Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Buena Vista (San Francisco)

 Many years ago, I spent 2 years in central CA acquiring a Masters degree. I loved the area in which I lived & studied. If I could afford to live there, I would. During those 2 years, I visited San Francisco several times. I loved it. It became my favorite US city (after Pittsburgh, of course). I wished I could live there. One of my favorite things: Irish Coffee at The Buena Vista. My mom introduced me to it. There is something about this particular Irish Coffee. Is it the cream? The coffee? The whiskey? The method? The misty/foggy air? Sitting at communal tables talking with strangers from all over while pretty much everyone downs Irish Coffee after Irish Coffee?

Since I left CA, I have been in search of an Irish Coffee as good as the one at The Buena Vista. SP humored me in my quest. He would smile and shake his head every time I deemed an Irish coffee unworthy. I think he thought I was a little kooky with my Irish coffee quest. In time, I, too, thought I was nuts. Maybe I was misremembering?

By luck (or was it...?!), our hotel was very, very close to The Buena Vista. After we checked in, we walked up the hill, seated ourselves at a communal table, and ordered Irish Coffees.

One sip and I knew. I wasn't misremembering. One sip and I saw I had convinced SP I was not nuts. He waited a bit, taking a few more sips before looking at me and admitting that I was right. There's just something about this Irish Coffee.

The Buena Vista serves food, too. It was 2 pm pacific time, so 5 pm for us, and all we'd eaten that day was an airplane omelet (we were upgraded to first class for the flight - whoo!). We were hungry. We had dinner reservations at 5:15pm, but to tide us over, we shared another San Francisco treat: Clam Chowder Sourdough Bread Bowl:
It's possible that there are chowders in bread bowl along the eastern coast, but I've never seen/enjoyed one, maybe I just haven't been to the right places. To me, it's a San Francisco/central CA thing. Sourdough? I've had good sourdough outside central CA, but there's something about the sourdough from the San Francisco bakeries.
The chowder is yummy, but the best thing is to scrape up bread bits with bites of chowder. Scrape and scrape and scrape until the soup is gone and you see the crust, then rip it apart and eat the crust. We couldn't finish the entire bread bowl, but the Irish Coffees & soup in a bread bowl were just what we needed to fuel us for walking along the water.
We also went for breakfast one morning. It's never too early for an Irish Coffee, especially one with 2 eggs, bacon, house potatoes, and sourdough toast.
We had many Irish Coffees at The Buena Vista during our 3 days in San Francisco. On our last day of vacation, before going to the airport, we drove back to San Francisco and went back for one last Irish Coffee. I'm still trying to figure out just what makes them so darn good. The bartenders line up lots of Irish Coffee glasses and pour in boiling water to heat them. 
When it's time, the glasses are emptied, 2 sugar cubes plunked in, hot coffee poured over top, and it's given a vigorous stir. Next comes the Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey. 
 The final touch: the cream that floats on top. 
And then, you enjoy it. And order another.

I really do think the Irish coffee at The Buena Vista is the best I've ever had. I don't even mind how crazy crowded it can get. I don't even mind how touristy it can be. Maybe I'm just a silly tourist since The Buena Vista seems to get a lot of attention. Maybe it's that this is the first Irish coffee I ever had. Maybe it's because my mom brought me here on my first trip to San Francisco. Maybe it's sitting in my favorite US city, watching the cable car turnaround, looking out at the Pacific Ocean, watching all the other tourists walk by, talking with strangers at the communal tables, everyone enjoying their Irish coffee. Maybe it's that I feel "at home" because it's a place I've been to every time I've been in San Francisco since my first visit back in 1994. Whatever it is, I'm a big fan. I think I've made SP a fan, too. And hopefully, we'll be back soon.

The Buena Vista Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

I have been taking a break from the blog. There are a lot of reasons, but the main reason is that I've developed some sort of repetitive stress injury/tendinitis/carpal tunnel, whatever you want to call it when your hand, wrist, arm hurt, ache, tingle almost all the time. I had it last summer, too, after I spent a lot of time on the computer researching our London trip. It started up again this spring/summer when I started researching some potential home projects and vacation. It's not bad enough to justify a doctor visit, and it could just be a new symptom of my main health problem. It's just super annoying.

The best thing to do is limit time on the computer and tablet and smart phone.

It hasn't helped that in the past couple of months, I've slammed tingly, achy arm's elbow into things many times, sending pain shooting up & down my arm. 
Another reason for the blog break: I killed my computer. OK, seriously disabled it for several days while SP spent a lot of time trying to fix it. I'm embarrassed to say, I was struggling to move my monitor, and somehow, I tipped it in such a way that I snapped the HDMI cable. It is unusable. I also somehow wrecked some wires/connection inside the monitor. I now have a new cable plugged into a new spot on the monitor and everything is OK. For now. It's more technical than that, but that's the main gist.

The broken cable also resulted in some computer maintenance and wiping and updating to a new Windows version and then having to reset all my stuff and reinstall stuff and... ugh.
Another blog break reason: we had guests in town. TX family was here for a visit in early July. It was, as always, lovely to see them. We had SP's family here for a July 4 cookout. We smoked pork shoulder and made mac & cheese. Sadly, the fireworks in our town were cancelled because of rain.
And finally, we went on vacation. Surprisingly, SP had accrued enough vacation days that he was getting emails of imminent vacation accrual loss. So, to use the vacation days instead of losing them, we planned a vacation to San Francisco and Monterey, CA. It had been 13 years since my last trip to San Francisco and even longer since I graduated from grad school in Monterey. I've always raved about how amazing and lovely Monterey is and how I'd love to live there. SP always humored me, thinking I was a little crazy. I finally got to show him around San Francisco, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, and he, too, fell in love with the area. 

It was a fantastic vacation. I showed him my old apartment, showed him around my grad school, we ate a lot of clam chowder, dined with friends who still live in the area, walked along the coast, dined along the water, got some sunburn despite breezy and chilly temps, saw some gorgeous scenery, and escaped real life for 10 days.

Now we're home and getting back into the usual routine.

Regular blogging may or may not resume. I took photos of all our food in CA, I just need my wrists and arms to feel not sore.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


When we see a show with my parents, we always go to dinner at Meat & Potatoes. SP & I have liked the restaurant for years and my parents like it a lot, too, although they only dine there when they're with us. It was, as usual, delicious, and we tried a new-to-us dish. 
The Smoked Brisket Mac & Cheese (coffee BBQ, maytag blue cheese, horseradish, BBQ potato chips). This was so darn tasty. Even SP liked it and he dislikes blue cheese.   
 As usual: Fried Brussels (parmesan / lemon aioli).
 Another usual: Fried Pickles (spicy ranch). Still my favorite fried pickles.  
My usual, my favorite sandwich: Three Little Pigs (pork milanese, ham, bacon, swiss, fried egg)
It's enormous and I could only eat a bit over one third but it makes me so happy, all that piggy goodness.
Dad had Pot Roast (braised chuck roast, baby carrots, turnips, cipollini onions, parsnips, horseradish, gremolata) but I didn't take a photo. Mom had Lamb Neck Cassoulet (Jamison Farms lamb, lamb bacon streusel, lamb sausage, five beans, mint yogurt, watercress) but the photos turned out blurry. SP had Salmon (black rice, kim chi, cucumber, chinese sausage, korean hot sauce, fried egg, ginger scallion relish). His salmon looks like a black blob in the above photo, oh well. 
 As usual, we ordered one of each dessert & shared. There was a vanilla custard.
 There was a chocolate pot de creme.
And there was a blueberry-key lime one. This one was too tart for me, mom, & dad, so SP got to enjoy all of it.
Then we waddled out and went home where I tried to relax with tea and water but I was so darn full. I suppose the Sgt. Pepper’s Old Fashioneds (bulleit bourbon, bpt syrup, whiskey barrel bitters, lemon) didn't help things. I was a piggy who ate a lot of piggy but it was worth it.

Still one of our favorite restaurants.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Chicken with Herb Roasted Tomatoes & Pan Sauce

It's getting warmer. And busier. We always seem extra busy in summer and have less time to devote to time-consuming dishes. Even if it's something hands-off that simmers or braises for a few hours, we often don't even have a few afternoon hours for that. So we usually turn to chicken breasts, baked or grilled or sauteed. But they can be boring, they need a sauce, a topping, and after a while, even our ususal toppings/sauces become boring.
I was adding more ripped out recipes to my binders when I saw this one: Chicken with Herb Roasted Tomatoes & Pan Sauce. Lots of tomatoes. Roasted. With herbs de provence, of which we have a large canister since my mom decided she wasn't going to use it.
Small tomatoes roast quickly. I love roasted tomatoes, especially if the tomatoes aren't at their best. We usually buy the grape/cherry tomatoes from Costco and they are usually pretty good.
Lots of juice, a splash of vinegar, some Worcestershire, some shallot.
And the sliced, cooked chicken breasts.
We followed the advice of many reviewers and used only 1 tbsp, not 2 tbsp, of herbs de provence, and it was plenty. Our fresh parsley & fresh tarragon weren't big enough to use so we used dried. There are lots of tasty herbs in this dish.
This was a huge hit. It definitely needs a bread or rice alongside to absorb/soak up all the tomato juice/acidity. We chose rice. We made some zoodles for the vegetable. This dish reheats nicely (15-20 minutes at 350 in our toaster oven). The tomatoes and their juices help to keep it juicy.
Definitely a make again dinner. We are, sadly, almost out of herbs de provence. I never thought it was something I'd want to keep in the spice/herb drawer but we seem to use it a lot. It's great to liven up plain roasted chicken or turkey. We use it on chicken breasts that we slice and eat atop salad. We use it on the turkey breast we roast for my lunch. And now we'll be using it on roasted tomatoes with chicken.

Recipe here.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday Thoughts

This has been a busy week.

Monday was very exciting. First, deck guy came to finish sealing the deck. It looks prettier and hopefully will be better able to handle the elements. Second, not long after deck guy arrived, yard guy(s) arrived. Finally, fresh, new mulch. The purple catmint was tamed. Weeds were pulled. It looks pretty (for now!).

Tuesday I was in charge of meeting with the guy who came to give us an estimate on doing some work. It's a lot of work that does not need to be immediately done - well, some of it does need to be immediately done - but we'll need to do all of it sometime in the next 2-5 years. It's also the kind of work that costs $XX,XXX. Yipes.

Wednesday was exciting, too. The windows were cleaned! It hadn't been done in... uhh... I'm ashamed to admit. Last winter, there were several days when I looked out at the setting sun and saw the haze/dust/dirt on the windows. It was gross. But the windows were beautifully clear, at least until the overnight rain storm.

Last weekend we went to see Chicago. I've always wanted to see that show so I was very excited when I saw it was coming. My mom wanted to see it, too, so she & my dad went with us. After, we went to dinner at Meat & Potatoes. Everyone ate way too much food but it was so yummy.

Last Sunday's Game of Thrones was one of the best episodes, maybe the best, although I knew (or hoped) what would happen. Really, could it have been any different? If it had been different, I think fans would have revolted.

We've been watching Brain Dead on CBS but aren't sure how we feel about it. I started watching Animal Kingdom on TNT but am not sure I like it enough to keep watching. Person of Interest ended and I think I am satisfied with the series finale. I was ready for it to end.

I read Tuesday Nights in 1980 by Molly Prentiss and enjoyed the novel. It was kind of sad. My library  book pile is at 3 books. The magazine pile is currently at 0, unless you count the National Geographic from 2013 that I've never read but is the perfect size on my C-Table for water & tea instead of using a coaster.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Asparagus-Ham-Gruyere Frittata

Some time ago, Googer gifted me with a copy of The Science of Good Cooking from America's Test Kitchen. We love this cookbook and have made several recipes from it. All have been excellent.

A few weeks ago, we decided to make frittata for dinner. You would think by now we wouldn't need a recipe for a frittata, but sometimes when we just do it, it's just not as good as following a recipe from a trusted source. Our ingredients don't mesh as nicely, our egg filling is missing a little something.
So we followed TSOGC recipe for Asparagus-Ham-Gruyere Frittata. However, we halved it. A 12 egg frittata was a bit much for the two of us.
We bought some ham steak in a package. I trimmed it and cut it into small cubes. I also chopped the asparagus into small pieces while SP grated the gruyere and whisked up the egg mixture.
Some time on the stovetop, a little time under the broiler, and dinner is served. It doesn't take long to make (especially if you chop/grate everything ahead of time), it's easy, it's filling, and it's yummy. I like this ham-asparagus-gruyere combination. Definitely a frittata combination we'll make again.

Recipe here.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Bird Intimidation

It's like the wild kingdom in our yard. Otis the Groundhog and his buddies routinely venture up from the woods to munch on our grass and flowers. Barry Bunny and his friends like to eat the dandelions and pea shoots. The deer like to walk through and munch on stuff. Randy Raccoon likes to try to tear our trash can apart and once upon a time left us some raccoon poop on the deck. That was lovely. The squirrels like the walnut trees and scampering around on the deck and through the herb pots. I know there are mice and hawks. There is a never-ending "supply" of wolf spiders, ants, small spiders, daddy long legs, stink bugs, and those terrifying house centipedes. There have been too many wasp and bee nests to keep count. I already wrote about Sammy Snake. He scares me the most. Stray cats wander around the yard and sometimes meow and screech. Ugh I hate cats. But even more than the cats, I think I hate the birds. Birds disgust me.

They poop on the deck, frequently within moments of it being freshly washed & sealed. They poop on the driveway and walkway. The poop on the windows, and not just any window but the hardest to clean windows, the ones that require a ladder carefully anchored on a slope to clean the exterior of them. They hurl themselves into the windows, leaving bird goop behind and often killing themselves, leaving bird bodies under the windows for nocturnal critters to enjoy. They fly around in large groups and land on the roof, all flapping their wings at the same time, making a horrible, scary movie, Alfred Hitchcock kind of vibe.

And then there are the nests. They love to build nests under the deck. Then they FREAK if you go under the deck to mow or weed or destroy a wasp nest. I tried to be nice. After all, nests are for eggs and eggs mean helpless baby birds. It's not like I want more birds, but I don't really want to kill them.

Well, I didn't. Not until Sammy Snake started lurking and slithering around the top and underside of the deck. I'm pretty sure he was hoping to snag a bird egg. Therefore, the way I see it, the birds I already despise are attracting a critter that completely freaks me out. I can't let that stand.

So I asked SP to get rid of the bird nests. He wasn't too happy but he saw my point. When he came back inside one morning after being on a destroy wasp and bird nest mission, I asked him how it had gone. He was happy to report that the wasps were handled. The bird nests? Well, Bird Who Tweets Like A Maniac Whenever You Go Under the Deck was apparently looking right at him, giving him the eye, intimidating him, and he couldn't do it. He couldn't bring himself to knock out the nest.

I was not happy. I get it, I do, but... snake. And also, I personally feel the bird population is a little to populous here at Casa Yum Yum. Has he seen the amount of bird poo around the house, yard, deck, patio - even smeared on tree leaves?!

So wife evil eye and chirping trumped bird evil eye & chirping and SP went back out and knocked out the nest. He looked miserable about it. I felt bad.

I felt even worse when an hour later the deck guy called to say he'd be stopping by to power wash the deck. No way the nest would survive that, so if we'd just waited a couple hours, we both would have "won." SP would not have felt like a baby bird killer and I would have gotten the bird nests removed.

We aren't the only ones attacking birds, though. SP found this pile in the back yard. Guess one of the stray cats had a successful day.