Have you ever had Mandarin Islamic Chinese food? Did you know there are an estimated 20 million Muslims who live in China? These questions percolated as my taste buds marveled at the unusual combinations of lamb, cumin and other spice mixtures that seemed so new to me. I was first taken to Old Mandarin Islamic by a mom on my son’s soccer team. It was a rainy fall day and the boys and spectators were soaked and chilled. The hot pot beckoned, and I was up for an adventure. Way out in the Sunset district in San Francisco near the beach, this small hole in the wall offers not only a unique culinary experience but a geography and culture lesson in Chinese history. I returned this Sunday to pick up takeout and once again I was blown away. Signs in Arabic welcome the diners as well as the Chinese Sabado Gigante-esque/ quasi American idol show playing in the corner on the big screen TV. Familiar was the standard Chinese restaurant decorations, but unusual were the plaques with sayings from the Koran (I assume). Of course there is no pork on the menu and the lamb is Halal. It seems like the whole family is cooking in the back kitchen and you can see them in action as you traipse through to go to the restroom. The hot pot is a fun diner participation dish, much like fondue or Korean BBQ. Continue reading »
I love Mexican food, but sometimes all the rice and beans and heavy meat can weigh you down. Don’t get me wrong, I love burritos, but I have a hard time not finishing a whole one in a sitting, as much as I’d like to take half home for lunch the next day.
As an East Coast friend said when she first visited me in San Francisco in the early ’90s when our burritos arrived: “That looks like an infant.” She proceeded to place the wrapped burrito by her toned dancer’s belly and question how all that would fit in there. Miraculously it all fit!
Years later in New York City I saw advertisements for “San Francisco Mission Style” Burritos, which of course made me laugh having lived in or near the Mission for more than 15 years. So, my answer to the burrito baby syndrome was to order fish tacos; it seemed like a lighter choice. One of the first places, and to my mind one of the best in the city, is Papalote, a Mexican Grill on 24th street. When my first son was little we ate there once a week because I knew he would get a nutritious meal. The owner knows us well and has seen my son grown on his cooking. Now, my rice and bean aficionado goes to school a block away and we joke that it is because of his favorite restaurant. Don’t miss the fabulous house salsa; it’s a secret but I think it is made with pumpkin. Continue reading »
My husband just returned from a business trip to Vegas. Given the economy, according to his report, Sin City was not buzzing. I jokingly asked him if he hit any buffets and his eyes rolled. He said it had been a while since he had seen such a crop of obese people and consequently he ate very little while away.
Since I was cloistered at home with two boys sick with a stomach bug, it seemed like our entire family was on a peculiar diet. This discussion and my secret obsession with a somewhat trashy/voyeuristic reality show called The Biggest Loser got me to thinking about the obesity epidemic once again. Continue reading »
There I was at the top of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps and Western Europe. Living in Paris for my college semester abroad, I was lucky to have been invited to “sport d’hiver” with a French friend’s family. I was new to skiing and had spent the morning in ski school with toddlers; very humiliating. My friend, who was an expert skier, insisted I join her in the “egg,” the tram to the top of Mont Blanc. She assured me I could take the tram down again.
As I recall, she was preoccupied with a budding romance, and although she cared for me deeply, her focus was, let’s say…elsewhere. Once at the peak, the gruff operator insisted I get off. No, I could not take the lift down to our designated lunch spot at a mountain restaurant. Not wanting to be a drag or imposition, I told her to go on ahead with her crush and I would tackle the triple black diamond slope on my own and meet them there. Continue reading »
January is a time for the dreaded dance of the New Year’s resolution. Gyms are packed, nicotine patches in short supply, folks are scrimping and saving and many look to their waistlines for resolution inspiration. For many, the battle of the bulge still reigns supreme on 2009 to do lists. There is no better time to re-evaluate your diet and exercise routine.
So, I read with interest, a buried article on the MSNBC site, with the headline entitled: Indian airline fires 9 overweight crew members. It is no surprise to me that India is catching up on the obesity epidemic as many Indians have moved into the middle class. In general, weight in India is often a sign of prosperity. In fact, diabetes is a huge concern in a country, once known for famine, where now 35 million people and counting are suffering from the preventable disease. Interestingly, all the attendants fired were women and even though India has laws aimed to protect against discrimination based on factors including caste, gender, and religion, there are no specific ones about weight. Food for thought.
It was the day after Thanksgiving and with stretched out bellies we threw our camping gear in our car, made sure we had hats, gloves, plenty of cocoa and we headed out of the city towards the Sonoma Coast. My husband had to work so I was initially reluctant to join our friends on the impromptu trip. I’m loath to admit it, but despite my claims of equality and the notion that I can do most anything I put my mind to, I usually wind up caring for the kids and organizing food when we go camping. Sometimes I over-think the food and this time I just raided the fridge and cabinets and grabbed what we had.
Last week I wrote a post about the sad reality of British Pub closures. Well now some good news for diners and drinkers this side of the pond. It seems the recession has created a new trend in restaurant and café schedules. Many owners, in order to make ends meet, are expanding, yes, expanding their hours and menus. A recent article in the New York Times entitled: “As Checks Shrink, Restaurants Stretch Hours” describes how in New York City, many watering holes are now open for breakfast or even the traditional dead zone between lunch and dinner.
Feeding and hydrating the growing legions of unemployed and frugal foodies has not only altered the hours of business but transformed restaurants’ repertoires. Some high end places are expanding meal service and creating cheaper menus to attract cost conscious diners. With more time on our hands, we may want to take a break from the economic woes of our time, turn off the tube, unplug and get out and partake of some frugal breakfasts or pre Happy Hour libations. Certainly for visitors to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps, making it even easier to find what you crave whenever you crave it is good news.
Have you noticed this trend in your neck of the woods?
It is Indian summer in the San Francisco Bay Area, or as locals like to say: “Earthquake Weather.” It’s no secret: late October is one of the best times of year to visit San Francisco and environs. I had been hankering for some outdoor time, so we planned a hike with a friend and her son last Sunday. It had been sunny and sweltering for days, beautiful, crisp and clear, just painful to be indoors. Murphy’s Law, the day we headed out to Point Reyes it was foggy and cold. I actually prefer hiking when it’s a bit blustery, so we weren’t too upset, and when my friend suggested we meet at the Bovine Bakery in Point Reyes Station. I heartily agreed, looking forward to a warm cup of coffee and a treat. Continue reading »
When I lived in London during the downtrodden Thatcher era, the local pub was a sanctuary, a respite from the cold, foggy, dismal daily life, a life I now look back at fondly. I’m not much of a beer drinker, I much prefer wine, but who wouldn’t love the cozy warmth, the expected smoky haze and the watering hole atmosphere? Sure, it was more of a guys’ scene, I remember the blokes I lived with counting their pints, squeezing in a fifth one before last call, as I nursed my shandy: a disgusting combo of beer and “lemonade” (British 7-Up). They used to stagger home, while I fretted about who would make it without face-planting into a neighbor’s yard. OK, so the scene did get old after the novelty wore off, but I never tired of the yummy pub-grub and the feeling of camaraderie. Continue reading »
Cherries were twelve-Euros (about 18-dollars) a kilo, a coffee in an un-trendy, un-touristy area, six-dollars, and it seemed the only deal on food was, predictably, baguettes and wine. I was stuck, trying not to spend too much money on my unplanned trip to Paris this August. I was visiting to help a friend though surgery and had not budgeted for the trip. Luckily, cooking in her adorable apartment was pleasant and she was nice enough to treat me to a few lovely meals. The dollar, however, was so weak it was painful. I know Paris well, however, and know where to find deals, where to shop and how to live cheaply while still enjoying my stay. Here are a few simple things I did that saved me a lot, without compromising my visit too much.
1) Bring a reusable water bottle: it’s great for the plane (empty it before going through security and refill before boarding.) Water was outrageously expensive, and I really didn’t want to spend twenty dollars a day on mere hydration.
2) Pack food from home. Maybe it’s the mom in me, but I packed a few simple, nourishing snacks like sunflower seeds and dried fruit. It may sound depressing on a trip to the culinary capital of Paris, but I made room in my baggage, just in case I needed it on the long flight or during my stay. I even brought a few Trader Joe’s items to the hospital and the nurses and doctors loved them. It was a peak moment for laughs when I offered them up in a very American, very un-French gesture of generosity!
3) Choose your cafés wisely. Nothing makes me happier than sitting in a French café sipping a café crème, but at six-dollars a pop, I couldn’t stop for a pick me up too often. In fact, a few days I actually waited till I got to the hospital, where a coffee machine sold a good cup of coffee for one Euro or about a buck fifty. If a coffee machine at a hospital is not up your alley make sure you find a cheaper café; prices do vary. You can also order a noisette, an espresso with a dash of creme in it. It is called “noisette,” French for hazelnut, because of the rich, dark color of the coffee. If you are pinching your pennies, or just want to save for a few strategic splurges, don’t go to a café on the Champs Elysee, rather, opt for a small cozy spot like this one pictured in the Marais District. However, if you do want to linger, write postcards, rest your weary feet or soak up the scenery, an exorbitant cup of coffee is worth the price in Paris. Continue reading »