Saturday, December 19, 2015

TV dinners and tea lattes

Today had its ups and downs. 


Ever since Isabel left for college, our family has felt very, very small. This has completely changed how I cook. Producing dinner went from staging a theatrical production for four to providing three dummies with stuff they want to eat, usually in front of the television. 

Yes, friends We eat in front of the TV almost every night now and I’m not hanging my head in shame. We did this on special occasions for years, but now it’s routine. There’s no lovelier moment in the day than when I sit down on my side of the squishy old sofa next to two of my favorite people in the world with some home-cooked food and we turn on the TV. Judge away!

Here’s what we eat: a lot of pasta and soup. Both can be eaten in bowls and neither needs to be cut with a knife, which is tricky when you're balancing your meal on your lap. 
before the disaster
I got a copy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s mighty Food Lab from the library and I’ve so far tackled two very solid recipes. The pasta with garlicky broccoli, anchovies and bacon is delicious. You've probably seen a hundred recipes for just such a dish, but Lopez-Alt's little twists (lemon zest and juice, combining the pasta and sauce in the pan) made a noticeable difference. The sauce was saucier, the flavors brighter. 

I’ve also made his white bean soup and while it wasn't exactly original, it was tasty and easy. Canned beans, boxed broth, a little doctoring and it's time for Fargo. You could do worse. You could also do better. I recently revisited the spinach soup from Fields of Greens that I used to make regularly circa 1999 and it's terrific. If you try this recipe, bear in mind I have never used the fenugreek and omit the coconut garnish because the soup is better without. This is the kind of healthy recipe you will see a lot of in about two weeks. Ugh. January.
Cheeseburger cups also appeared on our plates last week. Owen sends me a lot of recipes these days and if they look easy and not too disgusting, I make them. It's fun. Biscuit dough from a tube, ground beef, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, cheese, a muffin tin. Not totally wretched. Recipe here. 

That about exhausts my recent cooking, though I did try another pie from Patty Pinner's Sweety Pies: Ava Joy's peanut butter cream pie. Unlike most peanut butter pies I've run into, this is a baked pie. Like a pecan pie with peanut butter instead of pecans. Rich and sweet. We liked it. Didn't love. Recipe here.

You really want the tea latte in a mug, not a to-go cup.
In closing, I have fallen in love with a San Francisco cafe called Fifty/Fifty. I would go to Fifty/Fifty every day I lived closer, so it's probably good I don't. Except why did I just type that? It would be great if I lived closer. Expensive and fattening, but great. I'd be so happy.

Fifty/Fifty is a bright, spare storefront on a humble stretch of Geary Boulevard with a few austere tables, typically occupied by students. The atmosphere is mellow and pleasant, but the reason to come is the tea lattes.

not cheap
Everyone knows about chai lattes by now and perhaps you'd figured out, as I had not, that you can make lattes with all varieties of tea. Duh. Of course you can. And they're wonderful.

I'm currently hooked on the lavender earl gray, which is fragrant and floral, just slightly sweet. There's something exotic about this warm, milky drink. It's like something a seductive, evil queen might serve to cold, lost children in a fairy tale before throwing them into the dungeon. That's praise, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, if you come to San Francisco or live here, check out Fifty Fifty and tell me what you think.


  1. What happened to your tree? That's a bummer. We also eat in front of the TV every night, although we do it off plates most of the time. So, no judgement here! This is the time of year for comfort food, so I think soups and pasta are perfect. I got a copy of Food Lab from the library as well, but I haven't had time to peruse it much. It was a mini-workout just carrying it home. Have you cooked any more from Ruth Reichl's cookbook? I also got the big Gourmet cookbook from the library. I need a new (to me)comprehensive cookbook to inspire me. I would be in trouble if that cafe was anywhere near my house. I love tea latte, and I think your description is perfect. I have often thought of buying a frother just to make them at home. I am partial to chai, but I also love jasmine. I hope you have a wonderful holiday, Jennifer. And thanks for the hours of reading enjoyment!

    1. I haven't done much more out of RR's book -- but I own it and plan to. Are you talking about the big yellow Gourmet cookbook? It's really good. I don't know what happened to that stupid tree. I was standing across the room and it just toppled in slow motion. Then it sat there like that for 6 hours until someone came home and helped me right it.

    2. Yep, I was talking about the big yellow Gourmet cookbook. It's old, but new to me. And now with your recommendation, I think I will buy it after perusing the library copy.

  2. I'm fond of the London Fog (Earl Grey tea latte with vanilla). Lavender Earl Grey sounds delicious.

    1. That sounds delicious. Do you make it at home?

  3. We moved into the den for dinner during some winter olympics and never went back, though we do have a coffee table and I madly light candles on it nightly. It's cozy and suits us. So glad you are posting! Please make a resolution to do it a lot, ok? Have great holidays!

    1. I love the idea of lighting candles -- it would make it cozier. Ebay has dozens of vintage TV tables. I've been thinking about buying some.

  4. We did just the opposite,,,put a TV in the kitchen after moving about 30 cookbooks in a welch dresser to make room for a small flat screen. Our dog would be crazed if we ate what he just knows is really his food within snapping up range.

  5. Have to second others here and say that we too eat in front of the TV more nights than not. AND -- I also have really fond memories of eating off TV trays as a kid, every Sunday night, to watch "All Creatures Great and Small," a show that to this day brings tears to my eyes when I hear the opening music, so full of feelings of well-being and nostalgia is it for me. Last year I broke down and got a set of TV trays, and they make all the difference. Something that had felt like slumming now feels kind of exciting and special, even when it's a regular occurrence.

  6. I got a new cookbook, Bowl + Spoon by Forte, just so we could eat some healthier food in front of the TV without mess. We are all happier. Healthier food is not what is making us happier.
    I bought Food Lab because I am a cooking science nerd, and I love that Kenji Lopez-Alt just questions all that food lore out there. He experiments! I didn't buy it for the recipes, but to understand cooking better. Now I'll try some recipes, too, on your recommendation.

  7. When we downsized into a seniors only bldg (my husband being the senior) the only furniture we actually moved in with was a bed. 2 TV, dresser 2 end tables, love seat,2 padded footstools for seating or coffee table use. I got rid of everything else. We ate on our laps or set of old fashioned TV trays. I was scouring used sites in the city for the perfect bistro table. About 2 months later I found one on kijiji. It was perfect for two, fit in the apt perfectly. I loved it. About 6 months later my husband decided to use the glass top table to iron a collar down.... I guess the shot of steam was really necessary too. Claimed he couldn't find the ironing board (behind bedroom door).. I wasn't home for this supposed ironing emergency. He glued the broken glass back onto the tabletop (how he managed to find the glue gun is a mystery) then to hide the broken section he put the laptop on it. It was days later that I even noticed. I had to pry the computer off. Couldn't figure out why I couldn't pickup the laptop
    Needless to say after prying off the computer, we are back using laps and TV trays. The g'kids love them. They use the glossy finish for artwork that can be washed off. We're uncivilized at our home

  8. I was in luck, San Francisco library had a copy of Sweety Pies for me. I enjoyed the little stories in it much more than I thought I would. I really admire people who can make something delicious out of humble ingredients. There are pies made of cornflakes, grapenuts, even grits!! She mentioned one neighbor who was so meticulous, he'd get a ladder and climb a tree before the leaves would fall and mess up his lawn. He was an Archie Bunker type and his wife was just like Edith, trotting around obeying his orders.

    Re: The Food Lab: I've made his smashed burgers and really love the technique; I even shelled out $32 for the spatula he likes, Due Buoi .. It was 20% off and free shipping from Williams-Sonoma.

  9. Why is tapioca tea only available after noon? I'm intrigued.

  10. SWEETY PIES is on order from MY library system & I'm excited to learn me some wily lady lessons.

    I like how you usually dodge the mommy bloggy tone, Tipsy, so I must say I'm a bit disappointed here - not that you're dining in front of the tv, but that you're doing so with "two of (your) favorite people in the world".


    I guess that's what bloggers do.

    Leave it to novelists to sit next to people NOT on their hit parade list night, after night, after night...

    Or just a good portion of humanity!

    To exit on an upswing - your description of Lavender Earl Gray tea seduced me. And I detest Earl Gray tea.

    Happy 2016 to you and yours.

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