Tuesday, December 31, 2013

allegro romano restaurant in san francisco

Had dinner the other night at one of San Francisco’s gem restaurants, Allegro RomanoThis charming jewel box space located at Jones and Broadway is well known to insiders and is a favorite spot for local concierges to recommend for a delicious and intimate dinner.  For us, it was the perfect space for a birthday dinner for six.

Under chef-owner Lorenzo Logoreci, this 32 seat space feels like you have stepped into a small Roman restaurant.  We immediately started with the grilled bruschetta with garlic and tomatoes followed with beef carpaccio with truffle oil.  Other dishes that made it around the table were rigatoni with pancetta (house specialty), Dover sole over black olive risotto and a Black Angus filet with porcini mushrooms and Barolo sauce.  Knock out pasta dish—fettuccini alfredo with freshly shaved truffles—special that night, and absolutely delicious!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

diane gilman makes the best jeans

Courtesy HSN:
"Fascinating!"  said a group of TV executives on a flight from New York who recognized Diane Gilman as the "Queen of Jeans" with over one million loyal "Boomer Consumers" on HSN. For the next few hours we volleyed around the idea of my own reality show about the unique advantages of being a Baby Boomer and breaking through the age barrier:  I was asked, "When are you going to stop making jeans for old ladies?"  I had to laugh. "Honey," I replied, "there is nothing old about making ladies feel sexy at any age." Challenge yourself to break through the preconceived ideas handed down to us as women. As if you're in your fifth, sixth, or seventh decade, you must be "an old lady." Forget it! Just like Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier, my mission is to break through the age barrier by redefining what's sexy for Baby Boomer women now.  ( Best jeans for every age!)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

cafe midi and laurel hardware in la

No trip to LA is complete without a couple of good restaurant sightings and this recent trip was no exception.  Brendan took me to lunch at an unique spot on Le Brea, Maison Midi and Café Midi.

You enter through a wonderful store, Maison Midi, chalk full of retro home décor, tabletop and kitchen/dining goodies worthy of any Parisian mercantile.  In the back of the store is a charming French bistro called Café Midi. The menu boasts no less than 49 different salads, each more interesting than the next, dozens of sandwiches and burgers and of course a selection of croques-monsieur--I had the tuna and avocado croque-monsieur, smothered in melted Gruyere--the ultimate French toasted cheese!

Brendan and I celebrated his birthday at another interesting store transformed into a restaurant called Laurel Hardware on Santa Monica in West Hollywood.  The original hardware storefront gives way to a cool club/dining room with outdoor patio seating in the back.  Highlights included the lollipop sprout salad with avocado and pumpkin seeds, the beef cheeks, so tender you could cut them with your fork, and the thin crust pizza--we had the homemade sausage with rapini and red onions--all washed down with organic cucumber vodka, fresh juiced watermelon and lime.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

1950's bascal aluminum cups

I recently found myself reminiscing about a certain jewel colored metal cup that I drank from growing up.  But the memory was foggy--who had them?  My mom or grandmother?  Where did they originally come from and who made them?

I shared with my boss and dear friend Nancy Morgan, the procurer of all things unique and beautiful, that if she ever ran across these cups in her travels please pick them up--and not soon after she did indeed find a set of 6 near perfect Bascal cups.

Now I needed to do the research.  It turns out that the cups were made in Italy by 2 main companies, Bascal and Sunburst. The aluminum was anodized to keep the metal from oxidizing and to keep the jewel like colors from fading.  The cups were the plastic ware of the times--perfect for outdoor barbecues, picnics and camping.  The most amazing thing about the cups is the amount of cold that they produce.  Add a beverage and the metal creates instant condensation and a sublime icy drink.

Now, where did I remember them from?  Well my mother said they belonged to my grandmother and she kept them in the camper--and that statement brought the memory right back --I could then see them in that little upper cabinet over the tiny camper stove.  I remembered drinking the Hawaiian Punch.  I have read on the web that they came from the grocery store--a few articles say they may have contained cottage cheese.  Mom said they might have been available with Green Stamps--a popular shopping outlet at the time. So, still a little mystery there, but how wonderful to have the memory back and a set of beautiful cups as well.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

birthday celebration in san francisco, monterey and carmel

It was my birthday last weekend and my parents were here to help me celebrate.  You plan and plan and anticipate and prepare it seems (and is) for weeks, and it is over in the blink of an eye. But what a great time we had.

Mom and Dad came down to the San Francisco Design Center on Friday to visit me and get a tour of the Showcase and Galleria. We also went to Restoration Hardware which is truly one of the most beautiful showrooms in the city.  We had a delightful lunch at Perry's--I had delicious ahi tuna poke tacos and mom's chicken/avocado BLT was very good as well.  A little shopping, relaxing and off to dinner at Sodini's in North Beach.  As you may know, I love the old school restaurants and Sodini's is one of my favorites in North Beach--a little slice of history started in 1907.  Start with the calamari or mixed frito misto.  I happily move on to my favorite dish, the fresh clams and linguine, a creamy dish of garlicky goodness. You also can't go wrong with the carbonara or tortellini and the pizzas are devine.  A couple glasses of smooth Merlot doesn't hurt either.  Stop for gelato down the street, Sodini's doesn't take reservations and they don't serve dessert, they just do dinner very well.

Saturday, we went down the coast, stopping at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, enjoying a great key lime pie at lunch at The Fish Hopper on Cannery Row in Monterey, down 17 Mile Drive and into Carmel.  On the way we stopped at the farmer's stands outside of Watsonville.  We picked up artichokes, strawberries, grapefruits and the most amazing crisp/sweet red cherries--I am still enjoying them.  I just wish great weekends like this lasted as long.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

hacienda el coyote restaurant in cabo san lucas

I went to Cabo earlier this month with my friend Brendan and stayed at his parent's fractional, the Monte Cristo Estates at Sunset Beach.  As usual, it is the most peaceful and relaxing week, with a little sun, a good book and lots of exploring all the delicious food around town. We have our favorites, like Lolita's, La Fonda, and the taco stand with the marinated pork that is to die for, but I have to tell you about a place I tried this year where the food was as delicious as it was beautiful--Hacienda El Coyote.
The restaurant features a tequila bar to the side, an interior dining room that has a pond running through it and an outdoor covered patio. You are gently serenaded by traditional singers, the service is excellent, waiters use tray service and silverware is quietly changed between courses--but the place is comfortable and not stuffy and the prices modest.

We started with thick homemade chips with guacamole and three amazing salsas.  I moved on to the house salad, an eye catching mix of lettuce with corn, pepita seeds, beans, black olives, cranberries, cotija cheese dressing, garnished with a crisp cheese wafer.  Brendan's corn chowder was silky smooth, perfectly seasoned and had the most delicious garnish--a little dumpling filled with huitlacoche (a corn fungus similar to mushroom--they were also served as an entree stuffed in crepes and topped with poblano chile sauce--next time!)  My entree--a juicy piece of marinated pork topped with grilled cactus, spring onion, chorizo and re-fried beans served with warm house made tortillas.  A stop for ice cream cones topped off the balmy night!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

recipe for tagine of chicken

I had some friends over for dinner last week and I wasn't in the mood to turn on the oven--I wanted a meal that cooked itself on the stove with little or no need for supervision.  Then it came to me--a recipe I had written in 2006 when I gave mom a tagine cooker for Christmas.

A tagine is a conical earthenware cook pot common in Northern Africa and revered for the way it locks in moisture in its conical top creating super moist, tender and flavorful foods.  Since mom has the tagine and I don't, I used a 5 quart enamel dutch over (like Le Creuset) with excellent results. Just leave the lid on tight.

Here is my recipe for tagine of chicken with green olives.  I served it with pinenut and golden raisin studded couscous (a 5 minute stovetop dish).

6 garlic gloves, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 chicken drumsticks and 4 chicken thighs, on the bone.
1 8-10oz. can diced tomato
1 TBL tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
spice blend  (see below)
10 oz. approx. jar of pitted green Spanish or Greek olives without pimento
3 TBL chopped Italian parsley
Zest from one lemon
Olive oil

Spice blend:
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric  (no substitution)
1/4 tsp cayenne

Remove skin from chicken.  Heat  several tablespoons of oil in dutch oven.  Dust chicken with flour and fry till light brown and set aside.
Add additional oil to the pan and saute the onion and garlic. Add the chicken and the remaining ingredients except the olives, parsley and lemon.
Lower the heat, put the lid on the pan and let simmer for 1 hour.  After an hour, add the olives and parsley, and cook for 15-20 minutes more with the lid slightly ajar, letting the sauce reduce. Taste for seasoning.

On a coupe plate, place a leg and thigh on bed of couscous, spoon sauce and olives around and garnish chicken with lemon zest.  4 servings.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

unique arabic fusion cuisine at saha

I have to give a shout out about a unique and delicious dining experience I had last week at Saha, located in the Carlton Hotel on Sutter. This small and intimate dining room with it's Yemenese/Arabic cuisine fused with French influences, is warm and inviting with low light and subtle color and filled with an artsy and stylish clientele.

 One of the most talked about "must have" dishes is the avocado salad. This is unlike any avocado salad you have had before! The avocado is stuffed with couscous tabouleh, dusted with grated knaffe and lightly fried. It is served with marinated tofu and a raspberry reduction. Very different, very delicious. Other hits included the creamy kale soup, the soft fava bean cakes and the orange chicken, scented with cinnamon. Be sure to order the traditional Arabic dessert, knaffe, made with Arabic cheese and shredded phyllo drizzled with warm syrup.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

new year's eve 2012

We wanted to do something different this year for New Year's--something relaxing and also a little reflective of the past year.  The idea was to project good thoughts for the coming year--the result was a magical 2 days.

First of all the weather on the 31st and 1st was incredible.  Very clear, bright and crisp.  Brendan and I started out heading over the Golden Gate for the Russian River.  We stopped at the vista point for some photos with the city as backdrop.  We wanted to stop and have breakfast on the way but we purposely had no destination, this was just an adventure!  He saw a cafe in San Rafael listed on Urbanspoon that had two names--Theresa and Johnny's.  There was no way we could pass up a restaurant with that name, really?  It turned out to be one of the best breakfasts we have ever had.  We ordered the house specials, the Norcal Benedict, with creamy hollandaise, avocado, salsa and tator tots, and the crispy french toast, a deep fried confection that is really decadent.

We spent the night in Guerneville at the West Sonoma Inn and Spa, lovely spacious rooms with private decks and dined at Chef Patrick on a four-course New Year's Eve menu that was terrific.
Butternut squash soup, crab cakes, rack of lamb, filet mignon and chocolate bread pudding did the trick!  We rang in the New Year at the iconic Rainbow Cattle Company, people watching the whole way.  Guerneville is picturesque and quaint, barely changed over the last 50 years.

In San Francisco the next day, we had dinner at Roosevelt Tamale Parlor.  I wrote about this great little place in my very first blog. It originates back to the 1920's and I am glad to say it is better than ever, under new ownership and we had, seriously, the best pork verde ever, smothering a chili stuffed tamale--incredible. Here's to more in 2013!