Underground Food Academy Update

The Underground Food Academy is up and running!

With over 130 students signed up and a half a dozen classes in the works, things are going exceedingly well. Last Sunday brought the inaugural class- a visit to Alemany Farms. Alemany Farms is an urban farm, right off the 280 freeway just on the side of one of the hills that makes Bernal Heights. Arriving at the farm, I had more than a little worry that my students wouldn’t be into it. After all, they were in for more than a few hours of actual, physical labor paid off by a harvest and simple farmhouse dinner of locally sourced meats and cheeses. But everyone dove in and got their hands all kinds of dirty. I felt slightly awkward taking (what I thought would be) the cushy job of weeding raspberry plants while a couple of them picked up shovels to fold in the new horse manure into the compost. But they were into it. Seriously.

Through the day we weeded, composted and harvested. And none of it was easy work. Even picking green beans for the dinner, which I thought would be really rewarding, took its toll on my back before too long. Within hours I had such a greater appreciation for all the effort that goes into the food on my plate.

Dinner was locally themed, as I took a cue from the urban farm to source meats, cheeses and wines produced as close to city centers as possible. We had a great goat cheese from Petaluma, a sheep’s milk from San Andreas, plus a kick-ass Mt. Tam from Cowgirl Creamery. Charcuterie came from Framani and Molieri in the east bay. So good, and so damn satisfying.

Class #2 took an entirely different tack, as we visited Adam Smith at Fog City News for a seven course chocolate tasting. Adam has amassed one of the most astounding chocolate bar collections in the city, and his knowledge of chocolate is more than a little impressive. He took the group on a descending tour of cocoa percentage. All the way down to zero with our toes dipping into the dark, sinister world of white chocolate. He talked us from bean to bar and back again, explained the difference between a chocolate maker and a chocolatier and gave me some good ideas for field trips. We rounded out the tasting with some mix-ins with my suggestions. Bacon! Cardamom! Salt! Everyone left with a few bars and a stomachache. Job well done.

Next up, well, check the class listings.

On the Move: Lamb-tastic

Cooking from the Cupboard continues as I defrost my freezer and forage for the best ingredients the pantry has to offer. I must say, it’s going pretty well.

From time to time when I’m ordering produce from the CSA, I’m tempted by the meat offerings. The lure of some grassfed beef or lamb is too much to resist, and I take some home to leave in my freezer until I forget about it. Which happens a lot. Right now I have a whole lot of chuck roast and a couple of pounds of ground beef to conquer.

Today, however, I took on the lamb.

As faithful readers know, I went on something of a cardamom kick earlier in the year, which really turned into a gateway drug for other spices. Cumin came in the mix. Then playing with peppercorn mixes.

You see where this is going?

I took some little lamb loin chops, let them take a quick marinade with a spice mélange, garlic and olive oil, then hit them with hot heat about 3 minutes a side in a pan. I let them rest from their flurry of activity while I deglazed the pan with a little white wine and butter, steamed some zucchini and made some cous cous. And a mid-summer morrocan feast was born.

Not bad for 30 minutes of work.


On the Move: What's for Dinner

The City by Mouth may soon be something of a misnomer. I'm making the big leap to the East Bay. Lots of reasons. Lack of summer, lack of kitchen combined with some real estate prospecting and I find myself packing some boxes. In an effort to pack a few less, I'm challenging myself to subsist solely on what's in my fridge, pantry and freezer until I make a fresh start. I'll still be picking up my CSA, but other than that, if I can avoid the market, I will. That being said, I reserve the right to call on Wok Inn Cafe or Giorgio's when I want. Gotta eat there while I'm around

I've got enough protein in my freezer to last for more than awhile, and it's time I got to it. On the way home, I remembered some not-long forgotten chicken breasts. Defrosted, sauteed with some leeks and tossed with some fettucine, and I had dinner. It might not be thrilling to look at, but it was damn good to eat.

More adventures to come.


those people at work. they know me so well.

It always makes me a little nervous when workplace birthday festivities come along, because it’s usually the job of the office to distill your personality or your interests into one card or sign or cake or something. You get a card about karate when you quit it six months ago or a banner in the shape of a bottle of wine that just goes to confirm your burgeoning suspicions that you might be coming in hungover to the office a little too often. So when the rouse to call me into the kitchen came last week, I approached with a little trepidation. What did these people think I was all about?

They nailed it. Meat cupcakes for me, Giants ones for the other birthday celebrator in the office. Cats, ostensibly, for the both of us.
Meat cupcakes. Little porterhouses rendered in frosting. Well done.