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The House on Telegraph Hill

Moving to a new city has been a very wishy-washy event for the two of us. It’s especially hard to leave a city that you love so much, a city that you called home for so many years, that had so many memories. Not everyone gets to leave one awesome city and head to another one that’s just as exciting, just as inspiring, and just as beautiful, if not more. But we did, and three months later, we are slowly feeling at home, slowly finding our way around these parts, and slowly finding new friends, new traditions, and a new “normal”.

I gotta say – I am loving San Francisco – every single minute of it. The 60-degree weather that occurs 80% of the time, the foggy Saturdays when I’d prefer to see sun for miles, and the glorious Sundays when the city redeems itself, almost apologetically. I am head over heels every day of the week.

Telegraph Hill

The hardest part about it though, is that process of feeling “at home”, feeling like I live here and not just like I’m visiting for an extended amount of time. Feeling like a tourist in your own city is a little awkward, and at times I feel like screaming out to the people around me: “I live here damnit, I swear I do”, as I wear my short-sleeved shirt and sandals on a dreary morning, or a day like today when the sun was shining valiantly and I mistakenly wore long sleeves and a hoodie. One day I want to not get it all wrong; I want to be a local in my own city.

One day, that will happen. It just takes a while, and I have to realize that fact.

Telegraph Hill

Ironically, in an effort to better acclimate ourselves to the city, we’ve been doing a little bit of touring. Sure, we’re not wandering about in sneakers and fanny packs, but we may as well be, since we do wander about with cameras and tour books (and again, we are blatantly under or over-dressed). A co-worker told me about a book called Stairway Walks, which as it turns out, is a unique and slightly more “local” way to see San Francisco. Our plan is to slowly walk our way through the book, step by step, and in turn familiarize ourselves with all the neighborhoods and cultures around us.

Telegraph Hill

So far, it’s freaking awesome. And while I know this is primarily a food blog, I also want to show you the sights and adventures that we’re experiencing as we find our place in this new world, because I think that’s important too. I want you to fall in love like I have – I want you to appreciate this city like I do, and when I talk about home, I want you to know where I’m coming from, and how I got there.

These are pictures from the first two stairway walks. Most of the hilly parts are through Telegraph Hill, one of San Francisco’s 44 hills. If these two are like any of the rest of the walks, we are certainly in for a treat.

Telegraph Hill

It shouldn’t surprise you to know that a real hippie got out of that van (above), and when he opened the door I saw that the inside was carpeted, and lined with velvet tassels. Also, his hair was long, pulled into a ponytail, and grey. He was my hero, and after I saw him I couldn’t get Sugar Magnolia outta my head for at least a few minutes.

Telegraph Hill

San Francisco has hundreds of stairways built into the city; some of the hills are so steep that walking up them is almost impossible. My advice to you is, if you ever drive here, make sure you have an automatic. Some of the stairways are long and winding, artistic-like, and others are meant to simply get you from A to B.

Some lead you to places like Coit Tower (below), and if you’re feeling especially touristy, you can take an elevator to the top and look out onto the Bay. We decided to save that for when someone visits and insists on going. Plus, you can see plenty just from walking up and down the stairs.

Telegraph Hill

You’ll also find plenty of random artwork decorating the walkways, from mosaic-tiled tigers to frog princes to parking meters in the middle of a walkway.

Here’s the truth: there is never a dull moment in this city, that’s for sure. Every day that goes by, it starts to feel more and more like home, and every weekend I am reminded of how many adventures there are locally, as well as out and about. It’s a place I am getting used to – the good restaurants and produce help, of course, but there’s something else, too – something truly magical about being here.

Just like it was meant to be.

Telegraph Hill

Great Balls of Fire

Great Balls of Fire

I am on a huge Indian kick lately. You wouldn’t know it from what you’ve seen posted around these parts lately, but I’m dead serious. Those of you living in the Bay Area already know this – there are a plethora of Indian eateries around these parts. Because of that, I’ve decided that Indian food is my new favorite take-out staple.

Sorry, Thai food, but I’m giving you the boot for a while. Maybe forever. It’s just that no one seems to make my yum woonsen salad like Thai Lagoon did, and it didn’t hurt that they were exactly 6 doors away from our house.

Great Balls of Fire

We ordered take-out from the neighborhood Indian joint the first weekend we lived here, and I was immediately sold. I ordered a HUGE “combo meal” the weekend Chris was in Singapore, and while sopping up my chana masala with garlic naan, I happily watched Something Borrowed (laugh it up) and almost drank an entire bottle of New Zealand Pinot by my lonesome. It was amazing (the food and the wine, that is. the movie served its purpose, which meant I was able to choose the movie for a change, because no one was home!!).

I’m sure we’ve had takeout from the same spot at least a handful of other times too. Despite their unwelcoming demeanor when I walk in to pick up my order, I always graciously take my food, somehow deciding that they’re allowed to have shoddy service so long as my food rocks, because in the end, we all win.

Great Balls of Fire

I decided I must learn to make chana masala, the tomato-y chickpea dish that I get almost every time I get Indian food, and as a result I surfed the Internets to figure out where I might find such a recipe, and for that matter, a good Indian cookbook. After Googling and Amazon-ing for a while, I finally decided on Madhur Jaffrey’s “An Invitation to Indian Cooking“, and although I’ve yet to cook from it, I am slowly perusing through it, waiting for the right moment to finally give that chana masala a try, and the other recipes I’ve bookmarked so far.

Today though, I’m sharing a recipe from another Indian chef I admittedly adore watching, Aarti Sequiera on the Food Network. She won “The Next Food Network Star” a while back (actually, the last season we watched it), and I was rooting for her all the way. Sure, part of it was because she wrote a food blog (and ironically just posted a recipe for chana masala), but the other part was because I really wanted an Indian cooking show to watch. Plus, I can only take so much of Giada’s boobs (or her large head, for that matter), and the other shows on that channel (other than Iron Chef, duh) are pretty lame. But! I did just learn that Michael Chiarello (of Napa’s Bottega) is going to be on The Next Iron Chef, and you best believe that will be DVR’d with a quickness.

Great Balls of Fire

So yeah, on to sharing. We had some friends in town this past weekend, and since they were coming in right around suppertime on Thursday night I’d volunteered to make dinner. My requirements were that the dish had to be straightforward, void of constant tending-to, manageable on a weeknight (night before prep a plus), and easy enough to make for 5 people without dirtying up every dish in the house. A homemade curry was a no brainer, and I remembered a recipe Aarti made the other day where she added an Italian twist (meatballs) to a curry dish – perfect!

The meatballs were easy peasy to throw together, and they probably benefit from being refrigerated overnight anyway, so that they can adhere together a little better. Plus, it saved me some time the night I made it since step 1 was already complete. The Serrano chiles were super spicy and perfect with the creamy coconut curry. The recipe below is essentially a doubled version of hers, which is meant to serve 8, but either our guests were starving or it was that damn good, because there was 1 serving left by the time it was all said and done.

The added bonus? You’ll probably have some leftover sauce when all the meatballs have been eaten, and I just know it’ll go with just about anything you toss into it. Better yet, a spoon would probably work just fine.

Great Balls of Fire

Meatball Curry

Adapted from Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira; serves 6-8

time commitment: 1 hour, 15 minutes

 

printable version

ingredients

meatballs
2 lbs ground beef
2 serrano chiles, minced (I seeded one of them)
4 t fresh ginger, minced
4 T fresh cilantro, minced
Kosher salt

curry
5 T coconut oil or canola oil
1 t brown mustard seeds
8 small shallots, thinly sliced
10 cloves garlic, minced
1 (2-inch piece) ginger, peeled and minced
4 t g coriander
2 t g cumin
1 t cayenne pepper
4 medium tomatoes, medium dice
2 cans light coconut milk
Kosher salt
3 T fresh cilantro, minced
juice of 1 lime

1 1/2 c uncooked jasmine or basmati rice

 

instructions
for the meatballs: In a large bowl, mix the ground beef, chile, ginger, cilantro and 2 teaspoons of salt together using your hands until just combined. (Don’t mix any more than this or you’ll end up with tough meatballs!) Roll the meatballs into 32 similarly-shaped balls, placing them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the fridge when they’re all rolled until ready for use.

for the curry: In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, warm the coconut oil until nearly smoking. Add the mustard seeds, covering the pan with a lid so you don’t get popping seeds all over you. When the spluttering subsides, add the shallots, garlic and ginger and cook until golden brown. Then add the ground coriander, cumin and cayenne pepper. Stir, and cook 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Turn down to a simmer and add the meatballs. Simmer until the meatballs are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Right after you add the meatballs, start the rice. Add rice and 3 c water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside.

To finish the curry, add the cilantro and lime juice. Shake the pan gently to mix them in, and then taste for seasoning. Serve over rice.