Posts Tagged ‘fish


half-off sushi

Simultaneously pragmatic, a little worrisome, a testament to freshness, and oddly specific.


18 Reasons Food Lit Club

Rainbow cheesemonger Gordonzola turned me on to the 18 Reasons Food Lit Club today, so I’ll be attending three meetings between now and the end of the year. In October, we’ll discuss The Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms by Nicolette Niman, with the author and her husband in attendance. In November, it’s Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg (a hard look at the effects of world fish consumption on cod, salmon, sea bass, and tuna). And in December, it’s Gordon Edgar’s own Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge, with Gordon in attendance.

If you’re free from 4-6 on Sundays October 24, November 21, and December 19, you can also join in! Tickets available for $30 (without books) or $70 (books included, pick up at Omnivore at Church and Cesar Chavez).

18 Reasons is a non-profit engaging the community through food and art. They offer a year-round calendar of wine tastings, art shows, community dinners, food classes, interactive workshops, and more in an intimate community space.



I like sardines. I like them in a salad, with toasted hazelnuts, parmesan shavings, and a lemon-olive oil dressing. I like them in pasta. I like them in omelets. I like them on toast. I like sardines.

And that’s what I say to myself every time I face down yet another sure-to-be-stinky can of sardines, waiting to be opened. The taste is always delicious, but the smell can be a little much.

Tonight, in preparing the salad described above (thanks to Courtney for introducing me to it), I formed a new brand loyalty: Cole’s sardines. Tasty, firm, and delightfully unstinky. I opened the can and was not seized with the urge to hustle the lid straight out to the recycling bin, to pack the leftovers up airtight and immediately. Those leftovers, which I put into a storage container at a leisurely pace, will go on toast for my breakfast tomorrow.

We’ve only bought Cole’s smoked trout once, because we soon found that Bi-Rite sells a whole smoked trout for the same price as Cole’s little tin. But these sardines? These sardines are winners.



comparative breakfast

In Helsinki, the Klaus K laid out a very satisfying breakfast for its guests. I gorged on salmon, trout salad, cheese, ham, brown bread with salty butter, mixed fruit, and coffee. Besides that, pullas and other sweet breads, fresh fruit juices, soft-boiled eggs, roast beef, muesli, yogurt, oatmeal, and tea were available. I ate what seemed like a lot, especially compared to the daily bagel that J-P and I have at home, but it wasn’t just gluttony; it was an experiment. The results? With a brick of protein sitting in my stomach, the need for second breakfast doesn’t overwhelm me at 10, and lunch by 11:30 isn’t a necessity. In fact, I didn’t have much appetite for lunch, at least not compared to normal. I was prepared to skip it the first day, although Patty caught me up in her search for a midday meal around 2:30. The second day, despite a late-morning run, I was content at nearly 1 with small helpings of stewed reindeer (psst: it tastes like venison), mashed potatoes, green salad, and stuffed cabbage leaf.

On the day we returned to England, I breakfasted on a so-called protein shake, a banana, and a pastry. The sugar crash returned with a vengeance. I found myself sweating and shaking in a byway between Heathrow’s Terminal 3 and its bus terminal, letting J-P choose a vending machine snack for me while I chugged desperately at a Coca-Cola. It was more or less empty calories all the way to dinner on the Isle of Wight, and I felt more gluttonous than I ever did in Helsinki. So I imagine the two approaches at least balance out, calorie-wise, and certainly the big-breakfast approach feels better all around.

The Isle of Wight also did well by breakfast. There was a buffet (meager by comparison) of cereals, yogurt, fruit, pastries, and juices, and guests could also order a hot meal with toast and caffeine. I particularly enjoyed the English breakfast plate with beans, a sausage, two slices of bacon, an egg, a grilled tomato half, and a grilled portobello.

Of course, eating half my weight in salmon or pork every morning is by no means sustainable, no matter how much I might enjoy it. But the smoked trout that Klaus K offered is better, at least for now, and so are sardines.

Further experimentation so far supports my hypothesis that my stomach can handle soft-cooked farm-fresh eggs with little complaint. Beans are also an option, whether English/Boston-style or Guatemalan/Mexican-style. And an inadvertent experiment at Ginny’s hands seems to show that whole-wheat pancakes, accompanied by maple syrup and a little yogurt, are worlds less disruptive to my metabolism than white-flour ones. (She fluffs them up by beating the egg whites frothy, and they’re great.) Mark Bittman also has suggestions for hearty but meat-light breakfasts, and I might have to try my hand at kedgeree, a fish-and-rice breakfast popular in Victorian England.

Speaking of Victorian England, my vacation reading (The Smell of the Continent: The British Discover Europe) informed me that differences in expected meal times and content were a point of contention between traveling Brits and their Continental hosts as modern tourism developed during the long nineteenth century. Tour organizers, travel agents, and eventually large hotels were sure to advertise “meat breakfasts,” but even late in the century, satisfying the British desire for a large early meal could be still difficult once off the beaten path. In southeastern France, one traveler complained, “A bowl of black coffee and a piece of bread is the only breakfast that one can expect in a rural auberge. To ask for butter would be looked upon as a sign of eccentric gluttony, but to demand bacon and eggs at seven in the morning would be to openly confess oneself capable of any crime.”


Helsinki fine dining: Havis

On the first night of the conference, we had a very good dinner at Havis, a high-end Finnish cuisine restaurant on the waterfront. It started with skagen, an open-face sandwich that in this case included shrimp, a dill-cream sauce, and lavaret roe. The main was a white fish (I’m not sure we were able to get a good translation as to what kind) in a creamy false morel sauce. Both delicious. Wine was chosen by the eminences of J-P’s department, who’ve made extensive (academic) study of the subject and so have my trust, and dessert was creme brulee with (possibly) lingonberry sauce. Conversation included the antiseptic and other merits of various spices–I plan to report back here later. A good night.

One hitch in the meal: a fellow diner fished something very un-morel-like out of his sauce. As he was wondering what it was, I, with my tact as ever one step behind my mouth, gave a positive id. “That’s a spider.”

And it was. It was very small, and probably well cooked. When we told the waiter, his response was terrifically deadpan. “You’re joking.” Examining plate: “That’s disgusting.” And he brought another.

We enjoyed the food regardless, making jokes about the delicacy of baked giant spider eyes. The topic of Extreme Cuisine came up, as well as the time I watched a woman inadvertently make tarantula tamales in Guatemala.

We actually had an even better meal in Helsinki (story for another post), but nothing else as dramatic. Unless you count the clerk at the second kebab shop we visited warning us away from sitting outside to eat. “Oh, it sounds good. But there are birds attacking people and stealing their food.”


link round-up

I just spent six days on at the bike shop, which is why new posts have been spotty. Rest assured we’ve been eating well Chez Cervantes-Ferguson: my lunch leftovers today included lamb steak, zucchini casserole, and homemade basil pesto.

Summer is in full effect at the Noe Valley Farmers’ Market, and San Francisco even had two genuinely warm days last weekend. So I’m primed for:

Light, summery recipes
Mexconnect’s Sopa Fría de Sandía y Jitomate re-works one of our favorite Mark Bittman salads as a soup. In a related article (with more recipes), Karen Hursch Graber shares Alice B. Toklas’ remark, apropos of gazpachos, that “recipes, through conquests and occupations, have traveled far.” And the Jul/Aug issue of Cook’s Illustrated has a recipe for pureed tomato gazpacho, along with a description of pre-tomato versions: “yesterday’s bread, almonds, garlic, olive oil, and water … mashed … together into a humble potage.”

Meanwhile, Joumana at Taste of Beirut offers an appealing spiced cheese salad, and Mark Bittman a quick pasta preparation with shallots, peas, lettuce, and proscuitto. Bittman has also been experimenting with using tomatoes to deglaze his pans.

Old News
Besides continuing to love Mark Bittman and Taste of Beirut, I am also charmed all over again by Robb Walsh, and his latest analogy: authentic Mexican restaurants are to Tex-Mex as Ballet Folklorico is to Freddy Fender. Or, if Freddy is too old-fashioned for you (say it ain’t so–he was my favorite rodeo performer when I was a kid!), Walsh recommends Chingo Bling.

Environmental News
But summer isn’t all good food and fun commentary. The BP oil slick has forced the 134-year-old, family-owned P&J oyster shuckery to close, lending credence (as though it were needed) to this Facing South article on Louisianans’ fears of cultural loss to environmental damage.

In better news, the EPA has moved to ban the insecticide endosulfan, which is known to cause neurological and reproductive damage in humans (especially farmworkers) and animals. Counties in California’s Central Valley are also mandating pesticide buffer zones around schools.

In a recent podcast, James Howard Kunstler discusses urban food production past, present, and future, and the need to preserve rural lands regardless of what we can produce in our cities.

Jan Chipchase reports on the cultural significances of breath mints.

This one is more for me than anything, since J-P and I will be leaving for London (then Helsinki, then the Isle of Wight) a week from tomorrow: James Ramsden’s highlights from this week’s Taste of London. I love the preponderence of Malaysian restaurants on his list: is it Britain’s new Indian?


fancy food for one, for many

John-Paul went to a cook-out in Palo Alto last night, so I cooked for myself. Wild Alaskan cod, poached, and California asparagus, roasted, all topped with an emulsion of the reduced poaching liquid and hazelnut brown butter.

Click the image for photos of the process.

Rachel called me just before I posted this to ask my advice on mole making. She said that her recipe called for deseeding and deveining the chiles. “What does deveining mean, and how much does it matter?”

My answer: The veins are the lighter colored ribs inside the chile that hold the seeds in place, and they and the seeds have most of the chile’s heat.

“Oh, so if I’m not worried about heat, I don’t have to do it?”

Right-o. And I was flattered.

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