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Name: Gutenberg

Location: Somewhere near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Occupation: BRPR (Bunrab public relations.)

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March 9-15, 2009


go to next week's blogs


  Sunday, March 15, 2009

We popped up to Novato to visit the recently opened Toast Restaurant.

It took a lot of dough to give rise to the decor of this bread-themed business:

... and there was enough of a crowd to offer proof that this loafing lounge was kneaded in Knovato.

Our Toast burger ($10.50):

... was topped with both caramelized and sliced raw red onion, smoked mozzarella, tomato slices, romaine, and red pepper aioli. The soft bun held up to the Angus patty which was cooked to our specified medium rare (but could have used a bit more seasoning.) Good standard issue fries and a pickle rounded out this high traffic sandwich.

I love that they blistered the pizza crust on their Margherita ($11.00):

... but found the dough in need of salt. I also thought that the chopped tomato and dried oregano could be deleted in favor of adding some complexity to the tomato sauce.

These picky details aside, there was one thing that seemed downright wrong - the disheveled bathrooms. I was told that this was an important topic during recent staff meetings and they are trying to rectify the situation with a better system for cleaning their crumb catchers (to avoid a challah back.)

Their location off the 101 combined with this area’s need for family friendly restaurants (that have aspirations that exceed those of Denny’s) will keep them happily ingrained in this slot.

Toast Restaurant
5800 Nave Drive
Novato, CA


Mark your Calendar - This weekend, Choc and Cheese do get along.

Us Bunrabs are judges for the San Francisco International Chocolate Salon. At last, we have justification for taking chocolate in as evidence in our pursuit of delicious justice in this supreme food court.

San Francisco International Chocolate Salon

March 21, 2009 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
tickets $20 advance, $25 at the door
Herbst Pavilion
Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA


It’s time to pay a curdessy call to Petaluma. Last year’s cheese festival was whey cool and this year’s seminars are selling out fast. Presenters include Janet Fletcher, Sue Conley and Peggy Smith who will make their casein points with their earthy and assertive flair.

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival

March 20th-23rd
Check the website for various venues and prices



  Saturday, March 14, 2009 (3-14-2009)

It was time to renew our CPR training so we spent the morning with this dummy:

... (who we were never able to snap out of his unresponsive state.) Although we enjoyed this preparedness class given by the Red Cross:

... we quietly broke into song when they asked if we knew what number to call in the event of an emergency.

After ditching our dummy, we made the irrational decision to go out for Pi Day for the customary comestible at Bubba’s Diner. Our circumferences were increased with a slice of the apple and banana cream varieties.

They must have calculated their value ($5.50 per slice) by determining ratio of the circle’s circumference to its diameter (plus tax.)

Bubba’s slices their apples thin:

... (to mock Ritz cracker dimensions) but our personal piereferences run towards thicker wedges for their textural appeal. There was bark in every bite of this cinnamon-centric, flaky pastry enclosed, dessert filled with apples possessing a good tart to sweet balance.

The retro, Betty Crockery, banana cream pie had a sprayed-on whip cream Euc-lid over a custard-filled area intersected with a bunch of fruit circles. This had all the markings of a good throwing pie and although I imagine that the flavors would be enhanced by the slight warming through a transference of body heat (as it was pushed from your face into your pie hole) it was nice to have the leisure and tidiness that a presentation with less gravitational urgency could provide.

Although not to diameter for, we didn’t exactly have to choke down these solid representations of this traditional treat and certainly the best to be found in San Anselmo.


Bubba’s Diner
566 San Anselmo Ave.
San Anselmo, CA



  Friday, March 13, 2009

Cowboys and girls stampeded:

... to the Black Stallion Winery for the Napa Valley Mustard Festival’s Spicy Soiree.

Guests got a chance to taste medal winners:

... from the worldwide mustard competition and sample mustard based recipes from local chefs including Dean & DeLuca Executive Chef Benjamin Dubois who made a stellar plate of lamb prosciutto and loin topped with turnip, spinach with Banyuls and a Pommery mustard:

The Rutherford Grill’s Executive Chef Sheamus Feeley made an innocent looking, but delectable cold smoked salmon:

Chef Robert Curry of Auberge du Soleil topped crostini with orange-glazed pork belly:

...pickled fennel and green garlic.

Two steppers enjoyed the California Cowboys:

... while 12 steppers enjoyed the Fiji water.

Both the wine:

... and hats:

... were measured by the gallon at this party with a spread to celebrate spreads.

The Sixteenth Annual Napa Valley Mustard Festival



  Thursday, March 12, 2009

Our pal K. goes to foreign shores:

... to do work in the manner of Indiana Jones and takes the occasional break for a seaside meal:

... at the Hotel Nueva Altamar. She says that nobody knows why it’s called “new” (since the only thing that changes is the sign.)

One of (if not the) most important events of this excavation was rescuing this lagomorph:

... from approaching flood waters. Not everyone finds themselves in a position to aid displaced rabbits, but there are other deeds that can be done:

You may not be able to cook like Tom Colicchio, but you can learn to Heimlich like a chef if you get one of the few spots left for this weekend’s free CPR training.

Red Cross CPR Training

March 14, 2009
Free (some sessions are full, so check the site or call)


A Burger for a Pint Blood Drive

If you aren’t about helping choking people, and are more the quid protein quo type, you can part with some plasma at Balboa Cafe’s annual blood drive. One pint of yours and you get a patty on the back from the San Francisco or Mill Valley venues.

Plumpjack’s Blood Drive

Balboa Cafe San Francisco - March 24th 2-7 p.m.
Balboa Cafe Mill Valley - March 31st 2-7 p.m.
To sign up, email mcurtis@plumpjack.com



  Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We had some amazing chow during our recent dinners at Piperade and Boccadillos and were excited to get our mitts on a copy of Gerald Hirigoyen’s new cookbook Pintxos, (pronounced “PEEN-chos”) so we could make some of his Basque inspired small plates.

The cover image looked so enticing that we had to make these skewers as our first offal effort and man, were these delicious. I got the smallest shallots:

... that they had at the store, but they were still big enough that I decided to halve them before cooking (leaving the root end attached so that they held their shape during cooking before trimming them off for skewering.) I also seared the liver super fast:

... (the chef suggests cooking it to your particular preference) and we needed double the number of skewers (probably due to my gigantor shallots.)


Calf’s Liver and Caramelized Shallot Brochettes

serves 4

Caramelized Shallots

8 small to medium shallots
1 generous tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 pound calf’s liver
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

To make the shallots, in a small skillet, combine the shallots, butter, sugar, salt, and 2 cups water and bring to a boil over hight heat. Decrease the heat a little and cook at a vigorous simmer, uncovered, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the shallots are tender when pierced with a knife and the water has evaporated. As the shallots cook, use tongs to turn them a few times so they cook evenly, adding more water if necessary to prevent sticking before the shallots are ready. When they are done, they should be tender throughout, golden, and glazed. Transfer the shallots to a plate and set the skillet aside while you prepare the liver. (The shallots can be cooked up to 8 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)

Trim away any skin and membrane from the liver, and cut into 8 equal cubes. Pat the cubes dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and a generous amount of pepper.
Place a paper towel-lined plate near the stove top. Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the olive oil and warm it until it ripples. Arrange the liver cubes in the pan in a single layer without touching. (If they do not fit comfortably, cook them in 2 batches.) Cook, turning once with tongs, for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. (How long you cook them depends on the thickness of the pieces and the doneness you prefer. I like them pink-red in the center.)

Transfer to the towel-lined plate to drain. Turn off the heat but leave the skillet on the burner. Immediately add the capers, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and parsley to the pan and swirl the pan or stir the contents to combine the ingredients into a sauce.

To serve, have ready 4 small bamboo skewers. Alternately thread 2 liver cubes and 2 shallots onto each skewer. Arrange the skewers on a platter and pour the sauce over the top.


Reprinted with permission from Pintxos: Small Plates in the Basque Tradition by Gerald Hirigoyen with Lisa Weiss, copyright © 2009. Published by Ten Speed Press.
Cover photo credit: Maren Caruso © 2009

Mark your Calendar

The Napa Valley Mustard Festival Signature Event Weekend begins Friday at the Black Stallion Winery. Chefs will prepare their mustard recipes in an awards competition with guests casting votes for their favorites while enjoying music, dancing and of course, wine.

You can sample mustards from around the world at the Marketplace event on Saturday and Sunday at the Robert Mondavi Winery. Music and art will clear your palate between tastings.

The Napa Valley Mustard Festival

Signature Event Weekend
The Awards - A Spicy Soiree
Friday, March 13th, 7 p.m.
Black Stallion Winery
Napa, CA
tickets $100 advance $125 at the door

The Marketplace

Saturday and Sunday March 14th & 15th, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Robert Mondavi Winery
Oakville, CA
tickets $35 advance $40 at the door
includes 8 food and 5 wine tasting tickets



  Tuesday, March 10, 2009

This evening marked the beginning of week two for Contigo:

... and we had been craving their Barcelona-inspired chow since our first visit. This time we brought our pal D.

We got along with these peas in a pod:

... which sweetly appeased our pod-ticular tastes before we indulged in some jamon iberico ($29.00):

This swine was not served before its time - aged 3 years, these paper thin slices melted on over our tongues during our silent appreciation of this Spanish, acorn fed, black pig.

A Catalan flatbread topped with Basque sausage and radicchio ($14.00):

... had a nice chewy crust from the wood burning oven.

The frisee salad ($8.00):

... with house made salt cod, oranges and olives was a refreshing combo of sweet, salty, crunchy and bitter.

Golden golf balls of breaded and fried beef brisket fritters ($8.00):

... with raisins, carrots and pine nuts won the titleist of perfect caddie snack with their par-fectly greaseless, crispy shell and meaty line of play.

Patatas bravas ($8.00):

... were topped with garlic mayonnaise and a peppery tomato sauce. These starchy-bellied spuds had crisply fried edges and are required eating.

Chanterelle, hedgehog and black trumpet 'shrooms ($8.00):

... were capped with pounded parsley in this buttoned up dish.

Local squid ($8.00):

... was cooked to perfection and peppered with a harissa (making this a dish we would be sure to order again.)

Praiseworthy fried sardines ($8.00):

... came with the flour dredged bone-us of a fried skeleton to contrast with the tender fish flesh. Thin slices of fried Meyer lemon sweetened this flavor-packed fruits and mer-riage.

The bocadillo de cerdo ($8.00):

... is officially my favorite bar bite. This pork belly slider gets kick from a harissa alioli with tang and crunch from pickled onions. We had to order seconds of what will now be our standard porcurement.

The hot and crunchy, made to order churros were a slam dunk with the barely sweet, hot chocolate ($8.00):

... which we enjoyed alongside a cinnamon lemon custard. ($7.00):

A deeply caramelized sauce made this Catalan flam‘tastic

We all loved our evening and D. (who is no stranger to good chow) couldn’t believe that they had only been in operation for one week and were operating like such a well olive oiled machine.

They are already thinking about expanding their schedule to include Mondays which is good since the line for dinner on a Tuesday shows that the catalan is now officially out of the bag.

Contigo Kitchen + Cava

1320 Castro St.
San Francisco, CA



  Monday, March 9, 2009

This evening kicked off a series of Monday prix fixe dinners ($45.00) at Jardinere. Each Monday has a different theme and this evening’s was Oaxacan.

Partida Blanco tequila, lime, absinthe, simple syrup and Campari made up the “Shadow of El Cero”:

... which happens to be the only drink in existence named for a volcano but with the confidence to withhold dry ice augmentation. We sacrificed a couple fluke and cara cara orange canapes to this lavable liquid as we chatted with some fellow food enthusiasts:

Although business casual, this was still a cac-tie event as evidenced in the nopales soup:

This spineless broth was given a backbone of dried shrimp, white beans and egg. Hot tortillas:

... (from Chef Traci Des Jardins’ Mijita Taqueria) rounded out this warming dish which was accompanied by an effervescent vinho verde.

A duck confit mole:

... was not only significant because of its rich and flavorful chocolate-laced meat, but it was also the first time that a sauce spoon and a mole have made their relationship public. A black bean tamale and maduros sweetened the deal alongside a glass of well balanced, 2006 Vina Carneiro Mencia.

Crisp and light churros:

... with a demitasse of hot chocolate for dipping was accented with a sip of vin santo.

All of the prix fixe Monday dinners include wine pairings in the cost which takes this beyond a jardin variety deal. There is even a cassoulet dinner on the agenda.

Jardiniere Restaurant

300 Grove St.
San Francisco, CA


From our Bunrab email, Dr. B. writes about our Gr’attitude visit:

Hay, On the cafe gratitude? Did they have The Polyphonic Spree playing? Cause, I could have done the words with the macrobionics. No spree? No Biggles. xo, Me

Gutenberg replies:

Dear Biggles,

Now that you mention it, all I can recall is a sense of elation and inner peace...hmmmm....





back to last week - March 1-8, 2009



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