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!!

Out the Door

The weather is miraculously turning warm again and I get the itch to once again wax poetic about the final glory days of summer. Living in a small house(boat), I find that as long as it is nice outside I am finding things to do there.  So this is that.

The scene from a sunset sail for lovely Carolyn’s birthday. Looking at this building made me feel like I was in on the secret world of sailors, privy to the scene that awaits them every time they pull in to port. Never knowing if they will spend the night carousing or wind up getting Shanghaied.

Krysta, a long time employee of our Pt Reyes shop, got married on her parent’s property in Occidental. She did all of the decorating herself, stringing together bits of colored paper and stacking bales of hay for a perfect country scene.

Eating outdoors with Mayu in front of her mom’s newly constructed ceramic studio.

The two acre property in San Anselmo recently purchased by my folks!

Jesse the magical little step sister, chicken whisperer and fashion icon.

By the end of four days visiting my family in Boulder I can safely say that I did wrangle a chicken or two. Once you grab them they are pretty easy going. I will, however, never come close to the gall this little three year old has, snatching up the fastest and wildest of them all without flinching.  Farmer girl I am not…

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!

Summer is…

..Sarah’s chilled tomato soup with buttermilk panna cotta.

 

…french doors flung open to sea air, calm water and seagulls.

 

…a trip to Stinson at least once a week, even in a deep fog it is still my favorite place to be. And Nash’s too.

 

…the joy of living in an area where I can still discover new places. First trip to Alpine Lake, a scene from the Sierras just a few miles outside of Fairfax. Who knew!

Living in the Bay Area where summer is such a ephemeral thing, one has to be very conscious of enjoying every increase in temperature, every blue sky and every free hour. Let’s get out there and eat it up!

 

 

 

Viva!

A few shots from our stay at the lovely Casa Escondida in Sayulita, north of Puerto Vallarta. We broke the camera on day two, so this is all we’ve got! Sadly missed taking pictures of the unbelievable carne asada tacos and shrimp chile rellenos…luckily taste buds never forget a good meal. It was pushing 95 every day, humidity through the roof, Kyle turned 30 and we thanked god for the little swimming pool. Mexico te encanta!

 

Hello Summer!

Meet the sweet new Pierce Point. She’s been re-tooled for 2011 with a new mix of herbs: field flowers, chamomile, calendula and Thai basil. This was one of the first test batches and determined the mix that made the cut. The basil rocks! I am really loving the flavor it brings. Supposedly this will be the year we finally have four seasonal cheeses. Get it, one for each season! The 4th is in the works, we’re looking for a Fall cheese and I can’t wait to see what they decide. There have been some interesting combinations so far…mum’s the word, but keep an eye out in September for something new!

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.

One blue to rule them all

Bayley Hazen Blue. The best name in the business and perhaps my favorite domestic blue cheese.  Mateo and Andy Kehler make this beautiful blue way out in the Vermont countryside. They use raw milk from their small herd of Ayrshire cows which produce brightly yellow, rich milk. You can taste the cow in this cheese, which I personally love. Don’t be shy! There is just enough blue, deep dark espresso notes and hints of sweet cream. It is drier than a Stilton but looks just like a miniature version of it, with it’s tall tower shape and clean, suede like rind. While there was recently a good amount of variation in the flavors of this cheese, it is back on track with Mateo taking over cheesemaking again. I could eat it till the cows come home.

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!