Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tommy's Wok. Tommy's Wok does a nice lunch special. It starts with a nice mixed green salad before your choice of entree with rice, vegetables and fruit.

I enjoyed the Mandarin Beef. Realize this is fusion food rather than pure Chinese and it is well-suited to Marin's palate which emphasizes local and fresh. The atmosphere is also friendly and relaxing and there are always beautiful orchids in the middle of the restaurant.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Cafe Trieste for breakfast. Paul had not been to Cafe Trieste in Sausalito for breakfast so I had the pleasant task of introducing it.

It was a lively weekday morning with all kinds of people breakfasting and conducting their early morning meetings, whether in person, cell phone or computer.

Paul enjoyed the croissant breakfast sandwich.

I splurged on the eggs benedict, but was disappointed by the rubbery eggs, separating sauce and burnt on one side potatoes. It also came about 20 minutes after Paul's was delivered. Very uneven and disappointing service.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Dill Cream En Croute. My dill offering today is a recipe that my friends INHALE every time I have made it. It does have a nice taste, and is really simple to make. You can also pick up a larger size of the crescent rolls and use some of the extra dough to make decorative cut outs (I did for this demonstration). This is my second entry in theme with the one-year anniversary of Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging.

I tried it out yesterday with two of my good friends, Daniel & Paul who dropped by in succession. Daniel, taken aback by the dense creaminess (equalling fat/calories) suggested blending with tofu (while continuing to eat it..). Paul mouthed compliments every few bites while the rest disappeared down his appreciative throat.

Yes, using full-cream cream cheese and regular crescent rolls have a calorie and fat punch, but it's usually a special treat brought to a pot luck or the like so people are sharing in a larger group, and it goes before anyone can get too carried away. It would be a good experiment to try making this with the reduced fat crescent rolls and cream cheese. It may take on a less rustic appearance if you substituted puff pastry for the crescent rolls as well. I think it's nice to have a recipe that has widely available ingredients that is easy to pull together in a flash for those last-minute invitations for a get-together with friends.

Dill Cream En Croute

1 (4 oz.) can refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
Minced dill weed to coat cheese block (dried dill weed is fine, fresh is fragrant!)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese

1 egg yolk, beaten

Keep the cream cheese chilled until ready. Carefully unroll the crescent dinner rolls, and press seams together to form a 12 x 4 inch rectangle.

Unroll dough on a lightly floured surface; press seams together to form a 12 x 4 inch rectangle. Place generous amount of minced dill weed on a plate or waxed paper sheet and gently roll the chilled block of cream cheese in it to coat the entire surface with dill. Put the cream cheese in the center of the dough and wrap up the sides, pinching to seal so that you have an attractive block. Turn seam side down on greased baking sheet. Brush with egg yolk for shiny appearance.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 22 minutes.
Garnish, if desired. (Fresh dill sprig looks great.)
Serve warm with crackers.
Yield: 16 appetizer servings.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lunching South of the Border. Today I enjoyed the newly opened Saylor's South of the Border. OK, no dill in site here either. But one of the side benefits of blogging is that I'm choosing more interesting entrees. Without observation, I might pick a rather boring old favorite like tacos, but I ventured out to have a chili relleno, even after being warned that it was a bit spicy.

It was excellent, with just the right spicing to make it interesting without the need of fire hose cooling. I also liked the crisp fresh salad which had sliced fresh carrots and red and green bell peppers.

The cheery interior ambiance was also quite soothing. I would definitely visit again.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Eric's Tsing Tao. A new Chinese restaurant has opened in San Rafael, Eric's Tsing Tao or Tsing Tao Eric's - it was hard to deciper the order from the various renditions. I was half-searching for a restaurant which may have a dish using dill, but once I saw the photo of the Strawberry Crushed Ice with Ice Cream, my fate was sealed. It looked nearly identical to a Japanese dessert that I enjoyed many years ago. So in I went. Since there were no 'plates' suited to a single diner, I determined that I would just have to order what I wanted and take some home for a later meal.

Eric's is a simple menu, for example there was only one choice of fried rice on the menu "Eric's". It was quite tasty with a mix of chicken, beef and pork with egg and onion.

I ordered chicken asparagus as the main dish, it was very fresh, but the sauce (with a black bean note) was a little more sharp tasting than I prefer.

Finally, the reason I chose Eric's Tsing Tao -- the dessert. There was an article on the window outside touting "Taiwanese Street Food" and this selection was on the menu below the glass which I assumed was that theme. Basically this dish consists of a mound of freshly crushed ice, with strawberries, ice cream and sweetened condensed milk on top. This mimics the dessert I was so fond of in Japan, the difference being that in Japan it's usually served in a footed clear glass bowl that's deeper and it's more round and pointy with artistic flair. Eric's rendition also had some kind of other syrup in the base once you dug in a bit, a nice taste, but I couldn't identify it.

Changing Look. Out with the old, in with the new! I'm making changes to the look and other elements of Anna's Cool Finds in hope that it will allow for greater flexibility and the ability to add comments. It may take a few days to update all the sidebar links, but they will be back! In the meantime, I've uploaded a photo I have on file that shows my favorite bird friend, the snowy egret who often greets me by my deck in the mornings.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Week Long Celebration of Weekend Herb Blogging. I found doing the herb blogging yesterday as part of an event quite engaging and discovered that next weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the start of Weekend Herb Blogging with Kalyn. Kalyn will be doing a week-long retrospective leading up to the anniversary weekend and is hosting a favorite herb contest. I thought all evening about it, and finally chose dill as my favorite.

I've decided to 'vote early and often' by consciously including dill in my diet and blog repeatedly over this week leading up to the big day on Sunday. If it is my -- favorite -- then I should be able to eat it with abandon all throughout such a short time frame, you think?

After my morning meetings at Marin Professionals, I've returned to catch some lunch before going to volunteer some blood at the Marin Blood Center (of the Pacific) who are desperate enough to contact me for it, even though through all the sticks and pricks over the last 8-odd years they've never been able to draw anything from me. Knowing it is such a need, I'm game again if they are.

Needing to prepare some lovely white, variegated and purple eggplants last evening, I prepared them by salting and leaving in a colander for 30 minutes, rinsing then brushing with nice organic olive oil before grilling on the barby. This set me up perfectly for today's wrap!

Colorful organic eggplant, tomato and dill havarti wrap

In honor of Kalyn's South Beach diet theme, I've used La Tortilla Factory's high fiber/low carb tortillas for the wrapper.

1 tortilla (low carb!)
2 slices grilled eggplant
1 vine-ripened organic tomato slice
1 wedge dill Havarti cheese

Arrange it for eye appeal (it helps fill you up!), then re-arrange for wrapping, do so, and bon appetit!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Secrets of the Yamaimo. This is my first participation in a food blogging event -- Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Kayln. I bought some yamaimo (mountain or long potato) as I had planned to make some handmade soba noodles using it as the binder instead of wheat, but that's quite a project so I decided to use it in other ways. I haven't experimented with this yet, but I also suspect that vegans might enjoy using yamaimo as a subsitute binding agent for eggs in some recipes.

Yamaimo was first cultivated in China, but made its way to Japan where it has been cultivated and appreciated ever since. Handling it can cause itchy hands (not to mention itchy lips!), but that can be overcome by using gloves when peeling the bumpy light brown skin off it and either liquefying it by grating, or slicing much like jicima. Yamaimo is also used in Chinese herbal medicine for several indications, one of the more interesting being anti-aging. This probably arises from the fact that the root contains 0.012% of diosgenin (a natural DHEA), and antioxidants as well.

I made two preparations for your viewing pleasure this afternoon ( and for my lunch!) One is a very plain soup. The recipe is to grate about 4" of peeled yamaimo, liquefying it, then adding a packet of iriko (dried anchovy) dashi (soup stock) mix and 1/3 cup boiling water. Chill, garnish as you like and sip (taking care not to get too much on the outside of your lips or you will itch!). Garnishes may include decorations like thinly sliced raw okra or green onion, or may be more substantial like tekka (raw tuna) chunks. Here's what the plain soup looks like:

This yamaimo soup may also be used to make tororo soba, that is cool soba noodles with this as a dipping/slurping sauce. So although I didn't get to making the soba noodles with it, I'm still incorporating soba into the dish! It's popular and healthy, and my results looked like this:

Ohhh! I was trying to get this written under the gun and didn't use my gloves =scratch-scratch=!

I have not been able to get the comment function to work properly on this blog, but if you would like to contact me, my e-mail address is anna at annalou dot com.

Tagged with Weekend Herb Blogging: WHB

Have your bagel and eat it too. Like bagels? Me too, but I don't often indulge as it's hard to justify eating nearly your entire day's carb allowance in one fell swoop. The typical behemoth bagel packs in 363 calories, 70.7 carbs while containing a mere 3.1 grams of fiber. Kinda makes you feel like a troll to start off the day! The Alternative Bagel qualifies as a cool find and delicious way to start the day in that its stats are a more moderate 110 calories, 25 carbs, and a whopping 8 grams of fiber. And they have good mouth-feel too. Another nice way to start the day is with Humble Gourmet products. The Humble Gourmet produces jelly/jam and other preserves which it sells from local farmer's markets and on-line. They use the small-batch method and the flavors are impressive. Pictured is a small jar of their "Pluot" jam, and Peppermint Honey.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

English Caramel Tea. Yesterday morning, Jo-Ann called me as I was signing the check for my breakfast and suggested getting together for tea. I suggested having it at my house as I have a pantry closet with about three shelves full and I wanted to try out my new French Coffee press with loose leaf tea. Besides, it was a beautiful day to sit on the deck and sip. I quickly picked up some apple-cinnamon rugelach at Bell Market in Tiburon to go with the tea, and headed home.

We tried a couple of my blends, but I broke out my favorite to end with, L'Epicier's English Caramel. My host sister Mika introduced me to this in Japan, and it was love at first sip. Although it has a French name, it is a Japanese company that makes it, and recently the company has become "Lupicia". Mika sends me 'care' packages of it, and I hoard it for special occasions. It was lovely.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Breakfast at the New Morning Cafe. Having spent far too much time indoors and at the computer lately, I decided to go to one of my favorite towns, Tiburon, for breakfast and enjoy the beautiful weather. It really is a beautiful day in Marin. Sitting by a window, with the sun streaming in, I was pleasantly surprised by a nice choice of tea. The New Morning Cafe stocks several varieties of Twinings Tea, and serves it in a real teapot. That is an advance on most places, an improvement would be having loose tea with proper pre-warmed pot and cup which sends me over the top with delight. I chose Earl Grey.

My mother loved Corned Beef Hash and made it fresh for weekend breakfasts when I was a child, so I ordered the freshly made Corned Beef Hash and Eggs from the menu. It was made from scratch and very good. The chef cooked the eggs just right as well.

It was really funny that after starting a new blog that deals with issues of the day (The Lull Before the Storm), I overheard quite the political conversation in the restaurant. I chronicled my experience of that on the other site.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Chirashizushi at Amberjack's. Sometimes it's the parking. You intend to go one place, but no parking there, and as luck has it, a rare spot opens up on a usually difficult street. Such is how I ended up dining at Amberjack Sushi in Mill Valley this evening.

The staff were really friendly and quite prompt. They served a nice miso broth to start (short on ingredients but the broth was well-flavored).

There was quite a lively crowd at the bar, and it looked well frequented by neighborhood folk who were very friendly with each other and the staff.

The miso was followed by my first course, an appetizer off their specials board, beef asparagus rolls. It took a while to come out from the kitchen, but it was tasty and well seasoned.

The chirashizushi was ok, but nothing to write home about. There was an interesting inclusion of mixed green salad mix under the egg. I'm so used to traditional tastes, this wasn't a positive for me. I would have far prefered a shiso leaf. The fish was fresh -- my test is the saba. That can be REALLY FISHY if not fresh, and this one passed my taste test. Cool and smooth the pieces slid down my throat. I would have also have paid a little more attention to centering the presentation so that it lined up with the design of the laquered bowl rather than having it fall to the blank seam between the designs. But that's a small thing. It was my first visit, so I'll have to try it a couple more times to see if it's consistent, especially since the Yelp review was not so encouraging.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Chicken Pasta Pomodoro. Tried out a new product -- Kashi's Chicken Pasta Pomodoro for lunch. It claims: Honest Ingredients - True Sustenance - Naturally Flavorful. I've had Kashi's breakfast cereals before and have been favorably impressed. What would the frozen microwaved meal hold in the way of taste? I was pleasantly surprised. The 7-grain pasta that they use holds up well and still has bite to it after cooking, and the zucchini tasted unusually good for previously frozen as well. It was slightly soupy as you can see from the photo, but it's hard not to be a little when the product goes through the freezing/microwaving process. All in all a nice quick lunch with a punch of fiber (6 grams).

I'd like to also note a couple things -- notice the reference to the Iraq War Cost is gone, and a new link added for The Lull Before the Storm. When I started this blog, it was really an experiment, and intended to cover a wide variety of topics, tied in with "new and cool", however, it tended towards a food blog covering Marin County and sometimes San Francisco Bay area, with some travel commentary and musings on daily life. At one point I made a shift to concentrating this blog on those topics, but it really left me no place for other musings. It did seem a little discordant to intersperce posts about dead African babies with brioche 0000! Or techie crunch with the cereal. Soooo.. today was born my alternate blog, The Lull Before the Storm. It will cover 'creeping' issues -- those that fly under the radar or are big ones that started out small... musings, summaries and plausible solutions... It will probably not have the frequency of posting as this one, but I hope it will raise some questions and point to some innovative paths.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Venturing out for lunch. In Sausalito again today, I ventured over to Kitti's Place for lunch. My neighbor who is a food writer for a local Marin newspaper recommended this hidden gem to me about a year ago, and this was my second visit. Kitti's Place still doesn't have its own website that I can locate. I think it must not have seen the need because when a place is quite good, word of mouth usually brings the crowds in.

It was a busy lunch time at 12:30, and with such beautiful weather a number of guests enjoyed lunch outside under the big green umbrellas.

Kitti's has a well-rounded menu from sandwiches to more traditional Thai food. I was also impressed with their full page of weekly specials. I ordered off the specials menu. I chose the squash and red pepper soup to start.

The soup was hot and delicious and had an edge of spiciness to it without going overboard.

I enjoyed lamb satay marinated in apricot chutney with saffron rice and a cool crisp salad that had jicima and carrot straws on top. The meat had a well-marinated taste, not just like someone brushed the top while it was grilling. It was threaded on the skewers with zucchini, red pepper and onion as well. If you like lamb, you'll love this dish, but you'll have to hurry as the week ends for this specials grouping on September 23rd.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Breakfast with Dad. After Dad's eye treatment this morning, we decided to pop in to the Corte Madera Cafe for breakfast. It has been awhile since my last visit, since it's slightly off my beaten path, but I remembered it as good. The atmosphere makes you feel as though you are in a little country place with a chicken theme and painted backboard part way up the wall. It is clean, cheerful and friendly, and the proprietors obviously care about giving people a good experience. There are fresh flowers gracing a small table near the center railing, as well as beautiful hanging flower arrangements on the outside beckoning you to enter.

They obviously have a bias towards the fresh as both Dad and I originally had decided on dishes containing spinach, and we were informed because of the recall and doubt about fresh spinach it was temporarily not available. Dad enjoyed a 3-egg omelet containing ham, mushrooms and avacado.

I quickly scanned the menu after being disappointed that the scramble containing spinach and feta was not available and settled on the Eggs Benedict. There is a choice of hash browns or home fries and we both chose home fries. I am usually a bit wary of home fries as so often they are underdone on one side, and burnt on the other. However, I was delighted to find that Corte Madera Cafe does an excellent job on the home fries. They were cooked to perfection, golden brown on all sides without being over or under cooked, and were paired with yellow bell peppers and onion. Nice.

The proprietor kept an eye on the floor, and was friendly with the guests, filling in when the waiter looked busy to keep the flow going. I've been here several times in the past, and had positive impressions each time.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Suppenküche for brunch. Usually I wouldn't review a restaurant so close on the heels of the first review, but there is something to add.

Caren called the restaurant in the morning because we were told that they served pretzels during brunch on Sunday. She wanted to check whether they had pretzels today since that is what she and Emil were wishing to have for breakfast. The person answering the phone assured Caren that there were lots of pretzels today and to come on down...

Caren contacted me in case I would like to join and try a tradition in Emil's region of Germany, fresh baked pretzels. I accepted thinking it would be interesting to explore what a German brunch was like as well. So off we went -- and they did have pretzels, however the waitress was rather reluctrant to part with any, and was really stressed to give a second one to Caren -- it was very uncomfortable since Caren had called ahead and was assured that there were LOTS of pretzels. We were naturally charged for the pretzels as well, so I am really amazed at the waitress being so bad humored. She also forgot to put in Caren's order for hot chocolate, which then seemed to take a long time. She was quite inattentive, and would turn her head and dash off before we were finished speaking with her (and we weren't long winded). Such a contrast to the helpful and friendly Daniel who waited on us Friday night.

Caren & Emil ordered Kaiserschmarrn (Emporer's Pancake) with mixed berries. It was a little burnt, but good nevertheless.

While I tried an unlikely combination in the Geröstete Maultaschen mit Zwiebeln, Ei und Gurkensalat (Sauteed German Ravioli scrambled with Eggs and Onions served with a Cucumber Salad). Yes, the spinach and meat filled ravioli were scrambled in half pieces with the egg and onion. Quite good actually. And the cucumber salad with fresh dill and bits of red onion was quite reminiscent of my mother's.

Finally, Caren's hot chocolate came with a smiley face!

While our visit for brunch certainly wasn't as stellar as our Friday night foray, I would still go back to Suppenküche (and avoid a certain waitress).

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Toast. The morning after such a rollicking good time the night before, and rich food, what does one breakfast on? Well, this one had a perfectly toasted slice of honey-wheat bread spread with bits of butter and Rare Hawaiian Organic White Honey. I was remembering the biscuits and honey at Madonna Inn, and recalled the delicious jar of honey I had in my pantry...

Toast is such a simple comfort food that has been around for centuries. It's something we take for granted. The ancient Egyptians created bread about 6000 years ago, and toasting it was a means of preservation. There is an old French joke about the English which says that the English invented toast as the only way to butter bread in their climate. The modern day word "toast" actually comes from Old French and was first coined in 1398.

What others are saying about toast:

The Art of Eating Toast
300 Ways to Enjoy Toast
Dr. Toast's Amazing World of Toast
Toast: A video
Dropping Toast
Wonderful World of Toast
The Toast Bible
The Toaster (Art made of toast)

...and that's about it for this morning!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Suppenküche. After a day of catching up with household things and arranging my next consulting appointment, I went with Caren and Emil to Suppenküche, a German Restaurant in the Hayes Valley District of San Francisco. Emil is from Germany and we are doing a Regions of Germany Supper Club in October -- so this was our excuse.

Unfortunately, we had about an hour wait, so we popped over to Absinthe down the block for drinks first. I enjoyed a lemon drop. The bar area of Suppenküche was quite busy and noisy, so we opted not to stay there as there wasn't a corner in sight. I did take some photos of it and the very harvesty-looking ceiling decorations.

We were seated next to a family gathering of 7 in a bit quieter back room, sharing a long pine table in the back of the restaurant. We quickly made friends, and the father, John who was visiting from Minnesota also spoke German. Mark, his son, was sitting next to me and we discovered that we both speak Japanese - how coincidental. Then the singing started, and continued on an off the whole evening. What a blast! I couldn't sing the German songs but I sure enjoyed seeing my friends and new tablemate having such a rollicking good time. The waiter, Daniel, was quite friendly too and from Germany. So we invited him to come to our next Supper Club and exchanged information.

Caren & John

John, Caren & Emil

I videoed some very short clips of the singing and posted at Google videos. Unfortunately, these are really sound recordings because the lighting was too low. I posted the best ones. Singing at Suppenkuche I and Singing Auf Wiedersehen at Suppenkuche II and finally, Singing at Auf Wiedersehen at Suppenkuche III. Sorry that these didn't come out very well, but it still gives you a feel for the ambient sound. John said that he hadn't sung German songs with anyone in 40 years but had been practicing while washing the dishes (which makes the task bearable). Emil mentioned that John remembered the text even better than he. John told his kids that he used to sing them to sleep with these German songs while rocking them on his shoulder, noting that Mark was the most difficult of the four kids to get to sleep as he would start up crying just as he was slipping him through the door to the bedroom. We asked Mark if he were getting sleepy yet!

This is a place where you can really have a good time. So much so, that I forgot to photograph the Kartoffelsuppe (potato soup) first course we enjoyed. It had a nice flavor, and we were trying to decide which soup stock was used as the base. I posed the question, as I couldn't tell, and Emil thought beef, and Caren pork. The waiter told us it really didn't have stock at all, but that some bacon was purreed in with the potatoes. It had a smoky taste with a hint of pepper. They also served a good rye bread with the meal.

As a main course, I had the Sauerbraten mit Preiselbeerkonfitüre, serviert mit Rotkohl und Spätzle (Sauerbraten beef with red cabbage, potato dumplings and cranberry sauce). The meat was tender and the sauce well paired. The cabbage and potato dumplings were great as well. I did have take a photo of it after I'd taken a few bites.

Emil had the Jägerschnitzel in Champignonsoße mit Spätzle und grünem Salat (Sauteed Porkloin in Mushroom Sauce served with Spätzle and Green Salad) and Caren the Rindergulasch (beef goulash). We accompanied our meal with Emil's recommended beer, Caren and I had a light one in a small glass (I forgot the name-- UPDATE: Kölsch) which was good, and I usually don't like beer. Emil gave the thumbs up on the meal, and we would all go back. We finished the meal with the delightful pastry treat "Bee Sting" (UPDATE: Bienenstich in German). It was a light bun-like pastry filled with a delicious cream. He of course told us the authentic German name, which I'm not able to reproduce, and he said you could only get this dessert here in this area. Again, we were having such fun, I forgot to photograph it. He also said he thought it better than a similar German restaurant in Alameda that he'd been to in the past.

I also managed to get a quick peek inside the kitchen window and take a shot of some food in prep.

As we went out the door we were also already planning our next visit to be with a bigger crowd who like to sing. If you want to have a rousing good time, in a jovial atmosphere you couldn't do better than Suppenküche. (And the ages and attire were all seriously varied.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Day of Rest. I woke up with a low-grade headache and decided to take it easy. Enjoyed the San Rafael Farmer's Market, barely missing Jo-Ann. I arrived later than usual, and in good time for some of the vendors to start discounting. I took advantage of a 5# for $5 special at one booth, netting some beautiful eggplant and tomatoes. I took a photo of some of the eggplant on my deck railing. I can see some grilled eggplant on the barby coming up! I also got three of my knifes sharpened, what a joy! They cut so cleanly through tomatoes now! There is a booth in the corner of the Market, try it, you'll be amazed at how inspiring a sharp blade can be! Still headachy I tried going to my chiropractor, who noted that I was so tight it was hard to adjust me, and might I consider a massage? No further pushing needed, I booked myself into a new place I'd been wanting to try, Mill Valley Massage with Nicole. It is reasonable ($54 for an hour of specialty massage - I like deep tissue), pleasant surroundings and very close to home. I had a great massage, Nicole is highly recommendable. Headache didn't go away immediately, but it was a good start to it sliding away.