Ferry Building on a Budget

Oysters + pasta = SF Ferry Building for $10 or less. If you’re willing to brave the elements (namely crowds), a quick trip to the SF Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market can be completed on a budget. Parking not included – but if you’re lucky, you’ll get beautiful weather and an incredible view as a free bonus.

First, head outside to “The Pasta Shop,” which makes handmade egg noodles and other pasta in Berkeley. For $4.00, you can get sheets of freshly made egg noodles.

Next, head inside and weave your way to the oyster cart along the main aisle of the indoor terminal. For $1.50 a pop, you can feast on 4 oysters on the half shell, for a grand total of $10.00. Don’t forget cash!

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Meat and Potatoes

Dittmer’s Gourmet Meats & Wurst-Haus = local Mountain View gem. Tonight I needed to pick up some meat for dinner and two friends on Facebook recommended Dittmer’s for an old school butcher shop experience. Luckily, it turned out to be exactly what I was looking for: friendly butchers with good advice on dinner pairings, and the lingering aroma of smoked meats (in a good way).

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For my inaugural trip, I tried the butter garlic chicken breasts, which produced a delicious gravy to go with mashed potatoes. First I “caramelized” the meat by cooking it over medium heat in a frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side. Then I baked the chicken in its juices for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees (until cooked through).

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Danke schoen Dittmers – I’ll be back.

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Pork and Pancakes

This weekend = three P’s; pulled pork and pancakes, but not in the same meal. For starters, I made pulled pork sandwiches for guests on Saturday night, inspired by Everyday Food‘s “Southern Pulled-Pork Sandwiches” with a few changes. (No cayenne pepper or cider vinegar, so I’d recommend doubling up the water or using apple juice as my sister-in-law suggested.)

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Tonight, we had leftover “carnitas” and the meat was still flavorful and tender.

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Also, this morning I decided to try fluffing up my Pancrepes recipe by using baking powder, which the original recipe calls for. Turns out we both prefer the thin pancakes! (David had a fried egg with his.)

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Carmel Crawl

Cozy B&Bs + equal ratio of dogs to people + Mediterranean eats = Carmel-by-the-sea. Given its sleepy atmosphere, we decided to shake things up for our Saturday night in Carmel by doing a foodie crawl of sorts through the quaint beach town.

First we stopped for a wine flight at Southern Latitudes Wines, where we enjoyed watching the resident beagle puppies nap in the window seat and play with their chew toys.

Out of the gentle Australian and Chilean wines we tasted, our clear favorites were the D’Arenberg Hermit Crab Marsanne/Viognier and NV Yalumba Antique Tawny Port. The viognier was buttery but light, and smooth on the tongue without the burning sensation of too much alcohol. The tawny port tasted like a swirl of brown sugar, and didn’t have the heavy syrup quality that can weigh down others. We picked up one of each for the road!

Next up, oysters and bubbly at Flaherty’s Oyster Bar & Seafood Grill (translation: sparkling wine for me, and beer for David). We chose to split our half shell dozen between the Chesapeake and British Columbia selections but in the end the Chesapeake oysters were much larger and flavorful.

Since the dominant cuisines in Carmel are Italian, French and seafood, we opted for Carmel Bistro Giovanni to replicate the “steakhouse” experience, as recommended by our friendly host at Briarwood Inn. We tried Giovanni’s own Zinfandel, and fought over my crab ravioli with scallops and champagne cream sauce. David’s choice didn’t meet his expectations, but fortunately I was too stuffed to finish my entree – leaving room for the surprise chocolate cake they treated us to. 😉

But the star of the show turned out to be the “Giovanni Insalatina Greca” (greek salad). Beyond the typical flavors of a greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, kalamata olives), Giovanni adds dried cranberries (or dates, as listed on the menu). The combination of flavors – in complete balance since all ingredients are chopped to a similar size – was a surprising treat that would be very easy to replicate at home.

All in all, there are plenty of cozy, fireside restaurants to try. In fact, we had brunch at the Cottage Restaurant earlier in the day (they’re open all day for breakfast fanatics) and an afternoon coffee at Carmel Valley Coffee Roasting Company (the name speaks for itself). And if you have a friendly dog, they will be welcomed with open arms.

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Red Carpet Rebel

Pasta + fresh veggies + turkey meatballs = too hearty for couture. Thank goodness I didn’t have to walk the red carpet like Giuliana, Sandra and JLO, so instead David and I enjoyed a fiber-rich meal while watching the action from our living room. What a treat to take in big forkfuls of pasta while the leading ladies sipped champagne and nibbled on gourmet morsels! (Don’t get me wrong, I’d still trade places in a Hollywood minute.)

The script: Fresh carrots, broccoli and parsley had been waiting patiently in the fridge for their 15 minutes of fame. So I cast turkey meatballs as the lead (with fresh chopped parsley in a supporting role), and sliced carrots and broccoli tips shared the spotlight with the boiled pasta. For the finale I tossed in more fresh parsley, parmesan and olive oil.

Lights, camera… dinner!

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College Dinner Daze

College towns = loyal restaurant fans, pre-Yelp and Facebook. Dinner means different things to different people. Especially college students. This weekend I took a walk down memory lane in UCSB’s Isla Vista neighborhood. Spending time at Woodstock’s and Freebirds made all the Chico food memories come flooding back. Back then we returned to our favorite places time after time, and this was before Yelp reviews and Facebook fans!

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Here are some of my favorite Chico restaurants. Many can be found in college towns all over the state. What are you favorites?

  • Kona’s Deli – The spongy bread and paper-thin, freshly sliced deli meat still calls my name to this day. While the style may be too light for hard core Carl’s Jr. meat-on-meat types, it’s the perfect balance of delicate bread, meat, condiments and shredded lettuce. Kona’s, why can’t you be in my neighborhood now?! (Available in SLO and Chico)
  • Woodstock’s – While the sauce is a little spicy for my taste, this is a classic pizza joint where I’ve spent many a late night in Chico, Davis, and SB. Brings back memories of sisterly dinners at the Sigma Kappa house, too! (Chico, Davis, SB, Santa Cruz, SD, SLO, you name it)
  • Tres Hombres – Most birthday celebrations, reunions and dates were spent over shrimp quesadillas and mango daquiri’s at Tres Hombres in Chico. They have the best chips and salsa while you wait! (Chico and Petaluma, apparently)

Suddenly I’m hungry for a midnight dinner! Weird. 😉

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