Foreign Cinema

12 Nov

Last week Monday I planned a lady date with my friend Alicia. A few months back I made a list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to go that I sent out to a bunch of friends. One of the items on this list was checking out Foreign Cinema. I have heard great things about this place from others, but figured it was time for me to actually check it out. Alicia and I met for a cocktail (or two) before our reservation at Doc’s Clock, which is literally right across the street. It’s a divy mission bar where we made friends with the bartender and they have, wait for it, $3 well drinks during happy hour.

We made our way (all the way) across the street to Foreign Cinema and since it was somewhat chilly outside, we sat inside by the fire. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see the movie they were playing, but we weren’t there to see a movie, we were there to get caught up on some girl talk! We started out with more drinks of course, wen’t for a carafe of zinfandel (so yum)! For an appetizer we decided to start with the sea scallops, which were totally amazing. I chose the duck breast for my entree. We decided to be extra naughty and got dessert, the goat cheesecake. I like dessert as much as the next girl, but this cheesecake was a-mazing. If you ever get the chance to try it, do it! I will definitely be headed back to Foreign Cinema, hopefully when its warm so I can catch a movie with a delicious meal.

2534 Mission Street  San Francisco, CA 94110 – www.foreigncinema.com

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360 Degrees – Dubrovnik, Croatia

6 Nov

For our last night in Dubrovnik (and our entire Croatian trip) we decided we wanted to go all out. We heard that this was “the place celebrities dine” and thought, if it’s good enough for Beyonce, it’s good enough for us. They don’t take reservations and the night that we went there weren’t that many people dining there. This place is quite romantic and I think Gail and I were both thinking that the couple next to us was on the verge of getting engaged or something.

We ordered a bottle of Posip from Korta Katerena. Great wine. We actually had the same bottle the night before, and of course it was nearly twice as expensive at this place than the previous night. We started out with some amazing fresh sea scallops and a ravioli with a goat cheese sauce, which interestingly enough came in a little travel-size toiletry bottle. For my main dish, I opted for the sea bass. It was really amazing, but a small portion. This place is definitely going for taste and presentation. It was the perfect end to our wonderful trip. The dessert menu looked a bit too exotic for us, so we opted for cheap gelatos on our way home instead.

http://360dubrovnik.com/

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Taj Mahal – Dubrovnik, Croatia

5 Nov

Based on the name, I bet you’re assuming that Gail and I went to an Indian restaurant during our stay in Dubrovnik. Don’t be fooled, Taj Mahal is a really great Bosnian restaurant in Old Town. We found this gem through TripAdvisor searches, and thankfully, the people who reviewed it were right. We had some spotty luck on our Croatian travels with other people’s recommendations, but this place was just what we needed.

It was very hot when we arrived in Dubrovnik, and after a 15-minute walk from our lovely hotel, we were in dire need of cold beverages, and wine! We made a reservation through our hotel, and thank God we did, or we never would’ve gotten a table. Even with a reservation, we had to wait about 30-minutes to be seated since it was so busy. Taj Mahal is located in a small alley and has about 12 tables outside. Given the heat, we were very happy that we did not get seated indoors, that place must’ve felt like a sweat shop!

We started out our dinner with a bottle of posip (lovely local white wine) and an order of vegetable burek. Basically, this is vegetables (spinach) in filo dough. Gail ordered Ćevapi, a traditional Bosnian dish of small grilled rolls of ground beef served with chopped onions served in a flat bread. The bread on this was amazing. There were so many little sausages we couldn’t finish but pecked away at the bread. So good. I had the kebob which was served with a potato and also very good. We shared the vegetable plate as well which had a small selection of grilled vegetables. Since we very quickly went through our first bottle of wine, we switched over to a red. Bad decision. It was so bad, we could hardly finish the bottle. Lesson learned. Overall it was a good meal, but the service wasn’t amazing. I would definitely recommend this to anyone passing through Dubrovnik.

http://www.tajmahaldubrovnik.com/ –  Nikole Gučetića 2  20000, Dubrovnik, Croatia

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Farmstead – St. Helena, CA

29 Oct

After a beautiful morning at Conn Creek Winery, mixing my own bottle of wine (the fantastic KPizzle), and tasting about 19 different wines straight from the barrel, my party was in dire need of food. I planned ahead (something I never do) and had reservations for us at Farmstead. This was a recommendation of a girl I work with and as soon as I got there I thought, thank God I’m no longer Vegan…

 

I started out really healthy with the kale salad. Note to self, you never need an entire bowl of kale, no matter how much you like it. Word to the wise, share a salad if you’re getting an entree. The kale had a very nice, light lemon dressing and shaved parmesean. It was delicious, but too much food knowing the massive pulled pork sandwich that was coming next.

 

I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is the best pulled pork I can remember having. Maybe it was that I was so hungry, maybe it was a slight bit of alcohol consumption, but I could have licked my plate I enjoyed it so much. The sandwich also came with a side of potato salad, which I liked, but I’m not a big mayo fan so the mayo-to-potato ratio was a bit high for my liking, but good nonetheless. Farmstead was the perfect stop on our day-long wine drinking extravaganza.

 

Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch – 738 Main Street  Saint Helena, CA 94574
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Conn Creek Winery – St. Helena, CA

23 Oct

Technically, this post isn’t about food, it’s about wine, but the two go hand-in-hand, right? A couple weeks ago, two of my friends from the Midwest came to visit for a few days away in Napa and we had the best experience at Conn Creek Winery in St. Helena. My friend Jamie had researched this AVA Room Blending Experience. There tend to be a lot of over-priced and not that great “experiences” in Wine Country and this was by far, the best that I’ve ever done. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to do something different in Wine Country.

First, the group sizes are limited to 10 people, so it was a very intimate experience where you could ask a lot of questions and get help with your blending. Our teacher was great and walked us through what an AVA is, and the history of the area. Sitting in front of us was what looked like my 10th grade Chemistry class, but really it was a graduated cylinder, beaker, wine glass, water and a very helpful book for notes. Behind our table there was a wall divided into five sections: soft, supple, complex, rich and bold, each with three barrels of cabernet sauvignon, and then four barrels which contained the blending wines, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec and petit verdot.

We were instructed to pick one barrel at each of the five cabernet sections and write notes on each and then go back and visit the ones we liked best and try the others in the section to get a feel for which type we liked best. I liked the rich and the bold sections best. These became the base for my personalized blend. I then added a soft and mixed it with a little malbec and merlot. Once you figure out what you like then you pick the percentages of each to add and use the graduated cylinder to create a glass of what your blend will taste like (and of course drink that glass while you’re filling up the 750ml beaker to make your bottle). Once you have your beaker filled up, you funnel it into a bottle, design your own label and cork the bottle.

The Nitty Gritty:

The cost is $95 per person, which seems steep, but really you get a two-hour tasting and you get to make and take home your own blend of wine.

Do yourself a favor and make sure you have a driver if you’re going to go to this place. You end up tasting basically 19 barrels of wine, and then have a glass or two on top of that. You will most likely be feeling no pain at the end…

www.conncreek.com – 8711 Silverado Trail  Saint Helena, CA 94574  – (707) 963-9100

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Giaxa – Hvar, Croatia

4 Sep

Gail and I arrived in Hvar after a beautiful day at the Plitvice Lakes ready to party as hard as we heard people partied in Hvar. In order to prepare for a long night/morning of boozing, we thought a nice dinner would be the perfect preamble. We relied on our fellow TripAdvisor friends for a recommendation and landed at Giaxa. The website states “Have you ever tasted art?” With a name like that, it has to be good, right?

We arrive and the place happens to be fairly busy, giving us an indication that we chose the right spot. Right? Wrong. We sit down and have a friendly waiter (this is something to note since it doesn’t happen all that often while traveling in Croatia), and immediately decide to order a bottle of rose. Our waiter comes back and says that they don’t have the bottle that we ordered but that he has brought us an even better bottle, from “the best winemaker in Croatia” at no additional charge. The bottle (pictured), has no label and is just called Number 11. Eleven happens to be my lucky number, but this wine was not lucky. At first sip we though, hmmm…this is different, but its not bad. As the wine opened and we kept drinking, I kept thinking that it tasted like something. That something we came to decide was a watermelon Jolly Rancher. Not exactly the taste I am looking to pair with my dinner, but I’ve had worse wines in my life, I’m sure.

We started out with the homemade gnocchi stuffed with scampi and prosciutto over asparagus sauce. This sounded interesting at first blush (and some others on TripAdvisor had recommended it), but it was bland beyond belief and strange. As you can tell from the picture, it looks a lot more like ravioli than gnocchi and was served moderately warm. I expected the asparagus sauce to be flavorful, but it was really lacking, on the whole it really didn’t taste like anything. Failure number one.

For a main course I opted for the sea bass. The dish came beautifully presented, but that really was the highlight of the entire experience. Again, the food was not overly warm and was completely bland. The sea bass was supposed to be seasoned with Croatian herbs, which must be like disappearing ink or something because I couldn’t taste them. The vegetables were also very plain. Gail ordered the Hvarska gregada, which as our waiter explained was the fisherman’s traditional way of preparing fish on the island. The dish consisted of fish, sliced potatoes, olive oil, onions, white wine and spices. Gail said the dish was also not very flavorful and extremely difficult to eat given the massive amount of fishbones in the dish. Overall, if heading to Hvar, there has to be better restaurants than Giaxa. Find them and report back!

www.giaxa.com – Petra Hektorovica 3, Hvar, Hvar Island 21450, Croatia
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Wente Winery – Livermore, CA

3 Jul

Way back in October, two of my colleagues and I bid on a golf lesson and dinner during our company’s community support campaign. This basically meant we paid $200 each for a some wine, dinner and a golf lesson at Wente Winery in Livermore with one of our colleagues who used to be a golf pro. The three of us hadn’t ever really played golf so we were really looking forward to our lessons (and the wine part). I have to admit that our beginning shots at the driving range were pretty bad (mine at least). By the end I could (actually) hit the ball decently. Please put the PGA on notice!

 

After our lesson and a few holes, we made our way to the restaurant at Wente. We started out dinner with a glass of the brut. Yum, yum celebratory bubbles! We decided to share an order of the oat fried cheddar pork sausages which had a caraway mustard sauce. These were quite tasty little sausages, essentially high-end cocktail weenies with fancy dipping sauce. We also shared the lamb pastrami which was very different than any other pastrami i’ve had and was served on rye crisps. Absolutely delicious.

 

For a main course I opted to go light with the cod served on a succotash of corn, garden squash, fennel and basil (pictured). It was the perfect summer evening dish after a round of golf. We took a look at the dessert menu (so full at this point), and I saw the peanut butter mousse cake, given my weakness for peanut butter, I had to try it out. It was a delicious layer cake with a really rich and creamy peanut butter flavor. The best I’ve had in awhile, and served with strawberries that were poached in bourbon (delicious). After all this yummy food and such a beautiful day we had to roll ourselves back to the city. Why can’t every Monday be this awesome? Do I really have to go to work tomorrow?

 

www.wentevineyards.com – 5050 Arroyo Road – Livermore, CA

 

Also, the lamb pastrami were reviewed by Diablo Magazine which can be found here: http://www.diablomag.com/Diablo-Magazine/March-2012/Pastrami-Goes-Upscale/
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Absinthe Brasserie & Bar

22 Jun

Thursday night was my first San Francisco Opera experience. I’ve made it to the Met in NYC and the Lyric in Chicago, but after living here for more than two years I finally made it to an SF Opera performance. My Aunt Liz flew all the way from Wisconsin to see (her favorite) Nathan Gunn play Papageno in The Magic Flute. Since she made such a long journey, I had to ensure that we had an equally wonderful dining experience prior to the performance. A colleague of mine recommended Absinthe Brasserie & Bar, which is very close by the opera house.

We arrived for a 5:15 reservation, and I felt like a grandma heading to a restaurant that early, but it gave us ample time to enjoy our drinks and food before the 7:30 curtain call. We started with wine (of course), a 2009 Cooper Mountain Pinot Noir and a 2009 Sandler Wine Co. Zinfandel. For a starter we decided to have the Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese which was really soft and creamy, just like butter. It spread deliciously on the warm walnut bread it was served with. We then moved on to share the Stonefruit Salad which consisted of marinated peaches, apricots, cherry puree, burratta cheese, watercress with a light vinaigrette. This was very refreshing and the peaches and apricots were absolutely delicious.

For entrees, I opted for the filet of sole with a red currant reduction on tiny potatoes, charred cauliflower and mini artichokes. The flavors of the red currant were absorbed really well by the fish and was one of the best pieces of fish I’ve had in quite some time. Liz is a huge fan of beef tartar and can’t pass up ordering it whenever it’s on the menu. This time was no different. Although it was a ‘share plate’, it served well as an entrée portion. While we already very full of delicious food we had to check out the dessert menu. We opted to try the strawberry tarragon pavlova which consisted of strawberries (very fresh), cocoa curd, tarragon ice cream (very refreshing) and pistachio crumble. It had quite an interesting presentation as you can see in the photo. This was an unusual dessert choice but tasty nonetheless. Our meal was great and I will definitely be returning the next time I head to the Opera or any other performances in the neighborhood.

http://www.absinthe.com/ – 398 Hayes Street @ Gough

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The Girl & The Fig – Sonoma, CA

18 May

 I had the pleasure of showing a couple of my dear friends from Wisconsin around Sonoma County a few weeks back and we had a great brunch experience at The Girl & The Fig in Sonoma. This place is always packed and very lively. We were lucky enough to have booked a table ahead of time, so we didn’t have to wait! There were so many things on the menu I wanted to try, but I opted for the duck confit and potato hash. It had two perfectly poached eggs on top of the potato and duck mixture. This dish really hit the spot before our long day of wine tasting.

In case you have to wait to get a table, I would recommend stopping by Roche Wines next door. They have a $5 tasting menu, and it’s definitely worth the money. Their wines are decent, but you get six tastes of your choice for only $5. They even had three different wines that you could taste right out the barrel, which my friend Zach was a big fan.

http://www.thegirlandthefig.com – 110 West Spain Street Sonoma, CA

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New Glarus, Wisconsin

31 Oct

country road

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to head back to Wisconsin to attend a couple of Brewers playoff games. Since the weather was so nice, I thought a trip to New Glarus, WI with my Mom would be a good idea. I had recently read a great article, entitled “A Bit of Switzerland in Wisconsin”, about the town in the New York Times travel section.

Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus

A link to the article can be found at the end of this post and was definitely much of the roadmap for our day trip.

We left Waukesha around 9AM and took the country route there via highway 59. After a two-hour drive through beautiful farmland with the trees changing to beautiful colors of yellow, orange and red, we arrived

New Glarus Brewery

in New Glarus. Our first stop was to the New Glarus Bakery to grab a late morning snack. This bakery has been around for more than 100 years, and still offers many of “old world” favorites. We opted for scones and some apricot pressed cookies for our ride home. The scones were delicious and hit the spot after our long drive.

tasting wristbands

Next we stopped over to the Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus. I don’t know how it is that I ended up getting out of there without any cheese, but we did try the pumpkin pie and dark chocolate fudge. We ended up taking the dark chocolate fudge home with us. The people who work there are really knowledgeable and can speak at length about the process used to make the different varieties.

Beer!

They have a whole bunch of interesting flavors you can try. Check out their full listing on their website.

The main reason for making this trip was to check out the Brewery, which makes the very delicious Spotted Cow, a tasty and popular ale among Wisconsinites. The Brewery offers three 3oz. beer samples for $3.50 and you get to keep your tasting glass. They had six beers available for tasting so my Mom and I decided that we would get different ones so that we

Bar at Puempel's Tavern

could try all of them. My favorite was the Moon Man and their Oktoberfest. On our way out, I was sure to stop by the store and pick up my own mixed six-pack to share with my family for the evening Packers game.

After spending some time basking in the sun and drinking beer, our final stop was to Puempel’s Tavern to try the

Cheese plate and beer

braunschweiger and limburger sandwich with raw onions on rye. The NYT article said that while it sounds not so tasty, it actually is. Now, I consider myself adventurous when it comes to food, but the thought of this sandwich, does not sound appetizing. When I was growing up, my grandparents would feed

Braunschweiger and limburger sandwich with raw onions on rye

me liverwurst sandwiches on rye bread, but never with stinky cheese! We decide to order the cheese plate to start with, which is a mix of cheddar, colby and swiss cheeses from around Green County (yay local cheese). What was hilarious about this was that this nice cheese was served with, wait for it, the equivalent of Ritz crackers. My Mom

View from New Glarus Brewery

 ordered a bratwurst and I ordered the sandwich. When our food arrived, I could already smell the limburger. I cautiously took the first bite and it didn’t taste nearly as bad as I thought, but the smell of that cheese was overpowering the entire experience. I ended up ditching the cheese and just finishing it with the onion and braunschweiger. I have to say it was an experience, but I won’t be ordering that one again! The even more wonderful thing about this entire lunch was that with our beer vouchers from the brewery, our total bill was $19.90. I have to say, New Glarus is an affordable spot to getaway in Wisconsin. The town has a lot to offer and the beer is delicious!

 

NYT Article: http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/travel/a-bit-of-switzerland-in-wisconsin.html

New Glarus Bakery: http://www.newglarusbakery.com

Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate Haus: www.mapleleafcheeseandchocolatehaus.com  

Puempels Tavern: www.puempels.com

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