Thursday, January 31, 2013

Epicuria Reminder- Tonight!

2013 Zinfandel Festival Epicuria: Food & Zinfandel Pairings
Thursday, January 31, 2013 from 6 pm to 9 pm
The Concourse
8th & Brannan Street
San Francisco, California 94103

Discover the Diversity - Take your palate on a culinary adventure as you discover the diversity of Zinfandel and its wide range of complementary flavor combinations. This informal dine-around expedition features pairings of 50 top Zinfandel wines with creations from master chefs. Mingle with winemakers and epicurean experts as you take a journey for the senses while sampling these regional offerings.

The hubbs and I will see you all there!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Brasserie S&P Upcoming Offerings.

Here are some tasty upcoming offerings from Brasserie S&P at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco...
As we celebrate going into Superbowl Sunday, mixologist Priscilla Young has created the “Niner Punch” in honor of our home team and it has become a great hit thus far already! It is her twist of the Pisco Punch: Encanto pisco, Charbay blood orange vodka, blood orange, bergamot sour orange, sweet chili syrup, banana milk, available for $15 each

Starting February 1st and available all month, they will be offering a Beer Month 3-course menu available for $60 per person. All beers are locally crafted and available on tap at Brasserie S&P.

San Francisco Beer Month menu:
* crispy artichoke hearts, green goddess vinaigrette, frisee
Lagunitas Pils, Petaluma
* braised Fallon Hills lamb shoulder, lemon stewed cannelini beans, mint gremolata
Speakeasy Prohibition Ale, San Francisco
* sticky toffee pudding, Guinness caramel
North Coast Brother Thelonious Abbey Ale, Fort Bragg
Menu created by Executive Chef Adam Mali 
Pairings by Sommelier Jon Allen

For something a little more delicate, enjoy one of their diminutive spirit forward classic mini-martinis, perfect for pairing any dish any time of the day! Available $5 each everyday from now going forward:

THYMED VESPER | Beefeater Gin, 360 Organic Vodka, Lillet Blanc, winter thyme
FIRST WORD | Beefeater Gin, green Chartreuse, lime, grapefruit
RED | Evan Williams Bourbon, Averna, Vya vermouth, Beefeater Gin
RHUM | Berry Bros Figian 9 yr Rum, honey water, Riesling

Lastly, in honor of our Oriental heritage, toast to Chinese New Year of the Snake with our “Lychee Lunar”: Beefeater Gin, Don Q rum, Sensei Lychee Falernum, fresh lemon juice, splash of crème de cassis, and soda water. Available Feb 10th to 20th at $8 each.

Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Brasserie S&P
222 Sansome Street, San Francisco CA 94104


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our Carbonara.

Last night, the hubbs and I chatted in the kitchen while preparing and cooking a fantastic papperdelle carbonara for our nightly meal.  We eat pasta in some shape or form once a week, focusing on veggie heavy ingredients and homemade sauces.  Traditionally carbonara is made with spaghetti, eggs, bacon lardo, peccorino cheese, pepper and some sort of fat.  I like to put a spin on recipes, so I tossed in some pea shoots, oyster mushrooms, leeks, soybeans and chives.  I chopped some pancetta into tiny pieces instead of using bacon, used an aged parmesan in place of peccorino and finished the whole dish off with touch of goats milk yogurt and freshly chopped thyme.  The resulting plate of yum filled our bellies without being too heavy.  Absolutely tasty...

*Winter Carbonara* (serves 4)
1/2 cup pancetta, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 cups goats milk yogurt
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons fresh thinly sliced chives
1/4 cup fresh thinly sliced leeks
1/2 cup pea shoots
5 oyster mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup shelled, cooked soybeans
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch of sea salt
8 ounces dried papperdelle

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat with salt.

To make the sauce, saute the pancetta over medium heat until crispy. Add the leeks and saute until soft. Add the yogurt and bring to a low simmer. Whisk the egg yolks into the sauce, add the black pepper and season to taste with salt. Reserve.

When ready to serve, cook the pasta in the boiling salted water to al dente (about 8 min). Drain the pasta.

Add the pasta to the sauce and stir in the chives, mushrooms and parmesan; let everything simmer on low for one minute to properly absorb all of the flavors.

Using a two-pronged fork, twirl a quarter of the pasta and place it in the center of each of four bowls, spoon some of the sauce and garnish over and around the pasta, top with more grated parmesan, pea shoots and thyme as desired and serve immediately.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Salt Sparingly.

This whole training every day thing is much harder than I thought, but the hubbs and I have been sticking with it and feeling healthier overall.  I've been running, walking or bicycling each morning, and on days when the weather is wicked, I stay indoors and do yoga or pilates.  It's definitely starting to take effect on my body-- I sleep better, feel stronger and my mind feels fog-free at the end of each day.  I've been preparing meals at home at least five nights of the week, made from the freshest foods I can find and limiting liquids other than water and whole milk on a daily basis.  Processed foods are a thing of the past in this house, and portions have shrank to much more reasonable sizes.  We're both enjoying the "challenge" and hard work involved, and our health is reflecting that.

One of my biggest personal struggles is cutting back on my sodium intake-- it's torturous.  I'm the girl who will eat a bowl of olives, a handful of salami slices and want salted peanuts afterwards.  The problem is that when I do (or did) this, my body would become saturated with water, leaving me feeling heavy and slow.  The more I cut back on the sodium (salt), the better I feel.  Here are a few tips I've learned to follow that have helped improve my blood pressure and reduce water gain, keeping me fit and fast...

Most people get far more sodium in their diets than they need.  In general, processed foods contain the most salt, while unprocessed foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, have the least.  If you want to cut back on the salt in your diet:

- Read the Nutrition Facts labels on foods for sodium content.  Choose foods that contain less sodium.

- Limit ready-mixed sauces and seasonings, frozen dinners, and canned or dehydrated soups.  These foods are usually packed with salt.  Products labeled "low sodium" contain less than 140 mg of sodium per serving.

- Eat lots of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables.  These foods contain very little sodium.

- Don't put the salt shaker on the table, or get a salt shaker that allows very little salt to come out.  Use salt substitute, rock salt, flake salt and "lite salt" sparingly.

- Always measure the salt in recipes, and use 1/2 of what is called for.

- Avoid fast foods, which are usually very high in salt.  In a restaurant, you can always ask the chef not to salt the food during cooking (although I've never found it necessary to do so.)

- And remember!  A little goes a very long way.  Sodium is an essential part of everyone's diet, just don't overdo it-- 2300mg a day and done.  Considering that one teaspoon of salt has 2,325mg of sodium, I'm sure we're all guilty of excessive use.

Straight from the Mayo Clinic... A little is good, too much is bad.

Your body needs some sodium to function properly because it:
- Helps maintain the right balance of fluids in your body.
- Helps transmit nerve impulses.
- Influences the contraction and relaxation of muscles.

"Your kidneys naturally balance the amount of sodium stored in your body for optimal health. When your sodium levels are low, your kidneys essentially hold on to the sodium. When sodium levels are high, your kidneys excrete the excess in urine."

"But if for some reason your kidneys can't eliminate enough sodium, the sodium starts to accumulate in your blood. Because sodium attracts and holds water, your blood volume increases. Increased blood volume makes your heart work harder to move more blood through your blood vessels, which increases pressure in your arteries. Such diseases as congestive heart failure, cirrhosis and chronic kidney disease can make it hard for your kidneys to keep sodium levels balanced."

"Some people's bodies are more sensitive to the effects of sodium than are others. If you're sodium sensitive, you retain sodium more easily, leading to fluid retention and increased blood pressure. If this becomes chronic, it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and congestive heart failure."

As tough as it may be, those are some pretty good reasons to put the shaker down.

Be well,


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

MOSF Australia Day *Event Alert*

Celebrate Australia Day at Brasserie S&P

You are invited to enjoy a taste of Australia at Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco's annual all Aussie Wine Tasting at Brasserie S&P.  Sample dozens of wines and enjoy traditional Aussie bites in style.  The hubbs and I will see you all there...

When: Friday January 25, 2013
6pm to 8pm

Cost:  $28 per person

Featured wineries include:  Vasse Felix, Heggies, Jansz, Penfolds, St. Hallett, Kilikanoon, John Duval Wines, d’Arenberg, Cullen, Giant Steps, Hope Estate and many more featuring 2004 Penfolds Grange!

For Reservations or more information please email or call (415)986-2020

Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
222 Sansome Street, San Francisco, CA 94104

Friday, January 18, 2013

Down South (The Long Version.)

I'm just now getting around to this article because I've been readjusting to the homestead these past couple days.  My trip to Los Angeles was a whirlwind of fun, food and friends-- all good things.  I had amazing time exploring the Silverlake neighborhood, parts of Los Feliz, Beverly Hills and of course, Hollywood.  The southern part of the state never ceases to amaze me with it's abundance of just about everything.  It's an absolute sea of intersecting streets, cars whizzing by and glitzy L.A. glitter.  The absolute least I can say is that "the city" certainly has a whole lot going for it, especially for those who love getting lost in the anonymity of gigantic urban and suburban sprawl.  I must add that this trip was the first I've taken (and there have been so many) that I could fit my Northern Californian square self into this round, Southern California hole.  I thoroughly enjoyed the people and places we visited, even though everything was squeezed into three very short days...

As you all know, my initial reason for heading south was to meet The Fabulous Beekman Boys.  I convinced my friend Jeff to ride along as a cohort of sorts, the two of us rambling down Highway 5 listening to 80's music and discussing everything from children's manners to science fiction movies.  We left around nine in the morning, hitting hardly any traffic the entire way down.  The "grapevine" had the lightest powdering of snow- so light in fact, that all it had accomplished was to make the surrounding mountains look ashen and deserted, confusing passers by.  Is this snow?  Should we take a picture?  People were befuddled.  We were excited.  Excited that we had missed the closing of the pass the previous night and lucked out that everyone else had decided to take 101, leaving the road open and unclogged with traffic.

At the bottom of the hill, where the roads multiply by ten and stretch as far as the eye can see, we noticed that previous night's storm had blown the air crystal clean.  It's a rarity to come down the mountain and be able to see ocean sparkling in the distance.  Never have I witnessed a clearer skyline, with it's millions of palm trees shivering in the breeze.  This was the L.A. that people saw in movies, with the sun blazing and the mountains looming on all edges but the west.  We had missed rush hour by a good chunk up until Hollywood, where the cars began to slow.  As we chugged along through the corridor, it was awesome to look up and see the landmarks passing by in their old Hollywood glory.  The Chateau Marmont, the Capitol Records building, Griffith Observatory, the Hollywood Bowl... Such significant, fabulously famous pieces of history.  The two o'clock in the afternoon commute version of sightseeing!

We reached Silverlake in the early afternoon and found our digs for the weekend pretty easily.  Our hosts had so graciously provided two champagne glasses and a bottle of prosecco to greet us and keep us company until they arrived home later in the evening.  We had a glass and then set off on foot down the very (now infamous) wrong direction heading towards Sunset Junction.  We chuckled at the fact we'd taken the long route-- that's OK I said, we get to witness Virgil Street in all it's Thai food, flowering trees, barber pole beauty. *Tongue in cheek*  Finally, we wandered far enough to find our destination, at the meeting of Sunset and Santa Monica Boulevard.  We were starving (and famished from our 2 mile walk) so we popped into The Sunset Junction Coffee Shop to grab a bite.

"Sunset Junction Coffee Shop is Silverlake's neighborbood diner. As a contemporary take on the East-coast style diner, Sunset Junction Coffee Shop offers a number of breakfast, lunch and dinner classics, served all day, with options to suit any palette."

It was just us, a few hipsters and some electro-music-producing-Hollywood-types hanging out having a cup of coffee.  Except it wasn't just a cup of coffee.  It was the best dang coffee I've had in years, hands down.  No artificial sweetener or cream needed, just the perfect cuppa joe.  Turns out, they serve City Bean Coffee, a recipient of the "Best of LA" awards in house.  Mmmm so good.  Neither of us wanted to spoil dinner, so we kept it light for lunch:  Jeff ordered the "Junction Cobb" salad, packed with avocado, apple wood smoked bacon, blue cheese, marinated chicken, hard-boiled egg and fresh tomatoes, served over mixed-greens with house-made ranch dressing.  I decided to try one of go-to favorite comfort dishes, the "Chicken Quesadilla" with grilled chicken, tomatoes & lettuce, pico de gallo, sour cream & avocado.  Both plates were tasty and plentiful and both seemed very fresh.  I was impressed that they somehow managed to make a healthy quesadilla for me, free from grease and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla.  Lunch ended up being a very relaxed, languid rest period for us, which is exactly what we needed.

Hours later as the sun was setting, our friends finally arrived home.  After extensive hugs were shared amongst us, we collectively decided that all of us were beat (us from our drive and them from their long work days).  The wind had turned from slight breeze to freakish gusts, so dinner plans had to be altered to accommodate the blustery weather.  We took our chances ordering a yellow cab, crossed our fingers and hoped that the exclusive Mother Dough would have room for us at theirs tables.  We were in luck that night.  I think we had beat the LA dining crowd by a couple hours, so we were seated immediately- thank goodness, since we were all starving...

I would love to be able to give you more information on Mother Dough, but I don't have it.  I guess you will all have to drive down to Los Angeles and hope you get as lucky as we were to snatch up a table during their short five hours of operation a night.  Trust me, you won't regret it.  Once you get a bite of their prosciutto, arugula and fresh buffalo mozzarella thin crust Neapolitan pizza, you'll be thanking me for days.  I'm pretty sure the pizzas are different every day of the week, depending on the availability of ingredients, with their crust being the absolute star of the show.  Absolutely delicious.

Once our bellies were filled, we commenced rambling the streets, in search of interesting watering holes or any other eye catching distractions.  We came across the Akbar, a virtual urban oasis resting unassumingly on the corner of Fountain and West Sunset.  Welcome to the Akbar, relish the lush surroundings, the Moroccan interior pillars, the richly painted walls and the sensual wall hangings.  They believe in the power of rock-n-roll, that variety is the spice of life and they abhor homophobia.  There are no words, except for "awesome" to explain the people, drink pours and atmosphere of this place.  I'd go back in a heartbeat.  Check it out if you are in the area.

That first night ended with a thud, on the couch and floor of our dear friends house, after our long day of travel, great food and thoroughly satisfying drinks.  I was so happy to be surrounded by loved ones, all cozied up in the cottage as the wind whipped furiously down Lucile and Melrose that even I thought, "Hmm... Maybe I could live here."  That says a lot, seeing as though I consider myself a fierce die-hard  northerner.  But maybe, just maybe?

Day Two: Up and at 'em! Look at these smiling faces.

On the morning of our second day, weary groans escaped our bedraggled bed-heads as we lie waiting for someone, anyone to make a decision about breakfast.  Were we hungry?  What did we feel like eating?  That familiar conversation you have the morning after a good night out, where no one wants to choose a destination out of sheer laziness.  After the fuzzies cleared, we headed back down to Sunset Junction, for late morning coffee and brunch.  We stopped in at Intelligentsia Coffee (us and about 100 other morning folks), dropped five bucks a piece on a cup (coffee- not espresso, not a mocha. Coffee) and quietly people-watched as we waited for The Black Cat to open for brunch.  I sat there, precious black coffee in hand, asking every two minutes, "is that a famous person?" or "who's that, are they famous?" and, "are they famous?" just to annoy my cohorts.  They chuckled and we proceeded.

The Black Cat sits across the street, modest and almost indecipherable, with nothing but a mirrored front window separating Sunset from it's chic interior.  When you enter, it's elegant semi-deco/parlor room decor is striking, with a large, dark wooden bar, emerald green leather banquettes and rustic, quirky art hanging on the walls.  One would not suspect that this place, this refined, quiet eatery, was the same infamous LGBT bar that plain-clothes police officers once infiltrated in 1967, then beat and arrested thirteen kissing couples, pre-dating the Stonewall riots by over two years.  It prompted one of the first civil demonstrations of our time in support of gay rights, deeming it rightfully so in my opinion, a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument.  Pretty moving stuff indeed.            

*It was intriguing to be sitting there, ordering a bloody mary, bewildered by the building's presence in history.  And strange that in a place so small began the uphill struggle of something so big, a cultural battle that even today, 40+ years later, we are still fighting...*

The restaurant, to it's credit, makes some wicked good breakfast.  I ordered their creamy polenta, with poached eggs and basil pesto.  This was a unexpected combination for me, but I truly enjoyed the heartiness and texture of the two together.  The rest of the crew ordered the biscuits and gravy with chorizo and Sriracha hollandaise- clearly a standout on the menu, judging by the popularity at the tables around us.  I'd love to go back and see the place at night when the restaurant is full and the bar is jamming.  Rumor has it, the outdoor patio may be opening for the summer, which would make a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the sun.

By the time we finally hiked back up the hill to the cottage, everyone was in the mood for a nap.  I, on the other hand, was determined to get my rear in gear and haul it to Beverly Hills.  Destination: Williams-Sonoma, 339 North Beverly Drive.  Reason: The Fabulous Beekman Boys.  My entire reason for the trip in the first place.  Only 7 miles from our target, it took an hour to get there on city streets.  Not that we minded, again, it's a great way to learn the area.  Winding our way through parts of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, we found parking right below Bouchon (how fancy!)  We oood, we awed at the spectacle that is downtown, with it's ritzy shops and familiar restaurants.  So familiar in fact, we were reminded in blinding color of a town about 5 miles away from where I sit at this moment in Concord.  Weird.  Actually, reverse that.  That town 5 miles away from where I sit right now is almost the exact duplicate of downtown BH.  Without the famous people, ahem.

Anyways... When we arrived at the store, the line had began to snake around the gadgets area, giving us plenty of entertaining food toys to play with until the boys arrived.  And arrive they did, with smiles, handshakes, hugs and laughter.  It was such a wonderful treat to finally meet them after following their story for years.  They are both warm spirited fellows, who actually took the time to ask questions, share stories, and hey, even chat about blogging.  You can tell by the look on my face and the way I am absolutely clutching my (old and very well-loved) copies of The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook and The Bucolic Plague that they had just made my day with their kindness.  Thanks boys!

By about three o'clock, traffic had started to get rude and we were once again famished.  Our cohorts had enjoyed a nice long nap, the dog had been walked and we all needed an afternoon refresher.  We hung out for a bit at the cottage, then once again, decided to make the trek back down the hill for sustenece, this time taking a scenic route.  We saw the tip-top of the Silverlake neighborhood, covered in serpentine Euro-esque streets that overlook the whole of LA.  We had fun on our long, early evening stroll down the expansive ""Musicbox Steps", once famous for a role in Laurel and Hardy's 1932 classic, aptly named, "The Music Box".  It was such a nice way to spend a Saturday evening, rambling along telling stories with pals.

We eventually landed at El Siete Mares, or in my own words, land of amazing tacos.  This well-known Silverlake restaurant specializes in serving seafood in an outdoor atmosphere-- walk up to the window, order your food, sit down and enjoy.  This time we treated ourselves by sitting in their tiny indoor dining room.  This is not the norm, but on such a chilly evening, it was a much more comfortable option.  We had been warned:  these tacos will ruin you for life.  Was I afraid?  Absolutely not.  Was I so hungry that ordered a fish taco, a grilled prawn taco, beans, rice, salad and a cheese enchilada on the side? YES.  I'm not ashamed!  And I ate it all, every last bite.  Best fish tacos, hands down-- San Francisco, I apologize in advance.  The fish was moist and flavorful, dipped in a crispy, buttery crust that stayed intact, giving them the most satisfying crunch.  The red sauce on the enchilada was so good, we all began dipping our tortilla chips in it, after the enchilada disappeared.  It would be entirely appropriate to admit that I gorged myself that night and loved every minute of it.

We had every intention of leaving LA the next morning, after our night of fun with friends, friends of friends and friends of dogs.  That was the intention.  We were supposed to get on the road after breakfast and rejoin reality back in the bay.  Needless to say, that didn't happen.  Especially when Jeff found out that the Stanley Kubrick exhibition was at LACMA and wouldn't be coming to northern part of the state.  Whaaaaaaat?  How could miss that??  We didn't.  HAL says hello...

I took so many personal photos at this exhibit, but it feels wrong to share them online.  It's one of the most amazing retrospectives of an artist I've ever seen- and I've seen a ton.  If you have the chance to catch this show, please do.  It's mind boggling, gorgeous and fascinating.  Literally every Kubrick film; the costumes, scripts, set miniatures, posters, cameras, notes, photographs... Everything.  Incredible.

After our day of Stanley, we ate the trendy Umami Burger.  I had "the hatch", a melt-in-your-mouth cheeseburger with housemade American cheese and fire-roasted green chili.  Jeff had "the manly burger" which I believe was bacon lardo, beer cheddar cheese and housemade onion strings.  Jackie had the famous "Umami burger" which was smothered in shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions and topped with a parmesan crisp.  This is a classic LA staple type joint, full of funky people, unique decor and plenty of things to look at.  Oh, did I forget to mention?  We also ordered cheesy tater tots with blue cheese dressing and truffle fries with housemade ketchup.  Mmm.  Just thinking about them makes me drool.  Umami has four locations down south, so if you are in the area, find one and dig in.  Expect crowds because these burgers are pretty darn famous.

Our last evening, Sunday night, was spent at a local dive bar who's name I'm keeping secret.  It's one of those places you cherish, hold close to you and want to keep to yourself.  We sat around summing up our weekend, laughing hysterically and making new friends that perhaps one day we'll see again.  There were some star run-ins, or so we thought, and some serious late night Ramen enjoyment.  It was the perfect ending to a great weekend exploring the vast southern Californian city-scape.  I can't wait to go back.  I can't wait to see my friends again.  And I really, really want to eat more next time.

Be well,



Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hitting the Road.

Today has been quite a satisfying, productive day so far.  I've managed to accomplish my exercise goals (about 2.5 miles!), get some last minute errands done and now I'm packing for this weekend's adventure.  That's right people, I'm getting the heck out of dodge for a couple days and I'm headed south- good ol' Southern California.  I'm setting off on the lighthearted pilgrimage down with a friend to attend the The Fabulous Beekman Boys (Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge) meet & greet being held at the Williams-Sonoma in Beverly Hills on Saturday.  When I saw the boys were making a guest appearance and signing books, I grabbed my copies of The Bucolic Plague and The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook, text messaged a pal and set plans in motion.  Yes, I'm a big fan.

Ah yes... The "wedding" photo.  Typical goofballs.

I'll be travelling with my dear friend Jeff, a fellow I've known for over ten years now.  When I sent him a message about going for a weekend drive, he immediately responded with a resounding, "Yes!"  That's what I love about the guy- he's pretty much game for adventure anytime on a whim.  Jeff has been around through thick and thin...  He's one of our closest friends, the first person we met and befriended here in the east bay.  He's been our neighbor, honorary big brother and partner in a variety of debauchery.  His dog was even our dog's loyal bestest bud, guiding him when he couldn't see, keeping him company at bbq's and sharing his toys while little pug was still here with us.  Needless to say, I'm terribly fond of the guy and glad he's my travel companion for the upcoming excursion.  Fitting, in fact, that we're headed down to see another one of my dearest friends, Jackie.

The troublesome twosome.

When I was eighteen, I moved out of my parents house for the first time and in with my then boyfriend (the hubbs of course!) while he was attending UC Davis.  I'd never lived anywhere else in my life besides where I'd grown up, and I certainly wasn't used to having to make new friends.  Jackie was the first person to befriend me amongst a sea of college students, and from the moment we met, I knew we'd be close friends for life.  Once the hubbs graduated, we had our wedding in Mendocino and she was there by my side dressed in lavender.  We've quietly kept track of each other's lives as they've developed, changed and grown into comfortable, happy, successful existences.  She left the bay area a few years ago and I've missed her so.  It's been far too long since we've been together, so I am very much looking forward to spending time together, along with her lovely beau Andrew.


Lucky for me, Jackie and Jeff get along like peas and carrots.  When you put the three of us in a room, there's bound to be excessive amounts of laughter, storytelling and rather intelligent conversations on all sorts of topics.  They both possess such unique dispositions- it's almost impossible to not have a great time together.  It's just what I need right now.  Friends, fun and feeling good inside.

What about the hubbs you ask?  The hubbs will be protecting the farm, pumping out some great writing, catching football games, training for his triathlon and looking after Jeff's dog while we're away.  I believe he has a whole agenda that the dog isn't aware of quite yet.  I can't wait to hear all about it as it unfolds.  (The dog is training for a triathlon this weekend as well.  Hope he likes running.)

And so friends, I shall disappear for a few days.  Hopefully we will eat at some tremendous places, meet some great people and enjoy our cheerful little getaway to sunny SoCal.  I can't wait to laugh...

Be back soon!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Savory, Spicy Scallops.

Here's a great dish that both the hubbs and I were delightfully surprised by.  Since we're both in training right now, I want to make sure that the dishes we enjoy are full of flavor but still packed with the right ingredients to keep us sustained.  I was worried at first that cutting back on some of our favorite foods would leave our stomachs growling by the end of the night-- boy was I wrong.  I'm finding that you do not need to sacrifice taste or portion size in order to have a completely satisfying meal.  Keep in mind that we are both being very careful to keep ourselves fueled with the right foods throughout the day, that way our evening meals can be light yet nutritious.  This recipe is definitely a keeper...

*Cauliflower Puree with Sea Scallops and Red Thai Curry Broth*
1 cauliflower head
1 tbsp organic whipping cream
1/4 tbsp unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

Curry Broth with scallops:
1 tbsp unsalted butter1 tablespoon thinly sliced ginger
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 tablespoon thinly sliced garlic
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 cup chicken stock
¼ cup coconut milk
2 teaspoons red Thai curry paste
12 ounces sea scallops
- fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 lime, cut in half
¼ cup cilantro leaves

For cauliflower puree:  clean, chop and steam entire head of cauliflower.  Once steamed, set aside in large bowl, adding 1/4 tbsp of butter, salt & pepper to taste.  Using a hand blender or stand-up blender, puree cauliflower while hot until smooth.  Add whipping cream with final blend.  Set aside.

To make the broth, melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium low heat; add the ginger, lemongrass, garlic and shallot. Sweat until tender being careful not to get color. Add the chicken stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the cilantro, chicken stock, coconut milk and curry paste and continue simmering for another 5 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Slice the scallops crosswise into ¼-inch thick slices and lay the slices in a single layer on the bottom of a shallow bowl.

Gently warm the bowls with the scallops in the oven until warm to the touch, about 3 minutes. While the scallops are heating, re-warm the curry sauce.

Spoon 1 cup of cauliflower puree into small plate and spread evenly.  Place scallop(s) on top of puree.

Spoon ¼ cup of the sauce over the scallops, squeeze lime juice on top, garnish with cilantro leaves and serve immediately.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Monday Runday.

A beautiful run this morning.  About three miles along the Lafayette Resevoir-- the temperature was a balmy 36 degrees with a pretty stiff breeze but at least the sun was shining  It was an invigorating workout, one that made me feel energized and ready to tackle the day.  Why spend time inside exercising when you can be out breathing this fresh air...  Great beginning to the week!

Brasserie S&P New Year Offers.

From my friends at the Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco-- Check out the variety of offers available at the modern, sophisticated Brasserie S&P.  Welcome the New Year in style... 

1) Delight in a variety of drinks for $8 each during their New Year Happy Hour, available daily from 4pm- 6pm.
Choices include:
· Oxley Gin on the Rocks
· Oxley Gin & Tonic
· Blue Angel Vodka Martini
· Blue Angel Vodka Dirty Martini
· Blue Angel Vodka and Tonic
· Sommelier’s choice wine selections

2) In honor of tea month, continue to enjoy a variety of world-class Jing teas accompanied by an assortment of savory and sweet delights for all with choices including the bubbly Dynasty Tea, Mandarin Tea or Little Fans Tea. Available daily from 2-5 p.m.

Afternoon Tea Menu
Dynasty Tea $55 
Chef’s Specialty Tea Sandwiches 
Currant Scones with Devonshire Cream 
Assorted Pastries and Champagne Truffles 
Mumm Brut Rosé Sparkling 

Mandarin Tea $38 
Chef’s Specialty Tea Sandwiches 
Currant Scones with Devonshire Cream 
Assorted Pastries & Sweets  
Both served with choice of  Jing Premium Tea
Little Fan’s Tea $25 
PB&J and PB & Banana 
Tea Sandwiches 
Currant Scones with Devonshire Cream 
Gingerbread Tea Cookies 
Served with Blackcurrant & Hibiscus infusion tea or hot chocolate 
Menu Created by Executive Chef Adam Mali 

3) Gin Hangover Cure Brunch, available every Saturday and Sunday from 11-4 pm.
Enjoy the a la carte brunch menu with any of the following:
· Bottomless champagne cocktail bar at $25 per person
· Build your own Gin & Tonic at $8 each
· A twist on our favorite cocktails as follows

Pamplemousse $13 (aka Gin Fizz) junipero gin • combier pamplemousse rose liqueur • fresh lemon juice
powdered sugar • peychaud bitters • soda

Gin Blossom $13 (aka Gin Mimosa) g’vine gin • fresh orange juice • orange blossom water • sparkling wine

Ode to Mary $14 (aka Bloody Mary) damrak gin • sensei tomato water • thyme • worcestershire sauce •
tabasco • fresh lime juice • bitters

Who: Brasserie S&P
Where: 222 Sansome Street, San Francisco
Mandarin Oriental, San Francisco
Telephone number: 415-986-2020

Sounds like a lush way to celebrate the beginning of a brand new year.  Hello 2013!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

ZAP Festival 2013. Let's get Epicurious.

There's an exciting event coming up that all of my fellow foodies need to check out!  The hubbs and I will be there with bells on, both at the Epicuria event and the ZAP Festival Grand Tasting.  And right now, leading up until the event, Rollerskating With Scissors readers can get get a special 15% discount on Epicuria tickets by entering the discount code: drxeno when you buy tickets online!!

"Embark on gourmet adventure as you explore the versatile flavors of Zinfandel at ZAP’s informal dine-around event. You have the opportunity to sample sophisticated and whimsical culinary creations from master chefs, perfectly paired with 50 top Zinfandel wines. Savor tantalizing delicacies from the ZinKitchen celebrity chefs while learning their professional techniques. Immerse yourself in the Zinfandel culture as you mingle with winemakers and culinary experts who feed your epicuriosity."

Epicuria: Food & Zin Pairings is a culinary adventure where 50 top Zinfandel wines and wineries collaborate with 50 chefs, taking place on January 31st in San Francisco, one of four events making up Zinfandel Advocates & Producers22nd Annual Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco.  Tickets are $95 for ZAP members and $125 for non-members. The meticulously crafted combinations cover a rainbow of Zinfandel-food pairings, from boar to beef to the sweet side.

Epicuria is the Festival’s first event, taking place from 6:00 – 9:00 p.m. at The Concourse (635 8th Street at Brannan in the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco 94103-4901).  “It’s an amazing gourmet adventure, exploring theversatile flavors of Zinfandel,” explains Rebecca Robinson, Executive Director, Zinfandel Advocates & Producers “You will have the opportunity to sample sophisticated and whimsical culinary creations from master chefs, perfectly paired with 50 top Zinfandel wines and you can savor tantalizing delicacies from the ZinKitchen celebrity chefs while you learn their techniques,” she adds.

Want to make Muleheart Farm Pork Chili (from Central Market) or Braised Pork Belly Bahn Mi Sandwich (from the Ledson Hotel)?  These are some of the recipes being presented at Epicuria which will be appearing on the ZAP website.

Want to experiment with desserts and Zinfandel?  Several of the winery-restaurant teams had that idea----Barefoot Cellars with Sonoma Cake Creations, Dogwood Cellars with Sift Cupcake Frank Family Vineyards with Chef Tyler Stone (Frank Family Molecular Wine Ice Cream Dessert), Grgich Hills Estate with 3D Candies (Raspberry Hazelnut Caramel and Lavender Black Cherry Vanilla Caramel) and Scott Harvey Wines with Healdsburg Toffee (Assorted candies).

What about a combination to stretch the boundaries?  Several teams are offering non-traditional combos---namely Klinker Brick Winery with Radius (Duck Liver Mousse with Blackberry Gastrique), Gnarly Head Winery with Johnny Garlic's (Sashimi Won Tacos), Peachy Canyon Winery with Swan Oyster Depot (Shrimp Cocktail), and Renwood Winery with Eastside West Restaurant (Achiote Braised Lamb - mango & olive salad, cheese fried plantains, mint, cilantro).

Wild boar often makes an appearance at Epicuria; this year presented by Rosenblum Cellars with Chef Joey Altman (Wild Boar Sugo over Creamy Polenta with Bellweathers’ San Andreas Sheep's Milk Cheese) and Saddleback Cellars with Rosamunde Sausage Grill (Lamb Merguez & Wild Boar Sausage with Mango Chutney and Sauerkraut).

Additional teams include Alexander Valley Vineyards paired with Flavor Bistro (Sweet Potato Timbale flavored with a trio of cheese), Artezin Wines with Truffle Gateau, Ballentine Vineyards with Rose’s Café, Berryessa Gap Vineyards with Le P'tit Laurent, Black Stallion Winery with Black Stallion’s Estate Chef, Bonneau Wines with Ruth's Chris Steak House, Brazin' Cellars with Sauce (Braised Beef Short Rib Sliders), Cakebread Cellars with Cakebread Cellars’ Culinary Department (Braised Short Ribs with Daikon, Carrots and Ginger- Sesame Broth), Calstar Cellars with Cabot Creamery (The World's Best Cheddar Cheese),Carol Shelton Wines with Pizzeria Rosso, Charter Oak Winery with Fifth Floor Restaurant, Chase Cellars with BarberQ, Cycles Gladiator Winery with Chef Marco's Catering, Dashe Cellars with Twenty Five Lusk, D-Cubed Cellars with A-16, Dry Creek Vineyards with Maven, Four Vines with City College of San Francisco, Harney Lane Winery with Savoy Events, Hendry Wines with Kinyon! Culinary Services, LangeTwins with Straits San Francisco, M2 with Alebrijes Mexican Bistro, McCay Cellars with Wine & Roses, Mounts Family Winery with Savvy Production & Events (Curried Pork & Winter Squash), Outpost Estate with Mustard’s Grill, R&B Cellars with Soleil’s African Cuisine, Ravenswood Winery with Central Market, Robert Biale Vineyards with Alexander’s Steak House, Ridge Vineyards with Harris’ Restaurant (Harris' Signature Steak Tartare), Rock Wall Wine Co with Le Truc, Seghesio Family Vineyards with Winery Executive Chef Peter Janiak (Seghesio Signature Ribs), St. Amant Winery with A Winechef For You, Chef Tony Lawrence (Cuban Slow Braised, Poked, Jerked, Rubbed & Spiced Pork), St. Francis Winery with Executive Chef David Bush (Five Spice Pork Spring Rolls with Smoked Chili Hoisin), Starry Night Winery with Il Davide Restaurant (Black Truffle Porcini filled Agnolotti, White Truffle Fondue), Storybook Mountain with Rose Pistola, Terra d'Oro Winery with Taste, Three Wine Company with Starbelly, Tres Sabores with Local Mission Eatery, Troon Vineyards with Vegetarian Gourmet and Wilson Winery with Carneros Bistro.

Whew! Holy cow, sounds amazing doesn't it??  What a delectable list!  My mouth is watering at the idea of all these great collaborations between fabulous winemakers and culinary artisans.  It's a great opportunity to get out there and try some delicious Zinfandel wines while sampling the best-of-the-best in foodie delights.  Your palate will thank you...

See you all there!

Friday, January 4, 2013


Happy Friday everyone!  It's been a great day here, I've been getting tons accomplished both in the garden and around the house.  I spent the earlier part of my day finishing up errands and then headed out on a 3 mile trek in the chilly winter air, which felt great.  What did not feel great were the two canvas bags (12 pounds each!) of books I wanted to trade in that accompanied me on each arm.  I looked and felt like crazy person, but hey, I managed to make it downtown in a shockingly short period of time.  My shoulders will thank me later, I'm sure.  The load was lighter on the way home, but left me starving...  Trying to maintain my good, healthy girl attitude was difficult, especially passing all of the mouth-watering Mexican establishments en route, but I stuck to my guns and had some fresh veggies and a tall glass of water when I returned.

I'm serious now.  It's dinner time (protein time) and we're eating steak.  Steak Au Poivre to be exact.  Fire up the alcohol folks, it's meat cookin' time!



6 tablespoons canola oil
4 (10 ounce) beef strip loin (NY
Strip) steaks
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons black
peppercorns, lightly crushed
3 tablespoons butter
½ cup brandy
¼ cup chicken or veal stock
½ cup cream
- fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Because black pepper has its own tannins, it is sometimes considered a “wine killer.” Many times, when the tannins of the pepper hit the tannins in wine, the entire flavor becomes what we call “short in the mouth,” meaning that the flavors come to a halt and the taste becomes very astringent.  This steak au poivre recipe is a particular challenge because not only is the meat rubbed with lots of black pepper, you also pour a black pepper sauce over the steak.

Preheat oven to 500° F.

Heat canola oil in 2 large sauté pans over high heat. Season the steaks generously with salt and pepper. When the oil is almost smoking, turn the heat down slightly, add the steaks and sear for 3 to 4 minutes until brown and crusted. Turn the steaks and transfer to the oven and roast for about 4 to 6 minutes or until a thermometer inserted reads 120°F (this will be medium rare).

Remove the steaks from the pans and reserve on cutting board, covered loosely with aluminum foil. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of fat from one of the pans and add the shallot, garlic, peppercorns and butter. Place the pan on the stove over medium heat and caramelize the aromatics lightly. When the shallots and garlic have some color, remove the pan from the flame and deglaze the pan with the brandy. Flame the brandy and reduce by half. While the brandy is reducing, bring the stock to a boil in the other sauté pan, scraping the bottoms and sides of the pan and remove from the heat.

When the brandy is reduced, add the stock and cream and reduce slightly until thickened, about 5 minutes and season to taste with salt.

To serve, place steak in center of the plates. Spoon the sauce over and around the steaks and serve immediately.

Nom Nom, enjoy!  Yep, that's my homemade version above... Came out great, the sauce is divine.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Thursday Dinner.

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on some of the most beautiful veggies (tomatoes, fresh fennel, basil, hand-brined olives) and organic, farm-raised chicken yesterday-- I am very much looking forward to preparing this dish at home tonight.  As the hubb says, "What's a paillard?"  Here's what we're cooking...

Paillard is an older French culinary term referring to a quick-cooking, thinly sliced or pounded piece of meat.  In France, it has been largely replaced by the word escalope.


4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and lightly pounded flat
½ cup shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
¾ cup thinly sliced fennel
½ cup green olives, pitted and sliced
¼ cup raisins, soaked in white wine
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons capers
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
½ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons basil julienne
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

The inspiration for this chicken paillard recipe came after a visit to the olive orchards of Castello di Fonterutoli in Chianti, Italy. Topped with tomatoes and herbs, fennel, pine nuts and capers, it is reflective of the kinds of ingredients commonly found in that region of Italy.
Preheat oven to 450° F.
Season the chicken breasts on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in a lightly greased baking dish.

Combine together in a mixing bowl the shallots, garlic, tomatoes, fennel, green olives, raisins, pine nuts, capers, and thyme leaves. Drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cover the chicken with the tomato, fennel and olive mixture and drizzle a little more olive oil over and around the paillards. Bake the chicken in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until cooked through. Sprinkle the parsley and basil over the paillards and serve immediately.

Viola!  This was another fantastic dish-- the flavors worked together in a really lovely way and the chicken came out so tender and juicy.  Definitely a new favorite.


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Feeling Awesome.

Ah yes.  The second day of the New Year.  The real "first" day for most of us, considering the aftermath of NYE.  Although I managed to keep this year's celebration pretty mellow- a couple drinks in my pj's watching movies from the 90's with the hubbs- I still took yesterday off from resolutions.  I decided, what better way to spend January 1st, 2013 than to read my books, eat a cheeseburger for lunch and finish with a pizza dinner?  I know, I know... The gluttony!  Gorging on junk food for an entire day was my way of saying goodbye to 2012 in the greasiest way possible.

It sounds stereotypical to announce, "This year, I'm going to eat healthy and exercise more!"  The thing is, we've already cleaned out the fridge, emptied the cupboards and waved goodbye to my beloved candy bag.  Both the hubbs and I are determined to kick the bad eating habits we've developed over the holidays and through football season by sticking to fresh, simplistic, healthy foods and a very active, consistent lifestyle.  The hubbs is now in training for his first triathlon and I've got no choice but to stand beside him in his quest.  I'll be running, swimming, and bicycling along beside him in support-- mind you, perhaps trailing a bit further behind and relatively slower.  No silly, I'm not participating in the triathlon, I'll leave that up to him.  It does give me the motivation to get myself back in motion though, especially after the indulgent days of the months ending in R.

Don't get me wrong.  There will be tons of cooking, eating and food journeys in the near future.  In fact, I'm starting our first new day with a healthy, delicious meal made entirely from locally sourced foods (keeping reading for the recipe).  We are passionate about our garden this year, and attempting to eat almost entirely our own fruits and vegetables.  I look forward to sharing tips, photos and recipes in the upcoming months as our garden changes with the seasons.  Heck, we might even buy some chickens.  For right now, the only items in our fridge are vegetables, hard cheeses, wine, milk and a ton of hot sauce.  Our cupboard has basic grains, dried beans, honey, sugar and beef jerky.  The barren winter garden will soon be sowed, covered for warmth and sprouting before we know it, revealing hearty root veggies and cool weather greens.  It's an exciting time of year around these parts-- things are a'changin!

To kick off our year of "feeling awesome", tonight I will be cooking up one of Eric Ripert's fabulously simple, healthy dishes made from locally farmed salmon and organic produce.  I admire Eric for his unique philosophy on cooking and his passion for sustainability within the field-- as a well respected philanthropist and Head Chef/Co-Owner of the exquisite Le Bernardin in New York City, he is one of my own personal culinary idols.  I love the way the man sees the world and it's bounty...


½ cup red wine
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
1 shallots, minced
4 sprigs tarragon
2 leeks
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin off
fine sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

1 teaspoon sliced tarragon
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon finely minced shallots

Cooking salmon very slowly on one side or “unilaterally” is a very refined technique that is very easy to do a home. The rich fish is accompanied by the full flavors of the red wine butter sauce with it’s balance of richness and acidity while the sweetness from the leeks rounds out the dish.

In a small sauce pot, combine the red wine, red wine vinegar, black peppercorns, shallots and tarragon. Bring the wine to a boil and reduce to about 6 tablespoons. Reserve in pot.

Trim the ends of the leeks, remove the tough outer greens and wash thoroughly. Split the leek in half lengthwise and thinly slice the leeks into juliennes; place the leeks in a shallow pot and cover with water and 1 tablespoon of butter. Bring to a simmer, lightly season with salt and pepper and cook slowly until the leeks are very tender, about 10 minutes, adding more water as needed.

Finish the red wine butter sauce by whisking in the remaining butter 1 tablespoon at a time until fully emulsified, season to taste with salt and pepper and strain the sauce through a fine mesh sieve and keep warm.

For the salmon, put about ½ cup of water in a pan (just enough to cover the surface); season with salt and bring to simmer over medium heat. Season the salmon on both sides with salt and pepper. Place the salmon in the pan; cook at a bare simmer until the top of the fish is just warm to the touch (about 5-7 minutes).

Meanwhile, gently reheat the leeks in the cooking liquid. Spoon the leeks onto each plate, remove the salmon from the pan and drain each fillet on a towel. Place a salmon fillet on top of each bed of leeks. Sprinkle tarragon, black pepper and shallot over each fillet. Spoon sauce around and serve immediately.

The man himself, Mr. Eric Ripert- look at that smile.

“Cooking is a holistic process of planning, preparing, dining and sharing food. I place food at the center of our humanity, as it nourishes not only our physical bodies but also our emotional and spiritual lives. Food is truly a cultural phenomenon that informs our traditions and our relationship with the earth. I genuinely believe that food connects us all.”

This was an AMAZING dish that both the hubbs and I loved.  The fish came out perfect and the sauce was so light and complementary.  The leeks were slightly sweet and very tender, and the garnish of finely diced shallots and tarragon gave it bite.  So good.  Try it out, let me know what you think.  And don't be afraid of the "barely cooked" part- poaching the fish this way only brings out its natural flavors, it's a delight.

Cheers friends, and enjoy!