Molly and Lisa, Thistle Meats

Thistle Meats – the new butcher on the block

Thistle Meats, a new butcher and charcuterie in Petaluma, Sonoma Co., is the brainchild of Molly Best, a stay-at-home mom with a passion for rearing sheep, and Lisa Modica, a former environmental consultant. Their new shop, on Petaluma Boulevard, opened a few months ago following a year of planning and renovations.

The women, who each have two young children, followed an unusual path to opening their butcher shop. As they tell their story, one reason their partnership works so well becomes clear: Best is energetic and lively, while Modica exudes a calm, Zen-like aura.

Best, a breeder of Dorset sheet, who once contemplated starting up a sheep dairy and being a cheese-maker, had long fantasized about running her own butcher shop, but with young kids, felt it was at least five years from being a reality. Then the stars started to align: Best’s new neighbor (now mentor) turned out to be Francois Vecchio, a Salumiere, Charcutier & Wurstmeister with over 50 years’ experience, and Modica left her job in San Francisco and began to consider her next steps.

The two women started to brainstorm with their friends in January of 2013. “We knew we wanted to do something, but we weren’t quite sure what it was going to be,” says Modica. “Initially, we were going to create a magazine for the local community,” says Best, “but there came a point where I just couldn’t picture myself doing it.” > Read more

Waverly Inn, Alice Dishes

Where to Eat in New York & the Waverly Inn

My trips to the Big Apple are sadly always too short, too jam-packed with work commitments and involve too little sleep. But no matter. On this occasion I was determined to try at least one highly recommended restaurant, check out the High Line and follow-up on at least one other foodie lead. And I managed it!

First things first. Where to eat in New York? Of course, I asked my Facebook friends and the recommendations came in thick and fast. Seems New Yorkers are just as passionate about their victuals as us Left coasters. I’m going to share the list because I trust my friends, and if you get to go to any of these, please report back.  The comments are my friends’, not mine.

> Read more

Madeleines by Alice Dishes

Madeleines by Monkey

Monkey went to chef camp last week and as a result has become a baking demon. I found him whipping up pastry from scratch the other night to make fruit tarts – his crust was amazingly flaky – and today he turned his hand to Madeleines. Madeleines have long been a favorite of his. It’s not something I have understood, after all, it’s just plain cake – or so I thought.  As it turns out, I was wrong. Madeleines are much more than just regular cake batter cooked in a fancy baking tin.

eggs in a madeleine pan

It turns out the secret is in extensive beating of the batter. You have to beat the eggs on high in a stand mixer for five minutes. Then you add powdered sugar (not regular granulated) and beat that for another five minutes. As Monkey exclaimed: “Look, it’s just like a custard.” And he was right. After all that, you gently fold in sifted flour and a teensy amount of baking powder, before adding the final ingredient, melted butter. If you’ve ever baked, you’ll know that this not how we make a regular cake. No siree bob.

butter and eggs

Here’s the recipe, which incidentally and conveniently came with the baking tin.

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Gluten-free Chocolate zucchini cake

Gluten-free chocolate zucchini cake

It’s just about summer time which means if you live in a climate that is conducive to growing veggies, you may well have the start of a zucchini glut on your hands. Even if you can’t or don’t grow your own, your CSA box is likely overflowing with these lovely shiny veggies, and they’re definitely “priced to go” at the local market. Spying a few, complete with their beautiful yellow flowers, at our local farmers’ market, and knowing that I was about to spend time testing baking recipes for Drop (more on that later) with the lovely, talented, Lauren Godfrey, I grabbed a couple, figuring I’d determine what to do with them later.

Zucchinis from the market

So what’s Drop, I hear you ask? In my other life I do marketing, mostly for tech companies. Imagine my delight at being asked to work with a start-up company developing a whizzy new device aimed at helping home bakers! Enter Drop – an iPad-connected kitchen scale that will change the way you bake thanks to the amazing app that reinvents the way recipes work. Okay, I’m biased, but I promise you’ll love it. You can watch a demo video here.

And Lauren? Okay, okay… I’m getting to her. She’s someone I met recently who has been helping us out at Drop: writing cool blog posts like this one on how to decorate cakes like a pro, and testing recipes for our app. A former ad creative turned passionate chef, food stylist, recipe creator and tester, and even food photographer, Lauren and I recently got together in her kitchen to test a recipe for Drop. Along the way she showed me ways to seriously amp up my food photography (something I was totally psyched about). The results of our time together are this amazing Chocolate Zucchini Cake recipe – which is… BONUS, gluten-free – and these beautiful photographs, which I took all by myself. (Credit to Bizzy Lizzy’s Good Things blog for the recipe we riffed off.)

Lining the bread tinCutting to size

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Namu gaji

Namu Gaji, San Francisco

I first met Dennis Lee, one of the three brothers who co-founded Namu Gaji, a hot, “New Korean American” restaurant near Dolores Park in San Francisco, late last year. He had transported what looked like his entire staff and kitchen to make some amazingly flavorful and delicious food at a friends’ holiday party. I was so bowled over by the magic he and his team created, combining Korean cooking styles, spices and flavors with our terrific NorCal produce, that I knew I owed the restaurant another visit.

Namu Gaji Interior

On a typically drizzly and foggy May evening, six of us showed up hungry and ready to feast. (To truly enjoy an Asian meal, dining with a crowd is vital. That way you can sample so much more.) Even the interior of the restaurant reflects the fusion of Korean and American cultures that are brought together at Namu Gaji. The communal table is crafted out of a beautiful piece of wood that’s uneven and natural. Chunky glass bottles and wild flowers adorn the tables. All very reflective of Northern California’s rustic beauty. Yet the food itself is presented with the utmost precise beauty – using elements of vegetables to adorn the plates. And no, I don’t mean carrots carved into flowers, but for instance, beet root tendrils add a natural finishing flourish to a surprising green garlic panna cotta. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pickles at Namu Gaji > Read more

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