Tag: san francisco

A weekend of finding free things!

This week things have started to fall into place. I have managed to get myself a subbing job in a bookstore, met up with some old friends, made some new friends and found some awesome free things in our area. Friday night was an album release party at The Mill with a band playing, free Josey Baker breads, 4505 nachos plus BYO beers- it felt like a really fun house party in a cool space. Saturday was more free drinks, live music and food at the Public Bikes opening in Hayes Valley. So after that and an afternoon of eating ice cream in the sun, we wandered up the hill for a dinner at home. Herb crusted roast chicken with yummy summer salads.

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Herb Crusted Roast Chicken

1 onion quartered
1 lemon quartered
A big handful of fresh herbs – I used parsley, mint and basil as that is what I had, but wintry sage, rosemary and thyme would also be a good combo
Small handful of capers
3 cloves of garlic
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
BIG glug of olive oil
Sea salt

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First of all, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion and lemon. Next, finely chop the herbs, garlic and capers and mix them with everything else. Slather all over the chicken and pop her in the oven for about an hour. While she cooks, pull the tray out of the oven and scoop up the liquid from the chicken and pour it back over so the chicken doesn’t dry out.

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I served the chicken with an insalata caprese – three types of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and plenty of good olive oil and sea salt – and a zucchini and quinoa salad – three types of zucchini, loads of fresh herbs, slowly cooked onion, quinoa and a smokey dressing. It was lovely, the company was great and we found that the wine from Bi-rite is very good.

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On Sunday we went down to Civic Center to watch the final of the world cup and it was awesome! Heaps of people, flags, food trucks and cheering. It seems to me that there is plenty to do in this city without having to pay. Here’s to a week to follow up a good weekend.

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To Market, to Market.

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The weekend was lovely. We went to a beautiful cafe and drank iced coffee in the shade of trees bowed over with the weight of fresh plums. We bought a car (feeling very grown up right now as it isn’t a Toyota Carolla) and went on an adventure to Sausolito. We sat beside the wharf in the sunshine, had a beer and enjoyed incredible fish and chips at a place called, very originally, Fish. We drove over the Golden Gate bridge with me singing the Full House song and then drove to Twin Peaks to look over the city.

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Sunday was a trip to the farmer’s market to find some cheap produce. There were tomatoes, berries, and zucchini of all shapes and sizes. I am currently attempting to do some pickling and jam making; results have been mixed, but I will blog about that later this week. Back at the market I was drawn to the fish monger after our delicious fresh fish the day before. There was some beautifully pink salmon which didn’t have a price tag but was quickly wrapped up with ice for me to take home. Turns out that not everything at the market is cheap produce so I had to think of something worth while to do with this piece of fish.

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Salmon and Lentils with a Spicy Yoghurt Dressing

1 cup of puy lentils
2 cups water
3 zucchini
1 small head broccoli
A handful of fresh herbs- I used coriander, basil and Italian parsley
A handful of baby spinach
1 big salmon fillet
Pinch of fennel seeds
Olive oil
Sea salt
Half a cup of thick natural yoghurt
juice of half a juicy lemon
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp paprika

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First of all, cook your cup of lentils with two cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes. While they are busy bubbling away, bake the salmon with some lemon juice, salt and a pinch of fennel seeds. You don’t want to over cook the salmon, so depending on the size of the fillet, this should only take about fifteen minutes. Fry the zucchini and broccoli in a pan. I used a mix of yellow and green zucchini- they are just so pretty! Roughly chop the herbs and spinach and once the lentils are cooked, add along with the zucchini and broccoli. Break the salmon on top and then dress with a dressing made of the yoghurt, grated garlic clove, lemon juice and paprika. I also added some of the red onion I had pickled- it added a nice vinegary bite that complimented the earthy flavours of the lentils perfectly.

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This week I will let you know how my pickling/jam making goes, tell you all about the amazing looking restaurant we are going to for Ollie’s birthday, and about the book reading at a dive bar tonight. Until then, thank you for all the kind words and feedback you have given me so far. I have been overwhelmed by everybody’s response, so thank you x

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Asian Inspired

And so another Friday rolls round and it is coming up five weeks in this city. The sun is still shining, the wind is still gusting and I am still pottering in the kitchen, exploring new neighbourhoods and waiting for a work visa.

Earlier this week I wandered through Chinatown. Apparently it is the oldest Chinatown in North America, and the largest population of Chinese outside Asia. I walked past smells I couldn’t quite place, cars and fumes, shouting, lanterns and Chinese women doing synchronised dancing in a park opposite a beautiful Catholic church. I walked past these, and I started thinking about what to make for dinner. Something spicy, fresh and with noodles. Pho was calling to me.

Now this isn’t a real pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup), but my version made from what I had in the cupboard and what I felt like eating that night. Although it looks like there are a lot of flavours and ingredients, it really is very easy to make- there are only three steps. Simple as that. You can change it up, play around with different flavours and make it work for you. Have a go and let me know what yours turned out like.

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A Kind of Pho

Broth
Skin and bones from 2 big chicken thighs
1 litre water
1 celery stalk- with leaves
1 onion
1 carrot
1 chilli
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp hossein sauce
1 chunk of ginger, skin on
4 cloves garlic
Salt

Soup
Flesh from the chicken thighs, finely sliced
Handful of mushrooms, sliced
2 bok choy, halved
Noodles – I used soba because that is what we had, but wide glass noodles would be better

Garnish
1 lime, quartered
Big handful of fresh coriander
Handful of mung beans
2 spring onions finely sliced
Fresh chilli, finely sliced
Half an onion, finely sliced and deep fried

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First of all, you need to make your broth. Simply put all your broth ingredients in a big pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour. This should give plenty of time for all your ingredients to get together and create a flavoursome broth. Taste to make sure it is good, and add more of anything you think it needs. Strain and put back on the heat. Bring to the boil again and add the chicken, mushrooms, bok choy and noodles. These should only take five minutes to cook, so while this is happening, finely finely slice some onion and deep fry and salt it. This will make a deliciously salty and sweet element to top your soup with. Divide your soup into bowls and get garnishing. Or, lay the garnishes on the table and let people add what they want.

Happy weekend x

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Picnic Potato Salad

Yesterday was the ultimate lazy summer Sunday. We ate delicious toast with rhubarb jam in bed, read books and then wandered down the road to discover the Divisadero Organic Farmer’s Market which is on every Sunday morning. There were piles and punnets of any berry you could imagine, leafy greens, sweet stone fruit, pastries and bread and fresh cut flowers. There were hippies, hipsters, dogs, babies and yoga mat carrying young professionals. We picked up all sorts of fruit and vegetables from which I quickly made a few salads before meeting friends in the park for some sunshine, food and beer. It was perfect. And now my legs are a bit like a pasta pomodoro– all you can see is red, even though you know it is white underneath…

But anyway, here’s the recipe for the potato salad we enjoyed in the sunshine.

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Picnic Potato Salad

About 12 new season potatoes
2 spring onions
2 stalks of celery
1 handful of capers
1 heaped Tbsp whole grain mustard
A few big glugs of olive oil
Juice of a lemon
Salt and pepper
1 big handful of fresh mint
Big bunch of rocket

Half your potatoes and put them on to boil. While they are doing their thing, finely chop the spring onions and celery and add to the capers, mustard, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. When the potatoes are cooked, run under cold water to stop the cooking and cool them down a bit, and then add them to the bowl with the dressing. When they have cooled down completely, add the roughly chopped mint and rocket and combine. The result is a fresh tasting summer salad, perfect for a picnic. This would also be a great addition to a BBQ for next time you offer to bring something.

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Good Things on Friday

Two exciting things happened on Friday. First of all our beautiful Nodi rug arrived from India. Our amazing and talented friend Livs designs her own rugs and has them hand knotted in India. The result is luxurious and original, the perfect addition to our new bedroom. It is sitting very happily at the base of our bed. Check out her website here.

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The second thing was we went out for dinner to Nopa, a restaurant around the corner that has a two month waiting list. We went in, had a cocktail at the bar, and the next thing you know we are being seated. It was really good food- think rabbit and mustard pappardelle, smoked trout with quinoa and cherries, pork hock terrine- accompanied by some seriously good wine from the region AND great company. Thank you Charlotte for organising this blind friend date, we can’t wait for the next one!

It was a pretty awesome Friday.

Local Bookshop Found!

I have had a lot of time to read since I have been in this city. In between apartment hunting I have perched in cool looking cafes with a coffee and a book hoping someone will come and befriend me. No luck just yet, but I am ever the optimist. At least I have devoured some good ones this week- Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham was an epic tale spanning three generations of American immigrants. Not quite as good as Middlesex, but a captivating and tragic tale. Plus I have read Kazuo Ishiguro’s first novel, A Pale View of the Hills and the very creepy The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.

So it is with great excitement that I have found my new favourite bookshop. The Booksmith on Haight Street immediately wooed me with their range of books and beautiful space. They have write ups on favourite books so you have all the people who work there’s opinion on what to read. Someone called Amy liked a whole lot of books that I also like, so I have bought Captial on her recommendation.

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Bookshops are so important in any community, whether they sell a selection of dog eared second hand books, or beautiful new waiting to be discovered books. People thought that with the rise of bookshops like Borders, smaller independents would suffer. Then with the ease and discounted price offered by the Book Depository and Amazon, then kindles, we wondered- how could a small local store ever compete when they have to charge so much more and people have to leave their homes to look and buy? Perhaps it is for that very reason independent bookstores are doing better than ever. People want to feel like they belong in a community, buy their fruit and vegetables from the local farmer’s market. They don’t want to be anonymous in a huge mall. There is something nice about chatting with the person who makes your coffee in the morning, something even nicer about someone being able to recommend a book they know you will love.

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I have some amazing talented friends who are starting up their own thing and being their own boss. Anna has become a freelance photographer. Within a year she is turning away bookings because she is in such high demand. Olivia has started designing beautiful rugs and is now being stocked in small local shops in Sydney, Wellington and Auckland. Millie sells flowers out of a converted truck at Cox’s Bay and sells out all the time. These incredible people are a sure sign that we like supporting local. Why should bookshops be any different? My friend Kimberley and I have a long standing dream to open up our own bookstore one day selling beautiful books, coffee and community. It may be a cliche, but I think we can make it happen.

Gluten free? Not a chance.

And so the first weekend in our new city draws to a blustery and blue skied end. Most of it was taken up with the continued hunt for a place to live, but we managed to sample some of the best things the city has to offer. Bakeries. Really good ones.

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1. The Mill

Beautiful clean space with fresh bread and good coffee. I had a Asian inspired sesame brioche and Ollie had sourdough toast with homemade nutella.

2. Craftsman and Wolves

Delicious rolls filled with salami, gherkins and mustard as well a whole cabinet of sweet treats I could not possibly have chosen from!

3. Tartine Bakery

The most incredibly light and buttery pastry made for a delicious pain au chocolat with raspberries. I can’t wait to go back for the toasted sandwiches they make.

Tonight? A very green spring minestrone soup for dinner. Maybe with some fresh bread…

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Fighting tech workers for a home

House hunting is a crazy thing here in San Francisco. The tech boom out in Silicone Valley has meant a huge change in the property market. Because of people like Ollie, my husband, there has been a big influx of people who have moved here to work and want to live in a cool area. So for a studio apartment in what was a pretty dodgy area, now with cafes and tiny restaurants popping up, you are looking at paying between 2,500- 3,000 US dollars a month. And that is before you factor in parking, expenses and that there are no laundries in the buildings. This rapid increase in rents has resulted protests over the last few months- the influx of people earning a good salary has meant hasty gentrification of neighbourhoods, forcing families who have rented there for years to be evicted. People say it is killing the creative and artistic heritage of the city as no one can afford to live centrally. Others say that is is bringing money to the city. You can read more about it here and I would be interested in your thoughts.

Anyway, my days look like this at the moment.

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Trying to set up viewings of apartments and walking from place to place to find the same groups of people arrive with me. Some have cash in hand ready to seal the deal if the place looks good. Our expectations have quickly fallen from a two bedroom apartment so people can come to stay, down to a studio apartment- sorry visitors, it’s going to be a tight squeeze in our bed instead.

Keep your fingers crossed for me, I’m heading out to another couple now!

 

 

First Impressions

First impressions of a city are soon forgotten.

Today I will walk down a street and not know what will be at the end of it. I won’t know where to take care over a broken concrete paver and where there will be an unexpected clearing with a treelined park. Slowly, slowly, this will change and I will stop noticing the big things and begin noticing the small things.

I am feeling somewhat daunted with the thought of finding a home, a job, friends in this new land. But at the same time, that is exactly what makes it exciting. Finding your new local morning coffee, bookshop, favourite running route, bar to drink a beer, the best place to eat dinner at night.

So, first impressions?  This city smells of flowering jasmine, Mexican food, coffee, urine, grass (both kinds) and sea breezes depending on where you walk. There is so much green and so many colourful houses. And wires. Everywhere. Crisscrossing and breaking up the blue of the sky. From my exploring so far, I think I will be happy to call this place home.

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