Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 10, 2012 Shopping - killing three birds with one stone, Dinner - poached Yellow Tail Tuna in a mustard horseradish cream sauce

January 10, 2012  Shopping - killing three birds with one stone, Dinner -  poached Yellow Tail Tuna in a mustard horseradish cream sauce

I went to lunch with Nizar at Café Trang and had my usual Pho soup with rice noodles and rare beef and meatballs.

After lunch I drove across the parking lot to Ta Lin to shop for some vegetables and see what fish was available.  Although it was Tuesday, they had a fresh Mexican yellowtail tuna in the fish department (Jurnel at $3.68 a pound) (Japanese yellow tail tuna was $25.00 per pound) and also had bottles of fresh West coast oysters, so I bought a one pound slice of the Mexican yellowtail and a bottle of oysters.

I then bought fish balls for soup and a 1 pound bag of Vietnamese fresh rice noodles for Vietnamese soups.

When I arrived at the vegetable department I saw that there were nice fresh Chinese eggplants and remembered that Suzette said she had not cooked two of the pork ribs, so I realized that I could use them to make a dinner of Ma Po Dofu.  I bought three nice eggplants and went back to the Japanese area and bought a 14 oz. tub of medium firm tofu.

So I had bought ingredients for three meals and several lunches.

I went home and after riding my bike an hour found out that Suzette would be delayed and that I would be the cook for the night’s meal. 

I started by cooking a cup of basmati rice.

I then plucked the stringy edges off 1 cup of sugar snap peas and put them aside. I then finely diced 1 carrot and about ¼ cup of onion and about two Tbs. of parsley and threw that in a pan with two Tbs. of butter and 1 Tbs. of olive oil and sautéed it slowly.  I then went to the garden and picked four of five leaves of sage and about four sprigs of thyme (most of which had been frozen and dead).  I chopped and plucked the sage and thyme and threw that into the sautéing vegetables with two bay leaves to make a bouquet garni style mixture.  I then poured one half cup of white wine and one half cup of water into the sautéing pan and brought it to a boil and put in the fish and covered the pan with a lid to poach the fish and vegetables.  After a couple of minutes I threw the sugar snap peass into the steaming poaching mediums so they would steam.

In another pan I placed two Tbs. of flour and two Tbs. of butter and cooked that for a few minutes to cook the flour.  I then added about 1Tbs of Japanese wasabi horseradish and 1Tbs of Swedish Sennap (prepared sweet mustard) to the roux and turned it off. 

When the fish finished poaching about fifteen minutes later, I added the poaching medium to the roux and then added milk until the consistency of the cream sauce was creamy.  I let some of the onion and carrot and parsley fall into the sauce to add color and texture.

We served the fish and sugar snap peas in a soup bowl over rice coated with the cream sauce and drank some left over Riesling that complemented the somewhat spicy tang of the horseradish and mustard cream sauce. (see picture)  The fish was surprisingly firm but tender.  I would fix this easy and inexpensive dish again.  I love cream (béchamel) sauces made with fish stock.

I have been trying to work on setting up my new bike by riding it and that and work have caused the flow of reviews and meals to become less regular and I apologize for that.

Bon Appètit     


January 26, 2012 Taos Winter Wine Festival Reserve Tasting

January 26, 2012 Taos Winter Wine Festival Reserve Tasting

I ate leftover Crawfish Etoufee and rice for breakfast so was not hungry when we left Albuquerque at 10:30 a.m. and drove to Santa Fe.  After viewing the Pacific Standard Time exhibit at Zane Bennett Gallery we went to Lan's Vietnamese Cuisine Restaurant (2430 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe, NM ) for lunch.  I ordered No. 5, Banh Bao Banh Vac: home made chicken won tons garnished with sweet and sour carrots, threads and caramelized green papaya, shallots, and ginger and then topped with fresh herbs and fried garlic slivers served with a sweetened to dark beige fish sauce dipping sauce.  Delicious and light.

Suzette ordered a special of Lamb Stew, which had white navy beans and carrots and lamb cooked into a stew and served with a small plate full of rice noodles.  We thought the stew tasted more Italian than Vietnamese and rather pedestrian.

We both loved the Wontons and will order No. 5 again.

I drank a Negra Modelo as much to ash down the rich crawfish etoufee as to accompany the wontons.  Suzette tried Export 33, a Vietnamese lager beer, a little like Stella Artois.

After lunch Suzette we drove to Taos and I dozed.  When we arrived at the Old Taos Guesthouse Bed and Breakfast, which is located at 1028 Witt Road across the street from the San Geronimo Lodge, Tim, the owner showed us several rooms and we selected a 100 year old room in the main house ($94.00 per night) with a vega and white plaster ceiling and thick adobe walls

I then took a shower and we drove the short distance to El Monte Sagrado at 5:00 p.m., where the Reserve Tasting was held.  It is the best event at the Taos Winter Festival in my opinion.  As one of the vineyard representatives said so well, "This event is one of my favorites because the quality of wine is exceedingly high and the people are well dressed and a lot more elegant and pleasant than the usual crowd."  It seemed like everyone got the memo to dress nicely and be on their best behavior.  Suzette wore her new cape with the South American embroidery and bakelite clasp.  I wore corduroy pants with the Indian wool vest Luke bought for me in India.  Every year the mix of wine and food changes, so it is always interesting to see which is better.  This year the food was better.  Graham Grille served several of their signature dishes, lovely small tamales and lamb sliders, a pizza garnished with figs, and their clam chowder; all good.  Zippy of Doc Martins shined again with open face sandwiches of duck confit served on a crostini slathered with an orange aioli sauce and the best dessert, a small tart shell made soley from nuts and chocolate and filled with caramel and chocolate.  Wow!

The Reserve Wine Tasting is held in two large meeting rooms joined by an entryway and a hallway.

There were many other wonderful food offerings including Lambert's new French chef's family recipe pate and thin slices of seared lamb tenderloin on crostini.  In the hallway this year was a food tasting area presented by the Penasco High School Culinary Arts Department that offered platters of cream puffs made with light fluffy puff pastry with large openings filled with Bavarian cream, chocolate mocha cream, chicken, roasted tomato and other fillings.  I ate several that had been capped with chocolate.  There were about twenty other food tables and at least thirty importer and vineyards pouring their best wines.  Drouhin, Calera, Heitz, among them.  I was particularly impressed with Parducci's Deep Red grown in Ukiah, CA in bio-dynamically;  deep red in color, it also had a huge fruity taste and great complexity.  The only problem I had this year was that after I had tasted ten of twenty magnificantly elegant and clean tasting Cabernet Sauvignon's and Pinot Noir's I could not help thinking,"Ho Hum, another great cab or pinot."  

After the Reserve Tasting we were so full of great wine and food that all we could do was drive back to the Inn and sit in the hot tub for a few minutes and look at a crescent  moon and planets and stars in the clear night sky of Taos and go to bed.

Try the Reserve Tasting.  You will like it.   

January 27, 2012 – Friday: A day in Taos.

January 27, 2012 – Friday: A day in Taos

Breakfast at the Inn is served by the owners, Tim and Leslie Reeves, from until , with coffee and tea beginning at so we were first and took the table on the northwest side of the room with an expansive view across the Llano Quemado at Their breakfast menu was lovely, an egg dish made with eggs from the Inn's own hen house stirred and baked with tomatoes and green chili, blueberry walnut muffins, Mountain High yogurt, fresh chopped fruit salad and granola.  So we sat, sipping tea and coffee and read the Thursday entertainment supplements, Pasatiempo and Tempo and then ate breakfast.  We noticed several things we wanted to do in the Taos Tempo, including a Milagro Bean Pot exhibit at the Hacienda Martinez, an exhibit of Cliff Harmon's work at the Blumenschien House on Ledoux, a Taos artists’ exhibit at the Town Hall and a band at Taos Inn in the evening.      

After breakfast we drove out
Lower Ranchitos Road
to Hacienda Martinez, which is owned by the Taos Historical Society.  The Hacienda was a real working hacienda with about twenty different rooms around two courtyards (placitas) connected by portals.  We realized the importance of the portals because as we toured the different rooms, it started to snow.  We saw weaving rooms, quilting rooms, an armory, a chapel and several bedrooms.  The larger sala was filled with beautiful religious art dating back to the the early 1800's (buteros [statutes of saints and Jesus and Mary], retablos [two dimensional paintings], carts of death [Santa Sacramienta? that the attendant explained was the believed method by which God fulfilled his commitment to take the righteous to heaven], tinwork frames, etc.)  A real treasure chest of Spanish and Mexican colonial art.  The rooms were furnished with period furniture and decorated as they would have been in the 1820's when the hacienda was active.   There was a grist mill and large kitchen with cheese, making equipment, also. 

After about an hour of touring the Hacienda Martinez, we drove to the Blumenschien House and saw the Cliff Harmon exhibit and the Blumenschien's extensive Taos Society of Artists collection.  The house was given by the Blumenschien's daughter Helen to the Taos Historical Society and it is still intact as the day they lived in the house plus a few added cabinets of awards and pictures associated with the family.   
When we stopped at the front desk to pay on our way out of the Blumenschien House we asked the attendant which gallery had some Cliff Harmon's for sale and were told to go to the Hulse-Warman Gallery on Camino Pueblo north.  We were hungry so we stopped a Graham Grille near the square on Camino Pueblo for some lunch.  I had the chowder, tried last night, and ceasar salad.  Suzette had a not very flacid calamari sauteed in blue corn meal coating and the excellent fig pizza, also served at the Reserve Tasting last night.

After lunch we walked to Hulse-Warman Gallery, located about three blocks north of the square on Camino Pueblo in the old Patrick Dunbar location.  It had only a few Cliff Harmon works in multiples done in 2010 and 2011.  None of the wonderful pencil drawings done in the late 40's that we loved.  So we talked to the owner, a veteran of the early wine and food days in Napa in the 70’s, about wine and food and looked at some of his other artists’ work.  I particularly liked the work of Michelle Cook, a NYC artist who works in works in grids of plain clear glass that throw decorative shadows on the paper into which the pieces of glass are fastened.  We asked which of the new restaurants he liked and he volunteered the name, Mondo Italiano as a real Brooklyn Italian restaurant.  We thanked him for his suggestions and complimented him on his lovely Gallery and marched on to the Town Hall where we saw the local artists' works there, mostly amateur artists.  Then we went to Robert Parsons Gallery on
Bent Street
and surprisingly, found Robert and Eric there.  When Robert asked, "Is there anything you are interested in"? Suzette said, "Cliff Harmon's early work.".  Robert walked into his store room and pulled out a lovely casein painting of the old Guadalupe Mission in Taos (that used to stand on the Placita just west of the Plaza, but had burned in 1962)  It was painted in a very flat two dimensional style that we did not love.  So we said we would see Robert at the Midtown Lounge in Arroyo Hondo later and after the long walk around downtown Taos, we went back to the room for a nap.

At around we awoke and went over to the Trading Post for its four artist opening.  We met and enjoyed talking to Thom Wheeler, who has lived in Taos since 1985 and is a prolific artist working in several mediums, whogrew up in Alice, Texas.  So we jawed about folks we both know from Fort Worth, drank wine looked at art and the many awards garnered over the years by chef/owner       Meddler.  Then we said our farewells to the Wheelers and went to the Mondo Italiano for dinner around .

Mondo Italiano is located in a strip center on South Camino Pueblo south of Albertsons.  It is filled with formica covered tables, booths and banquettes with the kitchen and a long counter and refrigerated display cases filled with pizza ingredients and desserts in the back.  We sat and looked at the menu.  Suzette immediately saw that the restaurant served a fried avocado and I was looking at the baked pastas.  We decided on the avocado and two half orders of pasta.  Farfalle Carbonara ($6.50) 1 inch wide strips of pasta lightly baked with peas, pancetta, garlic, in an olive oil sauce and Ravioli ($6.50) laid on a wild mushroom cream sauce (mostly oyster mushrooms and strips of porcini) and garnished with marinara sauce.  We ordered a glass of Masi Sangiovese ($6.00 per glass), which was not very good compared to the superb wines we had drunk the night before, but in fairness it was probably a $7.00 bottle, not a $100 bottle of wine.   We loved the food but I had to order a side of flash grilled fresh spinach served in a garlic and olive oil sauce to add to the Farfalle to give it added vegetable mass ($3.00).  So we had a very light but filling and pleasant dinner.

Revived, we pushed on to the Taos Inn for the music.  We found a seat, which is unusual. The Band of four members was two couples. A female conga player, a female singer, a male regular guitar player and a male steel guitar player.  We enjoyed the music, which ranged across the spectrum of world fusion music from West African Afro pop music to Cuban Afro Latin and South American music.  There was one interesting event involving our waiter.  After about thirty minutes a waiter approached us and asked if we wanted something to drink and I ordered pineau.  He did not know what I had said and so I ordered Doc Martin’s wine menu.  When I showed him the listing for a pineau under sherries and Ports, he said, “Oh, a sherry.”  I said, “No, a French aperitif.”  He said, “Oh, a French aperitif!”  I was happy he was willing to be informed.  We find that pineau is always a good thing to order at Taos Inn because they pour a full 6 ounce glass for $6.00 that we chased down with glasses of water.  Not enough good things can be said about the city water of Taos.  It is so fresh tasting, as if it had just run down the mountain from the snow covered slopes, which if probably did.

After about an hour we saw that it was after so we knew that the first set had started at Midtown Lounge, so we jumped into the car and drove north.  I had had a tip on the location from Thom Wheeler, who said it was seven miles north of the traffic light at the Ski Basin/Gorge crossing roads.  So even though Suzette was insisting that we go to the Old Blinking Light Tavern and Restaurant on the
Ski Basin Road
, I pushed on north at the light and when I saw a sign for Arroyo Hondo at 7 miles, knew we were on the right path.  When we arrived at Arroyo Hondo the Midtown Lounge was practically the only building that was well lit, and the dirt parking lot only had about six trucks in front of it.  Inside it had a large dance floor and three pool tables and a long bar that wrapped one corner of the lounge.  So we immediately danced several dances because we loved the Texas Western Swing style of music (think Bob Wills) and then played several games of 8 ball during the band’s break and said hi to Robert and then danced some more during the second set and at about 10:30 we headed back to the room.

By we were happily in bed.

January 30, 2012 Lunch - Cesar Salad; Dinner – Ahi Tuna Steak with Steamed Green Beans, Tartar Sauce and Rice

January 30, 2012 Lunch - Cesar Salad; Dinner – Ahi Tuna Steak with Steamed Green Beans, Tartar Sauce and Rice

We still have lots of organic greens from Costco, so I decided to make Cesar Salad.  I filled a large soup bowl with salad, sliced a Roma tomato into pieces, added five or six marinated artichoke hearts, and two green onions, sliced thinly.

I was low on prepared salad dressings and wanted a salad for lunch, so I used the last five or six white anchovies (Whole Foods) in oil and vinegar in the fridge and made a Cesar Salad dressing by chopping up the fillets, then added some reconstituted lemon juice and then some Grape Seed and Olive oil until the mixture thickened and came into the proper taste profile.  I then found and added a bit of fresh lemon juice and added some salt and whipped in an egg.  Very thick and creamy.

When Suzette came home, I was stuck on the couch after a ten mile ride without water, so after a short discussion we decided on a simple dinner of sautéed previously frozen Ahi Tuna (Sunflower Market, $9.99/lb), tartar sauce, green beans (Sunflower Market, $1.99/lb), and PPI rice. We has stopped at Sunflower Market on Sunday on our way home from Taos and bought the tuna and beans and a delicate squash and several Italian sausages.  Suzette made a tartar sauce with mayonnaise, pickle relish and lemon juice and a teaspoon of Trader Joe’s horseradish and steamed the green beans and heated the rice.

The beverage choice actually took longer than the menu discussion. I suggested hot sake and that was rejected, then we debated the merits of beer versus wine.  Without a satisfactory conclusion I went to the basement fridge and fetched a bottle of Spanish white Viura Marques de La Montañana (Trader Joe’s $4.49) and a couple of Coors Gold’s.  We drank the Viura with the meal.  It was delicious and accommodating to the various flavors; the bland rice and beans and tart tartar sauce and rich tuna and great tasting (crisp and fruity).

 Suzette seared the tuna beautifully, so that it had a ribbon of gray on the outside, mostly pink and tender on the inside, with just a tiny ribbon of red in the middle of the steak.  

Bon Appètit

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 23, 2012 Roasted Duck, Roasted Stuffed Delicata Squash and Asparagus

January 23, 2012 Roasted Duck, Roasted Stuffed Delicata Squash and Asparagus

This was a super easy and delicious meal.  I cut a delicate squash in half length ways and scooped out the seeds and saved them for planting in the spring.  Then I diced enough onion to fill the cavity and added about 1 ½ Tbs. of brown sugar and about ½ Tbs. of butter to each half.  Then I baked the squash halves in a 350°F oven for about an hour.  For the last ½ hour I roasted the duck halves.  When Suzette came home I made an Orange Sauce by heating 3 packets of the prepared sauce that came with the duck and adding to it about ½ cup of Madeira, the zest of two lemons (we did not have any oranges) and the juice of ½ lemon and about 2 Tbs. of butter at the end to approximate the Julia Child recipe.  Then we steamed a handful of snapped stalks of asparagus.  I recommend delicata squash.  It has a natural sweetness and a tender flesh that I love.

When fetching the onion, I saw that two sweet potatoes we had were beginning to go bad, so I cut out their soft spots and baked them in the baking pan that had been used to bake the delicata squash, which was still coated with the sweet sugar and butter filling that had sunk through the softened, baked skin of the squash in the still hot oven while we ate dinner.  See January 25 Dinner for the finish to the potatoes.

We served the dinner with a lovely bottle of Pinot Noir we had been gifted for Christmas.

About 15 minutes after finishing dinner, I ate a toasted piece of whole wheat bread smeared with butter and the last of the Explorateur cheese from Christmas with some of the Pinot Noir for a very French finish to the meal.

This is one of my favorite French dishes but prepared without any fuss.  I guess you could say it is almost sinfully simple when you think about the typically two or three day preparation of the duck in traditional French Cuisine.  Although this is a very simplified version of the dish, Duck L’ Orange has always been my favorite meal.  When my Mother would ask me what I wanted to eat for my birthday when I was young, I would always request it.  So this dish always reminds me of my Mother and the large platters of hot roasted duck coated with the ladles full of warm fruity, sweet, orange sauce our family would enjoy in my youth.  I guess you could say this is my ratatouille moment.   

Bon Appètit

January 24, 2012 Dinner – Crawfish Etoufèe

January 24, 2012 Dinner – Crawfish Etoufèe

I love crawfish etoufee.  We use the recipe on pages 74-77 in Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen Cookbook except instead of ¼ cup of minced celery, onion and green bell pepper, I substitute 1 cup of each.  In this recipe I also added about two Tbs. of garlic scapes, from our garden, still in good condition after 9 months (Amazing!).  Also, we use only 8 oz. of butter, rather than the 16 oz. of butter that his recipe calls for.  The 12 or 16 oz. bag of frozen crawfish is purchased at Nantucket Shoals ($12.95).

I chopped all the vegetables and green onions before Suzette came home, so all she had to do was combine the spice mixture and make the roux,  while I made seafood stock with hot water poured over instant dashi (from Ta Lin).  It takes a large skillet to make the roux.  Then the stock is added to the roux to make a cream sauce and is then put in a large pot to which the vegetables are added to cook the vegetables.  Then the skillet is used to cook the crawfish in the butter and spice mixture and when warm added to the large pot to cook with the vegetables in the roux diluted with the stock for about twenty minutes to integrate the flavors. 

We served it over PPI rice. And drank beer to wash down the spicy concoction.
Down home comfort food with a spicy edge to it made in less than 1 hour of prep and cooking time with enough left over for another meal.

Bon Appètit  

January 25, 2012 Dinner – Roasted Duck, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Asparagus

January 25, 2012 Dinner – Roasted Duck, Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Asparagus

I came home from meditation at around and Suzette came home from working around so this is a PPI meal.  I heated the two ¼ of duck that were left from Monday evening plus the sweet potatoes baked with the duck on Monday in the oven at 350°F and snapped the ends off all of the remaining asparagus.  When Suzette came in I turned on the heat under the asparagus and steamed them while the duck and potatoes were re-heating in the oven.

We opened a bottle of Cutler Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.  Is there anything this wine does not go well with?

Then we ate several pieces of toasted whole wheat bread and slices of Petit Basque cheese left over from Christmas; then some chocolate truffles (a lovely Christmas gift from Bill and Regina Turner) with cognac and then a sip of Calvados to celebrate the beginning of our long weekend at the Winter Wine Festival in Taos. 

I recommend the Winter Wine Festival.  In its present incarnation, there is a reserve tasting on Thursday with the better wines at Monte Sagrado poured by all the attending wineries and distributors and importers and at which many of the local restaurants in Taos serving small dishes of food.  On Saturday afternoon at the Taos Ski Valley Lodge there is a larger more pedestrian “Grand Tasting” of less wonderful wines and some of the better wines and food prepared by mainly restaurants in the Ski Valley.  Both events are interesting and worth a trip (each event currently costs $75.00 per person).  During the days, there are tastings and seminars.  At night there are winery sponsored dinners in conjunction with several of the Taos and Ski Valley restaurants (generally between $75.00 and $100.00 per person). 

Bon Appètit  

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 9, 2012 Dinner – Broiled Steak feast

January 9, 2012  Dinner – Broiled Steak feast

I thawed out a 3.5 lb. (4 inch thick) rib roast I had bought at Sunflower Market before Christmas during the day.  Susan and Charlie Palmer invited us over for dinner.

At around I cut the roast in half leaving two halves leaving a rib bone in each half.  Then I sliced about 1 ½ cups of white mushrooms and minced a large double clove of shallot and two cloves of garlic and put that aside. 

I then cut the hard ends (nibs) off two cups of Brussels sprouts and sliced and diced three slices of onion.  I then ran the Brussels sprouts through the food processor with a slicing blade and sautéed the Brussels sprouts and onion in a sautèe pan with some butter and olive oil.  Unfortunately or not, I scorched the Brussels sprouts and they were a little more browned and toasted than usual, even after I cleaned the black bits out of them. Fortunately, the char broiling of the sprouts did not diminish their flavor dramatically, it only really altered their texture somewhat; and one could argue for the better because the olive oil and butter penetrated into their flesh more fully.

I then sautéed the mushroom, garlic and shallots in another sauté pan with two or three Tbs. of butter and 1 Tbs. of olive oil.   I then added to the mushrooms about ¼ cup of Amontillado sherry and some thyme from the garden.

When we arrived with our prepared dishes and leftover shrimp mold and a bottle of Pennywise Pinot Noir at the Palmer sat , we found that Susan had prepared fluffy mashed potatoes, and a casserole roasted beets, carrots and turnips au gratin.

Plus Susan had thawed out a Marquis cake made by their daughter, Lisa to go with the leftover coffee flavored crème anglais I had leftover from the Christmas party. 

For appetizers: we brought the last of our shrimp mold and Susan had made wonderful family dip recipe of garlic, cream cheese and cream. 

We snacked and drank for the 25 minutes while we broiled the steaks to medium and even a bit beyond (Suzette says that 21 minutes would have produced a better medium rare result).  Then we sat down for a sumptuous dinner capped off with a slice of Marquis cake coated with crème anglais.

A really wonderful feast.

Bon Appètit

January 18, 2012 Lunch - PPI Ma Po Do Fu Dinner - Smoked Pork Chops with Riced vegetables

January 18, 2012 Lunch - PPI Ma Po Do Fu   Dinner - Smoked Pork Chops with Riced vegetables

            It seems that only when ones resources are diminished one finds out how creative one can be.  I have not shopped for about one week, so this evening we were dependent on the less than fresh ingredients we had.  When I was getting ready to go meditate at around Suzette started looking in the fridge and found a package of three smoked pork chops (Ranch Market $3.99 lb) that were still in good condition.  I mentioned that we had cabbage, so we could eat pork and braised cabbage, which she agreed with, as I walked out the door to meditation.  When I returned at around I found two skillets on the stove.  One filled with what looked like rice simmering covered and the other skillet filled with the three pork chops that had yet to be heated. 

I turned on the gas under the pork chops to medium high and said hello to Suzette, who was working at her computer.  She said she had shredded some cabbage and Brussels Sprouts and turnips and sautéed them.  I loved the look of the vegetables. They looked just like rice and when we ate them in a few minutes their texture resembled small chunks of toothy rice, like the broken rice in Vietnamese Cuisine, but they also retained their vegetable flavors.

As the chops were searing until almost blackened along their edges, I fetched a bottle of Josefina Syrah Dry Rosè, Paso Robles 2008 (Trader Joe’s $6-7.00).

After Suzette flipped the chops a few more times to heat them thoroughly, we each served ourselves a chop and a pile of the riced vegetables and Suzette put the brandied roasted fruits on the table to accompany the pork (like apple sauce but different).  The syrupy plum flavor of the wine complemented the firm, fried flavors of the vegetables and salty meat and the fruits.

Since Suzette cooked, I cleaned up the dishes and loaded the dishwasher and noticed that she had shredded the vegetables by running them first through the attachment on the food processor with small holes that makes strings of vegetables.  Then it seems she added dried cranraisins to the dish which cooked until they resembled kernels of rice.  Interesting, very interesting.

I love creative dishes prepared with what is left over after ones conventional menu preparations are exhausted.  Suzette is the Queen of leftovers or QPPI. Suzette looked in the corners of our larder and came up with a lovely meal with a new creative vegetable dish.  The French following their conventional thinking would probably have mashed everything together with butter and potato until it was all creamy smooth.  But, instead Suzette created a new dish with the same ingredients.  I had brought in potatoes, but instead of using them, she pushed the Brussels Sprouts concept one step further and added cabbage and turnips, shredded them into rice shaped pieces utilizing the slicing blade and sauteed them until they were tender.     And the dish took only a few minutes to prep.  A new dish; hurrah!

What a pleasant surprise on a busy night when we are both working late with little time to cook.  The QPPI has proven herself worthy of her title yet again.

Bon Appètit

January 22, 2012 Dinner – Fastest fabulous food dinner ever: Lamb chops, pasta with pesto and fresh asparagus

January 22, 2012 Dinner – Fastest fabulous food dinner ever: Lamb chops, pasta with pesto and fresh asparagus

Tonight Suzette made an amazingly delicious meal in less than 10 minutes.

She heated the PPI lamb chops and PPI pasta with the Chilean Olive Oil and butter and added some of the pesto she made from the basil grown in our garden this year, while she steamed about twenty thin asparagus.

I went to the basement and fetched a bottle of Italian Sangiovese and opened it and decanted it.

Suzette then placed a dollop of PPI roasted and brandied fruit and some of her PPI cranberry sauce from Christmas Eve.

When the meat and pasta was heated and the asparagus steamed to softness, the plates were filled with the heated food and we sat down to eat.

Lovely and delicious and incredibly quick.

Bon Appètit

January 19, 2012 Dinner – Grilled Rack of Lamb, Asparagus and Rice

January 19, 2012 Dinner – Grilled Rack of Lamb, Asparagus and Rice

Today I went to Costco for lunch and picked up two bags of duck halves ($13.99 for two 14 oz halve) and two racks of lamb ($7.99 per lb.) and some mushrooms.  Then I went to Sunflower Market and bought lovely spring fresh asparagus ($1.77 per lb.), a delicata squash, a pound of medium shrimp ($3.99 per lb.) and red onions ($.50 per lb.) and a case of Cutler Creek Cabernet Sauvignon ($40.00 or 3 bottles for $10.00).

This evening Suzette talked until about , so I made 1 1/2 cups of basmati rice and then canapés with toasted four slices of bread made by Rose Petrakis on which I spread butter, German deli mustard and coarse braunschweiger and garnished the top with a cornichon sliced lengthwise.
While I waited for her to finish her conversation I ate two of the canapés with a glass of port.  When she finished her conversation, I asked her if she preferred duck or rack of lamb and PPI vegetable medley or fresh asparagus.  Her answer was lamb and asparagus, so I fetched the mint sauce we use to baste the lamb and I broke the stems off about two dozen thin stalks of fresh asparagus and put them into the steamer while Suzette fired up the propane grill and I opened a bottle of the new case of Cutler Creek Cabernet Sauvignon.

Suzette took over cooking at this point and salted and peppered the rack and cooked it and then turned on the asparagus so that the rack and asparagus were done at the same time.  The asparagus cooked in about five minutes to tender but still firm and the rack was medium rare.  I cut the chops and then we each served ourselves chops, rice and asparagus and I poured a glass of wine for each of us.

The wine was light and clean, just the way I remembered the last bottles of it I bought at Jubiliation.  When I say a wine is light I mean that it does not have much character.  It slides over the palate without registering or imparting much flavor or complexity, usually imparted by aging in oak.  Clean wines do not have much residual tannic or a strong organic component and are not bitter.   Usually the more expensive wines have more character and complexity, although expensive wines usually are clean tasting.  As a food lover, I prefer to spend my money on better cuts of meat and ingredients and save money by buying a light wine with most meals because it is far cheaper and usually allows the food to shine.  For example, tonight the lamb was wonderfully fresh and mild tasting and the asparagus was tender and delicate, so the light wine did not interfere with the ingredients’ delicacy.  So for $3.33 we had a lovely, light delicious wine that complemented the food perfectly.   The trick is to find a cheap wine that is clean.

 Bon Appètit

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 20, 1012. Dinner – Lamb Meatballs in Green Tomato Chutney Cream sauce on Pasta. A Christmas Redux with three PPI’s

January 20, 1012. Dinner – Lamb Meatballs in Green Tomato Chutney Cream sauce on Pasta.  A Christmas Redux with three PPI’s

I worked from to so I was a babbling idiot and of no assistance in the kitchen, so Suzette took over.  We discussed going out until Suzette re-discovered a container with about a dozen of the wonderful lamb meatballs made by Michele Varner for the Christmas Eve buffet and asked me if I would like pasta and the meatballs.  Being unable to move or think, I must have mumbled, “Yes”; so she proceeded to boil water for pasta while I finished my work.

When I went into the kitchen I saw she was heating the meatballs and their spicy tomato seasonings in a large skillet with about twenty thin spears of asparagus chopped into about 1 ½ inch lengths and little brown mushrooms from Ta Lin.  After those ingredients were heated, Suzette added the last ½ cup of the Green Tomato Chutney and Cream Cheese dip she had made for Christmas to the meatball skillet.  Then I handed her some Mexican crema (sour cream) and she added some of it to make the sauce thinner and creamier until it achieved a consistency similar to Beef Stroganoff (which it very nearly was). I uncorked the three open bottles of wine (Canoe Ridge Merlot, Josefina Syrah Rose and Cutler Creek Cabernet Sauvignon) that were each about 1/3 full and put them on the table with glasses.

The pasta was interesting; a bag of Christmas tree shaped Abetini di Socchieve in six colors, that Suzette had bought at T.J. Maxx (500 grams for $5.99 produced in Italy by Sapori an Antichi from Durum Wheat Semolina) to decorate the house at Christmas. 

After about ten minutes at a rolling boil the pasta was cooked to soft.  So we drained it and we each ladled some into pasta bowls and spooned the lamb meatball in green tomato cream sauce over it.  An exceedingly simple and quick dinner to prepare.  The delicious hardy flavor of the tomatoey meatball cream sauce and wine revived me and we enjoyed watching a four hour German movie called “Pope Joan” about a smart German woman who disguised her identity as a woman and became Pope around 850 A.D. set in the period during which the sons of Charlemagne fought between themselves to succeed him in re-unifying his Holy Roman Empire. It was a convincing period piece beautifully filmed with good acting, beautiful costumes and compelling period sets.  Whether it was historically accurate or not; it absorbed my attention so completely that I forgot I had been tired and bleary headed.  Or perhaps the terrific dinner that Suzette created that did that.

So Suzette has twice in the span of one week re-confirmed her title of Queen of Leftovers or QPPI by creating another delicious meal with three excellent PPIs from Christmas that, when combined, created a new, interesting dish.

I guess creativity makes the difference between nothing and something, gastronomically speaking.  I enjoyed our dinner creatively combining three PPIs much more than the alternative of going out to Little Anita’s for its predictable Mexican fare

Bon Appètit        

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 16, 2012 – Dinner: Roast Pork and Acorn Squash with Sugar Snap Peas

January 16, 2012 – Dinner: Roast Pork and Acorn Squash with Sugar Snap Peas

We still had a big bag of BBQ boneless pork in the meat drawer of the fridge, so I decided to heat some pork and bake an acorn squash.  I cut a 1 ½ lb. acorn squash in half, deseeded the cavity and put a 1/3 oz. slice of butter and one heaping Tbs. of brown sugar into each cavity.  I looked at the cavities that were deep and rather empty looking and then thought about the PPI baked fruit and pecan medley made for Christmas Eve that we had brandied that was still in the fridge.  So I filled the cavities the rest of the way up to the top with the fruit medley.  I then put the acorn squash into a steel baking dish and covered it with aluminum foil and filled another baking dish with the BBQ pork and covered it with foil and put them both into the oven set at 350°F to bake.

When Suzette arrived about 45 minutes later and checked the squash it still was not soft so, she snapped about a cup of sugar snap peas and steamed them while I worked.

Finally in another thirty minutes she deemed the squash ready, so we filled our plates with the roasted pork and ½ of a ½ each of the baked squash. 

We drank Kirtland Amber Ale beer with this simple, but pleasant dinner.  The dinner turned out to be rather heavy (we each ate about one lb. of pork), so we each had to take on some yogurt later in the evening to still our stomachs.

We probably should have drunk another beer with dinner to wash down the heavy food; that old navy dietary trick.

Bon Appètit


January 17, 2012 Lunch – Seafood Soup and Salad; Dinner – Chopped steak with Bleu Cheese, Phylo leek tart and Acorn Squash

January 17, 2012 Lunch – Seafood Soup and Salad; Dinner – Chopped steak with Bleu Cheese, Phylo leek tart and Acorn Squash

Another day of leftovers.

For lunch I fixed a simple salad of organic greens and cucumber slices; I sliced in half and toasted one of Suzette Dawson’s lovely sourdough rolls and heated the leftover seafood soup.  The flavors of the soup had blended nicely upon its third heating with the tomatoes going more into solution so the soup had a merged flavor of tomato and seafood with a lingering spicy Prudhomme kick at the end.

At around 5:00 p.m. I became engrossed in reading my book club selection, Caleb’s Crossing, and did not really mind delaying dinner as Suzette went to her girl group’s meeting and did not return until after 8:00 p.m. 

At around 7:30 p.m., I began to get hungry so I put the bundles of aluminum wrapped PPI phylo tart (that Cynthia had sent us home with from Saturday night’s dinner party at Cynthia and Ricardo’s) and the leftover half of the fruit filled  baked acorn squash (prepared last night) into the oven to heat at 350°F.. 

When Suzette arrived at around 8:15, I took the thawed chopped rib eye patties out of the fridge and fired up a skillet and threw them in.  Suzette took over their cooking as I sliced several slices of Bleu cheese.  As Suzette tended to the cheese covered chopped steaks cooking covered on the stove, I opened a bottle of Canoe Ridge Merlot that was given to us as a Christmas gift.

This simple dish of leftovers was a delicious complement of flavors. I particularly liked the texture of the phylo tart with its soft goat cheese combined with the oniony and tactile and vegetable flavor of the whole leek strips in the stuffing blanketed by layers of crisp phylo on the top and bottom.  The pleasant cooking smells of the cheeses and meat lingered in the house into the night.

Let me encourage you to wrap leftovers that benefit from re-heating in the oven in aluminum foil so they can be quickly and easily reheated in the oven   The phylo tart would have lost its crispness and the acorn squash its texture if they had been reheated in a microwave oven.

After a little more reading of my book as I nibbled a few chocolate truffles and finished my glass of the smooth, mellow Merlot, I made my way to bed at around 10:00 p.m. after a very comfortable evening of reading and eating comfort foods cooked with little effort.

Bon Appètit

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 14, 2012 - a Four Course Dinner Party at Cynthia and Ricardo’s home

January 14, 2012 - a Four Course Dinner Party at Cynthia and Ricardo’s home

Ricardo missing, behind the camera
Cynthia Elliott and Ricardo Guillermo, Suzette and Mark Dawson, and Suzette and I, who are all cooks, enjoyed a dinner party with the following dishes:

Appetizers – When we arrived at Cynthia and Ricardo’s around 6:15 p.m. an assortment of appetizers was laid upon the kitchen table, including drained artichoke hearts that had been packed in water, a tapenade, fresh green olives and marinated green olives and wonderful oiled thick round cracker from Spain that Cynthia had bought at La Montanita Coop.  During the 45 minutes it took for me to prepare the Soup, we drank (Blaisson?) Burgundy Sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s ($9.99), talked and ate appetizers in the kitchen.  When the first course was ready we moved into the dining room.   

First course - Seafood soup/stew by Bob included fresh mussels, clams, oysters and salmon and frozen PPI Paul Prudhomme BBQ’d Shrimp plus some scallops.  I sautéed about three ounces of onion, with two minced garlic cloves and then added three diced tomatoes, several sprigs of thyme and garlic greens and cooked until soft. 
Then I added about ¾ cup of leftover Sauvignon Blanc and about two to three cups of water.  Then I added 32 ounces of thawed PPI BBQ’d shrimp and their BBQ sauce and the scallops.  Then I added the mussels and clams and salmon.  Finally after everything returned to a boil and the mussels and clams opened, I added the fresh oysters and after a minute or two of boiling, we served the seafood soup with wonderful fresh baked sourdough bread drizzled with fresh Chilean olive oil, baked by Suzette Dawson whose specialty is baking and desserts.  The crust on the rolls was slightly crispy and the center was spongy and somewhat elastic like good sourdough bread should taste.  We drank a delicious German Riesling Auslase that Mark brought with the soup and bread.   

Main course - prepared by Cynthia, was two dishes.  One was a leek in phylo baked casserole.  The other dish served with it was fresh blanched string beans that were then tossed in sautéed thin strips of a smoky flavored Canadian bacon that I had never tasted before. Both dishes were delicious.  Cynthia is an awesome cook.  She had also prepared a salad but it was not served because the amount of food was becoming overwhelming.
Ricardo brought out a magnum of Italian Proseco to accompany the Main course.

Dessert – Suzette prepared two desserts.  The first was individual ramekins filled with dense baked custard with a slightly solidified caramel crust on the bottom.  The second dessert was a delicious fresh rhubarb pie with a beautiful lightly browned, shiny crust.  Suzette put eggs into the filling with sugar and fresh diced rhubarb so the filing was pleasingly custard like.  She served the slices of rhubarb pie with organic vanilla ice cream.  The fresh warm fruit pie and the cold ice cream made a terrific combination.

We finally parted company at around and made it home in time to see the beginning of Saturday Night Live.  I did stay up a bit longer than usual, probably due to all the extra digestive work my system had to do with all the wonderful food and wine, which allowed me to catch Washington Week in Review and News Hour on TV.

Bon Appètit

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12, 2012 Dinner – Mapo Do Fu and Stir fried Bok choy

January 12, 2012 Dinner – Mapo Do Fu and Stir fried Bok choy

Today I had a tooth filled.  Yuck.  After which I made and ate a pot of Chinese soup with shrimp, BBQ pork, yellow onion, poblano chile, fish cake, bok choy, brown Miso, a  shitaki mushroom and Vietnamese Banh noodles flavored with rice wine, soy, sesame oil and dashi flavoring.    

For dinner I wanted to use the two boneless pork ribs, so I minced about two Tbs.  of ginger and a like amount of garlic (the dish is supposed to be made with more garlic than ginger but I vary that depending upon my mood) and cut up the about 1 1/2lb. of meat.  I then sliced 1/2 poblano chili into thin ¾ inch long slices and diced three thick slices of onion.  I stir fried all of this in about 2 Tbs. of peanut oil with some sesame oil and a heaping tsp. of Garlic Chili Sauce.  After the meat had turned brown on the outside I put it aside and diced three shitaki mushrooms and three Chinese eggplants.  I sautéed the mushrooms and eggplant in two or three Tbs. of peanut oil and cut up a 14 oz. block of medium tofu and soaked about two Tbs. of shredded black wood ear in about 1 cup of boiling hot water for about fifteen minutes and made about three cups of chicken stock with 1/2 Tbs. dry chicken stock powder.  Since the volume of ingredients exceeded the capacity of my small 14” wok, I got out the larger 18 or 20 inch wok and combined the cooked eggplant and mushroom mixture with the pork mixture in the large wok.

I then added about 2 Tbs. rice cooking wine and one tsp. of sesame oil and 1 Tbs. of soy sauce to the mixture and then added the tofu and the 3 cups of chicken stock and the wood ear with its 1 cup of water.  This brought the level of the stock to the top of the mixture of ingredients in the wok, which is what you want to do so the entire mixture will stew.  I then turned up the heat and covered the mixture to let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the Ma Po Do Fu was cooking I cut up four or five heads of thin tall White Bok Choy, separating the stems from the green leafy heads and another Tbs. of ginger and three cloves of garlic.  I then heated about 1 Tbs. of peanut oil and a dash of sesame oil in the smaller wok and sautéed the ginger and garlic for a minute and then threw in the white heavy bottom portions of bok choy. 

Suzette came home and offered to do something to finish dinner, so she cut up two green onions and heated some of the PPI rice.

After it had stir fried the white bok choy bottoms for about six minutes, we threw in the green heads and the two diced green onions and I threw in a dash of salt and two dashes of sugar and poured on 1 Tbs of rice cooking wine and about ½ Tbs. of soy sauce and (since I did not make more chicken stock) about four Tbs. of cooking liquid from the Ma Po Do Fu and covered the smaller wok, so that the Bok Choy would steam and cook.     

I then made a thickening mixture using about two to three Tbs of cornstarch, about 1 tsp. of sesame oil, about 1 Tbs. each of soy sauce and rice cooking wine and about ¼ cup of water so the cornstarch would go into solution.

I poured about four-fifths of the thickening mixture into the Ma Po Do Fu and the rest onto the Bok Choy.  After a few more minutes of cooking the liquids in each of the woks began to thicken and Suzette did a final heating of the rice and went down to the basement fridge for a couple of beers.  You want the sauce to be viscous but not hardened or gooey and definitely not thin and runny.  Practice will teach you how much thickening is needed for the volume of food and degree of liquidity of each dish.

We were both hungry and ate large bowls filled with the steaming rice, Ma Po Do Fu and stir fried Bok Choy.  See pictures of the finished dishes in their woks.

There was some left over that I think we will take to the Neighborhood pot luck cocktail party tomorrow night.

Later I cut up about 1 cup of fresh strawberries and scooped about 4 Tbs. of Lala strawberry yogurt over them for a healthy dessert with a cup of green tea and a glass of about 1 Tbs. of cognac mixed with about ½ Tbs. of Santa Clara Rompope.

Bon Appetit

January 11, 2012 Dinner - Chicken salad

January 11, 2012  Dinner -  Chicken salad

Suzette and I worked until 8:00 p.m. I with a new client with a foreclosure issue and Suzette organizing and hosting a German wine and beer and food tasting for 60 at the Bistro.  So we were picking at leftovers.  Suzette ate leftover chicken, so I decided to make a chicken salad with available ingredients.  I opened the new plastic tub of organic greens and filled a large salad/pasta bowl with fresh salad.  Then I chopped and sprinkled on top of the lettuce: chicken breast, ¼ of a cucumber, a tomato, two slices of onion, about 1 ounce of ricotta salata cheese, about 1 ½ ounce of Bleu cheese and ½ concordia pear.  I then drizzled some Balsamic dressing given to us by Willy on it and toasted two slices of fresh whole grain bread from Costco and smeared them with creamy Saint Andre cheese. 

I dug my way through this mountain of delicious fresh salad with occasional sips of water.   A lovely light dinner after a long day of work.

I ate enchiladas again for lunch at Pro Market ($3.99 for three enchiladas and garnish and rice and beans; and requested grilled calabaza and onion) and this time they were taken from the steam table and were much better, softened with the cheese filling oozing from them.

Bon Appètit

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8, 2012 – Dinner – Boneless Country Pork Ribs cooked in BBQ sauce flavored with five spice powder, PPI Roasted Brussels Sprouts and baked kobuka squash

January 8, 2012 – Dinner – Boneless Country Pork Ribs cooked in BBQ sauce flavored with five spice powder, PPI Roasted Brussels Sprouts and baked kobuka squash

Another easy dinner.  Suzette mixed five spice powder into BBQ sauce and slathered it on pork ribs.  She then slow cooked the ribs in the oven at 350°F. for about two hours while I watched football on TV.

During the last hour she baked a split Kobuka squash filled with sliced onion, brown sugar, and butter .

We drank beer with dinner and have one half of a kobuka squash and a bag of cooked ribs left as PPIs.

Bon Appetit

January 7, 2012 Dinner – Roasted Duck with shaved Brussels Sprouts and roasted fruits

January 7, 2012 Dinner – Roasted Duck with shaved Brussels Sprouts and roasted fruits

Another easy dinner that was very delicious.  We roasted two duck halves bought at Costco. Suzette bought a bag of Brussels Sprouts. I cut the hard nibs off the bottoms of about one cup of flowerlets and Suzette then ran them through the food processor fitted with a slicing blade.and then about ½ cup of onion and added a handful of pinion nuts.

This mixture was then baked in a ceramic casserole dish.

We then heated some of the PPI roasted fruits from Christmas.

When the duck, vegetables and fruits were heated thoroughly, we plated them up and served them with some of the left over German Riesling.

We were hungry and we each ate an entire half duck.    See picture.

Bon Appetit

December 31, 2011 Lunch - South Shore Bar and Tavern; Dinner – Humphrey’s

December 31, 2011 Lunch - South Shore Bar and Tavern; Dinner – Humphrey’s

This was a day spent doing a lot of things on and around a narrow spit of land located in the San Diego Bay called Shelter Island.  We are staying at the Island Palms in a lovely large room overlooking the Shelter Island Marina.   We started the morning with a continental breakfast in our room with two fresh flaky croissants and tea and coffee and a coup of fresh fruit.  Then at we walked to the entrance of the Shelter Island Marina and were met by Mike our boat captain, who showed us to Sail San Diego’s boat moored in the Marina.  We then took a three hour sail and cruise by motor around and out to the edge of San Diego harbor.  We saw dolphins and sea lions swimming and the two large aircraft carriers moored in the harbor, the Midway, which is now a tourist attraction, and the Ronald Reagan, which is moored at the Naval docks.  We also went by the submarine docks and saw five submarines, four of which were nuclear subs and the seal and dolphin training facility.  As we returned to the Marina we asked Mike where he went for fish tacos and he said South Share Bar and Tavern and gave us the directions on how to get there.  South Shore Bar and Tavern is located in a building at the end of
Newport Blvd.
in Ocean Beach.  When we turned onto
Newport Blvd.
I recognized it as the street on which I had purchased two Chinese ink paintings on a prior trip to San Diego with Suzette about ten years ago.  The South Shore Bar and Tavern was a really bustling place with every table full and a large busy kitchen, so I knew I was in the right place for some great seafood.  When I looked at the menu, I immediately saw steamers, so my mind was made up instantly.  I ordered two dozen steamers ($17.95) and a wahoo fish taco ($3.25) and a Strauss Brown Ale.  Suzette ordered an Ahi tuna taco ($2.75) and a beer.  Cameron ordered a chicken breast with BBQ sauce and Debbie and Jeff each ordered fish tacos.  When the food came our small table was covered with food.  The clams were served in a large steel bowl in the boiling hot water, wine, garlic, and butter mixture in which they were steamed with a side plate of fresh garlic bread made from a Poor Boy sandwich loaf.  It took Suzette and me about an hour to eat the food and beer, even with Debbie’s help.  It was slow going with the hot clams and broth but worth every minute.  The clams were geoducks and rather large and tough, not the small tender manilas of the Washington coast or  the tender long necks of the east coast but the hot broth brought back old memories of other pots of steamers that were just as gratifying. The wahoo taco was delicious, a large stick of grilled tender white meat garnished with a tomato and red cabbage slaw and laid on a corn tortilla.

We then parted ways with and Debbie, Jeff and Cameron went back to the hotel to rest up for the night’s event.

Suzette and I walked three blocks up
Newport Blvd.
to several of the antique stores, including the one I had bought my Chinese ink paintings at previously, and found nothing of interest and then drove north to La Jolla to tour the Contemporary Museum.

Suzette’s navigation app on her telephone routed us onto Prospect Street that is the heart of La Jolla’s prime shopping and restaurant zone, but has a terrible traffic pattern and it took us about fifteen minutes to go one block, but we finally arrived at the Museum of Contemporary Art.  The La Jolla Contemporary is one of my favorite U.S. museums because it has one of my favorite gallery rooms that is glass on three sides with a view of the ocean and no obvious joints at each of the two corners where the glass walls meet; a glass room with an open view of the ocean in front of it.  But this time after we walked through a room with 9 beautiful Larry Bell vapor etched glass boxes and a Bruce Nauman narrow corridor illuminated by green fluorescent light and a     Orr installation called Zero Mass that was fantastic (a room encircled with a scrim of plastic behind which was a luminescent black light through the scrim into the scrimmed area, which caused everyone inside the scrimmed area to look like ghosts; thus zero mass), we came to my favorite gallery and found that Robert Irwin had tinted the glass walls and cut square sections of glass out of each of the two corners and the side of the gallery facing the ocean.  I was devastated.  The thing I liked best about my favorite gallery room in the U.S., the uninterrupted sweep of three walls of glass, was cut up and gone.  I must admit that the conceptual mix of open air and tinted glass was interesting but not as beautiful as the original beauty of those three walls of magically joined glass.

Anyway, we went on and saw many resin pieces and cartoons and working sketches for several of the pieces in the museum. Finally we asked if the four or five rooms were everything in the museum and the attendant said that there was a sculpture garden behind the museum, so we went down the stairs and out to the sculpture garden, where we discovered our favorite piece at the museum.  It was called “Displaced Person” by an Italian artist.  The piece was actually created by cutting out a section of the garden and stone covered retaining wall on one side of the sculpture garden pathway in the shape of a person and coating the resulting cut out section with concrete.  But instead of throwing the cut out piece in the shape of the person away, it was also coated with concrete and laid on the surface of the ground on the other side of the pathway, thus creating a “displaced person”.  Very clever and thoughtful.   

The sculpture garden was planted with a profusion of succulent plants that were in bloom.  They seemed to thrive in the temperate cool wet winter air of La Jolla.

We returned to the hotel for a nap and met Debbie, Jeff, Cameron and Tory at Humprhey’s at for diner and dancing.  We were shown to a table for six in one of the two large dining rooms that must have held a total of over 250 seats with an adjoining room with a band stand and dance floor. Humphreys is an entertainment venue with a bar and dance floor and outdoor amphitheater, in addition to restaurant area were we were seated, that is the located several blocks from our hotel on Shelter Island.

The dinner menu was great with two appetizers; one was, three large fresh Glazed Carlsbad oysters baked in their shells and then garnished with black lumpfish caviar and fennel foam and the other a chanterelle Mushroom and sliced Anjou pear tart with a goat cheese and tarragon cream sauce.  The oysters were baked to just tender with their juices and tender flaps of skin wet with oyster flavor; wonderful.  

Then two excellent salads were served: one combined organic golden beets and Serrano ham bits, shavings of Pètit Basque with organic greens dressed with a hazelnut dressing and the other was a Rocket Arugula salad with a lightly sweet Maple syrup dressing with baby arugula, sliced grape tomatoes, shavings of Romano and kernels of organic corn.  The Serrano ham was fried until crisp, like bacon, but quite delicious, and the tiny leaves of Rocket Arugula were a delight.

Everyone ordered drinks.  Suzette and I order a bottle of Lost Canyon (Sara Lee Vineyard) Pinot Noir and a bottle of Murphy Goode Russian River Sauvignon Blanc.  After graciously trying the Sauvignon Blanc, Debbie ordered a glass of her favorite wine, a chardonnay, and Tori was not drinking because she was three months pregnant (the big news of the evening) and Jeff drank beer.  Cameron did drink a little pinot and some other drinks and Suzette dank a glass of Sauvignon Blanc with her Oyster appetizer, so we did not finish the Murphy Goode white.    

Suzette and I danced between courses to the music of a black jazz/rock band that mixed in a lot of Sly and the Family Stone funk hits with mostly jazz. 

There were four entrees, so it was hard to pick one.  Suzette decided on the tournedos of Cedar River Natural Beef (filet mignon) sauced with a thyme demi-glace, haricot verts and roasted, sautéed cipollini onions, but instead of the Maytag Potatoes au gratin, she asked for substitution of the smoked ham and fig souffleand I decided upon the half Maine Lobster with saffron risotto and vanilla bean butter  after our excellent waitress, Allison, promised to bring me a fig and smoked ham soufflé also that was the featured vegetable with the baked chicken entrée and further assured me that the risotto was soft.  When the entrees arrived we were all pleasantly surprised.  All five of us had ordered either the lobster or the beef.  The beef was so tender it literally melted in one’s mouth.  Allison was right; the lobster was tender and served on a mound of creamy risotto that was soft; unfortunately to the point of being mushy.  Alas, its softness creaminess went well with the firm rich lobster.  The fig and smoked ham soufflé was heavenly soft with a round of fried Serrano ham on the bottom to form a contrasting texture and saltiness to the fluffy slightly sweet fig soufflé.

Finally, at around 11:30 a.m. plates with three dessert selections (a Tahitian Vanilla and Pear pot au crème (a pear mousse garnished with a dollop of chocolate sauce), a lemon soufflé cake with a layer of gelled lemon aspic on top and a chocolate cake with a soft whipped chocolate butter icing were served with coffee. No one finished the dessert because shortly before midnight Allison served us each a glass of Wycliffe champagne, which we grabbed and trotted over to the dance area where the music and dancing was reaching a crescendo as the last 100 or so people crowded onto the dance floor with the band playing Let Me Take You “Higher”’ and the band leaders counted down the time to midnight. 

I was pleased that our small group all made it to in good spirits, and felt reassured that we had a few more pleasant New Year Eves in us when I saw how many others had departed before .

So the evening went along pleasantly with alternating food and dancing until after when the band played a wonderful up beat jazz rendition of O Aung Sian.

We paid for our drinks and went home happy and full and ready to return to San Diego and Humprey’s for another New Year Eve.

I love the way the dinner was presented over a three and one-half hour stretch with wine like in France.  The addition of live music and dancing made the evening even more enjoyable.  As pleasant as any we have celebrated in years.

Good friends, good food, good service, good wine, good music.  What could be better?

The only negative in our whole stay was the distraction caused by the thin walls between the rooms in our motel unit that was accentuated by the snoring of man in the adjoining room.  His snoring was so loud and the wall so thin that I could not tell whether the snoring sounds I was hearing were coming from him through the wall or from Suzette in the bed next to me.

Bon Appètit