A Trip to Volante Farms

Quiet mornings. I love them.

After downing my cup of coffee, I headed over to CRCF for a morning workout. I hadn’t been in for almost a week because of my race on Monday, and was excited to do some lifting. Less excited for the jump roping. I still feel like an uncoordinated five year old when you hand me that particular torture device.

Wednesday WOD 10/10/12

A.  Power Clean – 10 minutes to a heavy set of 2 (I worked up to 75#)
Rest 5 min.
B. Press – 10 minutes to a heavy set of 3 (I worked up to 65#)
Rest 5 min.

WOD (Workout of the Day):  “Forrest Gump”
10 min. running clock
Complete 100 Double Unders then with remaining time:
Ladder up of:
Deadlift 225/155 (I used 125#)
Deficit Push-up (25lb Plates) (I did strict pushups)
*Start with 1 of each, then 2, then, 3, etc.

Result: After spending 4 minutes to get to a whopping 32 double-under attempts, Coach Steve kindly let me continue the rest as single-unders to 150 jumps. I then managed four rounds of the ladder + 2 lifts.

After the workout, I spent a few minutes practicing our challenge skill of the week: pull-ups. After months of subbing jump-ups in workouts, I’m ready to master a new skill. I have the next week to get the longest unbroken set of pull-ups I can, using my scale-sanctioned light green band. So far? 3. Gotta work on that technique!

Finally, I headed over to Starbucks for my post-gym reward of iced tea and dried mango. I love these Peeled Snacks unsweetened organic dried mango packs!

After drinking my body weight in tea, I headed over to Volante Farms to pick up some of my produce for the week. Volante Farms is a great family farm in Needham, and their farm stand is full of beautiful produce, much of which they grow on location or source from local farms. They also have a deli, ice cream, and dried goods, as well as greenhouses with plants galore. I’m never there with my camera because I’m usually picking stuff up right out of the gym, but now that I have this new fancy-pants iPhone, I thought I’d put it to good use.

Here are some scenes from the farm:


I ended up coming home with spaghetti squash, ambercup squash, a cauliflower, a romanesco, parsnips, three different varietals of apples, and some Komatsuna, a leafy green similar to bok choy.

For lunch, I decided to make a stir fry of the Komatsuna with leftover ground turkey, ginger, garlic, fish sauce, coconut aminos and sesame oil.

In the afternoon, I roasted a delicata squash. It was going to be for dinner, but I ate the entire thing while getting some work done on my computer.

For dinner, I braised lamb shanks from M.F. Dulock with tomato, eggplant and anchovies. Devon got his off the bone over some spaghetti with parmesan, and I got both shanks, extra eggplant, and a garnish of parsley. This meal was a keeper! I’ll be posting the recipe soon. {Edit: recipe here!}

The South End, Lekker Home, Tea Pots + LevelUp

I’ve been having a lot of fun “re-discovering” the South End neighborhood of Boston. It’s definitely the up and coming place to live, shop and eat in the Boston area.

The South End has gone through massive changes over the past several decades, and I remember when it was a different place entirely. In the 80’s and early 90’s, my aunt and uncle lived in the South End in a gorgeous bow-front (with my two very young cousins), and ended up moving out when someone got stabbed to death on my aunt’s car. 

But the neighborhood has fought back, and people have come together. Small businesses have been the life blood of this community, and a lot of people took big risks that have been paying off. In food, Hammersley’s has been going strong for over 20 years now, Barbara Lynch has three outposts – B&G Oysters, The Butcher Shop, and Stir; Joanne Chang’s Flour Bakery + Café flagship is here, as is Ken Oringer and Jamie Bisonnette’s Toro (and Coppa, which I’m desperate to try).

In addition to eating, the South End is also the place to shop. Firstly, SoWa Open Market is Boston’s portal to Brooklyn and the Mission: a vibrant market, part farmers’ market, part craftsman market, part flea market. Then there is Hudson – not the jeans– where I might shop I had unlimited funds. They have an outpost in Wellesley where I used to go and covet things in college. And then, among the treasures of the South End is Lekker Unique Home Furnishings.

Lekker is one of those places that has the perfect gift for almost anyone. The store was opened by Natalie van Dijk Carpenter, a Dutch woman with incredibly good taste (lekker!) and curation skills.

The good thing about Lekker is that you can shop on a budget for yourself, or say for a hostess gift, and find some really excellent things. The store is filled with useful and stylish kitchen tools, candles, and local cookbooks. They also have some really graceful flatware and cutlery that I’d like to acquire. Or, if you are lucky enough to have generous resources, you can also find some fantastic furniture here.

I was particularly enthusiastic about that grey Jackson Chair, but it may in fact have been the most expensive item in the store at $3,650, alas.

This time, I got to go into Lekker with a hundred dollar credit from local Boston-based mobile payment service LevelUp. LevelUp allows you to pay with a unique QR code that is assigned to you – by whipping out your phone, opening the LevelUp app, and getting your code scanned at participating locations.

The big strength of LevelUp is that they work with community businesses to offer small credits at each location, and reward repeat shopping by offering better credits the more you frequent a particular establishment. The user interface is clean, and the process is simple. You store your credit card information securely, and can pay a tip with the app as well. In Boston, the majority of the merchants participating are restaurants, but it seems like a no-brainer to expand to all types of local businesses, particularly because of LevelUp’s low transaction fees.

I’ll be interested in how they scale in the longterm, and how they will compete with Google Wallet , Square, and whoever decides to throw themselves into the mobile payment space next.

I strongly believe that mobile payments and digital receipts are the way of the future, and am looking forward to the day when I can dispense of plastic credit cards and paper receipts completely.

After an hour of browsing – dreaming, touching the curved lips of the bowls and mugs, stroking the softest blankets, and sitting on each of the chairs in the shop – I ended up picking up the Hakusan Tea Pot  and set of cups (the white and brown one above, with the stippling on the porcelain). It’s a nice addition to my home, and great incentive to make myself happy with my tea project.

Lekker Home
1317 Washington Street Boston, MA 02118-2139
(617) 542-6464

Drink Scotch Like a Pro (Boozer).

Scotch is classy.

Scotch is a man’s drink.

Scotch is, in fact, such a classy man’s drink that George Clooney is selling it to the Koreans.

I am neither a man, nor very classy (well, I do try sometimes). But, I love my liquor, and I feel a special kinship with Scotch Whisky that’s been years in the making.

My relationship with Scotch began, of all places, in a lab. A college geology lab, after dark, to be specific. In class we were learning about peat bogs, and someone decided to toast the 9,000 year old perfectly preserved peat bog man with some extra "peat-y" Scotch in his honor.  And we may or may not have been taking part in this ritual while watching a Nova special about it at the time. It’s called "The Perfect Corpse" if you are curious.

image(Photo of the peat bog man: Lonely Planet Images)

And, yes, I’m a nerd. But I kept good company, as a love of food and drink is typical of geologists, really scientists in general- in our lab we made good use of a cappuccino machine, and conversations that weren’t about albite twinning and plagioclase feldspar tended to be about our last meal, or perhaps our next one, or the one after that.

I’ve always found the link between science and food to run deep, even historically so – perhaps nothing will light a candle to the rumor that a defrosted Mammoth was served in the late 1800’s at a Royal Geological Society annual gathering. That, is food obsession at it’s best. (And no, I can’t substantiate that rumor, but I heard it once in a Paleo lecture.)

To the point:

When Victoria called us to schedule a Scotch tasting with Mark Stewart Cassidy at Omnivore, and promised me that a man in a kilt with a Scottish brogue would show up, be handsome, and teach us a little more about traditional Scotch whisky, I was a little beside myself. At the event, after drinking three generous samples of scotch, my feverish notes did become slightly less legible, but I’ve spent significant time deciphering them for the purposes of education about this finest of libations.

[For the record, Whisky = Scottish English, Whiskey = Irish English, and yes, I had to look it up.]

And so, for your entertainment, and mine, here I give 2 minutes for Scotch. This is by no means a thorough discussion, but perhaps a starting point for your own adventures. I digress.


Although Whisky has been made in Scotland for hundreds of years, Scotch became popular in part because of the Phylloxera bug wiping out the cognac and wine making production in France in the late 1800s. While drinking entire handles (do we call them handles?) of Scotch now seems to be a little excessive, to put it in perspective, Churchill was said to have drunk a bucket of brandy a day. What else would be better "after [a day of] shootin’ fishin’ or flogging peasants?"

What the heck is in this stuff, anyway?

Provided that the liquid is Made In Scotland some basic facts:

1. Essentially, Barley + Malt + Water = Scotch.

2. The cask to age the Scotch is always made of Oak. They usually are reused casks from making sherry or bourbon.

3. Evaporation occurs: The first year in the cask, 5% of the alcohol evaporates, and typically every year following an additional 2% evaporates. Some say because of this, the best value is at 10 years, (not necessarily the best taste), but at this point, it has aged, but not evaporated away.

4. Has to be at least 40% alcohol.

5. It is said that taste can be attributed 70% from the cask, 15% from the raw materials, and 15% from the production/skill of the distiller. That said, there is still mystery around what makes a perfect scotch. Every distillery has a master distiller, who’s entire job is to think about these things. There are stories about master distillers who "wouldn’t let anyone move cobwebs – [because] you don’t know what will effect the taste."


How to Taste Scotch:

1. Pour it: Leave whiskey in the glass for 1 minute for every year it has been in the cask.

2. Prepare it: Add a drop of water, down the side of the glass (as to not destroy the bouquet, and so the aroma stays intact). The water picks up the oils and helps to enhance aroma and flavor.

3. Think about it: when you drink scotch, take note of the nose, the body, and the finish.

There are five categories of Scotch: Single Malt, Blended Malt, Blended Scotch whisky, Blended Grain Whisky, and Single Grain Scotch Whisky. For this tasting, we sampled three varieties of Single Malt Scotch Whisky, each with their own distinct characteristics:


Scotch #1:

Highland Region, Aberfeldy 12 year ($39.50)

The first Scotch was the Aberfeldy, which I immediately enjoyed immensely because of the symbol on the bottle which appears to be a squirrel.

Aberfeldy is one of the distilleries that contributes to Dewars’, a particularly well known Scotch brand. Dewars was one of the first Scotch brands sold in a glass bottle with a label, and holds it’s own in the Scotch arena today –– In fact, about five blending houses own all the distilleries in Scotland.

Taking my first sip of the Scotch – HOO-AH – I had forgotten the kick this stuff can give! The bite goes away relatively quickly, the same way a properly spiced dish may give you an initial punch, and then settle down as to not torture you for hours.

During tasting we noted that there is no peat taste, because in the Highlands they mostly use coal to dry the barley. According to the master, there were also vanillins, traces of copper, and peroxide in the flavors.


Scotch #2:

Speyside Region, Benromach Organic ($85.00)

By far and away my favorite. This Scotch was unique because it was the worlds first certified Organic single malt. While Organics have taken their time to become a standard in the alcohol industry, the flavors of the highest quality ingredients grown in clean soil really make this Scotch stand out.

It was crisp and light, with a quick burn, and satisfying lingering sweet and spicy notes. And well, perhaps I’m just going crazy, but for some reason, I noted a hint of coconut which put me in a tropical mood.


Scotch #3:

Island Region, Highland Park 12 year ($45.00)

The final tasting was the Highland Park. Which evoked daydreams of sipping the stuff on the lawn of a big castle, playing cards, and smoking cigars. Maybe with Robin Williams in golf attire in the background.

Perhaps the most like what people traditionally think of when they think of Scotch, this was an example of Peat whiskey, given it’s distinctive taste of drying the barley over peat. ( I got to admit, everyone loved it, and I think it tastes like drinking from a bog. A pleasant bog, but bog none the less.)

In summary, who knew that my favorite would end up being the $85 dollar bottle that I can’t actually afford to plunk down the cash for? Well, if anyone would like to remedy that ––

Scotch available at:

The Whisky Shop | 360 Sutter Street | San Francisco |415.989.1030

The question becomes, where do I go next? Invariably there will be actual Scotch fanatics reading this, and by all means add to the conversation – do you have a favorite type of Scotch?

The Marvelous Biscoff: Biscoff Coffee Corner Opens at Pier 39

Over the past few nights I’ve been going to bed with a spoonful of Biscoff Spread. I know, I know, you dentists out there are cringing. I sit there, savoring it for minutes. Devon has joked that it is my crack spoon. Here is the back story:

Almost a decade ago, I was traveling internationally on Delta Airlines when I was first introduced to Lotus Bakeries’ Biscoff cookies. Biscoff are Belgian spice cookies, known in Europe as Speculoos, traditionally a holiday cookie. Now ubiquitous year round, they are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of afternoon coffee.

At first bite, I marveled at these crunchy caramelized spice cookies, which tasted similar to a gingersnap. I was so smitten in fact, that on our return trip, I begged the stewards to give me an extra supply as I exited the aircraft. For years I hoarded these cookies, requesting all traveling friends to bring them back for me.

The Biscoff was originally developed by the Boone family in Belgium in 1932, and sold as Lotus Speculoos. In 1984, Lotus partnered with The Gourmet Center in San Francisco, and  introduced the cookie to the United States as “Biscoff”, an amalgamation of the words ‘Biscuit + Coffee’. Delta began serving Biscoff cookies on their flights in the 1980’s, and since then they have been sold to a growing fan base through mail order catalogue, on their website, and just recently popping up in retailers across the country.

In addition to their cookies, the new Biscoff Spread is a food revelation. A few months ago, David Lebovitz raved about it on his blog, and I knew I had to get my hands on some. A similar consistency to peanut butter, it is a smooth spread made of blended Biscoff cookies. (Think Nutella, except tasting like Biscoff). The spread is perfect on toast, stirred into oatmeal, warmed and drizzled over vanilla ice cream, or, as I do most frequently, eaten directly from the jar.

I’ve been ordering the spread from the internet, but for the first time, it is available for purchase in San Francisco. Lotus Bakeries, and the Simmons Family, owners of Simco Restaurants’ PIER 39 establishments on Fisherman’s Wharf have partnered to open the Biscoff Coffee Corner and Coffee Cart, the first retail store of Biscoff products in the United States.

As a local, I don’t often find myself down by Pier 39, but it’s only a quick walk away from the Embarcadero, and well worth the trip in order to get yourself some Biscoff.

The Biscoff Coffee Corner opened last Thursday with free samples of Biscoff cookies, Biscoff cookie jugglers on stilts, a ribbon cutting ceremony with the Boone family, trivia, and giveaways. One hundred percent of sales were donated to The Marine Mammal Center, which rehabilitates seals and sea lions. In the future, 1% percent of all cookie sales will be donated to The Marine Mammal Center.

The Biscoff Coffee corner gives a free Biscoff cookie with the sale of each cup of coffee. The shop retails Biscoff cookies, Biscoff spread, as well as features menu items such as toasted bagels with cream cheese and Biscoff spread, and coffee with Biscoff flavoring and Biscoff crumbles (probably my entire calories for the day, but it was delicious!!). Additionally, Simco Restaurants will be featuring Biscoff cookies in dessert creations in their restaurants. Next time I head down there, I think I’m going to get some more Biscoff to make into ice cream.

Biscoff Spread is available at the Biscoff Coffee Corner for $5.50 for a 14 ounce jar. Biscoff Cookies are $3.50 for an 8.8 ounce loose package. Coffee with Biscoff flavoring and Biscoff crumbles is also on the menu at the Biscoff Coffee Corner. I highly recommend the trip out there.

Artisanal Delights in Bernal Heights

The news is hot:

Six local vendors are about to open a collaborative culinary marketplace in San Francisco’s Bernal Heights neighborhood… in other words, less than a mile away from my house. Yeehaw!!! I walk up the hill to Bernal about once a week, partly for the pleasure of huffing and puffing my way up the little hill from Mission to Cortland – and partly for the pleasure of enjoying this great little corner of San Francisco  filled with independent coffee shops, bookstores, cute restaurants, and nice markets. I haven’t yet tried the new Sandbox bakery, but I hear that it’s fantastic… Anyone want to join me?

The lineup of vendors is looking particularly promising:

Wholesome Bakery: Tasty vegan treats and baked goods – that are also wheat-free, yeast-free and soy-free. And to wash them down, Desiree Salomon’s DEZYS DRINKS—including “freshly made chai, juice, and kombucha tea, all made from scratch daily using mostly organic fruits, vegetables, and spices, and all kid-friendly.” Yum!

Paulie’s Pickling : featuring hand crafted pickled vegetables and fruits, as well as sauces, relishes, sandwiches and salads. I have a thing for pickles that rivals any pregnancy craving, so I’m guessing that this one is going to be a particular favorite of mine.

ICHI Lucky Cat Deli : Japanese deli delights! I’m particularly looking forward to their sushi (which has until now been experienced only by those lucky enough to have ICHI cater an event..) Japanese sandwiches, and take home sushi kits.

El Porteño Empanadas : I went to college with Texans responsible for my love of empanadas. But really, who wouldn’t love an empanada? Little handpies that you can fill with savory or sweet, and then grab on the go? My type of food! El Porteño Empanadas are of Argentinian influence, and will feature Prather Ranch Beef, Fulton Farms Chicken, and fresh organic/local veg for their vegetarian versions.

Della Terra Organics : organic produce from the bay area – open seven days a week when you miss out on farmer’s market.

And for the kitchen oriented,

Bernal Cutlery will set up shop on the premises to sharpen your well used knives.. and maybe tempt you with some new ones.

This is just a taste, but I’ll be sure to report from the field in a few weeks when the doors open! [Opening Late January, 2010.]

331 Cortland
Bernal Heights
331 Cortland Avenue, San Francisco
California, 94110
Contact: 415-822-4024

Poco Dolce Chocolates

Poco Dolce Chocolate

There is an empty canister of Poco Dolce Espresso Toffee chocolates sitting behind my desk at work. I’ve opened it every few days over the past couple of weeks hoping that it would miraculously be full again of chocolate. (You think I’m kidding – sadly I’m not.) I really should replace it before I go crazy for good.

I remember vividly the day that I had my first Poco Dolce chocolate square (they call them tiles). I had just completed a long walk, over two very big hills, and ended up at Chocolate Covered in Noe Valley – the fine purveyors of just about any chocolate you can think of eating. The interaction went something like this: Me: “JACK! I need a most delicious chocolate that I can eat immediately! I need something exciting! I need your best!”  Jack: Knowingly hands me a Poco Dolce Aztec Dark Chocolate Tile flecked with Sea Salt.

Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat! – it was a like a multiple layer explosion.

Deep, dark chocolate. Spicy chile pepper with hints of cinnamon. Crunchy little toasted pumpkin seeds nestled in between. And flecks of salt that make the chocolate sing! You experience each individual layer and then they mix together and… I can’t come close to giving them justice, you really have to just try one.

And, the company is run by a smart and entrepreneurial woman, Kathy Wiley, here in San Francisco. I’ve been tempted to scream out “YOU GO GIRL” on the times that I’ve met her in the flesh, but that is embarrassing and a little ridiculous, and I really just think that aside from the fantastic chocolate, it’s just really inspiring to see women as leaders in the food industry.

Poco Dolce 2

Poco Dolce chocolate is a perfect stocking stuffer. Poco Dolce chocolate is a perfect afternoon snack, perfect breakfast, perfect gift for someone you really care about, perfect stress reducer, you name it. Poco Dolce chocolate is really just perfect. Do yourself a favor and buy some of these. You can thank me later. (Preferably with a shipment of Tile Trio).

Prices run from about $2.50 a square to $16 for an 8 oz canister of toffee squares, $18 for a box of 8 tiles, $22 for a sampler of toffee squares, to $50 for the Trifecta box of Tiles, sure to make you an instant hero to the special recipient.  For chocolate of this quality and deliciousness a pretty good deal.


Chocolate Covered
4069 24th St
(between Castro St & Noe St)
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 641-8123