Refueled at Rudford’s!

I’m very lucky to live in close proximity to El Cajon Boulevard, around the blocks of Alabama Street to 30th Street, in San Diego. There are so many great restaurants in that small area: Mama’s Bakery (http://www.mamasbakery.net/), Pizzeria Luigi’s (http://www.pizzerialuigi.com/), Pomegranate (http://russiangeorgianfood.homestead.com/), Eclipse Chocolate ( http://eclipsechocolat.com/), Tiger! Tiger! (http://tigertigertavern.blogspot.com/) – I could go on.

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Over the weekend, I decided to try out a spot I’ve passed by countless times: Rudford’s (http://www.rudfords.com/index.html). It’s a diner that has been around since 1946. The front cover of their menu has a photograph of President Kennedy‘s motorcade passing by the restaurant with him waving to the crowds on the street. Very cool! This is how a diner should feel! There were a bunch of regulars who knew the servers’ names and were bellied up to the bar with delicious plates of breakfast grub. There are a bunch of comfortable booths, too. Franz and I grabbed a booth and decided on what to order. We shared a Cinnamon Roll that came out hot, soft and oozing with icing. It was really fresh and tasty. As we were eating our food, I couldn’t help but notice everything that passed us looked really good. I made a mental note to order waffles next time.

My order of Corned Beef Hash, 2 Eggs (over easy, as always), and Toast (rye, hold the butter) came out super hot, and it was delicious. The house made salsa, which is on every table, was excellent! I put it all over my food. It has a kick that might hurt my sister, but it had the perfect amount of heat for me! What better to put out the heat? A cool glass of chocolate milk. So yummy!

Franz ordered Chicken Fried Steak and 2 Eggs, with Potatoes and Toast. I always feel the best way to judge a diner is to order their Chicken Fried Steak. It’s something so indulgent and so classic. He asked for his hash browns to be “well done”, and they were – that doesn’t always happen. He really appreciated the fact that the gravy was under the meat so that it kept the gravy hot. Genius! Our total bill was about $24.

The people working there were so friendly. A couple of servers, who knew we weren’t regulars, asked how everything was and hoped we would come back. I whole heartedly told them I would! Breakfast is served 24 hours a day, and lunch and main entrees are served after 11am. If you go on a weekday, there is a coupon on the website for $2 off a menu item over $8. The only drawback was that there were no milkshakes on the menu. I assumed a place like this would have them, so that was a little disappointing. However, Buttermilk is on the menu – my Dad will love that! And next time he’s in town, we’re going there!!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Rudford's on Urbanspoon

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Stone Brewing Co. Beer Dinner at Wine Vault!

Head Up The Steps To Wine Vault!

Head Up The Steps To Wine Vault and Bistro!

One of my favorite restaurants in San Diego is Wine Vault & Bistro on India Street. The chef and owners are so creative, and the setting is a perfect place to enjoy a great meal and beverages. I always feel like I just stepped into a farmhouse in Napa! It’s an interesting concept: you check the restaurant’s calendar to see what is scheduled for the night, week or month, and call to make a reservation. Usually it’s a multi-course of small plates paired with wine. One night, I enjoyed Japanese inspired dishes paired with different sakes. So the themes vary, but they are always great!

On St. Patrick’s Day, I attended the Stone Beer Dinner. Jeremy Moynier, Lead Brewer at Stone Brewing Co., was available to discuss the beers on hand as well.

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The meal started off with La Quercia Rossa Prosciutto Picante Served Over Baby Lettuces with a Root Vegetable Remoulade and Pickled Cauliflower. That’s a long description. The abbreviated description: perfect salty meat goodness with a tangy kick! It went perfectly with the Stone “Levitation” Ale. The hoppy quality of the Ale paired with the “vinegar-y” and salty bites really went hand in hand. The mild lettuce brought it all down to earth again. It was a great dish and a great beer. The only problem was that I could have had 10 more plates!

The second course was an Oyster and Broccoli Veloute with Green Garlic, Tempura Mushrooms, and Smoked Yogurt. A second bold beer accompanied this course: Stone “Ruination” IPA. It was another choice pairing. The soup was so subtle in flavor that it was asking for a kick in the behind. The first sip I took, I wished I had my bottle of sriracha. But then I tasted the IPA, and I found the strong flavor I needed. Back and forth, this pairing was taking me to a nice, clean flavor spot and back to the kick of hops.

The third course was by far the best! Crispy Pork Belly with Crushed New Potatoes, Garlic Braised Cabbage and a Side of Beer MustardStone “Oaked Arrogant Bastard” Ale was served with this amazing dish. Again, I could have eaten 10 more plates! I wanted to lick the plate. My husband and I love pork belly.  Once we went overboard and had so much on a trip in New York City that we couldn’t order it for a few months after. We agreed that Wine Vault’s was the BEST pork belly ever. Why? The skin was so perfectly crispy, and the fat was just enough – not too much that you feel like you need a shower but not so small that you don’t get that decadent feeling. The flavor was so spot on! And anytime I can get cabbage on a plate, I will! There were so many flavors on such a small plate. Perfect! And the beer did what it was supposed to do: it supported the dish but let all of those flavors come through. A Ruination or Levitation would have muddied the flavors.

The next course was a kind of a bummer: Braised Brisket with Roquefort Leeks, Glazed Carrots, Smoked Potato Puree and a Horseradish Gremolata served with Stone “14th Anniversary Emperial” IPA. I was underwhelmed by this plate. Brisket is a difficult cut. My husband’s piece was just fat. Mine was half fat, half leaner meat. I don’t think this was any fault of the chef, but the nature of the cut. I thought the sides were delicious. I could have had a stronger horseradish flavor in the gremolata, but I go a little crazy with horseradish! The dish was ok, but after the amazing pork belly, it was hard to compete. The IPA was so good! I love Stone’s description of this beer: “A dry-bodied ale with a powerfully spicy, earthy aroma. On the palate peppery hops assert themselves early and often, with malt sweetness making a brief appearance before being taken back by a long, complex and decisively bitter finish.”  Well written!

The final course was Molasses Cake with Dark Chocolate Ganache, Gingersnap Ice Cream and Crumble. The cake was decent, but the ice cream and crumble???  I loved the ice cream and crumble!!!  Stone “15th Anniversary Escondidian Imperial Black” IPA was another winning pairing.  The ginger in the ice cream, the bitterness of the cake, and the smooth taste of the ganache went perfectly with the coffee and malty flavors of the IPA.  It was like a perfect cup of coffee, but with 10.8% alcohol.  What a great way to spend Saint Patrick’s Day!

If you haven’t been to Wine Vault & Bistro, check out the calendar on their website (http://winevaultbistro.com/), find a date that works for you, and call for a reservation.  An interesting event takes place on Wednesday, April 18th.  100% of the dinner proceeds go directly to Scripps Green Cancer Center.  It’s $150 per person and $100 is tax deductible.  Check the website for more details.  It sounds like a great evening!

Take Care and Happy Eating!

Wine Vault & Bistro on Urbanspoon

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

I hope everyone has a fun and safe St. Patrick’s Day! Here are 2 things to start your day off: classic songs from Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy and a photo of my dog, Monsieur (aka Sweet Pea), getting in the mood!  This video brings back some great memories.  I remember seeing them perform in Cleveland when I was a kid.  Need music for the day?  Check out these videos with Makem and Clancy:  “The Cobbler” and “Mary Mack”  And after you’ve had a few pints and some whiskey, watch “Four Green Fields“.

Erin Go Bake!

As a kid growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, March 17th was one of the best days of the year.  I would skip school, go to either Saint Colman’s or St. Patrick’s for Mass with my family, head downtown for the parade, at times walk in the parade with my Dad (my best friend, Courtney, even walked with us one year), eat lots of soda bread, corned beef and cabbage, and get dressed up in all green clothes and accoutrements (being mindful not to wear orange!).  My favorite thing to wear was a tiny little top hat proclaiming I was the world’s largest Leprechaun with a string that would go around my neck.  Wearing St. Patrick’s Day buttons were a must.  As I got a little older, everything remained the same except after the parade my friends and I would go down to a small area in The Flats of Cleveland known as Settler’s Landing to imbibe cheap beer that was never truly Irish.  And as I got even older, the day remained the same, but instead, my friends and I would go to places like The Treehouse in Tremont.

Living in San Diego and celebrating St. Patrick’s Day is different.  I try to hold onto some of the things I grew up doing.  One of the major things I continue to do, not surprisingly, is keep the food traditions alive.  I always make corned beef and cabbage.  One thing I’ve never done, I’m embarrassed to write, is make Irish Soda Bread.  My mom would always make it and still does.  I asked her for her recipe and I will share it with you below.  I did a little research on Irish Soda Bread.  I never really thought about it before.  It was just there!  I’d slather some butter on it, and chow it down!

On epicurious.com, there is a great article about this particular item of food (http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/holidays/stpatricks/sodabread).  Did you know there’s a Society for the Preservation of Irish Soda Bread?  Well, there is.  Here’s its website: http://sodabread.us/   This is why I love food!  People care so much!!  I love it!  And the Society has a blog: http://sodabreadsociety.blogspot.com/  My suggestion: read as much as you can, and sound really smart when you head out to a bar on Saturday!  They lay down the law on what is NOT Irish Soda Bread.

Directly from the website, it is clearly noted what is NOT Irish Soda Bread:

  • zest, orange or any other kind
  • Irish Whiskey. (talk about stereotyping!!!)
  • Honey (substitute for sugar)
  • Sugar (see definition of “cake”)
  • eggs (see definition of “cake”)
  • Garlic (not common in English/Irish dishes)
  • Shortening (hydrogenated vegetable oil – Crisco introduced to the US in 1911. Not in the 19th century)
  • Double Cream (British term for “Heavy Cream” but a little thicker. Not much chance Irish peasants would be using this.)
  • Sour Cream (traditional in Eastern European dishes. Became popular in the US and European kitchens during the past 50 years, not 150 years ago. see http://www.ochef.com/516.htm
  • Yogurt (prior to 1900 a staple in Central Europe and Asia. Introduced to the US after WWII by Isaac Carasso who started Dannon in NY City. Not a 19th century Irish baking item.)
  • Chocolate
  • Chiles/Jalapenos (Right! Ireland is well-known for using these in its traditional food!! )
  • Fruit (Only in Christmas/Easter cakes and other special occasions.)

Phew!  After having read that, I don’t think I’ve ever had Irish Soda Bread except when I went to the San Diego Museum of Man for the Tower After Hours – Ireland event last month.  The Field Irish Pub and Restaurant served “Wheaten Bread” tastes like the real deal.  It was delicious!  However, I’ve always enjoyed my Mom’s Soda Bread, but she uses eggs, raisins, butter, and baking powder.  According to the Society, what she, and most people, serve is called “Spotted Dog” or “Railway Cake”.  Also, it’s a cake, not a bread.

I appreciate the Society’s thorough research on the subject.  Like I said, this is why I love food and why I love talking to others who love food like I do!  However, I will go ahead and make my Mom’s “Soda Bread”.  It might not be 100% Irish, but it’s 100% a family tradition.  I’ll make a traditional one, as well, next week.  Why not?

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Joan Gill’s Irish Soda Bread

3 cups sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons butter

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1/2 cup raisins (My Mom prefers white.  I’m not a huge fan of raisins, so I go light – about 1/4 cup or so.)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift all dry ingredients together (flour though sugar). Melt butter on stove, and stir in egg and buttermilk. Combine the dry and wet mixtures together. Add raisins.  Stir ingredients until they come together.   Place into a buttered, standard size loaf pan.  Bake for 40 minutes,  or until top begins to brown slightly and toothpick inserted into the middle comes out with a few crumbs on it.

The Most Traditional Recipe: White Soda Bread (Bon Appétit May 1996)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons caraway seeds (optional)

1 teaspoon baking-soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups (about) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly flour baking sheet. Mix flour, caraway seeds, if using, baking soda and salt in large bowl. Mix in enough buttermilk to form moist clumps.

Gather dough into ball. Turn out onto lightly flour surfaced and knead just until dough holds together, about 1 minute. Shape dough into 6-inch-diameter by 2-inch-high round. Place on prepared baking sheet. Cut 1-inch-deep X across top of bread, extending almost to edges. Bake until bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 35 minutes. Transfer bread to rack and cool completely.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Eating!

Best (and Super Easy!!) Pie Recipe

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Today is National Pi Day! Of course Pi Day is referring to the mathematical equation, but I was never good at math. When I hear Pi, I think pie. To honor the day, I am sharing my favorite (and super easy) recipe: Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie. It’s Cindy Crawford’s favorite recipe, too. I heard her tell Oprah once (I don’t actually know either of them. She said it on Oprah’s show. I did walk past Cindy on Madison Avenue in NYC. And I’m convinced she eats this all of the time, and that is what keeps her in such great shape! As always, I digress.). So either make a pie or go out and buy a really good one, and Happy Pi Day!

(Side note: The next time I make this pie, I think I will add more rhubarb and less strawberries. I like more rhubarb. But if you prefer to buy one, and if you are in the Julian, CA area, buy a pie from Moms Pies or Julian Pie Company.   I prefer to buy a pie from Julian Pie Company frozen and unbaked which can be purchased at some local San Diego stores . It’s like you made it from scratch! Baron’s in Point Loma and Siesel’s on Ashton Street sell them. Check the Julian Pie Company website for other locations: http://www.julianpie.com/wheretobuy/index.html)

Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie from Saveur
For The Crust:
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
6 Tablespoons cold milk
For The Filling:
1 1/4 cups plus 2 teaspoons sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups thinly sliced rhubarb
3 cups halved and hulled strawberries
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons milk

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For the crust: Sift together flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Measure oil into a measuring cup, then add milk, but don’t stir together. Pour oil and milk into flour mixture. Stir until dough just holds together. Divide dough in half, shape into 2 balls, and flatten slightly. Roll out each ball between 2 sheets of wax paper into 12 inch rounds. Transfer one pastry round (discarding wax paper) into 9 inch pie plate, and set other pastry round aside.

2) For the filling: Mix together 1 1/4 cups sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl, then add rhubarb and strawberries, tossing well to coat evenly.

3) Fill bottom crust with rhubarb-strawberry mixture and scatter butter on top. Cover with remaining pastry round (discarding wax paper) and crimp edges together to seal. Score top to allow steam to escape, brush with milk, and sprinkle with remaining 2 teaspoons sugar. Place pie on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbling, about 50 minutes. If edge of crust browns too quickly, cover edges with a strip of aluminum foil to prevent burning. Allow pie to cool for 1 hour before serving.

Serves 8

Take care and happy eating!

Prune Banana Bread?

The other day, my husband and I were craving a dessert.  I wanted something good, but not too unhealthy.  I came across this recipe on myrecipes.com.  It’s a recipe from a cooking school, La Cocina Que Canta at Rancho La Puerta, a hotel and spa in Baja California.  I love cooking with prunes, but I’ve never used them in this way.  I was intrigued by the lack of sugar and butter in the recipe.  I had to give it a try!  Franz and I give it a big thumbs up!  It has a perfect chocolate flavor – not too sweet, but just enough to satisfy my chocolate craving!  If you have any great recipes using prunes, let me know!  I always buy a huge bag of them, & I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate them into my meals!

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Chocolate Banana Bread

12 ounces pitted prunes

3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2)

2 large eggs

1 cup all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour (or 1/2 cup each)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1 cup chopped walnuts (I used half walnuts and half pecans.)

1/2 cup banana chips, coarsely chopped (I used unsweetened, freeze-dried banana slices from Trader Joe’s.)

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1)  In a small saucepan, bring prunes and 2 cups water to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until prunes are very soft, about 20 minutes.  Drain.

2) Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter a 5-by-9-in. loaf pan and line bottom with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit.

3) In a food processor, whirl prunes and bananas until very smooth.  Add eggs and whirl to combine.

4) In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, cinnamon, and baking soda.  Stir in nuts, banana chips, and chocolate chips.  Scrape the thick batter into a pan and spread level.

5) Bake bread until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out a little chocolaty but not gooey, 45-50 minutes.  Loosen bread from pan with a knife and invert onto a rack.  Remove parchment.  Turn bread right side up and let cool at least one hour before slicing (my husband and I waited about 15 minutes!).

Take care and happy eating!

Quick Visit to Cleveland

This past weekend, I flew into Cleveland to attend a funeral in Plymouth, Michigan.  My sister’s father-in-law, whom I’ve known since I was 12 years old (I still can’t believe that!), was taken away from us too soon from ALS.  It was a wonderful funeral, and Howard would have loved it!  The food and drinks were flowing and the laughs never stopped.  The photograph above is from Christmas 2008.  My brother-in-law, Tom, and his father, Howard, are in the foreground.  My dad, father-in-law, and husband are in the background.  Howard will be missed by many.

I arrived into Cleveland Thursday night.  There was just enough time to check out Michael Symon‘s B Spot in Crocker Park.  I had a hard time deciding which burger to order and settled on Breuben ($9) – a burger topped with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss, and Russian Dressing. I can’t leave Ohio without having at least one Great Lakes Brewery beer, so the Dortmunder Gold ($5) was a perfect complement to my meaty burger.  It was a perfect meal.  I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t be full because it looked small.  Looks are deceiving!  Along with a side of Rosemary Fries and Onion Rings my parents and I shared, I was just fine!  Next time, I might opt for a Bad A** Shake, possibly the Chocolate Banana Marshmallow with a shot of dark rum ($9), perhaps?

B Spot Burgers on Urbanspoon

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On Sunday, I had a full day free with my parents and brother in Cleveland before I flew back home to San Diego, and we made the most of it.  We met my in-laws for breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe in Tremont (Chef Heather Haviland).  We got there as soon as it opened because the place is small and very popular.  (Good thing to know: If you have a large party, they’ll take a reservation. Otherwise, get there early or else expect to wait.)  What I really loved about Lucky’s is that even though they were super busy, they let us linger at the tables.  We never felt rushed, and we were able to relax and enjoy our breakfast.  A few of us ordered Gingerbread Waffles surrounded by roasted apples and topped with delicious whipped cream drizzled with caramel sauce.  It truly was a dessert, and I loved every bite.  I ordered a Hot Apple Cider since I rarely get the opportunity.  All of their hot beverages come in huge mugs which I greatly appreciated.  It was the perfect cure for the chilly weather we had that day.  A couple other people ordered “Shipwreck” which was a mix of hash browns, eggs, vegetables, cheddar cheese served with their house baked toast and fruit.  I’m definitely going back, and I think I might get that next time!  It’s a little pricey, but in exchange you get house made breads and pastries, food from local farmers, and a home-like ambiance.  For 6 of us, including food and beverages, the total bill was about $100.

Lucky's Cafe on Urbanspoon

After my gluttonous meal, my family headed to The Cleveland Museum of Art.  If you are reading this and are not living in the Cleveland area, make a point to visit the city and make sure the museum is number 1 on your to do list.  And if you live in Cleveland, and haven’t been recently, go!!!!  One of the best summer jobs I ever had was being a security guard there.  I was paid to look at art (and to tell people to step away from the artwork) all day long.  I loved it!  However,  I did get tired of people saying “I could do that”.  If you say that, just make sure a security guard isn’t around.  But I digress ( I do that a lot!).  The special exhibition is “Rembrandt in America” and runs through May 28th.   Rembrandt’s works are often under scrutiny by Art Historians.  Is it or isn’t it by the Master?  This exhibition allows the viewer to compare a number of paintings that had originally been attributed to Rembrandt but were later determined to have been done by a student or someone copying his work.  There is a room devoted entirely to showing visitors how scholars study a painting in order to properly (hopefully) identify the artist.  I found it amazing to see the life Rembrandt brought out of a work – or put into it!  There are 2 paintings that really felt like the subject was in the room with me.  I could go on and on, but just do yourself a favor and check it out.  It’s the best $14 you’ll spend.  And there are two paintings in the exhibition that are from San Diego!  Woohoo!  I thought this was interesting, too:  the maker of Glidden is a sponsor and each room in the exhibition is painted in a different color influenced by Rembrandt’s works.  Before you enter, you can pick up a color palette sheet.  If you happen to love the green used in one room, you know exactly which paint to pick up at the store!  And speaking of Glidden, if you are a visitor and need a hotel room close to the museum and many other attractions, check out Glidden House.  It’s a mansion that was built in 1910 and is now a very unique hotel.   There are so many things to do just steps away!  Another tip, the tickets for Rembrandt are timed.  (Only special exhibitions have a fee.  The rest of the museum is free year round. Love CMA!!)  I recommend getting there when it opens so that you can immediately go into the exhibition, and there will be fewer vistors which is always nice!  Otherwise, you may have to wait to enter.  If that’s the case, there’s plenty other galleries to visit, but just remember your visit may take longer than you orginally planned. (Check out this video about “Rembrandt in America”:  666BnpAxTBY)

The time I spent at The CMA made me work up an appetite!  Hey, that’s a lot of walking and standing!  My family decided to head over to Presti’s Bakery and Cafe in Little Italy for some doughnuts, coffee and hot chocolate.  In my younger days, my friends and I loved going to the original Presti’s location (which used to be up the street a bit) after the bars had closed and stock up on some freshly made doughnuts.  Those were the days!  Before we left, I picked up one of their Pepperoni Rolls to bring back to my husband back in San Diego – one of his favorites.  I highly recommend getting one of those, too!

Presti's Café and Deli on Urbanspoon

It’s amazing that I was only gone for a few days, but I have so many awesome memories from my trip.   As always, I am already looking forward to going back to Cleveland to see family and friends – and to eat great food!!

As always, take care and happy eating!