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Sprinkles update

Better late than never…..Maple bacon (Sept 2013) & Lemon meringue (July 2013)

See how they rate

bacon

Giovanni Rana Pasta and Sauces

pasta1

TORTELLONI PROSCIUTTO w/ MARINARA

I recently had the opportunity to try the new line of Giovanni Rana fresh pastas and sauces. If you live in NY or Italy you may be familiar with Giovanni. From what I read online, he is a very popular guy and has a restaurant in Chelsea Market. All varieties of pasta tasted great but my favorites were the spinach and the mushroom ravs. I don’t have an Italian grandmother but if I did I imagine her bolognese sauce would be just like Giovanni’s. I was really impressed.

pasta2

FETTUCCINE PAGLIA E FIENO w/ BOLOGNESE

ranaThe best part is that you can have dinner on the table in 10 minutes. No exaggerating. The pasta cooks in under 4 minutes.  Find the Rana products in your local safeway supermarket –refrigerated section.

Thanks Gio!

JALEO by José Andrés

Best meal ever. If you are in Vegas this is a must. Really delicious food. Minus 1 star for leaving smelling like a camp fire. They have an open spit in the dinning area of the restaurant and they were roasting a baby pig and that bad boy was smoking up a storm. I had to air out my clothes when we got back to the hotel. 

Favorite dish: white asparagus with lemon, thyme and idiazábal cheese. Not crazy about food served out of a shoe.

Website: http://www.jaleo.com/

Rating:

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Baume Palo Alto

We were super excited to go to Baume because it is known for molecular gastronomy. Freeze dried strawberries…let’s just say I wasn’t impressed. Tasted and looked beautiful but not worth the $$$$.

Website: http://www.baumerestaurant.com/
Rating:

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Frances SF

Amazing meal. Worth all the hype. Make a reservation! After 4+ years people are still sitting on the curb outside for hours waiting to grab a table.

Website: http://www.frances-sf.com/
Rating:
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Irish Soda Bread with Cranberries

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Around St. Patty’s day I decided to make a sweet Irish soda bread. I followed the recipe below but added a heaping 1/2 cup of cranberries and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Next time I’ll add a bit more sugar. Turned out super tasty. Tell me that doesn’t look good…

Recipe link

Recipe w/caraway seeds

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Absinthe Restaurant

Ever since I saw Jamie on Top Chef I’ve wanted to try Absinthe. Even after her departure the restaurant remained on my radar. We finally stopped in for dinner. Everything was good but of note were the pretzels which were really little bite size garlic rolls. Insanely good. I could have eaten a dozen. The mussels/clams were also delish and a steal for $15!

IMG_1211

SOFT GARLIC PRETZELS
Vermont cheddar Mornay

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FRENCH ONION SOUP GRATINEE

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PEI MUSSELS & MANILA CLAMS
andouille sausage,roasted bell peppers, lemon-chardonnay sauce, spiced crostini

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COQ AU VIN
red Burgundy-braised Mary’s chicken,
bacon, roasted crimini mushrooms, crostini, persillade

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratinghalfdrumstick

Website: http://www.absinthe.com/

New Sprinkles cupcake flavors!

Last weekend we made a trip to Sprinkles to try the new Cuban coffee cupcake. While there I also picked up a vegan red velvet (this was recommended by a reader) and a triple cinnamon. I don’t know how this (triple cinnamon) slipped by me but it must be relatively new because they don’t list it on the menu posted on the wall in the store and it’s available 7 days a week!

Check out how they ranked here

round20

*Cuban is gone April 28th,2013

Dim Sum Coconut Jelly

coconut jellies

Have you been to a dim sum restaurant and tried the coconut jelly dessert from the cart? Well, if you have and you liked it …try this recipe. Who would have guessed Tyler Florence would have featured it on his TV show.

As usual the video and the recipe posted on the Food network site were not exactly the same. I chose wrong and decided to follow the written word… I have a feeling I should have gone with Tyler. In the end everything turned out fine but I had to cut the tops off all my jellies. For some unknown reason there was a layer of clear sugar water covering the top.

Recipe link
Tyler’s Ultimate

5 year Blogaversary! Chocolate-Stout Brownies

beerbrownie

Something sweet for this special occasion. This was deliciously dense, chocolaty and moist. You won’t be able to eat more than a tiny square. Soooo rich! More like fudge than a brownie.

brownies

Note: hit the foil with some cooking spray to ease the removal.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit Magazine / February 2012

Shellback Premium Rum – Coquito Cocktail

shellback

I rarely drink cocktails but when I do it is always rum based. I love the flavor of rum so when Shellback asked me to try their new line of silver and spiced Caribbean rum I jumped at the chance. It came at a perfect time because we were hosting a Christmas Eve gathering and I wanted to serve a signature cocktail. I ended up going with a Coquito which some call the Latin version of egg nog. Ingredients include coconut milk, evaporated milk and lots of rum. Although the drink took some time to make it was well worth it and a huge hit.

coquitoSome said the smooth cocktail tasted like rum raisin ice cream. I even got a few compliments from people who are originally from Latin countries. Coquito will definitely be our go-to holiday beverage from now on!

While the weather remains chilly we will be using our spiced Shellback rum in coffee, tea and cider. However, I can’t wait for the sun and heat when I’ll be mixing up some mojitos, coladas and daiquiris with the silver. Check out the Shellback site for recipes.

Website: http://www.shellbackrum.com/

Coquito Recipe link
*I left the egg out and didn’t miss it.

Willy Wonka Ice Cream Tasting

wonka

I got a golden ticket!

I finally have time to write about our end of the summer bbq. After dinner we had a Willy Wonka ice cream tasting courtesy of Oakland based Dreyer’s. They sent me an ice chest full of their new line of wacky Wonka ice cream flavors. Fourteen of our friends tasted and ranked the creamy concoctions in order of their preference.

tasting

Here are the results:

  1. Kerfuffle Truffle, chocolate ice cream with chocolate truffles and swirls of fudge
  2. Caramel Nut Kadoozle, caramel ice cream with mixed nut brittle and walnut caramel swirl
  3. Chocolate Mintropolis, chocolate ice cream with peppermint patties and chocolate mint cookies
  4. Chipperberry Swirl, black raspberry and vanilla ice cream with chocolaty chips
  5. Chocolate Chipper Chip, vanilla ice cream with chocolaty potato chip bark and swirls
  6. Kernelpuff Caramelstuff, caramel ice cream with popped kernels, pecan pralines and salted caramel swirls
  7. Chocolate Snowflakes, vanilla ice cream with melt-in-your-mouth chocolaty flakes
The first place winner was a super chocolaty combination. We did have a bunch of chocoholics in the group which I think skewed the numbers. I was sure the vanilla with chocolate covered potato chips was going to be my favorite but it was too salty. I actually preferred the two caramel flavors. The brittle and praline were very yummy additions to the ice cream but don’t take my word for it go try them yourself. Thank you, Mr. Wonka!
A fight almost broke out!

A fight almost broke out!

Note: Wonka Ice Cream is currently sold exclusively in the Northern CA and Reno areas.

Happy Turkey Day!

Heritage (Left) Diestel (Right)

Sorry I have been away for a bit. I started a new job in October and just haven’t had time to blog. I aim to do better in the new year! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As always we were given the task to cook the birds. We ended up making two this year… One 10 lb. Heritage bird from a local farm and a 12 lb. Diestel Natural from Whole Foods.

Heritage -400 degrees for 1 hr 45 min

The heritage turkey was running around up until the morning it was delivered to our house. I guess that’s why it looks so slim and trim! Both turned out delicious in the end. The main difference was that the heritage dark meat tasted much more gamey in flavor. Yum!

Diestel  -350 degrees for 2 hrs 15 min

Citizen Chef Healthy Meals


A new company in San Francisco called Citizen Chef just launched a line of fast, fresh,healthy stir fry meals to prepare at home. Each package comes with cut veggies, a grain and a gourmet sauce. All you need to add is a protein of your choice and dinner is served in 15 minutes.

inside the box

When asked if I would like to try the product it was a no brainer…fast and easy are my two favorite words when it comes to cooking. Of the 3 varieties I had I was the most impressed with the Thai stir fry because I’ve always found Asian cuisine the hardest to recreate at home and this Thai Sesame sauce blew me away. It tasted just like the massaman curry that I love to order from our local Thai restaurant.

Chicken w/ Thai Sesame Sauce (fresh coconut milk, roasted sesame seeds, & a hint of ginger)

I also enjoyed the couscous in the Limone Garlic package. We are in a grain rut and always end up with rice. This was a very nice change.

Shrimp w/ Limone Garlic Sauce (fresh garlic, lemon peel, & extra virgin olive oil)

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the meals. Mike and I would definitely purchase them in the future…the only bummer is that you can only find Citizen Chef in certain Bay Area Whole Foods markets. Hopefully they get picked up nationally. See if they are in your neighborhood here.
Get a $3 off coupon here

Website: http://www.citizenchef.com/

Pizzeria Delfina


Mike had some work to do in the City so I decided to tag along, especially since it was near the Mission, and I have wanted to try Pizzeria Delfina forever. I know I eat a lot of pizza but it is my favorite food so get used to it.

Pizzeria Delfina features six Neapolitan inspired, thin crust pizzas and two daily-changing special pies and a “piatto del giorno” from the oven. The food is Italian in spirit, using local, seasonal ingredients.

This location is super tiny … in order to leave Mike had to ask the table next to us to move over just so he could squeeze between the tables.

This is what we ate:

Insalata Tricolore


Special pasta of the day: Mac & cheese with meaty sauce  (I forget the official name)

Salsiccia Pizza
Housemade fennel sausage, tomato, bell peppers, onions, mozzarella

Everything was delicious and fresh. I could have eaten a vat of that pasta and the pizza had great crust… not overly blistered. For dessert we walked down the street to Bi-rite Creamery.

Rating: 

Website: http://pizzeriadelfina.com/

Grandma’s Coffee House, Kula Hawaii


Not to be confused with Mama’s …Grandma’s is a tiny rural coffee shop in Kula where you can get a mean breakfast and sensational baked goods. We rolled out of bed early to go try the the highly regarded eggs benedict. This turned out to be one of my top 5 benedicts…it comes on a cornmeal waffle w/ lemon hollandaise and home fries with a kick! Super delicious. I’m still kinda bummed that I shared it with my sister. Mike had an omelet with basil, tomato & feta and my bro-in-law feasted on something I think was called the bullseye which was a spam, rice & egg concoction. I also devoured a slice of banana cake and a coconut pineapple bar (don’t judge). Arrive early with a pile of CASH and enjoy!

Website: http://www.grandmascoffee.com/

Mama’s Fish House


On our fifth trip to Maui we finally decided to try the famed Mama’s Fish House. It may sound like a rustic joint but it is one of the most expensive restaurants on the island so we saved this for a special occasion…our 6th wedding anniversary.

Mama’s is located right on the beach and is decorated in the old Polynesian style. Think dark woods, antiques, staff dressed in colorful aloha gear and Hawaiian music. We arrived a bit early so we could check out the beach but since it was drizzling we decided to wait it out in the bar. The drinks were big and tasty. Our table was ready right on time and we were seated at a window table with a fantastic view. We made sure to make our reservation just before sunset.

view from our table

Our meal started off with a treat from the chef…a ginger soup. Then we shared the Ahi sashimi salad with crispy won ton strips, pohole fern, wasabi goat cheese, Kula vegetables and roasted sesame seed dressing. It was super fresh but could have used a bit more dressing. I already knew what I was going to order after looking at the menu online – Mahi mahi stuffed with lobster & crab and baked in a macadamia nut crust. Mike decided to go with a luau style plate that included Mahi mahi and slow-cooked Big Island Wild Boar with baked Hana rainforest banana, Molokai purple sweet potato, Lomi-lomi and fresh poi. Cool note about the menu – all the fish is wild and each dish lists the fisherman who caught it that day.

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The presentation and taste of the food was wonderful. At this point we were stuffed and were going to pass on dessert but because we were celebrating our anninversary we received complementary scoops of their homemade ice cream (strawberry bannana). Sweet ending to the night. I now know why everyone says you have to go to Mama’s.

Note:  Although you will pay a pretty penny don’t worry about the dress code – there were tank tops and board shorts galore!

Rating:

Website: http://www.mamasfishhouse.com/

Maui O’o Farm Tour & Lunch

view from the farm

My sister just finished building a beautiful home in a town called Kula (Upcountry Maui). When I read about an organic farm tour and lunch 10 minutes from her home I knew we had to do it (thanks for the tip mom). The farm supplies many of the high-end dining establishments in Lahaina.

The tour starts in the coffee tree lined parking lot and moves through the fruit trees up to the outdoor kitchen and dining area. There you meet the dedicated farm chef and he describes the gourmet menu he is going to prepare while you continue the tour through the garden. When the lunch bell rings a beautiful buffet of delicious food awaits you. Everything is harvested/caught earlier that morning.

Our farm Lunch included: salad (with greens we gathered from the garden), fresh caught mahi mahi w/ maui onion & fennel, fried tofu w/ beets, farm egg frittata w/ maui onions, raw veggie platter, crusty bread, brewed coffee & chocolate.

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The next time you are in Maui take some time to venture away from the beach and check out Kula. You can’t beat the amazing bi-coastal views!

Note: Be sure to wear long pants, sneakers and pack a sweatshirt and umbrella. It is chilly up there and it may sprinkle on you even in the warmest summer months.

Website: http://www.oofarm.com/

48 Hours in New York City


We headed to NYC for the premiere of Mike’s latest documentary “Gringos at the Gate.” If you are into soccer especially the US -Mexico rivalry check it out (shamless plug). Anyways, I went mainly for the food. I had each day planned out weeks before we left. Here was our itinerary…

DAY 1

Our flight arrived at JFK at 8am and by 9:30am we were waiting in line for a table at Clinton St. Baking Company – yes, there was a 30 minute wait on a Tuesday. But it was voted best pancakes in NY by New York magazine and Martha (Stewart) is on their website homepage so I knew it had to be good. I ordered the eggs benedict -poached eggs, maple cured ham, classic hollandaise,over a toasted buttermilk biscuit. Awesome. Loved the biscuit and the chopped onion/ bell peppers on top gave it a zesty kick. Mike chose the famous wild maine blueberry pancakes with warm maple butter. Super light and fluffy. Worth the wait. CASH ONLY! This held us over till dinner.

I had to hit at least one of Mario Batali’s NY restaurants and we chose LUPA OSTERIA ROMANA which is a casual spot specializing in Roman trattoria fare. This was our best meal of the trip. Everything tasted superb. We had some great wine and service. Prices were reasonable but make sure you order a couple courses per person or you will leave hungry.

Apps: Seasonal salad with asparagus and peas

and

Roasted Mushrooms w/ Cavolo Nero & Ricotta Salata

Mains: *Special of the day* Fresh pasta with braised pork
and
Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage & Fennel

We skipped dessert and walked to Puddin’ a sweet shop that serves up different flavors of pudding. I know, brilliant idea! We ordered some of the signature (pre-made) minis so we could sample a bunch.

My favorite was the Caramel Macchiato (coffee /chocolate puddings, brownie pieces, salted caramel sauce) followed by Banana Cream Dream (banana pudding, graham cracker crumbs, banana cake,whipped cream). Before arriving I would have bet that my fav would have been the Coconut Cruise (coconut pudding, pineapple, coconut-soaked lime cake, graham cracker crumbs) but it had a weirdly thick consistency that didn’t move me.

DAY 2

With all that eating I had to schedule some sort of exercise. We had never been to Central Park and after some research many said the best way to see it all (since it is 843 acres) is by bike. We took a guided 2-hour  Bike Tour and had a beautiful ride. Look for coupons …they are out there. I found one for $10 off each person!

We finished up around noon so we walked to Shake Shack for lunch. This is NYC’s version of In-N-Out.

2 burgers and fries

We added a Fair Shake to our burger order -vanilla shake featuring 100% certified organic Arabica Fair Trade coffee. Yum! Something different for a fast food joint …they serve beer & wine too.
I was worried about eating a burger in the middle of the day since we were having dinner early but it was miniature…more like a slider. It was a very fresh and tasty burger. Did it put I-N-O to shame? I think not. Both do things well so I’m gonna leave it as a tie.

cereal milk soft serve with corn flakes – tasted best when it was all melted.

Next stop momofuku milk bar to pick up some treats for the plane ride home. Cookies and crack pie. I tried to make this pie at home a couple years ago. Mine came out good but this was mind blowing. Made the flight much more enjoyable : )

I couldn’t pass this soft serve up since it was really HOT out. I needed the energy to walk back to the hotel. Sooo much walking in the city!

Our final dinner was at The dutch. I had heard tons of good press about this place especially for the lunch/brunch. We were in a hurry because we arrived late and had to get to the premiere so we didn’t get to experience all it has to offer (namely THE PIE) but what we did have let’s just say I was not impressed. The food was just so-so and really expensive for what you got. Oh well, you can’t win ’em all!
I still ♥ NY

Note: The next morning before we jumped on our plane back to CALI we took a walking food tour of Greenwich village. Check it out here

“The Farmer & The Chef” Documentary


I don’t think I have mentioned this before but Mike, my husband, is a professional documentary filmmaker when he is not baking me cakes. I haven’t brought it up because his previous films were not related to food, but his current project is! He is working on a doc called “The Farmer & the Chef.” The film takes you behind the scenes to see how Chef David Kinch & Farmer Cynthia Sandberg of Love Apple Farms grow and serve the perfect biodynamic meal at two-Michelin Star restaurant Manresa in Los Gatos, CA . The idea came about following our amazing 3-year wedding anniversary dinner at Manresa in 2009.

This summer I have been helping with some of the production and I have set up a website and a facebook page for the film. Check them out and be sure to “LIKE” the facebook page to keep up to date with the progress. The film is scheduled for release in January 2013. It should be tasty!

Full Circle Organic Produce Delivery Review + $10 off Coupon


Full Circle
 launched the Bay Area branch of its produce delivery service during the first week of June. They contacted me to see if I was interested in a free trial. I get offers to try similar services often and usually I pass because I am happy with my current delivery company, but when I checked out the Full Circle website the option to not only receive fruits & veggies but other groceries caught my attention. I thought the opportunity to purchase artisan goods including:  dairy & eggs, bread & pasta, meat, seafood, jam, coffee, honey and chocolate was very unique and something I had to check out.

Box #1 with my balls of pizza dough

My first “Sprout” size box (feeds 2-3 people) arrived right on time and everything was fresh and pretty clean. Items come straight from the farm so you should expect some dirt and bugs. In addition to the produce I added 2 balls of pizza dough from the grocery. We love to make pizza on the grill in the summer. Each ball was the perfect amount for a personal size pizza. All it needed was some heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. Turned out perfect…nice thin crust.

We also made a risotto with the leeks. Insanely good. See recipe here

Box #2 came the following week and we had just about eaten everything from our first box.

Contents of box #2 with my addition of free range eggs

The baby golden beats were delicious. I just put them in foil and roasted them in the oven for an hour and they were good to go.

Beets ready for the oven

Overall, the service has been great. The produce arrived in good condition and tasted wonderful. Every new service has positive things going for them and some areas that need improvement. Here is my assessment on Full Circle

Pros:
1. Variety! Since the produce is not coming from 1 single farm but 10+ California farms there are many more fruit & veg options and you can’t beat the added grocery items.
2. Choice – usually you make an exclusion list of produce you don’t want and if one of the items is scheduled the farm will just double up or in some cases triple up on other items already in your box. At Full Circle you can login to your account and see what is coming and switch items out yourself by choosing other items that are available that week – usually there are at least 10 additional items to choose from. I LOVE this option!
3. Delivery time – boxes are delivered overnight at the same time every week so when you wake up it’s there. No need to worry about having a delivery midday and everything going bad while sitting out in the sun.
4. Customer service – the website was easy to navigate and the process from signing up to receiving goods was a breeze. Customer service has been checking in to see if my deliveries were on time, produce was in good condition and to see if I had any concerns.

Cons:
1. Exemption list – they only allow you to select 5 items to exclude. If you don’t have time to go to your account and make changes each week you may receive things you don’t like or need. I happen to have a lot of exclusions because I have several citrus trees, herbs and veg growing in my yard so 5 doesn’t cut it.
2. Delivery schedule – boxes are scheduled to be delivered automatically every week. You have to personally contact the company if you want to skip a week or place a hold on your account. Not a big deal but a little incovienent. I would prefer to be able to login to my account and make adjustments to an online calendar instead of having to send emails or make phone calls. *They fixed this issue in August!

The pros definitely out-way the cons so give Full Circle a try. Next shipment, I plan to order salmon!

Website: http://www.fullcircle.com/

COUPON OFFER: $10 off your first box. Use promo code (exp 12/13): SOCIAL10

If you decide to sign up, please let them know Nicole Whalen referred you.

Risotto with Leeks, Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil


This was the  first recipe I made with items from my Full Circle organic produce delivery. Mike is not a fan of truffle oil but he loved this dish. All the ingredients worked together magically!

Tip: It was hot out and I was not about to turn on the oven… so for the mushrooms I just sauteed them in a pan!

shrooms & onions                     leeks & cream                              rice & stock

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | September 2007

Los Gatos Gourmet Food Truck Festival


In order to get folks in this neck of the woods to eat food off a truck the organizers had to step up their game. Unlike Moveable Feast here you will find real tables and chairs to sit at, a rockin’ band with a dance floor and a beer/wine tent (few truck events have alcohol). It’s a real classy affair held at the defunct La Hacienda Inn on Friday evenings. The crowd on our night consisted of thirty something year old parents with a minimum of 3 kids and 65 year old couples that like to shake a tail feather. Mike and I didn’t fit into either category but still had a good time.

The set-up only has room for 6 trucks but I was happy to see a few new options. We started off with a fried chicken sandwich from Pollo Fritto. Very reminiscent of the sando from BakeSale Betty. Nice crispy chicken, fresh slaw with a hint of heat on a toasty roll. Along with a Shocktop brew it was a great start.


Then we grabbed a Greek taco from Arabian Bites. It was basically a gyro but with the meat chopped up. Very flavorful. It came with a side of fries and a small tomato/cucumber salad…big bang for your buck.


For dessert we hit up the ice cream truck – Twisted Chill.


Note: As with all of these new truck events the food averages $8-10 for a sandwich/burger or couple of tacos…the days of cheap truck eats is over! Be sure to hit up the ATM and prepare to spend a couple Jacksons for 2 people.

Website: https://www.facebook.com/LGFoodFest

Smitten Ice Cream


Smitten Ice Cream first gained popularity when owner Robyn Sue hit the streets of SF pulling a red wagon equipped with a homemade liquid nitrogen run ice cream machine named “kelvin.”  Eventually she opened a brick and mortar store in a converted shipping container in Hayes Valley. Mike and I finally had the opportunity to check it out 2 weeks ago. The shop has 4 “kelvin” machines and each makes a single flavor: vanilla, chocolate and two seasonal flavors (that change daily). Every single scoop is made to order in 60 seconds using liquid nitrogen! It will be the freshest, coolest, creamiest ice cream you’ve ever had!

Check out our ice cream being made:

The final product…..

Ritual Coffee with Cocoa Nib brittle (left) and Strawberry pink peppercorn with lemon caramel sauce* (right)

I’m sure the vanilla and chocolate are good but if you’re making a special trip to this place be adventurous and try the suggested flavor combination of the day as I did*.

Website: http://smittenicecream.com/

Smitten Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

Green Bean Spaghetti Carbonara


This was soooo good….like breakfast for dinner. I did add the egg to the noodles too early which ended up making my sauce more scrambled than oozy but that didn’t stop me from devouring every last bite. Next time, I will remember to let my spaghetti cool a bit before mixing all the ingredients. I had some spinach on hand so I added that to the bacon/onion mixture. Yum.

Recipe link
Rachael Ray Magazine /Oct 2011

Food Trucks @ Moveable Feast


Food trucks are increasing in popularity more and more each day. Moveable Feast is a company that organizes events that feature groups of food trucks at locations all over the South Bay similar to Off the Grid in San Francisco. It seems like every couple weeks a new city is added to their list. It took me a while to try because I wasn’t interested in the trucks they had lined up until I saw that the Nom Nom truck (yes, the runner-up on the 1st season of the Food Network’s “The Great Food Truck race”) was coming from SF to Willow Glen.

Moveable Feast: Willow Glen happens every Friday night and has the largest number of trucks of all the feast locations – usually 10+. We arrived just as it opened because I had read about the super large crowds that gather.

Like restaurants, all food trucks are not created equal. Here are the things we ate that are worth trying:

1. Nom Nom: pork banh mi sandwich – at $5 a pop this not only tasted good but was the best deal of the night. Great fresh crusty bread and sweet pork with tart veggies.

2. Eat on Monday: Fried chicken club sandwich – maple syrup glazed bacon …. nuff.said.

3. le bon: garlic noodles w/ bacon and grilled shrimp – very flavorful

4. Fairy cakes – looked and tasted like your mom’s homemade cupcakes. Just a little pricey ($3) for the size.

Peanut butter cup, salty caramel, pb&j, pineapple upsidown cake

If you see the red buckets you know you are in the right place. No fancy seating or tables here. Grab a couple buckets and get eating!

Tips for a successful food truck excursion….arrive early (within 1st hour) so they don’t run out of food, the lines are not long and the wait for your food is short. Also, hit the ATM.

Note: best way to find out when/where and who is showing up each week is to check out their facebook page.

Website: http://www.mvbl.org/

Redd Wood

Famed chef Richard Reddington has opened a casual Italian eatery in Yountville down the street from his Michelin star restaurant REDD.

We arrived early on a Friday night and the restaurant was pretty empty except for the mini bar area which was standing room only. The tables around us seemed to be filled with locals as they knew the staff and brought plenty of their own wine. We were seated in a cozy corner booth that had a view of the entire restaurant. We decided to get a sampling of eats to share. We started off with the grilled artichokes with balsamic & Parmesan cheese which was crazy good but messy. I wouldn’t recommend ordering if you are on a first date. The balsamic glaze ended up all over our fingers and dripping down our arms (but maybe this just happens to us 🙂 ).

Next, potato gnocchi w/ duck leg, rosemary, olives & pancetta. There was no real sauce just the natural juices from the duck. LOVED this.


Of course we had to try one of the wood fired pizzas. We went with the basic fresh mozzarella, tomato & basil. I was expecting this to be my favorite part of our meal but it wasn’t. It was good but the crust was a little over-charred which left a burnt taste in my mouth. Minor mishap.


We finished with the chocolate caramel tart w/ praline & sea salt which was highly reccomended by our server. It was super rich so we had a hard time finishing it. If you are a chocolate lover this dessert is for you!

I didn’t know what to expect when we arrived since the reviews I had read were hit and miss but I really enjoyed the food, service and vibe so I will definitely return.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.redd-wood.com/

Redd Wood on Urbanspoon

Morimoto Napa


There are a bunch of cool spots that have opened on the Napa river over the last couple years…Morimoto is one of them. Because this was a sushi restaurant run by an Iron Chef I admit I had some high expectations. Morimoto himself was not in town on our visit but that was okay as we’d seen him in-person before.

Our meal started out on a super high note. We decided to order the hot appetizer called kakuni – a ten hour pork belly w/ rice congee and soy-scallion jus. It was melt-in-your-mouth good. Next, we had the tempura calamari salad which had a fantastic white miso dressing. The calamari was a tad over battered for my taste but Mike enjoyed it. We followed this up with some sushi rolls (soft shell crab,eel avocado,spicy tuna) which were…sushi rolls. They were not at all imaginative. They looked and tasted just like the take out I get at the spot down the street from my house – just slightly higher priced. We probably should have gone with one of the menu entrees. Oh well, lesson learned.

We still had a little room in our stomachs so we split the kabocha squash sticky toffee cake w/ buttermilk ice cream and asian pear. This was a pleasantly sweet ending to our night.


Next visit, it’s all about the OMAKASE (the tasting menu). I’m sure it’s as mind blowing as the price.

Rating: 

Website: http://morimotonapa.com/

Morimoto Napa on Urbanspoon

Carrot Soup with Thyme and Fennel


If you have any leftover carrots that the Easter bunny didn’t eat or your CSA gave you a ton … try this soup. Honestly, if I didn’t make this myself I would have had no idea it was carrot. The combo of thyme and fennel creates a super unique flavor that I could not get enough of. Mike and I really enjoyed this.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | March 1999

Guinness Float


Our St. Patrick’s day was spent as usual making corned beef. This year we made reuben sandwiches and for dessert I decided to make floats. I’m not a Guinness kinda gal, but my Irishman is, so this was my gift to him. It’s a pretty involved cocktail to make but he thoroughly enjoyed it so it was worth the time. I downed the ice cream and the whipped topping but most of the bitter stout remained in the glass. All that was left of Mike’s was a bit o’ cream on the tip of his nose.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit magazine / Feb 2011

reuben

Past corned beef recipes:
Guinness Corned Beef and Cabbage
Basic Corned Beef Sandwich
Corned Beef Hash with Fried egg

Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Stew


We arrived late in the morning to the fish booth at the Los Gatos farmers market and missed out on the lobster tail special they had so the fish lady suggested we try her insanely huge prawns instead. She said they tasted just like lobster and she was not kidding! I knew exactly how I wanted to use them… I had just read the Feb. issue of BA and this recipe jumped out at me. To go with the massive shrimps we picked up some cod and halibut from Whole Foods. The result was a pool of wonderfully sweet, salty,clammy, smokey flavors. I will for sure make this again in the future.

BTW -we used polenta instead of the suggested grits but I’m sure it would be great with grits or rice.

Note: The real name of this dish is Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Muddle but the word muddle is unappetizing to me so I changed it.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit magazine / FEBRUARY 2012

The Cats Restaurant & Tavern


Drum roll…..The Cats is back! To the dismay of many the Cats, a BBQ roadhouse in the hills of Los Gatos, closed without much warning about 4 years ago. The building has been around since the 20’s and has housed many different businesses but the most famous was the restaurant/tavern which opened in 1967. Whenever we went we knew we would see an interesting mix of folks and eat a nice piece of meat. Finally someone has got the BBQ pit burning again.

We arrived just before 5pm because we knew if it was anything like the old Cats if you arrived late you were gonna wait and wait and wait to get a table. When we walked in we were pleased to see the upgrades made but glad they didn’t go overboard and lose the charm that existed prior. If you are going for your first visit you will think nothing has been remodeled but the TVs, bar tables, floor, ceiling, fans, any decor whatsoever is all new. We sat in the bar with our friends and sipped on some micro brews for about 30 minutes until our table was ready. When we were seated we asked our waiter if we could order some appetizers and were told that they are only served in the bar. Weird…yes… especially since they don’t tell you that while you are in the bar…so we went straight to the entrees. Prior to coming I had looked over the menu online and was disappointed to find I couldn’t get a steak for under $32 but thankfully we were given a different more reasonably priced menu. Our table ordered the following…. filet mignon, bbq chicken, pulled pork, cheesecake & chocolate cake.



Everyone was happy with the food and the restaurant maintained its predecessors no fuss presentation style. My steak was a tad overcooked but I let that go since they’d only been open for 6 weeks. The only bummer was that the live music didn’t start until 9pm and we were long gone by then. When we left it was obvious that The Cats was as popular as ever as it was standing room only out in the bar.

Welcome back, Cats!

Tiny kitchen

Note: if you have never been it’s hard to find (especially in the dark)…so get your gps ready. Also, there is limited parking. If you want to avoid the drive The Cats is offering a courtesy shuttle from 5pm-10:30pm on the weekends near the Toll House Hotel (runs every 15 minutes). Check their facebook page for more details.

Rating:

Website: http://thecatsrestaurantandtavern.com/

Cats on Urbanspoon

Belated 4 year Blogaversary


Yesterday marked the 4 year anniversary of Bay Area Foodie. I meant to do something special like go get a Jumbaco (j/k) then completely forgot. So on my way home from work today I stopped by a new cupcake shop in Campbell called Frost Cupcake Factory.

Luckily it was Mini Monday so I could get a bunch of flavors to try. I chose the following…

Mocha Java – stay away from anything with meringue butter cream frosting…has an unpleasant greasy/waxy consistency.

Salt ‘n sweet – should be called super salty! Probably better in the large size.

Frostfetti – frosting was overly sweet.

Maui coconut dream – good flavors but it has the dreaded meringue frosting.

Rose velvet – supposed to taste like red velvet but didn’t.

Snowball – THIS WAS THE BEST! Chocolate cake with marshmallow frosting and covered in coconut. WINNER!

The snowball will have me coming back for more.

Website: http://www.frostcupcakefactory.com/

NOPA San Francisco


NOPA is located north of the panhandle in San Francisco and serves up rustic wood-fired cuisine. We stopped in for brunch on a Sunday morning and it was standing room only. Luckily I made a reservation.

We were immediately seated at a table upstairs overlooking all the action. We had a view of  the open kitchen, bustling bar and main seating area.

Since we were going to watch a movie following our meal Mike and I decided to share a few apps and a main so we didn’t feel bloated in the theater. We decided on the following…

Goat Cheese Bread Pudding w/ Sautéed Chanterelles and Upland Cress

Bread puddings can sometimes be heavy… this was light and flavorful.

Oven Baked Farm Egg w/ Spiced Tomato, Shaved Pantaleo and Grilled Bread

So,so good. We slopped up every last bite of the spice laden sauce with our toasty bread. It seemed to have every spice under the sun in it (cardamon, cinnamon, cumin, coriander) but it worked.

Grass Fed Hamburger – Bacon, Pickled Onions and Herbed French Fries

The burger was perfectly pink and juicy and the fries were a thicker version of In-N-Out but much better tasting.

This is a great spot to have a homey meal in an energetic environment.

Website: http://nopasf.com/

Nopa on Urbanspoon

Potato Latkes


I’ve had the best of both worlds because I’ve grown up celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. This year my parents came to my house to celebrate Chanukah and we made latkes. When I broke out my new Cuisinart food processor to grate the potatoes and onion my mom shook her head in dismay. “I always use a grater,” she said, “we are not making hashbrowns!”

My mom likes her potato and onion mixture to be like mush, not shredded. So after I used the shredder attachment and it was not to her liking I changed the blade and gave it a few pulses to get it to her perfect consistency. Making latkes is pretty simple and delicious. Happy Chanukah!

Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside

My Mom’s Latkes Recipe
Makes about 16

Ingredients:
2 large russet potatoes (peeled)
1 onion
1 tsp. salt
1 egg (beaten)
3 Tbsp. matzo meal
Vegetable oil to fry
Apple Sauce & Sour cream for serving

Instructions:
Grate the onion and potatoes with a box grater or as I described above (much faster!) into a bowl. Then mix with the remaining ingredients. Heat a skillet with vegetable oil (enough to cover 1/2 of the pancakes) over high heat. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil (don’t crowd) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain the latkes on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.

Coconut Macaroons


For holiday gifts this year I chose to make the 2011 Food & Wine magazine coconut macaroons because I thought it was going to be quick and easy. I was wrong. My first batch was a disaster. I tried to half the recipe because it said it made 40 and I only needed 20. What resulted was a bunch of coconut pancake-like cookies.

Round 1 = EPIC FAIL

I tried again and made the full amount because it was obvious I didn’t have enough coconut. Whoever “tested and perfected” this recipe at F&W mag didn’t do a good job.

Reason 1 – The recipe doesn’t come close to making 40 macaroons as stated, it was more like 25.
Reason 2 -Don’t bake for 25 minutes! If you don’t want badly burnt cookies watch them carefully once they hit 10 minutes in the oven …anything over 15 and you are in trouble.
Reason 3 – There was no mention that the macaroons may run during baking so if you want them to look like what you see in a store (round balls) then you will have to trim the edges.
Reason 4 – They say to stick the finished product in the fridge for about 5 minutes for the chocolate to set. It takes a good 20 min.

In the end they still tasted killer but in order to not have to doctor them up to look presentable they need either more coconut or less sweetened condensed milk.

Recipe link
Food & Wine magazine, Dec. 2011

Chez Panisse


Who knew that it was harder to get a reservation at Chez Panisse than the French Laundry? I had no idea that it was still so popular. We attempted to reserve a table for my birthday about 3 weeks prior but they were fully booked. The reservationist said I had to call exactly at 9am one month in advance, to the calendar date so that’s what we did. To Mike’s disdain my usual 1 week birthday would now last 2.

Chez Panisse is a Berkeley institution where famed chef Alice Waters creates her fabulous farm to table feasts. In the 70’s Waters pioneered the concept of preparing meals using fresh seasonal ingredients that are produced sustainably and locally. The restaurant is located in an Arts and Crafts style house on Shattuck Avenue that is small and intimate. Each night they serve a new 3-4 course menu so you won’t know what you are being served until the week you have a reservation (you can check the website). If you are a picky eater and don’t like quail, duck or rabbit eating here may be a gamble for you. Mike and I are down to try anything so this was not an issue for us, but we ended up with a pretty safe menu.

Menu

Nov 19, 2011

An apéritif
Grapefruit champagne cocktail
Course 1
Bellwether Farms sheep’s milk ricotta with fall vegetables and coriander vinaigrette
Course 2
Roasted halibut with savoy cabbage and lobster butter
Course 3
Spit-roasted Piedmontese beef rib eye with Beaujolais sauce, potato cake, chanterelles, and Cannard Farm salad
Course 4
Black Mission fig tartlet with Chartreuse ice cream

Dishes were rustic and simply presented but service was a little stiff. I’m a meat and potatoes girl so course #3 was my favorite. They made beef melt in my mouth and a basic potato cake taste scrumptious. Mike and I both loved our meal. Chez Panisse lost its Michelin star in 2011 to many people’s dismay. If they are not deserving then I tend to question the guides’ ratings because it was more than a meal, it was an experience.

Note: if you are looking for a less formal (and less expensive) meal check out the upstairs cafe.

Rating:

Website: http://www.chezpanisse.com/

Chez Panisse on Urbanspoon

Delicata Squash Soup


I’d never seen or tasted a delicata squash until it arrived in our CSA delivery. After some research I found out that it is sweet and most commonly prepared by simply roasting it in the oven, but I decided to take it a step further and make it into a soup.

You know it's a delicata squash by the cool green stripes

When they said it was sweet I expected flavors similar to a butternut squash but it was much more subtle. This tasted like a potato soup with a touch of sweetness. I’ve made many squash soups and sometimes they turn out bland but this, although mild, I found uniquely delicious.

Recipe link
Food & Wine magazine / Feb 1999

For more winter squash recipes check out other bloggers participating in the Food Network’s Fall Fest (a season long franchise where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about seasonal produce every week)…

 

 

And Love It Too: Warm Winter Chili
The Sensitive Epicure: Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Cooking Channel: Kabocha Squash Pasta
CIA Dropout: Stuffed Winter Squash
What’s Gaby Cooking: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bisque With Sage Cream
FN Dish: Simply Roasted Winter Squash
Napa Farmhouse 1885:
Pomme d’or With Wild Mushroom Risotto

Umami Burger

When humans eat, they use all of their senses (sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste) to form general judgments about their food, but it is taste that is the most influential in determining how delicious a food is. Conventionally, it has been thought that our sense of taste is comprised of four basic, or ‘primary’, tastes, which cannot be replicated by mixing together any of the other primaries: sweet, sour, salt and bitter. However, it is now known that there is actually the fifth primary taste: umami
Umami Information Center

Umami burger if you are not familiar is a beloved Southern Cali chain that has now opened up on Union Street in San Francisco. When we arrived on a Monday night at 5:30pm the small space was almost empty. I made sure to come at a non-peak time to avoid the long waits I’ve read about.

I went with the signature Umami burger and Mike chose the Manly burger and we shared the truffle cheese fries. When everything arrived I was surprised by the petite size of the burgers (they look larger in photos). I gotta be honest we were hungry… we both downed our burgers within 4-5 bites so I can’t give you a real in-depth evaluation. All I know was mine was sweet and had kind of an Asian vibe and Mike’s had little yummy bacon lardons. Oh, and when I took my first bite my wedding ring was swimming in meat drippings (which was a good thing). The burger was cooked to perfection at medium rare which is their standard. It was juicylicious!

Manly burger (beer cheddar, onion rings,bacon) & Umami burger (shiitake shroom,onion,roasted tomato,parm crisp)

The truffle cheese fries (not on the menu but should be) were great and not overly truffley. They came with a trio of sauces but what I liked best was the homemade ketchup which kinda tasted like it was made with brown sugar.

We will have to go back again to savor the flavor.

Note: I thought we were going to leave hungry but in the end we were perfectly full. No burger bloat.

Rating:

Website: http://umamiburger.com/

Umami Burger on Urbanspoon

Baked Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter


Our CSA delivery was overflowing with beets in November. Since I was tired of making beet salads I started looking for a unique way to use them when this ravioli recipe grabbed my attention.

If you are not a fan of beets this is not going to convert you. You have to like the flavor because it is prominent. If you enjoy beets like I do you will find these truly satisfying. The only change I would make to the recipe next time is maybe use a more pungent cheese like blue. Other reviewers said they had tried that and I can see that really kicking up the flavor.


I made a few modifications to the  Bon Appétit  recipe.
1. I’m lazy so I chose to use wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta (they suggested this option to save time)
2. Instead of boiling the ravioli’s I followed the directions on the wonton package to bake them. Preheat oven to 375. Mist a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place filled ravioli onto prepared baking sheet and brush tops of ravioli lightly with olive oil then bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Then I spooned over the poppy seed butter (which I added sage to).

This baked version would be better served as an Appetizer – cut in triangles with the butter on the side for dipping.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit  | May 2005

For more tasty beet recipes check out other bloggers participating in the Food Network’s Fall Fest (a season long franchise where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about seasonal produce every week)…

 

 

What’s Gaby Cooking: Farro Beet and Herb Salad
My Angel’s Allergies:
Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad
Cooking Channel:
Garlicky Beet Salad With Walnuts and Dates
The Sensitive Epicure:
Simply Sauteed Beets
FN Dish:
Top 3 Beet Salad Recipes
And Love It Too: Raw, Vegan and Sugar-Free Red Velvet Fudge
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Beet Salad With Crispy Leeks and Bacon
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Beet Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

Farm Fresh To You – Organic Produce Delivery Service ($10 off coupon)

ffty-box
If you were thinking about having organic produce delivered to your home here is your chance. I received a coupon code for $10 off your first shipment from Farm Fresh to You, a Bay Area delivery service. We’ve been getting deliveries from them for over 3 years and we really enjoy it.

To redeem this offer mention promo code #6164 when signing up online or by phone. Please let them know I referred you by giving them my customer id# 63355. Enjoy!

ffty_best_of_bayWebsite: http://www.farmfreshtoyou.com/

*This discount is for NEW customers only.

See my past posts about this great local company:
Our first delivery
Recipes made with our produce

Fremont Diner – Sonoma

Fremont Diner is a small revamped diner in Sonoma that serves up tasty vittles like pulled pork, corn fritters, Oyster Po’Boy, mac n cheese and fried pies. Yes, another healthy meal for us! When we told a local we were heading over for lunch he said the food was good but then warned us about the service. When we arrived we put our name on the waiting list and joined the small mob that was standing in the parking lot (no seating area). It looks like it used to be open seating but it is no longer which means on a Saturday you got a good 30 minute wait for your name to be called.

When we were finally seated inside we were not only starving but knew exactly what we wanted because we had plenty of time to peruse the menu. Here is were the poor service thing comes into action. We sat at our table for at least 15 minutes before our waitress decided to come and take our order and it wasn’t like she was buzzing around helping others because the 3 tables around us had just left.

We started off with a milkshake because I had heard they were a “not to miss” item. We chose the salted caramel which had chunks of crystallized salty sweet goodness throughout. I agree, they make damn good milkshakes. Next up Mike ordered the Chicken and Waffles. Bonus was that is was a boneless breast so no dirty hands.

I went with the Shrimp & Grits which I enjoyed but it came with those tiny baby shrimps (I prefer the big guys) and was pretty spicy, but it was topped with an egg and bacon so I forgave them.
For dessert we had the peach bread pudding which wasn’t as good as I had hoped. It had the consistency of a quiche and was a tad burnt but we still ate it all. Stuffed we waited and waited some more for the bill to arrive. Our quick bite at a local diner turned out to be an almost 2 hour event. Good thing we were not in a hurry.
Overall, the positive did outweigh the negative so we will return — on a weekday– and give it another go.

Website: http://thefremontdiner.com/

Fremont Diner on Urbanspoon

72 Hours in Seattle


Mike and I spent a long weekend in Seattle visiting friends. We had never been so we arrived with a long list of things we wanted to check out and luckily our hosts were game to show us around. Here are the highlights!

Day 1

We arrived around noon and it was amazingly sunny and warm. Everyone said it was the best day of the year so far. To take advantage of the nice weather we decided to tool around Kirkland and grab a bite to eat at the Purple Cafe and wine bar.

I had seen a clip about Purple on the Food Network’s  “Best thing I ever Ate” where Melissa D’Arabian said the calamari was to die for. For the table we ordered the calamari, a cheese plate, a bunch of spreads with flatbreads/crackers, bruschetta and lots of wine. I should have known better than to trust the opinion of a winner of  “The Next Food Network Star” because I hate that show. The calamari was nothing special AT ALL! It was good but no better than any other calamari I’ve had.

Hey, Melissa! Next time you go try the bruschetta with cambozola cheese, prosciutto and red onion jam …now that’s something to drool over!

Day 2

Before we went on BILL SPEIDEL’S UNDERGROUND TOUR we walked up the street 2 blocks to Built Burger. Built specializes in burgers made with all natural meats from the Northwest. The meat, the buns, the toppings were oh so fresh! Check it out for sure if you are in the area. By the way the tour was fun too.

On our walk back to our car we ran into a little food cart called Street donuts. They serve mini donuts fried to order. We chose coconut with caramel…sooo good! Glad I don’t live here or this could become an addiction.

For dinner we went to a Tom Douglas joint. We had to because he is the king of Seattle. The Palace Kitchen features food cooked in its apple-wood burning grill. We feasted on the following: goat cheese and lavender fondue w/wood grilled bread, palace olive poppers,summer vegetables,washington flat iron steak,tagliatelle w/braised leg of lamb,warm roasted beets,smoked salmon chowder,peach-wild huckleberry crisp and the dahlia triple coconut cream pie. My personal favs were the fondue & coconut cream pie. Now I know why Chef Douglas has such a big following.

Day 3


Today was a little cool and cloudy and rained for the latter half the day but that didn’t stop us from strolling through all the hot spots of Pike Place Market. We hit up Daily Dozen Doughnuts (good stuff), Piroshky-Piroshky (I preferred the sweet over savory) and Pike Place Chowder (better than Boston). It was a slow Monday morning so no flying fish : (

Following that we jumped on a ferry to do some wine tasting in the small town of Bainbridge. The 30 minute ride was relaxing and had fantastic views.

view from the ferry

Walking distance from the boat we found 2-3 tasting rooms. We stopped at Island Vintners which featured wines from 3 local wineries and Eleven Winery. We were very surprised with the high quality of wines sampled and the woman working the Island Vintners room was hilarious.

For our last evening we headed to Bellevue to have apps and drinks at Black Bottle  (cool spot) followed by dinner at Din Tai Fung. Din is an award winning Taiwanese run dumpling house that serves up dim sum like dishes all day long. We shared a bunch of entrées like steamed pork soup dumplings, pork buns, shrimp shui mai, green beans and fried rice. Everything tasted great but I gotta admit my favorite thing was the garlic green beans.

We had a blast in Seattle. Shout out to CB & DB for showing us a wonderful time.


Cambridge: Hungry Mother & Toscanini’s Ice Cream

For our last evening in Boston we headed to Cambridge. We decided to first check out a small restaurant called Hungry Mother that serves up seasonal southern grub. We ordered the following:

GREEN TOMATO GAZPACHO: maine crab salad, cherry tomatoes, cornbread crumbs
FRIED CHICKEN: sautéed collard greens, compressed watermelon, tabasco honey
LOCAL CATCH: summer corn maque choux, cherry tomatoes, lobster-basil emulsion
SKILLET CORNBREAD

All the food was very tasty and well prepared. My favorite was the compressed watermelon. Now I know why the locals love this place.

I highly recommend making a reservation because the space is small. There was a long line when we left.

Rating:
Website: http://www.hungrymothercambridge.com/

Hungry Mother on Urbanspoon


We took off without having dessert because I had read about a place a few blocks away that was named by the New York Times as having the best ice cream in the world!

We arrived at Toscanini’s Ice Cream and looked over the menu of over 20 super unique flavors like bourbon flake, salty saffron, vienna finger cookie, bourbon chocolate chip & goat cheese brownie. After trying about 6 my head was spinning and in a hurry to order and not hold up the line any longer I ended up blurting out green tea and cake batter. Yes, two flavors I could easily find at home. Oh, well. Mike won on the selections … he chose salted caramel and fluffernutter which were incredibly good. The ice cream was sooooo rich and creamy that I barely made a dent in my one scoop. It may also be that I had been eating like a pig for 3 days so I had hit a wall…

Note: if you get a small you can still ask for two flavors!

Website: http://www.tosci.com/

Toscanini's Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

SPORTELLO restaurant & DRINK cocktail bar

On our second evening we ventured to the waterfront area for dinner and drinks at Sportello and Drink, both owned by one of Boston’s most renowned chefs Barbara Lynch.

Sportello (Italian for counter) is a modern Italian take on a diner. The restaurant is composed of almost all counter seating with an open kitchen. The vibe is young and hip…you have to be to sit on a stool for 2 hours : )

We started with the beat, avocado & crab salad and they brought some of the softest bread I’ve ever had along with a cheese, oil & jam concoction that was to die for.

    

Mains included: tagliatelle pasta with sauce bolognese and fried basil for me and anson mills polenta with wild boar ragu for Mike.

 

We finished things off by splitting an ice cream sandwich composed of salty pistachio cookies and chocolate gelato (grand combo). All the food was simply prepared and presented but tasted fantastic. I would come back here in a heartbeat. Bravo Barbara!

Website: http://www.sportelloboston.com/

Sportello on Urbanspoon

Located under Sportello is the bar Drink. This was the first time we had been to a bar that specializes in the art of cocktails. When you arrive you can’t just belly up to the bar and yell at the bartender. You have to wait for the hostess to show you to a spot either at a stool at the bar, or at the standing only counter tops that run along the walls. Then a server will come and take your order. There is no drink menu (except if you have wine) you simply tell your server your favorite flavors, liquor, or mood you are in and they will return with a drink prepared especially for you by a mixologists. We normally don’t drink cocktails so we had no idea what to order but our server returned with two really nice drinks without much input from us: Gimlet (gin/lime) for Mike and a Bohemian (vodka/grapefruit) for me. This was the perfect ending to our night out.

Website: http://drinkfortpoint.com/

Ratings:

Drink on Urbanspoon

Mike & Patty’s

if you blink you'll miss this corner store

I had heard that an itty bitty sandwich shop in Boston’s bay village neighborhood serves up some killer breakfast eats so on our way to the Sam Adams brewery tour we stopped by for some morning grub. You don’t want to drink on an empty stomach 😉 !

We ordered 2 sandwiches:
– fancy bacon and egg with cheddar, avocado, red onion and house mayo on toasted multigrain bread
– classic bacon and egg with cheese on an english muffin

We arrived on a Friday around 11am and there was only one person in front of us but it still took at least 20 minutes to get our food. It felt like the dude working the grill was movin’ in slow mo, but I would too because it was like 110 degrees inside the tiny shop. There are a couple stools to sit inside but we chose to sit out on the curb to avoid drippin’ in sweat. If you are in a hurry I’d call your order in.

Both sandos were good but it’s all about the fancy. The spicy chipolte mayo mixed with the cool avocado, salty bacon and oozy egg on toasty bread was a match made in bfast heaven. I will be trying to recreate this at home in the near future!

oh so fancy!

Website: http://www.mikeandpattys.com/

Mike & Patty's on Urbanspoon

Neptune Oyster


Our first meal in Boston had to be seafood and all reviews pointed to Neptune Oyster. I knew ahead of time that it was difficult to get a table because they don’t take reservations and they only have 6 small tables and a long bar. Protocol is to arrive and put your name on the list and wait it out at the park across the street, or come at 4:59pm (like us -it was our first day so we were exhausted from our red eye flight) and grab one of the last remaining tables.

We started off with the fried ipswich clams with lemon tarter sauce and the P.E.I. mussels in a red curry broth. Both were great but I preferred the clams and Mike the mussels. He made sure to order a basket of bread to sop up every drop of that broth. Next up the Maine lobster roll served hot and drenched in butter. I think it could use a tad more butter if you can believe it. I’m so bad… If you don’t want to feel totally piggy nix the fries like we did and order a salad. It’s nice and fresh.


The service, setting and food were all wonderful. I hope to return to try the lobster pasta.

Note: If you like oysters (we don’t) boy do they have oysters …there were too many varieties to count.

Rating:

Website: http://www.neptuneoyster.com/

Neptune Oyster on Urbanspoon

Garlic-Pesto, Brie & Onion Burger


We love burgers…this time it was made with beef from our grass-fed beef club. The meat was fantastic. This recipe is from the burger queen herself, Miss Ray. Tasty…but not good for a first date.

Recipe link
Rachael Ray

Project Open Hand Peanut Butter

Project Open Hand peanut butter is all natural, trans-fat free, and contains ONE ingredient – peanuts!

Project Open Hand, a San Francisco non-profit food relief organization that provides meals and groceries to the city’s most vulnerable residents is now selling their popular homemade peanut butter to the Bay Area masses. Check out their story…

Purchase it at Project Open Hand – 730 Polk Street or SF Whole Foods markets.

Also, find the peanut butter featured in Humphry Slocombe ice cream flavor “Open Hand Fluffer Nutter” and Dynamo Donut’s  “Open Hand Peanut Buddy” donut!

Project Open Hand provided me with a sample of the honey roasted peanut butter and, WOW,  it was the best I’ve ever tasted. I decided to use some of it in a peanut butter milk chocolate pudding dessert. It turned out wonderfully creamy and soooo flavorful. If you can get your hands on some of this stuff you will be a happy camper and supporting a great cause.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit  | January 2009

Website: http://www.openhand.org/

Dishcrawl San Jose


Dishcrawl is a new company that hosts walking food tours in select cities across the Bay Area. I love a good food tour where you get to sample new and unique eats. Mike and I decided to go on the San Jose crawl on Tuesday June 28, 2011 at 7pm. Each crawl features 4 destinations.

Our night started off at Billy Berk’s large outdoor seating area where we checked in and got our dishcrawl team assignment (we began as one large group then split into 2 smaller 30+ person groups). We stayed here 1 hour and were able to have cocktails (not included in price) and sampled Billy’s American fare which included very good flatbreads and so-so fried zucchini.

Next we walked to House of Siam a Thai restaurant maybe 2 blocks away. After we took off our shoes (thank goodness I wore socks!) we were seated and ate a plate of fried sweet potatoes, a pickled salad and a spicy chicken curry (I think….we were not given any formal description of what we were eating). We were here for 45 minutes which left plenty of time (maybe too much) to chit chat with our fellow crawlers.

Then we were off to the Eat On Monday food truck which was parked a few blocks away to nosh on fried pork sandwiches with wasabi slaw, beef tacos and churros with strawberry sauce. This was our favorite spot of the night.

Last stop was the Dishcrawl San Jose office to nibble on Li’l Puffs Artisan marshmallows (they don’t have a storefront). They served up mini smore’s cupcakes as well as marshmallows.

The evening lasted about 2.5 hours and was co-hosted with LikeList who gave us some cool parting gifts (tshirts/flashlights). The Dishcrawl organizers are young, energetic and ready to have a good time. The majority of the people on our tour were in their 20’s to early 30’s but there were a handful of older folks like us. Although outnumbered we didn’t feel out of place. Overall it was a fun time.

The only drawback I see is that they don’t let you know where you are going until the last minute – if at all. In the first few months they were good about telling you what restaurants you were visiting but now they don’t say anything until maybe 4 days before. If you watch their twitter feed you might find a couple hints. I don’t know about you but I’m not interested in crawling to a bunch of places I’ve already been so I didn’t order our tickets until 2 days before the event.

They seems to add new cities and states every month so there is bound to be a Dishcrawl you would like to check out. I look forward to seeing what they have planned for Saratoga, Mike’s old stomping grounds.

Website: http://www.dishcrawl.com/

Our night in pics:

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Strawberry Blintz Ebelskivers


The ebelskivers are back and better than ever! Imagine a blintz and a pancake all rolled into one. These were over the top good. We again saved a little time by using the Williams Sonoma mix. The recipe suggests using 1 tsp. of filling but use close to 2 …you’ll thank me.


Recipe link

Ebelskivers from the past…
Chocolate Ebelskivers
Cinnamon-Bun Ebelskiver

The French Laundry


What did we do for our 5 year wedding anniversary? We went to one of the best restaurants in the world…the French Laundry owned by Chef Thomas Keller!! How did we get a reservation? See below. It was a gorgeous July day in the Napa valley when we arrived for our three hour lunch. As we entered we were welcomed, congratulated on our anniversary and promptly escorted upstairs to our table. We were the first to arrive to the small dining room. As our waiter described the menu the other 4 tables in our area filled with guests from China, Florida, Arizona and New York but no VIPs or celebrities. Due to the close proximity of the tables it was easy to hear the conversations around us especially the woman who decided she was going to make and receive phone calls during the first half of her meal (she did keep them short but still so rude!).

Deciding what to order was easy as we were not going to do any of the supplements and for the few courses that we had a choice we chose one of each so we could try everything served that day. Mike instantly fell in love with the 100+ page wine list presented on an Apple ipad (the technology not the prices…). He decided on two half bottles to accompany our meal. We started with a Lazy Creek Riesling and ended with a Biale Black Chicken Zinfandel. Together they ran about $125 and were some of the cheapest bottles on the list which brought our total bill to $720. Both wines were wonderful but the Black Chicken blew us away so much that we are going to visit the winery next week.

The menu for 7.8.2011

Amuse-bouche #1
Gruyère Cheese Puffs

Amuse-bouche #2
Salmon Tartare atop a Crème Fraiche Filled Poppyseed Cone

Course #1
“ O Y S T E R S  A N D  P E A R L S ”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

Course #2
S A L A D  O F  H A W A I I A N  H E A R T S  O F  P A L M
Lychee, French laundry Garden Cucumber and Greek Basil

Course #3
A T L A N T I C  C O D  “C O N F I T  A  L A  M I N U T E”
Brentwood Corn Mousse, Summer Squash, Parsley Shoots and Demi-Sec Tomatoes

Course #4
S W E E T  B U T T E R – P O A C H E D  M A I N E  L O B S T E R  T A I L
Charred Leek, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Piedmont Hazelnuts and Vanilla-Sauternes Emulsion

S A N T A  B A R B A R A  S P O T  P R A W N S
Green Mission Fig, Young Coconut, Hass Avocado, Red Jalapeno and Cilantro

Course #5
L I B E R T Y  F A R M  P E K I N  D U C K
“Confit de Canard,” Steamed Bun, Nantes Carrots, Radish, Edamame and “Sauce Japanaise”

D E V I L ‘S  G U L C H  R A N C H  “E P A U L E  D E  L A P I N”
Summer Pole Beans, Smoked Garlic Puree and Hobbs’ Bacon “Jus”

Course #6
S N A K E  R I V E R  F A R M S  “C A L O T T E  D E  B O E U F  G R I L L E E”
“Pommes Darphin,” Chanterelle Mushrooms “a la Greque,” Quail Egg and English Peas

Course #7
“B R I L L A T  S A V A R I N”
Pistachio “Pain de Genes,” Celery Branch and French Laundry Garden Strawberries

Course #8
N E C T A R I N E  S O R B E T
Earl Grey Tea “Granite,” Honey and Grilled Nectarines

Course #9
C A R A M É L I A  C H O C O L A T E  “ C R È M E U X ”
Gros Michel Banana, Georgia Peanuts, “Dentelle” and Salted Popcorn Ice Cream

“Î L E  F L O T T A N T E”
Lemongrass, Meiwa Kumquat, Black Sesame and Ginger “Anglaise”

ANNIVERSARY BANANA CAKE

M I G N A R D I S E S:
6 Truffles (hazelnut, cherry, ginger, meyer lemon, olive oil, peanut butter & jelly)
Cold Espresso with Cappuccino Foam & Sugar Doughnuts
Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts from Hawaii

PARTING GIFT:
Shortbread Cookies

Our experience in photos:

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Lunch, like dinner, includes a couple Amuse-bouche items followed by 9 courses and concludes with Mignardises which are bite-size desserts. All the dishes were prepared perfectly and arrived at timely intervals. Mike’s favorite course was the devil’s gulch rabbit. He oohed and aahed through every bite. The thing I enjoyed most I hate to say was the desserts. Even though the beef melted in my mouth the caramel mousse with salted popcorn ice cream was off the charts. At the end of our meal we also received a small banana cake for our anniversary. As it was being placed on the table Mike told the server that banana was the top tier of our wedding cake which the server in turn said with a smile…we did our research. It was a nice coincidence.

About the service…you would think that a place that requires men to wear a jacket even at lunch (in California) would be uptight and stuffy, but our servers were all super friendly, down to earth and casual in their approach. They didn’t speak only when spoken to but engaged us in conversation about where we were from, how long we would be in town and what other plans we had while in town. We found that very refreshing.

Lunch vs. dinner… I was psyched that we got a reservation on our exact anniversary date but mildly disappointed that we didn’t get an evening seating. After finishing our meal we were extremely pleased that we had come for lunch because we were stuffed. We didn’t even finish half of our Mignardises and couldn’t imagine having to go to bed immediately following that food marathon. We couldn’t eat for the rest of the day. Another bonus was prior to the sweet portion of our meal we were offered the opportunity to stretch our legs. Being able to take a short walk outside in the sun and check out the garden across the street was just what we needed after 2 hours of sitting and probably not an option if dining late at night. I wouldn’t change a thing about our time spent at the French Laundry.

Rating:

Website: http://www.frenchlaundry.com/

How to get a reservation at one of the 16 tables? Perseverance is the key… just keep trying and you will get in. I read all the tips online about how to get an elusive reservation. It really was not as difficult as everyone says. It may not be the exact time you want but you will get something, especially if you are in the area for a long weekend… although booking a table for 2 is more difficult than 4+ because they have fewer small tables. 2 months to the calendar date I began dialing at 9:58am (they open at 10am) and was able to get through to a reservation agent by 10:20ish. On the two days I called all reasonable times for dinner (before 9pm) were taken but lunch and late night dining was available. I ultimately went with a lunch opening I found on opentable because Mike goes to bed early and I didn’t want him sleeping through dinner. On opentable reservations would randomly pop up between 9:30-10:20am. Another option is to have your hotel or credit card concierge call, but in my case both only got me wait-listed. I don’t think they are hitting the phone lines at 10am…

In the late 1920′s the building housed a French steam laundry

French Laundry on Urbanspoon

Clearly Fresh Produce Storage Bags

I’m always looking for ways to keep my CSA greens from dying. When the manufacturers of Clearly Fresh bags contacted me with claims that they had a bag with BreatheWay® packaging technology that would help my produce last 50% longer I jumped at the chance to try it.

After looking at the bag sample I had some serious reservations that it would work because it was just a regular zip lock bag with a hole covered by a sticker.

I decided to do a side-by-side comparison with two bushels of spinach I received in my CSA delivery.

DAY 1 - Bushel #1 goes into a Clearly Fresh bag, Bushel #2 does not

The BreatheWay membrane (big sticker) acts as an Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide passageway – allowing just the right amount of oxygen in and much more carbon dioxide out permitting produce to naturally create their own ideal atmosphere for storage life extension.

DAY 7 - Clearly Fresh Spinach on left, Non-bagged Spinach on Right

Clearly Fresh Spinach - Lookin' good!

Non-bagged Spinach - Lookin' sad....

There was a clear difference between the two spinach bushels on day 7. The one not in the bag had wilted and became limp and dry. I ended up throwing out a good portion of it.  The Clearly Fresh spinach was crisp and healthy looking. It’s appearance had not not changed much from day 1. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

It really works! Clearly Fresh Bags… I thank you for the sample and so does my produce!

Website: http://www.clearlyfreshbags.com/

For a limited time visit the Clearly Fresh website and get 15% off your purchase. Use offer code: BAF15
Discount ends July 4, 2011.

Strawberry and Rhubarb Crumble


For the first time we received a few stalks of rhubarb in our CSA. I had never cooked it before so went on a search for a recipe. There was a trend to use it in a compote or baked good (pie/cake) and almost always with strawberries. I decided to go with the easiest and fastest …. a crumble.

It turned out really tasty and super sweet. Rhubarb looks like red celery and I didn’t taste it raw but it’s supposed to be tart, so to compensate the recipe used a lot of sugar. With a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream (we tried both) it makes for the perfect summer dessert.

Modifications we made: we used walnuts and added a little corn starch to the filling to keep it from getting runny per the comments others made.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit  | May 2010

Avocado Ice Cream


As soon as I saw Rick Bayless’s avocado ice cream on Top Chef Masters in 2009 I knew one day I would make it. When I received a box of lovely ripe avocados from the California Avocado Commission this recipe instantly popped back into my head.


I decided to cut the recipe in half and initially used two avocados but when I tried the final product it was more of a icy sorbet and the tequila was a bit over-powering. Not what I was going for so Mike suggested that I add another blended avocado to the mix. I did and the result was perfect…creamy, sweet avocado with a hint of tequila. This ice cream would be great as a “palate cleanser” during a multi course meal.


To ensure you are getting the best most nutritious avocados INSIST ON CALIFORNIA AVOCADOS!

Recipe link

Note: I received these avocados courtesy of the California Avocado Commission as part of the Foodbuzz tastemaker program.

Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Sherry Vidalia Onions


Mmmm Mmmm good. The sherry onions were the best part. Even though summer is no where to be seen in the Bay Area we still BBQ’d in the rain this weekend.

Recipe link
Cooking Light Magazine /June 2011

5 Minute Focaccia Mix


Mike’s childhood friend, Claudia Pruett, dropped off samples of her new product called 5 Minute Focaccia Mix. We received all 4 flavors (original,rosemary,raisin,choc chip) but decided to go with rosemary for our first time.

only 3 ingredients needed: mix,sparkling water,oil

Here is a video of us making the fragrant and yummy rosemary bread.

The process was fast & easy but the end result although tasty was a little thinner than expected. Along with the mix Claudia gave us some focaccia she had prepared and it was wonderfully thick and spongy. We are attributing the difference to the rising time because she said she lets the dough rise overnight and we only let it sit for 4.5 hours. It probably needs 7-10.

Focaccia can result in a very oily texture. We wanted to try and make it a little less so we used half the amount of oil called for. The dough did soak up a lot of the oil so next time we will probably use a little more than half.

Buy the A Tavola Together 5 minute focaccia mix  here! If you’re local I’ve also seen it at the Los Gatos NapaStyle store.

Check out her cookbook too!

Website: http://www.atavolatogether.com/

Long Meadow Ranch Grass-fed Beef Club


Yes, we like meat!

As stated in my Farmstead post we were impressed with the beef served so we decided to join the Long Meadow Ranch grass-fed meat club. There are many advantages to eating grass-fed meat: lower fat & calories plus it’s rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. We signed up in December and received our first shipment in late January. Since we spend so much time in Napa we actually pick up our shipments to save the $30 shipping fee. Each delivery contains 12+ lbs. of meat and is approx. $100. We feel this is a good price for the quality. When I saw our first shipment I thought there was no way 2 people would be able to eat it all but by the time the second batch arrived 3 months later we had consumed everything.

Shipment #1 - frozen & vacuum sealed

I gotta say there is some getting use to eating grass-fed beef. It is super lean and depending on the cut can be chewy and gamey in flavor. My favorites so far have been the stir fry, lamb shanks and the NY steak (pics to come in future posts). They were delicious. Even though we used the stew meat in a slow cooking Texas chili the meat was a little dry and our bbq’d London broil was a bit tough and gamey. Overall we have been very happy with the beef. I will update this post once we have received all four 2011 shipments.

Note: Grass-fed beef cooks much faster than corn/grain fed on the bbq so shorten the cooking time by like 2-4 minutes or you will overcook it!

2011 Shipments:

January, 2011: Winter: “Stews, Soups, and Comfort”
Stew Meat (4lbs)
Lamb Shanks (4lbs)
London Broils (4 London Broils)
April, 2011: Spring: “Family Packs”
Stir Fry Strips (4 lbs)
NY Steaks (6 Steaks)
June, 2011: Summer: “Summer BBQ “
Ground Beef (6 lbs)
Hot Dogs (5 lbs)
Ranch Hand Filets (8 Filets)
October, 2011: Fall: “Holiday Entertaining”
Chateaubriand (4 Chateaubriands)
Petite Tenderloins (4 Petite Tenderloins)

Things we have made:

Texas chili made with our stew meat

London broil just off the BBQ

Join the club here: http://www.longmeadowranch.com/Clubs/Grazier-Membership

**You can also just order beef from their website without joining the club.

Farmstead Restaurant


Mike and I had lunch at Farmstead on one of our many trips to Napa to work on our Crushpad wine. The restaurant is unique because it sources many of the ingredients from Long Meadow Ranch including all-natural grass-fed beef, vegetables, extra virgin olive oil, and honey. If you venture outside they also have a garden and a chicken coop with some of the cleanest and attractive chickens I have ever seen. They serve a seasonal American menu in a modern renovated barn.

The day we arrived the special was a pulled pork sandwich with blue cheese slaw (yes, please!). Mike went with the burger with california cheddar and arugula which is pretty notorious. When they arrived they looked so good we ended up splitting the two. Both were fantastic! To push us over the top we concluded with the scrumptious chocolate cream pie.



Because we were so impressed with the meat we ate we decided to give the LMR grass fed beef club a try. So far we have received our first two shipments and we are lovin’ it.

Bonus:  there is no corkage fee at Farmstead; instead a $2 per bottle fee is collected as a donation to a featured local community-building not-for-profit organization each month.

Note: Be sure to stop by next door for a tasting of wine at Long Meadow Ranch. The wine is good and the woman pouring (at least on the day we went) was a hoot.

Website: http://www.longmeadowranch.com/Farmstead-Restaurant

Zero Zero Restaurant


We were in the city checking out the wine exhibit (which was pretty cool) at SFMOMA. After we needed to eat so I jumped on Yelp to see what was in walking distance and I was pleasantly surprised to find Zero Zero. I had heard many good things about their food. We arrived at 2pm just in time to catch the tail end of the Saturday brunch service.

We decided to go with a couple pizzas as well as the special of the day: short rib hash, fried egg & mini biscuits. Who would pass that up?!

Top: Castro - Sopressata, Sausage, Mozzarella, Basil....... Bottom: Margherita


Everything was delicious. I especially loved the Castro pie which had  really creamy cheese. We of course left room for dessert — the make your own sundae! Following your meal you receive a mini golf pencil and a piece of paper filled with scrumptious toppings. We could not decide on just one so we made two, half-orders (which were huge).

We are oh so bad…………

#1 Straus organic soft serve vanilla ice cream with Chamomile Poached Strawberries and sugar coated Ricotta Doughnuts on the side.

#2 Straus organic soft serve vanilla/chocolate swirled ice cream with Chocolate Lava Cake and Bacon Brittle.

These were oh so good………..

Some talk about how great the ice cream is but really it’s all about the toppings! Tell me your mouth is not watering…

Website: http://www.zerozerosf.com/

By the way there were 3 people eating so don’t think we are total pigs…

Zero Zero on Urbanspoon

Heaven’s Dog


A friend from LA was in town for business and staying near the Moscone center. I needed to find a place to go for dinner and drinks on a Friday night near by with only a few days notice. Heaven’s dog was one of the few restaurants I could make a reservation before 9pm and I had read that they were known for their cocktails and our friend is all about getting her drink on. I figured a Charles Phan spot had to be a safe option. He is the chef behind the famed Slanted door.

I gotta say I wasn’t impressed with the location. SOMA is not the nicest area. We had a hard time finding the restaurant as it is small with minimal signage. Inside it was modern, dimly lit, decorated in vibrant orange and brown colors and the walls were covered in cute paintings of dogs.

They serve Chinese food here unlike the Vietnamese at Slanted door. Since they had a good selection of dim sum items and apps we decided to order a bunch and share.

What we got:

shanghai dumplings – good but I’ve had better
salt & pepper local squid – delish…favorite of the night
stuffed sweet peppers w/crab, shrimp, shallots – nothing special
braised pork belly in clam shell bun – yum… we had to get a 2nd order
black pepper flat iron steak, red onions, bell pepper – tasty but not as good as the Slanted door shaking beef
shumai pork, shrimp and shiitake dumplings – a little dry
wild mushrooms w/ noodles – oh so good
lemon tart – nice… I was hoping for a more Asian inspired dessert but this is all they had

As for the drinks they were a hit with our friend. I thought my 2 rum cocktails (Savannah Planters Punch/Bumble Bee) tasted too similar. I actually preferred the wine Mike ordered. All in all it was a fun night. We hung out for over 2 hours and were not rushed. The environment is very chill. This would be the perfect spot to get a bite & a drink after work, before a show or late night.

Note: park at the SOMA grand parking garage next door. They validate!

Rating:

Website: http://www.heavensdog.com/main/HD.html

Heaven's Dog on Urbanspoon

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies


Whoopie! Mike gave me this Red Velvet whoopie pie mix for xmas. We decided to wait and make them for a party we were attending because I didn’t want to be tempted to eat them all… which I would have easily done.


The directions were easy to follow and they turned out like expected (although a bit stingy with the filling mixture – I could have used a tad more). They were a hit at the party.

You can pick up a batch at Sur la table

Tropica Restaurant

This Tropica Restaurant image ©Westin Maui Resort & Spa, Kaanapali

For our one special dinner out in Maui we decided to eat at Tropica, our hotel restaurant because it was outdoors overlooking the beach and had a lovely prix fixe menu. We were seated at a romantic table with a fantastic view of the water 20 minutes before sunset.

We decided to start the night off with cocktails. Not something we usually do but it was early and we wanted to take in the scene. I chose a cocotini (like a coconut martini) which rocked my world. I can’t even remember what Mike had because we were all about the cocotini! You gotta try one.

view from our table

After our drinks we proceeded to order the 3 course tasting menu with wine pairings, which was very reasonably priced for Maui.

First course:

Lobster Chowder - tabasco butter, chives, smoked bacon. Served with Sonoma Curter Chardonnay, 2007, Russian River Ranches

Pohaku Seared Beef - prime flatiron steak served on a hot cooking stone, ponzu, kula onion confit. Served with Charles Smith, "The Velvet Devil" merlot, 2007, Columbia Valley, Washington

I chose the soup which was creamy and rich and had lobster so I was super happy. Mike’s steak arrived sizzlin’ … be sure to take cover with a napkin because oil and beef juice flies everywhere. Mike loved the beef even though he had to  “shout out” his shirt when we got home.

Mains:

Oriental Mushroom Linguini - grilled tiger shrimp, hamakua hon shimeji mushrooms, asparagus, mushroom sake broth. Serves with Lioco Chardonnay, 2007, Sonoma

Ahi - charboiled to medium rare, roasted tomato cous cous, sea beans, mushrooms, opal basil reduction. Served with Cartlidge & Browne, 08 Pinot, CA

My pasta was delicious with giant plump shrimp in a light tasty broth. Mike’s tuna was cooked perfectly and he cleaned his plate.

Dessert:

Green Tea Creme Brulee- grilled pineapple, berries, vanilla anglaise

Pineapple Fritters -fresh pineapple-apple banana donuts, raspberry, coconut

By the time dessert arrived I was stuffed to the gills and buzzed (by the way, the wine pairings were right on point). I could barely eat another morsel which was good because dessert was the weakest course of the night. The creme brulee was pretty good but the fritters were just okay with not much flavor. It did not damper the meal though (for the price we paid it was like the dessert was free anyway). We left very satisfied and would definitely return.

Note: The 3 course tasting menu is available ONLY from 5-6 pm and 8:30-9:30pm ($33/person or $43 with wine) Wednesdays – Sundays. Make a reservation!

Rating:

Website: http://www.westinmaui.com/dining/tropica/

Tropica Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Hali’imaile General Store


Bev Gannon is a super famous chef on Maui so we decided to give one of her many restaurants a try. We headed to the Hali’imaile General Store which serves up fresh island cuisine in a refurbished plantation store located Upcountry in the middle of nowhere.

We started off with the popular Sashimi Napoleon:

 

Crispy won tons layered with smoked salmon, Ahi tartar, sashimi and wasabi vinaigrette.

Then we shared the Chinese Chicken Salad:

Grilled chicken breast sliced over island greens, tossed with baby corn, water chestnuts, curried coconut, raisins and cashews with a sweet oriental dressing. Topped with crispy fried wonton strips.

We made sure to leave room for dessert….Pineapple Upside-Down Cake (the real reason I chose to come here)

A caramelized Maui Gold pineapple baked with a buttery vanilla pound cake. Served warm with whipped cream.

The food was fresh and delicious. I’d make the drive again just for dessert – oh so decadent. If you are looking for a tasty meal off the beaten path check out the general store.

Website: http://bevgannonrestaurants.com/haliimaile/

Hali'imaile General Store on Urbanspoon

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits


Today they are celebrating Fat Tuesday in New Orleans so here is a little Big Easy flavor for you. This Shrimp and Grits recipe is super easy and fast to prepare – you’ll be done in less than 20 minutes! How can you go wrong with plump garlicky shrimp and cheesy grits? You can’t….this was wonderful.

Note: next time I will double the sauce.

Recipe link
Food Network magazine, December 2010

Recchiuti Confections S’mores Kit

We spent Valentine’s day at home again this year but I didn’t mind because we made S’mores from Recchiuti Confections. Mike and I picked up a S’mores kit last time we were at the Ferry building in San Francisco and this was the perfect occasion to break it out.

Inside the fancy box you will find 9 handmade Marshmallows, 8 Recchiuti Grahams and a Recchiuti Bittersweet 85% Chocolate Bar.

It’s a grown up version of the classic dessert that is out of the world. The homemade graham crackers are sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and the pillowy marshmallows are made with vanilla beans. You can make them in the oven (like we did since it was rainy and cold out) or you can do it the old fashioned way over an open flame.

Either way, you’ll be super happy with the results.

It’s the perfect little package. I plan on giving these out as birthday/holiday/hostess gifts this year so if you want one… invite me to a party :wink:.

Mike liked the sandwich

I preferred open face

Get yours here: http://www.recchiuti.com/109.html

Wayfare Tavern


2010 has been a stellar year for Tyler Florence in the Bay Area. He has opened restaurants in San Francisco and Napa within the last 6 months with a third to come in Mill Valley in early 2011. Best know for his 14 year run on the Food Network with shows like “Food 911” and “Tyler’s Ultimate”, Wayfare Tavern is Florence’s first foray into the restaurant biz. I was intrigued to find out if the food that looked so good on TV could be pulled off in person so we made a reservation for my birthday.

We arrived at 6:30 pm on a Saturday night. Unfortunately, Florence wasn’t in the house because he was out on his cookbook tour. We were quickly escorted to the 2nd floor to a table right at the top of the stairs. Wayfare serves up American comfort food in a chic rustic setting (think dark woods, leather, exposed brick and mounted animal heads). To start things off Mike ordered a half bottle of RIDGE red wine. Mike was very impressed with the wine offerings. Unlike some other high end restaurants in the area the wine list is not insanely marked up. We then perused the menu … I really didn’t need to look because I knew they had fried chicken and you all know I never pass that up. Mike decided to go with the steak.

We shared the beet appetizer which was very nice. Perfectly cooked and seasoned, and the accompanying ricotta was wonderful.

roasted local beets and housemade ricotta

The mains were masterful. My chicken was juicy yet crispy and the squeeze of lemon put it over the top. It did have herbs and I usually don’t go for that but for some reason it worked in this instance.

organic fried chicken, buttermilk brine, roasted garlic, herbs, lemon

You can’t go wrong with a Santa Maria tri-tip and a boat load of fries. Mike was in meat and potatoes heaven. He thoroughly enjoyed his meal.

grilled santa maria tri-tip steak, roasted heirloom onions, truffle butter, crispy fries

We didn’t have room for coffee and dessert but we got it anyways and didn’t leave a morsel. My favorite part, of all things, was the roasted pear. It was pure sweet goodness.

Hey, Tyler…can you hook a girl up with the recipe?

sticky toffee pudding, roasted pears, black pepper ice cream

Soooo did Florence pull it off? Indeed! Yummy food, big portions, reasonable prices, great ambiance, excellent service and a super wine list. What more can you ask for? I can’t wait to try Rotisserie & Wine in Napa.

Note: When we left at 8pm the first level of the restaurant was a mad house (glad we were upstairs). It was packed to the gills with a line of folks out the door trying to get a table …Seriously people?…MAKE A RESERVATION cause business is booming!

Rating:

website: http://www.wayfaretavern.com/

Wayfare Tavern on Urbanspoon

Cider Bourbon-Glazed Roast Turkey with Shallot Gravy


Turkey, Turkey, Turkey why do you give us so much trouble every year (the time is never right and neither is the temp on the thermometer)? This Thanksgiving we decided to use the Cider Bourbon glaze from Williams-Sonoma. The turkey, once finally done, came out delish and moist. We really loved the glaze. It was sweet with a hint of spice. We followed the directions from WS but skipped the brine and instead used butter, salt & pepper on the outside and stuffed the cavity with fresh herbs. We brined last year and it seemed like a lot of work without much added benefit. The gravy was tasty but not sure it was worth having to buy $29 demi-glace.

Recipe link

Fish Story Napa

FRIED CLAMS

The dude behind BarBersQ is now the chef at Fish Story which is located in the snazzy new Napa Riverfront area. As soon as I heard lobster was on the menu I made a reservation. The first thing our waitress told us upon being seated was that their seafood is all sourced in accordance with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, which is cool. Mike decided to go with the HOOK, LINE & SINKER 3 course meal (which was a steal at $27). It included a cup of chowder, shrimp & grits and butterscotch pudding. I chose the fried clams appetizer and the Maine lobster roll. The clams were my favorite thing of the night… plump with a light salty batter and a zingy cocktail sauce (wish it was a larger portion!). The lobster roll with kettle chips was very good, especially the super buttery bun, but I have come to the realization that I am a lobster purist. Lobster boiled or grilled and drenched in butter with a squeeze of lemon is heaven. Mike was happy with his dishes but felt the grits could have been a little creamier. We shared the pudding which was delish. If you’re looking for a seafood meal in Napa that won’t break the bank (especially if you order the prix fixe menu) check it out.

LOBSTER ROLL

SHRIMP & GRITS

Note: after drinking wine all day I wanted something non-alcoholic and the Mixed Berry Cooler was yummy!

Rating:

Website: http://fishstorynapa.com/

Fish Story on Urbanspoon

Potato, Leek and Broccoli Soup with Pancetta Crumbs


It’s all about the bacon crumbs (we didn’t have pancetta)! Really nice creamy soup with a crunchy, salty, herby crumble on top.

Recipe link
Food & Wine Magazine| Nov 2010

Dim Sum Charlie’s Napa


I don’t know if I have mentioned this but we are making wine at Crushpad which means we spent most of the month of October in Napa sorting, punching and pressing our Pinot Noir grapes. I will tell you more about that experience in another post. On one of our many weekends we decided to check out Dim Sum Charlie’s dim sum truck for lunch. I had read about it on twitter. The airstream is located right around the corner from Oxbow market, basically in the backyard of someone’s home (I assume Charlie :smile:)

When we arrived we grabbed a pen and the menu and marked the items we wanted to order as you would in any typical dim sum establishment. We opted for the honey baked bbq pork buns, white fluffy pork buns, stiiiicky rice, pork sui mai dumplings and the ten dolla make you holla dumpling combo (7 different items). The staff was friendly and happy to serve and everything tasted as it should. My only gripe would be the price. It is really expensive. The average price is $6.85 for 4 dumplings. I thought Sino at Santana Row was the most high-end dim sum at $3.25-4.25 but it’s dirt cheap in comparison. You would think they would be able to keep the cost down since they have no real overhead.

Verdict: You gotta give it a try. It’s something different in Napa.

Note: all seating is outside so if it’s raining and cold dress accordingly. It is also surrounded by construction so beware of loud noises even on the weekend.

Website: http://www.dimsumcharlies.com/

Heirloom Tomato and Bacon Green Beans


This recipe is actually called “Summer’s Tomato Green Bean Bounty” but as soon as I ate it I thought, “man these would be dyn-o-mite at Thanksgiving.” They tasted awesome and were even better the next day (we had a monster CSA delivery of green beans). If you are in need of a holiday side dish look no further.

Recipe Link
Epicurious / August 2001

BBQ Patty Melt


I was inspired by a recent article Serious Eats wrote called: How to Make The Ultimate Patty Melt. My favorite burger is a patty melt. Always has been, always will be. Forget about lettuce, tomatoes, fancy mustard’s, aioli’s and chipotle ketchup’s. For a perfect burger all you need is quality bread, meat, cheese and onions.

I was drooling as I read the article but I didn’t feel like stinking up the house by frying so I decided to challenge Mike to make the darn things on the grill. He happily accepted.

We headed out to the market to pick up the ingredients:

  • Jewish Rye bread (I never new there were so many choices)
  • Aged Swiss
  • Kraft American cheese
  • Large Sweet onion
  • 1 lb 80/20 ground beef (made 3 patties)
  • butter

When we returned we fired up the grill.

Mike made the patties kinda in the shape of the bread and added salt & pepper. I sliced up the onions and buttered one side of each piece of bread. Then we moved outdoors. Mike began to grill the meat and I started the onions on the grill’s burner (following the Serious Eats directions works well). When the meat was coming close to medium we placed some cheese on top and put the bread on the grill butter side down. Then we topped the bread with more cheese and the caramelized onions. Once everything was melty we sandwiched it all together and chowed down.

I don’t think I’ll ever make a Patty Melt on the stove again. This came out fantastic and not all greasy like it usually is. The meat was tender, the cheese gooey and the onions sweet. Perfection!

S’more Pie

We had an end of the summer BBQ and needed a dessert. S’more pie immediately came to mind. I had seen a couple versions online and I ultimately went with Smitten Kitchen’s take. I was limited in time so I did get some help from the Keebler elves for the pie crust (which I wouldn’t recommend because it was too thin and you could barely taste it). The marshmallow topping was grand but took much longer than the 5 minutes written in the recipe –more like 15. I almost gave up after the majority of the hot sugar got stuck to the side of my mixer but I just let it beat on and it turned out perfect, but maybe a little less sweet due to the loss of sugar on the bowl. I was amazed at the outcome.


The pie was a hit at the party although next time I would use a milk chocolate to get a more campfire Hersey like feel… this was rather dark in flavor.

Recipe link

Tomato and Pepper Gazpacho with Sherry

Our CSA produce delivery gave us 4-5 lbs of tomatoes in a single week (3 varietals). That’s a lot of tomats! There was also a couple cucumbers so making a gazpacho was a no-brainer. This José Andrés recipe was delightful.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit /September 2010

Momofuku Crack Pie


Everyone under the sun has swooned over the “crack pie” from Momofuku Milk Bar in New York. When I saw the recipe in Bon Appetit I thought I better make it since I have no plans to visit NYC in the near future. I gotta say I was a bit worried about the lack of ingredients. All it really called for was butter, eggs, sugar, oats and cream. How could that be a pie? It sounded more like a cookie so I looked around the web to see how other people’s pies turned out. The only thing I found was a bunch of inconsistencies. There are many recipes on the net and none are the same. Baking times & temp to ingredients differ. I think pastry chef Christina Tosi doesn’t really want us all to know how to make her addictive pie! But in the end it turned out fabulous. It smelled and tasted like a gooey buttery caramel oat bar.

Tip: I read that some people complained that the pie was a runny pool of butter. You have to cook it for at least 30 minutes AND let the pie rest 2 hours then sit in the fridge preferably overnight. Don’t be impatient…it’s worth the wait!

Also, the BA recipe said to bake for a total of 50 minutes. I did it for 45 because the online comments said it was a bit overcooked. Next time I’ll probably bake for 35 (25 min on 350° & 10 min on 325°) just for a tad more gooeyness.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit Magazine / September 2010

Roasted Pepper Bruschetta


Best Bruschetta EVER! We made two changes to the recipe —

1) added garlic to the tomato mixture (a must!)

2) we used mozzarella & parm because that’s what we had in the fridge.

The peppers are hard to see but they are underneath the cheese & tomatoes

This was even better than many of the tapas we had in Spain and a great way to use up the end of summer heirlooms.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | September 2002

Lemon Cake


Mike adores anything lemon. So when we needed to use up 10 lemons from our new burgeoning lemon tree I decided to make Ina Garten’s lemon cake. I had bookmarked the recipe eons ago due to its stellar reviews. The cake turned out delicious. It’s a cross between cake and pound cake. It was tangy and sweet. Most of the cakes zip came from the glaze so if you want to tone down the tartness use less lemon juice in the glaze or omit it all together.

Tip: Don’t make this too far ahead of when you want to serve because it did dry out after a day.

Recipe link
Food Network, Barefoot Contessa / 2001

Shrimp-and-Corn Chowder


The corn is the star of this dish! If you don’t have fresh, sweet corn on the cob don’t bother making this recipe. Unlike most chowders this is light and healthy…don’t let the name fool you. A grand summer supper.

Tip: I made this on the stove top but still grilled the shrimp on the BBQ.

Recipe link
Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine /Aug. 2010

San Sebastián, Spain

San Sebastián is a gorgeous beach town located in the Basque country and is known as the Culinary Capital of Spain with the highest concentrations of Michelin stars in the world. We were in San Sebastián for a family reunion. Mike has a cousin that lives there so we were not visiting to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy meals but to eat as the locals do.