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Radio Africa & Kitchen (San Francisco)

No trend has been more popular in the San Francisco food scene in the last couple of years that than the pop-up where culinary school graduates as well as amateurs test out their recipes and restaurant concepts in borrowed locations and usually only for limited amounts of time. Now more and more of them are moving on to setting up their own full time brick and mortar restaurants.

Where as in a a pop-up it’s common to serve only until all your supplies run out  and to not always have a full menu such rules don’t apply for a regular restaurant and there is a higher level of consistency and service expected.

While Chef Eskender Aseged may have just transitioned from having a pop-up to a restaurant he clearly has learned much in his 20 years in the industry and it shows in the food and service at his new restaurant. The menu may be small but every dish felt thought out and well prepared.

Now located in a new condo building right by a T-line station in the Bayview and with easy parking on the street the restaurant is modern but not trendy and they focus on a small menu that will change weekly. Bayview may not be the go to neighborhood for many diners but it has a small but always increasing food scene with most restaurants being at very reasonable price points.

We had no problem walking in and getting a table but as the word gets out I hope this places fills up with people that enjoy good food. There was a nice mix of people ranging in age from little kids to distinguished looking silver hair ladies and gentlemen and a mix of Latino, African Americans and Caucasians.

Every week the menu consists of 4 smaller dishes and 3 larger ones. They don’t have a beer or wine license yet but are fine with people bringing in their own.

We got two smaller dishes and two entrees.
We started with a Shitake and crimini mushroom wot crostini with English peas, Manchego cheese and basil ($9) . The bread through out our meal was really good and they didn’t skimp on the mushrooms.
The second starter was Albacore tuna kitfo with chives, mitmita, creme fraiche and jicama ($10), which was pretty much a tartare with Ethiopian seasoning. It was served with some of the best jicama I’ve had in SF. This was a very good solid and delicious dish. Kitfo is usally made with raw beef which some folks balk at so this is a good way to try the seasoning of kitfo, the mitmita in a more accessible preparation.

The entrees were both very good. The French Spouse has the vegetarian option, a Jerusalem artichoke “souffle”, with Ethiopian spiced lentils and butternut squash (15) Each element was good on it’s own but together they really worked great together.
I had the lamb (18) which was so tender and flavourful and the seasoning gave just the right amount of heat and really brought out the flavour of the lamb. It was served with couscous and zucchini.

The portions for all the dishes were large and you could be quite satisfied with just ordering two larger entrees. We were too full to try the sole dessert option.

Another I liked is they are using Square to do their credit card transactions. It’s saves money for the restaurant, the consumer and you immediately get an emailed receipt.

I look forward to coming back regularly and trying all the different menus.

Radio Africa & Kitchen
restaurant at 4800 Third Street

First Hate mail

Hi there to IP: 69.249.77.100, c-69-249-77-100.hsd1.pa.comcast.net
I would put your name but I don’t have the bad manners you do. Just an FYI I now have all the info I need to know everything about you, your name and address. I hope you are enjoying that cold weather.

Anyone who thinks a women deserves to be murdered is a sick sick person so I hope you seek medical help or remove yourself from this world.

My first attempt at Carbonara

Italian cooking has always been a mystery to me. While some families have traditions based on rice or pasta my Irish/German family was firmly planted in all things potato. When my father did cook Italian it was American Italian like shrimp scampi or spaghetti and meatballs. Nothing too exciting and certainly never made with fresh pasta.

Certainly Carbonara isn’t the most traditional Italian recipe with there only be records of it since the mid 20th century although the first time I had it freshly made was when an Italian roommate at my school in the Netherlands made it for us. I remember how freaked out I was at her pouring raw eggs over pasta and worrying we would all get salmonella. Thankfully I put aside my fear to eat her lovely concoction that wasn’t made with any daily and just the smallest bit of butter.

Over the years I’ve gotten to eat many wonderful carbonaras, some with spaghetti, others with fettuccine, some vegetarian, others full of pork fat yet I never got around to making it. I think my hatred of dry pasta and my totally laziness and unwillingness to make my own pasta prevented me from making Italian pasta dishes. That was until I found a couple of shops in town that make their own fresh pasta. While I am sure it’s not as good as some people’s grandmothers one of my pasta favorites is the fettuccine from . It’s the kind of pasta you can eat with just some garlic and butter and it’s so satisfying.

The inspiration for making fettecine a la carbonara was when I saw some amazing wild lobster mushrooms at my local food co-op.
What do you think this is? No, it's not alien goo.  on Twitpic
Also nabbed during my grocery shopping was local duck eggs. There are few fowl that I love more than duck so there was no way I could pass up fresh duck eggs.

Having purchased this bounty of delights I set about trying to find something to do with them when I came upon this recipe . When I remember that I bought some langostino tails (other wise known in the US as squat lobster even though they are not actually lobsters at all) at Trader Joe’s I could help but have a dish with two ingredients that are called the same thing.

I followed the directions in the recipe pretty much as they were listed other than when the peas were added I also added the already cooked langostino tails and of course instead of chicken eggs I used duck eggs. I also used another tablespoon of butter and it only took 4 minutes to saute the mushrooms. The biggest challenge was adding the beaten eggs to the pasta with out it becoming scrambled and making sure all the pasta was coated in it.

All in all it was a surprisingly easy recipe to make and I loved how colourful and appealing it was.

Trial Date set and my need to cook returns

Pretty much since May when my communication broke down completely with both the victim’s advocate and the prosecutor for my sister’s murder trial, with the prosecutor telling me she didn’t have “any legal responsibility to share any information about the trial with me” and leaving a highly unprofessional voice message to me, I’ve been in a holding pattern. Scared and disgusted by the behavior of the prosecutor and her underlings and yes still determined to be there to represent my sister and all that she lost when she was murdered in cold blood.

Finally in August through checking the court website, I’ve got a date that the murder trial will start but being like most sane average people having no experience with the court system let alone a murder trial, I have no idea how the process works.

I get the feeling for the prosecutor who has never left the state she grew up in and ended up getting her law degree at a local fundamentalist ultra conservative school that has barely managed to hold on to it’s accreditation that is just another job for her. It’s clear she relishes punishing people and gets off on having power over someone’s freedom but I get the feeling that the victims don’t even matter to her. She is like chefs that are so in love with culinary technique that they don’t even think about whether anyone will enjoy eating their food and often don’t even think about the diners at all. Sometimes those chefs are brilliant and people flock to their restaurants inspite of their behavior and sometimes they are brilliant flops able to convince some investors but always blaming outside forces for their lack of success. I am hoping with every ounce of my being that the prosecutor will the former and not the latter. I can stand any personal injustice from this loathsome person if she is indeed about to convict on what is practically an open and shut case.

Learning to love quiche

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I was reminded today how much our views of what is comfort food and common food depend on our culture and community. Growing up in small town USA foods like quiche and pain au chocolat were as alien to me as the French language. For my French spouse however there is nothing more simple or comforting that a slice of quiche or having a pain au chocolat on a lazy morning.

I admit I avoided making quiches for the longest time being as intimidated by the name more than any recipes. While I can make a pies without even measuring the ingredients and there is nothing I like more than a meal in one dish something about quiches was daunting.

It took going to France and eating the many, many different quiches that abound at in french homes and in cafes for my fear of the quiche to be overcome. I learned that quiches don’t need to have cheese, they don’t need to have heavy cream. In short a quiche is a vessel of eggs and dairy that can transport any type of veggie or meat. The end result is always a lovely custard of dairy and eggs with tasty morsels embedded in it.

Since the French spouse is a pescatarian, my quiche are usually a base of eggs, milk with cheese and one or two vegetables. One of my favorites is leek and mushroom quiche. I cook my quiche in my pie dishes which means it’s a pretty short quiche. If you use a deeper pie dish then you will want to add 1/2 cup more milk or cream. I use thin pre-made crust, some quiches have very thick crust, some are thin wrappers for the goodness inside. The crusts should not be too sweet but a generic pie crust work pretty well for me.

Leek and Mushroom quiche
1 pie crust, if made from scratch rolled quite thin (I use ready made crusts from Trader Joe’s)
1 1/4 cup milk (or cream) I never use cream though
4 eggs
3 leeks, cut into 1 inch slices
1/2 cup sliced crimini mushrooms
1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, shredded
1/2 cup Emmenthaler cheese, shredded
4 tbsp butter
4 cloves of garlic crushed or finely diced
3 tbsp fresh herbs finely chopped-dill, tarragon and basil are some my favorites, I only pick one for each quiche
1 tsp black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450

2. In a heavy bottom skillet melt the butter, add the leeks and saute them until they start to get soft, then add the garlic and mushrooms and saute until the leeks are translucent with a bit of caramelization.

3.transfer the leeks and mushrooms to a plate with a paper towel on it to absorb all the excess liquids.

4. Whisk the eggs and the milk together, make sure they are thoroughly whisked, add the salt and pepper and the finely chopped herbs

5. put a thin layer of cheese on the pie crust

6. put 1/2 of the leeks and mushroom in a layer

7. do another layer of cheese

8. then pour 1/2 of the egg and milk mixture in the pie dish

9. layer the remaining leeks and mushroom

10. do another layer of cheese

11. pour the remaining egg and milk mixture

12. spread any remaining cheese on the top, leave enough cheese aside for this top layer to be evening covered

13. cook for 15 minutes at 450 before lower the temperature to 325 and cooking for 30 minutes. This will give you a nice brown crisp top.

This is just one of many versions of quiche. So long as I use the same amount of veggies I can add anything to this, spinach, onions, potatoes…… For me it’s become my go-to dish when I have some veggies I need to use or I want to make sure I have something I can eat for lunch through out the week.

The hardest part of making this is waiting 15 minutes after you take it out to cut a slice.

On a mother I miss and one I never had

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Mother’s day for the past 20 years has always been a tricky day for me. Twenty years ago I left home at 16 to save myself and give myself a chance at a happy life. I succeeded pretty well, finishing high school while not have a permanent address, going to college and so far living on three continents and travelling most recently to the Arctic Circle in Sweden. I have a spouse of eight years and a home I’ve lived in for more than a decade. And all that time I’ve had a mother who is alive but who is often not a real part of my life. Even as a child I had an odd relationship with Mother’s Day. On the one hand I love a celebration especially one involving food and I truly wanted nothing more than to be able to give my mother one of those cards that has all those sweet sentiments and gratitude for all the love and kindness she showed me. Instead even as an honesty obsessed kid I would try to find a card that said only the truth. One that said I love you, thanks for the nice things you do and for being around sometimes. My mother’s mantra has always been “there is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids” but her actions were almost always the opposite and the true mantra was “there is nothing I don’t expect from my kids other than perfection”. 20 years of being away from my mother and the intervention of some amazing caring adults when I left my parents’ home taught me that neither her goals nor her expectations are realistic or healthy. My relationship with my mother has been based on trying to have no expectations of her as a mother and expecting absolutely no true support or acceptance and for periods of time we can pretend to be family.

Now Mother’s Day is especially hard as my sister who’s main goal of the past decade has been to be a perfect mother and wife is dead because she didn’t live up to her husband or my parents’ expectations. The sadness and horror I feel that she tried so hard to be perfect and my own mother uses her supposed failings as a wife or mother to justify her husband murdering her in cold blood is magnified on a day that I know her children are spending with the grandparents who always judged their mother even when she is a murder victim. Will those children be raised with an image of their mother as saint or sinner or will they be given the gift of being raised knowing she was a complex person full of life and love? Will they be raised thinking someone wanting to leave a marriage is a genuine justification for murder? Will they blame my sister for being murdered? Will my toddler nephew even be raised with stories of his mother and how much she did for him and loved him?

My sister and I had a complex often contentious relationship as adults being almost opposites for the last tens in terms of politics, religion, beliefs and goals. We both left home at 16, too young and without support. We both put ourselves through college and moved far away from our home town but then we both went down different paths. She tried through two marriages and a rebirth in her Catholic faith to be as mainstream and conservative as possible while I didn’t try hard but ended up on the outskirts of heteronormativity due to my sexuality, my urbanization and my access to privilege. We both struggled to reach our personal goals and neither of us ended up exactly where we expected but neither of us ever thought that violence would be a part of our lives again. We always knew that we had the power to change the situations we were in and that was true until a man, her husband took that power away with a shot gun borrowed from our father.

My sister more than anyone in my childhood gave me my love of food and in many ways although she was only 3 years older than me she acted as a second mother to me, giving me what my own mother couldn’t. I learned early on not to cry in front of my parents or run to them if I was upset but my sister would let me crawl up on her lap and rock me in the lazy boy chair even when I was 12. She would some how make magic food out of the simple and basic ingredients we had in the house. We never had junk food except for my father’s stash of junk food which we were usually not allowed to have and my mother seemed to have a strict policy that all cookies must be healthy and weight at least a pound. My sister solved the issue by making potato chips from scratch and making donuts out of our generic bulk flour and then glazing them in fresh maple syrup. While I could follow a recipe, she seems to know instinctively how to make dishes from nothing. That was how she dealt with so many things. She would have an ideal and make it happen with food and with life. For me it’s taken so much practice to get to the point where I can look in my frig or at my life and see what I can make with with ingredients I’ve been given.

I feel so sad that her daughter and son will not have the years to come to get to know their mother as a cook and as a human. I think about how if she hadn’t left home at 16, I would have never been brave enough to leave home. I think about how when I was afraid, she held me and when I was too scared to defend myself, she defended me. Who will teach her children these things when the biggest lesson they have learned is that the person who loves you the most may kill you?

Eric Ripert and a Blender

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I am sure I am not the only one who could watch this video on repeat. Eric Ripert is one silver haired fox who seems to be a nice a person as he is a chef. His food and his manners have always delighted me.

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