Posted by: ham8cheese | December 6, 2009

the super course rides again!

Eerie photos of Mr. Spoke on the maiden voyage of his rebuilt Raleigh Super Course, reincarnated as a fixie (for now).

Posted by: ham8cheese | December 4, 2009

a trip down market street, circa 1906

Tonight Mr. Spoke and I had tickets to Lost Landscapes of San Francisco at the Herbst Theater, a viewing of old film footage and home movies shot in San Francisco, collected and archived by Rick Prelinger.  Before the showing, we grabbed a quick dinner at Miss Saigon, a Vietnamese restaurant that, notwithstanding its unfortunate location at Sixth and Mission, is pretty fantastic.  For one, the yellow coconut curry with shrimp was so good (lemongrass, peanuts, coconut…mmm!) I think I could eat it all day.  And, Miss Saigon gets two thumbs up for letting me bring my bike indoors, thus preventing it from becoming another SOMA bike statistic.

Post-dinner, we locked my bike to a parking meter right next to a lovely Kogswell bicycle on Van Ness and headed into the Prelinger screening.   One of my favorite bits of film was several minutes of footage shot from the perspective of a moving streetcar on Market Street in 1906, just before the big earthquake.  Among the many interesting things about this footage — which you can view here (be patient – the footage is a little jumpy at times) — is the somewhat orderly chaos that apparently marked the traffic on Market Street at the time.  Horse-drawn carriages, streetcars, automobiles, pedestrians, and yes, even bicyclists (note the tweed-clad boy in the newsboy cap riding through on the right), are seen jockeying for space and darting about every which way on Market Street.  It looks like the wars between the horse-drawn carriages and those new-fangled things called automobiles at the turn of the century were not unlike the cold war we have going on today between cars and bikes.  But bikes were there too back in 1906, and among the lovely things about bicycles is that the bike ridden by the tweed-clad boy is really not so different from what I ride today.

Other interesting old film footage of a more bike-centric variety can be viewed online courtesy of the Prelinger Archives here.

Posted by: ham8cheese | December 3, 2009

modern day butter churning

Buttermilk for pancakes and butter for just about everything else!

Mr. Spoke and I decided to make some butter last night.  It is ridiculously easy with a Kitchenaid stand mixer — it takes about five minutes of activity, and all you need is the following:

  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream, the type that has NOT been ultra-pasteurized (this is crucial!)
  • a pinch of salt

We use Clover Organic Heavy Whipping Cream purchased from Golden Produce at Church and Market (or, alternatively, from that other yuppie haven, Falletti Foods on Oak and Broderick).

To make the butter, you should take the whipping cream out of the fridge a few hours before you plan to use it.  (You might even try leaving it out for 10 or 12 hours beforehand – we did that this go-around and the butter turned out quite nicely.)

Take the room-temperature heavy whipping cream and pour/scrape it into the mixer bowl.  Sprinkle some salt over it (this will help the butter keep longer).  Using the batter paddle, put the Kitchenaid mixer on 4 (a medium speed).  Run the mixer on 4 until you see that the cream has clumped up into yellowish curds — then turn the speed down to 2 (a low speed).  Fairly quickly, you’ll see that the buttermilk is separating out and you’ll have clumps of butter and some buttermilk flying around the bowl.

Here the cream has separated out into butter and buttermilk.

Here the cream has separated out into butter and buttermilk.

Next, drain the buttermilk off through a colander (and save the buttermilk for pancakes!).  Use a spatula to knead the remaining buttermilk out of the butter and continue pouring it off.

Knead the remaining buttermilk out of the butter and pour the buttermilk off.

Finally, “wash” the butter by running cold water over it and pouring the water off (continue working the butter a bit with the spatula while you do this).  This helps remove any last bits of buttermilk from the butter.  And that’s it!  Pack up your awesome homemade butter and stick it in the fridge, and get yourself ready for some homemade buttermilk pancakes…

Posted by: ham8cheese | December 2, 2009

delta cruisin’

Mr. Spoke’s new Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tires arrived in the mail today (very exciting, for bike geeks anyway!).  He decided to walk on the wild side and order them in cream rather than your basic black, to go with the coffee-colored vintage Raleigh Super Course he picked up at the Bike Expo.  Mr. Spoke is having so much fun with his vintage Raleigh, it makes me want one too!   (Hmm…does it count as cheating on my Novara Pulse if I find myself looking at Raleigh Lady’s Sports on craigslist??)

Mr. Spoke picked out a basic flip-flop rear wheel from American Cyclery.

Here’s Mr. Spoke putting some Burt’s Bees baby powder around the inner tube to make sure it doesn’t stick to the casing of the tire or get pinched up.
Seating the bead . . .

Seating the bead...

All ready for some air!

Posted by: ham8cheese | December 1, 2009

tweed by osmosis

Mr. Spoke's vintage falling-apart Scotch House newsboy.

Unlike the hipsters who are catching on to cyclocrossnow while it is still underground,” I am just noticing the Tweed movement now, after even the most mainstream of media has written it up. I realize this makes me both slow and unhip — almost like not owning a flannel shirt until after Kurt Cobain killed himself.

Looking around at the Bike Expo last week, I emerged from under my rock to find myself thinking: Huh. There are quite a few oddly nattily-dressed people here (like B. Spoke Tailor, to take just one example)! And also: Huh. There are all these cute riding caps and every single one seems to be houndstooth or tweed or some other gentlemanly material!

As trends have a way of doing, I think tweed may just be getting under my skin. That is not to say that I’m going to show up at my nonprofit job dressed like Tiny Tim (at least not this week, anyway). But when I was browsing the racks at the Out of the Closet on Church this past weekend, I found myself strangely drawn to decidedly tweedy britch-type items. I walked out with a pair of $5.25 tweed britches that fit like a glove. Tweed by osmosis, I guess.

I’m thinking that notwithstanding my tweedy britches, and Mr. Spoke’s various tweedy hats (he has a penchant for Harris tweed), and my tweedy suit vest, I wouldn’t actually qualify to be a card-carrying member of the tweed-wearing classes. For one, there is my bike helmet which, lovely as it is, kind of screams period inappropriate. I’m also not ready to commit to wearing tweed 24-7. (I mean, my single tweed outfit would start looking grungy after a few days.)

But it sure is fun to dip my toe in tweed. Maybe you’ll see me at the next Tweed Ride. Or perhaps at the Dickens Fair (which, by the way, obviously should actually be “Faire”) . . . .

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 29, 2009

my wok-wielding ancesters would be proud

…of Mr. Spoke.  But me? Not so much.  The one time I attempted to use our wok (to make Singaporean curry noodles), I turned out a gelatinous mess of noodles that were somehow both undercooked and overcooked at the same time – it was quite an achievement, I thought.  I found that notwithstanding that centuries of my ancestors presumably had no problem with the wok, I was overly intimidated by the intense heat used for wok cooking, and that I was also too tentative to grab the wok and deftly flip around its contents with the necessary speed.  Hence, the gelatinous mess of overcooked (and let’s not forget undercooked) curry noodles (which Mr. Spoke politely insisted, even when pressed, were perfectly cooked).  Since then, I have wisely left the wok to Mr. Spoke.

Mr. Spoke sauteeing the tofu in a rocket-hot wok for the Pad Thai.

Tonight, Mr. Spoke pulled out the wok and made one of my favorites, Pad Thai.  He has a theory that all the best foods in the world are peasant foods – meaning they involve fairly inexpensive / easy-to-obtain ingredients and lots of flavor (which you really need when trying to spruce up otherwise basic staples).  Pad Thai, with its perfect combination of intense tamarind sauce, fish sauce, crab paste, and lime juice, must be among the best of the peasant foods.  (Meat loaf, Vietnamese bun, cassoulet (i.e. beanie weanie), roti prata, and dosa are a few others that come to mind.)

Mr. Spoke swears by Chez Pim’s Pad Thai recipe (with detailed instructions).  He preps and lines up all the ingredients beforehand in little prep bowls, and makes one portion at a time.  He throws everything into a properly fiery wok, in rapid-fire succession.  I try to stay well out of the way while this is happening, since we have a smallish galley kitchen and timing is critical.

My dinner, by Mr. Spoke.

Once the Pad Thai is ready, there is no dilly-dallying to be done.  You have to eat it right then and there, otherwise the chef may well get cross.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 29, 2009

sunny ride, cyclocross, & the velo rouge

I’m not sure what happened to the rainy season, but it was another perfect day in San Francisco today, just calling out for a bike ride.  Mr. Spoke and I decided to ride out to Golden Gate Park with a friend and check out the Pilarcitos Bay Area Super Prestige Cyclocross race there.  I had never seen cyclocross before and was curious to check it out.  I’d say it is definitely a fun spectator sport, what with all of the speed and excitement, the difficult sun-dappled terrain and obstacles, the vocal trash-talking audience (and not to mention the occasional crash).  Particularly amazing were the hardcore folks riding on single-speeds (including the rider who placed first in the Men’s A division).  In between all the insult yelling (“Get a real bike!”), there was also more than one reference made to the hilarious hipster cyclocross video, which apparently has been making the rounds.  (At the cyclocross race, I also ran into a college friend who I literally have not laid eyes on in a decade.  Turns out she is living in Oakland – small world!  We made plans to go on a bike ride some day soon.)

Post-cyclocross, it was time to tend to our grumbling stomachs.  We rode out of the park and over to the appropriately-themed Velo Rouge Cafe on Arguello, where I learned that the highly tolerant staff will serve you even if you ride up on an orange bike.  My grilled eggplant, zucchini, and caramelized onion “Pantani” sandwich (which I ordered minus the garlic cream cheese) hit the spot (my faux-low-carb-till-6pm schtick is totally slipping!), and the side salad it came with was pleasingly strewn with strawberries, grapes, and ears of corn.

Sigh.  What a fun, lovely day.  Do I really have to go back to work tomorrow??

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 27, 2009

apple tart, pure & simple

For Thanksgiving dessert, I made an apple tart using an excellent recipe from A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, who spends half his year in Berkeley cooking at Chez Panisse.  It’s a great recipe because of its simplicity – it lets the deliciousness of the apples and the flaky pastry shine.  I also love that the directness of the flavors is mirrored by the rough hewn aesthetic of the tart itself.   Another great thing about this tart is that you can prep it well beforehand, and then put it in the oven during dinner (it takes about 45 minutes to bake).  This time around, I used New York Special apples from the Ferry Building farmers’ market and essentially followed the recipe to a T, although I reduced the amount of sugar called for in the glaze (I used 3/4 cup but would go even lower next time) and added vanilla and a dash of cinnamon (Mr. Spoke’s idea) to the glaze as well.  Voila!

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 26, 2009

candy made with…pig?

In October at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, I gamely tried a homemade bacon cookie baked by a good college friend.  It was rich, savory, buttery – a concept akin to pancakes and bacon.  Apparently this type of pairing of sugar and oink is very of the moment, at least according to yesterday’s New York Times:

Meat Sweets in San Francisco

Caramels made with pig lard (available at Boccalone in the Ferry Building)?  Hmmm.  Could be very, very good….

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 26, 2009

thanksgiving: fly me to the ocean!

Braking for the RC boats at Spreckels Lake in Golden Gate Park.

Thanksgiving: a gorgeous, sunny day in San Francisco – perfect for a pre-cooking bike ride!  I pulled on my brand new Sheila Moon bike shorts to test ’em out, and Mr. Spoke and I made a beeline for the ocean, via Golden Gate Park.  We were pleasantly surprised to learn that the Parks Department had closed JFK Drive to cars today, and there were tons of cyclists out, including lots of helmet-wearing kids on trikes.  We made a quick stop at Spreckels Lake to watch the motorized boats, then rode by the Bison Paddock (where incredibly, the bison actually deigned to make an appearance!).  Then, onward to the ocean, where there were some huge breakers.

Watching the breakers roll in at Ocean Beach.

On the Great Highway, we spotted a really cute red and yellow bike that read “Depot Cycle&Recycle” on the downtube. Turns out what we saw was a pretty odd duck – and Depot Cycle & Recycle is a bike shop in Tokyo!  Guess that bike was a long way from home.

Shiny, happy bike, a long way from home.

As for the Sheila Moon bike shorts, which I wore under my britches, I’m glad to report that they were super comfy (FYI, she’s having a holiday party /warehouse sale on December 5-6 in Oakland – might be worth checking out!).

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 23, 2009

a bread recipe for layabouts

I don’t know what it is – maybe something about the cold weather or the oncoming holidays – but I am finding myself inspired to cook quite a bit these days.  (At the same time, my low-carb-till-6pm diet seems to have fallen by the wayside.  See Exhibit 1 here: low-carb diet 0, Tartine cookies 3 or 4)  With Asylum Street Spankers playing in the background and Mr. Spoke busying himself working on his new-to-him Raleigh Super Course, I decided to prepare some dough for baking later in the week (probably Wednesday night?).  Since Mr. Spoke is planning to make Zuni Cafe‘s recipe for roast chicken and bread salad on Thursday, I figure having some homemade bread laying around can’t be a bad thing.

Given the late hour, I decided to opt for the easiest of the bread recipes in my arsenal, Jim Sullivan’s no knead bread recipe.  (In terms of ingredients, I prefer King Arthur’s bread flour and Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Highly Active Yeast.)  You literally slap the ingredients together (taking care to mix the yeast into the flour separately from the salt), make sure the dry ingredients are roughly evenly hydrated, cover it, and after a long while, throw it in a piping hot oven.  It’s the long while that is key – this is when all the flavors in the bread will develop, so letting it sit there on your hopefully warmish counter for 20-plus hours is what will make this bread delicious.   I’ve made this bread with anywhere from 18 hours to 24 hours or possibly more fermentation time, and it will turn out fine (the high moisture content in the dough helps it keep longer).  You can also stick it in the fridge to retard the dough a bit if you like.  It’s all good with this recipe, in my book.

Next up: making some butter.  Mmm, butter.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 22, 2009

chocolate-oatmeal-walnut cookies

This evening I baked some cookies out of the Mission-based Tartine cookbook, a gift from a close college friend who stayed with us a few months back.  This is the third time I’ve made this recipe, and I’ve learned a few tricks that make them turn out just perfect, at least in my oven (of the Bosch Evolution variety – a great residential range for people who actually cook).  The basic recipe (by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson) is available here.  These are a great, thin cookie with an excellent combination of oaty-ness and chocolatey-ness.

Here are my tweaks:

  • I only use 280 grams (about 1.25 cups) of sugar, rather than the 350 g (1.75 cups) called for in the original recipe.  I find that most dessert recipes call for way too much sugar, and this one is no exception.
  • Although the recipe says to press out each scoop of dough into a flat 3-inch circle, I press mine into roughly 1.5″ to 2″ circles to get the cookies to a decent not-too-large size.  (Done this way, I end up with about 45 cookies, rather than the 24 listed in the original recipe.) When I made this recipe the first time and followed the directions for 3-inch circles, I ended up with these monstrously large (5″ to 6″) cookies that intimidated everyone at the baby shower I had brought them to.
  • This last one isn’t exactly a tweak, but just a bit of emphasis – the recipe says to bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned but the centers are still pale.  This takes a lot of will power to do, as the cookies will look sort of disturbingly pale in the center and your instincts (if they’re like mine) may tell you to keep baking them.  But you really do need to take the cookies out when the centers are still pale – otherwise you’ll end up with cookies that are a bit too hard (I learned this the hard way, although my co-workers politely pretended that they were not concerned about destroying their dental work as they crunched (loudly) through the 2nd batch I made several months ago).  Even so, although the recipe says 10 to 12 minutes, I find that in my oven the right timing is more like 14 to 15 minutes, sometimes more.

I’ve never actually braved the line at Tartine the bakery, probably due to sheer laziness.  (Notwithstanding the similarly obscene lines, I’ve somehow managed to make my way to Mitchell’s and Bi-Rite, so perhaps I just need to suck it up and show up at Tartine one day as well.)  So I have nothing to compare my homemade version to, but Mr. Spoke, a true chowhound, just ate three in a row, so I’m going to count that as an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 21, 2009

pimping my ride

I finally got around to taking off the boring black cork handlebar tape that came with my bike, and replacing it with some bright yellow Fi’zik bar tape.  Unless you count tennis rackets, this was my first handlebar wrap job, and I think I did a pretty fine job if I don’t say so myself.  (I studied up beforehand on the Park Tool website, which I thought was super helpful.)

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 21, 2009

bicycle-happy saturday

Mr. Spoke and I started our day off by riding our bikes to the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building — it was a glorious blue-sky day for riding and for the market.  Mr. Spoke rode his gorgeous red 1941 Schwinn DX single-speed cruiser instead of his daily Raleigh Professional, and I rode my Novara Pulse (my only bike – at least for now!).  I savored the relative peacefulness of riding on Market Street on a Saturday.  When we arrived at the market, several folks noticed the Schwinn.  I had to hold myself back when one dude wouldn’t stop commenting on how “sexy” he thought it was.  I wanted to run up and tell him to stop hitting on my hubby, but hey – it was a sunny Saturday so I let it go.  Besides, I had Primavera chilaquiles (ohhhhhhh) to get to.

After polishing off our chilaquiles (and turning my fingers orange in the process – small price to pay for such deliciousness), we picked up some New York Special apples for the tart I’m planning to make for Thanksgiving, a bag of brown rice from Massa Organics (the best!), and a small chicken from Norm, who sells fantastic poultry at various farmers’ markets around here.

Mr. Spoke's new 1973 Raleigh Super Course.

After the farmers’ market, we made a beeline to the San Francisco Bike Expo at Cow Palace.  Mr. Spoke was looking for a project, and he found one: a 1973 Raleigh Super Course in a lovely bronze color, for a song.  We also picked up a Raleigh crankset, pedals, and seatpost for it, so now we’re just looking for a saddle (probably a Brooks B17?), some albatross handlebars, and a few other odds and ends (bottom bracket?  wheels, perhaps?).

The Bike Expo was pretty fun, all in all.  There were lots of cool bikes to look at, including a gorgeous old Hetchins frame like they don’t make anymore, as well as a tiny little orange Italian road bike with what looked to be 24-inch wheels — even smaller than mine!  There was even a guy who was making bicycle-powered smoothies.  And I finally picked up some bicycle shorts from Sheila Moon, a local bicycle clothing designer, for longer weekend rides.

The only problem with the Bike Expo was that the only food there was of the entirely unappetizing hot-dog-oriented stadium-concession variety.  So we eventually high-tailed it out of there and grabbed an early dinner at our favorite Singaporean restaurant, in the Inner Sunset.  It shall remain unnamed in this blog to keep the masses at bay (given the hordes (i.e. 1 or 2, if you include myself) of people who are reading this), but suffice it to say that we sated ourselves on fantastical Singaporean chili crab and curry noodles – a great end to a great day.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 20, 2009

peter reinhart’s pizza dough put to the test!

Mr. Spoke and I had our pizza night tonight, with the help of some Cab Calloway on the stereo and the dough I had prepared earlier in the week from Peter Reinhart‘s recipe.  I was a bit skeptical about how the crust would turn out because the dough was the droopiest, most pliable dough I had worked with yet.  It would barely hold a shape, even.  I thought maybe it had too much water content, and that I should’ve added more flour. So I was worried it was going to be too thin in a holey sense.

Here's Mr. Spoke prepping the first pizza.

But we ploughed ahead even so.  Between sips of red wine, we added onto the rolled-out dough:

  • a pesto Mr. Spoke made fresh tonight
  • a bit of olive oil
  • mushrooms sauteed in sherry
  • prosciutto
  • sauteed onions
  • mozzarella
  • a bit of parmesan
  • kosher salt & pepper, and
  • a few slices of late-season homegrown tomato, from the one scraggly heirloom tomato plant we have on our roof.

We slid the pizza onto our Fibrament baking stone with the oven piping at 525 degrees and waited.

A couple minutes before we were going to take it out, Mr. Spoke opened the door and cracked an egg on top.

Turns out I needn’t have worried, as the crust came out perfectly thin and crispy, just how I like it!  The bacon-y goodness, along with the kosher salt, the pesto, and the olive oil in the crust, was just sooooo yummy.  Sigh.

A margherita with a crispy, thin crust.

We made another just like the first, and then a pesto margherita, and I’m proud to report that there ain’t a stitch left (sorry!).

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