Monday, December 31, 2007

Finally Home Again

When you are having a fabulous time on vacation, there is always a part of you that yearns for home. Perhaps its the familiarity of your own bed, your own space, your own things. When you are not having a fabulous time, this longing for home is even greater.

I was so thankful to be home from our trip that while Jon unpacked the car, I got right to work. A quick trip to the grocery store for some fresh produce and dinner was practically making itself. I wanted something quick and easy since we'd been in the car all day and it was late. Chicken salad is always quick since all you have to do is cook the chicken. I broiled up some zucchini too for some added flavor.Cajun Chicken Salad
1/2 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp crushed ginger
1/2 tsp cumin
1 zucchini
basalmic vinagrette
2 chicken breasts, pounded thin
mixed greens

1) In a small bowl, combine cajun seasoning, pepper, ginger, and cumin to create paste.
2) Heat broiler. Slice zucchini lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. Brush eash side of zucchini slices with 1 Tbsp basalmic vinagrette. Place on broiling pan and broil, turning once, until tender, about 4 minutes.
3) Coat both sides of chicken with cajun paste. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in medium skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken to hot skillet and cook 6 minutes on each side until done.
4) Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Thinly slice the chicken. Place mixed greens in center of plate. Arrange chicken and zucchini over the greens. Drizzle with basalmic vinagrette

Sunday, December 30, 2007

SLO and easy

Every year when we visit Jon's parents for Christmas, we always end the trip with a few days in San Luis Obispo. There's nothing truly special about the town, but we both love it, and its become "our place."

Normally we stay at the Garden Street Inn - its in downtown and has the best breakfasts and cutest rooms with teddy bears on every bed. Unfortunately, they're not dog friendly - and we were really excited to introduce Ringo to one of our favorite places. Instead we stayed at a little place that hardly bears mentioning - really. It was just a place to sleep.

It was a little chilly while we were in SLO, but Jon and I were prepared. Ringo wasn't. We had to get him something to keep his little Southern Californian body warm. I've always wanted to get him a GAP hoodie, but Jon has always vetoed the idea. As he watched his little boy shivering, Jon finally relented. How cute is our little prepster?

Our favorite SLO tradition is attending the Thursday night Farmer's Market. Besides the fresh produce there's always amazing dinner food! I grabbed a bite from F.McClintock. The line proceeded allllll the way down the street.

F.McClintocks specializes in Barbeque, but that's not the only reason the crowds flock to the show. There's singing, yelling, and some of the best lemonade you'll have!

I had the #2, which consisted of barbeque pork, a beef rib, and a chicken kabob. There was definitely more food than I could handle!

We also love the wine bar "Taste" which has a very unique way of wine tasting which works like a debit card. You put money on your card, and then put the card into a machine which reads your balance. You are then able to push a button above the wine of your choice and taste - it's like an automat for wine tasting! We went each night we were there and brought a bottle back to the room. There's nothing like the Central Coast for inexpensive wine picks!

The last time we were in SLO we found a place called Novo, and we enjoyed it so much, we had to return.

Set upon the creek, amidst light strewn trees, Novo specializes in Tapas, or small plates. By this time Ringo was exhausted, so it was up to Jon and I to indulge.

We began with a trio of three cheeses - a goat cheese, a danish blue, and manchego. The fruit and nuts complemented the cheese and we both agreed the goat was our favorite!

Then came the mango avocado spring rolls. These are supposed to be a house specialty, but were only ehh in our book.

We rounded out our meal with Malaysian Chicken and Toasted Coconut Curry - but by this time my soju cocktail had kicked in and the camera was forgotten - I really must learn to take better drunk pictures. Sufficient to say the chicken was excellent and we greedily fought over the last mouthfuls.

We brought home some chocolate mousse cake for later and it was heavenly with our bottle of wine. What a nice, relaxing trip!

Christmas with someone else's inlaws

I'm not a huge fan of my in-laws. However, I love my brother inlaw's inlaws. They are warm, friendly people who make anyone feel like part of the family.

Normally I spend Christmas Eve with my inlaws. We go to mass, come home and father inlaw begins preparing dinner. We usually eat so late I can't remember my name from starvation.

Jon's brother, his wife, and their children spend Christmas Eve at sister in law's house with her family. This year we all made the trip over. It was a welcome change from the usual solemnity.

When I say the S's are warm and generous, I really mean it - check out the ridiculous amount of gifts! The gifts began under the tree, but since there wasn't enough room there, they quickly spread to every available surface. Then they spread across the floor when surface area grew scarce. Check out my niece next to one of her gifts.

We began the evening with a "guess the Christmas song" game. I won. I always win games. It was probably pretty embarrassing that the Jew won the game, but everyone was very gracious about it.

Then came the food - food for days! Lumpia, Pancit, bifsteak, fried chicken, butternut squash.......more, more, more. And when you were done with dinner it was time for dessert! Fried plantains, apple pie, pecan pie, lemon meringue pie..... Everything was so amazing, and we actually ate at a reasonable time!

Then came the opening of gifts, which felt like it took hours! There was lots of laughter and lots of warmth. It was definitely a family Christmas.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Baaaa Baaaa Black Sheep

Jon loves lamb. It's one of his all time favorite meals. Part of the reason is because his dad made lamb all the time when he was growing up and Jon has very fond memories of his dad's lamb. Too fond if you ask me. As you may remember from the great pancake debacle, when Jon's dad makes something, no one else can even attempt it. For that reason we do not eat lamb very often because I know I can't live up to the memories.

However, when I do make it, I make lamb very simply. A little bit of seasoning, and served with some mint jelly with fresh mint.

Simple Lamb
1/2 cup dijon mustard
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 rack of lamb, frenched
salt and pepper

1) Heat oven to 425. In small bowl combine mustard, parsley, olive oil and garlic. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Brush mustard mixture over lamb.
2) Place in roasting pan and roast about 25 minutes.
3) Serve with mint jelly.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Strollin' on a Sunday

I always like to start my entries with a little background information. This entry is no different. Jon loves San Francisco. Loves it loves it loves it. Me? I'm really not a fan. How can anyone not like San Francisco? Easy. Have them spend every trip to San Fransisco with my in-laws. Jon's parents live about thirty minutes from the city. However, on every trip we take to visit, we end up spending the entire time sitting on the couch staring at each other because Jon's parents don't believe in television, nor do they feel any compunction to entertain their guests. So for me, "going to San Fransisco" means wanting to gouge my eyes out.

We have tried to rectify this situation. I tell Jon all the time how much I hate San Francisco, mostly because we never go to the city. Jon's solution? He told his parents I'd like to go into the city on trips. Well according to the in-laws, the only thing to see in the city is the Museum Of Modern Art. So now anytime they hear the word "city" a trip to the MOMA is planned. Now don't get me wrong, I'm a fan of art in general, but I prefer the classics - preraphaelite, impressionism, etc. I have been to the San Fransisco MOMA more times than I have been to any other museum in the entire world - and that's saying quite a bit since I used to go to the Smithsonian museums on a yearly basis. When we go to the city, "we" meaning his parents, Jon, and I, we go straight to the MOMA, walk around until his dad complains he's been there too long and there's too much sex, violence, and excrement in the art work, and then we get in the car and come home. "Going to San Fransisco" means going to a place I don 't like and listening to people complain.

I have never been to Chinatown, Alcatraz, or Union Square, I went to Ghiradelli Square once years ago with my mother on a college scouting trip. Fisherman's Wharf I visited once while I was giving a college tour. I travel to the Bay Area between 3 and 5 times a year, but ask me to recommend a restaurant or activity and I'm completely unhelpful. You mean San Fransisco has restaurants? Other museums?

I'm really working hard at getting Jon to take me places I might enjoy. Unfortunately most of the time his parents join us, making it less pleasant. Take for example our plan last year to walk the Golden Gate Bridge. Here's the picture I tried to take of me and Jon......notice any "extra" personalities who had to jump in the picture? Notice how happy I am?

This trip M&B had mentioned the Sunday farmer's market at the Ferry Building. I had actually heard about how fun and neat this was and was surprised when Jon mentioned he knew about it. "You mean you knew there was something fun in the city I'd enjoy and in the past 7 years haven't thought of taking me there? I assumed you'd never heard of it." Of course that means a trip was in order, so Sunday morning we headed into the city. I was so thankful it was just the two of us, and we had so much fun!

The building itself is beautiful, sitting on the bay with the Bay Bridge behind it. And yes, I had to ask what bridge that was because really? well? The market is not a farmer's market in the true sense of the word. Rather it is a conglomerate of small shops selling fresh artisan cheeses, breads, chocolates, and every form of olive oil you could ever want to purchase. Jon was first attracted to the mushroom shop - and I will leave it to your imagination to determine why. As he perused posters displaying poisonous mushrooms, I tasted truffle salt, truffle oil, and came across a "grow at home mushroom farm." I don't even want to begin to wonder what that white mound is made of, but sure enough, there are mushrooms growing out of it. I am sure it would be a fantastic conversation piece in any home.

We also made a quick stop at the seafood store where they were selling fresh oysters on the half shell for $1.50 each. Jon had to have one, and spent the rest of the day saying how it was the best oyster he'd ever had. I'll take his word for it. For me, the highlight of the trip was M's recommendation of Miette - french for "crumb." M had recommended the macaroons, but as soon as I saw the cupcakes I knew I had to take one of those also.

So we loaded up on macaroons and a gingerbread cupcake with cream cheese frosting. The cupcake was really the perfect size, small enough for a couple bites. The cake was sweet and a little sticky, which meant there wasn't a miette to be found - ironic, non? The frosting was perfect because it wasn't too sweet. Jon thought it tasted more like cheesecake than frosting.
And of course we had to get some macaroons - Macaroons are, after all, the new cupcake. This was Jon's first taste of french macaroons and he was very confused at first glance. On first bite however, he was quickly won over. We got a chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, vanilla, and pistachio and it's hard to pick a favorite. The "cookie" part is chewing and moist, while the cream center is rich and sweet.

We sat on a bench overlooking the bay while we snacked and drank coffee. It was the ideal Sunday morning and a nice change of pace from our usual in-law routine. Unfortunately it passed far too quickly, and it wasn't long before we had to head back for more "good times" with Jon's parents.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Oh So Lucky

No, not me. Although I have my days. The title of this post is in reference to Jon. He is the oh so lucky one. I mean obviously, he's lucky because he has me. The more time I spend with his family the luckier I realize he is. But other then me, Jon is lucky to have some very good friends. We spent the day with two of those friends yesterday - M and her husband B. Jon and M have been friends since high school. M still lives in the same area where they grew up, and whenever we visit Jon's family she makes sure to plan a day away from Jon's family for me. "Kate's break day" included a trip to Redwood Park with Ringo and M&B's dog Sonnybear. The dogs hit it off immediately and the 3 hour hike didn't feel nearly that long! After our day in the woods it was time for a night in the city.

M&B took us to Potrero Hill, a San Francisco neighborhood which seemed a world away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. We began the night at Lingba Lounge.

Lingba Lounge is dark and hip with crazy chandeliers and monkeys everywhere. Even on the drinks!

I was definitely tempted by the "monkey bowl" which came with a polaroid picture of you and said drink. Instead I stuck to the "safer" choices of lychee martinis and guava cosmos. Jon stuck with Lingba Lemonades which were a combination of bourbon and lemongrass syrup. The drinks were pretty and potent, which is the way I like my drinks.

After drinks we headed over to our dinner reservations at Baraka. M ensured we ate "downstairs" which is apparently the cool place to eat at Baraka. We were the only people in the downstairs area and our waiter was a lot of fun.

M was overjoyed at having a partner to split a bottle of Malbec with her, and I was only too pleased to oblige. We let M&B do the ordering, and I'm so glad we did because they food was beyond words!
We started out with the house special goat cheese and prosciutto wrapped dates. We loved the goat cheese, but my favorite was the dates. They were stuffed in cheese and tasted like little pieces of heaven - sweet, salty, and gooey.

When we ordered our meals and sides, our waiter recommended we get the sides first to snack on while we waited. So we had spanish fries and flat bread. While M raved about the fries being the bes thing she'd ever eaten, Jon declared the flatbread other worldly. Fingers were dipped in the sauces when the bread disappeared within moments.

For dinner we split three meals between the four of us. With all the other food this was a very wise decision. We had 2 orders of the lamb tagine with succulent, tender, flavorful pieces of meat. They also ordered seared ahi, which I can't speak on since I don't eat fish, but everyone else really enjoyed it!

We also ordered dessert, a trio of sorbet - grapefruit, green apple, and blood orange, and chocolate banana bread pudding. Of course, by this time the bottle of wine was empty and my camera was long forgotten, so please be content with me telling you the desserts were just as good as the dinner.

Seriously, I am so thankful for Jon's friends. I guess that makes me oh so lucky too!