Monthly Archives: August 2012


As part of our recent family gathering to celebrate a special birthday for Susan, some of us were able to go to brunch together. Sarah and Evan were busy getting ready for service at their new restaurant, so they were not able to attend. Kevin was at the library. Everyone else gathered on the back patio of The Tipsy Pig not far from the San Francisco Marina. The weather was beautiful, and the restaurant was friendly with excellent service.

There were lots of interesting drink choices. I picked the Mary Pig, a classic bloody mary. It was extremely well made and decorated with olives and a stalk of celery.

Food choices were even better.

The Chimay braised pulled pork sandwich was with served aioli, and red cabbage slaw came with sweet potato fries. It was beautifully presented and very tasty.

The chive-goat cheese scramble was beautiful: two squares of golden eggs scrambled with goat cheese, served on squares of thick toast and prosciutto, topped with Meyer lemon beurre blanc and a side of wax beans.

The crispy duck confit came as a generous-sized duck leg  finished with radicchio, spiced pecans, goat cheese, and bing cherries with champagne-tarragon vinaigrette.

I chose huevos rancheros. This is one of my favorite dishes, but this version was unlike any I have ever seen. It was beautiful, not to mention tasty. A perfectly cooked egg was served on rolled tortillas and a bed of black beans, sauced with salsa verde, and dressed with pico de gallo and avocado. Crumbled asadero cheese garnished the top. It was a wonderful choice.

One of these days I plan to share my recipe for huevos rancheros, but today I would like to give you the recipe for my version of a bloody maría – a tequila-based bloody mary.


Chile Powder Salt


  • 1 teaspoon powdered chile (not chili powder). Temperature is your choice
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt


  • Mix the chile powder and salt in a small bowl with a wide enough brim to accept the rim of your drinking glass

Bloody María


  • chile powder salt
  • 2 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 4 ounces mixed vegetable juice (V8 or the equivalent)
  • ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • dash Chalula hot sauce to taste


  • Moisten the rim of the serving glass with the lime rind left over from squeezing and dip in the prepared chile powder salt
  • Combine tequila, lime juice, vegetable juice, Worcestershire sauce and Chalula hot sauce in a cocktail shaker with a cube of ice and shake well.
  • Strain into the serving glass.
  • Garnish with half a fresh jalapeño and a spear of jícama lightly dusted with powdered chile



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As Rich Table has gotten up and running, they have focused on their menu of savory dishes. Sarah and Evan work closely to develop that menu, which changes daily. Almost by default Sarah has been responsible for the baking and the dessert menu. Even though her training and experience have been in savouries on the line, she has also done pastry. So it was natural for her to take on that responsibility. As well, she has taken responsibility for selecting the cheeses for the cheese plate, to be served with grilled levain drizzled with honey. Each evening is a classic presentation of one sheep-, one goat-, one cow-milk choice –  on a recent visit these were Ossauiraty, Onetik Chabrin, and Templais du Fleuron, respectively – as well as hard, soft, and blue.

One of the most popular “bites” at Rich Table has been fennel-scented levain served with cultured butter. Some have wondered why the restaurant charges for this dish when many restaurants provide a “free” bread basket. The answer lies in the preparation of the dish. Sarah and Evan forage for wild fennel pollen. The harvested pollen is used as the key flavoring in the popular bread. Leaven for the bread comes from a years-old culture which Sarah feeds on a daily basis and then readies each night for bread baking. The recipe has been specially developed, and the bread is baked daily; then served warm, soft and fragrant. The butter comes from cream to which a culture is added and allowed to age for several days before it is churned, kneaded, and hand-formed in house. All of this seems like a lot more effort than placing a daily order from Acme Bread.

If you just need a little sweetness at the end of the meal, go for the mixed melon granita. It’s very light as it rests on flavorful bites of melon.

Mixed melon granita

Caramelized olive oil cake with strawberries and miso is delicious and flies in the face of convention. Harold McGee in Keys to Good Cooking says that fats and oils make cakes moist by interrupting the protein-starch structure. In most recipes the fat recommended is butter for flavor or vegetable shortening for lightness. Oil is not commonly used. Interestingly, King Arthur Flour’s Baking Companion says that one insurance salesman, Harry Baker, made a good living selling chiffon cakes to Hollywood celebrities until he sold the secret recipe – using vegetable oil – to General Mills in 1947. Since then, there have been many cake recipes developed using vegetable oil including popular carrot cake, applesauce cake, and vegan cakes. However there remains the caution in several popular cookbooks not to use olive oil as the strong flavor will spoil the cake. This caramelized version is evidence that olive oil is wonderful in cake and a perfect foil for roasted strawberries and  miso with cream cheese.

Caramelized olive oil cake with roasted strawberries and cream cheese

Salted chocolate sable with fresh raspberries, sorrel, and chocolate cream is a chocolate lover’s dream come true. The sable is a crisp thin cookie with just enough salt to play off the berries and creamy chocolate cream beneath it.

Salted chocolate sable with raspberries, sorrel, and chocolate cream

Buttermilk panna cotta seems ordinary enough, but the fresh  stone fruit sauce and almond crumble elevate it to a unique offering.

Buttermilk panna cotta with stone fruit and almond crumble

Any one of these desserts is a perfect choice to end your meal. Better yet, share several with your dinner partners.

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Another classic composed salad for summer, this version has its origins in Volume I of Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child and friends.

Instead of pasta, rice, or quinoa serving as the base, French-style potato salad pulls everything together. Haricots verts, hard-boiled eggs,  ripe tomatoes, black olives, and canned tuna are essential. If you can find good-quality Spanish anchovies, they should also be included, but beyond that you are limited only by your imagination.

Salade Niçoise can be served chilled or at room temperature, but it goes without saying that it needs a chilled white wine and crusty French bread to be a complete summer meal.


French Potato Salad


  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 3 quarts boiling salted water
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup vinaigrette
  • 6 scallions, cleaned and cut into ¼ inch slices, including the green tops
  • handful parsley leaves, chopped finely


  • Add the unpeeled potatoes to the boiling water. Return to the boil and cook until the potatoes are done and can be pierced easily with a sharp fork, about 30 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes and cool until they can be handled. Peel by pulling the potato skin off with a sharp paring knife.
  • Slice the potatoes into ¼ inch thick rounds, return to the dry pot, and pour in the wine. Stir gently until the wine is completely absorbed.
  • Add the vinaigrette, scallions, and parsley and stir gently until well combined, being careful not to break up the potatoes too much. Chill until ready to compose the salad.

Salade Niçoise


  • ¼ pound haricot verts, trimmed and blanched (good green beans if haricot verts unavailable)
  • 12 very thin stalks asparagus, trimmed and blanched
  • ½ cup vinaigrette
  • 1 small head, butter lettuce, washed and the leaves separated
  • 1 batch French potato salad (see above)
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into wedges
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 5 ounce can best quality solid albacore tuna in water, drained
  • 14 ounce can black olives, drained
  • Spanish anchovies (optional)


  • Arrange the lettuce leaves in a large salad bowl
  • Heap the potato salad in the middle of the bowl
  • Dress  the beans and asparagus lightly with vinaigrette and then arrange them across the top of the potato salad
  • Sprinkle the olives over the top of the potato salad and arrange the tomatoes and eggs around the edge.
  • Arrange the tuna, flaked gently with a fork, in the middle of the salad.
  • Serve immediately. This will serve two, perhaps with some leftovers.


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The last stop on our Rocky Mountain marathon was Yellowstone National Park. We have been there many times, but we have never stayed at the Old Faithful Inn, so that was one of our main objectives on this visit.

It is a several-hour drive from Glacier to Yellowstone, but the scenery is so absorbing that the time passes quickly. Montana is gorgeous, and there are many spectacular mountains beside those in Glacier. The plains are beautiful with rolling hills, great green pastures, and trim ranch houses. As we got closer to Yellowstone, the mountains and forests again took over the view, and we saw several of the famous and beautiful rivers that have inspired writers, painters, photographers, and fly fisherman from as far back as Lewis and Clark – The Yellowstone, the Gallatin, the Madison – and we would soon see the Fire Hole.

West Yellowstone was like all of the entry villages of national parks, crowded with tourists and filled with ice cream stores and curio shops. Yet once inside the park, the beauty became overwhelming. Many wild animals, rushing streams, perfect vistas, and far-away mountains.

We arrived at Old Faithful Lodge in the early afternoon. Parking lots were full, the lobby was jammed, and there was a long line of people waiting to check in. Once we arrived in our room, it was like stepping back in time. Our room was in the Old House, the iconic lodge famous in pictures and opened in 1904. The room had been updated a bit, but we still had to go down the hall to the communal bathrooms. That was a seeming inconvenience which we soon took in stride for the pleasure of staying in this historic and wonderful lodge.

Old Faithful Inn

Back in the lobby, we gasped with the other tourists at the enormity of space. The log ceiling reached up many storeys  nearly 80 feet above the lobby floor with the massive stone fireplace serving as the focal point.

Looking up to the ceiling of the lobby at Old Faithful Inn

Detail of stairway in Old Faithful Inn

The detail was inspiring. Each staircase was a work of art with twisted pine limbs serving as the balusters. Similarly the supporting posts on each floor were carefully matched twisted limbs.  Even the outside supports on the verandah were carefully matched and polished to a sparking gloss.

The fireplace and Great Clock in the lobby of Old Faithful Inn

Later, I found that the best time to enjoy the beauty of the lobby space was at 4 AM when all the lights were still ablaze but the visitors had gone to bed, and the cooks were not yet awake.

Old Faithful Geyser Basin

Road-side pool

We learned another thing, too. We arose at dawn each day of our visit to visit the geyser basins, lakes and rivers. The wildlife was out, but the tourists were still asleep, and we had the park nearly to ourselves. By noon, the crowds had awakened and the crush of humanity was almost too much.

Blue thermal pool

Steam rose from the geysers. Crystal clear water glistened in the hot pools lined with colors of emerald, pink, and cobalt blue.

Yellowstone Lake

Mother bison were tending their calves along the roadside, and deer and elk hid in the shadows of the forest. We did not see any bears, but our wildlife experience was still thrilling.

Mother American bison and calf

Watching Old Faithful Geyser erupt was a treat as we sat on the verandah with gin and tonic in hand .

The big disappointment was eating dinner in the dining room. The room was beautiful, and it had been preserved and restored to its early glory. One tried to imagine early visitors dressing for dinner with the women in long gowns and the men with stiff collars and suit coats. The vision was impossible to hold in an atmosphere of very large men in short shorts and their equally large wives in fluorescent tube tops. The menu was filled with interesting-sounding choices, but that seemed like a waste of time as the very large men made repeated return visits to a buffet.

The food was ok, considering the huge number of meals served each day, but it didn’t match the surroundings (sans tourists). Among the dishes we chose were shrimp risotto, trout cakes, antelope sausage, and pork osso buco .

Trout cakes

Antelope sausage

Pork osso buco

Shrimp risotto at the Old Faithful Inn

Of these, I have tried to replicate the shrimp risotto.


Shrimp and mushroom risotto


  • 1½ cups vegetable stock
  • 1½ cups + 9 cups water
  • 1 pound shrimp, 16/20 size
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped coarsely
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped coarsely
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped coarsely
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 stalks parsley
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 pound shrimp, 16-20 size, with shells on
  • 8 ounces mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
  • 3 + 3 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup white onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup Arborio rice


  • In a large pot, bring the vegetable stock and 1½ cups of water to the boil. Add the  carrot, celery, white onion, garlic, parsley, peppercorns, and salt  to the boiling water.  Simmer for 30 minutes. Squeeze the tomato into the pot and drop in the skin and flesh. Continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Add the shrimp, return to a full boil for 5 minutes. Remove the shrimp, peel, and chill.
  • Remove the stock from the heat, strain, and then return to the cleaned pot. Add 9 cups of water to triple the volume of liquid. Reheat to boiling.
  • In the meantime saute the mushrooms in half the  butter (3 tablespoons)  in a small skillet over medium heat. Set aside in the skillet.
  • In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining butter. Then sweat the onions in the melted butter, covered  over medium heat.
  • When the onions are translucent but not browned, add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice grains become opaque but not brown.
  • Turn the flame under the rice mixture to high and immediately add one ladle-full of the boiling stock. Stir constantly until the liquid is absorbed. Add another ladle of the stock and continue the process of stirring and boiling until the rice is soft and creamy, about 30 minutes. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper.
  • When the rice is nearly cooked, add the cooled shrimp to the skillet with the mushroom and heat over a medium-low flame.
  • Serve the finished risotto in 4 soup bowls. Divide the mushrooms and shrimp into four servings each, place on top of the risotto and serve immediately.

Shrimp and mushrooms sautéing

Shrimp and mushroom risotto


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