Showing posts with label Food and Wine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Food and Wine. Show all posts

Saltbox in San Carlos CA

The transformation from hardware store to shiny new neighborhood restaurant didn't happen overnight.  But now the wrapper is off and the food is making a presence at Salt Box in San Carlos.
And the food - plus overall ambiance - is stellar. 
My favorite:  castelvetrano olives.  
While the space itself isn't cavernous, it's got an open, airy vibe that buzzes once the place - and bar - fills up.  Salt Box is one of those places that doesn't appear to take reservations so be prepared to wait with a glass of wine in hand.  We arrived on a Friday around 6pm and just barely nabbed a seat.
The menu?  A good sampling of California style fare; pork chops, salad, burgers and the like.  For me it was a toss-up between the pork chop and burger and the burger won.  In the end, I feel like I won because I had the perfect meal - an expertly cooked burger with melty cheese and fries on the side.  

Anything but classic, the burger was sooo tasty with carmelized onions, melted cheese and fries.
A word of caution:  don't be tempted to skip dessert.  We ordered the profiteroles which arrived with a small pot of salted caramel sauce for dipping which we were tempted to lick clean (but didn't of course.)   If you are tempted, I wouldn't blame you and promise not to tell!

Johnston's Salt Box
1696 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070
(650) 592-7258

La Tosca - San Carlos - a culinary charmer!

La Tosca doesn’t sport any gingham-covered tablecloths but you do get the feeling that this is an old-school dining establishment in the best way possible.  A nice casual setting with the sound of a piano playing in the corner, this is the perfect place to unwind, order a glass of wine and noodle over a big plate of delicious pasta (sorry, that one seemed like a given.)

Both times I visited I was delighted with my dinner choices:  prawns in a rich lemony sauce (amazing) and on my second visit, a lobster risotto where the presentation was simply stunning.  For dessert; the silky smooth chocolate mousse with house-made whipped cream.  Wow.
Lobster Risotto with clams
I can’t close this without mentioning the staff.  Not only was everyone friendly and welcoming, the waiter seemed genuinely proud of the food.  He literally beamed when describing the entrees which made us happy to accommodate HIM.  Seriously, it turns out great service – or food – never goes out of style and La Tosca offers it up with gusto.  Grazie!
La Tosca
777 Laurel Street
San Carlos CA 94070

Frances - SF - New year, same great food

There are some restaurants which are worth a second or third mention, and one of those is Frances in San Francisco.  Always challenging to secure a reservation,  loud and crowded once you arrive, Frances is worth the effort when you finally experience the unique flavor and texture combinations served on their beautiful ceramic (assume locally handmade?) plates.

Bavette with butter beans.  Love this dish!
We selected many dishes in an effort to try as many things as possible.  The server hesitated when asked "is that too many?" and proceeded to deliver one dish in error (which he left on the table and...we consumed.)  At that point, it was too many but not something I say with regret.

What we ordered:
  • Applewood smoked beignets - the creamy, bacon-y sauce makes these "double-dip worthy"
  • The little gem salad is NOT your average salad!  The petite young lettuce lightly dressed in a subtle apple vinagrette is a great way to start your meal.
  • Riso nero venero - risotto made of small black kernels and dungeness crab.  Wow.
  • The bavette steak with butter bean compote; flavorful, perfectly cooked and tender.
  • Ricotta gnocchi with nettle pesto.  Again, not your average gnocchi!  The gnocchi were light and puffy ("almost like baked cheetos" which didn't entirely amuse my dinner companion) with the pesto to add punch. 
  • Broccoli gratin - creamy farro, Montegrappa cheese and broccoli. 
As though this wasn't enough for two (it was) we ordered ice cream (maple, browned butter) which was a perfect ending to the meal.  In case you are wondering, the browned butter ice cream won out in terms of taste but we crossed the finish line and consumed everything in our path.

Frances is a top contender on my list of favorites and I can't wait to go back.  A really great gem!

3870 17th St.
San Francisco
California 94114

NY favorites: Locanda Verdi and Peppolino

With so many restaurants to choose from in Manhattan deciding on dinner can be daunting.  This recent NY visit I opted to check out two of the same restaurants from last years' trip and was reminded why some always sizzle:  consistent quality, delicious food and attentive servers.
Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich Street New York, NY 10013
(212) 925-3797
Italian food in a sophisticated setting.  A few of the favorites: duck
meatballs, spaghetti all' matriciana and clam pasta.  The spaghetti was pure comfort food; a bit rich and just the right amount of spice.
Hint:  do make reservations if you can or you'll be in for a wait.  No matter of course given the busy, booming bar and scene that goes with it.
Clam pasta at Locanda Verde NY
Clam pasta - Locanda

Chocolate budino at Locanda

The perfect blend of spice and savory - Locanda
281 West Broadway New York, NY 10013
(212) 966-9983

Italian food seemed to be my cuisine of choice this trip so Peppolino was high on my list.  You can't go wrong with many of the entrees but  definitely don't skip the ricotta cheesecake.  This is not your
typical cheesecake; less sweet and vastly richer than most, it's their
signature dish...and rightfully so.


Barn Diva, Catelli's, Russian River Brewing Co in Healdsburg

No matter how many times I visit Healdsburg there's one thing that always stands out:  great food, and lots of it.

First stop, Barn Diva for a fantastic lunch of salad, fries and quiche.  Of course the salad wasn't just any salad, it was chock full of avocado, blue cheese, beets, shaved carrots and crunchy croutons married with a creamy tarragon dressing.  Add a side of fries - which are really more of a cross between a chip and a fry - to go with the rich quiche and you are ready to hit the winery trail.

The quiche at Barn Diva, Healdsburg
Our one and only winery visit this trip was Schlumberger (an old favorite) where reservations are recommended and a seat beside the lovely, relaxing fountain in the courtyard a must.  We took this opportunity to listen to the hypnotic symphony of water trickling and wine glasses clinking in the warm, embracing late-season sun.
After a check-in at the hotel and a power nap we headed out to the Russian River Brewing Co in Santa Rosa.  I'll admit, beer isn't my first love but the sampler seemed necesssary. We tried all the samples with mixed reviews:  I liked the sour versions (Supplication, Temptation and Consecration) and my companion liked the Redemption or the blondes (what a surprise.)

All that wine and beer tasting created quite the appetite so we headed to Catelli's in Geyserville.  Featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (or Triple D) you SHOULD  believe the hype: amazing 12-layer lasagna , homemade ravioli (in two sauces) are just a few of the dishes to die for.  Oh, and the bread which feels like a course on it's own.  Hint:  if you order the lasagna it arrives with two large pieces of very garlicky, buttery bread. 

The best of all worlds: meat ravioli with butter sauce and cheese ravioli paired with the spicy tomato.  Heaven!
Once the plates arrived I asked my dinner companion if he wanted a taste of my ravioli (which of course he did.)  Asked the same question about his lasagne I hesitated oh-so-briefly to which I was told "take some now before it's gone".  Although a nano-second to me, the lasagne quickly disappeared and I made a mental note to visit Healdsburg - and Catelli's again soon.   

Palm Springs eternally vintage

Want the ultimate in getaways?  Then consider Palm Springs where it's like a trip times two: you can immerse yourself in a host of activities AND travel back in time to the 60's.  A short stay will reset your attitude and you too will depart feeling like an official member of the rat pack.

The decor at the Orbit In boutique hotel

For the outdoor enthusiasts Joshua Tree offers breaktaking scenery and great photo opportunities.

Joshua Tree at sunset

Downtown palms in Palm Springs
Check out the Cabazon dinos while on your way to the outlets where they have the best of the luxury brands.

Dinos in the desert!

Where we stayed
Orbit In
562 W Arenas
Palm Springs CA  92262
Where we dined
California Bistro
200 S. Palm Canyon at Arenas

Burritos (yum)
61761 29 Palms Hwy
 Joshua Tree, CA 92252
(760) 366-8263
Seriously killer burritos and homemade salsas. A great place to stop for lunch on your way
to Joshua Tree.

Cabazon Outlets
48750 Seminole Drive #100      
Cabazon, CA 92230      
(951) 922-3000

Seattle stops: Hudson's and Daily Dozen Donuts

I haven't lived in Seattle for years but each time my feet touch down it takes about a nano-second and then it's like I never left.  The pace, slight chill in the air and even occasional bouts of gray pull me back and I'm once again a Pacific Northwesterner.

Today we made the usual loop of breakfast and a stop at Pike Place Market...with a twist.  The twist is that I have a new favorite breakfast joint - Hudson's - which I've written about before but couldn't resist as an encore.  Yummy biscuits served alongside savory sausage gravy plus crunchy, tender chicken fried steak make for the perfect blend of comfort breakfast at its satisfying best.

Biscuits & gravy at Hudson's

Next stop:  Pike Place Market.  Once again, no matter how many visits it's always the same.  Vibrant, bustling with energy and filled with mouth-watering snacks, it's a visual and tasty feast.

Daily Dozen donuts

Rain or sun, Seattle always shines for me!

Cafe Angelica, Wine Valley Inn, Fess Parker and Mortensen's in Solvang

We had a few vacation days to use and wanted a quick getaway.  Me?  I wanted to be able to drive to our destination so that I could take as many coats and pairs of shoes as I wanted without paying for extra baggage (after all, I have enough of that!)  The stated criteria put us somewhere on the Central Coast of California and a few hours drive from the Bay Area.

Foxen Winery, Solvang CA

Our destination(s):  Solvang, then Santa Monica.  Ok, so one isn't really all that close (about 6+ hours away from home) but broken up over a few days would work.

Let's start with Solvang which is a Dutch themed town in Santa Ynez Valley (CA) and surrounded by wineries.  Not only is the town surrounded by wineries it also contains a number of tasting rooms that are supposedly downright good.  And although we didn't have the time to check out the town more, we did enjoy our visit which included good food, nice people and a relaxing and unique experience overall.

A rundown of the places we visited:

  • Cafe Angelica (Solvang) Well prepared Italian food in a cozy setting and close enough to walk from our hotel.  A+ from me.
  • Wine Valley Inn  Clean comfortable rooms + free breakfast.
  • Fess Parker  The first winery stop of the day.  Nice wine and nice people who recommended our next stop, Foxen.
  • Foxen  Up the road and located in two places.  You purchase a tasting at one and can also taste at the other.  Fantastic wines and again, nice people to boot.
  • Patrick's Side Cafe (Grand Ave, Los Olivos.) I ordered the prime rib sandwich and my friend ordered the crab melt.  Both delish and we even got to eat outside (remarkable for late November.)
  • Epiphany Cellars (Los Olivos) Smaller tasting room is owned by the son of Fess Parker
  • Stolpman (Los Olivos)  Although I liked the wines I felt that the $15 tasting fee was a bit steep (and it wasn't discounted with a purchase.)  I received the standard wine glass and plucked a few persimmons off the tree in front so all was well when we left with our purchase.
  • Mortensen's bakery  Hands down the best stop of them all.  Danish bakery where all the items are made daily on the premises.  I liked our pastries so much I returned to the counter to buy one of almost every item in the "cookie" case.  Each and every one was devoured and delicious.  I could almost make this my final destination (but why settle?)
Overall, a memorable trip because of the places we visited and the people we met.  The food - and plethora of pastries - didn't hurt much either!

A great way to start the holiday season;  a trip to Solvang CA

Our own Russian River Food and Wine Fest '09

It was a weekend I'd been waiting for a long time - camping alongside the Russian River near the wine country in California. We'd planned to pack our weekend full of oysters, wine tasting (Geyserville, Russian River) and of course, food. The weekend didn't disappoint and I can't wait to go back!

Hog Island

Hog Island is a picturesque place to relax and down a few dozen oysters while overlooking the bay. For this trip we made a reservation (far, far in advance) packed a picnic (lots of cheese, bread and sauces) and purchased about 100 oysters (yes, you read that right!) The oysters at Hog Island are amazingly fresh because they've been plucked out of the bay - pretty much before your eyes. Hands down this is tops on my list of things to do in the Bay Area.

For reservations call (415) 663-9218 ext. 255 or email

Salty, briny goodness on the half shell
21021 Geyserville Avenue
Geyserville CA 95441

The sign outside reads "pizzeria and salumeria". I call it amazing. A friend ordered the 'sonja pizza' - tomato, marscarpone, proscuitto and argula - and I coveted it the entire meal! We also tried the pork cheek ragu with rigatoni (divine) and sardines in a tomato based sauce.

But the best part was they had fresh - probably housemade - proscuitto which they allowed us to try. Below are "before and after" pictures of the best proscuitto I've ever tasted. The chef responsible is to be commended!

Proscuitto in fine form

A slice of Diavola heaven - proscuitto

Wine tasting - Dry Creek Valley

We started at one of the Northern parts of Dry Creek Valley to work our way down. The first stop: Bella winery. This is wine tasting in a cave (and I mean that in a good way) with knowledgeable people in a picturesque setting.

Next up: Dutcher Crossing. We really enjoyed this winery from the staff to the wines. I am usually more of a red wine fan but the whites (Chardonnay's) were impressive.

Pedroncelli. Extensive list of well-priced wines in a relaxed setting (read: not snobby). Liked the Friend's Red ($10) and the Sangiovese. Oh, and no tasting fee and a 15% discount if you pay with the Visa Signature.

Finally, Kokomo. We almost passed by because it appeared to be a bunch of warehouses clumped together on a hill and then stopped anyway figuring we could hit a few all at once. The story is that there used to be a stone fruit farm at this location and the buildings were used for processing.

Although I lament the loss of peaches and apricots (assuming this is what they grew) I appreciate the wine and staff, especially a very knowledgeable woman named Robin. Robin clearly knows wine and how to pair it with food given her detailed recommendations and thoughtful ideas. Being a fellow foodie I have to give her kudos for making our last stop a memorable experience before hitting the long road home.

A day in Half Moon Bay

Bottling wine at La Nebbia, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino.

Halloween is right around the corner! Sugar pumkins at a local produce stand (these are the kind you make a pie with.)
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Bottle and Cork Day - La Nebbia Winery

It's bottle and cork day at La Nebbia Winery in Half Moon Bay California! The day is Saturday, September 12th and they are going to bottle a 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendocino. I plan to arrive early with camera in hand! Hope to see you all there!

Additional information
12341 San Mateo Road
Half Moon Bay CA 94019
Phone: 650.726.9463
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Island Style Cafe - Bodega Bay CA

Island Style Cafe
599 Highway 1
Bodega Bay, CA 94923
(707) 875-8881

The Island Style cafe is located beside Lucas Wharf Deli which is not to be confused with Lucas Wharf Restaurant next door. You can dine outside on one of the picnic tables which is great on a sunny day and seems fitting for the location. There is also a place to buy fresh (mostly local) fish right behind the cafe.

I ordered the fish and chips and my dining companion had the crab sandwich. Both were decent and fit the "price/value" score lodged firmly in my brain these days. Fish and chips up the street set you back almost $20 but you got a chance to see Tippi Hedren who was making a local appearance. For those not in the know, Tippi Hedren starred in the Hitchcock thriller "The Birds" filmed in Bodega Bay (she's also Melanie Griffith's mom.)

Other things to do while on the coast: stop at Hog Island for oysters or clams to take home but be sure to bring along an ice chest (you can buy ice there.) If you're in the mood for a drive, head east to the Russian River area for some wine tasting. Hint: if you have a Visa Signature card you get complimentary (free!) tastings at many of the wineries.
Delish fish and chips!

Lucas Wharf fish house - take your dinner home with you!

Frog's Leap Winery - Napa

Frog's Leap
Napa 8815 Conn Creek Rd
Rutherford California 94573

Good for groups - reservations required!

Cheese and snacks at Frog's Leap
The resident cat

The group tasting