Funfeasts is about enjoying and exploring life - through food. It's an attempt to chronicle my feasts of fun and the many tasty bites experienced along the way.

Geraldine's - Breakfast in Seattle

For some reason I obsessed about breakfast this time around while visiting Seattle.  I chose to indulge in a new restaurant - for me - Glo's diner, and one I'd been to before - Geraldine's.

While a tad out of the way (Beacon Hill/Columbia City)  it's still a nice stop for a hot, hearty breakfast*.  I ordered the avocado, salsa and sour cream omelette and my mom ordered the eggs + oatmeal pancakes.  Both were the right bite for each of us. 



I will say after the 4-egg version at Glo's, this one - I assume it's a mere 3-egg version - seemed to fit my appetite better. 

Doesn't matter, I still have to give it to Seattle:  amazing breakfast scene, hands down.

*Geraldine's also serves lunch and dinner!

Glo's Diner in Seattle Capitol Hill

I love a good breakfast and Glo's Diner really delivered this morning.  The 4-egg omelet covered in avocado, salsa and sour cream was made even more perfect with the addition of crisp hash browns nestled alongside.   My mom ordered the biscuits & gravy (vegetarian gravy, I believe) which looked equally delicious and filling.


I read through a few sites which mentioned the long wait for a table.  Ours was about 40 minutes made much more pleasant due to the warm sunny weather (yes, a bit of a rarity in these parts this time of year) and the Starbucks across the street.

Don't miss Glo's - and be sure to arrive very, very hungry!

Glo's Diner
1621 E Olive Way, Seattle, WA 98102
(206) 324-2577
http://gloscafe.com/

Carrot ginger soup

After finishing my kitchen remodel I craved home food, and especially this carrot-ginger soup.  I think part of the allure was that lack of a stove didn't allow for recipes where "simmering" was an option but also because the vibrant flavor is just so addictive. 


There are a number of ways to tailor this soup to make it your own but here's the base.  The rest is up to you!

Carrot ginger soup

2 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped
6-8 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T freshly grated ginger
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
1 small potato, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
salt/pepper to taste

1 cup cream (or half and half)

Optional:  dash of honey, tabasco, lemon juice

Directions

Heat olive oil and add the onion, carrots and celery. When soft, add the red pepper, garlic and ginger. Pour in the broth.  Add the potato and scallion.  Simmer 20 minutes or until all vegetables are tender.

How to tell if a potato is cooked?  According to a good friend from Moscow who claims she KNOWS potatoes, if you stick a knife into one, pull it up out of the broth and it easily slips off the knife, you know it's done.    I've tried it, it works. 

To finish your soup

Run a stick blender through the veggies and broth until smooth.  Add cream, salt / pepper to taste and honey if you want your soup a bit sweeter. 

For me, I like soup with a bit of a bite so I add a few shakes of tabasco and lemon juice to taste.  The lemon cuts the sweetness of the carrots and gives the soup a slight hint of tang.  Yummy.

Finally, if your soup is too thick add a bit more broth or water.  Enjoy!

Dicky's BBQ - Dallas Airport

Layover in Dallas?  No problem.  Make a stop at Dicky's BBQ in Dallas (Terminal C/Terminal E) and fill up on brisket, ribs and a slice of homemade pecan pie. 

I loved the food so much I actually stopped on my way home despite a much shorter layover and a connecting flight in another terminal.  This time they had the mac and cheese (they were out the first time.)

Brisket po' boy.  Oh boy!
I ordered the brisket po' boy with extra sauce which seemed the way to go.  Although I'm not sure I needed the bread it did keep everything neat and tidy for quicker eating between stops.

 

Dicky's BBQ Pit

Locations
Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport
Terminal C, Gate C6, 3200 E Airfield Dr, Irving, TX
(972) 973-4820

DFW
Terminal E 12
Dallas, TX
(972) 574-3798

Kitchen Chronicles-before and after

My kitchen remodel is complete!   The finished product – new floor plan, range and materials – is usable and I feel complete.  Although it feels a bit overly dramatic I must say this has been one long journey where the final destination has often felt like a mirage; visible but a tad out of reach.

The stops and starts to this project were due to things which are probably not that uncommon:  an issue involving the house structure we couldn’t see until layers – in this case the tile – was pulled back.  That led to fixing the damage, ordering new cabinets which weren’t planned for and then revising the electrical (also not originally planned.) 

For someone so used to having a game plan and sticking to it this turned me on my head.  There were days when I questioned why I’d started this project in the first place.  Oh yeah…I bought a stove on eBay four years ago and it was time to get it out of my garage.
The stove came from a seller in Florida who shipped it to my garage in California.  I didn’t unpack or check it until right before the remodel (I know, that is nuts.)  There was a moment where I panicked and thought “what if I said ‘Thermador’ and the guy heard ‘make sure it has a door’ and my stove was super cheap version brand x.    Fortunately what I ordered was what I got:  a 36 inch dual fuel Thermador with griddle in the middle –at a killer price.
The minute I fired up that grill I just knew things were going to be okay.  Better than okay.  It’s two months later and I still can’t help but marvel at the novelty of making blueberry pancakes on a Saturday while standing at the island in the center of the kitchen.  
Although my Kitchen Chronicles have seemingly come to an end, my culinary journey – and the many meals to follow – has just begun.   
Thermador 36 inch dual fuel range with griddle.  Professional quality made for the home.  LOVE.



All Spice - San Mateo CA

Tucked away from the very busy El Camino, All Spice looks like a nice - but misplaced - house that's actually a restaurant serving Indian fusion.  And very good fusion indeed.
 
Below are a few good examples of our fine fare; sea bass and the beef short ribs.  Both were beautifully plated, cooked and spiced to perfection.   
 
Beef short ribs in a very delectable, slightly curried sauce.

Silky, rich sea bass.  As tasty as it looks!
If there is a negative at all here it's that reservations are hard to come by and a Saturday night requires patience and planning.   Other than that, a true gem!

All Spice
1602 S El Camino Real
San Mateo, CA 94402
(650) 627-4303 
http://www.allspicerestaurant.com/
      

Cotogna San Francisco

This was my second time dining at Cotogna in San Francisco and made me wonder why I'd waited so long to return.  One reason:  reservations are tough to secure!  Still, the resulting meal was well worth the effort to snag a table in this establishment. 

One dish I had vowed to order again upon return was the raviolo di ricotta.   What's not to like about cheese and a soft-cooked egg wrapped in pasta and floating in browned butter?  For one thing, it's a tad small for the price - $16.   You can, however, take comfort in the richness of the sauce which makes for great dipping of the bread at the table. 

 
A big plate for one very rich ravioli - that's an egg in the center - nestled in a delicious brown butter sauce. 
Up next for me, the porchetta della casa which is essentially pork nestled in pork belly.  Extremely decadent and...let's just say very caloric...but sooooooo delicious if you like this type of thing.  I didn't eat the entire dish because it's possible my food coma might have lasted into the new year.  However I did take the remaining pork belly home and it became part of a seafood dish for the grill (see Kitchen Chronicles)
 

Pork loin wrapped in pork belly.  Decadent and delicious!

Kitchen Chronicles - the island is in sight!

I'm into week 6 of a kitchen remodel and the end is barely in sight.  A few speed bumps have slowed progress along the way; electrical which had to be replaced, a cabinet with a crack (discovered once it was installed) and the list goes on!

I'm learning a kitchen remodel is a journey which requires patience before you reach your destination.  It also requires some creativity if you don't want to eat out every meal.  Here are a few of my recent experiments:
  • Spaghetti squash on the grill - and yes, it worked but took some work!  I poked the outer "shell" with a knife - be careful - and placed on the hot grates.  I kept turning the squash as it browned and at some point was able to cut it in half, scoop the seeds and wrap in foil.  Another 40 minutes back on the grill - check it periodically - and I was left with a mountain of golden roasted squash.  A little parmesan, salt and pepper for the perfect finish.
  • Restaurant leftovers - pork belly from Cotogna in SF - combined with sea bass in a foil pouch on the grill makes for good, fast food.  The pork belly pieces added richness and depth to the otherwise mild white fish.  
  • Ramen noodles - the packaged version from the produce aisle.  Boiled water in the microwave, added noodles then the spice packet and some extras (onions, grilled chicken) for the perfect cold-weather meal.
  • Japanese sweet potatoes grilled then mashed.   Odd, but good.
Finally, here's a picture of the island - check out the color! - amidst the center of the kitchen.  It's progress people!

The blues..Stilton, that is!

A mild Stilton - perfect for snacking
I love cheese of all shapes and sizes.  And since taking up cheese-making I've been chasing the blues...Stilton, creamy blue, chunky blue...you get the picture. 

My first attempt was rather dismal.  A small wheel that dried up and then eventually went into the compost bucket.  The second was not really fit for human consumption with a mushy exterior that went hand-in-hand with the overly aggressive flavor inside.  You know it's bad when someone asks "why is the color brown and not white with flecks?"  (Gee, I don't know....)

So when our cheese group (the SF Cheese League) agreed to make - and taste - Stilton in a group setting I was nervous about the results.  And while the Stilton I churned out wasn't entirely marbled with veins on the inside the blue flavor came through in a subtle but still distinct manner.  Finally, semi-success!

Although not entirely blue on the inside, the exterior is a beautiful color

One recipe:  many variations.  But what a fun way to taste Stilton!

Kitchen Chronicles - week 1

It's officially Friday and my house is finally quiet.  The workers have closed up shop and left the building. 

No major issues (yet) but the additional order for cabinets extends the completion date about 4 weeks.  At least I had no plans to cook a turkey this year!

The one concern now is whether the floor can support the large heavy range which will sit on top.  If the floor beams are not wide enough then we'll need to remove, replace and shore things up.

This whole thing is crazy!  But thank goodness for microwave technology and frozen food.

Kitchen Chronicles - Day 2

When describing my planned kitchen remodel a friend said "you will break down at least once during construction."  I nonchalantly said "no way, I've got this under control." That statement now makes me laugh.

While working from home today I strolled in to the dining area to grab some juice from the still-plugged-in refrigerator.  The contractor mumbled something about the floor being damaged by water so I threw out something like "does that mean we'll need to pull up the cabinets we didn't plan to replace or is there another option?"

The contractor explained that what's visible is a "piecemeal floor".  As in, not really planned and pieced together (hence the map now visible ON the floor itself.)  Oh and damaged by water which means probably unstable long term.


It took me about 2 hours to reach acceptance phase:  this project WILL cost more than I expected and I can't take shortcuts without risking problems down the road.   I drafted and then sent an email to Olga (Cabinets & Beyond, San Mateo) with this message:

Heads up: we might need to put a rush order on more cabinets!

And then I went for a walk around the block (after work of course.)  Breakdown averted for today.

Cabinets & Beyond
San Mateo
Ask for Olga - she's amazing!

Range hood
Vent-a-hood

Pricey but quiet.  "It won't sound like a jet engine in your kitchen when it's running".  We'll see.
Manufactured in Texas, took 6 weeks to deliver and it arrived today.

Kitchen Chronicles - construction, day 1

After six years of plotting I've taken the plunge and the kitchen remodel has begun.

Here's the "before" shot (it's a beauty.)  Originally this entire space (including the area I'm standing) included the cooking area, breakfast nook, a small TV room (across from the cooking area) and a dining room (across from the breakfast nook).  All these rooms added up to many sliding doors and separated spaces - too many in my opinion. 

So we knocked out the wall between the TV room and dining room to create one large dining area filled with one very large table.  The last step in this journey is to remove the wall (below) and create an open, airy space which allows for easy flow of guests and occupants alike.


As a commentary on dinner parties, it's true that everyone ends up in the kitchen and in this case the smallest space (the "cooking area".)  Once this remodel is complete, they will probably still stand there but at least there will be room for everyone (including me, the cook) to move around.
 
The photo below shows the demolished kitchen with older - but well-made cabinets - remaining.  The range (out in the garage for..yes...almost 4 years) and hood (arrives tomorrow) will fill that old center area.

Then, we (as if I'm actually doing the work) cover all surfaces with beautiful granite and resurface the floors with new tile.  Stay tuned and I'll be sure to post a few recipes for Top Ramen and other items cooked by microwave.  I know, I know, cue the violinists so everyone can feel sorry for me!


 All kidding aside, I am excited to see the results and I'm sure I'll wonder why it took me six years to get this project off the ground (oh yeah...money.)

Vancouver vacation 2013 - summer fun now past


Oh Vancouver...how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways... 

1) Your scenery is always breath-taking but even more so during our August visit as the sun made the water sparkle...yes, like diamonds!  Made our kayaking and biking around Stanley Park just THAT much better. 

2) Eating options were numerous and within a stone's throw of our boutique hotel. Crazy-good ramen, down home Italian and fresh sushi made choosing a chore (but not really.) 

3) Friendly people, easy navigation and that cute little "jaunty man" signal which tells you it's time to cross the street. 

The burrata at La Buca
A mouth-watering menu at La Buca
 
 
Finally, how can I forget the really great boutique hotel on Robson Street?  The Listel features comfortable rooms, helpful staff and great location for walking to most of what we wanted to see/do.  Less driving and parking meant more time to chill and enjoy the city. 

 
We did take the car to North Vancouver with the intent of participating in the Grouse Grind before we left on Thursday.  My friend tells me it's a straight up hike on the normally-wintery ski trail with a convenient tram to bring you down when finished.  An un-named person forgot their hiking shoes so we found solace in The Bakehouse and the many pastries on display.
 
I'm back to my usual routine - work and some play - and my summer fling with Vancouver seems so far away.  But I will be back, with hiking shoes in hand!
 
Places to eat
 
La Buca
4025 MacDonald Street
Vancouver BC  V6L 2N8
604.730.6988
labuca.ca
 
Ramen Santouka (amazing)
1690 Robson St
Vancouver, BC V6G 1C7
Neighborhood: West End
(604) 681-8121

 The Boathouse
1305 Arbutus Street
Vancouver BC  V6J 5N2
604.738.5487
www.boathouserestaurants.ca

Eatery Takeout
3431 W Broadway  
Vancouver, BC V6R 2B4, Canada
604-738-5298

The Bakehouse
1050 W Queens Ave
North Vancouver BC  V7R 1H7
604.980.5554
 
Hotel

The Listel Hotel
1300 Robson Street
Vancouver BC V6E 1C5
604-684-8461
 
The lamb agnolotti - beautiful and delish at La Buca
 

Summer Travels - Pacific Northwest

It's way past the end of summer and I'm ashamed to admit I am only posting my August road trip adventures NOW.  Never fear though, the magic of the Northwest is timeless in my opinion and even more so in the Fall.

The trip was somewhat spontaneous and came about due to extra vacation days available, nice weather on the horizon and the lure of being in a car for 15 hours.  Seriously, for me there truly is nothing like the open road and the freedom that comes with it. 

While on the road it's always an interesting challenge to find good food that won't require a three hour wait.  Although not a quick stop, Sa.la.me in Ashland Oregon helped fuel our batteries for the road ahead AND transition into a relaxed state-of-vacation mode.

Sa.la.me
47 N. Main Street
Ashland OR 97520
541.708.5881
 
Bruschetta with fresh cheese - Sa.la.me, Ashland OR




 









Once in the Northwest we hopped a ferry headed for Port Townsend, a charming town that boasts amazing views of the water, a plethora of Victorian houses  and Sea J's for fish and chips (with lots of really good tartar sauce.)


Crispy fish and creamy tartar sauce at Sea J's


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sea J's 
2501 Washington Street
Port Townsend WA
(360) 385-6312
 
Following on the fish and chips theme - some might call it an obsession - we stopped at a relic from the past on our way back to the Bay Area...Skippers Fish and Chips in Roseburg Oregon. 

I was trying to express my love of this chain but the run-down mall it was housed in didn't generate as much enthusiasm as I'd expected from my driving partner.  Buying a case of clam chowder - "it will last longer" boasted the cashier - and fitting it into our packed trunk was quite the challenge but worth the effort in my opinion. 

Anyway, I'll always have the memories of Ashland...and 12 cans of chowder for the rainy days ahead!
 
Skippers Fish & Chips
2090 NW Stewart Pkwy
Roseburg OR 97470
541.672.0909 

Northwest Best: Bernie's, Full Sail Brewing, Roots and friends!

The food scene is definitely hopping in Portland and a quick weekend getaway to visit friends was the perfect excuse to indulge.   We indulged immediately with a visit to Bernie's Southern Bistro in the very lively Alberta Arts district and the perfect way to get the party started. 

Key highlight at Bernie's: sitting outside under the trees awaiting our very large portions of fried chicken and mac and cheese.    Of course we ordered way too much but we walked away happy and ready for the arduous task of shopping and hanging out (basically doing nothing.)  Note:  I am NOT complaining here.

Day two we hiked Hardy Falls which served up fresh air and a good dose of nature.  Next up, Full Sail Brewing in Hood River.  With a stunning drive along the water and then a big burger plus salad (gotta have something healthy!) our day was pretty much complete and our trip began to come to a close. 

Our last day we packed our bags and made a stop at Roots in Camas WA.    Roots is one of those places where you get food and service exceeding your expectations despite the  modest suburban strip mall location.  Don't skip the crab benedict or the Walla Walla onion tart - both amazing! 

Although I seemingly make light of the trip - but not my obsession with the Portland food scene - my true purpose was to catch up with longtime friends over many cups of hot coffee and meaningful dinners.  Past memories and meals tie our friendship together and continue to knit us close despite the many miles now between us.    

So thanks to my wonderful friends for setting aside precious time to connect and remind me what really matters in life.  YOU.

Bernie's Southern Bistro
2904 NE Alberta Street
Portland OR  97211
503.282.9864
berniesbistro.com 

Full Sail
506 Columbia Street
Hood River OR 97031
541.386.2247

Roots
19215 SE 34th Street Suite 110
Camas WA  98607
360.260.3001

Mothers Bistro - Portland

The motto on Mothers website is "it's all about the love" which resonated with this diner!  I loved the reuben sandwich with melty cheese, sauerkraut and, of course, homemade corned beef.  It felt like the entire plate was made with love, right down to the crispy bread which held everything together.

Apparently our short wait for a table was the result of good timing and good luck. I'm told our wait wasn't the norm and a visit usually requires patience.  In any case, don't miss the Reuben.  It's really fantastic.

Corned beef and sauerkraut atop toasted bread.  Just the best.
 
Way to start the day!  A mimosa at the ready
 
212 SW Stark St  Portland, OR 97204
(503) 464-1122

Bistro Don Giovanni, Napa CA

There are many great dining choices in Napa but Bistro Don Giovanni always tops my list of favorites.    The setting is comfortable, whether you're sitting on the patio dining al fresco or seated inside by the fireplace on a drizzly day.   While the setting is key to the overall experience the food is definitely the star of the show; a blend of local flavor and Italian flair served up by the expert staff.

The only problem I have with Bistro Don Giovanni is that there are SO MANY choices and I like them all!  From pasta to fish and the starters it's hard to narrow my meal to just a few items.  This time we focused on the basics: a perfectly cooked burger, fig pizza with blue cheese (amazing flavor) carpaccio and a rich decedant chocolate mousse.  All basic but nothing bland!

The fig and blue pizza starter is absolutely divine!

Carpaccio done well

Chocolate mousse and biscotti
Bistro Don Giovanni
4110 Howard Ln  Napa, CA 94558
(707) 224-3300

Pican, Fine Southern Food in Oakland CA

Pican is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants despite the short drive from home.  It's not just because of the food (which the kitchen consistently delivers) but also because the sophisticated, comfortable decor and knowledgeable waitstaff make you feel right at home.   In short, everything works in concert to create a dining experience you want to take part in again immediately.

As for what to order, don't skip the fried chicken and macaroni and cheese combination.  The fried chicken sports a perfectly seasoned crunchy exterior while the mac and cheese is luscious and creamy when you poke through to the interior.  A "can't miss combination" that leaves me satisfied but a little sad when the bottom of the cast iron skillet signals the end to the mac and cheese.

The fried chicken and mac and cheese.  Whoa!
We also indulged in the fried green tomatoes to get started and were happy with the choice.  The tomatoes were light, crisp and accompanied by a creamy burrata and salad.   

 
 While we did not partake in dessert the menu looks spot-on in terms of the choices.  Oh well, there's always next time at Pican!
 
Pican
2295 Broadway at 23rd Street
Oakland, California 94612
510.834.1000

Outstanding in the field 2013 - Everett Family Farm, Soquel

Like many, I love summer.  I loved it as a kid (camping, no school, long days) and I love it now (camping, no school, long days)!  The main difference is that time seems to fly by and before I can blink; June is a far distant memory with August in full view.

Each year the past three years I've attended one event from the roster of Outstanding in the Field events (OITF) to fill my "summer activity passport" and which serves to remind me "what I did last summer".  This year I selected a dinner at the Everett Family Farm in Soquel.

I will say that this was one of my favorites to date for many reasons.   Obviously the farm is chock full of lovingly tended crops but in addition, the structures are beautifully maintained with amazing attention to detail (I noticed the carefully crafted wood doors immediately).  That detail carried over to the dinner table setting - the "baseball field" - and the food itself.

The dinner was cooked by Santos Majano of Soif Restaurant & Wine Bar in Santa Cruz and the lineup included pulled pork mini-sliders, fresh greens with a salty, piquant feta, a delectable duck with potatoes and rock cod with quick pickles and farro.  But the dessert capped it all:  goat cheese panna cotta with berries and a touch of super sweet honey.  I really wanted to snap a picture but the dish was gone before I could even half-heartedly gesture for my camera.

As with many memories, this one is now past and I'm thinking about that Yosemite camping trip in August (I know, sigh..what a life I lead!)  If only I could bottle the season to hold onto before it slips from my tenuous grasp.  Soon enough it will be time for pumpkins and all the fine visions of fall.  Until then...I plan to savor the delights of summer and the feeling of youthful freedom most abundant this time of year.

The honor system;  stop by the farm for just-picked produce and fresh eggs.  You tally the final cost, drop the money in the lockbox and go on your merry way!


Destined for a great salad somewhere.


Villa Valentina, Drunken Sailor and Cazuelas in San Jose del Cabo

Although it's summer in the Bay Area and my vacation now seems so long ago (really only a month ago) I'm still hungering for Baja and the food I love so much.  Tacos were the vision - and we did partake - but we also ventured out to restaurants for meals which captured the essence of the region and time and time again reflected the hospitality of the people. 

Martini-time at Villa Valentina
Three standouts on this trip include the following:

The Drunken Sailor 

Located near the new marina (look for Hotel El Ganzo) and sporting a casual, beachy vibe this place really delivers.  We ordered the taco chino; a tortilla filled with panko coated shrimp and topped with a cilantro sesame dressing.    In addition I tried the enchiladas verde filled with shrimp and just the right amount of tang and spice.   This was a nice start to the trip.... 

After dinner we hung on the deck of the very cool and sophisticated Hotel El Ganzo.  El Ganzo is jaw-dropping with it's chic decor, relaxed vibe and roof top pool.   The rooms vary from waaayyyy over the top (one has a ping pong table AND workout room) to more subdued but all boast views of the marina and on this night were served up by Gerry, our effervescent host and impromptu tour guide.  

Next up a trip to Todos Santos to see the real Hotel California.  Of course we were famished upon arrival and a taco platter plus ceviche with red pepper cream salsa was in order.  I admit I had an Eagles soundtrack playing in my head "Welcome to the Hotel California..." but it wasn't until we visited Hacienda Cerritos I felt the dream materialize.  Beautiful stonework, pools overlooking the Pacific and a friendly cat jumping around to greet us made for a delightful day trip away from the core. 

Villa Valentina

Part home decor store, art center and restaurant is the best way I can describe Villa Valentina.  Throw in well-prepared food and the sound of a local musician on his guitar and you've almost got your own romantic movie.   

My dinner companions ordered the huarache (chipped duck with mole, really terrific) and chicken with - you guessed it - more mole.  As odd as this sounds, I ordered the fish and chips thinking it would be fun to see how other cultures prepare this iconic American dish.  In this case, Villa Valentina nailed their rendition and put their own stamp on it with fresh local sea bass perfectly cooked and served alongside wedge cut potatoes.  And don't forget the tarter sauce (I didn't!) 

The huarache with chipped duck and mole.  Incredible!
 
Cazuelas del don

Located in San Jose del Cabo off the tourist loop this local restaurant is about as authentic as you can get.  The premise is that each day the owner slow cooks meat, vegetables and spices and then you get to choose how the concoction is served up.  On  this day we were treated to La Ira; arrachera, chile poblano and cebolla (plus a few other ingredients.)  I opted for the baked potato, my companions the torta (sandwich) and volcan which seemed to translate to "all piled up on a crispy tortilla". 

The torta at Cazuelas (check out the crispy cheese!)
This was probably one of my favorite places and not just because the food was so interestingly delicious.  It's because it was served with a dose of pride and much warmth by the owners themselves.  To this day my travel companion lights up when talk turns to Cabo, Cazuelas and that lovely torta!

Hot feet and a warm soul in San Jose del Cabo, Baja California

It started around January... a recurring vision of sandy beach and fiery sun to warm my soul...  and didn't ease up until I was poolside with a plate of  fish tacos and a generous helping of smooth guacamole.  Cabo has become the stuff of my dreams and the place I think of first when I want to unwind and unplug. 

Last year I travelled to Cabo and stayed at the Hilton which is very plush and a great way to touch down for a few days of doing nothing (which is quite pleasant I must admit!)  This year it was the same but after a few days we changed hotels (Casa Natalia, boutique hotel) and locations (San Jose del Cabo) for a walkable experience via newly cobblestoned streets and updated core.

Fun, funky art adds beauty and character to Casa Natalia
 
Great for relaxing poolside



I loved Casa Natalia with its ultra chic setting and simple but comfortable rooms.  The hotel is right on the plaza so you can go out for a coffee at the French Riviera (great pastries) and then check out Casa Dahlia (art, light food) or Mi Casa Azul (nice collection of items for you or your home.)  Casa Natalia (whew, seems like everything here starts or ends with a "casa") also offers breakfast delivered to your room for dining al fresco. A great way to start the day!
 
Fresh fruit for our daily desayuno...breakfast!

One thing I will say is this:  Casa Natalia offers natural cooling with ceiling fans and open windows which isn't for everyone but was fine with us.   If you are looking for air-conditioned bliss, a larger hotel is probably a better fit.  However, the location and amenities overrule the lack of A/C in my opinion (unless of course it's the middle of summer when it's blistering hot.)

 Next up:  the food and fun of Cabo.  Don't miss the next post coming your way soon!

Boulevard Mijares N. 4
San Jose del Cabo
Baja California Sur 23400, Mexico
 
Mi Casa Azul Studio
 
Casa Dahlia

French Riveria

West of Pecos, San Francisco

With items like pulled pork and corn on the cobb it's hard to go wrong at West of Pecos.  The easy going vibe and killer food at this Mission eatery really make this a sure thing (for me anyway.)

We were in the mood for a good lunch and West of Pecos definitely delivered once we finalized our order.  The menu includes so many interesting options it was difficult to choose just a few (we didn't) and the final spread took up the entire table (I know this is probably not a surprise!)

Although we didn't finish one item - the cornbread which my dining companion took home - I did manage to eat my way through most of the corn, both artichoke pieces filled with crab and shrimp plus the salad and toast gracing the plate.  Yes, I was stuffed.  But oh-so-happy on the way home!

West of Pecos
550 Valencis St 
San Francisco, CA 94110
 (415) 252-7000

Grilled corn with a sweet, savory sauce.  Sticky but well worth the mess!


Crab AND shrimp stuffed artichokes.  And the green salad in the middle? Really, really great.

Margarita with a spicy kick. 

Cornbread at its finest.  Yum.