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Journal 2013 - Q1 & 2

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Blindsided - 8 January 2013

There was a moment of poignant delight at the Heart of the City Farmers' Market last Sunday when i swooped upon Glenn Tanimoto's booth in hopes of finding plenty of kiwi fruit.  To my delight, i could see from thirty paces that he had piles of them.

Oh, but my delight was increased enormously when i pulled up in front of the booth and he exclaimed, "You blindsided me!" as his wife burst into laughter.

Well see, on my previous visit i'd given him a jar of the Manzana chiles that i'd pickled.  See my photo near the end of the 2012 Production Report.   Unfamiliar with the Manzana chile and assuming it was some kind of innocuous sweet chile, he took a big bite out of the top one.  And oh, was he ever surprised to discover that they are at least as hot as Habañeros.

I just live for bringing little surprises to my friends.

And speaking of little surprises, here's a Florescencia gasmainia that i spotted while i was out on a walk in Santa Rosa with Gloria on New Years' Day.

 



Love Children - 9 January 2013

I went to visit my friend Steven the other day and had the ineffable pleasure of watching his six-year-old son climb him like a tree in a joyous display of mutual affection.  I just love watching modern fathers play with their sons, showing affection in ways that were vanishingly rare in my generation.

And then Steven showed me some affection by giving me a heads up on a concert where he'd be playing last night, a Silicon Valley Music Festival program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music featuring Son à Trois , a trio consisting of flute, cello, and piano.  Piano trios are my favorite musical form, and a program composed entirely of them is not to be missed, particularly since i was familiar with only one of them, the Mendelssohn Op. 49.  

I'm embarrassed to admit that i'd not seen the Conservatory's new facility at 50 Oak Street, a run down YMCA that has been gutted and repurposed with an achingly beautiful interior surrounding a four-story atrium, gorgeous recital halls, and all.  This is the most handsome music venue in the city, worth visiting just to see.

The first piece on the program was the Poulenc Trio for Oboe, Bassoon, and Piano, Op.43, with a flute substituting for the Oboe and Steven on the Bassoon.  Loved it, at least partly for the novelty of the instrumentation.  I'd heard the Mendelssohn only in the original version with a violin, but the flute worked very well in its stead, and i was reminded of how much i like Mendelssohn's trios.  The Debussy Piano Trio in G minor was next, and i liked it almost as much as the Mendelssohn.

And then, if there had been any way to slither out unnoticed, i would have.  I'm old, i tire easily, and i especially tire listening to classical music written by composers younger than myself.  Like, for example, Paul Schoenfield, of whom i'd never heard.  But i was trapped, so i heaved a great silent sigh and prepared myself for a learning experience during hisCafé Music.

Oh my goodness.  The three movements were like frolicking love children of Gershwin and Shostakovich, and the piece was delightful.  Here's a YouTube clip of the first movement.  Watch the grins of delight appear on the faces of the orchestra members in the background.

What a fabulous evening.  Thank you, Steven.  And here's a Christmas Day pic from a walk along Santa Rosa Creek with Gloria.





Solidarity Logo - 14 Jan 2013

In his annual Christmas Message last December the Holy Rat announced that folks who wanted to allow women to make their own reproductive decisions and, worse yet, people who favored gay marriage were all Threats to World Peace, and his radiant insanity spurred me to launch a competition for a logo that Threats to World Peace might wear to distinguish ourselves from the mass of sheep in His Holiness' fold.

So my friend Mark came up with this, echoing the pink triangle the Nazis forced gays to wear but modernized to push back against the current Nazi in the Vatican:




Oh and maybe i'll plan a contingent/float in this summer's Gay Parade having some good clean fun with His Drunken Grace's little DUI incident in San Diego last summer 



Anchovies - 18 January 2013


I'm thinking of calling my internist on Monday and seeing if i can get her to call me in a prescription for an asthma inhaler, as the difficulty in breathing is the most annoying part of this cold.

The rest of the story is that i could have called her this afternoon but frittered it away in two pharmacies before i finally got clear that you can more easily buy an assault weapon in this country than an asthma inhaler.

I mean, what if i stormed City Hall brandishing it and took the Mayor hostage?  

Bring me a pizza or i'll spray him and the secretary both!

Extra anchovies.

Meanwhile, a window of opportunity on Buchanan Street





Bulletin - 21 January 2013

Troops loyal to the President ringed the capital city today as pro-government demonstrators, many members of the President's minority sect, thronged the streets to celebrate his inauguration.  

In the rebel-held provinces, discontent seethed, but there was relatively little violence other than the customary fratricidal slayings by young males armed with the family assault weapons.

In loyalist regions, the celebration was muted since even the sycophants are nervous about the President's new powers of secret, indefinite detention.

In other news, an agricultural report from California's Luther Burbank region:   There'll be a bumper crop this year of organic Santa Rosa blood oranges in Gloria's back yard.

For which we are grateful.

Gloria's blood oranges





Herring Season - 27 January 2013

The herring run has recovered sufficiently that a moderate harvest is being permitted this year, so i bought three pounds yesterday.  

San Francisco Bay herring


Brought them home and filleted them, gently lifting out the roe and milt sacs.   Lightly floured the roe and milt and sauteed them in butter for a lunch.  Then put the fillets in brine overnight in the refrigerator.  This noon i packed the fillets in jars with red onion and lemon slices and poured a pickling solution over them, following this recipe.  Here they are. 



 Gonna wait a couple of days to try 'em, but the good news is that i'm over the first hurdle.  Since i didn't wake up dead yesterday morning from eating all those innards on Saturday, at least i know the herring weren't poisoned.  I'll eat a bunch of the pickled ones tomorrow and wait a couple of days before i give any away.

First come, first served.  Get your bids in now.




Feasting With Panthers - 5 February 2013

The first reviews are in, and the pickled herring is one of my greatest successes.  I handed off a jar of it to Ellyn, who hadn't eaten it in years but had loved it as a child back east, and she reported opening the jar that evening to share a taste with her partner before dinner.  Turned out that dinner was put on hold while she and the partner sat there and ate the entire jar, scrupulously taking turns, of course.  Mark took his jar to work, where it was set upon and devoured in a couple of minutes.

I was introduced to pickled herring when i was stationed in Heidelberg in the mid-sixties and took to the German custom of stopping at the Messplatz on the way home after an evening of drinking.  See, at the Messplatz there were two local items for sale:  hookers and Bismarck herring, the herring being of much higher quality and reputed to be a hangover preventative.

I was a little nervous about this since i'd been warned that "Bismarck" was the German word for "raw".  Emboldened by drunkenness, but sober enough to understand that raw herring presented a far lesser health hazard than those sleazy hookers, i took a taste.  It was love at first bite.  

Half a century later i'm pickling my own.

Then, after getting those good reviews i went browsing around looking for alternative recipes and made an unsettling discovery:  the herring worm.  Yes, i've been feasting on panthers...and passing the feast on to friends.  Well, unless my purveyor of fresh herring (or his supplier) has been giving them a really hard freeze before selling them, a likelihood i considered vanishingly small and then confirmed to be absent with a call to San Francisco Fish Company.  "No, they're fresh from the Bay".

So then the research started and i discovered that in the entire United States about ten people a year are diagnosed with herring worms, but there are no recorded fatalities.  Zero.  They don't kill you.  Hmmm, so i'm two and a half times as likely to be killed by lightening and three thousand times as likely to be shot to death or die in a motor vehicle accident than i am to be merely made sick by herring worms.  And wait, this is the same risk i take every time i eat ceviche, sushi, or raw oysters.

So why do i still feel like i'm feasting with panthers? 

Going fast, but a few jars left, so get your order in quickly.

And yeah, Wilde wrote in De Profundis: "It was like feasting with panthers, the danger was half the excitement."  So as to continue the feasting, i bought five more pounds and pickled them using Mexican limes and yellow onion.  And continued my efforts as the official lab rat by eating an entire jar of each batch all by myself.  Got away with it, too.

Update:  As of 11 February i've eaten two jars from the first batch and one jar from the second with no ill effects, and considering the state of my immune system, i'm more of a mine canary than a lab rat.

Here's a recent flower shot, a Leucospermum, not in somebody's front flowerbed but rather on the sidewalk at a Church Street florist:




Feasting With Friends - 8 February 2013


Sometime last year Tangerine, at the corner of 16th and Sanchez, closed and was replaced by Kitchen Story, but it took me until this week to get around to trying it.  Shoulda done so earlier.  Jeff took me there last Wednesday, and we were both impressed.

In the first place, they've spruced the interior up quite a lot, so the appearance is greatly improved.  More importantly, so has the food, as the only thing i found memorable at Tangerine was their exquisite cream of mushroom soup, the best of its sort i ever ate.  Unfortunately, cream of mushroom soup all by itself is not enough of a draw to sustain a restauant.  

Kitchen Story calls itself "California Cuisine", but the menu is really California/Asian Fusion, with the emphasis on Asian.  

For appetizers we had the Free Range Chicken Saté, which was merely good and thus the low point of the evening, and the Ahi Scoops, which were not only a delightful and handsome presentation, but also utterly delicious flavor bombs accompanied by wonderfully spicy cucumber slices.

For entrees, it was the Big Hug, perhaps a little cutesy in name but a gorgeous presentation.  Bacon-wrapped scallops with grilled eggplant in a puddle of spicy cilantro sauce with garlic egg noodles.  The "bacon" was really more like roasted pork belly, the cilantro sauce was an excellent version of that traditional Indian sauce, and the noodles were lusciously creamy.  The other entree was the East Feeds West. a slow cooked, five spice pork shank  with grilled broccolini and cucumber salad that were so good i could push off on Jeff my half of the uninteresting lotus-wrapped yellow curry rice.  And to be fair, Jeff somehow managed to choke down every last grain of the rice.

The wait staff were relaxed, friendly, and totally competent.  I'll go back soon.

The other major find is the cafe at Dandelion.  David came into town for lunch last Thursday, and we tried the new Farina pizza outpost at the corner of 18th and Valencia.  David had the gnocci, 



which was much better than my rather ordinary pizza, not as good as Mozzeria's and twice the price.  Afterwards, we walked into the next block to 740 Valencia so i could show him Dandelion's factory and chocolate store and so i could give their newly opened cafe a try.

Oh my goodness.  They offer coffee from Four Barrel, but we were both more tempted by the hot chocolates.  Yes, plural.  Three offerings.  I had the one called Mission, which was as expected flavored with a bit of cinnamon and more than a bit of chile, but oh was it ever delicious.  I've got to go back and try the others.

Not to mention their confections.  This time i had the chocolate caramel tart, and it was impossibly rich but somehow lightened by precisely seven crystals of fleur de sel.  

Go to Dandelion, folks, and do it on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday since that's when the production line is running and that's part of the joy.

Soon.

Meanwhile, here's some local fauna:




More Feasting - 10 February 2013

Couple more recent feasts.
First, Mark treated me last Thursday night to Kronnerburger, a new and trending pop-up in the side section of Bruno's on Mission Street.  Wow.  The menu says "Rare" and "Salty", and it sure is both.  We ordered the same thing, the kronnerburger with beef marrow and a side of fries, washed down with bottles of Green Flash IPA.  The hamburger and fries were both delicious, and we needed every last drop of those IPA's to get through the heaviest, saltiest meal i've had in ages.    The place is worth going to for dedicated carnivores, and in principle i love eating at pop-ups, but to be fair the burger at Pearl's Deluxe Burgers on Market at 6th is every bit as good and cheaper.  

The other recent feast was a polar opposite.  I joined my dear ex-colleagues Sharon, Sue, Rachael, and Sharon at the Slanted Door for one of the periodic lunches we've been having since 1998, bringing us full circle because one of our first lunches was at the Slanted Door in its original incarnation on Valencia Street.

This time we had the crispy imperial rolls, the Vietnamese vegetarian crepe, the glass noodles with Dungeness crab, the caramelized catfish claypot, and another dish i'm not remembering even though all of it was delicious.  And a bottle of Grüner Veltliner that  complimented the dishes perfectly.  The great joy of the Slanted Door is that the quality of the food has been held to the original high standard.  What a wonderful restaurant, and a communal restroom that's a worthwhile experience in itself.  Alas, i keep forgetting to photograph it.  Excuse me, ma'am, you're not done yet?

The occasion was all the more delightful since we did this last Saturday so i got to browse through the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market before lunch.  The down side was that i got a bit carried away with the browsing, quelle surprise, and when the bill came and i looked in my billfold i discovered a shortage.  Luckily, i had my credit card and everyone agreed to let me put the meal on my card.  Not a problem although when i looked at this huge pile of money on the table something seemed somehow wrong.  But knowing that the most obvious signal of my incipient Alzheimer's is a lessened ability to handle numbers, i ignored the warning buzzer.  At home i looked again at the bill and the pile of money and realized, to my horror, that the others had put in too much money because i ended up paying nothing for my own meal.  The salt in the wound, grrrrr, is that when i did the math at home i discovered that i had had enough money in my billfold in the first place.  Sigh.  Now to try to make amends.

And since there's no pic of that restroom, here's an interesting front porch treatment on 14th Street.


Food Blogs - 17 February 2013

Some exciting food blogs are out there, and here are four of my favorites, in the order in which i discovered them:

No Salad as a Meal - He's been slowing down on additions, but this site is still a valuable resource for foodies, especially Bay Areans.  I find the restaurant reviews almost always spot on, the food tales are highly entertaining, and the site design is great.

Mus E Yum - The new primary focus here seems to be on environmental issues, but he continues to make food entries, and you can't go wrong digging into the sizable menu of reviews on new bakeries and small restaurants.  Some fascinating reading here, and  excellent ice cream coverage.  What is it about butterfat?

Cook and Destroy - A recipe blog, this one by a southern California surfer.  Who says surfers can't cook?

Elmwood Eats - This one also focuses on recipes, all scrupulously step-by-step and mouth watering.  And what is it about food writers and photography?  All of these sites have good photos, and Elmwood's are fabulous.  My food photos rarely turn out, and often i'm reduced to posting pics that veer into the grotesque.  One the other hand, her photos here make my little heart pound in its chest, sometimes in pure envy rather than gracious admiration.  I mean! She makes spent eggshells beautiful!  (See the Lemon Bar recipe.)


Meanwhile, since i don't have any spare eggshells, here's a wedding cake closeup:




Recent Culinary Adventures - 18 February 2013

Jeff got a big promotion and a major raise the other day so we celebrated by my taking him to dinner at the Zuni.  And yeah, yeah, i know it's supposed to be the other way around, but we take turns treating, and it was my turn.

I've loved the Zuni since it opened in 1979 in the southern sliver of Red Desert, the most gorgeous cactus and succulent store i've ever seen, before or since.  The food at first was southwestern and quite good, but Judy Rogers changed the focus and drove the quality higher when she came on board ten years later.   Superb food at fair prices for what it is.

For an appetizer i had the house-cured anchovies, which were merely good and an entree of duck breast with wild rice that was the best of both i've ever had.  The wild rice was braised in stock and wonderfully chewy, the duck breast was buttery and fork tender.  We both had the Gâteau Victoire, which has got to be the lightest flourless chocolate cake i've ever eaten, and among the most delicious, not that i don't perhaps enjoy even more the luscious denseness of a Gâteau Reine de Saba.

And now, from the sublime to the HP Pavilion snack bar.  We knew.  We knew all along.  Leopards do not change their spots.  And somehow, seeing new vendors and menus at the refreshment stalls in the pavilion made me forget what food was like there.  So i looked through the offerings and spotted a barbecued chicken sandwich that i assumed would have smaller amounts of carbohydrates, fat, and salt.

One bite was all it took to discover that if the ingredients in that sandwich had been listed by weight, the first would have been high fructose corn syrup because the sauce in which the shreds of chicken were swimming tasted like, and had the mouth feel of, barbecue-flavored simple syrup.  But i was starving, so i ate it.  And then when, in the middle of the first match, The Great Thirst struck, i realized that the second ingredient by weight would have been MSG.  All for only $11.

And no, i did not seek out the HP Pavilion for its food but rather because the 2013 SAP Open marked the end of a tournament that had run for 125 years, the second oldest in the nation.  See the last post at the end of Lobs and Volleys.

On the other hand, talk about good enough to eat:





Cecil Wayne Blank - 24 February 2013


Last year i discovered Openhouse and started getting their help in finding housing.  Thanks to their understanding of the system and the alerts they send me, i managed to get myself onto a waiting list very quickly, and realizing that i needed to give back, i volunteered for their Friendly Visitor program in which shut in or otherwise isolated gay seniors get some human contact with the outside world in the form of a periodic gay visitor.

It took quite a while for the program manager to match me up, but finally just before last Thanksgiving she found a man with whom she thought i'd be compatible and took me to his apartment for an introduction.  We hit it off immediately.

He's 86 and has started to use a cane, but he can walk at least as well as i can.  He's getting forgetful, but frankly his mind doesn't seem all that much worse than mine, as he's a voracious reader.  Mostly history rather than fiction, but still, there's plenty of overlap and we can talk about books we've both read.  He doesn't have the energy to do much gardening anymore, but he's quite knowledgeable about horticulture.  Here's a potted begonia on his back steps.



Went back for a second visit during which we talked about history and music and discovered that we're both apostate Methodists.  Turns out he's a birder, and we spoke of going out to Stern Grove down the street and giving me introductory lessons.

For the next visit, i introduced him to Riverside Seafood Restaurant at Vicente and 23rd Avenue.  Although it's in his neighborhood, somehow he'd never eaten here, and it was an enormous pleasure to watch a man who likes his dim sum discover a new place.  Few pleasures are greater than good food in good company.

And then i called a couple of times and he didn't respond to my message on his machine, and out of the blue the idea hit me that he was in the hospital.  He was.  I went.  He'd fallen on the street, had a horrible bruise on his forehead, and seemed a little disoriented.  Then he was discharged to a convalescent home way out in the avenues, and when i saw him there he was still a little disoriented but he was crystal clear that he didn't like the place. 

Somehow he managed to get himself sent back to his apartment, but before i could visit him there he was back in the hospital.  He was pushing his tray away at meals, but i managed to seduce him with mandarins from Olsen.  He ignored them while i was there but later tasted one out of boredom and on my next visit told me he was astonished at how good they were.  I reminded him that he was in the presence of a major foodie and produce procurer.  

And then the bad news started.  He was diagnosed with prostate cancer so advanced that nothing could be done and was discharged to a hospice.   I kept calling in hopes that he'd be up for a visitor, but not quite yet, not yet.

And then this morning he went and died on me.

Rest in peace, Wayne.






Fullest - 27 February 2013

We must live life to the fullest, extracting every sweet morsel, and just to demonstrate that it's not by food alone i went out last Sunday evening to a Noe Valley Chamber Music concert at the little Lutheran church on the stub of O'Farrell between Franklin and Gough for a program of the music of Berkeley violist Nils Bultmann.  It opened with his Homage to Bach for solo viola followed by 10 Short Viola Duets played by Bultmann and Charlton Lee.  And then, after an intermission, From the Depths for viola and didjeridu featuring Bultmann and Stephen Kent on the didjeridu.  It was a fascinating concert, and i have to say they pushed their instruments to levels i'd not known possible.

But it's really mostly about food, so this morning i rode down the the Heart of the City Farmers' Market and picked up a pound of fresh anchovies to saute for lunch.  Then i spotted the fresh asparagus and couldn't resist, thinking i could cook that with creamed eggs for a supper, and then capped the trip by spotting Erik Schletewitz at his booth.  He doesn't come to the market all that much anymore, but he was training a new worker and we reminisced about our having met back in 1993 when we were both young and skinny (OK, when we were both skinny and he was young) and he threw a few bags of his oranges into the back of a pickup and ventured to the San Mateo Farmers' Market, which at that time was at Fashion Island.  It's just wonderful to have relationships with some of my vendors going back twenty years.

And then coming back home i realized as i hit Valencia that Dandelion would be open, so i swung by there and discovered that they finally had bars of their newest chocolate, the Patanemo Venezuela.  And since i was in there went ahead and had a cup of their Mission hot chocolate, which killed my lunch hunger so i just ate the legs off a Costco roasted chicken when i got home.

And then realized that what i really wanted for supper was an order of the saag gohst and a couple of pieces of naan at Aslam's Rasoi, so that's what i'm gonna do.

And no, it's not all food and flowers.  Here's an alley shot off Valencia




A Coven of Chocolati - 28 February 2013

I wrote about my plan to stop at Aslam's Rasoi last Wednesday, and i did just that for an early supper on their saag gosht.  Afterwards i segued on down Valencia to Dandelion Chocolate, where i joined about forty other chocolati to watch Caitlin and Greg's talk and slideshow about their five day blitz through four chocolate farms in the wilds of Venezuela, getting to know vendors and encourage them to strive for quality rather than quantity in their production.  

Caitlin and Greg were fine narrators, and we all got a good feel from this presentation that the adventure, like all excellent adventures, consisted of a mixture of terror and exhaustion leavened with learning and excitement, not to mention some real joy.  Well, some relief, too, as their van managed to get safely across numerous rural Venezuelan versions of a bridge, two stout logs planed flat on one side and positioned so that the tires of the van would stay on them if the vehicle were guided across by someone on foot indicating minute course corrections to the driver while the passengers gazed far below, fascinated, at the water seething with piranha between the anaconda-infested banks

Gives you a good appetite for a rustic supper.  Well, that is, if you don't look too closely at it.  The supper...of umm, different vegetables and unidentifiable meats.

We chocolati, on the other hand, were seated in comfortable chairs in the squeaky clean Dandelion cafe being plied throughout the show with cups of hot chocolate, chocolate delights from the bakery case, and samples of the various chocolate bars.

The best time to go is on a Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday (11:00 - 6:00) since that's when the production line is running and the place is buzzing with worker bees. You can walk all along the right side and get great views of the process.



We Have a Winner - 4 March 2013

I'd written about being all excited over the opportunity to get onto a wait list for some senior housing on Bernal Heights, and yesterday i got great news:  I won.  They're estimating that there'll be an opening in about 18 months, and although nothing is guaranteed, i'm excited, as the place is pretty much ideal.

To celebrate, my friends Ruth and Pam took me to a concert last night at Davies Hall, Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis playing works for violin and piano:  the Mozart Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, Schubert's Fantasy in C Major, Lutoslawski's Partita, and the Saint Saëns Violin Sonata no. 1 in D Minor.  The Mozart was good, the Schubert was fine, and the Saint-Saëns was electric.  The crowd brought them back for three encores, the second an arrangement for piano and violin of Chopin's Prelude No. 1, which i'd learned to play in my youth owing to its being within my pitiful technical grasp.

And to celebrate this glorious day, back to the flowers.  Well, hey, it's springtime, and the blossom structure here is five or six feet long.  Enormous.  






The Bay Lights - 5 March 2013


Last night my friends Andrew and Frank hosted me at a party in their 50th floor home in the Millennium Tower, where we had a superb view of the premiere of Leo Villareal's astonishing light show, The Bay Lights.  Magnificent views, good provender, and a lovely crowd made for a delightful evening.

The capper, though, came when i descended from the clouds to the ground and discovered that a snappy little rain had started to provide some entertainment for the Segway ride home.  No, it wasn't a hard rain even though by the time i got home my lower legs beneath the raincoat were soaked and my toes were squishing, but it was great fun because quite a few bicyclists had been similarly surprised, and we absolutely wallowed in our shared adversity.  Lotsa joking on the themes "This wasn't supposed to start until after i'd got home," "Aw, just testing my rain gear," "Got room under that poncho for me?"

And yes, it's still springtime, and surely you didn't think i was going to try to photograph The Bay Lights when their website is full of shots far finer than i could do, not to mention video clips.





Cameron Carpenter - 10 March 2013


I'm so occupied with farmers' markets, preserving, cooking, eating, and socializing that i don't usually even look at announcements of upcoming events, but last Thursday my eye was somehow caught by the San Francisco Symphony's advertisement in the Chronicle about this afternoon's Cameron Carpenter recital at Davies Hall.  Hmmm, i thought, finally after 28 years of fiddling around i've spotted an organ recital at Davies, so i could hear the magnificent Ruffatti for the first time.  Here are the specs.

Oh, and even though i'd been thinking the best introduction to that organ would be a performance of Camille Saint-Saens' Organ Symphony, Carpenter might well give the organ a better workout.  After all, he outrages purists with the liberties he takes with classical compositions, and better yet, he'll be performing the US premiere of five movements from his work in progress Science Fiction Scenes, described in the program notes as "essentially an opera for organ alone".  If nothing else, i thought, Carpenter ought to provide some good entertainment since he's already more flamboyant than Liberace was at his age.  Just saying, but when he performed movements from Science Fiction Scenes for the first time in Berlin last fall, he was described as a "bird of paradise".  In a word, glitter.

So i agonized for a day and then on Friday went ahead and called the Symphony box office to get a ticket.  And then, on the spur of the moment realized i should get two tickets so i could take somebody.  But once the order was confirmed i started wondering if i knew anyone who might enjoy this spectacle, which took up most of the day until i thought of Tony, who not only likes classical music but doesn't mind having it glittered up and is also not averse to a gay spectacle.

The recital?  Well, i'd gone YouTubing and was ready.  

He came glittering out and launched his transcription of Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major.  Look, i've loved Bach since i was an undergraduate, but i have to say this may have been the most exciting Bach work i ever heard on the organ, or at least the most different one.  He followed this with Bach's Fantasy and Fugue in G Minor, and it was equally exciting although i promise you it never sounded like this in Lüneburg.  You can hear, and see both of these works on the Berliner Philharmoniker's site http://www.digitalconcerthall.com/.  It's free after you register. 

Carpenter followed the two Bach works with selections from Franck and Dupré, which were unconventional but enjoyable.  And after the intermission he played the Science Fiction Scenes, getting in touch with his inner theater organ, and i just loved them.  IMHO, he's better at this than at revising the classical repertoire.



Food, Glorious Food - 14 March 2013

Today, a feed bag.

The other day i made a Rangpur Lime Marmalam out of some that Carol had given me from her tree.  I also had the pleasure that day of introducing her to the new cafe at Dandelion.  She'd not been in the new place and was impressed by watching a chocolate factory operate at full tilt, and then she was blown away by a cup of their Mission hot chocolate.  Her face registered shock at the first sip, it was so good.

And speaking of Carol, i got from her Gyalden's recipe for chicken curry and have inserted it in the recipes as, oddly enough, Gyalden's Chicken Curry.  This is the best chicken curry i've had in this country, and the recipe is easy.  Try it.  Oh, and getting the recipe spurred me into doing a search for a good Indian grocery in SF.  Bombay Bazaar used to be good, but it went into a gradual decline,  moved to a little slot on Duboce with a pitiful selection and half empty shelves, and finally closed its doors.  From the Yelp reviews it appears that the best of the current lot is a place called Jai Ho in that shopping center by Safeway on Webster, so i checked it out.  I went in mainly to get good curry powder for Gyalden's recipe, and was a bit disappointed by the indifference of the clerk.  I mean, i asked him about fried moong dal, and he clearly understood my Hindi but said they didn't have the item and directed me to a huge selection of dried beans, including lentils.  As i cruised the aisles, though, i found bags of fried moong dal in the snacks section.  The good news, though, is that they had a wide selection of curry powders.  Not only that, they had Patak's hot lime relish, my favorite brand of this condiment. 

The good news from yesterday is that it was the 2013 opening day of the Castro Farmers' Market, an occasion so gala that i actually shaved for it yesterday morning.  My favorite vendors were back, Shelly with her excellent free-range eggs, Spring Hill with the best butter i've had in this country, Happy Boy Farms with consistently the best baby arugula in town, and Home Maid with their exquisite Fig and Olive Spread.  And there's a new vendor, Bernard Ranches of Riverside.  I was cruising by their booth and noticed those huge hybrid grapefruit bred for sweetness and then beside them some much smaller red grapefruit, also way too sweet for my taste.  And then in a separate bin i noticed a slightly smaller one that looked like it could be the old, sour Marsh variety that i love so much.  I asked, he complimented my perception, and then put back the identifying sign that had fallen aside.  I bought five even though i have a week's supply of them from Hamada.  Well, i had to reward Bernard for bringing them and, of course, needed a couple for comparison.  Got home and tried the smallest one even though i'm supposed to eat only one at breakfast, and i'd already had it.  Yep, it's a Marsh, and almost as good as Hamada's at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market.  Now that there are two places in San Francisco where you can buy these, you have no excuse not to.

The rest of the food news is that i spent today making a kumquat marmalam from a big bag of kumquats Glenn Tanimoto gave me last Sunday at the Heart of the City Farmers' Market.  The light freeze they had down there spared the other citrus, but kumquats are so sensitive that it stymied their full development and Glenn felt their quality was not up to his standards.  Still made good marmalam, though.  See the 2013 Production Report for what's new in preserves.

And finally, here's a Trametes versicolor growing out of a buried stump on Hartford Street.  Spotted by my friend Oliver and identified by my friend CK.  The reason it's in this food post is because Wikipedia says it's "edible but not palatable".  Hmmmm.  Maybe sauteed with some fresh green garlic?

Trametes versicolor



Breakthrough - 22 March 2013

For several years now i've been just sick with envy over my friend Louis' getting all those letters published in the Chronicle.  Well, the tide is turning, and i finally got one published.  Archbishop's Stand.  Ahhh, feels good doing the Lord's work.



Visiting Friends - 27 March 2013

My friends David and Chris from St. Louis are visiting, and i've had such a wonderful time trying to keep up with them that i'm exhausted, which means that the next few posts will be mercifully brief, serving simply as a framework for some photos marginally worth sharing.  David's an architect and got us a private tour of Berkeley's First Church of Christ, Scientist.  Weird cult or whatever, at least they had the sense to get Bernard Maybeck to do their church, and it stands now as a hundred-year-old jewel.  Here's the ceiling in the main sanctuary.

Maybeck's church in Berkeley


Afterwards, we went on up to the UC Botanical Garden, where i found this lovely new leaf coloration on a Tsuga sieboldii, the Southern Japanese Hemlock.

Tsuga seiboldii in the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden




The Skating Rink - 3 April 2013

The Supreme Court has just finished hearing arguments on whether it should take up the constitutionality of California's Prop 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and of course i've been following these arguments with some interest since it has become increasingly clear that a tipping point has been reached and a clear majority of Americans now feel that gays ought to enjoy the same federal benefits as heterosexuals.  What i find most intriguing, though, is the realization of how much has changed in the last few decades.

The Bay Area has long been a sanctuary for gays, but even here times have changed.  Shortly after i moved to San Francisco in 1975 i met a man named Ed Petersen and began running around with him.  Although he lived here in the city, he worked in the Planning Department of the City of San Mateo and knew some other gays who lived down there.  From them, he learned that the proprietor of a moribund local roller-skating rink had, in a desperate attempt to drum up business, declared Tuesday night to be Gay Night.  Its popularity had almost immediately exceeded his wildest expectations, and suddenly, Tuesday became his best night.  The place was thronged with gay men skating their butts off.

Ed took me down there a couple of times, and we had great fun skating with our fellow gays.  Well, the entire first time and partway through the second, when Ed grabbed my arm in a panic and dragged me off into the shadows at the side of the rink.  He'd spotted at the front desk a reporter from the local newspaper, a man with whom he'd had a couple of unpleasant encounters in his official capacity at work.

So he knew the guy would take great pleasure in outing him and that even though this was 1975, it wasn't in San Francisco, and he was certain his employer would find some reason to get rid of him if there were evidence he was gay.

So we stayed in the shadows and watched while the reporter moved up to the raised gallery from which he could get a good look at all the skaters as they rolled past.  We crept to the back door only to see that it was, alas, an alarmed emergency exit.  But then we noticed that the reporter had taken a seat in the gallery and that by duckwalking along the front edge of the gallery, we'd be below his line of sight.

So that's what we did, allowing Ed to escape out the front door unseen.  I hung back and turned in our skates before i joined him in the parking lot, where he was hiding behind my car.  

And that's the way it was as late as the seventies.

But here's a magnolia at the AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park.  While i'm getting Allen's name chiseled into the memorial circle, i'll go ahead and add Ed's.   Now that i've outed him.

Magnolia, AIDS Memorial Grove




The Bloody Scourge of Aesthetic Righteousness - 5 April 2013

Back on 23 December 2012 in my role as Matte Gray, Protector of the Public Aesthetic and Chastiser of the Tasteless, i posted a photograph of a new set of lean, modern condos on Noe Street that had been adorned with ludicrous neo-Early American light fixtures.  Finally, last week i noticed that the owners had wilted under the lash of public scorn and replaced the offending fixtures with simple black cylinders.  



Vigilance will be maintained.  Offenders will be exposed.  Corrections will be noted.



Another Modest Proposal - 7 April 2013

Many of us have followed with interest efforts by the Roman Catholic Church and its allies to prevent gays from getting married, even in civil ceremonies at City Hall or in the handful of churches kinder and more generous than the Roman Catholic.  Some of us have a problem with this.  Hell, the majority of American Catholics now disagree with their church hierarchy on this issue.  

However, i have put aside my resentment and am cheerfully accepting the hatred and bigotry of His Grace, His Holiness, and the entire church apparatus between them.  I am now suggesting that we should not stop with excluding gays from marriage.

No, indeed.  I call for all Americans to join me in a campaign against gay funerals, using the logic that allowing gays to have funerals undermines the sanctity of the coffin.

And once we're successful in banning gay funerals, we can take on gay architecture:





Fable - 11 April 2013

Fable, at 558 Castro, had its soft opening back in February, but i didn't get around to trying it until last Tuesday with my friend Tony.  Even though the opening is still fairly soft in that there's no sign outside or indication of what the hours are, it's already thoroughly Discovered, as i discovered when i walked in at 6:30 and inquired about a reservation for two in the garden at 7:00.  

At least the maitre d' didn't laugh at me.  The garden's not open yet and won't be until late this fall.  And the tables were already reserved for the evening.  The good news was that there were still a couple of seats at the bar, which i grabbed.  They're not bad seats, actually, since you're sitting right there in front of the chef and the cooks and get to watch the show.

The chef looked familiar, but it was only after i'd done some digging around on the internet that i discovered why - he's Jon Hearnsberger and was the chef for some time across the street at the Anchor Oyster Bar.  And he's good.  Very good.  Which explains why they're already fully booked on a Tuesday night.

I had the pork cheeks appetizer, and they were delicious, arrayed on a bed of mixed greens lightly anointed with the best vinaigrette i've had in some time.  My entree was the Petrale sole, delicious, accompanied by sauteed spinach and fresh green garlic mashed potatoes, the latter a bit oversalted but wonderfully garlicky.  

We split a bottle of California Pinot Noir that was a great bargain at $48.  Tony wasn't up for a dessert, so i let him have a couple of bites of my chocolate mousse topped with a salted chipotle cream.  The mousse was good, and the cream pushed it up to excellent.

The restaurant gives great value, as the most expensive entree was $22.  I look forward to many happy returns.  Give it a try, but pull it together and make a reservation.

Meanwhile, here's a ferny shot in Golden Gate Park's AIDS Memorial Garden.




Mass Hysteria - 21 April 2013

"Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?" I'll leave the quote unattributed since it's so popular that i can't seem to find the origin.  That said, it sure does sum up our current situation with regard to terrorists, most particularly our reaction to the Boston Marathon bombing in which three spectators died.

So what did we do in reaction to those three deaths?  First, we locked down Boston and halted air, rail, and bus transportation out of the city while a manhunt for the bombers was underway.  We maintained the lockdown after one of the bombers had been killed in a shootout with the police and the other had escaped, wounded and on foot.

People, people.  What is it about bombs that has us so, well, terrified?  Londoners endured years of IRA bombings with a stiff upper lip, just as blasé Israelis gathered in cafes next door to the rubble from bombings the previous day.  Are they that much braver than we are?  Do we not understand that we empower terrorists by our grotesque overreaction?

We pour billions of dollars into Homeland Security, our local police forces are equipped with tanks, our skies are filled with drones, our citizens' email and telephone conversations are monitored, cameras record our every move.  We stop at nothing to create the impression that we are protecting our populace, even as we whittle away at their liberties.

We go ballistic over three bomb deaths in Boston while about 80 people are shot to death every day in this country and 95 die daily in auto accidents.  Have we no sense of perspective?  Wouldn't we have thought, ho hum, just another shooting if the Tsarnaev brothers had simply shot four people?

Yes, there are perils.  And yes, we should try to defend against them, but at some point all common sense suggests that we step back and face reality with a crumb of bravery.  Absolute security is an impossible goal, and if two bombers can turn us into a nation of frightened sheep, the terrorists have won.

And Google Security is again thinking i've exceeded my file upload quota, so below is the largest image of a recent fire escape shot that i was able to sneak past the guards.






McPhee - 25 April 2013

The April 29, 2013 issue of The New Yorker has an article by John McPhee that sent me tapdancing in delight around the kitchen.  Read it.  McPhee is one of my favorite authors, a man who writes so well that he can make even geology interesting, and keep it interesting for 700 pages, which he did in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning Annals of the Former World.  

In this The New Yorker article he writes about the composition process and how difficult he finds first drafts.  When he finally gets through the agony of the first draft, subsequent drafts become more interesting and in some cases even enjoyable.  I need to use his method.

My current technique is to sweat around over the first draft and then, in a frenzy of frustration, post it.  And then, over then next 24 hours, realizing the horror of what i've done, go back and freneticly make repeated edits until the thing is no longer a screaming atrocity and my shame has subsided sufficiently that i can sleep.  Which means, of course, that you should always skip over the first post that you see here, especially if it has a recent date, because i'm frantically improving it.

What i haven't been able to do is post new pics.  Working on it.

If i give up and kill myself in despair over this i won't be doing it by one of the more traditional methods.  No indeed.  What i shall do is go down to the new Knead Patisserie at 3111 24th Street and buy a couple dozen of their astonishing pomme d'amour, the best pastry i've ever eaten in my life, and the damn thing doesn't even have any chocolate in it.   

Then i will take the carton of pastries out into Dolores Park and eat them until i lose consciousness.  It'll look like i'm napping while every artery in my body congeals, and i'll have the additional pleasure of enacting that marvelous 1950's Chad Mitchell Trio song about the Temperance Union, "Oh can you imagine a greater disgrace/Than a man in the gutter with crumbs on his face."




It's Mattegray.net - 10 May 2013


Well, actually, it's not yet.

I've been trying to move this Matte Gray in SF site to my own domain, mattegray.net  But i've failed.

It would be wonderful to get back to posting, as it struck me this morning that it's just a month and a half until San Francisco's Gay Pride celebration, and i've thought of the perfect show for the crowd that fills the Civic Center grounds at the end of the parade - an auto da fé, the public entertainment pioneered by the Roman Catholic Church in which condemned heretics are given the opportunity to beg forgiveness before being burned at the stake.  In remembrance of Christ's love.

In this case, it'll be His Grace, Salvatore Cordigleone, Archbishop of San Francisco, who is dragged to the middle of the plazachained to a waiting stake heaped high with dried faggots, and burned while the crowd drowns out his screams with cheering.  

The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will provide marshmallows on sticks for the children.




Good News - 30 June 2013

Today in the San Francisco gay parade i pulled off my traditional unregistered Segway contingent of one, carrying an inflammatory sign that provoked the usual response.  Thousands of people read my sign, broke into grins and laughter, displayed gestures of approbation, and cheered wildly.


I think my recent depression may be lifting.

But i'm seeing a counselor now and will get a second opinion from him before i go prancing around calling myself sane.

And besides, i may suffer a setback if thousands fail to line the streets cheering me on my way to the gym in the morning.

The other good news is that i expect in another couple of weeks or so to be able to post a few new pics here, and if i can do that, all the pressure is off and i can build a new website  on mattegray.net  at my leisure.

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