12.15.2004

music, music everywhere...

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The minute I get off my commuter bus and set my foot in San Francisco, my ears are filled with music 'til the very moment when I step on the bus to get back.

Across the street from my morning bus stop there is always a large African American woman with colorfully, had made, hat and scarf who is singing soul songs from the very depth of her ample bosum. New attendees of her bus stop look hesitant and stand a distance, unsure of her effect on them, while the regulars are smiling and tapping their feet. She does not ask for money... she is just waiting for the bus with the rest of them and can't keep her beautiful music to herself.

Down the stairs into the undeground Montgomery station waits for me a tiered Mexican day worker in jeans, cowboy hat and guitar. He's strumming folk songs which echo off the ceiling and walls and reverbarate through the subway station.

When I emerge back up on the escalator at Civic Center station a flute caresses my ears. An older Japanese man is leaning against the gray subway-tiled wall and piping tunes that are remeniscent of kimonos, tea ceremonies and beautifully manicured gardens. Each note sharply pipes up in contrast to the next and once in a while two notes at once twirl around eachother until they're pierced by the next.

Every Wednesday, across the street, is the farmer's market and a man who looks like he could have been a member of the Greatful Dead is sitting on his fold-out stool with his guitar belting out love, peace and harmony songs from 1969 - the summer of love.

Every other Thrusday, my office windows vibrate with the roar of electric guitars, drums, cymbals and some young adult in angst. These are the regular concerts organized by the Academy of Arts right outside their building in United Nations plaza. An impromtu stage is suggested by three vehicles surrounding the band - usually turcks holding generators amplifiers. When I walk past to get my sandwich each beat of the drum beats on my jacket while the preformers are jumping up and down to the rhythm - like droplests of water on hot oil - and a young colorfully clad and torn group bounces along.

It's time to go home and I descend back into Civic Center station. Now the Japanese flute player has been replaced by a black homeless man who is bellowing out "Lean on Me" I don't think I've heard him do any other song but it doesn't matter. His optimisim is infectuous and his passion makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end every time.

Back up through Montgomery station a blind accordian player has taken his spot in front of the illuminated ad. He squeezes, sings and puts a spring in the step of everyone who is within earshot.

Once, while riding the 6 Parnassus from downtown through Haight street - there was a rag-tag group of teens occuping the back seats with their gangly arms, legs and backpacs. One strted singing "We are Family", the friends joined and - though no one knew eachother - most of the riders in the bus joined in the chorus while those who didn't know the words calpped along.

We are family
I've got all my sisters with me
We are family
get up everybody and sing

When it was over, everyone was giggling at what had just happened. Even.. momentarily polite, waving to strangers as they got off the bus. My eyes filled with damp joy at the beauty of the moment.

San Francisco... where the streets and public transportation are alive with music.

My return commute is almost complete as I dissapear onto my bus which lurches it's way out of "the city" and into the sub-urbs of San Mateo where the occasional car pumping out bass beats passes me as I make my way home along the empty, "tranquil" streets -- it's just not the same.

12.08.2004

ode to gorgonzola

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Only two dishes can leave me with the most delightful food hangover that has me walking around on the tips of my toes, with my face towards the heavens, my eyes closed and a constant hum of "hmmmmmmmmm" coming from my lips post consumption. One of them is Gnocchi alla Gorgonzola.

My favorite Italian Restaurant in San Francisco, Via Veneto, has kept me supplied with my favorite dish for years. In fact, they make their potato gnocchi so fluffy and their gorgonzola sauce so creamy that I no longer ask for anything else. When my husband and I made reservations last year for Valentine's day and the owner saw my preplexed face looking over their special menu with heart-shaped crab ravioli and other loving dishies... he approached me with a knowing look, "Signora, we are not serving gnocchi alla gorgonzola tonight but if you like we can make a special batch just for you!"

Oh yessss!

Unlike most gorogonzola cream sauce recipes one might find on the internet, Via Vento, adds a dash of spinach. This unexpected cream sauce addition adds earthy undertones of flavor to what otherwise might be a monochromatic palatte. Though the owner has never parted with the recipe, last night I managed to sucessfuly reverse engineer it.

I now share it with you... happy food hangover!


gnocchi alla gorgonzola
If you're really brave, you can make the gnocchi from scratch though even the most seasoned chefs have failed at this endeavor. Also, this dish is both rich and filling so make sure that you serve small portions to your guests or they'll fall asleep after dinner!

1 lb package of potato gnocchi
4 oz. of Gorgonzola Cheese
4 tbsp. of Unsalted Butter
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/4 cup of pecorino romano cheese
1/4 cup of frozen spinach
nutmeg to taste
black pepper to taste

In a large pasta pan, add water to 3/4 of the pan's capacity and a fist-full of sea salt and put on a high flame.

In a small sauce pan on a very low flame, melt the butter and add the milk. Cut your gorgonzola cheese into cubes and add it to the butter and milk. Pour in the grated pecorino romano cheese. Grind black pepper to taste (5 or 6 twists) and grate the nutmeg to taste (about 1/4 of a nut). Stir occasionally to ensure all the ingredients are combined and watch the sauce carefully. You don't want the sauce to simmer or boil (this will destroy the gorgonzola flavor). If you see the sauce starting to bubble, remove the pan from the flame to let it cool off and then put it back on the low flame only to keep it warm.

Prepare the pasta strainer in the sink. Add the frozen spinach to the strainer (it will be cooked with the pasta water) and rinse with warm water to soften. When the pasta pan water is boiling, add the potato gnocchi. Stir occasionally watching the gnocchi. When they have all floated to the top, strain the pasta in the strainer you have prepared with the frozen spinach, and put the gnocchi and spinach in the pasta pan. Pour the gorgonzola sauce on top and mix lightly.

Serve immediately.

Serves 4.


I have left-over gnocchi alla gorgonzola for lunch today.

Hmmmmmmmm!

Tip. Tap. Tip. Tap. Tip. Tap.

12.07.2004

flip flops - the winter collection

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Seen this weekend in Burlingame... 5 to 6 upper crust teen girls wearing wool scarves, insulated jackets, gloves, jeans or curdoroy pants and... flip flops.

I guess I should be relived that they didn't wear sox with them but seriously... it's 45 degrees outside, fall leaves are blowing over your feet and it's threatining to rain. Is the most fashionable shoe you can find a flip flop?!?!?

They wearers did look cold but they didn't seem to make the connection.

12.01.2004

walmart looking glass

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About six months ago my husband inisisted we go visit a local Walmart. We'd never seen one before but it had been making news as the biggest employer in Mexico, the latest "not in my back yard" in nearby trendy cities and the fastest growing retail stock.

I reluctantly agreed and we began hunting for the well-hidden Mountain View Walmart. After passing it three times, we found Walmart and a parking spot and started making our way to the door. The front of the store was congested with over-sized shopping traffic jam. Heaps and heaps of bright blue bags impeded the view of the shopping cart drivers who were making their way back to their cars.

As we entered the store a hidden demographic of Bay Area residents unfurled before us. Grossly obese customers gingerly pushed their carts past the elderly with varing combinations of canes and walkers who were dodging concerned parents who zigged and zagged their shopping carts with one hand while tugging their retarted kids with the other.

Two foot sings with large prices dotted the landscape before us like TV antennas on rooftops while the in-store video network droned on with commericials, tips, explosions and whatever else to get us to buy more.

We reached the detergent isle and a frail eighty-something cauccasian woman in slippers wearing a 1960's house coat decorated with green, orange and hot pink butterflies leaned over and asked if I could figure out the price of this dishwashing liquid. I recoiled as her death breath escaped from behind her three remaining teeth and twirled around her every word. I did my best to help her but she needed more than I could give.

My husband, a kid in a candy store, was hysterically rattling off all the prices (calculating the pennies per once in his head) and noting that there was indeed a savings. His finds were being cleared off the shelves and heaped in our cart. The products looked familiar but the words on the labels did not. The Pine Sol and 409 bottles were designed for the Spanish-speaking world - could this be part of the reason for the savings?

We inched our way thorugh toilet paper, car parts, gold fish, electornics, and crafts items until we finally made it to the check-out where a 3ft tall elderly lady totalled upour items. She had difficulty reaching the conveyor belt so we assisted in transferring the heavy detergent box into our very own blue plastic bags.

Walmart... a world like no other.