Friday, December 31, 2010

christmas dinner at joseph leon's

This year, I stayed in SF for Christmas.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do but I was really excited to be invited to Joseph's and Dan's for Christmas dinner.  Well, a good thing too, because Joseph loves great food, but truth be told, cooking is not his thing. 

When I arrived (early, to help) he had a frig full of delicious Whole Foods ingredients and,  like an episode of "Chopped"  all we needed to do was put them together and create a great meal!  A bag of green beans became roasted green beans with Parmesan cheese, baby carrots were candied in brown sugar and butter, potatoes mashed with sour cream and stuffed chicken breasts roasted, sliced and smothered with wild mushroom gravy. Scott started us off with baked brie with roasted garlic and crisp Granny Smith apple slices. All that and the beautiful table scape and great company made for a wonderful and memorable Christmas dinner.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a little christmas cheer

It's a pretty lo-key Christmas this year but there were two things I insisted on doing.  One was to put up my tree (I haven't done that the last couple of years) and to actually have friends over to enjoy it.  Last night Deidre Joyner and Tom Bogue came over for some holiday cheer.  When I do decorate I like a monochromatic theme, and I have in the past decorated in all red, all purple and all pink. (Funny, even though I don't put up decorations every year, I continue to buy them).  So last year at the after holiday sales I bought all teal blue decorations and the color turned out very pretty.  So throw in a little Osha Thai food, champagne and two of my dearest friends and that is great Christmas cheer!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

thanksgiving in crescent city, ca.

Well, I had a wonderful visit in Crescent City over Thanksgiving. We did a traditional menu for 13 with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, stuffing, salad, green beans, cranberry relish and gravy. We had one smoke out when the turkey pan juices hit the bottom of the oven—but that just adds to the fun, right? It was my brother Rick's birthday as well and he had his favorite dessert, pumpkin pie.  The 30 candle?  What's up with that?
Mom and I did a little pre and post Thanksgiving shopping, stopping for lunch at the Chart Room at the Crescent City harbor. The Chart Room is known far and wide for its beer-battered fish and chips, a massive plate with 6 pieces of fish for $9.95, or 3 pieces for $5.95.  The price alone is amazing!
My cousin Keith supplied us with fresh crab and we had a crab feast a couple of nights. Keith's birthday was on the 27th and we went to a lovely dinner party for him at the beautiful home of friends, overlooking the harbor in Brooking's OR. The highlight was Keith's favorite dessert, German chocolate cake, scratch made by his girlfriend Katie. She is an amazing baker. I look forward to our next family adventure—they are always special.

Friday, November 5, 2010

joseph leon opens new store at 1506 vallejo

Well kids, its time to start your holiday shopping--hey its already November 5 and counting--time will get away from you before you know it.  And don't forget to turn your clocks back an hour Saturday night. Not only do you get an extra hour of sleep, the short days and longer nights really get you in the holiday mood.

The place to stop by and kick start the gift hunt is Joseph Leon's new shop, JL Designs, 1506 Vallejo at
Polk.  He has filled it with an amazing assortment of gifts, home furnishings, accents and holiday decor.  It's a very pretty space, with a central crystal chandelier, peaked ceiling with dark beams and a multi-paned front window, giving it a bit of an old world feel.  The location, just off Polk, is not far from some of my restaurant favorites like Nick's Crispy Tacos, Pesce and Aux Delices, plus plenty of coffee houses in between.  See you in the store.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

anniversary celebration in crescent city, ca.

Well we did it and it was great!  My brother, Rick, and his wife, Donna and myself were trying to figure out how to surprise our parents for their 55th wedding anniversary.  We brainstormed on different ideas, gifts, etc., but in the end the simplest idea worked the best;  I would arrive in Crescent City as a surprise and they could decide to do whatever they would like to do--and we would do it! 

The surprise arrival went off without a hitch--they never suspected a thing.  We turned it into a three night celebration.  Donna had the cake ready (carrot and cream cheese, of course) and on the 1st night we had a nice family dinner at the Thai House, which has some of the very best Thai food around, including my brother's favorite dish, scallops and red curry in a sizzling clay pot.  Cake and cocktails after.  The next night we went to the opening night of a photography exhibition at the Crescent Harbor Gallery that turned out to be like old home week--everybody was there, and on the third night, thanks to a gift from my cousin Keith, Dad barbecued a whole salmon, and I made a broccoli pilaf, a mustard tarragon buerre blanc sauce for the fish, bacon/caesar salad and a fresh apple bundt with king apples from the garden. Truly a very special meal and very special get together for two wonderful and amazing parents.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

refrigerator dill pickle chips

You might remember last summer when I made half sour whole pickles.  They are so delicious, and I do love a pickle made without vinegar but you have to wait over a week or more to enjoy them--I'm not that patient!  I have been looking around for a really simple but tasty refrigerator pickle recipe and I came across one that is so simple and very good. This refreshing pickle really contrasts well on a warm steak sandwich with roasted garlic mayo, baby spinach leaves and a crusty roll.  This recipe is courtesy of Bobby Flay.
1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
5 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp coriander seeds
3/4 tsp dill seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 cups hot water
Mix together, dissolve sugar and salt and cool brine.
2 pounds Kirby cucumbers, sliced 1/4 " thick.  A mandoline with a crinkle cut attachment would be a nice touch.
1 bunch fresh dill, coarsely chopped  (about 3/4 to 1 cup)
3-4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Toss together in large bowl and pour brine over top.  Weight down chips with a plate so completely covered with brine.  Wrap with plastic and refrigerate overnight to 24 hrs.
Transfer to quart jar and enjoy.  These are very tangy and crisp and will keep about a week.

If you like heat, I could see adding one small seeded Serrano chili for a little kick.  Next batch.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

key lime pie highlights recent dinner party

Earlier this month I had a little dinner to celebrate Joseph Leon's birthday.  I started with cream of broccoli soup (you've seen that one before, last Thanksgiving) a Florentine lasagne which is made with spinach and bechamel and for dessert, key lime pie.  The food was good, the company even better, but the pie is worth sharing.  Here is the recipe:
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
2 14oz cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup of fresh lime juice  (I squeezed 8-9 limes to get this)
2 whole eggs
1 tbl lime zest
Whip cream / powdered sugar / lime slices
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix the graham cracker crumbs sugar and butter and press into and up sides of 9"  glass pie pan.  Bake for 18-20 minutes. Remove and cool. Lower oven to 325 degrees.  Mix condensed milk, eggs, lime juice and zest.  Place in cool crust and bake for 15 minutes.  Chill for 2 hours before serving.  Dust plate with powdered sugar, top with whip cream and lime slice.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

thin crust pizza

I have been experimenting with mini pizzas for a while--just ask my brother, he was a willing trial subject in the beginning and even called and asked for more.  But my toppings have gotten a little more sophisticated, with very good flavor and I just had to share the recipe and technique.

First, I use plain pita pockets for the base--so simple, they make a thin crunchy crust and you use them right out of the package.  I heat the the oven to 475 degrees and I place two ten inch cast iron skillets on the rack upside down. Preheat for ten minutes.  That will be the perfect pizza stone for my nine inch pita pockets.  I mix olive oil with a splash of soy sauce for the base of the pizza--secret ingredient-- and then place thin slices of zucchini, little blobs of fresh mozzarella, pulled pieces of raw hot Italian sausage, a sprinkle of fennel seeds, sea salt and cracked black pepper and bake for seven minutes.  To die for.  Variations include fresh mozzarella and arugula or hot sausage with smoked clams and provolone--that one is crazy good.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

asian beef salad recipe

I had the book group over for dinner last week. We read a mystery, Dark Places by a new writer, Gillian Flynn.  Good book with a main character with enough head problems and issues to keep you wondering how it will end and it does have a little twist at the finish.  For two weeks prior to dinner I had been hooked on making different variations of one of my favorite meals, Asian salad, so I thought it appropriate to make one for my friends.  Some dim sum for appetizers from Dim Sum Bar right in the neighborhood, pomegranate and mango sorbet drizzled with vodka for dessert and it was a fresh and healthy July summer dinner.  Here is the recipe for the salad.  Serves 4-5.

1 head of savoy cabbage,  4-5 outer leaves reserved, 1 1/2 cups of cabbage shredded
2 cups of baby arugula leaves
2 cups of baby spinach
1 serrano chili, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 lb cooked spagetti, chilled
1 cup shredded carrot--long threads, if possible
4 green onions, chopped on the bias--reserve 2 tbl for garnish
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
3-4 tbl of Girard's spinach dressing--thanks Donna! This is good stuff--use it on a classic spinach and bacon salad, too.
2 lb top sirloin steak--longer is better than thicker
hoison sauce
salt and pepper
2 tbl crushed garlic
4-5 tbl vegetable oil

From the savoy cabbage, separate the 4-5 large outer leaves, clean, and save to be the base to place your salad. Slice and shred 1 1/2 cups of the cabbage and reserve. Marinate the steak in garlic and 2-3 tbl oil in a zip lock back in the refrigerator for an hour. Salt and pepper the steak and in a hot heavy skillet, add about 2 tbl of oil and cook steak about 4 minutes on each side (med rare).  Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Combine the rest of the ingredients up to the Girard's dressing, reserving 2 tbl of green onion for garnish.  Place a savoy cabbage leave in an oversized bowl or plate.  Arrange mixed salad on top.  Slice beef in thin slices, brush with hoison and place 3-4 on top of salad.  Garnish with reserved green onion. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

sea salt, berkeley, ca.

I got together with my friend Deidre Joyner last week, well I hadn't seen her for a while because she is so busy in a good way, of course, but I insisted I could just ride along while she took care of business and would not get in the way.  Between going to and from properties (she sells real estate at Red Oak) and taking and picking up the kids to a variety of activities, you can work up quite an appetite so we stopped for lunch at Sea Salt on San Pablo in Berkeley.  Sea Salt, as you might of guessed has a mostly seafood based menu that promotes the use of sustainable fish in dishes such as a BLT (bacon, lettuce and trout) Maine lobster roll, dungeness crab cakes, a variety of oysters and fish and chips, to name just a few dishes. 
Well, I can rarely pass up a chance to order fish and chips and Deidre recommended it.  Because of our crazy schedules we had to be in and out fairly fast but unfortunately they were a little short staffed and our order was not on the fast track, but after a little reminder the fish and chips arrived and it was well worth it.  The large pieces of cod were just a light crispy golden brown with a moist interior. The fries were well done and came with a garlic aioli which made me very happy and the unique red cabbage slaw with bits of cilantro was zesty and not at all watery.  All in all a very satisfying lunch.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

eel river still pristine at redway, ca.

Well, another Father's Day, another birthday--really quite lovely. The first few days in Crescent City had great weather, and a wonderful visit with family, including my brother's mother-in-law Anitra and a very special visit and lunch with my high school English teacher and college mentor, Doris Whalen. Thank you for encouraging my writing--it comforts me to this day.
On Thursday we headed for the redwoods for a now four year annual family get together.  One of the highlights for me was a day trip up 101 to Redway, CA. to look for mom's family cabin and river access.  From the 1920's to 1950's my family had a cabin at Redway (the Hampton's of Eureka at the time)--there are photos of my grandparents (mom's folks) courting next to a Model T Roadster at the Eel River.  Mom said her first date with my dad was probably on that same beach. The cabin is long gone but luckily the river edge remains white and pristine, handholds worn into the rock face are still visible, and a path, where a road once was is still the hot ticket to access this little slice of natural beauty, time immortal.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

jl designs new shop at 499 castro

Joseph Leon just launched his new store, JL Designs, with a champagne reception on May 20 at the corner of Castro and 18th (499 Castro) in the once Ritz Camera location. It can't get much better location wise on this corner with windows on all sides that look out to the center of everything and everybody.

Joseph is a top notch and well known floral designer with a long time shop in the famed St. Francis Hotel's shop row. His floral designs and his collection of new objet d'art and collectibles, (much in storage anyway) simply outgrew the little space. When this location became available, it was ideal. Floral orders are still available, but Joseph's collection of furniture, lamps, crystal, silver and porcelains is not to be missed--there is a treasure here for everyone.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

la fonda, cabo

I got back from Cabo a couple of weeks ago, and once again had a wonderful time with Brendan and his dear parents. We have had dinner every visit at a place called La Fonda, every time with great anticipation because you knew you were going to get a great meal of exceptional quality in a charming setting. With that said, I just had to put a shout out about La Fonda and list it in my personal hall of fame as one of the best restaurants------you fill in the rest.

Located on Miguel Hildalgo in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, this hacienda styled restaurant has indoor and outdoor dining, a comfortable but upscale feel, and a variety of authentic dishes not seen on some menus geared toward more American tastes. The cream of poblano soup garnished with pumpkin blossoms is outstanding and Brendan considers the pibil ( pork stew) the best he has ever had. If you are a meat lover and dying for a fix, this is the place for you, with dishes like ribeye steak in whiskey adobo sauce, or Kurobuta pork chops with a light mole, plus a full bone of beef short rib simmered in a pan sauce that will bring tears to your eyes, and the best (and very unique) chiles rellenos, an ancho chili stuffed with mashed plantains and cheese. They really pride themselves on the use of top quality meats and produce and the presentation of the dishes is beautiful but not overly stylized. All in all, world class.

Friday, May 21, 2010

7105 marlborough terrace

My friend Fritz, known in the real estate business as FRITZ, works for Pacific Union in Montclair, Oakland, and he does one heck of a business in listing luxury properties. He is well known and past and current clients regard him with the highest esteem. And with good reason; Fritz leaves no stone unturned when it comes to marketing a property and delivering top customer service. For him, everything matters, right down to the background of a photo or the color of a throw pillow and the placement of an accessory. This is certainly the case with his recent listing at 7105 Marlborough Terrace. If this was the right time for you to buy, this stunning home, with exquisite one of a kind lighting and fixtures, slab granite counters, views that go on forever and bathrooms that will make you weak in the knees might be just the right home.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

my favorite things

There is a column in Elle Decor magazine that I love, called "The 12 Things I Can't Live Without." I read it religiously every month, to see if I too can't live without the same things as these famous designers and others. But I have come to one conclusion; most of the time I haven't heard of half of their favorite things, they tend to be a little esoteric. So I decided to come up with my own list of the 12 things I can't live without, a little more common to be sure, but my favorites for real!

1. Rave Hairspray. I have used it for 25 years, perfect hold, no flakes. Please don't ever go out of business. 2. Bluewick candles in guava. That's it. All other candle scents kind of nauseate me. 3. Beautiful sandals. I can't pass them up, gold, silver, black, jewels, doesn't matter. I like to show off a good pedicure and you can't beat the comfort and freedom. 4. Opi nail polish--pale pink on the hands and (for those great pedicures) dark "Lincoln Park" on my toes. 5. Starched white sheets and down comforters. I fell in love with the feel when I stayed in my first European hotel in 1999. You can't beat the feel of being consumed in a white cloud when you lay down. 6. My mother's impressionistic paintings of two New York street scenes. Not only are they beautiful, I cherish them. 7. Gucci sunglasses. Nothing too excessive, just seven or eight pairs 8. Pre de Provence soap and bath gel in verbena. The fresh scent is very clean and great in the summer. 9. My signature scent, Eau Des Merveilles, Hermes, subtle and light. 10. Foreign travel. I have had some amazing trips with my mother from Spain to Thailand and every place in between. One of my favorites continues to be the Pueblo Bonito Rose resort at Medano Beach in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. 11. Stationary. And all the sub categories, note pads, monogrammed post its, labels, stickers--I will become a pauper to fine paper goods. 12. Perfect comfort meal with my friend Brendan Eisan at the House of Prime Rib in San Francisco, deliciously executed every time and the perfect ending to my 12 favorite things.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

hot la restaurants firenze and the counter

I was in LA a couple of weeks ago and Brendan and I had a couple of amazing culinary experiences. We had a lovely dinner at Firenze, a Northern Italian cuisine restaurant headed by former Top Chef contestant Fabiano Viviani. This warm space with an open kitchen, live music and private dining area delivered some exceptional food. First up was the fritto misto with calamari and zucchini complemented by the house made bread with a delicious garlicky tapenade. A salad of baby greens with Chianti soaked pears, goat cheese and candied walnuts was amazing only to be topped by the short rib stuffed raviolis laced with a creamy melted taleggio sauce.
I can't wait to go back for rabbit with black olives and a burrata salad with roasted mushrooms with pine nuts. The choices are unique and mouthwatering. The other hot spot in LA we visited is The Counter. This LA phenom is a franchise that has a line out the door. What is is the hook? A stylish interior, clean and modern, a hip bar that eases the wait for a table and a extensive choice of options for the perfect burger. Sit down, take a pencil and fill in the options--included is 100 percent Angus beef, cheese, four toppings, sauce and bun. The combination onion strings and french fries come with 2 sauces and are outrageous.
Another delicious visit to LA. Also a happy birthday to Kevin Alpert, you are the best. XXX, D.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

dinner at 2223 market

Had dinner last night with long time friends Michael Perricone and Tom Brocato. Michael and I worked at the Rotunda together for many years and he is now in New York at Bergdorf Goodman and going strong. Tom is Director of Facilities/Real Estate, Charles Schwab, and I met him through Mike nearly as long ago as I have known Mike.

We reminisced about some of our memorable meals, one of which was a birthday party at 42 Degrees. Do you remember that great restaurant? Out next to Espirit at 16th and Illinois, 42 Degrees served some of the best food in this town (the marrow bone with toast points was absolutely killer) all with a sliding glass wall that opened on beautiful days and nights to views of the bay. I miss that place.

Last night we ate at one of our favorite haunts that one returns to again and again, 2223 Market. This San Francisco favorite close to the Castro remains successful because they don't mess with the winning dishes. The hearts of romaine is probably the best twist on a caesar salad I have ever had--I have tried to recreate this salad at home but it is never as good--grilled onions, capers, cornichons, creamy garlic dressing and big asiago crostini on top. Follow this salad with the best chicken in town, a roasted crispy skin thigh/leg combo on creamy garlic mashed potatoes, PERFECTLY al dente blue lake string beans, topped with onion rings and surrounded by a divine pan jus. Absolute perfection.

It's nice to know that long term friendships and favorite restaurants remain constant.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

passion cafe adds charm and vitality to sixth street

was lucky enough to meet Steve Barton and Jacques Andre in early December when they where finishing their construction and getting ready to fine tune the business side of their restaurant venture, Passion Cafe at 28 Sixth Street, San Francisco. Introduced by my friend Tracy Everwine from Urban Solutions, who, knowing my past restaurant experience, thought I might be able to assist them with a little information about the interview and hiring process (and other questions) and I was only to glad to help.

They didn't need much. The truth is Steve, a contractor with a vision and Jacques, a talented French pastry chef, already knew what they wanted and what they needed to do and had set in motion a two year journey on a much anticipated project adding to the revitalization of Sixth Street.
With the layers and layers of past businesses stripped away, a cafe-bistro emerged. Original brick and reclaimed redwood, lighting, fixtures and a restored store front create the feel of stepping back in time, but a roof top deck painted with their signature rich orange color and wrapped with white lights brings it squarely into 2010 and will surely be the IT place to sit and sip champagne, enjoy a coffee or throw a bash!

But the food, the food! I stopped in during a wine tasting and Jacques sampled a couple of the house specialities. Jacques nails it with the creamiest of custards in both the vegetarian and classic quiche lorraine and a croque monsieur the likes of I've only tasted in the city limits of Paris. Jacques's garnish of caramelized onions is to die for. The full menu is still to come, but the tarts, pastries, soups, stews and other bistro fare will be worth the wait.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

sweeping views for sale at 207 sheridan in oakland

As you know, if you read my blog occasionally, I have been very excited about the breakout restaurant scene in Oakland and other parts of the East bay. I'm lucky, a couple of my best friends live in Oakland so I get first hand information on the renaissance that is taking place.
Recently I have been helping one of my real estate friends, Fritz Hochfellner with Pacific Union in Montclair, get organized for 2010. This has opened my eyes to another great market that Oakland has to offer and that is great values on homes and condos. While you may have read that the home prices in SF have risen in recent months, Oakland, with its unique hillside neighborhoods and outstanding architecture has a lot to offer in lifestyle and the real estate market.
One such property that Fritz and his associate Sandy have listed is 207 Sheridan, in the Rockridge district, a three story, new construction beauty with sweeping views of the hills, 4 bedrooms, 3300 sq. feet and a private elevator to take the pain out of hauling groceries. Offered at 1,025,000, this is a lot of house for the money. Give Fritz (DRE 00869381) a call at 510.8137489 if you would like to know more.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

fish and farm is a great social scene

I am always trying restaurants for my column--you know I write about downtown Tenderloin restaurants, right? Anyway, I had the best experience last night, just a reminder about how many wonderful and interesting people there are in this world.
I stopped off at Fish and Farm, a planned stop after a day of errands and shopping. This restaurant, located in the Mark Twain Hotel on Taylor at O'Farrell has been getting lots of great press about executive chef Chad Newton and his local/artisanal ingredients, including what some have said is possibly the best burger in the city!
I asked to go to the bar and as luck would have it I got the one vacant bar stool in this cozy little space just off the lobby of the hotel. A young women next to me was being served a bottle of Thomas Fogarty syrah. Warm and outgoing, she suggested I try the lamb meatballs with a red cabbage saute and romesco sauce. It was then that I was introduced to Amy and her friend Liz, a country music singer, both from the Plano/Dallas area enjoying a terrific vacation in SF.
It turned out they had dined at Fish and Farm on Thursday, loving the food and making quite an impression on the staff, including chef Newton, who visited their table and prepared some custom dishes. This night, they procured a table in the bar when a gal named Laurie (who turned out to also be from Dallas, knowing many of their favorite restaurants) offered to share her table and I was invited to join.
I loved my meatballs and enjoyed watching the courses start to arrive for Amy and Liz, who told the manager to just surprise them with chef's selections. The frisee salad looked incredible. They were off to Beach Blanket Babylon later that night and possibly brunch at Farmerbrown in the am. To Amy and Liz if you read this, thank you for inviting me to dine with you.