Sunday, August 31, 2008

Harvest Time!

Sweet Millions

I've been harvesting all along, but there's something about Labor Day weekend and noticing the waning light of day come a wee bit sooner that makes one think of fall. And my tomato plant is still drooping, heavy with green orbs, so although I made a clean pick of all the red ones, as long as the weather holds, there should be plenty more behind. Sweet Millions indeed!

Sweet Million F1 Tomato plant

I'm still amazed at all the fruit that came from this tiny start!

Wild tomato plant

It still looks something like this, with no reds now. My first tomato planting has been a great success, and I'm dreaming of making a row of them next season! I guess I'm an official 'slow-fooder' now. There's also Slow Food Nation happening this weekend in San Francisco, but I'm just hanging out with mine.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Another closure

Fishman Village

I stopped by Fishman Village in Mill Valley a couple days ago when the traffic was horrid on 101N and I started to go home the back way. I remembered it as having a charming staff who did their best to serve fresh and delicious Chinese seafood favorites.


I was saddened to see the signs in the door close up. "Close" said one, and the other was an eviction notice.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Guarded by Purple Lions

The Dynasty

It was a gorgeous day to be walking around Tiburon! Dad and I were enjoying the scenery, and decided to have lunch at The Dynasty. Those purple liions guarding the front are more inviting than threatening.

Bridge View of Fountain and SF

But first, we enjoyed walking over the bridge and listening to the musical water splashing from the fountain. The San Francisco skyline was clearly visible with the crystal clear skies of a sunny day.

View from the door

You can see the harbor activity from the front of the restaurant as well as from the interior.

Appetizers/Fried chicken leg/chicken and corn soup

We finally meandered inside, and were impressed with the large selection of luncheon items. Whatever you ordered, a special chef's choice of appetizer and soup. The appetizer we were served was a fried chicken wing in savory sauce. It was good. The egg drop with corn and chicken soup was also very flavorful.

Chicken with Vegetables & Fried Rice

Dad was interested in the Chicken with Mixed Vegetables and Fried Rice lunch special. He said it was really cooked perfectly and he loved how fresh the vegetables were. He said the only problem was that the portion was too big. So we took some home.

Salmon & Asparagus w/Fried Rice

I was excited to see Salmon & Asparagus as one of the special lunch items. That's what I had! It was wok-fried in a black bean sauce which paired beautifully with the strength of the salmon flavor. What a treat. The prices were a bit more, but the quality and quantity made it a good value. I would go again in a heartbeat.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Eclectic offerings


The other day I made it to Cacti in Novato for a late dinner. I was surprised to find that I was the last guest allowed in at 7:55. I overheard the staff telling others that the restaurant was closed just five minutes later. The interior is airy and relaxing and the staff were quite friendly. The sign outside said "Mexican Grill", so I had a certain expectation around the menu. I was quite surprised to see that it was an American Grill of sorts. Mexican dishes, pasta, steaks & seafood were all on the menu. One of those great places to go when you have a group that can't decide what kind of cuisine to have as a whole.

Bread basket

I was impressed that within seconds after being seated, I was served pleasantly warm cornbread and slices of a rustic, hard-crusted loaf with creamy sweet butter. Many restaurants neglect to warm the bread, and so it's always a nice surprise.

Crab cakes

I was quite impressed with the Grilled Crab cakes with tequila lime sauce, rice (Spanish), and crisp tender vegetables. The Crab cakes were full of genuine crab and not much filler. Although there was nothing wrong to point to, the place seemed to lack something. Perhaps a coherent identity? I wouldn't make a special trip here, but if I were in the neighborhood again, I would consider it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why did it take me so long?

Shelter Bay Cafe

In a few days, I will celebrate the 11th anniversary of moving into my condo. And most if not all of that time, there was a sparkling little deli just around the corner, and I hadn't found the time to visit. Shelter Bay Cafe has some nice lunch selections, and some great Middle Eastern/Mediterranean type choices as well. The staff is friendly, prompt and very helpful.

Mediterranean Wrap

I tried the Mediterranean wrap. It was full of lentils, rice, falafel, humus, cucumbers and tomatoes and I believe tahini sauce. I would order this tasty item again in a heartbeat.


And no one could complain about the view. A friendly woman asked if she could share my table, and we had a nice chat. She works in the office and had nothing but good things to say about the staff and the great food she consistently gets here. Nice to have a confirming second opinion. I also noticed a good selection of breakfast items. I'll have to try breakfast here next!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Name change but very similar


I was at The Cove shopping center in Tiburon at lunchtime the other day. I noticed that "Let's Eat" has become Foodniks. The format and offerings are quite similar, deli sandwiches with a wonderful array of inventive salads, with refrigerated cases holding take out and bake yourself type entrees. The counter space seems to have expanded, and the end caps lean toward more practical offerings than the previous business.

Egg Salad Sandwich w/Cous Cous, sweet corn and mushroom salad

I tried the special on the blackboard, a simple egg salad sandwich. I paired it with a cous cous salad with fresh sweet corn and mushrooms. Both were several cuts above typical deli fare. The black current unsweeted ice tea was refreshing and I'd stop by just for it if in the neighborhood again. I suspect this would be a great place to have an office lunch catered from.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Lazy Sunday at Anna's

Dilled Egg Breakfast Sandwich

We haven't done much deck dining this summer, so I thought perhaps a breakfast on the deck would be fun yesterday. I cleaned up the glass table the night before and planned. Alas, when I got up and checked, it was just too cool to be enjoyable. However we enjoyed a dilled egg sandwich with freshly plucked tomatoes off the wildly growing tomato plant. It's bearing like crazy! The sandwich was easy. Just froth up some eggs with some dill weed, fry with a lid to keep the fluffiness in, then fold the cooked eggs over on buttered toasted buns.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Cat took its fiddle and split

Cat n Fiddle closes

I thought it time to see how the Cat 'n Fiddle in Sausalito was doing. It was a gorgeous day, and I felt like a fantastic view. I saw it from the car, but had my vittles elsewhere since apparently, it has closed.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ear Candy

Sometimes it's an eye candy break, but today it's ear candy. You can't help being stirred by this music! It's Joe Hisaishi, and the song is Asian Dream Song.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Visiting a familiar place

Redwood Cafe

Dad and I visited the Redwood Cafe, just off of Smith Ranch Road in San Rafael for breakfast a few days ago. I used to come here quite a bit when I was active in Marin Professionals. Since Marin's unemployment rate has risen to the highest rate in 5 years - at 5%, perhaps there is a reader who may find this information useful. Marin Professionals is a highly recommendable resource for preparing yourself, networking, and getting support for that next career move. And it's quite near this cafe.


The interior was just as simple as I recalled, and it was still full of choices that you have to look around the wall to see. We might term it a little morning treasure hunt. This is a very neighborhoody type place where you can be quite casual and comfortable.

Veggie Omelet

Dad's treasure was a fresh vegetable omelet with hash browns. He liked it, but couldn't finish the large portion.

Greek Scramble

I found mine written in slanted letters on a white board on the wall to the right of the standard fare sign. A Greek scramble, filled with spinach, scallions and a good portion of dill. It was great, and I had home fries that had a few strands of cheddar cheese melted on the top, as well as some fresh chopped green onions. We enjoyed our food and time at this comfortable place. And Dad perked up when we sat next to a lady who seemed to be about his age, and he started flirting!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Relaxing in a space that evokes a gentler era

Panama Hotel & Restaurant

A first visit to the restaurant of a charming bed and breakfast type hotel was in the cards last Sunday for Dad & I. The Panama Inn & Restaurant in San Rafael has truly captured something quite special, and very different than any other place in Marin.

Patio Dining

As soon as you walk in the door to the patio and see the profusion of green and flowering plants, it immediately has a calming effect. The hats posted along the muted green fence adds to the relaxing feel.

White Impatients

Behind and beside me were a profusion of flowers.

White Elephant Tea Pot

And the Earl Gray Tea came in an adorable elephant tea pot. Another sign of having entered a gentler, more gracious world. And the tea itself wasn't bad for being the bagged type. And the only service misstep here was that the waiter never did bring me the promised lemon for my tea.

Portabella Mushroom & Spinach Omelet

Dad ordered a Portabella Mushroom & Spinach Omelet with sautéed onions and Swiss cheese. He also added bacon and chose the Whole Grain Toast. The fruit was also at its peak, and the potatoes were good as well.

Eggs San Francisco

I tried San Francisco Eggs. These were a delicious Benedict type dish composed of poached eggs, Dungeness crab cakes, toasted English muffin and hollandaise sauce. It all melded together to create a breakfast fit for a queen. This trip to a different world was wonderful, and particularly recommendable for those with some time to linger.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Italian films are back


I've been intrigued to see a sign recently for an Italian Buffet lunch on the window of Cinecitta in San Rafael. I was waiting for a good opportunity to check it out, which came yesterday. The buffet is reasonably priced at $8.50.


And I was pleased to see the Italian films back on the wall in HD! La Dolce Vita was playing as I enjoyed the buffet. I came rather late (2 ish - it is available until 2:30) yet the buffet was attentively kept clean and fresh food came out to replace any completed or tired dishes. There was a nice variety of authentic dishes. This was definitely not just full of pasta and pizza as there were chicken, fish and beef dishes along with others.
Assorted Buffet Lunch Items

I had a lovely Caesar Salad (peeking out under the zucchini), thinly sliced roasted zucchini with Parmesan shavings, a nice capellini and tomato cool pasta, and a mini chicken sandwich. I couldn't tell if it were fish or chicken in it before taking it, and it was quite good with a slice of oven roasted chicken breast inside which looked like it was sliced off a whole bird. The restaurant was still pretty full of people even at the late lunch hour. It was a very pleasant experience and a wonderful mid-day break from the usual bustle.

Previously reviewed:
November 22, 2006

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Homey in San Rafael

Theresa & Johnny's

My photos lack pizazz today, but Theresa & Johnny's Comfort Food is a warm and eclectic place. With a real down home feel, and a Cajun-Southern twist, you can always count on grits as a choice. The owners seem to be very open to new ideas as well. I've seen any number of special theme nights where the restaurant is also open for dinner. Since they've added a website since I last wrote about my experience here, it would be a great place to notify people of their latest special night.

San Rafael Scramble

One recent morning, I enjoyed a San Rafael Scramble with Cheesy Grits. The egg dish was much better than the photo looks. Those caramelized onions are wonderfully sweet scrambled in with some cream cheese. I think the grits rating can depend on what they are eaten with. The egg dish was bland enough that the grits were too bland, a little watery and certainly not cheesy enough. The service was friendly and prompt.

Previously reviewed:
December 4, 2006

Monday, August 18, 2008

French Restaurants in Marin

There have been some comings and goings in the French restaurant scene since the last summary. Here's the updated list. If I've missed a lovely French restaurant popping up somewhere in Marin, please let me know!

French restaurants I've visited -

Corte Madera
Champagne French Bakery Cafe

Cafe Z Epicerie

Left Bank

Mill Valley
Champagne French Bakery Cafe
La Boulange

Chez Pierre

Marche aux Fleurs

San Anselmo
Bistro 330


Le Garage

Still on my list -

Mill Valley
El Paseo Restaurant

San Rafael
Le Chalet Basque Restaurant

photo credit: iStock Photo

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Cheerful Interior

Sam's Roadhouse

Dad & I stopped in to Sam's Roadhouse for a late lunch the other day. It is open from 7 a.m. for breakfast, a point that I missed until then. I was also pleasantly surprised by the interior.


The inside was bright and cheery with red seats and an old road sign from what looks like Novato's past.

Veggie Burger

Dad ordered a Veggie Burger with fries, and said it was great.

Roadhouse Specialty Fish & Chips

I tried their Roadhouse Specialty - Fish & Chips. The fish was pretty good, moist on the inside with a crisp shell, and the coleslaw was very tasty. There is also a dinner portion of fish & chips for larger appetites. I thought this was just right. The staff was also quite friendly and prompt. A nice place for a casual and cheerful lunch. They also have music on some weekend evenings.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Happy 5th Birthday Blog!

On Saturday, August 16, 2003 I began this blogging journey. What a pleasant surprise this journey has been. And how 5 years has flown by! What seemed to be a 'solitary' endeavor has brought new friends and experiences, such nice bonuses! Apparently I enjoy doing this! Many tanks to Blogger for making this easy and providing the server space to host my food and life musings.

photo credit: iStock photo

Friday, August 15, 2008

Scandinavian choices

The Lighthouse Diner

The Lighthouse Diner in San Rafael is a clean and warm place to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's bar is even friendly and well-stocked with Scandinavian favorites. I enjoyed many a Danish meatball for breakfast here, and their corned beef hash is housemade and very good. Given all the meals I've had here it was hard to believe that I hadn't already formally reviewed it.

Sourdough and Pumpernickel

I did remember the dense pumpernickel bread that is available here. It reminds me of the Germanic countries that I visited while a university student. Dad went for the sourdough and enjoyed it as well. "A taste of San Francisco!" he said, forgetting that he lives so close!

Jose's scramble

Jose's scramble, stuffed with veggies was just the ticket for me. It had spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, red onions and mushrooms scrambled in the eggs with (Jack) cheese.

Ham & Cheese Omelet

Dad went for the standard Ham & (cheddar) Cheese Omelet, and he enjoyed the home fries as well. The Lighthouse serves breakfast 7:00-4:00 every day, except Sunday when it opens at 8 a.m.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wild Tomato Plant

Wild tomato plant

The tomato plant I've been nurturing is giving back bountifully. It's growing wild! This just taken after I'd picked a bowl of small tomatoes. Sweet Millions. You can see there is a branch growing wild and weighted down from the weight of the fruit. A matching branch was on the other side, and when I tried staking it, it broke off. It is tied upside down to the wire so that the fruit can still ripen.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Authentic Japanese Hospitality

Umi Sushi

Umi Sushi has settled into its own since my last recorded visit. Last week I enjoyed sushi with a couple friends there and the food was so delicious and artful, I knew it was time for an update. So off to San Rafael I went with my best camera yesterday evening. I was warmly greeted by Atsuko and Yoshi who own the restaurant. The authentic Japanese hospitality that awaits you there is your portal to another world. Being footloose and fancy free for the evening, I made it a slow gourmet evening of varied tastes.

Ika with Mentaiko

First up were variations on the theme of ika, or squid. This one had buttery tendrils of squid in a sushi nest topped with mentaiko, a kind of fish egg. It was an explosion of taste and texture over the tongue.

Translucent Squid with Shiso Leaves

The next ika was translucent over the squares of shiso leaf. I had this last week and fell in love.

side dishes

Next were some delightful accompaniments, compliments of the house. In the top dish were pickles, and the bottom, freshly steamed green beans in goma-e dressing (a sesame seed based dressing).

Hokee Hiraki

There is no description of Hokee Hiraki on the menu, but here it is and pictures are once again better than words one cannot find, even using Google. This is a delicate, yet buttery white fish that is a type that Japan's northern island of Hokkaido is well known for. Firm in texture, the flesh easily pulls away from the bones. Traditionally a little grated radish mixed with soy sauce is eaten over the fish, and this dish comes authentically prepared at Umi Sushi.

Young octopus sushi

Next up is an order of colorful young octopus sushi. These tendrils are tender!

Hawaii Roll

Are your eyes full yet? Take a look at this colorful roll. This Hawaii Roll teams up spicy yellowtail and mango on the inside with a topping of tuna, green tobiko and bits of macadamia nuts. Another taste sensation!

Black Sesame Ice Cream

Green Tea ice cream once was an unusual flavor found only in Japanese restaurants. These days it's nearly as common as vanilla, and found in all types of restaurants. Offering something traditional, yet unique Umi Sushi has a housemade ice cream with rich flavor depth and pretty presentation in its new Kurogoma (black sesame) ice cream.

Previously reviewed:
December 6, 2007