Posted by: ham8cheese | November 17, 2009

dough know whatcha talkin’ about

Hey, just because I’m eating low-carb doesn’t mean I can’t make pizza dough, right??

Tonight I made a batch of dough following Peter Reinhart’s recipe for Napoletana Pizza Dough, out of the book Mr. Spoke gave me as a gift for our first anniversary last June (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice). It was substantially easier than pie – I just weighed and mixed up all the ingredients, and let our Kitchenaid mixer do its dough-hooky magic. Half of the dough is now hanging out in the freezer for future pizza usage, and half is resting in the fridge for homemade pizza night this Friday.

I am betraying my yuppie-ness by swooning over the Kitchenaid, but it has definitely streamlined my dough-kneading process. Pre-Kitchenaid, it used to take me 30+ minutes of hand-kneading to get the dough to pass the windowpane test, sadly raising actual concerns that my hands would fall off (in which case I really would need a hook). Post-Kitchenaid, I can sit there eating bonbons while the dough practically kneads itself . . . I just have to be careful that all my drooling over the Kitchenaid doesn’t compromise the moisture ratio of the dough (Michael Ruhlman would NOT approve!).

Stay tuned for a full report from Friday pizza night to see how the dough turned out…

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 15, 2009

cycle righteous

From Pearls Before Swine by Stephan Pastis (June 2, 2009) (brought to you by Mr. Spoke, who let out a huge guffaw and then sent me the link).

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 12, 2009

cycle chic, cycle geek

I aspire to cycle chic (Wikipedia definition: “the culture of cycling in fashionable clothes”), but there are a couple of speedbumps along my personal road to bicycle runway.

Perhaps the most prominent of these hiccups is that, well, I’m just not that stylin’ to begin with, bicycle or not. That is, unless you count a lumpen-Dansko clog-wearing crunchy public interest advocate aesthetic in your definition of stylish.

Yes, Dansko clogs (could I really be a public interest advocate without them??) – which I find just don’t cut it on a bicycle due to their clunky stiffness (although for non-bicycling activities, I am smitten). Alas, my bicycling habit has forced me to partake in some shoe shopping . . . I’ve had to find new footwear that flex a bit and won’t fall off my feet but meet a minimum level of cuteness for the workday (given that I am way too lazy to lug an extra pair of shoes for regular wear). Enter the Born Kelsey, a ballet flat with a giant strap that is super comfy. They’re chic-ish, I think, and in any event, they get the job done.

Back to the hiccups . . . a second prominent hiccup standing between me and my cycle chic fashion destiny is that I’m just too darn safety conscious. There’s my bike helmet (made by Special Ed Specialized), of course, which I basically don’t leave home (on a bike) without. (Anyone who bike-commutes to work on Market St. without a helmet is, well, unwise at best, suicidal at worst.) It’s hard to look super chic, long locks a-flowing, when your locks are squashed under a piece of blocky plastic headgear. And, today Mr. Spoke surprised me with my very own blindingly bright blast-from-the-80’s fluorescent green bike jacket from Sports Basement. This way, cars will know to stay the &*#% away from me on commute days. (And, since Mr. Spoke has one of his own, we can look like a totally puke-on-your-shoe matchy-matchy safety-conscious bicycle geek couple.) Laugh all you want, but I love my new jacket. To round out my cycle-geek outfit, I’ve also got some Giro bike gloves (super thin and breathable – love ’em).

(While we’re on the subject of bicycle-related recession-prevention program activities (because really, what’s the point of getting into a new sport if you can’t spend all your time shopping for new gear?), I have also become the proud new owner of a Terry Liberator X bicycle saddle (jury’s still out, ladies), bright yellow F’izik handlebar tape (to pimp my ride, of course), and some new brake pads to replace the somewhat janky ones on my otherwise awesome citrus-hued bike.)

In sum, it looks like my cycle geekery leaves me highly unlikely to have my photo snapped for Velo Vogue any time soon. The only saving grace is that I’m still holding out on spandex (notwithstanding the fact that a co-worker’s wife told me – in hushed tones – that her bike shorts changed her life). And maybe I too can venture into cycle chicness on leisurely weekend rides when I can leave my bike-commute-warrior outfit at home. Speaking of which, there’s a “Style Ride” this weekend starting at Push Bike in the Mission. Will I see you there??

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 6, 2009

dear carbs, i’m breaking up with you

I am one of those people who will eat bread and pasta till the cows come home if you let me. Heck, even after all the cows are tucked away in bed, I will still be eating bread and pasta. Recently, after realizing that perhaps my love affair with carbs was not ideal and my sedentary office job no better, I took decisive action. I adopted a dilettante low-carb approach to eating: no bread or pasta during the day, but all bets are off for dinner and beyond. This means I’m still eating carbs during the day – just in the form of oatmeal, yogurt, and veg (and of course lots of non-carby fare). In the evening, I eat whatever scrumptious meal Mr. Spoke feels like cooking (and, less commonly, whatever I feel like cooking), carbs and all.

I have to say that, having previously tried a stricter low carb diet, I am finding that this approach is much more sustainable for me. For one thing, I do not find myself seriously craving bread and pasta and – perhaps the most perfect food ever, pizza – because I’m still eating those things, just not for all 3 meals. (Honestly, I don’t know what I would do if I had to give up our homemade pizza nights.) This approach to eating (can you tell I keep skirting around the word “diet”?) also has the benefit of not taking the fun out of eating dinner out with friends (“Oh, you go ahead and enjoy that hip-packing lasagna. I’ll just sit here and nibble on my plain lettuce, thanks”). And I think I probably have lost a couple of pounds, although I am not one to weigh myself and don’t even own a scale. Probably the most important effects are psychosomatic – I feel sort of healthier and svelte-er, as it were.

The only thing about this that I’m bummed out about is that it has definitely put a crimp in my bread baking. Till recently, I was very slowly working my way through Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, turning out yummy though perhaps not always aesthetically pleasing versions of ciabatta, italian bread, pita, and rustic breads. But one of the many joys of bread baking is eating it yourself – and in a timely fashion. So a challenge for me will be to figure out how to work in my bread making again while still sticking to the spirit of my low carb till 6 situation.

Apparently there are other proponents of the diet-till-6:00 approach, including Mark Bittman, the NY Times food writer and author of Food Matters, a book that encourages folks to eat less meat during daytime hours for the dual purposes of losing weight and slowing global warming. I think he calls it “vegan till 6,” but truth be told, I haven’t read the book yet. It’s on my list.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 5, 2009

my search for a unicorn

In my search for a bike that fit my 5’2″ frame, I think I underestimated how difficult it would be. As I slowly realized, most bike manufacturers make bike frames in the 15″ and up range. The bike industry seems to have basically wholly ignored the segment of the adult population that is 5’3″ and under. I mean, yes, I’m pretty small, but the average female height is about 5’4″. So I’m not wildly far off from the mean. Yet there are very few bikes out there for someone like me. (BIKE INDUSTRY, ARE YOU LISTENING??)

I took my first test rides at American Cyclery by Golden Gate Park. They were nice, but did not seem to fully grasp my issue with needing a smaller bike. I ended up test-riding the Specialized Vita, the lovely Bianchi Milano Parco, and the Specialized Globe San Francisco 2. I found myself struggling to find differences between my existing bike and these test bikes; the reality was that they didn’t feel dramatically different — meaning that I still felt a little awkward on these bikes, a little wobbly, a little unsteady.

The Bianchi Milano Parco - cappuccino to go, please!

The Bianchi Milano Parco (which really is a fine looking bike) has 26″ wheels and a 3-speed internal hub; the smallest frame size is 16.5″. The frame was still a little big – the standover height was a bit tall for me, with the top tube was uncomfortably close to my sensitive bits. I liked the internal hub – the shifting was a refreshingly smooth improvement on the Cypress DX – but was worried that the 3-speeds were impractical for the San Francisco hills. Of the 3 bikes, this one was the frontrunner, and I started considering Read More…

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 5, 2009

goodbye giant, hello pixie

My new pixie bike, next to Mr. Spoke's 1941 Schwinn DX.

Ta-da, it’s my brand spanking new pixie-sized bike – the REI house brand Novara Pulse bike.  It is pictured here consorting with Mr. Spoke’s excellent pre-WWII Schwinn, which in theory has the same sized wheels as the Novara Pulse (26″) but looks like a hulking monster next to it (an elegant hulking monster, though).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I started out several months ago with a Giant Cypress DX with a 15-inch-ish frame from craigslist, a bike that turned out to be way too big for my 5’2″ frame, even though I could just touch the ground when the saddle was adjusted to the proper height.  I thought that my troubles had more to do with my nonexistent cycling skills, but now that I’ve ridden the Novara Pulse, I know better.  There were lots of things NOT to like about riding the Cypress DX, at least for me – it had a suspension fork and suspension seat post, which rather than soften my ride just contributed to my feeling of instability on the bike.  Although the bike had 24 gears which were great for some bad ass San Francisco hills, it sounded like a team of hamsters were assisting in slowly creaking the gears into place every time I shifted.  Then there was the fact that the bike was a bit heavy for me – not a plus factor for someone who, embarassingly, can barely open jar lids.   I think the Cypress DX is probably a great, moderately-priced comfort bike for someone who’s looking for comfort and is tall enough to ride it.  But woe upon woe, it was not the bike for me.

I was definitely torn between wanting to get a bike that works for me, and thinking that since I’m not a serious cyclist that I should just muddle along with my beater bike.  But Mr. Spoke wisely pointed out that having the right bike would mean I’d love riding it – and that would make me love cycling even more, whereas riding an ill-fitting bike could inhibit my acquisition of cycling skills and all that.  So we trudged around to different bike shops in the city, test riding a few different bikes.  And, of course, I spent hours online looking at craigslist and other bike manufacturers’ websites.

The Novara Pulse was the end result of my months-long search, and I am so glad I took my time.  I learned a lot, and ended up with a bike that is a perfect fit — even if it IS a “kid’s” bike (yeah, you heard me right – twelve-year old boys in spandex apparently ride my bike).  The important thing is that, as Mr. Spoke likes to say, it’s a bike that whispers “go faster” in my ear . . .

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 4, 2009

“swine so fine”

With me being a non-Southerner, pork rinds were really never on my list of favorite foods.  I mean, what is a pork rind, really, anyway?  It’s a sort of puffy, crunchy thing, with the pig ingredient somewhat unapparent.  My pork-rind-ambivalence, however, dissipated in an instant one day at Bloodhound in SOMA when I reached my little hand into a big silver bowl filled with these light, puffy, crispy things and dared to take a bite.  Eyes closed.  The room quieted.

It was sweet.  It was salty.  And it was sooooooo good.  It literally just kind of disintegrated into my mouth, becoming one with the rest of me, leaving a sticky, yummy residue of, well, pig fat.  Is crack this good, I wondered?

I was at one of Ryan Farr’s events for yuppie foodiots, surrounded by people dive-bombing fantastically yummy plates of steak and burgers.  Yet the silver bowls filled with Ryan Farr’s heavenly chicharrones sat there quietly and patiently, ignored by the crowds.  Losers, they.  Losers, they.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 3, 2009

halloween critical mass

. . . was awesome, although all the slow, wobbly scooting was a little taxing for my nearly nonexistent newbie cycling skills.  Here’s a video from youtube – Mr. Spoke and I are in there near the very end.

It was my first Critical Mass, and I have to say I don’t think it’s the most effective public relations tool for cyclists.  Taking over the streets is awesome, but I think drivers leave with antagonistic feelings, to put it mildly.  It’s more of a “confront” – rather than “coexist” – message.  But it sure is fun.

Posted by: ham8cheese | November 3, 2009

i heart biking

Today marked my 2nd official day as a bicycle commuter, and I am loving it.  What took me so long?  Well, long story short, until recently the last time I had gotten on a bike was during a different decade, one in which grunge was in and the 80’s were more fashion nightmare than fashion genius.  So the first time my hubby (Mr. Spoke) and I went for a ride in Golden Gate Park, I was literally hyperventilating every time a car passed me by on my rental bike.  So it’s been a long, slow, road, but well worth it.

Mr. Spoke, a crafty husband and longtime fantastic cyclist, helped nudge me along by buying me a cute red bicycle helmet for my birthday earlier this year.  (No pressure or anything.)  Somehow, that led to me buying a beater bike on craigslist, a boring blue Giant Cypress DX.

My Giant Cypress DX from craigslist

I rode that thing doggedly down Page Street to the Panhandle and the Park most weekends, and somehow along the way I found myself loving watching the world go by on a bike, and forgetting the previously scary cars around me.  All this even though I hated that bike.  And even though for a while there I made every left turn by dorkily crossing the street like a pedestrian (when the choice is between being traffic roadkill and arriving at your destination, is there really any question??).   Dreadhead hipsters in drum circles are so much more fun to watch when they’re blurring by at a couple miles an hour, don’t you think?

Fast forward to today, and there I was zipping down Market Street on an awesome new road bike that I LOVE LOVE LOVE, dodging MUNI buses and cabs.  Mr. Spoke, the best hubby ever, was like my personal Market Street bike bodyguard, ensuring my safe passage to my nonprofit office.   What I find especially fun is the anticipation of getting to ride my bike in the morning and evening – it’s not commuting – it’s FUN!   Wheeeeee.

To be continued: the saga of my search for the perfect bike.

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