Wednesday, April 12, 2006

One year gone

It's hard to believe, but I've lived in San Francisco for nearly a year now. After twelve months in my adopted city I find that I still miss things about my old home, namely good friends around the corner and slices of vanilla loaf cake from Hi-Rise bakery. Oh, and their blueberry lime cakes. Good stuff. In the first few months here in California I thought about the East Coast almost every day, and I couldn't imagine that there would ever be anything that I liked about living here more.

But sometimes things sneak up on you. Now, a year later, I know that if we moved back East there are lots of things that I would miss about this side of the world. I'd miss the taco shop, La Cachanilla, where they serve no-frills tacos from a window at the end of our block. I'd miss the pizzas from Chez Panisse, the crust blackened from the wood oven, the toppings refreshingly spare. I'd miss the farmer's markets, which even in these bleak swing months are full of great things. I'd miss the walnut bread from Acme bakery. I'd miss the croissants at Tartine (oh, yeah, their cream pies, too) and when my birthday rolled around, I'd miss the carrot cake cupcakes from Noe Valley Baking Co. I'd miss living in a place where lemons--meyer lemons--grow so readily that people let the fruit drop to the ground.

When you love one place the most, it's easy to know what you should do. But when you love two places, things get a little muddy. While I think we'll probably head back East eventually, there are still loads of restaurants to visit, tamales to eat, sunny days to enjoy in the meantime.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spring Fling

Easter Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year, marking the beginning of Spring and the end of months of snow (or, in my case, rain). It seems a day of possibility and a celebration of new beginnings, and it's filled with lots of great things: brightly colored eggs, bunny-shaped chocolates, lemon tarts and ham, to name a few. In my house, Easter is not so much a religious holiday as it is a gastronomic one: after months of potatoes, winter greens and braises, we eagerly cook up the first vivid green stalks of asparagus, shell the first tender spring peas, roast the first baby legs of lamb and make a big feast, a giant hoo-rah to say thanks, again, for the thaw. Thanks for the opportunity to join around a table, together, thanks for novelty chocolate, thanks for warm spring sunshine, thanks for the delicate blades of grass greening up outside.

There are lots of darling Easter traditions, though perhaps none is as beloved as the egg hunt that leads to the basket of treats. The Easter basket is so beloved in our family that it continues on, despite the fact that there are only adult children around now. Instead of Peeps and Brachs jellybeans we all try to source excellent "grown-up" chocolate from some of the best chocolatiers around. That means that my parents will pick up some sweet items from Burdick's Chocolate and my mom will order her traditional giant egg filled with little wrapped treats from Lagomarcino's in Moline. We'll swing by the See's store before heading the airport, guaranteeing that our East Coast relatives will have the opportunity to taste the Mallow-Caramel eggs that we're so wild about. Back when we lived in Boston, we'd stock up on the irresistible eggs from Venchi chocolate, an Italian company, conveniently sold by my former employer, Formaggio Kitchen. For those staying on the left coast, a little bird told me that Scharffen Berger is selling some chocolate bunnies this week. And let's not forget Hammond's Candies, in Colorado, offering floppy-eared bunnies, marshmallow filled bunnies, "debonair cream eggs" and hard candies and pastel ribbon candy for all of you odd ducks out there who don't like chocolate.

Now, I'm not going to pretend that these little items won't cost more then a bag of Reese's eggs from Walgreens. They will. But wouldn't you rather eat a few choice chocolate eggs than a whole handful of waxy, tasteless ones? I rest my case. All of these chocolates can be shipped to you in time for Easter Sunday, so get going!