Tuesday, April 17, 2007

white chocolate cranberry cookies

Makes 36 cookies
2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar (Natural Cane Sugar)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rum
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda, and sal, in a medium size bowl. Using a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light. Add the eggs, vanilla, and rum into the butter and mix until everything is incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture, beating on low speed. Once all of the flour is mixed in, stir in the white chocolate chips and cransberries until evenly distributed. Drop an ice cream scoop sized dough on an ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9-11 minutes on upper third rack, until the edges are golden brown. The center of the cookie should still look a bit doughie when it comes out of the oven. Let it cool on the sheet for about 10 minutes and transfer onto a cooling rack.

Monday, April 2, 2007

the windy city

And I'm not talking about Chicago: that's one thing I won't miss about San Francisco.

The weather has been quite generous, but there was a moment this morning I thought our luck had run out. The sky was overcast and I was sure it was going to rain. The temperature gauge in the car read 54 degrees as we made our way to the Golden Gate Park. It was colder than what we had become accustomed to on this trip. Regardless, we braved the cold and walked through the park, passing on the $4 entrance fee into the Japanese Tea Garden, and never making it to the flower conservatory.

Our tummies were telling us it was lunch time so we drove across town to Chinatown for some dim sum. The sky had cleared up and the sun was out as we searched for the Grant Place Restarant: a small eatery serving a handful of dim sum fares. No servers carting around bamboo and tin steamers here. Esther thoroughly enjoyed the shrimp dumplings while I ate my through some chicken feet. I was in the mood for some Chinese pastry when I spotted the Golden Gate Bakery on Grant Street. As we crossed the street, I realized there was a line out the door. It must be good, I thought. As we got to the end of the line, a gentleman selling sunglasses next door kindly told us the end of the line was further down the street. There must have been about 30 people in front of us, but we got in line anyway. The man behind us, a born and raised San Franciscan, told us they made the best custard tart and the owner's brother made the best moon cake (not a big fan) in town at his own bakery up the street. As we got closer to ordering our dessert, the young lady in front of me frowned at the idea that I was only going to order one tart. "You might as well get half a dozen for waiting this long." So I ordered two and one coconut tart. The egg custard is slightly sweet and the thin, buttery, flaky crust is just firm enough to hold the warm custard. It was definitely worth the wait.

As we finished our dessert, we strolled into North Beach and took a browse through its famous independent bookstore City Lights. Three floors of books specializing in world literature, arts, and progressive politics. Like any other bookstore, I didn't leave empty handed. We stopped at Cafe Puccini, they had a jukebox of Puccini albums, for a cup of joe, then it was off to Telegraph Hill to Coit Tower. A nice hike up to a decent view of the city. Not sure I understood the whole purpose of this tower other than it was built after a bridesmaid who left her wedding party to chase a firetruck down the street. I didn't get that either.

It was back to Union Square for dinner at Colibri, a Mexican Bistro. Serving in traditional tapas style, we had the quesadillas, the tamals de Pescado: seared fish with plantains and vegetables wrapped in a banana leaf served with rice and beans, and a side of mojito. I munched on the coconut tart for dessert as we walked back to Chinatown. The city was quiet, shops were closing one by one, and the wind was still blowing as we said good-bye to San Francisco.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

the naked truth

Day 4: I like people-watching; and today was the perfect day to do so. I got in my morning run around the Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve; the gravel trail made it a bit of a challenging run. Along the trail, families, couples, people on bikes, and with their pets were getting in their daily exercise.

Our trip being pretty packed thus far, we decided for an easy, relaxing day so we headed down south towards Santa Cruz to check out the beaches. Today was the first day the rides and attractions opened on the boardwalk so it was bustling with people: teenagers on spring break and families with their children among tourists like us. Gyros from a wrap stand took care of lunch as we headed out onto the beach. We just sat there soaking up the sun, the warm sand between our toes. A family in front of us was setting up a tent and a guy behind us was being buried neck deep in sand by his girlfriend and some random kids. But this was nothing compared to what I was to encounter later on.

I wanted to drive along California Hwy 1, so we instructed Ms. GPS to take us to Half Moon Bay. Along the drive we stopped twice on the side of the road to marvel at the breath-taking panorama of the Pacific Ocean. Out on the horizon, waves of clouds seemed to tumble their way towards the shore.The beaches and cliffs reminded me much of Ireland and I had thought the same when driving up Napa Valley through the rolling green hills. On the tiny, secluded beaches, the wind was so strong, it would blow the pebbled sand against my legs that felt like hundreds of needles prickling my skin.

Unfortunately, amidst the beauty, came the beast. I made it down to a small beach cove; as I was taking in the view, a man popped out from the other side of the cliff wearing nothing but a tee-shirt. The same thing happened in Ireland but I was lucky enough to be without my glasses or contacts so everything was one big blur. I wasn't so lucky today. I quickly turn around and start walking the other way. I head up over some rocks to take a few more pictures and as soon as I turn around, the man, now completely naked is making his way towards my direction. I didn't know this was a nude beach; is there a hotline I can call to report this kind of behavior? All I'm thinking is getting the heck out of there. When I get to the path that leads back up the hill, Esther, who was waiting for me at the top, decides to make her way down. As I wait for her, I see from my peripheral, the naked man is coming back this way. You've got to be kidding me! At this point, I just laugh it off and tell Esther that there is a naked man down here so as not to be alarmed. I know what I said earlier, but I'd prefer not to people-watch in such circumstances.

We finally reached our destination; the small town of Half Moon Bay. The sun was beginning to set and the temperature was dropping but I made Esther walk the whole five blocks of the town. After getting some hot chocolate and the self-titled album by Amos Lee, which I bought from a cute little music shop on Main Street, we came home for an early night. It's back into the city tomorrow for our last full day in the Bay area. I just hope nudists aren't roaming around San Francisco.