Archive for November, 2008

Thanksgiving at Stinson Beach

November 30, 2008

For many years, my mom has been wanting to have Thanksgiving dinner at Stinson Beach, one of my favorite places. This year, with the impetus of wanting to give our out-of-town guests a unique CA experience, we finally did it, enjoying the holiday with our gang, Tom, the Turners, and the Hermans within steps of the sand and with the sounds of waves crashing around us.

We began cooking on Wednesday after Kerry, Sean, Sean’s sister Heather and her boyfriend Dan arrived from Truckee. My mom made the turkey and a delicious artichoke-parmesan-sourdough stuffing she pulled out of Sunset. Kerry prepared a brown rice and cranberry salad and a roasted beet salad with beets we’d picked up at the Ferry Building farmer’s market, and proved a maestro at gravy making. My contributions were a pecan pie and whipped sweet potatoes with struesel topping. Kerry also prepared a delicious cheese plate that we enjoyed as soon as we arrived.

We had a great time playing Jai-alai on the beach, drinking copious amounts of wine, wandering around enjoying the fancy table decorations of the groups around us in the picnic ground, and generally eating and being merry. Stephanie’s raspberry pretzel jello salad was a surprise hit and Tom’s roasted brussel sprouts with fennel were a great, non-traditional side dish.

After dinner it was back over the mountain to enjoy Heather’s pumpkin pie and apple turnovers, my pecan pie (which sadly was not my finest baking hour but still tasted ok despite the crust folding in on itself during baking) and Kerry’s pumpkin-chocolate chip bread at the house and a rousing game of Scattergories.

It was a great way to spend the holiday with a wonderful mix of family and friends.


Kerry and Sean enjoying a hard game of Jai-alai.


Bobby, Coley, and Helene on the beach.


The Thanksgiving table


The feast


Eatin’ on the beach.


Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Struesel Topping

adapted from


5 lbs sweet potatoes

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup plus 1/3 cup brown sugar

14 tbs butter (1 3/4 sticks)

1/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce potatoes with a fork and arrange on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake about 45 minutes or until tender. Cool.

2. Make the streusel. Combine flour, 3/4 cup sugar, chopped nuts, and one stick of butter in a bowl, and blend together with fingers until crumbly.

3. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh (I also found it easy to peel the potatoes and then chop up the flesh.) Add remaining 1/3 cup sugar and 3/4 stick butter (I melted mine first) and beat with an electric mixer or potato masher until desired consistency.

4. Spread potato mixture in a baking dish and cool completely. Sprinkle streusel over  top and bake about 40 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let sit a few minutes before serving. Also delicious at room temperature if you happen to be transporting to the beach or grandma’s house.


San Francisco Ferry Building

November 29, 2008

While in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving last week, Kerry, Sean, Armida and I hit the Saturday farmer’s market at the San Francisco Ferry Building.

I have a lot of childhood memories of walking through the then-empty building on our way to the Embarcadero after taking the ferry in from Larkspur. In those days the ferry building was rundown and dark. What a difference a decade or two makes! These days it’s bustling with gourmet food and produce stalls, small shops and eateries, and several days a week is home to one of the greatest farmer’s markets around.

It was a gorgeous SF fall day and we had a great time eating our way through the market and the market stalls inside. Here’s Sean enjoying some Hog Island Oysters:


We picked up some beets for Kerry’s Thanksgiving salad; dates; Rancho Gordo cranberry and Christmas beans; Stonehouse olive oil, and Cowgirl Creamery cheese assortment before heading to Chinatown for dim sum. On the way, we spotted these massive stalks of CA brussels sprouts – truly impressive!!


Boston: Dinner at Chez Princess

November 18, 2008

While in Boston this weekend, I enjoyed a fabulous gourmet dinner at Christine’s house prepared by Kerry, aka The Head Chef. CJ recently moved to a big fancy house in the suburbs with plenty of room to loll around drinking wine and eating cheese while K. was hard at work, which is exactly what we did.


Kerry working hard.


CJ and I enjoying apertifs.

Kerry made a delicious meal that included salmon baked in puff pastry with a stuffing of spinach, mushrooms, and shallots, topped with homemade hollandaise sauce; cheesy orzo; and green beans sauteed with hazelnuts.



For dessert, I prepared a rustic apple tart with the leftover puff pastry, which we ate with vanilla ice cream while CJ trounced us at Scrabble (although I did convince them to allow “trailbag” as a word . . . a minor victory!)

I will save the salmon recipe for Kerry to feature on her blog, but here’s how I made my foolproof apple tart (which I plan to reimagine for book club tomorrow night as a rustic apple crostata for our Italian theme). It is very forgiving so feel free to use more or less apples or spices depending on your taste:

Rustic Apple Tart


1 piece puff pastry, thawed

3 Macintosh or Fuji apples, peeled and sliced

3 tbs butter, melted

2-3 tbs white or brown sugar

2-3 tbs cinnamon


1. Roll the puff pastry out into a thinnish rectangle. Brush some of the melted butter over the pastry.

2. Arrange 1/2 of the apple slices in a single layer in the center part of the dough, then sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar. Place the rest of the apple slices over the first layer, drizzle with some of the butter, and sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar.

3. Fold in the sides of the pastry towards the middle to make either a rectangle or, if you want to be truly “Rustic,” a circular shape. There should be an open faced area in the center where you can see the fruit. Sprinkle all over with rest of butter, then cinnamon and sugar.

4. Bake at 375 degrees until pastry is golden and apples are bubbling, about 25-30 minutes.


Boston: Redbones and Parish Cafe

November 18, 2008

This weekend I jetted off to Beantown to see the gang, hit some of my old hangouts, and satisfy my eternal craving for the buffalo shrimp and corn fritters at Redbones BBQ in Davis Square, truly one of the happiest places on earth.


Corn Fritters, Buffalo Shrimp, and Catfish Fingers at Redbones. mmmmm.

I enjoyed Redbones on Friday night with Kerry and Sean, and every bite was worth the half hour wait for a table. We started with the above treats, then moved on to BBQ hash (Kerry), pulled pork (me), and a huge mound of ribs (Sean), washed down with mason jars of iced tea and PBRs.


If I am ever elected to lead this great nation, Redbones will be served from coast to coast. Kerry agrees!!

On Sunday,  met up with Christine, Kerry, Sean, Ana, Brett, and Suzz at the Parish Cafe for brunch. When I lived in Boston I worked right down Boylston from the Parish, and have many memories of long lunches involving zuni rolls and swiss mint martinis. Actually, the memories are blurry, perhaps due to the martinis! It was great to see everyone and catch up with old and great friends.


Although there are many things I don’t miss about life in Boston, the friends I have there are some of the best around and it’s always a treat to get together and enjoy great company and great eats. Now I just need to get them all out to Seattle!

Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies with Nibs

November 12, 2008

This weekend is Justin’s school intensive on Bainbridge Island so I decided to bake him some cookies to take along to the island while I’m off to Boston to see the gang.  I wanted to make something reasonably healthy but also sweet and delicious, so I took my mom’s oatmeal raisin cookie recipe and doctored it a bit with dried cranberries and some cocoa nibs from Theo Chocolates here in Seattle, which are very high in antioxidents and add a delicious, non-sugary crunch to the cookies. These are super easy to make and made the apartment smell lovely.


Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies with Nibs

adapted from Mom’s recipe


1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar (I used Sugar in the Raw for extra texture)

1 egg

1 tbs water

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats

1/2 – 2/3 cup dried cranberries

generous handful of cocoa nibs or chopped nuts



1. Cream the butter and sugars together.

2. Add egg, water, and vanilla and beat well.

3. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt, then blend into creamed mixture.

4. Stir in oats, cranberries, and nibs or nuts.

5. Drop teaspoon-sized balls of dough onto greased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart, and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Monteillet Fromagerie

November 12, 2008

While out in Walla Walla recently I had a chance to visit the Monteillet Fromagerie in Dayton, WA. This family farm is run by Joan and Pierre-Louis Monteillet, who met in Mexico, moved back to Washington to continue Joan’s family wheat farm, and began making cheese a decade ago. The Monteillets specialize in artisan sheep and goat’s milk cheeses, which they sell at their farm and a few local farmers markets.

We began our visit in the right way, with a cheese and wine tasting in the cozy tasting room of the fromagerie alongside the Monteillets and their cheesemaker, Jackie.

The cheeses, made by hand in very small batches from the milk of about 30 sheep and goats who live happily right outside the kitchen door, taste unlike anything you’d find in a grocery store: fresh, unadulterated, incredibly rich and smooth. You can almost taste the grass these animals eat, and, if you’re feeling poetic, the waters they drink from the Touchet River and the sun and winds that roll through the valley.

My favorite was Le Roi, a soft-ripened chevre dusted with grapeleaf ash and flakes of gold. I brought home a heart-shaped block of this cheese to enjoy with Justin with a cold bottle of Sauvignon Blanc – incredible!

The Monteillets were incredibly gracious hosts, leading us city slickers on a meandering tour of the farm, where we met goats, sheep, pigs, the farm cat, and truly free range chickens who followed us everywhere.


The Monteillets also have a guest house on the farm that is available to rent and on my list for a weekend excursion, or possibly a longer one as I left the farm thinking I need to quit my job and become a cheesemaking apprentice in Dayton. As Pierre-Louis might say, “Mon Dieu!”

Petits Noirs

November 12, 2008


Photo courtesy of Petits Noirs, used without permission.

While I was in Walla Walla this weekend I finally had a chance to visit Lan Wong at Petits Noirs, just over the border in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.

I have been a fan of Lan’s chocolates since I first tasted them at a wine and chocolate pairing at the winery during holiday barrel weekend last December. Lan is a classically trained chocolatier who moved to Walla Walla from New York a few years back with her husband, a baker and WW native. They bought an old house on the main street in M-F and opened a chocolate boutique from which Lan creates small batches of beautiful, intricately flavored confections in flavors such as fig, rosemary, lavender, and coconut sesame.

The chocolates are completely delicious and pair amazingly well with red wine (which is rarer than all the Valentine’s Day marketers would have you believe). Last month, I worked with Lan on a pairing for some press guests with some of our winery’s red wines, and we were all bowled over by the flavor combinations she put together, from white truffle parmesan to maple bacon with fig.

Lan is truly an inspiration, a culinary artist who is following her dream and creating delicious, edible works of art with the freshest and best ingredients.

I was eager to see the boutique and feed my chocolate monkey and was not disappointed. The boutique, in what had been the front room of the house, was hopping and when I finally fought my way to the counter there was much to choose from. In addition to stocking up on truffles including a new seasonal Pumpkin White Chocolate marvel, I left with two jars of Lan’s soon-to-be-famous chocolate marmalades: Bing Cherry with Balsamic and Fresh Sage and Strawberry Mint and Black Pepper. I plan to eat these on pretty much everything, including toasted baguettes with goat cheese. YUM!

I highly recommend a visit to Petits Noirs next time you’re in Walla Walla – you may leave with a sugar high due to Lan’s generous sampling policy, but you definitely won’t be unhappy!

David Lebovitz’s Jam Tart

November 8, 2008

A while back, my good friend and master chef Kerry introduced me to the blog of David Lebovitz, chef and cookbook author extraordinaire (his book “Room for Dessert” is one of my favorites) who writes from his home in Paris, where he seems to spend most of his time wandering through public markets, concocting new and exciting dessert recipes, planning trips, and leading gastro-tours of the city. Obviously, David is my type of guy, and his blog became regular, very enjoyable reading.

While scrolling through his archive of recipes one day I found this one for an easy jam tart. Now, I am a sucker for tarts of any kind, but my clinical level aversion to rolling out dough has kept me relatively experienced in le monde tartine. The great thing about this tart is that the dough requires no rolling – it’s more like a shortbread that you simply press into the bottom and sides of a tart or springform pan. The filling is also easy – just toss in a jar of whatever jam you happen to have around.

The result is a great, crunchy (from the cornmeal in the dough), not overly sweet pastry that can serve as dessert (with ice cream or whipped cream), snack, or even warmed and served as a brunchtime coffee cake.

I first made this with a jar of local nectarine preserves I’d picked up in Point Reyes, which was the perfect balance of sweet and tart. The next time, I used some strawberry-fig jam I picked up in the Yakima Valley, but with nothing to cut the sugar in the fruit it was just too sweet. So make sure you choose a jam, marmalade, or preserve with a little bit of balance. David also warns against using jelly, which will run when cooked.

I used Sugar in the Raw to dust the top of the tart, but any granulated sugar will work, as could a cinnamon-sugar mix or flavored sugars.  I am also intrigued by how this would turn out using a savory chutney in the filling and replacing the sugar in the dough with more salt and some grated cheese.



Jam Tart

Adapted from David Lebovitz


9 tbs butter

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg plus one additional egg yolk

1/8 tsp almond extract (I used vanilla)

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup stone-ground cornmeal or polenta

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder (preferably aluminum free)

1 3/4 cups jam, marmalade, or other preserves

Coarse sugar for dusting


1. Beat together the butter and sugar until well mixed. Add egg, egg yolk, and almond or vanilla extract.

2. In another bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Gradually add to the wet ingredients until the dough is just coming together. 

3. Divide dough into two parts, one about 2/3 of the total dough. Pat the larger portion into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill. Roll the remaining dough into a log about 2 inches thick, and then wrap and chill it. 

4. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to warm up slightly. Take the dough disk and press it into the bottom and sides of an unbuttered, removable bottom tart pan or springform pan, patting it evenly.

5. Spread the jam evenly over the dough.

6. Slice the dough log in cookie-sized disks and arrange them over the jam (you can also cut them into shapes for a fun variation.) Generously sprinkle the top with lots of coarse sugar. 

7. Bake at 350 degrees until the pastry is golden brown, about 25 minutes. Let cool before serving, and serve at room temperature.


Blogs, Bubbly, and Biodynamics in Sonoma County

November 2, 2008

I headed down to Sonoma recently to attend the first annual Wine Bloggers Conference at the fabulous Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa. The blogging sessions were informative and fun, but the highlight for me was an excursion to Quivira Vineyards in Dry Creek Valley, a small estate winery producing all of its wines biodynamically, which means that in addition to composting, water management, and solar power, winemaker Steven Canter enacts a number of processes of a more spiritual nature, designed to ensure harmony with the earth’s rhythms and lead to, hopefully, higher quality wine.

This includes burying ram’s horns filled with green manure from a lactating cow in a mound in the garden, unearthing them on the equinox, and adding to the compost pile to ensure the viability of compost from the estate.  Kind of wild, but listening to Steven talk, it was easier to understand the point of view of trying to sustain the unique qualities of the very specific vineyard space in perpetuity.

We enjoyed a great talk and tour of the vineyards, gardens, and winery with Steven, including a stroll through the herb garden of over 100 raised beds; visiting with the chickens, goats, and Ruby the wild boar; a snack of ripe figs that we pulled straight from a century-old tree; and a stroll up the hill for a panoramic view of the valley. 

After the tour we had a delicious lunch and wine tasting on the patio at Quivira, including house-cured salamis and home grown olives paired with a Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Rose and a delicious venison chili paired with a trio of newly released Zinfandels. The wines were complex and generous, with a great balance of fruit and tannins, but it’s hard to tell if the biodynamics add anything to the quality or if Steven is just a good winemaker with great vineyards to source from.

It was a great morning among the vines. Quivira also has one of the most impressive solar arrays I’ve seen, generating 100% of the winery’s power. I look forward to a return visit!

In addition to the conference and vineyard trip, I went to dinner with Stephanie at Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa, where we enjoyed Sonoma County bubbly (Schramsberg Brut Rose for me, Roederer Estate L’Ermitage for Steph) and a variety of small plates including pork belly-stuffed pot stickers, heirloom tomato salad, flatbread with roasted figs, prosciutto, fontina and truffle honey, seared scallops, filet minon sliders, and strawberry crepes. Everything was beautifully prepared and tasted amazing, and the atmosphere in the old house was hopping! It was a great capper to a great weekend.