Saturday, November 28, 2009

Oh lord it’s hard to be Humble

There have been many changes in eating habits over the last year. With reports of economic uncertainty people have turned to homey cuisine. We're seeing lots of soups and comfort foods on our menus. One great thing it has brought back is PIE! We all love pie; from the holiday classics to our summer favorites.  To my delight in the burgeoning dessert trend is a great little place called Humble Pie. Located in Downtown Penngrove - well ok on the main street, really the only street with stores - is this great new restaurant and pie shop (Pie-eria?).  Chef Miriam is making some creative and tasty treats.  I have been recommending her to many customers for that different twist on party desserts; from weddings to bar mitzvahs she has wowed them all. Over Thanksgiving she only made 35 pies and sold out quickly. One of my staff was able to get her hands on the vanilla berry with graham cracker crust. While trying to hold my self back from all of the eating this week I know that I will give in.

If you want a quaint dining experience stop in for dinner at the restaurant too. They offer an artisan menu Wednesday through Sunday with produce from their own garden.  It's a good creative menu but with a homey feel. There are only about 15 seats, so get there early.  And save room for dessert!


Monday, November 23, 2009

An American Classic

Next week one of our favorite wineries (Kunde Estate) will be having a holiday open house and has asked us to make the ultimate American classic, grilled cheese and tomato soup!

Hummm, that is a hard bill to fill, something so icon and classic… It needs to be gourmet, yet traditional and comforting.

We are known for our tomato bisque soup, it won the Kendall Jackson Tomato Festival a few years back so that one should be easy. A flavorful tomato soup with just a touch of cream but not too rich.

½ cup chopped onions
½ cup butter
1½ tsp. dill weed
5 cups chopped tomatoes
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 tb flour
¼ cup chopped parsley
4 tsp. honey
1¼ cup heavy cream
2/3 cup half-and-half
Salt and pepper

In a large pot, sauté onions in 6 tablespoons butter along with the dill weed for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add tomatoes and broth and heat.  Make a roux by blending 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons flour, whisking constantly over medium heat for 3 minutes, without browning. Add roux to stock and whisk to blend. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add chopped parsley, honey, cream and half-and-half.  Remove from heat and puree. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Then the grilled cheese, it has to be flavorful but not over powering, gooey is a must but not messy, crisp buttery crust but not too bready. We tested a local organic white cheddar from Spring Hills Cheese, then St George from Matos, and last one of my favorites a Havarti. Thinly sliced brioche- yes I know it is French but we are the melting pot so bring on the best, brushed with unsalted butter – yes it is from our own Clover -  then cheese 2 slices thick. Grill and cut into sticks for easy dipping; you have to be able to dip it in the tomato soup.

And the winner is... the Havarti.  It's a perfect combination of all of the flavors and just melty enough to stretch.

Now we just have to make the 550 sandwiches and 40 gallons of soup and we're all set!

Friday, November 20, 2009


Another favorite cheese from our area. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, we are all trying to find one or two easy items to fill out the menu. One of our most requested cheeses is our Bellwether Farms Crescenza with Lavender and Honey. It is a rich and buttery cheese made in a classic Italian style, the has a creamy texture that is just perfect for spreading.

Allow the cheese to come to room temperature, just before serving sprinkle with a pinch of crushed lavender flowers and a generous drizzle of local honey. I love it with a sweet baguette or whole grain crackers. The cheese has just enough tart flavor to offset the sweetness.

A great hors d’oeuvre before the big dinner.


Thursday, November 19, 2009

COTS & California Waterfowl

Breakfast for 600 yesterday morning, a prime rib dinner for 250 this evening and hors d'oeuvres for 230 tomorrow, along with all the Thanksgiving orders coming in for next week... whew!  I'm feeling awfully busy for the slow time of year.

Breakfast was COTS annual event, featuring frittata, pumpkin bread, fruit skewers and lots and lots of coffee (it was early).  Dinner this evening is the big California Waterfowl fund raiser with carved prime rib, chicken cattatore, and all the traditional sides.  Always a lot of fun.


Friday, November 13, 2009


Lately I have been enjoying Vietnamese cuisine, the fresh and simple flavors, lime, basil, cilantro.

There are two restaurants we visit often.  Three Seasons in SF in the Cow Hollow area, they are considered modern Vietnamese and I have been known to make a side trip when in the city to pick up their duck rice paper rolls or garlic parmesan noodles. A bride recommended them to me many years ago for their Ahi Mango rice paper roll.  I rate everything on their menu as at least very good, and most of it is truely excellent.

La Maison de la Reine is in the Corte Madera Town Center mall, much closer and a great place to grab a light lunch.  This past weekend I had a Vermicelli bowl; a thin round rice noodle that was cooked and chilled, it was served on top of lettuce and mung bean sprouts, and topped with bbq pork, then garnished with shredded carrot and daikon, cucumber and lime wedges.

I've been experimenting at home.  If you have not worked with the rice noodles before they look a bit intimidating, they cook very quickly-3-5 minutes in boiling water. Try using them in place a of steamed rice for your favorite Asian dish.  For a great lunch or dinner try pairing with left over roast chicken, grated  carrot and juillaned snow peas, serve with a great peanut dressing.


Friday, November 6, 2009

Wine Road

This weekend is the 11th Annual Food and Wine Affair by Wine Roads. A three day tour through some of Sonoma County's most beautiful wineries.  If you are looking for a yummy nibble, stop by the two wineris we are at. Windsor Oaks Vineyards will be serving up a Mushroom Bisque with White Truffle Oil and a Shaved Leg of Lamb on a White Bean Hummus with Roasted Garlic

At Dutcher Crossing Winery, way out on Dry Creek Road, we have a Lamb Tagine on an Artichoke Risotto. (recipe below)

Taking place both Saturday and Sunday (11/7 & 11/8/2009).  Go out and enjoy the vines, the wine and some great food.  It's a scenic must this time of year, the vineyards are turning into a sea of color to rival the northeast.

We are also featured with two of these recipes in Wine Roads' cookbook, but here's one to get you started:

Lamb Tagine on an Artichoke Risotto

Mediterranean risotto with spicy lamb.
Entrée serves 6 / Appetizer serves 10

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
½ cup chopped shallots
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
2 cups uncooked Arborio rice
½ cup red wine
6 cups chicken broth - heated and divided
¾ cup grated Asiago cheese
2 cups slow roasted lamb Tagine (approx 1 pound)
6 ounce marinated artichoke hearts, chopped with juice
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
Stir in the shallots and garlic, sauté for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the rice and stir well to coat, about 1 minute.
Add the wine and allow it to get absorbed by the rice, about 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in the chicken broth, ½ cup at a time, waiting until the rice absorbs each ½ cup before adding the next ½ cup. Save ¼ cup of broth for later.
Cook until the rice is done but firm (15 to 20 minutes).
Turn off the heat.
Stir in the remaining ¼ cup of broth, the cheese, and artichoke hearts.
Top with warmed Lamb Tagine (about 1/3 cup or 3oz per serving)


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Cheese, glorious cheese

Did I mention that I like cheese?  It could be my true down fall in trying to eat healthy.  I would rather have a wedge of cheese and bread then an entire dinner, and have done so in the past.

There are so many great local cheese – where do you even start?  I thought that I would take them one at a time.

Let’s start with St George by the Matos Family, a locally made (Ilano road, Santa Rosa) semi hard cheese with a cheddary flavor.  The recipe was brought over in the 70’s from the Azores in Portugal.  This is a great one to put out in a wedge and just chip away at. It goes great with apples and pears but also stands up well to our spiced almonds and would go well with beer.

A nice one to put out to nibble on at a party or a ball game.