Monday, December 31, 2007

Tatsoi at Marin Farmer's Market

Unusual green.
A visit to the Farmer's Market in San Rafael last Thursday had me doing a double take when I saw this unusual vegetable, a tatsoi. One of the women behind the table said, "It tastes good sauteed with garlic and olive oil.". That was enough to seal the deal and a head of it popped in the bag with the shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves).

Tatsoi with Mushrooms and Garlic over Zaru Tofu -3

So how would I use these? I made up my own dish, Tatsoi sauteed with mushrooms and garlic over homemade zaru tofu.

Zaru Tofu

First, I made tofu to the curdle stage from scratch, starting with soaking the dried soybeans overnight. I have a detailed post on making tofu from earlier this year. To make this dish, I cut the recipe for tofu in half. I also didn't let it curdle all the way before draining until about 1/2 was drained, using cheese cloth as a liner I then picked it up and squeezed it a bit to get this very homemade, still warm and soft tofu rounded ball. It's hard to describe just how amazingly good tofu is right out of the mold, made very naturally without preservatives. But it was even better with the topping!

Tatsoi with Mushrooms and Garlic over Zaru Tofu 1

You could definitely use some store bought soft tofu warmed and cubed underneath the following topping if you would like to try this dish. To make the topping, saute 8 oz of sliced white mushrooms with slivers of a clove of garlic in a generous amount of sesame oil until the mushrooms have significantly reduced in size. When satisfied with the appearance of the mushrooms, add the head of tatsoi separated into its individual spoon-like leaves, and saute until the tatsoi is wilted to your taste. When it is done, pour over the tofu, starting with the liqueur from the saute in the pan because it is what flavors the blandish warm tofu underneath. And there it is, ready to serve! Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish.

This is also my last entry for 2007 in and also my last post for 2007! This week, starting with the last day of the year and going into 2008, the event is being hosted by the event's originator, Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen. Be sure to visit her blog this upcoming Sunday to see fabulous posts on herbs and other things that grow, dreamed up by cooks spanning the globe.

Tatsoi is a kind of Asian mustard green which is also related and tastes similar to bok choy. There is not a lot of information on the web about it, but I found a nice article at the San Francisco Chronicle that has some good things to say about this hearty green that can even be harvested from underneath snow!

Happy New Year's Eve!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Annie's BIstro

Fun evening in San Francisco. Before Christmas, I met Dr. Kato & Sachiko again in the city for a wonderful dinner at a very romantic restaurant, Annie's Bistro. We were the only party in an increasingly full restaurant where all the couples were gazing longingly into each other eyes.

Broccoli Soup

They only had one bowl of Broccoli Soup left, so our guest Dr. Kato enjoyed it.

Beet Salad

Sachiko and I ordered the Roasted Beet Salad, which consisted of organic red and yellow beets, haricot vert, feta cheese, topped with basil lemon vinaigrette. It was quite good.

Crab Cakes & Sauteed Spinach

Unfortunately, the photo of Dr. Kato's main dish, the rack of lamb came out exceptionally blurry, but the dish itself looked good and tasted divine. He gave us each a taste. Sachiko also enjoyed her Dungeness Crab Cakes with spicy pepper sauce and mixed greens and Sauteed Spinach with shallots.

Ravioli with Almonds and pesto

My Ravioli filled with ricotta and topped with pesto, toasted almonds and a mild cheese was also very good.

Fruit Fondue dessert

We topped it off by sharing a Fondue with fruit and chocolate. All the fruit was perfectly ripe, and there were also some chunks of pound cake to dip. The smooth chocolate paired well, and we lingered, dipped and as our final dinner topic, talked about romance and the importance of saying "I love you". Obviously the mood of the place was affecting us! My friends and I enjoyed Annie's Bistro and would definitely come back again. And naturally, this is definitely a good place for a romantic dinner!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Chao Praya

Delish Thai Food Find.
I'm lucky to have such good friends thinking of me on my birthday, yes, I'm reporting on yet another birthday meal! It was more like a birthday week. I met my friend Daniel at Chao Praya, a place that has been quite popular in Novato, but my first visit.

Spring Rolls

First off we had a spring roll appetizer to start and shake off the cold. It was good, and hinted at the wonderful treat of a meal we were about to enjoy. The chef was liberal in his use of vegetables cut in flowers and other decorative shapes.

Chao Praya Noodles

I ordered the Chao Praya noodles which the menu said consisted of rice noodles covered in a green curry sauce with shitake mushrooms, shrimp and scallops. The scallops were absent in the dish delivered, but there were twice the shrimp and it was just delicious. When you disturbed the noodles, the most wonderful aroma wafted around the table. This is a winning dish.

Stir fried shrimp with vegetables

Daniel ordered the shrimp stir fried with vegetables. We had some discussion trying to determine the difference on the menu between two identical items except one said sauteed and the other stir fried. Who knows after all, but he was quite happy with the stir fried ones. This was some of the best food I've had in Novato to date, and this is definitely worth your while to try.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Robata Grill & Sushi

Pleasant lunch.
Dad has a new physical therapist just upstairs of the building attached to Robata Grill & Sushi, so after the first visit, it seemed like an opportune time to revisit the closest Japanese restaurant to me which continues to have a wide variety of delicious dishes. I reviewed this in July 2006, and then again in October 2006. I was surprised it had been so long since I'd written about this place.

Vegetable Roll

I started with a vegetable roll, letter "A" for fresh vegetables. You can also have two other choices of vegetable roll: "B" is made with cooked vegetables, and "C" with pickled vegetables. I've always liked the fresh vegetable roll so much I haven't gone past it to B or C. We had arrived at 1:15 and it was busy, so it took a bit of time for our first dish to be served. Not long after this was served, and before any of our other food arrived, one of the wait staff came by to inform us that they were closed now (2 p.m.) and did we have anything else to order before the kitchen is closed?

Obento special

Part of Dad's Bento lunch came next, everything but the teriyaki chicken. Robata always does a nice job on the special daily bento lunch special.


Then my yudofu arrived, simmered tofu with vegetables. It is filled with a generous amount of field fresh vegetables, and a lovely array of toppings and dip. This is a warm and filling dish, and the only thing non-vegetarian would be the pink edged fish cakes and the flaked fish topping.

Next part of Obento special

Then Dad's chicken teriyaki arrived a few minutes later to complete his bento box special. It's great how they add colorful vegetables with nearly every presentation of food. He thoroughly enjoyed the lunch.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Still Local! Non-locali. Piatti reopened in November, dropping the "locali" part of its name and having done a major renovation to the restaurant in Mill Valley. I last reviewed this location in March, before its renovation and name change. I am a little sad they dropped the 'locali' as it was great to see a commitment to local growers and artisans and it made this place more unique. However, the food was great what ever the name, and they've done a nice job in expanding the space and creating a more intimate mood. It has a kind of Martha Stewart feel to it now.

Squash Soup

Minestra di Zucca, consisting of delicata squash, autumn vegetables and farro was a delicious soup!


I had Potato Gnocchi as my main dish which included Chanterelle Mushrooms, Cipollini & Caciocavallo in its ingredients. The gnocchi was soft and fresh and the flavors blended perfectly. This is walking distance from my home and it is wonderful to have it open again and have it still be making great food with an Italian flair.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Linda's Table setting

Children make the day.
What are the holidays without the cheer and unbridled awe of children in your life? Dad & I visited friends young and otherwise on Christmas Day and celebrated friendship. Linda set the most beautiful table for Christmas dinner above.

Uncle Glen, Toran & Aurelia

On the way to Linda's in Glen Ellen, we stopped at Jo-Ann & Jonathon's for tea, and yes, the cake pictured yesterday was a surprise! It was also light and fluffy and had fresh strawberries inside as well. We were lucky enough to catch Jo-Ann's younger brother Glen there, and shot this photo of him with Toran & Aurelia, being a big tease!

Miss Olivia

On to Glen Ellen, Miss Olivia posed in front of the Christmas tree in a pretty dress that matched the mood of her grandmother's table.

Linda made some luscious honey baked ham, perfectly cooked green beans, and some amazing sweet potato fries. Yalda made an amazing mandarin orange jello mold. And the two of them put together an amazing spread of appetizers that we started out the evening with (as well as some champagne). I'll tell you how to make my contributions to the meal following.

Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice Baked Potatoes. Yalda loves these, so I found a recipe on the web and made these up. The variation I made to the recipe was to microwave them rather than bake them again at Linda's since the oven didn't have room. They look a bit messy, but the flavor was intact!

The recipe:

Yields: 8 servings

"Potatoes are baked and then hollowed out. The flesh is combined with sour cream, milk, butter, green onions and Cheddar cheese, then topped with more cheese, green onions and bacon."

4 large baking potatoes
8 slices bacon
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded Cheddar
cheese, divided
8 green onions, sliced, divided

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Bake potatoes in preheated oven for 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, crumble and set aside.
4. When potatoes are done allow them to cool for 10 minutes. Slice potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; save skins. To the potato flesh add sour cream, milk, butter, salt, pepper, 1/2 cup cheese and 1/2 the green onions. Mix with a hand mixer until well blended and creamy. Spoon the mixture into the potato skins. Top each with remaining cheese, green onions and bacon.
5. Bake for another 15 minutes.

You can make ahead and wait for the second baking and then it takes 30-40 minutes in the oven, or just a few minutes (5ish) in the microwave to finish off the dish.

Pomegranate Spinach Salad

I also brought a variation of the salad I made for Christmas Eve at my home last year, the Pomegranate Spinach Salad. It looks so festive! My variation was to use glazed walnuts instead of almonds, and I used a bottled balsamic vinaigrette.

Wonderful times, wonderful memories, and I hope all your celebrations were the same.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This is a traditional Japanese Christmas cake I picked up in Japantown in San Francisco on Christmas Eve. It's a surprise for Christmas tea at Jo-Ann & Jonathon's (with two children on Christmas, I'm sure they won't be reading this before I arrive with it!). It's interesting how different cultures interpret and adopt others traditions. It's popular in Japan to eat these special cakes on Christmas day.


Since Dad went to his usual Monday senior program for a party today, I had the day to myself, and only some milk and the Christmas cake to pick up to complete my preparations for the big day. I decided to enjoy Japantown and its holiday dress too!

Christmas in Japantown

There were decorations all over Japantown celebrating Christmas and the winter season.

On the Bridge

I decided to try a Japanese restaurant with a bit of a different twist for lunch. There are a number of shops on the bridge over a street and between buildings, so this one is named "On the Bridge". It's a very contemporary casual Japanese restaurant that puts a new spin on typical western dishes.

On The Bridge Decorations

On the Bridge also decorated for Christmas. Although more than just the younger set frequent this place, it is certainly teen and college age friendly with manga (Japanese comics) lining the walls and there for the browsing while you eat.

Calpis Peach

When I responded to their query about drinks mentioning Calpis, the man who seemed to be the owner took me over to the counter and said they had LOTS of Calpis, which kind did I want.... indeed there were many choices, and I decided on the peach flavor. My Dad insisted I take some cash and buy myself a Christmas present in the morning from him, so I started leafing through the fun cookbook on 'anytime' vegetables I picked up for myself at Kinokuniya.

Green Salad

And the very cool and crisp small green salad arrived with a boat of sesame ginger salad dressing. What a refreshing start to lunch!

Napolitan Spaghetti

I tried their Napolitan spaghetti, and they add to their menu description that it is made with ketchup, the traditional Japanese coffee-house way! Actually, I was expecting a more coffee house style, very plain with some thin slices of deli ham and perhaps some fresh tomato bits, but instead, a very deluxe version was set before me. It was more of a Napolitan prima vera, with so many fresh vegetables such as broccoli, eggplant, carrots and mushrooms, as well as the expected fresh tomatoes. There were also a few Japanese style light sausages tucked in. A very friendly place and worth stopping by again for nostalgia of the east-meets-west style of pasta.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Soybean pudding

Taking a chance. I picked up a box at 99 Ranch some time ago in one of my experimental moods, and it's been pushed into a corner of my pantry for some months. As I was reorganizing today, I pulled it out.


Soybean Pudding, hmmm. Reading the directions, it really looked fool proof - mix hot water with powder and let it sit.


So I decided to try it, and found that the packets inside say "Soybean Cheese". A bit of identity crisis I guess.


So I put the powder in the cups, poured hot water in, stirred and let it sit for the 10 minutes or so it requires. It made soft curdles after that time, as the lead photo shows. It is a very mild and soft treat, and I think it would be good with a caramel topper poured on as well. I did a little research and found that this sweet pudding is popular all over east Asia having many different names and popular stir ins. Ellen's Kitchen has a nice write up that lists the various names and flavor variations. The ingredients are very simple and it seems like a great natural treat to keep on hand that can be eaten hot or cold depending on the season and your taste.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Scrambled Eggs using powdered whole eggs

Powdered Whole Eggs, Scrambled. As I mentioned in the post detailing my discoveries regarding powdered whole eggs in baking, I have been experimenting with using these as scrambled or fritatta eggs to see if they are suitable for this as well. In short, I understand why my mom used these in baking but not for our breakfast eggs. However, I've been experimenting with the powdered eggs, and found some tips that make these usable for this purpose as well.

  1. Add water and whip air into the powdered whole eggs very well before using for frying or using in something like a fritatta. This makes the result taste close to the eggs you might find in the microwavable breakfasts containing scrambled eggs.
  2. The powdered eggs reconstitute to quite a watery consistency, and these not have the gelatinous texture of fresh eggs.
  3. For best flavor in these kinds of dishes, add one fresh egg for every two powdered egg mixture, and be sure to whip the dried eggs well per #1 before adding the fresh egg(s). In making a fritatta for two, I use 4 powdered eggs and 2 fresh eggs and when cooked it is nearly indistinguishable from using purely fresh eggs.
  4. You can substitute powdered whole eggs without using fresh to good effect in fried rice dishes.
The scrambled eggs in the photo at the head of the story is of pure powdered eggs, scrambled and whipped quite well, so they turned out to be good eating this way. The color is good on these too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Birthday Dinner. Good friends surprised me with an awesome meal at McCormick & Kuleto's at Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco. The restaurant printed a special birthday menu which was quite the surprise! We enjoyed an oysters on the half-shell sampler and fried calamari before starting on the rest of the meal. The cup of clam chowder I started with was perfect! Nice balance of clam flavor and creaminess.

Dungeness Crab

Yoshi had the Dungeness crab, and Sachiko had a 1/2 crab as their entrees.

Petrale Sole

I had the Petrale Sole from Coos Bay, Oregon that was parmesan crusted with fresh lemon and crispy capers. It was excellent. The crust managed to be crisp and light at the same time, and the fish was very fresh.


Dr. Kato had the Rockfish from Vancouver, B.C. which was blackened and served with Spanish rice, tomatillo coulis and tropical salsa. It was his first trip to the US, and he was quite impressed with everything including this dish.

Filet Mignon

Larry swam against the current and had a filet mignon with vegetables. He enjoyed every morsel!

Chocolate Cake

Then McCormick's sent over a slice of deliciously rich chocolate cake with a lit candle and singing... it was very nice. A happy bookend to a lovely day from start to finish!

Friday, December 21, 2007

A Taste of Terroir 2008. Let's do it again! Last year bloggers from a world-wide community of food lovers who have an eye for taste and aesthetics put together unique posts, grounded in their own bit of terroir for this event. The origins of the event are outlined in a post I made on New Year's Eve, and the round-up was posted on January 21, 2007.

Wikipedia says this about terroir:

"Terroir (/tεʀwaʀ/ in French) was originally a French term in wine and coffee appreciation used to denote the special characteristics of geography that bestowed individuality upon the food product. It can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the manufacture of the product. ...Some writers include history, tradition, vineyard ownership and other factors. The contemporary meaning of the term clearly goes beyond mere geography, but at that point disagreement begins. Some assert that terroir is distinct from the characteristics imparted by the plant variety, the vintage and production methods (vinification, etc.), and is the product of a range of local influences that are transmitted into the character of the product."

I think that terroir can go far beyond the traditional use in the areas of wine and coffee, and be applied to those foods and drinks which truly give a sense of place, or the taste of the place can be observed in them. Would you join me in documenting an edible piece of your locale that you have a special connection with and would like to share with the world?

To join me in this food blog event, here are the rules:

1. Between now and January 21, 2008, create and post an entry on your blog which highlights a food or drink, or food/drink product, or recipe which highlights terroir in your location which you can write about with a personal perspective including a photo. Describe how it relates to your locale. Thought joggers:
  • A special food only served at an annual event - like a fair.
  • Foods produced from ingredients from a particular farm.
  • A restaurant with an unique local dish.
  • An antique recipe from your area.
  • Etc.

2. The blog post should be unique to this event, not previously entered into any other event.

3. Entries should contain the words "A Taste of Terroir" with a link to this post at Anna's Cool Finds in the body. Use of a Technorati tag for "A Taste of Terroir" would be nice, but optional.

4. E-mail me (anna AT annalou DOT com) the your name, location, name of your blog (for posting on the summary) and a link to the post you are entering no later than 1:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on January 21st. I will recap entries compliant with the rules and make a summary posting on the 21st or 22nd. Please put "A Taste of Terroir" in the subject line so I don't lose any!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Depot Hotel - Cucina Rustica

Birthday Lunch.
Yesterday I had the most awesome birthday! I met Linda for lunch at Cucina Rustica in the Depot Hotel in Sonoma. We couldn't believe it was our first visit together there. This little Tuscan restaurant is a hidden jewel just north of Sonoma Square.

Petrale Sole with Capers and Lemon Sauce

Linda took a Petrale Sole with Capers in Lemon Sauce special. It was lovely and I tried a bite too.

Agnolotti stuffed with Portobello mushrooms and ricotta

I enjoyed the Agnolotti stuffed with Portobello mushrooms and ricotta, in a white wine sauce with fresh mushrooms. It was just perfect. As was the champagne we started the meal with. The service was impeccable, and we were not rushed. The meal was just lovely, and I shall return! I'll be writing about my birthday dinner in San Francisco another day.