this city

the city of san francisco has never left me disappointed. the road up from los angeles has always been one that brought a delicious sense of anticipation, because there were always friends or food – or better yet, both – waiting on that northern end of the highway.

every spring for several years in high school, a tour bus would take a gaggle of us students up, always stopping at kettleman city for dinner before continuing on through the twilight until we reached the city. i loved looking out the window at the open land, darkening. i loved knowing my friends and i would soon be setting down our bags in our very own hotel room and then setting out to find a sourdough bread bowl of clam chowder as soon as possible.
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recently, as i’ve gotten older (and really started to feel it), san francisco has been a place to reunite with old friends who have wandered away in search of this or that – a law degree, a job, a new life. when i visit, for those two or three or four days, i get all the best bits of the city that they present to me: that street with all those cute boutiques, the museum with the sprawling lawn and the great view, a brunch spot with an eggs benedict almost as ridiculously good as the wait is ridiculously long.
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a couple weekends ago, for the first time, i got a chance to come into the city on my own. between dropping off one travel companion and meeting with another, it was just me and my little car as it curved with the bends in the road, passing by the low mountains of south san francisco and ducking under the shadows of the bridge. the light was just right at the end of the day – the kind of hazy dusk that softens even the sharpest of corners. and as i finally entered the heart of the city, making a right here, a wrong turn there, i saw those streets differently. i wondered what it would be like to make this different city my home. i just wondered.
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there was no conclusion to it. before long, my friend was hopping into the passenger seat, and we were on our way to meet a few others – a mix of the oldest and newest of friends – for dinner at a warm, delicious place called firefly.

i’m in no place to make any decisions – not yet – so i left my thoughts to evaporate over a plate of short ribs (rich, tender) and potatoes (buttery, perfectly smashed).  i figured there would be another 400 miles or so of road on the way home for those thoughts to finish themselves. for the first night back in this city, what to order for dessert (plum sorbet on honey orange blossom mousse) was enough.

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i was trying to remember your name

i’m a little short on words today, but i’d like to say i started my day driving off to this song:


and it was great.

and then i kept driving and kept listening to stars play their live set on the radio. and i loved the way it made me feel: like myself, but also like something new. i miss that.

i set out on a much longer drive recently, one punctuated with even more great songs, and also some grand, swirling thoughts that finally found their space to swell and roll out on the road – and i hope to get to talking about that one soon. but in the meantime, these were the sounds i heard today. (stars starting at 3:35.)

cheddar-dill scones

my little grocery basket yesterday evening grew heavy with an unprecedented number of dairy products: neapolitan ice cream to combat this summer heat, a can of condensed milk for my morning tea, a pack of string cheese for my inner child, and a half-pint of cream and some cheddar cheese for these scones.

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i saw ina garten make them on her show barefoot contessa, and – along with that house in the hamptons of hers – they just seemed beautiful. delicate, fresh dill flecked through dough that had pockets of melted cheese, they would be a perfect counterpart to something light and simple, like a bowl of sweet tomato soup. to be eaten perhaps at a weathered picnic table on a breezy day. maybe atop a grassy hill, with a view of the sea – gray and calm.

one can dream.

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Cheddar-Dill Scones
a hybrid of two recipes: one by Ina Garten and another (originally for lemon-glazed blueberry scones) by Tyler Florence
Makes 16 scones

4 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt {I would reduce this just a smidge next time – maybe to 1 ½ tsp.}
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, diced
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/2 pound extra-sharp yellow Cheddar, small-diced
1 cup minced fresh dill {2 1-ounce packs}
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water or milk, for egg wash

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper.
  2. Combine 4 cups of flour, the baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Using a pastry blender or two knives in a criss-crossing motion, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Mix the eggs and heavy cream and quickly add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Use a fork to lightly combine, until just blended. Toss together the Cheddar, dill, and 1 tablespoon of flour and add them to the dough. Mix until they are mostly incorporated; some flour will be visible. Take care not to overmix.
  3. Using a standard (6-ounce) ice cream scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheet. Brush the tops of each mound with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the outside is crusty and the inside is fully baked.

barefoot

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summer is settling its big bottom down and making itself comfortable.

the days are hot, and so often i have the urge to do nothing but twist up my hair in a knot, lie back, and listen to the air conditioning hum and whir.

these are the days when evenings are best spent walking off the day, or climbing stairs to stare at your city from a rooftop. you’re free to roll down the windows in the middle of the night and feel not a single chill the whole ride home. and when the next day comes: lap up the warm morning light like syrup.

i just got myself a rather large tv with some rather fascinating dv-r abilities, but it’s nice to know that it’s still good music that has the power to kick me up and awake. this song may be called “barefoot winter waltz,” but i’ll dub it a summer song anyway.

[the first one here, by the early hours]