Posts from the ‘Chewing and Swallowing’ Category

Just another dinner on the dreamboat

Why not start with a cold carrot soup from Thomas Keller pooled around a garlic panna cotta? Of guests on the dreamboat my sole demand is that they imbibe with great voraciousness whatever is placed before them. The following is from a dinner made for my dear carpoolers who pick me up and drop me off five days a week, all the while entertaining my ridiculous stories. It was an unparalleled evening with such intense laughter that my poor little stomach muscles were aching the next day.

“In Another Time” from the guys at Embury Cocktails. Made with the ever smooth Basil Hayden’s bourbon, turbinado ginger syrup and fresh squeezed grapefruit juice. We enjoyed this with a spread from Fatted Calf: pork rillette, petit sec and prosciutto along with bites of addictive “green eggs”. We could probably have stopped there. But why?! Following the carrot soup was duck breast with wild mushrooms and apricots paired with a crisp white salad. But wait, there’s more!

Triple Coconut Cream Pie!! From the illustrious Tom Douglas of Seattle.

To all guests of the dreamboat, thank you and please come again! (View of the boat across from ours: “The Lighthouse”)

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Devilish Little Things

When old friends come to town, all the stops are pulled. Sarah made a spectacular chicken fry for her best bud and crew, with all the fixings including stewed Rancho Gordo beans, collards the size of a small baby cooked down to nothing with a ham hock, and of course, beet pickled deviled eggs. They were even more delightful to eat than to look at. My favorite was the whiskey sour made with her own brandied cherries that I just kept popping all night long. They’re like candy!

Better than being a great cook yourself is having friends who are.  Thank you Hodgie!!

Gathering Mustard Flowers while walking the dog

Hodge and I had a spectacular meal cooked by Ed Vigil at Vin Antico the other night. Of course I have a soft spot for his cooking, since he’s the one who trusted me with knife and flame 6 years ago by giving me my first kitchen job. But we did not make dishes like the above at The Olema Inn. Amazing as that food was, it’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of a chef, and Ed has changed a lot in the past year. The photo shows Agnolotti filled with ground pork belly, chicken, morel mushrooms and ricotta, surrounded by an uni broth and topped with wild mustard flowers gathered by Ed on his morning walk with the dogs. It pretty much far and away knocked my socks off.

Le Weekend

Folks in Sausalito most likely thought Samara and I were either crazy or hookers the other day when we left for Calistoga. Seeing as there were billows of fog and gales of drizzly wind, I can understand that our outfits probably looked a little out of place. But we were driving north! To Calistoga! That magical tippy top of the valley that managed to be both funky and fancy all in one. I rarely head up there anymore so I seized the opportunity to call on some of my customers to show us a good time. It was the best! We started with a never ending three hour brunch on the deck at Auberge du Soleil. Paul Lemiuex, the pastry chef there who I have worked with now for two years, sent us course after course, champagne after bellini, and even sent us away with goody bags. It was such a pleasure.

Above is the fifth and final course, a little chocolate purse alongside arbequina olive oil and tarragon ice cream. Somehow we managed to fit it all in.

Following brunch we retired to Indian Springs for a siesta by the olympic sized mineral pool. I can safely say that Indian Springs is my most favorite place I have ever stayed. It is lovely without feeling too fancy, retro without feeling old, and clean without feeling sterile. The arid hillsides around us were a perfect backdrop to the turquoise waters pumped in from the geyser next to the pool. If left uncapped, those geysers would push forty feet into the air 24 hours a day!

Somehow we managed to drag ourselves away from the pool for a private tasting at Quintessa. I have worked with Marcelo for years and I finally made it out for a visit. He took us around the property in their Range Rover, through the 150 unplanted acres left to maintain the balance of the land, which include a huge lake and massive white and live oak forests. We learned almost everything there is to know about Quintessa, and did a 2006, 2007 and 2008 tasting of their wine.  I had no idea they only made one wine a year, always a different blend from the five Bordeaux varietals they plant. Only about 10% goes into their bottles, the rest of the juice is sold off! The place is clearly a labor of love.

They had a few of these gratitude trees around the property at Indian Springs, where you write what you are grateful for on a little card and tie it to a branch to flap in the wind. I feel so grateful to be alive and active and be able to spend weekends like these. And grateful for a best friend to spend such a special time with!

Tinsel Town Grub Down

When away from home, the “sites” that I most like to visit are, always and consistently, restaurants. Same goes for a quick weekend jaunt to LA. Kyle had a Jonata event going at the Wine House on Sunday, so I met him down there and we did the So Cal thing for one hot minute. I have quite a few customers down there as well, which means many amazing restaurants to visit and chefs to meet. The above photo are David’s snap peas with soffrito at Gjelina in Venice. I do not think it is possible to eat a better tasting vegetable dish.

Housemade Merguez sausage and sauerkraut at Gjelina

Dinosaur kale with yogurt dressing and hazelnuts, Gjelina nails the vegetables again

The scene at Lucques, Suzanne Goin’s iconic restaurant. Kyle brought a fabulous bottle and we dined facing the patio.

Breakfast at BLD. Their famous ricotta blueberry pancakes. Excuse me miss, I believe I ordered the large pancakes, hello!

Kyle and TK at the Silverlake Jubilee, in front of the food trucks. We had a tofu banh mi and Vietnamese Nachos.

One of the best parts? Flying in and out of the brand spanking new Terminal Two at SFO on Virgin America. Have you ever been in a new terminal? Probably not, they were all built in the 70s. This place is beautiful. They were playing music as you go through security. I bought a smoothie from the Plant Cafe Organic stand. I also bought kale chips from the Napa Farms (coming off a week of juicing I was easing back in to eating…). Never before have I enjoyed my time in the airport so much.

La Cuisine Francaise

Last week I put up a proper French meal for the Smith’s. I was really yearning to do something extra fabulous, and then Mrs. Smith said that they had recently taken a “sauce”class and that the mister was currently obsessed with all things French sauce related. Hodgie mentioned the Duck Shepherds Pie (Hachis Parmentier) recipe from the Balthazar cookbook she had always wanted to make. I marched right out to buy my first pair(s) of duck legs.

The little legs marinated for 24 hrs. in TWO bottles of cabernet, along with the mirepoix (Wednesday, 9pm).

Thursday: I browned ’em up and in they went to the Le Creuset filled with the marinating liquid and some rich stock. Of course I got my timing all screwed up and had to wait up until 1am to take these puppies out of the oven. The smells alone kept me wide awake.

Which brings us to Friday after work. I had removed the duck legs from the cooking liquid the night before once they were falling-off-the-bone tender. Pulled meat from bones and set aside. Back to the sauce: from being in the fridge all day the fat had thankfully separated itself from the rest of the sauce, and was very easy to skim off the top. I further reduced the incredibly rich stock down, combined it with the pieces of duck meat and veg, and spooned them into the ramekins. They are topped with a celery root/potato/parsnip puree and parmesan. Then baked!

That was some hot bubbly goodness.

Not pictured here were our first courses: Rhubarb Puree cocktail with Hendrick’s gin and basil followed by Halibut Crudo simply dressed in olive oil, salt, lemon juice and chives.

Doing as my Aunt Lisette does in her apartment in Paris, we followed the main course with cheese and salad. The cheeses from left to right: Casatica di Bufala, Hyku, Cabot Clothbound, Tome de Chalosse.

And to always finish with something sweet, a Tarte Tatin! With Cowgirl Creme Fraiche of course.

I can say that no one left hungry. I overestimated the size of P.S.’s stomach and I fear he left hurting. R.S. was buzzed from the post dinner espresso. The houseboaters were tipsy. It was a sure success!

hot oil bath

Something really tickled my fancy after taking Nash out for a jog along the Sausalito-Mill Valley bike path the other day. The first Alaskan salmon of the season are out there is no denying, it simply is the best salmon on the planet. A few years ago I made this dish from Paula Wolfert’s book The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen and it came back to haunt me. It is a beautiful ritual, heating a copious amount of olive oil slowly in a pan, letting the garlic brown then removing it, adding fresh thyme and then once it is at a good, low temperature sliding the salmon in until just covered. One must hover by the stove to maintain such a low temp, remember we are poaching, not boiling. The salmon is done once it can flake which took about twenty minutes. The outside will look cooked and the inside will be my favorite way to eat salmon, raw. Soft, melt in your mouth raw. No chewing necessary, it is really that tender.

As if that spectacular way to cook a piece of fish wasn’t enough, Wolfert tops it with a salad of shaved raw rhubarb and cucumber laced with mint. The tartness of the rhubarb is tempered with a good ten minutes of salting, but it is still there, melding beautifully with the rich sweetness of the fish. This dish would be just as beautiful served over a plate of buttered bulgar wheat as with the lemony arugula shown here.

Yes, it is an awful lot of olive oil to use for just one dish, but the proof is in the pudding, it’s so worth it!