I’m thrilled to host a Dinner Party with Kitchit that will support Y.E.S. (Youth Empowerment Summit) the beneficiary of my annual Pride Party (see last years event). There is nothing I love more than cooking and feeding friends! It will be a night of marvelous surprises paired with exceptional food! This will be a night of wild wining, delicious dining, and spellbinding socializing.

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Pride Dinner Party with Kitchit & Juanita MORE!
Tomatillo and Chipotle Salsa with Homemade Tortilla Chips
Spicy Carrot Canapé
Garden Vegetable Salad
Slow Roasted Pork with Salsa Verde and Ricotta Toast
Summer Galette with fresh whipped cream
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Such a great story from Ina Jaffe at NPR.

A healthy diet is good for everyone. But as people get older, cooking nutritious food can become difficult and sometimes physically impossible. A pot of soup can be too heavy to lift. And there’s all that time standing on your feet. It’s one of the reasons that people move into assisted living facilities.

But a company called Chefs for Seniors has an alternative: They send professional cooks into seniors’ homes. In a couple of hours they can whip up meals for the week.

Chef Sina Sundby cooks delicious, nutritious meals in Jim Schulz's home in a suburb of Madison, Wis.Chef Sina Sundby cooks delicious, nutritious meals in Jim Schulz’s home in a suburb of Madison, Wis.

For more than a year, Chef Sina Sundby’s been doing just that for 85-year-old client Jim Schulz, who lives in a suburb of Madison, Wis. Her starched white chef’s jacket tops a pair of blue jeans, while her strawberry blond hair is tucked under the traditional floppy chef’s hat. She’s a blur, chopping and mixing while pans sizzle on the stove. Schulz watches, but doesn’t interfere.

“We chatter a lot when it’s just the two of us,” says Schulz. “And even if I don’t say anything, she just keeps talking.” Schulz and Sundby both laugh. They know this story.

“I stepped out of the room once and I heard her talking and I said, ‘Who are you talking to?’ ” Schulz says. “And she said, ‘I’m talking to the food.’ ” “I do talk to the food,” says Sundby, proudly.

Schulz says his diet was "lousy" before Sundby started cooking for him.Schulz says his diet was “lousy” before Sundby started cooking for him. Schulz’s conclusion: “That’s what makes it so good, it listens to her.” The food is also good because Sundby knows what Schulz likes.

So this week’s dinners will be Salisbury steak with mushroom gravy, crab cakes with remoulade sauce and asparagus, chicken divan with fresh spinach and chicken pot pie with vegetables. And a twist. “Jim likes biscuits,” explains Sundby. “So instead of the pie dough, we’re gonna do biscuits.” Schulz never made this kind of stuff for himself. When it comes to the kitchen, he’s mastered the art of boiling water. His wife was a good cook, he says. But she died 14 years ago. So he ate whatever he could buy frozen and shove in the microwave. “I was anemic, I’d lost a lot of weight, and it was [because] my diet was lousy,” he says. But Schulz says that according to his doctor, that’s no longer a problem. “The last time I saw him was three months ago,” says Schulz. “And he said, ‘We can go a lot longer [between appointments], you’re doing so well.’ ”

According to some estimates, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million seniors living in their own homes who are malnourished. In long-term care facilities, up to 50 percent may suffer from malnutrition. This leads to increased risk for illness, frailty and falls.

The family didn’t take it lightly, either. If only there had been a way for her to have the food she needed and remain in her home, they thought. Then, about two years ago, the Allmans’ 21-year-old son Nathan, a University of Wisconsin student, turned his family’s longing into a business. He entered the idea for Chefs for Seniors into the University’s Burrill Business Plan Competition. And he won his category. “That’s how we received our startup funds,” he says: $1,000, plus mentoring. Enough, says Nathan Allman, that “the next week my dad quit his job and we were off and running.”

Part of the business plan is keeping the service affordable. In addition to the cost of the food, the client pays $30 an hour for the chef’s time. That’s usually a couple of hours a week of cooking and cleaning up the kitchen. There’s also a $15 charge for grocery shopping. So clients pay on average $45 to $75 a week.

And while there are lots of personal chefs out there and services that deliver meals for seniors there are few services specifically for older adults that prepare food in their homes.

Chefs for Seniors now has 50 to 60 clients and employs around 10 chefs. They talk about expanding their territory. They talk about franchising. But right now, Barrett Allman still consults personally with every new client and is there the first time the client and the chef meet. He cooks for the most challenging cases himself: the people with severe disabilities or people in hospice care.

“I can’t solve all the problems in that senior’s life, but as a chef, the least I can do is make them food,” Allman says.

Less than two hours after arriving at Jim Schulz’s house, Sina Sundby is packing the food she made into single-portion containers, ready for the microwave. Aromas of chicken, mushrooms, biscuits, asparagus and chocolate chip cookies linger.

“When she leaves, I’m exhausted,” says Schulz.

But he’s got a week’s worth of nourishing dinners to build up his strength for his chef’s next visit.

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Friend and Tablehopper Marci Gagliardi recently asked a bunch of us night owls where they like to eat late-night for Refinery29.

“If anyone knows a thing or two about late-night eats in San Francisco, it’s bartenders, chefs, wine directors, nightlife writers, and drag queens. So, we hunted down these nocturnal experts to share their favorite post-midnight haunts (and what to order), for the next time your hunger strikes during the wee hours. People love to complain about S.F. restaurants closing their doors at 10 p.m., but the only way to promote a vibrant after-hours dining scene is for us to support the one we already have. So, click through these pro tips on where to head after last call, whether you’re craving pupusas, potato skins, or even kale salad. (Yes, really. Because — San Francisco.)”

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I just love the ring of  ‘Juanita’s Carnitas’. If you’ve haven’t prepared carnitas at home you are in for a treat. There is really nothing like the smell of the slow braising pork coming out of your kitchen. San Francisco has a taqueria on just about every block and they are featured on every menu. I mean a great taqueria is  judged by their salsa, pickled jalapeños and the carnitas – right? These are very simple to make at home.

Juanita’s Carnitas

½ white onion, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
6 garlic cloves
1-teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
4 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1-tablespoon kosher sea salt
1-tablespoon lard
4 1/2 pounds boneless pork butt, cut into 4-inch chunks
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, about 3 oranges
1 large piece of orange zest
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

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In the jar of a blender place the water, onion, garlic cloves, thyme, black pepper, cumin, cloves, bay leaves and 1-tablespoon salt. Puree until the liquid is smooth.

Salt the pork chunks lightly while heating a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the lard and brown the pieces of pork on all sides about 15 minutes.

Once the meat is brown pour the onion and spice mixture into the pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes. Add in the orange juice, zest and sweetened condensed milk, stir and let it come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low to low and cover.

Cook covered for 1-½ hours, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and check meat for tenderness. Let the meat continue to cook and the liquid reduce about 10 minutes.

Remove the carnitas with a slotted spoon and shred with a fork, if desired before serving you can refry the meat in a separate pan with some lard until crispy. Or serve them straight from the pot.

They make delicious tacos.

Juanita's carnitas tacos

Juanita’s carnitas tacos

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News today of bar Jules closing after brunch this Sunday is a sad thing for Hayes Valley. It’s been my favorite burger spot for lunch for years. Here is an interview I did with Jessica for Apartamento Magazine.

I’ve always loved a neighborhood restaurant. I’ve actually met some great friends at local eating establishments – you know you’ll at least have one thing in common, and thats the food.

When you eat out in Hayes Valley it feels more neighborly than almost any other district in San Francisco. Many restaurants here have seemed to find their niche and become great staples in our city, garnering cultish obsession and faithful followers in the devoted eaters that call this neighborhood home. A great example is Hayes Street Grill which has been serving opera, symphony and ballet patrons for more than 30 years and continues to stay true to its clientele with its passionate staff and their signature dishes.

Resting on the western edge of Hayes Valley at the end of the strip, bar Jules is six years old. To the uninitiated, this little 38-seat restaurant may be just another in a burgeoning atmosphere of San Francisco institutions committed to serving sustainable fish, meats, and produce from the best small farmers in the area but for all of the years that I’ve been dining and shopping on Hayes Street bar Jules has managed to virtually redefine the lines of what is considered to be Hayes Valley. The location offers a feeling that is both edgy and sophisticated.

Owner Jessica Boncutter has worked at Zuni Cafe and as the chef at Hog Island Oyster Co, two of my favorite places to eat in San Francisco. Here she spends her time working the restaurant as a mother would in her own home. The menu at bar Jules isn’t fancy or punched with tons of trendy ideals – in fact they don’t even bother printing one out for you, it’s written on a blackboard.

The wonderful thing about bar Jules is that it feels so much like an integral part of the community, you’d think it had been where it is longer than it has.

How long have you been in Hayes Valley?
Bar Jules opened in November of 2007.

What attracted you to open your business in Hayes Valley?
I loved that it felt both edgy and sophisticated at the same time.

More than any other Hayes Valley restaurant, Bar Jules appears to be a classic model for a neighborhood institution. Was this your intention when you opened it?
Thank you! Yes that was my intention above everything else!

Your menu changes so often – what have your regulars made you keep on it?
I think the regulars like that the menu changes. It feels like going over to a friend’s house for dinner.

What have the challenges been in basing your restaurant around a menu that changes daily?
Writing menus everyday can be hard. Sometimes you think dang it would be much easier if I had opened a Houston’s.

Hayes Valley seems to be in a constant state of evolution. Would you say the ever-shifting menu is reflective of this?
I hope so. I feel very proud that Bar Jules still feels fresh and unique after being open for 6 years.

Who are some of your culinary heroes?
Some of my culinary heroes include Julia Child, Rose Gray and Ruthie Rogers from the River Cafe, Judy Rodgers from Zuni Cafe, Carol Bever from Zuni Cafe,  Diana Kennedy and Margot and Fergus Henderson from St John, and Rochelle Canteen respectively.

Is the menu at bar Jules reflective of what you actually eat on a day to day basis? Describe your ideal lunch or dinner.
Yes it is. I usually eat very simply with a lot of vegetables.

Do you have any aspirations on opening up another restaurant in San Francisco?
I do and I don’t. Sometimes your personal touch can be lost if you are running more than one restaurant at a time.

Is there or has there ever been something you love that has been unsuccessful on the menu?
Beef tongue for obvious reasons. It is so delicious and anyone brave enough to order it is solo happy.

Many of my good friends are frequent diners at the restaurant and all of them talk about it as though it is there second home. What has inspired you to create that atmosphere at bar Jules?
I have always loved the idea of a canteen or a neighborhood restaurant. Nothing makes me happier than to have regular customers.

You have worked at two other local San Francisco restaurants that are staples for me – Zuni Cafe and Hog Island Oyster Company. What did you take away from those experiences?
Zuni Cafe and Hog Island Oyster Company were very different from each other. What was similar about the two of them was the dedication to the best quality ingredients.

I’ve been toying with the idea of opening a cafe / restaurant in San Francisco for years. Can you give me a sage piece of advice?
Don’t do it! Ha ha just joking. Like anything that is worth something in life, it’s a ton of hard work.

I have a blog titled Juanita Eats Out and I like to ask friends a few questions about their eating habits. What is the strangest or most inspiring thing you’ve ever eaten?
Casu marzu – it is a sheep cheese that has worms (live insect larvae) in it from Sardinia.

What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid?
We had to eat grape nuts growing up – but I loved Lucky Charms.

What is your favorite dessert?
My favorite dessert is simple – cheese.

What is your favorite food to pig-out on after a late night?
I love to grab Chinese food after a late night.

What is always in your refrigerator at home?
I always have Champagne in my refrigerator.

Where did the name bar Jules come from?
Bar Jules is named after my old lady dog Jules. She is an 18 year old basset hound that I have had since she was three months old. She is the love of my life.

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Musician Rod Thomas (Bright Light Bright Light)  is coming to San Francisco to play at The Independent on Friday, April 10, 2015. The last time he was in town we took Jackson for a walk and ended up sitting at Farm Table talking about life, travel and our love of food. His voice just bursts with hope and joy on his new work Life Is Easy. So many of our mutual friends are part of his great sound including Del Marquis, Xavier Smith, Bridget Barkan and oh yeah – Elton John. His debut album Make Me Believe In Hope won him critical acclaim and this second offering looks set to be his best work yet.

Rod Thomas (Bright Light Bright Light) answers my foodie questionnaire here:

What is your favorite dessert?

Most people’s dream desserts feature chocolate it seems, and most places I go the most interesting dessert always has chocolate. It seems to blow people’s minds but I don’t eat chocolate, but I still love a good dessert. My favorite is usually something more classic, like a vanilla cheesecake, or a really good hearty crumble – rhubarb of blackberry – with some custard, or ice cream. For all its “boring” connotations, put the word vanilla in a dessert recipe for me and you’ve got me.

What restaurant would you call your home?

I used to have a place in Soho (London) called The Blue Room that I went to all the time. The owner was the kindest woman in the world and they always made you feel so at home. She even used to play my CD in the place sometimes. I remember the night it closed I went in and she was so upset. She was so sad to leave the cafe because it really felt like a huge part of my life in that city at the time had been cut off. These days, in Brooklyn, I really love a place in Prospect Heights called Sunshine & Co. The staff there are really, really lovely (and good), the food is great and the cocktails are dangerously good. It has such well appointed decor, and a really welcoming atmosphere. I love that place.

What is the strangest or most inspiring thing you’ve ever eaten?

My friend Adam’s lasagna. We lived together for my first year in London. We all used to cook together and his trademark dish was a lasagna with really avant-garde ingredients. Potatoes, parsnips, swedes, mushroom soup, sunflower seeds (in kernels) instead of cheese was a truly unique stroke … so I guess he inspired me to be a little less conservative when it came to ingredients in a recipe. Thing is, it always tasted great!

What was your favorite breakfast cereal as a kid?

I remember that I used to pretend to like slightly more adventurous cereals to get the cool free toy that often came inside, but I remember really, really loving simple Cornflakes or Rice Crispies with ice cold milk. When I first went to Momofuku Milk Bar they had a cereal ice cream with cornflake crunch and I was taken RIGHT back. So simple, so delicious.

What is your favorite food to pig-out on after the club?

OMG a bagel with turkey, swiss and bacon. It’s my favorite thing in the world. Like you need all that after drinking for hours right … but it’s perfect. I can’t resist.

Rod and his Christmas turkey.

Rod and his Christmas turkey.

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