Dine About Town

It’s been difficult or me to keep up with my blog.  The holidays are finally over and my nausea isn’t as crippling, so I hope to post, and cook, more often now.  Christmas was a success, however, I had to really downscale my menu to simple dishes. I don’t know what the hell I was thinking with that crazy menu! I ended up making a Spinach & Pancetta Strata which I thought was terrible, but my mother-in-law and husband loved it.  (Keep in mind, my mother-in-law will say she likes spam sandwiches just so she won’t hurt your feelings and my husband will eat anything.)  The pancetta cooked up so small that you couldn’t taste it in the dish.  AND, it was ugly.   No bueno Giada, no bueno, but I’ll build you back up later on in this post.  I made sausage balls, artichoke dip, brownie bites, and Chex mix (thank you Pioneer Woman) for snacking purposes throughout the day.  The brownie bites took me two days to make, but OH MY GOD, were they amazing.  If you’re a chocolate lover, take a weekend and make these.  It probably won’t take you as long as it took me, I have to rest in between steps.  Babies growing in my uterus make me very tired.   Here’s a picture of them taken with my phone.  Don’t they look like candy?  Super, awesome, brownie candy!

My brother-in-law totally blew it and did NOT bring the bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers like he promised.  Supposedly, he froze the fresh jalapenos and they disintegrated.  Whatever……. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without a little disappointment, I guess. And finally for dinner, my husband grilled a london broil, I made spicy mac and cheese , which was the talk of the entire evening, roasted yams with rosemary and mint, and roasted balsamic asparagus.  I also made Lara’s pound cake.  Delish!  Overall, everything was good and easy.  Although I’m a freak about the holidays, I was really glad to see these end.  I need a little normalcy in my life right now.

Soooooo……… my bff Sarah is coming to visit me from Richmond next week!  And lucky for her, the week she chose to come is the start of Dine About Town in San Francisco!  It’s like Restaurant Week except, it’s two weeks long!   We are spending a weekend in the city and will be eating our hearts out!  We chose restaurants based on the neighborhoods we’ll be spending our time in.  On Friday night, we’ll be dining at First Crush, in Union Square, 1 block away from our hotel.  Dine About Town doesn’t begin until Saturday, but whatever, Sarah wanted to go here anyway.  I heard about this place on the FoodNetwork show Giada’s Weekend Getaways, or at least I thought I had.  I just went to that episode on foodnetwork.com and First Crush wasn’t mentioned anywhere.  So……. we’ll just pretend she dined there.  I felt that First Crush would be a good choice because back in 2007, her Weekend Getaway to Charleston, SC literally made me call the bff (Sarah) and say “You wanna go to Charleston for a weekend?”  Sarah’s always down for weekend trips, so we booked a precious B & B and headed to Lowcountry.  Giada was right on the money with McCrady’s AND Poogan’s Porch (with the best damn sandwich I’ve ever had, fried green tomato, applewood smoked bacon, and goat cheese, holy crap).   McCrady’s is one of those places where the wait staff wears tuxedo shirts and cleans your table linen with a crumb scraper in between courses.   It’s exquisite.  Giada helped in making Charleston the best food trip I’ve ever had.  (FIG is my all-time favorite restaurant ever.  The chef/owner served Sarah and I our main courses and I about peed on myself).  God Bless Lowcountry Cuisine.  Anywho…….Let’s hope First Crush knocks our socks off.

Sarah and I at Poogan’s Porch, June 2007

On Saturday night, we’ll be seeing Beach Blanket Babylon, a San Francisco institution.  Since this production is in the neighborhood of North Beach, we chose E Tutto Qua as our dinner destination.  I really liked E Tutto Qua’s website because the pictures of the staff and food looked very personal, not contrived and it made the place seem very welcoming and local.   (Trip Advisor reviews help too!) I hope they live up to our expectations.  Sarah and I are both very curious as to what Squid Ink Pasta is.  Will I be adventurous?  Pregnancy and food adventurism do NOT go too well together, so we’ll see. 

As far as breakfast and lunch, we’ll probably play it by ear, something I really hate doing, but Sarah is way more laid back and this trip is about her, not me.  She’s never been to the city!  Wish us good food luck!

Advertisements

Gestation, Cross-Country Moving and a promising Christmas feast

In the time between my last post and now, I have conceived another child and moved 2,600 miles away from my home, to Northern California.   Needless to say, I’ve been a little busy. 

May I suggest not getting pregnant and moving across the damn country at the same time?  It’s a little much. 

My husband was offered a killer job in Silicon Valley doing techy, engineering stuff.  It was an offer we couldn’t refuse.  Since he hails from that area, it was a no brainer for us and we decided to make the jump, but not without great sadness.  It happened so fast, I have yet to process it.  About 2 weeks before the offer was made, we were discussing the possibility of another child (the last child, I might add). I have always told my husband that when we were ready for baby #2, I was NOT working.  SO, since I was laid off in September, the husband and I decided “we might as well go and ahead and get it over with!”  I was pregnant on the first try.  I knew I was knocked up the minute I missed my period.  My boobs felt slightly sore and I thought “I know what the hell this is.  I’m fucking pregnant”.  Sounds harsh, I know, you would think I’d be excited considering we did plan this.  But, unfortunately for me, around 6 weeks of gestation, I become viciously ill, and I mean viciously.  And it usually lasts until about 13 weeks.  That’s right, for 2 MONTHS, I am an ever nauseous, puking, crying shell of the woman I once was who can eat nothing but bread only to throw it back up 20 minutes later.   It is most truly the worst I have ever felt in my entire life.  The site, smell and even mere thought of food ignites a gag reflex that may or may not result in vomit.  I had to beg my doctor for meds, so she put me on Zofran, the anti-nausea medication given to chemo patients.  It’s extremely expensive and to be quite honest, it works only about half the time.  When I was pregnant with my daughter, it didn’t work at all.  This time it has taken the edge off just enough so that I can keep food down, for the most part.  I barely have the energy to get out of bed, much less blog……about food.  I can’t even read the blogs I follow.  Why?  Reading actually makes me nauseous.  READING!  It’s a miracle my daughter is dressed and fed every day, but somehow I muster the energy to keep her safe and clean. 

I’m exactly 12 weeks pregnant today.  The pain has started to ease a bit, hence my blogging.  I was able to enjoy Thanksgiving with some food and the company of great friends.  Moving to California has brought us only 3 driving hours from our dear friends Ron and Theresa and we couldn’t be happier about it.  My energy is still really low, but some days are better than others and I have even managed to do a little Christmas shopping and some shopping for myself :).  Cooking is still completely out of the question and that really grinds my gears.  Like all domestic goddesses, this is my favorite time of the year for cooking and baking. I’m a freak about the holidays.  I love the decorations and the lights, the food and the parties, the movies on TV and the radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music, the over-indulgence and the spirit of giving.  I love it all.  Since we’ve moved and I had to give up my plans for Thanksgiving at my house (in Virginia), it has been decided that Christmas 2010 will take place in our new abode in Livermore, CA.  This is the first time I’ve ever hosted Christmas Day and I better get my ass together quick, or it will be a culinary disaster.  It will be an all day affair beginning in the morning with my daughter opening gifts from Santa and Grandma and Grandpa and continuing into the afternoon with adult gift time and dinner.  I have begun to formulate a menu (thank you FoodNetwork.com).  It’s ambitious, to say the least, but I’m counting on my second trimester burst of energy, and my husband, who has 2 weeks off for the holidays!  Here it is ………….  What do you think?

Christmas morning:

Sourdough Strata with tomatoes and greens with bacon and assorted fruit

Hot Chocolate (sans the homemade whipped cream, I don’t have time for that!)

Snacks throughout the day

Chex Mix, an ode to my Grandmother.  2 kinds: A traditional, salty mix AND a sweet and sugary mix <– Any suggestions?

Brown Butter Fig Tartlets

Assorted Christmas Cookies

Spicy Sausage Dip

Grilled bacon wrapped jalapeno poppers made by my brother-in-law.  They’re amazing.

Christmas Dinner

London Broil

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

Spicy Mac & Cheese (because I didn’t get to make it at Thanksgiving and it’s just so damn good!)

Some sort of veggie

Dark Chocolate-Hazelnut truffles

Lara’s Pound Cake (thanks friend!)

I am SO open to suggestions and recipes since food still freaks me out a bit.  Email me!

Here is a scene from my all-time favorite Christmas movie.  Since my time working in a retirement community, it’s even funnier than ever.  Happy Holidays!

More goat cheese and other things

It’s been just shy of a month since I’ve posted. My reason for this is just life, I suppose. I was very recently laid off and am now adjusting to being a full-time, stay-at-home mom, something I really love, although find it surprisingly challenging. This video shared with me by my bff is hilarious.  Competitive parenting is frightening. 

Mompetition

My husband and I are also preparing for another huge change in our lives and as soon as the details are written in stone, I’ll be sharing the big news. AND, I’m fighting a nasty cold after just returning yesterday from an entire week in Corolla, North Carolina where we stayed in the largest house in Currituck County on the 4X4 beaches (that’s right! There are no roads, only beach driving). We ate a TON, saw wild horses almost everyday and celebrated the marital union of our friends, Richard and Abigail (CONGRATS YOU GUYS!). This place is simply beautiful. I’ll be doing a huge post on this adventure very soon. But for now, I’m going to share with you a meal I crave at the moment.  A meal I made for my sick husband a few weeks ago.  A meal that I can only hope he will make for me and nourish my sick, sniffling, NyQuil addicted ass.

Triple Grilled Cheese on Sourdough with Creamy Tomato Basil Soup

I halved this Tomato Basil Soup recipe.  Soups make me nervous, but this was incredibly easy. I forgot to purchase tomato juice, but made some with left over tomato paste.  I simply added 1 can (minus 1 tablespoon) of the tomato paste to 2 cups of water and mixed in the  food processor.  I added a dash or two of onion powder for extra flavor.   It’s also nice to add a little shredded basil for garnish.   AWESOME!

Triple Grilled Cheese on Sourdough:

Sourdough bread slices

Fresh mozzarella, sliced

Fontina cheese, sliced

Goat cheese, softened

Olive Oil for brushing bread

Brush one side of each slice of sourdough for grilling.  On the other side, spread desired amount of goat cheese and add the sliced mozzarella and fontina.  Place the sandwiches on a heated panini maker until golden brown or on a heated pan and grill on both sides.  Gooey, crunchy goodness.  Serve with your soup!

Here’s a few more things on my mind……

Like any woman with even a shred of domesticity, the minute a leaf changes color signifying the onset of fall, I begin to bake.  I also cannot resist a pumpkin, especially at the Culpeper Farmer’s Market.  Try this killer pumpkin bread recipe with your fresh pumpkin!  Making pumpkin puree is really simple. 

Ahhh…… the beach in the fall.  Wild horses and 4×4 beaches rule. Happy Autumn!!!!!

Chicken, Artichoke and Goat Cheese Pizza

Two of my favorite things on a pizza, goat cheese and artichokes, hell yeah!  Like most of my recipes, this one is a variation of another.  I got this recipe out of Self Magazine, because it’s relatively healthy. Of course, that changed when I got through with it.

Some tips:
*Take the goat cheese out of the fridge and put in a bowl before you begin. It’s easier to mix with the ricotta when it’s soft.
*This pizza is full of stuff!  Toppings are going to fall off of it when you cut it, but that’s okay.  It’s more of a fork and knife type of pizza anyway.
* You can use marinated artichokes or plain artichokes in a can. The marinated gives a little extra flavor. Either way, drain them and put them on a paper towel to blot, getting out excess moisture
* If you do not have an air-bake pizza pan, buy one, NOW! I don’t now how I ever lived without one. http://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-Classic-Nonstick-Bakeware-14-Inch/dp/B0000D8CAO

Ingredients

1 store-bought pre-made pizza crust, regular or whole wheat

2 chicken breasts

Chef Paul Seasoning Magic Poultry Seasoning – optional

1 12-14oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

2 Roma tomatoes diced

4 oz goat cheese

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/4-1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese for topping (depends on your taste, I LOVE parmesan, so I use a lot)

Oregano

Olive oil for cooking chicken and spreading on pizza crust
 
Pre-Heat oven to 350. Heat a little oil over medium high heat in a pan. Lightly season chicken breasts on both sides with Chef Paul Seasoning Magic Poultry Seasoning.  If not using, just do salt and pepper.  Sear both sides of the chicken (for a nice golden brown color), then bake until cooked through. You can slice the chicken in thin strips, or wait for it to cool, then pull it apart in pieces. I love the “pulled” effect.  After the chicken is cooked, bump the oven temp up to 450.  Coat top of pizza crust with olive oil.  Mix together goat cheese and ricotta in a bowl then spread evenly over pizza crust.  Spread artichokes, tomatoes, and chicken evenly over cheese mixture.  Top with parmesan cheese and sprinkle with oregano.  Put on your airbake pan and cook for 11 minutes.  The parmesan will start to be golden brown.  Serve.  Delicious!

A Buffett worthy menu

September 3, 2010

As I lay here, nursing my hangover, I reflect on its cause, the event known only as the Jimmy Buffett tailgate party.  This tradition, going on for 20+ years with those wacky fans known as Parrotheads, make it the most fun and entertaining tailgate party ever.  There are many who do not care for Buffet tunes, yet purchase tickets to his show just for the parking lot party itself.  I am not one of those, an acoustic version of Stars on the Water was played after I said “I Do” and walked back down the aisle at my beach wedding.   Anyway, my point is, Parrotheads certainly know how it’s done.

I was first introduced to this Buffett way of life by an ex-boyfriend whose parents were Parrotheads and strapped a large grey fin to the top of their van for every show. My first concert, I marveled at the bed of a pick up truck that had been turned into an erupting volcano and a mini-van transformed into a pirate ship complete with sails and girls flashing party-goers as they stumbled by. Portable bars and inflatable palm trees were at every turn and just about every other person was dressed in some sort of ridiculous costume.  Men wore coconut bras and women wore hats topped with margarita glasses.  It was wonderous…..(Yup, that chick’s boobs are definitely on the internet somewhere.) 

And the booze……. oh how it flowed.(Buffett, circa 2000.  Notice the Abercrombie gym shorts.  How cool was I?) 

I’ve often considered Jimmy Buffett a kindred spirit and feel that his concerts attract the same (for the most part, of course there is always that asshole who can’t hold his booze).  The shows I have seen in my time have been some of the most fun I’ve had in my life.  And last night, was no exception.

My cousin Stephanie  invited my husband and I to the Bristow, VA show.  My husband was a Buffett virgin and it had been in years for me, so I jumped at the chance to go.  Tony and I wanted to be in complete charge of the tailgate party, the least we could do for the free tix.  I came up with a menu that was simple, traveled well and that was suited to the setting.  I thought to myself  “What an awesome blogging opportunity!” It’s always an awesome blogging opportunity except that I get drunk too early and forget that it’s an awesome blogging opportunity.   

A Buffett worthy menu:

Jen’s famous pasta salad

Super cheesy crab dip

Grilled watermelon

Surf & turf kabobs

Drinks: Lime jello shooters, frozen margaritas, madras’, and virgin strawberry daiquiris for the kids

Jen’s famous pasta salad:  I am truly known for this dish.  Honestly, the attention I get for it, although awesome, is undeserving.  It’s the easiest thing to make and I only put the ingredients together because I thought they would look pretty in a bowl.  Little did I know it would become the hit that it is today.  I am requested to bring it to most parties, I have given out the recipe countless times for those needing a dish for a gathering, and I even made 4 batches of it for one of my besties beach wedding in Sandbridge.  And last night at the show, our tailgating neighbor said “Pasta salads are usually so boring, if you’ve had one, you’ve had them all, but this!  I can’t even describe it, it’s just so delicious!”  The secret?  I think it’s the store-bought dressing, but maybe it really is a genius concoction with the perfect pairing of ingredients. Who knows…. 

1 cucumber, sliced and quartered

1 orange or yellow pepper, coarsely chopped

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 bottle Girard’s Italian Dressing

1 6oz container of crumbled feta cheese

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Fresh or dried dill to taste (dried dill doesn’t really add flavor, it just looks pretty)

Salt and oil the cooking water and cook pasta al dente, according to package.  While your pasta is cooking, chop your vegetables.  Using a peeler, peel the cucumber on 3 sides only, like so.The purpose of this technique is 1) it looks pretty and 2) it provides just the right amount of crunch.  Then, cut the entire cucumber into circular slices and quarter, like this. 

Toss cucumber pieces into a large serving bowl.  Chop the pepper and half the tomatoes and add to the cucumbers.  Drain the cooked pasta in a colander and toss under cold water until cool to the touch.  Add to serving bowl.  Add the entire bottle of dressing and container of feta and stir to mix.  Add salt, pepper and dill to taste.  Can be served immediately, however, it’s best after it’s been refridgerated for bit.  It’s perfect to make the day before. 

Super Cheesy Crab Dip: I came up with this recipe on the fly.  I love a rich, creamy, cheesy crab dip and the recipes I was looking at either did not have enough cheese or just not enough flavor.  So, I got the general idea of how to make a crab dip and put what the hell I wanted to put in it.  Sweet Success!  It was devoured quickly and the kids really loved it.  I have been requested to make it for Thanksgiving, after it was decided that night that I will be hosting Thanksgiving this year.  AH!  You can either make this right before you leave for your party and as long as it’s kept covered, it will be warm for quite some time.  OR, transfer it to a crock pot and set to low and keep it warm before serving.

1 lb backfin crabmeat, picked through for shells (you can certainly use lump, but for a dip, I go the cheaper route)

2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened

2 cups shredded cheddar cheese (or mix it up and use 1 cup cheddar and 1 cup pepper jack! yum!)

4 tbsp sour cream

1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire

1/4 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning

1/4 cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Juice of 1/2 a lemon ( I used a little more)

Crackers or sliced & toasted french bread for dipping

Pre-heat oven to 350.  In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until well blended.  Put in casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes.  Serve with crackers or bread. 

Surf & Turf Kabobs:  My husband is solely responsible for this AMAZING dish.  These kabobs could not have been more perfect for the occasion.  Unfortunately for you, I was already enjoying jello shooters and margaritas, so taking pictures of these pieces of art were the furthest thing from my mind. 

1 lb raw, fresh, medium-sized shrimp, peeled and de-veined

1 lb scallops (probably u12-u15)

4 filet mignon (yup, we used filet, but feel free to use any cut you like), cut into squares

2 red bell peppers, cut into 1 inch thick slices

2 red onions, cut into 1 inch thick slices

3 pints of button mushrooms

My husband says you have to soak the mushrooms before you skewer them.  Soak them in what, I don’t know.  We soaked them in water one night but they still split.  This time, he brushed them with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar/garlic combo and left them in the fridge over night.  It worked, no splitage!  Other than that, all he did was skewer all the ingredients the morning of the show, kept them chilled and when we were ready, grilled for about 5 minutes on each side.  Perfectly pink steak and grilled shellfish on a stick?  Hell yeah, it was great.

Grilled Watermelon: Actually, I never got around to grilling the watermelon.  But, I do believe that JB would appreciate a melon that was grilled.  Don’t you?

Drinks:  Make it easy on yourself!  I love a “real” margarita, but the mix will do just fine for a tailgate.  For jello shooters, simply follow the directions, except add 3/4 cup of vodka in addition to the cold water, then poor into party cups and chill overnight. If you don’t know what is in a Madras, it’s simply vodka, cranberry and orange juice.  But the most important thing is the umbrella.Notice the table cloth!  I even had themed confetti.  I love confetti. 

I love this guy too.

Fins UP!

Happy Saturday!

Hangover Cure…..

My husband made for me this morning:

Bacon, Scrambled Eggs, Pepper Jack AND Colby Jack Cheese on Honey Wheat Toast

Shoestring French Fries AND Sweet Potato Fries…..fresh from my freezer

And the only thing that will get me through the day…….a Mimosa. 

Thanks baby, I love you.

Have a great weekend!

California is a Magical Land Pt. 2

    Day 2 in Monterey I awoke to the smell of bacon!  That’s my favorite way to wake up.Good morning Martine Inn!  We headed downstairs for breakfast in the dining room that overlooked the Monterey Bay. And guess what was on the menu?  Artichokes!  Yay!  Poached eggs on an english muffin topped with an artichoke cream sauce.  I realized that artichokes are like bacon for me.  I can eat them morning, noon and night.  Yum!
    And there was this warm apricot cobbler like dish. Love the silver, china and crystal!
    The Martine conveniently sold tickets to the aquarium and charged it to our room.  (I love this place!)  We decided to walk there.  Here’s what we saw.Seals!  Aren’t they just precious?!  The Stanford University Marine Station has the beach fenced off for these guys.  They’re cute, but they smell.  I’m glad we kept our distance.
    On to the Monterey Aquarium!  The place was packed.
    My favorite exhibit…. the jellies!After 2.5 hours we successfully toured each exhibit and felt that we got our $30 per ticket worth of the aquarium.  It was time to nourish our bodies.  It was time to head down Cannery Row.

    Normally, having lunch in such a tourist trap goes against everything I believe in when it comes to dining.  It’s rare to find a good one in the midst of tee-shirt shops and candy stores.  But I was trying this new thing called “going with the flow” and I knew my husband would be seriously irritated if I made him walk all the way back to the B&B, get in the car and drive to the place I really wanted to go.  He was starving, so I sucked it up, but not without my limits.  I refused to step foot into Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and there was no way I was going to eat in a place called Louie Linguine’s.  After about 20 minutes of walking around Cannery Row, looking for a decent place to eat, we came to Paradiso Trattoria were a gentleman was passing out coupons for free calamari with the purchase of an entrée.  Grrrrrrrrr……. places that pass out free shit are desperate.  I wanted to run, but I kept my cool, for my husband’s sake.  We were seated at a table with a bay view that was yes, gorgeous.  

    I ordered a cocktail, trying to numb the pain of course, and to not be such a bitch.  It didn’t work.  My husband noticed right away that I wanted to run.  He said I was “being a snob” and that he could tell I wanted to leave.  I lied.  “No! I’m fine, I’m just hungry, this place is fine, just fine.”  So we ordered and no, I wanted nothing to do with the free calamari in exchange for ordering an entrée.  I got the lunch special, rockfish.  And shockingly…….. It was pretty good!

    It was lightly battered and pan-fried, with just the right amount of crisp, and extremely buttery.  It was definitely fresh.  And who doesn’t love capers?!  I’ll say it, the fish was delicious.  The green beans were good too, crisp, light and fresh.  (The side of spaghetti can kiss my ass, like noodles in catsup for crying out loud.  Why even bother?)  

    My husband ordered the seafood ciopinno.  That too!  Delicious!  I was stunned!

    I figured we better quit while we were ahead, so there was no dessert, although I had my eye on the chocolate mousse.  Our room at the Martine Inn was calling us through its screenless/bugless windows.  It was nap time.

    We decided to hit the happy hour at the Inn for a snack and some wine before we went to our restaurant pic of the night in Pacific Grove.   It was nice, but we were late, so I missed out on the spanikopita!  I love spanikopita!  We enjoyed a few drinks and watched a pair of otters play in the bay, then jumped in the car for the 1 mile drive to  Passionfish.Photo Credit

    Holy crap! Holy Crap! Holy Crap!  I cannot say enough about this place.  Superb!  I chose Passionfish because of the great reviews on Trip Advisor (please ignore Lotto1’s review, this guy is just an asshole who lacks common courtesy).  This is the place I was talking about in Pt. 1 that is not listed on Open Table.  Trip Advisor people, use it, it’s freaking great.  Anywho… I LOVED this restaurant.  The decor is simple and clean yet welcoming.  The service was good and friendlier than normal (hence Lotto1’s rant).  Passionfish is known for their wine list and their very knowledgeable sommelier.  The list intimidated me, there wasn’t a single wine I had even heard of, so I went for a by-the-glass white that our server suggested based on my taste.  (Delish!)  Here, I decided to give Dungeness crab another shot, so we ordered the crab cake appetizer.  It was pretty, and probably fabulous for those who love the Dungeness (scroll all the way down and you’ll see a picture of it.) Sorry!  Still not a fan.  I can’t even describe what I don’t like about it.  The crab on the East is sweeter, I guess, not as pungent.  I don’t know….  But then, I ordered the Duck Confit (honey reduction/smoked chili-potato cake/braised fennel).  “Excellent choice” our server said.  And when I was served, the Dungeness faded from my mind and culinary ecstasy pulsed through my body.  When I went to pierce the meat with my fork, it gracefully fell off the bone.  It was exquisite.  The honey reduction was a perfect complement to the meat.  I could have done without the fennel, but the potato cake was awesome.   My husband chose the Asian inspired grilled Mahi (ginger vinaigrette/wasabi relish/baby bok choy/green onion rice).  Gorgeous.  Just beautiful.  Dessert (only $6!!!) was the Banana Bread Pudding with a Chocolate Whiskey Sauce and was truly decadent.  Passionfish.  I love you.

    Again, sorry for no pictures!  It’s completely ridiculous that I have a food blog with no pictures of the food I ate.  That night,  we had every intention of visiting the Scheid Vineyards Wine Lounge on Cannery Row.  It looked so hip and chic when we walked past it earlier in the day and the huge fireplace was so inviting!  But the Banana Bread Pudding was over the top and put us right back into a food coma, sending us back to the Inn for another evening of peaceful sleep with the windows wide open.  Ahhhhhh……. I did not want to leave Monterey.

    Day 3 was sad.

    Here I am at the Red House Cafe, the place I wanted to go for lunch on Day 2, but instead, taking one for the team my husband and eating at the Trattoria.  We were in a hurry and did not have time to enjoy our last meal here at this darling little cafe.  But we did go in and took our food to go!  It was not a good idea.  The service again was so weird!  They’re so cold!  They were all women, running around like they were in the weeds with 4 or 5 tables.  And loud, they were so loud!  We could hear everything going on in that kitchen.  When I managed a restaurant, it used to drive me INSANE when I was in the dining room and could hear employees in the kitchen.  I was the volume nazi.  Keep it down!  Customers don’t want to hear your crap!  They want to eat and feel that this establishment has it all under control.  Good grief.  To Red House’s credit, the place is adorable.  It’s very shabby chic and its menu emulates its style.  I had the grilled cheese which was good, but I scarfed it down in the car and I was a little too late.  It was no longer warm 😦  I hate Day 3 in Monterey. 

    In conclusion:  California is indeed a Magical Land.  The service is strange, yes, but I think the food makes up for it.  Monterey is so beautiful, even if it was overcast 90% of our visit.

    My suggestions for visiting Monterey: 1) Stay in a B & B on the bay.  It’s the best bang for your buck.  Waterfront hotels are pricier and they don’t have a happy hour.   2) Cannery Row is okay and you should take a stroll, but don’t spend all of your time there.  I couldn’t find any great shops, the American Tin Outlets is a joke, and the restaurants, well, you know how I feel about those.  Eat there if it’s for convenience sake.  There is a wine tasting room that would have been fun, but we didn’t find the time.  3)  Definitely visit the Aquarium.  You can’t go to Monterey without seeing this place.  4)  Check out Pacific Grove!  The downtown is totally cute and there are lots of great dining and shopping options. I wish we had spent more time there for hiking nature trails, hitting a beach and the butterfly sanctuary.   5)  Use Trip Advisor and go to Passionfish.   6) If you’re coming from the east, eat as many artichoke dishes as you can find.  Yay artichokes!