Thursday, December 31, 2009

lemon and honey sugar body polish

I am crazy about sugar scrubs, body polishes, etc. but they can be very expensive (think Brown Sugar Body Scrub by Fresh) until my friend Deidre made a batch of sugar scrub a few years ago. I happened to see a similar recipe for it in a C&H ad this holiday and I thought it would make a great stocking stuffer or hostess gift for Christmas.

I made a few changes to the to the recipe and you can certainly use any fragrance essence
you prefer. I used 8oz. low mason jars with simple ribbon and a hang tag that stated what it was. Of course small jars with custom labels and stickers would look great--the possibilities are endless. The best part, your skin really is silky smooth and sugar has long been known for its healing powers. I would not use it on the face. Wipe the tub or shower well after use. It can be really slick.
The recipe:
1 cup white or brown sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil like canola (no olive oil--too much odor)
1/4 cup honey
4 capsules of vitamin e oil
2 or 3 drops of lemon essential oil (or to your liking)
Stir, and package. Does not need to be refrigerated, but will need a little stir with each use.
Makes 16 oz.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

a retro dinner party in la and a visit to rivera restaurant, downtown la

I visited Brendan in LA a couple of weeks ago to celebrate our Christmas since we would not be able to do it over the conventional holiday. (He will be in SF for New Year's Eve.)

Brendan planned a great dinner for six of us and I was only to happy to assist since he is a little out of commission due to recent repair surgery on a damaged elbow. The table was absolutely gorgeous and the menu delicious. We tagged team and it worked out perfectly. Our retro menu began with a classic clam dip and a first course of cream of broccoli soup. Brendan re-created our favorite salad from House of Prime Rib in San Francisco followed by a super moist, herb infused pork tenderloin with roasted fingerling potatoes tossed with Gorgonzola and sauteed baby carrots. Homemade blackberry pie a la mode completed the decadent fare.

The beauty of any party is the interesting mix of guests, some who have never met but through some mysterious chemistry seem to have instant interesting dialog and debate on a variety of topics. (After dinner party questions don't hurt.) In attendance of course was our dear host, Brendan, the driven and consummate entrepreneur-owner of Blink Photo. Tu, the beautiful neighbor with a trail of broken hearts who works in executive placement. Jodina, the loving mother, a voice actor/partner with Jon St. John Productions. Dwayne, the cool intellectual who owns Gathers Strategies, and Jennifer, the actress strong in her beliefs, who owns GuerriLA Theatre in LA, a unique theatre experience performed in private homes. I don't know where I fit into this whole mix except that perhaps I am the keen observer, waiting to see how the whole
thing plays out. On this night no topic was off limits and no opinion to sacred. A great time was had by all.

I can't go to LA without trying out the latest hot restaurant and downtown Los Angeles is the place to find it. We made a Sunday night reservation at Rivera, an upscale Latin eatery on Flower across from the lavender lit trees of the Staples Center.

We started with the tortillas florales with Indian butter, delicate homemade tortillas stamped with edible flowers and the butter, an avocado puree. Another starter not to be missed are the piquillos rellenos stuffed with chorizo, gruyère and golden raisins. Brendan had an entree of banana leaf braised pork shoulder with Peruvian potatoes and I had blue corn tortillas stacked with duck, black beans and goat cheese, smothered in chili rioja sauce. A side of quinoa and spinach complemented both.

Another lovely trip to LA.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

exceptional thai food at soi 4 in oakland

Had a great adventure in dining yesterday. Sometimes the unplanned has great end results.

That's the way it turned out when Deidre and I went to Jack London Square to try Eric Tucker's new collaboration at 202 Second, Encuentro. It opened on December 4, with lunch beginning Monday at 11:00am--no reservations taken.
Well, guess what, they were closed--a sign in the window said they would actually be open for lunch on Wednesday. Disappointed, but we will be back. The description on Yelp of the crispy kale chips and peppered portobello and caramelized fennel sandwich was mouth watering. Eric Tucker, executive chef of the great vegan restaurant, Millennium in San Francisco, surely has another hit on his hands.
Turns out Monday in Oakland is not a big restaurant day. Lots of calls to restaurants. Lots of closed restaurants. But a quick cruise up College thinking we might go to a favorite standby, Garabaldi's and we spotted Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery. It was a second visit for Deidre and a real find for me.

We ordered 4 dishes of what I can only say were absolute perfection with many others that sounded equally delicious. What made the dished so good? Slight variances in traditional ingredients, such as a salt and pepper calamari topped with delicate julienne of carrot and onion and a sauce that was more like a simmered Mexican red sauce rather than the usual sweet chili sauce. Tender and falling off the bone baby beef short ribs in a spicy kaffir panang curry, and Deidre's favorite, lightly battered prawns in spicy tamarind sauce with crispy shallots.  The wok sauteed wide noodles known as pad ke mao were hot and spicy with chicken, Thai chili and deep-fried basil leaves. Not one flavor competed or repeated itself.  I have been to Thailand and this is one of the best Thai meals I have ever tasted.

Friday, November 27, 2009

cooking a perfect turkey at the last minute

It has been quite a month. I went on a trip with my mother on the river boat Odyssey through Austria and Germany. We had a truly wonderful time. (I will devote an entire blog to the trip soon). As a result, I of course cleared out the fridge before I left with no plans for cooking, instead planning on having a small Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

Well my dear friend came down with a cold, so I decided to cook a little dinner for myself. I got the last slot on Tuesday for a 7:00 pm Safeway delivery. Since I don't own a car, Safeway delivery is a very convenient way to shop and usually orders are accurate and complete. Well not this time. In addition to no vegetables, lemons, nuts, milk and pancetta, the turkey was m.i.a. So off to the store on Wednesday. By the way I did get my delivery fee credited with no hassle.
I kept it simple. Cream of broccoli soup, roast turkey with a wild rice side dish with pancetta, a mixed green salad with dried cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette and a crisp chardonnay. I skipped dessert. I had enough Bavarian cream and apple strudel recently to last awhile.

Everyone has their favorite way to cook turkey and I have mine. Cover with soft butter and rub with salt and pepper. Heat oven to 450 degrees, place bird breast side down on rack in roasting pan (keeps breast meat moist as juices from leg run into it). After 15 minutes, turn down heat to 350 degrees. Turkey is now sealed. Baste with hot chicken stock every 20-30 minutes.
Know your approximate cooking time—rule of thumb is 20 minutes for every pound. Turn the turkey breast side up during the last hour to evenly brown and check the meat thermometer.
When it reaches 170 degrees, remove the bird even if it is under time—the thermometer rules.
Tent the bird and let it rest 20 minutes before cutting. Perfect every time.

By the way, this is for an unstuffed bird. I don't like moist stuffing and this is where cooking times can vary. Cook your stuffing in a casserole next to the bird the last 45 minutes.

The crispy top and tender middle is worth it.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

great burgers and decadent milkshake bar at burger bar, san francisco

I made the trek to Burger Bar, (Macy's Union Square) this week. And guess what, so did everyone else—at least it seemed like everyone I spoke to had either just been there, was going or was there while I was there. John Kenneally from Southern was at the bar and Carmen from Neiman Marcus joined me for lunch. All in all a very social scene.

So how was it? Good. A lot of variety choice of meats, buns, cheese, toppings, sauces and even sides and unexpected combinations like the peppercorn burger with a peppercorn cream sauce from Fleur de Ly, surf and turf burger with Black Angus and grilled lobster and a bunless burger sandwiched between portobello mushrooms. Zucchini fries are crisp and delicious and a nice substitute for fries.

But watch out, there is a milkshake bar and even the simple chocolate shake is a decadent swirl of chocolate ice cream, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Served with a very thick straw, thank goodness.

Monday, November 2, 2009

the book club reads the girl with the dragon tattoo and enjoys spaghetti with fresh marinara

I love books. I love reading. I can't tell you how many times a book has made it all better—you know the time—about 3am when things don't seem solvable. Books put things in perspective and they transport you to another world. I love books. So about eight years ago a group of us who wanted (and needed) a combination social, cooking and book club came together.

Our little group just finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This excellent mystery, the 1st of a series of 3 translated from Swedish and written by the late Stieg Larsson is all the rage right now.

So besides the chance to read, vent, discuss politics and gossip, food is the center of the book club. When my turn for dinner comes, I spend weeks writing menus, changing the menu, making grocery lists, editing the list and a day or two to bring it all together.

I followed a craving I was having and decided to do a classic Italian meal with a homemade marinara with spaghetti and meatballs, garlic french bread and creamy caesar salad. I made a simple sauce the day before that turned out absolutely delicious. My dear friends even requested to take their leftovers home to enjoy the next day.
Ingredients for the marinara:
1 small yellow onion, chopped fine
4 cloves of garlic, minced fine
2 TBL butter
2 TBL olive oil
2 TBL tomato paste
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 TBL pesto
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 cup good red wine
dash red pepper flake
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup of chopped Italian parsley, no stem
Saute garlic and onion in butter and oil 5 minutes till soft, add all other ingredients and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Best made the day before. Reheat and pour over hot spaghetti. If you make meatballs, rewarm them in the sauce and spoon over pasta. Pass grated parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

l'ardoise reminds one of an intimate dinner at a european bistro

A friend of mine, Joseph Leon, the owner and creative force behind JL Designs in San Francisco has a love of small, intimate restaurants with well executed classic food, simple ingredients and especially fantastic sauces. I never refuse when he calls and says of any new found eatery, “I have been here three nights in a row—I can't stop—you are going to love it!”

Friday night the latest destination was L'Ardoise at 151 Noe in San Francisco. My first thought when I came up the street was “I know this corner!” Once upon a time it was home to my favorite Thai restaurant, Thai House. After Thai House closed, I forgot about that little restaurant space until now. L'Ardoise, owned by chef Thierry Clement (Fringale) has actually been open over a year and a half, so I did an excellent job of blocking out that location.

This really is a delightful space with 30 or so seats, friendly French waiters, tiny bar, moody lighting and the dark wood and cozy seating of any European bistro. Our favorites are the escargot with parsley sauce, tiger prawn ravioli, coq au vin and duck leg confit with pommes landaises.

Have a glass of Champagne and enjoy tarte tatin to finish. Be sure you make a reservation—you're going to need it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

bocanova one of the newest additions to the oakland food and dining scene

I go to Oakland fairly frequently for a couple of reasons: one of my best friends, Deidre Joyner, a Realtor with Red Oak Realty, lives there, and two, the town, which in addition to being simply beautiful with deco architecture downtown, mid-century modern in the hills, glittering lights along the lake and the addition of the Cathedral of Christ the Light church, is going through an amazing food and dining metamorphosis.

Deidre, also a CCA grad, is my guide to all things food in Oakland/Berkeley. She would know. She writes a terrific real estate and lifestyle blog called the Oakland Berkeley Journal. A recent drive around the lake revealed the sprawling new Lake Chalet restaurant and at Jack London Square waterfront dining soon to be joined by a giant market place to rival the the Ferry Building in San Francisco.

Our latest destination was Bocanova, 55 Webster at Jack London Square. This Pan-American/Peruvian influenced grill, a spacious, beamed and pillared beauty with communal tables and heated outdoor seating right on the water features organic and sustainable ingredients. We both fell in love with the little gem caesar salad; miniature leaves with perfect caesar dressing, shaved Parmesan and bits of anchovy. The grilled halibut with avocado and pickled vegetables on a torpedo roll was also a winner. Crispy yuca fries made a nice side.

The result? A need to visit Berkeley Bowl West (again) to buy all the ingredients to make our own little gem salad and other goodies. This MEGA food emporium is a foodies sensory overload but in a good way. For Deidre and myself an inspiration to cook more at home with the best possible ingredients.

Check out the food and dining scene in Oakland soon. You'll be glad you did.

Monday, September 28, 2009

homegrown heirloom tomatoes highlight a san francisco dinner party

I had the most wonderful dinner recently at the home of Steven Oliver. Steven, a restaurateur, wine aficionado and all around foodie writes a web column for the Nob Hill Gazette, called “Taste.” But many a moon ago Steven and I went to high school together in Del Norte county. Steven got a lot of his good taste from his parents, Clyde and Sharon Oliver.

Long before Steven and I moved to San Francisco, Sharon Oliver was the premier pastry person in Crescent City. To say Clyde and Sharon have a love of the outdoors, gardens, everything food and all things gourmet would be an understatement. A visit to their home is a delight to the senses as well as the palate.
Steven carries on the tradition with a terrific eclectic apartment in San Francisco with high ceilings, textured paint, leather, mohair, hunting trophies and an extraordinary wine collection.
There, on the window sill, the heirloom tomatoes sit like eye candy with their little bumps and nubs, swirls of color and irregular shapes. My brother and sister-in-law, Rick and Donna Parker, also from Crescent City, sip wine while we all watch Steven make dinner appear effortless, with a roast pork tenderloin on Asian scented pasta, grilled vegetables and of course the heirloom tomatoes from Clyde and Sharon's garden tossed with fresh buffalo mozzarella.

I was lucky, they saved a batch of these last of summer beauties for me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

rich southern cuisine at brenda's french soul food

I discovered a delicious little spot this week that I can't wait to revisit. Okay, I didn't discover it, I knew about it and just hadn't got a chance to go there. First, they usually have a wait and I wanted to pick the least crowded time. Turns out, Mondays at 2:00pm is only about a 5 minute wait.

Brenda's French Soul Food is located at 652 Polk Street in San Francisco. Brenda is a native of New Orleans transplanted to San Francisco with quite an impressive resume of restaurant gigs and it shows. If you love beignets there are 4 types to choose from and even a sampler plate if you can't decide. I was most interested in a Granny Smith apple beignet oozing with honey butter or a savory beignet with crawfish, scallions and cheddar.

I indulged in a po' boy with fried shrimp, chipolte remoulade and thin crispy fries ($9.50). My mouth was watering when a plate of creamy, cheesy grits went by topped with glistening shrimp. Mile high home made cream biscuits are the house specialty and to make it even more difficult to decide, there is a daily specials board with the likes of catfish benedict, Cajun shrimp pot pie and bananas Foster French toast. Most items are below $10.00.

Give Brenda's a visit for something a little different and unexpected for breakfast and brunch. I will continue to plot my next visit while filling my time with dreams of shrimp and grits.

Monday, September 14, 2009

tasty lunch at tender greens and tomato pie in la

I went to LA over Labor Day weekend to visit my dear friend Brendan Eisan. The plan was to make it a working weekend redoing his photography business web site with updated photos, colors and graphics. Brendan is the owner of Blink Photo and he is a talented photographer, but the hours of work involved in redoing a web site is so daunting it is much nicer to split up the work.

Brendan and I are big foodies. It is not uncommon for us to hop in the car and fight traffic for an hour to find some hidden gem. Add to that the fact that we are hungry most of the time, making it inevitable we would need to venture out for some sustenance sooner rather than later.

Usually we build our food trolling around a theme: all hotels, LA landmarks, Mexican only, etc. This weekend, we needed to keep it tasty but quick and inexpensive. Brendan's new favorite quick lunch spot that I hadn't tried yet is Tender Greens, located at 8759 Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood. The great concept of this clean contemporary space is the well priced organic food from local farms. I loved that whatever big salad you choose, the price is the same, $10.50. If one salad has a little more food cost it is simply made up by the low food cost of another. Brendan is hooked on the grilled chicken cobb, chopped romaine tossed with Point Reyes blue cheese, bacon, egg and avocado. I was drawn to the Chinese chicken salad because of the tatsoi greens, a favorite of mine but not on a lot of menus. You can have soup, sandwiches or a hot plate from the grill such as marinated flank steak with Yukon gold mashed potatoes and a simple salad for, you guessed it, $10.50.

Brendan got a recommendation from someone about a certain little joint serving a slice of pizza that reminded them of New York. All we remembered was that the name had the word tomato in it. After a Google search, we found Tomato Pie at 7751 ½ Melrose. The place looked closed till you opened the door and the tiny interior was packed. Lots of slices to choose from, most in the $4.00 range. We ordered the “grandma,” topped with crushed tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, Parmesan and mozzarella and the “meat lover,” pepperoni, sausage, ham and bacon. The service was great. The young gal at the counter brought our slices outside to us. She checked back later to see how we liked it and offered to get me another diet Coke. (Only .50 with a slice). This is not a table service place-- so she was very refreshing. The pizza was tasty, but we decided we are still on the search for perfection.
We did get back to work and the website turned out great. Check out Brendan's portfolios at Blink Photo and use him for your next event.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

august in the hamptons

Well dear reader, I am a very lucky girl. Oh sure, I've been to many beautiful places, local and far away, but there is something that works on your imagination about a place like the Hamptons. I had a few preconceived ideas of what to expect, and for the most part they were pretty close to reality. But there is a level of lifestyle and wealth that just can't be put into words, right there on an island called Long.

Besides the quaint beauty of the area, you are knocked out by the sheer history. Southhampton was established in 1640. Visions of colonists and Indians come to mind and a life in a simpler time. Alot of that simple lifestyle remains. There are still cornfields, windmills and vineyards. Don't expect to book a flight and a room at the local Hilton--it doesn't exist. This is a community reserved for homeowners and summer renters. And what homes they are. Tucked down half mile gravel drives and surrounded by 10 foot hedges immaculately trimmed, homes front the ocean as far as the eye can see. Pools are de riguer surrounded by an acre of manicured lawn.

I was invited to visit by my dear friend Michael Perricone and his partner George Schleier at their summer rental, Pond House. Joining us was another friend, Miriam Solomon. This charming home is located in Watermill, just steps from South Hampton. Some of the best part of the Hamptons is the wonderful way to relax, utilizing the huge amount of high quality, fresh food available--and that means a bit of a food fest.

The first day we planned our menus and off to the grocery store we went. Michael made a wonderful pasta with shrimp and broccoli seasoned with cumin and lemon. It was delicious. I found out George loves apple pie, so pie a la mode it was. French toast with honey butter one morning and fresh scones the next made for great breakfasts. Our day trips were a combination of open house lusting, sandwich wraps and frozen yogurt by the boats at Sag Harbor, checking out the antiques in Bridgehampton and seeing the movie "Julie and Julia" in Easthampton. Star sightings were limited to character actors, names unknown. Afternoons were followed by floating around the pool with cocktails and a little more cooking. Not too shabby. A Saturday night supper of sauteed swordfish, fresh corn and roasted baby red potatoes was finished off with George's blueberry crisp and late night conversation in the pool. I slept very well.

It was very hard to part company with my friends at the train station. Wistfully I must hope that I will be invited back for another visit to this almost imaginary place called the Hamptons.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

beautiful, healthy northern chinese cuisine at heaven's dog

I have been a follower of Charles Phan and Slanted Door in San Francisco since the days when he was first located on Mission Street. I remember when Bill Clinton dined there, we were all a flutter and I had a birthday party there shortly after.
I love the food at Out the Door in the Westfield Center and the kinetic energy of Slanted Door at the Ferry Building.

Now, Charles Phan and executive chef Andy Wai of Heaven's Dog have developed a menu based on Northern Chinese cuisine and local seasonal products. Asian cuisine is my weakness—all that crispy goodness, chili oil this and deep fried that, with few healthy choices in between. Heaven's Dog delivers the variety we crave and the fresh, healthy ingredients we need.

First, this modern space inside the SOMA Grand has great visual appeal—a small and intimate dining room with orange leather and woven wood is flanked by a curved bar. There is also an open kitchen with counter dining and a private room that on the day I visited was used for communal dining. The restaurant uses quality ingredients such as Prather Ranch meats and organic produce from nearby farms such as All Star Organics.

On the day I dined I had a reservation for lunch and the dining room was comfortably full. I started with Shanghai dumplings ($8), steamed and light with an interior of pork and broth that you eat out of a spoon so you don't lose any broth goodness. This was flavored well with a hint of soy and vinegar. There are plenty of vegetarian choices as well, such as Chinese broccoli, organic kale, spicy green beans, and organic pea shoots. I chose a unique dish of spicy organic cauliflower ($9). These crispy florets were perfectly sauteed with honshimeji mushrooms and lots of red pepper done in a Hunan style. The attentive waiter suggested a side of Massa Organics brown rice ($3) which matched perfectly. I tried one noodle dish called dan dan mein ($7), seasoned with chili, pressed tofu and spicy peanut sauce. Although tasty, I felt the flavors ran together and the tofu was barely visible. I washed it all down with Lakewood organic pineapple juice ($5) which I had made spritzer style with sparkling water.

There is a very sophisticated cocktail list but perhaps the most interesting is “Freedom of Choice” ($10). Let the bartender know if you like your cocktail citrus driven or spirituous and he will surprise you. You can find all this and many more delicious details at

Read more about Heaven's Dog at my column at Body Mechanix Fitness Cooperative.

Monday, July 27, 2009

perfect half-sour pickles

Dear reader, as you know, I get on kicks--or cravings, or the hunt for, etc . . . Well the latest has been a search for a great, crispy, bright green deli pickle. I always called them dill pickles. Sounds right, but I had no idea how they were made--oh sure, vinegar, dill, spice, sealed in a jar? No. The pickle I was looking for was different. Garlicky, crisp, briny, with no vinegar. I discovered that the pickle I was craving is called the half-sour, a staple of east coast deli's.

I did some research and found that the half-sour gets its flavor and its name from a very quick (and fairly simple) fermentation process. I liked the idea of not canning anything, so I thought that this is the pickle recipe for me. I adapted the recipe from at least 4 web recipes that had very similar ingredients and instructions. I assumed that at least 4 people could not be completely wrong. Half the fun was shopping for the ingredients--it gave me an excuse to go to the new Berkeley Bowl West, 920 Heinz Avenue, Berkeley, CA. and believe me it was worth it. The produce selection is bar none and the prices are very reasonable. A 2 quart Mason glass jar with locking lid and I was good to go. Since the fermentation process involves leaving your cukes at room temp for a few days, please be sure that every surface and utensil you use is very clean to avoid any unwanted contamination.

The ingredients:
8 cups cold, filtered water
1/4 cup kosher salt (no iodine)
1 bunch of fresh dill, stem end trimmed off
6 garlic cloves, cut in half
10-20 black peppercorns
1/8 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbl pickling spices
1 small dry red chili (optional)
10 small-medium Kirby cucumbers (not Persians)
2 grape leaves

Don't cut down on the spice. The cucumbers absorb alot of flavor. Clean the cucumbers well and trim off any attached stem. Place the cucumbers lengthwise into the jar. Dissolve salt in the filtered water and pour over the cucumbers to cover. Add all other ingredients and stir gentle to mix. Place a small saucer or bowl in the opening of the jar to keep the cucumbers submerged. You may need to add a weight to the plate to keep it down. The cukes cannot have contact with air or they will rot. Do not close the lid, but place a loose piece of plastic wrap over the opening. The idea is for some of the natural bacteria in the air to react with the brine. The grape leaves have been found to give the crispness you want in the final pickle.

Place the jar in clean area with the temp about 68 degrees. Since this is a low salt half-sour pickle, the cucumbers remain unrefrigerated for only 3 days. A slight cloudiness will form, and a few bubbles, a sign of the fermentation. After 3 days, skim any foam on top, check pickles to see if they are bright green, with a great dill/garlic smell. They should look and smell good. If it smells funky or the pickles are slimy, discard. When in doubt, discard. Otherwise, seal the lid and refrigerate for 5 days. They are now ready to eat! They last a month refrigerated .

Friday, July 10, 2009

historic requa inn and dining at steelhead lodge in klamath, ca.

Ah, June 21st, a day that has always been the best birthday, clear, sunny and the longest of the year, a day to stretch out as long as you can . . .So this year it's Father's Day too, and we decide to take a drive from Crescent City to Klamath up the scenic Requa Road to the mouth of the Klamath River. First stop on the bluff overlooking the river sits the Requa Inn, 451 Requa Road, a quaint, rustic bed and breakfast first built in 1914 as a 22 room hotel. Now with 10 unique rooms with spectacular views, this inn is included in National Geographic Traveler magazine's 2009 stay list of 129 "hotels we love" in North America, Mexico and the Caribbean. The inn features a hot tub, custom made breakfast and a carbon neutral footprint adding a little modernity to this historic property. Check out their web site at .
So, back down the hill, across the highway and into the Klamath Glen. Winding through the redwoods with houses tucked in the trees, you reach the Steelhead Lodge. Located at 330 Terwer Riffle Road, this a favorite of locals with good reason. I love things that remain traditional--old school--I've mentioned that before in the search for classic Mexican. Steelhead Lodge certainly does that.

You start with a great all wood bar with captain chairs and fishbowl size classic cocktails. The dinners are all inclusive of the generous kind, with an alderwood burning grill and grill master right outside the door! A salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrot and red cabbage served family style begins the meal. You know the one--the classic American salad. The dressing is a creamy house made ranch blended with blue cheese. It can't get any better. Lovely, soft, flaky rolls top it off.

We selected the 26oz. rib eye for 2 (but enough for 3) 39.00, an absolutely perfectly medium rare, smoky, tender steak with little bits of caramelized fat at the edges. You could choose a side of rice pilaf or chili, but the standout is the potato cooked in it's skin at the grill and rubbed lightly with oil and sea salt. Really divine. Steelhead Lodge does fresh cod, snapper and lobster, but a real show stopper that flew by me was a rack of pork ribs stacked with a half of a grilled chicken. A large bowl of steaming mushrooms in wine and butter was right behind. It's a simple menu done very well. Visit their website at .

It was very satisfying on this longest day of summer to know that little gems in pristine settings still exist in this world.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

recipe for a summer shrimp salad sandwich

Have you ever entered a recipe contest? There appears to be a whole culture out there that really knows what they are doing. Whether a cooking competition or just a recipe, many of the same names reappear. Me, I know nothing. Oh sure, I have sent in the occasional cookie recipe and I did win a stuffed potato contest back in the late 80's except I think I won out of default. True contestants understand the nature of what the judges are looking for, past recipe winners, mass appeal and how to follow the contest rules to the letter. Those darn rules, they seem like such a distraction.

So I thought I would give the Mezzetta "Make That Sandwich" contest a try. This seems like a good fit for a novice like me. I am sandwich lover from way back. Well really a bread addict. Ok, I like the stuff in between too. If I had to pick one food to have on a desert island it would be the contents of a deli--the combinations are endless. So it's been a week of testing, testing, testing all those sandwiches. It's rough but I think I came up with a good one. I'm not going to tell you about that one but I do want to share a delicious, easy and fresh shrimp salad sandwich recipe. I can't use it because it doesn't meet, you know, the rules.


8oz. of frozen fully cooked, tails off 50-70 shrimp, defrosted
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp dry dill weed
1 tbl lemon juice
1/4 cup mayonnaise
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
2 soft hoagie rolls
butter lettuce

Make sure the shrimp is patted dry. Chop into chunky pieces.
Add all other ingredients and mix gently.
Remove a little of the bread from one half of roll. This creates a well.
Place butter lettuce leaf into well, fill with shrimp salad and add the top of the roll.
Eat and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

paradise on earth . . . cabo san lucas

Well, I did it. After hem-hawing, maybe yes, maybe no, should I, shouldn't I, I went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico earlier this month. I made the right decision--I knew it immediately when I stepped off the plane (24 passengers on a 196 seater) and there was a certain welcoming, like we are so glad you are here, we are OK. And they were. Not a single sniffle in sight.

So imagine a flashback to a Cabo of an earlier time--quiet streets, cafes with open seating, the marina with just a few strolling couples, and wide open white beach with not a cruise ship in sight and you have a beautiful, if a little eerie, vision of Cabo past.

Of course the food is always memorable. One of the best and most famous of quaint spots is Mama's Royal Cafe at Hildago and Zapata downtown. We ate there twice--the first time for the
outstanding breakfast. I ordered a green chili frittata that comes with guacamole, sour cream, refried beans and fresh fruit. Warm flour or corn tortillas on the side. I like to build a taco out of my breakfast--warm tortilla topped with a hunk of the frittata, beans, guacamole, sour cream and salsa--and I roll that up into a breakfast taco. Delicious, every bite!

It is wrong to really call their beans "refried." They are really a garlicky, simmered, chunky pinto bean much different from the smoother variation we are used to. Mama's is also known for their salsa bar, with about 30 varieties that vary from as simple as pico de gallo and roasted habanero, to cucumber crema and garlic jalapeno.

At dinner, they feature one of the most famous dishes of mexican haute cuisine, "Chiles en Nogada", which is a beautiful poblano chili stuffed with ground pork or beef, batter dipped and fried in a relleno style and smothered in a walnut cream sauce studded with pomegranate seeds.
The results are mouth watering. If you have ever eaten at Guaymas in Tiberon, you may have had this dish.

Around the corner from Mama's, by the pool at the Siesta Suites Hotel, (a charming hotel with just a little seediness,) is Salvatore's, a little Italian transplant for when you are craving something other than Mexican.

This romantic outdoor space is the property of a Portland, Oregon family that fell in love with Cabo, named it for their grandfather and feature his family recipes as well. Please go with a big appetite, because everything at Salvatore's, besides being delicious, is HUGE. The crispy calamari rings come with an unusual spicy berry aioli. The caesar salad is perfect to share with full leaves of romaine lightly dressed, not gloppy, shaved parmesan and very crisp garlic crostini. The house specialty, lasagna, is served Wednesday and Friday and is not to be missed! It is a five inch high mountain of pasta layered with ricotta, herb infused bolognese sauce, and chunky italian sausage.

They only do two desserts--one of which is tiramusu--literally the best I have ever had, light as air genoise, delicate coffee flavored cream, and a touch of chocolate and liqueur. This warm night now a pleasant memory.

Eat well dear food lover, and please visit Mexico again in the near future, it really is a paradise on earth.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

the great american dinner party

There has been a gradual food revolution in America over the last 40 years. Entertaining at home has evolved. What used to revolve around a couple of kinds of events like holiday dinners, barbecues, and cocktail parties has become the great dinner party. My grandmother was a wonderful cook and she made warm family dinners on Sundays and holidays, but I don't ever remember her having a dinner party for no other reason but to have over a group of friends. Not an option. So, what's different now? And how did we become such discerning cooks and entertainers?

A couple of things changed really. Cooking became popular!  It became trendy. Then it just became lifestyle. Julia Child kicked it off with the concept that you can cook "restaurant" at home. Alice Waters let us make it simple and very fresh. Voila, the food "industrial complex" is born. We are a nation that takes cooking classes from star chefs, invests in dozens of cookbooks, watches hours of the Food Network, and spend our evenings interpreting top recipes for our friends. (My mother's favorite, sit-down theme dinners for 12.)

The second thing that changed was the concept of what comprised family. If you have moved away from home (like myself) and can't be at every family dinner, your friendships, which can span dozens of years, become the new family dinner.

I became so much more aware of this recently. Actually, my friends made the point very clear and it became the idea about how even in economically challenging times the dinner party evolves again. They made the suggestion that rather than ever cut back on our dinners , we all contribute in one way or another, wines, liquor, even cash, pooled. Not that we didn't contribute before, its just more purposeful. Its about maintaining the time together.

So I did just what the great American cook would do: I made panini appetizers from Harry's Bar in Venice, veal osso buco by Tyler Florence and blackberry mousse right out of the Silver Palate Cookbook. Sound familar? Yes, once again it was shock and awe!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

organic gourmet burger at pearl's deluxe burger on post

You know, one of the great things about San Francisco is the little gems of restaurants that are tucked into this corner or that all over the city. Pearl's Deluxe Burger (pun intended) is just such a gem. The original Pearl's Phat Burger is from Mill Valley, specializing in top quality beef, plus buffalo and organic beef on request. I stumbled onto it completely by accident when I was searching for great sweet potato fries. You don't see them around too often, and a friend said you have to try this new place on Post. (It has since been there a couple of years and I have been there several times.) It's not far from my house so it was a no-brainer to try it on the way home. It's a small place with seating for about 15 maxed out and pristinely clean. I think they do a crazy take-out business.

The basic pearl deluxe is a 1/2 lb beef burger on a sesame seed bun with curly leaf lettuce, mayo, onion and tomato. This isn't anything we haven't seen before, but the key is the very fresh ingredients. They also do a mini pearl that is a 1/4 pounder. But believe me you can have it anyway you want it with any number of combinations such as the Phat Bob with bacon, onions, jack cheese and bbq sauce, to a hamburger with a hotdog on top called the "King." Fries and onion rings are available but the sweet potato fries are the house speciality. They do a dead on perfect dill pickle spear that is cold and crispy like a refrigerator pickle. Have as many as you like--they are serve yourself. In case you are still feeling a little weak with hunger, there are dozens of gourmet milkshakes to choose from such as blackberry, chocolate chip, pumpkin, or peanut butter. No it isn't that cheap, but it is a nicely done handmade product--and I hear a rumor there may a 2nd location in SF in the works. Hope you get lucky enough to have it in your neighborhood. . . . till next time.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

maya excels at modern mexican cuisine

Well reader, if you are looking for the more elegant side of Mexican cuisine, Maya is the place for you. Maya is a destination restaurant. What I mean by that is that you have the feeling as you enter and look around the reserved, warm room that everyone has a celebration--a birthday or anniversary--there is an air of anticipation. You do feel special. You are greeted warmly by either the hostess or the manager, Eric Flores. Service is quiet and quick and the manager is very hands on, either pouring water, making recommendations or delivering food.

You must try the guacamole and chips. It is probably the best I have ever had. Brendan approves--the salt, garlic and cilantro level are perfect. The chips are flour tortilla fried to order. We next share their take on a chili relleno, a seafood stuffed pablano accompanied with creamy black beans and manchego cheese, roasted to creamy deliciousness. Entrees are no less interesting. I had the Langosta Y Camarones, a lovely almost broth like combination of lobster, shrimp, roasted corn, habanero chili and chive rouille. How does that sound?! Brendan's entree is what I am going to order next time--Tampiquena, a butterflied filet mignon that turned into an outrageous large steak so tender you could eat it with a fork. Add to it a melt in the mouth potato gratin with a petite mole and cheese enchilada on the side....all this plus fresh muddled fruit margaritas. The house special, the Mayapolitan, is an up drink of pineapple infused silver tequila and cranberry juice. I know I had a great dessert, but by this time I was in such a food coma I can't remember--Ha ha.

Thank you Richard Sandoval, chef/owner of Maya and the concept of Modern Mexican.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

unique round tamales at the roosevelt tamale parlor in san francisco

This is a new venture for me. Not that I haven't considered it before--its just that you must BEGIN! I'm a foodie who loves to eat, cook and restaurant hop. This may be my 1st post but I reserve the right to talk about restaurant experiences from the past--flashbacks if you will of the good , the bad and the ugly. I get on kicks, where I am obsessed with a certain food, type of restaurant or all things braised. You never know what will set it off. So what is my lastest? The search for that down and dirty, oohey-goohey cheesey mexican food like I have enjoyed in LA. It must also include the right atmosphere--a sitdown experience, no counter ordering, a certain ambience, like cozy red or black pleather booths and christmas lights. It needs a certain camp. The tequila must be plentiful. I am inspired by one of my best friends (you will hear of him often because he is my partner in crime in restaurant hopping) Brendan, who truly loves mexican food. All kinds, casual to novelle. We have tried it all, from Eureka, Alameda, SF, LA, NYC, Vegas and Cabo and all points in between.

Okay, I have tried several restaurants in San Francisco and I will get to them. But 1st, I will tell you about yesterday's adventure. I selected 2 choices from a few yelp posts--Don Ramon's at 225 11st and Roosevelt Tamale Parlor at 2817 24th. Turns out, Don Ramon's doesn't do lunch on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, so Tamale Parlor it is! Great day too, I wanted to take the 27 bus to 24th on the day Market was closed for St Patrick's Day Parade. No problem--only waited an hour--and a 45 minute detour and voila, I am at the Tamale Parlor. Established in 1919, great funky signage and warm interior, so far so good. Okay, no booths but still cozy. I am seated at a table for 4 so I can see the other diners. Hey, I may not be able to order everything on the menu, but I can still get a visual. I know what I want to order--guacamole for sure (always a good judge of the food to come) and the house specialty, the round tamale. The waiter suggests a half order of guacamole and this great because it is not listed on the menu. I also order the round tamale with pork (it is also available with chicken, cheese, or beef) with a cheese enchilada and a side of flour tortillas. The tamale is described well--"original recipe" and "house made gravy". You want to like it, you really do. I have visions of intense flavor, slow cooking, warmth and comfort. Can't wait. The guacamole arrives and it is a nice portion size for a half order. It's OK, but not great. Too much citrus. I mean too much lime. For me, a little or no lime is fine. As Brendan says, it is all about the garlic and salt and believe me, his is great.

My tamale/enchilada arrives with perfect timing, a very hot and ooey, gooey plate. Looks good!
Alright, first bite. Hmmm, masa and pork, very tender. Rice and beans seasoned well and delicate. But the sauce, it's heavy, even overpowering. What's that flavor? Perhaps coffee? Not sure. The enchilada is covered with the same sauce where a different sauce would have been nice. The result--it all tasted the same.

My waiter never checked to see if I liked the tamale and the tortillas never arrived. I will say the price was very reasonable and I saw a killer looking chimichanga at the next table.

Well dear food lover and reader, the hunt for perfect Mexican continues. I will keep you posted.