Geek Chef

I cook, I talk, I geek

SF Street Food Fest August 21, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 9:30 pm
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I just got back from the SF Street Food Fest and man, I’m exhausted. There were a ton of people! I’m not sure how many, but enough for me to get my Super Swarm Badge and of course the street food badge, Ziggy’s Wagon.

I wasn’t able to try as many things as I hoped, I got there late and the lines were just to long to sample everything. But here is a sample of what I did try.

Purple Hibiscus: Scotch Egg

A Scotch egg is a shelled hard-boiled egg, wrapped in a sausage meat mixture, coated in breadcrumbs, and deep-fried. I could be wrong, but the meat tasted a bit like lamb. I do know the seasoning was just the right amount of spice. The outside was wonderfully crispy the inside moist and delightful, very impressive for mass produced street food. I am a little confused why a UK snack food was at a West African stand, but happy for the opportunity to try.

Flour+Water: Summer Melon with Duck Prosciutto and Lardo

This was a lovely simple dish with strong flavors. Again, I was supprised by the quality of the items. The melon was perfectly ripe and crisp. The clean flavor played nicely with the rich and salty cured pork fat (Lardo) and duck prosciutto. I never had prosciutto that wasn’t pork so I was excited to try the duck. It was very interesting, it tasted a little richer and gamey, but overall not bad.

Curry Up Now: Chicken Tikka Masala Burrito

Folks in the Financial District line up during their lunch breaks, sometimes for their entire lunch break, for one of these bad boys. I have to say, it wasn’t my favorite dish of the day, but it wasn’t bad either. The chicken was great, moist and well seasoned. But the rice was dripping in sauce and just a tad spicier than I would have liked. I also wish there were more pickles and onions, or something to break up the dense chicken and rice. I can’t imagine getting any work done after having one of these bad boys for lunch.

ClairSquares: Mini Squares

I had a bite of Clairsquare’s signature treats to cool my tongue down after the curry. This was the moistest shortbread I’ve ever tasted, it was delicious! A clairsquare consists of Irish shortbread topped with a layer of caramel and then covered in yummy chocolate. It was FAB! I do wish that the caramel was a bit more pronounced, with a hint of vanilla perhaps. I am pretty in love with my vanilla, so I’m very critical of other people’s caramel. On the plus side, they do not use trans fat or corn syrup in their treats, the high quality natural ingredients are noticeable in every bite.

Endless Summer Sweets: Funnel Cakes

First off, they should change the name to endless line. It took me an hour to get my cake, I had to shlep through two lines – one to pay and one to pick up and both were 30 minutes long. UG! Obviously it was a brilliant idea to have funnel cakes at this festival, but they really should have kicked the production into gear once they experienced the demand.

When I finally got my cake, it was perfectly brown and crisp with a light dusting of powdered sugar, fresh sliced strawberries and whipped cream. The cream was hand whipped, which is nice. But was scooped out of a 10 gallon bucket and oozed all over. I’m not sure if that was the desired consistency of the cream (half whipped and drippy) or I just got the dregs of the bucket (which I did), but it was very unattractive to watch them ladle out the serving. Again, it would have been nice to taste some vanilla or other seasoning in the cream, or have it whipped firm with little sweetener and cold – to contrast the super sweet cake, but nope.

The funnel cake was exactly like you would get at any fair and great quality if you put it in those parameters. But I just had some amazingly high quality street food and I was hoping for a knock my socks off dessert. Alas, nope. The first bite was exciting, but every bite after became increasingly gross, and I ended up dumping shortly after. I should have grabbed a cone from Bi-Rite.

a shot of the crowd


Coupon Funded Donation July 30, 2010

Filed under: Food,Geek — geekchef @ 4:31 pm
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I made my first drop off at my local food bank today! I unloaded 16.5lbs of food (about 14 boxes of cereal) and a ton of personal care products (toothpaste, toothbrushes, tampons and first aid supplies). The total retail price is $133. With clever shopping and tons of coupons I actually spent about $25. I forgot to keep some of the early receipts, so I’m guessing on the to first couple of transactions. Currently I have $21 in store ‘bucks’, which spends like cash at specific stores, so that brings me down to $4 for $133!!! Go me!

I’m so happy I could make this work. It was fun hunting down these deals and felt great unloading my packed trunk, knowing I paid next to nothing and will help many needy people.

Here is a great coupon in the Rite Aid circular, which you can pick up in the front of the store:

Grab a copy when you enter the store, tear out the coupon while you shop, grab one ACE Instant Ice Pack ($1.29) from the Travel Size isle and you have $2.71 to apply to the rest of your order. You can combine this coupon with a box of Colgate toothpaste and a printable coupon for another $.75 – $1 off PLUS $3 good on your next purchase.

It expires tomorrow (7/31/10), so act quickly!

I picked up another cold pack/toothpaste deal and a box of pasta, used one of my ‘bucks’, paid 7 cents and got 3 more ‘bucks’ back.

Feel like helping out? Here’s a link!


Eating on a budget July 1, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 12:09 pm
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I started reading a blog written by a guy Eating Well on $1 a Day. He’s done an amazing job staying on budget while eating 3 meals a day, including fruits & vegetables and whole grains, plus snacks. Self proclaimed ‘bad cook’, the food itself is rather bleak – he could stand to read a few of my recipes. But the message is clear and very impressive.

Coupons of the future

Inspired by the buck-a-day guy and attempting to save for my shiny new toy, I decided to pay more attention to my spending. I was happy to find out coupons have gone new millennium with websites like Cellfire and Shortcuts which link to your grocery store loyalty cards, thus saving you from clipping coupons and feeling like an old lady. There is even an app for it! Cellfire has a free app for the iPhone.

I tried out Cellfire on my trip to Safeway yesterday with a few of the ole timey clipped coupons as well and saved at least $50 on my purchase. I haven’t figured out my menu for the next week yet, so I just bought the basics, and I’ll end up making another trip later this week for meal specific items. But I picked up some ‘Catalinas’ while checking out, so that’s another few bucks off  in addition to future coupons virtual or otherwise.

What the hell is a Catalina?

While reading up on the coupon world, Catalinas came up often. I pieced together it was good, highly sought after by clippies (good nickname for them?), but was worried it was something store specific. Not quite.

Catalinas, nicknamed after the marketing company, are those machines next to the receipt printers at most grocery stores. They shoot off purchase specific coupons to be used on your next trip. If you buy the right combination of items you can even get free money (on your next purchase.) Neato!

There is some appeal in this game. With a little ingenuity and research, you can end up with a ton of dirt cheap items.  It’s also not impossible to get one or two items for free and occasionally, if you swing it just right, you might find a combination that nets you a few cents.

Here is a link for Catalina info.

Is it worth it?

I question if the time I’m going to spend researching deals before shopping is really the best use of my time, but I do think this is overall a very productive exercise. Saving money is always good and there is a sense of accomplishment when you see the savings at the bottom of the receipt.

More importantly, it forces me think about what I eat.  I eat pretty healthy, with the exception of the occasional bacon binge. And I spend a lot of time thinking about my menus, particularity the ones that I write about. But now I’m thinking a few meals at a time; what it will cost, how long it will last, what else I’ll be eating that week and how healthy is it overall.

The end result, I hope, will be a healthier diet of the same quality at a lower price. I’ll try to keep you up to date on the progress.


Walk or Run? June 29, 2010

Filed under: Craft,Geek — geekchef @ 3:39 pm
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I’ve been planning on buying an embroidery machine for a few months now. I’ve been using the one at the Techshop and it is slowly driving me insane. It’s hard to make enough time and due to the excessive use, it’s often out of order. No good.

The original plan was to take part of the money from the deposit on my old apartment and buy the same or a similar machine as the one I’ve been using. But while researching prices and features I came across the Janome MB4, a super awesome semi-industrial embroidery machine. It is super sexy, in that automated embroidery machine kind of way. It does everything I want it to do, better than all the other machines I’ve been looking at. But, and this is a big but, it is 4 times more money.

Now I thought about it a lot: compared the upfront cost with it’s resale value, the time savings and efficiency, and figured it was very possible that this machine would eventually pay for itself. But, I just don’t have that kind of money.

So with a little sanity check from my mom, I decided to give it a year. I’ll buy the best one I can within the price range I afforded myself. In a year if I’m still going strong and have made/sold enough badges and whatnot to sustain this project, I’ll see about getting the big gun.

So please continue to buy my stuff, tell your science-y friends about the badges and keep giving me all your wonderful support. I really love making things, I’d really love to be able to make this an actual living one day. But at least, I’d like to continue breaking even on a larger scale. 😀


Classic Comfort June 24, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 9:11 pm
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Tonight I made an American classic,  meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I made the meatloaf with ground turkey, a lighter and healthier option and added a little brown gravy mix to keep the meaty flavor.

Turkey Meatloaf

1 pound ground turkey
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 cup sliced mushrooms, baby bella or shitake
3 tablespoons brown gravy mix
1 egg
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon paprika
dash of cayenne
salt and pepper

Mix turkey, breadcrumbs, mushrooms, gravy and egg until blended, but as lightly as possible. Fit into a baking dish or loaf pan. Mix ketchup, paprika, cayenne, salt and pepper. Spread on top of the meatloaf and bake for 40 minutes.

Mashed Red Potatoes

1 pound large red potatoes
1/3 milk
1/4 butter
garlic salt and pepper to taste

Peel and dice the potatoes and boil in salted water until tender. Drain potatoes and return to the pot. In a smaller pot, heat milk and butter until melted. Smash the potatoes and fold in the milk and butter, season to taste.


Name that drink! June 7, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 11:08 am
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I made a really tasty libation the other night, an attempt to fight off heat and boredom. Turned out really well but I don’t have a name for it. I’ll let you guys decide, best suggestion wins.

Summer Cocktail

1 bottle ginger beer, ginger ale if you can’t find beer
4 oz Vodka
3 oz bourbon
2 oz triple sec
1/2 can of frozen orange juice, slightly melted
juice of 1/2 lemon
lots of ice

Pour all the fluids into a pitcher and mix well, add ice and serve.

Serves 3 or 4


Souffles to go May 31, 2010

Filed under: Food — geekchef @ 5:22 pm
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This weekend I was invited to a birthday party. I asked the birthday girl what I should bring and she jokingly suggested a few souffles. Not wanting to disappoint, I decided to make mini souffles. One for each invitee, 18 total.

I was a little worried how I was going to pull it off, souffles start to deflate very quickly and are best served right away. Also, where am I going to find enough ramekins?! Well, solution one, I just got over it. I figured I’d just fill any sunken in bits with whipped cream. The second, was aluminum foil cupcake tins. I cut the tins into individual cups, rolling the sides in to prevent sharp edges. I placed the single tins in a uncut tin to prevent tipping over.

The following recipe is for 18 cupcake tins, 6 small ramekins or 1 large ramekin.

Larger version, very deflated but super yummy

Mocha Souffle

8 large egg whites, room temperature
3 large egg yolks
7 ounces finely chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus for preparing the molds
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
2 packets of Via instant coffee
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Brush cupcake tins or ramekins with melted butter, then dust with powdered sugar. Place in freezer to re-solidify the butter.

Set an oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

Put the chocolate, instant coffee, vanilla and butter in a medium heatproof (pyrex or metal) bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over the water and stir the chocolate occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Set aside.

Combine the egg yolks and 2 tablespoons of sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer or large bowl and beat until frothy. Very lightly fold the yolks into the chocolate mixture.

Remove prepared ramekins from freezer. Place egg whites and cream of tartar into a large metal bowl. Beat on medium until frothy; then gradually add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and increase speed to high. Beat until the whites hold a stiff but not dry.

Working quickly, fold about a third of the egg whites into the chocolate to lighten; then fold in remaining whites until blended. Gently ladle or spoon the souffle mixture into the ramekins, and place on a baking sheet. (Level off the surface with a straight edge, scraping any excess mixture back into the bowl.)

Immediately bake until the souffle rises about 1 1/2 inches from the ramekins, and the tops are touched with brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven, dust with confectioners’ sugar, or a dollop of whipped cream and serve immediately.