Friday, December 31, 2010

MMMM Cookies

Here's December's column from the Petaluma Post.  It's probably past the time for cookies, but something for the future...

We all know how crazy of a month that December can be. With places to be and places to go, cooking and gifting, it is hard to make sure that you always have the right thing. I am a huge believer in consumables; we all have so many things and want to make our lives easier, I like edible gifts. To me the perfect gift is cookies. There is nothing that I love more than a plate with four or five different little nibbles. They are great to put out when guests arrive, or to relax with after a busy day.

It is a great idea to keep several cookie doughs on hand for just such a need. While cookies may only hold well for a day or two once baked, many of them hold very well in raw form in the freezer or refrigerator. Yes you can buy Pillsbury slice and bake, but you can make your own and use them the same way. All of the cookies that we make in the catering company are made and scooped then baked as needed.

One recipe that I really love is a basic short cookie; this recipe is great for cookies and can also be used as a sweet tart crust too.

Short Bread Cookies
2 lbs Butter
12 oz Sugar
4 Eggs
3 lbs Flour

This makes about one hundred cookies. I usually split this into two or three parts and add mix-ins (no its not Cold Stone but the term works so well). Try these classic additions:

A Russian Tea Cookies - add a ½ cup of chopped pecans, fold into dough

Mexican Wedding Cookies - add a ½ cup of chopped walnuts, fold into dough, when baked dust with powdered sugar.

Fruit Cake Cookies - add a ½ cup of chopped dried fruit; like craisins, apricots, cherries, candied lemon skins plus 1 tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice, mix together. I then roll the dough in large crystal sugar.

Black & White Cookies - mix 2 tablespoons of cocoa in to a ½ cup of the dough, then you can braid the white and chocolate dough together.

Feel free to experiment, it is a great dough.

Roll cookie doughs into logs and wrap in parchment or plastic wrap. They can freeze well for up to three months or hold in the refrigerator for about ten days. When needed, just remove from fridge or freezer and slice about ¼” thick. (If it just came out of the freezer, give it 20 minutes to thaw before slicing.) Place on lined cookie sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees, till just lightly golden.

The first year my husband and I were married, we were living in student housing, I had just graduated from cooking school and we were living off of one small income. So, I decided to make candy for everyone for Christmas. I started in mid-November with things that could freeze, like cookie doughs and fudge. Funny thing was that by Christmas there was still hardly any fudge in the freezer, but hubby needed a new belt

During that that time I created a great recipe for Peppermint Patties. A no cook recipe that holds great.

Peppermint Patties
1 can sweet and condensed milk
1 tsp pure peppermint oil (more or less to your taste, my family likes them strong)
1½ lbs powdered sugar
½ cup chocolate chips
½ Tbl vegetable oil

Place sweet and condensed milk in your mixer (a stand up mixer is best, but you can easily work it by hand), add the peppermint oil. Begin adding the sugar one cup at a time, the amount may vary slightly with the weather- rainy days take more. You want a very thick almost solid paste. Remove from the mixer (the house should smell great by now). Roll into logs, wrap in plastic, and allow to cool in the fridge for 30 to 45 minutes.

To finish, slice patties off approximately ¼” thick, and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Melt the chocolate chips with oil, slowly in micro wave or in a double boiler, then drizzle the chocolate over patties, allow chocolate to cool and set up. They are ready to serve.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Back in the Saddle... well almost

As with everyone the holiday season flies by with a flourish.  In a catering company it can feel more like a hurricane. This year we kept very busy – sorry for the limited posts.

There were a couple of trends coming back; there were a lot more cocktail parties (people were having parties- yeah), but in a more casual atmosphere, often at home.  Tray service hors d’oeuvres are defiantly making a comeback.  Those beautiful delicious bites, are the star of the season. With all of the rain that we had most of the parties were a bit cozy, but this style is perfect for that.

On the corporate side we saw many companies doing parties again this year (a big up tick from last year), however bringing them in house at the office, and eschewing the fancy ball room variety.  I've been a big proponent of this for many years.  I love big fancy parties, but for company parties I think casual is often better.  Bring in lunch for the staff at noon or one o'clock and let them enjoy with their co-workers.  The holiday weekends are just so busy with family and friends this time of year that they will appreciate you freeing up that Saturday night.

Thank you to everyone for a great holiday season, and here is to a great new year!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

King Arthur

This time of year the baker comes out in each of us, that urge to bake is just part of the winter/holiday experience.  Do you have an aspiring pastry chef or a friend that is the best baker that you have ever known? If so, I have the place for their perfect gift, King Arthur Flour.  It's not just flour.  I love the King Arthur’s web site – a great place for Christmas shopping.

My husband is a chocoholic in the truest form.  I ordered him a whole array of cocoa. Not a real gift for a non-baker (so I have to bake for him) but we have spent time together over the last 2 years testing and choosing what kind of cocoa to use from one recipe to another; from standard cocoa to dutched cocoa to black cocoa.  (Black is also called double dutched, for more cocoa info see my blog Join the Dark Side from earlier this year.)

They also have great baking equipment, mixes, ingredients, and even gift packs.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Chestnuts Roasting Over An Open Fire

Two years ago we took a cruise of the Mediterranean and fell in love with Portugal.  It was the week of Thanksgiving to us, but they were already decorating for the holidays.  Coming from northern California I had never had fresh roasted chestnuts.  What a wonderful thing, as you walk down the street holding a paper cone (that is keeping your hands warm) and nibbling as you break them from their shells.  The street vendors used an actual open fire, but we have brought them home and roasted them in our oven.

This time of year you can find chestnuts at the farmers market or the grocery store; you want to look for ones that feel heavy in weight with a clean shell and no mold.  They are very easy to prep, with a paring knife cut a cross in the shell and lay out on a cookie sheet, then bake at 350 degrees for about 15 to 20 minutes, till they expand and the shell cracks open (see the photo).  It is very important to cut the X so they can expand, last year I missed one and it exploded in the oven like loud popcorn. Then just sit back and enjoy.

They are the only nut that contains vitamin C, they contain no gluten (they often make flour out of them), and they are also a source of Iron and Potassium.

If you want a fun and healthy snack for a holiday event – roast some chestnuts.


Monday, November 29, 2010

My twisting mind

Thanksgiving has passed and we are all starting to look to Christmas for that next delish dish we'll prepare.  Plus, I'm starting to get the itch to write new menus for next year.

I can't rewrite the entire menu every year (I'd like to but the staff would string me up, and it's a long process as is).  I start with new ideas I've been filling away, add things that worked really well, and other improvements from this years experience.  It's a long list, from hors d’oeuvres (my favorites) to entrees and side dishes; so many things come to mind.  I love this, the creativity is revitalizing.

I start with a list of all kinds – sauces, cooking styles, crackers, shells. Then I look at the old menu and removed items that are dated or not top sellers.  Take the list and put together items that are needed for the menu.  Do I need more vegetarian, something with beef?  Is it more of a casual “bar” food item or an upscale canapé? ...

Then comes the fun part, by the first of January I want to be actually testing the items and tasting (the staff loves this aspect).  Any day we can have 3 to 5 items to judge.  Do they hold up well, is there enough flavor, how many steps to put together, and finally, is it cost effective?

From there we usually hold a staff “meeting” to bring all the Wait Staff in on all of the new items.

Today was Mac n Cheese day, a great way to start.  (Hubby is upset, he was busy and missed it.)


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Kunde Black Bean Chili

Served at Kunde Estate Winery this weekend for their holiday open house.  This is a special variation on our Petaluma People's Choice Award winning vegetarian chili; flavorful green chili with a unique spiciness that feels like it is going to burn, but doesn’t.   This recipe yields 4 gallons.

EDIT: Okay 4 gallons might no be useful in the home!  I've amended the recipe to 1 gallon. Enjoy.

1 lb Black Beans
8 oz Pasilla Chiles
8 oz Anaheim Chiles
12 oz Yellow Onions
2 c Diced Tomatoes
2½ T Vegetable Oil
1½ t Cumin
2 T New Mexico Chili Power
2 cloves Ground Garlic
1 T Fresh Lime Juice
5 oz Diced Green Chili
5 oz Green Enchilada Sauce

Roasted Vegetable Stock (to cover beans)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Soak beans for 12 to 24 hours
Drain thoroughly just before use
Sauté onions, garlic and diced chiles in vegetable oil
Add cumin and chili powder
Cook 5 to 8 minutes (until fragrant)
Add beans
Cover with roasted vegetable stock
Add tomatillos (smashed with juice) and lime juice
Cook over medium heat for 1½ to 2 hours (until beans are tender)
Finish with diced chiles and enchilada sauce.


Tuscan Chicken Stew

We created this recipe for Papapietro Perry Winery for their Wine Club event on the 14th.  We've had quite a few requests for it, so here you go.  I hope you enjoy it.

2 lbs boneless skinless Chicken Thighs
1 Tbs Italian Seasoning Herbs
Salt and Pepper to taste

Rub thighs with herbs and s&p, then bake at 350 degree for approximately 30 minutes, till cooked through.
Remove from pan, but save the juice (there is usually some pan gunk you will want to strain out)

½ cup diced Onion
4 cloves Garlic
2 Tbs Olive Oil

1 cup Artichoke Hearts
1 cup sliced Mushrooms
3 cups White Wine
½ cup Sun-dried Tomato strips

Sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until tender
Transfer to deep baking dish
Add chicken, juice, artichokes, mushroom and tomatoes
Add enough white wine or chicken stock to cover
Bake cover 1½ hours, until very tender
Drain the juice from chicken

2 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Tbs Flour
Chicken Juice

Bring juice to a boil
Combine the oil and flour to create a slurry
Slowly whisk the slurry into the juice till it reaches the thickness you desire
Add back to the chicken mixture

Serve over creamy polenta. Serves 4 to 6.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


We found a great new lunch spot just over the river in First Street.  If you have not made it over to Luma – stop in for lunch or dinner.  We stopped by for an early lunch after a big breakfsast event (600 people!, but that's another story.).

I had a great stuffed pear as a first course. It was baked with walnuts, gorgonzola and dates then drizzled with a wine reduction- WOW!  Their arugula salad was tossperfectly with hazel nuts and pecorino.

Jim enjoyed a great pulled Asian BBQ Pork Sandwich with Mango Slaw.  Very good.

Ask to try the ginger beer- it was awesome.

We'll definitily be back.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Turkey Day Prep-down

Here's this month's column from the Petaluma Post. 
Just in time for T-Day.

November has rolled in and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I thought I would try to help lessen the burden of that crazy day. You will have a house full of friends and family or be packing up the crew for the drive to dinner at someone’s home. Here are some pointers to help you through.

The menu scramble… what to serve this year? About now you have seen all of the most up to date magazines with the great recipes and ideas. How to choose which one to try? In my mind thanksgiving is a pretty traditional holiday. Your menu will likely have

Turkey (also ham if you are having a large group), Stuffing (the best thing on the table), one or two Vegetable Dishes, and probably yams or sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, bread and desserts. If you want to be daring and creative, I recommend changing only one or two dishes. Vegetables and starches are good choices. But keep to your family traditions for most of it. Thanksgiving comes once a year many people look forward to the traditional comfort foods that they know. This year even my dad told me “ I want your mom’s stuffing.” Hopefully she reads this and knows she is bringing stuffing this year!

The week before Thanksgiving your menu should be set, and it is time to answer the question many of your guests will ask; “what can I bring?” This is a tricky one. Try to keep in mind whether the maker will be traveling, does their dish need to be heated for a short or long time, will they be on time? We all know that family member that is always late, ask them to bring dessert, not the hors d’oeuvres. If you are asked to bring a dish remember to answer the same questions. Probably not a good idea to bring a dish that has to bake for 2 hours if you are coming from distance. But there is a good transport option for hot items…

Hint #1
Ice chests are for more than ice. In catering we are fortunate to have hot boxes; specially designed boxes that hold food hot for a length of time. But truth be told they are just big insulated boxes, just like an ice chest. Ice chests can keep the cold in, but they can also keep the heat in. Place your hot items in an ice chest and just resist opening to check on it. This is great for anything moist, your food will put off steam and stay warm, however anything with a crust will get soggy. Standard food safety protocol says food remains safe if it does not fall below 140 degree for more than two hours; I expect most ice chests can keep something that is hot from the oven above 140 degree for at least two hours. So whether you are holding dishes to help time your own dinner or bringing them to the family pot luck, this should help.

Hint #2
On Saturday before Thanksgiving plan to purchase your turkey if you are buying a frozen one. It takes 24 hours for every 5 pounds that your turkey weighs to thaw. So, if you purchased a 20 pound bird on Saturday it should be thawed on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning for prepping. Remember, this is thawing in the refrigerator; it is not safe to thaw it on the counter; it is too big, the outside will become unsafe before the inside thaws. This shopping trip should include all of your canned, dry storage and packaged items or things that you plan to prep during the week- your cranberry sauce, yams or snacks

We are now up to the week of the T-Day. Here at the catering company we put out 20 to 25 dinners for pick up that week so my prep time at home is limited. On Sunday I check dishes, linens, glassware and flatware- what do I want to use this year, do I have enough, do I need to borrow or rent anything

Hint #3
Renting dishes and glassware. Party rental places don’t do just big events. Most are willing to rent you as few as 15 to 20 plates, napkins, glassware etc.. And the big bonus, you don’t have to wash them, just rinse and return. No extra hours on the clean up.

Tuesday is the day that I plan to do a last run to the grocery store for any perishable items, green, vegetables, whipping cream. I try hard to avoid the market on Wednesday. My common thing to do if I run out of anything is to send the husband to the store, it keeps him out of the hors d’oeuvres before the guests arrive.

Tuesday night is a great time for putting together hors d’oeuvres or desserts; pies hold quite well and are often better a day later when the juices have thickened. Sorry I have not hints on how to keep the kids and husband out of those.

Wednesday I like to prep the turkey. Remember to remove all of the packets and bits inside the bird and rinse well. This is great to do on Wednesday when your hands are not full of other prep and you can clean up well after wards. Go ahead and season and prep the turkey (without stuffing) so it is ready to go in the oven. Vegetables can be cleaned and cut, ready to cook.

Thursday- the full day. Calculate the time it takes for the turkey to cook and add about an extra hour and a half. That way the turkey can come out and rest in the Ice chest; trust me it will stay juicy if you do not cut it, and you will have time for the final dishes to go in the oven, your yams, green bean casserole and mom’s stuffing.

Hint #4
Cooking the Turkey without the stuffing. We have all heard about not stuffing the turkey. It will take 45 minutes to an hour off the time it takes to cook your turkey if you do not stuff it. You can add the dish of stuffing to the oven in the last hour of cooking and baste it with the juices from the turkey. And the best part, there is more surface area so everyone gets the crunchy part.

Hint #5
This is not so much a hint so much as a shameless plug, but it might be helpful. Preferred Sonoma Caterers has both ala cart and pre-fixe Thanksgiving menus. Available on our website So for a full meal or just the parts you don’t want to cook, we are here.

The table is set, everyone is there, just remember that memories are not made by perfection, they are made by people.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lobster Burrito

We just returned from Belize (specifically San Pedro on Ambergris Caye); a great vacation spot with beautiful blue water, sting rays, cute little sharks and plenty of colorful fish.  With zip lining and Mayan temples to top it off!

The cuisine is mostly typical of a tropical locale, tasty but limited.  But a few places did standout and would be worth a visit if you're ever down that way.  The highlight for me was the Lobster Burrito at Warugamu; the place is a little hole in the wall, but with good authentic local cuisine.  Everyone in town recommends it.

This burrito is wonderful, the photo does not do it justice.  A whole large local lobster tail, split and sitting on each side of the plate, extra chunks of de-shelled lobster scattered around, and more lobster in the burrito.  Fabulous, and for only $13.  Try the Papusas too.

Another frequently recommended spot was Wild Mango, with a wide selection of ceviche.  Try the Ecuadorian Ceviche, it's made with roasted tomatoes and is perfect.

Also note worthy in San Pedro are The Blue Water Grill for the finest dining experience, and The Mohito Bar with a range of fresh muddled naturally flavored mohitos.

Bon Voyage!

Monday, November 15, 2010

It's Turkey Time!

We're having our annual special Thanksgiving menu.  Here's the pre-fixe, and the ala-cart can be found on the website.  Get your orders in by Sunday for pickup on Wednesday the 24th.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Classic Menu
Serves 8 for $170. 00

Herb Basted Turkey 12 to 14lb.

with choice of four sides
Celery Sage Stuffing with Golden Raisins
Buttermilk Mashed
Yukon Gold Potatoes
Tarragon Roasted Vegetables
Maple Yams with Brandied Raisins Roasted Squash with Apples, Onions & Thyme
Creamed Corn with Bacon & Caramelized Onions
Scalloped Potatoes with Fennel

choice of one accompaniment
Cranberry Orange Conserve
Pear Sauce with Cranberries

All with
Mixed Sonoma Greens with Pomegranate Vinaigrette & Pralines
Turkey Gravy
Dinner Rolls

and choice of one dessert
Apple Streusel Pie
Traditional Pumpkin Pie
Fresh Baked Cookie Platter
Chocolate Pecan Pie

Orders must be placed by Sunday, November 21st
All orders will be picked up cold with heating instructions included.
Orders available for pick-up on Wed 11/24/09 from 10 am to 5 pm
(Sorry, no pickup on Thanksgiving day)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Here Chicken, Chicken, Chicken

Here's my October column from the Petaluma Post:
As October arrives the kids are back in school, soccer, dance and football are going on and you find yourself running from practices and games with dance shoes and sporting equipment. Knowing that the holidays are coming we try to eat a bit more at home (gotta be healthy before we splurge). Do you have the time to get dinner on the table too? Yes 30 minutes meals are great, but really who has 30 minutes when you are that busy? I tend aim for 15 minute or less meal (I know my way around the kitchen and can do them in 10 minutes). My secret ingredient is the oven roasted chicken from the grocery store. At $6.00 from the grocery store or $5.00 from Costco it’s a good deal, and I can make 2 to 3 meals for my husband and I. Chicken is the most popular protein in catering, these are selections that are creative and refreshing to me.
For the hotter Indian summer days I love to do Lettuce Wraps. A traditional Vietnamese item with a California twist. It is cool, refreshing and a great healthy vegetable laden meal. All of the ingredients can easily be had at the supermarket, most already prepared.

Vietnamese Lettuce Wraps
2 cups Shredded Roasted Chicken or Grilled Tofu
2 heads Butter Lettuce (cleaned and leafed out)
½ cup Grated Carrots
½ cup Red Pepper Strips
¼ cup Chopped Cilantro and Basil
½ cup Sliced Cucumbers
½ cup Any other Asian style veggies you like

Peanut Sauce
½ cup Peanut Butter
½ cup Soy Sauce
½ cup Rice Wine Vinegar
1 cup Vegetable Oil
½ cup Brown Sugar
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes

This peanut sauce is a great addition to the fridge, it stores very well, if it thickens too much just warm in a water bath or in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds. I can get the husband to eat anything with this sauce on it!

Lay out all of the veggies on a platter, then take a lettuce leaf and fill with your favorite items. Drizzle with the peanut sauce.

For a wonderful homey dinner a classic chicken pot pie is perfect. Use the dark meat off the legs and thigh (it has the most flavor), chop and add any fresh vegetables that you have in the fridge. If you are really short on time, a bag of frozen vegetables can be substituted. I often make just a top crust so it bakes quickly.

Chicken Pot Pie
2 cup Chicken (chopped)
2 cup Vegetables (chopped)
2 cup Chicken Broth
2 Tbl Butter
2 Tbl Flour

Melt the butter in a sauce pot, add the flour and cook for approximately 2 minutes; this is a basic roux in French cooking. Then whisk in the chicken broth till thickened, by adding the broth/stock you have now turned the roux in to a veloute, one of the French classic mother sauces. Fold in the vegetables and chopped chicken and place in a deep pie pan.

Top Crust
1 stick Butter
1 cup Flour
¼ tsp Salt
2 Tbl Ice Water (approx)

Put the butter, salt and flour in the food processor, pulse 30 to 45 seconds till crumbly, add cold water until it just comes together.

This is a ready to go crust and does not need time to rest, just roll it out and place over the top of the pie filling. Bake at 350 degree for about 30 minutes, till golden and bubbly. You can also make them in Ramekins for personal pies for when you eat a different times. Don’t have time for the pie crust recipe? Just grab a package of puff pastry from the freezer aisle, cover and bake. The puff pastry comes out light and airy and will make a wow presentation.

Another great use is for lunch. We recently worked with a client that wanted strict health requirements for their staff. I created a yogurt chicken salad that was a hit and healthy too! I chose to use non-fat Greek yogurt (they double strain for a thicker creamier yogurt) in stead of mayonnaise and it was a huge hit.

Apple Yogurt Chicken Salad
2 Chicken Breasts from Roasted Chicken
4 Stalks of Celery
1 Apple
½ cup Low Fat Yogurt
1 Tbl Dijon
2 Tbl Honey
1 Lemon (juice of)
1 bunch Green Onions
½ bunch Parsley

Chop and combine. This is two portions. Per portion this is only about 315 calories,16.5 grams of fat, and 53.7 grams of carbs. Enjoy. Try serving in a whole wheat pita or on a bed of greens for a beautiful presentation.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Spooky Cool

This was a really cool and spooky Halloween party!  On two nights in Windsor, a Halloween party hosted on the sound stage for an upcoming TV show about a haunted house, with a "Haunting Menu".  We did the teen party last night, and the adult version is this evening.

double click the photo for a wider angle

Haunting Menu

Blood Shot Eyes
Beet dyed deviled quail eggs

Crispy Critters
Prosciutto wrapped Prawns

Spider Egg Croustini
Black, Orange or Green Tobiko
Served on Toast Points with Crème Fraiche

Cheddar Almond Fingers

Corn Pancakes with Swamp Mud
Corn Cakes with Mango Avocado Salsa

Fresh Meat
Ahi Crudo in Cucumber Cups

Haunting Menu
Teen event

Blood Shot Eyes
Beet dyed deviled quail eggs

Grave Yard Heaps
Individual Nachos

Baked Bat Wings
Teriyaki Chicken Wings

Cheddar Almond Fingers

Blood and Guts Mini Pizzas

Monday, October 25, 2010


In recent months I have been experimenting with what I call French pizzas; basically no one can pronounce Pissaladiere or knows just what it is.  French Pizza seems more descriptive.

Soooo- it is from southern France, near Nice; it's a thin crust white pizza (no red sauce), often made with a pie crust dough or as I do with puff pastry.  It's good with a wide variety of toppings- artichokes, tapenade, garlic and anchovies...

I prefer the puff pastry to the pie dough as it bakes quickly and lightly.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Pumpkins and Underwood's

The mornings a getting crisp (at least when I am out at 5 am) but the afternoons are hot.  Fall is here.  Last weekend, for us that is Tuesday, we went out to my favorite pumpkin patch in Sebastopol, Hales. Here are some great pictures of what they have this year.

From there we decided to head out to Graton for an early dinner at Underwood’s.  It was a bit before the dining room opened so we sat at the bar.  My husband always jokes that you know you are sitting with a chef by what they order.  We had a wonderful roasted brussel sprouts with bacon and an white anchovy croustini.  I highly recommend stopping at the bar for some apps.


Friday, October 8, 2010

Cool Places!

I never know where my job will take me!  Yesterday we were catering aboard the USS Makin Island, a new aircraft carrier docked in San Francisco for Fleet Week.  We set up in one of the on-board hangers; even got a tour of the ship!  Thanks guys.

Today we're at Merryvale Vinyards, set up in the wine cave for a very elegant lunch.  A great place.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Full Moon in the Valley of the Moon

September was a very busy month for us with eleven weddings from the sea shore to a mountain top.  Sometimes I forget to look around and see the incredible area that we live in, but some places are just so incredible you just have to notice.  I'm lucky to get to work with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau; this year I donated a dinner to their fundraiser for youth.  It was planned to fall on the full moon in September at a new location that Kunde Estate Vineyard just recently made available on “ the mountain top”.

What an incredible night!  The temperature was perfect and no wind.  We watched the sun set as we served the hors d’oeuvres, enjoyed dinner, then had dessert just in time for moon rise.  I could not think of a more perfect evening.

The menu was a bit challenging.  No water, no electricity, and everything had to be carried in, and had to be worthy of the auction price that was paid for it.

Guest Arrival
Point Ryes Blue tarts with Fresh Fig Jam
Crane Melon Soup Sips with Prosciutto Crisps
Liberty Farms Duck Confit Taquitos

First Course
Tomato Caprese Martini
Balsamic Drizzle

Main Course
ServedFamily Style
Rosemary Rubbed Beef Tenderloin
Caramelized Onions
Cauliflower and White Cheddar Grain
Pearl Cous Cous with Roasted Butternut Squash

Individual Berry Cobblers
Clover Stornetta Ice Cream

I know the guests had a great time and I personally got to take a moment and savor our own back yard.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

It’s the Great Pumpkin!

Here's my September article from the Petaluma Post:

If you ask anyone who knows me they will tell you that Autumn is my favorite time of the year. The harvest, the leaves falling, the cool weather, the family gatherings plus I look good in earth tones- haha.

Most people think of Fall starting about mid-October just in time for Halloween. But at my house I have to hold myself off till the first of September (I would start earlier but my husband thinks that is too early). It starts with the first decorations coming out, then by mid month we are on the road out to my favorite pumpkin place in Sebastopol to look for pumpkins to decorate the porch. Every year we go early and every year they don’t open till October 1. It’s Hale’s at 1526 Gravenstien Highway N, near Andy’s Produce. It has the best selection of pumpkins around. Blue Hubbard Squash, French Cooking Pumpkins (aka Fairytale Pumpkins), Gourds and anything that you can think of. A great day trip to the county.

I’m also (trying) to grow pumpkins this year. I have several different varieties planted, but the only one making progress right now is a French Cooking Pumpkin, currently about the size of a grapefruit.

I love to decorate with pumpkins but I also love to cook with pumpkin. By definition a pumpkin is a fruit and the interesting thing is that any thick orange or yellow fleshed gourd is a pumpkin. That can of Libby’s pumpkin you open is most likely butternut squash. My family will tell you of the many times that I have cooked pumpkins for the holidays, from roasting a small sugar pumpkin to the arugula and chèvre salad that I did last year in a roasted pumpkin (see my 12/31/09 blog). With only 49 calories per cup and full of great things it is a healthy addition to your diet.

I made a great salad recently that was a bit different. It used raw pumpkin. You don’t see raw pumpkin in too many dishes. But this was shaved paper thin and tossed, wow. To get it paper thin I recommend using butternut squash - the neck portion for longer pieces. Peel with a vegetable peeler, I happen to like the “Y” shape peeler. Then peel off long strips.

Pumpkin Salad
For 2 people
2 cup wild arugula
½ cup pumpkin strips
3 Tbl toasted pumpkin seeds
3 Tbl grated or shaved parmesan
3 Tbl pomerante arils (seeds)

¼ cup sherry vinegar
¾ cup olive oil (fruity would be great for this recipe)
1 Tbl honey (this helps cut the acidity)
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine dressing ingredients and whisk
Combine salad ingredients then toss together adding dressing to taste

Pumpkin has such a light flavor that I often roast it to bring out the sweetness and depth. Before you make your next pumpkin pie try placing your pumpkin puree (canned or fresh) in a 9x13 baking pan in the oven for about 30 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring every 8 to 10 minutes, it will dry out just a bit, however it will really bring out a great pumpkin flavor by caramelizing some of the natural sugars.

A great side dish (one of our favorites) is:

Israeli Couscous with Butternut Squash
2 cups butter nut squash (diced small)
2 Tbl olive oil
1 cup pearl couscous (aka Israeli couscous)
1 Tbl olive oil
2 cup vegetable stock
½ cup diced red bell pepper
½ cup parsley chopped
¼ cup currants
¼ cup pine nuts
Salt and pepper to taste

Toss the butternut squash with olive oil and a touch of salt and pepper. Place it on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake till golden and tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Bring the 2 cups of broth to a boil, stir in olive oil and then couscous; cover and remove from the heat allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed. If all of the liquid is not absorbed, return to stove for 3 to 5 minutes on low. Use a fork to fluff up the couscous. At this point, if serving warm, combine all the ingredients; this works great with chicken and pork. If serving cold, allow all ingredients to cool and then combine. Add a bit of pomegranate vinaigrette; this is great with a salad and a bit of cheese.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
1 cup Pomegranate vinegar
2 cups Olive oil
¼ cup Honey
½ Tbl Salt
¼ tsp Pepper

For someone who loves pumpkin so much you might find it strange that the one thing that I do not like is pumpkin pie. Just not my favorite thing on the pie plate. However over the years I have found a great dessert recipe that I do love. It is an old fashioned “dump cake” the ideas is that you just dump all the ingredients in a pan and bake.

3 eggs
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup sugar
1 Tbl pumpkin pie spice
1 cup evaporated milk or cream

Whisk well and put in a 9x13 baking pan

1 package spice cake mix
1½ cup melted butter
½ cup chopped nuts (I like pecans)
Sprinkle the cake mix over wet mixture. Drizzle butter to cover everything. Sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350 degree for 50 minutes, till it sets. This is one of those desserts that you just want to nibble the crunchy sides off of.

Summer is here but fall is just around the corner, hope you enjoy my favorite time of the year!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Some of my favorite things

Inspiration and innovation are important in keeping the business fresh, and me excited about it.  September is almost half over and I have been keeping busy creating menus and plans for not only for this year but next year as well. I'm always on the look out for new and up coming ideas.

One of my favorite current reads is Donna Hay magazine.  It's published out of Australia, 4 to 5 times a year. For me it is great that their seasons are opposite ours; when a brides come to me in January and wants a summer time menu when I am thinking soups and stews for winter, I can open one up and see great tomato and peach recipes.

Anna Magazine out of Canada has just changed their style and layout and I cannot wait to take a look.

There are a couple of web sites that I peruse often, is one that I found by, what I call, blog spotting.  Where you just keep hitting the next blog button.  I love her photos and recipes – great inspirations.

Wedding Wire is another great spot- I am constantly looking at and reading about trends and ideas. I found this one when we were listed in a wedding- what a cool treat. I came across this web site recently. This time of year always brings back the memories of canning with my grand mother and making jam. I love the sound of those tops popping whenthey seal.

Hope you enjoy

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cheese cake or cake of cheese?

I was blog spotting – looking at random blogs when I saw this great idea for an hors d’oeuvre. Our cheese display is one of our signature items that we do often.  I pride myself on using only very local cheese, however I do use cypress grove out of Arcata- it is northern California if not within 100 miles.  I saw this great idea for a tiered cheese display that looks like a wedding cake

It is made up of three tiers. All are Chevre in a brie style. The bottom layer is truffle tremor- Chevre with truffle oil, a three pound wheel. The upper two layers are Humboldt fog, a one pound and 8 ounce wheels.

Then garnished with fresh fruits and flowers

I thought it was a great addition

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Here's my article for this month from The Petaluma Post

If you are in Sonoma County, then you know that August starts our tomato season. Although we look at tomato plants at the garden center as early as March or April and plant them in the Spring looking forward to the tomatoes of summer, unless you live in a hot spot in the county your real crop does not start till the middle or end of August. But when it does they just keep coming.

In my own yard I planted three types of tomato this year. I would happily have a dozen different types, but it is only my husband and I, and we can only eat so many. I chose a Hillbilly Deluxe; I bought it last year from Soda Farms just for the name and fell in love. It is a great meaty slicing tomato with orange variegation, with each one weighing in close to a pound. Then I chose the Sun Gold Cherry Tomato, from Cottage Garden Growers, such a great sweet cherry tomato that produces like crazy and ripens quickly; perfect for popping in a salad or just eating out of the garden. Lastly I got a Mr Stripy, yes that is the name. It is a Roma variety and should be great for cooking. I am already keeping my fingers crossed.

Over the winter months when the tomatoes are not the best I came across roasting cherry tomatoes- WOW. You cannot believe the flavor pack they have. Roasting them for just a couple of minutes brighten up sugars and balances the acidity.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes with Rosemary
2 baskets of cherry tomatoes of any variety
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 inch of rosemary
Pinch of salt and pepper

Remove the rosemary from the stem, then place all ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly. Pour onto a lipped baking pan or dish and baked 5 to 7 minutes at 350 degrees, just until the skins burst. Serve immediately or cool and store in fridge. They are a bit delicate, so add them at the last minute to whatever you are serving. Try them in a pasta salad or just enjoy with a great crusty French bread.

I love making Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato sandwiches while working in the garden, a great quick sandwich that is at its best in the summer. I like the simple classic, but I am a chef and feel compelled to upgrade them from time to time. A couple of my favorite upgrades: Mix your mayonnaise with a bit of Pesto, Try using arugula for a peppery bite instead of regular lettuce, Add lightly sautéed red onions, or for a hand held version wrap in a tortilla (one day when I was out of bread it worked great!) I have also made finger sandwiches mixing the sundried tomatoes with cream cheese, thin slices of bacon and a few leaves of arugula. One trick that I do at home is purchase the pre cooked packages of bacon- yes a bit of a treat, place in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds to crisp up and you get more time back in the garden.

An all time favorite of mine is a Tomato Tart. Also know as a Croustad, it is a rough made tart filled with tomatoes and basil topped with just a sprinkle of cheese. Very simple, very easy and very good. This recipe makes two 9 inch tarts and should serve 6 people per tart for lunch.

Tomato Croustad (filling)
8 to 10 roma tomatoes
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbl basil, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Pate Brisee (basic butter pie dough)
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter (If salted omit salt) cut into small pieces and well chilled
4 to 8 Tbl ice water

Place the flour, salt and butter in food processor, pulse until you get a small pebble texture, then begin adding the water till it just comes together to a soft dough. Do not over mix, you do not want a ball, that is too much. Remove it from machine and split into two even balls, then form each of them in to a flat disc. Wrap and refrigerate 30 to 45 minutes or over night.

Remove the dough from fridge and allow it to warm till pliable. Lightly dust rolling area with flour and roll out the dough to about a 10 inch circle. Using rolling pin move dough gently to a baking sheet.

Slice tomatoes to approximately a ¼ inch thick. Place the slices on the dough round starting 2½ inches from the edge make overlapping circle layers, overlapping approx 1/3 of each tomato. Fold the pie dough back up over the edges of the tomatoes, sprinkle with basil, cheese, salt and pepper. Bake at 400 degree until golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve warm or allow to cool. This does not hold well due to the wet nature of the tomatoes.

No mater how you enjoy them, tomatoes are the king of the summer crops!


Thursday, August 19, 2010

How do you say Cheers in Australian?

Recently for my Husband's birthday we joined friends at Stark’s in Santa Rosa for an Aussie Dinner.  We were in Australia last year for the wedding of my best friend from college, and had spoken so often of the trip that our friends wanted to join us for the dinner.

The menu they put together was creative and utilized many down under ingredients.  One of Jim's favorite items from the trip had been Kangaroo.  Yes they eat Kangaroo, you can even purchase it in the grocery store, the section is similar to that of veal here in the states. They did a ground skewer of it with vegimite sauce, as well as shrimp from the Barbi.  Our group doesn't happen to be wine drinkers, but each course was pair with a wine, so Stark's actually created cocktail pairings for us (that's good customer service!).  Our first selection was a thunder down under a ginger beer and gin combination- very refreshing.

Dinner was a three course combination of Barramundi (a wonderful white fish), Lamb –always a favorite with our table . With dinner they made another great cocktail that was fresh and very limey (but I just can't remember the name!).  For dessert they made Pavlova (an original Austrailian dessert created to honor a Russian balerina) which is a baked meringue and always one of my husbands favorite desserts.

I was thrilled that Starks’ did this dinner and while we were there they mentioned a Redneck dinner- their fans are waiting


Saturday, August 7, 2010

At The Village

More information for the event at the The Village in Corte Madera mentioned in the Cheese! blog can be found here.  It's a nice evening out, with a different band and winery each Friday for the next few weeks, and only $15.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I love cheese.

We'll be doing a special event at The Village in Corte Madera.  They have asked for our Sonoma County Bounty each week into October.  The fun part is that I am able to bring in a few more cheeses than usual to mix it up each week.

There is a newer cheese maker out of Nicasio, Nicasio Valley Cheese Company.  I'm trying out two of theirs - the Nicasio Square, a soft cow’s milk cheese and Black Mountain, a Swiss Italian cheese with a deep rich finish.  I also brought in Cameo a camembert inspired goat cheese from Redwood Hills Farms- great people.

I have long time been a fan of Cypress Grove Creamery out of Humboldt  a little bit further than my typical 100 mile radius for local cheeses, but well worth it) you don’t see too many sheep’s milk cheeses out there but they tend to be my favorite.

Don’t be afraid to pick up a new cheese the next time you are at the market.  A little bit goes a long way.  We plan approx 2oz per person on our cheese displays accented with seasonal fruits (love the figs right now) and then a great baguette. This could be dinner for me!

Here's the complete list of the new cheeses I'm trying out for the Village event in case you would like to look for them at the market:

Lambchopper – A smooth, almost buttery, organic cheese with a light and fruity aroma from Cypress Grove Creamery in Humboldt County. (semi-firm / sheep milk / pasteurized)

Capricious – A traditional California Dry Jack with rustic, pebbled rind and semi-hard yet smooth texture, caramel flavor and a mild pungency at the finish from the Achadinha Cheese Company in Sonoma County. (firm / goats milk / pasteurized)

Nicasio Square – A washed-rind cheese, aged for 30 days from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in Marin County. (soft / cows milk / pasteurized / traditional rennet not vegetarian)Cameo – A Camembert inspired tasty rind and creamy, smooth texture from Redwood Hill Farms in Sonoma County. (soft / goats milk / pasteurized)

Bermuda Triangle – A distinctive double rind of ash covered by a layer of velvety white bloom encouraging a firm, smooth interior from Cypress Grove in Humboldt County. (soft / goats milk / pasteurized)

Black Mountain – A Swiss Italian cheese with a deep rich finish from from Nicasio Valley Cheese Company in Marin County. (soft / cows milk / pasteurized / traditional rennet not vegetarian)

Pesto Jack – Another local favorite from the Sonoma Cheese Factory. (medium texture / cows milk / pasteurized)


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Summer Picnics

Here's my July column from the Petaluma Post.

When I think of summer the first thing that comes to mind is picnics. Be it a family gathering, getting together with friends and kids by the pool or an annual company event. After our long wet winter and spring everyone just wants to get outside for a bit. Planning a picnic is always a lot of fun. Family and friends offer to bring dishes or specialties, while you fill in the spaces.

Planning for those hot summer days, cold items are always a favorite; from chilled fried chicken to watermelon there are so many classics to choose from. But how about a gourmet twist on those classics...

Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
Serves 8 to 10
3 lbs Peeled Seedless Red or Yellow Watermelon
2 stems Mint
8 oz Crumbled Feta
¼ cup Sherry Vinegar

Cut the water melon into 1 inch cubes. Chiffonade (very thinly slice) the mint and add to the watermelon. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss gently. It is best prepared the same day. Serve well chilled.

Potato salad is a picnic staple, many people are leery of using mayonnaise when planning an out door event, however if you are using a commercially prepared product (Best Foods or other) you are generally safe. The preservatives added to make it shelf stable also help to keep your salad safe (although you still want to keep it a cool as you can). When making your salad, be sure that all of the ingredients are fully cooled before mixing and then allow the salad to chill over night in the refrigerator. A tasty twist is…

Turkish Potato Salad
Serves 8 to 10
3 lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
2 Lemons
1 bunch Parsley
1 bunch Green Onions
½ cup Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Boil the potatoes till fork tender, cool then slice into bite size pieces. Zest and juice two lemons and mix with olive oil. Chop the green onions and parsley. Toss everything together, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Transporting your picnic can be tricky. The bowl and other containers never seem to fit easily into the ice chest, and if they do they can make it very heavy. Try transporting things in plastic Ziploc bags and bringing your serving bowls on the side. The bags will mold to the shape of the chest, and this way the food can be transported submerged in ice and stay fresh.
When it comes to a favorite food for my family, ribs are it! My niece and nephew can each eat their weight. Ribs are a great picnic food that can be completely prepared ahead at home and eaten cold or just warmed on the grill when you are ready. A few tips for better ribs:

• I really like using Spare ribs; they are cut from the top of the rib rack, small and tender.

• When preparing your ribs there is a membrane on the underside of the bone that should be peeled away before do anything else. It is not permeable and your rub, sauce, whatever will just brush off. Use a paring knife to lift the thin film away from an edge, when you have about 1 inch up take hold of it and just pull it off, it should strip away easily. This will also help the ribs separate after cooking.

• Season with a dry rub and partially cooking in the oven before grilling.

• The last step should be the BBQ sauce so that it does not burn.

Here is my dry rub recipe. I have been known to give it as a gift, it is so popular.

Dry Rub
Yields 1 quart (enough for about 100 ribs)
2 cups Brown Sugar
1 cups Kosher Salt
¼ cup Paprika
¼ cup Chili Powder
¼ cup Black Pepper
¼ cup Granulated Garlic
¼ cup Granulated Onion
¼ cup Italian Seasoning
1 Tbl Cayenne

Just mix it all together. Store in an air tight container in a cool dry place.

Serves 6 to 8
3 racks of Spare Ribs (average Costco package - we know we all shop there)
1 cup Dry Rub

Remove the under skin from ribs, then use dry rub on both sides, allow to rest 2 to 3 hours or over night in the refrigerator. Place curved side down on a baking sheet and bake 2 hours at 250 degree, long and slow. This can be done up to 4 days before the party. Day of the party place on a low grill and just heat through. Glaze with your favorite sauce just before service.

One recipe that is dear to my heart was prepared by Grama, and is still a family classic. It’s simple (too simple really) and for my sister and I it elicits childhood memories (probably why we like it so much).

Graham Cracker Sandwich
2 packages Graham Crackers
½ cup Butter
1½ cup Powdered Sugar
2 Tbl Cocoa
1 to 2 Tbl Milk

This is a classic quick frosting that can be used in many places. Soften butter, place it, the sugar and cocoa in a mixing bowl and mix on low till combined. Add milk as necessary to make it smooth and spreadable. Spread between two Graham crackers, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate or freeze (even better).


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mud Flats

For the Rivertown Revival this weekend I decided to create a special new cookie.  It has long been a tradition to create a special dessert for events. So here it is.

The Petaluma Mud Flat Cookie.  Our cookies have a following of their own, this one is a takeoff of our basic oatmeal cookie with cocoa powder (you should know me and cocoa) and the addition of tart sweet dried cherries, chocolate chips and coconut.  I can't believe how well it came out.

Come out and try them that day only.


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Affogato - Italian for Yummy!

Lately I have been leaning toward more classical cooking, specifically French.  I think there is a time when all chefs go back to the basics.  Once you have created and changed so many dishes you need to go back to the basics again.  My first step is usually to find classic French cuisine.  French was really the first truly the first defined professional cuisine and is always a good starting off point.  This took me to K&L.

A favorite restaurant in Sebastopol is K&L’s Bistro. Right on the main drag.  I knew I was in the right place when they had rillette on the menu (a preserved meat dish) that just made my mouth water, grilled sardines and always a favorite Duck Confit (slow cooked in duck fat).

A surprise to me was K&L's Semifreddo on the dessert menu.  Many who know me know that I'm not short on perk on my own, and most family members are afraid if I ever reach for a cup of coffee. But this was must have.  Their take on a semifreddo (Italian for half frozen) is more accurately called an Affogato (Italian for drowned) was perfectly done and a new favorite dessert.  Affogato is traditionally vanilla gelato with hot espresso poured over (drowning the gelato), and you may add frangelico or another liqueur.  K&L's was paired with amoretti cookies, which when crumbled in made it really pop. The perfect ending.  If you order it, remember you need to let it sit for a just a little bit to let the espresso and gelato begin to mix, it's tough to wait with this sitting in front of you, but worth it.

So now my hunt is on for Affogato. I suspect you’ll see in on an up coming menu.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rivertown Revival

There is a new event coming to Petaluma and I am excited to be a part of it.  Saturday July 24th is the Rivertown Revival. (They also have a Facebook page.)  It is a combination of performance art, art and Steampunk. What is steam punk you might ask.  It 's like HG Wells and Jules Verne meets organic. A time of invention and creativity, usually set in the late 1800’s to the 1940’s. There will be costumes, artist created boats racing on the river, food, drink and music. The event is free. Come out and join us on Steamer Gold Landing.

The event is being created by Clementine Eco Events.  They are event production and wedding coordinators that specialize on green events.  It's the perfect pairing for us with our green certification.

We're serving Caprese Pasta Salad and a Thai Rice Vermicelli salad in a tortilla bowl.  We take a 14” tortilla and turn it into a cone - thus no plate, just a paper envelope that is compostable and we'll be using cornstarch compostable forks as well to be ultra green.

I applaud them for working towards a green event- come out and see that it can be done so well!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Art & Garden Festival

I can’t believe that the Art and Garden Festival is 9 years old.  I am very proud of the event. We will be there this year with 2 booths.

On Kentucky street we’ll be serving “Green Tacos” corn tortillas filled with pork chile verde topped with a napa cabbage and apple slaw.

We’ll also be manning the Grill with Italian Chicken Sausages served with Baguettes and whole grain mustard . If you're thirsty look for our Pomegranate Iced Tea or Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca.

Will there be cookies too? Just come out and see.

Sunday July 11th, from 11 to 5 in Downtown Petaluma.


Monday, June 28, 2010

My New Garden

Being green is important to me, both personally and professionally.  When we remodeled the building we put extra effort into making it as green as possible, and even got our green certification from the County.  At home we have also made a big change.

Last year we took out the lawn in our back yard, we put it into a compost pile and spent the winter with an adobe back yard.  For those who do not live in this area, adobe is a very heavy black clay soil.  You can even bake bricks out of it to build things (the early settlers did this).  It's also sticky and messy and gets everywhere.  Over the spring we dug trenches and added watering systems for pots and planter boxes.  Last week the planter boxes got filled and this weekend (for me Tuesday/Wednesday) I get to plant.

The crux of all this is we save all that water without the lawn and I finally get a real garden.

For a chef this is not an easy task… what to plant?  I have decided on a mix of flowers and fruits and veggies.  Already in the yard is a 5 in 1 Apple, 4 in 1 pear, a Meyer lemon bush (second love of my life to my husband, they are most flavorful lemon and have a touch sweet), a thornless Black Berry, and 2 apricot trees.

One planter that has the compost already has two types of pumpkins, a green variety and a French cooking pumpkin.  Both are great for decorating, the French pumpkin is the one that I used in the whole baked pumpkin recipe.  I planted them together one has a variegated leaf, I can't wait to see which is which.

A couple of things I am looking for is a Crane melon , yellow cherry tomatoes, and I already have a Hillbilly Deluxe Tomato.  I choose the Hillbilly deluxe, bought one last year from Soda Farms just for the name and fell in love, it's a great meaty slicing tomato with orange variegation each one weighing in close to 1 pound.

Opal and Thai Basil are a must, then a couple of Squashes and maybe some fun peppers. 

I was excited to find lemon cucumbers on of my favorite heritage veggies. They are a round cucumber that ripens to a lemony yellow color. I prefer to pick them younger at a pale green when they are more tender.

I am interested in a black watermelon. I have never grown watermelon before. The black is a small to medium size- prefect for 2 people

Anyone have any suggestions for some unique or heirloom veggies?

Not a lot of time for gardening this time of year but I can get them in and wait.

I'll add a photo of my new raised planters in a couple of days.
They came out very nice.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Perfect "Pear"

It's a very special occasion when I get to do an event for one of our own staff members.  This weekend we had a wedding for a staff member of 6 years.  She was the mellowest bride that I have ever had, I asked her why and she simply said “ I have you” and after having worked both in the kitchen and on events she knows how smooth things go.

Their location was at The Bridal Path in Santa Rosa.  A private venue that specializes in horse carriages. The bride arrive in a white horse drawn carriage with her father and then enjoyed a carriage ride and champagne with her new husband.  This location was just beautiful with a pond and spring time flowers.


Her mom hand made all of the Pear shaped candles as the wedding favors.  They are such a perfect “pear”!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Redwood Hill Gardens

Just outside of Sebastopol is a hidden hill side garden, Redwood Hill Gardens.  Rosie and Pat have put together a private redwood park setting for events.  It's a beautiful place good for 20 to 100 guests with a sunny lawn area and a poolside patio for dancing.

Thanks to Rosie and Pat for all of the help this weekend.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Best of Petaluma!

THANK YOU!  We just heard we will be recieving the Petaluma People's Choice Award (Caterer) for 2010.  Thank you for all the votes; we love this town!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Rancho Wikiup

The other wedding last weekend was at Rancho Wikiup

It's a very pretty spot and relaxing (except for the wedding part).  With rooms available for the wedding party.  A great place for a smaller wedding, family reunion, or company retreat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Celebrating Spring Produce

Here's my column from the Petaluma Post for last month.

We are lucky here in Sonoma County to have Spring in full swing; it is time to brush off the winter blues and bring on the fresh young produce. There are many items that will begin showing up at the markets that I will am eager to see to add to our menus.

To me the king of Spring will always be asparagus. The tender spears, popping out of the ground like sprouts of grass (actually their restaurant nick name is “grass”). With the tender texture and flavor my favorite preparation is simple, either grilled or roasted. Trim about 4 to 6 stalks of asparagus per person. The classic way is to snap it by holding half way up the stalk with one hand, bend the bottom end still it snaps off, this will give you the most tender part of the vegetable. Lay them out flat on a baking dish or cookie sheet and drizzle lightly with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, not very much, and then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Now roll the spears until evenly coated. Place in a medium heat oven or on a medium heat bbq for 6 to 9 minutes turning the spears once. When they are raw they should be a dull green and stiff like a pencil. They are ready when the color is brilliant green and bend and sway gently (not floppy). They can be served immediately or chilled in the refrigerator. Chop the leftovers to use them in a salad.

Another of my favorites is fresh fennel. With its sweet flavor and crisp texture it is a great addition to salads, soups and sauces. Though summer and tomatoes are a bit away you might have the wants for some fresh tomato sauce. A great way to accent that flavor is with fennel.

1 lbs Cherry Tomatoes (they are not in season, but they work well for this recipe)
1 head Fennel (sliced)
3 Tbsp EV Olive Oil
2 Cloves Garlic (crushed)
Salt and Pepper

Place all of the items in a heavy baking dish, stir well till all are coated with the olive oil. Roast at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes until the fennel is tender and the tomatoes burst. Finish with a touch of fresh chopped parsley or basil. This is great tossed with Pasta, over Polenta or Chicken. The fennel adds just a touch of sweetness to the tomatoes.

If you are lucky you may find my favorite hard to find item, Fresh Pea Sprouts. This is the recipe for you. These tender sprouts are just the tips of the plants and are very common in Asian Cuisine. Being so young they are very very tender and barely need cooking.

4 oz Shitake Mushrooms (very thinly sliced)
4 cloves Garlic (crushed and chopped)
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil (you don’t want olive oil it will over whelm the flavors)
1 tsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Water
8 oz Pea Sprouts (this looks like a lot but they cook down)

In a large sauté pan or wok heat the oil to medium high heat (do not let it smoke), add in the shitake mushrooms and then the garlic. The mushrooms will cool down the oil just enough that the garlic will not burn. Sauté till slightly browned and wilted. Mix the water and the soy sauce together. Have a lid ready. Add the snow peas to the pan turning 2 to 3 times to just wilt. Quickly add the water and soy mixture. Cover and allow to steam for a couple of minutes. They are ready to serve. A recent evening at home I could not find the pea sprouts and substituted fresh baby spinach- it worked great.

When I was little as soon as the warm days started I would begin looking for cherries to arrive. The first jewel of the fruit world comes in looking just like a ruby. From Rainiers to Queen Annes I can never wait for that first basket. My grandfather would stop at a roadside stand and buy us each a bag and I would eat till my lips were red. Cherries are a very delicate fruit to cook with. They are a stone fruit (the category of fruits that have a center pit) and must be pitted before use. But they are really worth it.

Cherry Clafouti, sounds so French and a bit fancy, yet it is very similar to a classic batter cobbler, great for a dessert or a nice brunch side dish. Serve with a bit of Crème Fraiche or Whipped Cream.

Preheat the oven to 400
Butter a 9” baking dish

1 lbs Cherries (pitted) I recommend tart and red
½ cup Flour
¼ tsp Salt
2 Eggs
2 T sugar
¾ cup Milk
1 tsp Vanilla
Zest ½ Lemon

Place sugar, salt and flour in a bowl and whisk together slightly. Combine all wet ingredients including the zest by whisking together, then add this to the dry ingredient mix till smooth. If you have lumps you, either place in a blender or pour though a sieve to smooth. Place the cherries in the bottom of the buttered baking dish, pour the batter over the cherries. Bake for 18 minutes before checking, do not open the door early or it will fall. When puffed and golden remove from the oven dust with powdered sugar and serve immediately.

Welcome to Spring!