Thursday, November 4, 2010

We're making a move...

Hello dear friends and faithful readers.  I am extremely excited to inform you all that my wonderful blog, Six by 10 Tiny Kitchen, has found a new home.  I've moved the blog to the Wordpress platform in order to host my own site and use all of the wonderful tools Wordpress has to offer.

So I hope you enjoy the new look and feel of Six by 10 Tiny Kitchen.  It is, of course, still a work in progress and I will be making changes (slowly) as time goes by.  I would love to hear what you think of the redesign.

Without further ado, follow the link below to our new address, and thank you, as always, for coming along for the ride.

A huge thank you is due to fellow food blogger, photographer & designer, Jun Belen for the creation of my new blog header.  please visit his website to check out his photography and read his wonderful blog.

Monday, September 20, 2010

2010 San Francisco Street Food Festival

I feel a little awkward posting this now, so many weeks after the actual event.  The 2nd annual SF Street Food Festival was a monumental foodie extravaganza, with offerings from some of San Francisco's best restaurants and food carts, so I would be remiss if I did not at least share the photos of our experience that day.

Although it was a bit overcast, the weather did not at all dampen the spirit of people queuing up to sink their teeth into the creations of so many amazing chefs.  Lines were long to be sure, but moved quickly and with little grumbling from the crowds.  If stories from the first Street Food Festival are to be believed, this event was infinitely better planned as the expected crowds of thousands of Bay Area foodies had, at least comparatively, more room to move around, line up, or just grab a curb and enjoy their eats.

So enjoy the pictures we took, and use them either as a reminder of a great day spend chowing down in the Mission, or as inspiration to attended next years sure to be epic event.  Because we certainly enjoyed taking them.

Ramen from Hapa Ramen

Prosciutto wrapped figs

The huddled masses wait patiently

Corn on the cob with honey butter from Zella's

Fried chicken with harissa and corn from Aziza

S'mores don't get much better than this

Brulee the marshmallow... genius!

The finale, a monsterous funnel cake

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Chat with Flour and Water's Chef Thomas McNaughton

SF Chefs 2010 was a week-long culinary event celebrating the food and wine of San Francisco and Northern California.  The event culminated last weekend with cooking demonstrations with some of San Francisco's top chefs, the fabulous Sugar Party showcasing many great restaurant's confectionery delights, and of course the grand tasting tent, taking over Union Square for two days, allowing people to sample and sip some of the best that San Francisco has to offer.

I was lucky enough to sit in on the cooking demonstration as Flour and Water's Chef Thomas McNaughton prepared a rabbit turine with rabbit confit and stone fruit compote. Thanks to the good people at Foodbuzz, I had a chance to chat with him for a few minutes after wards about his restaurant, San Francisco, and his passion for honest, unpretentious food.  Here is what he had to say:

Sixby10:  You started working in kitchens when you were 14 years old.  What was it that made you want to become a chef?

Thomas McNaughton:  So I started in kitchens when I was 14, but it wasn't until 16 or 17 that I started taking it seriously and started working in better kitchens.  I remember I was actually a bit embarrassed by it at that age, I remember buying cooking equipment and telling my friends it was for my girlfriend or my mom.  The other side of it was that I had never seen something like the inside of a kitchen before, it had that kind of badass feel to it.  It's a unique work environment.

Sx10:  After working in so many highly regarded kitchens such as Gary Danko, La Folie and Qunice, what has the experience of opening your own restaurant been like?

TM:  Every restaurant job that I've taken, I haven't felt comfortable at.  It's a learning experience taking that next step; I ran the kitchen at Gary Danko for a while, ran the kitchen at Quince for a while, and you always say how hard it would be to open your own place, but until you do it nobody knows how hard it's going to be.  It's long hours, a lot of people in the kitchen work 16 or 17 hour days, but implementing the structure of a kitchen, until you do it 100% on your own from start to finish, you can't prepare for half of what is coming at you.  You just kind of have to dive into it, everyone is going to get their ass kicked, and learn from that experience.  As long as it's a learning experience and you come out the other side.  But until you do it you have no idea how difficult it's going to be.

Sx10:  Did you bring a lot of what you learned from those other kitchens to Flour and Water?

TM:  Sure.  But the most difficult thing about Flour and Water is that the kitchen was just completed 3 months ago.  So it has been constantly implementing procedures in an unfinished space, which is very difficult.  But every single job I've taken, at either Gary Danko, La Folie, or Quince, each of those positions I took for a specific reason.  I went to La Folie to learn to be a really solid line cook.  I went to Quince to deal with ingredients and build relationships with farmers, and I went to Gary Danko to learn the management side of it.  The (Gary Danko) kitchen runs like a well oiled machine.

Sx10:  You spent a good deal of time working in Europe and especially Italy, and seem to be drawn to Italian cuisine.  What are some of the fundamentals you brought back from your time there?

TM:  People think that we have a very loose Italian menu at Flour and Water.  But most Italians that come into the restaurant get it, because the whole thing is that it's about what grows around you, it's what's in season, it's what's good, just try not to mess it up.  You're not going to see that many avacados over in Italy, but we are surrounded by California avacadoes, so they are going to be on our menu.  If you are trying to do something strictly from what is in Campanga or what's in Lombardy, those ingredients are out of season right now, or they are only very specific to that region.  That's what Italian food is to me; use what grows around you, use it simply and translate that.

Sx10:  You've mentioned in other interviews the importance of sourcing from small, local farms, using sustainable ingredients and making sure you use the whole animal.  Can you share a little about how that became a priority for you?

TM:  It's ten times a better product.  That salad (a peach compote & salad he made to compliment the rabbit turine), if we had some disgusting Mexican peaches that tasted like nothing, the salad would be ruined.  But what we have (the peaches) are amazing, so it makes our job easier.  It's about amazing products, and as a cook you want to surround yourself with the best products you possibly can.

But it's also about supporting people.  I love the interaction with farmers, and the relationships that we have together.  I'd much rather call up a guy that I know and say "what do you have?  Send it to me." and talk to him for a half hour about his kids, whats going on in his life.  That's important to me, to build those relationships.

Sx10:  You mentioned during the demo that in your kitchen, you don't really use recipes, but ratios, like 16 ounces of lean meat needs 8 ounces of fat back when making a sausage.  I've always thought recipes are better as suggestions, because there are always so many variables.  Could you share your thoughts?

TM:  It's difficult in restaurants because you need to be streamlined.  If you make a dish, it needs to taste exactly like he made the dish the day before, or she made the dish the day before that.  But the food that we are using is ever changing.  I can't stand sterile restaurants.  There are certain restaurants that you go to that have that sterile feel, that people get into a routine of going to.  Food needs to be a little bit dirty.  You can have the most high-end restaurant with the most intricate food, but it needs to be dirty.  There are those heightened flavors, and (the food) is less sterile.  That doesn't mean rustic food to me, dirty food, it means the food is ever changing, bold flavors, it's not cookie cutter.

Sx10:  Do you have a guilty pleasure dish?

TM:  I'm from the East Coast, so I definitely miss cheesesteaks.  But I'm going to have to go with a pork roll.  Every single breakfast menu in the tri-state area has pork roll.  It's almost like Spam.  It's definitely not made from humane things, but it's just something I grew up with and every time I go back there I eat pork rolls.

Sx10:  You have three new businesses opening up soon near Flour and Water.  Can you talk a little about what they are and what the motivation was behind them?

TM:  There is Central Kitchen, which is a new restaurant, then a salumeria, and bar.  Everything goes with the neighborhood, goes as the natural next step.  The salumeria is extremely rustic to-go food, a good day time business to capture a lower price point and serve people that can't afford to go to Flour and Water.  Central Kitchen is little bit more high end; it's a bigger space, but everything (restaurant, salumeria, bar) just kind of flows together.  Everything fits into a circle for what we think is going to be successful and the things that we want to do.

Sx10:  What drew you and your business partner to the Mission as a place to open a restaurant?

TM: The building had been abandoned for 8 years, and I hate the term "up and coming" but there were definitely a lot of things happening in that neighborhood. You could see a surge of people moving there, and nothing was really going on.  It's so far off the beaten Mission path, they're actually trying to change the name.  People say that we are in the Mission, like when people think of 18th street, that corridor there, that just feels miles away from us.

Sx10:  Steeling a question from the Anthony Bourdain playbook, what would be your Death Row meal?

TM:  It might seem a little to open ended; but I would take a spread.  I like big flavors, and I want to taste a little bit of everything.  I just want a bunch of little bites, a bunch of little glasses of amazing wine.  I know it's a bit open ended.

Thank you, Chef McNaughton,  for taking some time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk with me.  It was a pleasure getting pick your brain a little for the readers of this humble little blog.  I hope you all enjoyed getting to know the chef a little better, and be sure to check out Flour and Water as soon as you possibly can.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer Harvest

Where are you greatest food memories created?  Is it at that impossible to get a table, once in a life time, four star restaurant with the out of this world wine list?  Or that cozy neighborhood spot that serves your favorite dish, just the way you like it, every time?

Maybe it is a night in with good friends, eating that favorite home made dish and drinking just one too many bottles of wine?  For me, often it is a rare weekend spent with family and long time friends.  A day out in the garden, picking buckets of tomatoes and other veggies, working together in a crowded home kitchen putting together a feast, with everyone pitching in where they can.

We recently had just that weekend, and it was... well, there really are no adjectives to describe the enjoyment of time spent among the people you love, eating food grown and prepared by hand in a place so familiar you know it blindfolded.  So for now, we'll just call it "home".

I've got no recipes for you this post, just some pictures of friends and family coming together to enjoy each others company and celebrate a garden's summer harvest.  We enjoyed a beer braised pulled pork, some fried okra, corn with garlic and chili powder, some delicious grilled vegetables, and the star of the show my mother's beautiful and exquisite tomatoes fresh from the garden.  Enjoy.

Beautiful tiny carrots

Garden of color

The garden

One morning's harvest

Freshly picked tomatoes

Fried Okra

Grilled squash

A beautiful caprese salad

Colors of the garden
  Our Table

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Beer Braised Pulled Pork

There are few things in this world that I love better than pork.  Really, what is not to love?  It is surely the most flavorful of our noble domestic beasts, and I would argue the most versatile.  So much good can come from one healthy well-fed pig; so many amazing, delicious creations to sooth our appetites for hearty, rustic fare.  Case in point:  Pulled Pork.

I have always been a champion of the simple things; the uncomplicated things, the things that take time, a long time, to get right.  Simple, elegant and versatile dishes with a few basic, exceptional ingredients prepared with the patience to follow through and make sure it comes out perfectly.  And while some people might equate a long preparation and cooking time with a complicated dish, this Beer Braised Pulled Pork could not be simpler.

With only a handful of ingredients, the success of this dish has more to do with just leaving it alone happily bubbling away rather than constantly fussing over it like a Thanksgiving turkey.  Once it gets started just let the magic happen while it fills your house with amazing aromas.

Beer Braised Pulled Pork

2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4- to 4-1/2-pound pork butt (The original recipe calls for boneless pork butt, but that can be a little bit more expensive than bone-in.  Also, the bone gives it a certain, something extra, and is super super easy to take out when the pork is done.)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 medium garlic cloves, smashed
2 medium habanero chiles, sliced into rounds
2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
24 ounces brown ale (Newcastle works very well.)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar

Heat your oven to 300 degrees and arrange the rack in the middle.  Combine salt, chili powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Coat pork butt with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and the cover all sides with the spice mixture.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven (our 5 1/2 quart worked perfectly.)  Once oil is hot, add the pork and brown on all sides, about 15 mins total.  Once browned, remove pork to a plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the fat.  (It works really well if you pour all of the fat out into a glass bowl and then spoon back in 1 tablespoon.  You're welcome.)

Reduce heat to medium and add garlic, chiles and onions.  Cook until soft and onions are translucent, about 10-15 minutes, frequently scraping the tasty bits from the bottom of the pot.  Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the reserved pork and beer.  (At this point, since you bought 2 16 oz bottles of Newcastle, you will have several ounces left over once everything has been added to the pot.  Feel free to enjoy them with my compliments.)  Bring everything to a boil.

Cover, transfer to the oven and cook until pork is tender and falls apart when shredded with a fork, about 3 hours.  It will look a little something like this when it is done.

With tongs, separate the bone from the meat and discard.  Carefully, very carefully, remove the pork from the liquid and place in a large glass bowl.  Over another glass bowl, place a large strainer and pour the liquid and any remaining solids over the strainer.  Allow as much liquid to pass through the solids in the strainer, using the back of a spoon to push it through.  Once enough of the liquid has been strained, place the strained solids back into the pot.  Reserve about 3 cups of the liquid, or certainly all of it if you plan to use it for another purpose.  It is super flavorful and would make an amazing base for a gravy or stock.

Using forks, shred the pork and remove any large chunks of fat you find.  Take your time with this, there is more than you think.  Once you have discarded as much of the fat as you can and shredded the pork enough, place back into the pot with the strained solids.

With your reserved liquid, strain out the fat using a fat separator.  Since I don't actually have a fat separator, I just used a spoon to slowly ladle out the liquid fat.  It took a while, but it was worth it.  It might be time to invest in a fat separator for next time, though.

The original recipe says to separate the liquid from the fat until you have just 1 cup of juice, but I had quite a bit more than that.  No problems there, a little extra pork fat never hurt anyone, right?  Add the cider vinegar and spoon the separated juice in generously, mixing with tongs as you go.  Taste the pork frequently as you mix in the juice, stopping once the perfect balance of flavors is reached.

This being my first foray into the slow-cooked meats, I was impressed with how well this recipe came together.  This pulled pork makes great sandwiches topped with just a dollop of guacamole, or on warm corn tortillas with a little cilantro and white onion.  It was a deceptively simple recipe to prepare, and kept us well fed for several days afterwards.

Although I mangled this recipe around to accommodate lack of equipment and so on, thanks go to the good people at for sending me this and many, many delightful recipes in my Inbox every morning.  I hope you all have as much fun preparing this dish as I did, and as always, enjoy!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Day In The Park

Nothing beats a day at the park.  Warm sun, fresh air, throngs of tourists looking for parking.  This weekend, before all of the Independence Day hullabaloo, the missus and I decided to take a nice long stroll through Golden Gate Park and enjoy the fleeting San Francisco sun.  Oh and hey, whats this?  Sam's Chowder Mobile was there too, serving delicious lobster rolls and fish & chips just behind the music concourse.

We often plan our outings around the places we want to eat, and this day was no exception.  Golden Gate Park can get a bit crowded, but I have been wanting to give the Chowder Mobile a try for a while, and what better way to enjoy lunch than sitting on a park bench, soaking up sunshine, munching on delicious sea food?

While the menu is a little pricey for what you might expect from a food truck, the quality is truly worth your money.  The "shortie" lobster roll is fantastic, sweet flaky lobster chunks stuffed (barely) into a toasted butter slice of bread.  The missus took on the fish and chips which were perfectly breaded and not terribly greasy, as some variations can be.  I will warn though that the order of fries for $4 is actually an enormous order of fries, almost worthy of being a meal unto themselves.  Unless you are sharing them with a couple of people or just really love fries, save your money.

All in all, a great day out in the park.  Yummy food, warm sun, a great walk.  Keep track of Sam's Chowder Mobile on Twitter at to find out where they will show up next.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dishcrawl Through The Mission

On Sunday, the missus and I took advantage of the fleeting sun to join a group of food lovers and food writers for a Mission Street Food Dishcrawl, hosted by the lovely and effervescent Tracy Lee of Battledish, a delightful little venture aimed at getting food lovers out exploring their city and taking part in exciting foodie adventures.

Our day started at sunny and windswept Precita Park in San Francisco's Bernal Heights to sample a few of the plethora of amazing street food carts our city has to offer, as well as offerings from Terra Savia Olive Oils and gluten-free baked goodies from Zest Bakery.  From there we were off, an army of foodies tromping through the Mission to our first stop:  Mission Pie

Luckily, Mission Pie was all but empty on this Sunday afternoon, so we kind of had our run of the place.  After perusing the delicacies behind the glass, the missus and I decided on the pluot frangipane tart with a little dollop of whipped cream.  So simple, so delicious.  Gone in a matter of bites.  Mission Pie has without a doubt the most delicious pies in The City, and it is always a treat to get to stop in and enjoy a slice.  Oddly enough though, on this day we ate pie before we ate anything that resembled dinner.  Oh well.

After pie, we mozied down Mission Street to Rosamunde Sausage Grill, a local favorite that somehow I had never heard of before.  The recommendation from those in the know was to get the beer sausage, so we ordered one to share with grilled onions and sweet peppers.  While one of the least exotic items on a menu that includes chicken cherry, duck, and pheasant, the beer sausage hit the spot.  A smoky spiciness from the beef and pork sausage, sweetness from the onions and peppers, and a little heat from the mustard added up to a perfect snack before moving along to our next destination deeper into the Mission.

I might have mentioned this before, but I love Mexican food.  Love it.  Cannot get enough of it.  And if you are on the hunt for great, real, uncomplicated Mexican food, the Mission is where you go.  Pretty reliably, you can walk down 24th street on any given day and be hypnotized by the wafting aromas of carnitas and carne asada, lulled in by the sounds of sizzling meats on a grill and too-loud soap operas blaring from wall mounted televisions.  This isn't your financial district fancy, sit down, cloth napkin Mexican food, my friends.  This is greasy paper plate piled with tender meat and warm tortillas, juice dripping down your hands, use ten napkins by the time you're done Mexican food.

And one of the best places to find that kind of Mexican food, the best kind in my humble opinion, is at Taqueria Vallarta, a deceptively large eatery along 24th that boasts it's own taco cart separate from the main counter.  Pull up a bench in the dining room and enjoy the colorful and whimsical murals covering the walls.  For a buck and a half per taco, you have your choice of a variety of meats, including the standard carnitas, pollo, carne asada, lengua, and al pastor that sizzle in a round bowled grill being constantly tended by the frantic cook behind the glass.  Tell the man the meats you want, he slaps them into warm tortillas, then you toss on fresh chopped onions, cilantro, radishes, a squeeze of lime, and a little salsa.  Pay the nice lady, and you are ready to chow.

I tucked into a carne asada and a carnitas taco, and honestly couldn't stop thinking about them for the rest of the afternoon.  I truly could have sat at that table stuffing my face with those tacos until closing time.  But we had a schedule to keep, and a few more stops to make before the evening was done.

Around the corner to Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream, where we all sated our sweet tooths with some of San Francisco's best and most creative ice cream.  A crowd favorite was the olive oil ice cream, a strange combination of sweet and savory that really just worked.  Some of the more original concoctions are secret breakfast (a mixture of bourbon and little flecks of corn flakes) peanut butter curry, cinnamon brittle, and the bizarre Jesus juice, a mixture of red wine and Coca-Cola.

To exacerbate the sugary caloric intake, we had a visit from Cindi Fleischer of the Anticupcake company, maker of deliciously diminutive personal sized cheesecakes.  Cindi brought along a small cooler packed with her mini cheesecakes including dulce de leche and and s'mores, two exceptionally creative flavors that wowed the group.  My one sweet weakness has always been cheesecake, and these little treats were first rate.

One more stop just another block up 24th street to La Victoria Panaderia.  A great neighborhood bakery that has been a part of the Mission for over 60 years makes some of the most delicious pan dulce in The City.  The hour was getting late and our appetites were flagging, but a walk through the Mission is never complete without a stop at La Victoria.  While the remaining members of our Dishcrawl group waited patiently for an empanada, the missus and I grabbed a few delicious looking pastries for the road and left to nurse our food comas.

The Dishcrawl was a great day out and about, enjoying the sun, great food, and fantastic company.  It was fun to see some familiar faces and to get introduced to new ones.  Thanks to Tracy Lee for setting up this Sunday afternoon foodie adventure, we cannot wait for the next one.  For more info on the next Dishcrawl and whatever mouth-watering adventures Tracy has planned next, visit the Battledish website and sign up!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Simple Ingredients

I am not a good cook.  And I am not saying that out of humility, fishing for a compliment.  I say that because I am not learned in the refined techniques of turning raw ingredients into perfectly crafted dishes, or pairing delicate flavors together to dazzle the pallet.  I have, for the most part, learned what little I do know by watching, by reading, and of course by making mistakes.

One thing that I know for sure though is that it does not take much to make something that tastes absolutely amazing.  It certainly doesn't take much to turn a few ingredients into a mess of tasteless mush, either, but that typically happens when we try just a little too hard.  The most important thing I have learned is that cooking is applying a certain amount of heat for a certain amount of time to raw ingredients.  Sure, there is some chopping and stirring and seasoning involved, but what gives the dish it's flavor, what causes it to succeed or fail, are the ingredients.

I think so often we are either so snobbishly aloof or so brazenly indifferent to the food we eat that we forget exactly what causes that particular emotional (or lack thereof) connection.  But believe me, the reason so many people seek out the best restaurants while others simply disregard food as anything but fuel will boil down every time to the quality of the ingredients in the food they eat.  The greatest chefs in the world will tell you that any menu begins and ends with the freshest, highest quality ingredients.  As a contrast to that, the lowliest fry cook at any fast food joint in the world will tell you that they don't know where tomatoes come from or when they are in season, they just know a slice of one is supposed to go on top of the patty.

The basic, raw ingredients come from somewhere, and it can't hurt to know where they came from and how many people have handled them along the way.  Obviously, the fresher the ingredient, the more honest and vibrant the flavor, and the fewer hands an ingredient passes through to get to your kitchen, the fresher it will be.  And whatever your ingredient, whether it is fiddleheads or flank steak, the fresher and more flavorful the ingredient, the less preparation needed to turn it into a spectacular meal.

I have never been particularly impressed with dishes that try far too hard to be something they are not; those precariously balanced towers of unnaturally shaped food or the modernist deconstruction of grandma's meatballs seem more like an ode to the chef's ego than real food.  I realize there is a time and a place for a dish prepared with such meticulous and single-minded precision.  But for me food is not precise or scientific; food is warm and organic, heartfelt, and not just a little messy.  The elegance and pleasure of a meal comes not from it's artistic design and presentation, but from it's simplicity; a dish that relies on the quality of just a few exceptional ingredients.

 Those ingredients, the raw materials of your dinner, are what make your meal delicious.  So often the meals I make for my wife and I on a weeknight after a long day at work are made with the least amount of fuss and preparation.  And more often than not, dinner is pretty darn good.  I won't lie; we've had some disasters.  But occasionally, we surprise ourselves and throw together something out of this world delicious.

But not once has it been because I am a good cook.  When you rely on the exquisit flavors of a few exceptional ingredients, you don't need to be.  Pasta with Chanterelle mushrooms and early girl tomatoes, Quinoa with fresh asparagus, sauteed green beans and garlic, or slices of fresh tomato with olive oil.  A few fresh, simple ingredients, prepared with minimal fuss, letting the flavors of your ingredients shine through.  Just add the heat.