perfect foodie weekend

I just wrote the longest entry about my perfect fooding weekend with Erik, and accidentally deleted it. I did not stay up an extra twenty minutes after my bedtime just to have to write my entry twice. GR. *breathe* *sigh* I will start over. In Word, first, this time! RR!

Erik and I had a crazy food-filled weekend.

Friday night when he got here, it was Halloween and we’d been contemplating commemorating the holiday not with dressing up and partying, but by going to see the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan. But it was such a grey, chilly, dreary day, we opted instead to order pizza and stay in. I’d been craving mushroom pizza all week, so we called Extreme Pizza and got a mushroom and olive pizza. I liked it, Erik thought it was just okay, but we both agreed the crust was like cardboard. So thin and hard! Funnily, though, when we went to pick up the pizza (delivery supposedly takes sixty minutes, takeout only half that), we heard the manager telling the other employees to stop taking orders because they had run out of dough and he’d had to send someone to San Francisco to get more. So maybe thin, hard crust is what happens when a pizza place gets short on dough? The thought amused us.

Friday was also nice because I got to get a hello and a kiss from Professor Nylan in the morning! She was in town for less than one day (!) for a conference.

Saturday morning, Erik and I woke leisurely at eleven. He’d brought his guitar up, so he played while I tried out a scone recipe I’d been wanting to try for a week. I halved the recipe, so I only needed to use half an egg. I scrambled the other half with chopped bok choy, onion, and some cheese. A tasty breakfast, even if the scones weren’t like any other I’ve had: crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle, and, as Erik pointed out, they tasted like they had cheese in them even though they didn’t. They reminded me very much of these cheese biscuits Mommy made one morning when I was very young, when we had a guest over. Those were the best cheese biscuits ever. They were shaped like chickens!

After breakfast, we stepped out to buy groceries, and had ourselves an adventure. Instead of going to one of the usual places, I wanted to try Monterey Market (this link [broken] is pretty but this one [broken] will actually tell you something), supposedly the other great supermarket in Berkeley besides Berkeley Bowl. Monterey Market is in north Berkeley, close to the BART station there, and it is much smaller and less shiny-and-new looking than Berkeley Bowl. The shoppers are also an older crowd, for whatever reason. They have a wide variety of produce, include an amazing selection of apples and lots of hard-to-find Asian and Mexican vegetables and spices, so I was happy. I’d never seen key limes in person before. We loaded groceries into a basket, then, at the checkout, found to our utter and openmouthed dismay that the market doesn’t take credit cards. We felt silly, and also at a complete loss about what to do. The checkout person, showing no sympathy, or mockery either, told us to try the ATM at the Chevron on San Pablo. We hurried out and got into the car.

In our embarrassment we had not asked where the Chevron was. We drove all around and around San Pablo trying to find it. We saw lots of other cute stores, but no Chevron. Finally we found a gas station (not a Chevron) with an ATM sign, so Erik drove up and I ran in. I got my cash ($1.50 charge, boo) and ran out. Erik joked that he was driving my getaway car. It must have looked like that, certainly. It was almost worth it, though, because the ATM dispensed to me crisp and lovely new peach $20 bills.

After getting lost once or twice, we rushed back to the market, where we noticed another grocery bag sitting next to ours. Apparently someone else had made the same blunder as we had, so we felt less abashed. We paid and left. I realized it was too late to make the farmer’s market, which was where I had been planning to get most of my vegetables, so we would have to go someplace else. We definitely weren’t about to go back into Montery Market, even with cash in hand. So we decided to go to Safeway instead.

But first, we needed sustenance and hydration. Our mad dash around north Berkeley had really taken the energy from our scones-and-scramble breakfast out of our systems. Fortunately, in our crazy drive I’d spotted Cafe Fanny. The cafe is on a busy street corner, and the eating area has a view of the quite unpretty parking lot, but somehow the place manages to be extraordinarily cute and relaxed-looking. The atmosphere is really incredible in such a location. And the employees are wonderful and smiling. Balm for two frenzied bugs. We had a perfectly delicious, albeit tiny and somewhat pricey, grilled mozzarella sandwich, then stepped next door to Acme Bread to see what they had. We decided to get a mini pumpkin bread. SO GOOD. Other pumpkin breads I’ve had have been dark, moist and dense, like quick breads or cake, but this one was a real yeast bread, with cranberries and walnuts thrown in as well. It was almost like a brioche, but not as rich, and the crisp but light crust must have been brushed with egg.

We felt infinitely better after eating (as always!), so we drove more relaxedly up Cedar to Safeway. I munched pumpkin bread all the way. Erik admonished me (in between bites!) not to eat all of it. I didn’t; there’s still some in my fridge. If it were Mommy and me, or Mommy and Shra and Al and me, or any combination of the above, we would have eaten the thing in seconds.

Safeway was nice, because Erik and I used to go there when he lived close by, and this was our first time being back there together since then. To save money, I picked out just one napa cabbage to serve me for the rest of the week, and we also got some olives and cheese to make more pizza.

When we got home, it was almost four hours after we’d set out. We were tired, but not so tired that we couldn’t make more food after we’d put all the groceries away. At Monterey Market we had bought some new mushrooms, fried chicken mushrooms, in hopes they would taste like fried chicken when cooked. (Fried chicken is one of the few things I’ve missed after I stopped eating meat.) Erik wondered how we should cook them. I replied, “Saute them in butter, of course!” How else does one try a new variety of mushroom? But Erik thought he would do some research online anyway, just in case the reigning wisdom is that one should never saute fried chicken mushrooms in butter. As it turned out, Erik was very nearly right. The site he checked said:

Fried chicken mushroom is considered second-rate, and it is when you sauté it with onions and garlic. But Asian cooks consider it first-rate because that’s how it tastes when they use it correctly–in soups, stew, and sauces.

Erik is amazing. So we decided to make soup. It turned out to be delicious soup. Ingredients: kombu (seaweed), Japanese soup stock, green onions, napa cabbage, bean thread vermicelli, soy sauce, sesame oil, Shao Xing wine, sake, sugar, white pepper, and of course the mushrooms. And water, if you didn’t know that already. We ate it right away, while I made dough for pizza, and since it was so good, we just kept eating it. We added water periodically to keep the soup going. I don’t know whether that was our first dinner, or an afternoon snack, or what, but it was the best thing to have on a cold afternoon.

Around seven the dough was finished rising, so we made pizza with mushrooms (normal buttons this time), olives, purple onion, and veggie “meat” crumbles. Erik stir-fried some broccoli too. We were stuffed from the afternoon of soup, but still managed to eat quite a bit of pizza. Not long after, we were ready to call it a day.

This morning (Sunday) we woke up and had some scones and jam, and a bite or two of leftover pizza, then made a spontaneous trip to Amoeba, getting there even before it opened. Erik bought us a couple of CDs: Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 131 for me, Berio string quartets for him, and we headed home happily. At home, I put on the Beethoven CD, and we made pancakes and a mushroom-cheese omelet for breakfast (or was it lunch?).

After Erik went home, I did some work and made myself a dinner. A satisfying conclusion to our food weekend: I discovered a yummy use for leftover breakfast pancakes! Inspired by a phrase from a version of “Hansel and Gretel” I read when I was young (I think it was “Hansel and Gretel”), “pancakes with apples and honey,” I chopped apples and walnuts and sprinkled them over the leftover pancakes, along with cinnamon and honey. Then I baked them for a few minutes, and voila, a quick and yummy dessert. The pancakes got crisp but didn’t burn, and the apple mixture was lightly sweet. Never again will I let leftover pancakes get hard and unappealing in the fridge!

A wonderful weekend.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]