Eggnog tasting

I can't think of the last time I bought commercial egg nog. The very thought of it was sort of gag-inducing for a long time. As a child I loved the stuff, but at some point my tastes changed, and the last grocery store nog I remember drinking was sickly sweet with a thick, gloopy texture that evoked a mixture of molasses and Elmer's glue. 

In the intervening years, we've made our own nogs, including a recipe that involves separating the eggs and beating the whites to soft peaks, which are then integrated back into the custard. The resulting egg nog is light and fluffy, and somehow tricks you into believing that you're not drinking a dozen eggs and a pint of whipping cream. This year, I've taken on aged egg nog, which should be just good enough by Christmas Eve, though part of me is tempted to start next year's batch now. 

But when Amy reached out with an invitiation, collaborating with Beth from Whole Foods Northern California, offering a tasting of different egg nogs, my curiosity was piqued.  Surely there must be good egg nogs on the market, and I intended to find out. 

So a few of us filtered in to Steep Brew, the cafe at Whole Foods Potrero Hill

Eggnog tasting

I figured it would be all, drop in, taste some nogs, and blow. Yeah, not so much. Beth had laid out an entire table with not just the nogs, but some other goods she wanted us to try. From the bakery, we had a chocolate turtle cake and an orange upside down cake, the latter of which was good by any metric, even though it had oranges all over it. 

Eggnog tasting

And there were cheeses, most notably a nice gouda with holiday spices (nutmeg and cumin prevailed) that immediately evoked egg noggy goodness, and a manchego paired with a curiously good cranberry nut cake. 

Eggnog tasting

And then Beth whisked away for a moment to retrieve the ham. Because, of course, you need ham to taste egg nog. 

Positioned as we were smack in the middle of a very public space, seated around a table positively laden with cartons of egg nog, plates of nibbles, bottles of wine (yes, there was wine) and a big old ham, we of course got a lot of attention. One lady passed by our table no fewer than three times, ogling us with crazy eyes while dragging a granny cart behind her, before she stopped to say, "You've got a picture perfect party going on. But I guess you knew that. Ha ha ha ha. But it could be better, if you had rattlesnake handlers." Riiiight. 

On to the nog! 

Read More


Perhaps it's obvious, but this is the appropriate time to say so: I am thankful. I've been looking back, reflecting on all that I've ever wanted and dreamed of in life. I wanted to live in a city, one that…

Read More

How we roll

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Being fixated on food, that should come as little surprise. But it's more than that. Perhaps more than any other holiday, even the pseudoreligious ones, Thanksgiving is about tradition. But our…

Read More


Clambake ©DPaul Brown

Ah, the Fourth of July, the quintessential summer holiday. For most, this day means sweltering midday sun followed by a balmy night with a spectacular fireworks display; the smell of burgers sizzling on over the coals commingled with the acrid smoke from sparklers.

But here in San Francisco, as with most things, it’s different. In nearly 20 years living here, I could count the number of fog-free Fourths on one hand that has lost digits from a temperamental firecracker. I can scarcely remember the last time I actually saw fireworks on the Fourth, as opposed to eerie colorful glowing fog.

But that’s okay; I like our quirky, often blustry weather, and wouldn’t trade it for the oppressive heat and humidity of the other coast for all the Roman candles made in China. Still, I do find myself occasionally pining for nostalgic tastes of the Northeast. Last year, I finally sated my craving for lobster rolls. This year, on a recent visit to my mother‘s place in San Diego, we undertook another New England classic, the clambake. 

Read More

A holiday dinner fête

Gluttons for punishment that we are, DPaul and I embarked upon another of our madcap dinner party concepts. We entertain relatively frequently, but maybe once a year we go balls-out and conspire to make something a little extra over-the-top. Last year, we did a big Iberian-themed fiesta; the year before, we celebrated the holidays with a carnilicious crown roast of pork. This year, we took the inadvertent pork theme to a whole new level.

The two of us are (luckily!) similarly wired. We have aligned sensibilities around the arc of a meal, and enjoy throwing ourselves into the creative process of planning events. We love devising menus, dreaming up table decorations, and taking a project manager's mind to the tasks that must be achieved leading up to the party. In this post, I'll give you a little visibility into the special madness that is our method to entertaining.

I present to you the menu: 

House-cured olives
Coppa-wrapped persimmons

Porcini gelée, brussels sprout, chestnut purée

Pomegranate borscht

Roast leg of boar (feral swine)
Butternut squash risotto

Dandelion greens, persimmon, hoshigaki, pomegranate, pecan

Mission Pie apple-cranberry
Mitchell's egg nog ice cream

Read More

Lobster rolls

Lobster roll © DPaul Brown

Happy Labor Day!

I often tell people that my hometown in Upstate New York is a lovely place to be from. I love living in San Francisco, and in California in general, and I have little desire to return back to the Northeast. However, there are a handful of things I do miss.

When I was young, I spent a fair amount of time on and around the New England shores. My father lived in Massachusetts and New Hampshire for most of my life, and my mother and I would often take summer trips to Cape Cod or Rhode Island. I loved those pebbly beaches, the balmy days and, above all else, lobster rolls.

I have been pining for years — years — for lobster rolls. There’s really nothing all that remarkable about them: Just lobster meat barely dressed, served in a bun with a side of potato chips and a pickle spear. But two things have thwarted me in fulfilling my craving. First, lobster is not particularly common out here, and when it’s available it’s insanely expensive. But second and more importantly, I could never find the right kind of bun.

You see, lobster rolls are served in hot dog buns, but they must be top-cut buns. That way, you have the most important feature: Sides that have exposed crumb, which you then brush with butter and broil or griddle. Cuz, you know, the lobster and mayonnaise just aren’t rich enough. Lo and behold, Whole Foods stocks hot dog buns that have not been sliced in either direction, so at long last I was able to achieve lobster roll nirvana.

The contrast of the warm, toasted sides of the bun and the cool, creamy lobster salad are the perfect taste of summer, and a flash of nostalgia from my childhood. My craving has been sated for at least another year.

Read More

Spring Frolic 2007

Ah, the benefits of an East Bay Monarchy. This year's Spring Frolic, hosted by our Berkeleyite regent Queen Liz, was held in Tilden Park yesterday. Cool breezes gave way to balmy sun as we flaunted our gaudy, silly hats in…

Read More

Break fast

Each year DPaul and I give up something for lent. It's not that we're the least bit Catholic, but we have found it to be a nice study in self-discipline, which has never really been our strong suit. Every year…

Read More