I recently glanced at my small collection of cookbooks and realized that I was pretty uninspired by all of them. I don’t buy cookbooks often, as I find I can usually get a good recipe on the internet or by checking out a cookbook at the library; thus, my cookbooks are dated and I rarely find myself cooking from them. And to be honest, I don’t cook from recipes all that often anyway – I find it’s simpler to throw together a stir-fry, pasta dish, salad, or tacos by “feel.” But this holiday season I began to feel like it was time to trade out some of the old for a few fresh new titles for my cookbook repertoire, so I treated myself to a Christmas present: Alison Roman’s Dining In.
I love downtown San Francisco during the holidays. I have such fond memories of coming to the city with my family as a kid – ice skating at Embarcadero Center, gazing at the tree at Union Square, then grabbing a bite to eat at The Rotunda at Neiman Marcus after a day of holiday shopping. Now that I call San Francisco my home, I find I am less amused by the large crowds of tourists and holiday shoppers; however, I still get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see the festive decorations downtown, so Jack and I try to make a visit at least once every December.
This year we started our downtown visit with a couple of seasonal cocktails at Clock Bar in the Westin St Francis at Union Square (be sure to use your Starwood card for double points!) There were a lot of tourists admiring the giant gingerbread houses in the lobby, but we had no trouble grabbing a table for two inside the bar. Afterward, we walked past Union Square to get a quick glimpse of the Christmas tree, then continued on to Embarcadero along a less crowded street. The four buildings that make up Embarcadero Center are outlined in white lights this time of year, and they look like Christmas presents. We walked past the ice skating rink at Justin Herman Plaza and admired the beautiful view of the Ferry Building and the Bay Bridge in the background.
Yesterday we hosted my family at our home in San Francisco for a belated Thanksgiving Day celebration. Jack and I served Williams Selyem’s Holiday Cioppino with roasted seasonal vegetables (butternut squash, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and carrots). For dessert I served a homemade almond cake with vanilla ice cream from Bi-Rite Creamery. My family members contributed a delicious cheese and charcuterie platter, good bread from Della Fattoria, and a delicious lactose-free pumpkin pie (made by a certain lactose-intolerant family member who will remain nameless). And all day long we enjoyed our favorite wines from Williams Selyem, Kosta Browne, and Bacigalupi.
Today is one of my favorite holidays: Thanksgiving. I have so many fond memories of sitting around the dining room table with my family and enjoying the traditional feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and cranberry sauce (the kind that “slides right out of the can”). Over the years, this tradition has evolved as school, work, and living across the country led to many nontraditional celebrations of the holiday, including “Friendsgiving” (potluck-style Thanksgiving with friends), eating Thanksgiving out at a restaurant, and “Thanksgiving for Two” with just my husband.
One Thanksgiving that really stands out in my memory is from ten years ago. My brother Mike and his wife Kelly were living in Washington, D.C. and they took the train up to visit me in NYC, where I was attending graduate school. On the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, Mike and Kelly joined me at the Patagonia store on the Upper West Side, where I was working at the time. The store is located on Columbus Avenue, across from the American Museum of Natural History. We gathered upstairs in the store with several of my coworkers and watched as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade floats were being inflated and prepped outside for the next day. What a sight to see! The next day, we had a traditional Thanksgiving meal at one of the cozy restaurants on Cornelia Street in the West Village. It really was a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving.