October 26, 2009

Never Seen a Pomegranate?

Wow.....today was a reality check for me.  You see, I grew up in the Bay Area.  Even though my parents were depression babies and my Mom went through a TV dinner phase.....we really cooked in my parents house.  My Mom made most things that we ate from scratch.......even better, we ate from my Father's fly fishing pole and my Mother's garden.

Today at work, a young woman walked into my kitchen and said that one of our teens wanted a pomegranate. Did I know where she could get one?  I pointed at the long wooden table that always houses at least five kinds of fresh, mostly local and organic fruit all year long.  She stood there for three or four minutes staring at the fruit.  Then, she looked up at me with a confusion on her face and asked which fruit was a pomegranate.  I thought for a minute that she was kidding, then I saw that her eyes showed complete innocence.  

I walked over smiling and picked up a large red globe and handed it to her.  Then I walked over with her an got a compostable knife so that the teen could open the fruit and enjoy it.  She thanked me profusely....and I handed her a handful of napkins before she left the dining room, letting her know that pomegranates can be really messy.

This whole experience threw me for a loop, and as I got back to work, setting up dinner for my kids at work.....I thought again about how fortunate I am and how important my job is.  

This is a well educated staff person.  All people who work at Seneca need to have at least a  BA and some life experience behind them to work with our kids.  Yet, this is obviously an area of their life experience that needs expansion.  How lucky am I that I can be the one to expose them to the wonders of the culinary world?   

I once read a book called, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"......about how enlightenment in life often can involve re-experiencing things in life in a new way, with new eyes.  I thought of that teaching today, and realized how lucky indeed I am.


Fall is my favorite time of year.  I love the brisk air and the sunny skies.  It is at this time of year that I find myself really missing Providence RI where I went to school.  The scenery is magical there right now.  Gorgeous blue water all around, skies streaked with white and the leaves on the trees.....truly amazing.  But I think that the thing that I miss most is the smell of Fall and Winter coming.  There is a certain musky Fall smell that happens when the leaves change color and if you have never lived back East or where it gets really cold in the Wintertime, maybe you will think that I am crazy....but it is true.  I miss the smell the most.

Back here in Berkeley, I am kicking into "nesting" and making soups.  Saturday , after the market, I went with our neighbors Karen and Rich to their Church Without Walls Harvest Festival and it was really fun.  Since Lucia is being an angel for Halloween....and we dont want her to look like a fallen angel with a tarnished halo, we opted to rummage through her dress up box to come up with another costume.   Glinda the Good Witch, from the Wizard of Oz is what we named it, and she looked pretty cute, I must admit....with the perfect funky Berkeley touch...white sparkly sneakers!

Karen had arranged a harvest food tasting table for the event and recruited me to help serve.  Of the four fabulous soups that we served and one great roasted vegetable salad...the Thai Carrot Soup won the hearts of everyone who tasted it....so I am shamelessly going to steal the recipe and make it at work! It was different than most soups that I crave at this time of year but delicious.

Lucia, Erica and Josh had lots of fun running around and getting candy prizes for the games that they played and the watermelon eating contest proved to be the hit of the night with teenagers sticking their whole faces into huge wedges of the last melons of the season, and eating their way into watery pink bliss!

On Sunday, Lucia and Troy sat down in our backyard to carve our own pumpkin which Lucia has dubbed "Mr Smiley".  It was great fun to watch and thusly we have Mr Smiley proudly displayed in our front window to smile down on Allston Way. Afterwards, we sat down to a dinner of Pulled Pork, Roasted Butternut Squash and White Bean soup that had been cooking all day long.  It was delicious with Lucia and Troy both eating two bowls.

I love this time of year!

September 23, 2009

Teaching Children About the Circle of Life

Occasionally I get to be the parent that my parents were at their best. The parent that all parents want to be. That time happened recently around one of my favorite and most heart-felt subjects... food and where it comes from.

Children are natural foragers. Their curiosity and sense of adventure allow an ability to taste, smell, see and feel things in ways that are already ruined for us adults. Life sometimes jades us into beliefs, especially about food….and often our tastes and preferences become our child’s, because they are such apt little mimics. But what happens when we are aware (brief gifts from above for moments at a time) of standing in our child’s (and our own) way? They are allowed to come to their own decisions about what they like and don’t like, about what is good and not, about whether they are okay with something.

My daughter Lucia, is an old soul. She is a spitfire and emotional, fun to be around, a trial when she is overwhelmed and tired and bossy. In fact, she is a lot like her mother. I have made a conscious effort to expose her to much, especially around food, which my life seems to revolve deliciously around.

We have planted three years of backyard gardens together. We have tasted our way through the farmer’s market every Saturday of her little life. By and large, I don’t make “kid food”…I make real food. She puts it best when she sees a fast food commercial, “Mama! They are lying when they say THAT food is good! It is fast food! It is BAD for you! People shouldn’t eat fast food!  They should eat SLOW FOOD”. Not bad for my little disciple…but even then, I have tried to show her why I make the choices for our family (and my work family) that I do, and let her come to her own ideas and ideals. So far so good.

So when it comes to letting kids know where their food comes from it is pretty simple isn’t it? We have planted gardens, know the farmers at the farmers markets better than most….easy to see and tell where our fruits and vegetables come from. Especially easy for a mother and a kid who both are animal people because trees and shrubs don’t scream when you pick their fruit.

Recently, I have had something in the back of my mind that was troubling me. How could I tell this kid who kisses chickens and cows when she meets them and gives a hug to the merry go round horses after they let her ride, that we kill animals for food? I know about this sensitivity because I have always been an animal person. Shoot, I even cried when my parents cut down real trees for Christmas and I watched them die a slow death in our living room! My daughter is me times twenty, and though I am slowly getting over my own squeamishness on the subject….I desperately wanted to make it easier for her to understand.

This past summer gave me my opportunity. Lucia and I volunteered at Slow Food Berkeley’s pig roast. Surrounded by like minded folks, we arrived when the pig was already buried in the Caja China box over slow coals….and would be there most of the day.

While we waited, along with about fifty other hungry folks, I talked to my daughter about how sometimes animals give their lives so that we can live to be strong and healthy. She listened intently, and she nodded, seeming to get it with little fan fare or drama. If you know my daughter at all, you know that this is rare!

We talked about how plants are living too and that they do the same for us, give us the fruit that they grown to feed us and make us strong. I told her about how her Papa, that she never knew, took me fishing when I was her age. How we baited the flies that Papa made especially and caught fish to eat. We likened that to the wonderful fish mongers at Monterey Fish, who take at least thirty minutes out each time we visit to show Lucia the lobsters or crabs or big mouthed fish in ice in the window…they answer her questions focusing only on her (never mind that they have other customers and a business to run!), they let her touch them and she is happy as a clam each time we visit.

When it came time for the piggy to be taken out of the box, we talked again about how “this piggy gave his life so that we all could share him and be healthy and strong”. That, “yes, the piggy is cooked and yes, again, we are going to eat him with all our friends”. I must admit, as the Slow Food people parted so that my little girl could watch as the man who roasted the pig could bring him up from the coals, face and all, I had knots in my stomach. Was my animal loving little girl really going to be okay with this?

For a moment, after the pig was on the carving table, LuLu turned to look back at me, I was nervous. I must have hid it well though, because I smiled at her questioning little face….and then a miracle happened! She smiled easily back. It was going to be okay. She “got” it. The circle of life made sense and she got it!

She watched him cut up the pig, as he gave away the ears and feet. Still no drama. No problem. We waited in line to get our share of fresh roasted pork on our favorite Acme rolls with homemade salsas and a bounty of potluck items that everyone had brought from home.

I still almost cry when I think back on this amazing day. It was a day when I am certain that my own dear parents were smiling down on me.  The day I "got it". It was the day that I was a good mother, the one that I am meant to be.

September 14, 2009

Rainy Day Fantasy

Saturday morning, Lucia and I awoke to the unthinkable in the Bay Area in September.
Rain!  Wow!  My heart automatically started yearning for the crunch of Fall colors beneath
my feet and the smell of Autumn coming on.

I love the rain.  Especially when I don't have to drive in it! Though it was no where close to 
being cold or even "brisk", we quickly decided to dress quickly and hop on Bart to go to the
Ferry Plaza Farmer's market.  As Lucia commented on the Oakland roof tops and the other 
Bart trains whizzing by, I let my mind wander, thinking that our trip to the market today 
might be blessed with less tourists because of the rain, and that after my business was done,
we might be able to endulge the moody day by sitting under the eaves, watching the grey
clouds dart around the newly reopened Bay Bridge, and sip the amazingly thick, and not 
too sweet warm chocolate from a cup, dolluped with just whipped, not to sweet cream.

Happy Rainy Day!!

Note:  There were less tourists, but the Ferry Plaza is always crowded, and after actually getting
our warm chocolate and watching the clouds, we met up with our friend Alice Waters.  Lucia and
Alice love each other and hugged ardently and with great enthusiasm!  Truly great day!

PS.....Boulette's larder also makes AMAZING English Muffins on Saturday!

September 02, 2009

Kindergarden in the garden!

Today was the realization of a dream for me.  Our daughter Lucia, started kindergarden in Berkeley.  Two years ago, we started looking to move to Berkeley.  It became evident that we probably would not be able to afford a home of our own in the hot real
estate market that is Berkeley, but we are renting a really beautiful home with room to have a vegetable garden, great neighbors,
walkable to Acme Bread, 900 Grayson, the new Berkeley Bowl, great parks, good local coffee, Cafe Fanny, 4th Street shops, and of course, LuLu's school.  

When I started researching schools, I found out that while many school districts are suffering under budget cuts and recession, the folks that are lucky enough to own homes in this area, keep voting to send a large portion of property tax revenue to support school programs.  For their money, our children get arts, music, sports, good after school care, locally grown scratch meals, libraries and computer labs at all schools, organic gardens and cooking programs and science labs.  For the garden/cooking  and school lunch program alone I would count my child lucky to be in a Berkeley school. For a Mom and a Slow Food Chef,  I just can't imagine it gets any better than this for my child and for all children.

Thank you Alice Waters, for having the vision that Berkeley schools could be special and so much more, thank you to all the parents, staff,  and the administrators who have taken these innovative ideas and the tax payers hard earned cash and made 
this happen.  My child and so many others will be excited to be at school everyday, challenged and inspired.

August 30, 2009

Eat Real Street Food Festival

August 29, 2009

My Penchant for Beautiful Pottery

Wherever I go I am constantly on the look out for beautiful things.  Most women I know have extensive collections.  Whether it be nick knacks for the home, little statues, glassware, shoes (I know lots of women who spend much of their take home $$ on this one!), makeup, books etc.  Mostly I collect food. Beautiful, local, amazing food.  It goes away as quickly as it comes, but for me there is no greater joy than collecting and creating gloriously colorful, healthful and delicious food for my friends and family.  And unlike some other people's collections, I am really satisfied and happy to see it disappear.

The one other thing that I do scour the markets and shops for wherever I go is pottery to put the food into.  I love colorful pottery and while I started my collection with the very upscale Deruta tableware for four (I was single and childless then...who buys dinnerware for four?) I am equally attracted to the pottery of Mexico, Costa Rica, Portugal, Italy and have shipped and lugged home many examples to join my collection. My sweet Husband even bought me several pieces of darling, whimsical rainforest pottery when we visited Costa Rica, several years ago.

While many Chef's prefer snow white plates or for more dramatic effect, black vessels to "let the food shine"  I am of the thought that the gorgeous colors of the pottery complement the food and make a more celebratory presentation.  And for me and my family, my friends and my clients...coming together around the table over great food and drink is a reason to celebrate everyday.

I have even delved into making my own pottery.  Since collecting is expensive and I have no patience and an artistic bent anyway, I have decided that I too can design and paint my own pottery.  I started when I came back from Italy the first time by painting tiles to be coasters nearby where I lived in Los Gatos at the time, as a way to decompress after a long day managing restaurants and catering for Nordstrom.  And little by little, I have added lovely little pieces that I am happy to show off and use when I entertain and cater parties for clients.  

I painted some darling little whimsical oil and vinegar bottles when we lived in Arizona (don't ask).  I also designed and painted a sunflower mural on tile to go behind the dual fuel Dacor range that I gave up when we decided to move back to the liberal Bay Area (thankfully!).  I gave up the expensive range, but I brought my art with me!

Lately I have been working on replacing a counter top for a little wooden kitchen island that I bought in AZ.  I loved the  Mexican antique, but always hated the grubby grout and the burnt orange tile.  While pounding meat back a couple of months ago, I broke two of the tiles....it took not even a second to get over being sorry and on to perusing my book about Italian artisans from Deruta, to Googling a local pottery place that would let me work on my design little by little.

I am not yet done.  About halfway after a month of work....but I am happy with how its going and will share the result here when I am finished.  

August 23, 2009

Preserving Summer Flavor

Wednesday, I found an incredible deal up in Suisun Valley where my daughter goes to day care.  It is a valley of farms, olives and grapes mostly, but dotted down a few long dirt roads, if you know where to go, are some great produce farms.  One in particular at this time of year has great berries.....and on this day, the deal was raspberries.

Now I am a very picky produce person.  I may not dust my house as often as some others, I may not get the cobwebs on my back porch as thoroughly as some, but when it comes to quality and the flavor factor in produce......well, let's just say I have an eye and nose for flavor.

So I got such a deal on organic raspberries, that I just had to try to preserve the flavor.  So my daughter and I got busy this afternoon and started researching raspberry jam.  Since my husband is diabetic, we really wanted to find a recipe that he could enjoy too.  Since I had never made jam without sugar, I was a little hesitant, even though I purchased Ball pectin that said that it could be made without sugar...I was skeptical.  Especially when I read the recipes inside the box that said to add unsweetened apple or grape juice to the mix.  I just couldn't see it when what I wanted was intense raspberry flavor!  

After doing numerous internet searches, looking at Elizabeth David's oven jam recipe, and Martha Stewart's recipes for preserves....I decided to follow my instincts and just make jam with Splenda. I cook and bake with Splenda all the time....I should be able to figure out a simple delicious jam recipe using this substitute too.

One note, after processing the jam, turn the jars upside down out onto a clean dry kitchen towel for ten minutes. I don't really remember why my Mama used to do this when putting up preserves, but hers turned out great every time!

Late Summer Raspberry Jam with Splenda
5 half pint Ball jars with lids and rings
7 pints of organic raspberries
1 package (1.75 gr) Ball No Sugar Needed Pectin
1/2 cup filtered water
3/4 cup Splenda, granulated

In a large pot, half filled with water, boil the jars and the lids (not the rings). Remove from heat and top with the pot lid to keep the jars hot while
readying the raspberries.

Fill a canning pot, lined with a jar rack, 3/4 full with water. Bring to a boil and keep at a simmer until you are ready to add the filled jars.

After washing the raspberries and letting air dry on a clean kitchen towel, pile the raspberries into a large sauce pan and crush with a potato masher, breaking up the berries, but not completely crushing them.  Sprinkle with powdered pectin.  Mix in the pectin gradually, stirring to incorporate.  Let stand ten minutes.

Add the water to the raspberry mixture and bring to a rolling boil and reaches 220 degrees.  Stir constantly and boil for one minute.  Remove from heat.  

Immediately start draining the hot jars and filling with the jam mixture to 1/4 inch from the rim.  Take out one lid at a time, pat dry with a clean towel and wipe the edge and rim of the filled jar.  Apply the lid and secure the ring.  Put filled jars into the simmering water bath, cover and bring the water up to a rolling boil.  Once at a boil, process the jars for ten minutes.

After ten minutes processing, remove the hot jars from the water bath, using canning tongs and turn the jar upside down on a clean kitchen towel and let sit for ten minutes. Turn the jars right side up on the towel and let sit for several hours. You may hear the tell tale popping sound of the lids.  This sound signifies that the seals have done their job!

Before labeling and storing, gently remove the rings on the jars and press lightly against the seals to make sure that the processing "took".  If the jars come unsealed easily at this point.  You will need to reheat the jam and re-process to seal again.

Makes 5 jars of raspberry jam.

August 16, 2009

Home Grown and Cherishing Simple Pleasures

This has been a time of growth for our family.  We have had to let go of a home, realize that serious illness can strike a healthy person at any time...and learn to go on, making difficult decisions along the way.  We have moved, stood by while a young man got shot dead by a machine gun in our new neighborhood a result of senseless gang violence.  We have watched our friends face hard decisions, leave relationships and friends, move away and have hardship with their businesses. These have all been obvious areas of difficulty.  

But with the bad, also comes good.  We still have our jobs, each other, a nice roof over our heads, great local food to eat and our youngest daughter starts kindergarten at a great school in two weeks and my niece starts law school.  We have made many new friends, helped to spread the word about supporting our local economy and farms, we have volunteered at the Edible Schoolyard and other Slow Food events, we have planted our own garden and are starting to reap the rewards of it all.

This weekend, we picked so many cherry tomatoes, we decided to can some.  I haven't really done much canning in my culinary career, but like so many people have come to lately, in these challenging times, I find comfort in the ways of my Mother and her Mother before her.  These things ignite my sense memory and bring my cherished deceased loved ones close again in my heart and mind.  

So Lucia and I halved tomatoes, chopped garlic and decided to take our very favorite tomato recipe, and can them so that we have the chance to savor the sweetness of summer when it is cold and wintry outside.  Below you will find the recipe for these Slow Roasted Tomatoes.  They are amazing.  Served with softly scrambled eggs and basil for breakfast or to top lightly toasted Acme baguettes spread with a mild goat cheese and a glass of wine.  I have had this for dinner more times lately than I can tell you, and I still never tire of the concentrated tomato sweetness.

Slow Roasted Tomatoes

2 pints of tomatoes, cherry or Roma work best
2 cloves of garlic
good olive oil
sea salt
Herbs de Provence

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 
Coat a cookie sheet lightly with olive oil.
Slice the tomatoes in half and place on the cookie sheet cut side down, close together.
Smash the garlic with a chef's knife, and chop finely.
Sprinkle the garlic over the tomatoes and then with the olive oil.
Season with sea salt and herbs de provence to taste.
Roast in the oven 45 minutes or until tomatoes have shriveled slightly and  about half the size.
Remove from the oven and put the roasted tomatoes, garlic, oil and all the juice into a covered 
   container in the refrigerator.
Will keep about a week, but I guarantee that these wont last that long!

August 13, 2009

Slow Food USA's Time for Lunch EAT-IN, Time for REAL food in schools!

Okay so most of you who know me well, know that I cook for kids and several times a year do special food functions for the CEO of Seneca Center and Alameda Board of Education representative, Ken Berrick. Ken is a master fund raiser and for the 22 or so years he has headed up Seneca, he has been fighting to make things better for Bay Area kids. The meals are important, because they keep Seneca at the fore front in legislators minds.

One thing is common, among all the people who visit Seneca each and every year. They all say what a good job our staff and administrators do in living and modeling our motto "unconditional care" and they say how great the food is.

I have been with Seneca for eight years. In that time, many changes have happened. But constant is the support that I have gotten in planning, ordering and producing good, clean and fair food for my kids and staff here. I would like to think that other therapeutic agencies and schools are modelling this part of what we have done here at Seneca, but alas....they are not.

Kids in most California public schools and in schools all over the country are treated like bargain trash compactors. The schools sell the USDA mass produced product that they get for free to our kids, and as a result, our kids are the fattest, most lethargic and unhealthiest in recorded history. In my opinion, this is due to several reasons....one of the most important being the quality of food that they are being offered and served in schools.

It is bad enough in our society that most of us cannot afford our own homes, and have to choose to put good, clean and fair food on the table or put gas in our cars to get to work each day. No matter what challenges we face as adults, our children deserve to have good food in their bellies. Food that will not only nourish their bodies and minds...but their souls!!

Where our food comes from makes a difference! If you have not yet seen the barrage of politics of food and food supply books and movies out recently, I urge you to educate yourself about this issue if you haven’t already. Books like Fast Food Nation and the Omneviores Dilema. Movies like: SuperSize Me, Food Inc, King Corn and Fresh....show mass food production like it is. When a sick and injured cow is herded by a forklift into the slaughter house, alive and knowing what is about to happen...does that fear that rushes into that poor animal's brain also rush cortisol and adrenaline into the meat that we later consume? My opinion is that it does.

Modern day enslavement and abuse of immigrant and low-income American workers, mistreatment of our livestock and animals, diabetes, disease, death. If these costs were exposed to the average person, they would understand clearly that real, healthy, locally- and fairly-produced food is actually much cheaper than fast-food.

The time to act is now. Legislation for The Child Nutrition Act is a federal law that comes up for re-authorization in Congress every four to five years. It governs the National School Lunch Program, which sets the standard for the food that more than 30 million children eat every school day.

In the last few decades, as school budgets have been cut, our nation's schools have struggled to serve children the real food they need.

The deadline for reauthorizing the current Child Nutrition Act is September 2009. Unless we speak up this summer, “business as usual” on Capitol Hill will let Congress pass a Child Nutrition Act that continues to fail our children.

I urge all who read this to sign the petition and "EAT IN" for change this Labor Day. Around this great country of ours, Slow Food conviviums are organising huge community pot lucks to draw attention to this issue. If you really care about our children and believe that they deserve better food and food education in schools, then please click on the link below and sign up to join us in the fight! You will have the opportunity to eat some great food yourselves, get to know your neighbors and local food activists and learn what you can do to help.

Alice Waters says it best. "Good, clean and fair food is your right...as a human being". Let's work with her and Michelle Obama to make we don't let our kids health slip through the cracks and good nutrition in schools is a great place to start!


August 09, 2009

Doggie Luv

Okay....so I am off food for this one.  But I must let you know that our daughter Lucia loves dogs as much as she loves food!  And more times than not, on our way to have a meal, we are stopped by one or twenty one dogs along the way.  This has proven to be quite a deterrent to getting to meals in a timely manner, as one never knows just how many dogs one may encounter while walking the very dog friendly streets of the Bay Area.

Seemingly from the time she was born, LuLu has been a dog person.  Yes, of course we have had our darling pitbull mix Bella three years prior to the time Lucia was born.  Of course, we cannot forget our big goofy boy Bruno, Bella's lovable and handsome mastiff pitt mix and companion.  We have many other dogs in our lives...there is Alfie, our dear friend Lisa's adorable white poodle.  There's Sparky, the Austrailian herding dog that lives with our friends Mary, Rick and Brendan in Fairfield, who lights up like a light bulb every time he hears Lucia's voice.  Of course we cannot forget Dixie, my Mother's bichon frisee that Lucia knew just for six months as a baby; and then dear Blondie....Bella's rival pitmix girl next door.  Lucia loves them all.

But our darling daughter does not discriminate.  She stops and gives her total attention to any dog that will have it.  And let's face it, rare is a dog that will not have a doggie girl's ardent stroking and sweet talk in their ears!  As for the doggie Mama and Daddies...well who doesn't want a cute little kid fawning all over their dog?  It would be like proud parents telling someone not to stop and admire their baby in a stroller!

As you can imagine, this can put a dent in the timing of our meals, or for that matter, getting to just about any place in a timely fashion!  The clock stands still while our girl offers her tender touch.  Only afterwards do we look at our cell phones and realize that we have spent a good 10 or 20 minutes in worship of some stranger's canine.  Ah well....I guess there are worse ways to spend an afternoon and after all, if it is true that what goes around comes around, our patience and Lucia's TLC will serve us well down the road.

August 08, 2009

Sunday Breakfast

We have a tradition since moving to Berkeley.  On Friday night, to celebrate the end of the week we go out to dinner.  Not usually a fancy affair.....though we usually spend more on food than most families I imagine, we pay for quality and support good, local ingredients.  Neighborhood places, owned by hardworking people who are really focused on the food.  But I digress.

The second part of the weekend food celebration comes on Sunday am, after the Saturday filled with taking the train to the City and spending the better part of the day foraging the best ingredients for my job at Seneca Center, elbowing through the amazing mix of locals and enthusiastic tourists at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.  I love my job, I love the market and all the farmers and local producers that  I have built a relationship with over the years working in the food business....but.....I also really love the chance to relax on Sunday mornings with my sweet Husband and daughter, over a meal that I had to do absolutely nothing for, except drag my hiney out of bed!

Berkeley is an amazing town.  Full of wonderful opinionated folks, a well educated bunch, passionate about their place in society.  It is one of the many reasons that we sought to make this our home.  Certainly, one of the most enjoyable things about Berkeley (Oakland and SF too for that matter!) is the availability of local, sustainably produced food and the hardworking folks that bring it to us everyday.  I am so grateful that on Sundays, I am not one of those people, but a benefactor.  

So on Sunday am we get up and without much thought as to where we will go, we head out the door to partake.  Sometimes I do a little internet research ahead of time, looking at reviews from other folk and Michael Bauer.  Sometimes I have a bee in my bonnet about places that I have had in que and wanted to try.  Most times, Troy and I have a brief discussion and we just go!  

Lucia sometimes has something to say about what she wants to eat, but if we gave her a choice about where to go...she most certainly chooses Cafe Fanny.  Cafe Fanny is one of our old standbys.  The people are so wonderful, always greeting us by name and taking joy in seeing Lucia run around, petting doggies that come with their parents, and sipping on her big girl warm chocolate from a bowl.  Her she has two favorite breakfast selections at Cafe Fanny.  The warm and nutty steel cut oats, served with lovely melting butter and maple syrup. But most often, she chooses a soft boiled egg with Acme toast.  My go-getter, not afraid of anything daughter turns into a real little lady at Cafe Fanny, with her napkin on her lap and her tiny little egg spoon, daintily scooping warm, slightly runny egg from the light green shell.  She usually leaves her toast for last, eating it with cream cheese and their homemade jam. 

Troy and I really like a little and popular French place on Shattuck, I am sure that you will already know of it, it is one of the most popular places for breakfast, it is called La Note.  I always order the same thing.  Softly scrambled eggs with goat cheese and herbs.  It comes with a side of the most delicious oven roasted tomatoes and I suggest that you splurge and get the buttery, crusty croissant or the huge half a baguette instead of the toast.  Leave the butter that it comes with alone, and spread it with the lovely not too sweet raspberry jam that is a house specialty here.  Pure breakfast heaven!!  

We also really like 900 Grayson.  However, we dont get to go here as often as we would because they are not open on Sundays. We usually choose this tiny little heaven of slow food if we suddenly get a wild hair and go out on Saturday morning instead, but as I said before, my Saturdays are usually packed full with the market...so the opportunity does not happen often.  

We really like walking to Bette's on 4th Street. Consistently great food but sometimes the wait is just too much for hungry parents with a five year old.  I have a special place in my heart though for the folks at Bette's because my niece Brittany used to wait tables here.  

Meal Ticket, Cafe M and Leilas are all pretty good but for me uneven.  

Recently on a Sunday am when we decided to venture into the city for a meal, we took a chance and went to the really hipster, upscale Slow Club.  We had to wait more than an hour for a table, and had to really work to keep Lucia occupied for that huge amount of time (thank God for color books and washable pens!) but when we finally got to a table, we had an amazing meal. Lucia was happy with the oatmeal and I ordered a warm flat bread with wilted wild rocket, pecorino and a fried egg.  And...they serve Blue Bottle Coffee. Can you say YUM?  Fabulous is the best word that I can think of.  This place is on our short list for further ventures.

After our meal, we find a nice place to walk some of it off.  Coming prepared with LuLu's pink skitter helps to make it more fun for her, and we get a leisurely start to the end of our weekend. 

I love my job.  I love everything about it.  But I must say, at the end of a busy week being up at 5am, a wife, a mother, a chef and nutritional manager, a housekeeper, gardener, laundress and dog owner....I am most grateful on Sunday morning meals out with my family!

August 07, 2009

Grilled Pizza

Tonight after pruning the tomatoes plants that are quickly out growing the cages that I have used for the last three years, I decided to make some homemade pizza dough and grill some pizza.  This is my second attempt this summer at grilling pizza.  Last time, the crust was what was lacking.  Too thick and too many toppings.  This time I decided to keep it simple.

The pizza dough is better. Amazing.  This time, the crust is good. I wanted to find a way to stretch it thinner to get the crisp and chewy, Cheeseboard type crust that my little family has grown to love. After brushing it with garlic oil and laying it on a 500 degree preheated grill, it is a skill to keep it moving and get the nice char marks and crispy edges, without letting it rest too long and burning. 

So on go the oven roasted tomatoes, creamy goat cheese , smoked pork loin, and grilled gypsy peppers. For my daughter Lucia, a fire roasted tomato reduction and fresh mozzarella.  She is a fearless and adventurous eater....but really wants to be a kid eating cheese pizza tonight.  I oblige.  I make two 8 inch pies with the pork loin, one cheese pizza and one Frog Hollow Peach pizza drizzled with honey and dotted with dolce pecorino.  Delicious!

Since the weather was unusually balmy for Berkeley tonight, cut up some fresh Frog Hollow peaches, tiny Lucero strawberries and macerated them in a nice Spanish white wine with a squeeze of lime in two glasses to accompany the pizza for my Husband Troy and I.

Topping off the meal, slices from a miniscule, sweet watermelon.