Thursday, May 31, 2007
Daiing for Hahn's. I heard the news that San Rafael's Hahn's Hibachi has left, and Sushi to Dai For is moving in the space. Since Hahn's was the only Korean restaurant in Marin, we are left a little less diverse than before. And it's also nice to see a local Japanese restaurant do so well.
Bun. In March I reviewed the pho at La Maison de la Reine, and this time Dad and I went back for a warm weather lunch. A Vietnamese friend introduced me to Bun, or vermicelli salad, a few years ago, and I was hooked. These cool noodles are especially good in summer.
So naturally, I ordered vermicelli noodles with crisp tofu and vegetarian imperial roll. This is a great vegan treat. The waitress queried if I was a vegetarian. The response was no of course, but logically, as an omnivore, I should be eating more plant based food than anything else since there are more varieties to try than meats.
My Dad ordered the Lemongrass Chicken, which he enjoyed to the last piece on his plate.
I also enjoy the fresh drinks here, and ordered their fresh lemonade. It comes in a tall glass and tastes like what is called a "Lemon squash" in Japan - not too sweet. The staff here has always greeted me warmly and served a nice meal. Before I started on my quest to try all restaurants in Marin, these used to be a frequent hang out.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
Family Italian. It had been some time since I visited La Ginestra, and I was happy to find it virtually unchanged. Totally a family restaurant with food like your Italian grandmother may make. To the right of Dad and I was the most elegant couple, who looked as though they were made for each other, and at a certain age (maybe close to getting a senior discount), still could gaze into each others eyes like the young infatuated couple a few rows down and to the left. There was an entire family in back of us, grandmother with the requisite white hair and pink cheeks, cheerfully checking in with the three grandkids, while her husband headed up the table, and Dad looked like a corporate escapee, just losing the jacket in the car. Mom was pretty and smiley too. In a booth two down from the couple just made for each other was a soccer mom, and handsome Italian boyfriend who were casually dressed. The boyfriend was telling the little soccer player, who looked like she just came off the field, some stories waving his arms while she giggled. Dress up, dress down, either way just be comfortable here.
I started with the traditional, garlicy caesar, and it was good as well.
Dad tried the chicken breast with mushrooms, artichokes and polenta triangles. He said the breast was moist and the flavorings good.
I chanced the linguine with clams. I usually do not like this dish when it isn't made with clams in the shell. However, this one tasted like there was an Italian grandmother in the back, who was carefully shucking the tenderest clams so her favorite family member wouldn't have to work to get at the meat. Deliciously rich clam flavor and tender pieces in abundance graced this. The noodles could have been a tad more al dente, but it was a very satisfying dish overall.
A note that if you are a foodie, and haven't seen Waitress yet, it's well worth watching just seeing how the lead expressed herself through food.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Cucumber Cups. One of my favorite summer refreshers is cucumber juice. Fresh chilled pureed cucumber flesh over ice with fizzy soda in a tall glass, long straw and a round of cucumber garnish on the lip. Since I was making snow crab ravioli, and had a spare cucumber in the refrigerator, I was inspired to make a little non-alcoholic cucumber apéritif in a cucumber cup.
The main course was naturally the snow crab and dill ravioli with sweet tomato basil sauce, courtesy of The Monterey Pasta Company. I added a crisp minted salad as a garnish. The minted salad was made of Roma tomatoes, seeded Perisan cucumbers and sweet onions chopped to equal sized pieces and marinated a few hours in chopped mint, a squeeze of fresh lime and champagne vinegar.
This is my offering for Weekend Herb Blogging, which this week is being hosted on Kalyn's Kitchen.
Naturally, my herb of choice is cucumber, it being part of both the main course as well as the cucumber cup apéritif. Scientifically classified as a fruit, this popular vegetable is part of the gourd family. The cucumber is believed native to India, and has been cultivated in Western Asia for at least 3,000 years. The Roman Emperor Tiberius had these on his table every day of the year, using a greenhouse type method to insure a fresh supply. Peak season for cucumbers is May - July, so the timing is great!
Cucumbers are particularly good for the skin, containing both ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and caffeic acid which help soothe skin irritations and reduce swelling. The other main component is water, which gives a cooling sensation - hence "Cool as a cucumber".
To make cucumber cups, start by choosing a cucumber that is fairly uniform in shape, washing, and then cut in half, next slicing off the ends for a flat surface to rest on. You'll want the smaller end to be the base, and the cucumber vessel widening at the top slightly.
To insure a nice crisp edge at the top, use a small knife to make the first circular cut around the interior leaving a sharp, uniform edge. Then use a small melon-baller to scoop out the interior down to 3/4 the depth of the cucumber. Reserve the scooped cucumber flesh to make the apéritif.
As a variation, a slice of cucumber could be taken off the top, split in two and the halves secured on top to make baskets. The baskets could be used to serve dressing, or as a holder for shrimp cocktail.
However, we are making the apéritif, so the next step is adding a teaspoon of birch sugar to the flesh of the reserved cucumber, and whirring it in a blender until thoroughly juiced.
Now simply pour the juice into the cucumber cups, and serve! After we finished our refreshing shot of cucumber apéritif, we refilled the cucumber cups with chilled mugi-cha (barley tea) and it was also enjoyable in the cups, with a wee bit of the cucumber essence flavoring the tea as it sat.
Monday, May 28, 2007
OoohMmm good! I enjoy Indian food, but have not explored much of the background, letting its many regional cuisines meld together in my mind. The first time I become curious about Indian regional cooking was when falling in love with dosas at Neelam's in Seattle's University District (now "Jewel of India"). I was finding that dosas were rather rare elsewhere, with the staff at various other restaurants all over the US explaining that they were 'southern' Indian cuisine whenever I inquired. Having the region spelled out in the name of "Om South Indian Cuisine", gave me reason to ponder these differences again, and do a little research.
My beloved dosas (or dhosas) are indeed from South India, and South Indian Cuisine encompasses the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. And I understand that Om South Indian Cuisine is run by a family from Tamil Nadu. The main difference between the food in these four states is the spiciness (hotness) of their respective dishes, and what distinguishes the region's cuisine from that of other states is the use of rice as a staple food, the use of lentils and mild spices (as opposed to the strong, pungent spices used by North Indian cuisine), and incorporation of dried red chillies and fresh green chillies, coconut and native fruits and vegetables such as tamarind, snake gourd, plantain, ginger, and garlic. And to my surprise, at Om there were several choices of dosa! I decided to try my favorite Masala dosa (filled with a mildly spiced potato mixture), which came out looking just like those I had enjoyed more than 10 years ago in Seattle, bearing the same accompaniments, delicious Sambar, and condiments of tomato-ginger and coconut chutney. OoohMmm good!
My lunch companion ordered the vegetarian curry, and said it was chock full of delicious fresh veggies and was nicely seasoned. This place seems to be a winning place for vegan diners, or those who have a gluten intolerance because of the variety of other grains offered. I'll be back!
Sunday, May 27, 2007
I forget how easy and fast grilling is in the morning. It was such a glorious morning, warm sun, snowy white egrets preening in near view so grilling became the only option! And actually its quicker, since I can put all the toast on the grill at once!
While I grilled, the cinnamon spiced tea steeped in covered mugs.
The grilled items quickly followed, completing a delightful repast.
Posted by Anna Haight at 12:22 AM
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Atmosphere, atmosphere. Joe's Taco Lounge is a well-known Mill Valley original.
An old favorite, cremini mushroom tostada was as good as ever. A popular gathering place, and a good stop for leisure bikers, this place often has a line out the door.
Friday, May 25, 2007
Persian Delights. Having passed all these beautiful flowers the other day on the way to India Village, I vowed to come back and try this place for dinner. What would the food be like in a place that paid so much attention to the detail of beautifully abundant flowers?
Apadana Restaurant is in a strip mall, and has a very nondescript sign in keeping with the rest of the mall. Don't bother looking up for it, just watch for the flowers!
A refreshing starter plate comes out automatically, with gently warmed lavash, mint, basil, onions, walnut pieces, Bulgarian feta, and butter.
Dad and I jointly ordered an Apadana Kebob Platter. It had a skewer of a spicy ground beef mixture, chicken, and steak. Tender, moist and delicious meats. There were two nicely grilled and pleasantly charred red ripe tomatoes on the platter as well.
This was accompanied by a platter of basmati rice, hot and fragrant.
Dad asked, "What's for dessert?", so out came the dessert menus. Dad was called by the bastani, a rosewater ice cream. He gave me a taste, and it was fresh and smooth.
I decided to try something that was completely unique sounding - faloodeh. It packed a most unusual textural and taste sensation. It was an ice-ball containing broken rice noodles which had a little crunchiness to them along with the slightly rose-tasting ice. This was splashed with some sweetened rose water, and a squeeze of lemon. Very refreshing for a hot day.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
Slices of life served here. Caffe Tutti is a stone's throw from the Sausalito Ferry Terminal. A bustling sandwich and coffee shop where tourists and locals mingle in the small room full of wooden tables with cheerful flowers. I ordered and paid the friendly staff at the counter, and was given a wooden spoon with a number on it for my table. As I sat waiting for my Terramezza sandwich (thought I'd try ordering something I didn't understand again), life unfolded before my eyes. To the right of me was a sharply dressed young Japanese business man, and a casually dressed Japanese woman who was listening intently. My eyes were drawn because 1) he looked so out of place in otherwise a totally casual setting and 2) he was upset. He was speaking quickly and animatedly in Japanese, without a clue that anyone in the restaurant other than his companion understood Japanese. He apparently came all this way to find that whoever he was meeting was 'completely unprepared'. He was angry about this the whole 40 minutes I was there... I hope he has a strong heart!
My Terramezza came (I hope I remembered the spelling correctly), and I found out that what I had ordered by that name in fact was a simple ham and cheese panini. It was fresh, hot and good, and I enjoyed the grated carrot salad with it although I could pass on the plain rotilli pasta salad. As I enjoyed my panini, I turned my gaze to the scene at the table just in front of me. A grandma, father and two-ish year old daughter were engaged in conversation. The father was wearing a black Cesar Chevez t-shirt, had a days growth on his face and wild brown curly hair. He looked quite revolutionary in a quiet sort of way. To his right was his daughter, a cute little blonde in a pink chiffon tutu and tights, dressed like a fairy, but acting like a terrible two making faces and sticking out her tongue at everyone. Grandma was trying to keep her in check while listening to her son's latest news. To my left were a mother and daughter speaking what I think was Russian, and enjoying some coffee and pastry. Then there was a group of older tourists behind me, seemingly from the mid-west trying to figure out where to get a good steak. Lastly, there were bikers in sleek biking 'uniforms' sitting inside and outside enjoying a break in their journey. I had most interesting dining companions without specific interaction, although I got some smiles from the bikers as I left. Just another day on the Sausalito waterfront.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Citrus Punch. Less than two weeks ago Citrus & Spice opened on Fourth Street in San Rafael, billing itself as a Thai and California Eatery. Thai fusion arrives in Marin. Circumstances played out such that I had an opportunity have lunch here on Tuesday. The former Paradise Vegetarian Restaurant, which was utilitarian and a bit worn around the edges has been completely transformed into a light, airy and spacious space with artwork and breezy semi-opaque panels as dining room separation.
For an appetizer I tried the deep fried shitake mushrooms, crunchy little treasures!
And the grilled salmon salad, with fresh grapefruit slices was simply irresistible. Light, with crisp red radish slices and toasted pine nuts, this refreshing combination is a winner. Do try this one at home! But if you are near San Rafael, why bother heating up the grill when this is available for $8? It's great to have a new and delicious choice in serene but spicy surroundings on the Marin scene.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
Eating Rocks. I went to the central Sausalito waterfront the other day for lunch, and was meandering along the bay. It was such a pleasant day, the sun was out but not too hot, and there was a gentle breeze. I happened upon some unusual rock formations, rocks balancing in a way that nature probably didn't have a hand in. And not far from those rocks, I saw a man with a large rock resting on his forehead, and on top of an itsy-bitsy rock. I later found out this was Bill Dan, a man famous for Rock Balancing. I stayed and watched. It was so engaging, I completely forgot about eating, my eyes feasting upon the rocks. Again, Blogger wouldn't let me put the slide show into this post, so it is immediately above. So I bring you a no-food, but satiating post today.
Monday, May 21, 2007
A breakfast like mom's. At Cookiecrumb's recommendation, Dad and I came to Lundy's Home Cooking for breakfast one morning.
Crowded and active, what looked like a local crowd was enjoying a variety of food. The hot water for my tea was served in a steaming pitcher.. interesting.
Nearly repeating what was written outside, there was a small whiteboard devoted to the "Homestyle Irish Breakfast". However, I saw no one on staff that looked remotely Irish. In fact, the staff seemed to mostly speak Spanish. The wooden tables were rather sticky, and it looked like this place had been well-loved for a long time without change of decor.
Dad decided that the "Country" breakfast with mild sausage an eggs over easy was what he was up for. He said it was 'great'.
I couldn't resist trying the "Authentic Irish Breakfast". I ordered my eggs scrambled, and it came with potatoes, Irish Sausage, Irish Bacon, grilled tomato slices and mushrooms. When it came it so reminded me of my mother's breakfasts when I was a small girl. The 'bacon' was the same, don't know where she got it, but it was like thinly sliced Canadian bacon that would become curly when cooked, as this was. The potatoes also looked and tasted just like hers, and had an earthy smell that was what first brought me back. My mother was not Irish, but I sure felt like I'd been put into a time machine and given some time with Mom. It's true that this place doesn't seem very connected to its Irish roots, and don't look for fancy cuteness, but the food is reasonably priced, plentiful, and most of all good. Thanks for the recommendation Cookiecrumb, this place is good, and I'll be back!