Not so tough

I know, I know, I am a neglectful blogger at best. Let’s just say the last few months of this life have been filled to over flowing with a multitude of emotions, events and lots of eating.  I finally graduated from culinary school and moved to Bangkok, holy crap.  But that isn’t what this post is about, don’t worry, we will get there. This is about the women in my life who got me here.  Women who I have laughed, cried, raged and most importantly eaten and cooked with.  Women of astounding character and beauty.

I never truly thought of myself as a people person, and yet strangely enough this is one of the greatest things I learned from culinary school, that secretly, I love people.  My years of hardening my exterior to the majority of humanity seems to be softening, dammit.  I now accept that I can not go through this life alone. I need strong people to help steady me and I need to be loved deeply. Shit, what an eye opener.  Some how I have managed to garner the love and friendship of a handful of amazing women, women who no matter the irrationality of my thinking, the crass sentence structures that fly unbridled from my mouth or my wild swing in life style choices, they strike through that exterior and hold onto the soft parts of me.

Good god lady, what does this have to do with food, you overly sentimental fool? This is probably what your asking yourself right now.  Well let me tell you, in the last month of living in the bay area the amount of love that oozed out of these women came mostly in the form of meals to remember.  Wether the food was amazing or not, the moments eating with them are what I will remember the most. From glasses of champagne over oysters to complex cocktails with organs, if it was available to be eaten, we did it and did it in a way that my ladies know how I like too, order till the waiter realizes they are dealing with professionals; leaving no dish untasted or under analyzed.

These meals, with these women, truly brought home to me the reason why I cook.  Food brings people together in a way that nothing else could.  You can’t have a wedding, birthday or funeral without food.  It brings calmness, joy and comfort.  It enhances the human experience that we all seem to be sharing.  Weather it is taking an early afternoon, on a Wednesday, to drink rose and suck down oysters: at Anchor Oyster Bar in San Francisco:


Kaitlin and I enjoying tea and Rose while my dear friend Anna captures the moment.


or a more formal lunch to help close a chapter on my professional life as a gardener at Gather in Berkeley:


Ladies who garden and obsess over food.

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or a slow dinner between friends at Locanda in San Francisco:

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It helps bring a common focus, a thing to discuss, dilberate, detest or salivate over.  It defines cultures and regions of the world. It is a simple human need to eat and we can make it so much more.  We have elevated it to an art form, a scientific break through in sensory manipulation or simply a way to ease our hungry bellies after a hard day of toiling in the world.  The complexities of feeding people and eating with people are as vast and varied as the kinds of people we are feeding.   I have found through all these complexities of food one very simple thing is for sure, it is best done in the company of those you love and when thats not possible, sit at the bar of a restaurant and watch what we cooks do in the kitchen, talk to the cooks and the servers and the person sitting next to you.  Let food be the doorway to what could become a new friendship, even if it only lasts through the meal.

So in short, thank you ladies, for you are the reason I do what I do.  I do it for the love. Damn, I am just a big softie after all.


For my mother, a true black sheep.

Lamb; earthy, succulent and utterly devine.  Growing up in my house we ate as much lamb as we could afford.  If I had to pick a meat that best describes my family this might be it.  Strong in flavor and easily off putting to more sensitive palates (read americans). I come from a line of head strong off putting women.  We laugh loudly and have firm opinions on most subjects.  We are earthy and slightly mad.  My mother, the maddest of the three.

She was the very definition of free spirit.  She lived outside most of the rules and deeply instilled in me that if you aren’t following your heart you are betraying yourself.  She struggled with this lesson her whole life, reaching for her dreams and never quite grasping them.  It has taken me 30+ years to understand what she was trying to teach me.  That no matter how hard you fall when you reach beyond your grasp, you pick yourself back up, square your shoulders and push on.

The last meal I made for my mother was leg of lamb.  That meal is still so vivid in my mind.  Working in her cramped kitchen in Boulder Colorado the night before christmas, annoyed I paid $5 for a bunch of fresh rosemary when it grows like a weed in all my gardens.  We roasted potatoes and made artichokes, well out of season, but one of her favorites.  She was loopy on pain meds, the cancer was starting to really take it’s toll on her at this point.  She was so loopy she dipped a large piece of lamb fat into her dipping butter for the artichoke, fat dripping from her chin, her smile goofy and lopsided content to masticate her fat creation all night.  The smell of her perfume and the roasted lamb meat heavy in the air.  Bob Dylan working it out on the stereo. It was sadly perfect.

My mother taught me to cook, she taught me to garden. She taught me to be a survivor and her animalistic tenacity showed me how to be a fierce woman who saw the world through the eyes of a sceptic while appreciating all the natural beauty around us.  She was one of a kind and even though it was rough going between us for most of it, I am glad she raised me.  I celebrate her birthday every year with a special meal.  This year I chose  lambs neck. It has a special vulnerability to it that I felt was so perfect for her memory.

Lambs neck braised with mint, meyer lemons and garlic served over thyme infused japanese purple sweet potatoes and meyer lemon roasted radishes.

lambs neck, raw and ready for love

lambs neck, raw and ready for love


Lambs neck with meyer lemon, mint and garlic over japanese purple sweet potatoes and roasted radishes

Lambs neck with meyer lemon, mint and garlic over japanese purple sweet potatoes and roasted radishes

Happy birthday Mom, Thanks for teaching me that different is good and passion is an essential ingredient to life.