September 27, 2003
cauli/proscuitto pasta

I made this for lunch today - it's tangy and spicy and reallly brings out the flavor of the cauliflower, i think. The salty proscuitto compliments the capers and the vegetables, and the garlic ties the flavors together with a bit of earthy richness. Serves 2.

2 tsp butter
2 tsp capers, drained
4 oz pasta, dried (i used penne rigate; orichiette would be even better)
1 small head cauliflower
1 large/2 small cloves of garlic, minced
4 slices proscuitto (di Parma style, at least.)
half a lemon
salt, pepper, chile flakes

1. Put water on for the pasta. Put a skillet of water on for the veg & sauce.
2. Cut the cauliflower into tiny florets (dime-sized, really)
3. When the pasta water boils, cook the pasta.
4. While pasta is cooking, cook the cauliflower in the skillet o' water until it's lost most of it's crunch. (5-6 minutes? Taste frequently.) Drain the cauliflower.
5. Sautée the garlic in the butter for a few minutes over medium. Toss in the capers, cook another minute. Toss in the cauliflower, cook another minute or two. Add salt & pepper to taste, and a pinch of chile flakes.
6. When the pasta is done, reserve a little bit of the water, and drain it. Toss it in with the cauliflower. Squeeze the half-lemon over the pan. Toss. Add salt, pepper, and chile to your liking. Perhaps more lemon, if you want it tarter.
7. Portion it into two wide bowls, and tear 2 slices of proscuitto over each serving.

Posted by shock on September 27, 2003
September 24, 2003
katana-ya ramen

Katana-ya Ramen
10546 San Pablo Ave (at Moeser Lane), El Cerrito

It's hard to add anything to what Dan Leone has to say in the link above, but I'd like to throw in my own glowing recommendation for this little Japanese restaurant in an El Cerrito strip mall. I had one of the ramen combos (ramen + gyoza + salad + pickled vegetables + drink, $8) after church on Sunday, and everything was yummilicious. The menu has literally more than a hundred items and combos to choose from, everything from sushi to noodles to teriyaki. It's not fancy, but the prices are definitely right. By the way, many treasures can be found in El Cerrito strip malls, but more on that later.

Posted by astraea on September 24, 2003
September 22, 2003
9/25: wine testing

We are at it again here at Amphora Wine Merchant...offering a great value for
your hard earned money. For $5 you can come and taste 8 Aromatic White Wonders of the World this Thursday, 9/25, and have a little cheese and bread to boot! If that was not enough, all wines are served chilled so you can beat the heat:) All the particulars are below. Hope to see you all here this Thursday!

Location: The Garden Room (just off the communal garden behind the wine shop)

Cost: $5 per person. Please stop in the wine shop first and pay for your tasting prior to coming into the Garden Room

Time: 6pm to 8 pm this Thursday, September 25, 2003. Please arrive anytime
prior to 7:30 pm as we will be shutting the doors and sending everyone home at 8 pm.

Discounts: All Wine Club Members get 10% off cost of admission. All
participants will get 10% off the purchase of any of the featured wines on the
day of the tasting.

Featured Wines:
Albarino - Condes de Albarei, Rias Baixas, Spain 2002
Alsatian Blend - Leon Beyer "La Cuvee", Eguisheim, France 2001
Chenin Blanc - Pierre Soulez Savennieres Roche Aux Moines "Cuvee d'Avant, Loire
Valley, France 1999
Gewurtztraminer - Gunderloch "Dry Style", Rheinhessen, Germany 2001
Riesling - Von Buhl Spatlese Trocken, Ruppertsberger Reiterpfad, Pfalz, Germany
Gewurtztraminer - Spy Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand 2002
Pinot Gris - "A to Z", Willamette Valley, Oregon 2002
Viognier - Alban Vineyards, Central Coast, California 2002

Upcoming Tastings: (Please note the new times and dates)

Thursday, October 2nd, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm - "Aussie Invasion" with Neil
Mechanic. Savor a variety of white, red and "stickies" (dessert) wines
covering the major growing areas of Australia.

Saturday, October 4th, 1 pm to 3 pm - "An afternoon with North Berkeley
Imports" with Matt Licklider, Import Sales Manager. Take a palate tour of
Burgundy, Alsace, Loire Valley, Rhone Valley and the South of France.

Thursday, October 9th, 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm - "Spain is on Fire" with Neil
Mechanic. Learn why Spain is a hot bed of world class wines today. Savor the
wines of Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, La Mancha and Toro.

Saturday, October 11th, 1 pm to 3 pm - "Charles Neal Imports Presents".
Discover the great values coming out of Southwestern France, the Languedoc, and the Rhone Valley. Proprietor and local importer Charles Neil will offer an
informative perspective of these regions.

John Ogden
Wine Consultant
Amphora Wine Merchant
384 Hayes St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
Fax 415-863-0926

Posted by shock on September 22, 2003
September 21, 2003

1501 Solano Ave (at Curtis St), Albany

I actually wrote a little blurb about Fonda a couple years ago on Astrarium, and I figured I was long overdue for a trip back, especially as it seems to have survived quite nicely in a time when many restaurants are closing left and right. I arrived in the middle of the dinner rush on a very-warm evening, and boisterous patrons were spilling out onto the patios out front. I chose a place at the bar and ordered the grilled skirt steak. It arrived perfectly arranged on a bed of cactus and avocado salad and the tiniest cherry tomatos ever with the plate studded with mild cheese. Delicious! There was enough to generously fill 3 warm corn tortillas, and I especially liked the twist of lime flavor.

Posted by astraea on September 21, 2003

I made these vegetarian Chili-Cheese Black Bean Enchiladas from the September 2003 Cooking Light for salon Friday night. I might try making them for the fleaclan soon; they were super-easy and I think Sophie would love them. I never would have thought of using cream cheese in the filling, but it added a yummy creamy consistency to the insides. I thank the powers that be that I live in an area where I never have to worry about having trouble finding enchilada sauce or soy crumbles in the grocery store, but chopped-up veggie burgers could sub in for the crumbles in a pinch.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped onion, and saute 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, 2 garlic cloves, minced, 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained, and 1 (12-ounce) bag frozen soy crumbles, thawed (such as Morningstar Farms), and cook 2 minutes, stirring mixture frequently.

Stir in 3/4 cup bottled salsa, and cook 1 minute. Remove from heat, and add 1/3 cup (3 ounces) block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened, and 1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded reduced-fat extrasharp cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts.

Warm 12 (6-inch) corn tortillas according to package directions. Spread 1/3 cup of a 1 (10-ounce) can enchilada sauce in bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon about 1/3 cup black bean mixture down the center of each tortilla, and roll up. Arrange enchiladas, seam sides down, crosswise in dish. Pour remaining enchilada sauce evenly over enchiladas, and sprinkle with 1/2 cup cheddar. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Yield: 6 servings.

Posted by astraea on September 21, 2003
September 18, 2003
Lorca - Dali Experience

Wow. Just wow.

Lorca is just such a fantastic restaurant with their regular tasting menu, and I had a feeling their special evenings would be amazing, and having one that was inspired by the works of Salvador Dali definitely promised to be an amazing experience, and I have to say, they exceeded my expectations.

My three companions and I arrived at Lorca at 9pm for our 9pm seating, and waited in the bar until some time between 9:30 and 9:45 to be seated. We were able to peruse the menu in advance, and it was delightfully crypitc. It listed out the nine courses, with images of dali paintings under each. Instead of listing what we were to eat, instead it listed a quote for each course, which we were later to learn would be conversation topics.

Finally, we were seated, and very quickly were served our pre-dinner apertifs. Instead of the usual sherry with cracker and olive, we received little glasses of what I believe was called a menthalyptus liquor, which was just delightful. After we'd sipped ours down, our waiter returned to say, oh, sorry, forgot to mention the extra ingredient in the drinks.... leg of spider.


And then, the courses began:

Un - "Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it."

Glass latte cups with handles were placed before us, with a plate placed upon them. Our waiter informed us that this was our soup course. The cups contained a chilled avocado and cilantro soup, which we were to drink out of the cups (no spoons). We were instructed (our waiter was all about instructing us) to remove the plates from the cups, drink the soup and eat the items on the plate in whatever order we wished, but he recommend we eat the items on the plate in this order:

Pickle, then marinated mushroom, then cactus, then sesame sticks

My first pickle! I normally avoid them, but it was not bad! The cactus was awfully interesting and flavorful, but the star of this course was really the soup. Even uvula, who hates cilantro, liked it.

Even though it had a special ingredient, which our waiter told us halfway through the course was eyelid of squid.

Dos - "Don't bother about being modern. Unfortunately it is the one thing that whatever you do, you cannot avoid."

Our salad course was a plate of several delights.
A selection of mixed greens with jicama and carrots, next to a pool of mint and red bell pepper oils.
A flat cookie with diced tuna atop it.
A small cigar shape of olive tapenade topped with half a quail egg and tobiko. A cherry tomato with balsamic reduction.

That was the order we were instructed to eat them in.

The mixed greens were delightful, the tuna cookie was my favorite, the olive tapenade was good but very very potent. I couldn't bring myself to overcome my t-negative status, and gave my cherry tomato to davinator.

Tres - "It is either easy or impossible."

This was my favorite course. Two circles of roasted beet, a garlic crouton, goat cheese sprinkled with herbs, and a basil leaf. We were left to our own devices as to how to consume, and each of us ate them in different ways. Such fabulous flavors! I must expore beets more fully. As our waiter had stopped informing us of the secret ingredients, we used our powers of investigation to determine that ground ear wig pinchers had been sprinkled upon the goat cheese.

Quatre - "There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction."

Champagne glasses were brought to the table, filled with what I believe was called Kava, with a scoop of peach sherbert, and a mint leaf. We were to swish the sherbert about, and then drink the concoction down, to cleanse our palates. Which we did, and there was, dare i say, too much satisfaction? And with that, we moved on to our main courses.

Cinc - "I don't take drugs: I am drugs."

Can you tell which quote is my fave?

This was one of the most complex and interesting courses. A piece of braised catfish, sitting on a bed of oxtail, with a smattering of fresh corn and shitakes. A wonderful combination of flavors, especially the corn. Mmmmm.....

Oh, and ant heads. Definitely ant heads mixed in there somewhere.

Sis - "Mistakes are almost always of a sacred nature. Never try to correct them. On the contrary: rationalize them, understand them thoroughly. After that, it will be possible for you to sublimate them."

Oh, this one was quite special. I like to think of it as the burningman course. A dense piece of chicken breast, flavored with sherry and cinnamon, wrapped in bacon, with an orange glaze (and lying in a pool of orange), which they poured flaming brandy over. Yummah! And oooh! Fire Pretty! uvula's seemed to burn quite a bit longer than hours did.

Oh, and somewhere in there was a single human hair.

Set - "The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet. The first to repeat it was possibly an idiot."

Our last main course was simple yet delicious. Braised lamb with rosemary and red wine, topped with a parmesan cracker, which in turn was topped with a blue cheese mousse. And we are quite convinced that there was a smattering of crushed stag horn beetle horn.

Vuit - "The reason that some portraits don't look true to life is that some people make no effort to resemble their pictures."

Mmmmm... A poached fig lying in a pool of delicious sauce, with a curved thin almond cookie lying vertical, with three dollops of strawberry whipped cream at the top of the plate. The whipped cream made me want to order buckets and buckets of it and just dive on in. Very swoony.

Nou - "Wars have never hurt anybody, except the people who die."

Our final course was a chocolate torte topped with a papaya mousse, with various yummy things around the plate to nibble upon. the papaya mousse had the most amazing flavor ever. Definitely didn't remind me of papaya. Mmmm....

With this, we were all turning into pumpkins (we finished at 12:30am). All in all, a spectacular dining experience. I will definitely go back for their monthly special wednesday tasting menus.

Total Price:

$34 for tasting menu
$15 for wine pairing (three wines, all perfect, no details recorded)

yay lorca!

Posted by carrie on September 18, 2003
a bornschlegel dinner

We had my in-laws over for dinner on Sunday night - Laverne, Andrea, and John. I was going to do a miso-marinated scallop on salad dish, but the heat wave disappeared, and it was quite cold! My farmers' market trip paid off, and with a quick trip to the Good Life down the street, i was set for a warm and homey dinner.

The final menu:
risotto with baby zucchini
fried stuffed squash blossoms
fig medly salad

The risotto was done with vegetable stock and white vermouth; i finished it with a bunch of Capricious goat cheese and then tossed in the halved zucchinis sautéed in butter and basil. Spooned that onto the places, and topped them with the squash blossoms and a rosette of proscuitto. The squash blossoms were exciting! I've never cooked them before! Open them and check for bugs, stuff with chevre and chopped sage. Dip in egg and roll in masa harina just before frying in olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Make sure to keep them hot - mine cooled off a bit before service.

The salad was lovely greens and mache from the market, apples, pears, figs, basil chiffonade, pistachios and blue cheese, with a dressing made with olive oil, mustard, and lulu's fig balsamic. The salad paired especially well with the Navarro Zinfandel we drank with dinner.

We had leftover birthday cake and a berry and peach gallette for dessert. Tasty! n A lovely housewarming.

Posted by shock on September 18, 2003
September 13, 2003
Blue Berry Lemon Banana Bread

So just to hop back in with a bang...

P cooked up this amazing, tangy, tart loaf of banana bread and I just can't stop eating it! Personally, I think the cream cheese glaze is gratuitous and would be just as luscious without. Recipe from Cooking Light (Sept 03).

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter. softened
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2)
1/2 egg substitute *
1/3 cup reduced fat sour cream **
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
cooking spray

1/4 cup block style 1/3 less fat cream cheese
3 tbsp powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp water

1. preheat oven to 30
2. combine flour, baking soda, and salt and mix together
3. place granulated sugar and butter into bowl and beat togther until blended. Add mashed bananas, egg, sour cream, and vanilla and beat until blended. Add flour mixture and beat at low speed. Gently fold in blueberries and rind. Spoon batter into loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick comes out clean. Cool bread for 10 minutes in pan and then cool completely on rack.
4. to prepare glaze, mix ingredients and stir with whisk until smooth. Drizzle over cooled loaf.

* P used 1 egg
** P used fat free sour cream (the brand in the cow container, YUM)

Posted by mo on September 13, 2003
September 12, 2003
miss millie's

Miss Millie's Creative American Cuisine is a wonderful Noe neighborhood secret tucked away at the top of 24th street (between Castro and Diamond). Better known for their breakfast and brunch faire, we discovered this evening that Miss Millie's also boasts a fantastically well rounded dinner menu: about 10 creative salads and over a dozen delicious entrees (some veggie-friendly!), with a tasty looking wine menu and lots of non-alcoholic alternatives. Homemade breads and biscuits were trotted out to start. For my entree I tucked into a dreamy plate of garlicky Linguine and Manila Clams while Tad sampled a beautiful heirloom tomato salad, followed by the ultimate comfort food: a homey plate of mac and cheese. We were too stuffed for dessert (although everything off the dessert menu sounded incredible). The decor was homey and tasteful, but classy: all in all one of the nicest meals I have had in a long time - and at $38 total it was a great bargain! I think we found a new family haunt.

PS - Three words: Fresh raspberry lemonade. Three more: Minty Meyer lemonade. Yum!

Posted by rebecca on September 12, 2003
cocktail party menu?

Ok, kids - this isn't a Friday Five, but it is a Friday discussion!
I'm having a cocktail party, resplendant with champagne cocktails (and of course, a few other varieties and non-alcoholic yummies).

What are your favorite champagne cocktails? What kind of food would you serve alongside them? I'm looking for inspiration here, folks!

Posted by shock on September 12, 2003
September 08, 2003
olives and vinegar

October 4th and 5th Canada College will be hosting the Arts & Olive festival. I can't say I was impressed by the art there, but the dozens of vendors of fine olive oil and flavored vinegars were great! I've been the last two years -- anyone want to join me this year? I'll probably head down that Sunday.

Posted by heather on September 08, 2003
September 06, 2003
carrara's cafe

Carrara's Cafe
2735 Broadway (at 27th St), Oakland

I made a deal with myself: if all the culture I'm doing now is free, I can afford one inexpensive meal out each weekend. And I'm keen on seeking out all the nifty places the East Bay has to offer. I think I hit bullseye with Carrara's this morning.

I had one of their benedicts: poached egg, slice of heirloom tomato, HUGE chunk of mozzarella, herb scone, hollandaise sauce on top. It made me do the happy counter dance. Beautifully herbed Yukon gold potato chunks on the side with NO ONIONS topped with a dab of sour cream, also a smattering of fruit. Pure bliss.

For some reason, it's in a car dealership.

Posted by astraea on September 06, 2003
September 04, 2003
earthquake pasta

I paused to grab the counter for an instant and then went right back to boiling the linguine. This garlicky menu from the September 2003 Cooking Light was a snap to throw together on a weeknight for a tired after-work girl. And, as Laura pointed out, it's all vegetarian!

Linguine with Garlicky Breadcrumbs
Arugula and hearts of palm salad
Cantaloupe and honeydew melon

I made the breadcrumbs a few days ago so I wouldn't have to deal with that part tonight. It would be easy to jazz up the pasta even further with some gorgonzola and walnuts.

For the linguine, preheat oven to 250 degrees.

Place 1 slice day-old hearty white bread, torn, in a food processor; pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure 2/3 cup. Place breadcrumbs on a baking sheet. Bake at 250 degrees for 30 minutes or until dry.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 6 garlic cloves, minced; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes. Return pan to heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, and cook 6 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently.

Cook 8 ounces uncooked linguine according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Place pasta in a large bowl. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil, breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings.

For the salad, divide 6 cups trimmed arugula, 1 cup julienne-cut red bell pepper, 1 cup coarsely chopped jarred hearts of palm, and 1 cup canned garbanzo beans evenly among 4 salad plates. Combine 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/8 teaspoon black pepper, and 1 crushed garlic clove, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle evenly over salads.

Posted by astraea on September 04, 2003