Weekend Meditation: Influences

Here in The Kitchn we're all about home cooking. But home cooking, especially in this age of interwebs and world travel, food networks and glossy monthly magazines, is deeply influenced by things beyond the kitchen door. Indeed, far beyond our immediate neighborhoods and family traditions.

So many things influence our cooking: the seasons and markets, friends, family, tradition, budgets, time, energy...

Today I'm thinking about restaurants. This has to do in part with where I live. The Bay Area is basically just a bunch of streets and bridges that connect us to the next wonderful place to eat, a new gustatory discovery just on the other side of that (impossibly steep) hill.

Here are some restaurant influences that have been showing up in my kitchen lately.

Last night a bowl of miso soup at my most favorite neighborhood sushi spot (Sushi Zone) reminded me that miso broth for breakfast is so nourishing on foggy mornings. There's something almost encouraging about sipping miso broth from a bowl while staring out the window and slowly entering into the day ahead. A simple pleasure.

And then there's Burma Superstar on Clement (or Mandalay for those of us who don't want to stand in line) for that green tea salad. The influence is still percolating but I love the idea of serving a salad with all the separate components artfully arranged on a platter, squeezing a lemon wedge over it all, and tossing it together right there at the table. And green tea as an ingredient is always intriguing.

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California Italian hits the comfort spot for me, especially at Pizzaiolo in Oakland (pictured above). I love arriving early on a summer's evening, when the setting sun floods the restaurant and the scene is mostly families and folks stopping by after work. The biggest influence here is pizza, which I'm starting to get the hang of at home despite my teeny tiny stove.

Also, I recently had an amazing halibut ceviche there with avocado, grapefruit, cilantro, lime and a touch of red chili. I cannot wait to serve this at my next dinner party. Ceviche is so easy and refreshing. A great way to begin a summer meal when a cool starter is appreciated.

I could go on (and on) but it's your turn. What restaurant meals have you brought back to your home kitchen?

(Images: Dana Velden)