A year ago today, we lost my brother to non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Since that time, we have also lost my great aunt, a cousin back east, a cousin overseas, and a colleague and mentor of dpaul's, who died very suddenly in…

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Hillcrest Farmers Market, San Diego

Hillcrest farmers market ©DPaul Brown

A cursory glance through the rambling list of sites in the right sidebar of this site will quickly inform you that I have a very small universe. I have a special focus on fellow Bay Area food bloggers; beyond that, I regularly monitor a handful of others around the world. But by and large, of the bloggers outside my own backyard, I am not terribly concerned with their geography.

The exception to that rule is San Diego. I began paying closer attention to food bloggers there because it's where my mother lives, and hence a place we visit with relative frequency. I became entranced with the vibrancy of the blogger community there. And on a visit down there last week, I reached out to a handful of my favorites (many of whom I had met personally before) to arrange a get-together.

Lucky me, all were available, and a plan was forged, beginning with a pass through the Hillcrest Farmers Market with Alice and Caron, after which we would connect with Kathy, Nicole and Susan for brunch at Farmhouse Café.

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The great tomato canning of 2008

Yes, kittens, it’s that time again. Time when the bounty of summer comes tumbling down all around us, when we must work like hell to preserve produce at its peak of perfection lest it slip through our fingers for yet another year.

We’ve not done as much canning this year as we have in years past. In 2006 in particular we frenetically canned everything that wasn’t nailed down. But based on last year’s successful tomato canning venture, we knew we had to do it again.

Last year, working with our friends Nick and Russ, we processed and canned 80 pounds of luscious heirloom tomatoes, netting six gallons of bright marinara sauce. This year, we upped the ante and went for 100 pounds. Gluttons for punishment, we are.

While we once again worked with ripe, organic heirlooms (luckily more ripe than our friends’ quarry), Nick this year opted for a variety that was largely based on beefsteak. This not only resulted in a richer color, but a sauce with more body as well.

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Wine Country Picnic

Wine country picnic

Summertime, and the living is easy …

What a crock. The living’s no easier in the summer. Work goes on every day as normal, tourists flood the farmer’s market and a thick blanket of fog ensures that I lose my hard-earned trucker tan. Summer, feh.

But it is easy to get a small taste of the simple life, to bask in a carefree afternoon of food, friends and frivolity under a balmy summer sun. Certainly chief among the reasons we love living in San Francisco is fast and easy access to the wine country.

DPaul and I make excursions pretty frequently; in fact, we explicitly joined a few wineries’ clubs just to have the excuse to get out of town once in a while. We’ve long been big fans of the Dry Creek Valley area in Sonoma County, but for the last year and change we’ve been enamored with Carneros, the region alongside the north side of San Francisco Bay that straddles the southern ends of both Sonoma and Napa counties. And even more specifically, we’re best buds with Bouchaine.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Bouchaine rocks. I won’t pretend to be any kind of wine expert, and certainly cannot rank their wines against comparable quaff from more esteemed producers (though their rosé of syrah got good marks in our taste-off). All I know is that I enjoy their wines immensely. But what Bouchaine does excellently, better than most, is deliver a flawlessly enjoyable wine country experience. No tour buses and limos, no snotty bling-laden tourists and harried winery staff. Just a sun-dappled back deck overlooking vineyards and serenity interrupted only by a cooling bay breeze.

Bouchaine is an ideal spot for a picnic, and so for DPaul’s birthday last week, that’s precisely what we did. Ten of us met to enjoy a flight of tastings alongside some tasty treats. Bouchaine does offer a picnic program, where you can purchase baskets of meats, cheeses and other goodies, and that’s all well and good. But I thought it would be fun to bring our own picnic of wine-friendly foods to enjoy.

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Fractured fairytale

I'm going a bit off-topic here, but bear with me. The above pic of yours truly in front of the Donut Pub was taken and composited by my very dear friend Christine during my last trip to New York. First…

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