Monday, June 30, 2008

Welcome Back, Old Friend

Here's a salad we haven't been able to enjoy since 'way long ago last fall when the last of the ripe, locally grown heirloom tomatoes was available. Good old caprese salad, with colorful tomatoes plus fresh mozzarella* and basil, drizzled with a little balsamic vinaigrette. Oh, yum! Welcome back! We missed you!

*I learned a new trick since the last time I made this - use an egg slicer, the kind with the thin, thin wires, to cut the mozzarella. Much tidier than trying to cut that soft, squishy cheese by hand!

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Homegrown Bragging


My very own. My very first.

Homegrown. Washed and ready to become salad, sandwich filler, lettuce wraps, or whatever! Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

I didn't think so.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Celebration Cake

My friend Bonnie rocks! Years ago, she earned a Ph.D. in math, which she used very successfully in the computer field until she retired about 3 years ago. While she was still working, she decided to broaden her outlook by studying part-time toward a Masters in Liberal Studies.

Renaissance woman.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that she raised a really cool daughter while doing all that other stuff.

Bonnie graduated from the MLS program at Stanford on Father's Day weekend and her daughter and son-in-law threw a party to celebrate her. We enjoyed the silly decorations, the gorgeous two year old grandson, the scrumptious dinner and this beautiful cake from Whole Foods.

The picture really doesn't do it justice because we greedy celebrants made serious inroads into the cake before I even thought to get out my camera. Between the layers was a sweetened whipped cream studded with fresh berries, a new idea to me, and a really brilliant one. I loved the surprise of the fresh sliced strawberries, whole raspberries and fat blackberries inside the cake as well as decorating the outside.

I have always admired Whole Foods for the beauty of their food but we call it "Whole Paycheck" because it's expensive and we don't like the pushy, spoiled customers we often encounter there, but this cake was truly spectacular and delicious, a fitting celebration of Bonnie's many accomplishments!

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Friday, June 27, 2008

The Rest of the Roast

Right after we roasted our standing rib of pig, the Bay area experienced a heat wave, so the idea of stir-frying the rest of the pork and serving it over hot rice just seemed like too much hell.

Luckily, my friend Annie had the solution. Annie and I have been friends since we were 13 and the internet has brought us closer even though she lives in very southern Arizona where this kind of heat is pretty common. I knew she'd have an idea for using up the pork that didn't include heating up the kitchen.

She suggested a Southwest-themed salad and her recipe sounded great, to wit:

1 can black beans, drained
diced onion, diced Anaheim chili
diced jalapeno (can omit if you don't like heat)
can of corn
some garlic
chopped, fresh cilantro
quartered cherry tomatoes (they aren't on the "killer" list)
one cooked chicken breast.

The dressing is lime juice and a little oil, salt and pepper. Shred the chicken breast and stir into the mix. Serve on chopped romaine lettuce.

I made only four small changes to this recipe. Grilled two ears of corn that I had on hand, rather than using canned corn, and cut it off the cob. Added cubed avocado because, to me, it's just not Southwest food if avocado is not involved. Used canned chilis because my little market didn't have fresh ones that day. And, substituted the left over pork roast for the chicken.

It was too hot for tossing the salad so I just offered it in bowls from which we heaped our plates according to our preferences. Served under the shade on the deck to catch the breeze off the water, it made a spectacular hot-day dinner and a fitting end for the rest of the roast.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008


We are blessed with good neighbors. While every house on our tiny street contains quirky members, including ours, everyone gets along pretty well and all the children are a joy most of the time. The kids on the street have learned business skills by taking care of our cats while we were on vacation. Two neighbors keep a key to our house, as I seem to lock myself out with baffling regularity. We lend each other space in our recycling bins and watch each other's houses when we/they are away on vacation.

So, when I hear my next neighbor's "hellloooo" and she asks to borrow a couple of eggs, it's just a chance to repay some of the helpfulness they have shown us over the years.

And, later, when I find freshly baked chocolate chip cookies on my doorstep, the good-neighbor karma has come around again in a big way.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Subtle Summer Quencher

I continued to subscribe to Sunset magazine even when I lived in the east - the gardening advice was no earthly use to me there but the recipes were always inspirational and the rest of the magazine was nostalgic. Now that I'm back in the west, I can enjoy the whole magazine, back to front, as soon as it arrives each month.

In a recent issue, they gave the recipe for a relaxing summer drink. Not having any "dried culinary lavender" on hand, I skipped that and just used the chamomile tea and mint. All you do is add about two chamomile tea bags and a cup of mint leaves, crushed in your hand, to about a quart of water and stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours. After you fish out the tea bags and the mint leaves, you are left with a lightly golden, mild and minty iced tea that really is refreshing and relaxing. I've been drinking it for weeks now and getting more and more mellow by the minute.

Or, maybe it's retirement that's so relaxing?

In any case, give this tipple a try - it's truly a summer pleasure.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seeing Red

One of the fun things about visiting the farmer's market is that I sometimes find things I have never seen before - but they don't usually make me mad.

Enter the red lettuce.

I have certainly seen red-edged lettuce before, and even eaten my fair share of it over the years but I was stopped in my tracks by this head of gorgeous, dark maroon lettuce.

The man who sold it to me did so with seeming reluctance, carefully selecting the two heads I requested from among (to me) identical and perfect brethren that were standing in a tub of water to keep them fresh. I was reminded of the greengrocers in Parisian markets who choose the produce for you - no touching allowed! He demanded grumpily if I wanted a bag and, when I said yes, gave me a terse little lecture on how I was to take the lettuce home immediately (no stopping on the way), rinse it in cool water, wrap it in a wet towel and under no circumstances to simply jam it into the crisper in the plastic bag. I assured him earnestly that I would take good care of his babies and he let me go with a skeptical grunt that seemed to say, "Yeah, well, see that you do!"

I tucked them tenderly into my bag, stung by his manner and the implied accusation that I am an despoiler of innocent lettuces. He really had me seeing red!


Monday, June 23, 2008

Wretched Excess

Whenever I see a stretch limousine lumbering along with its televisions, bars and cushy seats, I think "wretched excess" and yet clafouti (or clafoutis), which also originated in the Limousin region of France, is the polar opposite of excess, a dessert designed to make the simple and delicious most out of fruit that is perhaps a little past its prime.

This week, I had a few cherries that were going wrinkly and some blueberries that had shrunk slightly - combined, I had just enough fruit for a clafouti to say thank you to My Beloved's daughter, Katie, who had volunteered to come and upgrade my computer.

If you aren't familiar with clafouti, it's similar to a slightly sweetened popover or pancake batter poured over fresh fruit and baked until it puffs. Eggy, but not custardy, if you get my drift. You can use just about any kind of fruit but the most commonly included are stone fruits such as cherries, peaches, apricots and nectarines.

A quick Google for "clafouti" will get you more recipes than you can handle but I still like the basic one Mrs. Child recorded in her classic, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." It is simplicity itself to make using only a blender, a couple of measuring cups and a pie plate, and it is a lovely early-summer dessert when the fruit is so ripe and perfect that you don't need to fancy it up. My Beloved and I like it a la mode but it's great all by itself and I can even recommend it for breakfast, although that really is wretched excess!

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Two Peas in a Pot

I had just too few English peas left over from my sea green soup and needed to augment them to round out our dinner, so I thought to add some snow peas that I had on hand, as I had to the soup.

I butter steamed them both and each was perfectly cooked in the same amount of time. The variety of size, fresh, fresh tastes and textures was really pretty jazzy.

Sometimes, the simplest solutions bring the most satisfaction.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Standing Rib Roast with a Twist

This is the very first pork roast I have seen in California that still had the bones attached. Intrigued, I purchased this 'way too large cut of meat and lugged it home.

I dressed the outside with thyme, sesame seeds and drizzles of soy sauce and olive oil, since most of the fat had been pared away at the store.

I had to consult Mrs. Rombauer to figure out how long to roast it; she said 30 minutes to the pound would do the trick. Even slightly overcooked, it was juicy and hearty, big chops that elicited
growly noises of pleasure from My Beloved as he carved them apart.

Should have invited our pal Jack for dinner, he of the enormous appetite. I couldn't finish my chop but it will make good stir-fry later in the week.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Trifling with Tradition

Having never tasted the traditional English dessert, trifle, and having a surfeit of ripe fruit on hand, I thought I might try to make one. When I started reading recipes online, however, I discovered that a key ingredient is a custard, something My Beloved is not really fond of, so instead I improvised.

I halved some store-bought lady fingers and alternated them with slices of ripe nectarine, filled the middle with raspberries and topped it off with a few strawberries.

I still needed a creamy something so I dove back into the fridge for my half carton of creme fraiche, doctored it up with the juice of half a lemon, a few drops of vanilla essence and a tiny bit of sugar, then drizzled it all over the fruit and down the lady fingers.

MB's eyes lit up.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sea Green Soup

Because I remembered, just as the last shrimp was being consumed at our Father's Day feast, Cookiecrumb's admonition to save all your crustacean shells, I threw all the tails in the fridge, never realizing how glad I would be to have them in the house.

You see, Cranky's gentle recipe for shellfish broth, plus a few fresh peas, snow pea pods and a little green onion, make a great re-entry into the world of eating after a nasty bout of food poisoning.

Not sure where I picked that up but it was ugly.

I made the broth to his recipe except I didn't have fennel fronds so I added a few anise fronds from my wild plant outside the front door.

Tasty. Goes down easily. Stays down. Yes, please. I'm going back to bed now.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Skinny Little Shrooms

Since tomatoes seem to be suspect these days, I'm sticking with green salads until the FDA figures out where the nasty ones came from. So, on Father's Day, when I was making dinner to celebrate two of my favorite Dads, I used a combination of red leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, frisee, green onions and red Swiss chard stems for crunchy color (pure serendipity that they matched the napkins so well) but, it wasn't really beautiful until I added the skinny little shrooms. I love these enoki mushrooms for their weird shape, mild taste and for the white fireworks they add to almost any dish. Plated on my favorite fused glass plates and over my mother's china, it made quite a pretty picture!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Waiting For The Repairman...

I had to be home for a four-hour window in which the dishwasher repairman was coming to look at our aging and ailing dishwasher. Secretly hoping that this one is past repair so I can justify the purchase of a new one that actually washes dishes and that doesn't immediately negate the possibility of conversation once it starts, still I felt compelled to see if the old one could be returned to useful service for the relatively minor cost of repair vs. replacement.

Whiling away the hours, I found in the fridge this dollop of egg salad left over from my lunch with Cookiecrumb and Moonbear, the perfect mid-day snack to interrupt the boredom. Turns out it's a good thing to invite food bloggers to lunch - they bring wonderful munchies along with them!

Moonbear's backyard hens produced the makings for this lovely salad from eggs so fresh that they had to be scooped out of their shells rather than peeled. That's a fascinating fact that I learned while Moonbear was mixing up the egg salad in my kitchen. Cookiecrumb brought a wonderful salad, too, which I'm hoping she will post about as it was beautiful as well as tasty. All I did was stand back, point out where the kitchen implements were, and sit down to a delicious lunch with them!

And, the next day, to another lovely meal. My hat's off to the hens! Now, if that dratted repairman would just come...

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Laid Back Chicken

One of these soft nearly-summer evenings, My Beloved and I were more in the mood for kicking back on the sofa with a glass of iced tea than for cooking, so we took the lazy man's (and woman's!) route to a delicious dinner, planking.

We loved planked food, both fish and poultry. It couldn't be easier and the results are reliably smoky, moist and scrumptious.

You can purchase thick planks from the chi-chi poo-poo cooking stores, four for about 20 bucks and, in theory, they are re-usable. We prefer the lumber store method where you can purchase virtually a lifetime supply of thin, untreated cedar shingles for about $30. They are not re-usable, but I think of that as one of their virtues - no washing, no fussing, just pitch 'em after they have delivered up their smoky essence to your delectation! If you decide to use the lumber store method, however, make doubly sure they are untreated cedar as you don't want fire retardant in your food.

I had a nice free-range, organic chicken in the fridge so all I did was wash the plank and the chicken in cold water, arrange said chicken on said plank, lay the plank on the grill over the white ash coals in our Weber grill, put on the cover and go chill on the sofa for an hour.

I guess we could have basted it or checked on it but we didn't - we just spent that hour chatting and relaxing. At the end of the hour, we took the chicken off the fire and let it "rest" for about 10 minutes before slicing while I steamed some greenie beanies to go alongside. The result was deeply smoky and juicy, even the white meat, and the skin was delightfully crisp and crackly. The perfect dinner for a lazy nearly-summer evening.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

My First Blog Award

I was tickled pink to return from vacation to find that Zoomie Station is one of the blogs that makes Anna's (of Anna's Cool Finds) day, so she gave me this award! The deal is that I now get to give the award to up to 10 of my favorite blogs, too! I have several faves listed on the right hand side of the blog but they bear repeating as all are well written, amusing and informative in one way or another.

"Orangette" is a perennial favorite of mine and not just because Molly is My Beloved's niece; she writes as much about her relationships with her family and friends as about the food - but the food is always swoony, too. She has become quite famous - we like to say we knew her when...

Cookiecrumb over at "I'm Mad and I Eat" always cracks me up while giving me lessons on effective, spare writing. A mixture of progressive politics and delicious non-recipes with occasional adorable pictures of her little dog, the aptly named Bean Sprout.

"Pluto Demoted" written by Cookiecrumb's hunky husband, Cranky, is a primer on writing with word choice that always leaves me thinking, "Damn, he's good!" He doesn't write very often but it's always grand when he does. Usually political but he moves around a bit.

"Meathenge." That says it all. The Master of All Things Meaty has spoken. Period.

"Thyme for Cooking" comes from KatieZ, an American expat living in France. She is hilariously funny, writes like an angel, and always includes drool-worthy recipes. I want to be Katie when I grow up.

"Becks and Posh" is a hip intro to San Francisco cuisine and night life. I wish I had been Sam before I grew up.

"Anna's Cool Finds" is one of the few dailies. Anna and her Dad find more places to eat in Marin County, California and the Bay area than you can shake a stick at.

I read "La Tartine Gourmande" when I want to try food that's really elegant and different. Written by a food stylist who could make shit on a shingle look like gourmet fare, this is the prettiest blog I read regularly. Great ideas for presentation and a truly French attitude toward food, not surprising as the writer is a Frenchwoman living in Boston.

"Tea and Cookies" is simply lush, lovely writing through and through. I met Tea once and loved her shy, sweet self immediately. I have writer's envy every time I read one of her posts.

"Gluten Free Girl" is another huge favorite of mine. I don't have a gluten allergy - I read Shauna's blog for the joyous descriptions of her life with the Chef and, now, with Little Bean, their soon-to-be-born baby.

That's 10 and I didn't even get to rhapsodize about "Cookblog" or "Oaktown Farm," both of which are wonderful. "Cookblog's" author was a personal chef for several years and is an artist - both are evident in the exquisite food he prepares for his family, and he can write like hell, too! The man is amazing. I love "Oaktown Farm," too - I always get a little bump of pleasure when there's a new post to read over there. Moonbear is thoughtful and thought-provoking, an urban farmer with hens in the back yard, raised beds in the front and a terrific command of the English language that's worth waiting for.

I could go on and on but I've already exceeded my quota. Thank you, Anna, for the honor of the award - I'm thrilled!


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Razzle Dazzle Dessert

The recipe for Frozen Raspberry Mousse in the July issue of Bon Appetit magazine happened to coincide with my big raspberry purchase at the farmer's market and a tub of leftover sour cream in my fridge - so I hastened to the store for the rest of the ingredients and set to work.

Look how pretty it turned out!

It's richer than I had anticipated although I should have known better from the list of ingredients. I had thought it would be a fitting end to a summer dinner and it is - but the dinner had better be a light one.
My Beloved and I were dazzled by the pretty color and the lively, rich taste of fresh raspberries and cream, so I served it to Cookiecrumb and Moonbear when they came to lunch. They approved.

Frozen Raspberry Mousse, adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, July 2008

6 servings

3 cups fresh raspberries, divided (about 16 oz.)
1-1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon kirsch (clear cherry brandy)
1-1/2 cups chilled heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sour cream (I'd try creme fraiche next time)
6 mint sprigs for garnish

Puree 2-1/2 cups of raspberries, powdered sugar and kirsch in a blender until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.
The recipe doesn't suggest removing the seeds but I did put the puree through a strainer to remove most of them and I think that's an important step - razzleberries are seedy little characters!

Using an electric mixer, beat cream in another large bowl until it forms firm peaks. Add sour cream and beat just to blend. Fold whipped cream mixture into raspberry puree just until incorporated.

Divide mousse among six 6-oz parfait glasses (I don't have those so used coffee cups), cover each with plastic wrap and freeze. About 2 hours before serving, place mousse in refrigerator to thaw slightly. Uncover mousse and top with remaining 1/2 cup of fresh raspberries. Garnish with mint sprigs and serve.

I think it would be possible to freeze the whole batch in a large container and spoon it out to serve - I didn't try that this time but, as one who is freezer space-challenged, I was tempted.

Easy to make and dazzlingly delicious.

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Friday, June 13, 2008


Dorothy Parker defined eternity as "A ham and two people." She was mostly right. However, at the Marin farmer's market this week I found Range Brothers Applewood Smoked Maple Ham, conveniently small and really tasty. We've been using it in all kinds of dishes.

Lunch after the market run was a new version of Cheese Dreams, toasted English muffins topped with ham and melted cheese smoked Gouda cheese.

For dinner, a tasty new version of "Ham and Swiss," coarsely chopped red Swiss chard sauteed lightly in the rendered fat from the maple ham "lardons."

Breakfast included fresh Marin Sun Farms eggs scrambled with more of the lardons.

At this rate, we'll need a new definition of eternity - it's going to be here 'way too soon.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer Song

Another reliable sign of summer's fast approach is the annual urge to cook outdoors. When I found half chickens at the Marin Sun Farms booth at the farmer's market, it seemed like a sign from heaven - not only did I not have to deal with the sad little heads and feet on their whole chickens, this is the perfect cut for the barbecue.

My Beloved built a small fire with the few pieces of charcoal we had left, positioning it to one side of our trusty Weber grill. I made a vinegary, tangy marinade from this and that and this, as my first father-in-law taught me to do, and settled the chicken down into it. When the fire was ready, the chicken went under the hood positioned a little away from the direct heat for about half an hour. We nibbled on the skin ever before plating it.
Oh, yeah! You can almost hear the rich contralto singing, "Summertime and the livin' is easy..."

This and That and This Barbecue Sauce, adapted from Dad Trenholme's recipe

Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Red wine vinegar
Fresh lemon juice
Dry mustard
Dry tarragon
Freshly ground black pepper
Minced garlic
Green onion, sliced
Fresh chopped parsley

I can't really give you proportions since I just play it by ear when I make this sauce. It's a little different each time and that's half the fun. Once you get it all mixed in, stick your finger in the sauce and taste - you'll know what you need to adjust.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Sweet Season

Recently, I went to the farmer's market over in Marin, dodging giant SUVs and baby strollers to bring home a bounty of fresh fruit.

First, the strawberries and now, in a delicious parade, the cherries, raspberries and nectarines. These were white nectarines, dripping with flavor and so unbelievably sweet. All I did was slice them into a bowl, add a few raspberries and cherries for My Beloved who loves variety and plunked them on the table. Later, I'll feel jaded enough to make them into something but, for now, we are simply relishing the return of the sweet season.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Delish Fish

My Virginia brother's wife, Ann, is an amazing cook. She has the background for it, having been to the Cordon Bleu in Paris to take classes when she and my bro were stationed there. When we visit her, she always makes killer meals - cassoulet that takes her three days to make, Cotelettes Pojarsky rich with butter and cream and, this time, Zucchini-Wrapped Fish Fillets.

She used salmon for her version and it was really pretty with the pink salmon peeking out of the fresh green wrapping but I wanted to try halibut both because it's less threatened here in the west and because I thought the flavors of halibut, basil, lemon and zucchini would meld well. Both versions are really delicious and the wrapping keeps the fish wonderfully moist. While it is fairly simple to prepare, it makes an elegant presentation and looks much more difficult than it really is, once you get the knack of shaving the zucchinis very, very thinly. She adapted hers from the recipe on so if you go there and do a search for Zucchini-Wrapped Fish Fillets, you'll have the basic recipe and can do your own riffs on this swish and delish fish dish!

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Monday, June 9, 2008

End-of-Vacation Veggies

One of the things that's hard to find when on vacation and eating mostly in restaurants is good, fresh veggies. American restaurants tend to huge cuts of meat and spuds but generally speaking are light on the veggies. One of the joys of returning home is veggie-rich meals.

Investigating the contents of the crisper after ten days away, I discovered four different veggies that really needed eating. Some of the sugar snap pea pods were past their prime but the peas inside were still plump and sweet. The onion needed an extra layer of peeling, but then was fine. The greenie beanies were a tad past prime but the carrots were still firm and fresh. I managed to harvest enough good ones and cut them all into bite-size pieces for a quick stir-fry in reserved bacon fat. Nothing too fancy but comforting, kinda like being home again after vacation.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Monday Night Bargain

Returning from our trip to the East coast, My Beloved and I were not in the mood to cook that evening, so we strolled down to the Hotel Mac, a landmark in our little town of Point Richmond, to see if they would make dinner for us.

It was a Monday evening and we discovered that not only would they cook for us, they have bargain dinners on Mondays. Each entree was 15-50% less than it would have been any other night of the week. Needless to say, we stayed!

This picture represents less than half of the dinner they served to me. When the menu reads "Rack of Lamb," know that they serve each person an entire rack, plus greens and roast potatoes. Regularly $32.00, it costs $24.00 on Mondays.

We had ordered the potato cake you see here and a (huge) dish of mushrooms thinking that there were no veggies offered with the meal - when the full plates arrived, we asked the waiter to bring us a doggie bag even before we started eating - there was no way we could eat all we had ordered! Even without the extra side dishes, we'd have been pressed to finish the generous servings. We filled four doggie bags.

The Hotel Mac serves good, solid American food choices with some elegance, a nicely quiet atmosphere and attentive service. My Beloved and I plan to extend our weekends with Monday night dinners at the Hotel Mac from now on because it means that Tuesday night's dinner is covered, as well, and possibly lunch on Wednesday. If you're looking for a sumptuous dinner at a reasonable price, we can highly recommend the Hotel Mac Mondays!

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Gift of the Gods

After such a sumptuous meal, I had no room for dessert so I just ordered coffee and contented myself with watching my brother, who is an amazing trencherman, devour his rich confection.

As a surprise from the chef (there was an amuse bouche to start, as well, which I forgot to photograph), we were served a tiny bowl of yuzu gelee topped with shreds of basil and a single, ripe blackberry. Lovely, lively, light, refreshing, the perfect ending to one of the best meals it has been my pleasure to savor. It wasn't just good - it was San Francisco good! High praise, indeed.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Piece de Resistance

What can I say? Filet of beef is always a wonderful choice but at FarrahOlivia it is offered with such intriguing sides and sauces that it reaches a whole other level of heaven. The big brown tadpole on the plate was raisin emulsion, sweet but also savory, possibly with onion; the square dish held black corn truffles, a fungus that grows on corn - my brother and I agreed that it was fancypants succotash; the little dab of dark powder next to the filet was a mixture of espresso and chili powders, like a rub but not burned by cooking.

The piece de resistance for me was the cauliflower flan, so delicate in texture and flavor that it deserved its very own plate, possibly its very own pedestal on which to place the plate. It was like an offering to an exacting god.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Painted Soup

My choice for the second course at FarrahOlivia was their Painted Soup, a savory-sweet mixture of two kinds of soup decorated with a green swizzle of herbal oil. The pale yellow side was yukon potato with gruyere cheese and leek cream; the orange swirl tasted of gingered carrot. Each taste was as distinct as its color and yet they complemented each other wonderfully. One of those dishes where you hate to dip a spoon in and spoil the perfection but the scents wafting up from the bowl are irresistible temptation. The whole meal was pure self indulgence so what the heck!

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Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Playful Caesar

My Virginia brother and his wife have lived in Paris for five years during two tours of duty during his Navy career. He seems to have concentrated on learning about wines while she attended classes at the Cordon Bleu;
needless to say, when we visit them, I have high expectations. They have a way of finding really, really good restaurants, even in places like Rochester, NY where ziti with red sauce from a can is considered a culinary highlight.

This time, my expectations were exceeded. We dined at a restaurant called FarrahOlivia by Morou in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia, where my first course was a delightfully silly deconstructed Caesar salad. All the pieces were there, wonderfully fresh and beautifully presented - left to right at the top, fresh sardines as a riff on the usual anchovies, Caesar dressing in a tangy pool, and crisp, crisp bread crumbs rather than croutons which might have been difficult to eat in this way. The lettuce was sliced lengthwise to present both young and mature leaves, drizzled with dressing and punctuated by a delicate, flavorful parmesan cheese custard.

He has done it again, my Virginia brother. Stay tuned for the rest of the meal...

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

East Coast Fish

This doesn't look like much - the restaurant, Friends & Company on the Boston Post Road in Madison, Connecticut, was dark - but it was one of the best meals I enjoyed back east. Simple but full of flavor, a nice piece of salmon was encased along with green beans, slices of red bell pepper and chunks of redskin potatoes in a sheet of parchment paper and baked. Opening the parchment to release the fragrant steam is like opening a gift - delicious anticipation! I might have added a little dill to the mix but even without it, this was a great way to prepare moist, perfectly cooked fish. I've never tried this technique at home even though I have a big box of parchment paper languishing in my drawer - this will be inspiration for a number of simple summer meals!

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Monday, June 2, 2008

Pig Heaven

Whenever I go to North Carolina to visit my sister, I am hopeful of finding really good pork barbecue. People in southern Virginia and North Carolina really get pig dishes. We just returned from a visit to my sister and, yes, I found a good pork sandwich on the way there.

Interstate 85 at this time of year is a long, straight, spring green tunnel heading south from Richmond. The road signs advertised depressingly familiar fare such as McDonalds and Burger King until we noted a sign for Rumorz Cafe. It was time for a pit stop anyway, so why not try this unknown name?

Rumorz is local. Southern local. Good ol' boy local. Y'all local. The customers were all known to the waitresses and to each other. Soft southern greetings accompanied each entry and exit. The waitress called the patrons "honey" and patted some of them on the head as she passed by their table. And the pork sandwich was my dream come true, big chunks of deeply smoked pork with Rumorz's vinegary, tangy sauce on the side, enough to smother the meat if you like slathered but not just dumped on in case you prefer dabs to slathers. The french fries weren't good but I couldn't have eaten them anyway after this man-sized sandwich and the little cup of cole slaw was the perfect accompaniment to literal and figurative Pig Heaven.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Lovers' Moons

My Beloved and I have a long history with what we call the Mystery Restaurant - when we were reconnecting after almost 30 years apart, we kept trying to get to this restaurant but would end up mysteriously - ahem - not getting there.

Now that we are old married folks of many years, we get there fairly often and have never had a bad meal in 12 years. Its real name is Salute and it's in the Marina Bay area of Richmond. It has a beautiful marina view with San Francisco silhouetted across the bay, quirky waiters and solidly good food.

The last time we made it there, I ordered the lobster mezzelune di aragosta, generous half moon raviolis filled with lobster and ricotta cheese, and presented in this attractive fan with red and green accents. The waiter told us his life story charmingly while taking our order and the moon was full and bright that night. While I loved all the times we tried to get to Salute before we actually made it, I'm happy that we finally did.

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