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With strawberry season upon us a mistake many of us make is wasting about a fourth of a strawberry whenever we slice them up. Check out this video on how to hull strawberries for a better yield of fruit.

How to hull a strawberry

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In the townhouse I live now we have a tiny back yard, maybe 16 x 12 ft, a yardlet if you will.  A few years back I put up planter boxes to grow fresh herbs and have been doing so since with good success.  Now the soil here isn’t much for growing (sandy loam) so to get much yield raised beds are the way to go.  Without much room I had to squeeze a  raised bed into my yardlet.  There are hundreds of plans online for making raised beds but all you really need is to build a box out of durable material.  I used landscaping timbers and the existing fence to make my bed.  This couldn’t have been easier and now I’m growing all sorts of veggies and having some good success.  Show me your small space and what you did to improve it.  Now some before and afters;



                    



The French Laundry

 Once you see it, it cannot be unseen.  This pretty much sums up the experience had at the French Laundry with slight modification, once you taste it, it cannot be untasted(?).

We were married at noon and we had reservations to one of Americas most exclusive restaurant at seven sharp.  We rolled into Yountville around four o clock and checked into the Vintage Inn.  We had a bottle of champagne waiting for us and a few hours to get unpacked, showered and dressed.  After a glass of the bubbly and a mad dash of “How does this outfit look?” we were ready to walk across the street and get in way over our heads.

My preconceived notion was that this place was going to be over the top pretentious and we would get half way through the meal and agree, we didn’t belong there.  We really couldn’t have been more wrong.  We showed up about fifteen minutes early because we were so close to the restaurant and the hostess had us seated right away.  We were greeted by at our table by our maitre de and later by the sommelier (wine guide) and were treated like we were the most important people in the place. The maitre de congratulated us on our very recent marriage and informed us that the chef would like to cook for us.  We were brought no menus but were asked if we had any aversions to any types of foods.  After telling him we were ready for anything the meal commenced.

The wait staff walked us through each of our amazing courses and the sommelier brought out a perfect pairing nearly every time.  I won’t get into each course but will list what we had and give my thoughts to a few of them.  Here was our course menu;

  •  Greeted with Krug Champagne and pasties from Bouchon Bakery
  • Salmon Lollipops- Salmon
  • Veloute of Topinambours – Green apple, pine nuts and Nasturtium soup
  • Oysters and Pearls – Sabayon of Pearl Tapioca with Oysters and Caviar
  • Foie Gras en Terrine – Served with Bouchon Bakery bread and 2 different types of butter
  • Cherry Blossom-cured Pacific Kanpachi
  • Sweet Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Tail
  • “Fricassee” Pork Belly
  • Marcho Farms Nature Fed Veal
  • Wild Honey Sorbet
  • Fuyu Persimmon “en feuille de bric” – Glazed Pecans Molasses and Cream cheese ice cream
  • Pastel de Tres Leches – 3 types of ice cream
  • Chocolates and Pastries to take home

Overall this was the most interesting and best dining experience I’ve ever had.  The staff did an excellent job, the food was delicious and the wine pairings were perfect.  The taste of the food is only a part of enjoying a meal and they do everything to make the presentation and experience more than you could hope for without the stuffiness and pretentiousness you’ll find is lesser places.

There were a few first times for some of the courses we had.  I had never had caviar, fois gras or pork belly before.  I was impressed with the tastes and textures, the caviar “felt” good in the mouth, the fois gras was like a meaty butter and the pork belly was delicious and melted with each bite.  I would most likely have pork belly again and may even try it on my own.

Even though the courses only consisted of about three bites a piece, Stef and I walked out of there hurting and unable to get through all of the desserts.  Every course is very rich and delicious it gets very overwhelming to the palate near the end.  Your eyes keep saying yes but the stomach begs you to refuse.  When we started I never thought I’d be more than satisfied at the end.  If you ever have the chance to go to this wonderful place I would urge you to not give the chance up as this is the pinnacle of what a dining experience should be.

I didn’t dare take out my camera and start taking pictures but here is a link to another blogger who wasn’t as shy.  Take a look and you’ll get a good idea of the presentation and quality put in to each course.

http://hungryhedonist.blogspot.com/2005/12/french-laundry.html

Bills Cafe Steak and Eggs

So before the went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium we met up with my friend who insisted we eat at Bills Cafe that morning.  He insisted they had the best steak and eggs he’s ever had.  After a long drive from San Fran to San Jose we stopped at Bill’s Cafe.  It was rainy and we had been informed that the wait was going to be 45 minutes.  I’ve never waited 45 minutes for breakfast before but I was assured it would be worth it.
Bills Cafe was teaming with people and the standing room was shoulder to shoulder.  The one thing I noticed was everyone leaving looked extremely happy and satisfied.  I was going to wait.
We were seated and I ordered the one dish I knew I had no choice not to get, the steak and eggs.
It came out and it was bigger than anticipated.  It was perfectly cooked and I could practically cut it with my fork.  Everyone else’s dish looked great and the service was speedy considering how busy the place was.  I would recommend anyone in the San Jose area to check this place out. I would say it was one of the best steak and eggs I’ve eaten to date.

Ghirrardelli

yuuuuuummmmmmmWe lay on the hotel bed not being able to move after such a huge and filling lunch. I knew that dinner was out of the question and I wasn’t sure how I’d be able to fit an ice cream sundae in me.
After a short nap and much back and forth we decided to try out the Ghirradelli ice cream shop. We took the trolley from the hotel to a few blocks from Ghirradelli square. After short walk we were greeted with a relatively short line at the sundae shop. We decided to split a banana split sundae.
Now I was told by many people and read many reviews that the ice cream sundaes here would change you life and you’d never get a better sundae in the city but I think I would have to disagree. We got double vanilla ice cream that was good but not great. The hot fudge was delicious but there was so little of it that there was none left halfway through the sundae eating experience. I’m not sure about you but when I get to the end of my sundae the last thing on my food better be some fudge. The highlight was the cup or cone cup that was dipped in chocolate and could be eaten. This was the best part as the cone was still relatively warm and the chocolate nice and thick. It was so thick it took some force to break it with the spoons we had.
If you do go ask for extra fudge but don’t expect anything special you can’t find at a marble slab. And don’t forget to grab a few bags of severely overpriced chocolates on your way out.

Lunch required

Our first stop after checking in at the hotel was Scala’s Bistro. With a little help from Yelp we found a top rated place right around the corner from the hotel. Going in we weren’t sure what to expect for lunch. We were greeted with a friendly hosts and a menu that was going to be hard to chose from.
The special was a prix fix (price fixed) choice of appetizer,salad, meal and small dessert and judging from the menu prices a pretty good deal. Due to the fact we did not have a refrigerator in the hotel we were not going to be leaving with leftovers.
The waiter was very friendly and very helpful when ordering. He suggested splitting the cod sandwich and an appetizer and that’s exactly what we did. We started with the Fritto misto. It was a fried combination of peppers, prawns, calamari, onions and fennel with a sherry-cayenne aioli. This had to be the best fried food I’ve ever had. Unlike the southern deep fried caked on batter I’ve gotten used to the food was very lightly coated and cooked perfectly. I’ve never thought of fried food as tasting light but that was exactly my first thought. The veggies were not overdone and crisp and tasted better than any fried food I’d ever had. The prawns and calamari were cooked perfectly. Stef and I them split the cod sandwich and pomme frittes. The bread was made in house and was delicious as was the cod. The fries were phenomenal and had to taken from our table for the fear of finishing them was immense. Overall our dining experience was great and the waiter had even taken the time to give us a city map and let us know what we needed to see.
If your ever in this area I implore you to check it out.

No Rice-a-roni here

About three weeks ago our stove went out, thanks Mark, I blame you. Mark had ask for recommendations on a new stove only moments before destroying ours with his voodoo.
A day a before we leave for San francisco the problem has been remedied and were back on track

Over the course of the week we will be eating at a wide vary of places on our honeymoon in San Francisco and I’ll try to share as much as I a can while I’m out here.

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