Wordless Wednesday: Above and Beyond

Millennium Oyster Mushrooms

Roasted King Trumpet Mushroom Trofie Pasta

Charred Sweet Pepper & Mushroom Pizza

Amarosa Potato & Fig Pizza

Apple Pie Pizza

Above Ground Bar & Kitchen
2170 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110

Supernatural Supper

Night slowly descended and glowing orange lights flickered on as the witching hour drew nearer. We donned capes and pointed hats, impractically sloped heels and brittle broom sticks, preparing to take the town by storm. It was Halloween night, better than Christmas Eve in my young mind’s eye, and it was almost time for the show to begin. Untold treasures awaited at every turn, the thrill of the hunt pushing caravans of candy-crazed children deeper into the bowels of the city, seeking a sugar high that comes but once a year. Oversized empty bags at hand, we were ready to cause mayhem.

But then the doorbell rang. It wasn’t an early batch of trick-or-treaters beating us to the chase, but the pizza man. One can’t plunder on an empty stomach, after all.

Equally important to the ritual and tradition, my family always ordered pizza before embarking on the annual Halloween candy crawl. Turns out I wasn’t alone; the busiest night of the year for pizza delivery and takeout is Halloween, beating out even Super Bowl Sunday.

Like ordering Chinese takeout on Christmas Day, I thought it was something quirky and unique to my family, but it turns out everyone else was hip to the trend all along. Of course, these old school pies were nothing special; just your average cheese and/or pepperoni options. Maybe it would have been more remarkable if there was a more thematic meal to suit the moonlit masquerade ahead.

Something with a mysterious, mischievous black crust, dark as night, perfumed with a hint of smoke enhanced by a lightly charred surface. Thin, crisp, yet structurally sound, it has no trouble bearing the weight of abundant autumnal toppings. Classic red sauce can take the night off when pumpkin steps up to the plate. Spread richly over the surface, that creamy, garlicky sauce combines the natural sweetness of everyone’s favorite orange squash with the savory flavors of nutritional yeast. Tender sweet potato slices seal the deal, contrasted with sharp red onion slivers and a touch of hot red pepper flakes for a devilish finish.

Before you send your little ghouls and goblins off to collect their sugary plunder, don’t forget to fill them up with something a bit more satiating. The witching hour will come to pass in the blink of an eye, but the memories of the time leading up to it will last a lifetime.

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Reveling in Rusticity

“Rustic” is one of my least favorite words. Plain and simple, it comes off as a measured euphemism for crude, unpolished, unprofessional, or downright poor quality. Applied to houses, pottery, or cooking, it just strikes the wrong chord, like a polite guest biting their tongue. They really want to tell you that they hate your decorating sense, or they’d rather eat a bale of hay than dig into your latest culinary disaster, but they’re too kind to say that.

It’s not a bad effort at all, they’ll insist. Perfectly rustic!

Nikujaga, literally “meat and potatoes,” is classic yoshoku for the soul. Westernized Japanese food at its finest, it has the unfortunate distinction of fitting that bill as “rustic” to many. Though meant as a term of endearment, I can’t help but hear it as an insult. Sure, it’s a homely stew that would never make headlines or start a viral craze, but there’s a real art to layering in rich flavors using minimal ingredients.

It doesn’t take a master chef to whip up this one-pot meal, but don’t do yourself a disservice by downplaying the deeply satisfying layers of flavors.

Between the salt and fat, protein and starch, it’s a foolproof approach to pure, unadulterated comfort food. Double it for a crowd, halve it if you’re short on ingredients, prepare it in advance, freeze in portions and thaw out as needed; this is a dish that will bend to your will without threatening to break.

It takes real finesse to craft a dish so well-balanced. The last thing I would ever call it is “rustic.”

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Dine Out at Home

Jamaican – Brown stew jackfruit, curry, rice and peas, calaloo, hot sauce, and sorrel

Separated by physical distance, against all odds, communities have drawn closer together in the face of extreme adversity. This is how we survive; together, collectively, this is how we win.

Early Spring – Stewed red lentils with berbere, roasted beets with poppyseed dressing, rice pilaf, and potato chowder

Deftly shifting gears from in-person dinner events and cooking lessons, chef Philip Gelb of Sound & Savor began offering takeout and delivery without missing a beat. Now those same world-class meals arrive direct to diners’ doors, with new menus offered twice a week. Critics are raving not just about the food, but the service itself. At a time when the world is shutting down, the fact that such a service can continue without any perceptible decline in quality is a testament to the chef himself.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, hot and sour soup, kung pao cauliflower, garlic choy sum, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chili oil

Generous donors have gone above and beyond the order form to afford those less fortunate with free meals, too, myself now included. Just being able to mark the calendar with the event, looking forward to this gift, has given me a reason endure another interminable, grueling week.⁣

Ital – Roots soup, rice and peas, jerk cauliflower, stewed black eyed peas, sorrel, and oatmeal cookies


Receiving a warm bundle of homemade of Jamaican jerk cauliflower, or fiery Sichuan mapo tofu, or Ital coconut stew is absolutely life-affirming. Nothing lifts the spirits like a staycation in a spoon. Tasting the world without leaving home is a true luxury, especially when you may or may not even find plain dry rice on grocery store shelves.

Cantonese – Tofu with choy sum soup, black bean asparagus, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon, mung bean sprouts, and chocolate chip cookies

No matter the culinary destination, it’s impossible to go wrong with Phil’s food. Pitch-perfect every time, for a comforting dinner at home, with all the finesse of a chef’s touch.



Indian-Jamaican Fusion – Roasted asparagus with cumin, dal, stewed jackfruit, rice and peas, and oatmeal cookies

Fresh menus are posted regularly on Facebook. Don’t check DoorDash or UberEats or GrubHub or whathaveyou; it’s one-stop shopping with dedicated, unaffiliated delivery to Oakland, Berkeley, El Cerrito, Richmond, Walnut Creek, Concord, and Danville Alamo. Send Phil an email to give yourself, someone you love, or someone that’s struggling the same delicious gift today.

Sichuan – Mapo tofu, ginger gai lan, pickled daikon and lotus roots

Legume Love Affair

Stocked up on dry beans recently? Judging by the empty shelves anointed with “sold out” and “temporary shortage” placards replacing usual price tags, you’re certainly not alone. Always one step behind the trend, pickings were already slim by the time I got motivated to hit the grocery store. A few bedraggled sacks of dusty pinto beans looked the most promising, which isn’t saying much.

Nothing against the little legume, but it doesn’t inspire the same way that, say, chickpeas do. They’re not quick-cooking like lentils. They’re not sexy like fresh fava beans. They’re not my first choice, but by no fault of the bean itself. It’s a personal failing that I couldn’t see beyond their ruddy pink skins to embrace the creamy elegance within. Every bean is worthy of greatness, especially in such lean times, so it was still a prize to snatch up at that late hour.

Rather than taking the typical Texan approach, I cast an eye out to farther afield to Georgia for inspiration. No, not The Peach State, but the eastern republic nestled at the intersection of Europe and Asia. There, lobio (ლობიო), is an indispensable staple, marking the place at every dinner table throughout the year. A thick, rich stew made with pureed kidney beans, finely ground walnut paste, and the tangy smack of tart cherry juice, sour green plums, or unsweetened pomegranate juice gives it a distinctive (and addictive) taste. It’s worth pointing out that the word “lobio” only means “beans,” allowing ample room for variations on the theme. There are a number of varieties of this dish already in the wild, so one based on pinto beans is hardly a stretch.

Some prefer to keep their beans entirely whole, while other cooks roughly mash the tender legumes, and still more chose to puree the mixture to silken sufficiency.

Tkemali, a sharp, fruity sauce made from sour plums is the traditional topper most highly recommended here, but a drizzle of thick, syrupy pomegranate molasses, or even a bold balsamic reduction can provide a similarly satisfying contrast, cutting through the concentrated bean bonanza.

You can serve lobio as an easy one-pot entree, or a side with grilled kebabs, baked tofu, or some other simple meatless protein. Either way, don’t let a lack of any one bean stop you from firing up the stove; all legumes, big and small, are welcome here.

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Wordless Wednesday: Greens is the New Black

Potato Griddle Cakes with vadouvan and spinach. Served with coconut tamarind chutney, shaved fennel, mint, and lime vinaigrette.

Arugula Salad with charred cauliflower, watermelon radish, avocado, and pumpkin seeds.

Grilled Brussels Sprouts with muhammara sauce, pomegranate reduction, and slivered almonds

Mesquite Grilled Brochettes with mushrooms, Mariquita Farm potatoes, peppers, fennel, sweet potatoes, red onions and Hodo Tofu with chermuoula.

Wild Mushroom and Spinach Phyllo with Moroccan chickpea stew, green harissa, roasted carrots, and maitake mushrooms.

Broccoli Pizza with macadamia cheese, baby arugula, and spicy red pepper pesto sauce.

Blackened Hodo Tofu with Carolina Gold hoppin’ john, cabbage slaw, and golden BBQ sauce

DeVoto Orchards Apple Crisp with ginger streusel and coconut sorbet

Greens Restaurant
2 Marina Blvd A
San Francisco, CA 94123