Tuesday, April 30, 2013

LikeStream - Restaurant Review App in Facebook

I know you get flooded with requests to join apps on your phones and at Facebook, but this one will appeal to you foodies.  Like a good restaurant?  Need to find one, but need to find a trusted reviewer.  Come check out this new app and give it a shot.


Some very exciting news from the world of online restaurant reviews.  Come check this out...and I look forward to seeing you over there.
Come sign up for LikeStream because you want great restaurant recommendations from the friends and experts you trust and want to hear from. Who better than a passionate local with a point of view, to help you discover more hidden gems? 
Please welcome the first of our knowledgeable and adventurous local foodie experts to help you in your quest for new dining experiences.
Michelle Syracuse is the author of a tasteful blog called Gather365. With the motto of "Go forth, Gather, Eat good food", she engagingly narrates her dining experiences in and around Oakland and San Francisco. Best way to describe Michelle's choices and reviews - down-to-earth, warm and thoughtful.
Mark Janda is the author of a thought-provoking blog called It Takes A Kitchen. Mark is a history teacher with a penchant for exploring new food and dining, so you can imagine the learning and adventure that comes from following his reviews around his hometown of Santa Cruz, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Europe.

Sign-in, go to our "foodies & friends" page and follow them from our "famous foodies" tab to see their reviews in your search results.

p.s. A local expert foodie yourself? or know of one? Just let us know, we would love to promote you or your friend on our famous foodies page!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

La Posta

Santa Cruz, California has a number of restaurants that inspire people to travel over the hill from the South Bay and San Francisco areas, many open for a long time holding fond memories of family vacations and college days.  By nature, these places cannot change or challenge too much.  Thankfully there are newer places in the process of establishing new traditions. La Posta on Seabright is at the fore of this, and is, in my opinion, the best restaurant in town for either a nice night out or a serious celebration.  

La Posta is called such because it is housed in the old post office.  Its neighborhood is ripe for serious development (see a previous post about another of Seabright's Italian eateries), as it offers a great mix of housing and entertainment and is within a five minute walk to the sea.  But La Posta offers something few places in town can.  First, there is an attention to detail, quality and overall experience that, I dare say, only comes from a restaurant owned and operated by women.  In fact, La Posta is owned by a women, its head chef is a woman and its front-of-house manager is a woman.  I honestly think it shows in a most wonderful way.   

The dining room is simple with a small bar that has a glimpse into the kitchen.  Simple black and white photography of Italy decorates the walls above simple wood benches.  Chandeliers over the bar are also decorated with photography.  It’s a simple, soft setting.  Service on every outing has been spectacular.  Rarely has a server not been able to describe each dish in detail including each ingredient.  Often they also know the provenance of all ingredients and can describe flavors wonderfully.  They also have a good knack for recognizing patrons’ paces and adjusting ordering and plate arrival accordingly.  The music is mostly soft jazz, but on Tuesday nights they have live music and a great pizza-and-wine deal.  The one time we have been there for the live music it was trio playing folk music, and it fit perfectly with the fun, local atmosphere of Tuesday nights.  

What you’re really here for is the food.  Inspired by Italy, using as much locally produced food as possible and presented in perfect portions, the food is phenomenal.  We have had pizzas, pastas, braised meats, salads, seafood, antipastis and soups, and all have been excellent.  The pizzas are always crisp and thin, topped with very light, fresh tomato sauce and top-notch ingredients.  The other night I had the special of the night topped with braised pork and chilis and it was great.  The pastas are always hand and house made and are worthy of an Italian osteria.  Last week we tried a pasta special made with fregula, a small pasta reminiscent of Israeli couscous, topped with mussels and a light, citrusy sauce.  It tasted like summer at the sea.  We also had a bowl of assorted olives lightly warmed (why don’t we all do this?) and a salad of arugula, radish and fennel with lemon breadcrumbs and green garlic vinaigrette…delicious!
The wine list is all-Italian with samplings reasonable to pricey.  They also offer a couple house wines by bottle or carafe that provide a great bargain. One section of the wine list features wines made by women. The beer selection is small, but also all Italian.  The real drink treat is their fizzy water.  They make their own, but somehow it’s just better.  As my wife says, it’s clean, crisp, and “tastes like fresh air.”  You can finish your meal here with a small variety of desserts that have always pleased.  

We have had some amazing meals at La Posta.  Sometimes we just get a couple small plates and a glass of wine and get out for under $30 each.  On the other hand, if you go for three courses, a good bottle of wine, and an espresso you could easily spend two to three times that.  That’s what I love about it.  You can enjoy La Posta for almost any occasion so long as you are in search of great food and excellent service in a casual atmosphere.  In my opinion....the best restaurant in Santa Cruz.   

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Family Night in San Diego

Date nights and couple’s celebrations are wonderful, and even better if you have kids; the time alone is golden.  But a real celebration needs the kids and family and friends.  That’s the only way to really have a festive occasion.  And if a couple of the friends are foodies or chefs and the kids eat or will try anything, even better.  In San Diego this month we spent a few days with some dear friends who are just as excited about food as we are. We ate like champs throughout the entire trip, but one night had a very special feast, all prepared by a dear friend who is an executive chef and serious foodie.  Take a look at these pictures….

A simple salad of butter lettuce and avocado.

Tri-tip roast and roasted veggies.

What I most appreciate about these meals is their simplicity.  There are no long processes.  No special techniques.  No prep aside from chopping.  This is simple, fresh food, prepared in a way that allows the food and its flavors to speak for themselves.  I could include a long description of how to do a meal like this….but seriously…just find your favorite veggies, chop them for the grill after tossing with some olive oil, or arrange for a salad… cover a roast with seasoning of your choice and through it on the grill.

So gather some friends, open a beer or some wine, let the kids run till they drop, raise a toast to friendship, and eat…simple.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Nature's Celebration

I really wish I could find the time to write here every day.  Between the meals I share with friends and family, articles I read, or even the latest episode of The Mind Of A Chef, I want to share something here all the time.  But more often than not, time does not allow it.  So after being away for two weeks, I intend to be back more consistently.  In the coming couple weeks I have some meals to share, some restaurant reviews, and certainly some random musings.  But let's start with a celebration.

My wife and I are concluding a month of celebrating our anniversary.  The truth is we celebrate anything.  In her family anything is an occasion to celebrate.  The sun came out?  Celebratory dinner!  A birthday?  That’s worth at least three days of special meals.  Sent an article to a potential publisher?  A celebratory toast at the very least.  My next few posts will, one way or another, involve some of these celebrations for our anniversary.  Allow me to begin with how nature joined in.  We visited with friends in San Diego to kick off all our celebrations.  For one of our meals nature surprised us with a pair of hearts encased in watermelon.

I have been blessed by a true partner that, I believe, really was destined for me and me for her.  We met a long, long time ago, not exactly in a galaxy far, far away, but close.  Circumstances separated us, life happened, and then brought us back together.  Sparing you the details, our story should have been written by Nora Ephron.  And this watermelon is just another crazy way I see us as one another's destiny.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Stamp Out Hunger

While we have developed the technology and techniques to produce more food than we need – some say as much as 2500 calories per person per day globally – we have poor distribution of this necessity.  Too much of this production is going into fuel and high fructose corn syrup and being consumed in excess by the richest few in this world.  We must do something to get food to the children – all children – all over the world.  We have hunger all around us, just as we have abundance.  Changing this takes an effort on the part of all of us.

You can start simply by getting informed.  Today…right now…go check out a couple web pages.

The Giving Table at http://www.givingtable.org/
A Place at the Table at http://www.takepart.com/place-at-the-table and see the movie
King Corn at http://www.kingcorn.net/ and see that movie

Then think about what you can do.  Do you live in an agricultural region?  Find a group that voluntarily gleans and donates their collection to the needy.  Work in a soup kitchen or food pantry.  Contribute food.  Educate your kids.  Demand that your representatives – from the school board to DC – act to provide healthy food at our schools. The bottom line - get informed, consider your talents and abilities and then do something with them to help others.

I am sharing the recipe below here and at The Giving Table’s Facebook page today (https://www.facebook.com/givingtable) because I think it is a great example of what can be done with common, inexpensive ingredients.  This is a rich recipe high in protein and carbs that could feed 6-8 on about $8 or less using kitchen staples. Throw together a simple salad and you have well balanced, inexpensive and simple meal.

Pasta alla Carbonara, in easy, inexpensive form…
(makes 6-8 rich servings)

1 lb rigatoni. 
4 egg yolks and one whole egg whisked together. 
8 oz. bacon, chopped.
1 ½ cups shredded Parmesan 
1 tbs olive oil
Pepper to taste, coarse ground – The occasional crunch of the coarse ground pepper adds an important heat and texture contrast
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 dance partner.  Finishing this dish is easiest with two sets of hands.  And dancing while cooking is fun.

1.       Bring a lot of well-salted water to a full boil. 
2.       Meanwhile, chop the bacon into pieces about the size of dimes.  This may be easier if it is frozen or at least very cold to start.  Fry it in about a tablespoon of olive oil and fry until it is almost crisp.  If you have any more than about 2tbs of oil and pork fat, pour some off and discard.
3.       Drop your pasta in the boiling water.
4.       Blend the egg yolks and whole egg well.  Mix in about 2tbs of the cheese and grind in a couple teaspoons of coarse ground pepper. 
5.       Just before the pasta is done take about 3/8 of a cup of the pasta water and blend this into the egg/cheese mixture.
6.       Invite your dinner guests to take a seat.  It’s best that they be seated before you’re done.  Pour them some red wine.  This dish needs to be served piping hot.
7.       Now move quickly with the help of a dance partner… Drain the pasta and quickly pour it back into the pot you cooked it in.
8.       While stirring the pasta pour the egg and cheese mixture over it, stirring vigorously.  The heat of the pasta and the pot will cook the egg.  The cheese and water you added, combined with moving quickly will create a creamy texture.  Moving too slow or having too much heat will scramble the eggs, creating a lumpy mess. 
9.       Just as soon as you’ve poured all the egg and cheese mix into the pasta pour in the bacon with its renderings.  Give it all a good stir. 
10.    Sprinkle in some of remaining cheese and stir. 
11.    Serving Suggestion – Using wide, shallow bowls, place a large scoop of pasta and quickly hollow out the middle.  Drop one egg yolk into the middle of the bowl.  Sprinkle some of the remaining cheese on the pasta, grind some pepper on the pasta and sprinkle a little fresh parsley.  Now it looks like a giant sunny-side-up fried egg and will be extra sensuous.