Sonoma: Local and Seasonal? A Spring RantFriday, 27-03-09 |Ahhh, spring. Yesterday the first of my tulips--red, which is all I grow--opened. Poe has brought in the first gopher of the season and, lucky for me, killed it before he grew bored. A gopher loose in the house is never a happy thing, but such is life in west Sonoma County in early spring. I suppose it is a small price to pay for this glorious season, when even the apple trees sport their white spring blossoms, making the landscape seem as if it has been draped in lace.It is hard to be grumpy at this time of year but I confess that I have come close several times recently, at special dinners featuring “the best of the wine country, the best of the season, the best of Sonoma County.”As I listen to chefs boast about all their commitment to all things local, it quickly becomes so much blah-blah-blah. Am I really supposed to believe that those fresh bell peppers thrive in some remote microclimate of Sonoma County? And must we use tomatoes weeks if not months before plants can even be set out locally?I was served roasted fresh grapes a few weeks ago and as I sat listening to the chef I kept looking at them. Fresh grapes in Sonoma County? Now? Really? That’s news to several hundred grape growers and wine makers.And what about that “local” wild salmon? Even if there were going to be a 2009 season, which is highly unlikely, it wouldn’t be open yet.So, c’mon, I say. If a chef is going to announce or a restaurant is going to publicize that they serve only season and local ingredients, let’s be clear: It doesn’t mean you simply bought them from a local market or distributor. We all know this, right?Local and seasonal means just that, that everything is in season here, now.Let’s be honest about this before the words--so precious and true when you really think about them--become empty buzzwords, meaningless clichés.For now, I’m looking forward to the first fresh favas, tender green garlic and the exquisite asparagus that is just now poking through the ground outside my office window. There is more than enough for us to enjoy now, delicious foods that will soon be gone, until the summer harvest begins. Use whatever ingredients you want, from wherever you want. Just don't don't to pass them off as something they aren't.Ahhh, thank you! That felt good.permalink...
Save the SandpiperWednesday, 28-01-09 |
I got an email from a friend the other day telling me she had just gotten back from a great breakfast at The Sandpiper Restaurant
Unfortunately, there’s trouble, she wrote and included this link: Save the Sandpiper.
It seems like another beloved local business is under siege by an absentee landlord. A 15-acre parcel along Bay Flat Road sold two years ago to Richard Battaglia, an international real estate developer based in Southern California. Since that time, The Sandpiper has been served with four eviction notices despite the fact that they have seven years left on their lease. Leases survive changes in ownership; if they didn’t, they would have no value.
The partners of The Sandpiper are now going public about the struggle, with petitions, buttons, lawn signs and a web site, in part to reassure the restaurant's 25 employees that they will do all they can to preserve the business and in part to engage customers in their efforts to save one of the Bodega Bay eateries most popular with locals.
As national and international spotlights shine with increasing intensity on Sonoma County, it is important for those of us who love this place to be vigilant, especially during difficult economic times.
Things change, of course. But absentee landlords and visions of buckets of money shouldn’t be the reason we lose yet another business that has shaped our character.permalink...
One way to help is simply to stop by the Sandpiper for a meal and get to know the place in all its rustic charm.
Kids in the KitchenWednesday, 17-12-08 |
The kitchen is a good place for kids. Lucas loves cooking with me, though lately I confess that he has been all too eager to take on the role of guest. He sits at the counter as I fix him his favorite snacks, feta cheese drizzled with DaVero Olio Nuovo, white anchovies, pomegranate seeds, roasted pistachios and, sometimes, Gravenstein apple sauce.
We were talking about cooking the other day and I suggested that he join me in the kitchen.
“Well, Mimi,” he said, “only if I get to eat everything we make.”
His love of the connection between cooking and eating--he’s seen me cook for others many times, so his emphasis on the eating of whatever we make is easy to understand--and the profound pleasure he takes in exploring new tastes has made me decide to enroll him in a cooking class.
There’s one coming up on Monday at Relish Culinary Center in Healdsburg.
As I wondered if I would drop him off and return home to Sebastopol for a couple of hours or hang out on the square in Healdsburg, I realized, Wow! This is a perfect thing for visitors to Sonoma County. Parents drop off their kids--7 or older--at a cooking class and then have three hours to explore, driving, perhaps, to nearby wineries, farm stands and such, exploring downtown shops, indulging in a late lunch or lingering over a delicious cocktail or two.
Someone could and should expand on this idea. I always feel sorry for kids who are schlepped from winery to winery with their parents. In most cases, they can’t even see over the counter. How about Sonoma County experiences for kids, too, something interesting they can do while their parents continue with their adult explorations?
For now, Relish Culinary Center’s holiday treats cooking class is a great place to start. This was its sixth annual class, long enough, I think we can call it a tradition. A good one.
Cyclical Dungeness Crab SeasonThursday, 11-12-08 |
A couple of weeks ago I was conducting the final session of A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma, a class I teach, usually in the fall, for Santa Rosa Junior College. I developed the class years ago, after the publication of my first book, A Cook’s Tour of Sonoma.
One of our destinations was the Spud Point Crab Shack, where we were to meet fisherman Tony Anello, who, along with his wife Carol, owns the cafe, for a talk about local fishing followed by lunch. The Crab Shack is famous for its clam chowder and its crab cakes, though I am also quite fond of the Dungeness crab sandwiches.
Tony, a third-generation fisherman whose family comes from Sicily, also owns the Annabelle, a wild salmon and Dungeness crab boat that caught my attention years ago. It reminds me of my first cat, or my first cat as an adult, I should say. She was the runt of her litter, a tiny puff ball of black fur that I could hold in one hand. From the moment I spotted her in a box with her siblings outside Safeway in Petaluma I was in love. She slept on my pillow and road around on my shoulder while I cooked, cleaned and studied.
Her name was Annabel Lee, for the poem by Edgar Allen Poe. She was a delicate beauty who died too young, at just four years. Must life always imitate art?
But I digress.
When we pulled up in front of the Crab Shack, we were stunned to see a line of customers snaking down the street. I haven’t seen a line like this since the last time I ate at Swan Oyster Depot in San Francisco.
We made the short walk to the Annabel, where Tony met us and began to explain the dismal crab season. The Annabel has not gone out yet this season and may not.
But the situation is, perhaps, not quite as dire as you might think. Dungeness crab season is cyclical. Experienced fisherman can get a pretty good sense of what the next couple of years will be like based on the number of smaller crabs, those they must toss back, in any year’s catch. They knew this down year was coming. Three years from now, 2011, should be a great year, Tony says.
In a great year, crab pots, as the baskets that are lowered into the sea are called, contain 25 or more crab. A good year nets maybe 7 or 8 crab per pot. The pots are raised and crabs collected every couple of days throughout the season.
This year, fishermen off Bodega Bay are getting half a crab per pot, which means that half the pots are empty when they are pulled up. That’s like nothing.
Tony’s son has headed north to Crescent City, where the catch is a bit better. Tony says sometimes there’s an early spring spike and if there is, he’ll take the Annabelle out then.
In the meantime, Tony is buying Dungeness crab from a distributor south of San Francisco to fill the nonstop demand at the Crab Shack.
By the time we were finished listening, the lunch rush was over. Instead of 30 or 40 people in line, there were maybe 10. As I stood waiting to place our order--the class is mostly field trips and eating--an afternoon rush began and again the line snaked down the street.
Crab cakes were sold out, of course. They always are by early afternoon, as Carol cannot keep up with demand, even though she is in the kitchen before sunrise to make them.permalink...
I served my students--bowls of clam chowder, crab sandwiches and a few crab cocktails to share--who filled two of the tables outside the shack.
Olio Nuovo: A Fleeting PleasureFriday, 21-11-08 |A couple of weeks ago, Ridgely Evers and Colleen McGlynn hosted a harvest party. This was the 15th annual fete, a time when friends and family and sometimes a few members of the press gather at the Healdsburg farm to pick olives that a few hours later become Davero Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil.Guests spend the morning picking--there’s a rule of “no pick, no eat,” though there are always a few latecomers who sneak in at the last minute--and then sit on the wraparound porch of the farm house for a luscious feast, prepared by Colleen and several friends, who just happen to be some of the best chefs around. Over the years, Ray Tang, Loretta Keller, Josh Silver, Traci Desjardins, John Stewart and Duskie Estes have been among those cooking in the wood burning oven that sits at the north end of the porch.I’ve been at almost every celebration, perhaps my favorite of the entire year. I’ve watched the trees, the farm itself, and various dogs and kids grow and love knowing that at least a little of my labor has gone into what I think is the best olive oil in America.Ridgely bakes bread early in the morning before the pickers gather and the table always includes freshly pressed oil for drizzling over it.In the early years, Ridgely and Colleen shared some of the new oil with friends but did not offer it for sale until spring, after it had rested in bulk for several weeks, a process that stabilizes it. Bottled too soon, the pretty, complex flavors don’t last long.A few years ago they began selling a bit of the new oil, or olio nuovo.The time to get it is now. It is also the time to use it.This is not a cooking oil. This is an oil to be used for its wildly delicious flavors, so fresh, bright and green. Pour it over grilled bread, drizzle it over a favorite soup or use it instead of butter on steamed new potatoes, smashing the potatoes with a fork as you blend in a generous amount of olive oil. Don’t forget the salt--Diamond Crystal Kosher or Maldon are best--and then savor one of the most delicious rituals of the season.I also love olio nuovo with fresh Dungeness crab, another tradition of late fall in Sonoma County. After picking the meat from the shells of freshly cooked crab, I toss it with the olive, some fresh Meyer lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then I pour a glass of ice-cold sauvignon blanc, sit back and savor heaven.You can find DaVero Olio Nuovo at the new farm stand at 766 Westside Rd. in Healdsburg; it is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. You can also get it at the Davero website.Olio Nuovo should be available through the holidays.permalink...
Look Out! The Turkeys Are Taking Over.Wednesday, 12-11-08 |As I write, there are about a dozen wild turkeys walking on the roof of the barn outside my little study in west Sebastopol. A few dozen more are on the other side of the house, nibbling herbs and what is left of the white Alpine strawberries they think of as their own.This morning I awoke to their coos and gobbles.The first wild turkey I ever saw was at Ridgely Evers farm in Healdsburg. This was in the early 1990s and Ridgely was showing me his young olive trees when a huge bird rose from the brambles and vanished. Then it seemed like a rare sighting of an exotic creature.Now the birds, which are not native to California, are everywhere. A small flock of maybe 6 or 7 birds showed up at my house about four years ago. Today there are close to a hundred.During breeding season the spring, they are particularly aggressive. They terrify Poe and Rosemary, my two black cats. The oldest are so bold that they have on occasion walked right into my study. They are mellower in the fall. Sometimes they tap on my door but they have not yet attempted to enter.A few weeks ago I received an email from a woman who reads my columns in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. “With Thanksgiving right around the corner,” she writes, “I would like to tout the virtues of wild turkey.” She is not a hunter, she added, but feels that the turkeys are depleting resources needed by native animals. She cooks the turkeys just as she does commercial birds and says they are juicy, tender and delicious.Really?When I was working on California Home Cooking, I worked a bit with wild turkey. The breast meat was edible if cooked a long time--the book has recipes for wild turkey gumbo and wild turkey chili--but the legs and thighs were suitable only for stock.So her claims have got me wondering.Now that there are so many wild turkeys, are they living more pampered lives, munching on fruits and vegetables from neighborhood gardens and sleeping in nearby trees? They clearly feel no need to stay out of view and their efforts to forage for food and care for their young are not as strenuous as they were just a few years ago. Their leisurely lives would certainly make them more tender. And a diet of white strawberries, apples, plums and herbs, all of which they enjoy here, would surely result in delicious nuances of flavor.Of course, we can’t really find out.Hunting wild turkeys in Sonoma County is strictly limited. The Department of Fish and Game, working with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, is sponsoring just two turkey hunts in Sonoma County. The first was held on November 8 and 9. The second takes place this weekend, with fifteen hunters chosen from applications submitted to DFG. The hunts take place near Lake Sonoma.In certain parts of the state, the season stretches from November 8 to November 24 but not in Sonoma County.You can read the regulations here.Someone should revise these regulations. I don’t want hunters with guns hanging out in my yard but, seriously, the turkeys are taking over.permalink...
If We Are What We Eat, Shouldn’t We Prefer Happy Animals That Have Been Treated Well?Friday, 31-10-08 |
The ingenuity of some of the people involved in agriculture in Sonoma County amazes and pleases me.
Recently, much of my amazement has been triggered by Marissa Guggiana and Sarah Domke, two young women full of not just vision and enthusiasm. They also have demonstrated the ability to bring their visions to life.
The most recent inspiration is the Local Meat Bazaar, happening on Monday at the Sonoma Direct Butcher Shop.
The Bazaar (such a great thing, this word) is a gathering of growers and ranchers who are offering their meats for advance purchase either direct from the ranchers or through Sonoma Direct.
There will be plenty of opportunity for chefs and retailers to talk with the ranchers about their husbandry practices, information customers want these days.
There will be a nose-to-tail tasting, with local chefs preparing cuts of meat considered unusual (though not, of course, by the animal). There will be special deals on “Recession Cuts,” too, just the sound of which makes my mouth water. As you know if you are an adventurous eater, some of the most delicious cuts--cheek meat, tongue and kidney, to name a few--are neglected because of the legendary squeamishness of Americans.
This event is part of an on going effort to connect ranchers with both chefs and retailers to increase the visibility and the availability of locally raised meats, a connection that can go a long way towards keeping our ranchers economically viable, which in turn keeps Sonoma County at least somewhat rural.
One way to be involved--an important way, as the chain of our local food shed is incomplete without you--is to let your market manager (and your favorite chefs) know that you want both local meats and accurate information about how the animals are raised.
And if you’re interested in those delicious but hard to find cuts--lamb’s tongue, for example, one of my favorite things in the world--ask! If a store or restaurant can sell it, they will offer it.
Chalk Hill Culinary ToursFriday, 24-10-08 |
There’s a pretty little bouquet of herbs on each of the nine chairs that ring a table overflowing with the day’s harvest, as beautiful an array of organic fruits, vegetables, herbs, seeds and eggs as you’ll find anywhere. The gardener, Brad Agerter, is offering tastes, one by one, as he explains each variety and the techniques he has used to make it flourish.
This is a culinary tour of Chalk Hill Estate, offered every Monday and Friday afternoon and never more engaging than when summer’s harvest is unfolding.
The tour begins at the winery, with a glass of refreshing Sauvignon Blanc and a quick history of the estate from a tour concierge.
As you descend the stairs to the van that will take you to the garden, be sure to look up from the captivating fountain on the far side of the driveway towards the mountain that rims the eastern horizon. See the peak that tips northward? Now take another look at the winery’s logo, that same peak, rendered by an artist’s brushstroke.
You’ll spend about thirty minutes at the lush one-acre culinary garden and if you ask, Brad might tell you what he sent up to chef Didier Ageorges’s kitchen that morning.
Back in the van, you’ll wind through the nearly 1500-acre estate, enjoying the breathtaking views and, if you are very lucky, spotting one of the buffalo or longhorn cattle that graze out beyond the mountain vineyards.
Soon, you’ll arrive at the Pavilion, a spacious and beautifully appointed conservatory that overlooks the spectacular equestrian center. Here, chef Ageorges works his magic with Brad’s harvest.
You’ll enjoy three courses, created to showcase three of Chalk Hill wines, North Coast Pinot Gris; Estate Chardonnay, the estate’s flagship wine; and a robust red, either Estate Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot.
This afternoon interlude, neither lunch nor dinner, often begins with a green or red Thai curry, luscious and fragrant with the season’s bounty, a perfect companion to the Pinot Gris.
A final indulgence awaits you back at the winery, where your tour concierge pours 2005 Chairman’s Club Botrytised Semillon. The wine is light and delicate on the palate and, at just 11 percent alcohol, a deliciously ephemeral, refreshing nectar that needs no accompaniments to be one of the world’s most perfect desserts.
Chalk Hill Estate Culinary Tours, $75 per person, begin at 2:30 p.m. and conclude at about 5 p.m. They are limited to a maximum of nine guests. For reservations, call 707-431-5430 or visit Chalk Hill's website.
Slow Cooking in SonomaWednesday, 15-10-08 |
I just bought my first slow cooker, Hamilton Beach model 33966RB, on sale at Target for $39.95.permalink...
I don’t have a lot of appliances--I have never had a microwave--but I’ve been thinking about slow cookers a lot recently, in part because friends have been telling me about theirs and in part because of the time of year. I love braised meats in the cooler months and cooking them this way rather than in the oven seems like it might be efficient, energy-wise.
I also like the idea of a new frontier. I have never used a slow cooker before so I get to do a lot of experimenting, a favorite thing.
My first science project is underway as I write. I have two lamb shanks from Brock Fulman’s Black Sheep Farm and a small rolled roast of goat from Sonoma Direct, which distributes local organic grass-fed humanely-raised meats from a variety of local ranchers.
I’m pretty sure the goat meat is from Barlas Boar Goat in Petaluma.
This another adventure I’m in the midst of, mastering the cooking of goat. By coincidence, I see that Bill Niman, the Bay Area rancher who sold Niman Meats to Delmonte a while back, has a new venture: Goats . I guess I’m just so very trendy, eh?
I made a two-inch high bed of sliced yellow onions on the bottom of the crock, added coriander seed, caraway and a bay leaf and the set the shanks on top. For the goat, I rubbed it with a paste of pounded garlic (from Sol Food Farm; link to solfoodfarm.org), kosher salt, caraway, coriander and black pepper. Then I poured in about a cup or so of an unoaked chardonnay (it’s what I had on hand). I like the way a white wine lets the full flavor of red meats shine through.
After things had been cooking for four hours, I added about a dozen little potatoes, peeled. I’ve tasted the goat several times and it gets better and better the longer it cooks.
There’s another reason I’m doing this. I’m always telling family and friends that cooking from scratch is easy and that they should avoid such so-called short-cuts as fast food and pre-packaged foods. I feel a responsibility to help them out as much as I can.
If you work away from home, you can assembly everything for dinner the night before, put it in the refrigerator (in the crock) and then simply transfer the clock to the stand and turn it on. When you get home, voila! A wonderful dinner is waiting for you. Stay tuned for more yummy adventures.
Sonoma County Farmers Markets Have Not EndedFriday, 26-09-08 |This morning a friend mentioned that people need to be reminded that farmers markets are still underway.
“People think they end when school starts,” she explained.
This was news to me.
I guess people have gotten the wrong impression from the conclusion of the Wednesday night Santa Rosa Downtown Market, which ends just before Labor Day.
The downtown fete used to start several weeks earlier than it does now and continue through October. But because it was more of a street fair than a market and drew lots of teenagers, organizers reduced its hours of operation and shortened its season.
I wasn’t happy with the change, as I think it reveals an underlying bias against and general fear of teenagers. No wonder they can be troublesome--we act either like they don’t or shouldn’t exist. We try to handle them rather than enjoy, entertain, appreciate and guide them.
But it never occurred to me that these actions might also damage our true farmers markets. This is not a happy thing.
So, let’s revisit the concept. There are two kinds of certified farmers markets in Sonoma County, seasonal markets and year-round markets.
Seasonal markets include those in Healdsburg, Sonoma, Petaluma, Cotati, Sebastopol, Occidental, Cloverdale, and Windsor. Most operate through the end of November; a few conclude at the end of October. Click here for a complete listing of Sonoma County Farmers Markets">Sonoma County Farmers Markets.
There is also a sweet little market showcasing a few local vendors at FFC Presents Rosso & Bianco on Friday evenings from 5 to 8 p.m.
Year round markets are held in Santa Rosa and Sonoma.
Clearly, people enjoy the social aspect of the markets, something I, too, love. But that shouldn’t get in the way of the reality that a farmers market is the easiest and most pleasant way to shop for almost everything you need to feed yourself and your family. By definition, produce at farmers markets is local and in season. And you won’t find better eggs unless you have your own chickens.
What we call the off season--generally, December through February--is actually a fairly abundant time at local markets. The leanest season is May, when the spring crops are finished and that summer harvest still weeks away.permalink...
The Gleaning SeasonThursday, 18-09-08 |
I went outside today to take a closer look at my quince tree. For weeks now I have watched from a western window as the green fruit slowly turns gold and fills with water and sugar, weighing down the branches as it swells.permalink...
A few branches nearly touch the ground and as I reach for the fruit, it falls into my hand. I made quince paste with last year’s fruit. This year I’m giving most of the harvest to Patricia, the chef at Marimar Torres Estate , who serves membrillo, the Spanish name for quince paste, with cheese as part of the tapas and wine pairing that concludes the winery tour. This year I may not have time to make quince paste and I like knowing the fruit won’t go to waste. A couple of years ago I gave my entire crop to a young man who wanted to make quince wine.
This is the season where fruit, especially, seems to harvest itself. Apples, Asian pears, quince, peaches and more fall to the ground in colorful halos that surround abandoned trees. Much of this fruit is available for the taking, especially if you can find someone to ask about it.
Gathering what will not be used--trees that are no longer picked, grapes and other fruits and vegetables left behind intentionally or accidentally during the primary harvest--is called gleaning and it is a practice that is becoming increasing popular here.
Last year I wrote a column about gleaning, in which I talked about the tradition in France, where it is a right of the public that is protected by the government, and recommended a wonderful film, the 2001 “Les Galneurs et La Glaneuse” (“The Gleaners and I”) by Agnes Varda.
It seemed a harmless enough article, one that encouraged people to look at our landscape and accept its gifts, if possible.
The day it ran, I received an email from a man who was outraged by what I had to say. He took me to task for violating both the spirit and the fact of private property rights, accused me of having a sense of entitlement--something everyone at the coffee shop and gym with whom he shared the column agreed, he added--and gave a long list of why my suggestions were offensive.
It all just seemed so sad. Are we so alienated from each other that we wouldn’t say “Sure, take those apples and make cider; I don’t have the time.” I think of all those trees working so hard to produce their crops only to have them neglected, rejected, wasted.
Here’s my belief and my advice: To use what nature gives us is an act of love. If you see unharvested fruit that inspires you, knock on a door, ask if it’s available and, if it is offered, take what you can use. If you can return with a gift of whatever it is you have made, all the better. I've always wondered about that quince wine.
K & L Bistro SebastopolSunday, 07-09-08 |
On Saturday night, a friend stopped by and suggested we go out to dinner. I’d been feeling pretty cranky and reclusive--big deadlines, a writer's curse and blessing, have this effect--and at first I was reluctant. But why not accept the invitation? Everybody needs dinner, even food writers, right?permalink...
With no particular destination in mind, we headed towards town. Almost of its own accord, my car stopped in front of K & L Bistro and I sent my friend in to ask if they could take us.
“Ten or fifteen minutes,” he said and I drove off in search of parking.
Fifteen minutes later we were sipping Iron Horse Brut at a table with a direct view of the line, where owners Karen and Lucas Martin were sharing cooking duties, as they always do on Saturday night.
Soon, our first courses arrived, a simple salad of pristine baby greens for my friend, a chilled potato leek soup garnished with a succulent raw oyster for me. Ahhh. I began to feel better with each bite.
Not long after we finished our starters, my second course arrived--yummy heirloom tomatoes, burrata and delicious croutons drizzled with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A second glass of Iron Horse appeared almost without our noticing.
When it came time for another wine, we decided on Mason Napa Valley 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, a refreshing quaffer with bright acidity and nuances of lemon zest, even though my pal was having Steak Frites.
“More often than not,” he said, “I drink white wine with steak.”
So there you go, drink what you want and don’t worry about it. Can I hear an amen?
While he tucked into his steak and swirled frites in a little bowl of aioli, I savored my tuna tartare, an appetizer that is perfect as a main course in hot weather. It is one of K & L Bistro’s classics and so very good--the combination of hot chile sauce, avocados and sesame crackers with the tuna is irresistible--that I almost always order it.
I have no idea how much time passed but at one point I looked up and saw Lucas put his arms around Karen; she rested her head on his chest, smiling. It was a sweet moment. A bit later, they headed out the door for their Saturday night tradition of dinner at a favorite taco truck before heading home to their two little boys.
A friend I hadn’t seen in years suddenly appeared at the table with his girlfriend, glasses of wine in hand. There in the glow of the soft lights and the wine, the evening slipped away. We were the last to leave and the bus boy, enjoying his dinner, sent us on our way with good wishes.
I felt better than I had in weeks and as I curled up with my pillow to await the pleasures of Morpheus--a wily god, who toys with me almost nightly--I wondered what makes K & L Bistro so very perfect. Now that I can have favorites--something I could not do during my nearly 20 years as a restaurant critic--it is almost always where I want to be.
The answer is both simple and complex, I think. The simple part is that K & L Bistro gets everything right. They know who they are are, the owners are at the helm daily, they use honest ingredients at their peak of flavor, their techniques are impeccable but not gymnastic and service is as flawless as the food. The combination is a perfect alchemy, one that frees me to relax and lose myself in conversation, knowing that everything will unfold as it should, something that is harder to find than it should be.
For the more complex answer, stay tuned.
Sam's Mediterranean DeliTuesday, 05-08-08 |
I found a sweet little deli the other day, not far from the studios of KRCB Radio where I do my two shows, Mouthful, the Wine Country’s Most Delicious Hour, and Red Shoes Rodeo. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been at the station wondering where to get something decent to eat nearby. Now I know.
A friend who has taken a new job around the corner mentioned it and so I stopped by her office and we headed off on the five minute walk through the deserted moonscape of western Rohnert Park to Sam’s Mediterranean Cafe & Deli, a colorful oasis amidst the blank whiteness and unforgiving heat of this part of the county.
Daily specials are posted on a small board on the back wall while a larger board announces the salads, sandwiches, gyros and other items available daily. A deli case holds both familiar and unfamiliar Mediterranean dishes.
On Monday there is delicious barbecued tri-tip, cooked on a grill that sits outside, near a couple of tables. Gyros, while not strictly traditional, are quite good, too. A Mediterranean plate includes hummus, classic tabbouleh, pita bread and mjadara, a yummy combination of lentils and rice topped with grilled onions. When I asked if yogurt sauce was included, Sam whipped up some on the spot.
Hummus is the test of any Mediterranean deli and Sam’s rocks it. The hummus is rich, velvety and dense, a perfect balance of flavors and textures, possibly the best I have tasted outside my own kitchen. Yum.
Sam’s Mediterranean Deli, located at 612 Martin Ave. #111, in west Rohnert Park, is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. There are several tables but the deli does a brisk take out business, too, including deli plates and such if you give Sam 48 hours notice. It also has an espresso bar and a big selection of beverages, including iced drinks, smoothies, beer and wine.permalink...
Strawberries!Wednesday, 23-04-08 |
The strawberries are here!!! The strawberry stand on Hwy. 12 by Kenwood is open, as is the one on the other side of Hwy. 12, close to Sebastopol, near Llano Rd. I live closer to the Kenwood stand, and I don’t know how many times each summer my family makes a trek along that beautiful stretch of Hwy. 12 on our quest to obtain those glorious berries. We always arrive home with only half the strawberries we bought, and with red-stained fingers. Hey, if you’ve tasted the berries from that stand, you know what I’m talking about. Once you catch a whiff, resistance is futile.permalink...
Chronicle Food Writer Creates--and Receives--Some Negative BuzzThursday, 17-04-08 |Michael Bauer, restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, recently published his annual list of the
“Top 100 Bay Area Restaurants.” In it, four Sonoma County restaurants were proclaimed to be the tops in these parts. These include the Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant in Forestville, Cyrus in Healdsburg, Cafe La Haye in Sonoma and Rosso Pizzeria and Wine Bar in Santa Rosa.
One restaurant that didn’t make the list was Stark’s Steakhouse, which is the newest venture by the husband-and-wife-team who brought us Willi's Wine Bar, Willi's Seafood & Raw Bar, and Monti’s Rotisserie & Grill. It seems Mr. Bauer visited the steakhouse not long before he came out with his top 100 list. He wrote about the visit in his blog:“Recently I went to Stark's Steakhouse in Santa Rosa, and the waiter proudly informed me that their meat was "wet aged" for 35 days."What is that?" I asked.
"It's aged in Cryovac, so that all the juices stay inside and make it moister and taste better," he said.more...
My father's voice came through loud and clear. A meat cutter by profession, he sold his store when all his suppliers started selling meat that was wrapped in plastic and boxed, and he couldn't get whole sides: "You can't age in Cryovac; the meat only putrefies…"
Oh Wonderful Sonoma County meats!Wednesday, 26-03-08 |
I grew up in a typical working class, New York City Italian-American family. Food was a constant big topic of discussion. Grocery shopping was a family affair. Pursuing the "good stuff" at the farmer's markets, delicatessens, and supermarkets was a competitive sport. My parents would haggle with fruit vendors and fish mongers. My father would berate the butcher when the cut of pork was too thin or too fatty. It was mandatory for meat to be the meal centerpiece. My mom was an adventurous cook. Organ meats from all sorts of animals regularly made their dinner time appearance. Some of these preparations were not met with glee by my sisters & me. I won't go into vivid detail about fried lamb brains. But 95% of the time mom hit a home run with both the mundane and the exotic. Pig trotters in aspic one night, hamburger & noodle casserole the next.more...
The Sonoma County California Food SceneSunday, 16-03-08 |
People from every region of the world are proud of their local food that is different than other regions. This good natured aspect of human tribalism is a constant source of entertainment, exploration, discovery, and learning for a culinary explorer who spends the energy getting to know regional food. Isn’t this obvious when you cruise the food & cooking section of any large bookstore? Those beautiful large format, graphics rich books that portray the farms, the towns, the seashores, & the restaurants with the salacious pictures of exotic food dishes from far flung regions literally sell like warm, soft, & comforting hot cakes. Go to one of our local bookstores, in the food & cooking section you are going to find a surprising number of books about northern California cooking.more...