Liz, a delightful person who shares my exact same taste in beer – strong, dark, complicated, malty – was willing to be my (Miyazaki-themed) date to Small Bar Logan Square’s Beer Nerd Halloween! So many autumn-themed beers, you guys. So many STRONG autumn-themed beers. I’m a little tipsy now.
Anyway, our favorite was the Black Note, from Bell’s. It was strong, an imperial/double, but very smooth. It’s a dangerous one, a sipping beer, to be taken slowly and consciously. We preferred the Southern Tier Pumpking to the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, but Liz says if you haven’t had Fisherman’s Imperial Pumpkin Stout (which you can’t get in Illinois) you haven’t lived. The Autumn Maple, I really thought I’d like it. Cinnamon, vanilla, maple, molasses, nutmeg, and lots and lots of yams – but it’s brewed with Belgian yeast, and I guess I don’t like Belgian style beers as much as I used to. Still, it was a really interesting twist on the typical pumpkin beer.
What about you guys? Do you have a favorite pumpkin beer?
Ok! Sorry for that delay. I managed to wrap up a number of projects and my schedule should be back to normal (for the moment). So let’s get back to San Francisco! The Tosca Cafe in North Beach has beautiful vintage red booths and barstools, very well-dressed waiters, high ceilings and a jukebox full of opera music. It’s a lovely, classy, swanky but comfortable bar with some delightful old school charm. More to the point, they have a “house cappuccino”, which is made with Ghiradelli chocolate, steamed milk, and spiked with brandy, and it’s just wonderful, especially on a chilly San Francisco evening.
Hey everyone on the eastern seaboard! We’re thinking of you. Hope your pantries are stocked and your trees all stay put. Hang in there! This storm system is so massive that even Chicago’s getting warnings of 22 foot waves – on Lake Michigan. Crazy!
Sorry!! Got a few deadlines to blow through, and reading at this Panel Babble event is awesome but is also eating up the precious few hours I’d have to keep Sauceome updated. Come by if you’re in Chicago! And I’ll have more Sauceomes starting Monday.
We continue our tour of great places in San Francisco with Blue Bottle Coffee Company’s kiosk in Hayes Valley. Niles and I stumbled across this place a year or two ago on a trip to San Francisco – it’s just a little hole in an alley garage, but it serves incredible coffee. And since they’ve moved into the strange garage space, other things have sprung up around them in the alley – this time we noticed a hot dog cart, a little ice cream stand, an amazing looking corset shop, and even a German beer-and-brat garden at the end of the block. They’ve inspired a strange and wonderful little urban corner in SF.
But also they make fantastic coffee. I got a New Orleans style iced coffee from them, which was just delightful to drink while tromping around Hayes Valley on a sunny fall day.
Hey, we’re back from San Francisco! Niles cashed in some airline miles and we took a great little trip out to the Bay area, where we saw and did and ate a lot of awesome things. I’m going to do a quick little series of some of the highlights of our trip.
We’ve been to San Francisco a few times before, and I think each time we had Smuggler’s Cove recommended to us. I was a little reluctant, because it was described as a tiki bar, and tiki bars are usually pretty cheesy. Not that there’s anything wrong with a cheesy tiki bar, I guess, but I was worried, I think, that what the place spends on cheesy decor comes out of their budget for quality spirits, if that makes sense. That we’d be sipping watered down overly sweet drinks out of novelty glasses or something.
But Smuggler’s Cove is something else entirely. Yes, it feels like you’re on the set of a pirate movie, but the drinks are absolutely out of this world. Where my neighborhood’s Longman & Eagle has perfected the art of the whiskey cocktail, and Masa Azul has perfected the art of the tequila cocktail, Smuggler’s Cove has definitely perfected the art of the rum cocktail. The recipes ranged from ancient and historically accurate to creative and experimental, and everything I tasted was thoughtfully crafted and well balanced. This place was absolutely worth the hype, and I’ll definitely be wanting to visit there again the next time we’re out there.
We were very lucky to decide to go there on a Thursday evening, too, where we found seats at the tiny bar easily. We walked past there later that weekend on Saturday, and there was a long line out the door of people waiting to get in.
Okay, so this is a very Westernized version of a sukiyaki recipe, but I know I don’t have a nabe pot. (There’s one on my Amazon wishlist, if anyone’s interested.) I’ve seen versions of this recipe that included ginger and sliced root vegetables, which I’m sure would be absolutely delicious. Also, some of the recipes suggested spooning a little bit of the broth over the meat slices while you’re searing them in the wok or skillet, and then drizzling the combined broth/beef juices over the final bowls.
So! This is the last I’ll say about matsutakes for a while. I hope everyone enjoyed geeking out about this particular mushroom as much as I did. And if you’re lucky enough to find some, now you know how to prepare them!
I AM NOT MAKING ANY OF THIS UP. This was my favorite thing I learned, researching matsutakes, was about the Matsutake Crusaders. There’s a great video interview with the founder of the group here, it’s definitely worth watching. And if you’re curious and have some time, then there’s a phenomenal article here by Dr. Anna Tsing, an anthropology professor but also a founding member of the Matsutake Worlds Research Group. The fact that the “Matsutake Worlds Reseach Group” and the “Matsutake Crusaders” are both things that exist should give you a picture of the cultural importance of this little mushroom.
One of the most interesting things about this whole phenomena is that while the wilt disease caused by the nematodes isn’t helping matters, the way people treat the forest has had just as big an effect on the production of matsutakes. Before the second World War, people would gather brushwood and small trees from the forest for burning and turning into charcoal, effectively tidying the forest floor and making it the perfect environment for mushrooms to grow. As the country modernized, people switched from using charcoal to natural gas for cooking and heating their homes, and fewer people are clearing brush from the forests, so all sorts of broadleaf plants sprang up, shading out the pines. Returning the forests to their natural, untouched state is what depleted the matsutakes. What Matsutake Crusaders are trying to do is recreate the sustainable relationship of people with the forests from centuries past, a measured and cultivated disturbance, rather than a forest completely free from human intervention.
It’s a strange thing, when a food smells differently than how it tastes. Niles has brought home cheeses before that smelled horrible but tasted divine, and it always feels like my senses are trying to trick me.
Part of the reason Matsutakes haven’t caught on in the West as much as other places is because of their smell – it’s a little crazy, a little spicy, and a bit foul. But the foulness softens in the cooking and disappears entirely in the taste. They taste… well, like the quote says, it’s really hard to describe. They taste woodsy. Earthy. Clean. Warm, somehow. Maybe a little piney, from the trees they grow on. They’re strong and unusual, and they won’t be everybody’s bag, but if you get a chance to try some you should seize it.
So! Several weeks back, I did a piece about matsutake mushrooms for Yusho, and in the process of researching it, I found out so many interesting things about these mushrooms. Far too many to fit into the painting for Yusho, but far too interesting to leave alone. So get ready for a series about Matsutake Mushrooms! You might be familiar with these mushrooms if you’re from the Pacific Northwest, but in most other parts of the US they’re a little hard to come by. I was lucky enough to have a chance to taste some for the first time several weeks ago, and they’re unlike anything else.
PS that last panel is
plagiarized from inspired by this gorgeous woodblock print.
So they released a list of addresses for designated parking spots for food trucks in the city, and they’re so far awaaaaay!
Except it’s actually not that bad. Part of the new legislation for food trucks here is that they have to be at least 200 feet away from brick-and-mortar restaurants, except for these parking spots, which are all in neighborhoods where it’d be really difficult to find a place that’s not next to a restaurant. So it’s possible that we’ll get some food truck action in my neighborhood, but I’m still not sure how likely it is. I guess I’ll just have to console myself with all the ramen within walking distance.