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Feed Your Belly, Mind and Soul at SOMArts Monthly Gathering

11 Nov

Last month I had the pleasure of attending a SOMArts monthly workshop called Feast of Words.  Feast of Words is a monthly potluck hosted by Irina Zadov and Lex Leifheit, where writers and foodies come together on the 3rd Tuesday of each month to eat, write, and share.

I am so excited to be in-the-know about this incredible event, which has been going on for over a year now.  It combines all of my favorite things into one evening- food, community and art.  The theme changes from month to month, so the vibe and the cuisine is always different.  Just show up, preferably with a dish to pass (but if you aren’t a master chef don’t worry), enjoy a meal with other creative-minded people, and prepare to be inspired.

Discover local chefs and writers, learn more about local cultures and flavors, bring a dish on the monthly theme, or participate in on-the-spot writing to win edible and literary prizes! Don’t consider yourself a writer?  Don’t fret: there’s also a no-host bar, so you can throw a glass of wine (or two) into the mix, and be amazed at how effortlessly the creative juices start to flow :).

What: Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck

When: Tuesday, November 15, 7PM (house opens at 6:30PM)

Where: 934 Brannan St. (Between 8th & 9th)

How Much: $10 in advance, $12 at the door, $5 with a
potluck dish, cash bar.

What Else: This month’s theme is is “Objectified”- For more details and to buy tickets, click  here.


Why Oakland is Becoming Pretty Much My Favorite

2 May

One of my favorite street-art installations in Oakland. Cute!

I moved to San Francisco from the East Coast back in 1999.  In over a decade, I barely made my way across the bridge to Oakland–  probably fewer times than I could count on one hand.  It seemed like an entire world away (particularly without a car), and why would I ever leave SF when I had everything I needed right outside my door?

I was a bit apprehensive about moving to Oakland this past December, but I was ready for a change, having resided in almost every single district in San Francisco since having moved there.  Not to mention the fact that cheaper rent sounded pretty damn good, given the recent slash to my income.  So, here I am.

I have to say, Oakland almost immediately put a spell on me.  Yes, it’s true, there are some bad neighborhoods, and I am definitely a lot more wary about going out after dark by myself in certain parts of town, but I think it’s really unfortunate what an incredibly bad rap this place has received!  Aside from all of the negative stuff the media constantly focuses on, there are so many beautiful areas, a rich cultural history, a great sense of community, a happening arts scene, and let’s not forget that it is now an up-and-coming culinary hotspot.

I want to make sure that no San Franciscans do what I did and waste ten years thinking Oakland isn’t worth the trip.  So, I am starting a series of posts with brief snippets and shots from around my new home… things that make me smile on an almost daily basis.  In sharing this with y’all, I hope that you enjoy, discover, get off your a**es, and come give us a visit us sometime! 🙂

Make Way for Kwik Way!

19 Apr

Several years ago, a beloved staple of Oakland’s Lake Merrit neighborhood, the Kwik Way Drive-In, shut its doors.  The retro-style burger joint had been a local favorite, satisfying the needs of customers with late-night cravings for crispy fries and a shake, and easing Sunday morning hangovers with its deliciously greasy cheeseburgers accompanied by a side of onion rings.  It was a sad day for all when they closed, and the establishment remained vacant ever since.   Windows boarded up (an excellent canvas for graffiti, I might add), there seemed to be no sign of life to speak of.  That is, until around September 2010, when construction workers suspiciously began coming in and out of the building, and rumors started flying about a grand reopening on the horizon.

Well kiddies, last week it finally happened, and I am very excited to say that I was there!  Kwik Way’s neon green sign lit up the night sky for the first time in years, and people came out from all over the ‘hood to try out the new and improved menu.

I was a little intimidated at first, as the menu consisted not only of the traditional burger and french-fry fare, but included surprising new additions such as fried chicken, warm bread pudding, and pizza.  I went with the fried chicken, which I had coincidentally been craving all week, and my boyfriend stuck with the basics – a cheddar cheese burger and a coke.

Our review?

HELL YEAH!  My fried chicken was super fresh, the meat was juicy and fall-off-the-bone tender.  The batter was light and crunchy, and it didn’t have that bowling-ball-in-the-stomach after effect that many fried chicken establishments tend to leave you with.  The only downfall of the experience was that my boyfriend kept repeating over and over, “This is the best f****in’ burger I have ever had.” or  “These guys are doing it right!  The flavor!” with almost every single bite he took (I mean, seriously?!).  Apparently, he’s a fan.  It was awesome news and everything, but I ended up having to punch him in the arm and tell him to “hush up”, so that I could bask in the glory of my own meal.

Needless to say, we will be back.  And next time, I am bringing earplugs. 🙂

Kwik Way Drive-In is located at 500 Lake Park Ave (between Rand Ave & Lakeshore Ave) in Oakland.

banh mi = the BOMB!

5 Apr
Bánh mì (Vietnamese sandwich) and Bánh cuốn. B...
Image via Wikipedia

A few years ago I was lucky enough to spend a year living in Ho Chi Minh City,Vietnam.  While I have many fond memories of Southeast Asia, I can say without a doubt that one of the things I miss the most is the food!  Each and every meal I devoured that year was completed by either myself or one of my fellow diners holding our bellies and exclaiming with the utmost certainty, “This is the best thing I have ever tasted!”  and then, “No…no,  I know I said that last time, but really…this is the best thing I have ever tasted!”

I attribute some of that to the fact that the produce and meat served in that part of the world is more or less free of all of the crap we add to it here in America. (Proving my point, after moving back to the US it took me about a month to be able to keep any significant amount of food down.  I guess my body had to readjust to all the preservatives?)  I think the other part of the equation is quite simply the creative pairing of ingredients; items that we  would never even think to combine are tossed together to create some of the most unique and mouth-watering dishes I’ve ever tried.

One of my favorite imports (not to mention the simplest and cheapest to prepare)- and luckily, one that they do pretty damn well here in the Bay Area- is banh mi: a Vietnamese-style sandwich that is to die for.  I spotted this recipe from one of the best little VN sandwich shops in the Bay Area and it started making me super nostalgic for my time abroad…not to mention super hungry!

If you don’t feel like trying this out on your own, check the link below this recipe for a list of some of the best banh mi shops in the Bay!

Little Vietnam Cafe’s Banh Mi Ga

Makes about 6 1-cup servings

This tiny shop in San Francisco’s Richmond District serves one of the best Vietnamese chicken sandwiches in the Bay Area. Rather than shredded chicken, the cafe uses whole chicken thighs marinated in a 5-spice dressing. While great in sandwiches, the chicken can also be used in salads and stir-fries.

  • 6 boneless chicken thighs, butterflied
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon 5-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric

Instructions: Wash and dry chicken thighs; set aside. Combine the garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, fish sauce, 5-spice powder and turmeric in a medium-size bowl. Add the chicken thighs and coat to marinate pieces evenly. Refrigerate for up to 6 hours.

Prepare a grill. Once ready, grill chicken for about 10 to 12 minutes on each side, until done, basting chicken twice with leftover marinade. Remove from grill, transfer to a plate, and use in banh mi, salad or over rice.

The calories and other nutrients absorbed from marinades and syrups vary and are difficult to estimate. Therefore, this recipe contains no analysis.

Pickled Daikon & Carrots

Makes about 2 cups

These pickled vegetables are at the heart of every Vietnamese sandwich. Sweet, tangy and crunchy, they also make a fantastic condiment for grilled meats. It’s worth the extra time to julienne the vegetables – it makes for a nice crunch. These will keep up to 1 month in the refrigerator.

  • 1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 pound daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon + 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup hot water

Instructions: Place the cut carrots and daikons in a large mixing bowl; sprinkle with the salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Toss and let sit for about 5 minutes, until the vegetables begin to give. Rinse and drain the vegetables in a colander, then place them in a 1-quart jar.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar and water in a medium-size mixing bowl; stir to dissolve. Pour the brine into over the vegetables, fully submerging the vegetables. Let stand for about an hour. After that, store in the refrigerator. The vegetables are best after several days of brining.

The calories and other nutrients absorbed from brines vary and are difficult to estimate. Therefore, this recipe contains no analysis.

Read more:

Whatchoo Mean, Shutterbean?

31 Mar
mini strawberry cheesecakes

mini strawberry cheesecakes: photo courtesy of

I’d like to take a moment to share with y’all one of my favorite blogs these days.  If you like food, photography, getting crafty, and a biting sense of humor, you will love Shutterbean.  Tracy, the blogger responsible, is like this modern-day, kinda hipster, kinda geeky, kinda mod Martha Stewart (but not as evil).  The super-mom delights with beautifully photographed how-to’s, ranging from insanely delicious desserts (check out this recipe for blueberry yogurt cake) to making your own terrarium (which we all know I adore).  The best part, however, is the witty commentary she peppers in throughout the site!

Shutterbean, you are a ray of crafty sunshine! 🙂

Attention Food Lovers! Must Attend.

28 Mar

BIG shout-out to ForageSF for their amazing Underground Market, a celebration of locally made food and a place where non-commercial chefs can strut their stuff and sell their culinary creations to the public.  Part farmer’s market and part block party, the nomadic event (this past Saturday it was hosted by our beloved Public Works) includes a slew of vendors displaying a vast array of cuisines.

Sign up for their email list and make sure you don’t miss the next one!

Public Works: “Givin’ the People What They Want”

12 Mar

It was July of last summer when I began a conversation with my buddy Peter Blick (of the then-unfinished nightclub, Public Works).  We were having  drinks to celebrate a friend’s birthday and as small talk dictates, Peter asked what I had been up to lately.   I filled him in about the start-up non profit I was helping launch, called SFSMILES.  As it turned out, it just-so-happened that the concept for the club he was currently working with was perfectly in tune with the SFSMILES mission- to help local charities fulfill their missions.

The crew at Public Works (run by the same people who brought San Francisco one of it’s most popular dance clubs, a little place in Potrero Hill you may have heard of called The Mighty) has more up their sleeve than simply  providing SF residents with off-the-hook dj’s, live bands, entertainment and art shows.  They  also have a much loftier goal,  striving to use their resources to give back to the community in a big way.

Needless to say, Peter and I exchanged business cards that evening (both brand-new of course), and soon after, a relationship was born.

Located in the Mission District, Public Works officially opened in September 2011.  It has quickly become one of San Francisco’s most revered night clubs.  (On the weekends, you will find people anxiously awaiting entry in a line that runs all the way down Erie Street, where the venue resides, and wraps around the corner on to Mission.)  So what does a dance club have in common with our little-non-profit-that-could?  A lot, as it turns out!

Like us, they are committed to the San Francisco community, and regularly donate a portion of their proceeds to various local non profits, in addition to assisting them with promotions and events.  They have asked SFSMILES for ideas, help connecting with local charities, and occasional support for charitable events at their venue.  Of course we are thrilled to help, as Public Works already has a loyal following, which means not only more visibility for SFSMILES,  but increased public awareness of the many clients we serve.

Last Saturday, we attended our very first SFSMILES fundraiser at Public Works.  Dubbed “Mission United”, this was an 8 hour party celebrating San Francisco’s melting-pot neighborhood, the Mission District.  With fashion, food and music by Mission residents on display and over 1000 attendees, our team was tickled pink, not only to be one of the beneficiaries of the evening, but to be given the opportunity to host a booth along side some of the hippest designers, artists and foodies in San Francisco!

One of my fave sightings of the evening was a booth selling feather hair extensions- apparently now all the rage in our fine city (more on that later).  Oh, and Angry Man Eats served up what was my very first taste of chicken and waffles- a life changing experience, for sure.

Please give a warm SF smile to the staff at Public Works if you happen to run into them during a night out.  This down-to-earth posse has displayed an enthusiasm for giving, an energy surrounding SFSMILES, and their commitment to being involved with the community and the arts has been both inspiring and exhilarating.   We can’t wait to see where this friendship goes!

Watch out for upcoming SFSMILES donation drives and fundraisers, brought to you by Public Works!