, being that we are constantly surrounded by San Francisco food culture, almost everything we do involves a food component these days.

Last weekend we attended the pop-up restaurant project of a young chef who used to work with Max. He and his girlfriend will be moving out of state soon, so he is using this time to refine dishes and concepts for his eventual brick and mortar restaurant.  He is testing his vision without the investors and the risk and seeing if it works.  He serves a multi-course menu at his home with his girlfriend and two others working service with him.

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Photo credit to Andrew Cheng.

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Photo by Andrew Cheng

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Of course, this is not a new idea.  Max and I have been going to pop-ups for years.  Though, it wasn’t the first of its kind, one of the innovators of the pop-up restaurant was Ludo Lefebvre.  We got in on it pretty early when he first appeared at Bread Bar on Melrose.  Oh man, we thought we were pretty cool!  We’ve rightly kept up with Ludo as he went on to host several more pop-ups and then, more recently, to open his brick and mortar restaurants Trois Mec and Petite Trois in Los Angeles.

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At one of the later pop-up dinners with Ludo and some friends.

We next starting taking interest in a pop-up in Downtown Los Angeles hosted in the chef’s loft.  It was a lottery system to get invited, but as it turns out, you kind of needed to know someone.  We fell-in with the LA food crowd and attended quite a few of Chef Craig’s dinners.  Eventually, I hosted Max’s birthday at a dinner of Craig’s, which was a really neat thing to be able to do.

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Me and some of the ladies at Max’s pop-up birthday dinner.

And the friendship eventually spawned a work-relationship, which involved Max hooking Craig up with my mother-in-law’s museum for his first museum-based pop-up event.  I was lucky enough to attend. He later went on to host his pop-up all over the country in some very high-profile spots.

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Craig’s first pop-up at SMMOA

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What a cool space to eat!

Max has even had a pop-up of his very own!  It was called BRK Dining, and Max and his friend also named Max hosted dinners out of other Max’s condo in West Hollywood.  It became quite successful and continues on today, obviously without husband-Max.  I would often help serve or do dishes.  BRK was a really fun project for Max, and it introduced him to the concept of curating guests and to the art of service.  (FYI-if you ever go to one of these fancy-shmancy restaurants, know that they have Googled the shit out of you.  They know where you work and have probably checked out all your social media accounts.)  It even ended up getting them a little press!  Pretty exciting stuff!

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A BRK dinner prep

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Max getting mic’d for an interview about BRK

Through BRK and Twitter, Max connected with a VERY young chef in his teens, but already quite accomplished, named Flynn.  Love Flynn.  He offered his sous chef services to BRK and started putting on his own pop-up out of his parents’ house in Los Angeles and other restaurant spaces.  Max worked with him as his wine dude whenever possible.  Flynn went on to work at some great LA restaurants, then traveled to Europe and staged at some of the greats, before heading to NY, where he resides currently, to open his pop-up there.

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At one of Flynn’s dinner at his home.

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From one of Flynn’s dinners at the restaurant space, Tiara.

I guess I know a thing or two about pop-up restaurants.  If you follow food and ever have the opportunity, I think going to these types of events is an awesome way to find a chef you love and get to follow them from day-one.  I, myself, have watched as some of these pop-up chefs go on to great notoriety, and can say I was there “back when”.  We certainly have had a lot of fun following some of our favorites around to all these different locations over the years!

P.S. This post spans a lotta years! I had a lot of fun going back through the photo archives looking for all of these pictures.  Know that this is a mere sampling! haha!