Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Winter Potpie.

I woke up with a mean craving for chicken pot pie.  I can't even remember the last time I actually ate a chicken pot pie, but for some reason, today was the day.  I suppose I hadn't realized how simple it was to make (using a few time-saving shortcuts)- I'm glad I looked into it though because the pot pie came out f-a-n-t-a-s-t-i-c.  The combination of it's thick roux, market vegetables, buttery crust and tender chicken warms the tummy and soul.  I can't wait for the hubbs to get home so he can ogle and enjoy this basic family favorite...

*Homemade Chicken Pot Pie*
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves - cubed
1 cup sliced carrots
1 cup green peas, shelled
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp celery seed
1 3/4 cups chicken broth
2/3 cup milk
2 (9 inch) unbaked pie crusts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C.)

In a saucepan, combine chicken, carrots, peas, and celery. Add water to cover and boil for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and set aside.

In the saucepan over medium heat, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent. Stir in flour, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Slowly stir in chicken broth and milk. Simmer over medium-low heat until thick. Remove from heat and set aside.

Place the chicken mixture in bottom pie crust. Pour hot liquid mixture over. Cover with top crust, seal edges, and cut away excess dough. Make several small slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown and filling is bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

I consider this to be a little dish of delish.  Savory, hearty and chock full of yummy organics.  This is certainly going on our list of winter meals-  cozy up, dig in and enjoy!

Be well & stay warm,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Curry in a Hurry.

I've spoken about my love of spice for some time now, but I've never shared one of my favorite saucy recipes with you folks- I can't believe it!  I discovered this recipe a while ago and have been indulging at least once a month in it's curry goodness.  Now mind you, this is not an Indian curry- it's a very spicy yellow Thai curry that will singe your tongue off.  We love it, I'm sure you'll love it too.  I served it up the other night with some sauteed baby bok choi and stuffed jalapeno peppers, both of which are also easy to make in a flash.  You can buy bok choi at your local farmer's market, asian foods market or even Trader Joe's.  I simply stuffed the jalapeno's with an artisan low-fat cream cheese, sprinkled them with fresh ground pepper and popped them in the broiled until blistered.  The hubbs agreed, this meal is a monthly must...

*Spicy Yellow Thai Curry Beef*
1lb of top sirloin filet steaks
12 chilies (dried, soaked and chopped)
2 tsps ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
3/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 bunch cilantro
2 tsps minced garlic
1/4 cup shallot (chopped)
1 stalk lemongrass (chopped)
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsps fish sauce
1 1/2 tsps fresh lime juice
1 can coconut milk

I buy two 1/2 pound steaks and slice them in half, creating four slim, whole steaks.  Take a meat tenderizer and pound each steak until very thin.  Slice each steak in half lengthwise (8 strips total) and place in mixing bowl.

In food processor, combine all other ingredients until smooth. Pour over steaks and marinate for at least one hour.

Once steaks are marinated, drop steaks in large casserole dish and cover with sauce.  Place in 425 degree oven for 45 minutes.  The steaks will braise in the sauce the entire time.  Sauce will be think when removed from oven but will thick as it cools.  Sprinkle fresh cilantro on steaks and serve.  I love to lightly saute extra fresh sliced ginger and sprinkle it on top as well.

Just a warning:  there won't be any leftovers, so make plenty!

Esporao and Twenty Five Lusk.

Last week, the hubbs and I were invited to experience "A Journey to Portugal with Esporao and Winemaker David Baverstock", courtesy of Benson Marketing and the lovely Tia Butts.  The event was to take place at San Francisco's Twenty Five Lusk, an industrial-chic hideaway located in the heart of SOMA.   This was an experience I was very much looking forward to because A) I heart everything about Portugal and B) I'd never heard of Twenty Five Lusk and was greatly intrigued.  The hubbs was covering the wine part, while I, of course, was interested in the tremendous food.  With the promise of a four-course tasting meal, an education on the wines of Portugal and the privilege of meeting the good people of Esporao, I didn't have to think twice about attending.

I refer to Twenty Five Lusk as a "hideaway" due to it's sublime, hush-hush location right off of Townsend Street.  A welcome departure from typical San Francisco restaurant lounges, Twenty Five Lusk shimmers with it's deconstructed 1917 brickhouse facade (formerly a meatpacking facility), and it's welcoming plate glass entryway.  They manage to put a modern twist on classic workhorse architecture, leaving beams and concrete exposed, while keeping a sleek, sexy look to newly added features.  Glass, steel and stone prevail in this dimly lit urban haven-- whether it's the restaurant upstairs you are visiting or the uber-hip lounge downstairs you desire.

"Executive Chef Matthew Dolan and General Manager Chad Bourdon met in culinary school and twelve years later, they have teamed up to deliver flawless cuisine served with the highest attention to detail. Their commitment to approachable fine-dining makes Twenty Five Lusk the ideal drinking and dining destination for San Franciscans and visitors alike."

As I wandered downstairs into the bustling lounge and through the maze-like black marbled walls past the inviting back lit bar, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Is the food this attractive?"  Having visited so many restaurants in the past few years, it's common to come across a pretty environment with not so pretty food, all-show-no-go as they say.  This is absolutely not the case at Twenty Five Lusk

From the moment I was seated in their private dining room, I was truly impressed with their cuisine.  "Approachable fine-dining" is the perfect way to describe their unique style in the kitchen.  Once we were all settled in, wine started flowing and the food began to arrive.  All food was paired with delightful Portuguese wine, specifically intended to complement the dishes.  The first nibbles were the Truffle Popcorn and Ahi Cucumber Tartare...

The popcorn was melt-in-your-mouth delicious with just the right amount of truffle and salt.  Our table ended up battling for the bowl until each kernel had disappeared.  A success of a starter.  The Ahi was served in single chilled spoon- great flavor and freshness, not too overpowered by seasoning.  These bites were paired with a light 2011 Verdelho, light and clean on the palate.

Next we were served (my first favorite) Seared Diver Scallops with Dungeness crab, watercress and a Meyer lemon buerre blanc.  The scallops were cooked perfectly, not too firm and delicately seared to a light crisp.  A full bite containing the crab, scallop and watercress was decadent- if I could claim a signature dish for myself, this would be it.  So. Good.  The hubbs concurred.  I would've loved to sit there all night with my Arco Esporao 2010 and reveled in the tastiness. 

I felt spoiled when the Smoked Duck Breast with Parmesan spaetzle, huckleberry and basil course arrived.  I had just eaten pristine scallops and now I'm being served duck?  My goodness.  This dish had a surprising flavor to it- I am not a terribly big fan of anything "smoked" unfortunately, so I found the distinct taste a little overwhelming.  The bird was presented beautifully, the spaetzle was tasty when mixed with the unusual combination of berries and basil, but overall the duck dish was on the lower end of the spectrum for me.  To the restaurant's credit, I thought the portion and plating of the smoked duck was incredibly impressive.  This dish was paired with the 2009 Esporao Reserva Red.

When the Roast Suckling Pig was delivered to us, I thought I'd died and gone to foodie heaven.  Wrapped in prosciutto with roasted shallots, hazelnut powder in a sauce au poivre, this dish was the foodie equivalent of pure bliss.  It was like eating a tender, juicy, savory on the inside crispy, sweet on the outside cannelloni made completely of pork.  Not a knife in the dining room was needed.  I'd be curious to know how exactly this dish is prepared, whether it's roasted or baked or constructed after the elements have been cooked.  No matter, it was by far my second favorite dish of the night.  The 2008 Quinta dos Murcas was the perfect red to sip while enjoying the suckling pig.

Overall, this was an amazing meal at Twenty Five Lusk and I would certainly return.  The restaurant would make for a particularly sultry date night meal, a meal between friends or a gathering of companions downstairs cozied up to one of their suspended fireplaces.  The service is classy and attentive, and the food is downright thumbs-up worthy.

The folks from Esporao did an outstanding job at satiating the hungry minds of wine industry individuals that night by co-mingling, sharing stories, laughter and insight into Portugal's expansive wine regions.  They were bright and funny, well-spoken and incredibly warm people who were eager to share their knowledge and wine with the lot of us.  I very much appreciate being in attendance at this intimate gathering of writers, winemakers and industry professionals.  A big thank you to Tia Butts and Benson Marketing for their invitation to the event- it was a wonderful evening.  And thank you again to Esporao and the staff at Twenty Five Lusk.


Stay tuned with Vinopanion for reviews on Esporao's wonderful wines!

*photos 2, 3 & 4 courtesy of 25lusk.com


Monday, October 22, 2012

Cozy Day.

My house smells like heaven right now.  I almost always, every single year, end up baking on the first rainy day of the season.  I woke up this morning at about 3:30 am to the sound of sprinkles passing through the leaves of our blossoming pear trees and could barely contain my excitement.  I was up and out of bed with the birds, plotting my day of cooking, baking and cool weather nesting at home.  I'm a huge fan of summer, but I love the winter, especially when it comes to cozy foods. 

As I was poking through my refrigerator taking inventory, I realized I had buried a small bag of market apples that I'd strangely forgotten about.  Not wanting to change out of my toasty pajamas (or waste some perfectly good apples), so I decided to throw together a quick-bread muffin recipe using ingredients I had in my cupboard already.  Simple, delicious and surprisingly light.

*Honey Apple Muffins*
2 cups of all purpose baking flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tbsp golden brown sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 cup apples, cored/chopped

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a muffin tin and set aside.  Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  In a separate small bowl, beat egg whites lightly.  In a third mixing bowl combine all wet ingredients and mix well.  Fold the egg whites gently into the dry bowl.  Once the egg whites have been mixed in, add the contents of the wet bowl into the dry mixture.  Add the apple chunks last.  Gently fold and mix until properly combined- the mixture will be thick.  Fill each muffin tin/cup halfway, place in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until caps are nicely browned.

I would absolutely love to sit on the couch and eat the whole tin of these little treats in the next couple hours BUT, I have to leave room for dinner *wink*.  I told the hubbs he could take the batch to work in the morning for his lovely coworkers to enjoy, so I hope they do.  Now I'm off to prep this evening's meal...  An insanely delicious braised Thai green curried beef, full of fresh ginger and garlic, served on top of crunchy baby bok choy.  Stay tuned for that recipe as well!

Stay warm and comfy,


Thursday, October 18, 2012


Friends, readers, fellow foodies... Lend me your ear.  I've just spent the last few hours exploring the depths of this amazing website-  Yummly.  Words cannot express my excitement.  With the promise of being able to "search every recipe in the world", how can one NOT be thrilled?  They had me at hello, but once I began to navigate my way around the incredibly user-friendly database, I was absolutely hooked.  So simple!  Enter ingredients, keywords, food hopes/wishes/dreams and *boop* tons of recipes appear right before your eyes.  Save and organize your favorite recipes, get reccomendations on the food you love, share your findings with friends- you can even find nutrition facts, allergy related info and dietary guidelines for every dish you make.  A serious database for seriously devoted food lovers.  Check out their recent press release:   

*Yummly Serves Up the Ultimate Kitchen Tool*

Powerful New Site Redesign Delivers Cutting-Edge User Experience and Technology

PALO ALTO, CA – October 10, 2012 – Yummly, the leading digital kitchen and recipe search platform, today announced the launch of their redesigned website for their over 7.5 million unique visitors. Announced in conjunction with Yummly’s new revolutionary native advertising platform, Yummly Advertising, the new Yummly unveils a fresh design that delivers an easy, beautiful and innovative experience for the more than 183M cooking enthusiasts in America today.

“The evolution of Yummly boils down to one simple ingredient – the user. The Yummly redesign sets the stage for the continued expansion and evolution of the Yummly digital kitchen platform to become an invaluable online resource for foodies and cooks of all skill levels,” says David Feller. “With over 7.5 million visitors to the site, the new and improved Yummly delivers on this core vision to provide an intuitive, visually-rich tool for each person to discover the recipes they love and enjoy based on their taste preferences.”

Recipes Redesigned: Yummly’s New Take on Cooking

Launched in April of 2010 by cofounders David Feller and Vadim Geshel, Yummly’s food and recipe platform understands recipes from across the Internet and match them with its users' tastes.

Designed with simplicity and usability in mind, the new Yummly redesign mixes a scoop of high tech and a healthy dash of user feedback to provide a vastly improved user experience. The company will also be rolling out additional features and enhancements to the site over the next few weeks.

New features of the Yummly Ultimate Kitchen Tool include:

· New Branding: Created to evoke the true essence of Yummly, the new Yummly logo reminds users to just say “Yum” as they peruse the best recipes from notable cookbooks, bloggers and food sites from across the web.

· A Remodeled Digital Kitchen: The new and improved Yummly features a fresh, dynamic visual interface for food lovers everywhere. Seasoned chefs and novice cooks can customize their searches, based off their tastes and dietary needs, paving the way for the ultimate personalized recipe collection.

· Yummly Ratings: Incorporating ratings and reviews from a variety of sources across the web – including popular food sites, social media channels and from within the Yummly community – Yummly’s standardized recipe ratings system analyzes user feedback, source reputation and social media impact of the recipe to provide the most comprehensive assessment of a recipe’s quality.

· The Yum Button & Social Integration: As part of their individual settings, users can utilize the pervasive Yum button to share their discoveries and favorite recipes on Facebook. Simply “Yum” a recipe and that endorsement will seamlessly appear as an update on the user’s Facebook Timeline and Newsfeed through Facebook Open Graph.

· Enhanced Imagery: Care to see what’s cooking? The new Yummly interface understands that sight is as important a sense as taste when it comes to meal preparation, offering over 100,000 new vivid, mouthwatering photographs from various recipe source sites to spotlight the visual experience of cooking and eating.

· More Cooks In the Kitchen: Yummly is adding additional recipe sources, so food lovers can do one universal search to find their perfect recipe versus visiting multiple sites. With our exclusive Yummly rating, deciding which recipe will be easier than ever.

· Yummly Advertising: Yummly Advertising’s native online advertising platform features integrated, contextual and useful ad placement within recipe search results, providing the Yummly cooking community with comprehensive brand suggestions.

· What’s on the Menu at Yummly? Yummly’s approach to 2013 will take the user out of the kitchen and into the market. Whether it’s the supermarket, farmers’ market or specialty market, Yummly’s multi-layered mobile strategy will enable users to efficiently shop and plan for their meals.

Yummly’s Digital Kitchen Platform: The Key Ingredients

Yummly offers a growing database of over 500k recipes, aggregated from leading recipe sites, cookbooks and advanced partnerships from leading food and beverage brands – all of which are searchable by ingredient, diet, allergy, nutrition, price, cuisine, time, taste, meal courses and sources. Yummly’s semantic search capabilities improve recipe search accuracy over other recipe sites by understanding a user's food intent and contextual meaning, ultimately generating more relevant results.

With an active community of over 7.5M users and counting, the adjustment and analysis of these recipe parameters to suit individual needs can generate large sets of personalized search data in real-time. To accommodate this continuous growth of data, and to harness insights from it, Yummly’s digital food platform underwent notable foundational changes, with the majority of the technology stack built using open source software.

Yummly’s new architecture features the following new technologies:

· Web-services: The Yummly development team constructed the new site by utilizing Yummly’s publicly available APIs. Taking full advantage of these web services, Yummly engineers plan to serve as an influence to and collaborate with other third party developers.

· Node.js. Infrastructure: The Yummly development team leveraged Node.js to develop both the front and back-end codebase. Blurring the distinction between the two codebases, this strategy leveraged skill sets between the two codebase areas and maximized the entire engineering team, resulting in a faster development cycle.

· Faster Search: The Yummly team also invested time and resources in their search infrastructure, improving search performance 5x.

“Yummly has leveraged open source software and advanced algorithms to deliver unprecedented sophistication and understanding of food data to help food lovers efficiently and precisely find great recipes," said Vadim Geshel, CTO of Yummly. "The incorporation of Node.js code into Yummly's infrastructure, among other open source systems and databases, maximizes both site productivity and search performance.”

About Yummly

Yummly’s mission is to create the ultimate digital kitchen platform. Headquartered in the heart of Silicon Valley, Yummly is backed by Physic Ventures, Unilever Corporate Ventures, First Round Capital, Harrison Metal Capital, Intel Capital, and The Harvard Common Press. Its founding angel investors and advisory board include: Jeff Jordan (partner at Andreessen Horowitz), Bill Cobb (CEO, H&R Block), Justin LaFrance (StumbleUpon), Marcia Hooper and Brad O’Neill (CEO, TechValidate). For more information, visit www.yummly.com.
Connect with Yummly:
Read the Yummly Nibbles & Bits blog: http://www.yummly.com/blog/

Visit Yummly on Facebook: www.facebook.com/yummly
Follow Yummly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/yummly

Have fun exploring!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

**MOSF Wellness Event**

Sometimes we all need to put down our forks and set down our glasses to discover a new way to find balance and relaxation in life.  Here's an upcoming unique opportunity for readers to consider, brought to my attention by the good people of Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco...

Discover the Secret of Shaolin at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, SAN FRANCISCO
San Francisco, October 12, 2012 – In keeping with Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s holistic approach to wellness at the award-winning Spas at Mandarin Oriental, Shaolin Master Hu, from Mandarin Oriental, Sanya will visit Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco between October 30 to November 1, 2012 to offer a variety of educational workshops in Tai Chi, Meditation, Qi Gong, and the art of the Zen Tea Ceremony.

Master Hu has over twenty years of experience in Shaolin tradition, and has also obtained a high-level of expertise in Tai Chi, training hundreds of students in both China and overseas in this practice. He will speak about the positive effects that tea and food have on both body and mind, in addition to providing lessons to enhance spiritual balance through Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and Meditation.
“We are delighted to invite Master Hu to San Francisco, so that he can share his knowledge of these authentic and age-old eastern practices with a wider audience,” said Kristy Whitford, Director of Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco. “This is a rare opportunity for guests to experience and benefit from his expertise.”

Workshops will be offered on October 30 and November 1, 2012. Cost is USD35 per person for group session participation, alternatively, cost is USD60 per person for small group sessions of two to four guests, and individual private sessions can be arranged for USD90 per person. All workshops last approximately one hour. For further information or to make a reservation, please contact The Spa at +1 (415) 276 9608, email mosfo-spa@mohg.com or visit www.mandarinoriental.com/sanfrancisco

*Tai Chi*
Follows the principles of yin and yang with both vigorous and gentle natural movements that help to release stress, improve balance and strengthen the muscle system and calm the mind. Sessions will be offered on both Wednesday, October 31 and Thursday, November 1 at 7 a.m. 
*Traditional Zen Tea Ceremony*
The Shaolin Zen Tea Ceremony is the age old art of preparing and drinking tea that incorporates the senses and encourages participants to use the art of tea and meditation to harmonize both body and mind. The result is a spiritual, relaxing experience that provides a journey to the inner self. Sessions will be offered on both Wednesday, October 31 and Thursday, November 1 at 3 p.m.

*Qi Gong and Meditation*
Uses breathing to unify body and mind. Focusing on breathing and meditation can improve energy and encourage relaxation and good health. Sessions will be offered on Tuesday, October 30 and Thursday, November 1 at 6 p.m.
... About The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, San FranciscoLocated on the hotel’s 3rd floor, a dedicated team of holistic therapists guide guests through a sensory experience that touches the mind, body and spirit, providing hotel guests and day-spa users with a harmonious experience of well-being in an unparalleled spa environment. Designed to reflect an elevated level of luxury, The Spa offers a tranquil, meditative setting and features a full array of body massages, body wraps and scrubs, Gentleman Essential treatments, Beauty by Mandarin Oriental and specialized facials, hand and foot rejuvenations, and nail care. A total of four treatment suites, including a special couple’s suite and a relaxing Tea Lounge for guests to rest and reflect, complete this urban oasis.


... About Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the 158-room Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco is located in the heart of the city and offers unparalleled panoramic views of the bay and beyond from the top 11 floors of San Francisco’s third tallest building, 345 California Center. Having recently completed an extensive refurbishment with the addition of Brasserie S&P restaurant and bar, and an 8,000 square foot Spa and Fitness Center, the hotel is consistently ranked among the world’s top hotels by leading authorities. Features include Travel + Leisure World’s Best Hotels Awards 2011, the CondeNast Traveler Gold List 2011, U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hotels in the USA, Institutional Investor’s World’s Best Hotels 2011, and is one of Andrew Harper’s Reader Survey 2012: Top 10 Favorite City Hotels in the World.
Reservations required,
please call + 1(415)276-9806
or email mosfo-spa@mohg.com

Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
222 Sansome Street


Monday, October 8, 2012

Farmy Fresh Tips.

Today marked the beginning of another healthy week-  a nice wholesome breakfast, three miles running, two miles of bicycling and the remainder of the afternoon spent prepping my bathroom for painting tomorrow morning.  I've been as busy as a little bee, but I love the sense of accomplishment that comes along with the controlled chaos that is my life right now.

How does this tie into food you ask?  I have no idea.  I think it was my breakfast this morning.  As I sat in the kitchen, watching the goofy squirrels in the backyard cackle at each other, I found myself contemplating dairy and poultry.  Milk, cream, cheese, butter and eggs.  I eat poached eggs as often as I can, especially before a hard fitness session (in my mind, they help fuel my awesome stamina) and I think they make a lovely, quick meal any time of day.  I recently discovered some of the most amazing eggs--  pastured heirloom chicken eggs rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, with deeply flavorful yolks and crazy colored shells.  My favorite are actually a pale, luminescent green color while the hubbs loves the red shelled variety.  Both taste ridiculously better than your average small, white, dull caged chicken eggs.  The quality of these eggs has me re-thinking building a coop in our backyard, something I'm definitely going to look into.  If I was allowed to own a cow (I heart milk!), I would.  I'm not sure how my neighbors would react, but hey- aren't they making mini cows now?  That may be an option.... *wink*

Here are few more fun (and random) dairy & poultry delights that I picked up from 10,001 Hints & Tips for the Home:

Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vitamins.  They are an extremely versatile food and can be boiled, fried, poached, or used to thicken, emulsify, coat, bind, or glaze.  Eggs are sensitive to temperature changes and should be warmed to room temperature before use.

*Keep them sorted*  Use a food coloring pen to mark a cross on hard-cooked eggs.  The cross will distinguish them from uncooked eggs if stored together.

*Test freshness*  Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 2 cups of water. Place the eggs in the water.  If the egg sinks, it is fresh; if it floats, it is stale.

*Store smartly*  Store eggs in a carton in the refrigerator to prevent them from losing moisture and absorbing odors through their shells from strongly flavored foods nearby.  Always store eggs with the pointed end down, to center the yolk and keep the eggs fresh.


There are several types of cream, each of which has different properties, depending on the butterfat content.  The butterfat content also determines the cream's richness, flavor, and whipping characteristics.  The more fat a cream contains, the less likely it is to curdle.

*Freeze for ease*  Open-freeze heavy cream in an ice cube tray, then put the cubes into freezer bags, and store in the freezer.  The cubes can be added directly to hot soups, sauces, or casseroles.

*Pick one*  Choose heavy cream for when you need softly whipped cream for folding, or for piping.  Light cream will not hold the air as well and will lose it's fluffiness.  Mix a few tablespoons of plain yogurt or whipped cottage cheese into whipped heavy cream to lighten creamy desserts or cake fillings.  Use creme fraiche as a substitute for light or sour cream in hot sauces, since it can be heated to boiling without curdling. 

*Make your own*  To make sour cream, add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice to 2/3 cup light cream.  Stir, and let stand until thickened. 


Cheese is a a high-protein food and has many culinary uses.  It can be used to add flavor to fillings and sauces, and forms the basis of some desserts.  Most cheese us eaten uncooked in salads and sandwiches, or as part of a buffet.  All cheese is best served at room temperature.

*Soft storage*  Freeze cheese only if it contains more than 45 percent fat, since cheese with a lower fat content will separate.  Wrap pieces of soft cheese such as brie in blanched, fresh grape leaves that have been rinsed.  This will keep the cheese fresh for 3-4 days if stored in the refrigerator.

*Preserve*  Store cubes of feta cheese in a jar.  Add sprigs of herbs, garlic cloves, or chilies for flavor.  Fill the jar with good-quality olive oil and refrigerate.  Use the oil for salad dressing.

*Keep it moist*  To keep hard cheeses such as mature cheddar or Parmesan moist during storage, wrap in a clean piece of muslin, or cotton cloth that has been dampened with beer.  Place in an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.


Butter a natural product that is made from cream.  It can be salted or unsalted and is a valuable fat for use in baking, since it adds body and richness.  Butter can be used for light sauteeing or, if mixed with herbs or other ingredients, as a flavoring.

*The lone ranger*  Always wrap butter well or store it in a closed container, since it easily picks up tastes from strongly flavored foods.  Keep unsalted butter in the freezer for up to six months.  Freeze salted butter for only three months, since changes in flavor can occur at very low temperatures.  To store butter for several weeks, heat it gently until frothing but not browned.  Strain through cheesecloth to remove salt and moisture, then refrigerate. 

*Fancy is fun*  Make flavored butter by stirring chopped fresh herbs or garlic into softened butter.  Use a fork to work the herbs in thoroughly.  Serve with grilled meats or fish.  To make shaped butter pats, roll out the butter on a sheet of waxed paper.  Use a small cookie cutter to cut out shapes.  Store in a container in the refrigerator.


Simple yet helpful information.

Now to continue plotting my wee farm...

Much love,



Friday, October 5, 2012

Goodbye New York.

It appears as though I took a little break this past week from writing... Time flies.  The end of summer flurry hit these parts pretty hard, stuffing our schedules with all sorts of events to attend, including a much needed restful weekend in Livermore, sunbathing and sleeping in.  I noe feel refreshed and ready to continue on into eating, drinking and discovering even more fall foodie finds.

Before I jump head first into autumn, I must share a few last tidbits from my trip to the east coast...

After trekking my way around half of the island and most of Williamsburg, it was time to pack up my bags and say goodbye to all of my new friends and my new-found love for Brooklyn..  Each evening was filled was laughter, brilliant wine and food, LOTS of food-  I was overwhelmed by the generosity of our hosts from Creative Feed and the Bordeaux Council.  They treated us to some of the most memorable, deliciously unique meals every evening after long days of exploring.  I couldn't be more grateful to be included in such festivities. 

My plane was set to take off at 6:30 on Saturday night, which gave me almost an entire day to spend taking in a few last breaths of city air.  My friend Rob Moshein (the Austin Wine Guy) and I met first thing in the morning, had a giant cup of coffee and checked out of the Wythe Hotel, our hearts set on wandering Bedford Avenue for a few hours.  We were sidetracked by word of mouth that Smorgasburg was happening just steps away from where we were headed.  This news made me giddy as a school girl. 

Smorgasburg is a giant outdoor foodie greenmarket that takes place in Williamsburg every Saturday and Sunday.  It's like a farmer's market, but the majority of vendors are selling their own homemade goods- everything from fresh baked muffins, to pit BBQ pork ribs and cotton candy.  You can find canned pickled vegetables, granola blends, popsicles, soy sauce (impressive!), freshly baked cookies and hey, even Blue Bottle Coffee.  It's the place to see and be seen by your fellow food junkies on crisp weekend morning, with your face stuffed and smiling.  Needless to say, if you love food as much as I do, get your booty down to the waterfront and load up on your favorite NY purveyor tasty treats.  We meandered a bit, spoke to some of the vendors and decided to keep wandering due to the blazing summer sun and heat.  Best to keep moving and find a nice chunk of shade after the night we'd had on the rooftop with our wine.

The nicest thing about native New Yorker's is that they love to share favorites.  They're always excited to tell what restaurants to check out, what exhibits to catch and where the best cocktails can be found.  Basically the streets are like a living, breathing Zagat guide, just stop anyone and ask.  On this particular day, we were told to have lunch at Maison Premiere.

Maison Premiere is an "Oyster house and Cocktail den reflective of the staple establishments of New York, Paris and New Orleans.  Inspired by hotel lobbies of days gone by, afternoons in Paris cafes, late night dinners brooding over bivalves and wading through glasses of pastis and absinthe.  We bring to our guest a list of oysters from 30 different varieties based on market availability.  Our Absinthe list boasts the largest collection of premium Absinthe's in New York City, and in honor of the ceremony and traditions of Absinthe, Maison Premiere's ode to the green fairy can be found center stage dispensing chilled water in the form of the world's most accurate working replica of the Absinthe fountain which once flowed in the Old Absinthe House of New Orleans."

As we rambled down Bedford Avenue that morning towards Maison Premiere (along with the rest of Brooklyn), I couldn't help but notice how quaint and lovely the streets were.  Flower pots hanging from brownstone windows, people out walking their dogs with a cup of coffee in hand, very few cars passing by, shops just lifting their gates to welcome eager patrons.  It could not have felt more perfect of a way to spend my last day in New York.

We arrived at the doors of Maison Premiere precisely at noon- we had been advised to do so to avoid crowds of lunchies seeking succulent sea goodies.  The building itself is covered in a soft patina, with nothing but incredibly narrow floor-to-ceiling green shuttered doors on it's facade.  There are no bells and whistles, just a simple hand-painted tin sign that reads "Oysters" hanging modestly on the exterior wall.  To call them proper doors would be unfair.  Mostly because you have to turn sideways to get through them- a sublime, accurate throwback to the cafes of times past. 

Once you squeeze yourself through the entry, you are welcomed by exquisitely dressed waiters, bartenders and waitresses.  Like stepping back in time, literally, they create the overall sensation that you've entered another world.  The best way to convey the Maison Premiere staff attire, in my opinion, would be described as such:  Turn of the century European aristocrat meets Sherlock Holmes and Amelie for tea, when Downton Abbey walks in and throws a little Steampunk on the table.  That may be a little too, erm, flowery of a description, but I honestly felt that way as I was seated.  The men with their crisp white shirts rolled up to their elbows exposing fully tattooed forearms, Windsor ties, fitted pin-striped vests, slim slacks, shiny shoes and slicked back (yet slightly hipster) hair were intriguing.  I half expected them pull out pocket watches when serving us.  The ladies, dressed in black, almost Victorian garb with pulled back hair and red lips are reminiscent of early Parisian barmaids, luminescent in their own simple, elegant way.  By the looks of it, I would say the employees are told not to wear clothing or accessories that date past the 1920's.  It's a wonderfully original touch that only contributes to the atmosphere- a lovely one at that.

The restaurant itself is very small, simple and understated.  There is a central bar that has plenty of seating and is perfect for the single diner or a pair of friends.  There are slso a few surrounding cafe tables for larger parties, but it is clear that Maison Premiere is about quality, not quantity.  We were asked by our fine waiter if we'd prefer to sit in the garden, which I am always inclined to do, so we happily accepted.  As we passed the raw bar, I was taken aback by the outstanding beauty of the garden seating area.  I would refer to it as magical.

After we were seated in the garden, we were handed our single page menus-  I've never seen a selection of so many varieties of oysters.  You are able to order as many or as few as you'd like at completely reasonable prices.  We couldn't decide for ourselves, so our waiter was nice enough to pick some of his favorites for us to sample.  After three dozen, we had a pretty well-rounded idea of which delicious oysters we loved-- all of them!!  There wasn't a single bivalve in the place that wasn't impeccable, briny and absolutely divine.  The sea jewels are served with mignonette, freshly shaved horseradish and a light cocktail sauce to chose from.  Most taste perfect in their own liquor, but adding a bit of bite is a nice way to experience different combinations of flavors.  Check out the selection the day we visited:
East End- Peconic Bay, NY
Cape May Salt- Cape Shore, NJ
Sewansecott- East Shore, VA
Shooting Point Salts- Hog Island, VA
Block Island- Block Island, RI
Cedar Island- Judith Pond, RI
East Beach Blonde- Ninigret Pond, RI
Matunuck- Matunuck, RI
Moonstone XL- Point Judith Pond, RI
Ninigret Cup- Ninigret Pond, RI
Rome Point- Narragansett Bay, RI
Chatham- Chatham, MA
Wellfleet- Wellfleet, MA
Cotuit- Cotuit, MA
Duxbury- Duxbury, MA
Thatch Island- Barnstable, MA
Moonshoal- Barnstable, MA
Malpeque- Malpeque Bay, PEI
Wild Cocktail- Malpeque Bay, PEI
Conway Royal- Foxley River, PEI
Blackberry Point- Blackberry Point, PEI
Gooseberry- Malpeque Bay, PEI
Kumamoto- Humboldt Bay, CA
Point Reyes- Tomales Bay, CA
Reach Island- Case Inlet, WA
Elkhorn- Willapa Bay, WA
Hammersley Inlet- South Puget Sound, WA
Hood Canal- Hood Canal, WA
Olympia- Totten Inlet, WA
Steam Boat- Steamboat Island, WA
Cortes Island- Cortes Island, BC
Fanny Bay- Baynes Sound, BC
Royal Miyagi- Vancouver Island, BC
I loved the Malpeque, sweet and briny with a clean finish.  The Moonstones had a stony, tannic flavor and very deep, large cups and meat.  I believe we went for a second round of the Fanny Bay, with it's smooth, pronounced cucumber finish- one of my favorites.  Of course we tried the Kumamoto's, a flavor familiar to me thanks to the area I grew up in and the Point Reyes were succulent and salty as usual.  The Thatch Island made all three rounds, a clear winner at our table.  I could have sat there all day, making my way through their huge list, smiling like a kid in a candy store.  We sipped our sparkling rose as we tasted, savoring every last bite.
The beauty of Maison Premiere is that during lunchtime, they ONLY serve oysters.  No bread, appetizers or small plates fussing up the simplistic, sophisticated oyster selection.  Concentrate on the individual oysters, without distraction- complement them with a fine glass of wine and a table of friends. 
If it's a larger menu you desire, visit for dinner- not only can you delight in boatloads of oysters, but you can snag larger plates of black seabass with fennel & gooseberries, bluefin tuna with gazpacho vinaigrette, sea scallops with foie gras mousse, lobster with corn & custard, pigeon with root vegetables, suckling pig with peach & matsutake and several other bigger bites.  I wasn't fortunate enough to stick around for dinner, but one thing is for sure, I will be back.
I think I'm going to wrap up my thoughts on this particular restaurant, so I leave a little mystery to be discovered by you, gentle readers.  Go.  Run.  Get to Maison Premiere.  I couldn't recommend a more inviting, gorgeous, classy, unusual restaurant to spend a few hours at.  It was the perfect end to an amazing trip for me, and even though people looked at me like I was insane when I told them I ate that many oysters before boarding a plane, I wouldn't have had it any other way.