Friday, December 30, 2011


recently, i worked FOH for a friend at an event....that interestingly enough...wasn't for hapa. after the event, sus sent me a text message about how a friend of a friend mentioned to her how "charming" i was with that smile of mine at the event. i remember, quite frankly, that when that text message came in...i choked in disbelief....wheezed a little bit...and then started laughing.

there is always a first for everything.

there are many descriptors that have been used to describe me throughout the years....the most common descriptors being smart, analytical, robotic, scarily efficient, stubborn, independent, ummmm...intimidating....and well, cranky......and well....hmmm.....kind of an asshole.

charming, is not usually among the list.

like ever.

ever ever.

after i was done choking, wheezing, and laughing, i took a moment and thought about it (hello! analytical!).

i suppose it made sense.

i suppose it made sense because it is really all about context.

when i love you, believe in you, and want to support you....then things are quite different. i'm not an asshole. when people see me in that context, then i suppose i smile a lot....i laugh a lot....and i don't even realize that i'm doing it. it is me....just being me....being that moment.

i remember when i was working FOH for an event where CK was selling some of her holiday sweets. i've been eating CK's food for a long time and have always been an advocate for her food. here are some of the pics of her holiday sweets that i took earlier including a shot of her candy cane marshmallows that i've been having with my hot chocolate........

doesn't that look just tantalizingly and sexy? sigh.

my love and excitement for her food is sincere and i have a feeling that folks probably picked up on that. it wasn't manufactured. i was representing someone that i believe in. when i think about the folks that tried CK's food for the first time that day....i find that i'm smiling a wicked smile right now...just thinking about it. i remember intently watching the faces of people before and after they tasted her food for the first time. i remember thinking "you have no idea just how delicious what you are about to eat is going to be" right before they tasted a sample....and then feeling quite wickedly gleeful when i watched their faces transform into a blend of utter surprise and pleasure.....and oftentimes there was with an "OMG" or "holy shit" thrown in there.

in my head, when i would see their pleasure at eating CK's food, i thought "gotcha!!!!"

hee hee.

sometimes, the proof really is on the plate and that is all you need.

speaking of proof on the plate....or both plate and bowl actually.... there is also the helping out that i do at hapa.

helping out at hapa is on a completely different level....especially in terms of scale. as a well known presence within san francisco, hapa has their legion of passionate fans that often make special scheduling arrangements to ensure that they are able to eat hapa's food. good food, made with good ingredients, and made with good intentions. these fans have high expectations for hapa's food and they know exactly what they want. when i help out with hapa, i am keenly aware of the well as every member of the hapa team that works very hard to bring their "A" game to ensure that the fans are not let down.

it makes for a very intense service.

there are so many fans. i am naturally a very curmudgeonly anti-social uncharming type of person who doesn't suffer fools....and who, quite frankly, shouldn't be around people on a regular ongoing basis.

on the surface, it doesn't make logical sense that these two components could peacefully co-exist.

yet, when i am in the hapa stand, i am there because i believe in richie's vision for the food. i know exactly where the food comes from. i know where the ingredients are sourced....because oftentimes those very farmers come to the stand to eat.
i know who makes the food that respects the ingredients from these farmers. i know many, within the extended hapa family, that decide to contribute time, support, and resources because they believe in what hapa is doing.

i know that i'm a cranky person. yet, i also know that my belief in representing who and what i love....trumps all crankiness. this happens when i'm working with hapa, working other events, or even just being really excited about a particular dish from folks in the bay area and beyond. also, paradoxically enough, when i put aside my typical cranky ass personality and focus on providing a friendly experience that underscores and respects the is actually sincere. i don't do this because i have to. i do this because i want to. i don't do this because have expectations of some sort of return. for me, this isn't a P&L statement. it isn't business. it is personal. it is because i personally want them to succeed.

while not having any expectations of a return, sometimes, there are startling unexpected moments that leave me stupefied....but in a good way.

for example.....despite hapa being at the ferry building on tuesdays and thursdays for over a year now...there are still many folks that are newbies to the food of hapa. it is usually quite gratifying to hear when someone has had the food for the first time and enjoyed it. just hearing that makes me feel this encroaching sort of know....kind of like the warm that invades the grinch. yet, there are times when the newbies take their enjoyment to heights that amaze an incredibly cynical person like me. recently, when i was working a service....a client who had only had the food twice decided to buy us mittens....because they thought we looked cold.

think about that for a second.

this was a stranger. this was only their second time eating hapa's food. they loved the food. their love of the food put them in such an incredible good mood. they saw that we were cold. they decided to buy us mittens.

a random act of kindness from a stranger born from enjoyment of a lovely meal.

i know that the client was almost in a disbelief that they were doing this...and was almost sheepish really....but we were pretty thrilled. we also knew that there wasn't any expectation of "return" because they had already paid and such well before they decided to give the mittens to us.

i was pretty amazed and touched by the unexpected kindness and generosity of the gesture.

i still am actually.

while i enjoy being immersed in technology for "my real" job....the pace...the stimulation.....the intellectual puzzles.....and more...., there is something about the everyday human connections, care, and sense of community that occur between strangers around food that is supremely unique.

it isn't about logic, analytics, adoption levels, metrics, scales, or p&l statements.

or it isn't for me.

when i started on this journey a few years ago, i had no idea that i would be doing what i am doing now. none. all i really knew was that i began the journey with a very simple premise....represent what you love.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


wired and tired.

you know, that feeling when you lie down in know that you are tired....but for some reason the lights that play against the walls from cars and streetlights seem super duper fascinating that you can't sleep. thoughts are stopping, starting, and running all over the place. there is a replay of the past few hours, the day, the week, and more....but not in any kind of sequential chronological order.

i decided to get back up and write a bit.....perhaps as a way to wind down from the day......knowing that work will begin in a few hours.

despite random thoughts starting, stopping, and running all over the place.....methinks i should just write about change..... specifically, how i have changed.

i noticed this a few months ago. i noticed a change but i don't think i could clearly verbalize it. i remember mentioning this to richie in passing....and when he asked for a bit more insight....i could only say that i don't see things the way that i used to. for example, i don't see the farmers market the same.

at the time, that was all i was able to say.

yet it is different now.

i don't see the farmers market.

i see farmers. i see bakers. i see people that make confections. i see butchers. i see cheese mongers. i see cooks. i see families. i see security guards. i see market staff. i see people who likely have to be up at or before 5am....when it is still make preparations for the market, set up, and likely have been at work for hours before the first customer visits a stand.

i've also discussed this change in me with a couple of friends of mine....and with each discussion, i think i was able to get closer to identifying the change....and perhaps....just how significant the change is.

i think it became clear to me just how much i had changed recently when a couple of friends who knew me before "foodie hunter" came into existence saw me working a service or event.

one of these friends.....a particular friend who has been a cook for many years....and knew both richie and i separately....well before "foodie hunter" came into existence....came to visit the hapa stand one day when i was working service. for this particular service, i was chatting with clients about the source of the ingredients while garnishing bowls and running food. i'm pretty certain that this was the first time my friend...who knew me before "foodie hunter".... had seen me in this setting. while she was inside of the stand, we didn't chat for very long and unlike other friends who aren't in the industry, i wasn't worried that she'd be offended.

another friend who i have known since our university days had a bird's eye view of me working FOH at a food event that wasn't for hapa.

sometimes, events like these help place change....or exactly how much context... because these are friends who knew me "before"....and seeing them within these environments provides a marker of just how different my perspective has become.

while i still do not consider myself industry, i know that i do not look at food, cooking, service, space, and people the same.

i notice that when i walk into a place for the first time, i gravitate...almost sensing whether or not folks have a sense of pride in their place. basically, do they "own it". i don't mean own it as in actual paper deed ownership. i mean "own it" in do they give a they care....and if they care, what of themselves are they putting out there and what are they trying to say? i also notice that when i walk into a place, the veneer or glossy distance is no longer there. i feel like i am no longer walking into a "restaurant" but walking into someone's home....but a different kind of home....where i am able to taste different types of dishes, see how the FOH interact, perhaps see folks on the line, and watch the ebb and flow of service. intellectually, i know that these aspects were always a clear interactive wall filled with encrypted code....visually present but not recognizable. the code not becoming recognizable until i was provided the cipher.

the cipher provided to me included a couple of experiences with hapa and oddly enough....industry folks telling me stories. i would have thought that finding out that i was "foodie hunter" would have folks be silent around me.....but i'm not really finding that to be the case. i know that many bloggers are viewed as being akin to snakes in the grass so i'm always extremely surprised when someone decides to tell me about their experiences...especially when haven't asked them about it. to be clear, i don't find these stories unwelcome...i'm just rather surprised. in many ways, i am thankful as it has helped me see ....what was already there...what i just didn't realize was there....right in front of me.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

my life. my choices. my blog.

yeah, i know that i haven't been writing for a while.

well, i haven't been writing here anyway.

when i started, i never expected anyone to read this blog. i have some rather mixed feelings knowing folks are reading it. however, my feelings about people trying to tell me what to write or how i should conduct myself on this blog are not mixed. what i have learned is that the more people that read this blog, the more contact i have with people that seem to have a sense of entitlement regarding what i write.

this is mind boggling on many levels.

this is particularly mind boggling since i have never....not even once...asked anyone what they think about my blog. i have never solicited any opinions or feedback about it. i am never the one to bring it up in conversation. i have stated....repeatedly...over the years...that i write for me and me only.

over the past few weeks, i have been thinking about whether or not to continue.

i'm not going to lie. i'm still thinking about it.

i remember when i was finishing up my studies at berkeley [which was a VERY long time ago btw]...a couple of my profs.....noting....that i had a "knack" for research, how i was running an academic student group that ran events, a newsletter, peer advising, etc., and the fact that i was 19 when i started on my senior year honors thesis....they all assumed that i was going into academia.


i thought it was rather mind boggling that they even thought they had a say in what i would do with my life.

they may have seen me in class or office hours but they knew nothing about who i was. by this point in my life, i learned that folks...especially teachers...see what they want to see...and see what they hope to "shape and mold" into what they want....not necessarily what the student actually wants.

the last couple of years of berkeley, i was incredibly stressed out about my decision to not work (when i started college i had two at a combo bar/dive/pizza joint and another at a retail sales gig at a kitchen gear store), racking up more loans, and do things like unpaid internships and running the student organization. these profs knew nothing of this. they also knew nothing of how i have always hated school. always. i love learning.....but i've always hated school....and going into academia would mean school for the rest of my life.

i said nothing of this to the profs. when they would make murmurings and suggestions about getting my P.h.D., i stated quite clearly that the only three letters i'd be pursuing post-school were: J.O.B. my main objective included my earning enough money to pay off my student loans and becoming financially independent. this was a non-negotiable.

the profs wouldn't give up about trying to influence my path....they keep on saying things about getting a job writing for which my response was

"i don't want to be the talent. i want to find the talent".

like most adults i came across during my neophyte years, they looked at me like i was from another planet.

i cannot tell you how many times folks have had a sense of entitlement regarding what i should do with my life...especially when i was a kid.

  • no, i didn't want to be an engineer.
  • no, i didn't want to be a lawyer.
  • no, i didn't want to be a scientist
  • no, i didn't want to be a doctor
  • no, i didn't know what i want my future wedding/husband to be like because maybe i won't get married.
  • no, i didn't want to be ten years old and be in college.
yup, this was even before i entered college.

i don't get people that have so much personally invested in influencing other people to do what they want them to do. i think those people need to take a real close look at themselves, their own motivations, and what they find so lacking in themselves that they need to influence others so badly.

i remember the day when i was promoted to being a full fledged editor. JS bought me a rather fancy pen to sign my first contract as an editor. he was always so proud of me....referring to me as a "phenom". i remember how i sat there in my office with a view, this fancy pen, and one of the contracts.....and thought back to those profs who looked at me like was an alien. while i didn't know when i left school exactly what it i was going to get there....i found what i wanted. i became the person who found the talent and i was good at it.

while i am no longer an editor.....that was a couple of lifetimes ago....and why i decided to stop being an editor is a story for another time......i think i'm remembering this story now...because it is a way of reminding myself that i've never taken the typical path for anything.

not when i was a kid, not when i was in school, not in my various "careers"...and not.....not even now.

oddly enough, it has always been a battle against what other folks feel entitled to regarding my life....which makes little sense. why should other people even care? i mean, really?


it seems that despite other people's expectations, sense of entitlement regarding what i should do with my life, there has always been a constant of me saying

"go fuck yourself. i decide what i want to do with my life".

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"must love yaks"

tough day today.

filled with conflict, politics, and anger.

the kind that makes one....or me....feel like i should sit in extremely hot if the taint of the experience could be washed away. after over seven hours of this, i really needed to take a break away from everything. i think it helped that i decided to check twitter and my feed seemed to have quite a few references to the rather hilarious video snippet that is a promo for the upcoming broadcast segment where ryan farr talks sausage with martha stewart. in that minute long video, there is MARTHA STEWART bringing up how sausage casings can be akin to condoms. there was some respectful banter from ryan farr and i have to give him props for "going with the flow" so gracefully.

i know if was me i think i'd be rather dumbfounded and speechless.

i watched the video twice in a row and laughed aloud both times. it was a good reminder that there are other things going on in the world. it was also a good reminder how laughter helps make anything a bit easier.....and how stepping away from something toxic is also a good idea.

so i decided to take a walk.

yes, i know it is a bit chilly in sf right now...but i really just needed to take a walk. i walked around the neighborhood for a while....and then started thinking i should eat something before i go to the sfmoma party tonight. i should have something in my stomach. i hadn't eaten all day. yet, i really wasn't hungry. i tried to think about potential things in my neighborhood. i received a note/notice via social media from some branding folks that roostertail was opening up in lower pac heights on sutter and decided to take a wander by. while i really wasn't in the mood to try something new (sometimes, in moods like this one.....i just want something that is familiar, comforting, and good) but i thought since i was walking around i should take a peek...and make an effort. i took a wander by and definitely saw from the outside some stylish the red chairs that pop. i love red.

there was also a sign in the door/window that indicated that they wouldn't upon until 5:30 today. this makes complete sense as today is their first day.

frankly, i must admit that i was a bit relieved.

in my head i thought "well, i made an effort to try something new! now i can just go to wing wings instead." it is really where i wanted to go all along....someplace i knew that i would is a comfortable space with what i know will be good food. it was like the universe was saying "yes! you don't have the be the exploratory foodie hunter today." i'll try out roostertail another day. i'm always interested in seeing what new places decide to set up a place my neighborhood.

so i went to wing wings and the always friendly FOH predicted that i was going to order the fried chicken that they are running on special today. under normal circumstances, i totally would have. i love the fried chicken...specifically christian's fried chicken (hello, well documented in the blog already). yet today....methinks because i wanted something that i personally find very comforting....i wanted the chicken salad on a biscuit. i think we each have certain comfort foods....and this is one of mine. i love the biscuit. i love the spices (which i suspect is a swipe of the herb sauce i love so much in addition to a few other things). this tiny sandwich is one of my personal hall of fame comfort foods (what's in my hall of fame comfort foods that i don't personally make? pho, bun bo hue, banh cuon, banh gio, carnitas burrito from la taqueria, farro porridge from il cane rosso, 4505 meats cheeseburger, and basically everything that CK, amy, sus, richie, and humphry slocombe make).

nope, i didn't take a picture of the chicken salad on a biscuit. i didn't really feel like it. i just felt like eating it and the crispy crunchy pickles. i love those pickles. yet, i think those that read me often enough have seen many o'many pics of what this looks like.

it hit the spot and then i headed back up fillmore to grab some coffee before i went back to work. i had to laugh when i saw the sign outside jane today (see top pic). it is always nice to have a moment of random laughter. when i went in to place my order, one of the baristas made a guess about what i was going to order.

methinks i'm rather predictable huh? but in a good way.

as i walked home, i reminded myself that although earlier had been pretty doesn't always have to be like that....and it is good to step away....into something completely and 100% different.

Monday, December 5, 2011

not complicated

didn't really leave my place today. a wee bit too much to work on. it also helped that my place is warm and cozy which is a marked contrast to the temperature outside. there is much left to do....but as it is nearing midnight, i really want to wind down for the evening and get some sleep.

my primary meal today was very simple and a reflection of how i'm feeling at the moment. things are complicated at work. on many levels. as a result, i'm not really looking for complicated in other parts of my life. sometimes, methinks the universe has an odd sense of humor at times. methinks that folks that seek out drama and complication....obviously don't have it happen naturally in their they deliberately seek out complicated drama as a way to feel alive.

so not me.

i was catching up with someone today and he asked how the weekend was. i said that it was pretty good....and how i really just wanted a day when i wasn't angry. i know that for many folks that read this blog....that statement is quite odd. yet, when i told him ....he understood. completely.

there are times when i am so tired of being angry. i'm so tired of being responsible. i'm so tired of giving a shit.

because to be means that there is care means means a sense of means oh so many things.

yet, at the be means that you give a shit.

most days, it is just "charge on". you know, when the universe shuts a door on make your own window. i know that isn't the real way that proverb goes....but i like my version better. my version isn't passive. i'm a big believer in that the life we the life we make.

yet, occasionally, there is a day or two....when the universe hands over something else, and i just feel like saying



"is this really necessary? what the fuck am i suppose to learn from this? why so complicated?"

my response at this very moment isn't exactly the most positive.

my response is "lets make it not complicated".....which means caring less.

Friday, December 2, 2011

hola chica

hmmmmm. winding out for the evening.

there are a few things that i could be thinking about....that i probably should be thinking about....but i'm too tired and really don't want to deal with those things. i know that i have relayed quite a few stories within this blog....yet for every story i do write....whether they be contemplative (musings about FOH), silly (pheromones), etc... there are dozens upon dozens that i do not write about.

the majority of stories.....i keep to myself.....there are some that aren't meant to be shared.

for various reasons.

yet sometimes, writing of the stories and musings that are ok to make public....still provides an outlet for those stories that cannot be shared. it is a story. it is a connection. it is a voice.

so as i wind down, i'll write of a small story of a recent visit with the family. it was a pretty chill visit that included kid sitting, making food, and eating food. interestingly enough, hapa had some loaves of rye bread from wise sons and offered me a loaf before i hopped onto the ferry to go meet the fam. i wasn't about to turn that down. i've only had a slice here or there before on sandwiches and such...yet i knew that i liked it. i thought it would be a great opportunity to eat more of it...for snacks and such. i'm such a carb gal. i'm not the only one that likes the rye bread from wise sons.....the fam ate the entire loaf within a 24 hour period. we all enjoyed it quite a bit. here is a pic of me having a couple of slices with butter as a breakfast snack while i looked through the sis' copy of ryan farr's whole beast butchery book.

later on during that day, the heart sis made a Nicaraguan version of salpicon and plantains for dinner......

and a ginger cake for dessert.....which is not Nicaraguan but one of her hubby's favorite desserts. i kind of love how there wasn't a second thought about having rye bread, butter, and tea for breakfast to having nicaraguan food for dinner.

folks may or may not have guessed by now that when i refer to my "sis", "sister", "heart sister", that we are not biological sisters. yet, she is family and i do think of her as such. we met when we were very young, have remained close ever since, and in many ways "grew up" together. the reason why i bring this up is that you, dear reader, may have guessed that while we are both american, born in san francisco, and raised in the bay area.....we have different ethnic backgrounds. her parents were from Nicaragua and mine were not.

interestingly enough though, when we went to a local latin market to pick up a few things for dinner....i did my usual thing when i'm not familiar with a grocery store.....i look at all of the shelves. i mean, i really look at them. i especially like to look at them if they are filled with many foodstuffs that i normally don't see. while i was doing this, i picked up a couple of things and was greeted with "hola" by staff. i said "hola" back as that seemed like the polite thing to do. if they spoke to me in spanish, i indicated in english that i was just looking. i don't speak or understand spanish. when it came time to pay, "hola" greetings were exchanged....and then i do what i always do when someone speaks to me in a language i don't understand when i want to buy something. i smile and i give them the highest bill i have. i've pretty much done this in every country i've visited where i don't speak the language. yet, before i go a country, i pretty much figure out how to say hello, please, and thank you. it is amazing how far one can get with learning those words in any country you visit. so when the cashier gave me my change, i said "gracias" and then the sis and i walked out.

i think we were about 3-4 steps out of the store when the sis exclaimed how the staff thought i was latina.

yeah, that happens.

it happened when i was in texas and it happened when i was in merida.

go figure. i don't see it...but i guess other folks do.

the sis has heard quite a bit about my various travel experiences where folks like to play "let's guess the foodie hunter ethnicity game". an unsolicited game at that.....but i think this is the first time the sister has actually seen it for herself.

then the sis relayed how when she goes into that store she never gets the "hola" greeting....and how she always gets "hiya". she was a bit exasperated....since...well....she's the american with the Hispanic ethnic heritage....and not me.

then i burst out into giggles.

the irony of it all....just tickled me.

then i said "i'm totally going to write about this"....between the snickers and cackles.

it is kind of amazing what people's perceptions can be. how sometimes we see only what we want to see....or see what we believe we should be seeing.

eliciting pheromones

i slept in. it was glorious. last night before sus and i embarked on our wandering around the lower haight and up divis, we met up at wing wings so that i could buy a cinnamon pastry togo.

i had a feeling that it was going to come in handy today. as i picked up the pastry, the FOH folks recommended that i make french toast out of it....and you know....french toast sounded like a really good way to underscore my lazy morning.

i scrounged around my kitchen to see what i had on hand to make the french toast.....a kind of french toast that would hopefully be an appropriate homage to the pastry.

i decided that the french toast would be lovely with some of the candied spicy bourbon pecans that i made a while ago, fresh whipped cream with a wee bit of bourbon, and slices of warren pear (frog hollow). i made the batter for the french toast out of organic pastry flour, egg (eat well), cream, and maple syrup. i, of course, also fried up the slices of battered pastry with butter (straus european style).

it was a pretty decadent brunch. it was a way to have dessert for a legit way.

as i made my way through the breakfast, i was thinking about some of the food from wing wings in general...and specifically, the fried chicken that they are running as a special. they are plating it in different ways with different sides. folks should follow them on twitter to get a heads-up on when they are running fried chicken on their menu.

quite frankly, i never had christian's fried chicken when he was at little skillet. egad! i know, it is quite an omission...but alas, i never had it. my curiosity was rampant about it though. i think it is pretty obvious how much i enjoy what christian puts on the menu at wing wings. when i heard that he was going to put it on the menu, i ensured that i was on hand to try it and was very fortunate (believe me when i say i know how lucky i am) that i was able to have a sneak peek of the first fried chicken special that wing wings put out.....

which was fried chicken, greens, and sweet potatoes. they also plated some of the "herb" sauce (which is one of my favorite sauces for the wings btw) on the side.

i can still remember the first touch....the texture of it....the hot light coating....and the first bite....the hot savory salty crispy first bite.

i remember thinking "oh this is why. this is why there is a cult-like following for his chicken. hmmmmm."

it makes a lot of sense.

a hella lot of sense.

i wasn't surprised is aligned with my expectations.....given the experiences i've had with the other food offerings on the menu.

i've had the fried chicken again since that first time....and it is always so wickedly deliciously enjoyable. i end up licking and sucking on my fingers and bones....not wanting to waste any bit of the savory salty flavor. the last time i had the fried chicken came with an unexpected side effect.

i remember telling sus about it over dinner one night when we were at mission chinese and i was testing out the low light settings in my new camera......

you see, the odd unexpected side effect was that there were three males that decided to communicate and express admiration after i left wing wings. after the third time with someone who was at least a decade younger than me, i was like WTF? this kind of stuff doesn't happen to me. i remember tweeting something about it too. i only tweet about something like this if i'm extraordinary annoyed or extraordinary surprised.

i was extraordinarily surprised.

because....let's be frank, i'm not THAT cute.

i'm about average. when i've got my style going on, i'm not the most hideous thing ever. but-i'm-not-three-straight-dudes-giving-props-in-a-row-kind-of-cute.

most of the time, when i am approached/whatever....i know that it has primarily to do with perceived opportunity than anything else. i travel around quite a bit by myself....and i'm short. as a result, i find that folks see me and my short self walking around by myself..... they see that as an opportunity to "go fishing". you know...."just to see what happens". i bet it would happen if i had horns, a tail, and three noses....simultaneously. victor was asking me about this the other night when we were sharing a meal...and mentioned that he thought that sounded rather scary to deal with. i hadn't thought about it that way. i think of it as something that any female has to deal with when traveling around by oneself in an urban setting. it is just the way it is. what am i going to do? not go out? ha! that would be a rather disheartening to allow something like that to keep one from living life., i know that it wasn't me, what i was wearing, etc....that was eliciting that kind of odd me and my nerd self have reached the only logical conclusion given the evidence.

i surmised that it must have been christian's fried chicken.

i think there is something about eating the fried chicken that initiates the release of pheromones.

i think that this theory also needs further if you, dear reader, decide to go try the fried chicken on special at wing wings.....please let me know if something similar happens to you as well.

can you imagine what a scientific breakthrough this would be? pheromones from fried chicken? that would explain why so many people love fried chicken. you know that someone....somewhere....somehow....would figure out how to bottle it......all in the name of science of course.

Monday, November 28, 2011

musings about FOH

"i don't think it is worth it!" declared a woman...over and over again....who decided to put back some of the fruit that she was going to purchase from one of the vendors at the farmers market. this is a vendor that i visit on a regular basis. fruit from this vendor is $3.90 a pound and the price point is very obviously displayed every 4 inches on their signage throughout their stand. when i observed this behavior, there was a part of me that immediately created a mental picture of me grabbing her very expensive yet knockoff quilted chanel purse and repeatedly hitting her burberry logo branded clad body over and over again for such incredible rudeness.

if you don't want to buy the fruit, don't buy it.

perhaps, if you knew a bit more about the'd realize why their fruit is $3.90 a pound and why it is incredibly delicious. when i buy their fruit...i buy 3-4 pieces for personal consumption and enjoy every bite. i've been doing this for years and i'm doing it right i eat an asian pear from this vendor for breakfast.

as i puttered around my place this morning, i made myself a cup of hot chocolate which was just water and valrhona (see top pic). just thinking. you know, just thinking about people. thinking about interactions with people. then when i reached for the asian pear, it reminded me of that instance at the market. i've been wanting to write about front of house (FOH) experience for a while why not now? as i have a quiet contemplative moment...waiting for the various loads of laundry to finish up. there has also been more then enough time between my own FOH stints with hapa that my anonymity will still be present....even if i write about it.

i'm a cranky curmudgeonly person.

i don't hide this.

yet, the times that i've helped out doing some FOH work for hapa, i put that aside....because for means more to me that the clients have a positive experience than being myself.

when i help out ...and end up doing is important to me that the clients receive a friendly smile, observant supportive helpfulness, a positive connection....that underscores and respects the food. this friendliness is completely contrary to my personality. i'm usually only know...if i actually like you. yet, why is it so important to me when i'm doing this? because i know exactly how much work the folks....often right behind the BOH.... put into the food....and i know exactly who makes the food, the farmers the ingredients come from, and the number of lives that the overall business impacts.

the food in itself is a culmination of so many different people....a web of networks....that come ensure that the food that is delivered on the counter or table has the best intentions.

for me, when i am working FOH is different....because i actually care.

at my day job, i care about the quality of work i produce....and my team MUST be of the highest quality possible....but i have zero emotional attachment to what execs decide to do with the information. i know and they know it is what they role is providing the information, potential outcomes, strategies, and tactics....but it is really up to them to pull up their own pants and take responsibility for the decisions that come out of the work i do. that is why they get paid a boatload more money than i do. i love the intellectual puzzles and challenges of the work....but have a complete emotional detachment to decisions that are made because of it.

i fully realize that i pimp out my brain and get well compensated for it.

my experiences helping out doing FOH stints here and here are incredibly different. not only do i actually care, but it has also provided me with a different perspective.

i don't see FOH folks the same way anymore.

anytime i hear about a sense of entitlement of a certain percentage for a FOH tip, i just roll my eyes these days. like any team in any kind of industry, there are those that are great at what they do, those that are average, and those that just really suck. if you suck, you shouldn't get rewarded for being need to either step up your game or do something else. at the same time, i realize that the places i've become a "regular" is because of specific food offerings and the skill of certain FOH. skilled FOH are integral to creating the atmosphere that underscores the vision for the well as the food. when i am regular at certain places, i know when someone is just having an "off day" and definitely don't penalize them for it.....and i also know which FOH at these same places are just consistently and always awful....and try to ensure that i'm not seated in their sections.

i also fully realize that some clients are on the full spectrum as well....some are super friendly, some just want their food, some are shy/awkward but are seeking connections with their food, and some are supreme assholes...on that person at the farmers market that decided to publicly deride the fruit. there have been times when i've observed supreme asshole behavior from clients at places i've visited...and actually made a conscious decision to "break through" that barrier between client/ just acknowledge that as a human being......certain actions on the part of the client were inappropriate and uncalled for. normally, the FOH folks are supremely surprised when i've done this...yet, i never received the impression that it wasn't welcomed.

oddly enough, i think folks often forget that the FOH folks are human beings....or they deliberately don't want to remember. i find that this reveals quite a bit about their character or lack thereof.

yet, sometimes, i think this goes both ways.

there are times when i've been a client...watching...observing....certain suck-o-rama FOH folks forget that their clients are human beings as well. i've seen certain FOH pigeon hole and categorize people....and provide them with service that has truly been appalling....methinks that they forget that in such an affluent area like san francisco...that there are many folks that save up to eat out and are hopeful of having a lovely dining experience because they don't get it very often. instead of gently guiding these clients through the dining experience...these FOH become supercilious pretentious pricks. the times i've seen makes me both angry and sad.

while i didn't receive that makes me angry enough that i don't return to those places.

i suppose we all have our pet peeves....and this is obviously one of mine. a rather ginormous one.

unsurprisingly, i've never seen anything remotely like this with hapa (even before folks knew who i was)...which is not surprising since i think richie would make any FOH person become quite familiar with his serious knife skills if they were that type of person or decided to show that sort of unacceptable behavior....he's has high expectations for every aspect of his business.
also unsurprisingly, i adore some of the FOH folks that do the hapa ramen popups.

i think my stints helping out FOH on occasion has also led to a greater appreciation for those that decide to do it day....after day....having the patience dealing with the sheer amount of people that come through. i'm not exactly certain what it is...but there is something about food that brings out the best.....most joyful.....almost glowing happiness from people....and it also brings out some of the most appalling behavior.

i know that i couldn't do it. the only reason why i do it occasionally now is i have stated before...i believe in what hapa is doing and want to support them. there is a different doing something because you "have to" and doing something because you...or in this case.... "i".... believe in what the folks are doing.

big difference.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

a nakano thanksgiving

"three turkeys?!"

when mrs. hapa ramen told me on our hiphop dance date that richie had three turkeys in their fridge for thanksgiving, i was both surprised and not surprised.

i was surprised considering how many events hapa had in the pipeline before thanksgiving....i.e,. a popup at bar tartine, two market days back-to-back, etc...which meant that there wasn't a heck of a lot of time to prep for thanksgiving. i don't think folks realize just how much prep work goes into hapa's regular gig at the tuesday and thursday farmers when adding things like popups and doesn't leave much time for coordination of a rather large holiday meal.

yet, i wasn't surprised...because...well, it is richie after all.

so after mrs. hapa ramen and i talked a bit more about thanksgiving, i didn't really think that much about the three turkeys. i figured that richie was going to do his thing and that i'd pretty much took it for granted that it was going to be great.

of course, it was.

i wasn't stressed about what i was bringing to thanksgiving because i had already arranged what i considered to be a rather fool proof strategy. sooooo....what do you do when you know that you are going to go to a chef's house (and not just any chef...but richie's pressure or anything) for thanksgiving? well, if you are the foodie buy food from another chef to bring for thanksgiving. and booze (i.e., templeton rye whiskey in this case).

when wing wings tweeted that they were thinking of offering up ready to bake biscuits for thanksgivng, i was ALL OVER IT. it was a no-brainer. i treat them like a bakery anyways, so i bought two dozen assorted (i.e., plain buttermilk, brown sugar black pepper, and bacon cheddar scallion) and picked them up the day before thanksgiving.

the FOH folks were really nice as usual. the ready to bake biscuits were packaged up and had heating instructions. i also received some additional instructions from the chef as well which was much appreciated.

i ended up baking them at my place before i headed over to richie's and mrs. hapa ramen's (yes, i'm calling her that because i don't have her permission to name her....but she really does have her own distinct separate identity). i had a feeling that the oven at their place was going to be in constant use and didn't want to add another potential stressor. baking the biscuits helped me get into more of a holiday mindset since a work project dropped on wed morning that i had to finish before i headed out for thanksgiving festivities at the nakano home.

when i arrived at the nakano residence, things were already in full swing. the apps of boccalone salumi, cheese from cow girl, gigantic shrimp that looked like mini-lobsters, etc where already on the table and bubbly wine was being passed around.

the aromas throughout the house were absolutely delightful. when i walked into their home, i walked into warmth, comfort, and hospitality. the hours went by quite quickly.....and then there was a flurry of activity to put out all of the thanksgiving mains and sides.

richie had deboned one of the turkeys and stuffed it.

oh yes he did.

he also sous vide turkey and then pan fried it.

oh yes he did.

of course, it was all so good.

there was no dry bland tasting turkey in the nakano residence that evening. absolutely not. as for the sides, there was also greens, brussels sprouts with guanciale, cranberry sauce, au jus gravy, a roasted squash with dates, dumplings (homemade russian style from svet), biscuits (wing wings), holiday souffle-like mash potatoes (riche's mom), and desserts (jesse).

the food was great. quite frankly, i wasn't expecting it to be anything less than great.

while the food was wonderful as expected, there were also some rather choice non-food moments throughout the evening that make me smile....and make the rather cynical foodie hunter all warm and fuzzy as i recall them days later.....
  • watching richie show his mom how to use a knife
  • colton dancing.
  • hearing how proud richie's mom was of him
  • mrs. hapa ramen and i discussing various options for our next date. richie trying to not look too excited or too encouraging about one of the specific shopping options.
  • jesse instigating a "making whipped cream contest". the young adorable brothers who put 300% behind the whisk. enthusiasm was infectious. i couldn't stop laughing.
  • my slight panic when i found out richie's mom had read "foodie hunter". i did a mental scroll through my blog...trying to figure out if i've written anything offensive. then panic completely dissipated when she let me know that she follows her son on twitter. then my reaction was sending richie a look that translated into "OMFG-your-mom-follows-you-on-twitter-especially-given-what-you-tweet". richie's response? a half shrug.
  • jesse and his wife holding hands. adorable.
  • getting to meet violet blue. i went to a commonwealth club panel earlier this year to specifically see her speak. smart, sassy, articulate, and even more uber awesome in person.
  • richie giving me a cup of coffee with a cheshire grin. anytime he smiles like that it means something is in the drink. sure enough, it had enough booze in it to put hair on someone's chest.
  • colton making a grunt noise to get my attention, holding up his arms, and wiggling his fingers....all indications that he wants to be picked up. i'm well trained.
  • at the end of the evening.....two seconds before i closed my eyes....trying not to laugh as a very inebriated friend gave his wife a lap dance. hence, my closing my eyes as i realized what was going on to prevent something like blindness.
  • the appearance of darth vader.
  • richie showing me video games, specifically the third person fighting game....which is like waving crack in front of an addict btw. i got a wee bit too excited and said that i had to stop. i was having flashbacks to being stinky at 3am with numb ass playing video games. this was thanksgiving after all.
  • the nerd moment when a group of us instantly identified that the picture of the space ship was serenity.
  • mrs. hapa ramen yelling out that she knew that i knew the answer to a movie trivia question because i read the young adult science fiction novel rather than watching the movie. we talk a lot. usually not about food.

thanksgiving at the nakano home was filled with so many lovely moments. many more than what i have recounted here. moments filled with family, friends, food, laughter, and many reminders of what i am thankful for.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


the first slew of morning meetings is over. i'm waiting on a couple of things so i thought i'd steal away for a moment to revel in my crush over the pineapple guava that the fam dropped off yesterday. i know that they look quite humble .....small oval globes with bumpy lime green skins and tiny bursts at one end.

yet, there is more to them than just the humble visage.

as i take one in my hand....rolling the very firm, plump, and slightly nubby fruit through my fingers.....i bring it up to my nose and inhale the delectable fragrance....that hints of sweetness, citrus, green, floral, and a wee bit of mint.

then as i peel off the skin.....the ivory juicy fruit reveals itself......the enticing fragrance becomes more present and i can feel the freshly wet grainy pear-like texture underneath my fingertips...engaging and teasing the senses which builds up the anticipation for the tasting.....hmmmmmm....hey lover....

then as i slice into the fruit, i can't help but think how humble it looks....

so at odds with the potent fragrance. yet, then i take a bite.

the first note of tartness sparks the tongue....stimulating the senses to full alert....and then follows through with sweetness....almost lullingly....soothing the taste buds after the initial intensity.

hmmmm, such a lovely way to begin the morning....don't you think?

Monday, November 14, 2011

moment away from the headache

something hit me today and literally knocked me off my feet.

i think i caught a bug or something. completely unexpected.

at the moment, i can finally feel the headache lessen a bit....which is quite a wonderful thing. when i was talking to the heart sis this evening, i was pleading with her to not make me laugh since the headache would reach a rather epic level. the fam is going to be keeping an eye on me over the next couple of days. i think i'll be getting a check-in visit tomorrow as well as a potential delivery of some pineapple guava from their back yard. not only will it be good to see one of the godkids but i also do love pineapple guava quite a bit.

i know that it seems to be a bit odd for me to be writing, despite feeling a bit ill....especially with a headache. yet, one of the things i found out this evening is that a friend of the godson was diagnosed with a brain tumor. this friend is seven years old. i find this pretty heartbreaking....which is why i am writing about this now.

in case you haven't figured it out yet, this blog really isn't about food. this blog is about what i am thinking about at any given moment. this blog is me.

right now, i'm thinking about what it means to be diagnosed with a brain tumor at seven years old. seven years old. i'm thinking about what this mean for her parents. i'm thinking how does one explain this to the godkids....who are seven and five...that a friend of theirs has this. i'm thinking about how my family is thinking about it is natural to do so when your children are so close in age. how can you not think about the challenges that life presents and how there are things we can never predict despite so much planning. i'm hoping that the tumor will be benign and easily removable.

unsurprisingly, hearing about this also reminded me how important it is that people that i care about know that i care about them. this is really the most important thing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

stopping by my local "bakery" before sunday dinner

i was running a wee bit behind today. i wanted to ensure that i arrived to oakland on time to make sunday dinner at CK's house. while i had no idea what was on the menu, all i knew was that it was my responsibility to show up with the marrow bones (marin sun farms). i also knew what i wanted to put together my host present which would be a jar of peacotum (plum peach apricot hyrbrid) jam from blue chair that i already picked up.....some baked goods from wing wings, and a bottle of wine from paul marcus.

yeah, i know that wing wings that has a large focus on chicken wings. i also think the readers of this blog are aware of my affection for the chicken wings and chicken salad on a biscuit. yet, to be quite frank, i also treat wing wings like a bakery. for example, when the sis crashed at my place for an evening a while ago, i ensured that i was stocked up on the brown sugar black pepper biscuits as well as the pineapple sweet cream cheese pies (see top pic) which were a hit btw. we also paired the brown sugar black pepper biscuits with ice cream (strawberry je ne sais quoi from three twins for me....which is the one pairing in the picture..... and a vanilla goat milk ice cream for the sis).

so yeah, i treat wing wings like a bakery. i really shouldn't be surprised by this. the most common things i get from OTD on bush to go are the steamed buns and the pate choux. there is precedence for this kind of behavior.

when i like food..... i just like it. i also end up buying it for loved ones to try as well.

while i was a bit behind schedule today, i knew that i still wanted to buy some baked goods from wing wings before i picked up the marrow bones. so i got in a cab to the lower haight and i don't know what it is about me and talkative cabbies....but this happens a lot. the cabbie ended up telling me about this sandwich place that he likes in soma and then proceeded to ask me why i was going to the lower haight. when i told him that i had some jam in my bag and wanted to pick up some biscuits from wing wings as part of my host present for the sunday dinner know...something for the folks to have for breakfast the next day as a treat. he had a good chuckle and said something about how i must like to cook and then proceeded to ask me about the wing wings menu + how late it was open.

while i was answering the cabbie's questions, i did think this was rather funny on very many levels.

then i got his curiosity going so much that when we arrived to the lower haight....instead of dropping me off at the corner (which would have been much easier), he wanted to drop me off literally right in front of wing wings + double that he could get a good look at the place as he wanted to remember it for him to visit later. we were both chuckling quite a bit when i gave the cabbie the fare+tip and hopped out.

after i bought some brown sugar black pepper biscuits, i caught muni to bart.....

and made it in enough time to pick up the marrow bones and wine (a young barolo). sunday dinner included roasted marrow bones w/home made bread (using a tartine recipe no less!), a poached egg in the broth from the pot de feu (well hello you sexy dish), the super tender meat from the lovely pot de feu, and a deliciousness dessert of goat milk panna cotta, pears, and a pine nut brittle.

i think i'm still glowing from the pleasure from the meal.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


not to state the obvious or anything....but i haven't written for quite some time.

it hasn't been a case of not having things to say, to write, or to process.

it has been more of a what should or shouldn't i say?

everyday i have sat in front of the monitor, put my hands on the keys, and thought "is this the day?"

every. day.

there is some comfort in anonymity as it provides a mask.....albeit sometimes an illusionary mask....yet, the anonymity mask is still a device that provides me with the capability to be vulnerable and "speak" truthfully. the more folks that know who i am "in the flesh", the more difficult it becomes to maintain that level of vulnerable truthfulness....the sort of stark blunt honesty that enables this blog to be a sanctuary space.

a small sanctuary space where i could just be me with all of my contradictions, weaknesses, and foibles. a space where i could be nerdy uncool unhip in my passions. a space where i could type of many seemingly unrelated random things that make up snippets of stories....just unassuming tiny snippets about an everyday life with everyday challenges and everyday moments of pleasure. yet, no matter what...the snippets would be honest, open, and truthful in the moment.

what has been on my mind recently is that i don't know if i will be able to continue to do so. as the anonymity slips here and there....i don't know if i will be able to write with the same blunt honest mindset that i did before.

to be quite frank, i don't know if i'm strong enough to do so.

i want to believe that i'm strong enough to do so.

yet, i don't know if i will be.

how's that for some honesty?

there are some things in life that i have some overwhelming epically large amounts pride, stubbornness, analytical processing speed in the identification of patterns (which unfortunately is decreasing with age....sigh) and the like...but i'm not carrying around a big load of "willingness to be vulnerable". the amount is more a kin to a thumbnail...and i have small hands.

do i know that it is something i need to work on?


you can't hear me...but if you could. you'd hear a whisper that would also sound like a remarkably squeaky kind of "yes".

it is one of the reasons why i started this blog...years ago. i knew i needed to work on this.....and i have been working quite diligently on this.

yet, it is still a challenge.....for me....and one that doesn't seem to get easier.