Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Shopping Locally

For the Holiday shopping season, have you considered doing all your shopping in your neighborhood?

It's not a bad idea to support your local merchants, big and small, depending on where you live. Given the rainy start that we've gotten off to in Northern California, shopping close to home can be a lot less stressful than traveling any distance, and, you will be supporting your community's tax base.

My dear friend Barbara lives in San Francisco's Marina District. A few weeks ago, we met on Union Street, one of the Marina's main shopping streets, for lunch and a little shopping.

San Francisco is a city of neighborhoods, many with shopping districts filled with unique shops, restaurants, and services. Of course, San Francisco has Union Square with just about every big-name store and its theatre district, but, if you are looking for lighter crowds and personalized service, a neighborhood shopping district is the place to go.

Barbara and I started our visit with lunch at Café des Amis, a bustling French bistro.

If a French restaurant has a Croque Monsieur sandwich, a French version of grilled ham and cheese, on it's menu, both Barbara and I always order it.

Café des Amis's menu features not only a Croque Monsieur, but also, a Croque Madame, both for lunch and for dinner. The Croque Monsieur is grilled ham and cheese and dijon mustard which is topped with Sauce Mornay. The Croque Madame adds a fried egg on top of the sandwich.

For dessert, we shared the very rich and tasty Chocolate Mousse.

It was a delightful leisurely lunch. I felt like I was back in Paris.

Our shopping was mainly at BeGood Clothing, a small boutique with clothing and accessories for men and women.

BeGood Clothing is owned by two young men, both with previous corporate business experience, who decided to run their own socially-responsible business.

One of BeGood Clothings, co-owners is the son of a friend of a friend of mine in Connecticut. That's how I heard about the store.

With this disclaimer, I must say that I am very impressed and tempted by the store, its merchandise, and its enthusiastic and knowledgeable co-owners, Mark Spera and Dean Ramadan.

Their business mission is to use their sales as a way to help people all over the world. Each of the more than 35 brands and designers that they feature in the store supports a cause. For many items, the purchase of one will provide one of the same for a needy person somewhere in the world. Other purchases generate support for environmental and humanitarian causes. Mark or Dean have hand-picked the companies whose brands they carry; they will gladly share with you information about the causes supported by each item in their store.

As for the merchandise, it is fashion forward, without being extreme. I want Barbara to buy this dress. I'm modeling a jacket that I'd like to buy. And, prices are very moderate for the style and quality.

The store itself is a tribute to sustainability, with a floor made of recycled wood and eco-friendly fixtures.

When Jim and I first came to the Bay Area in the 1970s, Union Street was the "happening" street and one of our favorite destinations for a day of wandering in and out of shops and galleries. While Union Street has changed over the years, it still has the same caché.

Remembering Ted 2012

Well, the years pass by and it is now 4 years since our dear friend Ted was murdered.

But, Ted lives on in the memories of many, including our little group. Once again, we got together for dinner at my house to celebrate our friendship and to remember Ted.

Our little group of Mary Ann, Liz, Ray, Jim, and me always enjoy these get togethers.

We eat, we drink, we catch up on our lives, and we simply relax. Four of us were close longtime friends of Ted and one, Liz, never met him, but was a neighbor. Liz is the one who rescued the one of his two cats who survived the fire that destroyed Ted's house.  We are a special group.

This year, we all shared in making the meal.

Liz brought some hors d'oeuvres (cranberry goat cheese log with baguette slices), Mary Ann made a salad (arugula, dried cherries, pecans, sherry vinaigrette), and Ray brought wines (very tasty Red and White).

I'm still reliving my cooking tour in Provence, so my hors d'oeuvres offering was the black olive tapenade and cheese sablés from my classes. And my soup and dessert were also from cooking class recipes.

Our main course was Mary Ann's salad, which I named "Salade Marianne," and Soupe au Pistou, a hearty vegetable soup with Pistou, a French version of pesto.

With much trepidation, I attempted the Red Wine Tart that I so enjoyed in Provence.

Amazingly, it came out perfectly. Before my cooking tour, I'd never even heard of a tart with a filling made with red wine.  It looks like some kind of chocolate tart, until you take your first bite!! Truly amazing! And, I served it with Lavender Ice Cream. We did make lavender ice cream in Provence, but, since I don't have an ice cream maker, I have not considered trying to make it from scratch.  As luck would have it, I've found Lavender Ice Cream at Whole Foods and it is outstanding and a perfect complement to the Red Wine Tart.

We laughed a lot and lingered at the table until close to midnight, enjoying the company and thanking Ted for bringing us together again and again.

Ted, we do miss you, but will never forget you.

And, for all the wonderful meals that you've prepared for us, we know, our gatherings at the table are a true tribute to you.