Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Virapan's Tiburon Thai Cafe

Thai in Tiburon.
I've been wanting to try Virapan's Tiburon Thai Cafe ever since I spotted it nearly hidden at the far end of Ark Row. A family restaurant, it reflects the values of their homeland, Phrae province in Northern Thailand. I understand that coconut milk is not used as much in Northern Thailand cooking.

Steamed Spring Rolls

I started with the Vegetarian Spring Rolls, which are made with tofu, bean thread noodles, cabbage, mushrooms and bean sprouts. I ordered the steamed version and they were light and fabulous.

Jungle Curry - Tofu

I then tried a vegetarian curry - jungle style - which I'd never heard of before, but it's a specialty of northern Thailand. Basically it uses a clear base which allows the flavors and spices to come through in a more pronounced way. In the case of spice, it actually comes across as hotter because there is no coconut milk to tone it down and smooth it out. This was marvelous, and included my favorite pumpkin meat in the mix of fresh fragrant vegetables. There are regular meat offerings too, I just felt in a veggie mood. In addition to the excellent food, the restaurant was fresh and bright, and the service was good. I'll definitely be back here, and bring some friends.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

NEWSFLASH - I watched the webcast (the event was sold out) of John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods and Michael Pollan, author of "Ominvore's Dilema" speaking on "The Past, Present and Future of Food" this evening. If you are interested in food, or the planet, you'll want to catch it in the archives if you didn't see it live. Watch this page for the link to the webcast and audio file. John Mackey made a number of welcomed announcements, but one that tickled my ears was that Whole Foods is going to match Trader Joe's pricing on an item for item basis... so I won't have to go back and forth to search out the best deal! I was impressed with the honesty and vulnerability of John Mackey and his willingness to actually publicly talk through tough issues. And when you watch this, you'll know why I was glad I was eating some tofu I made freshly yesterday in a stir fry while watching rather than anything meat derived...

Sol Food

Pizazz with Jazz.
When searching for an early dinner place, Dad & I noticed that there was FINALLY not a line stretching out the door of Sol Food in San Rafael, and took that as a sign that it was time for us to visit this personality-filled Puerto Rican food place.

First we were greeted warmly and instructed to make our choices, order and pay for our food at the counter, and sit down at one of the tables (many long communal ones) and wait for our number to be up. Not a sit down and be served type place. In the background was rather loud and jazzy Puerto Rican music to continue the ambiance that the bright green exterior started preparing you for. The silverware was in bucket on the table, and the napkins held down by a green plantain. First we started with bottles of Malta - a kind of molasses soda which really did taste of molasses. A new taste sensation, but not something I'd want every day.

Bistec Encebollado

Dad ordered the Bistec Encebollado, a thinly sliced steak sauteed with onions, served with rice beans, organic salad and a choice of two different kind of plantain creations. Each of of us chose one of each so we could sample. Tostones were the smashed green plantains (probably like the ones holding down the napkins) which were mixed with olive oil and garlic and fried a second time with a repeated mashing. Maduros were sweet plantains that just looked dipped in the deep fryer and holding their natural shape. The tostones were definitely crisper and did carry a garlic flavor. The maduros were good, but it felt like they should be dessert as sweet as they were.

Camarones Criollos

And I ordered the Camarones Criollos, large fried prawns that had been thoughtfully detailed, served over rice with organic greens, a slice of perfect avocado with a lemon and garlic dressing gracing the greens. Very nice. I wish I could identify the spices to describe, but it was a nice melding and not too spicy. Friendly, tasty and well-prepared, it is recommendable to try this place. I have to admit it is so different that my usual taste that I wouldn't seek it out frequently, but it would definitely be in my list to go back occasionally when craving something tasty and out of the ordinary. And in my opinion (in the great color debate) the green building is PERFECT for this local and restaurant type.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Caffe Centro

South Park Bustle.
I'm lucky to be working with someone who supports my love of snapping photos and describing food places. On the way south of the city for a business meeting, we stopped in one of the more charming neighborhoods south of Market in San Fransisco, a circle called "South Park", where there were plenty of charming eateries to choose from. The hard part was the parking. We felt Caffe Centro was the place for a quick and interesting bite, and weren't disappointed.

Caffe Centro Counter

After surveying the menus written in chalk, you order at the counter, waiting in line with what appeared to be a gaggle of happy tech workers also stopping in for lunch.

Pasta Portofino Salad

I enjoyed a Pasta Portofino Salad, consisting of bow tie pasta, pesto, pinenuts, grilled chicken, on a bed of mixed greens. The greens were vibrantly fresh, and the mix of other ingredients was perfect, including the amount of pesto dressing. My lunch companion Michael, enjoyed a hearty looking bowl of soup and a half egg salad sandwich (quite big enough for lunch on its own!) who reported that it was good too. He noted that the carrots in the soup were distinct enough that the soup must have been freshly made in the last hour or so. Fast and friendly service at the counter as well. I'd definitely return for a casual lunch, or even breakfast.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Weekend Herb Blogging #71 - The Round up. I'm pleased to be hosting this week's . Kalyn over at Kalyn's Kitchen came up with this great format for sharing inventive and delicious recipes using herbs from around the world. Thirty-three people participated this week, so we have traveled the world a few times! Be sure to read all the way to the end as there are great posts all the way through the week.

The first entry comes from Susan at Food "Blogga", who blogs from Southern California, but is originally from Rhode Island. Susan uses fresh rosemary in her Butternut Squash Risotto with Rosemary, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese, which would make me work my glutes for too!

Next, Chris from outside Atlanta, Georgia who hosts Mele Cotte, brings us a delectable recipe for brussel sprouts, Cavolini di Bruxelles con le Mandorale/Brussels Sprouts with Almonds. Chris not only tells us how to cook them, but how to store them properly as well.

Once Upon A Feast

How Many Herbs Can You Find in this Dinner? is what Ruth from Toronto, Canada asks with her WHB entry. Posts from her blog "Once Upon A Feast" appear regularly in WHB, and she's a real author - you can take a peek at her new cookbook at her site. Ruth is entering two recipes for us Beer Beef Stew and Herb Oat Bread. I can't hazard a guess at how many, can you?

A Yunus makes her very first entry into weekend herb blogging with a truly unique ingredient - bitter gourd. She writes her blog, Kovai-Samayal from New Jersey. She creates one of her favorite dishes for us, Urulai Paagarkaai poriyal / Potato-Bitter Gourd stir fry. I'm familiar with bitter melon from my days in Japan, and it's truly a unique and tasty addition to your table if prepared well, as it looks like is done in this recipe. Welcome to A Yunus!

Elle at Feeding My Enthusiasms, and the first food blogger I've met 'live', has joined WHB for the first time this week with a smashing Roasted Red Potatoes with Onion, Garlic and Rosemary entry, featuring fresh rosemary. Elle's kitchen is somewhere in Sonoma County, north of San Francisco. Welcome Elle!

Jo of 80 Breakfasts is also a first time participant, and from Manila. She features an herb I've never heard of before, culantro. A relative of cilantro, culantro has a bit different look and a more pungent odor than its milder cousin. Jo makes Geera Pork and Chadon Beni Sauce to enjoy its characteristic flavor. Welcome to WHB Jo!

Katerina from Vancouver, British Columbia and host of Daily Unadventures in Cooking, brings us Pistachio Pesto. And you'll have to read what lovers do under the pistachio tree!

Writing from her North Carolina kitchen, Asha of Aroma writes of the 'Grains of Paradise' and shares a recipe for Cardamom-Raisin Quick Buns showing off this long revered ingredient.

Maheswari is a first time Weekend Herb Blogger who lives in Naperville, IL and encourages us to check out curry leaves, and posts a very unique breakfast dish, Curry Leaves Flavoured Indian Rice Noodles. A woman after my own heart, as I could eat noodles any meal of the day as well! And it goes well with her blog's name - Beyond the Usual. Welcome to WHB Maheswari!

From the heart of Vendee, France, Katie from Thyme for Cooking, finds winter an herbal dead zone, but salutes the shallot, the kitchen staple that does not let us down in any season. She posts an incredible recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon, which looks absolutely luscious!

Sher, living in Davis, California, who's the writer behind What Did you Eat?, brings us Sicilian Chicken with Lemon, Mint and Almonds, with mint as her herb of choice. She says this one is easy to prepare, and the San Francisco Chronicle named it as one of the best recipes in the last 10 years! Gotta make this one!

And along comes Kalyn, this event's originator at Kalyn's Kitchen out of Salt Lake City, UT, with another Easy South Beach Recipe: Arugula Salad with Marinated Artichokes and More! Be sure and check out all the interesting variations on the name for arugula at her site. It looks so good, another reason to try a new South Beach Lifestyle. We owe Kalyn a round of applause for creating this awesome venue to share community and such great recipes!

Anna in Sydney, Australia over at Morsels & Musings (who is getting married next week!) gives us some tips on choosing a honeydew melon, along with a salad recipe celebrating the year of the pig - Honeydew and Ham Salad.

Rigatoni with Caper and Almond "Pesto" is what's cooking at Rachael's Bite out of Tampa, Florida. Rachael is featuring mint as her herb and admits that pesto sauces aren't her favorite in general, but she likes to mix things up once in awhile. A woman of like mind! You never know when you'll find something cool that way -- and since mint is a favorite of mine, I'll have to try this although I share her sentiment about pesto.

From Melbourne, Australia Anh of Food Lover's Journey, spices up our lives with a recipe for Spiced Tomato Chilli Pickle. Now if that doesn't win a prize for originality! How many people make pickles these days? Reminds me of my grandmother and mother who prided themselves on having an array of original pickles for family holidays. I've never gone down that path, and now Anh gives me a reason to try. Her descriptions are lush and beautiful, you'll not want to miss reading her entire post.

Boursin Stuffed Peppadews

Keeping these in the order received/posted, I'll mention my own post about Boursin Stuffed Pepperdews(tm), just the thing for a quick elegant appetizer to take to a party! If you scroll down just beyond this post, you'll see all the details.

Ulrike posts a recipe for Bitter Orange & Poppy Seed Cake featuring Seville oranges. Since our oranges in California were frozen out, it's an opportunity to try these Spanish beauties, and what's better yet is that this cake is made from mostly from the marmalade, so if you are a good shopper, your pocketbook is helped while still having top quality flavor. Europe has some wonderful varieties of oranges to try, so don't go without! Ulrike writes Küchenlatein from Kronshagen, Germany and is thoughtful in translating this into English.

Next, let's solve a language puzzle -- what is Batavia in English? This type of lettuce is pictured above, and is the main ingredient of Virginie's recipe below. If you know what variety it is in English, please post in the comments for all to be enlightened. I know by looking that it's a common variety, but I just can't put my head around the name either!

So on to Absolutely Green from Nantes, France, and Virginie's recipe, Hot Nettle and Batavia Juice. This vegan offering also has to win a prize for originality. It doesn't get greener than this - and I'll bet it's so healthy it makes you tingle all the way to your toes! Reflecting again on my grandparents day, taking a tonic in the spring was popular, a custom probably brought over from Europe. I am thinking this would make a great tonic, and be in keeping with getting your body in 'fresh' mode like those first buds and green sprigs of spring coming up soon! Virginie also thoughtfully translates the recipe into English, and notes a way on her blog of ongoingly translating text of food blogs in other languages. This is a great way to expose yourself to some original cooking ideas, and although the translator isn't perfect (like the Batavia issue), experienced cooks can usually figure it out and do quite well!


Astrid in Vienna, Austria who writes Paulchen's Foodblog treats us to two herbs and recipes in her post "Pasta with Cheese & Leek, and Vanilla-Yoghurt Strawberries". This is another bi-lingual blog where posts can be found both in English and German. Astrid also give tips as she's making the recipe, without even a thought -- for example noting in the preparation to "take a handful of slices of a young leek", always a good idea with leeks to use young ones. It was interesting to find out about the Wales connection to leeks as well.

From Toronto, Canada, Elizabeth from "Blog from OUR Kitchen" informs us that Pink Peppercorns are actually not pepper at all. To find out what they are, visit her post "Pink Peppercorns (Schinus terebinthifolius Raddi)" and enjoy her recipe(s). She actually manages to make Chicken Livers sound GOOD.

Jeffrey is one lucky young man to have Christine of Christine Cooks in Trinidad, CA as his mother! She whipped up a delectable vegan dinner using TVP, which I know can really be turned into something terrible if not prepared well. Christine prepares it well and pays attention to the details of bringing out the taste of this very healthy ingredient in her Vegan Stir Fry. Look at that delicious plate of food!

Gattina from New Jersey, in Kitchen Unplugged shows us how to make Basic Egg Pasta Dough from scratch. The instructions are very clear, and she really knows her wheat, specifying hard durum wheat for the best result. She notes its more favorable nutritional profile as well. WARNING: If you read Gattina's post, you'll likely be inspired to try it in your kitchen!

Kenneth from Harrisonburg, PA writes about Mythical Gourmet Garlic in Veggie Gardening Tips. If you want to know about organic cultivation of garlic, and the herb's mysterious sex life, have a peek.

carmalised orange

Haalo from Melbourne, Australia who writes Cook (almost) Anythg Once is in an orange mood, and brings us a recipe for Caramelised Oranges. She balances the orange's goodness and nutrition against the 'badness' of all that sugar, and adds a nutritious topping. Her step by step photos make this simple as 1-2-3!

And another new WHB blogger, Rebekah from the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina brings us a Posy of Marjoram from her Rags to Roses Farm. Travel to this blog to find out all about this beautiful herb and find a recipe that incorporates a fruit which it has a natural affinity with. Welcome Rebekah!

Paul at Writing At The Kitchen Table, in the U.K., reminisces about childhood cooking chores and brings us this moist and marvelous recipe for Zucchini Bread. If you've ever helped harvest anything, you'll be sure to get lost in memory lane when reading this.

Sandeepa, growing up in West Bengal and now writing of the delights of Bengali cooking from her home in the US at the Bong Mom's CookBook, tells us a lot about the bitter gourd, and its healthful profile, not to mention its bitter taste and her changing relationship to it over time. She gives us marvelously detailed instructions for Ma er Tetor Dal ~ Dal with Bitter Gourd, so we can enjoy it as well.

Next to send in their WHB post is Helene from Landau, Germany who authors News from the Kitchen in German and English. She makes a stunning winter soup "Calamar with Pat Soi"; the colors are so vibrant in the finished potage that you'll have to take a look at her site to just to see it, even if you are not going to reproduce it! I used the ingredient photo here so you could see what the Pat Soi (Japanese Mustard Cabbage) looks like for finding it at your local market.

Glenna of Springfield, MO who writes A Fridge Full of Food... brings us a very bright and appetizing Vietnamese Cole Slaw which is packaged perfectly for taking to work. It also uses the ever-popular herb cilantro in it.

linguine with mustard greens feta and pecans

Another first time WHB participant, Emily of Superspark who appears to be cooking from a place in Southern California, invites us to consider mustard greens again. She uses them in Linguine with mustard greens, pecans, and feta which is quick to make and good enough to serve at a dinner party. Welcome Emily!

Burcu of Almost Turkish Recipes brings us an amazing cake which balances mint with green onion and olives. From her kitchen in Bloomington, IN she bakes Black Olive Cake (Zeytinli Kek), which looks mouth-wateringly good. Out comes my Turkish tea set!

Roshani at Living to Eat in London brings us Spicy Squid and Scallops with Saffron Rice featuring fresh curry leaves as her entry from the other side of the pond. There is nothing like fresh curry leaves, and she lets us in on a secret to preserving them.

Spinning around the globe again, we end up visiting Ed of Tomato in Melbourne, Australia who's dreaming. I love it when he dreams as we always are the beneficiary of something unique and interesting. Today he says "I dreamed of vitello tonnato". Visit his world to find out about salted capers and this most unusual and dreamy dish.

So that's it for this week, be sure to join Weekend Herb Blogging back at Kaylyn's Kitchen next week as she's the host for February 26 - March 4th.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Boursin Stuffed Peppadews

Quick and colorful appetizer.
Slightly sweet and slightly hot pickled bright red piquanté peppers aka Peppadews(tm) are from South Africa, but can be found on salad bars or olive counters at many grocers. A chef friend of mine told me of this unique appetizer, and I finally gathered the ingredients together to make it. It is chock full of vitamin C - 1/3 cup provides 100%! Here is the nutritional profile.

And you've probably guessed it, this is my entry into this week's . Kalyn over at Kalyn's Kitchen (where the great South Beach Diet recipes and tips are) began this venture over a year ago, and this week I'm the host. My recipe is Boursin Stuffed Peppadews(tm), but I've also pictured some Chavrie herbed goat cheese in the ingredients photo, as that would also be a great stuffing for these little beauties. Yes, I propped them up on my yoga block so you could see the peppas better.


Boursin Stuffed Peppadews(tm)

12 Peppadews(tm) - or sweet red piquanté peppers
2.6 oz (half a carton) of Boursin herbed cheese

Stuff the drained peppadews with the cheese using a small knife, or for a more finished look, a pastry bag. Arrange artistically on your dish. Voila! You are ready to impress. If you doubled the amount of peppadews(tm), you would of course use all the cheese, but it would make too many for just Dad and I.

If you are wondering what we had after this appetizer, although I didn't picture it, imagine a black shiny plate topped with a tofu, pinto bean and white cheddar tamale, parsnips simmered in chicken stock, and half a fresh tomato with an olive oil and fresh herb dressing, followed with a smaller Japanese pink flowered and lacquered plate with a half slice of German Chocolate cake as a triangle in the center.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I post the round up of imaginative Weekend Herb Blogging from around the world. Keep those posts rolling in to me until
3:00 Sunday February 25th, Utah time at annalou AT ix DOT netcom DOT com.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Local sustainable Chinese.
I finally took my chance at lunch after keeping a watch on Harmony, the new Chinese restaurant very close to my house. It had seemed rather inaccessible before, the crowds looking daunting. I'd been missing a very local Chinese place ever since Szechwan Flowers left Strawberry Village. And there's really no comparison as Szechwan Flowers was a very family-style typical Chinese restaurant, and Harmony is a reinterpretive upscale type.

Tea Service

I was delighted to find that they serve dim sum (all day in fact), and that the portions were such that a single diner could also enjoy a dim sum lunch. I started with tea however, and had a nice chat with the waiter about various types and the best tea vessels to use. I tried some Poy Nay, a black tea with a intense, smoky, fermented flavor. I really liked the touches on the tableware as well. The cup was handmade with interesting uneven curves, and the plate had rolled up sides, so easy to balance your chopsticks on!

Grilled Turnip Cake

Out came the grilled turnip cake made with a puree of sweet Chinese turnips and shitake mushrooms. The waiter, who I think must have been the owner, mentioned that this dish was organic, and he seemed to have picked out several of the items I admired in the restaurant. How many people do you know that would rave over a dish made with TURNIPS? Well, this one was over the top and has put turnips in a very different place on my culinary map.

Lotus Leaf Rice

The Lotus Leaf Rice came out next, done to perfection - sticky and flavorful. The steamer was quite decorative as well. I also noted the thoughtful architectural and decorative touches which gave the dining room a warm inviting feel, and visual interest points.

Peking Duck

Finally, my Peking Duck came out with scallions, steamed bun and hoisin sauce. I assembled it myself for the photo. It was a perfect bite. Some of my Yelp associates downrated this restaurant on the basis of price, but it is really not fair to compare this place to worn, beaten out dives that are populous in San Francisco's Chinatown, albeit many with good food, nor the Americanized voluminous portion, mediocre places that dot much of Marin with their corporate clean, yet sterile decor. This is Chinese haute cuisine with a local, sustainable twist, as befits a Marin venue. A better comparitor would be Tommy Toy's with Marin sensibilities. I'll definitely return here (with some friends!).