Friday, August 31, 2007

Humpback Whale Tail

Whale Tales. And what would a trip to Alaska be without some whale tails? The humpback whales were all around, although I did spy one gray whale. We learned that the whales "breach" (jump completely out of the water) when they are young, and usually in Hawaii where their breeding grounds are, not in Alaskan waters. So we saw a lot of whale tails during the trip. On the sea otter watching cruise we were treated to the rare event of a humpback whale completely breaching the water, sailing in the air in an arch, and sitting in the front seat, one eye seemed to look at us quite directly. On the way out of Tracy Arm, we also neared migrating whales on their usual path, 15-20 of them giving quite the 'tail' show.

Sea Otters

The cute sea otters were the object of the tour in Sitka that we took, and we were delighted with a whole 'village' of them preening and playing in a bed of kelp.


My 87 year old Dad posed in front of a tourist shop as he noted the beautiful fur. Tomorrow I'll fill you in on Juneau.

Local News: My how things change! I came back to find that Saylor's Landing has closed (been evicted), and Fabrizio is either renovating, or has closed as well. Piatti's is STILL closed for renovation, and I wonder if they are ever going to lease the old Samurai Restaurant building in Sausalito?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Totem Park

New Archangel.
When Russia established its first permanent settlement at present day Sitka, it was named "New Archangel". Fitting name for such a beauty spot. The early settlers were fur trappers and traders who nearly decimated the local sea otter population. The last thing we visited there before heading back to the ship was Totem Square, which boasted not only an old beautiful totem pole, but a wonderful vista of the sea. The weather had been sunny and even hot the entire visit, until clouds started moving in as we reached the park. Our timing for the visit couldn't have been better. In the background of the photo stands the "Pioneer Home" a historic building. I learned that totem poles are generally not maintained as a representation of the forces of nature. When one becomes decrepit, sometimes a new copy is put in its place and left again to rot and decay.

Little Tokyo

The one thing I really missed on the ship was Asian food, in particular, Japanese food. So it should come as no surprise that the first opportunity we had for a meal on-shore I found a Japanese restaurant! Little Tokyo had rather marginal Japanese fare (I had to ask for soy sauce! and the tempura did not come with dipping sauce), but it was as close as we got on the trip. Instead of the bento boxes we ordered, we should have tried the sashimi, as Gluten Free Girl reported it to be superb.

True water

First we had some water, True water, bottled from glacier water in Sitka. Cold and refreshing, we practically drank our bottles to the bottom before our miso soup even arrived.


Then the miso soup came, rather nondescript, but soup nonetheless.

Bento box

The bento box had salad, tempura, California roll, salmon teriyaki and gyoza. Nice variety, but not very impressive in taste. I have to say that even though it wasn't so impressive, I was sure happy to have some Japanese food.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sitka Harbor

Reindeer dogs on the Tsunami Evacuation Route.
Yes, Dad & I are really back home, and after a glitch where my bag was taken home by another passenger, all is back home with me. Shortly after being shuttled to shore via small boats from the ship, I snapped this photo of Sitka's harbor. Thinking back on it, Sitka was my favorite port on the Alaskan voyage.

Tsunami Evacuation

We passed this rather ominous sign nearly immediately after leaving the harbor area. At least we can say the town disaster preparedness team has thought this possibility through!

Reindeer Redhots

On the next corner, we spied the Reindeer Redhots umbrella where authentic reindeer hot dogs were being sold.

Reindeer Stand Proprietor

The owner/proprietor explained that the reindeer were raised up north and a meat processor turned the meat into hot dogs for him near Anchorage and shipped it to him. While talking with me he was coaching his young teenager on customer service, the first necessity being taking the earphones from the iPod out of your ears!

Reindeer Hot Dog

Dad and I shared a Reindeer Redhot, topped with sauerkraut and a little yellow mustard. Better than most franks I've tasted, flavorful and moist without being overly greasy, this was quite good! And I'm not a hot dog fan. I also chose the whole wheat bun. Fresh, 'local' ingredients at their best!

Sitka was the first town we visited in Alaska. We had an unusually sunny day and I saw a humpback whale 'breach' and leap in a big arch right in front of our small tour boat! We were told that this was a relatively rare happening as the leaping usually takes place at their breeding grounds in Hawaii. We also saw a gray whale diving and a bunch of adorable sea otters floating around on their backs looking cute. Most of the photos snapped this trip were taken from behind windows in moving transportation, so many didn't turn out so well. The St. Michael's Cathedral is also fascinating to visit, full of icons and information on Alaskan saints, and alas, no photography was allowed. I think this was Dad's favorite place as a lovely older lady (but still his junior) invited Dad to rest by her. He then had no further interest in icons! Imagine that...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Taqueria Maria

Casual Mexican.
On Fifth Street in San Rafael a happy Taqueria has been quietly serving up good food for years. It was time to blog about Taqueria Maria. I've been here any number of times, but more often in pre-blogging days.

Grilled Chicken Taco

Dad ordered a grilled chicken taco which also came with chips and salsa (not pictured). His only complaint was that there was so much filling, he couldn't fold it and eat it without losing a great deal of the succulent pieces. He liked it though, and used a fork to pick up all the left behind pieces that landed in the basket.

Grilled Chicken Tostada

I had quite an interesting exchange with the man taking the orders. I wanted to ascertain the part of the chicken being grilled, and he kept dodging the question - "It's grilled chicken", pointing to the grill in the background, "We cook the chicken on the grill". Great, but what kind of chicken is it white or dark meat?".. "Oh.. it's grilled chicken", he replies smiling. "Breast meat or thigh?", I respond with lessening confidence in my voice. He answers, "White meat", then looking down, "it's white meat with a li--ttle bit of dark", he said, showing me a thumb and index finger held just slightly apart. "Oh,", I said, "then it's not white meat". Sighing, he says "Lady, it's white meat". I order it. I can't tell. I suspect its mixed, but mostly dark. However its good! I'll be back!

Note from the Dawn Princess: I was able to find non-roaming connection for my phone in Victoria, B.C. yesterday, so made the post on My Tofu House, but dared not try modifying it on my cell phone. Dad & I have had a marvelous trip, Skagway and Victoria both held their charms. The staff on board has been fabulous, and my Dad is already asking when we're going on the next cruise! I've some photos to share once I'm back and unpacked. We arrive tomorrow morning - early!

Monday, August 27, 2007

My Tofu House

Korean mood.
The other evening I met Sachiko for a homey Korean meal at My Tofu House on Geary in San Francisco. Simple comfort food, it's a wonderful place to enjoy with good friends, but there is often a line outside, as I'm not the only one with this opinion.


First we are brought complimentary tea in plastic glasses. The heat belies the type of glass it is in, but it is smooth and tasty. I think it is barley tea, or perhaps corn tea. After we order, a group of accompaniments to the meal arrive. Crisp seasoned cucumber, grilled whitefish, spicy white radish, small oily fish (great for calcium!), kim chee and raw eggs arrive. The eggs are for dropping in the boiling hot pots that come with the tofu and other ingredients inside.

Mushroom Tofu Pot

I ordered the mushroom tofu pot (in Korean this variety of dish is called "soondubu chijae"), and dropped my whole egg in, and it cooked right away. You have to eat this slowly because it is so hot. Rice cooked in a stone pot comes out with peas and chickpeas adorning the top, and the waiter spoons some in a stainless bowl for each person at the table.

Vegetable Tofu Pot

Sachiko ordered the vegetable variety, which was hardly distinguishable from mine in appearance. Wholesome and vegetarian if you don't have the fish that comes at the beginning of the meal. A great place for a comfortable evening.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Japantown kind of day.
The other day Jo-Ann and I mutually found that we were out of some of our stock Japanese cooking items. I guess partly because, unbelievably, we've been back from our two week Japanese adventure about a year. Jo-Ann also wanted to have one of the last outings with the kids to San Francisco before school starts again. So off we headed to San Francisco with the main intent to visit Ichiban-kan (the dollar store) and Nijiya market (groceries) and a little lunch. I've been going through mugi-cha (barley tea) like mad this summer and that was at the top of my list.


After walking much walking about and taking our treasures to the car, we decided to try Izumiya for lunch. Their bento boxes were especially reasonably priced. Because I'm on the South Beach Diet, I ordered the sukiyaki and gave my rice to Toran. The sukiyaki was excellent and very authentic. The hot dish was packed tightly with all the right ingredients, from authentically thinly sliced beef, to fish cakes and shirataki.


Jo-Ann, Toran and Aurelia had the bento boxes which started out with miso soup. It had a nice mixture of ingredients, not as plain as some other places.

Bento Box Sushi & Tempura

The kids wanted to share the bento box with the tempura and sushi, and enjoyed every bite.

Bento Box Tempura & Salmon

Jo-Ann had the salmon and tempura bento box. One of the nice things about this restaurant's bento boxes is that it gives you lists of things to substitute so it is a very personalized lunch! Jo-Ann enjoyed hers as well.

I've been to this restaurant any number of times, especially for their okonomiyaki, a southern Japanese dish I'm partial to, and not found many places. It has quite a variety of small dishes, so it is a good place to try bites of different tastes. The service is not all that friendly, but if you are not in a hurry and have some pleasant friends to be with, this is easily overlooked.

A note from Juneau: The public library offers 30 minutes of free connection! Yesterday Sitka was as beautiful as a gem, felt like I was home in Seattle though with all the green trees, mountains and water. Although that would describe Marin pretty well too, my home of 11 years. The Mendenhall Glacier was spectacular this morning. To think I used to tobaggan down glaciers when a child! We're leaving Juneau tonight and arriving in Skagway tomorrow where we'll take a 3+ hour train ride. I've naturally been taking photos and will have a better report when I return home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

WHB Banner

"0" Mile Meal.
And this is my submission for hosted by Scott of Real Epicurean. This post was prewritten before I left on a cruise to the Alaskan panhandle. (I am posting from the ship - the cruise is going BEAUIFULLY. But we don't arrive at port until tomorrow, first stop - Sitka. Will post photos after returning home. The naturalist on board is giving us pointers on where to look for and spot the wildlife, and has informed us in a very interesting way about the habitat of Alaska.)


I was so chirpy about my success keeping my potted basil alive and healthy, that I bought another! I gave it the same tender loving care that I did the one above, but somehow it failed to thrive. I can't quite figure it out, but it kept having droopy leaves, and parts of the stem would blacken. I suspect that it must have received some rough treatment prior to my purchase. Not wanting my friend Jo-Ann to feel like she had done something wrong with it while in her care, I decided to harvest it prior to the cruise. And thus, basil has become my featured herb for this post.

basil leaf

I wrote of basil in my WHB post in late July, so I wonder what new and interesting facts I can find? Well here are a few bullet points:
  • It's used widely in the cosmetic industry (for what I don't know...)
  • Salome hid the head of John the Baptist in a pot of basil.
  • and "Beware of Italian men wearing basil." Why? because "in some parts of Italy, men still wear a sprig of basil in their lapel if they are looking for a mate."

Basil and Garlic in Blender

At any rate, I had decided to harvest all the remaining leaves on the sad pot of basil, so washed and put them in the blender with three cloves of garlic. Can you guess what I'm making?

Whole Wheat Pasta with Pesto

You are right, pesto! I didn't measure anything, but I believe this recipe is very forgiving. And my recipe doesn't add cheese into the sauce, but you add it at the table. After blending the above with some extra virgin olive oil, I poured it into a pot and added a generous amount of pine nuts. I then brought it all to boil, adding a little sea salt, and poured it over some whole wheat penne. Tableside, Dad and I topped it with some Parmesan cheese and stirred, and the above photo shows the results. A simple and homey mix, with a "0" mile ingredient dominating the dish. Fresh and good, I'll have to do it again when I return home and take my healthy basil plant from the care of my friend Jo-Ann.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Golden Gate Bridge V

Marin Breakfasts to Date.
Some months ago I did a round-up of restaurants which serve breakfast or brunch in Marin. Then I updated it. There have been a number of changes with new restaurants coming on and several dropping their brunch hours that I thought I'd better freshen the post.

My definition for a 'breakfast' place is that they open before 9 a.m. on a weekday and have at least one protein choice on the menu (no American-style continental breakfasts count). Those restaurants who choose to open only on weekends or a weekend day for brunch are really not breakfast places in my mind, but I list them separately as they usually do a bit more upscale and interesting things on the weekends and make a nice round out to the week.

I welcome your comments to point me to other places for breakfast in Marin or your experiences with any of these.

I continue to keep my blog's sidebar updated with a legend indicating with a * after restaurant links if breakfast is served there, and ** for weekend brunch only places (some brunch only places only serve one of the weekend days, so you should check before showing up). The links below go to my review (most recent whether breakfast or other), if there is a restaurant website, it's listed in the review.

Places I've been for breakfast

Corte Madera
Corte Madera Cafe
Max's Cafe

Koffee Klatch


Cafe Z

Caffe Oggi

Mill Valley
Caffe Oggi
Champagne French Bakery Cafe
Mama's Royal Cafe
Mill Valley Coffee Shop
Rain Tree Cafe
Shoreline Coffee Shop
Strawberry Gourmet Delicatessen
Toast Cafe

Half Day Cafe
Willie's Cafe

Burritoville Cafe
Ward Street Cafe - Brunch only

Muir Beach
Pelican Inn - Brunch only

Golden Egg Omelet House

Chez Pierre
Fernando's Restaurant - Brunch only
Finnegan's Marin-Brunch only
Golden Egg Omelet House
Grant Ave Cafe
The Garden - Brunch only

Bayside Cafe
Bridgeway Cafe
Caffe Divino Sidewalk Cafe
Caffe Trieste
Fred's Coffee Shop
Lighthouse Cafe
Louie's Deli Cafe
Pomodoro Pizza Cafe
Sartaj India Cafe
Sausalito Bakery & Cafe

Dave & Mike's Restaurant
New Morning Cafe
Sam's Anchor Cafe
Sweden House Bakery & Cafe
Three Degrees

San Anselmo
Comforts Cafe
Hilda's Coffee Shop

San Geronimo

Two Bird Cafe

Bobby's F'o'c's'le Cafe

San Rafael

Bobby's F'o'c's'le Cafe
Bogie's Cafe
Lighthouse Diner
Lundy's Home Cooking
The Crepevine
Le Croissant
Pier 15 - Brunch only (brunch and after 9/10 a.m. every day)
Taqueria Bahia - Brunch only
Theresa & Johnny's Comfort Food

Stinson Beach
Parkside Cafe

Places yet to go for breakfast

Coast Cafe - Brunch only

Cafe Amsterdam

Left Bank - Brunch only
Tabla Cafe - Brunch only

Mill Valley
Buckeye Roadhouse - Brunch only
Depot Bookstore & Cafe
Small Shed Flatbreads - Brunch only
Vasco - Brunch only

Ranch Nicasio - Brunch only

Marvin's Restaurant
Mary's Place
Skully's Bakery & Cafe (T-Sat 7 a.m. - mostly pastries with fritattas)
Star Restaurant

Olema Farm House - Brunch only

Pt. Reyes
Station House Cafe

San Rafael
Cafe Papillion
Casa Manana- Brunch and after 9 a.m. weekdays
Eduardo's Restaurant
La Hacienda - Brunch and after 9 a.m. weekdays
Panama Hotel & Restaurant
Redwood Cafe
Seafood Peddler - Brunch only

San Anselmo
Bubba's Diner
Insalata's - Brunch only

Sunday, August 19, 2007


Popular Breakfast.
Paul and I went to try breakfast at Skully's in Novato a few days ago, but found that it is closed on Sundays! But we had a pleasant surprise seeing Grazie open for breakfast, with people were packed in the interior, and spilled out on the cool patio, which is were we chose to sit. I remembered Grazie from days of having dinner there after a flying lesson at Gnoss Field, famous for its cross-winds. Grazie was the perfect place to land after those tests of your ability to come out of a stall at 5,000 feet!

Eggs and French Toast

Paul chose the two-egg breakfast with French toast, which was made on thick slices of French bread. He said it was great. Paul is the perfect "older" younger brother. At least that is how he acts; we are not related. It's rather startling sometimes to be chewed out for going to the ATM after dark or having your 'too violent' movies hidden from you when he's visited. After 10 years of friendship though you get used to it, and small doses can be rather refreshing.

Special Scramble

I tried their special scramble. It had bacon, avocado, grilled onions, tomatoes, and mushrooms in it along with cheddar cheese. I had them replace the nice looking hash browns with tomato slices. It was a generous portion and tasted savory and had the scent of fresh vegetables through the melted cheese.

Sunday the 19th -- Dad and I are setting sail for Alaska! Off we go!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

India Palace Restaurant

Evening in Lafayette.
I was attending a seminar in Lafayette, and found India Palace Restaurant tucked away in a corner nearby. Going here by impulse was a chance well worth taking as it has an extensive menu, dishes that are well-executed, and good service. If you are vegetarian, take note, this restaurant has quite a few interesting choices.

Chickpea crisp bread

As soon as I was seated, a couple crisp pappadam (chickpea flour breads) were served with condiments.

Missi Roti

After some consideration, I ordered some Missi Roti, bread make from graham flour, wheat flour, fenugreek, cardamom seeds and spices. It was close to cracker-like in crispness, but not quite. And it was delicious.

Paneer Malai Kabab

For the entree, I chose a vegetarian tandoori entree - Paneer Malai Kabab. These are very soft kababs made from minced homemade farmer's cheese, nuts, potatoes, chillies and vegetables. The crepe like coating held the vegetable mixture together, and it was served over a nice mix of vegetables, on a sizzling platter. This was an amazing medley of tastes which blended well for something quite unique. In fact this place has such interesting items, that I may well visit Lafayette again just to come here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another one bites the dust. Too bad. Sushi Lin started out with such promise. Yesterday I was doing some errands when I noticed that the owner was walking out the door somewhat early for a lunch closing. A closer look revealed that the sign was out of the window, and the interior bereft of distinguishing decor. Once home, I called the phone number listed for the restaurant, and only got a 'this number has been disconnected' message.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Happy 4th Birthday Blog!!! Today is Anna's Cool Finds 4th birthday! I never expected it to turn into such a passion! This post will make 593!

I also wanted to let my friends and readers know that my Dad has had a lifelong dream of traveling to Alaska, and we'll be setting sail on the Dawn Princess from Sunday for a tour of the panhandle. When I found out that there is wireless Internet access on board, I was quite excited. However, I just checked into all the details, and think that at 75 cents a minutes, my computer or theirs, I will just have to take a break from my blogging until I return. I also checked with my T-Mobile as I have Internet access with them as well, and it is 49 a minute roaming charge to use the phone, and only one hot-spot near the Juneau airport. So I will be disconnecting from the modern world, but I will be taking my Canon Rebel XTi camera and will post some (hopefully) dazzling photos when I return.

Bubba's Diner

Local favorite. I've heard for years about how good Bubba's Diner is. Not just for breakfast either. Besides putting things together well, it also uses fresh local organic ingredients, and it shows in the taste. My friend Daniel (patiently waiting for me at the door in the photo) and I went a few evenings ago to try it for the first time. Way overdue!

Hamburger, undressed

Luckily, Daniel is on nearly the same eating plan as I so it companionable to have someone else make special requests too. He had a hamburger without the bun.


And instead of fries, some fruit. The meal received Daniel's seal of approval. In fact, he seemed to enjoy the small town of San Anselmo in general. We spent some time at an independent bookstore afterwards, and I came out with the latest Harry Potter book.

Chopped Salad

As for me, I enjoyed every forkful of the chopped salad. The heirloom tomatoes and fresh roasted fowl were most impressive! I definitely want to come back here for breakfast. And breakfast is available all day!

Yesterday at lunch I stopped in at Harmony for a Chinese Chicken Salad -- rumor has it that they are about to update their menu for some newly available local seasonal produce that is just coming in and looking good!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Average but authentic.
168 Restaurant is an average Taiwanese restaurant in the Ranch 99 Plaza in Richmond. Inexpensive and generally quick with uneven service.

Mango Ice

I was with Jo-Ann the last time I visited, and she ventured out for the Mango smoothie. She said it was good, but it came in a cracked glass, and they just poured it out of the cracked glass into another glass! (We saw). But they gave her an entirely new one when she asked a second time. It was a pretty major split in the glass so caution was of the essence.

Won Ton Soup

Jo-Ann was in a noodle mood, so had their beef noodle soup with vegetables and won tons. She said it was quite good.

Ma Po Tofu

I tried their spicy Szechuan to fu with ground pork - called Mapo tofu in most places. It was fine and had the right amount of heat for me. There were quite a number of those things falling into the authentic category: Pork Chitterling with Pork Blood Cake, Savoury Jelly Fish, and Simmered Pig Ear are a few of the possibilities for authentic eating.

In all, a good place when you are looking for inexpensive and reasonably good Chinese food, and can tolerate the uneven service.