Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Eating in and Around San Francisco Day 3 Half Moon Bay

Yesterday we drove down the Pacific Coast. We saw the ocean, some surfers, and thick blankets of fog rolling off of the hills. 

It was beautiful! Then we ate some beautiful food. In a coastal town called Half Moon Bay we walked around the shops (I bought an apron and matching oven mitt at a cute kitchen shop called Toque Blanche) Then we ate dinner at Pasta Moon.
We started dinner with an antipasta of lightly battered romano beans, parmesan cheese on top, that we dipped in a light lemon aioli. This was a fantastic dish. Not heavy or greasy, and the aioli was very good and complimented the beans.

Then I had a sweet corn soup. I liked the one from the CIA better, it had a much purer flavor. This soup was enjoyable, but had more going on. It had some vinegar in it which I am not sure I liked. 

I should have ordered the fava and pea salad instead.

It had mint and cheese, and was very light and fresh tasting. A great summer salad.

For my entree I had Tagliatelle Jumbo Prawns, Sweet Corn, Roasted Red Peppers, Garlic, Speck, Lemon, Parmesan, Cilantro. This was good, but I think it needed a flavor boost. I still enjoyed it. 

Jake had Linguine Rare Pan Seared Ahi Tuna, Garlic, Capers, Oil, Cured Olives, Red Pepper Flakes, Anchovy. This pasta a great punch of flavor. 

Also, the bread was made in house and they had two varieties served with oil and vinegar that I could not stop eating! We also had an Italian wine that we all really enjoyed. What I liked about their wine list is that they have a description and tasting notes for each wine. So if you are not familiar with the nuances of different Italian wines (like me) then you can read the notes and make an informed decision. I picked our table's wine based on the fact that it had a good Wine Spectator rating and an intriguing description. We all liked it, and I wish more restaurants would include these descriptions. 
For dessert I had a Meyer lemon parfait.

A little too sweet for me, but a good lemon flavor. Jake had an affogato, which is espresso poured over vanilla gelato.

I should have listened to Jake's aunt and uncle when they told us how amazing the butterscotch pudding is there. I thought, how great could butterscotch pudding be? Well since they insisted I taste it (several times) I understood that it can be amazing.

Unlike this photo, which is blurry. What can I say, I was excited to eat dessert! It was thick, and such a great butterscotch flavor. Totally unlike artificially flavored pudding. 
Overall a great experience. I would recommend the romano beans, a salad, the tuna, and the butterscotch pudding for an amazing meal!

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Eating in and Around San Francisco Day 2 Napa and Sonoma

Today our adventure in California continues. We drove to Napa Valley, bordered by mountains on both sides. It has the advantage of having the bay on the southern border, so at night we wet, cool air rushes right through the valley and helps cool the air down and give moisture to the vines. We toured Mondavi's winery. 

These are cabernet sauvignon grapes.
We learned a lot! We got to taste the grape varietals right off of the vine.

 We saw the barrels of wine aging. 

We then got to taste three wines. We tasted their 2007 CHX Napa Valley Chardonnay. It was very good. It had notes of vanilla cream, pears, and key lime pie. ( I got that off the tasting notes, to be honest. My palate isn't that refined!) Then we tasted a 2007 Napa Valley Fume Blanc. I liked this one a lot, it had citrus and floral notes and a nice mouth feel. 

The third one was a Cabernet Sauvignon, which I learned is the most grown grape varietal on the Mondovi estate. This was a 2007 Carneros Cab, a little pricier and it was nice to taste but not my favorite. (Very tannic). We bought a Pinot Noir there that isn't available in Pennsylvania, and are excited to try it!

For lunch we went to the CIA-the Napa Valley branch of the Culinary Institute of America. We sat at the counter of a round open kitchen.

It was a great view.

Sweet white corn soup with basil oil. I had this as a first course. It had a lovely, pure fresh corn flavor and was absolutely fantastic.

Jake's first course; Burrata- Creamy fresh mozzarella, local heirloom tomatoes, olive relish. The creamy cheese went well with the tomatoes and olives.

Watermelon and watercress salad with ricotta salata, pine nuts, and lime vinaigrette. The cheese in this dish was fantastic.

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi with baby zucchini, patty pan squash, romano beans, cherry tomatoes, with yellow tomato au jus. I don't even like plain zucchini and summer squash that much and this was delicious! They made the gnocchi by putting the dough into long cylindrical tubes, steaming them, and then cutting off pieces and pan frying them. We got to figure this out  by watching them cook.

Here I am with some of the CIA chefs!

We had dinner at a restaurant in Sonoma called "The Girl and the Fig" Unfortunately, my camera battery died so no food pictures. But it is a charming restaurant, with delicious olives and a nice variety of cheese, both local and from France.

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Eating in and Around San Francisco Day 1

My husband and I are on a week long vacation in San Francisco! We are lucky to have his aunt and uncle showing us around and taking us to some great places to eat! I am excited to eat my way through the various cuisines here. As much as possible, I will be chronicling what we eat here on this blog.

On our first day, we drove to see the redwood trees in Muir Woods. What an experience! After that we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Tiburon called Guaymas.

The entrance and bar of Guaymas.

Here is my entree- three different kinds of tamales. A chicken one (kind of dry, not my favorite) a pork one (which was tasty) and one with plantains and cactus, which had a different type of corn filling. It didn't taste like masa harina, but it had actual pieces of corn and tasted sweet. The chips and salsa here were great. 

The salsa had a good roasted flavor. 

Jake's ensalata con pollo with cactus and a jalepeno dressing.

The view from our table. The land you can see is Angel Island.

Making sopes at the restaurant.

For dessert we stopped at Cavallo Point Lodge. It is a hotel now but used to be housing for soldiers. Here is the outside.

As you can see, it is very close to the Golden Gate Bridge! Great location.

There is a restaurant there, and a bar called Farley Bar that we sat in. 

We ordered three different desserts, coffee and I had a prosecco. Here are the desserts.

A "Brown Cow" which is a rootbeer cake with a marshmellow custard on top, with sassafras ice cream. This was one of the best ice creams I have ever tasted.

Strawberries and Champagne, actually had three different versions on the theme. A Mcevoy olive oil pound cake with strawberries, a buttermilk panna cotta with pistachios and strawberries, and strawberry sorbet with a champagne granita. All amazing.

Malt Chocolate Macaroon. A chocolate lager mousse, with malt chocolate ice cream. A bit too rich for me. 

The expresso and sugar cubes. 

A lovely spot to relax, and the regular bar food looked amazing as well. Next, wine country trip will be chronicled!

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

Grilled steak skewers and Charred corn salad

This was one of the best dinners I have made recently. The steak was delicious, tender and flavorful. The salad was excellent also. I used a skirt steak, instead of a flank steak that the recipe called for. I used grass-fed steak, which I think makes a big difference in the texture on the steak.

A great summer meal!

From Grilling magazine

For the steak:
1 1/2 lbs beef flank (or skirt) steak, preferably grass fed
1 Tbsp each ground cumin and dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp each ground coriander, kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
cherry tomatoes

Preheat grill to medium-high heat.
Slice steak against the grain into 1/2 inch slices, set aside.
Combine cumin, oregano, coriander, salt, pepper, and garlic powder for steak seasoning in a medium bowl. Whisk in lime juice and vegetable oil, and toss with steak strips. Place a cherry tomato on each of eight steak skewers. tread 2 steak strips on each skewer, folding stips accordion style. Spread strips along length of skewer. Place a cherry tomato on end of each skewer.
Grill skewers, covered, over direct heat for 3-4 minutes per side.
Charred corn salad Adapted from Grilling magazine
Makes 4 servings
Time: 20 minutes, (plus 30 minutes soaking time)

3 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked
3/4 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cut into chunks
1/4 cup sliced red onion
3 Tbsp crumbled goat cheese
2 Tbsp lime juice
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

Dissolve 1/2 cup kosher salt in 2 qts water. Soak corn in water for 30 minutes, remove and pat dry. Grill corn over medium heat, turning often, until kernels begin to blacken, about 10 minutes. Remove corn from grill. When corn is cool enuogh to handle, cut kernels from cob and place them in a bowl. Add tomatoes, avocado, and red onion.
Whisk together goat cheese and lime juice in a small bowl; season with salt and pepper. Drizzle goat cheese sauce over corn mixture; toss to combine. Serve with steak skewers.

Best meal of the summer so far, I think!!

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Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches with Blueberry Swirl

I seem to have a problem. I can't stop buying cooking magazines! I see them in stores, and just have to buy one. This recipe was on the cover of Gourmet magazine this month, and looked too tasty.
I made these for a group of friends that came over, and they got eaten up pretty quickly! They are a bit of work, but not too bad. You use already made vanilla ice cream. A great way to use ripe local, blueberries.
For lemon ice cream:
2 pt all natural vanilla ice cream (I used Breyers)
1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

Transfer ice cream to a microwave safe bowl and microwave at 30 percent power in 10 second intervals, stirring until softened.
Stir in lemon juice and zest. Spread ice cream thinly in a 13-by-9 baking dish and freeze while making compote and sandwich layers.

For blueberry compote:
2 cups blueberries (10 oz)
1/4 cup sugar
2 (3-by 2 1/2-inch) strips lemon zest
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp cornstarch

Cook blueberries, sugar, and zest in a skillet over medium high heat, thoroughly crushing blueberries with a potato masher, until juices are released and sugar has dissolved, about 2 minutes.
Stir together lemon juice and cornstarch, then stir into blueberry mixture. Boil, stirring, 1 minute. (Mixture will thicken.)
Transfer to a bowl and chill until cold, about 1 hour. Discard lemon zest.

Sandwich layers (Make while blueberry compote chills)
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp caking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Equipment: 2 (8 inch) square baking pans (2 inches deep), a small off-set spatula)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F with rack in the middle. Butter baking pans and line with foil, leaving a 1-inch overhand on each side, then butter foil.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Beat together butter and brown sugar in another bowl with an electric mixer a medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and vanilla. At low speed, add flour mixture in 2 batches, mixing until just combined.

Divide batter between baking pans and spread into thin, even layers with offset spatula. Bake until golden brown but still tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool completely in pans, about 30 minutes.

Dollop tablespoons of blueberry compote all over ice cream, then swirl with a spoon. Spoon all of the ice cream over 1 sandwich layer (in pan) and spread evenly using clean offset spatula. Invert second sandwich layer over ice cream, pressing gently to form an even sandwich. Wrap baking pan in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 2 hours.
Transfer sandwich to a cutting board using overhang. Cut into 8 pieces.

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