EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 old | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'old'

Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake

Blum's Coffee Crunch CakeIf you want a taste of old San Francisco you have to go to Blum’s. Unfortunately it closed sometime in the early 70’s. I remember going there a few times. My Grandmother would take me and always make sure she had her proper hat and gloves when she went there.

My family was not a rich family, but they did what they could and would set aside money for special things. My Grandmother tended to frequent places that wealthy women would go to shop and Blum’s was the place they ended their hard day of shopping at. It was a candy store and soda fountain that also served meals I don’t remember much other than the huge sundaes my Grandmother would buy me when we’d go there and she would sit and have her cup of coffee and delicately nibble on her Coffee Crunch Cake.

Blum’s Coffee Crunch Cake has been popping up for me recently enough that I had to find out more information about it. Some people refer to it as Blum’s coffee cake, but it’s not a coffee cafe it’s a coffee flavored cake that has some crunchy toffee bits on top. The story goes that Ernest Weil who managed Blum’s in San Francisco came up with the idea when a candy making friend made a mistake and over cooked some coffee flavored candy and it sort of turned into an aerated toffee. Not exactly the way it was supposed to look and it was a bit on the ugly looking side too. Ernest helped him out by smashing it up and putting it on top of a lemony cake with coffee frosting. It was a hit. Apparently it was a big hit that I was too young to realize.

As it turns out a year after making it for Blum’s Ernest Weil left and opened Fantasia Bakery in Laurel Heights. This is remembered because of their florentine cookies my Mom used to get when we’d visit her best friend who lived nearby. These weren’t like the florentines you get in any other store or bakery. They were so sinfully good that my Mother used to joke that she’d have to go to confession after eating one. Odd considering she had given up being a Catholic before I was born.

Today Blum’s and Fantasia are gone, but there is a place called the Yasukochi’s Sweet Stop located in Mira’s grocery store that makes it. They run out frequently I’ve been told so it’s best to call ahead first to see if they have any. If you’re not afraid of getting your hands dirty, I’ve managed to find the recipe for you:

Barbary Coast Bunny

Barbary Coast BunnyI figured this would be a fun one to start the weekend off with. While I was looking for movies filmed in San Francisco I actually found a cartoon that was based in San Francisco and it was none other than Bugs Bunny himself. While they do use a few very NOT San Francisco phrases like calling it ‘Frisco it’s still a fun look at how cartoons viewed old San Francisco.

Here’s the story behind the cartoon according to Wikipedia:

Bugs is tunneling cross country to meet his cousin, only to run head first into a boulder which is a large nugget of gold. Bugs is considering keeping the gold safe, while Nasty Canasta sees this and sets up a simple stand claiming to be a banker who can safely store Bugs’ gold. The rabbit falls for the ruse. When Bugs decides to ask for his gold back, Canasta claims the bank is closing and traps the rabbit in the folded up stand while he rides away with the gold. Furious, Bugs vows revenge.

Six months later, Canasta has used his ill-gotten gains to start a casino in San Francisco which is shamelessly rigged in the house’s favor. Bugs enters the casino in the role, playing a hopelessly naive country boy who confuses a slot machine for a telephone. When Bugs uses it to phone his mother for some money, he hits the jackpot much to Canasta’s shock. Hoping to recoup this loss, Canasta convinces Bugs to stay for a game and thinks he is maneuvering the apparently easy mark into playing a game of roulette on the pretense of it being a game of marbles. To build his would-be victim’s confidence, Canasta arranges for Bugs to win on his first spin, but Bugs develops a winning streak on the same number (#23). Having nearly lost everything, Canasta covers #23 with a block of wood and sets the wheel up for the marble to stop on #00, but when it does his subsequent striking the table in triumph causes the ball to accidentally bounce and hammer into the knot of the block of wood, thus Bugs wins again.

Now desperate to win back Bugs’ now massive winnings, Canasta convinces Bugs to try playing draw poker and Bugs literally draws a picture of a fireplace poker. Bugs then pretends to misinterpret Canasta’s description of the importance of having the biggest hand to win by blowing up his glove into a giant balloon. Canasta loses his temper at his would-be victim’s obtuseness. Bugs threatens to walk out, forcing Canasta to grovel in order to coax Bugs to return to the game. Canasta soon regrets that when Bugs, after staking all his money, promptly wins with a Four of a Kind consisting of Aces (Two pair. A pair of ones, and another pair of ones), trumping Canasta’s Full House.

Now with his casino’s bank irreparably broken at the hands of this simpleton who seems physically incapable of losing, Canasta decides to rob Bugs at gunpoint on the pretense of it being another game of chance. Bugs, still keeping in character, naively spins the revolver bullet cylinder like a slot machine and a mass of coins inexplicably pours out the gun’s barrel.

As Bugs’ departs with all the casino’s funds and more, Canasta greedily tries to win money from his gun, only to shoot himself in the attempt and collapses. Bugs pops in and says to the audience (in his normal voice): “The moral of this story is: ‘Don’t try to steal no 18 karats [carrots] from no rabbit.'”

I was able to find a copy of it on youtube so here’s what Warner Bros. thought about old San Francisco. Enjoy!

Cast Iron Cookoff

When my Mom died we had an awful task on our hands. We had to go through all the junk she had collected over the years that was useless to us now. We happened to save a few things that we weren’t sure why until I came across a piece that struck me as something I had to play around with. My Mom’s old cast iron pan.

This pan was a Wagner #10 pan and my experience with cast iron only had been in the Boy Scouts when we were camping and from what I know now they didn’t teach us how to handled the cast iron pots and pans very well. My Mom’s old skillet had seen better days and I wish I took a before picture just to give you an idea what it looked like before I started reconditioning it. I did find a couple of pictures below which are pretty close to what it looked like before I started, but it was actually worse than this.

I started searching google for different ways to recondition a cast iron pan and found a lot of information, but most of the techniques were minor variations on the same thing.

1. Coat the pan with an oven cleaner and leave it for up to a week spraying more on every few days
2. Wash it with soap and water
3. Use fine #000 steel wool to remove any of the left over bits that haven’t come off
4. Re-season the pan

photo from black iron dude's blogThat’s all pretty easy stuff to do so I started off to work on it. I sprayed it down and had it bagged up in my basement where I’d re-spray it every few days and then one day when I was looking at some info I found on cast iron pans I found the following information, The Wagner Sidney, OH plant was closed in 1903. Uh, wait a sec, WHAT?! I started looking up pictures and found an exact match for my Mom’s pan and it turns out that I had a cast iron pan sitting in a caustic solution for close to a week that turns out she got from her Mom who got it from her Mom. I had my Great Grandmother’s pan from the late 1800’s to beginning of the 20th century sitting in a death bath of evil chemicals.

I yanked it out of the bag and started washing it off to make sure I hadn’t ruined it. I had forgotten something, it’s cast iron. The pan was fine, but still had a few spots of over a hundred year old seasoning left on it so I put it back and sprayed it some more. When I was finished I added another step that the Black Iron Dude suggested of soaking it in two parts water to one part white vinegar to counter act the lye in the oven cleaner.

Now it was time to re-season the pan. This is where people differ in their views. Some like it hot others like it not so hot. I chose the not so hot since some people seem to like this first and then move up to the hotter seasoning plus I’m not sure our pot holders would help me with a red hot 550° skillet. I put it in the oven after washing it off set to around 150° for about 15 minutes to make sure it was completely dry. I pulled it out and turned the oven up to 350° and started rubbing some coconut oil all over the inside and outside of the pan. It then goes back into the oven for about an hour and then when you let it cool down it’s seasoned. I’m going to do this a total of three times so I’m not finished yet, but you can see how far it’s come from the picture. After the first seasoning you can see that the pan is a little spotty, but it’s still smooth as glass on the inside.

I’ll start off Sunday by cooking eggs in it. On a side note the inside of this pan is a smooth as glass even before I started to restore it. That’s a sign that it’s an old pan. Looking at this pan taught me something in that when I got married 16 years ago we were given a lot of pots and pans, almost all non-stick. Most of those aren’t what you would call non-stick today. The teflon wears down and just doesn’t exactly do what it’s supposed to after awhile while friends of mine who swear by a good seasoned cast iron pan say it never sticks. Here I’ve got a pan that lasted over 100 years and was pretty easy to bring it back to looking better than new. I’m hoping to get another 100 years out of the pan now. If this works out like I hope it will our non-stick pans will be going away very soon and I’ll be adding more antique cast iron [hint, it’s usually cheaper than new non-stick if you want to do the work].

Stay tuned for more info.

I Miss The Independent Grocers

I’ve been frustrated a bit lately when I’m out shopping. Mostly because the people who work in the chain grocery stores don’t really care about what they’re selling, but about their meager paycheck that they get each week. When I can’t find something and ask one of the stockers they usually don’t know what I’m talking about. It didn’t used to be like this and I do kind of miss the old days.

I’ve been cutting back on my salt and realized that malt vinegar on a baked potato or fries didn’t make me feel a need for salt. So I’m in a store and couldn’t find it and asked a stocker where their malt vinegar was. She scratched her head because she didn’t know what it was. If I asked her where the Prid nam plah [Thai fish sauce] she would have been able to show me in a second where it was. I guess at that particular grocery store which caters to mostly Asians they don’t have to think about anything else.

We were shopping at another version of the same chain and I couldn’t find the Bisquick. I happened to see a stocker that was fairly caucasian looking so I asked him where was the Bisquick. His response? Beeskweek? vat is dat? [That’s my best insulting sounding version of a Russian accent]. I finally got through to him what it was and he took me to it, but as I said before, it didn’t used to be like that.

My Mom always hated chain grocers and always wanted to support the local so we went to Foremost Market as a kid. Mark and Vic and Lynn were like family to us.  Their prices were competitive with the chains, but that just meant that they had to work harder. These three were Armenian I think, but they knew their customers well enough that one night we got a phone call that I answered and heard, Eric this is Mark tell your Mom that we’ll have fresh basilico and tagiarini in early tomorrow. My Mom always made pesto before it became cool and it was being slathered on everything and Mark knew that and he knew that by telling my Mom that she’d be in first thing in the morning to pick it up and we’d spend time making pesto sauce when I got home from school.

If I stopped by on my way home from school to grab a soda I’d always be told what was good so my Mom would know what to buy. There was always one of them going through the produce yanking the stuff that had gone bad instead of leaving it there figure someone will be stupid enough to buy it. I miss Foremost Market. Everything that wasn’t boxed or canned came from somewhere close by and they even sold Wright’s Pink Popcorn and regularly carried It’s-its. I suppose I shouldn’t focus looking back on the old days, but at least back then they were more helpful. As a side note, Foremost was the first place I got to try prosciutto di parma and it was the industrial made crap that the chains sell today.

Why when I was your age…

Yes, I do believe the years are beginning to catch up with me so I decided to take a look back today on what it was like growing up in San Francisco back in the 60’s so let’s all jump in the wayback machine and take a look back at the good ole days. This won’t be the most politically correct article I’ve written, but back in my youth the phrase politically correct didn’t exist.

First. When I was a kid we still had rotary phones and we didn’t have to dial a 1 before calling long distance because hardly anyone ever made a call out of the US. It was rare that you made a call outside the state let alone the country.

NASA’s computer system had less power than your smartphone of today yet they were able to send a man to the moon. Today we throw birds at pigs with our computing power.

We knew who our neighbors were. When my Mom died and the local firefighters came to our house it turned out that one of them was a friend from way back when and he took my mind off things by us pointing at the houses up and down the block and naming who used to live in all the houses. Because of this we always had someone to turn to in time of need. If there was a problem in your house you could always turn to your neighbors to help you out.

Sand, it was everywhere. When my parents bought the house in 1954 their backyard was nothing but sand. My Dad used to toss their dog over the back fence and let it run around in the sand dunes behind our back fence. The only reason we have a garden today was because my Dad used to cart in bags of dirt during trips outside the city and dug out the sand and through it over the back fence and replaced it with dirt. He and our next door neighbor got together and even terraced both our back yards into four levels with each area having a different purpose. The only sand that remained was in a bricked in sandbox that was made for me until they realized that the local cats that were allowed outside were using it as their own luxury catbox.

Because of the sand if you lived below Sunset boulevard and didn’t put your car in the garage every night that and the salt air would turn your car into a rust bucket in under five years. Most of the cars down by great highway were rusted out hulks that you probably wouldn’t even believe could be driven, but they were.

If you came from anywhere South of California you were Mexican. We didn’t bother thinking about the other countries even though most of my Mexican friends weren’t from Mexico, but usually Central America. Also back then Latino’s were classified as White, Spanish surname. We didn’t use the term Caucasian which I think started in the 70’s. We did have much more ethnic diversity back then as there were kids I went to school with that were first generation from Ireland, Germany, France, England, India, Japan, China, Italy, Sweden, etc. Sure a lot of them fell under the White category, but there were still many cultural differences.

To quote Herb Caen, Remember when spaghetti was ethnic food? Yes, Italian food wasn’t mainstream and neither was Japanese or Chinese food. I remember when my family was a bit down on their luck we would eat pesto regularly because it was cheap to make and all the other kids would hear of this green sauce you’d put on spaghetti [which was pretty much what any kind of pasta was called] and would they would say, ewww, gross. Now some fast food restaurants use pesto like it was ketchup. Most of the Japanese or Chinese food you would buy back then wasn’t really from the country, but adapted by immigrants from American ingredients. Oh, and back when I was a kid, Japanese restaurants were owned and run by Japanese people. I ordered some food from a Japanese restaurant locally and said arigato when I got my food and the waitress said, huh? You’d never hear that if you said gracias at a burrito joint.

Our playground back then were filled with sharp redwood tanbark chunks and had a few hard metal play structures. Nothing soft and bouncy like you have today and we didn’t have to wear helmets when we rode our bikes. I still have scars to show from my playground and bike riding days to prove it.

Change will always happen. I’m not saying it was better back then, but we didn’t think as much as we do today. Maybe it’s because our parents were all drunks because back then you had cocktails before dinner, an after dinner drink or three and of course there was the night cap before you went to bed. In order to be labeled an alcoholic you had to drink a whole lot. I have to say though that back then at least Harvey Milk wasn’t as gay as the movie Twilight.