Tuesday, February 16, 2010


       Some friendships are defined by the length of time you can be apart physically without anything more than an occasional hello, text or e-mail. I personally find that technology excuses most of us from putting in the real effort to keep in touch, and many of us have bought into the idea that a Facebook update is enough to keep us going for awhile.  In fact, there really is nothing quite like being in the presence of your dearest and oldest friends, and I had the luxury recently of doing just that a few weeks ago.  A hug in person is worth exchanging for a thousand e-mails. No doubt.

As I move painstakingly closer to the decade of age that society dictates as “over the hill”; the one no one wants to talk about, I kind of had an epiphany and was able to turn that into some really positive thoughts. To imagine, that I have had these particular friendships, both for more than 30 years is such a huge treasure to me and without those decades behind us, there would be so fewer stories and humorous and embarrassing anecdotes to recall.
This last Valentines, while house-sitting a gorgeous golf-course property in Palm Desert, for a friend, I indulged in the flawless 76' degree February weather, enjoying the early evenings crisp breeze pushing the air towards the last of Fall, and finally, the blackness of the night with stars so bright and profound that can’t be seen in the city.

I was so fortunate to have my closest peeps and my man with me for a perfect evening of nostalgia, laughs, and if I may tout my own skills, a superb, and romantic meal………………….:)

We began with a platter of international cheeses; a French triple cream Brie with ribbons of chalky blue running through the river of ripe and gooey cream; An amazing seven year aged Dutch Gouda, crispy with dots of sugary crystallized caramel from the aging, but tangy enough to almost mistake it for a Parmesan; An herbed chevre’ from Cowgirl Creamery that never disappoints; A wedge of gorgeous, firm, tangy aged white cheddar studded with truffle shavings; And…. the “must-have” for any cheese platter, the Humbolt Fog with it’s creamy, light, but earthy flavors; notes of allspice, licorice and citrus zest hit your nose, but with a full and definitive goat flavor.  Oh yum…….

To accompany…. a thick, peppery and coarse dry sausage, a rich blood-orange chutney, some unfiltered wildflower honey and chunks of lavender honeycomb, cinnamon almonds, maple -sugar candied walnuts, fresh blueberries, blackberries and raspberries, and flawless artisan crusty bread and wafer crackers as the conduits for the cheeses.

While our guests snacked, I worked side-by-side with my man on the Duxelle Mushroom sauce for our Wellington
My version is simple but always a winner, with white mushrooms,  Crimini’s and a handful of luxurious Chantrelle’s that I came upon from a produce-guy who has a slight crush on me, praise GOD!  Heavy on the sweet roasted garlic and glazed down with a delightfuly sweet, Spanish Madiera.  Rather than top my filets with it however, I used it as a side-sauce for our meat.

I cut up a superb  7lb. piece of prime filet into little 5 oz. squares and seared them on each side with a spot of sea-salt and fresh ground pepper.

Working with the puff pastry was a smidge challenging. The batch of dough I made in advance wasn’t enough, so I ended up rolling it out quite thin, afraid the juice of the meat might make it soggy or leak through. But I had fun making the individual little filet packages, topped with a pastry “heart”  as the symbol for St. Valentine.  Don helped me roll up the meat, with a champagne duck liver pate’ (pre-made but still delicious) and even though the packages were all oddly shaped, I loved the way they looked after cooking.  They were crooked and imperfect, no two the same, which felt more artisan and less pretentious, and they just plain made me smile!

Into the oven they sweat for 35 minutes or just to medium-rare.(supposedly) The oven was older than most of us, and unfortunately I knew not hat the temperature gauge was hot by about 45-50 degree’s, slightly overcooking the filet's. However, the cut of meat was so excellent it remained moist, and still melted in our mouths like sandwiches from heaven

Along side our meat, an unobtrusive, delicate baby lobster tail garnished with salted butter, lemon and fresh tarragon paste. Broiled in that nasty oven for 6 minutes and they were strangely perfect! Sweet and fabulous! God was in a great mood when he created crustaceans. There just aren't too many other things that I adore as much.

The salad was an uncomplicated mix of spicy arugula, tangy fennel, mandarin oranges and toasted pine nuts. I tossed it all up in a home made grapefruit, orange and lemon olive-oil vinagarette which was just perfect as to not to interfere with the fun flavors of the salad ingredients.
The grilled asparagus was also slightly overcooked; I prefer it crisp, so just about a minute on each side on the grill, but “somebody” was busy opening our fifth bottle of wine (thank you Frank and Rick for taking care of the excellent BOOZE) and not paying attention to the grill. No worries though, as the pan sautéed parsnips and carrots were lovely, carmelized in wildflower honey and fresh rosemary from my garden.

Dessert, also not home-made, but why bother when the company I sell for had already exquisite Heart Shaped White and Dark Chocolate Gelato Truffles?? A simple garnish of raspberry coulis, rose petals and some mint did the trick for a perfect and decadent final course served with a mysterious Merlot and a painfully delicious dark Rotta Zinfandel Port.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anniversary Weekend in San Francisco

I love these little pics from last weekend which I visited during Fleet Week Oct, 09 in San Francisco.  It was my fiance' Don and I's 5th Anniversary and we came to nosh at the Farmers Market (which he had never experienced) A tragedy of course, so I had to explain (having been a S.F. resident for five years), that the S.F. Ferry Farmers Market on Saturdays was by far the most stunning offering of gastranomical excitement, compared only to that which you might find in N.Y. or a small town in Europe.

We began our morning with double shots of Peets Espresso and steamed milk with a perfect Crema' , then on to the aromatic end of the pier where skillets were bubbling with exquisite creations from local chefs; Knowing that pacing ourselves was imperative, we began slowly by sharing a plate of Chilaquiles with organic home farmed eggs, tangy Queso Fresco cheese, wicked homemade salsa's and fresh blue corn tortillas. Then we strolled throughout the market portion, grabbing nibbles of champagne grapes, figs and fresh, crisp fall apples. We tasted fresh blood orange and lemon marmalade and infused olive oils, and marveled at the fresh broccoli stalks half as tall as I am. We spent an hour at Cowgirl Creamery tasting as much cheese as humanly possible before they realized that I was both number 22 and number 24 in line, and leaving finally with a small wedge each of the Truffled cheddar, the Aged Gouda (which was like a burst of burnt sugar and caramel in your mouth) along with some stinky Red Hawk chevre. Then, of course, some hand selected artisinal fresh baked Ciabatta and walnut currant breads, and a few delicately carved thin slices of Italian Parma Proscuitto and some salty Marcona almonds from the Italian deli. We bagged it all up and walked all the way to the Marina green to watch the Blue Angels who's hour long performance which was the sole reason for coming to S.F. for the weekend, was regrettably canceled. We sadly watched as the fog strolled slowly under the Golden Gate and tens of thousands of disappointed and lost spectators melted in different corners of the city.

We still had a great afternoon, enjoying all the fun that is San Francisco.
Multiple Irish Coffee's to take the chill off at Buena Vista tavern near Ghiradelli Square, then up the hill for Fresh Shui Mai and shrimp Dim Sum on the streets in Chinatown, a formal tea ceremony and tasting, and a giant almond cookie for .80 cents that was as big as a frisbee. We also enjoyed Russian Cabbage Soup and fabulously greasy and crispy potato pancakes at Max's in Union Square at about 11pm, and finished with a ridiculously, absurdly decadent Panna Cotta at E' Tutto Qua restaurant in North Beach!! Good God things should NOT taste that crazy good! However the highlight, without a doubt to our visit, was meeting this crazy culinarian and lover of all things tasty, who boxes himself a seat at the Farmers Market every single Saturday a.m., and brings his own tablecloths, exotic foods, fresh flowers and then blogs about who he met that came to marvel and take photos of his dashing spread of goodies.See him at "saturdaysatthetable.blogspot.com"

San Francisco is truly the dining capital of California. You can easily make a day of eating your way around the city. I think we accomplished precisely that.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Naked Sushi Takes Over Long Beach

We had an EXTRAORDINARY event last weekend hosting a private birthday party for 75 guests, featuring, not one, but TWO Nyotaimori "Naked-Body-Sushi" models! Side by side, one gorgeous blonde, and next to her a firey redhead took stage and were each adorned in a succulent feast of hand-crafted fusion sushi by my friend, and celebrity Sushi Artist Yamatsu. Yamatsu was in town only for the summer and he agreed to show off his repretoire of culinary excellence for our guests in Naples Island. We seared Kobe' beef & Scallop Skewers & and hand passed Roasted Maple & Sauterne', with Rosemary Pineapple skewers to follow. The guests were a little tentative at first to dig in to the buffet of our sushi models as the presentation was spectacular and did indeed, look too good to eat! They did eventually consume everything but the tea leaves, and they were kind enough to leave the girls with us too...! With hand carved cucumber cups filled with an arrangement of Super Premium Sake's selected by yours truly, all 75 guests were truly impressed with their brief visit to a Zen Japanese Paradise on the water in Long Beach!! We were sorry to see Chef Yamatsu leave but his presence and his creations will be keeping our palates salivating for a long time to come..............