Friday, May 29, 2009

Adventure San Francisco: Jukebox Breakfast

To stop and behold a classic diner is one of life’s little magical moments—chrome-laced linoleum counter-tops, tile floors, and an antique jukebox in the corner that still works! As rare as these encounters are, it’s even more unusual to find a meal that’s truly worthy to be served in one of these exceptional beauties. One of Berkeley’s crowned culinary jewels, Bette’s Oceanview Diner, offers both an ambiance evocative of the past and home-cooked fare that leaves you dreaming about re-visiting in the future.

Alongside a strong, steamy cup of joe, get your day started with a set of perfectly poached eggs on top of a bed of some of the best corned beef hash I’ve ever had. Perhaps you’re more in the mood for the rarely-seen-anywhere-but-Pennsylvania scrapple or, for the less adventurous, a stack of buttery flapjacks.

Not much of a breakfast person? Belly up to the counter and order a malt or draught beer to accompany your pan-fried fish fillet sandwich or your homemade meatloaf plate. Whatever your preference, put a quarter in that jukebox. As Etta James belts out her seminal classic, I’d Rather Go Blind, sit back, take a deep sip of your drink, and truly appreciate a culinary moment that’s reminiscent of a bygone era. Details: 1807 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA, 510.644.3230,

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Obsession: Prosciutto

I'll be the first to admit that I have an unhealthy love affair with Prosciutto, Italy's gift of porky-goodness. I've used this air-dried, salt-cured treat with veggies, fruit, or as a side to cheeses for years. But recently, I've become obsessed with it cooked, crunched, and crumbled on my side-dishes, eggs, soups, salads, or meats (chicken, fish, steak). (Well, quite frankly, almost anything I'm cooking.) Although this habit can be expensive, a little bit of Prosciutto delivers in a big way. Simply place 2-3 slices on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, or, when cooled, the Prosciutto can be easily crumbled while still maintaining it's crunch. Warning: Once you've tried this taste sensation, it's a habit that may be hard to break.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Gastronomy: Shrimp Scampi, a Bi-Weekly Classic

In my continued quest to cook all of the eight "classic" dishes that were featured on last season's Top Chef, I think I finally created a really great Shrimp Scampi. It is the perfect blend of acid, butter, garlic and fresh herbs. The best part about this dish is that it's fresh, delicious, and easy—even the clean-up is minimal.

Even though I wouldn't consider this one of the top eight "classic" dishes, the folks at Top Chef don't have to convince me to add this simple and tasty meal to my bi-weekly repertoire. Here's my recipe for the taking: Create, enjoy, and as always, drink a great glass of wine!

Shrimp Scampi

3/4 lb dry linguine
5 T unsalted butter
2 1/2 T good olive oil
2 large cloves or 4 small cloves of garlic
1 lb large, uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c fresh Italian parsley, chopped
2 T lemon zest, grated
1/4 c freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 lemon, sliced into rounds
1/2 c pasta water
1/4 c Parmesan cheese plus extra for top

Add linguine to a large pot of boiling, salted water and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, or according to the directions on the package. Reserve pasta water.

Meanwhile, in another large, heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for about 2 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, salt, and pepper; sauté until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 7 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat; add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, and lemon slices. Toss to combine.

When the pasta is cooked, drain the linguine and add it to the pan with the shrimp. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well. Add parmesan and reserved pasta water, toss again. Serve hot with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

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Obsession: Wine Spritzer Bliss

When my sister came to visit, we spent long afternoons basking in the sun, spinning tales, giggling like we were young again, and drinking white wine spritzers. Now, when I manage to squeeze in a little r & r, my mind immediately wanders to this devilishly refreshing aperitif. Simply fill your favorite white wine glass half way with ice; 2/3 full of your favorite, crispy white wine; a dash of sparkling water; and a few citrus rounds. Let your lazy afternoon party begin!

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Style: Shedding Light on the Catalog Gloom

My home had slowly turned into a standard catalog photo-shoot. I guess I can think of worse things, but it’s so incredibly cookie-cutter, sterile, and, let’s face it, completely lacking of any sort of individuality. Somewhere along the way, I forgot to surround myself with things I truly loved and managed to replace them with item number 264312, page 16.

During the once-a-year event of washing my pendant globes, order 485021, I realized enough-was-enough. First of all, I hate washing globes and, second of all, they were incredibly standard, catalog stock. After an evening of self-flagellation coupled with an online surfing session, I stumbled upon the answer: Meteor Lights—a product that promised to illuminate my home and my soul!

Located in San Francisco, Meteor Lights’ designers have created fiberglass lampshades and pendants that they recommend as replacement shades for mid-century modern design. I say, however, that a Meteor Light shade is so fun and playful, they can be used any where and at any time.

The entertaining site allows you to select your shade style, color, and pattern options. Using the Shade Selector, play around with the different shapes and combinations or test out the 25 different colors and half a dozen patterns that you can choose from. Whether you purchase a Meteor Light to hang over your kitchen table or as a replacement for your child’s outgrown infant-style lampshade, you can proudly glance around your home and remember that your possessions should be a reflection of you and not your bulk catalog. Details:

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Obsession: Radio, A 21st Century Cure

Haven’t listened to new music since The Smiths during a college party? Tired of circulating the same old tunes from your iPod, or, heaven-forbid, your tape cassettes and vinyl? Sign-up for For free, you can become a member of an online music community. Every track you play helps inform your profile—the more informed your profile, the more suggests great music that's custom-made to your taste. And, if you don't know the names of any of the hottest, new bands, go ahead and type in what you know. Soon, will be suggesting fresh and innovative tunes that introduce you to all those new sounds you've been missing and craving. Details:

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Gastronomy: Elevated Grilling

I’m always searching for a creative twist on grilling. Since we cook outside so frequently, thinking beyond burgers, chicken, and steak is a proposal that is wildly embraced by my family and a welcome relief to their collective palates.

Browsing through my old Gourmet magazines, I found the perfect elevated grilling idea: Ziti with Grilled Gazpacho Sauce and Sausage. Based on the classic Spanish soup, this broth-less version is a modern marriage of warm grilled vegetables, robustly flavorful sauce, and sweet Italian sausage. With a few adjustments to the original, this simple grill-based pasta dish has managed to replace one of our many, standard meat meals to become a grilling family favorite.

10 T olive oil, divided
2 t salt, divided
2 t pepper, divided
1 medium onion
1.5 pints cherry tomatoes
3 bell peppers, orange, yellow, or red
4 medium zucchini
5 garlic cloves
½ c fresh, flat-leaf parsley, divided
½ c fresh basil, divided
3 T red wine vinegar
½ t sugar
6-8 sweet Italian sausages
1 lb ziti
½ c French feta or shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

Stir salt and pepper into 5 T olive oil. Peel and quarter onion; separately thread onion pieces and tomatoes on metal or pre-soaked wooden skewers; set aside. Trim bottoms and tops off of bell peppers; half peppers length-wise and remove seeds. Trim and halve zucchinis, length-wise. Peel garlic cloves. Brush prepared vegetables and garlic with the seasoned olive oil mixture. Place oiled garlic on a double layer of foil and wrap tightly, twisting to seal.

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking, medium, high heat. Grill vegetables and garlic covered, turning occasionally:

· Tomatoes, 3-5 minutes, or until slightly wilted
· Bell peppers, 8-10 minutes, or until skin is blackened in spots
· Onions and zucchini, 8-10 minutes, or until tender
· Garlic, 8-10 minutes, or until softened and caramelized in spots.

Transfer as cooked to covered platter.

Peel peppers. Divide tomatoes, bell peppers, and zucchini in half. In a food processor or blender, transfer half of the grilled tomatoes, 3 bell pepper halves, 4 zucchini halves, the entire onion, all of the garlic, 1 t salt, 1 t pepper, remaining olive oil, vinegar, sugar, ¼ c basil, and ¼ c parsley; puree until as smooth as possible, adding additional olive oil, if necessary.

Chop remaining peppers and zucchini; combine with the remaining tomatoes. Continue to keep vegetables warm on covered platter; set aside.

Grill sausages, 12-15 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

While sausages are grilling, cook ziti, according to directions, until al dente; drain. Add sauce and grilled vegetables to warm pasta. Sprinkle with remaining herbs and cheese; serve with sausages.

Makes 6 servings.

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Obsession: Tasty Salted Pig Parts

Back in December, we featured Boccalone in a short list of our favorite holiday merchants. But, like any true obsession, I can't stop talking, dreaming, and spreading the word about this tantalizing tidbit. Boccalone offers mail-order "tasty salted pig parts" that include a variety of cured, cooked, and fresh meats. When writing our Gastronomy article, my mouth started to water just thinking about accompanying my Grilled Gazpacho with some fresh-made Boccalone Italian Sausage. While you're at it, why not throw in some lardo or pancetta? What better way to celebrate the new grilling season? Details:

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About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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