Posted by: ham8cheese | November 29, 2009

pigtales of the city is moving to a new address

and changing its name to spoon & spoke!

Please visit spoon & spoke here.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 27, 2009

apple tart, pure & simple

Thanksgiving apple tart

Thanksgiving apple tart

For Thanksgiving dessert, I made an apple tart using an excellent recipe from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, who spends half his year in Berkeley cooking at Chez Panisse.  It’s a great recipe because of its simplicity – it lets the deliciousness of the apples and the flaky pastry shine.  I also love that the directness of the flavors is mirrored by the rough hewn aesthetic of the tart itself.   Another great thing about this tart is that you can prep it well beforehand, and then put it in the oven during dinner (it takes about 45 minutes to bake).  This time around, I used New York Special apples from the Ferry Building farmers’ market and essentially followed the recipe to a T, although I reduced the amount of sugar called for in the glaze (I used 3/4 cup but would go even lower next time) and added vanilla and a dash of cinnamon (Mr. Pigtales’ idea) to the glaze as well.  Voila!

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 26, 2009

candy made with…pig?

In October at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, I gamely tried a homemade bacon cookie baked by a good college friend.  It was rich, savory, buttery – a concept akin to pancakes and bacon.  Apparently this type of pairing of sugar and oink is very of the moment, at least according to yesterday’s New York Times:

Meat Sweets in San Francisco

Caramels made with pig lard (available at Boccalone in the Ferry Building)?  Hmmm.  Could be very, very good….

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 26, 2009

thanksgiving: fly me to the ocean!

Braking for the RC boats on Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Thanksgiving: a gorgeous, sunny day in San Francisco – perfect for a pre-cooking bike ride!  I pulled on my brand new Sheila Moon bike shorts to test ’em out, and Mr. Pigtales and I made a beeline for the ocean, via Golden Gate Park.  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Parks Department had closed JFK Drive to cars today, and there were tons of cyclists out, including lots of helmet-wearing kids on trikes.  We made a quick stop at Spreckels Lake to watch the motorized boats, then rode by the Bison Paddock (where incredibly, the bison actually deigned to make an appearance!).  Then, onward to the ocean, where there were some huge breakers.

Ocean Beach

Watching the breakers roll in at Ocean Beach.

On the Great Highway, we spotted a really cute red and yellow bike that read “Depot Cycle&Recycle” on the downtube. Turns out what we saw was a pretty odd duck – and Depot Cycle & Recycle is a bike shop in Tokyo!  Guess that bike was a long way from home.

Cute bike, a long way from home.

As for the Sheila Moon bike shorts, which I wore under my britches, I’m glad to report that they were super comfy (FYI, she’s having a holiday party /warehouse sale on December 5-6 in Oakland – might be worth checking out!).

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 23, 2009

a bread recipe for layabouts

I don’t know what it is – maybe something about the cold weather or the oncoming holidays – but I am finding myself inspired to cook quite a bit these days.  (At the same time, my low-carb-till-6pm diet seems to have fallen by the wayside.  See Exhibit 1 here: low-carb diet 0, Tartine cookies 3 or 4)  With Asylum Street Spankers playing in the background and Mr. Pigtales busying himself working on his new-to-him Raleigh Super Course, I decided to prepare some dough for baking later in the week (probably Wednesday night?).  Since Mr. Pigtales is planning to make Zuni Cafe‘s recipe for roast chicken and bread salad on Thursday, I figure having some homemade bread laying around can’t be a bad thing.

Given the late hour, I decided to opt for the easiest of the bread recipes in my arsenal, Jim Sullivan’s no knead bread recipe.  (In terms of ingredients, I prefer King Arthur’s bread flour and Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Highly Active Yeast.)  You literally slap the ingredients together (taking care to mix the yeast into the flour separately from the salt), make sure the dry ingredients are roughly evenly hydrated, cover it, and after a long while, throw it in a piping hot oven.  It’s the long while that is key – this is when all the flavors in the bread will develop, so letting it sit there on your hopefully warmish counter for 20-plus hours is what will make this bread delicious.   I’ve made this bread with anywhere from 18 hours to 24 hours or possibly more fermentation time, and it will turn out fine (the high moisture content in the dough helps it keep longer).  You can also stick it in the fridge to retard the dough a bit if you like.  It’s all good with this recipe, in my book.

Next up: making some butter.  Mmm, butter.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 22, 2009

chocolate-oatmeal-walnut cookies

This evening I baked some cookies out of the Mission-based Tartine cookbook, a gift from a close college friend who stayed with us a few months back.  This is the third time I’ve made this recipe, and I’ve learned a few tricks that make them turn out just perfect, at least in my oven (of the Bosch Evolution variety – a great residential range for people who actually cook).  The basic recipe (by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson) is available here.  These are a great, thin cookie with an excellent combination of oaty-ness and chocolatey-ness.

Here are my tweaks:

  • I only use 280 grams (about 1.25 cups) of sugar, rather than the 350 g (1.75 cups) called for in the original recipe.  I find that most dessert recipes call for way too much sugar, and this one is no exception.
  • Although the recipe says to press out each scoop of dough into a flat 3-inch circle, I press mine into roughly 1.5″ to 2″ circles to get the cookies to a decent not-too-large size.  (Done this way, I end up with about 45 cookies, rather than the 24 listed in the original recipe.) When I made this recipe the first time and followed the directions for 3-inch circles, I ended up with these monstrously large (5″ to 6″) cookies that intimidated everyone at the baby shower I had brought them to.
  • This last one isn’t exactly a tweak, but just a bit of emphasis – the recipe says to bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned but the centers are still pale.  This takes a lot of will power to do, as the cookies will look sort of disturbingly pale in the center and your instincts (if they’re like mine) may tell you to keep baking them.  But you really do need to take the cookies out when the centers are still pale – otherwise you’ll end up with cookies that are a bit too hard (I learned this the hard way, although my co-workers politely pretended that they were not concerned about destroying their dental work as they crunched (loudly) through the 2nd batch I made several months ago).  Even so, although the recipe says 10 to 12 minutes, I find that in my oven the right timing is more like 14 to 15 minutes, sometimes more.

I’ve never actually braved the line at Tartine the bakery, probably due to sheer laziness.  (Notwithstanding the similarly obscene lines, I’ve somehow managed to make my way to Mitchell’s and Bi-Rite, so perhaps I just need to suck it up and show up at Tartine one day as well.)  So I have nothing to compare my homemade version to, but Mr. Pigtales, a true chowhound, just ate three in a row, so I’m going to count that as an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 21, 2009

pimping my ride

I finally got around to taking off the boring black cork handlebar tape that came with my bike, and replacing it with some bright yellow Fi’zik bar tape.  Unless you count tennis rackets, this was my first handlebar wrap job, and I think I did a pretty fine job if I don’t say so myself.  (I studied up beforehand on the Park Tool website, which I thought was super helpful.)

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 21, 2009

bicycle-happy saturday

Mr. Pigtales and I started our day off by riding our bikes to the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building — it was a glorious blue-sky day for riding and for the market.  Mr. Pigtales rode his gorgeous red 1941 Schwinn DX single-speed cruiser instead of his daily Raleigh Professional, and I rode my Novara Pulse (my only bike – at least for now!).  I savored the relative peacefulness of riding on Market Street on a Saturday.  When we arrived at the market, several folks noticed the Schwinn.  I had to hold myself back when one dude wouldn’t stop commenting on how “sexy” he thought it was.  I wanted to run up and tell him to stop hitting on my hubby, but hey – it was a sunny Saturday so I let it go.  Besides, I had Primavera chilaquiles (ohhhhhhh) to get to.

After polishing off our chilaquiles (and turning my fingers orange in the process – small price to pay for such deliciousness), we picked up some New York Special apples for the tart I’m planning to make for Thanksgiving, a bag of brown rice from Massa Organics (the best!), and a small chicken from Norm, who sells fantastic poultry at various farmers’ markets around here.

Mr. Pigtales' new 1973 Raleigh Super Course

After the farmers’ market, we made a beeline to the San Francisco Bike Expo at Cow Palace.  Mr. Pigtales was looking for a project, and he found one: a 1973 Raleigh Super Course in a lovely bronze color, for a song.  We also picked up a Raleigh crankset, pedals, and seatpost for it, so now we’re just looking for a saddle (probably a Brooks B17?), some albatross handlebars, and a few other odds and ends (bottom bracket?  wheels, perhaps?).

The Bike Expo was pretty fun, all in all.  There were lots of cool bikes to look at, including a gorgeous old Hetchins frame like they don’t make anymore, as well as a tiny little orange Italian road bike with what looked to be 24-inch wheels — even smaller than mine!  There was even a guy who was making bicycle-powered smoothies.  And I finally picked up some bicycle shorts from Sheila Moon, a local bicycle clothing designer, for longer weekend rides.

The only problem with the Bike Expo was that the only food there was of the entirely unappetizing hot-dog-oriented stadium-concession variety.  So we eventually high-tailed it out of there and grabbed an early dinner at our favorite Singaporean restaurant, in the Inner Sunset.  It shall remain unnamed in this blog to keep the masses at bay (given the hordes (i.e. 1 or 2, if you include myself) of people who are reading this), but suffice it to say that we sated ourselves on fantastical Singaporean chili crab and curry noodles – a great end to a great day.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 20, 2009

peter reinhart’s pizza dough put to the test!

Mr. Pigtales and I had our pizza night tonight, with the help of some Cab Calloway on the stereo and the dough I had prepared earlier in the week from Peter Reinhart‘s recipe.  I was a bit skeptical about how the crust would turn out because the dough was the droopiest, most pliable dough I had worked with yet.  It would barely hold a shape, even.  I thought maybe it had too much water content, and that I should’ve added more flour. So I was worried it was going to be too thin in a holey sense.

Here's Mr. Pigtales prepping the first pizza.

But we ploughed ahead even so.  Between sips of red wine, we added onto the rolled-out dough:

  • a pesto Mr. Pigtales made fresh tonight
  • a bit of olive oil
  • mushrooms sauteed in sherry
  • prosciutto
  • sauteed onions
  • mozzarella
  • a bit of parmesan
  • kosher salt & pepper, and
  • a few slices of late-season homegrown tomato, from the one scraggly heirloom tomato plant we have on our roof.

We slid the pizza onto our Fibrament baking stone with the oven piping at 525 degrees and waited.

A couple minutes before we were going to take it out, Mr. Pigtales opened the door and cracked an egg on top.

Turns out I needn’t have worried, as the crust came out perfectly thin and crispy, just how I like it!  The bacon-y goodness, along with the kosher salt, the pesto, and the olive oil in the crust, was just sooooo yummy.  Sigh.

A margherita with a crispy, thin crust.

We made another just like the first, and then a pesto margherita, and I’m proud to report that there ain’t a stitch left (sorry!).

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 19, 2009

fast food, prison rap?

Rapping is illegal now apparently…or at least it is in American Fork, Utah.

The AP is reporting that a Utah teen is facing trial for rapping a McDonald’s cheeseburger order.

OK, so some kids showed poor judgment by patronizing the fast “food” chain, but is it really necessary to prosecute them for expressing themselves (by parodying a McDonald’s commercial, no less)? Jeepers, what is this country coming to??

Sounds like the “American” Fork police and prosecutor are unfamiliar with the First Amendment. I guess the Unemployed Philosophers Guild was right. Crap like this is why I heart the ACLU.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 18, 2009

r. kelly: hot mess, or blessed?

A friend of mine hosted a little get-together at her place in Noe Valley this past weekend to watch R. Kelly’s hip-hopera, “Trapped in the Closet” (the first 22 chapters of which can be watched free of charge at I have to admit that, other than having listened to an unexpectedly hilarious series of podcasts chronicling his child pornography trial in the summer of 2008 (Dispatches from the R. Kelly Trial by Josh Levin at, I did not know very much about the man and had fairly low expectations. I thought we’d be there to watch a spectacle of sorts. And the conceit of Trapped in the Closet doesn’t really inspire a whole lotta confidence: it’s essentially a soap opera in which all of the dialogue is sung by R. Kelly himself, while the actors essentially lip-sync the dialogue. Then there were the atmospherics of the movie-watching party, which encouraged the skepticism that was building in me: we had “Dirty Shirley” Temples (Seven & Seven plus grenadine, of course), in honor of R. Kelly’s alleged (but unproven) penchant for corrupting the young and the innocent, and a suspiciously yellow-hued drink (vodka & lemonade), in honor of his alleged penchant for peeing on the young and the innocent (also unproven). We were there to laugh, not so much to appreciate well-crafted cinema. Read More…

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 17, 2009

dough know whatcha talkin’ about

Hey, just because I’m eating low-carb doesn’t mean I can’t make pizza dough, right??

Tonight I made a batch of dough following Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Napoletana Pizza Dough, out of the book Mr. Pigtales gave me as a gift for our first anniversary last June (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice). It was substantially easier than pie – I just weighed and mixed up all the ingredients, and let our Kitchenaid mixer do its dough-hooky magic. Half of the dough is now hanging out in the freezer for future pizza usage, and half is resting in the fridge for homemade pizza night this Friday.

I am betraying my yuppie-ness by swooning over the Kitchenaid, but it has definitely streamlined my dough-kneading process. Pre-Kitchenaid, it used to take me 30+ minutes of hand-kneading to get the dough to pass the windowpane test, sadly raising actual concerns that my hands would fall off (in which case I really would need a hook). Post-Kitchenaid, I can sit there eating bonbons while the dough practically kneads itself . . . I just have to be careful that all my drooling over the Kitchenaid doesn’t compromise the moisture ratio of the dough (Michael Ruhlman would NOT approve!).

Stay tuned for a full report from Friday pizza night to see how the dough turned out…

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 15, 2009

banana republic takes niche marketing to a whole new level

DSCF6229Mr. Pigtales took advantage of this weekend’s Banana Republic “Friends and Family” sale, where he carefully selected a pair of heterosexual-centric jeans.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 15, 2009

cycle righteous

pearls before swine

From Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis (June 2, 2009) (brought to you by Mr. Pigtales, who let out a huge guffaw and then sent me the link).

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 12, 2009

cycle chic, cycle geek

I aspire to cycle chic (Wikipedia definition: “the culture of cycling in fashionable clothes”), but there are a couple of speedbumps along my personal road to bicycle runway.

Perhaps the most prominent of these hiccups is that, well, I’m just not that stylin’ to begin with, bicycle or not. That is, unless you count a lumpen-Dansko clog-wearing crunchy public interest advocate aesthetic in your definition of stylish.

Yes, Dansko clogs (could I really be a public interest advocate without them??) – which I find just don’t cut it on a bicycle due to their clunky stiffness (although for non-bicycling activities, I am smitten). Alas, my bicycling habit has forced me to partake in some shoe shopping . . . I’ve had to find new footwear that flex a bit and won’t fall off my feet but meet a minimum level of cuteness for the workday (given that I am way too lazy to lug an extra pair of shoes for regular wear). Enter the Born Kelsey, a ballet flat with a giant strap that is super comfy. born kelseyThey’re chic-ish, I think, and in any event, they get the job done.

Back to the hiccups . . . a second prominent hiccup standing between me and my cycle chic fashion destiny is that I’m just too darn safety conscious. There’s my bike helmet (made by Special Ed Specialized), of course, which I basically don’t leave home (on a bike) without. (Anyone who bike-commutes to work on Market St. without a helmet is, well, unwise at best, suicidal at worst.) It’s hard to look super chic, long locks a-flowing (or pigtails, as it were), when your locks are squashed under a piece of blocky plastic headgear. And, today Mr. Pigtales surprised me with my very own blindingly bright blast-from-the-80’s fluorescent green bike jacket from Sports Basement. This way, cars will know to stay the &*#% away from me on commute days. (And, since Mr. Pigtales has one of his own, we can look like a totally puke-on-your-shoe matchy-matchy safety-conscious bicycle geek couple.) Laugh all you want, but I love my new jacket. To round out my cycle-geek outfit, I’ve also got some Giro bike gloves (super thin and breathable – love ’em).

neon jacket(While we’re on the subject of bicycle-related recession-prevention program activities (because really, what’s the point of getting into a new sport if you can’t spend all your time shopping for new gear?), I have also become the proud new owner of a Terry Liberator X bicycle saddle (jury’s still out, ladies), bright yellow F’izik handlebar tape (to pimp my ride, of course), and some new brake pads to replace the somewhat janky ones on my otherwise awesome citrus-hued bike.)

In sum, it looks like my cycle geekery leaves me highly unlikely to have my photo snapped for Velo Vogue any time soon. The only saving grace is that I’m still holding out on spandex (notwithstanding the fact that a co-worker’s wife told me – in hushed tones – that her bike shorts changed her life). And maybe I too can venture into cycle chicness on leisurely weekend rides when I can leave my bike-commute-warrior outfit at home. Speaking of which, there’s a “Style Ride” this weekend starting at Push Bike in the Mission. Will I see you there??

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