Monthly Archives: July 2009

Love Lies Bleeding And Other Flowers From My Mother’s Garden

Thankfully my mother is pinch-hitting for me since I have totally lost all arranging skills after a month on vacation.  The container is from her jar collection–it’s slightly violet-tinted.  All flowers from her garden.

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Getting Back Into Sundays State-side

This is the first Sunday in a long while I’ve been able to enjoy the NY Times crossword puzzle (in the magazine, not the IHT) through dappled sunlight on the porch in Rockridge.  It’s good to be home.

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I Love I Love I Love My Calendar Girl

There are just too many good things going on these days.

IN ROCKRIDGE:

Craft Fair at Pretty Penny, Saturday July 25, 11am-7pm

Pretty Penny, recent winner of not one, but three East Bay Express Best of the Bay 2009 Reader’s Poll Awards (Best Vintage Clothing, Best Women’s Clothing, and Best New Business) (and my favorite vintage shop to boot) will be hosting a craft fair all day this Saturday featuring Oakland and San Francisco’s finest artisans.  Come enjoy beverages and hors d’oeuvres gratis while browsing their wares–plus the hottest vintage styles around.

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A soothing spot to sit in Pretty Penny

Open Opera presents Figaro, Saturday July 25 and Sunday July 26, 3pm

Open Opera is a new organization with a mission–to bring more opera to the world to new and wider audiences (starting with the Bay Area)–and all for free.  In order to do this Open Opera’s performances are staged in our beautiful public parks.  This Saturday and Sunday Open Opera will be performing the Marriage of Figaro at John Hinkel park in North Berkeley.  Peko Peko will be on hand in case sopranos make you hungry.  Sylvan Mishima Brackett says, “Intermit with our summer katsu-sando bento, American-size king salmon onigiri, luxury melon drink, and strawberry ice cream sandwiches!”  You know I will Sylvan, you know I will.

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August Closing Oakland Location Clearance Sale, July 24, 25, and 26 11am-6pm

I report with a heavy heart that I returned to Rockridge to learn that we are losing one of our inveterate retailers, August.  I could always rely on August to bring me a tiny bit of Brooklyn via Refinery29-style faves like Vena Cava and Loomstate, but no longer.  Thankfully their Mill Valley location will stay open, but their loss will be felt in Rockridge.  Stop by to say goodbye and pick up some of their gorgeous wares at painfully low prices.

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FURTHER AFIELD (TONIGHT! TONIGHT! TONIGHT!)

Inara George and Van Dyke Parks, Friday July 24, McCabes Guitar Shop

On her most recent solo album Inara George (the multi-talented member of various and diverse acts such as the Bird and the Bee and the Living Sisters) collaborated with longtime friend Van Dyke Parks, famed composer, songwriter, lyricist, arranger, and producer.  The results are intoxicating.  The New York Times says “Ms. George muses on love, yearning and separation in lyrics that can be ingenuous or surreal…meanwhile Mr. Parks surrounds her ballads and waltzes with a nonstop counterpoint of melodies and of allusions…”  And to see these two characters on a stage together (and one as intimate as McCabes at that) is a real treat.

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Not events but worth mentioning…

Oliveto Community Journal reports via their Twitter: “Rumor has it Catalan Farms has the first EXCELLENT slicer tomatoes of the season! @ [Berkeley Farmer’s Market Thursday and Saturday].”  Tomato season is on the verge of beginning in earnest.  See more on Catalan Farms here.

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Commis Restaurant opened while I was away and I can’t wait to try it…if anyone has any early reviews let me know.

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On My Calendar

I thought I was done traveling for the summer, but it looks like I’m going to be making a trip to Mill Valley for a celebration of Japanese culture with clothing, ephemera, and food all from Japan.  The event is being held at August‘s Mill Valley location and features August’s new shipments from Tokyo, Mato Creative’s handiwork, and Peko-Peko’s delicious cuisine.

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Should be a good time.  Hope to see you there!

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Vacation Playlist

We weren’t really prepared for the amount of time we spent in the rental car going from town to town.  I. had burned a couple discs and figured we’d pick up some blank CD-R’s in Europe–but blank CD-R’s were elusive in the small towns were we were most of the time.  As a result, we listened to these three albums over and over again, which in and of itself was an strange (occasionally tiring) experience (save for our time in Guethary–the house playlist there was CSN demos mostly, but Le Madrid had an amazing and very diverse rotation).  Here they are:

1.  Dirty Projectors Bitte Orca

All I really knew of Dirty Projectors was “Stillness is the Move.” I’d listened to the album a little, but had by no means gotten hooked.  After three weeks of constant listening, I LOVE this album.  It’s just totally insane.  Half the time it sounds like they’re making up the lyrics on the spot (Longstreth at least) but what they are playing and saying is so good I just don’t care.  Lines about living in the basement and washing the dishes?  Led Zeppelin references mixed with out of this world female diva sopranos?  It’s just too much fun.  Winding through the tiny country roads of the Luberon, this sounded like the perfect vacation record.

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2.  Phoenix Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

OK, brace yourselves.  I’m about to make a seriously unpopular statement.  There are about three tracks on this album that are really fun, but the rest of it is completely unlistenable.  Actually, there was a bit of arguing in the car every time we got past the first couple of tracks.  I’d start making fun of the lyrics, “So sentimental, not sentimental no!”  And the title of this album?  Yeah, I get it, it’s “ironic.”  When is irony going to go out of style?  It’s so tired.  Yes, fun, but fleeting.  Nothing I can listen to for three weeks straight.

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3.  Wilco Wilco (the album)

Again a potentially unpopular statement, I’m not the biggest Wilco fan.  I like them.  I think they make good music.  I’ve listened to their albums quite a bit, but they aren’t really “me.”  I’m not their audience.  But this most recent album is possibly my favorite ever.  There is a great stylistic range to the songs, which is essential to any album you plan on listening to everyday for three weeks.  While Bitte Orca was an instant favorite, and Phoenix’s “Lisztomania” goes down saccharine-sweet the first time, Wilco (the album) is more of a creeper.  I love the rock and the ballads.  And with a track featuring Feist I couldn’t resist.

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Begonia’s Gazpacho

I have been dying for some gazpacho ever since I left Spain (even when I was eating it in Spain I was dying for it).  But I’ve never been able to find a recipe I’m really satisfied with.  After tasting Spain’s glorious gazpachos (Sebastian’s in particular) my doubts were confirmed–none of the gazpacho I was having State-side was cutting it.  First of all, there are no chunks in Spanish gazpacho, it’s always completely smooth-silky even, and very cold.  What was I to do?

It’s silly that I sat in a quandary longer than thirty seconds–ARL has a resident (Basque) Spanish cuisine advisor–Begonia Colomar*!

Begonia was quick to respond to my query about gazpacho.  Over in her adopted home–Brooklyn–she’s making it constantly.  Begonia immediately agreed with my concerns about this American “gazpacho” I’ve been eating–real Spanish gazpacho must be smooth–and it must be cold (Lord knows I love the Pasta Shop but you should have SEEN the stuff they were trying to pass off as gazpacho at their counter today.  It was super chunky and by the color of it, it either had a lot of beets or red food coloring, and they were advertising a dollop of sour cream on top.  Did they get it confused with Borsht?).  Begonia says that in southern Spain she’s often seen people go so far as to put an ice cube in their gazpacho to ensure they coldness.

Below is Begonia’s recipe for gazpacho.  I doubled it and followed it exactly.

Begonia’s Gazpacho (serves two)

2 Anaheim peppers (do not substitute with bell peppers, Anaheims are sweeter, softer and more aromatic)
2-3 large very ripe tomatoes (add them to boiling water for 10 seconds to peel them)
1 large or 2 medium cucumbers
1-2 tbs red wine or sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove
2-3 tbs best quality extra virgin olive oil
salt [Begonia and I both swear by Maldon]

Combine all ingredients in a food processor.  Mix at high speed until very smooth.  Taste for point of vinegar and salt.  I like my gazpacho very, very smooth, not chunky at all so after blending I pass it through a chinois to achieve that silky, very liquefied texture.  Put it back in the fridge for an hour or freezer for 15 minutes.  Serve very cold.  I like to garnish it with a couple of drops of olive oil, chives, and little pinch of paprika…experiment with the garnishing…parsley, bacon, croutons, tarragon…endless variations.

After receiving the initial instructions, I wrote back with a few questions.  What about bread crumbs?  What about fresh herbs?  Only one clove garlic?

Begonia says:

I don’t use fresh herbs in the puree, but that is my purist soul.  I don’t use bread because it makes it thicker and I personally don’t like it so much.  There are millions of ways to make it.  If you want it a bit more red add one peeled canned tomato.  Also using balsamic vinegar gives a nice taste but I’m not so in to the color that results from it, maybe white balsamic.  Add 1 tbs of vinegar to the initial mix, taste it and add the second one if needed.  Experiment and choose the one you like best.

Also, previous recipes have instructed me to seed the tomatoes and peppers.  Begonia avoids this laborious step by using the chinois.  Also, Begonia told me, and I can confirm this, that the one garlic clove is surely sufficient.

ingredients

I used heirloom tomatoes (very ripe as Begonia advised).  The flavor they produced is incredible, but the peeling process was a bit harder given the deep nooks and crannies.

blender

I don’t own a food processor per se.  I have so little storage space honestly–my toaster is in the closet.  But I bought this Kitchen Aid blender at Williams Sonoma, which has food processing functions.  I pureed, then liquified the ingredients in batches, combined the results in a bowl, and repeated the process.

That produced a fairly smooth texture, but I wanted the silkiness that the gazpacho of Spain has.  I didn’t have a chinois on hand, so I reached for a sieve.  Bad call.  Too fine.  Didn’t work.  So I went out and splurged on a Rosle chinois.  Given my love of gazpacho–if gazpacho is all I use it for it will have been a worthwhile purchase.

The chinois step takes another 5-10 minutes.  The mixture won’t go straight through (those holes are small), so I poured my gazpacho into the chinois and then scraped the sides of it with a rubber spatula to keep the liquid moving.

In the end it was all worth it.

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The final product

I garnished it with olive oil and parsley from the garden.  The texture is super smooth and the taste is fantastic.  Every ingredient is well-represented in each sip.  The color is burnt orange–perhaps a bit on the greener side since some of my tomatoes were green heirlooms.  I love that Begonia takes the color of gazpacho into account in her recipe.

Finally, a serving note.  While I photographed my gazpacho in this pretty beaded glass bowl, since I was having it by myself as a snack I quickly transferred it to a lowball glass and simply drank it down.  I have no patience for a spoon with gazpacho.  Don’t judge–haven’t you ever seen the women drinking gazpacho in Almodovar films?  I rest my case.

*more on Begonia, her art, and her food here, here, here, here, and here.

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Roussillon

Roussillon was my favorite neighboring town to Lourmarin when I was a child.  It was the most far-out place, and when you went there you inevitably got dirty.  Although I was pretty prissy as a child, the type of dirty you got in Roussillon was all right with me–it wasn’t muddy blasé brown, it was bright orange.  That was a kind of dirty I could get down with.

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town new

As if the bright orange and red cliffs aren’t enough, all of the buildings in Roussillon are built with the pigmented clay that surrounds the village.  The naturally occurring ochre in the hillsides was mined until the 1930’s.  Mining has since been banned in order to protect the site from destruction.

Being in Provence inspired an obsession with crumbling old walls with plants growing out of them.  Roussillon’s reddish ones are particularly high on my list because of the red/green contrast (these pictures are so much more vibrant in original–the upload to WordPress just ruins the color).

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And my favorite door, from 1678.  Well, I’m not sure about the door, but the doorway is from 1678.

roussillon door

If you walk to the highest point in town you find a ceramic-topped circular map of the region, with Roussillon at its center.  You’ll find similar maps in many of the neighboring towns.

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close map new

Right before you reach the map at the top of the hill you’ll find the 16th century church surrounded by lavender.

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The exterior is fairly simple, but there is intricateness to be found inside.  One of my favorites is the altar.

altar

altar detail

Wheat and grapes have been the primary crops of Provence since the middle ages.

baptismal font

The baptismal font was added in the 17th century.

God

I love the intricate high relief on the ceiling.  Very dramatic.

lighting candles

After the church we walked back through town to the cemetary, which is quite beautiful.

cemetary

masoleum

egyptian jacques

I like calling this guy “Eqyptian Jacques.”

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