Saturday, December 17, 2011

who will win the next iron chef?

This season of The Next Iron Chef on the Food Network is the best ever.  When they promoted  it as the battle of the super-chefs I was a little skeptical, since it seemed to be closer to the battle of the Food Network Chefs, but as I read up on the pedigrees of the 10 contestants I was convinced.

The show challenges have also taken it up a notch, with an extreme outdoor challenge, movie theater food and a Hampton's seafood/passion challenge to name a few.  With the addition of a weekly 30 minute lightening round cook-off between the bottom 2 contestants for that week's challenge featuring such daunting secret ingredients like peanuts, coconuts and party crackers, this nail-biting round is made even more nerve-racking as your fellow contestants stand behind you second guessing your cooking decisions and techniques.

One of my favorites, Robert Irvine, was eliminated in week 2.  I had the feeling that the judge Michael Symon was not a fan, and rumours on the web seem to back that up, since Irvine replaced Symon on the show Restaurant Impossible.  The surprise breakout is Elizabeth Faulkner, from Citizen Cake and Orson in San Francisco.  Several of the other contestants repeatedly remarked that she was JUST a pastry chef.  She has proven she is so much more. Michael Chiarello, (Napa Style, etc.) who was eliminated this week was always regarded as the one to beat, but in the end, it was the elegant, refined classic French style of Geoffrey Zakarian, (Lambs Club, NYC) who will face Faulkner in a final cook-off in Kitchen Stadium.  Bloggers are saying that Cat Cora is being replaced, letting the odds-makers lean toward a win for Faulkner.  Bottom line, tune in Sunday, December 18th, 9pm on the Food Network to find out.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

holiday traditions at filoli

I had a lovely evening at Filoli last night.  Friday, November 25th was the Premier Access Shopping Evening featuring an amazing holiday boutique with piano melodies, wine and hors d’oeuvres. This beautiful estate located in Woodside, hosts a variety of events throughout the year, but the Holiday Traditions events are certainly part of the most anticipated. Check the Filoli website for a list of all events, prices, and availability.

Located 30 miles south of San Francisco, Filoli is a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and one of the finest remaining country estates of the early 20th century.

Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn, prominent San Franciscans whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Mine, a hard-rock gold mine in Grass Valley, California. Mr. Bourn was also owner and president of the Spring Valley Water Company whose property comprised Crystal Springs Lake and the surrounding lands, areas that are now part of the San Francisco Water Department. He selected the southern end of Crystal Springs Lake as the site for his estate. 

The estate was purchased in 1937 by Mr. and Mrs. William P. Roth, who owned the Matson Navigation Company. Under the Roths' supervision the property was maintained and the formal garden gained worldwide recognition. Mrs. Roth made Filoli her home until 1975 when she donated 125 acres, which included the House and formal garden, to the National Trust for Historic
Preservation for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations. The remaining acreage was given to Filoli Center.  Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

six steps to perfect roast turkey

I saw this blog post on Foodista by Leah Rodrigues and thought it was worth sharing.  Enjoy a great Thanksgiving dinner!

1. Brine your Turkey: By process of osmosis, the brine will flavor the bird as well as keep it moist. 
2. Flavor the Bird: Make sure to adequately salt and pepper the turkey and fill the cavity with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and lemons.
3. Keep the Turkey Dry: Don't forget to pat down the turkey before putting it in the oven. The excess moisture will prevent the skin from getting crisp. (This does not include fat).
4. Use a Thermometer: A thermometer is the best way to check for doneness. It should register 165 degrees F in the thickest part of the bird.
5. Start the Oven High and then Lower the Temperature: Start the turkey at 425 degrees F to help crisp the skin for 20 minutes and then lower to 350 degrees F until cooked through.
6. Let the Turkey Rest: I know you'll be hungry but letting the turkey rest lets the juices redistribute so that it will be moist and flavorful.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

2215 manzanita drive, oakland, ca.

If you are looking for a great value in a home plus excellent location, beautiful views, curb appeal and loads of space, 2215 Manzanita Drive is the home for you.  Offered at only $799,000 and located in the serene Montclair hills, this gorgeous home has it all. With 5 bedrooms and 3 baths, this hilltop contemporary  features level  front and back yards, wonderful flowing floor plan, huge master suite, solarium and SF Bay and Diablo vistas all steps from Hills swim club.  Live the life you deserve!  Call FRITZ, (520.813.7489) at Pacific Union International for all the details and make an appointment to see this home in person.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

the old clam house

People who read my blog and make note of my favorite restaurant list have probably noticed:   I love places that hail from the past and have stood the test of time, retaining original signage, menu items, decor (although clean and maintained), charm and character. Well, add another spot to my list, The Old Clam House on Bayshore and Oakdale in SF.  This corner restaurant opened when Abraham Lincoln became president and the Gold Rush was just getting started.  It survived the earthquake and has been an old time watering hole ever since.  It has new owners and has been gently refreshed--keeping that original sign and tin ceiling while doing some Italian/American cuisine classics new justice. Pictured are the escargot and the the crab linguine Alfredo. Definitely worth a visit.

Friday, September 9, 2011

las vegas, august 2011

My dear friend Brendan had a great birthday in Las Vegas last weekend.  I wanted to write a brief shout out to the places/businesses that made it so special.  1st, the hotel, Vdara at the City Center was amazing.  Modern, with clean lines and off the hook beds and pillows, (you can buy their beds--call ) and super customer service.  2nd, Brendan's birthday dinner at Mastro's, in the Crystal Shopping Center.  Don't let the shopping center scene throw you--this is world class shopping and dining, with a tram/shuttle from the hotel and a table in Mastro's tree house.  The service and the amazing food, which included a 22 oz. bone-in rib eye, could not be topped.!!   Oh yes, it could--the decadent chocolate cake delivered by Leopold's of Las Vegas was flawless, and I am not a chocolate fan--but  I consider this the best cake I have every eaten!!  Happy birthday Brendan, well done!  (XXX)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

chilled orzo pasta salad recipe

If you get Bon Appetit magazine, you probably know, that like alot of companies--it has gone through a re-make.  There is a new editor who comes from GQ and that means, of course, that the style and content has been revamped.  Content is interesting, with more and simple classic recipes, re-hauled, that can be executed at home, and alot of comments on what is in and what is out that will give you a retro chuckle.  One of the new issues suggested that we needed a fresh version of chilled pasta salad. What? The classic challenged? No worries, you can have the perfect chilled pasta, just  forget the butterfly pasta and go directly to orzo (melon seed pasta). This is the new designer pasta.  Here is my latest recipe:  serves two.

6 oz. orzo pasta, cooked in salted water, 5-51/2 minutes, drained and chilled.
olive oil
dry oregano
lemon juice
minced garlic
dash vinegar
chopped roasted yellow pepper
crumbled feta cheese

Mix together 1/4 cup olive oil, dash oregano, juice of one lemon, 1/2 tsp. minced garlic, 1/4 cup chopped roasted yellow bell pepper, 2 tsp small capers, 1 tsp white vinegar, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper.  Toss with chilled pasta and 3 TBL of feta cheese.  Check for more salt and pepper to taste. Chill, then serve.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

recipe for yeast waffles

I  read a recipe recently that called for yeast to be added to the pancake or waffle batter.  It intrigued me because I was frustrated that my pancakes/waffles weren't getting the rise I wanted and my waffles in particular were not as moist and fluffy on the inside as I would like.  There are several types of recipes out there, some as complicated as making a starter, etc.--and days or weeks later you might have breakfast. I couldn't wait that long, so I made up my own recipe using my favorite pancake/waffle mix and the results were exactly what I wanted--golden brown exterior and a light and airy interior. I also recommend the Cuisinart Belgian Waffle Maker.  The color and temperature settings and the built in timer makes sure the waffles cook perfectly and evenly every time.

Make this recipe the night before so the batter is nice and spongy in the morning. 

2 cups Krusteaz  Buttermilk Complete Pancake Mix  (Safeway has this, and it is a good one because it has both whole wheat and white flour).
1 packet (1/4oz) dry natural yeast
1/4 cup warm milk  (120 degrees)
1 to 1 1/4 cup water
2 TBL  vegetable oil
pinch salt

Warm milk in the microwave or small saucepan--do not over heat, it will kill the yeast.  Stir in the yeast and set aside. Let stand about 10 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the pancake mix, water and oil--do not over mix.  Stir in yeast mixture and add extra water if necessary. Cover and chill overnight.  Pour onto preheated waffle maker and cook to desired color.  Makes 8, 4 inch Belgian waffles.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

new york city in august

New York City in August has its advantages. True, it is hot and humid--clothes are sticky and forget your hair, but the lines are short, there are seats at the outdoor cafes and as always there never ceases to be a new discovery or a delicious dish around every corner. This past weekend was Tom Bogue's birthday and we were lucky enough to be guests at Mike Perricone's beautiful West Village apartment.
The trip can really be sized up by the amazing food experience. Let me give you a run-down:

At Gusto, 60 Greenwich Ave., the outdoor seating was heaven at 10:00pm --the scorching day is worth the balmy night. Standouts include Mike's favorite deep-fried artichokes hearts and a salad of fava beans, escarole, pecorino, mint and basil and a cooling late evening breeze.  Saturday lunch was wonderful at Keith McNally's Morandi, 211 Waverly Pl., a great people watching place with amazing rustic breads and Italian classics. Favorites here included a pesto based minestrone soup and a salad of prawns and grapefruit with a mustard vinaigrette.  We followed this up later with thin cracker crust pizza campagnola topped with burrata, parma ham and arugula at Olio, 3 Greenwich Ave. I had the most delicious creamy Italian dressing to dip it in.

Sunday brunch at BG's was nothing short of spectacular. With the exception of the company of Mike, George and Mirium, there is really nothing that can top the elegant room and service--favorite dishes like the seared sea scallop appetizer and the Gotham salad are not to be missed.  An evening walk to the East village and down a few steps into the Taj Cafe, 310 E 6th St., where a 4 course Indian dinner is only $10.00! (with music).

On Monday, Mike and I walked to the pier, stopping on the way at Murray's Cheese Shop, 254 Bleeker St., for a bit of brie and salami to nibble on. I bought a jar of fig jam, one of my favorite go to staples, but not always easy to find.

That evening, (Tom's birthday) Tom and I went for drinks at the St. Regis Hotel, the King Cole Bar. This bar is not for the faint of heart in the price tag department, but for one drink, the experience is worth it in this iconic space backdropped by the 1906 "Old King Cole" Maxfield Parrish mural. And there were many familiar faces in the bar including 60 Minutes' Steve Kroft.  Next we headed down to Hell's Kitchen to meet up with Tom’s friends, Ken and BJ Beasley at there favorite neighborhood hangout, Tout Va Bien, 311 W 51st. This charming French bistro is filled with, what else? French people, assuring us of delicious food. Start with the fresh rillettes of pork with french bread and gherkins, escargot baked with butter, garlic and Pernod and an onion soup to swoon over and you really don't need much more except some champagne to wash it all down. We headed down the street to Pier 9, 802 9th St., a gleaming modern space with a fresh eclectic seafood menu that had a couple of BJ and Ken's favorites, grilled big eye tuna with green curry, a Chicago style lobster hot dog and for dessert we shared a divine sundae with chocolate covered pretzels, tapioca pudding and caramel sauce. It didn't stop there--I had an amazing mushroom/Swissburger in the airport at Bobby Van's Steakhouse. I took half on the plane for later and it was even good cold. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

fettuccini alfredo

I have been meaning to share this recipe with you for awhile after I was stunned to find out that classic fettuccini alfredo actually has no cream in it.  Of course there are many American variations, but it was thanks to Rachael Ray who demonstrated the original Roman method of making this delicious dish on her show that got me to try it--and it couldn't be easier.

Fettuccini alfredo is a dish that supposedly started at a restaurant in Rome called Alfredo.  The simple combination of butter and parmesan melts together perfectly to create a silky and addictive sauce.
2 medium or 4 small servings.
8oz. of dry fettuccini, cooked to al dente in salted water, about 7 minutes. Reserve 1/2 cup of hot cooking water.  While it is cooking, warm a serving bowl in a 200 degree oven.

When ready, remove serving bowl from oven and add 6 Tbl of butter (6 large pats), hot noodles over butter and top with 1 & 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  Toss, letting the cheese and butter begin to melt together.  Add small amount of cooking water to help create the sauce.  Continue to toss till smooth, silky and shiny. Taste for salt, but you may not need it because of the salt in the cheese.  Twirl with tongs onto individual plates.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

a very special family fourth of july

This year, I celebrated a very special and fun 4th of July weekend loaded with events.  It all began when we were invited to a Havemann family (mom's side) reunion of cousins that we didn't know existed until a few years ago.  I started the trip in Crescent City, where there were 6 class reunions going on, including by brother Rick's 30th.  Mom, dad and I left for Oregon on the 2nd, stopping in Merlin at the Sportsman Association so I could watch dad shoot on the sporting clays course.  He has won 1st place in several competitions and will be competing at the Oregon State Sporting Clays Championship in Eugene later this month.  We continued on to the Central Point/Jacksonville area to join the family reunion dinner hosted by our third cousin Sheila and her husband Dick.  If you have never been to Jacksonville, OR., it is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth; the town has maintained the original facades of the turn of the century buildings and businesses.  Landscaping and flowers are perfectly manicured and the surrounding rolling hills are filled with miles of grape fields and  ranches surrounded by pristine white fencing.  It is also home of the Britt Festival, an outdoor amphitheater circled by redwoods that features a summer line-up of world-class musical artists.

The fun continued the next day when the group of us (about 36) met in Grants Pass at the Riverside Inn (a stunning hotel set in lush landscape hanging over the banks of the Rogue River across from Riverside Park. This is where you pick up the Hellgate Jet Boat Excursions.  We headed up the Rogue River through a pass of amazing rock known as "Hellgate" a name for a narrow rock passage.  We stopped at a rustic open air lodge called the OK Corral for a champagne brunch.  The delicious and abundant food was served family style, including homemade biscuits with sausage cream gravy, fresh breads, pastries, fruit, sausage, bacon, eggs and hash browns.  When we headed back up the river, the real fun began.  Our guide threw the boat into one after another 360 degree turns, plus fishtailing through the wake of another boat till we were completely soaked--but in the 90 degree heat it felt pretty good.  Sheila and Dick hosted an evening barbecue and we enjoyed getting to know all of our extended family.

We returned to Crescent City on the 4th early enough to put together a great barbecue with Rick and Donna in perfect weather that lasted into the evening--very unusual for CC.  And something we hadn't done in years--we headed downtown and watched the fireworks!  Before I left, I was able to have lunch at the Brian Scott Gallery with mom and some of the gals from the Crescent Harbor Art Gallery.  Add another great dish to the trip--ahi tuna nicoise salad with a tarragon vinaigrette.

Monday, June 13, 2011

5588 fernhoff road, oakland

My dear friend Fritz Hochfellner at Pacific Union International, Montclair, has just listed this landmark home for $2,995,000.  Read all about this fantastic property and email Fritz at for more info.

This timeless contemporary masterpiece known as the "Joe Morgan" Estate, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright associate Aaron Green, commands 2.66 acres of prime Oakland Hills real estate with far reaching vistas of San Francisco Bay and beyond. The gated 5000+ sq.ft. residence features 4+ bedrooms, 4.5 baths with sweeping indoor and outdoor living and entertaining spaces, pool and tennis court all surrounded by splendid, landscaped grounds, that in true Frank Lloyd Wright fashion blend seamlessly with the architecture.

Nothing is left to be desired in this iconic masterpiece. Frank Lloyd Wright signature handcrafted built-in seating and cabinetry, hand picked fixtures and tile continue the harmony with the natural elements. More features include a luxurious master suite with dual bathrooms and closets, a glass framed family room opening to the pool, children and guest wing, sauna, wet bar and sunroom, three car garage, guest parking and state of the art security all within minutes of world class Bay Area amenities.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

fresh food highlights trip to cabo san lucas

One of the things I have enjoyed the most over the last few years is the visit to Cabo each May with Brendan as a guest of his parents at their place at the Montecristo at Sunset Beach. This last visit was no exception.  The weather was mild, the Pacific blue and gorgeous and of course, the food delicious; we dined at all our favorites, Felix, Salvatore's, and of course La Fonda. We also found a new local restaurant to add to the list called Lolita's.  The newly updated menu of this very casual, open air family restaurant features a big grill where local seafood and steaks sizzle.  The salsas (and the prices) were the best of the trip.

We also had a lovely home cooked dinner one beautiful evening with our own sizzling ribeye steaks, grilled zucchini, vine tomatoes and fresh buffalo mozzarella salad with green onion vinaigrette and baked potatoes topped with rich Mexican sour cream.  And of course, we started the meal with Brendan's exceptional guacamole.  Mexican produce and dairy really do make a meal!  Thank you Bob, Barbara and Brendan for another wonderful trip!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

easy changes to some homecooked classics

Mom is here visiting so I spent last week doing a little meal planning.  She thinks it is alot of work, but for me, it a chance to try out a few dishes and I get great enjoyment from seeing people enjoy my food.

I have been kind of fascinated with an Italian dish, veal Milanese.  This dish usually features a veal chop pounded very thin, sometimes still on the bone, breaded, fried, and topped with a thick tomato ragu or just lemon wedges.  My version is a chicken breast, pounded very thin, egg washed and breaded in panko crumbs seasoned with parsley, garlic, oregano and Parmesan cheese. I lightened it up by topping it with a salad of arugula tossed with sherry-lemon vinaigrette. A squeeze of fresh lemon on the meat really works, too.  I made a side of shallot sauteed carrots and the meal was a hit.

Last night I made an easy (cheat) version of arroz con pollo (chicken and rice).  First, I seasoned 2 chicken breasts with salt, pepper and chili powder and lightly browned them in olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  I set them aside and in the same pan--no cleaning, want those good bits--I added a package of Spanish rice mix and cooked 25 minutes per the instructions.  In the meantime, I sauteed one whole yellow onion, sliced, till soft.  In a French white medium casserole dish with glass lid I placed the chicken breasts, half a jar of salsa (use your favorite) 2 TB of butter, and all the onions.  Trick--I microwaved the dish for 3 minutes. Easy.  Spoon rice onto the plate, top with chicken breast and spoon onions and pan juices over the top.  I garnished with a little chopped green onion.  Sour cream would be good, too.  Chicken was as tender and juicy as if I had simmered it for an hour.

So what's up next?  I think a little pre-Easter dinner Saturday night with baby lamb chops on a bed of Parmesan risotto.  Sounds good.

Monday, March 28, 2011

starbelly offers good comfort food

During this last bit of rainy cold weather all my friends and I wanted was a cozy space where we could order a variety of small plates of good comfort food at great prices.  Well, Starbelly, located at 3583 16th was just the ticket. 

This happening spot is perfect mix of casual and hip; crowded diners relax around a mix of separate and communal tables (communal table made from a bowling alley lane), non fussy table top, industrial chairs, and a heated patio that will be great when the weather eases up but is not really an option on a rainy night. Starbelly uses local farms and changes the menu often to reflect what is fresh and seasonal and is part of not just a few great new restaurants opening in the last year in and around the Castro.

Start with snacks that run just $5.00 each. The house cut fries are just as imagined--double fried with the skins on, not too thin, not too thick and a selection of 3 sauces to dip in.  The kalamata olive tapenade was perfectly made with a nice lemon taste that was a surprising addition and grilled flatbread very similar to pita.  Our favorite was a small plate of house made chicken liver pate ($10.00) with toasted, buttered pain (just the way I like to serve it at home), sweet onion marmalade and whole grain mustard.  The pate was perfectly flavored and the texture was incredible. Items to try in the future--a selection of cheeses and salumi.

Another star (at Starbelly) is the pizza.  We enjoyed the bacon, jalapeno, arugula with green goddess dressing ($13.00).  How about that for taking the boredom out of pepperoni!  One I didn't try but I will be back for is is the fall squash, sage, black garlic, goat cheese and toasted pepitas, also $13.00.

Although we had a variety of small plates that evening, Starbelly also offered a few large plates that night  such as tri-tip, a Prather Ranch burger and grilled Hawaiian hebi to name a few.  Don't rule out a future visit to Starbelly for brunch, too.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

nyoman gunarsa exhibition of watercolor paintings at the indonesian consulate

Garreta Lamore says a few words about Nyoman Gunarsa
If you get a chance, stop by the Consulate General of The Republic of Indonesia, 1111 Columbus, San Francisco for a watercolor exhibition by the Balinese artist Nyoman Gunarsa. I was there for the opening reception on February 24th where Nyoman said a few words and drew some pastel sketches of guests.

Nyoman, born in Indonesia, is known as one of the living masters, painting with a fluid and unique style that is a cross of modernity filled with images of classic tales and traditional dance.  Nyoman, who has a doctorate in education, has been featured in exhibitions all over the world, and because I happen to be lucky enough to be a friend of artist Garretta Lamore (Crescent City, CA.) whom, while living in Indonesia years ago became and remains a great friend of Nyoman, I have been invited to three of his exhibitions in the United States, beginning with a show in Oakland in 1991, the Piazza Art Gallery in Sausalito in 2002 and now at the Consulate.

 A selection of his work will be on view at the Consulate from February 25th through March 6th.  This is all being presented in support of the incredible exhibition at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance.  See the 131 pieces of Balinese art at the Asian Art Museum from February 25 to September 11, 2011.