A Weekend of Aphrodisiacs: Champagne, Oysters and Glee.

It has been too beautiful out to stay inside and write, though I have been meaning to sit down and reflect on last weekend all week. So now that we're back to true San Franciscan fog and chill, I'll just come right out and say it: I spent one day in wine country, one day in oyster country and a night in an 80's bar. Top that!

By 10am on Saturday morning I was sunning myself on the balcony of the chateau Domaine Carneros with a flight of bubbly and a landscape of auburn colored grape vines. I know what my friends back East are thinking - something along the lines of 'shut-up-I-hate-you', but please allow me to brag about where I live for just a moment, as I have spent the past few posts lost somewhere between homesickness and adjustment. Let me have this

Our next stop was Cuvaison Estate Wines, where we were served crisp chardonnay and smooth pinot noirs in a tiny, yet chic modern greenhouse with a wrap around deck. Our group's favorites, besides the 20yr old sommelier who could have passed as Javier Bardem's son, was the 2008 Block Chardonnay and the 2008 F5 Block Pinot Noir. Both of which I purchased, but left at my (lucky) friend's house - ah, the perils of vineyard hopping.

Lunch was at Girl and the Fig in Sonoma Square, where we gorged ourselves on the Fromage Tower (a girl's dream come true), their famed fig and arugula salad (worth the hype), and their top sirloin burger with melted brie and grilled onions as my main course. The only thing I have to say about that is excessive. The traffic on the drive home was mitigated by a case of DCL's (known as Delicious Coors Lights in my house) and a sing along playlist that may or may not have included a number of Glee hits. The singing continued into the night with too much Whitesnake and not enough Guns n' Roses at Butter, rated San Francisco's #1 Trailer Park bar, for their Saturday Rock City Night ("a night of party rock anthemology and smash up madness!") Let me express how relieved I am that there were no video cameras around. It was not pretty.
Sunday was a touch tamer, starting with a breathtaking, albeit windy drive up Rt 1 (a therefore challenging trip for those with a stage 3 hangover). We made a few stops, sometimes for the scenery, more often for yours truly to find her stomach. Our final destination was 1.5hrs north of San Francisco in Marshall, California - otherwise known as Oyster Country. When it comes to my adoration of molluska, I am an equal opportunist. I find West Coast oysters creamier and nuttier than their East Coast cousins, who are saltier, brinier and tougher (a startlingly accurate representation of the coastal inhabitants, bivalve and homosapiens alike). It really depends what you're in the mood for. In my delicate state on Sunday, the less briny, the better. I needed those babies to go down smooth and gentle. And that they did. We washed down two dozen of the freshly shucked beasts on The Marshall Store's patio overlooking sunny and serene Tomales Bay: raw kumamoto, raw Pt Reyes, barbecued oysters, and smoked oysters served with a creamy chipotle sauce over toast points. My hangover virtually vanished - can you blame me?
 NBD, just kicked back a wheelbarrow's worth of bivalves:
In an effort to combine both experiences from my weekend in culinary glee, I recalled a dish from my Brother's engagement party: barbecued oysters with champagne butter. However, if this seems like too much work, stick to a glass of bubbly with a platter of raw oysters - a match made in Northern California heaven.

Barbecued Oysters with Champagne Butter:

For the Champagne Butter Sauce:
  • 2T. minced shallots
  • 2T. unsalted butter
  • 1C Champagne
  • 1 dozen large, fresh, live oysters in their shell (they should feel heavy and be clamped shut) 
  1. Preheat barbecue grill.
  2. Scrub oysters with brush under cold water and set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and soften the shallots over med/low heat, until fragrant.
  4. Add the champagne to the saucepan and reduce by half over medium heat. 
  5. When reduced, cover and keep warm over low heat.
  6. Place oysters cup side down on grill, which should be about 4" from the hot coals. Close lid, open any vents and cook for 8-10 minutes until shells begin to open.
  7. Remove all oysters when first one is completely open. I use an oven mitt to remove the oysters, so as to not spill their juices.
  8. Pry open all oysters with a paring or oyster knife. Sever the muscle, leaving the oyster in it's half shell. Transfer onto a serving platter and drizzle with champagne butter sauce.
  9. Be blissfully happy.
My next recipe may have to be one for roast duck, as my urban, Manhattan raised, previously non-water dog practiced her duck hunting skills on an unsuspecting stick this weekend. 
The stick won.
- The Heat


Faking Fall

I like Halloween. Notice I didn't say love. For one, I'm not a sweets person - candy just ain't my thang. Secondly, I get anxiety over buying something that I will only wear once and I hate clutter. The mere thought of an attic filled with old costumes makes me twitch. I'm odd (read: OCD), what can I say? However, this year I felt differently about the holiday. I don't know what it was - new city, new attitude? But, I found myself stocking up on candy and making my own costume!

It takes a lot to shock the masses in San Francisco. On any given day I can walk into town and see the same two naked old men sitting  in the square (cross-legged, mind you), casually reading their newspapers like it's just another day. And for everyone who walks by, I guess it is just another day because I seem to be the only one who stares (and rubbernecks). It's unbelievable. I could walk out my door in nothing but a babushka and barely get a second glance. So this Halloween I decided to blend in and dress up. I thought I'd wear a costume that gave a nod to my new state, and since every third person was already dressing up as 'The Beard', I decided to take a more feminine direction. I dressed up as our generations "California Girl":
No, no, no, not THAT one. Alas, my 'cupcakes' aren't big enough. I chose her more tasteful(?) outfit from that ridiculous video, which is a dress made up of one of the worst candies to date:
And my furry friend was a dinosaur for the fifth year running. My poor future children.
I realize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for Fall (eh, hem - above). But I just can't get enough. No, really - there's not enough Fall here in San Francisco. I say this as I sit in Dolores Park in a tank top and loads of sunscreen. Yes, it's a beautiful day out - I should really count my blessings, but I am ready to move on. I'm told Fall is on it's way and that it comes disguised as 'Winter' in San Francisco, but I simply can not wait. Fall has always been my favorite season of the year. The smell of the first day of school (I'm a huge nerd), the feel of a new soccer season (a huge jock), the taste of Fall's harvest (and a fatty at heart). Some of my favorite comfort foods coincide with my favorite season: roasted butternut squash, sugar pumpkins, earthy Brussles sprouts, warm bowls of chili, fiery buffalo wings and of course, every form and derivative of apples - cider, sauce, pie, and martini. Now that I have a big girl kitchen to play in, I have been doing a ton of cooking. Recall my former "kitchen" in the West Village and you'll understand my enthusiasm.
Despite the heat in San Francisco, I have had my oven on high, roasting and braising my Fall favorites as if Autumn were actually here. I am officially obsessed with any and all types of squash and I interchange them all fairly liberally. I used to stick loyally to butternut squash merely out of familiarity. But lately I have developed a sick obsession with sugar pumpkins, which I find have a more delicate flavor and are far less pumpkiny than I feared. Plus they look cuter on my countertops. Here are a few wonderful recipes I've stumbled upon this season. Go crazy:

However the absolute essence of Fall for me is the smell of my Mother's Apple Crisp in the oven. Cinnamony, buttery, apply goodness - served piping hot over a spoonful of real vanilla ice cream - Breyer's to be exact. So while I can't see or feel home anytime soon - I can certainly taste it:

Mamma Iss' Apple Crisp:
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2t salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup oats 
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3lbs of Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled and sliced.
  • 2T lemon juice
  • 1/2t. ground cinnamon
  • Real Vanilla Ice Cream
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, brown sugar, white sugar, oats and salt. 
  3. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium/low heat.
  4. When melted, add oat mixture, stirring enough to combine, but maintaining a lumpy consistency.
  5. In another large mixing bowl, combine the apples with the lemon juice and cinnamon.
  6. Transfer apples to a shallow baking dish and sprinkle with oat mixture.
  7. Bake until fragrant, golden and bubbly, about 40 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool for ~10minutes. Spoon over a dollop of ice cream.
And while baseball has always signified Spring and the Yankees in my world, I must give the appropriate praise to the San Francisco Giants and their adoring fans. Though I don't quite understand how blissful celebration aligns itself with lighting mattresses on fire, you all made the walk home the other night more than interesting. My neighborhood:

"West coast represent, now put your hands up!"
- The Heat