Saturday, March 26, 2011

Petaluma Wedding Bells

Here's my March column from the Petaluma Post:

Have I told you before that I think Petaluma is pretty great? I am a local kid, born and raised in this town. There is a wonderful emerging trend; we are becoming a great location for destination weddings. But we are already here, so why not take advantage of being in such a great location

Everyone has taken a hit in the last couple of years, but people still want to get married, and they should. But do it here in our own great town. We can have what travelers consider a world class destination, but with all the convenience and cost savings of a home town wedding. Think about keeping your guest list to 50 and you have some really cool locations to think about. Imagine being surrounded by art, the Petaluma art center is available for events and with the rose garden in front for photos is a great treat. If you want a more dramatic ballroom feeling, just look to the third floor under the clock tower at the Masonic center. It is a beautifully redone Victorian era ball room with hard wood floors that can seat up to 125 people. I am a huge fan of arts and crafts style buildings, which brings me to one of my favorites, the Petaluma Women’s Club on B street. A local classic with open beam ceilings and a fire place, it has a warm and homey feeling. If you looking for a bit bigger take a look at Garden Valley Ranch with its beautiful rose gardens or Flying Cloud Farm with its stables. There is no reason to go further.

The leading trend in weddings this year is back to basics, a rustic chic. Don’t be afraid to make your own bouquets and boutonnieres. Have some fun with your table decorations. The colors are a bit more muted with Stone and Navy being popular. I feel that taking cues from mother nature will be popular.

Thinking of food, I am thrilled to see so many people wanting local items. Local is fresh and ripe, often providing heirloom varieties, and good for the local economy. This does come with a hitch; it takes the understanding that not everything is available all year round. We might discuss peaches, but if the season runs late we might have apples. I have been looking at more local growers to work with this year. Green String Farms ( grows a variety of produce, eggs and meat as well as hosting interns who are learning about green practices and sustainable growing techniques. Another vendor is County Line Harvest; I have been enjoying their produce from at the Marin Farmers Market, last week they had a red mustard that I have never seen before and was just delicious. Of course the cheeses in the area are without mention, Cow Girl Creamery, Bellwether Farms, Point Reyes Blue… I can make a meal of those alone. All of these items are a great way to introduce people to our beautiful and bountiful area.

There are several great vendors to use here in town. Are you looking for a creative and unique wedding invitation? Making them yourself! Take a trip downtown to Paper White on Kentucky Street. This unique shop can help with anything from the printing to papers and punches. Bryce at Vanda Floral is one of my favorites. With his style and laid back Petaluma attitude his flowers are always a highlight. I always love one of his bouquets (that’s a hint to hubby).

Thinking about not wearing tuxes but your guy needs a suit; stroll on down to Louis Thomas Fine Men's Apparel to see what they have. They are just down the street from Paper White. From casual linen to formal suits, they have someone on site to give advice and make sure the fit is perfect.

When it comes to ladies attire Nan Winter’s shop is my place to be. For couture style here in Petaluma (two blocks down the street from Louis Thomas) she has unique bridal dresses, great pieces for the mother of the bride and bridesmaid galore. Looking for a gift for your brides maids, she has a wonderful selection of jewelry and accent pieces.

From food to venues to flowers to everything else, this is the place to be. Think about sharing our incredible town with your wedding guests.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Just recently we were at a catering conference in Las Vegas, yeah Vegas baby!  Well not really to me.  After having gone down almost annually for 8 years it wears off.  This year however we got to stay in the new Cosmopolitan that is attached to the new city center.  To all of the foodies out there this is a huge great thing. There are new restaurants with new menus.

Back In the 80’s when vegas was reborn all of the great chefs of the time opened restaurants, the problem is they opened and left them. Many of the menus are very stale and typical of that time. The new city center with the Cosmo and the Aria have some great new places to try.

This brings me to the actual point of this blog, we went to Todd English’s PUB.  I happen to like Todd English’s Olives in the Bellagio (mostly the bar- love the Sling Back) so it was definitely on my want to try list.  We ordered up a plate of dirty chips, fresh potato chips, bacon, blue cheese and chicken livers.  My husband always comments that you can tell when there is a chef at the table by what they get excited by; I love chicken livers, fried, sautéed, terrine... yum.  These were delicately fried and set around the chips. Sorry to say the dish overall was way too salty, even cocktails could not wash it down, but the chicken livers were great; could have done a whole plate of them alone.

As a chef, my thank you to all of the restaurants that add those special dishes that I go looking for.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Children's Corner

Just down the street is Children's Corner Preschool.  I was inspired to cook when I was very young, so when they asked if I could come over and do a cooking demo for the kids I was more than happy to go.  We had a lesson about quesadillas, then the kids helped me make them for the class.  Lots of fun with the next generation of chefs!

The Daily Grain

Here's my February column from the Petaluma Post:

I have spent over half of my life in the commercial kitchen starting from the age of 16; I read, watch, talk and live food. American eating habits have changed greatly over the last 25 years. One that has become more and more prominent over the years is the re-introduction of whole grains to our diets. Even 15 years ago whole wheat breads were the closest that many of us came to a whole grain. Now it seems whenever possible they are replacing white flour and adding nutrients even in everyday items.

But, what is a whole grain? An important question when one is specifically looking to amend the diet. According to the Whole Grain Council (yes there is such a thing):

“Whole grains or foods made from them contain all the essential parts and naturally-occurring nutrients of the entire grain seed. If the grain has been processed (e.g., cracked, crushed, rolled, extruded, and/or cooked), the food product should deliver approximately the same rich balance of nutrients that are found in the original grain seed.”

Now to get more of these in our daily diets.

Quinoa is one of my favorites. It is one of the world’s oldest grains, having originated in the Andes with the Incas, and is the only plant product to contain all 8 of the essential amino acids. It comes regularly in four colors, red, purple, black and “natural” (all four are naturally occurring). A surprise here is that the natural color (light tan) is actually the most nutritious of the four (we typically expect colorful to mean nutritious). It has a small size, which means that it cooks rapidly, making it friendly to your weeknight dinner. Look for it in both the bulk food section and also near the rice in any grocery store. I love this Crimini Mushroom and Quinoa Pilaf, it is great as a side dish or used as a stuffing.

Crimini Mushroom & Quinoa Pilaf
Serves 2 to 4
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 small Onion (diced)
1 cup Crimini Mushrooms (sliced)
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups Mushroom or Vegetable Stock

Sauté the mushrooms and onion in olive oil till wilted. Add quinoa and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes till warm and coated. Add the broth and bring to a full boil, then reduce to a simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

I love to use Barley in pilafs and soups; it is a great addition. Aside from its use as food, barley is the root of the English measurement system. In 1324 Edward II of England standardized the inch as equal to “three grains of barley, dry and round, placed end to end lengthwise." The foot, the yard, the mile, and all other English measurements followed on. I think that is neat.

Mushroom Barley Soup
Serves 4 to 8
1 small Onion (diced)
2 lbs White or Crimini Mushrooms (sliced)
4 Tbs Olive Oil
1 tsp Dried Thyme
1 cup Carrot (diced)
1 cup Celery (diced)
6 cups Mushroom, Veg or Chicken Stock
¾ cup Barley
Salt and Pepper to taste

Sauté mushrooms and onions in the olive oil till wilted. Add the carrots and celery and sauté 5 more minutes. Add the chicken broth and barley then bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for approximately 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Cracked Bulgur is often used in Mediterranean cuisine. If you need a salad for a picnic but are unsure how cold you can keep it or you don’t want to use mayonnaise, then try Tabbouleh; this wonderful salad is a blank slate for your personal tastes and ideas. We make it in any number of different fashions from dried fruit to Mexican flavors.

Serves 4 to 6
1 cup Bulgur
1½ cup Boiling Water
¼ cup Lemon Juice
¼ cup Olive Oil

This is the basic recipe to prepare the bulgur. Add bulgur to the boiling water, stir well then cover and allow to sit for 1 hour. This step can also be done overnight. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil. Add your favorite ingredients.

Winter Fruit Tabbouleh
Tabbouleh from previous recipe
1 medium Apple or a firm Pear (diced)
¼ cup Dried Apricots (chopped)
¼ cup Craisins
¼ cup Celery (diced)
1 bu Parsley (chopped)
¼ cup Toasted Almonds (chopped)
3 Tbs Honey

Add all ingredients to Tabbouleh, toss, then allow to rest 2 to 3 hours before serving.

Adding whole grains to you diet takes a bit of extra work and thought, but they are well worth it in flavor and health benefits.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Lamb Tagine

We were out at Dutcher Crossing Winery this weekend for the annual Barrel Tasting for the wineries in the Dry Creek area near Healdsburg.  We served our Lamb Tagine, which we'll also be serving at Dutcher again next weekend for the end of Barrel Tasting.  It's a great event amd a lovely drive; hope to see you there.

Lamb Tagine

Ingredients (Dry Rub)
4 Tablespoons Paprika
1 Tablespoon Tumeric
2 Tablespoons Cumin
1 Tablespoon Cayenne
4 Tablespoons Cinnamon
1 Tablespoon Clove ground
2 Tablespoons Cardamom
4 Tablespoons Salt
2 Tablespoons Ginger
3 Tablespoons Garlic powder
3 Tablespoons Coriander ground
4 Tablespoons Brown sugar

Instructions (Dry Rub)
Mix all dry rub ingredients

Ingredients (Lamb)
6 lbs Leg of Lamb
Dry Rub

Instructions (Lamb)
Rub the Leg of Lamb with Dry Rub
Allow to rest for 3 to 4 hours
Slow roast at 225 degrees for 8 to 10 hours (until falling apart tender)
Shred and use in soup or risotto


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Chèvre Galette

And, as promised, here is the Galette recipe from the event Michel-Schlumberger winery.

Chèvre Galette Flat Bread
1 sheet Puff Pastry (from the grocery store, thawed and flattened)
1 lbs Chèvre (fresh soft goat cheese)
2 Eggs
½ cup Candied Pecans (pralines, chopped)

Place the puff pastry on a work surface. Using a fork dock the pastry heavily, 2 to3 times in each direction. Use a ruler to cut in to 2” strips, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet.

Mix 1 egg with 2 tablespoons of water, whisk well to create an egg wash. Brush each strip with egg wash, then set aside.

Combine Chèvre, egg and chopped pralines, mix well by hand or with a mixer. Place into piping bag, pipe down the center of each strip of pastry.

At this time you can freeze this for 7 to10 days or bake. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes, till golden.

Cut each strip before serving 12 to 15 pieces per strip

1 cup Pecans (whole or chopped does not matter)
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Water

Place all thee in a sauce pan and bring up to a boil. Boil 4 to 5 minutes then drain.

Lightly grease a cookie sheet, place pecans on sheet, and bake 10 to15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes till dry and crunchy.


Braised Beef Short Rib Pot Pies

Pardon me, I'm a little tardy getting this recipe up.  We had many requests for this after the event at Michel-Schlumberger winery.  I'll also post hte galette recipe as a seperate blog in just a moment.

Braised Beef Short Rib Pot Pies - A tender bite size beef pastry with a hearty filling

Filling Ingredients
2 lbs Beef Short Ribs, cut to 2” x 2”
3 cups Beef Broth
3 cups Red Wine
¼ cup Vegetable Oil
1 cup Diced Carrot (separate into ½ cups)
1 cup Diced Celery (separate into ½ cups)
1 cup Diced Onion (separate into ½ cups)
1 tsp Thyme
4 Bay Leaves
4 Tbs Flour
2 Tbs Vegetable Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

Brown the short ribs in vegetable oil. Set aside.
Sauté ½ of the diced vegetables and thyme until golden, then add to the short ribs
Cover with wine and broth
Bake covered at 250° for 6 to 8 hours (until tender)
Remove the short ribs (gently)
Strain the juice from the ribs to remove the herbs and vegetables for a cleaner sauce.
Combine and whisk the 2T of vegetable oil and 4T of flour
Add juice from the ribs
Cook until thickened (about 3 to 5 minutes). Allow to cool completely.
Cut beef into ½” cubes
Add remain diced veg and mix together
Cut 4” rounds from your favorite pie dough
Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of filling on each round
Egg wash the edges, fold over and crimp closed
Poke a vent in the top
Bake at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes, till golden