A Year Older and a Touch Crabby

Today I entered into the last year of my twenties and I'm a little crabby about it. My twenties were great - don't get me wrong. I feel satisfied in my celebration of youth. I played hard and well - and it's not like the fun is over. I just think it's time my spirit caught up with my body, which is apparently aging in dog years. I throw my neck out with a sneeze, I already have arthritis, 'comfortable' has become a prerequisite for shoes, and my hangovers like to hang on for days. Most of these I can actually blame on 25 years of soccer. However, rather than sulk, I have decided to embrace my pending thirties and all the exciting things it will offer - like one piece bathing suits and great bottles of wine. I can also throw a proper dinner party and my guests will show up sober enough to eat - a very exciting prospect indeed. I threw my first official dinner party in San Fran this Friday and I'm happy to say it was quite a successful night -despite lacking one chair, one plate and one bowl (because apparently I only buy things in fours). But hey, I'm only 29.

I recently attended a spectacular dinner party, thrown by a friends' Mother, who was an obvious veteran in the kitchen. I never truly appreciated how much planning and thought goes into a dinner party. All those years of my Mother whipping together seemingly effortless parties - table set, hair done, food edible. It wasn't until I threw my own that I realized what a true talent it is. Needless to say, the spread my friend's Mother presented us was impressive and has fast become one of my favorite discoveries in San Francisco: dungeness crab. Dinner was simple and splendid: a steaming pile of lightly seasoned dungeness crab, a tray of gigantic Californian artichokes, and a curry spiked aioli for your dunking pleasures. While quite the labor intensive meal, I have always enjoyed picking crabs. First introduced to the ritual by the Maryland blue crab, I became enamored not only with the succulent meat, but with the methodic cracking, snapping and rummaging involved. Plus the slow pace allows for greater overall beer consumption, which is an obvious plus. I found dungeness crab similar in taste and presentation to blue, just on steroids. Blue crabs are typically covered in Old Bay and dunked in vinegar, while a traditional preparation of Dungeness crab in San Francisco is lighter in seasoning and therefore dunked in something serious like spiked mayo (or it's more delicately named cousin, aioli). Blue, dungeness, snow, or stone - all I ask is that you save me a seat.

I tried my hand at steamed crab and much to my delight, I found it fairly easy. I like this recipe from the original experts of steaming crabs. Here's an easy guide to steaming artichokes.

Now for the fun stuff:

Wild Curry Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayo (if you'd like to make your own mayo its easy.)
  • 2t. curry powder
  • 1T. Worchestshire sauce
  • 1T. Lemon juice
If curry isn't your thang, I suggest whipping up a similar meyer lemon aioli:

Meyer Lemon Aioli:
  • 1 cup mayo 
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1T. fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/2t. Dijion mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
For both recipes:
  1. Stir together all ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Don't you just want to eat him up?! 

Not literally,
- The Heat


The Weekend Warrior

It has been a busy two months. The weeks have been dominated by sitting in a chair and on the weekends, never sitting down. This season I was introduced to the joys of west coast skiing and the related thigh burn. Tahoe has gotten somewhere around 40 feet of snow this season, so my skinny jeans are about one ski day away from bursting at the seams. And it's happened before, thanks to Coach Steel, my college weigh training coach, and his repetitious hang cleans. Skiing on the West Coast has been a bit of an adjustment for me, as an East Coast girl who learned to use her edges at age 3. My first powder day (an entirely new term for me) I found myself repeatedly head-over-heels with a mouth full of snow until I learned to sit back a little and enjoy the ride. Even my skis needed an overhaul - my razor sharp toothpicks sunk like a ship, binding my legs hopelessly in waist deep powder until my ever-patient boyfriend could dig me out. When I finally strapped on some powder skis - which looked like giant canoes to me - it was a whole new ballgame. I also picked up some tire chains while I was at it, an essential item I learned after sitting on the same square of pavement for two hours while everyone put snow boots on their car. And then we sat again due to an avalanche warning - no big deal. But the 12hr trip quickly slipped from our minds when we were waist deep in powder the following morning. Now that the transition's over and I'm a tried and true pow-pow vet, I fear the day I have to make the transition back. Back to ice. Back to cold. Back to the biting wind of the great North East.

It is a scientific fact that your skin gets thinner when you're not exposed to drastic temperatures for a period of time. No? Okay, maybe not. Maybe I have just become a West Coast wuss. I traveled back to New York for work last week, and while it was record highs for NYC (fantastic timing on my part), I was dressed for the Alaskan tundra. And no matter what I did, I just couldn't get warm. I also couldn't sleep due to noise. I've lived in California for seven months and I'm soft already! My first year in Manhattan I lived on the second floor of a building on First Avenue. I slept with my head on a pillow on a pothole that was continuously bottomed out by a mac truck. I slept like a baby and I was damn proud of it! Now I'm that girl who wears ear muffs and a parka on a 40º day and travels with earplugs. What has become of me?! My brother warned me that the second I use the word 'hella' in any sort of context I will be boarded on the next flight home. I fear I might be close.

Besides gnarly new lingo, California has also introduced me to a new health food to power me through the days - whether sitting in a chair at work or 'sitting-in-a-chair' riding the pow. Quinoa is a new addition to my plate. The word is also new to my palate. Pronounced 'Keen-wah' and apparently not 'key-no-ah', as the über-hip server at my local salad bar pointed out to me in an absurdly loud manner. I swear I heard nearby patrons gasp in horror at my uncouth pronunciation. But for those that didn't grow up on a commune, quinoa can now be found amongst the lentils and rice at your local grocery store. I recommend giving it a whirl for multiple reasons:
  1. It appears to be the healthiest food on Earth. Okay, maybe that's a stretch, but there's not much this little seed lacks in terms of nutritional content. It has high levels of magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron, riboflavin, phosphorus, copper, triptophan, B6, thiamin, and niacin. It's a 'complete protein' meaning it contains all 9 essential amino acids. Plus it has 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. And it;s only 220 calories per cup. Convinced yet? No? Keep reading...
  2. It costs less than $1 per serving. 
  3. The taste is mild, yet nutty and takes on the flavor of whatever you mix in it.
  4. It cooks start to finish in about 15 minutes.
  5. The texture is glorious. Like biting into tiny eyeballs. What, that doesn't do it for you? Okay well how about this: it is actually a type of goosefoot (chenopodium). Drop that at your next dinner party.
  6. It was called 'the gold of the Incas' and served to warriors before battle. And everyone knows that Incas were badass.
Maybe that Inca needs to eat a little more quinoa.

My love of the goosefoot started with a dish I routinely ordered for lunch from a place called Fleur de Sel in downtown San Francisco. Their salad was an amazing mix of quinoa, roasted beets, mandarin oranges, arugula, crumbled goat cheese, slivered almonds, and a handful of dried cranberries, served with a simple vinaigrette. I had a sick obsession with it until they ripped the rug from under me and began serving a different concoction of feta cheese, cucumbers, beets, and red onions. The nerve! (Although it is admittedly almost as delicious - almost). Now I create my obsession at home and share it with thee in hopes that even just one of you becomes a believer:

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Beets, Oranges, Almonds and Cranberries:
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa. (1 part quinoa, 2 parts water, cooked for 15min. Tips here).
  • 2 medium sized beets
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil: 1/4 to drizzle on the beets, 1/4 for the dressing.
  • Couple pinches of salt and pepper: pinch for the beets, pinch for the dressing.
  • 3 naval oranges: Section one, juice the others for the dressing.
  • 1t red wine vinegar
  • 2t soy sauce
  • 1T agave nectar
  • 2 handfuls of arugula
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º
  2. While the quinoa is cooking, roast the beets. Place trimmed, cleaned beets in a square of tinfoil, drizzle with olive oil, a crack of pepper and pinch of salt. Fold up tinfoil and place in center of heated oven for 30-45minutes or until fork tender.
  3. Meanwhile make the salad dressing. Whisk the olive oil, vinegar, orange juice, soy sauce, agave nectar, salt and pepper in small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Set aside to cool, rub off skin when cool enough to handle (I do this under a running faucet to avoid staining my hands and everything else around me). Coarsely chop.
  5. Combine warm quinoa, arugula, orange sections, with the dressing in a large bowl and mix liberally. Top with roasted beets, almonds, and cranberries.
Eat like a warrior,
The Heat


Turning into a Chrismoose: A Week in NYC

For the first twenty two years of my life, my only real knowledge about the island of Manhattan consisted of the city at Christmas time. Every year my parents would pack up the whole family for a trip into the city to see the holiday splendor: skating underneath the tree at Rockefeller Center, carriage rides through Central Park, window shopping down 5th Avenue. To me, New York City was ten square blocks of Christmas cheer that smelled of hot pretzels and horses. It was love at first sight.

Manhattan at Christmas time is one of the most magical times to be in the city, which is part of the reason I chose to bare the cold and snow to spend a full week back home. I hadn't been back to New York since we moved to San Francisco last July, so it was long overdue. To say I was excited is a tremendous understatement. Such excitement can only be monitored and controlled with a list. Is that weird? I write lists to calm down, clear my head and focus at the task on hand. Which this December was hitting up all my favorite spots in NYC in exactly seven days. I am a wild child.

Here is my very own personal pocket guide to dining in NYC - a quick hit list of favorite institutions of all shapes, sizes, wallets and scenes. Perhaps not as 'on trend' now that I live 3,000 miles away, however this list was made with my heart for the pleasure of my tummy:

The Heat's Hottest NYC Restaurants

  • Balthazar: French bistro. Great for brunch.
  • Jane: Terrific brunch.
  • Boqueria: Spanish tapas, fun atmosphere. 
  • Shorty’s .32: small, casual restaurant in Soho. Great vibe and food.
  • Il Mulino: Expensive Italian. 
  • Raouls: French Bistro with the best steak frites. 
  • Torrisi Italian Specialties: Casual Italian in Soho. Great sandwiches too.
  • DBGB Kitchen and Bar: Casual Daniel Boulud, burgers, sausages, great atmosphere. 
West Village:
  • Mary's Fish Camp: My favorite lobster roll.
  • Mercadito: Bite sized tacos and spicy margaritas. 
  • The Spotted Pig: Fun, crowded gastropub.
  • The Waverly Diner: For a 4am Waverly melt: a burger patti inside a grilled cheese.
  • Taim: Best falafel. 
  • Bleeker Street Pizza: my favorite NY slice. 
  • Yerba Buena: Fancy Latin fare, terrific drinks. 
  • Little Owl: American fare in the Friends apartment building.
  • Commerce: Great bar for cocktails and roasted chicken, on a quintessential block.
Greenwich Village
  • Babbo: Best pasta sampler menu. Worth the dough (pun intended).
  • Minetta Tavern: Great steaks, tough reservations. 
  • Hundred Acres: Lovely brunch spot. Great Bloody Mary selection.
  • Blue Hill: Farm fresh American fare near newly renovated Washington Sq Park
East Village
  • Motorino: Amazing Neopolitan pizza. Casual, fun atmosphere. Small space. 
  • Frank: Homestyle Italian, no reservations. Get the ragu. 
  • Ippudo: Noodles, noodles and noddles. 
  • Gemma: Beautiful Italian restaurant, fun atmosphere in the Bowery Hotel.
  • Il Buco: Quirky Mediterranean fare on Bond Street.
  • Mermaid Inn: Casual seafood. 
  • Heche en Dumbo: Trendy Mexican. 
  • The Smith: French bistro, fun atmosphere. 
  • Momofuku Ssam Bar: Haute Asian, great experience, reservations. 
Midtown East
  • Sushi Yasuda: The freshest sushi, clean atmosphere. 
  • Convivio: Fancy southern Italian in Tudor City.
  • Bukhara Grill: Terrific, albeit pricey Indian. 
Midtown West/Meatpacking/Chelsea:
  • The Breslin: Gastropub at Ace Hotel. Also a great sandwich spot in there (Sub No.7)
  • Marea: Fancy seafood on Central Park South
  • Scarpetta: Haute Italian, however their simplest dish is their best: tomato and basil pasta.
Lower East Side:
  • Kuma Inn: Best overall Asian. Casual atmosphere, BYOB. 
  • Frankie's Spuntino: Homestyle, inexpensive Italian. 
  • Little Giant: Small, hip, great for brunch. 
  • Beauty and Essex: Trendy American, small plates, beautiful restaurant.
Gramcery/Flat Iron/Union Square:
  • Aldea: Portuguese/American fare.
  • Casa Mono: small plate fare from Mario Batali (Bar Jamon for drinks before/after). 
  • Tamarind: My favorite Indian spot. 
  • Gotham Bar and Grill: Manhattan staple, American fare. 
  • Gramercy Tavern: Fancy American fare. Expensive, but worth it. 
  • Union Square Cafe: NY staple. American fare (order the duck). 
  • Veritas: Known for their winelist, but terrific food too. Very expensive. 
  • Shack Shack: Best burger. All over the city now, but I love the one in Madison Sq Park.
  • Dave’s Bagels: best bagel in town. 
  • Locanda Verde: Small plate Italian, haute atmosphere. 
  • Smith and Mills: nymag used the term hipstaurant, and accurately so. A real gem.
  • Max: Meatballs, meatloaf and truffled ravioli.
  • Bubby's: Comfort food at it's best.
  • Landmarc: Half bottles of wine and affordable French bistro fare.
  • Perry Street: Beautiful restaurant on the West Side Highway. Great views.
Upper West Side:
  • Dovetail: Expensive French UWS.
  • Sushi of Gari: Avant garde sushi. Very expensive. 
  • Celeste: Pizza/Italian. 
  • Nonna: Homestyle Italian. 
Upper East Side:
  • Cafe D'Alsace: Belgian beers and Alsatian food
  • Poke: Affordable sushi, BYOB, casual. 
  • Peter Lugers: My favorite steak house, under the Brooklyn Bridge.
  • Tanoreen: Turkish fare far off in Brooklyn.
  • Hibino: Pressed sushi in Brooklyn Heights.
  • Henry's End: Wild game in Brooklyn.
  • Vinegar Hill House: Cozy American fare, Vinegar Hill.
While I didn't check off every food item on my list, I did squeeze in my fair share of fare in between visiting all my loved ones. And while the trip was an overall success, I didn't realize just how much of a whirlwind my vacation was until I landed in laid back, quiet, San Francisco. As hectic as the holidays always are, this year proved to have more obstacles than normal. In just seven days we had a case of the stomach flu, a shopping bag of gifts stolen, lost our friends' car in Brooklyn, broke and almost lost my Christmas gift over a penthouse balcony, a blizzard, a delayed flight home with a screaming baby and a partridge in a pear tree. But despite all the mishaps, when I walked into work Monday morning at 6am with just under three hours of sleep, and my coworkers asked me 'how my vacation was' all I could do was smile. Because even after all that, I still ♥ NYC.

We all know how prohibitively expensive it'd be to actually purchase the items from the beloved carol, The Twelve Days of Christmas, so I wrote my own version, as an ode to the dear city that never sleeps and how fat it made me in just one week:

♫On the twelfth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me,
♪Twelve David's bagels
♪Eleven risotto balls,
♪Ten bowls of pasta,
♪Nine chicken parms,
♪Eight frozen hot chocolates,
♪Seven ramen a-swimming,
♪Six lamb shwarmas,
♪Five dirty dogs,
♪Four lobster rolls,
♪Three pretzel croissants,
♪Two Shack stacks,
♪And a Bleeker pizza just for me! 

Nothing like shrink wrap to mark the end of the season.

Happy New Year!
- The Heat


Men At Work: Turkey Day LA Style

This year was the first in 28yrs that I wasn't home for Thanksgiving. (Hold off on the tissues, Mom, I kept it light). While I missed my family dearly, I finally had an excuse to partake in my friend's family's epic Thanksgiving cook-off. The tradition started 19yrs ago by her father and a few wise men, referred to as 'the Founding Fathers'. Their job is to coordinate and judge a spectacular men-only culinary competition. Starting in the wee hours of the morning with bloody mary's in hand, the men take over the kitchen (garage, backyard, and living room) and create an obscenely large feast for 40+ attendees. The competition is taken very seriously, with tons of thought and preparation beforehand, including step-by-step directions, video walk-throughs, and even the occasional diagram drawn by a well-meaning girlfriend. It should be noted however, that while the day appears to be run by a male oligarchy, there is an overriding female presence - known to some as Jan, others as Mom, but as God to me, for any woman who allows twenty men to take over her kitchen must possess some sort of divine powers.

One of the Founding Fathers:

For the past 10yrs I have heard stories about their family's unique Thanksgivings. There are tales of live turkeys butchered on premise, wild turkeys hunted pre-Thanksgiving, and most famously, baby turkeys accidentally slaughtered by their curious canine. They've had all types of turkey preparations: deep fried, turduckened, brined, roasted. Countless types of stuffings. Endless varietals of spuds. You name it, they've done it. They might be the most practiced Thanksgiving family to date. When my boyfriend and I were invited to join in the festivities and I was told that I could not dress in drag to compete, I knew it was time to get serious about his dish. I may or may not have put my boyfriend through the paces of his dish a few times the week before (I have never eaten so many brussels sprouts). It's not that I didn't trust his culinary prowess, it's just that I don't lose well. I mean we. To say he was a good sport is an enormous understatement. We're already practicing for next year (poor guy). The rules, as I now understand them, after breaking many:

  1. Each year the Founding Fathers deliberate and choose a Master Chef.
  2. The Master Chef is responsible for the main act: Turkey and Stuffing.
  3. To be considered for Master Chef, one must have a college degree OR be at least 26yrs of age.
  4. All male attendees must cook* a dish. No cook, no eat.
  5. All cooking must be on premises. This includes prep work.
  6. All chefs must leave behind a copy of their recipe, to be included in their Ultimate Thanksgiving Cookbook, which I hope to eventually earn a copy of.
  7. No help whatsoever from the women, regardless of how pushy they are.
*cook (kook) v. cookedcook·ingcooks
1. To prepare (food) for eating by applying heat.
2. To prepare or treat by heating.
3. Doing more than arranging the food on a platter.

I wouldn't call myself a trouble maker, per se. I just have difficulty following directions. I doubt I've ever completed a recipe start to finish exactly as instructed. Some call it 'making it their own'. I call it rebelling. I am so badass. When it came to the rules of the day, I struggled with Rule #7. Although it's not entirely my fault. When it comes to holidays, rest just isn't in the cards for my family - it's not in our blood. At holidays past, we've caught my 80yr old Grandmother on a ladder cleaning her gutters before company arrived. In my house you should expect to work harder on holidays than any other day of the year. You can also expect to eat, drink and sleep harder than any other day of the year (and no later than 9pm and always on the couch). It's just how we do it and I would have it no other way. We even coined a term for this particular holiday:

                        - noun 
1.    The American holiday held on the fourth Thursday of November traditionally signified by the giving of thanks, eating of Turkey and being cranky due to staying out too late the night before and being awoken too early to do chores, while feeling less than optimal.

Origin: Huntington, NY circa 1998. 

So you see, it was physically impossible for me not to help this Thanksgiving, even though I got scolded more this holiday than holidays in the past. Luckily I was able to use my rookie status as an excuse for my neurosis this year, as I was constantly shooed out of the kitchen, ordered to 'drop the spoon or else', and banned from the prep area for hovering. Eventually I was quarantined to the side of the house where I was handed bloody marys while I paced in small circles. It's genetic - just ask my brother.

The beautifully lit patio:

The Prep Kitchen:

One of three ovens in use:

Serious concentration:

The dish I didn't help with at all.

The Master Chef in his serious coat:

Caught red handed. (Though this is clearly breakfast, as I'm in my pj's, so it shouldn't really count).

Beautifully presented infused vodkas to keep the ladies at bay.

The final result:

While I haven't gotten my hands on their Ultimate Thanksgiving Cookbook just yet, I can share what we, I mean, my boyfriend cooked for the feast:

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Figs adapted and changed (obviously) from NYT's recipe
(serves 4)
  • 2T olive oil
  • 8 ounces thick cut bacon or pancetta, chopped
  • 1lb Brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 cup fresh figs, stemmed and quartered (dried can be used if out of season)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2T balsamic vinegar, more to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 375
  2. In a large baking pan, sprinkle bacon in an even layer and cook in a high heat oven until crisp, approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Remove bacon from pan and set aside on a paper towel.
  4. Add sprouts to the pan with the olive oil. Shake to coat. Salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 30 minutes until golden, but not charred.
  5. Add figs and continue cooking until slightly browned on the edges, about 10-15 minutes. 
  6. Crumble bacon on top.
I don't know how, but this cranberry chutney was made ahead of time and showed up to the Thanksgiving table. I had nothing to do with it.

And I made it past 9pm!

Happy Cranksgiving,
- The Heat