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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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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.

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/

Greenwich Village Food and Cultural Walking Tour‏

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … the best way to check out a City is with a food tour. We chose Foods of New York Greenwich Village Food and Culture Walking Tour. We arrived at 11am on Bleecker Street with empty stomachs. Our guide was a friendly young actress who had definitely done her homework. She was chock full of food & Village knowledge. We walked the charming neighborhood for 3 hours and were stuffed by the end.

Here is what we ate:

Stop 1.  Cheese pizza slice @ Joe’s Pizza
Stop 2.  Olive oil tasting @ O & Co. 
Stop 3.  Mac & Cheese @ Home restaurant
Stop 4.  Rice balls @ Faicco’s Italian Specialties
Stop 5.  Four tasty bites @ Centro Vinoteca
Stop 6.  Chocolate chip cookie @ Milk & Cookies
Stop 7.  Cheese @ Murray’s Cheese Shop
Stop 8.  Cannoli @ Rocco’s Pastry Shop

There are a bunch of historical stops on the tour too but I’ll let you see that for yourself.

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If anyone says the food is not enough they must have a tape worm because we were completely full with 3 stops to go. I had to bag my cookie, pass on the cheese and I FORCED myself to eat the cannoli!

Website: http://www.foodsofny.com/

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.

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

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

Blue Line Pizza


You’ve heard the rave reviews about Little Star Pizza in San Francisco, well, it’s now available in the South Bay (Campbell) but under a new name — Blue Line. Mike and I have been twice since the February opening and I have to say it’s my favorite deep dish in the Bay Area.

Here’s how it compares to other popular Chicago style pizza joints in the area…

signature deep dish “blue line” pie

Not too thick (like Patxi’s) which means it’s not overly filling and a shorter time to wait for your pizza to arrive.

Not too saucy (like Zachary’s) which means you can taste the toppings which also happen to be really fresh. You can tell they don’t skimp on the ingredients.

We tried a couple salads but our favorite was the bacon & blue cheese which was huge, super fresh and the blue cheese was tangy good.

Note: no reservations. Get in early (b4 6:30pm) or be prepared to wait.

Rating: 

Website:http://www.bluelinepizza.com/

Blue Line Pizza on Urbanspoon

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

The Melt


The man behind the Flip video camera has opened up a high-tech chain of grilled cheese fast food restaurants called The Melt all over the Bay area. Since we were at the Stanford Mall in Palo Alto to pick up the new S’more cupcake at Sprinkles we stopped in for lunch.

The menu was fairly simple composed of 6 grilled cheese sandwiches (called melts), 5 soups, 3 sweet melts and drinks. I was expecting some highly creative sando options but you basically just choose a cheese and bread. Mike ordered the special of the day… The Dirty combo (without jalapeños) – sharp cheddar, tomato, bacon, and BBQ chips on sourdough + Sweet Corn Tortilla Soup. I went with the Classic combo of sharp cheddar on potato bread w/bacon + Two Tomato Basil soup.

The Dirty

We took a seat and admired the cool order board that let’s you know when your food is ready. Since the menu was a bust I was hoping for a taste sensation. Unfortunately, that was also a disappointment. When biting into our sandwiches all we could taste was the cheese. The toppings were so sparse they disappeared completely. I was pumped that you could add bacon to anything for FREE (that should be a rule everywhere) but found you get what you pay for. It was razor thin, limp and flavorless.

The Classic

I can easily make better grilled cheese at home on my favorite panini grill. I will say we enjoyed the corn soup.

I guess if I was at the mall and wanted to grab a quick bite (we were in and out in 20 minutes) I might stop by again for some soup. If you are looking for grilled cheese done right, check out the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen in SF.

Note: if you don’t want to stand in line you can order in advance online.

Website: https://themelt.com/

The Melt on Urbanspoon

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

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

Palacio Restaurant – Los Gatos


The huge house on North Santa Cruz Ave. in Los Gatos is open for business again. The old site of  Trevese is now Palacio featuring high-end Latin American fare. Walking in we were surprised to see the amount of renovations the new owners had made since the last tenants had already made major upgrades. They went as far as moving the kitchen from the 1st floor to the basement. Not sure I like it any better  – it was loud, crowded and dark inside. But the added outdoor seating is terrific…that is what brought me back in.

We can’t frequent a Mexican restaurant without trying the margaritas. I had the pineapple and Mike the prickly pear. Mine was grrrreat, Mikes didn’t really taste like anything. Then we snacked on the trio of tacos appetizer which was the same price as the main entree of the same name which didn’t make sense. The steak was good, the rest not so much.

For the main course I chose the chicken enchiladas which were not as I expected. It ended up being a pile of dry, plain chicken on top of 2 sauced tortillas. First bite included half a wish bone… No Bueno!

Mike chose the chicken mole which he liked. Tasted like pumpkin.

Portion size was not large so we were open for dessert. I love coconut so we went with the coconut cheesecake, which was unnecessarily decomposed.

For the price I prefer Casa de Cobre in Saratoga. The quality of food is ten times better. I would not return for dinner but probably happy hour or apps & drinks so we can sit outside.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.palaciorestaurant.com/

Palacio Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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

Homeroom Mac + Cheese

Rolled up for brunch on a brisk Saturday afternoon. Didn’t take much time to figure out what we wanted because the menu is limited to MAC + CHEESE! This is probably the only restaurant in the area where you will find that. I went with the Breakfast mac (only served Sat and Sun, 11am – 3pm) which includes classic mac with bacon bits and an egg on top.
Mike had the Gilroy Mac – gouda, sharp pecorino and just the right amount of roasted garlic plus he added broccoli (I guess to make him feel healthy). As you can see I added toasted breadcrumbs to mine and Mike didn’t. We both agree that you want to add breadcrumbs no matter what! It gives the mac a little extra crunchy dimension. It may look like it’s not creamy but once you break through to the under layer it is ooey gooey. Both were delicious but super rich and filling. We could only eat half but we also wanted to save room for the peanut butter pie which was amazing.

Mike really wanted to try the homemade Root Beer but they said it was not ready yet. Say what? 3pm on a Saturday and you can’t get root beer. Somebody needs to get up earlier and start brewin’.

Note: No, they don’t have a sampler option where you can try a variety of macs. I have requested it but it looks like they want to get you to come back instead of trying it all in one visit. Boo!

Website: http://homeroom510.com/

Homeroom 510 Mac & Cheese on Urbanspoon

Billy’s Boston Chowder House

Billy I wanted to fall madly in love with you but I think we are going to just remain friends. I was uber excited to find out that a New England style restaurant had opened less than 10 minutes from my house in Los Gatos. It’s located near Nick’s on Main where the Smoky BBQ joint and 29 Pizza used to be. Yes, this is the 3rd establishment to set up shop in the last 5 years. I hate to say it but I think this spot may be cursed…

Anyways, we came in early last Friday to check out the eats. They’ve only been open for a month so it can get busy with locals wanting to try the new eatery. We started with the fried clams appetizer which was not on the main menu but on a “specials” handout so I’m not sure if they have them all the time. I was very pleased with them although they were served with a tarter sauce and I prefer cocktail so we had to waive someone down to get some.


Mike went with the chowder in a sourdough bowl for his main course which he seemed to enjoy. I only had a spoonful and it was rich, creamy and buttery. Can’t go wrong with that!

For my main I decided to get the lobster roll (surprise) and against my better judgement I had it dressed instead of with just butter. When it arrived it looked great but as I took a bite the lobster had an unpleasant herby flavor and was dry. Also there was lettuce buried underneath the meat which I’m not a fan of, and I did find 3-4 pieces of shell – never a good thing. A plus was that the bun was nice and buttery but I could only finish half.

So overall we will return to try the other offerings (steamed clams, lobster chowder, fish & chips) but I won’t be having a lobster roll. If I’m craving that I’ll head to The Old Port Lobster Shack.

Note: this is not a cheap place to eat but they do have $4.25 pints of Blue Moon which made me happy.

Rating: 

Website: http://www.bostonchowderhouse.com/

Bitter + Sweet Coffee and Dessert Bar


Cool little spot that serves humphry slocombe ice cream and you don’t have to drive to San Fran to get it!!! Nuff said…

You’re Welcome.

2 scoops: Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee & Red Bean Dr. Pepper

Note: they don’t have all flavors just like 4-6. Good coffee too.

Website: http://www.bitter-sweet.com/

Hay Market Willow Glen


We rarely venture to Willow Glen but a new restaurant caught my attention. Picture a space filled with old black and white framed photos (plus one random with Patrick Swayze and some dude with long hair), crates with bottles of wine, stacks of cookbooks and other antique looking stuff cluttered around. Johnny Cash is piped through the sound system as a flick of a guy building a log cabin silently plays on three big HDTVs. Take a seat at one of the long communal tables (be ready to talk to your neighbors) and check out the concise organic menu written on a giant chalk board overhead. Then choose from a few salads, a cheese plate, duck, beef, fowl, pork or fish (1 of each), a burger and a couple sides (menu changes daily/weekly!).

We started with the house salad which was micro greens with a vinaigrette. Very basic and nothing special. I did find it odd that it was served in a big pyrex baking dish. When we walked in and the guy next to us was eating out of one I honestly thought he had brought a salad from home due to the latest lettuce recall. Guess not… Throughout our meal we had 3 glasses of wine (limited choices but good) which were unfortunately served in tumbler glasses. I did see if you order a bottle then you get a real wine glass – I’m sure there is a rational reason for this but I like to swirl.

For our main course I went with the prime rib and Mike had the pork.  Both were delicious. Whoever is in the kitchen knows how to cook some meat. Mine was cooked perfectly pink and didn’t have a lot of fat. Mike’s was fork tender with a bit of a kick – he only wished he had more. The portion size was a lot smaller than my dish so we had to get dessert :).

looks sizable but the porky outside skin was not meant to be eaten

For dessert we went with the plum clafoutis with marscapone whip and the chocolate³ which I think was dark & light chocolate crumbled cookies with chocolate milk poured over it. Coupled with decaf french press it was To Die For.

tastes better than it looks!

my tattoo...i feel so badass

I have no idea what the concept of the restaurant is … Quirky European Country? but I left wanting more. I took my temporary tattoo and fresh baked cookies (which came with the bill) and vowed to return.

Notes: Open seating, no reservations, full by 6pm on a Friday night. Look for the hay bales out front cause the sign is pretty hard to see. Serves lunch too.

Rating:
Website: http://haymarketwillowglen.com/

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

Sam Adams Brewery Tour


BEST FREE TOUR EVER!!!!

If you have time to go out to Jamaica Plain and do this tour I highly recommend it because you get to drink beer for free ~kinda (they suggest that you leave a couple bucks that is donated to the local community).

Mike and I are not big beer drinkers but we still had fun. Our guide was a funny young guy that showed us around their small brewery which is now only used as a testing facility. We were schooled in Sam Adams history, tasted the malts, smelled the hops then went on to try 3 different beers in our free tasting glasses. Yes, more free stuff!

Note: arrive early in the day (b4 noon) or you may not get a tour ticket. No reservations.

Website: http://www.samueladams.com/share-passion/tours.aspx

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

Flour Bakery


Joanne Chang is the chef/owner of Flour Bakery. The Harvard grad turned pastry chef beat Bobby Flay in a Sticky Bun throwdown so of course we had to stop by one of her 3 locations to see what all the hype was about. We arrived at 1pm so it was a bit busy with the daily lunch crowd but the line moved fast and there was plenty of seating. I was worried they would have run out of buns by that time but they had a bunch of them stacked on a display. We also ordered the grilled roast chicken sandwich with brie, arugula, roasted red peppers & caramelized onions, a slice of banana bread and a chocolate chip macaroon. The baked goods were good, nothing earth shattering, and the best part of the sandwich was the bread. It was really fresh and nicely toasted. I gotta admit when I tried the sticky bun I was not impressed. It was not straight from the oven so it wasn’t warm and when I took a bite the nutty caramel topping was solid. We decided to take the rest back to our hotel and by the time we returned it had gotten all ooey-gooey in the box due to the summer heat. I gave it another try and it was 10x’s better.

Moral of the story… make sure you ask them to warm it up if you are going to eat it immediately.

THE sticky bun

Website: http://flourbakery.com/

Flour Bakery + Cafe 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

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/

Old Port Lobster Shack

The Naked Lobster Roll

I gotta get this out before we leave for Boston tomorrow.

Hi, My name is Nicole and I’m a lobstaholic. I can’t believe I’ve lived in the Bay for over 24 years and never heard of the Lobster Shack until late last year.

We finally made the trek to the Redwood City Shack in December 2010.

I didn’t write this post earlier because they are supposed to open a location in Cupertino which is very close to my home so I was going to complete the review after I had tried more of their offerings but as of today it’s still not open (tear)…

When we arrived I was amazed to see a long line outside to get in. Really…at 6pm? Is it that good? After standing for 30 minutes in the cold we placed our order and were seated in a mini picnic table for two. The decor is a classic New England motif filled with fishing gear. You will feel like you have been transported to a fish market on a East Coast pier. We had come for one thing…the lobster rolls. I ordered the naked lobster roll (comes with a side of drawn butter) and Mike the Maine lobster roll (mayo, green onions, salt & pepper). Along with the roll you receive salty crispy fries, slaw and some wicked awesome sweet pickles. The lobster was cooked perfectly and as you can see they give you a generous amount. I only wish the roll was buttered a bit more…luckily I had the side of butter : )

The Maine Lobster Roll

Everything was well worth the wait. I can’t wait to try the steamers and the fried clams!

WARNING TO THE OWNERS: you will see a lot of me when you open your Cupertino location! Please open soon…

Rating:

Website: http://www.oplobster.com/index.htm

Note: they also have a food truck now so you’ll find them rollin’ around the Bay. Their Facebook/Twitter pages have the best updates on its location.

Old Port Lobster Shack on Urbanspoon

Lillie Mae’s House of Soul Food


Is there Soul Food in Santa Clara? You know the shabby looking wood building down the street from the San Jose Airport… well, they have a new tenant. Lillie Mae has moved in and is cookin’ up all your soul food favorites like BBQ ribs, brisket, catfish, collard greens, mac & cheese and of course fried chicken.

We arrived early on a Saturday night and as we got out of our car we were blown away by the intense aroma of BBQ. We knew we were in the right place. We headed to the counter ordered our meals then sat and waited for our # to be called. I knew things were going to go well when I saw a variety of hot sauces on the table. The food arrived after about a 15 minute wait. I had the fried chicken with mac & cheese, boomin’ baked beans and cornbread along with sweet tea. Mike chose the beef brisket/bbq chicken combo with collard greens, sweet potato fries and cornbread along with grape kool-aid. Yes…we went all in, taking no prisoners.

Let me start with a blow-by blow of my dinner. The fried chicken was just how I make it. Nothing fancy just downright good. Salty crispy skin and tender chicken. My mac was peppery and super cheesy and the baked beans were some of the best I’ve ever had — very unique rendition that tasted like sweet chili with big chunks of hamburger. They should change the name to Bangin’ baked beans! I had enough leftovers to take home for lunch the next day.

Mike on the other hand cleaned his plate. The smokey brisket & chicken was demolished along with the vinegary collard greens that he adored. The fries were standard fare and the only downer for Mike and I was the cornbread. It had a weird yeasty flavor. Everyone seems to rave over it so maybe we just got a bad batch.

We were really surprised to find tasty soul food in such an unexpected location (if you’ve been to Santa Clara you know what I’m talking about… let’s just say it’s not very soulful). Next time I’m leaving room for dessert…love me some peach cobbler!

Note: If you are into chicken & waffles they have them on the weekends. To avoid lines come early (b4 7pm).

Rating: 

Website: http://www.houseofsoulfood.net/

Lillie Mae's House of soul food on Urbanspoon

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.

Tres Agaves Margarita Kit


Tres Agaves, a local Tequila producer, contacted me to see if I wanted to try out their new margarita kit. They must of known I needed a drink! Tres Agaves’ entire product line has been carefully designed to help people make a delicious margarita at home using the only agave nectar that is cocktail-ready – in addition to their award-winning line of tequilas.

The kit makes over 12 margaritas and includes: Tres Agaves Blanco Tequila (100% agave /unaged), Cocktail-Ready Organic Agave Nectar and a custom lime squeezer.

What makes the lime squeezer special? Built in measuring cups! Smart design.


The Tres Agaves Margarita

– 2 ounces Tres Agaves Blanco tequila
– 1 ounce agave syrup
– 1 ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

Shake with ice and strain into a glass with fresh ice.


This was a fabulous margarita. It had the perfect balance of sweetness to alcohol and I had a nice buzz after only one drink. Best part it’s low in calories! I think I see the next fad diet…

Website: http://www.tresagaves.com/

Note: If you are too lazy to squeeze the limes and pour the nectar try the 68 calorie margarita mix.

Mrs. DeLish’s Cupcake Boutique


A friend (Thanks Julie!) brought Mike and I a sampling of cupcakes from Mrs. Delish’s cupcake boutique. She felt they were better than Sprinkles….

Here is what we got:


Red Velvet
– good frosting & cake but tasted like a cupcake I could make at home.
Coconut/Coconut – best of the bunch..loved the toasted coconut on top. I’d even say better than Sprinkles.
Espresso – ok flavor but I wouldn’t pay to have it again.
Cherry Bomb – really didn’t taste like anything at all except peanuts which coated the top. (I chose this flavor because I liked the name. I had just seen the Joan Jett movie “The Runaways” – As we ate this you could here me chant ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb!)

Overall better than Sprinkles…not a chance.

Website: http://www.mrsdelishs.com/

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

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

Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice

The Lahaina

Shave ice… where have you been all my life? Don’t be confused…shave (not shaved :cool:) ice is nothing like a snow cone. Forget about sugary syrup and chunky ice cubes piled into a paper cone that leaks from the bottom. Shave ice takes fun frozen treats to a whole new level. While in Maui we finally tried Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice which prides itself on using high quality ice and additive-free syrups made from local ingredients. Mike and I shared a small “Lahaina” which includes 3 tropical flavors: Pineapple, Coconut & Banana — I wish we got a large. It was super flavorful and melted in our mouths. And if you can believe it, it had a creamy consistency that was truly delicious.

Note: All shave ice is not created equal so be sure to go to Ululani’s!

I don't want to share...

Website: http://ululanisshaveice.com/

Enoteca La Storia Wine Bar


Did you know there was a new wine bar in Los Gatos? Me neither… okay, well it’s almost a year old but still fairly new. A couple people had asked me if I had been but I didn’t know where it was. Then I finally figured out it was not in the main downtown area that I walk every week but in a shopping center on the “other side” of Highway 9. Enoteca La Storia is operated by two ex- Santana Row Vintage Wine Merchant managers. Mike and I love that shop so we expected to love this establishment too. We stopped in one night late last year and had a leisurely dinner. They had a diverse group of customers… before 7pm the over 50 crowd, after 7pm the 30-somethings arrived. The menu included a variety of wines by the glass/bottle, cured meats, cheeses, salads and sandwiches.

We ate (good prices & portions)…

– Pesto crostini – average
– Porchetta panini – great
– Alba panini  – good
– Gorgonzola salad – fresh and huge. Feeds 2 easily.
– Carrot cake – just ok (but I’ve never been a big fan)

and we drank (small pours are very generous)…


– Sparkling Rose – awesome!
– 09′ lambrusco – a sparkling red from Italy, very interesting and refreshing, like drinking an dark fruity Italian soda
– St clair 09 – stinky nose, slightly sweet, a bit light for Mike
– Stoller Pinot 07 – very musty and earthy nose, sweet cherry taste, silky finish- a bit light for Mike
– Cain concept 06 – favorite of the night- big and bold, velvety finish, cedar nose, dark plum taste
– 08 menhir salento nzero – full bodied, sweet fruit of plum and berry, very nice

Note: the menu doesn’t say it but the sandos come with a little salad so it wasn’t necessary for us to order one…

We really enjoyed our first visit so much that we came back a few weeks later for a evening drink. We arrived around 9pm on a Friday and all the seats at the bar and tables were taken. We stood at the bar for a bit but no one would help us. People behind the bar would make eye contact, smile but then keep on with whatever they were doing. I was hoping for an — I’ll be with you in a minute or some kind of acknowledgment but we received nothing and ended up leaving.

I guess if you are not seated you get no service. Reading other reviews now on Yelp it looks like someone is supposed to work the front door to regulate patrons but that didn’t occur on the 2 nights we went…it left a bad taste in my mouth but we will try again in the future now that we know the procedure.

Rating:

Website: http://www.enotecalastoria.com/

Note 4/2/11: We went again and had a great visit … see the comments section for the updates.

Continue reading

Town Hall Restaurant


Mike and I hit up Town Hall before checking out a screening in the City. I had heard good things about Town Hall especially the fried chicken and the Pot de Crème.

After looking over the New Orleans inspired menu Mike immediately decided he wanted to start off with the Buttermilk biscuits with Johnston family country ham & red pepper jelly. I was worried that it would be a bit heavy since I was ordering the fried chicken, and there was a nice bread basket already on the table, but when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised. On the plate were 3 teeny tiny biscuits (smaller than a quarter), ham that was thinly sliced like prosciutto and some killer jelly.<sorry no picture>

For the main course Mike chose the de-constructed seafood étouffée. It looked lovely but I can’t tell you how it tasted because Mike inhaled it before giving me a bite.

Seafood étouffée -Louisiana shrimp, scallop, rockfish, crispy rice, scallions

Now on to my buttermilk fried chicken with Anson Mills grits, bacon gravy & collard greens… The chicken was sensational. Crispy and super salty – just how I like it. Mike’s reaction to the greens… “it’s like a 5 alarm fire.” It definitely brought the heat but was a nice accompaniment to the chicken cause I usually like mine with some hot sauce. The grits were creamy and delicious but the bacon gravy needed more bacon.

Then came dessert – we decided to get two because everyone says you have to try the Butterscotch and Chocolate Pot de Crème and the ‘Coffee and Doughnuts’ sounded too good to pass up. After trying both selections I’m not sure why everyone is so hyped up about the Pot de Crème (it’s pudding people!). The dessert not to miss, hands down, is the coffee and doughnuts! That rocked.

Butterscotch and Chocolate Pot de Crème topped with buttercrunch

'Coffee and Doughnuts' warm brioche donuts, Blue Bottle coffee ice cream, chicory streusel

Rating:

Website: https://www.townhallsf.com/flash/

Town Hall on Urbanspoon

Joe’s Cable Car

Joe's is not huge but don't worry it's lit up like Las Vegas so you can't miss it.

Joe’s Cable Car is another place I saw on Triple D (Diners, Drive-in & Dives) and the owners want you to remember that. There are pictures of Guy Fieri all over the interior as well as the actual episode running on a loop on a TV. The restaurant (built to look like a cable car) opened in 1965 and was originally a drive-in but has expanded over time into a small diner. The joint prides itself on its fresh ground steak burgers which come in three sizes: 4, 6, and 8 ounces. Mike and I both went with the 4 ounce since the pictures on the menu made them look like huge flying saucers and they were $12 with cheese! To my dismay when they arrived they were the size of a slider. I guess you can’t put a price-tag on quality…. the meat was very good and I loved the little sesame seed bun. We also enjoyed the fries and onion rings which were crispy and hot. You could get a similar meal for 1/2 the price but the service was good and the food tasty so I wasn’t overly concerned by the $40 price tag. It’s an experience not to miss.

Website: http://www.joescablecarrestaurant.com/

*don’t worry this was pre-cleanse

Joe's Cable Car on Urbanspoon

Humphry Slocombe ice cream


Crazy ice cream flavors in the Mission. We finally made it to Humphry Slocombe. Although it was December and freezing outside I still had to have it. I ordered the “Secret breakfast” (cornflakes & bourbon) which may sound disgusting but was d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s! Mike opted for the “guinness gingerbread”. As an Irishman just days before Christmas he had no other choice. He liked it… let’s just say I didn’t ask for a 2nd bite but I’ve never been a fan of gingerbread. The ice cream whatever the flavor is super creamy and amazingly fresh. I hope to return in the summer to try other flavors like: blue bottle Vietnamese coffee, cream cheese chocolate chip, government cheese and sweet corn-blackberry.

* don’t worry this was pre-cleanse

Website: http://www.humphryslocombe.com/

Humphry Slocombe on Urbanspoon

Dynamo Donuts


I’m steadily crossing off items from my bucket list — dynamo donuts CHECK. I heard about this place on one of those Food Network “the best thing I ever ate” episodes when they revealed the “Maple bacon” donut at Dynamo. This was our last stop on my SF bday weekend as we headed back to San Jose.

What we got (in order of preference):

maple bacon glazed apple: like french toast and bacon, didn't taste any apple.

coconut: big slices of coconut were great.

lemon huckleberry: nice but didn't taste any lemon.

spiced chocolate: great chocolate flavor, spice was a little weird. I think I tasted chili powder.

caramel de sel: caramel was ooey gooey but tasted burnt. Didn't taste any de sel or orange zest.

These are some really good light and airy donuts. Most were missing one or more of the flavors it claimed to have but I didn’t mind. I’m usually pushin’ maximum capacity after 1 normal donut but I had no problem downing 2.5 of these in one sitting. They also have great decaf Americano. Stop by if you are in the area.

Website: http://www.dynamodonut.com/

Dynamo Donuts & Coffee on Urbanspoon

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

Tony’s Pizza Napoletana


Before our trip to the Disney museum we decided to get some pizza from the highly acclaimed pizzaiolo Tony Gemignani. Tony won the award for Best Pizza Margherita at the 2007 World Pizza Cup in Italy and he’s opened up a spot in North Beach where you can try that very same pizza. We arrived at noon on a Saturday just as a line was forming at the front door. We lucked out and got seated in the back room right in front of the 900 degree wood oven where all the action happens. The place has a cool vibe. 50’s music was playing and there was a young guy with a tight t-shirt and slicked back hair working the oven. Looked like someone straight out of GREASE.


We of course were ordering the famous Margherita pizza but decided to start with the Meatballs which were moist and light — not at all heavy and the sauce was fantastic. I slopped up the leftover sauce with our bread. The pizza arrived pippin’ hot and looked scrumptious. I was worried the crust would be thin and burnt like lots of wood-fired pizzas but it was really soft and airy. How did it taste? Simply delicious. I’ll be back to try the other varieties.

Note: only 73 Margherita pies are sold a day so arrive early.

Website: http://www.tonyspizzanapoletana.com/

Tony's Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen


An eatery that only sells grilled cheese sandwiches. Brilliant concept. Why didn’t I think of that? Food & Wine calls AGCK one of the Best U.S. Restaurant Openings of 2010 and I agree!

This was the first stop on my mega birthday weekend in SF. We rolled up on Friday (11/12/10) at noon and it was packed, but we scored a parking spot right in front….I took it as a sign…

We ordered:

Moscone sandwich (fresh mozzarella, fontina, roasted tomatoes, basil-lavender pesto, olive tapenade) + tomato soup

Mousetrap sandwich (Tillamook sharp cheddar, havarti, monterey jack, on artisan sourdough w/bacon) + tomato soup

Everything was wonderful and comes with an apple so you can feel like you ate something healthy when you really didn’t.

Tips:

Don’t attempt to eat the croutons on their own like I did. They are super peppery.

The soup is best when you dunk your sando in it or with croutons because it’s like a tomato puree and is very acidic.

Website: http://theamericansf.com/

The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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/

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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/

Naglee Park Garage


I saw this local joint on Diners, Drive-ins & Dives so of course I had to stop by. I’m not a big fan of Guy Fieri but it cracks me up to see him stuff himself in a kitchen. I don’t know why…

Anyways, Naglee Park is a bistro set in an old garage and is small so we showed up early (like 5 minutes after opening) to make sure we could get in and out since I read that the wait could be long on a Saturday night. I now know why… they only had one person working the register and although she was nice it seemed to take at least 20 minutes to place our order (and we knew exactly what we wanted).

We then headed to the outdoor patio (95% of the seating is outside so beware if it’s raining or cold) to find a seat and wait for our food. Mike and I split the bacon burger, the mussels & the chocolate bread pudding. The mussels were my favorite. Plump and tender in a lovely broth with salty greens and garlic bread to slop up the juices. The burger was good but nothing special and the bread pudding was devoured. Everything was seasonal and fresh and not what you’d expect from a garage. I look forward to returning for breakfast. I hear it’s good.

Website: http://www.nagleeparkgarage.com/

Rating:

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Five Guys Burgers and Fries


I didn’t know anything about Five Guys until I saw President Obama on CNN leaving the White House to grab a bite. Really, are they that good I thought to myself? Well, the east coast chain has come to San Jose so Mike and I went to try it out.

In the Bay when you think burgers most think In-N-Out so here is a comparison of the two burger giants:

5G = Five Guys           INO = In-N-Out

The beef: 5G meat was tender, juicy and fresh – best part of the burger. I’d give them the edge over INO.

The bun: 5G bread was cold and tasteless. INO has a far superior bun that is baked-in house and toasted.

The condiments: 5G does have more toppings to choose from including BACON plus free mushrooms & jalapeno peppers but they had no flavor. I didn’t even taste my shrooms. INO has less options but better taste.

The fries: 5G fries tasted like ore-ida straight from freezer. I couldn’t eat them. INO has its own fry issues…after 1 minute they go cold and I don’t know why they are so stingy with the salt.

The ambiance: 5G line moved fast, the employees were nice and it doesn’t have that weird INO smell that gets embedded in your clothes and car. INO is always slow no matter if you go inside or drive-thru but the employees are nice.

The decor: Both have very minimalist approaches using only red & white but at least INO jazzes it up with palm trees. 5G is straight kinko’s.

So, overall I don’t think Five Guys Burgers are worthy of leaving the oval office for. The meat would bring me back if I was in the general area but I wouldn’t go out of my way to find it.

Note: Five Guys in San Jose has a good amount of outdoor seating and when we went on a Friday night the international buffet next door was jammin’ the reggae music which was great.

Website: http://www.fiveguys.com/

Five Guys on Urbanspoon

Chocolateria San Ginés


Before leaving for Madrid I did some online research and one place kept popping up as a must do activity — eat Hot chocolate and Churros at Chocolateria San Ginés. We arrived at 11:30pm (early by Spanish standards) and the cafe was about half full. We easily found a table and immediately ordered …2 hot chocolates and 1 plate of churros. No menu necessary. When everything arrived it looked beautiful. The churros are not like what you find at Disneyland covered in cinnamon sugar and doughy in the middle. It was a slightly sweet crispy dough and when dipped in the warm milk chocolate it was the ultimate combination. The chocolate is really not for drinking but dipping because it is so thick and rich. This is one of those don’t miss opportunities when in Madrid and since it’s practically open all day and night you have no excuse not to try it.

Note: I found the recipe on the Food Network. I haven’t tried it so I can’t vouch for its authenticity but if you can’t make it to Madrid and you want to give it a try this may be your best bet.

Address: Pasadizo de San Ginés, 11

PLANET BARBECUE! Cookbook Review


Steven Raichlen, the Baron of BBQ is back with a new guide to grilling around the world. Raichlen hit the road for his latest cookbook PLANET BARBECUE! visiting 60 countries on six continents to chronicle the practice of live fire grilling. His five year adventure has resulted in a glorious 638 page manual filled with over 300 barbecue recipes from around the globe.

PLANET takes you on a cultural culinary journey without leaving your kitchen… for breakfast indulge in an Argentinean steak & eggs dish called the “Buenos Aires Heart Stopper“, venture over to Belgium for a light lunch of Salmon Glazed with Belgian Cherry Beer, stop by a roadside stand for a snack of Cambodian Coconut-Grilled Corn, enjoy a Serbian Bacon Cheese Pork Roulade for dinner and finish off the night with Azerbaijan Grilled Ice Cream.

Interlaced between recipes are essays revealing Raichlen’s travel tips for each country including must try dishes and restaurants to visit. If that wasn’t enough there are also bios on some of the most famous international grill masters. The book concludes with an in-depth discussion on how to achieve the perfect live fire grilling environment at home including proper equipment and fuel to controlling cooking temps and cleaning.

PLANET takes Barbecue books to a whole new level – it is a cookbook and travel guide all rolled into one.

The first recipe we tried was Filet Mignons with Whisky Mushroom Sauce. See it here

———————————————————–
PLANET BARBECUE!: An Electrifying Journey Around the World’s Barbecue Trail
by Steven Raichlen (Workman, May 2010, $22.95).

Thank you to Workman Publishing for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Buy it here

Other Raichlen books:
The Barbeque Bible (Mike swears by this!)

BarBersQ


If you’re looking for Memphis style BBQ in Napa look no further than BarBersQ. The place is rockin’  — literally. Mike couldn’t stop shimmying his shoulders as classic R&B and Neo Soul tunes piped through the restaurant.

You’d think this being a barbecue joint I would order ribs or pulled pork but I had heard they had fried chicken and I NEVER pass up fried chicken. Mike chose the Caesar salad (very nice) and the Q combo with brisket and chicken. My 4 pieces of Southern fried chicken arrived with a side of collard greens and mashed potatoes. The chicken was hot with a light crispy skin that had a hint of sweetness. Compared to competing fowl I’d put it above Ad Hoc but just below Boon Fly’s versions. It comes with a vinegar hot sauce that looks more intimidating than it is. It actually could be hotter.


Mike enjoyed his BBQ but preferred the chicken over the beef.


We finished off our meal with a hefty slice of chocolate bundt cake from our favorite ABC Bakery.


We were beyond stuffed…it took days to digest.

Although it’s not located in the most prime location (in a strip mall sandwiched between a Target and a Whole Foods) I’d go back in a heartbeat. The large portions, tasty eats, reasonable prices, casually chic decor and jazzy music make up for the lackluster outdoor setting.

Rating:

Website: http://www.barbersq.com/

BarBers Q on Urbanspoon

Ad Hoc Brunch

Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc serves up Brunch every Sunday from 10-1pm and it’s become supremely popular. We arrived at 10:10 and the placed was full by 10:30. It’s a 3 course meal for $34.  I had heard from others that the Brunch menu included Bouchon pastries, yogurt and then a choice of a breakfasty main dish (waffles, pancakes, eggs) but on our visit the format had changed. This is the menu we received on May 16, 2010 (no choices available).

Ice berg lettuce with buttermilk dressing, red onions, apples and walnuts

Steak & scrambled eggs with creme fraiche, wild mushroom ragu and fava beans

Oven roasted potatoes

Beignets covered in sugar with strawberry, vanilla and chocolate dipping sauces

The salad was good but nothing special. The steak and eggs on the other hand was a masterpiece. It still amazes me how every single bite is perfectly seasoned. The man knows how to use salt! The beignets were divine even though they were more like donuts; dipped in a combo of vanilla-strawberry sauce was delish. We left satisfied but not stuffed (which is always a good thing).

Next visit I would make my reservation for a later time. It definitely is more of an early lunch menu than a breakfast. I don’t usually wake up and have a salad with my french press.

See our past Ad Hoc adventures:
Fried Chicken night
Pork dinner

Sato Sushi


I’ve eaten at a lot of Japanese restaurants and I gotta say this is my favorite if I’m in the mood for Teriyaki and Tempura. This was my go-to birthday/special event dining spot while growing up and every time I get a chance to go back I do. The food, decor and sweet female owner remain the same. I feel at home whenever I return.

Usually I go to sushi joints for the rolls but here (for me) it’s all about the Teriyaki combination dinners. Sato does it right! Before the meal starts you are presented with a hot towel to clean your hands. LOVE that. Then comes the hot tea and salad with a wonderful ginger dressing. Next, Miso soup with green onions and tofu. Then, a bowl of white rice is placed next to a plate with Teriyaki. I chose steak which was cooked perfectly and has a sweet sauce. Finally the HOT (trust me you will probably burn your tongue) Tempura is brought which has 2 giant shrimp and a bevy of veggies. This is not your typical Tempura heavily breaded and cold from sitting under a heat lamp. This is super fresh and arrives at the the table the moment it’s removed from the oil. Wow, I’m kinda drooling just thinking about it. Anyways, you get the point. Sato ignores all the fancy gimmicky stuff and instead provides simple, consistent, delicious yet economical (prices have only increased a few dollars over the last 20 yrs) cuisine.

Oh…don’t let me discourage you from ordering the sushi…it’s good too. Mike ordered a combo platter.

Sato was one of the first Japanese restaurants to open in Pleasanton and I hope it remains forever.

Address:
3015 Hopyard Rd
Pleasanton, CA 94588
Website

Rating:

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Gary Danko


My birthday week ended with dinner at Gary Danko in San Francisco. It was time to try the #1 Bay Area Zagat rated restaurant. When we arrived we were seated in a cozy corner booth. We were surprised to see that the place was packed on a Thursday night in November. I guess you don’t have a slump in business when you are so highly acclaimed. We started with a couple glasses of bubbly as we looked over the menu. One gripe about the menu… I thought the choice of wine by the glass was limited and the prices exorbitant. After the shock wore off I moved to the food. You have the option to have a 3, 4 or 5 course meal. We went with 3 since we had already partook in 3 other “b” day dinners over the last 7 days. To my delight there was an abundance of lobster on the menu that I just couldn’t pass up.

Our order:

Amuse bouche
Asparagus soup

Starters
Risotto with Lobster, Shimeji Mushrooms and Butternut Squash
Crispy Farm Egg with White Polenta, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Frisée and Pancetta

Mains
Roast Maine Lobster with Potato Purée, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Corn and Tarragon
Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers and Mustard Sauce

Dessert
Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces
Warm Louisiana Butter Cake with Caramelized Apples, Huckleberry Compote and Vanilla Ice Cream
Complimentary birthday lemon tart
Complimentary plate of bite size treats

The standout dish of the night was hands down the crispy farm egg. Imagine eating a deep fried poached egg. Pure deliciousness! Runner up was the roast lobster which was cooked perfectly and served with super buttery potatoes. The remaining dishes were nothing special. The risotto was a bit bland and the salmon dry. Dessert arrived and continue to arrive. They really like to dish out the sweets!  Mike loved the butter cake with apples so much so that he really didn’t share.

The service was the way I like it…not overly attentive. They came around when we needed them then left us to enjoy  ourselves. I especially appreciated the woman who would refill our bread plates after each course. I hate being given a single roll at the beginning of a meal and then nothing more.

Overall the food and setting was great but not the best in the Bay Area. The evening ended with our server giving us a fancy packaged banana cream cheese muffin (for the morning — which was yummy). If I were to go again I would do as the couple next to us did. Bring my own bottle of wine and order the 3 course menu but get 1 dessert and the cheese course to share. The cheese cart looked fabulous.


Sorry about the hazy cell phone pics. It was dark.

Rating:

Website: http://www.garydanko.com/

Gary Danko on Urbanspoon

Bottega


Mike and I took my sister and her husband to Napa for a weekend before they moved from the Bay Area to Hawaii. We decided we would dine at Bottega, Michael Chiarello’s newest creation. On the night we arrived he was actually in the house. While waiting for our table he walked through the bar and mingled with guests. As he was making his way back to the kitchen he made a comment to my sister and brother-in-law. The waiting area is small and the place was packed so my sister was sitting on her husband’s lap. Chef Chiarello said something like  “You guys look comfortable… I’m gonna bring you a menu, actually maybe just dessert.”  (at lease that’s what I think I heard — it was noisy so I could be a little off but that was the jist).

Soon after we were seated at a large round table in the side dining area. We started our meal with a raw fish appetizer and fresh mozzarella. For mains, I chose the seafood stew, Mike had the Quail and my sister and hubby shared a giant porterhouse steak and fries. For dessert we had a yummy cookie plate and a tart. The food and service was very good definitely worthy of a Top Chef Master but we didn’t expect anything less. For years Mike & I have been fans of the NapaStyle empire Chiarello created. If you haven’t heard about his wine club check it out. We have been members for over 2 years and we love it.

Pictured: Mozzarella (top left), Fish app served on a salt rock (top right), Stew (bottom left), Quail (bottom right)

Rating: drumstick rating drumstick rating drumstick rating halfdrumstick

Website: http://www.botteganapavalley.com/

Note: This dinner occurred in May 2009.
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Boon Fly Cafe

Boon Fly is a cozy cafe located in a bright red barn facade at the Carneros Inn (a Plumpjack resort) in Napa. It is a casual set up with a homey menu. The night we went I ordered the Fried Chicken and Mike had the Meatloaf special. Mike’s meal came with a large carafe of wine, salad AND dessert for $29. Great deal! It took some time for our meal to arrive. We found out it was due to the chicken being made to order. I was surprised by the huge serving size. The chicken was amazing. Just like I make it at home…it had a crispy light batter without any fancy herbs and spices but to give it a little kick they added a hint of hot sauce to the batter. Brilliant! It is the polar opposite of Ad Hoc’s famous thick buttermilk battered herby creation. To all those folks who think Ad Hoc’s got the best fried chicken in Napa, think again…they’ve got some serious competition! Mike gobbled down his meatloaf within minutes without any complaints. We finished things off with an awesome slice of banana creme pie.

Boon Fly is a great place to grab a tasty bite for a reasonable price. We look forward to coming back to try the breakfast. We hear it is out- of- sight.

Note: This meal took place in May 09.

meatloaf

Rating: drumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick ratingdrumstick rating

Website: http://www.thecarnerosinn.com/

Boon Fly Cafe on Urbanspoon

Foodbuzz 24,24,24: Lobster Gram

live lobsters
I’ve been c-r-a-v-i-n-g lobster. The kind of lobster I had growing up in Massachusetts when my family would hop in our station wagon and drive to New Hampshire in search of the ultimate lobster meal. Since moving to California, long gone are the days of cheap, simple lobster eats. Lobster tends to be insanely expensive and come in extreme forms. I don’t want lobster sliders, sushi rolls or mac & cheese. I’m going back to basics…I want a lobster so fresh and tasty all it needs is a little drawn butter to make my mouth water. Head, tail, legs and guts. I wanna get my hands dirty and maybe even my shirt. Lobster Gram to the rescue!

Thanks to Foodbuzz and their monthly blogging event where they sponsor 24 people to create 24 meals in 24 hours Mike and I were transported back in time to one of my fondest childhood memories. We had LIVE Maine lobsters delivered to our door from one of the top lobster delivery services on the net…Lobster Gram.

WOW! what a day…the lobsters arrived right on time and were alive and kickin’, well actually they were a bit jet-lagged initially but they perked up. I was amazed to find that they were so fresh that there was no fishy smell at all. Not even the shipping container smelled. The box comes with everything you could possibly need to create the perfect dinner: lobstergramstuffa great detailed cooking guide, lemons, butter, bibs, crackers, picks and hand wipes. The entire process of ordering online to cooking was surprisingly simple. Lobster Gram makes things fool proof. The end result was FANTASTIC! The lobster was super tender and sweet. It didn’t even need butter… but that didn’t stop us from using it!

Here is a video that shows the delivery, prep and the plunge into the pot:

To complete our crustacean feast we prepared the following sides:

cheddarbis

Cheddar Biscuits with Garlic Butter

Corn

Corn on the Cob with Shallot -Thyme Butter

The only modification to the biscuit recipe we made was to double the amount of garlic. They were really fast and easy to make. Awesome right out of the oven. The corn had wonderful flavor. The only change next time would be to use corn off the cob so we don’t lose all the buttery shallot goodness on the plate!

and for dessert…

tart

Apple Galette with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla cream

This treat consisted of sliced apples on top of a 5″ circular puff pastry and what you can’t see is what makes it taste so unique – under the apples is a half dollar size disc of pure almond paste. We’d never used almond paste before and a little goes a long way. Yum!

If you’ve ever considered having  lobsters delivered — JUST DO IT!! This was a totally fun and rewarding experience! I can’t wait to do it again and again and again…

lobster

Beauty shot!

Recipe links:
Apple Galettes with Caramel Sauce
Corn on the Cob with Shallot-Thyme Butter
Cheddar biscuits

GET YOUR LOBSTERS HERE — Website: http://www.livelob.com/
$10 off coupon code: COOKMAN9   — expires 12/31/09

California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin Olive Oil

evoo
I was recently sent a sample of a new olive oil produced right here in California! The launch of California Olive Ranch Extra Virgin olive Oil marks the first time a US brand has mass-produced high quality, fresh, affordable, everyday EVOO for the US marketplace.

I didn’t introduce olive oil into my daily diet until 4 years ago… before that I was a butter girl. I now know that EVOO is not only healthy but super tasty, so I was excited to try this fresh product.

To test the flavor Mike & I did a tasting between it and a couple other similar priced oils  — Colavita and Whole Foods 365.

Here are the results:
California Olive Ranch (100% Californian): deep green/yellow color, strong fruity nose, full bodied, distinct olive flavor with peppery finish.
Colavita (100% Italian): light yellow color, no apparent smell, medium body, mild flavor.
Whole Foods 365 (Italian/Spain/Greece Mix): light yellow color, delicate aroma, thin body, fruity flavor.

Verdict…Buy local! California Olive Ranch was the most flavorful and aromatic. In a blind taste test we would have no problem picking out the CA EVOO because its characteristics are so pronounced.

shrimpscampi

scampi pasta

Next, we cooked with it. We used it in three dishes; a corn and tomato salad, a shrimp scampi pasta and roasted cauliflower & red peppers with a caper vinaigrette. All dishes turned out delicious. The oil is very versatile.

If you’re looking for a robust oil to add to your kitchen arsenal give California Olive Ranch a try, you won’t be disappointed.

Website: http://www.californiaoliveranch.com/

Purple Onion Los Gatos

About a month ago we were at a party that was catered by Purple Onion. There were salads, little sandwiches and desserts. Everything was super tasty. Mike and I decided we had to try the place out. We arrived on a Friday just after noon and it was fairly full. We actually bumped into Mike’s mom who was finishing her lunch. I immediately knew we were going to like the food because his mom has a discerning pallet so if she is a regular it’s gotta be good. I ordered the turkey sandwich and Mike had the tuna melt. Each came with a side salad. When it arrived it looked like a work of art. The salad was so colorful. I took a bite of my sandwich and it was amazingly fresh. The bread was warm and a bit toasted like it had been taken straight from the oven. Delicious. Mike enjoyed his tuna too. We will be back to try out the rest of the menu.

tunaturkey

Website: http://www.purpleonion-catering.com/

Purple Onion on Urbanspoon

Black Box Wines

blackbox
I don’t discriminate even when it comes to wine… jug,bottle,box or can I will give anything a try. When Foodbuzz offered to send me a sample of the new Black Box wines I said, “bring it on!”  Black Box wines feature 9 varietals from all over the world. Each box holds the equivalent of 4 bottles for a very reasonable $22-32. I was hoping to receive a Cabernet or Riesling, but alas a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand showed up at my door. Mike and I rarely drink Sauv Blanc as I prefer a sweeter white wine but it is the summer so on a hot afternoon we had a glass.

Here are our tasting notes
Color: pale gold
Aroma: floral, melon
Taste: crisp, dry, acidic, bitter with a metallic/tin like finish

We disliked the harsh aftertaste it left in our mouths so this was not a wine we would break out and drink on its own. It needs to accompany food. We used the remainder of the box to cook with and it was fantastic. A favorite dish was a clam linguine. I would be up for trying other Black Box wines.

Website: http://www.blackboxwines.com/