Tuesday

Napa-Morimoto – I’m going back!!!

IMG_4324

We have been fortunate enough to dine at Morimoto in downtown Napa twice now with our friend Nicki… it is always a special treat because she knows the best things to order!  The award winning chef, Morimoto has become a star with a formula that’s fresh, flavorful and utterly fantastic!  My favorites are the Toro Tartare (above) and the Rock Shrimp Tempura (below). The Toro (a high grade fatty tuna) is chopped into a paste and placed into a shallow wooden tray and served with six condiments – Nori Paste, Wasabi, Sour Cream, Chives, Guacamole and Rice Crackers. Everyone gets to create their special combinations with their very own little “shovel”… it feels very ceremonial! With so many perfect flavors,  it never seems like enough… I’ll just have to go back for more!!!

IMG_6412

And then there is the Rock Shrimp Tempura!  The two shrimp choices are prepared the same but with two different sauces – a mildly spicy Kochujan Sauce (red) and a Wasabi Aioli (green).  I think I like the Wasabi the best… well actually… umm… I’m not sure… I need to go back!

IMG_6406

Yummy!… Get the Sticky Ribs (above)!

IMG_6429

And…Gyoza with Bacon Foam!!!

IMG_3246

The atmosphere is really fun and lively with an open kitchen!

IMG_4306

IMG_6393

And I definitely want to go back for more of these yummy cocktails!

IMG_6394

IMG_6382

IMG_4303

I think this wise dragon is calling me back!

IMG_6392

Yep…we’re going back!!!!

Saturday

APRICOTS are ripe at Novacovich Orchards!!!

You have to make a stop to the Novacovich Orchards in the next few weeks, the apricot season is very short and these are the best cots you’ll find anywhere.  The Blenheim Apricot was once widely grown in the Santa Clara Valley, now the orchards are all but gone, except for a rare treasure called Novacovich Orchards.

An outstanding family owned orchard in the heart of Saratoga, California.

IMG_2639

Blenheim apricots are delicate and don’t ship well so they are hard to come by unless you grow a tree in your garden or find them at the farmers market.

IMG_2636

They are prized for canning, drying and eating fresh. They are both sweet and tart with a delicious aroma of honeysuckle.

IMG_9050

Every year in June or early July, I go to this beautiful 11 acre farm that has been in Saratoga from 1925 and buy blenheim apricots and make jam.

IMG_2571

12 cups processed apricots
4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 package of Sure Jell

IMG_2875

Novacovich Orchards
14251 Fruitvale Ave Saratoga, CA 95070‎
(408) 741-5144

Wednesday

Jeopardy Book Club – Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk

photo

Anyone that knows me knows that I love games, so when Marion and Carol hosted book club this month and surprised us with a fun Jeopardy game (game questions and answers included below), our group was elated!!!

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by  Ben Fountain was our latest book club selection, a wonderfully written, poignant story that is both funny and heartbreaking.  We all agreed that this was a great read.

photo

photo

We started out with lots of yummy snacks and the most delicious Margarita Martinis that Marion made and then it was game time.

photo

We were broken into 3 teams and played the game using rules from the Jeopardy TV show.

photo

Team #3 won and were the first to pick from the tray of goodies, but there were enough prizes for everyone to win a little something… thank goodness because my team bet it all and lost!!!

photo_4

photo_3

After we finished Jeopardy there was a meaningful discussion about the book. What an especially fun book club night!

REVEIW
by: Kelly Konrad
Fountain’s protagonist is 19-year-old Billy Lynn, a self-described Army grunt who finds himself in the middle of a national pridefest for his unit’s bravery in an Iraqi firefight. The story is told entirely from his view, which thanks to his age, is still evolving. Billy and his cohorts are on their way to their last appearance as part of their “Victory Tour” prior to being shipped back overseas to complete their tour of duty. It’s been a whirlwind two weeks, including a trip to see Billy’s family and a funeral for a friend.
It’s clear the men of Bravo are in all sorts of pain, physically and more importantly, emotionally. Their story is laid out over the course of a single day—a day that begins with Billy nursing a hangover. His headache, though, is secondary to his heartache—heartache for his mother and sisters, one of which is the reason Billy is in the army, his best friend ‘Shroom, and for himself—trying to find some realistic, romantic connection with mere hours left in the States.
The book does a fantastic job exploring the themes of family and friendship and takes a really stark look at American patriotism as its tied to financial fortunes. The devil’s in the details for poor Albert, the maybe-not-so-hard-driving movie producer trying to negotiate a deal before the boys ship out once more.

IMG_0034

(There were three pieces of paper the “Vanna’s” pulled off: the top-the amount to bet, the middle-the question, the bottom-the answer)

 Jeopardy Quiz
by Marion and Carol

Characters: 
1. Billy decides to do this before drinking his beer, since they’ve had no time for exercise on the Victory Tour…
What is: 50 push-ups
2. Producer Albert Ratner mentions folding two soldiers into one role and having this actress play these two soldiers…
Who is: Actress, Hillary Swank; Soldiers, Billy and Sergeant Dime
3. This Bravo team member was described as a “melanin-deficient manatee.”…
Who is: Shroom.
4. Billy joined the Army by way of this criminal prosecution maneuver…
What is: A Plea Bargain
5. While Bravo collects team autographs in the locker room on their pigskins, Dime gets only one, namely ________…
Who is: Ennis, the equipment manager.

Themes:
1. The men of the Bravo Squad have an unbreakable bond of brotherhood, after their firestorm experience in the _______________
What is: Al-Ansakar Canal
2. The Bush administration has sent the Bravo Squad on a nation wide 14 City Victory Tour, for this reason?
What is: To help invigorate public support of the war.
3. The book is a virtuoso account of combat, commerce and this American past-time.
What is: Football.
4. Fountain’s book has been compared to an Iraqi version of this popular WWII book by Joseph Heller.
What is: “Catch-22”
5. America has become one giant ______ with a country attached.
What is: A mall.

Quotes:
1. “If a bullet’s going to get you, it’s already been fired.”
Who is: Shroom  (Sgt. Breem)
2. A small gang of Iraqi boys say to the Bravos, “Mister, give me my pocket! Give me my pocket!”, they are asking for this.
What is: Money
3. “I am a self-described pacifist twerp.”
Who is: movie producer Albert Ratner.
4. Billy describing his combat rituals:  “Never cross a threshold with your
_________.”
What is: your left foot leading.
5. “I took monkey gigs,” he called them in a bitter, waspish voice, like the Tin Man pre-lubed.”
Who is: Ray Lynn, Billy’s father

Did you know?
1. Billy answers the question asked by Sgt. Dime correctly as to how long a Football Field is.
What is: 120 yards
2. Albert Ratner had previously demanded this amount for each soldier’s life story and then Norman Oglesby offers them this amount.
What are: $100,000 and $5,500
3. The author wrote “Brief Encounters with _____” this Argentinian Marxist.
Who is: Che Guevara
4. The Chapter Title “Temporary Sanity” refers to Kathryn’s wish that Billy do what.
What is: Go AWOL
5. Norm Oglesby thought Hilary Swank appeared in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “True Lies” but it was this actress.
Who is: Jamie Lee Curtis

Vocabulary:
1. Before they’d seen any action, Billy asked Sgt. Breem (Shroom) what being in a firefight was like. Shroom answered, “It’s not like anything, except maybe being raped by ___________.
What are: Angels
2. At the Thanksgiving buffet, a particular patron, How-Wayne says, “I can imagine how hard it is on you young men. To be exposed to that level of violence…” Dime interrupts, “No, we like violence, we like going lethal. If we didn’t like killing people then what’s the point? You might as well send in the __________ to fight the war.”
What is: The Peace Corps
3.  “It’s like giving a pig a Rolex, ma’am, he’s got no appreciation for the finer things in life.”
What is: A Snuggie.
4.  Billy observing the cheerleaders states:  “Their bodies were firm as steel-belted ______.”
What are: Radials.
5.  If ever there was a prime trigger for PTSD you couldn’t do better than this, straight into sound-and-light hell.
What is: The half-time program.

FINAL JEOPARDY

Metaphors:
The two words “Long Walk” in the title is a metaphor for this.
Iraq/The War
Note: This theme may be too subjective for a game that needs a right or wrong answer, you may want to come up with another final jeopardy question if you are going to use this template.

 

 

 

Thursday

The SF Ferry Building… what are you doing this Saturday???

IMG_2594

You have to go to The Farmer’s Market at the San Francisco Ferry Building! (8am-2pm every Saturday, Tuesdays and Thursdays also, but there aren’t as many vendors) This is the perfect time of year to go!!!  Beautiful flowers, beautiful weather, beautiful produce and not too crowded. Late spring leading into summer is my favorite time. I love to taste my way from the front to the back and then go inside for more epicurean delights!  The whole market is wonderful, but here are a few of my favorites.

I start from the front and never miss a taste from this gentleman doling out his Dark Chocolate Almond Brittle

IMG_2634

IMG_2635

Don’t miss all the flowers!!  Bring a big bag to collect all your lovely treasures!

IMG_1893

IMG_1877

IMG_2632

I love to buy fresh eggs, jams, yogurts, cheeses, breads and vegetables, you can even find heirloom plants to put in your own garden!

IMG_2596

IMG_1889

IMG_1890

IMG_1880

I love the Salmon Candy from Cap’n Mikes Holy Smoke, the yogurt from Saint Benoit, the conserves from June Taylor, and the preserves from Glashoff Farms.  Once inside the Ferry Building, pick up some olive oil from Stonehouse, cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery, salted caramels from the Village Market and macarons from Miette!!!

IMG_2603

Try the Salmon Candy from Cap’n Mike!

 

IMG_2613

IMG_2598

After all of your hunting and gathering, be sure to stop for some sustenance!  The Slanted Door is the perfect place for a mojito and a delicious lunch!

IMG_3811

There is not a time when I am in San Francisco that I don’t find my way to this wonderful market, I can never get enough of all the fabulous flavors, sights and experiences that this amazing place has to offer.  You need to go and let me know your favorite discoveries!!!

IMG_2615

IMG_1886

IMG_1882

IMG_1883

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
1 Ferry Bldg Marketplace, San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone:(415) 291-3276
HOURS
Tuesday: 10am–2pm
Thursday: 10 am – 2pm
Saturday: 8am-2pm

Thursday

Chateau CharMarron Peony Gardens

IMG_0729

I think peonies are just about my favorite flower in the whole world and in just a few weeks, mine will be in bloom!!!  My plants are covered in buds and I can’t wait to fill my house with their beauty!!!  Every year I go to Chateau CharMarron Peony Gardens and treat myself to a few new plants.  If you have never been, and you love peonies, it’s a must!  Or if you have gone, this is a reminder that the tree peonies are just about to go into full bloom and the herbaceous shrubs, that’s my favorite, will be in full bloom in two weeks.  The property has hundreds and hundreds of beautiful, fragrant peony plants of every variety.  This farm is really a sight to see.

DSC00133

Chateau CharMarron Peony Farms is in the foothills in East San Jose – kind of a long windy road to get up there but well worth it.  Peonies have an extremely short blooming period, so there is a small window of opportunity to see all the flowers and splurge on a few plants.  The prices for a shrub start around $25 which is great compared to the nurseries.  You can also purchase cut flowers, $2. a stem.

IMG_0726

Mark your calendar!

Chateau CharMarron Peony Gardens
5335 Sierra Road
San Jose, CA  95132
408-251-7048

DSC00136

 

Monday

Salted Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark

This sinful bark must be shared!!!  Or not…it’s highly addictive and I should actually never make it again!  My friend Sarah brought this to a party at my house the other night and now I’m hooked! It’s so easy, five ingredients and you don’t even use a candy thermometer.

IMG_4764

Salted Chocolate Toffee Pretzel Bark

IMG_4739

Ingredients

About 8 ounces, (half a 1-pund bag) of mini pretzels, broken into smaller pieces-gluten free or not
1 cup Plugra salted butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 cups (one 12- ounce bag) semi sweet chocolate chips-(I like Guittard.)
Sea Salt

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Cover with broken mini pretzels and set aside. (I used Gluten Free Pretzels and that made the bark extra crunchy, but it was delicious the first time I tried it without using gluten free.)

IMG_4747

2. In medium saucepan over medium heat, combine Plugra butter and brown sugar.  When the mixture gently starts to simmer and bubble, let it cook for 3 minutes without stirring. (No thermometer needed)

IMG_4752

Immediately pour the hot caramel mixture over the pretzels in a back and forth motion  cover most of the pretzels (a few empty dry spots are ok as the caramel will fuse together during baking).

Bake for 5 minutes.  Remove pan from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips, let sit for 2-3 minutes to melt.  Use spatula to spread chocolate evenly.  Lightly sprinkle with sea salt.

IMG_4755

Let the toffee cool completely at room temperature, then refrigerate if needed to help the chocolate set up.  Break the toffee in to pieces and try not to eat the whole batch!!!

IMG_4757

If you need to break into pieces right away, put in freezer after it comes to room temperature. I was in a hurry, fancy that, and I broke it too soon so it didn’t break evenly.

IMG_4759

A perfect gift!!!!

Recipe found on internet on Mel’s Kitchen Cafe-also referred to as “Crack  Bark” by Ezra’s Pound Cake sight.

 

 

 

Tuesday

Chelsea’s Easy Crockpot Tortilla Enchilada Soup

Chelsea was given a crock pot when she went away to college and then found this easy tortilla soup recipe that she always makes for her friends.  I made it the other night and everyone wanted the recipe. Here it is!

IMG_4733

Tortilla Enchilada Soup

1 can (15 oz) Black Beans
1 can (15 oz) Diced Tomatoes with Garlic and Onion
1 can (20 oz.) Enchilada Sauce
1 box Chicken Broth
1 can (7 0z.) Ortega Diced Green Chiles-Mild
1 bag (12 oz.) Frozen Corn
4 skinless Chicken Breasts
2 t. Garlic Salt
2 t. Chili Powder
2 t. Cumin

Put all ingredients in the crock pot and cook on low for 10 hours or high for 6 hours.  Remove chicken, shred meat and return to pot.  Serve with cilantro, sour cream, jalapenos, guacamole and tortilla strips.

Saturday

The Thriller, Spiller and Filler

IMG_0957

I was introduced to the concept of “thriller, spiller and filler” by my good friend, Vicky, of the beautiful and inspirational home and garden blog, The Creeping Fig.  It’s an easy way to  tidy up your urns or containers anytime. At the bottom of this post I have a link that will take you to a video Vicky made demonstrating the concept.

IMG_4710

I was having a little get together and realized  that spring had sprung and my urns needed a little attention, so I stopped by my nursery and picked up some “thriller” (the planter focal point), “spiller” (the cascading feature), and “filler” (a subtle highlight for the eye).  So easy! Here I used ivy to spill, white alyssum to fill and a boxwood ball to thrill! (In the first photo at top I used ivy, fern and a hydrangea)

IMG_4714

Simple and elegant!!!

Go to https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=437180849674152&set=vb.167057573353149&type=3&theaterincluded to see Vicky’s video!!!

Thursday

The Goldfinch-Book Club

IMG_4411

Our book club just finished reading and discussing our latest treasure, The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt.  I personally loved the book!  Its beautiful prose is densely layered and overflowing with richly developed characters. I know that sounds like I just lifted that from the book jacket, but honestly it’s true! Some of our group felt it was a bit long and unrealistic, but we still had some very interesting conversations about depression and anxiety and Tart’s unique writing style. We even cast the characters for the movie!  Who would you cast as Boris?

My friend, Cynthia said her book group loved it too and talked endlessly about those characters, as did we. It is those characters that drive the story and are the most fascinating part of the book.  Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to read it, it’s 700 plus pages…and a few in our group were finishing it the day of our discussion!
Below is a quick synopsis of the book, a great recipe (if you need to bring something to share) and some thought provoking discussion questions I came up with.

Book Description
Release Date: 22 Oct 2013 by Amazon

Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.
The Goldfinch is a haunted odyssey through present-day America and a drama of enthralling power. Combining unforgettably vivid characters and thrilling suspense, it is a beautiful, addictive triumph – a sweeping story of loss and obsession, of survival and self-invention, of the deepest mysteries of love, identity and fate.

IMG_4402

One of the highlights of book club is the delicious snacks everyone brings, here is Robin’s Cowboy Caviar, it’s so popular, it’s becoming a staple at all our gatherings!

Robin’s Cowboy Caviar
1 can black beans rinsed and drained
1/2 cup corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper seeded and chopped
4 scallions, sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 head Boston lettuce, cleaned and separated into leaves
Tostito Scoop Chips
Combine all ingredients except lettuce and chips. Refrigerate, covered, for at lease 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend.  Serve with lettuce cups and chips.

Discussion Questions

1.  Talk about the fantastic personalities depicted in the pages detailed in Theo’s journey.  It almost seems that the more minor the character, the more brilliant was the description.  What is your favorite character and why?
2.  Discuss how Theo’s character is reflected by the many personalities in the book.  From the aristocratic Barbours, his slick gambler Dad, Theo’s beautiful and kind mother, and Pippa who was also victimized by the blast.
3. Did you feel that Theo’s self-conscious narration stretched out over too many pages, especially in the last chapter? Or was it a poetic grappling with the meaning of life?
4. Like the goldfinch in the painting, is Theo similarly chained to the memory of his mother that he lost on that disastrous day at the museum?  What else is he chained to?
5. Theo believes that events follow a pattern, whereas his father, being a gambler, believes in luck.  Discuss Theo’s inability to forgive himself for his mother’s death considering those beliefs.
6. Were there any characters that you especially related to and why?
7. Tartt has told interviewers that she will fuss over a single paragraph for days, or even weeks, perhaps contemplating the placement of a comma, do you feel the result is worthy of this attention?
8.  Did you ever feel the novel was predictable only to be surprised my clever misdirects?  Although it wandered, did you ever feel like she led you astray or did the author make you feel as if she was always in control?

You can find more great discussion questions here

IMG_3859

 

Saturday

Tuesday’s with Laurie-The Perfect Valentine’s Day Menu

IMG_4273

Look who came into my kitchen to teach me how to make her amazing Salad Lyonnaise with a Crispy Poached Egg… Laurie!!! It’s a bit more complicated than the classic Frisee aux Lardons because she adds fried shiitakes and potatoes then breads her poached egg and deep fries it… the result… AMAZING!!!  For those that want to have a wonderful, intimate dinner at home for Valentine’s Day, this is the perfect menu!

IMG_4269

Dressing:
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons Sherry Wine Vinegar
1/3 Cup Olive Oil

Ingredients:
1-2 heads Frisee lettuce, rinsed and separated
2 slices thick cut bacon per person, diced
1/4 cup sliced Shiitake mushrooms (per person)
1/8 cup large diced skin on yellow potato (Yukon or Fingerling, per person)
1 Egg per person
1 Beaten egg (place in small bowl)
Flour for dredging (place in small bowl)
Panko Bread Crumbs for coating (place in small bowl)

Preparation:
– Rinse Frisee and slice off end, separate leaves and place in large salad bowl, set aside.
0105
– Mix mustard and vinegar, whisk in olive oil to emulsify, set aside.
– Cook diced bacon over medium/high heat until crispy, remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate.
0011
– Add sliced Shiitakes to the same pan with bacon drippings and cook until crispy, remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate.
IMG_4272
– Drain off most of bacon grease from the same fry pan and sautée diced potatoes until slightly browned, cover pan to steam potatoes once they are browned to finish cooking.
0036

0043

To Poach Eggs:
Fill a 3 quart pot 3/4 full with water with 1 Tablespoon of white wine vinegar and bring to a slight boil.  Crack 1 egg per person into a small ramekin, pour egg from ramekin into boiling water and poach for 3 minutes.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel lined plate.

0061

In a small sauce pan, fill half way with vegetable oil and cook over medium high heat.  After eggs are poached, dredge in flour first, then the beaten egg and finally, the panko bread crumbs.

0079

0121

Place coated poached egg into oil and fry for 15 seconds until light golden brown.

0110

Assembly:
Toss dressing with Frisee lettuce then add cooked bacon, mushrooms and potatoes and toss again to coat.  Scoop servings of tossed salad into a bowl or shallow plate and top with crispy poached egg. (Printable Recipe for the salad in the Recipe Section of my blog, along with the recipe for the French Onion Soup, Laurie’s Filet and Bearnaise and the Lemon Tart)

0130

Serve with a yummy bottle of Chardonnay for the salad and a special Pinot Noir for the Filet and Bearnaise.

0044

This dinner is fantastic with an easy French Onion Soup and Laurie’s light lemon tart for dessert!

0145

image

I’m sure everyone will enjoy this very delicious meal, especially when it is lovingly prepared… because we all know love is the answer! Happy Valentines Day Everyone!

Invalid Displayed Gallery

 

 

Monday

Aaaahhh!

Wow, what a whirlwind December was… I bowed and tied and tied and tied until my fingers were not looking so very lady-like. I laughed and giggled, drank and bounced from one event to the next. Now I’m thoroughly exhausted and ready to reflect and enjoy all the beautiful gifts I received from my loving family and friends.  My new lifestyle  books are especially wonderful, like my signed copy of Jeffrey Alan Marks’ new book, The Meaning of Home and the beautiful and lavish, Veranda, The Art of Outdoor Living.  I love the inspiring Beauty at Home  by Aerin Lauder, and Alice Waters’ new book, The Art of Simple Food II with recipes and advice for the home gardener.  So now that Christmas has been boxed up and put away I am very ready to relax, curl up with these books and take bubble baths and soaks. I am loving U.S Apothecary Rose Water Bath Salt, (above).

Why do we do it?  We love to give….

Dining Room 1

Fun girlie lunch. Thanks to Hector for making it so beautiful!

… parties!!!

IMG_2542

Yummy Enchiladas! more parties! Dave’s Enchilada Night, Go to The Water Is Smiling (here) for the lovely story and recipe.

… and more parties

DSCN0522

lulu Pom after we decorated for days and days to be ready for our annual holiday party!

… and yet more parties

Harriet & Scarlet

Mommy and Scarlett!

… and to give the gift of love that we hold so dear! But now it’s back to reality and another exciting new year!  I’ll have to figure out how to make it a little less “exciting” next Christmas season!!!  But it sure is lots of fun! Thank you all my dear friends and family for all the thoughtful gifts and for supporting my new venture, “Pamela Says”, xoxo with all my heart!!!

IMG_4189

Even Scarlett is exhausted!

« Older EntriesNewer Entries »