Saturday, April 25, 2009

18 Reasons

I can list about 200 reasons why I live in San Francisco, but one that comes to mind as of late is the organization I recently discovered -- 18 Reasons. 18 Reasons, which is based out of its small art/community space in the Mission, is associated with my absolute favorite independent grocery store in the city -- BiRite. I'll get more into the magic of BiRite a bit later...

18 Rea
sons mission is "to promote a dialogue between our neighborhood and people who create food and art; to provide a space where ideas are exchanged and relationships are forged and to encourage people to communicate this shared passion with each other."

Basically, this group gets folks together once a week to share food, wine and art. Let me tell you what - I'm. Down. With. That.

Last night's event was a wine tasting from French wineries in the Loire Valley in France (can you tell I'm still on a French kick?). The wineries that were show
cased were incredibly small and had been family-run and operated for generations. These wines were graceful, elegant and full of life. Unlike their mass-market peers, these wine makers are in it for the wine, not for the wealth and fame. They're the winemakers who fly in from France and show up to a hipster event in San Francisco with dirt under their nails. You could taste their sincerity in every sip. And what inspired me even more was how packed the place got within the first 30 minutes. There must have been 100 people crammed into a 400 square foot room, all notably excited, talkative and thrilled to be there. I was both amazed and relieved to see that people my age care about this stuff.

During the event, I bumped into a bunch of the nice folks I see every day at BiRite and had an amazing "this-is-my-community-and-I-am-a-part-of-it"
feeling. It takes awhile to cultivate that feeling, but I think daily and weekly rituals help.

I love BiRite because, like 18 Reasons, its focus on food goes back to the hand-made, organic and artisan food that we have deviated from here in the U.S. Their slogan is "building community through food" and they sell everything from my favorite Italian olive oil (Cappezzana Estate, if you ever want to splurge) to hand-made cheese curds from Wisconsin. Since I've been back from France, I've been trying to keep the French mentality of buying fresh food (especially produce) daily and turning a trip to the market into a social, fun and relaxing event that I look forward to. I'm lucky because BiRite's warm staff and amazing community events make this easy.

And if I have anything to do with it, 18 Reasons is going t
o need to get a bigger space. Like the strawberry bushes along Highway 1 that are yielding the first fruit of summer, they're going to grow and grow and grow.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Cherie, Cherie

I don't have an Urban Miracles story to tell today...but I'm missing Paris at the moment and came across this lovely commercial that made me smile very wide. It's directed by Sophia Coppola - you can feel her magical touch on it.

This is really sums up how my days felt in the City of Light...

**And incidentally, I've been wearing this perfume since France and loooving loving loving it**

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Homemade Life

Just before I left for Paris, I came across Molly Wizenberg's new book, "A Homemade Life". As if they all coordinated the intervention, 3 unrelated people recommended I take it with me on my trip. I love when that happens -- when just the right book or album is placed in your hands before a pivotal experience.

So I lugged her beautiful hardback book around France with me (even though I finished it on the third day if the trip). I couldn't bare the thought of leaving it behind and there was something comforting about seeing the book each night on my bedside table. I'd re-read whatever story I opened to just before I fell asleep. The stories in Molly's book are so funny, sweet and real that I felt that old familiar tug on my heartstrings each time I picked it up. The recipes that followed each of the stories were equally lovely and for a novice cook, seemed within my reach. I savored every tasty minute of that book.

Fast forward to 2 weeks later -- I arrive safely back at home, a battered copy of "A Homemade Life" in hand. One evening, during my routine walk around the neighborhood, I noticed a piece of paper in a store window advertising the new cookbook store in the neighborhood (Omnivore Books) and amazingly, advertising a book-signing and talk given by none other than Molly Wizenberg. I love life's synchronicity.

First of all, I just want to say that I LOVE Omnivore Books. I adore it. It is this magical house-turned-bookstore that is spilling over the edges with amazing books on food, cooking and agriculture. They sell lots of vintage titles too (think of the version of Betty Crocker's Cookbook that your grandma used). They also keep multi-colored, freshly-laid/gathered eggs at the counter for purchase. I just love that.

Anyway. Back to the story. So I arrived at Omnivore and to my pleasant surprise, it was packed! I wasn't the only one who was inspired by Molly's touching stories and recipes. Molly was just as I imagined -- a petite and graceful gal with a big smile and an eloquence I just knew I'd admire. She told us the story of how her writing, and ultimately this book, unfolded. She let us peek into her heart and told us the story of how she met her husband, Brandon, and how their love of food evolved as did their relationship with each other. I found myself grinning ear-to-ear the entire time. Later, she signed copies of our books and we each got a few minutes to chat with her. I brought her some fresh eucalyptus honey from the Noe Farmer's Market (my all-time favorite mixed with yogurt), and we had a lively debate about the best place for pain au chocolate in Paris. Molly and her hubby are opening a restaurant in Seattle (Delancey) in June so I hope that our paths will cross again someday soon (next time over pizza).

Later on Saturday, I took a stab at her "pickled carrots" recipe using the fresh spring carrots I picked up at the Farmer's Market that morning. I also tried her "stewed prunes and citrus" recipe, which has been a welcomed addition to my morning yogurt and honey.

So all that being said -- go buy and read her book! You can also check out her lovely blog - Orangette (which is truly the seed of all of this). And if your life and travels bring you to Seattle, go eat at Delancey. Sit and savor a wood-fired pizza and be grateful for that (and every) moment life delivers, right on time.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Bike About Paris

CIMG0797, originally uploaded by sarahmroos.

After over 10 hours on a plane, I landed in Paris at the bright hour of 11am (2am according to my body, but they say you'll never get over jetlag if you think that way). Knowing that I would need to stay awake and simutaneously get my bearings in the City of Light, I booked a bike tour for the afternoon I arrived. A friend in Provence had recommended the Bike About Paris tour group as a great way to see the city in just a few hours and to discover some really magical places.

Bike About Paris was founded a few years ago and initially, their tours focused on covering all of the major Paris landmarks during a ride around town -- the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Couer, etc. Eventually the leaders realized that there were a good number of bike tour companies popping up, all doing the same thing -- leading tourists into deeper tourist traps. So Bike About decided to switch gears a bit (forgive the pun) and they moved their focus to "hidden Paris" in order to give riders a view into the Paris that only locals typically know. Their 3.5 hour tour covers most of the major arrondisements and focuses more on the magic and uniqueness of each neighborhood.

Our guide, Christian, led us to some of our favorite boulangeries, cafes and wine bars in the city. Among other things, he snuck us into secret courtyard gardens, helped us discover the best pain au chocolate in Paris and showed us how to spot the work of one of France's most famous (anonymous) graffiti artists.

Throughout the 16 days I spent in France, this bike tour (and Christian's amazing recommendations) came up multiple times each day. It was the best 30 euro I spent on this trip.

And I have to say - as I pedaled my little bike along the Seine as the sun set behind Notre Dame, I was the most awake I'd been in months.