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!