new discoveries in SF: the produce diaries
How do you know you’re home in the Bay? 1) The Lyft driver is blaring Lyrics Born (Every time that I get up on the microphone...) and 2) the produce. Oh, the produce.
I thought I had a good handle on it. After all, I lived in California for roughly twelve years of my life, and avocado and fruit have consistently ranked pretty high in the list of things I eat.
But every time I go back, it’s an incredible surprise all over again. The lettuce tastes so lettuce-y! The fruit… actually smells! Even in May! In a Safeway, of all places.
A few favorite discoveries this trip:
One of my loveliest friends hosted two of us for the perfect ladies’ dinner: greens, avocados, chopped into chunks and sprinkled with olive oil and salt, bread and cheese.
For dessert, she sliced up strawberries, peaches, and apriums and macerated them in advance with the squeeze of a small lemon and a bit of sugar to bring out all the flavors. By the time we broke them out--complete with goat shaped cornmeal lemon biscuits and freshly whipped cream--the fruit was plump with juice and as fresh as can be.
Speaking of lemons, at long last I made it to Piccino, a beautifully open restaurant out in the Dog Patch. The family had been raving about it for years, and I knew if they were driving out to the city, for Italian no less, it had to be good. And it was… the famous funghi pizza was fantastic -- mushrooms on a neat bed of more pureed mushrooms. Even more exciting? The seasonal option of bright chard, tossed with ricotta and tiny nibs of preserved lemons. With just the right amount of bite, the lemons added sweetness and acidity without losing texture. (Sidenote: new project? Have any of you successfully jarred them yourself?)
The preserved lemons made another appearance the next day at lunch at Zuni Cafe. I’d wanted to go to Zuni my whole time living in the city, and somehow never made it there. As a special treat, the man, his mama and I met up for a lovely Saturday lunch. Starting with a little gems salad with the lovely lemons, we then moved on to what is quite possibly the best pizza I have ever had. Again, mushrooms, but with the thinnest crust and most incredible stracchino cheese for the perfect stretch and a touch of garlic, sliced onion, and arugula. Ridiculous.
And only after all that did we break into the famous roast chicken with bread salad. The chicken was simple and moist, with crackling skin, and the drippings sopped into the chunks of bread. With a vinegary green salad piled on top, if was rustic French Californian at its best.
But back to lemons (the theme apparently of this trip, or you know, my life). My mother made this epic almond citrus cake, topped with candied slices from--you guessed it--lemons grown in her garden. Served, of course, next to homegrown flowers. Throw in some east bay hip hop, and nothing could be more Californ-i-a.