Sir and Star — Olema

30 06 2014

Last weekend we took a trip up the coast for a short weekend getaway to Point Reyes where we stayed in nearby Olema and enjoyed some great food. We made a reservation for a Saturday night dinner at Sir and Star, which my bf heard about a while back on SF Gate. If Michael Bauer thinks it’s good, I usually do too.

A very nice man at Sir and Star

A very nice man at Sir and Star

The Saturday menu is a prix fixe for $75 per person (not including drinks). The theme of the food is “hyper-local” with nearly the entire menu procured from the surrounding area in Marin. The restaurant itself dates back to the 1800s and is decorated accordingly as a sort of upscale lodge with old, creaky hardwood floors, high ceilings with intricate crown molding, candelabra, and a myriad of taxidermy birds displayed on the walls.

As for the food, everything was amazing. There were seven courses; I will go through each with the accompanying photos.

First Course: Puffs of local toma. These little puffs of bread were soft and warm and made with delicious toma cheese. Good start.

bread puffs

 

Second Course: Warren’s radishes, butter and sea salt. This course threw us off. The waiter set a dish of radishes and butter at our table and didn’t give us any clue what to do with them. Was the butter for the radishes? Do we just eat them whole? It was a bit weird. But, we did indeed eat them whole (efforts to slice them in half threatened to fling radish across the room) and we put the ridiculously light and creamy butter on them. Apparently I’m the only person on the planet that did not know that radishes were a bit spicy. I have since learned this odd fact.

radish

 

Third Course: Local smoked halibut and a brushstroke of stinging nettle encircled with a soup of coastal fennel and young garlic. Yes, this is as amazing as it sounds. This may have been my favorite course. No. Yes. I don’t know. The halibut was soft and tender and melted in your mouth, with a flavor so salty and succulent, a spoonful-size serving was almost tortuously tiny. The soup was rich and flavorful and went perfectly with the fish. Delicious.

soup

 

Fourth Course: Long leaves of arugula draped over a pudding of sweet delta corn and, thanks to Marin Sun, crisp sweetbreads. This tiny salad was very good. And, I have a secret… I ate the sweetbreads. If you don’t already know, sweetbreads are not bread, they are the throat, pancreas, and other innards of a calf or lamb, a sub-category of offal. I have seen them before served as they were at S&S: lightly spiced, breaded, and fried. The reason I ate them is because they were from Marin Sun Farms, a farm just up the road from S&S that practices sustainable, natural, and humane farming.

As my beef with, well, beef (and other meat) is generally factory farming and inhumane animal treatment, there’s no reason that I technically object to sustainable, local, humane meat production. However, it’s a bit of a slippery slope, so I think I’ll keep to those few bites of sweetbreads for now. At least until I go back and actually visit MSF. (I will say they were delicious, however.)

arugula and sweetbreads

 

Fifth Course: Choice of Tenderloin chop of lamb last seen grazing on local grasses, now amidst a medley of smoked marble potatoes, roasted onions and farmers’ market favas, or A bouillabaisse of all things green and gold gathered from local gardens with a very stirring stick of focaccia and aioli. My man friend ordered the former, I ordered the latter. He said the lamb was tender and delicious and the bouillabaisse (typically made with fish stock, but this one wasn’t) was so good. So. Good. The sauce was incredible, and that little stirring stick of bread and aioli? Amazing. I was actually pretty full already, but ate every bite of the main course. Good vegetables are just the best.

bouillabaisse

lamb chop

 

Sixth Course: A duet of the best AKA Andante Dairy cheeses, largo and tomme dolce, with figs on a mission. I love the phrasing on the menu, it’s funny and cute. And cheese! Yeay! The good-looking cheese (in the middle) was also the best-tasting cheese, and the figs (barely visible in my photo — the sun had gone down) were sweet and yummy.

cheese plate

 

Seventh Course: Vicki’s strawberries extraordinaire with almond dipping cream and chocolate. Now, typically, this does not constitute a dessert for me. I need more chocolate, or at least more sugar. But these little sad-looking strawberries were the perhaps the sweetest I’ve tasted. And the dipping creams had me wishing they had provided a spoon… I used my finger until the waiter took the plate. Yeah, I’m not from Marin.

strawberries

 

Overall, the meal was amazing. Everything was expertly executed, the flavors were rich and delicious, and we were stuffed when we left. I’d like to try their regular menu as well sometime, but, alas, it’s hard to get up to Olema during the week. I’m just glad Sir and Star is up there, waiting for us should we decide to escape the city.

Sir and Star on Urbanspoon





Hog Island Oyster Co. — Marshall, CA

23 06 2014

This weekend we took a trip up to Point Reyes for some hiking, some eating, and some general out-of-the-city time. It was awesome. The weather was mostly beautiful (save the extreme wind conditions on half our Saturday hike), and some of the food was spectacular. I’ll do another post for our experience at Sir and Star, but wanted to quickly recap the fun stop we made at Hog Island Oyster Co. on our way out.

oyster

Having been to the Hog Island in the Ferry Building in SF a number of times (omg, try the clam chowder; it’s out of this world), I was keen to see what their home base was like. Directly bordering the east side of Tomales bay on Highway 1 is a tiny town called Marshall which houses a number of oyster farms and retailers. Oysters are the “thing” on this stretch of land, as they are harvested right there in the shallow waters of Tomales Bay. And while I’ve never been an oyster person, I wanted to see what it was about.

map

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The Marshall location of Hog Island Oysters has a few things for patrons: 1) a stand where you can order oysters to-go to take them home and shuck/cook/not cook them yourself; 2) a picnic area with barbecues where you can reserve a table and make a day out of barbecuing oysters and whatever else you bring; and, 3) a small, rustic outdoor cafe open Friday through Monday which serves raw oysters, barbecue oysters, salad, cheese, bread, wine, and beer. The last option was my target on this quick stop-over.

The picnic area.

The picnic area.

cafe

“The Boat” outdoor cafe at Hog Island in Marshall

As we had already had breakfast, this “meal” was completely superfluous, so I mostly occupied myself with taking pictures, enjoying the sunshine, and ordering the smallest amount of food possible to enable us to experience the basic offerings. Raw oysters have always scared me a bit, so we started easy with the bbq oysters. I figured if I didn’t like those, I was never going to like any version of them. We ordered four barbecue oysters (resisted adding cheese and bread) and a beer for my man friend. Fifteen minutes later, they arrived:

oysters

They smelled delicious — like barbecue spices and sauce, but I was still a bit wary. Using a tiny fork, I scraped the already loosened oyster from the shell, sopped up as much flavorful juice as I could, and ate the tiny bite of food. It was delicious. A cooked oyster is soft (maybe even a little mushy?) and salty, and the flavors they barbecued onto them made them amazing. They were SO GOOD. We had two each and were really itching for more. But between the fact that we weren’t actually terribly hungry, and that every four oysters cost $13, we refrained.

But, we definitely promised ourselves we’d come back another time with a full appetite to enjoy all that Hog Island has to offer. And maybe I’ll even try a raw one next time…





Nothing Bundt Cakes

3 08 2013

Nothing Bundt Cakes stopped by my office a few weeks ago and gave us a free cake. A FREE CAKE. Let me tell you the tale.

A woman walked in with a cake in a box. She explained that someone on our floor had ordered some cakes. They had made one extra to give to someone else to try their cake. We were the randomly chosen winner of said cake. FREE CAKE.

I didn't manage to take a picture of the actual cake we received. But these beautiful cake photos are from their website http://www.nothingbundtcakes.com. I assume they don't mind me using them.

I didn’t manage to take a picture of the actual cake we received. But these beautiful cake photos are from their website http://www.nothingbundtcakes.com. I assume they don’t mind me using them.

I’m often not a huge cake fan. Let me qualify this — my appreciation for cake has a high degree of variability to suit the vast differences found between different types of cakes. There are different flavors, types, consistencies, amounts of sweetness, and — most importantly — different frostings. I could list a huge variety of cakes I don’t much like. And bundt, in my limited experience, has never impressed me. So, while FREE CAKE is an exciting prospect, I was not expecting much. But, obv, I tried the cake anyway. I’m not a fool.

And I’m thankful for that. It was SO GOOD. Amazing cake. They gave us, I believe, their white chocolate raspberry, which was amazingly moist, sweet, and flavorful. But none of that really matters because of the frosting. THE FROSTING. I’m a frosting snob. I’ll admit it. I turn up my nose at whipped cream frosting. Whipped cream? Come on. That’s topping on a sundae. I want real frosting. Buttery, sugary, cream-cheesy goodness that’s so sweet it makes your head want to pop. My head was popping. This was the best frosting.

cake slice

And they put so much of it! I’m usually either like, “Wow, that frosting is totally sub-par”, and if the frosting manages to meet my stringent requirements I’m usually like, “Yeah, they could have put more of that”. But no. Nothing Bundt Cakes can frost a cake. It was amazingly delicious. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t tainted by the fact that it was indeed free cake. Maybe the first slice was… but the second and third were just as amazing. Yeah, I couldn’t stop going back for more.

I did totally call a co-worker after going home that day and frantically insist that he put the cake in the refrigerator since I had forgotten to do so upon my departure. Save the cake!!! I want to eat it tomorrow!! It was gone before noon the next day. Imagine the self-control I had to dispense to make it last that long. Also, they have this photo on their website, which increases their awesome factor:

Alice "Bundt" Cooper. He makes cake bad-ass.

Alice “Bundt” Cooper. He makes cake bad-ass.

Conclusions:

  1. Free cake is the best.
  2. Nothing Bundt Cakes makes amazing cakes, and even more amazing frosting. And they are obviously benevolent and loving people who sometimes give away free cakes.
  3. Puns are awesome; their business name passes snuff as well.

So. Buy a cake from Nothing Bundt Cakes and tell me what you think. The one that arrived in our office was from their Corte Madera (Marin) location, but apparently they are a nationwide franchise with a handful of locations scattered around the Bay Area. Go, eat cake, and be merry!!





Celadon

5 04 2011
Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 4/5   ♦   Value:3/5
Times Visited: Once  ♦   Will I Return?:  If we’re in the area
___________

CeladonA few weeks ago when we were in Napa for a weekend, we had to make a choice: where to have dinner on our single night in the area. This was a daunting choice for a foodie such as myself — I really hate it when you are in a foreign land (of any degree) and you have one chance to choose an awesome place to eat. And you choose somewhere crappy and you’re sad about it. Granted, this can often not be avoided, but I like to hope for the best in my proverbial dice roll.

K and I wandered the Napa promenade on this brisk (read: freezing) February evening, peering in windows and reading displayed menus. We were evaluating a number of restaurants up and down the main drag for suitability (with the help of Yelp on my phone) when we stumbled upon Celadon. It looked promising. Modern decor in a converted warehouse-type setting, tucked away behind a hotel just off the riverbank. We decided.

Celadon Inside

"Industrial" interior area of Celadon

We underestimated how crowded it was. We had to sit at the bar lest we be subjected to a heinous wait. Which is better than a heinous weight, mind you. We took our opportunity and got cozy at the bar as all the pacing back and forth looking for the “perfect” restaurant had pushed our mealtime late into the evening.

While the room from which we entered was a converted warehouse-type area with concrete floors, exposed, wood-framed roof and a somewhat stark, open interior, the back area is warmly lit, filled with cozy booths, and trimmed in light wood fixtures and furniture. It was an unexpected contrast, but both areas were nice.

Celadon Bar

Celadon Bar

At the bar we ordered a couple fancy schmancy drinks that we ordinarily would have passed on to avoid the extra ding on our bill. But we were on vacation and my aunt had generously donated a few bucks to our culinary efforts, so we splurged.

Drinks

Fancy Schmancy Drinks

The menu was modern “American” fare with hints of Mediterranean and Asian flavors, and lots of things looked really good. The items we ordered were fabulous. See for yourself:

Calamari

Holy guacamole, this was the best calamari ever.

One of their specialties is “flash fried calamari with a spicy chipotle chili glaze and pickled ginger” which, whatever you may think of that description, was amazing. Tender calamari fried in a heavenly, flavorful batter and lightly covered in a shimmery coat of sauce that was a bit sweet and completely delicious, but didn’t take away from the crispiness of the dish. It was positively addicting.

Polenta Tower

Stacked tower of alternating polenta and veggies topped with cheese and drizzled with balsamic glaze. Mmmmm.

A vegetarian main that they offer is “grilled polenta napoleon with garden vegetables, fresh mozzarella and balsamic glaze”, which really did not indicate that the meal would look like the stacked tower of yummies pictured. The veggies were well grilled and soft while the polenta went with them perfectly. There was just enough drizzled balsamic sauce to make your mouth water but not overwhelm.

Everything was fabulous and I was so happy that we found a fab vacation restaurant!

Celadon on Urbanspoon





Olive Oil Tasting in Napa

21 02 2011

When you think Napa, you probably think wine tasting and grape vines, right? I supposed that’s why most people visit the region, but it’s not why K and I trotted up to the tip top of the Bay last weekend. We went olive oil tasting.

Our pre-trip research found three spots where olive oil tasting is available near Napa. Figone’s in Kenwood, B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company in Glen Ellen, and The Olive Press in Sonoma.

B.R. Cohn Winery & Olive Oil Company

B.R. Cohn is mainly a winery that dabbles in Olive Oil making. They source most of their olives from growers around the state and then actually hire out Figone’s facilities to process the oil. Their tasting area was modest, though their estate was beautiful. The wine tasting facility was booming and seems to be their main draw.

Olive Oil Tasting

The tasting area at B.R. Cohn's Estate.

The Olive Press

The Olive Press is located at the Jacuzzi Family Winery and is a bit more serious about their oil as they process all their olives themselves and create their own varieties of oil and balsamic vinegars (these two seem to go hand in hand — all three places had olive oil and balsamic vinegar). This place is also mainly a winery, with the main building (a beautiful stone-clad castle-like structure) split between the wine area and the olive oil area (the shops are not related and you can’t buy stuff from one shop in the other, though that seems strange).

The olive oil tasting is located in their gift shop and was extremely crowded when we were there. The oils come in many flavors and there were also a wide variety of olives from which the oils were made. One unique item this place had was smoked olive oil — it really tasted like barbecued oil. It was quite good.

The Olive Press Tasting Room

The Olive Press tasting room slash gift shop.

Figone’s

Ah, Figone’s. I’ve saved the best for last. If you want to go olive oil tasting and you don’t feel like bumbling about to different places, this is where you should go. Heck, if you’re just in the area for the wine or even just passing through, you should still go to Figone’s. This place is the real deal and I am so excited to find my new olive oil and balsamic vinegar source.

Figone's

Figone's Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting area. And Frank in the background, hi Frank!

Figone’s is exclusively an olive oil and balsamic vinegar facility. Their tasting room is modest in size, but is dedicated solely to oil and vinegar (none of this pesky wine). It’s very boutique-ish and will be opening up a viewing area later this year where guests can see the oil being made right in the shop. Here are some of the reasons why Figone’s is the best:

  • Figone’s farms all its own olives on 260 acres throughout California.
  • Figone’s processes all its own olives in its facility just behind the tasting room in Kenwood.
  • Figone’s processing is all organic and is certified as such and the olives themselves are all grown organically (though they are not certified).
  • Figone’s has been around for 25 years perfecting their product and creating new and inventive infused oils.
  • Figone’s has over a dozen flavors of olive oil and about half as many balsamics to choose from.
  • Figone’s products are only sold at the tasting room in Kenwood or through mail order (or via the mail order club). No grocery stores, no farmer’s markets; they don’t even advertise. Their clientele can’t help but keep coming back for more.
  • If you visit the Figone’s tasting room, you may in fact be greeted by Frank Figone himself, as we were, who can tell you pretty much anything you’d like to know about every single one of his products. Awesome. Thanks Frank.

    Figone's Tasting Room

    Figone's Tasting Room -- don't judge a book by its cover, go there!

Of course, none of this would really make a darn bit of difference if their oil and vinegar didn’t knock my socks when I tried it. But holy moo, THAT is what olive oil and balsamic vinegar are supposed to taste like. To save hours of typing about each flavor, I will cut to my favorites:

Oil: Tuscan Herb is a mix of infused herbs in pure olive oil that tastes like a five-star restaurant in your mouth. This is not cooking oil (none of Figone’s oils are meant for high heat), but rather a garnish or flavor enhancer. Drizzled over some grilled fish or veggies, this oil would make any meal’s cook into an instant chef.

Vinegar: Plain old 20 year traditional balsamic was my favorite. It is sweet and viscous and I could literally drink it like water. It puts grocery store balsamic to shame. It’s $28 per bottle and I’m never going back to the other stuff.

This is not even to mention the strawberry vinegar, orange olive oil, cinnamon-pear balsamic or truffle infused oil (their most expensive item — $40 for 100mL — it was also SOOO good) and the dozen of other world class products that Frank makes. Seriously, there’s not much else I can say besides try it or buy it. Yeay for Figone’s!!





A Scrumptious Weekend in Marin

10 05 2010

For Mother’s Day this year, broccoli and chocolate took a voyage with mom to Point Reyes in Marin County.  Though only about an hour and a half away from the East Bay, the Marin coast is as rural and beautiful as just about anywhere in the world.  We had a fabulous time and mom was glowing.  But, back to the point—we had some excellent food that B&C needs to know about.

First Stop: Marin French Cheese

Forget Google when you want good cheese—she will only mislead you when you get directions to Marin French Cheese Company.  Using the directions on the website, find this lone establishment in the rolling greenery of Marin County.  Established in 1865, this place has some serious history.  It’s still going strong though, even though it’s surely out in the middle of nowhere-ville, USA.  The drive over is beautiful, the grounds are welcoming and have picnic areas around a small lake, and let’s not forget the cheese, which is delish!  If you show up at the right time, you can even see a tour of their cheese making facilities or have a look around their art gallery.  A great stop if you’re having a lazy weekend in the country.

Marin French Cheese

Cheese, wine, and the great outdoors at Marin French Cheese.

Second Stop: Nick’s Cove

Highway 1 is dotted with small shanty restaurants all up the Marin Coast (and probably the entire west coast), and Nick’s Cove is one of these seemingly run-down landmarks.  On the outside Nick’s looks like a standard wood framed, one story shack that may have come straight from the early 1900’s, but the inside is something quite different.  While certainly not uber-fancy, it’s a step above what you might expect from a wind-blown fishing area.  The valet parking is mandatory and complimentary, so don’t freak out and drive right by like we did.  Just let the friendly gentleman take your car away; Cal Trans has required Nick’s to do this, probably to keep customers from having to walk across the highway.

Nick's Cove

Fresh seafood and delicious salads at quirky yet tasteful Nick's Cove.

Situated right on Tomales Bay, Nick’s offers gorgeous views along with it’s upscale, albeit somewhat limited, menu.  We were there for dinner and were offered a variety of oysters, about a dozen starters including salads, soups, and shellfish, and a handful of main dishes.  The mains were mostly surf and turf and you can tell by the wording that it’s not cheap.  That said, it’s not outrageous either and, judging from what we had, it’s worth the money.  We only had appetizers and drinks but everything was really top notch in quality and taste.  The shrimp Louis was fresh and perfect, the grilled hearts of romaine were like a Caesar salad with a twang and were excellent, and the oysters were…oysters.  If you like oysters, I’m sure these were top notch, and they came with sauces that can make them tolerable even to the rest of us. The waiters knew everything about the menu by heart and without hesitation and the bustling staff refilled waters and sodas and removed empty plates with lightning speed.

Along with masses of old gas pumps, anchors, and other fishing equipment scattered around the place in a way that gives it character rather than lawsuits, they also have a dock behind the restaurant that goes out onto the bay and ends at a small shack.  This shack has a couple tables and a few chairs and accommodates probably no more than 10 people.  But if you make it to the shack in time to grab a seat, you can order from the restaurant via a provided phone and they’ll bring you food while you enjoy the rustic nautical decorations (or stored items?) and scenery from your own private cottage. On warmer nights (if that happens in Marin), there is outdoor seating on the dock as well with a large fireplace.  What fun!

Nick's Cove Dock

The dock at Nick's Cove with the surprise cottage at the end.

Third Stop: Farm House Restaurant at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge

Since we stayed at the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge on this trip, we also decided to patronize their restaurant—The Farm House—for our Mother’s Day lunch.  The website listed a Mother’s Day menu that looked good, but we were very surprised to find that that menu was just the specials list, offered in addition to their standard lunch menu which is huge!  The selection of food here is immense—almost too large—and includes a large variety of oysters, starters, soups and salads, and entrees, which are again mostly surf and turf but often in sandwich form for the lunch menu.  The specials list was almost white noise against all the other food on the menu; none of us ordered from it that day.

The food we ordered took a while to arrive, but was really delicious.  At our table were two grilled crab and cheese sandwiches (slight modification from the menu to include melted cheese), fish and chips, and a blackened rockfish sandwich.  Everything came with hand cut fries, or you can substitute their delicious and sweet onion strings.  Mom also received a complimentary glass of sparkling wine just for being  a (good*) mom. Overall, the food was satisfying and tasty and was pretty reasonably priced for a nice Mother’s Day lunch.  I think the Farm House is doing good business and makes a great addition to what the Seashore Lodge offers to patrons.

Farm House Restaurant Collage

The front of the Point Reyes Seashore Lodge and adjacent Farm House Restaurant (at the far end), along with three of our delicious Mother's Day dishes.

__

Overall, we had a great and tasty weekend, and were even graced with mostly beautiful weather.  It rained a bit on Sunday morning, but it didn’t hinder our beach walk or our trip out to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

*They did not verify that she was a good mom, but she is, so I’ll say that’s why she got it.








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