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Friday, January 28, 2011

Venue Spotlight: The Pavilion at Boulder Ridge

Just two words can describe The Pavilion at Boulder Ridge. Beautiful and Brilliant. Beautifully perched above south San Jose this country club has truly spectacular 360 degree views of the valley. Brilliant was the decision to build their event center completely separate from the clubhouse facility. Too often there is an inherent struggle between private country club members and outside events. The members are torn between the revenues generated from events and the imposition they cause to their club. The solution at Boulder Ridge was to make the event center totally removed from the clubhouse. My first photo is of the clubhouse which is a modern facility with a vintage feel.

As I stepped back for a wider shot you can now see the Pavilion event center sitting on the hill above the clubhouse to the right.

As you head up the driveway to the Pavilion you instantly get the feeling this place was well planned and not just an afterthought. It is complete with a bride's room, full kitchen and ample space for vendors to bring in their goods.

What struck me first was the outside service bar. No banquet table or rolling cart but rather a permanent covered structure with stone finishes that match the rest of the decor. So immediately following an outside wedding ceremony the guests are greeted with this kind of reception. Nice touch.

And speaking of outside wedding ceremonies how about this setting for reciting nuptials?

When I said 360 degree views I was not kidding. Here are just a few other shots I took as I wandered around the Pavilion grounds.

Inside the Pavilion there is plenty of space and flexibility for a variety of types of events. No shortage of floor-to-ceiling windows keeps the all the beauty of outside inside.

And even the trip back down the hill is a final reminder of the picturesque views of Boulder Ridge. Here the skyline of San Jose's Downtown is a backdrop for the clubhouse.

The Pavilion at Boulder Ridge seems to have covered all the bases with separate parking for events and a shuttle service up to the facility. This place is a model for private clubs wanting to keep their members happy and still offer a great facility for outside events.

Lisa Nunes is the Director of Events at you can get all of the details from her at lisan@boulderridgegolfclub.com. Boulder Ridge is definitely worth considering for your next event. It has all of the pluses of a country club setting without any of the minuses.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cooking Class Review: Healthy Breakfasts (Don't Skip The Day's Most Important Meal)

Back in the Spring of 2009 I took an eight week Natural Foods Chef Training course at the New Leaf Market in Santa Cruz. Each class had a theme which covered a full range of healthy eating topics. My posts began on April 17. These classes were great exercises of healthy cooking under the able guidance of natural foods Chef Jennifer Brewer. So recently when I saw that Jenny was teaching a class in healthy breakfasts at New Leaf it was a complete no brainer for me. After all, breakfast is very high on my list of important meals.

So why is breakfast such an important meal when it is so often just overlooked and not heavily factored into diet strategy? Jenny explained that what you consume for breakfast can greatly impact your body's need for nutrition during the rest of the day. She quoted a study where they contrasted two breakfasts. One was protein based (eggs) and the other carbohydrate based (bagel) but they were equal in calories. Those consuming the protein breakfast consumed 300 calories less than the carb eaters for 24 hours and yet still reported feeling fuller all day long. So it is true that the satisfaction factor of protein lasts longer and especially when consumed in the morning.

Classes at New Leaf always kick off with a short lecture where Jenny explains the recipes and their nutritional benefits of all the ingredients.

And in no time we form groups to tackle the recipes in a truly hands-on environment.

The students perform all of the prep steps which is essential to beginning any cooking process.

Our Breakfast of Champions Menu:

Spiced Apple, Buckwheat and Quinoa Porridge
Chard and Roasted Red Bell Pepper Frittata
Savory Scrambled Tofu
Gluten Free Coconut Blueberry Muffins
High Protein Breakfast Bars

Buckwheat and apples are high in soluble fiber. Brazil nuts are rich in the immunity boosting mineral, selenium and figs are one of Jenny's favorite sources of magnesium.

Chard and Roasted Red Pepper Frittata makes for an easy crust-less quiche. We also made a batch of baby round versions in a cupcake pan. This mini size can be stored in the fridge and easily reheated later.

As an alternative to eggs we also made a Savory Scrambled Tofu dish. Tamari (soy sauce) and Tumeric delivered the big flavors here along with sweet peppers, onions, cumin and thyme.

We tucked the savory scramble into corn tortillas to make tasty breakfast tacos. We toppped them with ripe avocado and Jenny's secret weapon of black beans with smoked paprika. Delish!

The biggest challenge of the menu was Gluten Free Coconut Blueberry Muffins. Baking is always an exact science and doing it with gluten free products ups the degree of difficulty. It is mostly a texture and not flavor issue. What I like about Jenny is that she is always experimenting with recipes to accommodate the many people with food intolerances, allergies and dietetic restrictions. She suggested we make one half of our batch by substituting the eggs with a surprising combination of ground flax seeds with almond milk.

Again, the texture was not terribly muffin like but all the flavors were there in a very healthy package. Pictured here are the blueberry muffins with the egg free version on the left.

The take away highlight recipe for me was the High Protein Breakfast Bars. I have tried to make other versions before but never with the success of these. This shot is of the whole batch which was quickly attacked by the hungry cooks. Heavy carb lovers can still have their sweet treats for breakfast only these are packed with nutritious almonds, hemp seeds, flax seeds and brown rice syrup.

My parting shot is of Jenny stepping out into the market to grab some more Brown Rice Syrup. One of the many advantages of these classes is whenever we run out of something it is just a few steps to one of the best selections of natural foods you will find anywhere. For more information on their healthy lifestyle classes visit New Leaf Markets.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Foodie Stop: Seabreeze Café Makes The Best Cinnamon Rolls & Breakfast In Santa Cruz

OK, I realize that "The Best" is completely relevant and totally subjective. That being said I don't toss that prop out loosely. I seek out the best breakfast food spot wherever I have lived and my current vote without a doubt is Seabreeze Café in the Seabright neighborhood of Santa Cruz, CA. Seabreeze is famous for their scratch made cinnamon rolls and were even featured recently in The New York Times travel section.

Like most great breakfast/lunch only spots the decor and ambiance of Seabreeze Café is shabby chic. This type of unique, local, tiny nook restaurant is really what inspired Food Network's wildly popular show, Diners Drive-ins and Dives. Perched right on busy Seabright Avenue this place just cranks out great food seven mornings and afternoons a week. They don't do dinner.

This shot of their specials board is a little hard to read because the glass surface is highly reflective. However, my absolute favorite is #7 on the list they call the Mendocino Scramble.

Known for their great omelettes and scrambles the Mendocino is a superb combination of eggs, fresh basil, portabello mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes, roasted garlic and feta cheese. All of their egg dishes are available with tofu for those non-dairy eaters too. Notice the generous helping of potatoes here as well which are always cooked and seasoned perfectly.

Speaking of potatoes another really nice touch at Seabreeze is their scratch made fresh salsa that I love to pour freely over just about anything savory on the menu. It is big on flavor and mild-to-medium on the spicy scale. I LOVE the fact that you have to request it because it remains chilled in their fridge which means it is always fresh and safe to enjoy.

Another popular special is their take on Huevos Rancheros. I order HR wherever I go and the Seabreeze version stands up to any other I ever tried.

One of their most popular scrambles is aptly called The Scrambler and features two eggs, mushrooms, green onions and your choice of cheese. With their killer potatoes and a muffin or cinnamon roll you will not leave hungry.

For those who prefer the more traditional breakfast fare Seabreeze offers all of the standard egg, pancake and waffle choices only prepared perfectly every time and served hot, fresh and so quickly you can't believe it.

Have I wet your appetite yet? The only bad news is on the weekends the waiting period for a table can easily exceed one hour. The good news is Seabreeze Café is about 1/4 mile from the beach. This shot is looking right down Seabright Avenue from the café which dead ends at the great Pacific Ocean. We just put our name on the list and take a great stroll down to the water. As much as we'd like to stick our toes in the sand it is normally time to just turn around and get back for breakfast. This walk to the beach is a perfect warm up for all of those carbs we are about to consume.

These views reward you at the end of your stroll down Seabright Avenue...

As you might guess the vibe and service at Seabreeze Café mirrors the comfort of their food. Their display of local artists rotates steadily so there is always something new to check out on the walls. Even the young artists get an opportunity to show off their talents.

At the helm of the ship on busy weekends is Tex who is an expert in crowd control. And believe me these characters are a hungry bunch eager to partake in the bevy of scratch made delectables. Tex took a minute out of his weekend craziness to pose under a portrait that someone painted of him.

To borrow an expression from that Diners Drive-ins and Dives Guy, Guy Fieri, this place is "off the hook!" It won't surprise me at all to see the Seabreeze Café featured someday on that Triple D show.

My parting shot is of my cinnamon roll in progress. Look quickly, however, as it will not be visible for long. Thanks to Tex & all of the Seabreeze Crew for always being a phenomenal foodie stop.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Carl Cooks: Baked Ziti With Ricotta & Mozzarella & RAO's Homemade Sauce

I love Ziti and have tried many recipes for the baked version. This one from the Williams Sonoma Pasta Cookbook is my personal favorite. And while I have your attention I have to send props out to one of the best lines of jarred pasta sauces ever called RAO'S. If you've got the time and chops to make your own tomato sauce, great. Otherwise, don't waste your five bucks on most of the ones on the shelf. RAO's is an exceptional one available at most of the better food outlets. It will cost you $8.00 to $10.00 a jar but it is well worth the extra cost.

This dish is super easy to make and all it takes is the stuff I've lined up here.


1 Pound Dried Ziti
1 Jar of Marinara Sauce (RAO'S preferred)
Ricotta Cheese (15 ounces)
Mozzarella Cheese (16 ounces)
Pecorino Romano Cheese (about 5 ounces)
1 egg yoke
Freshly ground nutmeg (generous pinch)
Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley (handful)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil


Get large pot of water boiling and salted
Cut Mozarella into small cubes
Grate Pecorino Romano
Separate egg yoke from white
Fine Chop Parsley

Mix Ricotta, 1/2 Pecorino Romano, Parsley & egg yoke well in large bowl
Use microplane to grate the nutmeg right into the mixture
Boil Ziti per package instructions, then drain well
Warm tomato sauce
Fold cooked Ziti and Mozzarella cubes and warmed sauce into the cheese mix


Pre Heat Oven to 425 degrees
Transfer mixture into Olive Oil prepared baking dish
Top with remaining Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
Drizzle with Olive Oil
Cook about 25 minutes until golden/crisp/bubbly

What makes this so tasty is the tubular shape of the pasta. It fills up with all of the deliciousness of the sweet Ricotta and tomato sauce. The nutmeg is there just in the background and the Mozzarella chunks melt nicely to add heft and satisfaction. This dish is so rich and bold that I normally just pair it with a light salad. The one shown here is a simple mix of watercress leaves, finely chopped leeks and thinly shaved fennel tossed with just extra virgin olive oil/sea salt/ freshly ground pepper.

Try baked Ziti for a change. It has all of the comfort of Macaroni & Cheese but with the added sweetness of tomato sauce.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Eats of San Francisco: A Whirlwind Eating Spree At Stands, Carts & Trucks

Forget diets and eating resolutions I decided to start off the new year right by indulging in some of the many great food options on the streets of San Francisco. To accompany me I enlisted my BFF (Best Foodie Friend) of choice, Stacie Tamaki.

However, traveling all the way from Santa Cruz I was also determined to catch a glimpse of Mill Valley and finally make it to the Tyler Florence culinary store in Mill Valley. I mean what's not to love about the cozy bungalow of Mill Valley with its strong presence of unique small businesses and notable absence of cookie cutter big box chain stores.

Speaking of cookies we plotted our e.t.a. early enough to include a quick bite at the French bakery cafe right next door to Tyler's shop. It's called, Champagne and lives up to its name with lots of tasty sweets and eats.

My obvious choice for a breakfast snack at a French bakery was their Almond Raspberry Croissant with a hot chocolate to take the edge of the chilly winter morning air.

When Tyler Florence Mill Valley opened at 10:00 a.m. we were the first through the doors. Merchandising is definitely their forte with an intriguing mix of practical cooking gear and tasteful design items. One corner boasts a fully working kitchen where demos are obviously a regular event.

Stacie posed here at their gourmet-to-go counter which was chocked full of bottled sauces, spice rubs, dried pasta and other hand crafted stuff to jump start the home chef's efforts.

My favorite room was the cookbook library in the back of the store. A fireplace and comfy leather seating seduces you and could easily have me just loitering around there all day long. The whole atmosphere of this place gives you the feeling that some culinary icon is going to just drop by any minute.

As much fun as we were having I noticed the clock and it was time for takin' it to the streets. After all, our designated destination was The City to chase food trucks. Our first truck target was the famous Empanadas Argentinas of El Porteño. We crossed the Golden Bridge and were headed to another one of our favorite places in the entire universe, The Ferry Building. To our huge dismay there was no sign of El Porteño at The Ferry Building. Tracking food truck locations is part of the joy and pain of this culinary lifestyle. Many of them use Twitter and Facebook to alert their followers. Somehow we failed doing our homework on this one. Hungry at The Ferry Building? No Problem. This place is first and foremost a food destination both inside and outside the building where food vendors congregate. You couldn't miss the line stretching for one-half block at another wildly popular food truck from Roli Roti.

Being the veggie lovers and long line haters that we are Stacie and I opted for the stand right next door, Hapa Ramen.

These cooks just COOK! They have a very short window of serving time and a huge demand from customers who pour out of office buildings descending upon them at lunch. It's cool to walk behind their stands and catch the all the bustle and energy that emanates from their mobile kitchens.

And who are the winners? The lucky ones like us who get to dig into some of the best Ramen ever. We both tried the vegetable version which was loaded with interesting stuff like squash, nori and grilled brussels spouts. Sipping the hot broth warmed our souls on this chilly winter day as we watched the line move slowly next door at Roli Roti. :-) This cup of goodness is definitely what I'd call TOP Ramen.

As comfy as we were it was again time to run off to our next stop. These street food vendors are only open during the key eating hours and we had to make it down to the FiDi (Financial District) ASAP. Our next target was actually a dessert stop at The Creme Brulee Cart.

Creme Brulee is perfect street food because it can be made ahead and then just torched before serving. This little cart needs only a small propane tank to make it happen.

And Voila! My Honey Vanilla Bean caramelized perfectly. It was a great texture combination of hot and crunchy on top with cool and creamy underneath.

Stacie chose the Dark Chocolate Peppermint so our contrasting flavors made for the perfect Duet of Brulees.

The FiDi has a wonderful vibe yet off we had to run to get to another popular neighborhood called SoMa District which stands for South of Market Street. We were seeking the French Take-Away truck called Spencer On The Go. I was especially excited about tasting Spencer's fare after following their progress on a recent Food Network food truck competition show. But we came up short again not being able to find the Spencer truck anywhere. Oh well, it will just have to wait until next time.

We had just one more stop on our itinerary and it was close by near the Gift Center. Stacie had mentioned Liba Falafels to me in the past but I had yet to try them. I finally found out what I've been missing.

Although our main objective was to try food trucks this last stop was actually the first truck at which we ate. This shot is the side of the truck that opens to the customers and features a great bar of toppings for your falafel.

The difference in a Liba falafel is the great crunch on the outside and noticeably missing green color inside. Their recipe uses less parsley thus the lack of green coloring. At this point in our eating expedition we were getting full so we opted for the small size falafel for $5.00. Other choices include a larger size for $8.00 or a low carb salad version in a bowl with no pita bread for $9.00. Each comes with their basic chimichurri and tahini dressings.

What really makes Liba unique and delicious is their incredible choice of toppings that you help yourself to at their topping bar. Check out their website menu and you'll find 15 handmade toppings to customize your falafel. Each ingredient makes perfect sense in a Mediterranean flavor profile but Liba pairs them in such unique ways that it takes the falafel to a higher place.
My finished falafel was so well dressed it looked like a Chicago style hot dog but a whole lot healthier to nosh.

My parting shot is of Gail Lillian, the owner of Liba. Her engaging personality and helpful hints about her food made the Liba experience a delightful one we won't forget anytime soon. Thanks to Gail and all of the other purveyors of street food for making our first adventure so fantastic. We will be returning to other neighborhoods and reporting back on more mobile deliciousness soon.

More Food Adventures:

January - The Eats of San Francisco:
February - A Tasty Tour of Santa Cruz
March - The Cowgirl Creamery
April - Confessions of a Sushi Virgin
May - Best of the East Bay
June - Palo Alto Eateries
July - Cheap Eats & Secret Menus