December 09, 2006

Lunch at Pinxto, Dinner at Amber

Had lunch with Sarah at Google's Pinxto cafe. This is our "small plate" Basque Tapas cafe and I love it. I usually have all three soups, whatever interesting "drink" of the day, a seafood appetizer and a couple of dishes. Today was no different. Going clockwise starting with the soup in the 9 o'clock position I had: saffron clam soup with israeli couscous, white bean soup with lardons, wild mushroom risotto with truffle oil, marinated baby squid, red pepper gazpacho with basil parmesan crisp, minestrone, beefsteak milanese, white sardine with proscuitto. I also had a nice tiramisu for dessert and a fresh squeezed grape/lychee juice to drink.

Dinner was with my friends Randi and Marty, at Amber India in Mountain View. It's mostly moghlai style. We started with papri chaat at my suggestion - they'd never had chaat before and as a relatively recent convert to the joys of chaat I had to introduce them. Amber makes a very nice papri chaat. Again starting at 9 o'clock and going clockwise: I had the Mirch Ka Gohst (lamb cooked with peppercorns, green chilis, ginger and saffron) that is advertized to be "spicy hot" but I found quite mild, an unpretentious basmati rice, Marty had the Kerala Lamb Curry, and Randi had a lamb cooked in almond milk that was quite unusual, slightly sweet and very creamy. We also had naan and a raita. I accompanied it with Anchor Steam - a very satisfying meal, I'd definitely recommend this place as being much better and more interesting than other local Indian places, especially if you're looking for fancy northern style food.

December 08, 2006

Bar Tartine

Bar Tartine is another place I've been meaning to get back to. Last time I had their frites that are fried in duck fat and I wanted them again. Unfortuately they usually have a long wait for walk ins, and I'm not so good at planning ahead. Fortunately last night I knew Lori and I were going to be having dinner, so I called ahead and made reservations.

We arrived about ten minutes early and sat at the bar while they got our table ready. We had good rustic Tartine Bakery bread, and an apertif of Prosecco with Navarro Pinot Noir grape juice. I'm not usually a fan of prosecco, or of sweet apertifs in general but this worked well. I think the acidity of the grape juice helped. We sat and examined the menu. To my disappointment they no longer have frites on the menu! After about a 30 minute wait (!) they seated us. To their credit they did come by periodically to apologize and give us updates but the wait was too long.

Lori ordered the charcuterie plate and the onglet, while I had the sardines pinxtos. The sardines were big! They were served on toast with a nice tomatoey piperade and topped with sieved egg (that I at first thought was a ricotta) and topped with spinach. Lori's charuterie plate was a study in contrasts. Coarse testa - almost a rillette - contrasted with buttery smooth chicken liver pate.

The onglet was served in a stack cut into teeny bite sized pices, and was nice and crispy on the outside while still rare on the inside with an appropriately strong beefy flavor that was complemented by crispy horseradish bread salsa and cute white/green "broccoli romanesco" - a cross between broccoli and cauliflower.

My lamb tagine was served in a lamb broth with a hint of cinnamon, appropriately "al dente" chickpeas, and pine nuts. It had been stewed with sweet dumpling squash, onions, and chard. The sweetness of the squash and onions set off the savoryness of the lamb and was accented by the mild bitterness of the chard. The combination worked for me and seemed true to the spirit of Moroccan cooking, unlike some overly sweet concotions I've endured in the past.
Each of us finished with a small scoop of ice cream. Lori's was a fresh spearmint, mine a "ginger snap" that tasted strongly of molasses and ginger with just a hint of another spice - maybe allspice. I think it had just a little too much molasses flavor but I still ate it all. They were served with little shortbreads that I took home and saved for my morning coffee.

I notice from the menu that they serve bluebottle espresso, and I noticed their espresso machine is appropriately retro and has the E61 group heads that I love, I need to get back there some time to try the coffee - they use bluebottle and their barrista looks competent. Now that they're open for lunch, maybe I won't have to avoid coffee due to the lateness of the hour.

December 06, 2006


I've been hoping to get back to Delfina at some point, and tonight we got the chance. We walked in off the street at around 8:30 - no tables but sat right down at the counter. Started with a small dish of olives and a glass of dry prosecco, Debbie had an oaky reisling/? from Italy. First course was baked littleneck clams in a tomato ragu with house cured guanciale. I used the bread to sop up the sauce. Yum. Next was a salad of "bitter greens" (frisee, radicchio, and mache) with pancetta, walnuts, shaved parmesan and balsamic vinaigrette. I had a nice dolcetto with this dish. For the main course we shared a nettle risotto with wild mushrooms. Finally Debbie had a buttermilk panna cotta with blood oranges and I had a "pomellini" - pomegranate syrup in sweet prosecco.

December 05, 2006

Scavenging for dinner

We're trying to use up stuff in our freezer, so I asked Debbie what I should fix. "How about shrimp?" "Ok!" "We have some corn tortillas too." "Ok!"

I took the shrimp, added chili powder, black pepper, rock salt, and juice of one lemon. Let it marinate while I shredded four pieces of random cheese I found in the fridge, and then sliced up some cabbage and shallot. Put the shrimp on skewers and toasted them over the gas burner. Toasted the tortillas over the open flame. Assembled tortillas, grilled shrimp, shallot, cheese, and toasted them in the toaster oven. Added shredded cabbage and served with nice Shasta Brewing golden ale.

The tortillas got soggy from the shrimp moisture. The shrimp tails were inconvenient. Next time put the shallot and cheese on the toasted tortillas, put them under the broiler to melt. Serve with cabbage on the tortillas and shrimp on the side.

I am going to miss masa harina in India, I can just tell.

Visa adventures

Being diligent I had filled out all the visa paperwork many days ago. Passport sized pictures and all. Indian visas are pretty straightford, you apply for one of three basic visas: transit, tourist, or business. A transit visa is for people who are on their way to somewhere else (the visas that Rick was brokering in "Casablanca" were transit visas), a tourist visa is for tourists, and a business visa is for anyone who wants to conduct business during their visit (me!)

Debbie was getting a six month tourist visa. No problem, just provide your passport, a couple of local USA references, and $60 - poof. Unless you're a known undesirable you're in. I wanted a six month business visa. For that you need the same as a tourist visa, plus two references in India and a letter from your company explaining why India should give you a visa. I had at first thought I would just go on a tourist visa, but the nice Google immigration lawyer (Google has immigration lawyers!) told me that I should get a business visa, and that I would need a signed letter on Google letterhead to do it. Fortunately they were willing to do it right away.

Unfortunately, the Indian consulate accepts visa applications from 9am to noon everyday, and it was now 10am - and I was in San Francisco, the letter was in Mountain View, and the consulate was in San Francisco. My bike needs gas and I don't have $120 in cash. Ok, I can do this. I hop on the bike, toss my bag in the back ... and notice the top case is much floppier than it should be. I look underneath and notice the bracket is broken. Rats. Take off the top case, run back in the house and get the big Timbuk2 bag. Hop on the bike, gas up at the corner station and go. Get to Mountain View by 11am. Get cash, get the letter, get back on the road by 11:30. Make it to the Indian consulate on Arguello near Geary at 12:05. Rats. Fortunately the nice guard lady lets me in even though the sign on the door says "closed."

Get a number, wait till it's called, stand in line, turn in all my paperwork. Much faster and more efficient than the DMV. "This is a piece of cake!" She says take this and pay. Look over - the line for the cashier is HUGE. Get at the end of it. It also moves fairly quickly, chat up the people in line and discover that while you can pick up your visa from 4:00-4:30, people start queuing up at 3:15. Resolve to be back at 3:30. Get to the front, pay my $120 in cash, and get a reciept. Go home.

Around 2:45 go to the 22 bus stop to go to the consulate. Transfer to the 38 Geary, make it there by 3:30. Yay! Realize the reciept is still in the manila envelope in the Timbuk2 bag, not in the little bag I have with me. Rats. Chat up the nice guy next to me in line who has flown up from LA. Mention his Irish accent, and admit I'm on my way to Dublin next week. Have a nice conversation where I realize that having an Indian consulate in the city you live in is not a given, and that some people have travelled hundreds of miles to stand in this line. I have nothing to complain about.

Get to the front of the line. Present my driver's license. "Where's your reciept?" "I'm sorry, I forgot it." "You forgot it?" "Yes, I'm sorry." "Why do you think we announce every five minutes that you need your reciept?!" "I'm sorry." "'I'm sorry' isn't good enough for me!" Nevertheless she goes off and returns with my passport. "Thank you! Um, I also need Debbie Gross's passport." "*She* is not on your driver's license." "I know, she's my wife." I lied. "You see! This is why you need your receipt!" "I'm sorry." She glares at me but goes off and gets Debbie's passport too. She practically throws it at me in disgust. Never the less she DID go get it, and she DID give it to me. I have no complaints whatsoever. "Thank you" I say meekly. "Next!" she barks.

WE HAVE VISAS! We're good to go.

December 04, 2006

Backing up my life

Last night I went to The Clay Studio to hook up John's personal phone line. It felt weird being there in the studio all quiet and empty with just Marsha cleaning up. I probably won't be spending a lot of time there anymore. An intense six months or so, really getting in to making functional pottery, now "poof!" and gone. I do love the pots we've made though, and I hope I'll stay with it, but you never know.

Today was all about backing up files and getting things ready for moving and selling. We continue to have little crises - is this really the right thing to do? Can we really sell this place we love? Oh my god! We'll get through it though. Tomorrow I'm going to go try to get visas.

Tonight we went and had dinner with our friend Scott and Roswitha and their friends Suku and Latha in Menlo Park. Suku is a NRI from Bangalore, and a silicon valley professional. We had good conversations about living in Bangalore, and Suku has promised to introduce us to a bunch of people in Bangalore.

Going to Menlo Park was an adventure. First Zipcar told us the car I reserved wasn't going to be avalable, so we got switched to a Mini. That was fun, but we took longer than expected in Trader Joe's (it was insanely crowded) then we got lost on our way and so arrived late. Debbie and I both hate being late, but it all worked out. It's a lovely house and we had a very nice fondue, both cheese and chocolate. Debbie and I brought things to dip in chocolate fondue, and some eau de vie for the fondues (from a local Alameda distillery - St. Georges. The eau de vie are amazing.)

Tomorrow - adventures in getting visas!

December 03, 2006

Getting rid of stuff

Today I interviewed the second estate sale person I think we'll probably go with the first one. Dragged a bunch more books out of the closets. Sarah and Kathleen came over and gave some of our books a good home. Even though I want to get rid of them it's still hard.

I'm embarrassed to say I picked up a couple of "things" today. A USB<-->3.5" PATA/ 2.5" PATA/SATA adapter that works on "naked" drives. They're small, and cheap, and are letting me get all my data off those random drives I have lying around.

Later David Weekly came over and picked up Debbie's Radian it took four of us (David, his friend, Kathleen, and me) to get it into his friend's pickup truck, but we did it. Another thing off to a good home.