Sunday, September 30, 2007
Cheerful pink breakfast. Paul & I made it to Star Restaurant a few days ago for breakfast. It's very cheerful and the service is prompt.
Paul ordered the pancakes and eggs breakfast, and enjoyed the crisp bacon, tender hot flapjacks and fresh eggs. He was happy with his meal.
I ordered the mushroom omelet with onions and peppers tucked inside as well. It was quite flavorful, and they nicely substituted very sun kissed ripe tomatoes for the potatoes. Paul took the sourdough toast off my hands. Delish! This place is very family oriented, busy and friendly. You can see the pink theme carried throughout, including pink sugar (you can see it above my plate). Surprisingly, there is a big window overlooking some woods with a very green, pleasant view for a place on a busy road. The neon pink lights inside reflected through the window like a pink ribbon surrounding the green, a little surreal! The place prides itself on being local and independent.
Paul, Daniel & I met Paul's friends Sam, April & Virgil at the Savoy Tivoli in North Beach in the late evening yesterday. Definitely a young crowd and crowded at this bar that has seen a lot of history since 1907. Rated the best bar in North Beach, I would have liked it better had th no smoking rule been enforced.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Moseying and musing. I was wandering around Sausalito at lunch the other day, enjoying the sun and the views, and thinking about how far my blog has come and morphed over these short few years. It has certainly gotten me far in reaching my goal of actually trying many new places that I wouldn't have stretched myself for, and I'm well along the way to having tried every eating establishment in Marin County.
Strolling, I noticed the home of the Sausalito police through the wild dill growing profusely all around. I've noticed the dill along Highway 101 and vacant fields recently too. It must like the Marin ecosphere. It smells good too.
Caledonia street is a charming walk, and it is where mostly locals come to eat and be entertained. There are fresh, colorful flowers along the way.
I've noticed that although there are a few upscale, nice places I haven't blogged yet, the pickings of new places are getting a bit slim, and my, we do have a lot of Chinese and Mexican offerings. I'm afraid there's a danger of having to switch between the two cuisines every other day in order to complete most of the places I haven't been, before revisiting the old substantially. Although I like both cuisines, it seems a bit much!
It's also been more difficult for my father to enjoy some of these places recently. I'm afraid Alzheimer's is a really unpredictable disease, and it's showing up more. He gets frustrated when he can't read the menu, or forgets what he ordered and gets upset that it's something he doesn't want when it comes. Getting old is not for sissies!
Since there are no deadlines on my explorations, only self-imposed, I think I shall be mixing it up a bit more here with culinary and Marin musings, home cooking and of course continuing restaurant reviews. And living in Southern Marin, I may venture a bit more into San Francisco for some new things when I have the opportunity.
I enjoyed lunch after strolling about at a place where there is a "Dog Park" -- do you know where this is? Since it's a place I regularly frequent, and I had a favorite comfort dish already featured in a post here, I just took this shot. [It's Sushi Ran.] It's so Marin isn't it? Some take their dogs to the office in this county as well. Until tomorrow...
Friday, September 28, 2007
Local breakfast. Very local. The other morning I thought I'd make an omelet, and sadly thought, but I have no green onions. But then a light flashed, and I thought, but oh! I have fresh basil growing on my deck! So popping outside in my sky blue jammies to harvest, I noticed my that basil pot is in bloom! Beautiful white buds! Then I heard my mother's voice, "Harvest your plants before they go to seed", or "Pinch off the buds so they don't take the energy from the plant". OOOhhh, have I let my plant go too far?
My parents grew up on real farms, and my mother couldn't wait to move to 'the city'. Seems it was hard work on the farm no matter your age, as long as you could pull weeds, sweep, what ever your little hands could hold. However, 'the city' was actually a small town by the time I was a little one, and my parents had 'a garden' in the backyard. Yep, a garden big enough to feed the entire neighborhood. House plots were bigger in those days. I do remember weeding. By the time I was a teen, my parents being older stopped gardening as it was 'too much work', and my mom's hands kept getting sunspots the doctors were afraid would turn into melanoma. And she didn't like gloves, she liked the feel of the plants.
We did enjoy however, many quaint things that you are lucky to find in the farmer's markets these days -- damson plums, gooseberries, rhubarb, boysenberries, loganberries (all kinds of berries as they worked well in the Western Washington climate), and all kinds of antique pole bean varieties that my mother remembered growing up with in the south. My mother even convinced her sister to send her some poke seed. In the south, poke grows into a bush about waist high. Well, when you try it in Western Washington, it's height exceeds the roof of the house! My mom sent some photos to her sisters in Kentucky, who were amazed. She also discovered that the leaves of the plant grown this tall were rather tough... so much for localizing an import.
I remember my mother going out into the garden and bringing me back treasures when I was 4 and 5 years old. Sometimes it would be fresh squash blossoms, floured and flash fried. Other times she'd weave a basket of grass and put some fresh red raspberries in it. She said she remembered her grandmother making these little treats for her and wanted to pass it on. Such were my thoughts as I snipped of a piece of fresh flowering basil, and harvested the leaves for the omelet. And yum, did it make a fine omelet.
Posted by Anna Haight at 12:05 AM
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Look Familiar? It's related (or not) to the Celia's in San Rafael that I reviewed in April. When I looked up the website at that time, Lafayette was listed, but not San Rafael, now it's the opposite... are they related or not? At any rate, the host was SO accommodating to my rush schedule, getting me a table in a jiffy rather than having the 15 minute wait he first mentioned. As if on cue, the waitress was promptly there, and my meal was in front of me practically before I could blink!
This looks a little funny as it is rather overweighted by the whole beans. I ordered no rice, so they obviously gave me extra beans. The beans were good, however the avocado chicken tostada was fresh and wonderful. The space was light and airy as well.
I was in Lafayette for a seminar at the Health Medicine Forum with Dr. Beverly Rubik, on the Frontiers of Holistic Health Testing. I was happy to find my arterial flexibility put my biological age at 7 years younger than I am. If you are interested in holistic health or energy medicine I would recommend any of her seminars; and the other speakers who I have heard present there are interesting too.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Moyashi. Remembering the myriad of ways my host mothers in Japan prepared moyashi, and seeing some very fresh bags of it in the store I thought it was time to make some as a very healthy side dish. Moyashi means "sprouts" in Japanese, but most often it means mung bean sprouts, and these may be prepared any number of ways and still be called simply "moyashi". Because these sprouts are rich in vitamins, and low in carbohydrates they are favored by Japanese mothers all over, and health enthusiasts in the US.
So last evening I baked some Costco sourced breaded halibut, and paired it with a simple "Moyashi and Yellow Peppers with Teriyaki sauce". The complete dinner is pictured above. You flash stir-fry the vegetables hot-crisp to maintain their texture, and more importantly, more of their vitamins.
This is also my entry into this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Ulrike of Kuchenlatein.
Oprah's site lists sprouts as Superfood No. 9. Grow Youthful points out that sprouts are high in enzymes lacking in unsprouted grains, which may be hard to digest. The World's Healthiest Foods site also has good things to say about sprouts. One pound of seeds produce about six pounds of mung bean sprouts! These beans are also used to make Chinese clear "cellophane noodles" popular in simmered dishes.
So on to my easy recipe. First I assembled the easy ingredients, a yellow bell pepper, a bag of fresh mung bean sprouts, and some teriyaki sauce. Not to forget some oil for the wok. I used about a tablespoon of safflower oil, simply because it was on the shelf, and a tablespoon of toasted sesame oil for flavoring. I chopped up the pepper and rinsed the sprouts. Heating the oil in a wok over a burner on high, I waited for the oil to be hot, but not smoking before I put in the sliced yellow pepper in for a quick stir or two before throwing in the entire basket of mung bean sprouts. After wok tossing until the sprouts were slightly limp, but still crisp, I added about two tablespoons of the teriyaki sauce and tossed a few more times before putting it all in the serving dish.
Be sure not to overcook these fresh ingredients which kill the enzymes and destroy the vitamins. It is of course best to eat these immediately, and not hold leftovers. The leftovers will be tasty, however the enzymes and vitamins will disintegrate rapidly with time. I've often observed these cooked with simply some sesame oil, salt and pepper as well. A little garlic, and mixing in some green cabbage also makes a nice tasting and enzyme packed version too. Enjoy moyashi as a versatile and healthy addition to your dining repertoire!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Like a Tokyo Sushi Bar. Right here in Mill Valley. There is little but sushi and a few cold dishes here, just like a traditional Japanese sushi bar. It is Sushi Gourmet located in Strawberry Village, and although I have been here many times, it's been at least a couple years since I visited.
I checked on the miso soup, it tasted so much like homemade dashi started the base (cooking from the fish up) and it was silky and complex, as a good miso soup should be. Yes indeed I was assured that this miso is made from scratch, starting with the fish stock.
I chose their chirashizushi as my lunch, sushi rice topped with seasoned vegetables and a beautiful assortment of the freshest fish. I enjoy ordering chirasizushi at sushi bars as it really shows the artistry of the sushi chefs, and is such a colorful dish. If you want sushi and sushi alone (with miso or edamame or perhaps a tofu salad) this place is a great choice. There aren't many special rolls, although there are a few. Sushi Gourmet makes sushi close to traditional style, so if you like the old standards, you won't be disappointed.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Hidden garden view. In Novato the other day, I stopped by China Palace and found it had a very pleasant upscale atmosphere without the upscale prices. The building was architecturally interested from the inside, and had windows in the end wall looking onto a pleasant woodsy garden scene. One wouldn't expect this next to a bustling car dealership! China Palace also has a sister restaurant, China Village also in Novato, but I haven't been there yet.
I tried a lunch special, which came with a delicious hot and sour soup (I usually don't like hot & sour), and a spring roll.
The snow white garlic chicken had a generous portion of thickly sliced and sauteed garlic (good, but the breath!), and sweet sauteed onions with the chicken. The fried rice was also nice, and they will provide brown rice for an extra $1. If you are up that way and have a craving for Chinese, it's worth a stop.
Marin Buzz: Saturday night, my Dad & I stopped in Akira's and found that it is closing at the end of the month, and the new owner of Umi Sushi will be rennovating before opening. Most of the current Akira staff will be going over to Sushi 69 in San Anselmo.
Sunday, September 23, 2007
New Toy. Yes, gadget girl couldn't resist a new toy with promising health benefits. I first heard of these in the 1970s when in Japan -- these create alkaline and acid water. Alkaline water has many health benefits, and acid water is a good thing to wash with! I picked up the Jupiter Science Melody. After putting it together, I measured tap water at pH 7.0 and my highest alkaline setting at 10.0. The alkaline water definitely tastes soft, pure and a little bit sweet.
Posted by Anna Haight at 12:05 AM
Saturday, September 22, 2007
Hidden Elegance. I have often driving by Royal Thai and wondered where the parking is. But on this day, I just walked it from Fourth & Lincoln, not far on a beautiful, sunny day. And I noticed that the entrance is through an enchanting walkway full of greenery and flowers. I loved it already.
I tried the Chicken Herbed Rice, which actually has tender slices of barbecued chicken breast under what appears to be a mound of saffron rice. The rice is flavored with almonds and raisins and this is quite a treat with the crisp side of cucumber salad. The topping of fresh cilantro and slices of red ripe tomato were quite a nice mix of flavors. The interior was elegant and the service friendly and smooth. I would definitely come back here.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Colorful meal. Like the host of your dreams, Ashok makes you feel pampered and special. Who needs a menu at Avatar's? "What kind of food do you feel like today?", he asks. "Something colorful", I reply. "Ah, then you want the blackened chicken or beef over basmati rice,", he says. I confirm the chicken and a rose lassi, and sit back to enjoy another meal. I reviewed Avatar's in January and April.
Actually, I dream of these rose lassi's. Good thing that Avatar's is in the neighborhood where I work! Look at those pretty bubbles atop this smooth and sweet drink.
The blackened chicken arrives, tender and perfectly seasoned with a cornicopia of crisply sauteed vegetables, and four condiments or pickles placed around the edge. Wow, not only a riot of color, but an explosion of taste in your mouth! This kitchen is continually creative, with amazing Indian fusion food available every day of week. It's highly recommendable if you like Indian food and want a little twist on it. Avatar's is also very veggie friendly, and other diet friendly too according to a sign in their window welcoming your diet adjustments such as low-fat or low-carb.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
A little bit of this and a little bit of that. If this was your pathway to work, wouldn't you feel happy every day? Pluck a 'local' lemon off the tree for your filtered water, leave your bike in the rustic building and continue down the path...
Artwork and colorful flowers and plants, changing with the seasons, mark the way.
If you feel like you are going in circles, you can actually walk them out on the labyrinth.
If you still feel a little wound up, the abalone shell fountain's peaceful tinkling will completely transform your mood before you walk in the door.
And there's a little nook for when I miss the Asian influence.
Lunch on the deck is delightful, and the weather almost always cooperates.
And a view from my room... I drove into the city the other evening, and watched all the congestion and really appreciated that I don't have to do that anymore.
And it's only a 5 minutes from my place (if I take the car) and I can use that gained back commute (and no tolls!) to enjoy cooking or other things. For dinner last evening, I grilled up some asparagus, shitake mushrooms and fresh bone-in pork chops for dinner.
I then I took my Dad to see the 3:10 to Yuma as he is a fan of Westerns, what a good movie! And by the way, I passed Fabrizio earlier n the day, and it's open!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
English fare in the countryside. It had been awhile since I'd been to the Pelican Inn. In fact, I had only been back a couple times (once for a nice brunch) since I reviewed it in July 2005.
And it's the first time that I enjoyed sitting in the greenhouse attached to the main Tudor-style building. How charming and peaceful on a temperature-perfect evening. I had come with Sachiko, who I'd tried to bring here before after wandering around West Marin one time. We were in good luck. Not only in getting such a pleasant place to sit, but that the food had much improved over my last visits!
Sachiko ordered some very-English-import vegetable curry. She was delighted with it, and had me try a spoonful too. What a nice melding of freshness with curry made mild with coconut milk.
I turned a blind eye to my diet, and went for the Fish & Chips. How English of them to serve it with fresh peas! The batter was perfectly fried, not overly greasy, encasing some tender white fish. I couldn't even finish the half of it, but it was nice to try.
Sachiko and I decided to try the lightest of desserts on the menu, the English Trifle. She exclaimed upon seeing it that she hadn't seen sprinkles in such a long time! Neither had I, and we enjoyed the light, fruity concoction as the sun was sinking. A lovely end to a lovely day.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Red meat heaven. So Dad & I were feeling a bit run down with colds last week, so one night we went in search of some good red meat! We stopped in Corte Madera at Izzy's Steaks and Chops.
Dad started with a nice green salad, Izzy's House salad.
I tried their soup special, clam chowder. It was the best clam chowder I've eaten in a while. Creamy and filled with tender clams, it was just delicious.
Dad ordered the end cut of the prime rib as he likes his done on the well side. A choice of two sides is offered with every entree. Dad chose a baked potato and steamed broccoli, both of which he enjoyed.
I ordered the flat iron steak, medium, with carrots and steamed broccoli. The carrots were quite a surprise, waffle cut and sauteed with sweet onions. This dish was carb friendly and delicious all the way. The only negative I could find is that the service was rather slow. Otherwise, the food was good, served hot and to the correct degree of doneness.
Monday, September 17, 2007
Bright, clean and a bargain. I ventured into Szechwan 7 at San Rafael's Montecito Shopping Center for lunch the other day. I had not been in this space since it's predecessor had the Chinese lunch buffet going. The former business had let it rather run down, and the lingering memory of it kept me from trying the new. That was a mistake. The current owners have completely renovated this place, and it is bright and and shiny clean. And it also offers a nice mix and match lunch menu.
I had a choice of three soups, and I chose the egg flower, rather than the hot and sour or won ton soups. It was piping hot and a generous portion, not to mention it had a fresh taste.
For the main plate, I chose the two pot stickers, fried rice (you can also have brown for $1 extra), and the special entree of the day. The special entree was a black bean white chicken and asparagus dish, which also included sweet onions and artfully sliced carrots. This was hot and generously portioned. The freshness of the ingredients sang through the black bean sauce as well. This is a great place for a casual lunch.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Getting right back on the horse. I'm finding the delightful thing about the South Beach Diet is the ease with which you can get right back on. Inspired by Kalyn's love of the silicone muffin pan, and equal love of the egg muffins (she's given us recipes with delicious counterpoints of same), I thought I'd try my own variation, and of course get my hands on one of those silicone pans!
Right off I can say that the silicone muffin pan is an immediate hit with me. The muffins held their shape and popped out quite easily with a little push from a spatula. It cleaned up in a jiffy too!
The recipe for these egg muffins is astoundingly simple. First I sprayed the clean silicone muffin pan with Pam spray, then I took one bunch of green onions, chopped and divided them evenly in the pan. I used just the green ends, and saved the white bulbs for other purposes.
Next I put a tablespoon of Mexican mix low-fat shredded cheese on top of the onions. You'll want to fill the cups about 3/4 full before adding the eggs.
Then I simply cracked an extra large egg into each. I then placed it in a pre-heated 375F oven for 25 minutes.
And out popped the finished egg muffins.
Which I then plated with a sprig of fresh mint growing on my deck. See the layers? The eggs were very shiny, the 'egg wash' effect, and there was a thin tough coating around them, similar to cellophane. I think I should have cooked them a little less (the egg yolks were completely done), or perhaps put a little bowl of water in the oven so there would have more of a poaching effect. At any rate, when you cut into them, the insides were tender, and the flavors of the cheese and green onions were a nice complement. Tableside, I added a dash of "Real Salt" from Utah, which I've found pairs wonderfully with eggs, and freshly ground black pepper. My father invited me to add it to my permanent repertoire. For those that are eating carbs, these would be awesome between toasted English muffins!
I'm also submitting this post to the ever-enjoyable Weekend Herb Blogging event, this week hosted by Katerina of Daily Unadventures in Cooking. It is fitting that I should enter a variation of Kalyn's egg muffin recipe since she was the originator and creator of this event, not to mention the one who keeps its quality consistent. This makes it consistently enjoyable week after week too.
I'm rather inconsistent at entering posts to the event, but I always take a look at other's creations each week. Kalyn's blog, Kalyn's Kitchen is one of my favorite go-to spots as well, and I've become an even more frequent visitor since starting the South Beach diet as she makes it easy to find recipes that work well on each phase at her site!
My featured herb is green onions. These culinary workhorses are often taken for granted, and have a variety of names - scallions, spring onions and bunching onions are common ones. Some call them shallots as well. Green onions have nearly four times the vitamin C and up to 5,000 times the vitamin A (beta carotene) that is found in red, white, or yellow onions. Surprising for these green bits that are scattered about the plate for garnish, or added for a little mild onion flavor to various sauces, particularly Asian ones. A member of the allium family, the World's Healthiest Foods site talks about the health benefits in terms of the whole family of onions. Not a bad idea to keep these around and use liberally!