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Marinated Goat Cheese – At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen
In a glass jar, layer pulls of soft goat cheese with olive oil, fresh thyme, peppercorns, smashed garlic cloves and bay leaves over and over until you reach the top of the jar. Be sure cheese is completely covered by oil at all times. Let marinate for a few days before using and don’t even think about getting rid of the oil once you’ve used up all the cheese. That is what warm bread is for.
Traveling with my family is not for the faint hearted. Nor is it for the sightseers, the hikers or the museum wanderers. Sure, we do a little of that when we explore a new place, but all those activities are the background, done partly out of obligation to the idea of the classic tourist. They are “well we are in Florence so I suppose we should take a peek at the Uffizi” or ” well we are in Venice, so I suppose we should take a gondola ride.” ( I have a thing for Italy).
Traveling with the Cerquitellas is for the ever-voracious, the espresso sippers and those with a high threshold for teasing and tolerating a constant high pitched stream of chatter. There are a lot of girls in my family. And somehow, when we are all together, our voices all turn morph into the same high shriek while the males stare in abject horror at what their wives/girlfriends have turned into. Oh boys. Just wait till the Dutch Blitz cards come out.
A few months ago my mom called to propose a Pastry Pilgrimage to San Francisco, inspired by Bon Appetit’s August article. My older sister was working in LA in early December and we could all meet up for a quick jaunt to eat our way through San Francisco. DONE.
First stop was b. patisserie. Our hotel was out by the airport, so to get into the city we had to use a “Yuber” as my mother called it. Adorable but tiny, this bakery was filled with the crispiest, most gorgeous croissants I’ve ever seen. It was also overflowing with slim, yoga pants clad middle aged women. Why they all had nowhere else to be on a Friday morning I do not know. Were buttery confections the usual post-workout meal in San Francisco? We had decided to get a little to eat at a lot of places this weekend so we tried not to overdo it at our first place. One chocolate kouign amann and a gougère would certainly tide us over for a bit.
Nope. Mom insisted we get a passion fruit tart as well. So much for our plan.
Then we walked. Walked and walked. I’m pretty certain we walked around 20 miles over the 3 days we traipsed around San Francisco. Wandering in and out of stores, poking around vintage kitchen ware stores, corner liquor stores and more gifty shops than I ever thought existed. Sharing a slice of toast at The Mill was a delicious and slightly pretentious experience. It isn’t normal to be condescended to while ordering toast at a coffee shop is it? Well, maybe if they are charging $4 for a slice of toast they can. The cafe was pretty and minimal with ultra cool customers and gorgeous bread. Now that I think of it, that entire aesthetic and character was a theme for San Francisco. Everywhere was artistically curated, snobby with impeccable gluten items.
Our objective was The Mission District. Tartine to be exact. Tales of its bread and pastries are epic and that was our landmark of orientation to the rest of the city. Hearing of its ludicrious lines, we were prepared for a wait. However, 3:30 on a Friday proved to have a very small line. Score! Thinking of Tartine immediately brings to mind brown, blistered, crusty and flour specked loafs but, upon entering the bakery there was not a loaf to be found. Had we missed them all?! Was the entire trip for naught!? Were we doomed to suffer through this banana cream pie with no hope of ending our afternoon with a bite of a crackling, warm, buttered baguette?
Not to fear. As it turns out, Tartine brings out its famous loaves after 4:30 daily. Something about toast for breakfast and fresh bread for dinner. So we were just a bit early, which was fine as we made my sister wait in line for a couple loaves the next day.
Saturday, we grabbed a hotel shuttle into downtown where Mom found a Ferrari store and practically ran there. Cause, you know she is always on the lookout for a luxury vehicle. Thankfully it was empty and shut down. Seems she was the only one looking for a Ferrari in San Francisco. We ended up at The Ferry Building where the weekly farmer’s market was set up. Any food lover must visit this mecca of gorgeous foodstuffs and quirky gift shops. Samples galore: cheese, burnt caramel, granola and ice cream. Everything “artisanal” and “hand crafted”. Everything impeccably packaged and lust worthy.
Breakfast was Blue Bottle coffee with a couple Craftsman and Wolves scones at their farmer’s market stands. We had stopped by Craftsman and Wolves location in the Mission the day before, but were too full to do more than ooh and ahh over their masterfully artistic baked sweets. These scones were small and just packed with flavor. We swooned especially over the thai curry coconut. Walking around food stands for hours certainly gives you an appetite so we soon needed a small lunch.
Knowing we’d never get in for dinner, we opted for a quick shared lunch at The Slanted Door. This is how we riff raff do fancy dining. We shared a vegetable spring roll and asian pear salad. Yes, we also shared a boozy cocktail and it was only noon. But, you know, YOLO. Perfect, perfect lunch.
Afterwards, we were on a mission to find Lombard Street, our one tourist trap. This was due to a scene in our family movie, What’s Up Doc, having a car chase scene down the crooked street. This meant we walked up, up, up. Which also meant when we finally reached the top and took the requisite photos, we took off our shoes and both walked sock footed for the next mile or so, downhill this time.
More walking, through parks, beaches, wharfs and into old pier buildings brought us to West Coast Craft which was overflowing with gorgeously styled hipsters, weavings, pottery and an almost incredible number of overpriced aprons. A stressful cocktail experience at The Interval at Long Now combined with aching feet made me cranky. So we “Yuber-ed” it to meet my sister who was chomping on a fresh, warm loaf of bread on the corner outside Tartine.
Dinner was multiple sides, burrata and a pizza at Pizzeria Delifina. Simple, elegant and inviting we gabbed in between moans of pleasure. Afterwards, Mom needed her mandatory nightly treat and so we hopped into Dandelion Chocolate where all was laid out like a museum display.
I was leaving Sunday afternoon and was so destined to lug around my suitcase on our travels the last day. My Tartine loaf safely tucked away inside comprised approximately 5 lbs of my bag’s total weight. Numerous times I dallied with the idea of tossing out items to lighten the load, but abandoning that glutenous loaf of crusty perfection was never even a fleeting option.
Our breakfast was at the irresistibly charming 20th Century Cafe, which reminded us of our Eastern European past. I wish I got had gotten a picture of the top of their seed and salt encrusted bagel. Gorgeous. You’ll have to just go yourself. A couple coffees and savory bites enlivened our spirits to explore the surrounding neighborhoods. A million more gift stores, candy shoppes and incredibly overpriced clothing boutiques later, our appetites had returned.
2 Sisters Used Books and Bar was an ideal final stop for me. Dark and cozy with a cushioned reading window, we sat snug at the lower bar. Presented with a cheese plate which included a surprise bundle of roasted garlic prompted all three of us to gasp in delight simultaneously. The three luxurious deviled eggs were sublime. Lounging, we sipped, nibbled, chatted and Instagramed.
After many more hills and miles wrestling my bread laden luggage, it was time for me to grab a BART to the airport. A delightfully delicious trip all around. We Cerqs travel right.
When I get the news that out of town friends are coming to visit, I immediately start planning their itinerary around consuming food and beverages. Great skill and deep thought go into these food themed tours to be sure to hit the requisite tourists spots as well as all the restaurants I save for special occasions with a few scenic views scattered about.
This was no different when Brandon’s brother and his really ridiculously good looking wife came to visit us. Tyler and Christiana, of T&C Photographie, have impeccable taste and an expert eye which meant they needed nothing less than the Luxe Brabby Tour of Seattle.
Starting the morning with iced coffees from Analog, we then wandered down the hill to end up at Pike Place Market. Here we wandered a bit to see our favorite spots. Confession: I still don’t get the fish throwing guys… I don’t think I ever will. No trip to the market is complete without a refreshingly zesty Rachel’s Ginger Beer. Necessary since everyday in Seattle is 80 degrees and sunny.
Continuing our traipsing, we wandered Pioneer Square and sat at The London Plane for lunch. I’ve been waiting to take Christina here since I first saw it, as its style and airiness is just her aesthetic. We shared a few small plates, though I think it was the bread and spreads that was the unanimous favorite. After lusting after the server’s aprons, I finally asked where they were from and subsequently have a new Christmas wish item. One Hedley and Bennett apron please!
Before dinner, we took T&C to Golden Gardens to show off the views Seattle offers.
Essex not only consistently yields some of my favorite drinks in the city, their glassware is uniquely gorgeous. We slowly sipped our cocktails while munching on a few small plates. It is tricky, this Essex and Delancey thing since you want to eat everything at Essex but you know you need to save room for the star of the show next door.
My favorite is always the white pizza topped with whatever the daily offerings are. Sadly, I again did not have any room for this perfect chocolate chip cookie so I was forced to carry it around and munch on it throughout the night. Utter torment.
The next morning we brunched at Arabica , then road tripped down to Lincoln City, Oregon. The boys found some choice tunes from Brandon’s teenage years and for some reason found great pleasure in torturing us girls with its nonsense. Luckily we were treated to fantastical scenery that distracted us from the pain in our ears.
T&C’s trip was way too short, and with so many restaurants in Seattle it is imperative that they return. But we look forward to visiting them in North Carolina this October!
When discussing our upcoming move to Seattle last fall, there were consistently two comments from our friends and family. “Seattle!? It rains all the time there!” and “Oh, they’ll have some great coffee since that is where Starbucks started! “. We’ve since discovered that the weather is really pretty fantastic, some of the best I’ve experienced living in the States. I wore my winter coat for about 6 days between November and January. Sure it rains sometimes, but more often than not the forecast that predicted 70% chance of rain all day is, in actuality, a crystal clear blue sky. And I happen to enjoy the occasional cozy, rainy, melancholy day. What I could not take any more, were the six month long, frigidly soul crushing ice baths that the Mid West calls “Winter”. You know in Game of Thrones, when Fryanyzne of House Cargartenthylisa whispers in abject fear that “Winter is coming”? The entire city of Chicago walks around like that from the end of September until the bitter, unceasing winds eventually cause them to become hermits or perpetually angry. bundled up white walkers.
Also, Starbucks barely sells coffee anymore, and seems to now concentrate on selling chai with bits of real Oprah*. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t sure how being Starbucks’ origin city would mean that spectacular coffee would be flowing through its streets. But, I stand corrected since Seattle has some incredible coffee establishments. Some are ideal for working on a laptop all afternoon, some require a paperback and a few are best for bringing along nothing at all. Well, maybe a friend and some money. Read on for my favorites:
Slate Coffee Bar
This city has constantly surprised me with its affable and laid back vibe. In Chicago when people were friendly, I’d be suspicious. Like, “Why are we talking right now? What are you trying to get out of this conversation?” I know, I’m the worst. But seriously, it was rare to be chatty out and about at bars or coffee shops. But Seattle has made me less cynical. You can easily become a welcome regular and the people working usually take a few minutes to chat and are genuinely interested in connecting. Nowhere is this more evident than Slate Coffee Bar. I’ve only been here twice but Chelsea recognized me and even remembered that I had a food blog! Plus, their coffee is brilliant so I am now a devotee for life. The small space in Ballard can accommodate about 10-12 people and I love to sit at the bar to see all the goings on. They love to chat about their coffees and the menu is extremely simple since their coffee needs no crazy embellishments. I suggest bringing just yourself and trying a tasting flight. You are in good hands with those baristas.
This is literally across the street from my apartment, so they are probably used to seeing my Saturday morning disheveled self stumbling in for a to go cup to drink while I cook myself breakfast. With a simple coffee menu and a few snacks, Analog is an ideal spot to hipster watch and work for a couple hours. They provide killer tunes from their record player and have a nice selection of magazines, newspapers and comic books scattered about. I love their cold brew and have been known to enjoy a macchiato from time to time. I just wish they were open later than 6 pm!
Milstead and Co.
Down the street from the Troll in Fremont, Milstead and Co. is roomy, light and airy. You just feel happy walking inside, as long as you can find a table. It can get a bit crowded sometimes. Their beans are from a few different roasters and it always makes me smile to see those familiar, red Intelligentsia bags. This is a good spot to work or read for a few hours on their rustic, pretty wooden tables. I also adore their gorgeous Coffee Plant artwork. I usually get an aeropress of whatever they recommend.
Vif wine and coffee
Up the street from the charming Book Larder and the perpetual line that is Paseo, sits a lovely cafe/bar with walls of windows. Vif has a casual, luxurious feel that begs for a novel, light afternoon snack accompanied with a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Its morning, afternoon and snackette menu feels fancier than your normal breakfast sandwich and its wine shop is a nice browse when you need to stretch your legs. They often have wine tastings in their space, so just check their website if you are planning to go for a long while.
* Everybody gets a CHAIIII!!!!
I’m not the most friendly of people and daily need time where I interact solely with a book. Hi, my name is Abby and I’m an introvert.
However, since my family and friends are spread literally across the world, I become more amicable when we are given the chance to spend a short, concentrated dose of time together. I especially savor when family and friends visit me and I get to show off all my favorite spots. This is probably selfish, since I’m basically boasting about my discovering skills and impeccable taste. But they usually get some pretty amazing meals and since I’m quite witty and entertaining , it all works out.
A few weeks ago, Mama Foodie came visiting for a fleeting 48 hours, so we really had to make our dining choices count. Does any one else plan out their trips entirely around consuming food and drink? Well, we Cerquitellas do. It is all I’ve known, which is probably why I’m so confused when visiting other people and they have no idea where they will eat tomorrow’s mid-afternoon snack. You can’t leave these things to chance people!
The Happy Food Dance Food Tour commenced after work on a Tuesday where we walked around a bit so she could feel what weather other than 80 degrees and sunny feels like. (My parents live in Dallas) Once I felt she was adequately chilled, we stopped by our neighborhood cocktail lounge’s happy hour. At Sun Liquor Lounge Cale Green (real name, see below) whipped us up a couple of his delightful cocktails. A Last Word for me, a Green Point for Brandon and a Mojito for Mom. We then strolled to my favorite Malaysian eatery, that window of enticing, mouthwatering aroma, Kedai Makan. (I’ve waxed poetic about it previously) Bringing our roti and nasi goreng home, we chatted as she proceeded to surreptitiously peek into every cupboard and closet in my 500 square foot apartment. Mothers are curious creatures.
The next day we met around noon to wander about Pike Place Market, where she took pictures of everything in sight and sighed over the vast edible displays. We shared some fish and chips inside the market along with a cold salmon sandwich with capers and lemon aioli. Absolutely scrumptious. I plan to pay a visit to that sandwich again in the near future. We chose a few cookies from a bakery and brought them into Seattle Coffee Works, where we wedged ourselves in the only two open seats and tried to hide the obvious wafts of powdered sugar from our contraband chocolate crinkles. We then wandered down to Pioneer Square, stopping at Watson Kennedy where we lusted after every knick knack in sight.
After our chocolate crinkles and coffee, we were obviously in need of a snack. We tried some mojito gelato from Cafe Umbria which was incredibly fresh and vibrant. Sitting outside and gabbing, she noticed a gorgeous storefront across the way and went to investigate. Practically running back with a “borrowed” menu, she declared it was now time for wine and cheese. Turned out this place was Bar Sajor, which I’ve read much about and been dying to try.
They were getting ready for dinner service, so I felt as if we were interrupting and didn’t belong. Still, we shared a glass of cava, with some bread, butter and a few local cheeses. Mama Foodie took pictures of everything in sight while I tried to pretend I didn’t know her.
I’m in love the look, and taste, of this restaurant group since going to Sitka and Spruce for my birthday dinner. The London Plane is high on my list of places to spend an afternoon and I’m looking forward to returning to splurge for dinner at Bar Sajor. After this 3rd afternoon snack, we dodged raindrops to the bus and went home. We barely had time to drop off her purchases when it was time to leave for dinner. We took the scenic route to give ourselves time to digest before stopped at essex for a drink and appetizers while we waited for a table at Delancey next door.
At essex we shared some small plates and then shared two pizzas next door, which were of course, delectable. Roasted broccoli on the white pizza was exceptional. Mama Foodie was the first to tell my older sister and I about Molly Wizenberg’s book and blog, so it was only fitting that we took her to Delancey to have some of my absolute favorite pizza. She was a fan to say the least.
Before her flight left the next morning, we had an early brunch at Arabica Lounge. Their window display is always overflowing with decadent desserts, crusty croissants and meringues as large as your head. Again, I pretended to be absorbed in the menu while she took pictures of every inch of the cafe. We each gobbled up a croissant and shared a perfect fig and goat cheese omelette. She filled a bag with treats for later and also stopped by Crumble and Flake to add more to her collection. I wonder if my Dad and brother got to see any of these treats by the time she got home…
Some people are terrified of turning into their parents. And though we are quite different, food is where my mother and I are all too similar. My husband was amazed when he heard my mother after dinner the first night:
“I need a treat. I just need a tiny square of chocolate! Just one. I don’t need a whole bar! Don’t you have a small square of chocolate around!?” she whined as she practically thrashed around on the couch and looked about desperately.
“Word for word, this is exactly what I hear from Abby every night.” he said in a scared voice.
Those look like some damn fine cookies right? They were. Don’t you worry about that.
Seattle is one of a few lucky cities to be a part of How About We (Brandon keeps calling it “Why Don’t We Just Do That”).
How About We is a curator of dates for couples. I think they also have a singles dating site as well. I originally bought a 3 month membership for my brother and sister in law as a Christmas present, and it turned out that it also signed Brandon and I up as members. Which is fine by me since that means we get a pretty fun free date once a month and discounts on the member dates, for like $10 a month.
You can get $50 off for your first date, which we cleverly used at Olivar. This is where I bravely tried mussels for the first time and while I loved the garlic butter sauce, someone please tell me who decided mussels were edible? Who first found the shell, opened it and thought “Yum! We should eat this! “? I just don’t get it.
We used our monthly free date to have a Cookie Tasting at Hello Robin, since what is a date without food? Not a real date. Conveniently (or suspiciously) we arrived just as a batch of fresh chocolate chip cookies were pulled out of the oven. The smells that wafted throughout this charming shop enveloped us as we were invited to take a seat and offered coffee or tea.
For our tasting we could choose 12 cookies from their selection of about ten or eleven different flavors. They had some staples like molasses and birthday cake and a few wildcards like a habañero orange chocolate chip and a crazy caramel pretzel one. I was partial to the wacky flavors myself. I had room for 2, and we had to take the rest home with us for another day’s dessert.
Next door is a fun little general store, Cone & Steiner, which you can peek into from Hello Robin. I bet their customers stand by the window waving hello to Robin all the time.