Mint Plaza & Blue Bottle Coffee

“The one across from Square” is what my friend Ben called the Blue Bottle Coffee location, referring to the tech startup across the street. You know you’re in Silicon Valley when coffee shops are referenced according to the nearest hot startup. 

If you were really to get technical about it, the little space is called Mint Plaza—a little yuppie inlet, set off from the busy Mission Street. That part of Mission Street is actually where things get a little dodgy—crack addicts in wheel chairs and kids playing craps and other rough types who scatter out from the shelter on 6th street. People say it’s an area prime to be gentrified with Square and Twitter (both productions by entrepreneur and CEO Jack Dorsey) setting up shop and ever more fancy condos filling the lots. But for now the homeless and bored still congregate around the bus stops and benches. 

But once you turn right onto Mint Street and walk a block down to Mint Plaza proper, the yuppies and startup types appear. Young guys on iPhones and ladies with laptops, women in yoga pants and people helping their dogs to the puppy biscuits on the store counter. A BMW flies past every now and then looking for parking. 

Inside the coffee shop, the brightly lit space is fitted with long, beautiful wood bars. Fit for the cool geeks that the shop attracts, this Blue Bottle location is stocked with “our prettiest and most delicate gear,” says the coffee shop itself. This means fancy Japanese apparatus made of glass—high tech all in the name of good coffee.

The five-light siphon bar is said to be the first of its kind in the U.S.

It produces the coffee at just the right temperature in exactly the right time. 

They also have a selection of simple sandwiches for lunch—like this ham, cheese, and butter ‘wich made from ACME bread. 

Blue Bottle Coffee
Mint Plaza
66 Mint Street, San Francisco
M-F 7-7, Saturday 8-6, Sunday 8-4.

Cold Nights, Hot Tofu Soup

Banchan at Tofu House

For a foggy, Friday San Francisco evening, hot soon dubu chigae was the perfect method of warding off a cold. 

After playing frisbee in the parks of Oakland (several questionable aspects about this activity), Josh suffered from the congestion of both allergies and a cold. Gah. So we dashed our original hipster plans of eating cheese in the Mission and instead headed over to our favorite Korean hole in the wall: My Tofu House.

Soon dubu chigae is a Korean tofu soup, hot both for its scaldingly hot temperatures and spiciness, which makes the broth ember-red from pepper paste. The steam, the pepper, the rich broth—all of it—is the perfect salve for a cold. 

We like My Tofu House because the interior makes you feel like you’re home. Warm lights, soft seats, and kind staff make it easy to relax.

Tofu House

Plus, the banchan, or side dishes, are delicious and plentiful. Each person even get their own smelt, and when they’re not busy, you get refills on the banchan.

Banchan at Tofu House

I always get the combination soup because I like the savory mix of beef plus clam.

Combination Soon Dubu - Tofu House

And Josh likes to get the noodle one—the ramen soaks up all the flavor. It’s one of a few other vegetarian options on the menu, including vegetable and mushroom. (They always use water and not meat broth.)

A satisfying start to the weekend.

My Tofu House

4627 Geary Blvd
(between 10th Ave & 11th Ave)
San Francisco, CA 94118
Neighborhood: Inner Richmond

(415) 750-1818

Rice Cooker Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 can (14 ounce) chicken broth
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni (uncooked)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese ( I like a cheddar/jack blend)
  • My quest for easy, yummy, and healthy meals continues (as it probably does for anybody strapped for time). For some reason, this evening, I started to ponder the possibilities of rice cooker meals. Indeed, my rice cooker is one of my most treasured kitchen items. My aunty actually bought me my current one—a coveted Zojirushi—for me while I was pining for Asian food in college. And tonight it occurred to me that the appliance might work some magic again and produce some easy meals.

    To be honest, I was initially seeking Asian recipes (one of the various ways my Chinese-ness expresses itself, I suppose). One of the few and very simple approaches I've seen before is putting your lapcheong (Chinese sausage) on top of the rice you're steaming. I've also seen someone make Hainan chicken using a flavor packet and her rice cooker. But I was delighted to find this mac and cheese recipe. On cold, San Francisco evenings, who could resist such a comforting favorite? The ingredients are above, and you can click through to see the directions.

    Does anyone else have favorite rice cooker recipes?

    **Update**

    I've found some other neat sites with rice cooker recipes:

    • "5 New Cooking Uses for Your Rice Cooker" from Real Simple (and the rice cooker they picture is the same model as mine!)
    • 7 more suggested dishes from Gapers Block
    • If Martha Stewart were Asian, this is what you'd get
    • A profile on the rice cooker by the New York Times—with links to recipes for rice cooker bibimbap with salmon and spinach and rice cooker chicken biriyani with saffron cream