Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two Weeks @ Tante Marie's

At this point I’m pretty sure I don’t have many faithful readers, and if I exclude family members and past professors/classmates, maybe no one else is reading this but me. Anyway, it’s been a little more than two weeks since my last legitimate post—the one claiming I would post daily— and clearly that just isn’t a possibility right now. Between cooking school, work, a demanding GRE prep course, physical therapy, and going to the gym (only to off-set my twice daily serving of delicious things poached in butter or smothered in cream), I barely sleep or shower. Hopefully, as the course goes on and I get used to my rigorous schedule I will be much more diligent about posting.

It’s only been two weeks and I’ve learned (using that term loosely) upwards of 60 recipes. Week one was relatively basic. I spent hours working on knife-skills, chopping what seemed like every fruit and vegetable under the sun, in every shape and size. For example— rough chop, fine dice, mince, slice, julienne, chiffonade, top and tail, etc. I also learned a handful of classic French soups including, French Onion, Cream of Lettuce, Butternut Squash, and Garlic Potato.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, our class cooks a complete menu, which we eat for lunch. Each student is assigned an appetizer, entrée, side dish, or dessert; and with fourteen of us cooking it’s an incredible amount of food. The dishes on these days are created by a few people, this way we are able to taste and discuss how slight differences in method or ingredients can make a huge difference in the end result. Much of the day is spent tasting dishes and ingredients and layers of flavor. I’ve realized very quickly that knowing how a dish is supposed to taste as opposed to just liking the way it tastes, is much more important in learning about and understanding food. 

Monday and Friday are workshop days, on these days all the students work on the same thing for example, breads, soups, preserves, custards and caramels, mother sauces and so on. Before each workshop Frances, instructor and head chef, gives an afternoon demo on the steps for each recipe and tricks on how to not f*ck it up, providing us with the knowledge we need in order complete the task ourselves. Fridays are also wine tasting days, and although we were spoiled with a trip to the Wine Country our first Friday, the remainder of our tastings will be done at school. Each Friday we taste two different wines made from the same grape, usually a California label and always a French label, last weeks grape was the Gamay. Amazing!

This post doesn’t even begin to shed light on how much I’ve learned and all the things I’ve experienced, in the few short weeks since school began. Over the next six months, between photos and text, I’ll do the best I can to brighten the picture for you.

Monday, September 28, 2009

And so it begins... culinary school that is!!

Today was my first day of culinary school and much like the first day of anything, it consisted mostly of explanations and orientation type proceedings. First, Mary Risley, owner and founder of Tante Marie Cooking School, shed light on the basics—what time to arrive, that we should wear street clothes to school and change once we are there, hair must be pulled back, work shoes and real socks must be worn, etc. Mary also made a point to sign each student’s textbook, which happens to be a cookbook she wrote.


Next, Frances Wilson, our instructor for the six-month course, introduced herself and gave us a little tour to explain where everything we would need could be found in the school’s two kitchens. Before there was even time to use the loo, Frances was giving a quick chopping and slicing demonstration with a few classic vegetables including onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and potatoes. Each of these ingredients would be used in our very first recipe: Soupe au Pistou.

Our class was split into two groups and each group created their own pot of soup, which would ultimately be our lunch. Each person in the group was assigned a vegetable or two to add and before I knew it I was dicing potatoes and slicing carrots to be added to the wonderfully simple soup.  After adding our assigned ingredient to the pot, we spent the next hour practicing our knife skills with the various vegetables. I only cut my left index finger a tiny bit, not even enough for a band-aid, which boosted my confidence a bit, since my abilities with a knife aren’t exactly up to snuff.


The afternoon class today was a demonstration by Frances on how to make chicken stock and dark beef or veal stock. The idea of making stock seems relatively elementary, but given the four pages of notes I took, my instructor proved otherwise.  Both types of stocks require a mirepoix—carrots, celery, and onion, as well as, a bouquet garni—parsley, thyme, and a bay leaf—tied up in a leek.  No technical French knife skills required here, as all the vegetables just roughly chopped. Frances made it clear that while making perfect stock doesn’t take a lot of labor, what it does need is patience and care. Stocks are simmered for hours, all the while “scum” (white foam like substance that rises to the top) must be skimmed often, more water must be added, and temperature is crucial, as the stock must be simmering, but not boiling wildly.

I had been waiting impatiently for this day to come for months and it definitely lived up to all of my expectations. The school is warm and friendly, with a serious and professional undertone. My classmates come from all different walks of life, with a wide range of what they intend to do with the education. The progression of the course moves from simple soups and sauces to choux pastry and advanced cake decorating, please check back for daily posts as I make my way through this personally uncharted territory. 

Friday, May 15, 2009

ESF's Final Feast. Best Meal of the Year!

Your delicious dish must be made from local, seasonal ingredients.

Document the process.

Your project must rest upon a platform that: a) supports multimedia, b) is open to the public, and c) allows visitors the opportunity to comment on your work.
When finished, thick tweet your project.

After days of flipping through a plethora of cooking magazines and more websites than I have fingers and toes, I finally decided to prepare two delicious sandwiches, with my partner-in-crime Austin.

The recipes:

Double-Decker Strawberry Chicken Club Sandwiches
Serves: 4 Prep: 20 Min Cook: 15 Min

12 ounces thick-cut bacon
1 ½ pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halvesSalt and pepper
1 avocado2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup mayonnaise
12 slices whole-wheat toast
2 cups romaine lettuce1 ½ cups hulled and sliced strawberries (10 ounces)

Open-Face Chimichurri Skirt Steak Sandwiches
Serves: 4 Prep: 25 Min Grill: 15 Min

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled1 Serrano chile, seeded if desired
1 packed cup parsley sprigs1 packed cup cilantro sprigs
Grated peel of 1 lemon and juice of ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
One 16-ounce loaf ciabatta bread, sliced on an angle in 12 pieces
2 pounds skirt steak¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tomatoes, thinly sliced

As I explained in my previous post, on Tuesday, Austin and I ventured to the Ferry Building, where we hit up a few of the amazing specialty shops for local and seasonal bread and meat. We also took advantage of the weekly outdoor Farmer’s Market for all of our fruit and vegetable needs. The recipes called for three types of meat and an array of produce. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is a California certified farmers market operated by the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture (CUESA), and is open two days a week—Tuesdays and Saturdays. The market’s produce and flowers are from small regional farms and ranches, many of which are certified organic, and also pass the criteria for my assignment.

“Started as a one-time event in 1992, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market's popularity led to the opening of a year-round market in May 1993. On Saturdays, 10 - 15,000 faithful shoppers attend the market because it reconnects them with their food sources. Shopping at a farmers market provides a forum for learning how food is grown, who grew it, and why it tastes so good. “ Ferry Building

The Prather Ranch Meat Company, where we purchased the skirt steak, bacon, and chicken, offers a wide selection of organic, sustainable, humane and pasture-raised meats. The company regularly carries beef, buffalo, pork, lamb and vitellone, a meat that is tender like veal and often found on menus in Tuscany. Raised on the 11,000 acre Prather Ranch, just north of Mt. Shasta, the beef is certified humane and organic. The Prather Ranch Meat Co. also raises pigs on pasture in Capay Valley, California. The pigs diet includes only organic fruits and vegetables from many nearby farms, which is comforting, especially after reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, and thinking much more critically about the idea—you are what you eat. These humanely and organically raised cattle and pigs, whose meat became the star of the sandwiches, rivaled some of the best I’ve ever had. There is just something about knowing that the food you’re eating wasn’t fed petroleum, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals during its short-lived miserable life.

Purchasing the ingredients is only half the battle when making a delicious meal; however, I thought that colorful and descriptive photographs were better suited to showcase the delicious sandwiches and ESF’s Final Feast.

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Goodbye ESF, I will honestly miss spending Wednesday nights with 17 incredibly creative and inspiring people. But this is not the end of my food blogging, so stay tuned. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mmm mmm delicious!

On Tuesday, I spent  $36.96 on two pounds of organic grass-fed skirt steak. I purchased this top-notch beef to be the star for the dish I am going to prepare for ESF’s Final Celebration. Austin and I ventured down Market St. toward our destination dodging buses, Benz’s, and bicyclists, and luckily we snagged a metered parking spot just around the corner.

As the assignment required that all ingredients be local and seasonal, the Ferry Building’s Farmer’s Market and specialty shops provided the perfect spot to grab everything I needed. The Golden Gate Meat Company at the Ferry Building in San Francisco proudly boasts: our cattle are pasture-graze with plenty of room to roam, fresh air, and sunshine. Their feed is 100% organic, with no animal byproducts.

I included this little story to point out just how expensive organic groceries can cost. While I wish I could shop at the Ferry Building everyday, my minimal student funds don’t always allow it. Cooking and documenting the meal will follow in my next post.

Eating San Francisco’s final excursion to Zazie in Cole Valley for dinner and McDonald’s on Haight Street for dessert most definitely brought the course full circle. The original plan was to pig out at McDonald’s; an outing inspired by the Bay Area’s very own Michael Pollan and his book Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was required class reading. Pollan’s manifesto provides readers with a complete natural history of four meals, requiring them to think about the moral and ethical ramifications of America’s eating habits. More simply, Pollan followed food from its inception all the way to his plate or lap, as was the case for his first meal, Industrial Corn, in the form of an American staple—namely, McDonald’s.    

Realizing the class bank account could afford to fund a classier (and healthier) outing we decided to enjoy our last meal together at a quaint French Bistro in the heart of Cole Valley.  Zazie is everything that McDonald’s isn’t.

The 17-year-old establishment sits on a tiny lot on Cole Street, which is typical for the neighborhood; however, the cozy garden patio and carefully arranged tables for two, makes dinners feel like they are dining in an artsy Parisian café. 

Open for breakfast, lunch, brunch, and dinner Zazie proudly serves only organic milk and free range, antibiotic and hormone-free eggs from local farms. In addition to using organic dairy products the menu at the bistro features seasonal and regional fare, dishes depend on what produce is available from local farmers. I feasted on a 21 dollar grilled hanger steak, served with portobello mushrooms, a brandy cream sauce, and grilled asparagus.  The perfect medium-rare steak I devoured came from “Happy drug-free animals with an ocean view!”—according to a blub on the menu. In complete contrast, the Big Mac I might have eaten at Mickey D’s that night, would have sported “beef” patty that Michael Pollan explained came from a corn-fed cow raised in a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations), Three glasses of wine later our delightful waitress, thankfully, began bringing out each of the 17 main courses.  The salmon, shrimp ravioli, and steak dishes looked almost to pretty to eat, as each element was placed meticulously on the plate and chopped parsley adorned the stark white rim. The fresh ingredients including, pea pods, tomatoes, and asparagus were brightly colored and smelled delicious; this meal was not only satisfying to eat, but was also a feast for the eyes and nose.

 After two hours of witty conversation and culinary excellence we headed to McDonald’s for a sweet treat. Runaways and transients are the typical clientele at the Haight Street McDonald’s; however, the McDonald’s employees were graced with the presence of seventeen college students and their professor. Most of my classmates decided to top their nights off with ice cream treats including McFlurries, ice cream cones, and classic sundaes complete with chocolate syrup and peanuts. I ordered medium French fries, which were as greasy and salty as I expected them to be, but satisfying nonetheless. 

To be honest, I would have been just as satisfied eating a #10 (McNuggets, fries, and a pop) as I was with my steak dinner from Zazie. So that’s just what I did. A few days after our outing and an in-depth discussion of Omnivore’s Dilemma, my boyfriend and I decided to take a trip to Marin and eat at the very McDonald’s where Pollan and his family ate. We got it to go, and just like Pollan ate it in a moving car driving 65 on the freeway. I thoroughly enjoyed it!  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

ESF Does Dim Sum!

On any given day, Chinatown is the last place I want to be at 10 o’clock in the morning. It tends to be busy, crowded, and to be honest it’s just a bit overwhelming for my taste. I was never a huge fan of Chinese food growing up. White rice and soy sauce—yep, that pretty much sums up what I ate before moving to San Francisco. It wasn’t the large population of Asian people or restaurants that finally persuaded me to indulge it was just healthy curiosity.

Anyway, on this particular Saturday morning in April, my ESF class was traveling to Chinatown to immerse ourselves into this incredible culture. After the 1906 earthquake Chinatown, like most neighborhoods in San Francisco, was rebuilt and became what Anthony Lee, author of Another View of Chinatown, called “a glittering ghetto.” The newly asphalted streets and shiny streetlamps were meant to attract tourists, which it certainly did. The class met up at the corner of Bush and Grant, where there is an enormous gate into Chinatown. As we moseyed toward our first stop the Tin How Temple, I couldn’t help but notice the insanely cluttered and overcrowded shops along Grant Street. Oriental merchandise was spilling out onto the sidewalks, which I’m convinced is just another marketing scheme to temp the tourists. (Walking inside would just be too much to ask!) The Tin How Temple was incredible, and we learned that it is the oldest Chinese temple in the United States. The tiny temple is located on the third floor of a typical San Francisco building and the seventeen of us barely fit inside, not to mention the place had enough incense to make you faint (or high).

By 10:45 a.m. we had finally made it to New Asia, where we would enjoy Dim Sum (literally “touching heart), and everything that entails. The restaurant was a mad house, and it seemed like every seat in the place was taken, not to mention another 30 people waiting. The hostess was shouting inaudibly into a microphone, I think she was letting waiting patrons know their tables were ready. The staff was running around, pushing carts filled with tons of different Dim Sum dishes. After waiting about 25 minutes our class was sat at two large round tables, where jasmine tea, which is said to aid digestion, was waiting to be consumed. It wasn’t long before food started appearing on the spinning circle in the middle of the table. Most of the dishes were made with shrimp, pork, rice, and noodles. Prepared in various ways, just a simple sauce switch or different noodle choice, dramatically changes the taste and texture of the dishes. The Northern Chinese inspired pork pot stickers, filled with meat and cabbage, were my absolute favorite, even though they aren’t considered traditional dim sum. Because of a pretty serious allergy to shellfish, I couldn’t chow down on any of the shrimp options, including classic steamed shrimp dumpling. Dumplings, known as Gow, are made by wrapping ingredients in a rice flour or wheat starch skin; the beautifully translucent skin showcases the delicious ingredients inside.

The Dim Sum or Yum Cha experience is like no other. While dining at New Asia I noticed many of the things typically found in a restaurant were missing, for example, menus were nowhere in sight. Instead as the cart pushers delivered us our Dim Sum treats, served on small white plates and in small steamer baskets, they also stamped the purchase onto a ticket, using various symbols. The white ticket, adorned with many stamps from our feast would ultimately become the receipt, which compared to other foreign fares dim sum is a steal.

After brunch the class splintered, as many had made previous engagements, and a handful of us headed to Ross Alley, to find an itsy bitsy fortune cookie “factory” that opened its doors in 1962. Upon entering I could barely navigate myself around the barrels and barrels of fortune cookies of all different shapes and sizes and flavors. Within ten feet of the entrance sits the first of a handful of women pulling circular cookies off a hot press. The women repeatedly fold the circular cookies into their famous “fortune” shape and inserting the wonderful fortunes. I asked the woman sitting in the front how she avoided being burnt pulling the steamy little cookies from the press, since the safety precautions didn’t exactly seem up to snuff. She simply responded by handing me one of the cookies straight off the press, which I learned was a bit toasty but not scolding hot by any means. I could go on and on about this wonderful experience on a beautiful Saturday morning in San Francisco’s famed Chinatown, but I wont. Check out more pictures from the trip on flick'r!

Friday, April 24, 2009

ESF: Pancakes for Brunch

Document A Delicious Meal

I have been a huge advocate of breakfast for dinner for my entire life. Growing up my sisters and I were always allowed to choose what meal would be served to the family on our birthdays, and throughout my entire childhood (and maybe adult life) I choose pancakes or waffles and bacon. Mmmm breakfast for dinner. I’m not sure who decided what should be eaten at various points throughout the day, but I totally disagree. I absolutely support pizza for breakfast and waffles for dinner.

I took this opportunity of cooking and documenting a delicious meal to create a mind-blowing breakfast feast complete with my grandfather’s pancake recipe, a spring inspired organically grown fruit salad and organic bacon.

 Family Traditions

My mom always baked our bacon in the oven, as opposed to in a frying pan, because my dad has high blood pressure and his sodium intake is out of this world. A lot of the fat and grease is released in the oven, so it’s healthier and crispier!

 On the other hand, molasses is the ultimate ingredient and completely underrated or underused, as the case may be. When making pancakes many people substitute Bisquick with oatmeal, or milk with fat free yogurt, attempting to makes these delicious little treats healthier. My Grandpa Mason not only didn’t remove these ingredients he added a few of his own—namely, molasses and melted butter.  

Unfortunately this breakfast for dinner scenario fell through. My roommate Jacob wasn’t feeling well so he headed to bed around 6:30 and I didn’t want to bang around cooking above his head. Instead I prepped the fruit salad in the morning, and then made a delicious Thursday brunch for Ryan, Jacob, and I. Check it out on flick’r

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Earth Day 2009

Check out what St. Anthony's, where I have been interning since August 08, does everyday to protect our Mother Earth. St. Anthony's is located in San Francisco's "notoriously rough" neighborhood the Tenderloin, and is most widely known for its incredible food service, which serves over 2500 meals to the cities poor and homeless 365 days a year. Impressive!! Don't you think...


ð Aluminum cans, glass & plastic bottles

ð Paper, newspaper, magazines, junk mail

ð Donated cell phones get sent to an agency that distributes them to people in shelters or are low income

ð Cardboard boxes 

ð 30 % recycled white copy paper is purchased

ð 30 % recycled color paper purchased

ð Toilet paper and paper towels are made from recycled paper

ð effort to purchase office supplies made of recycled material


ð Donated shoes that are not distributed to our clients are sent to Africa for resale

ð Torn donated clothing is given to rag vendors

ð Donated nick-nacks are given to junk collectors


ð Staff is encouraged to bring lunches in reusable plastic containers

ð Staff is encouraged to use their own drink containers instead of paper cups

ð Staff brings in paper & plastic grocery bags to be used by clients who shop in the food pantry

ð Staff sends out emails when used office furniture or office supplies are available or wanted

ð One side printed paper is used for drafts in the copy machines

ð Free “Green Team Library” for guests, volunteers and staff –used books, magazines, CD’s DVD’s, VCR cassettes

ð Water pitchers and compostable cups are placed on tables at meeting instead of plastic water bottles. At staff meetings members are reminded to bring their own drink containers


ð Dining Room composts all food scraps

ð All staff lunch rooms compost food scraps

ð Paper cups and plates used for coffee and other events are compostable

ð FARM composts their own food scraps and uses compost in their organic fruit and vegetable gardens *


ð Batteries

ð Computers, monitors, electronics, printers

ð Printer cartridges, toners

ð Florescent light bulbs


ð Energy efficient light bulbs are used in all common areas

ð Motion sensor light switches are used in some restrooms and common areas

ð Most major appliances are Energy Efficient

ð Bike racks are installed for staff who bike to work

ð Commuter check program is implemented to encourage mass transit


ð No harsh cleaning products are used, e.g. ammonias, lye

ð Most cleaning products are environmentally friendly

ð Drain cleaners are non-acid based

ð Painting products are not oil based

ð No lead products or materials are used

** 150 Golden Gate Ave is a Green Building.***

W e are anticipating a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification from USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) soon.

St. Anthony Foundation's Integrity of Creation

Our effort to move toward sustainable community will include support for balance in work and life style, for family life, for spiritual development as well as for conservation, local circulation of resources, toxin-free environment, and use of environmentally sensitive matter.

Well now it's April 22nd--Earth Day! What are you

 going to do??

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunset over Chicago

Sunset over Chicago
Originally uploaded by skblackburn
Check out this shot from the pier in our Grand Beach Community, near New Buffalo, Michigan. Across the lake is my hometown Chicago!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

ESF: I ate and drank the following today...

Between school, work, and an internship, I find it pretty difficult to find the time for food. Even though I love to eat and spend the majority of my “free time” watching the Food Network, my daily routine tends to stray far from the nutritious side of things, and I rely on caffeine and nicotine to get me through the day. The assignment this week in my ESF class, was to document what I ate and drank for one day. Being the procrastinating college student that I am, I waited until the last day to complete the assignment. However, I thought today would fit the bill of “being real and honest” about what I typically consume, given that on Wednesday’s I have class, a weekly doctor appointment, and work (I coach 5th grade girls basketball). If I had chosen to document the weekend or a day off, my eating habits would definitely stray from the usual, as I would have more time and energy to find something scrumptious.

Today, March 18th, is shaping up to be no different, from what I expected. I began my day with a French Vanilla coffee from USF’s Caf and a cigarette. I hate to admit that I enjoy this morning ritual, and as I sat in the morning sun reading my extremely dense Environmental Science textbook, it provided me with just the 'buzz' I needed to get me through.

After class, I headed straight for Starbucks to get my daily Grande Chai Tea Latte, which I skipped this morning because I was running late, thanks to the ridiculous bike-riders on Market St, who think the entire road is theirs. News flash—it’s not! Before heading out to conquer the rest of my day, I grabbed a banana, for some much needed potassium and electrolytes, since the rest of my diet isn’t exactly nutritious. So anyway, just in case you’re keeping track, that’s 1 banana, 2 caffeinated drinks, and 2 cigarettes.

A third of a bag of Planter’s Trail Mix and a few Snyder’s pretzel sticks were lunch for the day. I love trail mix so much, it’s easy to snack on while I’m running frantically around the city trying not to be late for whatever’s next on my crazy schedule. Why these carb-filled salty snacks you might wonder? Well, I absolutely love salt, thanks in part to my father, who salts everything, literally!

Dinner tonight will be simple, because after a twelve-hour day, the last thing I want is to come home and cook a feast. Thankfully supermarkets in the states are filled with an overwhelming amount of quick fix ingredients, including the shredded Mexican cheese, tortillas, and salsa I will use to make a few stovetop quesadillas. No Wednesday night would be complete without a glass (or bottle, depending on how the day went) of wine. Tonight’s selection is Cambria, a 2006 Pinot Noir from the Santa Maria Valley. Mmmm mmm yummy!

Well I hope you enjoyed hearing about my ridiculous, yet delicious, culinary lifestyle. As I am planning to attend culinary school in the fall, and ultimately go into food writing, my eating habits are about to change dramatically, so stay tuned. I promise, the food discussed here will only get better.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sexual Harassment Article Link

This post is simply to provide the link to an article I wrote for my school newspaper, the University of San Francisco Foghorn, for my technologically challenged relatives. I love you, even if you don't know what Twitter or Wordpress are. 

Click the link above and read. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mission District Phase 3: Final Edition

The Mission District of San Francisco, is just one of many cultural neighborhoods. It is economically and ethnically diverse; however, nearly half of the population is Latino. Complete with shops, cafés, restaurants, murals, culture, and nightlife—this ever-changing neighborhood is one not to be missed. In the 1950’s Central American and Mexican families began moving to the Mission, and there presence can be seen all over.

My most recent “Mission” experience began at 24th and Mission, or the heart of the Mission, where I parked my car and began the trek to Balmy Alley. Along the seven-block stroll there are hundreds of taquerias, check-cash centers, and produce markets with their signs written in Spanish. An elderly Latino man can often be seen pushing his portable cart offering Mexican ice cream treats and even tacos.

Balmy alley is tucked away just off 24th street. When I arrived the alley was bustling with my classmates, fervently taking photographs and taking in every ounce of the incredible murals possible. The community murals movement began in the mid 1960’s, Balmy Alley is a product of this movement, and one of the few projects that was finished and preserved. The murals were meant to “educate the masses”, and portrayed images of influential Spanish people and messages. Balmy Alley was particularly effective because the murals were painted in one location. Moreover, murals are scattered through the entire Mission district, however, because they are spaced out, the message isn’t as strong. In 1972, the Mujeres muralists painted their first mural, which was followed up by three-dozen mural activists in 1984, who worked together to paint a mural on every fence, garage, and building in the alley.

After taking what seemed like 1000 pictures, we headed to Taqueria Vallarta for the food part of our field trip. The menu boasted many Mexican favorites like Chimichangas and tacos, and a few Americanized choices including the classic Super Burrito. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling great, so I opted for quesadillas and Mexican rice. Much to my surprise and satisfaction Taqueria Vallarta uses Chihuahua cheese, as opposed to the imposter Jack or Cheddar cheese, that tend to creep into Mexican dishes when they are made in the states. Literally meaning “little cheesy thing”, the cheese is the star in this simple dish.

The traditional Mexican quesadilla is a circle of uncooked corn masa folded in half and filled with cheese, and then warmed up until the cheese has melted. This process varies in different parts of Mexico, for example El Salvador has its own version of the quesadilla that unlike the Mexican version is served with coffee. The Salvadoran quesadilla, also popular in Guatemala and southern Mexico, is a dense bread dessert made with flour, milk, eggs, butter, sour cream, sugar, and Parmesan cheese; these ingredients are mixed together and baked for 30 minutes. I’ve never had a dessert style quesadilla like the one I described; however, I am stoked to try it as soon as I get my hands on one, because it sounds delicious.

After finishing up at Taqueria Vallarta, we began the walk back to Mission St. and our final stop—Mission Pie. This café and pie shop serves a plethora of freshly made organic pies, including the most popular option, banana cream, as well as pumpkin, vegan apple with brandied raisins, and pear raspberry. Many of the ingredients in Mission Pie’s pies are grown at their very own Pie Ranch; the remainder of the ingredients are bought from local farmers and at local markets. The pumpkin pie was pretty amazing; however, after tasting a classmate’s banana cream, that is the clear choice here!

Every excursion to the Mission is bound to be different, from the taquerias to the trendy new restaurants, there is always something new to eat and new to see in this cultural haven.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mission District Phase 2

Hey ESF check out my Balmy Alley collage, phase 2 of the Mission Project. Using a new program, Picasa, this is my test-run. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mission District Phase I

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Just the first taste of my Mission Project.

Team: ESF
Destination: Balmy Alley


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Saturday Morning 8:30 AM

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on saturday,february 28th, at 8:30 am I boarded a bus (for the first time in 5 years) and headed to mt. tamalpais for an 11 mile hike with ninety classmates four daring usf faculty. it was an amazing hike, though tough on my thrice operated knee. i hope you enjoy the photos an i would love your comments.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Obama: Food Banks

President Obama talks about Food Banks. Interesting. I am so satisfied with my going on 8 month internship at the St. Anthony Foundation, it has really opened my eyes to issues like poverty and hunger. Watch this. Learn.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

North Beach Extravaganza!

Last Wednesday my ESF class embarked on our first of six planned field trips, destination—North Beach. Our group, 18 in all, met at City Lights Bookstore, a haven for tourists and city dwellers alike. City Lights is not only one of the most famous bookstores and publishers in the country, but it is also home to the poets of the Beat generation.

Drawn by the bohemian atmosphere, the beat generation began around 1950 with Jack Karouac, Alan Ginsberg, Neil Cassady, and Willian S. Burroughs in New York but the beat movement really took root in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood which provided inexpensive housing and beat hangouts like Vesuvio Café. The literary epicenter of the Beat movement was City Lights Booksellers and Publications who published Alan Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl.” The beat author reading at the Six Gallery in San Francisco, along with an article, written by Karouac’s friend John Clellon Homes for the New York Times Magazine, dubbed “This is the Beat Generation” and by the late 1950s beats were flocking to San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood.

We strolled down Broadway Street, the main drag in North Beach, toward the chosen restaurant, Bocce Café. Cameras and notebooks in hand, I don’t doubt we looked like a bunch of tourists, which we most definitely are not. As we approached the restaurant hundreds of tiny flashes illuminated the storefront from the cameras of excited media students searching for the best angle.
An Italian flag door and enchanting walkway, lined with beautifully groomed trees and tiny white lights, led up to what we hoped would be the authentic North Beach destination we were looking for. The wooden sign, decorated with grapes and vines, should have served as an early warning to the inauthenticity of the meal, as there is a shocking resemblance to the sign at Olive Garden.

Our gaping table lined the far wall of a nearly empty restaurant. The ambiance of Bocce far outweighed the taste of the penne I ordered, but maybe I’m being unfair. Beautiful mirrors, old bottles of wine, dried garlic and peppers, and wood beams created a wonderful atmosphere. The table was buzzing with conversation as we ordered, ate delicious Italian bread, drank some cheap white wine, and waited in anticipation for the meal we were about to dissect.

When my penne with fresh tomatoes and roasted garlic arrived, I was thrilled, as I had fasted all day in preparation for my Italian feast. Maybe it’s an American thing (which the movie our class watched, Big Night, suggested cheese is), but as soon as my plate was set in front of me, I began searching for the fresh Parmesan cheese. Much to my dismay, the cheese was not fresh my any means, but was crumbled processed cheese, most likely from a nearby supermarket.

Although my meal wasn't as satisfying as I had anticipated, the wonderful service and conversation more than made up for it. North Beach is full of restaurants trying to be Italian, while also trying to please American customers. American customers who tend to like their food fast and familiar. Maybe it's time for us to slow down and really look at what we're eating, whether it's at a hokey Italian restaurant or at home. Stay tuned.