Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dinner served

Woodlands Cafe in Kentfield hosted a dinner preview party the night before the official dinner opening, where happy guests sampled bites from the new dinner menu. Woodlands Cafe has been open for breakfast and lunch with counter service, and now it is full service for all three meals. Owner Don Santa was there and told me about his vision of an open airy space for the restaurant, accomplished in part by raising the ceilings and lowering the floors. He and his sisters Joanne Santa and Sue Santa are not only involved in the management of the cafe, but also the Woodlands Foundation which has donated over $2.5 million to local schools over the years. The party was a class act with cheerful live music, attentive staff roaming and keeping guests well fed, delicious samples of menu items, and even weather cooperation for a perfect evening on the patio.

You couldn't help but be wowed by the display of cheese, crackers and fruit and cured olives that greeted you just inside the door to start. And not far behind was one of the wandering staff, offering bruschetta with the most ruby red tomatoes.

This is the second table loaded with even more cheese, cured olives and beautiful presentations of cured meats. And I was quite amazed to find green olives that were wonderful. This woman has never met a green olive that she liked. I can't say that any more as the Sicilian Greens charmed me with their mellow flavor such that I returned a couple days later to the adjacent Woodlands Market just so I could pick up a carton of these! The tray of Silcilian Green olives is visible just behind the flowers on the table above. And what paired with all this local bounty? Wines from local vintners Pey Vineyards of Marin and Yorkshire Vineyards of Mendocino.

At yet another serving area there was chicken salad and peasant salad in little bamboo boats for the taking, as well as hot out of the oven pizza margherita, and soft polenta bites. If you are wondering what is in the peasant salad, it consists of mixed greens with endive, Fuji apples, red grapes, gorgonzola cheese, spiced candied pecans, and dried cranberries in an apple shallot vinaigrette. If all that wasn't enough there were samples of soft serve ice cream made using Straus Family Creamery products, and house made sorbets including a tangy buttermilk-Meyer lemon creation.

Dinner service is now in full swing at Woodlands Cafe, and evenings on the patio near the fountain are a perfect summertime retreat.

Credit for the photos in this post go to Stuart Lirette who generously sent a selection from his snaps during the evening. I also had a severe case of camera envy when I saw his!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy 25th

Orchid Thai

Orchid Thai in San Anselmo celebrates its 25th anniversary today. I wrote about the conversation I had with one if its owners, Peggy Thongnopneua in this past week's Bread and Butter. Now for the dish on the tasty lunch we shared.

Asparagus Salad

One of the rotating specials is asparagus salad. The ends had been carefully shaved so all the bites were tender and it had a very tasty creamy dressing with it as well. This dish definitely had a French flair and showed off Chef Tom Thongnopneua's experience at Le Central prior to opening Orchid Thai.

Spring Rolls

The spring rolls named propia tod came out next. These hot and crisp vegetarian bites were filled with silver noodles and vegetables.

Salmon with Chili Citrus Sauce

pièce de résistance was the salmon baked in a banana leaf with a chili green sauce and freshly steamed vegetables. The salmon was ultra fresh and the chili green sauce with hints of cilantro and lime did amazing things to the flavor. If this is on the specials menu, by all means order it, you won't be disappointed.

Vegi Noodles

These Vegi Noodles consisting of pan fried rice noodles with mixed vegetable, ground peanut, tofu, scallion and bean sprouts, made a perfect foil for the rest of the meal.

If you have a chance to go by, be sure to wish the
Thongnopneuas a happy anniversary, and I hope many happy returns.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last Inspected: February 26, 2010

Previously reviewed:
June 21, 2007

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

Friday, June 18, 2010

An opening in Sausalito

La Hacienda

I've been watching this place being constructed for months. Finally this afternoon I saw an 'open' sign as I drove by. La Hacienda Bar & Grill in Sausalito opened officially Thursday night, and tonight Dad and I had our first meal there.

Chips and Salsa

We were given the freshest, crispest chips and salsa that was fresh and had a little bit of a kick without being overwhelming. It was refreshing to enjoy them in a new, very colorful decor.

Arroz con Cameron

I decided to try one of the house specialties, Arroz con Cameron. It was so hot and fresh, with plump shrimp and grilled onions and peppers over rice, smothered in cheese. Not pictured are the flour tortillas that came on the side. It was so good. The onions were crisper than I like, but that's a personal preference. The onions were still pretty sweet. The guacamole was also fresh, cool and went wonderfully with the dish.

Chicken Tamale Small Plate

Dad didn't feel hungry until he got a bite of his chicken tamale 'small plate', which wasn't small at all. He soon was scraping the plate for every morsel he liked it so well.

Mexican Flan

Dad asked for dessert, so I ordered one too. I went for the Mexican Flan, which was a great choice. It was one of the best I've ever tried. It was dense and rich and reminded me a little of ricotta pie.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Dad asked for strawberry ice cream and he said it was creamy and sweet and he polished it off too. Considering this was only the second night of operation this one has a bright future if the level of service and excellent execution stays in place.

Restaurant Inspection Results

This restaurant has not been inspected yet.

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

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging #237 - Recap

And here we are at the round up of the herbs posted around the web for this Weekend Herb Blogging #237, organized by Haalo of Cook Almost Anything, and hosted here this past week.

And starting with our organizer Haalo of Cook Almost Anything, she brings us Potato Sage and Onion Cake for this past week's entry. She talks about the aroma of sage, and that's precisely what attracts me to this herb as well. She had such a lovely photo of sage on the blog, I felt inspired to include both the herb and the dish in photos above.

Maninas of Maninas:Food Matters made Cuttlefish Stew for her entry. Maninas highlights parsley and celery leaf in her mother's unique recipe.

Next, Janet from The Taste Space contributes Olive Oil Granola with Dried Apricots and Pistachios. Although Janet does not name which herb she is highlighting, she has made a truly interesting Middle Eastern inspired treat.

And the ever creative Brii from Briiblog in English brings us Candied Ginger. First she takes us to church with some lovely photos of her day, and then on to how to make Candied Ginger.

Stacey from Fessenden Farmstead brings us lovely Lavender Wands. The secret is in the weave!

Lastly, I highlighted Sunchokes (or Jerusalem Artichokes) in a Cheesy Cauliflower Sunchoke Potato Soup.

Thanks to everyone who participated this week, with the heavy competition for attention when World Cup Soccer is going on. Rachel who writes The Crispy Cook is already gathering entries for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging, so participate if you find this fun!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Uncle Wing is promising

Uncle Wing

Tsing Tao in San Rafael changed hands and names and now is Uncle Wing. Seeing the bright yellow Grand Opening sign I just had to stop since it was lunchtime. A friendly staff seated me immediately and brought both water and tea, and of course a menu. Lunch specials all run under $7 for soup, appetizer, entree and rice.

Egg Flower Soup

The egg flower soup was hot and flavorful. Simple and satisfying, I enjoyed it.

Meatless Lemon Chicken

I was delighted to see a number of vegetarian and faux meat choices, and promptly chose the meatless lemon chicken entree. It came with a spring roll and fried rice. The faux meat was moist, flavorful and had a pleasant texture. It was a hit with me. I had this meal a couple weeks ago, and liked it well enough to have the same thing today. The only difference was that today, the spring roll appetizer had been morphed into fried wonton skins with some sauce. That was disappointing, but the main dish was still quite delicious.

Restaurant Inspection Results

Critical: 0
Noncritical: 0
Last Inspected: April 15, 2010

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

Wednesday, June 09, 2010



I am lucky to have friends who bring me interesting things from time to time. I received some sunchokes and counted myself lucky. I forgot to take a photo of the ones in this recipe before I used them, so I'm using a photo of some others I took a photo of at another time.

I made a Cheesy Cauliflower Sunchoke Potato Soup on one of those cold days we seemed to have in unusual times. I didn't measure ingredients precisely, and it all seemed to turn out delicious anyway.

Califlower, Potato and Sunchoke Soup

Cheesy Cauliflower Sunchoke Potato Soup

Half a head of cauliflower
4 small potatoes
3 sunchokes
white cheddar cheese
1 bullion cube (vegetarian or chicken as desired)
salt & white pepper to taste

Peel and chop the first three ingredients and boil until tender in water nearly covering. When tender, pour the hot mixture into a blender, add the bullion cube and whir. Return to the pan.

Cauliflower, Potato and Sunchoke soup on stove

Add white cheddar by handful, melting in and tasting and adding more until it's to your desired cheesiness. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Finished Cauliflower, Potato and Sunchoke Soup

When it's just right, pour into bowls and serve. Garnish with any interesting thing in your fridge or shelves. Chives, croutons, fried shallots, use your food artistry.

And this is my entry into Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted here at Anna's Cool Finds this week. Founded by Kalyn at Kalyn's Kitchen and now organized by Haalo at Cook Almost Anything it is a lot of fun to participate and to read about new herbs and new ways with herbs. There's a four year recap available here.

Obviously my herb this week is sunchokes. Sunchokes are also known as Jerusalem artichokes, sunroot, earth apple or topinambur. The sunchoke is the root of a type of sunflower native to the Eastern United States. High in inulin, a one-cup serving of sunchokes also provides 28% of your daily value of iron, and 10% of your daily value of Vitamin C. The same serving also provides 3 grams of protein. Sunchokes also have about six times the potassium of a banana!

I plan on posting the round up of Weekend Herb Blogging on Monday evening Pacific time, if not earlier. It's not too late to participate!

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

How sweet it is!

Sweet Things

I had the opportunity to taste some sweet little bites from Sweet Things in Tiburon and I knew that I had to visit the origin of such delightful mouthfuls. Luckily it was not much of a drive from my Mill Valley condo to The Cove Shopping Center in Tiburon.

Mariebelle Hot Chocolate

Among the more usual selection of drinks on the board was Mariebelle Hot Chocolate which read that it was 60% cacao. I had to try it, and I was given a choice of whipped cream, chocolate shavings, cinnamon or combination to top it. I chose cinnamon. I enjoyed how it was sweet without being cloying.

Mud Puddle

I went over the top and ordered a Mud Puddle to go with my Mariebelle. The Mud Puddle is a cupcake with cooked meringue under the slide of fudge frosting. I won't kid you, it is very sweet, but what a treat!

Mini bites

Sweet Things also has some very tasty mini-bite cupcakes. It's a great idea for those who want a little something with coffee or tea and yet don't want a whole cupcake.

Vanilla Vanilla and

My box contained vanilla vanilla and fudge bites. Dad and I enjoyed some while watching Sherlock Holmes on On Demand. Dad said, "I could eat these again". High praise!

Monday, June 07, 2010

Getting started on herbs

Arugula Pesto Pasta

I didn't make the sauce for the pasta with arugula pesto and pine nuts pictured above, however I liked the variation from basil based pesto. It was so simple to put together, and yet so tasty!

Arugula Pesto Ingredients

I got the arugula pesto from Three Stone Hearth in Berkeley, a community supported kitchen devoted to cooking nutrient dense foods.

Arugula Pesto Jar

Refreshingly, the first ingredient listed, arugula, is actually the main ingredient. Next in order are Arbequina olive oil, parsley, crispy walnuts, parmesano reggiano, garlic, sea salt, lemon juice, lemon zest. I have some more products from Three Stone Hearth and also some other locally grown and produced goodies I'll be telling you about. Since I have been eating at home more often from my Capay Farms box, I've not had as many blog worthy meals. Yet I've been enhancing meals with some local condiments and foods which are interesting, such as this one. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Weekend Herb Blogging here this week

Weekend Herb Blogging #237 is hosted here this coming week - June 7 - 13 so put your herb hats on if you'd like to participate. Participants start by reading the rules before posting and sending me their entry. Haalo of Cook Almost Anything is the organizer of this event originally started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen. By the way, I met the delightful Kalyn in Salt Lake City over the Memorial Day Weekend. More on that in a future post.

Entries should be submitted by the following times:

  • 3pm Sunday - Utah Time
  • 10pm Sunday - London Time
  • 11pm Sunday - Rome Time
  • 7am Monday - Melbourne (Aus) Time

Send your posts to anna AT annalou DOT com
with WHB#237 in the subject line and the following details:
  • Your Name
  • Your Blog Name/URL
  • Your Post URL
  • Your Location
  • a photo sized:328px wide

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Mill Valley Beerworks is open

Mill Valley Beerworks

Brothers Justin and Tyler have opened Mill Valley Beerworks which is open 7 days a week from noon to midnight. I ambled by on this sunny afternoon and snapped a shot of their window. The interior looked nice through the window with lots of wood and directed lights. I'm personally curious about the housemade root beer on the menu. I have pleasant summer picnic memories of my great aunts making this cooling beverage out in the woods next to a quickly running river up near Mt. Pilchuck in Washington State.

A "Reel" deal

photo credit: McCormick & Kuleto's

I heard about an opportunity for summertime movie fun that comes with a meal at either McCormick & Kuleto's in Ghirardelli Square or Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley at 1919 Fourth Street. Buy an entree at either restaurant and then buy a movie ticket for just $5. The movie tickets purchased at McCormick & Kuleto's are good at AMC Theaters, and those at Spenger's Fresh Fish Grotto are good at Regal Cinemas. This "Reel to Reel" promotion is good through the end of September 2010, or while ticket supplies last. And most importantly, the food at either restaurant is good too. I shared about my birthday dinner at McCormick and Kuleto's a surprising nearly three years ago (seems like it just happened!).

Oh, and if you don't have time to use the ticket, you can gift it away.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Fresh in the Financial District


I had a lovely opportunity to have lunch with a former colleague, Lloyd, in San Francisco recently. He had thoughtfully surveyed the area and found a place he thought I hadn't tried, Georges. What a delight! As we met another colleague in the hall before walking to Georges, he approved and told us not to miss the grilled halibut sandwich.

Grilled Asparagus

We ordered a couple appetizers, first the grilled asparagus. It was dressed in a Dijon vinaigrette and topped with shaved Parmesan. I was impressed with the intense asparagus flavor and true sense of it coming directly from a grill. It was a great starter.

Sauteed Calamari

Next up was the sauteed calamari which I didn't try, and Lloyd said was good.

Grilled Halibut Sandwich

Lloyd went for the recommended halibut sandwich. It was just as billed. I had a hard time resisting having the same, but I was really attracted by a different sandwich. It was accompanied by some handsome fries.

Dungeness Crab Roll

I had the Dungeness crab roll (I've become very partial to these on anyone's menu these days). The crab roll has dandelion greens and roasted peppers on a brioche roll with a little dish or fresh tomatoes and onions and house made potato chips. I was impressed by how well the roasted red peppers and dandelion greens set off the fresh crab. I would definitely order this again.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

It's open!


I attempted three times to go to the new Dish in Mill Valley, the last being Tuesday night. I was informed that there was a 'soft' opening over the Memorial Day weekend, however Dish would be open for good starting tonight, Wednesday. Unfortunately I already had conflicting plans for this evening, so the taste of Dish will have to happen sometime later, but hopefully soon as it looks great! Read more about Dish in Bread and Butter.