Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Taste of Terroir Summary - 2009

And here we are again, the 3rd time already for the "A Taste of Terroir" event. Our writers embellish on the theme of those special foods which reflect their corner of the globe. The entries this year span the globe and go from the homey to the exotic.


Quince and pork

The first entry I received was from Ivy of Kopiaste to Greek Hospitality, with a recipe for Port with Quince, Prunes and Chestnuts. Ivy talks about the history of the ingredients, including a bit of Greek mythology.



And Ulrike who writes Küchenlatein from Schleswig-Holstein, Germany writes about Förtchen from her kitchen. This particular recipe is from her grandmother, however these predate her grandmother and even antique cookbooks have a multitude of recipe variations. You'll enjoy her write up.

United States


Mike is a someone I actually know via the business world and we found that we have a common love of good food and the stories behind it. He writes about Livermore, California where he currently lives and has a great tale to weave into giving us a simple, elegant and delicious recipe for Raspberry and Petite Syrah syrup. Don't miss reading "The Time Lamont Prayed for Me" the entry from his blog, Welcome to a World Where Chefs Roam Free.


Joelen from Chicago, Illinois writes Jolen's Culinary Adventures. She writes about a dish that is unique and associated with Italian home cooking. Don miss her "Italian Timpano" which would be a great dish for anyone's special occasion.

Sausalito Harbor

And another Marin blog based in Sausalito, California, Come To Sausalito has added to the terroir conversation by walking us through the oodles of food terroir in that fair city, in the post entitled "A Taste of Terroir (Not Terror!)" The post was a group effort of the editors, and is a good sketch of special tastes that say "Sausalito". A photo wasn't included, so I chose one of my favorite Sausalito views.

Drake's Bay Oysters

Rounding out the US entries, is the post I made, In Search of Terrior, where I chronicle my efforts to find local, yet not native oysters in Marin County.


Priya writes Food and Laughter and gives us a post about the seasonal nature of cuisine in India. She chooses to share a couple recipes that are eaten in Punjab in the winter, Makai ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag. Although a photo is not included, her colorful and descriptive post almost has me tasting these healthy winter treats.



Ning from Heart and Hearth takes the cake for the most exotic entry I received. She describes the process of making Philippine Civet Coffee, from the beans to the cup. Without a doubt, there is terroir in every sip of this.



Sarina from TriniGourmet writes about Trinidad Saheena, a dish using split pea flour and quite unique to her area. This tasty local appetizer has great pictoral directions, and suggestions for substitutions.

And so we come to the end of another year of . Thanks to everyone who participated and those who are dropping by to follow our adventures together.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Another local food product

Tomales Bay Foods

As I mentioned on Wednesday in the write up about the oyster journey, I found another local food product in case the oyster story didn't work out. Point Reyes Station was on the way home, and Tomales Bay Foods is a lovely spot to find more local deliciousness. Cowgirl Creamery made a home in this renovated barn in 1997 and there is a glassed in area where you can watch cheese being made.

Cowgirl Creamery

There are lots of cheeses and accompaniments to buy, as well as sample towards the middle of the barn. I spied some creme fraiche, which brought me back to my student days in Paris where I first discovered this treat. I lived in a five story walk up pension where dinner was served on the top floor every evening. We were often served fresh berries with a cylindrical foil package of creme fraiche in a smaller bowl next to it, and a big pot of sugar for the table.

Cowgirl Creamery Creme Fraiche

The creme fraiche in France I recall as being very thick. So I was rather surprised to find the Cowgirl Creamery version to be runny. However the taste was there and it still made a great strawberry topping, mixed with a bit of sugar. Marin is quite famous for its local dairies, and this cheese is very local despite its French twist.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Change in Novato

Panda's Buffet curl

At some point it appears that Panda's Buffet slipped out of Novato.

Buffet Buffet

And Buffet Buffet has taken the same space. The sign highlights that it offers Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. I'll have to try it out one day soon.

In other news, Anna's Cool Finds and the "A Taste of Terroir" event were mentioned in Wednesday's Marin IJ in Tidbits! I was surprised and flattered to receive an email from the IJ asking some background questions. I wrote an essay, and true to good reporters, she picked out the heart of the matter in a perfect summary. I've also found myself having to go find those "Oishinbo" manga she mentioned!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

In search of terroir

Oyster Shells

It was that beautiful 70F weather Sunday after a very cold streak of weather that the journey started. At the time, I didn't think I was starting a journey. I just got out of bed and saw the glorious day, and knew that I wanted to find my bit of Marin terroir! I had thought of writing again about one of Marin's great cheeses, but decided to stretch for something different and knew our oysters were second to none. That meant I could take a trip out to West Marin, were the seabed nurses these beauties.

And this is my post for the 3rd annual "A Taste of Terroir" where bloggers everywhere are invited to post about a special food that arises from and is made unique by their piece of the earth. The summaries of these with links will be at this site on January 31st, so please come back to sample and enjoy a culinary adventure!

There are three major oyster growers in Marin, Drake's Bay Oyster Company, Tomales Bay Oyster Company, and Hog Island Oyster Company. I had heard that Tomales Bay Oyster Company had a way to enjoy them on site, so they were my pick. I thought to call ahead and ask about the oysters and what the story on on-site visiting was. A very friendly man picked up the phone and explained that they weren't a restaurant, but there was a picnic area on the grounds, and they sold the oysters, oyster knife, gloves, and even jars of sauces and barbecue briquettes. He assured me that it wouldn't take long to get the hang of shucking the oysters and invited me over to the clear blue skies and matching 70F temperature (West Marin can be colder sometimes being on the coast of the Pacific Ocean).

Tomales Bay Oyster Company

It took no more prompting! In the back of the Prius I threw barbecue briquettes, tablecloth, and other tasty things from the fridge and cupboard to round out a picnic featuring fresh oysters! I made sure my father had layers and a blanket, and out the door we went. I started calling friends along the way to invite them to the picnic adventure. After a few stops, after all, it was a leisurely Sunday, we arrived at Tomales Bay Oyster Company.


It actually turned out to be lucky that friends weren't able to join for various reasons. Other people obviously woke up with the same idea! There was absolutely no room for us. Dad took one look at the crowd and said it was too much for him.


I left him in the car for a few minutes and took a walk around, to get a feel for the place, and to devise an alternate plan. It was a scenic place.


And I just loved these little boys having a conversation on the shoreline.


Despite the lack of tablespace, people were still lining up to buy oysters! And the parking lot was jammed, there were also cars lining the highway near the entrance.


So I proceeded on the alternate plan, driving up the road to a restaurant serving the local specialty, barbecued oysters. And those who read my lead up post last week know that the bottom line for that part of the adventure was that although delicious, the barbecued oysters at Tony's Seafood Restaurant, about three miles north of here, were not local, but from Washington State's Puget Sound. The story was that there aren't enough local oysters to supply the demand at the restaurant!

Tomales Bay near Tony's

Leaving Tony's Seafood Restaurant, I did make a 'back-up' stop at a well known local cheese producer in case I couldn't find any local oysters! I'll be posting about that another day.

So home we went, and what I had assumed would be an easy piece on the delicious local oysters took me on another, more mental journey. I had to come to grips with what the concepts of 'local' and 'native' really were and how 'terroir' related to these.

UC Davis, Department of Animal Science has put together a very interesting piece on California Oyster Culture. It is worth reading in its entirety. (Passages in double quotes are from this document). I came to the conclusion that although these oysters I've been searching for are 'local', they are not native! Even people in the 1850's loved oysters and as a result, "Natural occurring populations of the only native oyster, Ostrea conchaphila (Ostrea lurida), declined rapidly because of intensive fishing." Populations of native oysters are still rather low, and the Ostrea conchaphila is a protected species in California.

So what are we eating? Pacific oysters of several varieties. "Currently, over 98 percent of the oysters grown in California are Pacific oysters produced from hatcheries in Washington and Oregon and from several smaller specialty hatcheries located within the state." The water temperatures are too low here for non-native oysters to spawn on their own. Locally, Drake's Bay Oyster Company uses an advanced hatchery technique to hand spawn on site. Unfortunately, our local oysters are not self-sustainable and require our intervention. Once the oysters are at a certain stage of their growth, they are quite happy in our waters.

Although not 'native', I still consider these 'local' because once the babies are in our waters, an adult oyster can filter up to 60 gallons of water a day while gathering its food, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Oysters are very much a product of the terroir they live in. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation site also gives some reasons why oysters are our ecological friends.

Drake's Bay Oysters

So did I find 'local' oysters to eat? Yes! After all those mental musings, one evening I was still thinking about the problem of finding some to eat, but gave up it up for going to a nearby restaurant for dinner, leaving the rest of the journey for another day. And what should appear on the fresh sheet at Saylor's Restaurant & Bar in Sausalito, not more that a couple blocks from my workplace? Drake's Bay Oysters, sauteed in a lemon, garlic, shallot and cream sauce. Wow, these tiny babies are good! I personally prefer this dish over the more popularized barbecue version. In fact, I had these at Saylor's again this evening before finalizing this post just to be sure that you could get some if you drop by this week!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Historical Place

Rancho Nicasio

Although we didn't choose breakfasty food for brunch one Sunday at Rancho Nicasio, Dad and I did in fact visit and enjoy a leisurely Sunday brunch in historic Nicasio.


Rancho Nicasio was built in 1941 in the place of a hotel which burned down. The interior definitely had an old-time country feel to it although the music playing was vintage 70s.

Dungeness Crab Burger

I thought the Dungeness Crab Burger sounded interesting. I was so shocked at the appearance when it came, I thought the waiter had made a mistake and brought a hamburger! It was so dark! He said it was no mistake. A blackened crabcake? The dark part overpowered the taste of the mild dungeness crab. However it was mostly crab rather than filler so that was a plus. The fries were greasy and rather limp.

Cole slaw

A bit after my Dungeness Crab Burger arrived, the waiter brought over a plastic cup of cole slaw, making me wonder whether he was kind and giving me a bonus, or this was something that was supposed to come with the burger.

Grilled Ham & Cheese Sandwich

Dad ordered a simple grilled Ham & Swiss cheese sandwich which came with potato chips. He was pleased. Looking at the website menu, I see that this was supposed to come with cole slaw. Hmm... I wonder if the waiter gave me the cole slaw that was meant for Dad?

I wasn't terribly impressed with the speed of service, however the waiter was quite friendly. I asked him about the music scene there and he directed me to take a peek at the larger room with stage. I have friends who have waxed quite enthusiastic about the music events here, so I'm thinking the charm of this place lies in its being out of the normal hectic time and space of the more urban Marin, and the atmosphere of people coming together to enjoy music, rather than a strict draw of the food. The 'feel' of the room certainly added to that impression as I could almost feel the echos of good times here.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 9/22/2008

Monday, January 26, 2009

Completing my list

Neo Tataki

I found that there is a new place in Novato with a Japanese twist. TJ's Take Out has been purchased and is transitioning the menu and signage to become Neo Tataki. The inside has been spiffed up with new paint and menu and the greetings and service are quite friendly.


There are a few Japanese crackers served as the rest of the order is prepared.

Miso Soup

I thought the miso soup sounded like a good place to start. Although the bowl is a little nontraditional, the contents were delicious!

Philadelphia Roll

There was a distinct effort to make the presentation very pretty. The Philadelphia roll I ordered sported some decorative lettuce. There is a selection of sushi items every day.

Turkey & Cheese Sandwich

Neo Tataki is more an ecletic neighborhood hang out than a formal restaurant and is not purely Japanese. Dad was happy that he could order a standard turkey and cheese sandwich while I was enjoying more exotic fare. Actually the sandwich was stuffed with veggies in a way that gave it some flair and spike of antioxidants. There is also free WiFi inside!

To my knowledge, I've now eaten at every Japanese Restaurant in Marin, including those which may just have the Japanese part as a sideline! We do have quite a variety, and I'll have to update the summary for Marin Japanese restaurants soon.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 2
Noncritical: 3
Last inspected: 12/15/2008

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Last stop in Sausalito

Bayside Cafe

Bayside Cafe is right on the north edge of Sausalito, among the last small group of stores before being routed from Bridgeway to Hwy 101 north. It is a charming breakfast and lunch spot, particularly popular with the locals.

Tofu Veggie Scramble

I had tofu veggie scramble. It was so fresh and chock full of very fresh veggies and cubed tofu. The topping was more of a pico de gallo than a salsa, and I liked that, it was not runny. The hash browns were perfectly grilled as well.

Bacon & Eggs

Dad wanted the standard bacon and eggs with wheat toast, and enjoyed his meal too. Bayside Cafe is a great place to start the day!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 1
Noncritical: 2
Last inspected: 8/1/2008

Previously reviewed:
April 20, 2008
June 2o, 20o7
November 20, 2006

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happiness detected

Happy Garden

Stopping over one weekend for lunch at Happy Garden in Novato, we found it's open but very quiet in the midst of a mini-tech office area. The waitress was very welcoming, and although the restaurant had a well-worn feel to it, I thought the feng shui must have been correct as it felt peaceful and like a nice place to linger.

Fish Tank

Having a fish tank right next to the table with pretty fish swimming and water gurgling contributed to the happy tranquility.

Crab Puffs

We received a table treat from the chef, crab puffs. The filling was well blended with cream cheese and crab and the puff pastry made it a delicate crisp and melting sensation. I would order these next time.

Soup Noodles

I enjoyed the shrimp noodle soup. It was filled with fresh vegetables still a bit crisp, and meaty shrimp pieces. The noodles were a bit soft for my taste, but it was still good.

Chinese Chicken Salad

Dad wanted to try the chicken salad, and was overwhelmed by the volume! It was lightly dressed, crisp and good. I tried a little of the salad part and thought it was one of the best (if you like very crisp iceberg lettuce). Dad commented that the chicken pieces had a nice flavor like they had been marinated before cooking. Although we would not term this a 'destination' restaurant, we enjoyed our experience and would stop in for lunch if we were in the neighborhood.

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last inspected: 12/1/2008

Friday, January 23, 2009

One Thai place goes, and a new one replaces

Cafe Bangkok closes

I found that we've said goodbye to Cafe Bangkok in Novato which I enjoyed last in 2006.

Thai Bistro

However, the new Thai Bistro has taken over the same space and early reports are good. Very good in fact. So I now have two new Thai places to try in Marin!

On another newsy note, I enjoyed a wonderful dinner with Catherine of Albion Cooks, Cookiecrumb of I'm Mad and I Eat, and her husband Cranky of Pluto Demoted on Wednesday night. When I started this blogging endeavor, I thought it was a solitary pursuit and that no one but maybe some close friends would read my blog. Was I wrong! Much of the fun of blogging is finding new friends with common interests, who are lots of fun! And inspiring on many levels! We enjoyed Vin Antico in San Rafael where Catherine recommended this wonderful egg appetizer, and since its website currently reads "under construction" I can't look up the name of! However if you see something with baked eggs and a spicy tomato sauce, chances are you've found it. Look here at Catherine's archives and look for July 10, 2008 for a photo. No doubt that this group of Marin bloggers will be getting together again over something tasty!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great tasting seafood on Tomales Bay

Tony's Seafood Restaurant

Dad spent Sunday dashing about West Marin with me while working on research for my upcoming "A Taste of Terroir" post. I'm getting quite an education on things that grow in Marin. On the way, we found ourselves at Tony's Seafood Restaurant in Marshall right on Tomales Bay. We stopped in for some local flavor. The true terroir aspect is being a little elusive, but educational. Since it is not being a very simple task, I'm separating out some of the part, which I'll fuse back into the whole more 'official' posting soon.

Tony's interior

Tony's was very busy, in fact we had to wait in quite a long line for a seat. The warning note about "Cash Only" had me checking my wallet to be sure there was adequate cash stashed. The interior was very nautical in theme and the Tomales Bay views were stunning, even across the room!

Clam Chowder

We were immediately informed that there was no more crab to be had for the day. The clam chowder was then a natural starter. It was delicious!

Barbecued Oysters

Next our order of barbecued oysters showed up on a paper plate. Wondering whether this famous local treat used Tomales Bay, Drake's Bay or Hog Island Oysters (the three local Marin oyster companies), I was told that these were in fact from Washington state! I asked where, and was told that they only knew from "Puget Sound". Being from Seattle, I knew that wasn't really very specific. I asked the waitress why they didn't use local oysters when Tomales Bay Oyster Company was merely 3 miles down the road from them? The response was that they couldn't get enough local oysters to supply the demand at the restaurant! Oh are we in trouble if the entire bay area becomes locavores and want oysters! At any rate the oysters were good and we enjoyed Tony's. I would come back again in a heartbeat, and enjoy the delicious seafood!

Restaurant Inspection Results
Critical: 3
Noncritical: 6
Last inspected: 8/15/2008