On Cities, specifically mine (Or, I should probably go back to grad school)

Yesterday, I went on a great walk around the city with two of my oldest friends. We walked from my apartment in Nob Hill, through Chinatown, through the Financial District, along the Embarcadero & Fisherman’s Wharf, and then to dinner in the Marina (about 6 miles or so, yesterday was a 19k step day!). It felt like every 5 blocks or so, we were surrounded by an entirely different culture. So, halfway prompted by a discussion about the changing demographics of the city and halfway prompted by my weird obsession with census data, I decided to figure out who my neighbors are.

My apartment is technically in Nob Hill, but it doesn’t feel like the stereotypical Nob Hill. According to trusty Wikipedia, Nob Hill became a wealthy and exclusive section of the city because of it’s central location and great views (more history of the hood and the entire city can be found in this book, an excellent read if you like local history). Even though the enclave of the rich and famous was destroyed by the earthquake in 1906 and most of its inhabitants decamped to Pac Heights, it continued to be an affluent area of the city and still has that reputation today. That said, I have yet to see anyone walking around with a monacle and fur coat (though, it would be pretty ballsy to wear a furcoat in this city).

Instead, my neighborhood feels like a mix of young people of diverse backgrounds, multigenerational Chinese families, and older White people who have lived here (and in their rent controlled apartments) forever. Is my feeling correct though? Or am I totally off the mark? I decided to research this, starting at the New York Times project that mapped the data from the 2010 census. Be forewarned, that clicking on that link will take you to the most amazing time suck ever. I found that I live in census tract 11 (who knew? Where’s the pride for tract 11?); which as of 2011, had a negative population growth of 4.2%. Given how much I pay for my apartment now, I think that trusty tract 11 has recouped that population loss quite a bit. Tract 11 is quite dense, 4,827 people lived in 4 square blocks; which explains why parking is such a bitch here. It’s 44% white and 46% Asian; all other ethnicities are under 5%. This info echoes my experience.

To find out more comprehensive data, I had to zoom out quite a bit from tract 11 to my ZIP code which was unfortunate. I found that no age group was the majority, and instead found that people ages 25-34 held a plurality, 29%. Of note, people under 19 only make up 7.6% of the population (I’ll save my musings on kids in SF for another day, this post is getting long). The next closest age group is those between 25 and 44, the median age is 37. 

I’m now realizing that this mini project that I’ve created for myself on a Sunday afternoon is probably incredibly boring to everyone that’s reading this, so I’ll wrap it up. In short, my neighbors are probably White or Asian, don’t have kids, and weren’t alive when Rocky or Taxi Driver came out. The more you know.




trying new things – crispy skinned trout and roasted corn and quinoa salad

It’s always a little nerve-racking to try a new recipe, especially when you are trying to impress someone else.  Boyfriend is not a huge fish eater and he claimed to not like quinoa, but luckily he is always willing to at least try – and I’m glad he did!  He actually liked the fish and the quinoa!  I’ve only made quinoa once or twice before, and it was always a little bland – but I really loved this salad!  I bought the red quinoa from Trader Joes, and used the recipe on the bag as inspiration.  The result was a quinoa salad that had hints of a fresh pico de gallo flavor.  It was light and refreshing, and was very easy to make ahead of time.  I cooked the quinoa and browned the corn, and let those two cool before adding any other ingredients.  This salad would be easily customized – I just used whatever veggies I had on hand, honestly.

To cook the quinoa, I used veggie broth rather than water.  Next time, I would use chicken broth because I was not a huge fan of the Trader Joes veggie broth.  It smelled like V8 tomato juice.

The trout was from Trader Joes too.  Their fish usually doesn’t look very appealing, but I thought I’d give it a try because the fish at my local market is $20 per pound!  We got 3 small fillets for $9 total, which boyfriend was very happy about.  Cooking the fish doesn’t take long, so save it until the last minute.  Boyfriend had a great idea and suggested I added some sauce to the fish.  I ground up some arugula, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice in my food processor and the resulting “pesto” tasted great on the fish.   I served everything with some lemon wedges and a great bottle of white wine from Napa that a good friend gave to us as a gift.

trout and quinoaQuinoa Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red quinoa
  • 2 cups chicken broth/veggie broth/water (if you are boring)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup corn
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/4 red onion
  • 1/2 bunch of cilantro
  • 1/2 jalapeno (optional)

Quinoa Salad Directions:

  • Cook the quinoa!  Just put the broth and quinoa in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Then let it simmer for 15-20 minutes until all of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Meanwhile, you want to brown the corn.  I used frozen corn, so I bet you could use any other kind.  Just brown it in a pan with some olive oil on high heat.  It will seem like its not browning, but just wait a little while.  It will!
  • Let the corn and quinoa cool in the fridge.  At this point you can put them together in a bowl.  While this is happening, chop the cilantro, tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno.  Mix these into the cooled corn/quinoa mixture.
  • Drizzle with the juice of two limes and serve!

Trout Directions:

  • Right before serving dinner, rinse and dry the trout.  Salt the meaty side and then flip over.  Really really really dry the skin side as much as you can.  This was the first time I successfully got crispy skin on fish, and I think part of that was due to the DRY skin.  Salt the skin.  You may need more salt than you think.  Imagine the skin as a fish-skin potato chip.
  • Heat some vegetable oil in a large pan.  Give it a lot of time to heat up – you want the oil to “fry” the skin a bit.
  • Without crowding the pan, place the fish skin-side-down in the hot oil.  It should sizzle a lot – if not, the pan isn’t hot enough.
  • Be patient!  This is the hardest part for me.  Let the fish cook most of the way through while staying skin-side-down.  The skin should turn a golden-brown color.  This should take somewhere between 3 and 5 minutes.  Then flip the fish and cook for another minute to get it cooked through.  Place on a plate skin-side-up.
  • Serve with the sauce I described before or just with some lemon.