40 Hours in San Francisco

I spend the first half of this week in San Francisco for work. Although I wasn’t even there for two full days, I was fortunate to be able to enjoy two great meals.

Chez Panisse – 1517 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA

Straight off the plane, I headed to Berkeley on Monday for lunch with my grandparents and aunt who happened to be in town. My grandparents have lived in Berkeley for years and wanted to give my aunt and I a chance to try Alice Water’s famous Berkeley restaurant. This restaurant opened 40 years ago and started the homegrown, health food concept that  is now visible across the nation. Alice Waters is a passionate advocate for a food economy that is “good, clean, and fair.” The restaurant experienced major damage from a fire in the spring and just re-opened about three weeks ago. The menu at Chez Panisse changes daily. We ate upstairs in the more casual café and enjoyed all of our selections (though we we not overly impressed with the service.) I ordered a little gem lettuce salad with poached shrimp, grape fruit and crème fresh. Then I had a pizzette of leeks and clams. My aunt ordered a fried calamari dish that was served with a zucchini salad. My grandmother ordered a beautiful looking tagliatelle with a fresh pesto made with parsley.

I didn’t take any photos of the food but here my aunt and I are outside the restaurant.

IMG_2032

The Slanted Door – 1 Sausalito, San Francisco Ferry Bldg #3, San Francisco, CA

After a great lunch in Berkeley with family, I went back to the city to quickly check into my hotel before dinner with my colleagues at The Slanted Door. We sat in the private room which was perfect for our group because it was mostly enclosed by a glass and had a curtain that blocked the noise from the main dining room.

Since we were in the private room, we had to order from the prix fixe menu. We left the ordering up to one person in our party and lucky for us everything he picked was great. (We did have one vegetarian in our group so he received his own items in place of those he couldn’t eat.) Our three appetizers were:

  • crispy imperial rolls with gulf shrimp, pork shoulder, glass noodle, roasted peanut
  • barbecued willis ranch pork spareribs with scallion, cilantro, honey-hoisin sauce
  • grapefruit and jicama salad with red cabbage, pickled carrot, candied pecan.

I thought the spring rolls were just on par with any others I have had elsewhere. The pork spareribs were very tasty (I do love anything with hoisin) but messy. Fortunately, the waiter bought us damp towels once we were done with the appetizer course. I thought the grapefruit and jicama salad had good flavor but it was 95% red cabbage. I would have enjoyed more jicama.

For the entrée round, we ordered:

  • cellophane noodles with green onion, dungeness crab, sesame
  • sesamepan-seared day boat scallops served with lotus root, fennel, chayote, grape tomato, red curry sauce
  • organic chicken claypot with caramel sauce, thai chili, fresh ginger
  • grass-fed estancia shaking beef, cubed filet mignon, watercress, red onion, lime sauce.

I’m not a big scallop fan but everyone seemed to enjoy them. The cellophane noodles were a huge hit. The chicken had great flavors but it came out after the other items so I could only manage a taste because I was so full.

For our vegetable, we ordered the dirty girl farm spicy haricots vert with beech mushroom, roasted chili. They were a good compliment to the other items so rich in flavor.

For dessert, we were served homemade donuts with a butterscotch dipping sauce and a cheesecake that came with a blackberry sauce and featured an amazing crust.

Lava Lounge – 527 Bryant St, San Francisco, CA

On to the real reason I went to San Francisco….on Tuesday evening, I hosted about 125 guests for a reception and also took about 60 clients to the Giants/Red Sox game. The only food I sampled at Lava was the truffled tofu fries and they were amazing! They were lightly battered and tossed in truffle oil  and served with lemon soy-dipping sauce.

Here are some photos from AT&T Park:

IMG_2047

IMG_2038

Although my trip to San Francisco was quick, it was a success overall. I had a chance to visit with family, hosted a successful event and enjoyed a few great meals! Next time, I’ll have to make sure to get some sightseeing in.

Eating Our Way Through New Orleans…

A few weekends ago, I went down to New Orleans for my friend Megan’s bachelorette party. I had only been to the Big Easy once before (in college for Habitat for Humanity) and had never had a chance to fully explore the city. One of the best parts about my weekend there was the amazing food that we got to try. The flavors found in all of the dishes made me feel like we were in a different country! At almost every restaurant, I had to ask our waiter to explain dishes to me because they used ingredients I had never heard of! I couldn’t believe I had never sampled food like they have in New Orleans before! Below is a summary of our meals:

Friday – Lunch at Luke (333 St. Charles Avenue, New Orleans)
John Besh is a local chef who has nine restaurants in New Orleans. Luke is a great lunch spot frequently by many of New Orleans’ professionals. We were excited for our first taste of New Orleans after an early morning flight from Boston. The whole menu looked amazing so we made sure that between the six of us, we all ordered a variety of items so we could sample as many of John Besh’s creations as possible!

IMG_1594We started with a half dozen Gulf oysters. Growing up spoiled by the fresh oysters from Cape Cod, we were all curious to sample these local treats. As you can see in the photo above, they were HUGE! (Some of us had trouble taking them down.)  I’m not sure I can go back to “tiny” Wellfleet oysters after this!

IMG_1595Our waiter also insisted that we try Luke’s Baked P&J oysters made with herbsaint and a persillade crust. They were essentially breaded, garlicy goodness. Personally I enjoy raw oysters much more but for those of us in the group that struggled with the palm sized raw oysters, they enjoyed these thoroughly!

For my meal, I took ordered Friday’s special which was “Court-bouillon” consisting of redfish, crab, shrimp, oysters and Louisiana popcorn rice. IT WAS AMAZING. So amazing that I didn’t have time to take a picture! It was a thicker dark sauce filled with all sort of seafood with a scoop of rice on top. It almost looked like the gumbo that some of the girls ordered but it was thicker and saltier. I scarfed it down in just a few minutes. It came with a cup of soup and I chose the crab and corn bisque which tasted so fresh and had giant chunks of crab! The other girls ordered the Salad de Poulte Grille which contained grilled chicken, pickled stone fruit, fromage blanc and proscuitto and the day’s special which was a Softshell Crab BLT. I mean, hello! How delicious does that sound? Well it was even better than you could imagine.

Friday afternoon Happy Hour – Dominica (123 Baronne Street, New Orleans)

While dining at Luke, we met chef Aarón Sanchez (from the Food Network’s Chopped) and his business partner, Octavio, who also owns all of John Besh’s restaurants. They suggested we head over to Dominica (another John Best restaurant) for happy hour. We had some time to kill before the girls from DC arrived so we walked over there right at 3pm for the start of happy hour. Massachusetts doesn’t have happy hour so we figured why not take advantage?! Happy hour at Dominica features half off cocktails, pizzas, wine and beers and we made sure to sample all of the above.

IMG_1599Above is a picture of our bride with a clam pizza.

Aarón introduced us to Dominica’s chef and co-owner Alon Shaya and when we asked him for dinner suggestions for that evening, after listing of a few other options, he recommended we just dine there! We went home to shower and meet up with the other girls, who had now all made it to the hotel, before coming back for dinner.

Once again we were greeted with an overwhelming but delicious looking menu. We ended up ordering whatever Chef Alon recommended for us. In addition to the items below, we ordered Roasted Cauliflower with sea salt & whipped goat feta; Squid Ink Tagliolini with blue crab & herbs (AMAZING); Spaghetti served with Louisiana chanterelle mushrooms & butter.

IMG_1616A beautiful meat and cheese platter with all of the accompaniments

IMG_1617Octopus Carpaccio with fennel & citrus

IMG_1618Crispy Squash Blossoms with heirloom tomato, olive vinaigrette & labneh (Can you believe Megan had NEVER tried these before? ;-) )

IMG_1619Crispy Kale

Saturday Lunch – Johnnies (511 Saint Louis Street, New Orleans)

Saturday afternoon we went to a famous New Orleans spot for their well known po’ boys. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling that well so I didn’t try anything here. However, the girls loved their muffalatas as well as their fried shrimp po’ boys. I did, however, drink about my weight in their sweet tea and I can say that was two thumbs up!

Saturday Dinner – NOLA (534 Saint Louis Street, New Orleans)

When in New Orleans, you have to go to Emeril Lagasse’s NOLA, right?? It was a perfect blend of classic Creole food with an upscale twist. With 12 of us all looking to try as many items as possible on the menu, we opted for his 5-course tasting menu. For just $49, I highly recommend doing this if you have the chance.

First Course

Untitled0I chose Miss Hay’s Stuffed Chicken Wing with Homemade Hoisin Dipping Sauce (left). I’m not sure exactly what it was stuffed with (or how to even stuff a chicken wing) but it was so tasty. The stuffing seemed to be some sort of sausage and breading but the best part was the sweet hoisin sauce on the chicken skin. It wasn’t sticky at all but instead the flavor seemed to be injected into the chicken. Other choices for the first course were the Gumbo of the Day which was an Andouille Sausage and Duck Gumbo (center) or Crispy Smoked Duck and Mushroom Boudin Balls with Tomato-Bacon Jam and Creole Mustard Aioli (right).

Second Course
Untitled1

For our salad course, I chose the NOLA Caesar of baby green and red romaine lettuces which featured Focaccia Croutons, Shaved Reggiano Parmesan and Dijon Anchovy Vinaigrette (left). The other options were Assorted Baby Lettuces with Marinated Grape Tomatoes, Belle Ècorce Farms Goat Cheese, Pistachios and Herb-Balsamic Vinaigrette (center) or NOLA Panzanella Salad with Vine Ripe Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Red Onion, Toasted Focaccia Bread, Feta Cheese, Romaine Lettuce, and Red Wine Herb Vinaigrette (right).

Third Course

Untitled2My selection for our third course was my favorite of the whole meal. I went with one of NOLA’s most popular items the Garlic Crusted Drum which was a fish cooked in the wood burning oven with brabant potatoes, crimini mushrooms, bacon and sauce beurre rouge (left). It was a perfect blend of sweetness with savory hints. The other options were a Pan Roasted Salmon with herb couscous, ratatouille, red chili raita and preserved lemon butter sauce (center). I really enjoyed the third option, Shrimp & Grits which came with sautéed Gulf shrimp, grilled green onions, smoked cheddar grits, apple smoked bacon, crimini mushrooms and red chili-abita butter sauce (right). Whether or not you chose the tasting menu, I HIGHLY recommend that the Drum and the Shrimp & Grits gets ordered by someone in your party.

Fourth Course

Untitled3I only was able to snag two pictures for this course. My selection was the Fried Buttermilk Breast of Chicken (top) which came with bourbon mashed sweet potatoes, country ham cream gravy and sautéed sugar snap peas. It was scrumptious. Now I know why people in the South have more obesity problems than people in the North….amazing food like this! The girls that ordered the Pan Seared Filet Mignon with cauliflower purée, confit wild mushrooms, herb roasted bone marrow and garlic bordelaise (bottom) all declared it the highlight of their meal. The third option was a Grilled Pork Chop with brown sugar glazed sweet potatoes, toasted pecans and caramelized onion reduction sauce.

Fifth Course

IMG_1648The options for our final course were all amazing but I could only manage a bite of each I was so full! I chose the Key Lime Pie with blackberry compote, passionfruit coulis and graham cracker whipped cream (above). It was refreshing and rich at the same time. The other options were a Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with popcorn ice cream, chocolate sauce, bourbon caramel sauce and popcorn brittle or a selection of house-made ice cream or sorbet. PHEW

Sunday Pre-Brunch – Cafe du Monde (800 Decatur Street, New Orleans)

Believe it or not, we followed up Saturday night’s dinner with brunch and a pre-brunch snack at Cafe du Monde. If you’re in New Orleans, you have to go to Cafe du Monde. That’s really all that needs to be said. Lines may seem long (both to sit or for to-go orders) however it moves quickly because tables free up often. There is no hostess to seat you, so while many wait in one long line, it’s basically a free for all so I suggest just grabbing any open table you see.

IMG_1675

Sunday Brunch – Cafe Amelie – (912 Royal Street, New Orleans)

We had brunch reservations at this a beautiful garden restaurant on Sunday afternoon. However, it poured all morning so we were stuck inside. The food was great but I think we missed out on a big part of the ambiance.

IMG_1783

Nevertheless, I chose the smoked salmon BLT which was a perfect hangover breakfast!

IMG_1676

Sunday Dinner – Felix’s Restaurant & Oyster Bar (711 Iberville Street, New Orleans)

By our last night we were dying to try the Charbroiled Oysters we had heard so much about. We went to Felix’s, one of the spots in New Orleans known for this delicacy. To make these, they basically squirt raw oysters with a garlic oil and plop them, in the half shell, on an open flame. The result is baked oysters without the breading. The result is amazing.

IMG_1695

As is Felix’s Jambalaya!

IMG_1694Overall, I thought the best part about New Orleans was the food. We had so many great meals and I look forward to recreating the flavors soon in my own kitchen!

3 months and 2 days later…

…emotions surrounding the events of the 2013 Boston Marathon are still raw. Rolling Stone’s decision to feature a photo of the accused terrorist on their magazine cover was a an insensitive, reckless decision. By plastering his photo on the cover of a nationwide publication, we are teaching a future terrorist that he won. By saying his name, the cause that those Marathon bombers declared as the reason for their actions is being heard. We need to show terrorists like this that we will not help publicize their cause. Their voices will not be heard. Their faces will not be remembered.

Instead, we should remember Krystle Campbell, Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu and Sean Collier’s faces. We must tell stories of bravery displayed by Jeff Bauman, Richard Donahue and Carlos Arredondo. We as a nation need to make the decision to focus on the victims, to focus on the healing. That is what should be printed on the a magazine cover.

Here are some excerpts from a great post write by a fellow Bostonian.

Dear Rolling Stone…

I’m not over the marathon yet. Not by a long shot. I can’t walk down that street without thinking about it. I can’t walk past that bar or that shoe store without looking right where the bombs went off.

Time passes and feelings fade. 30 years from now some kid is gonna hear about the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing, look it up on wikipedia, and think that it was a relatively minor terrorist attack. “Worse stuff happens around the world every other month” he’ll think. That’s fine, I won’t blame him because he won’t know any better. He won’t know how much it hurt for all the people who were lucky enough not to be killed, or lose limbs, or suffer some other senseless injury. He won’t know about the week after the bombing, about how the uninjured followed the people who were in the hospitals, reading every news story they could get their hands on and praying the totals didn’t go any higher. He won’t understand everyone finding a tv to see the FBI post pictures of the terrorists, and everyone immediately sharing the picture so everybody in the civilized world could see it. He won’t know what it felt like to wake up to a call from your friend at 3am telling you to get online because there was a shootout with the bombers 2 miles from your apartment. He won’t know what it was like being glued to online police scanners for 24 hours, and just when you thought he somehow got away, he was trapped in a boat and it was over. He won’t know what it was like seeing Jeff Bauman throwing out the first pitch, or walking on the ice with his prosthetic legs, and giving you hope that things were getting better.

But you knew, Rolling Stone. You knew all of that. You knew how much this meant to Boston. You knew and you put him on the cover anyway because you didn’t care. Just to create some buzz, sell a few more magazines. Killers are glamorous, victims aren’t.

Boston Strong

Detoxing

After a fun-filled long weekend, my body needed something healthy for dinner tonight. I had pinned this recipe for a Lime, Shrimp & Avocado Salad a few weeks ago and I decided to adapt it to make it into a full meal by eating it as a lettuce wrap!

Here is the recipe from http://www.skinnytaste.com:

  • 1 lb jumbo cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 hass avocado, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeds removed, diced fine
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • salt and fresh pepper to taste

In a small bowl combine red onion, lime juice, olive oil, pinch of salt and pepper. Let them marinate at least 5 minutes to mellow the flavor of the onion.

In a large bowl combine chopped shrimp, avocado, tomato, jalapeño. Combine all the ingredients together, add cilantro and gently toss. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. 

Unfortunately the cilantro at my grocery store was wilted and yellow so I had to skip it. I just put a few scoops of the shrimp avocado mixture into a piece of romaine and it made a healthy and filling meal! I barely had room for dessert (B&J’s Frozen Greek Yogurt).

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps from Boston In Heels