Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Toran, Glen, Jessica, Aurelia

The Halloween Trick-or-Treating brigade! Toran (King Neptune) & Aurelia (Laura Ingalls Wilder) with their Uncle Glen and Jessica. Dad and I passed out the treats to the tots coming by while this group and Toran & Aurelia's parents, Jonathon & Jo-Ann went on the neighborhood trick or treat trail. What fun!

Awwwh say it isn't so!

Debbie close

I was walking past Debbie Does Dessert in San Anselmo and was so disappointed to see the shop closed and a "For Sale by Owner" sign in the front door. Debbie's has deck on the back that was in a joyful French country style. The deck overlooks a lovely creek with lots of green surrounding it; trees and moisture-loving plants are near the creek. Birds and butterflies frolic about nearby and I've seen butterflies sometimes land on the deck rail. The brunch menu was good and the food delightful! It was one of my favorite Marin brunch places. It looks empty inside and just waiting for the right person to birth its next incarnation.

Friday, October 30, 2009

The cheer factor

Mama's Royal Cafe

Dad and I decided to get back to Mama's Royal Cafe in Mill Valley at lunch time today, prompted in part by a buy 2 beverages + 1 entree and get 1 entree free coupon we received in one of those discount mailers. We were greeted warmly and invited to take any unfilled seat in the house. It was just as we remembered it, whimsical and psychedelic!

Nostalgia '57 Burger

Dad wanted a burger, and because at 89 he has difficulty getting his mouth around burgers piled high with extras, he ordered the Nostalgia '57 without onion, but definitely including the 'secret sauce'. He LOVED his hamburger, but wished that there was something more interesting in his salad than just greens, cheese and Ranch dressing.

Black Sheep Crepe

I decided the Black Sheep Crepe was for me. The crepe is filled with sauteed spinach and mushrooms, and topped with sour cream. I didn't notice until I got it that there was no cheese listed for the interior which I thought unusual for a crepe. However, I liked it this way. It had a fresh taste and the sour cream flavor was more prominent in this style. We came towards the end of lunch hour, and I'm not sure if that is why, but the potatoes were a bit crisp and dried out. Mama's has a long history in Mill Valley and is so unique and cheerful that who cares if the potatoes aren't quite perfect? We had a great lunch together.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0

Previously reviewed:
August 3, 2008
October 24, 2006

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lovely brunch

Piazza d'Angelo

I was treated to brunch at Piazza d'Angelo in Mill Valley by some good friends one recent Sunday. We had a peaceful corner to ourselves (once the music from a speaker directly overhead was turned down). There were quite a number of delicious-sounding menu items, but we managed to choose.

Wild Mushroom Frittata

Michael and I both chose the Wild Mushroom Frittata. We were being particularly precise about our opinions on the frittata. Michael thought it was a bit thin and overcooked, it could have been made a little fluffier for his taste. Personally, I was looking for the mushrooms. It didn't contain many to carry the moniker "Wild Mushroom Frittata". I thought the addition of the potatoes on the top was particularly decorative.

Pan roasted Trout with capers

Michael's wife ordered the Pan Fried Trout. It looked luscious! She loved it, and we decided it was the best dish at the table.

Roasted Vegetables w/Parmasean

Their older daughter was in the mood for veggies, so ordered a Grilled Vegetable Platter. She asked the waiter for some Parmesan and made quite a tasty and healthy dish for herself.


The younger one thought the Omelette Campagnolo sounded good with its filling of onion, mushrooms, bell peppers, fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese. She asked them to leave out the mushrooms, however it was served with mushrooms when it came. Our waiter was new to the restaurant so was still getting used to things. She just removed them and was ok about it.


Since it was a bit of an occasion we shared a couple of desserts. The first was a feather-light yet creamy Tiramisu. The chocolate shavings on the top gave it an extra air of festivity, and of course we chocolate lovers dove in!

Puff with pineapple cream

The other dessert was an open pastry puff with pineapple flavored cream. There were small chunks of pineapple in the filling. It was light and sweetly satisfying. I was having difficulty with getting a good shot of this without shadows, so Michael took the photo on my camera from a different angle. Although there were some glitches in our service, having been here many times it was definitely the exception and I would not hesitate to come here again for delicious Italian food.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 1

Previously reviewed:
November 7, 2007
April 27, 2007

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Home cooked meal

Garden Tomato in olive oil and rice vinegar

I just couldn't bear to go out in traffic again this evening after struggling just a short way home from Sausalito to Mill Valley. That cable snap incident closing the entire Bay Bridge has snarled traffic all over. So I sliced a beautiful red tomato out of my friend Linda's Glen Ellen garden, added E.V.O.O., rice vinegar, salt & pepper and enjoyed it while cooking the next thing.

Mushroom Brie

While stopping at Molly Stone's for some goat milk, there was a man dressed as a chef (was he?) offering samples of a German Brie, double-cream with mushrooms. Oh, it was delightful! A triangle of it slipped in right next to the goat's milk in my cart. I also ended up with a bag of mixed lovely fresh pears.

Potato, red onion and mushroom brie

I thought this creamy brie would make a great topping for my organic potatoes and thought that caramelizing a red onion for it would not be a bad idea either. So as the potato was boiling, I slowly sauteed a cut up organic red onion in E.V.O.O. Placing a layer of sliced cooked potato on my plate, I topped it with a generous amount of the very soft, sweet red onion. I placed some Champignon Brie slices on top of it all, and microwaved for about a minute. Dessert was a naked fresh pear. I'm glad I stayed home!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

No Calorie Halloween Treat!

Photo credit:

Try "Scary Halloween Treats for Kids", a debut album of fun Halloween stories and songs by two of my good friends, Jo-Ann Moriyama-Gurish & Michael Pollock. Jo-Ann is a Marin mother of two lively elementary school students so it's a local find indeed. Scary Halloween Treats for kids is available as an album or individual tunes at iTunes.

Local organic find

North Coast

I was intrigued to see a display of "North Coast" organic apple cider in Whole Foods the other day and took home a bottle to try.

Mulled cider

It was one of those particularly cold days, so I had the idea of making mulled cider. It was good, and I thought of the Gravenstein apple orchards near Sebastopol and fun times at their August fair in years gone by. I'm going to pick up another bottle and have it again as the leaves continue to fall and the kids are out in the fields harvesting their Halloween pumpkins.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Home made dog food

In honor of Cookiecrumb's new family member, Bartlett.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fresh bargain

Little Mandarin

One of my friends, Stephanie came to visit from Walnut Creek the other day and was in the mood for Chinese. Not having been to Little Mandarin in San Rafael for some time, I suggested this family run, happy and inexpensive place. So we met at Little Mandarin.

Egg Flower soup

Immediately after sitting down, egg flower soup was placed on the table before we even ordered. It comes with the meals, so why not?

Cashew Chicken

Stephanie loved her Cashew Chicken, fresh, hot and lots!

Prawn Chow Mein

The Prawn Chow Mein I ordered was delicious too, with plump, fresh prawns in visible evidence of its name. It was so much, I took home a box for another meal. And mine was on the most expensive list of the menu at a reasonable $6.85. For a fresh hot meal at a bargain price, I haven't ever had a miss here.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 1

Previously reviewed:
February 5, 2008

Find address/phone number/directions on Anna's Map.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A top ten

Sushi Ran

A few weeks (months?) ago, a comment was left encouraging me to make a top 10 list for Marin restaurants. She said she was moving to our fair county, and this would help her in transitioning. I mulled it over a lot (obviously). I find it problematic, since there are a lot of good restaurants in Marin, and the 'best' can depend on your mood, formal or casual, etc. However, I can say that when someone asks me about the 'best' restaurant in Marin, I know I do not steer them wrong when I send them to Sushi Ran in Sausalito.

Miso Soup

One sunny day, I decided it would be my lunch destination. Pretty much whatever your lunch choice, a delicious bowl of miso soup precedes it.

Vegetarian Bento Box

When I saw that there was a Vegetarian Bento Box Lunch on the menu, I couldn't pass it up. From the left it includes, snap pea, fermented black bean & basil, grilled tofu (seemed to be a miso/sesame sauce on it), and a salad including cucumber, takuan (yellow radish pickle) and gobo (burdock root). It was accompanied by some rice I didn't get in the photo. It was all tasty and inventive as I'd expected. It was light, more like a model's lunch than a working woman's.

Tempura Squash

So I overdid it a bit and ordered two more add-ons. The first was a squash tempura. It was made with kabocha I believe and it was great. And filling. This would be lovely to share as an appetizer or accompaniment to a dinner.

Egg Nigiri Sushi

I finished with some tamago (egg) nigiri sushi. It tasted great, and there was something just a little different about their rendition of the egg. I asked and was told that chicken stock is used rather than dashi in the ingredients. Ah ha! It was tasty! There are cheaper places to eat good Japanese food in Marin, however, if you want a real treat or don't want to chance it, you can't miss with Sushi Ran.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 3
Noncritical: 1

Previously reviewed:
April 12, 2008
July 2, 2007
May 10, 2007

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Breakfast Herbs

Herbs d'Patio containers

This is doable, this is SO doable, I think as I clip green in the early morning light. I have no garden space, and these herbs are grown in their shiny containers on the deck without any effect from the fact that they are not in their more natural habitat. A wisp of basil smell wafts to my nose, followed by a fresh minty scent. I will take these herbs directly inside to make a morning mint tea to sip while washing and preparing the basil leaves and green onions to join a fire engine red organic tomato grown on Capay Farms in a lemon yellow frittata for breakfast. Who knew that the good life comes so easily?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

New restaurants popping up like flowers in spring

Antigua Mexican Grill

I received a tip that the new Antigua Mexican Grill that is in my Mill Valley backyard opened up! So that was my venue for last night's dinner. The place has absolutely been transformed! The space bears no resemblance to the previous Peking Wok that previously occupying the space. The color scheme incorporates warm oranges and orange leather chairs made in Mexico. It is a casual, yet upscale and warm feeling space. It must be a sign of an improving economy that a bunch of new restaurants are opening here in Marin.

Chips & Salsa

First thing up was chips and salsa. I loved how the salsas were put into bottles that you poured from the amounts you wished into a bowls provided on the tables. You could taste the freshness in the green and red varieties. The chips were fine, but heating them would have taken these to the next level.


I decided to have a treat of some guacamole with these. It was fine, but for $7.50 I expected something a little more extraordinary.

Prawn Fajitas

The Prawn Fajitas were out of this world! The waiter recommended these, and he was right on the money! These came with three flour tortillas to wrap the goodness into. The portion was generous, so three didn't quite make it if you want to roll most of the grilled fajitas into a tortilla. Extra tortillas come in foil packet of three, and cost $.50 extra.

Fajita sides

The side of rice, beans, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream was also generously portioned. The Prawn Fajitas are priced at $13.95 (before the extra tortillas). I was happy to find out that the whole pinto beans were cooked vegetarian style, and that there is a nice selection of vegetarian items on the menu. The couple next to me ordered one of their large shared plates, I think it was called The Molcajetel. It came in a bowl with legs and the pieces were artfully arranged such that it almost looked alive! The couple gave it a thumbs up, and it was HUGE. The service was prompt and friendly, and all the patrons were checked in on regularly by staff and even the friendly owner, Mike. He said that they have a restaurant called QuiXote Grill in San Francisco as well.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Antigua Mexican Grill has not yet been inspected.

Find address/phone number/directions on Anna's Map.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jahn Tohng Reincarnated!


I literally did a quick double take and quick turn around when I saw the sign saying Calgang a.k.a Jahn Tohng was open in Northgate One in San Rafael. I was very impressed with Jahn Tohng (Jahn Thong) when it was open in the nearby Northgate Mall, but it disappeared in the rennovations and I feared it would not open again. But there it was, and it was lunch time!


The three item combo is a bit more expensive than it was in the food court days ($9.50 vs $7.50), however it is in a sparkly new and more upscale place. The combo starts with a salad, and then three items of your choice comes with rice.

Pah Loh, Crispy Taro Root Balls, MeeSiam

I chose Crispy Taro Balls with a chili sweet and sour sauce, MeeSiam and Pah Loh. All dishes which I've never had before. The crispy taro balls were like potato straw haystacks with a taro taste finish. These were quite crispy indeed, and paired well with the sauce. The MeeSiam was sauteed think rice noodles with bean sprouts and vegetables which was in a light coconut curry sauce. I loved it. And the Pah Loh was over the top! This five spices stew with tofu and shitake also had daikon radish and a very light spicy broth. It reminded me of a Japanese dish, Oden, but with a clearer broth and a very nice spicing. I would choose it again in a heartbeat.

Close up

The staff was so gracious and service was impeccable. I look forward to future visits, blogged or not.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Calgang has not yet been inspected.

Find address/phone number/directions on Anna's Map.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Breathing Green for Breakfast

Valley Grove Cafe

A couple of weeks have flown by since Dad & I visited the The Valley Grove Cafe in Lagunitas, but it was such a relaxing and positive experience, time seems to have slipped in a way that it occurs that we were just there yesterday.

Valley Grove Cafe Street Sign

Lagunitas is such a tiny patch that you have to keep your eye out to see the sign or it's passed all to easily.

French Toast Napoleon

I just couldn't resist trying out something called French Toast Napoleon.

French Toast close up

The pieces of French toast were stuffed with beautiful fresh fruit, blackberries, strawberries, grapes and slices of banana, all covered with smooth and cool whipped cream. It was delightful, and a bit too large a portion.

Hot Chocolate

Dad was delighted with his tall glass of hot chocolate.

Scambled Eggs in Croissant

He said he wanted a smaller meal, so we ordered off their small breakfast section. It was still quite a serving of a scrambled egg and cheese stuffed croissant with some fresh cucumber and tomato slices on the side. He also enjoyed this plate. The deck was so pleasant, and looking at the tall evergreens high on the hills surrounding the restaurant, Dad & I felt like we could have been in familiar forests in Washington State. The Valley Grove Cafe will be opening for dinner soon, if it hasn't already. It plans an eclectic menu of Mexican, Italian cuisine and beyond from what the waiter told me.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 2
Noncritical: 1

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Frog Hollow Farms

Frog Hollow Farms "Taylor"

Since I've been getting CSA items delivered each week, I have not visited Whole Foods very often. I was in the neighborhood yesterday, and decided to drop by. There was noticeably more 'local' items being promoted, and I found myself coming away with, among other things, this Frog Hollow Farm 'Taylor' variety Asian pear. It was delicious! It seemed to have hints of vanilla and made a perfect mid-day crisp snack for Dad & I.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good memories


I've been in denial. Bookbeat was such a great community place, and I enjoyed a period of time soaking in its atmosphere and enjoying its community events. But, it did close last month, a fact that I was reminded of by a Fairfax resident and friend who was giving me a few tips about the Fairfax scene. Rumor has it that a French cafe is going to open up in its place.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Very exotic food

Not for the squeamish.

Friday, October 16, 2009

While walking...

Private garden

I saw the cutest ivy-flanked gate while walking during lunch time in Sausalito the other day. Did I amble up a new road - no. Just was out of the car, and on my feet, walking and breathing in the fall air.

Jardin Prive

I looked at the sign, oh! double cute. It is in French, "Jardin Prive". I hope the garden inside matched the promise of the outside.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Double Header!

Tsukiji Sushi

Keeping my eye on the old Samurai building in Sausalito, I noticed not one, but TWO notices. Hmm.. it was something I just had to check out.

La Hacienda - Sausalito

The door on the left had a notice for "La Hacienda", a brew pub.

Taste of the Himalayas

The second sign said "Taste of the Himalayas". Oh, cool! I'll be keeping my eye out for both of these to open!