Tuesday, May 22, 2007

San Francisco - Peet's Coffee

I am sitting in Peet's Coffee on Polk Street near Broadway, the crisp (yes not foggy) early morning California sun is shining down as I sip a cup of America's best coffee. On an eating trip to this amazing food city, sneaking out for coffee before the day starts, I feel like I am spending the morning with an old lover. My favorite coffee house, I haven't seen you in over a dozen years. You still look great, a little older and maybe a touch worn on the edges, but still beautiful. I remember falling in love with you and the years we spent together. And I sadly remember having to leave. I have missed you. Only at this moment do I realize how much. I absorbed the loss and made my own way and am happy. But here with you this morning, drifting back to what was, I see how it could have been, how our entwined paths would have led to a very different life these years later. For an hour this morning, I imagine the last decade with you; stopping in for coffees on the way to work, chatting with friends at these tables, bringing my kids by on the way to the playground, quick work meetings at the tables on the sidewalk. It would have been a beautiful life together, me and Peet's. Soon we'll return to our own ways and I'll mull over what might have been and whether you feel the same.

I love this coffee. The beans are great, the roast is dark but not burnt, the brand is engaging but not cute, and the coffee is really freaking good.

When I was at Berkeley, I met Peet's. The other members of Ken Raymond's research group were obsessed with it. To my taste, it was burnt and too strong. But over time Peet's wore me down and won me over. Maybe it was the scent of eucalyptus trees or the Pacific breezes or the endless artichokes for free from Ken's garden. But that strong coffee is as Bay Area as any scent/taste memory I have. When I left California almost 13 years ago, I had to leave it behind. Later, I re-discovered Peet's when they implemented their shipping program and I jumped aboard. But while the coffee is great at my house, it is not Peet's from the shop on the corner.

But today I'm here. Digging the 60 degree breeziness. Watching the sexy barristas make coffees. Digging on the stream of casually dressed office workers, young mommies, artsy/student-y/hipsters, neighborhood hanger-outers, guys in bike clothes, and other beautiful San Franciscans. Peet's is firing up a day that will include a long walk through Chinatown, an early dim sum lunch, a late afternoon meal at Slanted Door (a recap of last night's amazing dinner), and dinner at Bong Su. I'll have at least two more cups of Peet's today, maybe three. I'll eat great food and sample great cocktails and continue to enjoy an amazing day in California.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Alaskan Halibut Medallions, Fiddlehead Ferns, Ramp Coulis

4 ea. Halibut medallions (about 4 oz. for a light course, 7 for a full course)

Olive oil

Soft whole butter

1 # fiddle head ferns, trimmed and washed

2 oz. white wine

2-3 sprigs of tarragon

Little bit of very nice, sweet olive oil

Salt and pepper

Ramp Coulis (See below)

1) Prepare Ramp Coulis first.

2) Lightly season fish with salt and pepper.

3) Place skillet over medium-high heat. Oil skillet well. Place halibut in skillet, giving the skillet a gentle shake.

4) Allow fish to brown. When nicely colored, turn and finish second side.

5) When fish is cooked, remove from pan. Turn down heat a little.

6) Add a tablespoon or so of whole butter and the fiddle heads. Sauté for a minute or two. Add wine and cook to nearly dry with stirring. Stir in tarragon and a shot of olive oil. Adjust seasoning.

7) Place pool of Ramp Coulis on plate. Place halibut portion in pool of sauce. Spoon fiddleheads and liquid atop fish. Sprinkle a fiddlehead or two around the plate.

Ramp Coulis

¼ # Cleaned ramps, leave and bases separated

1 ea. Shallot roughly chopped

1 Tbs. Butter

¼ C. Heavy cream

Tiniest grate of nutmeg

Salt and pepper

1) Finely chop ramp bases. Sweat in butter with shallots until soft.

2) Add cream and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer.

3) Finley chop ramp leaves.

4) Place cream mixture in a blender. Add ramp leaves. Puree well.

5) Strain, adjust seasonings, and keep warm.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Finding Spring

We go out and find Spring every year. I roust the family on a nice Sunday morning and badger them around the house until, finally, they surrender, get dressed, and climb into the car and we drive north to our "Finding the Spring" place. Once we arrive and extract ourselves from the car, we all relax. Especially the dogs and I. Man and his canines get really antsy when they don't get out to the woods much. While the whole family truly enjoys walks in the woods, only Emma and I really believe we could depart society and live like savages in the wilds of Western Pennsylvania. Hannah thinks she could join us but would only last until she realized that there is a shortage of couches in the woods. I know Emma shares my fantasies of a feral existence without alarm clocks and no-cat-killing rules (man and dog fantasies, respectively). But for now, we all hike together.

How do we find Spring in the woods? Spring=ramps. It doesn't matter what the television or the calendar says, when I can walk through the woods and fill my sinuses with the sulfur skank smell of mature ramp funk, spring is here. Asparagus, a delightful spring treat, is about two weeks behind. Strawberries at least a month. Of the six creatures that go to the woods, only I search so eagerly for the first ramp patch. Zoe loves the trilium flowers, Jake the mud, Mary the chance to let the rest of us walk ahead while she climbs a tree in kid- and husband-free silence. Hannah and Emma enjoy rolling in fresh deer scat and long-dead animal carcasses. But I get off on finding the ramps. Sure it is great to see the young skunk cabbage (completely worthless as food) and the dwarf ginseing (absolutely non-medicinal). But the ramps, with their flavor and purgative qualities, are what I come for.

Since I have included a picture of ramps that grow in this place, I politely decline to disclose the location of our spring hike place. Suffice to say that it is on Western Pennsylvania Conservancy land and any harvest or picking is prohibited. I am loathe to encourage a soul unfamiliar with responsible wild foraging to make a digging foray and destroy the ecosystem there. However, the fact that my amazing ramp patch is off limits to harvesting is just fine with me. If I was allowed to harvest my ramps, I'd feel obliged to dig a shopping bag full and bring them home and worry over using them up before they rotted. And a small family can only take a few ramps. I get mine from people that have cultured their own patches or who I know are responsible wild-harvesters. Of course, I cannot deny that I'll pinch a leaf or two to munch as we walk. Never hurts anyone, just helps me to assess the quality this season.

My breath is bad, the ramps are good. It is a good year so we should eat them up!

A random e-mail from Jean Marc...

Completely unrelated to this blog, just happened to show up the other day in response to, I assume, a picture of me in chef jacket and blue jeans:

Chef Fuller,

I’m highly offended to see you in a dirty old pair of blue jeans.

And how can you be a real chef if you aren’t wearing a chef hat?

Huh, you tell me that!

And what the hell is this asparagus you’re talking about?

I have an idea for an article: “why the French can kick anyone’s butt when

It comes to cooking.”


Your favorite customers

He and his family are big fans of Mad Mex. I agree with the guy, the French sure can cook. They don't make very good donuts, however. Somehow, the French never worked that out. In case anyone missed it, he is being humorous in the e-mail.