The Marin Headlands with Jarry Magazine
When we met Lukas Volger we were a little starstruck to be honest. A cookbook author who is starting a food magazine? In New York City? Oh and he also has a thriving veggie burger company. Everybody hustles in NYC, whereas here in SF we start blogs in our spare time. When he asked us to collaborate for a piece in Jarry Magazine we were thrilled, although of course we tried to play it cool. The project: execute a tailgating adventure that was iconically SF. Invite some friends, cook some things, take pictures, that’s as wrap. Here’s the story of how it really went down!
Location scouting was fun, driving around in LB and taking practice shots. Our idea was to find a setting that had both a sense of land and sea, with the bridge in the background. We tried land’s end first, but the bridge was a little too far away. The parking lot at Baker Beach had a little bit too much going on. But just across the channel on the cliff overlooking the bridge, we found the perfect spot. On that bright sunny day the bridge gleamed and the water lapped happily at the shore with the city spread out before us.
Now what were we going to make? This was a topic of some controversy. We wanted it to be complex, but not complicated or hard to execute. We wanted to include people, but still have control over the details. We considered baking some kind of polenta dish buried in coals in the truck, but that seemed fraught with danger (and with the possibility that it wouldn’t work). Eggs would take too long to feed everybody and would be a little boring. “What is iconically San Francisco right now?” we asked ourselves. Toast of course! Grilled bread with multiple toppings that we could all grill and our guests could help us prepare. Score! We were off the to market.
One rainy morning we went to meet Lukas and fellow magazine creator Steve Viksjo at The Mill, a fitting place for our toast adventure to begin. “See those toasts? Ours are going to be nothing like theirs.” We were using bread from a newish bakery based in San Mateo called Pain. Their bread is similar to the Tartine style, big loaves made from a wet dough with lots of big holes, but they make a bunch of different flavored breads as well. They don’t have a shopfront as far as I can tell, but you can find their products at some of the best local food markets. They’re perfect for grilling because you can cut thick slices but the holes still transmit heat throughout the slice so the bread cooks evenly.
When we arrived at the location our fears were confirmed. Whiteout. The bridge, so bright and shiny only a couple days before was nowhere to be seen. Like typical San Franciscans we insisted that it would “burn off in 20 minutes, no problem. We got to work. We were joined that morning by our friends Eric Ehler (chef at Black Sands), Johan Churchill (wine rep extraordinaire), Andria Lo (bestest photographer ever) so we had a lot of help chopping, manning the grill, documenting, etc. Eventually we realized that Karl wasn’t going anywhere so we decided to scout out a new location.
So into the Headlands we headed, eventually finding a lovely swampy little lake just off the road. We parked the truck and started to settle in. We had just lit the coals when suddenly a police car zooms by, turns around, and comes right back for us. “Who’s the owner of that truck?” he asked from the front seat of his car. He was apparently unperturbed by our lit coals on federal land, but was flabbergasted at the fact that we were parked “off road” in a clearing. “I don’t know anywhere where it’s ok to park off road,” he said. We didn’t argue, but headed back to the bridge overlook to regroup. We were running out of time and still hadn’t grilled any bread! And the feds were onto us! We looked at the map. China Camp wasn’t too far, and since it was in Marin a little more it was almost guaranteed to be sunny. We set off.
We found the perfect spot right next to the bay and set up the grill. Thick slices of king trumpet mushrooms, mashed avocado with grilled scallions, confited early girl tomatoes with garlic, and herb jam on everything!
Here’s a little recipe in case you want to reproduce!
To Make the Herb Jam:
Pound several pinches coarse salt, 1 small clove garlic, and a big pinch pepper flakes in a large mortar and pestle until you form a paste. Add a few handfuls from about 1 quart loosely packed leafy herbs (parsley, mint, basil, chervil, etc.) and begin pounding, adding more of the herbs as the pounded ones collapse. Keep pounding until you’ve added all the herbs and they’ve formed a thick paste. Pour in a few glugs of olive oil, stirring with the pestle until the mixture becomes pesto-like. Season to taste with additional salt, lemon juice, and freshly ground black pepper.
To Make the Tomato Confit:
Preheat a grill. Cut 1½ pounds ripe Early Girl tomatoes (or another heirloom variety, such as Cherokee purple) into a small slices and transfer to a heat-safe vessel, such as a shallow enamel bowl or cast-iron skillet. Season the tomatoes with salt and add ⅓ cup of extra virgin olive oil, preferably from California, until the tomatoes are well moistened and mostly covered. Place onto the grill, over low, indirect heat, and cook until tender yet still have some structure .
Brush eight ¾-inch-thick slices of good-quality bread, such as ciabatta or a country loaf with extra virgin olive oil and add to the hot grill. Grill on both sides, until crisp and taking on grill marks. Generously spread the herb jam over the toasts, then top with the tomato confit (and its juices) and serve.
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