The Adventure Interlude: Home and SF

July 30 – Aug. 7, 2019

We got home on the 30th and kept busy with laundry, my work, and household stuff. We celebrated a family birthday and got to see the grandkidsIMG_2496. We had hired a lawn service and the guy decided we live too far away and quit, so we scrambled to find someone else. Which we did. Whew! My mom and I took in a presentation of Calamity Jane, starring Louise Mandrell. Dave and I hosted a family gathering on IMG_2503Saturday, August 3rd. Our niece, Katie, and her daughters were visiting from Maryland, so we got to see them and get caught up.

Then Sunday August 4th, we left again. This time for a personal vacation in San Francisco with two couples, both longtime friends. Wally and Deb are moving out of state soon, and they generously shared their timeshare points with us so we had very nice accommodations near Union Square.

We went to church Sunday morning, then we had a bit of tidying up to do around the house from the day before, so we didn’t get away as soon as we’d hoped. Let’s just say Dave made up for the late start by driving like he couldn’t with the trailer behind him in Indiana, Illinois, and Minnesota. We got to SF about 5, checked in, found our friends, and settled in with drinks and snacks and catching up and stories and laughter.

Monday was a day of fabulous firsts. We went to Sears for breakfast. I’ve already mentioned my issue with eggs. I ordered one egg, over hard. This was the best restaurant cooked egg I’ve ever had. It was perfect! A first! I neglected to get a picture, because the thing with eggs is, they have to be eaten while still hot. There’s a very slim time margin. But trust me. I’m a very picky egg eater. This one was perfect.

After breakfast, we headed to the Ferry Building, then walked to catch a ferry to Alcatraz. Dave and I had never been there. Another first. It’s a fascinating place, with so much IMG_2525history. It was quite breezy out there and Dave’s audio tour/headphones got out of sync, so he missed some parts, but it was still a great experience. We spent a couple of hours wondering the island.

After coming back to the city, Tony researched restaurants. A mention on the tour of spaghetti in the dining hall had several of us wanting pasta for dinner. Tony found a place with great reviews and we headed there. We found it, but there was a problem … they served no alcohol. After walking 10,000 steps, we needed a glass of wine to go with our spaghetti!

The staff there directed us to their second location, which was more of a sit down place, since their’s was more take-out. We conferred. No one wanted to walk the additional half mile. Luckily, we were in North Beach, which is rich with Italian restaurants. I pointed across the street and squinted. The sign said Luisa’s … Something or other. 

We crossed the street. A lit sign in a window said Pizza. Two men sat at a table on the sidewalk. There were lights on inside, but no other indications that they were open. Now we could read the name of the place: Luisa’s Ristorante.

Little did we know the treat awaiting us.

One of the men out front wore an apron so we asked if they were open. He said yes,  stood, and we entered.

A woman was sitting at a table. We asked again if they were open. A waiter said yes,  gestured to us to choose a table, any table. The woman stood, gathered her papers, and shuffled off. The waiter gave us “menus.” Three sheets of 9×12 papers, stapled together.

IMG_2545The woman shuffled back, sat at our table, and introduced herself as Luisa, ninety-one years old, the owner and chef. She proceeded to show us pictures of celebrities who had dined at her restaurant in the past, including Sophia Loren and Guy Fieri. Her accent was thick, her hair very dark (for ninety-one years old), and her attitude presumptuous. I asked what Guy had eaten and she told me he loved her gnocchi.

On the menu, the gnocchi was listed as, “Gnocchi ***** Yelp” followed by a brief description and the choice of sauces. (I figured out that meant the gnocchi has a 5 star rating on Yelp. We also learned later that she’d recently relocated the ristorante to that North Beach location. SF leases and landlords being unreasonable and all that, you know.)

Tony and Dave asked about the wine selection and Luisa reached for a bottle of red, announced it was her own blend and it was an excellent choice, even if the alcohol content was a bit over what was strictly legal-wink, wink. Tony ordered a bottle for the table. Since I stick to white (red gives me leg cramps), Dave ordered a bottle of Pinot Grigio for the table as well. It was realllly good. Deb started with a glass of the red, but she switched to the white after she tasted it.

Then. We attempted to order our dinners. As the first person ordered, Luisa not-so-gently corrected their order. “No. You want that with the pappardelle. I make that. I don’t make the spaghetti.” By the end of the ordering, each of us was looking at Luisa for approval. Dave ordered a Napalese pizza. That passed fine. I ordered the gnocchi. Instead of the four or five sauce options on the menu, she gave me a choice of two: the pesto or the vodka sauce. I chose the vodka, a light pink sauce. IMG_2543Wally chose Luisa’s sauce (pancetta, peas, and a few other ingredients) with his pasta and he said it was excellent.

I’ve ordered gnocchi before. I like it. I always think it’s going to be better than it is.

Until Luisa’s.

I will never order gnocchi anywhere else, ever again.

Ah. May. Zing.

Light. Velvety. Delicious! The sauce was perfect with the gnocchi. I don’t care if I ever eat gnocchi again, because I’ve had them as perfectly as they can ever be made. Another first!

Luisa is a true character. While she sat with us, she shared some of her stories. She zeroed in on the men in our party. (Talk about a flirt!) She knew Tony was a salesman. He’s also Italian, so they traded stories about the old country.

While we were eating and chatting, a young woman bounced in, handed Luisa her resume, and bounced out, in about twelve seconds. She wasn’t out the door three seconds before Luisa ripped the resume in half and tossed it aside. Our table hooted. Kim and I exchanged glances and whispered consultations. That was not the way to go about applying for a job with Luisa.

Another customer came into the restaurant. He sat near us. Listened. Ordered. Luisa paid no attention to him. Another young woman came in with a resume. She did sit and chat with Luisa before leaving. Her resume did not get torn up.

Kim and I watched the other customer order and eat. Remember, this was a Monday. And early in the evening. I’m 90% sure he was a chef. He dined alone. He knew who Luisa was. When he was done, he approached her, introduced himself, chatted for a moment. I wasn’t near enough to hear their conversation, but he was invited to sit. They talked for several minutes. I’m quite sure he was either scoping out the competition or applying for a job. And he knew how to go about it, not like the first young woman with the resume that got torn up.

We finally left to catch a cable car back to our hotel. Our whole experience was wonderful. And all because the takeout place across the street didn’t have a liquor license.

I have two more days in San Francisco to talk about and two travel days to Des Moines to catch up on. We are safely in Des Moines. After some delays and excitement in Denver. But this post is already too long. I’ll continue to post and catch up in the next few days. Thank you for reading!!

 

 

 

Food Talk Friday: Pizza!

Delicious fresh pizza served on wooden tableGreat pizza starts with a great crust which starts with a great dough. This recipe was mentioned by my friend, Ralaine, on Monday’s post. She shared the recipe with me. Her (Italian) husband gives it his full approval, so it must be good!



Ralaine’s Pizza Dough

 

2 ¼ cups of all-purpose or bread flour

1 teaspoon of fine sea salt

1 cup of lukewarm water

¾ teaspoon of active dry yeast

1 teaspoon of olive oil

 

Combine flour and salt

 

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the water and the yeast. Let is sit for 5 minutes or until it blooms. Add olive oil, and then pour in to the flour mixture. Knead until well combined – about 3 minutes, let it rest of 15 minutes. Then knead the rested dough for 3 minutes more. 

 

Scrape out the dough on a floured surface. Oil the side of your mixing bowl before returning the dough back to the bowl. Turn the ball of dough over to coat it with the oil, cover and let it rest and rise of 3 to 4 hours at room temperature or for 8 to 24 hours in the refrigerator. (If you refrigerate the dough, remove it 30 to 45 minutes before you begin to shape it for pizza.)  

—–

Stud Muffin and I are planning a trip with friends to Italy in 2020. We’re already dreaming about the pizza we’re going to eat. Naples, which bills itself as the birthplace of pizza is definitely on the itinerary. We can’t wait!

pizza

We love all pizza. The simple margherita (fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil). An obscene meatlovers. All veggies (well, maybe with a few pepperoni thrown on). Our standard go-to is pepperoni, olive, and mushroom. Something about that combo is delish. We love it.

In New York, we tried several different pizza places. John’s of Times Square (Fabulous!) A  by-the-slice, stand or sit-facing-the-wall place called Patzeria, also great and fun.

We haven’t really experienced a true Chicago deep-dish style. Hmmm … I wonder if there’s a local place … Off to do some research …

Chicago Style Deep Dish Cheese PizzaWhat is your favorite? Do you do homemade? Take out only? Chains? Local pizzeria? How about toppings? Everything? Anchovies? Cheese only?

I’m taking notes!

Food Talk Friday: Greek Shrimp Pasta

After Lori’s Chicken with Artichokes and Lemons, this is probably my next most reliable recipe. I make it to take to friends recovering from surgery or bringing new babies home, for casual lunches on the patio, for whenever we need something yummy.

egyptian_food_pasta_with_shrimpGreek Shrimp Pasta

Serves 4

1 pound raw medium shrimp, shelled, deveined and cleaned

4 cloves garlic, pressed

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

6 ounces crumbled feta cheese

6 green onions, finely chopped

4 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves, minced

5 fresh tomatoes cored, seeded and coarsely chopped

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 pound linguine freshly cooked and drained

In a large mixing bowl, combine feta, green onions, oregano, tomatoes

and salt and pepper to taste. Let mixture stand at room temperature

for at least one hour.

In a skillet, add the butter and olive oil and heat over medium high

heat. Add the garlic and stir till starting to brown, then add the

shrimp, toss together and remove from heat once the shrimp turn pink.

To the shrimp mixture, add the cooked pasta, toss together, then top

with the feta cheese mixture and enjoy!

You could also add olives, for a bit more salt and color.

This is extremely versatile. I’ve made it with other pasta when I didn’t have linguine. I’ve left off the fresh oregano and green onions when I didn’t have them. Although, without the green, it’s pretty boring to look at. Still tastes amazing though.

I made it early this week but I didn’t take a picture because I had nothing green and fresh to add and the picture would not have been appetizing at all. The picture above is a google image, licensed for non-commercial reuse. It’s pretty close.

Food Talk Friday: Comfort Food

Thinking and writing about Chicken Divan last week got me thinking about other comfort foods and what makes them so comforting.

In my humble opinion, it comes down to two factors.

  • Something creamy and starchy, or
  • Something cheesy and sticky

For the cook, easy preparation is another important factor.

Besides Chicken Divan, our other family go-to comfort food is:

Abbie’s Chicken and Rice

one-dish-chicken-rice-bake-large-24702

Named for the friend who first introduced it to us. I’ve since learned it’s a staple on Campbell’s soup cans and on their website. I have no idea if our version is the same as Campbell’s. I’m including a picture from Campbell’s though and it looks pretty similar. I make a big batch of it because we love the leftovers.

2 cups uncooked long grain rice

3 cans of Campbell’s Cream of … soups (I usually use one Cream of Mushroom, one Cream of Chicken and one Cream of Celery. But I’ve used two of one and one of another in all combinations and it always tastes great. I’ve also heard some people add a packet of dry onion soup mix. I’m sure that’s yummy too.)

Combine the soups and the rice, pour into the bottom of a greased 9×13 casserole dish.

Lay raw chicken breasts and or thighs on top.

Season the chicken with salt and pepper or your favorite chicken seasoning. Sometimes I sprinkle on some Pappy’s or other seasonings. Whatever strikes my fancy from the pantry. Lemon Pepper. Montreal Steak Seasoning. Madame Pele’s Heat. Sea salt. Fresh ground pepper. Really. Whatever.

Cover with foil.

Bake at 325 for 45 minutes to an hour. It can cook faster, but the slower and lower, the creamier the rice turns out.

This one is always a winner, especially on a winter evening after a hard day. Because sometimes we need a little comfort food.

 

 

 

Food Talk Friday: Carmelized Bacon

I don’t like my pancake syrup to touch my bacon or sausage or ham.

But …

add brown sugar, chopped pecans, and a touch of heat to the syrup, slather it on the bacon, and roast it in the oven? Then I will allow syrup to touch my bacon.

BX1001H_Caramelized-Bacon_s4x3.jpg.rend.sni12col.landscapeWe found this recipe a couple of years ago and assigned it to Stud Muffin’s brother to bring to a Men’s Supper Club event. It was the hit of the dinner.

He’s made it several times now. Stud Muffin has made it. It’s always a hit. Especially with the men, who, interestingly enough, won’t usually try it until they’re told that it’s bacon. Men. Such scaredy cats.

There are several recipes out there, but we’ve always used Ina Garten’s and it’s delicious!

We also keep it in the oven a few extra minutes and often finish it with a minute under the broiler, just to be sure the bacon is fully cooked.

Ingredients
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup chopped or whole pecans
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 pound thick-sliced applewood-smoked bacon (regular bacon works too, but the thick-sliced is best)
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil (for easy cleaning) and place a wire baking rack on top.

Combine the brown sugar and pecans in a food processor and process until the pecans are finely ground. Add the salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper and pulse to combine. Add the maple syrup and pulse again to moisten the crumbs.

Cut each bacon slice in half crosswise and line up the pieces on the baking rack without touching. With a small spoon, evenly spread the pecan mixture on top of each piece of bacon, using all of the mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the topping is very browned but not burnt. If it’s underbaked, the bacon won’t crisp as it cools.

While it’s hot, transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside to cool. Serve at room temperature.

2012, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof, All Rights Reserved

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/caramelized-bacon0.html?oc=linkback

Food Talk Friday: Popcorn

Stud Muffin loves popcorn. He used to have it for dinner about every two weeks or so. We’ve made it all ways. Air-popped. Microwave. On the stove top.

image from flickr.com
image from flickr.com

He has the stove top preparation down to a science. How much oil. How long to let the kernels absorb the oil, then turn up the heat to pop. We’ve tried many seasonings. Tabasco. Cheddar “cheese” powder. Butter and salt. Kettle corn. Different popping oils. Vegetable oil. Olive oil. Canola oil.

I always love the old standard, butter and salt, for my seasoning.

Stud Muffin can no longer partake of popcorn because it is one of the triggers for his diverticulitis. He’s been a pretty good sport about it, over all. He’ll occasionally ask me if I want some popcorn. I always say yes, because I know he needs to cook it, smell it, and enjoy it vi-carrie-ously. 😉

If I’m home alone and want some, I use Alton Brown’s microwave method. It’s super easy, delicious, and devoid of the chemicals in the store bought microwave bags. I do make one modification to Mr. Brown’s directions. He uses a stapler to close the bag. I’m afraid of opening the bag and letting the staple fall into the popcorn and eating it by accident. So I fold the bag top over two to three times, then make two small vertical tears or cuts through all layers of the fold, so I have three sections of bag. I fold the center section forward and the side sections back and it makes a secure seal and I don’t have to worry about digging out lost staples.

What’s your favorite way of making popcorn? Favorite flavor?

Food Talk Friday: Mini German Pancakes with Apple-Caramel Sauce

So, a family member recommended we watch Brunch at Bobby’s with Bobby Flay on the Cooking Channel. We DVR’d some episodes and have been watching them.

Mini-German pancakes
Mini-German pancakes

Last night we watched Brunch for a crowd. Bobby made a strata, which we often make when we have breakfast for a crowd. It can be assembled the night before, it has bread and eggs and cheese and who doesn’t like those ingredients?

Anyway, when Bobby demonstrated the Mini-German pancakes with Apple-Calvados Caramel sauce, Stud Muffin had to try it.

The results: amazing! They reminded me a lot of aebelskivers, the Dutch treat, except these sank in the middle after a minute of cooling. Which made the perfect little pocket for the apple caramel sauce.

We didn’t have Calvados for the sauce so SM substituted Grand Marnier. I thought it was delicious. He was frustrated at first because his sauce wasn’t thickening like Bobby’s did in about two minutes, so I suggested he add a teaspoon of cornstarch and he did. I thought the consistency of the sauce was perfect. It likely would have simmered down and been fine without the cornstarch but it would have taken quite a bit longer and we were hungry. OH, and we didn’t have any heavy cream so he used milk, and that may have affected the consistency too, but like I said it was nothing a tiny bit of cornstarch couldn’t take care of. The recipe also suggested two kinds of apples, which we used because we had them, but I think all Granny Smith would be just as delicious.

Anyway, here’s the link to Bobby’s recipe.

You’re welcome!