The current scene in the Bay Area region is very much hipster (as known by all residents of the world). Gone were the days when toast just referred to that brown piece of cardboard popping out of the toaster. Artisanal bread, topped with what may seem like “mundane” toppings – cheese, jam, nuts and fruits is all the rage. And oh no, not just regular jam, but jam made with organic farmed fruits, farm fresh cheese and nuts. I wanted to experience this trend as much as I could before people realized that they were just getting excited about bread, and jumped on a newer, more basic bandwagon.
[Listen to this piece by This American Life. Read this article in The New Yorker.]
I had read about a couple of popular places that embody this trend . The Husband who struggles to be up to date with the hipster world stumbled upon a cafe late last year and described (failingly) the amazing breakfast he had that featured fruits on toast. After surfing Yelp I decided that I needed to experience this new trend. Hence I was led to farm:table (reads farm to table not farm *cricket sound* table as pronounce by a noob (not me)).
Farm:table is a tiny, Harry Potter’s-bedroom-under-the-stairs sized cafe? restaurant? breakfast area. While there is a little more variety in the menu by way of croissants, eggs and pastries the star of this establishment is toasted bread (varies daily) generously slathered with butter, topped with mascaporne cheese and assorted fruits, with a sprinkle of nuts. Sounds pretty basic, I know. Even the husband mused, “Who would think to put fruit on bread!”, and then paused to realize that jam was essentially canned fruit.
But believe me when I say that this variety of toast was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before and was definitely not basic. Each bite was at once creamy, crunchy and fruity. It is probably one of the best breakfasts I’ve had, a great departure from my usual breakfast of bread and fried egg. I would return to farm:table in a heart beat if I didn’t live an hour away. But make no mistake, I will be making the trek the next chance I get!
A few days back I was running late in the morning and decided to forego my customary cup of tea. BIG MISTAKE. I suffered a killer headache the entire day. I couldn’t wait to get to my bed and lay there forever.
This headache got me craving the smooth cappuccinos I used to drink on the daily when we visited Rome. We stayed in a tiny, charming hotel near Piazza Navona. The area was surrounded by Italian coffee shops, situated away from the touristy areas. There was this one small shop that was part grocery/part cafe where the barista made the most perfect cups of cappuccino for 1.25 euros. Most places in Europe charge extra for a “sit-down” cup of coffee. But if you stand at the bar, its considerably lesser. Every morning we’d walk down to this cafe to get our shot for the morning and bask in that caffeine glory.
This coffee was on my mind throughout the week. I HAD to get a similar cup in to my system. So I dragged Jay to Chromatic Coffee in . And I finally had my luscious cappuccino, Although it wasn’t close to the Italian counterpart, it did the job it was meant for.
It has been over a month since I signed in to WordPress. Things have been hectic and I’ve been traveliing quite a bit. When I did manage to find the time I watched a lot of Downton Abbey. And by a lot I mean A LOT. Also, I though it was Downtown Abbey. Jay was like wow Downtown Abbey like Downtown New York ah? And I was like yeah, thats how they roll. Turns out, that wasn’t how they roll.
I also read and watched Gone Girl. OHMYGOD what a mental story that was! But I loved it.
I took a short trip back to Madras and I got to witness Madras rains after two years. It was blissful. I love rain. It makes me feel so snuggly and so serene and so.. happy. There is nothing like a powercut due to heavy rains, and no food in the house – yeah, I’ve experienced that too. We are facing an extreme drought here in California. It has rained only about six, seven times in the two years I’ve been here.
Whilst in Madras I frequented Saravana Bhavan as much as I could. I have some sad news to report back my fellow Saravana Bhavan lovers, THEY HAVE REDUCED THE SIZE OF THE VADAI!!! Pre this horror when you order one plate vadai you will get : one nice big fluffy, crispy, oil drenched vadai+ chutney + sambar. Now, in the hellish present if you order one plate vadai you will get : four tiny lemon sized vadais + chutney + sambar. Safe to say, I was adequately baffled too. When I first saw the plate I was equal parts surprised and angry, (and a little scared thinking about the future). The waiter said, “Customers ellam complain pannurange madam, aanna management kekemaatikraange.“
Over the past few years I have lived through many changes – getting married, moving away from home, living with a boy, seeing little cousins grow up, but this disaster revolving around the vadai is the most painful. I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. And what if I go back to Saravaan Bhavan after a year? I don’t even want to imagine the state of future vadais, its the stuff of nightmares.
So for now I leave you with this – the one decent item left in Saravana Bhavan : sambar vadai (which also has two tiny vadais).
When we started discussing about our trip to Europe, the first thing I was super excited for was – breakfast. To rephrase, breakfast in Paris. I am a sucker for all things loaded with carbs, and bread, is my weakness. I’m the person who loads up on free bread and butter in restaurants although a good main course is next. There is this Italian restaurant near my house that serves mediocre food but their whipped butter and fresh bread is killer. I LOVE that place. So obviously I was very psyched to try all the different croissants and baguettes.
I’ve had my share of decent croissants but guys, believe the hype when I say that the French take croissants to a whole new level! The first day we decided to have breakfast at one of the many cafés that were strewn around our hotel. All cafés in Paris follow the same theme – red, they all have outside seating and EVERYONE smokes. The tables outside these cafés are placed so close together you could totally join in the conversations and pick food off each others tables without even stretching. One day we decided to have lunch in the outside seating area and this guy was blowing smoke in my face throughout the whole meal. It was unpleasant to say the least.
While visiting most cafés we realized that the ‘locals’ had their coffee standing at the bar. We were the noob tourists “sitting down” for coffee. We later realized that coffee served at the bar is infinitely more cheaper than if you “sat down”. Its one of those “European” things that I don’t get.
Most cafés have a set breakfast menu offering one of each treat – croissant, baguette, pain au chocolat. We tried the breakfast set for a couple of days and switched things up with the Nutella crepes (chewy, chocolatey goodness) and Norwegian smoked salmon with the fluffiest, creamiest, most decadent scrambled eggs I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Coffee in Paris is good enough, but the coffee in Rome was the best. If you are visiting Paris first I’d recommend holding off a little on the food until you visit Rome, because that is where the magic lies.
I’m not big on Hallmark holidays but once I heard that Friday was National Donut Day (yeah, its a thing) I had to get some donut in to my system. We woke up bright and easily on Saturday, excited to try out a local donut shop called Stan’s Donut and it was such a disappointment. I had to erase that memory of the bad donut so Sunday evening we went to a good ol’ donut corporation – Krispy Kreme and I had my favorite original glazed chocolate donut. To further quell my greed I had two more. Go ahead and judge me. It was worth it.
I have this terrible sickness where if I start watching a tv show or a movie I have to watch it till the end no matter how terrible it is. This past couple of months I painfully sat though Desperate Housewives. It was so exhausting but I HAD to know what happens in the end. Now I am watching the last season of Beverly Hills that I stopped while I was in college with a bit of 30 Rock on the side. I’m itching to watch Orange is The New Black but waiting for my finals to end before I get sucked in to that vortex.
A couple of nights back in order to save the mutton from getting burnt Jay mutilated my tea vessel to place it inside the pressure cooker. I haven’t had my Lipton tea in two days now and I’m going just the tiniest bit insane. Speaking of tea, Oprah came up with a new tea. Starbucks sells it, so if you want one you have to ask for an “Oprah Chai Tea Latte”. Its a mouthful. N is a huge Oprah fan so I tried the tea for her sake. It tasted like sugar water with ground cloves. Americans have such average taste buds. They should taste my mother’s ginger tea. It’s so good that she could mass manufacture it.
“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.”
– Oscar Wilde
Steamed Shanghai vegetarian bun, Mama Ji’s, San Francisco
Shrimp stuffed mushrooms, Mama Ji’s, San Francisco
Fish with chillies and Sichuan Pepper, Mama Ji’s, San Francisco
Oh Americans and your funny foods!
I’ve seen and heard a lot about this popular ice cream place called CREAM. Since my sweet tooth is in no condition to give up I just HAD to try it. Soon enough they opened a store close to where I live and they gave free ice cream sandwiches the opening night. I couldn’t go ’cause the crowds were insane but I did go the next Friday. Considering the hugeness of the ice cream sandwich I decided to have dessert first before dinner because of this rule that I follow.
So we walked to CREAM (cardio, you know) and I chose two chocolate chip cookies with a huge scoop of pecan ice cream in-between. The cookies were warm and chewy and the ice cream was okay. But talk about getting a sugar high, this thing had me buzzing! Of course my speech wasn’t slurring from the sugar high like it did that time I ate a huge bag of gummy worms. But it was evident that the sugar had got to me.
These kinds of food amuses me. I’d rather have just cookie on its own or a scoop of ice cream.
Kids, stay away from ice cream sandwiches.
I was struck with writers block for the past few days. I felt like I hit a mental dead end. I couldn’t think anymore and nothing seemed to inspire me. I’m not claustrophobic but at the time it sure as hell did feel like it. I needed sights, sounds and open spaces. So in the search for some air and much needed inspiration I took myself out to the city. Public transport has finally become my friend so taking a train to San Francisco and back wasn’t that bad.
It started raining the moment I reached the city but I didn’t let that deter me. I walked around Union Square. The main reason I love going to this touristy place is for the tourists – people watching, which is my favorite activity. Another thing I love about Union Square are the luxury stores, not that I can afford anything from there, yet, but the window displays are beautiful. I then walked in to Zara where cheerful yellow is the new Spring color. Feeling a uplifted and a little enthusiastic I took an armload of clothes to the dressing room. I then realized that I under estimated how much weight I had put on and I left feeling depressed.
After a spot of lunch and frolicking in the rain a little more I decided to call it a day. I took the train back and an hour later I was exactly where I had started – uninspired and claustrophobic.
In order to get rid of this awful mental state I was in, I dragged Jay to the beach a few days later. We drove to Carmel, a tiny seaside village. North California beaches can NOT hold up to Chennai beaches. It was a pleasant day but the sea was grey and dreary with just a tiny bit of sunlight. The vacation homes that dotted the shore were adorable, right out of an Enid Blyton novel. Tiny cafes, Parisian themed bakeries, beautiful spring time flowers but no sundal or roasted corn in sight. Nonsense.
I felt like yelling to these people, “You think this is beach??? Come to Chennai and see the original beach.” Okay you cannot wear a bikini and lay on the sand (why would you when the sad could go places it is not supposed to) in Chennai but you can totally get wet in the warm water without worrying about “Aiyo I will feel cold because the wind, water, sand is all cold.”
Anyways we had coffee, one yummy quiche and okay tasting coffee cake and drove back home. I miss tasting the sea on my lips and carrying back the sand in my slippers. I have so many good memories of rolling in the beach with my friends. Like literally rolling. That is how a trip to the beach is supposed to be.
But I did have a nice time looking at all the perfect little houses and the perfect little white people who lived in them with their perfect golden haired kids and their perfect friendly dogs.
Claustrophobia – 1
Zarine – 0
“I hate people who are not serious about meals. It is so shallow of them.”
– Oscar Wilde
Jerk Chicken, Suya African Grill, Oakland
“Subdue your appetites, my dears, and you’ve conquered human nature.”
– Charles Dickens
Super Dynamite Roll, Fuji sushi, Downtown San Jose