Rants and Raves

I need to make a list

I was listening to the interview of Dave Chang on Hot Ones the other week and there’s a good question that Sean asks him about supporting restaurants during the pandemic (skip to around 13:09), link below

“What are some tangible things that diners can do to ensure the restaurants that they love stick around?”

from David Chang Sweats Like Crazy While Eating Spicy Wings | Hot Ones

Since I’ve watched this I’ve been trying to think of my rotation list and have drafted some down which I’ll share later.

“Get your spots and support them unconditionally.”

Do you have a list?

Add them in the comments below if so, I’m curious.

Article: Changes in Tastings in Wine Country

Wineries will be firmer about appointments. There will be more options, many with food and at different prices. Many or all of the visits will move outdoors. And the average tasting will be long – figure 45 minutes or more. It will also be more intimate, which in most cases will surely be great but also could mean a long, hard sell for the winery’s wine club.

via The Grape Collective and Alder Yarrow’s blog

Answering Your Questions About That Pizza Oven

I recently posted a video to Instagram of me using an Ooni gas fired pizza oven when we were housesitting. I received a number of questions from you all basically asking the same thing: “Worth it?”

I wanted to give you some feedback and hopefully answer your question.

First I just wanted to say that I think the Ooni oven is a really well made product. It’s light, it’s relatively small (it can fit on a smaller table), it’s easy to hook up and get running and it’s very easy to clean up.

Notably, the interior pizza stone on the inside is removable and can be cleaned off if needed. Most of the time you can just do a “burn off” and flip the stone over to do this process. But you could use a grill brush after a burn off if needed.

That said- here’s my attempt to answer your question- “is it worth it?”

Yes and no.

Do you have outdoor space? Do you like to make multiple pizzas for one meal? Do you have a family and maybe each person wants their own pizza? Do you entertain frequently?
If so, go for it.

Do you live in a small apartment with no outdoor space? Do you really only need to make one pizza to share for dinner?
Then no, skip it. Get a baking steel.

The recommendations as an alternative idea for the “no”.
When my friends bought their ovens (I have multiple friends with the Ooni), I received a birthday present called a Baking Steel. You may have seen them in use on Kenji Lopez-Alt’s videos. The Baking Steel is perfect for making pizzas on indoors in an oven. The version I have is also flippable and can sit on the stove as well. I used mine as a part-time griddle and also as a pizza steel.

It works in any oven, but excels in ovens where the broiler element is up top. Sadly, my broiler is one of those old-school drawer types that sits below the main oven compartment. But it’s still great.

I recommend the Baking Steel for anyone as it has multiple uses. You can even use it to make smash burgers (video below). That said- if I had outdoor space, I’d have an Ooni too.

Let me know if this helps or if you have any other questions.

Here are some pics from the Ooni and my Baking Steel. Some useful videos below as well. Both Andris from BS and Kenji have loads of videos. Kenji has a lot using the Ooni as well as his Steel.

More Coffee Beans For You To Try

I listed a number of places to order coffee from a previous post.

Here are some more places for you to try some beans:

Beans from Mr. Espresso – I also like the Triestino Blend. Love the packaging and the stylish scooter gentleman.

Ordering Coffee in the Time of Covid

I mentioned online that I’ve been trying to order coffee beans lately instead of roasting my own like I usually do. I’ve been trying to support some local businesses and I’ve listed some of them out for you here. This list is by no means exhaustive, I just thought it may be useful.

I’ll try to add more soon.

SF Specific

Others I like:

Supper Club Updates

I wrote in this post last year that I was starting a Supper Club. I did and it’s been going well. I decided I would start posting notes from our gatherings- recipes, book ideas, notes on wine and random Kenny thoughts.

But what’s the background on the supper club? What’s going on and how is it organized? 

The background is that I miss having a regular meetup with my friends. I used to do a 1st Friday Happy Hour. The girlfriend also has a regular girl’s dinner with her crew and I thought I could do something similar. I also go to, organize or host irregular wine tastings (even a CDP that I’ve written about before). Basically I wanted to get something back on the books, but with some differences.

Why didn’t I just organize another happy hour? I have a ton of wine and I like sharing it. Other friends are in the same boat. The other thing was that we usually liked the post-happy hour dinner part of the evening more than we did the happy hour part. I knew I was already leaning towards a food gathering.

Why didn’t I just copy Girlfriend’s monthly dinner idea? They rotate to a different restaurant each month and it seems easy/convenient. And it works for them.

It’s because I love dining out, but I hate dining out in groups of 6 or more. I’m particular like that. It could be done, but I thought I’d take a different approach. I’d rather have a smaller group and be able to actually talk to people. 

What about the wine tastings? We’re usually pretty organized about the wine tastings- eg themes, blind tastings, etc. I thought this could work, but make them less rules based about the wine. Something less formal. But I knew that we could easily fold the wine into the food event. 

The other background piece is that yes, I’m still obsessed with the Basque Supper Clubs. The Basques have clubhouses.  There is no way in hell I can buy a clubhouse with a communal kitchen (hell, I can’t even buy a normal house).  

Hosting on its own could be a problem. [We have a small table in the kitchen but it’s usually holding groceries and I don’t know when I ate there last]. Most nights Girlfriend and I eat in the living room. But we can make it work. Living in a small SF apartment requires adjustments. But it can work. 

So here’s what we’ve been doing and you can do the same with your group (or not). 

  1. We get a date on the calendar as quickly as possible. Try to offer multiple dates. If you’re doing this on your own, don’t get worried if people can’t make it to the event on the night that was picked. Not everyone will be able to make it.
  2. We pick a theme. Last month it was Soups, Stews, and Chili. We pick a theme for the next month during dinner. Next month’s theme is Balls
  3. We email each other what dish we’ll be making as the event gets closer so we’re not all bringing the same thing. 
  4. If possible, rotate hosts. This isn’t a requirement if you start a Txoko, but it’s been working for us. Some friends have space for grills and others don’t. We make it work.
  5. We’re much more loosey goosey on the wine “rules” so people are more likely to bring a variety of things to share.
  6. Don’t be afraid to skip a month if it doesn’t work out. Sometimes everyone is busy.

So if you’re interested try and organize something. It doesn’t have to be regular. But break bread with your friends. 


Some Thoughts on the InstantPot

My brother gave us an Instantpot for a gift a few weeks ago and I’ve been cooking with it almost non-stop. Since I’d been talking about it in person I thought I’d gather some opinions and post them since you’ve asked me.

The first thing I need to write is that it is actually called Instant Pot. I’ve been saying INSTA Pot this whole time. It wasn’t until I was carrying the box home on the bus and had the logo in my face that I realized I was saying it wrong.

I wasn’t sure I’d like the Instantpot, but overall I’m pretty pleased with it. I wasn’t sure I’d like it because the owners seem to come off like they’re in a cult on Facebook and on YouTube. And to be honest, a lot of videos or posts online come off as if the writers or cooks don’t know the basics about cooking or recipes. I’m not a chef or anything, but I have a decent understanding of cooking basics. I’ve seen recipes where the protein isn’t sautéed or seared first, etc..


Another reason that I din’t think I’d like it because I don’t really use Slow Cookers ever. I’m not the type of person toleave tonight’s dinner in a slow cooker and then head out to work. When I have needed or used a slow cooker, I’ve been around the apartment. I’ve made queso or chili or beans or some dish here and there but it was ready within a few hours. And just like with beans, I’d just as easily use the dutch oven on or in the stove instead of using a slow cooker.

But I can see the versatility with the InstantPot. And that’s due to it’s pressure cooking features. I’m old enough to have tried the old pressure cookers and not liked them. With the IP- it’s much easier to pressurize.

Anyway, here are some unorganized thoughts:

When you first use an IP, follow recipes and write down what you did and what happened. The reason I mention this is due to LIQUIDS. You can’t run an IP “dry” so almost all recipes require some liquid.

“So what?” you say? Well, one of the first things you’ll try to make is something like chili, beans, a pot roast or a stew. If you’re used to making chili or beans on the stove, you know you can control the liquid content pretty easily.

Chili’s too thick? Add some liquid. Beans too liquidy? Take the lid off for a while.

When you use an IP and it’s pressurized, the lid’s on. You can’t tell what’s going on and adjust until the cooking program is done, the IP has de-pressurized, and you take the lid off. You have to wait to make adjustments.

The first few times I’ve used the IP I made the following mistakes. They were easily correctable and not technically mistakes but you get the idea:

  • chili that wasn’t as thick as I was used to
  • a lentil/sausage stew that was a bit more soupy than stew-y
  • a pot roast that had a bunch of liquid in the pot, not a gravy-style sauce
  • ribs sitting in liquid when they were done

So if you’ve read this far you’re saying so what, just adjust the recipes. You’re right- I did make adjustments and have gotten much better at using the IP. I wrote down what went wrong and made adjustments to the recipes.

This brings me to the other the main thing that I noticed when I first started using the IP: The recipes that I originally got ideas from all had TIMES in the titles.

If or when you get an IP you’ll be in a rush to cook dinner tonight. You’ll download a recipe called 20 Minute Chili! or 40 Minute Pot Roast! and you’ll be thinking, oh perfect, I’ll be ready to watch Netflix and eat dinner in 30 minutes.

This is BS for one reason: people use time in the titles which refer to the actual pressurized cooking time. This does not include the time to pressurize the IP (pre-pressure?).

So if you remember anything from this post just remember this part- it takes time for the IP to come up to pressure.

The great thing is my fancy LED IP actually tells me what’s going on and where it is in the process. Pay attention to yours if you can.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.

Let’s say the recipe is called 15 Minute Chili. It’s not 15 Minute of total time. You won’t be eating in 15 minutes.

Here are the likely steps (note, this isn’t something I tried, just an illustration):

1. use the saute feature and saute the meat, and then onions. Likely time 20 minutes (and the IP has an awesome sauté feature)
2. drain the fat, add whatever it is to the pot you want: seasonings, beans, crushed tomatoes, some beer* and it takes you 3 minutes to do this
*don’t forget what I wrote above about liquids above
3. close the lid and hit 15 minutes – because it’s 15 minute Chili right?
–=the timer doesn’t start here yet=–
4. the IP starts warming up and pressurizing – let’s say 5-10 minutes. [we’re at 20+3+5 if I’m being generous]
5. The IP is pressurized, the timer starts and says 15 on it.

NOW the 15 minutes starts counting down.

6. The timer finishes (20+3+5+15=43 so far) and if you leave the IP alone it will slowly start to depressurize. But you’re in a hurry because you’ve been here for almost 45 minutes and thought you’d be eating 30 minutes ago so you hit the release valve
7. The depressurizing starts. This can take more than 5 minutes depending on how much you have in the IP – again, we’re at 50+ minutes here

You may be thinking “so what, I’ve made chili in almost an hour and that’s still less than if I used the dutch oven on the stove. In fact I walked off at step 3 and watched TV for a while. I don’t really do that when I’m using the stove.”

Well, I agree with you- my point is be wary of the time in the titles and in the recipes. It’s not as Instant as people make it sound.

Have questions or comments? Leave them below and I’ll answer them.

The Food of a Younger Land – interesting read

The Food of a Younger Land: The WPA's Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II AmericaThe Food of a Younger Land: The WPA’s Portrait of Food in Pre-World War II America by Mark Kurlansky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

People should read the intro to learn about the WPA Writer’s Program and how ambitious this project was and what the author did to get the most of the original writing organized and published. It’s also important to learn how regional our cooking used to be. I’ve been skipping around with the chapters and have been pretty engaged.

View all my reviews

Reading Challenges & Some Links (bonus vid of Scoot Scofflaw)

As you may know, I use Goodreads.com to keep track of books I want to read. They have a handy feature where you can set how many books you’d like to read in a year. I’ve been able to use that to stay motivated and keep up with some good (and bad) titles. Do any of you do something similar – whether in Goodreads or just on a list somewhere? What are your goals?

One of the last books I read in 2017 was about the Basque country. There was a good section about Basque eating clubs. Actually, the whole book was good, but I keep dwelling on the clubs. There’s a good article about the same in last month’s Saveur magazine (link here – warning the site is slow as shit). I really want to set up a similar club, but I’m not sure how I’d be able to pull it off.

Maybe I should set up a monthly dinner group instead and rotate restaurants and brainstorm ideas? My girlfriend has a monthly girls’ dinner that she does with some friends so whenever she plans it I get reminded of this.

Do any of you have a regular standing dinner with groups of friends (or a networking group)?

Scoot – the company I like, but with the occasional rider I hate and make fun of- announced plans to add a network of e-bikes to their scooter fleet. That could be very big with a lot of potential. E-bikes are weird, but show a lot of potential to getting people in to bike commuting. I’m always pushing for more bikes.

Speaking of Scoot:



[originally posted Feb 9, 2014 – found via the Wayback Machine]


This one’s a rant.

Two years ago when I started at my current gig a coworker brought in some amazing doughnuts for the group. We devoured them and asked for more. We wanted to know where we had to go to get our own.

He told us that the person who made them had been making the doughnuts from home and various pop-up kitchens but didn’t have a shop yet- but that would be changing soon. He had been consulting with the biz owner (he does small business advice, consulting, etc.) and had helped find possible spots to move in to start the business and had everything else just about ready to start/grow the business- but they needed some capital. They had chosen to go the Kickstarter route to raise their funds.

We all thought this was pretty clever of him to hit us all up with catered doughnuts that morning because most of us signed up to help on Kickstarter by the end of that work day.

In case you’re not aware of how Kickstarter works you can basically find a project you like that is unfunded and read the proposal (they usually have well-made videos and demos of the product or art they’re working on). The creator has a very specific monetary goal to hit and they have a very specific set of events or products they will create/provide/purchase if said goal is reached.

There are also various levels of funds a backer of a project can provide. For example there were two projects I backed from authors for books they were getting published. They both had the books finished and were running Kickstarter projects to aid with publishing costs. One book offered PDF copies of the book at the $10 level, but I selected a hardbound/autographed copy at a higher level.  And I did the same thing for a comic book artist who was publishing a graphic novel. Hey- I like signed copies.

In the case of the Doughnut Dolly project, there were the same types of multiple levels of backing- eg if you backed $5 you would get a hug if the project were successful. Higher levels would mean doughnuts- and if you backed $100 you would get:

A punch card for a dozen doughnuts and three cups of coffee; a 12oz bag of LOLA beans from Catahoula Coffee Co; a Doughnut Dolly mug; a Doughnut Dolly magnet; my heartfelt thanks and a hug. A Doughnut Dolly Lunch Box. Perfect for hauling all those Naughty Doughnuts around!

Okay, by the fact that I’m publishing this you can probably guess what happened. But you’d be wrong.

The Doughnut Dolly did meet its Kickstarter funding goal. This meant the backers would be charged and get their rewards once the business was moved in– scheduled for MAY 2012. Also-

Everyone who contributes to this fundraiser will be invited to an exclusive party at Doughnut Dolly; to show my appreciation and to celebrate a successful group effort!

As most backers waited patiently for their emails for the reward news and just general update about the business some noticed that the store had a Facebook page up and was already open and operating. There had been no updates from the owner on the Kickstarter page and emails weren’t being replied to when sent either directly, through Facebook or via Kickstarter.

Two months later the owner finally started to reply to people on Kickstarter saying the rewards- mugs and magnets- had been ordered and apologized for some of us not getting our email updates.

Riiight- must have gotten caught in the spam filter. And according to her employees – mugs and magnets weren’t ordered – “those aren’t happening”.

It turned out that even our co-worker had been given the cold shoulder and he eventually cut ties with her. He had told her countless times to be sure to answer emails and get the rewards out. I think they had a falling out soon afterwards be cause I don’t think he speaks to her any more.

So eventually three of us just decided to drive over to the shop and pick up the doughnuts. The owner wasn’t there, but the employees treated us really well. They did provide us with doughnuts, and I was lucky enough to get their last bag of coffee beans.

But they apologized to us on behalf of the owner. And as I wrote above, they said the mugs and magnets weren’t happening (in not so many words). They both had the vibe that they had borne the brunt of other backers frustrations and it was obvious that we weren’t the only ones who had shown up to collect and didn’t get what they were owed. I felt bad that the owner would leave her employees in a lurch like that.

If you’ve read this far you’re probably wondering SO WHAT?! Kickstarter campaigns fail at various stages all the time. Why are you writing about this?

I’ll tell you why- all the projects I’ve backed have been successful, with this one exception.  Actually, there  was one that didn’t meet its Kickstarter goal, so it didn’t get started, so I don’t count it.

But you ask- well, according to Kickstarter, it’s successful right? It hit its pledge goal, it got funded, and the shop opened. And according to the page/owner some rewards went out. But obviously I disagree.

Another reason I’m ranting and venting is that one of the vendors in Temescal alley told us that Hannah is planning on using Kickstarter to help open a second location (one with her own kitchen). She couldn’t even use it the first time correctly and now she’s going to use it again?

And the main reason I’m ranting is one of her employees mentioned (before they knew we were there to collect our rewards) that Hannah was going to consult a bagel business on how to use Kickstarter so they could open or expand their own shop.

Ain’t that rich? I wonder if she’ll advise them on how not to answer emails and how to not do it properly?

At least I got my doughnuts (which were really good) and I got to hang out with Steve, his kids, Basile and Ash outside of the office. But no mas.

Steve D and his trooper sons waiting in the rain for Daddy’s Doughnuts. Pic by Basile