We Should Have Packed a Lunch

Being from Northern Virginia, having moved to Colorado, then continuing westward to (and settling in) Los Angeles, its rare that I have an opportunity to take such long, beautiful drives across the landscape of Texas.

 

Unlike the towering, snowcapped mountains of Colorado, or the colorful, undulating Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, driving through the middle of Texas, with it’s beautiful ragged oak trees, numerous cattle ranches, and the occasional oil pump is an exploration of just how vast an area can be. Ask anyone who has dared drive the entire length of the state. It is massive. Yet, unlike the sleep-inducing drive on Interstate-5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, or long stretches of Interstate-70, the drive between, say, Dallas and Houston has personality.

texasdrive

 

However, there is one thing this 4-hour stretch of asphalt does not have. Food.

To be fair, all long-distance drives in this great Nation are riddled with “Big Box” fast-food joints, and almost all are completely void of any “non-processed” food options. You can see their signs from miles away, like weeds sprouting tall from the earth. Calling to you like sirens. Coaxing weary (read “bored”) drivers to pull over and enjoy yet another $3.99 meal of requisite burger (or fried chicken sandwich), fries, and soft drink.

So much food. So little nutrition.

Unfortunately, I think these fast food joints are here to stay for a while. So, maybe (as Latte suggested before our recent drive from Houston to Dallas) we should consider packing some food for our longer drives. Or, shorter drives. Or, airline flights. Or, for our lunches at work for that matter. That way we, as a Nation, can control what we eat more often, and not fall victim to those fast food sirens calling to us from the jagged rocks of high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity.

$3.99 might be cheap in the short haul, but over the long journey of life, it can seriously take it’s toll on our health.

Then we really pay the price. Big time.

So…

Be sure to pack a lunch.

San Francisco’s Delicious Dining

Super-sous and I wrapped up a delicious week in San Francisco that started with the Fancy Food Show and ended, of course, with double shot Latte.

While in San Francisco we made it a point to try out as many tasty spots as possible in the short time we were there: Water & Flour, Prospect, Incanto, Sweet Bar Bakery (Oakland), Dosa, Gelateria Naia, TCHO chocolate and everything that the Embarcadero has to offer. (Not to mention the Latte “crawl” from Blue Bottle to Four Barrel to Ritual to…)

Yes, we love visiting San Francisco and now we have become even more enchanted with the city after two truly exceptional food experiences: dinner at Incanto and a visit to Sweet Bar Bakery.

It’s rare that Super-sous and I go out to dinner where we don’t have some critique (be it minor or major) about the restaurant, food, service, atmosphere… It’s not about being picky or overly critical. We all, when choosing to go out to eat, want to feel that we are getting a good value for our money, time, etc. Not only that, but when you have access to fresh produce and enjoy to cook, it’s wonderful to go out to eat to broaden your taste horizons and try something beyond the scope of what you can whip up at home any given day or night.

Well, we had a rare (for us) experience at Chris Cosentino’s restaruant Incanto. It was-exceptional. I have known Chef Cosentino for a few years now. We met at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s annual Cooking For Solutions event where we both were guest chefs the same year. (And the good news is – we’ll both be back again this year!) Since meeting Chris and hearing him talk about food, not to mention seeing his mouth watering food photos on Twitter every day, I have wanted to eat at his restaurant in San Francisco. Finally, Super-sous and I had time this past week to check it out. As we often do at new restaurants, we try as many things as possible to taste an array of what is coming out of the kitchen. This night was no exception. And, since we were dining with another couple who had also not tried Incanto before, we went all out: Winter Citrus, fennel, olives, chili and bottarga; Young kales, anchovy & Parmesan; Brussels Sprouts leaves and garum butter; Spaghettini, Sardinian cured tuna heart, egg yolk & parsley; a Caputini pasta dish with pork; Oxtail and Oyster pie, Maitake mushrooms, and Oregon white truffles; Lime leaf panna cotta & bush berry preserves; Maple semifreddo, huckleberries & pecans; and a cheese (dessert) tarte with pecorino and ricotta.

And the wine, picked out by our server, was perfect… both bottles.

 

Everything was remarkable. Not a dish was under or over seasoned. The flavors and textures were spot on. There wasn’t a morsel left on any of our plates.  And, the service was wonderful. Hands down, this had become our favorite restaurant in San Francisco.  As I said, exceptional. We are still dreaming about the rich meatiness of the Oxtail and Oyster pie covered in it’s flaky crust. Here’s hoping we can get back there sooner than later. Although Chef Cosentino is known for his tasty salted pig parts, this restaurant has something for everyone; if you find yourself in the city, I can’t recommend it enough.

incanto

On the sweet side of things, the day we left, we traveled to Mani Niall’s Sweet Bar Bakery that he recently opened in Oakland. Mani introduced himself to me at the Fancy Food Show last year. He had learned about me through Kickstarter as I funded my seasonal cookbook “Great Food Starts Fresh” largely in part through Kickstarter. Mani also used Kickstarter to help him open his bakery. In his funding research he came across my cookbook project and when he happened to see me at the Fancy Food Show last year, he introduced himself. Of course I already knew about Mani because he had a very successful bakery in L.A. “Mani’s bakery” for many years. He is a very talented pastry chef and we happily traveled across to Oakland to say hello and try his delectable goodies. A gingerbread apple turnover, savory bacon scone, egg sandwich on homemade foccacia, mini blueberry cornmeal upside down cake, snickerdoodle cookie, shortbread and, our favorite, a to-die-for gingersnap cookie. All delicious- nothing overly sweet. The perfect balance. Thank you, Mani, We will be dreaming about your sweets (especially that gingersnap cookie) until the next time we’re in town.

sweetbarbakery

 

Is Your Oven Too Hot?

It’s time for another weekly tip – number five – and this one is suitable for anyone who has and uses an oven… Yes, you!

It was a shocking (and enlightening) day for me and Latte when we realized that my oven was sometimes 80 degrees off. (So THAT’S why I had to cook that an extra hour.) Luckily, everything was resolved with one little trip to the store.

Trust me, this little gadget is a life-changer.

Chef Nathan Lyon Weekly Tip Five

Cheese Glorious Cheese

Super-sous and I just wrapped up a fabulous time at the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco – seeing old friends, making new friends and, of course, tasting new products (read sipping Lattes).

One of the highlights of the show, was seeing our friend (whom we met last year for the first time), the uber talented master cheese affineur, Rodolphe Le Meunier.

Rodolphe lives in France and brought over (at least) 2 dozen different cheeses for sampling at the show. (Some of his cheeses are sold in San Francisco and hopefully in more cities in the United States by the end of the year.)

After exchanging smiles and hugs, Rodolphe said he wanted to share with us his new cheeses. (Twist our arm.) After approximately 11 perfectly structured and delicious cheese samples, he said, “That was just an appetizer. Now comes the real tasting.”

Here’s Rodolphe, our master cheese hero, handed us one of the cheese (courses) samples.

rodolphe

Each cheese had its own unique experience/taste and he structured the samples to go from the most creamy, drippy ethereal to the stronger, saltier cheeses. I can honestly say his cheeses are the best I’ve ever enjoyed and had Super-Sous and I not had a prior meeting scheduled, we would have spent our whole afternoon talking and eating cheese with Rodolphe.

We are also really excited about an event Rodolphe just started called the International Cheese Tour. A 3 day show/expo solely focused on cheese! Sounds like a dream.

Now we all have to figure out how to get to the Loire Valley in France at the beginning of June. Road trip?

 

Let’s Talk About Frozen Over Fresh

It’s weekly tip time. We’re already on tip four of the year. Time is flying by and there are still so many delicious meals ahead for all of us and hot Lattes to drink. Thank goodness!

This week’s tip is perfect for these cold winter days and is especially useful when it comes to things like berries, peas, corn and tomatoes.

Chef Nathan Lyon Weekly Tip Four

Perfect Winter Kale Salad

Whether it’s a warm sunny Winter day (helloooooo, L.A.) or a snowy cold one (hellooooo, Latte), you can still enjoy a delicious, hearty salad any day of the week any time of the day!

Super-sous and I probably eat my Raw Kale Salad from Great Food Starts Fresh at least once a week it’s so good. The bitterness of the kale is combatted by finely chopping the greens and adding fresh squeezed orange juice and red wine vinegar for a delicious citrus vinaigrette. Don’t forget to add all the nuts, dried cranberries, apple and the avocado, if you can get your hands on a ripe one.

Armed with two bunches of fresh kale from the farmers market yesterday, looks like I know what’s on the menu today!

RawKaleSalad