Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Aunt Ruby & Annie

Down home in Louisville. This is a departure from food blogging - a family resemblance and stories post after a great visit with my Aunt Ruby and cousins. I visited my 87-year old Aunt Ruby, who could be my mother's twin other than my mother's hair never turned that pretty snowy white. Aunt Ruby is pictured above with her daughter, and my cousin Annie. My mother and aunt used to think it great fun to fool people by switching places when younger. Not only did they look alike, they also sounded alike.

Annie &  Michael

My first cousin, once removed, Michael, pictured above with his mom, aka my cousin Annie, is very close in looks to my grandfather, Ollie.

Jim & Kyle

This next resemblance was startling. My aunt had just given me some photos of my brother, Jim when he was younger, and I noticed a photo of my cousin Mac's grandson Kyle on the refrigerator and did a double take! I had to take a shot of the photos side-by-side. Even that far apart in the family tree, the resemblance was striking.


Although I don't have a photo handy to put up of Collette at the same age, little 8-month old Reece looks just like my great-niece Collette at that age.

Meanwhile, I had some wonderful talks with all my relatives, including my other cousin Ruby (named after her mother), and of course with my aunt. My aunt confirmed old family tales, and told me some new things too.

Such as confirming the tale about how one of my great-great (don't know how many) grandmothers smoked a corn cob pipe. She came out with my great-great (??) grandfather in a covered wagon from Pennsylvania to settle in Kentucky. Apparently, the group who traveled together in the covered wagons, build some temporary housing (my aunt called them shacks), to stay in while the men explored to stake their claim on some acreage. These 'shacks' were built around in a circle to help position them better to protect from Indian attacks (this was new info from my aunt). Well, the story goes that my great-great grandmother leaned down in the fireplace to light her corn cob pipe, and when she did an Indian who was standing on the roof shot an arrow down the chimney, and into her back, killing her. And not a single woman in our family has smoked since (until my mother's generation). My great-great grandfather went on to choose 1,000 acres of land in Grayson county, and eventually each of his kids received a 100-acre inheritance.

Since my cousin Ruby had just bought a new mattress, it reminded my aunt about mattress making when she was a girl. She said that each year you made a new mattress out of a lot of straw stuffed in 'bed ticking', and then you plucked your own down off a number of geese to make the topping for the straw mattress, which also kept you quite warm. She also said there was nothing like scrubbing your sheets on a rock, then boiling them to achieve the whitest whites for your linens!

It was nice to spend time with relatives, eating southern fried chicken and biscuits and keeping these old bits of our family history alive.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Harry Caray's

Quick breakfast at Chicago's Midway.
On my way to Louisville, I picked up a great breakfast at Harry Caray's at Midway airport. I had the most cheerful waitress, and she told me there were two other restaurants in the Chicago area.

Breakfast Croissant and Potatoes

I chose their breakfast croissant with ham, and the home fries. It was served promptly and it was very tasty! Nice place to stop if you are at Midway for a little local flavor, and friendly service.

As I wrote this at home in Mill Valley, the floor started shaking under my chair, and I held my bookcase to the wall -- EARTHQUAKE! But a small one I think, relatively speaking. I'll have to check the news to see what happened!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Ristorante Bottaio

Charming mid-west.
As I noted in a previous post, I traveled to the greater Chicago area on business last week. During this trip I was introduced to the charming old town of Libertyville. Since I was dining with business associates, although the topic of my blog came up, I didn't feel comfortable whipping my camera out and taking photos in this context. However, I would like to tell you about a couple places that we dined at in Libertyville. The first was The Tavern, which we ended up going to as it was next door to the intended recommended dining place, Firkin, which had a 45 minute wait. The Tavern was a great choice as it was much quieter, with a more formal atmosphere and the food was great. Meats, especially steaks were predominant, but I ordered the Grilled Free-Range Chicken Breast "Nelle": creamed spinach, tomato, & and melted Spanish manchego cheese.

The following evening, upon our client's recommendation we tried Ristorante Bottaio, also in Libertyville. My fellow diners were kind enough to give their impressions of their dishes, which I'll note for you here (to the best of my memory). Two of my companions tried the local fish special, which they expected to be rather good because of proximity and the noted preparation. The fish was fresh as expected, but they both concurred that the vegetables accompanying it were rather too mushy, and that the dish lacked the expected 'punch'. My dining companion to the immediate left of me ordered Vitello Marsala: veal medallions and mushrooms in a Marsala sauce. It is interesting how foods evoke strong memories, as my companion thoroughly enjoyed his dish, and recounted his first experience as a child eating 'grown up food' with this as the dish. It was the first time that he'd enjoyed mushrooms, and he has been enjoying them ever since. My dining companion to the right ordered the Petto di Pollo Parmagiana, described as: chicken breast breaded and topped with cheese and tomato sauce. He said that the chicken was good, but that the cappellini accompanying it had a 'strange' buttery tasting sauce rather than a tomato sauce so he wasn't as fond of it since he's a 'tomato guy'.

What did I have? Well, I tried the Pollo Vesuvio: half a roasted chicken with potato and spices. It was marvelous. The skin was browned to perfection, the meat underneath was moist and flavorful. There were nice bits of green sprinkled on it, and the roasted potatoes also had a rustic and meaty flavor. There was a light brown sauce covering the dish that melded the flavors together as well. I also had the pasta e fagioli soup, and the cup looked like a bowl! The waitress said that what they called the 'bowl' was truly gargantuan. It was well-spiced and the small pasta tubes still had a nice bite to them. My companions also had soups or salad to start, but didn't comment on them, however they all looked wonderful. The atmosphere was also nice. I understand many of the dishes were are the restaurant owners family favorites from the Abruzzo region of Italy. I would definitely come back.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


As I mentioned last week, I have gone to Chicago, and now I'm leaving Chicago and will be staying with my 87-year old aunt in Louisville, so I doubt I will have internet connection to post again until I'm back home in Mill Valley. I'll be back with new eating adventures then!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Willie's Cafe

Bringing more sun in.
I stopped by Willie's Cafe the other day for lunch, and found them in the midst of a reconstruction project. They are remodeling their deck area to be more enclosed, with sliding windows which will open up in the sunny weather, and can be closed and the spaced warmed more effectively for those colder days. That's the area I chose to eat in, and it was light and bright and I'm sure this place will be even more packed on weekends for a sunny breakfast. Willie's serves breakfast every day.

Beef & Barley Soup

And I was here for lunch, and started with the beef and barley soup, which sounded irresistable from the description that the waitress gave. It was good, and it was a big 'cup'!

Salmon BLT

Next I enjoyed one of their daily specials, the Salmon BLT. This was a really well-put together sandwich., The bacon was extra flavorful, and the salmon tasted fresh and made a nice contrast with the bacon. There are also a lot of Mexican choices on the menu. This is definitely a good place to keep in mind for a casual lunch, or generous breakfast.

Friday, October 26, 2007


With reservations. My friend Linda and I met at Kitchen in Novato, a newish upscale place that has a lot of buzz right now. We had reservations at 6:30 on Saturday, and we were greeted and seated quite promptly with a friendly flourish. The service was excellent, there at the right times, but not hovering, and our waitress was quite pleasant.

Field Green Salad

Linda started with the Field Green Salad, with Seckle Pears, Point Reyes Blue Cheese, Candied Walnuts, and a Red Wine Vinaigrette. It looked quite good and was in generous portion. Linda concurred that it tasted good as well.

Cinnamon Spiced Ginger Carrot Soup

I was daring and tried the Cinnamon Spiced Ginger Carrot Soup. The flavor was good, but it was definitely begging for some salt, and there wasn't a salt shaker in sight. Sigh. It was also served a bit on the cool side. Sam's post at Becks & Posh about Salt & Pepper on the table is apropos here.

Braised Beef Short Ribs

Linda and I both chose the same entrees, the Braised Beef Short Ribs, with Parsnip Mashed Potatoes, Baby Squash, Gremolata, and Star Anise Jus. The beef was excellent, very tender and flavorful, but the overabundance of salt really distracted from the otherwise stellar taste. Linda asked me the million dollar question, would I come back? Well, with a one in four batting average, yes as I am hopeful and this was the first visit, but not soon as it is a spendy place so my expectations are higher.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lotus (door)

Indian Restaurants in Marin.
One of my favorite cuisines, I have been pleased to find a nice selection in Marin. If I've missed any, please let me know in the comments! I've included Indian Fusion restaurants as well. The above photo is the door leading into Lotus Cuisine of India in San Rafael. Beautiful isn't it?

Indian Restaurants I've explored

Table Cafe

Mill Valley
Avatar's Punjab Burritos
India Palace

San Rafael
Bombay Garden
India Village
Lotus Cuisine of India
Om South Indian Cuisine

Gaylord India
Sartaj India Cafe

Indian Restaurants for future enjoyment

Cafe Tandoori

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Quiet and Delicious Breakfast Hideaway.
I'd received some enthusiastic recommendations about Eduardo's from some friends, so found the time to find this hidden-in-plain-view treasure of a place. If you are looking for a trendy upscale kind of place, keep going, but if you are looking for freshly made items with a loving touch in a casual atmosphere, you've got to try this one. I spoke to Neuza, the sister of the actual Eduardo who is running the restaurant after Eduardo headed south to San Diego after more than 20 years of success. I found Neuza patiently training new staff that morning, and exuding a sweet and nice aunt-like demeanor. This is a family run restaurant, with other members around as well, and everything is made freshly each day.

California Omelet

I ordered the California omelet, which contained turkey or chicken sausage, avocado, cheddar and a fresh salsa topping, along with obviously freshly made home fries and just out of the oven herb bread toast.

Eduardo's omelet

Dad enjoyed Eduardo's special omelet, which contained bacon, sour cream, avocado and cheddar cheese. If you are a fan of fluffy omelets, these are definitely of that variety. They also had a muffin tin on the counter, with freshly out-of-the-oven muffins with irregular tops and edges like homemade ones will have. I notice these were chosen by the majority of the patrons while I was there, they must know something... Eduardo's also serves lunch, and I was impressed by their list of eight freshly made soups to chose from among other things! It is in a cafeteria style with trays and a counter which you see when you first open the door, and you choose your seat in warmly decorated large semi-separated rooms. I would also echo my friends' recommendation to me that this place is great.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Anna's chirashi

Barazushi, or Chirashizushi if you'd like. I remember it as barazushi from Hiroshima, although the more common name is chirashizushi. Either of these carry the meaning of 'scattered', which the toppings are. Barazushi is a homemade sushi treat which has regional variations, and differs from home to home. One general difference between barazushi and chirashizushi is that barazushi more often has some vinegared ingredients mixed up in the rice itself, rather than just on top. The photo above is a barazushi that I made myself, and what you can't see is the vinegared shitake mushrooms and gobo (burdock) strands mixed into the sushi rice beneath. The topping is cut up omelet, cucumber, carrots and curly nori (laver seaweed).

Chirashi zushi

I enjoy trying chirashizushi at various Japanese restaurants since they are usually beautiful works of art, which happen to be delicious too. But honestly, nothing has ever beat my Hiroshima grandmother's version. She always included lotus root, shrimp, shitake mushrooms, and something green like mitsuba (Japanese wild parsley) among other ingredients.

Chirashi - Zushi

Although this can be made completely by scratch, many Japanese cooks use shortcuts, like many American ones.


First there is the bed of sushi rice, whether you make it bara-style with vinegared vegetables mixed in, or plain as in most chirashizushis. Using Mitsukan Sushi Rice Mix Powder is one of the easier ways to make perfect plain sushi rice without measuring wet rice vinegar with granulated sugar/and or mirin (sweet rice wine).

If you want to have the bara-version where vinegared vegetables are pre-mixed in and are mixed in tasty bits throughout the rice, you can either make these yourself or use a mix. One popular mix is Sushitaro, the above video clip is a cute advertisement related to Girl's Day, one of the traditional times to eat chirashizushi.


There are also canned mixes which you can open and just mix in with some premeasured cooked rice that have all the seasoned vegetables in it with the proper amount of sushi vinegar flavoring for the overall rice.

Amberjack's Chirashizushi

This Hinachirashi (Chirashi for Girls Day) recipe has one variation of making the vinegared vegetables from scratch, althought I usually use one that has dashi (fish stock) in addition to the rice vinegar, mirin and sugar.

Akira's chirashizushi

Magi Yamamura makes a very pretty presentation of chirashi sushi with step-by-step photos.


I've noticed that a number of Japanese upscale restaurants have taken away the bowl, and lessened the amount of rice base for a very stylish presentation, as exemplified in the Sushi Ran version above. This version was tender and delicious. There are many interesting versions of sushi, Wikipedia has an excellent reference to the many types. As I said, I enjoy this dish, so you are likely to see more reviews of chirashi sushi as I visit and revisit Japanese restaurants wherever I may be!

And I can't resist leaving you with this adorable children's short "Honorable Sushi Picnic"!

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Red Grape

Lunch with Elle.
Saturday I had a lovely lunch meeting with Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms at The Red Grape in Sonoma. She brought me a lovely treat of some home grown peppermint, tomatoes and quince! Wow. We both were in the mood for something light, although the pizza is amazingly good here. Elle is the only food blogger I've met in person so far, and it was evident from our first meeting that there was a kinship that would continue developing into a good friendship beyond blogging. I admire her many talents, she's so artistic and we may be seeing some more of that on her blog besides her great food.

I also mentioned our meeting place on Saturday a couple times in 2005, it was one of my father's favorite places to go when he was living in Sonoma. However, this is actually a review!

Clam Chowder and Gorgonzola Salad

So both Elle and I ordered the Gargonzola salad and soup combination. I can never resist that salad! It has crisp spicy pecans, apple slices, red grapes and of course gorgonzola mixed with the tender mixed greens, and is paired with a cider vinaigrette. The clam chowder I ordered was full of tender clams and had a smooth flavor with hints of dill and some bacon bits along side the potatoes.

Cream of Tomato Soup with Basil

Elle had the same combination but tried the cream of tomato soup with basil, their signature soup. I tried a taste of this as well and it was smooth and sweet. I usually don't order tomato soups in restaurants as it can have a bite, but I wouldn't hesitate to order this one next time. Besides our favorite food topics, we discussed the state of the economy (ouch! with oil prices peaking over $90 during the week), and my niece Jessica, who I would see later in the afternoon as she is here for the Berkeley Edge Program. She has a very promising future pursuing Medical Microbiology. Elle beat me to the post, and her post about our adventure appeared on Feeding My Enthusiasms yesterday.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

India Palace

A meal fit for a maharajah.
Dad and I splurged on a dinner for two Rani/Raja Special at India Palace the other evening. Interestingly, on the page for the Lafayette location, it makes reference to it being a family-run restaurant with other locations in Mill Valley and Berkeley, but there is no separate page for Mill Valley. In fact, I enjoyed the one in Lafayette in August and reviewed it. Frankly there were a lot more food choices at their Lafayette location and the food was better. An aside, it's getting darker earlier, winter is coming! So it's harder to get good outside and food shots of dinner.


First came the assortment of appetizers, vegetarian somosas, and califlower and potato pakoras served on top of a couple papadum. If the appetizers weren't quite so old-oily tasting they would have been good.


Dad tried a the Palace Special Salad. It was crisp and fresh with a tangy mustard dressing.

Mulligatawny Soup

I tried the heavenly Mulligatawny Soup. I think the broth was homemade, and it was spiced just right. I'd love to come have a big bowl of this on a cold winter's day!

Chicken Sagwala

The Chicken Sagwala was a hit, with it's tender chunks of chicken immersed in a mildly spiced spinach sauce.

Mixed Tandoori Grill

You could hear the plate of tandoori grill sizzling as it came towards us. It had tandoori chicken, boti kabob, seikh kabob, and chicken tikka kabob all lined up on the platter. It was quite good!

Rogan Josh & Mixed Vegetables

As if that wasn't enough, out came the mixed vegetables and rogan josh! Both were good, and the rogan josh bordered on superb.

Palace Pillau

Of course there was a generous dish of Palace Pillau. It was nicely garnished with peas, cashews and raisins.

Naan & Onion Kulcha

And we can't forget the naan and onion kulcha! These were hot out of the oven, and delicious.


The Raja/Rani specials also came with dessert and drinks. We had hot chai, and Dad enjoyed the Kulfi.


While I tried the rasmali, wanting to taste a piece of the fresh paneer made here every day. The staff were charming and warm, and there was a picture of the Sikh's religious founder, Guru Nanak Dev at the entrance. It's a warm and inviting place, with standard Indian fare.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


Cooking with Orchids.
Well, not in the way you might think. This is more about the evolution of a thumb, from the normal pinkish color to more green. I remember my grandfather having a green house attached to his home that was actually larger than the home itself! He did things like invent new plants, the old-fashioned way. Although my parents grew up on farms, and had a large garden for a good bit of my growing up, I didn't catch the green thumb.

When I started my relationship with plant nurturing, things did not want to thrive for me, however oddly, rather exotic plants took to me, and I found success with African violets and then on to orchids. The photo above is of an orchid now blooming in my dining room. I stayed with the orchids for quite some time. But, emboldened from reading about the successes of other bloggers, I ventured on to other things.

Basil Bolting

Such as the basil. As sad as it looks now -- Muffintop confirmed it 'bolted'. And I also got a clue when my window washer, a gardener, mentioned that I need to 'harvest' the basil, and I noticed the flowering tops had been pulled off when he left the deck! A little extra service to a novice gardener I guess. It looked rather sad in the rain yesterday morning, but it still made a tasty filling with some fresh tomatoes in a frittata, and it is evidence of good success in my first non-exotic plant adventure. It's October, and I actually managed to keep it alive since July!


When the basil seemed to be continuing to live, I went on to mint! One of my favorite things is mint tea, and it is so much better with fresh leaves! You've seen this one before, but I used all the scraggly branches in the tea and gave it a good haircut about a week ago, and it's growing back incredibly quickly!


All of this made me confident enough to try something daring - arugula! I put some starts in a pot about three weeks ago, and it seems to be happy! I remembered that my mother had been able to grow copious amounts of leafy greens in a raised bed under our carport in a rather urban setting (Everett, WA). I thought since the weather is milder here, perhaps I could grow some greens too. You'll notice the wired pot stand on the right of the photo, this was from early attempts at growing rosemary. However, it gets SO windy on my decks, that things tend to blow over and every pot, even quite large, of rosemary would keep blowing over in the winter, even when not in the stand, and drying out. It's another reason I didn't think anything would grow here. But the arugula looks happy so far. I guess I could call the dishes I make with these things "extreme local"! That's the report for now.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Moussaka layers

When the Supper Club celebrated Greece, one of the readers requested the recipe for the moussaka. This is a little late, but I did get the recipe from Janis, and permission to post. For the whole Greek meal, you can check out the June post.



4 large Eggplants, peeled and sliced
Kalamata Olive Oil – as needed – approximately 1 cup
2 large Yellow Onions chopped fine
1 pound of lean ground Lamb from Whole Foods
1 pound of lean ground Beef (90% or better)
4 cups of homemade Tomato Sauce (made with onion, garlic, basil and mint)
2 Tablespoons of Parsley
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 cup of your favorite Old Vine Zinfandel wine
½ cup Sour Dough Breadcrumbs (toasted)
1 cup of Parmesan cheese
½ cup of Feta Cheese
2 Tablespoons of Allspice
3 Tablespoons of Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon of Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Grey Sea Salt from Normandy
1 Tablespoon of a mixture of freshly ground Black, Red & Green Peppercorns

Béchamel Sauce:

12 Tablespoons of Butter
12 Tablespoons of Flour
1 large Shallot minced
1 Teaspoon of Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste
3 cups of Whole Milk
3 cups of Light Cream
2 Eggs
2 cups of Parmesan Cheese
¾ cup of Feta Cheese
¾ cup of Gruyere Cheese


  1. Brush eggplants lightly with olive oil on both sides.
  2. Place on cookie sheet and bake until tender – approximately 20 minutes turning once half way through cooking process.
  3. Sauté chopped onions in small amount of olive oil till tender and just starting to brown. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
  4. Add ground lamb and beef. Cook thoroughly.
  5. Add tomato sauce, wine, 1/4 cup of the toasted breadcrumbs, parsley, and seasonings. Allow to simmer until liquid is reduced by half.
  6. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste.
  7. While the meat mixture is reducing prepare the Béchamel Sauce.
  8. Melt butter in large sauce pan.
  9. Add shallots, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Cook until shallots are translucent.
  10. Add floor and cook flour until thoroughly cooked. (It will be a light golden brown.)
  11. Add milk and cream. (I preheat them in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave to hasten the process.)
  12. Mix the eggs and temper them with approximately half cup of sauce. Then add tempered eggs to sauce mixture.
  13. When the sauce has cooked, thickened to the ribbon stage, add the cheese.
  14. I added each cheese, one at a time. Stir constantly until all the cheese has melted.

To assemble dish:

  1. Lightly oil a very large casserole dish.
  2. Spread the remaining quarter cup of breadcrumbs along bottom of baking dish.
  3. Place one layer of the eggplant, slightly overlapping to cover bottom of dish.
  4. Layer half of the meat mixture.
  5. Sprinkle the meat mixture with ½ cup of Parmesan & ¼ cup of Feta cheeses.
  6. Place the remaining eggplant in a layer on top of the meat mixture.
  7. Layer the remaining half of the meat mixture.
  8. Sprinkle the meat mixture with remaining ½ cup of Parmesan & ¼ cup of Feta cheeses.
  9. Cover the meat & cheese layer with the Béchamel sauce. The Béchamel layer will be approximately one inch thick.
  10. Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes until top is golden brown.
  11. Allow to sit for approximately 5 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Deluxe Vegetables

I've been hesitant to attempt this one.
Chinese restaurants in Marin - I think it is common knowledge is that there are more Chinese restaurants anywhere on the globe than other kinds of non-local ones. The delicious photo above is from a lunch at Tommy's Wok in Sausalito. I found that this is an cuisine that could use a thorough review in Marin since so many of the places I located have neither a website or review to reference here. If I waited to review all of them, it would be a long time before I could make this post, so here it is, and look forward to updates on this.

Please let me know what I've missed!

Chinese restaurants I've tried

Hunan First

CJ Chinese Cuisine

CJ Chinese Cuisine

Mill Valley
Fishman Village
Lily Kai
May Lee's
Peking Wok

China Palace

China Palace
Jenny Low's
Panda's Cafe

San Anselmo
May Lee's Asian Bistro
Ming Garden

Pier 6

San Rafael
China Dynasty Restaurant
Eric's Tsing Tao
Peking Wok
Pier 6
Szechwan 7 Chinese Restaurant
Three Dragons Restaurant
Yu Shang

Tommy's Wok

Feng Nian
Panda Express
Tommy's Wok

Chinese restaurants yet to try

China Village
Szechuan Chef

Kin Wah Restaurant

The Canton Restaurant

Mill Valley
Chinese Deli

Bamboo Chopsticks
China Express
China House
China Village
Fuzhou Super Buffet
Happy Garden
Royal Mandarin
Shanghai Garden Restaurant

San Anselmo
Hot Wok

San Rafael

China Villa
Chopsticks Chinese Cuisine
Combo King Restaurant
House of Lee
La China Restaurant
Little Mandarin
Ping's Mandarin Restaurant
Yet Wah