Current Fixations — December 2014

How did we get to the last month of the year already? Even if that's the question on everybody's mind, there's no use scratching your head over the answer — just stop for a split second, and soak up everything that is December: lightning sales, holiday baked goods, twinkling sidewalks, cheesy Christmas music, and the always gratifying smell of a fireplace being warmed. Oh, and the few things I'm obsessed with right now.

Big Sur Bakery's Holiday Stollen. Last year, Heidi Swanson of QUITOKEETO started selling limited amounts of Dresden-style stollen, a yeasted German bread with rum raisins, candied citrus, quince, and almond paste, from Big Sur Bakery ($30). The store ran out before I could order any, but you can get notified when the festive-looking sweet loaves are back in stock. 

Helvetica noodle tee. I already wear my heart on my sleeve, so I figure it's okay to wear noodles on my shirt, then, too. I love Helvetica and I love Japanese noodles, so when it comes to this funny statement tee ($20) from Food52, I don't see a better candidate for model than myself. This would make a mighty fine gift for friends and family, too, don't you think?

Pomegranate-accented floral arrangements. The food wasn't the only highlight at POM Wonderful's recent San Francisco event; I was so blown away by the seasonally-appropriate concept of pomegranate arils as decorative accents that I took one of the vases home. (Note that since arils are perishable, arrangements do require some upkeep.) 

OMG Everything Is Fucked mug. I just discovered the writer, illustrator, and designer Emily McDowell, who can't help but make you laugh with her descriptions of the human condition, like greeting cards that say, "There is nobody I'd rather lie in bed and look at my phone next to." I'm itching for this "Everything will be okay//OMG everything is fucked" mug ($16).  


STEM. After the Mid-Market area gentrifies, SF's going to turn all its attention toward the quickly-developing Mission Bay neighborhood. The newest restaurant to open there is STEM, a 158-seat sustainability-focused restaurant with an adjoining garden. Snag one of its excellent  salads or pizzas, then head out to the heated terrace to enjoy bocce, a fire pit, and sweeping Bay views. 

Plantains. Sure, I feel less sluggish when I cut back on the refined carbs, but what's a girl to do when she just loves all things starch? The answer is plátanos. North American cuisine doesn't give these banana look-alikes nearly enough love — I like to pan-fry them in a little bit of coconut oil with cinnamon and other winter spices sprinkled on top. 

Current Fixations — October 2014

Between the journey to Turkey and the last-minute trip to New Orleans, the last couple of months have been a blur (read: no September fixations post). But not to worry: I have more than enough things I'm fawning over this month to make up for that. Here are a few I can't stop thinking about. 

New Orleans. "I hate New Orleans," said no food lover EVER. My first trip to NOLA couldn't have been more of a revelation. It's a city full of soul, and you can taste every bit of that in the food. (Pictured above: chicory coffee and beignets from the iconic Café du Monde. Not pictured: the snowfall of powdered sugar that was all over my shirt when I finished eating them.) 


Next Issue. This is an incredible magazine subscription service for digital devices. For $9.99 a month (less than the cost of a cocktail!), you get access to 135 different magazines, including their back issues. Spend $5 more and you'll be able to read more magazines, including weeklies like The New Yorker. Just about every periodical I want to read is at my fingertips (so far, the only mass-market magazine I haven't been able to access through is Martha Stewart Living). It's a fantastic way for a magazine obsessive like myself to keep up with issues without accruing clutter. Best of all, you can try it for 60 days free

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Jeff Mason's "Kinda Niçoise" sandwich. Jeff Mason recently moved his sandwich pop-up, Pal's Takeaway, to a new location in the Mission, but it's just as good as ever. If you spot his Kinda Nicoise sandwich ($11) on the menu, don't think: JUST GET IT. To me, a  Niçoise salad, with its lettuce, tomato, and lean tuna, is anything but comforting to me. But this sandwich is different — the ingredients are top-notch fresh, yet the dish doesn't feel precious, and it feels transporting, as if you'd be eating it in some European café. The Josey Baker bread, cold-poached albacore, homemade mayo, and creamy hard-boiled egg get me every time.

Brian McBride's pickled farmstand tomatoes. I made these years ago for YumSugar and recently rediscovered them. They're more complex than any other pickle I've ever had, thanks to the addition of cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, cayenne, and brown sugar. It's the perfect way to make the most of any very-last-of-the-season tomatoes. 

Pho. I'm going through a pho phase (a phose?) and can't stop, won't stop. I'll take it with rare steak, gelatinous tendon, or even vegetarian (the New York Times has a wonderful meatless pho recipe). Ah, the spiced broth, the sweet, anise-y Thai basil, the crunch from mung bean sprouts, which I usually hate but love in this exception... My go-to spots are Soup Junkie for vegetarian pho and Out the Door for clean beef pho. But sometimes you just want a divey bowl, in which case, I head to Good Noodle. (Don't say I didn't warn you about the dive part.) Am always looking for new spots, so if you know of any, chime in!


Cajun boudin. Apologies for the less than appetizing photo, but I'd be remiss if I didn't include Cajun boudin in my roundup of current obsessions. I tried this spicy pork, rice, and vegetable sausage in New Orleans and fell for it, hard. It's creamy and starchy, a meat- and carb-lover's dream. This is Donald Link's version from Cochon, and I will dream of it until I die. It was served with homemade grainy mustard and the crispiest, crunchiest sandwich pickles I've ever had the pleasure of eating. Next time I'm in New Orleans, I'm going to buy as many packs as I can, smuggle them in my carry-on, and eat them in between trips to The Big Easy.

Any objects, food or otherwise, that you're currently smitten with right now? If so, I'd love to hear more about them. 

Current Fixations — July 2014

Since working for myself, I've made a concerted effort to revel in a slower life pace, and have really tried to take the time to soak up my surrounding as I go about my day. With my eyes wide open to discoveries of the culinary kind and otherwise, I've discovered quite a few new obsessions that I'm quickly making a habit of. 

I've spent more than my budget's worth on independent food, fashion, and literary magazines, but my absolute favorite right now is Anthology. It's the perfect mix of aspirational and relatable, with a little bit of everything I'm interested in: travel, food, thoughtful design, reading. 

The bloody Marys at Wood Tavern in Oakland. They've got that whole smoky-chioptle thing going on, and come with a shot of beer as the perfect chaser. While we're at it, their fried cod sandwich is pretty much perfect.

Devoto Cider ($11.99 at Whole Foods) — The Devoto Family learned how to make hard cider in Asturias, Spain, then brought the craft back to their farm in Sebastopol, CA. They make three varieties, ranging from semi-dry to dry, but my favorite is the 1976. Warning: don't expect to NOT through an entire bottle by yourself in one sitting. 

The best bookstand ever: Issues shop in Temescal. It's great that they have Cherrybombe and Kinfolk and Lapham's Quarterly and witty letterpress cards. But when I walked to the back and saw a bin of homemade magazines labeled "ZINES $4," I really knew I had arrived at my happy place. 

Barrel-aged cocktails at Blackbird Bar. Ever had a rhum negroni that's been aged for five years? Neither had I, until I stepped into Blackbird. Co-owner Shawn Vergara had the foresight to put down a bunch of cocktails when the bar first opened and each year after that, and for a limited time, you can try them, too (the drinks are available until they run out). 

The newly-opened Marla Bakery. Everything, from the coffee to the baked goods to the bread to the lunch is solid at Marla Bakery. But if I had to choose one thing from the store, it might be Amy Brown's chocolate chip cookie. I've never had a better rendition.