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...what I'm eating

Updated: 2017-12-20T02:42:26.967-08:00


Tuscan BAM! or Italian Seasoning


When my Omnivore and I were in Tuscany we went on a little pilgrimage to the butcher shop of Dario Cecchini and joined in his rollicking 10 am wine and lardo party (not kidding, for real...) before stumbling out into the sunshine with a giant cannonball of meatloaf and a small bottle of what we came to call "Dario's Tuscan BAM!" It was a powdered mix of spices that came in a miniscule jar that smelled heavenly and made everything we put it on taste like Italy.

Recently we were making Chicken Cacciatore in our fabulous slow-cooker. It was an easy, sort of semi-homemade recipe that called for the mysterious "Italian seasoning" that you get in a  jar at Safeway. Being that I was unwilling to purchase that--what the heck is in that stuff anyway and how long has it been sitting on a shelf?-- I did a little hunting online and came up with this instead. It's not quite the "Tuscan BAM!" but it tastes much better (i.e. not stale) than Safeway, that's for sure!

Italian Seasoning

3 tablespoons dried basil
3 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons dried parsley
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

 Combine all ingredients in a spice grinder. Grind to a fine powder. Keeps 6 months in a sealed container.

Inedible mask making


I know this is a blog about food, but we were so pleased with ourselves for solving this problem I needed to post it someplace.My Omnivore and I were scheduled to attend a fancy Masquerade popup ball, for which we were cooking quite a lot of food (See? There's the food connection).  After many a gala event, we have no shortage of tux and gown outfits, but masks were another story.  I found one easily and since I wear contact lenses it was no problem at all to pick whatever style I pleased.My Omnivore, on the other hand, wears glasses.  Try to find a decent mask that you can wear with glasses. No really. Try.  We'll wait while you search.We googled and dug and found absolutely nothing that even remotely fits the notion of "elegant" or even "interesting."So at last I told him we were just going to have to design and make it ourselves. He has an interesting pair of glasses that are somewhat angular, with a frameless bottom edge. We decided that these would be the ones we'd build around and I suggested a Cubist sort of look since the glasses had strong lines.Out came the old crafting box and I dug up the packages of plaster bandages left over from some other mask-making adventure.I had him lie down on the floor and attempt NOT to be twitchy for half an hour, poor man, while I laid the plaster over his face. Curious kitties visited him more than once.The results, if I do say so myself, were not bad.When the plaster was dry, I traced out the areas of the mask roughly corresponding to the glasses dimensions and cut those away. We also snipped out the spot on the the nose where the bridge of the glasses fit. This enables the glasses to get closer to the face and sit properly, where they belong. (A bit like the Invisible Man, this picture!)I painted a bit of Fray-Check (from the fabric store) on the edges to keep them from unraveling. Then, we primed the whole thing with a coat of spray acrylic, and My Omnivore taped off areas with painters tape.  Using a piece of paper to shield while spraying, he managed to get a nice graded effect that we deemed sufficiently close to the Cubist look we were after.The final touch was to  line the inside with moleskin purchased from the drugstore, so that the mask would be more comfortable to wear and not too sweaty.The final look--you can tell he has glasses on, but they don't look bizarrely out of place!Since the mask fit perfectly to his face, the glasses slipped over the sides nicely.  He got lots of compliments on the design all night, and I have to say we were pretty proud to have solved the problem![...]

We Conquer the Paupiette


It's been a busy week, what with shows and a visit from my Dad (more on that later), but I didn't want to let too much time pass by without noting that we have at last conquered that !#%!$#! Paupiette of Sea Bass of Le Cirque fame.  Long-time followers of my blog will note that we have been trying to recreate this damn dish again and  again and again since late 2007, with no success and much cursing of potatoes. Well, we had a wonderful friend over for dinner before her move to the wilds of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and since she's an adventurous soul, we thought we'd give that !#%!$#! Paupiette one more try.This time I did a lot more due diligence to figure out how exactly that potato wrapping was supposed to happen. I got some more tips from blogs and armed with a Börner V-slicer that makes potato slices so thin you can read through them, we forged ahead.  Here is Daniel Boulud's original recipe, which we adjusted slightly as follows:Paupiettes of Sea Bass in Merlot Sauce (because using a whole bottle of Barolo wasn't in the budget)For the Merlot Sauce:1 tablespoon oil1/2 cup chopped shallots1/2 cup sliced white mushroom caps1 small thyme sprig1 cup chicken stock or clam juice1 bottle (750 ml) Barolo or other full-bodied dry red wine1 tablespoon heavy cream1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoonsPinch of sugarSalt and freshly ground pepperHeat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the shallots, mushrooms and thyme and cook over high heat for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the stock and boil until the mushrooms are almost dry. Stir in the wine and boil until reduced to 2 tablespoons, about 30 minutes. Stir in the cream and bring to a boil over low heat. Whisk in the butter and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve, pressing on the solids, and keep warm.For the Paupiettes:Four skinless 4-ounce sea bass filletsSalt and freshly ground pepper1 teaspoon chopped thyme, plus 4 small sprigs for garnish2 very large baking potatoes5 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 melted3 large leeks, white part only, thinly sliced1 tablespoon minced chivesTrim each of the sea bass fillets into a 5-by-1 1/2-inch rectangle. Season with salt, pepper and the thyme.Using a knife, slice each potato lengthwise to remove the rounded portions and make a block shape; do not cut off the tips of the potatoes, but do peel them. Using a mandoline, slice the potatoes lengthwise into very thin slices. Brush the slices on both sides with the melted butter and season with salt. This is important, don't rinse the slices or anything, just toss them in butter so they don't turn brown. The butter will also help the slices stick.For each paupiette, on a 10-inch sheet of wax paper, arrange 8 slightly overlapping potato slices to form a 5-inch wide rectangle. Here's what isn't explicitly said: the slices should be placed with an overlap of at least an inch. So slice #1goes down (with the long side "landscape" orientation in front of you) and slice two is placed in the same orientation next to it, but overlapping about an inch or so. Slice #3 goes above Slice #1, overlapping it slightly, then slice 4 goes next to #3 overlapping an inch or so. This continues for 8 slices of potato. There should be an "interleaving" effect where ends of the slices meet. That is, don't put down a column of 4 slices and THEN try to place another column of four slices beside the first because the ends of the potato won't stick together as well.Center a fish fillet horizontally in the rectangle and wrap the potatoes over and around the fillet to enclose it completely. Here again, use the "interleaving effect," so rather than just flapping one side of slices together on one side of the fish and flapping the other side over that, fold over one slice on the left side, then one on the right, then one on the left, then one on the right, etc., so that they'll stick better.  If you look carefully at the photo, you'll see what I mean.Use the wa[...]

Better Living Through Chemistry


I love cleaning tips, especially the kind that only involve a few easy-to-obtain household items. Apparently baking soda is just the magical all-purpose cleaner, but maybe some of you already knew that.

Here's an awesome little cleaning trick you might not have seen before though: how to remove silver tarnish without rubbing, scrubbing and fruitlesslyQ-tipping into all those nooks and crannies.

What to do: place a large piece of aluminum foil on the bottom of a pot that fits whatever it is you're planning to de-tarnish. Boil a couple of quarts of water -- enough to cover the item--then turn off the heat. Add in a few teaspoons of salt per quart and a quarter cup of baking soda per quart. Then simply submerge the item in the solution and cover. In a few minutes, you can check it and you'll see the tarnish magically disappears.  If there's a lot of tarnish built up it may take a little longer, and reheating the water can help the reaction. Pull the silver piece out of the water with tongs (it will be hot from the water!). Rinse it, then buff it with a soft cloth.

I'm utterly fascinated by how this works.  We spent all last night pulling out silver pieces and putting them in the solution, then pulling them out to ooh and ahh.

So here's what I found about how it works.  The black tarnish that develops on silver is actually silver sulfide, formed when the silver reacts with sulfur compounds in the air. If you're used to using silver polishes, or even toothpaste, which was always my "go-to," you're actually rubbing off the silver sulfide layer, but of course, taking some of the silver along with it.

When you use the aluminum foil and soda solution you're actually converting the silver sulfide back into silver.  This works by creating a reaction in which the sulfur is transferred to the aluminum (the silver item must be in actual contact with the aluminum foil), creating aluminum sulfide.  You may notice a sulphuric smell coming from the pot after the reaction, and if you've de-tarnished a few things, as we did, you'll notice the aluminum foil turns dark and tarnished.

For a dramatic demonstration of the reaction, check out this YouTube video.

Up-cycled Picnic Bags


I got embroiled in a project I've been wanting to turn attention to for well over a year.  It actually has nothing at all to do with food, but I feel like blogging it, so let's just call it a Picnic Bag Project and declare that food-related....Last year, after a big event at the Ritz-Carlton, we had a 30-foot vinyl banner left over.  Now, there's no way we'll be able to reuse the thing, but I hate seeing stuff like that go to the landfill, so I offered to take it and turn it into bags.  It's only taken me a year to get around to it.You can actually send your o ld vinyl banners to a service like Ecologic Designs and have them come back to you as messenger bags, clutches, lunch sacks, which is very cool, but I wanted to try making some myself. The general pattern I used is pretty easy.  For a shopping bag, I cut pieces about 22" x 36," for the smaller bags it was more like 16" x 24".  You then fold the piece in half and stitch up the sides.  Then, I square off the bottom using the same method you would to make box cushions.  Martha Stewart explains it here.My trusty old Kenmore sewing machine has enough power to sew through the layers which are pretty thick, but I could've used a heavy gauge of needle.  I broke 4 of them in the process.Still, after nine bags, I really can't complain about how well the machine performs.  My Dad got it for me for my 13th birthday and after countless dresses, pants, tutus, shirts, and, yes, bags, it's still going strong.The really fun part of this whole exercise though, and why I wanted to try it myself, is that you get to play around with the patterns on the vinyl and cut it in any way you think might be interesting on the finished bag.Do you want abstract bits of letters?  Swooshes? Whole words? Patterns? Should there be little pockets? Long straps? short handles? I think the part I enjoyed most was chopping the thing up. And since it's heavy duty weatherproof vinyl, the resulting bags will be durable, water resistant and easy to clean -- oops, did I drip some blood on it after stabbing my finger with a  pin?  No matter,  it just wipes off. In the end, six hours later, I had three large shopping bags, and six smaller totes which could conceivably hold a nice little picnic lunch, or anything else really. I also cut a roughly 3' x 5' chunk of the banner  to make a picnic table covering for when we encounter those dusty, dirty old picnic tables with lots of splinters...Only a few little trims and scraps went into the garbage, so, upcycling mission completed. A satisfying way to busy myself on a Sunday.[...]

California Dream...


Even as I drool over the gorgeous photos of food in Paris or markets in Barcelona, it often occurs to me that for people in Paris and Barcelona, they probably think we here in California live the dream, with fab food and sunny days lived in elegant, luxurious ease.

Of course, I know that most San Francisco days are spent shrouded in fog, with me wrapped in three or four woolen layers, possibly eating nothing more exotic than a burrito.  But every so often we have a spectacular day, a day in which you can hop into a convertible Mini Cooper, and speed across the Golden Gate Bridge with the top down and the wind in your hair, and then pull up next to the waterside for a simple little picnic.

Although, I don't deny that it was cold as we passed through the thick fogbank over the bridge. Picturesque, but chilly.

Vintage Gouda and Grise de Volcans


Fun holiday cheese for the Fourth of July, or really just because it's Wednesday.... 

On the left, Vintage Gouda -- nutty and deep in flavor, this one just shatters as you press a knife into it, and yet it's creamy on the tongue, with little sparkles of crystallized yummy throughout.  I do love Gouda.

It's a cheese I first had when I visited the Netherlands years ago.  We stopped in Gouda to see a windmill and stumbled upon a farmers market where we must have bought a half a dozen kinds of gouda cheese. Every one of them was fabulous, and made for the perfect train picnic on our way back to Amsterdam.

(image) And then there's the Grise de Volcans, a wonderful hard French cheese from the Auvergne that has a layer of volcanic ash on the rind.  It's earthy and absolutely delicious.  Well worth seeking out.

I do love getting cheeses that I've never seen before!

More Jam-making fun


It's turning into a little bit of a thing, I admit, but we're making more jam.  This time over at Mover & Maker's gorgeous home.  There's something so satisfying about those pretty  jar of colorful yummy.

 This time on the menu is Apricot Rosemary Jam, courtesy of Urban Preserving.

It's a curious recipe as it includes no pectin at all. I know apricots have a good bit of pectin already in them, but I have to say this recipe ended up a bit runny.  It has a terrific flavor though, so I think some experimentation may be in order to see if a few tablespoons of pectin might help tighten up matters.

Among the other recipes we tried out were Strawberry Basil Jam and also a Strawberry Lime Cardamom Jam from SP Cookie Queen, that has the added benefit of being low sugar.  This one does use pectin although again, much less that I would have thought would be needed.

(image) Of course slaving over a hot stove is such labor....

It's a good thing that there's a gorgeous table at which to recline and a glass of cool white wine to take the edge off...

Foie gras adieu...


It is with sadness that we bid farewell to foie gras today. I admit to mixed feelings because I do love the silky wonderful flavor of good foie, seared and seared with a simple balsamic reduction, blended into an earthy delicate mousse. But I also hate cruelty, and gavage certainly feels like it has that edge to it, no matter what experts say.

I'm interested in the so-called wild foie gras, and in de Sousa's natural foie, although I've never seen it in the US. Perhaps now, given the ban, there will be more interest in it.

But for now I'm willing to part ways with foie. We went to a blowout farewell to foie at Gourmet & More on Thursday, and you know what? The cheese was great, the duck breast was yummy and the salumi was tasty. There are yet many wonderful things in this world to eat...




- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Northward Mendocino


When the spring turns to summer and the weather turns cold (that's the life here in San Francisco, of course), my thoughts go toward wine country and the dream of a relaxing getaway.My Omnivore and I have, neither of us, ever been to Mendocino, so we decided a little time off to explore the Northern Realms might be in order.To be honest, I know nothing of Mendocino beyond "Murder, She Wrote." So we had only a few hints of places to go and things to eat while up there.  It was enough to keep us busy though.On the way up, we decided to pass through the Anderson Valley and investigate the Pinot Noir situation there.  Without too much to go on, we kinda picked a couple of places randomly.  First on the list was Toulouse Vineyards -- a very cool little family place on Highway 128 in Philo. You might drive right past it if you weren't looking for the little goose signs posted on trees that warn you as you get closer to their driveway. It's the kind of place with a steep gravelly drive leading up to it -- i.e. a place where you won't find tons of tour buses in the parking lot.  We're discovering we like that a lot.At Toulouse, wine and food pairing is an important selling point, and Maxine helpfully brought us some tiny bits of lemon rind and bay laurel to try with the Pinot Gris. Astonishingly, straight up lemon doesn't kill their Pinot Gris, but works quite nicely with it.  Spices like coriander, cumin might work well together with this one, Maxine says.  Hmmm... we're packing a few containers of Chicken Curry and coconut rice for our dinner, so that's that.Further down the road, we stopped at Navarro Vineyards. I won't say it was entirely because they had a llama in their field, but that might have been a partial factor...I skipped tasting to take in the views and try to catch a llama.Just saying.And then we hit the long and winding road for Mendocino, where we were renting a little cottage run by the Alegria Inn near the edge of town.Mendo is one of those incredibly cute places that generally are not my cup of tea, although I have to admit it was beautiful and certainly quiet. Since we arrived during the week and it was a rainy week at that, we saw precious few other humans around --it was a little too quiet actually. As someone who watches way too much procedural drama, that sort of thing makes me worry about serial killers and evildoers who've retired to the quiet seaside town.But I digress...There is a very nice little French place about a block from the cottage that came highly recommended, Cafe Beaujolais, which offers some comforting French bistro fare in a  pretty quiet setting. It's a little on the pricey side, but I have to say, the fact that you can get truly caramelized onions with tasty French brie and a genuinely beautiful duck confit makes it worth the extra. Best of all, behind the restaurant is a bakery where they make the dense wonderful loaves that Beaujolais serves its diners.We bought a pretty hearty multigrain loaf that was, as they say, "heavy for its size" and had to be sliced thin to enjoy.By the way, see those gray skies? It rained nearly the whole time we were there.  San Franciscans bring cheerful weather with us wherever we go...Anyway, pushing onward.  We went back to Philo to troll for more wine, Pinot Noir to be exact and found spectacular examples at Phillips Hill (yes, that's a lot of "l's" and "i's" all together).It's a bit of our snobbery that we tend toward small, less trammeled places--they often seem to make the most surprisingly good stuff and you don't have to fight a horde of folks off a tour bus at the tasting bar.  Personally, I don't even favor places that have a "tasting bar"-- I really like the "plank over two barrels" model, but there's not a lot of that anymore [...]

New Look, New Outlook


So with my new camera and my new outlook on life, I decided it might be time for a new look for the blog too. I'm the kind of woman who likes simplicity and the dark background wasn't working for me anymore.

I'm also the kind of woman who likes to buy expensive Furla bags and Zara Goodwill...when they're $10 apiece. I wait until things are really out of fashion, so I realize that being behind the curve on design issues is a problem.  But better late than never, right?

I'm glad that orange is an "in" color this season. When I was a kid it was my favorite color--my bedroom was a symphony in orange because it reminded me of orange slices which I thought, in my childish way, were "happy."  Nowadays it reminds me of happy things like Mimolette cheese.

Stay tuned, folks, an update on our trip to Mendocino is forthcoming...

More Glorious Cheese!


Was it only a couple of months ago that I discovered a new cheese shop had opened in Hayes Valley? Okay, it's not a cheese shop, per se, but rather a French food shop called Gourmet & More on Gough St, but it has a breathtaking Cheese Room, the Cheese Room of my dreams in the back. Oh, the word is out all over the foodie circles because Laurent, the proprietor, gets a hold of some stellar, beautiful French cheeses, along with some Italian, Spanish and Dutch tidbits that can't be overlooked either.We've made a half a dozen trips there in as many weeks, so I guess it's safe to say they're becoming a habit. Tasty Brie de Meaux, stinky Livarot, a fine goopy L'Edel de Cleron that we baked in the oven and attacked with a spoon. Lest you think it's all soft smelly cheese for us (though it usually is, I admit) we've also come away with hunks of lovely, nutty Comte, beautiful Jurassic and some excellent, creamy Goat Gouda with nettles. Laurent is extremely knowledgeable of course and even better, he's happy to help you along with cheese adventures. The place is also conveniently just around the corner from the Suppenkuche biergarten on Octavia. This place has predictably taken off like gangbusters now that more reasonable weather occasionally happens in San Francisco. The food is yummy though and it's worth the wait in line for a brat basket with one of those great soft pretzels and a beer or a glass of Gruner. Almost feels like I'm back in Munich, but better because I can get a salted caramel ice cream from Smitten for dessert, while my Omnivore gets a coffee from Blue Bottle up the street. Sometimes I can't quite believe that the whole Proxy idea is taking off and working, but I'm not complaining if it means good food is just a stroll away!- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone[...]

Homemade Triple Berry Jam--the lazy way


I'm not always a lazy sort of cook, but lately I've been in that mode where I want things to be as fuss-free as possible. Good food, but no stress, you know?

I'm also appalled at how much jam costs these days and how not-tasty it is.

We're still experimenting with low sugar or no sugar jams for My omnivore, but I recently had the urge to make some triple berry jam for myself. The recipe on the insert that comes with a package of pectin looked easy but I just hadn't gotten around to it.
Then I was in Whole Foods the other day and I came across one of those two pint containers of fresh fruit.

"Why shouldn't it be that easy?" I thought.

Now I know, it's not the same as berries picked at the peak of flavor, but they're clean, cut into pieces and not even frozen.

Turns out they made jam that's just fine and if you're like me and you don't feel like canning, it's a small enough batch to fit into a couple of pint sized Fido jars that you don't have to even "process."

Easy Triple Berry Jam

2 pints of mixed berries like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
3.5 cups sugar
3 Tbs liquid pectin

First we cleaned the jars and rubber gaskets -- you could do this by running them in the dishwasher.

Mash the berries with a potato masher, which I did right in my small 4 quart pot. Add the sugar and bring this mixture to a boil.

Add the pectin and this is important, keep the mixture at a full rolling, not-stopping-even-when-I-stir boil for EXACTLY one minute.

Turn off the heat and let it cool slightly. In the mean time set the rubber gaskets on the jars.

Fill the jars with jam and wipe the rims clean. Seal it up and let the jam cool before refrigerating.

For us this makes the perfect amount of jam--about 2 1/2 pints worth. I'll go through that in a month--well before it spoils and it's ridiculously easy to make.

Lazy cooking...

Grilled Caesar Salad


It's been a time of changes, not the least of which has been the acquisition of a new camera! Let the food blogging recommence.
And we begin with our dinner tonight, a smoked burger with bacon and Fourme d'Ambert blue cheese, plus some homemade mayonnaise, along with a Grilled Caesar Salad.
I've been wanting to try this since I read the recipe in the New York Times and since we had a hankering for hickory smoked burgers this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

I like the creamy dressing that gets painted onto the leaves enforce the final round of grilling, and I love the charred romaine. Next time we'll char it even more than this time...

Summer begins.

The Pastrami Project- Day 1


So all the time I've lived in SF, I've longed for great pastrami-- The pastrami of my dreams is Second Avenue Deli in NY.

Everything I've had here in this foodie town, though, I am sad to say, has been truly subpar--rubbery, flavorless, too salty.

Well, what can you do? If you want something done right, you have to try it for yourself...

So begins our Pastrami project. Day 1.


We purchased a brisket from Marin Sun Farms and set about step one, which is to corn the beef in a spice-laden brine. These are the spices we put into it: Coriander, mustard seed, white peppercorns, black peppercorns, juniper berries, dried thyme, bay leaves, garlic, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, DQ Curing salt (pink salt) and of course water.


Grind the spices, mix everything together in the brine and then into the bottom of the fridge to live for three weeks, flipping religiously every other day.


More to be posted as we get to Step Two....stay tuned...

- Posted from my iPhone

Posole Posole!


I have a lot of whiny cats in my house. It seems I can't turn around without a furry critter under my toes cranking out a testy "Mrah! Mraaah! MRAAAAH!"

That's Cat code for "Food, pronto gringa!" in case you hadn't guessed.

It's fine, I'm used to it. But when my Omnivore starts "mrah-ing" me, well that's a bit much. His version roughly translates as "Ribs, Asian Lime, with cinnamon coriander SPICE!"


There's never any indication of what to pair with it though, so this time, I decided it would be posole. When we made our jaunt up to Napa we stopped at Rancho Gordo, to pick up some of my favorite beans, and there in the basket was dried hominy.


I've made hominy before and it seemed to involve powders from my Kitchen Chemistry set (we have a shelf in our pantry that has cal slaked lime, MSG powder, citric acid, sodium alginate, potassium chloride, sodium citrate, Prague powder curing salt, and vital wheat gluten--doesn't everyone?). But the helpful woman at Rancho Gordo said the cooking was pretty straightforward.

So we soaked overnight and then I put in the slow cooker on low for about three hours and lo and behold,they "popped."


Here's how we finished them off:

Posole Rojo

1 Tbsp bacon fat
1 medium onion chopped
4 cloves garlic
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 Tbsp ancho chile powder
1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
3 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
4 cup of the cooked hominy
3 cups cooked beans (we used Rio Zapes)
2 packets of Sazon seasoning

Sauté the onion in bacon fat and add the garlic. Cook until the onion softens and garlic is fragrant. Add all the other ingredients, bring to a boil and then simmer until the liquid reduces and thickens a bit and everything combines.

Yum. As a side note, the Sazon is something you can find in Latin markets -- it's a Goya product that has cilantro and achiote in it. I got a handful of packets from a woman who taught me to make Puerto Rican style red beans and rice and it's pretty awesome. Sort of the Latino "BAM!" and worth seeking out.

More more Morimoto


My Omnivore and I managed a sneaky little getaway to Napa on Friday and shock of shock it wasn't for wine tasting. We kept the economy moving though with some well distributed clothes shopping and then an extravagant lunch at Morimoto's in Napa. Ordinarily pricey lunches wouldn't be my thing, but I got an unexpected gift card from a friend and we thought , hey, why not blow it on something yummy?The nice thing about Morimoto's is that, for as loud and slick as it is inside, you can sit outside and enjoy the sun and the riverside atmosphere. Not that the Napa river is much to look at but gosh humans seem to love being near moving water. We wanted to try a lot of stuff, so we started with the ten-hour pork belly. Absolutely divine! It was succulent and savory and fall-apart good. The dish comes with a soft rice congee and some crispy shredded burdock root on top and getting a mix of all of the above in each bite is sublime. The tuna pizza was next, crisscrossed with aioli, thinly sliced jalapeño and cherry tomatoes and blanketed in microgreens. One of the things that made every dish so good was the attention to proportionality--ordinarily I'd be picking jalapeños off of my raw tuna, but when slice thin , they were crispy, and fresh flavored with just a slight bit of heat. For our mains, we each order a Bento Box for $25 each. My Omnivore selected the Braised Black Cod, perfectly succulent and coated in a deep dark sauce.Mine was a Wagyu Beef which came in a stew like form over rice with a fresh egg (perfectly runny yolk) atop it.Both Bentos came with a good miso, nothing too out of the ordinary, but really supremely perfect tempura vegetables, coated in a light, yet crispy batter and with a pool of yuzu flavored yogurt underneath it.There were also some small maki and sushi selections with the sweetest, yummiest pickled ginger ever made.for a finale? I was stuffed, but My Omnivore convinced me we needed to try the desserts, so we settled for ice cream sandwiches: chocolate with orange, peanut butter and white chocolate.Stuffed and happy, the lunch set us back $170 with tax and tip, which is totally Venice-style extravagant, but you know what? I'd totally go again.- Posted from my iPhone[...]

Cutest cast iron pots ever


I'm fairly certain that My Omnivore thought I was being frivolous when I purchased these adorable cast iron one-pint kettles. But look at them-- how cute are they?


Over the weekend I made Boeuf Bourguignonne and we scooped some of it into the kettles, topped it with heavily creamed and buttered mashed potatoes, popped that under the broiler until the potatoes were nicely crusted brown-- heaven in a one-pint pot. My Omnivore is now a believer. It just tastes better in the kettle. Plus you can cook the stew right in your kettle, broil your potatoes in your kettle and then put it piping hot on the table.


We have plans for these kettles-- mac and cheese, lamb shanks, white beans and kale, oh, and pot pies. This whole kettle obsession started with a lobster pot pie recipe by Colorado chef Jake Linzinmeir, damn him, and I've continued to obsess over them for years, so we are definitely making some lobster pot pies!

Valentine's dinner







Generally speaking im not a veggie person and cauliflower has always ranked really low on my list of acceptable vegetables the only time I've really liked cauliflower was at Cibreo-- the Michelin starred resto in Florence. Yeah, I hear you say, whatev. But I'm determined to get over it-- there must be a way to make tasty. Martha Stewart, predictably, to the rescue. This recipe is absurdly easy-- the hardest part is chopping the cauliflower up. But the results are perfectly delicious. I'm a cauliflower convert.

Martha Stewart's Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper (coarse)
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon caper juice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Trim, and cut cauliflower into small florets; spread in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil; season with coarse salt and ground pepper. Toss to combine. Roast, tossing once or twice, until cauliflower is golden brown and tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

In a small skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Cook garlic cloves, stirring often, until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add capers and caper juice. Pour over cauliflower, and toss to coat.

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Pack 'em in, Straw


So last night we checked out the new eatery, Straw in Hayes Valley, which I should say up front is the brainchild chef Naomi Beck and Ari and Maura Feingold, the latter of whom are friends of ours. It was actually a bit of a sneak peek, as the restaurant doesn't open til Jan 24, but get ready to line up for a prime spot in the fabulously cush Tilt-a-Whirl booth when it does.A block up the street from the Octavia Green, Straw is sandwiched into a cozy space at 203 Octavia where Pots of Soul used to be, so if you're missing that comforting breakfast spot with quirky offerings, this might just be the place for you.The inspiration is stepped-up carnival food, and yes, there is in fact a cotton candy machine. Last night we tried the truffled popcorn ("Highbrow Lowlife"), as well as some fabulous potato chip nachos with cheddar bechamel ("Easy Cheese Revisited") and the beignets--oh Lordy, the beignets --fabulously guilt-inducing apple beignets with caramel sauce ("State Fair").The menu has lots more to offer, with some standards done upscale --corn dog hush puppies with drawn butter ("Gimme some Lovin"), a crunchy peanut butter and apricot preserve sandwich ("Grilled PB &J"), chicken and waffles with raspberry jam ("Fried Chicken-n-Waffle Monte Cristo")-- and then some some adventurous items -- a burger on a Krispy Keme donut ("The Ringmaster"), peanut butter satay with jalapeno ham and pork belly ("Boxcar Children"), Linguiça sandwich with lavender honey mustard ("The Satchmo").The Straw menu calls the Carny Style, but I think we should call it the adventures in comfort food I never knew I needed til now....[...]

New year, new posts, New York: Eataly


So before we left for our annual trip to New York, La Canadienne tipped us off to a foodie must-see. "You guys are going to Eataly, right?" she asked expectantly. Well obviously I hadn't kept up with the foodie buzz in New York. Eataly is a new venture co-helmed by Mario Batali, Lidia Bastianich and others and it is an enormous Italian Food marketplace down on 23rd and Fifth Avenue. Well, needless to say it's not a secret, in fact within only a few months of opening the place has turned into the site of a daily mob scene. As I get older and crankier, I find that I am quite crowd-averse and the Eataly experience, while fun, was also a little overwhelming. The door in is pretty unprepossessing and looks like all it leads to is a modest cafe and gelato bar, but inside the space is enormous, with specialty food areas, restaurants, wine bar, pizzeria, rosticceria... The list goes on and on. Finding your way around can be a frustrating mess, since the crowds make the narrow entrance and indeed the entire space pretty hard to maneuver in. I wish they hadn't just plonked restaurant tables in the middle of the floor, it's almost impossible to find a clear path through if you're a shopper (go around the perimeter) and it's difficult to figure how you get a table if you're a diner. (look for the seating checkpoint signs on the square columns). At Eatlay for most things you get a basket and just start gathering products, chocolates, bread, pasta, cheese, truffle butter... The checkout is over by the 23rd street exit and you can pay for most everything at once. They have large walls of salumi, cheeses. There is a pastry spot which sells tempting cannolis, and a rosticceria where a very tasty roasted chicken costs between $8-$15. The vegetable stands are unmanned, but the produce looks nice and fresh. The cheeses are also unmanned, so there is no cutting to order, or samples. Everything is wrapped in plastic already in a grab -and-go sort of situation. But they stock the usual suspects of Italian Cheese: taleggio, robiola, parmagiano and padano, plus a few unusual items. Nothing crazy though. All on all, while I like Eataly for a lot of things, I think I wouldn't make it a regular place to shop however. It's more of a tourist destination in the mold of the San Miguel market in Madrid or San Francisco's Ferry Building, and less like the Barcelona Boqueria or even the Mercato Centrale in Florence. It's definitely fun to come in and wander, and maybe pick up some foodie gifts or make a basket of goodies for a friend, but if I were cooking a serious dinner, I might take advantage of other smaller and less pricey places around the city for my supplies. The pasta selection. Meat cuts were good-looking and their blanket of tripe was lovely. Lots of prepacked meat in cases though. Still, nice for a visit, but I don't know if it will be worth the fight through the crowds on a regular basis. [...]

Gingerbread trailer



This year's showpiece: the Gingerbread Trailer. I was going to make a castle, but then I said something about how a trashy gingerbread house would be funny, and well, humor won out.


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Glorious cheese!!


For Christmas I got a gift card to Cowgirl Creamery-- how well do my friends know me?

So on the first day when I had no projects due, no classes to teach or rehearsals to run, no work to do--guess where you can find me??


Like kids in a candy store, we sampled everything they'd let us try. Uh-huh.

"We really like cheese " I confide to the guy.

"Yeah, I know," he replies.

And it briefly runs through my mind that they might have a picture of me up on the wall in the back labelled "Easy Cheese Mark. "


Our take: a terrific soft Appalachian, a nutty Tarentais with little crystalline bursts in every bite, a gooey perfectly ripe Ardrahan-- no bitterness to the washes rind, just umami goodness-- and a Comte made from summer milk, affined by Jean d'Alos. The latter was so good I could've taken that whole giant wheel.

Dinner is served.

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Cheese kitty likes Brun de Noix


(image) Wow, it's been a while since I posted to my blog! Yikes! Not that we haven't been eating of course, but I haven't been good about posting where we've been and what we've had. There's a fat folder full of yummy pics, and I'll try to get up to date, but in the mean time, I'm happy to report that the Cheese Kitty, who has been a little under the weather in the last year, is on the mend, gaining weight and up to his old kitty tricks.

Seen here with the French raw cow's milk cheese Brun de Noix. It's a semi-soft cheese, washed in Nocino, a green walnut liqueur. Nope, I had never heard of it either, but David Lebovitz had a nice recipe posted on his blog here. The flavor of the cheese is absolutely great, nutty with a slight bitterness, although I didn't find that off-putting at all. It's raw, so it's definitely... fragrant, but as My Omnivore put it, "this could supplant Comté as my favorite 'everyday eating' cheese."

I haven't seen it in many places, but they had it at our trusty Cheese Plus, where the pushers know to pull out their wackiest cheeses as soon as they spot us.

Wheatberries are busting out all over...


Sprouted wheatberries-- fascinating...


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