Sunday, September 21, 2014

Chalkboard for Some Super Tasty Small Plates

So far, since coming back from NY, I make it up to wine country about once a year. Don't get me wrong  I love it up there, and though I have great ambitions to go more often, city living (work and the rat race) gets in the way. Best-laid plans aside, this summer included a little jaunt to Cloverdale and the surrounding area, including dinner at Chalkboard in Healdsburg.

Wow. The restaurant's website says its food is "a celebration of the best ingredients Sonoma has to offer." I'll say. A lot of the produce showcased in Chalkboard's small plates come from a dedicated 3-acre garden. And it was obvious once the dishes start parading out to our table. See for yourself.

This night, Chalkboard's bruschetta were flavor bombs  featuring heirloom tomatoes drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and topped with a crumble of smoked egg yolks; summer squash caponata with ricotta and basil; and hickory smoked salmon with smashed avocado, creme fraiche and pickled onions.

Summer isn't complete without corn. Chalkboard's grilled Brentwood corn was incredibly sweet and juicy, and dressed to perfection with queso fresco, chipotle crema and cilantro. Loved the addition of grilled lime to balance sweet with tart and tangy.

Creamy luscious goodness in the guise of uni butter injected this bucatini dish with all kinds of umami. Oh, and the additions of gulf shrimp and roasted garlic were pretty awesome too.

Chalkboard's savory meat pasta  jalapeno cresta di gallo (aka rooster crest-shaped pasta) with corn, bacon, creme fraiche and a pork shoulder ragu  served as the ideal counterpart to the seafood pasta. 

The only dish we didn't absolutely love was this one: the San Marzano tomato braised meatballs with Pecorino and mint leaves. It was good, but just didn't pull off the richly complex flavor of the meatballs and spicy sauce at Beretta

No matter. Overall, Chalkboard delivered. Happy to come back any time.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ken Ken Ramen Still Packs a Punch

Ken Ken Ramen in the Mission is still kicking out some mean noodle combos since it went from pop-up to permanent status more than 2 years ago. It's still my go-to spot for savory, umami ramen. I'm especially fond of the spicy ground pork special with soft-boiled egg and milky pork broth.

But lately I've been jonesing for (a lot) more vegetables to accompany my noodles. And I've come on the perfect solution: to ask the Ken Ken Ramen folks for the miso veggie ramen with the pork stock (in lieu of the vegan broth).

Best laid plans ... the veggie substitution keeps slipping my mind when I get to the Ken Ken Ramen table, and I invariably request the porkiest option available.

Eh, no regrets. Pork is after all the best of all proteins  versatile, flavorful and ever so satisfying.

I leave Ken Ken Ramen a happy camper every time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fresh Figs for Breakfast

What's summer in California like? Let me see ... oh yeah, it's about feasting on fresh-picked figs, juicy peaches and the sweetest tomatoes. A simple and yet glorious breakfast in the great outdoors.

These figs were plucked at their perfect ripeness just that morning. They're not something I grew up eating, but have happily added to my favorite things over the past decade.

And the rest of our farmer's market finds  including a hearty and wholesome bread (the loaf must've weighed 5 pounds) from a local bakery  made this a meal to remember.