Thursday, February 19, 2015

CAULIFLOWER - That's It - Cauliflower!

CAULIFLOWER! - That's It - Cauliflower!

What can you say about a vegetable that looks like a human brain?  Never, ever wanted to eat cauliflower.  It's white.  I actually love white: white walls, white down comforters, white sweaters, white farm sinks - but white vegetables that look like gray matter from Dr. Frankenstein's lab... not so much.

That is til I decided to go low carb some years ago.  I really missed mashed potatoes and found the South Beach Diet recipe for mashed cauliflower.  Loved it.  Now I've discovered a new, and really tasty way to eat cauliflower.  Roasted.  The whole head!  

Yes, it still looks like someone's brain... someone's fried brain... but each time I bite into this sumptuous brain matter, I realize it has a nutritious and delicious I.Q.

 Roasted Cauliflower


1/4 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
A dash of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large head cauliflower, leaves trimmed


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

Mix butter, dill, garlic, lemon zest, cumin, salt, pepper in a bowl.  I add a little lemon juice to help blend all the ingredients into a smooth "paste".

Cut cauliflower stem flush with the rest of the head so it can stay upright in a casserole (Pyrex) dish.  Spread butter mixture evenly over the top and sides of the cauliflower (I use a pastry brush)...

... place in the casserole dish and cover w/ foil.

Roast in the preheated oven until tender and cooked through, about 1 1/4 hours.

Transfer to a platter and spoon any liquid in the casserole dish over the cauliflower.

Serve and enjoy. It's brain food!

Monday, January 26, 2015



OK, you know me... to quote Belushi on SNL, cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.  Richard swears if I ever have to pick a "last meal," it would be a cheeseburger and brother Bob and sister-in-law, Nguyen are forever helping me in my quest for the perfect burger.  Hence, I found myself in Dad's Kitchen in Sacramento, California.

We pulled up to this "hole in the mini-mall wall"...

... and, because it's "Dad's" kitchen ("not your mom's kitchen" as they proudly state) you quickly discover that beer is the beverage of choice, including a myriad of craft beers.  In fact, they boast "Come for the beer, stay for the food!"

 Oh, and feel free to watch sports. Yup, no surprise, Dad's has TVs so you won't miss a game.  Well, I like sports and, though I pass on beer, a bloody Mary might hit the spot.

We walked through the long bar...

... and into the back dining room and coffee bar (with an "eat more bacon" sign - I'm good with that).

The large covered patio was just beyond...

... but we chose an intimate table for four in a corner of the dining room.

The aromas coming from Dad's Kitchen's kitchen were "manly" grilled meat and bacon smells that certainly perked up my olfactories.  I was going to love it here.  I gazed at the brunch menu and noticed even the "Meatless Marvel" entree was "manly"... two fried organic eggs, avocado, cheddar, tomato, spinach (a Popeye thing) & pepper plant sauce on sourdough bread pressed into a panini and served with a breakfast tater.   Talk about a "Hungry Man" breakfast!

Did you notice I mentioned "organic" eggs?  Yes, Dad's Kitchen is a "ranch/farm to table" kitchen serving organic eggs, organic chicken, grass fed beef and organic greens.  Even Dad wants you to be pesticide free.

The menu included a hearty egg, cheddar & bacon sandwich with that pepper plant sauce and chicken fried steak and eggs topped with homemade gravy and served with a homemade biscuit.  If that doesn't put hair on your chest, nothing will.  The chicken sandwich sounded yummy,  made with organic chicken breast, avocado, swiss cheese, tomato, roasted red onion, spinach (that manly, yet healthful, Popeye thing again) and cucumber with a garlic spread, brown mustard & and, once again, that pepper plant sauce panini-ed on sourdough. 

chicken panini

 I was tempted, but I was here on my cheeseburger quest.

Did I want the "Dad's Burger" made from an 8oz grass fed beef patty with 2oz of bleu cheese crumbles and 2oz of chopped bacon encrusted in the patty with tomato, lettuce, red onion and Aleppo chili spread on an artisan bun? Or a "Cowboy Burger" also made from an 8oz grass fed patty with bacon, pepper, jack cheese, crispy onions & BBQ sauce? Of course, there was also a veggie burger offering for the "manly" meatless lover made with a grilled medallion of quinoa with jack cheese, lettuce, tomato, pepper, jalapeno aioli and crispy onion also on an artisan roll. Nope, no veggie burger for me... grass fed beef all the way...

But, as some of you know, I'm a purist when it comes to my cheeseburgers - it's all about the beef, cheese and roll for me, so I "special" ordered the 8oz grass fed beef patty on an artisan bun with cheddar, all the lettuce, tomato, red onion and Aleppo chili spread on the side as a salad.  When my cheeseburger arrived, it was cooked to medium-rare perfection.  The meat was juicy and flavorful, the cheese was wonderfully melty and the bun was delicious.

All and all the near perfect cheeseburger... no wonder Guy Fieri had Dad's on "Diners, Drive-ins & Dives)...

... this cheeseburger lived up to Bob and Nguyen's hype... the best in Sacramento, and I've had a few -- but, as you probably, know my quest will continue.  Meanwhile, if you're in Sac and crave a burger, definitely pull up a chair or bar stool and have one at Dad's.

2968 Freeport Blvd.
Sacramento, Calif.  95818

(check out Dad's lunch and dinner menu online)

Monday, January 19, 2015


A Winery With A Past

Old Creek Ranch Winery is a winery with a fascinating past. 

Today's tasting room
outside patio

Set on a Spanish land grant, the winery was created by Mike and Carmel Maitland in 1981 and is now owned and operated by their daughter Carmel and her husband John Whitman.  
John Whitman

 As they ask in Hollywood, if there’s a land grant, what’s the back story?

In the earliest days of California, Don Fernando Tico was given a huge Spanish land grant.  In the late 1800s, Antonio Riva bought the ranch.  He’d been a chef in Paris, London and San Francisco, but wanted to make wine.  “Riva” wine was made without electricity, using gravity as a means to move the grapes through the wine making process.  His building still stands behind today’s winery tasting room and you can see how the land from the building slopes downhill to create that gravity pull.

Antonio made wine until 1942, even during Prohibition when customers would leave orders and money on a clothes line, then later pick up their jugs under an oak tree.  The FBI didn’t approve and raided the place, but Riva had been warned and dumped his wine, leaving the FBI empty-handed. 

When the Maitlands bought the property in 1976 with a view toward revitalizing the ranch with cattle and orchards, thoughts of opening a new winery were born.

Today the winery prevails, although the vineyard planted in 1980 was destroyed in the 90’s by bacteria.   Michael Meagher has been the winery’s award winning winemaker since 2007, and buys a majority of grapes from Santa Ynez growers.

Michael Meagher

Back to the present.  It was time to take "flight" with Tara, our knowledgeable barista.

The first pour was a 2012 Moto Vino ($22) - made from a grape found mostly in the Northern Italian region of Friuli, this is a light fruity white wine with a hint of mint.  A perfect complement w/ cheese on a warm summer evening.

Next up, the 2013 Pinot Grigio ($22) - the winery's first foray with this Italian varietal.  Straw-colored, with aromas of apple and passion fruit and hints of key lime pie and pineapple, it's an all senses delight.

The 2013 Rose, Barbera ($22) fills the nose with scents of strawberries and rosemary, and the tongue with tastes of red fruits and citrus zest. Perfect with fish or fowl. 

Chiara, Italian for bright and beautiful, is the pefect name for this 2013 light red ($25) which should be served slightly chilled and paired with salmon or chicken. This fruity wine finishes with a light touch of tannins and should be drunk over the next two years.

The 2011 Carignane ($27) is the winery's 4th edition of this varietal. I could smell the dark plum, and the hints of graham cracker and bacon fat. Yes, graham crackers and bacon!  Married to tastes of rhubarb pie, tea and cola with some morels thrown in, what's not to like?  Magnums are available.  

On to the richer reds...

First up was the 2012 Grenache ($35) - a delicious wine from the classic Rhone varietal. This wine i verything that grenache should be and Tara suggested pairing it with duck and a cherry reduction sauce. Sounds perfect!  Or just stick a straw in the bottle and drink (yes, it's that yummy), but wait 1-3 years to let it age to perfection.  Magnums available.

The 2011 Barbera ($28) is another delicious red with all the fruit, smoke and spice that makes a great Barbera.  Because of its concentration and acidity, this fine wine will age nicely for 5 years or more.  Magnums available.

Slipping back a year to the 2010 Barbera (sale price $29) - this robust red with all the appropriate nose notes of  vanilla, violets, leather and plums, and tastes of herbs, cardamom and blueberries is a lovely, complex red that will benefit from another 6 months in the bottle. After that, it will shine for 3 or more years to come.

The 2012 Sangiovese ($35) is a rich, flavorful wine with a deep ruby red color and is the perfect wine for, well, just about everything, with its scents of honeysuckle, cedar and white chocolate and tastes of red fruit balanced with a hint of pancetta.  Magnums available.

Last but not least is the 2011 Petite Sirah ($35) and there's nothing petite about it as the aromas of fruit, nuts and forest fill your nose, followed by the tastes of figs and dates, rich fruits and cloves.  The tannins allow this wine to age well over the never 5 years.  Magnums available.

When handing out awards for Old Creek Ranch wines... 

...they’re high on the gold standard.

Old Creek Ranch Winery
10024 Old Creek Road
Ventura, CA  93001

Saturday, December 20, 2014

PANNING FOR GOLD - Camps Restaurant at Greenhorn Creek

Camps Restaurant at  Greenhorn Creek

Writing about my major birthday adventure in Mark Twain/Gold Rush country has taken longer than the adventure itself, but we had one more food stop to make before we headed out for home and hearth and what better place than a restaurant named "Camps?"  Full disclosure:  no relation to Richard with or without the "s."

On the other side of the golf course from our hotel, we were greeted by ol' Mark, himself relaxing on a bench reading a book.

Curious to see what he was reading ("Huck Finn"), we sat down for a minute to discuss the relevance of the book today.  Having just reread it in my Book Group, I let him know that we thought it was still quite relevant.  He seemed pleased and posed for pictures.

On to the restaurant...

... and the discovery of a Mark Twain library with copies of his books, memorabilia and quotes stenciled on the walls and ceiling beams.  No wonder he was hanging out out front.  If anyone had a question, he was there to answer it.

The large main room consisted of a bar/lounge and a dining room, divided by an impressive fireplace against the far wall.

 Rugs and artwork hung along a wall in the dining room alongside built-in display cabinets.

Through the glass doors was the terrace overlooking one of the golf course's beautiful greens.

We opted to eat inside.  Camps is a steak, seafood, burger place that serves mostly "manly" fare... its lunch menu included sandwiches such as a "classic" Reuben and a turkey club... entrees included fish & chips... "French Onion" dip w/ shaved rib eye braised in French onion soup, topped w/ jack cheese and sauteed onions... steak and eggs w/ country gravy and breakfast potatoes... omelets and caramelized apple French toast, but the menu also included hearty salads, homemade soups and "lighter" fare such as parmesan truffle fries and beer battered onion rings, flash fried calamari and fresh dungeness crab cakes.  None of these light dishes will help you stay light, but sounded oh so good. 

Did I mention the burgers?  There were a few listed on the lunch menu - a seared sesame ginger ahi burger w/ wasabi aioli and Asian slaw, a portabella mushroom burger, and Camps "CR" local 1/2 lb cheddar burger made w/ grass fed, free range local beef.  OK, since I'm always on the quest for the perfect cheeseburger, I had to try the "CR."  Nguyen decided to have one, too.  I can't say it was the "perfect" cheeseburger, but it came close.  Cooked to a perfect medium rare with enough melty cheese to fill a fondue pot.  Well, not quite, but enough to make me happy.

Richard had the Mahi Mahi fish and chips with tartar sauce and fries...  Of course, I had a bite.  Blimey it was good!  It was so good, it was gone before I could take a picture.

Bob opted for the toasted turkey clubhouse made with roasted sliced turkey breast, applewood smoked bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce & tomato.  It's a club I might join the next time I eat there.

The dinner menu continued the hearty "manly" theme and had listings for "Grazings" that included flash fried calamari, ginger chicken spring rolls and wild mushroom pappardelle pasta w/ parmesan and white truffle oil.  "Salads & Soups" listed the onion soup, apple romaine salad and two caesar salads.  "From the Grill"  included prime rib, a variety of steaks and burgers.  "Cluck & Quack"  a roasted chicken breast dish and a pan-seared Muscovy duck breast.  And last, but not least, "Seafood" dishes such as broiled prawn &amp sea scallop skewers, pan-seared Mahi Mahi and seared ginger glazed ahi.  I wanted to stay a few more days and try everything.  They also have live music every Friday and Saturday night. After a few drinks, Mr. Twain is said to sit in for a few sessions. 

So... whether you're playing golf and stop in for a 19th hole "refreshment" or just tooling around Angels Camp panning for gold, definitely stop in for lunch or dinner.  The food does ol' Mark proud.

CAMPS RESTAURANT - Greenhorn Creek
676 McCauley Ranch Road
Angels Camp, California  95222

Tuesday, December 2, 2014


Hovey Winery

My Mark Twain country adventure panning for gold and searching for jumping frogs in Gold Rush/Calaveras County was almost over.  I found no gold and didn't see one frog, jumping or otherwise, but I did find liquid gold up in them thar hills and I had one last winery I wanted to check out.

Tucked back off Main Street in the quaint town of Murphys, Richard, Bob, Nguyen and I walked down the path to a charming little bungalow that serves as Hovey's tasting room.

Inside, the room is bright and cheerful.

Neriah was our knowledgeable and lovely barista.

As she poured our flight she told us that after being a respected winemaker for 30 years, Chuck Hovey launched his own label in 2008 and I have to say, the wine is definitely fine.  It seems we saved the best for last.

We started off with the 2013 White Blend ($20) consisting of 55% verdego, 25% vermentino and 20% viognier, aged in stainless steel to a crisp fruity flavor.  Perfect to sip sitting by a tennis court, under an umbrella, after a tough doubles match... order a cheese plate and fruit to "go with."

Next up was the 2013 Chardonnay ($20) which was voted the best white wine in the Mother Lode Gold, 2014 Orange County Fair and I loved it.  Fruity, yes - tastes of pineapple and mangos - but buttery, the way I like it.

The reds were equally impressive.  The 2012 C2 Red Blend ($26) is 38% cinsaut, 24% graciano, 24% syrah, and 14% petite syrah...  hurrah, hurrah!  OK, bad rhyme, but delish wine with a jammy, red fruit flavor.

Then came the 2012 Barbera ($26) voted best red wine & double gold at the 2014 Calaveras County Fair and silver at the Orange County Fair.  Rich berry flavor, wonderful nose - all and all, a lovely red.

The 2012 Zinfandel ($26) won gold at the 2014 Orange County Fair and it hit all the right zin notes... blackberries and ripe plums danced in my head, sans fairies. Good thing, though, the fairies might have diverted my attention and I would have missed that wonderful taste of toasty mocha.

The last two tastes were "off-the-flight" but true flights of fancy.  The first was Hovey Block 9 Petite Syrah ($36) - definitely a fine wine.

And last, but so not the least, was the Isabel 2012 Cabernet ($36) - named for Chuck Hovey's beautiful grandmother, this wine is just plain luscious with wonderful tastes of black current and dark chocolate.  Straw please!

To paraphrase wine reviewers...   Hovey gets 99 points!!!  (Well, nothing's perfect).

Hovey Winery
350 A Main Steet
Murphys, Calif.  95247

Check out the wine club: