More from San Francisco, last March. Yes amazingly I still have not shown all. This was my dinner, eaten at a small Belgian restaurant in North Beach, La Trappe. I have been there with my wife once before, and enjoyed the size of the massive beer book (which, large though it is, doesn’t have my two favourite bieres belges but has a lot of bloody nice ones). They aint cheap either. The food though is lovely. I am a fan of moules frites (a pot of mussels with Belgian fries, which ironically I didn’t actually eat when I lived in Belgium). On this evening, I chose the Moules Normandes, a tasty dish of mussels heavy with apples. I had the frites of course, which were nice (but not as nice as the ones I used to eat in Charleroi at 3am, drowned in mayonnaise), with two dipping sauces, mayo andalouse and roasted garlic mayo. For drink, I had a Maredsous 8, the brown one. Nice, but not my favourite Maredsous, and I didn’t finish it. Mostly I drank water. Anyway if you are in San Francisco, I can recommend it, and you’ll find it on the corner of Greenwich and Mason, right on Columbus. Oh yes, here is the map…
Christmas is coming. Which means mince pies. These mince pies in particular were made by a fellow Brit at work, and who kindly made me a whole tin of these little bite-sized festive treats (thanks Jean!). They were delicious, and very nice with a cup or tea or three. So, I had to draw them. It was an act of unbelievable will power to sit and smell them in front of me while drawing and not eat any until I was done. Well, in fact I’d had a few first, but still, the rest of them didn’t last long afterwards. Hopefully I get some time to make some myself, though mine are always messier and uneven, not that I notice the shape as they fly into my belly.
Dear Americans who don’t know: mince pies are not made with meat. The “mincemeat” used is something else entirely. I must admit I stopped trying to encourage my American family to eat them some years back, because I realized that there would be more left for me. And Santa of course, who loves them. Home-made ones are much nicer; although in England I always used to get those yummy ones from Marks & Spencer. One thing about M&S mince pies though folks, they always seem to have a useful best-before date of December 24th. Make sure you give Santa the freshest ones.
One other thing you may be interested in, my American friends, when a Londoner says “mince pies” he might also mean his “eyes”, which is Cockney Rhyming Slang. I don’t really use that one myself, mostly because it makes me suddenly very hungry at the very thought. I really love mince pies.
The meet-up at the end of the sketchcrawl is always a lot of fun, a great chance to see and ‘wow’ at new work, and the San Francisco group being so big and varied it’s always a pleasure. We met at 4:30 back at the very crowded slopes of Dolores Park, as the Mission sun shone, and fog drifted around Sutro Tower above us. After seeing a few incredible sketchbooks, I decided to catch up on my people sketching. There were some familiar faces (see Jason above with the beard, I have sketched him a couple of times before) and lots of new faces. You can catch up with everybody’s great work on the Sketchcrawl website.
I realised that apart from a little orange and a brownie, I hadn’t actually eaten. So I ran off to a taqueria, El Toro on Valencia, and got myself a grilled salmon burrito (which was great, though next time I’ll not get so much refried beans). Gotta have a burrito in the Mission, eh. I do like a burrito.
I left the Mission by BART, passing down the piss-stenched escalators at 16th & Mission, and heading back to the Embarcadero. I kept sketching on the way home…more to come…
Anybody who has been to Vegas knows that the sound of the inescapable beeping of slot machines stays in your head for ages afterwards. The one-armed bandits, which still have their levers, unnecessary though they are in this age of buttons, now have the pre-recorded sound of quarters dropping into a plastic tray when you win or cash out your paper token with a little barcode on it, replacing the sound of real quarters, the sound of winning big. The first time I went to Vegas, nine years ago, quarters were everywhere. They gave you big plastic slurpee cups to hold them in, and the cashiers distributed little sanitized towels to wash the metallic stain from your fingers. The world has changed so much, except for one thing: the house always wins in the end. The thing is, you win big one time, maybe twice, and it keeps you playing, and then ultimately you lose it all, because you don’t know when to stop. I won $100 on the Wheel of Fortune machine at the airport once, just before getting on the plane; that didn’t happen this time, oh no. Oh well.
And of course, the buffets – you have to do the buffets in Vegas. They are good. The problem with buffets is that there is so much choice, you end up getting too much and not eating all that much of it. Not that I didn’t stuff my face of course, and we got there late enough for breakfast that lunch was starting to be served as well, which was handy (there’s one for Alan-Partridgesque buffet tricks 101). This was what remained of my very big breakfast. That chocolate mousse thing was delicious.
Valentine’s Day is one of those holidays when you have to indulge in some chocolatey decadence. I made my first ever chocolate trifle, and oh yes it was decadent, my friend.
A layer of choc fudge brownies, decorated with maltesers (I cut most of them in half – a mistake in fact, as the honeycomb center evaporated), and a layer of creamy chocolate pudding, topped with cool-whip cream and some chocolate hearts. Below is how it looks inside. It was a winner (and I don’t mean a Michael), but so filling, so chocolatey, so over the top, I couldn’t have more than a single serving.
The same can’t be said for my real winner, my regular strawberry and banana trifle; I could eat a whole dish of it in one fell swoop – it’s that good. A British specialty (and my brother has the best recipe), I have made it several times over here, my best one being for my American in-law family, on no less an American holiday than the Fourth of July, and wow they all loved it! Which made me feel great, though it meant there were no leftovers for me to finish off…
PS, despite my trifle obsession, this is still not a food blog, so you know…
It was my son’s birthday; I made the cake. Here it is, half-eaten (or is it half-uneaten, whichever is the more positive sounding…) It was very nice cake. I thought this wasn’t going to become a food-blog? I haven’t baked a cake in years, I mean years. I was all for doing a nice Victoria sponge with jam and buttercream in it, but for some reason couldn’t pluck up the courage. Besides, ingredients here always seem to have different names from their British recipe counterparts when I get to the store.
It’s what first frustrated me when I moved here. I remember back then, I forget what I was making, but I couldn’t find double cream anywhere, had no idea what Americans called it. Out went half my recipes. No coriander? Well I’ll use cilantro instead. Biscuits are a type of bready thing you get at KFC, not something you dip in your tea. Even now I’m still not sure if America has any swede in any of its grocery stores (I’ve had mashed-swede-&-carrot-free roasts for over four years now), it may be disguised as something else. The perils of being a Brit abroad.
But cake, on the other hand, is surely cake! So I used a cake mix, from a box, Betty Crocker, just add eggs, oil and water. Kind of cheating I know. But it was bloody good, I will say, and my son (who had been looking forward to this much-hyped birthday cake for days) was super impressed, and that’s the main thing.
Drawn in the moleskine diary.