Quin's Progress

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Update: Cheese Thingy Located!

Tamarindo's chicharrón de queso

Tamarindo’s chicharrón de queso

Thanks to Frances Y. for hunting down a place here in the Bay Area that serves an honest to goodness chicharrón de queso! Yes, gentle friends, the glorious, crispy column of cheese can be had without traveling all the way to Mexico City — you just have to pop over the bridge to Oakland, to Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana on 8th Street in Old Oakland. As soon as Frances told me she spotted the chicharrón de queso mentioned on Urbanspoon.com’s entry for Tamarindo, I ran right over there.  And lo…it was the real thing.  A little bit thicker than the one I had in Mexico City, so somewhat chewier by the time you get to the middle part, but just as crispy at the edges, and oh so very tasty!

Cactus-Kiwi Margarita

Cactus-Kiwi Margarita

It has a sprinkle of something spicy in it, which was really nice, and is served with some really yummy house-made salsas, which complemented it nicely.  Paired with a cactus-kiwi margarita, it made for the perfect snack for la hora feliz!  But it’s only on the dinner menu, so don’t plan on having it for lunch.

Love and corndogs to you, Frances, and to everyone else, like my girl Nora, who was on the case to find this delicacy here in the ‘hood!  ¡Salud!


Customer Service Is Not Dead a.k.a. My Lifelong Obsession with the Tom Collins

Chena Hot Springs Lodge

Chena Hot Springs Lodge

This past St. Patrick’s Day, I was sitting with my dad in the bar at the Chena Hot Springs Lodge, about 60 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska.  We had been together for a week already, and had kind of run out of small talk, so we were just kind of sitting there quietly, sipping our hot toddies, checking out the various taxidermied animals on the walls, and enjoying our post-hot springs soak state of relaxation.

I was wrong, it wasn't Schweppes, it was Canada Dry (Image courtesy of the bottlecapman.com)

I was wrong, it wasn’t Schweppes, it was Canada Dry
(Image courtesy of the bottlecapman.com)

I don’t really know why this occurred to me at that particular moment, but out of the blue, I said to my dad: “Hey Dad, remember that phase I went through when I was about eight or nine years old, when all I would drink was Tom Collins Mixer?”

My dad furrowed his brow and looked askance at me.  “Tom Collins Mixer?” he said, like he’d never heard of it.

“Yeah, the mixer for a Tom Collins cocktail.  It came in a green bottle, like tonic water.  I think Schweppes made it.  Remember, I used to ask for cases of it for my birthday?”

Then, he started to laugh, and said, yeah, he remembered something about that, and we proceeded to try to remember how I had been introduced to it in the first place (we think it was probably Uncle Frank’s doing), what a peculiar kid I was to get addicted to Tom Collins Mixer at age eight, and pondered if one could still buy the stuff, or if the Tom Collins had gone totally out of style.  It was really good, tasted kind of like carbonated SweeTarts.

That's the stuff!! (Image from Ebay.com)

That’s the stuff!!
(Image from Ebay.com)

As we were talking, the cute young bartendress (who didn’t look old enough to drink legally) went and sat in the corner with a tattered old bartender’s guide.  We didn’t pay that much attention to her, really.  But after a bit, she came over and set a tall glass of something fizzy and vaguely lemony-looking down in front of me and said “Let me know if this is it.”

The girl had gone and looked up the recipe for a Tom Collins in her book, and made me a glass of the mixer from scratch!  How sweet is that?  I was so touched, that I kept to myself that she had missed the mark entirely, and told her she had made it just right.  We have to reward effort, right?  That’s customer service — give your people what they want before they even ask for it.

See?  The vintage ads for Collins Mixer show a maraschino cherry in the glass (Image from Ebay.com)

See? The vintage ads for Collins Mixer show a maraschino cherry in the glass
(Image from Ebay.com)

Since then, I’ve been thinking I should lead a one-woman campaign to bring back the Tom Collins in time for Summer.  So, I hereby officially declare it the QP Cocktail of the Summer for 2013!  You’re going to love it.  It’s really quite light, zesty and refreshing.  I prefer the vodka variety to the classic with gin, but you do what you want.

As it appears that neither Schweppes nor Canada Dry makes Collins Mixer anymore, here’s a poncey British video on how to make a proper Tom Collins from scratch, which I chose mostly because I think the bartender demonstrating for the camera is super adorable — check out that sizzlin’ look at 2:14 when he pours the gin in the shaker!  I have to take issue with the lack of a maraschino cherry as garnish–that is an absolute requirement for a Tom Collins.  But, otherwise, this looks delicious, as does “Mauro”:

Sexy Latin Guy Makes a Tom Collins

Who’s with me?!


Temple of the Corndog

the BarryI am notorious for my love of the corndog.  They just make me happy.  I’m carrying a corndog scepter in the masthead artwork for this site.  Corndogs are listed as my religion on my Facebook page.  You know how some royal crests feature a screaming eagle with two swords or olive branches clutched in its talons?  My crest would have a yodeling penguin clutching two corndogs by the sticks. (Can someone make that happen?  Seriously.)

Although I will, on extremely rare occasion, make my own corndogs from something approximating scratch, the effort of it really kind of cancels out the low-maintenance perfection of the whole corndog concept.  Not to mention, I am profoundly lazy.  Plus, my homemade ones never come out as good as the kind purveyed by carnies and primary-color-polyesther-clad maidens in malls the world over.  I know most of the corndog sources in San Francisco, so I don’t have to wait for a county fair or a carnival to roll through town.  There are even one or two that deliver, in case of a corndog-related emergency. (Don’t judge…it could happen.)

SF GiantsAccordingly, I’ve been seriously remiss in failing before now to check out Batter Up, an establishment entirely devoted to corndog worship, right here in San Francisco!  I’ve actually known it was out there for a while, but for some reason, I didn’t make a beeline straight for it when I heard of it.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I thought it was too good to be true, or it would be like Hotel California — I would never be able to leave.  Who knows.

windowTo be fair, it is way the heck out in the Excelsior District, at the corner of Geneva and Mission, which isn’t exactly on my way anywhere, and, you know, isn’t the prettiest neighborhood San Francisco has to offer.  But, I happened to be over in that neck of the woods the other day, running an errand, and so I decided to stop by. I drove past it twice before I realized it was just a window with a little ledge, and not a storefront.

wallBut don’t let the diminutive space mislead you; the menu is quite ambitious.  Now, I’m a purist at heart.  I don’t really get into high concept corndogs that much.  Fancy organic bison basil sausage in herbed tempura batter with a trio of artisinal dipping aiolis?  Meh.  I prefer the classic.  So, when I saw that Batter Up has a kind of “build your own” menu, featuring an impressive selection of sausages and cheeses, I was initially resistant.

A fellow corndog lover

A fellow corndog lover

I softened up when I realized they do offer the classic, though.  And what a classic it is!  The dog alone is an eight incher!  It’s the kind of magnificent, corny baton that the paparazzi kept photographing Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry deep-throating during the 2011 Republican primaries.  Now, that’s worth driving out to Excelsior for, am I right?

special boardAs much as I prefer the classic corndog, I do have to tip my hat to Batter Up for their innovations.  Not only do they offer the mythical, rarely seen in captivity, “cornbrat” (a corn-battered bratwurst), but they cater to the decisionally challenged.  This is a big plus, in my book.  If you just can’t make up your mind about whether to order your corndog with, say, a Louisiana hot link or a chicken apple or any of the many other tempting snausages on their daily list, well, you just don’t have to.  You can get the Double Play, and have them make it half and half!  Half bratwurst, half turkey and sundried tomato.  Half garlic herb, half chicken Linguisa.  Or, if there’s something seriously wrong with you, half beef, half tofu.  Or, go crazy and do half cheese!  Half sausage and half cheddar or pepper jack!  And if you still can’t decide, order the Triple Play, and put three options on there!  Oh….I got so excited, I forgot to turn my nose up at the non-traditional corndogs, and made myself dizzy pondering the possible combinations.

Gooey, cheesey goodness

Gooey, cheesey goodness

I ended up ordering the “Big Barry”–part bratwurst, part hot link, with a block of cheese in between to keep the sausage halves from fighting.  From the San Francisco Giants graphics on the exterior wall, I’m assuming that this corndog creation is named after Barry Bonds and his giant bat, but I confess I did not verify that.  For purposes of this post, we’ll just say that it is, and go with it.  Anyway, I swapped out the Barry’s suggested cheddar for pepper jack, I guess, because I thought the Louisiana hot link wouldn’t cauterize my tonsils enough all by itself.

The hot link end of the Big Barry

The hot link end of the Big Barry

I must say, it was pretty darned awesome.  The batter was perfectly crispy on the outside, just the right thickness, the sausages were juicy and perfectly seasoned, and the cheese in the center was just gooey enough, without running all over the place.  In short, I approve.  My arteries were not on speaking terms with me after I polished off Big Barry, for sure, but what the heck, I don’t do this every day.

I made quick work of that!

I made quick work of that!

The one suggestion I would make to the owner would be to split the sausage skins lengthwise before dipping the link in batter.  The skin on those gourmet sausages can be a bit harder to bite through, and that is fine if you’re eating it on a plate with a fork and knife, but on a stick, not so much.  But, it wasn’t a big deal, and would be an easy fix.  You could probably just ask the kid at the window to do it for you.  I bet he would, he was nice.

Seriously, who charges corndogs? That's just wrong

Seriously, who charges corndogs?

There's a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in there

There’s a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup in there

They have a dessert selection, too, for those who like their confections skewered and deep fried.  This fad cracks me up.  I always eagerly await the news of what manner of treat is being battered and fried at the county fairs each year, although I seldom indulge.  I don’t have a big sweet tooth, really, I just find it entertaining to hear what people will spear and deep fry.  Wasn’t last year’s invention deep fried Oreos? Or was that the year before?  I can’t recall.  I remember deep fried Snickers bars and Twinkies, and what-have-you.  Well, such are the offerings of Batter Up’s dessert menu.  They do all of the above, plus Kit-Kats, Twix, and…..Gasp!….Reese’s!

Deep fried Reese's

Deep fried Reese’s

Okay, I admit it, I tried the deep fried Reese’s.  I had to.  It’s just so wrong, I figured it had to either be genius or a crime, one or the other.  Well, I was wrong, it’s neither.  It’s just really good.  And it’s small enough to be the perfect couple bites of sweetness to finish off that spicy tower of snausage and cheese, without being too much and making you want to hurl.

Remember what I said about those corndog-related emergencies?  Well, not to worry, because, turns out, Batter Up also delivers via grubhub.com.  I’m not sure how well those dogs will travel, but I’m going to find out!

UPDATE:  Batter Up now allows online ordering on their website (http://batterupsf.com/) for pick-up orders, so you don’t have to wait too long!


Happy Fountain of Boobies

Starbucks always gets my name wrong

Starbucks always gets my name wrong

Yesterday, I went to get my underarms lasered, and if you’ve ever had that done, you know how much I suffered.  So painful!  I swear, I need to take a wooden spoon with me to bite on.  But, as they say, beauty is pain, and if you read my post about Tata the Thai Face Slapper, you know I’m not afraid of it.  Anyway, the laser doctor (who looks and sounds just like Mr. Chow from the movie “The Hangover”) has his office in Union Square.  So, afterwards, I grabbed a latte at Starbucks and went to sit in my Happy Spot to wait for my ravaged armpits to stop stinging.

Ruth Asawa's "San Francisco Fountain." The "HH" stands for Hyatt Hotel that commissioned it in 1970.

Ruth Asawa’s “San Francisco Fountain”
The “HH” stands for Hyatt Hotel

I have several Happy Spots in and around San Francisco, and the one in Union Square is at Ruth Asawa‘s “San Francisco Fountain” on the steps outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Stockton, between Sutter and Post, right next to the Levi’s store.  I could be in the foulest of moods, actively planning my foes’ murders, but if I “set a spell,” as my Granny would say, in this spot, invariably, my smile returns, and my foes get to live to vex me another day.

Superman flying through downtown San Francisco

Superman flying through downtown San Francisco

This fountain is whimsical, magical and thoroughly, unabashedly fun.  It’s a fun-tain.  Completely covered in kajillions of comical little figures that look like they’re fashioned out of Play-doh, it is actually a relief map, of sorts, of the City of San Francisco.  Although I think anyone would love it, it really does take a denizen of our fair City to catch and truly appreciate some of its more obscure details.



It’s built into some brick steps, with the edge facing west at the top of the stairs representing the ocean, and the edge facing east toward the street representing the bay.  Scenes and figures depicting City landmarks, history and life adorn the fountain walls and rim, in roughly geographic order.

Golden Gate

Golden Gate

The Golden Gate Bridge is complete with its ever-present traffic, and its glorious towers extend up the side of the fountain wall and over the top of the rim into the water.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

There’s Coit Tower peeking out on top of Telegraph Hill, Ghirardelli Square, Chinatown, the old Mint, City Hall, the Conservatory of Flowers and the Filbert Steps.  I can’t fit pictures of everything in this post, but, you name it, it’s there.  It really is a full tour of San Francisco all in one place!

"Support Your Local Chicken"

“Support Your Local Chicken”

Every time I come see this fountain, I make my way around it, inspecting it closely, laughing at the little figures and scenes, and I always, without exception, find something that escaped my notice before.  Like this time, I discovered this little chicken truck.  Look, how cute!

IMG_2459IMG_2419This is kind of juvenile of me, I know, but, one of my favorite things about it is, if you look closely, there are naked boobies all over this thing.  Everywhere.  It’s fabulous!  You know my old saying, “Everyone Loves Boobs.”  Young/old, men/women, gay/straight, it doesn’t matter, we’re all united in our affection for boobs.  Boobies are the universal singularity.  You know I’m right.

boobiesIMG_2398There are lots of lounging, tangled lovers sprinkled throughout, too.  I love that.  How can that not make you smile?

A shout-out to Carol Doda, the famous stripper

A shout-out to Carol Doda, the famous stripper, and her fantastic boobs

The fountain was commissioned by the Grand Hyatt in 1970, and created by artist Ruth Asawa, known as the “fountain lady” for her works like this one, as well as the gorgeous mermaid fountain in Ghirardelli Square–another of my favorites.  She molded the figures out of bread dough, and let it dry hard before it was cast in bronze.  She also built a model of the steps that the fountain would be set into in her back yard, to store the bronze panels as they were completed, so she could visualize the map of San Francisco as it took shape.

Lombard Street

Lombard Street

Asawa enlisted the help of a bunch of school kids and other visitors to mold some of the figures, to give life to her idea to “show what many hands working together could do.”  And as the plaque on the sidewalk explains, “[p]erhaps the most remarkable aspect of the fountain is that, in the end, Ruth succeeded in proving her point; it is her work, produced by many hands, and like all great folk monuments, it belongs to everyone.”

IMG_2474Notwithstanding that lovely “this belongs to everyone” sentiment, if I ever find the owner of this tag handle, I will sit on him and pound upholstery tacks into his gums and then squeeze lemon juice over the wounds.  I mean, really.  What the Hell?  Don’t get me wrong, I live in the Mission District, I can appreciate graffiti as street art.  But don’t be tagging works of art.  Especially not one as purely joyous as this one.  It’s bad, bad karma, not to mention, disrespectful and just plain rude.

As with every other time I’ve visited this spot, though, even this crude offense faded away and gave way to laughter and levity as I explored the happy little creatures that inhabit the fountain walls.  Thanks, Ruth, you made my day — again!

The old Fleishhacker Pool--once the largest pool in the world

The old Fleishhacker Pool–once the largest pool in the world

Not just boobies, there's naked bottoms, too!

Not just boobies, there’s naked bottoms, too!

Happy creatures at the beach

Happy creatures at the beach

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Have an Ice Day!

Denali a.k.a. Mount McKinley

Denali a.k.a. Mount McKinley

Y’all have probably heard that old chestnut of a quote erroneously attributed to Mark Twain, about the coldest winter he ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.  Well, there’s no better way to make San Francisco feel almost tropical than to spend a week or so near the Arctic Circle.  This time last week, I was within 130 miles of the Arctic Circle, and had actually started to think the -17 degree cold wasn’t all that bad (although, I declined the opportunity to experience -40 degrees).  Today, back home, I woke up thinking I was having a hot flash or a fever, but it turns out, it’s actually going to get up into the 70s this afternoon, and for SFO, that’s hot.  So, while I revise my thoughts on what I’m going to wear to work to account for the balmy temperature, I thought I would cool it back down a little, at least, on here.

ice champsUnderstandably, much of the Alaskan culture, especially in the northern interior, revolves around ice.  There’s a lot of it.  It’s there most of the year.  So, when life gives you ice lemons, just ask an Alaskan how to make some frozen lemonade, because they’ve mastered the art.  Literally.  Fairbanks is the home to the annual World Ice Art Championships.  Ice sculptors come from all over the planet to compete for prizes for incredible works of art hewn from either single blocks or multiple blocks of ice.  P1010945Teams of artists from the USA, Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Sweden, and even Mexico, build out an entire ice park, complete with a play area with ice slides and ice play houses for the kids, to create the venue for the contest that is the real reason they descend upon Fairbanks every February and March.  Then, they get to work, creating the manifestations of their ice fantasies from giant blocks of ice out in the shade of the trees, so the sun won’t melt them too fast.  chinese iceThen, after the competition is over, the prizes have been handed out, and the public viewing period has ended…they take down the fences, abandon the ice park, and just let everything melt as Spring comes to Fairbanks.  It seems a little sad to let those magnificent works just fade and disappear like that, but, I guess, it’s consistent with the Japanese aesthetic philosophy that the more impermanent something is, the greater its beauty.  At least, that is what I told myself to keep from trying to steal the sculptures and stick them in a freezer to preserve them.  I mean, look at these things!mexican ice champtentaclessamuraiP1010966P1010962

Nenana Ice Classic Tripod

Nenana Ice Classic Tripod

Even the lottery is ice-based!  The Nenana Ice Classic gives anyone in the state with $2.50 in their pocket a shot to win a big pot of cash by correctly guessing the exact date and time the ice on the Tanana River will break in the town of Nenana.  They place a tripod with a clock on it on the ice in the river, and when the tripod falls through the ice, the clock stops and determines the winner.  The pot got up to $350,000 in 2012.  You can track it online, and vote up until April 5th, as long as you’re in the state.  I forgot to enter, but my mental vote is for May 5th at 3:16 p.m.  So….I’ll be watching.  I just like to be right, even if I don’t have money on the game.

Look closely...that bartendress is wearing shorts!

Look closely…that bartendress is wearing shorts!

The odd thing was, it was under 10 degrees even in the hottest part of the day, but the local residents we encountered kept going on and on about how “warm” it was that week.  Seriously, we saw people in shorts, short-sleeved t-shirts, and sandals.  Right after I took that picture to the left of the bartender in shorts, the whole bar went bonkers yelling at some boob outside who was driving his car up the frozen river near Pike’s Landing, trying to stop him from falling through the ice that was thinning because of “how warm it had been that week.”  Tscha, I guess “cold” is relative.

Chena Hot Springs

Chena Hot Springs

Of course, I eventually joined those wackadoos wandering around out in the frozen air half  naked in a bathing suit.  About 60 miles from Fairbanks, Chena Hot Springs is the place to pretend you are one of those Japanese snow monkeys.  You can sit in those geothermically heated mineral waters in the middle of the night and watch the Aurora Borealis (if they come out for you, which they did not for me that particular night).  It’s quite dreamy, simmering away like that in the bathtub hot lake, surrounded by snow.  The problem is getting to and from the lake in the cold!  The walkway is covered, but it is not heated or wind-proof, and that is one icy walk!  You can’t run, because the path is literally icy and you will fall on your ass.  I don’t know about you, but I grew up in San Diego, and they don’t teach kids to walk on ice there.  It doesn’t come up much.  But, notwithstanding the torture walk to and from the lake….it was totally worth it.  The night skies, even sans Northern Lights, are brilliantly starry.  It is so peaceful out there.  Standing in the field all bundled up in snow gear, we could only last about 20 minutes or so before we had to go inside and thaw out.  But, sitting in the hot springs, you can soak away in warmth and comfort for a good long time.  If only they added a swim-up bar, it would be Nirvana!  Believe me, a shot of liquid courage would make that mad dash across the ice back into the changing rooms a lot more bearable.

The winter train from Anchorage to Fairbanks.Yes, there was a bar on board!

The winter train from Anchorage to Fairbanks.
Yes, there was a bar on board!