Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Laid Back Breakfast Sandwich - Haight Street, San Francisco, CA

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

I am obsessed with good breakfast sandwiches.  I remember a million years ago, a woman who will forever be known as "Little Jen" and I worked for a financial institution in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Neither of us were enamored with the job, but their cafeteria made amazing breakfast sandwiches on Texas Toasts.  Thank goodness no Executive ever asked me what I enjoyed about working for the company, because I would have said "The breakfast sandwiches - and nothing else."

I was walking along Haight Street in San Francisco.  The Haight street area has so much history and ghosts that it reminds me a lot of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.  You can literally feel the ghosts of generations as you walk down the street.  (Check out my run in with a ghost in New Orleans in this blog post linked here.) 

For another great restaurant review in the Haight-Ashbury area, check out my blog post on The Sparrow.  As I walked along Haight Street, a small restaurant called "Kate's Kitchen" caught my eye.  It looked laid back with a large menu.  I was sold.

Unfortunately I didn't realize until after I sat down that it was "cash only."  The menu looked so good, I wanted to order EVERYTHING.  But I'm never one to carry much cash on me, so my breakfast options would be dictated by the price.  I ordered a breakfast sandwich with Kate's Kitchen's homemade sausage and hash browns with a cup of mint tea.

The service was friendly.  The atmosphere was very chill.  The decor laid back - a little grungy, but overall homey.  And the FOOD -- ohhhh the toasted bun on the breakfast sandwich was both sweet and savory.  The homemade sausage had a nice spice to it, but not overwhelming.  The fresh hash browns were crispy with a nice fresh potato flavor.  Win, win, win.

I didn't have any specific encounters with ghosts as I had breakfast at Kate's Kitchen but I had a very good breakfast sandwich, which is tops in my book!

If you're in San Francisco, check out this quaint little joint.

Monday, July 6, 2015

French Exclamations! Brunch in Berkeley, California

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

I am the Queen of Procrastination - and one of the fall out effects of this is that sometimes I find a great restaurant and by the time I get around to writing about it - the restaurant has closed.  Because I practice egomania on a somewhat regular basis, I then feel great dismay that my procrastination has somehow contributed to the downfall of the restaurant.

In late February/early March 2015, I had the great pleasure of spending a couple weeks in Berkeley, California.  Once upon a time in my misspent youth, I had lived very briefly in San Francisco, California.  I worked at a software company in Alameda where I did the most boring administrative work and the only true bright spot of my day was discovering California gourmet burritos.  Growing up in Minnesota, I had never had a truly amazing burritos.  California burritos were life-changing to me.

Although I lived in San Francisco and worked in Alameda, I didn't spend much time exploring beyond the two cities.  Several weeks in collegiate, chill Berkeley sounded amazing - and like I was finally catching up on my Northern California sightseeing.

I stayed at the Doubletree Hotel by Hilton Berkeley Marina location.  If you're looking for a fabulous, scenic place to stay in Berkeley; I highly recommend it.  Nestled by a state park, overlooking a marina stocked with yachts, sailboats and sophisticated houseboats and on a bus line - it was convenient, beautiful and in a nice location.  Plus the hotel staff was SUPER courteous.  I stay in a lot of Doubletree hotels and the Berkeley Marina's staff was in the top five percent of quality customer service, in my experience.

Since I had spent the winter stuffing myself with goulash, Viennese pastries and Polish pierogis as I worked in Eastern Europe; I was in need of a diet and copious amounts of exercise.  My hotel was a 3 mile walk into the center of town and I took advantage of the gorgeous Bay Trail to walk as much as I could.

One area that I very much enjoyed walking to was the Berkeley Fourth Street Shopping Area.  About 2/3 of the way to the shops, I would pass by a man who was standing on the street twisting spare wires into some sort of statue.  He looked homeless and wore heavy clothing although it was unseasonably warm in Northern California.  I didn't know if he was a homeless artist or a bored street person.  But he didn't bother me, so I wasn't going to bother him.  I'd walk by him twice a day, several times a week.

On a glorious Sunday, I enjoyed walking along the Fourth Street shops.  The air was filled with my favorite fragrance ... Sunday Brunch!  I was torn ... I was trying to eat healthy BUT I have never met a Sunday brunch food that I didn't like.  I was trying to stay strong, but then the menu at Zut! Tavern on 4th Street caught my eye.  I love all things New Orleans and Zut! was advertising fresh BEIGNETS on their menu.  (Beignets are little French donuts, typically served in New Orleans.  Read about my adventures with beignets at Cafe Du Monde here.)

When I was in high school French class, we learned the French exclamation "Zut alors!"  It can mean something akin to Damn!  Shoot!  Or even "shucks" depending on how foul the dictionary you are consulting is.  I loved the exclamation "Zut alors!" so much that I said it constantly as I had a French version of Tourette's.  

Beignets at a place called Zut!?  I had to stop and have brunch there! 

Now it is currently July 2015 and I dined at Zut! in February 2015.  When I decided to finally get around to writing about my great Sunday Brunch, I looked online and saw that Zut! is listed as being temporarily closed.  Perhaps new management or summer vacation?  Either way I am hoping Zut! reopens soon because the restaurant is awesome and the food is tasty.  Darn me and my procrastination in writing!  Keep your eye on their website for more details. 

In my drive to be more health conscious, I decided in February to give up caffeine and alcohol.  I am not a big time drinker, but I also hate feeling deprived ... so I am pissy not to be able to enjoy a cocktail from time to time.  However I have been drinking decaf coffee (which yes I know has a little caffeine, shoot me - I'm not a saint) and "mock tails" instead of cocktails.  So at Zut! I ordered a cup of decaf and a virgin Bloody Mary.

I have to say that this virgin Bloody Mary was one of the tastiest Bloody Mary cocktails I have ever had ... and I have had a lot of them! 

I ordered the beignet starter.  It said the hot fresh French donuts would be accompanied with a side of jelly.  I had never had beignets with anything other than excessive mounds of powdered sugar, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  Nor did I know how many beignets were in an order.  So I was a little surprised when the waitress set down this platter.

Five, fresh fried, huge fluffy beignets with a side of raspberry jelly.  Ohhhh how I wish you could smell the gloriousness of these beauties.  The beignets were so huge!  This picture doesn't adequately convey how humongous each beignet was.  And oh how tasty.  I tried a little of the jelly on a piece of beignet and I was hooked.  As if the fried donuts needed more sugar ... but the combination of hot donut with sweet jelly was oh so good.

I was sitting outdoors on Zut's sidewalk patio and the Sunday shoppers who walked past me all stared at me with stomach envy as they watched me nibble on these glorious beignets.  A couple people actually stopped, asked me what I was eating and then came into the restaurant to order them too.  Zut! should have given me a finder's fee!  The combination of hot strong coffee, spicy virgin Bloody Mary and these fatty, sweet beignets were like a breakfast explosion of flavor.

I could have shoved every one of these hot beignets in my stomach, but I had ordered an entree as well.  I begged the waitress to box up the rest of the beignets for me, so I would not eat them.

Next came my entree ... I love a good breakfast pizza so I could not resist when I saw that Zut! had a sausage pizza topped with eggs and arugula.

The crust on this pizza was to die for.  They say that Florida (where I live) does not have good pizza crust because the water quality mixed with the flour just doesn't work.  I don't know if that is true, but I do know that Zut's pizza crust was perfection.

The sausage had a nice zip and fat content, which went well with the peppery arugula and the medium-cooked eggs.  Again, I could have eaten this entire pizza - but I had to stop myself.  I asked the waitress to box up the rest of my pizza as well.  I had had a very good Sunday brunch, but I didn't want to overdo it.  I've been trying to become "all things in moderation" gal.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail.

When I had first seen that my beignet order had five fat beignets, I had decided that I would box up some of my meal and give it to the gentleman in the heavy wool coat who was six blocks away using pliers to fasten scrap pieces of metal to a bigger piece of metal.  I patted myself on the back thinking I was doing a good deed PLUS not stuffing myself with too much food.

I walked the six blocks to where the gentleman was, thinking of myself as quite the good-doer.  But as I stepped closer to the gentleman, I thought "Um, what if this guy is not homeless?  What if he's some random Berkeley hippie just making art on the street corner?  What if I offered him food and offended the heck out of him?"  I was feeling less of a good-doer and more of a dumbass.  I basically just stopped about four feet from the gentleman with my fancy handled bag of leftovers from Zut!, looking befuddled.

I took a deep breath and thought "just go for it, dumbass!"  I thought that saying "I have leftover beignets and arugula breakfast pizza" would sound ridiculously pretentious, so I just managed to squeak out: "Um, I have some leftover donuts and pizza - do you want it?"  The gentleman looked up from his wire twisting and shook his head.

"Oh ... ok."  I said.  Now truly feeling like a dumbass.  I started walking away and the man called out after me.  

"What kind of pizza is it?"

I turned around and started walking back toward him.  "Sausage and arugula" I said.  He shrugged and held out his hand.  I handed him the bag of leftovers, then quickly walked away as if I felt like he might change his mind.  The food was incredibly good, so I do hope he was able to enjoy it.  Maybe one day I'll find out that he was an eccentric millionaire who spent his day twisting scrap wire and looking for good people.  But I highly doubt it.  

Regardless, I had an amazing Sunday brunch at Zut! Tavern on Fourth and I hope it reopens soon.         

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Disconnect From The Digital

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers:

I was recently in New York seeing "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" for the sixth time on Broadway.  Since I have seen it so often, I instantly noticed that 2 of the band members were different.  One of the band members I had seen in the prior five productions had "Smurf Blue" hair, so it was easy to spot that he was missing.  Lena Hall was also no longer in the show - so the two main leads - Darren Criss and Rebecca Naomi Jones were also new to me.

The great thing about Hedwig is that they tend to throw in new jokes, so even though I have seen the show six times (by far the most I have EVER seen of one Broadway musical) I feel like each show was new and fresh.

Take for instance the opening speech by Yitzhak - where Rebecca Naomi Jones, in character tells the audience to turn off any cell phones, pagers or surveillance devices (pronounced duh-vee-suhs).  To this speech, they had added a new part that especially spoke to me.  

To paraphrase it was something like: 

"Don't try to curate the present or fetishize the past because you're afraid there is no future.  BE HERE NOW." 

In other words, stop trying to document everything - pictures, video - just enjoy the moment you are in.

I was recently at a concert and I swear I spent 92% of the time videoing and photographing the band.  I had to force myself to put my phone away and actually "be there now" in the moment - enjoying the show.

Then earlier in the week, The Tampa Bay Times published an article on disconnecting from social media and enjoying the outdoors.  I felt like once again the universe was trying to send me a message.

The whole "don't try to curate the present" definitely got me because I do feel like I am "capturing" the moment constantly - where I go, what I do, who I am with ... a lot is potential material for this blog.  But really, I should be focusing on just enjoying the moment for what it is.

Deep thoughts to ponder!  Thanks a lot Hedwig and the Angry Inch for making me think!  (And yes, I am saying that sarcastically!) 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Law of Attraction and Savory Turkish Pastry

Hello LilyOnTheLam.Com Readers!

Happy Independence Day - July 4th!  I was recently in New York City which is like Heaven for a foodie like me.  Ever since I spent an amazing week and a half in Turkey several years ago, I have been a devoted fan to all foods Turkish.  Living in Tampa Bay, I don't have a wide choice of Turkish restaurants.  Gengiz Khan Turkish Grill and Restaurant works in a pinch, but if I am really jonesing for Turkish food I have to drive to Orlando to go to my favorite "local" Turkish restaurant, Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine (my favorite is the one in Orlando but the Winter Park location is nice too).

While in New York, one of my favorite Turkish restaurants is ABA Restaurant.  It is unassuming, chill and relaxed with tasty food.  But one of my favorite things to do would be to get a cheese gozleme from "Mmmm... Enfes" Turkish bakery.

Gozleme is like a very thin Turkish flatbread or doughy crepe that is rolled up on itself with toppings and grilled.  I love a simple cheese and herb filled gozleme.  It is filling and satisfying.

A couple months ago I was on my way to Budapest for work with a layover at JFK airport.  Since I now associate NYC with Turkish food, when I heard I was stopping at JFK I instantly said to myself "I wish I had time to go into the city to buy a gozleme."  

As it turned out, my flight into JFK was delayed and I had to run to my gate to make sure I didn't miss my connecting flight.  But guess what was across from my gate?  A Turkish bakery in JFK selling GOZLEME!  Seriously?  Is this a dream?  Is this a mirage?  Did my stomach magically conjure up a Turkish bakery stand?  When did my belly learn how to do something else other than retain large amounts of abdominal fat?

I realized that it did not make sense to question the miracle.  I needed to ENJOY the miracle.  I ordered two gozleme to go and then jumped back in the line to board the plane.  As my plane headed to Paris (and then a connecting flight to Budapest), I was connecting my mouth to a hot, savory and rich gozleme.  My magical belly was very happy.

So last week I was back in New York City and my stomach was craving Turkish food again.  I decided to run out to Mmmm... Enfes bakery for ... you guessed it ... gozleme.  I went online to Google the address when I saw a note that the Turkish bakery was "permanently closed." 

I let out a wail so loud - a repeat of the tragic sorrow I felt when I learned that the Australian chain of savory and sweet mini pies called "Pie Face" had closed all of their NYC stores.  WHY? WHY? WHY?  Oh the tremendous sadness of it all!

I was disgruntled, but I was also hungry.  I decided to walk down to Herald Square and look for lunch alternatives.  I also needed to do some clothes shopping as my haphazard packing for the NYC trip led me to pack all the wrong clothes for the unseasonable cool late June 2015 weather. 

I went to Macy's Herald Square and grumpily dove through floor after floor of clothing.  I actually found some great deals, but I'm like an angry toddler when I am hungry.  I was pissy and unruly.

After having an internal hissy fit, I gathered my bags from three different stores and set out to finally find some lunch.  My frown turned upside down when I realized that Urban Space NYC was holding their annual "Broadway Bites" event - where local restaurants have booths to sell their amazing food.  (I am a sucker for Red Hook Lobster Pound's booth!) 

My stomach grew sad as I realized that last June 2014 I had been at this very spot, enjoying a cheese gozleme and tart cherry juice from the Mmmm... Enfes Turkish Bakery booth at "Broadway Bites."  Then I looked up ... and guess what I saw?

THE MMMM.... ENFES TURKISH BAKERY BOOTH!  I guess their storefront is closed but the booth for this one month foodie event still lives on!

I ran over and ordered a cheese gozleme with conviction and vigor!

 I was so excited to get my cheese gozleme that I did not take a fancy, pretty picture of it - and as such my poor gozleme looks like the creature from Alien - but let me assure you, it tasted WONDERFUL.

I will be honest, I would rather my magical belly be able to pick billion dollar lottery winning numbers than make Turkish bakery stands appear out of thin air.  But since I can't choose my magic, I am just going to be grateful that at least twice in my life I have really wanted gozleme and then they magically appeared.  I'll take whatever "Law of Attraction" benefits I can conjure up.  

So on this Independence Day, I am repurposing it as Gratitude Day.  I am grateful for my health, happiness, family, friends and my magic belly!  I wish you all the best of everything in your lives!  Thank you for reading!