Friday Scraps

{Strawberries at Crepe O Chocolat on O’Farrell Street}

. If the one true Gourmet Style Girl existed, she would wear this coat. EM jackets give me the butterflies!

. Madewell’s new Fall Lookbook is out! I’ll be saying yes to this cardi/blazer combo (even if it’s just with a cardi/blazer I already own). Thank you very much for the inspiration!

. Loving the big, sexy librarian glasses trend! Warby Parker and I might have a date come pea coat donning, leaves are falling, I wish I were going back to school time

. For those with a Kate Middleton obsession and a Salma Hayek height problem (she’s barely 5 feet!), the new website A Petite Princess is adorable. Kudos for scouting out trendy and tiny pieces so we can all dress a la duchess. My five foot compatriots and I salute you!

Happy Weekend to you!

Top Five Best Picnic Places in the Bay Area

1. Golden Gate Park

The most wide open of picnic places, there are millions – seriously, millions – of places for you to throw down a blanket and picnic to your little heart’s content. Anywhere near the Japanese Tea Garden, or the grassy knolls near the Conservatory of Flowers are my favorites, but from log cabins to ball fields to museums, to buffalo – seriously, buffalo – GGP has it all.

Must have items: a blanket big enough to nap on, a frisbee, and a way of strapping your entire picnic to your bike so you can cycle home when the sun sets.

Honorable mention: Dolores Park is also wonderful, if you can handle an overabundance of tattoos and non-ironic ironic mustaches.

2. Stern Grove

One of San Francisco’s oldest free outdoor music festivals, Stern Grove is culture and community and extremely competitive picnicking all in one. Get there early – earlier than you think you’ll need to – to set up camp. I like to bring a notebook to plan out my posts, a good book (I’m finally working my way through Tales of the City!) and, of course, several bottles of vin.

Must have items: serious stadium seats or low chairs (you’ll be sitting awhile), real wine glasses and cutlery to compete with the competitive spread to your left (bonus points if you bring a tablecloth), and an eagle eye to nab the perfect spot the moment you walk in. Take no prisoners!

Honorable mention: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is another a-mazing musical festival, but sometimes it’s nice not to get secondhand high at a music festival in San Fran, am I right? I’m right.

3. Gabrielson Park

Call me an old lady, but sometimes sleepy, adorable little Sausalito is where it’s at. Jazz and Blues by the Bay every Friday night has become a summer tradition. My friends and I bike to the ferry, chug across the Bay, enjoy whatever selection of music is du jour, then ride home in the twilight over the Golden Gate Bridge. And if that sounds too magical for words, don’t worry: it is. Won’t you join us?

Must have items: a roll up table (all the cool kids have them), lots of layers since you’re right next to the water, and a nice friend who can leave work on the early boat and snag a space. Real estate is at a premium in this tiny park, but it’s totally worth it.

Honorable mention: San Rafael Jazz in the Park. Same idea, but no ferry involved, and this event is still relatively new so there are usually some kinks.

4. Casa Nuestra Winery

One of my all-time favorite Napa wineries, tiny Casa Nuestra makes some big reds, crisp whites, and a dry rosado so good I recently bought two bottles on the spot*. Call ahead for a tour and tasting, then whip out your cooler and crack open a bottle of whatever you’ve just bought. Because no matter what’s in the cooler OR what you buy at Casa Nuestra, it’s all going to taste delicious together. I promise.

Must have items: an appointment for a tour, a lazy Saturday, a corkscrew and glasses, and a powerful thirst.

Honorable mention: V’Sattui Winery is another of my favorites, but they require you to buy your lunch from their deli, limiting your culinary options. Their Gamay Rouge and Cuvée rouge are not to be missed, but picnic elsewhere if you bring lunch.

5. Movie in the Park at Union Square

By the end of last year’s showing of Dirty Dancing, the entire square was up and jumping to Time of My Life as the credits rolled. Sure, the ground is hard, but you’ll have cushions and friends and food, and, oh hey – you’re watching a movie in the middle of downtown San Francisco. Bad. Ass.

Must have items: cushions or stadium seats (something with a back), a warm drink, and a way to get home from the urban jungle when you’re ready to pack it in.

Honorable mention: Movie in the Park at Washington Square. Also a lovely experience, but the North Beach location is a little too close to bars and restaurants and it can get a little loud at times. Also, those tai chi ladies never go away. Ever.

Where are you picnicking this summer?

*Random information + a tip: I drank one bottle of rosado right away, naturally. The remaining bottle is currently living in my left Ralph Lauren riding boot, if you must know, as riding boots make excellent wine bottle storage and the bottles help those nice boots you bought keep their shape. I really wanted you to know that.

Picnic Pasta

A picnic and a barbecue aren’t quite the same, but so many elements align: outdoor eating, friends, good food, and that sudden panic when you realize you have not yet prepared the perfect outdoor dish. Eeeeps! But wait. Stop. Survey the scene. Pasta hodgepodge? Check. Veggies? Check. Lots of EVOO and garlic (two things my kitch is never, ever without)? checkety check.

I basically whipped up a variation on this, to pretty good success, if I do say so meself. AND, people. AND. It was dead easy.

Ingredients:

1. Conchiglioni (big shell pasta)

2. Cheese tortelloni

3. One and a half cups each of snap peas, corn, and cherry tomatos

4. One half cup of fresh basil leaves

5. Ricotta

6. Evoo, garlic, salt and pepper, parmesan

Directions:

1. Start your noodle water while simultaneously heating a few glugs of EVOO in a skillet.

2. When the water hits a rolling boil and the skillet is snapping, start the pasta (all together now! Shells and tortelloni in the same pot is A-OK!) and throw the peas, corn and tomatoes into the skillet and spread them out so they roast evenly.

3. As the noodles are churning and the veggies are roasting, pour ricotta, lots of EVOO, as many cloves of garlic as you like (I went for six because the bowl was big!) and a few leaves of basil. As before, zoom zoom zoom until your cheese mixture becomes almost pourable. Think of it as a very light cheese sauce. The ricotta is just something you eyeball, but use your best judgment. You can do it!

4. Once your veggies have a little bit of char and the noodles are done, combine everything into a big bowl, drizzling sauce over the ingredients as you pour, so there’s no clumping. Put it in the fridge to chill if you’re serving it as pasta salad. Once it’s nice and cool, top with freshly grated parm and torn basil leaves.

Do you ever create multiple variations of a dish with the same ingredients?

Do you have go-to ingredients that you would never be caught without?

I’d love to hear!

Style Set: San Francisco Picnic Attire

Weather in San Francisco can be a bit unpredictable.  While it would be nice if we could all wear skirts and dresses and run off to picnic land like one of those cheeseball commercials, sometimes the weather is uncooperative. This Style Set is picnic-perfect, so you can layer up with a vest and scarves (a San Fran girl’s most important accessory) when the fog rolls in, or kick off your Chucks and run barefoot through the grass if the clouds break – all without losing your SF hipster cool.

San Francisco Picnic Attire

Patagonia long sleeve top
$40 – patagonia.com

Cotton vest
€65 – modekungen.se

Patagonia boot cut jeans
$79 – patagonia.com

Converse star shoes
$40 – jcpenney.com

MICHAEL Michael Kors straw bag
$298 – zappos.com

Jersey scarve
$32 – topshop.com

The Art of Al Fresco

Summer means so many things: freedom, popsicles, daylight that runs on forever, and nights that you’ll always remember. Sunshine, a trip to the pool, snappy white sheets sun dried on the lawn, and sunflowers. Ideally, cut from a field on the way home after a weekend in wine country, but if Trader Joe’s has some, girl, buy those flowers. You won’t regret it.

In Northern California, summer also means picnics. Despite the crap weather and the perennial fog, San Franciscans can picnic with the best of them. From Sausalito Fridays to Stern Grove Sundays, every weekend is a chance to flex your traveling culinary abilities and show everyone that you, too, know the fine art of eating al fresco.

From what to wear, what to cook, and what to pack in that jazzy little bag you picked up at Cost Plus World Market for only $14.99 – this week, we’re talking picnics. You won’t regret it.

Lemon Ricotta Pasta

Do you ever sometimes crave those delicious – and really bad! – foods from when you were little? Zebra cakes, corn dogs, Oreo blizzards from DQ? Is it just me? Should I not have admitted that sometimes a can of Orange Crush hits the spot better than anything else?

In that vein, while we’re still on all things lemony, yellowy and good, I thought this week was the perfect time to make mac and cheese for grown-ups, also known as lemon ricotta pasta. First found on The Kitchn a few years ago, I’ve modified this recipe just a bit to include more pepper, more basil and more lemon. While Kraft Easy Mac may recall happy memories, the bland taste of its fake cheese can recoil the stomach. This bright and seasonal dish is a punched up mac and cheese for grown-ups. Lemony, yellowy, and, if I do say so myself, really, really good.

Ingredients:

. One small tub of cottage cheese

. One small tub of ricotta cheese

. One lemon

. Small shaped pasta (I like shells or oriechette best)

. 1/4 cup of basil leaves, to taste

. Freshly grated parm

. A few glugs of EVOO

. Lots of salt and pepper

Instructions:

1. Boil the water for the pasta, and when it’s rolling, add noodles.

2. Put one cup of ricotta, one cup of cottage cheese, the EVOO, and the zest and juice of the entire lemon into a food processor or blender and zoom zoom! The original recipe calls for all ricotta, but I like the smoothness cottage cheese adds to this dish. Plus, ricotta can feel a bit heavy (hello too much lasagna!) and for me, summer is all about keeping it light!

3. Place the heavenly blend from the food processor into a metal bowl and heat it over the pasta water as it cooks. Should this not loosen the cheese mixture enough (as dictated by the original recipe) you can give it a quick zap. While it would be ideal for everything to turn out perfectly, sometimes it doesn’t, and it’s okay to utilize your friend the microwave to get this cheese to the perfect, melty consistency.

4. Once the pasta is done, mix the cheese blend in, and top with the parm, salt, pepper, and basil. When I serve this dish warm, as intended, I chiffonade my basil into long thin strips. The next day, it makes an excellent cold pasta salad, and I throw in whole basil leaves instead, plus tomato, mushroom, and anything else fresh that catches my eye.