Friday, August 16, 2013

Happy 10 years of Marin food blogging

Today marks 10 years since I started writing a blog that I thought that no one would find.  Anna's Cool Finds quickly became focused on food adventures in Marin.  What fun paths it has led me down!  From consistent blogging to writing Bread and Butter each week for the Marin Independent Journal, for more than three years.  Looking forward to seeing what the next 10 years brings.  

Friday, July 19, 2013


Pizzalina Exterior

I was intrigued by Pizzalina from the beginning.  I caught Louise Franz (owner) blogging all about the experience of opening a restaurant from scratch, and in particular, about Pizzalina in San Anselmo.  I visited in February for a bite when I was in the area.

Pizzalina set up

When you walk in the cheerful vibe is noticeable, and the fact that someone cares about the place is evident.  Louise was on the floor, greeting pizza lovers and said hello to me too.

Pizzalina Pizza

Having life interfere with my blogging, I seem to have misplaced the take out menu I brought home to prompt memory of the pizza I ordered, and since Pizzalina is in tune with the seasons, it isn't on the current posted menu.  I hope it comes back.  It was composed of some of my favorite things!

Prosciutto, Blue Cheese, Fig and Caramelized Onion Pizza

The pizza had a name after a train stop, and it was composed of prosciutto, figs, caramelized onions and bleu cheese topping the flavorful mozzarella cheese and perfectly crisp and bubbly crust.  I'm getting hungry all over again just describing this.

The pizzas range from $10-$18 currently, and there are salads, pasta, entrees such as wood roasted quail ($22) as well.  The emphasis is local and seasonal, there are wines on tap (Cal-Italian) and microbrews.

The latest Marin County food inspection reports are here.

914 Sir Francis Drake Blvd.
San Anselmo, CA 94960
(415) 256-9780

For directions, try Anna's Map.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Cantina

The Cantina exterior

On a warm summer's day I dropped into The Cantina for lunch, and a few days later found myself there for brunch with family.  The Cantina was a long lived restaurant in Mill Valley that left for a bit, replaced by Maria Maria, then it came back with some reinvention.

Chips and Salsa 

Chips and salsa arrived soon after I sat down, and I found that the chips are gluten free and made fresh every day on premises.

Arroz con Pollo 

I enjoyed an old favorite, and found a new twist.  This arroz con pollo had a pounded chicken breast atop Mexican rice.  Along with the ranchero sauce, there were chunky pieces of red and green bell peppers and onions.  Usually I've had this dish where the chicken was served over the rice in tenders, and not with such fresh and colorful peppers and sweet onion as toppings. Also my experience of this dish at other places is without the corn cake, refried beans and green lettuce.  This dish shined.  The only thing I would have changed is to have some kind of dressing or topping for the plain, yet crisp and fresh lettuce.

Crab Omelet 

A second trip for brunch found me irresistibly drawn to the crab omelet. The omelet was accompanied by soft potatoes, sour cream and pico de gallo. I was happy with this dish.  The crab was very smooth and paired well with the egg envelope.

The latest food inspection reports can be found here.

The Cantina
651 E Blithedale Ave.
Mill Valley, CA 94941
(415) 381-1070

For directions, try Anna's Map.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


photo credit: iStockphoto

Well it comes time again to clean up the side bar and refresh what's here and gone.

Closures since I last updated the list:

Mill Valley
Caffe Oggi

Fu Zhou Super Buffet
Sam's Roadhouse

San Anselmo
Chinese Kitchen
Lanna Thai
LoCoco's Italian Pizzeria
Orchid Thai Restaurant

San Rafael
California Bakery & Cafe
Pinky's Pizza (July 28, 2013)

Giovanni's Pizza

Stinson Beach
Stinson Beach Grill

A few have been closed for some time and I missed those until now...

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Barrel House Tavern

Barrel House Tavern Door

I've been looking forward to trying the new Barrel House Tavern in Sausalito since I first heard about the care being put into the remodeling.  Owner Chris Henry spent about two years carefully restoring and enhancing its original architectural features and made it warm and inviting.

Barrel House Tavern Side View

There are many opportunities for a great view of the bay and San Francisco in the distance from an inside window or the spacious and comfortable deck.

Flat Bread and Pioneer

Tonight I went with friends and two were out of town visitors from Nebraska.  We were given a treat of an apricot based dip and crisp rosemary flatbread shortly after we were seated.  Three of us tried the Pioneer cocktail, a whiskey-based drink that included Whipper Snapper Whiskey, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Peach Liqueur, Canton Ginger Liqueur, lemon, soda and orange bitters.  The consensus was wow on the drink.

Flat Bread
The Flat Bread with Serrano ham, burrata, spring onions and nectarines was also a riot of pleasing tastes and textures.

Crab Sliders 

We also enjoyed the Crab Sliders with avocado, cilantro and watermelon radish-jicama slaw on brioche.  We requested that the chef split the two sliders for four to enjoy before bringing it to the table, so the photo shows the split sliders rather than the usual appearance.  I loved the mix of tastes and textures and would come back some time just for these.

Pan Roasted Cod

We shared a bite of each others dishes so all could appreciate the variety.  This Pan Roasted Cod with yellow corn, summer squash, shitake mushrooms, baby carrots and port reduction was burst with fresh, moist light cod flavor and the accompanying vegetables were well paired with it and the port reduction.

Wood Fired Chicken

My dining companion was particularly taken with the well-paired flavor of bacon in this Wood Fired Chicken with red bliss mashed potatoes, bacon, carrots and lemon thyme jus.  I was impressed with the crispness of the skin while the meat under it was moist and tender.

Grass-Fed Niman Ranch Ribeye

I had this Grass-Fed Niman Ranch Ribeye with red wine butter, fries and housemade aioli.  The portion was actually  more generous than it appears in this photo.  I smeared the red wine butter over the entire steak and let in melt and ooze into the tender medium-cooked ribeye steak.  I loved the rich flavors and the crisp exterior, moist interior fries dipped into the garlic infused aioli.

Apricot Crisp

Wanting to linger and enjoy the lovely view with our Nebraskan friends, we ordered two desserts to sample between the four of us.  First up was an apricot crisp topped with a vanilla bean ice cream.  We loved the contrast of the warm seasonal apricots with the crisp granola crisp and cool rich ice cream.

Creme Brulee 

The creme brulee was also smooth, delicious with a delicate crisp caramel topping, and was accompanied by  crunchy 'cat's tongue' long rectangular cookies.

The creator of the tastes this evening is chef Matthew Bousquet.  Previously he was the executive chef at Bistro Jeanty in Yountville. He also co-owned Windsor's Mirepoix that received a Michelin star, and also its sister spot Bistro M in Windsor as well. The Windsor restaurants closed in 2011.

Barrel House Tavern is so new that the food inspectors have not visited, however, its inspection report will be posted here once complete.

Barrel House Tavern
660 Bridgeway
Sausalito, CA 94965
(415) 729-9593
For directions, try Anna's Map.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Paella Heaven

Aneto Paella Croquettes 
My friend Chef Tom asked me to a get together featuring some new paella broths last evening.  Paella! One of my favorite dishes!  It's one of those things I discovered in Madrid when I was a student and have been on a search for 'good' paella in the U.S. ever since.  So naturally I made all haste to make arrangements to attend.

Featured Aneto natural broths 
It also seemed like destiny since just a few days before I had noticed a new line of paella broths in the Sausalito Mollie Stone's that I was excited to try out, and the party was presenting the very same Aneto paella broths.

Chef Abel, Assistant Ana and Daniel of Aneto 
At a lovely home in San Francisco, and pictured left to right, Chef Abel Monago, Assistant Ana Vilaseca, and Daniel Ferrero of Aneto were in the kitchen creating lovely tapas and several paellas for a number of food lovers, writers and bloggers in attendance.

Paella croquettes 
The first bites out of the kitchen were paella croquettes  made of Valencia style paella and one prepared with the seafood broth colored black with squid ink.  Reminiscent of the Italian arancini, these balls of rice had a nice crisp outside that yielded to the bite sliding into a creamy paella interior bursting with flavor and creaminess.

Plate of Paella Stuffed Mushroom Caps 
After a leisurely chomp through the paella croquettes, the next appetizer plates were mushroom caps stuffed with paella.  These were also tasty.

Chickpea, Spinach and Cod Paella 
Close up of Chickpea, Spinach and Cod Paella

The next four paellas came out in succession.  The flavors were complex.  The Aneto broths are made naturally, like we might make a broth in our home, yet using more complex ingredients than we would normally take the time to gather.  It was great to see a succession of completely recognizable and wholesome ingredients in each broth.

Valencia Paella with Green Peppers, Artichokes, Asparagus and Sausage 
Valencia Paella with Green Peppers, Artichokes, Asparagus and Sausage

It was great to learn the story of paella beginning as a fisherman's dish where they started by using local ingredients, fish pieces and a carbohydrate.  The fishermen also used potatoes and pasta as the carb portion of their dish.  Rice has become the popular carbohydrate, and it stands up well to the technique.

Seafood Paella with Prawn Carpaccio and Pinenuts 
Seafood Paella with Prawn Carpaccio and Pine Nuts

And I learned that technique is what paella is, rather than a recipe.  Daniel compared paellas to omelets where you choose ingredients and cook to your individual taste rather than using a recipe from others.  To make paella, you need a shallow dish and high heat.  First you saute the assembled ingredients - some vegetables and meat/fish in the pan.  When these are cooked, you add the rice and broth and cook at high heat for about 10 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of low heat, then a brief rest of 5-10 minutes.

Chickpea, Spinach and Cod Paella 
Chickpea, Spinach and Cod Paella

The best rice to use for paella is Bomba rice because its molecular structure allows it to expand lengthwise rather than bursting open as many rices do under the rapid and high heating required to make paella.  It's more forgiving to overcooking.  A medium grain non-sticky rice in general is advised for use.

Paella using Aneto broth with Squid Ink 
Paella made with Aneto natural paella broth with Squid Ink

After hearing the cooking description, I'm thinking that I may be able to actually make this in a shallow pan that I have in my kitchen successfully without buying a special paella pan.  I'd not tried making this dish at home for lack of pan, and concern of bringing yet another piece of cooking equipment to my over stuffed kitchen cabinets.  Hearing the story of paella I realized that the lack of a perfect pan shouldn't stop me since after all, this dish originated with fishermen who I'm sure were not concerned about the perfect pan!  So I'll be picking up some of this flavorful broth soon and try this myself.