Breakfast is probably the most dismissed meal of the day, so when there is time for a proper breakfast it feels like such a luxury.
Sitting down, enjoying a cup of tea, a place setting actually set, with knife and fork. Perhaps to justify the extravagance of sitting idle the morning news from NPR might be on.
This morning was sausage made by Leno from King City, and you thought the only thing going on in King City was the speed trap! Leno makes a good cocktail too, if you can find him. Also on the plate: a local araucana egg (the green one), fried with a lightly runny yolk. Tea is somewhere out of shot, but it’s there. I hope you had a good morning, too.
I don’t write much about issues of hunger (real issues, I mean, not “I’m hungry, what awesome place will I schlep my privileged self off to today”), or the issues surrounding food policy, but I do think about it and try to stay on top of the current events.
And I will tell you the main story about why I eat out so much, especially in the last few years. In my real life I did corporate marketing for a company and industry completely unrelated to food and dining. But the experience provided insight into what drives corporate decisions and goals and those in turn apply to corporations that deal in food. And the job paid pretty well.
When the economy took a nose-dive around 2007, people lost jobs and homes, and everyone was cutting back. I didn’t lose my job, and I also didn’t want the small businesses and restaurants in town to close because everyone was tightening their belts. So I made a conscious decision to eat out, as much as possible, at local restaurants. No corporations, no chains. It was a matter of taking my money, and spending it smarter, like in ways that kept more local currency circulating through the community. And then I’d talk about it and post a zillion photos – on Twitter, Facebook, Yelp, etc.
I watched the documentary “The Corporation,” which helped lay out why corporations seem so inherently “evil.” They’re defined that way by legislation. Screaming outrage at one or two specific corporations isn’t going to change them, it’s down to changing the rules that that govern corporations in America. Showing profitability every 90 days to shareholders drives the goals, and profit comes from a combination of making money and cutting costs – change the policy so that goals can incorporate long term strategies that are have social and environmental benefits and we’ll be on a slightly better path.
Attending the Edible Institute conferences have been an excellent source of information on hunger, food policy, and the organizations that are trying to make a positive difference. It’s expensive to attend, especially if you don’t live in Santa Barbara, so the more approachable alternative is to read the Edible publication closest to your region, and regions nearby. Go online and read articles from around the nation. I particularly like reading Edible Portland and Edible Brooklyn, in addition to whatever California Edibles I can get my hands on. It’s not just articles about the latest third wave coffeehouse that opened down the street, but includes non-profit groups that collect surplus fruit from private homes (so many Santa Barbarans have way more lemons and oranges on our trees than we know what to do with, for example). Or kitchen gardens at schools that are tended by the students and supply healthy local produce for the cafeteria.
I call my consumer behavior “Value-Add,” similar to the economics view of it. It’s the extra features and benefits a product or service has in comparison to its cost and the price of competitor products. Spending $1 at a chain restaurant might keep $0.20 circulating locally from the local employee while $0.80 leaves the local economy. But that $1 spent at a local restaurant that sources ingredients from local vendors ends up circulating $2 in the local economy – I perceive there’s greater overall value in the latter investment.
I can go on and on about the computations that are constantly going through my head when I’m making decisions, like 2 second SWOT analyses, where the law of diminishing returns is kicking in, where am I in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and where are you, and pondering opportunity costs of just about everything I do, especially related to food. But I’ll stop here and hope that provided you some insight in why I do what I do.
Why you do what you do, is up to you! But if you need a little guidance, here are a couple suggestions. Go with the best fit.
* If you have some money, think about how to get more value from it. Rather than your personal bottom line, ie the cheapest prices, consider the longtail benefits like keeping that money circulating locally, with businesses that have open and transparent ethical practices for their land use and animal treatment.
* if you have some more money and not so much time, consider donating to worthy charities, like the Food Bank and Share Our Strength on a local level. Like the DIY approach? Try Kiva.org to make microloans around the world.
* if you like to read, try books like the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, or his pocket guide Food Rules for super quick references. Go to the library for these books! Or buy and share with friends.
* if you like to watch, try King Corn which I found to be informative and entertaining, easy to digest, and if you like it, then you’re ready for a little more doom and gloom like the Corporation (warning, you might feel like punching something after seeing this, but on the plus side it’s got a neat soundtrack), or Collapse if you really want to get freaked out and start wearing a tinfoil hat.
Is this getting a little too deep? Maybe. You can see the source post that encouraged food bloggers to donate their 8 April posts towards ending hunger and food insecurity. It’s got a heartfelt song in the video. ref: http://dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/food-bloggers-unite-to-fight-hunger/ Enjoy!
Thanks to the recent Edible Institute that took place in Santa Barbara the weekend of March 16-17th, I got to try fresh oysters from Open Ocean Shellfish. They’re referred to as Hope Ranch oysters, as this is the area where they are cultivated, although they are specifically Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas). I have certainly eaten them at numerous restaurants in town, this was the first time I had them directly from the oyster farmers.
Our Hope Ranch oysters at Edible Institute were served alongside glasses of sparkling wine during a break. Delicious! Briney, with a little crispness to the bite. I only took one, to allow the visitors from farther away to eat more, I can always get some at the farmers market. And I did this past weekend.
Eat and enjoy! I had four raw, and two I threw briefly onto a skillet with some olive oil, then ate with the mignonette. Both good. Raw is better, of course. You can also slice off the little scallop piece that attached the oyster to the shell and eat that.
Open Ocean Shellfish sells at the Saturday morning Farmers Market, in the corner farthest from Santa Barbara and Cota Streets. 8:30 am – 12:30 pm. They also supply shellfish at the Fish Market at the Harbor.
I hope everyone had a pleasant Easter Sunday. A little rain didn’t do much harm, and our plants certainly needed it.
There were brunches a’plenty at restaurants and with friends, but for breakfast I made myself a little easter egg.
One fresh egg, from a friend’s chickens. Soft boiled for 3 minutes, top removed, one spoonful eaten. Then a bit of cream, some snippets of chive from the garden, and a pinch of truffle salt was added to the egg.
Stir it up, and scoop out of cream yellow goodness inside. I love eggs.
Thank you for stopping by my place with your large sack that contained a lovely wheel of parmesan cheese. And for finally making good use of my 10″ chef’s knife to culinarily cut the cheese, so to speak, and leave me with a generous quantity of it.
I’m sad you’re gone, but New York is definitely more your style. I’ll come visit, I promise, and will try those macarons.
In foie we trust,
Spring cleaning is in full swing. Outside there are birdboxes to be emptied of last year’s nests, weeds to be pulled, seedlings to be potted up. Inside, it’s fridge clear-out time. In this recent clearing I dealt with farmers market leeks, some cream, the last of some market eggs, and a frozen pie crust. The result is a creamy leek quiche adapted from the BBC’s Good Food Creamed Leek Tart. It would be great for lunches throughout the week, or weekend brunch with your peeps.
Creamy Leek Quiche
1 frozen pie crust or 1 portion shortcrust pastry
Heat oven to 400 degrees F, roll out the pastry on a floured surface to fit your baking pan (the tart kind with the removable base is best), saving any scraps. Gently press the pastry into the pan, using scraps to fill in any tears or holes. Prick all over with a fork and blind bake for about 10-15 minutes, until lightly golden.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter and stir in the leeks, season to taste with salt and pepper and lightly fry until softened, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool slightly.
Mix the milk, cream and eggs together, then add to the leek mixture, and stir in the cheese. This is where you add a pinch of ground nutmeg if you wish, or a pinch of the English mustard.
Place a couple bay leaves at the base of the crust, and pour the leek mixture into the pastry case, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. The center of the quiche can be a little wobbly, it’ll firm up as it cools. Let it cool at least 10 minutes before removing the sides of the baking pan.
Best served room temp, or lightly chilled. With salad!
Cinco Estrellas is a Honduran restaurant on Milpas Street that is not easy to spot. In fact, it’s not visible from the street at all. Look for the laundromat and walk around to the back of the building. I was there for a weeknight dinner and there was 3-4 other tables in the small space already taken by couples and families, and people popped in frequently to pick up orders they’d phoned ahead for. It seems very much a locals place for people who may be missing food from home.
It was simple and well-priced food.
Beef enchilada, $2.50 – it reminded me of a Mexican tostada, with a crunchy flat tortilla base, and piled high with goodies. I don’t know how the tortilla shell is red, I thought it might have red chile incorporated into it, but there wasn’t much of a spice element to it. At this price, a couple of these would be a meal and won’t set you back much.
Pupusas – good! And the cabbage salsa that came with it was very good.
Fried chicken and plantains – this had a different name, which I do not recall, I got it because of the plantains and didn’t even realize it came with chicken, it cost about $8. It was a meal in itself, with two pieces of heavily fried chicken and lots of other goodies piled around and on top of it. This was an awkward dish to eat, as there was a lot of plantains and extra bits that required forks and spoons, but the chicken had to be eaten with hands to really gnash at it – it was rather tough, and the chicken was covered in all the extra bits. Get lots of napkins.
The interior has half a dozen tables or so, and is bright and clean. It is only the front counter that separates the kitchen from the seating area, so you can watch them cook your food.
Knowing some Spanish will be a plus! It’s sufficient to point at things on the menu, but it’s so much nicer to get a small conversation going.
This time of year, the unofficial springtime of Santa Barbara (which is really winter), reminds me of my time in the Mediterranean, particularly southern Spain.
It’s the time of year when things are in furious bloom, it’s sunny and warm, but not unbearably hot. When I’m out pulling weeds in the garden, I’m reminded of the botanical trips we took from Kew to Almeria and surrounds, when we’d hike all day through the rambla and work up an appetite for some great food. There was so much wild thyme growing that it was useful to squirrel away a few handfuls in our pockets and once we sat down at the dinner table and were brought some bread and olive oil, we’d crush the thyme on the table with salt, and dip our bread and oil into it.
I got to try a rabbit stew from the table of the professors, who were more seasoned on good things to eat. I didn’t make an exact rabbit stew this time around, but it was my experience in Spain that got me to buy a rabbit in the first place. It has been languishing in my freezer, and it was time to do something about it while I was craving Mediterranean food.
The resulting sauce is really delicious. I’m now quite a fan of almond sauce.
Conejo en salsa de almendras (rabbit in almond sauce) – adapted from Cooking in Spain by Janet Mendel.
1 rabbit, cut in pieces
Rub the pieces of rabbit with salt and pepper and set aside.
Lentil Salad – adapted from Alice Waters
1 cup lentils
Boil the lentil until just barely soft, perhaps 10-15 minutes. Drain.
What do you do with pile of cheese, caviar and charcuterie purchases from the 24th St Cheese Co in Noe Valley?
You make a giant meat mandala, that’s what. It’s so Sacrelicious.
24th St. Cheese Co. (Noe Valley)
I don’t often eat donuts, but when I do, it should have bacon on it.
Dynamo has been on my shortlist for some time, a couple years in fact, but I’d never been successful in eating here. Dynamo has been closed on four prior trips to San Francisco and four similar attempts to visit the shop. My friends swear it must be open and the shop slams the awning shut when they see me approaching. How can anyone have so many misses before a hit? But finally, success! DONUTS BE MINE.
The winners: passionfruit and milk chocolate, meyer lemon and huckleberry, apricot and cardamom. See the theme? I’m really enjoying the fruity donuts because they’re so atypical to the bog standard donuts (which I love too).
The not-so-amazing: the Monte Cristo could have used a wee bit more ham. I couldn’t actually pick any out in the donut. Maybe there wasn’t any? Also the Lemon Sichuan – couldn’t detect any sichuan peppercorn. They were fine on their own, but then I would have called the former a powdered eggy bread jam donut and the latter a lemony donut.
Still. Jesus. It’s about time. Please enjoy one more photo, with the passionfruit and milk chocolate, and the famed maple bacon donuts in the spotlight.
Dynamo Donuts (Mission district)