beginning again.

the fall semester is underway, and it’s my last as a full-time student in the gastronomy program at boston university. hard to believe.

as I’m getting settled back in boston, my legs are adjusting from the miles-long bike commutes to the mission to long walks across the BU bridge, through cambridge, to campus. this fall brings a lot of good with it: multiple San Francisco visitors, my cousin’s wedding next weekend in kalamazoo, and a pending trip down to new york. it feels good to move to an already-familiar place.

all throughout my work with la cocina over the summer, I had been contemplating ideas for my thesis. I was interested in aspects of the incubator model, and its ability to be transferred to other neighborhoods around the country; in other market-entry incubators, including markets like Off the Grid and The Underground Market; and the potential of incubators like La Cocina to continue to foster the growth of small food-business start-ups in San Francisco. What impressed me over and over again with this non-profit in particular was the depth of commitment to their clients: each email sent to a volunteer, each jog up the stairs to the storage cages in preparation for a cooking class, and each organizational meeting for the street food festival–was done with the goal of showcasing these culinary entrepreneurs. whatever form my thesis ends up taking, I hope it will at least be a small reflection of the passion that runs La Cocina. the work they’re doing is changing lives in the Mission District, mine included.

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k-town with roy choi

400 miles north of los angeles on highway 5 last weekend the warnings signs for carmageddon began. packed into a toyota camry with a trunk full of camera equipment, we drove on; passing by the san luis reservoir and finally snaking through los padres national forest before emerging in the hollywood hills. my first trip to los angeles went astonishingly well.

i say this not just because of the anti-climactic two-day closing of interstate 405; but to the nature of our trip. along with three clients and three staff members from la cocina, i experienced a small portion of what gives vibrancy to the city. for five hours on saturday afternoon, chef roy choi  gave us a true taste of koreatown: beginning with rotisserie chicken at pollo a la brassa, ending with the blood sausage and pickled daikon near macarthur park. the nexus of our questions was street food; the fusion of cuisine, and the harsh reality of building a successful business. a short documentary of our day is in the works; but for now i’ll share these images and say thanks to the kogi team. i’m already looking forward to my next trip south, and especially to those views from the 405.

strawberry jam.

it’s been a week of firsts. first time living (actually, living) in san francisco, first time i’ve attempted to rely on a bike as my only means of transportation, and my very first attempt at making strawberry jam.

even though i miss my friends in boston, the break from mugar library and a full course-load is oh so welcome.

for the next three months, i’ll be working most-of-the-time as a policy intern at la cocina; spending another part of my time at la cocina’s kiosk at the ferry building, and devoting the rest to the food scene in the bay area. that third leg not only constitutes an ever growing must-visit restaurant list, but a few food projects of my own. the tartine book is staring at me from the table, but i went backwards and started with the jam.

strawberry jam

slightly adapted from food in jars

3 cups stawberries, stemmed and sliced in half

1 1/2 cup sugar, divided

1 lemon, zested and juiced

combine the berries in a large bowl with half of the sugar, and macerate for at least 4 hours.

after 4 hours (and up to 3 days in the fridge), combine the strawberries with the remaining sugar in a saucepan. bring to a boil, then cover and simmer until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. test the consistency on the back of a metal spoon for readiness. the jam should be relatively thick on the back of the spoon, but still slightly runny. add the juice and zest and cook for 5 minutes longer.

meanwhile, prep three half-pint jars and their lids. prep canning materials. pour the jam into the three jars, wipe the mouths of the jars clean and seal. proceed according to the canning directions.