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A Place to Call Home II

On Monday, I had an appointment in town, and as I am wont to do while there, thought about getting a nice cup of coffee and a bite to eat. I don't usually, as by the time I'm on the street, I'm overwhelmed, my frugal logic kicks in and I head straight home. I hadn't had breakfast or caffeine that day though, and I realised going home straight to leftover lunch and work would be depressing. It's been a touch few weeks. I wanted some respite. I found it surprisingly hard to find a nice little cafe for a cuppa within 3 blocks from Powell BART. Lots of 'diners', serving 10 different kinds of Eggs Benedict, tourist dining halls, big chains. At that point, I wanted lunch too, and none of these would work. So I'm wandering down O'Farrell being crestfallen, and across the street, I see a sign for a Japanese restaurant called Dojima Ann, complete with plastic food display in the front window.

Inside, I was ushered to the wooden counter next to the kitchen of a long, narrow room. It was filled with a lunch crowd, but there seemed to be more locals than tourists, which I considered a good sign. I got a seat in a lovely dark corner, next to the drink chiller, and the owner got me a blessed cup of hot tea. It wasn't too hot, but not at all lukewarm either, and I was sincerely grateful for it. They have a pretty extensive menu, including a separate sushi menu and daily specials on the board. I was very tempted by the tanuki udon (I like this as much as I do kitsune udon), but the board beckoned with unagi and mountain yam on rice, which I did get instead. It took a while for food to get to me. I didn't mind, as hungry as I was -- it gave me time to think and read while I waited. I suspect part of the wait was that they had to grate the yam fresh, which wasn't at all a bad thing. When my food came, it was exactly what I was craving, even though I didn't know it beforehand. In a big bowl holding just enough hot rice for me, I found grilled eel, still delicately crisp at the edges, snowed in with grated yam and topped with a raw quail egg. The lovely miso soup that came with had fried tofu, which I vastly prefer over raw silken tofu. The whole meal was comforting and welcome. I felt a rare moment of rest in what seemed like a fairly long time.

What I intended to post today was that we bought a new home. We set things in motion about 7 months ago, and finally got the keys last week. It's a flat about three blocks away from where we currently live. The building is at least a century old, and has Edwardian features. Our flat includes an original clawfoot tub, all the original plaster mouldings, including vestal virgins over a window seat in the front room, and even the original gaslight hook-ups, although the gas fittings themselves have been taken out. There's hardwood floors throughout, and the kitchen is bright and sunny, much bigger than what we have here, though counter space is smaller. I worry a little we won't have enough kitchen cabinet space for some of our bigger pans, but the cabinetry itself is brand new, and realistically, we'll probably need to put things on higher cabinets than what's here. The pantry under the counter is divided up on two large shelves with lazy Susans, and that's pretty exciting in terms of storage possibilities. There's also a dishwasher, which strikes us both as a weird luxury. The sink's smaller too, but it's probably enough to wash our pans carefully. I think I can get away with rinsing a small turkey in there. We shall see. The oven looks slightly more narrow, but again, I can get away with throwing a turkey in there. It's self-cleaning -- which I also find luxurious and a bit odd. There's enough room in the dining area adjacent to the kitchen for a table, so we got ourselves one of those. Attached to that is a relatively spacious deck with our own subdivision, and another window seat/window counter overlooking tall paned windows. The front bedroom (with the other window seat) is very likely being turned into our office. I look forward to reading there with the cat.

When we visited the place on Wednesday night, there was a miniature Sif in the garden. She looked like a stray, about 60% smaller and thinner than our cat. It was hard to tell, because she looked so malnourished, if she was old or just underfed. We got as far as getting her to sniff my hand, then we had to leave for dinner. I hope she belongs to a neighbour and is not a stray. Seth, to whom I promised we could get another cat when we had the room, is already worried I will walk into the SPCA and adopt the first 12 cats I see for looking sad.

Given that I will soon be scrubbing our current big oven out, I roasted the stewing hen I got from the Mission Meat Cave a while ago -- the size of a small turkey (yes, turkeys are a theme, it's heading into that part of the year). Weighted down with filling, I could barely carry the roasting dish. I was deeply disappointed the stewing hen had none of the unlaid eggs I love inside (Meat Cave butchers were also baffled when I asked about this), but being an old chicken, it was very much the texture of what chickens were back in the mists of time. Quite firm, slightly stringy, resistant to long cooking. There was a ridiculous amount of meat on the bird, so much so, I actually gave up trying to carve away the wing meat and wasn't too picky about the under-bird trimmings.

I also made cardamom and honey cookies. I knew, using honey, that cookie would spread out and be a bit crumblier, but the effect I got was quite unexpected overall. Freshly baked, I wound up with a delicate cookie, lightly crisped on the edges, and a tender, moist centre akin to the touch-me-not biscuits my mother used to make. I believe they were Filipino biscuits, but I haven't ever been able to find references for them online. The biscuits my mother made were these baked discs of meringue topped with custard, which were very fragile, but certainly very rich and sweet. The next time I made these biscuits, if I do, I might want to go for a crisper cookie, with more cardamom, as the spice was tangible in the dough, but only vaguely perceptible in the baked cookie. The honey is also very subtle. I used a mix of blackberry honey and meadowfoam honey from the all-newly-reopened HMS Beekeeper, now under Bryon, who is friendly and most awesome about the different varieties on offer. I was really hoping the blackberry honey would at least lend a certain tartness, but the meadowfoam honey, which is quite candy-like, was the more prominent flavour.

I already have a few cooking projects I want to attempt at the new place lined up. Indonesian layer cake (Spekkoek), as it's Ramadan; an unbaked (or baked) cheesecake; paneer and at least one other cookie. I'm also planning to make kale and cabbage kimchee to take over there, as a kind of link between here and there. I know we've outgrown this place, but I am still fond of this apartment. scanner_darkly thinks our entire apartment could fit into the kitchen/dining/living room area of the new place. There's so much space to live in.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 14th, 2011 12:24 am (UTC)
Yay for a huge new house!

My relatives are all curious about how cardamom would go with honey.
Aug. 14th, 2011 12:36 am (UTC)
Thank you! Cardamom is a pretty heady spice, so it has a sort of green, astringent flavour when paired with honey. Adds a nice tang.
Aug. 22nd, 2011 04:31 am (UTC)
Congrats on the new digs! Just remind yourself that more than two cats is asking for problems. If you're alone you only have two hands, and jealousy can ensue.
We have 3 dogs(well two small dogs and a self propelled mop/pom) and a cat and all 4 have decided that I'm "their" human. Getting through the door without hurting their feelings is now a major accomplishment.
Aug. 22nd, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
Thanks, man! :)
I've been holding off on getting a 2nd cat for so long because our cat is a handful, and it's taken years of conditioning to get her to relatively normal anxiety. As the person who is at home almost all the time, I have the most contact with the pets. Two would probably be a lot for me as it is.

I've been to at least one home with 4 pets (and a baby!). Oh, man, that's just nuts.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )