I left my stomach in San Francisco

Awhile back, I swore to myself that traveling decisions would be made based on one of, or some combination of, three things:

  1. good friends living there
  2. good food living there
  3. good music happening there

So, when I found myself with a $200 and something flight credit from Southwest that had to be used by the end of March, I went looking for someplace I could visit on my days off this week (Sunday through most of Wednesday). I ultimately landed on San Francisco because A) I love that place with all my heart and for the longest time it’s only been the astronomical cost of living that has kept me from moving there, 2) My good friend R lives about 2 hours south of there and he’s always up for an adventure, and c) One of my favorite Indian food restaurants is there and their Groupon meant I could afford to eat there without blowing my entire Minuscule Because I Only Make $11 an Hour food budget for the day.

The Universe gave me its first indication that this trip was going to be pretty great before I even got on the plane.

A LITTLE BACKSTORY: At the beginning of January, we had a big clothing swap at the club where I work. A bunch of the performers, staff, and their friends brought so many clothes, shoes, accessories, and beauty products that it filled the entire theatre. No lies. At said clothing swap, I picked up a backpack that was perfect for overnight trips, days when I’d be doing bloggy stuff outside of my home, etc. I didn’t examine it too closely, other than to make sure there was nothing wrong with it that I couldn’t fix. This is the backpack I brought with me on this trip. I work with burlesque performers. These lovely people are sparkly and glittery because, well, glitter is just as much an every performance (and for a few, every day) accessory as a watch or earrings or a purse might be. It’s everywhere, all the time.

So, I get up to security, pull my phone out from a side pocket on the backpack to get to my electronic boarding pass, and along with it comes this absolute shower of gold glitter. Apparently, the very pocket in which I’d stashed my phone was the pocket where the backpack’s previous owner had stashed their sparkles.


The big, burly TSA agent who was about to inspect my ID and whatnot had his head turned to talk to someone and didn’t notice that his left shoulder and part of his back were now… umm… much more fabulous than before. I didn’t tell him. He handed my stuff back, said, “Have a good trip,” and I walked away with absolutely no remorse. He was in for a magical afternoon, and there’s no shame involved with that.

The flight was fine, and I landed in San Jose where my friend picked me up and immediately took me to a pizza joint in nearby Campbell to have lunch and watch the Broncos game. The sweet potato fries were excellent. The pizza was… edible. It was a fun place to watch the game. But, this was a side trip and not part of any sort of planned food adventure, so let’s move on.

Day 2… We went to lunch at a place I love that is not accessible in Denver, and that’s a very good thing– InNOut. I eat at this place maybe once every five years, so I went full throttle. Double-double cheeseburger and fries, Animal Styled to within an inch of ridiculousness. I could not finish, but boy, oh, boy was that delicious!


We hit up a little used book store called Yesterday’s Books, where I picked up a book about the history of caviar. I am constantly surprised by exactly how big of a food nerd I can be. I’m totally sucked in… it’s got political intrigue, environmental crime, smuggling… I’ll do a little review/book report for you when I’m done reading it, but I seriously had no idea the world of caviar production was so dark and twisty!

Next door to the bookstore was a pub called P. Wexfords, so we stopped for a pint. I had a pilsner from Dust Bowl (a local brewery) called Hobo. Good stuff! It was a little maltier than most pilsners, but I like malty beers so I could dig it. I really didn’t expect to find a place like this, with a legit beer list and a solid food menu, in the middle of the Central Valley ‘burbs, but it’s now one of my “must visit” places when I go see my buddy again.


Plus, they play this awesome Pandora radio station called 80’s Throwback-90’s Comeback that is absolutely brilliant.

Dinner was at a cool little pho joint near downtown Modesto called Phoenix Noodle House. I had the #1 bowl with ALLLL the animals in it. It had shaved ribeye, shaved flank steak, tripe, and tendon, perfectly cooked noodles and the most beautiful broth.


Day 3, we hopped on the train into San Francisco. To build up a good appetite for lunch, we hiked up Powell Street from Union Square and through Chinatown. There are lots of great areas of San Francisco, but Chinatown will always have a special place in my heart. The food, from the fresh veg/fruit/fish stalls to the restaurants; the culture; and the just overall vibe makes me happy every time I wander through there. There’s just so much life! It’s definitely one of those places where you don’t ask what it is, you just eat it and let it be delicious. As we were headed down the hill toward Columbus Street, I caught the scent of something kinda funky and delicious… and discovered that someone in one of the apartments above was drying meat on a coat hanger in their window. It took everything I had not to go knock on their door and ask questions.


When we finally got to lunch, it did not disappoint. I had a Groupon, $10 for $25 worth of food, from Kennedy’s Irish Pub and Curry House. We’d been there a couple of years ago, with almost the same Groupon, and loved the curry so much there was no question we had to go back. This place is such a trip! It’s an Irish pub if you walk in the front door, but if you come in through the patio in the back, it’s an Indian curry house. They have some $10.95 lunch specials that include an entree (I had the goat), lentil soup, a vegetable side, a generous stack of naan plus a huge piece of papadam, and a little cup of sweet rice pudding with cashews for dessert.


I honestly believe it’s one of the best lunch deals in North Beach, especially if you can find their Groupon. Once you get closer to Fisherman’s Wharf, it gets pretty seafood heavy and expensive. Don’t get me wrong, seafood there is delicious, but if it’s not in the budget, Kennedy’s is a great place to get a filling lunch to fuel you up for all that hill climbing.

Our next stop was at the Boudin Bakery flagship location at Fisherman’s Wharf. We just sipped our coffee and smelled all those amazing baking smells. I’m actually kinda bummed we were still too full from lunch to have some bread or one of their perfect croissants, but the smells were enough.


The Superbowl is being played near San Francisco, and Boudin was clearly gearing up for some epic viewing parties. Master Baker Fernando Padilla and his team were working on these giant football shaped sourdough loaves, along with jalapeno cheese bread, baguettes, and round loaves.


After wandering around for a bit, we made one more stop at the Rogue taphouse for a quick pint before catching the bus back to our train to the ‘burbs. I had the Imperial Smoked Lager. It smelled like campfire, but the smoky flavor kind of mellowed after the first few sips and it ended up very tart and citrusy. It was warm enough to sit outside and do some people watching while had our drinks. It was a great end to a really great day.


I’m headed back to the Bay area at the end of July for the International Food Blogger Conference in Sacramento. I usually only get out there about once every two years, so twice in one year feels like a gift.


I’ll take my bread on the rocks, please.

You guys… this baking thing is going to be the death of me. I’ve actually pondered doing a separate baking blog, just to chronicle all my baking related… disasters? tragedies? debacles? Whatever you call them, they make me just frustrated enough that I’m compelled to keep at it until I get better.

Case in point, the sourdough. My starter is lovely and bubbly and alive and I thought, “That went ok. Maybe this bread thing will work out, too?”


This is the recipe I used. As you can see, it’s meant to produce a lovely, light, airy loaf of sandwich bread.

I followed the instructions for mixing… combined the water and the yeast…


Added the flour and salt…Kneaded until my fingers and wrists and elbows got crampy…


And then…… then the whole let it rise thing got me. Did the first rise, then split the dough and put half in a loaf pan and let it rise again.

It looked weird when I put it into the oven, but I thought… maybe it’ll still be ok.

But….. well……. *insert big, dramatic, Oscar worthy sigh here*


I went back and re-read the directions and determined that I need to do this whole thing during the day. I put the dough in the fridge overnight to have its last rise before going into the oven, but I’m pretty sure I’d already jacked it up at that point. It was dense, and REALLY hard on the outside. Like, if someone broke into my apartment and tried to steal me, I could fling this loaf of bread at them and probably cause some serious harm to their head area (assuming my aim is that good, which it never is). I will probably just make breadcrumbs out of it and try again on Saturday, when I have a whole day to really pay attention to the timing like I should.

I will say this… it does taste good. If I can duplicate the flavor it has now, AND get it to be all beautiful and light like sammich bread, I’ll do the happiest of happy dances. That starter is the bomb, and I hate the idea of not being able to use it to make something worthy of all that awesome flavor it’s bringing to the party.

So, this probably isn’t the last you’ve heard of my adventures with sourdough. If things go better on Saturday, I’ll post a quick update.

Is there a recipe you’ve tried and tried and tried again before you finally got it right? When did your persistence finally pay off? Tell me in the comments!

Let’s Get Funky!

I don’t know why I’m so fascinated with the thing I’m so not very good at, but here I go again, starting another baking project.

Did I tell you guys I made gingerbread cupcakes in class last week, and when they sunk in the middle I cried? Yeah, I know that school is for learning and learning means messing up, but this is something I’ve made at home before a few times and never had an issue and I was just so upset about it I made a big ole fool of myself. Snotty and red faced and the whole nine. But then three different chefs came over and gave me pep talks, really good ones, and I’m over it now. Mostly.

And now headlong I’ve gone into this thing… a sourdough starter. But not just any sourdough starter… one made with bottle dregs from this beer:


If you’re not familiar with bottle dregs, here’s the scoop. Sometimes, you’ll drink a beer that has “stuff” floating in it. Usually, unless you shake up the liquid, the stuff sinks to the bottom of the bottle and never makes it to your glass. Contained within that stuff, the dregs, are bacteria and yeast that were used in the beer making process. Those dregs still have live “bugs” in them, and can be reused to make more beer, or, in this case, give a sourdough starter a big ole kick start.

To make mine, I used the basic process laid out here, at They do a great job of explaining what a starter is, and why you’d want to make one, but I’ll give you the Reader’s Digest version.

When you make bread, you need a leavening agent to make it rise. Most of the time, you’re going to go to the store and buy the yeast that has been grown and cultivated specifically for the purpose of baking. You don’t have to corral all those little yeasties yourself because someone has done it for you. Essentially, by growing your own starter, you’re creating a medium in which you can cultivate and grow all the wild yeast that’s already in the flour to use as your leavening agent, versus using the stuff from the store.

I started with a 1:1 ratio of flour to liquid– 4 oz. flour, and 4 oz of a combination of the bottle dregs and water. The moment I put the two together, I already started to see bubbles. That’s a good sign.

Every day for the past five days, I’ve been feeding the starter with fresh water and more flour. Here it is on day two:

blog_Day 2

And day four:
blog_Day 3
It’s a little hard to tell, but it’s starting to get frothier and just generally gooey. It also smells kinda sour at this stage (duh), and at day five, closer to being ready to use, I can also smell that lovely yeasty smell. What you don’t want to smell is acetone. If you smell that, it means things have gone a little sideways and you probably need to start over. But, as long as you feed it every day, and store it in a spot with a consistent temperature of around 70°F, in about 5 days you should have a healthy starter that you can use to make everything from bread to pizza dough.

I’m in school for the next three days, so the first opportunity I’ll have to test out my starter in a loaf of bread will be late Friday evening. Of course, I’ll take pictures and tell you how it goes.

Have you ever made your own starter? How do you use it? Leave a comment and let me know!

Best Laid Plans and All That Jazz

It’s a late post, and a quick one, but I promised an update today, and I try to be a woman of my word.

Plans are moving along. We’ll start recruiting bakers for the Blogger Bake Sale for No Kid Hungry hardcore on Monday. I wanted to tell you about all the fun recipes I’m testing, but as you know, school started this week, and it’s kicking my tooshie getting back into the swing of things.

I can tell you about one baking project I started this morning before I left for work. It’s a sourdough starter. I’ll do a full blown walk through after the weekend, but what I can tell you now is that it’s not a regular starter. I used the dregs from a bottle of a beer called Slap Your Momma in it. Those dregs still have a lot of little yeastie beasties in them, and those, along with the wild yeast that is naturally in the air, will hopefully join forces to make an interesting sourdough.

Here’s a picture of my infant starter. I’ll feed it a little every day to keep it bubbling and alive until it’s ready to use.


I’m hoping to make some delicious mini loaves to sell at the bake sale. Fingers are crossed!