Archive for the 'Culture' Category


Chili and Change: Dispatch From DC

Monday, January 19th, 2009

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Along with 4 million other people in Washington, I’m trying to figure out how to keep warm and dry while waiting (and waiting…) to witness history in the making. Fuzzy boots and mittens with hand warmers and puffy rain pants are my own fashion statement for this inaugural ceremony. And while the 44th POTUS settles into his luncheon, enjoying “A Brace of American Birds” beneath a painting of Yosemite Valley, I’ll be making my way very very very slowly back up to Tenleytown…to a crock pot full of warming chili.

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Pfannkuchen: German Pancake

Monday, November 10th, 2008

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The cookbook with the most stains in my collection is also the first one I ever bought: a copy of the 45th printing of the 1975 Joy of Cooking. It helped me survive my teen years, and then it helped me graduate from college with a bit more meat on my bones. I never did upgrade, and that white bible of the American kitchen (complete with its two silky red ribbons) is still my go-to tome for pancakes, muffins, cakes, pies, dinner rolls, dressings, and quick breads.

I’m still discovering new foods in its pages. A recent addition to our family favorites is a Tran variation on a Rombauer adaptation of a Davidis classic: German pancake with apples.

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Happy Belly’s Kimchi Dog

Monday, October 20th, 2008

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Now that Namu is taking a break from serving lunch, to focus on opening a new deli at Balboa and 3rd, their outpost in the park, Happy Belly, has been receiving lots more visits from yours truly. The next time you’re strolling from the Conservatory over to the DeYoung or taking a break from Lindy in the Park, stop at this modest little hot dog cart and read the menu carefully.

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The Great American Soup

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

This 1970s commercial shows how to make a big production out of soup. Ann Miller was a much-loved dancer who was discovered before she even hit puberty right here in San Francisco at the historic and colorful Black Cat Cafe.

Eat your heart out, Ann Miller!

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A Taste of Hong Kong: Kee Wah Bakery

Monday, September 8th, 2008

persimmontin.jpgWith summer fast waning and the autumn fruits making their way to market, it’s time to turn to one of my favorite holidays. The Mid-Autumn Festival or, as many of us call it, the Harvest Moon Festival, celebrates the brightest and fullest moon of the year. It was once a time for families to relax and enjoy finally the fruits of their summer labor. Nowadays, in that peculiar way modernization and urbanization has of thinning out traditions, people might simply exchange moon cakes or go out to eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant. A few purists will try to hike up a hill for a midnight picnic with hot tea. Or, if you’re Andrea Nguyen, you spend days making your own moon cakes from scratch.

Store-bought moon cakes are just like store-bought fruitcakes — tasteless insults to the real thing. I can attest to the difference between one of Andrea’s moon cakes and one of those brightly decorated, impulse-buy boxes that line the checkout counters at Asian markets this time of the year. Follow closely the four-page recipe in her cookbook, and you, too, can give friends and families one of these memorable treats.

Or, like me, stop at Kee Wah Bakery and stock up on “piggy basket” buns filled with sweetened lotus seed. At a couple of bucks each, you can get one for every sweet-toothed pork lover in your full-moon circle. I can never resist their gorgeous tins to hold diminutive mango and pineapple teacakes, my favorite flavors there. This year, I snagged a long, flat persimmon tin. In past years, I fell hard for a collectors’ series of smaller tins decorated with smiling monks sipping tea and munching cookies.

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