I undoubtedly owe my coffee obsession to Peet’s. For as long as I can remember, I’ve watched my dad consume a seemingly irrational amount of Major Dickason’s blend. Naturally, this passion for a strong caffeinated cup (or three) was passed from father to son, and I too found myself gravitating to the corner of Walnut and Vine – Peet’s very first location which opened in 1966 – to grab a pound of beans. Recently, my interest in coffee has cooled a bit. In fact, it’s frozen. Javiva Blended coffee is made with fresh brewed coffee, and I would expect nothing less coming from Peet’s. Thankfully, I no longer have to limit my coffee fix to foggy Berkeley mornings. In fact, given this relentless California heat, it looks like I’ll be doing my best to keep it cool more often than not these days.
Good food, good mood. San Francisco’s newly opened Seed + Salt is built on, but not defined by, a plant based concept. Two years prior to opening, founder Mo Clancy and chef Ariel Nadelberg worked together to develop recipes that not only focused on vegan food, free of gluten, dairy and refined sugar, but that also appealed to even the most discerning skeptic. I was certainly not one of those cynics – in fact, I’ve had close friends swear by their juicy beet burgers, hearty chard wrapped falafel and oh so chewy chocolate chip cookies – so I was super excited to finally visit their Marina location, but I’ve also definitely had some less than pleasurable experiences with vegan and gluten free foods in the past. Who knew unsprouted nuts was the cause of many belly aches? That was just beginning of my palatable lesson at Seed + Salt. From the moment I walked into the bright and airy space, my spirit was immediately lifted. The sprouted nut loaf was crunchy, moist and surprisingly comforting – especially with delicious sweet and savory spreads like cashew dill cream cheese, wild mushroom paté, homemade nutella and raw lemon curd (my personal favorite). The beet burger and falafel wrap, full of flavor and texture, lived up to the hype. And the seasonal salad, with sweet strawberries and green goddess dressing, was colorful and vibrant. I left feeling satisfied, happy and desperately craving a Seed + Salt location in my hood. Until then, there will be many future trips to Chestnut Street and thanks to chef Ariel, I’ll be recreating her baby gems salad with vegan green goddess dressing all spring long.
I have some big news to share: I’m very close to buying a house!! (Escrow is almost closing!) It was a long and difficult journey to finally get our house– and a journey full of a lot of rejection and dashed hopes, but we are finally here and couldn’t be more thrilled about our future home. Once the doom and anxiety of being a full-blown adult with a mortgage payment subsided, I started to get very excited at the work we’ll be doing to the place and in no time I was pinning up a storm of kitchen cabinets, outdoor entertaining spaces and bathroom tile inspiration. Our home is a fixer-upper (oh, and I have some serious kitchen renovation plans that you’ll be sure to hear about) but the thing that sold us on the place was the big lush yard. Outdoor square footage is surprisingly hard to come by in Los Angeles. The yard is overgrown and wild right now, but I have long-waited for the day I could go to Home Depot to pick up my own garden beds, get my hands dirty in some soil and plant me a proper herb and tomato garden. I’ve lived in an apartment my entire young adult life with dull and crappy house plants that I usually managed to kill within a year. The fact that I’ll have a plot of earth to take care of now and watch flourish is truly gift that I won’t be taking for granted! Also, you reap the rewards of having a green thumb like making this incredible herb and tomato focaccia!
Some notes about this bread: this is the first time I’ve made bread using a sponge starter, which is a small bit of pre-fermented yeast and dough. It adds that bit of tang and depth of flavor, reminiscent of a sourdough and totally worth the extra step! I am a convert now and will be using a sponge starter with any bread I make. Another note about bread making, I’ve started to use a scale when baking bread and it truly makes a huge difference. I’ve included both measurements in this recipe, but I highly encourage you to purchase a kitchen scale. I topped this focaccia with easy-to-grow garden herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil and finished it off with healthy sprinkling of scallions. The whole tomatoes get blistered and roasted and go perfect with the herbs. Serve this at a dinner party as your appetizer center piece with lots of good extra virgin olive oil, flake sea salt, fresh herbs, ricotta and olives.
There is something so incredibly satisfying about a vegetable tian. Finely sliced rounds of potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini are arranged like colorful, fallen dominos and roasted to perfection. But not only is this dish beautifully rustic, the flavors are vibrant and savory. Honestly, I’ve been known to eat the entire thing – fresh out the oven and straight from the baking dish. If you haven’t already tried it, trust me when I say you’ll have this surprisingly easy to prepare Provençal recipe on heavy rotation this spring. And summer . . .
A mandolin makes the preparation irresistibly easy. If you don’t have one, it’s a wonderful investment. All you need to do is finely slice the vegetables – I’m using potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini here but you can also add eggplant and onions if you wish.
I consider myself a decent cook. Throw me in the kitchen with a slab of meat, some fresh veggies, possibly an egg (hopefully some rum) and there’s a chance something tasty will result. I also tend to over-think things. What I lack in skill, I try desperately to make up for in creativity. But after chatting with Charlie Parker, executive chef at Oakland’s, Haven, I realized there’s no need for fancy gadgets or million-step recipes to make elegant food. Fresh, quality ingredients go a long way. Case in point, this Monterey sardine, avocado, and radish, topped with a few sprigs of cilantro delfino. Sometimes a simple homemade sauce or condiment can be what elevates a dish. For example, preserved lemon puree perfectly accents this simple plate of roasted delta asparagus, fried egg, spring onion and brown butter. Sure, unlike chef Parker, you might not be able to get your hands on a whole Don Watson lamb to butcher at home. But blending up a little English pea pesto is most certainly doable. Garnish with a few local greens and you’re sitting pretty. Of course, sometimes it’s best just to kick back and let the pros do it for you. At Haven, chef Parker playfully dances the line between fine dining elegance and wholesome comfort food. He was nice enough to share a few of the aforementioned components with us today. Recipes for his English pea pesto and preserved lemon puree can be found below!
I was excited to revisit Daniel Patterson’s Haven located in Oakland’s Jack London Square. Admittedly, I had not dined at Haven since the days of Kim Alter. However, I continue to hear positive reviews since Charlie Parker took over as executive chef. The space was as pleasant as I remembered, with its bustling open kitchen and elegant dining room facing the harbor – but now with an beautiful greenery in abundance. The attention to detail is evident throughout the restaurant, and of course the same can be said for the food. Haven currently offers a robust prix-fixe three course menu, with an a la carte menu at the bar. Be sure to check back on Wednesday for a closer look at Chef Parker at work in the kitchen plus a few Spring inspired recipes.