Easy and Flavorful Recipe: Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad

Last night I made a simple meal: a side dish (or it could be a vegetarian entree) from Cooking Light (Jan/Feb 2012) and Cod simply cooked in the oven with some salt and pepper. I have been a little under the weather the past couple days, and I wanted something easy to prepare that tasted good. My go to meal is pan searing fish and finishing it in the oven, and making a side or salad of some sort. Doesn’t get easier than that!
I was really impressed with the Cooking Light recipe, Butternut Squash and Smokey Black Bean Salad, so I thought I’d share it with everyone. I hadn’t intended on mentioning this recipe, so the photograph is the leftover I had for lunch today. I went a little crazy with the goat cheese. Oops! I hope you enjoy this as much as Franz and I did!

I Put a Little Too Much Goat Cheese on It Today For Lunch! Oops!

 Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad
4 cups (1/2 inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
7 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (I was lazy and left that out – but it would be great with it!)
Cooking spray
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon adobo sauce (I open a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, put it in Tupperware, and keep it in my freezer. Then I scoop out what I need for various recipes since I usually only use a little at a time.)
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or put through a garlic press – it’s easier!)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (15 oz) can no-salt-added black beans, rinsed and drained
1 (9oz) package baby arugula
1/2 cup (2oz) crumbled goat cheese
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Combine squash and 1 tablespoon oil; toss to coat. Arrange squash on a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until tender.
3. For the walnuts, place them in the toaster oven, if you have one, until they become fragrant. Depending on your toaster oven, it can take a few minutes or longer. Keep an eye on it. Remember that the walnuts will cook another minute or 2 after you take them out. Cooking Light suggests placing the nuts on a baking sheet, coat them in cooking spray, sprinkle with salt, and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes, stirring once. I think my way is easier & tastes just as good.
4. Combine 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, and adobo sauce in a bowl; stir with a whisk.
5. Heat a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. (I used my stock pot for this because my skillet wouldn’t be deep enough, and I like extra room to work.) Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute. Add squash, remaining 3/8 teaspoon salt (I just eye balled it), pepper, and beans; cook 3 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat; stir in 3 tablespoons adobo dressing; toss to coat.
6. At this point, I deviated a little from the recipe. At this point, I put the arugula into the squash mixture and added the remaining dressing. I gently folded everything together. The recipe calls for you to put the remaining dressing on the arugula & toss. The squash mixture is placed on top of the arugula. I like my salad ingredients mixed together. We call that a “gamish” in this house. Once it’s plated, add a little goat cheese on top – however much you like.
Take care and happy eating!

Kaiserhof Restaurant Rocks!

I have to share one of my favorite places in San Diego with everyone, Kaiserhof Restaurant & Biergarten.  The owners opened their first restaurant in New Jersey in 1969. After the family moved to San Diego in 1979, they opened The Kaiserhof shortly after.  They’ve been in their current location since 1992.  The father and son are responsible for the butchering and cooking, and they do an awesome job!  I’ve been to Germany 3 times,  I have a German mother-in-law who knows how to cook,  and I’m from Cleveland, so I’ve grown up with the food of that region.  This family knows what they are doing!

You can sit inside the restaurant for a more formal dining experience, or you can sit in a covered patio section known as the Biergarten (which I prefer).  I recommend going for their Happy Hour (Tuesday through Friday between 4-7p).  Grab a table “outside”, order some delicious German beer (pitchers are a good deal), get some plates of free appetizers (located by the bar inside), and order a pretzel.  That’s one option.  If you can eat a lot, order an entrée.  They have a special “Sunset Dinner Menu” from 5-6:30p, and the prices are a little less.   If you can’t eat a lot, order an entrée anyways and take the leftovers home.  The only drawback to this area is that since it’s considered “outside” (even though it is completely enclosed), smoking is allowed.

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One of the best entrees on the menu is Schweinshaxe (roasted pork knuckle).  It is priced by weight.  When I went recently, I had a huge portion and it was about $22.  It is pricey, but it’s so worth it.  The meat is full of flavor, and the crispy skin is decadent and delicious.  It comes with 2 sides and a salad, and it’s hard to choose.  I went with the bread dumpling, sauerkraut, and a cucumber salad.  Perfect combination of flavors: roasted pork, rich demi-glace, taste of caraway in the sauerkraut, freshness of the cucumbers and dill, and the dumpling brings it all together.  That just gave me an idea: this would make a great sandwich except instead of bread, thick slices of bread dumpling!  Yes, it would be messy.  Just let me dream!

On this particular night, my husband had the Beef Goulash which was on the Sunset Dinner Menu.  The paprika sauce was awesome, the meat was tender, and the spaetzle was perfect!   Basically, it seems you can’t go wrong with ordering anything on the menu.

As a side note, I watched the Germany v. Argentina World Cup Soccer at Kaiserhof (2010).  Their Biergarten had some extra televisions set up, and the place was packed.  Franz and I arrived right before the start time (around 6am, I believe?), and we managed to grab a small table with a partial view of the game.  It was a blast!  Many people were speaking German, and everyone was in a great mood throughout the match.

I hope you get a chance to check this place out!  You won’t be disappointed!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Kaiserhof German American on Urbanspoon

Early St. Patrick’s Day At Museum of Man

I hope everyone had a great weekend!!  I wanted to share what I did this past Thursday night.  I attended San Diego Museum of Man for the Tower After Hours – Ireland event. For $20, I was able to partake in Irish food, beverages and performances for 2 hours. It was a fun time! I love going to Balboa Park, especially at night when the great architecture and amazing trees are illuminated.

Four restaurants participated: Hooley’s (La Mesa), O’Sullivan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant (Carlsbad), The Field, and Dublin Square (both in the Downtown Gaslamp District). While sipping on a Smithwick’s, I enjoyed the various restaurant stations. Hooley’s offered their “Hooley Mac”: a penne pasta with a four cheese sauce, Irish Banger, Sautéed Peppers, and Caramelized Onions. O’Sullivan’s served Shepard’s Pie with Corned Beef and Cabbage. I was very impressed with The Field’s Wheatan Bread (aka Soda Bread) that was served with their Shepard’s Pie. It was awesome! There was a man standing behind me at one point, and he asked if I had tried the bread yet because he was loving it! I could have had that bread all night. I’ve had soda bread before, but I need to get their recipe for theirs! Dublin Square by far had the best Shepard’s Pie. I consider myself a connoisseur of Shepard’s Pie. I take the dish very seriously. Some places really under season it. I’m not sure why. It’s an easy dish to make. Dublin Square was the only one that seasoned their dish perfectly. They also served delicious Mini Corned Beef Sandwiches on tasty Rye Rolls. I was wishing the restaurants varied their menus a bit; I felt like it was Shepard’s Pie Sampling Night!

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The entertainment was great. There were several traditional dance groups, traditional Irish singers, and the Tim Foley Band. Interestingly, I saw the Tim Foley Band after a beer bus tour at The Blarney Stone on Balboa Avenue. They’re a 3 piece band, and I highly recommend seeing them in person. I was glad I was able to see them perform again.
I rarely get out on a weeknight, but this was worth getting off the sofa! The major drawbacks were the crowds and lack of close parking. However, because we had to park a distance away, we got to see more of the park at night which is beautiful. It was great seeing so many people out, not only at this event, but all over Balboa Park. Even if you don’t go to one of the many special events being held at one of the many museums, theatres, or at The San Diego Zoo, at least grab a drink and appetizers at The Prado, a Cohn restaurant that has a great outdoor patio, and walk around the park. Also, the each Tuesday through out each month, certain museums are free.  Check out the website: http://www.balboapark.org/visit/tuesdays  We’re lucky to have this place in San Diego!

My Favorite Meatloaf Recipe

There’s nothing that makes me think of my childhood more than Meatloaf.  My Mom had a few favorites she would cook: Salmon Loaf, Meat Loaf, Spaghetti with Meat Sauce, Creamed Chipped Beef over Egg Noodles (or over White Rice which I never preferred as a kid), Liver and Onions, and Fish (usually Perch, if I remember correctly).  She always had a vegetable and a salad as a side, and we always had sliced bread and margarine and butter on the table.  Milk was the only beverage on the table – we even had a special orange plastic holder with a handle for the quart of milk.  We always sat at the dining room table, and my Mom liked to have the candles lit.  Great memories!

The recipe below is not how I had Meatloaf as a kid, but it’s my favorite way to prepare it.  Hope you like it!  The pictures are not great, but the flavor is!

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My Favorite Meatloaf

1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped, without oil if you are watching fat content

1 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup ketchup

1/4 cup finely chopped onion (more if you like lots of onions)

3/4 cup chopped basil

1/2 cup shredded provolone (if you want a lower fat dish, skip it)

2 large egg whites

2 garlic cloves, minced (I always put in more)

1 pound meat (I prefer a combination of ground lamb, sirloin and veal)

1/3 cup ketchup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine all ingredients from sun-dried tomatoes through ground meat. Shape into a loaf pan with cooking spray.  Cover with remaining 1/3 cup ketchup.  Cook for 1 hour.  Let stand for 10 minutes.

Tell me your favorite meal from childhood!  I’ve love to hear it!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

11 Things About Me

A friend and blogger, Crystal from Eat*Drink*Cleveland, challenged me and a few fellow bloggers to come up with a list of 11 things people don’t know about us. I’m kind of an open book, but here are a few things people may not know.

1. I sing in the car, sometimes appearing to be trying out for American Idol.
2. If I could live in a warm shower, I would. Ever see the Seinfeld episode where Kramer decides to live in his running shower? That’s me!
3. I can take any Seinfeld episode and relate it to my life (see above).
4. When I was 10 yrs old and my sister was 18, she drove the 2 of us from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv so we could get our Visas to travel to Egypt.
5. I sweat a lot.
6. If I don’t exercise every day, I get really grumpy.
7. I used to get really mean was I was hungry. I try very hard to control that temper. Now I just get kind of mean.
8. I’ve had more jobs than anyone I know. Babysitter (first job), I worked for a Financial Advisor (while in high school), worked at the County Courthouse for a summer, Corn Dog on a Stick, Applebee’s (food prep), hostess at a bar/restaurant in the Flats (Cleveland, Ohio), factory worker at Bonnie Bell, Blockbuster, movie theater (popcorn stand), museum docent, helped sell furniture at a store my Mom owned, barista at Arabica in University Heights, Ohio, worked at the front desk at my college gym, art gallery (Selo Shevel Gallery in Ann Arbor), sold jewelry at Dillard’s, teaching assistant in Graduate School at Cleveland State University, worked for Continental for 3 summers as a “Service Ambassador”, MBNA (credit card company), Border’s, taught 7th, 8th, 10th grade English and History in an Orthodox Jewish all girls’ school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, Flight Options (private jet company), museum work in Manhattan, and catering in San Diego. I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few jobs!
9. I just started to enjoy drinking coffee. I prefer lattes, but I’ve ordered a regular coffee a couple times, and I enjoyed it!
10. I make the best hot chocolate. I learned some tricks from my Dad.
11. I met Gene Simmons of Kiss when I was really little. He was in his full costume (dragon high heel shoes) and make-up. I was about 5 years old and freaked out! He came up to me to try to get me to stop crying. He was very nice, but it didn’t help!

I think that’s about it! Everything else, everyone knows! Thanks for the challenge, Crystal!

Full with Philly Cheesesteaks!

I was trying to think of the best way to celebrate President’s Day, and I decided on a place that highlights the quintessential sandwich from Philadelphia. For those that have an interest in historical facts, a mansion at 6th & Market Streets in Philadelphia served as the executive mansion for the first two Presidents of the United States, while the permanent national capital was under construction in the District of Columbia. Following a 16-month stay in New York City, George Washington occupied the President’s House in Philadelphia from November 1790 to March 1797. John Adams occupied it from March 1797 to June 1800, then became the first President to occupy The White House. For nearly a decade, the Philadelphia mansion served as the seat of the executive branch of the federal government, housed the public and private offices of the President, and was the site of the official entertaining of the nation (http://www.ushistory.org/presidentshouse/history/briefhistory.htm).

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OK, so now on to the important stuff: where I went for lunch! I’ve heard about Gaglione Brothers Famous Steaks and Subs and decided to give it a try. Three brothers, Joe, Andy, and Tony Gaglione, opened the Point Loma location in 2004. There’s a second location in the Friars Village Shopping Center. The menu has many different sub sandwiches that come in 3 sub sizes. My husband and I both ordered 12 inch subs: I went with the Cheez Whiz Steak ($9.99) and Franz ordered the Father Joe, a classic Meatball Sub ($9.99). We split an order of Garlic Fries that were truly loaded with fresh chunks of garlic. I can eat a lot, but I should have ordered the smaller 8 inch size. I was stuffed!
I have a confession. I’ve never been to Philadelphia, so I’ve never had a real Philly Cheesesteak. I’ve never been to Geno’s nor Pat’s. I know, I know! Granted, I can’t tell you how Gaglione’s compares, but I can tell you they were very yummy sandwiches. The rolls were very fresh – an essential part of a great sandwich- and nicely toasted. The bread comes from Amoroso Baking Co. which, according to the Gaglione brothers, is a famous bakery in Philadelphia. The Father Joe was oozing with mozzarella, had a distinct taste of Parmesan, and the meatballs were full of flavor. The tomato sauce could have had a stronger flavor of herbs, but it was still a solid sandwich. The meat on the cheesesteak was so finely chopped and the Cheez Wiz was not too thick. It seemed to almost infuse itself with the meat and finely diced grilled onions. Franz has had the real deal at Pat’s in Philadelphia. He remembers Pat’s sandwiches as tasty, but a very greasy and messy. He liked that the Gaglione subs weren’t that way. I’ll go back. Next time, I think I’ll try the Sophia Loren: Capicolla, Genoa Salami, Pepperoni, Provolone, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Onions, Pepperoncini, and Italian Dressing. And I think I’ll split a 12 inch with someone!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Gaglione Brothers on Urbanspoon

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Greens

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Greens

It’s feeling a little bit like Winter around here at night, or at least as “Wintery” as San Diego can get. I love making soups, and I make them at least once a week – Summer or Winter. The other night, I made Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Greens (Martha Stewart Living 2012). It is such a simple soup, but it’s so good. I served it with some bread and a salad.  If you don’t own an immersion blender, please buy one if you like to cook!  I love mine!  Making soups is a breeze with one!
Here’s the recipe:

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling if you prefer
1 cup chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 medium head cauliflower (about 3 pounds total; after trimming, florets & stems, cut into 1-inch pieces, will be about 2 lbs. It will come out to about 8-9 cups.)
Sea salt
4 1/2 cups water (I used 5 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
5 large kale or collard leaves (or a bunch of spinach), tough ends removed and leaves roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat; cook onion, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook for 3 minutes more. Add cauliflower, and pour in water until it reaches just below the top of the cauliflower.
2) Bring to a boil over high heat. Add 2 tablespoons dill. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until cauliflower is just tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in greens, and simmer for about 3 minutes.
3) Let sit for 5 minutes to cool slightly. (If you have an immersion blender, there’s no need to wait. Just add dill and give it a whirl.) Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of dill. Puree soup in batches in a blender until very smooth, adding more water (about 1/2 cup or more) if it’s too thick. Return to pot, and reheat. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with dill, black pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt.

Happy Eatings!

Come join SoupaPalooza at TidyMom and Dine & Dish sponsored by KitchenAid, Red Star Yeast and Le Creuset

Scouting Out San Fran

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I hope everyone had a great Valentine’s Day! I must admit that I’m not really into celebrating the day.  I prefer exchanging cards with loved ones and staying in for a home cooked meal.  I don’t like battling crowds at a restaurant around this holiday, and I don’t like the highly inflated prix fix menus. Also, my husband, Franz, and I returned from a weekend trip to San Francisco, so I think I had enough dinners out, wine and desserts to last until next weekend!

San Fran is great!  The people, the architecture, the overall vibe is so different from my city of San Diego – I can’t believe they are in the same state.

The trip was a jam-packed eating frenzy.  I had an amazing 3 course lunch ($49) at Michael Mina.  It was delicious!  Franz started with a Bloody Mary that I believe was the best one I’ve ever had – it had a light spritz to it.  Usually a Bloody Mary can be a little heavy before I start a meal, but this one was light and refreshing with just enough of a zing, probably due to the Hanger One Chipotle Vodka.  My appetizer was Mina’s Classic Ahi Tuna Tartare with Habanero-Infused Sesame Oil.  The server prepares the dish in front of you: he takes the quail egg yolk off the top of the Ahi Tuna, breaks it into the condiments on the plate which include Asian Pear and Pine Nuts, and then mixes everything back into the Ahi. It’s served with Toast Points that I found unnecessary.  Franz had a selection of Oysters on the Half Shell.  Both appetizers were awesome, but I preferred mine – I like a little heat in my food!  I joke about carrying around a bottle of sriracha in my purse.  I won’t do that!  At least, I don’t think I will??  For our entrees, we ordered Pan Seared Steelhead Trout served with Celeriac Remoulade, Green Lentils, and Granny Smith Apples and Black Angus NY Strip Steak served with Creamed Spinach, Pommes Pont-Neuf, and Red Romaine.  Both meals were perfectly cooked, and there were just enough flavors on each plate to keep each bite interesting.  I was surprised by how much I enjoyed my dessert: Green Apple Sorbet served with Elderflower Pavlova, Almond Crumble, Nepitella Mint (a wild growing mint that has almost a hint of oregano), and Compressed Apples.  It was like eating a Green Apple Jolly Rancher, but without all of the corn syrup and fake dye.  I liked Franz’s dessert more than he did.  He had the Brown Butter Cake with Rum Compressed Bananas, Flan Ice Cream, and Cashews.  It was a deconstructed dessert, so it isn’t what one might expect.  On the plate were chunks of torn cake with the bananas, ice cream, and cashews placed on the plate.  I thought the cake was so soft, almost like brioche, and so flavorful.  I highly recommend Michael Mina!

Michael Mina on Urbanspoon

During the evening, we attended a wonderful tribute dinner for an amazing man, Dr. William G. Hamilton, at Perbacco Ristorante and Bar.  I’m always interested in how a restaurant handles a large group of people and still gets great food out to the guests.  Perbacco did a great job!  My only complaint was that the restroom was in the basement and we were on the second floor.  It was quite a walk to get to the bathroom!  The food was very good and the service was great.  Since I had fish for lunch, I opted for the Seared Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Potato Croquettes (I set the Gorganzola Butter aside that was on top of the steak.  I prefer more of the meat flavor, and butters on top can be too overpowering for me.  I know, I’m crazy!).  And since Franz had steak for lunch, he went with the Branzino with Wild Mushrooms and Sunchoke Ragout.  The best part of the meal was the Warm Gianduja Cake with Toasted Meringue.  What’s better than a warm, oozy, chocolate cake??

Perbacco on Urbanspoon

Interestingly, Perbacco and Michael Mina are neighbors.  Also, we were told by friends to check out Tadich Grill, one of the oldest restaurants in San Francisco, during our visit.  It just so happened that it was next to Michael Mina and Perbacco!  We stopped in for a drink before our lunch, but we’ll have to go back again and try their Cioppino and House Made Bloody Mary!  It was like going back in time – servers in white jackets and wood paneled walls.  My kind of place!

The following day, we met my Uncle Tom at The Slanted Door, a “Modern Vietnamese” restaurant, for lunch.  I heard and read so many great things about this restaurant that I built it up a little too much, I believe.  It was a decent restaurant, but I was expecting more.  We ordered a bottle of Juliuspital “Julius Echter Berg” Silvaner (2009) from Franken, Germany that was suggested by our server.  We started with Slanted Door Spring Rolls with Shrimp, Pork, and Mint with a Peanut Sauce and Barbecued Pork Spareribs with a Honey-Hoisin Sauce.  I thought the Spring Rolls were decent but they didn’t pop with flavor.  I’ve had better.  The Spareribs were very meaty & delicious.  Franz ordered Pho Bo, a london broil and brisket noodle soup.  We have a favorite Pho spot in San Diego, and we felt the Pho is better at our usual restaurant.  We followed that with a Caramelized Catfish Claypot that was lacking in heat.  The menu notes, and you could see, the thai chilies used in the dish, but it didn’t lend any flavor to the dish.  It was a very tame dish, and a little on the sweet side.  The last dish we ordered was the Grilled Lemongrass Pork over Rice Vermicelli Noodles with Imperial Roll.  The amount of pork was minimal and the flavors, once again, were on the bland side.  We finished the meal with Vietnamese coffee, coffee with condensed milk.  I had never had this before, and it was fun to try.  I still prefer my coffee and steamed milk, but I was glad we tried it.  I liked the beautiful Bay Bridge view from the restaurant, and I love being in the Ferry Building.  There are so many great vendors in one spot.  We even stopped in one day just to get some amazing olive rolls at The Acme Bread Company (check out the photos on their website: http://www.acmebread.com/the_company).  I’m glad I tried The Slanted Door, but I would like to try other spots when I return to San Francisco.

The Slanted Door on Urbanspoon

Another spot everyone has to check out is Tartine Bakery & Cafe on Guerrero Street.  The husband-wife baking duo/owners are spectacular.  When you arrive, there will be a long line of people waiting to place their orders.  The line goes kind of fast .  And for part of the wait, you get to stare at the case filled with the most beautiful desserts.  I ordered a hot pressed Pecorino and Crushed Almond with Olive Oil, Lemon and Sage Sandwich (sandwiches are available after 11:30am).  It takes about 20 minutes to get a sandwich, so plan your day accordingly.  It’s not a fast food type of place.   I desperately wanted a Banana Cream Tart.  Two women at a table next to me were eating one and were gushing about it and the layer of caramel at the bottom of the tart.  I swear they wanted me to ask them for a bite.  I was close to obliging them, but decided against it.  However, I did order 2 croissants to take back to the hotel so that Franz and I could enjoy them with our Starbuck’s the next morning.  YOU MUST ORDER A CROISSANT.  We felt that it was the best one we’ve ever had in our lives.  It is Heaven.  For the sandwich (it is huge), a Coke in a cute bottle, and 2 croissants (also huge), I spent about $23.  Well worth it!

Tartine Bakery on Urbanspoon

Woodward’s Garden was our last dinner out, and it was well worth the wait!  I highly recommend this restaurant, but make a reservation.  There is a front room that has a few tables and you can see the chefs cooking.  The second room is only a little bit larger, but it has a really nice intimate feeling.  The high ceilings, over sized paintings, and chandelier make the room feel very cozy.  The perfect way to feel while filling my belly!  I started with one of the best appetizers I’ve ever had:  Chicken Liver-Smoked Bacon Pate with Kumquat Compote, Mustard Cream, and Cornichons ($12).  The flavors were so unexpected, but they worked so well!  I will dream about this dish.  Franz had a delicious Pappardelle with Pork Shoulder Pancetta Bolognese ($13).  The flavors of the sauce tasted so fresh, and the pasta was perfect.  Franz ordered Grilled Hanger Steak with a Root Vegetable Gratin, Rabe with Garlic, and a Green Peppercorn Sauce ($26) as his entree.  I decided upon Muscovy Duck Leg Braised with Sour Cherries on Soft White Polenta with Sautéed Brussel Sprouts ($23).  The cherries in this dish took it to the next level.  For dessert, we shared Butterscotch Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Crème Fraiche with a Hazelnut Biscotti ($8.50).  Did I use the word Heaven before?  Well, I’m using it again.  This dessert was Heaven. It was such a perfect restaurant and a perfect meal.  The menu changes every month, but something tells me that each month will be very good.

Woodward's Garden on Urbanspoon

As a side note, I would like to mention a great bar we went to twice during our visit.  We were there for a convention, so there were times when we wanted a place we could grab a seat and hear our friends speak.  Urban Tavern in the Union Square area (next to The Hilton Union Square) was a great place, awesome service, just enough people, but not too packed, and great beers on draft.  Another cool place we happened upon was Per Diem in the Financial District.  I had a delicious Pimm’s Cup (I love drinks with cucumber in them) and shared some tasty French Fries with a great horseradish aioli.

Hopefully I will visit San Francisco soon!  I need to continue making a master list of restaurants for that town!  And there are enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life!!  Let me know if you have a favorite spot!  I’ll check it out next time.  Happy Eatings!

Smashburger Opening in Hillcrest

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I’ve been told I have to try Smashburger for some time now. They are located all over the country, including 9 in the San Diego area. Last week, some friends and I went to the Grand Opening at their Hillcrest location on 5th Avenue and West Washington Street . The staff was so friendly and there was a band playing outside while people waited for their free burgers (they charged for sides and milkshakes only). It’s fast food, but the restaurant has a nice, modern interior (the booths were a little uncomfortable because it has such a straight back). Also, there’s an outside patio, and dogs are allowed.

There are 6 burgers and 5 chicken sandwiches one can choose, or you can opt to create your own masterpiece.  They offer 4 different buns (classic egg, multi-grain, spicy chipotle, or a torta roll) and a plethora of sauces and toppings.  For an extra charge, you can go for premium toppings which include everything from a fried egg to fried pickles to chili.  They also serve salads and kid friendly options.

I wanted to see how they did a standard burger, so I ordered the BBQ, Bacon, Cheddar Smash.  It was a tasty burger, but not my favorite burger of all time.  It had everything a burger should have: tasty bun that holds up to the toppings, flavorful toppings and the beef shouldn’t be too dry.  Also, I don’t like burgers too rare because the blood soaks into the bun & ruins it for me.  The bacon and haystack onions were good. The problem is that there are so many places that feature the burger, that I am starting to create quite a palate for the meaty little devils.  I will go back because I did enjoy the burger, I can walk there, and my dog, Monsieur, can join in the fun on their patio (added bonus).  However, there’s a list of other establishments that I feel serve a better burger.  That list will be saved for another time!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Smashburger Hillcrest on Urbanspoon

Super Bowl Stupor

The Super Bowl is over. If you are like millions of people, you watched at least some part of the game event.  And, if you are like me, you were eating the entire time the game was on.  I love days that are centered around food!  According to the

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magazine, Parade, 2 weeks before the Super Bowl, 110.9 million gallons of beer are sold, 125 billion chicken wing portions are sold the weekend of the game, and 11.2 million pounds of potato chips are consumed on game day.  Yikes!

I was lucky enough to have two great friends throw a Super Fun (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) party loaded with great food.  Tacos Y Gorditas Catering provided delicious street tacos, quesadillas, mulitas, and beans.  I opted for beef and pork tacos, followed by a quesadilla later in the evening.  There was a table full of appetizers and desserts that guests brought.  I can’t pass up dip, especially during the Super Bowl!  Thank you to whoever brought the Chicken Wing Dip.  That’s something you never get a chance to eat during the year, but, man, it tastes so good!  After a great mental debate, I decided to make Maggy’s Oreo Truffle Footballs from Three Many Cooks‘ blog.   Someone else made a similar looking dessert, but their dessert was Red Velvet Cake Pops.  Very tasty!!

Tacos, quesadillas, smokies, dip, stuffed potato skins, cookies, brownies, cake pops, oreo truffle footballs, hard salami, mini cupcakes, nachos (my friends had a nacho stand with hot cheese and chili), and popcorn.  What am I forgetting?  Oh, and a couple beers.  That’s what I had last night.  Thank God Super Bowl is only once a year!!  What did you feast upon last night?

Here’s the recipe for the Oreo Truffle Footballs.  You could shape these into anything to suit a particular season or event.  Hearts for Valentines, eggs for Easter (dip in white chocolate!), shamrocks for St. Patty’s Day – the list is endless!!

Maggy’s Oreo Truffle Footballs from Three Many Cooks‘ (Makes 2 dozen)

1 package (18 ounces) Oreo cookies

1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1 package (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate

3 tablespoons vegetable shortening

1 tube Betty Crocker white decorating icing (fitted with writing tip)

Process Oreos to crumbs in a food processor; add cream cheese; continue to process until completely incorporated.  Divide mixture into 24 portions, and working one at a time, roll mixture around to form a ball and then back and forth to form an oval, tapering ends to form a football shape.

Place on a waxed-paper lined baking sheet.  Freeze until solid, at least one hour or up to several days ahead.  I took 8-10 shapes out at a time when it was time to dip them into chocolate and left the remaining “footballs” in the freezer.

Meanwhile, microwave chocolate and shortening on high power until melted, about 2 minutes ( I just heat it in a good heavy bottom saucepan over very low heat & continuously stir until melted.  I’ve never had a problem doing it that way.) Working one at a time, use a pick to dip balls in the chocolate, rolling around to coat all sides; return to lined baking sheet.  When truffles have set, use icing to form football markings.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.