Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cake

The Christmas Dinner for 10 turned out fabulously! We had an Alaskan King Crab feast which we ate, talked and laughed through. This was the ending, a 'traditional' Japanese Christmas cake, a lightly sweet and creamy end to a marvelous occasion!

I hope everyone celebrating Christmas had a joyous day! And everyone else too!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's almost time...

for a Merry Christmas! and happy holidays whichever ones you celebrate.

I've not succumbed to any strange and new disease... just caught up in the general holiday busy-ness... and since I'm hosting 10 for dinner tomorrow, I'm especially working on making my house be in tune with the season. I'm making Alaskan King Crab with garlic sesame soba noodles with some lovely side dishes coming with friends, and a beautiful white Christmas cake from Japantown!

I'll be back with more reviews when I can catch my breath again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's my birthday...

Anna's Birthday Cake

and I'm not crying. It had a fun lead in last night at Jo-Ann & Jonathon's with my Dad, Michael, Hal, Toran & Aurelia. Jonathon & Aurelia made the birthday cake pictured, a lemon cake with lemon cream cheese frosting, made with fresh lemons hand carried from San Diego. It was the perfect balance of sweet and sour. The candles each represent 6.375 years. Aurelia, being 8 thought having 8 candles on the cake would be a fun shared experience, with her birthday not far behind me.

The remains of the cedar planks

It was fun to have a dinner theme from my Northwest origins, near Seattle. Jonathon made cedar planked salmon, thought it needed cooking on the outside grill a bit faster, and this was the result. The salmon came out well done, but not burnt, just the way I like it! We also had fresh steamed asparagus, and a wonderful wild rice mixture with onions and mushrooms. Oh and not to forget the butternut soup starter. What a feast, and what good company. We had a poetry reading around the table using the book of poems Hal brought, and Toran accompanied the Happy Birthday song with his violin, which made for a haltingly beautiful melody. Wouldn't have it any other way.

Tonight I'm enjoying watching Miss Olivia as a cast member of "A Christmas Carol" and having dinner with her grandma, my friend Linda. My day is and is going to be fabulous!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's in a name?

Fondue Fusion

According to The SF Chronicle, Fondue Fusion has become Ray's Hot Pot. This would have been a great place to go during the past cold spell!

I've been in the area, just in a bit of overwhelm between big projects at work, and the holiday season. I will be back as I can.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lights of the Ozarks

Lights of the Ozarks

Zoomie asked me to say more about Arkansas. I arrived one evening, conducted some business, and left in the afternoon the next day so my exposure was brief. The evening we arrived, we had dinner at a restaurant near "The Square" in Fayetteville. The Square enthralled us with its Christmas finery -- the entire area was decked out with lights and Christmas displays, and there were Christmas carols playing from speakers in the night air.

Lights of the Ozarks - 1

Fayetteville is home of the University of Arkansas, and there are Razorback mascot images everywhere! I didn't take a snap though.

Lights of the Ozarks -3

Fayetteville is also known as the "Track Capital of the World" because of the numerous awards won by the University of Arkansas track team.

Lights of the Ozarks -4

Everyone I ran into was charming and helpful. That certainly put a shine on the already positive experiences there.

Lights of the Ozarks -5

My business took me to the RFID Research Center of the University of Arkansas. It was quite an amazing place, and this gadget-girl really enjoyed the tour after the business aspects were done. There were amazing applications of this technology demonstrated in several areas of a very large laboratory. Imagine taking a dress into the dressing room where there was an interactive screen where it 'knew' what you brought in and could suggest accessories, or you could press a button for someone to bring you a different size of the item(s) you had? Or a smart jewelry case that keeps a constant, automated inventory and locks things up tight at the end of the day?

Lights of the Ozarks -6

The countryside on the way to and from Northwest Arkansas Airport, when out of the city, did look like yesterday's photo with gentle rolling hills, lots of grass and winter-scene bare trees.

Lights of the Ozarks -7

I was charmed by it and thought it would be a interesting place to explore if you like peaceful prairie environments. My intuition tells me that the quality of life here is pretty high. I look forward to returning there.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Yes, I've been out of town again, and quite busy leading up to the trip. This visit was to Fayetteville, Arkansas and the above photo is typical of the surrounding area that I visited. I saw some unique things like a drive through liquor store, with pick ups lined up (in 21F weather!) for a cold beer through the drive in window! Wish I got a photo of that, and I'll remember the mental picture for a long time. There were lots of BBQ places, and the typical national chains along with a selection of ethnic and deliciously unique places. I'll be blogging a little more about the food and sights in future posts.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Great Neighborhood Breakfast Place

Mary's Place

I had a craving for breakfast crepes and realized that it had been some time since we visited Mary's Place in Novato, and we'd never tried their crepes. So we jumped in the car, and took off! A nice surprise for us was to find that there is actually a Mary behind this all, and she's very friendly, efficient and manages to single-handedly keep all the tables happy at breakfast time.

Pancakes, Eggs & Bacon

After Dad arrived and saw the photo in the window of the pancake breakfast, he lost his interest in crepes. And loved his meal of pancakes, eggs and bacon.

Vegetarian Crepe

I stuck with what I intended, and ordered the vegetarian crepes. The crepe came with home fries which were quite crisp on the outside and soft and potato-y on the inside. I liked the green onions included too.

Interior of Vegetarian Crepe

When I opened up the crepe, I was happy to find it not only included spinach, onion, tomatoes and mushrooms, but scrambled eggs! It was hearty and delicious. I would recommend Mary's Place for a great neighborhood-style breakfast with good service.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 10/16/2009

Previously reviewed:
August 4, 2007

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

Friday, December 04, 2009

The Wasabi Incident

Dad & I went to Robata Grill & Sushi for a lovely lunch today. When I saw Dad's hand on the pretty green wasabi, I warned him- that' s hot mustard, it goes in the dish with soy sauce, not directly in your mouth! Oh, said he. He had a lovely obento special for $10.50 that included Teriyaki Chicken, Deep Fried Scallops, Salad, Miso Soup, fresh fruit, and an eel-cucumber roll (hense the wasabi). I had a combo of Teriyaki Salmon and Tempura. About three quarters of the way through our meal Dad suddenly looked like he was choking! Coughing, teary-eyes and redfaced suddenly, I jumped out of my seat thinking he'd inhaled something, and started patting his back and trying to remember the Heimlich maneuver. However, as he calmed down he said that it was something too 'hot', and I looked at the empty spot the wasabi tower had been. He'd forgotten that he wasn't to eat it. Next time, I'll have to ask the waiter to hold the wasabi from his plate.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cool Find in Walnut Creek

Kabob House

I went out to a movie (The Men Who Stare at Goats) with a friend last week, and heard that Kabob House is a great Persian restaurant with good values. My friend was willing to give it a whirl, so that's were we found ourselves after the movie. When you enter the first thing you notice is the mouth-watering aroma of freshly cooking food.

Persian Bread

As soon as we ordered, some fresh, hot Persian bread came out. I couldn't find it listed on the menu, but I believe it's called Taftoon. Whatever you call it, delicious is its second name.

Green Salad

A tossed salad is included with each meal. It was fresh and flavorful.

Chicken Kabob Platter

The Chicken Kabob Platter smelled SO good, and looked fresh and well cooked. My friend Stephanie said it was great!

Spinach Treat

I ordered from the extensive vegetarian menu section, finding the Spinach Treat intriguing. It is described as spinach and eggs sauteed with garlic and onions, served with saffron basmati rice. Somehow I expected something more omelet-like from this description than the savory, lemony spinach treat with bits of egg and topped with fresh tomatoes. I liked it!


I was one of those who couldn't choose between a rose water flavored ice cream, or Faloodeh (a Persian slushy - rice noodles coated in rose water, topped with a touch of lime juice and sour cherry syrup). So I had the Makhloot, which tops the rose-flavored ice cream with Faloodeh. It was a bit much, but what a delicious taste treat!


Stephanie knew what she wanted for dessert the minute she walked through the door - Baghlava. It was great that their rendition is so good. It was very flaky with the right pistacio sweetness. The restaurant seemed to be run by an extended, very warm and gracious Persian family. I would definitely go back.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fun find


Dad and I were together in San Rafael, and thought Foodles would be fun to try. The first thing we noticed is that it has a very reasonably priced breakfast menu! However, it was lunchtime, so we chose options from their daily specials. Foodles is a casual breakfast and lunch place, and it has a sign in the window about using fresh and wholesome ingredients.

Chicken Teriyaki

Dad opted for the chicken teriyaki which came with rice and a green salad. The portion was generous, and Dad liked it enough to finish the plate!

Salmon Teriyaki

I chose the salmon teriyaki, which was amazing! There was a generous portion of perfectly grilled and sauced salmon and the salad was so very fresh. It's been a few days, and I forgot to right it down, but I believe this plate was $8-9. It is a casual, order-at-the-counter type place that has a bit tied interior, and the food and service was great. The burgers the couple had next to us looked awesome too.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 6/15/2009

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

The day after

Fruit Salad

We had such a lovely Thanksgiving with friends, and I was so busy assembling and making biscuits from scratch on the spot that although I took my camera, I took no Thanksgiving festivities photos. However, before I left home, I did snap a shot of the fruit salad I made, which had pineapple, Capay Farms pears, banana, blackberries and mint freshly picked from my deck, with a whole lemon squeezed over top. It was good and there was not a bit left to bring home, including the bowl that slipped off near the sink after dinner and flew into many pieces!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving has a spectacular meal and much to be grateful for. I made a Tofurky feast with the tofu-turkey roasted with fresh root vegetables from the CSA box a couple nights ago, paired with a green bean casserole. I didn't mention that it was not meat, and Dad didn't notice the difference.

I am grateful for many things, not the least of which is a busy business season, which has made my blogging a little irregular lately. Never fear, I am here and will continue as I can without crazy-making.

Dad and I are having Thanksgiving dinner with Jo-Ann & Jonathon and their extended family and friends. And I will eat some actual turkey today, and will be making my mother's special oyster stuffing....

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

There goes another one

Sam's Roadhouse closed

I liked Sam's Roadhouse in Novato. Now it's gone.

Points South

There is already a new establishment operating in its place, Points South. It advertises both Yucatan and Mayan cuisine. It also serves breakfast!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I'm becoming my mother

Molasses Apple Cake

Never thought that would happen, but I have to admit, there are sure some signs. Such as improvising a recipe measuring nearly nothing... I promised Dad to make him a apple cake this morning, and I have a French recipe my friends are raving over that I wanted to try. Then we ended up going to "New Moon" with our friend Daniel, and I invited him over for cake. And that means NO sugar. Hmmm.. the recipe I was planning to make definitely has this ingredient. So that set me off on my improvisation. I didn't even refer to the original recipe, nor any for that matter. And it turned out! It was mildly sweet rather than what is typical of an American cake. I remember that I fluffed 2 eggs and other wet ingredients (molasses, vanilla extract, E.V.O.O.) then blended in the apples (3 medium chopped), then the dry ingredients, cinnamon, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and all purpose flour until the batter looked the correct consistency. I used Pam baking spray on a non-stick cake pan, and then cooked at 350F for 25 minutes once I had it in the pan and the oven preheated. Daniel insisted I take a photo and blog it, as he liked the result, and I have to admit it worked out too.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Invisible, until now

Caffe Acri

I must have passed Caffe Acri in Tiburon hundreds of times. I thought it was just a coffee and ice cream place. I recently heard that there is breakfast served, and I immediately opened my schedule for Dad and I to visit one morning. The restaurant faces Main Street with the well known Guaymas just behind.

Mushroom, Tomato, Avocado Omelet

I tied the Mushroom, Avocado and Tomato Omelet. It came with home fries and thinly sliced whole grain bread. It was all quite good, I'd have it again in a heartbeat. There were a few things that could be improved however. There were no napkins given with the meal, and none were set out with the usual coffee condiments, you had to request a napkin! Also, the toast was not only not buttered, but there was no butter on the plate, another trip to the counter to request it. Lastly, the women behind the counter seemed much more intent of flirting with the men who stood and chatted with them over the counter than noticing or acknowledging those waiting for service.

Croissant Breakfast Sandwich

My Dad had the croissant sandwich, he said it was a winner. Bacon, eggs, cheese and tomato all pressed against croissant halves and pressed in a panini grill from the looks. I think that this place is a perfect place to wait for the ferry as the entrance is just a couple businesses away. They also serve simple lunches.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 4/22/2009

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nouveau Tarte

Left Bank

It was a warm and beautiful day in Larkspur, and the perfect parking spot appeared! So I found myself visiting an old favorite, the Left Bank at the Blue Rock.

Left Bank Interior

The interior is still warm and inviting, and I was sitting next to the fireplace with a good view of most everything. The waiter was quite friendly and brought me an iced tea while another brought some fresh French bread!

French Onion Soup

I went a little crazy for caramelized onion and cheese, first ordering this flavorful French Onion soup. The stock was great and it had lots of soft and simmered onions.

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Tarte

I ordered a Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Tarte which was also topped with melty cheese. I have to say this was not your mother's french tarte! I had imagined a petite, well - tarte! This was more like a French flatbread pizza and took up an entire dinner plate! I took some home and had it again for dinner with some vegetable soup. It was tasty, just unexpected, and I realized my faux pas in ordering two dishes with onions and cheese as main ingredients.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 7/3/2008

Previously reviewed:
January 15, 2007

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Matches the memories

Crustacean Crab

I had a special reason to meet my friends Michael and Karen at Crustacean in San Francisco the other day. It was Michael's birthday! The request was to recommend a French/Vietnamese restaurant that was special. I remembered a number of happy meals at the Crustacean, and thought it also wasn't too far from the Orpheum, where Michael and Karen were going to see "Wicked" afterwards.


The neon crab on the building is actually a better beacon than the restaurant signage. An old friend of mine, Yves, dropped into town to say hi some years ago, and he was effusive in his praise of this restaurant and introduced me to it. I've been back many times since that first visit where I tasted their famous crab and garlic noodles.

Steamed Seafood Dumplings

We had a couple appetizers, the first which was the Steamed Seafood Dumplings. These were stuffed with black cod, prawn and eggplant. These were delicious!

Hot and Peppered Calamari

We also tried an appetizer special that night, a Hot and Peppered Calamari dish. We thoroughly enjoyed these as well.

Basa Fish over Garlic Noodles

Karen had the special fish of the day, Basa, over garlic noodles. She was positive in her comments about this dish.

Pan Roasted Halibut

Michael insisted we each taste his Pan Roasted Halibut. It was wonderful! It was in a toasted sesame miso vinegrette with shitake and corn, accompanied by baby bok choy. This all was atop white cheddar Asian basil mashed potatoes. We all enjoyed our meal and the good atmosphere (not too noisy) where we could have a good dinner conversation. The service was attentive as well.

Note: My friend Zoomie pointed out that I hadn't included my dish! Here it is:

Egg Noodles with Vegetables and Prawns

The Egg Noodles with Vegetables and Prawns was delightful! Plump shrimp with fresh vegetables and noodles - it's hard to beat!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pleasant Agave Fiber Drink

Spoon of Viv Agave

I noticed "Viv Agave" Organic Blue Agave Inulin at Whole Foods a couple weeks ago and thought it was worth a whirl. It looked unusual to me. It's just a light, white powder with a soft sweetness and hint of vanilla. So far, after adding it to water or other beverages it's either imperceptible, or adds just a top note of vanilla. It adds fiber and is also a prebiotic which aids the good bacteria which protect your health. I've found it an easy add to the diet.

Viv Agave

Monday, November 16, 2009

USDA: More Americans going hungry

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, these numbers are saddening. The Marin Food Bank has a list of ways you can help.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tried and true

The Dipsea

Dad and I went to The Dipsea Cafe in Mill Valley for breakfast a few days ago. The Dipsea provides a reliably solid breakfast, with lots of choice and well-executed, interesting specials. The service is friendly without keeping you from your friends. It's a great place to meet friends for a chat, and since so many others agree, the restaurant can be quite noisy.

Vegetarian Frittata

I ordered the Vegetarian Frittata. It had generous portions of mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, spinach, and zucchini. It was smothered with a melted pool of Jack cheese. The wheat toast is covering the home fries, and you can clearly see the housemade strawberry jam, which is so good it can cause swooning.

The Usual

Dad wanted "The Ususal". The dish of two eggs, two slices of bacon, home fries, and a biscuit is $8.95 on weekdays. Most other dishes are around $12, including my frittata. It's a bit pricey, and worth it for it's charm and good food. We both enjoyed our breakfasts.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 2
Noncritical: 1
Last inspected: 1/26/2009

Previously reviewed:
July 31, 2008
July 19, 2007
June 6, 2007
December 15, 2006

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