Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dinner in Paris Without The 12 Hour Flight

The Left Bank in Santana Row.

After some back and forth the very nice hostess sat us at one of the 5 tables for 2 facing the front.  From these seats it really is the closest thing to Paris without the 12 hour flight.

People watching is the main event and with the vibrant Santana Row crowd there is never a dull moment.

The food is always great.  We enjoyed the moules followed by the salad verte and the steak with peppercorn sauce.  The Blason D' Aussieres from Corbieres in the Longuedoc was perfect. We finished of with the cheese course to complete the French immersion.  Plan on it being a relaxing 3 hours of entertainment.

I can highly recommend the whole experience.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Classic Cheese Fondue Vaudoise Recipe

Being a lover of cheese and wine and having lived 6 years in Villars-Sur-Ollon and having consumed many wonderful fondues and also having spent time with regional chiefs to understand their methods and ingredients and having made hundreds of fondues myself what follows is my recipe and suggestions for alternative ingredients when originals can't be found.

The most important part to creating an original fondue of the Aigle district of Vaud is the cheese.  Using the wrong cheese can result in a gooey stringy mess.  Secondly most important is the wine followed by the bread.  It's also important to have the right pot and heat source.  Best is a ceramic cast iron pot with handle and a stand with sterno heat source like this one which also comes with fondue forks.

Of course it also helps to have the right ambience.  A snowy night sitting by a warm fire surrounded by wood paneling with the smell of wet wool from your snow covered cloths.

This recipe serves 2 hungry people.

The Ingredients

I have included links to for a description of the cheeses. I've also included possible alternatives that work well.  The cheese weights are the purchase weights which includes the rind.

  • 3/4 pound aged Gruyere cheese - Gruyere is readily available but make sure you get an aged one not the american swiss cheese version.
  • 1/2 pound Vacherin Fribourgeois cheese.  This cheese is hard to find.  A good alternative is Appenzeller or a French Comte.  Many recipes call for Emmental but I don't recommend it as it is too mild and makes the fondue stringy
  • 1 cup Fendant white wine.  This wine is from the Chasselas grape and features fruity, floral and mineral flavors.  It's likely hard to find but a good substitute is the French Vouvray which is also fruity and well balanced.
  • 1 large rustic baguette.  The bread should not be too fresh and not too thick so that when cut it into bite size cubes each piece has a has a crust.  Day old baguette is best.
  • 1 once Kirsch 
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch or maze
  • 1 clove garlic
The preparation
  • About an hour before serving cut the bread into bite sized cubes.
  • Shred the cheeses into a big bowl, add the corn starch and toss thoroughly so that the cheese a has a fine coating of corn starch.
  • Crack the garlic clove and rub throughly in the fondue pot creating a thin layer of garlic juice on the pot.  Don't leave any pieces of garlic in the pot and discard the clove.
  • Pour in the wine and heat (medium) until it begins to bubble.  Do not allow it to boil.
  • Using a wooden spoon slowly stir in the cheese one handful at a time.  Stir each handful until it is completely blended.  Repeat until all the cheese is added.  It is important to continue stirring until serving.  Continue stirring until the consistency is slightly thicker than heavy cream. 
  • Add in the shot of Krisch
  • Light the sterno on a medium setting.
  • Place the fondue on the stand and add a touch of fresh ground pepper
  • Let the fun begin
The Consumption

Place a cube of bread on your fondue fork and dip into the fondue and stir around and eat directly. Be careful not to burn your mouth.   

It's important to keep the heat going.  If the heat should go off the cheese will turn quickly to an uneatable gooey blob.  

Optionally you and have a shot of Kirsch on the side to dip your bread in prior to placing in the fondue.

Serve with the same wine used in the fondue.

As you get to the end there will be a layer of burnt cheese in the bottom of the pot.  Optionally you can crack an egg into the pot and scramble it into the burnt cheese to finish with a few bites of cheese omelet.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Pictures and Paintings - A Duet

I composed the following video from photographs and paintings taken and made in the Provence, Tuscany, Phoenix and California.  Cheers.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cafe Brio - Best Dinning Experience in Victoria

From our inital greeting by the owner, Greg Hays to the aperizers, wine selection, main course and finally the cheese plate our experience was a culinary treat that stands as our best dinning experience in Victoria.

Off the beaten  path, a 15 minute walk from the town center, Cafe Brio is a rustic Italian oasis sandwiched tightly between non nondescript buildings. The front patio encased in creeping vines beckons you in.  In our conversation with Greg we learned the restaurant was built to his and co-owner Silvia Marcolini's design some 20 years ago during the biggest snow Victoria has ever seen.

Its high ceiling, earth tones and subtle lighting transport you immediately back to an Italian tratoria.  The atmosphere is "vivacious" reflective of its name "Brio" and its owners.  Chef Luarie Munn has created a superb menu of fresh ingredients from local farms sure to please knowledgeable foodies.

Many of the servers have worked at Cafe Brio for over a decade and are very knowledgable of the food and wine parings.  Our server suggested a Querciabella Chianti which proved to be an excellent choice.  Both Greg and Silvia visit Italy yearly to bring back new ideas and interesting wines.

We started with 2 stuffed olives followed by an antipasta selection that include a fantastic Boudin Noir blood sausage and a chicken liver parfait pate both homemade.  We then both had the pasta Bolognese which was perfectly cooked al dante. We finshed with a cheese tray of  Farm House Cheddar and La Baquette de Kerneval (french cow).

All in all a fantastic expereince and a "must visit" if you're in Victoria.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Maine Lobster in California

Today we enjoyed a real Maine Lobster roll in Redwood City.

The Old Port Lobster Shack will take you back to Maine without the 5 hour flight.  From the ambiance to the table decor it's all there.  The only thing missing is a view of the ocean.
"Escape to a little piece of Maine at our casual New England style restaurant where you can enjoy traditional New England seafood favorites right here in the San Francisco Bay Area in a fun, family-oriented environment with a wicked friendly staff.'
We had the traditional Maine Lobster roll and is was the real deal and the fries we really good.  I can recommend it highly.

The Maine Lobster Roll

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Steamers Grillhouse

We've been enjoying Steamers for what seems like forever yet I've never really taken the time to explain why we like it so much. First and foremost its the food.  If you're in the mood for fish this should definitely be on your short list.  They feature daily fresh specials that have never in all my experience disappointed.   Second it's the ambiance which is friendly and vibrant.  The Martini's are the best and the bar is inviting.  It's a great place to meet friends after work and stay for dinner.  They also offer outdoor dinning which in the warm summer nights is a good choice and is more intimate than the  people show you'll find at Santana Row.  All in all a great place to hang out and enjoy a evening with friends or meet new ones.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Arcadia New Years Eve Dinner

We enjoyed an excellent New Year's Eve dinner at Arcadia in San Jose (Marriott).  The four course fixed price menu with wine parings. The food was exceptional and the wine pairings very appropriate.

I especially liked the the Maine Lobster Pot Pie matched with a Moshin Pinot Noir 2008 from Sonoma. Also the Short Rib Rossini with Foie Gras was exceptional.

The only downside to a great meal was the absolutely egregious disco crap music that started at 9:30 and became progressively louder as the evening progressed. By midnight it was so loud no conversation was possible. The head waiter explained this was a New Years experiment - my comment - I don't think it worked. It would have been much better to have a live band playing well known covers to welcome in the New Year.