I Left My Heart and Footprint in San Francisco

I grew up in Santa Cruz, so whenever I mention “The City” it has always been San Francisco that I have had in mind. I spent a bit of time there during the last few years of high school but I have now lived in LA for 6 years and since then I have had limited visits. Especially because when I head up north my mom wants me all to herself. I have had small excursions and I was a guest at the Tasty Awards last winter, but I have yet to really spend some quality time in the city that I always assumed I would end up living in. This weekend was different, one of my best friends who is more of a sister, named d’Auria, had just moved there from New Orleans and the whole time felt like us going home in some weird way. I picked her up on Saturday and she told me that another friend from Santa Cruz was in the city to see Wicked and asked if I wanted to hang out with him. I knew his name right away and was pleased that he knew who I was, even though I was a grade older and only knew him because he had dated an acquaintance during my senior year of high school. He was right across from the Ferry Building, we picked him up and I asked d’Auria to get on her phone and find me a sandwich. We drove around until she found a place on her Yelp App. She navigated me and we ended up only a block away from where we started. The sandwich place she found was closed and with our princess parking we went by foot and returned to the Ferry Building. Here is my bestie, d’Auria, in front of the building that houses a ton of culinary treasures.

The place was bustling and it contained some of my favorite things. I loved the oysters because of the aphrodisiac element and the mushrooms for their richness while still containing zero calories. I took a picture of Cowgirl Creamery because I know how much Josie loves their cheeses. I, on the other hand, love my cheeses like I love my men…hard and hol(e)y. We were in the mood to be served so we just browsed and returned to the car. I said something to d’Auria about how all of the LA food bloggers go nuts over Tartine. She told me that she goes there several times a week and loves just getting a baguette and jam. d’Auria is a French girl that is a foodie in her own right and she led me straight there. It was in the Hayes Valley neighborhood. It was the exact kind of neighborhood I dream about living in. There is a park in the center with an enormous woman statue made of recycled parts and is surrounded by boutiques, candy shops, and people picnicking and serenading one another. We walked to the bakery and it was quiet and empty. I thought that surely this couldn’t be THE Tartine that gives people food boners. Correct I was, it was not. Apparently we were at Tartine Cafe Francais instead of Tartine Bakery. I didn’t mind. I was starving, this place had a French owner, and my French bestie vouched for it and the prices were so reasonable. I am always happy when I see a sandwich less than $7. I had the salami and swiss with cornichons. I told d’Auria about how when I was in Cannes I brought a jar of cornichons  back with me in my luggage and what a tragedy it would have been if  the jar were to break. d’Auria proved why I love her so much by saying, “Then you would really smell Jewish.”

My sandwich was quite good and reminded me of something I ate in France. Simple, small, and fresh ingredients. Apparently this place has been here longer than the other Tartine and it clearly doesn’t have the same clout. It is a friendly neighborhood bakery and one that I wish was in my own neighborhood. The pastries were all hand crafted and everything was yummy and inexpensive. I left with an apricot hamatashan. I liked the fruit filling but strangely enough it was d’Auria who isn’t Jewish that explained to me this significance of this little cookie. We had a nice stroll through the park and then I said I needed a drink because I was parched. I said either a Diet Coke, a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, or a cider. I ended up with the latter, a pomegranate cider brewed by Two Rivers, at  the 21st Amendment Brewery. It was a perfect neighborhood brewery, there were two bars inside, the food looked delicious, and along with serving local brews they also brewed their own beers.

d’Auria and I were left by our friend and we headed to her new office to change for dinner. Her new office is this very cool warehouse space in the SOMA district. She is working with her other Jewish BFF (actually all of her besties are Jews) on a very exciting new project that I can’t wait to tell you all about. We grew up in the same town, went to the same HS, and have the same confident/bossy demeanor that can be a lot to handle. We talked about business, dating, partnerships and everything else under the sun. We ate nuts, drank Stella, and it felt like the guys (er, girls) getting back together. It was fantastic. At around 9:30, I said I was hungry for dinner and we agreed on a Thai restaurant by the office. The place was called Manora, which made us both think of Hanukkah, and it was kismet.  We ordered the fresh mint rolls, a chicken curry (after we told the duck curry we were planning on getting was very spicy), and some pad thai. The fare we ordered was standard but the food was all very good. d’Auria got full early on but I could have been grazing for hours. I was having a fantastic day in a fantastic city and I couldn’t help but notice that the packed restaurant contained 90% men. This was far better numbers than we have in LA.

I told d’Auria when we were driving into The City that I had the feeling that I sometimes get when I go on a first date, which is a repetition in my head of “Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love. Don’t fall in love.” However, San Francisco won me over…hard. I had the perfect day, great conversation, good food and drink, princess parking throughout the city, and good weather. I think I left a bit of my heart in San Francisco but the rest of my footprint has yet to be made. I am quite certain that the other foot will drop in the future and I’ll return to this beautiful city that has always felt like part of my destiny.

Santa Cruz: A Meal and A View from the Crow’s Nest

My mom is a woman that is not one bit of a fool, even though she shares her birthday with April Fool’s Day. It hasn’t been an easy birthday to have, especially when you are a woman as sensitive as my mother. My uncle once wrapped her up a dead bird when she was 13 and I tried to top that by giving her a dead fish when I was 10. I have since realized that this behavior is simply not funny. My mama is the kindest person I have ever known and on her last birthday she flew us to Costa Rica. She allowed me and my little bro to zip-line the rain forest, sit in mineral baths at a resort, get pina coladas IN the pool bar, and so much more. I decided that this year I would drive home to see her. I drove to Santa Cruz on Wednesday night and arrived only minutes before it was about to become her birthday. She managed to bypass most pranks on her birthday this year, except for one. At the home where my grandpa lives, a place filled with seniors, there is one young guy in his 40s who lives there because he had a stroke. He was wearing a shirt that said, “Keep Staring- I might do a trick” and as he was walking down the stairs my mom said, “I like your shirt!” He was on step number 5 and tumbled down the rest of them causing all of the nurses to run in a frenzy, my mom was terrified that she distracted him and caused him to fall. The man went from his tumbling position to standing straight up and saying, “April Fools!” Nursing homes are simply NOT the place for practical jokes. After all this, my mom decided that she wanted her birthday dinner to be at the Crow’s Nest despite already being there earlier in the week. I suggested she let me pick the restaurant and she said I needed to stop being bossy. She’s much tougher since she started martial arts and told me she could put me in a headlock. I obliged. We headed off to dinner and were later joined by our favorite neighbor, Buzz, who has been a regular at our meals and is now part of the family.

There are some things that Nor Cal (if you wanna be technical, Central Coast) does better than most and that is sourdough bread and calamari. I once learned at Disney California what makes San Francisco Sourdough bread better than everyone else’s, but I forget. Ok, I will admit it, I only have done those tours for the free bread and tortilla samples. Of course, a ton of places do breaded and lightly fried calamari, but it just brings back so many memories of my childhood when I eat it in Santa Cruz. I remember being at the Boardwalk (if you’ve seen the Lost Boys, then you have seen it) and eating it on the Sky Gliders and walking the wharf with a basket and being so impressed that I, at age 7, was eating and loving squid. Anyway, calamari up in SC is personal for me and at the Crow’s Nest they made it perfectly. For the main course, I had the swordfish with truffle oil and I had them substitute artichoke risotto for the mashed potatoes because I heart artichokes. The swordfish was a tad too dry but it is not my job to complain, it was my mom’s special day. She, who chose a seafood restaurant and is not even a vegetarian, ordered the vegetable stir-fry. It was an odd choice because my mom makes the best stir-frys and makes them all of the time. Oh well, it was her special day and I won’t get on her ordering style. Buzz and my brother, Cody, had the hamburger and french fries and Cody even shot the burger picture himself.

For dessert, the waiter was kind enough to bring out a mud pie for my mom. Did I think the food was stellar? Not quite. Did I think the service was out of this world? Not in the slightest. However, our busboy Shane was fantastic and he was my mom’s preschool student many years ago and someone I went to high school with. I was also told that my brother’s babysitter, Justine, is the hostess here and that my mom is good friend’s with a waiter who is the brother-in-law to one of our neighbors. It was a community meal that made my mom happy and that made me happy. For my birthday, she was kind enough to take me to the expensive and two Michelin starred restaurant, Manresa, in Los Gatos for perhaps the best meal of my life. While I prefer the seafood from Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing, this was my mom’s choice and it was a good one. This is a family restaurant and represents so much of our extended family in Santa Cruz, not to mention the view is gorgeous. Without being too obvious, it is called the Crow’s Nest and it has the view to match. If you wanna see where Santa Cruzans eat and work, then come here! I guarantee you will run into people we know.

Happy Birthday to our Youngest and Coolest UG!

My little brother and I have 14 years between us and yet when it comes right down to it we are both so ridiculously similar. He loves to laugh until his eyes water and eat until he can’t bear to move. I always tell him that he is a better foodie than me because the boy loves bacon! If it were up to him, every breakfast would consist of only sausage and bacon. Since I was in town for the Tasty Awards and have never missed one of his huge birthday shindigs I decided to give him a day where we could do whatever he wanted. We went to a Sharks game in the afternoon and then got BBQ in the evening. If you know me, you know that I am not a sports kind of a girl. Yes, I infamously mistook Cal Ripken Jr. for Tom Colicchio and I think Scrabble is a sport. Anyway, this was his day and the SJ Sharks were playing the Edmonton Oilers. The game was fun and our team won but the whole time I was thinking about BBQ.

I asked my dear fellow Twits where to get good BBQ in San Jo, and ButtercupD responded with Texas Smokehouse BBQ. My little brother is growing up in my hometown of Santa Cruz. There is a plethora of organic food, only 1 drive-thru, and a ton of vegetarians and vegans in Santa Cruz. When my brother was in Kindergarten I bought him a shirt that read: Vegans Taste Like Chicken. He wore it with pride and made his big sis so proud. This part of SJ that we went to for BBQ was nothing like he was used to. He got orange soda, white bread in ziploc bags (the sign of any good BBQ joint), corn muffins, a slab of ribs, black eyed peas, and yams. The food was awesome and it was good to teach him that Black Eyed Peas are more than the band that sings “Boom Boom Pow” one of his favorite songs to dance to.

The next day was his Sushi and Dancing birthday party. Last year, when he turned 8, he had a Sushi & Disco party at the same venue I Love Sushi in Santa Cruz. He was in the same party outfit from last year, did karaoke, blew out a candle on sushi, organized a worm-off, a coke drinking contest, and dance freeze. This brother of mine is so sophisticated not only does he love sushi but he also picked out a lemon poppyseed birthday cake with butter cream frosting from The Buttery.

Cody Bear, since today is your actual birthday, I wanted to wish you a very Happy 9th Birthday! Your UG Girls love you and can’t wait to see you again soon and eat with you! And, yes, as soon as we get a TV show you can be featured on it!

My Time at the First Annual Tasty Awards

Josie and I were thrilled to be part of the process of the 1st annual Tasty Awards, as we both acted as judges. At the last minute Josie made the tough decision to honor a work commitment rather than attend the Tasty Awards with moi. I completely understood but I found myself dateless. 20 minutes before leaving for NorCal I quickly wrote a post and asked on Twitter if any SF/Bay Area foodies/bloggers wanted to accompany me to the award show and after party. In typical UG fashion, I wasn’t overwhelmed by a plethora of date options but a nice girl who goes by Smashed Potatoe was interested. Smashed Potatoe (Ashley) and I communicated via Twitter on my drive up north to my hometown of Santa Cruz. I arrived late at night, read books with my bro, and had to wake up at 7A because my favorite hair stylist Tommy-tito was sweet enough to squeeze me in on his busiest week for cut and color. He opened the Parlor, just for me, and darkened my hair and gave me bangs. I left in the late afternoon off to meet my new friend and have an adventure in San Francisco. The recommended attire was black tie but I noticed that some were in ball gowns and tuxes and some were in jeans and sandals. It reaffirmed why I love San Francisco and first annual events so much. It is the unexpected, the surprises, and all the awkward turtle and uncouth moments that make life grand. The show was hosted by the very sexy and zany Zane Lambrey of Three Sheets. I wasn’t all that familiar with him but my date Ashley was and said he was someone we definitely had to get a drink with after the show. Since you have already seen the first picture you know we made this dream a reality.

The award show began with their person of the year, Anthony Bourdain. Unfortunately, he was not there but he made a video acceptance speech and his executive producers came up and said that he asked them to tell dick and fart jokes. This is how the award show started and more uncouth and awkward turtle moments followed and caused me and my date for the evening to bond in looks and laughs. Some funny lines of the night came from the Cooking for the Clueless and her producer husband that admitted to sleeping with the talent. We were seated in the second row and had the honor of being only a few seats down from the lovely Debbie Mazar who we discovered was starting a web show called Under the Tuscan Gun. We also were both gawking at the “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” guys who won the award for best animated food related movie, of course they were the only nominees but we loved them..too bad they had dates.

There was quite a lot of talk during the night from presenters and winners talking about wanting to go to the party to eat and/or drink. Ashley was making me laugh by adding in comments like, “I have seen his/her show and they need a cocktail”. It was in walking the few blocks to the after party at New People that the whole evening really loosened up. People didn’t know what the awards ceremony would be like but we all knew how to have a party. The space of the After Party was a gallery, store, and cafe. The whole event took place in Japan Town so the party was equipped with Harajuku style girls and it was funny seeing everyone get loose when alcohol and food were finally added to the mix.

One of my favorite people of the award show was the Queen of the Trailer Park, Miss Jolene Sugarbaker, who won the award for Best Comedy Series. She was a kick and was in character all night. The other award winners I thoroughly enjoyed was Average Betty and Leslie from Check, Please! Bay Area. These Tasty winners were complete UGs, as they both ended up using their awards as drink holders. Hilarious, and all women I aspire to become!

The awards show was fresh and had a laid back attitude that is unusual in such a setting. The after party was like a maze of finding all of the interesting characters of the night and searching for wine and chocolate. Ashley was a perfect date and I was thrilled to learn we both like food, booze, and have elephant tattoos. Anyway, a big thanks to all for giving me a great night and making the Tasty Awards as tasty as can be!

A Very Untraditional Trip Home for the Holidays

It wasn’t easy getting home this holiday season. I was in my first car accident and felt the need to take my car straight to the auto body shop and then realized I was carless to make my trip to Santa Cruz. Thanks to everyone’s best friend, Facebook, I found out that two jr. high and high school friends that currently reside in LA were heading home for the holidays. They were kind enough to give me a ride and we reminisced on old memories on the way home. We listened to a song called “Too Close” by Next and I told them that when the song came on at junior high dances I remembered living the lyrics of, “Step back you’re dancing kinda close, I feel a little poke coming through on you.” It was so poetic to have so many shared experiences with a group of people you never see. We arrived late on Christmas Eve. It was just enough time for my 8 year old brother and I to make cookies for Santa and leave out carrots and celery for the reindeer. He then asked, “Does Santa like organic nonfat milk? ‘Cause that’s all we have.” I started laughing and he responded the best way possible, “Are you gonna tweet me?” Of course, I did.

Good thing my brother, Cody, and I did so much work for Santa. He was granted an electric Razor on Christmas morning. He doesn’t yet need the electric razor for facial hair so his razor is in the scooter realm. Since we are Jewish we also attended Temple Beth El on Christmas Day for a Fiddler on the Roof singalong and a chinese food lunch. It was a great deal of fun but my 90 year old grandfather who was born to kvetch was annoyed that they only served him water…what, no Diet Coke?!?!

The day after Christmas was relaxing and wonderful. My mom always complains that she eats too much when I visits and gains a minimum of 2 pounds. I am proud of this fact and love for her to indulge in my gluttonous lifestyle. This day was so no exception. My mom said she felt sick from eating too much, I was unimpressed. My little brother, on the other hand, polished off a 1/2 rack of ribs from Bruno’s BBQ by himself, that I was impressed by.

It was on this day that my mom shocked me by saying that she wanted to get a tattoo the next day. She has never had one and doesn’t seem like “the type” whatever that means. A sad anniversary is coming up for my family and I absolutely felt her need to mark this event. There was a name I always grew up hearing and it was Frank Fumano, who gave my grandpa his tattoo and who was my mom’s big first crush. Reading my mom’s book of poetry that she wrote when she was my age was chilling and her poem about Frank was always the most poignant for me. My mom once heard that Frank died and when she learned that he was alive and well and working in her hometown of San Mateo excited her beyond belief. She didn’t know what to do, and as the mother of an Uncouth Gourmand, she ended up sending a fruit basket to his office-the tattoo parlor. She knew that if she was going to get a tattoo only Frank could do it. Since I already have one, 2 orange elephants in the shape of a heart with the word for a good sigh written in Japanese (although hot tea has to be in your mouth to say it correctly), I was there for support and to monitor. The name of the tattoo salon is Al’s Rock of Ages and it is run by Al who has a ton of funny jokes and stuff to look at in his shop. By the way, if you have to go to the bathroom it is free to pee but a penny for a poo. Obviously, the highlight for me was being able to meet Frank and to help my mom get exactly what she wanted. Well, Frank was really the artist but I like to think that I helped.

Nothing about this holiday trip home was traditional but it was all so much fun. In the words of Fiddler on the Roof, “Tradition. Without our traditions, our lives would be as shaky as… as a fiddler on the roof!” All I can say is sometimes being a fiddler on the roof is fun and exactly what a holiday season needs!

Tasty Awards: Simply Scrumptious

We know the Taste TV people from their fantastic Chocolate Salon events in Pasadena. So when we heard that there was going to be the first annual Tasty Awards honoring the best in food and fashion on television, in film, and online we knew we had to be a part of it. We were fortunate enough to be part of the select Tastemaker Awards Panel and will be attending the ceremony on January 14th in San Francisco. Have no fear, uncouthies:  you, too, can vote and attend. Click on their website and vote in the People’s Choice categories section from now until January 5th and you can purchase VIP tickets to the historic award show here. We, the Uncouth Gourmand Girls, are so looking forward to the event. Here is a list of attendees thus far:

Hosted by food and travel television star Zane Lamprey of “Three Sheets” fame (FLN), the show features a star-studded lineup of food and fashion TV celebrities, including Tyler Florence (Food Network), Joanne Weir (PBS), G. Garvin (TV One), Tanya Holland (Food Network), Leslie Sbrocco (PBS), Gary Vaynerchuk (Wine Library TV), Marcy Smothers (Radio), Novella Carpenter (Author), Anita Chu (Author), Dominique Crenn (Food Network – Next Iron Chef), Brian Solis (New Media Guru), Marissa Churchill (Bravo, Top Chef), and more.


Special Achievement Awards have been announced for Anthony Bourdain, Martin Yan, Paul Prudhomme, YouTube, Alton Brown, Jacque Pepin, Meryl Streep, Giada De Laurentiis, and Tim Gunn, among others.

Forget the Academy Awards, we would so much rather be at an award show where Anthony Bourdain, Top Chef, Project Runway, Cake Boss and Guy Fieri lead the awards finalists. Plus, I am sure the gourmet wine, food, and chocolate after party will be tastier than any other award show!

Who is the Cioppino King?

What kind of girl wakes up in the morning dreaming of an Italian fish stew? Me, Carina, an Uncouth Gourmand 4 lyfe and the one without a seafood allergy. I was craving it and  I decided to ask my fellow Twits for the best bowl in LA. As the old adage goes, ask and you shall receive. I received a response from the top dog himself. The god of all foodies in LA, Mr. Jonathan Gold. Here is what he had to say:

High end, Admiral Risty; maybe better, the back room at Fish King in Glendale. RT @uncouthgourmand Where can I get a good cioppino in LA?

I was on cloud nine and invited a foodie that I used to date who I know loves Fish King to join me for a bowl. Like a real lady, I invited him via email and he responded saying:

I’ll gladly, and with much pleasure join you for some Cioppino. Now if you’re feeling really brave, you could always try the Fish King version and then when/if you go up home for the holidays, you can go to Phil’s Fish Market in Moss Landing and compare the two Cioppinos.

Well we planned on grabbing cioppino two days before Thanksgiving and it just so happens that the day after I was heading to my hometown of Santa Cruz. Phil’s Fish Market is maybe 20 minutes from my childhood home and has the cioppino that I have compared all other cioppinos to. How dare this gentleman plant this idea in my head. How could I walk in to Fish King with anything but ultra high expectation? I had the snapper sandwich and the bowl of cioppino. The cioppino was very inexpensive under $8 and the biggest surprise was it came with rice inside. I had never seen that but it added a nice touch. It was good and a very decent value but it became clear that the Fish King was not the Cioppino King.

I constantly end up either at the airport or on the road on the busiest travel day of the year, the day before Thanksgiving, and am always surprised there are so many people out. As I was getting in to Monterey, the 101 was at a halt and I decided to get on another freeway, the 183, which brings you right in front of Phil’s Fish Market. Continue reading