Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Sundance Kitchen

Last night Sachiko and I met in San Francisco's Japantown for a quick dinner and movie. We decided to try Sundance Kitchen as it was right next door to the theater of our movie pick, Das Fraulein.

Calamari Fritti with Chipolte aioli

We started with some calamari fritti with chipotle aioli sauce. It was delicious, although it took forever to arrive at the table. The calamari was tender and fresh tasting, and the addition of chipotle pepper to the aioli sauce was perfect.

Mixed Greens

Next we had a beautiful mixed green salad, which included pomegranate seeds, laura chenel goat cheese, and pistachios with champagne vinaigrette.

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

The finale was the prosciutto and arugula pizza. It was a white pizza with prosciutto, arugula, wild mushrooms and parmesan. It was also very tasty with lots of contrasts. And the movie was good too.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Very popular lunch spot

Shanghai Garden

I tried a new (to me) Chinese restaurant in Novato yesterday, Shanghai Garden. It's located in Ignacio Center near the Dollar Store. It was already busy when I came, and before I left, every table was filled with hungry lunchers.

Hot & Sour Soup

The soup of the day was Hot & Sour, and although that type is not my favorite, this one actually tasted good.

Walnut Prawns

My lunch special also included a crisp and hot egg roll, and it was served on the plate with the entree, Walnut Prawns, and the fried rice. The slice of orange was sweet, and the future in the fresh fortune cookie positive! The whole meal was $6.50 plus tip. It was pretty good, especially for the price. I would definitely go back for a tasty bargain bite.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The economy in sushi

Tempura Roll

I stopped by Mollie Stone's last evening to pick up something easy for dinner. Dad would be out and I would be dining solo. Molly's has a great in-house sushi chef and delectable selection. I decided on a tempura roll, which features tempura shrimp and freshly sliced cucumbers.

Tempura Roll - from top

Since last spring I've been tracking prices on some common items I buy. Rather intermittently, I admit, but still, I've found some interesting things. Mostly that prices are going up rapidly. This sushi roll, cost me $9.59 last night, but in mid-May it cost $8.40, a little more than a 14% increase. However, the price has held steady at $9.59 since September 10th. And what will it be November 5th?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An old favorite dish

La Maison de la Reine

On yesterday's dreary day in Marin, with the all day cloud cover and mist, I longed for an old favorite. And I'd just had a wonderful time talking over coffee with a good friend around the corner at Barnes & Noble's in-store Starbucks. And the coffee was free. Not far down the way is La Maison de la Reine.

Vegetarian Imperial Roll and Fried Tofu Vermicelli

I had to have the Vegetarian Imperial Roll and Fried Tofu Vermicelli. This is one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes. The thin rice noodles are mixed with cut up fresh vegetables such as cucumber, lettuce and carrots, while topped with a number of goodies. I had the vegetarian version. You can read more about the versatile bun here. The staff was pleasant yet unobtrusive throughout, making it remain a great place to enjoy Vietnamese food in both atmosphere and taste.

Previously reviewed:
January 18, 2008
May 31, 2007
March 20, 2007

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quickish Food

Original Buffalo Wings

Dad & I were on 4th Street in San Rafael and were looking for quick and cheap. We thought we'd give Original Buffalo Wings a try.

Orignial Buffalo WIngs 2nd sign

It seems to have taken over two small places, the other shows its versatility with Philly Steak and Fish & Chips on the menu as well. However, chicken is their claim to fame.


The staff was very cheerful and welcoming. They came out from around the counter to help me with my father when they saw a struggle to balance all the pieces. We sat in the dining section in the "Philly Steak" sign side of the place. It was clear that although the place wasn't new, someone cared for it and kept it clean and neat. We were also given a time estimate, pretty accurately, of when our order would arrive.

Garden Burger

Dad vacillated between a hamburger of some type and a Garden Burger; he wasn't in the mood for chicken. He eventually chose the Garden Burger with a side of fries. The veggie patty was one of the largest I've seen, and Dad said it tasted good.

Fish & Fries

I went for the 2-piece Fish and Fries combination. It held a little more oil than I would like, but the batter had a little kick of flavor I couldn't identify, but liked. The above plus two small iced teas set us back nearly $18 plus tip. Not a fast food price. The friendly environment and efforts to be helpful would be what would call me back to this place.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Did a double-take

Jason's Burger Joint

Although the delicious Jason's moved to Greenbrae, he apparently kept the space in his original San Rafael location on Anderson Drive and turned it into a burger place. A little net research shows that at one time it was going to be Sammy's Burgers, and Jason's Dad Sam would be in charge. I'm not sure what the latest scoop is, but I trust the burgers at Jason's Burger Joint must be good if the place bears his name. We'll see!

Saturday, October 25, 2008


owater infused - coconut

In my case, it's clearing out so I can replenish my refrigerator with more local alternatives. I found a couple bottles of Owater Infused - replenishing water (coconut flavor) taking up space for too long. It tasted good and was vaguely filling. I looked on the nutritional label and found it has 32 calories per serving with 2.1 servings in the bottle. Why don't they just say 67.2 calories in the bottle? (17 fl. oz). If it has calories in it, I don't consider it water, but a drink. As drinks go it was pleasant and it does have calcium, d-ribose, potassium and magnesium among its ingredients. I tried their water with blush of fruit a couple years ago.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Fresh, delicious and a bargain!

Falafel Hut

I actually dined here some time ago, and the photo of the outside was SO blurry I waited until I had an opportunity to shoot a better one. The Falafel Hut is small and casual, but serves a surprising variety of Middle Eastern foods at a reasonable price.


I got the Vegetarian House Combo Plate. It comes with fresh hot pita bread and I ordered some housemade mint iced tea as well. There are seasonings on the table and each inside table had interesting bronze pieces.

Vegetarian Plate

Looking more closely at the plate, it has falafels, hummus, baba gannoush, tabouleh, cucumber salad, and dolmas. It was all very fresh and bursting with flavor. This is a great find. And one day, if I can get over the giggles, I'll have to try whatever "Foul Mudams" is.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Distinctive Asian Theme Woven in

Wild Fox Close up

I was up in nearby Novato and took the opportunity to visit the Wild Fox after a long absence. I remembered last enjoying some of the best ribs I'd ever tasted. If you are a meat-eater, and these are on the menu when you visit, don't hesitate a second!

Wild Fox

The Wild Fox is located conveniently along Hwy 101 on Alameda del Prado, next to the Best Western and up on a hill, easily visible from the highway. Unfortunately, the front hostess was rather indifferent, not even looking up from the desk for several minutes. When she learned that I would be dining alone, she took me to the smallest table in the dining room, located in a corner next to the bar entrance. I have dined alone a lot, and in my previous experience, it is rare that restaurants do this especially when there are at least 15 empty tables in more pleasant surroundings in clear view. This sealed a bad impression of the front house.

St. Clements

My waiter however, was a breath of fresh air. He was prompt, helpful and polite. He steered me to a 'daily lemonade' rather than the usual iced tea. The lemonade of the day was called the St. Clements, and made with lemon juice, orange juice and a splash of sparkling water. It was a great choice!

Seared Ahi Tuna Filet over Wasabi Potatoes

The menu had the usual American favorites, but a significant portion, including an "East Meets West" labeled section, had a definite Asian or even Fusion theme. I chose the Ahi Tuna Filet with Wasabi Mashed Potatoes and Crunchy Vegetable Salad with Sesame Soy Glaze.

Close up of Ahi Tuna Filet

Wow. The waiter asked my preference for doneness and the kitchen nailed it perfectly. It was even cut in easier to eat pieces. This dish is a real winner with the lightly wasabi'd potatoes and crunchy vegetables in a well balanced sauce. The Wild Fox also serves Sunday brunch.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Young CAN Wok

Young Can Wok

but still needs a little work on the accompaniments. Young Can Wok is the newest addition to the Mill Valley restaurant scene, taking over the space formerly occupied by Fishman Village.

Tofu Hot & Sour Soup

I went for lunch and chose the $10.95 Shrimp with Mixed Vegetables. It started with what I thought the waiter said was "Tofu Hot & Sour Soup". The waiter said it as he was speeding off towards the back of the restaurant. It was not a hit with me. Tofu and shredded carrot pieces in a vinegary broth.

Egg Roll

Next came the egg roll, already bathed in sweet and sour sauce. The bottom was soaked, the interior was mostly shredded cabbage, liberally sprinkled with ground black pepper. Pre-saucing the egg rolls is not a good idea, and this wasn't the best thing I had there.

Shrimp with Mixed Vegetables

Now this is what shows that Young CAN wok. This dish was wokked perfectly with lovely tender crisp vegetables and shrimp that were cooked just to the point of doneness. The rather plain fried rice proved a perfect foil for the colorful vegetables. The sauce on the Prawns with Mixed Vegetables was a light garlic sauce, so delicious. The service war rather brusque and slow, and it has just opened, so hopefully things will be more polished on my next visit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Polenta Salmon Florentine

Polenta Salmon Florentine

Ever think you are making one dish, and it turns out to be another altogether? Due to thinking you have a specific ingredient, and you don't? I was going to make a salmon dish that is wrapped in phyllo, but when I went for the phyllo in the freezer, I found it was puff pastry shells. So I took another look around the pantry shelves, and made this Polenta Salmon Florentine with things on hand. My measurements are not exact, as that's not the point of this recipe, it was creative combining.


Polenta Salmon Florentine

1 bag fresh spinach leaves
1 small can of sliced mushrooms
1 can Campbell's condensed mushroom soup, undiluted
3 pouches of wild Pink Salmon
1 tube Basil & Garlic Polenta
Shredded cheese to cover dish

Spray the non-stick frying pan (suitable for oven use) with a layer of non-stick cooking mist (like Pam). Dump in a bag of prewashed spinach leaves. Drain a small can of sliced mushrooms, and top the spinach with it.

Mix the can of mushroom soup and packets of Pink Salmon well, then drop and spread evenly over the spinach mushroom mixture.

Ready for oven

Cut the polenta into rounds and top evenly. Cook uncovered in a preheated 375F oven for 40 minutes, then remove from oven and top with the shredded cheese, and return to oven for 5 minutes to melt the cheese. The thing to watch for is having the spinach mushroom mixture lose enough of the moisture before topping with the cheese. This could have been an intended dish it was so good!

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Meaty" Fish & Chips

Bobby's Cafe

I was on the far end of 4th Street in San Rafael, and since I'd never been to Bobby's Cafe for lunch, I'd give it a whirl. Especially since I spied a parking spot amidst all the road construction going on.

Fish and Chips

I was told that the Fish & Chips are something that brings people back, so I had to try these. They are thick cuts of Icelandic cod, which makes for less batter on the outside and more moist fish on the inside. The outside seemed a little too brown, but to cook through those thick fish it may be necessary. And these were great! And the French fries were a pleasant tasty surprise. The crowd was thin, and the wait staff was prompt and friendly. I vote for Bobby's at lunch too!

Previously reviewed:
April 17, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Old Fashioned

Tapioca Pudding

In a fit of something a few months ago, I succumbed to a very good deal at Amazon for several boxes of tapioca, the 'minute' kind. I was thinking of fruit pies at the time, remembering it was my mother's favorite thickening additive for berry pies. Last evening I recalled how excited my Dad got when I made some tapioca pudding from a box of 'instant tapioca pudding' a long time ago (we were living in Seattle). So I thought I would see if I could make it from scratch. The box had a simple recipe. And it does require a lot of stirring!

Tapioca Pudding

1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons Minute Tapioca
2 3/4 cups milk
1 egg, well beaten
1 tsp. almond extract (that's my substitution for vanilla yesterday)

Mix sugar, tapioca, milk and egg in a medium saucepan; let stand 5 minutes.

Cook on medium heat stirring constantly (you must do this!), until mixture comes to a FULL boil (no stirring it away).

Remove from heat, stir in almond extract. Cover for creamier texture.

Cool 20 minutes, stir. Serve warm or chilled, and store leftover pudding in refrigerator.

Makes 6 (1/2 cup) servings.

The substitution of almond extract for the vanilla gave it a special feeling and tasted great! Whole milk makes it best, I used 2 cups whole and 3/4 cup 2%. My Dad loved it so all the stirring was worth it.

The milk and egg were local, the sugar was C&H, so I assume it was from Hawaii. Although not noted, I'm guessing the almond extract would be from California since we grow most of the almonds in the US. Tapioca is originally a South American plant, but I think it is grown in many places, such as Asia now, and it's not noted on the box. Tapioca seems like a very old fashioned kind of ingredient to me, so it must have been pretty common in the US for some generations.

"According to the MINUTE® Tapioca Company, tapioca pudding originated in 1894 by Susan Stavers, a Boston housewife, who took in boarders. Among them was an ailing sailor who had brought some cassava roots from his journeys. Hoping to soothe the sailor, she made a sweet and delicious tapioca pudding from the roots. To create a smoother consistency, Stavers took the sailor's suggestion of putting the tapioca through the coffee grinder. The pudding turned out smooth, and Susan received rave reviews from her boarders. Soon news of her dessert spread, and Stavers was regularly grinding tapioca, packing it in paper bags and selling it to the neighbors.

John Whitman, a newspaper publisher heard of this wonderful recipe, bought the rights to Susan's process and the MINUTE® Tapioca Company was born. It became part of the General Foods family in 1926 and part of Kraft Foods, Inc. in 1989" (Linda's Culinary Dictionary)

And you have to check out the story of the freighter that was almost sunk from an expanding load of tapioca! Can't let Cookiecrumb post ALL the good stories (this one is really an oldie but goodie)!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New name, but same

Taste of Rome

Caffe Trieste is no longer in Marin. I understood that the new one in San Rafael had changed its name before opening, but had no idea it affected the one I enjoy in Sausalito as well. Then one day, the names were whited out, and when I joined my friend for tea here the other day, the new name was emblazoned all over the awning. The Taste of Rome has the same menu as before. I didn't check out the coffee, but the chai tasted as usual. It's a lovely place to hang out whatever the name.

Previously reviewed (As Caffe Trieste):
September 29, 2006

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fables have their upside


Sachiko and I joined two new friends, Ikuko and Miyako in San Francisco's Finanical District for a dreams-do-come-true dinner at Unicorn. The restaurant has the perfect moniker since it is hard to find the essence of legends very often at eating establishments. Unicorn is 'Pan Asian Cuisine', yet it has definite fingerprints of Vietnamese flavors.

Tuna Ceviche with Green Mango, Lotus Rootlets and Basil-Nuoc Mam Salsa
Tuna Cheviche with Green Mango, Lotus Rootlets and Basil-Nuoc Nam Salsa

The Tuna Cheviche was a wonderful blend of fruit, fresh raw tuna and exotic lotus rootlets, topped with jalapeno peppers. We all enjoyed a taste of it.

New Zealand Green Lip Mussels in Coconut Wasabi Bisque
New Zealand Green Lip Mussels in Coconut Wasabi Bisque

We all ooohed and ahhhed over the green lip mussels and the smooth bisque it sat in. I would definitely order this one again.

Albino Rolls
Albino Rolls (Dungeness crab meat and scallop) - Ponzu Sauce

The Albino Rolls were a taste treat with Dungeness crab meat and scallop tucked inside rice wrappers and deep fried.

Cubed Filet Mignon with Blue Lake Green Bean
Cubed Filet Mignon with Blue Lake Green Beans (Niman Ranch)

I did the heavy partaking of the Blue Lake Green Beans which accompanied tender cubes of Filet Mignon.

Butterfish in Banana Leaf with Light Soy Brine
Butter Fish in Banana Leaf with Light Soy Brine

We all enjoyed the subtle flavors of the Butter Fish in Banana Leaf, which was infused with coconut milk and other herbs. It was very tender, flaky and delicious.

Spicy Mango Tofu with Chinese Eggplant
Spicy Mango Tofu and Chinese Eggplant

This tofu dish was an unusual blend of Chinese eggplant, mango and fried tofu cubes. It went quite well with the jasmine rice that was served.


We women were having such a good time, and sipping our wine slowly, so ordered some more food to keep the good times going. This edamame appetizer was warm and salted appropriately.

Rice Paper Wrap for Vermicelli
Rice Paper Wraps with Hot Water

Our vermicelli dish first came with rice paper and hot water.

Steamed Vermicelli with Rice Paper Wrap (chicken)
Steamed Vermicelli with Rice Paper Wrap (Chicken)

Then followed by the stuffing of fresh vegetables and chicken over the steamed vermicelli. The vermicelli was thoughtfully pre-cut so that it was easy to portion in the wraps we dipped in the hot water to soften. This was a fun dish to share with friends, and tasted fresh!

Golden Plum Ice Cream and Ginger Pear poached in port with Cinamon-Passion Fruit Sorbet
Ciao Bella Golden Plum Ice Cream and Ginger Pear poached in Port with Cinnamon-Passion Fruit Sorbet

The finale was a scoop of Ciao Bella Golden Plum Ice Cream and a Ginger Pear poached in Port with some Cinnamon-Passion Fruit sorbet surrounding it. We took a leisurely three hours and three bottles of lovely wine to travel through the meal laughing together. The venue was beautifully decorated with glass art and the service was impeccable. Unicorn is highly recommendable from many aspects!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Something new is coming...

Whipper Snapper

I was on 4th Street in San Rafael yesterday afternoon, and noticed workers busy building out the inside of what looks like a new restaurant! The website is conveniently listed on the awning of Whipper Snapper. Unfortunately the site doesn't note an opening date, however, an article in the Marin IJ does say by the end of October.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Here's what I did with the Etude Cheese

Bartlett Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

I made a salad with organic romaine lettuce, organic pear and the local Andante's Etude goat cheese I picked up at the San Rafael Farmer's market. This made a nice starter to a dinner with grilled Wild Pacific Salmon and California medium grained rice. Isn't the weather in Marin just perfect these days?