Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Bette's Harira

I was astonished to read that Bette Kroening, owner of the beloved Bette's Oceanview Diner in Berkeley, had died in February. She was only 71. I got to know Bette when I worked at Sur La Table on Fourth Street, across the street from her diner and Bette's To Go. I was a good customer and we would chat there and at Sur La table when she came in for supplies. We were the same age and had followed similar paths into the California food scene. We both arrived in Berkeley in 1971. She first worked in social services in Contra Costa County, while I found a job in rare books at John Howell-Books in San Francisco. She opened Bette's Oceanview Diner in 1982 while I had opened Cookbook Corner in '77. I started frequenting Fourth street when Mark Miller, an avid cookbook collector, restaurateur and anthropologist, opened Fourth Street Grill, the first business on the now thriving street. Bette was working there as the lunchtime kitchen manager. We didn't meet until 1996 when I helped open Sur La Table on Fourth Street and Bette's Oceanview Diner was a breakfast destination and her take out lunch spot was famous for pizza by the slice, sandwiches, soups, salads and pastries.  Bette and her husband Manford were frequently manning the cafe, so when I wanted the recipe for harira, her version of the the  extraordinary Moroccan soup I ordered one April day in January 2001, she promptly xeroxed it for me. I left Sur La Table years ago so I saw Bette less frequently, but  I miss her nonetheless. I can't believe that she won't be welcoming me with a smile and a bowl of her delicious soup when I walk down Fourth Street.

                     Here's the recipe that Bette copied for me in April 2001. It seems like yesterday.

And here is my offering to Bette. I make this soup a lot and I think of her every time I get out the recipe.

Harira from the recipe above

Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Young Reader at the Berkeley Bowl

Young reader in her bike trailer turns a page in We Are Monsters by Mary Packard

       A Little girl enjoys her book in the Berkeley Bowl Parking Lot 
     while Mom loads her groceries onto her bike

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Vintage Jeans Repair

A pair of my old (vintage) jeans had been relegated to the back of the closet for possibly fifteen years, too damaged to wear but too loved to throw out. On a recent review I realized that they were super stylish distressed denim jeans and they still fit; even better they rested mid-waist, the low-rise style having come and gone. The only problem with putting them back in the rotation was that the rips widened every time I put them on. Somehow I just  couldn't avoid poking a foot through the knees and enlarging the holes. I desperately wanted to wear these jeans but they needed to be repaired and I knew I couldn't do it.

Then two things happened: I discovered Boro, the age old Japanese art of mending textiles, and I found out that my sister Lucia was coming for a visit from New York. My sister is an excellent and enthusiastic seamstress so I warned her that I had a sewing project lined up for her visit

Jeans mended in the Japanese boro tradition

I found a DIY site with clear instructions for  Japanese boro denim repair, I sent her the link  Boro Here and she agreed to give the new technique a try. This would entail sewing fabric beneath the holes and stitching around the repaired areas with sashiko thread which I bought for the project.

stitching the jeans with sashiko thread

But in the meantime I found a picture of the jeans below and I thought patches would better reinforce my fragile pair and they would be easier and faster to make. We only had four days and this was supposed to be a vacation not a sweat shop.

I love these jeans

In preparation, I traipsed to three fabric stores in Berkeley and at Stonemountain and Daughter Fashion and Quilting shop I fell in love with a bundled set of three cotton remnants. I bought the pieces, hoping that we could use them for the patches. Then I waited for Lucia's arrival.

The morning she arrived we dug out Dean's old sewing machine, I baked a batch of my favorite peanut butter cookies to encourage her and she set to work. Here's the recipe

Energized by the cookies she tackled the hole below the back pocket which I hadn't even noticed. She finished in a flash. What a pro! I loved the result.

Next she fashioned the patches for the front of the jeans and pinned them on. We consulted about size and placement and after some adjustments she sewed  them on. For the final touch she ironed on denim patches inside the legs, cut the threads and removed the pins. My jeans were beautifully restored!

The finished product

Here I am wearing my new patched jeans on a rainy Sunday afternoon with Allie streaking by

      Thanks sissy Lucia for a great job well done. You were a good sport and fine companion

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Jenny's Chicks on Kauai

We met Jenny working at Limahuli Garden in Kauai in 2013. She had rescued and befriended a mother hen and her three young chicks. She named them Rocky, Mabel, Snowflake and George, the only male. She would call them and when they came running she'd  feed them and talk to them while they perched on her hands and arms. We enjoyed the spectacle.

When we returned the next year the three chicks had grown magnificently, but they still hung together as a family and they were still bonded to Jenny and would usually come when she called. She was amazed that we remembered her chickens and knew three out of the four names. We took pictures and movies of her with her brood, and as we left we promised to send them to her. Time passed, Hawaii faded and we neglected our promise.
Now another year has passed and I finally figured out that the best way for her to view our pictures and movies would be in a blog.

 So here it is, Jenny. Don't forget to click on the videos if you want to see Rocky, Mabel, George and Snowflake in action.

Jenny feeding George


                             Above we spotted two of Jenny's chickens gathering in Limihuli garden

           Three in the foreground and one in the distance, and here they come in the next video...
            We had not seen them in a year, which explains our exclamations about their size.



                                         Click to see  Jenny playing with all four chickens


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Provence II

After a fantastic four days in Nice, we rented a car at the airport and headed West on the Auto Route toward Entrecasteaux and Cotignac ("one of the prettiest villages in the Var"). How exciting it was passing signs for St. Tropez and Cannes, but we continued nonstop to the little villages in the Var. I had not heard of the Var until I read Robert Carrier's description in Feasts of Provence. There I leaned that France is divided into provinces like Normandy, Brittany or Provence, and further divided into Departments within those provinces. We reached Cotignac at around 1:00, in time to see the perfectly Provencal square lined with cafés full of the happy clatter of locals enjoying Sunday lunch. This was the Provence I had been dreaming about

Cotignac main square as it looked when we arrived on a Sunday during lunch

                  Here I am in front of the fountain at one end of the main square in Cotignac

Cotignac again from one side of the "place"

Then on to Entrecasteaux and the Bastide where we were staying. From the tiny website the place looked rather rustic, but when we finally found it (between the chapel and the cemetery)  we were greeted by a stylish French couple in a lovely country residence. The breakfasts were served en plein air and included fresh croissants and pain au chocolats with home made fruit preserves, yoghurt, fresh cherries etc. Our view included the sweet little chapel across the field. Take a look Bastide de Notre Dame.

Our Bastide de Notre Dame which overlooked the tiny chapel

While planning the trip, I consulted many guidebooks. Lonely Planet is always helpful, but I also checked Rick Steve's Provence  and Insight Guides for Nice and the French Riviera and the charming Pedaling Through Provence by Sarah Leah Chase. However, the guides I liked best were the Michelin GreenGuides. They describe  every village, town and market of interest, plus they provide city plans and detailed maps for well organized walking and driving tours and nature hikes. They're a wealth of information and they're in English. Even Rick Steve's appears to have copied some of the detailed maps. Unfortunately, my trip overlapped the French Riviera and the Provence GreenGuides, so I packed the French Riviera and copied pages from Provence.

We had booked two nights in Entrecasteaux, so on our first full day we ventured out to see surrounding villages like Tourtour and Aups. They were all delightful.

Tourtour mid-morning
The next stop on our circular driving tour was Sillans-la-Cascade. As we walked through the tiny village we saw a small sign for the "cascade."  We kept walking, met up with another couple also headed for the same place and soon found ourselves at a stream. As we continued we heard water splashing and passed fishermen who assured us we were on the right path. After a bit we discovered a striking waterfall, much more dramatic than we had imagined. The other couple had reached it before us and offered to take a photo. We were all surprised to find such a lovely spot.

Cascade de Sillans
After more scenic driving to more picturesque villages, we headed back to Cotignac for dinner at one of the cafes on the square. I had the huge duck breast and Dean had steak frites. A Green salad accompanied every meal throughout the trip.

Onward to the Gorges du Verdon, or the French Grand Canyon, with a dizzying rocky descent and a rushing blue-green stream far below. Driving here was harrowing due to the maniacs speeding around hairpin turns. At the end we came to the charming town of Moustiers-Ste-Marie, seemingly cut from the rocky hillside and full of Faience pottery,

In the friendly calm of the village, we enjoyed our picnic lunch consisting of a baguette I snagged at a boulangerie along the route and sheep cheese, or Brebis, that we purchased from an old Shepard at a lookout along the Gorges.

I got the last baguette at a tiny boulangerie on our way to the Gorges

 Late in the afternoon, we reached our destination of Nyons. The town was as picturesque as I remembered and we unpacked for four fun-filled days. We loved our room at Une Autre Maison which  I had chosen for its location near the old town and its leafy surroundings.

I'm having fun exploring the pool and grounds at Une Autre Maison. The weather was perfect

The petit dejeuner was fantastic, with a basket-full of fresh breads, pain au chocolat, croissants and homemade preserves

Breakfast was served in the courtyard and we had already started when I took this photo

                      After breakfast we walked to the huge, bustling Tuesday Nyons market.

This area is just one part of the spacious Nyons market

The medieval castle of Grignan had just closed for the mid day break, so we circled the ancient exterior.

washing my hands after lunch

Onward to the Pont du Gard—a massive Roman aqueduct, now a world heritage sight near Avignon. This had been on my bucket list for some time and on this trip we made it. It was impressive and totally worth the effort, even though it was hot and dry touring the site.

Dean sporting his walking stick at the Pont du Gard on a hot day

The Pont was close to Nimes and Avignon, but I chose Arles for our next night, partly for it's Roman forum and partly for the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. Van Gogh  lived in Arles and painted "Starry Night" during his stay. There are reminders all over town.

A crooked menu at Café La Nuit Van Gogh

Ancient Arles at sunset

  Click to see football mania on television screens around the main Square in Arles during the European Championship, which took place all over France in June during our trip. Who knew?

St. Paul de Vence from our terrace
From Arles it was a short drive along the Mediterranean to the  ancient perched village of St.-Paul de Vence. I insisted on staying at the Hotel Colombe D'Or, famed playground for artists and film stars and other celebrities in the 50s ad 60s. There is original art throughout the hotel, donated by artists like Calder, Matisse or Picasso, in exchange for their meals.

Pool at Colombe D'or with Calder Mobile

Yves Montand, famous French film star, jumping into the Colombe D'or pool in the late 1950s

Montand playing cards with Simone Signoret in the outside dining room c.1951. It still looks just. like this

                   More art pops up at the entrance to the terrace dining area at The ColombeD'or

Jeune Fille s'évedant 1968 by Joan Miro at Foundation Maeght

Along the vertiginous mountain road, just downhill from St-Paul de Vence, we came to The Foundation Maeght . This fabulous museum houses one of Europe's largest collections of 20th century art. The museum itself is a masterpiece which integrates a Giacometti courtyard, Miró sculptures across  terraced gardens, colored-glass windows by Braque and mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat. The works are exhibited on a rotating basis. In fact, the last time we were here the Miró above was sitting outside on the lawn.

A fountain with spraying green men adorns the beautiful grounds at Foundation Maeght

After only one dreamy night in our terraced suite at the Colombe D'or, we bid farewell to St-Paul de Vence, vowing to return. We had one more whole day left in France and we decided to drive along the Riviera to Menton on the italian border, to see the Musée Jean Cocteau. Check out my next Provence blog for details.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Avocados in Kauai

Basket of avocados at the Tuesday afternoon farmers' market in Hanalei

      Avocados are certainly having their moment. America's new favorite fruit, always beloved in guacamole, is now a trendy toast topper. Popping up in restaurants, blogs and all over the web,  Avocado Toast is the current foodie obsession. To complicate matters for toast lovers, the price of Mexican avocados is soaring just as the California season has ended. Mexican growers are withholding fruit as they negotiate higher payment from packers, so the wholesale price is now two to four times higher than usual. Feeling the price pinch myself,  I was delighted to see baskets and bins of gorgeous avocados at farmers' markets in Kauai last week.

Markets featured two varieties in November when I vacationed there, but they grow as many as 30  described here

Bananas, papayas. dragon fruit and avocados in Hanalei's Tuesday afternoon market
I hit five different farmers' markets in my eight days on the island, and picked up avocados at each one. Due to tropical weather, they ripened faster than at home, and it was hard to keep up.

My favorite snack in Kauai was a piece of whole grain toast with garlicky hummus from the Kilauea Bakery, topped with sliced cucumber and avocado from the market.

Avocado Toast from Frog Hollow Farm in the Ferry Building, San Francisco
                                       So beautiful, so simple it doesn't really need a recipe

Check out the $12 price of Frog Hollow Farm's avocado toast in San Francisco's Ferry Building. In New York the toasts can go for $16 or more! Luckily, they're so easy to assemble at home.

And while we're on the subject, don't forget to try my previously published recipe for Avocado Facial Scrub in the blog Vitamin Pills in the Compost.