Thursday, May 07, 2009

New Digs

Until Further Notice... come on over to my other blog, there is lots of cooking going on there and some other fun stuff too... see ya across the sea!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crab Season Opens!

Crab Season Opens!

This will be my last Dungeness Crab Season in the East Bay as we are moving to Hawaii in January. So, I plan to take full advantage of every morsel! Dungeness Crabs are sweet large crabs (about the size of snow crabs) that are named after the town in Washington State where they were first harvested. Today they are harvested all up and down the Pacific Coast of the US and most of Mexico.

Yesterday I went to Whole Foods and got two crabs ($5.99 a pound!) and had them cleaned and cracked. I brought them home and roasted them, then made a tangerine sauce to go over them. I normally do a blood orange sauce, but the blood oranges are not quite ready and we have tons of beautiful tangelos and tangerines. Meyer Lemons also make a nice sauce, but you should add some Agave syrup to it. We had a very messy but delicious dinner. Here is the recipe for Garlic Roasted Crabs with Tangerine Sauce:

The buttery garlic citrus sauce that coats the crabmeat and the shells is part of the pleasure of this dish; to really enjoy it, dispense with the utensils and just eat the crab with your hands. Serve crusty sourdough bread and a salad.

Yield: Makes 2 servings


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/2 cup olive oil
6 tablespoons minced garlic
6 tablespoon minced shallot
2 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper (less if you do not like spicy things)
2 large Dungeness crabs, cooked, cleaned, and cracked (about 4 1/4 pounds)
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme, divided
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, divided
1 cup , tangerine, blood orange juice or regular orange juice (freshly squeezed)
2 teaspoons finely grated citrus peel (from whatever fruit you are using)


Preheat oven to 500°F. Melt butter with oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.
Stir in garlic, shallot, and dried crushed red pepper.
Add crabs; sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped thyme and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley over crabs.
Stir to combine.
Place skillet in oven and roast crabs until heated through, stirring once, about 12 minutes. There should be slight browning on the shells.

Using tongs, transfer crabs to platter.
Add juice and peel to same skillet; boil until sauce is reduced by about half, about 5-10 minutes. Spoon sauce over crabs.
Sprinkle with remaining thyme and parsley and serve with copious amounts of napkins and hot fingertowels.

What is next? Perhaps crab enchiladas! Meanwhile, I am looking forward to tasting Kona Crab!

Aloha au i Hawai`i,

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Blog!

The traveling fork will still travel, but it has been increasingly more "local" as we move to our new home in Hawaii. I am going to be posting regularly about life in Hawaii and so I created a new blog just for that. In the first year or two, most of our travel will be centered on Oceania. But I will continue to post food adventures here.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Viva Cubana!

Last night my good friends from Cuba, Irene and Hector came for dinner. I hesitated to cook a Cuban style meal, and then again I really was in the mood for one as there are no decent Cuban restaurants around here (SF East Bay) . Hence Porchetta with black beans and a corn dish (Corn Maque Choux) from their second home, Louisiana. As I always do, if I am loading the smoker, I add some other goodies, this time 10# of raw California Almonds from my uncle's farm in Chico, seasoned with my own spice mix and a bit of olive oil.

At my cooking school ( ) , Cuban nights are among the best attended and requested. So many people are unfamiliar with Cuban cooking and really want to learn more about it. Many people expect it to be like Mexican, Mayan or Caribbean, but Cuban food, just like it's people has a taste of it's own. It is far less spicy and probably a little more fattening (loads of sugar, starches and pork) than most Mexican food. But there are also nuances of this cuisine from various areas of the island which have had influences of other cuisines. And of course, like in all things, I take a little personal editorial power to change things to my palate whenever I make Cuban food. After reading and studying about the Castillian & Chinese influences on Cuban Cuisine, I have come to a belief that it was the Cubans themselves who sometimes watered down dishes to a more bland palate. In fact, after reading books like Tastes Like Cuba and having tasted dishes in Cuba, and Cuban American Restaurants around the country I have found a much spicier and a more primal cuisine than I was first led to believe Cuban food was like by the immigrants who came here in the 1960's. ALL food was more tempered back in the '60's. I can remember the way my mother cooked.... very mild and that was in Southern California where people had access to so many more ingredients and spices. It was certainly edited by housewives who were trying to please a broad audience of dinner guests. I clearly remember Lawry's Seasoned Salt being considered something exotic in the early 1960's today it is rarely if ever used by serious home cooks. And then there were the processed foods... Bisquick, Swanson TV Dinners, Tang, Velveeta and Minute Rice to name a few, which we thought were the "it foods" of modernity. Give me a BREAK! We have come a long way baby!

Because of the isolation of Cuban Immigrants and even those cooks in Cuba, the cuisine has not been able to really evolve as other cuisines have. There remain many favorite recipes of the old country which for comfort's sake are much like out yucky but beloved "Cream of Mushroom Soup Green Beans" or grilled hamburgers.

The hotel chefs and home chefs of today's Cuba serve up a cuisine that is both exciting and abundant with flavors that are missing from the exile's recipes and cuisine. Hence Porchetta! This recipe is based on one given to me by a Cuban Exile living in the Philippines. It has been pointed out to me that the name is actually Italian (DUH!) but it is in all essence Cuban from my experience and the smoking process (which I added) of the pork is essential to the dish. regardless if you would call this "pristine Cuban Cooking" or not, it is Cuban inspired and loved by every Cuban I have ever served it to, as well as hundreds of Americans who were seeking a taste of Cuba.

I read up as much as I can on Cuban culture and just finished an incredibly good book which I suggest any of you try, it is Tastes Like Cuba by Eduardo Machado and his partner Michael Domitrovich. I have made many Cuban style black bean dishes, but this time I tried one I had never seen called Black Beans Cuca's Way. It has some interesting ingredients, but of course I had to add some spice to it too. One of the different ingredients it has in it is a cup of sherry. Naturally that piqued my interest, but when my liquor cabinet lacked a bottle of sherry (we are paring down for our move to Hawaii) I opted for Cognac instead. It added a marvelous element of flavor to the beans.

Here are some recipes which I hope make your mouth water...

Porchetta (Slow-roasted shoulder of pork) de Devany

Serves 8-10 (and makes wonderful leftovers for tacos or pulled pork sandwiches)

20 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 Cup fennel seeds, ½ Cup cumin seeds and ¼ Cup coriander seeds toasted in a skillet
2 tablespoons coarse salt
3 tablespoon coarse black pepper
8-10 small dried red thai chiles, crumbled
½ cup of fresh flat leaf parsley finely chopped
½ cup of cilantro finely chopped

1 boneless shoulder of pork (about 6-7 lbs) Or a bone in Pork Butt Roast of same size. If you are going to do this recipe in a crock pot or electric roaster, just be sure that it fits in the pot you are using when you buy it.

Juice of 2 lemons
1 Cup of pork stock or chicken broth, divided
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1. Preheat oven to 450 or prepare smoker (my preferred method). Using a mortar and a pestle, crush the garlic and the fennel seeds and make sure they are well mixed add 2 TB of olive oil. Alternate method: Use a food processor on pulse. Add the salt, pepper and the chiles. Combine well.

Cut 1-inch wide slits into the the surface of the pork shoulder, including the top and bottom of the meat. Rub the garlic mixture well into the meat. Be sure to get this mixture down inside the slits.
If using a smoker, put the meat fat side up in a smoker at 220 degrees for 6 hours. I use maple wood and sometimes cherry or apple. A sweet wood goes better with pork.

3. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a heavy Dutch oven or if you are using a crock pot, a heavy frying pan (the one you used for toasting the seeds will work). Sear the meat all on all sides over medium low heat, making sure NOT to burn the garlic.

4. Remove the roast from the pan and add ½ a cup of the broth/stock heated in microwave first, stirring and scraping the bottom to deglaze. Place a rack at the bottom of the pan. Add the meat, fatty side up and roast uncovered in the oven for 30 minutes. If you are using a crock pot or roaster, you can skip the roasting step and let it cook a little longer in the frying pan.

5. Pour the lemon juice and remaining broth/stock over the meat and brush with the remaining olive oil. If you are doing this in the crock pot, pour the deglazing liquid and goodies from the pan over the roast in the crock pot, then add the lemon juice.

6. Reduce the heat to 250, cover the pan and roast 8-10 hours, occasionally brushing meat with the pan juices. The roast will be done when the meat falls apart when barely touched with a fork (probably 8 hours or so). If using a crock pot you will not have to baste. Crock pot should be on low for 8 hours.

7. Remove roast from pan and place on serving platter. Skim the fat from the pan juices and serve dripping on the side or over the meat. Or you can thicken with a roux to make a gravy. Serve with the Salsa Verde.

Salsa Verde

2 Cups Italian parsley
1 Cup basil leaves
1 Cup mint leaves
1/2 Cup capers well rinsed
½ Cup of green olives
2 Tablespoons of sugar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 Cup virgin olive oil
1 Tbs. coarse black pepper

*optional: 2 salt-packed anchovy fillets, soaked in water for 30 minutes, rinsed and dried, if you do this you may want to reduce the amount of olives and capers to reduce the salt impact.

1. Wash parsley, basil and mint and spin dry in a salad spinner.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the parsley, basil, mint, anchovies, capers, olives, pepper, mustard, garlic and red pepper flakes. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. It should form a relatively smooth puree that is still slightly chunky. Makes 1 Cup and keeps well. Leftovers can be frozen in ice cube trays like pesto or sofrito and used as a seasoning in other dishes.

Note: The original recipe Susie posted last week looked so good I had to make it. I happened to have an organic bone in pork butt (part of the shoulder cut too) from Niman Ranch in my freezer. I jumped at the opportunity to use it in this recipe, even though we had JUST finished off the 55 pound lechon that I cooked on July 2. I had made stock with some of the bones, so that began the tweaking of the recipe. Susie's recipe had the fennel seeds and I thought to myself, "Self, Cubans use a lot of cumin, why not add that as well?" And then I thought again at the combination of those two and the likely marriage of coriander to those as in many of the Indian spice rubs I have made. I threw coriander seeds into the mix as well. I doubled her garlic cloves, only because I can never get enough garlic. I also increased the chilies because I love things spicy. I added the parsley because I believed it would add another layer to compliment the garlic and finally I added some olive oil to make it more of a paste instead of a dry rub. I used a food processor instead of the mortar and pestle because the seeds are usually pretty tough to mash up and because I had tripled the amount of seeds. I would have had to do it in batches in the mortar. It was actually perfect for the food processor as long as you do not over process. You still want some of the seeds crunchy.

To the Salsa Verde, I increased the garlic (I can't help myself!), added olives (because I love olives) and made the anchovies optional because I found the original recipe very salty (especially after I added the olives, which I like better than anchovies anyway). I also added a bit of sugar to temper the saltiness and it worked out wonderfully.

Having done all of this, I have to say that it made the BEST pork I have ever tasted. It was far better than the lechon I injected with marinade and cooked in the Caja China. It was so tender and delicious I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome it was. I kept picking at the leftovers all day yesterday. I am having another dinner party this weekend and guess what I am cooking? Yes, I am! My friends are going to start calling me "Porky" because I keep playing with it.

Corn Maque Choux
Pronounced "mock shoe," this Louisiana staple (which is like a succotash) is a Cajun take on a Native American dish.
4 servings

· 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
· 1 cup finely chopped onion
· 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
· 2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 3 medium ears of corn)
· 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
· 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
· 1/2 teaspoon (or more) hot pepper sauce
· 1 green onion, finely chopped
· 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
· 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
· Coarse kosher salt

· Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add bell pepper; sauté until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add corn; sauté 2 minutes. Add cream, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon hot pepper sauce. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Mix in green onion, parsley, and basil. Season to taste with coarse salt, pepper, and more hot pepper sauce, if desired.
The black bean recipe is to follow in the next day or two. I am ready for a dip in the pool after a meal of leftovers.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Aloha au i Hawai`i!

Here is an excerpt from my article in the Summer Issue of Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine:
As the plane landed, I felt myself aching for the ever embracing soft air of Hawai`i. All I could think about was putting the top down on the car and riding under the luxuriantly green jungle along the Red Road on the Puna Coast, anticipating the wonders of the Big Island’s many farmer’s markets. Yes, I came for the incredible Hawaiian climate and yes I came to enjoy blissful days snorkeling and hiking and touring, but most of all… I CAME TO COOK!

When I tell people we are planning on moving to the big island, the first thing most of them say is, “Lucky YOU!” The second thing they say is, “OH but it is so expensive there!”. I guess I am glad for that stereotype in a small way, as it keeps real estate prices somewhat reasonable and prevents a massive immigration to Hawai`i. I usually take the opportunity to educate them about how sustainable farming actually works better and is more important in Hawaii than many locales because of the limits and prices imposed by importing goods to the islands vs. growing, producing and creating local products. It is all about living locally in every aspect of your life.

On our latest trip to the Big Island it was my objective to eat locally as much as possible. This meant shopping at Farmer’s Markets and grocers who sell local products. Because we rent a house in Puna’s Kehena Bay area, there actually are not many other options. It is a place without a single hotel and only a hand full of restaurants (none closer than 15 miles). In each of Puna’s two major towns, there are only about 2 blocks of commerce. In Pahoa, Puna’s largest town, there are2 Farmer’s Markets, Island Naturals, an excellent Natural Foods market offering locally grown and produced organic goods, a fantastic fish market, a large grocery store and a juice store offering fresh juices. Because I was on a quest for the “Best of Hawai`i” in locally grown produce, we made the 45 minute trip each Saturday and Wednesday to Hilo’s fantastic Farmer’s Markets as well as to Thursday, Friday and Saturday markets in surrounding communities. .....
To read more you can get a subscription to Edible Hawaiian Islands Magazine at
Tell Gloria I sent you!
My mantra is: I came to cook! Aloha au i Hawai`i!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Hawaii again!

This is a shell I made and brought to Hale Balleja
Here is some Puna Punch with Mountain Apples
Lamb Chops at Kalekos
Evening Pupus and Puna Punch
The Shell AGAIN... salt fired no glazing... amazing luster
Kapoho Tide Pools
Why does this shell keep popping up? 

Surfs up... Wes on the lava

And Wes getting ready to snorkel at Kapoho
It's always tomato season on the big island!
Wes at dinner in Pahoa

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Eating Locally on the Puna Coast ~ Part 1

Eating Locally on the Puna Coast

Yes, it is possible, and preferable to eat locally even when on vacation in Hawaii. Toss the cans of Spam and stay away from hotel and chain restaurants. Take the high road and you will discover some amazing and wonderful things

Because we love to go to unusual locations, and experience things as the locals do, not as traditional tourists might we choose to spend a week on the big island of Hawaii along the Puna Coast. Just as when we go to Italy and avoid the typical Tuscan Tour Buses, here we are living in what is proclaimed to be the last Hawaiian frontier. No hotels exist here and neither does most cellular phone service.
The coast is rugged and beautiful and the home we are staying in is exquisitely decorated. It is a contemporary masterpiece full of light and fantastic art. It is built for two people and looks out upon the southern coastline of the big island. You too can stay at Halle Balleja, our new friends Craig and Joel have a web site that you can learn more about the house on. It is . That said, everything outside of our beautiful accommodations is very much on the rugged side. The lava once flowed here and in fact, the roads are closed in much of this part of the island due to the lava flow. Many hundreds of acres were consumed by the mighty rivers of lava, some recently and some ages ago. While it makes some land unusable for quite a time, it also creates new land. The island is growing as I write and seeing it is nothing short of amazing. The flora and fauna here are incredibly sturdy and in even the most forlorn spots, things take root among the lava stone and land begins to form.

This is our first day on the big island, our first trip to Hawaii ever. We have been to tropical locations all over the world before, but always resisted Hawaii, thinking it to be like the pictures you see of Honolulu, giant hotels and mega shopping malls along a once pristine coast. As someone told me before I came here, “Hawaii is Californian’s paradise, if you have been to other islands and tropical destinations, it may seem less exotic.”. I understood her then, and yet as I see what we discovered in just our first day, I have to say, it has a lot going for it. Just five hours from California, sits a beautiful chain of islands where you do not have to get your passport stamped or go through customs. Our money is the same (though a little less valuable over here) and everyone speaks English. There were still forms to fill out on the plane last night though. As an agricultural state and one that is isolated because it is made up of islands they are a necessary evil. It is a gentle paradise though, one where we are welcomed everywhere with the already familiar “Aloha”.

Because of the remoteness of where we are staying and knowing that the country roads that lead here are curvy with nothing but the moon for illumination,, we decided we would eat and cook locally as much as we could this week. Driving home a long distance on these roads from a restaurant after having wine is a recipe for danger. So, we are going to do things differently on this vacation and it is already proving to be interesting.

This morning (Sunday) we went to the small town of Pahoa, the last outpost on this frontier. Pahoa is filled with non-conformists, many sporting dreadlocks, beards and tie died tank tops. It is a great place for people watching and also getting to know some of the local culture at warp speed. We first went to the Sunday Farmer’s Market which sits behind the Akebono Theater, built in 1918. The theater has been restored and they show vintage movies on Saturday nights. There is even a vegetarian snack bar called the Huna Ohana. The farmer’s market is on Saturday and Sunday mornings. While I was calling my house sitter after being “out of touch” for 18 hours, Wes made his way to the Kava Tent. Instantly, he became good friends with the Fijian selling kava drinks and powder, coconut cups, home rendered coconut oil, Cocoa fruits and organic free range eggs. We were married on a remote island in Fiji and have a definite affinity for all Fijians. By the time I made it to the booth, eyeing the cocoa fruits and eggs, the “Bula! Bula!” (Fijian hellos) had been said and then started up again when I got there. Wes sipped the potent herbal tea, made from smashing the Kava plant’s roots into a powder that looks (and tastes) like dirt. Kava has some interesting affects on the human body, ranging from tongue numbness to complete relaxation. I bought some of the Fijian’s coconut oil, a cocoa fruit and a dozen beautiful eggs ~ passing on the kava.

At the next booth a woman was selling beautiful blooming bare root bromeliad plants for $1. each. I wished that there was a way to get them home, but there was not. Next I stopped at a booth selling produce and bought several of the Japanese purple yams that I have recently learned to love. I also purchased some beautiful tomatoes, fresh basil, fiddle leaf fern heads, some green onions, Maui onions, garlic, baby lettuces, some coconut rolls and a few interesting fruits which I cannot even remember the name of right now (pictures and ID to follow). Net: 2 large bags of groceries (local and organic) for $ 12.00

Next stop, Pahoa Natural Groceries on Nanawale Homestead Road. It is a nice clean good sized natural foods market. There is also a deli and an excellent salad bar. While the selection was decent and the produce was beautiful, the prices were steep. I needed just a little olive oil and even the teeniest bottles were all $10 and up. I laughed when I saw the Brianni olive oil from California that I usually pay $13 for selling for $29. OK… it is organic and wonderful… but that seemed like highway robbery. I decided to really go local and use the coconut oil I had just bought instead. We needed just one stick of butter and was not even planning on using the whole thing in the course of a week. I always wondered who bought those single serving packages of butter! Well, they didn’t have them and I drew the line at paying $12.95 for a pound of butter that I would be leaving behind. Still, because we want to eat organic whenever possible, I bought some organic range free chicken breasts, sprouted whole wheat sourdough bread ($7) made locally, snack items and two bottles of wine. $165. later we were out the door.

On to the *big* grocery in Pahoa, Malama Market for the last of the items we needed. They not only had wine, but also Gin and diet tonic too! I got some beautiful little pears, limes and macadamias. Prices here were far more reasonable. You just have to remember that this is an island and if it is not grown here, it is going to cost a lot. This is another good reason to eat locally grown and produced items.

After all of that shopping, we were famished and since Wes wanted to see if the Golden State Warriors were playing, we went to the only place in town where we could eat and watch the game, Black Rock Café. This was not the kind of place I would have chosen, but in the end, it was perfect for our first day. We went in, saddled up to the bar and met a delightful and very pregnant waitress. We ordered drinks and food and while waiting for it, started talking to the only other customer in the bar. This guy was a hoot. He was wearing a tie died tank top and a cowboy hat that had seen better days. When he found out where we were from (naturally in a town like Pahoa, everyone not from there stands out like a sore thumb) he proceeded to tell us that his grandmother had been born in Hawaii and about 1930 moved to the tiny little ranch town of Danville, CA (where we live!). Not only that, she had one of the few houses then on the very mountain ridge where our house is. Her home was part of a larger ranch on the mountain. His grandmother had fled Hawaii because of the discrimination that was aimed (most likely with reason) against families of missionaries, especially those generations who had done well financially in Hawaii. This guy, easily in his late ‘50’s had grown up in Santa Clara and then moved to the island as an adult to escape traffic and “rules”. And there he flourishes as an extended hippy. Talk about full circle!

For lunch, Wes had a grilled fish sandwich and I had the special of the day, Chicken in Adobo, a Filipino inspired dish. Wes had amazingly good local potato fries with his sandwich and I had a mixed green salad with tomatoes and house made ranch dressing. The salad had baby greens, romaine, tomatoes, maui onions, a local kind of sweet red pepper that I saw at the farmer’s market and was topped with macadamia nuts. While we were eating, we noticed several Chicago Bears items around the bar and asked the owner if he was the fan. He was indeed, having come from the south side of Chicago many years ago. It seemed to be a confirmation that we were in the right place. Wes and I met and lived in Chicago for many years and the men that own the house we are renting are from there as well. As it turns out, they live around the corner from our house there. I digress…

From there it was time for a little sight seeing. We drove along highway 132 till we came to the Lava Tree State Monument and made a swing through there. Here we found “lava trees” that formed when fast flowing lava encounters wet ‘ohi’a trees. As the flow drains away, it leaves a thick coating around the dying tree. Most of the free standing tubes are moss covered now.

Back on highway 132 heading to the sea, we enjoyed the thick canopy of trees and vines. Many of these vines were giant versions of philodendrons with leaves as big as 2-3 feet long. As we looked up from our convertible the sight was even more amazing with the blue sky as back ground. Where highway 132 ends, you come out of the forest again and can clearly see the 1960 lava flow, where fountains of lava 3/10 of a mile high produced enormous amounts of lava that wiped out the town of Kapoho, leaving only two subdivisions. We took the dirt road to the sea at the point where 132 and 137 converge and followed it to another dirt road to the left, there we drove in to the gate of a Japanese Cemetery where the lava took over some graves and spared a good many of them. We hiked in past the gate to find a well maintained grassy knoll, beautiful frangipani, red ginger and other plantings amongst a multitude of coconut palms. There is a memorial there for those whose graves were lost to the sea of lava. We saw many well maintained headstones with jars of flowers sitting in specially made blocks with holes for the jars. There were also some charred headstones and some partially covered by lava. Beyond the cemetery, in the ½ mile or so to the sea was nothing but mounds and mounds of lava rock..

We went on to the point, where at the end of the dirt road is the Cape Kumukahi Lighthouse which was spared in the lava flow. It is interesting, as the lava flowed directly to it and then went around it on both sides and then met up again. There is a local legend about the lighthouse. The lighthouse tender had a woman come to his door the night before the volcano erupted and he invited her in to dinner. Many people believe that that was Madame Pele in one of her many aberrations and that because the lighthouse keeper was kind to her, she spared the lighthouse.

It was at this point that we took a few deep breaths of some of the most pristine air in the world. This is the eastern most point of the island and this is where “virgin air” comes across the pacific, traveling over water for many weeks before reaching land at last. The air here is analyzed by scientists from around the world and is used as a benchmark for clean air when determining pollutants and pollen counts.

We had to get our groceries home and in the refrigerator, but we plan on returning here again and making the 1.5 mile hike to Kapoho Bay so we can swim and snorkel in the lava heated Champagne Pond, a calm and protected inlet of crystal clear water where turtles and fish abound. Here fresh water percolates from the ground, heated by the volcano and maintains a constant temperature of about 90 degrees on the top and changes with the tide.

On the way home we traveled down a narrow, but beautiful road under another canopy of huge trees covered with gigantic philodendron vines. On the left was the sea, usually pounding upon lava rocks and occasionally forming tide pools and “lava swimming pools”, some as large as 250 feet long and as deep as 5 feet in some spots. We will be exploring these and taking along a picnic tomorrow. This area is known as the Kapoho Tide Pools. A few of the westerly pools here are even heated by the volcano.

At the house, we unloaded the car and put on our hiking sandals, then trekked across the street to the lava cliffs and took in the spectacular views a little closer. We can see much of this from the house, but on the edge of the cliff it is even more spectacular as the spray makes it’s way to you and there were also some beautiful flowers and ferns growing here, some right up through the lava. We made it home just in time, as the evening rain started to fall. Nature has a way of washing everything clean here most every night. It is enough clean clear water to fill the cisterns and water the glorious flora.
More soon...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Recipe: Braised Sonoma Rabbit Ragu with Fresh Pappardelle

One of the pleasures of living in this new food haven of the Bay area is finding some fantastic local ingredients that I would have otherwise have had to order shipped to me or do some serious ferreting from my home in Chicago. On Saturday, my trip to the Danville Farmer’s Market and Lunardi’s Grocery store (next door to the market) provided me with a *find* for one of my favorite dishes. On Sunday night I prepared the Braised Rabbit Ragu with fresh Pappardelle pasta. I also like this dish with tagliette pasta (*rags*) or over plolenta.

The farmer’s market provided fresh porcinis and chanterelles (for a small fortune of $28) and in Lunardi’s I discovered beautiful plump organic Sonoma rabbits for $6.99 a pound and the butcher cut one up for me. They also make fresh pasta in the store and since my pasta machine and flours are all packed away because of the move, it made a lot of sense to just buy the pasta, though it is a very simple one to make. This is also lovely over polenta.

I was able to find one of the boxes that held my *stash* of Italian tomato products. I love San Marzano Cherry tomatoes and sauces (see pictures), but they are impossible to find here, or at least so far anyway. Regular San Marzano tomatoes are sometimes available here in gourmet markets, only one or two brands though and the prices are at least twice of what we paid in Chicago. Eventually I may find a source for these special Italian items that I so love (a North Beach Field Trip is on the books), but for now, I am relying on what I brought with me to make things special. If not, I have Chicago friends that I may bribe to ship some to me when my stash runs out.

I used turkey stock because I had just made some deep dark rich turkey stock last week and it was splendid in the recipe. I now have rabbit stock on hand of course.

My own new garden provided the rosemary, thyme and oregano. In fact I probably went heavier on these herbs than the recipe I am posting because I love them and have plenty of them. Fresh oregano is so much milder than dried, I feel like you need to be generous with it for good flavor.

So, I hope you seek out the ingredients and try this yourself, because this dish is sincerely worth the effort. Whomever you cook for will love you forever.

From the kitchen with a view of Mt. Diablo,

Don’t forget there is a great lake house with an amazing kitchen for sale in Chicago….

Here is the recipe:

©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2006

This is one of my favorite winter dinners. It combines many special ingredients, fresh chanterelle and Porcini mushrooms, rabbit, San Marzano tomatoes, parmegiano-reggiano, wine and fresh herbs. Finding good organic rabbit is one crucial key. Find a farmer near you if your stores do not offer it.

. Brining Ingredients:

1 (3 lb.) rabbit cut into 2 forelegs, 2 hindlegs and the saddle cut cross-wise into 2 sections. Use carcass for stock
1 cup white wine1 cup water
4 tablespoons coarse sea salt
4 tablespoons sugar

Braising Ingredients:

8 tablespoons olive oil
4 oz diced pancetta
4 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced carrot
1/2 cup finely diced onion or shallots
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano (or more to taste)
2 cups dry white wine2 cups tomato puree
1 large can of San Marzano ( I prefer the cherry size, but they are hard to find) Tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock (or make rabbit stock by roasting the carcass of the cut up rabbit and simmering it with the vegetable trimmings from above in 6 cups of water)
1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, tied in cheesecloth to make a packet
Spice packet:: 2 juniper berries; 3 sprigs each thyme and rosemary; 2 cloves and 1 cinnamon stick, tied in cheesecloth to make a packet
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup Wondra or Pastry Flour
A large fresh porcini mushroom cut into ½ inch pieces (or baby portabellas) about ¾ cup
8 cloves of garlic sliced
½ cup of dry white wine for deglazing pan
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 tablespoons minced shallots
8-10 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, sliced into 1/2 inch-thick slices. Or if small keep whole or cut in half
Freshly grated parmegiano-reggiano
1 lb. fresh pappardelle pasta
Serves 4


1. Dissolve salt & sugar into wine and water. Place rabbit pieces in a bowl and cover with the brine. If brine does not cover rabbit completely, increase volume of ingredients proportionately. Cover the bowl and let sit in refrigerator for 3 to 4 hours. *You can also use a zip lock bag.
2. Pre-heat oven to 325oF. In an oven-proof saucepan or Dutch oven just large enough to hold the rabbit pieces in a single layer, sauté the pancetta until lightly browned. Add the garlic and continue 2 minutes until golden brown. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and the onion, carrot, celery and oregano, and sauté until the vegetables start to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the wine, tomato puree, stock, and the dried porcini in cheesecloth. Bring to a boil, skim off any foam that develops, season lightly with salt and pepper and decrease the heat to a simmer.
3. In the meantime, pat dry the rabbit pieces with a towel. Season them with salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour; shake off any excess. Heat the remaining 6 tablespoons olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the rabbit and cook until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Add fresh porcinis and sliced garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Remove rabbit and garlic/mushrooms, then deglaze pan over medium heat by adding ½ cup white wine. Stir, removing all small bits from the bottom of the pan and scrape deglazing liquid into the sauce.
4. Transfer the legs to the sauce. Return the sauce to a simmer and skim. Cut a circle of parchment paper that just fits inside the pot and cut a 1-inch hole in the center. Place the paper on top of the rabbit legs and cover with lid. Braise in the oven for 45 minutes. Add the loin and continue braising for another 20 minutes until legs are fork tender.
5. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the rabbit pieces to a dish. Remove the spice packet and discard. Remove the porcini mushroom packet and take the mushrooms out of the cheesecloth. Transfer them to a blender with 1 cup of the braising liquid and puree until smooth, then return the puree to the braising liquid. De-fat the braising liquid if needed then reduce over moderately low heat to about 4 cups. When the rabbit meat is cool enough to handle, shred by hand. Do not chop with knife. Put the meat back in the braising liquid and keep warm.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil for the pappardelle. In the meantime, melt the butter in a large sauté pan over high heat, add the shallots, and sauté until the shallots start to caramelize. Add the chanterelles and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Season with salt and pepper. When water is rolling add pasta and cook until al dente, testing after 60 seconds.
7. Add the rabbit with the sauce, a splash of vinegar, and the leaves of three stems of fresh oregano. Toss in the cooked noodles, and 2 tablespoons parmegiano. Divide the pasta among heated plates, sprinkle with remainder of parmegiano and serve with Pinot noir.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Field Trip! Off to Milpitas for Asian Goodies!

Field Trip! Off to Milpitas for Asian Goodies!
©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2006

Last Friday I needed a little break from the hundreds (literally) of moving boxes surrounding me and I also needed a few fresh items for the larder. I went down 680 to Milpitas, which is on the Northern border of Silicon Valley.

When we arrived to Milpitas Square, it was evident that 99 Ranch (338 Barber Lane) was the anchor to this shopping center. 99 Ranch is about the size of a typical grocery store, but that is where the similarities end. It is an Asian *Treasure Chest* of a store, filled with all kinds of amazing things. The complex is about twice the size of a typical suburban strip mall, with stores and restaurants on both sides of 99 Ranch. It was built about ten years ago and is billed as the largest Asian shopping center in Northern California. There are 20 restaurants and about 35 smaller stores and medical suites.

Our first stop was at a large and busy Dim Sum restaurant, The Mayflower Seafood Restaurant. The place was humming with activity, as a good Dim Sum place should be at lunch time. It kind of reminded me of being in a casino. It was an assault on the senses in a good way; bright lights, red and gold everywhere, gigantic aquariums loaded with large fish on the walls, gaggles of people talking, the food aromas, the waiters aggressively hawking their wares, the captains acting like “pit bosses” in their short starched jackets and the constantly ringing cash register. We were swiftly seated by a young hostess whose shiny black pony tail swished past her miniscule hips with every step. My hips have not been that small since I was six.

The tea came and immediately we were confronted with women pushing their wares. The problem was that so much of it was the same stuff. We selected a few items and it was almost impossible to eat because we had to shoo away the barrage of servers trying to get us to take their plates of dumplings or sesame balls. Overall, I would say that the food was average. I have had far better dim sum in Chicago and Montreal. My favorite things were the chive pancakes I accidentally ordered (couldn’t say “no” fast enough) and the greens, which I have always called Chinese Broccoli, though I am not sure of the Chinese term for them. They were lovely, green crunchy green stalks with tiny broccoli like heads on the top of them and long, thin, graceful leaves that cover the heads. The rest was unremarkable to my taste. But it was a fun experience and a bargain to boot. With tea, the tab was easy to split at $10 each.

From the Mayflower, we went to M.V. Trading Company, a small but jam packed (typical for Chinese cooking supply stores) House ware and Restaurant Supply Store. For those of you in the Bay Area, they have four locations, the other three are in San Francisco, San Jose and San Mateo. This place was loaded to the gills from floor to ceiling with all kinds of Asian imports for the kitchen and tons of restaurant supplies. The aisles are too small for carts and the selection of some items was so mind boggling that it was difficult to really decide on what you wanted. Our mission was to get a spun steel wok. The lids cost 2 X what the actual woks cost. So, after we found the woks (among probably 20 other kinds in a variety of sizes), and searched high and low, finally found the lids, then had to ask where the rings were… in a completely different part of the store of course. The store was an amazing place, but we only had a total of three hours to eat lunch and shop before the traffic would make our return trip North *Hell on Wheels*, so we paid for our purchases and vowed to come back early one day so we could comb the aisles properly.

On to 99 Ranch, another place that really requires a slow sweet amble through each aisle to see what is offered. As it was, we moved on the periphery ~ produce, meat, seafood and deli, with a run through the noodle aisle. Much of it was jaw dropping ~ especially when it came to the seafood… a lot of it still swimming ~ or crawling as it may be in the case of a former friend of mine's favorite clam…. The Geoduck , but I call it the Penis Clam, because that is what it looks like. A big clam shell with a 6-10” thick yellowish penis like thing hanging out of it. See the pictures above! Alternate spellings include gweduc, gwíduhq, gweduck and goiduck. They are native to the Pacific US and Canada (primarily Washington, British Columbia, and Southeast Alaska), it is the largest burrowing clam in the world, weighing in at an average of one to three pounds (0.5 - 1.5 kg) at maturity, but specimens weighing over 15 pounds (7.5 kg) and as much as a 2 meter (6 ft) in length are not unheard of. Imagine THAT????

There were lots of fish swimming, eels, oysters (only blue points), lobsters for only $10 a pound and you can get the fish killed, cleaned, scaled or fried there for free.

Then we rounded the corner to the Deli, where aside from a full array of "to go" dishes from a buffet like service, there were Chinese roasted ducks (both pressed and not pressed), Cantonese ribs and roasted pork loins hanging from hooks. I bought a pork loin and a duck and had those both chopped (see pictures). Total for both including tax: $17.74. When I brought the duck home and stripped the meat off to make summer rolls with, I did find it pretty scrawny. It was delicious, but not very meaty. Wes proclaimed it, "A MOST awesome Duck"! The pork was lean and lovely and enough to use for 5 different dishes. We barely got one meal from the duck, unless you count the stock I made from the bones.

We then ran through the noodle aisles and a sauce aisle before dashing for the car so that we could hit the freeway and beat the Friday afternoon traffic from Silicon Valley. This is surely a great store that we will re-visit. There is another one in Richmond, which is a little closer to us, so maybe that will be our next adventure. And a new one is being built in Dublin (even closer).

So, that was field trip number one… and there are many more to come in my new home land of the Bay area. It could take the rest of my life to visit them all. Gee… rough job eh?

Back to my unpacking ~
From the kitchen with a view of Mt. Diablo

Great Lake House for sale in Sleepy Hollow, IL

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Recipe: Turkey Enchiladas Nogada Style

This is one of my favorite ways to use turkey or chicken leftovers. Since we missed having turkey on Thanksgiving I bought one when we arrived in the East Bay. After making stock, soup and having some turkey sandwiches and pizza... this is what I did with the rest:

Turkey Enchiladas Nogada Style
©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2002


2 Cups Shredded turkey or chicken
1 cup Chopped white onions
8 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 small bunch of cilantro chopped (about 1/3 to ½ cup)
6 fresh Poblano chiles roasted, peeled and chopped (or 2 cans of canned chopped green chiles)
1 Chipotle in adobo, finely chopped (wear laytex gloves) and add at least 2 TBS of the Adobo sauce
¼ cup Toasted slivered almonds
3 Tbs. Cumin Seeds toasted and then ground
3 cups Mexican Queso Enchilada (white melting Cheese~ Jack cheese works if you don’t have Mexican products available) Shredded.
½ cup white Rasins (plumped in hot water and drained)


3 Tbs Butter
3 Tbs Flour
3 cups of Low fat milk
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp fresh grated Nutmeg
½ tsp ground White pepper
Dry Spansih Sherry

Queso Fresco
Pomegranate seeds
Chopped green onions

About 2 dozen fresh white corn tortillas

Mix all filling ingredients in a large bowl.

To make sauce, in a sauce pan melt butter, add flour to make roux, whisk in the milk and stir simmering to thicken slightly. Whisk in spices. Continue to simmer until the thickness of gravy. Add sherry. Remove from heat.
To soften tortillas, run through warm oil for about 1 minute and stack on paper towels.

To assemble, put a drizzle of sauce in the bottom of a baking pan and then in another pan roll a tortilla with about 1/3 cup of filling and place in the sauced pan. Continue doing this until this pan is filled. Top this pan with enough sauce to barely cover the enchiladas half way. Continue this process till filling and/or sauce is used up. If you have extra sauce left, distribute it amongst the pans. You can also use disposable freezer pans for this.

Bake for 35 minutes @ 350 degrees or until the top is bubbling and slightly golden. *If you want to freeze, remove those pans from the oven after 20 minutes of baking and let cool before freezing.

Garnish with the crumbled queso fresco, chopped green onions and pomegranate seeds. Serve with a salsa verde.

White Sangria is a great match for these enchiladas.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Half Shell Happiness

Half Shell Happiness
©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2006

I am sitting at the dining room table with an early morning (4 am) cup of Indian Tea I brought from Chicago. I don’t add milk, but I do add Tea Masala. I savor the crisp flavors of ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, green cardamom, nutmeg and cloves with my tea.

Yesterday was our first Saturday since the big move to our new home in Northern California. While Chicago had a record snow fall yesterday, we enjoyed a bright sunny day and a walk through the Danville Farmer’s Market. Our area of California has an amazing network of farmer’s markets. Many are year-round markets and some are seasonal. The Danville Farmer’s Market at the bottom of the mountain we live on is year-round on Saturdays and there is an evening market in the warm weather on Thursdays. During previous visits to the area I had checked out the farmer’s markets because of course it is something I have a great passion for. You can see a complete list of the available markets that I will be exploring at I’ve already been to a couple of others, but I would like to feature each in a separate post, and fresh with the appropriate seasonality.

My little jaunt through the farmer’s market had a purpose other than foraging for whatever seasonal items were available. There is a “fish guy” there that sells wonderful fresh local fish and most Saturdays he has a few little crates of some very special oysters. I bought some last September when we had nothing but an oyster knife and a few plates here. They were so spectacular that I had been back to the market in search of them two other times only to find that they were not available. Yesterday, I was in luck! I got the last little crate of the La Maison Beausoleil Oysters. They are not local oysters, though they came from Seafood Suppliers, Inc. at Pier 33 in San Francisco (YES~ I am going to check them out directly one of these days). The nice thing about oysters (and other shellfish) is that our lovely government mandates certification on each package and because these are sold in an adorable little wooden crate of their own, I also got the certificate along with the oysters, so I know a little bit about them. They were harvested on November 29th and I bought them on December 2nd. They were farmed in Canada and the Harvest Location was NB-3F (that is still a mystery to me, but I am sure with a little digging I can figure out where in Canada that might be).

These little gems are truly what I would call “the perfect oyster” for eating on the half shell. As their name implies, Beausolei (beautiful sun) they are fresh and beautiful in their sunny taste. Their flavor was consistently sweet, briny and crisp. Size-wise these are small, but not the smallest oysters I have ever had. They are about 2-2.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide, somewhat flat but with a nice enough bowl to nest the lovely meat in it’s liquor after opening. The texture was also perfect, just enough meaty chew to let you know that you were eating an oyster and not the sometimes slimy feel that some larger oysters can present. The size is also perfect in my estimation; the sweet morsel fits on a seafood fork and also sits nicely on the tongue, not too much for a single bite. Just enough liquor remains in the shell for a nice sip too. We ate them with some cocktail sauce and home made horseradish root. I had a few with just a drizzle of Meyer lemon as well. Our little crate had two dozen oysters and paired with a couple of chunks of San Francisco Sour Dough bread, it was all we needed for a light supper, though if I had bought two crates, I am sure we would have finished them too. The bottle of 2005 Plumpjack Sauvignon Blanc that accompanied our meal was perfect, though I love Champagne with oysters, it is not Wes’ beverage of choice.

What else did I buy at the farmer's market? An armload of tube roses (my house smells great!). Two bunches of golden baby beets, a bunch of French breakfast radishes, about 2 dozen beautiful roma tomatoes on the vine, 2 # of red shallots ( I use them like most cooks use onions), beautiful onion sprouts for sandwiches and salads, 2 big bags of herb salad mix & some beautiful little French pears from the Delta. 3/4 of a pound of Chantrelle mushrooms. Everything is organic.

Next post… Field Trip to Milpitas for Asian shopping wonders with Steve and Mary-Anne. Meanwhile, I DO have boxes to unpack!

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From the kitchen with a view of Mt. Diablo,
Devany Vickery-Davidson
Dinner Party Cooking School

Taste buds are neither conservative nor liberal, and, though it may be impossible to change the world, one should at least be able to change the menu. - Slow Food Revolution

Friday, December 01, 2006

Basque Country Dining: Saturday Night at the Star Hotel Restaurant

Basque Country Dining: Saturday Night at the Star Hotel Restaurant

©Devany Vickery-Davidson 2006

It was the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend and we were rambling along Interstate 80, en route from Chicago to our new home in the San Francisco Bay area, a cat and two dogs in tow along with everything we needed to make the journey. Our food prospects on this trip had been pretty sad. In fact, we ended up in a lonely Council Bluffs, Iowa coffee shop (only thing open) on Thanksgiving night where I ate a not so wonderful Chinese Chicken salad for dinner. It did get better from there, but not much. Just when I was convinced that we were following the essential Donner Party Trail and fated to a culinary wasteland I noticed that with a little extra driving we could make it to Elko, Nevada where if my memory served me correctly, we might be able to dine at a great Basque restaurant. So, we found a pet friendly hotel there and drove across Wyoming, Utah and into Nevada

Elko, Nevada is a smallish high plains town located about 200 miles North West of Reno, just off I 80. There is not much to this town other than the casinos, bordellos and surrounding ranches. Because of the casinos and their hotels the place does have a smattering of restaurants, from steak houses to coffee shops. Northern Nevada’s large Basque population has been the inspiration for a few great Basque restaurants along Silver Street. The oldest of these is The Star Hotel, where I ate as a child on trips to Yellowstone. The other two are Biltoki and the Nevada Dinner House. Having already sweet memories of the Star Hotel, of course that is where we went to dinner on this chilly November night. In an old world immigrant kind of way it reminded both Wes and I of Three Brother’s Serbian Restaurant in Milwaukee., especially in the old Art Deco Bar where we waited about thirty minutes to be seated (reservations are only for parties of 8 or more).

My mother’s paternal grandmother was Basque and so I have always had an affection for the culture and food of these wonderfully seasoned Spanish/French people. When I was a child growing up in Southern California we used to go to a fantastic old hotel dining room in Chino (also sheep country back then before real estate prices made it impossible to farm there) called El Centro Basque Hotel. It was the first place I encountered things like real “Frenched” green beans, marinated sliced beef tongue and wine in little glasses instead of stemware... yes, even served to the youngsters, they just added water a bit of wine in the children’s glasses back then. Laws have changed and the Centro Basque Hotel is now a strip mall. Sad commentary on the value of good things.

What is Basque you ask? It is a region of the world that encompasses four Spanish provinces and three French provinces, literally “Zazpiak bat”, seven are one. The beginnings of the Basque nation, known as Euskadi did not actually form until the 1890’s, though the culture and language of these people has evolved over 10,000 years of living in this isolated region of Europe.

The Basque people began immigrating to Northern Nevada after the California Gold Rush ended in 1850. Many of the Basques were sheep herders and needed a place to stay in the winter. The Star Hotel was built by Pete Jauregui as a boarding facility in 1910 and has been running under Basque ownership ever since. It is now owned by Scott and Tricia Ygoa.

If you are interested enough to visit the Star Hotel , Start the meal, with a Picon Punch (see recipe below), the high-octane Basque digestif made of brandy, Picon (a Basque Bitter Orange liqueur), grenadine, and a twist of lemon. It will get your appetite going, and you are going to need a hearty sheep herder’s appetite at the Star Hotel!

The meals are served family style at long tables. The dinner bell rings and dinner is served, just as in the old days. When you are seated a basket of fresh Basque Sheepherders bread and real butter is served and immediately following that, a large bowl of soup. The night we were there it was a garlic cabbage soup in a light chicken broth with carrots, fennel, pimento peppers, cabbage and the one ingredient that is found in every dish except desserts Garlic! In the soup it is a back note, but in other dishes it takes awards as a supporting role. Next comes a huge gorgeous bowl of salad, just iceberg lettuce, but each leaf perfectly coated with a lovely garlic (of course!) vinaigrette. I had two helpings, Wes had one and there must have been at least three more servings left in the salad bowl.

The menu is simple. No matter what you order it will come with a variety of dishes, so the only real choice you have to make is what kind of wine you want and what your entrée should be. The offerings were salmon, steaks, roasted lamb, garlic lamb chops, baked chicken with garlic rosemary and thyme, shrimp in garlic butter, bacola a la Vizcaina (salt cod in pimento and tomato sauce), clams and rice, garbanzos with locally made cured chorizos, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), fresh Dungeness Crab in garlic butter and a steak and lobster tail special.

The side dishes the night we were there were green beans (sorry to say, just canned ones), a tasty baked bean dish with a variety of beans, including some that were quite large, French fries (perfectly cooked) and pasta with red sauce. All meant to fill the bellies of hard working sheep herders.

We both chose grilled lamb chops, medium rare, marinated in garlic olive oil with paprika and topped with mounds of sliced sautéed garlic chips. Our plates each had three thick loin chops from fresh local lamb and they were perfectly cooked. At $19.99 each and $34 for an exquisite bottle of 2000 Rioja Reserve our tab was fantastically under $75, which was way beyond what I would call a bargain. No room for dessert, though it was offered. This is rustic, hearty food, not refined dining. But it is good food and an experience not to miss. I am still thinking about those lamb chops and the luscious garlic! The table cloths are plastic coated and the water pitcher is too, the waitresses are efficient and friendly. The noise level is a bit above a standard dining room because everyone is having a great time and most people there knew each other.

We are already trying to plan out a trip to Elko in which we can visit each of the three Basque restaurants and compare them. While the Star is the original and was packed with locals, having three there, thriving next door to each other is just too much of a temptation across the state line from our soon to be new home state, California. As they say there, “On egin” (enjoy your meal). Just one warning, watch out for the punch of the Picon Punch !

Star Hotel Basque Family Style Restaurant
246 Silver Street
Elko, NV

Lunch Monday-Friday 11:30 – 2 pm
Dinner nightly 5:00 – 11pm
Reservations for parties of 8 or larger only
Average entrée: $17.00

Recipe for Picon Punch
1. Fill medium-sized beverage glass with ice cubes
2. Pour in 1 1/2 ounces Amer Picon liqueur & a splash of Grenadine
3. Add an equal amount of soda water
4. Stir
5. Rub twist of lemon around rim of glass
6. Float about 1 ounce of Brandy on top & stir
7. Slip Slowly, this drink is not for wimps

above; the main course and wine

Picon Punch

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


After seven months of planning, dreaming and lots of hard work, we have moved from our home in Sleepy Hollow (Chicago) to our new house across the bay and over the hills from San Francisco. We spent Thanksgiving Weekend Driving across the country with our two dogs and cat. The moving trucks will arrive tomorrow and the next day.

It wasn’t easy leaving our home on Pine Lake ( ) or our good friends in the area. Yet, the new house is going to be fantastic when we are finished with it. It is ideally situated on 2 acres of land along the Las Trampas Range and nearly every room has fantastic views of Mt. Diablo and the valley below. The terraced gardens, the pool and the outdoor entertaining areas are superb. I am especially delighted to be in the East Bay, which is pretty much foodie paradise and a gardener's delight as well.

The house itself is great, but we have done a lot of renovation work already and there is much more to come. The kitchen had not been touched since building the house in 1975, and after spending two years building my dream kitchen in Sleepy Hollow, it was a hard sell to get me to move into a place that would need a complete gut re-hab job. But when I considered the other homes we looked at, none of which had the amazing views or a truly good kitchen (not one came close really) , it was a decision that was not so difficult to make. After all, I knew how to design a great kitchen and I also knew that it will be worth whatever sacrifices it takes along the way. Meanwhile, we have things in a workable and much more cosmetically pleasing way. There is a short term plan (Phase 1) which is nearly complete now, then a mid term plan (Phase 2) and finally the long term plan (Phase 3) which will include the gut re-hab. I am a firm believer that you really should live in a house for at least a year before undertaking anything as severe as knocking down walls.

For the short term we took out the popcorn ceilings, repainted every room in the house, refinished the beautiful random plank oak floors in the downstairs, replaced the same in the living room area when the carpet removal revealed serious water damage to the original floors, had the totally inefficient irrigation system completely re-done, had the redwood pergola pressure washed and sealed, upstairs carpets cleaned, all windows washed and the scratched reflective film removed, refinished the ash cabinets in the kitchen and dining room re-finished, new 4” baseboards installed, new light fixtures in the dining room, kitchen dining area, kitchen and rear stairs, installed a new fan in the master bath, new faucets, new bath faucets, new hardware for the kitchen cabinets, bar & master dressing room, gutted the laundry room and put in slate floors, new cabinetry and sink, removed old ugly blinds and window treatments (we don’t need to cover the windows, it is so private), installed gas lines for our gas grill on the deck, our dryer and the new stove in the kitchen, replaced every electrical outlet, changed out all switches to dimmers, had a new bar top built for the kitchen, new under cabinet lighting installed, new stove top with downdraft and grill installed, had the tile in the kitchen and bar re-grouted, and now we are having the little garden shed out in the back yard completely re-built to use as an art studio. This also includes a great deal of drainage work, as well as pulling in water, cable & electricity into the “little house”. It will be a glass and pottery studio with storage for garden supplies. I am also having a potting bench built there.

Our contractor, Neno is amazing. He is Serbian and has a superb network of sub contractors that are all excellent craftsmen. We found Neno through my friend in the area, Mary-Anne. Her daughter is married to Neno’s brother. I interviewed and got bids from several other contractors and decided that Neno was the best choice. We have been extremely happy with his work and we will retain him for the additional work to be done.

Phase 2 (after our house in IL has sold) will include building an outdoor kitchen with a wood burning pizza/bread oven. We will also be installing a new Jacuzzi tub in our bathroom and replace all of the interior doors in the house.

Phase 3: In a year or so will include the new kitchen space. Right now we are thinking we should knock out some walls, but we’ll see about that once we go through the design process. At this point we will also replace the windows in the house. This house is all about the windows because of the amazing views.

We also have plans to do some planting of fruit trees in the “lower forty” and we are having vegetable raised beds installed down there too. Our next door neighbors have horses and we are going to see if we can have some of their manure for the raised beds. Ishamael, our gardener is going to be a busy guy this winter! I will detail the gardens in another post.