Six Creative Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ (With Food!)

Food is already a great way to say “I love you,” but here are some ways to make it even more memorable when saying I love you this Valentine’s Day!

Idea #1: Making Edible Pancake Art Together

Pancakes cook quickly and are liquid in uncooked form, making them perfect for some edible art! Get a sauce bottle, fill it up with pancake mix (easy recipe here), and get creative together!

This is what a sauce bottle looks like a la Chef's Catalog

This is what a sauce bottle looks like a la Chef’s Catalog

Level 1: write each other’s names in cursive!

Level 2: make pretty heart-shaped pancakes

Heart Shaped Pancakes

Level 3: get 3D and colorful with food coloring

3D Panckes

Idea #2: A Picnic…Underneath the Stars

Anybody can do a cute picnic…instead, do one under the stars! Go to your favorite park at night, set up a couple of blankets, and have a nice intimate dinner (by candlelight if you can swing it). Then drink some champaign or wine and look up at the night sky.

If you’re in San Francisco, unfortunately, the night sky will look like this.

Black Sky

Instead, you can look at the skyline from Alamo Square Park, Bernal Hill, or (if you’re willing to travel farther) Mission Peak and see this.

Alamo Square Park

Alamo Square Park

Bernal Hill

Bernal Hill

Mission Peak a la Michael James Photo Studio

Mission Peak a la Michael James Photo Studio

Idea #3: A __ Crawl (ice cream, tacos, coffee, $4 toast…)

What do you two like? Pick the top 3-5 places that serve that and have a tasting. Then, rank everything and see if you agree!

Here are some initial ideas for San Francisco:

  • Ice Cream: Birite, Humphrey Slocombe, Three Twins, Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous, Smitten
  • Tacos: La Taqueria, Tacolicious, LOQUI (hidden gem!), Padrecito, La Oaxaquena, Taqueria Cancun
  • Coffee: Ritual, Four Barrel, Blue Bottle, Contraband (check out our espresso and drip coffee class this Saturday, February 8)
  • $4 Toast: Trouble Coffee, The Mill, Tartine Bakery

Idea #4: Home-Made Chocolate Fondue

Almost everything tastes better dipped in chocolate. If you two agree on this, this is a good activity for you.

First, figure out how to melt chocolate.

Then look through some initial ideas of what you can dip in it! Here are a few creative suggestions to get you started:

  • rice crispy treats
  • mini cream puffs (frozen)
  • mochi (frozen)
  • thick cut potato chips
  • crystallized ginger

Beware: this might get messy…but that might be a perk 😉

Idea #5: Couples Iron Chef Potluck

If you want to make this Valentines Day a social activity with friends, have a Iron Chef-themed potluck. Have a few friends who are willing to sit it out set up a secret ingredient, let everybody know at the same time, and sit at the judge’s table. Then, all the contestants can start cooking on the day of the event a 3-course meal including this key ingredient. Once people arrive with their food, have judging and then tasting!

A spin on this is to have an around the world potluck — pick a type of food like noodles or dumplings that is present in every culture and have each couple represent a part of the world. Each person or couple then brings the dish from their part of the world. For example, people representing China would bring dumplings but people representing Mexico might bring empanadas.

Iron Chef

Premium Idea: Bring a Chef Home

Use a service like Kitchit to bring a chef into your own home. We recommend doing a cooking class (estimated at about $200+), but you can also just lean back and have the chef cook you a great meal.

Idea #6: Combine wine, cooking and dancing for an evening you’ll both remember!

There are so many couples’ activities around food include wine tastings, cooking classes, or food tours. Why not combine all three and come to our Antologia Vinoteca experience on February 8? Get ready for a fully hands-on cooking class on ceviche, a three wine tasting flight, some sangria and flatbreads, and maybe even some salsa dancing if you’re in the mood (with tips from owner Carlos ;)). Here’s a lovely picture of how one couple plated their ceviche the last time we hosted this:

Nothing says "I love you" like ceviche, made and plated by a Simmr guest at Antologia Vinoteca!

Nothing says “I love you” like ceviche, made and plated by a Simmr guest at Antologia Vinoteca!

9 Ways to Score that Impossible Reservation

Welcome to San Francisco, where even the late Steve Jobs can be turned away from a popular restaurant, where Pizzaria Delfina installs a live video stream to help customers monitor the wait time, and where a remarkable restaurant called State Bird Provisions generated the creation of “reservation bots” that book tables as soon as they become available (code here).

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Alas, what to do? Here are some insider tips on how to increase your chances of getting that hot table.

1. Become a regular

No matter how successful a restaurant is, their aim is to get repeat, loyal customers. So, if you find a place you really like, revisit them. Get to know the staff. (Simmr events are designed to help you get to know the people behind the business as friends!) Also, one of the best kept secrets is that people in the industry help each other out — so if you’re a regular at one place, you can potentially have the staff call another hot location and speak on your behalf.

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2. Get noticed

If becoming a regular isn’t an option, get noticed in some other way. We recommend attending a Simmr event and meeting the people at the restaurant in an intimate setting. You can also like them on Facebook, follow on Twitter, leave comments, and leave Foursquare tips — trust us, it makes a difference!

Don't get noticed like this

Tossing your hair will not get you noticed

3. Book at the right time

The best times to make reservations are:

  • 2-4 weeks in advance
  • 2 days before your desired date. Find out when restaurants confirm their reservations and call around that time because that’s when cancellations open up new seats. Prime tables held for VIPs or friends of the house are also generally released back into the reservation system at around this time.

4. Use your hotel concierge / credit card (especially AmEx)

Ask your hotel concierge for information on that city’s best spots. A good concierge will show off the best his/her city has to offer and will get you a seat. Restaurants are happy to accommodate concierges because they are one of their key channels to get the word out.

5. Walk in

Every restaurant holds tables. Once they decide that Scarlett or Brad isn’t going to show that evening, they will free up these tables for walk-in customers. This tactic also has the perk of getting you some of the best tables.

6. Dine in pairs

Grab one friend and one friend only — any more than that and you’re requesting that a host find you a 4+ person table. Having just one friend also makes sitting at the bar, where you can often order off the full menu, easier.

5

7. Be willing to eat early

Restaurateurs often need help filling early tables, but toward the end of the night, tables are often filled by walk-ins and people who linger over dessert.

8. Manners, manners

The reservationist has probably talked to 20 other people like you in the last hour, all of whom were just as desperate, whiny, and threatening. Make them remember and want to help you — be courteous and empathetic.

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9. Escalate

Ask for a manager. Sometimes just the act of asking for a manager will make a reservationist comfortable enough to make an exception. And if you do get the manager, make a case for why you deserve a last-minute table. Insiders say restaurants are turned off by those claiming to be hot shots or big spenders. A better strategy is to cite special circumstances — a spouse’s birthday, an important client coming to town, a burning desire to visit the restaurant while in town for the weekend.

What NOT To Do

Lie

Even if it’s telling them it’s your birthday. At least have somebody else in your party tell them it’s your birthday.

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As you probably noticed, most of these tactics involve getting remembered or noticed. Dining with Simmr makes this happen because you’re meeting the restaurant chef/owners in a small setting and you’re learning something unique about the business that you can bring up when you visit again! Check out our upcoming events and fast track your way to all the perks of being a regular!

6 Secrets behind Japan’s Low Obesity, Longevity, and Health

“What if there was a land where people lived longer than anywhere else on earth, obesity was remarkably low, and women in their forties still looked like they were in their twenties? Wouldn’t you want to know their extraordinary secret?” — Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat by Naomi Moriyami

Source: Lizzie McGuire

Source: Lizzie McGuire

The secret, Naomi Moriyama explains in her book, can be found in her mother’s Tokyo kitchen — Japanese home cooking (as opposed to the sushi and izakaya plates we typically see in restaurants).

Here are 6 secrets from inside a Japanese mother’s kitchen that you can incorporate to make your life healthier!

Secret 1: The five pillars of the Japanese diet are fish, soy, rice, vegetables, and fruit

Japanese people eat more than 2x as much fish, 10x as much soy products, and 5x as much cruciferous veggies (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage) as Americans do. In exchange, they eat significantly less milk, butter, cheese, pasta, and red meat.

Easy resolution: Substitute fish for meat whenever you can!

Source: Hauling Gear

Source: Hauling Gear

Secret 2: The Japanese eat much smaller portions, and think carefully about how their food is presented. 

In Japan, food is meant to be eaten slowly, and every bite should be savored. Meals are presented on tableware that is much smaller, and the principles of food presentation are:

  • Never completely fill the plate
  • Each item is served on its own dish

Easy resolution: Savor your food more by focusing on it — when you eat, only eat — it can take as little as 15 minutes and you’ll be recharged to do what you need to do next with more focus and energy

Source: jesuisteleactrice

Source: jesuisteleactrice

Secret 3: For Japanese cooking, the best cooking is the least cooking 

Japanese kitchens are usually too small for ovens, so Japanese people usually gently steam, pan-grill, sauté, simmer, or stir-fry their food. These methods preserve more of a food’s nutrients.

Easy resolution: When you cook, try to make sure people can recognize what the food looked like in its natural state (e.g. potato –> mashed potato doesn’t pass the test)

Secret 4: The Japanese eat rice instead of bread with every meal

Japanese people eat a medium portion of rice with almost every meal and by having it, they are able to avoid the more processed and less fiber-rich calories in muffins, rolls, and white bread.

Easy resolution: replace rice for bread for one meal this week

Secret 5: Japanese people have mastered the power breakfast

A typical breakfast in Japan includes green tea, a bowl of steamed rice, miso soup with tofu, nori seaweed, fruit, and a small omelette or piece of grilled salmon. In Japan, breakfast is the most important and often biggest meal of the day.

Easy resolution: Make sure you always eat breakfast!

Source: Tumblr

Source: Tumblr

Secret 6: The Japanese have a healthier relationship with food

Probably the single most important difference – Japanese people have a healthier relationship with food.

“Americans primarily associate food with health objectives such as being thin [rather than] with the simple pleasure of a satisfying meal.” — Steve Hawks, Associate Professor of Health Science @ Brigham Young University

Easy resolution: stop thinking about calories and instead focus on how wonderful food tastes and how satisfied you are when you have had a good meal

Source: 30 Rock

Source: 30 Rock

What to do next?

  • Learn some of the basics of Japanese cooking by coming to our Onigilly event — get some hands-on action with Japanese ongiri and Onigilly’s high quality seafood/meat/veggie fillings
  • Copy this easy resolution list:
    1. Substitute fish for meat whenever you can!
    2. Savor your food more by focusing on it — when you eat, only eat — it can take as little as 15 minutes and you’ll be recharged to do what you need to do next with more focus and energy
    3. When you cook, try to make sure people can recognize what the food looked like in its natural state
    4. Replace rice for bread for one meal this week
    5. Make sure you always eat breakfast!
    6. Stop thinking about calories and instead focus on how wonderful food tastes and how satisfied you are when you have had a good meal

6 Most Common Coffee Drinks and How to Navigate Your Way Around Them

Legend has it, coffee was discovered when Ethiopian shepherds noticed their goats were getting frisky and having trouble sleeping after eating from certain bushes.

Source: Cheezburger

Source: Cheezburger

It reached America during the Colonial period, where it wasn’t as successful initially because, um, people preferred to drink alcohol. It wasn’t until the Boston Tea Party, after which many Americans refused to drink tea, that coffee really started becoming popular. Today, coffee is the second most traded commodity on earth (oil is the first)!

The basic brew has been transformed in so many ways that looking at a cafe menu can feel overwhelming…especially before you’ve had your coffee. Here’s a quick and dirty explanation on the makeup of some of the most popular drinks.

1. Espresso and Drip Coffee

The main differences between espresso and drip coffee are how finely ground the coffee is and the brewing time. Espresso is more finely ground and espresso machines generate high pressure to force water through the tightly packed ground coffee, thus shortening the brewing time. This produces a “shot,” or a small amount of pretty concentrated coffee.

Credit: Coolhunting

Source: Coolhunting

Drip coffee, on the other hand, is made with loose ground coffee, through which water filters by the power of gravity (woo!). Because hot water is in contact with the coffee grounds for much longer, this creates for a more caffeinated beverage.

Credit: Clover Food Lab

Source: Clover Food Lab

2. Americano

An Americano is a shot of espresso with hot water. It is served without milk (add milk and you will be judged). The effect is a diluted espresso that is less bitter than black drip coffee.

Credit: Amigos Coffee

Source: Amigos Coffee

3. Macchiato

A traditional macchiato (vs. a Starbucks one…) is a shot of espresso topped with a small amount of frothed milk. It delivers a very potent espresso flavor, with the frothed milk cutting the intensity of a pure shot of espresso just a little.

Frothed milk (as opposed to steamed milk) is milk in which air has been incorporated to form a foam. This creates a new texture for the milk and a slightly sweeter taste.

Credit: Wikimedia

Source: Wikimedia

For all intents and purposes, this basically tastes like espresso, though, so imagine the “gotcha” moment for somebody ordering their first non-Starbucks macchiato…

surprisedbaby

4. Cappuccino

A cappuccino is one part espresso, one part steamed milk, and one part frothed milk. If made properly, every sip should include equal parts of each. The steamed milk cuts the intensity of the espresso much more than in a macchiato but nowhere near as much as in a latte.

Credit: Ventnor Coffee

Source: Ventnor Coffee

5. Latte

A latte is two parts steamed milk and one part coffee. More milk means a more diluted espresso flavor, so the drink is gentler tasting and can also be more easily flavored with syrups like hazelnut or pumpkin spice.

It’s kind of like the gateway version of coffee.

Source: http://www.caffelatte.com/images/CaffeLatte_Glasses.jpg

Source: Caffe Latte

6. Mocha

A mocha is a desert-y drink that is kind of like a latte with cocoa powder or chocolate added. When you get a mocha, you’re pretty much getting an adult hot chocolate, where adult means caffeinated, not spiked. It’s ok to just get the hot chocolate.

Source: www.wikimedia.org

Source: Wikimedia

For extra credit:

Gibraltar/Cortado

Usually not on the menu (but something any decent barista can make), the Gibraltar/Cortado is a little like the secret handshake of coffee geeks. They are two names for the same drink, which is a shot of espresso with some steamed milk. The intensity of the espresso flavor is somewhere between that of a macchiato and a cappuccino.

The name Gibraltar came from the Gibraltar glass in which it was originally served, so if your barista apologizes for not having the right type of glasses, just smile magnanimously and wave it off.

Source: www.foodrepublic.com/

Source: Food Republic

Now go forth and order like a pro.

Interested in learning how to make all of these and taste them side by side? Check out our upcoming event with Contraband Coffee Bar and enjoy a night of coffee geekery!

So Much Pun – Vietnoms (get it?) Version

Believe it or not, there is actually an entire subculture that loves not just food puns, but pho puns. Pho (“fuh”) is a Vietnamese noodle soup made up of a clean, savory broth, fresh rice noodles, aromatic herbs, and tender, juicy meat. Or at least that’s what pho at Turtle Tower is like.  You might’ve seen it on the 7×7 100 Things to Eat list, or maybe in one of its 2,000+ positive Yelp reviews (heck, do I even have that many Facebook friends…?). If not, Alex and Kristina over at Bites by the Bay wrote a good homage to Turtle Tower’s Pho Ga (Chicken Broth Pho) that you should check out.

Point is, Turtle Tower is the star of our next event (punnily titled “Pho Shizzle“), so we thought it would be irresponsible of us to not write a post on pho puns…just for conversation starters during the event, you know. So here are our 10 favorites! If you have others, tell us!

Number 10

Crop?image_url=http%3a%2f%2fpre.cloudfront.goodinc.com%2fposts%2f1287792007pho-king

Pho-King Delicious. Oh, you don’t say?

Number 9

Crop?image_url=http%3a%2f%2fpre.cloudfront.goodinc.com%2fposts%2f1287708630pho4
Un-pho-gettable. How can you pho-get such a great pun?

Number 8

Crop?image_url=http%3a%2f%2fpre.cloudfront.goodinc.com%2fposts%2f1287710567pho6
Absolutely Pho-bulous. Not sure how this is pronounced…and whether it means fabulous or fabulously fobby.

Number 7

Crop?image_url=http%3a%2f%2fpre.cloudfront.goodinc.com%2fposts%2f1287712158pho7
Pho Sho. The first cousin of Pho Shizzle, our event title.

Number 6

whatthepho
What the Pho? You probably see a trend emerging here.

Number 5

pho1
No Pho King Way!? We love audience participation.

Number 4

pho2
Hot as pho. Not just for restaurant names…can be seen on cute girls, too! (Guys, this also doubles as a decent pick up line).

Number 3

pho3
iPho. The new, hot and steaming device.

Number 2

pho4
Friend or Pho. Okay, the pronunciation is off, but we liked the concept.

Number 1

pho5
Pho Kim Long. Say it out loud. What’s great about this one is that it wasn’t even planned.
Craving some warm, hearty pho now? Sign up for Turtle Tower‘s Pho Shizzle event on October 29 before it sells out! You can look forward to joining Turtle Tower‘s Chef and Founder Steven Pham as he retells his journey of 10,000 miles from his beloved homeland, Hanoi, Vietnam to San Francisco to bring authentic Hanoi-style Vietnamese cuisine. Get an exclusive, guided tour with Chef Steven of Turtle Tower‘s new, open kitchen where you’ll see up close and personal all the steps of making and assembling pho. After, customize your own, off-menu bowl!

Sound Bytes after Tava

The feedback is in — we’re hearing some great things about Tava from event-goers!

I was very impressed by Vijay’s knowledge…The glass jar was the best thing ever. Getting a high quality, physical thing to take home meant a lot.

–Jordan L.

The…demo was great. I thought the owner gave a really thorough explanation, and I was happy to learn about chai, get to try theirs, get my own JAR (I freakin’ loved that jar), and then get a spiked chai. The whole progression [of the event] was the best part of the evening.

–Lauren S.

[I am] more likely to go there now because I’ve … met the owner. [I] feel more of an emotional connection. [It was] good that Vijay was available to talk before and after. He had the right personality to be running that kind of event. He had good charisma.

–Ritu T.

[The event] was a great way to get a new intro to a place I didn’t know about.

–Bonni S. @ Chrysanthemum food blog

I don’t like hot drinks, and, believe it or not, I’ve never had tea before, but now I’m hooked in chai!

–Hans M.

After this, I fully trust Vijay can put on a great event, so I would definitely go to another Tava event.

–Charles Z.

Success! — Tava’s 1st Simmr event on the rich, spicy history of chai

After 3 months of staring at a computer screen to build our website, we are happy to announce that we have launched Simmr beta! Our first restaurant is one very close to our hearts (and offices) — Tava Indian Kitchen.

We first met Vijay and Hasnain, co-founders of Tava, in their Palo Alto location, back when we were building an Angellist for small businesses. In classic startup stalking fashion, we noticed what looked like a meeting between the founders of Tava and a vendor. After some nonchalant loitering, waiting for that meeting to end, we approached Vijay and Hasnain. They graciously agreed to answer our questions about how Tava got started.

Fast forward 9 months, past 3 restaurant fundraisings, many conversations with small business owners, and a tough but well deliberated pivot, we reconnected with Tava. A lot had changed on their end, too – with a very successful store in Palo Alto, they had opened a San Francisco store … right across from where we work. With the energy and enthusiasm of an entrepreneur who gets the importance of building real relationships with customers, Vijay signed up to become a pilot Simmr business.

Vijay and Simmr

The Simmr team (Jamie, Wendy, Neeharika) + Vijay

There were so many possible ideas, but we finally settled on showcasing Tava’s chai, a unique blend of 10+ spices that Vijay and his team researched and concocted.

Spices Words

Spices on spices on spices in Tava’s store decor

The evening of the event, attendees were greeted by Vijay and a long communal table. After everybody had a chance to get their fill of Tava’s delicious food, Vijay stepped up to the head of the table with about a dozen glass jars of spices in front of him, some easily recognizable, some completely foreign. He first talked about his background and Tava’s story. The founders of Tava had left comfortable jobs in consulting and private equity to create Tava, which actually is the word for a large, flat griddle used in South Asian cooking for bread.

Eating and Chatting

Attendees eating and chatting amongst themselves

Vijay Presenting Audience

Vijay telling about Tava’s story

Vijay Presenting

Vijay showcasing a spice

Vijay Demonstrating

Vijay preparing a spice

Vijay described how in Indian homes, fresh bread was a norm, such that somebody was consistently bringing out fresh roti during a meal. Inspired by this and the wide range of fresh, high quality Californian ingredients, Tava starts each ordering process by putting a ball of uncooked dough on the tava. As the roti cooks in front of the customer’s eyes, an employee and handy menu guides the customer to first choose a rich base sauce, a protein filling, and a melee of fun, colorful chutneys. All these ingredients and spices are mixed in a bowl or wrapped within a warm, slightly chewy roti.

Sustainable Ingredients

Tava’s sustainable philosophy

Order Process

Attendees going through Tava’s ordering process

Vijay Helping Out

Vijay getting down and dirty behind the counter to help the line go faster

Burrito Bowl

Ah, the finished product!

Chai, Vijay explained, is a centuries-old beverage commonly drank in India after meals. It produces a warming, soothing effect, and acts as a natural digestive aid. Chai literally means “mixed-spice tea” and is made by brewing black tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. The spices and herbs vary across region and personal preference. In creating the chai on Tava’s menu, Vijay and his co-founders researched a vast array of spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and star anise to come to a well-balanced mixture that is lightly sweet and creamy with a warm, spicy kick – what they call ‘Christmas in a Cup.’

Vijay carefully described each spice and the flavors it brings or enhances before passing each jar for attendees to smell and touch. We learned interesting facts like that peppercorn (from which pepper is made) is actually a fruit and that green ones are milder in flavor than their black counterparts.

Interacting with Spices 2

Touching and smelling a spice

Interacting with Spices

More touching and smelling of spices

Armed with this knowledge and a fresh cup of chai, participants then created their own chai spice mixes to take home in glass jars. Vijay walked around and engaged with each attendee personally, helping to answer questions and giving suggestions on what might be interesting mixes based on each person’s tastes. After some time to chat and interact, we announced a surprise for the evening – a cold, alcoholic chai that was spiked with vanilla vodka, something that Vijay helped create with us and was visibly excited about. 🙂

Mixing Jars 2

Filling personal jars to take home

Mixing Jars 3

Stuffing tea bags with strong, Assam tea

Mixing Jars and Drinking Chai

Sippin’ and mixin’

Mixing Jars

Hard at work!

Mixing Jars with Vijay Interaction

Vijay lending a hand and answering questions

All in all a successful night! People who came in skeptical about chai went away loving it and saying they’d stop by Tava just for the chai. Everybody got to have a real conversation with Vijay and felt like they formed a rare kind of relationship with Tava.

Empty Tava Jar

Empty jar

Filled Jar

Filled jar to take home 🙂

What’s next, you ask? Many more events with Tava and others like Turtle Tower, Samovar Tea Lounge, American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, and Radio Africa Kitchen! Tava is thinking of featuring their chutneys (yogurt raita, tamarind, cilantro, mint, among others!) or mango lassi, or hosting a “Tava laboratory” where you get to hop behind the counter, operate the cool tava, and mix and match ingredients to your heart’s desire.

Comment or email us with your suggestions!

Check out Tava on

Simmr | Simmr Event Page | Tava’s Site | Yelp San Francisco | Yelp Palo Alto | Facebook | Twitter

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